AEG Movie Act One: “LA — Open for Business or Up for Sale”

The first thing you need to understand about government in America today is that the public story has nothing to do with what is really going on behind the scenes in the political back rooms.

That’s why all these politicians are surrounded by experts in spin – public relations experts, strategists, lobbyists, manipulators of the truth of all sorts who invent myths for the media and the public that purposely obscure the real purpose of their policies and actions.

Decades of the system evolving sophisticated techniques and complex inter-relationships among themselves and with politicians, business and civic leaders, non-profits, mainstream media and ethnic and economic “cohorts” has created a political system that is nothing more than a political machine, a politburo, that is exclusionary by its very nature.

It is corrupt to its core but though not usually criminal since he who makes the laws, enforces, prosecutes and adjudicates the laws has great leeway to decide who to punish, who to forgive and who to reward.

It is a conspiracy of consciousness for the most part with its unwritten, unspoken rules of propriety and acceptance. If you are in the game, you know the rules. You know you are getting a piece of the action while the masses are out there begging for crumbs from the table of power; some pigs clearly are more equal than others and the ordinary variety of human being is just an algorithm willfully or ignorantly waiting to be manipulated.

On Friday, the LA Political Machine produced a masterpiece of propaganda — a three-hour carefully orchestrated and scripted production broadcast live on Channel 35, the City Council’s final vote closing the deal for Anschutz Entertainment Group to build a football stadium and rebuild the Convention Center.

It was an event without even the pretense of drama since this was a done deal even before it was made public two years ago.

Still, it was great theater because of the shameless way the final act was scripted to exploit public sentiment on everything from the military to the Dodgers to the Watts Tower with hundreds of schoolkids bused to City Hall as extras.

It even had a 15-minute infomercial for Time Warner Cable which will launch its sports networks in English and Spanish Monday to exploit its long-term ownership of exclusive rights to broadcast Lakers games, something fans will find means they now have to pay to view what previously was free.

AEG, The Movie, ACT ONE:  “Los Angeles — Open for Business or Up for Sale?”

It’s a work of art, an act of genius, bravo to the producers, directors, editors, writers and the performers whoever they are – propaganda so brilliant that light of truth could never shine in.

Consider the set-up of the narrative that is what Part One is about. On this historic day – the day the machine says the future of LA will be decided – there is no drama. This was a done deal long before the public ever heard a word about it.

The two years since have just allowed time for refinements, legalities, technicalities and a massive sales campaign to obliterate all oppositions, all questions, about a plan to bring the NFL back to LA – the city it twice abandoned two decades ago because it wasn’t that popular and still shows no signs it isn’t any more in demand today.

How else would you start the show but with a salute to the flag and the men and women who protect us and who better to provide this interruption of getting to where the emcee is so anxious to get than the former Council emcee, now a candidate for mayor, none other than leading man Lt. Eric Garcetti who brings out his fellow Navy reservists for a well-deserved round of applause whether or not they have been in combat.

Cut to the emcee ready to move forward … Oops, Bernard Parks interrupts to introduce an emergency measure to get approval to offer a $50,000 reward for information about who killed an innocent youth, Patrick Caruthers, 19, a learning disabled park volunteer sitting at a picnic bench – a crime that would have been caught on camera except somewhere along the line someone dropped the ball the Councilman acknowledged by apologizing to the youth’s grieving mother.

Her heartbreaking story of loss and her pleas for help in catching the killer, her dignity and faith could not but help touch the coldest heart. They did inspire mayoral candidate Jan Perry – who competed throughout the event for air time with her rival Garcetti – to sound a lot like a law-and-order candidates who wants her community locked down in the name of public safety.

Much to the feigned irritation of Wesson, Ed Reyes interrupted his march to finalizing the billion-dollar gift to Phil Anschutz and AEG by staging a “presentation” for Time Warner Cable, something that turned into a free 15-minute commercial for the company which is launching its regional sports networks in English and Spanish – a national first – on Monday.

There were so many Time Warner executives introduced that any who did not make in to the introductions probably ought to be looking for another job.

The source of this excitement is the cable company has paid $4 billion to lock up the Lakers game broadcasts for simultaneous live showing for a fee on cable and hopes to sign the Dodgers to a similar deal next year.

The games no longer will be free to fans – now that’s something City Hall can celebrate.

With a tip of the hat to patriots, blacks, Latinos, it’s time for an interruption to touch the hearts of the Jewish community and Paul Koretz gets the honor to ask the Council to support him in renaming a park after Roz Wyman, who at the age of 22 became the first woman LA Council member in the 1950s and played a critical role in bringing the Dodgers to LA.

Who better to speak to Wyman’s historic role than Peter O’Malley who recalled how his father Walter never wanted to leave Brooklyn but the city wouldn’t help him get hold of the land. Roz Wyman let the effort to clear the hurdles to make Chavez Ravine and the Dodgers happen, allowing the city to not only have the Rams (stolen from Cleveland 10 years earlier) but Major League Baseball as well.

Top that for making it sound like history was repeating itself which it isn’t.

Cut then to Richard Alarcon. He is standing with a group of beautiful grade school kids around his desk – just a handful of the dozens of kids from all over the city who were bused in to be props for this historic event, though most of them were relegated to hallways and the overflow room to watch on TV.

