Democracy is Dead in the City of Torrance – Guest Commentary

rip-democracyI will start with a question: What is it going to take to get the people of Torrance to start paying attention to the mismanagement of their City?

The few of us who attended the August 24th Torrance City Council meeting witnessed the worst political thuggery any of us have ever seen in those chambers, as the full force of city staffers, Council Members, and the Mayor ganged up on the few remaining opponents to their fabricated “optimized” street sweeping and ticketing plan.

Councilman Mike Griffiths, the lone opponent on the council, took the brunt of the attack. His mistake – he asked a few questions about the significant revenue being generated by this falsely labeled “optimized” plan. This is a scheme that at least three separate watchdog groups in the city have proven to be nothing more than a money grab, with no real environmental impact. But transparency in the City of Torrance has a different set of rules.

Torrance has an uncanny way of packaging its most unpopular decisions so that the fewest number of people can oppose them. Citizen investigators of the City’s secret refinery additive deal are getting the latest version of this duplicity and misdirection, something the rest of us have experienced with increasing distaste for years now. Change the schedule; combine the staff notes, public discussion, and vote in the same session; make up and hide data — that is what “The Torrance Way” looks like in 2016.

democracy-worksMr. Griffiths accurately pointed out that this ticketing program in full force will generate over a million dollars a year in revenue. In case anyone has forgotten, this is the same program that has been consistently described as “revenue neutral” by City officials. We won’t even try to explain the fuzzy math that one staffer used to describe a 237% increase in tickets as a decrease.

To his credit, Mr. Griffiths did manage to trap the City Attorney in an embarrassing admission that their dire warnings of street pollution fines were based on a spill in their own City yard. A few of us spoke, but the chamber was essentially empty, and that is where the real problem lies. Is no one else paying attention to the actions of the bureaustocracy that has taken over this city?

This shameful display highlighted a simple fact – the City of Torrance ceased being a democratic institution a long time ago, and is managed as a self-enrichment program by a clique of insiders, elected and unelected. Just check the lopsided 6-1 votes on the council, every time city employee fortunes are at stake.

Still not convinced? Did you know that Torrance’s Police Chief and Fire Chief are paid more than the Director of the FBI, the Director of Homeland Security, the head of Cal Fire, and similar chiefs in New York City and many other major U.S. cities?  To put that in perspective, the NYPD has 34,500 personnel, Cal Fire has 4,500, Torrance PD has 347 and Torrance FD has 163. Does it bother anyone that our City Attorney’s base pay is greater than the salary of a Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court? Those are pretty lofty numbers for a city that doesn’t even rank in the top 30 largest cities in its own state.

And this problem isn’t going to go away. We have an astounding 258 employees making (with benefits) more than $200,000 per year, with more than half of the staff (585) exceeding $100,000 annually. Torrance’s pension obligations now top $2.0 billion (ten times the city’s annual budget) and the unfunded liability is an unknown, though we know it spiked to $392 million back in 2012, making it one of the highest per capita in the United States. These are crushing debt levels that may not lead to bankruptcy just yet, but guarantee reduced services for decades to come.

If you wonder what the fallout from this self-enrichment program is, just take a look at our city streets and other facilities, which are in the worst condition in city history, even with the recent flurry of resurfacing and repair. And by the way, some of those improvements came from the one-time $10 million windfall when Torrance sold part of itself to the City of Rolling Hills last year.

local-democracyThis is a frustrated open call to the people of Torrance from the very few of us who have taken the time to act on your behalf. When you look at the 20,000 new signs that will deface our neighborhoods or pay that ticket on your windshield, you can pretend that this was ever about the environment, if you like. But those of us who know the truth will see these signs for what they are – a stealth tax arrogantly planted in the places we live by uncaring officials who no longer represent us.

Democracy isn’t a right, it is earned through vigilance and action, and we need more of both in the City of Torrance. Join us in demanding the truth about this ticketing scam.

Citizens Against Government Waste

September 2016

43 comments

  • This is what happens when our politicians are more beholden to special interests than the community as a whole. We, as the voting public, can only blame ourselves as we continue to vote only for those that are able to stuff our mailboxes on a daily basis with those glossy flyers paid for by special interest money.

