The mayor will release his official Los Angeles 2010-11 fiscal year city budget today, and it's widely expected to contain more flip-flops than a sidewalk sale at a 99-cent store. The Los Angeles City Council appears stunned by yesterday's announcement by Antonio Villaraigosa that the city doesn't need to lay off 4,000, or even 1,000 city workers after all.
Watch closely for the hand of new DWP interim general manager Austin Beutner in the exotic document the mayor issues with great fanfare today. There is likely to be some kind of “sell city assets” talk, and perhaps complex borrowing schemes (bonds or otherwise) to be paid by Angelenos' children and grandchildren.
How could the City Council be so unaware of where the mayor was really headed back when he claimed 4,000 layoffs and struck fear in the hearts of city workers? Here's how:
As we showed a few days ago in our Timeline of Trauma, the mayor has been changing his plans along with the 24-hour news cycle. His behavior is probably at least partly to blame for the city's latest credit downgrading.
In Washington, D.C. and in Sacramento, the behavior by
Villaraigosa, Beutner and other key mayoral aides who've cried Wolf! over
massive layoffs has a nickname: It's known as the “closing
the Washington Monument” scheme or, alternately, the “shutting down
Mount Rushmore” maneuver.
These maneuvers are essentially lies. The officials or elected leaders grossly overstate what kinds of budget cuts are coming — cuts so deep that
Mount Rushmore must be closed! — in order to manipulate the public into
accepting the real budget being created on a second set of books, whose cuts are
often more costly to the public at large but less so for the political class.
It's sometimes hard to make the Los Angeles City Council look good, as we explained in unintentionally humorous detail in 2009. The City Council is the highest paid city council in the United States at $178,789. Villaraigosa is the highest paid mayor in the nation at more than $230,000.
Yet only about five of the 15 council members are viewed as seriously understanding what is in the city budget.
Now stir into this mix Villaraigosa's 2010-2011 budget being released today.
It is likely to include ways to push off onto unsuspecting young people in Los Angeles the later costs of running City Hall today, as well as Wall Street-style back doors that worsen the load on taxpayers — yet only come to light after things are set in stone.