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Absent from Duty: The City Council’s Amazing Toilet Tricks

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for emptyseats3.jpgLast week, an ailing Bill Rosendahl had to struggle into the City Council Chambers just so they could muster 12 votes to unanimously rush through one measure.

This week, a third of the nation’s highest paid CIty Council members are absent entirely and those who are there might just as well be elsewhere since they spent so little time in the Council Chambers during the abbreviated sessions that lasted less than two hours.

They were in such a hurry to get on with Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for tenvoters.jpgtheir partying they cut the public comment period from two minutes to one for the dozens of ordinary people who trekked downtown to appeal for justice and common sense.

Council President Eric Garcetti mocked one citizen who complained there wasn’t a quorum present, suggesting the missing members were in the toilet but could still listen to the entreaties of the citizenry from that vantage point.

Amazingly, the few votes that were taken came out 10-0 even when only a handful of members were present around the horseshoe — proving the toilets must truly be well equipped.

And come Saturday, they will all be absent until Sept. 1 from one of their frequent vacations from city business.

Many might wish they might never come back in hopes that no government might prove to be better than bad government.

This is an imperious City Council that makes its own rules for its own benefit and the benefit of the special interests that keep them in office with their $180,000 salaries, cars, perks, huge servile staffs and slush funds befitting the princes and princesses they see in the mirror whenever they primp for the cameras.

They grow more arrogant by the day, more contemptuous of the people and the people’s interest.

The time has come to strike a blow to their bloated egos and fancy lifestyles, to put them on notice they are like the emperor who wore no clothes.

Let’s see them get around the “half-off solution” — the ballot measure to cut their salaries in half to a pauper’s $90,000 a year.

Let us at least send them a message that we see who they are, 15 self-servers who have lost their way, who are absent from their duty to people who depend on them for leadership.

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44 Responses to Absent from Duty: The City Council’s Amazing Toilet Tricks

  1. Jimmy says:

    Just watch the video when Garcetti makes excuses about the quorum. Normally if an item is threatened with a lawsuit, the City Attorney reminds the Council men and women to pay “heightened attention.” How are they going to do that on the “John”, by stretching their necks and groaning”? Watch Garcetti let the time count down and cheaply and immaturely give back only 3 seconds! This guy (Garcetti) really is a two-face. He acts all progressive and caring, but he single-handily and inconsistently enforces rules, ignoring speaker cards when items have been heard in committee and gives rich developers a free ride including letting the developer’s lawyers write the motions that are presented to City Council. He is cracking down on free speech (not just the gadfly’s but anyone opposing his pet projects or say something that would embarrass him). Grow up Mr. Garcetti and practice what you pretend to be and practice what you preach.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Wright should have suggested everyone move into the bathroom so that the other Council members would be able to hear better.

  3. Anonymous says:

    You political bloggers consistently shock me with your ignorance of how City Council works.
    The work gets done in committees. Sad, but true. Go to the committee meetings, but don’t whine about the council meetings.
    Yes, the council members all vote for whatever the council member whose district the issue is in, wants. You’ll see them in committee. So if you want something done, follow it from the beginning.
    Stop voting for the chiefs of staff or the endorsed candidate of the very people you’re complaining about.
    Essel, for example? Read Citywatch and notice how Draper doesn’t have the balls to come right out and say not to vote for Essel because she is for SB 1818 and against neighborhood councils being able to initiate council file index numbers without filling out Form 700′s. Draper has become what most of you are complaining about. He is one of them. He doesn’t really like NC’s. He just makes money off of writing about them so it’s his interest.
    How many of the current city council members are former chiefs of staff? Can you guess? Does anybody know? Does anyone else see a pattern here?
    You all talk about caring and you rail against them at the same time you all vote for them. I can’t figure out if you truly don’t get how the system works or if you’re just not that bright.

  4. in Eagle Rock says:

