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.

Poor Wendy, Shallman Hung Her Out to Dry and She’s Feeling So Bad

It’s like watching somebody jump out of an airplane and their parachute doesn’t open and you’re looking on in horror, wincing as you wait for the splat.

Poor Wendy, she’s got all these smart and important people around manipulating her this way and that and she doesn’t know which way to go so she jumps into the mayor’s race pretending she has the record of Laura Chick for aggressively digging into the gross mismanagement, financial incompetence and political corruption at City Hall.

She claims she identified all of $160 million in waste, fraud and abuse out of the $28 billion the city has squandered in the last four years – not counting the DWP, Harbor and Airport waste fraud and abuse – and her numbers don’t even come close to adding up.

That’s a big problem for the city’s financial controller who rests her entire case on her role as watch on the management of city departments and finances – yet never found anything broken that wasn’t already known in a government which botches just about everything.

You made have heard Wendy and arch-rival Eric Garcetti mumble and whisper how they oppose yet another sales tax slug that punishes the poor and working poor and the businesses that serve them – yet neither has the courage to denounce the outrage and admit it does nothing at all to fix the streets or sidewalks or reduced library and parks services.

You haven’t heard a word from them about how offensive it is for the Police Chief and Fire Chief going around town saying they are going to put our lives at risk if we don’t vote to tax ourselves to help the city meet its inflated payroll, pensions and benefit costs.

You know 500 fewer cops and slower paramedic and firefighter response teams.

And now Wendy — without batting an eye or engaging those claimes — comes out with a plan to hire 2,000 more cops and 1,000 firefighters and it won’t cost anyone a penny but city revenue is going to explode in the coming economic boom that will solve all our problems and make the quality of our lives second to none.

What’s the secret of Wendy’s specious promise? Union concessions!

“She’s gonna sit down at the table with the parties, open up the books, and shine a big light on it.” says her political consultant John Shallman, whose expertise in money matters comes from collecting 13 tax liens from the state and federal governments over the last six years.

It should be clear that Ms. Greuel has been taking a beating from all directions for quite some time now while Garcetti has been far shrewder by avoiding all controversy by saying absolutely nothing about anything – tough to beat someone who stands for nothing and never has.

I can only tell you that anyone who votes for anyone other than Jan Perry or Kevin James deserves to live in a city that can’t pay its bills or solve its problems and has a civic, business or political leadership with no sense of purpose that goes beyond its individual and collective egotism and greed.

Defend, Deny, Deflect — Garcetti Offers No Straight Answers for What Went Wrong or How To Fix LA

As an officer and a gentleman, Navy Lt. Eric Garcetti, reserves, cannot tell a lie without dishonor so we have to take everything he says as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Thus we take as a matter of certainty that he believes LA is the greatest city in the world, the City Council is a “temple of democracy,” and everything that has gone wrong during his six year reign as the president of the city’s 99.3 percent unanimous lawmaking body was the fault of the economy and the mayor.

Parenthetically, the mayor — now officially the nation’s No. 1 Latino — has finally achieved the highest accolade of his life with the New York Times declaring him the “fiery mayor of Los Angeles,” which is the Mexican salsa equivalent to the long-standing mainstream practice of making it clear that African-American leaders are “articulate,” even when sometimes they really aren’t.

Garcetti would never make such a mistake with regards to race, religion, gender or similar distinction since he offers himself a what he seems to think is a rare example of recombinant DNA as an Italian-Jewish-Latino-Godknowswhatelse man with wealth and education — in a city where everybody from every race and ethnicity and background are fusing their cultures into amazing new music, art, literature, food and babies without recognition by the labor-corporate-media world that thrives on separatism.

There is nothing, honorable, we little people can do but take him at his word because he is way too smart to say or do anything we are clever enough for us to understand and critique.

That isn’t so true of the CD5 Coalition, Westsiders who are smart, educated and rich,  yet they feel as begrudged as the poor and middle class people who live in the flats of the basin  and the Valley.

Led by Marcia Selz, it is a tough group as you can see if you watch the full two hours they spent with Garcetti on a recent Saturday trying to get a single direct and unequivocal answer to their dozens of concerns about the deterioration of the city. (Here is a partial transcript provided by a participant Garcetti speaks at CD 5 COALITION.  It was the first step in the lengthy process they will use to break down where all the mayoral candidates stand on a long list of issues.

Denial, deflection, deferral and indirection is what he offered when asked about how massive developments with heavy subsidies were routinely approved under his leadership and how on Tuesday he is prepared to push a widely criticized new Hollywood Community Plan — the Skyscraper City plan — through Council so developers can get bonuses and tax breaks for the largest and most monstrous projects they can conceive.

Garcetti can sing and play the piano like a lounge lizard and here revealed how he can dance around every questions without answering them, although he did imply at one point that middle class people with homes and cars and neighborhood schools in their smug self-satisfaction are for the poor having crappy schools, few parks and a lousy public transit   system.

