The operating hours of the Franchise Tax Board’s call center are being reduced, it was announced July 20.
Starting Aug. 3, call center hours will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, except for state holidays. Currently, general taxpayer assistance phones lines are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The change “stems from budget constraints,” according to an FTB statement.
Taxpayers with general questions can call the FTB at (800) 852-5711. The FTB’s Web site – www.taxes.ca.gov – provides state tax information, forms, e-services, and answers to frequently asked tax questions. Information on other taxes and fees in California is available online at www.taxes.ca.gov.
The FTB reported that it receives more than 2.6 million taxpayer calls per year.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has appointed Jerome Horton to represent the 4th District for the California Board of Equalization following the election of Judy Chu to Congress.
“Jerome Horton is a committed public servant with a solid record of protecting taxpayers and supporting tax policies that promote economic growth, which is exactly what California needs right now,” Schwarzenegger said.
Horton has owned and operated Horton & Associates, a government-consulting agency since 2007. He previously represented the 51st Assembly District in the California State Assembly from 2000 to 2007. Prior to joining the California State Assembly, Horton served on the Inglewood City Council from 1996 to 2000.
The 4th District of the Board of Equalization represents over 8 million residents in Los Angeles County.
A man who believes he was followed home from a restaurant was punched in the face and robbed of his wallet on July 16. Around 9:20 p.m., a man got out of his car in the 1100 block of West Garvey Avenue, officials said.
“He was approached by two males, and as he excited his vehicle, one the suspects punched him in the face,” Lt. Steve Coday said.
An unknown amount of money was taken. The men were last seen driving away in a black Toyota pick-up truck.
Responding to the Los Angeles Unified School District’s cancellation of summer school, the organization scrambled to revive its Summer of Youth Artist Program, (“S.O.Y. Artista”) for high school students, but the kids are not coming.
“We though they’d be knocking down the door,” Executive Director Evonne Gallardo told EGP. “It was a last minute response to what was happening in the community.”
The free program has capacity for 30 students but as of July 17, only four students had joined. The four-week program, from Tuesday to Friday, began July 14 and runs until August 7. The target age is 14 to 17-year-olds.
This week, students learned to make relief prints using the medium of linocut. Next week the students will make kites using their new skills.
On “Wild Card Fridays,” the students will have a surprise workshop relating to the “Hard in Da Paint” hip-hop class. For more information on the S.O.Y. Artista programs and other events visit www.selfhelpgraphics.com or call (323) 881-6444. Self Help Graphics & Arts is located at 3802 Cesar E. Chavez Avenue in Boyle Heights.
If the grapes in Cesar E. Chavez’s hands could speak, one of the things they might say is, “glaze me.” The purple skulls clenched between the labor leader’s fingers are part of “México-Tenochitlán—The Wall That Talks,” a 100-foot mural in Highland Park that is currently undergoing restoration, after recently being vandalized,
Anthony “Eagle” Ortega, founder of Quetzalcóatl Mural Project, a cultural art collective, said once he and fellow muralists have finished giving the mural located at Avenue 61 and Figueroa, a fresh coat of bright paint in the following months, it will be glazed with a anti-graffiti product called Graffiti Melt Coating, that he estimates will protect the mural for 10 years.
The water-based version of the glaze will allow quick cleanup of graffiti with baby-wipes, said Ortega, who added that L.A.’s Department of Public Works will apply the glaze when the restoration is complete.
The mural was the collective’s first project almost 15 years ago and cost the city $50,000 to commission. Rage Against the Machine lead singer Zak de la Rocha funded part of it, according to Ortega.
Ortega estimates the restoration will cost about $3,000. John Densmore, drummer for the rock group The Doors, is funding a portion of the expense.
Ortega has asked the Highland Park Heritage Trust for $300-$500 to purchase paints and other materials, and says his group is urgently asking members of the community to help “rescue” the “beautiful mural before the problem is too big.” The group still needs $1,400, he said.
The tapestry of the community needs to be restored, if the fabric of Los Angeles is lost, so is the community, said Ortega, referring to the decaying state of many of the City’s murals.
