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Thursday, May 22, 2008

LA Democracy - Gone in Sixty Seconds

Damn. It's tough to be an idealist in this town.

Last Friday's Clowncil session was another new low in the suppression of public input. This city's budget is a big topic, and an important topic to those lucky/unlucky enough to live in the City of Angels. Last Friday, a lot of concerned Angelenos -- concerned constituents -- showed up dutifully to give their input before the full Clowncil's deliberations on the Mayor's budget. Folks from the Harbor area, folks from the Valley, folks from Northeast took time from their jobs to hustle themselves downtown and engage City government. Democracy in action - WhooHoo!
Said same commonfolks were then forced to sit through 2.5 hours of glee club presentations because there is no way of knowing just how long this weekly waste of time will last. Around 12:30pm, when all the glee was finally wrung from chambers, actual City business began.
With Dennis Zine presiding, general comments on non-agenda items went first. Speakers including Clowncil institution Zuma Dogg were given the standard 2 minutes to expound. Zuma used his democratic right to go after Clowncil fee waivers (go get'em Zuma!) while the Channel 35/36 cameraman was obviously highly amused by The Dogg's showmanship.
The next item was the public hearing on the City budget - probably the most important item on the entire agenda. Zine then unceremoniously ordered public comment reduced to 1 minute.
There's a big difference between one and two minutes in public comment. If you have anything to say other than "Thank you sir! May I have another?", one minute doesn't cut it.
Before comment was allowed to begin, Bitter Bernie actually stood up and 'splained to the public that if they were there to talk about Park Rangers, they shouldn't bother because it had been handled. His attitude was that of a school teacher talking down to little children; his tone and body language implied threat. (really? yes.)
As the public attempted to make their many varied points about a variety of topics in sixty seconds or less, City Clowncil-kiddies ate lunch, chatted with parties unknown, left the room altogether, text'd parties unknown, or exchanged goofy faces with one another. A scene reminiscent of squirming school children just before recess that left no doubt Bitter Bernie had been talking down to the wrong group.

So that's it. The pretense of City Democracy disappearing into the ether in sixty seconds. I know... I know. "SO WHAT'S NEW !!?!"

Nothing, and that's the sad part.

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14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said:

The Supes with three times as much money to spend and only 5 of them, spend even more time on presentations every single session (wonder what their calligraphy fees cost?), and don't allow Public Comment at all -- except maybe once a month. As long as the public can watch them, they're not required to let them talk. Sounds like Bernie would love it there just fine.

So don't bitch about the Council, Girl, lessen' you be cut out altogether.

Which I wouldn't mind 'tal, seein' as that would mean no dogg (amusing the cameraman at Ch 35 is NOT the purpose of paying our Council and all their staffs to sit there, I might add), and it will be a very happy day when those 3 Whining Women of Van Nuys will be ne'er seen again. If I were Erik, I'd follow the example of the Supes, limit those Nattering Ninnies to one day a month (they say the same thing over and over anyway), get the business over with and out of there to deal with constituents.

May 22, 2008 3:07 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

This is why Los Angeles city council members are being touted as the worst in the history of this city just like the Mayor. Never before has this city had a group of brainless jerks who behave immaturely and arrogantly and are the highest paid. Is it any wonder they are made fun of on every talk radio show and the cable shows from Bill O'Reilly to Hannity & Combs to Lou Dobbs. They are an embarrassement and when they walk in a room everyone makes laughable remarks about them all. Not one leader in the entire group.

May 22, 2008 3:09 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Petra. It's pretty normal to cut comment back to a minute when you have tons of people there, otherwise you run out the clock, cut into other meetings, and only half the people get a chance to speak.

But why were there dozens and dozens there?

Because one bitter, failed ex-General Manager of a city department sent out a 100 percent false "sky is falling" e-mail to all the neighborhood council people telling them something was going to happen, that WAS NOT going to happen. He wasted the time of 100 or more dedicated volunteers trying to scare them about their community council budgets, when the budget committee had already fixed the matter the week before. People took time off work, carpooled, shelved other volunteer assignments - all for nothing.

