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LA City Council Members: Livin' Large?

Big Bucks

The Los Angeles City Council is wrestling with a budget deficit that's more than $200 million now and expected to more than triple in the next two years. As they look at laying off workers, cutting back hours at libraries, and even selling off parks and other city assets, a good deal of loathing is being directed at the Council members themselves.

It's no secret that LA Council members are among the highest-paid elected city representatives in the country. At almost $180,000, they make more than Members of Congress and many governors. Taken as a group, they employ a staff of about 320. For comparison, the White House staff is about 480.

Adding to the ire are the perks and practices that critics say allow Council members to variously flaunt the rules or feather their nests.

No Parking Problems

For instance, though the council has raised parking meter fees along streets throughout the city, council members are exempt. They can park without fear of being ticketed at any metered spot and freely walk away without slipping coins (or a credit card) into the meter.

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Slush Fund?

Small potatoes, maybe. But a far bigger enchilada involves so-called member "discretionary funds." Not only does each council member get a budget of $100,000 per year to replenish this fund, which can be used pretty much any way the member wishes. But it has been the city's practice to divide the proceeds from certain city revenues with individual council members. So, if a plot of city-owned land is sold in Venice, half of the proceeds go into the general fund, and half would go to the discretionary fund of the member representing Venice.

This week City Controller Wendy Greuel released an audit showing that this sharing arrangement has contributed some $25 million to council member discretionary funds over the past twelve years. The LA Times has reported that one member alone, Westside councilman Bill Rosendahl, has amassed a fund that contains more than $4 million.

Street Furniture?

While most of the money pouring into the member's accounts comes from the sale of city-owned real estate, they also benefit from pipeline fees the city charges oil companies to pump black gold under the city streets. If pipelines run through your district, you get a taste.

Then there's the street furniture fund. No, this is not a tax on those who put couches on their front lawns. It's revenue from things like ads on bus benches or transit shelters and from facilities such as pay toilets. And this ain't pocket change. According to city budget documents, the street furniture fund generates almost $5 million a year.

For their part, Council members defend their big salaries, noting that each one represents about a quarter of a million people, and it's a 24/7 job. But it may be difficult for them to defend the practice of taking a cut of the action from city revenue, especially when it comes to land sales. In a letter to Mayor Antonia Villaraigosa, the City Controller wrote:

"It simply does not make sense that properties are acquired using money from the General Fund, yet when they are sold, the money doesn't go back to benefit the entire City. Further, there are many instances where properties were purchased when they were situated in one Council District, but because of redistricting are now located in a completely different Council District, thus the proceeds of a sale do not even benefit the original District!"

The Mayor has already indicated he'd like to at least "borrow" money from the council members individual accounts and put it in the general fund as a way of chipping away at the budget deficit. And as the city moves toward what appear to be inevitable lay-offs and other cut-backs, the issue of these discretionary funds, and of the council members pay, are sure to remain touchy topics.

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Considering the financial condition of the City ( As well as the Fed. Govt.), drastic times necessitates drastic measures! If 70% of the city budget is for Fire & Police protection(?), then as difficult a choice that it may be, budget cuts MUST be made to these entities! And NOT at the lowest end of the department ladder. It is those who actually do the job! Upper management and lofty positions can be eliminated either by attrition or position elimination! And the same holds true for the City Council!!! That is why political candidates spend millions of $$$ to seek these positions! They get it all back through these un diservable perks!
And what about their PENSION eligibility? Does anyone know how they rip off the City after minimum amount of service to the city! Thank You. Gloria Armstrong

Well, I just look to you for continue to open the books all of this, but will you continue to do so?
There so many skeletons in the city's closet, and so corrupt, I just hope that you have the strength to open that scary "city of Los Angeles, scary closet".

I'm a native angelino, and have sick by all of the spending of our hard dollars going into spending that has nothing to do with the operation of our city, in other workds "Police Power"...I'm just saying....
Police power describes the basic right of governments to make laws and regulations for the benefit of their communities. Under the system of government in the United States, only states have the right to make laws based on their police power. The lawmaking power of the federal government is limited to the specific grants of power found in the Constitution.

The right of states to make laws governing safety, health, welfare, and morals is derived from the Tenth Amendment, which states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." State legislatures exercise their police power by enacting statutes, and they also delegate much of their police power to counties, cities, towns, villages, and large boroughs within the state.

My grandparents had been victims of Chavez Ravine, just goes to show what money can do, as tax payers get tossed out of what they consider their homes.

Thank you,
Vivian Escalante,
from Boyle Heights and Baby Boomer

I am disgusted. The Council should be taking a cut in pay like everyone else that is employed by the City of Los Angeles. In my opinion they are raping the city. When I vote I am voting against any incumbent.

How did this happen you ask? Originally the City Council had to vote on their salary and it was very embarrassing. Their salaries wouldn't go up very often. Then former Councilman Michael Woo introduced "Ethics Reform" that included tying the City Council's salaries to that of certain judges.

More recently, the current group of City Council members put another reform measure (Measure R) on the ballot in 2007. It was also disguised as "Reform" put in reality it extended their term one additional period from 2 to 3 terms. In both cases their vote to put this on the ballot was a financial conflict of interest.

I can see where the savings LA needs to make should start, and that is very clearly with the absurd salaries and perks the city council has garnered for themselves.

The time to act is now!