Increasing the size of the Council at the same cost or creating boroughs to diffuse power are good ideas but really all we need is better leaders who emulate what he has achieved in Hollywood, he said.

Sure, we haven’t examined that state of our infrastructure as required annually by law for more than a decade but who needs facts when he has pushed through so many great projects that actually improve the quality of our lives.

Why the whole city could be like Hollywood bustling with new fire stations, schools with great innovative programs, the 25 new parks he added on top of the 13 existing ones and a level of community engagement that would make any populist proud.

That’s what leadership is about and if Hollywood got all the benefits and your community got the bill, you need to fix that by electing people as good as Garcetti — not that he would support them.

Garcetti’s reform plan — civics lessons provided by foreign consulates: 

Garcetti smiles like it’s a joke:

Who stole your money for cops and fire services? Ask the mayor

People with cars, yards and neighborhood schools — it’s all your fault

Why over-development and the Hollywood Community Plan are good for you

Pyrotechnic Artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s Exhibit at Geffen Opens with a Bang — 40,000 Fireworks Rockets Explode at Once

Thousands of people gathered at dusk Saturday night outside the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Little Tokyo for the opening of artist Cai Guo-Qiang’s Sky Ladder exhibition.

Cai — who created the spectacular fireworks show that ended the Beijing Olympics — launched the exhibit with a bang on the north wall of the Geffen.

With a massive crowd watching from a fenced off area and five fire trucks standing by, Cai ignited 40,000 fireworks rockets simultaneously, creating a massive fireball.

It’s not clear from the rendering of what was expected that the display came off exactly as planned but it was spectacular.

False Alarm: LA Fire Chief Ordered to Back Down on Ban on Public Information

UPDATE 1: The death of a man who left a long trail of blood outside the Malibu restaurant where he worked is now under investigation by county health officials as a matter of public safety. Officials refuse to discuss the case. Has anybody seen the movie “Contagion”?

UPDATE 2: Mayor Villaraigosa who imposed drastic cuts on the Fire Department with City Council support now is asking the Council to restore some LAFD services and hire the LAPD’s former high-tech statistics analyst to review the numbers at the troubled Fire Department. Has anybody verified LAPD’s Compstat numbers are legitimate?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Fire Department wants to keep you in the dark but you can find out how often the LAFD responds to emergency calls within the five-minutes that is the standard for saving lives. Mayoral candidate Austin Beutner’s  campaign has produced this map that lets you check how often LAFD hits the mark in your neighborhood.


View LAFD Response Times Map in a larger map

Oops, false alarm — Fire Chief Brian Cummings ban on disclosing information about fires, emergencies, accidents and other incidents to the press and public is over.

“At a time when the Los Angeles Fire Department needs more transparency — not less — I am directing you to immediately resume releasing information that provides LAFD incident specifics without violating federal law,” Villaraigosa wrote in a letter to Cummings a day after the chief’s order sparked public outrage.

Cummings based his action — taken amid scandal over of how the LAFD fudged its response times to justify sharp cuts in deployment of staff and equipment on what he said was the advice of City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s office that federal health privacy laws prevent disclosure of most basic information.

“In the absence of a written legal opinion giving the department guidance, I believe it is our duty to provide information to the media and the public,” the mayor said, putting the issue back in the City Attorney’s office.

Trutanich’s top deputy, Bill Carter, indicated that isn’t likely to occur, saying his office’s advice has been “consistent” in recent years but he couldn’t talk about it because of attorney-client privilege beyond saying the federal law “is not a blanket prohibition against the release of all public information.”

That begs the question of whether we really are to believe that the mayor and his staff were not doing their jobs and knew nothing about what Cummings was up to in making such a radical decision in the face of intense criticism from mayoral candidate Austin Beutner, Controller candidate Cary Brazeman and even a few city elected leaders.

Also in question is what LAFD actually will provide the public going forward. It took six months and a lawyer to force the department to comply with Fix the City activists Mike Eveloff and Jim O’Sullivan’s public records act request that led to exposing how response times had been falsified.

As luck would have it, a perfect example of what goes wrong occurred this week in Malibu when a worker at Guido’s restaurant was found dead in a pool of blood in front of the establishment, leading sheriff’s deputies to announce he had been beaten to death..

But in a statement Wednesday afternoon, sheriff’s officials blamed natural causes but they were not sure.  “It appears there was no criminal conduct related to his death,” officials said in the statement.

No further explanation was forthcoming a security hold was put into place at 10:16 a.m. Wednesday — leaving Malibu residents confused and worried about whether a killer was on the loose, a deadly contagion was on the loose or officials merely had a screw loose.

Here’s the city of Malibu’s formal explanation on Thursday:

Statement Regarding Death at Local Restaurant

City seeks to diffuse conflicting stories reported since the event

Malibu, California – The City of Malibu issued the following statement today regarding the death of a worker at a local restaurant that occurred on Sunday, March 18, 2012:

Over the last few days, the City has been in constant communication with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department regarding the tragic death of an employee at a local restaurant.  In order to provide clear information and to help alleviate several conflicting reports surrounding the cause of death, the Sheriff’s Department issued a statement that the death appears to be respiratory in nature, but no other specifics have been given.

