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Reality check: Where is the leadership in L.A.’s fiscal crisis?

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Los Angeles -- Ron Kaye sums up the fiscal and leadership crisis in LA.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is contemptuous of our intelligence and never talks about anything relevant to the financial predicament Los Angeles faces, offers only slogans like "10,000 cops on the streets, a million trees . . . greenest city in America . . . 30/10 subway to the sea," none of which have ever come close to realization.

We get nothing but empty promises that do nothing to solve the problems caused by mismanagement, bloated payrolls, pension costs and runaway spending on non-essential programs and services.

L.A. is a mess, and as the mayor and City Council have been told repeatedly by their own experts, "Next year will be worse and the year after even worse."

How about some straight talk for a change? Is that asking too much from the nation's highest paid city officials, people paid more than federal judges, paid nearly twice what New York City officials are paid and endowed with 10 times their staffs?

Instead, they put 10 and possibly 11 meaningless measures on the March 8 ballot that do nothing to solve a single problem, and they are raising millions of dollars from unions, developers, contractors and other special interests to squelch the rebellion by ordinary citizens fed up with a city government that has raised taxes, fees, rates and fines while closing the parks and libraries and cutting other basic services without a plan that comes close to putting the budget back in balance.

This is a City Hall that is in the process of short-circuiting all planning processes to all but eliminate meaningful public input while giving away hundreds of millions of dollars to developers and corporations for subsidized projects while embarking on a massive subway and light rail construction program while it has slashed bus services, 100-year-old water mains burst, 100-year-old power poles topple and the streets and sidewalks crumble.

This is a parody of government, a dark satire on what public service is supposed to be about. This is a mayor who has abandoned every belief he ever had in a desperate effort to save himself with a mythical list of achievements. Villaraigosa’s most glaring broken promise was to increase the police department to 10,000 cops, far too few for a city of four million, something he's never quite achieved. He’s even under attack from the cops themselves, who don't understand why they are sweeping floors in police stations, doing other civilian jobs and are barred from earning overtime while new recruits continue to be hired even though it will take several years before they really know what they are doing.

"When the City Council voted to raise trash fees in 2006, the action came with a promise that the money would be put toward expanding the police force, but even as we've moved closer to meeting that goal on paper, the number of officers on the street is being eroded," police union president Paul Weber said in an LA Times op-ed.

"Half a million people are unemployed, under-employed or unemployable. The middle class has been fleeing for three decades as we devolve into a city of rich and poor." - Ron Kaye

The truth is most of the money from the trash fees never went to the LAPD, yet the mayor remains silent and irrelevant. Council members remain gutless and out of touch, hoping to save themselves in the March election with lies and special interest money, even as they attack the character of anyone who dares to challenge them.

Half a million people are unemployed, under-employed or unemployable. The middle class has been fleeing for three decades as we devolve into a city of rich and poor.

Our schools remain among the worst in the nation and 55 percent of our population are functioning illiterates. It is time the business and civic leadership stops settling for crumbs and flattery and takes a stand on what kind of city L.A. will be in the future.

It will take business and civic leaders to turn L.A. around by joining with ordinary citizens on the left, right and center to revive hope and create new opportunities. One can only hope that they take a hard look at the reality of what is going on and remember the ideals they once held so dear. Their legacy and place in history is at stake and so is the future of L.A.

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