Sometimes the dots of the story just connect themselves and it all begins to make sense in a way that even the casual observer can see.
As Antonio Villaraigosa was falling off a bike because of the “careless” actions of a motorist, the Daily News was triggering a new round of mayoral bashing with a front page editorial taking him apart for a failure of leadership.
“It’s time to quit monkeying around and get to work,” shouted the headline above such phrases as “run out of steam…lame-duck official…the passion and energy (are) all but gone at a time when the city is in crisis
and needs it most.”
Tough talk that soon turned to biting satire when writer Kevin Modesti showed up for the fund-raising launch of the Lu Parker Project at a South LA animal shelter: “Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa went to work Monday with a
sling on one arm and a familiar brunette on the other.”
At the same time, fired librarians were protesting at the Riordan Central Library over the closure of city libraries two days a week and shorter hours the other five days.
For its part, the City Council was continuing to tax the law-abiding by raising dog license fees even though half the dogs in the city aren’t licensed, the much-reviled Community Redevelopment Agency was moving to gag its Board of Commissioners and unions were using their ample political muscle to get Dennis Zine and Jan Perry to muzzle efforts to outsource collection of the nearly $100 million in ambulance fees that go unpaid every year.
City Hall is in chaos. Leaderless, confused and corrupted by the influence of special interest money, the mayor and City Council don’t know which way to turn so they swing at every target compounding the results of years of mismanagement and making matters worse.
There is a reason for all this: They just don’t get it.
Writer, historian and keen observer of the LA political scene D.J. Waldie picked up on the Daily News editorial campaign and suggested the mayor has simply “checked out” and the entreaties that he actually go back to work would fall on his deaf ears.
“There’s little in the mayor’s character or experience to suggest that he
has – at this low point – the reservoirs of commitment and passion with
which the process of remaking civic life in Los Angeles could be
restarted. And remaking the governance of Los Angeles – not more trains
or charter schools or even jobs – is the essential obligation that faces
the mayor of Los Angeles,” Waldie wrote on the KCET blog.
“Villaraigosa had said that he intended to be the mayor of a denser
city, a greener city, a transit-oriented city, a middle-class city, a
working-class city, a politically progressive city, a business-oriented
city, and a city where the mayor is in control of the educational
system. There’s a refigured narrative of Los Angeles somewhere in there,
but it was always hard to discern.
Certainly too hard for the mayor.”
Waldie took his analysis a step further on Warren Olney’s “Which Way LA?” Monday night when he outlined exactly why City Hall has gone so wrong, why it has lost all credibility, why we are closing libraries and parks, firing workers, headed toward bankruptcy.
The city’s political leadership doesn’t have a clue about how Charter reform in 1999 fundamentally changed the structure and form of government, shifted power to the neighborhoods and transformed the political culture.
“I despair today, that anyone at City Hall really understands how that transformation of governance, how far it’s progressed and what it might become,” he said.
“One reason I think that the mayor is in the doldrums, if you will, unfocused and his compass is not pointing in any direction, is he really doesn’t have a vision of how politics in this city are changing.
‘I think he’s missing the transformation that was put in place slowly and incrementally by Charter reform in 1999 I think he and his colleagues at City Hall, including the City Council, have not fully internalized what that meant.
“The area planning councils, neighborhood councils, the change in the relationship of the mayor to the department heads, re-figuring of the power relationships between the mayor and the City Council, all of these have begun incremental and, perhaps too slow for us to see at times, a transformation of the city.
“Unfortunately, Mayor Villaraigosa hasn’t yet internalized what that means and is not leading that transformation, has not embraced that transformation in ways that makes any sense to me. As a consequence of not knowing how governance works in LA now, he doesn’t seem to be governing.”
No one has ever said it more eloquently, clearly or dispassionately.
The mayor and Council’s failure, refusal actually, to follow the City Charter and respect the rule of law is the heart of the problem.
They have continued to operate as if nothing changed. They have thwarted the growth of Neighborhood Councils at every turn. They have politicized every department and every commission, stripping the city of the independent citizen oversight that is supposed to provide the check and balance on abuses by elected officials.
Waldie’s words went over the head of mayoral spokesman Matt Szabo who
ignored them entirely, spending his time on “Which Way LA?” disputing
Mariel Garza’s editorial in the Daily News and defend the record of the
11 percent mayor.
“At the end of the day you want your mayor to
accomplish that which he promised to do,” Szabo said, asserting
Villaraigosa’s record on gang reduction, balancing the budget, job
creation, environment and management of the DWP speaks for itself.
mayor has been making decisions in the best interests of the city. To
be a strong mayor you have to surround yourself with good people and
empower them to do their jobs. A weak leader would resort to
micromanagement and that’s not what this mayor has done. He’s picked
good people and he’s empowering them to do their job.”
That’s the mayor’s position and he’s sticking to it even in the face of
the truth that nearly every word Szabo spoke is false.
has broken nearly promise he has made, he has yet to produce a budget
that didn’t paper over massive deficits, 260,000 people are jobless, he
has not delivered any green energy and changed management teams annually
at the DWP, each one reversing the last one’s policy direction, even as
he looted the utility’s revenue to mask his failure to manage the
general fund budget.
His staff’s micromanaging and abuse of
department heads has driven many of the most competent to resign or to
carry out policies they know are bad if they can’t afford to leave.
a testament to the mayor’s loss of control of the situation that his
own staff is at war with itself: The old guard of bunglers with an
all-political agenda fighting the power grab by Austin Beutner and his
team of smart and capable managers who have no more sense of how the
political winds have shifted than anyone else in City Hall.
Charter reform — despite City Hall’s obstructionism — created a system
of local governance that has brought thousands of people into
Neighborhood Councils where they have learned a lot about how the system
works and doesn’t work.
It is why they, along with homeowners groups, are the foundation the LA
Clean Sweep (lacleansweep.com)
campaign for better leaders for a greater LA, a political action
committee that is reaching out to under-served and under-represented
communities throughout the city to build a new coalition to reform City
City Hall may not have “internalized” what the new City Charter is about
but the people get it.