City Council wavering on cuts, at least publicly

Los Angeles politicians through the years tend to follow a pattern when it comes to budget cuts. First, they warn the public that painful cuts are needed. They may set some preliminary targets. Then, after hearing pleas from constituents, interests and departments that would be hurt by the cuts (as they did all day Monday), they profess that the proposed slashing is impossible. That's where we are in the current drama at City Hall. Next, in act three, we see what happens when City Council members hunker down in private to negotiate with the mayor, the unions, each other and their own constituents for real.

The council is supposed to vote Wednesday on CAO Miguel Santana's recommendation that 1,000 or so jobs be eliminated and several departments be merged or shut down. Tonight's Times story by David Zahniser and Maeve Reston says that at least five of the 15 members claim they are unwilling to vote for the most dire cuts, frustrating Santana.

"The choices are not going to get any easier, and any delays will only result in bigger cuts later," he said.

Santana said previously that the city's looming budget deficit is so large that every day layoffs are delayed means that four more positions will need to be eliminated. Is he the straight shooter here? He's new on the job, so time will have to tell on that. While the council's decisions on which oxes to gore could have repercussions for years, it will be almost as interesting to find out how they decide. Hopefully, those inside stories get revealed and told.

Noted: A Times editorial in Wednesday's paper urges the City Council to adopt Santana's plan: "The first problem is that there is no 'later.' This is it."

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