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Time to Cut the Inflated Salaries of the America’s Highest Paid City Council

LA WATCHDOG--Do the members of the Los Angeles City Council deserve to be paid $214,000 a year? 

And this does not include over the top benefits, including free health care, pensions, post-retirement medical care, a $100,000 City financed slush fund, large staffs for which there is little accountability or transparency, and access to millions in unaccountable discretionary funds? 

In San Bernardino County, residents expressed their dissatisfaction with their Supervisors.  In November, over two-thirds of the voters approved Measure K which will slash the compensation of the County Supervisors and limit them to one term in office.  

“Shall the measure entitled “The San Bernardino County Supervisor Compensation Reduction and Term Limits” that will amend the County Charter to impose a term limit of one term for all Districts beginning December of 2020 and reduce the total compensation for each member of the Board of Supervisors to $5,000 per month be adopted?” 

According to election material, the County Supervisors “collect a salary and benefits package of over $250,000 annually – nearly six times the median income of San Bernardino working families.” The new level of compensation will be $5,000 a month, or $60,000 a year.  Compensation includes not only salary, but “allowances, credit cards, health insurance, life insurance, leave, retirement, memberships, portable communications devices, and vehicle allowances.”  

If such a measure was presented to the voters of the City of Los Angeles, our Councilmembers would object vehemently, telling us that they are doing a marvelous job addressing the issues that important to Angelenos.  Nothing could be farther from the truth. 

Our City Council has refused to address corruption despite the fact that two former councilmembers, Jose Huizar and Mitch Englander, will be going to the slammer.  They have ignored calls for campaign finance reform, a charter amendment to limit the Council’s meddling in land use decisions, and the establishment of an independent commission to review land use decisions, allowing projects like the Hollywood Millennium, a Garcetti pet project, to proceed.

Our City Council gave away the store to the City’s public sector labor unions when they approved budget busting labor agreements in 2019 despite the fact that they knew that these agreements would blow a $150-200 million hole in the budget and create deficits of $200 to $400 million for the following four years. 

Our City Council has refused to address the devastating impact of Covid-19 on City revenues, financing shortfalls by raiding the City’s underfunded Reserve Fund when furloughs would have saved the City hundreds of millions of dollars and preserved city services. 

The City Council approved the Separation Incentive Program demanded by the public sector unions which saved only $2.6 million this year despite the expenditure of $250 million by our cash starved City.  

Our City Council has refused to address the City’s $675 million budget deficit by failing to approve layoffs recommended by the City Administrative Officer because they were opposed by the public sector unions.  Rather, they are still praying for a bailout from Washington while LA burns cash. 

Our City Council is not transparent about its budget, refusing to submit a detailed memo outlining its expenditures for next year.  How does the City Council pay for 300 staffers that are not accounted for in the budget?  And why doesn’t the City Council disclose information about the tens of millions in their discretionary funds that are financed by the taxpayers? 

We could also discuss the City Council’s failure to address pension reform, the $10 billion deferred maintenance backlog, and its failure to manage the homeless crisis and the massive cost overruns on the development of bridge shelters and permanent supporting housing.   And no doubt, there are other abuses that deserve airing. 

If a measure to reduce the compensation of Councilmembers to $120,000 a year was placed on the ballot, the question is not whether it would pass, but by how much. 

 (Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.)

-cw