Rotten excesses of L.A.’s political aristocrats

Is it just me or is the behavior of what passes for the political aristocracy of L.A. beginning to look a like it did during the last days of the French royalty and the Russian tsars?

Take for example the mayor and his entourage heading off to Israel on the dime — quite a few dimes at that — of the customers of the Department of Water and Power who have just been slugged with yet another big rate hike supposedly to rebuild the infrastructure that was allowed to rot while contractors and employees got rich on sweetheart deals.

Or how about Councilman Greig Smith — who has fought so hard to get a sane and modern garbage policy — skimming a quarter of a million dollars of revenue from the much-despised Sunshine Canyon Landfill to go globetrotting with City Council staffers in Europe where a Coke costs $15 or so in U.S. currency.

I’m not trash-talking in bringing these things up. They’re just pieces in a mosaic of arrogant conduct and wanton disregard for the people of the city — people mind you that are seeing their federal income tax rebates gobbled up by city tax hikes, who can’t afford $4 a gallon in gas to sit in gridlocked traffic trying to get to work, and are living  in fear of losing their jobs and their homes.

It’s like everywhere you look there are signs of privilege and self-indulgence.

The new L.A. airport director subverts the contracting procedures to reward old pals with a lucrative deal, but skates because nothing is in writing and nobody involved is hauled before a grand jury to testify under oath about exactly what went down.

Even city watchdog Controller Laura Chick whitewashed the deal while finding the process was a lot less than wholesome. Obviously, she’s in a good mood since she also hailed the great strides made in cleaning up the adolescent, illegal and costly misconduct in the Fire Department.

And the man who would be the people’s lawyer, lackluster Councilman Jack Weiss, has taken a noblesse oblige attitude about consorting with felons as long as he can raise a lot of money for his campaign for City Attorney next year.

Weiss shows no shame about well-connected public relations operative Steve Sugerman holding a $500 a person fundraising event June 10 in Santa Monica even though Sugerman admitted to felony misconduct in the DWP/Fleishman-Hillard billing case. Of course, Weiss isn’t alone in seeing nothing wrong with the involvement of Sugerman who operates freely in City Hall despite having confessed to bilking the city.

Then, there’s the report by Thom Senzee published here that District Attorney Steve Cooley has enough empathy for sexual predators that he won’t use the full force of the law against them like other prosecutors across the state.

I could go and on but I’m in Philadelphia having a good time with friends and family and my outrage meter isn’t running as high as normal.

Hopefully, yours is and you’re working up a lather and will start taking note of these kinds of rotten excesses and get off your duffs and do something about it.

  

 

Why not the best for L.A. kids?

By Doug Dowie

Correspondent

Sometimes the answer to your most vexing problem is sitting right in front you.

 

There is no question that L.A. has been plagued by gang violence for decades. And the debate over how to deal with the question has lasted just as long.

 

Tough enforcement

is obviously part of the solution. Some experts believe “intervention” — getting gang members to quit the life, or at least convincing them not to shoot each other — will also reduce the violence, which, tragically, often claims innocent lives. Sometimes kids playing in their living rooms. Sometimes babies. Sometimes people just waiting for a bus.

 

Most recently, the debate in L.A. was marred by a fight over who in City Hall would control the millions of dollars to actually prevent kids from joining gangs. No bystanders on Spring Street were killed, but it got pretty nasty

.

Soon the fight will begin — again — over which of the myriad of gang prevention programs will get their piece of the pie. Evaluating their effectiveness is always an issue, especially when some of the programs are run by, or employ, former gang members. It gets dicier when it’s revealed that some aren’t really “former.”

 

But like I said, sometimes a big part of the solution is sitting there looking at you.

 

Last fall, LA’s BEST announced the results of a landmark study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice and conducted by UCLA’s National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing.

 

The results show that students in LA’s BEST are 30 percent less likely to commit juvenile crime than their peers. Using conservative estimates, the study also found that for every dollar invested in the LA’s BEST program, the city saves $2.50 in costs associated with crime.

