The Board of City Directors faced its share of controversial issues this week.
Hours before deciding the fate of the embattled Union Station on Tuesday evening, the board faced a standing-room-only audience and an agenda packed with such hotly debated topics as doubling the city business license tax and eliminating a number of services, including paramedics and the city Health Department.
The board voted unanimously on the recommendation of the city’s Finance Committee to double the basic yearly fee for business licenses. It also increased the maximum fee from about $4,000 to $25,000 for big businesses. The increases are expected to add an additional $2 million to city revenues. A last-minute move to include nonprofit organizations in the business license tax schedule was tabled after intense criticism from local nonprofit groups that claimed they had not been consulted about the plan. Directors, however, said they nonetheless intend to tax the groups but added that they will meet with them before deciding the amount.
The increase in the two-tiered tax system, which affects about 10,000 businesses, doubles the base tax paid by professional businesses such as law firms and medical practices to $200, and raises the base fee for all other businesses to $75. The most controversial aspect of the tax was the increase in the business license maximum to $25,000. Only a handful of firms--such as the Parsons Corp., one of the city’s largest employers--are likely to face the maximum. As part of the city’s fee system, businesses pay according to the number of their employees.
The board voted 4 to 2 to increase the tax limit, with directors Loretta Thompson-Glickman and Jo Heckman siding with business leaders in saying the limit was too high.
At its Tuesday meeting the board also considered a series of recently proposed cuts in city services, designed to help bridge an expected $5.6-million deficit in the 1985-86 budget. Suggested by Director Rick Cole, the cuts would eliminate eight city services and nearly 200 jobs, saving $1.2 million by contracting the services to private firms or relying on Los Angeles County departments to supply them.
The most controversial proposed cuts are the city’s 21-member paramedic department and the Health Department, which employs 52 people.
The board did not decide on the cuts but rather “bought a little time,” in the words of Glickman, by asking City Manager Donald McIntyre to prepare “transition reports” on phasing out the city services. City officials are considering using a private ambulance firm in place of paramedics. Pasadena also is weighing whether to combine its health programs with the county or rely on the county Department of Health Services. Pasadena and Long Beach are the only cities in Los Angeles County with their own health departments.
The proposed eliminations, however, have raised protests from a broad spectrum of groups ranging from the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People to local hospitals.
Representatives of the Pasadena chapter of the NAACP asked the board Tuesday to reconsider cutting the Health Department, which they said provides subsidized health care primarily to minorities.
A proposal to turn management of Brookside Municipal Golf Course over to a private firm also stirred debate. The Rev. David Scott, an outspoken community activist, blasted the board over the issue, saying it would mean that the 17 golf course employees, many of them black, would lose their jobs.
“You’re not going to put these black people out of work,” Scott shouted at the board. “We’re not going to let you do it. Remember, you were voted in, and you can be voted out.”
Promise to City Workers
Director John Crowley, head of the city’s Finance Committee, told Scott that the committee recently decided “the people who were employed by the City of Pasadena would be kept on. And that’s a promise.”
Other city officials have also discussed placing city employees whose jobs would be cut in other positions or helping them secure employment with the county or the private firm that would take over their department.
“Some excellent cases have been made here about retaining city services,” Cole said at the meeting’s end. “But we cannot retain all of the city services that Pasadena residents currently enjoy and balance the budget. We simply can’t.”