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Garbage Tax for New Police Hires was Misleading

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It's always interesting to see public officials speak on the same subject and then put their words back to back. Last week LA Weekly published an article by David Ferrell taking aim at Villaraigosa's garbage tax. At issue, the garbage tax that sold to the public was on the premise that it was purely going to building the LAPD's force. That ended up not being true. “I want it to go to the men and women in blue. I want to make sure ... that all the money generated by the trash fee ... is specifically for building our police force,” the mayor is quoted saying in the Weekly.

The increased trash fee began in September 2006 and since then, has raised $137 million. During that time, 336 new police officers were hired at the cost of $47.2 million (that's recruitment, training, salary, benefits), according to the report released by City Controller Laura Chick's office. The rest, $89.4 million, was used for other LAPD increases such as step raises, cost-of-living adjustments and recruiting/equipment costs. To be fair, it also went to additional patrol vehicles. After all, if you're going to hire more police to be on the streets, you have to buy more vehicles (or bicycles!). But perhaps, that should have been spelled out more clearly when the tax was sold to the public.

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Chick had been trying to get this data for an audit for a year, but she says the Mayor's office wouldn't give her the data. “It’s been like pulling teeth working with the mayor and the CAO to get information," she told the Weekly. "We called angry and upset multiple times, pushing on this. I had to keep pressuring. There’s no doubt in my mind they wanted me to go away. The excuses were many and varied, and for a long time I was being told there was no way to do this [audit]. I was very upset. I was pounding on their doors for the numbers.”

And to that, the Mayor's spokesman Matt Szabo told the paper this: “Our office is an open book.”