And now the climax to the setup: The Invocation of the iconic Watts Towers.

Garcetti showed his clout by getting camera time – something he needs badly since the AEG deal belongs for good or ill to rival Jan Perry – to close out the set-up portion of the show with an homage to Simon Rodia and the man who saved his sculpture from destruction more than 50 years ago, William Cartwright, now frail and elderly.

COMING SOON, ACT Two of the show of shows: “Los Angeles — Open for Business or Up for Sale?”

 

My Sunday Column: Fun and Games at the MTA — Why Is It So Hard Just To Do What’s Right for the People?

In the climactic scene of director Ivan Reitman‘s 1993 political satire “Dave,” President Mitchell (Kevin Kline) tells a joint session of Congress he lost his way, forgot his job was to make people’s “lives a little better…care more about you than I do about me…care more about what’s right than I do about what’s popular…”

The occasion for my viewing “Dave” recently was Warner Bros. executive Jeff Brown’s quarterly movie event for staff and guests on the Burbank lot where he brings together filmmakers to talk about what they created in advance of screening their movie — directors, producers, editors, writers and actors.

It was fascinating to hear how a movie got born, but it was Reitman’s comments about how the political culture he made fun of 20 years ago seems like child’s play to what we see today.

I was getting “Dave” flashbacks Thursday morning as I watched the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority‘s board members squirm over whether to give the bus-train advertising contract to CBS or Titan — firms that are spending fortunes on dozens of lobbyists to get a $22-million to $23-million-a-year contract.

The meeting started nearly an hour late with only seven of the 13 members present and went downhill from there, to the point they couldn’t even muster a quorum for a while to approve a long list of non-controversial measures because of conflicts of interest.

Then chairman Mike Antonovich announced that in discussions with the California Department of Transportation, several of the “alternative concepts” for extending the Long Beach (710) Freeway to Pasadena along Avenue 64 and through the San Rafael neighborhood were “off the table” from consideration as staff had recommended because of “low-performance characteristics.”

(READ FULL STORY)

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Making of the AEG Movie: “Los Angeles — Open for Business or Up for Sale?”

Councilwoman Jan Perry’s committee to sell the public on the Farmers Field/Convention Center deal met for the last time Monday to provide the stage for a dress rehearsal before the climax to the show that would come on Friday in a perfectly orchestrated unanimous finale.

The celebration of this two-year long exhibit of the art of salesmanship did turn out to be a work of genius — a three-hour performance orchestrated down to the smallest detail, tightly scripted, every word programmed for the cameras to create a seamless narrative that had nothing to do with reality.

It was brilliant, pure propaganda — the great Nazi documentary filmmaker Leni Reifenstahl would have admired it. It turned the truth inside out: “LA is for sale … and so are we” was inverted to become “LA is open for business … come see us.”

This fragment from Perry’s hearing is a window into what goes on behind the curtain in the back room where unknown producers, directors and writers put together the scripts for each and every City Council meeting. The entire scene shown in this video was left on the cutting room floor in Friday’s final script and nothing at all was said by city planners about the “signficant” unmitigated environmental impacts of the project in just about every area.

This is not government in action what you see on Channel 35 or the online video: It’s television — show business, a staged performance to create a video record that will always stand for the story line designed for public consumption. That’s why they nearly always vote unanimously and why there is so rarely a word of truth spoken — except sometimes by the gadflies and activists.

That was the case Monday when Ed Reyes, chosen for his discipline as a character actor who is convincingly obtuse to hide his deliberate efforts to obscure all truth.

Among the troublemakers — there were not many other than the unstoppable Joyce Dillard, LA Can and the Fair Play Coalition — who objected to this deal during public comment, there was one who reported serious problems remain despite the 10,000 page Environmental Impact Report and the 100 pages of mitigation measures.

There are eight different problems that were identified and not fixed — an issue that if left in the record might wake people up some day that things didn’t turn out the way Tim Leiweke promised they would — things the mayor, City Attorney and City Council had a responsibility as elected officials to have known about, informed the public about and fixed if they were doing their jobs honorably.

Reyes started with all his bit player’s usual ignorant innocence by saying, “Just for the record I just want to make sure there’s clarity” about the eight areas of “environmental concerns” — not problems — that were mentioned.

“I want to make sure we’re mitigating those concerns or how we’re mitigating them,” he told city planners. “If you will just address them briefly.”

Briefly is the keyword — so they don’t give away questionable details, just offer vague assurances for the “record” that everything was considered and dealt with.

That was what this whole show has been about all these months, creating a video record that tells the story about the strong leadership, vision and hard work when the reality has more to do with cowardice, moral blindness and sloth.

It fell to city planner Karen Hu to put these concerns about the public’s health and safety to rest.

“There are eight areas to which you as a Council in approving this document will also have  to approve a statement of overriding considerations because we could not reduce those impacts to a level that was less than significant,” she told them in the matter-of-fact way that honest bureaucrats talk.

“Those eight  areas are in transportation, air quality, aesthetics and visual resources, cultural and historic resources, views, artificial light and glare, noise, utilities, solid waste.”

Concerned that those eight covered just about everything, Reyes pursued his goal to clean up the “record,” asking: “So given those areas, we are addressing them with mitigating conditions?”

