Antonio’s Pale Green Record: Why a Million Trees Don’t Grow In L.A.

“Each tree planted needs water and care for its entire
life. It’s worth the work. Over its lifetime, that tree will pay you back in
lower energy bills, higher property values, cleaner air and water. “

Mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa, May 2006

That was the commitment Antonio Villaraigosa made to the people of Los Angeles when he announced he was America’s greenest mayor and would plant a million trees.

“I love this amazing city, and I know you do too. As part of a larger effort to make Los Angeles greener, cleaner, healthier and more beautiful for us all to enjoy, I have launched the Million Trees LA initiative; the plan is to plant one million trees over the next several years,” the mayor promised.

How’s he done?antionio-trees.jpg

For a man with visions of high office, fantastically. He got great publicity on NPR and other local and national media.for his million trees and sparked imitators like New York Michael Bloomberg who’s meeting his tree planting targets.

But Antonio always has begrudgers.

When he passed the 200,000 tree mark last year and staged a press event for planting 55 more, the LA Weekly mocked his effort under the headline “55 Down — 799,945 to Go” and said, “At L.A.’s current planting rate Mayor Villaraigosa would not only be long out of City Hall by the time the millionth tree is put in the ground, but also out of the governor’s mansion as well, should he end up there.

Best laid plans like Antonio’s ambition to be governor haven’t worked out any better than his million trees initiative.

At this point, he’s handed out less than than 300,000 seedlings without knowing if they actually got planted or are surviving today — or what it would take to accomplish such a feat in a city so over-built there’s only room for 1.3 million trees, according to a U.S. Forest Service aerial reconnaissance and computer analysis reported by the Washington Post.

The Forest Service found “the space is actually quite tight” and that “realistically” the only places available are in the yards of private homes.

A study on “Trees of Los Angeles” early in this decade noted LA didn’t have a sidewalk repair program for 22 years, leaving 4,300 miles in sidewalks broken in 2001 while 262 miles were being fixed annually, “preserving approximately 7,000 trees
that would have otherwise been removed.”

“The City of Los Angeles included trees as one of the major infrastructure elements in the General Plan Framework in the 1980’s,” the study city and Forest Servive experts noted.

“Although expanding the City’s ‘green infrastructure’ was a stated policy in the  Plan, implementation of this major step lagged behind. Frequently, trees were the last consideration during design and development but the first consideration for removal when they conflicted with other infrastructure.”

So the neglect of basic services and critical interests of the community didn’t start with Antonio but he’s taken it to new heights of political posturing while gutting basic services to depths never before reached.

The problem is that the mayor has slashed funding to nothing for tree trimming and maintenance, resulting the loss of untold numbers of trees,  and cut staff so deeply into the budget that the city’s trees on street lawns are dying or left dead in place by the tens of thousands.

Here’s what he called for in his budget for this year:

Reduced Services
Street Tree Maintenance (3,330,732) (4,705,008)
Delete funding and regular authority for 60 positions due to the
City’s fiscal constraints. These positions were previously assigned
to perform proactive street tree maintenance. Tree pruning
services will be provided with the remaining staff on an emergency,
as needed, basis. This service reduction will increase the annual
tree trimming cycle to an undetermined number of years. Related
costs consist of employee benefits.

Far more damaging was the loss of trained staff to the sweetened Early Retirement Incentive Package and the transfers of dozens of tree specialists to the Department of Water and Power.

Sorry, city workers now say, if they aren’t an imminent
danger, dead trees are just left standing there, no staff to chop them
down, remove stumps or plant new ones. Of course, residents can file
applications, pay fees up to $400 for each of those privileges and pay a
contractor to do the city’s work.

But don’t
fear, America’s greenest mayor has a plan to tap into his cash cow, the DWP, to serve his purely political purposes
even as he shines off his responsibility to provide a basic service to
the public.

Here’s Item 28 on the agenda of the obedient DWP Commission for Tuesday:

“Recommended by Chief Operating Officer and Senior Assistant General Manager – Sustainability Programs and External Affairs) (Approved by General Manager)
Resolution authorizing execution of the Memorandum of Understanding with Board of Public Works of the City of Los Angeles to fund a single Citywide Tree Planting Program in support of the Million Trees Los Angeles Initiative. Funding shall not exceed $4,450,000 for a term of two years.”

Get it? There’s no money to maintain the basic service of trimming the city’s trees, keeping them alive, chopping them down or replacing them on street lawns — a core city service.

