Sign of the Times: City Set to Authorize $40 Million in Tax-Free Bonds for Exclusive Buckley School in Sherman Oaks

Leave it to Tom LaBonge and Paul Koretz to step up to the plate on behalf of the exclusive Buckley School in Sherman Oaks to provide the city’s authority so it can borrow $40 million in tax exempt bonds to carry out a campus expansion that the community blocked a dozen years ago.

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.

Fatal Flaw, Part One, The Coliseum: Officials’ Arrogant Abuses of the Law, USC’s Contempt for the South LA Community

EDITOR’S NOTE: The giveaway of public property — the Coliseum, Sports Arena and control of Exposition Park — to USC without public benefit ranks as one of the most outrageous acts by public officials in LA in years, especially given the criminality and incompetence in the management of these historic facilities. The city, county and state officials who serve on the Coliseum Commission have long taken as many as 20 free tickets each to events as well as other valuable freebies — something that continued last month when four of them filled one of the Sports Arena’s two luxury seats with luxurious catering to get free admission to the sold-out Bruce Springsteen concert, according to the LA Times latest expose.Councilman Tom LaBonge, an alternate commissioner, idiotically sounding like Marie Antoinette, defended the freebies by saying it lets them keep an eye on things and their presence to lift the spirits of ushers, fire inspectors and others.  “When a councilman or commissioner walks through,” he said, “it makes them feel good.” The Coliseum deal combined with USC’s pending plans to take over much of the neighborhood around the campus has ignited anger in South LA and prompted Gloria Zurveen, publisher and editor-in-chief, of the PACE News community newspaper to demand “The Public Has a Right To Know What the Coliseum Commissioners are Up To With the USC Deal.” (may25pacenews1)(may25pacenews2)(may25pacenews3)

By Gloria Zurveen, Editor-in-Chief PACE News

Because of a tight deadline, I am going to be real brief on the issue about what is going on with the Coliseum Commissioners and their literally giving away, what belongs to the people, the taxpayers.

Yes, it is sweetheart deal they have cut with the University of Southern California (USC) whereby, if we are blessed a little we will get some crumbs off the table.

The public has a right to know, yet with all the secret dealings and backroom negotiations, the public has been practically ignored and trampled over by the members of the commission.

Look at this, according to a Los Angeles Times article recently, the 8-to-1 vote would virtually end public stewardship of the 88-year-old stadium, which is teetering on the brink of financial ruin.

Now mind you, this didn’t happen without the neglectful stewards in charged. Their solution to the problem is not to seek open bidding from sources who will not only benefit the historic Coliseum but who will also bring jobs to the local community in this distressed economy we are currently facing.

The neglectful crew want to throw in the towel to USC and say we are threw with having the public’s view.

This is not good. We, the public, we the taxpayers must not allow this to go down like this.

The Times point out that the pact signals the failure of the public officials to maintain the Coliseum as a self-sustaining venture and it follows a financial scandal that led to corruption charges against three former managers, two rave concert promoters and a former Coliseum contractor.

It amazes me that while this corruption is found to be so blatant, none of the Commissioners have lost their positions. It seems like they are rewarding themselves with this sweetheart deal of giving taxpayers property away with little or no benefits to us.

Honey, I hear Moms Mabley in the air, “Here comes the judge.” This situation calls for a legal redress and not later but now.

The people have a right to know what they can do to stop this highway robbery of the people’s possessions.

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It is reported that USC will put up just 70 million into stadium upgrades under the deal, and take control of the Coliseum’s revenue with the assumption of the $1-million annual rent payment to the state which owns the land under the stadium and the companion Sports Arena. Get this, the value of the complex in 2005 was at $240 million to $400 million. Now is this a deal or a steal? Who wouldn’t try to close this quick fast and in a hurry.

But I am saying to the people we need to let the state know that they need to hold up on signing off on what the Commissioners have already sold us out on. We need to ask some critical questions pertaining to the benefits to the public.

Terry Francke, general counsel for California Aware, an open government group said,  “This is an unloading of a huge public asset through a process entirely contemptuous of public involvement.”

