LA mayor fights cronyism that never officially existed

Facing criticism that city building permit officials gave special treatment to politically connected applicants, the Los Angeles Building and Safety Department announced Tuesday that it is drafting new standards to ensure that all members of the public are treated the same. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa requested the action in response to a Times report that dozens of construction projects sought by political insiders had been assigned to a little-known “case management unit.” The unit is designed to speed the permit process, saving applicants time, bureaucratic frustration and money. … The Times last month reported that the department had given special treatment to projects sought over the last year by dozens of insiders, including nine current and former city commissioners and donors to the mayor and City Council. … Building and Safety officials have repeatedly denied that department decisions are influenced by whether an applicant is a city commissioner or political donor. And at Tuesday’s commission meeting, Adelman emphasized that he was acting only because of the mayor’s request. … The Times report also raised concerns among City Hall watchdog groups. Tracy Westen, chief executive of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies, said it is not fair that the average resident has to navigate red tape to get a permit, while the politically connected are assigned a case manager who calls a meeting of representatives from all involved departments to expedite approval of projects.

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