    Just to be fair for all the comments on Garcetti’s two-faced snottiness to members of the public who present positions that do not catch Eric’s fancy, there still is a lot of arrogance to go around and Tony Cardenas, Richard Alarcon get a big share of that.
    Alarcon is a bully and likes to show off his own importance in and out of the Council Chambers, just too full of himself. Tony Cardenas regularly goes through his annoying and condescending style of interacting with speakers to get “testimony” as if he was a jr. lawyer. His usual problem is that he constructs obvious leading questions for the person to answer.
    It really doesn’t create anything worthy anyway since no one is ever sworn in, but CMs act as if they were. To make it even more flawed, Cardenas is so determined and in a rusth to solicit certain replies that he creates compound questions for the “witnesses” that make for a more ambiguous outcome.
    Eric is one of those liberal guys who still has his own disrespectful attitudes for those not in his camp, and for all his pompous, self-serving statements he makes in favor of a position, you get to hear flowery praise for his fellow CMs and “all their hard work” they put into “x” activity.
    And the manner in which they speak with people of “their side of an issue” seems to show the chumminess they have with each other that they wnat to impress upon others to show “he’s one of us- and you’re not.” Slimy guys (and women) whose only bit of transparency lies in their lack of veracity and sincerity while they conduct their business in City Hall.
    By the way, Ron, “the 15 self-servers” is temporarily reduced by one since Wendy became controller, but many in talk radio continue to use that number which will be restored by the end of the year. Wendy is still self-serving, but only now as a controller instead of CM.
    They have to all be considered in a bad light so long as they continue to cast votes in that unanimous fashion. It might show some sliver of integrity if their votes showed some independent thought, but then that would mean that they would have to give individual thought to each item that comes before them- and you saw how that lock-step style got them back-pedalling on the Solar Energy Prop B. They did not know jack about it but all supported it until they were caught as being ignorant on it- and they still do this, but they don’t get so clearly exposed.
    A PART-TIME CITY COUNCIL is one way to have them stick to priorities and leave the fluff behind. The pay cut would work to cull some from richly feeding at the public trough.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I also believe a few at-large council members would help tremendously. This city is way too big for 15 people to run.
    Doesn’t the City Charter have a certain number of constituents that council members can rule over? I mean, if it’s true and “they” are coming, (or is that untrue but a developer mantra?) before long it will be like the horrible mess with the County Supervisors! What do they have 1.6 million constituents each?
    City Council has about a quarter of a million each? Great balls of fire and these council members get voted in by about 5000 people.
    Something needs to be done, that’s for sure.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Whoa, I just watched the video and I’m shocked that Garcetti did that. When Mr. Wright asked about the quorum, the clock should have been stopped.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I believe that Zuma is the only candidate who can truly change things or make a difference.
    So for all you who claim to want change, nobody else is capable except for Zuma Dogg.
    If I lived in CD 2, I would non-stop walk for him. He knows more about City Council than any of the candidates.
    Zuma has to be the one.

  8. Suzy S. says:

    To August 12, 2009 10:24 PM: You’re absolutely right about Essel. She is part of the Downtown (Central City) Corporate-Developer-Legal-Financial machine running the City Council. She is for unregulated high-density development, big Billboard, tax payer give-away, eminent domain, kick out small businesses and renters, give them whatever they ask for group–That’s what makes her so lovable. She’ll take the mess from Hollywood (Drugs, homelessness, Skyscrapers, Supergraphics) and transpose it to the Valley. Now instead of Succession from the Downtown interests, residents of the Valley are facing a hostile takeover from Downtown with Essel-Have fun!

  9. Kently says:

    Zuma Dogg is right on the mark. He is like Jimmy Stewart and if he make it in the runoff would throw the City Leadership off its feet!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Don’t make me laugh, Ron.
    Daniel Wright is as snotty and arrogant as they come. He’s been to Council Chambers almost as often as Zuma Dogg.
    Wright knows the routine better than anyone. He stood there and let the clock run.
    What earthshaking comment was he about to make? Give me liberty or give me death? I have but one life to give, let me give it to the Southwest Museum?

  11. Anonymous says:

    What was that winning mantra O’Bama used – CHANGE?
    LA is out of control. The tail is wagging the dog.
    Out with the GANG and in with a City Manager or
    we all secede. Nothing is worse than what is
    going on right now. My new mantra is CHANGE.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Suzy S. at 5:35 am makes a very good point, but doesn’t go far enough. As a representative of Paramount, she had huge influence over CCA president Carol Schatz and the rest of the executive committee. The group would have done nothing she opposed.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Angelenos already have a great mechanism in place to fight against this type of abuse from city politicians which is called the Brown Act. When there is a Brown Act violation against any member of the public, the public as a whole becomes the victim. Therefore, Angelenos need to start reporting any violation or perceived violation of the Brown Act to Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley who has the authority to make sure all Brown Act violations are investigated. The complaints can be submitted anonymously.
    • Brown Act Violations
    The Brown Act governs meetings conducted by local legislative bodies such as boards of supervisors, city councils and school boards. As these legislative bodies are charged with conducting the people’s business, the Brown Act ensures that the business be conducted in open meetings, allowing public access and a free exchange of opinions. The law recognizes that a balance must be struck between the public’s right to open meetings and the legislative body’s need for confidentiality in certain circumstances. Although the Brown Act allows for closed sessions in specific, narrowly drawn exceptions, there is a presumption in favor of public access.
    The District Attorney’s Office has the authority to prosecute individual members of the legislative body criminally and to initiate civil actions to prevent or nullify actions taken in violation of the Brown Act. The Public Integrity Division has the responsibility of investigating and prosecuting allegations of Brown Act violations.
    Public Integrity Division
    Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office
    320 West Temple St., Rm. 766
    Los Angeles, CA. 90012
    Phone: (213) 974-6501

