Tue, May

Soft Corruption Leads to Embarrassment of Riches


@THE GUSS REPORT-Los Angeles is thankful to the federal government for locking up our corrupt sleazebag politicians and their enablers inside and out of LA City Hall with more indictments, plural, on their way. 

But as I wrote the other day, every politician who voted in favor of the crooked land development deals of indicted LA City Councilmember Jose Huizar, whether blindly or knowingly, must be held accountable, including when they either seek re-election or a new office (like Herb Wesson, Mike Feuer, Paul Koretz, et al). And there are plenty of reasons to send each of them into retirement or, in their parlance, careers as lobbyists. 

Aside from the satchels of cash, casino chips, booze and girls that Huizar and prison-bound former Councilmember Mitch Englander took in exchange for their votes, whether out of greed or reckless dissatisfaction with their family lives, there is an embarrassment of riches that all of these politicians are responsible for, and it is playing out along a 3.1-mile strip of Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks and Encino rather than in far needier communities around LA. 

For decades, the poorest LA neighborhoods have been “food deserts,” described loosely as having a lack of access especially to fresh fruits and vegetables as well as new supermarkets, farmers markets and casual (i.e. other than fast-food) dining options that former Councilmember Jan Perry valiantly tried to remedy. Some of this dearth was caused by the destructiveness of the Rodney King riots in April of 1992 and LA’s failure to rebuild those destroyed communities since then. 

(But they sure find ways to build bribe-induced, Chinese-funded luxury hotels and condos, don’t they?) 

In LA, bribery and political self-dealing, including the “soft corruption” of politicians hiring their spouses and kids, or those of their cronies, into lucrative government jobs for which they have zero or threadbare qualifications are things that take politicians’ attention away from the one job they have: to provide basic government services on a consistently fair, honest, transparent and equitable basis. 

Their collective failure is glaringly evident along this aforementioned strip of Ventura Boulevard. Take a guess at how many magnificent, new and modernly designed supermarkets we have along it.  

Here’s a clue:  you have an embarrassment of riches in your neighborhood when the fifth nicest supermarket is the recently renovated higher-end Gelson’s in a comprehensively renovated shopping center. 

Let’s roll, though I would caution those of you whose elected officials have failed to bring these amenities to your communities that your anger may rise and have you asking why we are paying these politicians to keep failing us?  Why didn’t they get their pal Huizar to bring these stores here? 

At the corner of Hazeltine and Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks is a Ralphs Supermarket that opened about five years ago. It is a beautiful modern glass and steel building with the two levels of subterranean parking, a bank, pharmacy and Starbucks. It is such a good-looking structure that, if situated on the other side of the hill, could be a swanky club or high-end sushi joint. 

But too much is never enough. 

Just .4 miles west of it, where an ancient, crumbling car wash stood until recently, another magnificent building awaits its new occupant: a Whole Foods Market. Now let’s not judge, but one would have to go a whole 1.3 miles to reach the Whole Foods on Sepulveda or a whole 2 miles to get to the one on Riverside. With turns and all, that’s three Whole Foods Markets within 3.8 mile. 

And we are just getting started, my friends. 

Another .7 miles west down Ventura is a soon-to-open Pavilions with a bank, pharmacy and in-house Starbucks, subterranean parking and similarly modern architectural beauty.  

Want more? 

Let’s roll two miles further west to Encino, where another Ralph’s is purportedly being transformed into an Amazon Go store, described by the company as “the first store of its kind where no checkout is required. Customers simply enter the store using the Amazon Go app to browse and take the products they want and then leave. The store is partially-automated, with customers being able to purchase products without using a cashier or checkout station. 

If you can’t find it, it is still being renovated directly across the street from — wait for it — another Gelson’s. 

For those keeping score, that’s four sparkling new supermarkets and a renovated Gelson’s in all their kombucha and cashew-milk loving glory along a 3.1 mile stretch of Ventura Boulevard. It’s nice for those of us in the area but is yet another reason to vote out LA politicians seeking to keep themselves and their families on the public dole because it’s all here rather than in neighborhoods that need these stores more. It is because these politicians thought first and always about their lot in life rather than yours.

And here are two more nuggets to keep in mind: 

Because of the abundance of these magnificent new stores in just one neighborhood, there’s competition. And where there’s competition, the prices will be inherently lower. While some of our politicians will claim this is “white privilege,” it isn’t. It is deprivation – by them – of the non-white communities they took an oath to serve. 

We really need better people in public office. Not their staffers, not their spouses and not their kids.  Run from politicians who grub your tax dollars for that. 

That is unless you’re okay with this type of soft corruption.


(Daniel Guss, MBA, is nominated for a 2020 Los Angeles Press Club journalism award for Best Political Commentary, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Cumulus Media, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pasadena Star News, Los Angeles Downtown News, and the Los Angeles Times in its Sports, Opinion and Entertainment sections and Sunday Magazine, among other publishers. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Cartoon: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.



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