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The Fear Factor: No More Mr. Nice Guy

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
elected officials.

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.

I’ve
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
royalty.

We can’t afford to take this kind of treatment anymore.

I’ve
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
single force.

“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
rights.

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.

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3 Responses to The Fear Factor: No More Mr. Nice Guy

  1. Sandy Sand says:

    “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.”
    You, Ron, know more than anyone else how hard it is to organize people into one cohesive, one-message group, because you’ve been doing it with S.L.A.P.
    Most people are like many people we all know.
    *They could care less about local politics; hell, they could care less about national politics except for once every four years.
    *They’re busy raising kids and trying to keep home and hearth together to the exclusion of everything else.
    *The media, especially television where most people get their news, doesn’t give a rat’s ass about local politics.
    *Too few people read newspapers, and papers don’t give local politics and political antics that much space either.
    Sometimes they give a particular story some decent coverage and analysis, but a lot of what I read is more like rewritten press releases.
    I love KNBC’s excuse for not covering L.A. City Hall. I paraphrase, but it goes something like this: Our signal goes out to the entire Southland, therefore we can’t cover one area like Los Angeles. If we did that, we’d lose viewers and we can’t to that.
    I don’t know about you, but they bore me to death with all the time they devote to Orange County coverage, which they seem to like far more than L.A. county and city.
    KABC, Channel 7 at 11 p.m. gave yesterday’s gathering for the council hearing on Special Order 40 the shortest shrift possible. I’m not sure it was even 90 seconds long, but they have time for the latest doings on “Dancing With the Stars” (self-promotion), or a kitty up a tree.
    In spite of all of the above, we must continue doing what we’ve been doing however and when ever we can, and we can try to get our friends an acquaintances to pitch in, too.
    It’s up to us to work to make this city a better place to live and make our elected officials listen to us.
    We have to do it for us, for the city, for those who live here and can’t or won’t do it for themselves.

  2. ellen vukovich says:

    From Ron: “I’ve 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 single force.”
    From Ron’s nameless city hall source: “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.”
    From a longstanding community activist: That isn’t a correct depiction. It’s what city hall would like us all to believe. Many activists have realized city hall’s perception can be altered so long as the public stays the course on any issue. That’s what it takes – hanging in for the long and dirty fight. Our elected and appointed officials have sufficient experience on erecting roadblocks, all while consistently underestimating the passion and determination of an activist fighting for a piece of turf.
    However, with a city this large, you have to be realistic and realize the battles are being fought and won literally on a block by block basis. The media isn’t going to tell you that. Your Council Member isn’t going to tell you that.
    That’s why I always try to help people by suggesting the following to them: when city hall starts telling you that you aren’t meeting their criteria of how to conduct business – then learn how to do it. Invest the time. If they claim you aren’t being logical – then leave your emotions at the door. If they seem to be ignoring you, putting you off or looking down their noses at you, then you know you are making progress. And, get everything in writing.
    Again, you have to keep hanging on because the “system” is designed to make the public go away. Plenty do. But plenty haven’t. Why? Because they have done what they probably would do in the private sector – relied on an expert to guide them, i.e., a land use attorney, lobbyist, traffic engineer, etc.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “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.”
    Ron, let me agree with the above poster that it’s only a partially correct analysis. It’s true that small, politically weak groups get no attention from City Hall. But, when many of these dissatisfied people are very evident then it demonstrates that things are not right. Discontentment is passed throughout the citizens with similar issues. It doesn’t take much then for a leader to step up and sway events. It doesn’t take much for a simple and clear message to resound with the public.
    But, it isn’t the discontent that sways people. It will be a coherent stated solution, in a clear, fair message. I’ve not heard it yet. But, it’s out there.

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