Los Angeles city managers are slashing budgets and preparing for possible furloughs as L.A.'s mayor, the City Council and the Department of Water and Power bicker over deepening budget woes.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa directed the city administrative office to look into furloughs for most city workers except those in public safety and in revenue generating departments like parking. In doing so, he railed against the City Council for its action last week blocking a proposed power rate increase. "The politics of no is no more sustainable than the Department of Water and Power's over-reliance on coal," the mayor said. "We can no longer wait. We can no longer say no."
Interim chief of the DWP David Freeman said last week's votes have rendered his utility incapable of transferring $73 million to help close L.A.'s budget gap as planned. Freeman argued that the harsh truth is that a rate increase is necessary. "Spread it out however you want but get on with it. I think there's been a fair amount of avoidance behavior thus far," he told the council.
City council members fired back. With a unanimous resolution, they asked the DWP board to pass a one-time 4.5 percent increase for July 1. Council President Eric Garcetti, who appeared before DWP commissioners last week, denied the council is in denial.
"How often do you get the business community saying, please pass this rate increase?" asked Garcetti. "I think it's the first time in nine years I've been there, that the Chamber of Commerce said, please, pass the rate increase. It was the first time I was there saying, please, pass the rate increase. So I don't think there's so much avoidance," he said.
City employee unions hope to avoid furloughs – they're meeting with city leaders about the mayor's plans. Villaraigosa is under pressure to find a solution for the city and for the utility whose energy policies his politics shape. He's set to release a city budget later this month. Meanwhile the DWP's cash reserves are dwindling $6 million each week this tug of war continues.