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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 no-change.com 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 no-change.com 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, OurLA.org 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.

This entry was posted in 2013 LA Elections, Bastille Day videos, City Hall, Community Activists, Development/CRA, Hot Topics, LA Clean Sweep, Los Angeles, OccupyLA and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Four Years and Counting: Is Calamity the Only Hope?

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is the state of affairs and the response of our current leaders & wannabe DA & Mayor. Do the residents care about such selfish leaders? No. They will be voted into more power.

    “Los Angeles faces dire financial consequences unless it figures out a plan to bring in more money, the city’s fiscal watchdogs warned City Council members Friday.

    Painting a bleak picture of city finances, and warning of “dark storms on the horizon,” City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana urged the Budget and Finance Committee to consider new revenues, such as new taxes or privatization of assets.

    “It’s about bringing the city back to fiscal responsibility,” Santana said. “So we’re not operating in crisis mode every year.”

    The committee hearing kicked off two weeks of budget hearings, as well as the yearly dance between union representatives, City Council members and city workers over the financial plan.

    Outside City Hall, purple-shirted SEIU union workers rallied, denouncing Villaraigosa’s proposed $7.2 billion budget, which would lay off 231 employees and scale back the city’s pension plan.

    Inside the building, department heads clamored to remind City Council members of the importance of their agencies.

    City Attorney Carmen Trutanch delivered an emotional speech that likened his attorneys to soldiers.

    “You can’t defend the city without an army,” Trutanich said. “We are the guards at the front of the treasury. Take away us, and you’ll see what the crooks do.”

    Every department will experience cuts under Villaraigosa’s budget, but the layoffs and long-term pension proposals are the most controversial.

    City Controller Wendy Greuel dismissed the layoff plan, warning the city needs to do its “due diligence.”

    “The city must have a real plan to create new jobs, not a budget that eliminates them,” she said.

    Others in the audience Friday also were unhappy about some of the budget proposals, and one point, boos erupted from the crowd of about 125 in council chambers”. – Daily News.

  2. David says:

    Dear Ron,

    I understand your frustration. Four years of providing Los Angelenos with non-spin doctored reporting on the issues that really matter, yet the City Hall machine appears to trundle along led by a largely absentee Mayor whose greatest accomplishment is being awarded the largest ethics violation fine in our city’s history.

    What can one man do as a lone voice swimming against the city’s tide of corruption, back room deals and political favors all of which now makes Chicago politics almost look squeaky clean in comparison to Los Angeles?

    Yes Ron, I understand your frustration. I understand what you mean by questioning whether ‘the greedy bastards are right?’ and that you are at a crossroads where you wonder if the time, effort and energy that you put into exposing corruption is worth it if the silent majority remains silent. You must surely be asking yourself, ‘Am I making a difference?’

    You are.

    You have seen the response growing each time you push for a cleaner, opener (I hate the word ‘transparent’) and more representative form of government. One where leaders are elected by and answerable to caring citizens, not special interest campaign contributors. The pace of growth is slow, it’s not going to happen overnight. However, it is gaining momentum and the underlying wish for Los Angeles to have leaders they can be proud of, leaders they can trust not to abuse the power they are given, that movement is gaining strength on a daily basis. Thanks to you.

    Early Happy Birthday wishes on your 71st next month, Ron. At that fine age you are at the cutting edge of the kind of sweeping change that doesn’t need million men marches, mass encampments outside City Hall, and multi-million dollar budgets. You are a leading light in the next frontier that promises to return power to the people; social media.

    If you are at a crossroads, it is not one where one road leads to grudging acceptance of business as usual, the other to the frustrating effort to combat it. No, Ron, you are at a crossroads where one road goes down a path well travelled; the traditional ‘analog’ means of communication – print media and in-person meetings. The other road, the ‘digital’ road, is the one that has the City Hall fat cats scared because they cannot control it, they cannot control you and every time you ‘out’ one of their shenanigans they are powerless to stop it.

    The digital path you pioneered four years ago has inspired others to also speak up and take a stand against the dark forces of the City Hall fat cats. We can comment on their shameful conduct and show them that your message is heard – believe me, every elected official in LA gets ‘Google News Alerts’ to advise them when anything, good or bad, is written about them. Carmen Trutanich’s press department puts together a news clipping sheet every morning showing each and every story where his name appears, and many other elected now do the same thing.

