The Right to Know — The Power of Knowledge

The limits on freedom of speech are clear enough: You can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater and you can’t reveal the movements of ships and troops at a time of way.

The limits on the access to government information is quite different.

What’s so amazing about local government, and every other level as well, is how officials not only kept information secret from the public but themselves as well.

The City Council, for one of a thousand examples, didn’t know that when they tripled the trash fee in the name of full cost recovery of services to the public, they exempted thousands of households at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.

For its part, the LAUSD has refused every entreaty for years to examine the data from standardized tests to see what they could learn about the success of classroom teachers in raising the scores of their students over time.

Publication by the LA Times of how 6,000 teachers’ students scored on tests and the questions that raised about performance have sent the unions and education lobby into a tizzy.

Their cry is that test score performance is only part of the information needed to evaluate how well a teacher is doing.

That’s true of course but the unions have fought vigorously for years any kind of valid method of “stulling” teachers using subjective standards based on observation and objective standards based on tests.

What the Times’ data shows is that some teachers consistently at the bottom with the students in the classes scoring worse than others and that some teachers consistently produce students who show improvement on tests.

It could be that in many cases the best performing teachers are simply teaching to test and doing nothing to really educate their children.

It could also be that many at the bottom are saying to hell with the tests, the kids need their minds opened up, their imaginations sparked to life, to learn to think and comprehend. It could be that the children they teach have better outcomes over time than those who score well on tests.

But without the data and rigorous examination about what is going on and what works and doesn’t and for whom, it remains an example of how our public officials prefer the blissful state of ignorance — as long as they can keep us ignorant to.

For years, local agencies have done their best to keep salary information secret — a wall that has been chipped away at by the media and blogosphere.

It’s only now when the scandals in Bell and Vernon have raised the public ire that LA city and county officials have posted searchable databases with positions and salaries.

Of course, they withhold the names as much as possible even though they are public information under the law and the Constitution and are available online elsewhere in many cases.

For all the promises of transparency, our local government agencies do their best to keep as much information secret as possible or to make it as obscure and hard to understand as possible.

Politicians and bureaucrats have armies of people to make sure that even when information is made available, it is spun to delude and confuse the public.

Openness and transparency in all matters of government is one of the four pillars of the LA Clean Sweep movement (lacleansweep.com).

We need volunteers — lawyers and people with good research skills — to step forward to help us become a clearinghouse of information City Hall doesn’t want us to know.

We intend to vigorously use the California Public Records Act to get the information the public needs to know to understand what is really going on at City Hall.

Knowledge is power and the name of the game in reforming City Hall and creating a balanced and inclusive public culture is power.

The community will never have the kind of responsive and responsible city government it yearns for without better knowledge and better people in office.

 

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Divided and Conquered or Unified and Empowered: The Choice is Ours


EDITOR’S NOTE: Earl Ofari Hutchinson interviewed me Friday about LA Clean Sweep on his radio show on KTYM 1460AM. You can play or download the show by clicking here.

LA Clean
Sweep
took a major step forward on Sunday with about 100 people showing up for
professional training to make them more effective as activists and candidates
for public office.

 

Everyone
who was there came away feeling they had learned valuable tools that will aid
them in the struggle to elect candidates to city office who will put the public
interest first – a point emphasized by remarks by City Attorney Carmen “Nuch”
Trutanich during a 30-minute appearance.

 

Trutanich
was elected last year in no small part by support from the same coalition of
community activists who help Paul Krekorian win the CD2 seat and defeat Measure
B, the solar energy boondoggle.

 

He made is
clear in his remarks that given the political culture of City Hall, its
subservience to special interests and the budget crisis, have made public
service a challenge every day to do what he believes is right for the city as a
whole and its people.

 

The event
was not without its moment of controversy.

 

Matt
Robbins of the nonprofit American Majority
that trains Tea Party activists
began the training programs for activists and candidates for city offices with
a lengthy presentation on the group’s view of U.S. history and how it led to the
failure of our governmental institutions today.

 

It is based
on a very fundamentalist view of the Constitution as outlined by James Madison
and John Adams – not Thomas Jefferson – and blames Teddy Roosevelt and the
Progressive movement at the start of the 20th century for
federalizing the government.

 

It is a
viewpoint that did not sit well with some activists, myself included who
believe in Jeffersonian democracy and think Teddy Roosevelt was our greatest
president for breaking up the monopolistic cartels and taking the most
beautiful lands in America
out of private hands by creating the National Parks.

 

An
emotional argument ensued that threatened to disrupt the event – an argument
that does to the heart of City Hall political machines attacks on Clean Sweep
and the misgivings of many activists who share Clean Sweep’s goals to get
involved.

