Trail of LA's Urban Blight Leads to City Hall

POLITICS - My morning exercise typically consists of being startled awake by my son articulately screaming, “Mommy, Daddy … milk!” I then stumble down my walkway to pick up the latest edition of the LA Times, and feeling my blood pressure rise as I read the headlines while climbing the steps to my porch.

“LA Sues US Bank Over Blighted, Abandoned Homes,” were the bolded letters that caused me to sigh in exasperation, knowing that the next 10 minutes of my life would be stolen by an article that was sure to leave me shaking my head.

"On Monday, Los Angeles officials accused US Bank of illegally allowing [many properties] to deteriorate into slums. The civil allegations found problems in the way US Bank handled 1,500 home foreclosures and cited more than 150 homes that had fallen into disrepair. The city is demanding that the bank clean up vacant properties and improve conditions for families living in others."

Bravo! Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and his office are taking the bull by the horns, targeting urban blight as a major quality of life issue in the City, right?

There is no way I’m going to take the word of the LA Times alone on this issue. I fire up my laptop and navigate to the City Attorney’s website to see what they claim is their official reason for pursuing this civil suit. Before I can reach any of the press releases or background information I trip over an interesting banner.

At some point—while my head was down and most of us weren’t even looking—the City Attorney’s Office began soliciting responses to an old-fashioned pen-and-paper survey about public safety issues in Los Angeles. I decided that I’d come back to the US Bank issue—because I’m suddenly disappointed that, with all the millions of dollars spent on law degrees in the City Attorney’s Office, not one lawyer knows about Survey Monkey, an inexpensive market research tool used by the highest-ranking Fortune 100 companies.

With all the technology available to conduct surveys, why the Stone Age poll?

It only took 45 seconds of skimming the document for the stone to hit me in the head: The so-called survey is actually a push poll! The City Attorney had commissioned his own ostensibly unbiased survey not to gather data for analysis and future action but to spin the sucker survey taker on topics important to the City Attorney.

“Do you believe that ignoring misdemeanors and not prosecuting them will lead to more crime? More violent crime? More serious crime?”

“In recent years, the Mayor and City Council have repeatedly voted to increase the Police Department’s budget (to $1.2 billion), while simultaneously cutting the City Attorney’s budget, including reducing the funding for criminal prosecutors. Do you have any concerns regarding the reduction in the number of criminal prosecutors?”

Great questions—not the typical classic lie-based push poll. Apparently our City Attorney feels that he must resort to patented political spinning to get this message out. And it’s actually the fault of Los Angeles’ residents that we must be intentionally suckered into a marketing ploy to tickle our civic consciousness.

Shutting my browser and tossing the newspaper, I thought of how distracted we all remain by the tantalizing prime rib national political stories while ignoring the sexy bologna of local politics that affect our everyday lives. Blight, not Bain Capital … suffering parks, not Super PACs … City Council shenanigans, not Congressional filibustering … is what impacts our lives most.

So, applause for City Attorney Trutanich for going after the absentee landlord that is US Bank. A side-eye to the same City Attorney for using our tax dollars to commission a push poll. And shame on us too …  the residents of Los Angeles … for consistently missing that which is in front of us—and should be confronted as such.

Finally, a reminder to self: I really need to start exercising in the morning.

(Jon McDuffie is a writer, political and small business consultant and a retired Los Angeles Firefighter. He is also a contributor to CityWatch. These blog comments were posted first at eaglerock.patch.com)

Vol 10 Issue 58
Pub: July 20, 2012