We’re talking about a school that boasts among its graduates Kim and Rob Kardashian, Paris and Nicky Hilton, Christian Brando and so many others from privileged backgrounds whose families can afford the tuition shown on Buckley’s website:
What LaBonge and Koretz have rushed on to Tuesday’s agenda is a motion to hold a quickie hearing on Wednesday to approve the California Municipal Finance Authority issuing tax exempt bonds for Buckley as it has done for so many other private educational and medical facilities, even corporations like Chevron which was able to get $250 million in bonds.
The roster of recipients of CMFA’s largess includes such religious-bases private schools as the Christian universities Azusa Pacific and Biola — more than $100 million each — and Westmont College $65 million, Catholic Mater Dei High School $25.5 million and non-sectarian Lycee International de Los Angeles $12 million (Tuition $10,000 to $15,000).
Talk about separation of state and religion, private and public — not when it comes to issuing tax-free bonds.
Clearly, I’m the last one to catch on to this scam that is being used to deprive government treasuries of a share of the profits earned by bondholders and to reduce the cost of borrowing while increasing their access to money of private institutions — effectively reducing their costs and improving their facilities.
In contrast, public school teachers are being fired, class sized increased, the school year shortened and adult education programs for people struggling to improve their lot in life gutted.
Not to worry, CMFA proudly boasts it “has donated over $3.50 million to California charities through our giveback program,” including three grants of $25,000 each just this month to three nonprofits dealing with mentally disabled children, foster parents and child care for low income families.
Here’s the CMFA’s mission statement:
The California Municipal Finance Authority (“CMFA”) is a Joint Powers Authority created to strengthen local communities by assisting with the financing of economic development and charitable activities throughout the State of California. With the goal of giving back to California communities, the CMFA assists local governments, non-profits and businesses with the issuance of taxable and tax-exempt financing aimed at improving the quality of life in California. To date, over 150 municipalities have become members of CMFA.
Imagine that 150 cities have jumped aboard this conduit for tax breaks for the rich and better educations for their children — and it’s all done in the name of charity.
You take LaBonge and Koretz at their word: No risk, no cost to the the public in this deal.
Back in 2003 when Mitch Englander was his chief of staff, Councilman Greig Smith, with support from Janice Hahn, proposed creating a network of video conferencing stations with fax machines and computers available for ordinary citizens to communicate with City Hall and speak at Public Comment during City Council meetings.
The motion began:
The City of Los Angeles is one of the largest, most culturally diverse and geographically dispersed cities in the country. Nearly 4 million Los Angeles residents speaking 92 languages live and work in 97 neighborhoods located across 472 square miles of hills and valleys. Travel during peak times is often slowed by freeway congestion, mass transit difficulties, and other transportation-related issues. These challenges often make it difficult for City residents to visit City Hall and communicate with the City Councilmembers regarding issues pending before the City Council. Widely used, low-cost technology at key locations could help bridge this communication gap … If implemented properly, a video conference based system will complement ongoing efforts to bring City government closer to City residents using modern technology.
Nine years later, LA is still a vast, sprawling city with amazing cultural diversity among its four million people who are dispersed over 472 square miles. They still find it difficult to move about because of a wretched public transit system, the nation’s most congested and potholed roads.
And now more than ever, LA is in desperate need to bridge the gap, facilitate communication with Council members and bring city government closer to residents using modern video-conferencing technology that has gotten so cheap and available using Skype and other services, even Facetime on I-pad.
What took Smith two years of begging and dealing to achieve — videoconferencing from Van Nuys and San Pedro that allows citizens to comment publicly to the Council during meetings –took his successor Englander just two minutes to kill effective July 1.
The excuse Englander and his Valley Council colleagues Paul Krekorian, Paul Koretz and Tony Cardenas plus public access “champion” Bill Rosendahl used in the May 7 committee hearings on the budget was to save money — exactly $20,976, for part-time contract workers paid $19 an hour four hours to operate the system at the 138 Council meetings a year.
That’s right cutting off the 1.5 million people in the Valley and 80,000 more in San Pedro from the ability to exercise their constitutional right to be heard by their government and to seek redress for their grievances saves $20,976 — out of $7.2 billion in the city budget.
