Now it's getting interesting. Last Friday night, 12th District City Councilman Greig Smith released his own salvo over a proposal to freeze the hiring of LAPD officers during Los Angeles's budget crisis, claiming Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was engaging in “scare tactics and fear mongering.”
Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Bill Bratton were furious after the L.A. City Council's Budget & Finance Committee approved a City Hall report last Wednesday to suspend cop hires, with Villaraigosa saying the recommendation, which now goes to a full vote before the City Council, would be “devastating (to) public safety” and Bratton describing it as “short-sighted and dangerous.”
Villaraigosa, who's undoubtedly exploring a gubernatorial run in 2010, is also peeved because he's determined to fulfill his longtime promise of fielding a police force of 10,000 cops, which would certainly help his campaign resume.
Villaraigosa and Bratton had other choice words for Smith, Bernard Parks, and Bill Rosendahl, all of whom voted for the hiring freeze. Now Smith, a longtime LAPD reservist, is hitting back. It's something that isn't often seen at City Hall, where, publicly at least, this city's political leaders act as if they're one big, happy family.
A little after 6 p.m. on May 15, Smith sent out a blistering press release via email that criticized both the mayor and the police chief. Smith made it clear he's not happy with Villaraigosa and Bratton, and laid out his reasons why, while also arguing for “sound fiscal policy.”
While these political fireworks were playing out last week, L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti was out of town — location undisclosed by his office — for Naval Reserve duty. Garcetti, however, found time to make phone calls to other council members in an effort to drum up support for the mayor, according to Daily News reporter Rick Orlov.
In the meantime, expect more verbal clashes involving Villaraigosa, Bratton, and the City Council, not to mention backroom skirmishes the public will never see or hear. Here are Smith's comments unedited:
“COUNCILMAN SMITH'S REBUTTAL TO RECENT STATEMENTS BY THE MAYOR REGARDING THE BUDGET = May 15, 2009
“On Wednesday May 13, I voted with the majority of the City's Budget and Finance Committee to fix Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's proposed budget which is balanced on $326 million of uncertain assumptions that would have bankrupted the City by the end of this year.
“The Chief Legislative Analyst and the City Administrative Officer, who serves as the City's chief financial officer, both concur with the Committee majority that Mayor Villarigosa's proposed budget is unsustainable.
“Since that time the Mayor has engaged in scare tactics and fear mongering instead of working to find solutions for the City's financial problems.
“Even worse, Police Chief William Bratton threatened to take away Police Officers from the districts of Councilmembers who do not cave to his agenda and the Mayor's budget-breaking demands.
“My colleagues, Councilmen Bernard Parks and Bill Rosendahl, are honorable public servants who do not deserve political retaliation for their difficult decision to preserve City services while keeping the City solvent.
“As a 16-year LAPD Reserve Police Officer, I reject the implication that I oppose our Police and Firefighters. I have put my life on the line to protect the people who live and work in Los Angeles and public safety has always been and will always be my top priority.
“Mayor Villaraigosa's plan to remove current rank-and-file Police Officers from the streets with mandatory furlough days to pay for his new Officers fails to make sense.
“Furthermore, the Mayor fails to provide a viable revenue source for these new hires. His budget relies on hundreds of millions of dollars in union concessions that he has failed to obtain in 15 months of ongoing negotiations.
“The City is projected to reach a $1 billion budget deficit in 2010. Mayor Villaraigosa funds his proposals with one-time revenue that will not fix our ongoing budgetary problems.
“A deficit of this magnitude will force the closing of parks and libraries and decimate critical services such as street paving, sidewalk repair and traffic improvements.
“The drastic downturn of our economy has created the worst budget scenario in City history. The City, like all families all across America, has had to make sacrifices, cut spending, and make do with less.
“In addition to the 26 mandatory furlough days my staff and I will take under the Committee's revised budget, I am cutting my office salaries and General City Purpose funds by 10%. This is on top of the 10% cut to office salaries I gave back in the current year's budget.
“I fully support the hiring of additional Police Officers and the expansion of the force. I will not, however, endorse a fiscally irresponsible plan. The hiring freeze is a temporary delay to LAPD's expansion until the City can afford it. I urge the Mayor and Police Chief to tone down their rhetoric and work with the Council to achieve real solutions based on sound fiscal policy.”
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at email@example.com.