Hold on to your wallets, good folks of Glendale, union boss Brian D’Arcy of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18 wants to pick your pockets.
If you think the piddling water rate hikes of 12% spread out over four years that were approved by the City Council last week were bad, consider this: D’Arcy virtually runs the L.A. Department of Water and Power, no matter who is the general manager, and has been getting IBEW members raises of 3% to 6% every year for the last seven years — even when cops and other workers are getting nothing.
That has a lot to do with why the L.A. Department of Water and Power rates have been skyrocketing and officials are seeking as much as 15% increases overall for each of the next three years in Los Angeles.
It didn’t just start. It has been going on for years, to the point L.A. utility workers — all 11,000 of them — average $96,805 each, which is nearly $30,000 more than other L.A. city workers, according to a recent Bloomberg News story.
L.A. Department of Water and Power carpenters were paid $102,732 on average; auto painters $109,192; cabinet makers $101,840; garage attendants $74,408; land-surveying assistants $123,333; air-conditioning mechanics $102,878, and audio-visual technicians $147,853.
When you look at the tough job of electric linemen, they get a salary of $113,796 — almost exactly what Burbank Water and Power linemen represented by the IBEW get, but $9,000 more a year than their Glendale counterparts, who are only now seeking to have D’Arcy and the IBEW represent them.
Last April, about 175 Glendale Water & Power workers broke with the main city employees union and signed up to join IBEW Local 18 in the belief that D’Arcy — the most powerful and feared union boss in Los Angeles — had won his members one lucrative contract after another, nearly 6% increases in some years, and given him significant control of the city’s utility and its policies.
Negotiations between Glendale and the IBEW have made little progress on the main issue — more money, a lot more money.
News websites can be very unfair — or more judgmental than they intentionally mean to be — as shown in how the LA Times editorial Friday benignly asking where the six District Attorney candidates stand on juvenile prosecutions with these references to recent editorials on “Chief Prosecutor” Carmen Trutanich. Just saying…
The more things change, the more they stay the same — wannabe mayor Wendy Greuel released an audit Thursday on the lack of controls on fuel use for city cars that is little more than a rewrite of then Controller Laura Chick’s Jan. 22, 2009 audit — a lot less actually, not more. (LATimes 2009 story)
Some might call it plagiarism since Greuel doesn’t mention or cite Chick’s audit three years ago. Director of Auditing Farid Saffar oversaw both audits but he did not want to talk about his work.
In addition to exposing the complete abuse of free city gas for private use, Chick also conducted a companion audit released the same day on “take-home cars.” In clear and forceful terms, her cover letters expressed how strongly she felt about the abuses of both cars and fuels:
“Of the 167 audits completed since I took office as Controller, the two I release today are the most stunning testament to how the City does business in an un-businesslike way.
These audits spotlight serious issues whi ch require immediate action. Every day, multiple conversations occur in City Hall about how to squeeze more money out of the taxpayers . . . more fees for parking meters, increased trash collection fees, higher DWP rates, a parcel tax for anti-gang programs. Before we ask for one more penny from the public, we must get our own house in order.
We are supposed to be leading and setting an example. This is not the example we want the public to follow.
That’s the complete text of Chick’s cover letter, which from what Greuel’s audit says had little or no impact on ending this particular corruption that forces us to reduce library hours, cut parks programs and takes cops and firefighters off the streets.
You would think that a woman as ambitious as Greuel would be outraged that three years after her former friend, Laura Chick, exposed this larceny, things were just as bad as before..
Not Wendy, her two-page cover letter details at the length the virtually identical findings of waste and virtually identical recommendations for fixes contained in the audits three years ago. The only rhetoric comes in the last paragraph:
The City’s controls over fuel usage is another example of how simple changes to the City’s business practices can strengthen controls to save millions of dollars. I urge the Mayor, Council and all City departments to make -the changes in my Controller’s Accountability Plan immediately, to better control the City’s fuel costs and ensure that every dollar is spent responsibly for mission-related fuel consumption and that no City funds are spent without adequate monitoring and oversight. Departments must be more vigilant and more accountable for their fuel usage. I look forward to seeing departments implementing these recommendations immediately – the City cannot afford to wait.
“Simple changes?” Urges the mayor and everyone to work to “better control” costs with “adequate monitoring and oversight” so she can “look forward” to departments being “more vigilant and accountable” and “implementing these recommendations immediately.”
