Don’t let anybody tell you that your City Council doesn’t have a heart — no brain and no courage maybe — but a heart definitely yes.
Today, for instance, nine days before America honors its veterans, an especially important event at a time of endless war, the Council is taking up a motion by indicted felon Richard Alarcon “to explore additional ways to honor our veterans, such as special rates for veterans who use the City’s golf courses on Veterans Day.”
Given that rates have nearly doubled in recent years under the mayor and Council’s leadership, I’m sure every man and woman who served in our country’s military will be happy for any discount just as long as they don’t have to play in uniform.
Of course, it’s hard to believe the city will be able to bestow this favor on veterans by this Nov. 11, maybe next year or the year after.
Today, though, they will provide more specific honors posthumously on Steve McQueen and Dr. James Andrew Brooks by naming intersections after them And what would election day be like without the Council getting around to endorsing Prop. 21, the $18 surcharge for state parks, after nearly everyone has voted.
Time doesn’t mean much at City Hall since everybody involved, including the politicians, feel they have an entitlement to a lifetime position no matter what.
That is surely why the Council has waited until the last day for action to decide on a slew of charter reforms and ballot measures for the March 2011 election.
You can understand why the six Council members up for re-election and the staff member anointed by the machine for the seventh seat want to drape themselves in the cloak of reformers.
The last four years have not gone well so they can hardly run on their record of service to the public, not when they have gutted core services, pushed the city to the brink of bankruptcy, failed to confront what is broken, given away fortunes to insiders while destroying the quality of life by subsidizing over-development and increased rates, taxes and fees to the breaking point.
Other than AEG, CIM Group and all the other insiders who fund the politicians in exchange for favors, would anybody in LA answer affirmatively this question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”
If you look at the Council regular agenda for today or the supplemental agenda, you will find everything from a tax on marijuana to no less than a dozen proposals to reform the DWP from a Rate Payer Advocate to requiring independence and competence of the commission members.
Trust me on this, whatever DWP measures makes it to the ballot will be as watered down as the city’s water supply to reduce the toxicity level without actually cleaning it up.
Last week, the Council eliminated universal mail-in voting in city elections from consideration but now is looking at ballot measures for instant runoff voting even though it’s not technologically feasible and to lift the cap on matching funds for candidates of city offices — a great idea but they haven’t come close to defining how that will move us to fair elections that are totally public financed.
Then, there’s the taxes on marijuana businesses, on oil extraction, and for libraries — not to mention the billboard tax that they shied away from last week.
Although City Hall is moving to make community plans and public input on new developments irrelevant, the Council is considering a Charter amendment that would “require all of the City’s Community Plans to be updated every ten years” — a good idea but they fired most of the planners when there’s already a 20-year backlog and they have ignored for a decade the legal requirements to report on the cumulative impacts of development on the infrastructure.
There’s measures to short-circuit competitive bidding by allowing “competitive negotiation or best value selection process for major design-build construction projects” — in other words, the bigger the project, the easier it will be to cut deals in back rooms.
Finally, there’s a series of six Charter amendment changes in the rules for city employment, including a provision that would make deputy fire chiefs subject to political control like other top managers and one that would eliminate the need to actually test applicants for some civil service positions — presumably to make patronage and political control that much easier.
There are even more measures lurking out there like weak pension reform for new hires — as if there will be very many for years to come — and a requirement for a two-thirds vote to raid the dwindling emergency reserve fund — as if that is much of a safeguard with a Council that votes 99.93 percent unanimously.
All in all, it’s pretty clear that if everyone in town is mad as hell at the failures of the mayor and City Council, the only strategy left is to make the March 2011 ballot so long and complicated that voters will grow weary and confused that they ignore what’s important — the election of better people for a better government.
Personally, I think they are making a big mistake and welcome the opportunity to confront their failures and the largely meaningless proposals they are offering to a variety of problems without actually dealing with the No. 1 issue: They have lost all credibility and are incapable of dealing with the monumental problem of their overspending and under-performing.