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Money, Power and Corruption in LA

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
playing field.

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 ( 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…

This entry was posted in City Hall, Community Activists, DWP, Hot Topics, Los Angeles and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Money, Power and Corruption in LA

  1. Anonymous says:

    All in the name of the “Big Picture!” What?…We haven’t learned that “evil” is necessary…or better yet the “Gray Areas” lead to “Greener Pastures” for only a few….”Society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it.”—Buckle

  2. Anonymous says:

    City council members, Controller, Mayor should be the example of how ‘Not to grow up in the real world.” We have the biggest sissies, the biggest losers, kiss butts, no leadership, uneducated, classless pieces of shit in office that this city has ever seen. The approved billionaire Broad’s museum with no community input no NC input. I bet the developer of a proposed $1 billion hotel that would replace the aging Wilshire Grand Hotel saying it needs city assistance to build will get approval cause we know anything for a developer. Like City of Bell our politicians are the laughing stock of the nation. All their stupidity is posted on nat’l blogs. We have crapy local media coverage that’s why everyone is turning to internet and these fools really think people don’t see right through them. IDIOTS!!!

  3. Sandy Sand says:

    Grabbing control over the DWP? I doubt it. DWP may not have gotten its 28 percent, but they did get a five-point-something increase, because the rubber stamp idiots on the council didn’t read either the bold face print or the fine print.
    They actually thought it was a “temporary” electric rate hike, when, if fact, it’s permanent.
    Thank to a shift in the high pressure system that usually keeps us broiling in the summer, our next DWP bill won’t be quite as high as it could have been, but it will still be higher than it should be.
    Wait for the next sixty days to pass and for next year when the heat is on again and they’ve raised the rates again, which they will.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The tide of this day and age is turning finally. Powers that be (not our morons on council) are going after corruption with politicians. Maxine Waters, the crazy woman is still in denial of her ethics violations. Alarcon is still in denial about his 24 count indictment. The City of Bell is finding out more outrageous salaries then ever. I hope this new trend continues and council members are squirming wondering when they’ll be next. Their arrogance is outrageous as they continue to pass motions without a blink. We all need to do everything to spread the word on LA Clean Sweep and get rid of all of them. None of them can ever be relected to office or promoted to hired office as Mayor. The only one I can see who truly speaks for the people is Krekorian and he’s not my rep. The Mayor has 40 employees described as his personal staff. Over 10 Deputy Mayor’s making over $135,000, 16 staff members assigned to lobbying in Washington, D.C,26 people assigned to Homeland Security (WTF?? They do NOTHING but collect a paycheck). There needs to be outrage over this shit when people lost their jobs

  5. anonymous says:

    Whoever the Clean Sweep endorsed candidates are, a major promise they must make (and do) is push for a new and real campaign finance reform.
    The reform should be spelled out prior to any endorsement. The candidates should be videotaped reading the proposed reform so they can be held to it.
    Any new candidate entering the scene must be as good as the campaign finance reform they promise to push through.
    At least that’s a first step.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Guildmaster: “You are transparent, I see many things. I see plans within plans.”
    —DUNE 1984

  7. Bob G says:

    So far, Clean Sweep won’t endorse or require fealty to the idea of full public financing of elections — the system known as “Clean Money” — which is working in Maine, Arizona, and some American cities. Instead, it is looking for candidates who have the ability to raise money privately. In other words, they are playing the game of “if you can’t beat em, join em,” and hoping for the best. This is probably one reason that Clean Sweep looks so Republican from the outside.
    Ron’s article about how big money runs our political system is right to the point. The problem is failure to demand the one workable action plan that could fix it.
    The connection of campaign donations with electoral success creates a Catch 22 that even decent people are caught up in. Currently you either play the game or you lose. The single alternative is being rich enough to self-finance, which makes for worse problems involving the attitudes of those who govern.
    Given the chance to adopt a Clean Money platform, Clean Sweep punted. Presumably they hope that they can attract a few remarkably clean individuals who will hold out against the monied interests, even as they try to find alternative sources of cash. Perhaps CS will eventually figure out that solving the underlying structural problem is legally allowable, has already been accomplished more than once, and would interest voters who otherwise won’t be able to distinguish Clean Sweep from all the others.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The City of Los Angeles has existing campaign reform laws that allow those candidates that raise a minimum threshold to participate voluntarily. By participating, the candidate agrees to specific restrictions including a requirement to participate in a debate and in return receives matching public funds.
    Ironically, one advocate of the Clean Money campaign, Eric Garcetti failed to even follow the weaker existing campaign finance laws and refused to debate his opponent in 2009. He also outspent his opponent for the District 13 Council Race with a ratio of approx $600,000 to $16,000.
    Garcetti’s original excuse for not participating in this publicly financed campaign law? – its affect on the general budget. That’s one of the excuses used by the opponents of stronger campaign finance reform laws – They don’t want their taxpayer dollars financing candidates.

