CITYWATCH TODAY

Grid List

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Thank you for your support Thank you for standing up for your property rights.  Thank you for being someone who wants to allow Los Angeles to flourish. If it were not for you, we would have never brought light to this abuse of the planning system.  We have received calls from other neighborhoods in which HPOZs are in process inquiring how to stop theirs.  The answer is to organize and stand up early enough in the process, not be afraid to speak out.  We did that. Without us taking a stand together, we could not have achieved what we did: a significantly liberalized Preservation Plan. Your energy gave us a voice. 

Yesterday’s Planning Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee was a stark reminder that even when it appears you have a chance, the cards may be stacked against you. It was a stark reminder of the inequalities of politics.  It was a stark reminder that we live in a great city which can make great errors in judgement. Government is a machine oiled with backroom promises and lack of discussion. Yesterday was a reminder of that.   PLUM’s decision to push the Miracle Mile HPOZ to City Council is an indication of everything that is wrong with our City government. 

What have we accomplished?  We prevented a horrible Preservation Plan from being adopted and instead we will have the most lenient in the City.  We made sure you can paint your house any color you like.  We made sure an arborist report will not be required if a property owner decides to remove mature trees.  We made sure that solar panels are permitted as per state law (and if they try to prevent drought tolerant, just let us know).  We replaced the language that would mandate transparent gates with allowances for solid.  Many additions that were prohibited under the old rules will now be allowed, including many second stories. And for those who don’t want to imitate ‘20s architecture, we forced the City to allow contemporary. To be sure, the language is still a mess, but it’s not what it was. 

What did we learn?  We learned that had we been involved and organized earlier, this abuse would likely never have happened. We learned that we could make a difference. And we learned that the people who were drawn to our group saw the future not as something frightening or repugnant, but to be embraced. That is why we are setting up Miracle Mile Forward. We look forward to seeing you all at future meetings - more information to come.

 

(Say No HPOZ is a citizen group formed to fight a proposed Miracle Mile HPOZ. They can be reached at saynohpoz@gmail.com.) 

-cw

 

 

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Less than two months after a horrific warehouse fire killed 36 people at the Ghost Ship artist colony in Oakland, city inspectors came knocking at the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles’ Fashion District.

On Jan. 18, two officials with the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety showed up unannounced to the art studio and event space, which also was home to 17 artists. As the inspectors made their rounds, residents frantically posted in a community Facebook group to try to find out why two strangers with clipboards were surveying the property and asking to look inside their bedrooms.

This wasn’t the first time city officials had discovered people were living in the commercial warehouse space at 939 Maple Ave. For more than a year, in fact, the city had known Think Tank was illegally housing residents. But it wasn’t until the tragedy in Oakland that the city took more forceful action.

“We knew once the Ghost Ship fire happened, we were like, ‘This is it,’” says Think Tank Gallery executive director Jacob Patterson.

After the inspection, the LA City Attorney’s office served an order-to-comply notice to the property owners, giving the gallery until Feb. 13 to either acquire a certificate of occupancy or have residents removed under threat of a criminal complaint. By the end of the month, all of the artists had moved out.

In the wake of the fire, LA City Attorney Mike Feuer assembled a warehouse task force along with building safety officials, promising an “aggressive response” to illegal-use commercial spaces. The city’s D.I.Y. community has been on edge ever since, and the threat of a widespread crackdown on underground lofts and warehouse spaces has left many artists in fear of eviction. (Read the rest.

-cw

NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL BUDGET ADVOCATES--The City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates met with Mayor Eric Garcetti on March 8th to present and discuss their White Paper for the coming city budget fiscal year 2017 – 2018. 

The White Paper will contain priorities, recommendations to improve revenue generation, collection and operations and the efficient use of our tax dollars. 

The Budget Advocates take on the arduous task and spend hundreds of hours in meetings with city department and agency General Managers, and senior staff to learn, study and analyze their departments' strategic plans, operations, budget proposals and then develop recommendations. 

The Budget Advocates will next meet with and present our findings to the City Council Budget & Finance Committee followed by a presentation to the full City Council in the coming months. 

Please contact me if you wish to receive a copy of the Budget Advocates White Paper.or more information on the white paper please visit NCBALA.com, track our progress while we wait to see how our Los Angeles City Mayor responds.

(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: A.Edwards@NCBALA.com.) 

-cw

NEIGHBORHOODS--From the Middle East conflicts to an incredibly divided America, religion plays a most important part in our politics and our lives … and prompts me to tell you about Venice’s Open Temple. 

I was raised until I was 10 years old in the Beverly-Fairfax area of Los Angeles. We affectionately referred to it as The Borscht Belt due to the Eastern European origins of the vast majority of its inhabitants. At 10, my upwardly mobile parents decided to move to Northridge in the northwest end of the San Fernando Valley. It was only then that I found out the rest of the world was not Jewish. 

My family wasn't religious. In fact, I wasn't even bar mitzvahed, when I turned 13. But the pervasive secular liberal Jewish culture that surrounded me, my family, and most of our friends exposed me to a unique way of looking at life- whether expressed in humor, politics or fundamental ideas of fairness- that has continued to manifest itself throughout my life with its roots in the ancient Jewish religion. 

But the dilemma that has always faced the Jews and other ethnicities that value their cultural identities of origin- be it religious or secular- is how can we maintain these religions and cultures and yet integrate ourselves into the dominant amalgamated American culture that up until recently has continued to make America great- again and again- by incorporating that which is best in its component peoples? 

If the key for our or any specie's continued viability is to continue to evolve, this unique American heterogeneous cultural integration mechanism that takes the best of what all our tribes have brought to America seems to have served our survival rather well. So, why have our religions remained so segregated? 

Up until I recently experienced going to Open Temple in Venice, I found that organized religion in general pretty much saw itself as right and other religions or atheists and agnostics as being wrong- even if the G-d of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims is historically the same G-d. 

Open Temple in Venice, CA, is a nascent example of a community that responds to these concerns. An engagement model for "the Jew-ishly curious and those who love us," Open Temple utilizes the mosaic of Los Angeles to breathe life into the Moses of the Bible. In recent services, Muslims and LAPD officers played the roles of G-d, Abraham, and Sarah during the Torah service. A local homeless man "disrupted" the performance artist "playing homeless" as a chastening of the Torah reading's view on expulsion (both men were hired by the rabbi for this interaction). And words from Hamilton's "My Shot" were re-written for the Yom Kippur confessional prayer. 

The community is spearheaded by its founding rabbi Lori Schneide Shapiro who also serves as the community's artistic director. She views Judaism through the lens of a pragmatic spiritual aesthetic designing her approach to melding traditional Jewish ideas with how they now can be applied to making sense in the 21st century. 

Like me, Rabbi Lori grew up with no Jewish identity or upbringing, until as a young adult she traveled around the States and the Middle East in search of meaning and found her Jewish light.

Open Temple is the realization of the constant dream she has had since that discovery of what she calls her Jewish light. She wanted to create a place where people could explore their spirituality through creativity. Rabbi Lori believes that Torah is the blueprint for us to do so. When she moved into Venice, it was clear that there was no community with which to share this vision, so she has created it with Open Temple. 

Rabbi Lori met with community organizers, like One Voice L.A. to learn how to organize. She began a grass roots effort collecting names at the Abbot Kinney Festival and meeting people in house talks and coffee dates. Today Open Temple has over 2000 people on its mailing list and has had over 1000 active participants since September 2016.

As Rabbi Lori points out, "Venice is going through a time of exciting and extreme change. Open Temple seeks to be a forum curating spiritual conversation, where people on all sides can feel safe and enter into the conversation. WE are holding space for community engagement and pluralsim; we will never discriminate based on point of view and seek to unify 'old' and 'new' Venice as we go through this adaptive change." 

Coincidentally with being taken to Open Temple by a friend, I just happened to finish reading an excellent book entitled A History of the Jews in the Modern World by Howard M. Sachar. One of the many many ideas that Sachar deals with in the book is that of Mordecai Kaplan, who developed Judaism not as a theology or legal system, but rather as a "civilization." 

Was it just a coincidence that Rabbi Lori is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College founded by Mordecai Kaplan disciples, whose work is foundational to Rabbi Lori's perspective, mission, and thought? 

Check out Open Temple if at least part of you is Jewishly inclined. Who knows, you might just find your bashert- spiritual or incarnate ... or maybe even both. 

Open Temple House 


1422 Electric Ave.

Venice, CA

(310) 821-1414

 

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com)

-cw

DENSITY DEBACLE-Over the last three years, the residents of the Miracle Mile have been fighting to obtain an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) to preserve the charm and scale of their historic neighborhood. The Miracle Mile emerged in the 1920s and 1930s as the nation’s first linear downtown – a commercial shopping district stretched along Wilshire Boulevard between La Brea and Fairfax – bounded by block after block of multi-family apartment buildings and single family homes. 

The historical continuity of the Miracle Mile was one of the key reasons why, in Autumn 2016, the Miracle Mile HPOZ was approved by the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission. 

Then on December 8, 2016 the City Planning Commission weighed in. The Commission endorsed the HPOZ with one hand and gutted it with the other, cutting out historic properties along Olympic Boulevard, on South Orange Grove Avenue, and between 8th Street and Wilshire Boulevard (see map below.) Suddenly, 79 historic buildings and 500 rent-stabilized apartments were placed in jeopardy – and big-box development was given a green light. 

It is neither a coincidence nor a surprise that soon after the Commission excluded these properties from the pending Miracle Mile HPOZ, an application to demolish 744 South Ridgeley Drive was submitted to the city. Nor that, on February 20, 2017, the tenants received eviction notices. 744 South Ridgeley has the misfortune of sitting right where the Commission drew its pro-development boundaries. 

Yet, 744 S. Ridgeley epitomizes the historic character of the Miracle Mile. The six-unit apartment building was built in 1937 – during one of the city’s biggest growth spurs in which “period revival” was the rage. The apartment house was designed to resemble a French Chateau by Edith Northman (photo below,) the only licensed female architect in Los Angeles at the time. Northman designed five other residences in the Miracle Mile: 1044 S. Cloverdale Avenue (1927), 1024 S. Dunsmuir Avenue (1929), 749 S. Burnside Avenue (1931), 1031 S. Burnside Avenue (1932), 1000 S. Dunsmuir Avenue (1942) -- all of which were deemed “full contributors” to the Miracle Mile HPOZ. Now, three of Northman’s Miracle Mile buildings have been put on the chopping block by the City Planning Commission – 744 quite literally.  

With its turret and dormers and finials and steel casement windows – and elegant courtyard – 744 S. Ridgeley Drive is an apt example of what makes the Miracle Mile so livable, desirable, and culturally significant. Step inside the apartments and this judgment is only further confirmed: light, spacious, airy rooms detailed with finely crafted moldings, hardwood floors, and bronze hardware. (Photo left: Architect Edith Northman) 

What’s more, like most of the multi-family buildings in the neighborhood, 744 S. Ridgeley is rent-controlled. Long-time tenants have been able to put down roots in the neighborhood because their homes remain affordable, by law. Should this building fall to the bulldozers, six more rent stabilized (RSO) apartments will disappear forever. And, as irreplaceable as the architecture is, these apartments themselves are even more irreplaceable amidst the city’s severe, and deepening, affordability crisis (nearly sixty percent of renters pay more than 30% of their monthly income in rent.) Of course, the Miracle Mile HPOZ would have preserved the building, while protecting its rent stabilized units – and occupants. 

But the city Planning Commission decision to exclude Ridgeley north of 8th Street, along with the other redlined streets, means this historic apartment building faces imminent destruction. Why? Planning Commission chair David Ambroz – who in an appointee of Mayor Eric Garcetti – argued that the Wilshire corridor needs increased residential density. That was his justification for ignoring the recommendations of his own Cultural Commission and Planning staff. Yet, not only has the boulevard experienced unabated densification in the last decade, there is still room to grow up without tearing down the small-scale, historic buildings that are the essential fabric of the Miracle Mile. 

Wilshire Boulevard has no height limits; Wilshire Boulevard has many undistinguished buildings; Wilshire Boulevard has three enormous parcels between Fairfax and La Brea, which the subway builders will convert to mega-structures when tunneling is completed. There is, in other words, ample space to accommodate new residents – without sacrificing a single rent stabilized or historic structure. 

