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The Way Wrong Weekly

I made the mistake of picking up a Weekly on the way home today. S-word on the cover, and called out too, on the contents page. If you can't be witty, be vulgar, I guess. Cover story on Kevin Smith, who is not interesting to anyone mature, not even to mature teenagers.

But anyway, the worst section again--by far--is the news.

Here's Gene Maddaus, on City Council: "The Council wasted $2 million on consultants and lawyers without finding out if the deal would flay with constituents. When opposition emerged, $2 million of work was tossed out." This on Council ultimately killing a deal to lease out nine City parking garages.

No, the Council didn't waste this money; the Council bought time with it. Necessary time. The problem is here that the Mayor's office has too much power.

The Council doesn't have adequate time to study complicated problems like this. Their instinct is to sink such ideas, but they can't sink things too openly against the Mayor. Here they not only found a way to buy some time for study, they also found a way to buy some time to let opposition outside of Council grow too.

Could hiring consultants ever save the City money that it might have otherwise burned? It turns out that the people of the City don't want to privatize these kinds of things. It turns out certain general managers are talented behind-the-scenesters. This is simply muscular democracy at work, letting grass roots take ownership of marginal issues while Council itself tries to get a grip on larger ones more speedily. The fact that it cost the City $2 million to give the will of the people time to "grow" is a mere bagatelle considering how much the City was prepared to lose after an initial bad brief and executive order attempt by its troubled Mayoral budget team.

Ultimately the article concludes:
"This is a terrible idea," Councilman Tony Cardenas said. "We should just kill it once and for all."

That's a defensible position. But the time to take such a stand would have been before Cardenas and the other council members voted to hire consultants and lawyers to investigate the concept.
Hooray--Council reached the right position, and the Mayor was outflanked at long last. But rarely does scapegoating, even at the Weekly, go to this extreme: insisting that the right judgment indeed came, but came at the wrong time; insisting that the right judgment should have come before study was conducted and forces were effectively mobilized, not after.

Years ago, the Weekly's beloved Republican Mayor, Riordan, gave the Mayor's office the ability to do far too much. That's fine when there's a sharp Mayor with a strong sense of what civic government is at the helm (Hahn) but awful when there's a stupid one beholden to billionaires (Villaraigosa). That's where the blame for this fiasco truly resides. But lots of people on Council don't much like talking to the Weekly, so the Weekly, feeling slighted, bludgeons Council for doing the right thing, rather than the Mayor's office for doing the wrong one.

Combine the fiscal insouciance of the present Mayor and his overwrought power with an anti-democratic, pro-Republican First Deputy Mayor, who on first glance wants to privatize nearly anything under his enormous aegis, and you have a beleaguered City Council, occasionally dog-paddling furiously while it is obliged to hunt for coalitions that prevent the utter surrendering of even longstanding City revenue-enhancers to corporate interests.

Way wrong here, Weekly. The fact that Council wasn't able to sink this notion at the start was not the fault of Council. The fact that it got out into open water at all was the fault of Austin Beutner, the usual crony capitalism, and the Mayor's office--entirely.