Stripped of Power over the Budget, Parks Opens a Public Dialogue on How To Empower Neighborhoods

EDITOR’S NOTE: Long-time Neighborhood Council activist Dr. Dan Wiseman attended Tuesday’s meeting of the Council’s Education and Neighborhoods Committee under new Chairman Bernard Parks who replaced Paul Krekorian. It was the first of four regional meetings that Parks called to shed light and develop new policies to strengthen the NC system. Wiseman calls it a “new departure” and in this article traces what happened to reform proposals under Krekorian’s watch and defines many of the issues that need to be discussed. The committee meets Thursday at 6 p.m.. Constituent Service Center– South Los Angeles, 8475 South Vermont Ave.; Monday at 6 p.m. Braude Constituent Service Center Room 1B,  Van Nuys; Thursday March 8 at 6 p.m. City Hall Room 1010

WHO SPEAKS FOR NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCILS?

By Daniel Wiseman

I have just returned from the first of four regional Special Meetings, called by Mr. Bernard Parks, the new Chairperson of the City Council’s Education & Neighborhoods Committee.

Mr. Parks began the meeting by offering the attendees the opportunity to dialogue with him on issues that concerned them.  There would be no time limits … no “Thank you, next speaker” … and there was active cross-questioning on a wide variety of topics.

It appeared that … at last … the Neighborhood Council Active Stakeholders (NCASHs) would have a chance to fully air and fully discuss their concerns with a receptive elected City Official.

Impounding the LAPD: No License, Phony Insurance and ID, Not to Worry — This is LA, It’s All OK. To Hell with the Law

It took 25 years and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars — from the PDID police spying scandal to the Rodney King beating to the Rampart scandal to a federal takeover –to reform the Los Angeles Police Department and restore public pride and confidence in the thin blue line.

And now as quick as you can say Charlie Beck we are seeing the LAPD badge tarnished again purely for political purposes.

The Chief knows the difference between right and wrong as he showed last week when he played the lead in a carefully orchestrated campaign to revive efforts to allow illegal immigrants to obtain California licenses by passing the same DMV tests and meeting the same DMV requirements as everyone else. That was the right way to go.

But his bosses were in a hurry so Beck took the law into his hands and pushed forward with a policy that effectively keeps cars in the hands of unlicensed drivers instead of having them impounded for 30 days when they are caught violating traffic laws.

Despite warnings from the state Legislative Counsel, the police union and District Attorney Steve Cooley that Beck’s new “Special Order”is illegal, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and his staff gave the green light, arguing with unfounded arrogance they know better. (Legislative Counsel Opinion – Unlicensed Drivers)(PPL Response-Impound)(Cooley-LAPD impound policy)(Steve Cooley on KFI talking about the impound issue)

Despite widespread warnings that “Beck’s Law” threatens the public’s safety and makes the city liable when an unlicensed driver kills somebody with a vehicle that should have been in the impound lot, the Police Commission approved the policy on Tuesday on a 4-1 vote.

Chief apologist for this action was Commission President Richard Drooyan, a man who even more than Beck knows better.

Drooyan served as a top deputy in the U.S. Attorney’s office in LA prosecuting public corruption cases so he knows all about how politicians like our mayor, reduced to using his race to resurrect his career, and overlords like union boss Maria Elena Durazo wield power amorally to get whatever serves their interests.

And he knows just how much it took to reform the LAPD since he was chief counsel to the Christopher Commission that investigated how the department, the City Attorney’s office and the DA’s office covered up police brutality mainly against minorities for decades.

Now a highly-paid lawyer with the giant firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson, Drooyan insisted the new policy was a humanitarian, compassionate and fair way to deal with the problems of illegal immigrants who can’t get driver licenses.

He accepted without question that an officer at a traffic stop will be able to determine that whatever identification he is shown other than a license is “valid” despite knowing full well that such documents are often fake.

He accepted without question that the officer will be able to determine that whatever proof of insurance the officer is shown is “valid” despite knowing full well that dozens of phony companies provide the cards for a fee without providing actual insurance.

What Drooyan couldn’t ignore was the proposal by Beck and his deputy Michel Moore that the state impound law won’t apply if the driver has no prior “misdemeanor” conviction for driving without a license.