In an effort to please the Budget Committee which demanded a report to justify this anti-democratic action (CAO-memo-videoconferencing), the City Administrative Office came up with an additional cost of $24,821 in direct and indirect costs to have a General Services police officer standing guard — an officer who will soon be getting a healthy raise by making him an LAPD cop and probably still be assigned to protect Van Nuys City Hall from Al Qaeda terrorists.
The video of the May 7 Budget Committee meeting shows the dangerously ambitious Krekorian honing in on how many people used the service in the last year: 20 in San Pedro, 419 in Van Nuys.
“Was any effort made to distinguish how many distinct people that made up?”
“That is not the number of unique visitors but the number of times the service was used,” responded Mark Wolf of Internet Technology. “I would say in general just from my observing the meetings that maybe there is a core of 12 people who utilize it.”
The same is true, of course, most days at the City Council Chamber itself so why not be honest and tell the truth: The public is so alienated from the farce of government at City Hall that only those with a special interest and gadflies ever participate.
Honesty is beyond their ability as Englander shows with his praise for those who used the service, like Miriam Fogler and Rich Nightingale and the other regulars, because of the high cost and waste of time of going downtown to comment to public officials who don’t listen to what they have to say anyway.
Then, he pulled the plug — not just on the gadflies but on the right of all of us to speak out without losing a whole day and wasting a lot of money.
He called for ending the program “not for lack of participation . . . but right now when every dollar counts right now when we’re looking to staff and fund critical services, and we’re talking about eliminating jobs, critical jobs, mechanics that work on fire trucks . . . this is not the time to continue funding” remote access.
How dumb does he think we are? Does he even know what he’s saying?
Last week, they gave $67 million in tax dollars to the nation’s second biggest hotel chain and agreed to pay $300,000 to an out-of-town law firm in case somebody sues to block how they gerrymandered Council districts
This is chump change and they know it. They are liars and they know it although sometimes I think they get so used to lying as a way of life they may actually believe their own nonsense.
Englander even keeps referring to $45,000 being available when he knows full well the cop’s salary isn’t available for other uses.
Then, he refers to using the money for 311 services which have been cut back sharply because as Krekorian pipes in that serves everybody and not just the few. But then somebody whispers in Englander’s ear that it should go to ITA and Krekorian applauds Rosendahl is ecstatic as if $20,976 is going to restore public access TV when the Council has stolen the $5 million a year cable subscribers pay specifically to fund that.
Not to be left out, Koretz offered his analysis: “When people want to be heard about something important, they come here . . . even though it seems like a great idea, I don’t think the actualization of it is worth the present cost.”
Oblivious to what he was saying, Koretz hit on a truth: The actualization of what City Hall is doing is not worth the cost.
That is exactly the reason so many people are angry, why only gadflies bother to speak up at meetings, why so few people vote.
No, this isn’t about public access. It’s about cutting off public access.
Not to worry, Krekorian reassures: “If people do feel the need to come to Van Nuys City Hall and address the Council directly, they have that opportunity on a monthly basis.”
Not exactly monthly but from time to time.
Maybe the time has come for all you Neighborhood Council and homeowner and community group members who have left it to gadflies to speak for the city to do something constructive and fight for the rights of all.
Will you organize a massive turnout at Van Nuys City Hall on Friday to protest or will you sit back and worry about what Englander characterized as your real concerns like “potholes and tree trimming.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: It was self-indulgent but I thought the movie I made from Friday’s City Council session which featured a long debate that depended on what the meaning of the word ‘local’ is — the city or the county — was important since he showed just how hypocritical, incompetent or stupid they are. You can decide which applies. The issue was giving an 8 percent ‘local preference’ premium to city contractors supposedly to create jobs There was no evidence, no study that suggested that the money would actually create jobs or any more jobs than would be created if applied only to the city rather than the county as written to meet the definition of ‘local’ written into the City Charter in 1999. Here is my director’s commentary for each scene:
“A temple of democracy like a place of worship”
the opening scene during Friday’s usual folderol of flatteries and presentations, Council
President Eric Garcetti — without a hint of irony – invokes the spiritual
purity of City Hall in welcoming Aram I, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church,
might wonder what God that Garcetti & Co. pray to — the God of the Holy Dollar and Self-service — given the state of the
city, the corrupting impact of special interest money and the indifference to
the concerns of residents.
