Money Talks — That’s Why Politicians Never Say Anything Real

You know you’re important when you get emails from
President Obama himself that start “Dear Ron” and his re-election campaign
manager sends you a personal reminder that midnight tonight is your last chance to contribute
a measly five bucks to be eligible to win the “Dinner with Barack and
Joe” contest.

June 30 is the last day of the campaign finance reporting
period and the President isn’t the only politician with his hand out.

Austin Beutner, the former first deputy mayor for just
about everything, also is in the “Dear Ron” email club with invitations to see
him hold court with friends and acquaintances in various venues as he rounds up
support and money as if the wealthy investment banker needs other people’s
money to run for mayor.


Councilwoman Jan Perry, the queen of downtown
 is trying to make a
statement in her June 30 campaign report and so has blasted out thousands of
emails pleading:
  “I Need Your Help By
Midnight Tonight.”

She makes the President seem like a cheap date with his
$5 gimmick by listing $50 as the minimum she wants although I suspect sending a
check for the maximum $1,000 would cement our friendship for life and probably get you the chance to take her to dinner.

Declaring how much she loves L.A., she enumerates a few
of her achievements like creating “jobs and revenue …. mass transit to
alleviate our crowded freeways” while protecting “our environment and natural

Who knew?

I’m all for her goal of running a campaign “that unites
our citizens around a common idea: to provide future generations with greater
opportunity to find success and have a good quality of life in our city.”

It’s big job to achieve that since today there is so
little opportunity for so many and the quality of life is rapidly getting worse
for nearly everybody.

But Jan, we are on a first name basis, is not one to pull
her punches and underscores the real point of her “Dear Ron” email:

The results of the first
fundraising report will set the tone for how the media and pundits analyze this
race. Please click here to join the effort and make your contribution today.


I always wondered who declared that
“money is the mother’s milk of politics.” Now we know it’s the media and
pundits who will turn the mayoral contest into a horse race that has more to do
with how much money the candidates raise and not who actually can lead the city
and solve its problems.


Sadly, my friend Jan has a point


Instead of throwing around clichés about
“future generations,” she could be talking seriously about just how broken City
Hall is and how it will take a popular uprising to change things but nobody
will listen unless she’s raised a lot of money by midnight tonight.

They Said It Couldn’t Be Done But Olvera Street Merchants Did It — They Fought City Hall and Won

On Friday, the cold face and iron fist of authority came before the City Council to declare time had run out, there would be no more talk, the merchants of Olvera Street would sign on the dotted line and pay up — or get out.

On Monday, the clock was still running, there was plenty of talk with representatives of the merchants, the mayor, the Council and even the hard-asses from the City Attorney’s Office and the El Pueblo staff.
By Tuesday’s Council meeting, it was a lovefest with the three most objectionable of the seven last-minute issues brought up by El Pueblo management and city legal staff deleted.
Merchants leader Vivian Bonzo and others praised the Council for their new-found understanding about storage space rates, about needing approval to introduce new items for sale and most of all, for their dropping the effort to evict six merchants on onerous demands for paperwork that meets city standards even when the deficiencies were the city’s fault.
There’s a lesson here: You can fight City Hall and you can win.
Get organized, get a lawyer and never let up the pressure.
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AEG’s NFL Stadium: What’s In It For You and Me?

“Los Angeles has lost something. It no longer fields the kind of
seasoned political leadership that inspires confidence. That’s a loss
far greater than a football team.”

The ink was hardly dry on those words of LA Times columnist Jim Newton when the City Council’s self-styled skeptics on AEG’s NFL stadium plans — Westsiders Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz — were proving his point.

As Koretz put it after hearing yet another shift in the proposal espoused by Tim Leiweke at a Mar Vista town hall with Neighborhood Council acitivists Monday night, “By having a good degree of healthy skepticism, this plan already is
considerably better than the one that originally came to us. We have to make sure that, in the absolute worst-case scenario, no
matter what goes wrong — and unfortunately with the Dodgers, we’ve seen
what can happen — that the city is still in good financial shape.”

