Four Years and Counting: Is Calamity the Only Hope?

Four years ago this month, I was fired from my job at the Daily News where I had worked for 23 years and started blogging.

“Free at last!” — those were the first words I wrote in my first post after more than four decades of dancing with the devil of corporate journalism.

I said I wanted to write from “my heart” about “the things I believe in, and the vision that drives me to fight for a better, a greater Los Angeles … to engage in a public conversation about who we are and what we could become if we pull together and work together for the common good.”

We’ll never know what that is or how to achieve it unless we talk about our experiences, our values, our needs and our aspirations. I believe with all my heart that that kind of public conversation will cut through the fog of political, media and corporate double talk and lead us to the common ground where we can start solving the problems of our community and make life better for us all.

I certainly don’t pretend to know the answers; I only know what I see and I’m probably wrong about most of all of it. My newsroom knew that, and had a saying, “You can’t spell wrong without R-O-N.”

So let’s tell the truth as we see it and learn from each other. Let the games begin

That was how I ended that first post — and now 1,702 published posts, 123 stillborn posts and 22,585 comments later — I’m at a crossroads, struggling against the futility of it all, the failure of so much of what I tried to achieve and engaged in a months-long meditation asking myself, “What if I am wrong?”

What if the greedy bastards are right? What if you might as well take as much as you can and enjoy yourself: To hell with everybody else, just be like so many others and cover the nakedness of your selfishness with politically correct nonsense and the armor of ideology?

Exploring that idea, I bought the website no-change.com where I thought about satirizing the way things are today by declaring, “I got mine.”

I thought about writing under various pseudonyms boasting about how airlines, hotels, expensive shops, credit card companies were bestowing such generous freebies to make life more luxurious for the affluent and how the government is doing the right thing by providing tax shelters to the super-rich and giving them a lower tax rate than the masses.

Surely, many people would contribute their own let-them-eat-cake stories to no-change.com because they actually believe things like that and in the grand illusion that they somehow will go from being an ordinary working slob and became one of those rich people someday.

I’ve thought long and hard about what I’ve written, what I’ve said in interviews, what I did in starting the Bastille Day 2008 Saving LA Protest at City Hall and how it became the Saving LA Project (SLAP), and how so many people from across the city came together to defeat Measure B, the $4 billion  solar energy boondoggle and elect Carmen Trutanich as City Attorney in 2009, and how SLAP morphed into LA Clean Sweep for the 2011 city elections to support candidates who were not part of the insider City Hall political machine.

Along the way, I brought to life my idea for the citizen journalism project, OurLA.org that I worked long and hard to try make it a place where we could talk about the issues we care about in our neighborhoods and in our organizations.

But what came of any of it? Even the successes have turned sour and most of what I tried ended in failure — not that failure itself has any sting for me.

I can’t deny it makes a difference that I’ve gotten older. I’ll be 71 next month and I’m having cataract surgery on my eyes in the next 10 days.

So my dilemma today is the same one that has haunted me my whole adult life: What to do?

I can no longer see what the point is to exposing the extraordinary corruption and incompetence of our city government or any of the levels of government above LA.

If you don’t know how they steal your money and give you so little in return, you haven’t been paying any attention and never will. You don’t matter at all except for your usefulness as a mindless casual voter who can be easily manipulated by ads and mailers designed to plug in to the programs embedded in your brains by an out of control materialist culture.

Personally, I’m tired of beating this dead horse. Like so many citizen activists and mainstream journalists, I’ve exposed many of their swindles of a docile and defeated populace. I’ve insulted their integrity, and mocked their daily deceits.

I’ve reach out to people who care in every part of the city, people of every race and class and met thousands of amazing people, caring and committed to right the wrongs they perceive, people who work countless hours to try to get City Hall to respect their values and interests and address their needs.

Clearly, I’m not very good in that role, never thought I was. I’ve always hoped a true leader would emerge and become the catalyst to bring the city together, believed it was inevitable that the opportunity to do something great was obvious that someone would step forward with the transcendent vision and the charisma to revolutionize LA into the city it could be, the city where dreams come true for all like it has been for me in so many ways.

What I have determined, right or wrong, is the issue is not poverty and the abuses of bankers; it is not over-development and the CRA; it is not the outrageous costs of salaries, pensions and benefits for public employees; it is not bike paths or green energy or even public safety.

The only issue is power. The people have none and are reduced to begging for crumbs from the table of power while developers, unions, business, political operatives divvy up the spoils of public money.

