In the Bhagavad Gita – the holy book that inspired Gandhi’s doctrine of ahimsa, non-violent resistance to evil – Prince Arjuna, torn by doubt and confusion about whether to join his clan’s battle against his cousins’ clan, engages in a dialogue with the Lord Krishna over how to resolve his dilemma.
“Fight you must, Arjuna, it is your duty,” says Krishna.
There comes a time in human affairs, a moment of truth, when discussion and entreaties no longer can be justified. That time has come in Los Angeles.
Duty calls for all those who volunteered to be part of the government of the City as officials — members of Neighborhood Councils and Commissions – or unofficially as participants in resident groups or other civic organizations to take a stand and fight.
The time for talking the issues to death is over. The only issue is power, and the leadership of the city has made up its mind that it will keep all the power to itself at a time when it is exposed for its failures in almost every area, exposed for its corruption from the little people taking bribes and stealing, to those on top who lie and cheat and sell out the public interest in pursuit of their own interests.
Our public officials have taken umbrage over the years at the suggestion they were corrupt and anti-democratic.
But hardly a day has gone for months in which there are not revelations of wrongdoing in high places.
Even the 10-foot thick walls protecting county government from the intrusive eyes of the press and public seem to be crumbling despite escalating efforts of county supervisors to operate completely in secret.
Beatings of inmates in the county jail by deputies and favors bestowed on friends never seemed to stain the reputation of Sheriff Sherman Bloch no matter how often they surfaced but now we are seeing Lee Baca squirming over the same accusations.
The county tax assessor – a gay Latino hailed just a short time ago as evidence of how far we’ve come as a society — is now likely to find himself up on charges for abusing his power by giving massive property tax cuts to clients of his favorite briber.
Then, there’s John Deasy, superintendent of the nation’s second largest school district, left dangling in the winds of the most disgusting of all crimes and governmental failures — LAUSD’s longstanding policy of doing little or nothing to protect our children from molestation by teacher predators.
But nothing can compare with the corruption of City Hall.
Four years into the budget crisis, city officials still do not have a grip on spending despite steep cuts in services to the public although revenue is virtually the same as it was in 2008.
They have negotiated and renegotiated with city labor unions and want to renegotiate yet again because they have run out of gimmicks and cost deferrals and fund transfers with yet another budget deficit running into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
And most sinister of all, they are turning up the screws for control of all power, politicizing the bureaucracy to the point of making Civil Service protections all but obsolete, punishing officeholders who dare to voice even the slightest objections and gerrymandering City Council districts so that citizen candidates don’t stand a chance.
The odds are overwhelming that City Hall next year will see a mayor who comes from City Hall and bears full responsibility for years of failure, that we will see a City Council that will look like a reunion of state legislators fully responsible for the tragic decline of California, a City Attorney who as a former Councilman and legislator has a record that is indefensible and, finally, a controller whose only qualification for the office is how well he has looked after himself financially with $100,000 pension from writing traffic tickets and twice that much income as a Councilman.
This is not a government of, by or for the people. It is a government that serves itself and those who put them into office.
On the table right now is the issue of drawing new Council districts, a process that was so ruthlessly rigged that hundreds of people have protested every part of the city.
Yet, it is symptomatic of what is wrong that community groups as well organized as the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association stand up and applaud because they believe they will get some narrow advantage for themselves as if they lived in an island by themselves immune from the deterioration going on all around them.
It is what the City Hall political machine counts on – the ability to divide and conquer with little more than crumbs from the table of power.
It works to keep the business community weak and docile, non-profits onside and Neighborhood Councils and residents groups confused and disorganized.
Nothing good can come from any of this, nothing can avoid the looming calamity short of massive coming together of all those who know better, an army of thousands of citizens who see the futility email protests and a minute or two at public comment.
Fight we must, it is our duty.
Frankly, if you think all this is over the top and things aren’t that bad, just sit back and relax like so many others and tell yourself, “I got mine. It’s not my problem. I’ll be alright no matter what. After all, you can’t fight City Hall, can you?”