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Measure B, the Aftermath: Antonio the Salesman or the Sellout?

Antonio Villaraigosa just can’t stop selling even when nobody’s buying — and that’s not good.

Clean energy and good jobs was a great label for something everyone wants but the mayor couldn’t get voters to buy Measure B with its empty promise of solar energy when it was nothing but a giveaway to a mismanaged public utility, its greedy union boss and a long list of consultants, contractors, lobbyists and insiders.

Now we learn just how cheap it is to buy the mayor’s support, which is not to suggest that Stephen Bing’s $50,000 donation to the Yes on B campaign or his $100,000 for the mayor’s school board campaign represented some sort of quid pro quo.

That would illegal and so unnecessary. The pressure to contribute to the mayor’s campaigns has nothing to do with Bing’s decision or AIG’s Tim Leiweke acts of political generosity or the $100,000 that Bruce Khouri of Solar Integrated Technology felt impelled to donate for Measure B.

According to Maeve Reston in the Times on Monday, the mayor decided to go to bat for an Italian rail car maker in a $300 million MTA deal solely because of the prospect of new union jobs. His support has nothing to do with the influence of Bing, who has a lot to gain in the deal, or well-connected lobbyist, Chris Lehane, who represents the rail car firm.

Or at least that’s what mayoral spokesman Matt Szabo says. “We are talking about creating thousands of high-paying jobs at a
time when local residents need them the most.”

Well, hundreds maybe, but who’s going to quibble about that when similar exaggerations failed to convince anyone on Measure B.

The problem is the MTA has told the Italian firm, AnsaldoBreda that it doesn’t want to do business with it.

The company is three years behind schedule in delivering 50 rail cars previously ordered. And then the cars are too heavy and unreliable, incompatible with other cars in the fleet and has seats that are too narrow.

Says MTA chief Roger Snoble: “The real question is: Are we going to get the original 50 cars? All the commotion is over the future, and we tend to overlook the
present… Because of the difficulties we were having with Breda,
my decision — and this is my decision — is that we should go out to
bid.”

In response to that kind of attitude from Snoble and several board members, the company “has marshaled an intense lobbying effort over the last few months,
striking alliances with people known to have the mayor’s ear and
offering to open a rail car manufacturing plant in an industrial
stretch of downtown Los Angeles,” the Times says.

That’s where Bing comes in as founder of the green
building company Shangri-La Construction which has partnered with the rail car company.

County Labor Federation chief Maria Elena Durazo also weighed in with pressure on Snoble and the MTA board warning they should not let “this big opportunity to
be squandered.” She was promised that all the jobs related to the project would be for union labor only.

In the insular world of City Hall politics, no one — with the possible exception of Controller Laura Chick — would think there is anything wrong with story of insider dealing and the influence of campaign money.

It’s routine, standard operating procedure, how business is done. They all wish they were as slick as the mayor in putting these kinds of deals together and coming up with a story to sell to the public like clean energy and good jobs or in this case green factories, good union jobs.

I’m no moralist about these sorts of things. The corruption that bothers me isn’t in the grease that enriches insiders as much as it is the total disregard for the public interest.

That’s why LA’s super-salesman mayor faces another tough sell. The public just vetoed his solar energy plan that wasn’t even a plan, only a scheme that would have cost too much, taken too long and achieved too little.

In the case of this deal, we have ample evidence the rail cars don’t serve our public interest since they are too heavy, too unreliable, too incompatible, have seats that are too narrow and never get delivered.

Other than that you can bet the mayor thinks he can sell this deal to the MTA board.

Maybe he can, maybe he can’t.

The thing that concerns me most is what it says about Antonio’s state of mind. He just barely got a majority for his re-election running against no one who posed even a remote challenge, his gofer City Attorney candidate Jack Weiss got just barely a third of the vote and he lost outright on the surest thing ever on the ballot, Measure B.

I keep thinking somehow that he’ll wake up one morning and remember where he came from and the ideals he once held and go to work to serve the interests of the people instead of the special interests.

LA doesn’t need a salesman offering pipe dreams, and segmenting people into those who benefit and those who pay. It needs a leader who breaks down barriers and brings people together, who works for policies that improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods and our opportunities for the future.

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12 Responses to Measure B, the Aftermath: Antonio the Salesman or the Sellout?

  1. Sandy Sand says:

    Yeah. Right.
    Even Bruno and G. Shepherd would say all those contributions and follow up actions by V. are mere coincidence. Of course, they are, and if you believe that, wow! do we have a very famous bridge in San Francisco to sell you.

