Apple vs. Wal-Mart: Who Is the Better Corporate Citizen? Who Is the King of Tax Avoidance Schemes?

Why is Wal-Mart — a spectacularly successful non-union company that buys schlock merchandise from Third World companies that pay workers a pittance and sells those products at ridiculously cheap prices to poor and working class people — a villain that is unwelcome in cool, liberal LA?

Why is Apple — an even more spectacularly non-union company that ships most of its jobs  overseas to China where where suppliers pay workers so little and push the so hard they are suicidal — the darling of cool, liberal LA where so many are willing to pay a huge premium for its products and become captive consumers to even more Apple products?

Maybe it’s because Apple is such a creative, cool, liberal company it has written the book on how the world’s richest company and others like Google and Amazon that rank in the upper 1 percent of profitability worldwide — avoid billions of dollars in local, state and federal taxes, according to a massive New York Times investigation published Sunday. (How Apple Sidesteps Billions in Taxes)

It’s called the “Double Irish with a Dutch Twist” — basically a scheme to drive profits to low tax states and countries like Ireland where Apple’s patents are located so the company can put $110 billion in the bank, make billionaires of its and millionaires of its shareholders at the expense of everyone else, including Apple’s adoring followers.

With a handful of employees in a small office here in Reno, Apple has done something central to its corporate strategy: it has avoided millions of dollars in taxes in California and 20 other states.

Apple’s headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif. By putting an office in Reno, just 200 miles away, to collect and invest the company’s profits, Apple sidesteps state income taxes on some of those gains.

California’s corporate tax rate is 8.84 percent. Nevada’s? Zero.

Setting up an office in Reno is just one of many legal methods Apple uses to reduce its worldwide tax bill by billions of dollars each year. As it has in Nevada, Apple has created subsidiaries in low-tax places like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands — some little more than a letterbox or an anonymous office — that help cut the taxes it pays around the world.

So how lucrative is Apple’s tax avoidance scheme?

Apple’s federal income tax bill last year would have been $2.4 billion higher if it paid its fair share. Instead, it paid a total of $3.3 billion in cash on profits of $34.2 billion — a 9.8 percent tax rate. And that’s not what it pay the U.S. government; it’s what they paid to all the governments in the world in income tax.

“By comparison, Wal-Mart last year paid worldwide cash taxes of $5.9 billion on its booked profits of $24.4 billion, a tax rate of 24 percent, which is about average for non-tech companies,” the NY Times reported.

It isn’t just the government that provides the military-diplomatic support for companies that Apple and other high-tech California companies screw.

In 2009, they bought the California Legislature — presumably for a penny on the dollar with 10 free I-Pads thrown in — and got tax breaks that save Apple alone $1.5 billion a year in state taxes.

That’s a lot money in a state with a perpetual budget crisis that has led to massive cuts in public services, let the poor to live or die on their own and jacked up taxes, rates, fees and penalties with far more to come.

What’s happened to De Anza Community College, barely a mile from Apple’s Cupertino headquarters, is the face on this story.

It’s the school Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak attended but now it has cut more than a thousand courses and 8 percent of its faculty and faces a budget gap so large, it is in a  “death spiral,” according to the school’s president, Brian Murphy.

“I just don’t understand it,” he saidl “I’ll bet every person at Apple has a connection to De Anza. Their kids swim in our pool. Their cousins take classes here. They drive past it every day, for Pete’s sake. But then they do everything they can to pay as few taxes as possible.”

Steve Jobs, hero to so many, personally went before the Cupertino City Council shortly before his death last year, to demand approval for a new corporate headquarters building.

Only one Council member had the courage to even suggestion that Apple might doing something nice and generous for the city like providing free wireless Internet for everyone.

“That’s why we pay taxes. Now, if we can get out of paying taxes, I’ll be glad to put up Wi-Fi,” Jobs responded.

That remark clearly is the tone Apple likes to take toward anyone who dares to question how the company behaves. Apple issued a statement to the NY Times, counting among the company’s good works the taxes paid by its employees which make “us among the top payers of U.S. income tax …Our focus has been on doing the right thing, not getting credit for it.”  (Apple-NYT statement)

So I ask you what is so cool and liberal about Apple?

