Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in a continuing series on how City Hall is robbing the Mt. Washington-Highland Park neighborhood of its greatest treasure, the Southwest Museum. This theft will only be stopped if community groups across the city come together and help save the city’s oldest museum from being looted. Read what the community’s has to say and read the first installment.
If it wasn’t so ridiculous, so irrelevant, so sinister, you’d have to laugh at the Ethics Commission proposal to require lobbyists — like adulterers long ago — to wear scarlet letters identifying them for what they are as they go about the back rooms of City Hall peddling their influence.
This is no better than the phony Measure R that gave City Council members an extra undeserved term in office in the name of ethics reform that stopped lobbyists from making campaign donations but did nothing to end the pay-to-play system that allows officials to do the bidding of consultants, contractors, developers and unions in exchange for campaign cash.
The problem isn’t lobbyists.
The problem is small-time politicians who sell out the public interest and will do anything to keep their $180,000 jobs and the all elaborate perks that come with it. The pols and their staff all know very well who the lobbyists with or without badges. They’re the ones with open access to City Hall, the ones with envelopes stuffed with money from special interests.
Instead of deceiving the public, the City Council which intends to waste two months examining this meaningless proposal ought to hold public hearings and come clean about its own complicity with high-paid lobbyists in stealing $1 billion in historical treasures from the Southwest Museum, robbing the Mt. Washington-Highland Park area of its community treasure and turning the city’s oldest museum into a classroom.
They might start by finding out why the Ethics Commission has done nothing about formal complaints filed last January and February against powerful and well-connected lobbyists Steve Sugerman, George Mihlsten and Bill Delvac accusing them of representing the Autry National Center for two years without registering.
Southwest Museum supporters called for “criminal prosecution by a special prosecutor, civil penalties and a full one-year ban” on lobbying the city by Sugerman, the man who admitted to federal criminal charges in the DWP/Fleishman-Hillard scandal, and Mihlsten and Delvac who with the law firm of Latham & Watkins have as much clout at City Hall as the unions and Eli Broad combined.
“Given the length of time and continuing nature of the violation, the matter deserves the Commission’s immediate investigation and action,” the complaint said.
Instead of investigation and action, the commission looks the other way as it always does when allegations of official corruption are involved and comes up with a badge proposal for lobbyists and suggest community groups, nonprofits and ordinary citizens be made to register as lobbyists and be made to pay hefty fees for the right to be snubbed by their elected officials while well-paid lobbyists have open access.
If we won’t band together on this issue and fight to preserve the Southwest as a museum, we might as well put up for the for sale signs and start looking for a nice place to live where the rights and interests of law-abiding people are respected.
The heart of the matter is how the Autry has gone about taking over the Southwest, which was badly managed for many years.
The Autry promised to renovated and restore the Southwest, claiming it had $100 million in assets — which activists say was false and have filed a complaint with the state Board of Accountancy against various firms over allegations of ethical lapses in their reports SouthwestMuseum.pdf. Also see supporting documentation.
The goal was to confiscate the Southwest’s collections, exhibit them in the Autry and to close the Southwest. As we learned recently, the community college bond on the November ballot would pay to repair the Southwest and use it for classrooms.
In the meantime, the City Council is ready to steamroll approval for the Autry through in the next few weeks with as little public discussion as possible.
These kinds of dealings are what is killing neighborhoods all over L.A.
If you want fight to stop the destruction of the Southwest and the undermining of the lifeblood of the Mt. Washington-Highland Park neighborhoods, who do you think is going to come to your community’s rescue when City Hall and the lobbyists and the big money interests come knockinig on your door.