(This article was written for City Watch LA (link)
I read a copy of the Kantor Commission’s LA2020 Report early Tuesday and thought, “Oh my god, important people in this town have finally noticed how the city is going to hell.”
It was a “bombshell,” — prominent, rich, powerful people speaking out and ready to mobilize the community around an agenda for change.
A dream come true to me and Joseph Mailander and John Walsh and so many thousands of others who have known for so long: LA is declining. Get the word out. The bastards are robbing us blind. Their public stories have nothing to do with their private stories. The city is going to hell.
And then reality bit.
Even before the press event, the once promising reporter Dave Zahniser was up on the LA Times website with a short story that apparently was based not on reading the report, but on getting briefed on its contents and given a ‘money’ quote so he quickly get to the point:
The commission members are all dirty, so as the righteously superior man he sees himself to be, he had every right, every duty, to smear their reputations with any means necessary.
Just look at the evidence: The report said that the DWP, like the harbor and airports, needs major investment that goes far beyond cleaning up unfinished business to the question of how LA competes successfully in the booming Pacific Rim, creates jobs and economic health and a prosperous future.
The mayor gets first shot –“We appreciate this report and look forward to the next one,” a Garcetti aide said.
Then we get the hinge of the story: A key contributor to the report was Austin Beutner, a commission member who served as Villaraigosa’s ‘jobs czar’ at City Hall. Some of the commission’s members have been doing business at City Hall for years — and had interests that made their way into the 2020 report.
Is that why the report’s comments about failing schools and transit programs, about long delays on such worthy projects as the Burlington Northern rail yard which was stalled – purely for political reasons — for eight years although it could reduce truck traffic, pollution, costs, delivery times.
By the way, Zahniser shares, did you know Burlington Northern is “a company that was represented by Kantor, a corporate lawyer?” Because the report says: “Competitive ports have all made major improvements, while Los Angeles bent to the will of special interest groups and NIMBYism.”
Zahniser was “referring to the concept known as ‘Not in My Backyard.’”
He suggested Austin Beutner, Thomas Sayles and Brian D’Arcy were guilty of a conflict of interest because they were formerly DWP’s CEO and Chairman and D’Arcy is currently the powerful boss of the city’s most powerful union. But he doesn’t mention IBEW’s political blackmail strategy or that the union is currently involved in political scandal.
Instead of connecting the dots of wrongdoing the LA Times chose to use innuendo and guilt by association to damage the reputations of these men – and their report – without offering the slightest connection between their roles and the DWP and the rail yard.
Needless to say, the pack all followed Zahniser’s lead as if the issue had been discussed by them in advance and an agreement reached to see as old hat everybody knows it ho-hum.
Under a story with the interest killing headline word “Rehashes,” the Daily News made it doubly clear this is not important, old news.
Reporter Dakota Smith captured the political moment with this setup:
“The reaction to the report seemed to mostly be met with the refrain: ‘So, what else is new?”
“I didn’t learn anything from this,” said Steve Soboroff, Los Angeles Police Commission president.
“This is stuff that has been out there.”
Really? Steve Soboroff, one of the most successful business-political players of his generation, a man who has been inside the heart of the game of running the system for everyone’s mutual benefit whatever that turns out to mean and getting fabulously rich and now back in the game as the mayor’s man.
Nobody gets the party line straight like LA Weekly’s Hatchet Man Gene Maddaus who dismisses the report, saying it “reads like a Chamber of Commerce op-ed stretched out to 20 pages … It recycles talking points. Where to begin with this thing. How about with the fact that there’s no executive summary.”
No executive summary. Can you imagine? What is a poor journalistic to do?
He then goes on to a lengthy critique of writing and structure of the report which was put together with the help of a journalist (a rival of sorts, perhaps?).
Especially upsetting were the mixed metaphors and the plain language intended to stimulate the widest possible discussion of the future of the city, a declining city.
The verdict on this show was provided by the LA Times: “Wait and See,” the paper editorialized.
For all those who care about a greater LA … better for everyone … this could be your last chance for a long time.
You can let the media, so seduced by the army of political operatives on government and consultant payrolls, decide the outcome by spreading confusion and muddling the issues for the next 90 days.
Or you can seize the day, walk through the door to a real public discussion, everyone invited.
Imagine how rich and informative a guided online discussion would be if everyone had a voice – and used it to speak up about things. And, with enough passion to be heard over the manipulated political din. LA’s media included.