City Council Triple Threat

cityhall8.06.jpgWhat the hell is happening with the Los Angeles City Council? Readers of this blog will note that many of the writers here usually praise the actions of our civil servants, especially those of Council President Eric Garcetti (blogging.la article search). However, in the last couple months a trio of highly questionable moves at City Hall have me questioning why there isn’t a larger backlash against them.

The issues at large:

  • Free speech restrictions, aka “Rules of Decorum” were proposed and agreed to by the City Council earlier this month that additionally limits the length of public comment, vaguely prohibits disruptive behavior, bans banners and placards from Council chambers, and a number of other unnecessary prohibitions.
  • Under the ironic shroud of “ethics reform” the City Council has proposed putting a measure on November’s ballot that, if passed, would extend City Council term limits from two four year terms to three “to reduce the power and influence of City Hall bureaucrats and lobbyists.” Other terms on the measure do indeed fall within what many voters would agree help keep corruption from City Hall, as you can see in this summary of the issue by Mack Reed at LA Voice.
  • On Tuesday the City Council held a special meeting “to consider a plan that proposes $41.3M in pay raises for cetain city employees and $10.4M more in retroactive pay.” As Mayor Sam points out, the public was given less than 24 hours notice of this special meeting.

In these three actions, City Hall has portrayed itself as the epitomy of what people fear about politicians: slyly trying to extend their own terms and pay raises, while making strides to limit the public’s right to address these issues.

9 Replies to “City Council Triple Threat”

  1. And all this comes as a surprise? Why is it that people are always fooled by the wolf in political sheeps clothing.

    Listen closely…. No matter how many potholes they fix, hands they shake, comments they post and rowboat races they participate in…. Wait for it….. They all want more power and more of your money to spend.

    IMHO, that is.

  2. To my friends at blogging.la:

    The adoption of rules of decorum does not limit the length of public comment–we have a council rule that allows up to 10 minutes of general public comment (this rule has been on the books for decades) and we consistently hear about 3+ hours of public comment each week on matters on our agenda–much longer than the Board of Supervisors, the Community College District, and other places. I love the vibrancy and openness of our public debate at council and in our commmittees and anyone who watches Channel 35 knows just how robust that is. The policy is much more open than other rules adopted by hundreds of cities around California–please compare us to those other cities, including Santa Monica, Norwalk, Pasadena, etc. Even Berkeley has had a code much longer than us. Whether we like it or not, we very openly said that the “n” word, the “f” word (unless used in a sexual manner, and even often in those cases) and other speech that we don’t like (and that kids who are visiting council are subjected to) are protected and we will continue to protect that. Please check out the council file at http://www.lacity.org if you have any questions and watch us on Channel 35 to see how open our public comment continues to be.

    Second, we have had a very open discussion of the extension of term limits and the strengthening of ethics laws in Los Angeles. We had over 17 meetings over the last three years on all but two of the ethics components and the term limits extension is something that Dick Riordan, the man who gave us term limits, has endorsed. Even the folks who are signing ballot arguments against the measure have said that term limits are too short right now. For me, it is not about personal power, as this is an incredible privilege and an incredibly demanding job. Los Angeles voted to change term limits at the state level once (when it was defeated statewide a few years back, it passed here), and the League of Women Voters was the group with the Chamber of Commerce that wrote this and presented it to the council. It is tough to go after the League of Women voters, about as anti-special interest a group as they come. It’s in the hands of the voters, as the mayor said, where it should be, but we have on live television, in open meetings, and with public comment consistently spelled out what this would do and the voters should have the power to strengthen our ethics laws and our term limits, as both contribute to special interests capturing power at City Hall, IMHO.

    Lastly, the pay raise is from a contract that has already passed (it was for the last three years). It is much less than the union is asking for, so without going into greater detail, it is no deal with taxpayer money to give away the bank. Good people can and will continue to debate what a good raise is, but this is the exact same numbers that all of our blue collar workers in positions paid for by the general fund received three years ago. For more detail, feel free to contact my office. All council agendas are posted online at http://www.lacity.org and I am always available for office hours appointments directly face-to-face with anyone who is interested in talking further. Keep up the good work and let me know what other issues are on your mind! I’d love to see the housing bond, our police hiring, our youth intervention/gang violence reports, and traffic improvement efforts discussed in the future.

    Eric Garcetti

    Last

  3. P.S. A great way to get council agendas for each of our 21 committees and our general meetings is by subscribing to the Early Notification System, which will email you the agendas that you are interested in. This is available at http://www.lacity.org/lacity161.htm

    Also, you can sign up for my newsletter at http://www.cd13.com.

