It's time for the Mayor to maybe hire a Mayor!
The LA Times is correct when its front page headline asserts, "Budget swings leave a city dizzy."
It is also correct when it says that "credibility" has been strained, especially since the proposed job cuts for city workers managed to shrink from an estimated 4,000 all the way down to about 750. And maybe not even that.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa still managed to paint a bleak picture during his State of the City budget message yesterday.
But gone was the "sky is falling" lingo from some city officials (like the City Controller Wendy Greuel) who said the city was in its worst financial crisis in recent memory.
Of course, the truth is, even though the Mayor has backed away from the most dire pronouncements of thousands of layoffs, the city is in its worst financial crisis in recent memory. And, does anyone really have confidence that the city's current political leadership is able to deal with it?
Former LAPD chief turned Councilman Bernard Parks has, perhaps to the surprise of some, morphed into one of--maybe the only?--rational and realistic members of city government.
When the Mayor and others on the Council opted not to impose a hiring freeze on the LAPD (to replace cops who retire or die), it was former police chief Parks who pointed out that it would be difficult for other members of the Council to claim they were working hard to save the jobs of other city workers facing layoffs and payless days off, while at the same time hiring new blood for the LAPD.
And, it is Parks, again, who, as quoted in the Times, is questioning "the validity of the mayor's layoff number, saying it seemed too low."
Parks is also right when he cautions that you shouldn't count your chickens before they are hatched--or, in this case, count money from the city's parking assets before the money has actually arrived.
Obviously, the Mayor was playing for effect, trying to whip city unions into a frenzy so they would yield during contract talks. But it also backfired to a large degree, creating the impression of a city government that had no real, long term plan; that was making it up along the way. No wonder Wall Street became nervous about Los Angeles. Wouldn't you?
To be fair to the Mayor, presiding over a city the size of LA that is, without doubt, in financial crisis, is not an easy task. His critics argue he is simply not up for this challenge. It's too bad, at the moment, that there is no option other than to go along for this very bumpy ride and find out if they are wrong or right.
Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle." He has covered police and politics in L.A. since 1995 and currently is a regular contributor of investigative reporting to KNX1070 Newsradio.