December 17, 2008

LAAG's reply to the City's comments in the Press Telegram 12-15-08

Most of our loyal readers (and many new ones) saw the 12/15/08 Press Telegram feature written about our site. Of course the city of Lakewood was queried about the site. LAAG wanted an opportunity to address some of the comments made by Councilman Rogers in the article. And of course as we have many times before, we offer the city space on our pages to offer rebuttals to what they feel is inaccurate on our site. To date the city has not taken us up on that offer.

With respect to the March 2009 city council election candidate filing dates not being not well publicized, on that issue, Councilman (excuse me, vice mayor) Todd Rogers says there was an announcement about incumbents seeking re-election on the front page of the Lakewood Community, a Chamber of Commerce Publication that goes to every home in the city. "It clearly told everybody in town that there was an election," Rogers said.

We found the November 2008 issue of the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce newspaper. (we are not sure of the date when it was actually distributed) Again this is the paper that most people throw directly into the trash after it sits on their lawn for a few days. Each month it has a puff piece written by the "mayor" (or likely some ghost writer) or some other councilperson talking about some "issue" (a real or fake one). In November one small article was about how the three incumbents were "kicking off" their March 2009 re-election "campaigns" with a 100 person dinner (wonder who paid for that?) at city hall (attended by you guessed it all the politicos and fireworks sellers that would have been voting for them in March 2009, along with our special friend Sheriff Baca!) NO WHERE in the article did it mention any deadlines for nominations or anything about that rather complicated process whatsoever. The Press Telegram ran no story at all (as they had no reporter for Lakewood at the time) nor was there any hint of a deadline on the city website. Why? Well if you are running for re-election the last thing you want to do is call a deadline to the attention of your potential opponents (like LAAG did) So yes there was hint of an "election" in the air, but as we said the city did everything it could to "hide" the nomination deadline to insure the three candidates would be a shoe in. And it worked.

Rogers, stated in the article that "city government is 'open', despite some of the assertions he has read [on LAAG]" and that "The city of Lakewood doesn't do anything in secret...". Well if hidden in the clerks office is your definition of open then I guess it is "open" (but only from 9-5 pm) But most folks dont walk into city hall every day for their news. They read news papers and now the web. So if you dont want people to know something just post it on a bulletin board in the clerks office. How many of you have read the bulletin board in the clerks office in the last year? LAAG believes in transparency in government as its our money they are wasting. "...Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants..." [Justice Louis D. Brandeis] We have a whole section devoted to government transparency. The reason governments dont want to post too much on the web is that people might actually see it, copy it (like LAAG) and start asking questions which politicians find "hard to answer". I think Long Beach Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske agrees.

Rogers also stated in the article that what the city does is "...based on the surveys and feedback we get from the community..." Well I saw two surveys on the Lakewood website and only very brief summaries at that with no specific questions asked. The last survey date we saw was 2006. LAAG plans to do some surveys as well and you can be sure when we do we will post them. The point being that only about 2,700 people vote in city council elections out of 80,000 residents. So how many of those polled do you really think are clued in about specific problems in the city?

As Campbell Brown recently said on "It goes without saying, the media is annoying. It is the media's job to be annoying. Especially those members of the media assigned to cover the president. Or in this case the president-elect. Their role is not to support [the City council] President-elect Barack Obama, but to challenge him, to do their best to hold him accountable."

If you want to read cheerleader "puff pieces" about the City and the City Council then read the city's website or those from the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce "throw away" "news"paper that comes out once a month. There are plenty of places to find that kind of news. Not here.

We don't think Lakewood is a bad city nor the city council the worst. There are much worse. But there are much better too. We need to strive for improvement. We think this site is one way of encouraging change by trying to make the city more "transparent" or calling foul when everyone else is too afraid to or have given up on dealing with city hall as it is. And who could blame them.

Mr Rogers concluding dismissive comments about LAAG in the Press Telegram article: "...[LAAG's] views are out of sync with the majority of residents. As an example, he cited [LAAG's] suggestion at a City Council meeting to look into the possibility of creating a city police department.." Well again you have to realize that Rogers is a sheriff captain (top person in the substation) in Carson and it sends shivers down his spine when you dare to criticise the sacred cow that signs his paychecks. The point LAAG was making (the context of which is when LASD totally dropped the ball on the Dunrobin explosion in March 2006 by its own admission) was that the city just accepted what the LASD fed them. It was the city council that had to hold the LASD accountable. It clearly had not and LAAG felt that the reason was that the LASD offered Lakewood its services on a "take it or leave it basis" and to get some competition on LASD's 9 million a year contract the city should get bids from other police agencies that offer contract law enforcement. Of course carving out a piece of LASD "territory" would be about as likely as Rogers "Lakewood school district" fantasy becoming a reality. Talk about out of sync.

We agree that LAAG is out of sync with the status quo and we aren't going to change one bit!

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | | Lakewood, CA
A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™

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