No Wendy, the city has watched this abuse of free cars for all kinds of people who shouldn’t have them for years, has watched the widespread abuse of mooching gas off of taxpayers and waited three years already since Chick exposed this and this is all you have to say?
Are you running for mayor of a city whose troubles have a lot to do with your own failure or are you running for social director so we can all talk nice to each other and pat ourselves on the back as the poor get poorer, the rich get richer and those in the middle class get the hell out of town.?
A lot of people think better of you so to coin a phrase “the city cannot afford to wait” any longer for you to to stand up courageously for what’s right and become a true leader.
While we are waiting, check out what the Police Protective League has to say about this audit and look at these lists from Chick’s 2009 audit showing how many take-home cars you are supplying to elected officials and their bloated staffs and how many to various city departments:
For Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa and Eric M. Garcetti, a council member who represents much of Hollywood, the Hollywood Community Plan reflects the latest attempt to move Los Angeles away from its reliance on cars, creating a concentrated urban area along a thriving subway line where people would work, live and shop — by foot, no less. It is a school of urban planning that has been tried with considerable success in many cities over the past decade, though, of course, Los Angeles is not really like many other cities.
“You love to write about this being the city of sprawl and how we are not like New York and other cities that are more vertical,” Mr. Villaraigosa said in an interview. “This is L.A.’s opportunity to match the growth of our transit system with the jobs and housing that is critical to smart growth.”
“From the beginning, I said we are going to move away from our single-passenger automobile system,” he said. “We are going to remake what the city looks like.”
There is a virtue to homers like Nagourney when they can get the mayor and his wannabe successor to admit their intention is to trash the quality of life that makes LA special even though there is no evidence whatsoever that there is a market demand for high-rise living.
Are tens of thousands of affluent people who can afford high-priced apartments high up in skyscrapers lining up to move to Hollywood so they can take the subway to work and buses to the supermarket?
Who are they kidding? This isn’t urban planning for a sustainable city. It is just the same old, same old LA real estate scam but instead of sprawling horizontally they are sprawling vertically.
What they are planning for Hollywood is also in the works for Warner Center, for Century City, Westwood and clearly with the sale of the Dodgers for $2 billion, for Chavez Ravine.
Anybody want to buy a little bungalow on the Valley floor?
The story-traces Tutor’s roots as the son of Armenian immigrants and his childhood in Van Nuys to how he built one of the nation’s largest construction firms.
He donated heavily to politicians like the $200,000 he contributed to Jim Hahn’s mayoral and anti-secession campaigns and was handsomely rewarded with public works contracts.
A cocky man with a Mafia don’s manner, Tutor has wound up in numerous lawsuits, sometimes for shoddy work or in the case of the MTA over allegations of false billing claims — litigation that is still pending on appeal 17 years after it began.
Most of Miller’s story revolves around Tutor’s lavish lifestyle and his effort to buy his way into Hollywood with the $700 million purchase from Disney in late 2010 of Miramax, the spectacularly successful company built by Harvey and Bob Weinstein.
“Tutor’s dalliance with Hollywood” has proven costly, Miller reports, and led Tutor to sell off a big chunk of his stock in Tutor-Perini at declining prices, raising questions over whether he will join the long line of outsiders who tried to join the glamorous world of Hollywood and wound up losing their shirts.
Gnawing at the back of my brain for decades, eating away at the heart of my political philosophy, has been my feeling that I despise all politicians except I have to admit, “I do like Ike.”
The only President who has stood the test of my lifetime was Dwight David Eisenhower.
I didn’t like Ike when I was young, thought he was a stodgy and boring, an old man who didn’t know what was going on around him, a figurehead who was always talking about peace and prosperity — not like Adlai E. Stevenson who was an open-minded, free-thinking liberal with empathy that my parents thought made him one of us.
Things change over time, sometimes even people do.
I can honestly say today that in retrospect I LIKE IKE more than ever. He’s the only President to speak the truth directly to the people in my lifetime, even if it only came in his Farewell Address and all that he preached in his eight years was “peace and prosperity.”
Back then, I didn’t understand how lucky I was personally to grow up in a nouveau middle class family and how 99 percent of all human beings want nothing more than the chance to live in peace and prosper. Ah, the false idealism of youth!
JFK offered the totalitarian notion that I should ask what I could do for my country rather than what my country could do for me and then escalated the war in Vietnam and hesitated to defend the civil rights of people who were called Negroes back then.
