Wednesday, January 18, 2017

L.A. Times: Ban developer contributions to City Hall?

Mod: This editorial ran in the LA Times on Jan. 14, and I thought it was interesting enough to repost here. What has had more influence on city council elections and business affairs than developer cash from their various lobbies and organizations? Would it actually be possible to outlaw such monetary contributions in order to restrict their influence? Think of the huge difference that might make.

Would this have been possible without developer campaign contributions?

Ban developer contributions to City Hall (Los Angeles Times link): Faced with a growing distrust of the process by which the city approves new development — including widespread concern that political contributions drive land-use decisions — several Los Angeles City Council members have proposed what once seemed unthinkable: They want to ban campaign contributions from developers.

The proposal was introduced last week by Council members Paul Krekorian, Joe Buscaino, Paul Koretz, Mike Bonin and by David Ryu, who already rejects developer contributions voluntarily. It calls for the city Ethics Commission to devise an ordinance that would prohibit contributions from developers with projects currently or recently before city decision makers. The ban would apply to elected officials and candidates for city office. Or if it is determined to be illegal to ban contributions from developers (courts have equated money with speech, and have struck down broad efforts to limit contributions), the motion asks the Ethics Commission to look at other ways to limit the possibility of a quid pro quo, such as requiring elected officials to recuse themselves from a land-use decision if they have accepted donations from the developer.

Why was this once unthinkable? After all, individuals bidding on city contracts are already barred from making political contributions. But developers are different. There is a deeply embedded culture in Los Angeles City Hall in which real estate interests give heavily to local officials, presumably because they believe political contributions will buy them the zoning exemptions and other land-use decisions they want, or at least provide them with the access they need to make their best cases.  Elected officials, in turn, rely on developer money for their reelection campaigns and to pay for office expenses and trips. So there’s never been the political will to turn off the contribution spigot even though it creates the appearance of pay-to-play and undermines public trust in the City Hall.

Mod: The rest of this editorial is available by clicking on the link provided above. Think of how different the recent history of cities like Sierra Madre and Arcadia would have been had developer cash contributions been banned here by city law. 

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

53 comments:

  1. Moderator, I agree with you that the cities would look different.
    I personally have come to the conclusion that proposition 13 does leave cities few options other than to be pro-development. A city can either boom or fall apart. There is very little in-between.

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    1. I've heard that particular prop 13 argument before - do we have stats to support it though? I always thought that the lower tax pushed available housing prices up so the net is the same... i.e. a larger tax on a much less valuable house elsewhere in the country equals similar revenue.

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    2. There are a series of papers written on that. For starters I would recommend this one, discussing the unintended consequences of proposition 13:

      http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/op/OP_998JCOP.pdf

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    3. Prior to Prop. 13, the City of Pico Rivera didn't levy a property tax. They had some of the nicest city parks around and plenty of public safety and community services. I don't know how they financed the city, but it certainly wasn't from development (if you ever saw the place).

      So, it is more likely that being able to tag homeowners with however much tax they wanted to before Prop. 13 is what created the problem. Politicians just can't seem to find ways to spend money wisely.

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    4. It is not only the politicians who cannot find ways to spend money wisely. It is a large part of the American population. It should therefore not be a surprise.

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    5. If there was no limit on how much the city and state could tax our property very few of us could aford to live in our homes.

      Could you afford to pay 4% of your home's current value? I could not.

      Thank God for Howard Jarvis and prop 13

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    6. The one time the people won something, and the maxi-taxers cannot stop sobbing about it.

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    7. 4:39 PM
      Although senior citizens in other states face exactly the same problem, i.e. that they cannot afford their homes anymore even if their mortgage is paid off. What do these poor souls do? They sell and move to a cheaper place.
      California is the only state, as far as I know, where young, highly compensated professionals who earn so much money that they can afford a Tesla, cannot afford a home.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/14/business/mountain-view-california-confronts-housing-crisis.html?_r=1&mtrref=query.nytimes.com

      What this creates is areas where senior citizens or their heirs are living, who have difficulties making even - in comparison to their newer neighbors - a relatively modest tax payment. Those new neighbors are considerably better off, because their house prices are so much higher than yours were. They would not qualify for a purchase if they had not considerable funds for their mortgage. They also don't care for the most part if there is an additional UUT tax to pay, as they can afford this, too. You must have noticed that only a small portion of Sierra Madre residents did care about this.

      FYI, I can afford my home, because I have lived and live considerably below my means. I have employees who make less than I do but feel the need to drive bigger cars, have newer phones etc. They will all face this very same problem once they reach their retirement age, even if their tax rates remain locked in. They will nevertheless be priced out by other taxes that the city has to raise.
      So, what choice does a city have to generate revenue? New development!





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  2. Ban graft? Novel idea.

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  3. When the DEVELOPER PRESIDENT gets in office you will see unlimited construction. Who knows then what we will have built next to us.

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    1. Whatever it is it will be gold plated.

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    2. With elephant tusks and other big game body parts.

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  4. The new assisted living building across the street from the Police station is a good example of why cities like new construction. Rumor has it that the city made over $750,000 from the owner of that place. Not to mention that the city collected $1000 from them for the UUT. There should be a law against that kind of collections cities get.

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    1. Possibly you should at least attempt to find a factual basis for your posts? Rumors of the city making $750,000 from "the owner" are rumors -fake news.I would be greatly disappointed if they have only paid $1,000 in city taxes in the last 3 years.

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    2. Why should there be a law against it?

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    3. Are you prepared to pay the difference yourself?

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    4. There should be a law against anonymous fake news

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    5. You'd be the first to go.

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    6. that doesn't even make any sense

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  5. Excellent news, and it's about time.
    Great cartoon, Mod, as usual. "...shocked they didn't go full Corinthian."

