“There are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws . . . Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
On this day when we honor a great man who defiantly fought against injustice from the pulpit and in the streets, we are confronted by our own city government defying the rule of law, corrupting the democratic process and undermining our governor actually trying to fix the 10-year-old state budget crisis.
On Friday, the Community Redevelopment Agency Board — with just 24 hours notics to the public — voted to “squirrel away,” as Gov. Jerry Brown called it, $1 billion taxpayer money that could go to keep teachers from being laid off and provide for cops and firefighters.
On Tuesday, the City Council, without even a committee hearing, has scheduled a vote on this plan (CRA-Council.doc) and will go along with the subterfuge of dismantling the CRA and re-establishing it as a non-profit to avoid the governor’s effort to save $6 billion by abolishing all CRAs in the state.
This is an outrage, an act of uncivil disobedience that shames City Hall and all the officials who participated in this conspiracy.
Every resident who cares about the state of the city and the future of Los Angeles ought to get to down City Hall on Tuesday to protest.
They trampled on the Brown Act open meeting law. They trampled on the need for a full and informed public debate. They trampled on the hopes of all Californians to bring state spending under control and getting California moving again after years of economic decline.
The CRA acted so hastily even though any legislative action on the governor’s proposal is months away that they left $50 million out of their proposal that went before the Commission and failed to include authority for someone to negotiate the “cooperative agreement” with City Hall.
Commission Chairman Kenneth Fearn, programmed in advance of the Friday meeting, proposed solutions to those problems that are now part of the Council file.
1. Instruct the Chief Executive Officer (CEO Chris Essel) or designee to increase the amount of the available under the Agreement by 5% ($45 million) or $930,000,000 in order to ensure that the work program of all Regions and corresponding project areas are reflected in the list of projects (Attachment A in the Council file).
2. Instruct Chief Executive Officer (CEO) to negotiate within the Cooperation Agreement the designation of a Successor Entitv to implement the work program on behalf of the City upon the conclusion of CRA/LA’s statutory authoritv: and, that such Entity be either a non-profit organization or development corporation approved by the City Council and managed by the CEO, Chris Esser, with support from designated members of her management team and staff.
Think about the emphasized passage. Essel and other CRA managers are going to be the ones who negotiate the details of the deal that preserves their jobs and protects their enormous salaries CalPERS pension and health benefits.
That is a blatant conflict of interest. It’s why Essel slipped out of Friday’s meeting just before Fearn amended the staff proposal with that provision.
It was pre-planned and she was giving the appearance of having recused herself from the decision which she orchestrated it.
The CRA has operated for too long in the dark as a slush fund for wealthy developers building luxury projects. In the name of redeveloping blighted areas, it subsidizes housing for the very poor, the homeless and the mentally ill in neighborhoods like Boyle Heights, adding to the burdens of the working class people struggling for a better life and hoping for better schools and opportunities for their kids.
In the last year, the CRA along with the DWP and a Planning Department that does no planning has become an instrument for more gifts to developers and businesses that buy a few jobs at huge cost to the quality of life in the neighborhoods and the health of the city.
This is $1 billion in taxpayer money that could be used to better the lives of thousands of people, improve the schools, pave the crumbling roads, reopen parks and libraries.
But the mayor, the Council, the people who are supposed to provide civilians oversight would rather thumb their noses at the public.
This is not a “just” action that “squares with the moral law.” It is an “unjust” action that is out of harmony with the moral law” and deserves to be repudiated by the kind of protest that Dr. King used to end the injustice of racial prejudice and discrimination under the authority of law.