Rita Robinson Unplugged: Speaking Truth to Power or Excuse Making?

Earlier today in City Watch, Editor Ken Draper sings the praises of LADOT General Manager Rita Robinson for speaking to last weekend’s meeting of Neighborhood Council representatives and being bluntly honest about the state of the city’s finances while attacking the City Council.  Draper’s column is full of tough talk from Robinson, all of which can be seen on the video above.  She doesn’t mince words, claiming the City Council is in a state of "denial" and that they suffer from "Reality Deficit Disorder."

While Draper is full of praise for Robinson, I find her stance and posturing to be disturbing.  First, she was attending the meeting of Neighborhood Council’s to discuss the state of a proposed Memorandum of Understanding between LADOT and the Neighborhood Councils.  This document, as Stephen Box notes, "memorializes and codifies a relationship and the mechanism for
communicating and working together. It’s a living breathing document
with opportunities for revision and adjustment, just like any good
relationship."  Once you understand that, Robinson’s attack sounds more like excuse making for why the LADOT is unwilling to reach the same understanding with Neighborhoods that the NC’s have reached with the DWP and other agencies.

Second, the City Council is the elected body of officials that are charged with drafting the legislation that governs our city.  Rita Robinson is a career city official who has never been elected to anything and was appointed by said Council.  If LADOT staff takes its cues from its General Manager, it’s no surprise that they can’t give straight answers to simple questions at hearings and ignore directives from Committee Chairs.  We must be wasting our time talking to the City Council, it appears the real power in this city is in the hand’s of our unelected bureaucrats.

Robinson is basically saying that because of the budget cuts that have already happened and the ones coming down the road that she doesn’t want LADOT to enter into a contract with the Neighborhood Councils because she doesn’t want the LADOT to not be able to fulfill its arrangement.  Now let’s be clear, the Memorandum has to do with opening official channels for communication between the Council’s and the LADOT.  Nothing more.

So I pose the question to all of you.  You’ve read my take.  You can read Draper’s here.  You can watch the video above.  Is Robinson taking a courageous stance and warning people to be aware that cuts are coming or is she passing blame for sub-par community outreach with the Neighborhood Council’s by attacking the bogeyman of the Los Angeles City Council?

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LADOT General Manager Rita Robinson explains the public outreach for the Pico-Olympic plan in 2008. Way back on April 14, LADOT General Manager Rita Robinson spoke in front of the City Council Transportation Committee on how the department is going to deal with the city’s budget crunch. Robinson delivered her usual passionate defense of the […]