“Yes, there are conditions,” she answered.

“That’s what I need to hear for the record,” Reyes pleaded.

“Cause we’ve raised the concerns but you haven’t spoken to how we are mitigating those concerns and that to me is crucial for the record given the public comment that’s been made. I don’t want to leave that open because I believe it leaves us vulnerable in the future.

“So to be very clear to support this process and this program, if you can just address it briefly. That’s what I think is important to this process.”

A confession to the crime of faking the public record. Again, an order — Reyes’ gesturing forcefully with his hand pointed, beating a steady drumbeat to planners –to keep it brief and without detail, just make this go away, neutralize the record.

This mission will not be left to a sincere person trying to do the best job for the city that she can all things considered.

No way, City Planning Director Michael LoGrande — a man who got this job without credentials as an urban planner and without the scruples of Karen Hu — will close the book for the record on concerns about unmitigated impacts on just about every aspect affecting the quality of life for millions of people.

He calls the EIR “a legally very defensible document” and declares that major projects often have “certain items that can’t be mitigated under CEQA to a level of insignificance” –shifting the language from “problems and concerns” to “items” and “significant” to insignificance.”

“That’s why we have these statements of overriding considerations saying the benefits of this project outweigh some of the issues,” LoGrande adds, swearing “we’ve done our best to mitigate those impacts to tolerable levels  … using the best sophisticated technology methods available  to us … acceptable levels .. confident … conservative document … forward thinking ..  state-of-the-art mitigation.”

“All CEQA requtres legally is that we are transparent, disclose that information to the public and to the decision makers … ”

It was so brief, so to the point, so loaded with vague, hollow words intended to put minds at ease and close the record to any questions later.

After all, none of these people want to find they are “vulnerable in the future” when this deal turns out to have all kinds of problems like the environmental “items” aren’t tolerable and acceptable, the Convention Center is still a white elephant, the subsidized hotels with empty rooms can’t afford the “living wage,” a part-time “living wage” job doesn’t pay people’s bills and the benefits to the city do not in fact outweigh the costs.

COMING SOON: “Open for Business: Selling Out LA’s Future.” Act One.

Acting County Assessor Says It Ain’t So: Nordstrom’s — Not Caruso — Got the Tax Breaks on Grove Property

UPDATE: On Saturday, the Los Cerritos Community Newspaper accused the acting County Assessor Santos Kreiman and David Sommers, Press Secretary for LA County CEO Bill Fujioka, of a “blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars” in coming to the defense of developer Rick Caruso and of ignoring at least some evidence. The paper demanded “total transparency” and promised to file a new public records request on Monday.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here is the email Chief Deputy County Assessor Santos Kreiman sent to the Los Cerritos Community Newspaper over its story saying Rick Caruso hired tax agents connected to the County Assessor scandal to get tax breaks on property at his Grove shopping center on the Westside. Kreiman says Caruso effectively sold the building in question to Nordstrom’s in 2000 on a 100-year lease and it was the department store that sought the tax reductions. 

From: Kreimann, Santos [mailto:SKreimann@assessor.lacounty.gov]
Sent: Friday, September 28, 2012 2:50 PM
To: Brian Hews-Publisher-Cerritos/La Mirada Lamplighter News (brianhews@cerritosnews.net)
Subject: Caruso Story Corrections

Hi Brian –

A review of County records indicates that the information presented in your article is not accurate due to several erroneous conclusions based on nonexistent evidence.  None of the records provided by the Office of the Assessor over the last week substantiate a connection between Rick Caruso and “massive property reductions.”

Here are some of our specific concerns with errors in your reporting:

“On Thursday, LCCN published several key emails and documents that show how entrenched property tax agents Dale Beckwith and Michael J. Schaaf (who also donated to Noguez’ campaign) were able to flex their political influence on behalf of Caruso that directly resulted in having several Grove parcels, with a 2012 value of $165 million, devalued.”

–         Publically-available County records indicate that Mr Beckwith and Mr. Schaff were not operating on behalf of Mr. Caruso.  These records show that Beckwith and Schaff were advocating on behalf of Nordstrom Incorporated, not Caruso or his company.

“The first case asked for a “Base Value Reduction” on all Grove properties. According to sources in the Assessor’s office, a BVR does not have to go through the appeals process, the properties can be revalued using what is called an “Assessor’s Correction”. One parcel, valued at $13,770,000, was reduced using this correction to $9,050,000, a 34.27% reduction.”

–         The parcel you are talking about, which received a reduction, is the Nordstrom building in the Grove.  Publically-available County records indicate that Caruso was not connected to this request for a reduction. Caruso holds the master lease for the ground on which the buildings in the Grove sit. There is a sublease in place for the building sitting on that ground, the Nordstrom building. Both the master lease and sublease were recorded with the County on August 8, 2000. Nordstrom’s sublease is for a total of 100 years, and the County considers anyone holding a sublease longer than 35 years to be the “owner” in terms of who pays the property tax bill for a parcel. So after August 8, 2000, Nordstrom would have been the recipient of any value reductions for this parcel, not Caruso.

