Last updateMon, 25 May 2015 2pm

LOS ANGELES Wednesday, May 27th 2015 12:44


  • WHO WE ARE-Nearly half of Los Angeles just gave itself a raise. Following a wave of state and local minimum-wage bills and initiatives, Los Angeles became one of the largest cities to dramatically raise its hourly base pay and join Seattle to hit the magic $15-an-hour demand pushed by labor and community groups nationwide. The City Council…
  • ​City Snookered by Westfield Billionaires

    Jack Humphreville
    LA WATCHDOG-In March of 2014, the Herb Wesson led City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti approved a 25 year, $48 million giveaway to help the $28.5 billion Westfield Corporation finance its $250 million development, The Village at Westfield Topanga. (Photo) But this subsidy championed by Councilman Bob Blumenfield was hardly necessary as The Village…
  • Slick With Denial: ‘Self-Regulation’ and the Latest Oil Spill

    Judith Lewis Mernit
    HISTORY LESSONS IGNORED-On Wednesday, May 20, the day after a Santa Barbara County fire inspector discovered a stream of contaminated crude oil flowing onto a pristine segment of the Southern California coast, a group of researchers published a study linking the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to a mass die-off of bottlenose dolphins. The 46…
  • Scaremongering about the Patriot Act Sunset

    Jameel Jaffer
    FALSE CLAIMS EXPOSED-In a last-ditch effort to scare lawmakers into preserving unpopular and much-abused surveillance authorities, the Senate Republican leadership and some intelligence officials are warning that allowing Section 215 of the Patriot Act to sunset would compromise national security. (One particularly crass example from Senator…
  • Still the Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave

    Ken Alpern
    ALPERN AT LARGE-It's been another year and another successful Flag Placement at the West Los Angeles National Cemetery. Crawling out of bed in the morning on a holiday weekend to show up bright and early for a show of American patriotism and respect to our veterans and fallen heroes, the region and nation saw yet again how the Boy Scouts, Girl…
  • Retaliation: VA Police Target Veterans

    Robert L. Rosebrock
    LOS ANGELES – Recently, I was interviewed by John Ismay, an Iraqi War Veteran who is the “Veterans and Military Issues Reporter” for Southern California Public Radio. We met at the Los Angeles VA to discuss the never-ending misappropriation of land at this largest VA in the nation, within our nation’s capital for homeless Veterans. We were…
  • City Controller’s Grandstanding DWP Audit is the Real Waste of Ratepayer Dollars

    Dennis Zine
    JUST THE FACTS-City Controller Ron Galperin’s Grandstanding DWP Audit results were finally released. Unfortunately, the conclusion and political spin that came afterwards from the controller was misleading. Here are the FACTS: The DWP’s Joint Training Institute and Joint Safety Institute are administered by DWP managers and representatives of the…
  • A Place Where ‘Special Interest’ is NOT a Dirty Word

    Denyse Selesnick
    MY TURN-We need to have a new word to differentiate the villainous “Special Interest” that everyone is always complaining about and the “Special Interest” that almost all of politicians and civic and social activists have adopted as a cause. It is impossible to have passion about multiple issues. I know I have mentioned this before, but it seems…
  • Alert! America’s Small Businesses are Being Screwed by Big Business

    Robert Reich
    THE ECONOMY-Can it be that America’s small businesses are finally waking up to the fact they’re being screwed by big businesses? For years, small-business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses have lined up behind big businesses lobbies. (Photo: small businesses in Studio City) They’ve contributed to the same Republican…


  • Can Strawberries Help Fight Cancer?

    Christian Cristiano
    WELLNESS-There have been a number of studies over the years that could show evidence of strawberries fighting off cancer. Tong Chen lead a study…
  • Study: The Best Way to Quit Smoking … Bet On It

    Francie Diep
    WELLNESS-Oftentimes, money speaks louder than words. Apparently, that aphorism applies to cigarettes too. A new study finds that money incentives…
  • Exercise Can Help Anxiety … Here’s How

    Christian Cristiano
    WELLNESS-Statistics show that over 3 million American adults suffer from anxiety and there is no evidence that number will be declining any time…

ICYMI-Amy Schumer shows Dave her vagina

Remembering Ann Meara: 1929-2015

The Star Spangled Banner … like you’ve never heard it before









LA: City Where the Buck Never Stops

NO ONE IN LA EVER TAKES THE BLAME - Mayor Villaraigosa, the 11% Mayor who could balance the budget with his frequent flyer miles, has a long tradition of empowering a rotating cast of Deputy Mayors and General Managers in an effort to distance himself from his legacy of non-performance.

The City Council, completely impotent in its ability to direct city staff, resorts to motions ordering studies and reports as tools of coercion and then settles for the City of LA tradition of dividing the spoils by 15, regardless of need or relevance.

Commissioners, appointed by the Mayor, posture and pontificate, sometimes with acknowledged irrelevance and sometimes with significant political power but most often with Mayoral direction and benign neglect. Claims of significance are often challenged by reality.

General Managers, also appointed by the Mayor, find themselves caught between a term-limit restricted Mayor and a Civil Service hard place. Critics claim that they often serve as simple cannon fodder and Mayoral expeditors.