Nothing that I have seen or learned in the last four years gives me even the slightest hope that those who want a better city, a great city, are ready to put aside the narrow issues issue that motivate or rise above the biases that inhibit them to come together as a single unstoppable force.

The truth is the City Hall political machine is weak, held together by the greed of the special interests who control what is a motley crew of elected officials, few of whom have ever achieved anything of distinction in their whole lives.

The entire corrupt system would fall in a second if all those who agree on nothing but the need for dramatic change stood together in silence in front of City Hall where the Occupy LA movement camped out for so long and refused to leave until all our separate and collective demands were met.

That’s what I’ve always believed but I’m older if not wiser now. The only thing I’m sure about is that it is not going to happen without terrible pain that will only accentuate the horrible disparity between rich and poor and further send the middle class fleeing.

It is going to take a calamity to bring about change. I hope I’m wrong but the system is in a feeding frenzy and feels it is immunized against the consequences of the looming disaster.

This is 20 years after the LA riots that some call an uprising. The police have learned how to control without the incessant use of abusive force but the rage among the poor is so much deeper, the injustices so much deeper, a spiritual infection that has spread to many who like me could look the other way and say, “I got mine.”

I could learn to live with that like a lot of people but it would break my heart.

Caretakers of a Greater Dream for LA

If we haven’t
already reached the point of no return, we will with approval today of the skyscraper
billboard passing as the new Wilshire Grand luxury hotel and the soon to be
approved mega-billboard passing as an NFL stadium/Convention Center.

The
twinkling of lights of LA down below that gave the city its night-time charm
will soon enough be a blazing LED light show of advertising images pulsing new
messages every six to eight seconds, consuming the electricity that could power
thousands of homes, making a mockery of slogans like “greenest city in America.”

The glow
from downtown and then Hollywood
and eventually the Westside will pollute the sky for miles around.

LA will
finally have fulfilled the dark side of its promise, an anything goes playground
for the rich and powerful sporting themselves in pockets of spectacular luxury
surrounded by vast canyons of poverty.

They talk
about jobs, jobs, jobs but they really mean buy, buy, buy as if the era of
hyper-consumerism and hyper-commercialism was not on its last legs.

This is a
nation that has been losing good-paying middle class jobs far faster than they
are being created for decades, a nation that has seen its share of the global
car manufacturing market fall from 65 percent to 15 percent, its car capital
fall in population to what it was 100 years ago, its unionized work force fall
from 33 percent to 13 percent with much of that in an unaffordable public
sector.

The
American Century is over. Even our military might that consumes so much of our
wealth cannot triumph over Al Qaeda and the Taliban any better than it did the
Viet Cong 40 years ago.

We are
clinging with all our strength to a runaway culture, obsessed by the
shenanigans of celebrity creeps and sickos. . Even as we resist all change in
the way we live and work, we jump aboard iPads and G4 cell phones as if nothing
has changed.

Nowhere is
the madness of America
more evident than in LA.

We are
seeing a feeding frenzy at the public trough by developers, contractors, unions
nowhere what harm they do to the quality of the lives of millions and their
hopes for a better future.

It is
unstoppable.

We have
raised our voices in anger. We have begged for crumbs. The machine of our
political and civic culture has no more mercy than it has solutions to the
problems we collectively face.

We have
voted with our feet in far greater numbers that we have voted in ballot boxes.
The middle class has been fleeing for 30 years as white flight became everyone’s
flight – the ultimate exit strategy for disenchanted people.

For the
rest of use who have remained and fought against the tide, there is a dilemma.

Our efforts
to stop the destruction politically and legally have come to little or nothing.
The machine adapts and corrupts every hard-won reform.

Failure is
nothing but a learning experience for me. I’m from Cleveland and I know a lot about losing, a
lot more than I know about winning.

I have
failed at just about everything I ever did in life and my few seem like
miracles, inexplicable. Maybe that’s why I never stopped chasing my dreams.

For the
last 30 years, I have bombed City Hall with every word at my disposal. I used
what journalistic skills and platforms I had to expose abuses of the LAPD and
the corruption of City Hall.

For the
past three years, I’ve posted 1,403 articles, nearly one a day. I started the
Saving LA Project to protest against the tripling of trash fees on the promise
it would all go to the police -a promise broken from day one — and started the
citizen journalism project called OurLA.org. and the political action committee
LA Clean Sweep.

There
always was only one goal – to bring people from all over the city, from every
walk of life together, so they could bring to life the city of their dreams.

