When it comes to playing games, nobody tops the L.A. City Council.
Currently, the statesmen on Spring Street are engaged in a knockdown, drag-out game of "Red Light! Green Light!"
The council is split: Team White Hat and Team Black Hat, with the Black Hats trying to skate around a unanimous vote by the Police Commission calling for the plug to be pulled on costly and ineffective red light cameras at 32 intersections scattered around the city.
Some studies show cameras have no impact on public safety, and may actually increase accidents at some intersections. City Controller Wendy Greuel dropped the other shoe - the city also loses more than a million a year. Zero safety improvement. Money loser.
But this is Los Angeles, so the choice isn't obvious.
Wearing the Blackest Hat is Councilman Tony Cardenas. He's seeing red over the chance American Traffic Solutions - the company that makes the cameras - won't get a contract renewal when it expires in July. ATS rakes in nearly $3 million a year and hopes for more.
Also wearing Black Hats are Bernard Parks, Jan Perry, Jose Huizar and Tom LaBonge, with Herb Wesson and Richard "I don't care what the facts are" Alarc�n coming off the bench.
Paul Koretz and Eric Garcetti diligently listened to citizen-crusader Jay Beeber and his "Safer Streets L.A." group. Beeber's compelling anti-camera case convinced the Police Commission, along with fellowWhite Hatters Dennis Zine, Paul Krekorian and Bill Rosendahl, that it was time to kill the cameras.
But the Black Hats have stalled for time until "yes" votes can be wrestled from the wafflers; no-show Janice Hahn and Ed Reyes, who appears more concerned by ATS's Arizona pedigree - remember the anti-SB 1070 boycott? - than the financial loss to the city and drivers.
A photo ticket can be a draconian $446 or more, crushing anytime, doubly so given our historic recession, but Cardenas and the Black Hats are happy to let ATS continue pillaging.
It's time for the Black Hats to come clean.
What has ATS and/or their lobbyist, Sage Advisors, who also represent IBEW Local 11 - Brian D'Arcy's politically potent DWP union - as well as AEG, owners of Staples Center, L.A. Live and, they hope, a new downtown NFL stadium, promised the Black Hats in return?
The cynical among us suspect Team Black Hat's real motive is campaign cash from ATS, AEG, Local 11 and other powerful interests represented by Sage Advisors.
Whatever the motive, Team Black Hat is playing a dirty game in which the citizens are guaranteed to lose.