Why Tom LaBonge Should Retire for the Good of the City He Loves

No greater love has anyone for the City of Angels than to devote most of his adult life to its public service.

For that, Tom LaBonge deserves honor as LA’s ambassador to sister cities, its amateur historian and official greeter and cheerleader.

But there comes a time to make way for others more able to deal with the big problems the city he loves so dearly faces.

And for Tom LaBonge that time has come.

For the good of the city, he loves so dearly Tom should retire from the City Council and accept the accolades and honors, the hefty pension and the love of everyone.

Tom talks a lot at Council meetings but says very little. He seems to have little grasp of the complexities of issues or have anything to add to debates that themselves offer little to the public discourse or knowledge.

His colleagues snicker when he rises to speak, smirk when he strings together the disjointed thoughts that pour out of him, the remembrances of the good old days when Tom Bradley was mayor and John Ferraro stood like a tall protective oak over City Hall and Gil Lindsay did his business under that canopy of shade.

Two younger men –Stephen Box and Tomas O’Grady — are both far more capable than Tom of representing Council District 4 and standing up for the whole city..

They are challenging LaBonge in the March 8 election. Like all incumbents, LaBonge draws on money from unions, developers, contractors and assorted insiders while Box and O’Grady rely on grassroots support from ordinary citizens.

We all know most voters are apathetic, defeated, disengaged or uninformed and are likely to vote for the name they recognize.StephenBox-banner.jpg

The LA Clean Sweep movement — a political action committee formed by ordinary citizens with no more agenda than to end the corruption and bring responsible government back to City Hall — has voted to support Stephen Box.

Box has worked tirelessly for years to organize and empower Neighborhood Councils, helped lead the citywide effort to make cycling safe and end police harassment, and played a key role in the defeat of Measure B two years, the $4 billion solar energy boondoggle.

He has raised enough money to qualify for city matching funds and run a credible campaign with professional help and an army of more than 200 volunteers to staff phone banks and walk precincts.

On Sunday  Box and his supporters held a press conference in the rain at Garfield Place and Hollywood Blvd. to support Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to abolish Community Redevelopment Agencies and accuse LaBonge of consistently siding with developers against the interests of the community.
The site is a 1.8 acre vacant lot surrounded by a chain link
fencing. Residents have fought for so long to turn the site into a park that the lot is commonly referred to as “Garfield
Park.” LaBonge has thwarted their efforts in hopes of using CRA tax dollars to aid a commercial developer.

Last weekend, Clean Sweep sent a dozen precinct walkers into Latino neighborhoods of North Hollywood, a constituency that LaBonge has long neglected. These are voters struggling to pay their soaring DWP bills and make ends meet but whose concerns fall on deaf ears..

In coming weeks, Clean Sweep volunteers will work others parts of the heavily-gerrymandered district that twists through Toluca Lake, Silverlake, Los Feliz and parts of Hollywood.

You can contribute or volunteer to help Stephen Box here or contribute (no limits on donations) or volunteer to help the Clean Sweep campaign here

End City Hall’s giveaways of public money to the rich, restore library, parks and public safety services, support fiscal responsibility, honesty and integrity, don’t sit on the sidelines — get involved in efforts to sweep City Hall clean.Enhanced by Zemanta

Bruno, LA’s Watchdog: Antonio’s Incredible Job Opportunity, Apply Now!

Like every bum who has every been homeless, Bruno’s got friends in low places.Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image

You know hiding in the bushes, under freeway overpasses, dark corners of parks — friends who keep their eyes and ears on alert for scraps of food, even food for thought,

It was one of those old watchdogs that came across this nugget in the garbage of one of that army of paid workers in Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign who are lucky enough to have their own very private website to keep in touch and share job opportunities, like this one posted Tuesday by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s press spokesman Sarah Hamilton.

