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Pulling the Plug on Public Access to Save $20,967 — What Are You Going to Do About It?

Back in 2003 when Mitch Englander was his chief of staff, Councilman Greig Smith, with support from Janice Hahn, proposed creating a network of video conferencing stations with fax machines and computers available for ordinary citizens to communicate with City Hall and speak at Public Comment during City Council meetings.

The motion began:

The City of Los Angeles is one of the largest, most culturally diverse and geographically dispersed cities in the country. Nearly 4 million Los Angeles residents speaking 92 languages live and work in 97 neighborhoods located across 472 square miles of hills and valleys. Travel during peak times is often slowed by freeway congestion, mass transit difficulties, and other transportation-related issues. These challenges often make it difficult for City residents to visit City Hall and communicate with the City Councilmembers regarding issues pending before the City Council. Widely used, low-cost technology at key locations could help bridge this communication gap … If implemented properly, a video conference based system will complement ongoing efforts to bring City government closer to City residents using modern technology.

Nine years later, LA is still a vast, sprawling city with amazing cultural diversity among its four million people who are dispersed over 472 square miles. They still find it difficult to move about because of a wretched public transit system, the nation’s most congested and potholed roads.

And now more than ever, LA is in desperate need to bridge the gap, facilitate communication with Council members and bring city government closer to residents using modern video-conferencing technology that has gotten so cheap and available using Skype and other services, even Facetime on I-pad.

What took Smith two years of begging and dealing to achieve — videoconferencing from Van Nuys and San Pedro that allows citizens to comment publicly to the Council during meetings –took his successor Englander just two minutes to kill effective July 1.

The excuse Englander and his Valley Council colleagues Paul Krekorian, Paul Koretz and Tony Cardenas plus public access “champion” Bill Rosendahl used in the May 7 committee hearings on the budget was to save money — exactly $20,976, for part-time contract workers paid $19 an hour four hours to operate the system at the 138 Council meetings a year.

That’s right cutting off the 1.5 million people in the Valley and 80,000 more in San Pedro from the ability to exercise their constitutional right to be heard by their government and to seek redress for their grievances saves $20,976 — out of $7.2 billion in the city budget.

In an effort to please the Budget Committee which demanded a report to justify this anti-democratic action (CAO-memo-videoconferencing), the City Administrative Office came up with an additional cost of $24,821 in direct and indirect costs to have a General Services police officer standing guard — an officer who will soon be getting a healthy raise by making him an LAPD cop and probably still be assigned to protect Van Nuys City Hall from Al Qaeda terrorists.

The video of the May 7 Budget Committee meeting shows the dangerously ambitious Krekorian honing in on how many people used the service in the last year: 20 in San Pedro, 419 in Van Nuys.

“Was any effort made to distinguish how many distinct people that made up?”

“That is not the number of unique visitors but the number of times the service was used,” responded Mark Wolf of Internet Technology. “I would say in general just from my observing the meetings that maybe there is a core of 12 people who utilize it.”

The same is true, of course, most days at the City Council Chamber itself so why not be honest and tell the truth: The public is so alienated from the farce of government at City Hall that only those with a special interest and gadflies ever participate.

Honesty is beyond their ability as Englander shows with his praise for those who used the service, like Miriam Fogler and Rich Nightingale and the other regulars, because of the high cost and waste of time of going downtown to comment to public officials who don’t listen to what they have to say anyway.

Then, he pulled the plug — not just on the gadflies but on the right of all of us to speak out without losing a whole day and wasting a lot of money.

He called for ending the program “not for lack of participation . . . but right now when every dollar counts right now when we’re looking to staff and fund critical services, and we’re talking about eliminating jobs, critical jobs, mechanics that work on fire trucks . . . this is not the time to continue funding” remote access.

How dumb does he think we are? Does he even know what he’s saying?

Last week, they gave $67 million in tax dollars to the nation’s second biggest hotel chain and agreed to pay $300,000 to an out-of-town law firm in case somebody sues to block how they gerrymandered Council districts

This is chump change and they know it. They are liars and they know it  although sometimes I think they get so used to lying as a way of life they may actually believe their own nonsense.

Englander even keeps referring to $45,000 being available when he knows full well the cop’s salary isn’t available for other uses.