Navigating the treacherous press conference waters of LA’s City Hall operations are the “clients” who make the city run, the developers, builders, architects, engineers, transportation specialists, land use lawyers and consultants who advise the Mayor and his team.

Consider the latest dust-up at LA’s Department of Building & Safety (LADBS).

First, a local community member games the LADBS and initiates almost 200 Fence Height complaints against his neighbors, resulting in fees, fines, and penalties that then draw threats of garnishment, liens, and other legal action.

Then Council President Eric Garcetti intervenes and introduces a Council Motion that proposes solutions. He also sends a letter to LADBS General Manager Bud Ovrom “asking” him to hold all cases in abeyance while the issue is resolved in City Council.

Four months later, Bud Ovrom finds himself in hot water when Code Enforcement Bureau Chief Dr. Grace Harper, a 33 year veteran of LA’s civil service, simply rejects Garcetti’s request without notifying him, responding with an explanation, or even acknowledging receipt.

“It’s simply illegal for our department to hold code enforcement cases in one area in abeyance while still pursuing cases in the rest of the city,” Harper explained, “because that would result in charges of selective prosecution.”

While the irony of responding to charges that complaint driven code enforcement results in selective prosecution was lost on Harper, she defended her department’s actions by referring to their legal mandate to investigate all complaints but could not identify any statute or code that supports her position.

As for Ovrom, formerly the Deputy Mayor responsible for two of the city departments currently under Federal investigation, he finds himself navigating tough political waters. He has the Mayor on one side who simply needs to get to the end of his term, he has a City Councilman on the other side who needs to show the world that he is a credible candidate for Mayor, he has the Feds behind him investigating his department, and he has a retaining wall of civil service protected lifers in front of him that know he will soon be gone and it will be business as usual.

Off to the side are the “customers” who are the “business as usual” and they are known as the Development Industry Advisory Committee (DIAC). From Latham and Watkins to Gensler to California Home Builders to Englander, Knobe & Allen, these are the folks who meet regularly with Deputy Mayor Matt Karatz and GM Bud Ovrom to steer the ship.

Meanwhile, Councilman Eric Garcetti has tendered a City Council President-to-General Manager request that flatly gets ignored, he has trusted Council District staff who reassure him that all is well, and he has dismissed complaints from the community because he naively thinks the system is working.

It isn’t.

The Mayor’s office accepts no responsibility for the upside-down priorities that classify the developers and consultants as the “customers” while balancing the budget on the backs of the people who invest in homes and businesses in the community.

The Commissioners are hardly representative of the public, serving at the Mayor’s pleasure (and sometimes at his displeasure), typically handling consent agendas filled with fodder for press releases.

The City Council is tolerated by Departments that still divide the city into 15 regions, assigning a “handler” to each Council District to keep the politicos at bay by dispensing constituent treats equally. These buckets of asphalt and hot-spot support activities keep City Council incumbents seated and sated.

The General Manager is a political hire, serving at the Mayor’s pleasure. Sometimes the Mayor sends in a Deputy Manager to take over as GM to calm the troops in the wake of a disaster or Federal corruption investigation. Deputy Mayor Jaime de la Vega left City Hall and walked across the street to take over the LADOT and Deputy Mayor Bud Ovrom left City Hall to “handle” Villaraigosa’s attempt to “build our way out of this recession!”

Councilwoman Jan Perry looks at the revolving door of political impotence and complains that the problems stem from term limits. She points out that it is impossible to have a long term vision for the City of LA if all the work must be done in two mayoral terms.

Perry notes that term limits destroy any institutional memory and empowers lobbyists who have been around for a long time, elevating their insight and guidance in value.

Meanwhile, LA’s Code Enforcement is a General Fund activity, one that is subject to the Mayor’s cost recovery mandate, resulting in a predatory relationship with the people the City of LA is supposed to serve.

It is against LA’s municipal buck-passing landscape that the public must ask some tough questions:

Why is the LADBS rejecting requests from the public to participate on the LADBS and Planning advisory committees while Primestor Development, KPFF Engineering, California Home Builders, and RA Build Commercial LL enjoy unfettered access?

It’s because they see the developers as the client and the public as an obstacle.

Why won’t LA Deputy Mayor Matt Karatz and General Manager Bud Ovrom find the time to meet with the public, the residents of Los Angeles, the nearly four million people who are the reason for City Hall?

It’s because they know that there is no penalty for ignoring the public.

How does Eric Garcetti hope to position himself as a credible candidate for Mayor if he can’t get the GM of LADBS to acknowledge his communications, if he can’t get LADBS to accommodate his request for an abeyance, if he can’t get his staff to keep him informed of the reality on the streets, and if he can’t solve a simple Code Enforcement problem in his district.

He can’t, because he is unable to establish himself as LA’s “The Buck Stops Here!” candidate.

(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: You can also find him on Twitter and on Facebook.)

Tags: Stephen Box, Rethinking LA, City Hall, Los Angeles, Mayor Villaraigosa, Bud Ovrom, Eric Garcetti

Vol 10 Issue 15
Pub: Feb 21, 2012