SICK AND TIRED By Ken Alpern | LA City Watch |Vol 8 Issue 15
Pub: Feb 23, 2010 -- Just because the old Soviet Union is now confined to the history books, it doesn’t mean we don’t have any “Evil Empires” right here at home that victimize us on a daily basis. I’d say that the public unions, the LAUSD, and their enabling elected politicians just as effectively keep us “Comrades” suppressed, with our taxes misspent and any dissenting voices stifled. As the debate goes on whether to lay off good, hard-working City workers and good, hard-working LAUSD teachers, I remind you all that it’s just a simple matter of math: we either make a pay cut for City workers (ditto for the LAUSD, county, state and federal work forces) or we have to make layoffs.
As the proud son of a Los Angeles civil servant and of a teacher, I very much prefer the former, and NOT the latter, with a broadening of options for motivated public sector individuals to work more than a single job to make more money and help balance the City and LAUSD budgets.
I’ve been through rounds of pay cuts, and I now work six days a week and volunteer countless unpaid hours in my neighborhood council and in grassroots organizations (as do many of you reading this), so I think I’ve earned the right to ask the public unions and elected officials to Do The Obvious and agree to pay cuts…especially because these pay cuts reverse years of salary and pension pay hikes that never, ever EVER could have fit into any reasonable City or LAUSD budget.
Furthermore, I’m sick and tired of walking past fenced-off schools and seeing my children and their friends robbed of the same easily accessible, taxpayer-funded and public school playgrounds and fields that I once enjoyed daily usage when I was a child.
I’m sick and tired of public libraries and parks having to have budgets, staff and hours trimmed while other “Sacred Cows” such as Police and Fire declare themselves off limits to any cuts...while hinting they might not protect us, and guilting/bullying us into submission by suggesting we don’t appreciate their services, if we don’t give them more money.
I’m sick and tired of a LAUSD bureaucracy and the endless whining of the bullies and thugs at the teachers unions tell the taxpayers they have to pay MORE while we get less for our hard-earned dollars. Ditto for the LADWP.
What kind of socialist, statist hell have we gotten ourselves into?
But enough about whining—we need to have ideas, and the discussion needs to have occurred years ago, but to start NOW is better late than never:
1) While a few departments and positions can be streamlined, combined or eliminated, layoffs can be avoided--however, the public sector union leadership needs to have its collective shirt grabbed by the lapel and "get it" that a 5% pay reduction can keep all necessary City, LAUSD and LADWP workers on board and make Los Angeles a great place to live.
2) It's my contention that parks, libraries and neighborhood councils do better with their limited budgets than most of City Hall and other departments do with theirs—cuts have to be across the board, but nailing a few departments because they’re easy targets won’t get the job done
3) Library and parks hours and services need to be extended. With a shortage of open space and educational opportunities, the time is truly ripe for the LAUSD to do a much better job of partnering with the City and County of Los Angeles to fund and provide educational and recreational services.
4) There are too many turf wars between the LAUSD and the City of Los Angeles, and now more than ever we need to have schools and parks and libraries work together to support each other, and not rival each other with duplicated services and facilities.
5) Most importantly, the need to open more evening and weekend hours for schools, with their publicly-funded green spaces and playgrounds, is paramount to restoring the quality of life, trust and connection of taxpayers to the schools they’ve shelled out billions for over the past decade
Whether it’s with a fee and a legal waiver to allow kids and their parents to enjoy these facilities, and to pay for supervisors and security guards to make sure that all legal and security issues are addressed, it’s time to open up the wonderful facilities to the taxpayers who paid for them.
I’ve heard the arguments against this idea, and I’ve also heard the arguments against better coordination and joint funding between City and LAUSD park and library services, and I reject them all—as do, probably, most taxpaying parents who have to put up with this inefficient, taxpayer-hostile way of doing things.
LAUSD Superintendent Ray Cortines is, in my opinion, one of the good guys—and I think that his relationship with Mayor Villaraigosa is one that bodes well for better coordination between the City and the LAUSD. I also think that Mayor Villaraigosa’s idea of a joint LAUSD/City of Los Angeles relationship to improve the education and quality of life for children and their families was, is and will always be an idea that merits a great deal of attention and discussion.
More than ever, we need leaders who are brave and are willing to break the boxes around which we’ve walled ourselves and different layers of government into. We need the decency to tear down the barriers between LAUSD facilities in a park-poor City of Los Angeles, and we need the wisdom to tear down the blockades between rival City and LAUSD departments who provide the same services, and we need the courage to tear down the stifling obstruction between the public sector unions and the taxpayers who provide their salaries.
Mr. Cortines, please tear down this wall!
(Ken Alpern is a Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) and is both co-chair of the MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee and past co-chair of the MVCC Planning/Land Use Management Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and also chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition.