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Frankenstein City: Face the Horror in LA’s Heart of Darkness, Stand up and Fight

EDITOR’S NOTE: The mayor issued a predictable statement of support endorsing the Council’s action on parking lots, calling it “a critical part of our plan to restore Los Angeles to financial health” and promising to continue to make the “difficult choices.” (Mayor-parking.rtf)  Writer/activist Jack Humphreville filed a Public Records Act request with the city demanding a wide array of documents about the deal, especially the modified terms in the request for proposal (CPR-Humphreville.rtf)

City crews, funded with money intended for graffiti-removal, are out fixing a few thousand of the potholes in LA streets that are cracked and rutted after two decades of covering them with slurry instead of repaving them.

It’s like covering up skin cancer with a Band-aid and hoping it will heal itself. The backlog for repaving has reached the century mark and the nation’s worst urban streets aren’t going to get better on their own.

Taxpayer money went into worker paychecks and benefits to hold together the City Hall political machine just as the mayor and City Council now are giving tax breaks, tax holidays and reduced rates to businesses to buy their indulgence for disastrous policies to prop themselves up.  

In a moment of rate honesty, presumably unconsciously, Council President Eric Garcetti justified the city parking lot sale by telling Rick Orlov in the Daily News:

“We can reduce the compensation of our workers or we
can accept this Frankenstein system. I don’t want a
city with a few firefighters, a bunch of cops and crumbling streets.”

Clearly with the Council’s unanimous support Wednesday for the fourth time to conduct a fire sale of parking lots, the choice of the city’s leadership is a Frankenstein City.

Perhaps that LA ought to be renamed that given Hollywood’s love of horror films and City Hall’s love of horrible policies.

Has Garcetti not noticed that fire stations are being closed, a huge bunch of cops are doing civilian jobs and not out on the streets and the streets are crumbling?

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed reducing the compensation of state employees, getting rid of the CRA, even raising taxes among a long series of measures that got high marks from the independent state Legislative Analyst for charting a course to eliminating the $25 billion-plus budget deficit in three to five years.

City Hall too has a plan: Protect city workers pay and benefits, sell city assets, gouge the public with high fees, rates and penalties for infractions, and borrow ever more to defer judgment day until they are out of office.

The goal isn’t to solve the financial problem. It’s too hold the political machine together and pray for an economic miracle that even the President and his fiinancial advisers don’t see possible for five years — at the earliest.

The city’s gross mismanagement of the parking lots and just about everything else except the parks and libraries — which is probably why the cuts to those departments have been so steep — is well documented in numerous audits, studies and analyses.

Selling non-core functions like the parking lots actually might make sense if it was part of a comprehensive solution to the city’s financial crisis.

But it’s not. It’s just a political deal with the unions — the civilian unions that have taken the brunt of furloughs and other cost-saving steps — that solves nothing.

There cannot be a solution to reducing the cost of city government until all unions — including the IBEW at the DWP — are brought to the table and offered the choice between their jobs or reductions in the cost of salaries and benefits.

Brown understands that the only way the unions would accept that is if the public agrees to pay higher taxes until the deficit is wiped out.

That is what “shared sacrifice” is all about. It’s the only way out of the dilemma.

To City Hall, it’s just a political slogan without meaning. The sacrifices being made during this three-year nightmare of budget crisis are being borne almost entirely by  the political weakest segments of the community: Residents, particularly middle-class people, small businesses and the city’s lowest paid workers.

Many in the most engaged communities among business and community leaders believe they can fight in the courts or work with the political leadership to solve the city’s problems.

But judges can overturn all the planning policies intended to give developers whatever they want and it won’t stop the politicians from finding other ways to achieve the same ends.

The problem is political and the playing field isn’t even.

Brad Smith, running in CD12 in the Northwest Valley, has found out just how hard it is to raise even modest sums of money for his effort to stop the anointing of Greig Smith’s chief of staff Mitch his successor.

Other candidates with integrity, experience and the intelligence to turn City Hall around have run into the same problem.

The Democratic Party has endorsed all the incumbents except blood enemy Bernard Parks, the only fiscally responsible Council member. The IBEW and SEIU have decided to try to unseat Parks in order to get a Council member who will do their bidding mindlessly.

It’s time Neighborhood Council members, homeowner groups and every other local community group come to realize they have to put their money and their time where their mouths are — in the campaigns of candidates or in the hands of the Clean Sweep political action committee where there are no limits on contributions.