In the interest of public safety, as well as the need to provide the community with information and the pressure to release information, the Sheriff’s Department provided preliminary assessments based upon witness accounts and the appearance of the scene.  Initial assessments by medical, fire and law enforcement personnel led to the belief that a violent crime may have taken place.  As in many investigations, until all of the evidence has been verified, the cause of death may be modified.  As always, the first concern was for public safety in the actual event this was determined to be a homicide.

The City is disappointed by the confusing and contradictory messages given to the media and public about this tragedy. The City’s goal is to get the most accurate and up to date information before disseminating it to the community.  Public safety and public health are the City’s most important issues and the City is working hard to get the correct facts regarding this incident to allay any fears that may have arisen. The Sheriff’s Department and County Coroner are working diligently to determine the exact cause of death.  The City will continue to collaborate closely with the Sheriff’s Department on communication to the public until the final medical report is issued that will separate the facts from fiction in this very confusing, yet tragic, case.

Malibu Mayor Laura Rosenthal added, “The City extends our heartfelt condolences to Mr. Rodas’ family and friends during this very difficult time. A young man has died, no matter the circumstances, and we wish to respect the pain and suffering of his loved ones at this time.  I will be working to get as much information as possible about this tragedy and make sure that our residents and community are safe.”

LAFD to Los Angeles: F— You! Do the Mayor and Council Support Decision Today to Slam Door on Public Information?

UPDATE: City Controller candidate Cary Brazeman — who took the lead March 1 in exposing the “FIREGATE” scandal based on data from “Fix the City” activists Mike Eveloff and Jim O’Sullivan, issued a statement today condemning the Fire Department’s clampdown on public information. “The questions are many: What is the city covering up?  For how many years did the city report false or misleading response-time data?  Who knew the truth and when did they know it?  Why didn’t the Fire Chief step out and shine the light on this?  Where was the City Controller?  The City Council’s Audits and Efficiency Committee? Most important, it is not acceptable for the city to provide emergency service at a level that fails to meet national standards 40% of the time.  Will policymakers act to fix the problem?  I can only hope so.”

EDITOR”S NOTE: in the face serious accusation of fudging its response to justify budget cuts and intensifying media investigations and political criticism, Los Angeles Fire Department officials changed their story at a meeting of its oversight commission Tuesday. Here is a link to the LA Times report on the commission meeting which carries the headline: “LA Chief offers new explanation of flaswed responsed times”. Late in the day,  Chief Brian Cummings then announced that the on the advice of City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s office, the department would no longer disclose information to the public on most of its emergency activities. Here is a link to the Chief Brian Cummings website announcement. click here.  Here then is the City News Service story as sent out Tuesday evening:

Fire Department-Disclosure
Date: 03-20-2012 7:07 PM – Word Count: 412
Fire Department-Disclosure
LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Citing a federal medical privacy law, the Los
Angeles Fire Department announced today it would no longer provide the public
with basic information about fires, medical calls, traffic accidents or other
emergencies it responds to.
LAFD public information officers contacted by City News Service today
about various fire calls — including a vehicle shearing a fire hydrant in
North Hills and a collision between a food truck and a car in downtown Los
Angeles that sent two people to hospitals — said they were not permitted to
provide any information, including the locations of the crashes. In the case of
the downtown collision, a spokesman refused to even confirm a wreck had
occurred, even though footage of the crash had already been shown on at least
one television news station.
The policy apparently took effect Sunday, when the LAFD began omitting
the addresses from media alerts it circulates about fires or other incidents to
which crews are dispatched. For example, a media alert issued Saturday by the
LAFD specified that fire crews had responded to a fire at 936 W. 49th St. By
Sunday, the department’s media alert about a reported fire in a three-story
apartment complex included no address or general location of the blaze.
LAFD Chief Brian L. Cummings issued a statement late today saying the
department — which has been under fire in recent weeks over its reporting of
response times — was following orders issued by the office of City Attorney
Carmen Trutanich, a candidate for county district attorney.
City Attorney’s Office officials could not be reached for immediate
comment.
Cummings said the department is subject to the Federal Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known as HIPAA, “and is only
permitted to release Protected Health Information for the purposes of
treatment, billing and operations under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, without the
patient’s permission.”
“The department is currently seeking written advice from the city
attorney relative to the release of incident-specific PHI to a variety of
internal and external sources including elected officials, commissions, the
media and associated stakeholders,” Cummings said. “The city attorney has
preliminarily opined that the department should immediately cease the practice
of releasing PHI to any source not specifically authorized under the Privacy
Rule’s treatment, billing and operations exemption.
“I realize that this practice will significantly impact the manner in
which the department provides updates and notifications to a wide variety of
stakeholders,” he said.CNS-03-20-2012 19:07