 

 

Continue reading Why not the best for L.A. kids?

EXCLUSIVE: D.A. Cooley goes soft on Jessica’s Law — deal cut to ignore retroactivity enforced by other prosecutors against sexual predators

By THOM SENZEE (thom@journalist.comi

Correspondent

 

Unlike other prosecutors in

California and the position of the state Attorney General, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley refused to apply tough provisions of Jessica’s Law retroactively against sexually violent predators (SVP).

A copy of an October 2006 an agreement
Stipulation Agreement.pdf
  between Cooley’s office and  the Public Defender and L.A. Superior Court shows that a deal was reached not to seek indeterminate commitments of the worst sexual predators — instead of the two-year maximum allowed before Jessica’s Law passed — if their cases already were in the legal system.

Jessica’s Law contained a retroactive provision allowing indeterminate commitments in all pending cases and that provision has been applied across the state, unheld in appellate courts and supported by Attorney General Jerry Brown.

Cooley’s office was afforded two days to respond to the issue but did not issue a statement and Cooley did not agree to be interviewed.

The disclosure comes as Cooley faces a primary election Tuesday and was seized on by one of his opponents Deputy District Attorney Steve Ipsen.

             “This is the only place where the D.A. is not following the law,” said Ipsen.  “Jessica’s Law, which is the will of the people and has been affirmed by the courts, says any person who has been determined to be an SVP should be committed to a mental-health facility for an indeterminate period after serving a sentence for their crime.” 

Continue reading EXCLUSIVE: D.A. Cooley goes soft on Jessica’s Law — deal cut to ignore retroactivity enforced by other prosecutors against sexual predators

Michigan is looking better all the time

Editor’s Note: I welcome contributions to this blog from everyone. It’s about the experience of L.A. in all its richness and diversity. Many people have worked long and hard to make L.A. a better city and the better we understand each other, the more likely will be to succeed. This contribution is from Sandy Sand, a longtime community journalist and activist.

By Sandy Sand

Community Correspondent

My own island or a shack on a small lake somewhere is looking better and better all the time.

Living in L.A. is looking worse and worse.

But then, L.A. never looked good to me, just as living in the suffocating heat of the Valley never looked good to my oldest daughter, who I dragged here from West L.A.

I was uprooted from East Lansing, Michigan, by my parents whose brothers and sisters preceded us here.  I liked the visits we made here, but move here?

No, it wasn’t for the young me, and besides, I’d just gotten a brand new sled and my very own shoe ice skates.  The sled didn’t come to L.A. with me, but the skates did; I still have them and they still fit.

It was also the last winter that it really snowed. I mean snowed! Drifts up to the second story windows. Ever try to walk up a snowdrift to peek into a friend’s window and say hi, because she was in bed with the chick pox you gave her? Bummer! We could have had so much fun trying to navigate that drift together.

It looked solid, but it wasn’t. Before I could say red, red robin, the snow pile had drifted up to my waist and I realized it was not only a lost cause, but I’d snowed myself into thinking I could do it.

Besides the fun of that, the fire department had flooded a field that was close enough to walk to with ice skates slung over one shoulder with one banging our chests while the other kept patting us on the back.

You can’t do that in L.A. without plowing your way up overcrowded mountain roads or driving to a rink, if there is still such a thing here.

In L.A., in the Valley we plow our way through traffic to go anywhere at any time of day. Drive time is all the time.

Continue reading Michigan is looking better all the time

It was meant to be — Judge James K. Hahn

Thataway Jimmy.

I know it will sound sarcastic after the rough time I’ve given Jim Hahn for so long but I genuinely mean it. Congratulations on your decision to become a judge.

From my days in the early 1980s at the Herald Examiner, I knew Kenny Hahn. He was always good for a quote whenever you needed someone official to bolster a story of misfeasance or malfeasance, someone who would demand a full investigation or was angry to find out something was amiss.

Kenneth Hahn was the consummate politiician. His son was not. My dad was meticulous and organized; I’m chaotic and sloppy. The apple does not fall far from the tree in all ways.

