Bill Boyarsky
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July 24, 2008

Great Times story tucked away on B-1

There was a story on page B-1 of the Los Angeles Times a while back which showed what great things the paper can still do, and what it will miss as it is being destroyed.

David Zahniser, reporting from city hall, told on July 20 how a politically connected firm, the Bond Companies, got two city pension boards to invest $30 million in Los Angeles projects that need city financial help to be profitable.

In seeking a subsidy from the City Redevelopment Agency, the firm’s chairman, Lawrence Bond, boasted in writing of his ability to get taxpayer subsidies, lenient parking requirements and approval for high -density projects. Bond told the city pension board, Zahniser reported, that it has proven ability and resources to capitalize on government subsidies.

The company and its employees have given more than $82,000 in contributions to city politicians and ballot measures.

This is a prime example of how the inside city hall game works. Nobody has ever heard of this company. Journalists and bloggers write much about the mayor, but it took David Zahniser to uncover one of the real players, the company chairman.

People like Bond really run city hall.

It was excellent public service reporting and it’s great that the Times has Zahniser in city hall. Hopefully he’ll survive, remain and prosper. But the paper is taking a direction away from such serious, digging reporters. This is really important local news, but is it hot enough —in the sexy sense—for the new Times? It was on B-l. Why wasn’t the story where it should have been, on A-1, the front page?

The story took time and energy—and a reporter with a lot of knowledge about how Los Angeles works. Do such reporters have a place in the Times? Or will their departures continue to be noted in endless wakes, as Jim Newton’s was?

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