"Today we say to America: We've come here to work: We clean your toilets!"

Monday, May 07, 2007

We Install Your Toilets!

Part and parcel of the problem with local government is not a lack of resources or even ideas. No, its a failure of leadership. This failure extends not only to a lack of action but probably even worse self-aggrandizing action that is really non-action by our elected officials. Quite frankly, they're often blowing smoke up our ass.

Case in point is the Mayor's $168 million plan to fight the ever increasing scourge of gang violence in Los Angeles. David Zahniser writing in the LA Weekly blows the cover off this bogus, flawed and downright silly program the Mayor hopes to ride to getting his picture in the paper and becoming Governor, perhaps even President someday.

Zahniser does probably what no other publication in Los Angeles did - got off his ass to take a look at the program.

As it turns out, nearly $150 million is money the city already spends on existing programs. And many of those initiatives are only tangentially related to the difficult work of eliminating street gangs, including such things as boat trips for fifth-graders in the Los Angeles Harbor to the ramped-up deployment of park rangers at the city’s biggest parks (are street thugs roaming Griffith Park and no one warned us?).
Indeed, not only is the Mayor's spending all jacked up (more on that in a minute), apparently really very little thought has gone into the plan. When the Mayor was introducing his plan at his "State of the City" speech at a local high school, he wrongly cited that very school as having a gang problem.

And the most bizarre aspect of the program, the Mayor is going from cleaning toilets to installing them. That's right over $1 million will be spent on having gang members install no-water toilets at city facilities:
And that gets us to the most intriguing weapon in the mayor’s $168 millon anti-gang arsenal: water-saving urinals. As in, the self-cleaning kind that rely on — yipes! — suction instead of water. The mayor’s 41-page gang proposal promises to spend $1.2 million on the Water Demand Management Installation Program. Or to put it another way: the Department of Water and Power will teach the city’s youth to install water-efficient urinals and sprinklers in public parks.

Yet not one municipal facility or park in the City of Los Angeles has plans to install the toilets, except for by the Department of Recreation and Parks at Taylor Yard and a department official told Zahniser “But that would only be as an experiment, and we haven’t done that yet.”

Even when these programs are directly tied to gang intervention, they tend to be colossal wastes of money. The long fabled "LA Bridges" program has spent over $100 million in ten years and gang violence is worse than ever.

Even more so than the toilet scheme is another aspect of the "plan," the City's "Junior Golf" program. As Zahniser notes, the $9 million program allows 350 children to play golf at Griffith Park. An admirable activity, but that equates to about $26,000 per child. That's actually a bit more change than annual tuition for a child at the prestigious private Brentwood School, which has graduated notables such as actor Fred Savage, author Andrew Breitbart and members of the band Maroon 5. Instead of building toilets or playing golf, sending 350 kids to elite private schools could probably do more to keep them out of gangs, but I digress.

As it is, the plan has been harshly criticized by attorney Connie Rice, who is seen as sort of a guru on the gang question. Rice released her own plan earlier this year from which the Mayor plagiarized a good portion but didn't provide the funding Rice proposed. Zahniser points out that Rice is reserving a nuclear option; suing the City for not adequately spreading anti-gang resources across the city.

In the end, the Mayor has created a plan out of whole cloth: tossing in existing programs and services (many of which are questionable as to their direct connection to anti-gang efforts) and grafting on a few other items which are bizarre at best and shameful at worst.

But hey - it got the Mayor a lot of photo ops!

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