Every morning at precisely nine minutes to nine, the ferocious dog my wife rescued from the bushes several years ago goes berserk. It’s the moment the pool motor comes up and the vent in the pool bubbles up for a couple of minutes. Bruno, a pit bull and shar pei mix, apparently thinks he makes the bubbling stop with his incessant barking.
EDITOR’S NOTE: As honorary chairman of the Saving L.A. Project, I am going down to City Hall on Wednesday to object to the City Council going behind closed doors to discuss in private what is nothiing but a political fight between Controller Laura Chick and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. I hope others will join me in the council chambers to protest this unlawful closed door meeting that is a slap in the public’s face.
Who are they? Your Los Angeles City Council, who else fits that description?
OK, they could be anybody elected to city office in a system that’s so rigged an honest person doesn’t stand a chance and, if they did by some miracle fluke into office, they wouldn’t be able to stay honest very long.
Here’s the story of the best
political catfight in L.A. in ages — call it “The Tigress vs. The
Rock.” Here’s a City Council that prefers to do business in the dark under
rocks and act like a pussycat in public and this is a story they want to suppress:
City Controller Laura Chick who’s earned a reputation as a maverick crusader
without quite trampling on the tulips of City Hall’s corruption keeps on
demanding City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo get out of her way and let her audit
how he has handled worker compensation cases.
Calling herself “a tigress,” Chick “insinuated that Delgadillo
was trying to block the audit because he feared auditors might find that the
workers’ compensation division, including the hiring or outside attorneys, is
inefficient and wasting taxpayer dollars,” as the Times put it.
Not to be outdone, Rocky claims she’s intruding illegally on his authority and is up to the kind of “political mischief” she’s
engaged in before. She has nothing but a “personal politically-motivated
purpose” in seeking to conduct the audit, he says..
She said, he said…it started back in March when pro-gang Councilman Tony
Cardenas wanted to derail the mayor’s efforts to take over the city’s failed
gang intervention programs by questioning whether Chick would have the
authority to ever audit the programs success.
Which is funny when you think about it because one of the criticisms of her is
she refused to audit the L.A. Bridges anti-gang program — an audit many
believe would contain explosive revelations.
Rocky quickly issued a legal opinion that controller does not have the
authority to audit programs run by other elected officials because it’s not
explicitly given in the city charter.
That same day, Chick allegedly questioned the legal opinion at an anti-gang
group meeting and followed up by declaring she wanted to audit the workers
compensation program — something that is well-know to be out of control.
Flash forward to Aug. 11, when faced with renewed pressure from Chick, Rocky
filed a complaint in Superior Court seeking a court order backing his position.
told the Metropolitan News-Enterprise: “What is he afraid of? What doesn’t
he want the public to see?”
the Council. The very next day Councilman Jack Weiss — the wannabe City
Attorney who has a hard time actually getting to council meetings and casting
votes — intervened by proposing an emergency motion that has led to
Wednesday’s closed door session intended to make this political quarrel go away
while keeping the public as ignorant as possible.
Weiss, as usual, wasn’t actually at the meeting to introduce his motion or even
vote for it but the courteous Greig Smith did his job for him while Eric
Garcetti and Wendy Greuel, who loathe any public quarreling as much as the mediocrity of their colleagues, felt uncomfortable with the public knowing
what’s going on so they co-sponsored Weiss’ phony effort to play the absentee peacemaker.
The heart of the motion
says: “There appears to be significant confusion as to the intent of both
commissions and the meaning of the language that was ultimately submitted to
the voters in this regard. Legal action between two City elected officials is
an extreme avenue to resolve disputes and spending taxpayer money, including
the hiring of outside counsel for the Controller that would be required if this
litigation proceeds, should be a last resort, All other avenues for resolving
this issue should be explored. It is imperative that the Council receive a
complete briefing from both the City Attorney and Controller and explore
options for resolving this issue in a manner that best serves the public.”
Despite some talk about
letting voters decide in the March primary, Councilman Dennis Zine couldn’t
keep his mouth shut about what was really up — headlines that let the public
know just how messed up city government really is. That kind of thing could destroy the whole dirty political machine, bankrupt developers, force workers to earn no more than their worth and lead to actual public servants replacing the self-servers who now hold public office.
“It’s fodder for talk
shows, but does it accomplish anything? I don’t think accomplished
anything,” Zine declared.