I am sorry to say that I has closed my company in the City of Los Angeles and have moved out of the State of California. I closed my company in the City of Los Angeles because the City of Los Angeles officials were telling me how to run my business plus the high cost of doing business in the State of California and the City of Los Angeles. I moved my company to the City of Austin, Texas where the City Officials of Austin, Texas were very welcoming and help my company with the transfer to Austin,Texas. As a business man with 35 years of running my own company I sorry to say that I have no hope or faith in the State of California or the City of Los Angeles. The City of Los Angeles is now a third world country in all standards.
from a Business Man View Point

I think it's time for our Mayor to look in the mirror and begin to apply his own "Ethics mandates". Tough decisions need to be made starting at the top, from trimming government spending/entitlements/salaries of his own city council members to bureaucratic leaders of both our police force and firefighters. I think we have heard of a similar story coming from Wall Street, highly payed, highly compensated, bonuses, perks, and all for what?! So that our everyday hard working people who outnumber them by God knows what end up earning less and eventually laid off on the street! The City of Los Angeles I'm afraid has 15 archangels + 1 Mayor who continue to desservice this city unless they put service before self. Let's hope they don't fall from grace.

Good day Sir,
I hope for the same but wt has recently made me upset is that as citizens of LA we allow this to continue to happen! I am 38, and since my age of 18 i look forward to being part of the voting process as not all of my family is able to or tries to. FYI..the new bldg was vandalized, by stealing letters off the bldg WHILE THE OFFICERS SAT inside-doing wt? who knows...they don't even know where the fire escapes are located..& they are supposed 2 be protecting us-the citizens of Los Angeles! Off. assigned to a non investigative positions, need 2 b replaced by civilian positions, which will cost less and get those officers bk on the st., which is wt they are paid for. Thnk u. Marcos

Symptematic of the L.A. spending / budget issues is the following:

Just look at the fire dep't vehicles. They have VERY EXPENSIVE A. polished aluminum wheels and B. GOLD inlaid hand-painted signage. Yes, you heard me correctly. None are functional; they just exude greed and stature!
Murray

What the article doesn't say is that quite a few of the council persons also pull in a hefty retirement each month. Personally, I think it is time to consolidate districts down to 3, cut their pay in half and base it on the Merit Pay system. Then cut the staff in half since most aids (and they can have up to 20 earn over $100,000 just to start! The mayor needs to do thing. He recently stated he took a 16% cut in pay. Well, he makes $232,000 annually as mayor, AND pulls in a retirement each month, so that so-called pay cut isn't really a cut at all. I say make the Mayor's position honorary with a monthly salary of $100.00, get rid of the slush funds, travel and car perks, and cut his staff of 93 down to 20. After all what's good for the goose (all the actual workers) should be more than good for the gander(s)!

Tell 'em Mr. Mayor,........"Let 'em eat cake!!!!!!!!"

What exactly is the retirement benefits for the LA City council and the Mayor? Correct me if I am wrong, but from what I understand they only have to serve one term and they get a 90% pension plus full medical for the rest of their lives. Most of the people who serve on the council and as Mayor are already collecting hefty pensions. Parks, Villar, Zine are just a couple but these people are not hurting for money. How about their slush funds--why isn't there any accountability for what they spend it on. For all we know they are supplementing their salaries and making person purchases. The people of Los Angeles need to wake up and vote these clowns out! The citizens need to have new rules and regulations put into place so the city council and Mayor can not over spend or vote them-selves a pay raise--let the people do it! Privatizing the city is a foolish idea, it will not solve anything it will just cause more problems. Because illegals do not pay taxes, they just suck up resources—they are FREE LOADERS!!

As a city employee I am disgusted w/the Mayor & the Councilmembers...They are the ones who put this city in financial bankruptcy and are cutting everyone's salaries, city services, and jobs, EVERYONES EXCEPT THEIR OWN! The entire civilian city work force (w/exception of DWP & LAX) are taking work furloughs but the Mayor has exempted his civilian staff from these furloughs, WHY? Mayor wants to cut our salaries more, add another 8 hours of work furloughs and cut city services. Tell me, when you call 911 in an emergency who is going to be there to answer that call when they are short staffed and taking 8 plus hours off w/out pay? who is going to respond to your house when your child is not breathing? NOT THE MAYOR & NOT A COUNCIL MEMBER... It's time we LA residents DEMAND the Mayor & council members start FIXING their budget errors BY STARTING with themselves and their perks...The discretionary fund should be eliminated and that money needs to be put back in to the CITY. We need to know why he felt BRAND NEW CARS for the councilmembers was so important this year? Its time we MAKE THE MAYOR & COUNCIL MEMBERS start answering questions on thier MISMANAGEMENT & OVERSPENDING (which is continuing even though he says we are out of money!!). THEY WERE ELECTED BY US...THEY WORK FOR US...ITS TIME THEY ANSWER TO US!!!!

this article makes me sick and excuse me while i go and throw up.

It is time that the city workers and unions in general get a reality check. You are running our conntry into the ground. I think they are all spoiled over paid brats. They are so busy protecting thier precious benefits and pensions that they will bring our city to thier knees. Unions worked when this country was forming and we needed safety and regulations for wokrers but they have taken this whole thing way too far.
They control the enitre democratic party and dont care if our city or auto industry is broke. As long as they are employed (most of the time for doing nothing) they dont care the state of our economy. Why are city workers so stupid when you meet one of them regarding city services? Join us in the real world where you get fired if you do something wrong.

If you ask me, the Council members are not paid enough. Their responsibilities are considerable and, from what I've seen, they all work tirelessly to improve their communities.

In general, to attract more talented and capable people, you need to pay them more. If you were to cut pay for these important Council positions, you would, on average, get less talented and capable people in them. If you paid Council members $50,000/year, many potentially excellent Council members would avoid office and choose to make much more elsewhere.