These
efforts all have failed. But so what? Life is like that. You struggle and fail
and you get up and struggle some more for the things you believe in.

And then
you wake up one day and inexplicably everything has change, maybe not the way
you envisioned it would be but for the better.

It’s all
just a matter of timing. The tide of history will force us all to change,
sooner or later, and come to terms with the new reality of living within our
means in a more modest, sustainable world that is less materialistic, yet gives
us all a greater chance at happiness.

What do we
do next?

Frankly, I
don’t know. I’m open to all suggestions about how we regroup and carry on the
effort to be the caretakers of a truly great LA that fulfills the hopes and
dreams of its people.

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A New Deal for L.A. — Road Map for an Efficient, Responsible and Solvent City Government

“If you’re not going to vote to extend taxes, you’re not going to vote
to cut, you’re not going to vote to do anything to redevelopment, so,
what the hell are you going to do? By the way, if you’re not
going to do anything, why do you take a pay check?”

Gov. Jerry Brown threw out that question to legislative Republicans blocking approval of tax extensions, budget cuts and abolition of community redevelopment agencies to eliminated California’s $26 billion budget deficit and restore the state to financial solvency.

The same question should be asked of the nation’s highest, highest perked and highest staffed municipal elected officials — the mayor and City Council of the City of Los Angeles.

They have failed for three years to confront the truth: City government is poorly managed, disorganized, wasteful, inefficient and its incompetence is compounded by salary, pension and health care costs that are — and were even before the economic meltdown — unaffordable.

Yet, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council went on a hiring frenzy at the height of the housing bubble.

For the last three years, their response has been a pathetic juggling of the books, shuffling money between accounts, one-time solutions like furloughs and reams of documents, studies and debate without substantive action.

The business community, Neighborhood Councils, the city’s financial bureaucrats — even to a degree city union leaders — all now agree that drastic actions must be taken now or bankruptcy will become the only viable option by July 2012.

Here’s how Gary Toebben, head of the LA Chamber of Commerce, put it this week in his Business Perspective column headlined “Budget Deficit IV Now Showing in LA”:

When Hollywood
produces a sequel, it is because the first film was a hit. This spring’s
Budget Deficit IV, starring the City of Los Angeles, does not fall into
that category. What started out as a PG rated show three years ago and
gained little attention has turned into a horror movie that should scare
every resident and taxpayer of Los Angeles. 

Some
of the actors in Budget Deficit IV would like to make us believe that
while the plot is heavy with drama, calling it a horror movie is simply
crying wolf. They assert that the villain in Budget Deficit I, II, III
and IV is a character called the Great Recession and that if we are just
patient, that villain will be swept away as the economy improves.
Miguel Santana, L.A.’s City Administrative Officer, says that portrayal
of the current budget deficit would be fiction. 

Speaking
to a group of L.A. Area Chamber members last Friday, Santana said the
actual numbers for the past four years and the financial projections for
the next four years tell a sobering story about a budget crisis that
would have unfolded even without the Great Recession. Santana points to a
long-term trend line of increased expenses for personnel, programs and
retiree benefits that surely and steadily increased the City’s budget
obligations every year and laid the foundation for a budget deficit even
when the economy was growing robustly. The budget deficit tsunami is
rushing in on Mayor Villaraigosa, members of the L.A. City Council and
citizens of Los Angeles, and we can no longer avoid tough cost-cutting
decisions.”

In a series of reports released in the last week, Santana has provided a road map to financial solvency that involves the usual grab bag of cooking the books and fee hike tricks along with a massive restructuring of city government, elimination of non-core services and the workers who provide those services and negotiations with city unions on reducing the cost of payroll and benefits.

The key documents released in the last week are the third quarter financial report (10-0600-S60_RPT_CAO_03-18-11[1].pdf) on how to get rid of the nearly $50 million deficit remaining this fiscal year, the amendments to that report approved by the Council Budget and Finance Committee, and lengthy report entitled “Opportunity to Strengthen and Redefine LA City Government.”

“We are living in an ‘age of permanent fiscal crisis’ that is challenging all levels of government,” Santana opens his report.

He noted LA’s unemployment rate is 14.4 percent, one of the nation’s highest, and the deficit for next fiscal year is estimated at $350 million and rising rapidly year after year to $548 million by 2014-15 even with an expected 10 percent increase in revenue.

Year after year, Santana’s office has warned “it only gets worse next year” and it has and will continue to get worse unless drastic measures are taken — and carried out effectively.