Johnson was worse, Nixon a liar and criminal, Ford a bumbling boob, Carter too “good” for his own good, Reagan overrated, Bush the first a CIA stooge, Clinton an intellectual slut, Bush the second just a plain stooge.
And now there’s Barack Obama, a president who seems to only speak the truth in murmurs when he thinks the microphones aren’t on.
Back in November, Obama was with French President Nicolas Sarkozy who commented on Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu: “I can’t stand him. He’s a liar.” .
Obama replied, “You’re tired of him; what about me? I have to deal with him every day.”
Oops, open mike.
Now there’s this political disaster: “This is my last election. And after my election, I have more flexibility”
That’s what he told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev with regards to the U.S. missile defense shield to protect Europe from what used to threaten their survival before the fall of the Soviet Union.
Oops, don’t these people know enough to yell, “Mic check.”
I’m disappointed in Barack Obama though it’s hard to see any Republican who isn’t worse at this point.
But it’s not just him. Long ago, I concluded our own Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was betraying every promise he ever made, every belief he ever held, every person who ever trusted him. And now I’m watching Jerry Brown sell out what he knows is right for what’s pragmatic.
Pragmatic — that’s the word Richard Riordan used to justify giving up on doing what was right in the face of a system that crippled his ability to deliver anything he actually believed it, a system that had evolved from the military-industrial complex decried by Eisenhower to the bankers-union-greed machine we have today enslaving us.
To paraphrase Barry Goldwater: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And “pragmatism” in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
Like Adlai Stevenson, Goldwater was a loser in no small part because they both had a bad habit of speaking truth to power:
“I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass…I wouldn’t trust Nixon from here to that phone…Hubert Humphrey talks so fast that listening to him is like trying to read Playboy magazine with your wife turning the pages….The income tax created more criminals than any other single act of government…I think any man in business would be foolish to fool around with his secretary. If it’s somebody else’s secretary, fine.”
A free society is one where it is safe to be unpopular…A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation…Accuracy to a newspaper is what virtue is to a lady; but a newspaper can always print a retraction…Communism is the corruption of a dream of justice … the death of the soul… As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the law-givers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end.
Here’s to the losers, those who dare to speak the truth.
When you vote in June and in November, will you dare to ask of any candidate that you vote for whether they have ever spoken the truth to power in public?
And come next March when you decide the fate of this city, will you demand the truth from the candidates. Can you even live with the truth?
The truth I live is that there is hardly anyone who holds public office now who deserves your vote unless they can make a compelling case they did not buy in sooner or later and accept the corruption of the system as if it were normal.
I have covered government in Cleveland, Alaska, Alabama, Washington D.C. and Washington state, Australia, California and Washington and I can only remember a handful of people who ever won elected office and served as much as two years without losing their integrity.
It isn’t the people. It’s the system. It is corrupt to its core. Ike said it half a century ago.
The heart of what it means to be an American was stolen away from us by phony conflicts between Democrats and Republicans while big business, big labor and big government were uniting to serve themselves and turn us into a two-class society of “haves” and “have-nots.”
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades. In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded…
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system — ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.
Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we — you and I, and our government — must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
It’s time we started getting clear about some things. I’m coming up on my fourth anniversary of speaking publicly about what’s on my mind, in the way I choose to do it.
If any of you ever spent a week working in a stifling corporate environment or a government job, you know what it is to try to do your best, bound and gagged.
That’s what has been so liberating for me.
But it’s time I admitted I don’t know nothing. I make up all this stuff out of the facts I choose because they line up in a narrative way that enlightens me.
Down the road, I may or may not come to believe exactly what I wrote. My hope is that what I put into words that I published before the world in my own name — as opposed to the unsigned editorials and headlines and bylines of reporters I hid behind for so long – moves the discussion forward for you and for me.
Can you imagine what it means to me to have the freedom for three years and 11 months to put my name on my work and not be totally ignored or arrested?
I don’t know nothin’. That’s the truth. But a lot of nobodies in this town are just like me and they do know a lot of stuff.
A case in point is how a group of nobodies who identify themselves somewhat anonymously as Tract7260 referring to their Census tract (Psst! It’s somewhere near Century City since so many people think race, class, ethnicity still mean anything in this city). Their members Mike Eveloff and Jim O’Osullivan also blog at Fix the City — LA and sometimes file lawsuits in defense of their — and our — rights to have a city government operates within the law and works for our benefit.
