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Covering Up Chaos and Failure at City Hall

Even Dennis Zine can get lucky and make sense once in a while but twice on the same day? It must be his ambition talking.

First, as chair of the Council’s Audits and Governmental Efficiency Committee, the wannabe City Controller demanded the Department of Transportation report back in a month with the details of every one of the 1,000 parking tickets fixed by the so-called “Gold Card Desk” — “who was it, what was it, where was it, who requested it.” 

Then, just an hour later during the full Council meeting Tuesday, he cast the lone vote against creating the so-called “Collections Sheriff” – an inspector general for revenue collection so the city stops writing off hundreds of millions of dollars every year in parking lot taxes, ambulance charges, housing fees, even parking tickets that were never paid or fixed by the Gold Card Desk.

“Creating an inspector general position will create more government. Putting more layers on top of the inability to collect is not going to collect more. It’s just going to waste more money,” Zine said.

“The inspector general will not have the ability to do anything. They’re going to be able to write reports. We don’t need any more reports or recommendations. We need to actually get things done to collect money that’s due the city.”

I know it’s just his ambition talking but Zine has a point.

City Hall shouldn’t need a Collections Sheriff to make sure various departments do the jobs they are supposed to do.

The city needs leadership from the Mayor, the Controller and the Council members to hold these highly-paid bureaucrats in the Finance, Transportation and other departments accountable.

This endless turning to powerless “inspector general” positions is an admission of failure, a failure of leadership, a failure of management, a failure of workplace discipline.

Far more troubling than the sweetheart deals for unions and contractors, and the tax breaks and subsidies to developers – all of which have put the city into financial hell – is the organizational breakdown that has been exposed as officials dance around the budget problems.

Waste, inefficiency, lack of coordination and communication between departments – not to mention bribery and widespread abuses of power – have become visible in almost every area of city government.

The shotgun approach to early retirement packages and transfers of 4,000 workers – 90 percent of the general fund job eliminations they are so proud of – have added to the chaos at City Hall.

Furloughs, layoffs, paid overtime bans, deferred raises, endless rewriting of union contracts, bullying of top managers by the mayor’s office and to a lesser degree by the Council have combined to create a politicized and toxic work environment.

The fact is the Collections Sheriff, the DWP Rate Payer Advocate and other attempts to add layers of government on top of failed systems will achieve nothing of significance without the political will at the top to face up to the fiscal and organizational problems.

What the public wants, what city workers need, is straight talk from the top and real solutions – not the hot air of political ambition and phony inspectors general without power.

Let’s see those ambitious officials like Zine, Wendy Greuel, Eric Garcetti, Jan Perry step up to the plate and show they are prepared to lead the city without favor or fear. Let’s see any of the others who yearn to be mayor show how they will break the reign of special interests at City Hall and fix all that is broken.

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12 Responses to Covering Up Chaos and Failure at City Hall

  1. Lezlyee says:

    Each time, this time of the year and when Offices are up for Grabs, constitutients get part of the Low Down Dirty. It’s sick.
    Break Away from LA.

  2. OK, if we are hiring a collection czar then we should fire Antoinette Christovale, who heads the Office of Finance. She has held that position for about 10 years during which time most, if not almost all, of the uncollected fees have accumulated.
    How bad does your performance have to be to get fired?
    Why doesn’t the City Controller step up and pursue collections? After all, the potential to collect half the unpaid fees (about $250 million) is worth more than all of her, and probably Chick’s, performance audits combined.
    I know the answer to that question – Greuel is not competent to handle it. I’m not saying she personally has to direct collections, but she could supervise the individuals or contract with an outside agency to handle it. I don’t think she could manage anything outside of the Gold Card program.
    In any case, collection standards and procedures must be established and, more importantly, enforved.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ron, you put into honest words what Valley-ites
    care about. Honesty, integrity and respect. Not too much to ask and to expect.
    Thank you.

