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Ron Kaye: Like it or not, change has arrived

March 24, 2011

You are the lucky ones and you probably don’t even know it. And if you do, you probably don’t appreciate it.

Hard times are here for cities across California, and they are going to get harder in the years ahead.

Costa Mesa has sent pink slips to half its employees. San Jose is demanding 10% cuts in pay and benefits from its 11 employee unions, and that only cleans up a third of its $105-million budget deficit.

The heart of the problem is declining revenue and the soaring cost of pensions and health care for city workers — more than a $1-billion bill for Los Angeles next year, a quarter of its operating budget.


Burbank, with an $8.7-million deficit in the coming fiscal year, and Glendale, with a $15-million deficit, have their budget problems, too, but with a difference.

Many cities in California are like families living beyond their means, buying houses, cars and toys they can’t afford as if there was no tomorrow, as if the nation’s economic meltdown would pass and what was normal would soon return. Well, tomorrow has come and normal isn’t coming back for a long, long time — maybe never.

In interviews last week, both Burbank City Manager Mike Flad and Glendale City Manager Jim Starbird described in similar terms how their cities have been “living within their means,” have money in the bank with large reserve funds, and are working “strategically” to solve their financial problems — though there will be pain for city workers and residents alike.

“We’re blessed because of where we are from an economic standpoint, but things are never going back to the way it was,” said Flad. “We need to rethink what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. We need to recalculate where we’re going to go, to redirect our priorities.”

In Starbird’s words: “This is like what happened after Proposition 13 — the public sector will never be the same. People need to be aware the economy will never be the same as it was. They will feel the loss of services, and the loss of quality in services, unless we can reduce the cost of providing those services.”

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