What is so rotten about Wal-Mart that the City Council, kowtowing to union demands, has kept them out of the city as much as possible, even trying to stop them from setting up a badly-needed grocery store in Chinatown in a building built with public money and left empty for 20 years?

And if the company wasn’t providing something of value, why would residents of the predominantly Latino community of Panorama City be welcoming a Wal-Mart grocery story in an abandoned eyesore shopping area?

Maybe it’s because the real people value jobs and taxes and fresh food more than the City Council that is more concerned with who gets the jobs and who they give the tax breaks too while posturing about the food deserts of LA they created with their destructive policies.


The Curse of the Valley: How LA City Hall Stifles Progress for the Whole Region — My Sunday Column

Do you ever wonder why the subway ends in North Hollywood instead of turning east to Burbank and Glendale? Or why the Gold Line turns right when it gets to Pasadena? Or why the Westside is getting light rail and a subway extension while you get nothing?

Politically speaking, size matters, so smaller cities don’t — unless they act like the 31 cities in the San Gabriel Valley. In 1994 they formed the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments to end their self-destructive squabbling and allow their voices to be heard despite the deafening roar of the 800-pound gorilla to the west, the city of Los Angeles.

It took a long time to get the cities and their three county supervisors to begin to collaborate for the good of the region, but working together has gotten results.

“We spent a lot of time building consensus and developing a common vision,” said Nick Conway, executive director of the SGVCOG for the last 16 years.

“Now we have two light rails, the most progress in light rail of anywhere in the county, freeway improvements, open space and conservancy. Had it not been for the COG, we could not have been able to band together and get those projects and become the overarching organization that respects local control, encourages cooperation and advocates for the common good.”

So who speaks for you? Who is advocating for your fair share of the billions of mass-transit dollars you are contributing to?

Formed last year, the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments could become the vehicle for improving the quality of life for the two million people who live in the L.A. portion of the valley and in the cities of San Fernando, Burbank and Glendale and Santa Clarita.


Four Years and Counting: Is Calamity the Only Hope?

Four years ago this month, I was fired from my job at the Daily News where I had worked for 23 years and started blogging.

“Free at last!” — those were the first words I wrote in my first post after more than four decades of dancing with the devil of corporate journalism.

I said I wanted to write from “my heart” about “the things I believe in, and the vision that drives me to fight for a better, a greater Los Angeles … to engage in a public conversation about who we are and what we could become if we pull together and work together for the common good.”

We’ll never know what that is or how to achieve it unless we talk about our experiences, our values, our needs and our aspirations. I believe with all my heart that that kind of public conversation will cut through the fog of political, media and corporate double talk and lead us to the common ground where we can start solving the problems of our community and make life better for us all.

I certainly don’t pretend to know the answers; I only know what I see and I’m probably wrong about most of all of it. My newsroom knew that, and had a saying, “You can’t spell wrong without R-O-N.”

So let’s tell the truth as we see it and learn from each other. Let the games begin

That was how I ended that first post — and now 1,702 published posts, 123 stillborn posts and 22,585 comments later — I’m at a crossroads, struggling against the futility of it all, the failure of so much of what I tried to achieve and engaged in a months-long meditation asking myself, “What if I am wrong?”

What if the greedy bastards are right? What if you might as well take as much as you can and enjoy yourself: To hell with everybody else, just be like so many others and cover the nakedness of your selfishness with politically correct nonsense and the armor of ideology?

Exploring that idea, I bought the website where I thought about satirizing the way things are today by declaring, “I got mine.”

I thought about writing under various pseudonyms boasting about how airlines, hotels, expensive shops, credit card companies were bestowing such generous freebies to make life more luxurious for the affluent and how the government is doing the right thing by providing tax shelters to the super-rich and giving them a lower tax rate than the masses.

Surely, many people would contribute their own let-them-eat-cake stories to because they actually believe things like that and in the grand illusion that they somehow will go from being an ordinary working slob and became one of those rich people someday.