Koretz’s remark as quoted in Sam Farmer’s report on the town hall in the Times is worth parsing because it exposes exactly what’s wrong with the debate on Farmers Field to this point.

The issue isn’t whether the city gets stiffed by AEG on the loans to tear down and rebuild half the Convention Center — reduced from $350 million to the high 200s thanks to a discount announced by Leiweke Monday night — and it’s not about the worst-case scenario which is the NFL is a dud in L.A. for the third time and leaves the city in even worst financial shape than it is today.

The issue is what’s in this for the city when all the profits from the stadium, the massive array of digital billboards, parking lots and turning over the Convention Center  to AEG — an issue that has gotten zero attention — go to Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz.while all the tax revenues go to paying off the city’s debt of three-quarters of a billion dollars.

It’s not like there’s a groundswell of public demand for a football team at a time when the Lakers are in decline and everybody hates the Dodgers whose owner has stiffed everybody in town, including Vin Scully who the team owes $150,000 to.

The plain truth is Leiweke cut a deal two years ago with the mayor for this stadium and took what was a done deal public last fall with an ultimatum that he wanted a signed deal with the city within three months, no questions asked, no environmental study, no cost-benefit analysis.

He’s been stumbling ever since over the details and needed City Hall to prop him up at every turn with one effort after another to whitewash what’s wrong with a Council;and a citizens committees pre-disposed to believe whatever Leiweke tells them while keeping the debate focused in irrelevant directions.

Isn’t it fair to ask what is in it for you and me, the people who are taking on the debt, paying the bills for all the infrastructure costs and support services like police and will rarely even be able to afford a ticket to a game?

Isn’t it fair to ask, as former Councilman Nate Holden did Monday night, whether AEG fulfilled all its commitments when we gave the company all that land and cash for Staples Center?

Isn’t it fair to ask why we gave $300 million in tax revenue for the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotel/condominium project at L.A. Live and now find out it’s a financial disaster — one that is potentially so damaging to AEG’s credibility that Anschutz had to buy out the State Teachers Retirement Fund and other investors before their losses got any deeper?

At the town hall, AEG pulled out of its promise to guarantee the city’s debt in this deal, offering instead to build two parking garages — one of which it was supposed to build as part of the subsidies it got for Staples Center — and commit the revenue toward paying off the city’s borrowing.

What AEGt offers the public is the thrill of a downtown stadium as opposed to Ed Roski’s stadium in Ihe City of Industry, which comes without risk or cost to the public anywhere, and the illusory promise of a boom in convention business, luxury hotels and entertainment venues on every corner of downtown, tens of thousands of new jobs, millions of tourists throwing money at us.

Maybe, maybe not.

Guys like Phil Anschutz don’t get to be billionaires playing nice with suckers like city officials who wouldn’t have the price of a ticket to Lakers or NFL games if they weren’t on the public dole.

To this point, what he has put on the table provides him with a low-risk,high-profit deal for himself and a no-profit,high-risk deal for the city and its people.

If you think the people you elected are going to do anything to serve you and protect your interests between now and July 31 — AEG’s latest ultimatum deadline — you are living in a fantasyland. All your public servants see is the free tickets and the parties in the luxury boxes.

Advertisements for Myself: Radio, TV and Newspapers

Here’s my Sunday column for the Glendale-Burbank News-Press & Leader, followed by links to appearances on NBC’s “The Filter with Fred Roggin” and on Kevin James’ show on KRLA 870:

The Political System Only Serves Itself

Drive down any main
street and it is hard not to notice all the empty shops, the “Going Out Of
Business” and “For Lease” signs, the proliferation of 99-cent and dollar

Book stores and record shops have largely disappeared. Major electronics
retailers like Circuit City are long-gone, Fry’s greets customers with leaflets
declaring they’ll match any Internet price and now Best Buy plans to wall off a
quarter of its giant stores and rent the rest of the space to grocers, beauty
suppliers — anybody with a buck.


Is it any wonder
retailers are struggling?

Competing for precious tax dollars, cities have green-lighted just about every
type of shopping center project for years, over-building — much to the dismay
of small, local shopkeepers — as mammoth national chains take an ever greater
share of the market.

