Stop the Backroom Deal Preservation Act

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Pasadena Weekly

Folks sure like talking about good government, but people in Pasadena can’t possibly mean what they say.

How could they when one considers that just one citizen could sue City Council members and probably win over various alleged violations of the voter-approved, Supreme Court-upheld good government proposition Measure B, which six of eight council members appear to have violated as the proposition was being decided in appellate court.

If that were to happen, if someone or a group were to sue and win, we would have all the “good” government that anyone could possibly want.

But no, it appears we stand alone – against the likes of the totally co-opted local daily newspaper and the City Council itself – in ensuring that our elected officials behave in an ethical manner. We are apparently alone in pursuing an ideal that city officials should behave with at least some integrity in respecting the will of 62 percent of the voters in 2001 who demanded that they report their financial dealings with developers and other moneyed interests a little more diligently than they already do.

Does anyone remember integrity?

The answer, again, apparently is no, because now these very council members have taken the highly unusual, potentially expensive and utterly outrageous action of indemnifying themselves – like their very expensive previous court battles, with city tax dollars – in an effort to defend against anyone who might sue under Measure B.

Perhaps the reason city officials are so worried is because Measure B makes it a crime for them to take campaign contributions or other financial benefits from those whom they have granted public benefits and calls for fines of up to five times the amount of the violation. A “knowing and willful violation … constitutes a misdemeanor,” according to the text, and egregious or repeated violations can merit disqualification from office.

While an LA Superior Court judge had ordered the city to implement the controversial law, which it officially did by filing a charter amendment with the Secretary of State’s Office on June 6, 2002, he also declared the law unconstitutional and unenforceable. But, as Deputy Editor Joe Piasecki learned, since Measure B had been enacted, it was the law and in effect when the violations occurred.

The state Court of Appeals later found that the measure is enforceable. And the state Supreme Court ultimately refused to hear any more arguments.

Frankly, we thought our council members were bigger than this. A majority of them are fairly well-off financially. We just can’t see why they didn’t simply comply, that is, unless they really do have something to hide.

As we’ve seen, there has been no shortage of cash and contributions changing hands between politicians making decisions and developers benefiting from those votes ó the very thing Measure B, ironically dubbed the Taxpayer Protection Amendment, was meant to prevent.

One of the six caught in alleged violation was so upset over being told that he and others had violated the law that he is now asking for the drafting of a counter ballot initiative, one that would no doubt make our government even more secretive than it already is. When the time comes, maybe Steve Madison could call his ballot measure the Backroom Deal Preservation Act.

But all joking aside, let us make an even better suggestion: Drop all the faux indignity, stop taking potentially illegal contributions, stop ignoring voters and give back those campaign contributions from the times in question.

Heck, if all that happened, we would shut up and go away.

But if that doesn’t happen, and it doesn’t look like it will, we will continue barking and searching for that one good person who might have the time and resources to force our city government to B-have.

Consumer Watchdog
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