More than just the Messenger
Job Opening – New Media Director, Office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (Los Angeles)
The Office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is hiring a New Media Director
Job Description Below:

  • Work with Deputy Mayor and Lead Spokesperson to design and implement online communications strategy.
  • Manage and update online content.
  • Work with Mayor’s policy teams to get accurate, up-to-date information online.
  • Manage day-to-day updating of Mayor’s website and social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, Flickr and YouTube.
  • Manage all photo, video, and design production within Mayor’s office.
  • Manage Mayor’s email list, and develop strategy to grow and cultivate the list.
  • Develop long-term strategy for using new-media tools to organize residents support the overall communications strategy.

A dream job for Bruno if he was looking for a work, exactly what I do. I bark the alarm if the mailman or anyone else comes within `100 feet of the house and decide who gets in and who gets mauled. Every dog in the neighborhood spreads the word.

There’s a lot of dogs I know who knew all about social networking.

“Gardeners are here, noisy bastards, I’d like to kill them.”

The word spreads just like that.

If Bruno wasn’t semi-retired, he’d jump at it — got to be worth a lot
more than 2,000 $50 bags of Eukanuba, food for a dog’s whole life.

There must be thousands, tens of thousands who could do that kind of work right here in LA where it seems like nearly everybody is out of work or having a hard time putting chow on the table or wherever they put it..

Trouble is nobody knows about this great opportunity except the privileged few who Sarah Hamilton told about it on the private site for Clinton campaign alumni.

That’s something to bark about.

There’s gotta be some young pup or mangy old dog out there who does how do this stuff and needs a cushy job with the mayor himself.

Just write sarah.hamilton@lacity.org. I tried but haven’t heard back. I even tried calling but she just stepped away and didn’t return my call.

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Real L.A. News from the Virtual World — Pensions, Poisons, Politics and a Remembrance

San Francisco Leaders Join to Find Solutions to Public Employee Pension Crisis

By Elizabeth Y. Stevens, Bay Citizen

A small but powerful group of politicians, union officials and civic
leaders arrived at City Hall this morning for a planned 9 a.m. meeting
with newly appointed Mayor Ed Lee.

Their agenda: Find a solution to the ballooning public employee
pension and health benefit costs that that threaten to swamp the city’s

The unusual working group was convened by investor and philanthropist
F. Warren Hellman, and held its first meeting at Hellman’s office on
December 9, according to one of the group’s leading members. They have
met roughly every two weeks since.


Toxic Tour: All Roads Lead to Boyle Heights

By Investigative News Network

Nestled between the Los Angeles River and the 710 freeway, and often
passed off as just another crime-ridden neighborhood by outsiders, Boyle
Heights is home to a growing concentration of Latino immigrants, many
who lived in and strengthened this community for generations.

Heights became a center for immigrant life in L.A. as early as the
1920s and remained so for decades. It was a place to call home when
other parts of the city wouldn’t open its doors. In the 1930s, its
demographics began to shift when Mexican families started to populate
the area as Jewish and Japanese families moved out. Today, Boyle Heights
boasts nearly 110,000 residents.

Dissected by five major
freeways and neighbor to several industries, the residents of Boyle
Heights face significant amounts of noise, air, industrial and traffic
pollutants every day.  As part of the award-winning “Toxic Tour”
reporting project sponsored by Newsdesk.org and Spot.Us, this project
will bring you coverage from this underreported community highlighting
the detrimental effects caused by pollution and other harmful
environmental health factors.

Brown’s CRA Abolition Plan Targets Corporate Welfare

By Steven Greenhut, Cal Watchdog

This really could be the beginning of the end for the state’s
redevelopment agencies, those noxious, corporate-welfare-enabling
entities that have wreaked havoc on property rights in California since
the 1950s.

The new governor’s budget plan would eliminate California’s
425 redevelopment agencies and divert the cash that now goes through
them to developers and planners and use it to pay off debt, enhance the
state budget and pay for traditional local services such as schools and
police. This is one of the most fiscally prudent ideas imaginable, and
the best evidence to date that Gov. Jerry Brown might do some welcome
and unpredictable things.

Already, we’re hearing the cries of woe from those who believe that
government central planning is the source of urban revitalization.

