Union Ads Say Mayor Is Crying Wolf

Times Staff Writers

Taking another jab in its labor dispute with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a union representing 8,000 Los Angeles city employees began airing a radio advertisement Tuesday that accuses the mayor of planning to raise taxes unnecessarily.

The Engineers and Architects Assn., which is negotiating a new contract with the city, began airing the 60-second ad on KFWB-AM (980).

"The announcements are designed to start educating the public about city budget issues and the fact that predictions regarding city deficits are not based in fact," the union said in a statement.

Villaraigosa has said the city faces a potential budget deficit of about $240 million in the 2006-07 fiscal year beginning July 1, and that he has not ruled out tax or fee increases.

"Mr. Mayor," the ad says, "we heard that you are going to try to hit up the public for more money, like raising garbage collection fees, claiming a so-called 'structural deficit,' even though the city controller's latest report says the city's reserve cash fund will have a surplus in excess of one-half billion dollars.

"Please, Mayor Villaraigosa, don't raise taxes, fees or the debt of our children and grandchildren, when you already have the money to keep the city running," the ad concludes.

City Administrative Officer Bill Fujioka said the union's portrayal of the city's surplus "was a gross misrepresentation of the facts."

Fujioka said the city has about $158 million in reserves. He disagreed that the money represented a surplus that should be spent.

"For a city our size, it's absolutely necessary to have a reserve like that," he said. "Any large organization must have a savings account for the unexpected."

Fujioka also echoed the mayor's projection of a $240-million shortfall in the 2006-07 budget, but said it may shrink some by July 1.

"This ad is a political attack ad that is false and misleading," said Joe Ramallo, a spokesman for the mayor.

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