It's easy to understand why some members of the Los Angeles City Council are looking for any opportunity to avoid, or at least delay, laying off city workers. Layoffs undermine the city's ability to provide services, they impose administrative costs and they increase the ranks of families in economic pain. They also deliver an unfriendly message to hardworking public employees who remain on the job at a time when many of the very residents they serve accuse them, wrongly, of being the cause of the city's budget problem.
The budget problem was caused not by city workers but by factors within city management's control, including a too-hopeful reliance on an improving economy and on annually increasing revenues. Life doesn't work that way; recessions come and revenues drop, and city leaders must be prepared to meet those rainy days with sufficient cash put away during the good times, or, as now, with painful and disruptive job and service cuts, with hurried sell-offs of city property and with irritating (at best) and sometimes burdensome fee increases.
And let's be frank: The budget problem was helped along by factors outside city management's control, such as the depth and duration of this particular recession, the structural problems of state government and Sacramento's penchant for passing along its own woes to cities and counties.