  9. anonymous says:

    Anonymous on August 8, 2010 12:53 PM
    “Garcetti’s original excuse for not participating in this publicly financed campaign law? – its affect on the general budget. That’s one of the excuses used by the opponents of stronger campaign finance reform laws – They don’t want their taxpayer dollars financing candidates.”
    That excuse is sooooooo laughable.
    I’d much rather he (and they) stop voting to spend our tax dollars as illustrated this past year, which funds their donors.
    Come to think of it, their votes actually result in taking taxpayer dollars to finance their campaigns.

  10. Anonymous says:

    To anonymous on August 8, 2010 1:48 PM:
    I agree with you. Taxpayer dollars have been subsidizing special interests and I would like to see an end to that with or without an immediate campaign finance reform law (of which I don’t oppose).
    The other joke is the Measure R for “Reform” which served to add another term to their office. In reality, that is all it did since we have witnessed a whole lot of horrible votes and Council actions such as the handling of the DWP rate increase and the giving away of taxpayer dollars on project such as Mid Town Crossing and Cirque de Soli.

  11. Anonymous says:

    OMG!!!! did you see how many Mayor Aides Antonio has and how much they’re making in Daily News? Did you see all of those Deputy Mayors making $148,000. What the hell do they do? Dumb ass Wendy Greuel should have outed them if she really wanted to make a point. Too bad she’s just another lackey pretending she cares.

  12. Anonymous says:

    A lot of those Deputy Mayors ensure that the Planning Department gives the developers whatever they want. Never seen one of them ever speak for the communities, who don’t give the Mayor the money like developers, only their vote. As long as people don’t place a premium on their votes, they will continue to suffer.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Regarding Clean Money…a ballot measure just failed in California because opposition mislead the public saying that we would be “taxed” to cover the costs. The true source was going to be require lobbyists to pay higher registration fees. Need I say more on that subject?

  14. Anonymous says:

    “In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.”
    —SCARFACE 1983

  15. Anonymous says:

    Whaaa Whaaa Whaaa…are all of you guys crybabies?
    All you do is cry and complain about how the dirty old developers win every fight….
    Maybe it is because the homeowners groups oppose every development, and fight to the bitter end with no compromises available.
    What ever happened to reasonable resolutions? They have disappeared as far as homeowner groups, community councils, etc. are concerned.
    At least the elected officials have to deal with reality and have the sense not to close off development entirely.
    Santa Monica tried that tack; they welcomed the homeless, fed them and let them sleep in the Palisades Park. What happened?
    Well, business shrunk so badly there was no tax money to feed the poor dears, so a more practical council did away with the stupidity and began to encourage business to return by cleaning up their mess.
    Just a little illustration as to how being totally one way can ruin anything.
    Ease up, community activists, and let our elected officals do their job without all the carping.