“Applying that percentage to all other properties would generate a $49 million refund. At a 1.25% tax rate the refund would amount to $612,000 per year. A Base Value Reduction appeal allows the owner to go back in years and assume the new value. If Caruso owned the property for eight years he would realize a $4,896,000 refund. The rule also allows the carry forward of the reduced amount.”

–         You are applying a non-existent formula to parcels that never received a reduction. The $49 million refund statement is pure fiction. No such refund ever occurred. The $4,896,000 refund is also speculation. A review of County records indicates that no refund was ever requested by Caruso, and no refund was ever issued by the County. Again, the County records indicate that Caruso does not have any economic interest in tax refunds related to the parcel you are writing about.

EMAIL TRAIL LINKS CARUSO REPS TO NOGUEZ
“Emails obtained between Beckwith and Schaaf and members of the Assessor’s office, including Noguez, show a carefully thought out plan for the tax reductions at the Grove going back to 2009. Caruso gave authorization to both Beckwith and Schaaf to represent him on official business regarding his properties before the Assessor’s office, LCCN sources confirmed.”

–         This is inaccurate. The emails you are mentioning do not connect Caruso to Noguez.  County records indicate that Nordstom gave authorization, not Caruso. The Application for Changed Assessment, filed with the County on November 29, 2007, show Beckwith was representing Nordstrom, and not Caruso or his company.

“During a three-day period in September of 2009, Beckwith, Mc Neill, Stephens, Schaaf and Noguez communicated back in forth in a series of emails to set the plan for Caruso’s devaluations.”

–         Again, this is not related to Caruso. After August 8,2000, Caruso was not the owner who would have been connected to any devaluation of this parcel.

Say It Ain’t So, Rick Caruso — How Billionaire Got Property Taxes Reduced on the Grove Shopping Center

EDITOR’S NOTE: Reporter Randy Economy and owner-publisher Brian Hews of the Los Cerritos Community Newspaper broke the story about the scandal in County Assessor John Noguez’s office nine months ago. They followed up in numerous articles on how wealthy  property owner’s were able to hire agents with influence to reduce their tax burden. Here is their latest article and a link to emails about billionaire Rick Caruso getting the tax on the Grove shopping center reduced.

By Randy Economy and Brian Hews

Embattled Los Angeles County Assessor John Noguez and his office assisted Los Angeles billionaire real estate mogul and potential mayoral candidate Rick Caruso with preferential treatment that resulted in massive property devaluations at one of the most profitable shopping and entertainment centers in the United States, Los Cerritos Community Newspaper has learned exclusively.

Caruso and his wife Tina donated thousands to two political campaign committees controlled by Noguez including the “Noguez for Assessor Committee 2010” and another to the “John Noguez for Assessor 2010 Attorney’s Fees Fund” in late 2010.

Caruso is one of the most powerful political figures in Los Angeles County and is currently strategizing to become an official candidate for Mayor of LA in the 2013 election.

Los Cerritos Community Newspaper obtained thousands of emails between Noguez and several property tax agents who are now under investigation in what law enforcement officials classify as the largest “political pay to play scheme” in the history of Los Angeles County.

LCCN has been investigating the activities of Noguez and several of his top senior staff members for the past year and has published more than 50 articles documenting massive “pay to play” schemes directed under the approval of Noguez. Since LCCN first began their investigation one lower level appraiser inside the Assessor’s office has been arrested on 60 counts of felony bribery and money laundering counts.

On Thursday, LCCN published several key emails and documents that show how entrenched property tax agents Dale Beckwith and Michael J. Schaaf (who also donated to Noguez’ campaign) were able to flex their political influence on behalf of Caruso that directly resulted in having several Grove parcels, with a 2012 value of $165 million, devalued.

The first case asked for a “Base Value Reduction” on all Grove properties. According to sources in the Assessor’s office, a BVR does not have to go through the appeals process, the properties can be revalued using what is called an “Assessor’s Correction”. One parcel, valued at $13,770,000, was reduced using this correction to $9,050,000, a 34.27% reduction.

Applying that percentage to all other properties would generate a $49 million refund. At a 1.25% tax rate the refund would amount to $612,000 per year.
A Base Value Reduction appeal allows the owner to go back in years and assume the new value. If Caruso owned the property for eight years he would realize a $4,896,000 refund. The rule also allows the carry forward of the reduced amount.

Caruso owns some of the most exclusive real estate in the United States. In Los Angeles County he owns the Encino Marketplace, the Americana at Brand in Glendale, the Grove, and Burton Place Retail Center in Los Angeles. Caruso is also planning to construct a new $500 million luxury resort and casino in Las Vegas, according to several media reports.

EMAIL TRAIL LINKS CARUSO REPS TO NOGUEZ

Emails obtained between Beckwith and Schaaf and members of the Assessor’s office, including Noguez, show a carefully thought out plan for the tax reductions at the Grove going back to 2009. Caruso gave authorization to both Beckwith and Schaaf to represent him on official business regarding his properties before the Assessor’s office, LCCN sources confirmed.

Noguez along with two of his past top appraisers Andrew Stephens and Mark McNeill from the Major Properties was specifically assigned to work with Beckwith and Schaaf on at least 10 different properties owned and controlled by Caruso.

Stephens and McNeill have been placed on “full paid leave” after at least 300 law enforcement officials raided 12 locations in two different states several months ago.

