Tag Archives: Richard Riordan

Madeline Janis: Richard Riordan’s Wrong Ideas Don’t Deserve a Second Chance

From Frying Pan News. Madeline Janis, the author of the post below, is a co-founder of the L.A. Alliance for a New Economy and a former Commissioner for the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency. She led L.A.’s historic living wage campaign during Riordan’s tenure as mayor.

Former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan has been in the news lately, arguing that city leaders need to take drastic steps to make Los Angeles more business friendly and get the city functioning again. He has blamed public sector unions for every woe facing the region, including the current financial crisis and potholes on his street in Brentwood.

Mayor Riordan is not just crying in the wilderness. His threat to put a draconian pension-cutting initiative on the ballot played a major part in prompting the City Council last month to hastily adopt its own pension-cutting plan – a plan that almost certainly will be thrown out by the courts as a violation of existing collective bargaining agreements.

Riordan’s resurrection as a major political force begs a fundamental question: How successful was he at bringing business and jobs to L.A. and overseeing scarce public resources when he was running the city?

Riordan was, in fact, one of our least effective mayors. During his two terms from 1993 to 2001, he created a mostly ineffectual economic development program that wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on the creation of low-wage jobs and little else. One of his biggest initiatives, the federally funded Community Development Bank, failed miserably. And he created a legacy of insider, backroom deals at the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, which contributed to the ultimate demise of that institution last year.

In 2000, a Ford Foundation-funded project released a report on the activities of Riordan’s Business Team between 1995 and 1999 (full disclosure: LAANE participated in the study along with UCLA economists and graduate students). Interviews with a randomly sampled list of Business Team “clients” found that the Mayor’s Business Team had grossly exaggerated its record of success, and that only 31 percent of the firms that the Business Team claimed to have helped had actually received any substantive assistance. In addition, researchers were not able to find a single firm that claimed that it would have made a different business location decision absent the taxpayer-funded assistance provided by the Business Team. Despite Riordan’s outrage at the study’s findings, his administration was never able to successfully contradict the results of this comprehensive review of its activities.

As for Riordan’s record with the city’s redevelopment agency, I saw firsthand when I was appointed to the CRA Board of Commissioners in 2002, the dangerous culture of secrecy and backroom deals that the Riordan administration had created. In project after project, key records were missing, major contracts were unsigned and “deals” had been negotiated in ways that clearly favored developer interests over the interests of the taxpayers funding the projects. While there were clearly well-meaning people who served in the Riordan administration and who worked hard to achieve results for the City’s taxpayers, the culture of insider dealing and lack of standards and accountability seemed to come from Riordan himself.

Riordan and his defenders have pointed to several large-scale development projects greenlighted during his tenure-such as the Staples Center, LA Live, NoHo Commons and Hollywood and Highland – as evidence that the former mayor successfully used taxpayer resources to create jobs and economic development. However, those seminal projects – which included hundreds of millions of dollars of public subsidies – were turned into good taxpayer investments because of vigorous organizing by coalitions of community, labor and environmental organizations, and the active support of City Council members and responsible developers. Riordan was not helpful in ensuring that the huge public investment in those projects resulted in strong benefits to the communities around them.

Even worse, Riordan vigorously opposed several city laws designed to give workers and communities the benefit of city investment in economic development. This included a city Worker Retention Ordinance, enacted in 1995, the city’s first Living Wage Ordinance, enacted in 1997 and amended in 1998, the City’s Equal Benefits Ordinance, enacted in 1998, and the City’s Responsible Contractor Ordinance, enacted in 2000. Mayor Riordan actively opposed all of these laws, vetoing the key ones like the Living Wage Ordinance and refusing to sign the others.

Richard Riordan got a lot of things wrong when he was mayor. Current elected officials should be wary about taking the former mayor’s advice today.

Talk of Replacement LG Heats Up in Sacramento

As John Garamendi nears his coronation hard-fought election in CA-10, the Capitol is all abuzz over who will replace him as the political powerhouse known as Lite Guv.

If Democratic Lt. Gov. John Garamendi wins a special congressional election Tuesday in the Democrat-leaning 10th Congressional District, Schwarzenegger has the power to appoint Garamendi’s replacement.

