March Madness in L.A. — A Soulless City Searches for the Fall Guy for the Farmer’s Field Scandal

It’s getting harder every day to tell the players in L.A.’s drama apart — maybe they should wear numbered jerseys at least while they mourn the loss of another National Football League franchise, an unnamed one that joins the Rams and Raiders in the city’s scrap heap.

Take Michael Hiltzik, the LA Times politically correct business columnist who on Sunday fell prostrate before right-wing extremist billionaire Phil Anschutz in idolizing how he called the NFL’s “bluff” and is the greedy league’s “worst nightmare: a potentialy team owner who can call his own shots.”

I guess all the other billionaire owners are just gutless lackeys but not Phil who spent up to $55 million to bribe and buy local and state officials, unions and poverty pimps to get $2 billion in entitlements for Farmer’s Field but is “not certain that pro football would be an unalloyed plus for his enterprise,” not anyway on “our campus” as if he owned all of downtown and not just the pieces City Hall bestowed up him.

Amazingly, Hiltzik finally has come to the conclusion that Anschutz has “done city officials the favor of demonstrating this project always amounted to a pig in a poke; he’s even showing them the ‘oink.’ ” Anschutz is certainly showing them something but it’s not an oink.

Even more incredibly, Jim Newton, the Times’ star editorial columnist, suddenly noticed the real pig in the AEG story was Tim Leiweke who owned City Hall so completely he got officials to write into the Farmer’s Field contract a provision that required him to be AEG’s chief executive or it could be killed by the city.

“Leiweke got his projects done by making sure that Los Angeles’ many interests all got something out of them. That wasn’t always pretty, and Leiweke sometimes resembled a ward boss. Labor got union jobs; community groups got parks or special treats; certain interests got donations to charity or programs for the homeless; politicians, of course, got political contributions.”

Citing leftist/labor leader Madeline Janis and downtown developers’ frontwoman Carol Schatz support for Leiweke’s giving them what they wanted, Newton turns from critic to admirer despite finding Anschutz’s Staples Center/LA Live “campus” something that is “gaudy and anonymous, a collection of chain stores and restaurants you could find in Kansas City just as easily as here.”

But in his morally equivocated world, it turns out bribery is a good thing in Leiweke’s case “he got things done . . .  The ability to deliver made Leiweke powerful. Some people didn’t like it — and sometimes for good reason. But he proved that with the right leverage and the right friends, big things could get done in Los Angeles.”

In other words, the ends justify the means because the soulless space Leiweke developed created some jobs and economic activity and replaced “a few scruffy buildings and empty lots” as if strong leadership couldn’t have insisted on something far more organic and interesting with longer-term impact for the health and wealth of the community.

Strong leadership was the problem as the statements from top two cheerleaders for this rotten deal gone nowhere, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and downtown Councilwoman Jan Perry, both of them now quite happy to rebuild the Convention Center without a football stadium.

The mayor who had insisted the AEG contract was “iron-clad” now is looking for a way out as if had not completely screwed up the deal.

Writing to woebegone City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana who is required to do the bidding of the people like the mayor that Leiweke bought, the mayor said:

“We are investing over $4 billion  into LAX to finally give L.A. the welcome mat to the world it deserves: World class destinations and attractions. A modernized Los Angeles Convention Center with an expanded contiguous floor space will help us book more and larger conventions.”

Added Perry: “Our first priority as a city is to make our Convention Center a leader by modernizing our facilities and increasing exhibition space. We want to make Los Angeles competitive nationwide, attracting more convention business, tourism, and the investment that comes with it. The bottom line is we need to have a plan in place with or without an NFL team.”

So we don’t have a plan. We don’t have leadership. We don’t even have Leiweke the Fixer anymore.

All we have is Miguel Santana. So fix it, Miguel, or you’re out. Every political scandal needs a fall guy and I’m afraid you’re it.

 

 

 

Farmer’s Field Is Dead, AEG Not for Sale, Leiweke Forced Out: Who Is Accountable, Who Will Pay the Bill?

UPDATE: The mayor, living in his own fantasies, responds to the news by suggesting they done him wrong: “For the past three years, the City has expedited our process and lived up to our end of a deal to bring the NFL to Los Angeles and create a world-class convention center. Now that AEG is no longer for sale and they have indicated that bringing an NFL team to L.A. remains a priority, I call on AEG to live up to its commitment by immediately sitting down with the NFL to reach an agreement.” He still wants the Convention Center rebuilt and promises that “we will continue to pursue the important work of making downtown L.A. a better place to work, live, visit and dine regardless of whether the NFL and AEG reach that agreement.”