  14. Anonymous says:

    Plain and simple we have a bunch of Assholes running our city and ruined it. Look at the outline cities who aren’t going through what LA is with the highest paid politicians. Until people get pissed off and angry enough to want to make a change nothing will get better. Can you imagine if someone had the balls to organize a huge continguency of people to storm downtown city council pissed off as hell about the lack of leadership and service in this city with our tax dollars? City council’s sheer lack of respect and arrogance has never ever been so bad in the history of this city. I’m waiting for their KARMa to hit hard. How many are the feds investigating? Not enough

  15. Sandy Sand says:

    Garcetti has an excessive amount of testronic arrogance. Actually they all do, even those of the female persuasion.
    Maybe we shouldn’t complain that they won’t be back until after Labor Day. When they’re away they can do no harm.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Anon 8:47am
    I am about to write to Steve Cooley. I did not realize that we had this RIGHT as citizens of this broken city.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Zuma is a carpetbagger, same as the others.
    He knows nothing of CD2 issues, and spouts out “pension plan” and “Dr. Demming” when he doesn’t really know the local issue.

  18. Anonymous says:

    The answer to the question “how many City Councilmembers used to be City Council Chiefs of Staff” is two — Jan Perry and Greig Smith. So what’s your point?
    Also, all the work isn’t done in City Council committtees. Since some of them meet only for an hour (when they start on time) twice a month, how could the real work be done there? The real work is done by city staff in private.
    When it gets to committee, the members just fiddle around the edges of the issue unless the lobbyists have gotten to them.

  19. El Quixotian says:

    Loath that I am to drift too far off post to the topic on hand, but I think that it’s important to consider who may end up in the 15th stall per the upcoming election and runoff.
    Have we identitifed which 1/2 of the CD2 slate is supportave of the 1/2 solution?
    So far, I’ve gotten to know a few of the “vs 7″ and seen a few others, and I really hope that we can try to devote efforts towards getting one or more of them into the runoff if there are rampant prolems regarding the other 3…and I would hope that they would be concentrated on those who havn’t had to provide a change of address to run.

  20. Anonymous says:

    12.46, you forgot Ed Reyes.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I was under the impression that “Citywatch” was a Neighborhood Council newsletter. Seeing Ken Draper attack the very people who are trying to clean corruption in City Hall has me confused.

  22. Anonymous says:

    To August 13, 2009 8:47 AM: Maybe in lieu of filing Brown Act Complaints against the City of LA with the LA City Attorney, it should be filed with LA County DA. Tonight at the Trutanich event, the City Attorney kept saying he represented the Citizens of Los Angeles, but then near the end he talked about conflicts of interest and attorney-client privilege. So when it comes as a face-off between the LA City Council (or other LA City agency, committee, etc), the real client may not be the average Citizen.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Yes, you forgot Ed Reyes. You forgot Tom LaBonge was chief of staff to Ferraro. I’m sure there is someone who was at least a staffer, if not chief of staff.
    And don’t forget the role that coke-head Hernandez has going on with two different councilmembers. Is it Reyes and Perry? He might not be the official chief of staff but he’s too close for comfort.
    Now Greig Smith’s chief of staff is getting ready to run for Greig’s seat.
    I’m sure their point was that it’s sickening getting the same old recycled politicians in one way or another. They can’t reinvent themselves after working for their councilmemeber. In essence, you are simply electing the same people over again.
    Maybe the poster above should have said that the work is done in committee by city staff with the blessing of the council member and depending on how much the lobbyists pressure and pay for the council’s chief of staff to get elected. If you deny that, you’re either lying or uneducated.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Thank God Wright is not afraid to ask whether or not there is a quorum in the room.
    The video shows the room was nearly empty — and it becomes a farce when Council is “conducting business” and most are in the back room, or as Garcetti says: listening to testimony while sitting on the toilet. Since Council often acts imperial, perhaps we should install flushing “thrones” at their desks and there will be no need to retire to the back room to take a dump.
    Wright has been an advocate for preservation of the Southwest Museum and with the Autry’s withdrawal of its project in Griffith Park has substantially won a victory for community activism in Los Angeles.

