Update: When will Occupy L.A. get driven off government grounds? How they're avoiding it, here.
Just now, the L.A. City Council unanimously approved a joint resolution to officially “support” the Occupy L.A. demonstration and “demand accountability and results from the banks we invest taxpayer dollars in.” (Full text after the jump.)
Cut to late last night, when — after a three-hour General Assembly meeting run by Occupy L.A. on City Hall's south lawn — an activist named Julia Wallace passed her smartphone around a small group of people perched on the hillside.
“This is from Yahoo! News,” she said, distressed, pointing to a viral article on the screen. “Democrats Seek to Own 'Occupy Wall Street' Movement.”
Wallace had tried, during the meeting, to pass Occupy L.A.'s very first “declaration.” However, since she received several “blocks,” she was forced to take it back to the drawing board. (Hence the heated after-party on the hillside.)
Wallace wanted Occupy L.A. to declare, as an entity, independence from any political party that accepts “mulltimillion-dollar donations” from banks or corporations. In addition, the proposed declaration requested that “those individuals that support those parties refrain from electioneering in the Occupy L.A. space.”
That last part set off an alarm among the fierce First Amendment defenders in the crowd — and you get quite a few of those, in a crowd like this — who felt it would “limit speech, not encourage it.”
So Wallace's declaration was blocked and tabled for another meeting. But its spirit, reenforced by a smaller followup debate that lasted into the wee hours, very much represents a new awareness among protesters that they're being painted by the media as cuddled up to the sympathetic, poncho-bestowing Dems on the L.A. City Council. (As well as the LAPD, who have steered clear of the protesters and even dropped off food.)
Their skepticism of the former — career politicians as high up as Obama who cater to America's wealthiest 1 percent, yet shower Occupy in praise — has, understandably, reached a more solidified state than that of the unions.
Word has quickly spread around camp of the City Council's corrupt ties with billionaire developers and history of handing out corporate welfare. As one LA Weekly commenter put it yesterday, with links added for reference: “Where's Occupy LA Live? Where's Occupy the Financial District? Hell, where's Occupy the Broad Museum Under Construction Across the Street?”
Which brings us to today's City Council meeting.
Of the dozens of public commenters who spoke before the resolution was passed, the majority heaped praise upon the council for their progressive stance on what many are calling the nation's most promising revolution since the Civil Rights movement.
Paul Murufus, a young protester who we profiled here, announced dramatically to the council: “What we want is economic justice. And what you guys have today is an opportunity to be on the right side of history.”
You mean, all we have to do is press the “Yes” buttons on our voting tablets and our constituents will love us again? Uh, yes please!
But a spare few (woefully overinformed) speakers brought up a good point: Not only does the anti-big bank portion of this lovey non-initiative not actually accomplish anything, but the council has been sitting on it for over a year and a half.
How convenient, now that Occupy L.A. has directed a national media spotlight onto the front steps of L.A. City Hall, that councilmembers are suddenly so concerned with the bankster sluts they've been happily waking up next to all these years.
Wallace herself spoke up to the City Council this afternoon.
“To act like this is something new is kind of like acting like Columbus just discovered America,” she said. And to close out her careful rant, she added, “As long as you receive money from the banks and corporations, you are standing with them.”
Another guy pulled out his guitar for a rousing original at the podium. “When cash can't buy your vote,” he sang, “we'll believe again in our leaders.” (At that, City Council President Eric Garcetti peered down his spectacles, said, “Sir, we can't quite hear you,” and moved onto the next speaker.)
Yesterday, ex-LA Daily News editor Ron Kaye blogged the council into a corner, re: the fluffy bank bullshit they've spun into the Occupy L.A. resolution. He links out to a very enlightening reality check from Gary Toebben, a member of the L.A. Chamber of Commerce. An excerpt:
Here is what the proposed banking ordinance will not do: prevent one single foreclosure.
The federal government oversees a heavily regulated banking industry. Instead of looking for ways to spend City resources on a task the federal government is responsible for doing, we suggest the City Council and staff concentrate on facilitating private sector job creation. Having a job is the first step to gaining and maintaining home ownership.