The Miracle Mile Residential Association has made a short video to introduce the real people whose lives are about to be upended by the demolition of 744 South Ridgeley. Ultimately, it is the residents who are being asked to sacrifice their homes to David Ambroz’s and Eric Garcetti’s vision. It is time we let their voices be heard. 

Over 1000 people have signed a petition or sent messages demanding that City Hall reinstate historic properties, like this one on Ridgeley, into the Miracle Mile HPOZ. To add your support click on: Support.MiracleMileLA.com 

 

(Greg Goldin is the coauthor of Never Built Los Angeles and a curator at the A+D Museum. From 1999 to 2012, he was the architecture critic at Los Angeles Magazine. He is a longtime resident of the Miracle Mile and was featured in the MMRA Channel's YouTube presentation: "The Miracle Mile in Three Tenses: Past, Present, and Future."   This piece was posted first in the excellent Miracle Mile Residential Association Newsletter.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Westside JCC gets second bomb threat in two weeks.

For the second time in two weeks, the Westside Jewish Community Center on Olympic Blvd near Fairfax Avenue received an e-mail yesterday containing a bomb threat.

After receiving the threat, which came in around noon, “We contacted the Los Angeles Police Department and followed our emergency protocols to evacuate the building. Within an hour the police had very thoroughly checked our building and gave us the “all clear” to re-enter and return to our normal day,” wrote Brian Greene, WJCC’s Executive Director, in an e-mail to WJCC families and friends later in the day.  (Read the rest.) 

-cw

 

 

GUEST WORDS--Let’s face it. Los Angelenos love marijuana. In 2009, there were reportedly more unlicensed dispensaries in the city than Starbucks (over 1,000). By some estimates, medical marijuana is currently a $1 billion market in the city, surpassing Colorado’s entire market. And New Year’s Day 2017 will perhaps be most remembered for the infamous “Hollyweed” sign stunt that garnered international attention. Clearly, Los Angeles is a 420-friendly city. Now, with the passage of Measure M, the City Council will be able get a handle on this popular local industry. 

The City of Los Angeles has had a checkered past with marijuana businesses. In 2003, when the state enacted the Medical Marijuana Program Act it created a legal basis for nonprofit medical marijuana “collectives” to buy and sell marijuana from retail locations. As a result, hundreds of unpermitted shops began popping up around the city. 

Supported by local marijuana consumers, these businesses quickly became very large enterprises. By the time the City began clamping down on this unregulated activity, Los Angelenos were already accustomed to buying cannabis from these shops and supported the dispensaries’ efforts to remain open at the ballot box. 

In 2013, citizens passed Proposition D that essentially immunized 135 of these businesses from prosecution by the City for what would otherwise be criminal activity. Although those dispensaries that were grandfathered in were pleased with this success, this reactive citizen initiative did not foster a productive relationship between City officials and the local cannabis industry. 

In 2016, Proposition D created a direct regulatory conflict between the state and the city when state legislators passed the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. Under MCRSA, the state will begin licensing cannabis businesses in 2018 and will ultimately regulate the entire industry throughout California. In order to obtain a state license, marijuana businesses must possess a license from their local jurisdiction. Since Proposition D only immunized Los Angeles dispensaries from prosecution rather than issue local permits for the activity, those businesses would not have been eligible for state licensure. As a result, Prop. D dispensaries would have been precluded from participating in the state regulatory framework and ultimately would have been deemed illegal despite local protection. 

Facing this harsh reality, a group of Los Angeles dispensaries organized to place a licensing ordinance on the March election. The City Council then drafted Measure M which was similar to the industry initiative but granted authority to City officials to regulate the industry with input from the public. Perhaps as a sign of a new working relationship between the City and the local cannabis industry, the dispensary group ultimately backed the City’s proposal which then easily passed with an overwhelming 79% of the vote. 

Measure M repeals Proposition D thereby allowing the new locally licensed cannabis businesses to be regulated by the state and to participate in the new regulated medical marijuana system. The initiative also enacted local excise taxes for both medical and recreational cannabis businesses creating additional tax revenue to the City. Lastly, the ordinance provides additional law enforcement authority to the City to allow for the speedy prosecution of unlicensed marijuana businesses operating in the City. For example, in addition to civil and criminal penalties, city officials are now authorized to disconnect water and power utilities for those businesses conducting unauthorized cannabis activities. 

Many wonder how these new state and local regulations will affect the local cannabis industry and impact communities. Will the local regulated cannabis market flourish or will the unregulated cannabis market continue to be a major presence in Los Angeles? Although it is impossible to predict the success of the new regulated cannabis industry it will be influenced by several factors. 

First, the federal, state, and local government agencies will continue to influence the black and regulated markets. Despite state and local legalization laws, marijuana remains a Schedule I illegal substance under federal law. If the federal government continues to prosecute individuals engaged in marijuana activity outside of the regulated state system and leaves alone those businesses that comply with state and local laws, then we may see a decrease in the number of unpermitted marijuana businesses operating in the City. Illegal marijuana operators may decide that the risk of federal prosecution does not outweigh any short-term financial benefit. 

Second, the quality and price of products in the legal marijuana industry will likely impact the success of the new regulated industry in Los Angeles. If dispensaries offer unique, safe products and services to cannabis consumers at a competitive price then these businesses should be able to compete with the unregulated, black market. Recent media reports and litigation surrounding the health risks caused by mold and pesticide in cannabis have highlighted some of the dangers of purchasing cannabis from the unregulated market. 

And lastly, consumers will have to support the legal industry over the black market with their pocketbooks. Some compare the purchasing of unregulated cannabis to buying pirated music or DVDs. In order to support those businesses that pay taxes on cannabis, pay their employees a decent living wage, and pay farmers a fair price for their products, consumers should only buy cannabis from properly licensed and regulated businesses. For comparison, the City of San Diego recently supported efforts of a local marijuana trade association with PSA-type magazine advertisements encouraging medical marijuana consumers to only purchase products from licensed dispensaries. 

Assuming all of these factors fall into place and the Los Angeles cannabis industry becomes a fully regulated system, the economic opportunities are endless. Within the same statewide regulatory system, consumers in the city will have access to the world-renowned strains of the famous Emerald Triangle growers. The production regions of Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino Counties are already well on their way to create region-specific or “appellation” zones of high quality cannabis products. 

Capital investment is already pouring into the cannabis industry from institutional investors and private equity funds alike. As the center of the international entertainment industry, Los Angeles is poised to become the “Silicon Valley” of cannabis with the creation of new world class cannabis brands and potential celebrity endorsements of those brands. 

As the new state laws begin to allow for advertising for the cannabis industry, it is not too difficult to imagine a magazine ad in the future featuring Brad Pitt but rather than sipping a martini he is puffing a branded cannabis joint or vape pen. If art imitates life, Hollywood may very well become “Hollyweed” someday.

 

(Lance Rogers manages Greenspoon Marder’s Cannabis Law practice in California and handles a wide array of matters related to cannabis including criminal defense, civil rights, asset forfeiture, land use, business disputes, unlawful detainer, and municipal zoning challenges.)

-cw

TRANSIT WATCH--So here we are in spring of 2017--we've just had two elections that were both bruising and decisive, either in victory or in failure. The city and county of Los Angeles has a new president they overall do NOT like, but can legally drown their disappointment in a haze of legalized marijuana. Public spending on transportation and the homeless is up, and developers are encouraged to build affordable housing ASAP. 

Among other issues on voters/taxpayers minds: trains and mobility, and overall ridership.  We want to get from here to there.  Despite the knee-jerk tendency to complain about everything, Metro has a lot to crow about, and so do we--but we've got a lot to focus on with respect to improving and preventing operations at Metro and other transportation-related services. 

First, THE GOOD: 

1) Ridership is up on the Expo, Gold, and other light rail lines, in ways we kind of predicted but did so a decade ago with our fingers crossed. Ridership on the buses is NOT what we expected, but there's a confounding variable that NOBODY saw coming a decade ago: Uber/Lyft. 

Those who are transit-dependent and find it convenient will use the buses, but for all of us who were fearing doom and gloom because our buses weren't connecting to our trains (myself included!) there is an individual freedom and mobility with Uber/Lyft/Metro Rail that is being achieved by more than we realize... and probably isn't too easily measured. 

2) My teenage son, who I once brought to Friends4Expo Transit meetings in a baby carrier, is now big enough to carry me, and attended a Railroading Merit Badge event with his and other Boy Scout troops.  Interest was high, our trip on the Pasadena Gold Line was standing-room only, and a huge choice of restaurants now exist at Union Station where virtually none existed a decade ago. 

3) Downtown is rapidly becoming a place to go to, rather than a place to avoid.  Interest is almost as high in the Downtown Light Rail Connector as it is the future LAX/Metro Rail Connector. However, the southeast portion of Downtown remains ignored and unloved (more on that later). 

4) As awful as it is that the I-10 and I-110 freeways are, even on the weekend, for those who use them it DOES portend that our economy is coming back big time, in one way, shape or form. Whether it's with decent jobs and/or whether it's due to an underground, cash-only economy are two other questions not to be answered here. 

Next, THE BAD: 

1) It was such a struggle to build the Expo Line that it now goes too slow, and its impacts on traffic actually ARE as horrible--perhaps worse--than many of us had feared. 

Although thoughtful author Ethan Elkind has a lot of good ideas on how to improve our transportation investment after passing Measure M, he too often supports the point of view that gives the "thumbs up" to transit riders to an extreme that throws another, more hostile finger at those who must use their cars to get to work, errands, etc. 

2) Transit advocate Matthew Hetz also opines the need for single-family housing to use mass transit for environmental purposes, and it is hoped that greater awareness of our expanding mass transit system will encourage more to use mass transit. 

And our young Millennials and teenagers, as evidenced by demographic trends, are avoiding the stress of cars and using transit ... and Uber/Lyft ... and walking ... to the benefit of all. 

3) But the lack of elevated grade separations--pursued by too many at Metro, and opposed by too many next-to-the-track neighbors being of visual concerns--is hurting us all.  The trains are too darned slow, and the cars trying to cross the tracks are forced to wait 10-15 minutes or longer during rush hour.  

And ditto for pedestrian grade-separations with our need for pedestrian bridges over major thoroughfares! 

So the next time someone complains of a rail line, or the need for a visually-impacting bridge, either the majority of us (who, when polled, probably do NOT care about the looks of a bridge) and/or Metro should tell the immediate neighbors to "deal with it" or move.   

I'll wager that a bunch of us on the Westside and in Mid-City find the Sepulveda Blvd. bridge to be just beautiful and wish we had a lot more of them to allow our trains and our car traffic to achieve quicker and safer speeds to enhance our mobility, environment, and quality of life. 

Finally, THE STUPID

Simply put, using the underutilized Harbor Subdivision rail right of way for walking and bicycle paths instead of completing a direct LAX to Inglewood to the Blue and Silver Lines to southeast Downtown Los Angeles to Union Station is about as stupid an idea as ... 

... not connecting LAX to Metro Rail, or 

... not connecting the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines with an underground Downtown Light Rail Connector. 

Over the next few years, we will realize that our need for a second "light rail connector" is paramount and hideously overdue to serve the southern and eastern portions of LA County with LAX and Union Station. 

And we're blowing it. Big time. 

So there really IS a lot to crow about in the world of transportation.  And then there's a lot we'll be EATING crow about in that same world of transportation.  

Yet the hope for improving mobility in our future is always there ... as the crow flies.

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOO LITTLE DEMOCRACY-Los Angeles is solidly Democratic and has voted so twice in the past five months to prove it. However, it is a sad commentary on both the democratic leadership and our city that an overwhelming majority of voters reelected the mayor and six city councilmen, as well as stopped Measure S in its tracks -- and they did so with one of the lowest voter turnouts in history. It was a landslide, but from a very small hill. 

So what can be taken away from this kind of municipal triumph? Clearly the Berniecrats who were inspired to vote for a social democrat last June were not similarly inspired to vote out the Democratic leadership in a sanctuary city opposing #45notmypresident. This is a dilemma for party leadership here in the desert-city-by-the-sea, a city that likes to see its reflection as Hollywood and LA LA Land, but not Watts or Wilmington. 