$1 billion in city purchases, 85 percent to outsiders
Krekorian argues for approval of the “local preference” ordinance he proposed
fully a year ago to give businesses located in the county up to 8 percent bid bonus that will cost taxpayers more for purchases of goods and
might wonder whether this is a good use of public money, where the cost benefit
analysis is and if it is an economic positive in a city with one of the nation’s
highest poverty and underemployment rates why it took a year to enact.
“A sense of urgency
to put people to work”
years after the economy crashed and a year after holding up Krekorian’s local
preference ordinance, wannabe mayor Garcetti suddenly feels the measure must be
urgently passed to create jobs.
might wonder where he’s been the last three years while he was giving replacing
a Valley bus bench company with a giant national company based in Florida.
“Pushing the envelope a bit”
aware that the City Charter allows local preference in contracting only for the
county or state, Paul Koretz doesn’t give a damn. Screw the Constitution; he
wants to invoke a provision of the administrative code to make the preference only
apply to city businesses.
might wonder what his qualifications are to hold public office when he has
repeatedly sworn as a West Hollywood councilman, state Assemblyman and L.A.
councilman to faithfully uphold the Constitution of the United States,
Constitution of California and the City Charter.
“If you’re so parochial”
LaBonge, of all the people in all the world, understands the basic concept that
what is good for businesses throughout the county is good for the city,
generating jobs and economic activity. That’s why city’s like Minneapolis,
Chicago and Dallas are doing better than most in these tough times – they operate
as metropolitan regional economies working together.
might wonder how it’s possible the dumbest Council member turns out to be the
only one with a brain.
“We’re hampered greatly by our Charter”
Alarcon and Antonio Villaraigosa understand that if Charter is in the way of
you giving deals to friends and family with a premium of
taxpayer money, you got to change the Charter to make it easier to rip off the
might wonder what it says about everybody else at City Hall when an indicted
felon and admitted ethics law cheat respect the legal requirements more than
“It’s $3 billion in good and service”
it to Mitch Englander to point out that with the Airport, Harbor and DWP, the
Council overseas $3 billion in purchases that if managed properly with a city
local preference ordinance could make their friends and families part of the
super-rich 1 percent.
might wonder how City Hall, as corrupt as it is, could have left so much money
on the table.
If we go too parochial, we miss opportunity to be the region
he goes again, Tom LaBonge talking common sense that surely would win support
from every economist in town, the L.A. Chamber and the L.A. Economic
might wonder how city leaders who like to boast what a world class city L.A. is
can think so much smaller than Tom LaBonge.
“What the word ‘local’ means”
Englander acts more and more like he has taken up residence under the same rock
that his predecessor Hal Bernson used to live under and is cohabitating there
with Koretz. Following the Council’s tried and true path for getting around laws
they don’t like, Englander and Koretz are demanding that staff find a loophole
so that “local” is redefined to mean L.A. city only.
might wonder whether he is truly stupid as he seems or whether he thinks we are
so dumb we can’t see what he’s really up to.
“Los Angeles has lost something. It no longer fields the kind of
seasoned political leadership that inspires confidence. That’s a loss
far greater than a football team.”
The ink was hardly dry on those words of LA Times columnist Jim Newton when the City Council’s self-styled skeptics on AEG’s NFL stadium plans — Westsiders Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz — were proving his point.
As Koretz put it after hearing yet another shift in the proposal espoused by Tim Leiweke at a Mar Vista town hall with Neighborhood Council acitivists Monday night, “By having a good degree of healthy skepticism, this plan already is
considerably better than the one that originally came to us. We have to make sure that, in the absolute worst-case scenario, no
matter what goes wrong — and unfortunately with the Dodgers, we’ve seen
what can happen — that the city is still in good financial shape.”
The issue isn’t whether the city gets stiffed by AEG on the loans to tear down and rebuild half the Convention Center — reduced from $350 million to the high 200s thanks to a discount announced by Leiweke Monday night — and it’s not about the worst-case scenario which is the NFL is a dud in L.A. for the third time and leaves the city in even worst financial shape than it is today.