The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, a group of 20 volunteers led by Jay Handal, has dug deep into the city’s finances after many weeks of work and issued their own recommendations which were presented in person to the mayor who flashed his best smile and said thanks.

It’s called “Saving Jobs — Saving Services” (NC Budget Advocates.doc)and dovetails with a lot of the CAO recommendations, emphasizing increasing efficiency, generating new revenues, structural changes and reducing expenses.

The mainstream media ignored the report which was picked up only by Alice Walton’s The City Maven blog.

There are a few choice nuggets of City Hall incompetence noted in the report.

The LAPD.bought GPS systems for squad cars but
“the required software to operate the GPS systems was not purchased, thus making
the GPS systems inoperable.”

The Personnel Department’s Workers Comp Division is operating inefficiently on 26-year-old software, when it would cost $3.4 million to fix and help save the city millions every years.

Despite its bland bureaucratic language and occasional smiley faces, the CAO’s own road map for financial solvency is a far more damning indictment of City Hall’s failures — 219 pages of proposals to reduce spending by $440 million to $570 million requiring “responsible management and fiscal practices.”

Fiscal responsibility, core services, honesty, integrity, transparency — those were the core values embraced by every LA Clean Sweep candidate in the recent Council elections where voters chose instead to elect the same old faces of failure.

And that is the heart of the problem: Failure of leadership.

The business, civic and union leadership supported those faces of failure in the election.

Now, they have the chance to join with the community and provide the leadership needed to create a new deal for Los Angeles — a future that provide job security to city workers at an affordable cost, that protects basic services for healthy neighborhoods and a decent qualify of life for all, that preserves hopes for a better future for the city.

There is nothing in the record of City Hall to suggest that the leadership that is needed will come from within.

It will take a coalition of the rich and the poor, progressives and conservatives and everyone in between from every part of the city to force the changes that are needed and make sure they are carried out for the long-term benefit of all.

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My Sunday Columns in Daily News and News-Press & Leader

Getting Closer to the Impossible Dream

“Start by doing
what is necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the
impossible.”

Those words from St.
Francis of Assisi have become the guiding light
to efforts to reform Los Angeles
City Hall. Concerned
citizens from all over the city came together to work for honesty, integrity,
fiscal responsibility and a seat at the table of power for every part of this
diverse and complex city.

Back in the summer with
public discontent growing, a small group of ordinary citizens met to plot a
ballot box revolution to topple the City Hall political machine.

The policies of the mayor
and City Council over many years had pushed L.A. toward the brink of bankruptcy.
Libraries were closing two days a week. The streets and sidewalks were crumbling,
and efforts to maintain them were all but abandoned. The DWP was out of control
with rates soaring endlessly even as workers were getting massive wage
increases.

City Hall’s response was
pathetic: 2,400 workers were paid off handsomely to retire with full pensions
as young as their early 50s, 1,600 others were being transferred to the DWP or
into other special-funded jobs, often getting pay raises of 40percent or more.
Even today, nearly three years into the fiscal crisis, barely 400 workers out
of more than 50,000 in all the city departments have been laid off.

And the unfunded costs of
pensions and lifetime health care – costs taxpayers were liable for – had
climbed to more than
$16 billion, the city’s entire general fund revenue for four years.

Yelling “We’re mad as hell, and not going to take it anymore,”
seemed a futile gesture. Something concrete had to be done to break the
gridlock on power held by a political machine that was funded by
developers, contractors, consultants, unions and held together by a
network of highly paid lobbyists, political operatives and P.R.
specialists.

(READ FULL STORY)


Ray Patel’s Story: His Fight to Save the Golden Key Hotel

Hours after finalizing a deal last Tuesday to sell his
Golden Key Hotel to billionaire developer Rick Caruso, Ray Patel smiled happily
sitting poolside while a couple of out-of-town guests basked in the warmth of
the Southern California sun.

It was a deal made on Patel’s own terms despite the clout of
Americana at
Brand developer and the threat of the city seizing his property under eminent
domain as it had done with so many other properties to make the project
possible.

For the 41-year-old Patel, it was a deal he couldn’t refuse
– much to the disappointment of property rights activists and organizations who
rallied to his support and hoped the Golden Key would be a test case for
governments power to seize private property and turn it over to other private
interests.

Some call him a sellout but martyrdom to a cause was never
the Ray Patel way.

“I owed it to my family to make the best deal possible,” Ray
said. “I owed it to my father to fight to keep the hotel. He dreamed of owning
the Golden Key almost from the time he arrived here in 1971. It was a dream
come true.”

