What was supposed to be a quick, easy, undetectable transfer of $1 billion in building projects throughout "blighted" areas of Los Angeles -- slated to change hands from six-figure L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency staffers to their six-figure City Hall buddies, where the whole lot of them could have at it -- has turned into a public spectacle of Charlie Sheen proportions.
(Well, Sheen for geeks and politicos. In which porn-star accomplices are billionaire developers and mysterious designer briefcases carry shady-deal documents in place of cocaine bricks. Not as cool, we know. But this one actually sort of affects you, so it might be in your best interest to do like the geeks and politicos and start giving a shit of porn-star proportions.)
For the third time since the January 14 attempt by the CRA to guard its redevelopment money from Governor Brown's proposed budget cuts, L.A. City Councilmembers chickened out yesterday and postponed a final vote on their end of the deal. Here's why:
Hollywood activist Bob Blue had filed a legal complaint with the District Attorney against the Los Angeles CRA after it failed to comply with certain "special meeting" requirements in California's Brown Act on January 14. He followed that up yesterday with a "cure and correct" letter to the CRA, represented by Attorney Dennis Winston.
According to a press release prepared by fellow activist Miki Jackson, at least, that was the City Council's reason for its most recent delay:
"A taxpayer "Cure and Correct" letter regarding Brown act violations at the CRA/LA Special meeting of Jan. 14, 2011, today (2/8/11) halted City Council's attempted consideration on motion transfer almost a billion dollars from the CRA to the City Council and then to an as yet undetermined "shell" entity in order to keep it from Governor Brown's attempts to use the funds for much needed City services for those taxpayers, like schools, fire, police and ambulance service. The item before the City Council today was based on the Action of Jan. 14, 2011 and should that action be found in violation of the Brown Act it could be nullified and any actions taken based it would be nullified as well."
"Brown Act violation" is certainly not something any rising politician (like council prez and mayor-to-be Eric Garcetti) wants on his resume. But Blue's legal complaint is just another log on the fire for the now-infamous deal, which has been publicly railed on by everyone from Governor Brown to the CRA's own advisory committees. For the City Councilmembers to get behind it would be career suicide.
However, their rigid no-wishy-washies sense of pride likewise won't allow them to admit the whole thing was a sham from the get-go, or even that they had no idea what it meant until now even though it was shady and self-interested and obviously so, making them just plain dumb, so they're stuck with indefinitely postponing the thing. It's so gloriously awkward that, we admit, we sometimes get malicious, overinvested butterflies. (The kind that make even more malicious, even more invested city people do crazy things.)
Because we're too close to the issue, we're going to go so far as to call it a bona fide Comedy Central "Roast," in which the roastee, sadly, kinda knows how true everything is, and is also not very clever under pressure, and thus has no comeback aside from "commercial break."
Here are the best of the burns:
• Governor Jerry Brown called the CRA a "piggy bank" that needs to be cracked open, and challenged it with the unanswerable, ruthlessly rhetorical question: "My message is: If not you, who?"
• California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, via spokesman Tom Dresslar, called the CRA-City Hall antics "needlessly provocative acts of gamesmanship that warp the status quo. ...Apparently, they don't think they have a case to make, so they decided to try and create facts on the ground."
• California Professional Firefighters President Lou Paulson: "The Redevelopment Agency is basically saying that developer profits are more important than schools, public safety, libraries and other core services."
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• Two of CRA's own Project Advisory Committees, which are elected boards mandated in each area the CRA deems "blighted" -- and therefore most familiar with every little thing the CRA does -- have come out in support of Brown wiping the agency out completely. The Hollywood committee called it the "poster child for getting rid of the constantly abused 'special meeting' provision in the Brown Act." The Adelante Eastside committee coyly noted that "this might be the first time elected officials have voted to, in effect, eliminate their own jobs."
• In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times pointed out that "they've never had to show they're worth the money. In fact, they've never had to show that their efforts produce any measurable net gain in property values or employment in the state, which is the whole point of having them in the first place."
• Last but not least, the Bob Blue complaint: "There is 'no free lunch' and money doesn't grow on trees -- It comes from the working class taxpayers of Los Angeles who are being asked to bear an unfair portion of the load while they watch their hard earned tax dollars squandered away on Billionaire's pet Projects such as $52 million for a parking lot."
Got one of your own? Roast away. No pressure -- until California Controller John Chiang comes out with his official roast on the thing, you've got all the time in the world.