During a three-day period in September of 2009, Beckwith, Mc Neill, Stephens, Schaaf and Noguez communicated back in forth in a series of emails to set the plan for Caruso’s devaluations.

On Thursday, Los Cerritos Community Newspaper Publisher Brian Hews released several key emails and documents that illustrate how Noguez, Beckwith, Schaaf and others interacted in a “very blatant manner,” Hews said.

In one email conversation on September 3, 2009 Noguez notes: “Below are some of the active appeals that Michael (Schaaf) has for the Grove. Dale (Beckwith), are there any other numbers that you might have as the big reduction is really on your parcel? If so, please send them to Mr. (Mark) McNeill asap so we can get this scheduled (to be placed on the Property Appeals Assessment Board Agenda).”

In another email from McNeill to both Schaaf and Noguez on that same morning of September 3, 2009, he writes: “Good morning all! That should work! Send me the apps guys.”

During that same morning Noguez messaged Mc Neill and Beckwith asking how the item was going to be placed before the Property Appeals Assessment Board and on what specific time and date in order to get approval on the reduction for the parcel: “Could we get you to see if Sylvia would let us do September 8, 2009 at 10:30 am? I could have the clerical work in Wednesday and be ready for the Sunday, September 13, 2009 update. This might mean we could get a corrected tax bill in time for the 1st installment for the taxpayers.”

Calls to Caruso, Schaff, and Beckwith were not returned. Beckwith has hung up the phone on Los Cerritos Community Newspaper in the past when asked about his involvement with Noguez and Caruso.

Krekorian’s “Cold Day in Hell” Has Arrived – His Blustering Stand over Lawsuit Settlement Costs Taxpayers a Fortune

In the rubber-stamp LA City Council, there are posers and phonies, blusterers and know-nothings and then there is Paul Krekorian — the ambitious, articulate chief apologist given to creative use of his lawyer’s mind to defend the indefensible.

Back in April, Krekorian went ballistic sounding like a poser-phony-blustering know-nothing to drive one more negative headline into the heart of City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s failing campaign for District Attorney.

Supported by the City Claims Board, Trutanich had recommended a $4.5 million settlement of a lawsuit filed by a ex-con gang member who in 2005 was left a quadriplegic with limited use of his hands when LAPD officers shot him multiple times in the back and side, mistaking in the darkness at night a cell phone in 19-year-old suspect’s hand for a gun.

The officers were cleared of wrongdoing by the Inspector General and the Police Commission but when the case went before a federal court civil jury in February, the verdict was unanimous:  The LAPD violated Robert Contreras’ civil rights and used excessive force on an unarmed man.

The judge excluded evidence of criminal history, membership in the Florencia 13 gang and similar evidence that could have been damaging to Contreras.

Given that, the unanimous verdict and the likelihood Contreras could be awarded $10 million or even more, Trutanich negotiated a $4.5 million settlement and recommended the Council approve it.

“It could always be more. That’s why you settle,” Chief Deputy City Attorney William Carter said at the time. “The jury ruled against us. Their lawyer is asking for a lot of money.”

Krekorian, newly appointed Budget Committee Chair, wouldn’t buy it persuaded a majority of the Council to back his view to reject the deal.

“It would be a cold day in hell when I would be supportive of giving a boatload of money to somebody who is involved in shooting at the citizens of Los Angeles,” Krekorian said. “I just think it’s fundamentally wrong.”

“We have almost 10,000 men and women in the police department, who on any given day could be put in a similar situation and could be faced with a life or death circumstance. It would send the wrong message to those officers if we said, despite all your training … if you shoot and a jury finds that somehow you violated the civil rights of the suspect of the case, we’re going to roll over and do what the jury says is right rather than what we think is right.”

He told an another reporter:

 “It sends a terrible message to police officers … not just the two officers involved, but to every officer in the LAPD, who could be faced with the same sort of situation. I could never live with myself voting to support a payment to someone who put officers’ lives at risk. There’s a risk, no doubt about it. But this jury said it thinks these officers violated this man’s civil rights. And I think we should send a message that we think this jury is dead wrong.”

The risk was real enough alright.

Last week, a jury awarded Contreras $5.7 million with the judge likely to award fees to his attorneys that will bring the bill to about $2 million more than the settlement offer that Krekorian chose to reject.

Instead of admitting he made a mistake and wasted $2 million the city desperately as it slashed services to the public and tries to squeeze concession from city workers, Krekorian was unrepentant.

“If the city has to pay some more to show that we stood up and supported our police officers when they did nothing wrong then so be it,” Krekorian . “It’s money well spent.”

For his part, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called on the council to approve the settlement, saying through press secretary Peter Sanders: “As unfortunate as this may be, the city could have been liable for a significantly greater amount.

The next day Sanders sang a different tune: “The mayor agrees with Councilman Krekorian that the claims board made a mistake in concurring with the city attorney that the $4.5 million settlement to a man convicted for participating in a drive by shooting was appropriate.  Given the facts in this case, we’d rather take our chances on appeal.”

So take your pick fewer books in the still partially closed libraries, more park closures, fewer firefighters — or maybe the mayor, Krekorian and the seven Council members who sided with them should do the honorable thing and cut their enormous staffs to cover the $2 million they cost taxpayers.