The family came from the state of Gujarat, a rich farming
area in western India
in 1971 and has worked hard, saved and lived the American Dream.

Owning a small hotel is a 24/7 job and Ray Patel has done
that since buying the Golden Key in 2002 from the family of the long-time owner
who his father had built a close relationship with over the years.

The hotel is near the southern edge of the central
redevelopment area and skeptics at City Hall suggest Ray hoping to cash on the
fact that the property was a likely target from the time he bought it.

Ray is a well-educated with a business administration degree
from Cal Poly and far from a naïve small businessman. He is president of the
Northeast LA Hotel Association and gotten involved in a political fights with
LA City Hall over attempts to reclassify some hotels in poor areas as
residential to boost the numbers of units of the affordable housing stock.

The skill he has shown in playing his cards in recent months
lends some credence to the skepticism about his motives in buying the Golden
Key. But his story is far more innocent.

“Once hit with the threat of eminent domain, it is on your
mind every. You can’t stop thinking about it. I felt like I was behind the
eight-ball where you really don’t stand a chance,” he said.

It didn’t help relations much during the two years of
construction of the Americana
when dust and noise chased away hotel customers and Ray sued for damages, a
suit that was settled for $500,000 prior to the sale to Caruso. Both sides have
decided to keep the sale price confidential but undoubtedly was far more than
the $6 million the developer had previously offered.

Since last November when Glendale city officials told him to negotiate
a deal or they would take his property under eminent domain and the price would
be resolved in court, Ray has waged a sophisticated campaign that has brought
together local supporters and state and national groups fighting eminent domain
abuses.

The story of the Golden Key even became national news and
Ray Patel became a cause célèbre among those who have being warring against
eminent domain abuses since 2005.

That was when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a Connecticut
case known as”Kelo” that government agencies could take private property under
eminent domain and turn it over to other private interests.

“The media, the Internet, blogs -it spread across the
country,” Ray said.

“A lot of help just came together, people from all over who
cared and offered advice, people who cared a lot about property rights. There
are so many narratives about what happened but it was just regular folks like
myself coming together, nothing rehearsed.”

On Feb. 15, Glendale
officials were set to decide on whether to accept Ray’s proposal to renovate
and expand his hotel – a plan he spent $30,000 for architects and engineers to
design – to approve seizing his property so Caruso could build space for three
shops on Colorado Boulevard.
It was a foregone conclusion what they would decide.

With the moxie of a public relations expert, Patel staged a
rally at the hotel with 50 or so people in attendance and lots of TV cameras
and reporters. Californians for Property Rights, the Pacific Legal Foundation
and the Institute for Justice sent representatives.

They marched to City Hall chanting “Let Ray Stay” while
inside the courtyard, Caruso’s team was serving coffee and pastry to city
business leaders and supporters.

The City Council Chamber was packed, standing room only, but
the meeting didn’t happen.

For the first time, Ray and Caruso met face-to-face for serious
talks. After more than an hour, they came into the room and briefly asked for a
delay so talks could continue.

As TV cameras and reporters crushed against him throwing
rapid-fire questions, Ray appeared shaky for the first time, admitting going up
against the billionaire and his high-priced lawyer was “overwhelming.”

Ray can still run the Golden Key until the end of the year,
which gives him time to look for a new site, maybe even in Glendale.

What sticks in his memory most of all from his nine-year
journey with the Golden Key is how he felt on the day of the rally.

“I saw how much support there was that day. It made me
realize all those people are here for me, they want me to be OK. It meant a lot
to me.”

 Ironically, it is community redevelopment officials who are
worried now As soon as next week, the Legislature is likely to abolish all CRAs
and their Kelo eminent domain powers as part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget-balancing
plan.

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Kibbitzers, Second-Guessers, Bystanders — Everybody’s Got Opinions After the Election

On his way out the door of City Hall, Austin Beutner has finally spoken out about the budget calamity and the lack of any strategy to deal with the now $404 million deficit for next fiscal year — 10 percent of the entire general fund.

“We’ve just reelected half the City Council, and I’ve not heard one of
them propose a solution to a $400-million problem that’s 60 days away,”
Beutner told LA Chamber of Commerce members Thursday.

His comments come two days after the election and  just days before the dollar-a-year deputy mayor quits his post to join a new foundation on urban issues being set up by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg as part of his preparation to run for mayor of LA in 2013.