Somebody is going to have to pay for this, right here on Earth before they go to Hell.

No NFL. No Farmer’s Field. No AEG Sale. No Convention Center Expansion. No Tim Leiweke.

No accountability for the mayor, the City Council and the bureaucrats who wasted the public’s time and money on deal that never made any sense at all, was the fantasy of a hustler who lavished them all with money and favors and flattery.

Truly, if there any honor among the self-serving boobs at City Hall they would do the right thing and fall on their swords. But we know there is no honor among these thieves.

They gave away the farm for nothing, filled the newspapers and airwaves with lies built on phony studies and ignored data, and then failed address legitimate and well-documented concerns.

Not a one of our professional politicians challenged the AEG stadium/Convention Center; our beloved mayor was confidently defending the deal back in September when the NFL made it clear that Farmers’ Field didn’t pencil out financially, just as the outside experts had been warning all along.

“Our contract is iron clad. (The new owners) are gonna have to continue moving ahead,” he said, clearly uninformed that deal was not a deal.

Neither did Clueless Valley Girl Wendy Greuel who said at the time: “I have every indication that AEG will make sure that whomever purchases it will live up to the expectations. I’m gonna make sure we pick up that phone and make sure they live up to the commitment to make sure the city is whole.”

And just three weeks ago, the man who guided the AEG deal through the Council, its President and mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti explained:

It would be great to bring football back to Los Angeles. While football is only 8 games a year, having a large indoor multi-use arena will help the city attract NCAA Final Fours and other large attractions that will draw more visitors to L.A. And the project would also improve the L.A. Convention Center, making it world-class and bringing conventions and business to Los Angeles. Improving our convention center while building a downtown stadium without any public subsidy would help us bring immediate jobs and long-term jobs to our economy.

Yes, professional football is a uniquely popular attraction that draws fans from across the region. Big games, like the Rose Bowl and Super Bowl, draw huge interest in our city and encourage talented individuals to move to L.A.

So Mr. Wannabe Mayor, what’s your plan to bring those millions of tourists flocking to downtown L.A. and to the Convention Center that is no bigger than the one we got, the one usually referred to as the White Elephant that eats a $50 million hole in the city budget year after year?

And what about all those construction jobs and the jobs serving beer and hot dogs and cleaning toilets and the massive migration of “talented individuals” like you and your friends who are going to come here and rejuvenate are aging and failing city.

I could go on and on for thousands and thousands of words for days on end. I could say I told you so from day one.

But the only thing worth saying is that somebody does have to pay: I got news for you suckers, that somebody is you.

 

The Worst Call in the History of the Game: Bringing the NFL Back to LA — Not the Monday Night Football Farce

Of all the lies about Farmers Field that have been told over the last two years — and there have been some whoppers — the biggest by far is how we just gotta bring the NFL back to Los Angeles.

There isn’t the least bit of evidence that anything has changed two decades after the greedy owners of the Rams and Raiders fled town because of lack of public support.

The NFL isn’t a sport any longer; it’s a comedy show as evidenced by the spectacularly funny ending to Monday night’s game when the replacement referees gave Seattle a winning touchdown on the last play of the game although it was as clear as day that Green Bay had intercepted the ball in the end zone.

One scab official called it an interception as everyone else in the world saw it. The other called it a touchdown and after further review in slow motion, the call stood as a touchdown, prompting the Packers to flee the field in total disgust although the rules require kicking the extra point with no time on the clock, a ritual that took 10 minutes to carry out.

Every single game this season has been a comedy of errors that are the consequence of putting amateurs in charge because the billionaire owners of a billionaire league don’t want to keep paying for pensions of the referees who are paid barely the minimum salary that the least valuable players get.

The cheapskates who have run football into the ground for their own profit and ego aggrandisement treat the public as suckers and the refs as part-time employees, which may explain some of the officiating scandals that have occurred in recent years.

The officials are no more part-time than the players whose brains and bodies are being destroyed by the repetitious violence they experience on the field — something for which they are paid on average $2 million a year.

Last year, the owners locked the players out to pad their bank accounts; this year it’s the referees. Next year, it will probably be the fans since the real money is in TV rights and the crowd could be digitally created for verisimilitude while the wealthy party in the luxury boxes that are tax deductible as a corporate business expense.

