Long-time Community Redevelopment Agency board member Madeline Janis admits she has felt “pressured to agree” to development subsidy proposals that did not provide adequate protections for the investment of public money.
“In nine years on the Community Redevelopment Agency Board, Madeline Janis As someone who’s spent nine years as a public official, as a member of the board of commissioners of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), I know a lot about bureaucracy,” Janis, founder and executive director of the progressive L.A. Alliance for the New Economy, writes on the Frying Pan blog that originated with her group and is dedicated to providing “a platform for those who share our belief that we can and must build an economy that works for all of us.”
“I have presided over the investment of billions of taxpayer dollars and creation of hundreds of economic development deals. I have seen my share of red tape. On some occasions, I have left a CRA meeting feeling badly for a particular developer who had to jump through so many hoops to get a good deal approved.
“But most of the time, I have left those meetings feeling pressured to agree to things that did not have enough black-and-white safeguards in place to protect the public interest.”
The context of her remarks is a post on the bankruptcy of Solyndra, the Northern California solar panel manufacturer that got half a billion dollars in federal loan guarantees from the Obama Administration.
“Why didn’t the officials take more precautions, do more research, put in place more safeguards? How could they have been so dumb and so wasteful of precious government dollars?
She ends her post by writing: “So the next time a developer or political leader complains to me about too much red tape, I’m going to take a red pen, write on my hand, and then hold it up for all to see: ‘Remember Solyndra!’ “
As the only CRA board member in years to aggressively question the proposals put together by a staff that has long been deeply politicized, often incompetent and committed by their political masters to downtown/Hollywood-centric policies that rob resources from everyone else, Janis has a right to speak out against the poorly examined and structured deals that do not “protect the public interest,’ or for that matter serve the public interest..
Like everyone else inside the City Hall “family” who tries to preserve their integrity while bringing their talents and beliefs to the task with a sense of public service, Janis faces the constant challenge of determining where is the line between being “pragmatic” and being part of the corruption.
It’s why somehow, some way, the monopoly on power at City Hall long held by narrow special interests must be broken up and shared with the neighborhoods in a way that creates a honest balance that allows the competing interests, values and needs of an enormously diverse city to be met.
lass="Apple-style-span" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 16px; ">The man or woman who “deserves” to be the next mayor of this city, who the city needs to be mayor, is the one who can make believers out of begrudgers, who can bridge the ideological gap, and bring to City Hall the skill, passion and commitment to fix what is broken by holding top managers to a high standard of achievement rather than obedience and transforming a failed system into one that revives L.A. materially and spiritually.
It takes people like Janis and her ideological opposites and those in between to find the common ground and start to nurture the city so it can start to grow again in healthy ways.