At least as reported by the LA Times, he made no mention of the fact that his own boss has provided virtually no leadership during the nearly three-year budget crisis or that he supported the re-election of the very same Council members who have failed to propose a solution to the budget crisis.

Despite the same old, same old results of Tuesday’s elections, we ought to be holding a parade down Grand Avenue for every one of the ordinary citizens who stepped forward and worked so hard to throw out the deadwood at City Hall and bring in new faces with new ideas and a measure of integrity.

Instead, the kibbitzers, second-guessers and bystanders are taking over the conversation, which is fair enough.

It would have been more helpful if they had spoken so forthrightly during recent months or even gotten involved in the election process and worked for the changes they believe are needed.

Hopefully, they, like Beutner, will keep speaking out from their hearts in the coming months as services are slashed and workers punished for the failure of the city’s leadership.

My own blog post on the election has drawn a record 53 comments, all of them whether praising or blaming are provocative and thought-provoking.

Ken Draper at City Watch LA today published some of the harshest criticisms of my own efforts with LA Clean Sweep.

Kevin Roderick, of course, delighted in the establishment’s victory and provided the mocking headline “Cancel the Revolution.”

Joseph Mailander at Street Hassle, more thoughtfully, surveyed the political landscape and offered his personal advice that I “take a month or so off” to clear my head.

Jay Handal of the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates suggested in an email blast that LA Clean Sweep change its name and leadership

It’s all helpful if we are ever going to create a city government that respects everyone in LA, balances the competing interests, needs and values and does so in a responsible way.

The only goal I have — or anyone involved in LA Clean Sweep has — is to stimulate and inform a lively public conversation that will lead to a greater Los Angeles, a great LA in fact.

If anyone thinks that 88 percent of the electorate being nothing but bystanders is a sign of a healthy community, they are dead wrong.

When someone like Tony Cardenas can win re-election with 4,000 votes — little more than 1 percent of the population of his district — something is terribly wrong.

But let’s take a minute to pay homage to those who dared to run for public office and all the volunteers who walked precincts and staffed phone banks for them, even those who merely voted — they participated and deserve to be respected, not belittled.

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SHAMELESS!

Without a clue as to what they were doing or even why, the City Council in a joint meeting with the yes-men and yes-women of Community Redevelopment Agency board agreed Tuesday to sabotage the governor’s efforts to restore solvency to California.

They voted against the poor, against students in need of a quality education, against libraries, against public safety.

They voted to support welfare to the rich and crumbs for poverty pimps. They knew full well that the $930 million they were confiscating would otherwise go to keep teachers in their jobs, for cops on the street, for librarians, for health services and  social service for the needist among us..

They disgraced themselves and they didn’t care. All they cared about what is good for the unions and the rich.

They did it because they think you don’t care either, that when the votes are counted late tonight, you will have re-elected LaBonge and Huizar and Cardenas and fallen for their phony ballot measures that don’t reopen libraries, solve the budget crisis, reduced pension burdens or brought accountability to DWP.

We’ll know soon enough if they are right.

The certainty is that the action the took today with only Paul Krekorian and the retiring Greig Smith objecting — LaBonge and Parks absent — will lead to lawsuits and countersuits when the Legislature abolishes all CRAs on Thursday or next week.

That will force Gov. Jerry Brown to slash spending for health care and education and social services of all sorts to the poor and needy and elderly. He will have no choice.

Those are the same people whose whose and needs have been betrayed by decades of taking billions of dollars in property taxes to subsidize maximize luxury projects for the benefit of giant corporations and the wealthy with crumbs off the table of power being gobbled up by non-profits that serve themselves far better than they do the poor and needy and elderly.

They were out in full force Tuesday along with small-time developers and city union officials egging the Council on.

Krekorian questioned the rush to judgment. Smith questioned the whole action. Koretz and Rosendahl questioned everything about the subterfuge but then rolled over and voted with their collegial gang.

It was shameless, a disgrace of public policy, a f— you to the people of Los Angeles and the state of California.

Here’s what the LA Times reported.

CRA Outrages, City Hall Failures — Only You Can Turn LA Around

The only time they give a damn about you is when you cast your vote.

That should be clear by how they have spent millions to keep independent voices from winning election to the City Council on Tuesday and tried to smear the reputations of anyone who posed a threat to them.

It should be clear from the City Council’s plan to vote Wednesday on the “Cesspool on Vine” office project in Hollywood at the same time it defiantly locks up $930 million in property taxes to thwart Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to abolish all CRAs as part of his effort to restore financial stability to California.