The challenge for Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Joe Buscaino, who seem to be connected at the hip, is how to play their roles on the national stage while remaining relevant to the multitude of neighborhoods they represent. After all, Los Angeles is a collection of towns looking to find a city. Every mayor since Tom Bradley has tried to create a Los Angeles epicenter, but this hasn’t made those on the periphery very happy. Just look at the backlash to gentrification in Venice or East Los Angeles or the reactions to continued industrialization at the Port of Los Angeles and the expansion of LAX. There is deep dissatisfaction in the hoods that are distant from City Hall and that harbors an even deeper distrust of the “city family” — a distrust that this election has not resolved. 

However, grassroots democracy is not dead in this city. It’s just waiting for a vacant seat in which to run without the weight of an incumbent blocking the path. Council District 7 is a prime example in which 22 candidates ran for office. All of them learned the hard way about the impediments the city places in the path to running for elected office — not the least of which are the 500 qualified signatures of registered voters needed to get on the ballot. It only takes 50 signatures to qualify for elected offices at the county or state level. But the Los Angeles city clerk’s office can’t even get the petition forms right! 

With the city bureaucracy protecting the superstructure of incumbency and money-in-politics, those who vote with campaign donations often don’t actually reside in the city, but lean heavily on those in power. This was the issue proponents of Measure S made in this past election over spot zoning. While losing 66.72 to 31.28 percent in this election, Garcetti had to realize that nearly 250,000 Angelinos were not happy and he immediately issued an executive order banning ex parte meetings with developers by commissioners. Does that also apply to city councilmembers? 

I seriously doubt that we will ever really eradicate the influence of money in politics, but what we can do is vote for those who are highly resistant to legal bribery. Give us candidates who actually work for the greater good of the city’s citizens, rather than those who aspire to higher office. I sometimes wonder, if Jesus was elected mayor, just how long it would take for the Pharisees of this city to tempt him. All we can hope for is that the people we elect prioritize the greater good over pocketing the money that’s there before them. It’s not inconceivable. It’s just improbable considering that Los Angeles’ current power structure perceives criticism as a threat. 

Just one week after Measure S went down in defeat, Vincent Bertoni, Garcetti’s latest hero in the Department of City Planning came to San Pedro for an early morning chat with the local Chamber of Commerce. He has a great grasp on the challenges of city planning. He even has some profoundly good ideas on how to fix them. Yet, he said something quite peculiar. He said, “LA is a place.” 

Now, the only time that I, as a lifetime citizen of Los Angeles, have self-identified as an Angeleno is when I travel to some place abroad. If you go to Paris, France or Mexico City and someone asks, “Where are you from?” it’s easier to say LA because everyone knows where that is. But it’s relatively meaningless because LA is not A PLACE -- it’s a collection of places each with their own identities, cultural references, landmarks and history. And that is the challenge to citywide planning: one size doesn’t fit all. 

The problem in city planning is the same problem all the other departments have, which is how to have consistent rules and ordinances across the city when there are some reasons, possibly 35 (read community plans) or more, to have exceptions to these rules. This is the raison d’etre for the 95 neighborhood councils; this is among the many reasons for the growing dissatisfaction with City Hall -- too much government and too little democracy. And perhaps this is also the explanation for Donald Trump and the Democrat’s inability to effectively resolve his curious rise to power with their own inadequacies. 

Los Angeles just may be the testing ground for a new form of democratic politics called “Version 20.18.” Clearly, this will not happen if only 10 percent of the citizens continue to turn out to vote in city elections. For, as is said, all politics are local. If you want City Hall to pay attention to your part of this metropolis, you gotta turn up the heat at the ballot box!

 

(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy - Don't listen to that man with the white cap - he might say something that you agree with!" He has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen…and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com.)

URBAN PERSPECTIVE-The day the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, Appeals Court Judge and Scalia’s nominated replacement, Neil Gorsuch, said he could barely get down a ski run in Colorado because he was so blinded by tears at his death. This was not a private utterance or personal feeling of deep emotion that he shared with friends and family. He told of his profound sorrow in a speech in April 2016 at Case Western University. Gorsuch wanted the world to know that Scalia was more than just a heartfelt friend. He was a man and a judge whose legal and judicial mindset he was in total lockstep with. 

Scalia represented judicially everything that liberal Democrats, civil rights, civil liberties, women rights, and public interest groups regard as wrong with the Supreme Court. His opinions and votes on crucial cases read like a “what’s what” of legal horror stories. Scalia tipped the White House to Bush in Bush versus Gore in 2000, voted to gut voting rights, oppose same sex marriage and gay rights protections, scrap the checks on corporate spending on elections, whittle away at abortion rights and to give free rein to corporations to discriminate by narrowing down who could file class action lawsuits. 

The only reason that Gorsuch hasn’t matched his mentor and idol, Scalia’s, 19th Century grounded voting record on key cases is because he hasn’t been on the court for the number of decades as Scalia was on the high court. But there’s enough in his thin resume on some cases that pertain to abortion rights, planned parenthood funding, a powerhouse federal judiciary, and most menacingly, the strictest of strict reading of the constitutionalism (branded “originalism”) to serve as fair warning of what’s to come if he gets on the SCOTUS. And, as with Scalia, it won’t be pretty. 

This is one of the few times that Senate Democrats can do exactly what Senate Republicans did with Obama’s pick to replace Scalia, Merrick Garland: use the filibuster to say no. The GOP concocted the blatant lie to justify their obstructionism that Obama was a lame duck president, and lame duck presidents don’t and shouldn’t have the right to put someone on the high court on their way out. They pooh-poohed the fact that the Senate has approved other lame duck president’s nominations to the courts, including Reagan’s pick of Anthony Kennedy in 1988, Reagan’s last year in office. 

They blocked Garland not because of protocol, propriety, or tradition, but because of raw, naked and brutal partisan politics. The GOP understands that the Supreme Court is not just a neutral arbiter to settle legal disputes. It is a lethal weapon to skirt congressional gridlock and serve a dual role as a judicial and legislative body. This has meant scrapping the long-standing tradition on the court in which justices based their legal decisions solely on the merits of the law, constitutional principles and the public good, and not on ideology. Trump and his hard-right conservative backers are fully aware that the court’s power to be de facto legislators could last for decades. After all, presidents and congresspersons come and go, but justices can sit there until death if they choose. Scalia was proof of that. He sat on the bench for 30 plus years. 

Gorsuch is young, fit, and conceivably could duplicate Scalia’s tenure on the high court. He would sit there long after Trump is gone, and long after other future Democratic presidents that might sit in the Oval Office depart. During those years, he will be a key vote, if not the key vote, on many cases involving labor protections, civil rights, civil liberties, gay and abortion rights, corporate power, environmental issues, education, the death penalty, criminal justice system reforms, voting rights, and many other issues that will alter and shape law and public policy for years, perhaps decades to come. 

Gorsuch was carefully vetted by the Heritage Foundation when it submitted its list to Trump of reliable ultra-conservative judges who would rigidly toe the ultra-conservative line. They took no chance of recommending any judge who might in any way be a high court turncoat, and experience a judicial conversion in philosophy as a few judges thought to be reliably conservative have done in the past. The stakes are simply too high to risk that in the relentless drive by ultra-conservatives to roll back the gains in civil, women’s and labor rights of the past half century. 

The pressure will be enormous on conservative Democratic senators in the Red states to cave quickly and support Gorsuch, by rejecting a filibuster. They’ll be hit with everything from the stock argument that presidents have the right to pick their SCOTUS justices to outright threats that they’ll be top targets when election time rolls around. It will take much for them to do what the GOP did with Garland, and that is to say no and back a filibuster. If they cave, they’ll be terribly sorry.

 

(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author, political analyst and a CityWatch contributor. He is the author of In Scalia’s Shadow: The Trump Supreme Court (Amazon Kindle). He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

NEW GEOGRAPHY--With the first billionaire in the White House, Wall Street booming and, for the first time in almost a decade, very solid and broad based job growth, one would think America’s business elite would be beaming. But that’s not so because the country’s moguls are more divided than at any time in recent history.

This conflict stems largely from divergent interests among rival factions of the putative ruling class. Trump’s backers tend to have links with the “real” economy, that is, those people who make things, such as energy producers, domestic manufacturers, agribusiness, suburban home-builders, and aerospace firms. These interests are increasingly concentrated in parts of America Trump painted “red”—the South, the Midwest, the Great Plains, and Appalachia.

On the other side lies the “ascendant” ephemeral economy, based in such industries as media, entertainment, software, and social media, as well as their financial backers. These industries are less affected by environmental regulations than those in more tangible lines of business. They are also concentrated in the deep blue slivers along the coasts and in college towns, the very places where the progressive social and environmental agenda is most deeply entrenched.

Obama’s Legacy: A New Post-industrial ruling class

Barack Obama’s most “transformative” achievement was the consolidation of this potentially hegemonic, post-industrial ruling class. They reaped high returns from the Obama era embrace of ultra-low interest rates, nudging billions into risky tech ventures and speculative urban real estate. These increasingly oligopolistic interests  also benefited  from a Justice Department that eschewed anti-trust inquiries in such areas as smartphone operating systems, search, and social media, where the main players often control  80 and even 90 percent share globally. IT, telecommunications, and media now compose America’s most concentrated sector and is consolidating somewhat faster than older industries, such as manufacturing, property. and wholesale trade.

In the past, Democrats received some support from business, but the GOP ruled the corporate mainstream. As William Domhoff  illustrated in his classic study Fat Cats and Democrats, Democrats drew support from outsiders, some of them less than savory, in industries from energy,  real estate, and gambling (Trump himself was a long-time Democrat). They also drew on diverse industries. As recently as the Bill Clinton years, Bill White, a savvy oil and gas attorney from Houston, served as chairman of the Democratic Party. It is doubtful now that someone with that background, even with White’s prodigious skills, will again be allowed into the party’s inner sanctum.

Obama’s post-industrial corporate elite emerged in his first 2008 election, with Google, Microsoft, Time Warner, IBM, and General Electric (NBC) ranking among the largest business donors. During his time in office, companies like Google enjoyed unprecedented access to the White House: More than 250 people moved between jobs at Google or related firms, the federal government, and Democratic political campaigns.

In the process,  the technology and media oligarchies became core funders of the  Democratic Party. This could prove more important in the future, as six of the ten and eight of the top 15 richest people on the planet, according to Forbes, derive their fortunes from these businesses. And this could just be the beginning: All of the 12 richest entrepreneurs under 40 come from the tech industry.

Even Hillary Clinton, a far less appealing figure than Obama, garnered most of the big money from tech oligarchs and their employees. Open Secrets notes that among private firms the largest business donors to her campaign included tech media establishments, including Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Microsoft, Apple, Time Warner, and Comcast.

Trump’s victory shocked this cozy alliance, and placed them in opposition. Silicon Valley, along with its idiot aunt, Hollywood, are now the most likely business constituencies to go into hysterics over the most recent inane Trump tweet, with some CEOs active participants in the anti-Trump “resistance.” Those few in Silicon Valley who backed Trump, like Peter Thiel, are now subject to campaigns to drive them from prominent boards. Uber’s Travis Kalanick, himself a rather unpleasant character, has been forced by such pressure to remove himself from any association with the current White House.

Ideology here mixes with self-interest. Mark Zuckerberg, whose $50 billion net worth makes him easily the wealthiest American under 40, recently issued a pronunciamiento that places his company’s objective as far from Trumpian nationalism as possible. He wants to create “a global community” even though his industry has helped foster the most social isolation since people discovered caves. His vision of the future, notes Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky, offers something of a “social dystopia” run by Facebook’s management, with terms of discussion powered by computer algorithms.  

It’s clear what won’t make the cut in Zuckerberg’s “community”: Facebook is  increasingly hostile to any dissenting opinions from the right. The traditional media now wholly or partially  owned by the “ephemeral” economy oligarchs—Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post, Microsoft’s MSNBC and Carlos Slim’s New York Times—have also joined the anti-Trump “resistance,” having just previously served as claques for Obama and Hillary Clinton. Newsrooms may always have tilted somewhat to the left, but today they seem about as objective as those in Putin’s Russia or, for that matter, Fox News.