Andy Ledesma, one of the original muralists who now serves as the collective’s cultural ambassador, remembers the mural was created by artists who lived within walking distance of the then Arroyo Furniture store wall.
“The mural is living iconography,” said Ledesma, noting that the muralists were teenagers to young 30-somethings when they worked on the Ave 61 mural back in 1995. “It portrays indigenous religion, traditional religion, activism, …” he explained.
Over the years, the mural has been defaced with tagger monikers and paint-splatters. The largest local gang, the Avenues, however, has respected the mural because some of their family members helped paint it , said Ortega.
Recently, the mural was defaced with the word “care” accompanied by the nickname of a well-known local street artist. While no one seems to want to publicly accuse the artist, the desecration of the mural brought the collective back together to figure out a way to revive the faded murals in the area, and to teach upcoming artists about the importance of respecting existing works of art.
Ortega said they have to touch-up the mural more often, most of the time without funding.
The Quetzalcoatl Mural Project, named after the Mesoamerican feathered serpent god, once participated in a cultural renaissance aimed at inspiring cultural pride and Chicano empowerment through tributes to Mexican history and folklore. Today, the group hopes to restore the murals and revive respect in the community for both the art form and the hard fought history it represents.
“If you look at the history of Northeast L.A., over the years this community has combated graffiti vandalism…we need to save art, and do it by developing a social message [that will] open people’s minds to the contributions we made as Chicanos to the history of this country—and I think the mural explains that,” Ortega told EGP.
The group hopes to find private funding to avoid city bureaucracy in awarding grants. It can take a year to receive city money to restore a mural, an eternity when taggers bomb the streets daily.
Rafael Corona and Jaime Ochoa, two of the recently reunited original artists, are also working on the restoration.
Corona specifically worked on the Aztec calendar portion of the mural. For him, it is a labor of love.
“If I do this for somebody I would charge like $8,000,” said Corona, who complained there is little funding for mural up-keep. “This is for the community [benefit] but no one gives us money to keep it clean and nice and neat.”
Ochoa and Michael McDaniel were commissioned by The ZMS Academy to paint a scenery mural on the other side of the same building.
McDaniel has a realist point of view on deterring graffiti. He, like the other artists, knows it is no accident when taggers hit a mural.
“Tagging is what it is, and the culture is to do what they do—so the only thing that you can do [to prevent tagging on murals], is do something that is relevant enough in the community that it can be respected,” said McDaniel, referring to the message of the mural, not just the quality of the work.
The group is open to educating a new generation about mural art, but know that funding will be a challenge in these tough economic times when arts funding is a low priority in California schools.
Ochoa has experience working with young people and teaching mural art classes, his mother, Cristina Ochoa, is a former curator for Self Help Graphics & Art.
“If more activities were funded, you could put a paintbrush in every kid’s hands,” the artists said.
“A joystick, a brush or a gun,” added Ochoa who begins another mural restoration project on Livermore Terrace next week.
Other artists who contributed to the original mural include: John Zender Estrada, Dominic Ochoa, Isabel Martinez, Oscar de Leon, Mario Mancia, Jesse Silva, Jerry Ortega. The mural is dedicated to Daniel Robles and UFW founder Cesar E. Chavez, Ortega said.
All around Los Angeles, murals can be readily seen on the walls of pharmacies, clothing stores and markets, usually depicting some sort of message to the community.
While artists may see the murals as cultural and artistic expressions, many of the businesses where the murals are located see the purpose of the murals differently. For many business owners the murals are a defense mechanism, a way to keep “taggers” and graffiti artists off their property.
And for the graffiti artists who venture off into the business of mural painting on private property, their business model is simple: get paid to keep the graffiti away.
“I make a living off it but not every job in the ‘hood pays well ‘cause they don’t have the money for it,” said Edward Mompeller, who is known in the graffiti world by his moniker, “Playboy Eddie.”
Not every mural is the same, depicting images born out of Mexican history or folk art. Mompeller’s work, for the most part, is more modern, portraying graffiti or street art influences more often created with spray paint than paint brushes. For the uninitiated, it may be hard to tell the difference between what he does, and the work of taggers.
