By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
My downtown colleague Robert Greene of the Met News says it all has to do with the politicians’ face-saving tendency. He notes that the council‘s charter-mirroring ordinance also includes some additional council-censure details abstracted from, of all places, the statutes of the city of Moreno Valley. Cooling-off periods, for instance. But Greene also points out that the original attempt by certain members to grant the council the powers really to lean on its errant members was twice tossed on the trash heap -- lastly by the charter mavens, first by the silent council majority itself.
This has not been an easy year for our council, of course. First, there was the charter enactment, which few council members had supported and which many in hindsight so regret. Then there was the council president himself throttling discussion of the Rampart scandal, just when it looked as if the council might have something useful to say. So it’s unsurprising to see the panel taking interest in matters many others might consider delusory. With last week‘s vote on censure, they perhaps can convince a 12-vote majority of themselves that they are still masters of their own fate.
If not, currently, the city’s.
But what does being censured by one‘s peers really mean if you happen to be an elected official? It’s supposed to mean that you are, in your colleagues‘ eyes, an egregious scoundrel, more or less. But in effect, it also amounts to a negative popularity contest. Take the last two censure victims, for instance.
In 1976, Councilmen Art Snyder and Zev Yaroslavsky walked out of a council meeting, intentionally breaking quorum and denying a vote on a matter the others considered of prime importance (something to do with public works, as I recall). Yaroslavsky, at that point a scamp of a freshman member, had just begun to climb the greasy pole to respect and power in local politics. Snyder -- for all his virtues as a service provider to his district -- was official council bad boy. The censure was an impulsive action by their very angry counterparts, and had no effect on either man’s career. But had two highly regarded then-members -- say John Ferraro and Marvin Braude -- walked out, I believe that no censure vote would have been taken.
Power, however, is the best censure-proofing, and absolute power censure-proofs absolutely. Zev and Art were, at that time, fairly weak members. (If anything, their censure encouraged them to get stronger.) Almighty Councilman Richard Alatorre, on the other hand, subsequently got caught taking coke as a result of a hearing regarding his parental fitness. He almost scammed a huge MTA contract for the sake of a free roof on his house. His antics cost the city millions. And he did dozens of furtive council deals that only the members know about and which most would willingly forget.
But even in his last weeks in office, the word censure was never mentioned in connection with Alatorre. No one would have dared.