It should be clear from the decision of the Community Redevelopment Agency
to call a special board meeting for 8 a.m. on Monday with just 24 hours
notice to the public to approve dozens of actions involving tens of
millions of dollars without any kind of input from the people whose
lives are impacted.

There are 22 items on the CRA’s “special agenda,” items like $50,000 to hire a public relations firm and $700,000 to reward the law firm that put together the deal to perpetuate the destruction of the CRA with $930 million of money that could go to schools and cops and libraries if the state abolishes the agency.

There are projects that affect nearly every part of the city, including two in the Adelante-Eastside CRA project where the citizen advisory council was punished by having its fund cut off for daring to support the governor’s plan and given no opportunity to discuss the proposed projects as required by law.

Understand that the CRA has taken billions of property tax dollars and subsidized massive building projects, mainly in downtown and Hollywood, and the net impact on the city over the last 30 years is that there are one million more residents and 100,000 fewer jobs, according to the LAEDC.

If that doesn’t make it clear to you the extent of the failure of City Hall’s policies, nothing ever will..

You get one chance every two years to be heard so if you are among the 90 percent of registered voters who are likely to skip casting a ballot in this election, you never matter at all.

You have chosen to become a non-person in the civic life of your city, a passive bystander as decisions are made that affect the quality of your life, the education your kids get, the economic opportunities you have.

Be part of the solution, not part of the problem  — Vote for Change Tuesday.

Desperate Tom LaBonge Dirties Himself with Last-Minute Smear Campaign

I was going to let this go because last-minute smear tactics on the weekend before voters go to the polls is distasteful, a violation of journalistic ethics that I’ve only seen violated once in the mainstream media when the LA Times exposed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sex life at the end of the Gray David recall campaign.

But Tom LaBonge, who has been whining to everybody in City Hall for weeks about how he might lose Tuesday, has gone too far. No more Mr. Nice Guy, he’s that desperate.

He’s resorted on the campaign’s final weekend to robo-calls to thousands of his constituents using Gov. Jerry Brown and former Mayor Richard Riordan to falsely defame challenger Stephen Box.

There is no tax lien against Box and LaBonge is not the only Democrat involved in the campaigns by Box and Tomas O’Grady. Besides, it’s a non-partisan race.

Now I find in my email a blast from Carolyn Ramsay, LaBonge’s deputy chief of staff, who without identifying her role on the city payroll, is urging voters to re-elect her boss (Ramsay-LaBonge.rtf).

I can’t help but wonder how many of the email addresses she sent this to were acquired in her official capacity.

She argues that her boss isn’t responsible for public services being slashed and the city being broke, which may have a small amount of truth in it since he rarely understands what he’s voting on.

She ends her email by saying, “Vote for Tom LaBonge because Tom LaBonge works for us” — actually she works for Tom LaBonge is more like it.

If you want to know who to vote for, you just need to watch this short video clip of the single best moment of the seven races for City Council seats, Stephen Box’s great “Titanic” closing statement at a forum last week.:.

Englander’s ‘Don’t Vote for Me’ Mailer, Abuse of Power by Huizar, Cardenas and LaBonge

Despite his well-documented confusion about what day it is, Tom LaBonge’s perfect recall of a goal line stand that defeated Eagle Rock High was on full display Friday at the City Council — the last meeting before election day — along with his desperate need to be loved.

Don’t get Tom wrong, he loves Eagle Rock as much as he loves all of LA and got the opportunity to spread his love when his colleague Jose Huizar was making nice with that northern part of his district that he hardly knew existed until confronted by the same kind of tough challenge that good old LaBonge is facing Tuesday.

The occasion was Eagle Rock’s 100th birthday, but the motivation for the timing was clearly that he might actually be thrown out of office by upstart Rudy Martinez, just as Stephen Box might pull off a stunning upset of LaBonge, or La Bong as frequent presiding officer Dennis Zine prefers to call him.labongepphoto.jpg

Evidence of LaBonge’s concern is how he used officers — illegally — in uniform to promote his candidacy in a last-minute mailer.

Despite all the many advantages incumbents have, Huizar and LaBonge are worried, so worried they have no compunction about last-minute smear campaigns or abusing their power by turning official meetings of the City Council into opportunities  to campaign for re-election without having to spend any of the ill-gotten money they have raised from special interests.

Not to be outdone, Tony Cardenas, presumably looking over his shoulder at the bare majority he got four years ago, held forth for a half-hour with ministers, ex-cons who found redemption in God and other well-intentioned people — on locking up juveniles for life in prison for various crimes they didn’t involve murder or other forms of violent mayhem.

