LA WATCHDOG BRIEFLY PUT--You have to wonder how our City survives given all the shenanigans and mismanagement by the Mayor and the members of the City Council, whether it be bribery (excuse me, campaign contributions), the Exclusive Trash Franchise (the “Trashopoly”), the City’s $15 billion unfunded pension liability, or sexual harassment.
Today, we will comment briefly on each of these subjects in an attempt to ruin your weekend.
STRAW MAN LEONG--The Los Angeles Times reported that the District Attorney indicted real estate developer Samuel Leong for using straw men to launder illegal campaign contributions to Mayor Garcetti, local Councilman Joe Buscaino, three members of the City Council’s powerful Planning and Land Use Committee (Chairman Jose Huizar, Mitch Englander, and Gil Cedillo), and Supervisor Janice Hahn. While these politicians say they were duped, they sure went out of their way to expedite the zoning change through City Hall despite the negative recommendations by the Planning Department and Planning Commission. This sleight of hand resulted in a $25 million windfall for the developer as industrial property was converted into land suitable for apartments.
But two questions remain. Have these self-righteous politicians returned the $600,000 in ill begotten cash, or better yet, donated the money to a charity for the benefit of the residents and businesses of Harbor Gateway who will be impacted by this out of character apartment complex? And will the City revoke the zoning change that was obtained through what can easily be labeled as bribery?
TRASHOPOLY COST ESTIMATE DOUBLES--The bungled roll out of RecycLA has been a disaster, as service has suffered and rates have skyrocketed. There are estimates that the cost of the Trashopoly will exceed $400 million, almost double the previous annual cost of $225 million billed to customers of the waste haulers.
But where is Mayor Eric Garcetti, one of the major proponents of the Trashopoly? Other than a December 1 press release, he has been missing in action as our upwardly mobile mayor has been gallivanting around the country. But the victims of the Trashopoly should not expect much help from the Mayor’s office as Greg Good, one of the leading proponents of the monopolistic system when he was at the labor controlled Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, is now a high priced operative in the Mayor’s office.
CAN THE COUNCILMAN COUNT?--You would never know that the City had an unfunded pension liability of $15 billion after listening to Paul Koretz in the February 7 meeting of the Personnel Committee. He is adamantly opposed to lowering the investment rate assumption used by the City’s two pension plans from 7.25%, even though CalPERS is projecting a 6.1% return on its investments over the next ten years The lower investment rate assumption would increase the City’s annual required contribution to the pension plans, leaving less money to pay for salary increases demanded by the campaign funding leaders of the unions representing the City’s already well paid civilian employees.
By using an investment rate assumption (7.25%) that is higher than the expected rate of return on its investments (6.1%), Koretz is engaging in “intergenerational theft” as the City is shortchanging the two pension plans by an estimated $400 to $500 million a year. This added burden of this systematic underfunding will be dumped on the next two generations of Angelenos.
But then again, Paul Koretz is smarter than Warren Buffett.
HUIZAR GETTING A PASS ON SEX HARASSMENT CHARGES?--Sexual harassment is not to be tolerated. Three members of the California Legislature have been forced to resign by the leaders of the Assembly and Senate. So why haven’t the leaders of the Los Angeles City Council taken steps to expel Jose Huizar who admitted to an extra martial affair with a subordinate on his office staff? And why did this woman receive unwarranted promotions and pay increases at the expense of other more qualified people? And why hasn’t Huizar repaid the City for his legal fees that may have been as high as $200,000? Huizar abused his position of power and should join the ranks of Raul Bocanegra, Matt Dababneh, and Tony Mendoza, the three legislators from Southern California who forced to resign.
That’s All Folks, at least for now.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)