Mon, May

We Need Cred, Not Crud, in the City of the Angels


ALPERN AT LARGE-I've repeatedly considered credibility--"cred", for short--to be a critical "Vitamin C" necessary for a person, entity or even government to both survive and thrive.  Human beings need to have "cred" in order to willingly follow a leader, be he/she appointed or elected...and the City is going to have to confront whether it will lead by "cred" or by force. 

Lack of "cred" has brought down City mayors, state governors and even Presidents (at least in the polls).  Villaraigosa was brought down by his personal scandals and his inability to make the tough decisions when the budget called for it.  Gray Davis was brought down by his image of being "coin-operated" and inept.  G.W. Bush was shredded by Hurricane Katrina, blundering in Iraq and his inability to reign in Wall Street excesses. 

Similarly, Governor Brown, despite riding high in the polls, can and will be hurt by growing unhappiness with the California High Speed Rail initiative--particularly if an initiative to stop future bond sales for this project gets onto the ballot and passes. 

Furthermore, despite the press's glorification of the one-party Democratic rule in Sacramento, the concerns of environmental policies chasing middle-class jobs (and cost-of-living) out of the state will bring down that party's future (even if involves oil), a point that Joel Kotkin made in an article that also ran in CityWatch . 

Ditto with President Obama and his "Affordable Care Act", which HE chose to call "Obamacare" and which HIS repeated proclamations to delay this, implement that and the like make HIM appear to be more of a dictator than an elected, checks-and-balances-type President.  The Ukraine and Syria issues, whether one can or should blame the President or not, isn't helping the old "cred" either. 

So we have got a new Mayor (Garcetti) who's trying to make nice with his constituents (as he did with a townhall in the Westside a couple of weeks ago), and who is working with Councilmember Mike Bonin and others to bring Metro Rail to LAX, and is working with the greater political community to get more regional Metro projects funded. 

Another key issue is to fix our dilapidated streets and sidewalks and alleys...but while the problem is undeniably there, the "cred" that the City has is lost by years of giving away the store to City and DWP employees--such as those who arguably should have had a pay cut or been let go but who were switched to the DWP payroll (with a raise!) under the past leadership of then-Mayor Villaraigosa ... and then-City Council leader Garcetti! 

And now the current (and particularly younger) City employees are getting a raw deal, just like the rest of us, while City services become harder than ever to provide in a timely and effective fashion.

But I do give Mayor Garcetti a hopeful (some may say naive, others that it's only fair) dose of "lessons learned", but certainly he'll need to make nice with that one group of individuals who pay an awful lot of taxes yet constantly get derided by developer interests and by an enabling Planning Department:  SINGLE-FAMILY HOMEOWNERS, whether they live in mansions or modest homes or in condos. 

Attacking single-family homeowners when he needs them the most is as sad an idea as any, but when one thinks of how those who fought (and still do fight) the Millennium and Casden and JMB projects were treated--and abused--it becomes difficult to conclude that "cred" is something that City Hall has for a better budget, a better infrastructure, and a better return for ever-increasing taxes. 

And one need not be a "Grover Norquist-no-taxes-ever" kind of person to oppose bad tax spending.  Whether it's $1 billion for iPads from the LAUSD facility funds, or the trash fee hikes to pay for more police, the LAUSD and the City do appear to be ignoring its pension/budget/spending problems that are clearly tied to not treating taxpayers as partners but as unlimited ATM machines. 

And while it might be politically expedient for City Hall to scream about fracking, the minimum wage, paper bags and all that, the middle class is having its quality of life savaged by our "leadership", while those who are willing or positioned to fight the good fight are working harder than ever to stay in the upper 2-5% of income in order to afford what used to be considered "middle class".  

And the true "middle class"?  Now they're poor, and getting poorer, despite a political leadership that claims to be representing and helping them. 

And as JMB, Casden and other developers fill the election campaign coffers instead of what should be a much larger infrastructure contribution (combined it's hundreds of millions of dollars), it's not hard to figure out that: 


So now that election season is long over for the City of the Angels, are we just "tax monkeys" or "serfs" who exist for the enrichment of a few and at the behest of City Hall? 

Does the City Council and Mayor have the "cred" to tax us on infrastructure that we've already paid for, but which wasn't spent well and on what it should have been spent on? 

Or will Herb Wesson and the City Council start demanding equal access and time for taxpayers and neighborhood councils and homeowner/neighborhood associations as they do for developer and public union and chambers of commerce special interests?

(Like meeting more in the evenings, and under more open circumstances to allow working families access to meetings where input is needed and the big decisions are made?) 

After years of Hahn and then Villaraigosa, we're used to "crud" from City Hall.  Budget open houses are nice, but it's "show me the money" and "let us IN" with respect to implementing change. 

The time has come for "cred", not "crud", from City Hall. 


(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee.  He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected].   He also does regular commentary on the Mark Isler Radio Show on AM 870, co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us .  The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)






Vol 12 Issue 21

Pub: Mar 11, 2014






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