Cardenas at least had a point: The juvenile justice system is broken and incarceration for long periods solely for drug offenses is an injustice.

But with the help of Ed Reyes and others, the point was obscured by blaming such problems on racism and the repudiation of any form of personal responsibility.

None of these things that took up almost the entire Council meeting had to be brought up today. They were all pretty much timeless.Scan_Pic0007.jpg

What was timely on the Council agenda was approving the gift of $4 million of taxpayer money to questionable developer Hal Katersky and his totally unwanted and unnecessary 1601 N. Vine St. office project in Hollywood.

And so was approval of a “cooperation agreement” to prevent $930 million in local property tax revenue from being confiscated for schools, cops and libraries under Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget-balancing plan to abolish Community Redevelopment Agencies statewide.

To avoid inflaming the passions for an already aroused populace, the Council put those hot-button issues off until Wednesday — the day after we vote on whether people who have failed us day after day like LaBonge, Huizar, Cardenas and Wesson — should be held accountable.

Gutless, deceitful, despicable — words fail me — since both issues will be approved despite how they are doing nothing but enrich the rich at the expense of the quality of life and opportunity for 99 percent of the four million people who call LA home.

My personal favorite among the last-minute desperation plays of the political machine is the mailer from Mitch Englander, chief of staff to retiring Councilman Greig Smith and his anointed successor — just as Smith was chief of staff to Hal Bernson — a line of succession that ought to make every voter wonder how they could be so gullible.

Englander, endowed with nearly half a million dollars in mostly special interest money, barraged his constituents with a “Don’t Vote for Me” mailing.

The ad featured his boss, Greig Smith, wanting to clear up any confusion by pointing out he’s not running for re-election — but another Smith, Brad Smith is, and they suddenly got worried enough about being forced into a runoff that they were afraid the ignorant and uninformed voters they count might confuse the Smith who wants to fix LA with the Smith who broke LA.

And that’s the point: They are all worried. You have no excuse for not voting on Tuesday and showing them and the entire power structure that you want the city we love to work for you.

End the Corruption — Vote for Change.&nbsp

Here is the complete LA Clean Sweep Candidate List:

District 2: No Endorsement

District 4: Stephen Box

District 6: Richard Goodman, David Barron, and Jamie Cordaro

District 8: Councilman Bernard Parks

District 10: Austin Dragon

District 12: Kelly Lord and Brad Smith

District 14: Rudy Martinez

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LA Clean Sweep’s Mailer, Cable Ad Blitz to Elect Candidates Committed to Fixing City Hall and

It’s crunch time, Election Weekend, and the mailboxes and TV are filled with political ads for Tuesday’s city election.
Thanks to the efforts and contributions of many, LA Clean Sweep has joined the party with a blitz of door hangers, mailers and cable TV ads in support of our slate of citizen candidates committed to fixing what they have broken.
Ziggy Kruse and Andre Campbell of Amending LA put this video together with KRLA talk show host Kevin James doing the voice over.
We’ve come a long way since last summer and no doubt have a long way to go to bringing a balance of power to city politics so whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s election, we will be gearing up to challenge City Hall’s follies day to day while recruiting and training candidates for 2013 when the mayor’s office and six City Council seats are open.
Unlike four years ago, every incumbent candidate is facing a challenge Tuesday and every vote will matter.
Rudy Martinez has a real chance to oust Jose Huizar in CD14 and Stephen Box, who has run a terrific campaign, can force Tom LaBonge into a runoff in CD4 with your help volunteering for precinct walking and phone banking over the weekend and getting your friends and neighbors to show up at the polls on Tuesday.
Even Mitch Englander, chief of staff and anointed successor to Greig Smith in CD12, is worried with his own poll showing him barely with a majority against Clean Sweep candidates Brad Smith and Kelly Lord and three other grassroots candidates.
Given the history of opponents of incumbents getting at least a third of the votes no matter who they are, there’s a chance for all the citizen candidates: Richard Goodman, David Barron and James Cordaro in CD6 against Tony Cardenas and Austin Dragon against Herb Wesson in CD10.
On the other side, Councilman Bernard Parks — the only Clean Sweep-backed incumbent — faces a tough challenge because of more than $600,000 being thrown at him by public employee unions because he, unlike his colleagues, has tried to be fiscally responsible.
Vote in records numbers on Tuesday and send City Hall a message.
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