 

It is no
small matter and we must get past it or we will remain divided and powerless
while our city officials put the future of the city at risk by slashing basic
services, subsidizing unwanted developments with tax dollars and turning a
budget crisis into a catastrophe.

 

Clean Sweep’s
goals are clear and simple. We are trying to bring together people from all
over the city regardless of their political views to work in common cause for a
greater Los Angeles
and to create a new spirit of LA that unites people no matter what their
backgrounds or economic condition or political beliefs.

 

We don’t
have to agree on anything except the need for dramatic change because our city
government has failed us.

 

We need new
leaders who owe their elections to the people in their district, not the dirty
money provided by special interests, officials committed to fiscal
responsibility and providing the core services that make a city livable for all
its people, to rebuilding the aging infrastructure to create a healthy economic
climate and healthy neighborhoods.

 

A new
political culture at City Hall where elected officials and the bureaucrats see
themselves as servants of the people – not their lords and masters – will not
be without its conflicts over policies and programs.

 

Officials
with honesty and integrity and reflect the values and interests of the
communities they represent will quarrel and conflict our in the open where the
public can learn the facts and understand the arguments. They will reach
compromises or one side or another will prevail issue by issue.

 

They will
not vote unanimously 99.93 percent of the time as our current City Council does
without meaningful public debate because the consensus is built in the privacy
of back rooms outside the public view.

 

It was a
heated and scary moment at Sunday’s Clean Sweep meeting but Nick Dalton-Pawle
of the Sun Valley Neighborhood Council somehow found the words that quelled the
fire of conflict.

 

Nobody
walked out and the meeting got down to the basic tools of how to work
effectively for change and in the end everyone felt they had learned something
about how to work more effectively for their goals, and hopefully how we can
all work together for the goals we share.

 

It came
down in the end to a choice: Will we break apart and remain a conquered
populace because we disagree with or even find abhorrent the views of some on
some issues or stand united on the common ground where he can win power and
begin the hard job of building a better city for all.

 

This is the
choice we all have to make, rich and poor and everyone in between.

 

We will not
stop the City Hall political machine from its course of destruction if we got
lost in all that divides us. We must find our way to the light of unity.

 

If there’s
another way, any other way, let those who attack Clean Sweep bring it forward.

 

Bruno, LA’s Watchdog: MTA Can Build the Subway to the Sea, All Right, But Which Sea?


The more
Bruno reads about the MTA, the more he’s convinced the Subway to the Sea might
just end up at the Atlantic – if it gets built
at all.
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The Dog
Trainer this morning had an uncharacteristically cogent editorial about the
MTA’s very screwed up pass system. 

 

The lede
was so good I suspect they’ve got a new intern whose brain hasn’t turned into
mush …. yet:

 

“‘Smart.
Simple. Secure.’ That’s the slogan the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
has adopted for its new Transit
Access Pass

system, but at this stage of its development, a more apt description would be
“Dumb. Complicated. Insecure.”

 

The
editorial goes on to explain in detail that the pass system appears to have
been designed by a bunch of drunken monkeys.
The poor and the elderly get screwed the worst, of course, which
sometimes seems like an official MTA policy.

 

But a Green
Sheet story earlier in the week really had Bruno growling:

 

“After
spending more than $154 million for a system of locking turnstiles and
electronic payment cards for the county transit system, officials are
discovering that at least a third of the money may have been wasted because
they can’t use the new devices as planned.

 

“The
Metropolitan Transportation Authority placed the locking turnstiles at subway
and light-rail stations to stop fare scofflaws and end what had previously been
an honor-based system.

 

Installed
under a $46 million contract, the turnstiles were predicted to save $13 a
million a year in lost revenue and reduced fare inspector costs.

 

“But the
turnstiles can’t be configured to lock until Metro fully converts to a new
electronic Transit
Access Pass

system – and that is proving nearly impossible.”

 

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

 

And I might
think in dog years, but there is some history to this idiocy.

 

In 2008,
the LAWeekly, detailed the lead up to installing the turnstiles.

 

One guy
thought it was a really bad idea.

 

“Metro
board member Richard Katz, who voted against the locking turnstile contract,
felt from the beginning it was not worth the expense.

 

“I
didn’t think it would pencil out, which appears to still be true,” said
Katz, a former assemblyman for the San Fernando Valley.
“They were trying to solve a problem that may not have existed, or is not
nearly as great as the money spent for the solution.”

 

He added
that he doubts the system has lost enough money from fare evasions to make the
expense worth it even if the turnstiles were operating.”

 

Katz, who
has ended up looking pretty smart, was the only board member to vote against
the proposal.  The Weekly did a
follow-up:

 

“Katz is
either a stubborn fool or the smartest guy in the room. He believes the
agency’s long history of bad assumptions is repeating itself. He’s unconvinced
that the tiny percentage of riders who don’t pay fares ever will. They could
merely disappear.