Nothing better captures the insanity of America than the NFL. Nothing better captures the corruption of LA than the pathetic charade that are mayor, City Council and top bureaucrats have put on in order to give incredibly valuable entitlements — the kind of entitlements that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama ought to condemn in the harshest terms — to billionaire Phil Anschutz.

There are tremendous hidden costs to taxpayers in the Farmers Field deal, vague and unenforceable terms of the contract and a ridiculous fiction about how the stadium and Convention Center are going to make us all rich and downtown LA the coolest place to hang out in the world.

Anschutz is cashing out on in the gift City Hall has given him without tackling the risk of making this work, and now says through his mouthpiece that he never intended to see the deal through, waiting to the last-minute to disclose that so nobody would question his honor or integrity.

What a joke, just like the NFL today. But all of us are going along for the ride, too enervated and distracted to stand up as one and just say, “No!”

The Unanswered Questions about AEG’s NFL Stadium Plan — Will City Hall Ask Them?

By KEVIN JAMES, Candidate for L.A. Mayor in the L.A. Business Journal

In 2010, word leaked out that Anschutz Entertainment
Group and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa were courting the NFL. The league that
dashed in 1995 and remains elusive today was, as Councilwoman Jan Perry put it,
“our own economic stimulus package.”




New stadium designs released earlier this month prove that as we approach 2012
the citizens of Los Angeles still don’t know the details – and apparently
neither do the developers. The new designs prove that AEG’s proposal is still
in flux. But our city government refuses to ask tough questions.


Despite promises by city officials and pageantry by AEG, details of the plan
are scarce. What remains readily available, however, are broken promises and
unanswered questions.


When AEG’s proposal was announced, we were promised that the expanded
convention facility and new stadium would result in more than 30 additional
citywide conventions bringing hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars
to our city. We were showered with guarantees that Los Angeles would go from
15th in the nation to fifth as a convention destination. In the beginning,
outlandish statements projected that our new events center would be 1.4 million
square feet of contiguous space. Most importantly, we were promised more than
30,000 new jobs.


Few, if any, asked whether any of that was possible.


Throughout the vetting process, our city government immediately abandoned its
promise that not a “dime of taxpayer money” would be used for the project. In
exchange for flashy photo ops, city officials guided the project through
approval without any finished details or hard, pressing questions.


Subject of study?


Going back one must wonder what city officials studied in the first place. The
building hadn’t been designed. The Environmental Impact Report hadn’t been
started. The only thing on the books was a mere six-page proposal by the
developer.


How much will Farmers Field really cost? With the propensity for outrageous
cost overruns in Southern California (e.g., the Robert F. Kennedy Community
School at the Ambassador Hotel site, the “subway to the sea,” and the Anaheim
to San Francisco “bullet train”), this is a question that we should be very
concerned about – I’m sure the National Football League is. Will AEG pay for
all cost overruns?


How will Los Angeles compete for conventions without a roof on the stadium?
Will the Convention Center end up bigger than it is today? Or is this really
just for the NFL?


We now know that the promise of jobs was inflated and without a roof on the
stadium, the impact on the Convention Center won’t be as significant as the
City Council stated.


As for those 30 conventions each year or the equivalent of 80 new event days
(FarmersField.com), did anyone ask what convention in the world is going to
come to Los Angeles without a roof on the stadium?


Farmers Field has already begun to damage convention business. The Society of
Critical Care Medicine – a large annual convention – canceled its convention
planned for 2014 because of construction issues. This negatively affected our
local hotels and restaurants, but it didn’t seem to dissuade our City Council.


Since then, our city government has been silent. The agreement with AEG and the
city reportedly states that the developers must pay for the loss of convention
business – but that remains to be seen.


How many other conventions will cancel? After all, construction, noise and
transportation issues won’t make for a memorable trade show.


How many conventions will this plan give us? How much money will local
businesses lose during construction?

Don’t our city officials want these answers? They are unanimously behind AEG’s
proposal.



It appears that under this project, Los Angeles will not get a bigger
Convention Center and will not jump to the top five in convention cities. We
will however get a bigger deficit, something our city cannot afford.

Has anyone looked at the top five convention cities/centers in America? Las
Vegas has 10.5 million square feet of convention space. Chicago’s McCormick
Place has 2.6 million. Orlando has 2.1 million. Washington, D.C., ranks fourth
and Georgia’s World Congress Center ranks fifth. And while Georgia has a
football field, it also has more than 3 million square feet of exhibition
space.

How does this plan make Los Angeles more competitive? Have any conventions
expressed interest in using Farmers Field?

