By Hillel Aron
Nineteen big-time L.A. machers, including Steve Soboroff (rich Westside guy), Mickey Kantor (longtime Democratic consultant), Gary Toebben (Chamber of Commerce guy) and David Fleming (rich Valley guy), led by George Kieffer (Manatt, Phelps power broker), sent an open letter to City Council President Herb Wesson, urging the City Council to adopt Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's weenie plan to trim pensions for new city hires.
Kieffer warns that over-rich city pensions have put L.A. on an “unsustainable” course (without mentioning bankruptcy). The 19 big-shots then endorse Villaraigosa's milquetoast plan to save only $30 million to $70 million. When everybody knows City Hall must save billions because L.A. is broke and broken.
Villaraigosa's plan would raise the ridiculous City of Los Angeles retirement age from a robust 55 years old to a reasonable 65 years old. But his new rule would exclude the thousands of policemen and firemen plus — as a purely political favor — thousands of Department of Water and Power workers.
Also the plan applies only to new hires. But the broke City of Los Angeles is not hiring.
In fact, Villaraigosa just proposed 209 more layoffs, targeting the City Attorney staff for firings. Villaraigosa did not, however, target his own bloated entourage of 200 personal aides.
The letter seems to be both a threat against the City Council and a veiled attack on former Mayor Richard Riordan's signature-gathering effort to place an extensive city pension reform measure before voters in May 2013.
The Rich Guy Letter (signed by three women too — Cindy Miscikowski, Elise Buik and Antonia Hernandez) reads:
“We want to commend you and the Mayor for your leadership. From the last vote of the City Council, it appears the Council is also prepared to approve the plan. … while it is more generous than many future private and nonprofit sector employees are likely to receive, it does represent a substantial improvement and will assist the City reach fiscal stability over the long term.”
That's pretty high praise, especially coming from Toebben and Fleming, who endorsed former mayor Riordan's much more radical and far-reaching pension plan. Riordan wants to force the massive, 50,000-person body of city employees to contribute more to their amazing pensions.
(Right now, DWP workers on average put in just $6,000 a year toward their pensions. Guess who puts in $50,000 per year to each DWP worker? Yes, you and the rest of Los Angeles taxpayers.) Riordan wants to put new hires into a 401(k)-style system.
Kieffer's letter vaguely acknowledges Riordan's proposal without naming the former mayor:
“[W]e are very much aware that others may be considering a City initiative if pension reforms fail. In general, we believe these decisions are most often best left to the City Council. However, when legislative action fails, there will be times when issues of such importance must go to the voters.”
Is that an incredibly subtle threat to Herb Wesson to find his cojones? Or is it just more posturing by L.A.'s traditionally weenie and wealthy civic leaders?
It's a bit odd to see these Los Angeles 1-percenters (others in the Milk Toast 19 include Geoffrey Cowan, John H. Semcken III and John Emerson) sucking up to Wesson and Villaraigosa like this, while backhandedly treating fellow 1-percenter Riordan like some kid from high school whose name they can't remember.