Free Advice To Save LA’s Finances; Will They Listen?

It doesn’t take an economics professor to understand Los Angeles’ (LA) monstrous budget deficit.  The math is simple: LA is spending more money than it’s taking in.  It does get more difficult, however, when it comes to getting the city to curb spending, consolidate, and focus on bringing in revenue.  But, a framework provided by LA’s Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) may give us hope.  

The LA Daily News reported (March 20th) that “The Valley Industry and Commerce Association (VICA) released a two-part report [that] detail[s] 50 solutions to help balance the City of Los Angeles’ budget.  The report provides solutions for revenue generation as well as a comprehensive set of suggestions to address the current fiscal deficit without raising taxes.”   

VICA’s report begins with the following: “The city of Los Angeles faces a budget deficit of more than $150 million for the remainder of the fiscal year 2007-2008, and the outlook for fiscal year 2008-2009 is that the deficit may go above $400 million… [T]he City has expanded the scope of services it provides far beyond what is in its charter and what it can afford.”  

The ten revenue-raising ideas provided by VICA are clever and resourceful, yet it’s hard to believe that the city didn’t think of (or implement) them earlier.  One idea is to “[s]treamline the City’s building and permit process; the implementation of a 12 to 2 system cutting down on administrative costs and encouraging more developers to build in Los Angeles, therefore generating jobs, housing and tax revenue.”   Or, put more simply, cut bureaucracy to encourage business.  

While VICA’s ideas for gaining revenue are pragmatic, several of the 40 suggestions for cutting or consolidating services are shocking.  LA pays “[$500,000] for calligraphers to decorate City proclamations and honors and [to] program computers to do this.”  By dropping these expensive proclamations, LA will be taken out of the 1800s and welcomed to 2008 (where proclamations can be beautifully done by computer). 

At this point, it isn’t just smart for the city to “eliminate irrelevant programs for City workers such as ‘stick-play and sphincter control classes.’” It’s mandatory.  In addition, furthermore, we don’t even want to know what sticks and sphincter control have to do with working for the LA Department of Housing.  

Topping all of the other 50 ideas for LA to rejuvenate its finances, the no-brainer of all no-brainers, is to “collect on the $500 million in uncollected debt owed to the City.”  This could create revenue of “$50-$75 million or more over several years.”  Debt is meant to be collected, and LA should have the guts to do it.  

Not only is VICA’s list useful, but it’s free business advice for the city of LA.  The fact that a private group of people would spend their precious time creating this list is a reflection of a greater sentiment --city residents are fed up with dumping their hard-earned cash into the tar pits (or departments, agencies and programs with the same effect).  

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