Los Angeles pothole

Mayor Eric Garcetti should concentrate on improving basic services -- like street repair -- before launching initiatives like the city's new Office of Immigrant Affairs. Above, a pothole in Hancock Park. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times / April 21, 2013)

Just what is it about politicians and our money?

Exhibit A this week is L.A.’s own Mayor Eric Garcetti. Remember: He’s the one in the white hat who just got tough with the Department of Water and Power’s union in a showdown over pay and benefits.

So, what does the penny-pinching mayor do for an encore?

On Tuesday, as The Times’ Kate Linthicum reported, Garcetti said that “he has picked Linda Lopez, a former dean of diversity at USC, to head his newly formed Office of Immigrant Affairs.”

Uh, the what?

Yep, turns out that potholes -- and the budget and pensions and schools and traffic and gangs and graffiti and featherbedding at the DWP and, oh, you get the picture -- aren’t L.A.’s only pressing problems. It seems we need an office at City Hall to “help immigrants navigate city government.”

Or, as the new head of said office said in a statement, the aim is to help “L.A. immigrants cut through red tape and make City Hall work for them.”

Good thinking: City Hall’s bureaucracy is so daunting, the obvious solution is to create more bureaucracy. (You probably guessed this already, but Lopez has a doctorate in political science from USC.)

Now, here’s how the mayor explained his creation:

The aim, Garcetti said in a statement, is to further “integrate immigrants into the social, political, cultural and economic fabric of the city of Los Angeles.”

Wow. Shows how old-fashioned I am; I was thinking maybe these folks could follow in the tradition of millions of other immigrants to America’s shores and, you know, do that for themselves!

But wait, it gets better:

The office will work with immigrants who came here legally and illegally, according to Vicki Curry, a spokeswoman for Garcetti.

The office will also play a key role in helping immigrants navigate the federal immigration process if Congress creates a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people living here without permission.

Gee, and people say government doesn’t think ahead. Sure, we can’t find a way to get mass transit to LAX, but just in case Congress does the impossible and actually deals with immigration, legal and otherwise, Los Angeles will be ready.

And the truly best part: These will be your tax dollars at work. You get to pay for a new director, who will of course need a deputy, and a staff, and an office, with supplies.

Here’s Lopez’s rationale for her new job: “Supporting their participation in civic life will benefit everyone in our city.”

Now, the mayor's new. He's obviously trying to look out for all the residents of Los Angeles. No sense kicking him right out of the gate; we don't want to discourage him. But we also don't want him to fall into any bad habits.

So here's my bottom line: You really want to benefit everyone in our city? First, fix the streets. Fund the fire department, and the police department. Crack down on gangs and graffiti. Give us more transit options. Deal with waste and corruption in city government. Deal with the budget, and the looming crisis over paying for retiree benefits for city employees. And that’s just for starters.

How about we deal with those things before we start throwing precious tax dollars at the other stuff?

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