Maybe it's time to start deporting angry, mixed up former city executives when their term is up, along with criminal illegals.

May 22, 2008 3:21 PM  

Blogger Mayor Sam said:

Can someone get us that email?

May 22, 2008 3:45 PM  

Blogger PetraFried in the City said:

MS - you didn't get a copy? I did. I thought anyone who even sniffed around a neighborhood council at one time got a copy.

If no one else produces it, I'll get it to you when I get home from my other job.

May 22, 2008 3:52 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

It wasn't just an e-mail, it was a full-blown featured op-ed in the mid-week Citywatch newsletter.

http://www.citywatchla.com/images/briefing/cw6-39.pdf

Here's part of the ill-informed text of "Chicken Little" Nelson's scare tactics. Not only was he wrong, but he sends his minions there on the wrong date (the next Monday was actually the date for the budget vote). Note also that buried deep in his story, he finally admits that it's all based on "reports" he's heard -- i.e. gossip from his last couple lackeys at City Hall -- of cuts "up to one-third" (but that the committee hasn't ACTUALLY discussed any real numbers). Thanks, genius!

What committee is going to send something up to council suggesting cuts, with "no specific numbers" suggested or attached. And this is a guy who used to be a departmental GM??? That explains a heck of a lot about why


-- -- --
Neighborhood Councils Alert !

Funding Cuts of as Much as a Third could Quiet Your NC Voice: Use It or Lose It!

By Greg Nelson
This Friday, May 16, the City Council will devote its meeting to hear from the public regarding the mayor’s proposed budget for the new fiscal year.

It is very important that the voices of neighborhood councils, their board members, and stakeholders be heard before or during this hearing. If you cannot attend in person (the meeting starts at 10 a.m.), you should send your e-mail message to the City Council President Eric Garcetti at Councilmember.Garcetti@lacity.org and to your own council member(s) asking them to read your message aloud at the meeting. Tell them that you want them to help let your voice be heard.

Don’t forget that each neighborhood council gets three City Hall parking passes that you can use. You will need to find out who in your neighborhood council has the passes.

At risk is the $50,000 that each neighborhood council receives through the Neighborhood Council Funding Program. The Council’s Budget and Finance Committee has been seriously discussing reducing that amount. No specific numbers have been discussed during the meetings, but there are reports that the cut could be as high as one-third.

No one from the neighborhoods has yet spoken at any of the committee meetings. If the silence continues, it’s fair to assume that the council members could look at the neighborhood council funds as easy prey to be had for the taking.

If you choose to speak out, here are some points you could make:

(yadda, yadda, more BS about what's at stake), then . . .

Deep cuts could quiet … at the least, lower the volume on … the voices of LA’s neighborhoods. Now’s the time. Use yours or, lose it.

(Greg Nelson writes for CityWatch.
He can be reached at: gregn213@cox.net.)

To send an e-mail message to any City Council member, follow this format:
Councilmember.[lastname]@lacity.org. It would also be helpful if you would send a copy of
your message to DONE’s Interim General Manager BongHwan Kim at
BongHwan.Kim@lacity.org. He needs to have your messages with him during the private
discussions that he has with the council members. ?

May 22, 2008 4:19 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

That explains a heck of a lot about why . . the city's NCs are so screwed up, since he was at the helm of DONE's sinking ship when most of them were being birthed.

May 22, 2008 4:31 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

I'm sorry, but the City Clowncils SHOULD have cut the NC's 50,000 dollar per year budget by let's see, 45,000 dollars. Give them 5,000 and a handshake. What a waste of money.

May 22, 2008 5:31 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Definitely send Sharon Brewer and the other two natterers and zuma, that Arnold Sachs is getting up there, who take up 15 mins. of Council, staff, City Attorney, Clerk, Security, etc. each week, a bill for their time: a lot of the budget crisis saved right there.