Mompeller has been displaying his art on businesses since 1985. The work is not only about making a few bucks, says Mompeller, he also hopes it will keep graffiti off business walls.
“If it’s somebody from the neighborhood that did [the art] and it has something to do with them, then [taggers] won’t mess with it,” said Mompeller, aka Playboy Eddie.
The business model gained traction in the 1990s when businesses plagued by the high cost of graffiti removal saw the growing respect and acceptance of murals as a way to fight graffiti.
“In the 90s, you had a lot more ‘taggers’ back then who tagged on walls, so we were able to get rid of the vandalism by putting up murals,” said Mompeller.
Fees charged by graffiti artists like Mompeller vary anywhere from free to over a thousand dollars, depending on the work to be done.
Despite the price, businesses continue to allow graffiti artists to paint on their properties, with some feeling it is the only way they can control what goes on their walls.
Alberto Sanchez, owner of Chico’s Mexican Restaurant in Highland Park, has hired Mompeller several times over the last three years to paint his signature graffiti murals on his building. Low prices and the hope of repelling other non-approved graffiti are his motivation.
“He told me that if he puts his art here, (it would keep taggers away) because they respected him,” said Sanchez, who also stated that the tagging has not completely stopped.
Sanchez recently paid Mompeller $430 to paint the outside of his restaurant, but only the parking lot displays graffiti art.
“It has helped (keep graffiti off my walls) in some ways,” said Sanchez. “I hope things change.”
Two blocks down at Monte Mart, Mompeller offered his services for free, as the market also had problems with graffiti.
“The only thing was that as part of our deal, [the art] had to include something about the meat market,” said Miguel Morales, the store’s manager,
Mompeller used the white wall canvas to create “King of the Streets,” a mural that served as his message to the neighborhood kids.
“I put a message for the kids. That [wall] needed for something to be on there,” said Mompeller. “If you look at the message it pushes you to stay in business. To have something going on in your life, something to fall back on.”
Since “King of the Streets” was painted a year ago, Monte Mart has not had any problems with graffiti.
While many murals continue to go up on business walls, the city has deemed such works to be illegal.
“Murals on private property are prohibited by ordinances,” said Pat Gomez, Mural Manager for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.
According to Gomez, the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety can issue citations to businesses that allow any unauthorized artwork and can have the work removed.
While there is no set protocol in which artists can have their murals registered and protected by the Department of Cultural Affairs, the artists still need permission from the city to paint them.
“In the last nine years, 120 (murals) have been registered,” said Gomez.
Gomez also estimated that there are over 3,000 murals throughout the city, including those on private properties. How many businesses have been fined, is unclear.
Despite the ordinances that are in place, murals continue to be painted on private property and for some businesses, allowing the painting of the murals to continue is their only defense against graffiti, at least the unsolicited kind.
What difference does $3 million make?
This was the question – and the budget deficit – staring the Commerce City Council and staff in the face this year as they tried to figure out how to go from a $52.5 million projected budget to a $49.5 million budget.
While most Commerce residents will not notice staff scrimping on work hours and day-to-day expenditures in order to meet this year’s leaner budget, this $3 million difference also means noticeable “adjustments” to some of the residents’ most beloved city services.
This city of 15,000 residents boasts a nationally-recognized library program and an impressive array of parks and recreation programs that includes an Aquatorium that has produced Olympian water polo athletes, and a camp in the Lake Arrowhead woods.
Most of these programs are free to residents, and the city’s leaders have long been committed to maintaining them as a way of keeping residents happy in a city known more widely as an industrial center.
But this year the city saw a decline in sales tax revenue. What began as a $2 million deficit grew to a $2.5 million deficit. Meanwhile, the state is threatening to borrow around $530,000, which the city has no illusions about getting back in the time promised.
Furthermore, the city has projected a long-term economic downturn. The finance director and city administrator recommended a three-year financial plan.
Over twelve detailed budget sessions that began in April, the city worked through potential cuts in each department. The staff described its recommended slate of budget cuts as an “imperfect balance between the Council objectives to protect services, the workforce, and the City’s financial position.”
The city council adopted its $49.5 million general fund operating budget for 2009-2010 on July 7, but not before making some major cuts to its public safety, redevelopment, library and parks and recreation programs.