How does the Los Angeles Auto Show take place in November at the peak of
football season? Especially if we have two teams? Will our team(s) have to play
road games throughout the month of November?

A closer look at the project is warranted and will certainly reveal the flaws
in our city government and in the plan’s prospectus.

The biggest question that remains is whether or not our city officials – many
of whom are running for higher office – are willing to ask these tough
questions.

As a citizen of Los Angeles and a candidate for mayor, I recognize that AEG has
had a positive impact on the community and I would like to see the NFL return.
But not until we understand all of the details and not until we have all of the
answers.


Kevin James is an attorney, radio broadcaster, former assistant U.S. attorney
and currently a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles.

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The NFL Calls the Plays for AEG’s Fumbled Downtown Stadium Deal

Of all the strange plot twists, audacious power plays, ever-changing story line, the strangest one of all is to see the National Football League taking charge of deciding the who, what, where and when of bringing pro football back to Southern California.

Here is a business enterprise that has twice robbed other cities to put teams in L.A., approved deals for them to move from the Coliseum to Anaheim and even to Irwindale, and then twice pulled the plug. 
And now Commissioner Roger Goodall and his greedy owners want to decide where a new stadium will be built, what he looks like, whether there’s one team or two, who will own them, how much somebody will have to pay the NFL for the privilege of bringing football back into the second largest market so newly-recruited fans can pay $200 to $300 a ticket to see what they now see for free on their giant flat screen in the comfort of their home.
No other sense can be made of AEG’s sudden abandonment of its roofed stadium/events center — the core idea it sold the city to justify tearing down half the Convention Center and adding to the $45 million in annual interest on its existing debt — except that the NFL made it clear that it would cost twice the $1.1 billion estimated cost.
The latest design — perfectly described by LA Weekly’s Dennis Romero as looking like a Maxi-Pad — isn’t meant to be taken seriously. Its cost would still be prohibitive and it would take a day to put it up and take it down, a problem for the month-long Auto Show that would be facing football games on its busiest day for visitors.
It was slapped together to break the news that the rebuilt Convention Center will actually be smaller than what exists now — unless you count luxury suites as exhibition space.
AEG, for all its willingness to buy city and state officials, is feeling heat right now — and there is almost no chance that a team will be playing at the Coliseum or Rose Bowl next season unless Ed Roski’s Majestic Realty prevails with a shovel-ready stadium in the City of Industry.
That’s the difference at its basic level: Roski can start construction as soon as the NFL gives the green light to one of the teams that have been negotiating with both sides in this game.
AEG in contrast has yet to show design one for the new Convention Center and only has a table napkin drawing of winged insult to the aesthetics of architecture to show for more than a year’s worth of work and millions of dollars in wasted spending. 
We know now that it is going to be impossible for AEG to produce an environmental impact report as promised by January since it would have to actually be the detailed design and show what the impact would be on the city to withstand legal challenge.
AEG showed just how corrupt Sacramento is by getting the legislature and the governor to agree to  undermine the state’s environmental laws but it’s harder but not impossible to give money and free 50-yard line tickets to judges.  
Even if AEG pulls off everything just as planned — something it hasn’t done even once in the last year — it won’t have a team at least until 2013 because the Chargers aren’t saying adios to San Diego, the Jaguars to Jacksonville or the Bills to Buffalo without the assurance of a new and more lucrative home.
Roski can offer that; Tim Leiweke can’t — unless the NFL decides there is more money to feed its greed in downtown.
Greedy bastards like the NFL and its owners are looking at history and they are seeing the Rams and Raiders deciding downtown at the Coliseum wasn’t as good as going to Anaheim and Irwindale and eventually to St. Louis and back to little old Oakland. (The death of Al Davis making the return of the Raiders a near certainty).. 
That might suggest that downtown isn’t the right place to try for a football revival since it failed twice already. 
That’s why AEG came up with its plan for a spectacular domed, now winged stadium — for no purpose other than to create a visual image on a TV screen no matter how pathetic it made our city look.
If L.A. had any self-respect, it would have told the NFL at the outset to show us the money: How much are they going to pay us for the right to call a team the Los Angeles whatevers. Instead what we’ve got is a deal that is whatever the NFL wants it to be and guys like Leiweke and his boss Phil Anschutz who don’t give a damn about anything except adding to their wealth.
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Farmers Field: ‘An odd and unsuccessful amalgam: overscaled, grandiose …’