The issue is what’s in this for the city when all the profits from the stadium, the massive array of digital billboards, parking lots and turning over the Convention Center to AEG — an issue that has gotten zero attention — go to Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz.while all the tax revenues go to paying off the city’s debt of three-quarters of a billion dollars.
It’s not like there’s a groundswell of public demand for a football team at a time when the Lakers are in decline and everybody hates the Dodgers whose owner has stiffed everybody in town, including Vin Scully who the team owes $150,000 to.
The plain truth is Leiweke cut a deal two years ago with the mayor for this stadium and took what was a done deal public last fall with an ultimatum that he wanted a signed deal with the city within three months, no questions asked, no environmental study, no cost-benefit analysis.
He’s been stumbling ever since over the details and needed City Hall to prop him up at every turn with one effort after another to whitewash what’s wrong with a Council;and a citizens committees pre-disposed to believe whatever Leiweke tells them while keeping the debate focused in irrelevant directions.
Isn’t it fair to ask what is in it for you and me, the people who are taking on the debt, paying the bills for all the infrastructure costs and support services like police and will rarely even be able to afford a ticket to a game?
Isn’t it fair to ask, as former Councilman Nate Holden did Monday night, whether AEG fulfilled all its commitments when we gave the company all that land and cash for Staples Center?
Isn’t it fair to ask why we gave $300 million in tax revenue for the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotel/condominium project at L.A. Live and now find out it’s a financial disaster — one that is potentially so damaging to AEG’s credibility that Anschutz had to buy out the State Teachers Retirement Fund and other investors before their losses got any deeper?
At the town hall, AEG pulled out of its promise to guarantee the city’s debt in this deal, offering instead to build two parking garages — one of which it was supposed to build as part of the subsidies it got for Staples Center — and commit the revenue toward paying off the city’s borrowing.
What AEGt offers the public is the thrill of a downtown stadium as opposed to Ed Roski’s stadium in Ihe City of Industry, which comes without risk or cost to the public anywhere, and the illusory promise of a boom in convention business, luxury hotels and entertainment venues on every corner of downtown, tens of thousands of new jobs, millions of tourists throwing money at us.
Maybe, maybe not.
Guys like Phil Anschutz don’t get to be billionaires playing nice with suckers like city officials who wouldn’t have the price of a ticket to Lakers or NFL games if they weren’t on the public dole.
To this point, what he has put on the table provides him with a low-risk,high-profit deal for himself and a no-profit,high-risk deal for the city and its people.
If you think the people you elected are going to do anything to serve you and protect your interests between now and July 31 — AEG’s latest ultimatum deadline — you are living in a fantasyland. All your public servants see is the free tickets and the parties in the luxury boxes.
Three months after voters approved setting up a Ratepayer Advocate and independent watchdog agency on the Department of Water and Power, the City Council got around to taking the first tentative steps needed to bring it to life.
The meeting last Tuesday of the Energy and Environment Committee revealed more about why L.A. is broke and broken than anything else that has happened recently
It’s hard to be sure whether Perry and committee members Paul Koretz, Richard Alarcon and Paul Krekorian are completely stupid or just so cynical they think they can get away with anything.
They figured out suddenly that what critics had been saying along: Council President Eric Garcetti gutted the reform proposals at the last minute and they all went along with the charade and did their best to dupe the public into believing that they would no longer be robbed blind by the DWP..
Chagrined to find out the Rate Payer Advocate was neither independent or empowered to do anything about anything, Perry promised to carry on as if nothing were wrong, offering an unequivocal commitment to block all rate increases until the Office of Public Accountability they created as a toothless watchdog was in operation.
It took until Friday for the city’s techies to post the audio of the committee meeting online and I’ve broken down key portions of the hearing. It’s important for the public to understand what took up most of the Council members time was an astonishing discussion that showed they didn’t know that they put on the March 8 ballot a measure that was watered-down by Garcetti.
Perry was shocked, shocked I tell you, to hear the outside counsel hired to handle the Rate Payer Advocate issue, retired Assistant City Attorney Fred Merkin, explain that the RPA has no authority or independence and is merely an employee of the Office of Public Accountability’s executive director.