Which brings us to Item 15
on Wednesday’s calendar. The council, refreshed from two weeks of vacation
that included party time in Denver
for many of them takes up the motion behind closed doors about how to make this
political issue go away by pretending it’s a legal issue.
There is no excuse for a
closed door meeting except for the cowardice of the council to stand up in
public and say what they mean.
This is a council that
engineers unanimous votes with back room deals, routinely squelches debate on
public controversies, inflicts rules for public meetings on neighborhood
councils that they don’t obey themselves and refuses to listen to the
public’s concerns while pandering to special interests who keep them in jobs that
are better than anything they could earn in the public sector.
That’s why I’m going down to
City Hall on Wednesday to challenge the legality of going behind closed doors.
Let Delgadillo and Chick
make their case in public.
Let the council debate and discuss it in public.
the public be informed about who — if any of these people — is serving the
public interest and who are tools of a corrupt system that must be reformed.
The Declaration of Independence is the
nation’s most revered symbol of liberty — holding that is the people’s
right to abolish the government and replace it with a new government
that will act in accordance with the will of the people.
The opening words of our Constitution,
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect
union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the
common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings
of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address echoed
the same sentiments, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new
birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for
the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Those who comprise the government of
the City of Los Angeles have completely forgotten these principles as
they bow to special interests for the sake of money and power.
For many months I have been reporting
on the antics of Home Depot in Sunland-Tujunga. I have met and interviewed
dozens of residents and community leaders who truly care about the area
they live and shop in.
Plain and simple, there are inherent
dangers posed by the nature of this business — air quality, traffic,
noise, water pollution, the safety of school children — all of which
would, irreparably, damage the general welfare of the people in Sunland-Tujunga.
Yet, their elected officials are too
blinded by greed, too scared of losing corporate contributions, and
too stupid to see what is beneath their very noses — a community of
people begging for representation from those they elected.
Consider Rocky Delgadillo and his ties
with Latham & Watkins, the attorneys who are suing the City on behalf
of Home Depot.
Latham & Watkins gave many, many
thousands of dollars to Rocky’s campaign.
Latham & Watkins worked with South
Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) to write Rule 1401.1
adopted in November 2005. This is the very law written to protect schools
from the type of business that Delgadillo struck a deal with after the
City Council voted to halt the project.
As he and the L.A. convention delegation come home to picket lines at LAX, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced this morning that he has convinced baggage handlers and other SEIU union members who work for private contractors at the airport to return to work over the busy holiday weekend and resume negotiations. “In these difficult economic times for the airline industry and for hard-working Angelenos at the airport, we must come together to find a solution that meets the needs of workers and the airline industry, the mayor said in a statement. Here’s the full press release:
SEIU makes Labor Day Weekend News: Federal probe, LAX strike and the altruism of public service One of the key elements in news judgment is proximity: Like there’s a murder on the Westside and the Times gets excited so the next thing you know every crime on the Westside is big news. In this case the story that’s got proximity starts with the Times breaking the story of how Service Employees International Union’s biggest California local made six-figure payments to firms owned by relatives of its
president, Tyrone Freeman. It’s a total embarrassment for the one labor leader in America who actually organizes workers, Andrew Stern, and a series of developments keep the story alive: Officers ousted, FBI investigates and today we learn Democratic Congressman George Miller blusters like he really cares and is going to do something about it. All that makes the Labor Day weekend strike by SEIU Local 1877 at LAX more interesting. The baggage handlers, security personnel and janitors want 50 cent raise on the $10.50 an hour they earn plus health benefits from the private contractors they work for. So there’s going to be delays and confusions on the holiday weekend. And those stories lead me to the Labor Day weekend commentary at City Watch by SEIU Local 721 leader Julie Butcher who represents the lowest-paid city workers actually has the brass to declare: “No one in public service does it for the money.” OK, I’m as guilty as anyone of using hyperbole to make a point. I like and respect Julie but she knows better than to argue that getting a sweetheart contract from her pal the mayor and supporting his efforts to raise taxes all the time are done for altruistic reasons. It’s like the mayor explaining his selling the city to special interests by sayiing: “Sure, I stole but I stole for you.”
School days, school days, good old broken rules days… LAUSD Superintendent David Brewer welcomed administrators back for the start of the new school year with a reminder that they should report it when they or their staffs molest young children — something they forgot to do last year. And he promised real changes: “Let me tell you what this is about. We have to hold ourselves accountable…This is the future of America. If we don’t solve this, we will be a second-rate nation by 2020.”