Maybe I’ve been wrong about Farmers Field being the worst thing that could happen to downtown L.A., a giant domed stadium plastered with digital billboards lighting up the night sky from the Hollywood Hills to the ocean. Farmersopen.jpg

Maybe turning the core of the city into a prop for the TV cameras and a visual back drop for the movies is just what we deserve. 
After all, this is Hollywood. It’s all make believe. It’s not like we are real people living real lives. L.A. is just a stage and we the people are just bit players, bystanders who have seen billions of our tax dollars flow into downtown like a river into the sea for no other purpose than to enrich the rich. 
The latest design put forward by AEG for its NFL stadium is just another in a long line of bait-and-switches. It doesn’t have a dome or a retractable roof’; it’s got plastic wings like it’s ready to fly off somewhere far away, which truly would be the best thing that could happen. Plastic panels that supposedly will take hours to haul out from beneath the stadium can be put over the top for events like the Auto Show and conventions to preserve the myth that there is a public benefit because Farmers Field is an “events center,” not a stadium.
There never was a doubt that Tim Leiweke’s claim the stadium would cost $1.2 billion was a blatant lie when enclosed stadiums cost closer to $2 billion even if they don’t need a lot of reinforced steel because of the earthquake danger. 

The newest concept from the architect Gensler — the firm that got $1 million in federal poverty funds and a three-year business tax holiday among other gratuities to move downtown from Santa Monica to be closer to this boondoggle — may have the same problems.

Given that AEG somehow expects to have its environmental impact report finished for review in two months, even before the architectural and engineering plans are complete, is sure to make the CEQA review process a battleground, which explains why the company spent so heavily and passed out so many chits to politicians for free tickets in the future in order to limit the legal process.
Now, AEG is proposing to provide us with multi-colored light shows reflecting off the translucent wings, adding to the surreal glow from dozens of flashing digital billbaords inside and outside the stadium and rebuilt Convention Center and the artificiality of LA Live.
“The after-dark renderings AEG released Tuesday showing the stadium as a canvas for showy light effects are a particularly depressing reflection of AEG’s design priorities and its interest in using the project to extend the permabright placelessness of its corner of downtown,” wrote LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne who condemned the first version of the stadium over what it would do to the downtown streetscrape and found the latest incarnation only slightly better.

“The only way to rescue this design is for the architects
to display the courage of their convictions (or to convince AEG to let them do
so), ditching the wings and trimming back the structure to a far more dramatic
degree. This is a moment when light, efficient, minimal gestures make a great
deal of sense in stadium design. They match our economic realities and the
larger cultural mood. More than a few young architects are looking back for
inspiration at Frei Otto’s light, tensile designs for the 1972 Munich Olympics, a
project whose combination of innovation and modesty seems increasingly timely
in our era of the Occupy movement’s tent cities and other examples of
makeshift, micro-budget architecture.”

Hawthorne’s judgment: “The result is an odd and unsuccessful amalgam: overscaled, grandiose wings above, light and transparent touches below.”

Maybe he’s wrong, too.

Gaudy, gauche, grandiose — what could better reflect mentality of the business, civic and political leadership of L.A. than a made for TV stadium that symbolizes the only value they understand: naked greed. 

That’s what it’s all about, that’s what it has always been about.

NFL to AEG, LA: Sweeten the Pot or No Deal

I hate to tell you I told you so but I did over and over: The deal to enrich right-wing extremist billionaire Phil Anschutz and his minions like Tim Leiweke stinks as far as the NFL and its greedy owners are concerned. 

Even as city and state officials including Gov. Jerry Brown have green-lighted the deal with no questions answered and short-circuited environmental laws, the NFL has concluded the financial numbers don’t add up to a profit for anyone except AEG.
“During a Sept. 6 meeting at the NFL offices in New York, commissioner
Roger Goodell told Los Angeles Councilwoman Jan Perry and political aide
Bernard Parks, Jr. that neither the league nor any team interested in
moving there would agree to the business proposal set forth by Anschutz
Entertainment Group, according to three sources with knowledge of the
conversation,” Jason Cole at Yahoo Sports reported today in the latest in his series of excellent articles. .

Thumbnail image for nfl stadium.jpg

One source said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear that significant changes must occur before the league would be interested. Another said: “He was very complimentary of a lot
of the project, so it wasn’t all negative. But he laid out the problems the league sees.”

What it boils down to is money. 

With the costs of domed stadium so high — far higher than AEG has publicly said in estimating it at $1.2 billion — the average ticket price is expected to run between $250 and $300, pricing football out of the reach of a region with one of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the nation.

