EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written for Nina Royal’s North Valley Reporter.
What started 18 months ago as a David vs. Goliath struggle between ordinary citizens against the DWP and its IBEW now appears to be within eyesight of being on an even
A massive effort to keep those organizations from taking $4 billion out of
the pockets of ratepayers for a phony solar energy plan has gained momentum to radically reform the nation’s largest municipal utility and elect better people for a
great Los Angeles.
On the upside, we have seen the City Council reluctantly stand up to the mayor’s effort to raise electricity rates by up to 28 percent.We have also seen this same council escalate its battle over the DWP for an independent Rate Payer Advocate and change the makeup of the Board of Commissioners to free it from total political control.
Charter reform measures that would achieve those changes are expected to go on the ballot in March at the same time that the seven even-numbered Council seats
are up for election.
The L.A. Clean Sweep reform movement (lacleansweep.com) is mobilizing people across the city to fight for citizen control of theDWP. Their goal is to also help
elect new people to the City Council…people who have integrity and honesty and will stand up to the pressures at City Hall to go along with policies and programs they
know are bad.
A new study entitled “Money and Power in the City of Angels”, by the Center for Governmental Studies, shined the light on so much of what is wrong at City Hall. The study found that 99.93 percent of all Council votes were unanimous — a shocking fact that shows just how controlled the Council, how lacking in independence of thought, and how submissive members are to the directions they are given.
The reason it’s that way is because anyone who dares to show the courage of their convictions will be isolated and unable to achieve even the smallest needs
for their district.
Here are some other facts the study uncovered: Incumbents in 2009 raised a combined total of $5.3 million in private contributions, compared to challengers’ total of $285,000, a ratio of over 19-to-1. In addition, the study reported: “Independent expenditures made
by unions, corporations, and other entities comprised about $1.77 million and were concentrated in races for open seats.”
In plain language, those who hold City Hall offices owe their elections to unions, developers, contractors and the flow of money that comes through lobbyists.
It’s a vicious circle in which the only interest that doesn’t count is the public interest. That’s why fees, taxes and rates keep going up and the city keeps moving closer to
bankruptcy with libraries and parks closing, other core services being slashed, even as those residents who have any financial resources are having to pay the full cost of
what services they do get, from ambulances to tree trimming to sidewalk repair.
The “Money and Power” study recommended that contributions to candidate controlled ballot measure committees should be subject to the same limits as contributions
to candidate committees, and the information on contributions and expenditures should be put up online like those for candidates themselves.
It also called for banning lobbyists from “acting” as intermediaries who can deliver campaign contributions from their clients to officeholders or candidates that they
have registered to lobby.You might remember that City Hall fooled the public into believing that lobbyists contributions were banned by the ballot measure that sneakily
gave the Council a third term instead of being limited to two terms.
The study’s recommendations are sensible enough.But laws and rules don’t mean much when the people who write them and those who enforce them who are all part of a monolithic political machine.
The fight to fix L.A. is about power itself. Until strong and independent candidates are elected to office that are committed to and beholden to the voters nothing will change.
Join the L.A. Clean Sweep movement and get involved.It’s going to take an army of ordinary people to change the political culture of City Hall and bring every segment of the community to a seat at the table of power.It can be done. It depends on you…