That made oft-abstaining School Board Member Julie Korenstein, who’s wavering about running for a 6th or is it 7th term, gush: “He made people comfortable and he recognized them, which is the first time I’ve seen a superintendent do that.”
With a hearing set this afternoon before the South Valley Area Planning, Clear Channel has backed down at the last minute and withdrew its controversial application to put a much-hated electronic billboard up in Encino. Perhaps Clear Channel has decided to be a good corporate citizen and renounce the incredibly lucrative deal it was awarded by the mayor, city attorney and City Council for no other reason that it’s a cash cow to their political campaigns. No, that isn’t it. Are they afraid of Gerald Silver of Encino Homeowners and his oft-proven ability to mobilize strong community opposition to schemes that destroy the quality of life in the neighborhood? Or maybe the company figured out that the commissioners would be run out of the Valley of they approve the billboard at 15826 Ventura Boulevard, a block west of Haskell Avenue? The only certainty is that hardball players like Clear Channel aren’t suddenly going to respect the community and so it’s up to no good. Count on it. The company offered no explanation but is expected at the 4:30 p.m. hearing today at the Braude Center in Van Nuys. Here’s Clear Channel’s email to the city billboard.pdf. The L.A. Weekly’s Christine Pelisek did an excellent item yesterday on the citywide effort to fend off the mass invasion of electronic billboards that flash brightly all night long distracting drivers and disturbing the peace. It’s one of the most blatant examples of City Hall’s crimes against the people.
Let’s have a party — millions in small change found lying around City Hall If your house is like mine, there’s little boxes here and there with coins lying around that could add up to enough for a pizza or something on a rainy day. Imagine how much is lying around City Hall? $3.8 million is the number City Controller Laura Chick came up with. And she only looked at about half the pots of money in one department, Public Works, when there’s 700 special funds hiding the public’s money in various departments. The biggest chunk of change is sitting in the Griffith Observatory Trust Fund which has $3.3 million left over from the restoration project. Actually, Public Works paid $5.4 million in labor costs on the project that should have been reimbursed but it bungled the budgeting so it gets stiffed out of $2.1 million even if it listens to Chick. Then, there’s the $957,852 sitting idle in inactive accounts that have been all but forgotten — or at least ignored and unmonitored. “There is no reason millions of dollars should be sitting gathering dust especially when we are seeking to raise fees and taxes on the public,” Chick said, in urging every department to look for hidden pots of money.
So is all that small change going to lower fees and taxes— don’t hold your breath Chick suggested all Public Works’ small change be moved to General Fund to ease the burden on taxpayers but that’s not going to happen if past performance is any guide. Two months ago, she offered 18 recommendations on how the General Services Department could save energy and money in city buildings and turn the money over to the General Fund. The department responded a month later, saying, “Thank you for the recommendations…there will be no impact on the General Fund.” It appears the savings will be eaten up having to hire consultants and staffs to figure out how to save energy.
It’s hard to believe how this could be happening after all the headlines and trials and mayoral directives but it’s true — the give away of public money to public relations firms for jobs that city workers are paid to do or don’t need to be done is still going on.
Last month, it was the L.A. Harbor officials who got caught red-handed ignoring the mayor’s order and agreeing to hire two PR firms for $1.6 million to tell truckers new rules were coming to cut down on pollution.
Now, with documents I obtained under the California Public Records Act, we learn that Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) has been doing the same thing dating back to 2005 when Antonio Villaraigosa came to power and kept in place Jim Hahn’s directive that ended the use — and abuse — of PR contracts that were nothing but payoffs for “other” services rendered.
Amazingly, the contracts I obtained — and there may well be others in a subsequent release of documents — show they were awarded without competitive bidding by keeping the deals just below the legal limit that would have required making them public at the time.
When things are done to keep the public from knowing what’s going on, I like to use the word secrecy. It makes it sort of sinister and it’s accurate.
Now I don’t know whether these deals were a secret from the mayor or his staff but if I supported a ban on something that was
useless and tainted by scandal in the past I’d be mad as hell to find
out my orders were being disobeyed by people who work at my pleasure.
Of course, if I did know about it or didn’t really care, I might do as
the mayor did with the Harbor contracts when they became exposed to the
light of public knowledge — I’d cut the initial payoff back to say
$350,000 and look for
opportunities to extend or expand it.