  • Anonymous

    It has been this way since the 1970’s. When cable tv was put in, I volunteered for a program as an advisor regarding the public using the tv channels. The openings went to sons and daughters of the Councilmen.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t vote for Torrance even though I live here. Why bother. I lived in Culver City and they were the same way.

  • Anonymous

    6 – 1? What happened to your darling Milton Herring being this agent of change and joining Griffiths and Ashcraft? Now Mike is all alone just whining about everything and getting nothing done. Wasn’t he in charge of getting the new website up because he is an IT specialist from the 1990’s? Still the same ole site lol

    Looks like the “revolution” died and Milton and Heidi are just as useless as we thought. They haven’t said a smart thing since they got up there and now they have gotten in line – ignoring you.

  • Anonymous

    Here is another example of corruption in the city of Torrance.
    I have unimpeachable evidence of records tampering and falsification by Sharron Jones, Nora Duncan and Phil Bradshaw of the environmental dept in order to protect Penske Caddilac who is in violation of many municipal codes and their conditional use permit.
    They have devistated our neighborhood.
    We’ve been fighting them for 8 years.
    One neighbor has restraining order against him for screaming in the dealership because of the noise. Another neighbor dragged an employee of Penske across a desk because of abuse.
    The to girls that live across from me are scared every day their cars will be vandalized and the neighbor behind me has been threatened by Penske employees in the presents of her 10 yr old girl.
    I have been threatened to have a bag put over my head and beat with a bat. This by Phil Bradshaw of the city and Dave Driscoll of Penske.
    Had my tires slashed, threatened to be knocked out, dog threatened to be killed, full soda cans thrown at my windows and much more.
    I challenge those who read this to meet with me and go over the information I have and hopfully you’ll decide to help hold this city accountable for there misuse of power on all levels!!!!!
    Ken Christiansen, kcdb999@gmail.com

  • If change is going to come, it will look like council districts. The reason the council is beholden to employee interests is because of the money required to run for council. With council districts, a determined individual could walk all the homes in his district and get elected while only spending a tenth of what is spent now. In other words, it could be a self-financed campaign or a small campaign financed by a few of his neighbors. The same would hold true for an enterprising woman.

    Also, councilmembers put in 10-20 hours per week. The pay is only $100 per month (although with benefits and car reimbursements it comes out to around $1500). That’s peanuts.

    The city charter needs to be amended to carve up the city in council districts so voters have more of a say and the pay needs to be commensurate with the work so that men and women willing to challenge the status quo will seek the job. Not that good people don’t seek the job now. They do but if they don’t “bow down” before the city’s ruling elite, they don’t get elected.

    There is a whole system of patronage that has built up that keeps the elites in power because unless those on the receiving end vote for those providing it, they won’t have it. We have a city manager form of government. Both he and our city attorney are appointed. There are consequences to those choices.

    • I agree that $100 a month isn’t much. I guess it shouldn’t be a financially motivated decision to run for council, but at the same time, now, you have to be either retired, or financially independent to run. Kind of leaves out the vast majority of possible candidates.

      • Linda Gottshall-Sayed

        It wasn’t all that long ago that Mayor Frank Scotto, who served two terms as Mayor, between 2016 and 2014 ran his grass roots campaign. His outstanding service as councilmember demonstrated his ability to steer clear of the union money, gaining huge public support … dozens of citizens working for him, door to door. It is true that union money is an easy way to “finance” a campaign, but the citizens of this city were energized to get out the vote and VOLUNTEER their efforts for Frank Scotto. But those public officials who “sell out” to unions or vendors (like McCormick Ambulance) or in at least one case I know of, BOTH, cannot ever truly represent the interests of the Citizens and business owners in this City.

        • Anonymous

          Grassroots????? Frank Scotto spent more money to run for Mayor than anybody in history. He conned us all into giving him $50 checks and $100 checks because Dan was going to “outspend us 2:1!” And guess what, Frank put in six-figures and he ended up spending more than Dan… and more than every mayor candidate in 2014 combined. And yes… he had money from an Ambulance company… and they kept the Ambulance contract during his entire 8 years despite terrible services records and coming in 4th in their final bidding process.

