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Archive for November, 2012

Hollywood screenwriters routinely create composite characters for historical dramas.  They have to in order to tell a story within the limited time allotted to a film.

However, there is always a disclosure to that effect in the credits.

CD2 Councilman Paul Krekorian likes the writing technique so much, he used it in an article he submitted for publication in the Studio City and North Hollywood Patch.com sites.

The only thing missing was disclosure.  How silly.

Most local bloggers I’m familiar with would disclose that piece of information.  All journalists would, at least the ones who want to keep their jobs.

The Los Angeles Daily News blew the whistle on Krekorian’s license to spin.

The subject of the article was a position he took on digital signs, one which was criticized by the Los Angeles Times. The subject matters little – it’s the disingenuous approach he used to advance the cause of special interests.

Krekorian spokesman Jeremy Oberstein did not exactly help his boss with a weak attempt to explain that the “letter” was a composite of the e-mails the office had received, only to backtrack and admit there were no e-mails, only phone calls.  Mr. Oberstein is in charge of communications for the CD2 councilman.

Mr. Krekorian issued an apology in a letter to the editor published in the Daily News on Tuesday. His column in the Patch has now been relegated to blog status.

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Volumes are being written and millions of words spoken about what the Republican Party needs to do to maintain its relevance in the future. I can’t add anything new to that discourse, so I won’t.

But it is worth sharing thoughts about what the Democratic Party should consider.

Hey, the Dems just re-elected President Obama and gained a little in the Senate and the House.  The demographic trends support the growth of minority groups favoring the party. With these favorable developments, why on earth would they need to entertain thoughts about the party’s future?

Do you think the New York Yankees would have gone on to build on the team’s championship tradition if they had rested on their laurels after 1927?

Successful organizations always tinker with their long-term strategies. The Republicans didn’t after 2004 and paid the price on November 6.

There are risks ahead for the Democratic Party and they may involve some touchy issues.

The analysts point to the role coalitions played in 2012’s success

But coalitions are fluid over time.  They can change just as normal human cells can become cancerous. If you don’t catch the changes soon enough, you are dead.

As minority groups advance up through the middle class, as women attain more power in the corporate world and as today’s young voters eventually acquire wealth, expect some of them, enough of them, to tweak the characteristics of the current Democratic coalition.  It wouldn’t take but a change of a handful of percentage points in the right regions to radically alter the electoral map. Just look at history: enough Roosevelt Democrats supported Ronald Reagan for two terms and helped create a golden age for the Republicans.

One of the most volatile issues the Democratic Party will have to wrestle with is how hard to push on immigration reform.  It might even be more important than tax reform. If they present a plan that is perceived as a covert form of amnesty, some groups within the coalition might  resent the strategy, labeling it unfair to them.

Change will happen; it is only a matter of degree and timing……..and direction. It will take brilliant and balanced management on the part of the Democrats to build on success.

We could face the same type of turmoil that realigned or even eliminated political parties in the years leading up to the 1860 election. 

Exciting times are ahead.

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I listened to a presentation today at the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition.

One of the featured guests was  Inspector General of the city Fernando Campos.  He works for the Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana.

Mr. Campos shared some interesting information on the state of fee and fine collections in our city. Of $443 million in uncollected, non-tax accounts, only $79 million is deemed collectible, about 18%.  Furthermore, two-thirds (67%) of the gross amount due is over a year old.

These numbers aren’t just bad for the city, they would be unacceptable in any organization.

What is really sad is that this is not a new development.  You can find audits highly critical of the city’s collection process going back to the 1990’s. 

The Office of Finance was created in 2000 to deal with the problem.  Calls for centralization of systems and collection activities were made.  On the surface, that’s a sensible suggestion, but when you consider 82% of the accounts receivable balance is comprised of unpaid ambulance fees and parking fines as of today, there was probably a high degree of centralization ten years ago.  You would think, then, with that degree of concentration, a path to centralization was already open for exploitation.

It begs the question: what has the Office of Finance been doing the past twelve years to improve collections?

More specifically, what has Finance Director Antoinette Christovale been doing? 

Appointed by former mayor Richard Riordan in 2000,  she has been in charge of collections since the formation of the Office of Finance.

Maybe she has been working diligently; maybe she has been playing solitaire on her computer all of those years. I don’t know.

Regardless, if only 18% of the receivables are collectible and most are over a year old, I would like to see how she explains it in her resume and cover letter.

If she has given it her best shot, then it is time to replace her if that is all she can achieve.   At some point, the mayor and council have to recognize that twelve years is enough. It was probably time to replace her five years ago.

Let’s go one step further and give her the benefit of the doubt.  Say she not only gave it her best shot, but the mayor and council did not support her efforts.

There comes a point when a professional has to reflect on his/her career. If your objectives are unachievable because of insurmountable obstacles erected by an intransigent bureaucracy, you can either leave….. or succumb to the culture.  If it is the latter, you become part of the problem.

You are then in it for the pay check and little else.

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Canadian writer John Robert Columbo  said, “Canada could have had French culture, American know-how, and English government. Instead it got French government, English know-how, and American culture.”

What should have transpired when two congressional candidates for the same office, with virtually identical ideologies, the same party affiliation and decades of service between them squared off?

Voters might have expected a high-minded contest dominated by intelligent repartee, some good-natured ribbing and an in-depth discussion of policy.

Instead, they witnessed a physical altercation, venomous verbal assaults and childish exchanges. There were respectable moments, but the tenor plummeted into arrogant behavior and pettiness.

Congressmen Brad Sherman and Howard Berman, in their relentless efforts to discredit each other, proved that men could be boys.   Their campaign will be remembered as an expensive embarrassment to California’s Democratic Party.

They lowered the bar of debate, but for what?

Was it about who was better suited to represent the newly configured 30th Congressional District? If it were, I would have expected the fight to follow a higher road. What’s more, an honorable campaign would have guaranteed a gracious exit for the loser and an excellent chance for him to continue as a respected spokesman in the world of politics.

Alas, that will not be the case.

While the loser on November 6 will still have opportunities for interviews, speechmaking and occasional appearances on cable news or radio programs, he will always be remembered as a bitter also-ran – a reputation that will serve as a glass ceiling in the pursuit of alternative career opportunities in government. 

Berman and Sherman were not considering life beyond Election Day.  They were fixated first and foremost about keeping a job and advancing personal prestige; promoting public service was a distant second in this race. Ergo, it was ego that drove the two.

Yes, there are plenty of other politicians who play in the mud for the power and fame that accompanies a high-profile position, but two seasoned representatives with generally solid reputations, getting in each other’s faces, shows just how politics can depreciate human nature.

It will not end well for these gentlemen – the winner or the loser. Outside of their respective inner circles, they will be remembered as churlish contenders who squandered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set the gold standard for campaign conduct.

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