Speaking with him on Wednesday, he said the meetings held to cut the deal was a direct violation of the Brown Act which was passed in 1953 that guaranteed the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies.

Francke said that he is contemplating on seeking a court order to nullify the deal.

Anna Caballero, the Secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency appointed by Governor

Jerry Brown and has the authority to sign off on the deal has said she will not rubber-stamp the Coliseum panel agreement.  She said she was concerned about the control USC will have over the parking lots used by patrons of the state’s free California Science Center museum and California African American Museum. The revenue from those facilities help maintain Exposition Park where the Coliseum and museums sit.

So it is not a done. The public has a right to know what’s in it for them.

Call, email and contact Anna Caballero at:Email: info@scsa.ca.gov Phone: (8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Monday  – Friday) (916) 653-4090 Fax: (916) 653-3815 Address: State and Consumer Services Agency 915 Capitol Mall, Suite 200 Sacramento, CA 95814-2719 Let your voice be heard on this urgent matter because again, the public has a right know.

The following individuals represent the Coliseum Commission:

From the State of California: David Israel (President), Glenn Sonnenberg, William J. Chadwick, Fabian Wesson (alternate)

From the County: Zev Yaroslavsky, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Don Knabe (Vice President)Mike Antonovich (alternate)

From the City of Los Angeles: Barry A. Sanders, Bernard C. Parks, Johnathan Williams, Tom LaBonge (alternate) Jill Werner (alternateInterim General Manager : John Sandbrook

Correspondence to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission canbe sent to: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission

3911 South Figueroa Street Los Angeles, CA 90037 Ph: 213/747-7111

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Dumb and Dumber and Dumbest – Who Better to Put in Charge of the Charade of the City Council

In retrospect, I’m sorry I mocked Eric Garcetti for his pious “Temple of Democracy…stay as long as you need to” phony crap and crucified Dennis Zine – his top fill-in running Council meetings — for being a two-faced, duplicitous, deceitful liar and dissed Jan Perry – his No. 2 fill-in – for selling out the interests of blacks, Asians, whites and Latinos (in ascending order of their population size) to billionaires for hideous downtown developments.

OK, I’m not really sorry.

But the way Herb Wesson is using or rather abusing his
new-found powers makes the Garcetti-Zine-Perry team seem like the noble public servants they pretend to be.

Wesson – put into the Council presidency without opposition
by union uber-boss Maria Elena Durazo who threatened to destroy anyone who got in his way – has taken revenge on everyone who might get in the way of the business-labor-developer feeding frenzy in this morally, politically and financially bankrupt city.

The funny thing about Herb is he’s at his best when he’s
playing it for laughs but nobody’s laughing these days, especially not him as he tries to imitate a real leader.

Wesson opens Council meetings with all the seriousness of a priest presiding over a funeral, then turns over the reins to run them to bumblers, Ed Reyes and Tom LaBonge – a team that makes those despicably ambitious pols who previously ran the made for TV (Channel 35) show look like elder statesman with high-minded commitment to the common good.

It’s a case of dumb and dumber and dumbest, no doubt about
it.

Wesson is playing hard ball these days.

He stripped Bernard Parks, the only Council member who actually ever read the city budget, of his Budget Committee chairmanship and Perry, the only Council member tough enough to tackle the crooks at the DWP, of her chair of the Environment Committee.

And with his clout augmented by the mayor’s, he robbed them of the heart of their districts – Baldwin Hills and downtown – in the draft maps
released last week by the puppet Redistricting Commission.

Under Herb, the rules, even the Brown Open Meeting Law, mean
nothing.

At the 11th hour before the midnight Tuesday execution of the reviled Community Redevelopment Agency, he pushed through a deal to keep
the Broadway trolley car plan going forward even though proper notice and information about it were not made public and the Council’s attorney Dion Connell refused twice to answer the question about whether the action was legal, double-talking around the question.

Where there are losers, there are also winners — count Jose
Huizar and Paul Krekorian among them.

Huizar’s reward was Perry’s Energy and Environment Committee
plus a redistricting map that gives him the most lucrative parts of downtown when it comes to raising campaign funds and giving away taxpayer money.

