It was all a bit surreal the scene at L.A. City Coilege on Saturday.
After a meeting of the Alliance of Neighborhood Councils, about 10 or so of us gathered to plot how the Saving L.A. Project (SLAP) will proceed in our effort to overthrow the government of Los
Angeles. As we talked, over the loudspeakers in the background, came the voice of the king of the
city, none other than Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was praising himself
and the several hundred young people who had spent a couple of hours
participating in the mayor’s “Day of Service.”
Their worthwhile efforts were being rewarded with entertainment and a catered lunch under the shade of rented tents compliments of the Department of Water and Power, now flush with extra cash thanks to hefty rate hikes, and Home Depot, anxious to win friends in its fight with Sunland-Tujunga residents, among other sponsors.
The mayor was in his best cheerleading voice as he talked about his commitment to selfless service while around the corner out of sight our small cadre of rabble rousers was debating whether it was right for those engaged in this civic-minded rebellion to use city facilities for our meetings sort of like Trotsky and Lenin asking to use Czar Nicholas’ palace to organize the Russian Revolution.
I lost track of what Antonio was saying as a consensus formed in our group that this revolution of ideas to make L.A. a great city and the effort to organize the community to break the stranglehold on power by a corrupt insider political culture was not going to go hat in hand to beg for favors from City Hall.
Adding to the weird vibe at the Alliance meeting was the presence of Controller Laura Chick, increasingly stepping out from the pack at City Hall.
She opened the Alliance’s program by voicing her disgust at the failure of the mayor and the City Council and the bureaucracy to do their jobs with even a modicum of competence and sense of public service.
The city has “no clear vision…no strategic plan” in case of an earthquake or terrorist attack despite million of dollars in grants to provide for public safety in a crisis, she said. It was a theme that came up over and over as she fielded questions about gangs, development, transportation and other issues.
I thought she sounded like everybody involved in SLAP. A lot
of people shouted out that she should run for mayor, a sentiment that
seems popular among the city’s activists who have become convinced that
the system is broken, city government is badly managed and major
changes are needed.
In fact, there are 73 recommendations alone
for changing the chaotic system of Neighborhood Councils — a fact I
seized on to make the point that anything that needs 73 fixes is
probably broken beyond repair.
I suggested that the NC system
doesn’t need 73 fixes to the structure of governance. The councils need
to start demanding what they need to make their neighborhoods
healthier, band together with each other to achieve what the city as a
whole needs and work with SLAP to mobilize an army of citizen activists
in support of change.
At our SLAP meeting, we agreed our mission
was to form a loosely-knit coalition of all types of community groups
– neighborhood councils, resident groups, service clubs, nonprofits
and individual citizens.
We will act as the political and organizing arm of a community-based movement
we’ll focus on a handful of issues like what City Hall does with all
the money it takes out of our pockets and whether we get real benefits.
We’ll identify the 50 ways City Hall skirts the rules like
selectively enforcing housing laws and failing to fulfill its legal
obligations to study traffic flow and develop plans to ease congestion.
we’ll stop the politicians and bureaucrats from lying in our faces.
Truth squads will see to that and make sure we open up the books on
what’s going on at City Hall.
Whether we succeed or not depends
on you, all of you. Take the first step and come to the Saturday
afternoon Aug. 2 Town Hall meeting of SLAP (location to be announced
shortly) where we’ll lay out an agenda for discussion and set up
workshops to start mobilizing to take back Los Angeles from special
interests and self-service.
Selfless service isn’t a one
morning commitment to the community; it’s an ongoing effort that takes
persistence and energy. And there’s nothing surreal about it.