I’ve thought long and hard about what I’ve written, what I’ve said in interviews, what I did in starting the Bastille Day 2008 Saving LA Protest at City Hall and how it became the Saving LA Project (SLAP), and how so many people from across the city came together to defeat Measure B, the $4 billion  solar energy boondoggle and elect Carmen Trutanich as City Attorney in 2009, and how SLAP morphed into LA Clean Sweep for the 2011 city elections to support candidates who were not part of the insider City Hall political machine.

Along the way, I brought to life my idea for the citizen journalism project, that I worked long and hard to try make it a place where we could talk about the issues we care about in our neighborhoods and in our organizations.

But what came of any of it? Even the successes have turned sour and most of what I tried ended in failure — not that failure itself has any sting for me.

I can’t deny it makes a difference that I’ve gotten older. I’ll be 71 next month and I’m having cataract surgery on my eyes in the next 10 days.

So my dilemma today is the same one that has haunted me my whole adult life: What to do?

I can no longer see what the point is to exposing the extraordinary corruption and incompetence of our city government or any of the levels of government above LA.

If you don’t know how they steal your money and give you so little in return, you haven’t been paying any attention and never will. You don’t matter at all except for your usefulness as a mindless casual voter who can be easily manipulated by ads and mailers designed to plug in to the programs embedded in your brains by an out of control materialist culture.

Personally, I’m tired of beating this dead horse. Like so many citizen activists and mainstream journalists, I’ve exposed many of their swindles of a docile and defeated populace. I’ve insulted their integrity, and mocked their daily deceits.

I’ve reach out to people who care in every part of the city, people of every race and class and met thousands of amazing people, caring and committed to right the wrongs they perceive, people who work countless hours to try to get City Hall to respect their values and interests and address their needs.

Clearly, I’m not very good in that role, never thought I was. I’ve always hoped a true leader would emerge and become the catalyst to bring the city together, believed it was inevitable that the opportunity to do something great was obvious that someone would step forward with the transcendent vision and the charisma to revolutionize LA into the city it could be, the city where dreams come true for all like it has been for me in so many ways.

What I have determined, right or wrong, is the issue is not poverty and the abuses of bankers; it is not over-development and the CRA; it is not the outrageous costs of salaries, pensions and benefits for public employees; it is not bike paths or green energy or even public safety.

The only issue is power. The people have none and are reduced to begging for crumbs from the table of power while developers, unions, business, political operatives divvy up the spoils of public money.

Nothing that I have seen or learned in the last four years gives me even the slightest hope that those who want a better city, a great city, are ready to put aside the narrow issues issue that motivate or rise above the biases that inhibit them to come together as a single unstoppable force.

The truth is the City Hall political machine is weak, held together by the greed of the special interests who control what is a motley crew of elected officials, few of whom have ever achieved anything of distinction in their whole lives.

The entire corrupt system would fall in a second if all those who agree on nothing but the need for dramatic change stood together in silence in front of City Hall where the Occupy LA movement camped out for so long and refused to leave until all our separate and collective demands were met.

That’s what I’ve always believed but I’m older if not wiser now. The only thing I’m sure about is that it is not going to happen without terrible pain that will only accentuate the horrible disparity between rich and poor and further send the middle class fleeing.

It is going to take a calamity to bring about change. I hope I’m wrong but the system is in a feeding frenzy and feels it is immunized against the consequences of the looming disaster.

This is 20 years after the LA riots that some call an uprising. The police have learned how to control without the incessant use of abusive force but the rage among the poor is so much deeper, the injustices so much deeper, a spiritual infection that has spread to many who like me could look the other way and say, “I got mine.”

I could learn to live with that like a lot of people but it would break my heart.

Money Matters: Campaign Finance Reforms Will Help End the Corruption and Incompetence at City Hall

Search through the campaign contribution lists at the LA City Ethics Commission and it won’t take you long to see why City Hall is so corrupt.

Your elected officials are bought and paid for — put into the highest paid and most outrageously overstaffed — municipal offices in America by money, lots and lots of money, from people who expect and usually get a healthy return on their money.

