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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


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

  1. Stzlyee says:

    Can YOU think beyond and be broadminded? Or will, in the end it be the same-same-same?
    Politics
    Less focus on Celebrations and more focus on department function and efficiency.
    Example
    We just were provided a Status Report. This report said, based on our projections, BY YR End, (quoting Eric) it looks like we are 63 Million in the RED; We are not 63 Million in red now.
    After 1 Quarter of operations WE can’t even get a Variance Report, dept by dept, lets get the facts.
    Well, if you want to be a Councilman, or Mayor you must make the Controller work work work; to make sure the day to day operations bring to the table an improved collection process, effecient services to the people, and control of resources.
    If you want City Hall to be like a business, you have to be inclusive and empower people to work to the best of their ability. When those folks who work for the City believe the Leaders don’t care, or believe they are corrupt. They are working for Retirment; not to deliver services.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Then we have another dumb article from LA Times’ Christopher Hawthorne who always seems to be confused between his role as an architecture critic and a developer’s shill. Typical of his articles, it is all over the place. The only clarity is that he wants more density and takes to task anyone who puts forth a reasonable argument against it and a mass transit that will have little impact on the traffic caused by that additional density. He writes that “Someday, maybe, Los Angeles will come into its own as a post-suburban city, fully comfortable with density and multifamily housing and the coexistence of private cars, pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit”.
    However, the most laughable part was about our own corrupt Garcetti “Take a recent flap over proposed town houses in Echo Park — and City Council President Eric Garcetti’s reaction to it. Garcetti is knowledgeable and thoughtful on issues related to density, growth, transit and park space. But like any L.A. public official, he remains vulnerable to the prevailing political winds, which often blow strongly against the idea of a denser city. Earlier this month, his office announced that it would not support construction of the controversial eight-unit project, which would be in Garcetti’s district”. So Garcetti sacrificed a small developer. Ask his constituents if he has ever done the same to the big moneyed ones.
    The more LA Times continues to be a mouthpiece for the Mayor and developers, the more out of touch it is with its readers.

  3. In Eagle Rock says:

    Eric Garcetti has to be one of the biggest phonies on the City Council. He’s into the pension reform now, and only now. Months ago in the discussion of actions to take on budget matters, he did not even want to discuss changing the pensions when the matter of “defined contributions” vs. “defined benefits” was brought up – for NEW hires. This was not even going to affect current employees but Eric didn’t want to entertain any discussion. Now he’s got no choice, but he’s trying to parlay that into something of an achievement in the budget battle.
    They all want glory rather than just doing a competent job. That’s probably how they make the problems worse. The idea of densification is what’s been constantly pushed forward by these CMs in all they do. But when it comes to “infrastructure,” they know it’s not up to handling CURRENT level of demand, yet they continue to seek more and more development as if seeing a multi-story development next to your backyard is what you always dreamed about.
    No, they just want to be trailblazers in “green” technology, forgetting that the first of any new technology is bug-laden and overly expensive compared with what comes after that “beta” level of product is refined. Using tax dollars now for over-priced products doesn’t matter as long as it’s not the CMs’ money.
    And where this is coming from the DWP side, you know they don’t lose- they just change rates to cover the difference and then some. Use too much water, then your bill is higher with penalty rates. Don’t use enough water to give them a profit, then the prices will go up somewhere to recoup that. You can’t win with DWP- and why do they even have a PR dept. when they are a monopoly? My guess is that it’s there to deliver the messages to convince you of the need to pay more for less- less service, less use of the utilities and less attention to what they should be doing to run a leaner and more efficient department.
    And the question that’s been lingering so long from my perspective is- and I hope that I am not the only one thinking this: How come the DWP, as a supposedly “public utility” company that serves the people, continues to have “SURPLUS FUNDS” every year of about $220 million that they pass over to the City’s General Fund?
    Why isn’t that money KEPT and used to offset costs and keep bills down, or, to MAINTAIN infrastructure all the things that we see have been breaking over the last few years? The DWP is truly a slumlord here, siphoning off money to shift to other recipients and continuing with a subpar level of performance. When they have emergencies and need to fix broken water mains so regularly as seen in the past year, HOW much EXTRA was spent in this activity compared to having put the “SURPLUS” into maintenance to avoid the emergencies from old weakened equipment and material?
    Well, CMs will have some sort of answer for that since they don’t want to lose out on that DWP money each year to cover their budget’s shortcomings. Meanwhile, I guess if they squeeze in a few more thousand people into each CM’s district, that somehow what we all need to make our neighborhoods better. And I don’t see more people generating any more revenue compared to the strain on all existing city services that you see now being cut back anyway.
    What is the plan of the City Council with so many inconsistencies readily apparent and yet they try to tell us it will work out if you let them manage it. I don’t buy that one bit, and they haven’t shown me they will change so out they need to go.
    One last thing, Eric Garcetti should not even consider being mayor- nor should anyone else now in city government.
    And tell me, what would happen with Alarcon’s status as CM and pending trial if he were in an even numbered district with the election coming in March? Would he just move back into his district to try for another term? I think he’s termed out anyway, but you see that there is no other CM willing to touch the subject of his removal since they probably want the same “hands off” treatment if and when they get caught for anything.

