Beat the Machine:Don’t Let Special Interests Force You to Pay Higher Taxes to Cover Up City Hall’s Fiscal Failure

MEASURE A — SALES TAX INCREASE

YES $1.3 MILLION      NO ZERO

104 Special Interest Contributors’ Latest List

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Trutanich for City Attorney: He’s Bull-headed, Clumsy, Breaks Promises But His Office Is Smart, Well-Run and Effective

Greg Smith is a smart guy and a tough lawyer — that’s how come he was able to make a fortune whipping the lawyers for L.A. and other cities in the region when they botched the treatment of firefighters and cops.

But can you really trust a shark like Smith in the fish bowl of City Hall.

Noel Weiss is a great guy who really cares but he doesn’t have any money or a campaign so he’s not the right guy to be City Attorney.

Then, there’s Mike Feuer, the Assemblyman, former Council member and losing candidate for City Attorney in 2001, a startling upset to be sure. Feuer is the ultimate doctrinaire PC liberal who has campaigned on the idea that taking money from Republicans is borderline criminal but union, developer and other special interest money is just wholesome and clean politics.

He promised to “hit the ground running on day one” if elected to “protect our children and fight to keep guns out of their schools.”

Say what, Mike? How are you going to do that exactly after 40 percent of the City Attorney’s office has been given walking papers and you don’t make policy, you run an office that prosecutes misdemeanors and gives legal advice to the rest of City Hall.

Before Tuesday’s election, Mike, show us the metrics on how we’ll measure your success every year in protecting our children (from child molesting teachers?) and keeping guns out of schools.

That leaves us examining the record of the incumbent, the only outsider to win any office in the city in more than a decade, the clumsy and mistake-prone Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich himself.

Let’s enumerate the faults:

  • Like everyone who runs for this office, he promised the world when running he would be the people’s lawyer, ignoring the reality of how limited the power of the City Attorney is and how he can’t speak out honestly because he the political machine’s lawyer and bound by legal ethics to be their mouthpiece and obedient servant.
  • Right after taking office, he stood up in public comment at the Council and denounced Mr. Big, AEG’s Tim Leiweke, for ripping off the taxpayers for the costs of Michael Jackson funeral party that earned the firm a fortune and never was able to deliver on his threat to prosecute Leiweke and Councilwoman Jan Perry for getting in his way.
  • He spent way too much time whining about how the mayor and Council gutted his office, even hiring their own lawyers to avoid using his, because he wasn’t trustworthy as a stooge of the system.
  • He stupidly ran for District Attorney when he had promised he would serve two terms as City Attorney, a miscalculation that humiliated him since he ran third in the primary and cost him a lot of support in the community.

So why is Trutanich the right man for the job?

Because he’s still independent of the corrupt power structure and he runs an efficient and effective office thanks in no small part to surrounding himself with smart and capable and experience people like Bill Carter, Jane Usher and Curt Livesay.

Nuch may be a bull in a china shop but he’s our bullheaded City Attorney who has done a remarkable job of winning an unprecedented number of lawsuits against the city, sharply cutting the cost of settlements, unraveling the city’s completely incompetent — and corrupt — handling of billboards and pot shops.

On Wednesday, the state Supreme Court agreed with Trutanich that the 100 digital billboards owned by Summit Media must come down and its a testament to his leadership that the 800 to 1,000 pot shops in L.A. will be legally reduced in number to 100 to 150 if any of three ballot measures passes in March.

Choices in life are hard, rarely perfect, but you can gamble that Smith will be tough with cops and firefighters who sue over stubbed toes and dog food spaghetti, you can believe Feuer will stand in the schoolhouse door and take away the guns from psychotics or you can accept that what you got is better than what they offer.

My vote goes to Carmen Trutanich.

Parks to Santana: “Only by Slaughtering ‘Sacred Cows’ Can We Move Forward and Feed a Starving City”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Councilman Bernard Parks warned back in November that the $216 million to be raised by the Proposition A sales tax increase would “go up in smoke” unless there were safeguards on how it would be spent but he voted to put it on the March 5 ballot. As the only long-time fiscally responsible member of the Council has had a change of heart after reading City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana new fiscal analysis “Road to Financial Recovery — City at a Crossroadsand sent this detailed letter to Santana outlining what is needed to restore LA’s fiscal health and quality of life.

“Government Making a U-Turn”– Response to “City at a Crossroads” Report

Dear Mr. Santana,

I have reviewed your analysis of the city’s budget over the past several years and, I must commend you for your overall efforts and specific priorities to keep the city solvent.