In the last two elections, Eastside Councilman Jose Huizar has put the touch on 201 people who actually live in his 14th District and more than 1,000 who live elsewhere while raising nearly $900,000 so he could trounce his underfunded challengers. Shamelessly, he even took the maximum $100,000 in public matching funds just to be safe because challenger Rudy Martinez put $213,000 of his own money into his campaign while raising only $88,000 from other people.

Last year, running for an open seat in District 12, the candidate anointed by the City Hall political machine, Mitch Englander, raised $568,000 from his far-flung friends to gain a 57 percent majority over his closest challenger Brad Smith, described in the press as the “contender with any press or money” — if $23,000 counts as money.

For his part, Antonio Villaraigosa garnered 54 percent of the vote in winning re-election in 2009 with a campaign warchest of more than $3 million — 14 times what his closest rival Walter Moore was able to raise.

There are typical examples of why city elections are almost always a fraud, why only 13 % of registered voters cast ballots last year, why City Hall has become a front for developers, unions and other special interests that feed at the public trough.

The rarest of exceptions is Carmen Trutanich, an outsider who raised $2 million from contributors to match insider Jack Weiss in the City Attorney’s race in 2009 and then got $1 million more — twice what Weiss got — from independent expenditure committees, the vast majority from the police union.

Money matters. It matters about 99 % of the time.

It means special interests get the politicians they pay for and the public gets the bills for the government they own.

We can do something to level the playing field — oops the U.S. Supreme Court says we can’t do that — but we can pressure City Hall to change the formula for public matching funds for candidates so that ordinary citizens could mount a credible campaign, get people talking about the real issues and maybe even win a few offices.

For the past year, Kathay Feng of Common Cause of California and her team have worked out a plan that would increase city matching funds in Council races from $1 for every dollar raised to $4 for every dollar raised up to the same maximum of $100,000.

Other proposed changes would give candidates the full $100,000 when the raise $25,000 as long as they have gotten contributions from at 200 residents of their districts.

Sitting Council members don’t like that idea, requiring them to actually spend time with the little people they were elected to represent. It’s beneath them.

These proposals are set to come before the Ethics Commission in June (the May meeting was cancelled because the commission is pleading its case not to be further debilitated by cuts in their staff).

It will take a miracle to get this through the Commission and adopted by the City Council in time for the 2013 election.

The miracle isn’t whether they will enact these reforms. The Commission and the Council will do that if the miracle occurs and the community  — the ordinary people in every part of the city — rise up and demand this step toward fairer elections and better government.

If you don’t join this campaign with nearly half the Council seats open in 2013 and failed state legislators ready to take them all, with the mayor, controller and city attorney offices open, than you have nobody to blame but yourself.

Click here for a list of the money raised by elected officials in 2007, 2009 and 2011 and below is a chart of the campaign finance rules today and the reforms that are proposed: 


When Is a System Not a System? When It’s the MTA’s Disconnected Bus and Rail System

EDITOR’S NOTE: Read the letter the LA Times described as “scathing”  from the Federal Transit Administration to LA’s MTA over its contempt for civil rights laws. Then, read the MTA’s response as reported by Steve Hymon, the former LA Times transportation reporter who wrote the tepid analysis of Measure R a week before the 2008 election and a year before he joined the MTA as blogger for the transit agency’s self-promoting website The Source. MTA characterizes the FTA’s complaints as old news, says 2 of the 5 failings have been “resolved” and promises total obedience to all demands so that funds are not withheld.

Hell-bent on building the subway-far-short-of-the-sea and ready to open the long-delayed and over-budget Expo Line far short of its planned Culver City destination, the MTA is facing scrutiny from the same Federal Transit officials it hopes will lend it billions against 30 years of future local sales tax revenue.

The problem called “disturbing” by he Feds is that MTA slashed bus services by 650,000 hours to fund rail projects, a problem under civil rights laws since bus riders are mostly minorities and the rail lines that are planned will mostly serve the remnants of the region’s white communities.

Despite the political hot air you hear all the time about how much they care, the actual policies have long been to punish the poor as federal officials noted — a problem that surely puts the nail in the coffin of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s ingenious 30-10 plan for rail construction.