And that's The Business Perspective.
Further watering down the Responsible Banking measure today, councilmembers amended language that would have forced them to vote on it by October 28. Instead, it just has to go to the Budget and Finance committee for consideration by November 21.
In other words, say goodbye to the Responsible Banking measure.
Of course, the great thing about the meeting — which also happens to be the greatest thing about the Occupy movement, so far — is the overwhelming amount of involvement and spreading of information.
Beyond packed council chambers, between 300 and 600 online viewers tuned into Occupy L.A.'s live feed of the meeting. (A feed more often populated by up-nose shots of bored dudes in the media tent.) And even before the resolution was brought up — during everyday debate on plastic bags, city lighting plans, etc. — about 150 people were watching. Angelenos haven't paid such close attention to local government since the council threatened unionized DWP workers' fat pensions or AEG unveiled its snazzy plans for an NFL stadium downtown.
Bringing us to a more complicated decision for protesters: whether or not to align with unions.
Notorious local rightblogger Andrew Breitbart, for one, has been showing up to Occupy L.A. protests and pointing out all the pushy union leaders in the crowd to his giant audience of eager skeptics. Rumors abound that unions are paying people to populate the campout and marches.
Breitbart's got an obvious agenda, but the whole thing is undeniably eyebrow-raising: A few of California's most powerful unions — the same ones who put politicians into office with giant campaign donations, then use that leverage to protect their own interests — are on the front lines of the Occupy stakeout.
Average campers are decidedly split on aligning with these labor cliques. On the con side, California's unions are intrinsically tied into the rigged, moneyed election system that Occupy is revolting against. But on the other, unionized workers are a large (and loud) slice of the 99 percent — and is it really a bad thing to protect one's modest livelihood by whatever means possible?
That conflict came to a head last Monday night, when workers with Unite Here Local 11 asked Occupy L.A. to attach its name to a protest outside Hotel Bel-Air, where they were recently laid off, on Friday.
One protester who wished to remain anonymous described the scene to us, from his or her perspective, over email:
“Committee members stood up en masse on the steps crowding the mic as speakers voiced opinion for and against. Several people voiced concerns over union co-opting and support of entities that contribute to either of the two corrupt political parties dominating American politics. One person wishing to speak was forcibly removed by “security” and several others were out-shouted and their blocks ignored after several deliberations.
The chief argument against from blockers being that OccupyLA was never meant to endorse groups but that groups were to come to the occupation grounds to endorse and march with OccupyLA. There was a feeling and unease in the air after the GA adjourned that Democratic Party forces were at work and it caused anger amongst people who strongly identified themselves as pro-worker yet reject the current system entirely.”
A similar proposal by ex-Congressional candidate Marcy Winograd — identifying herself only as a laid-off teacher — was passed with zero opposition last night.
Winograd asked Occupy L.A. to join her and fellow teachers in a protest outside LAUSD Board of Education headquarters. She told the crowd, with all the vigor of an experienced campaigner, that the “massive underfunding of our schools” amid the state's financial crisis is a scheme to “break the schools up and sell them off to corporations.” (Aka, charter schools.) The crowd roared.
What a dream come true for United Teachers Los Angeles and the California Teachers Association! Who, let us not forget, have together proved the single biggest obstacle to reforming the dismal K-12 education system in our state.
Time will tell whether the OGs from the Tea Party were right in predicting the following:
“While the obsfuscation is happening, stooges will infiltrate and give superficial support, focus and financial backing to the targetted movement. In the tea party movement's case, it was the religious Republicans and Koch Brothers. In this case, it's many unions that cozy up to the Democratic Party (the organizations as quasi-human entities, not the members themselves) and Ultra Rich liberals who pretend to care, but frankly do not serve liberators and freedom seekers but rather the interests of some union leaders and the Democratic Party. Democrat, Republican, these parties are all part of the same corporate ruling system.”