While the budget reduction process was described as difficult, council says they are still better off than some other cities. After all of the budget reductions were made, the city came away with $13,355 in surplus.
“I think the city is fortunate because of the amount of business we have in the city. We have had three companies that have closed down in our city, money from sales is diminishing… but like I say, we’re still better off than some cities,” says Mayor Joe Aguilar.
“We’ll come out of this a little stronger I think,” Councilman Hugo Argumedo said after adopting the budget.
Finance Director Vilko Domic said earlier in the budget process that the national economic downturn has accelerated the need for the city to take a second look at its programs and services.
“In most cities if not all, public safety is going to be your number one consideration no matter where you go. The other two I think that have been… part of the foundation of this city. That’s parks & recreation and the library. But in year’s past you probably wouldn’t have seen some of the decisions that they’ve made thus far in both of those areas,” he said.
Among earlier items recommended for the chopping block was the city council’s trip to Las Vegas. Vacant staffing positions were also eliminated. The annual Miss Commerce Pageant switched to a cheaper venue. And gifts given out to residents on the city’s birthday were eliminated.
Most of these cuts were made out of the Parks & Recreation department, which lost $266,520 this year. It lost the most money out of all the departments, but it is also one of the larger departments with a budget of $9.9 million.
The city will not be subsidizing as many services provided by Parks & Recreation. The funding for the cultural excursion to Washington D.C. that is usually offered to youth was eliminated. Various community events like the 16th of September celebration, Concerts in the Park, and the City Birthday dinner were eliminated. Evening swim hours were reduced at the Aquatorium.
As the city’s second largest expenditure, Parks & Recreation is just right behind the city’s public safety costs, which includes a contract with the County Sheriff’s Department and the operation of its own Community Services department that serves as a liaison. The city negotiated down its contract with the county by $157,000, while cutting back on part-time hours in its Community Services department.
The city’s four-branch library, which also serves as a resource for many surrounding schools without their own libraries, also received cuts at many levels. Branch hours were reduced, $33,000 was cut from library’s book and media collection funds, and vacant positions and overtime hours were cut. Also, the Saturday homework program will only be available at the central library, instead of at all of the branches. Cuts totaled $114,000 in Library services. The library is the third largest expenditure in the city.
But the department that received the most reduction in relation to its size was the Community Services department, which handles redevelopment. With a cut of $207,000, it lost nearly 13 percent of its overall budget. This translates into a loss of four positions. Currently the redevelopment agency is in the middle of redeveloping Telegraph Road into a commercial/entertainment center, which may be hampered by the state taking away $5-6 million in redevelopment money.
While the city avoided layoffs among its 160 full-time employees, part-time hours were ultimately reduced by ten percent. Most public services that residents are familiar with depend heavily on part-time staff, says City Administrator Jorge Rifá.
This means park maintenance will not happen as quickly or as often, the library may be short-staffed, and bus operation hours will be cut.
“Yes there is an impact. By the same token… we do not believe that the impact is a detriment to quality of life,” Rifá says.
In addition to the cuts, there were some budget shifts of recurring revenues like $250,000 in gas tax funds and $91,000 from the vehicle and computer replacement fund. The city’s senior management staff, consisting of 13 members, conceded a previously negotiated 3.5 percent raise, which also added $90,000 back into the budget.
The city’s budget stabilization fund contributed another $500,000 from the reserve into the operating budget for this year. The city plans a similar injection of this fund, taken from the city’s reserves, in the next two years.
The city had asked its employee union if it could give up a portion of its cost of living increase that had been negotiated for this year, which in the end was rejected by the union.
The union had asked that the city first show that it had considered other ways of reducing the city’s deficit.
Councilman Robert Fierro spoke after adopting the budget, saying they have set a precedent for future budgets.
“It’s a little lesson I think future councils will look at and make better decisions as far as utilizing our money based on revenues,” he said.
Earlier in the process, the city had adopted a ten-point list of financial policies for the city to follow. Among the commandments was a “pay as you go” philosophy, in which operating expenditure could not go above the amount of revenue the city takes in. The city would carefully consider bonds and loans before making a debt commitment, making sure that any obligations would not affect its operating, capital and reserve needs.