Laura Chick Jumps into LA Politics with Criticism of City Attorney Trutanich Who Responds Sharply to Her Open Letter

EDITOR’S NOTE: The lawsuit between the Controller and City Attorney over authority to audit the operations of other elected officials was ultimately found to be moot by the state appellate court because by the time the trial court ruled against the Controller Wendy Greuel, City Attorney Trutanich had cooperated voluntarily in the audit of his office’s handling of Worker Compensation cases. “On his first day in office, Mr. Trutanich had reversed the position of the former City Attorney and invited the Controller to conduct the audit. He remained true to his word, not only cooperating with the auditors but providing City Attorney’s office staff to support the audit team,” the appellate court said. (Greuel-Trutanich)

Former Controller threw her support Tuesday to Assemblyman Mike Feuer in the City Attorney’s race in an “Open Letter to the People of Los Angeles”:

During my tenure as Los Angeles City Controller, people often asked me, “What exactly does a Controller do?”  My answer was always the same: to protect the public’s money and to make government work better for the people. My job was to ask AND answer the tough questions. How are we doing? How can we do it better? To maximize my efforts, I also looked for partners among other elected officials who believed in transparency at City Hall.

I remember April 15, 2009 like it was yesterday.  That’s when I stood in front of Los Angeles City Hall and lent my support to a man who called himself  “The People’s Attorney…dedicated to restoring honesty, integrity, accountability and transparency” to city government.  I admit, I bought into the hype of this so-called “City Hall Outsider.”  I took him at his word when he promised he’d be a breath of fresh air, who would cleanse the musty halls of power, and who would continue my own work of restoring honesty and integrity to the people’s business.  When I said that day, “I think he’ll make an outstanding City Attorney,” I truly believed it.

But it didn’t take long for me to realize I had made a terrible mistake.  Shortly after taking office, Mr. Trutanich reneged on his pledge to support the City Controller’s ability to conduct audits of multi-million dollar programs housed in elected officials office’s, especially the City Attorney’s office. With this one breathtaking reversal the so-called “People’s Attorney” revealed himself to be a liar and demagogue, who would not only lie to me to gain my political support, but whose clear intention was to squash transparency and disallow the scrutiny of how taxpayers dollars are spent.

A simple Google search will yield dozens of news stories documenting Mr. Trutanich’s sizable record of broken promises, shattered pledges and misleading tactics. From violating his pledge not to seek higher office, to reneging on his debt to LA’s BEST, to his recent questionable actions in favor of campaign contributors, Mr. Trutanich has broken faith with the people of Los Angeles.

Thankfully, L.A. County voters saw Mr. Trutanich for who he really is, and rejected him in his recent bid to replace Steve Cooley as District Attorney.  But we’re not out of the woods.  For despite his recent trouncing at the polls, and in the face of numerous calls for him to bow out gracefully from the public stage, Mr. Trutanich is stubbornly seeking a second term as City Attorney.  Four more years of Mr. Trutanich, however, is the last thing Los Angeles needs.  Now more than ever, Los Angeles requires a City Attorney who will tell the truth, has high moral standards, and exemplifies the virtues of integrity, dependability and courage of conviction.  That’s why I strongly encourage every concerned citizen in Los Angeles to do their due diligence before they cast their ballot for City Attorney this coming March.  Once they do, I trust they will agree with me that Mr. Trutanich must go.

Sincerely,

LAURA N. CHICK

TRUTANICH CAMPAIGN REPLIES TO CHICK’S LIES AND DISTORTIONS: HER FINANCIAL SELF-INTEREST HAS CLOUDED HER JUDGMENT

It is a huge surprise that Laura Chick, of all persons, is bringing up this four-year-old controversy because her own conduct in it was so disgraceful.

The facts are that former City Controller Chick initiated the dispute, by issuing subpoenas, against the then City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo.  Chick lost – and then she asked the city to pick up the tab for her attorney’s legal fees and expenses, amounting to about $200,000. When she asked Trutanich to dismiss the case (and by doing so allow her attorney to be awarded fees from the city), Trutanich said he would not. He told her his job was to protect the taxpayers, not soak them. Chick’s reply, according Trutanich and others in the room, was that picking up her attorney Fred Woocher’s legal fees “will not break the bank” – meaning the city’s treasury.

That’s a deliciously callous and ironic remark coming out of the mouth of Chick, then-city controller, whose job was to protect the city’s pocketbook.  Does Laura Chick deny asking for that special favor from Trutanich?

The fact is that when Chick asked for the city to dismiss the case she was not arguing for the principle of transparency and audit rights (dismissal would not have established the controller’s right to audit elected officials’ departments) she was arguing for her own pocketbook interests. She had, in effect, a financial conflict. No dismissal meant she personally was on the hook to pay the fees of the attorney she had retained.

Reporters should ask Fred Woocher, her attorney, if his client has paid him. Maybe he’s dunning her even now. We don’t know. He should be asked. So should Chick.