But as of this afternoon, kumbaya levels are dangerously high. Hell, the City Council even included an amendment thanking the LAPD for their amazing work in response to the protests. Puke. Read the L.A. City Council's full resolution after the jump.
WHEREAS, Angelenos, like citizens across the United States, are reeling from a continuing economic crisis that threatens our fiscal stability and our quality of life; and
WHEREAS, “Occupy Los Angeles” is fueled by Angelenos from all walks of life who have come together in a demonstration of solidarity with and support for the national movement started by the “Occupy Wall Street” protests that began 17 days ago; and
WHEREAS, on Saturday, October 1S 2011, “Occupy Los Angeles” started a peaceful protest on the Lawn of Los Angeles City Hall that continues through this day, and “Occupy Los Angeles” demonstrators are working to secure permits to continue the protest; and
WHEREAS, over 70 additional “Occupy” protests have taken root across the Country, from large demonstrations in Boston and San Francisco, to dozens of smaller ones in between, with many more being planned every hour, including a large-scale “Occupy Colleges” movement set to begin at 12 noon today on college campuses across the United States; and
WHEREAS, the protest in Liberty Plaza called “Occupy Wall Street” released its first official Resolution on September so”, 2011, available at https://occupywallst.org/forum/first-official-release-from-occupywall-street/, providing an overview of the goals and unifying principles of the “Occupy” movement; and
WHEREAS, the “Occupy” demonstrations are a rapidly growing movement with the shared goal of urging U.S. citizens to peaceably assemble and occupy public space in order to create a shared dialogue by which to address the problems and generate solutions for economically distressed Americans; and
WHEREAS, the causes and consequences of the economic crisis are eroding the very social contract upon which the Constitution that the United States of America was founded; namely, the ability of Americans to come together and form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense of, promote the general welfare of, and secure the blessings of liberty for all, allowing every American to strive for and share in the prosperity of our nation through cooperation and hard work; and
WHEREAS, today corporations hold undue influence and power in our country, and the key to this power is the corporate claim to “personhood,” an opinion both U.S. Supreme COUl1 Justices Hugo Black and William O. Douglas declared should be reversed; and
WHEREAS, our economic system can only be called broken when one considers that currently, over 25 million Americans who seek work are unemployed; more than 50 million Americans are forced to live without health insurance; and, even using our current poverty measure that is widely recognized to be inadequate and outdated, more than 1 in 5 American children are growing up poor in households that lack access to resources that provide basic survival needs, such as food, clothing, and shelter; and
WHEREAS, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a “CDC Health Disparities & Inequalities Report- United States, 2011” revealing that income inequality in the United States is the highest in the world among any advanced industrialized nation, with wide-spread inequities in U.S. health outcomes by income, race, and gender; and
WHEREAS, over the past 30 years, both the average and the median wage in America has remained almost stagnant while the average individual worker contribution to GDP has soared to 59% and the economy has doubled, all after adjusting for inflation; and highest in the world among any advanced industrialized nation, with wide-spread inequities in U.S. health outcomes by income, race, and gender; and
WHEREAS, over the past 30 years, almost all the gains to the economy have accrued to the very top income earners-largely the top 1%, who now control 40% of the wealth in the United States, in great part as a result of policy changes that are reversible such as taxation; and
WHEREAS, the Institute for Policy Studies indicates that the top 1 percent of Americans own half of the country's stocks, bonds and mutual funds; and
WHEREAS, the 400 richest Americans at the top control more wealth than the 180 million Americans at the bottom; and
WHEREAS, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor has officially endorsed “Occupy Los Angeles” and “Occupy Wall Street” in a statement of support saying: “The Los Angeles labor movement stands with its sisters and brothers occupying Wall Street, downtown Los Angeles, and cities and towns across the country who are fed up with an unfair economy that works for 1% of Americans while the vast majority of people struggle to pay the bills, get an education and raise their families;” and
WHEREAS, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor statement of endorsement continues: “The Occupy Wall Street movement is mobilizing for a fair economy across the country including in Los Angeles. This movement is taking a stand against the corporate bullies, banks and investment firms that not only created our economic collapse in 2008, but continue to take advantage of it today, making billions in profits while demanding further wage and benefit cuts from American workers;” and