The city is also aiming to eventually put away 20 percent of its general fund as a reserve, and a financial policies committee that meets on a monthly basis will be formed consisting of two council members, the city administrator and the finance director.
Councilwoman Lilia Leon said the focus to this year’s budget reduction process was on maintaining most of the same services, but with a little less flair.
For example, the pre-school graduation ceremony would still go on, she said, but there won’t be a painted backdrop as in previous years.
Some other cuts, like eliminating funding for the yearly cultural excursion to Washington D.C. drew some objections, Leon says.
But residents have been understanding, especially when told of the trade-offs. “When I explain it to them, they understand,” she says.
State’s Pulling of Redevelopment Dollars ‘Staggering’
The future of Commerce will have to reflect tougher economic reality. Already, the state’s budget deal on Monday threw additional wrenches into the city’s financial situation, officials say.
Not only is it more likely that the state will indeed borrow the $530,000 that the city accounted for in its budget, redevelopment projects that can boost the city’s revenue potential will take a significant hit.
“We have preliminarily received the news, and it is serious. In the case of the redevelopment program, it is staggering,” City Administrator Jorge Rifá said on Tuesday.
The city will lose nearly $7 million in redevelopments for the next two years. Five to six million dollars is expected to be taken this year, with around $1.3 million taken next year.
“And that is definitely going to affect the council’s ability to continue working on our projects,” he says.
These are funds that can go toward city’s Telegraph Road project and the Washington Blvd Reconstruction project, he says. Many stimulus fund projects also require a matching amount from the city, he says.
“We’re an industrial city to the extent where, if it’s difficult to move in and out of Commerce, we’re at a disadvantage in terms of other industrial cities.”
“We need to maintain infrastructure to attract companies here, first-class businesses that are going to employ people… otherwise we become the last choice… We have to maintain our infrastructure,” Rifá says.
Si las uvas en las manos de Cesar E. Chávez pudieran hablar, tal vez dirían “Glaséenme.” Los cráneos morados entre los dedos apretados del defensor de derechos civiles de campesinos, son parte del mural “México-Tenochitlán—La Pared que Habla” (“The Wall That Talks” en inglés) que está bajo restauración ahora en Highland Park.
Anthony “Eagle” Ortega, fundador del Proyecto de Murales Quetzalcóatl, un colectivo de arte cultural, dijo que cuando terminen de darle una capa de pinturas vívidas al mural ubicado en la Avenida 61 y Figueroa, será glaseada con un producto anti-graffiti llamado ‘Graffiti Melt Coating’ que le dará protección por aproximadamente 10 años.
La versión del producto que es solución acuosa hará posible rápidamente limpiar graffiti usando un trapo húmedo común. Ya que la marca es borrada, otra capa del producto Melt será aplicado, dijo él.
El mural fue el primer proyecto del colectivo hace casi 15 años. Una porción de la restauración esta siendo patrocinada por John Densmore, baterista del grupo musical The Doors. Ortega calcula que la restauración total cuesta $1.200, y el glaseo costará otros $1.800. El mural originalmente costo $50 mil para comisionar, y el vocalista principal del grupo Rage Against the Machine, Zak de la Rocha, dio fondos, según Ortega.
Cinco cubetas de cinco-gallones del Graffiti Melt Coating serán necesarias para darle dos manos al mural, dijo Ortega. El Departamento de Trabajos Públicos de la ciudad aplicará el glaseo cuando la restauración es completada en los próximos meses.
Ortega ha escrito una propuesta formal al Highland Park Heritage Trust pidiéndoles $300 a $500 para comprar pinturas y otros materiales, él cree que la organización recibió fondos para el mural hace muchos años. Luís Rodríguez, de la tienda de libros Tía Chucha’s, también ha escrito una propuesta formal haciendo un llamado para fundar proyectos culturales.
La tapicería de nuestra comunidad necesita ser restaurada, si la tela de Los Ángeles es rota, también lo es la comunidad, dijo Ortega.