(READ FULL STORY and Listen to Martha Montelongo interviewed Greenhut and me about the CRA on KRLA 870 at 11 p.m. Saturday night)

Remembering the Challenger Explosion
25 Years Ago

Michael Szymanski, then a young Daily News reporter, offers a remembrance of that day 25 years ago when he was sent scurrying across the country in pursuit of the story.

“Find something different and call me in an hour,” his editor instructed. “Just do your magic. Go tell me a story.”

Szymanski, now the Patch com reporter for Studio City, recalls his adventures as he went about finding stories that captured the emotions of the people at the Kennedy Space Center as they dealt with the tragedy.


Whatever Happened to the Rule of Law?

Jill Stewart at the LA Weekly asks the right question about disclosure that the LAUSD cop faked the shooting that closed down El Camino Real High and much of Woodland Hills last week as 350 LAPD officers searched for a phantom suspect:

“When is an outside investigation going to do a full and long overdue
look at the nasty stuff unfolding inside this non-transparent police
department overseen by the Los Angeles Unified School Board — which
can’t oversee third-grade recess with consistent success?”jeremy-marks-search.jpg

Disclosure that Officer Jeff Stenross actually shot himself comes as another LAUSD police incident has prompted a protest at noon today at District Attorney Steve Cooley’s office.

The case involves Verdugo Hills High student Jeremy Marks, an 18-year-old African-American who was arrested last May and jailed for eight months on felony “lynching” charges on high bail involving what at worst seems a minor incident involving LAUSD Officer Erin Robles.

Cooley’s office led raids Wednesday by up to 30 LAPD cops on Marks’ Lakeview Terrace home and on the home of a student who recorded the skirmish last May and posted it on YouTube — a video that seems to show Robles was at fault, and Marks was innocent.

With the possibility of Marks being exonerated and LAUSD and Cooley facing huge legal liability, the raids in which computers, cell phones, cameras and papers were seized and the homes left in upheaval clearly was a desperate attempt to try to find  anything that will bolster the case against Marks.

The case has inflamed racial tensions that have been exacerbated by the heavy-handed raids in which officers closed off neighborhoods and refused to show search warrants for up to 45 minutes.

Organizers of the protest today at 210 West Temple St. are accusing the DA of “Gestapo tactics” and demanding a full, independent investigation.

“These raids bring to mind what it must be like to live in a police state,” said Celes King, director of the Congress on Racial Equality, said in a statement announcing the protest. “DA Cooley is on a fishing expedition. Nine months after the incident, it is hard to understand why he would need to order a vicious raid on an African-American family’s home to gather evidence that has been available since May.”

In a personal letter Thursday to Cooley, King appealed to the DA to take charge of the situation before it leads to demands for a federal civil rights investigation that would go far beyond the Marks’ case.

“The reality is your office has created a fiasco out of a case that should have been summarily dismissed through a series of inept actions designed to umbrella a fishing expedition to justify unwarranted actions at a tremendous cost to the taxpayers of this county. It is time to stop this charade of justice that has in fact violated several areas of constitutional protections.”

Whatever happened to the rule of law?

We are living in extraordinary time of a long-term economic crisis with enduring high unemployment yet crime by ordinary citizens is at a generational low point and abuses of the law by officials is at an all-time high.

A cop who fakes a shooting, police and prosecutor abuses of basic civil rights, a mayor who goes unpunished for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts, a Councilman indicted for voter fraud, a Community Redevelopment Agency that scoffs at the law, defies the governor and gives away the city’s wealth to the rich — the list goes on and on.

It’s all pretty bizarre when the besieged public is law-abiding and the privileged government is making a mockery of the laws they write and enforce.

Real L.A. News from the Virtual World

Gov. Brown Hangs Tough on CRAs After Meeting Antonio, Other Big City Mayors

Citing a poll showing two-thirds of voters back him, Gov. Jerry Brown
had this to say after hearing how the mayors can’t live without their
redevelopment slush funds:

“The hallways are going to be crowded in the coming months with people
who say, ‘Please keep the money coming.’ And my message is, ‘The money
is not there.'”