  4. Anonymous says:

    No, they just want to be trailblazers in “green” technology, forgetting that the first of any new technology is bug-laden and overly expensive compared with what comes after that “beta” level of product is refined. Using tax dollars now for over-priced products doesn’t matter as long as it’s not the CMs’ money.
    I guess even with all the Prop 23 commercials on the radio, you still have never heard of AB32, which mandated green technology about 4 years ago. You must still think the council is doing it because it sounds cool, as opposed to doing it because if they don’t, the utility as well as every other utility in California will get major fines in 2020.
    How come the DWP, as a supposedly “public utility” company that serves the people, continues to have “SURPLUS FUNDS” every year of about $220 million that they pass over to the City’s General Fund?
    Wondering where you got $220 million from. The power transfer fee was $73 million, and blogs like these actually defended the transfer (on this blog, everyone except Humphreville implied it was okay for the DWP to transfer ratepayer money to the General Fund by making it look like DWP was holding the city hostage). In reality the transfer is a misuse of funds and the DWP is actually in the right since they’ve been fighting this for a while.
    Regarding surplus funds, if you had billion dollar projects that will take years to complete and not completing them on time would get State or Federal fines, I would hope you’d have some kind of budget that projects into the future. EPA316b alone woll cost the DWP a couple billion to complete. Meanwhile half the people on this blog were complaining about DWP keeping 1 billion in savings, acting like it’s good budgeting to get as close to net zero balance as possible by the end of the fiscal year.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Most of the people on this blog have been complaining about the obscene wages of DWP employees.

  6. John from Foothills says:

    To Anonymous on October 25, 2010 5:04 PM,
    Just tell me why Garcetti is still supporting 1601 N Vine Street despite cover-up of an appraisal, the give-a-way of millions of taxpayer dollars, the fact the office buildings in Los Angeles have high vacancy rates (they didn’t account for the 2008 economic meltdown and instead use 2006-2007 reports)?
    And while we are on the subject of mandates, everyone needs to remember that this City Council supports the bills that you referenced. It is a self-imposed mandate. If the LA City Council had any business-sense they would have lobbied for relief – That is if any Councilmember or the Mayor has any clout or connections in Sacramento. If they don’t they should be replaced.

  7. Anonymous says:

    To John,
    As far as Garcetti, I don’t know. I wasn’t even talking about him in the first place. That’s a different subject.
    State mandates are not self-imposed by city councils, that makes no sense and I don’t know where you got that from. The way policy works is State or Federal government passes a law and gives a deadline for compliance. If the entity, be it city, utility, or private corporation does not comply, then it gets fined. For AB32, the DWP has until 2020 to comply with a 33% RPS, GHG standards, etc and Federal laws like EPA316b (retrofitting water intake structures), NERC CIP standards, etc. For just the RPS alone, non-compliance by 2020 will mean a State fine of 5 cents per KWH up to 25 million. The city council has no choice but to support these bills because they’re State law, and unless Prop 23 passes, they will remain the law.
    And as far as DWP is concerned, the utility has lobbied for relief many times, from IBEW’s push during deregulation to have LADWP be exempt from giving up Generation and Transmission assets, to most recently, when Beutner lobbied for an extension to EPA316b.

