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Tense Compton budget meeting leaves residents worried

July 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Tempers flared in Compton Tuesday night after the city council moved to pass a budget to avoid a government shutdown, which would result in layoffs.

The city council passed a 3-2 motion to approve the budget but no final vote was taken, leaving people at the meeting confused about what's next.

Last minute revisions of the budget were made, but copies of the revised budget were not made available to the public until midway through Tuesday's meeting.

Several people stormed out, not happy with what they heard. City council members didn't show up to Compton City Hall on Wednesday as a cloud of controversy hangs over the meeting.

Dozens of city jobs are on the line. The city faces a $23 million budget deficit. The treasurer said if the new budget isn't passed, city employees might not get paid at all this week.

As the crowd grew impatient with the hours-long back and forth, the mayor insisted reducing the city's workforce wasn't his first choice.

"We have to take the responsibility as leaders to do what's right for the overall betterment of the city," said Mayor Eric J. Perrodin. "I wish nobody would get laid off, but I don't see that reality."

Residents say they're both concerned and confused. What, if any, budget was adopted? And what does it mean for the city's employees? There's been talk of dozens of layoffs.

"Last night, as those of us sat in the council chambers and witnessed this meeting, saw flagrant violation of law. We saw it before our eyes. We entered into a negotiation that essential said we will make these concessions, in exchange don't layoff the workforce. Let's keep everybody working and we will have some modest furloughs. What the city manager elected to do was to unilaterally implement the concessions and then lay everybody else off," said Cheryl Parisi, AFSCME executive director of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

Union spokesperson Parisi says a coalition of three unions representing 400 Compton employees reached out to city leaders two months ago to negotiate concessions and avert layoffs. Now the union says it will take legal action against the city.

"Obviously what's so upsetting about the decision last night is that we put hard savings on the table. We really shaped a path for the city to continue to deal with any financial challenges that it had," said Parisi. "And instead, they elected to massively slash services for their community, layoff and exacerbate the unemployment problem in this community."

"It's going to devastate the city services," said city employee Rose Downs. "I live in the city. I'm a homeowner in this city. I'm the sole supporter of my family. It's going to devastate families throughout this city."

"I'm very worried about being laid off," said public works employee James Walker, Jr. "I'm worried about my co-workers being laid off. I'm very worried about people losing their jobs completely."

According to the L.A. Times, a third of all city jobs in Compton are in jeopardy. Employee unions said if the budget is passed, they are ready to take the city to court.

The city has not commented on the proposed budget that may or may not have been passed.

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