Then, it was Koretz’s turn to be dumbfounded to learn that Council President Eric Garcetti had watered down the reform to the point it was meaningless and totally under the control of the mayor, Council and even DWP officials. Listen to Koretz for yourself Koretz-RPA.mp3
But when it comes to raw emotion of outrage and disgust, no one can compare to Alarcon, the accused felon, especially when he doesn’t have a clue about what he’s saying — unless, of course, he’s just faking ignorance to avoid responsibility for his actions. Hear him whine Alarcon.mp3
Then, there’s Krekorian, who has emerged as the Council’s wiliest apologist rationalizing how the Council bamboozled the public into thinking they were getting genuine reform of the rogue utility by just pretending Measure I achieved what it was supposed to. In his own words, you can listen to him Krekorian.mp3
In the end, the bureaucrats suggested just ignoring the problems with Measure I and come back at the end of the month with proposed ordinances that give the mayor and Garcetti the power to pick a citizen’s committee to find an executive director for the OPA. BeItUnresolved.mp3
As the meeting was ending, Chuck Ray, head of the Neighborhood Council oversight committee on the DWP, got a few minutes to share his throughts as if they matter. Here’s what he said PublicComment-Adjourn.mp3
Rec and Parks Commission President Barry Sanders insisted to the City Council’s Budget Committee Thursday that plastering every surface in city parks with commercial messages isn’t advertising — it’s “recognition” that they love LA so much they want to donate some money to beautify the trees and grass for the kids.
Amazingly, most members of the committee — whose failure to do their jobs as budget watchdogs as put the city in perpetual financial crisis — embraced Sanders proposal, expressed a willingness ignore the City Attorney’s legal advice and jeopardize the city’s sign law.
Bill Rosendahl drooled at the prospect of bringing millions of dollars in new revenue to the decimated Rec and Parks Department by selling signage writes all over the Venice Beach boardwalk.
Only Paul Koretz, acknowledging his constituents are outraged by the plan, seemed to be able to see what’s wrong with commercializing the parks selling fast food, kids’ movies and whatever else corporate America chooses to advertise for a fee.
Hooray for Marcia Selz and the CD5 Coalition for showing community groups how to pin down their City Council member and hold them accountable.
They conducted a survey of leaders of the 36 homeowner groups in the coalition on the performance of Councilman Paul Koretz.
Their Verdict: He’s certainly not Excellent, not even Good. Just Fair in almost every category.
That can’t be good news for Koretz, especially given the perpetual state of crisis the city has been in during his two years in office and the need for great leaders..On the upside, at least he’s not Jack Weiss.
“The findings were reviewed with Councilmember
Paul Koretz in October 2010, and again in February 2011,” Selz says.
receptive, and … has adopted some of our
suggestions and has responded to some of our concerns. In addition, we
have provided the Councilmember with some guideposts for this coming
year: our priorities and key items that still need his attention.”
What CD5 has done should be emulated by community groups and Neighborhood Councils in every district. Selz is willing to help set up templates and show others how to hold their Council members feet to the fire. You can contact her at <email@example.com>
The problem seriously ignorant people like Tom LaBonge often have is they think everyone is as uninformed and ill-informed as they are and that no one is smart enough to understand what they’re really saying in their torrent of mostly meaningless words.
Two-faced guys like Dennis Zine have a different problem. They think they can double-talk and flip-flop and sell out and nobody pays enough attention to notice.
Then, there’s the passionate environmentalist and ultra-liberal Paul Koretz who cares so much about green energy he called for a compromise that would give the DWP most of what it wanted when it drastically cut rebates for rooftop solar installations even as he led the fight to take jurisdiction and overturn the policy.
The Council debate Friday on taking jurisdiction under rule 245 was almost as crazy as the DWP Commission’s Nov. 2 decision to cut rebates by a third and then half and then 80 percent over the next three years. .
There was the devious Zine demanding to know why anyone would challenge the DWP when the rogue utility is doing such a great job and LaBonge proposing the DWP abandon rooftop solar on homes and businesses and put all its efforts into greening public buildings.
Both men are hoping to get their hands on the vast amount of cash IBEW union bully Brian D’Arcy can throw their way, an immediate concern of LaBonge’s who faces a tough re-election campaign in March.
