CityWatch, Sept 21, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 75
THE ‘LEGAL MINIMUM’ STANDARD
The City of LA stands alone amongst other large cities in its commitment to establishing "legal minimum" as the standard for performance in access, civic participation, communication and the delivery of city services.
LA Weekly's Patrick Range McDonald details LA's latest "legal minimum" performance commitment in his exhaustive review of the evisceration of LA's library system, one that sees the library budget being reduced to the City Charter minimum.
While the Mayor bemoans the obstacles that prevent him from taking control of the LAUSD and leading the charge on improving the educational landscape for the children of Los Angeles, he partners with the City Council in turning an estimated 15,000 schoolchildren away from the library every Sunday and then again every Monday.
While the Mayor claims sweeping reforms in the City’s delivery of gang reduction and promises to invest in LA's youth by addressing gang violence, he partners with the City Council in closing the neutral gang-free libraries where students have a quiet homework haven after school.
While the Mayor promises to helping lead Los Angeles out of this economic recession by training young adults and adults for the jobs of tomorrow, he partners with the City Council in closing very popular internet access that offers job-seekers an opportunity to prepare for and locate employment.
Through it all, a City Hall spokesperson excused the Mayoral and City Council behavior by explaining "Tough choices were made." This statement is especially important because it serves as a reminder that the decisions were, indeed, choices. Not necessarily the choices of the people but they were certainly the choices of the Mayor and the City Council.
Missing from the City Hall spokesperson's defense is an explanation of why the "Tough Choices" and "legal minimum" standards weren't applied to City Hall and the motor pool, the travel accounts, the staffing levels, and the many redundancies and inefficiencies that the public refers to as unnecessary and wasteful.
Granted, the Mayor's office offers the public the opportunity to weigh in on the budget each year, most recently with an online survey. That survey revealed public support for maintaining budget commitments to the Fire Department, to Rec and Parks and to the Public Libraries. Unfortunately, that input was quietly ignored.
The people of Los Angeles are in the midst of a quiet dismantling of a Great City, the proverbial budgetary death of a thousand cuts.
The Mayor and the City Council are in the process of establishing a new standard in "legal minimums," one that threatens to result in the failure of a Great City!
The future of Los Angeles depends on our collective actions and our ability to work together to demand the effective and efficient delivery of city services.
"The library is not a shrine for the worship of books. It is not a temple where literary incense must be burned or where one's devotion to the bound book is expressed in ritual. A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas - a place where history comes to life." ~Norman Cousins
(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net. Disclosure: Box is also a candidate for 4th District Councilman.)