“My hunch is that redevelopment is a somewhat mysterious process to the
average voter. If you’re saying you’re going to close the
county hospital or lay off firefighters or you’re going to eliminate
something called redevelopment, I think more people are going to say, ‘I
think we can do without redevelopment. We can’t do without public
safety or schoolteachers.’ “

“The defenders of redevelopment have a hard sell.”

“An economist would be hard-pressed to show me that continuing
redevelopment and laying off the equivalent of $1.7 billion worth of
employees is not an equal job loss. I think they’re pretty even.”

You can email your support for the governor’s plan to abolish all CRAs to balance the state budget by using the form on his website. You can FAX Attorney General Kamala Harris at 916-323-5341 if you want her to take legal action to stop the LA CRA and others from locking up redevelopment funding before the legislature acts.

Golden Key Gives Black Eye to Wannabe LA Mayor Rick Caruso

Billionaire developer isn’t helping his campaign to be mayor of Los Angeles with his heavy-handed attempt to get the Glendale City Council to confiscate Ray Patel’s Golden Key Hotel adjacent to the Americana at Brand development.

The widely-publicized case involves Glendale threatening to use its power of eminent domain to seize Patel’s hotel and turn over the property to Caruso so he can make it part of his Americana development, which is built on land given him by the local redevelopment agency.

KRLA 870 talk show host Kevin James interviewed Patel for an hour today about how Caruso has offered $6 million for his property — what he paid for it in 2002. Patel doesn’t want to sell and today is filing his own plans to redevelop the hotel — plans he says that have been thwarted by Glendale officials after years of assurances his business wouldn’t be jeopardized by the Americana project.

You can listen to the interview here: Part1, Part 2, Part 3 or go to Kevin James podcast site.

Redevelopment Agencies’ Filings Contradict Jobs Claims

By Jim Miller, Riverside Press-Enterprise

SACRAMENTO – Many redevelopment
agencies’ recent reports to the state list few, if any, jobs created and
little in the way of new construction or building
rehabilitation, according to state data..

Local officials have attacked the idea, saying the elimination
of California’s more than 400 redevelopment agencies would
cripple efforts to create jobs and revitalize blighted blocks in a
struggling economy.

But many of the agencies’
own filings with the state controller’s office failed to show
such achievements, at the same time the agencies collected
billions of dollars’ worth of property tax revenue that otherwise
would have gone to schools, cities and counties.

(Read full story and search CRA database of projects filed with State Controller)

What happened to the rule of Law in LA County?

By Bob Blue, via email

In their haste, Los Angeles rushes with 24-hour notice, to shield their funds through convenance.

Instead of acting in their best behavior, Redevelopment Agencies are spending like drunken sailers (Eli Broad, $52 million), while at the same time furloughing employees, closing libraries, and “brown-outing” Fire Stations.

In Los Angeles, they are rushing so fast, that the ante has been increased.

Let’s give $52 million to a Billionaire Eli Broad. And yet that money could keep libraries and Fire Stations open.

And as CRA/LA Vice Madeline Janice said, 1601 N Vine is the poster child for abolishing CRAs. LA overpaid (discovery of a hidden appraisal) by $1.4 million for a total of $5.45 million to a developer who’s “star projects” are going bankrupt. Now the City is proposing to sell it back to the same developer for $825,000.

And in Glendale, another Billionaire, Rick Caruso, whose Americana Brand Development is under performing and whose Condos won’t sell, runs to the little Glendale Council and asks them to bully an hard working immigrant whose family came to this Country legally and run a nice hotel, Mr. Ray Patel and the Golden Key Hotel.

Caruso and the Glendale City Council, under Caruso’s control are telling Mr. Patel either sell or be condemned.

What did Mr. Patel do to have the City of Glendale use its Eminent Domain power against him to force him to give up his property? – Nothing. He is small hard working businessman.