WHEREAS, Americans must resolve some of the divisive economic and social realities facing our nation in a peaceful way to avoid the further deterioration of our greatest asset -our human capital-and;
WHEREAS, in cognizance that one of the factors spurring recent violent revolutionary protests in the Middle East is high income inequality, though the sobering reality is that income inequality in the United States is even higher than that of some of the countries torn asunder by violent revolution; for instance, according to the C.I.A. World Fact Book, the United States Gini coefficient, which is used to measure inequality, is higher than that of Egypt's pre-Revolution; and
WHEREAS, the fiscal impact of the continuing economic crisis is disastrous to education, public services, infrastructure and essential safety-net services that have historically made America successful, with school class sizes growing while teachers are laid off and forcing Cities and States to make sobering choices that just a few years ago would have been unthinkable, such as how to cut hours and services from public safety provision, delaying or neglecting to maintain essential physical infrastructure including roads, sewers, and water and power delivery; and cutting services provided by our libraries, recreation, and park facilities; and
WHEREAS, one of the largest problems causing our economy to continue to flounder is the foreclosure crisis, with some banks continuing the use of flawed, and in some cases fraudulent, procedures to flood the housing market with foreclosures, such as the recent revelations of widespread foreclosure mismanagement by mortgage servicers who fail to properly document the seizure and sale of homes, in some cases foreclosing without the legal authority to do so, prompting the 50-state Attorney General investigation of foreclosure practices; and
WHEREAS, California has been particularly hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis, with:
• 1 in 5 U.S. foreclosures in California; and
• 1.2 million foreclosures in California since 2008, with a projection of a total of 2 million
California foreclosures by the end of 2012; and
• More than a third of California homeowners locked in an underwater mortgage, with few banks offering any type of principal reduction modification, even given Federal, State and City programs offering to split the balance of a modification with the bank; and
WHEREAS, the costs of the foreclosure crisis to California taxpayers includes:
• Property tax revenue losses estimated at $4 billion; and
• Local, county and state government losses to respond to foreclosure-related costs estimated at $17 billion –including costs such as the maintenance of blighted properties, sheriff evictions, inspections, public safety, trash removal, and other costs at $19,229 for every foreclosure; and
WHEREAS, on March 5th, 2010, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed the Responsible Banking measure, CF 09-0234 (Alarcon-Garcetti-Hahn-Parks-Reyes), which would create a Responsible Banking program for the City of Los Angeles, scoring financial institutions that the City pays to conduct City business along a Los Angeles-specific “Community Reinvestment Score” that measures the institution's Los Angeles investments in an objective, data-driven manner, for example, by measuring the amount of home loan modifications extended to Los Angeles homeowners, the amount and location of bank branches maintained throughout the City, and the amount of affordable housing dollars invested in the City; and
WHEREAS, the Responsible Banking program, a practical approach to ensuring accountability, would therefore provide an important financial incentive for banking institutions to 1) Invest more in our City and our citizens, particularly by stabilizing the housing market; 2) Provide our community development institutions and nonprofits with increased affordable housing funds, and 3) Provide incentive for additional economic development drivers to spur increased fair lending and equitable investment in Los Angeles, by leveraging a model similar to the federal Community Reinvestment Act;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, with the concurrence of the Mayor, that by the adoption of this Resolution, the City of Los Angeles hereby stands in SUPPORT for the continuation of the peaceful and vibrant exercise in First Amendment Rights carried out by “Occupy Los Angeles” and urges the City Departments responsible for completing the implementation plan associated with the Responsible Banking measure (CF 09-0234) that was approved by the Council on March 5th, 2010, which would address some of the concerns of the “Occupy Los Angeles” demonstrators by demanding accountability and results from the Banks we invest taxpayer dollars in, to bring the Responsible Banking measure for a final vote to the Council by October 28th, 2011.