By the time AEG takes its cut — far more than the less than 6 percent profit margin they claim in city documents — even teams in small markets like the Buffalo Bills or Jacksonville Jaguars are better off staying where they are.

With dramatically lower costs of construction and operation and 40 times as much space for a stadium in the City of Industry, Ed Roski’s “Grand Crossing” stadium is far more attractive to the NFL and teams than Farmers Field downtown.

“What’s interesting about that site
is that it’s a 600-acre site which would be totally devoted to
football,” NFL insider Charley Casserly said on CBS last Sunday. “In other words, you’ll have plenty of room
for the stadium, parking, entertainment, the ‘NFL experience.’ Sounds
like a Super Bowl site to me.”

Another problem for AEG is that it wants a landlord-tenant relationship with the two teams that are expected to come to LA or Industry to make the deal work, which would mean Anschutz “sells the tickets, advertising and sponsorship deals for those teams,
takes a cut and then pays the teams.”

“You’re talking about a team being disconnected from season
ticketholders and rights holders,” said a team executive, reflecting what five other executives have told Cole recently. “There’s no team that will do that and I don’t think you can get
approval from the rest of the owners for an arrangement like that.”

“The NFL is in a position to demand what it wants, not take what it
gets,” another team executive said. “When you look at the analysis of the
revenue that could be made, it looks great. You’re talking about some
of the highest revenues in the league. The problem is that when you
start to look at the expenses and how much has to be divided among all
the competing interests, you have to wonder how much is going to be
there for a team.”

You can be sure that the ultimate target of the NFL isn’t the billions in direct and indirect profits Anschutz is going to take out of LA to support his assault on immigrants and gays back in Colorado. It’s the fact that AEG is putting up money to rebuild the eternally losing LA Convention Center and sharing a trickle of its profits with the city, perhaps enough to cover $7 million of the $45 million a year the city pays in debt service already on the Convention Center.

What the NFL wants is the public’s money. The deal AEG and the city, inadequate as it is from the taxpayer’s standpoint, will be rewritten to provide greater costs to taxpayers and greater benefits to the league, the teams and, of course, Anschutz.

Do you think the mayor and the Council will protect you and your interests?

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The Turning Point — Or the Point of No Return

Give ’em hell, Mr. President.

That’s what I found myself yelling at the TV screen
yesterday as I watched Barack Obama give it all he’s got to try to bring this
country together so we can get back on track and regain our No. 1 standing in
the world, as he put it.

Here he was appealing to our better natures in urging us all
to put aside our personal and collective ideologies and do the hard work
managing our affairs and our money better, to reach deep inside to the heart of
what it means to be an American and balance our own needs and interests with
those of others.

I was astonished when minutes after what I thought was a
great speech, CNN – the voice of the passion- less — cut off the discussion
and moved on to mindless blather about vague worries and months-old concerns that
terrorists MIGHT strike on the 10 anniversary of 9-11.

Could they be right that Americans are more worried about an
act of terrorism than what this profound economic and political crisis is doing
to the country, to our future?

What the talking heads of the left and right did during the
hour after the President spoke was far more calculating. They demeaned
everything the President said, trivializing his effort to change the conversation
and stop the free-fall decline of America as nothing but political cunning as
MSNBC put it, or pointless as Fox characterized it.

Presidential Press Secretary Jay Carney went head to head
with Bill O’Reilly who began their chat by warning he hoped his guest would
still be happy to have appeared on “The Factor” for the first time after he was
put through the ringer of total disbelief.

O’Reilly first question went to the heart of the matter:
What was the point of the President’s effort to reach out when Republicans will
never vote for his plan because they took blood-oaths to never raise taxes on
anyone, especially the rich?

There can’t be any doubt that we have reached the point
where our cynicism fed by corporate media has made any form of since honest
give-and-take impossible.

It’s all just become a game of verbal jousting where points
are scored – which may explain why the President of the United States was
forced to speak to the nation at a joint session of Congress at 4 p.m. Pacific
Time to avoid conflict with the start of the NFL season. Football is what we
all live for, isn’t it?

I’m no pansy when it comes to criticizing public officials
from LA to Sacramento and beyond for their long-time failure to serve the
public interest, for their selling out to special interests as if there were
never going to be dire consequences.

But I see in where Obama is going that he sees the potential for calamity — and not just to his own political fortunes — if we keep engaging in this
political death struggle as if even the slightest tax increase or reduction in
public employee payroll costs will cause the Sun to stop shining.

