Monday, September 24, 2012

Please, newsmakers, he doesn't need this strain

This is a great piece written by Los Angeles staff writer Steve Lopez:

LA Times article (CLICK HERE)

Columnist finds it's tough to keep his blood pressure under control when he reads about Bell's ex-police chief, lifeguard firings in El Monte, the mayor's reaction to the AEG sale — and bad sidewalks.

 L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he knew AEG was up for sale, but kept the information to himself. (Irfan Khan, Los Angeles Times / September 19, 2012)

Having been told by healthcare professionals to take it easy after recent medical challenges, is it safe for me to continue following the local news?

It's not easy to keep your blood pressure under control while reading that former Bell Police Chief Randy Adams is demanding a pension of $510,000 a year, after the notorious scoundrels in that scandal-plagued town paid him the astronomical salary of $457,000 a year. I began twitching when I saw that Adams invoked the 5th Amendment 20 times in a state pension panel hearing, refusing to confirm that he'd sent an email to a Bell official saying he looked forward to "taking all of Bell's money."

And, like I say, other developing stories brought no relief. I nearly ripped open the stitches in my new knee when I slapped myself while reading about the blockhead festival in El Monte, where city officials fired some part-time lifeguards for making a funny, clever, innocent music video parody while on break at the aquatic center.

"To me it seems like a knee-jerk reaction," said lifeguard Michael Roa, a University of La Verne student who's going for his master's in marital and family therapy. Roa told me he regrets what he did, though, because of the blowback for his hometown, and because lifeguards who weren't as involved in the video also lost their jobs.

As the week wore on, and it became clear that virtually everyone in the world except El Monte City Council members realized the firings were ridiculously out of line, the clueless council decided to call for an independent investigation, even as the city began using cashiers to take over for the lifeguards.
My question is this: If the cashiers are that versatile, can they also take over for the council members?

But my questions aren't always answered, and a case in point involves Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. He told us, midweek, that he'd been aware of the fact that AEG — owner of the Staples Center and L.A. Live, and the backer of a bid to build a stadium and bring an NFL team to Los Angeles — was up for sale.

But he didn't tell anyone. Not the City Council, not the city official negotiating the deal with AEG, and not the public.

Villaraigosa also refused to say how long he knew, and when prodded at a news conference, he got crabby.
"I'm the mayor. I knew," he said.
Pressed again, he turned into a parrot.
"I'm the mayor and I knew," he said.
Can we hear it once more?
"Let me be clear about something: I'm the mayor and I knew."

Well, I'm a columnist, and here's what I know.
Villaraigosa has some good qualities, but I wouldn't put judgment and leadership near the top of the list. So it would have been nice for him to share what he knew with public officials who have spent a year ironing out a stadium deal with a company that's suddenly ready to bail.
Did AEG fear that it wouldn't be able to pay back the millions fronted by the city, and if so, might the new owner have the same concern? Villaraigosa actually said the reason for the sale was irrelevant to him. If it were me, it would have been the first question I asked.

We've been told for months that we're going into business with people we know at AEG, with minimal risk. And now we're told don't worry, we don't know who the new owners will be, but they'll have to abide by the terms of the same deal.

There's a chance, of course, that it will all work out just fine. My phone lines were buzzing last week with reports that billionaire L.A. physician Patrick Soon-Shiong was talking to all the key players in considering a bid for AEG. Actually it makes sense to have a doctor own a franchise in a league that's become a concussion derby, with more than 3,000 former NFL players suing over lasting damage from head injuries.

But it would be nice if we could hear from Mr. Soon-Shiong or any other prospective bidders before the mayor waves his pom-poms one more time and the City Council rubber stamps a go-ahead on a stadium deal, with a vote scheduled for this week. Let's find out whether they can reassure us that there's a profitable and environmentally sensible way to run a combination football stadium/convention center in the middle of one of the city's more traffic-choked sectors. Let's hear them explain what they think the risks and benefits are to taxpayers, and whether they're interested in a long-term commitment to the city or a quick vanity acquisition.

I sent a couple of questions about all of this to the mayor, but as I mentioned, I got no answers. You'd think he'd be a little more considerate, given all the work I've done in identifying some of the most badly damaged sidewalks among the 5,000 miles of bad pavement in Los Angeles, which gets hundreds of trip-and-fall lawsuits every year. And readers by the dozens keep sending me reports, complete with photos.

In my last sidewalk column, by the way, I offered the mayoral candidates a chance to let me know what they'd do about this mess, much of which is caused by trees the city doesn't bother taking care of. All I can figure is that council members Eric Garcetti and Jan Perry, Controller Wendy Greuel and attorney Kevin James have no answers, because I haven't heard so much as a word from any of them so far.
Do they know I've got palpitations?

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