Immigration may be the biggest hot button issue separating the oligarchs from a   White House that has fanned nativist flames. But for them, embracing immigration—most notably the odious HIB visa program—does not mean adhering to legal norms or American traditions. Instead, their immigration vision fits that of companies seeking indentured tech servants as well as a cheap and inexhaustible supply of undocumented cheap dog-walkers, toenail painters, and nannies.

For this constituency, neither Trump’s proposed infrastructure program nor his moves to deregulate the economy have much appeal. After all, the Bay Area oligarchs seem perfectly fine with California’s regulatory insanity, and the piteously poor condition of the state’s infrastructure. Who needs roads and bridges when you have the cloud?

Of course, not all the new ruling class can dismiss Trump so haughtily. Elon Musk, a Hillary supporter who still sits on the new president’s economic council, needs skilled tradespeople and reasonable regulation to build electric cars and rockets. He yearns to play a role in Trump’s “lunar gold rush.” Caught in the middle, Musk is trying to make nice even in the face of assaults sent to him from the “resistance.”

Trump’s Oligarchs: Old School and Middle Class Friendly

The Obama oligarchs, like establishmentarians everywhere, clearly missed what the Chicago sociologist Richard Longworth predicted two decades ago: that rapid globalization,   now known as Davos capitalism,  would cause a full scale “social crisis.” The middle and working classes, as the Guardian has correctly noted, have little reason to love “superstar” oligarchs who employ few of them and, according to a recent paper by the Bureau of Economic Research, are a primary reason for the growth of inequality.

Trump’s oligarchs, for their part, reflect interests that jibe more closely with those of many middle and working class families. Trump’s so called  “cabinet of billionaires”—their  net worth is estimated at $14 billion—rightly has elicited criticism from   the Guardian and Mother Jones, which predictably also labeled them a bit too pro-Russian. And to be sure, Wall Street’s hoary hand, notably the ubiquitous Goldman Sachs, has secured  top posts at both the Treasury and the head of the National Economic Council.

Nonetheless, these billionaires have embraced a president who trolls corporations sending jobs overseas and bullies foreign firms, like Softbank, into committing themselves to major employment in the states. Obama and his academic coterie might dismiss such behavior as unseemly, darkly nationalistic and even ahistorical, but there may well be political gold there.

Of course, self-interest is a guiding factor, something particularly evident in the energy industry. The Trump cabinet features Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil, as its secretary of State,   Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, as Energy secretary, and Oklahoma’s former attorney general, Scott Pruitt, as director of the EPA. David Wolff, one of the Houston’s largest land owners, notes  the change of administration has sparked renewed optimism across the energy belt. “It is nice to have a president who doesn’t hate your major industry,” Wolff quips.    

Many manufacturers—at least those who build products  here—also have reason to celebrate the Trump ascension. A lot of firms felt threatened by the Democrats’ regulatory regime, which threatened to boost their energy and other costs. They also were the primary victims of globalist trading polices embraced by the grandees of both parties. The 79-year-old billionaire Wilbur Ross, the new Commerce secretary, made his fortune by buying and selling companies in such trade-impacted sectors as steel, textiles, and coal. Trade advisor Peter Navarro is well-known for pushing neo-protectionist and nationalist policies abhorred by the new oligarchs but popular in large parts of the country.

Interregnum or Change of Direction?

To the increasingly disconnected and increasingly concentrated blue state media, Ross and his ilk may epitomize an unhealthy attraction to “backward” sectors that need to be “disrupted” by the geniuses of Silicon Valley. Given their sense of historical inevitably, the tech oligarchs may feel that this shift is just a temporary halt in their drive, as notes Newsweek’s Michael Wolff,  to create “a more careful, regulated, and corrected world.”

Yet many more Americans—particularly blue collar Americans—may prefer the Trump approach. Manufacturing employs some 11 million workers compared to 2.7 million in information. Both have seen their share of jobs go down since 2004, but, suggests the Bureau of Labor Statistics, industrial jobs are likely to remain six times as numerous by 2024. Throw in the mining sector, which includes energy, and the difference is expected to be roughly 9.4 million jobs compared to 2.4 million in the information sector.

Ironically, the workforce in these industries is far more diverse than in those businesses run by the Obama oligarchs, who loudly champion the rainbow ideal but rarely in practice.   Silicon Valley  employs very few African-Americans or Hispanics; they make up barely 6 percent, for example, of Facebook’s workforce while overall leading tech firms employ barely 5 percent. In contrast,  according to 2015 data, 16.2 percent of manufacturing workers are Latinos and 9.7 percent are African-Americans. In mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction, Latinos make up 16.9 percent of the workforce and African-Americans 4.8 percent, while in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting, nearly a quarter of the workforce—23.0 percent—is Latino and 2.7 percent African-American.

If Trump policies can unleash a boom in these industries, he may have more staying power than many in the chattering classes admit. At least the Trumpians offer the prospect of upward mobility, greater independence, and the pride of work. In contrast, Silicon Valley’s vision, notes Greg Ferenstein, who has researched the views of the post-industrial elite, suggests a world where a “greater share of economic wealth will be generated by a smaller slice of very talented or original people”—that is, the denizens of Silicon Valley. “Everyone else,” he continues, “will increasingly subsist on some combination of part-time entrepreneurial ‘gig work’ and government aid. “

One has to wonder whether the prospect of widespread downward mobility for all but the “best and brightest” will prove very attractive to the majority of Americans. In contrast, Trump’s outsized promises, however unrealistic, may retain surprisingly long-term appeal. 

Trump’s business cronies may be grizzled, and even reactionary. They still may well end up as anachronisms, the last devotes of a dying industrial, largely white, America. But the Trump interregnum could become a new dominant paradigm if the Obama oligarchs fail to develop a vision that allows a better future than the jobless, socially stagnant and politically correct one now on offer.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of New Geography … where this analysis was first posted. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. He lives in Orange County, CA.)

-cw

EDUCATION POLITICS--If you know Shakespeare's play “Julius Caesar, the Ides of March -- or March 15 – it is the date in 44 BC when Julius Caesar was assassinated. In California, the Ides of March in 2017 might in the future be looked upon as the date the new California School Dashboard (CSD) student performance evaluation system signaled the purposeful assassination of anything remotely resembling real accountability for the public education system. 

On that date state officials unveiled the CSD public education accountability system that, in reality, is the most comprehensive way yet devised to further obfuscate how students are actually not doing well in public schools. Under CSD it is virtually impossible to address the subjective needs of students, since the CSD assessment never allows for an objective standard to measure even minimally their actual education levels. 

Anything that remotely approximates an objective standard for measuring how students and specific schools are doing -- in comparison to all other students and schools in the state -- has been eliminated in favor of a new color-coded system offering feel good assessments that give contrived acceptable rankings based on “improvement” without any notion of holding students to the mastery of grade-level standards they will ultimately be required to have when they leave school and try (unsuccessfully) to be gainfully employed. 

In a March 16 article, the LA Times acknowledged that this new CSD assessment framework replacing the prior objective standard of the Academic Performance Index (API), "paints a far rosier picture of academic achievement than past measurements." If the patient/student is running a high fever and is very sick, you can either treat the patient/student or break the thermometer. CSD breaks the thermometer. 

So now, under CSD "80% of schools serving grades three through eight are ranked medium to high performing...when last year the majority of the [same] students failed to reach English and math standards." The fact that "those schools whose average math scores fell below proficiency [now] receive the dashboard's highest rating for math" is never addressed. 

There is clearly an effort by the CSD to obfuscate the continuing failure of too many schools and students. The API objective standard let you know that, if you were in an 800 or 900 API school, things were okay; but if you were in a 400 or 500 API school, you couldn't learn even if you wanted to. The CSD makes this kind of assessment or accountability impossible. 

Given the pressure on teachers to pass students whether or not they have been able to do the work, how can passing or rates of graduation be used in CSD assessment when they do not reflect an objective, independently verifiable level of academic achievement? 

CSD even takes into account suspension rates at a school without ever asking the threshold question as to whether teachers still have the power to suspend students from a class where they are making it impossible for their fellow students to learn. 

As reported in the LA Times, Carrie Hahnel of Education Trust West in Oakland said: [the CSD is] "terribly misleading -- communicating things are just fine even if they're not." More telling is what Jenny Singh of the California Department of Education said in opting for having blue or green positive ranked schools: “You don’t want to have an accountability system come out and say there’s not going to be any blue or green schools.” Does she believe this is true, even if you have to engage in hiding the true level of too many schools in order to do so? 

It is not surprising that LAUSD officials have called the new CSD system "useful," since its lack of clear objectively verifiable standards of academic excellence will now allow them to continue putting their careers ahead of the needs of their failing students. For them, it’s a "fairer way of looking at schools," because it continues to not hold them accountable for predictable student failure that could be easily addressed -- if these students were assessed and educated in a timely manner.

 

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

TRUMP WATCH--Responses were varied as to what made Trump's presidency seem illegitimate. Some said it was his nationalist rhetoric and policies; others said they doubted whether he was fairly elected. (Most young Americans see President Donald Trump as illegitimate, according to a new poll out Friday.

The survey by GenForward, conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found that 57 percent of adults between 18-30 years old—including three-quarters of black Americans and a large portion of Latinos and Asians—see Trump's presidency as illegitimate.

A slim majority of white young adults, 53 percent, consider him a legitimate president, but even among that group, 55 percent disapprove of the job he's doing.

Responses were varied as to what made Trump's presidency seem illegitimate. Some said it was his nationalist rhetoric and policies; others said they doubted whether he was fairly elected.

One respondent said he keeps remembering Trump giving a speech in which he referred to Mexicans as criminals and rapists. "You can't be saying that [if] you're the president," said the respondent, 21-year-old Jermaine Anderson, a student from Florida.

"I'm thinking, he's saying that most of the people in the world who are raping and killing people are the immigrants. That's not true," Anderson said.

Megan Desrochers, a 21-year-old student from Michigan, said, "I just think it was kind of a situation where he was voted in based on his celebrity status verses his ethics."

The poll of 1,833 adults age 18-30 was conducted February 16 through March 6. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams ... where this report was most recently posted.)

-cw

CONSERVATIVES AGREE--While it seems that the American public holds a dim view of most of its elected officials these days, a recent Fox News poll highlighted one lawmaker who has seemingly won over the majority of voters: Sen. Bernie Sanders

The survey, published Wednesday, found that 61 percent of respondents said they view the Independent senator from Vermont, an avowed Democratic socialist, favorably.

At the same time, only 32 percent of respondents said they approve of the the job that Democrats are doing in Congress (60 percent disapprove), and even less (29 percent) agree with the work of the GOP.

Notably, the polling comes as Sanders, who caucuses with the Democrats and lost in a competitive presidential primary bid to Hillary Clinton, has faced antipathy from the party establishment. 

Pointing to the Fox News poll as well as a Huffington Post chart that tracks Sanders' favorability over time, the Guardian's Trevor Timm wrote Friday: "One would think with numbers like that, Democratic politicians would be falling all over themselves to be associated with Sanders, especially considering the party as a whole is more unpopular than the Republicans and even Donald Trump right now."

"Yet," Timm continued, "instead of embracing his message, the establishment wing of the party continues to resist him at almost every turn, and they seem insistent that they don't have to change their ways to gain back the support of huge swaths of the country."

But, as the conservative news survey seems to suggest, Sanders' message of economic justice may be one of the few points of popular resonance in the U.S. Case in point, earlier this week the progressive senator traveled to West Virginia to connect with supporters of President Donald Trump over the growing interest in a single-payer healthcare system.

Another interesting statistic from the Fox News poll: Planned Parenthood, the embattled women's healthcare provider widely scorned by Republican lawmakers, also boasts strong favorability among U.S. voters. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they are either 'strongly' or 'somewhat' in favor of Planned Parenthood, compared to only 32 percent who view the organization unfavorably.

Sanders' rating is the highest yet for the poll, which has also taken samples in September 2015, as well as in March, June, and August 2016. Planned Parenthood's popularity has also jumped 7 percent since August 2015.

Notably, Sanders is the only individual among those on the survey who broke 50 percent favorability. Some of the others include: Vice President Mike Pence (47 percent); President Donald Trump (44 percent); Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), with 39 percent; House Speaker Paul Ryan (37 percent); House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (33 percent); Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (26 percent); and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (20 percent).

