When a business goes to hell, what usually happens is that the flummoxed big shots in charge chase the falling revenue numbers downhill in a spiral to bankruptcy and blame their underlings for the failure. It’s the Fall Guy Defense.
That’s exactly what’s happening at City Hall these days.
The ceremonial mayor and bumbling City Council have made a mess of things with sweetheart contracts to unions and contractors, giveaways to developers and an assortment of politically-favored groups even in the face of a swelling budget deficit.
So what do these big shots do?
They browbeat the department heads and other top officials into submissive obedience in public and private to force them to lie, obfuscate, double-talk or whatever it takes to cover up the failure of the city’s leadership.
The most talented can get other jobs and flee for their lives and self-respect. Those who can’t escape go along for ride, silently and sullenly obeying. Those who dare to speak truth to power get fired. Thus the exodus of general managers and other officials from LA’s city government.
The latest fall guy is Jeff Peltola, chief financial officer of the DWP, according to word leaking out of that muddled and confused department that is the city’s most valuable asset, its power system the prime target in a bankruptcy sale.
Peltola’s first crime was incurring the wrath of the ceremonial mayor and his henchmen by trying to tell them the truth. His second was obediently deceiving the Council and public on the state of the DWP’s financial situation while trying to protect the DWP’s credit rating as its costs soared because it was forced to hire nearly 1,500 extra workers and take on an added pension liability of more than half a billion dollars.
Ask yourself what you would do if you had nine general managers in 10 years, each inept or ignorant of running a utility, each a purely political appointee whose main mission was to use the DWP as an instrument of political manipulation — not the efficient management of the nation’s largest publicly-owned utility.
There are hundreds of Jeff Peltolas in city government, professionals who should be empowered to make decisions and manage their departments for the public benefit — not the benefit of a corrupt and incompetent political leadership — and held accountable for achieving clear goals and implementing policies in the public interest.
You have to wonder what shape the city would be in if we didn’t have a mayor and City Council at all or if there were a city manager and only a truly ceremonial mayor with 50 part-time Council members given modest salaries and small staffs and few perks.
Actually, there’s nothing to wonder about. The cost of the elected officials would be a lot lower, they would be ordinary people connected to their communities — not professional politicians who posture and preen like royalty and live high on the public dole.
At this point, we’ve got to live with the system we’ve got so the best we can do is get rid of the people responsible for this mess of libraries and parks closing, building code enforcement and community planning being gutted, tree trimming and sidewalk repair being eliminated and a vast array of core public services being slashed.
Seven Council seats are on the ballot next March — Krekorian, LaBonge, Cardenas, Parks, Wesson, Huizar and Smith’s open seat.
Credible candidates who have a lot more honesty and integrity are stepping forward to challenge them, some with the ability to raise enough money to defeat them.
The LA Clean Sweep campaign (lacleansweep.com) is political action committee that will launch on July 17 with a party at the Mayflower Club, 11110 Victory Blvd., North Hollywood.
It will organize and mobilize a grassroot army of citizens to work to elect a slate of candidates committed to financial responsibility, open and honest government, good planning for healthy and safe neighborhoods and a modern infrastructure that supports liivable communities and attracts good jobs.
If there’s another way to start to fix what they have broken, don’t keep it a secret, tell the world and we’ll all get in line and follow.