The Republican governor has not tipped his hand. He has the option of choosing a caretaker who will serve out Garamendi’s last year. Or he could use the appointment to reward a Republican legislator for working on his behalf in recent years. (SacBee)

Sure, Arnold could nominate Sen. Maldonado, but guess who hates that? Jeff Denham and Sam Aanestad, who have been banking on opposing Arnold at every turn in order to get the LG nod. Now, the nominee only needs majorities in each house, so Democratic support alone could be enough, and a vacant Senate seat in Maldo’s coastal district could be enough to satisfy Democrats. After all, would the Dems rather have an extra seat in the Senate or the LG position? Furthermore, it’s not even clear that an incumbent Maldonado wins the primary in 2010.

Of course, Arnold sees this problem too. Hee might try to float some right-wing name to toss some red meat to the base, and might even nominate some winger. However, Arnold knows there’s no way a right-wing republican gets through to replace Garamendi, so the pick will ultimately be somebody like former LA Mayor Richard Riordan, or a similar type who doesn’t plan on seeking reelection.

But hey, Arnold, I double dog dare you to put Maldo up. C’mon…do it.

Richard Riordan Crushes The Special Election Ballot

In an op-ed in today’s LA Times, former LA Mayor Richard Riordan doesn’t hold back against what he calls California’s May ballot scam.  Being a Republican, some of the arguments are of the familiar anti-tax stripe.  But being a liberal Republican who endorsed Barack Obama for President, he makes some arguments from the Democratic side of things.

Then there’s Proposition 1D, with its clunky and dishonest title: “Protects Children’s Services Funding. Helps Balance State Budget.” How does it “protect” children’s services funding? By taking $1.6 billion currently committed to children’s health services and preschool and throwing it into the budget maw.

Proposition 1E, “Mental Health Services Funding. Temporary Reallocation,” is another travesty. It simply grabs $450 million that voters specifically directed to mental health services.

The May ballot leaves me with some questions for my fellow Californians.

First, to my liberal friends: Can you really support propositions that will drastically cut services to the state’s neediest — especially after legislators increased the state sales tax, a regressive tax that places a larger burden on the poor?

He then makes the discredited argument that rich people will move elsewhere if their taxes become too high.  And then he goes on about “restructuring state government,” echoing the rhetoric of Mr. Blow Up The Boxes, the guy who, uh, didn’t.  So it’s a mixed bag.

However, there’s no question that many of the ballot propositions, particularly 1A, would drastically cut services to the state’s neediest.  In a new report, The California Budget Project shows that 1A would not impact the continuing revenue shortfall in the state budget, and would in fact exacerbate it:

Proposition 1A would not address California’s existing structural shortfall – the gap between revenues and expenditures – that exists in all but the best budget years. The state’s two long-term budget forecasts, issued by the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) and the Department of Finance, both identify an ongoing gap between revenues and expenditures. Moreover, the Department of Finance’s forecast projects a significant ongoing gap even taking into account the continuation of the spending reductions outlined by the Governor in his proposed 2009-10 budget.

The revenue forecast amount established by Proposition 1A, which limits spending from the state’s existing tax base, would be significantly below the Governor’s “baseline” spending forecast, a forecast that assumes that the cuts proposed by the Governor in his New Year’s Eve budget release continue.  For example, in 2010-11, the first year when the Director of Finance would be required to calculate whether the state has received “unanticipated revenues,” the revenue cap would be an estimated $16 billion lower than the Governor’s “baseline” spending estimate for the same year. The gap would widen in 2011-12 and 2012-13 to $17 billion and $21 billion, respectively.

By basing the new cap on a level of revenues that is insufficient to pay for the current level of programs and services, Proposition 1A would limit the state’s ability to restore reductions made during the current downturn out of existing revenues. Had Proposition 1A been in effect during the late 1990s, for example, it would have diverted “unanticipated” revenues from the General Fund  in 1995-96 and 1996-97, years when the “expenditure forecast” amount, the test used to trigger the shift of monies out of the General Fund, was below the LAO’s 1995 “current services” forecast for the same fiscal year.

Even in years with budget shortfalls, the so-called “rainy day” fund would need to be enhanced.  Considering that we have an aging population in California, with the age group 65 and older projected to grow the fastest over the next decade, anything that dramatically lowers state spending, and nullifies the ability to restore that spending even in a good budget year, will slash services which will only grow more needed in the years to come.  