(Lauren McCauley writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)

-cw

GELFAND’S WORLD--Some of us here may be old enough to remember looking at black and white television as President John F. Kennedy spoke to the nation about offensive missiles that the Soviet Union was installing in Cuba. It was October, 1962. This recollection is stimulated by the reshowing on late night TV of the 1974 dramatization, The Missiles of October. Those with a critical eye will notice a much younger William Devane as the president and an equally younger Martin Sheen as Robert Kennedy. Even more curious, celebrated actor Ralph Bellamy played then ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson. Bellamy had previously starred in Sunrise at Campobello, a Broadway play about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a role he reprised on a local stage in Los Angeles. 

Why is this forty year old made-for-television movie of interest all of a sudden? Obviously there is the contrast between JFK and the current occupant of the office. But it is the nature of this contrast that is concerning, and therefore worth dissecting. 

The year 1962 found the western world and the Russian empire locked in an ideological struggle that had been escalating on the nuclear front for a decade. The development of the hydrogen bomb had made the world an unsafe place. The competition to be able to deliver thermonuclear explosives over long distances was an active area for technical research and military development. The placement of intermediate range ballistic missiles in Cuba would have made the United States more vulnerable at the time. One day, a U.S. spy plane brought back aerial photos from Cuba showing the construction of a missile site. 

The plot of the movie bounces back and forth between the Kennedys and Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev. Each leader is involved in intense debates which include their top military commanders and their foremost political analysts. Krushchev, as portrayed in this dramatization, first rationalizes the risk he is about to take and later begins to understand that the risk of a disastrous war is the result. And it is growing. 

JFK is faced with the task of getting the Russians to back down and to remove the missile emplacements. A ray of hope begins to develop as each side begins to understand that it is necessary to give the other a chance to compromise without losing face. 

The movie portrays Kennedy's inner circle as a group of influential men who bring enormous experience and education to the task. What begins to dawn on the present day viewer is that we are expected to view the characters as people with intelligence, honesty, and honor. It's not surprising that generals and admirals try to push the president in the direction of air strikes and invasion. JFK and his broth Bobby do their best to keep the war talk under control. But each of the participants shows respect towards all of the others. JFK knows how to give orders and the others understand how much they can push back. 

As the crisis continues, we realize that even a leader of the caliber of JFK is driven by real world events. Depending on how the Russians act, he may be forced to order the invasion. He understands the grave danger this would bring. 

That was real life in 1962. Over the past couple of election cycles, we have endured irritating political ads in which a telephone call to the White House at 3 AM about some developing world crisis is used to represent the immediacy of presidential responsibilities. 

In the year of 1974 when this televised movie appeared, viewers were entitled to consider the president and his advisors as people who took their responsibilities seriously, who brought depth and broad intelligence to the table, and who didn't lie to each other. There is a lot of back and forth in the movie about how to withhold information from the press and when exactly to reveal it. But there is no inkling of a president or a presidential press secretary telling lies just for the sake of trivial expediency. 

There is no doubt that The Missiles of October glorifies its participants and avoids their all too human blemishes both as human beings and as politicians. But all of the characters in the story manage to maintain their dignity in public as they did in real life. Then again, they didn't have Twitter in 1962. 

These are characters who would take care to avoid being caught in a public lie. They would avoid becoming the public buffoon. The real life versions of these men didn't always live up to the public perception, but they at least paid lip service to the expectation and the ideal. 

It's hard to imagine the American people of 1960, in the face of thermonuclear risk, supporting a buffoon for the Oval Office. Even Richard Nixon, the 1968 winner, had the ability to carry on fairly learned discourse about international affairs without looking like a complete idiot. 

Perhaps the lesson of 2016 is that Americans simply don't worry very much about mass destruction on the scale that 1960s era Americans faced on a daily basis. Nowadays we are entitled to think about terrorism, but that is at a different level than the prospect of tens of millions of dead in a nuclear exchange. 

Jack Kennedy was aware of the danger, and at least in this dramatized portrayal, does his absolute best to avoid doing anything that would humiliate his opponents. Let this be a reminder. 

As I was watching this old rerun, there was the increasing sense of dismay that at one time, we had the right to expect our top elected officials to act at least in their official capacities with some sense of honor and in the performance of their duties with a considerable amount of intelligence. 

Addendum 

The Congressional Budget Office, as expected, came up with an estimate that the current House bill to replace the Affordable Care Act would reduce the number of insured by 14 million people, and over a decade, by nearly twice that many. Then the White House mentioned that their estimate was even a little worse. It remains to be seen how House Republicans will deal with wide scale public fears about the potential loss of Medicaid benefits. We can expect that Democrats will start to talk about Paul Ryan's stated intention of cutting back on Medicare. I'd like to think of some other descriptive term besides perfect storm, but that's what fits.

 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net

-cw

TAX LEAK RAISES QUESTIONS-- President Donald Trump paid $36.6 million in federal income tax on more than $150 million in income in 2005, according to leaked documents obtained Tuesday night by Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnston.

"The 1040 shows how Trump obtained money—salary, business profits, dividends, and the like," Johnston wrote at the DC Report after the White House confirmed the documents' authenticity. "But there is still far more that it doesn't say."

Indeed, the release, which comprised just two pages of returns, in some ways raised as many questions as it answered:

  1. Where did his income actually come from?

As Johnston reported Tuesday night, the 1040 form shows that Trump made money through "salary, business profits, dividends, and the like," but does not name the sources of his income—"whether rich golfers playing on his various courses or Russian oligarchs visiting his various hotels," Johnston wrote at DC Report. "Nor does the 1040 distinguish between Trump's business and personal expenses—money spent traveling in his personal jet between homes and offices in New York and Florida or between hotels and golf courses around the world."

What he did get out of, Johnston noted, was "repaying nearly $1 billion he borrowed for his failed casino business" by making use of a tax shelter that Congress shut down soon after. "Ten years later, on his 2005 return, Trump was still saving tax dollars thanks to that tax shelter."

  1. What's this AMT all about?

Trump has called for the elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), the mechanism through which he paid the bulk of his 2005 taxes—about $31 million. The AMT is a federal rule that requires individuals pay the higher of two taxes—either their standard income tax or their AMT, which is imposed at a much higher threshold. The rule was implemented to keep a lid on tax-dodging by the wealthy. During his 2016 campaign, Trump vowed to abolish the mechanism, claiming it put a burden on middle-class families.

"But for AMT, which Trump wants to scrap, he'd have paid a lower tax rate than the poorest ½ of Americans—under 3.5 [percent] on $152.7 million," Johnston tweeted.

  1. Who leaked Trump's tax returns?

The answer is thus far unclear, but many—including Johnston—speculated that it could be someone acting on the president's behalf, or the president himself.

"It's entirely possible that Donald sent this to me," Johnston told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

"It's a possibility, and it could have been leaked by someone in his direction."

On CNN Wednesday, Johnston also noted that Trump has "a long history of leaking things about himself." However, he continued, the White House "behaved pretty unethically" in its response, which included refusing to comment on Johnston's story and instead disseminating the documents to friendly, conservative outlets—which ultimately hints that Trump wasn't behind the disclosure, he said.

Still, many saw the leak's favorable reflection on Trump as too coincidental to be discounted.

As New York Times labor reporter Noam Scheiber wrote on Twitter on Wednesday, the returns showed "basically nothing incriminating." He continued, "If this was someone trying to bust Trump, why wouldn't they leak more than summary page? If this is all they had, why leak it at all?"

Many noted that the forms were marked "Client Copy," indicating that the documents came from someone close to Trump, rather than the IRS, as the Washington Post pointed out.

  1. Was it okay to expose these documents?

The White House said in a statement that it was "totally illegal to steal and publish" Trump's tax returns. But as Johnston and Maddow clarified, they didn't seek out the documents, and Maddow said the First Amendment gives them the right to put them on air.

  1. Where are the rest of the tax returns?

Theories aside, many observers—particularly those in the conservative media, which pounced on Maddow's reporting as a "fake news bonanza," per the rightwing blog Breitbart—said the returns reflected positively on Trump, showing that he paid an effective tax rate of 25 percent.

But that outcome only bolstered the argument that the president's team leaked the documents on purpose, and fueled a separate call to release all the pages in his returns, not just the two-page summary.

As Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) tweeted, "If [Trump] has nothing to hide, why not release complete #TrumpTaxReturns? Not enough to just show 2 pages."

And Slate's Adam Chodorow wrote on Wednesday, "Tax Day is fast upon us. In a normal world, our president would release his tax returns for all to see. This ritual both reinforces the idea that we are all subject to the law and allows the American people to know that their president is not a crook. It also lets us know where the president's financial interests lie so that we can be sure he has our interests at heart when he sets policy."

"Perhaps Trump will surprise us all by releasing his taxes in the next few weeks," he continued. "I'm not counting on it. While we cannot force him to behave as his predecessors have, we can at the very least refuse to let his nondisclosure pass unremarked upon. This still isn't normal. And no one, whether Democrat or Republican, should let it become so."

(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)

-cw

ALPERN AT LARGE--The issue of healthcare, sadly enough, has become highly contentious and viciously partisan, but the need to compartmentalize politics and healthcare policy is critical.   

My previous article was kindly responded to by fellow CityWatch writer Bob Gelfand, who set the right tone:  we've got to TALK and COMPROMISE. 

Particularly if we're not so much on different sides of a given issue.  Part of the reason why health care appears so troubling politically is that we're not always "hearing" what the other side is saying. 

But there ARE differences, and they must be addressed...yet in a manner we've not seen to date.

Example #1: President Obama made it clear that doing nothing is NOT an option, and President Trump, interestingly enough, agrees. 

Example #2: Too many individuals, and families, and businesses were hurting because of the rising cost of health care, so President Obama took action.  Again, interestingly enough, President Trump agrees ... yet uses the "Obamacare" model as the unsustainable and unaffordable option that was hurting the same individuals and families and businesses that President Obama was trying to help. 

So once you/me/we get past the "Obama's coming to getcha!" or "Trump is Hitler!" and focus on fixing the problems, we'll disagree on a few things...but, like Mr. Gelfand and myself, we'll probably agree more than we disagree.   

It's all about the quality, affordability, and access to health care, right? 

1) What we can do, and MUST do, is emphasize transparency and flexibility for negotiations and improvements.   

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (who's as responsible as anyone for no longer being the Speaker of the House and for Democrats losing the House) wants transparency now

Well, ain't THAT rich?  OK, I agree, but perhaps the Democrats would do well with different leadership, because it was Ms. Pelosi who rammed the ACA down our throats, and the results have been less than stellar. 

Costs are UP, Enrollment is DOWN and one need not be a right-wing partisan to suggest that the "Affordable Care Act" hasn't been so appropriately named. 

President Trump has made it clear that the ACA repeal/replace is a work in progress, and will speak to ANYONE willing to talk to him. Some Republicans are fighting Trump's and House Speaker Paul Ryan's plan, and many Democrats are vigorously concerned about it (as they should be). So, let's talk.  And no one party should be relegated to "the back of the bus". 

2) There's the inevitable, and potentially beneficial, divide of universal health COVERAGE vs. ACCESS. 

The ACA or "Obamacare" did NOT get to its goal of universal coverage, and even ended a host of health plans that were used and cherished by tens of millions of Americans. 

Paul Ryan is NOT trying to achieve universal health insurance and without getting too reflexively angry at that, let's catch our breath and remind ourselves of competing realities: 

a) A 43 year-old woman with sudden-onset breast cancer should not lose her insurance, and her family should not be destroyed financially because of her terrible misfortune.  Period. 

b) A 43 year-old man in good health who has not worked in 5-10 years and who wants ongoing health insurance is someone who should be offered the ability to work for his healthcare benefits, or should be relegated to the free public health care system that counties are legally obligated to provided.

The first situation requires much attention and fiscal support from all parts of government, and the second situation shouldn't get us too concerned about "how will he be covered?" 

Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are emphasizing opportunity over mandate and affordability over forced full-coverage for all Americans. 

(And even though it's tough for some of us to talk about, the issue of how much we're spending on those not here in the country legally isn't a trivial one, or an issue that's going to go away.) 

