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Crime Against the City: Closed Libraries and the City’s Fiddling Leadership

EDITOR’S NOTE: At 9:30 a.m. today, fired library workers and their supporters among city employees and ordinary citizens will stage a rally at the Richard J. Riordan Central Library, 5th and Grand, in protest against the policies of the mayor and City Council that have closed libraries two days a week. At the same time as the protest, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will take his broken elbow to the South Los Angeles Animal Shelter for a fund-raising event for his girlfriend and her Lu Parker Project which plans to paint the shelter’s lobby as its first effort on behalf of pets.

Don’t bother going to your local library today to read a book, use a computer or just cool off from the summer heat.

For the first time ever, our beautiful new libraries that we built at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars will be closed on a non-holiday Monday. Just like that, we have gone from a seven-day-a-week library system to a five-day-a-week system, from one of the best library systems in the world to a dysfunctional one.

It is a crime against the city and its people.
antonio-luparker.jpg
Years of throwing away the public’s money have led the city’s bankrupt leadership to lay off several hundred workers, starting with the libraries, then the parks, then building code enforcers and neighborhoods planners.

It’s a downhill slide. City workers who provide direct services to the public in general are the first to go, while those that provide bureaucratic services to the failed system itself and those that generate revenue — like services to help developers — are protected.

The reason is simple: The cost of wages and benefits for the city’s 50,000 workers are too high and can no longer be afforded.

They are too high because the mayor and Council gave city unions one sweetheart contract after another in exchange for the campaign cash and political support that put them into office and kept them there.

The unions are at fault for not looking beyond their immediate self-interest and seeing the impact that inadequate public services was having on the quality of life in our neighborhoods, for not seeing how high taxation and poor services was killing jobs and driving business away.

But they are not the criminals.

Our elected officials are the perpetrators of this crime against the city. They are the ones who cut the deals with unions, developers and contractors that have left the city broke, and broken. They did it knowingly and willfully for their own benefit without regard to the public interest, which makes it a felony in moral terms at least.

Everything they have done to deal with the fiscal crisis that was looming for years has only made things worse. It’s just one small thing among the thousands of wasteful things the city does, but dozens of library workers are at their jobs today in closed libraries,running up bills for air conditioning and lights.

The incompetence of our city officials extends to selling off valuable assets like parking structures and land holdings at the bottom of the market just to get through this year and have no plan to deal with the $300 million deficit next year or the $1 billion deficit the year after, no plan except more layoffs and new ways of squeezing more money out of the public through higher rates, taxes, fees and penalties.

And yet they party on with their lavish perks and enormous staffs and huge salaries, the nation’s highest.

Our freeloading ceremonial mayor sets the tone by acting like Nero fiddling while his city burns.

libraryrally.jpgTwo days after the librarians announced their protest for Monday morning, he puts out a press release for his girlfriend’s fund-raiser as if she were the city’s First Lady, not his second TV newswoman mistress.

He mocks us all with his behavior, even as his political lackeys insult our intelligence with their specious attempts to deflect the public conversation from how we fix what he has broken to a theater of irrelevant absurdities.

The Council is no better, spending endless hours on inane parliamentary maneuvers and distractions but fail to openly and honestly debate the real issues, refusing.to bring the civic, business, labor and community leadership to the table to find solutions and bring the city together to solve this crisis.

City Hall’s attempt at a preemptive strike against LA Clean Sweep and the effort to build a broad-based grassroots movement to elect better people for a greater city only shows how scared they are of the people, how intent they are on squelching the public conversation and protecting their privileged positions.

But it will fail like everything they do.

The community in all its diversity, with all its competing interests, with all its conflicts in values, will inevitably come together because our elected officials have neglected their sworn duties and are turning a crisis into a calamity.

It doesn’t have to happen. There is another way. It’s only a question of time and how much more damage is done before we come together.
 