It explains why he now wants to extend the MTA tax indefinitely so he can borrow against 100 years of revenue, not just 30. What else can he show as his legacy — that Jimmy Hahn hired the right guy in Bill Bratton to fix the LAPD so his own Charlie Beck can ruin it?

It also explains why he became so hysterical at last week’s MTA meeting when County Supervisor Mike Antonovich compared how the mayor steamrolled over all opposition to Measure R’s half-cent sales tax hike to “gang rape” — a crude but not inapt choice of words. (Listen here gangrape

Clearly, Antonovich is not going to let that the mayor’s Measure R II get through with the virtual lack of scrutiny it got four years ago.

The real problem with LA County’s transit system — ridership has been virtually stagnant for years — is that it isn’t a system at all.

It doesn’t go to the places people go like LAX, Dodger Stadium or hundreds of other popular destinations and the connections between lines is poor and getting worse because bus frequency has been reduced over and over along with elimination of many lines.

Connectivity and frequency — no mystery those are what make a successful transit system.

It’s why the lousy Orange Line Busway is dollar for dollar the most successful MTA line even though it only saves seven minutes crossing between North Hollywood and Warner Center. Buses run frequently and for many transit-dependent people, it means one less transfer to get to work.

If you listened to the gangrape audio from the last MTA meeting, you heard board member, transit expert and lobbyist-consultant Richard Katz, the former Democratic Assembly member, take charge and break up the fight between Antonio and Antonovich before it got really interesting.

At one point in recent years, Katz was on the board of the MTA, Metrolink and the High-Speed Rail Authority — something that eventually became a controversy over the obvious conflict of interest.

In a recent Round Table with Dave Bryan on the city propaganda station, Channel 35, Katz was defending the idiotic $100 billion high-speed rail boondoggle against criticism from the Reason Foundation’s Adrian Moore and came to admit just what a mess the transit system is.

You can take Katz’s word for it. He got the public to buy a state gas tax 20 years ago with the now oft-broken promise that it would always go for transportation and has been the mayor’s key adviser and strategist on all things transit-related.

What he can never concede as a principal architect of Measure R II — if projects are delivered on time and on budget would connect LAX and more importantly the various lines that don’t even meet now in downtown — is that it still won’t be a transit system 10 or 20 or 30 years from now.

There still won’t be a system with buses running with the frequency needed for connectivity and it still won’t take people to where they want to go quickly and efficiently.

Measure R — whether it’s 30-10 or 100-10 or whatever — isn’t about gang rape.

It’s about  MTA’s fraud against the public in building costly rail projects while bus services are being cut, fares are being raised and maintenance of the system being put off to the point that there is a $1.3 billion backlog and breakdowns are becoming dangerously frequent.

Board of Supervisors Illegal Meetings with the Governor: The Transcripts of What Was Said Behind Closed Doors

Caught red-handed holding three illegal closed-door meetings — two with Gov. Jerry Brown, one on the phone and one in person — Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors begrudgingly surrendered last week. (Transcript 9_20) (Transcript 9_21 (1)) (Transcript 9_26 (1))

If you have the patience to read through the transcripts from Sept. 20, 21, 26 of last year, you will quickly begin to wonder why they needed secrecy when they knew so little and had almost nothing interesting to say about prison realignment other than that they want to state to pay for everything.

It’s hard to see what they hoped to get from the governor who didn’t seem to have a grasp on the details of what he had wrought in releasing prisoners early and worse, he got confused about whether the Ralph M. Brown Act requiring open meetings of government bodies is a local or state law. (Ralph M. Brown was no relation to Pat or Jerry, both name Edmund G. Brown formally).

What’s disturbing is the indication that the real motive for wanting to do business in  back rooms is they are afraid the public will discover just how shallow and uninformed they really are.

Fortunately, the LA Times complained about he secrecy and Californians Aware, a non-profit led by First Amendment lawyer Terry Francke, sued the supervisors and won a settlement that should chill them from trying to keep the public ignorant of what’s going on in the future.