Commissioner Alan Skobin, a lawyer and reserve sheriff’s deputy, cast the lone “no” vote, objecting to the policy in total while pinpointing the misdemeanor conviction standard as the biggest lie of all since the courts in their anxiety to quickly dispose of cases almost always reduce driving without a license to an infraction instead of a crime.

Skobin won his point and the special order was amended as he sought but what he exposed was the real intent of what they were doing — giving a “free pass” to illegal immigrants driving without a license.

Right and wrong no longer have any meaning to Charlie Beck and his bosses. They have made a conscious and deliberate decision to put concerns for the hardships suffered by illegal immigrants because of our state and nation’s failure to deal with the issue ahead of the basic obligation of government at all levels to provide for the public safety.

They call it a humanitarian act but it’s really just about serving themselves: A failed mayor with ambitions for higher office, a street cop who became Chief of Police and attained wealth beyond his wildest dreams, a City Hall that is so corrupt it tramples on all opposition in its feeding frenzy.

When the people in power have no respect for the law why would anyone think that a non-person under the law like an illegal immigrant would be law-abiding?

Why would anyone think that the poor cop on the street would put his career in jeopardy by questioning the validity of phony documents he’s shown at a traffic stop and order the care impounded for 30 days?

Don’t kid yourself about what is really happening: When the big people on top lie and cheat and steal, the little people on the bottom feel they got a license to do the same, which is why we are seeing one scandal after another involving bribery and theft at City Hall.

Hackneyed Corporate Media and the Myth of Antonio the Great

Count Gary Andrew Poole of Time Magazine among the hacks like Adam Nagourney of the New York Times who mix myth with fantasy to spin a public relations narrative without truth for the benefit of the status quo at a time when the winds of change are blowing at hurricane force.

Here’s how he starts his story this week called “The Resurrection of Antonio Villaraigosa,” a headline you might recall was used here two weeks ago with a considerable degree of irony or even sarcasm.

But not so in Time Magazine

When he was a young man Antonio Villaraigosa, dropped out of school, was in numerous street fights, and had a tattoo inked on his right arm that read: Born to Raise Hell. In 2005 he became the first Latino mayor of Los Angeles since 1872. It was practically scripted: the inspirational tale of a troubled boy from the gang-infested Boyle Heights neighborhood of East LA who makes good, goes to City Hall, and turns Los Angeles into a “city of purpose.”

But, until last week, the mayoral tale of Antonio Villaraigosa was starting to look like a box office bomb. In 2007 came revelations of an extramarital affair with a Telemundo newscaster, which seriously hurt his popularity, particularly in the Latino community. His ambitious but ultimately misguided plan for a school district takeover was defeated in court. A weakening economy and his unsystematic management style led to even more political stasis.

While he will be trumpeted for his Latino roots in the coming months, he says the “Latino politician” tag frustrates him. He takes pride that he represents all Angelenos “even though half of the people hate me,” he laughs. “I am a coalition builder. I think that’s the best way to serve the president. Will I also talk to Latinos? Of course! I speak Spanish. But I am comfortable in any community.” He looks at this reporter, an Anglo, in the eye, smiles, and says, “I am comfortable with you, my brother.”

Quite apart from the perverse delight of having a laugh at Mainstream Media heavyweights being seduced at this late date by the charms of the mayor, there is something larger at stake worth a brief comment or two in light of the audacity of the LA Times to start charging $3.99 a month to access their product online.

The MSM isn’t what it used to be. Circulation and revenue have dramatically fallen and staff cuts — almost a third what it once was at the LA Times — have taken their toll in talent as well as numbers.

The advent of television wiped out half the newspapers in the country, replacing a competitive independently-owned industry with highly profitable corporate monopolies.

Now the Internet has wiped out their profitably and what the public is being offered is the soup of the soup of the soup of journalism, thin gruel indeed.

So the question is: At this late date, will charging $3.99 a month for the LA Times online really make a difference to the bottom line or accelerate the decline by turning off readers and reducing traffic?

What’s in a Name? City Hall By Any Other Name Would Still Be Just as Corrupt

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was written for Nina Royal’s North Valley Reporter.

In days of yore, public buildings were named for the dead, people who had lived distinguished lives and deserved in some small way to be remembered and honored.

These days, public buildings are bearing the names of the living however forgettable or forgotten they are. It’s as if these two-bit politicians did something great for the public and not just served their time and gone along for the ride.