Then, he refers to using the money for 311 services which have been cut back sharply because as Krekorian pipes in that serves everybody and not just the few. But then somebody whispers in Englander’s ear that it should go to ITA and Krekorian applauds  Rosendahl is ecstatic as if $20,976 is going to restore public access TV when the Council has stolen the $5 million a year cable subscribers pay specifically to fund that.

Not to be left out, Koretz offered his analysis: “When people want to be heard about something important, they come here . . . even though it seems like a great idea, I don’t think the actualization of it is worth the present cost.”

Oblivious to what he was saying, Koretz hit on a truth: The actualization of what City Hall is doing is not worth the cost.

That is exactly the reason so many people are angry, why only gadflies bother to speak up at meetings, why so few people vote.

No, this isn’t about public access. It’s about cutting off public access.

Not to worry, Krekorian reassures: “If people do feel the need to come to Van Nuys City Hall and address the Council directly, they have that opportunity on a monthly basis.”

Not exactly monthly but from time to time.

Maybe the time has come for all you Neighborhood Council and homeowner and community group members who have left it to gadflies to speak for the city to do something constructive and fight for the rights of all.

Will you organize a massive turnout at Van Nuys City Hall on Friday to protest or will you sit back and worry about what Englander characterized as your real concerns like “potholes and tree trimming.”

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21 Responses to Pulling the Plug on Public Access to Save $20,967 — What Are You Going to Do About It?

  1. MissAnthrope says:

    The pitiful part is that they’re just as proud of themselves for saving nickels and dimes as they are when they give away millions to zillionaires who don’t need it.

    The truth is this was an easy move for them because they don’t give a crap what we think — except when they’re begging for our votes. But then, they don’t need most of our votes anyway as long as they have the union guys in their back pockets. Pretty soon even the union members with all their perks are going to find that even they can’t afford to live in this city. They’ll retire with their overly generous pensions and scram out of here.

    • kk says:

      Union members don’t have to live in the city; they can live in the surrounding cities who are providing real city services so they can take care of number one at the expense of the rest of us.

      • MissAnthrope says:

        You’re right. Union members don’t necessarily live in L.A., but I’ll bet a majority of them do and ALL of their union dues LIVE, THRIVE and CONTRIBUTE to campaign coffers in the city.

        • Kk says:

          Ron, how do we find out where la city employees live?

          • anonymous says:

            politicos & bureaucracy live…where…
            incidence of crime is lower than average…
            property value is higher than median…
            quality of life is far superior than most of LA…
            understand…?

      • Anon says:

        Of the hundreds of people I have supervised over the years at LADWP, I would estimate 20% to have been LA residents. Most live in SGV or South Bay, Canyon Country/StaClarita, Palmdale, etc. I’ve had people that have lived as far away as Temecula, SanBerdoo/Moreno vly with subsidized vanpool transportation available. LA residents either don’t get these jobs or they leave the city to live in a secure middle-class environment shortly after they are hired.

        • anonymous says:

          most LAPD & LAFD & LA bureaucrats
          do not live in downtown or greater LA…
          they live where it is nice…
          where incidence of crime is lowere than most of LA…
          where property value is higher than most of LA…
          where quality of life is superior to most of LA…
          think about it…understand?

    • Vote blindly, then complain says:

      If the Unions don’t wake up and throw out these jerk offs, there won’t be any union members left. It seems that the few at the top make BS deals for their own personal benefit knowing that the City will never honor the contracts.

      The Union bigwigs knew the pensions were unfunded and they nothing but sell out the rank and file. When the Union jefe is sleeping with the boss, only idiots keep the Union jefe.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Valley folks will do absolutely nothing. Who in their right minds would elect the worst scumbags in City Council—Englander; Cardenas; Alarcon; Zine etc, except the CD4 folks who elected the absolute idiot–LaBonge. He and Garcetti pushed the awful Hollywood Community Plan for approval today even as the residents warned about lawsuits. How much will these lawsuits cost the city? The taxpayers, the same whose public access rights are being eliminated will also fund the lawsuits to fight taxpaying residents. Does the City Council care about hundred of thousands of dollars the city will spend in defending a Community Plan that benefits developers only, the ones who line their pockets? They will need more then the 20,000 they will save here.

    • Vote blindly, then complain says:

      But you’ve got to love Wesson with his comments after La Bonge speaks, e.g. “Well, that’s three minutes of our lives we’ll never get back.”

  3. Anonymous says:

    KK–Union members include police & fire employees who mostly live outside the city.