The rest of the issues relate to the need to balance capitalism and socialism, between the benefits of the free market and the need to have government protect us all from predatory behavior, and Gelfand, in his CityWatch column, addresses many of them: 

1) Drug costs are three or more times more expensive in the U.S. than the rest of the world, and we're indirectly subsidizing Europe and Canada.  That must end. 

2) We need more residencies, and government-subsidized health educational costs of physicians and nurses to pay for health care in underserved areas.  Lots of health care professionals would give up a few years of their lives to avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. 

3) Opportunities for individuals and their families to work for their health care should be promoted so long as they are able-bodied, and a host of public works projects can be addressed by those opportunities...you know, that "win-win" situation Trump has always talked about? 

4) There will be arguments over the federal and state roles in funding and overseeing health care, but the first step is always the hardest step...particularly since this will be a neverending argument. Just pass something, and so long as it’s financially sustainable we can deal with fine-tuning the inevitable glitches in ANY system that is passed in Washington, D.C. 

On a final note, it should be emphasized that Republicans and Democrats both have major problems with Mr. Trump and Mr. Ryan ... which can and should be used to the advantage of all of us. 

Because debate and compromise is a form of arguments and policymaking that is ... well ... healthy.

And healthy is what our nation needs to become, more than ever.

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)

-cw 

 

 

 

 

 

EASTSIDER-Having negotiated and mediated a good number of healthcare agreements all over the State of California for a lot of years, I have a reasonable understanding of the fundamentals of how these systems work. And after being inundated with all the highly politicized nonsense from both political parties lately, I say, enough! 

As long as we have a healthcare system which is underwritten by insurance companies, the mathematics of healthcare is simple. Hat tip to Dave Winer, a NYC (Queens) software developer and author of the Scripting News blog, who hit the real issue right on: ”The insurance industry, left to a completely free market, will only insure young, healthy people, and will cancel their policies as soon as they get sick.” 

In the current “debate” in Washington D.C., I don’t think it matters too much whether the politicians are Democrats or Republicans. They all take in gobs of personal money from the health insurance industry and big pharma so that they can stay in office -- even as they tell you and me how much they care while they count their take. 

Be it Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, or President Trump and Representative Tom Price (now Secretary of Health and Human Services,) they all take money from the trough. I will, however, admit that Tom Price personally investing in a joint replacement company and then introducing legislation to benefit them, was over the top, even for D.C. On the other hand, what he did is legal for legislators (who make their own rules,) and Zimmer Bionet Tom, as we can now call him, didn’t do anything that a whole bunch of other legislators in both houses of Congress haven’t done in the past. 

The reality of medical care is that none of us really know when or how much of it we will need. So there has to be some kind of a cushion against life-threatening medical events, or long term illnesses that require expensive treatments, such as dialysis, organ transplants, etc. Otherwise, to put it bluntly, we can get sicker and even die. 

Insurance companies have no economic interest in covering any of this stuff. At the same time, rich people have lobbied Congress so that they don’t have to pay for dialysis, organ transplants, or special needs care. The fact that you and I also benefited from these changes was incidental. Congress, of course goes with the bucks and passes such legislation. It is not a coincidence that it was Ronald Reagan who passed the ADA; his donor base wanted it. 

The Math 

The healthcare equation is that insurance companies don’t want to lose any money on their insurance, and you and I don’t want to get an expensive medical condition, and then get real sick or die because we can’t pay for the medical care. This affects all of us, every person in the United States. Absent some resolution to this conflict, we are all one major medical event away from bankruptcy, or worse. 

Think about it. One major event -- be it long term unemployment, divorce, or major medical emergency -- away from bankruptcy. I’m not making this up. Look at The Two Income Trap, by Elizabeth Warren and her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, written way back in 2003. It’s an impressive (and depressing) read about bankruptcy, a long time before the financial crisis that beggared all of us (except for the banks that caused it.) 

There is really only one entity that has the resources to cover that inherent conflict -- and, you got it, it’s the Government. Because we are really talking about how much risk the insurance industry is prepared to cover (not much) at what cost (a lot), and who’s going to pay for the rest your and my unmet healthcare costs. Realistically, the only entities that can do this are government agencies. And since they govern (and tax) all 360 million of us in the United States, the Feds have the deepest pockets. 

How much the Feds could cover vs. how much state and local entities could cover is pretty much a redistribution of costs issue, since the tax base is progressively smaller as you go down the food chain. Yet the statistical risks for all of us are roughly the same no matter where we happen to reside. A very small state, county or city is simply not going to be able to provide the cushion that the Federal government can. 

That’s the math. 

All the stuff you and I see on TV, hear about on the radio, or that is pushed out to us via social media and our mailboxes, is mostly just noise. Most of it is smoke and mirrors, designed to get you and me to vote for brand X or brand Y, like that will really fix our fundamental healthcare problems. 

Truth is Bernie Sanders was right in his analysis of healthcare, and he paid for it by having both the establishment DNC and RNC try to bury him. Whether or not the government can afford to go to his model, or should, is a public policy discussion that needs to occur and never really has. Instead we get this silliness. 

Budget Cycles and the Cliff 

The timing of all of the proposed changes to our healthcare system is not propitious, either. Most public agencies and corporations operate on one of two budget cycles: July 1 - June 30, or January 1 - December 31. Add in to this the fact that open enrollment for most healthcare providers is October/November for January 1 implementation. In order for them to do the necessary premium calculations, the data and coverage changes need to be in place well before summer. 

So here we are in March with the President and the Republicans playing around with what they call the “repeal and replacement” of Obamacare. After braying the same mantra for about seven years, it is clear that they didn’t have a clue what that slogan really meant. And for their part, the Dems have refused to play and are saying, “You break it, you own it.” Wonderful. 

If you are an insurer, if you are a small business person, if you are a public agency with a July 1 budget deadline, or if you are just a consumer at the mercy of all of these parties, this is incredibly anxiety producing. 

All that “striking while the iron is hot” rhetoric over healthcare is going to do is to make every insurer nuts as they try to figure out what premiums they will have to charge for next year. And they will have to take into account the impact for the rest of this year as hospitals, doctors, clinics and insurers have to make mid-year adjustments. 

The Insurers

It’s a prescription for chaos, even if all the insurers were playing fair. And let us not be deceived -- they are not all playing fair. I keep referring to Aetna as being a poster child for cheating, so let’s take a look at the details. First, they are one of the two largest insurance companies in the “health services industry” space. Whatever they do is therefore a big deal. 

Second, their mega-merger with Humana, another large player in the Medicaid and Medicare space, was a fix. They got caught by a federal judge lying about their decision to drop out of some 17 state exchanges on the grounds that they were losing money. Turns out that they threatened the Feds to do this if the Feds tried to block their merger with Humana. You can read about the skullduggery here.  

While Aetna called off the merger after being nailed by a federal judge, the moves to lessen, rather than encourage, competition in the Obamacare world have been marching on. The other 800 pound gorilla in the Obamacare game is Anthem Blue Cross, and they too are engaging in mergers to limit choice. You can read all about the insurance carriers shrinking our choices for Obamacare here, notwithstanding the blah blah blah of most news media

Whatever people’s ideology or political identification, let’s agree on one thing: insurance companies are in the business of making a profit, period. They are going to budget and set rates based on very conservative assumptions that will keep their CEOs employed. 

Most of the media reports over the Republican healthcare bill concern saving money, and how ok it is to charge folks from 60-65 more money because they “use” medical care more than younger people. Egad! You think? 

Here’s a modest proposal that will save a lot of money. Stop paying for organ transplants, stop paying for dialysis, and stop paying for long term care for the elderly. It would be really cost effective and save a ton of money! Insurance companies would love it. Heck, repeal the Special Ed statute. And make Congress have the same healthcare that you and I have. 

Anyone think they will do it? 

The Takeaway 

Here’s the practical problem: while the Republicans have elected to embrace Speaker Ryan’s plan without any substantive conversations with the Democrats, their math simply doesn’t work. A bill which pushes some 14 million poor and older Americans out of medical insurance while the relatively affluent get significant tax breaks is something that I cannot believe our political system will countenance. 

At the same time, the Establishment, limousine liberal Democratic leadership of Chuck Schumer in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi in the House seems incapable of doing much more than ignoring the fact that they lost the election and are still trying to punish the Republicans for their choice of a deeply flawed candidate -- even as they themselves repudiated Bernie Sanders in every way possible. 

Well, we are all Americans. We all deserve affordable healthcare no matter who we are. What is missing here and deeply troubling, is that if the Republican effort fails, there is no Plan B being worked on by the few adults left in our political system, be they Republican or Democrat – at least that I’m aware of. This is not good and somebody needs to get crackin’ now

Remember, the ACA (Obamacare) is not sustainable in its current form after all that has happened in the last year, and while the big health insurance carriers are good at evading antitrust and gaming the system, I haven’t seen them or big pharma come up with anything sustainable either. 

We need to start electing politicians at every level who are reasonably honest and interested in actually representing you and me instead of the deep pocketed political parties and their owners. As long as election turnouts are in the under 20% range (heck, in LA that would be a big increase,) we’re going to keep getting what we got. 

Get involved, pay attention…and vote!

 

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti is proposing to close part of the City’s $250 million budget gap for next year by using an estimated $50 million of Local Return money from Measure M, the permanent half cent increase in our sales tax that was approved by 71% of voters in November

While the bulk of the proceeds of this new tax are to be used to finance Metro’s ambitious capital expenditure program and its money losing operations, 17% of the proceeds are designated for “Local Return.” Under this program, funds are returned to the cities based on their population for the communities’ “eligible transportation related uses.”  These transportation needs include “transit, streets and roads, storm drains, Green Streets, Active Transportation Projects, Complete Streets, public transit access to recreational facilities, Transit Oriented Community Investments, and other unmet transit needs.” 

Importantly, these Local Return funds are meant to supplement existing programs and not to free up money for the General Fund and other programs. In other words, they are not to be used for deficit reduction. 

In recent interviews and during the campaign to pass Measure M, Garcetti said that these Measure M Local Return funds were to be used to fix, pave, or repair our streets.  

In the upcoming year, the Local Return from Measure M is expected to be about $50 million.  And over the next 40 years, the total haul is projected to be in the range of $5 billion based on Metro’s projections. 

The infusion of these Local Return funds represents an excellent opportunity to jump start the development and implementation of a comprehensive plan to repair and maintain our 28,000 lane miles of streets, considered to some of the worst in the country, and 900 miles of alleys.  A well-conceived long term plan will also go a long way in relieving congestion, the worst in the developed world per a recent article in The New York Times. 

The City’s current street repair program, dubbed the pothole patrol plan, is not working.  While City Hall tells us that the status of our streets has improved slightly because Street Services is budgeted to pave or repair 2,400 miles of roads this year, most Angelenos believe, based on experience, especially after the rains, that our streets have continued to deteriorate.  Furthermore, the pothole patrol plan neglects the more than one third of our streets that are rated D and F, meaning that they need to be either resurfaced or reconstructed, all at great expense. 

If the City combines the resources of the Local Return funds with the current expenditures of the Street Services and Transportation devoted to our roads, it can develop and implement a street repair program that over the next twenty years will make our streets some of the best in the nation.  

Now that is Back to Basics. Forget the photo-ops. Keep your promises. Fix LA’s streets!

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  Jack is affiliated with Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com.  He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.)

-cw

LA WATCHDOG--The City of Los Angeles is confronting a budget gap next year of “at least $250 million” based on Mayor Eric Garcetti’s comment to Larry Mantle, the host of KPCC’s (89.3) AirTalk.  

But this not very well publicized shortfall of at least $250 million may be optimistic. The City believes that the $245 million Power Revenue Transfer Tax (previously known as the 8% Transfer Fee) from the Department of Water and Power, which is the subject of a class action lawsuit, is legal and does not require voter approval pursuant to Proposition 26 (the Supermajority Vote to Pass New Fees and Taxes) that was approved by California voters in 2010.    

Garcetti did not offer any reasons for this staggering $250 million shortfall that exceeds the previously projected budget gap of $85 million.  Nor did he discuss any specific plans to reduce this gap other than to say that the City will rely on several new sources of revenue. 

