Villaraigosa proposes budget, offers city council olive branch

Mayor delivers his State of the City address April 20, inside the auditorium at the new police headquarters.
Mayor delivers his State of the City address April 20, inside the auditorium at the new police headquarters.
Frank Stoltze/KPCC

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa delivered his state of the city address Tuesday, and a proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. It includes hundreds of layoffs and deep service cuts.

The mayor delivered his speech to city leaders at the new police headquarters auditorium.

“Pardon me if I break with the established ritual of this afternoon," he began.

Villaraigosa said he’d forgo recounting accomplishments and setting goals to address the most important issue facing Los Angeles — and many other cities: a gaping budget deficit.

For L.A., it’s more than $400 million.

The mayor proposed 750 layoffs and up to 26 unpaid days off for city employees to address the budget deficit. He also proposed reducing library and parks hours, and filling fewer pot holes and trimming fewer trees.

“These layoffs and service cuts that I have proposed will be severe. They will be painful," he said.

"But let me be the first to say, we can do better," Villaraigosa added.

The mayor suggested some of the layoffs and cuts could be avoided if city labor unions agree to pay cuts and higher contributions to their pension funds.

Cheryl Parisi of the Coalition of City Labor Unions expressed little interest in pay cuts.

“We very disappointed in this budget," Parisi said.

“He is throwing kids out on the streets by closing libraries and parks. He’s laying off over 30 percent of librarians and 30 percent of recreation personnel."

City workers showed up to protest the budget.

Chad Doi works in the planning department. The city already forces the married father of two to take one unpaid day off every other week, and worries about having to take more.

"My wife is a stay-at-home mom. So we’ve been having to take money out of our savings to pay the mortgage and pay for things around the house. So it’s hurting. It’s difficult," he said.

The mayor’s proposed budget now goes before the city council.

Council President Eric Garcetti promised a full review.

“I’ve always said its better for us to take pay cuts than to do layoffs," he said. "But it’ also been difficult to imagine a budget without some layoffs. We’ve had to some of those this fiscal year. They’ll probably have to continue.”

In his speech, Villaraigosa sought to mend fences with the city council after a bruising fight over a power rate hike last month.

“We cannot allow our city family to stand divided against itself," Villaraigosa said. "This is a challenge for all of us. But first and foremost. It’s a challenge for me.”

“It was the speech that he needed to give," Councilwoman Janice Hahn said. "He first needed to acknowledge that there was a little bit of a rift in the family.”

Any new spirit of cooperation will be tested as the priorities of the mayor, city council, powerful labor unions and the business community clash.

One key issue is whether the city should stop hiring new police officers. The mayor’s steadfastly said no. Some on the council have said the LAPD needs to shrink along with other city departments.