Tuesday, January 11, 2011

CityWatchLA - More Politics of Scarcity

CityWatch, Jan 11, 2011
Vol 9 Issue 3

Induced demand is a powerful political weapon and the people of Los Angeles are subjected to “either/or” proposals with such regularity that the current debate over the sale of LA’s parking assets is just another chapter in the ongoing saga of the impending budget crisis.

As the streets of Los Angeles collapse and another Operation Pothole gets underway, City Hall is quietly moving to sell off income producing fixed assets, this time positioning the “either/or” scenario as “either we layoff city employees or we sell off parking assets.”


The City of LA has been moving in this direction for years, ample time to conduct an open and transparent discussion of the proposed sale of city assets. Now we find ourselves racing against the ticking clock (another powerful negotiating tool!) and the City Council is rushing to make a decision while the public finds itself on the sidelines.

Tick, tick, tick!

It seems like yesterday that the people of Los Angeles were slammed with the “9% phone tax” ballot measure, positioned as a reduction of 10% from the then illegal fee that was being collected by the city but also positioned as necessary if the city was to continue to offer the same great service. All was forgiven and the city moved on...towards the edge of the budget crisis cliff. The law was broken but the people forgot.

It seems like yesterday that the people of Los Angeles were offered the “either/or” option of paying more for trash collection or suffering a shortage in public safety staffing. The people of LA bought into the “10,000 Police Officers on the streets of LA” mandate and the trash fees went up but the city of LA was in the middle of a budget crisis and the money was used elsewhere. Meanwhile, police officers are moving from patrol duties to clerking responsibilities, all in an effort to replace furloughed and laid-off civilian employees. The promise was broken but the people forgot.

It seems like yesterday that the people of Los Angeles were grappling with closed libraries, closed fire stations, fee increases, permit increases, shuttered cultural centers, loss of incremental tax revenue, strained infrastructure, and restricted delivery of city services.

Wait! It was yesterday! And it’s still happening today! How quickly we forget!

Through it all, the City Council gets the advice, counsel and support of the City Attorney while the people of Los Angeles get...well...a great view of the proceedings from Channel 35 and the option of dropping by council chambers for a moment or two of public comment.

Typically, in significant transactions between two or more parties, skilled representatives are at the table to advise their clients on the deal, the options and the ramifications of potential decisions.

In Los Angeles, the City Attorney (CA) is busy working more than one side of the table, advising the City Council, advising the CAO, advising the Department of Recreation and Parks, interrupting only long enough to remind the people of Los Angeles that the CA can’t offer advice or support to the residents, “After all, the people of LA aren’t the CA’s client.”

The current brouhaha over the sale of LA’s parking assets is simply another in a long series of one-sided, induced-demand, fire-sale crisis solutions that is fed to the people of Los Angeles who are out-gunned, under-represented, and over-burdened. That must change!

Somehow those deliberating over the fire sale of city assets as a short term solution to a long term problem have missed the successes of neighboring communities where parking income has been leveraged into community enhancements and streetscape improvements, improving the quality of life in their neighborhoods.

Well-managed parking assets combined with park-once valet options stimulate the economy, improve employment opportunities, and result in safer streets, all as a result of embracing parking revenue, not jettisoning it off as a short-term solution to a long-term problem.

While the complexities of parking asset development, funding, construction, operations and management are handled by the many city departments involved in representing the people of LA, one thing is certain; it must be conducted with greater foresight, transparency, accountability, and results.

From Orange County to Mammoth Lakes to the City of Bell, the arrogance of governance without oversight has demonstrated its fatal sting. Now is the time for the people of Los Angeles to demand representation and oversight, starting with a City Prosecutor with enforcement authority.

(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.)

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