Thu, Jun

The People are Cynical and Disengaged. Here’s Why

CITYWATCH - Back in the early to mid-90’s when then LA Councilman Joel Wachs was promoting his neighborhood council idea, he said that the public had become disengaged. They have become cynical about their government. They believe no one is listening. They don’t trust us, he said.

Nearly 20 years … and 95 neighborhood councils … later, the public is still disengaged, is still cynical and still doesn’t trust their government. Here’s an example of why.

The Bloomberg news folks published a report this week reminding LA taxpayers that they are still “footing an annual bill of almost $14 million for a convention center expansion that was projected … (promised) … to be self-supporting 26 years ago. Emphasis mine.

“America’s second most-populous city,” the report reminds us, “pays $48 million in annual debt service on $417 million in outstanding bonds for a 1985 addition to the Convention Center”

And, ya know what  folks … only $34.2 million in taxes are allocated to the center. And … a quarter of a century later, the $14 million difference is still being picked by the City’s general fund … which faced a $485 million deficit this year.

So, aside from deepening the distrust in our electeds and reinforcing the skepticism in City Hall promises, why is this reminder from Bloomberg so important and timely? Because we’re being asked yet again to support the issuance of more debt … and being promised “it will not cost us a penny” … to build a football stadium downtown and in the process reconstruct a major portion of that same Convention Center.

Here’s Bloomberg: “The cost came to light as the City Council is being asked to issue more debt for a $1.4 billion football stadium and convention center expansion. Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc., the company controlled by billionaire Philip Anschutz, wants to tear down part of the convention center to make way for the stadium and build a new addition, paid for with $350 million in bonds sold by the city.”

Combine the Bloomberg story with the non-responsive June 17 letter from CAO Miguel Santana and CLA Gerry Miller to Councilman Bill Rosendahl and one need not search too far for the answer to why such a large chunk of the public remains skeptical and unsold on the downtown football stadium proposal.

Let’s be clear. I’m a football fan. I want a stadium and an NFL team in LA. I was a 12-year LA Rams season ticket holder when the Rams were LA’s team.

But what I am not … and I think what much of LA does not want to be … is Charlie Brown. Not prepared to be fooled by slick Lucy yet again. Football yanked away at the last minute. Landing on our collective backside one more once because we buy into the smooth pitch and ignore City Hall’s history of unkept promises and the laundry list of unanswered questions.

AEG, the Mayor and the Council have mostly ignored the general public on the stadium issue. Haven’t felt the need yet to make their case to the taxpayers-in-general.

Expensive by-invitation splashes and the sports media only cover a portion of those concerned about the economy and the financial health of Los Angeles.

Power politics and backroom leveraging being what it is in Los Angeles, I’m not suggesting this stadium project can’t prevail without the full support of grassroots LA. I do suggest, however, that the road to approval would be a lot smoother if the public were made a part of the process and … if the process was more transparent and less illusive.

Take the people seriously. Respect them. Cop to the sins of the past and explain clearly why and how they will not be repeated.

Watching you all dance on a dime can be entertaining, but keep in mind that it’s our dime … and that we take seriously.

(Ken Draper is the editor of CityWatch. He can be reached at: [email protected])   -cw

Tags: City Council, AEG, Convention Center, Bill Rosendahl,

Vol 9 Issue 50
Pub: June 24, 2011