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Hahn's Message to Council: No New Fee Hike Proposals

Mayor says he'll also use his veto if the panel refuses to add 320 police officers in the budget.

May 07, 2003|Peter Nicholas and Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writers

Worried that support for his proposed budget is starting to fray, Mayor James K. Hahn has begun warning City Council members that he will not permit fee increases beyond what he's offered nor allow any rollback in the number of additional police officers he plans to hire.

Hahn has spoken to five of the 15 council members since Monday night and is calling others, drawing what an aide called a line in the sand over his efforts to expand the police force.

In a news briefing Tuesday, the mayor said he would use his line-item veto power if the council set its own fee hikes or refused to add 320 officers in the 2003-04 budget. The council would need 10 votes to override a mayoral veto.

The mayor's lobbying effort comes at a time when council members are questioning why his budget plan does not account for projected shortfalls that could reach $280 million by the end of next year.

Hahn defended his budget's emphasis on public safety. "It's the right budget for the right time," he said, adding that the council members "should focus on what's in front of them."

He added that if "someone can predict what's going to happen in the next five years, they shouldn't be in government, they should be the next Warren Buffett. Good luck to you."

Members of the council's Budget Committee did not seem fazed by the mayor's veto threats.

Committee Chairman Nick Pacheco said he believes public safety is also the council's priority, and said he does not intend to cut the Police Department budget. Pacheco added, however, that he does not want to hire more officers next year than the city can afford.

"I think Mick Jagger put it best," Pacheco said. "We don't always get what we want.... That's how we're looking at the budget. The mayor may not get what he wants. It's not his budget. It's the city's budget."

Pacheco said fewer officers may retire from the LAPD than anticipated, meaning fewer would have to be hired to increase the police presence on the street.

Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook said planners cannot count on such predictions. Hahn might be inclined to veto a budget that relied on those types of calculations, he said.

If it comes to that, Pacheco said, the council might override the mayor's veto. "That's the great thing about democracy," he said.

Hahn thus far has pressed his case with council President Alex Padilla, Councilwoman Janice Hahn (the mayor's sister) and council members Ed Reyes, Jan Perry and Eric Garcetti.

Hahn resisted any call for higher fees beyond the increases in sewer, trash, golf and zoo charges he already has proposed. "In tough economic times I believe we've gone as far as we can go in revenue increases," the mayor said.

Not that there isn't room for some negotiation. If the council doesn't tinker with his fee and public safety proposals, the mayor said, that still leaves "a lot of money on the table."

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