Editor’s Note: I wrote this article for the October edition of Nina Royal’s North Valley Reporter which is now available.
For too long the
politically conscious people of Los Angeles have projected their own
good hearts and good intentions onto their City Council members and
come hat in hand hoping for favors like a speed bump on their street or
been seduced by a smile and flattering word.
If we’re going to change the political culture of City Hall and
save the city from over-development, over-population and over-taxation,
we’re going to have to stop being so naive and get tough with our
The problem in a nutshell is they treat us like their servants and
order us around and make decisions for us that aren’t in our or the
city’s best interests. The elected officials have to be put in their
place. They’re the servants, the public servants and they are handsomely
rewarded for it.
They live like millionaires — and somehow most of them become
millionaires while on the public dole — with the highest salaries of
municipal officials in America and lucrative perks.
listened to a lot of City Council meetings in the last six months and
I’ve attended a lot of commission and city hearings and I’m shocked –
critical as I’ve long been about the arrogance of City Hall — by the
way the pubic is treated.
At a recent Department of Water and Power Commission meeting where
the Saving L.A. Project brought out about 50 activists to support board
President Nick Patsaouras’ proposal for a Ratepayer Advocate, the
utility’s bureaucracy brought in 10 guards to cordon off the
halls and make sure the rabble of ordinary law-abiding citizens didn’t
storm the bastille.
When I tried to record the meeting on video — my absolute legal
right — guards twice came up to me and threatened to throw me out. I
finally had to interrupt the meeting and protest loudly to get the
board’s legal adviser to tell the guards to back off.
At a zoning hearing that exposed the city’s lack of a policy on
where and how cell phone towers can be installed close to where people
live and work, the hearing officer lectured the 40 community activists
about decorum like a strict school teacher laying down the law to
unruly six-year-olds. And then he treated a councilmen’s aide like
We can’t afford to take this kind of treatment anymore.
talked to a lot of smart people who live off the corrupt culture of
City Hall that makes special interests rich at the expense of the
people and all of them say pretty much the same thing about the effort
to organize community groups of all types from all over the city into a
“Your biggest challenge,” they tell me, “is that ‘the public’
screams with a lot of voices, is far from unified, not particulary
democratic and often unreasobable, making whatever it is on any given
day on any subject easy to ignore.”
I’ve learned how true that is in recent months in meeting with
hundreds of people from every part of Los Angeles.
Rich or poor or
in-between, they all experience the same thing from: City officials
give them the runaround, stymie them with rules designed to protect
special interests and if they’re lucky and kowtow enough, they might
just get a crumb from the table of power.
That’s not good enough. The problems are mounting. The city is
teetering on the brink. Ordinary citizens and business people need to
decide the days of playing nice are over. No more begging for our basic
The only thing City Hall will respond to is fear, the fear of
losing their rank and privilege. And the only way I know of to make
them afraid is to look beyond our local concerns to the pattern of
abuses and unite in common cause to restore L.A. to greatness as a city.