Editor’s Note: The following two columns I wrote were published this week in local community newspapers. The first one in Wayne Adelstein’s North Valley Community News and the second one in Nina Royal’s North Valley Reporter.
Remembrance of a Valley Past
Every week, Councilman Greig Smith’s newsletter shows up in my email and every week I keep thinking I wish I lived in Council District 12 instead of a few blocks away in CD3.
After all, I grew up in a happier time in the 1950s and Smith’s weekly briefing conveys that world of half a century ago when life was simpler and father really seemed to know best.
For Smith, who has spent his whole adult life on the city payroll, it must still seem like 1954 all over again. Library book sales, youth sports programs, Earth Day celebrations, college reunions, health issues of the elderly, honors for worthy citizens, after-school programs, benefits for veterans, special reports from staff on the Boys and Girls Club and electric lawn motors, community outings, visits from foreigners
All causes and activities worthy of note but not a word about how LA – even Chatsworth and Northridge and other communities in CD 12 – has reached a fork in the road and we have to decide whether this is the tipping point for the city or the turning point where we start to fix all that is broken.
Even as he was sending out his newsletter, Smith was leading the charge on the City Council to impose dramatic increase in water rates that will almost entirely be paid by his constituents who live in single-family homes, particularly those with horse properties and those with smaller lots.
Can Neighborhood Councils Fill the City Services Gap?
At a recent
City Council meeting where water rate hikes that punish single-family
homeowners and horse properties were approved, Janice Hahn seized on the
failure of the Department of Water and Power’s to reach out to Neighborhood
“I am very,
very troubled that our Department of Neighborhood Empowerment’s General Manager
(BongHwan Kim) says you do not have a good relationship with Neighborhood
Councils,” the councilwoman lectured DWP General Manager David Nahai in
opposing the rate hike.
the city initiated its first Memorandum of Understanding with the NC movement
to bring the community inside the nation’s largest municipal utility – a
relationship that flourished until Nahai took over and cut off communication.
Commission President Lee Alpert raised the same issue just days earlier and
Nahai – a man widely criticized inside and outside the DWP for his arrogant and
contemptuous attitude – seemed to gag every time he had to utter the words
Neighborhood Council. He couldn’t bring himself to even refer to the DWP MOU
A year ago
relations deteriorated to the point that the committee’s president, Soledad
Garcia, set up a separate DWP Committee outside the MOU to advocate for
Garcia’s group that set in motion what became the No on Measure B campaign that
against all odds stopped a $3.5 billion fraud from being perpetrated on
this issue because it goes to the heart of what’s wrong with City Hall: Our
elected officials think we the people are so dumb we don’t know what time it
that a little lip service and occasional patronizing smiles will keep us quiet
while they cut sweetheart deals in exchange for campaign cash and free lunches
at fancy restaurants. They have good reason to think that way because it’s
worked so long.
economic hard times have a way of waking people up.
That’s what we saw with
Measure B and that’s what we’re seeing on many fronts today – digital
billboards, development that harms the quality of life, rate hikes and, most of
all, the city budget catastrophe.
Antonio Villaraigosa nakedly argues in his proposed budget that the public
provided input that was used in setting his priorities. He refers to a
questionnaire that defined the issues that got him the answers that he wanted.
proposal on how to close a $530 million budget deficit – that is soaring higher
every month – isn’t really a plan at all. It contains a bunch of ideas for
reducing payroll costs but no deal has been reached with city employee unions.
It contains a series of revenue schemes – like privatizing the zoo, Convention
Center and parking meters and lots – that amount to mortgaging the city’s
future even as the budget deficit is likely to triple in the next few years.
justification for his plan to “sell off the farm” what has been done in
despite corruption. LA has all the corruption but is a city that doesn’t work
for its people.
Most of us
are feeling the impact of the financial crisis with home prices falling, jobs
in jeopardy, and our future in doubt.
LA is at a
crossroads. We are at turning point or a tipping point. Our city government
simply costs too much and delivers too little. We must get back to basics and
important single steps to achieving these goals are to open up city government
and make it transparent and to bring in the people as full partners.
Councils are official government agencies and need to be brought fully into all
aspects of city government and made full partners in deciding city policy.
energize NCs as the centers of community activism and bring together business
and residents and start the process of creating a more responsible and
responsive city government.
such steps, LA will tip over and continue down the road where the only
alternative is bankruptcy.
shares power willingly so it will take a massive movement at the grassroots
level to turn LA around. So wake up all you people. This is our LA and this is
the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their city.