  8. Anonymous says:

    “Most of the people on this blog have been complaining about the obscene wages of DWP employees.”
    Most people just echo Ron’s comments about salary without bothering to research what people in the utilities industry actually make.
    Meanwhile, Ron thinks a DWP tree surgeon who cuts trees 60 feet above a power line that can kill him if he messes up should make the same salary as a Parks and Rec tree surgeon who cuts trees 10 feet above a swingset in the park, just because they have the same city job class, Tree Surgeon. Do you agree?

  9. Anonymous says:

    5:04pm- check the budget numbers again- the infamous $73 million fought over by the Council and DWP was a PART of a bigger sum that brought the total higher, and it was not itself the entire transfer for the fiscal year.
    Usually the amount is transferred in one transaction, not split as it was this year.
    That DWP “suplus” continues to be included as a budget component, with the expectation of an amount over $200 million, last mentioned at the Mayor’s Budget Day just 10 days ago in the presentations.

  10. John from Foothills says:

    Ok Anonymous on October 25, 2010 7:54 PM,
    First, I’m going to assume that you work or used to work for DWP (I know that is an ASSUMPTION).
    Let’s get back to DWP. I said that the City Council supported the State bills that you are referring to – please do your research better. In that sense, it is self-imposed. They could have lobbied against it, but did NOT. Afterall, you can’t support a bill in the State Assembly and then complain or fight the very bill you supported – Does that make sense?
    Regarding 316b (once through cooling), that is a Federal EPA mandate, not a State mandate. But the State is implementing it and did call for comments by those affected such as DWP.
    The DWP was inept on 316b. They first didn’t respond in a good way and were going to allow implementation by 2015, then Freeman scrambled to react. It took heavy internal lobbying for Buetner to take his position then DWP was immediately criticized by Environmental groups.
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2010/10/ocean-pollution-power-plants-dwp-california.html
    There is the political side at DWP that wants to appear “green” and not fight for the ratepayers. Then there is very few left at DWP that realize that DWP needs to act aggressively like a business, but their voice is usually left behind.
    And to muddy up the waters, elected officials – the Mayor and City Council want to look green and not look at cost-benefit analysis.
    If someone tries to challenge the EPA’s position, they are immediately labeled anti-Environment without an intelligent conversation.
    When the City Council and the public complain about DWP, they need to realize that the majority of the blame needs to lie with they Mayor’s office. He appoints the Commissioners who also approve the General Manager.
    The City Council does have a role in vetoing the Mayor’s choice, but so far, have not grilled any of the Mayor’s appointments for DWP.
    Either the Mayor’s policy is being followed at DWP and he needs to take responsibility for it.
    Or the DWP is a mad 800-pound monster because the Mayor is incompetent (or has attention deficit disorder) and not doing a good job reining in the power he has.
    Either way, “the buck stops here” for the Mayor.

  11. John from Foothills says:

    To Anonymous on October 25, 2010 7:59 PM,
    Edited: “DWP tree surgeon versus Parks and Rec tree surgeon Do you agree?”
    NO I DON’T.
    In this economy, the Parks and Rec tree surgeon with proper training (which takes time and money) would do the more dangerous job without a pay change if offered that or layoff.
    Also a new hire (sometimes with a lot of experience) would take the more dangerous job for the “Parks and Recs” pay, especially when Unemployment is higher than 12%.
    Private industry has very high unemployment and faces massive layoffs. Government workers don’t.
    I don’t relish anybody facing layoffs, that is a horrible position for a family to be in. But what about shared sacrifice?

  12. John from Foothills says:

    Just to add to the “Tree Surgeon” discussion – Unemployment Hits Most Sectors of the Economy, Except Government
    See “Bull Market in Government – It’s the only sector that seems to be hiring” from April 2009.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123879709571688051.html
    Unlike some of those criticizing DWP and City workers in general, I am not jealous or hateful.
    I am just asking everyone for a reality check.

