City Invites Public To Help Make Sausage

In expectation of need to slash millions from city budget, officials turn to residents

In the California spirit of throwing controversial issues to voters in the form of a ballot proposition, the City of Los Angeles is again asking the public to provide guidance as it prepares for the likely need to slash its $7.1 billion budget again next year.

The City of LA, which has a government workforce of about 37,000 employees serving a population of more than 3.8 million people, has expressed the hope that 3,000 residents will respond to its survey, which has been posted online at the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment Web site under the heading "City of Los Angeles Community Budget Survey."

Daily News columnist Rick Orlov wrote today that " City officials insist it is not a case of divide and conquer with employee unions, but it sure looks that way."

In a note to his "fellow Angelenos" at the start of the survey, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says that "given these daunting challenges, it is important to hear from community members."

The potential problem is that, unlike elected representatives and city bureaucrats, city residents have little on which to base their suggestions when the survey asks them to "spend a budget dollar."

It appears likely that many survey takers will balk at being asked to divvy up 100 cents between five city budgetary divisions, a task at least as complicated as making sausage with a table full of ingredients, but no recipe. How much of what goes where and how? You're expected to decide. And while there are surely people bold enough to try, we have to wonder how willing they'll be to eat what results.

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