 

“I can
count the number of times on one hand that MTA has been right about
construction costs, operating costs — that doesn’t even include technological
costs,” he says. “Any more money spent should go to Sheriff’s [deputies] — more
eyes and ears on the platforms.”

 

Katz might
be alone on the MTA board, but he has company in many big cities around the
world, where open rail systems — like L.A.’s — are popular and the low
percentage of scofflaws are considered a small price to pay.”

 

Katz is
still on the MTA board – and the boards of Metrolink and The California High
Speed Rail Commission.  He’s become quite
a train guy. He is also quarterbacking
the mayor’s 30-10 plan to spend all that Measure R money while most of us are
still alive.

 

Let’s hope
if he buys the planners a compass so the sea it reaches is the Pacific, not the Atlantic..

 

Woof!

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The Story of Raman Raj and Brian D’Arcy: The Villains Who Wrecked the DWP

Thumbnail image for raj raman.jpgFour months into into his reign as the ninth DWP General Manager in 10 years, Austin Beutner — despite working part-time and on a temporary basis — this week quietly carried out a major reorganization of the utility in part to focus on his goal of using its resources to create jobs and drive economic development.

He has dramatically restructured financial operations and made the key appointment of Kelli Bernard as director of economic development (DWP-changes.pdf) (DWP-financechanges.pdf).

She is a graduate of then Mayor Richard Riordan’s Business Team, a former vice president of Genesis LA now led by DWP Commission President Lee Alpert and most recently worked in a non-staff position as Council President Eric Garcetti’s planning and economic development director.Thumbnail image for briandarcy.jpg

Whether those changes are for the common good likely will not be debated or examined by the City Council which is busy trying to protect itself from the wrath of the public enraged by endless rate hikes, failed and contradictory practices and long-time mismanagement of their most valuable and vital asset.

What Beutner has done nothing about are the villains who bear so much responsiblity for what is wrong at the DWP.

On Day One of his term at DWP, Beutner made peace with union bully Brian D’Arcy whose use abusive tactics and threats of strikes that amount to nothing but blackmail have won him a long series of spectacularly lucrative contracts.

People have made labor the issue
and I don’t think it’s the top issue facing the agency,” Beutner said back in April, making it clear that peace at any price would be his policy no matter what the “people” think.

The price of that peace was to leave Raman Raj, D’Aarcy’s lackey, in place running the day-to-day operations as chief operating officer, the No.2 position that is more important than ever because most of Beutner’s time is spent on his duties as First Deputy Mayor and jobs czar.

D’Arcy and Raj — what a team to rely on!

Nothing good has ever come, can ever come, with those two in power. Reforms being pushed by the Council like the Rate Payer Advocate, changing the composition of the Board of Commissioners and requiring a timely and public budget are meaningless as long as the people in charge have utterly no respect for the public or the public interest.

D’Arcy’s outrageous excesses and destructive behavior were well documented in a “for your eyes only” report to then Mayor James Hahn by DWP Assistant General Manager Mahmud Chaudhry which eventually leaked to the LA Weekly in 2005.

Chaudhry exposed how D”Arcy controls the management, threatens their careers as well as those of city politicians and warns he will turn off the city’s water and power if he doesn’t get what he wants.

“The DWP has become a fox-run henhouse of epic proportion,” Chaudhry
wriote. “The union now runs the department. They blur the line between .
. . bargaining and criminal extortion.

“By choosing union peace at any price, DWP leadership finds itself
paying an exorbitant price. Anxious
to avoid conflict, management finally relinquished the duty — and with
it the power — to exert control. With no one minding the store, it may
be a matter of time before the union’s extreme bargaining advantage
begins to impact the annual [revenue] transfer to the city.”

A few months after his report surfaced, Mayor and Antonio Villaraigosa and the Council approved the richest contract in city history with raises of up to 6 percent a year to IBEW Local 18 workers whose salaries already were 30 to 40 percent higher than other city workers in the same jobs or those of private utility workers.

It wasn’t long before Villaraigosa brought Raj back to the DWP and foisted him as chief operating officer on David Nahai when he took over as General Manager. He did this in the full knowledge that Raj’s previous short stint at the DWP under David Freeman ended disastrously with lawsuits and his dismissal in 2001.

To say the least, there is nothing in Raj’s career that suggests he is at all qualified for such a high position — except for his slavish loyalty to D’Arcy.

Let’s start with Raj’s personal financial management.


On Feb. 24, 1992, Raj and his wife Mrinalini, then living in Laguna Niguel, filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in the Central
District of California, Santa Ana


That was done just six days after a judgment of $2,275.31 was entered against him for breach of
contract in the North Pomona Courthouse in a case filed by Wells Fargo Bank.