Krekorian, who owes his election to community activists, got Parks’ Budget Committee and a newly redesigned South Valley district shorn of
Sunland-Tujunga where residents feel betrayed by his broken promises. It’s a handy district for him since he has bought a home in Studio City but can’t move in until the maps are final and he knows for sure he will be living in CD2.

In both cases, these are men who have proven their obedience to those in power is greater than their loyalty to their constituents.

It is going to be interesting to see whether Wesson’s whip and back room horse trading produces the 99.3 percent unanimity that Garcetti achieved – or whether in an election year with citywide offices and a majority of the Council seats up for grabs, it all becomes unstuck.

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Race, Ethnicity, Class and Hipness — How (NOT) to Draw City Council Districts

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anger over City Hall’s puppet Redistricting Commission’s draft maps has inflamed long-simmering resentments all over town over how communities of interest have been ignored deliberately as part of the political machine’s divide-and-conquer strategy. On Saturday, about 50 residents of the Foothill communities — Sunland-Tujunga, Shadow Hills,
Lake View Terrace, La Tuna Canyon, and Sun Valley — held an emergency meeting to plan how to fight being pulled from CD 2 (Krekorian) and divided up into CD 6 and CD 7 (Cardenas and Alarcon). These are dangerous people when they come together as they did in defeating corporate giant Home Depot’s scheme to change the small town western feel of their community. Curiously, the LA Times’ story Sunday on the redistricting controversy focused on CD4 (LaBonge) and seems to suggest that voting rights laws protecting race, ethnicity and communities of interest should also recognize keeping cool people together and not put them with “ugh, the Valley” types. You know like people who are Silver Lake hipsters should “have nothing to do with the flats in the Valley.” Or as Tom LaBonge, who would get Studio City, Sherman Oaks and Encino, put it:
“The only common thread here is the Canadian geese that
migrate from the Encino Reservoir to the Silver Lake Reservoir.” No insult intended, you can be sure. The Foothill activists are meeting again Tuesday night at the North Valley City Hall at 7 p.m. T
omi Lyn Bowling offers this account the passions that have been reawakened by City Hall’s redistricting dirty trick:


The
Sleeper Has Awakened

By TOMI LYN BOWLIING

They came from all kinds of backgrounds
with birthplaces all over the world. They have different religions, different
politics, and are individually different in so many ways.

So who would have ever thought that so much
diversity would melt away to become the common ground of fighting off a
corporate giant in what has become the hometown of so many passionate
individuals in Sunland-Tujunga.

But melt away diversity did.

United in a force unlike anything ever before
in the city of Los Angeles these people fought, and won! Victories had seemed
to come somewhat easy to this small rural mountain draped community as one by
one the land-use victories added up.

But it was the fight with mega corporate
giant Home Depot that the community is most well known for.

Fast forward to seven years later and this
once united community like so many others in LA had gone on with life and each
individual that once stood shoulder to shoulder had all but forgetten their
unity. Or had they?

It was a cold December 2011 day when whispers
began to fill the air that a change was looming. Off in their own individual
worlds barely an eyebrow was raised. Then January came and the change rose it’s
ugly head; the map that proposed to rip this formiddable community apart at the
seams. \

Like a well rehearsed orchestra these soulful
people dropped their individuality, forgot the squabbles, pushed aside their
personal lives and took their place shoulder to shoulder once again in
opposition to the maps proposed by the Redistricting Commission threatening the
last vestage of rural life in Los Angeles.

Vowing to protect that last rural corner of
this big city the awe inspiring community stands tall, strong, and united once
again, unwilling to allow the rules and their community voices to be ignored.

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The Battle for Hollywood: LA’s Moment of Truth

View more videos at: http://nbclosangeles.com.

Among the handful of ordinary people who made their way past security in time to get to the rooftop of the Hollywood Tower Monday morning for the mayor’s media event was Lucille Saunders, the La Brea-Willoughby Coaltion leader who has fought for years to make City Hall fulfill its legal obligations to report annually on the cumulative impact of development on the infrastructure.