    Third, I got all council reports attached to our council files (so you can read the same reports that we get as councilmembers in .pdf format) two years ago, so please avail yourself of this at our council file index at http://cityclerk.lacity.org/CFI/

    Finally, call 311 if you have any neighborhood needs or concerns. They can also connect you with departments like the City Clerk (who is in charge of agendas) or the City Administrative Office (which analyzes budgetary concerns).

  4. Eric, I hear you’re off on your first Navy Reserve gig? Kick ass and take names. When you come back I wanna see you do 50 push-ups at the next Talk Talk Talk event. ;)

  5. I beg to differ with my good friend the Council President on the term limits issue. Having had separate hearings on the matter over the course of several years and in several different proposals is not the same as having a reasoned debate over the actual proposal at hand.

    In this case, the extension of terms limits (from two to three) is called “establishing” a limit of three terms, which certainly misleads the average voter. (Can’t you just hear the conversation at the breakfast table? “…but I thought we alrerady have term limits… I guess I’ll vote for it.”) The language is misleading — and hidden down inside the package.

    We agree that voters deserve a yes or no vote on extending term limits. Some of us even think that’s a good idea. But we don’t think they should have to choose between extending term limits and “reforming” City Hall — though, to be clear, that is NOT what this proposal does.

    This Measure (Measure R for those of you who are taking notes) ties the term limit extension to a package of ethics “reforms” that have never had a proper public hearing, and were NEVER given to the voter-created City Ethics Commission for review.

    The City Attorney rightly points out that most of these proposals either restate existing rules (ethics raining is already mandatory under state law) or they actually roll back current laws. when this thing went on the ballot, Ricky said “The People of Los Angeles have been cheated.” Ouch.

    Perhaps the biggest change is that lobbyists would no longer have to register with the city until they hit a certain threshold of hours worked, so potentially they could be lobbying for weeks or even months — and even win favors for clients! — before being required to register.

    It is important to note that the League and the Chamber hired a leading law firm for lobbyists to write the rules on their behalf. Is it any wonder these proposals are actually regressive?

    Other proposals sound more powerful than they are — for example, banning lobbyists’ gifts and contributions to politicians. Good start. But what about banning gifts and contributions from the rich and powerful special interests who fund the lobbyists? Nobody’s trying to stop the flow of their dollars – and make no mistake, that’s where the big money is.

    And before they respond “we can’t just stop people from giving to campaigns! That’s a first amendment right!” You could easily ban contributions from anyone who has hired a someone to lobby the city for the past 12 months, or who has a case pending during the election cycle.

    And this is the real reason we deserved to have a public process about this issue BEFORE it got to the ballot: THE PEOPLE WOULD HAVE MADE THE RULES TOUGHER. Instead, we got this thing bumrushed through the council without input and without consideration. The fact that the Council rejected the city attorney’s advice to split the question — which he says would have made the measure even STRONGER — is a pretty good indication that they were committed to having a messy, confusing measure (with term limits hidden inside) on the ballot.

    So, while I have great respect my friend (and City Council rep) Eric Garcetti, I must respectfully agree to disagree on this one issue.

    Prop R harms the people of Los Angeles and I hope you’ll vote no on November 7.

    Jason Lyon
    Chair, Governmental Affairs Committee
    Silver Lake NC*
    (*ID purposes only)

  6. I’ll never write as well as Councilman Garcetti & Chairman Lyon so I’m just going to go with the sophomoric “Yeah, what Jason says”

    To Coucilman Garcetti, I don’t agree with many of your positions but I’ll always respect your endless contact with the community. Are you sure you don’t want to throw out your political agenda and start over as a Libertarian?

  7. I also have a problem with the term limits … it’s like voting yourself a raise while you’re still in office.

    The term limits, if passed, should not go into effect for at least 2 years.

  8. I’m with our good councilmember on this one. I wish we were getting rid of term limits altogether. It seems pretty sttaightforward to me.

  9. Thanks to all for commenting, especially to Councilman Garcetti for the lengthy rebuttal. I also appreciate that he keeps tabs with the public at large.

    My main bone of contention with the term limit extensions is that the bill is called “ethics reforms”. Voters who casually glance at this item on the ballot will probably agree to it based on this alone. While there has been “public discussion” about this, the reality is most people don’t pay attention to the day to day happenings at City Hall.

    What appears on the ballot should be as transparent as possible, but the City Council is deliberately trying to pull a Bush and call it something else. I have no problem with “leaving it up to the voters”, but only if you’re making efforts that the voters will know what they’re voting on.

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