And when it comes down to the issue of whether Trutanich lived up to his pledge to be transparent, who are we to believe: Chick, who had (and may still have) a financial stake in this matter and is a sore loser, or three state Court of Appeals judges, who ruled that Trutanich was “true to his word” – meaning he lived up to his pledge and voluntarily allowed his office to be audited by the city controller. In fact, Trutanich was perhaps the first city elected official in the city’s history to allow such an audit.  The direct quote from the decision of the three-judge panel is:

 “…[I]t was plain by at least October 2009 that City Attorney Trutanich supported the Controller’s audit and was fully cooperating with the auditors. On his first day in office, Mr. Trutanich had reversed the position of the former City Attorney and invited the Controller to conduct the audit. He remained true to his word, not only cooperating with the auditors but providing City Attorney’s office staff to support the audit team.”

When Chick  blames Trutanich for making the decision not to dismiss the case she’s also rewriting history like crazy. She was told by the City Attorney’s office that Trutanich could not unilaterally make the dismiss-or-not-to-dismiss decision. The client – the Los Angeles city council – had that authority. In fact, the council views were well known; when Chick asked the council to hire an attorney to sue then-City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo to establish the principle that her office (Chick was then city controller) was entitled to do performance audits of the departments of elected city officials (mayor, city council, city attorney and city controller) the council rejected her request. Later, after Chick lost in the trial court (a loss she suffered while Delgadillo was still City Attorney), Chick approached the council to bail her out of her personal, financial fix. The council offered to dismiss the case and pay $80,000 – not $200,000 to her attorney – if Chick waived her right to appeal the case. She refused the offer, appealed and lost again.

Chick’s attacks, while not coming on the letterhead of the Michael Feuer campaign, are the obvious stuff of political shenanigans.

Remember: Mike Feuer is running for city attorney after voters forced him out of the state assembly. In 2008, Feuer was one of 20 career politicians who brazenly used their own campaign money to save their Sacramento jobs (Feuer spent $25,000 on tha campaign).  The gang of 20 provided critical support to Prop. 93, a measure designed to make it easier for these politicians to stay in their Sacramento jobs. That measure was defeated by a 2:1 margin by voters. That defeat left Feuer with no legal way to remain in the state assembly when his current term expires this coming December.

In 1999, Feuer was defeated in his first bid to win election to the LA City Attorney’s post by Rocky Delgadillo. Observers at the time said Feuer lost in part because his background as a Harvard lawyer did not click with voters.

Chick Responds to Trutanich Statement which was issued by political consultant John Schwada, formerly City Hall reporter for Fox News 11:

“Having been covered by John Schwada when he was on FOX I am accustomed to him getting the facts wrong.  Let me correct him again.  I did not sue the City as he claims in his statement, the City Attorney sued me to bar me from doing my job.The fees were for defending the taxpayers in the case.  Carmen Trutanich pledged that he would support the Controller’s right to conduct audits in city elected official’s offices.  The he reneged when he became City Attorney.  End of story.”

The Worst Call in the History of the Game: Bringing the NFL Back to LA — Not the Monday Night Football Farce

Of all the lies about Farmers Field that have been told over the last two years — and there have been some whoppers — the biggest by far is how we just gotta bring the NFL back to Los Angeles.

There isn’t the least bit of evidence that anything has changed two decades after the greedy owners of the Rams and Raiders fled town because of lack of public support.

The NFL isn’t a sport any longer; it’s a comedy show as evidenced by the spectacularly funny ending to Monday night’s game when the replacement referees gave Seattle a winning touchdown on the last play of the game although it was as clear as day that Green Bay had intercepted the ball in the end zone.

One scab official called it an interception as everyone else in the world saw it. The other called it a touchdown and after further review in slow motion, the call stood as a touchdown, prompting the Packers to flee the field in total disgust although the rules require kicking the extra point with no time on the clock, a ritual that took 10 minutes to carry out.

Every single game this season has been a comedy of errors that are the consequence of putting amateurs in charge because the billionaire owners of a billionaire league don’t want to keep paying for pensions of the referees who are paid barely the minimum salary that the least valuable players get.

The cheapskates who have run football into the ground for their own profit and ego aggrandisement treat the public as suckers and the refs as part-time employees, which may explain some of the officiating scandals that have occurred in recent years.

The officials are no more part-time than the players whose brains and bodies are being destroyed by the repetitious violence they experience on the field — something for which they are paid on average $2 million a year.

Last year, the owners locked the players out to pad their bank accounts; this year it’s the referees. Next year, it will probably be the fans since the real money is in TV rights and the crowd could be digitally created for verisimilitude while the wealthy party in the luxury boxes that are tax deductible as a corporate business expense.

Nothing better captures the insanity of America than the NFL. Nothing better captures the corruption of LA than the pathetic charade that are mayor, City Council and top bureaucrats have put on in order to give incredibly valuable entitlements — the kind of entitlements that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama ought to condemn in the harshest terms — to billionaire Phil Anschutz.

There are tremendous hidden costs to taxpayers in the Farmers Field deal, vague and unenforceable terms of the contract and a ridiculous fiction about how the stadium and Convention Center are going to make us all rich and downtown LA the coolest place to hang out in the world.

Anschutz is cashing out on in the gift City Hall has given him without tackling the risk of making this work, and now says through his mouthpiece that he never intended to see the deal through, waiting to the last-minute to disclose that so nobody would question his honor or integrity.

What a joke, just like the NFL today. But all of us are going along for the ride, too enervated and distracted to stand up as one and just say, “No!”

