Ron Kaye: Politicians' actions speak louder than words

Events in recent days — from the eviction of Occupy L.A. protesters from the grounds of Los Angeles City Hall to the open-records lawsuit inspired by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino’s defiance of his party’s leadership — have exposed a level of political hypocrisy that ought to make everyone uneasy.

Hypocrisy is rampant at all political levels today with what is really going on in the back rooms of government having little or no connection to the story fed to the public.

It’s just a coincidence that the week’s events exposed liberal hypocrites from Sacramento to Los Angeles.

With savage devil winds slamming his constituents, it wasn’t a good time for Portantino to publicly gloat about exposing the utter contempt his party’s leadership has for taxpayers and their money.

Last summer, the La Cañada Flintridge Democrat did the unthinkable: He cast the lone Democratic vote against a state budget that everyone knew was phony, based on inflated numbers for revenue and the savings from cuts.

For his stand, Portantino was stripped of funding to pay his staff, which faced furloughs as long as six weeks. He fought back by exposing one of the Legislature’s deepest secrets, the real cost of their staffs — an action that prompted the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee to sue for all the records of how the Legislature spends nearly $150 million a year for its own care and upkeep.

On Thursday, Sacramento Judge Timothy Frawley ruled the spending records are indeed public, finding the Assembly leadership’s claims that their own open-records law doesn’t apply to them was ridiculous.

“In a somewhat ironic twist,” Frawley wrote, “the Assembly argues the ‘Open Records Act’ should be given a narrow interpretation that significantly restricts the public’s right to inspect legislative records. Further, the Assembly argues that the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers prohibits this court from enforcing any other interpretation. Both arguments lack merit.”

The ironic twist was not lost on Assembly Speaker John Perez, who didn’t even bother to have his lawyers contest the judge’s tentative ruling.

Portantino applauded the ruling as a “huge victory for transparency and accountability” and suggested his colleagues might take it to heart and start making decisions “on the merits of the policy and not on the ability of leaders to use the budget to force votes.”

Don’t hold your breath. They won’t change their ways until voters hold them accountable at the polls, which might actually be possible to some degree next year with the introduction of the open primary system.

Sacramento has nothing on L.A.

Two months ago, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a unanimous City Council fully endorsed the Occupy L.A. movement and welcomed them to take over the grounds around City Hall.

“Stay as long as you need to,” council President Eric Garcetti told them.

No time limit. No rules. Just ignore the laws and common sense because everything that is wrong is the fault of bankers and Wall Street, the richest 1% — not the politicians.

Inevitably, the destruction of the grounds, the unsanitary conditions caused by up to 1,000 people camping out, and the public’s disgust with what was going on forced the mayor to shed his commitment to civil liberties and turn into an iron-fisted tyrant ordering 1,400 heavily armed cops to clear the encampment in the cover of darkness.

There was virtually no resistance except for one protester accused of spitting at an officer. But nearly 300 were rounded up, handcuffed and hauled off to jail, where nearly all of them remained for days without charges on $5,000 bail for their failure to disperse when ordered by police.

The mayor called it “constitutional policing” to show that what was done fit the letter of the law as defined by the courts and he promised the protesters could exercise their 1st Amendment rights on the west steps of City Hall in the future.

But that’s not going to be easy for many of those arrested since a condition of their release pending trial is that they stay away from City Hall.

Just like the attempt to coerce Portantino into obedience to the will of the Assembly leadership, the goal of the massive show of force during the eviction — and the way those arrested are being treated — is simply to intimidate, to give them all criminal records and make them afraid of the consequences of protesting in the future.

The mayor and other city officials mouth the words of liberalism and their respect and support for the free exercise of constitutional rights, but their actions speak louder than their words.

RON KAYE can be reached at kayeron@aol.com. Share your thoughts and stories with him.

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