But the money you pay in soaring rates for water (another increase on Tuesday’s DWP Commission agenda) and power is coming in handy to keep his failed million trees fantasy alive..

Like the sidewalks that are crumbling, the mayor’s and City Council’s solution is to rid themselves of all responsibility and charge property owners of that what a decent neighborhood — the same people who pay a lot in taxes for tree trimming, tree maintenance, tree replacement, sidewalk repair.not to mention libraries and parks and street sweeping and everything else that has been sharply cut or eliminated.

What passes for the rule of law in Los Angeles works something like this:

If you’re an ordinary person, you pay through the teeth and get no services but if prop up your failed city officials with your money or political clout, you get whatever you want.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Trutanich Calls for Reform of Neighborhood Council Elections

While the CIty Council ran circles around Jose Huizar’s “Voter Bill of Rights” on Friday, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich was proposing how to reform the Neighborhood Council election process to give the system more legitimacy.

With the deadline for action looming Tuesday, Huizar’s colleagues stalled votes on his proposals for Charter reforms to provide more money in city matching funds to candidates and instant runoff voting and watered-down the effort to extend mail-in ballots automatically to all registered voters to a possible ordinance for a test in the next Council special election.

That could come sooner than many might expect if Richard Alarcon is convicted of perjury and voter fraud.

Trutanich honed on three changes to NC elections:

1) clarifying the term “factual basis” stakeholder
2) establishing voter pre-registration, which will allow Neighborhood Council leaders to take a greater role in the determination of stakeholders eligibility to vote, while streamlining the election process for the City Clerk
3) requiring documentary proof of stakeholder status rather than granting voting privileges based on the voter’s self-affirmation of his or her stakeholder status.

“The stakeholder definition allowed individuals to assert any basis for their involvement with a Neighborhood Council,” Trutanich said in his letter to the City Council.

“Stakeholders” should be required to show “an ongoing and significant interest in a community,” he said.

.”The key problem is the CIty Council’s 2008 change that expanded the definition of a stakeholder to include anyone “who lives, works or owns property in the neighborhood and any individual who declares a stake in the neighborhood and affirms the factual basis for it.”

“Accordingly, the definition should provide criteria upon which to demonstrate a nexus with the neighborhood in order to ensure that a voter’s stake in the neighborhood is not merely incidental, but ongoing and continuous.”

Read the full letter (trutanich-NC.rtf).

Enhanced by Zemanta

Naked City: Another DWP Scandal, Gatto’s Gutless Play

Your DWP at Work: They Drink, Go to Sex Clubs and Steal Your Money

Shocked and amazed — that’s the official position of the Department of Water and Power over revelations that its employees are accused of running a six-year, $3 million scam with the utility’s credit cards.nakedcity.jpg

“We are outraged by these alleged crimes and will seek to
recover at least $3 million that was stolen over a six-year period,” DWP spokesman Joe Ramallo told the LA Times.

Prosecutors filed one felony count of conflict of interest, one
felony count of misappropriation of public funds and two felony
conspiracy counts against Anthony Carone, 49, and Akbar Fonooni, 55.

They allegedly used about a dozen DWP  to buy at least $3 million in products — including furniture for executive offices — between 2003 and 2009 at inflated prices from dummy companies they set up..

Four felony charges also were filed against Troy Mitchell Holt, 45,
whom investigators described as a friend of Carone. At least $1.4
million in purchases were routed through J.J. & R. Sales, a company
set up by Holt, authorities said.

Assemblyman Gatto Squelches Mayor Sam — What’s He Afraid of?

The most viewed and emailed story at dailynews.com today is “Mike Gatto forces blogger to remove postings.”

Kevin Modesti tells the story on the front page off how the San Fernando Valley are Democrat, elected in a special election in June and facing Sunder Ramani again on Tuesday, has his lawyer threat Mayor Sam’s mastermind Michael Higby with a cease and desist letter and threats of a libel suit.

Like most bloggers, Higby didn’t have the money to fight and took down the five items about Gatto written by Scott “Red Spot” Johnson.

“If he was in fact libeled, he’s entitled to use
the courts just like anybody else,” said Peter Scheer, executive
director of the San Rafael-based First Amendment Coalition. “But he
needs to remember he’s now a public official, and public officials have
to have thick skins.

“If (Gatto) is going to threaten lawsuits every time somebody posts something he doesn’t like or may be false and
defamatory, he’s going to spend all of his time in court and none of his
time being an effective assemblyman.”
 

Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, the stories are still available in cached copies on Google so you can see for yourself what Gatto didn’t want people to read.






Wanted: A Thousand Citizen Watchdogs

The mayor’s only claim to fame is the sharp reduction in gang crime that has occurred under his watch, an achievement attained by ceding the turf of the city’s poorest areas, throwing tens of millions of dollars at the problem and giving jobs to ex-hoodlums that could have gone to the half million unemployed and underemployed law-abiding people.
It would prove far more costly and difficult to achieve the same result with regards to official corruption in the city, county, schools, MTA and other political institutions.
There would have to be an honest cop in every office and back room, bugs monitoring every email, phone call and conversation and GPS on every car of the thousands of “players” who make up the incestuous system of politicians, political operatives, lobbyists, consultants, contractors and developers.
The system’s answer when its nefarious dealings are under suspicion is to appoint citizen watchdogs that come from the same vested interests or an inspector general when thoroughly exposed.
It started in the 1990s when the MTA’s corruption on rail construction projects was revealed in great part by gadfly John Walsh’s efforts.
The inspector general’s office was created and succeeded in quelling the flames of public anger by making sure the appearance of corruption was cleaned up without actually delving into what was going on behind the scenes.
The money kept flowing from special interests into political campaign coffers with healthy “commissions” being taken along the way by the operatives who arrange the deals.
After passage of Measure BB, the first in a series of school construction bond issues now totaling more than $20 billion, LAUSD ran into the same problems, the answer was to appoint an ex-FBI agent, Don Mullinax, as inspector general.
For a year or so, he had free reign but once the public concerns subsided, he started running into interference and eventually quit in disgust at being thwarted at every turn.

Thumbnail image for marezhot.jpg

Today, with the heat on the DWP, the mayor and City Council are working out the final terms for a Rate Payer Advocate to protect the public from the scandalous abuses that have gone on for so long.marezhot.jpg
It’s a tricky game but you can be sure that what is approved next week for the March 2011 ballot will do more to create the appearance of reform than actually protect the public’s money and make sure it is spent for the public’s benefit.
Yet another institution subject to reports of misspending the $6 billion in public taxes for construction and rumors of far worse misdeeds — the LA Community College District — has just resorted to the fig leaf of creating an inspector general to restore the appearance of order.
Earlier this month, LACCD named Christine Marez to be its newly-created inspector general with a $705,000 a year five-year contract for her newly-created firm
This sparked a lot of controversy for Marez, a 46-year-old single mother who was given to posting her business activities on Facebook and her dating activities like pole dancing at the Playboy Mansion on My Space where she described herself as “The Hotness” — a view of Marez that was captured at HollywoodHighlands.org.
Obviously embarrassed by the lurid display, Marez’s My Space page now says, “Oops, we couldn’t locate the page you are looking for.”
She’s a curiously interesting choice for inspector general given her background. She is a Cal State L.A. and USC-trained electrical engineer who says on her Linked In site that her experience includes 10 years as a “senior construction manager” at the DWP, eight years with an engineering company with the last three as a consultant on LAUSD’s construction program.

For the past four years, she lists herself as “Director of Policies” on construction, formally known as the Director of the Office of Construction Management Standards.

In June, she says she formed Policy Masters Inc. and is its president and CEO. Her Facebook page, now only available to friends, tells a somewhat different story starting with a New Year’s resolution to “double my income” in 2010. 

By mid-January, she was telling friends she had started Policy Masters and by May 12, she posted this:”I am looking for an auditing firm to partner on a Proposal due this Thursday. Creating this to happen by noon today. Worth 4300k a year…”

On May 19, she posted this: “My new firm is at the top of the list for an amazing contract!! Asking for your love and support…tomorrow at 2 p.m. they choose us unanimously!”

Apparently successful in winning that contract, she went after the college inspector general contract in August and was awared it on Oct. 6 by the LACCD board.

“By employing an inspector general who reports directly to us, the Board will be improving our oversight of the District’s bond program and hopefully will be increasing efficiencies over the remaining years of the construction projects,” said Georgia L. Mercer, president of the Board of Trustees.

Maybe, but a lot of the problems in the LAUSD construction program involved the use of consultants and the lack of policies and standards, according to a Feb. 24, 2009 audit by then Inspector General Jerry Thornton.

