To the editor: For far too long, Los Angeles City Council members have handed out high-value zoning and land-use exemptions to deep-pocketed developers, and I share the L.A. Times Editorial Board’s conviction that this must stop.
But I take issue with your observation that councilmembers’ “unchecked power over land-use decisions” constitutes the “larger problem.”
Granted, approvals for projects like the Arts District high-rise you mention in your editorial violate the rule of law, undermine real planning and disfigure the city. But the larger problem is the inherently corrupt practice of funding campaigns with donations from special interests.
Developers are not the only special interest benefiting from the city’s pay-to-play system. The dependence of officeholders on their campaign donations enables police unions to evade transparency and accountability and allows numerous public employee unions to “negotiate” indefensible pay schemes and unsustainable retirement benefits.
Until we step up with public campaign funding, we will continue to get the best government money can buy.
Shelley Wagers, Los Angeles
To the editor: The Editorial Board’s suggestions for ending corruption at City Hall are all good, although I think they live on the edge of the problem. Here are three that I believe go to the core.
First, publicly funded elections would prevent institutional bribery through campaign contributions.
Second, public oversight of council members’ private finances would ensure that any unexplained influxes of money would be questioned. Too personal? Anyone unwilling to open their books to municipal investigation doesn’t have to run for City Council.
And finally, we need severe penalties. Anyone caught (and convicted of) bribing a city official cannot do business with the city again — ever.
We cannot rid ourselves of corruption until we make it clear that we will not tolerate it.
Bart Braverman, Indio