Thursday, October 16, 2008

No lawyers for the disabled on Skid Row

From the Los Angeles Times

Villaraigosa vetoes contract for legal help in skid row lawsuit
In only the fourth veto of his career, mayor says he would prefer to spend the money addressing issues instead of paying attorneys.
By Phil Willon
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

October 16, 2008

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has vetoed a $96,000 contract for outside legal help to defend the city against allegations that it discriminates against the disabled on skid row. It marks only the fourth veto the mayor has issued since taking office in 2005.

Villaraigosa, in an announcement released Wednesday, said that paying an outside law firm was unnecessary because the city has ample expertise, both legal and otherwise, on issues related to the Americans With Disabilities Act, which is at the heart of the class-action federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the city violated the rights of the disabled by not providing adequate safety measures for them on sidewalks, crosswalks and traffic signals on skid row.

In his veto message to the City Council, the mayor said the outside legal expense was "contrary to our shared principles of fiscal prudence." Villaraigosa warned Saturday that the city could face a budget shortfall of up to $400 million.

The mayor recommended reviewing the allegations in the lawsuit to see if any have merit and suggested that, if they do, he would rather see the city spend its money addressing those concerns than paying outside attorneys.

The veto led to a sharp response from City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, who had requested the contract for outside legal counsel. The council had unanimously approved Delgadillo's request earlier this month.

In a letter to the council Wednesday, Delgadillo said he had been unaware that the mayor had planned to devote a "significant investment of resources" to bring the city into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

"In taking this action, the mayor suggested that we should spend taxpayer dollars to fix the underlying problem instead of legal costs to defend it. I couldn't agree more," Delgadillo said.

In response, Villaraigosa spokesman Matt Szabo said: "We're glad the city attorney agrees with the mayor's veto of his own proposal, because the City Council should have had the chance to consider a smart settlement long before being asked to approve yet another expensive contract for outside counsel."

Because of the mayor's veto, the city attorney added that his office has requested a settlement proposal from the plaintiffs' attorneys, which he will take before the council for consideration. If the council agrees to the settlement, there will be no need to hire outside attorneys, he said.

Of the mayor's four vetoes, three have related to recommendations from the city attorney. The most controversial dealt with a $2.7-million settlement agreement with an African American firefighter, Tennie Pierce, who contended that he was the victim of racial harassment. The city ultimately agreed to settle the case for nearly $1.5 million.

None of Villaraigosa's vetoes have been overridden by the council.


BusTard said...

I find Tony V's perception highly flawed. A prime example presented itself not to long ago when several Metro contractor trucks had blocked egress to the Pershing Square lift. As if that were not bad enough, a Metro Sheriff, when asked by an elderly person in a wheelchair why it was there and if it could be moved, said Sheriff simply stated, "I don't know where the driver is." then he waddled off, and the person in the wheelchair had to go all the way round to get to the lift. Soon after that, another person had to do the same after attempting to get by the truck. (I imagine that the low vantage point of the wheelchair-bound people prevented them from seeing that the truck blocked passage until they got up beside it.)
And yeah, I got it all on video. Nevertheless, the LASD has yet to show much concern about the incident. Talks with the LASD ADA rep have done little to help.

I feel Tony's veto is indicative of the attitude of the city. As such, I doubt that any monies will be put toward educating government agencies. The hardship involved with attempting to resolve the problem litigiously (which is too often the only way to go to get L.A. councilmembers to listen and learn, unfortunately) from a wheelchair, on crutches or while seriously or terminally ill, will be even harder know, thanks to a schmuck who is more interested in state and national politics or getting his wife to avoid real punishment for drunken driving and grand theft.

. said...

I have doubt for our city's compassion for the disabled too. When I first read it, my first response was, basically our Mayor was telling our City Atty. that any attorneys could continue what they were doing for the disabled, just not expect to get reasonably compensated for any of their resources and time spent on trying to help those on skid row. That's what I was getting from Villaraigosa. Do I really believe he's gonna shell out the money for safety measures for the disabled on sidewalks, crosswalks and traffic signals in our hood when he's already short of cash these days? I can't say yes until I see them in person!

Feel free to post the link to your video Bustard.

BusTard said...

Will do, Downtown Chick; cheers. I hope to get it wrapped up some time next week, providing I get some answers from the LASD.

BusTard said...

It appears that in my investigation of L.A. County Sheriff deputies' negligence at Pershing Square, I ran into some resistance. Namely, being arrested. Here is the the story:

The video I mentioned above will be posted this week.

. said...

What?! They arrested you just because you were filming randomly?! Dang! I'd at least try calling their Office of Inspector General. I've just interviewed one of the guys there a week ago. Those guys must investigate when they receive a complaint and give you a reason by law regardless what the outcome is. Try this:

BusTard said...

Thanks for that link, but the two dim-witted bozos had ample chance to stop being jerks. There were two things I deliberately neglected to mention owing to the case I am bringing against them, and I do not think they understand what they did not do as well as did (though they certainly should have).
here is the link regarding the deputy who made it clear he did not care that the guy in the wheelchair was made to go back all the way round the station opening owing to the Metro contractor's blocked truck:

(Hey, did you catch all that tree-trimming on down below on 5th Street? I got some great footage that will post Sunday.)