But these new revenues are not for deficit reduction.  Rather, they are intended to augment existing programs.  This is certainly true for the $50 million of new “Local Return” money from Metro that is designated for the repair and maintenance of our lunar cratered streets. These kickback funds are the result of the passage of Measure M, the permanent half cent increase in our sales tax to fund Metro’s ambitious expansion plans and its ever-increasing operating deficits. 

He also said that he would not institute any new spending polices other than for the homeless, public safety, and the restoration of services.  But these new initiatives will cost north of $100 million.  So much for austerity.  

Underlying the $250 million budget gap is a significant increase in City’s legal liabilities and even greater shortfall in revenues.  Property and sales taxes are anticipated to be $50 million lower than expected while revenue from taxes on the DWP Ratepayers are off by approximately $75 million. 

There is something very fishy going on with the Power Revenue Transfer Tax because of the class action lawsuits that were filed in 2015. 

This year, the Power Revenue Transfer Tax was budgeted to be $291 million.  However, because DWP overestimated the Power System revenue by 10%, or $300 million, the Transfer Tax was only $264 million, a $27 million shortfall.  

For the upcoming year, the Transfer is projected to be $245 million (6.5% of Power System revenues), down from the previous projection of $300 million (8% of revenues).  This dip, despite DWP’s increase in revenues, gives credence to the scuttlebutt that City Hall has cut itself a sweet deal with the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit (Patrick Eck v. City of Los Angeles).    

Of course, the lawyers will make out like bandits. 

And the Ratepayers, rather than being reimbursed for over $1.5 billion in illegally collected taxes (not including interest) and abolishing the illegal Power Revenue Transfer Tax, will once again get the shaft as we will end up paying $245 million a year to the pay-to-play politicians who occupy City Hall. 

But this backroom settlement that was cut over two months ago may not pass legal muster.  Under Proposition 26, this so-called fee that is really a tax must be approved by the voters, a rumble that City Hall wants to avoid.  This may be the reason why the City has not announced this deal because they cannot figure out how to disenfranchise us by not placing this tax on the ballot for our rejection or approval. 

If this crooked deal does not pass the smell test, our friends that occupy City Hall will go ballistic as the projected budget deficit will balloon to $500 million.  

But this sea of red ink is not our fault as the Mayor and the City Council have racked up a $250 million budget gap despite an increase in General Fund revenues of $1 billion.  City Hall has also been on notice for years that the Power Revenue Transfer Tax is illegal, but failed to address the issue in a rational manner. 

City Hall will no doubt ask us to approve this tax.  But what do we get in return?  Maybe it is our turn to ask that in return for approving this new tax, the City will agree to place on the ballot a charter amendment that will finally require our City to go Back to Basics and Live Within Its Means. 

Hold on as we are in for a wild ride.  Budget Madness begins on April 20 when the Mayor presents his new budget to Angelenos. 

 (Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  Jack is affiliated with Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com.  He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.)

-cw

LA WATCHDOG--One of the Priority Outcomes of Mayor Eric Garcetti s Back to Basics agenda was that the City of Los Angeles would “live within its financial means.” 

But this is not the case. 

The City is grappling with a potential deficit of $245 million for this fiscal year that ends on June 30 and a budget gap of at least $250 million for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.  This is despite revenues being up over $1 billion since Garcetti became Mayor. 

These deficits are understated.  They do not include adequate funds to repair and maintain our streets, sidewalks, parks, and the rest of our deteriorating infrastructure.  They lowball the pension contributions that are determined using an overly optimistic investment rate assumption that “save” the City an estimated $500 million a year.  

The impact of these deferrals is to dump an even larger financial burden on the next generation of Angelenos.  

Projections for the next four years do take into consideration future salary increases for the police, civilian employees, and the firefighters. 

It is not a pretty picture.  

On March 8, the Budget Advocates, a volunteer group of citizens representing the charter authorized Neighborhood Councils, met with Mayor Garcetti and members of his budget team to discuss their annual White Paper and their “Back to Basics” Plan which includes the following recommendations. 

  • Develop and implement a seven-year operating and financial plan for the City.  This is standard operating procedure for an enterprise with revenues of over $8 billion a year and 32,000 civilian and sworn employees. 
  • Address the Structural Deficit (where expenditures increase faster than revenues) by refraining from entering into any labor agreement or approving any new programs or initiatives that will result in future budget deficits. 
  • Require that ALL projects take into account the costs and savings over the entire life of the project, including ancillary costs and savings incurred by other City entities and stakeholders. 
  • Develop and implement a long-term plan to fix our streets along the lines of the Save Our Streets LA Measure that was proposed in April 2014. 
  • Implement a long-range plan to grow the City’s economy by developing new business friendly policies that encourage employers to move to LA or to remain and invest in LA. 
  • Benchmark the efficiency of the City’s departments and services and consider outsourcing projects to independent contractors. 
  • Appoint an experienced Chief Operating Officer/City Manager to oversee and coordinate the management of the City’s many departments and to improve their operating efficiency.    

In addition, the Budget Advocates once again urged the Mayor and the City Council to implement the following excellent budget recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission that were endorsed by City Council President Herb Wesson at a well-attended press conference on April 9, 2014 at the California Endowment. 

  • Create an independent “Office of Transparency and Accountability” to analyze and report on the City’s budget, evaluate new legislation, examine existing issues and service standards, and increase accountability. 
  • Adopt a “Truth in Budgeting” ordinance that requires the City to develop a three-year budget and a three-year baseline budget with the goal of understanding the longer-term consequences of its policies and legislation.  
  • Establish a “Commission for Retirement Security” to review the City's retirement obligations to promote an accurate understanding of the facts and develop concrete recommendations on how to achieve equilibrium on retirement costs within five years.  This Commission will also address the Buffett Rule and the investment rate assumptions of the pension plans. 

Unfortunately, these recommendations that were designed to shine the sun on the City’s finances and operations have never seen the light of day. 

In addition, the Budget Advocates have developed a list of revenue producing ideas for the General Fund.  This resulted in a discussion about the specific suggestions and the City’s need for additional revenue to address our infrastructure, service levels, affordable housing, and services to the homeless.  

The Budget Advocates also submitted reports on 26 of the City’s departments.  They were based on numerous in person meetings with department heads that allowed the Budget Advocates to gain a better understanding of the departments and the overall operations of the City.  These reports also contain recommendations specific to the departments. 

The Mayor, recognizing the time, effort, and dedication of the Budget Advocates, will ask the City Administrative Officer and his budget team to report back on the White Paper and its findings and recommendations.  Hopefully, this response will be shortly after the release of next year’s budget on April 20 so that Budget Advocates have ample time to prepare for the Budget and Finance Committee hearings on the budget.  

The development of and the adherence to a long term operating and financial plan, the implementation of a Back to Basics Plan, the adoption of the recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission, the develop of new sources of revenue, and an improved business and investment environment will result in increased revenues for the City that will allow it to eliminate the Structural Deficit, to address its infrastructure needs, and to begin the proper funding of its pensions. 

By increasing the transparency onto the City’s complex operations and finances and by implementing policies that require the City to “live within its means,” City Hall will begin the process of restoring Angelenos’ trust and confidence in its elected officials.

 (Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  Jack is affiliated with Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com.  He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.)

-cw

LA WATCHDOG--Money is the life blood of politics, especially for the politicians that occupy Los Angeles City Hall and the County Hall of Administration. 

So when our Elected Elite support or oppose a ballot measure, we need to follow the cash to determine their true motivations. This is especially true for Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, and Measure H, the quarter of a cent increase in our sales tax that will fund services to the homeless. 

Measure S requires that the City update the General Plan and its 35 Community Plans and assume the responsibility to oversee the development of Environmental Impact Reports and Traffic Studies.  Measure S also eliminates “spot zoning” and places a 24 month moratorium ONLY on “up zoned” projects that would have received lucrative zoning changes, courtesy of the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti. 

The delusional opponents claim that Measure S will make it impossible to build the affordable housing that LA desperately needs.  But the truth is that City Hall does not have a plan to build affordable housing or the necessary billions to fund such a plan.  

And now that the voters have approved JJJ, the Build Better LA ballot initiative, the cost of affordable units will increase by 46% according to Beacon Economics, the firm retained by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, an ardent foe of Measure S. This massive cost increase will kill all residential development that needs a zoning change, whether it is luxury, market rate, or affordable.  

The real reason for the opposition of Garcetti and the City Council is that if Measure S passes, the gravy train that has resulted in more than $10 million in campaign contributions from real estate developers will come to a stretching halt as City Hall will no longer be able to grant lucrative zoning changes to billionaire developers who have no respect for our neighborhoods and our quality of life. 

With the passage of Measure S, the days where the real estate developers make billions, the City Hall politicians collect millions, and we get the shaft are over. 

We will finally get a say in the destiny and density of our City and our neighborhoods as Measure S will require the City Planning Department to hold hearings on weeknights and weekends in our neighborhoods.  No more schlepping downtown to City Hall during the day and only getting a minute to speak. 

Measure H, the County ballot initiative to increase our sales tax by one quarter of cent, will raise $350 million to fund services for the homeless.  While nobody denies that there is a homeless crisis, the County Supervisors have not made homelessness a budget priority, even after billions in new revenues swelled its total budget to $30 billion.  Instead, the Supervisors approved new budget busting labor contracts and funneled money to their pet projects. 

Homelessness only became a budget priority when they decided to pick our pockets for $4 billion over the next ten years. 

The Supervisors and Mayor Eric Garcetti have been telling us that without this $4 billion tax increase, the County will not be able to provide the necessary services to the homeless population.  But this sounds like the threats made in 2013 when Mayor Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told us that LA would be overrun by the Huns and Visigoths if we did not approve Proposition A, the half cent increase in our sales tax that was to be used to hire and retain more cops.    

But shortly after Proposition A was rejected by 55% of the voters, Mayor Villaraigosa miraculously discovered the necessary money to fund the Police Department. 

There is also the issue of trust.  

In November, voters approved Measure M, a permanent half cent increase in our sales tax to fund Metro’s ambitious expansion program and its money losing operations.  But the Supervisors and Mayor Garcetti were less than honest with us.  They waited until after the election to disclose the massive cost overruns involving the widening of the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass, the Downtown Regional Connector, and the Gold Line Foothill Extension.  And they failed to tell us about the decline in ridership. 

The City, County, and State are also hatching more schemes to increase our taxes.  In addition to Measure H, the County is preparing another Rain Tax to fund its storm water capture plan.  The City is considering a multibillion street repair bond and a linkage fee on new developments.  The South Coast AQMD is talking about a Vehicle License Fee.  The State is considering a substantial bump in the gas tax and expanding the sales tax to cover services.  And billions in bonds are being contemplated for the UC system and the State’s deteriorating parks. 

The 2016 tax increases and the above contemplated taxes will cost the residents of the City of Los Angeles over $3 billion, the equivalent of raising our real estate taxes by over 60% or our sales tax by over 5%. 

Enough is enough.  

By voting YES on Measure S, the City will be required to update its General Plan and its 35 Community Plans in an open and transparent manner where we have a say in the future of our City.  And at the same time, put a stop to the corrupt pay-to-play culture that permeates City Hall. 

And by voting NO on Measure H, we can send to message to the pols that we are not their ATM. 

It is time for us to take control of our City and our County.

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  Jack is affiliated with Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com.  He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.)

-cw

 

 

 

 

 

LA WATCHDOG--We have numerous reasons to vote against all the fat cat incumbents running for reelection to the Los Angeles City Council.  And they all add up to a City that does not work for us Angelenos, the folks footing the bill so that the 1% who occupies City Hall and their cronies can feast at our expense. 

Our City’s finances are a mess.  

The City is projecting a budget deficit next year of at least $250 million.  Union leaders want more money that will only add to the deficit.  The City’s two pension plans are a train wreck, underfunded by $22 billion and threaten the City’s ability to deliver services.  And our lunar cratered streets, our broken sidewalks, and the rest of deteriorating infrastructure are in need of at least $10 billion of repairs. 

But the City’s viability is not an issue for six members of our City Council who are seeking reelection.  After all, they have raised over $5.5 million from their cronies and special interests to buy their reelection. 