And under those circumstances, I certainly wouldn’t hold anyone responsible for defying my orders.
Maybe when the mayor gets back from Denver or campaigning in New Hampshire or raising money somewhere, he’ll have a different view of these LAWA contracts.
The mayor of some small town out in the desert somewhere stumps for Obama in Pueblo. Colo Jimmy Hahn, L.A.’s former mayor if you remember him, might not have inspired the masses with his laconic style but he did attract a true believer in veteran political consultant Kam Kuwata, long-time adviser to Sen. Dianne Feinstein and a lead organizer for the Democratic National Convention. So you can imagine the self-control it took for Kuwata not to gloat a reporter asked him about Villaraigosa being snubbed in Denver and kept off the main political stage. “I’m personally not aware that he made a request to speak,” Kuwata told the Times. “My
understanding is that he has been one of the tremendous surrogates for Sen.
Obama.” Nothing cold about that, no hint of bitterness lingering from 2005 or Villaraigosa’s passionate support for Hillary Clinton in the primaries. And why would anyone think Villaraigosa’s being snubbed just because the closest he can get to Obama is a private meeting with adviser Valerie Jarrett. “I’ve been asked that question 100 times,” said Villaraigosa. “I’m going to
Pueblo, Colo., this week to campaign for Barack Obama.”
Many county social workers are “either liars or really bad drivers” — you decide That’s the question posed in a Daily News headline on a story about an audit of the perpetually broken Department of Children and Family Services. Long plagued by serious problems in looking after the county’s neediest kids, auditors in recent years have exposed the department misspent millions on unnecessary and overpriced supplies, violated county
spending limits, paid unwarranted overtime and bonus pay to employees and allowed social workers to spend tens of thousands of
dollars on meals and entertainment, including tickets to the musical
“Wicked.” The newest audit found there’s an epidemic of auto accidents among the 3,000 social workers who use their own cars and are reimbursed by the county. Forged signatures, four claims in a year for $6,000, a fender-bender that cost $10,000, $5,800 for two off-duty accidents and “dozens of claims for windshield damage were paid out at an average cost of $950 when the usual cost is about $265.” But fear not, the county is going to fix the problem: It’s going to have a windshield repair company come to DCFS offices to make the repairs. That’s keeping an eye on the problem
The best of times, the worst of times — which is it? New census figures show poverty in L.A. County has dropped sharply thanks to “a booming economy, gentrifying neighborhoods and soaring housing prices,” according to the Times. “Bucking a national trend, Los Angeles County’s poverty rate dropped
notably between 2000 and 2007, the data showed, with the percentage of
residents living below the federal poverty level falling from 17.9% in
2000 to 14.7% last year.” But wait the Daily News reports that “Census Bureau data released Tuesday showed that nearly 4.6 million
Californians, or almost 13 percent, had incomes below the federal
poverty line in 2007, up from about 4.4 million the previous year.“ And home prices are still falling and 30 percent of the people in Pacoima are living below the poverty level and 50 percent of the Northeast Valley doesn’t have health insurance. What are we to think?
Editor’s Note: This item comes unadulturated from the Associated Press at the Democratic National Convention.
rent asunder _ over chairs, football
By DEVLIN BARRETT
— There wasn’t blood on the floor of the Democratic National Convention
on Tuesday night, but there was a deep scratch, and maybe some bruising.
Chick, the controller for the city of Los Angeles,
was sitting with California
delegates when she grabbed an Associated Press reporter’s arm.
man just took my chair, knocked into me, look at this!” she said, showing
a bright red nick on her arm, and then pointing to her ankle, which she said he
had stepped on.
in question, who would not identify himself, said: “I am a Clinton delegate and these
Obama delegates are mistreating us,” prompting groans and eye rolls from
those seated around him.
furious but said she will handle it.
he does it again, I’ll kick his” rear end, she said.
love to talk about how great their own states are, but they will admit, when
pressed, which are the worst states.
allowed that California
was best, of course. But when asked which state was worst, pondered a minute
and said: “Alabama,
I guess, I just have this feeling that there is lingering prejudices there, but
maybe that’s totally unfair on my part.”
delegates easily picked out the worst state.
definitely. It’s a good thing they didn’t seat us near them,” said Rick
Neal of Columbus, Ohio, citing the great rivalry between the
two states’ premier college football programs.