MAILANDER INSIDE LA-Mayor Eric Garcetti was in Washington, D.C. last week, before returning home to Friday's multiple shooting tragedy at LAX--the latest in a string of horrific and unsettling multiple shooting tragedies that also includes rogue cop Christopher Dornan and the Santa Monica shooter John Zawahri, all in this past year.
Am I mistaken, or should three multiple shooting tragedies in a single year become a cause for rising concern and perhaps even a security summit?
Not likely. Previous to the latest multiple shooting, Garcetti posted the usual odd Facebook photos: the stone-faced tarmac shot of him and the President (does the President not like to be photographed sitting down with our Mayor?), and also some shots of him horsing around with other folks from LA at various Washington landmarks.
Then, he came home, and here was this major, national-level tragedy. A grim day for all of us--but merely a day. This week, our Mayor is back to fun, fun, and more fun, with a Water & Power re-enactment of the LA Aqueduct bringing water to Sylmar and points south coming up later this week.
Where is the gravitas?
This is quite a cycle we're on: fun and hijinks, interrupted by terrifying moments of tragedy, and then, right back on the comic re-enactment high horse again.
Our legislators' mission to the nation's capital was muddled; and frankly, I believe LA would have been better off with everyone staying home and tending to local business.
Garcetti told those who would listen in Washington (did he mention many of the folks other than topliners Obama and Duncan?) that he wants to grow the airport without really growing it. Try as I might, and even though his visit came after a littering of ice bombs at LAX and just before last Friday's LAX tragedy, I couldn't find any mention of Garcetti's delegation discussing airport security at the world's sixth busiest airport at all. No, but he wants a people mover and he wants more LAX volume without creating more traffic in Westchester. He also wants public transit to access the airport more efficiently, bringing more people who can't afford taxis straight into LA, leaving the ones who can afford them free to go to Santa Monica.
To make for better public transit to and from LAX would mean that a still more vagrant level of tourist could rail into Downtown and Hollywood rather than feel obliged to take a $60 cab to Shutters or someplace less gritty than where public transpo might ferry them.
And in line with this hope for gritty makeovers, there was this other quixotic quest that Team Garcetti took to the Potomac: they want to develop the LA River around Richard Mereulo's old Taylor Yards--that bend in the creek that breaks bad around Cypress Park.
He likes to call this quest "fighting for the LA River." That's the way his team puts it up on Facebook for the fawning Facebook faithful.
But let's not pretend. Let's not imagine we are suddenly going to have a whitewater wilderness like the stately bucolic strip downstream from Harper's Ferry. Let's instead call it fighting for riverfront development.
To restore the river in a way that local stakeholders and tourists would find acceptable would likely take a cool billion. The work would create a spec development gold rush extending Atwater's decade-long makeover.
And even before all this, just before Garcetti left town, he spoke to a group of citywide neighborly types the City calls "Budget Advocates."
Pity the poor citizen of this weirdly-inflated pueblo who doesn't know DONE from BONC from Budget Advocates from EmpowerLA from the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners to the Congress of Neighborhood Councils from the various other danish and coffee splinter groups that constitute LA's obsequious and obedient neighborhood activist diaspora. None of these groups have any statutory ability to do anything whatsoever with regards to the City's budget, the City's finances, the City's land use, the City's planning, the City's river, the City's people movers, or even the City's professional dry cleaning. They are all largely the same 200 people--which about 14 from each Council district, out of Council districts of 267,000--rearranging themselves endlessly into kaleidoscopic committees, untethered org charts, and bafflingly internecine layers of paralytic praxis.
They go round and round and then sideways. They talk to hear themselves talk. They have their say and are glad to say it and are glad to receive certificates from people with real power, which they did in Council two weeks ago. They do some of what service clubs used to do, but are far more sanctimonious about their own work, which they imagine is ennobled simply by the fact that they are doing it.
Like nearly everything else involving neighbors in the City, their websites are generally a year behind. They go back to other organizations and report to them and post photos of themselves holding certificates or smiling with people who generally vote 15-0 on anything that comes before them.
If you want to engage the City, it's far easier to hire a lobbyist than to spin your wheels trying to do something at the DONE/EmpowerLA/Neighborhood Council level. But that's what the Council offices--and now, this Mayor--have learned to use the flimflam for: a buffer zone for increasingly disconnected, increasingly disempowered homeowners.
In fact, if you want to engage the City, it is also far easier to do what the Mayor did: fly to Washington, take a fifteen minute meeting with someone, and spend the rest of the time looking for conference rooms and monument sites for photo ops with people back home.
There are plenty of brilliant bankers, and lawyers, and doctors, and teachers, and aerospace engineers in LA--thousands of each--who know how LA grows jobs and solves problems in communities. But these people are either not easily fooled; and as such they are of little interest to the Mayor, who likes his activists malleable. So instead of engage the professional communities, Garcetti went to the City's most untested and disempowered constituents: the odd-jobbers, hopeful publicists, and would-be loyalists that constitute LA's Neighborhood Councils.
Antonio largely ignored Neighborhood Councils; but Eric Garcetti's mandate was so miniscule that he hopes to turn them into prefectures of loyalist dittoheads.
Without a mandate to do much of anything to the City of Los Angeles, he is engaging the city at its most microscopic level. He has now appointed his Planning Commission, which includes the Valley's top affordable housing, transit hub development, and secessionist conspirator, Richard Katz, and an insufferable affordable housing advocate, perpetually nervous poverty pimp Maria Guadalupe Cabildo.
You know what Katz has done--he's never met a monster development he didn't like--you know the way the Valley is. You probably don't know Ms. Cabildo, daughter of Mexican tailor. Cabildo founded the East LA Community Corporation, which wants, among other things, more rights for street vendors--they even stage street vending "summits." Ms. Cabildo has also tried to stand in the way of a development in Boyle Heights, and the developer has blasted her La Raza-laced rhetoric "inflammatory," "simply untrue," and "far below any ethical standard."
"We continue to be open to meeting with you to share more. In the meantime, I ask that you put an end to the false and distorted messages ELACC is conveying to the Community," Mark Sanders wrote in a letter to Cabildo earlier this year. He cc'ed Huizar and Michael LoGrande but forgot to cc Garcetti.
Any one of these individual voices--Katz's, Cabildo's--might be harmless as community organizers, but collectively on a civic commission they are quite a fright. I'm still trying to figure out why a Mayor would want the City's Planning Department to draw lessons either from Katz's ideas about how the Valley should be or Cabildo's poverty-centric vision for East LA--a place from which so many have emerged to become economically vibrant exemplars in LA, even without the benefit of heavily subsidized affordable housing boosts.
Their ideas about our civic life are ideas that require solutions rather than tender them. Both Katz and Cabildo should be welcome to continue to work community development on the sidelines as they have for many years. But at the civic level, they have already served as too-willing accessories to those developers eager to bring affordable housing boondoggles our communities.
These commissioners should be entitled to work the sidelines, where there is a good need for their work in pockets. But neither should be empowered to offer their narrow, expensive, poverty-centric planning visions to the entire Planning Commission of a great American city.
(Joseph Mailander is a writer, an LA observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He is also the author of Days Change at Night: LA's Decade of Decline, 2003-2013. Mailander blogs here.)
Vol 11 Issue 89
Pub: Nov 5, 2013