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Mayor Villaraigosa’s Deceptive Budget

May 15th, 2011 · 1 Comment

In a political climate where people are cutting back everywhere, articles like this contribute to the notion that government employees don’t share the burden, especially when a leader like Mayor Villaraigosa touts spending cuts and then doesn’t follow through. The LA Weekly has a pretty good piece describing the complexity of Villaraigosa’s budget and the missing holes and trouble it takes to find out how the gaps are filled in.

Some key excerpts:

“L.A. Weekly examined the budget for the mayor’s own office in an effort to understand just a small snapshot from Villaraigosa’s 389-page citywide budget proposal, which the City Council has just two weeks in May to understand, adjust and approve as its blueprint for fixing a badly ailing city.

The paper found that Villaraigosa’s official budget for his own office — in many ways a microcosm of the $6.9 billion city budget — understates by millions of dollars what Villaraigosa will spend on his staff, understates by nearly 100 percent the number of employees working for him, and falls far short of an “11 percent cut” to the Mayor’s Office. The paper also found that key officials who should know specific, basic fiscal details about the operations of the Mayor’s Office are in the dark.

Villaraigosa recently announced to an audience of cheering, impressed students at Jefferson High School that he is cutting his own office by 11 percent — and the L.A. media repeated his claim. The Weekly has determined his true office budget cut is about 2 percent and his operation alone will cost taxpayers about $42 million.”

I wonder if Villaraigosa could operate with a smaller and more efficient staff. If you read the complete piece, he also has paid interns (some of whom are paid by federal grants), which is nice for the intern but usually isn’t the the norm. He also borrows staff from other city departments, which his predecessors didn’t do as extensively.

This was also interesting given the Mayor’s focus on education reform:

“Critics are calling for a higher level of fiscal competence from Los Angeles City Hall, saying such discrepancies should not be a mystery to city officials. But when Villaraigosa’s spokeswoman, Sarah Hamilton, was asked to shed light on the clashing facts and figures cited by city officials who were trying to explain the Mayor’s Office budget, she forced the Weekly to file a formal California Public Records Act request.

Those new documents, handed to the Weekly in May, show Villaragosa’s staff at 196, including seven interns, 16 borrowed city employees and 173 core staff. The list reveals a surprising fact that the Controller’s Office did not have in hand: Nearly one-fifth of the mayor’s core staff — 31 people — is a homeland security team, 25 of whom are funded by federal agencies. Just four of Villaraigosa’s staff are assigned to “education” or “education/policy,” the mayor’s signature reform issue. Eleven of his employees are funded by foundations or grants to work in such areas as “strategic partnerships” and “energy and environment.”"

According to this, it seems that the signature issue based on staffing priorities is homeland security. Even with the funding from federal agencies, six staff are devoted to homeland security, while only four are working on education.

What are your thoughts? Should the City of LA devote so much to homeland security? Or should education be a bigger priority? And why does the LA City budget process appear to be murky instead of more transparent?

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Tags: Antonio Villaraigosa · Government Accountability

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Anna // May 15, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    The problem with education is that the schools are overcrowded and underfunded. I fail to see how more staff will change that unless their job is to lobby for adequate funding.

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