"Oh what a circus, oh what a show," begins one song from the Broadway hit Evita. But if Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber ever decide to write a musical based on the non-workings of LA city government, Mr. Rice may want to borrow from his own lyric line. It would certainly apply here.
After much melodrama and angst, the LA City Council (I may be imagining this, but I could swear many of the council members have actually gotten fatter this past year?) has opted to approve by a vote of 8-5 a 4.5% rate hike for the much beloved city Department of Water and Power, the rogue agency that actually runs the city more than does either the mayor or City Council.
If this sounds somewhat familiar, it should. It was the amount the Council approved a short while ago but that was then soundly rejected by both Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his appointed cronies on the DWP board.
Of course, we all know what happened next. The DWP said, no rate hike (they wanted a 5.7% increase) no transfer of a promised $73.5 million owed the city to help pay its workers. That led to the Mayor announcing he might have to furlough some workers, a threat he quickly retracted after he was told he lacked the power to do this--and after he mysteriously seemed to dig up an unexpected windfall in property taxes. What luck!
Now, the ball is back in the court of the DWP, where, the fact is, it always was, ladies and gentleman.
This time, the Mayor reportedly endorses the smaller increase than he wanted and it is thought likely the DPW will say OK and then fork over the money it owes the city... which belongs to the city in the first place!
And that brings me to the LAPD.
The Council also voted not to impose a hiring freeze on the department so that it can continue to replace cops who retire over the next few months. The day before, the Council's own Budget Committee voted in favor of such a freeze, joined by former LAPD chief turned Councilman Bernard Parks.
But LAPD mounted an effective scare campaign to convince Council members that fewer cops would lead to more crime--even though there is not a single scientific study anywhere in the nation that proves that such a link actually exists. In fact, in at least one major study, some cities, such as Seattle, Washington, had actually experienced drops in crime during a period of time when the ranks of their police forces had also gone down.
Parks had the best quote of the day, I think, on this one when he told his fellow Council members that they shouldn't keep telling city workers facing layoffs that they are trying to salvage their jobs.
"Don't tell them you're fighting for their jobs and the next day vote to hire police officers," said the former police chief.
Like I said: Oh, what a circus, oh, what a show!
Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle." He has covered police and politics in Los Angeles since 1995 and currently is a regular contributor of investigative reports to KNX1070 Newsradio.