The world as we’ve known it is ending  and we need to radically change our ways to
avoid turning the difficulties we now face into a catastrophe that will hurt a
lot of people, a lot more than the millions who already are feeling the pain of
three years of economic decline and decades of failed leadership.

The era of domination of our society by big government, big business and big labor must end. They have had their day since the end of World War II but they can’t generate wealth anymore and that’s what kept us in line all these years.

You don’t have to agree with the President. You don’t have to like him. But he in the President and he’s opened the door to start a conversation about how we begin to reinvent America. 

We can either join this debate or escalate the destructive political wars of recent years.

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The Starbird Philosophy That Guided Glendale for 14 Years


Don’t bother saying
thanks to Jim Starbird — he’s been living a dream for the past 14 years as
Glendale city manager.

A day after disclosing plans to retire at the end of the year, Starbird talked
about his love affair with the city and how he set his eye on becoming its city
manager more than three decades ago as his career as a public servant advanced
from Duarte, to Monrovia, to West Covina.

 

“I never had a
plan past Glendale, never visualized anything else,” Starbird said. “We’ll see
if there’s life after Glendale.”


At 62, in good health, happily married with his first two grandchildren just a
few months old, Starbird has the rest of his life to look forward to with the
security of a substantial public employee pension and a reputation as one of
the most effective public administrators in Southern California.

Personal reasons played a role in his decision, but the more important factors
were a sense that the City Hall organization was strong, with capable younger
people ready to step up, and that the city was through the worst of the
financial problems posed by the bursting of the housing bubble and the economic
meltdown.

“I wanted to get through this budget cycle. This has been tough, the toughest
year,” he said. “There are still big challenges and rising pension costs, but I
think every year after this is going to be better, because we’ve made a number
of structural changes this year that will put us in a position to see the light
at the end of the tunnel.

“We’re beginning to see a turnaround. We’re seeing it in our development
community. We’re seeing it in our revenue numbers. Each year is going to get
better, thanks to the considerable sacrifices made by our police, our managers,
our non-safety workers. They’ve given up pay and benefits and put new
retirement programs in place. This is a turnaround year.


EDITOR;S NOTE: Here’s video of what I told the City Council Tuesday when it rejected Bill Rosendahl’s effort to bring transparency and honesty to the deal with AEG for a downtown football stadium. Below that is a column written for Nina Royal’s North Valley Reporter on the stadium subject.

We Lose, AEG Wins — Are You Really Surprised?

Lets play “Heads I win, tails you loseor, as AEGs Tim Leiweke calls it, You borrow, T profit,”

That is what is at the heart of the proposal for a downtown NFL stadium that has city officials
scrambling to come up with an accepta
ble story for public consumption by Leiweke”s July 31 deadline.

For his part, Leiweke is running all over town holding meetings with community groups in an effort to drum up support that will drown out all the questions being asked about wby the
p
ublic gives away its land, pays for the infrastructure needed for a stadium, nearly doubles its enormous debt on the white elephant
Convention Center and gets nothing in return for a
llowing AEG to potentially reap billions of dollars in profits from bringing football back to Los Angeles for a third time.

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Continue reading Advertisements for Myself: Newspaper Columns, Council Comments

Robbing the Public under the Color of Law: DWP Rate Hikes and AEG Giveaways

Editor’s Note: DWP officials will hold a workshop Wednesday night from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the DWP cafeteria at 111 N. Hope St. and promises an open discussion of its rate hike plans with the community.

With the new fiscal year under way and the formalities of celebrating liberty, equality and justice out of the way, the City Council went back to work Tuesday calling on the Washington to end all ways and give the money to the cities and states which really know how to spend it.

Their work done just 34 minutes after they were called to order, the nation’s highest paid city officials adjourned and headed to the beach, presumably.
In contrast, dozens of volunteer community activists who could have been at the beach spent four hours in the sweltering heat in Hollywood learning about the city’s problems and trying to find solutions.
First, the citizen advocacy committee on the Department of Water and Power voted to call on the City Council and DWP officials to back off on plans to impose utility rate hikes in excess of 20 percent until the Office of Public Accountability is in place and able to conduct independent studies of what it is planned and why it costs so much. Immediately afterward, the LA Neighborhood Council Coalition endorsed the delay unanimously.
You might remember how after years of public demands for some protection from abuses by the discredited DWP and the mayor’s rate hike fiasco in spring 2010, the Council moved forward on creating the Rate Payer Advocate with independence, broad powers and a budget of at least $4 million.
Unfortunately, that great democrat Eric Garcetti exercised his authority as Council President to water down the RPA dramatically with a little political sleight-of-hand and abuse of power so funding was slashed by 75 percent, authority was limited and the misleadingly named Office of Public Accountability took the place of the Rate Payer Advocate. 

