March 2, 2024 Your Source for Brentwood News

Column: What Next for LA?

By Nick Antonicello

The ongoing racism scandal that has engulfed and swallowed city government whole could be an opportunity in disguise to reform a badly broken municipal government that is detached from the realities of everyday residents of Los Angeles.

Here in CD-11, the discussion and debate has been about homelessness, high crime, political ideology and other issues such as the racism scandal which has set the contest on its ear.

There have been political overtones of racism in a legal dispute regarding the City of Anaheim and counter charges of a leftist agenda that is ignoring Venice and the rest of the district which while on the surface can be discussed and debated, the notion of real reform that is tangible needs to be truly examined.

For the size of the LA city council needs to be expanded, and we need to know if Traci Park and Erin Darling would fight for such a change.

The New York City Council is the lawmaking body of New York City. It has 51 members from 51 council districts throughout the five boroughs and twice the population of Los Angeles.

Since 2016,  New York City council members have made a base salary of $148,500. As of 2020, LA City Council Members receive an annual salary of $207,000 per year, which is among the highest city council salary in the nation. Regular council meetings are held in City Hall on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 am except on holidays or if decided by special resolution. With stipends and free health benefits as well as pensions for life, an LA City Council Member makes more than Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, Nancy Pelosi, Alex Padilla and Diane Feinstein as well as our local representative, Ted Lieu!

The consolidation of power in the hands of a few is at the core of the current scandal centered around private conversations about the gerrymandering of council districts that became public.

The notion of the LA City Council determining who they represent is almost as corrupt as they decide the size of the salary and benefits they receive.

For there is no comparable local government that is as generous as LA in perks for politicians, that fails to resemble any semblance of reality when you consider their cost to taxpayers.

The situation is even worse at the county level where a mere number of five individuals representing two million per supervisor or 10 million people is a larger unit of government than forty states?

For how does a gang of five accurately and responsibly manage a budget of some $40 billion dollars?

In the case of Los Angeles, their new spending package is nearly $12 billion with $1 billion earmarked for homelessness. But how is that money being spent and where do the candidates stand on reforming and fixing LAHSA, the gigantic bureaucratic entity that for all intent and purposes has absolutely failed Los Angeles?

And when it comes to the cost of running for office here in CD-11, especially the infusion of dark money that could play a huge role in the results, how do we know that the corrosive influence of campaign dollars is not playing a role in public policy decisions that are currently before the LA City Council?

For example, Douglas Emmett Inc., a real estate investment trust (REIT) that owns and operates 4,500 apartments in the West Los Angeles area and a great many in CD-11, has contributed over $300,000 to an independent expenditure fund operated by the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL) to support City Council District 11 candidate Traci Park. 

Is it in the name of good government and transparency that large sums such as this be allowed to continue when individual contributions by individuals are regulated and capped?

According to the LA Ethics Commission, $2.97 million has been attributed to the Park effort with $1.7 million in IE expenditures, $362,000 in matching funds and $821K in direct donations.

Erin Darling has raised in comparison a total of $681,000, of which $248,069.84 was in direct donations, $232,000 in matching funds and $201,000 in IE funding as of Thursday, October 13th.

For how does an individual donation of $500, which is quite large for most, possibly compare or compete with an IE infusion of $300,000?

Doesn’t that kind of money influence drown out any sense of reform or placing taxpayers first?

For the question is obvious, how much does it cost to touch some 250,000 residents of CD-11?

For does it take nearly $3 million dollars to get your message across to voters in the case of Park?

Nearly $700,000 for Darling?

And doesn’t independent expenditures in and of itself undermine the whole notion of a matching funds program for political candidates when one can simply bypass direct donations and give unlimited funding to the IE of their choice?

For the size of the LA City Council needs to be expanded, at least doubled for a more responsive and transparent city government.

Individual council members simply wield too much power and the influence of large dollar contributions to independent expenditures are too powerful and dwarf the voice of small dollar donors who get lost in the sauce of the embedded politics and government of Los Angeles.

By taking the council and doubling it, and even tripling it’s size would eliminate the need of neighborhood councils as the community’s voice would be larger and louder in an expanded size municipal government.

Trying to reach a council member today is the equivalent of trying to reach the President, an individual that is detached from average citizens and their voices. For access to elected officials is reserved for the financially influential and It is this reason and this reason alone I supported the notion of VEXIT, and having Venice once again become it’s own free-standing municipality, that would offer unvarnished and direct representation we see in smaller municipalities like a Redondo or Manhattan Beach.

For this racism scandal could not have occurred at a more opportune time, when voters are engaged in the campaign of selecting a new mayor and council member, and rethinking at the core and foundation what is really wrong with municipal government and its inability to get out of it’s own way.

Nick Antonicello is a longtime Venetian covering the race for LA Mayor and City Council in CD-11. Have a take or a tip on either race? Contact him via e-mail at nantoni@mindspring.com.

in Opinion
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