Then there are the other goodies in 1A, like the ability for the Governor to make unilateral mid-year spending cuts.  And the fact that the spending formulas are based on estimated and not actual revenues (you’ve seen this year how they fluctuate wildly).  Bet you won’t see that on the ballot language.

The May 19 ballot will feature a tiny universe of the state’s voters.  If this small a subset of the population can make these kind of drastic changes to California’s future, we should all be ashamed.

Former LA Mayor Richard Riordan Endorses Obama

Former Los Angeles Mayor (and Republican) Dick Riordan attended a fundraiser for Democratic nominee Barack Obama for president. You can check the video here (h/t CA Faultline).

Riordan was the “post-partisan” Republican candidate of 2002, and he polled really well against incumbent Gov. Davis.  The Davis team reached into the Republican primary, and in the end Riordan was defeated for the nomination by Bill Simon. I’m sure the GOP voters in California will hardly be shocked after tagging him as a “RINO”.

However, this does speak to McCain’s loss of the moderate vote.  Riordan was able to win in LA, despite the strong Democratic tilt.  While LA itself won’t be at all determinative for the general election, the “independent” vote will be important. Sure, McCain did something to consolidate his base with the Palin pick, but now that the bloom is falling off that rose, where will he turn?

Proposition 89 ends Call-Time

Cross-posted at Daily Kos

With the passing of Labor Day, we have entered the traditional campaign season: a time for politicians to go meet voters. Yet the reality is that — even as you are reading this — many candidates are locked in a small room as part of the daily ritual known as call time. Somewhere along the line, it became conventional wisdom that money equals ads which equals votes, with call-time seen as the most effective way to raise money and thus win elections.

An entire generation of politicians have been evaluated not by their leadership or ideas, but by their discipline when it comes to spending hours on end begging for big checks, one call after another after another after another. It is commitment to call-time that positions a politician as a contender during the primaries, it decides if a candidate is seen as viable in the general election, and it plays a major role in whether a legislator will rise through the ranks into “leadership”. In short, call-time is seen as one of the most critical attributes in every stage of politics.

Wouldn’t it be nice if politicians could spend the next two months listening to voters instead of talking at donors? The answer is public financing, it is working in other states, and this is the year when it can start working in California.

How it Works
Proposition 89 is the Clean Money and Fair Elections Act on this fall’s ballot in California. The initiative would relegate call-time to history and fundamentally reform the political economy in the most populous state by making public financing of campaigns a reality. Prop 89 levels the playing field so new candidates can win on their ideas, not because of the money they raise.

  * Candidates who agree to spending limits and to take no private contributions qualify for public funding
  * $5 contributions from voters required to prove viability
  * Clean candidates receive enough to run competitive campaigns. They can’t raise money beyond public funds

Why Special Interests are Terrified
Prop 89 makes elections about ideas, not about money. Campaigns are measured by people, not dollars. That’s why trusted groups representing your interests —  like the League of Women Voters of California, California Common Cause, the Consumer Federation of California, and the California Clean Money Campaign — support Prop 89. And why lobbyists and special interests —  like big oil, drug companies, insurance firms, HMOs and some unions — don’t.

Just the other day, KQED Forum became a blogger bash (video here) because blogs threaten the ability of “very vested interests in Sacramento” to come together and oppose Proposition 89.

Bill Whalen, a Hoover Fellow and media consultant for the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Jones, Tom Campbell and Richard Riordan said (transcript via Kid Oakland):

I don’t worry so much as a Republican, but as a citizen, and there’s one word: “the blogosphere”  That’s what scares me.  There are angry people on the left and angry people on the right.  And I’m not sure if I want to see that anger harnessed in reforming our government.  I like the firewall, if you will. … Among the leaders opposing [Prop 89] are the California Teachers Association and the California Chamber of Commerce.  Why?  They are very vested interests in Sacramento, they don’t want the rules changed.  But Direct Democracy, to me we have it in effect in the initiative process and I’d kind of like to keep it harnessed.

What You Can Do
Until Proposition 89 passes, politicians will stay hidden away doing call-time and elections will be about money. The “very vested interests” in Sacramento will spend literally tens of million of dollars to preserve their stranglehold over California.

They may have more money, but reform can happen because we have more people. So take a quick minute and sign up for email updates.

For daily updates, bookmark the Proposition 89 Blog.