Five years later, on Feb. 20, 1997, Raj encountered another financial problem. The IRS filed a tax lien against him for $16,503. It took him until 2000 when he was working for the DWP to be released from the lien.

Then, there’s his rather undistinguished career as a business executive, bouncing from job to job without making the kind of noteworthy successes that ought to be necessary to be the man running the DWP.


He worked as a mid-level executive at Kaiser Permanente, Flying Tigers and the Southland
Corp. before a stint as managing director

at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority where he was anything but a success. His main task involved labor negotiations and he reportedly was forced to resign after running afoul of upper management.

He did get to connect with labor leaders and ultra-liberals like Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg who helped him land a job at the DWP in 1999 as chief administration officer overseeing labor relations and human
resources where he cemented his relationship with D’Arcy and eventually became a supporter of Villaraigosa’s in his first mayoral campaign in 2001.

In his job, Raj quickly became embroiled in one of the darkest chapters in DWP history, a long pattern of discriminatory treatment of minorities and women.

The LA Weekly’s Jeffrey Anderson wrote a devastating story in 2005 tracing the long sordid history of discrimination and millions of dollars in secret settlements with employees.

Some of the incidents involved misconduct by Raj and led to a 2003 lawsuit

LA Superior Court Case Number BC
290779: Brenda Barr, et al v. City of
Los Angeles and DWP and
Raman Raj, et al


The heart of the allegation was that the working environment at DWP was permeated with
discriminatory animus” against women and blacks, specifically that “the individual Defendants schemed to
and did create a system which resulted in promotions and pay upgrades to men,
while preventing women from advancing.”


In 2008 when Raj was brought as COO, far higher than any position he had ever held before, the LA Times reported the Barr cass was settled for $3.3 million 



The
article cited a report by DWP’s outside consultant,the Texas
law firm of Kemp Smith, that concluded Raj moved the utility’s
anti-discrimination office from a satellite building — valued for providing a
level of anonymity — into DWP headquarters to discourage complaints, since
anyone who entered would have to do so in public view.


The report said Raj
manipulated severance packages to remove managers who disagreed with him. And
it warned that Raj had given “too much influence in management of the
organization” to D’Arcy and shielded
union employees from disciplinary action


Recommending he should be let go for the good of the agency, it said Raj could not
be trusted to “act in the department’s interests when they may conflict
with his own agenda.”

 

Today,
managerial insiders still don’t trust Raj, regarding him as devious and
duplicitous.


In part, the shadow hanging over Raj derives from what he did for a living between stints at the DWP.


He formed a consultant company,

Resources Roundtable, and used his access to  DWP
officials to help win contracts for energy-related companies like Itron, Smartsynch and Enspiria that had won nearly $60 million in DWP contracts without the Board of Commissioners knowing of the connection to Raj.


Every decision, every contract that Raj is involved in sparks suspicion about insider dealing, about the inordinate influence of D’Arcy yet Beutner relies on him to run the DWP and talks admiringly of the knowledge and intelligence of the union boss.


How can anyone wonder why it has proven impossible for years to hire a capable and experienced general manager, why rates keep going up and up, why the water and power systems are deteriorating, why the DWP has lost all credibility with its customers, why it is the center of endless controversy.


What is impossible to understand is how Austin Beutner and the mayor can possibly think the DWP is going to be the engine of development and job creation that restores the city’s economy.


Structural reforms and political spin are useless unless there is a massive shakeup in the management of the DWP and the city’s elected officials find the courage to put D’Arcy in his place.

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Van de Kamp’s Coalition to Community Colleges: See You in Court

EDITOR’S NOTE: Activists in Northeast LA have been fighting for years to get the LA Community College District to deliver on its promise to build a satellite campus in the community.   One of the commitments in the LACCD bond issue was to transform the old Van de Kamp bakery into a college site. Instead, the city has moved in decided to take control of the property for other purposes. In this open letter and in a letter delivered today to the LACCD board (

NoticetoSue.PDF), the coalition’s attorney, Daniel Wright, announces the intention to sue to block this misuse of funds.



By Daniel Wright

Attached
is the objection letter to an item on today’s meeting agenda for the
Board of the Los Angeles Community College District.  Since December
2009, the LACCD has been trying to use constitutionally restricted bond
funds to purchase the parcel of land at the corner of San Fernando Road
and Fletcher Drive in the City of Los Angeles.  The District proclaims
it “has no current plans” for the purchase of the site (in order to
claim the purchase is exempt from CEQA review) yet under Proposition 39
real property can only be purchased for a “school facility” which
implies that a school project must exist before bond funds can be used
to make the purchase.