Andy Ledesma, uno de los muralistas originales quien es el embajador cultural del colectivo, recuerda que el mural fue creado por artistas quienes todos vivían en la misma cuadra de la pared de la mueblería Arroyo Furniture en aquel-entonces.
“El mural es iconografía viva, tocando los temas esenciales de diferentes historias y barómetros de influencias,” dijo Ledesma, notando que algunos de los muralistas eran adolescentes cuando lo pintaron en 1995. “Representa religión indígena, religión tradicional, y el activismo…”
El propósito de este tipo de mural fue ser una fuente de orgullo e inspirar capacitación del vecindario, señalo Ledesma.
Ortega dice que más que antes en los últimos siete años, han tenido que retocar el mural, y la mayoría del tiempo sin fondos.
Tal vez en el pasado El Proyecto de Murales Quetzalcóatl, nombrado en honor de la culebra-emplumada, dios mesoamericano, ayudo a crear un renacimiento cultural con levantar tributos a la historia y el folklore México-Americano, pero el grupo ahora pretende restaurar todos los murales y resucitar el respeto de parte de la comunidad.
“Si sigues la historia del Noreste de LA, por los años esta comunidad ha combatido contra el vandalismo de graffiti…necesitamos salvar el arte, y hacerlo al mismo tiempo que desarrollamos un mensaje social que les abrirá el conocimiento de las contribuciones de los Chicanos en la historia de este país—y creo que el mural explica eso,” dijo Ortega a EGP.
El grupo, que estuvo desviado por muchos años, tiene la meta de conseguir fondos privados para evitar la burocracia de la ciudad en dar subvenciones. La ciudad se puede tardar un año para responder a una petición para restaurar un mural, lo que es una eternidad cuando grafiteros asaltan las paredes de las calles diariamente.
Rafael Corona y Jaime Ochoa son unos de los muralistas originales reunidos para restaurar la obra.
Corona específicamente esta restaurando la parte del mural que tiene el Calendario Azteca. Para él, es una obra de amor, dice tener mucho cariño para su calendario.
“Si hago esto para alguien, les cobraría como $8 mil,” Corona dijo, quejándose que hay pocos fondos para mantenimiento de los murales. “Esto es para [el beneficio de] la comunidad pero nadie nos da dinero para mantenerlo limpio, bonito y bien cuidado.”
Ochoa y Michael McDaniel están creando otro mural de un paisaje al darle la vuelta al edificio, la obra fue comisionada por la academia ZMS que actualmente usa la propiedad.
McDaniel tiene un punto de vista realista del impedir graffiti, él, como otros muralistas, sabe que no es un accidente cuando grafiteros dejan su marca sobre un mural.
“Tagging [hacer marcas de grafiteros] es lo que es, y la cultura de ellos es hacer lo que están haciendo—y la única cosa que se puede hacer [para prevenir graffiti en los murales], es hacer algo que es pertinente a la comunidad y que pueda ser respetado,” dijo McDaniel refiriéndose al mensaje del mural, no solo la calidad de la obra.
El grupo esta abierto a educar la próxima generación de muralistas, pero saben que será una batalla para conseguir los fondos ahora que las artes son una baja prioridad en las escuelas de California.
“Si más oportunidades de arte fueran fundadas, podrían ponerle una brocha en la mano de cada niño,” dijeron los muralistas.
“Una palanca de video juego, una brocha o una pistola,” agrego Ochoa, quien comienza la restauración de otro mural sobre la calle Livermore Terrace la próxima semana.
Los otros artistas originales de este mural son: John Zender Estrada, Dominic Ochoa, Isabel Martinez, Oscar de Leon, Mario Mancia, Jesse Silva, y Jerry Ortega. El mural tiene escrito que es dedicado a Daniel Robles, también es dedicado a Cesar E. Chávez, según Ortega.
Calling a plan to use local funds to balance California’s budget a “scheme,” a “heist” and “morally bankrupt,” Los Angeles County supervisors agreed 4-0 Tuesday to sue the state if that scenario becomes reality.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky recommended that the county counsel be directed to file legal challenges to any action that extends the state’s redevelopment projects without a finding of blight or any withholding of Highway User Tax Account funds.