  25. Anonymous says:

    That’s an illegal vote. L.A. Municipal Code doesn’t allow for a City Council proxy vote. If a Councilperson didn’t press a button then the vote didn’t occur. Are there “YES/NO vote buttons” at the toilet? If votes were counted that didn’t actually occur it’s a criminal act, malfeasance.

  26. Anonymous says:

    I understand that the votes are tabulated “yes” even before an issue is discussed.
    and a councilmember only have to phyically be in their seat to vote if they oppose an item and have to change their vote to “NO”. That’s why the votes can be tabulated when they are not in their seat. Have you ever noticed how fast that happens? The votes must be pre-determined because there is an instant reacation with not pause by anyone!
    Nuch, you have another issue to handle!!!

  27. eagle rock says:

    city hall is run by[ the los angeles cartel ]
    this crooks politicians brake the law evry day
    and the sad part of it they now they goin to get alway doin so there is no one to stop them they cover each othere
    till los angeles voters (taxpayers) say no more things will change and we show in masses to city hall to take it back evry day they taking some more freedum from us in a form of more fees {taxes}and changing the law for there special interest not to better life of los angeles residents
    we all now there union slogan {si se puede}
    well we have to change it to
    i belive we have to keep on check elective officials corroption is like cancer if you dont take care of it he will kill you .

  28. in cd-14 says:

    Eric Garcetti, for all his pompousity in praise of the processes, especially when he introduces honoree diversity/ethnic/nationality of the day/month/week, simply shows his own arrogance and contempt whenever such questions are brought up about Council’s compliance with required actions.
    That excuse in the video clip was a strange way of showing any respect for visitors to city hall since these folks are paid so much that they now think they are too important to be physically present for the entire council meetings, especially when public comment on agenda items come up.
    The earlier question raised in these postings was one deserving of an answer from Garcetti, who usually has an answer for everything (with the exception of how to deal with that Delgadillo v. Chick dispute that day in city council).
    Is there a voting button in the toilet?
    Do CMs have voting buttons in their offices? If so, how do we know it is actually the CM himself or herself actually doing the voting and not some staffer with a list of votes to cast for each agenda item while the CM is off on something besides city business?
    Garcetti should spend some time on answering those concerns at the time he does his perfunctory “Welcome to City Hall and here’s how we do things, blah-blah-blah…” Asking for matters of substance of any City Council member or staff would be asking for smoke to be blown back.
    Today is the “awards presentations” day for the City Council meeting and you will need to have a change of batteries on hand for your “bullshit detectors”, as it comes faster and heavier on Fridays. They may be trying to curb that, but you know that old habits are hard to break, so check in on live or later “on demand” to see if I am wrong on this.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Tom LaBonge was never a chief of staff. He was a field deputy for John Ferraro and then went to work for DWP.
    Ed Reyes was not a chief of staff. He was a planning deputy.
    If a Councilmember is present and a vote is taken, they are automatically recorded as “yes”. To vote “no” they have to push the “no” button.
    Votes are not pre-determined. Once the president directs the City Clerk to “open the role” each Councilmember has an opportunity to push the “no” button. There is a “yes” button, but it isn’t necessary to push it. The President can see the votes as the computer collects them, so he or she can knows if they will be the deciding vote and cast their vote last before instructing the Clerk to “close the roll.”
    There are no voting buttons in the bathrooms.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous on August 14, 2009 12:30 PM says,
    If a Councilmember is present and a vote is taken, they are automatically recorded as “yes”. To vote “no” they have to push the “no” button.
    That’s absurd. When there’s “no push” on both the “no button” and “yes button” then how do they differentiate between an “abstention vote” and a “yes vote”. Your explanation above is nonsense.
    - Lies and Cheaters from City Hall is presented by commenter 12:30 above.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Is that why Ed Reyes is Chair of PLUM, because he was Planning Deputy. Does he even understand the planning issues facing the city today other than his dumb LA River & forcing other neighborhoods to include low income housing. Does he even have a clue of the current Planning Department and how inclusionary the staff is. Practice what you preach to others. Planning is under your control. What has this department really accomplished in the last 3 and a half years. This is the point of the earlier writer of why new blood is needed in City Hall than the same recycled/jaded politicians who have lost touch with reality.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Chief of staff, field deputy, whatever… I think you got the point. Business as usual. Don’t deny it. If you disagreed with your elected boss MORE than you agreed, wouldn’t you try to get out of his/her office? Or would you stay there with their opinions that don’t line up with yours and then try and run as a candidate who is either going to change (yeah right) or carry on those practices that you don’t believe in? And of course I know you’re comeback will be that you can’t answer because you never plan on running for office, but I know you know what I mean.
    Votes are predetermined regardless of how the actual process of button-pushing works.
    I have no idea if you know what you’re talking about when it comes to the yes and no procedure, except that I know they aren’t in the bathrooms. I do know that I could not care less.