        • 3rd Floor Insider

          If you would know the real Frank Scotto, I don’t think you would have written such glowing comments about him. The big difference between him and Furey was he was very concerned about his image where as Furey could care less about what people think of him. Kind of like the difference between Obama and Hillary.

        • Anonymous

          What a croc!
          Scotto got kick backs from Penske Cadillac the whole time he was in office in return for letting them get away with a litany of code violations during construction that are on-going today , saving them 10’s of thousands of dollars in construction costs.
          I can prove it and challenge any one to disprove it.

  • Anonymous

    Keeps the elites in power? Elites? I would hardly call any of the council members elites. A retired prosecutor, a retired cop, a retired IT guy, a retired aerospace engineer, a pastor, an insurance salesman and a graphic designer all of whom live in modest homes and were involved in the city

  • Larry Corrao

    I, for one, do talk with Torrance residents about who and what is controlling the city, and how they will leave it in financial ruin.

    Clint, I sense your clear frustration, and there are residents who share that frustration. However, the majority of the elected officials are bought and paid for by the local employee unions and the SEIU.
    There are now too many people supported by the government, either with large salaries and pensions, or via entitlements. These people will always vote for the person (Leftist/Liberal/Democrat) that will allow them to retain their situation.

    I can only continue to vote how my moral and common sense leads me. I hope someday, in my lifetime, the majority of the city of Torrance and the state of California will turn the current tide.

    • Anonymous

      A crook is a crook is a crook no matter what party. I don’t think voting Republican will solve the issues.

      • Friend of Anonymous

        A crook is a crook is a crook no matter what party (democrat most likely) unless their name is Furey or Clinton.

    • Larry, just to be clear I did not write the posting above and cannot take credit for it. Nor does it necessarily reflect my views. I did, however, feel it was s viewpoint worth sharing and that’s why I allowed it to be posted on my site.

  • I am proud of Mike Griffiths for speaking up and being independent. The people of Torrance need to vote, period. Turnouts are low and the few that go out and vote are bombarded with propaganda over and over. Of course the candidates with the most money, usually win. I say usually because Lie-Lani D’Agostino was a good example of that formula not working. Anyways, great work Clint!!!

  • Anonymous

    Democracy is dead because the people we democratically elected don’t do exactly like we tell them. Lol lol lol complainers like Clint are classic. Do nothing in the community ever but complain about the people who actually do.

    • Dear anonymous, you clearly never tire of that line of me doing nothing but complaining no matter how untrue it may be. I know you are out solely to defame and discredit and that the truth matters very little to you, but I’ll point out anyway for the benefit of others more genuinely interested in local civic affairs that I very rarely offer my own opinion in this blog. I’ve written hundreds of articles now and the vast majority solely recount factual events or circumstances. So, if you deem what you find here complaining or negative I suggest you take it up with the people actually doing the negative things and not the person that is merely writing about them.

      • Linda Gottshall-Sayed

        Touche Clint. To Anonymous: why oh why do you always seem to blame the messenger? I getting sick and tired of this continued whining on your part. You know who to blame …. I know you do

  • Friend of Honesty

    “complainers like Clint are classic” Furey Jr. had to say. People like Jr. hate those who bring awareness and information to others and they try their best to intimidate and discourage those who speak the truth.

  • Susan Hughes

    It sure is easy to say anything when you are “Anonymous” Part of the reason there is focus on the mayor is because he is the leader in the city. Whatever is does something it can be examined. Whenever he forgets the ethics he preached about not long ago, we all have a right to call him out for that. When he talks down to people that don’t agree him, we have a right to complain. He only got 40% of the vote in 2014, and I’m sure most of those voters still support him, but I’ll bet that the other 60% don’t.