And that was why I gave City Attorney James Hahn such a hard time and why I gave Mayor James Hahn a much harder time. He didn’t have a political bone in his being. He not only didn’t like to glad hand the public, he didn’t even like to be touched.

During his four years as mayor, Hahn never spoke to me. I can’t really blame him. He was the first mayor in modern L.A. history to start his term with the power to take charge of City Hall under the new charter that limited the City Council largely to being a legislative and oversight body and gave the mayor control of the entire vast bureaucracy.

Instead of asserting his authority, Hahn let the council continue to run the show and maintain its fiefdom power over its members’ individual districts. Instead of chasing the lobbyists and manipulators out of City Hall, he opened the doors to them and let them call the shots.

I never thought his was a moral failing but a failing of leadership. He would never have been in politics if his name wasn’t Hahn, if it wasn’t for the shadow of his father who stayed in elected office for decades representing a largely African-American constituency because he had the gift of the natural born politician.

Personally, I don’t think that gift is such a great thing or that it alone has produced great results.

I think James K. Hahn is perfectly suited to sit on the bench and I think he’ll be a good judge. I’m happy he’s found his calling and I’m sure he’ll be happier too. The best to you Judge Hahn. 

 

Confessions of a duffer … and why the city can’t pay its bills

RON 1.jpgTo be perfectly honest, I am a golf fanatic.

For years now, I wake up at the crack of dawn every Monday and Tuesday and dial into the L.A. city golf reservation system with one phone in my left hand and one in my right.

Sometimes I get straight in when the system opens at 6 a.m. but more times than not it takes me dozens, even hundreds, of redials before the recorded voice says: “Welcome to the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks teetiime reservation system….to reserve a teetime press one…”

It’s so bad that Francois our cockatiel does perfect imitations of a busy signal. But I am an expert at making reservations and almost always able to get one of the earliest teetimes for Saturday and Sunday for me and my pals.

I am not an expert golfer. In fact, I’m terrible and I cheat all the time. But I do love the game. It gets me out of my head, connects me with the birds and the trees and the sky above and with my friends for a few hours.

There’s a fraternity among golfers, and that’s especially true among municipal course golfers, a camaraderie that comes from playing on working class facilities where the sand traps are like concrete, the greens bumpy, and the fairways covered with bare spots and muddy patches even in the heat of summer.

I’m not complaining, a cowpatch would be fine with me. But that’s not true for all municipal course golfers, the ones who take it seriously and have the skill to hit the ball straight and far. They are given to bitching about the marshals who drive around oblivious to slow players, the condition of the courses and the soaring fees the city is charging.

Right now, with City Hall paralyzed by its financial mismanagement, they are up in arms over plans to price city courses out of the market, cut back in maintenance and give away a contract for golf carts that fails to maximize revenue to the treasury.   

Continue reading Confessions of a duffer … and why the city can’t pay its bills

The tail that wags the City Hall dog: 80 % of dogs unlicensed

The evidence is now unequivocal: Civil disobedience works in L.A.

Not only does City Hall give away the public treasury to employees, contractors, developers and other special interests but it can’t even get up to 80 percent of dog owners to pay for a license.

City Controller exposed the bungling incompetence in the Animal Services Department in an audit released Tuesday. 

She reported that the Animal Services Department only issues 123,000 licenses when the dog population is estimated at 400,000 to 800,000 — roughly 75 to 80 percent don’t pay, she said — and doesn’t do a damn thing to collect the money it’s owed.

Reports like this are exactly why Chick has earned the title of the city’s watchdog.

Continue reading The tail that wags the City Hall dog: 80 % of dogs unlicensed

AB 212 and the small and funny world of Felipe Fuentes

FelipeFuentes.jpgIt’s a small world isn’t it, small and funny and fine — at least for people in the tight little circles of influence where opportunity to reward friends and punish enemies abounds.

Take the case of Northeast San Fernando Valley Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes who, while nobody was watching largely because he has been so invisible, took steps to strip the City of L.A. and its citizens of their basic right to decide land use issues by letting developers do almost anything they want like tear down houses and put up apartments.

