Los Angeles Could Use a COIN Ordinance – But That Will Only Come When Its Voters Demand It
We in Orange County have seen several versions of the COIN Ordinance (Community Openness In Negotiations). COIN ordinances provide for more and earlier disclosure to the taxpayers during and in the run up to the final approval of a contract between the public entity employer and a government employee union. This allows the citizens to know and understand the costs of the “deal” they will have to pay for. It also gives them time to give their opinions to their own elected officials about the deal the officials negotiated on the voters behalf.
The City of Costa Mesa was the first to put a COIN ordinance in place. The County of Orange also put one in place only to have the employee’s union challenge it before a Labor Commissioner who ruled against the ordinance – that is currently on appeal by the County.
It was with some surprise that I saw that the Los Angeles Times (no fan of conservative ideals and principles) called for the implementation of a COIN ordinance in the City of Los Angeles. Here is a link to the editorial: Los Angeles Could Use More COIN. As the LA Times editorial points out, the back room deal of 2007 was a financial disaster for the City and its taxpayers. It looks like a similar secret negotiation then quick City Council approval process is going on again. A COIN ordinance would likely allow for the taxpayers who are going to foot the bill for this deal to know what they are being obligated to pay for before their elected officials vote for the labor contract. In other words, so the voters and taxpayers of the City of Los Angeles could have time to communicate to their elected representatives what they think of the deal.
Lets put some numbers to all of this: According to www.TransparentCalifornia.com the 2013 median income of Los Angeles residents was $38,939. The average salary for City employees in 2013 (there were 35,919 full time and 46, 918 total employees in 2013) was $90,167 and when benefits (pension and health care costs) are added that rises to $101,675 not including future payments for retiree pensions and retiree health care costs. Los Angeles total employee compensation for 2013 was $3,866,476,670. That’s right: almost 4 billion dollars (and down from almost 5 billion dollars for 2011 and 2012). With 3,827,261 residents in the City of Los Angeles, that means the total employee compensation cost per resident is $1,010. Here is the link for the summary page for 2013 from Transparent California. By comparison the 2013 cost per resident in Orange County was $577. Orange County summary. The City of Orange: $597. City of Orange summary. And perhaps no surprise: Los Angeles County for 2013: $933. Los Angeles County summary.
So it would appear that in the City of Los Angeles city employees are paid more than twice the median salary of taxpayers of that city. Plus the public employees also receive all of the city paid health care and pension benefits now and in the future.
When will the citizens of Los Angeles get a COIN ordinance – likely never unless the voters of Los Angeles demand it by making big changes in their City Council and the Mayor’s office. This would mean that the generally left leaning voters of Los Angeles would need to ignore the labor union financed campaign ads for City Council and Mayor candidates. They would need to stop those nice labor union bosses with their labor friendly politicians cutting these deals behind closed doors. How? By electing City Council members and a Mayor who are not beholden to the unions for their political fortunes and futures.
Voters of the City (and County) of Los Angeles – the decision is in your hands.
About the Author: Craig Alexander is the principal of the Law Offices of Craig P. Alexander and has practiced law for over twenty five years. He represents clients in litigation and non-litigation matters regarding construction defects, insurance coverage, personal injury, property damages, business litigation and general civil litigation matters and professional liability cases. Craig is a graduate of Santa Clara University’s School of Law and he was admitted to the California State Bar in December of 1987. This article originally appeared in OC Political, and is republished here with permission.