Here’s where near the end of the Sept. 26 meeting, they got a good laugh talking about how they would get around their collective violation of the law.

MS. ORDIN: I will say something also about the fact that this is a very unusual meeting, and we did make it unusual because of these potential threats to public service.

GOVERNOR BROWN: Let’s get our Brown Act cover story.

MS. ORDIN: Yes. One of the things I remember —

(Speaking simultaneously.)

SUPERVISOR MOLINA: There is press waiting in the lobby so we need to know.

MS. ORDIN: You may have folks — you may have folks out there who want to ask questions.


MS. ORDIN: And at the conclusion of this meeting, we will be going down for an open session because we do have members of the public who are going to be there to make public comment.

SUPERVISOR ANTONOVICH: Let me just say that it’s the two from SEIU, Local 721, Ralph Miller probation and Andrea Gordon, professor of management, Association Local 1967. Those are the four —

GOVERNOR BROWN: They are down there?

SUPERVISOR ANTONOVICH: Down there at the —

(Speaking simultaneously.)

MS. ORDIN: They want to be heard in public comment. And as everyone here is very sophisticated and already knows, this is a closed session so we can’t talk in great detail about what went on in the closed session, but we will let people know we were talking about the very thing we said we were which is the interference to public services.

GOVERNOR BROWN: Public services or

MS. ORDIN: It says public services or facilities is the language in the statute, but obviously the threat of public service –

GOVERNOR BROWN: Is that a — is that a local statute?

MS. ORDIN: No. State statute. It is the Brown Act. It is the Brown Act that allows us to make this — to have this meeting.

MALE SPEAKER: You know your grandfather —

(Speaking simultaneously.)

Resurrecting CRAs: How State’s Money Grab Has Become a Power Grab — My Sunday Column

What started out a year ago as a multibillion-dollar money grab triggered by Gov. Jerry Brown’s call to abolish redevelopment agencies statewide now shows every sign of morphing into a power grab.

City managers of Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena are just getting over mourning the loss of redevelopment dollars only to find themselves in a chaotic situation of figuring out what to do with the properties they bought and the plans they made for community, infrastructure and commercial improvements — plans that now may be long-delayed or never funded.

The state Legislature provided no road map for how to dismantle redevelopment agencies, so city, county and state officials are making it up as they go along against impossible deadlines for audits, debt payment schedules and the uncertainties of funding.

And then it may all be pointless: A series of bills to resurrect redevelopment from the graveyard of public policy is gaining momentum.

“We’ve just gone through singing the swan song of redevelopment,” said Glendale City Manager Scott Ochoa.

“With the council’s adoption of the economic development ordinance, we’re turning the page and moving on with many of the same powers to acquire and dispose of property, make loans, to lease, but without the money,” he continued. “We’re on to Page 2, and now we see the state is having buyer’s remorse with bills to bring back redevelopment winding their way through the Legislature.

“We don’t have the time to deal with the state’s dysfunction.”

Yes, the governors and legislators who brought you budget deficits of $25 billion, borrowed heavily against your future, endowed public employees with princely pensions and benefits and allowed the state’s infrastructure to rot, now are moving forward in their own inimitable way to make abolition of community redevelopment agencies a whole chapter in the history of the decline and fall of the Golden State.

You might think about that before you vote in the June primary to put the public officials who created this and so many other messes back into office to cause even more problems.



Jump, Charlie Jump: Will Chief Beck Fix Your TIcket Like He Did for City Technology GM Randi Levin’s Husband?

“The message that this sends to people is what? A general manager can call and action is taken? No, the message is that anyone who calls me will get action. Now I will make sure the action is proper.” — LAPD Chief Charlie Beck on why he fixed a ticket for city Information Technology General Manager Randi Levin’s husband.

You got to hand it to Charlie Beck: The big shots whistle and Ticket Fixer Charlie jumps.

When Antonio Villaraigosa — reduced to being labeled LA’s “Latino” mayor, a label he hates most, to help Barack Obama get re-elected — tells Charlie to stop impounding cars of unlicensed and uninsured with unregistered cars, i.e. illegal immigrants, Charlie jumps.

