By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Bratton and Hahn took their case to the public in a joint interview with KPCC’s Larry Mantle, during which Hahn threw a punch at new Councilman (and former chief) Bernard Parks, whom he accused of causing the officer shortfall in the first place. Bratton compared himself to Eisenhower on D-Day being called home for fiscal reasons as his boats approached Normandy. Then, hearing the show in his car, Councilman Jack Weiss called in to say that the mayor and the chief were like the movie characters Thelma and Louise “taking the city over a cliff.”
Over the next few weeks, the gap (and the rhetoric) between council and mayor continued to worsen. Hahn offered a compromise budget in which the funds for the extra cops were gained by cutting 3 percent out of all city agencies, except for police, fire and sanitation. Out of the question, huffed the council, pointing to state-budget cuts that would already reduce library and park allocations to bone level. The council passed its own budget, which the mayor vetoed just before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4. It took the council less than 20 minutes to override the veto. And then, once the smoke and the hyperbole dissipated, three things became clear:
1. If money was the issue, there was one obvious place to look for extra funds: salaries. In a series of pre-negotiated contracts, all city employees — both unionized workers and the city’s 9,000 nonunion employees — will be getting a nice, fat cost-of-living increase. The official California cost-of-living adjustment — which is calculated according to the rise in basic living expenses — hovers around 2 percent. However, the city employees (the police likely included) are scheduled for a 4 percent raise — twice what is mandated by inflation. Meanwhile, most Californians working in the private sector are getting no raises at all. In fact, last month Time magazine ran a cover story detailing how millions of Americans were taking pay cuts, to avoid being laid off. And Governor Gray Davis has dumped cost-of-living adjustments altogether for those on SSI, CalWorks or other forms of public assistance.
2. It was never really about the police, it was about something else. In July, when newly elected members come onto the council, a new president will be chosen, important committee assignments will change, and political alliances will shift. Conventional wisdom has it that Alex Padilla will remain as leader. Privately, veteran council watchers say that votes will divide between ‰ Padilla and Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, and that, as factions battled for position, the police issue became an unlucky mouse caught between fighting cats.
3. Amid the acrimony, one vital detail got pushed aside: Even more than the $18 million to hire 320 new officers, the LAPD desperately needed (and would have settled for) the funds for its reorganization plan, which — at $4.2 million — was chump change. In the past, the department had always fixed problems with Band-Aids and patches, never breaking apart the administrative structure in order to rebuild it better anew. Under Bratton, a real restructuring has finally been undertaken, but extra cash is needed to jump-start the plan. “I think if they’d asked us to break out the reorganization money, the council would have done it,” said a council staffer. “But nobody asked, because, in the end, it seemed the mayor just wanted to win it all.”
So, in the end, nobody won. Not the mayor, not the council, not the LAPD — and certainly not the people of Los Angeles.