Even the chains now are being hit hard by the impact of the boom in online,
mostly tax-free business. Amazon and eBay may be the giants, but there are
hundreds, thousands of other websites offering free shipping, no sales tax and
low prices because they don’t carry the cost of stores and sales help.


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NBC’s “The Filter with Fred Roggin is back on the air at 6:30 p.m. on Friday nights on Time Warner Channel 225 as part of the network’s experimental statewide news programming. 
Last Friday, the topics for discussion at the opening of the show were the death penalty, drunk driving and public employee salaries with Burbank Internet talk show host Jose Hernandez and me as the debaters.


KRLA 870 talk show host Kevin James and I held our weekly chat, 

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about city politics, touching on a variety of issues and people including Janice Hahn, Herb Wesson and Assemblyman Mike Gatto.

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Olvera Street — The Movie: When the Public Story Is Not the Real Story

There’s a reason I go to all the trouble of interviewing people, googling deep into what’s published, culling public records and trying to make sense out of what the hell is going on in this city.

It’s for love, not money, I assure you, out of my own compulsive need to know and to share what I know. It’s been the passion of my life for so long I don’t know how to do anything else.
But that isn’t why City Council meetings are the background noise of my life on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, why I go to the trouble of recording virtually every meeting on DVR, fast forward through the parts I missed and ultimately make movies to share with you.
The words I write are just so much hot air in the smoggy political atmosphere. But the videos allow you to see for yourselves the charade of our city government and make up your own mind.

The issue in this case is El Pueblo de Los Angeles and how we are treating the birthplace of our city and the merchants of Olvera Street.

City Hall, in its two decades of control, has made a mess of Olvera Street. Favoritism, neglect, waste, inefficiency, corruption — those have been the hallmarks of how Olvera Street has been managed much as they have been with just about everything the city has done in recent years.

The City Council debate Friday (see article below) on a new concessionaire agreement for the merchants of Olvera Street revealed how officials have used the same heavy-handed extortionist techniques on them as they have on city unions to create the appearance — but not the reality — of solving problems caused by long-term city mismanagement and financial irresponsibility.

In the case of El Pueblo, the stated goal was to bring the rents up to market rates from the ridiculously low rents they have been paying and to make it financially self-sufficient.

This agreement doesn’t achieve those goals. It merely sets the stage for the city to turn this historic monument into a Disneyland-like parody of  history by driving out families that have operated businesses on Olvera Street since socialite Christine Sterling started the movement more than 80 years ago to turn what had become a dingy alley into a place that celebrates the city’s past and now attracts two million visitors a year.

There were so many lies told during the Council debate — which resumes Tuesday — that it is hard to catalog them all.

City Attorney David Michaelson and El Pueblo head Robert Andrade, with assistance from Councilman Bernard Parks who admitted he was only doing the absent Jose Huizar a favor and didn’t really know what he was talking about, portrayed the seven-point motion amending the concessionaire agreement was all just technical corrections.

In fact, the changes were fundamental, affecting rents and leasing rights, and reflect their failure to do their jobs properly when rushing the agreement through the El Pueblo Commission and Council just last month with a June 30 deadline for the merchants to agree or forfeit their chance to get leases.

The biggest lie of all was put forth by Tom LaBonge — the front man for the commercialization of the city’s parks — who falsely claimed that the concerns of the merchants could be and would be addressed after the June 30 deadline when he knew full well, and Michaelson reiterated the point, the terms of the agreement are set in stone and the deadline is really an ultimatum to the merchants that will not be compromised or revisited.

If you take the trouble of watching these videos, you will see the kind of doubletalk and deceit that routinely goes on at City Council to make sure the public is ill-informed and misinformed about what is really going on.

Just remember this: The public story they tell bears little or no relationship to the what is going on in the back rooms of City Hall.Enhanced by Zemanta

The Birth and Death of L.A. — City Hall’s Ultimatum to the Merchants of Olvera Street

It seems fitting somehow that at least one of the death
blows to the City of Los Angeles should be struck where it was born — at El
Peublo on Olvera Street, a short walk from City Hall.