Why isn’t this type of story being reported?

Because Redevelopment Agencies are truly – The Unknown Government (for the very Rich and Well Connected).

And Los Angeles and Glendale Politicians are in the thick of it and will get away with the theft of public funds and the abuse of Eminent Domain while the press, with its great responsibility to shine a light on government activities, instead reports on the Cities of California “outrage” of their Redevelopment Funds for the Rich and Connected.

But there is apparently no concern or rule of law in LA County.

Because all there is no accountability when all of this going.

At the very least, why don’t we here a statement from the Board of Supervisors?

At the State Level, why isn’t our new Attorney General, Ms. Harris speaking up for these abuse – We need an injunction and we need open and public debate?

And what about those of us who support Gov. Brown, are we being heard?

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Gambling $52 million on the Grandiose Avenue Project Without Asking Any Serious Questions

It’s a shame smart guys like Eric Garcetti don’t put their brains to better use than to sell fantasies to the public on how the investment of just $52 of their money in a parking garage for the Broad Museum will generate 1,340 jobs and $234 million in direct and indirect revenue and make LA arts and cultural capital of the world.

What a deal!
When dumb guys like Tom LaBonge and Ed Reyes talk that way, it’s a lot more understandable. They don’t really know what they are talking about, so they read whatever script they are handed and then.vote the way they are told.
Tony Cardenas, Paul Koretz and Richard Alarcon can feign stupidity and ignorance with those guys but you know they know better, they’re just going along for the ride. It pays the bills for them and all their friends.
“W have to call bad redevelopment bad redevelopment when we see it and we also have to embrace good redevelopment when we see it,” Garcetti declared piously during the short discussion Wednesday before the Council unanimously approved the Community Redevelopment Agency’s gift of $52 million to support billionaire Eli Broad’s vision for Grand Avenue and Bunker Hill.
Like the $30 million gift of taxpayer money to bring Cirque du Soleil to the Kodak Theater — part of a heavily-subsidized project that is worth a third of the $600 million it cost — the Broad Museum, 37,000-square-foot plaza in front of it and the parking structure are what Garcetti regards as “good development,” proper uses of money skimmed from the general fund and schools and other core services for the purposed of replacing “blight” with more beneficial uses.
Reasonable people, like taxpayers who see their libraries and fire stations closed and parks program gutted and streets crumbling, might wonder how those glittering towers of steel and glass on Bunker Hill represent “blight.”
But that’s because they have taken a course in how Bunker Hill was the trigger for downtown redevelopment, the centerpiece of the strategy that poured billions in public money through CRA into the pockets of rich developers who had the prescience to sell high to Indonesians and other foreign investors and buy back at the bottom of the market and then pickpocket even more subsidies from the CRA to inflate the value of their property yet again.
When you’ve got their clout at City Hall, it’s not hard to outsmart any outsider. Just ask AEG’s Tim Leiweke how much it cost him to buy a seat at the table of power so he can get anything he wants whenever he wants it.
Bunker Hill is an urban disaster, a zero on the walk-ability scale, the antithesis of Fifth Avenue in New York or Michigan Avenue in Chicago where vast throngs stroll and window shop and hang out to see and be seen. It’s a sterile desert when compared to the old run-down areas of downtown where throngs of working class people walk from tiny schlock shop to tiny schlock shop.
It didn’t have to be this way. When the started this real estate scam, one of the greatest in a city built out of real estate, there were alternative architectural visions that would have brought shops along Grand Avenue and people and business and jobs and spurred development of a downtown that was worth building a rail and subway system that went nowhere but downtown — not the airport, not the Hollywood Bowl, not Dodger Stadium.
Let bygones be bygones. 
Eli Broad has his Grandiose Avenue vision that he has thrown all his enormous clout behind that somehow will make it all work and the Downtown rail connector will make the whole system work and downtown will truly flourish and be something to be proud of, something that works for people, unlike all the luxury hotels and entertainments that the CRA paid to help build.
Maybe he’s right but it’s an examined proposition and even the CRA admitted that tax increment revenues from its projects downtown and elsewhere are falling and in sufficient to cover its debt for the parking garage or much else.
The best they could say in response to Cardenas’ softball question was that they gave Broad $8 million to design the parking structure and are on the hook for $24 million in debt that might never be paid back unless the billionaire puts on his philanthropic hat and pays it off.
While LaBonge prattled mindlessly as usual and suggested “Tom Bradley, John Ferraro and Gil Lindsay would be smiling” from heaven at this deal, Alarcon drew the incomprehensible distinction between the city selling nine parking lots for a song at a fire sale and the CRA building, owning and operating a brand new parking lot.
The CRA assured him that revenue from the Broad Museum would cover “operational costs” — not make money, just meet costs. Alarcon was satistied.
For his part, Koretz wanted to know what would happen if the CRA is abolished — as Gov. Brown wants to do to restore the state’s financial health and stability — and was told the city general fund would only get $10 million or so of the $52 million –enough to reopen all libraries, something that ballot Measure L for all its support from Broad doesn’t guarantee.
What would happen to the rest of the money, like keeping teachers from being laid off, was never asked but Koretz had done his job and elicited a half-truth or in this case a one-fifth truth.
Jan Perry, the queen of downtown redevelopment subsidies, talked about how this was a “rare opportunity” to “elevate to a higher level” downtown development even though the prize development two luxury condo towers to be built by Related Cos. have no funding and the penalties in the firm’s contract have never been imposed.
It was Garcetti who carried the question so many are asking: “How can we provide tax money for billionaires instead of for our core services.”
The answer he offered was as simple-minded as some of his colleagues.