In 2006-07, shortly after Marez went from being a consultant to an LAUSD employee, he found there were 1,277 contractors in the Facilities Division earning $186 million — 1.7 times the cost of full-time employees. 

He noted the lines of authority between staff and consultants were “blurry,” causing a “lack of accountability” and hiring other consultants from their own firms as well as signing their time sheets.

Fourteen months later, an LAUSD consultant was indicted for allegedly funneling business from the construction program to a  business he co-owned and Superintendent Ramon Cortines asked LA City Controller to conduct an audit for other possible conflicts of interests.

fOn Wednesday, Greuel released her audit which some might call a whitewash or at the least a burying of a decade of mismanagement and giving a clean bill of health to the district — and presumably Marez, who shared responsibility for the policies and standards of the construction program.

“While we found some potential conflicts of interest during an earlier era at the district, it appears that the LAUSD under its current leadership has made significant progress in reforming the process for awarding construction projects,” said City Controller Greuel. “The district still has room for improvement, but they appear to be on the right path.” 

It’s part of the lore of L.A. that it’s not what you know but who you know.

Nowhere is that truer even in Hollywood than in the political arena.

It’s a small world that connects every government institution from the judiciary to the elected officials and all the players circling ar
ound the system with their hands out for some of the tens of billions of dollars in public money.

Cleaning it up and restoring honesty and credibility is a monumental task and it can’t be done with Rate Payer Advocates under the system’s control our outside consultants  hired as inspector generals reporting to the same people responsible for the problems.

It’s going to take citizen watchdogs tearing into every agency and bringing to light the information that exposes wrongdoing and it’s going to take some of our elected officials finding the courage to stand up to the system that is failing the people.

Read This and Weep: They Fiddled While You Got Burned Economically

At 8:30 a.m. today at its annual Access City Hall program in the City Council Chambers, the LA Chamber of Commerce will release a comprehensive “Jobs Report” on the state of the city’s economy with a district by district breakdown.

The report by Christopher Thornberg’s Beacon Economics doesn’t paint a pretty picture .

“The City of Los Angeles was hit hard by the economic downturn that began in late 2007 and continues to be felt today. Across the board, indicators of economic activity in the city are down from their pre-recession peaks–total employment, commercial and residential construction, and business receipts have all suffered…

“While there are bright spots, the larger trends darken the outlook. The 8.5 percent drop in gross business receipts from 2008 to 2009 in the city signals trouble for local business but also for the local government, as the gross receipts tax is an important source of revenue for the city.

The Chamber is using the report to support its push for city pension reform and tax breaks for business as part of an overall strategy to stir economic growth that stalled when the housing bubble started to burst nearly four years ago.

“The focus will be a targeted agenda of steps that the City of Los
Angeles can take to improve our business climate and encourage the
creation of new jobs,” said Chamber president Gary Toebben.
.

“This report is a first because we broke down existing city and
county data by Council district. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been
meeting with Councilmembers to share our findings and talk about how we
can use this data to move forward with economic development efforts in
their districts.”

Here are a few short excerpts of what the report says is going on economically in the seven Council districts up for election in March:

Paul Krekorian
Employment in District 2 has trended downward over the last three years, falling by 2 percent in 2007 and by 4 percent in 2008 and 2009.Sales tax receipts in District 2 totaled about $26.8 million in 2009, 9.3 percent lower than a year earlier 10

Tom LaBonge
District 4 showed strong job growth heading into 2007 but was hit sharply by the recession. The district lost 11.6 percent of total employment in 2008, the highest rate of job loss among all city council districts. Employment continued to shrink in 2009, with 3 percent fewer jobs in the district.

Tony Cardenas
District 6 has been shedding jobs for four consecutive years. The job losses have accelerated recently as well, dropping 8.5 percent in 2008 and 7.5 percent in 2009.Sales tax receipts in the district tumbled 12.6 percent in the fiscal year ending in 2009 after a 2 percent decline a year earlier.

Bernard Parks
Council District 8
employs the fewest number of people (41,340) and is also home to the fewest number of firms (1,875). Average annual wages of $38,898 in the district also fall well below the city average.Employment and Firm Statistics District 8 has weathered the start of the recession better than the rest of the city, adding 1.7 percent more jobs in 2008 and 2.4 percent more in 2009. No other district reported positive employment growth in 2009. The average wage paid in the district has also show strong growth over the last four years, a 5.1 percent wage increase in 2009 alone.