“For the state to balance its budget on the backs of the state residents most in need of help, and the counties that serves them, is fiscally reckless and morally bankrupt,” Yaroslavsky said.
County staff acknowledged that the details of the state’s proposals were not clear, but the board’s action was intended to allow counsel to move immediately upon passage of legislation at the state level.
The board’s action anticipates that the current state budget proposal, if passed, would extend redevelopment projects in order to take property tax revenues that would otherwise be returned to local municipalities.
The HUTA funds transfer would cost the county about $109 million this year and $82 million next year, according to staff estimates.
Supervisor Gloria Molina suggested that political gamesmanship was at play in the state’s current proposal.
“I guess that they are waiting for us to file this lawsuit? Is that part of the game?” Molina asked, calling the state’s plan a “scheme.”
Supervisor Don Knabe said he thought that state officials hoped to trigger a “poison pill” with a lawsuit by the county, which would allow the state to trigger borrowing under 2004’s Proposition 1A, allowing the state to take local funds without representatives explicitly voting to do so.
The state’s potential raid of local funds could cost the county as much as $852.2 million, and affect the county’s ability to deliver health, mental health, public safety and social services.
The latest cuts would be on top of the $253.1 million the state took from the county in February.
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, conceded that the local cuts are painful, but said the state had little choice.
“If you cannot raise revenue, the only way you can close the deficit is to cut or do borrowing,” Bass told NBC4. “… The borrowing that we are doing is short-term borrowing and we’re going to do an accelerated repayment.
The fact of the matter is if we’re not able to raise revenue, those are our only two choices. And the cuts we’ve made so far are very devastating.”
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles City Council plans to discuss the proposed state budget on Friday to determine its impact on city services.
The City Council may decide to follow the county’s lead and pursue legal action to protect its coffers.
Matt Szabo, spokesman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, said: “the mayor supports any and all legal options to prevent a taking of local revenue of this magnitude.”
Szabo estimated the proposed state budget could take away $120 million of the city’s property tax revenues, $66 million in gas tax revenues and $70 million in community redevelopment funds.
Council President Eric Garcetti said it was unfair for the state to raid the city’s coffers.
“We’re the household on the street that has been very careful with our money. We’ve saved some away, we’ve balanced our budget, …” he said. “(The governor) is like the rich guy down the street suddenly finding himself so much in debt that he knocks on our door and says, ‘Give me your money.’”
The budget offered up this week by the state legislators and the governor only reinforces our view that being in Sacramento alienates elected officials from the constituents they were elected to represent, the people of California.
We say this because the taking of county revenue to balance the state budget is only going to increase the pressure on California’s counties to cut the very services they have been mandated by either the state or federal government to provide, and that taxpayers believe they have been paying for.
While the governor and state legislators may be smiling and patting each other on the back for finally reaching a deal, (okay, maybe not smiling) residents across the state are cringing in response to what they know will be a cut to local services that will undoubtedly include public safety — police and fire protection — and even fewer emergency medical services.
The pain state officials are inflicting by hijacking local funds will make it seem to the average person that it is the counties and cities cutting services. While technically it may be true, the cuts won’t really be of their doing.
County residents are facing the release into their neighborhoods of a wide array of petty thieves, strung out substance abusers, and drunk drivers. They’ll be on house arrest, claim legislators. Really? Who is going to be policing that deal?
Don’t get us wrong; we fully understand that a state budget had to be passed. What we don’t understand is why the governor and legislature did not do more to eliminate unnecessary boards and commissions whose work is a duplication of another agency or board, or that do not directly oversee health and human services departments. Many of the boards are little more than paid dumping grounds for termed out politicians and their cronies.
At least politically, it would have made Californians feel better.
Even with this budget, if it passes, California’s crisis is far from over. What state officials have done is again use gimmicks to deal with the problems for now, rather than provide a real budget fix.
Two of California’s largest public pension plans – CALPERS and the California State Teachers Retirement system — have both experienced huge losses that will probably cost the state untold billions to make whole. State taxpayers are on the hook and obligated to pay this next bomb that will soon hit, and for which there is no existing revenue source.
Crisis averted? Hardly.