It irks me every time I drive past the Council District 3 community/constituent center in my neighborhood and see the name Dennis P. Zine chiseled into the wall in large letters. Isn’t it enough that he’s got a six-figure pension for writing traffic tickets plus a $180,000 salary as Councilman that could entitle him to a second six-figure pension as a civilian?

We’re grateful for his long commitment to self-service and occasional public service but it’s we the taxpayers who pay for this indulgence of the needy ego of a man who has yet to do anything that distinguishes him from a lot of other hack politicians – or traffic cops for that matter.

This comes to mind with the unanimous decision recently of the City Council to rename City Hall East, a truly mediocre building where nobody wants their office located, after James K. Hahn. Among his claims to fame and honor, according to the colleagues who bestowed this honor on him, are that he is the son of the beloved pothole king, the late Supervisor and Councilman Kenny Hahn and is the only politician who served in all three citywide offices – one term as controller, four as city attorney, one as mayor.

One after another, Council members stood to praise Jimmy Hahn for his modesty and quiet sense of humor that went mostly unnoticed by the public who saw a dour man, uncomfortable in the public fishbowl.

One after another, they stood to praise him for dumping their absent and ailing colleague Bernard Parks as police chief and hiring Bill Bratton.

But most of all, they praised him for defeating Valley secession with a 10 to 1 funding advantage and the safeguard of passage requiring not just a majority in the Valley – which it got – but a majority of voters citywide which it never could have gotten in a million years.

This was a view shared by the underserved Valley’s own Council members, including Paul Krekorian, without anybody mentioning the various pay-to-play scandals that occurred during Hahn’s time as mayor as City Hall corruption turned viral or the passivity of his leadership which allowed the Council to remain the city’s governing body despite Charter reform and kept Neighborhood Councils from becoming effective instruments of local control.

For all I care, they could name City Hall itself after Antonio Villaraigosa and chisel it stone on the front entrance. They could call the $500 million police headquarters after the narrow-minded drunk William Parker like they did the old police headquarters.

What’s in a name after all: City Hall and City Hall East would still be as corrupt to their cores no matter what moniker they are given.

The Hollywood Community Plan Update – From Bad to Worse

EDITOR’S NOTE: Former LA City Planner Dick Platkin has been closely watching the evolution of the Hollywood Community Plan (2012-2-24 CPC Determination Letter – Hollywood CPU) as it moves toward approval by the City Council and becomes the model for future development throughout LA. Teacher, writer and consultant to community groups on LA planning issues, Platkin’s in-depth analysis of the revised Hollywood Plan goes straight to the heart of the matter:  Will it provide the basis for “a revival of the quality of life in Los Angeles, or even to an authentic, sustainable urban expansion” as city officials claim or will it “boomerang and accelerate the deterioration of an already stagnant city.”  The information and insights he provides and the conclusions he reaches need to be taken seriously both inside and outside City Hall. He can be reached at rhplatkin@yahoo.com.

By Dick Platkin

LA’s Vanished History of Population and Economic Expansion:  In lieu of updating the General Plan Framework Element, the legally adopted citywide plan for the entire city of Los Angeles, based on the latest 2010 census data, the Department of City Planning is slowly updating 35 local community plans on a scattershot basis, based on old census data.  While this a methodologically shoddy approach to planning Los Angeles in an era of economic hard times, budget cutbacks, certain natural disasters, peak oil, and climate change, this choice does not result from politicians who snuck out of workshops on municipal governance or planners who skipped a critical lecture on urban general plans.  In both cases, sloppy planning should not be confused with lack of knowledge.

The real reason for this piecemeal approach to planning Los Angeles for the early 21st Century is that the old data still depicts Los Angeles as a young, growing metropolis.  These data portray a city that has decades of expanding population and employment ahead of it.  The only limitation to this vision is LA’s finite land and the reluctance of residential neighborhoods to be further bulldozed or hidden by nearby mega-projects and McMansions.  Therefore, recent citywide plans, in particular the General Plan Framework Element, called for new commercial and residential real estate projects to be concentrated in commercial centers and on the major mass transit corridors connecting these centers.  This vision, which attempted to please all parties, is the essence of the original General Plan Centers Concept plan of the 1970’s and its reincarnation in the General Plan Framework Element of the 1990’s.