The pressures from various special interests groups, city officials and the demands from the general public have been overwhelming.

Because of our previous conversations, I know that there are many more things you would have liked to have done and believe should have been done prior to the city reaching its current “Crossroads”.

Unfortunately, many of your warnings and recommendations were not followed nor implemented.

Your “City at a Crossroads” report now recommends a one-half cent sales tax as a last resort to maintain the current service levels allocated in the 2012-2013 fiscal-year budget. I’ve concluded that it is premature to request the public to tax itself with a permanent sales tax increase.

This proposal has not been vetted. There are no council committee studies or reports, no assessment of the regressive nature of sales tax, no evaluation of the overall impact of the cumulative tax and fee increases on the city’s general public or rate payers and no evaluation of the impact on local businesses, the economy or jobs. Also, there has not been sufficient outreach to the community for input, insights or alternatives.

 

That is why I encourage you to consider alternative options to those expressed in your report concerning Prop.A, based on the very real possibility that the measure fails at the polls next month.

This city has experienced more than its share of unemployment, underemployment and foreclosures. Sadly, those who suffer these misfortunes are the ones hit hardest when government decides to levy additional fees and taxes.

During this same period of personal income loss and financial upheaval, there has been a cumulative barrage of significant increases in taxation and bond indebtedness which ultimately falls on the shoulders of the general public:

Continue reading Parks to Santana: “Only by Slaughtering ‘Sacred Cows’ Can We Move Forward and Feed a Starving City”

City Hall’s Brand of Socialism: Soak the Working Class with Higher Taxes to Support Millionaire Cops and Firefighters

EDITOR’S NOTE: At 5:30 p.m. tonight and again at 10 p.m., KCET’s SoCal Connected will drop another bomb on City Hall’s DROP program — Deferred Retirement Option Plan — that is letting retired cops and firefighters retire one day on a 90 percent pension and come back the next day at their full salary with their pension check being banked for up to five years at 5 percent interest. Read more below about double-dipping retirees getting earning six-figure salaries and then getting lump sum checks of more than $1 million when they finally retire for good. Transcript and video here.

 

This is your last chance Los Angeles: If you pass Proposition A’s sales tax hike and put Greuel or Garcetti in the Mayor’s office, Feuer in City Attorney’s office and Zine in the Controller’s office with eight failed legislators, five obedient staffers and two cops on the City Council, you deserve the calamity that is coming.

Check out City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana’s “Road to Financial Recovery — City at a Crossroads” Analysis released Feb. 7 and see just how feeble City Hall’s efforts have been to rein in costs and how precarious the city’s financial position remains because of the inadequacy of the measures taken — more smoke and mirrors than substance, to be sure.

Santana who’s own position is said to be even more precarious than the city’s because the unions that so heavily funding the sleazy Greuel, Garcetti, Feuer and Zine campaigns have demanded he be fired. His crime: Daring to suggest over and over that stronger measures were needed while the elected officials showed what moral and political cowards they are by remaining silent.

You can see the depths of political perversity that reigns at City Hall in the opening words of Santana’s report when he credits “the steadfast leadership of the mayor” and “the resolve of the City Council” for a serious of half measures that have reduced general fund positions by 14.4 percent but not reduced salary costs a single penny.

Between the lines of his report, deep in the details, is a shocking story of mismanagement by those who would presume to rise to higher office like Greuel, Garcetti and Zine and those who want to double their salaries at public expense as Councilmen after years of destroying the state’s financial position as legislators in Sacramento.

What the report makes clear is the only losers are the residents and taxpayers. Of 5,300 positions eliminated from the general fund, barely 400 people lost their jobs, 2,400 were paid off handsomely to retire and the rest were transferred to the DWP, Harbor, Airport and the special funded positions.

It’s public services and maintenance of public facilities, roads and parks that have suffered.

The poster child of this failure is the city’s continuing use of the DROP program for cops and firefighters.

Two years ago, SoCal Connected exposed just how outrageous the program is at a time when there’s an unending budget crisis driven by out of control costs and people lined up dying to get great paying jobs in public safety.

Monday night, the show reports an updated look at how the program is working with more than 3,000 officers and firefighters having taken advantage of it over the last decade at a spectacular cost to the public.

Shockingly, the program reports that the city has never studied the cost and benefits of DROP even though other cities across the country are dropping DROP

Greuel and Garcetti — the gutless wonders — fully support DROP and despite their total ignorance of any facts, since there aren’t any, insist it’s cost effective and keeps veteran personnel on the job.

