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Mayor's 3-day city services work week denied

April 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants to shut down non-essential city services two days a week. But Wednesday he was told he can't do that on his own.The mayor suffered a defeat in his dispute with the Los Angeles City Council over a partial shutdown of city services. It's the latest twist in the ongoing budget battle.

City employees were shocked to learn the mayor wanted them to take two days off every week without pay.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the idea at a news conference Tuesday that caught members of his own administration by surprise.

At Wednesday's L.A. City Council meeting, the proposal was quickly shot down.

"Bottom line is the city is not going to shut down two days a week starting next week," said the city's chief legislative analyst, Gerry Miller. "The mayor does not have the unilateral authority to do that."

The mayor would need an emergency vote of the city council, and that's not going to happen.

"Why are we spending time studying something that will never happen except in 'Alice in Wonderland' movie?" said L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz. "We're not going to lay off people or furlough people two days a week."

There's still the question of what to do about the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power's refusal to transfer $73 million to the city. The DWP reneged on a promise to make the transfer as the city faced a big deficit.

Councilman Greig Smith submitted motions Wednesday that would let the council take over the DWP

"I think the goal is to really wrest control of the Department of Water and Power away from the very singular control of the mayor," said Smith.

There's still no resolution as to how much of a rate increase the city will grant the DWP.

Last week, the council sent the utility its proposals. The DWP sent it back with a counter. Now, nothing can be done until after July 1.

"What the council approved before limited the department's flexibility too much," said Matt Szabo, Mayor Villaraigosa's deputy chief of staff. "It wasn't acceptable."

The DWP wants an increase guaranteed for a year. And that's not going to happen.

"I strongly believe that we want to continue the leverage to clean this department up and to make it accountable," said L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti. "And in that spirit, only one quarter increase would allow us to keep that leverage."

The Department of Water and Power will probably call an emergency meeting to ask the city council for a rate increase before the week is over.