    Your blog, and others inspired by it, has been the Achilles Heel of City Hall’s attempts to control the spin, and now even the mainstream media pays attention. Stories appearing in the blogs now leads to questions by reporters and just look at what happened to Trutanich when the mainstream media picked up on his violation of his Pledge to Serve – headlines calling Trutanich a liar and a very uncomfortable FOX 11 News ambush. That would not have happened without you because Trutanich’s biggest hope was that his Pledge would be forgotten. You kept the importance of that Pledge alive, the comments to your article showed that people do care, and that’s probably why the mainstream media followed up so vocally.

    My message to you Ron, is don’t be despondent, don’t be disappointed. In four years you have helped to limit the amount of freedom that political scumbags like Trutanich have previously enjoyed. The next step is to take the digital road to the next level; FaceBook and Twitter. Neither will replace the blog, but they can and do direct people to it. A well coordinated social media campaign against the City Hall fat cats is the one thing that political parasites like Trutanich fear above all else. We don’t have to challenge every single corrupt politician at once; that’s too big a task. But take just one of them down, and it will send a message that the rest of them will heed.

    No prizes for guessing which fat cat should be first in line…

  3. Teddy says:

    Ron, I am not surprised at this news. I know all of us appreciate you, you have des-
    cribed secret meetings, deals and the ugliness of politics in our city – but this is the
    human race – and we voters are in the position of realizing we do not “know it all”.

    You have taught us a great deal, I know I think differently after being in your
    classroom and you know that you impressed my friends. You will have the surgery
    and you also have a birthday in May.

    Then you will look around and ask yourself, ” What next?” You have so many friends
    that really care about you and love being with you. I know that you have made my
    life much more interesting, thank you. What did you do? You have taught me how to write to the Editor. Years ago, you kept printing my letters to the editor, and now
    I love to share what I think. Thank you for giving me courage. We all love you. TH

  4. David in Tarzana says:

    Ron,

    I, too, am not surprised by this post. I have given up on Los Angeles as well. Maybe bankruptcy will fix the problem. It worked for Orange County (I think at least). But I would be shocked if Antonio doesn’t do everything in his power to delay it until it occurs AFTER he is no longer in office. I am just biding my time until I can get my kid through school and leave. I am not a native of Los Angeles, but have lived here 20 years, so it feels like home now. Whatever you decide to do, please do not underestimate what you have done in your four years. Truth be told, you have done FAR, FAR more for this city than the politicians that have lied, stolen and sold their souls for their sad little moment in the sun of local politics. After all it is just that, local politics. It’s not a higher calling as many of them I’m sure tell themselves as they struggle to fall asleep at night, haunted by their own deeds. What you have done, is honorable. It is more of a public service than our “public servants” will ever offer up for the community. Has it accomplished what you set out to do? Probably not. But that is not your fault. It is the result of the masses that don’t understand, or care to understand what is at risk here. So, whatever you decide to do, bless you and thank you.

  5. Jim Pavik says:

    Happy Birthday Ron,
    You are a gift from God, similar in my eyes to an Old Testament prophet that warns the people about their moral corruption and the mortal danger of learning to coexist with those who bring a great city down to such a miserable state. The political machines will not lead us out, so maybe there will not be anything but continued decline during our remaining years. I have mused, since I met you, that it might be a turning point if you would lead a reform movement and change the very ineffectual opposition groups in Los Angeles, transforming them into a grassroots party backed by a few powerful entities who still care about the community good, and lead a reform movement to bring down the current coalition of special interests. But I understand from what you say that this is not your gift and that just isn’t going to happen.
    So I wish you well as you enter the golden years and perhaps you might consider indulging us a bit more by authoring some books about the Los Angeles that you know so much about. Perhaps you might be able to explore in your books, why Los Angeles is still the best place to live in relative poverty, and why the rest of us who are not yet impoverished resignedly settle for the way things are in Los Angeles and cling to the hope that it won’t get so bad as to be unbearable.

  6. Ron: Rome was not built in a day and LA cannot be saved in only 4 years.
    You have only just begun. And, you are picking up momentum.
    That being said, we are about to release the recent and profound interview you did with Full Disclosure Network where you explained why the LA County Beach Ordinance that banned football and Frisbeesthat went vial and international. In that interview you come very close to, if not actually sparking, the awakening that is needed to happen.

    That awakening that you are so eloquently enabling, is needed to stir the realization within our population, that virtue and citizenship should be glorified rather than ridiculed. Then and only then will it be possible for L A to return to ethics, honesty and loyalty in government. And, your interview certainly goes a long way when you pointed to the power of a free press and the public’s reaction to the football and Frisbee ban on beaches in Los Angeles.

    But for goodness sakes, you have only just begun. I can speak from personal knowledge, the people are with you. Hang in there and when that calamity comes we will be ready to help in this most noble and vital movement.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Don’t give up Ron. You have done more in four years with this blog than you know.