  4. Noel Weiss says:

    The solution remains simple. . . ‘Open Source’ Government and a Charter Office of Public Advocate/Inspector General (with a protected budget) empowered to ‘cut through’ the bureaucracy and make the system work for the people. . . with a deputy placed in each Council office so these Councilpeople can’t hide behind ignorance and so that they can better serve their constituents.
    We need less ‘love of power’ and more of the ‘power of love’. Power is like love. . .The more you share, the more you get. Both expand the more one ‘gives away’.
    That’s the core principle Ron. . . and so long as these councilpeople (who are just a bunch of ‘kids with power’) covet, crave, and embrace the consolidation of power in and to themselves, little progress can be made. . . whether it is administrative code enforcement, revenue collection, or land use decisions.
    An independent Public Advocate/Inspector General (an elected position) is not another layer of government. . .It is the ultimate protection for the people. Why? Because the people need ‘the truth’. . . and the arrogance of ‘power’ (the ‘love of power’) often causes our councilpeople to think they are doing better than they are. . . to find false and faint praise in appearing to confront issues when, in reality, they do not come close (when was the last time a politician was rewarded for being bold, strong, courageous or committed)?
    The easiest example is Eric Garcetti and his diluting of the Rate Payer Advocate position with DWP. . . A supreme failure of leadership. . . doing nothing since the election to move the implementing ordinance forward. . . it takes a lot of self-discipline to move the proposal forward (in the sunshine). . . But in this case, the commitment (such as it is) is diluted by convenience. Meanwhile, neither the media, nor the blogs bring up the issue or endeavor to hold Mr. Garcetti accountable.
    A more vigorous City Attorney could. . . but he won’t (here again, the City Attorney’s dual representation of DWP and the City Council is a burden); the Controller could, but she won’t (the Union would ‘bust a gut’ and whatever exists of Wendy’s Mayoral Campaign would go ‘poof’ (for the record, I am not a Wendy Greuel supporter under any circumstances. . . another story for another day); the Mayor could, but he won’t because he perceives a strong ratepayer advocate as someone who would undermine his power; so we are back to the Council. . . who has not and really cannot do anything promptly because each Councilmember really doesn’t feel like it at the moment. . and these ‘under the table’, behind closed-door discussions have to occur first.
    So from where is the push for a competent implementing Rate Payer Advocate office going to come? A ‘Public Advocate/Inspector General’. . .forcing the issue. . . insisting on a debate. . . helping craft and define the terms of the debate. . . educating himself or herself in the process as the people become more conversant with the issues. . . . In short, an open, honest, public debate is what is required. We are not getting it because Eric Garcetti still wants to be President of the Council. . . and he refuses to ruffle the feathers of the Council majority on this issue. (He can’t even get the Council meetings to start on time. . . or enforce the rules on maintaining a legal quorum during meetings (Council Rule 27 says that 10 Councilpeople must be in the Council chamber at all times – Neither the City Attorney, nor Mr. Garcetti truly enforce this Rule. . . and the Councilmembers refuse to enforce the rule as against each other (a member could interrupt the proceedings and demand a quorum call. . . but no one ever does. . . Just one simple example of the ‘lawlessness’ and self-centered (undeserved) arrogance that pervades. . . and which a public advocate/inspector general would ‘counter’ (here again, the City Attorney is silent. . . Garcetti is silent. . . . each Councilmember is silent. . . Can you see the pattern here? We’re just talking about one simple rule. . . Being present in the Chamber so we don’t get all of these automatic ‘yes’ votes. . . We pay these people to be present in the Chamber. . . If the Council needs a recess, then take a recess. . . Living this little ‘lie’ accomplishes nothing constructive or positive)).
    We have crafted a system where it is too easy to pass the buck. . . deny responsibility, feign shock and dismay at the difficulties of governance. Like our little ‘loved ones’, our council representatives will obstinately refuse to do that which is ‘worthwhile’ when it is difficult or when it goes against the demands of the moment. This is reflective of the ‘ying’ and the ‘yang’ in all of us. .
    We are not perfect and our system mirrors those imperfections. . . So whether it is the City Attorney finding reasons to ignore his promise to fight and represent ‘the people’ as ‘the people’s attorney’; or Wendy Greuel suddenly finding reasons to be critical of the very things she countenanced when she was on the Council, or the Mayor failing to really challenge himself and the rest of us, opting for comfort over real challenge, little substantively can or will change until we choose to inject some ‘positive energy’ into the situation, summon the best that is within us, and begin to insist that the system reflect our core principles on all levels.
    It takes courage and confidence to put our principles into practice. . . It takes a blend of optimism and pragmatism, and it takes an embrace (a love) of what we say we are for (shared sacrifice. . . Why should small business pay more in taxes than the world’s largest corporations?. . . . Finding ways to unite the City (State or Nation) instead of dividing the City). . . .
    So long as there is uncertainty; so long as there is a lack of true openness and transparency, and so long as the people fail to punish failure, mediocrity, and indifference, we will continue to abide the political ‘gimmicks’ and ‘games’ foisted on us by our political ‘leaders’. With minor exception, the Council and the Mayor ‘coast’ when they need to ‘soar’. . . .
    So if we apply these simple principles to our problems, we will make a meaningful dent. That means confronting the issues attendant to the infrastructure gap; it means confronting the inherent conflicts of interest the City attorney abides when he represents both the City and the Pension Plans (and refuses to represent the beneficiaries of the ‘public trust’ that is the City of Los Angeles – one of a numerous series of ‘conflicts’ of interest which the City Attorney abides (and wrongfully so, I contend)); it means confronting the core financial structural gap attendant to pension plans and health plans; and it means the City Council really doing their job in making policy on housing, infrastructure (financial, legal, and physical), then making use of the tools that exist (Charter Sections 217 and 908, among others), and, in the end, demonstrating true intelligence and knowledge by recognizing their limitations and sharing their power which, ironically will, in the end, result in their having greater power.
    Most of the time government is ‘reactive’. . .and that’s how it should be. . . But there are times (like now) when government needs to be pro-active. . . The skill is in knowing how, when, and under what auspices and limitations.
    In the end, we will come out fine. . . But coming out ‘fine’ is not as good as coming out ‘strong’.
    Noel Weiss

