LA's Micro-Corruptions Continue

@THE GUSS REPORT-Not all Los Angeles government corruption takes the form of envelopes of cash in casino bathrooms, thousands spent on dinners and bottle service and a "therapeutic massage" up in the comped suite facing the Vegas Strip.

Like LA itself, there is a little something for every conniving politician.

Borrowing from Peter to Pay LAPD

Remember Mayor Eric Garcetti and LA City Council gleefully thumping their chests about defunding the LAPD? After all of the hullaballoo, the hundreds of millions they promised to move from law enforcement to inner-city programs mostly never materialized.

Instead, much of it found its way last week back into LAPD coffers in the form of tens of millions of dollars in future overtime pay under the guise of avoiding police layoffs in 2021.

Future is in those overtime hours will be accrued in the coming years but not paid out for decades when those hours are cashed-out when officers' salaries and pension figures are much higher. Good for them, but not for those who believed Garcetti.

The LAPPL does splendidly for those it represents. But politicians representing LA's most impoverished and crime-ridden communities continue to punt, as they posture to replace Garcetti and seek his endorsement when he is termed-out next year, and don't want to anger him with criticism.

We shall see whether a Garcetti endorsement means anything in the next election or not.

Voters can remedy this type of micro-corruption at the ballot box like some Angelenos did last year by ousting David Ryu after one term on City Council in favor of Nithya Raman.

But Peter Is Already Out of Money

Another micro-corruption is the chatter that Garcetti and the Nury Martinez-led City Council discussed which debts they can delay paying, which is a pleasant way to say default.

When a borrower can't pay its debt, its credit rating goes down, and the cost of borrowing goes up. That doesn't matter to politicians because their salaries and pensions are guaranteed.

The City, County and State hope the Biden Administration will bail them out because California is driving taxpayers and corporations to fiscally conservative states like Texas and Florida, which also have no personal income tax. This trend isn't just happening in California. The entire New York Stock Exchange has threatened to move to Florida if that state moves forward with a rumored stock transfer tax. Palm Beach awaits.

Name Change

Another irksome sleight of hand is that the Paul Koretz-led Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee changed its name to Personnel, Audits and Animal Welfare, with its "PAWS" acronym remaining intact.

Do you suppose he lobbied to add "Audits" to the Committee's name after many years without it because he is running to succeed City Controller Ron Galperin, who oversees all audits? Koretz would undoubtedly like to create the impression that he's a numbers guy, a root-out-the-problems guy.

He isn't.

Among other things, Koretz road-blocked a thorough audit of LA Animal Services, the City's deadly pound, even though he was ordered to second a motion for it by former City Council President Herb Wesson. And just a few months back, Koretz approved a $1.5 million payout of donated money intended to provide care and comfort to homeless animals to an outfit called The Glue, LLC, for vague marketing, fundraising and website development despite it having no significant experience in those areas or even a permanent office location. Or much of a full-time staff.

We will soon see whether The Glue delivers on its promise to double donations. But even still, the micro-corruption here is that Koretz claims he doesn't have a copy of the proposal to justify that million-dollar payday.

And he wants to be in charge of audits.

If You Don't Know Who the Joke Is On. . .

Councilmember Joe Buscaino mistakenly thinks that the moniker "Joey Buckets" recently given to him by some of the better-informed City Hall gadflies is a compliment based on him posting to social media a clip of him playing basketball.

It isn't.

They gave it to him to imply he is a bucket of bodily waste for his heavy-handedness and failed policies in the City's southernmost District. 

There is also great skepticism about Buscaino's sudden posturing about a lawsuit to open public schools despite having been quiet about closures for much of the past year while private schools are getting the job done.

And if anyone knows why "Joey Buckets" uses a nighttime background image for 10 a.m. Zoom meetings that may or may not depict the District he represents, please let me know.

Just When I Had Something Positive to Report

Two weeks ago, this column reported on the remarkably well-organized COVID vaccination clinic based at Dodger Stadium.

We were told to expect an email automatically scheduling shot #2. We are still waiting for that email. We then heard in the news that if we don't receive it, "just show up" at the Stadium 28 days after shot #1.

This weekend, that clinic was temporarily shut-down due to a failure to secure enough vaccinations. And nobody in the local government knows the consequences of blowing the short window between the two shots.

Meanwhile, LA Times Remains Silent on Nury Martinez

Despite having a six-pack of massive problems in the City ranging from COVID and homelessness to corruption and finance, Martinez continues canceling City Council's scheduled Friday meetings, which are entirely online and could be used to confront its tidal wave of crises.

Those cancelations reduce public input and enable agenda items to be addressed in untelevised Committee meetings, which only a small cadre of tenacious civic critics follow. Martinez further squelches public input by assigning random time allotments for public comment to as few as 20 or 30 minutes per meeting regardless of how many people call in to participate.

And not a word about this from the LA Times, which is bizarrely preoccupied with dissuading the public from recalling its beloved Gavin Newsom, the soon-to-be-ousted California Governor.

Is it any wonder that the Times rarely talks about its weak digital subscription figures, let alone its dying print edition? At some point, its bazillionaire owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, will get tired of losing money as well as public confidence.


(Daniel Guss, MBA, was runner-up for the 2020 Los Angeles Press Club journalism award for Best Online Political Commentary and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Cumulus Media, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pasadena Star-News, Los Angeles Downtown News, and the Los Angeles Times in its Sports, Opinion and Entertainment sections and Sunday Magazine, among other publishers. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Photos: Robyn Beck/Getty Images; Michael Owens Baker/LA Times.     Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.