  8. Vote blindly, then complain says:

    No political or economic system can survive corruption and incompetence.

    Power tends to corrupt and power hires the incompetent who have no choice but to say “Yes Sir.” Case in point: Tony V and Michael LoGrande!

    Case in point: Carmen Trutanich and Jane Usher

    Case in point: The Garcettoid and Football Tommy

    The number of cases is virtually endless.

  9. Ron, don’t give up five minutes before the miracle. We have only just begun to fight!
    Just wait until June 5th and you will see the begining of something positive.

  10. carol says:

    Ron,
    The work that you are doing, the effort that you have so unselfishly undertaken, is so very important. Exposing the undermining of this city that Tony V. and his corrupt gang of cohorts are so rapaciously engaged in is urgent. Yes, it is headed for calamity. It can possibly be avoided if state and federal authorities realize the urgency of the situation. Voices like yours are an impetus for needed action. Everyday citizens who are ready to make their voices heard are increasing. Look at the Occupy Movement, for example. Your continuing effort is of major importance in the flow of information. Of course it gets discouraging when results are not seen, but it takes time. Some things that you cook, pudding for instance, say stir continuously until it comes to a boil. Your stirring the pot is essential to the goal. Please don’t stop.
    I, and I’m sure I speak for many others, much admire and appreciate you.

  11. ...In West Hills says:

    Whew! For a minute there I was dreading that this was going to be a farewell speech.

    Maybe a hiatus speech. You will need recoup time after the cataract surgery.

    It’s not “all in the stars” as Shakespeare said, it’s all in the power, and it’s been that way since the first caveman bonked another caveman over the head with a rock and took the animal he just killed for himself.

    So, how do the “little” people get the power back from the “big” people?

    Anyone who can answer that has solved one of the greatest mysteries of the universe.

    Or maybe the answer is as simple as they just keep trying!

  12. Ricardo says:

    Ron, you have inspired so many the last 4 years. Because of your work and passion to inform us of the corruption of our politicians you have motivated many throughout the city to get involved. Every community meeting people are speaking out against the Failure of a Mayor, the incompetence of city council members, failure of the Controller, City Attorney, Chief of Police etc. We have a group of the most leaderless, incompetent morons running a once great City. Don’t give up Ron. Because of YOU we are here and will continue to speak out when we can. Here are some quotes that reminded me of you.

    We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give ~Winston Churchill

    You must be the change you wish to see in the world ~Mahatma Ghandi

    We can do no great things, only small things with great love ~Mother Teresa

  13. Kristin Sabo says:

    Ron,

    You inspire me to hope. Bless you, sir.

  14. In Eagle Rock says:

    Hey, Ron, You can’t walk out of this thriller/spy novel/comedy/satire/drama of a movie yet. There’s still the assortment of possible endings that you’ll miss out on if you do. Wait a while. This one may very well turn out to be a dissapointment, but maybe, just maybe, we might get that rainbow after the storm. Or even anywhere close to that would be an improvement.

    I, for one, enjoy reading your columns that fill me in on lots of what I miss, give me another way to look at the same things and, often, validate my own view on the local scene. Even in those infrequent instances that I disagree with your views, there’s material to consider in your presentation of the views that provoke me to give more thought on the issues instead of simply discarding all as the knee-jerk response to contrary views. Too many take the latter approach too often.

    I have missed seeing you around in local meetings and the notion did cross my mind that you were getting fed up with it all, and health issues were another of the explanations I considered to account for your absences in assorted venues. I have to say that I have always enjoyed our conversations over the years, as brief and infrequent as they may be, and I like hearing your longer presentations on panels and interviews that are anything but boring. Not at all like the other end of the verbal spectrum that Antonio has nailed down so well, with platitudes and blather so generously spewed while he continues his speeches and appearances that masquerade as concern for the people while only being auditions for a new job in D.C.

    Overall, your communicative skills helps to de-code for me much of the city’s encryption-like operations that still mystify most of the public and provide the local politicians with cover to do their own version of urban warfare against us, the public, while advancing their cause of personal power enrichment and prestige among the
    special interests that are served so well by City Hall.

    The other thing I wanted to mention is that I like to share what you write with lots of others who just can’t believe all this is happening under their very noses. I’m sure some of them still can’t believe their “role models” are actually facades of anything that would call for any ceremonial “bowing and scraping” to be done. Your writing continues to inspire me to write my own things, as well. “Well?” I meant “also” since I really can’t do “as well” as you have done. Hang in there, Ron. We aren’t alone in seeing the real picture and looking for changes, but sometimes, it sure does feel like that.