The City of Los Angeles is actively involved in the creation of a new
redevelopment area centered around this intersection and, of course,
redevelopment of the Los Angeles River.  This effort includes a plan to
obtain federal funding to pay for development of the redevelopment plan,
to pay for the up-zoning of the Northeast Community Plan to allow dense
urban development, and inevitably, use of tax increment to subsidize
density development of Fletcher/San Fernando and the LA River corridor. 
This effort may or may not be beneficial to residents of the proposed
redevelopment area.

The use of restricted educational bonds to buy the land where a Pollo
Loco, Denny’s Restaurant, and Auto Zone currently reside for “no
particular project” is unconstitutional and unlawful.  Numerous public
officials who have oversight duties to prevent this type of misuse of
bond funds continue to sit on the sidelines.

The California Attorney General has the authority to intervene and
support the current CEQA lawsuit and taxpayer lawsuits.  The cost of an
Attorney General investigation is chargeable against the LACCD yet
currently the Attorney General sits on his hands and does nothing.

The Los Angeles District Attorney has primary enforcement responsibility
for malfeasance in office and other misuses of public authority by
public entities but has initiated no publicly-acknowledged investigation
of the LACCD bond program.  The cost of an investigation may be
recoverable from LACCD.

The State Controller has the authority to initiate an independent audit
of the bond program of LACCD.  The cost of the audit is chargeable to
LACCD, yet Controller Chaing passively sits on the sidelines and does
nothing.

The Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee for the LACCD is populated with
former LACCD employees, and others who have a stake in the $5.7 billion
dollar construction program.  This Committee is chaired by a retired
LACCD Harbor College President (which is implicitly inconsistent with
the statutory prohibition of employees sitting on a bond oversight
committee).  This Committee has known about alleged bond abuse in the
LACCD bond program since December 2009 and has not fulfilled its most
basic duty to immediately issue a press release when it observes
potential wrongdoing.

The Los Angeles Times has been investigating wrongdoing and
irregularities in the LACCD Bond Program for more than a year but has
failed to publish the results of its investigation.  LACCD has hired
lobbyists and may have pressured Times editors to refrain from
publishing.

Meanwhile, the LACCD Board continues to try to use Proposition 39 bond
funds for unconstitutional purposes.  Do we have to wait for revelation
of someone personally stealing funds for an investigation?  Does it have
to go as far as the City of Bell before elected law enforcement
officials leap into action (in front of television cameras like Bell)? 

Has the crime of malfeasance in office become meaningless in the
California Constitution because it has been interpreted in some quarters
to mean that prosecution of public officials may only occur when they
are converting funds to themselves, family, or intermediaries, and not
when they knowingly and willfully violate laws intended to protect the
public and taxpayers?

Continue reading Van de Kamp’s Coalition to Community Colleges: See You in Court

Whatever Happened to the Antonio We Knew and Loved?

Once upon a time in the city we all love and hate, a man named Antonio stepped forward and inspired us with promises of a better life for everyone, of a new era with a new spirit that brought us all together..

He was going to plant a million trees and beautify our neighborhoods.

He was going to take over our schools and make sure every kid git a good education and graduated.

He was going to end corruption at City Hall after defaming the Hahn Administration as the “most investigated” in LA history.

Most of all, he was going to make us the “greenest city in America” — something that would restore our pride in the city and create tens of thousands of good jobs.

Fairy tales can come true or they also can turn into nightmares where everyone suffers, well, nearly everyone. Insiders and the well-connected flourish while neighborhoods are destroyed, kids still drop out cause they can’t read or write, corruption reaches unprecedented levels.

The man of a thousand broken promises has turned on his friends in the unions and embraced the evils of unbridled capitalism, indulging himself in a life of royal luxury while half a million of his subjects can’t even find a minimum wage job.

And now, in the latest chapter of this fairy tale gone awry, comes the ultimate hypocrisy: Antonio wants his pals in Sacramento to make a special exemption from environmental policy for LA so we can keep on destroying the oceans around us for another two decades.

“The city of Los Angeles has launched an aggressive lobbying campaign to
roll back tough new state regulations meant to limit the environmental
damage that power plants inflict on the oceans,” the LA Times reports today.

The justification for this is that it will cost $2.3 billion and require increases in the already soaring power rates of at least 6 percent for eight years.

Driving the effort for the exemption is Austin Beutner, first deputy mayor, jobs czar and part-time temporary DWP general manager.

“That’s money that will cause jobs to be lost in our economy and money
that we can’t use to invest in other renewable energy initiatives that
we have,” he says.

The issue is Assembly Bill 1552, now in the Senate, a measure created through subterfuge at the last minute with help from people like Antonio’s cousin, Speaker John Perez, and other phony environmentalist lawmakers.

