Unlike City Ethics Commissioner Nedra Jenkins, I believe every elected official in LA is corrupt to one degree or another because the system itself is so corrupt and corrupting.
“It’s as if we believe everybody’s corrupt, and I just don’t think
everybody’s corrupt and everybody’s subject to undue influence,” Jenkins was quoted in the LA Times as she cast the lone vote against proposed reforms to clamp down on gift-taking by public officials..
The Daily News added this quote from her: “It makes the city look good to have public
officials there. I don’t think there’s really as much of
a concern by the public of undue corruption. It’s not as if we believe
everybody is corrupt or subject to undue influence.”
Jenkins clearly never had a serious chat with the official who appointed her, former City Controller Laura Chick.
Early on in her career as a West Valley Councilman, Chick learned that she could not get anything done for her district or the city as a whole unless she went along with policies she despised but couldn’t do anything about because the political game in LA is all about money — money from the developers, contractors, unions and others who expect favors for their money and profit a hundred-fold for their contributions.
And that was long before City Hall became the ethical sewer it has become today.
On Tuesday, the long ineffective Ethics Commission took up a series of proposals to (partially) close some of the gaping loopholes in the rules like the one the mayor has used to justify taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in “gifts” for free tickets, expensive meals and fine wines, many from people with business with the city.
The fact is the mayor’s conduct was unethical and illegal under current city and state law although it seems likely not much will be done about it beyond a fine that will simply give him another excuse to tap into the same people who have donated millions to his various fund-raising committees certain in the knowledge they would be as handsomely rewarded for their donations as they have been for their “gifts.”
If by some chance District Attorney Steve Cooley’s Grand Jury were to return an indictment, the result would be far more substantive ethics proposals than those endorsed Tuesday by the Ethics Commission and far-reaching changes in the political culture of City Hall.
Merely having a Councilman indicted for felony voter fraud and thus holding his seat illegally has done nothing to slow down Richard Alarcon.
But a mayor would be different, or at least we can hope that his removal from office would lead to a special election which would likely produce a field with more candidates than the number of voters expected to turn out for the March 2011 City Council elections.
What does it say about a political system that tolerates corruption of all sorts and offers nothing but loophole-laden reforms even when scandalous misconduct like the mayor’s is exposed?
What does it say when not a single elected official has the courage, or even the ambition, to seize the moment and stand for a sweeping cleanup of City Hall?
What does it say when the six incumbents running for re-election in March and the designated successor to Greig Smith are on the phone all day tapping into the same old sources of dirty political money despite the widespread public discontent with City Hall’s performance?
What is says to me is that despite the nervousness at City Hall over the failure of our city officials, they still don’t believe voters will rise up and throw them out or that they have to make dramatic changes in how they manage the city and the public’s money.
LA Clean Sweep (lacleansweep.com) has won support from hundreds of people. It will take thousands to turn City Hall around.
Many are still sitting on the fence, preoccupied with their own focus of interest in city government or reluctant to get involved for other reasons like the fact that much of the early support has come more conservatives.
There’s nothing ideological about Clean Sweep’s good government goals of fiscal responsibility, honesty and openness and preservation of the quality of life for all.
It will take people from every part of the city, people with widely divergent political views, to topple the political machine and turn LA around.
It will take an uprising of the people, or else nothing will change.