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.