It was an historic moment, July 1, 2005, the inauguration of LA’s first Hispanic mayor in 133 years and there was a throng of dignataries from Al Gore to Jesse Jackson, the current and former governors of California, mayors from most of the nation’s biggest cities.
“Dream with me…” was the message of Antonio Villaraigosa as he inspired the city to reach for the stars, and promised to “be a mayor who takes responsibility and
…work as hard as you do every single day.”
“We need to start thinking big again, and facing up to our biggest
challenges. I intend to be a mayor who confronts those challenges…Let’s raise our eyes skyward.
Let’s imagine the pinnacles that we can reach together…let’s make Los Angeles a city of Purpose! Let’s dare to dream! Let’s dare to dream together!”
Five days later, he issued Executive Directive No. 1: Ethics in Government (AntonioExecOrder1.rtf). It starts:
“As public servants to the
we must commit ourselves to
a standard of conduct that maintains and enhances the public’s trust in our
government. To fulfill this mandate, our individual and collective decision
processes must be based upon the highest possible ethical standards.”
That same day, July 5, 2005, Antonio held his first press conference, declaring:
“Let’s be clear. Honesty and ethics in City Hall start at the top. We are the public’s servants. We must set a higher benchmark by our actions to restore the public’s faith and trust in local government. Today, we have begun to do just that.”
He then appeared before the City Council which unanimously adopted four new laws aimed at issues “raised by the grand jury probes, including a ban on city commissioners participating in the process of evaluating and recommending city contracts that their commissions will eventually vote on.”
They also banned commissioners from earning money to lobby City
Hall, required paid campaign consultants and fundraisers to register
with the city Ethics Commission as well as requiring lobbyists to file
their quarterly activity reports online to make it easier for the public
to follow their actions.
“I believe the reforms passed today will hold political appointees
and politicians to the highest ethical standards,” said Councilwoman
(now Controller) Wendy Greuel, who authored some of the reforms.
There was only one problem with all that theater even as the mayor and
Council were acting to clean up the pay-to-play corruption of the Hahn
Questions already were being raised about the
mayor’s ethics and potential conflicts of interest over allowing firms
that have business before the city to spend up to $100,000 to attend
Antonio’s lavish inaugural gala, $2 million of which “went to a publicly
funded charity that is run out of the mayor’s office,” as Patrick
McGreevy reported in the LA TImes on July 6.
So who were the “charitable donors”?
AEG, of course, who
The DWP had just paid Phil Anschutz, owner of AEG, $300
million for natural gas reserves he owned in Colorado, needed city
approval for a pipeline he owned in LA, and was awaiting approval from
the mayor and Council of nearly $300 million in subsidies for LA Live.
currently seeking favorable action from City Hall who bought tables at
Villaraigosa’s dinner include developer J.H. Snyder, who is seeking
approval of large commercial and residential developments in the San
Fernando Valley, and Cerrell Associates, a lobbying firm with clients
seeking City Hall approvals,” McGreevy reported.
So why are we
surprised that the mayor scoffs at ethics laws that require reporting of
tickets, meals and fine wines he gets from people seeking city favors
and has turned City Hall into a back room deal making machine,
politicized the bureaucracy and the commission system?
only hope that city and state ethics probes will come down hard, and
that the DA and hopefully the US Attorney will see all the signs of
public corruption and launch extensive investigations that go beyond
“Ticket-Gate” to the “pay-then-play” dealings that have sold out the
public interest and pushed the city to the brink of bankruptcy.
great shame is that the mayor lifted our spirits with his easy rhetoric
and political posturing even as he was dashing our hopes for a greater
Los Angeles with his actions.
It was clear from the beginning
where this was heading. Where, and when, will it end?