That from the people who created and endorsed the early retirement buyout for senior civilian workers, a shotgun approach that left numerous departments in chaos.

That from people that are too timid to speak out strongly against the sales tax hike on the ballot. That from people who don’t the courage to denounce the police and fire chief threatening to put your life in jeopardy by eliminating hundreds of public safety jobs as punishment if you don’t vote for a regressive, destructive and unnecessary tax that punishes low income people the most. i

Vote for these people if you want, it’s your right, it’s your city — just know you will have to live with the consequences and they won’t be pretty.

My Sunday Column: Seeking the Straight Story on the Billions the State Confiscated in Abolishing Community Redevelopment

Twenty months after Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature abolished community redevelopment agencies statewide, local officials have gone through all the stages of grief — from horror to anger to confusion.

Now they have reached the point where all they can see is darkness at the end of the tunnel of their experience, uncertainty over whether the revised redevelopment law and its interpretation by state Finance Department officials will be the same in six months or six months after that as it appears to be today.

For all the successes that cities like Glendale and Burbank claim in terms of using the property tax dollars they kept under redevelopment to create projects like the Americana at Brand with new jobs and long-term revenue streams, regenerated neighborhoods, upgraded infrastructure and affordable housing, there were endless examples of abuses.

Take Los Angeles, where the CRA was little more than a slush fund providing welfare to the rich and to giant corporations — not as the law was intended, to remove blight and support a healthy economic future for the community.

“When you look at the communities that abused the program, yes it’s cleaner, but a lot of cities used redevelopment appropriately and did some good work, as we did in Glendale,” said Phil Lanzafame, chief assistant director of community development.

“I’m not asking for the redevelopment law back; I’m not asking for a new tool. I’m just asking for some surety going forward so that we don’t get into the same bind again where for 60 years everybody recognized what was lawful and then in one year cities were told, ‘OK, you’re on your own. It’s over.’

“We fought it. We challenged it. The court didn’t agree. We lost. So now we’ve bit the bullet. But going forward, we don’t know if we can rely on the law they’ve given us. How we can plan anything when we don’t know what the rules will be in six months or the six months after that.”

The heart of the financial problem for Glendale is that in order to expedite projects, the city lent its redevelopment agency $78 million and was being paid back $6 million to $7 million a year with interest from the increased tax revenue that otherwise would have gone to the state.

(READ FULL STORY)

59 Names That Should Live in Infamy: Special Interest Super-PAC Raised $620,200 to Sell Sales Tax Hike to Voters

When they talk about the entitlement class, put at the top of the list the unions, lawyers, lobbyists, businesses, real estate and billboard companies that contributed $620,200 to bamboozle the uninformed and gullible into voting for Proposition A, the sales tax hike on March 5.

They are the shame of the city, greed merchants who should have no place in civil society, pariahs who should be shamed everywhere they go since they have no sense of shame themselves.

READ THE NAMES AND CONTRIBUTIONS (YESonA–ContributorsList)

Put AEG, beneficiary of $2 billion in entitlements from City Hall for the Farmer’s Field deal, at the top of the list with an initial $100,000 contribution — a small price to pay indeed.

Then, there’s the $231,000 tossed in by other real estate interests, the big boys like Alan Casden, Jim Thomas and JH Snyder and those who want to join them at the front of the line of developers, property managers and contractors getting rich from City Hall’s slavish award of entitlements to those who fund its corruption.

Throw in a more modest $91,750 from a wide range of businesses including a trash hauler hoping for a lucrative franchise, garment makers, a railroad, technology and entertainment companies, even a Warner Bros. executive, $35,300 from assorted lobbyists/lawyers and a puny $5,200 from financial firms.

Add $60,000 from billboard companies, including $25,000 from Clear Channel Outdoor which simultaneously served notice on the city of its intent to sue for $100 million — half the revenue from the tax it is backing — if officials dare to mess with its scofflaw attitude toward regulation of digital, illegal and other signage that makes LA such an ugly city.

READ CLEAR CHANNEL’S THREAT and LUDICROUS ARGUMENTS (CCO 2_22 letter)

But the real insult comes from the labor unions which are drooling at the prospect of padding their bloated paychecks if this regressive and destructive tax passes.

Unions and their immediate allies contributed $95,900 — including $850 from three of the harbor’s 15 port pilots who average close to $350,000 a year for a four-day work week with 27 days vacation plus all city holidays.