  5. Anonymous says:

    Television Host: The feeling is definitely there. It’s a new morning in America… fresh, vital. The old cynicism is gone. We have faith in our leaders. We’re optimistic as to what becomes of it all. It really boils down to our ability to accept. We don’t need pessimism. There are no limits.
    Bearded Man: They are dismantling the sleeping middle class. More and more people are becoming poor. We are their cattle. We are being bred for slavery.
    —-They Live 1988

  6. anonymous says:

    I was a passenger in the car of a city prosecutor a few years ago. He did a moving violation and a cop was a block away. The cop car followed and put its lights on; obviously a ticket was warranted.
    The prosecutor said he didn’t have to worry because the cop will run the license plate and see he’s a city prosecutor (this was his private vehicle-not a city one).
    Well, he was right. The cop turned off the lights and sirens and drove by.
    My guess is the same identification and favor applies to cops and ex cops–including Zine.
    That is, there’s no ticket to dismiss if one wasn’t issued in the first place.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Noel Weiss for City Attorney.

  8. wayne from encino says:

    Notice how Carmen “Gaga” Trutanich doesn’t demand a full REFUND of everyone who got a parking citation AND WASN’T GIVEN NOTICE OF THE GOLD CARD APPEALS PROCESS? Legally, he’s OBLIGATED and he ran as the “People’s City Attorney.” He must step in and PROTECT the PEOPLE who where all SCREWED out of the GOLD CARD program, which only applied to about 100,000 tickets.
    Will scumbag Zine, after his phony audit, require EACH COUNCIL-CLOWN TO REIMBURSE THE CITY FOR THE COST OF TICKETS EACH ONE DISMISSED UNDER THE GOLD CARD? Zine knows about crummy tickets, he wrote many up and down Ventura Blvd as a cop. He’s only faking his concern about you and me to run for another 8 year/2 term City-Paid Corruption filled job as Controller, because he’s termed out in 2 years. He’s known for 10 years about how to fix tickets, or perhaps he’s the stupidest man EVER to sit on the horseshoe. Which do you think it is? He’ll have 12 years of TWO FAT CITY PAYCHECKS, FROM THE COPS AND COUNCIL! That’s far too long for this bloated Clown—vote him down in 2013 so he can move to Florida and live State Income/Gains/Estate tax free while he freeloads on 2 vested City Pensions.
    All 15 of the Horseshoe should just take the 5th and not say another word publicly, because they are the bottom of the trash heap of politics. Just plain TRASH as people and leaders. They have devistated this City financially and not one of them has the backbone to demand these Parking Fines be REFUNDED to all the overtaxed and overpenalized folks who try to park in this crummy city.
    Ron Kaye favors tax increases in L.A! If he becomes any more foolish or corrupt, he’ll probably wind up on the Council!

  9. Anonymous says:

    This is hysterical!!. Our city is on the verge of crisis and the incompetent morons on Council are wasting time on this shit.
    “”"Council votes to seek state law to mandate condom use in films”"” They have FAILED this City to no end. They make excuses for the budget and blame everyone but taking blame themselves. They continue to pretend as if they get the respect in this City and represent US. THEY DON’T. They lost respect a long time ago. They continue to waste tax payer dollars pretending they are actually being productive but the truth is they are the biggest waste of tax payer money. They have no class, no morals, no ethics, are idiots and not a single one with a brain. There are more intelligent people posting here with ideas and solutions then the entire group.

  10. InsideOpinon says:

    Although I agree with Noel Weiss on some of her items, I don’t think this position should be an elected office. We’re just going to get the same recycled yay-hoos that fill the elected offices now. Please don’t engage in pie-in-the-sky, it-will-all-be-different-this-time thinking. with only 12% or so of the eligible voters actually bothering, and with the re-election of every single incumbent, surely you can all see that it will NOT be different.
    The position needs to be a civil service position, which means: It requires a written job description AND minimum qualifications; it requires the incumbent to have passed some sort of test, either written and/or interview; it protects the incumbent from being at the mercy of his boss the mayor and the political winds he follows; and it requires due process before the incumbent can be fired.
    I know that the public thinks that civil service = job protection forever, but the lack of civil service protection has led to political cronies of the Mayor and Council being placed into positions of authority when they either have little/no qualifications, or it has led to incompetent managers being retained because they know how to kiss up to the right politicians — which answers one of the other questions in the comments above *cough*

  11. Condoms or bust-or busted condoms says:

    This City can’t even get the porn industry to obtain film permits and they think they can mandate and enforce condom usage?
    I know someone who was approached to have her home used for porn filming. Their selling point to her was that she didn’t have to worry about LA City film permits and her greedy “we don’t mind if you film, as long as you pay us” extortionist neighbors would never know.
    (btw–she declined the offer)

  12. Anonymous says:

    The Mayor’s office will step right up with a new position of Deputy Mayor of Condom Inspection Czar.
    It will have to be a $200K + per year position.

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