“The public good,” he answered, as if gambling $52 million on a parking structure for a questionable luxury condo project that is in limbo is the proper use of the public’s money is a good thing.

It’s Eli Broad’s vision that matters but he hasn’t put any guarantees in writing as CRA Commissioner Madeline Janis pointed out last Thursday and not a single Council member dared to answer just what his commitment is if this deal turns sour and the public is stuck with the bills. 

Real L.A. News from the Virtual World

Editor’s Note: The City Council today put off until Feb. 9 consideration of dismantling the CRA and reorganizing it as a non-profit. Mayor Villaraigosa and other big city mayors are lobbying Gov. Brown today to drop plans to abolish all CRAs.

Road Map to CRA Scandal — It’s in City Controller Audits from 2000 – 2006

Five City Controller audits since 2000 can help State Controller John Chiang’s effort to examine 18 Community Redevelopment Agencies — including LA’s — to see if they are worth the billions of dollars poured into them.

Here’s links to the audits website and to the CRA audits since 2000:

Community Redevelopment Agency Review of Capital Records Parking Transaction

Assessment of the Internal Control Process at the Community Redevelopment of the City of Los Angeles

Review of the Loan Underwriting Practices at the City of Los Angeles Redevelopment Agency

Financial and Compliance Audit of the Community Redevelopment Agency’s Disposition of Real Estate

Review of the Fiscal Year 2003-04 Internal Control Certification Program (ICCP) for the Community Redevelopment Agency

Follow-Up Audit of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA)

Throw in Staples Center and LA Live along with the Vinegate, Kodak Theater, CIM Group deals, Hollywood and VIne apartments and the Grand Avenue Project and a pretty clear picture of abuse is as clear as the skies over LA after a heavy rain.

Then, there is the CRA’s trashing of Boyle Heights and the Eastside by importing the homeless, the mentally ill and the very poor into neighborhoods struggling with poverty.

Here’s a link to video of the CRA’s Eastside Adelante Public Advisory Committee voting Tuesday to support Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to abolish all CRAs as part of a plan to erase a $25 billion budget deficit and restore California to financial stability.

DWP.’s 2010 Water Management Plan: Will Lowered Supply Lead to Slower Growth?

