Thursday, September 20, 2007
IN MY OPINION (Column)
L.A. City Officials’ Misguided Priorities—It’s Them vs. Us
By JON COUPAL
In Los Angeles there is a big gulf between what residents want and what they get from local government.
The Los Angeles City Council is considering a moratorium on new fast food restaurants in areas of the city where council members consider the population to be too fat. No fooling. The city is actually considering “health zoning,” an idea championed by Councilwoman Jan Perry.
This is the kind of “service” Angelinos get in lieu of something they really want such as well maintained sidewalks. The city’s sidewalks are crumbling faster than they are being repaired. Is a cracked and broken sidewalk in front of your home posing a hazard to you and your neighbors? Expect to wait decades for repair, unless, of course, you are willing to offer a bribe in the form of paying for half the cost of doing the work. Not a bribe says the city? What else do you call it when you have to pay extra to get timely maintenance that every taxpaying resident should take for granted? Councilwoman Perry’s zany proposal comes on the heels of an equally whimsical action by the City Council. Recently, Council members Janice Hahn and Jose Huizar were successful in passing a resolution calling on the police department to stop impounding the cars of unlicensed drivers, which is done according to state law.
The council members claim that they wish to avoid liability that could result from a two-year-old, out of state case in which a federal appeals court held that an officer acted improperly when he impounded a car that was parked in the owner’s driveway. The Los Angeles City Attorney looked at the issue twice, once after the initial court decision and a second time after approval of the resolution, both times declaring the court’s action had no bearing on LAPD officers who impound vehicles being driven on city streets.
It seems that while council members fear lawsuits over impounded cars, they are not concerned about the potential of an unlicensed — and probably unqualified — driver continuing to operate a vehicle and possibly injuring or killing an innocent motorist or pedestrian.
Still, this is what Los Angeles residents get in place of what they need, like synchronized traffic signals on the busiest traffic arteries. Every mayor in living memory has expressed an intent to use modern methods to improve Los Angeles’ traffic flow. And there have been a lot of studies, but many commuters fear they will die in traffic of old age before something is actually done to improve traffic flow.
However, city officials have their own priorities. During the fiscal year ending June 30, the city spent $1.04 million lobbying Sacramento. This, in spite of the fact that the city is already represented by many powerful lawmakers, including Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. The city paid to promote bills like one to provide drivers licenses to illegal immigrants — which may explain the motivation behind the Council’s no impound resolution — and to oppose new restrictions on the city’s use of eminent domain to seize private property.
Here again we see examples of how the priorities of city leaders are at odds with those of average taxpayers who would like to have the option of using air conditioning during heat waves. In each of the last two summers, during the hottest days of the year, the city-owned Department of Water and Power has failed to provide electricity to tens of thousands of residents for three days or longer.
While residents sweat, at least they know that the city has their interests and waistlines at heart. Sweating and hungry, Angelinos can contemplate their political leaders’ priorities as they navigate broken sidewalks or labor through traffic to get a hamburger at, if L.A. officials get their way, a soon-to-be-scarce fast food restaurant.
(The writer is an attorney and president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.)
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company