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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mayors Budget Survey: irrelevant in 2010

Boycott the Mayor's Budget Survey

It's that time of year again in the Mayor's office: time to make the citizenry decide what services they can and will do without in the next budget year under the guise of "empowerment". It's become an annual ritual, and  like a competitor of PT Barnum once voiced, Antonio Villaraigosa is betting that there isn't just one born every second, but that they will keep coming back year after year.

What does this budget survey hope to accomplish? If anyone thinks for one second that the Mayor's budget survey process isn't biased or that it has any real relevance in an unprecedented fiscal crisis, then they must be on multiple mind-altering substances. The survey is hardly comprehensive across City services. It basically opens with the Mayor's pet projects and projects lined up for cuts, and asks the public to be the hatchet man.

Yet in 2010, Los Angeles is facing a budget situation never before seen  in its history. Entire restructuring and consolidations of departments, payrolls, and services are the only way there will be a viable budget this year. In these days of historic financial weakness, this survey game of the Mayor's isn't just obsolete, it is a smokescreen for what is really happening in Los Angeles - a complete financial meltdown that may yet be followed by actual bankruptcy.

Since the Mayor first introduced his survey as a way to appear the public had a voice in the process of spending their money, Los Angeles's neighborhood councils have dutifully jumped through the Mayor's budget survey hoops. One assumes that the fear of not having a say-so in even what is assuredly a fixed game has kept them playing the sucker role year after year.
Now in 2010, it's time to say NO. Taxpayers should not be handing a lame-duck Mayor the means to defend his personal budget choices by putting it on the backs of the neighborhood councils. The Mayor should be forced to defend his choices in public hearings, where everyone has a chance to hand him a piece of their minds ... in two minutes or less... if they're lucky.

Better yet, it is time Neighborhood Councils held their own budget summit. Witness the defeat of Measure B.  Neighborhood Councils are powerful en masse. If they chose to boycott this farce and do it their way, Tony and his fifteen fiefs would have to listen.

Date: December 29, 2009

To: Neighborhood Council Friends and Colleagues
From: BongHwan (BH) Kim, General Manager, Department of Neighborhood Empowerment

Dear Neighborhood Council Members:

The Mayor's Office is launching the Fiscal Year 2010 -11 Budget Survey, the "LA Budget Challenge," an interactive online survey that allows Angelenos to provide direct input on real budget issues that the City is facing, by participating in a budget balancing simulation exercise. The LA Budget Challenge survey is also designed to educate users on the actual development of the City budget, which will be particularly challenging during Fiscal Year 2010 -11. Please visit the survey site at and be among the first to take the survey!

As an important part of the annual budget development process, the City Charter requires that each Neighborhood Council have the opportunity to present the Mayor and the City Council with a list of priorities for the City budget. Over the past four years, Mayor Villaraigosa has implemented a structured process to ensure that all Neighborhood Councils and community members have the opportunity to become informed about the proposed City budget and have the ability to submit their ideas, comments, and budget priorities directly to his Office.

The Los Angeles Budget Challenge survey asks respondents to address next year's projected General Fund budget deficit of approximately $400 million by making decisions on reductions to programs and services, implementing Citywide cost-cutting measures, and by raising revenue through taxes or other initiatives While completing the Los Angeles Budget Challenge survey, participants will receive educational information about the City's finances and opportunities for community input, thereby making the City budget process more transparent and accessible for all Angelenos. Responses to the Los Angeles Budget Challenge will be compiled, analyzed and presented to Neighborhood Council budget representatives and community members at a budget workshop meeting in early March 2010. Participants will be able to provide additional input on budget priorities, as well as take part in a valuable dialogue on City budget issues. The Mayor's Office licensed the budget challenge software from Next 10, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that in 2005 released the "California Budget Challenge" survey to engage Californians in the State budget process. Next 10 can be visited at or at http://www.nextten=

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