Annual Monitoring Program:  The General Plan Framework Element, however, ratcheted up the Centers concept by focusing on all categories of infrastructure, not just transit, to serve an ever-growing city.  Furthermore, the Framework insisted that the city’s population, housing, and employment trends, as well as all major infrastructure categories, must be carefully monitored on an annual basis to ensure that the Framework’s citywide policies and programs performed as anticipated.  If the annual monitoring report indicated that the General Plan was not unfolding as intended — such as population growth that was higher or lower than expected or infrastructure user demand and capacity that was unforeseen -– then the Planning Department was to revise to the Framework’s policies and programs in response to these changes.

While this approach is admirable, it is important to examine what has remained the same and what has changed since the Los Angeles City Council adopted the Framework in 1996.  One thing that has remained the same is the rhetoric of the old plans, that Los Angeles needs to accommodate future population and employment growth -– should it occur — through large scale commercial development in centers and major transit corridor.  This approach, in fact, is part of the political and press campaign to heavily promote the proposed Update of the Hollywood Community Plan, despite massive opposition from Hollywood’s residents and their many civic organizations.  For example, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a special press event on the roof a Hollywood apartment building on Monday, December 19, 2011, to promote the proposed Update of the Hollywood Community Plan based on this exact premise.

While the rhetoric of the General Plan has not changed, its underlying basis is now much different.  Unlike the post-WWII era, Los Angeles is no longer a growing a city.  According to William Foster, author of The Reluctant Metropolis, Los Angeles is now an older city, similar to those in the east coast or mid-west, and it gave up its boomtown status at least a decade ago.  In recent decades, in fact, Los Angeles has lost much of its industrial and financial base.  It no longer hosts the headquarters of any Fortune 500 companies.  Entertainment production has migrated to many other cities, such as Vancouver, British Columbia.   Major employers of well paid, unionized, blue-collar workers, such as auto, metals, and even aerospace, have largely vanished.  Even low wage industries, like the garment industry, have seen flat to declining employment.   Overall, LA City and LA County have had no employment gain in the past two decades, the 1990 base year for the General Plan Framework, which was supposed to be replaced or updated when the new 2010 census data became available.

My Sunday Column: L.A. County Government — too big not to fail, too remote to succeed

The walls of L.A. County’s Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration are so thick and shielding of public scrutiny that even the old-line Commies in charge of the Kremlin in Moscow would be envious.

The city’s newspapers have assigned teams of reporters over the years to try to break through those walls of secrecy, but they’ve rarely been able to learn much, apart from the complete failure of the county Department of Children Services and the horror-show of the public health system.

The all-powerful county supervisors, given to boasting they have the best jobs in politics, once enforced a formal rule on county employees that made speaking to the press without prior approval of a supervisor grounds for dismissal. It’s now just an unwritten rule, but all 100,000 county employees know their jobs are on the line if they blow the whistle.

Years ago, supervisors assigned each department to a specific supervisor for oversight, but that provided individual accountability so they collectively ran the whole operation. When even that made them collectively accountable, they hired a chief executive officer so somebody other than themselves could be blamed for all that went wrong.

They gerrymander their districts for their own benefit, have access to so much campaign cash and each representing such vast areas that they are all but unbeatable. None has lost a re-election bid since 1980.

That’s the year Mike Antonovich knocked off talk-show host Baxter Ward. Since then, Antonovich has reigned supreme over a carefully drawn district that runs across the northern half of the San Gabriel Valley through the tri-cities and a strip of the San Fernando Valley to the far north of the county.

He’s unfazed by criticism, so it was natural for him to tackle the dirty job of trying to cure a blatant violation of the state’s Brown Act requiring all public meetings of elected bodies be open and above board.

The supervisors were caught red-handed contemptuously violating the open meeting law in a series of illegal meetings last September, culminating in a group chat behind closed doors with Gov. Jerry Brown over dumping felons from state prisons into the county jail under prison realignment.

Even the sleepwalking District Atty. Steve Cooley cried foul, although he waited four months to conclude it was impermissible. He’s done that before on more than one occasion, but found each time it really didn’t matter — no harm, no foul.

Even the courts have faulted the supervisors for their penchant for illegal closed-door meetings, and have imposed fees and sanctions; but the supervisors are so arrogant that the practice of excluding the public from the public’s business goes on.

