With news that the City of Los Angeles is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, all eyes will turn to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. But residents of the City of Angels will be looking for decisive leadership to make sure that services within the city continue and that the economic recovery isn’t halted.
Villaraigosa though already has a lot on his plate these days. And the Democratic Party is, for the moment, ignoring this in hopes he can be a Latino poster boy attracting Brown voters in 2012. He’s already newly minted Chair of this summer’s Democratic Convention. Yet, the head of the DNC Debbie Wasserman Schultz has already had a tough time defending him in the media.
Just last week, KABC Los Angeles radio host Doug McIntyre challenged Wasserman Schultz’s statements that Villaraigosa is a “national leader” and “a visionary.” Listen to the clip below:
Imagine this: Telling the public that Villaraigosa is “a fantastic choice” to lead the delegation of Democrats gathered to formally choose Barack Obama as the party’s presidential nominee – while the City of Los Angeles is simultaneously losing its financial solvency.
Miguel Santana, the City’s Administrative Officer, released a report last week indicating that the city’s costs are growing faster than its revenue. Last Friday, the LA Times reported:
“Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said rising employee costs combined with flat-lining revenues have left the city in a precarious position. Even after reducing its workforce by 4,900 positions in recent years, the city faces a $222-million budget shortfall, he said, a figure that is expected to rise to $427 million by 2014-15.
“We’re always in crisis mode,” Santana said in an interview. “We’re always trying to close that shortfall.” Without cutting costs and coming up with about $150 million in new revenue, “we’re facing the complete devastation of city services, including public safety,” he said.
Raising the parking tax by 10% to 15% would bring in $40 million, Santana said, and doubling the so-called documentary transfer tax imposed on property sales could generate an additional $100 million. Both measures would have to be approved by voters.”
Mayor Villaraigosa is going to be faced with making some unpopular cuts to city services, while pitching additional tax increases to the voters. California voters are already going to be asked to raise taxes to help close loopholes in the state budget, but will Los Angeles voters have the stomach for additional taxes as well?
Should Los Angeles go bankrupt, Villaraigosa is going to have a lot of explaining to do on the national scene since he has steadily raised his profile last year by becoming head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and then adding more on top of that as permanent DNC chair. But it will certainly become more difficult for the party’s top brass to stick up for him if the city he’s elected to lead is in financial ruin. That’s not the best spot be in at a time when Democrats will be selling the idea that their president’s economic recovery is on the right track.