During the last two decades when the city was pouring
billions of public dollars into providing tax breaks and subsidies for luxury
hotels, offices and sports and entertainment complexes, it has allowed one of
its few authentic attractions to drift into chaos without a vision or

Yet, two million visitors a year come to Olvera Street
with its four museums and 78 shops, to experience a small taste at least of
what it was like 230 years ago when the American colonies were fighting for
independence and the City of Angels was coming to life as a colony of Mexico.

Operating month to month on out-of-date leases without
rent increases for years, the shopkeepers of Olvera Street suddenly found
themselves facing massive rent hikes and evictions as City Hall, in its
desperation to protect special interests and cover up its fiscal mismanagement,
squeezed them for more money than some could afford to pay.

It is just one front in City Hall’s war against the law
abiding, against middle class and working class people, who are forced to pay
the full cost of everything they get from trash pickup to water and power while
business gets tax cuts and tax holidays, and the entertainment industry gets
anything it wants.

From the point of view of the city’s leadership, El
Pueblo ideally would look more like LA Live with chain restaurants and shops
surrounded by digital billboards than a small-town Mexican plaza with local
vendors. After all, artificial amusement parks bring in a lot more money than
historic monuments, money that officials need so badly to pay for their profligate public lifestyle.

That’s why operations like those of Camacho’s Inc., the
political-connected firm that runs restaurants at LAX, Ontario Airport, AEG’s  Staples Center and Home Depot Center, and
Dodger Stadium — in recent years has been able to move into El Pueblo with promises of
higher rents and profit sharing for the city.

When the city tried to double rents and sharply increase fees for common areas in 2009, LA Business Journal Editor Charles Crumpley questioned the city’s action and its ability to run a private enterprise when it does such a poor job running a public enterprise.

city’s rationale … given the city’s budget deficit, it’s time the
merchants pay their own way. So deadbeats, hit the road. This is painful to watch. I mean, how many ways is this wrong?”

It took two years of dickering to work out the details of
a concession agreement t
hat greatly favors big operators over small ones. It
runs 49 pages and is filled with dozens of clauses and elaborate details that
can be used over the 20 to 40 years of the lease agreements to drive out any of
the small shop owners who fall into disfavor with those in power.

On May 31, the City Council unanimously approved the agreement and gave
the tenants just 30 days to waive all rights and claims against the city and
sign long-term leases laden with these rules and regulations — or else.

Irritated by questions raised by the Olvera Street
Merchants Association about storage space and the city’s demands for extensive
paperwork proving their ownership of the lease site, the city made it clear
that the concession agreement was a take-it-or-leave-it offer.

The city was done talking to these annoying little people
and set about making it clear who was in charge.

Documentation of site ownership by some merchants was
rejected as invalid at the last minute because it was only signed  the
general manager of the El Pueblo Department and not the commission – even during
periods when there was no commission overseeing the department.

Some of the leaseholds go back to 1930. Some have changed
hands. Some were signed for the city by staff of the department. The rights of
six operators are still in dispute so they are facing eviction or running their
businesses at twice the rents of others and doing so on a month to month basis
as they all have for so many years.

The response from the liberal-minded city leadership is
what you would expect from the coldest-hearted capitalist pig – the iron fist
is their faces.

On Friday, without public notice, a special agenda motion was introduced at the end of the meeting on behalf of Jose Huizar, the councilman who
represents the Olvera Street area but was absent.

It contained seven points which were variously described
to Council members as a few or three or four technical points to clear up any
questions about the lease agreement, variously described as entirely favorable
to the tenants or almost entirely favorable to the tenants.


In fact, the conditions were unilaterally being imposed
by the city after cutting off negotiations and put the six tenants at risk of
eviction and others facing disputed charges.

El Pueblo General Manager Robert Andrade, Assistant City
Attorney David Micheaelson and Deputy Chief Legislative Analyst Sharon Tso did
their best to deflect concerns of some Council members by offering non-answer
answers and defaming the tenants.

A handful of tenants somehow made it to the meeting and
offered emotional objections to what was going on without proper notice,
without a hearing, without negotiations. All they got from Andrade, the general
manager, was a scrunched up look of imperial disdain.