She has gone to hundreds of meetings and events like Monday’s, marshaled the resources to sue the city and still fights on against the tyranny of elected officials like Antonio Villaraigosa, Eric Garcetti and Tom LaBonge who came together to show their undivided support of the controversial new Hollywood Community Plan Update (HCPU).  
In an email to a friend, Saunders reported what happened when she tried to ask the mayor a question:
“i made my way to the front and tony ignored my
hand, asking if there were “more press questions.”  i kept my hand
raised and he called on me.  i marched to the podium, moved the mike
from his mouth to mine — he could have fainted!!  i identified myself and
asked about the absence of infrastructure language in the hcpu.  he
handed the question to (Planning head Michael) logrande– who gave a non answer that the eir was
certified as having infrastructure in the plan…more b.s…that’s what was expected.  and what happened…i and others handed out media releases.” (HollywoodPlanOpposed.pdf)
AV-gg-tb.jpgThe mainstream media (rightly scorned as “MSM” stooges of the 1 percenters by the Occupy LA protesters) mostly ignored Saunders and the other protesters although Hollywood Patch used her quote “It is the Manhattanization of Hollywood,” and the NBC Los Angeles actually put her on camera in a report headlined “Hollywood — the Next Manhattan?” that actually comes to capturing what the controversy is all about.

“Hollywood Gazes into the Future and Sees Skrscrapers” echoed the LA Times but with a different slant entirely on the prospect of a denser, higher L.A. with a million more people on the broken roads and sidewalks, requiring more water from the diminishing supply flowing through leaky pipes and electricity from a polluting fossil fuel power supply.

“It’s part of a grand vision of concentrating
development around transit hubs — a doctrine Mayor
 Antonio Villaraigosalikes to call “elegant density.” The
principle can be seen in the pricey downtown condos built over the last decade,
and can be expected to be repeated in the future at current and future
transit-rich communities like Woodland Hills and the Crenshaw district,
officials say,” according to the Times.



“Ostensibly, Hollywood is a place where the payoff
for the region’s multibillion-dollar investment in a rail transit network
should be easy to recoup. After all, it has a pioneering past, and in recent
years it has seen a burst of new development that has revitalized its central
core.”

Hooray for Hollywood! 

All it takes is a bus stop or better yet a subway or train stop and the HCPU — intended to be a model for every other part of town especially those where developers and investors can profit handsomely — will provide a bonanza that allow for density bonuses allowing or 50 to 100 percent or even more in some cases. And it will be by right — no process for governmental approval or input from the public — and surely come with various tax breaks and redevelopment subsidies.

Virtually the only voice allowed to interrupt the cheerleading for over-development is that of urban affairs expert Joel Kotkin — dismissed as a “champion of traditional suburban developments” when he argues for healthy sustainable with a high quality of life — sort of like L.A. used to be before the politicians sold out to developers and trashed planning and zoning rules for their own benefit and the benefit of developers.

“This
is the endless Villaraigosa fantasy that you’ll get wealthy people to live near
bus stops,” Kotkin said, noting the total lack of evidence that the affluent are flocking to the city’s transit system.

Even Planning Commissioner Mike Woo, who lost his ultra-liberal idealism back when he lost the mayor’s race in 1993 Dick Riordan, one of the few outsiders to be elected to city office in more than a generation, could offer only this in support of the HCPU: 

“This is really what government is supposed
to be doing. We’re supposed to be guessing and dreaming
about the future. Who knows, in 2030, whether we’ll have been right.”

Say what? Guessing and dreaming — is that what planning is all about, is that what the government is supposed to do for you, guess and dream instead of protecting and serving and making sure things are getting better?

You can be sure developers will be generous to Garcetti and the rest of the political machine come election time just as the unions are grateful to City Hall for their sweetheart contracts and project labor agreements.

This is the moment of truth for Lucille Saunders and the other Hollywood residents who protested at the mayor’s dog-and-pony show and for all the rest of us love L.A. for the quality of our lives and who see the abuses of power and what they are doing to our town. 

We either get our act together for the 2013 city elections and put strong, courageous and independent people into office or we get of town before all our neighborhoods are a Skyscraper Hell — which is what the Westside will be most of all when the “subway to the sea” is built and Expo Line extended.