Last month, Board President Zev Yaroslavsky set off a firestorm of criticism by proposing that people who come to be heard by their elected officials be allowed just three minutes in total to comment on the entire agenda, which can number more than 60 items. Absolute monarchs were known to be more generous with their precious time.

When county Counsel Andrea Ordin made a legal fool of herself in trying to justify the closed-door meeting with the governor as if it were a legally permissible conference with top law enforcement officials over an imminent terrorist threat to public facilities, it was left to the politically untouchable Antonovich to propose an audacious solution.

“I believe that the board representing 10 million citizens ought to have that ability to speak with the elected governor of their state or the elected president of the United States,” he declared, a goal the supervisors are now pursuing.

Fortunately, others are also pursuing this matter — others like Leslie Dutton of the Full Disclosure Network that two years ago sent a video crew to Washington to document a series of illegal meetings the supervisors held with government officials; and like attorney Terry Francke of Californians Aware, who filed a lawsuit against the supervisors on Feb. 3 over the meeting with the governor.

“The only available answer is to get them to admit they broke the law, renounce the practice in the future and turn over any record of the actual discussion that took place in the closed session,” said Francke, who has spent his life fighting for open government and the public’s 1st Amendment rights to know what their officials are up to, and to speak out freely about those matters.

“If their egos are anything like public officials at more modest levels, they will likely refuse to do that. When officials are re-elected time after time for a generation, they are not going to worry about public reaction as much as an organization that has more turnaround in their elected leaders.

“Just like some corporations are too big to fail, certain political institutions are too big not to fail.”

Too big not to fail — isn’t that the heart of the problem?

It’s a matter of scale. It’s why smaller cities are pretty well run and a big city like Los Angeles is a disaster. It’s why the 10 million people in Los Angeles County get a government that is remote and imperious and inefficient.

Here’s Why You Should Never Believe an LA Politician Again

Damn it, if you can’t trust the tax man or all the current and former elected officials who put him into office, who can you trust?

The LA Times on Sunday and again today exposed what a crook LA County Assessor John Noguez is so it’s worth looking at who helped get him into office two years

In addition to this long list of powerful groups and current and former elected officials –nearly all of them political insiders with long records of failing LA city and county — his website carries the names of dozens of smaller town city officials who backed him:

ORGANIZATIONAL ENDORSEMENTS

Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region (ANCA-WR)
Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs
BOMA Greater Los Angeles
California Association of Professional Employees
Central City Association
Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
Los Angeles County Democratic Party
Los Angeles County Federation of Labor/COPE

U.S. CONGRESSIONAL MEMBERS

Howard Berman, U.S. House of Representatives
Judy Chu, U.S. House of Representatives
Lucile Roybal-Allard, U.S. House of Representatives
Brad Sherman, U.S. House of Representatives
Maxine Waters, U.S. House of Representatives
Diane Watson, U.S. House of Representatives
Henry Waxman, U.S. House of Representtives

STATE OF CALIFORNIA ELECTED OFFICIALS

John Chiang, California State Controller
Ron Calderon, California State Senate
Gil Cedillo, California State Senate
Bob Blumenfield, California State Assembly
Steve Bradford, California State Assembly
Hector De La Torre, California State Assembly
Kevin DeLeon, California State Assembly
Warren Furutani, California State Assembly
Isadore Hall, California State Assembly
Bonnie Lowenthal, California State Assembly
Tony Mendoza, California State Assembly
Anthony Portantino, California State Assembly

LOS ANGELES COUNTY ELECTED OFFICIALS

Don Knabe, Supervisor, Los Angeles County
Gloria Molina, Supervisor, Los Angeles County
Mark Ridley-Thomas, Supervisor, Los Angeles County
Zev Yaroslavsky, Supervisor, Los Angeles County

Lee Baca, Sheriff, Los Angeles County
Rick Auerbach, Assessor (ret), Los Angeles County
Kenneth P. Hahn, Assessor (ret), Los Angeles County
Robert Philibosian (ret), Los Angeles County District Attorney

CITY OF LOS ANGELES ELECTED OFFICIALS

Antonio R. Villaraigosa, Mayor, City of Los Angeles
Wendy Greuel, Controller, City of Los Angeles
Carmen Trutanich, City Attorney, City of Los Angeles