It should be noted that his skullduggery was aided and abetted by the fact the Daily News no longer has anyone in Sacramento and the Times still doesn’t care about such mundane matters as the well-being of the city.

But word does get around and on Friday Rick Orlov reported Fuente’s deceit and a brushfire of outrage quickly spread across the city.

(Strike up the appropriate music by clicking here to get in the right mood for what follows)

With a little help from his friends, Fuentes has concocted a measure, AB212, that  “would limit the ability of the city to make zone changes in areas where the community plan is not consistent with the general plan,” according to Orlov.

That lack of consistency is everywhere since the general plan is a fraud and the community plans outdated.

Fuentes’ goal is affordable housing — a code word for taxpayer subsidized housing for the poor and densification of neighborhoods all across L.A.

Now I don’t know at this point who would get rich from Fuentes’ effort to strip the people of L.A. and their government of control of land use but an examination of how he came to be an elected official and how this legislation came to be might be instructive.

For starters, you need to know Fuentes is a tool of City Councilman Richard Alarcon and former City Council President Alex Padilla, who is now a state senator.

Continue reading AB 212 and the small and funny world of Felipe Fuentes

A voice in the crowd…a cry in the darkness

I’m just a voice in the crowd. I can’t say I never thought I was more than that but then I’ve never been happier or freer than I am at this moment.

At this point in my life I can do what I want when I want and say what I want the way I want. And if it doesn’t work out, I know there’s a place somewhere else out there for me and my wife to be perfectly happy.

So this is my last stand, L.A.’s last stand. It’s now or never because L.A. is in grave danger of chasing away the last vestiges of its middle class and becoming a city of rich sheltered in privately-guarded enclaves and poor living in squalor.

There are thousands of others out there — people I’ve met over the years and especially those that I’m meeting now — who have taken just about as much as they’re going to take from a government that kowtows to the rich and powerful and seduces special classes with money and flattery.

Many more have left over the years. They called it white flight back in the 1980s  but it’s become a rainbow flight in the last decade. You got to be rich or poor or just plain crazy enough to have stayed and fought for all these years. I know for a fact that there’s a lot more crazies like that all across L.A. than the people in power realize.

Imagine what would happen if all those who cared about the dream of a greater L.A. came down and stood in front of City Hall.

Imagine what would happen if every one of them brought a bag of garbage and put it on the steps of that gold-plated palace to a failed government, a City Hall that constantly raises fees and taxes even as it fails to solve the city’s problems.

Continue reading A voice in the crowd…a cry in the darkness

L.A.’s Scandal Central: The Department of Water and Power

The news about L.A. just gets worse and worse.

Gangsters are running wild in the San Fernando Valley and so are racists and anti-Semites; the political wannabes have so corrupted the electoral process, a Republican might even stand a chance; the city budget is so phony it almost certainly will have to be revised before it takes effect July 1 — which may explain why the City Council hardly bothered to discuss it.

But if you’re looking for a reason to get so mad you might actually do something, nothing quite tops Scandal Central: The Department of Water and Power, now or at any time during the last 100 years.

This is a saga of how ratepayers’ money is squandered, why rates keep soaring, why service stinks, how insiders get rich, why the DWP union gets lucrative sweetheart contracts and virtually runs the show and how Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has put the wolves in charge of the henhouse.

The latest chapter involves the notorious DWP figure Raman Raj, who was booted out of the utility a few years back after serving as onetime DWP head David Freeman’s right-hand man. He might just as easily have been described as the right-hand man of Brian D’Arcy, the head of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers which represents nearly all 8,000 DWP workers including most managers.

Don’t feel sorry about Raj  After being dumped, he started representing a long list of companies that contract with the DWP and just like magic he’s back six years later in a top job at the DWP being paid the handsome sum of a quarter of a million dollars.

An article by David Zahniser in the Times Saturday raises serious questions about just what Raj is up to in his new role.

Continue reading L.A.’s Scandal Central: The Department of Water and Power