Grass-root democratic institutions in LA have always been weak and only began to grow in recent decades as unions, developers, contractors and other special interests came together to usurp power by building a political machine that controlled the elections and owned the politicians.
Now, even the thin pretense of democracy has been destroyed.
We no longer have a mayor, not even a weak mayor, since Antonio Villaraigosa has chosen to surrender his authority and accept the role of ceremonial leader, ambassador and free-loader, attending concerts, sporting events and ribbon-cuttings as his only official duties.
He has ceded all authority to Generalissimo Beutner — a financier anointed by the small cadre that passes as LA’s civic elite — and his team of venture capitalists and the bright young children of the well-connected.
They are operating as a law unto themselves, ignoring the ceremonial mayor’s own army of supplicants and yes-men, brow-beating the professionals who run city departments into submission to their will or chasing them out entirely if they choose to flee to save their integrity.
The public’s last defense, the self-styled lords and ladies who serve on the City Council, supposedly as the local communities’ representatives, spend their days quibbling about obscure parliamentary procedures and the right number of days for the peasants to sprinkle their lawns — two, four, six — as if it really mattered when the pipes are so old and corroded, so neglected like everything else in the city, they are leaking whether the water pressure is high or low.
They didn’t even challenge the glowing numbers the DWP presented for how water conservation restrictions and rate hikes are working, even though they are gross exaggerations of the actual numbers in the utility’s own monthly reports.
Maybe they were saving what little courage they have for a joint audits/energy committee meeting later Tuesday when the generalissimo was supposed to face the music for his department lying about its finances and withholding $73 million from the general fund in a blatant attempt at extortion — in the words of Controller Wendy Greuel.
Beutner stiffed them, a no-show. “It just hasn’t happened,” said Councilman Greig Smith, advocate of the six-day sprinkling schedule, in his 35 years of living off the pubic dole.
The easily flummoxed Paul Koretz blustered about issuing a subpoena to force Beutner to come before the Council. “I’ve been watching the city for over 40 years
and I don’t remember anything like this,” said Koretz, a recent arrival in the city from West Hollywood. “We asked them to be here before and they
refused. They have 10,000 employees. They could have someone here.”
Others told Rick Orlov, in an exclusive report in the Daily News, DWP’s blackmail attempt has damaged the city’s reputation in the world of high finance where Beutner made his billion-dollar fortune.
The generalissimo and his 10,000 DWP staffers weren’t talking, sending only a deputy City Attorney who told the
Council members that Beutner is preparing a response to Greuel’s audit.
He made his view clear enough last month when the audit was released.
“While we don’t wish to engage in an extended debate over the auditor’s
findings, it appears there may be several errors of fact in the report,”
Beutner said in a statement.”Since my
appointment just weeks ago as
General Manager of
the Department of Water and Power, I have made it clear we are moving
forward, not looking
For those who might dare to look back, despite Beutner’s prohibition against learning from the past, the origins of how unelected and unaccountable people came to seize power in LA might be instructive.
It starts with the damage to his popularity that Antonio suffered when he found the pleasures of the flesh with young TV newswomen were more important than fidelity to his marriage..
Then, there were his public indictments in the media as an 11 percent mayor who preferred to party rather than work and as a FAILURE. Now, it’s “Ticket-Gate” and all the luxury meals and fine wines he’s taken as “gifts” from people seeking favors.
What’s a poor boy to do except say, “To hell with it, I’m still the ceremonial mayor and living like a multimillionaire with servants and bodyguards and I have the time of my life.”
So having lost interest in the job he was elected to do, having seen his ambitions to be governor and even president shattered, he jumped at the opportunity to surrender all authority and shirk his responsibilities..
Even if this scenario of a coup d’etat is only partially true, it ought to be a wake-up call to the citizenry.
Read the Declaration of Independence written by our nation’s founding fathers 234 years ago about the abuses of power by royalty, onerous taxation and injustices that had become intolerable.
Let’s see if the Council, rather than putting another tax on the November ballot, will put this simple question before voters: Do you have confidence in City Hall and your elected leaders?