So in a sick way, it makes sense that when city Information Technology Agency GM Randi Levin calls him on his private number to report her husband Maurice ran a red light and the cops impounded his car because his car wasn’t registered and he had no proof of insurance, Charlie did what he does best — he jumped.

Just like that LAPD Capt. Paul Snell got the car released from impound, got Maurice a ride to pick it up and had the city pick up the $325 towing and impound charge.

David Goldstein at CBS2 has the story with the video and a transcript.

Capt. Snell indicates ticket fixing by the Chief goes on all the time, a matter that ought to raise some concerns among Police Commission members who ought to make public a list of everybody who has gotten this service just to make sure it is only available to insiders and people with connections.

Put Jumpin’ Charlie to the test: If you get a ticket or your car gets impounded or you otherwise get into trouble with the cops, take him at his word and give him a call or drop by and chat. You’ll get action just like Randi Levin, won’t you?

Office of the Chief of Police

100 West First Street
Suite 1072
Los Angeles, CA 90012

HA!HA!HA! Laughs on Us: Gov. Brown, County Supervisors Yucked It Up While Violating Brown Open Meeting Act

Let’s join Gov. Jerry Brown and the LA County Board of Supervisors in having a big laugh together about what a joke it is when powerful elected officials like them show their utter contempt for the law and the public as they did last September during an illegal closed-door meeting.

The supervisors brought the governor behind closed doors to discuss the “realignment” law AB 109 for early prisoner release with the full knowledge that they were violating the law — the governor told them so.

The governor, formerly the state’s chief prosecutor as Attorney General, even joked about it during the meeting when he referred to the Ralph M. Brown Open Meeting Act: “Let’s get our Brown Act cover story.”

Noting reporters who protested the Sept 26 meeting were waiting outside, County Counsel Andrea Sheridan Ordin responded: “You may have folks out there who want to ask questions.”

They all laughed their heads off at that, and the governor is still laughing six months later, according to his spokesman Gil Duran.

Brown was “clearly joking,” Duran told the LA Times..

“He was mocking the county counsel’s premise for holding the session in closed session, which he thought was questionable,” Duran said, noting that an unreleased recording shows everyone laughed heartily at the governor’s joke.

“It’s their meeting,” he added, so it was up to the county to comply with the Brown Act — and not the governor’s problem that he was participating in an illegal act intended to conceal from the public their elected officials concerns about the cost of realignment and impact on public safety.

OK, now we are all in on the joke, let’s all have a big laugh, too.

Let’s all laugh at how they have doubled and tripled the fines for every kind infraction ordinary citizens might commit and made it a crime to do just about anything, even throw Frisbees on the beach in summer.

Let’s all laugh about how people like the crooked general manager of the Coliseum Patrick Lynch gets off without jail time for being the kingpin of a criminal enterprise stealing million because he did such a good job of looking after the supervisors and other public officials who served on the commission that was supposed to protect the public interest.

Hysterical, isn’t it?

The supervisors’ cover story — approved by Ordin – was that the private meeting and others without the governor were justified under the Brown Act because prisoner release posed “a threat to the security of public buildings, a threat to the security of essential public services, or a threat to the public’s right of access to public services or facilities,” as Californians Aware put it in announcing the supervisors has settled the First Amendment group’s lawsuit.

“It was clear from a review of the board’s previous discussions and press statements that
the closed sessions had nothing to do with any threat to the security of public facilities and
everything to do with the financial impact of the Realignment—and what the state was prepared to do to cushion it,” CalAware General Counsel Terry Francke said in a statement. (CalAware–Settlement News Release)

The county paid CalAware $14,800 in legal fees and costs to settle the lawsuit, admitted the supervisors violated the law and are releasing transcripts of the meeting.

Like all great comedians, the supervisors have yet one more joke to top the last one.

“The board is fully committed to transparency and openness, and with complying with both the spirit and letter of the Brown Act,” according to a statement issued Thursday.

Even after the District Attorney told the supervisors back in January their meeting was illegal, Supervisor Mike Antonovich was unrepentant and formally proposed changing the law so they could meet privately whenever they want with the governor or the President.