You can’t turn City Hall around unless you change the political culture with new energetic leaders who will go to work for the benefit of the whole city.

If anybody has got another way, step forward and lead the way.


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12 Responses to Frankenstein City: Face the Horror in LA’s Heart of Darkness, Stand up and Fight

  1. Shame says:

    A fireside sale will be friendly and all can wipe off the sweat from their foreheads. But as soon as the next breath is taken the other train is comming down the track and its the Pensions.
    They don’t know how to bring money in but they sure know how to spend it and often its with their friends, an election gimic that has run out of “gimic”.
    Our Mayor believes he is smarter than a 3rd grader, today visiting an elementary school while the Governor, our “aging father” of California Politics, has cuts on his mind that has the Politician in an UPROAR, Hell No he can’t said Villaraigosa over the cutting of the infamous CRA. The Elephant in the Room. Notwithstanding Pensions.
    Are we talking with each other and trying to resove the matter? Bill Rosendahl submitted a propsal to the Governor – Any other things we can do? Bill Rosendahl is the only guy who is willing to sit down — Those running for election for LA City Council, although you may sound like an Alternative, WE THE PEOPLE DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE BECAUSE YOU LACK FUNDING TO COMMUNICATE YOUR MESSAGE. IF YOU CAN’T BRING FORTH SOLID SOLUTIONS WORTHLY OF A VOTE YOU SHOULDN’T JUST PUT YOUR NAME ON THE BALLOT.

  2. Anonymous says:

    As usual, the nail’s head has been hit!
    Mitch Englander has raised over $400,000 for his race. What does that say to you? It speaks to me of not only more of the same, but the audacity of the special interests who want Los Angeles to fail. Clearly, there are some very big players on the sidelines who are watching this ship of fools. Looking forward to picking up the pieces from the upcoming fire sale.
    I don’t buy into the thinking that the unions will eventually come to the state’s table once the voters agree to share the pain by voting more taxes. They have the politicians exactly where they want them. No matter how altruistic the voters are. And, since we will never have any significant campaign reform, they have become even more powerful. Yes, raising taxes makes sense – but how do we know the money will end-up where the pols say it will?
    Hate to say it, but sometimes I think the only solution to raise the population is by letting them experience just what many of us have been discussing on this blog and elsewhere. Then they will become frustrated, angry and want to do something. Meanwhile, they are just trying to survive in a world which is growing increasingly complicated and scary. Now, let the trash pile up a few weeks then we will see something happening…

  3. Anonymous says:

    It has been months since the City Phone has been out. The City Planning Commission meeting today cannot be heard. So much for our city that cannot fix something so simple as a phone. The less people who hear their nonsense, the better for them.

  4. Anonymous says:

    “”"Bernard Parks, the only fiscally responsible Council member.”"
    WTF?? You are criticizing yourself in your own post. YOu bad mouth DWP but don’t forget it was the idiot Bitter Bernie Failure of a Chief who hid out like a whimp when the vote was being taken to take over jurisdiction of DWP and this is the man you say is fiscally responsible. Can you possibly be that lame and as weak as they are??? Yup, you guys are. Parks gets over $265,000 in pension plus $178,000 salary. The highest paid PENSIONER ON CITY. Get a grip!! Parks as Chair of Budget Finance IS responsible for all the motions of millions passing thru without much discussion. Its unbelievable how easily you can be swayed by a crook. If he’s so responsible why did he HIDE OUT like a gutless man when the DWP vote was being taken? Why are most of HIS votes throughout his In SUPPORT OF DWP??? You’re no better then the crooks in City Hall with that statement. Ask any cop on the street who hates Parks for destroying their dept and now the Mayor and Beck are doing the same. Changes in overtime and no pay means 540 cops fewer on streets, 154 cops doing civilan work cause City froze hiring, next month 90 cops to staff new jail, total LAPD cops removed 775 from the streets which is equivalent to 4 police stations. HELLOOOO PEOPLE WAKE THE HELL UP. Thanks to Bitter Bernie 1,000 walked out the door. But YOU think he’s fiscally responsible.