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26 Responses to Crime Against the City: Closed Libraries and the City’s Fiddling Leadership

  1. Anonymous says:

    This has the be the first time in the history of this city libraries aren’t available for the kids during the summer when there are no programs for them. But the developers like Rick Caruso, Tim Lieweki, and Eli Broad instead of helping raise money for libraries as they are all millionaries, will be helping Huizar raise millions for a “street car” for downtown LA. Huizar has one of the poorest communities in the city and instead of fundraising for that neighborhood he goes with the developers. This is what LA Clean Sweep is all about. Getting rid of these council members

  2. Anonymous says:

    Maybe the libraries are closed to the public, but staff is still there today. Makes sense, eh?

  3. Anonymous says:

    chicago politics in los angeles they all are in city hall { crooks and liars }

  4. Anonymous says:

    Wait a minute, Lu Parker is painting an animal shelter and the Mayor takes city funds to promote her “interests?” Putting aside the fact that the “residents” of those shelters could care less about the walls unless the males have the opportunity to lift their legs on one, it just blows my mind that AV still doesn’t get (or care) what is happening to this city.
    LA is broke and broken.
    Perhaps with a few more service cutbacks, people will finally come to grips and start standing up for themselves.
    Clean Sweep is the start. What do we have to lose?

  5. KS says:

    Parks and Libraries create healthy communities.
    You cannot gut them and expect your community to flourish.
    Time for a Clean Sweep in City Hall.

  6. Anonymous says:

    10:07. The difference is that Chicago works. Yes, there is some ‘grease’ that helps but basically that city works and the mayor is respected.
    How many people came to the meeting on Saturday.
    On suggestion Ron; Dont emulate the republicans in Congress and say what you are against. What are you for? Obviously we want honest people but what about the tough choices?
    Should we give up on 10,000 police? Should we have higher taxes?
    I hope your group comes up with constructive solutions.

  7. Walter Moore says:

    Cognitive dissonance 101:
    Saturday: Riordan warns that L.A.’s budget deficit could lead to closing libraries. Villaraigosa’s aide dismisses remark as absurd.
    Monday: Libraries closed due to budget problems.

  8. Walter Moore says:

    To Anonymous at 11:16:
    Take a look at the L.A. Clean Sweep draft platform to see the proposals.
    Much of the cuts aren’t tough at all. For example, I think most of us can live with a decision to stop giving billionaire developers hundreds of millions of our tax dollars and other special breaks and subsidies each year.
    And I, for one, won’t shed many tears if we stop sending “artists” on European vacations at $10,000 per pop in exchange for their giving a talk about their vacations upon their return.
    The City somehow got by for, what, about a century, without handing millions to “ex” gang members for sketchy, unregulated, unlicensed “anti gang” programs.
    And, if the unions won’t accept a reduction in wages, the City can do what other cities around California are doing to avoid crippling pension obligations: lay off employees and hire private companies to provide the same services (e.g., tree trimming, paving, janitorial services, etc.).

  9. Walter Moore says:

    Sorry about the double comment above. The first had a typo, and I thought I hit the “X” in time to stop it before it scampered off into the internet.

  10. Sandy says:

    11:16 a.m., about 200 people came to the meeting.