Here’s the video provided by Leslie Dutton’s Full Disclosure Network which has been challenging the supervisors’ penchant for secrecy a long time:

Full Disclosure even sent reporter Janet Levy and a cameraman to Washington D.C. last May when the five supervisors and their entourage were meeting many members of the California Congressional delegation and officials at the White House.

They challenged the right of the supervisors to keep them out of the meetings whenever there was a quorum of three members present and produced two half-hour shows about what happened. You can watch a 10-minute preview here of Levy’s revealing report on just how little respect they have for the law and the public.

The supervisors are gearing up for another Washington junket next month and Full Disclosure plans to be there if Dutton can line up an aggressive reporter willing to challenge the arrogance of the powerful.

Apocalypse Now! Antonio’s Vision for a ‘Happy Ending’

Finally, I see the light — thank you, Antonio.

If we can pass a tax for 30 years and spend the revenue in 10 years by borrowing against the future, why shouldn’t we extend the tax into eternity and spend all of posterity’s money today to create jobs and wealth that we can consume right now while we’re still alive?

It’s so simple. How come nobody thought of it before? Are we all simpletons?

Or does Antonio know something, know that all those end of the world visionaries and moviemakers, those greenhouse gas terrorizers, those ancient Mayan astronomers  got it right?

There is no tomorrow. We’ve got no time to lose so let’s party on today. Is that the message of Antonio’s 7th State of the City speech? (AV-stateofthecity)

Through 30 minutes of cliche-ridden drivel — performed live before a Paramount Studios audience of city and LAUSD officials, community leaders, distinguished guests and a token ordinary Angeleno or two — our good Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa did his best takeoff on the unforgettable Chuckles the Clown bit.

You know the one, “a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants,” or in this case a lot of seltzer.

How can we measure the state of our city without remembering how 20 years ago this month, Los Angeles erupted into violence.

The Los Angeles of 2012 is a different city. The Los Angeles of 2012 is a better city. Somewhere in the heavens, Tom Bradley is smiling today . . . we are a better city not just because we are a safer city. We are a better city because we have also learned to celebrate our diversity. We are proud of it. We are a better city today because we have reached beyond the lines of class and color and have come together in common purpose..

Let’s work together to turn our schools into academies of achievement, rather than factories of failure. Let’s work together and make our schools crucibles of success. Together, let’s open the door of opportunity for our children.

Angelenos, we can’t be discouraged by the critics or distracted by the cynics. Remember what the cynics said about Mayor Bradley when he offered an idea as audacious as building mass transit in the car capital of the world. They called it a “subway to nowhere.”

I don’t want you to think just of what we have accomplished. I want you to imagine how much more we can do – together. Los Angeles is a city where people make miracles happen every day, and this is why Los Angeles has always been the destination of so many dreamers around the world. We can do anything we put our minds to, and we know what we need to do.

Angelenos, we can build our future today. We can put our people back to work . . . Join me. We don’t have a moment to lose.

Truer words were never spoken. It was music to my ears, a dream come true.

Finally, a leader in this city has stepped forward with boldness and courage, someone with a record of working miracles to make our streets safe, our schools great, our people prosperous, planted a million trees, greened the city and gotten city government to live within its means.

And now he is putting it all on the line by providing a road map to how we put aside our naked greed and petty selfishness, our ignorant prejudices, our cynicism, and come together as one in common purpose to give life to our better selves.

I get it. It’s what I believe. It is my dream for this promised land — a better future for all, not just the rich and powerful, the insiders, the special interests.

One thing though that bothered me was how he set up twice right at the outset this idea: “Here’s what I say: I say we don’t have a moment to lose . . . we’re not looking back —that’s not what we do—and we don’t have a moment to lose.”

And came back in his final refrain, his last words with his takeaway line: “We don’t have a moment to lose.”

Does he really know something the rest of us don’t? In his frequent trips to Washington, did this pal of the President get access to top secret insider information that our time is really that short? Is there really no tomorrow, no time to lose?

Or is it just Antonio’s time that is up and he’s only thinking of himself?