Funding Los Angeles

userpic=los-angelesWhile quickly eating my lunch, I wanted to share a few more election thoughts. One of the measures that failed yesterday was a proposal to increase the sales tax. I personally voted against it because I thought our sales tax was high enough on the heels of Prop 30. But now the wailing and whining has begun about where to cut. All sorts of dire predictions are in place about the cuts. A few thoughts of my own:

  • This isn’t the gas tax. Sales tax revenue should go up with inflation if people are able to purchase things. So the best way to increase the revenue to the city is not raising the sales tax, but making it so more people have more jobs and can spend.
  • Complaining about salary increases for city workers and saying they should be 0 (zero) is wrong. City workers deserve raises for performance, just as any other worker does. The salaries, however, must be commensurate with industry, and raises in hard times should only be sufficient to cover inflation. As part of the effort to address the failure of Measure A, the city needs to do a comprehensive review of all city managed salaries to determine which ones are in line with equivalent industries and which are not — and should correct the discrepancies.
  • Similarly, pension reform is solely needed. Pensions should be a reward for staying with a particular employer for a significant portion of a career. If someone stays with the city for 20 years, they deserve a pension. This length of service means people shouldn’t be able to get multiple pensions, or if they do, they should be prorated for the percentage of their career at that company. Lastly, one shouldn’t be able to get a pension until one actually retires (i.e., has earned income below a particular level or is above a particular age).
  • All the complaints about teachers salaries in all of this are completely misguided. Teachers are not paid by the city; they are paid by LAUSD. LAUSD is a special district, like MWD. Remember your high school government classes. Special districts are independent from cities, and serve a singular purpose. Reforming LAUSD salaries and pensions is an LAUSD concern, not an LA City concern.
  • For as much as the trolls in online news articles want to carp about city employees, they are talking about the exception, not the rule. The media often portrays city workers as lazy, and often it is the problematic worker that sticks in the mind. But the vast majority of city workers are hard-working tasks who toil thanklessly to keep this city operating — from the law and safety professional to the engineers doing building inspections, running the elections, and maintaining facilities. We shouldn’t penalize the good folks because of a few bad apples.
  • Similar to the salary review, there should be an efficiency review to determine if the city can do particular tasks more efficiently (modeling the implementations based on what is done in successful industries). I’m sure this review will uncover outmoded and inefficient systems.
  • Where possible, regulations should be aligned with county, state, and US government regulations. Use US government rules that are applied to contractors for travel (i.e., the GSA per-diem rules). Use US government processes to secure systems. Don’t reinvent something when there is something already existant and working.

Gee, I’m sounding like a political candidate here. Guess I better get off the soapbox.

Music: Capitol Collectors Series (Margaret Whiting): “Old Devil Moon”