Eric Garcetti, City Council President, Los Angeles
Jose Huizar, Councilmember, Los Angeles
Paul Koretz, Councilmember, Los Angeles
Paul Krekorian, Councilmember, Los Angeles
Tom LaBonge, Councilmember, Los Angeles
Bernard Parks, Councilmember, Los Angeles
Jan C. Perry, Councilwoman, Los Angeles
Greig Smith, Councilmember, Los Angeles
Herb Wesson, Councilmember, Los Angeles
Dennis Zine, Councilmember, Los Angeles

Robert Philibosian, former LA County District Attorney

Richard J. Riordan, former LA Mayor
Rick Tuttle, former LA City Controller

Beck Comes Clean: Taking Cars Out of the Hands of Unlicensed Drivers “Could Increase Safety on the Roads”

UPDATE: The LA Times has put up a full version of this story online.

Attaboy Charlie, we didn’t think you had it in you.

In a meeting with LA Times reporters and editors on Wednesday, you are quoted as saying “you would expect the number of hit-and-run accidents to decrease if illegal immigrants were licensed, because illegal immigrant drivers would not have to fear being caught without a license at accidents.”

That is a paraphrase provided by the unnamed person who wrote the story but your quotes give credence to the possibility you actually admitted the obvious: People without a name, without much of anything, without a license, without anything to lose are more dangerous behind the wheel than people who have all those things.

The answer you proposed, wasn’t to take the deadly weapon of a vehicle out of their hands but to allow them to take the state’s written and driving tests to get a license, supplying a birth certificate or other “valid” identification plus a thumb print and a photograph just like everybody else in California — and to face a lot of problems just like everybody else if they don’t have insurance, don’t register their cars, falsify their information or do anything else that is against the laws that are supposed to be applied fairly to all.

In your own words:

“The reality is that all the things that we’ve done – ‘we’ being the state of California – over the last 14, 16 years have not reduced the problem one iota, haven’t reduced undocumented aliens driving without licenses. So we have to look at what we’re doing. When something doesn’t work over and over and over again, my view is that you should reexamine it to see if there is another way that makes more sense.

“Why wouldn’t you want to put people through a rigorous testing process? Why wouldn’t you want to better identify people who are going to be here? It doesn’t make any sense to me. And we could increase safety on the roads. When you make things illegal you cause a lot of other things by chain reaction.”

Truer words you have never spoken.

The answer to the problem isn’t to let unlicensed drivers with phony insurance and faked registration ride away in their cars from the scene of a traffic stop, as you have proposed.

I got news for you Charlie, the pathetic leadership in Sacramento hasn’t let illegal immigrants get state driver licenses yet any more than the pathetic leadership in Washington has developed a workable immigration policy.

So in the great tradition of Chief William Parker why don’t you take the lead and solve this public safety issue now.

Call on the mayor and City Council to adopt a licensing policy for illegal immigrant drivers. If they take the city’s written and driving tests – at their own expense under the mayor’s novel full cost recovery program – and meet the same requirements as every state-licensed motorist, they will be granted an official license by the City of Los Angeles and be treated like everybody else on the road.

A lot of people think all those illegal immigrants should be kicked out of this country. But that ain’t gonna happen. A lot of people think allowing illegal immigrants to get a license is some kind of reward for their misconduct.

Charlie, that isn’t what I believe. I’ve been saying publicly for a long time that it is in everybody’s self-interest to require that everyone who drives a vehicle be licensed, insured and registered and have an identity that can help authorities find them if something bad happens.

It’s also in everybody’s self-interest to get unlicensed drivers off the road and to make sure that anyone behind the wheel has an identity, knows the laws and can avoid a lot of trouble by obeying the same laws as everybody else.

So what is it Charlie: Are you going to do something that “increases the safety on the roads” and reduces the number of hit-and-run accidents or are you going to go forward with a policy – actually you claim it is just a procedural change so it can’t be reviewed by the Police Commission, City Council or mayor – that puts our lives at risk?

You showed you know the difference between right and wrong when you walked next door and talked to the LA Times.

Now prove you are your own man, really the Chief of Police, by daring the mayor and City Council to do what is right in terms of protecting the public from harm.

Antonio Villaraigosa Uncritically Observed by the NY Times

NY Times’ LA Bureau Chief Adam Nagourney uncritically reviewed the record of Antonio Villaraigosa and uncritically interviewed him for a story today headlined “Los Angeles Mayor Sets Sights on a Bigger Stage.”