Herb Wesson

In District 10, a boost in commercial construction in 2006 helped delay the decline in new construction, but building permits for new structures eventually dipped below $50 million from highs above $200 million.District 10 sales tax revenue dipped 8.2 percent, to $11.4 million, in 2009. Growth in receipts was flat in 2008.

Greig Smith
Job growth in District 12 has been negative for all four of the years for which we have data. Also, the rate of job loss has picked up recently as the district shed 5.5 percent of its jobs in 2008 and 2.8 percent in 2009, following more modest declines in the earlier years.Council District 12 has experienced sharp declines in gross business receipts recently, falling by 8.7 percent in 2008 and 6.4 percent in 2009.
Sales tax receipts in the district fell $4.9 million in 2009, to $23.3 million–the largest dollar decline in the city

Jose Huizar
Employment in District 14 has suffered since the start of the recession, with a loss of 5.2 percent of total employment in 2009. After strong wage growth in the three years prior, average wages in District 14 edged down 1.0 percent in 2009,
to $42,688 per year.Sales tax receipts in the district suffered in 2009–dropping 13.2 percent from the prior year, to $9.5 million.

Enhanced by Zemanta


In City Hall’s Animal Farm, One Pig Is More Equal Than All the Others

It was a thing of beauty watching the City Council cower and weasel in the face of union bully Brian D’Arcy and a room filled with his IBEW Local 18.
 
At issue was whether new hires by the Department of Water and Power would be treated the same way as police, fire and civilian workers under proposed City Charter reform proposals that at best are so mild that amount to just a 10 percent cut and will have little effect for a couple of decades.

“Nonsense,” D’Arcy called the audacious idea that his workers — a privileged class even among the privileged classes of city workers.

It took D’Arcy just 43 seconds to make his point and then he watched as one Council member after another, milquetoasts as they are, rolled over and agreed that it would be unthinkable to treat DWP workers like everyone else.

More time is needed, lots more time, maybe years more time, to impose even tepid cuts on pensions and health care for Darcy’s people, council members said.

Showing the depths of his courage, Paul Koretz whined about how D’Arcy would spend a fortune to crush any attempt to fix the DWP pension problems so he offered his unconditional surrender.

It’s better to be sure to rate water and power rates on the four million residents of the city and the hundreds of thousands of businesses.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Three Questions for the City Council — Will They Deign to Answer?

!. Do you support or oppose the giveaway of more than $4 million in the public’s money for the questionable office project by a questionable developer at 1601 N. Vine St. in Hollywood?

2. Do you support or oppose the use of eminent domain to confiscate private property by the Community Redevelopment Agency to turn over to private interests for development?

3. Do you support or oppose the Planning Department’s efforts to short-circuit public involvement in decisions on new developments that impact the qualify of life in neighborhoods?

Those three inter-connected questions are being sent today to all 15 City Council members as LA Clean Sweep expands its campaign to help bring responsive and responsible government to Los Angeles.

They grow out of numerous articles on community blogs and and long email chains that involved dozens of people who see the Vine Street project as one example among dozens of abuses by the CRA, city planners and City Hall’s leadership.

Inspired by an article by “Richard Lee Abrams” on City Watch LA, Clean Sweep is going to mobilize to ask the questions the press never asks of our elected officials and their challengers about the issues that matter most, including where their campaign contributions come from and what favors are being sought from the city.

“LA Clean Sweep has the opportunity to stop the lunacy by asking all
candidates to publish campaign donations and to reveal their Known
Associates, often called a Kitchen Cabinet,” Abrams wrote recently..

“LA Clean Sweep’s request for full disclosure, at this time long before
we vote, will unmask each candidate who is too embarrassed to show the
money and too corrupt to admit who is behind his/her candidacy.”

As we have seen with the US Chamber of Commerce, foreign influence can
be easily concealed from the public.  Let’s be clear, while the Supreme
Court allows corporate influence to remain secret, no law stops any
candidate from disclosing who supports his/her candidacy.  

“Although LA Clean Sweep cannot compel disclosure of the people and
corporations behind candidates, it has the right to ask for full
disclosure.”

Among the questions he wants asked are these:

1. Each person who has contributed money.  This list would provide the
same data the election commission requires, and the cumulative list
should be updated monthly on the candidate’s website.  Candidates who
already hold public office or who have run for office should provide the
same data for the last two elections.