Since the end of the second reporting period, it appears the SEIU has joined the $100,000 contributor club, earning it shared credit with AEG for the Yes on A TV ad featuring Charlie Beck whose respect for the spirit and letter of ethics law is in evidence in his abusive use of his official title in the ad. He might as well as have worn his dress blues.

The first quarter million in spending mainly went for slate mailings with “Citizens for Waters,” as in Congresswoman Maxine Waters, netting $25,000.

Thousands more were spread around such fictitious entities as the “Independent Voters League” and “John F. Kennedy Alliance,” both located at 3700 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1050B, “Continuing the Republican Revolution” in Newport Beach, “Budget Watchdogs” in Torrance, “California Latino Voters’ Guide” and “Our Voice Latino Voter Guide,” which is located at 2350 Hidalgo Ave., also the home of the “Coalition for Senior Citizen Security” and the “Council of Concerned Women Voters” slate mailers.

The political machine’s pollster Fairbank, Maslin, Maulin netted $43,218; direct mailer Thomas Aaron of Chatsworth more than $50,000; Niko Consulting $31,815; the machine’s lawyer Stephen Kaufman a measly $8,184,85; even the Post Office and Paypal did alright.

That still left $404,141.68 with more flowing in if the pollster can fudge the numbers enough to discredit the USA-ABC poll showing 46 percent against the tax to 26 percent for.

Is there no decency in his places in this godforsaken city? Does Charlie Beck lack the courage to stand up to save even a small measure of respect for himself and the LAPD?

Will not the mayor and all the elected officials running for Mayor, Controller, City Attorney, City Council take a stand for honesty and integrity and denounce this ill-conceived campaign for personal and collective advantage at the expense of a populace struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table?

Of course not, because they have all lived high on the worsening cancer of City Hall corruption they don’t know or care about the difference between right and wrong. They are all hypocrites who denounced Super PACs, demand a constitutional amendment to ban them and live off the dirty money that flows from people, companies and organizations that expect handsome returns for their contributions.

And frankly if you the voters don’t hold them accountable, you are no better than they are.

One final note, city officials do not make any of the information about Super PACs available online or in any searchable form.

You have to ask the City Clerk’s office for the information as civic leader Jack Humphreville did in this case and it comes in a form that requires the information be typed into a spreadsheet as I did in this case.

Here are the reports from the City Clerk’s office: (YesonA_460_1.1.13_1.19.13-1)(YesOnA_460_2.22.13)

What Kind of Fool Am I? The Kind Who’s Foolish Enough to Dress Up as George Washington for President’s Day

My Sunday column for the Glendale News-Press posted here explained how I’m always saying “yes” to just about everything, even when a good friend like Leslie Dutton asks me to appear at her annual Full Disclosure Network’s fund-raiser as George Washington in full costume.

It was a spontaneous decision that I immediately regretted but her cause — restoring public access television which was killed by the LA City Council and the $5 million a year that cable subscribers pay for it confiscated by City Hall to pay salaries of a bungling technology department — is dear to my heart. A deal is a deal.

I did try to weasel and suggest that keynote speaker Scott Minerd, chief investment officer for Guggenheim Partners, the equity firm that just brought the Dodgers, would carry the program with his commentary on Washington’s inspiring Farewell Address so I would make a few funny remarks and run for my life before the audience stoned me or thought I must be stoned to be such a fool

Leslie would have none of it, insisting that I lived my whole life for thie singular moment of theater, read everything about Stanislavksy in my youth, practiced method acting in creating the newsroom character Ron Kaye and even took an improv acting class last year at Pierce College.

So I suffered weeks of anxiety before immersing myself in everything I needed to know about the father of our country, could hardly sleep the night before my debut as an actor on Saturday and, as we say in the theater, and went out there and broke a leg.

You can watch a full report at the Full Disclosure Network.

Jack Humphreville Vs. Charlie Beck: Who’s Telling the Truth? Can You Tell the Difference? Do You Know Even What’s Real?

Civic leader Jack Humphreville stepped forward to challenge the Proposition A sales tax increase on the March 2013 ballot as he did in questioning massive rate increases by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the outrageous pay hikes and work rules won by its union boss, Brian D’Arcy, by buying most city officials and intimidating the rest.

Proving he stands for nothing, that he betrays all the best of what the LAPD has stood for, Chief Charlie Beck volunteered to be the spokesman for the sales tax increase that kills jobs, punishes the poor, limits business opportunities and does nothing except pay higher city employee salaries — including his own and his cops — that City Hall already granted at the height of the economic recession.

Watch and listen to Humphreville and Beck and does what is good for you — and for all of L.A.