Here’s the only quotes from the mayor:

“I’ll acknowledge there have been big challenges over the years,” Mr. Villaraigosa said in an hourlong interview in his office at City Hall one recent morning, putting at the top of that list his failed marriage and the economic downturn that pounded the city. “But I was persistent and dogged in what I tried to do.”

“You hear the same criticism of the president,” he said. “I think that happens if you run a campaign of hope and promise.”

For perspective on the mayor, Nagourney turns to labor boss Maria Elena Durazo and academics Raphael Sonenshine and Peter Dreier — all three uncritical Antonio supporters.

Durazo: “The ideas that he’s pushing forward, he’s really been focused on them. Maybe he learned some stuff from the first few years.”

Sonenshine:  “He’s really made a comeback that will pay off in a statewide race. He has politically recovered in a lot of ways … You have to respect his political skills.. But I think his political skills are such that they sometimes cause less recognition for his substantive skills than is fair.”

Dreier: “People miss a lot of Antonio’s accomplishments and also overestimate the ability of the mayor to fix the problems in his midst. He’s been governing at a time when it’s almost impossible to be a successful mayor. But he’s been as successful as one can hope for.”

It is good to see the NY Times shares my disdain for the pretense of objectivity. For a different perspective go back a week to my post “The Resurrection of Antonio Villaraigosa.”

It begins: “The stench of City Hall’s corruption grows fouler by the day even as the mayor who has contributed so greatly to it becomes an ever more visible and important national political figure. It’s enough to give you a laugh – or a cry.”

Reformers Speak Out: The LA Ethics Commission Must Keep Its Finger in the Dike

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article  was written by three of the most respected political reformers in Los Angeles and California:  Robert Stern, formerly the head of the Center for Government Studies; Kathay Feng,  Executive Director of California Common Cause, and Trent Lange, President of the California Clean Money Campaign. They are urging the City Ethics Commission to reject more than doubling the amount of money candidates for city offices can get from individual contributors. UPDATE: LA Times editorial today is headlined “LA Tackles Campaign Donations — Badly.”

By Robert M. Stern, Kathay Feng and Trent Lange

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, we have watched the explosion of special interest money flooding into elections.

The Los Angeles Ethics Commission is now asked to consider dramatically increasing all of the contribution limit amounts in the city’s campaign finance law.  The LA Ethics Commission has long had a sterling reputation for being one of the most aggressive and forward thinking agencies anywhere in the country. It has managed despite budget cutbacks, to strongly enforce the city’s tough ethics and campaign financing laws.

Why would the Ethics Commission consider more than doubling thresholds
for contributions: from $500 to $1,100 for city council candidates and
from $1000 to $2,200 for citywide campaigns?

It’s not to make city elections more competitive. In 2008, the LA City Ethics Commission itself found that: “Raising contribution limits seems to disproportionately benefit
incumbents, who already raise and spend more on campaigns than
non-incumbent candidates.” 

Our analysis verifies that, showing that an astounding 93% of the maximum $500 contributions to council candidates in races involving incumbents since 2003 went to the incumbents.  

Doubling the contribution limit amounts only means that they will be able to raise more funds from special interests and make it even more difficult for challengers to
compete. 

Who else would benefit besides incumbents?  It certainly isn’t regular Los Angeles voters.  Less than 0.1% of Los Angeles residents made the maximum of $500 or $1,000 contributions as is. The other 99.9 % of regular voters would just end up having their voices drowned out even more by special interests.  

The last time the LA Ethics Commission considered raising contribution and spending limits was just four years ago.  They decided not to.  

Nothing has changed since that conclusion except that special interests’ efforts to control our government have become even more pervasive.  The cost of living increase since 2008 has been minimal (less than 4%), and incumbents still dominate election campaigns.

We urge the Commission to heed Angelenos who have spoken time and time again — we want our officials to be accountable to the people, not to special interests.

The Ethics Commission is meeting this Thursday, Feb 23, 2012, 09:30 AM, City Hall Room 1060. You can make your voice heard by emailing the commission — Paul H. Turner, president; Valerie Vanaman, vice president; Marlene Canter and Nathan J. Hochman — at ethics.commission@lacity.org.