It would exempt the DWP from tough, new State Water Board regulations that require sharply reducing the amount of seawater used for cooling coastal power plants.

Under AB 1552, every coastal plant in the state — except the three owned by DWP — would still be required to pump in seawater for cooling only once and then recycle it or move to air cooling

DWP’s three plants, now required to comply between 2015 to 2020, would be given up to 11 years longer, to 2031.

Environmental groups — long-time friends of the mayor — are as furious at him as his long-time friends in labor and the voters who elected him.

Heal the Bay has started a phone call and email campaign under the heading: “Your Help is Needed to Protect California’s Coast & the Public Process – OPPOSE AB 1552.”
.
“It completely ignores five years of process and guts the entire policy,” said Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay.

Adds Sierra Club California lobbyist Jim Metropulos: “Now here is the L.A. DWP coming in at the last second with a special-interest exemption for them.”
.
What’s spectacularly appalling about this is that the DWP under then General Manager David Nahai was working on a rational compromise with the State Water Board long before the regulations were approved.

But like so many others, he ran afoul of the mayor’s political priorities — and in his case the greed of DWP union bully Brian D’Arcy — and was fired last fall.

His successor, David Freeman, the poet laureate of green energy who never actually built any, dropped the ball on that effort as he did so many others during his two disastrous terms running the city’s mos valuable asset.

Freeman preferred to play political hardball with the state board when the regulations were being finalized but struck out.

“It makes the department appear cynical and manipulative,” Nahai told the Times..
“I believe it was unnecessary, because the state board has shown a
willingness to try, even now, to deal with the department’s concerns.”

Put your money on the environmentalists winning the fight because they are right that DWP never should have been put in this position. You’ll need those winnings to pay your power bill.

So how did so many high hopes end in failure and broken promises? Whatever happened to the Antonio we knew and loved so much to put him in charge of our city at a time when we needed great leadership?

No one could possible have gone so wrong, betrayed so many. The answer can only be that the real Antonio was kidnapped and a replicant was put in his place to turn LA into the vision imagined in “Blade Runner.”

What other explanation could there be?

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Death Blow to LA’s Middle Class

For decades, City Hall experimented with a bizarre form of municipal socialism, enriching the rich, impoverishing the poor and driving away the middle class.

The 2000 census showed that white flight in the 1980s had become middle-class flight, cutting across racial and ethnic lines with the poverty rate in the San Fernando Valley — once the largest enclave of middle class families in the nation — soaring by 50 percent.even as home ownership rates plummeted by more than a third.

Today, the situation is far worse. LA has become a city of rich and poor. The result is declining neighborhoods, public schools overwhelmed by the numbers of children with special needs and a workforce that is largely unskilled and competing for the shrinking number of service and laborer jobs.

It is largely the result of misguided public policies that have turned city government into a jobs program, not a services provider, while the roads, sidewalks, water and power systems have deteriorated.

And now City Hall is about to deliver the coup de grace to the middle class.

No longer able to afford the cost of salaries and benefits in the public sector and forced to shed thousands of city workers, the mayor and City Council have slashed core services to the general public like parks and libraries and building code enforcement.

The city’s shrinking resources are focused instead on “revenue generating” services like those that those that impose escalating fees, penalties and rates on the public in the name of “full cost recovery.”

Beyond those policies, First Deputy Mayor and Interim DWP General Manager Austin Beutner is the
architect of what amounts to a desperate attempt to save LA by turning
city government into a profitable business without the burden of providing services other than police to the public.

City Hall, in the name of becoming “business friendly,” is moving rapidly to buy jobs in the private sector.

Tax holidays and discounted DWP rates for new businesses will shortly be matched by tax breaks and discounted DWP rates for existing businesses.

The city’s cash cows — DWP and the Community Redevelopment Agency — are being milled for subsidies even as they squeeze money out of the pockets of residents and tax dollars out of the city treasury.

The death blow to the middle class is now being delivered by Beutner’s hand-picked Planning Director, Michael LoGrande who is all but eliminating public input and involvement in the planning process to speed up the approvals of new projects.

In the sweltering days of August with many on vacation, LoGrande — untrained as a planner but quick to obey orders from above — is pushing through radical changes in the policies that control development in the city.

Just two weeks ago, community activists Lucille Saunders and Cindy Cleghorn found the Planning Department was proposing to the revise the General Plan Framework with far-reaching “Urban Design Guidelines” that set the zoning rules on density throughout the city.

The proposal — which wasn’t made public — was exempted from requirements to meet the state environmental laws and concerned citizens only given to Aug. 25 to comment on something that wasn’t even available to them except by appoing.

Saunders and Cleghorn made an appointment and met with planner Michelle Sorkin. It was days after their meeting that they learned also was including changes in the .
“Community Design Overlay” policy in the same short-circuited process.