  16. Anonymous says:

    WTF??? Obviously a council staffer or better yet Mayor lapdog. You most likely have never ever been to communitiy meetings where people are complaining about all the bullshit politicians are doing behind the backs of the taxpayers. So yes, moron we are going to continue to complain until they arrest another one.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Anonymous at 7:12 AM writes: Maybe it is because the homeowners groups oppose every development, and fight to the bitter end with no compromises available.
    That’s complete hogwash. What homeowners groups are arguing is that this City’s infrastructure was engineered for a certain population size and density. We have now exceeded that size and that density. Our electric grid is stretched to the limit, our water grid is bursting up all over, our police is stretched way too thin, we are doing “rolling brownouts” of our fire stations. Our streets are potholed beyond belief, our sidewalks are on a 100 year repair cycle, and traffic is at a gridlock. And we keep adding density.
    Most homeowners groups are simply saying: make sure you have the necessary infrastructure BEFORE you do the development. If necessary, make the developers PAY for the hidden costs they are imposing on the rest of us.
    Look at the pavement and sidewalks on any street in Westwood. They are all stamped “Janss Development Company”. It was the DEVELOPER that paved the streets and built the infrastructure in the 1920s and 30s. Today’s developers are getting a free ride at everyone else’s expense. That is what the homeowners are fighting about.

  18. Anonymous says:

    By the time a major project comes before a community (which means Mom and Pop developers aren’t the problem) all it it needs is a rubber stamp by the city, i.e., planning, the council member, etc. However, knowing that some sort of “public process” is mandated, the city puts up with homeowner groups as we attempt to explain to them, again and again, the same old problems they patently refuse to address let alone consider (over-burdened infrastructure; more traffic/girdlock; density; violation of existing land use laws, and more).
    During this time, we are also attempting to negotiate with the developers while they are winking and nodding (too). Our only recourse is to file appeals (again that rubber stamp comes out) and now that is even prohibitive for most groups since a $500 filing fee is required. And, unless you can hire the best lawyer in town, and a few lobbyists, then the rubber stamp is finally impressed.
    Keep this in mind, the final word on large scale development projects is always a council member.
    In my 20 plus years of working for my community, not one council member has ever dared to challenged the city process and say “…wait a minute, what are we doing here?…” Instead they hem and haw, waste our time thinking they are being “democratic.”
    You ask what keeps us going: we look for that proverbial miracle with a hope to balance the needs of a community and a developer instead of this one-sided pro-developer course the city follows. Believe me, once in a while we do get to say “gotcha.
    Get that broom out and fast.

  19. Anonymous says:

    LoGrande Rules!!
    Kay and Abel drool…

  20. G. Power says:

    Please join our DWP rate hike protest, leave comments about your DWP experiences and how the rate hikes will affect you. THERE IS POWER IN NUMBERS, please help by just joining the group and we will be keeping everyone informed of our numbers and our continuing efforts to battle these insane increases.
    On Facebook: L.A. DWP Protest Club
    On Google: LADWP Protest Club

  21. Rebuilding Trust in Our Government
    One of Americas statesmen stated “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” His presidency ushered in an era of disdain for government and a widespread cynicism that government could be effective in addressing our challenges.
    Today, as we confront a crisis that has shaken confidence in our financial system and economy, we have an opportunity to restore public trust and confidence in the legitimate role of government. Indeed, to effectively tackle our economic challenges and to implement the reforms we need in our healthcare, education, energy, and environmental policies, our government will need to garner strong public support.
    However, rebuilding public trust will not happen in the face of a pervasive perception that government is not transparent and accountable, cronyism is rampant, and public officials are more interested in helping themselves than in serving the public good.
    Taking strong, swift, and decisive action to address abuses and begin to rebuild public trust should be the first priority for our city, state and federal government in the new legislative session.
    Create a Task Force on Public Integrity with a mission to develop a comprehensive proposal for ethics and lobbying reform in our city and state. Which addresses reforms in three areas: (1) strengthening enforcement of ethics, campaign finance, and lobbying laws; (2) strengthening civil and criminal penalties for abuses; and (3) improving awareness and education for public officials.
    Reinforce honesty, integrity and transparency by government officials as the core requirement to be and stay in office, any violations of these core tenets will cause the removal of the public official and the loss of “all benefits” retroactive.
    While the many of our elected officials and government employees are honest, dedicated public servants, the actions of a few create a dark cloud over all.
    Taking strong, swift, and decisive action to address these abuses and begin to rebuild public trust should be the first priority for our city, state and federal government in the new legislative session.
    Compiled by: YJ Draiman

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