Still, it was
enough to make Paul Koretz queasy, to make Richard Alarcon offer himself as
protector of all things Mexican and Janice Hahn, in a rare Council appearance,
to want nothing to do with a controversy that could cost her votes in her race
to succeed Jane Harman in Congress.

They blocked adoption of the seven-amendments, which wasn’t
that hard since only 10 members were present under Garcetti’s job sharing
program that only requires a minimum number for a quorum to be present and rarely
produces all 15 members of the best paid, staffed and perked city government in

It will be back on Tuesday’s calendar crowded with
financial tricks and gimmicks to cover up the structural deficit being carried
over until next year as well as various sleights-of-hand to create secret pots of
money for various pet projects.

The White Elephant That Bleeds the City Treasury Dry — LA Convention Center and Its Bloated Payroll

Editor’s Note: City Hall wants to tear down half the LA Convention Center, borrow $350 million on top of the $450 million already owed on it and then turn over its operation to AEG to profit from an entertainment complex that includes an NFL stadium, LA Live and Staples Center — all heavily subsidized by taxpayers with at least half of all tax revenue that’s generated going to the Denver-based company. In the meantime, vast amounts of public money and tax dollars that could be keeping cops on the streets and fire stations open is going to pay inflated salaries at the Convention Center — a white elephant that costs the public tens of millions of dollars a year.

By Tim Cavanaugh,

Although excessive public-employee salaries are getting close attention in California, many ostensibly private
officials – including a tourism bureau boss who makes almost
$500,000 a year – are paid mostly or entirely from public money. In
some cases, these compensation packages are higher than the pay of
public employees who have been the focus of public

LA Inc. is a non-profit that functions as Los Angeles’ convention
and visitors bureau. LA Inc. is organized as a 501(c)(6). In its tax filing (LA-Inc tax.pdf) LA Inc.
describes its main function: “Advance the prosperity of LA’s
visitor economy and the livelihoods that depend on it.” 


LA Inc.’s budget in 2009 was
$19.4 million. About $15.6 million of that money came directly from
the public: $10.4 million from a portion of the city’s 14 percent
hotel room tax and $5.2 million from Los Angeles World Airports.
Another $1.3 million came from membership fees and $2.4 million
from business activity, including advertising in LA Inc.’s visitors
guide. But by far the largest portion comes from public funds. If
you want to know what happens to all those taxes and fees that run
up your airport and hotel bills, this is one example. 

LA Inc.’s budget will soon be going up thanks to a recently
approved additional 1.5 percent hotel tax. Mark Liberman, LA Inc.’s president and CEO, says the new
dedicated tax could double the organization’s budget. 

Where does all that money go? More than 40 percent of it goes to
pay staffers. Salaries, pensions, benefits and other compensation
make up $8.6 million of the organization’s spending. All of LA
Inc.’s executives make well over $100,000 a year in total


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Fishin’ with Wesson: Forget Good Government, Next Council President Knows How to Have Fun

Herb Wesson is a charming guy with a great sense of humor who loves kids and trout fishing — why he even did a show on propaganda Channel 35 for kids called “Fishin’ with Wesson.”

But when it comes to political debate, Wesson — unlike the likable babbling buffoon Tom LaBonge — rarely speaks up and when he does, he doesn’t say much of anything worth remembering.