LoGrande’s response to community concerns and the flurry of viral emails is to extend the deadline for comment until Labor Day.

No involvement of Neighborhoods Councils, homeowner or other groups allowed. No honest debate. No information.

The outrage of many was captured by Ken Alpern in a City Watch LA article in this sentence in all capital letters:

THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES IS ABOUT READY TO END
PUBLIC INPUT ON A HUGE SERIES OF GUIDELINES THAT WILL DETERMINE FUTURE
DEVELOPMENT THROUGHOUT LOS ANGELES RIGHT AFTER LABOR DAY WITHOUT HARDLY
ANYONE KNOWING WHAT’S PRECISELY IN THOSE GUIDELINES!!!

If they get away with this, they can do anything they want whenever they want.

The public will be completely disenfranchised and the result will be virtually instantaneous approval of nearly all development projects no matter what their impact on the quality of life, on traffic congestion, on the drain on limited water and power resources and the availability of public services.

These policies may be “business friendly” but they are a disaster for the residents of the city.

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You CAN Fight City Hall — and Win: LA Clean Sweep Will Teach You How

Next Sunday, LA Clean Sweep — the voter movement to elect a clean slate to City Council — will offer professional training to potential candidates and activists who are ready to go to work to end the cycle of failure and bring responsible government to Los Angeles.

Experts in political campaigning will teach you the skills you need to win elections and fight City Hall on the issues that you carry about to protect you neighborhoods, your jobs and your business. The session for activists run from 8:30 a.m. to noon Sunday Aug. 29 at the Mayflower Club, 11110  Victory Blvd., North Hollywood. Training for candidates for the March 2011 City Council elections and the 2013 city elections run from 1 to 5 p.m. Approved&Endorsed2.jpg

Click here (CSTrainingDayFlyer-1.pdf) or go to lacleansweep.com and click on events for the details. The trainers are providing their services for free and all proceeds from the event will help fund LA Clean Sweep’s efforts to inform voters and mobilize forces for reform.

For too long, the concerned residents in all parts of the city have fought their own separate battles against the powerful forces that run City Hall and control our elected officials. LA Clean Sweep. The skills you will learn from this program will help you to work together with people in every part of LA and beat the lobbyists and special interests and help elected candidates who will stand up for the public interest.

Our city officials have been overspending for year,  and even in the face of financial crisis, are making things worse without facing the fundamental issues. Libraries and parks are closing, cuts in the Fire Department are jeopardizing public safety and we are now paying the full cost or many core services in addition to soaring rates, taxes and fees.

The cycle of failure must be broken. It will only if you get involved and get the know-how to fight back successfully against the powerful entrenched interests of City Hall.

We need a new spirit of LA, one that brings together every region of the city, breaks down the barriers of ethnicity and economic status, and celebrates the freedom of possibilities of what should be the greatest place on earth.

Hundreds of activists from every part of the city have worked to develop basic ideas that we can rally around to restore credibility to our city’s leadership and fix what is broken so we can move forward together:

Here’s what LA Clean Sweep stands for:

THE PLATFORM

Issue No. 1: Clean Up City Hall


L.A. needs a change of leadership. We must elect candidates who demonstrate a firm commitment to promoting the public interest, not special interests. Candidates must commit to end the practice of giving subsidies, waivers, below-cost deals, tax breaks and other special treatment to politically connected individuals, public officials, organizations and businesses.
So that no actions of government are hidden from the public, candidates must commit to enforce and enact open access laws. Slush funds and office holder accounts need to be eliminated. City Hall must never sell, lease or otherwise dispose of public property without obtaining fair market value for it. City Hall must treat all people with dignity, fairness and equality.

 

Issue No. 2: Fix the Budget

City spending is out of control. The city needs to live within its means.  Candidates must commit to support a City Charter amendment to limit the annual increase in city government spending to the rate of growth of inflation and city population. In good economic times, revenues that exceed the expenditure limit should be saved in a rainy day fund. This would allow the city to maintain essential services in an economic downturn.
Elected officials have a history of borrowing against future tax revenues to finance special interest economic development projects. Candidates must commit to stopping this practice, including all projects funded through the Community Redevelopment Agency. Candidates must commit to supporting compensation for city employees that is affordable and sustainable. Without these changes, additional taxes and fees will put an increasing burden on residents and force severe cutbacks in city services.

Issue No. 3: Focus on Core Services

City Hall lacks focus and wastes money. Time that could and should be spent on critical problems is instead frittered away on self-serving resolutions and other minutiae. Candidates must commit to focus on core services: Police, fire, other public safety services, street and sidewalk maintenance, sewage, trash, water and power, parks, libraries, and land use planning. Elected officials should not spend their time or taxpayers’ money on matters unrelated to the delivery of core services. 

