“And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account – to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government…
“To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the
silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history;
but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
Barack Obama, Inaugural Address as 44th President of the United States. Jan. 20, 2009
I was deeply moved by the inauguration of Barack Obama as President, his words resonated to the core of my beliefs as a teenager in the 1950s and my coming of age and ideals in the 1960s.
The symbolism of America embracing a black President in my lifetime and the olive branch he offered for national unity and global friendship reflected my own beliefs.
But what meant the most to me was Obama’s call for “a new era of responsibility” — a warning to elected officials everywhere to put a true sense of public service ahead of self service and to those “who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent.”
In the context of that last phrase, he meant foreign dictators but to those of us in Los Angeles working for a more democratic city, an inclusive city, a great city, the words applied precisely to what we face.
City government has grown corrupt and serves special interests better than people, special interests that keep our officials in office with their money. And our city government engages constantly in deceit and the silences dissent.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the campaign for Measure B. Back room deals were cut with those who will directly profit from this plan; others were bullied into silence to the point that many are so intimidated they are afraid to stand up and speak freely about what is wrong with this plan; vital information was withheld from the public and even the City Council and no meaningful public debate was allowed.
And when some of us dissented and exercise our legal right to oppose Measure B, they sued and demanded heavy financial costs be imposed on us. They lost in court because Measure B does nothing except perpetuate the failing monopoly of the DWP — the very agency that for a decade or long has vigorously resisted public demands for solar energy.
A government that disrespects the public so thoroughly is not the kind of government that President Obama speaks of. A government that squanders the public’s money on sweetheart contracts and wasteful spending is not the kind of government that President Obama speaks of.
We the people of Los Angeles want the kind of government President Obama speaks of — not a government that serves itself and excludes the public.
We appeal to Mayor Villaraigosa to suspend his campaign for Measure B and to open up a genuine and open dialogue with the people of the city on how we achieve clean energy and clean government.
Nothing good for the city can come from the dirty deals that went into Measure B. The conflict over this measure will not end even if his campaign’s lies, false promises and millions of dollars in special interest money prevail over the people.
Everyone wants solar energy. Nobody but City Hall and the special interests it serves wants 1,000 giant digital billboards that create visual blight and a safety hazard.
Everyone wants affordable housing that preserves the working class and middle class. Nobody but City Hall is selling out to developers whose projects drain precious resources, overtaxes the infrastructure and causes worse traffic congestion.
Everyone wants kids to get good educations and for the people of the city to have the opportunity to get good jobs. Nobody but City Hall is responsible for the flight of good-paying jobs to the suburbs and the worsening poverty rate.
Let’s start anew. Let’s open a real public conversation on how we come together on a clean energy plan that creates good jobs here — not in China. The issue isn’t solar energy at any price. It’s solar energy at the best price with the biggest impact on our economy and on our environment.
Let’s build on that dialogue on how we turn L.A. around and start sharing in the greatness of a city we all believe in, a city that brings to life the ideals that President Obama speaks so eloquently to.
And let’s reach for something greater than ourselves and build a city that fulfills its promise of freedom and inclusion of all. Let’s come together and make L.A. the great city it could become.