By David Coffin, Westchester Parents

After decades of rosy water supply projections proclaiming practically limitless supply, the (DWP’s) new 2010 Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) is coming to terms with a long overdue reality. Water supply hasn’t grown as expected and the water supply isn’t expected to grow substantially…

In recent years there has been a growing contradiction between ‘sufficient’ water supplies regularly cited by planning documents for new developments, and the city’s strong arm tactics to force residents into conserving.

Will the new 2010 Urban Water Management Plan’s reserved assessment offer us some relief from the aggressive development that came with the overstated assessments we have saw over the last decade?

The decision to provide water connections to new projects, thus manage growth is a political decision; and I might add that it’s not the result of any calculation that considers both supply and demand. With that in mind you won’t find any new verbiage in the plan that protects the community by linking development to water supply, real or projected.

If there is any relief in sight it will probably have to be the result of political pressure or a court decision.

With far lower projections in this latest plan it would not be unreasonable for residents to expect, even demand a moratorium on new developments. Water supply had dropped to dangerously low levels when projects were approved and built within the scope of the previous UWMP projections. The new UWMP has served notice; the margin of safety is gone.

Officials can’t keep ducking from reality and ignore the regions limits to water supply and then compound the problem by repeatedly approving new developments that consume more water.  It’s a one-way ticket to disaster.


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City Hall’s Failure: Hard Data on How Little They Have Done to Fix the Budget Deficit

So nearly three years into the financial crisis, it’s fair to ask what have the mayor and City Council done to solve the problem caused by wages and benefits, including pensions and lifetime health care, that account for more than three-quarters of city cost.

We know that the civilian work force has taken most of the pain through furloughs, which are days off without pay, and that the structural deficits grow larger each year going forward  — $350 million or more next year — even with some pressure relieved by increases in the value of pension fund assets

Without offering her own narrative, Controller Wendy Greuel released charts Tuesday showing how the city work force — civilian, police and fire but not DWP, Airports or Harbor — has fluctuated since 2003, the middle of James Hahn’s term, through today.

She also released the work schedules of city workers by department (LACITY-Schedules.pdf).

The chart shows of the 37,000 workers, only 13,256 work a normal 5-day, 40-hour week like nearly everybody who pays their salaries. Nearly 9,000 work nine days out of 10 for a total of 80 hours in the two weeks but 400 work only 72 hours.

You can download the workforce charts and analyze them for yourself (LACITY Workers.pdf).

What they show is that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took over a civilian work force of 21,000 in July 2005 and quickly expanded it to more than 23,000 by June 2007. It is now down to 19,304 — 2,400 paid off to retire, 1,600 transferred to DWP and special funds or through open job eliminations and less than 400 laid off.

The Fire Department grew by 200 to 3,750 under the mayor and is still roughly 50 employees higher although furloughs have closed many fire stations on a rotating basis.

The trash fee that was tripled solely to hire more police has added less than 800 officers to 9,963 while the civilian LAPD work force has shrunk, forcing many of those officers into desk jobs.



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Utter Contempt: No Quorum Forces Cancellation of City Council Meeting

Showing their utter contempt for the public, the nation’s highest paid city officials failed to show up for Tuesday’s City Council meeting, forcing its cancellation for lack of a quorum.

Apart from more giveaways to the entertainment industry, the key item on the agenda was ratification of the Community Redevelopment Agency’s decision to reach a formal agreement (CRA) to dismantle itself and reorganize as a non-profit in defiance of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to balance the state budget by abolishing all 400 CRAs statewide.
The LA CRA is trying to keep control of nearly $1 billion that otherwise would be used for schools, parks,libraries, police and fire services that have been sharply slashed because of the city’s budget crisis.

Despite the performance of Council President Eric Garcetti as he chatted merrily with Paul Krekorian seated next to him, it seems pretty clear that talks are going on in back rooms and with legislators on what to do next and the failure of Council members to show up was just another staged action.

State Controller John Chiang’s decision to audit LA’s CRA along with 17 others across the state puts them all on notice that the games they have played with the public’s money are going to be part of the debate.

