Monday, June 20, 2011

Rick Orlov: Not everyone sold on budget doom

Being a Doomsayer means that every silver lining has a dark cloud around it.

Gov. Jerry Brown has been a persistent doomsayer in his reincarnation, and former Mayor Richard Riordan continues with his dire warnings about state and city finances.

When Brown vetoed the state budget last week, he created a new group of doomsayers at the County Hall of Administration - those who are scrambling to figure out how to pay for public programs the state is handing off to them.

And Riordan has continued his mantra that Los Angeles is headed toward financial insolvency.

In an interview last week with Bond Buyer finance magazine, he said the soaring costs of funding public pensions are having a detrimental ripple effect on services.

"A lot of things are going to happen dramatically over the next couple of years and then people will listen," Riordan said. "If you close down all the parks and all the libraries, this is political dynamite."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has challenged Riordan's assertions, pointing to cuts the city has made over the past three years - more than $1 billion - and reducing the city's structural deficit.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, who is in the middle of a road show to bankers and bond raters, said he also is finding an appreciation for what the city has done.

"They recognize the changes we have made to reduce our work force and cut our structural deficit," Santana said. "I am finding a much

warmer reception these days then I did a year ago.

"Unlike prior administration, the mayor and council have been willing to make the tough decisions to manage the city's finances."

Santana said all the major ratings agencies recently adjusted the city to their highest levels, making it less expensive when it sells bonds or needs to borrow money.

But with all the cuts, comes a reaction.

The Los Angeles City Attorney's Association has filed an unfair labor complaint against the city with the Employee Relations Board, claiming it is "harassing and pressuring us while negotiations are going on," said Oscar Winslow, president of the association.

"We want the city to stop harassing us and pressuring us while we are in the process of negotiation," Winslow said.

Bill Carter, chief of staff to City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, said they are puzzled over the allegations and pointed to the vote by the attorneys to reject the city's proposed contract.

"The mayor made clear that if they did not approve the contract, they would be faced with furloughs," Carter said. "We can only do so much with the money we have. When the mayor proposed this year's budget, he said the only way the city can cover its cost is with furloughs."

The attorneys have had 26 furlough days this past year and are facing 36 furlough days in the coming year.

What many find ironic is that the attorneys who will be representing the city will be deputy city attorneys.

It's not as if Democratic Councilwoman Janice Hahn needed much help in her July 12 runoff against Republican Craig Huey.

With Democrats holding a 45-27 percent edge in the district, Hahn has been the odds-on favorite to succeed Rep. Jane Harman in the coastal district.

Now, with a supporter of Huey putting out an Internet commercial featuring a stripper and gang thugs, Hahn is getting an unexpected boost.

"The response has been incredible," Hahn said. "I am getting calls of support from all over the country."

Emily's List has now made the race a national priority as has the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce might have landed the biggest "get" of the year for its upcoming "Hiring Our Heroes" job fair for veterans.

Prince William and Princess Kate will participate in the event at Sony Pictures on July 10, as part of their visit to the United States.

"This will be a day to remember not only for the businesses who participate but for the veterans who land a job," said Gary Toebbern, president and chief executive of the Chamber.

Rick Orlov is a Daily News staff writer and columnist. His Tipoff column appears Mondays. For a daily political fix, go to the Sausage Factory at You can contact him at or 213-978-0390.


Jennie Finch Melissa Sagemiller Mila Kunis Michelle Branch Giulianna Ramirez

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