The is just one battleground in a larger war that pits then entrenched interests of the DWP which are being protected by Interim GM and First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner against aroused and increasingly well-informed citizenry with the toadies and stooges on the City Council caught in middle looking for whatever cover they can find.
The decision Friday sent the solar rebate policy to the Energy and Environment Committee led by Jan Perry, who is one of the few who has shown the courage to actually stand up to the power of the DWP so it will be interesting to see what comes back to the Council.
The specific reason for the DWP action is simple if incomprehensible: It’s too successful.
In 2007, California’s Million Solar Roofs Law took effect, requiring the DWP to commit more than $30 million a year to funding a significant part of the cost of solar installation.
DWP provided only an average of $25 million a year since then for rebates of up to 35 percent of the cost and created a modest 23 megawatts of rooftop solar energy, tiny fraction of less than 1 percent of the city’s power usage.
But solar is hot now and people with money to burn want it, in no small part because of the 30 federal tax credit, so the DWP has 1,500 applications for rebates worth more than $100 million and create 35 megawatts of solar power.
Since the DWP only budgeted $17 million for rebates this year, the solution the geniuses came up with was to virtually eliminate the whole program.
That doesn’t sit well with the booming local solar energy installation industry which is creating more jobs than any other part of the economy in these hard times and sees what the DWP is up to as a deliberate attempt to kill the private solar industry.
The other side of that coin is that the DWP and D’Arcy have fought every effort to spur a private solar industry, preferring to keep the jobs inside the DWP where salaries and benefits are so spectacular and the IBEW gets a nifty percentage from every worker to help elect officials who do their bidding or destroy those who get in their way.
A decade ago, the DWP launched the largest solar initiative in U.S. history but thanks to the IBEW and gross mismanagement failed to built enough solar to power a suburban block.
A year ago, the IBEW launched its own $3 billion rooftop solar initiative, the Measure B boondoggle rejected by voters after a vigorous grassroots campaign against the $1.5 million spent by the union. Measure B was supposed to build 400 megawatts of solar with all the work being done by the DWP and IBEW.
That’s what this is all about, why Zine opposed taking jurisdiction, why LaBonge wanted to keep solar installations in the hands of the DWP/IBEW by using the money from the Million Solar Roofs Law only on pubic buildings, why Koretz was looking for a weak compromise.
The real war that has been building since the mayor was foiled in his effort to get a 28 percent rate increase last spring will come to a head on Tuesday when the Council decides on a series of DWP reform measures to go on the March ballot.
The IBEW launched its attack this week on all reforms with full-page ads in the Times and Daily News claiming the Council is “rushing to place major changes to the Department of Water and Power on the March ballot without a thorough public discussion. While reform is needed, this proposal has had too little deliberation and too little public input.”
Actually, there has been a great deal of public input about creating a fully independent Rate Payer Advocate and putting independent citizens with expertise on the Board of Commissioners instead of the lackeys who do the bidding of the nation’s self-styled “greenest mayor in America.”.
But it’s far from clear that the Council has listened to the public input, preferring to look for ways to water down these proposals out of fear of a fight with the IBEW.
We’ll see on Tuesday whether any of the 15 Council members deserve to hold public office.
It was a thing of beauty watching the City Council cower and weasel in the face of union bully Brian D’Arcy and a room filled with his IBEW Local 18.
At issue was whether new hires by the Department of Water and Power would be treated the same way as police, fire and civilian workers under proposed City Charter reform proposals that at best are so mild that amount to just a 10 percent cut and will have little effect for a couple of decades.
“Nonsense,” D’Arcy called the audacious idea that his workers — a privileged class even among the privileged classes of city workers.
It took D’Arcy just 43 seconds to make his point and then he watched as one Council member after another, milquetoasts as they are, rolled over and agreed that it would be unthinkable to treat DWP workers like everyone else.
More time is needed, lots more time, maybe years more time, to impose even tepid cuts on pensions and health care for Darcy’s people, council members said.
Showing the depths of his courage, Paul Koretz whined about how D’Arcy would spend a fortune to crush any attempt to fix the DWP pension problems so he offered his unconditional surrender.
It’s better to be sure to rate water and power rates on the four million residents of the city and the hundreds of thousands of businesses.