Unlike some smaller communities that use most of their CRA to actually build decent affordable housing and rebuild their infrastructure, most of LA’s money goes to the drain in subsidies for luxury hotels, condos and entertainment as well as funding for politically connected non-profits that support the City Hall machine.

If LA’s own controller Wendy Greuel wants to stake out her position as a mayoral candidate, she needs to beat Chiang to the punch and expose the scandal at the CRA. Of course, she is a supporter of CRA CEO Chris Essel so don’t expect much, a whitewash at best.

Real LA News from the Virtual World

Blighted Land Meets (CRA) Sleight of Hand

CD4 candidate Stephen Box, at City Watch LA, writes about Saturday’s LA
Alliance of Neighborhood Councils meeting at which Community Redevelopment Agency official Jim Dantona defended City Hall’s attempt to save the agency from being abolished by turning it into a non-profit outside Gov. Jerry Brown’s control.

“Any attempts to move forward must be supported by real data, not simple
anecdotal evidence, and the people of LA must come first with a process
that is participatory and supported by honest and open accounting,” Box writes..

“The City of LA’s credibility has been destroyed by stalled projects that
blight communities, approvals of projects to politically connected
developers of dubious performance history. As developers return to the
trough for additional funds to complete projects already approved and
funded, the CRA’s scramble to divert funds from essential programs and
services is a self imposed death blow.

“The City of LA’s ability to weather the current fiscal crisis depends on
its credibility. The world is watching, the financial community is
preparing for triage, and the people who call LA home have been
betrayed. It is imperative that the City of LA put the people of LA
first by putting our money where it belongs, in our communities.”

(Read full story and watch videos)

Why the NFL Doesn’t Need a Team in Los Angeles

By Andres Martinez, Zocalo Public Square

In a tribute to the National Football League’s nostalgia-tinged,
size-doesn’t-matter, redistributive genius, Super Bowl XLV will pit the
nation’s 152nd largest metropolitan area against its 22nd largest.
Green Bay defeated Chicago yesterday to clinch the National Football
Conference; Pittsburgh prevailed against the New York Jets in the AFC

Think about that. In what other contexts could Pittsburgh and New
York – not to mention Green Bay and Chicago! – compete on a level
playing field?

The NFL’s socialistic revenue-sharing arrangement, which treats all
franchises alike and thus helps shine an outsized spotlight on
communities like Green Bay and Buffalo, is made possible by a
half-century-old law that exempts sports leagues from antitrust laws
when negotiating their TV contracts. The NFL, Congress decided, should
be considered a “single entity” rather than a collusion of franchises
and their owners, at least when making deals with TV networks.

(Read the full story by Andrés Martinez, editorial page editor of the Los Angeles Times
from 2004 to 2007)

Call to Action: Help Save the Marina from Over-Development

By “We Are Marina del Rey

February 1, 2011 at 9.30 a.m. the LA County Board of Supervisors will
hold a  public hearing on the Marina del Rey Local Coastal Plan
Amendment (LCPA),
  which proposes to change land uses and development
laws which will change the Marina forever with an increase in
residential and commercial development (density and building size), more
hotels and fewer recreational facilities,  substantial reduction in
parking lost, and the obvious, a major increase in  traffic.

February 1 is our FINAL OPPORTUNITY to
tell the Board of Supervisors that the greater Marina del Rey community
is opposed to their development plans. We want a master plan with
balanced development that is based on a community planning process and
the Marina’s recreational mandate.


Press Giant Rivalry: New York Times Knocks LA Times

By Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times

Big-city newspapers all across the country have suffered one indignity
after another in the last few years. But few of them have been as hard
hit — or gotten as much grief for it — as The Los Angeles Times.

Here in the city that has always strived to show how a sense of
sophistication lies beneath the silicone and the superficial, The Times
has joined the city’s impossible freeway traffic as a unifying force of

In the sidewalk cafes, coffee shops, hair salons and studio lots of this
sprawling metropolis, the notion that The Times remains one of the best
newspapers still in business is a foreign one.


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