nfl.jpg

Still, the public overwhelmingly approved the Charter Amendment creating the OPA although Garcetti has yet to act on appointing the committee of citizens who will hire the agency’s executive director.
Showing he is far too reasonable considering who he is dealing with, Jack Humphreville, head of the DWP Advocacy Committee, wrote on CityWatchLA today that a small, short-term increase might be justified while the OPA is getting organized 
Rather
than a rush to judgment, especially since the proposed rate increases involves
billions of Ratepayer dollars, the Energy and Environmental Committee should
recommend that DWP consider a one year increase that would cover the
Department’s Basic Needs and Strategic Investments.”

Neighborhood activists were less charitable with regards to plans to run roughshod over common sense and democratic processes to approve a deal with AEG to tear down half the Convention Center rebuild it at public expense when they construct an NFL stadium.on city land and two parking garages while reaping all the profits from naming rights, digital billboard advertising up against the freeways and Convention Center operations. 

Some of the tax revenue will go to pay off the city’s $750 million in debt on the Convention Center while the rest will go into the bank account of Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz who has set up a dummy corporation in Delaware to run this deal outside of California law.

The city’s share for paying salaries, benefits, running parks, libraries, fire and police service is zero, zilch, nothing.

LANCC voted unanimously to oppose the deal as it is constituted now — an important gesture since AEG, one of the heaviest contributors to local politicians, has set a July 31 deadline for approval of the deal as they have proposed it.

Grreg Nelson, who was chief of staff to then Councilman Joel Wachs when he heroicially stood up to AEG and got the massive subsidies for Staples Center reduced, wrote a devastating report on City Watch on the anti-democratic processes being used by the Council with support from the City Attorney’s Office.

“UNLOCKING THE CLOSED-DOORS ATTITUDE – If you cherish democracy
and the public’s involvement in government’s decision-making process, be
glad that you missed the meetings of the City Council’s Ad Hoc
Committee on the Proposal Downtown Stadium and Events Center.
The committee was formed shortly after the Anschutz Entertainment Group
announced plans to build a football stadium next to the Convention
Center and Staples Center,” Nelson began..  

“The first red flag was when
Councilmember Jan Perry was named as chair.  That’s not a knock against
Perry personally, but the stadium is being proposed for her district so
it’s reasonable to assume that the interests of the city as a whole and
the city budget would take a back seat to an opportunity to erect a
shiny new building in her backyard.

“The conduct of the first
meeting several weeks ago, and last week’s second meeting would have
made any democracy geek run away screaming.

“Closely following the
Stadium Builder’s Guidebook, the agendas for each meeting weren’t made
public until the last minute, something that a committee chair would do
if the goal were to ensure that the gallery would be filled only with
insiders.

“Weeks before last Thursday’s meeting, the stadium
developer was telling people which day the meeting would be held, but
the agenda wasn’t posted until 24 hours before the 9:30 a.m. start time
at City Hall.  See the pattern?”


Nelson traces the back-room games and then concludes:

“At the end of last week’s meeting, Perry wanted the committee to meet
behind closed doors for a while.  It wasn’t clear what the discussion
would be about, but the Chief Legislative Analyst said that the
negotiating team needed guidance on two or three issues regarding
development of the Environmental Impact Report.

“he deputy city
attorney explained that if it were to meet secretly its conclusions
would have to be affirmed by the City Council.  Seemingly shocked at the
prospect of other elected officials being a part of the process, she
dropped the idea.  It isn’t clear who answered the CLA’s questions.

“Before
the meeting ended, Perry took a verbal shot, but not by name, at
Councilman Bill Rosendahl for daring to ask questions about the
proposal, suggesting that the ad hoc committee follow the Brown Act, and
holding all of its discussions in public.  Radical!

“Perry criticized those who were ‘grandstanding.

“If
it’s grandstanding to ask the kind of questions that are reasonable to
expect from elected officials trying to ensure that the city gets the
best deal possible, then Rosendahl is guilty.

“But at least he
wasn’t standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the developer as the project
and the plan for a taxpayers’ subsidy was announced, tossing around
footballs and waving pom-poms for the cameras.”…….

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