L.A. City Hall was under siege Wednesday as hundreds of city workers came to fight to save their jobs from impending budget cuts. At least 1,000 jobs could be on the chopping block, and L.A. struggles to close a $218.5 million budget deficit.
After listening to the workers, the city postponed a decision for 30 days. During the reprieve, the council plans to discuss alternative cost-cutting proposals that would minimize -- perhaps even eliminate -- what budget analysts said was a need to cut as many as 1,500 civilian jobs.
From police officers and firefighters, to patrons of the arts, the 200-person strong chorus of anger and desperation wanted to remind council members that each of their jobs and programs are vital. One arts supporter arrived wearing angel wings to honor the City of Angels.
"We have to fix the system that takes away jobs and takes away from our culture and our art and the things that we do that we're passionate about in our lives," said art teacher Lilia Ramirez (pictured, above), of Boyle Heights.
Another supporter for the disabled in the city had a rhyme for the members of the council: "LA city council shame on you. Cutting the disabled like you do. Please try to raise some revenue, because the disabled public is going to come after you."
But such pleas could not erase the river of red ink flowing over the budget.
Another $10 million has been added to the projected deficit on Wednesday, bringing the total to close to $220 million.
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Worse, according to city officials, if the city does nothing, next year's deficit could be north of $600 million.
Included among the new options presented to the council today for consideration were:
- not recruiting any cadets for the Police Academy during the remainder of the fiscal year, for a savings of $9.9 million;
- canceling recruitment and laying off 87 cadets who have already begun training at the Police Academy, for a savings of $19.7 million; - canceling recruitment, laying off 87 cadets and laying off and additional 616 police officers who recently graduated from the academy, for a savings of $84.6 million;
- redeploying 57 firefighters to take over for absent colleagues and fill in other vacancies in the Fire Department on a day-to-day basis, for a savings of $6.9 million;
- canceling three firefighter recruit classes, for a savings of $8.1 million;
- slashing the budget of the mayor's office by 5 percent for a savings of $1.26 million, 70 percent of which would come from the Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development and 30 percent from salaries;
- cutting the City Council's salary budget by 5 percent for a savings of $1.07 million.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is opposed to any layoffs affecting public safety departments, saying such cuts should be considered only as a last resort.
But L.A's City Administrative Officer, Miguel Santana, said the 1,000 layoffs, which are already on the table, are needed to avoid fiscal disaster.
"I realize that layoffs are a difficult thing. Last Thursday, I had informed the people slated in my office for layoffs, that we were not exempting ourselves in this process," said Miguel Santana, L.A. City Administrative Officer.
Santana also proposed the city partner with private business to run properties like the L.A. Zoo.
"We need to ask ourselves what are we about as a city? What is our core mission? What are those things that we do really, really well, and what are those things that perhaps we don't do as well that perhaps somebody else could do," said Miguel Santana, L.A. City Administrative Officer.
But private contracting proposals were met with hostility by workers, who are convinced the budget can be balanced without layoffs.