LA City Council Gets an “F” on Current Events, and It Could Be Costly

@THE GUSS REPORT-LA City Council got a sliver of local media attention last week when it stated its objection to President Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even though it regularly prevents members of the public from speaking on issues not under its purview. Regardless, Pruitt was approved 11-0 in the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee and his nomination now moves to the full Senate. 

So the Councilmembers threw caution to the wind at their subsequent meeting on Friday with an agenda item that objected to all of Trump’s other nominees. Kinda. Sorta. Well, not really. 

What they ended up doing is not thinking things through, and it could cost LA big-time, including the Olympics. 

For instance, the Councilmembers objected to Trump nominee Rex Tillerson to head the State Department. But it must have been lost on them that Tillerson is no longer a nominee, but the actual Secretary of State, sworn-in and presently overseas on his first trip. Details, details. 

Wait, wait, it gets better … 

I pointed out to City Council president Herb Wesson that for a city seeking the Olympics and in desperate need of infrastructure for it, it is not a good idea to oppose Elaine Chao as Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Transportation -- especially since she, too, was already approved, sworn-in and on the job. And one more thing: she is married to Mitch McConnell, the all-powerful U.S. Senate majority leader; not a good guy to piss-off. 

Aside from that, the blurb on City Council’s agenda condemning Chao erroneously reads that Chao’s appointment as Secretary of Transportation would, among other things, negatively impact “the rights of employees” and “a fair minimum wage.”

Huh? Since when does the Department of Transportation handle what the Department of Labor and Congress do?

Whoever wrote these blurbs for City Council may have tried to do their homework, but got it completely wrong.

Chao was the 24th Secretary of Labor for President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009, the longest tenure in that role since WWII. And she was the Director of the Peace Corp. And she was the President and CEO of United Way. And she has a Harvard MBA. And she was the first Asian female ever to serve in a presidential cabinet. She came to the United States at age 8 from Taipei, Taiwan, not speaking a word of English and grew to personify the American Dream. 

Yep, Elaine Chao is thoroughly unqualified for a presidential cabinet position, according to the Los Angeles City Council. 

Later, Wesson sheepishly directed his colleagues to strike their objection to Chao. They did -- after I pointed out that she was already approved by the U.S. Senate 93-6. 

The Councilmembers also oppose Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, citing (among other inane notions) not that he lacks experience in this field, but that he would bring a negative impact on….religious tolerance? Carson, it so happens, was approved in the first round of screening by none other than the Democrats’ leaders of the left Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, among others. 

When it came to Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, who is actually still a nominee, City Council cited in its objection to her possible negative influence on “the economy of the American people.” 

Say what? 

If LA City Councilmembers think that the Secretary of Education influences the nation’s economic policy, perhaps DeVos should dismantle the public education system….at least those schools attended by these Councilmembers….and with good cause. 

Seriously, who wrote this stuff…former Councilmember Tom LaBonge? (Thank you, Ron Kaye, former Editor of the LA Daily News for forever memorializing this clip.) 

Councilmember Paul Koretz admitted an oversight on the list: his colleagues should also disapprove of Steve Mnuchin, the nominee for the Department of Treasury. 

It was hardly their only omission.

Does the LA City Council not object to conservative federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch as Trump’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court? He is Columbia- , Oxford- and Harvard Law-educated and, at age 49, could serve 35 to 40 years on the bench, and have immense impact on the lives of all Americans. Given the blanket nature of City Council’s hit list, our 15 lawmakers either implicitly approve of Gorsuch by not having his name on it … or their lack of awareness of his name in the headlines is pretty half-baked. Or it was fully-baked, as Benjamin Braddock said in The Graduate.

Watch and see if City Council scrambles in the next week or so to voice its objection to Gorsuch now that I have pointed it out here. 

They also forgot to add objections, assuming they have them, to already-approved General James Mattis of the Defense Department, Mike Pompeo of the CIA, General Mike Flynn of the NSA, and so on and so forth. If they do not do this, it means that they either implicitly approve of these Trump appointments, given their public decrying of Trump’s other nominees, or their opinions on them are a day late and a dollar short. 

When all was said and done, the Councilmembers voted unanimously against all of them…except Chao, of whom they did not explicitly approve. You could hear a pin drop in the room. It was a bunch of ceremonial nothingness, and equal to the amount of thought they put into it. 

In an ironic twist, City Council’s opinion on these appointments will be considered by the White House with the same degree of disregard that City Council pays to the public at its own meetings.


(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatch, Huffington Post, KFI AM-640 and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.