“We are not allowing for more corruption.” — LA Ethics Commission President Helen Zukin arguing that the limit on gifts to politicians be raised from $100 to $400 in the light of the mayor’s flagrant disregard of the laws on disclosure of gifts and conflicts of interest.
What a perfect epitaph for a city’s leadership that has lost its way, immortal words that ought to be chiseled into the stone at the entrance of City Hall instead of noble platitudes about commitment to serving the public.
Like so many in the city’s civic, business, labor and political arenas, Zukin is quite content with the level of corruption we’ve got. After all, it works for so many of them why should they want to clean up City Hall and restore confidence of the ordinary folks who pay so dearly for a government that has failed them.
This is a city that is closing libraries and parks, charging the people who pay the taxes for the full cost of every service they get, firing workers, buying jobs no matter what they cost, trampling on the quality of life in residential neighborhoods by ignoring its own zoning rules.
Today, the City Council will green light the selling of valuable — if grossly mismanaged — city assets by approving the plan to lease parking lots for 50 years to private operators, a deal now scheduled to take at least six months longer to complete than expected. It won’t be the last fire sale of city assets with revenues declining and the cost of salaries, pensions and health benefits soaring.
Corruption and the mediocrity of City Hall’s leadership have produced massive deficits, the biggest job losses in the country and poor public services.
It’s taken financial wizard Austin Beutner just six months inside City Hall to come to the same conclusion.
“We need to untangle decades of bad policy and red
tape that are strangling private-sector employment in our city,” the dollar-a-year man in charge of the DWP and all things economic wrote today in the Daily News.
thing I’ve learned in my brief time as the first deputy mayor – there is
too much talk and too little action…Decades of poor policy and bad practice have combined to make Los Angeles a hard place for businesses to succeed.“
Beutner’s mission is to make the city “business-friendly” by using the public’s money from the DWP and the Community Redevelopment Agency to spur job growth and to expedite whatever business wants by short-circuiting the planning process.
None of that will make much of a difference to the city’s financial health in the short-term as the deficits shoot past the $1 billion mark in the next couple of years.
Beutner compares LA’s troubles to those of IBM a few years back when the new CEO declared: “There’s been speculation as to my vision
for IBM, and what I say to you is the last thing IBM needs right now is a
vision. What IBM needs is a series of very tough-minded, market-driven,
strategies that deliver in the marketplace.”
“It worked for IBM. It’s working for L.A.,” Beutner wrote.
It is the fatal flaw in what he is trying to do.
The business of City Hall is not business. It is governance with the goal of improving the quality of life for its residents, which includes a healthy business climate, job opportunities, public safety,libraries, parks and all the other public services we rely on.
“The city of Los Angeles is a service business;” he acknowledges but then adds:”our
customers are our taxpayers.”
The taxpayers are not customers; they are the shareholders, the owners of the city. It’s not the politicians, bureaucrats, businesses that own the city; it’s the people.
That’s why the vision of what kind of city LA is and what it should be is far more important than deals to bring in the U.S. headquarters of a Chinese company importing electric cars made in its home country.
It may not be Beutner’s job to provide the vision for LA’s future. But it’s somebody’s.
If not him, who?