Launching a direct challenge to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley's "hold-the-line" budget, City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky unveiled an alternative proposal Wednesday that would beef up the police force by 250 officers while cutting personnel in other city departments.
Yaroslavsky, chairman of the council's Revenue and Finance Committee and a likely challenger for Bradley's job in 1989, was supported by fellow committee members Robert Farrell and Joy Picus. Their spending plan represented a major departure from the $2.4-billion worth of priorities outlined by Bradley last week.
In addition to adding 250 police officers, the finance committee's plan differs from Bradley's in providing funds to replace 207 police cars, increasing the police overtime budget by $2.5 million, increasing parks maintenance by $1 million, and keeping funds for street paving and tree trimming at the present levels.
But to accomplish this, the committee wants to do away entirely with the city's Board of Public Works, as well as make cuts of less than 3% in several other city departments. It would also increase development fees paid by builders from $200 per apartment unit to $500 per unit.
"There's no mystery here," Yaroslavsky said. "We are raising some revenue. We are making some cuts." In all, the finance committee's plan represents $19-million worth of changes from the Bradley proposal.
A major council fight is expected over the Board of Public Works--a five-member panel of mayoral appointees who receive salaries of $53,000 a year. Yaroslavsky has characterized it as a "political patronage" board whose duties can be performed by city departments. But Councilman Gilbert Lindsay, a close Bradley ally and chairman of the council's Public Works Committee, predicted that the board will be eliminated "when hell becomes a solid block of ice."
Functions of the Public Works Board include overseeing city services such as garbage collection and street and street light maintenance.
The Yaroslavsky committee proposal would increase the authorized police strength from 7,100 to 7,350. It would also provide an extra $580,000 to the city's Personnel Department to finance a major police recruiting effort. At present, the force numbers about 6,950, 150 below authorized strength, because of lapses in recruiting.
The goal of enhancing direct services to the public rests on the belief that the city's internal bureaucracy can absorb a greater workload, Yaroslavsky said.
Such a belief was disputed in budget hearings Wednesday afternoon in a heated clash between Yaroslavsky and the city attorney's office.
'Cutting Vital Organs'
"It's not a matter of cutting fat. It's a matter of cutting vital organs," Steve Besser, assistant to City Atty. James K. Hahn, told the committee. An increase in police officers would increase the workload for deputy city attorneys, who are mandated by law to prosecute misdemeanor arrests, Besser said.
In recent months, an increase in police overtime resulted in 2,000 more prosecutions--"for which we have no staff," Besser said. The failure of a budget to provide more staff for the city attorney could lead to the curtailment or even the elimination of the prosecution of cases of AIDS discrimination, the smoking ordinance and slumlord violations, Besser said. Those programs have wide support among council members.
Yaroslavsky, angered by Besser's tactics, stressed that budget priorities are established by the mayor and City Council, not the city attorney.
"Don't tell me the only choices are not to enforce the most important ordinances to the mayor and the City Council," Yaroslavsky said.
'You're Gonna Do It'
"If we tell you you're gonna do it, you're gonna do it. And there's not a damn thing you can do about it."
"Sure, we can start cutting (personnel), " Besser responded. "But sure, we're not going to be effective. We're going to get sloppy. We're going to lose big judgments. . . . "
Yaroslavsky ultimately terminated Besser's testimony in mid-sentence, calling on another department manager to testify.
In contemplating a six-month phase-out of the Board of Public Works, the council committee budget anticipates savings of $378,000 in the first year and $619,000 in subsequent years.
Yaroslavsky said he believes that a majority of the council would vote for elimination of the board--but there is probably not the two-thirds required to override a mayoral veto. Farrell's support is a reversal of his previous stand.
Farrell said he concluded that the board is unnecessary in light of crime and other problems facing the city. "It's just a public issue whose time has come," he said.
Yaroslavsky also said that he anticipates opposition from builders on the apartment development fee increase, which is estimated to raise $5 million. He noted that the $200 fee has not changed since 1972.