  11. Anonymous says:

    7:23, I’m not defending Huizar’s streetcar plan per se as an example of development that can effectively revitalize L A and draw in tourists, stores and tax revenues from retail, hotels, use of the cable car, etc. I don’t know enough about the area – there is a big dispute between those who like the funky, rundown area as it is, and don’t believe Huizar’s vision will work even if we spend millions, and those who see it as part of a new L A to complement L A Live, Staples and the downtown threater complex Lewike’s company built. And the Music Center, MOCA and Broad’s upcoming Broad Museum. Yes, it’s self-serving for those 2 but might benefit the whole city.
    More a gentrification to go along with the condos, the new supermarket and so on.
    IF it works though the point is, it WILL create a revitalization, taxes and clean up the area.
    While keeping libraries open is NOT a revenue- generating business, especially as the argument goes that it’s mostly the poor who need it, the free A/C as well as books and staffs, parking.
    Libraries and parks need revenue from SOMEWHERE. While this commenter, the Clean Sweep people (except Riordan, who’s a developer but also responsible for inflating the pensions he rails against now), most HOA’s, are militant groups that “just say no” to anything that provides the revenue for services they need.
    Granted the idiots we have running City Council now don’t have a coherent plan, either, pander to unions too much and so on, but attacking all development, revitalizing the city with jobs and taxes and so on, is draining the city of the money we need and instead, we get the traffic and pollution anyway, while the revenue/ jobs/ development/ retail, all go to other cities. Like Santa Monica, West Hollywood (two self-styled “progressive” cities which are all about revenue and no new affordable housing), right on our borders and they have good parks, and services for seniors and other groups. Beverly Hills has great parks and a library, but also knows how to attract very upscale, high-tax generating retail and hotels and has few poor people.
    In L A, individual CM’s are scared of their HOA’s and cave and do nothing OR ignore them, figuring maybe correctly they’re unreasonable no matter what.
    Connect the dots, people. Running a city is very different from taking one apart.

  12. Walter Moore says:

    Here’s the thing:
    There is no objective basis to believe that City Hall, by taxing some people to subsidize others, will leave both groups better off.
    For example, it is far from clear that the tax burden imposed on people in the valley, the west side, and the harbor area should be spent on the streetcar plan you mention. That streetcar might indeed create some economic activity in the immediate area, but that does not mean taxpayers would be any better off than if we let them decide how to spend their own money.
    The money you seek to redistribute could help support businesses right where taxpayers live. And they would be providing services the taxpayers definitely want, because the taxpayers would be the ones spending money.
    Many governments have tried to “help” the economy along by taking money from some and giving it to others. I first started studying their attempts to do so back in college. I studied Japanese industrial organizational policy, along with Soviet-type economies.
    However great it sounds in theory, it just does not work. The free market system is much more efficient than any bureaucratically driven system.
    In my opinion, based on my experience and research, the best thing the City could do is focus on providing core services, and NOT try to dabble in investment banking by subsidizing projects and businesses that private investors have deemed unprofitable.
    Do I automatically reject all public projects, such as mass transit. Not at all. But some ways of providing the service can be more efficient than others. If I recall correctly, there’s a USC professor named Moore — no relation — who makes a good case for private jitney busses.
    Anyhow, it was really refreshing to see an intelligent comment about policy, as opposed to low-level name-calling.

  13. Walter Moore says:

    Unlike Saturday, when my brain blanked out on Suzy Evans’s last name, it turns out I did remember Professor Moore’s position correctly.
    Here’s a link to a blurb in the L.A. Times where he summarized same:
    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-opw-oneway15apr15,0,416341.story

  14. Anonymous says:

    Los Angeles is getting so much negative publicity throughout the nation a stupid street car isn’t going to bring tourist here. Friends from the UK decided to go elsewhere on vacation not LA. All anyone sees on the nightly news are gang shootings, kids being kidnapped, people being killed by hit and runs, gang violence, fathers killing their families, kids stabbing their parents, a FAILURE of a Mayor screwing around on city time going to concerts and sports events. DWP corruption, libraries and parks hours cuts, fewer cops on the street, a major financial crisis and you really think a damn STREET CAR costing over $100 MILLION is going to save downtown LA?

  15. Lafayette says:

    http://energyforla.blogspot.com/
    Thanks Ron K.
    I agree that it’s time to stop giving away $$ every time a developer places a stake in the ground.
    How is it, that Councilmembers get $$ from the Street Furniture Fund, but they have NO money for Libraries?
    I would like to see folks go to City Council Meetings to voice concern. In doing so, don’t hesitate to use the Interpreter to translate English to Spanish.

