LA Daily News columnist Kerry Cananaugh keeps it short and sweet today with a ball-busting column on those 200-plus "car crazy" city employees who just can't bring themselves to give up their city-funded ride in the name of the deficit.
It's a perfect opportunity to observe one of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's infamous empty promises, in which he declares his commitment to doing right by the City of Los Angeles -- only to slink back off to the White House or Chicago and continue kissing President Obama's ass in the hopes of securing federal support for another expensive political career-maker the city can't afford while putting himself in the national spotlight for a possible promotion to Washington. [Deep breath in.]
L.A., meanwhile, is left to the rats.
In 2009, then-L.A. Controller Laura Chick released a sickening report on the city's $10 million-per-year home-garaged vehicle program. Writes Daily News columnist Cananaugh:
In response to the audit, Villaraigosa ordered a freeze on new take-home cars and suspended the purchase of most new cars. At the time, the mayor said take-home vehicles were largely "a convenience, not a necessity."
Yet, this convenience is still enjoyed by high-ranking city officials. A follow-up audit by Controller Wendy Greuel last year found that just three city executives -- including council members, their staff and general managers -- had given up their cars.
The salary database shows 194 employees reported a city car as a fringe benefit. The number of take-home cars is actually much larger, but the database doesn't include law enforcement officials assigned home-garage vehicles, who under the tax code do not need to report take-home cars as a taxable fringe benefit.
Here's the brand-new L.A. salary database in full. Watch out: It's 637 pages of garble. But if you can somehow bushwhack your way to the City Council section, that's where a vast majority of the cars pop up. Because all those those aides to the councilmembers surely need on-call vehicles for all their midnight paperwork/red-tape emergencies.
This, after Governor Jerry Brown proposed to cut 7,500 cars and 48,000 cell phones from the state-employee budget this month. Stop making us look bad, Jerry!
According to our calculations, the approximately 200 executive cars that ex-Controller Chick counted in her 2009 audit have not been whittled down whatsoever, as promised by Villaraigosa. And according to our calculations, based on the audit, they're costing the city about $1.3 million a year.
Let's see: What could $1.3 million get us...
Libraries that actually open their doors sometimes, so thousands of kids can take refuge among the books on after school instead of roaming the streets looking for trouble? (Then maybe Los Angeles wouldn't be ranked so damn illiterate.) Or how about restore the unusable bus system? Fill a few more potholes, perhaps?
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In the year 2010, even after the two audits, L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar still presided over eight "council aides" with city cars. Councilmen Greig Smith, Tony Cardenas, Ed Reyes, Richard Alarcon, Herb Wesson and Eric Garcetti's entourages each drove seven.
Then there are totally obscure city sectors like El Pueblo (?) and very non-emergency departments like the City Attorney's Office, which are apparently doling out vehicles as well, for some unknown reason. (Also, three employees from the City Controller's Office drive a city car. We're disappointed in you, Wendy.)
However, to leave on a positive note, we would like to congratulate Councilmen Bernard Parks and Paul Krekorian for each only giving one aide a car in 2010 -- though they themselves are obviously still driving pretty.
But overall, yeah... depressing. Can we at least get another empty promise, mayor dearest?