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Mayor Villaraigosa calls for pay cuts for all city workers

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Friday called on all city employees to take pay cuts, including police officers and firefighters, saying that it would be the only substantive way to alleviate the need to slash 4,000 city jobs.

Villaraigosa also moved forward with plans to eliminate the departments of Environmental Services and Human Services, transferring their essential duties to other agencies and cutting 56 jobs for a $3.2-million savings. He warned that “there will be more” agencies cut as part of his upcoming 2010-11 budget, but he did not offer specifics.

The mayor’s actions came a day after the council voted to eliminate 3,000 jobs by July 1 to help close the city’s $212-million deficit and larger shortfalls forecast for the years ahead. Those jobs are in addition to the 1,000 positions already being cut, and the 2,400 city workers leaving through an early retirement program.

Villaraigosa said the total number of job cuts could be reduced if city unions agree to make major salary concessions. He said a 5% pay cut among all city employees would save $150 million, although he did not suggest a targeted percentage.

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“Every employee, from the mayor on down, ought to take a cut,” Villaraigosa said. “And that means police, that means fire, that means sanitation, that means every single employee.”

The council did not exempt police officers and firefighters from the new round of job cuts. However, Villaraigosa said he would fight to maintain the current size of the police force, which means hiring new officers to replace about 520 who leave through normal attrition during a typical year.

Paul Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, criticized any effort to cut officers’ pay, saying it made no sense to continue hiring new officers while slashing the salaries of those already on the force.

A representative of the Coalition of L.A. City Unions, which represents 22,000 civilian workers, said the mayor was playing politics. “The mayor is issuing sound bites, not a plan. Our fiscal problems will not be solved by threatening the services our communities rely on and the workers who provide them. What Los Angeles needs right now is hard work and real leadership,” said Cheryl Parisi, chairwoman of the coalition.

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Budget officials said they had planned for 51,000 employee positions at the start of the fiscal year, including those at the airport, port and the Department of Water and Power. The city also employs 9,963 police officers and 3,588 firefighters.The actions this week by the mayor and council come after Moody’s Investment Services, one of the nation’s top financial credit rating agencies, issued a negative outlook for Los Angeles because of the delay in addressing the city’s budget shortfall -- expected to grow to $485 million in 2010-11.

The downgrade threatens to lead to a lower credit rating for the city, which could increase its cost for borrowing money, adding to the fiscal crisis. Moody’s also warned that if officials resort to “one-time measures” to address the budget shortfall, rather than fundamental changes that will produce ongoing savings in the years ahead -- such as cutting the workforce -- Los Angeles’ credit rating could face a steeper decline.

Council President Eric Garcetti said officials have already taken swift action to address those concerns, including approving job cuts, adopting a three-year budget plan, rebuilding reserves and balancing this year’s budget.

Villaraigosa said that as a result of the cuts, Los Angeles residents should expect to see a noticeable impact.

“We’re all going to have to make sacrifices,” the mayor said. “We can’t lay off people in the numbers we’re talking about without reducing the size of the services we provide.”

Villaraigosa said the essential duties of the two agencies being cut would be absorbed by other departments.

Within the Human Services Department, the Commission on Children, Youth and Families and the Commission on the Status of Women will be moved into the Community Development Department, as will policy work involving conflict resolution and domestic violence. A grant-funded program targeting at-risk young women would be folded into the mayor’s anti-gang program.

While he is eliminating the city’s environmental affairs department, Villaraigosa said he was creating a Mayor’s Office of Energy, Environment and Sustainability that would oversee those issues for all city departments. Some of the other staff in the environmental affairs department would move to the Bureau of Sanitation, where they would oversee efforts such as the Million Trees program, brownfields redevelopment and the green business and hotel certification programs.

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phil.willon@latimes.com

maeve.reston@latimes.com


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