  15. Wayne from Occupied Koretz-Encino says:

    A VALLEY PRISONER OF WAR ASKED THIS QUESTION:
    “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?”
    ANSWER:
    If I was 71 and had enough equity in the home (after deducting closing costs and long term gain taxes afterwords) I’d SELL THE FUCKING L.A. HOUSE AND MOVE UP TO VENTURA CO., Register as a Republican, vote down every tax and Liberal Whore running for Office, and play those great Golf Courses and Boat the rest of the week!
    If you see how people live out there, You’ll see ACTUAL REAL LIVE HUMAN BEINGS like the ones we all grew up with.
    What L.A. has left are the Old Poor, the Working Poor, the Left Wing Fanatics, and the Drug-Commatose FREAKS and of course the 70 campaign donors and their employees.
    L.A. is a place you’ll stay in if FORCED TO due to several possible reasons.
    The drive is too damn far away from the “Northern Paradise” to the LIBERAL L.A. HELLHOLE—thus no way to make a living and have your Paradise too, it seems.
    Very few L.A. Slaves make it to the Northern Promised Land. But I see some every year that do and they look 10-20 years YOUNGER in about a year after their Self-Emancipation.
    I’ll keep my DREAM alive. LIVE THE DREAM RON, LIVE THE DREAM! (But you’ll have to just SAY NO to the Left-Wing Crap to do it.)
    Thus—-I Conclude—RON WILL KEEP BLOGGING!

  16. Tyndon Clusters says:

    Ron, its normal to burn out periodically and question one’s purpose in life, but you should know that you DO make a profound difference. One spark can light the darkness.

    I think you need to take some time off and recharge. You will come back revitalized and surer than ever that your work is not in vain and is important in a civilized society.

    Your words have made a difference, never doubt that.

    I have changed my mind about some issues because of your blog and I have in turn changed the minds of others, so the tree of change grows ever so slightly, so don’t give up the quest.

  17. Burkey says:

    The very idea that a region the size of L.A. could be effectively served by 15 City Council members is so asinine on the face of it that there’s just no way, not come hell or high water, that serious people could ever actually put effective systems in place to check the corruption.

    I mean, fifteen people for…what’s the population of L.A. now?

    It doesn’t even pretend to be “for the people.”

    Not that there aren’t a whole lot of sane people in this town, maybe more than any other spot on the North American continent.
    The fact that there are so many intelligent, good people in L.A. makes it all the more tragic that the political machine here is such a joke.

  18. Burkey says:

    Whatever you do, don’t read “The Net Delusion” by Morozov. It will really bum you out.

  19. Current elected officials are not qualified to be the next Mayor of LA!
    Who is qualified to be the next mayor of Los Angeles 2013?

    The current elected officials at LA City Hall who are running, do not qualify to be the Mayor of LA. Their past poor performance and their contribution to the current state of affairs are reprehensible. They do not deserve to be elected again for any position in LA City Hall and especially to the position of Mayor of LA.

    I hope and trust that the people of LA are not as gullible as the current elected officials presume.

    It is time for the voters of LA to elect a person who cares about the people of this great city of Los Angeles, a city with a population of about 4 million people and 429 square miles. The current elected officials at city hall have abused their position; they have failed the people of Los Angeles.

    The current elected officials at LA city hall should get a verbal lynching for their performance. The City of Los Angeles is in its worst condition in this century. The cause of this despicable condition is the product of the current administration.

    It is time to elect officials who truly care about the people and the city of LA. Officials who exercise their elected position for the good of the people of LA, not what is in it for them?

    When we support current elected officials in their quest to become the Mayor of Los Angeles, we consent to their poor performance and induce them to continue to destroy our city.

    We must change the status quo of business as usual; the current administration has abused its position and trust. Otherwise we as the people of LA will pay a heavy price for such negligence.

    This is the message we should be sending to people who seek public office. A candidate must have honesty and integrity as a primary character trait and above all the public’s trust.

    YJ Draiman

    PS.

    A question to the people of Los Angeles

    Do you have confidence in your current elected officials in Los Angeles City Hall?
    Are they doing a good job?

    No, why?

    Yes, why?

    Who is qualified to be the mayor of Los Angeles 2013?
    Where there is discord, the mayor will bring harmony. Where there is error, the mayor will bring truth. Where there is doubt, the mayor will bring faith. And where there is despair, the mayor will bring hope. The mayor will unite the city and promote economic prosperity successfully. A person who can do these things is the one qualified to be the mayor of Los Angeles in 2013.

    http://www.yjdraimanformayor.org

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