THE VIEW FROM HERE - Although the recent city council elections were rife with charges of corruption, the word remained undefined.
We had some rather bizarre accusations. LA Mayoral Candidate Rick Caruso pretended that Karen Bass’s openly disclosed scholarship for a Masters Degree in Social Work was corruption but his giving Garcetti’s Mayoral Fund $125,000.00 to get a project approved was legitimate. Sheriff-elect Luna said that his role was to cooperate with Board of Supervisors who were making sweetheart no bid deals with their friends and it was not to upset the politicos by investigating them. Meanwhile, no candidate mentioned the Thomas Girardi Scandal where the famed attorney had been bribing judges and ripping of his clients for decades. How can any citizen expect city hall corruption to find opponents in a judicial system which is fatally corrupt from the California chief justice down to the lowest clerk?
Corruption and the Media
Corruption can run the gamut from city employees’ occasionally using city owned vehicles for personal business to the entire city government operating as a criminal enterprise. People have mistaken Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis’s saying that daylight is the most effective disinfectant to mean that a free the press was the disinfectant. They ignored that freedom of the press included the right to ignore criminality and also included the right to promote criminal behavior in public officials. Brandeis may have been correct that once bad behavior is exposed, then that knowledge will work to end the misconduct. The implication that the media would undertake the task was misplaced. Since it was founded in December 1881, no one could say that the Los Angeles Times has been anything more than the mouthpiece of Los Angeles’ powerful elite. While the paper was being loosely overseen from Chicago, a few reporters engaged in investigative journalism, but once the esteemed billionaire doctor, Patrick Soon-Shiong, purchased the LA Times, it reverted to being Pravda West.
Although “benign corruption” is an oxymoron, it means official behavior which is illegal but is beneficial. Perhaps L.A.’s most famous example of benign corruption was former councilmember Tom LaBonge’s Bait and Switch scheme to add Cahuenga Peak to Griffith Park. LaBonge truly loved LA whereas most cretins on the city council only love themselves. His passion for Griffith Park was legendary. He saw the need to extend the park to the Hollywood Freeway. In order to purchase the land from the owner-developer, Fox River Financials, LaBonge had to raise $12 million. After no one was excited about purchasing the hilly scrub land known as Cahuenga Peak, which lies between the Freeway and Griffith Park’s west end, LaBonge promoted the falsehood that the land on which the Hollywood Sign sat was going to be developed, destroying the famous landmark. Even though the Hywd Sign is on Mt Lee and not on the Cahuenga Peak, LaBonge launched the worldwide Save the Peak campaign. People thought their donations would purchase the land where the H Sign rested and save it from demolition, when in fact there was no threat to the H Sign. The Bait and Switch scam was successful and with a few other machinations, Cahuenga Peak was added to Griffith Park.
Corruptionism Exists, When the System Itself Is Corrupt
When a system such as the city council or the state judiciary is itself corrupt as opposed to having a few crooks, corruptionism enters center stage. The city’s problem is not a couple councilmembers like Jose Huizar and Mitch Englander demanding bribes. That would be run-of-the-mill corruption. The city exemplifies institutionalized corruptionism because the city council operates according to a mandatory Vote Trading System where each councilmember exchanges his Yes vote on each project in return for Yes votes on any project which he places on the city council agenda. Penal Code § 86 criminalize that voting system. Any councilmember who bucks the requirement to vote Yes will not have any of his items approved. Council President Wesson actually took the time to explain why newly elected Mitch Englander was going to vote No and assured everyone it was a one time exception. Englander had allegedly promised a big donor to vote No.
When Cedillo was unhappy with Mobility Plan 2035 as it applied to his council district, he invoked the city council rule that he had exclusive control of his district, and thereby he threw a monkey wrench into Mobility Plan 2035 which covered all districts. CM Koretz, who was jumping around in his seat parece changuito, likewise sought a dispensation. The conflict was resolved by Wesson’s promising that later the council would unanimously approve modifications to the Mobility Plan in line with Cedillo’s and Koretz’ wishes. And so, it came to pass that Pharaoh Wesson kept his word and Mobility Plan was thusly modified.
City Council Corruptionism Gave Us The Homeless Crisis and Drove Out Family Millennials
A key component of the Vote Trading System is that each councilmember is the sole lord of his fiefdom. A councilmember can make whatever corrupt deal he wants with a developer and in return he can guarantee that the project will receive unanimous city council approval. Thus, mass destruction of rent controlled units (RSO units) proceeded unimpeded, throwing tens of thousands of poor Angelenos onto the streets. Hollywood and much of LA have become the stalking grounds for the criminally insane. In higher class areas, Spot Zoning escalated property values far above fair market value and out of the reach of middle-class families. If a family did purchase a home, it had to carry an excessively high mortgage to cover the difference between fair market value and purchase price. Wall Street loved it. Then, mega corporations started buying single family homes and keeping them off the sales market to reduce supply in order to increase prices and rents. The same concept which upset Teddy Roosevelt, i.e., cornering a market to drive up prices, is alive and well in Los Angeles. The city council loved the absurd escalation in property values as it meant higher property taxes and more loot to pass around among its cronies.
Foolishly ignorant employers never objected and some like Zuckerberg and other techie billionaires thought that densification would lower housing costs. Such economic tomfoolery can result in losing $700 Billion. November 24, 2022, CityWatch, How Zuckerberg Lost $700 Billion? Why Zberg could not foresee that mass destruction of poor people’s homes would result in a Homeless Crisis and the exaggerated cost of middle class homes would drive Family Millennials away from Silicon Valley and other major urban centers is unfathomable unless grandiose hubris took hold.
Corruptionism Flourishes When There is No Control
FTX is a current example. There were no controls on founder CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. They declared him the second coming of the Jesus H. Christ of the financial world who could do no wrong. He lost $24 Billion. Like Zberg, the Twitter Idiot Musk, and Bankman-Fried, the LA city council has no controls. In December 2016 when SaveValleyVillage attempted to constrain the City Council’s illegal vote trading system, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard Fruin made the city council’s actions de facto “non-justiciable.” (LASC # BS 157989) In other words, the city council could violate any state statute, it could ignore any city ordinance, it could trash any of its own council rules because its actions were above the law. If one wants to see the impact of Judge Fruin’s ruling, look at how rapidly after December 2016 the homeless encampments spread throughout Hollywood and look at the homeless death rate. (Don’t ask who pays the judges mortgages. It’s an old Los Angeles practice. MSN Radar Online, Nov 16, 2022. By 2021, corruptionism resulted in a net city population loss of 204,000 ppl. Finally, in the 2022 election cycle, everyone complained about the city’s ubiquitous corruption, but no one proposed a solution.
Power Tends to Corrupt, but Corruption Destroys
Los Angeles’ corruptionism springs from the nature of our city council system, where no one may vote No. Don’t expect the FBI’s Huizar prosecution to be anything except a passion play of illusion to deceive people into believing that something is being done.
(Richard Lee Abrams has been an attorney, a Realtor and community relations consultant as well as a CityWatch contributor. You may email him at [email protected]. The opinions expressed by Mr. Abrams are solely his and not necessarily those of CityWatch.)