Machine politicians and their well-paid allies are readying themselves for another crackdown on the nonviolent pro-democracy protesters of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
This time they’re preparing to go after the Los Angeles protest camp that began Oct. 31 in a one-acre park south of City Hall. It has grown to more than 450 tents in a metropolis characterized by homelessness, nepotism, greed, indifference toward the less fortunate, and appearance over substance.
The LA general assembly, which functions as the egalitarian movement’s local collective decision-making body, rejected an offer from city leaders Nov. 24 to abandon their camp in exchange for a 10,000 square foot building, farmland and 100 single-room-occupy beds for the homeless. In essence, the collective told LA’s machine politicians that if they’re incapable of doing such things for the right reason, they need not do them at all. The collective also indicated that the members of Occupy Los Angles are not for sale, unlike those who have gotten rich exploiting their fellow city residents.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has created problems for mayors by exposing the local political machines that allow them to serve the wealthiest 1% and exploit the disenfranchised 99%, while publicly pretending to advance the greater good. It has also exposed the shortfalls of an American political system which has been so infected by pay-to-play politics in recent years that it has given birth to a political aristocracy at the local, state and federal levels.
The increased cost of effective political advertising has erected a system in which only the very rich, and members of the political aristocracy that serves them, can afford to launch a competitive campaign for major elected office.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (left), who got his start as a labor organizer, has sought to cast himself as an admirer and supporter of the Occupy movement. However, he cited the same “public health” and “public safety” issues as Michael Bloomberg, New York City’s billionaire mayor, as his justification for trampling protesters’ rights to freedom of speech and assembly in the coming crackdown.
Villaraigosa’s letter addressed none of the movement’s requests, which include housing the 18,000 homeless people who now live on the streets of LA’s notorious Skid Row. That area is less visible than the City Hall camp and apparently not subject to the same “public health” and “public safety” concerns (below right)
“I admire your courage and character,” Villaraigosa said in an open letter to Occupy Los Angeles published on his Facebook page Nov. 25. “I am very proud of the fact that since the start of the occupation of City Hall Park, we have done things differently in Los Angeles. We have not stared each other down from opposite sides of barricades and barbed wire. We have communicated. We have listened. We have negotiated. It has allowed us to solve problems peacefully and to avoid the scenes of violence and brutality that have strained the civic fabric of other cities.”
The letter on Villaraigosa’s Facebook page was ridiculed overnight by respondents, for which it only served to highlight the disingenuous nature of the office holders brought to power by the pay-to-play political system. Here is a sampling of the posts:
“Hey @villaraigosa!” asked poster Jamie Mitchell. “Are you the 1% or just their eager tool?“
“For the first time as a resident of this great city for 25 years, I am completely embarrassed to live in Los Angeles,” wrote Scott Ford. “It’s not even worth watching you commit political suicide … it’s close, but still not worth it.“
“And here you have it Ladies and Gentlemen another sell-out politician!” wrote Eli Diaz.
“He isn’t a man of much integrity to say the least,” wrote Alex Dada. “From cheating on his wife with a news reporter, to securing his daughter a $68,000 job without any proper qualifications, to even breaking laws his own city is supposed to enforce.“
Vallaraigosa is the current president of the United Conference of Mayors. He has been a professional politician for more than 17 years and was first elected mayor of LA in 2005. He was re-elected in 2009. Like Bloomberg, he has embraced the idea that being elected mayor is akin to a royal coronation rather than a sacred responsibility to lead his fellow Americans via his own sacrificial example.
Vallaraigosa raised $11.2 million in political contributions from 2005 to 2009, according to the Maplight nonprofit website. He received $1.3 million of that total from real estate interests, which frequently purchase political influence to secure approval for controversial development projects and circumvent unpredictable construction delays.
Vallaraigosa’s political star has dimmed since an affair with news reporter Mirthala Salinas (above left) led to the end of his marriage in 2007. He was so in love with Salinas that he moved on to another broadcast journalist – local anchor Lu Parker (left) – in 2009.
According to a profile by New Yorker magazine, Vallaraigosa’s wife had previously sought a divorce in 1994 after learning he had an affair with one of her friends while she was being treated for cancer. Vallaraigosa was first elected to statewide office that year.
Apparently, marital vows, adultery and common decency toward the mother of your children are only for the 99%. They don’t apply to “our betters” in the American political aristocracy, who seem incapable of denying themselves any indulgence.
The California political machine secured a $68,000 government job for Vallaraigosa’s daughter Marisela Villar as a “field representative” at a time when government workers were being laid off across the state, according to The Los Angeles Times. More than 25,000 public sector workers have lost their jobs in California since 2008, according to a report issued in late 2009 by The Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Villar’s only qualification was her status as a member of California’s political aristocracy by virtue of her father’s status as mayor of the nation’s second-largest city. LA had a population of 3.8 million people in 2010.
Bloomberg’s own forays into nepotism include providing a city job for one of his pampered daughters and a sister.
California has already given the pro-democracy movement some of its ugliest images, which include the unjustified pepper spraying of nonviolent protesters on the campus of the University of California at Davis on Nov. 18 (bottom right), and the critical wounding of Marine veteran Scott Olsen (above right), 24, who was shot in the face with a canister of tear gas by Oakland police Oct. 25
LA Police Chief Charlie Beck said there will be no raid at 12:01 a.m. on Monday morning.
“That does not mean that we will physically remove people at 12:01,” Beck said of the mayor’s letter. “What that means is that after 12:01 we have the ability to enforce the law, which we have through our own volition not enforced for the past 56 days.”
Beck and Vallaraigosa have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Beck is the second-highest paid city employee in Los Angles with an annual salary of $307,291. Vallaraigosa earns $232,436, according to the LA City Controller’s office.
That compares with a median household income of $48,570 for Los Angeles from 2005 to 2009, which was 20% below the statewide level of $60,392.