2. Identify each person who is a  Known Associate and/or a Kitchen
Cabinet member, i.e. anyone involved in any decision making role for the
campaign.  The list should be updated monthly on the candidate’s web
page. 

3. The background of each person who is involved in decision making for
the campaign (Known Associates and Kitchen Cabinets). The information
should be updated monthly on the candidate’s web page.

True ethics reform would require that every political contributor clearly identify who they are and their connections to any business or organization that has recent,  pending or expected business involving the city.

And reporting would have to be done in a timely matter on a weekly basis so voters could understand exactly what is going on and make informed decisions on candidates and the policies they are proposing or acting on.

As things stand now, searching campaign finance reports is like looking for a needle in a haystack — you have to know exactly what you’re looking for to have any chance of finding the connections.

We are already seeing on a daily basis how citizen journalists breaking important news by penetrating City Hall’s efforts to obscure what is going.

The Internet is the most revolutionary tool ever invented for revealing the truth and informing the public.

According to a recent Public Policy Institute of California survey, there has been a dramatic increase in how many people get their political news from the Internet.

“A plurality of residents (37%) get most of their information about
politics from television, a 10-point drop since 2007. Nearly a quarter
(24%) get most of their information from the Internet, 15 percent from
newspapers, and 10 percent from radio,” the survey found.

“Those who mainly get information
online are divided among those who read newspaper websites (47%) and
those who go to other types of websites (50%).”

You can volunteer to become an LA Clean Sweep:”Fact Finder” and help demand answers from our public officials. Just email me at ron@ronkayela.com if you want to join the team.

Here’s links to articles about the CRA deal with Hal Katersky’s Pacifica Ventures, a development company that has profited by runaway film production even as it has been hit with bankruptcies and lawsuits:

Enhanced by Zemanta


Continue reading Three Questions for the City Council — Will They Deign to Answer?

Business Leaders Confront City Hall

L.A. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE CALLS ON
MAYOR, CITY LEADERS TO ‘PUT L.A. BACK TO WORK’ AT ACCESS CITY HALL

That’s the headline on Chamber’s final call for you to register for Wednesday’s Access City Hall event in City Council Chambers. Register today at lachamber.com  as business leaders challenge the mayor and Council on pension reform and other issues and releases a new report on the economy by Council districts.

Here’s what’s planned and the program that will continue into the Council meeting:

The L.A. Area Chamber, joined by more than 200 of its members, will continue to push for pension reform and call on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and key city officials to make job creation the top priority in Los Angeles.  The Chamber has outlined an advocacy agenda containing clearly defined objectives that will encourage and support private-sector job creation.  The L.A. Area Chamber will also release a first-ever study that breaks down economic trends and figures by council district, highlighting annual employment, average wage and building permits (commercial and residential) over the last year.  The report also provides a breakdown of gross receipts for the last two years, and 2005-09 gross business receipts.

8:30-9:30 a.m. – Open Plenary with Mayor Villaraigosa

10 a.m. – Business Leaders Present Advocacy Agenda to City Council

11-11:30 a.m. – Public Comment from Business Leaders

Fires of Public Discontent Are Fueling Demands for True Reform of City Hall

Crime and punishment in L.A. all too often means the victims get punished and the criminals get rich.

That’s the experience of thousands of people in every part of the city and the fires of their discontent are blazing so brightly that those with power and influence have begun to take notice.

Our elected officials in their desperation to protect themselves from accountability are trying to drape themselves in the cloak of reforms that do little or nothing to change a failed political culture corrupted by money from special interests.

In the face of intensifying pressure for fundamental change, they find themselves forced to back down on everything from DWP rate hikes to approval of subsidies for projects that provide no public benefit.

Across the city, concerned citizens are digging deep into the record and discovering evidence of wrongdoing and wrong-headed policies.

The public is waking up from its long sleep in apathy and indifference and finding City Hall is a nightmare of mismanagement, its property, policies and politicians up for sale to the highest bidder.

For every apologist for failure in the mainstream media like the LA Times’ Tim Rutten who sees Antonio Villaraigosa as a “visionary” who has “rediscovered” his political courage and is making “remarkable” things happen, there’s a Jon Regardie in the Downtown News mocking City Hall as “one of the
scariest places” in LA, a “Hall-o-ween” haunted house, a “horror show” complete with “ghouls, gasps, budget cuts
and skeletons in closets.”

Regardie, not Rutten, speaks to the voices of ordinary citizens who are using the blogosphere and endless chains of viral email to lift the veil of City Hall’s lies and deceits and expose the face of failure and corruption.