They figured out how after 30 years of confusion and uncertainty about who is responsible for fixing the sidewalks — which were worth paying $7 million a year in trip-and-fall lawsuit settlements rather than fixing, according to City Attorney candidate Mike Feuer the last time he ran for that office– you can actually make the city cough up the money and fix.
It’s known as shoving their own rules down their throats.
Here’s what they did in Tract 7260: They took photographs of trees uprooting sidewalks and they had a lawyer send a letter to the right authorities citing the law and showing the harm broken sidewalks were causing and demanding the problem be fixed or they will see you (the city) in court and it will cost a whole lot more.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been through a lot in my life and I’ve never seen anything like this — and it isn’t at all like seeing an elephant fly.
Our elected officials must think we are all “Dumbos” and will somehow go along with higher taxes, even though the basic problem is not being fixed: government costs too much and delivers too little.
Personally, I would be happy to pay more in taxes, but I have to ask the same questions of Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature that I would ask a friend who got into financial trouble during this dark and dreary recession because he was living beyond his means for a long time.
Is your house in order? If I give you money, will it get you back into a sound financial footing, or are you just hoping to buy a little time — and some lottery tickets — to straighten things out?
For four years now, we have seen that the state, the city of Los Angeles and many others cities and counties have cooked the books, juggled funds, borrowed heavily, deferred costs and taken minimal steps to be able to fool voters, and themselves, into believing the lie that their budgets are balanced.
Even cities like Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena — which are more affluent and far better managed than most — face reducing services to the public, and raising rates and fees wherever they can, to stave off the toughest decisions in hopes the economic recovery will save them from dealing with the reality of a “new normal” of slow, or even no, growth.
It is hard to believe that Herb Wesson’s City Council could sink any lower but the president’s No. 2 man Ed Reyes — with an assist from wannabe Mayor Eric Garcetti — led his colleagues to the bottom of a sea of moral corruption and intellectual bankruptcy on Friday.
Two decades ago, the Community Redevelopment Agency took millions of dollars of taxpayer money and built a 33,000-square-foot supermarket below four floors of affordable housing at Grand Avenue and Cesar Chavez in Chinatown.
Trouble was Albertson’s pulled out of the deal and 20 years later, the city was incapable of a finding another tenant so the supermarket sat empty and Chinatown remained one of LA’s many food deserts where fresh fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices were not readily available.
Enter Wal-Mart, the bogeyman of union kingpin Maria Elena Durazo and her pals, takes over the property. The nation’s No. 1 retailer, as early as last November, starts to pull permits from Building and Safety to make tenant improvements like installing refrigeration, shelves and whatever it takes to get their grocery store operating in a building that was built and zoned for the purpose so the entitlements were already in place.
Durazo and company have long thwarted the retail giant from opening 100,000-plus-square-foot superstores but this one is just for groceries and it’s still unacceptable because Wal-Mart’s is adamantly anti-union — putting its employees in the same situation as LA’s sweatshop workers and 85 percent of the city’s work force.
Suddenly, on March 16, with only the last permits to be pulled, Reyes — who as city planner and Councilman boasts he has been engaged in Chinatown development issues for all these 20 years — awakened from his soporific Rip Van Winkle sleep and discovered the evil Wal-Mart was coming to Chinatown.
So without public input or any kind of hearings, the man who has sat on the Planning and Land Use Committee for a decade put in a motion, seconded by Garcetti, demands for an interim control ordinance to try to stop Wal-Mart from opening the store and adds an amendment that his measure exempts existing businesses and those with under 20,000 square feet.
In other words, it only applies to Wal-Mart as the unions and their front group, the L.A. Alliance for the New Economy, demanded and got because they put guys like Reyes into office and keep them there to do their bidding.
The only trouble was that just before closing for business on Thursday, Wal-Mart pulled the last permit it needed to start construction so what Reyes was trying to do was irrelevant.
It was hardly that Wal-Mart “outwitted” the Council as the LA Times reported; the company had help getting its permits from officials in very high places to head off what was as an explosive anti-business controversy that the mayor could hardly afford to endure when he’s President Obama’s “Latino voters” star attraction and on a roll in the national press.
Reyes knew what had happened so did the rest of the Council when they took up this matter on Friday.
Building and Safety General Manager Robert “Bud” Ovrom was waiting in the wings to be called to testify as soon as they were done with public comment — most of it in support of Wal-Mart with Chamber of Commerce head Gary Toebben “vehemently’ opposed to the ordinance and Central City Association leader Carol Schatz imperiously warning “don’t do this.”
