There’s something about Greig Smith that never ceases to amaze me and makes me worry that his chief of staff Mitch Englander will be more of the same when he succeeds him in 18 months, much as Smith was more of the same when he took over for his boss. Hal Bernson.
They never saw a development in their Northwest Valley they didn’t like as long as there was some juice in it of one sort of another.
Smith represents the city’s more conservative district, one with as high a ratio of home ownership as any in LA, yet when it comes to soaking the middle class for more money to feed the city treasury, he’s the No. 1 tax-and-spend liberal.
To Smith, any services the city provides to homeowners are subsidies so he leads the charge to triple the trash fee on single-family homes with a promise to use the money solely to hire more cops for the LAPD, which by necessity puts most of its resources into providing services to areas with low percentages of homeowners. But police services are a legitimate expense, not a subsidy.
On Wednesday, he put his full weight behind increases of up to 2,000 percent in the fees charged homeowners and community groups to appeal planning-related actions, arguing that the city shouldn’t be subsidizing such things because they are so widely abused to stop development projects.
Besides, he said, the under-funded and under-achieving Planning Department needs the money since its staff has shrunk from 400 to 290 and half its workers are being furloughed once every two weeks and it could drop below 250 when the early retirement deal is finalized.
It’s as if Smith wasn’t a power on the Budget Committee that slashed planning funding, wasn’t a Council member who put planning officials on furloughs and engineered the early retirement deal.
Only one Council member, Richard Alarcon, stop up and pointedly showed that Smith was talking nonsense, if not a hypocrite.
As expected, the Council lost its nerve in the face of a public outrcy and backed down Wednesday on increasing the appeals fees — for now.
But you can be sure these people will be back in due course with a new plan to raise the fees and find other ways to squeeze money out of the middle class. They are desperate for cash and too weak to confront the simple truth that City Hall costs too much and delivers too little.