LA WATCHDOG - At the Neighborhood Councils Budget Advocates annual Budget Day, Controller Kenneth Mejia recommended that the City shift to a two-year operating budget, a “long overdue reform.”
This is a no brainer, especially since the City is a massive enterprise with an annual budget of $13 billion employing more than 30,000 people. Furthermore, this is standard operating procedure for the City’s three proprietary departments (the Department of Water and Power, the Port of Los Angeles, and Los Angeles World Airways) which do multiyear budgeting and planning. This is also true for the private sector, ranging from family-owned businesses to small corporations to America’s largest corporations.
Multiyear budgeting was also recommended by the LA 2020 Commission in 2014. Unfortunately, this suggestion never saw the light of day thanks to members of the City Council who opposed transparency, including former City Council President Herb Wesson and Paul Krekorian, the chair of the Budget and Finance Committee.
Multiyear budgeting would allow for greater transparency into the City’s finances and policies. Angelenos would have a better understanding of not only the budget, but the City’s priorities and the allocation of the City’s resources. It would also be harder for the City to hide expenses since they would pop up in the following year.
A prime example of deferring expenses is the policy of banked overtime for the Police Department where the City does not recognize the expense of earned overtime since it is not cash out the door in the current year.
Mejia also called for a more transparent Capital Improvement Program. This would involve not only listing the various projects but determining their priority and expected cost. This includes the maintenance and repair of our streets, sidewalks, parks, and other areas of deferred maintenance. Also included are the development of the multibillion-dollar Civic Center, the expansion of the Convention Center, the revitalization of the Los Angeles River, and the upgrading of the City’s information technology and outdated management information systems.
As a result of the corruption at the City Council and the lack of trust and confidence in City Hall and its machine-like politics dominated by special interests, there are calls for reforms. This involves the establishment of an independent redistricting commission and a stronger and independent Ethics Commission as well as the expansion of the City Council. These reforms will require the approval of the voters that will take time.
Implementing by ordinance policies of two-year budgeting and a more transparent Capital Improvement Program would be an excellent first step to demonstrate to Angelenos that City Hall is serious about cleaning up its act.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: [email protected].)