That’s what East Hollywood Neighborhood Councilmember Doug Haines meant when he questioned why a community that worked so hard to clean up crack dealers and prostitutes and slum conditions and now is having massive developments shoved down their throats.

“We feel like we’re being punished for sticking it
out,” he said.

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Want City Hall to Hear You? Forget Public Comment. Stop Writing Letters. Get a Lawyer.

Just like that with a snap of the fingers, good old boy Tom LaBonge got approval for the residents of Solar Drive high in the Hollywood Hills to install gates on their public street to keep out the riffraff, effectively turning the cul-de-sac neighborhood with the best viewing point for the Hollywood sign into a private gated community.

Not so fast.
On Tuesday, other Hollywood residents concerned about “corruption in city government … due process … land use matters … proper city planning” sued the city “to benefit the general public and protect a fundamental right under the California Constitution, the freedom to travel,
which is an aspect of the inalienable right to Liberty.” (SolarDriveLawsuit.pdf)
It helps to have a long-time activist who happens to be a lawyer like Richard MacNaughton on your side — in fact given the way City Hall operates, there is no other meaningful way to have your voice heard.
Just ask Tezozomoc,actress Darryl Hannah and the South Central Farmers who got their lousy 15 minutes to plead for the City Council to reject mayor-in-waiting Jan Perry latest dirty trick to clear the way for the land that was once the farm to be turned into the headquarters of a consortium of four garment makers, hereinafter referred to as the foreign-owned sweatshops.
Perry packed the Council Chamber with turquoise T-shirt wearing supporters of hers and the Council voted unanimously to back her without a single member having the courage or integrity to ask a question or make even the slightest statement. This tragic attack on urban farming (subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Garden’) is at its most favorable construction to the virtues of sweatshop jobs over the promised park and the late lamented farm a close call, yet no one on the Council had anything to say.
It was exactly the same on Sept. 16 when LaBonge’s motion to allow Solar Drive residents to privatize their street — unanimous approval without a dissenting voice for what the Runyon Canyon and Upper Nichols Canyon homeowners wanted.

Here’s how LaBonge justified the private gate in his motion:

“Unfortunately,
as a result of the traffic and the constant presence of visitors, the
residential n
eighborhoods
are facing security issues such as loitering, littering, drinking and smoking
in a Very H
igh Fire
Severity Zone.”

That’s all, just another favor for the rich without even an examination of alternative solutions to the viewpoint’s popularity, not a police investigation to determine whether the legal requirement of “serious continual criminal activity” is met to justify a street closure  is 

Even the LA TImes had trouble with this one, saying in an editorial:

“As long as
people have built homes in Los Angeles near canyon parks or along the seashore,
they have had to cope with the fact that their coveted private real estate
abuts prized public land.
The price for living near a magnificent view is having
to share it with the public … Residents near the Hollywood sign should resign
themselves to this reality — and stop putting up their own churlish signs
warning tourists to stay away. With the exception of gates to deter violent
crime in neighborhoods at risk for it, we do not support closing off public
streets.”

Citing the Vehicle Code, the lawsuit notes closures are allowed only when the “local authority finds and determines that there is serious and continual criminal activity based upon the recommendation of the police department.”

“Nowhere does the motion indicate any
serious criminal activity; it does not use the word crime. Thus,
the motion is unconstitutional on its face,: wrote MacNaughton.

He also points out it is a futile exercise since pedestrians still would have access to Solar Drive, moving the parking problem to Astral Drive and still allowing visitors to “engage in the loitering, littering and smoking while enjoying this ‘very popular overlook area with great City views.’ ” 

The Hollywood Sign is the city’s most popular tourist attraction and tourism is the justification for the downtown football stadium, rebuilding the Convention Center and mammoth tax breaks for luxury hotels but that question never came up.

It was just another day of a scofflaw City Hall. 

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Director’s Commentary on the ‘Temple of Democracy’

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”

In
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,
to L.A.

Some
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

Paul
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
services.

Some
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”

Three
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.

Some
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”

Fully
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.

Some
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”

Tom
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.

Some
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”

Richard
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
public.

Some
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
their colleagues.

“It’s $3 billion in good and service”

Leave
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.

