Mayor Proposes Trash Fee Hike to Pay for More Police Officers

April 12, 2006

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By ART MARROQUIN, City News Service

RESEDA (CNS) – Hoping to fulfill a campaign promise to expand the Los Angeles Police Department, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today proposed a hike in the city’s trash collection fees to hire more officers.

“It’s a bit of a controversial plan, but I think it makes common sense,” Villaraigosa told about 40 officers at the LAPD’s West Valley Division this afternoon. “We live in a world where people want more services but they don’t want to pay for them.”

Villaraigosa’s plan calls for phasing-in a $17 increase for trash-hauling fees over the next four years.

Every new dollar collected, he said, would go toward hiring more police.

Police Chief William Bratton said he welcomed the idea.

“Over the next several years, we will be opening several new police stations, including one here in the Valley. They have to be staffed and we need resources,” he said.

Los Angeles residents currently pay an $11 monthly equipment fee for their trash containers, in addition to vehicle purchases and maintenance costs.

If approved by the full City Council, the fee hike would only apply to the residents of single-family homes. Homeowners would start paying $18 each month for trash collection when the new fiscal year begins July 1. The fee would be increased by $4 in each of the following two years, then by $2 the next year, reaching a maximum of $28.

Apartment residents would not be affected by the fee hike because their rent includes trash collection.

The city currently subsidizes the overall cost of hauling trash at a cost of $315 million annually, according to the mayor’s office.

The $11 equipment fee currently paid by Los Angeles residents is lower than what residents from all but three of the 81 other cities in Los Angeles County pay for trash collection, according to a Department of Public Works study released in 2004.

The plan to hike trash fees comes after the council agreed last month to spend $3 million to $5 million more annually to divert 600 tons of the city’s 3,600-ton daily waste stream from Sunshine Canyon in Granada Hills to landfills in Riverside and Kings counties.

City Councilman Jack Weiss, head of the council’s Public Safety Committee, called the idea “the best and most fair plan I’ve ever seen to add cops to the LAPD.

“It is a fair plan because all it asks our homeowners to do is to pay a little more for services they’ve been receiving that have been subsidized by everyone else,” he said.

Villaraigosa said the fee hike is needed to pay for 1,000 new police officers as the city grapples with a $295 million deficit in its $6 billion annual budget.

“The fact is our city officers are outnumbered, and we remain the most under-policed big city in the United States of America,” the mayor said. “This plan changes that.”

Fewer people are signing up to join the LAPD, despite a variety of programs to seek new recruits — including a $2 million advertising campaign targeting women and minorities.

Villaraigosa said he was committed to finding officers to fill the positions. He is considering incentives, such as offering $1,000 bonuses for officers who refer recruits, and increasing Web-based hiring efforts.

The city allocated funding to hire 369 officers during the current fiscal year, but the LAPD expects to bring on only 270 to 280 new hires.

Retirement also poses a problem for the department, as 1,100 officers are expected to leave the department over the next four years.

To help bolster the ranks, the LAPD and city officials are considering whether to offer incentives such as a pension buy-out for officers wanting to transfer to Los Angeles and a home ownership program to help officers buy homes in the city.

“I understand full well the dangers they face on the streets every day, and it’s my priority to give them the resources they need to stay safe,” Villaraigosa said.

Additionally, the City Council is set to decide within weeks whether a deferred retirement program for LAPD officers should be extended for another five years to give the understaffed department more time to recruit officers.

Date: 04-12-2006 5:22 PM – Word Count: 726

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