  • Susan Hughes

    I don’t know how my original post got so changed after I posted it, but this is the correct version:

    It sure is easy to say anything when you are “Anonymous” Part of the reason there is focus on the mayor is because he is the leader in the city. Whenever he does something, it can be examined. Whenever he forgets the ethics he preached about not long ago, we all have a right to call him out for that. When he talks down to people that don’t agree with him, we have a right to complain. He only got 40% of the vote in 2014, and I’m sure most of those voters still support him, but I’ll bet that the other 60% still don’t support him.

  • Claude Todoroff

    When only 10% of the eligible voters cast votes in school board elections we shouldn’t be surprised that the TTA can get their folks elected. The number of people voting in city elections isn’t that bad but still pathetic for a city with about 77,000 registered voters. People just don’t take the time to inform themselves of the candidates or issues. How many of us go to the school board or city council debates? Too many of us blindly vote for the candidates endorsed by the unions. I used to do that because I felt that the teachers for example were the ones most knowledgeable as to who would make the best school board member. One day I woke up and realized that the unions only endorse those candidates who will give them the goodies (pay raises, pensions, health insurance etc.). I find it strange that the Democrats are so opposed to the Citizens United SCOTUS decision but have no problem letting the unions buy our politicians. Why is it OK for the unions to buy our politicians but not the rich? Then we have people here that have proctologists looking for their heads attacking our messenger Clint. If it wasn’t for Clint and his Torrance Town Hall most of us would know even less about what is going on in our city. Why don’t you fools start your won blog. I am sure the board of education and most if not all of our city council, city attorney, city manager, treasurer and the unions will join your blog and let people know how terrific things are even as the bubble bursts and we join San Bernadino, Stockton, Detroit etc, in bankruptcy. Some people think that we need to hit rock bottom before things will change. I am convinced that there are enough fools out their who will just go to Home Depot to buy more shovels so they can keep on digging. Some will even think that “free” shovels are a constitutional right and that the government should pay for the shovels.

  • Anonymous

    Trust me. This blog aint making you any smarter, Claude. If you think you would know even less… that’s pretty sad. Seeing as we never see Clint at anything, its hard to believe he knows a whole lot about anything. Mostly conjecture, badly analyzed facts, and complaining about some of the most inane things. Its honestly a hobby to come read it while I’m going to the bathroom.

    • Clint Paulson

      Of all your lines of attack Anonymous, I think I find this one the most amusing. I didn’t know there were events that you had to attend in order to be taken seriously in this City. Next time they have one, why don’t you drop me a line so I know when and where I need to be in order to “see and be seen.” Hahaha…Lol.

  • Dan

    the previous Mayor played the same politics as the current. And expect the previous Mayor to run again
    to ‘save the city’. Its politics as usual with both of them. They both claimed ‘grass root’ support
    Just from different manure. As for a ‘retired prosector’ ..that B.S in my opinion.
    A prosecutor is a Deputy District Attorney. A Deputy Attorney General. or a local City Attorney.
    Not repeat not a Counsel for the Board of Supervisors. Nobody challenged that in the last election
    that was running so it stood on the ballot

    • Anonymous

      Um… he prosecuted child abusers for the county. And I’m LA County that is done by the county counsels office… not the DA or city attorney. You should go to that court room and then decide if they are prosecuting child abuse or not.

    • Anonymous

      Oh I remember when Tom Brewer personally told me this lie. Looks like we figured out who “Dan” is.

      Now that the Ambassador is out of work, I’m sure we will hear more of his yellow-toothed lies a flowing again.

    • Anonymous

      Oh yeah. Dan is Brewer. He is already trashing Scotto out there too because he wants his turn and he knows Scotto might run. So he has to start attacking his character too. Perfect Brewer MOS

  • Guest

    And Anonymous is Jr having a temper tantrum again.

    • Anonymous

      lol so funny. It just makes you look stupid every time you accuse anybody on the other side of being related to your enemies, Tom.

  • Ken christiansen

    That’s retorical right?

  • Democracy is dead if the citizens do not exercise their rights.

    How about demanding that the city council stop the CCA program that they are proceeding towards?

    Check out this link for more information!

    http://aschaper1.blogspot.com/

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