Los Angeles City Hall is starting to shut down due to a lack of funds
For years the California economy was the envy of the world. Hundreds of thousands of people were moving there every year seeking fame and fortune. As the largest urban centre on the West Coast, Los Angeles was growing exponentially and the sky was the limit. Boy how the mighty have fallen in such a short period of time.
Yesterday Antonio Villaraigosa, the Mayor of Los Angeles, held an extraordinary news conference where he basically announced the city was broke. He told the media that Los Angeles will begin implementing a series of austerity measures which will dramatically reduce the amount of civic services available to local residents. The Mayor's budget chair was even on CNN this morning indicating that cuts to the police and fire departments are not off limits.
For the public servants working at LA City Hall, these must be very dark days. The Mayor is proposing to shut down all city services (with the exception of public safety and revenue-generating positions) twice a week beginning next Monday. Villaraigosa told CNN:
There are no easy decisions or simple ways to solve this budget crisis. But as the CEO of this great city, it is my responsibility to make these difficult, but necessary, decisions to steer the city out of this crisis and onto solid financial ground.
The Mayor may sound brave now, but it will be interesting to see how he reacts to a possible public backlash when services are cut and libraries are closed. Unfortunately for him, he has few options to work with as there are no new sources of funding he can tap into in the short-term.
When you watch what's happening to so many US cities, it's hard not to feel empathy for our urban neighbours to the south who are struggling to make ends meet. Their debates are no longer about issues like how they will secure the remaining $400 million for a new rapid transit line. Rather, it's about whether or not they can keep the lights on city hall and pay their staff.
Although Canadian cities are also impacted by a slowing economy, there is no city that I'm aware of facing the same kind of financial Armageddon as Los Angeles. It's something that anyone living in our major urban centres should be grateful for as we begin to watch one of the biggest cities in America begin to shut down over the coming weeks.