  4. Wayne from Corruptopia says:

    Jeez! Guess I might have to move closer to City Hall?
    HA HA HA!!!! The Valley Speakers TORE UP THE CLOWNCIL and HUMILIATED these sorry pathetic FOOLS! People of the Valley take too much SHIT like much highter property taxes and way too high DWP bills along with broken roads, sidewalks, and freeways that move 5mph most of the day! The Valley is the LOST CITY OF AMERICA—it has NO REPRESENTATION, BUT PAYS 70% OF THE City’s funding. To save L.A.—The Valley and San Pedro MUST CECEDE AND FORM 2 NEW CITIES AWAY FROM DOWNTOWN! Pacific Palasades should then JOIN SANTA MONICA and Venice should return as UNINCORPORTED L.A. COUNTY and join with MARINA DEL REY AND PLAYA DEL REY as its own independent governing body. Then L.A. will be left with Hollywood, Downtown, KoreaTown, and South Park, and South L.A. as well as East L.A.—that way the CASH COWS for AEG and Magic Johnson’s group with USC can RULE THE LAND without PUNISHING THESE GREATER L.A. COMMUNITIES. But the COLONIAL RULE over most of the L.A. suburbs and coastal zones is what DESTROYS jobs and homeowner’s wallets!
    That’s why Encino for example is CALLED OCCUPIED-KORETZ because it’s a great city but RULED BY AN ILLEGITIMATE, SHORT, FAT, ROTTEN LITTLE TYKE!
    Koreatown is ruled by the Napolianic Hitler King Herb I. The rotten cop/bully Zine rules over Woodland Hills and lets Canoga Park and Reseda be the valley’s dumping ground for gang-bars, strip clubs and pot shops.
    99% of residents wouldn’t vote for these creaps if you paid them! L.A. MUST be FREED from the Colonial Rulers and allowed to create jobs and repair the sidewalks for starters. Then things will work out. For now, let’s call this THE DARK AGES OF L.A. CITY!!!!!!!!!!

    • anonymous says:

      good suggestions…realign the territory & the power…
      insightful analysis…LA ‘s power structure is oppressive…
      thank you…

  5. Teddy says:

    Wayne, thank you. I am on your side. The San Fernando Valley must secede.
    Where do I sign on to this effort? Since 1966 when we moved here, I have watched
    the government of Los Angeles use our Valley and its aerospace industry as their
    pocketbook to “fix up” the rest of the city. I am not impressed with Englander
    who plays their game even tho’ he is supposed to be representing West Hills,
    Chatsworth and Northridge. He worked against us while working for Grieg Smith.

  6. Ricardo says:

    All these incompetent morons want to do is censor what people have been saying now for years. This group of city council members lacks the leadership, brains, intelligence etc. to run our City that’s why its deteriorating. Each City Council member has a discretionary fund of over $1 million to use anyway they want. Yes, its our tax dollars. Funny they find money for naming squares, streets, etc. for their political donors but the hell with the people. These are the worse group of politicians who have FAILED us. They will go down in history along with the Mayor, Controller, Chief of Police, City Attorney as the most incompetent in the nation as many media outlets have reported. Speak up people!!

  7. downtown vibe says:

    If I’m not mistaken, the Council only meets three times per week (legally). That means on Monday and Thursday they can start holding Council Meetings at the Van Nuys Civic Center. Of course, those meetings will have to be connected to downtown by video conferencing….

  8. Vote blindly, then complain says:

    Have yu scene the chart of income distribution in this country — Union membeer at not at the high end or even the middle. In fact, the majority is us are squeezed into the bottom 1/3. Maybe I can find the chart. Rachel Maddow showed it last night and I think it is in that book Twilight of the 1%, The End of Meritrocity (mas o menos) by Chris Hayes. Look at it and if you tell me you think Unions are the problem, then guess what — You went to school in America. Last in Education, first in Ignorance. That’s our motto.

  9. Vote blindly, then complain says:

    Here is a byte to Chris Hayes book

    http://bit.ly/KQDKoe

  10. miriam fogler says:

    Please come down and speak up tell them not to shut this down. I wonder who came up with this evil idea for these crooks. The ITA man looked as if he was not a worker from their because he spoke with a broken tongue or is against the taxpayer,not objective.

    We have tomorrow,Tuesday,Wdnesday and Friday. I will write more on the weekend.

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