  5. In Eagle Rock says:

    10:37 am-
    The way the council members run things, as shown most recently and vividly in yesterday’s Council Meeting, do you think that they want to allow you to witness more of what they do?
    Maybe that could be mentioned in the general public comment, applying some discretionary funds for addressing this void. For incumbents running for re-election in March you can bet no money will be spent to hurt their already-tarnished (at best) images.
    Certainly, no CM will divert money from that self-promotes them for re-election that is billed as “service” to constituents, a legal expenditure of tax dollars but really campaign impact is the equal or greater purpose.
    Garcetti likes to open up Council meetings with all the ways to get information, but the phrase Ric Dees often used, to paraphrase, was, “Get close so you can feel the depth of my insincerity,” is what comes to mind with most of these Mr. Nice Guy recitals of “shared concern for you” that he uses to pepper his pronouncements at each meeting.
    Yesterday was an overdose of this approach- leaving a lot of mixed messages.
    A unanimous vote was the only certainty of what happened, and even that was surprising. But they are cowards and no one will stand alone for any principles. I doubt they even consider that.

  6. Anonymous says:

    OMG!!! Good for politicis bad for politicians
    Is this true, is Ron going to write for LA Slimes??
    Los Angeles Times Community Newspapers Add New Title, Increase Coverage and Circulation with Sunday News-Press & Leader
    LOS ANGELES – January 12, 2011 – Los Angeles Times Community Newspapers (TCN; ) is introducing a new publication on January 30th, targeting Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader readers with the Sunday News-Press & Leader. The paper will feature the local news, entertainment and sports coverage area residents have relied on for more than 100 years, along with more in-depth stories, neighborhood event information, photography and informed opinion. The Sunday edition will launch with a new front-page column by Ron Kaye, former editor of the Daily News, who has covered the San Fernando Valley for more than 25 years

  7. Anonymous says:

    Careful Ron. The LA Slimes gig my just be Eli Broad’s way of silencing you.

  8. Wayne from Encino says:

    Ron’s going to PROFIT from the destruction of L.A, like Kevin the Fumbler, and ClownTranich is. These guys all get PAID to do what they do, like Palin, Hannity, etc.
    There is NO opposition to the Downtown Gang, they have all the power, all the media, and all the money they’ll ever need or want.
    Wed.’s vote was the finale for L.A.
    Ron’s going to work for the L.A. Slimes because like Doug, he’d might as well cash in while he can.
    I went to a meeting that had the Fumbler in attendance with Walter Moore as guest speaker regarding “how to save” the L.A. Republican Party! Walter scooted out of there asap, and the Fumbler didn’t want to talk and skipped out before anyone could speak to him.
    What is it, then, that YOU, the little people can do?
    First, try to leave L.A. and go where people vote down taxes and vote against Liberal pieces of crap politicians. That’s a big one.
    Second, try to relocate out of state if possible.
    Third, if you’re stuck here, then you can vote with your feet. Boycott buying anything in L.A. City or L.A. County, and instead do business with Cities or Counties that have the least sales tax rates. If a place charges parking (like the Jerry’s last night in Westwood, a friggin $5.00 bucks at 7:30 pm for Christ sakes!)
    and doesn’t VALIDATE, DON’T GO, AND TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW. I can tell you the place was 3/4 EMPTY absent the meeting upstairs.
    If you got a 2nd or 3rd car and can park it OFF STREET, cancel the insurance and pay A NON-OP of $18 a year, instead of giving the Sacramento bastards hundreds of bucks for a 2nd or 3rd car!
    Got a pool? Paying for the pump to run all year, maintenance for the pool man, chemicals to keep it clean, and water? DRAIN IT! When it rains, get a SUMP PUMP ($100 FOR A GOOD ONE) and keep it drained so you don’t get problems with Vector control. Got Cable? You’re paying FRANCHISE FEES TO THE CITY: CANCEL IT!
    The REAL POWER in this town is YOU and your hard earned BUCKS. You may not have a vote to get rid of these parasites for politicians, but you can take back your wallets one small bite at a time.
    I drained the pool years ago (savings: $700-$1000 A YEAR!), fired the gardiner and do my own lawn ($600-900 a year saved), and blew off cable T.V. which sucks anyway 8 years ago ($500-$600 a year.) Over a 10 year period, you do the math.
    Your Money is YOUR freedom: The creeps you’re relecting are taking more and more away from you.
    If consumers VETO L.A., guess what will happen?
    The dumb-ass business community will get involved (or they’ll just pack up and leave too.)
    Parking Garages are WORTHLESS unless YOU USE THEM! Find a way NOT TO USE THEM.
    As for Bernie Parks: HE’S A DIRTBAG who double-dips his fingers into the City’s treasury. In his CD, another crook should be elected to take his place.

