In keeping with the season we need to consider whether our city’s leaders deserve our forgiveness because they really don’t know what they are doing.
Are they ignorant and incompetent – in a word innocent? Or are they incompetent and conniving – in a word guilty.
Personally, I think both are true to one extent or another. They are blinded by their mantras of nobility, virtue and superiority and see the world through the bubble of City Hall consciousness where it all makes sense, where the goal has become the perpetuation of themselves and the system – not service to the public and bringing to life a great city.
As far as I can see the mayor and City Council have done about as poorly as is humanly possible in recent years unless you believe all their claims of success are as valid their boasts about sharp reduction in crime.
They are always talking about how they are cutting business taxes and
creating jobs but unemployment is at 14 percent and the reality is so
bad that 10 people show up for every new living wage job.
The mayor travels the world preaching his dream that LA is the
“greenest city in America” when it has the dirtiest air and power
They have so bungled the city’s finances that we have massive deficits
and face possible bankruptcy, falling credit ratings, thousands of city
job eliminations, steep service cuts, a $15 billion obligation to city
pension funds – all despite a long series of tax, rate and fee hikes.
And when it comes to City Hall’s politics and policies, we have digital
billboards and marijuana dispensaries popping up everywhere, subsidies
for massive developments, threats of granny flats in every housing
tract, and a public utility that has asserted its primacy as a private
corporation immune from public control or scrutiny.
Let us test my theory of the situation by examining more closely what
happened at Friday’s session of the City Council, the third last before
they go on vacation yet again for two weeks.
There were the usual presentations and proclamations for people who are
actually doing good works to make life better other people who need a
helping hand — uplifting except for the Council members frequent
introductions of race and gender identifications that demean us equally.
The highlight was the cop with 31 years under his belt who was having
coffee at a Starbuck’s in San Pedro that Janice Hahn dashes to every
morning for her wakeup call before getting spruced up so handsomely for
her public persona.
This particular morning she had no sooner arrived for her fill-up than
a thief (male suspect, unspecified race) grabbed the tips cup and ran
out. The cop, who she said could just have easily sat there and phoned
in a report of a theft, ran after and captured the villain. You would
have thought he shot and killed a terrorist (male, unspecified race)
and saved the lives of hundreds from all the praised he deservedly
received for doing his job well.
The lowlight came when gadfly Matt Dowd, a first-rate amateur lawyer
with a knack for successfully suing the city for civil rights
violations, reported that the judge in the latest case had “ripped the
city a new asshole” over its latest filings.
Dennis Zine, as presiding officer, took in stride with only a rebuke
but egged on by Greig Smith banished Dowd from the Council for three
months for making a comment of a “sexual nature” – vulgar for sure but
not sexual unless Zine was trying to tell us something he probably
should have kept private.
Sooner or later they got down to business on the DWP’s audacious plan
to pave Owens Lake, which it had destroyed a century ago, with a square
mile of solar panels as a “pilot project.”
A lot of people out in the desert are prepared to fight the “pilot
project” as an environmental disaster as well as a ruse since the
intent is clearly to pave 100 square miles with solar panels. The
go-along, get-along DWP Commission had no trouble exempting the project
from the EIR process and General Manager David Freeman promised to come
back to the Council next week with a more sophisticated fiction so the
Council would be more comfortable with approving his plan.
Freeman had a lot less trouble getting unanimous approval for the
five-year contract extension for his boss, IBEW Local 18 kingpin Brian
Council members lined up like lemmings to repeat for the Channel 35
cameras the well-rehearsed fiction that the deal to further enrich the
lavishly paid DWP workforce will actually save money for ratepayers.
They knew exactly what they were doing, their speeches were scripted
and not a single member had the courage or integrity to speak up for
the interests of their constituents, which could be grounds to throw
them all out of public office since D’Arcy spends millions to put them
into office and threatens to destroy them if the get out of line.
Then, we got to the most interested part of the meeting, the Council’s exploration of the ERIP fiasco they have wrought.
There is some history to this. The economy stalled three years ago,
declined two years ago and that collapsed more than a year ago – none
of which prompted our city leaders to take substantive action.
Reports and warnings were ignored and finally on June 26 they
unanimously approved a budget that masked a $400 million deficit with
phony cuts and savings and an Early Retirement Incentive Program
without any idea of how to pay for it. That became clear two months
later when the ERIP had to be totally revamped to even pretend it will
Now, four months later, workers throughout the city are losing 5 to 10
percent of their pay through furloughs and unpaid overtime – except DWP
workers who are getting even more money – and special funds are being
raided, payments deferred, debt piling up and parking structures being
And it’s still not enough to close the budget gap.
On Friday, just five days before the ERIP application deadline, the
Council decided to find out what the impact will be of handsomely
paying off 2,400 workers to retire early.
They hauled the two people most responsible for implementing ERIP
before them, Personnel Department head Maggie Whelan and Assistant City
Administrative Officer Tom Coultas, to the Council for a dog-and-pony
show conducted by Zine, chair of the Personnel Committee.
It was supposed to show how smooth things were going but it didn’t work out that way.
In measured terms appropriate to public servants, they explained that
the ERIP already has 2,900 applicants so it’s oversubscribed, that most
of them are senior managers, that it will take months process them out
and it will leave huge gaps in every department.
“Swiss cheese” – that’s what the city departments will look like for years to come, said Whelan.
“This is just the beginning, next year is worse” – that’s what Coultas explained to them.
Watch the videos below if you want to understand for yourselves what a
catastrophe they have caused by their inability to deal with the city’s
fiscal crisis, and to decide which services are important and which are
They have failed us. They had a responsibility to do better and they
didn’t. If they all are as bumbling and ignorant as Bill Rosendahl
appears to be in the video (which is what brought the mocking smile to
Jan Perry’s face), they aren’t qualified to lead this city.
If they really knew what they were doing and hoped it would work out somehow, they don’t deserve to this city.
If they are as silent as the mayor is about all this, they should get
out of the way and let people take over who care enough to go work at
solving the city’s problems and have the courage to speak their minds
honestly and openly.