  2. In Eagle Rock says:

    Another thing going on here is that TONY is trying to set himself up as accomplishing a lot of things for his Governor race campaign brochure. That’s his personal “dream” among the many he’s floated during his term.
    The sell-out of the consumers to the IBEW for their cooperation on Measure B is an example of how utterlyslimy his character has become for the sake of his political careeer.
    It still is astounding and disappointing to see how ANTONIO can operate so blatantly like that without most of the public waking up to that fact and once and for all deflate his career balloon so he can focus on being mayor and not anything else for a change.
    People may remember him as the first Latino mayor for Los Angeles in decades, but more likely it will be as the worst mayor in the recorded history- and not simply for his ineptitude, but for his corruption practiced non-stop.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Antonio is proof positive that what we really must do is strive to get a City Manager and stop the Mayor/City Council old-fashioned form of running a city.
    These people are accomplishing self-agrandizement
    and we are paying through the nose so they can play games.
    Maybe the Neighborhood Councils should start discussing and forming a committee to see if we can get someone interested in the job. I have a feeling that such a proposal would pass. People are getting really fed up and I do not initiate the conversation.

  4. david r2b says:

    To Anon 659:
    The start of the process would be a City Charter Convention, a “C3″, sponsored by all of the Neighborhood Councils. Let us, the City, get together and decide what changes we want/need to have. Maybe develop a list of 30 or so and then all the NC’s vote to pick the top ten. Then the signature process begins to put them on the Ballot.
    The City Charter should be a work in progress, trouble is, the only folks that are changing the Charter, to their betterment, is the Mayor/City Council, i.e. say…. Prop R the Term Limits extension or the almost successful Prop B. If the process/changes are really wanted, spread the responsibility around and as Citizens see progress more will join, so there doesn’t have to be a few doing all the work. Reminder, the City Council can get 15 Ayes on anything, even if the Councilmembers don’t know what they’re voting on. Wasn’t that just admitted a few months ago?
    It’s all up to US !

  5. Anonymous says:

    IMHO, City Councilmembers will be chomping at their bit tomorrow. They are setting up to take Neighborhood Council funding away, with the excuse they need that pittance to balance the city budget. What they really intend to do is take the NC’s down a peg by taking their funds away. They never dreamed NC’s would become a force to be reckoned with and who could create such havoc for them However, we are so empowered now, they can’t stop us! I guess now we have to get up to speed and become knowledgable about Rail Cars! Thank God for Neighborhood Councils, the internet and community news outlets!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Si Se Peude (Yes We Can)
    Special thanks to the following that opposed Measure B and helped to defeat it.
    The 132,569 constituents who made the wise vote for the right reasons,
    Mr. Jack Humphreville which includes the Solar 8,
    Attorney Noel Weiss,
    Save Los Angeles Project (SLAP),
    The County Republican Party,
    Doctor Daniel Wiseman which includes all public comment speakers at City Hall chambers and LADWP Commission meeting,
    Los Angeles NC Coalition and the Valley Alliance,
    The Harbor Democratic Club,
    L.A. Times and L.A. Daily News,
    Ron Kaye L.A. Blog, Mayor Sam Blog, Issues to Ponder Blog and the likes,
    32 plus Neighborhood Councils that submitted Resolutions opposing Measure B,
    Homeowner groups and business organizations, and
    Everyone else that was left out UNINTENTIONALLY.
    But most importantly the L.A. Times, for allowing Mr. David Zaniser to exercise the Freedom of the Press, informing the public regarding Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti covering up the PA Consulting report.
    http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-solar21-2009mar21,0,3177807.story

  7. Chris Rowe says:

    I went to the “Energy and Environment Committee” of the City Council today and told the Committee:
    “The Neighborhood Council system needs to be a system of co governance rather than just be a means of sending out just what you want to implement whether it has to do with energy plans, water, or billboards.”

  8. Phred says:

    Interesting column by Tim Rutten in today’s LA Times regarding the light rail car manufacturer that Antonio is pushing. It seems that the same company also promised to create all the new jobs in the Western US in the City of Pittsburg up north, and to move their headquarters there. And they also promised (and never delivered) to build plants in Madrid and Miami.
    It boggles the mind that we would be considering giving the contract out to the incumbent instead of opening it up for bid – nobody is stopping the incumbent from putting in a bid. Someone must have deleted the word “corruption” from the dictionary when we weren’t looking.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The Mayor is a disgrace to those who helped this weasel get elected to the Assembly. He is one of the most insincere opportunists to come along in a long time. Self-centered, he deludes himself into thinking the people will continue to vote for him with enough slick television ads and pretty mailers.
    Measure B and You Tube demonstrate that the ground has shifted under the Mayor’s feet.
    We can get the word out to voters using the e-mail networks of community activists and endorsements of fair-minded and engaged candidates through this community activist network. Obama has shown that what we do as individuals in our communities CAN make a huge change to the political system.
    We did it at the national level. It is now time to turn to our state and local levels.

  10. Phred says:

    So now we know how it went down. Mayor Villaraigosa “juggled the pieces on his appointment chess board and plucked long time political figure David Fleming from the MTA board and named him to the Metro Water District board.”
    Then, on the morning of the meeting to discuss the contract with the italian rail car maker, Villaraigosa appointed Councilmember Jose Huizar and DOT General Manager Rita Robinson to the MTA Board. Thei promptly showed up for the MTA board meeting and voted …

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