  9. Anonymous says:

    You have a point. I simply don’t frequent places where I’ve to pay mega-bucks to park. I voted against Measure R, a boondoggle and make my major purchase out of LA County. The politicians in this city are such idiots that they continue to ignore the thousands of businesses that fill their strip commercial and focus only on the mega-developers who fund their campaigns. The business taxes are so high that we live in an adjoining city that does’nt rip us off. LA is going to hell and all the silent idiots who are going to re-elect the incumbents can go down with them.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Wayne at 3:31pm:
    If you don’t need that 2nd and 3rd car, why even have it. Sell it or donate it to charity so the state has to make do without your $18 or $36. If you’re interested in an out of state move, an ideal place for you to live without any government “interference” whatsoever is Somalia. I understand limited government (okay, no government) is working quite well for them.
    Who do you think should pay to build, maintain, and operate parking garages? Is the evil City government supposed to subsidize parking garages with taxes from apparently everyone but YOU so that YOU can park at Jerry’s for less than $5.00?
    How is depriving yourself of your pool hurting the politicians? With your logic, you would not be able to buy anything since the sales tax goes to the government. Your only choice to prevent the government from touching any of your hard earned money is to go completely off grid (although it would likely be difficult to keep receiving any hard earned money if you never left your isolated dwelling, had no utilities due to government taxes, used government streets, paid government gas taxes for your one car that had government registration fees).
    Unless you plan to catch rainwater, you’ll either have the taint of government regulated, tested, and taxed water or have to buy bottled water which leads back to using roads and paying sales tax. Come to think of it, you might have to hold your breath since there is government involvement in keeping the air clean. On reflection, that would solve your problem wouldn’t it?

  11. Anonymous says:

    We are being punished for our father’s sins. Unfortunately with globalization, “baby boomer effect on the economy”, U.S. as a so called declining empire, deindustrialization, anti union sentiment, anti immigrant sentiment, technological changes, regentrification, deregulation….etc….basically the perfect storm…has all contributed to the “messy” redistribution of power and wealth…on a global scale that is….California’s so called $28 billion deficit is not much, when compared to the Feds….looking at a continuum on how we got to this point, both parties Dems and Reps, and citizens are to blame…did we prolong the pain….we’ll I heard one politician say, just after the Wall St. debacle that “he tried to prevent this from happening”, these guys had a good idea about the consequences of their policies, their policies just prolonged the B.S….Now the gov’t is taking it out on us taxpayers because we failed to play their jerry-rigged capitalistic game, failed to consume ravenously, and failed to extol the powerful…How did they solve this, by bailing out Wall St., and making sure our savings will be depleted in the next five years…What is missing here,…the trillions of $$$ spent on “Evil Wars” generated by whom? Now, you can take that to the bank…Bankruptcy…Moral Bankruptcy that is…

  12. Anonymous says:

    I’m having trouble following this Ron.
    In various ways you say the unions are fighting for the big salaries and big money pensions, while harming the most poorly paid workers. Then you say Parks, the most well paid city employee in the history of the Los Angeles, who refuses to take a pay cut, is to be commended for being a fiscal conservative. These two statements don’t meet up.
    Parks gets a $265K pension, AND $180K salary PLUS benefits. I’ll start listening to him the minute he agrees to a significant pay cut in his salary and gives back his pension. Until then, he’s the biggest walking hypocrite of them all.
    As friendly advice the Clean Sweep & Co. would do better to focus on the big pensions and big salaries instead of throwing everyone in the same boat, including the office clerks and janitors who make up the bulk of the employees who keep our city running. My guess is voters don’t like the thought of Parks taking home $40K more than the president of the United States, but they also don’t like the thought of seeing grandmothers who after 30 years of work peaked at reasonable wage, being punished for fiscal mismanagement of the City Council and executive officers.
    The absence of this understanding is likely a big part of the reason pension reform is not more wildly accepted.
    Parks is going to go down in CD8 and the unions will help tip that scale. But the primary reason the district’s voters will reject him is because he’s been a horrible council member. After 8 years he has not a single accomplishment to point to. And as the chair of the Budget Committee, he clearly is the first to blame for our current mismanagement. With the gavel comes responsibility.

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