LA’s Death Valley: AEG, Leiweke, Farmers Field and Council’s Uncritical Examination of a Deal Without Public Benefits

Union uber-boss Maria Elena Durazo told the City Council’s ad hoc Farmer’s Field committee Monday not to worry about Phil Anschutz cashing in on the billion-dollar-plus gift of entitlements he’s getting from City Hall because “extraordinary trust exists between AEG, the community and labor.”

That’s the only protection the city needs since the unions will profit no matter, no matter thst the chiseling NFL owners twice abandoned LA, locked out its players union last year and its game officials this year, according to the County Federation of Labor who loves to talk about “working people” when she only means the one in seven who are union workers.

Bad faith treatment of the city, stripping private sector workers of defined benefit pensions as the NFL is trying to  do to the referees, nothing matters much to Durazo except that all construction work on Farmers Field and the Convention Center will be done by union workers, excluding the thousands of non-union construction workers and contractors.

No, what matters is the living wage for all workers at Farmers Field — something that is not in fact guaranteed in the development agreement the Council will approve on Friday just as Jan Perry’s ad hoc Farmers Field committee did on Monday.

That “guarantee” is a verbal promise from AEG which has put its $7 billion to $15 billion up for sale to the highest bidder. The actual development deal only requires that 80 percent of workers get the living wage within five years of the stadium being in operation or AEG or its successor company will face a $25,000 fine.

All the committee needed to hear was AEG’s CEO Tim Leiweke fill the Council Chamber with hot air and city staff double-talking around the holes in the various planning agreements and theory of how this deal will make the white elephant Convention Center a booming success — that after all is the biggest lie in this deal since nothing can make it successful.

To skirt any serious questioning of the deal despite Anschutz’s last-minute admission he always intended to cash in on the spectacularly valuable entitlements the city was granting without getting anything in return, Leiweke guaranteed that he and the AEG’s management will stay on and run things — until Farmers Field opens in 2017.

That’s when he gets to fully cash out and claim his status as a billionaire — if he hasn’t reached it already.

Wake Up Call for Wendy, Jan, Kevin and Eric: Here Comes Rick Caruso into the Mayor’s Race with a Blank Check

The drumbeat about billionaire developer and long-time City Hall power player Rick Caruso entering the mayor’s race has grown into a crescendo.

The word is that he’s telling friends he might will announce he is running within two weeks and already is lining up a TV ad buy to promote his candidacy after the presidential election in November.

One source said that billionaire-philanthropist Eli Broad held a fund-raising event last week to put a tough pension reform measure on the ballot and went around personally asking everyone in the room how much they would put into the kitty.

Caruso reportedly begged off, saying he would soon be facing a lot of political expenses.

How much, he was asked.

Without hesitation, he reportedly said: “$15 to $20 million.”

That’s peanuts for Caruso whose estimated to be worth nearly $2 billion.

Caruso, developer of the Grove, Americana at Brand, Calabasas Commons and other highly successful shopping centers that double as popular gathering spots, has long eyed running for mayor while serving as a city commissioner, including the DWP Commission and the Police Commission where he was instrumental in hiring Bill Bratton as Chief.

At the last minute in 2009, he backed out of running for mayor, citing family considerations, although knocking off an incumbent Antonio Villaraigosa seemed very tough when the filing deadline came four months before the primary.

The mayor’s office is open now and the supposed front-runners with $2 million in campaign contributions — Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti — have stirred no excitement around town and would have a tough time explaining City Hall’s downward spiral during their dozen years in city elected offices.

Councilwoman Jan Perry has somewhat less baggage, having stood up for ratepayers against DWP, but doesn’t have the fund-raising clout of the other insiders.

Talk show host Kevin James is the only candidate to actually articulate solutions to some of the city biggest problems but has had to work hard to just to be included in forums and be taken seriously in the press because he has only raised a tenth of the money the top candidates have.

Money is no issue for Caruso and he will be a formidable candidate with the ability to argue he can put the city back on a sound financial footing.

He told one recent interviewer that the insider candidates were “part of the problem, not part of the solution” and another that City Hall policies are driving business away and not addressing LA’s massive unemployment problem.

Kate Linthicum speculated about Caruso’s candidacy 10 days ago in the LA Times, reporting he “has been conferring with a team of political consultants … He previously signaled that he would decide by mid-September, but aides would only say an announcement was coming.”

“The entrance of Caruso, a former Republican who recently changed his party affiliation to ‘decline to state,’ would shake up a field of candidates dominated by three veteran Democratic elected leaders, particularly if he was willing to draw on his estimated $2-billion personal fortune to finance a campaign,” she said.

Matt Middlebrook, a top aide to Mayor James Hahn, has served as a top executive to Caruso for several years and brings expertise in public relations and politics.

From the point of view of community activists and communities of interest throughout the city, the concerns about Caruso are clear enough:

Is he just another rich guy who doesn’t understand how the quality of life in so many neighborhoods is being destroyed by City Hall policies?

Is he so tied into the city’s business-civic elites that he doesn’t understand that they have gone along for the ride as City Hall poured the public’s wealth into downtown and Hollywood at the expense of the infrastructure and pandered to unions and special interests at the expense of ordinary people?

Without question, Caruso will enliven what to this point has been a dull and lifeless mayoral campaign season.