Just because what he was up to no longer mattered meant nothing to Reyes who plunged forward, lying through his teeth about what this was about. I stopped counting when I got past 20 lies. (Watch the upcoming video and count them yourselves).
An elderly person once was hit by a bus in Chinatown. There’s $1 billion worth of new high schools filled with teenagers in the area so traffic and sidewalk improvements are desperately needed. The CRA is gone. The character of Chinatown must be preserved as if the bland, modern building in question fits into the look of the community.
It was all hot air and lies, not a single word about Wal-Mart or the union demands.
Reyes deserved to be rebuked by every member of the Council. Instead, they wiggled and dissembled and voted unanimously as if it were nothing more than a local planning issue to order the Planning Department — which they noted was overworked with 40 percent of its staff cut — to waste hundreds of hours drafting the interim control ordinance and holding hearings.
Trust me, it will be a cold day in Chinatown before that comes back to the Council.
City Maven Alice Walton provides more than you would ever want to know about the Herb Wesson roast last night at the Beverly Hilton — unless, she says, you ” love jokes about short men, strippers, the Korean community and redistricting.”
It was sort of a “get shorty” affair with all the city’s big shots cracking jokes at the Council’s “Mr. Big” and all the special interests seeking special favors like Westfield, AEG, garbage haulers and Clear Channel Airports (part of the global digital billboard advertising empire) chipping in half a million bucks for the Diabetes Association.
Don’t you just wish with all your might that you were a somebody in this godforsaken town.
Notably absent from the shindig was Wal-Mart which may explain better than anythiing why Wesson’s second in command, little Ed Reyes, and wannabe mayor Eric Garcetti, want to keep the company from opening a badly needed smallish grocery store in Chinatown.
In a case of whatever labor boss Maria Elena Durazo wants your city officials will give, Reyes and Garcetti have proposed a special ordinance stripping Wal-Mart of its right “to build on property that has been vacant for decades, and in accordance with the site’s intended use,” as the LA Times puts it politely in an editorial calling their action “unfair.”
Joe Hicks and David Lehrer take a tougher stance in the Jewish Journal, expressing their disgust with how the Council shows “obvious contempt” for our intelligence and treats us like “fools.”
“We aren’t Muppets and we aren’t idiots and our electeds ought not treat us as such. If they have a problem with Wal-Mart because their union supporters do—admit it. If those concerns trump new jobs and enlivening a neighborhood that needs retail be honest about it. Don’t hide behind a façade of concern that is transparently dishonest.”
Perhaps, the retailing giant should just give in to City Hall’s extortion, pay off the Councilmen and agree to a project labor agreement like everybody else has to in order to do business in LA. Maybe that has something to do with the city’s massive job losses.
Speaking of LA’s rotten economy, sober minds and deep thinkers were on full display Thursday at Global Cities Initiative at the University of Southern California where the focus was on how LA is “a city primed to take advantage of the global economy,” reports Joel Fox at his FoxandHoundsdaily.com website.
“While Los Angeles and California are a dynamic economic areas, no longer an outpost in the Wild West but a gateway to the world, as USC president Max Nikias said, it’s clear the state and Southern California region still have to overcome governance roadblocks and anti-business practices to flex their economic muscle.”
The common thread of the program — speakers included Bob Hertzberg, BNSF Railway CEO Matthew Rose and the Brookings Institution’s Bruce Katz — was think locally, act regionally in the global marketplace.
Katz is interviewed at length in David Abel’s “Planning Report” where he argues convincingly that a “new normal” is evolving in which competition between big cities and their suburbs is as counter-productive as managing the U.S. economy in a changing world from Washington.
What he advocates is the metropolitan regions around big cities working together to develop their assets for everyone’s benefit instead of trying to take jobs from each other as has been so common for so long using redevelopment funds.
“Clearly the rules have changed,” he told Abel. “I would say over the next decade and onwards, being globally fluent and understanding your special position in the world and acting on that position through these sharp networks of trading cities will almost be a prerequisite for city and metropolitan success.
And finally, here’s a clip from NBC’s “The Filter with Fred Roggin” which is being broadcast tonight as usual at 6:30 p.m.Fridays at 6:30 pm on Charter 304, Cox 804, Time Warner 225, Verizon FIOS 460.
The topics that social ethicist Charlotte Laws and I discussed were money, guns and pets.