L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa to Talk Gangs, Deficit in State of the City Address

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa delivers his State of the City address tonight. Most at City Hall agree that the big problem L.A. faces now is a $400 million budget deficit. KPCC's Frank Stoltze has a preview of the speech.

Frank Stoltze: Cities throughout the state face serious shortfalls. Tax revenues are down because of the slowing economy and housing slump. Rising gas prices make it more expensive to run police cars, fire engines, and garbage trucks. Mayor Villaraigosa:

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa: We're looking at the biggest budget deficit in L.A. history, and we're going to have to make the tough choices. That means there will be very serious cuts, cuts that we haven't seen historically here in the city of Los Angeles. There will also be some layoffs.

Stoltze: Last week, Villaraigosa proposed eliminating nearly 800 city jobs. While some of those jobs already are vacant, layoffs are likely. The mayor's pledged there won't be any reductions in the police or fire departments. The mayor also wants to raise fees for some city services.

Villaraigosa: None of us should be able to get a free ride, and when the city is providing services at a subsidized level in a time of economic crisis, we ought to be able to get the full cost of those services. We'll be looking at that.

Stoltze: Sanitation fees are likely on the mayor's list. It costs each household about $22 a month for garbage pick-up. Cost to the city: around $35. West L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl sits on the budget committee.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl: That is something that I think we must do. We must do full recovery of trash. But that is something to discuss publicly, bring in the neighborhood councils, talk about why we would be doing this.

Stoltze: San Fernando Valley Councilwoman Wendy Gruel also sits on the budget committee. She considers the budget deficit an opportunity to slay sacred cows. She'd like to see a change in the way the city uses its revenues from the sale of surplus property.

Councilwoman Wendy Gruel: That when we sell that property, that a hundred percent of that should go back into the general fund. Currently, the policy of the city of Los Angeles is that 50% goes into the district in which it's located for that councilmember to use for projects in their district. I believe that really should go citywide.

Stoltze: That idea's almost certain to rankle some of her colleagues. Villaraigosa's State of the City address tonight follows a series of high-profile gang shootings and a decision by the City Council to consolidate all gang prevention programs in the mayor's office. San Fernando Valley Councilman Tony Cardenas heads the Ad Hoc Committee on Gang Violence.

Councilman Tony Cardenas: People have been clamoring, and I have agreed, that we need to figure out a way to have one place that is accountable and responsible to all of these programs that deal with youth and gang member kids.

Stoltze: Villaraigosa's delivering his speech at police headquarters to underscore his plans for anti-gang programs.

Villaraigosa: While I didn't ask for it, I certainly accept it. And I'm glad that the City Council moved ahead and that we're able to come together to take on this real tough issue.

Stoltze: What the mayor's unlikely to do is propose significant funding increases for gang prevention programs. In his promise to protect funding for the LAPD amid the budget crisis, he's said other city services will have to suffer, even as he's repeatedly said Los Angeles cannot arrest its way out of the gang problem.