“We’re not going to allow an election to impede the future, to impede what we have to do in the city.“ -- Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, June 29, 2009, on his commitment to go ahead with the solar energy plan owned and installed by the DWP despite voter rejection of Measure B.
Since I’m so obsessed with the goings-on at City Hall and my dream that we the people can actually bring about some semblance of democracy and make things better for everyone, the end of the city’s fiscal year seems a good time to take stock of the last 12 months.
What a year it was! The people of the city showed signs of awakening and scored a long series of victories against the City Hall machine even as our elected officials showed just how shameless and arrogant they are.
They gave 6 percent raises to city workers, cut costly sweetheart deals with the rich and ran up spectacular deficits but proved themselves too weak and corrupt to take any effective steps to protect the future of the city.
But it was the mayor, in the closing hours of the fiscal year, who symbolized best City Hall’s contempt for the public and the public interest. After the community rose up and defeated Measure B in March, he and other city officials promised an open dialogue on solar energy policy with business-labor-activist coalition but as he said Monday election outcomes don’t matter, nor do promises.
If these were truly public servants instead of pretenders to royalty, they would wear sack cloth and crawl on their knees to the steps of City Hall’s South Lawn on Wednesday for swearing in and inaugural ceremonies.
They would beg for our forgiveness and swear on the Bible to change their wicked ways. Instead, they will magnify their meager achievements and ignore the enormity of their failures even as the searing winds of change blow across the city.
Blogging LA: July 1,2008 – June 30, 2009
July: My year began July 1 with Chapter One of the “whodunit” about who’s killing my neighborhood, a mystery that has grown to 15 chapters about how the city dealt with the illegal conversion of a modest single-family home in my neighborhood into a three-unit apartment building. It took most of the year to get the house more or less restored to building codes but the culprits have run circles around the legal system and will probably get off with a slap on the wrist.
Two weeks later, the Saving LA Project staged a rally at City Hall for a “New Spirit for LA” and to protest the endless string of rate, fee and tax hikes, sweetheart deals with unions, developers and contractors and the failure of our elected officials to solve the severe problems in our city and in our schools.
AUGUST: The dog days of August saw the introduction of Bruno, the LA Watchdog as he savagely attacked my swimming pool when the filter motor started up. There also were a lot of hot topics that needed watching: Southwest Museum, Home Depot in Sunland-Tujunga, South Central Farm, City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo’s refusal to allow public scrutiny of his office, higher speed limits on surface streets, new planning rules that let developers get away with murdering neighborhoods.
SEPTEMBER: The deadly Metrolink train crash in Chatsworth in September exposed just how incompetent our officials are and a HUD audit exposed a piece of the scandal in the Housing Authority of the City of LA Then there was another sweetheart deal for billionaire Phil Anscutz and my prediction of looming economic catatastrophe.
OCTOBER: One judge slams city’s lack of transparency as illegal, another finds the DWP stole $160 million a year from ratepayers, first hint of scandal in city pension funds, mayor takes baby steps to deal with giant budget deficit — City Hall’s failings grow more apparent even as the community mobilizes to fight for reform.
DWP Commission President Nick Patsaouras takes up the call for a Ratepayer Advocate and quits when the mayor nixes the proposal. Planning Commission President Jane Usher lays out how to fix digital billboard fiasco and will quit soon enough over mayoral opposition to smart growth and healthy neighborhoods. The community even moves toward a victory to protect Griffith Park from development.
NOVEMBER: America turns a page of its history, electing Barack Obama as President but it’s business as usual in LA with Council members pleading ignorance to how they created the fiasco over the proliferation of digital billboards and the LA Zoo elephant exhibit.
In fact, the Council spent endless hours debating the fate of the exhibit and Billy the Elephant but approved the largest solar energy initiative in US history without giving it the slightest bit of scrutiny, a move they would come to regret.
DECEMBER: The Machine finds fallguys for the Metrolink crash and LAUSD failure while public opposition forces City Hall to block the Las Lomas project and effectively kill the Home Depot store in Sunland-Tujunga and the council to move forward on a billboard moratorium..
Within hours in mid-month, the Measure B battle over solar energy policy gets red hot with the machine’s front men suing the Solar 8 opponents and the revelation that the council approved the ballot measure without knowing or caring that a DWP consultant warned it was “extremely risky” and ill-conceived.
JANUARY: Opposition to Measure B builds as business organizations, community groups and the press come out against it and Judge David Yaffe laughs the lawsuit against the Solar 8′s ballot arguments out of court. Then, the full report of the DWP consultant leaks out, with its highly critical analysis for the utility’s operational, planning and management problems.
Billy the Elephant gets a reprieve from the council because it costs more to abandon the elephant exhibit than to finish it. If there’s any doubt about how serious the city’s money problems are the doubling of parking meter charges makes clear.
FEBRUARY: On Groundhog’s Day, the press found the mayor to be “a rising star” in the governor’s race and Villaraigosa-Greuel-Weiss a trifecta certainty in the March primary and the DWP sealed the deal for Measure B with a self-serving report $3.5 billion in rooftop solar would also cost ratepayers a dollar a month.
Then, things started to change dramatically with wannabe City Attorney Jack Weiss becoming visible as the weakest link, a magnet for criticism; the LA Weekly exposing just how high city officials are living at public expense, and a groundswell of opposition building to Measure B.
MARCH: On election eve, the mayor was quoted as saying Measure B was a deal to create jobs for for the DWP’s union, the IBEW — an admission that might have helped defeat it by a narrow 1 percent margin.
It seemed like a miracle, a stunning upset brought about by a business-labor-activist coalition that defeated the machine despite the best efforts of the mayor to politicize the bureaucracy and corrupt the political process. The victory energized the activist community to step up efforts to tackle billboard blight and other contentious issues.
While environmental groups continued to cling to their connections to powerful, ordinary folks across the city started actually practicing conservation, taking up urban farming and solving environmental problems.
(MORE TO COME)