For his colleagues on the City Council, those are more than enough to make him the popular choice to succeed Eric Garcetti as President when he gears up his mayoral campaign.
Wesson has lined up a majority of votes despite the best efforts of rival Paul Krekorian to do intellectual cartwheels to justify much of the nonsense that goes on in the Council chambers.
Krekorian was no match for Wesson in that regard. The mid-city Councilman didn’t need to be a political gymnast to get the votes; he just needed to know where the votes were and what they wanted for them. 
That’s what helped him to become Speaker of the state Assembly at a time when the Legislature ran so wild that they left Gov. Grey Davis standing naked and defenseless in the face of a humiliating recall election.
White the choir boy Garcetti succeeded in his goal of attaining unanimity 99.93 percent of the time no matter what the cost to the public or the honor of the handful of his colleagues who still prize their honor, Wesson can be counted to let go of the reins of control and spend his days making sure the dog of the week gets adopted.
Search the LA Times or even the LA Sentinel and almost all the links to stories mentioning Wesson are ribbon cuttings, cheer leading events without policy or political significance. Aggressive African-American community leaders include Wesson among those guilty of a “culture of silence…of accommodation” on issues of importance in the black community.
A month ago, he told the City Maven Alice Walton of his ambition in these terms: “There’s one president at a time and that president is Eric Garcetti,
and that is all I’m going to say on that subject …We have so many important pressing things and I’m focused on that,
and I don’t know what happens in the future – that’s not until July.”
Garcetti needs to go full bore to stand a chance in the mayoral election or even if he changes course as runs for Congress if Henry Waxman retires so do other Council elected leaders Jan Perry, herself a mayoral candidate, and Dennis Zine, the traffic cop who thinks he can become Controller.
All in all, it doesn’t exactly excite the dormant hopes of those crying out for real reform of a corrupt and broken system. But the chaos Wesson can bring to the process of mock democracy at least offers hope for better theater — and a lot more laughs.
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The Naked Truth: In Politics, You Get What You Pay For So Look at Who’s Paying

The truth hurts so get out your Vicodin or whatever you take to ease the pain and face the political reality of our time:

Thanks to 10 times as much in political contributions anti-ethanol interests, the U.S. Senate last week flip-flopped and voted to end subsidies that enriched corn farmers. The $85 million senators got from entertainment companies has helped the upper house move forward in making it a felony to stream copyrighted material online, reports.
No fewer than 18 California state legislators are holding fund-raisers this week for next year’s campaigns even as Controller John Chiang cut off their $400-a-day paychecks for failing in their constitutional duty to adopt a balanced budget by June 15. 
You can be sure every one of them as well as all but a handful of their cohorts will be carrying sponsored legislation written by and benefiting the same special interests that are so generously contributing to their campaigns.
Yet, even with new legislative districts drawn by an independent citizens’ commission, they are all odds-on favorites to win their elections since voters consistently have proven themselves unable to connect the state’s dire money situation, failing schools, cuts in services and aging infrastructure to the performance in office by that smiling, glad-handing panderer they elect as their Assembly or Senate member.
Hard as it may be believe, the corruption is even worse at the local level in Los Angeles where everything is for sale.
A case in point is Tuesday’s approval of food and beverage contracts to three current vendors at LAX who have provided generous funding to our local elected leaders and the lobbyists who have proven themselves over the years to be smarter and far more capable than the officials who do their bidding.

“The vote by the
Los Angeles City Council concludes, for now, the effort to bring celebrity
chefs and a more local flavor in food to LAX, which has received poor marks in
consumer surveys. And it closes the book on a debate in which rival bidders
staged protests and public tastings to make their case,”
David Zahniser reported in the LA Times..

Just take the most prominent winning bidder, Host International — which for 50 years has been the provider of food and drink at LAX which is generally regarded as one of the worst airports in the world to be stuck in for hours.

Last year, Host lost out entirely to SSP America, a local firm that promised to bring man of the city’s greatest chefs to the airport but City Attorney Carmen Trutanich warned that Host might sue and win so the process was started all over again and the winners this time were that same old contractors, Host, Delaware North and Camacho.

SSP America got nothing this time around.

“The finest chefs the city
had to offer were awarded by LAX a contract, only to have it stripped away with
the weapon of powerful
… lobbying (and) backroom
deals,” said Rod White of Bertha’s Soul Food, one of the companies that were part of SSP America.

The lobbyist for Host for the last seven years at least has been John Ek, whose firm Ek & Ek has taken in nearly $100,000 a year from the airporti vendor as part of the more than $1 million a year in revenue it gets for representing firms doing business with the city, everyone from billboard and real estate companies to taxicab and parking lot operators, city ethics records show.

Remember when the boycott of Arizona over its crackdown on illegal immigrants was the most important moral imperative facing the City Council?