  13. Anonymous says:

    5:04pm- check the budget numbers again- the infamous $73 million fought over by the Council and DWP was a PART of a bigger sum that brought the total higher, and it was not itself the entire transfer for the fiscal year.
    If you’re adding in the 10% utility tax, you shouldn’t be because that tax is valid. But that $73 million is questionable, the equivalent transfer on the Water Bill was already declared illegal by the courts, and the City Council should not be demanding additional money from a proprietary fund to put into the General fund to account for their own financial mismangement in the first place
    I said that the City Council supported the State bills that you are referring to – please do your research better. In that sense, it is self-imposed.
    If that’s your logic, that makes sense. My point is in the bigger picture it’s a state law, so local politicians have very little leverage to influence it beforehand and none after the fact. Holding them accountable for a State Law that made perfectly good sense 4 years ago is somewhat disingenuous.
    When the City Council and the public complain about DWP, they need to realize that the majority of the blame needs to lie with they Mayor’s office. He appoints the Commissioners who also approve the General Manager.
    I agree and it all goes back to reforming the charter. The GM needs to be freed from political influence so he can do his job. Make the GM a figure voted in by ratepayers for a static term instead of someone appointed and fired by a single office.
    In this economy, the Parks and Rec tree surgeon with proper training (which takes time and money) would do the more dangerous job without a pay change if offered that or layoff.
    Of course. I’m sure there are people out there who are willing to do lineman work for $10 / hr because they need a paycheck. But that’s a different topic. We’re talking about whether DWP workers are overpaid. I’m asking that before you assume they are, look up the payscales for employees of other Southern California utilities.

  14. John from Foothills says:

    “Holding them accountable for a State Law that made perfectly good sense 4 years ago is somewhat disingenuous.”
    Who is being disingenuous? Why don’t you explain why this law made sense 4 years ago and not today.
    “My point is in the bigger picture it’s a state law, so local politicians have very little leverage to influence it beforehand and none after the fact.”
    The City of LA, as the largest City in California has a lot of influence on State law, especially those that impact it. My point is right on target – When the City Council and Mayor support a State law it is self imposed and they should not complain about the very law they SUPPORTED! Any other view would be from the Twilight Zone.
    “Of course. I’m sure there are people out there who are willing to do lineman work for $10 / hr because they need a paycheck.”
    Now who is being disingenuous? Any reader can look up the salaries of City and DWP employees and your example at $10/hour should cause anybody to question YOUR credibility.
    “We’re talking about whether DWP workers are overpaid.”
    Ok, let’s look at our closest neighboring Municipal Utilities: Burbank, Pasadena, Glendale. Pick any of those. In fact pick any Municipal Utility in the Nation and you will see that DWP wages are higher.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Who is being disingenuous? Why don’t you explain why this law made sense 4 years ago and not today
    Because in 2006 there was no recession
    The City of LA, as the largest City in California has a lot of influence on State law, especially those that impact it. My point is right on target – When the City Council and Mayor support a State law it is self imposed and they should not complain about the very law they SUPPORTED! Any other view would be from the Twilight Zone.
    The people who run the City of LA are not State politicians who pass state policy. Can you agree with that at least? Or do you think when the Governor and legislature ratify a State AB that affects every city from SF to SD, LA is 100% responsible.
    Now who is being disingenuous? Any reader can look up the salaries of City and DWP employees and your example at $10/hour should cause anybody to question YOUR credibility.
    I’m echoing your tree surgeon logic to show how stupid it is. AKA X person should not be paid n amount of dollars because Y person exists who would be willing to do it for less. Your argumentative logic, not mine.
    Ok, let’s look at our closest neighboring Municipal Utilities: Burbank, Pasadena, Glendale. Pick any of those. In fact pick any Municipal Utility in the Nation and you will see that DWP wages are higher.
    Fine, let’s start, even though those utilities have less than 20 substations each and DWP has several 100. A City of Burbank load dispatcher makes more than a DWP load dispatcher.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Ok, let’s look at our closest neighboring Municipal Utilities: Burbank, Pasadena, Glendale. Pick any of those. In fact pick any Municipal Utility in the Nation and you will see that DWP wages are higher.
    BWP Apprentice Line Mechanic $34.95 / hr
    LADWP Assistant Lineman $30.69 / hr
    BWP Electrical Eng Assoc $37.43 / hr
    LADWP Electrical Eng Assoc $34.91 / hr

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