Issue No. 4: Power Sharing

Government is formed for the benefit of the people, yet City Hall routinely ignores the peoples ‘ legitimate concerns. Candidates must commit to work with Neighborhood Councils and bona fide community groups on land use, economic development and other local issues. Candidates must commit to redrawing City Council district boundaries to align with established communities. Gerrymandering of council boundaries must end.
.
Contribute your time, your passion, your money. Go to lacleansweep.com. Los Angeles will not change without you getting involved.

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Naked City: Dark Times in the Old Town

Grim Sleeper Suspect.Paid $300,000 from City Pension Fund and Will Get $1,658 Monthly on Death Row if Convicted

Chistrine Pelisek in the LA Weekly continues her great coverage of the Grim Sleeper case, exposing suspect Lonnie Franklin Jr. has been on disability as a city garbageman for years, grossing $300,000 while the serial killings have gone on.
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It doesn’t stop there. Even if convicted, he will keep on getting monthly checks now at $1,658.54 with annual increases for inflation.

“You need contributions from four city workers to pay this son of a
bitch’s disability payments! It doesn’t sound to me that they have a
good mechanism in place to prevent fraud,” said commuity leader Jack Humphreville.

Forget the Bell Scandal — It Was Always Vernon That Broke All the Rules with a $1 Million Official

Back in 1989, the LA Times exposed Vernon City Administrator Bruce V. Malkenhorst’s outrageous salary of $162,804 — twice Gov. George Deukmejian’s — to run the small industrial town like a fiefdom.

Today, 21 years later, the Times revisits Vernon and finds salaries are even higher than Bell’s with Eric T. Fresch being paid nearly $1.65 million in salary and hourly billings and other officials similarly off the charts.

Among Fresch’s duties were energy issues, which presumably makes him the point man for the dirty deal Antonio’s pal and fund-raiser Ari Swiller pulled off with the CIM Group to buy land for a massive wind farm in Kern County out from under the DWP and sell Vernon part of the Onyx Ranch property for $65 million — 50 percent more than he paid for the whole thing.

The Stench of City Budget Cuts — LAFD Closing Down Only HazMat Team in San Fernando Valley

The Daily News’ Rick Orlov reports the budget cuts are forcing the LA Fire Department to close its only hazardous materials unit in the San Fernando Valley, a 14-member team in Granada Hills ihat is one of only such teams in the city.

It will mean long delays in mobilizing skilled firefighters to deal with potentially life-threatening incidents but the mayor said it’s not a problem.

“We have promised to restore funding as soon as
possible,” mayor spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton said. “And we are confident
the department will be able to handle any emergency that develops in the
city.”
.

 

Bruno, LA’s Watchdog: Send Cardenas to the Doghouse for his ‘All in the Family’ Ripoffs


The
horseshoe is beginning to smell like horseshit.

 

Only a
couple weeks ago, Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon — and his wife –
were indicted for voter fraud and lying about where they lived. 

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And since
I’ve already used the somewhat offensive word, I’ll say it: Alarcon swears he lives in that shithole of a
house in his district, rather than the nicer home in Paul Kerkorian’s district.

 

Bruno has
seen pictures of the house Alarcon doesn’t live in and heard his neighbors’
complaints that it’s an eyesore. Bruno thinks Alarcon is full
of it.

 

OK, enough
of that.  Ronnie will cut my kibble
ration.

 

Today,
Walter Moore has a terrific piece on his blog about Los Angeles City Councilman
Tony Cardenas – and his sister!

 

I won’t
repeat all of Walter’s terrific post here — but it seems Cardenas has spent an incredible amount of
campaign funds for stationary at sis’s store, while at the same time the city
has directed tens of thousands of dollars to the same rather small
establishment.

 

Maybe I
should suggest to Ron he use the headline “All in the Family.”

 

My pal
Wally has been less than successful in his bids for elected office.

alarcon-house.jpg

 

Of course,
Wally shot pretty high. His first attempts
were for mayor of the nation’s second largest city. He ran twice and didn’t do bad last time —
running second and coming within 4 percentage points of forcing a runoff with the mayor — but of course he was helped by the fact
Antonio isn’t exactly beloved by those who decided to trudge to the polls.

 

I think
Wally missed his calling (he’s a lawyer by trade) and should become an
investigative reporter — especially since there are so few left at the Dog Trainer
and Green Sheet.

 

I’ll make
room for him in my doghouse.

 

I’ll even send him a free “Bruno LA’s Watchdog” coffee mug if Ronnie ever gets off his butt and decides to sell them like he promised. After all, who do you love more him or me?

 

Woof!