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    1. The "developer President" could care less about Sierra Madre's land use. He will be developing more jobs. Poster 6:50 am is the type of person to watch out for. Look out Carter One your about to have change and you have a supporter, I hope "they" are not a Council member.

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    2. Land use is where the big bucks are. Democrat or Republican, they all want a piece. Think of how much money you could make selling off the planning rights of Sierra Madre to the highest bidder?

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  6. In the past, the City of Sierra Madre Council members would recuse themselves if there were a conflict of interest. Do we have such a ethics ordinace? It should be added.

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    Replies
    1. Yes. For city council and all commissions. Big fine if you don't recuse.

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  7. 6:50am. Should be charged with elder abuse. So you want the seniors and elderly to go out and get a job so they can continue your lifestyle? Prop.13 protects us, we seniors laid the way for our children. Dont we deserve a chance to rest? And I dont mean the Pioneer Cementary. Why dont you work two jobs and contribute more to the City as a thank you to your parents?

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    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    2. Maybe I already pay more taxes than you earn.

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    3. cementary?
      sounds like you've been resting since English class

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  8. Greed feeds the political machine and gentrification changes neighborhoods.

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    1. Neighborhoods should change

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    2. What 11:41 meant to say was that some neighborhoods need to change. I suspect that he or she has got a very firm idea of just which ones are not up to snuff.

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    3. Must be a frustrated HOA wannabe.

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    4. Gentrification or blight is capitalism. It's the natural way of things.

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    5. People have the right to protect what they own from predatory development.

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    6. except the people in New London, CT

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  9. Direct and indirect contributions by developers, defense contractors, and major businesses--the ultimate pay-to-play--begins in two days. Next stop, Gomorrah.

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  10. I think you should credit the picture to its source, McMansionhell.com

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    1. Excellent site. Thanks for posting it.

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  11. It's a fact, city Hall has shown that it does not have the ability to allow, except, or approve development. Citizens, taxpayers who own these smaller homes and wish to make improvements get stymied by city Hall, so... They just make improvements with out permits. It's the property owner who owns these homes, it's the property owner who wants to spend their money on home improvements, not city Hall. There needs to be a short cut to allow the home owner to make improvements and additions.

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    1. Permits are toooooooo costly. Permis insure safety. Just look are the house on Highland that was built without permits. It was found to be structurally unsafe besides being illegal.

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    2. yeahs butta we coulda drunks wine theres

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  12. 7:36am. Public records. Developers are required to pay development fees and make a contribution to the local school district.
    No requirement on those fees being spent on infrastructure to support the new builds or a comprehensive study and report on how much water etc. will be consumed. Those environmental studies are usually waived and new fees are past onto the citizens of Sierra Madre.

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  13. UUT, why does city Hall continue to lie and spend the taxpayers water monies inapproperatly? City council states that water rates and water meter costs will pay for water infrastructure. It never happened, city Hall used that water money for payment of pensions. When are those taxpayers going to wake up and hold those city council and city manager accountable? There needs to be a separate department, separate from the city to manage the water Dept.

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    1. We keep electing people into office that only have one thing in mind...keep happy those who will contribute to their next campaign. The only difference is that the impact is more obvious and immediate at the local level.

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  14. Dollar falls to one-month low after President-elect Donald Trump describes it as ‘too strong’

    The dollar tumbled to its lowest level in a month after Donald Trump suggested to The Wall Street Journal he favored a weaker dollar, breaking with decades of tradition and intensifying investor concern over the incoming administration’s capacity to surprise.

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-comments-send-dollar-reeling-1484666714

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  15. Obama approval hits 60% as end of term approaches

    President Barack Obama will leave office Friday with his highest approval rating since 2009, his presidency largely viewed as a success, and a majority saying they will miss him when he is gone.

    A new CNN/ORC poll finds Obama's approval rating stands at 60%, his best mark since June of his first year in office. Compared with other outgoing presidents, Obama lands near the top of the list, outranked only by Bill Clinton's 66% in January 2001 and Ronald Reagan's 64% in January 1989. About two-thirds (65%) say Obama's presidency was a success, including about half (49%) who say that was due to Obama's personal strengths rather than circumstances outside his control.

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/18/politics/obama-approval-rating-cnn-orc-poll/index.html

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  16. 11:54am. Put on your thinking cap. Seniors have Social Security that they have earned and many times live month to month, if you make more in your taxes, then by all means pay for more.

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    1. The harsh truth is that seniors, who only have social security and nothing else, forgot to put their thinking cap on while they were still working.

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    2. Make America great again. Take away health care for seniors.

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  17. 7:55 Over 750,00 and yes $1000 to help with the UUT, Anyone want to put some bets on the line here,$750,00 + and yes a check for $1000 for the UUT. I said it first you find proof that I'm wrong but put your $ where your mouth is. U show me yours and I'll show you my source. To help you out start with the owners first.

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    1. This isn't a poker ante.. support your claim or stfu

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    2. 7:55a here
      Yea but you're the one that said "Rumor has it that the city made over $750,000 from the owner of that place" RUMOR you said not me.If your speaking of the Yes on UUT campaign contribution of $1000.00 they would be negligent not to support raising the UUT and are well within their rights if not responsibilities to do so. The source of the rumor is you and the $1000 campaign contribution is public record and discussed at length here before I believe. So pay up

      I'm not showing you mine and certainly don't wanna see yours.

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  18. Yes, $1000 for UUT should be public record and fees for putting up the building should also be public record. So, go check them out let us know what you find out. 3:39 with low pay and high taxes the American Tax payer may not have made enough to save, and how do you save for never ending taxes that are constantly going up. Force out the old people so you can get rich foreign builders on the old folks lot, that's a lot of what is going on.

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