What's that, some 1 1/2 hours/week of all that paid time, must come to ten thousand dollars a month or more.

While those self-important dummies are telling Council to cut their staffs and own salaries, these fools are wasting all that money, just annoying the taxpaying public.

And they are part of the reason time limits have to be imposed on others: but it's unfair that these clowns know how to milk the system to get their own 5 mins., while those with real issues get 1 min. because they're not stupidly self-important enough to speak at "General Comment" first.

May 22, 2008 6:14 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

4:19

It must have been terribly painful to you that the NC's weren't cut. Did it ever occur to you that the effect of the NCs contacting their CM's before the budget hearing may have been to steer them away from cutting the NC's? If you listened to any of the Budget Committee hearings and read any the reports they requested from the CAO, which are available online, you would know how serious the cutting was.

It's a Politics 101 lesson.

You can act quickly to stop the unwanted action and win, or wait until it's too late and lose.

May 22, 2008 9:39 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

Listen, Nelson, hiding at 9:39 p.m. - proving the negative isn't something even your bureacrat's spin can swing.

As someone explained much better on this blog a couple days ago, City Council members - who work much more closely with NCs than the Mayor ever has or will - were not going to be allow themselves to be made into the villains who took away NC money, when the Mayor made a big whoop-te-do that he wasn't going to. Think what you may about them, they're not patsies for Villaraigosa's fake heroics.

That's LOGIC 101, so you failed 'Politics 101' by missing the prerequisite course. Politicians aren't suicidal, even the stupid ones.

(You'll also note that in you OWN panicky column, NO ONE from NCs came to budget meetings, so where's the "act quickly" there?) Do you have some inside track that NC people inundated the members of the budget committee with e-mails about their funding?

NO, because there wasn't any. Nearly all of the budget meetings were over by the time you, Nelson, screamed about the sky falling, and most NC people believed they were in no danger before that - BECAUSE Villaraigosa said their funds would be safe.

So WHY would they be contacing budget committee members in advance, when they believed there was no danger.

In fact the City Council's budget committee meetings actually had the effect of making LESS cuts than the mayor ordered, not MORE.

The NC budgets were NEVER in jeopardy. You just wanted to whipup a frenzy to make believe you can be a leader of NC people. You never were while you were being PAID big bucks to do it. You sure AIN'T now.

The little boy who cries wolf doesn't get elected to lead the shepherd's union.

May 23, 2008 9:02 AM  

Blogger PetraFried in the City said:

There is no doubt that Mr. Nelson was completely off-base with his article on supposed NC funding cuts. When the lets-all-panic email came through my inbox, I ignored it. The vast majority who received it also ignored it. It was just a few who likely weren't paying attention to the budget process before the message who actually responded.

This is quite the blunder on CityWatch's part. Their editorial staff is usually more on the ball. And Nelson has really discredited himself... one has to ask "why?" It makes no sense.

May 23, 2008 9:45 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said:

"There is no doubt that Mr. Nelson was completely off-base..."

Thanks, Petra, that pretty much sums up his carreer at DONE, too.

May 23, 2008 12:03 PM  

Blogger PetraFried in the City said:

12:03, that's pretty harsh. A nice set-up line from me (ta-da!), but harsh.

Nelson did lead the charge to create NCs. I for one have to thank him big-time for that. As someone who doesn't work for or with government professionally, I've learned more about government in 8 years now than I ever would have in my entire life. And the community I live in has become decades more politically sophisticated than it was before NCs.

I can't speak to the gentleman's tenure as DONE GM much. I will say that I did not like what was going on one bit just before Nelson retired, though.

I just don't get what's going on at CityWatch right now. It *used* to be a little cutting edge, more informative, more opinionated. Now it's pretty hack. I do eyeball it twice a week, but I'm mostly bored by it nowadays.

Well, anyways.....

May 23, 2008 1:07 PM  

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