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
Fong explains that, without computers, there’d be no way to keep up with the dramatically increasing demands of the council and Villaraigosa for more and more plaques and proclamations. Sometimes, he says, he has to turn out the custom-lettering at a rate of one certificate every six minutes just to keep up.
He is a fan of the calligraphy service, saying, “How do you recognize someone for what they do for the city that you can’t put a dollar amount to?” And that’s also noted by Carrie Imai, president of the Society for Calligraphy of Southern California, who says “People love to be singled out by someone in office.”
Taxpayer advocate Vosburgh has a different view: “People in government will say it’s peanuts. But there is a boxcar full of peanuts” being spent at City Hall.
On July 1, Wendy Greuel will become city controller, replacing the termed-out Laura Chick, who is being tapped by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to watch for fraud and waste as $50 billion in federal stimulus money pours into state coffers. Greuel has promised that she, like Chick, will go after waste, even slamming the $29,000 per year City Hall spends on Zen Buddhist “breathing exercises” for city Housing Department employees. Yet Greuel, with her colleagues, eagerly funded that perk in the first place.
Rosendahl says, “If it comes down to fixing the pothole or giving out a certification, I’ll fix the pothole.” Except that’s not happening. The city faces a decades-long backlog of unrepaired streets and 10,750 miles of broken sidewalks. But on March 27, Council Chambers was aflutter, as usual, with a crowd awaiting their Friday proclamations.
The first went to Nichelle Nichols — Lieutenant Uhura on the Starship Enterprise. A bit later, Greuel perkily introduced the Southern California Mediation Association, which the council honored by proclaiming “Mediation Day” in Los Angeles.
The group represents mediators who earn more than $400 an hour providing dispute-resolution services. Greuel gave a hand-worked scroll to them for doing what they are paid, extremely well, to do.
An online list of Mediation Association members hints at why taxpayers fork over $1 million each year for proclamations that might go to a local hero, or just as easily, to power brokers and insiders. For example, the Mediation Association includes as members James Adler and Mark Ameli, who contributed campaign money to Cardenas and Villaraigosa. And Adler’s firm, the politically connected Irell & Manella, has given thousands of dollars, overall, to the campaigns of Council members Janice Hahn, Greuel, Garcetti, LaBonge, Perry, Smith and others.
“Mediation is the way to heaven, right?” Tom La Bonge grinned to the crowd. As with every Friday, after about an hour in which they did not conduct any serious city business, the council had greatly reduced its stack of proclamations. In a different room, a new round of City Hall calligraphy was already under way.