  33. LA-Duty says:

    Ok “August 14, 2009 12:30 PM”, You’re as petty as Garcetti giving back 3 seconds to the speaker. Let me rephrase “August 12, 2009 10:24 PM’s comment: “Stop voting for the FORMER COUNCIL STAFF or the endorsed candidate of the very people you’re complaining about.
    How many current LA City Councilmen/Councilwomen were former COUNCIL STAFF?
    1. Ed Reyes.
    2. Tom LaBonge
    3. Jan Perry.
    4. Grieg Smith.
    Answer: over 25% !

  34. Anonymous says:

    Add the recycled Assembly members, and you’ll start getting the picture of why the City Council is the way it is. And why forget the Commissioners or School Board members who having been appointed to those positions and start lusting at the lucrative Council positions. Now what is the final tally of the crap that fills this Council.

  35. Anonymous says:

    This voting issue is something I have been watching recently.
    Here is the answer: Commenters above are correct. City Councilmembers go through whole meetings without touching the voting screen. You need to read the Council Rules. In the section on voting, the Council has adopted a rule stating that any abstention is automatically converted by the Clerk into a “Yes” vote. Councilmembers abstain by not touching the screen at their desk and they know it will be converted from an abstention into a “Yes.”
    Only if a Councilmember gets to his screen and touches the “No” vote, is there a “No” recorded.
    On most votes, the public would be shocked to learn that every single vote “cast” was an abstention because no one sees the conversion of all those abstentions into all “Yes” votes.
    Through this Council Rule, the Councilmembers are freed from the terrible inconvenience of actually sitting in their seats and listening to the business of the City and, heaven forbid, actually casting a vote. How exhausting that would be.
    This is how Richard Alarcon can actually cast a vote “Yes” while peeing into a urinal and Janice Hahn can cast her vote while sitting in the audience not paying a bit of attention to what is going on.
    So this is the little shocking secret of the City Council. They get paid $278,000 and the most sacred and fundamental aspect of their job — the casting of a vote on the business of the City — they most often do not do. If they had to cast a vote, they would have to actually sit in their seats. Otherwise, long delays would occur while waiting for Alarcon to shake the last few drops off and return to his seat to take the vote.
    Appalling? You bet.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Then it’s simply fraud. If there is no possibility of vote abstention in the L.A. City Council voting process then it’s not an authentic voting system.
    County DA Cooley and it’s Public Integrity Office should investigate.

  37. Anonymous says:

    The paragraph below was written by LA-Duty on August 14th. I have a question. How many of those 4 council members have staff who are planning to run in their districts’ next election?
    “Stop voting for the FORMER COUNCIL STAFF or the endorsed candidate of the very people you’re complaining about.
    How many current LA City Councilmen/Councilwomen were former COUNCIL STAFF?
    1. Ed Reyes.
    2. Tom LaBonge
    3. Jan Perry.
    4. Grieg Smith.
    Answer: over 25% !

  38. Anonymous says:

    Recycled Assembly members/LAUSD:
    AlarCON; Cardenas; Koretz; Huizar; and our former CD14 Councilmember & now our mistake the Mayor. The same cast of characters is assembled in CD2 elections. Does the electorate in this city ever get it. Can’t complain about the people you keep electing, the latest being Koretz.

  39. david r2b says:

    Mr. Kaye -
    Please re-publish this column with all the comments about every week or so, until the Public finally gets it. There is only ONE solution, but there’s NOT enough anger yet: a City Charter Convention….a C3 !
    Maybe after the CD 2 election and everyone watches that mess. I wonder… will there be any voting irregularities, like in CD 5 ? How convenient that was. Don’t want to rock the boat, more of the same for the next twelve years.

  40. Anonymous says:

    David, you are absolutely right. Most people don’t have the time to keep commenting on issues that should be taken seriously the first time they are aired. We have some great public input here which should not be forgotten, and should result in some action.

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