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Sunday, March 6, 2011

To Run for the Los Angeles City Council or Not?

I've been considering running for the office of L.A. City Council. Why not? I would have to be better than any of the current members! I'm fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and politically independent.

One of the things Southerners learn early-on (read: "in childhood") is a saying that goes like this: "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!" Loosely translated it means that if you have something, use it until it is useless in its current form, then let it transition into its "next life"; worn out t-shirts became dust rags; worn out jeans became patches for other jeans that still had life in them; broken toys either became spare parts for other toys or targets for our bb-guns. And if you grew out of clothes before they had formally expired, they were passed on to someone else who could use them, or donated to a church or the Salvation Army. I've kept this mentality throughout my life. I also firmly believe that if I'm able to do something for myself, I would be silly to pay anyone to do it for me.

I struggle to maintain my frugality, but living in L.A. doesn't make that easy. L.A. and the state of California are going a HURRY! And my frugal nature has urged me to look into local and state governmental issues. I have learned that the base pay for a City Council Member in the City of L.A. is $171,648.00 per year with automatic raises every time the county judges get a raise...not to mention the perks! To break it down, that's $14,304.00 a month, $6,731.00 every two weeks, or $3,335.00 per week! Personally, I'd be willing to do it for about half that; a mere $85,824.00 a year. Better yet, round it down to an even $85,000.00 a year. I'd be fine with that. I'd also challenge the other council members to do the same, but I won't hold my breath.

So far I've saved the City of LA $86,648.00! And if all the other fourteen council members followed suit (HAH!) it would be a combined total of almost $1.3 million...per year!

Let's talk about pay raises. According to an article by Jill Stewart in the L.A. Weekly blog, INFORMER ( on October 16, 2008, the L.A. City Council members are the highest paid in the nation; $71,648.00 ahead of New York City. The L.A. council members' raises are tied to county judges' raises, which rise annually by the average pay raise of a state employee. Steeper boosts in judges' pay have also been approved by the legislature. "As the budget balloons in Sacramento and new rounds of pay raises are granted, judicial pay raises increase steadily - far beyond jumps in the cost of living." To make matters even more interesting, "Mayor" Villaraigosa, whose salary was $223,142.00 as of November, 22, 2009, makes 30% more than City Council members. Only one council member, Dennis Zine, who receives an LAPD pension on top of his council pay, voluntarily took a modest 10% pay cut of about $18,000.

Now, about those perks...L.A. council members enjoy huge staffs as compared to council members of other large cities, eight free cars per council member, virtually string-free $100,000 personal slush funds, about $1.2 million annually for office expenses; they even have a special clause that lets them get out of any parking tickets. Some council members, Janice Hahn, Richard Alarcon, Herb Wesson and Ed Reyes, for example, employ about 20 aides - each! The council continues to fight efforts to take away its controversial slush funds that are hidden from the public in plain sight under the misleading title of General City Purposes Fund.

I figure that if I run against my current council member and win, I can save the city's taxpayers several hundred thousands of dollars annually. The first year I would only accept aforementioned $85,000.00 for my salary. I would refuse the eight cars and use my own, accepting only the federal tax deduction of $0.51 per mile for all miles used for city business. Staff member positions would be combined until I was down to  staffers, who would also be responsible for providing their own transportation. Any thing remaining in my slush fund at the end of the year would be shifted to a budget in need, as long as that's actually possible. Office equipment would be used until useless or when it became more cost-effective to replace it, and the office goal would be to go as paperless as possible. There would be no city-provided cell phones; everyone has their own already, so why would they need two? And as far as parking tickets goes, I know the rules to parking on city streets. No need to get a ticket, much less dodge the fine for one.

And all the while I would be publicly denouncing the other council members for not following suit, and encouraging their constituents to run against them until either they did or they were removed from office! After that…on to the office of L.A. City Mayor!

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