Some
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
leader”

There
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
Development Corp.

Some
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”

Mitch
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.

Some
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.

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Continue reading Director’s Commentary on the ‘Temple of Democracy’

They Corrupted Reform, Beat Secession, Rejected Fair Elections — Maybe Boroughs Could Save L.A.

The one idea that keeps coming back through all the efforts to solve the fundamental political disconnect preventing L.A. from realizing its greatness is Boroughs — the diffusion of power from City Hall to the communities in a way that protects the rights of all, enhances the enormous diversity of the city and pushes us progressively forward into the 21st century.

Boroughs just might be an idea whose time has come.

A grassroots movement among Neighborhood Council activists has put together a motion for City Council consideration to explore the possibility of turning the city into a network of larger Boroughs each with its own government on local issues, each with a delegate to the citywide government. It would be a part-time government that would let ordinary citizens compete fairly without big money from special interests dominating elections and corrupting public policy.

The activists have done their research on how proposals for a Borough system of government came up as part of Charter reform and again during the San Fernando Valley secession era and again since, generating support from prominent political figures on the left, right and center: Wendy Greuel, Bob Hertzberg, David Fleming, Harold Meyerson, Raphael Sonenshein, Shirley Svorny, Janice Hahn and Tom LaBonge to name a few, .

Contrary to what many believe, I always saw Valley secession as a club to force City Hall to accept reforms. Needing to win a majority in the Valley and citywide, secession never stood a chance but repealing the law barring secession and forcing a public debate on the state of the city did create the impetus for Charter reform.

The City Council, in its parochial attack on City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, has opened the door to a discussion of what’s wrong with the current City Charter. 

Neighborhood Council activists have seized on that opening to broaden the discussion. Here’s some of the published material they dug up to get you up to speed on the Borough form of government: (KevinStarr.pdf)(hertzbergplan.pdf)(HaroldMeyerson.pdf)(Oakerson-Svorny.pdf)(Sonenshein.pdf)(DailyNews.pdf)(LATimes.pdf).

Here’s the proposed motion and the discussion under consideration by Neighborhood Councils throughout the city:

Motion: 

To
formally ask the City Attorney and Chief Legislative Analyst to study the steps
necessary to replace the current City Council system with a Borough
system in Los Angeles.

Discussion:

We
have all seen the pitfalls of the City Council approach to running this
city.  Decisions about local issues are made by Cuncil members who are
far away, have no connection to the voters and needs of the local area,
and often make their decisions based on politics rather than policy.

Recently
the Council asked that the CLA study separating the charter-mandated
duties of the elected city attorney. They asked for the CLA to study
allowing the City Attorney to continue to prosecute misdemeanors while allowing a  Council-appointed person to provide all other duties, including
land-use opinions and other legislative opinions.

The
council argues they needed this to streamline the legislative process. Perhaps the best way to streamline the legislative process is to
restructure the legislative branch of the city instead of eliminating an
independent city attorney.

Given
the clear mandate of the Charter with regard to the duties of the city
attorney, a Charter Amendment will almost certainly be required to
accomplish the council’s effort to consolidate even more power.

There is an entirely different Charter amendment that we wish to be studied.                                                                                        

As
the city was facing a viable secession threat in 2002, several people
including Wendy Greuel, Tom LaBonge, Janice Hahn, Bob Hertzberg and
David Fleming advocated that the City Council be replaced with a borough
system.

I’m hopeful that it will lead to a system that creates local control and brings government closer to the people,” Hertzberg said.

Under
the borough system, the current City Council would be eliminated. In
its place, a borough system would divide each existing council district
into 5 pieces representing roughly 50,000 to 60,000 people (roughly the
size of a typical NC).  Each borough would vote on its own local issues —  including land use issues.  Citywide issues would be decided by a vote
of all of the borough presidents.

A
borough member position would be part-time, would not come with a
pension or a massive salary. In addition, because of the small size of
each borough, local candidates would be able to get their message out
even in the face of special interest spending.

This would truly bring government closer to the people and further from special interests.

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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

Desperate Tom LaBonge Dirties Himself with Last-Minute Smear Campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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