That’s what makes it so hard to understand why guys like Tony Cardenas — the future Congressman — and Richard Alarcon — the soon to be state legislator or state prisoner as the case may be — so passionately tried to protect Scottsdale-based American Traffic Solutions costly and useless contract for red-light cameras.

These are the cameras installed two to a Council district with little regard for traffic safety that capture signal-crashers who face fines of $480. The only problem with the program is that it doesn’t reduce accidents as much as extending yellow caution lights a second and the courts don’t recognize the citations as valid so only the uninformed pay the penalty.

Nonetheless, political veterans of local and state politics like Cardenas and Alarcon appreciate all the help they’ve gotten from Sage Advisors — a lobbying firm headed by Chris Modrzejewski that takes in an average of $750,000 from city business on behalf of such clients as AEG, IBEW Local 11 and 18, Thomas Properties and, of course, American Traffic Solutions.

The Police Commission voted unanimously to end the red light camera farce but after a couple of hours of debate Tuesday, the Council deadlocked 6-6 on overruling the commission with debate resuming today.

So here’s the truth you don’t want to hear: Democracy doesn’t exist when every level of government has been taken hostage by moneyed interests with selfish agendas.

You can whimper and whine. You can struggle and fight. You can believe the lip service or ignore what’s going on altogether. Nothing is going to change until we reach the point of calamity or there is a sudden mass awakening that gets us to put aside the petty ideological conflicts used to keep us weak and separated.

Sadly, I think calamity will happen first.
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UPDATE: Democrats Cannibalize Each Other — Chiang Halts Pay to Legislators over Phony Budget

EDITOR’S NOTE: Legislative reaction was fierce to Controller John Chiang’s decision to cut off their $400 per day pay as captured by the Sacramento Bee. Herer’s what my representative, the head of the budget committee, had to say: Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills:

“The Controller is acting without clear legal authority. He has
confused having the responsibility to cut checks with having the
authority to be a judge and jury on the budget. He signs our paychecks
but Proposition 25 does not make him our boss – that role is reserved
for the people who elected us. … If his action stands, it will have
grave implications on future budgets. His action suggests that we are
not a co-equal, independent branch of government vested with the
constitutional authority to craft the budget. And, that’s not what the
people voted for when they passed Proposition 25.”

Sacramento Bee reports:

Controller John Chiang announced today he has blocked pay for lawmakers, rejecting his own party’s spending plan as insufficient to satisfy a voter-approved law on timely budgets.

In doing so, the Democratic controller exercised unprecedented
authority, establishing a new role for his office under Propositions 25
and 58 to determine whether a legislative budget is “balanced.”

“My office’s careful review of the recently-passed budget found
components that were miscalculated, miscounted or unfinished,” Chiang
said in a statement. “The numbers simply did not add up, and the
Legislature will forfeit their pay until a balanced budget is sent to
the Governor.”

The controller said he determined that the Democratic budget spent
$89.75 billion but only provided $87.9 billion in revenues, leaving a
$1.85 billion imbalance.

Assembly Speaker John A. Perez said in a statement that he believes the controller “was wrong.”

“The Controller is, in effect, allowing Legislative Republicans to
control the budget process and I believe that’s a very unfortunate
outcome that is inconsistent with the intent of Proposition 25,” said
Pérez, D-Los Angeles. “In the coming days, we will be taking additional
budget action informed by the Controller’s analysis, and consistent with
the values of the budget we passed last week.”

Chiang has determined that the majority-vote plan Democrats sent to Gov. Jerry Brown
last week was not a “balanced” budget and therefore did not meet
lawmakers’ constitutional obligation for timely passage of a spending
plan. Brown immediately vetoed the budget Thursday, less than 16 hours
after passage, dubbing it “not a balanced solution” and noting that it
relied on legally questionable solutions.

In his determination, the controller highlighted one component of the
budget that he believes ran afoul of the state’s Proposition 98 minimum
guarantee for school funding. The Democrats’ budget underfunded K-12
schools and community colleges by $1.3 billion, Chiang said. John Mockler,
an education consultant who wrote Proposition 98, said in an interview
last week the Legislature would have to provide that money if courts
intervene or at some future date if revenues come in as projected.

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