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Ron Kaye: Valley COG shifts leadership gears

July 12, 2013

As the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments celebrated its third anniversary last week, one thing was perfectly clear: It was set up to fail by Los Angeles city and county officials and succeeding spectacularly at doing so.

Utterly nothing was achieved in those three years, so the politicians, as usual, found a fall guy to blame for their failure, the guy who did the work, Robert Scott, a longtime Valley business and community leader who served as the council's executive director from its inception.

Without so much as a thank you for his efforts, Scott, a prominent figure in the Valley secession movement, found out he was being dumped in the same short email sent to other rejected applicants:

"The board considered each applicant's proposal with a great deal of scrutiny. Ultimately, a unanimous decision was reached, which directed staff to commence negotiations with another firm…We once again thank you for your interest in working with the San Fernando Valley COG. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me. Thank you."

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It doesn't get much colder than that.

So who did the elected officials who sit on the COG board — seven L.A. Council members, county supervisors Michael Antonovich and Zev Yaroslavsky and one council member each from Glendale, Burbank, Santa Clarita and San Fernando —choose to replace him?

A lobbyist!

The audacity of the decision to hire Steven Afriat Consulting to lead a government agency created to bring more public transit and economic development to the region, to get grants and funding to solve the community's problems, is astonishing on its face.

Afriat reported billings of $9.8 million over the last 10 years for lobbying L.A. City Hall and has a team of lobbyists currently registered to represent clients that include billboard companies, West Side developers, trash haulers and Walmart.

The Afriat website boasts it helped the adult entertainment industry force L.A. to repeal an anti-lap-dance ordinance, construction companies to win the subway tunnel and station contracts and advertising companies get "lucrative" street furniture and public transit contracts.

Now don't get me wrong: Steve Afriat is a more honorable guy than most in his profession, but lobbyists are part of the process of money and favors that has corrupted our political system.

The meeting Thursday at Van Nuys City Hall began as these quarterly events usually do nearly half an hour late as board members straggled in.

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