This is a revolution being fought with facts and figures on the Internet, not guns and bombs.

The honesty and integrity of our political institutions are being called into question from the $50,000 county officials make in illegal back door payments that compromise our judges to the LA Community College District hiring an inspector general who’s the friend on contractors she’s supposed to prevent from looting our $6 billion in construction bonds.

The system is spiraling out of control as activists show how de facto Mayor Austin Beutner’s plan to streamline the planning process is a ruse to exclude the public and allow developments, often with heavy public subsidies, that destroy the quality of our lives.

Information gathered by the community has stymied Beutner’s plans for at least 90 days and stalled time after time efforts to give a $4 million gift of public money to a questionable developer to build an unneeded office building on Vine Street in Hollywood.

Dennis Hathaway of Ban Billboard Blight has forced the city to back down on trashing three parks with buildings, picnic tables and trash cans promoting a movie.

Matt Dowd and Zuma Dogg, acting as their own lawyers, won a federal court injunction against a faulty ordinance suppressing free speech at Venice Beach.

Others are progressing with lawsuits over the failure of the city to track the cumulative impact of developments on neighborhoods and to conduct annual infrastructure reports for a decade.

Dirty deals to channel public money through phony non-profits with dubious records are tied up in court even as neighborhoods are starting to work together to fight everything from a Costco in Woodland Hills to the massive NBC-Universal project in Studio City.

City Hall is under siege from hundreds of directions in all parts of the city.

The business community has stepped out in front to challenge the phony pension reforms backed by City Council members who have lost credibility with the public employee unions who helped put them into office.

This is all just tip of an iceberg of what is going on below the surface as people get more involved in their communities.

For the first time in a long time a real conversation is taking place about what kind of city we are and how it should be run and who should run it.

Smart people with records of community involvement and achievement in the private sector have stepped forward and are running for City Council seats in the March 2011 election, challenging the insider political culture..

The winds of change are blowing hard, fanning the passions for real reform. It’s a moment that only comes once a generation and we can’t afford to sit on the sidelines.Enhanced by Zemanta


Gadflies vs. LA: Dowd and Zuma Dogg Beat the City in Federal Court

You can laugh all you want at Matt Dowd and Zuma Dogg, otherwise known as David Saltsburg.

You can look down your nose at them. You can let them get under your skin and be annoyed by them.

But for the second time in recent years — with Dowd as their lawyer — they outsmarted all the lawyers and politicians in City Hall and won a federal court case against the City of Los Angeles.

On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Dean Pregerson ruled that two key elements of the city’s oft-rewritten ordinance intended to crack down on the vendors and street performers at Venice Beach is unconstitutional on their face (Venice Beach.rtf).

A couple of years ago, Dowd won a $500,000 judgment against the city on behalf of himself and Michael Hunt over similar issues involving the city’s efforts to control the antics that make Venice Beach what it is.

It was this case that prompted Zuma Dogg and Dowd to become regulars in Public Comment at City Council meetings. The city keeps stalling on the humiliating act of paying them the money by appealing the case although a more recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in a Seattle case has weakened the city’s claims.

The core issue then, as now, was freedom of speech, the First Amendment.

Pregerson ruled in this new case that he will issue an injunction against the city’s ban on the use of amplified sound speakers on the Venice Boardwalk and on the permitting system used by the city to limit the number of vendors and performers and contain them to about one-third of the Boardwalk.

“The Court concludes that the permit requirement is likely to violate the First Amendment and that, as a result, Plaintiffs are entitled to a preliminary injunction enjoining the permit requirement. The Court therefore need not address Plaintiffs’ alternative argument, that the permitting scheme grants unbridled discretion to licensing officials,” Pregerson wrote in his detailed 27-page opinion.
.
“Because Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claim that the amplified sound ban is facially overbroad (and because, as mentioned earlier, the balance of hardships and the public interest weigh in favor of enjoining regulations that violate the First Amendment), the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction …”

The judge did agree to the city’s request to dismiss the claim the entire vending ordinance is unconstitutional on the narrow grounds that Dowd and Zuma Dogg did not have standing.

He also ducked ruling on their challenge to the Council’s broad Rule 12 that has been used to cut of public comment and expel and ban Dowd and Zuma Dogg.

“The Court expresses no opinion on the merits of those claims,” the judge said.

Enhanced by Zemanta