EDITORIAL CITY HALL SHELL GAME TRASH-HIKE MONEY FOR COPS -- OR NOT?
And now the City Council has made it wickedly clear that the policy it approved and that the mayor signed allows money in the future to come from the $7-a-month increase in trash fees, a charge that increases year after year.
On Friday, city officials held a press conference in which they discussed spending the equivalent of 15 percent of trash revenues on anti-gang programs. That revelation got front-page billing in Saturday's Daily News.
Perhaps the officials didn't make themselves clear the first time around, or maybe our headline -- ``Trash fee for cops? Not!'' -- got their attention.
Whatever the reason, council President Eric Garcetti now insists that ``the council policy does not take money from the trash fee for this fiscal year.'' Instead, he says, it requires the council to find an amount equal to 15 percent of the trash-fee money elsewhere in the budget, which would, in turn, go to anti-gang efforts. ``We have already done this in the budget, and it doesn't come from trash money,'' Garcetti says.
OK, but the trash fee is set to rise twice more in the years ahead, and as it does the Los Angeles Police Department will be unlikely to hire enough new cops to use all the new funds at its disposal. What happens to the extra cash then?
We'll see, but even in denying that the council is spending the funds on other programs this year, Garcetti was careful to leave open the possibility for the years ahead:
``Our point in the press conference was that the policy that we passed and that the mayor signed allows money in the future to come from the law enforcement funds freed up from more of the direct costs of trash being paid for by folks who have their trash collected.''
In plain English, that means: We reserve the right to spend the money in any way we want.
Which, legally, the council can do, given the way the tax-hike ordinance was worded. The law couldn't explicitly require that the trash money pay for cops because, technically, service fees must pay only for the service provided. So while city leaders said the trash money would only pay for beefing up the Los Angeles Police Department, the law itself contains no such guarantees.
Still, the public was promised that its higher trash fees would pay for more cops, 1,000 more cops, not simply give the council an extra revenue stream.
And while no one disputes the value of anti-gang programs, it's easy to see how this shell game could play out: First the trash fee goes from cops to anti-gang efforts; then other moneys that would have gone to anti-gang efforts go to City Hall pay raises or the latest sweetheart deal for a well-connected developer.
This is the kind of cynical gamesmanship we've come to expect from a council that consistently has been less than forthright -- or clear -- about its intentions.
And what's worse is that the piddling $1.4 million extra for the city's feeble anti-gang effort will achieve precious little in terms of making the streets safer or giving hope to gang-infested neighborhoods.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Aug 22, 2006|
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