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Opinion: Corruption at City Hall isn’t surprising, but it’s still infuriating

Los Angeles City Hall in downtown L.A.
(Los Angeles Times)

That corruption infects so much of Los Angeles City Hall strikes almost no one as a revelation, and the reaction by our readers to Councilman Jose Huizar’s arrest for allegedly shaking down real estate developers for bribes bears that out.

But the fact that our letter writers aren’t naive about pay-to-play schemes in local government does not mean they are desensitized to it. In fact, nearly every reader who wrote a letter in reaction to Huizar’s arrest expressed deep dismay along with a general suspicion that the councilman is hardly alone in his alleged efforts to extract undue benefits from the city planning process.

This isn’t to say those readers are correct; what it does say, especially to council members, is that City Hall has a grave credibility problem with voters.

Cheryl Younger of downtown Los Angeles has long had suspicions about Huizar:

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For years I’ve been writing letters to the L.A. Times about Huizar, and now we find out this guy was allegedly on the take. Why is anyone surprised?

Don’t blame yourselves for believing in him — of course he did some good stuff, because he wanted to stay in office. Benito Mussolini made the trains run on time. John Gotti did nice things for his neighborhood too.

But use your common sense: The only reason any council member would refuse to sign a pledge not to take money from developers is because they were going to take it. Be proud of the council members who did take the pledge, and investigate those who did not.

David Ewing of Venice speculates about others in City Hall:

For Huizar to have maintained his position as head of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee for so long while allegedly presiding over a large criminal conspiracy makes one wonder how many more people at City Hall ignored the scheme or stayed quiet.

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The conspiracy was not revealed by anyone in city government or someone who was doing business with the city. That speaks volumes about its entrenchment.

City employees are still mum, and so are the army of lobbyists with their ears to every door in City Hall. The city attorney and the Ethics Commission have apparently been on extended vacation.

And the mayor? He is shocked, shocked! But his campaign coffers are filled by developers, and his former economic development deputy has come under scrutiny by federal prosecutors.

Nancy Buchanan of Los Angeles calls for one reform:

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Some of the measures identified that would stem corruption at City Hall seem reasonable, but what we really need is to ban all contributions from developers.

Residents struggle hopelessly against plans rushed through by speculative developers seeking to build on any and every piece of marginal land. The “homes” that are built do nothing to increase affordable housing.

Perhaps if there weren’t incentives for our council members to rubber-stamp such plans, we might avert this plague.


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