  16. anonymous says:

    Walter, you’re right on the mark. Riordan was also right. It’s sickening that the mayor’s office said his comment is “outlandish” and reform would happen before the closing of libraries. How many noses are growing now on the third floor of City Hall?
    .
    Regarding the painting of the animal shelter, there are processes that were skipped that make this egregious. They painted over an existing mural. To do any art work in a city building requires the input and approval from Cultural Affairs. No doubt this didn’t happen. Shame on the mayor, Melanie Ramsayer-the commission president select (who joined Lu’s board) and Ms Parker for snubbing all the appropriate steps required.
    This also begs the question of a commissioner enabling the misuse of City resources, preferential (as in donations) treatment for one group over another and disregarding the input from “her” commission and the Cultural Affairs commission.
    Any way you look at this, it’s completely unethical and it stinks.

  17. Anonymous says:

    1:15…”RE”-gentrification…”Nostalgia” for Whom? By the way, doesn’t Riordan draw a LA mayoral pension? Where is the City’s Master Plan minus the REVENUES? Don’t ask Huizar because he’ll just delay the request, and then give half the answer. For the powers that be..”All is going according to plan!” Again, WHERE IS THE CITY’S CURRENT COMPREHENSIVE MASTER PLAN? Is there a unifying urban policy or not?

  18. Anonymous says:

    “GET CAPONE” by JONATHAN EIG
    Excerpt:
    “THERE IS ONE WORST THAN A CROOK..I THINK …A CROOKED MAN IN A BIG POLITICAL JOB…A MAN WHO PRETENDS HE IS ENFORCING THE LAW AND IS REALLY MAKING DOE OUT OF BREAKING IT….EVEN A SELF RESPECTED HOODLUM HASN’T ANY USE FOR THAT KINDA FELLOW…”

  19. James McCuen says:

    To July 19, 2010 7:52 PM,
    I don’t think Riordan is drawing a pension – if so that should be big news. Afterall he was “paid” $1/year. And he is a multi-millionaire.
    However Riordan was no bed of roses, he tried to sell off City assets and increased the Police/Fireman Pensions to the point of making their future not viable.

  20. Riordan's Pension says:

    Aren’t pensions based on an employee’s exit salary? I wonder what a one dollar a year pension would yield?

  21. Anonymous says:

    70-cents

  22. Anonymous says:

    Walter,
    What about the illegal immigrants in Los Angeles? Is there actually any way a City Council member can have a positive effect in bringing about a solution?

  23. anonymous says:

    70 cents?! ‘Pretty good return on a dollar. No wonder the city’s going broke.

  24. Anonymous says:

    You would think maybe just ONE of the morons on city council would have used their FLUSH FUND money to help with the libraries. You have the Mexican Mafia group of Alarcon, Reyes, Huizar, Cardenas,who have some of the poorest residents in their districts but they don’t care. Then you have Parks, Wesson, Hahn, who also have poor residents in their districts. The FAILURE of a Mayor can raise millions for his stupid tree program and pay Lisa Sarno over $135,000 but the hell with the libraries for the youth of our city. GO FIGURE!!

  25. Anonymous says:

    This is why LA CLEAN SWEEP is essential to continue its momentum of Saturday to get rid of incumbents. They continue to screw around thinking they are above the law and ethics. The LA Weekly continues to report stories the other media won’t.
    “”"”"Tony Cárdenas To Hold Fundraiser At Restaurant Bidding For LAX Business
    “”"”On the same day that Tony Cárdenas sits in judgment of a $600 million contract, he’ll be asking for campaign contributions at a restaurant whose owner stands to benefit from that contract.”"”

  26. Anonymous says:

    “Years of throwing away the public’s money have led the city’s bankrupt leadership to lay off several hundred workers, starting with the libraries, then the parks, then building code enforcers and neighborhoods planners.
    It’s a downhill slide. City workers who provide direct services to the public in general are the first to go, while those that provide bureaucratic services to the failed system itself and those that generate revenue — like services to help developers — are protected”.
    Ron, neighborhood planners and city workers who provide services to help developers are one and the same in the Planning department, unless you mean CRA for the latter.

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