Five Ways to Cut the Cost of City Government

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City Hall is talking taxes again. With about a third of the Fiscal Year gone, our leaders say they’ll need an additional $220 Million to make it through the year. Moreover, they say they’ve cut just about everything they can cut, so they’ve decided to consider putting a tax-hike proposal on the March 5, 2013 ballot.

While I won’t comment on the City’s current financial problems, I do have a few suggestions I’d like City Hall to consider. These are not new ideas. They were previously offered in a letter to the Chairman of the Council’s Budget Committee. My guess is they were probably dismissed without discussion. But now, with an ongoing financial crisis, the following ideas may get the attention they deserve.

Replace the full-time Board of Public Works Commissioners with a part-time Board. Over the years, this recommendation has been submitted at least 20 times by various groups and individuals. All those recommendations were dismissed for political reasons. The fact is, a full-time Board offers the Mayor five cushy jobs to give his campaign contributors. And the taxpayers get stuck with the bill. That’s not fair; it must not continue!

Reduce the number of exempt Aides currently employed in the Mayor’s Office and in the City Council. Based on the most recent statistics available, the Mayor and Council together have budget authority to employ 125 exempt Aides — 80 in the Mayor’s Office and 45 in the Council. But in their Personnel Ordinances, the Mayor and the Council give themselves an additional 375 Aides. Together, they employ 500 exempt Aides — 185 Mayoral Aides and 315 Council Aides. Instead of laying off 200 employees in the Police Department and the City Attorney’s Office as has been proposed, the Mayor and Council should lay off 200 exempt Aides.

Reduce the number of Management positions in City Service. A survey of 34 City departments counted I29 management-level positions. That’s about 3.8 Managers and Assistants/Deputies per department. Considering that 12 City departments have fewer than 200 employees, are all those expensive Deputies/Assistants really necessary? An objective audit may well indicate that the City organization would not collapse if 20 or 30 high-level employees were laid off. Such an audit may even show that fewer deputies and assistants would make certain departments more efficient.

Improve the management of employee performance. The combined work force of 34 budgetary departments costs the taxpayers over 4 Billion dollars a year. Yet in most of those departments, employees are hired on the basis of an invalid working test. And the annual evaluation of vested employees is conducted with appraisals that are inherently unreliable. I know of no City department that requires employees to meet job-related performance standards. The City budget could be reduced by replacing archaic personnel tools, by training supervisors in the use of those tools, and by acknowledging that employees are the City’s most valuable asset. Such changes would enhance both employee morale and employee productivity.

Expand the use of one-officer patrol cars in the Police Department. I believe there may be instances when this could be done without exposing Police Officers to greater danger. No employer would knowingly send two employees to do a job that could be performed well and safely by one employee. If there are instances in which additional one-officer patrol cars can be used safely, our leaders should be willing to use them. The opportunity for significant savings should move City Hall to give this suggestion the consideration it deserves.

OK. These suggestions are being sent to City Hall in Los Angeles. If YOU think they deserve thoughtful consideration, you may want to contact the Mayor. You can call him at (213) 978-0600, or e-mail him at mayor@lacity.org.

Send your questions and comments to Sam at samuelmsperling@yahoo.com.

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