Olvera Street — The Movie: When the Public Story Is Not the Real Story


There’s a reason I go to all the trouble of interviewing people, googling deep into what’s published, culling public records and trying to make sense out of what the hell is going on in this city.

It’s for love, not money, I assure you, out of my own compulsive need to know and to share what I know. It’s been the passion of my life for so long I don’t know how to do anything else.
But that isn’t why City Council meetings are the background noise of my life on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, why I go to the trouble of recording virtually every meeting on DVR, fast forward through the parts I missed and ultimately make movies to share with you.
The words I write are just so much hot air in the smoggy political atmosphere. But the videos allow you to see for yourselves the charade of our city government and make up your own mind.

The issue in this case is El Pueblo de Los Angeles and how we are treating the birthplace of our city and the merchants of Olvera Street.

City Hall, in its two decades of control, has made a mess of Olvera Street. Favoritism, neglect, waste, inefficiency, corruption — those have been the hallmarks of how Olvera Street has been managed much as they have been with just about everything the city has done in recent years.

The City Council debate Friday (see article below) on a new concessionaire agreement for the merchants of Olvera Street revealed how officials have used the same heavy-handed extortionist techniques on them as they have on city unions to create the appearance — but not the reality — of solving problems caused by long-term city mismanagement and financial irresponsibility.

In the case of El Pueblo, the stated goal was to bring the rents up to market rates from the ridiculously low rents they have been paying and to make it financially self-sufficient.

This agreement doesn’t achieve those goals. It merely sets the stage for the city to turn this historic monument into a Disneyland-like parody of  history by driving out families that have operated businesses on Olvera Street since socialite Christine Sterling started the movement more than 80 years ago to turn what had become a dingy alley into a place that celebrates the city’s past and now attracts two million visitors a year.

There were so many lies told during the Council debate — which resumes Tuesday — that it is hard to catalog them all.

City Attorney David Michaelson and El Pueblo head Robert Andrade, with assistance from Councilman Bernard Parks who admitted he was only doing the absent Jose Huizar a favor and didn’t really know what he was talking about, portrayed the seven-point motion amending the concessionaire agreement was all just technical corrections.

In fact, the changes were fundamental, affecting rents and leasing rights, and reflect their failure to do their jobs properly when rushing the agreement through the El Pueblo Commission and Council just last month with a June 30 deadline for the merchants to agree or forfeit their chance to get leases.

The biggest lie of all was put forth by Tom LaBonge — the front man for the commercialization of the city’s parks — who falsely claimed that the concerns of the merchants could be and would be addressed after the June 30 deadline when he knew full well, and Michaelson reiterated the point, the terms of the agreement are set in stone and the deadline is really an ultimatum to the merchants that will not be compromised or revisited.

If you take the trouble of watching these videos, you will see the kind of doubletalk and deceit that routinely goes on at City Council to make sure the public is ill-informed and misinformed about what is really going on.

Just remember this: The public story they tell bears little or no relationship to the what is going on in the back rooms of City Hall.Enhanced by Zemanta