What does it take to lead Los Angeles?
Who has the courage to take on the tough issues that are financially strangling Los Angeles?
Will it be the career-elected officials or embedded bureaucrats and political insiders who have spent most of their lives on the public dole?
Isn’t that the resume of the very people that created the crisis we have in local government today? Individuals who have led from the back of the line and have caved time and time again to the unrealistic demands of public employee unions that are bankrupting city governments across the United States.
For what we need today from our new city fathers is the ability to simply say one word: no!
No to raises, promotions and salary increases for unions that don’t understand the rest of Los Angeles must bear the burden of these ever increasing pension and health care obligations.
For the pension obligations and health care costs for all public sector retirees increased 9 percent between 2009 and 2010 to an astounding $1.38 trillion. That’s $757 billion for pensions; $627 billion for health care.
Here in Los Angeles, the public pension obligation is now $32 billion, or roughly $7,250 per resident!
Pension obligations are now so large, so out-of-control that taxpayers are literally paying for two police departments and fire departments – the one that is working and the one that’s retired. Even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the most respected municipal leaders in America understands that unfunded pension obligations are destroying a city’s ability to deliver the most basic of city services. Is it any wonder that former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan called for a radical restructuring of these bloated pension and health care costs?
Is it any wonder why 80 percent of those registered to vote didn’t even bother to cast a ballot in the recent round of municipal elections? That the only people who do vote are those who are employed by local government or have a vested interest in the form of public contracts, pensions, benefits and political appointments that hold this electoral process hostage?
Ironically, those now running things believe they have some mandate, a belief that things can and should remain the same.
These cradle to grave obligations for a taxpaying public that doesn’t receive such generous benefits only demonstrate the “cut flower” approach to municipal finance by elected officials who lack the courage, discipline or common sense to finally just utter the words, enough is enough!
Instead we have a new wave of economic liberals now assuming city office that concentrate on further enabling unions (who finance these campaigns) that have a stranglehold on this city’s finances versus assuming the adversarial role of standing up for those who don’t have a voice at the bargaining table, but will be sent the bill in the form of increased spending and higher taxes.
Ironically, those who hold multiple minimum wage employment, rent versus own and can’t afford a car and depend on public transportation are the ones shouldering this increasingly heavy debt. For it is these individuals that have become the new “silent majority” of Americans paying the cost, but receiving nothing in return. For this is the economic travesty of Los Angeles, the ever widening gap of the haves and the have nots created by those running this municipality into the ground.
For where is their voice in this status quo, “business as usual” approach by these new bosses, seemingly no different than the old ones?
Detroit, once the car capital of the world and labeled the “arsenal of democracy,” is mired in $18 billion of debt of which carries the obligation of some 30,000 pensions ($3.5 billion) both active and forthcoming! This is a city with miles of abandoned buildings and homes as far as the eye can see; a city where 40 percent of the street lights don’t work.
Is that the future of Los Angeles unless serious discussions about pension and health care obligations are addressed sooner than later?
For the bankruptcy of Detroit is just the beginning of a long line of municipalities with no other alternative – a city that cannot attract private sector employment and lost the automotive business to global competition. What is Los Angeles doing to attract job creators and private sector investment so it doesn’t follow in the Motor City’s financial footsteps as the biggest municipal bankruptcy west of the Mississippi?
With all the pomp and circumstance of inaugural parties and a sense that all is just fine, when will the real heavy lifting of fixing the finances of Los Angeles commence?
Who will step up and lead?
Who has the ability to say no?
Nick Antonicello
Venice Beach