But hopefully Angelenos will wake up and send these politicians packing. 

At the top of the list is Paul Koretz, a professional politician who has never met a tax hike, a rate increase, a union contract, or campaign contribution from a real estate developer he didn’t like.   

Koretz is a member of the Executive Employee Relations Committee that negotiates the City’s labor agreements.  This includes the budget busting contract with the City’s civilian unions that took a $68 million surplus to a $101 million deficit in 2020.  That may explain why the unions have contributed $217,000 to an “independent” expenditure committee to support his reelection to augment the $440,000 war chest that he raised from the usual favor seeking suspects.  

His key opponent is Jesse Creed, a young talented lawyer who received excellent reviews for his work on behalf of veterans involving the West LA property.  While Creed lacks experience, he is independent, his own person who is not owned by the unions and real estate developers.    

Mitch O’Farrell should also be shown the door as he betrayed his constituents by selling out to real estate developers who view Hollywood, Silver Lake, Atwater Village, Echo Park, and Elysian Valley as areas primed for highly profitable development, the neighborhoods be damned.  

O’Farrell has raised over $400,000, where almost half of the usual favor seeking suspects maxed out.  He is also the beneficiary of a $102,000 “independent” expenditure committee funded by real estate interests, unions, and Chevron Corporation, one of the world’s largest oil companies. 

In the effort to Ditch Mitch, the goal is to force a runoff with one of the other viable candidates.  This includes Doug Haines who has been endorsed by Mayor Richard Riordan because of his real estate expertise and his efforts in overturning the Hollywood Community Plan that was based on flawed assumptions.  He also was instrumental in halting other illegal developments that had the support of developer owned O’Farrell. 

Gil Cedillo should also be sent packing as he has supported the development of luxury housing that is inappropriate for many of the District’s neighborhoods.  This has accelerated residential and commercial gentrification and dislocated long-time residents.  He has also reneged on several campaign promises. 

Cedillo was expecting to steamroll his opponents as he has raised $375,000 from the usual favor seeking suspects, 75% of which maxed out, and has the support of an “independent” expenditure committee that has also been funded primarily by Chevron. 

However, much to Cedillo’s surprise and chagrin, the Los Angeles Times endorsed Joe Ali-Bray, a small businessman and bike enthusiast who, according to The Times, has an impressive understanding of land use policies.  

Curren Price was also surprised by The Times endorsement of Jorge Nuno.  Yet Price has the benefit of a $422,000 war chest and an “independent” expenditure committee that is ready to drop almost $150,000 to support his reelection. But will Price, an African-American, be able to buy the election in a district that is almost 80% Latino? 

Joe Buscaino has raised $369,000 and faces limited competition.  But he does not deserve to be reelected given the scandal where he took $94,500 of laundered campaign contributions and then approved the up zoning of the Sea Breeze residential development despite its rejection by the both the Area and City Planning Commissions. 

Mike Bonin appears to be headed towards reelection and is supported by a war chest of $432,000 raised from the usual favor seeking suspects and a $61,000 “independent’ expenditure committee funded by primarily by the unions representing the police and firefighters. But Bonin has been weak on fiscal responsibility and has approved mega real estate developments that will further clog the Westside. 

It is too much to expect all of the incumbents to lose, but success will be measured by ousting incumbents or forcing Council members into runoff elections on May 16, 2017.  If so, this will send a message to City Hall that we are not happy campers and it is time to address the serious economic problems facing our City. 

It is time for a change.

 

 (Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  Jack is affiliated with Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com.  He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.)

-cw

LA WATCHDOG--The City of Los Angeles is drowning a sea of red ink. 

Its budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017 is projected to be in the range of $200 to $250 million.  This is up from the $85 million shortfall that Mayor Eric Garcetti outlined in his “Fiscal Year 2017-18 Budget Policy and Goals” memo in September.  

There is also the real possibility that the cumulative budget gap for the next four years may soar to well over $750 million, up from the current estimate of $300 million.  

But Eric, how is this possible if City revenues are $1 billion higher than they were four years ago and collections are projected to increase by $600 million over the next four years? 

In January, the City Administrative Officer indicated that the City was looking at a potential budget deficit of $245 million for this fiscal year (2016-17).  This contrasts with the “balanced” budget only six months earlier.  

Expenditures rose by an unexpected $80 million over budget, primarily because of runaway legal settlements that will be in the range of $140 million (or more) this year.  This is more than double the budgeted liability of $68 million.  

Revenues were off by $165 million.  This shortfall included $90 million in lower collections from property taxes, sales taxes, and taxes on the revenues of our Department of Water and Power.  

These expenditure and revenue trends are expected to impact next year’s budget, increasing the September deficit of $85 million to $200 to $250 million. 

The deficit for the following year (2018-19) is expected to grow as new labor contracts for the police and civilian workers will go into effect, probably adding $50 to $100 million to the projected deficit.  

As if these deficits were not bad enough, the budget outlook does not include adequate funding to repair our lunar cratered streets and cracked sidewalks, despite an infusion of almost $50 million from the Local Return provisions of Measure M, the half cent increase in our sales tax that was approved by 71% of the voters in November.  

Nor do the projections include sufficient monies to offset the deferred maintenance on the City’s infrastructure, including our run down parks, our urban forest, its Stone Age management systems, and its aging buildings and facilities.  

The City’s Budget Outlook does not take into consideration higher pension contributions mandated by lower than anticipated returns on the investment portfolios of its two seriously underfunded pension plans and the impact of a lower investment rate assumption from the overly optimistic discount rate of 7½%.    

And what will happen if we hit another economic downturn that results in lower City revenues?  

With all this red ink and another budget crisis looming, why haven’t Mayor Garcetti and the Herb Wesson City Council adopted the four excellent budget recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission that were reiterated by the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates in October? 

In 2014, one of pillars of Eric’s “Back to Basics” Priority Outcomes was that LA would “live within its financial means.”  But that is certainly not the case given the sea of red ink. 

The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates are developing its own “Back to Basics” Plan that calls for, among other recommendations, long range planning; developing a plan to repair and maintain our streets, sidewalks and the rest of our infrastructure; refraining from entering into any labor contract that will result in future deficits; limiting the hiring of any new employees unless there is adequate funding; implementing pension reform; benchmarking the efficiency of the City’s workforce; and developing business friendly policies that will encourage employers to remain and invest in LA. 

The City’s impending financial fiasco has been kept under wraps so as not to endanger the reelection of Mayor Garcetti and seven members of the City Council.  Nevertheless, this mess will not go away, nor will the efforts to treat us like mushrooms, keeping us in the dark and dumping tons of ripe manure on our heads. 

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  Jack is affiliated with Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com.  He can be reached at:  lajack@gmail.com.)

-cw

THE DOG BLOG-- Dogs do not understand the connection between the tightening of a collar around their neck and you at the end of the leash.  All they know is that something is digging into their neck and since dogs can tolerate a lot of pain, they just pull harder. 

I can't tell you how frustrating it is to see dogs on regular or choke or spiked collars pulling forward as I watch the collar dig into their neck while their owners pull back. For some reason the pet parent thinks the dog will stop pulling because he is choking and then gets frustrated when they see it isn’t working. Most will feel guilty because they know the dog is hurting while others think the dog deserves it because he won't stop pulling. Either way the dog continues to pull. 

Vets don’t like choke collars and tell us the trachea can be damaged or eventually tighten making it difficult for the dog to breathe so choke collars should never be used on breeds with short snouts. And importantly, choke collars should never be left on at home. If the collar gets stuck on something the dog can literally choke himself to death as he gets into a panic trying to pull himself away. 

Frankly, I don't think they should be used at all, unless you have an exceedingly aggressive dog (not just the typical excitement a dog exhibits when it sees other dogs) and even then you should have an experienced trainer who has worked with aggressive dogs, show you how to properly use it. 

They will tell you to make sure the leash is always loose and when it tightens you simply give a “correction” which is a sharp and quick (not harsh) snap of the leash while using your voice to tell the dog what you want him to do. I like “no pulling!”. The tightening of the collar should last less than a second. Do Not Ever jerk the dog back or yank it hard!. The tone of your command should be firm not angry. This way the dog can connect the pressure on her neck, to you and your voice, calmly, firmly telling her what to do. The leash is not just something we use to keep the dog from running away. It is a tool to get the dogs attention focused on you and your commands. 

But if you are using a choke collar simply for a pulling issue then throw it out and listen up… 

The absolute best way I have discovered in getting dogs to walk at our pace is a no pull front harness. It is a harness that attaches the leash to the front of the chest and doesn’t involve choking or pain of any sort. I love this harness and have never put it on a dog without instant results. I have seen dogs go from pulling their pet parent’s arm off, to instantly becoming docile and relaxed while walking alongside them. If they do pull forward a bit a slight tug and command and they slow right down. 

There are two main companies that sell it, Halti and EasyWalk. I like Halti because it has a clip that attaches to the collar for added protection but Easy Walk has a wider variety of sizes.  Don’t be intimidated by the design. They are actually very easy to adjust and put on. You can order it online (cheaper) and bring it to a pet store for help putting it on if you need it. 

If I hear an owner complain the harness isn't working it is usually because they are so used to the dog pulling and the leash being tight, they continue to tighten the leash out of habit. I instruct them to let the leash be loose while they're walking and watch what happens.  To their delight and surprise the dog just walks along with them. I can't tell you how often I've heard “WOW! I can't believe this!” If the dog starts to speed up just a slight tug and “no pulling” and they instantly slow down. 

So if you have a dog that takes you out for a drag I can’t recommend this enough. Email us with your success story. I love hearing dogs and owners get over an obstacle to greater love and appreciation of each other. Never thought you’d hear yourself saying “I love walking my dog” did you?

+++++++

 

Have a topic you’d like to see addressed or a question you’d like answered?

Email us at info@whatagooddogla.com

 

Check out our website for information about our training program and rates.

http://www.whatagooddogla.com 

For a free phone consultation call 323-734-9119

 

+++++++

 

(Dianne Lawrence is the dog whisperer at What a Good Dog LA. She can be reached at 323-734-9119.)

ANIMAL WATCH-On Thursday, February 2, Valentin Herrera, 75, was walking with his small, 5-year-old Pomeranian, Radar, about a block from his home in Lincoln Heights -- a community officially designated as "Happy Valley." Suddenly two Pit Bulls from a nearby home escaped their yard and attacked his tiny pet, tearing it "like a piece of cloth," according to a neighbor. 

Eyewitnesses report that Radar was off-leash, walking a distance ahead of Mr. Herrera, who rushed to try to save his dog and himself became a victim of the Pit Bulls. They knocked or pulled him to the ground and were dragging him by his arm, according to KTLA-TV News. 

One neighbor stated that the owner of the dogs merely stood and watched, without trying to stop the attack. Finally someone came out and struggled with the animals to get them back into the yard. Neither dog was licensed, according to KABC-7. The Pit Bulls were transported to the North Central animal shelter by Los Angeles Animal Services' officer Angela Llerenas. They are being held under quarantine for ten days. 

A family member told me they were advised by Animal Services that a woman later claimed the dogs, but they have not been released. A hearing by Animal Services is set for early March. 

Mr. Herrera was placed in a medically induced coma in an attempt to reduce swelling of his brain, and he has not yet regained consciousness, his family says. 

His son, Luis, said his father had three surgeries, one to his head and one on each of his arms which were mauled by the dogs. He added that his father suffered from diabetes and two months ago had actually died from a heart attack; however, doctors were able to revive him. He described how painful it is for the family, after losing him once, to now be facing the possibility of repeating that same grief again so soon. 

Valentin Herrera came to Los Angeles from Jalisco, Mexico. He and his wife, Anita, have been married for 50 years. He was a steel worker and they have lived in their current home in Northeast Los Angeles since 1996. Luis described his father as a strong, loving man and said it is very difficult to see him struggling again for his life. 

A neighbor who has lived on the street since 2003 and frequently talked with Mr. Herrera when he was walking said he had not seen the Pit Bulls out before. However, he resolutely affirmed that he keeps his own dogs in his house for safety. He expressed concern because the house where the attack occurred is less than a block from the high school on the corner at North Broadway. 

Another Lincoln Heights resident, Stefanie Grizzelle, told CBS News  on February 4 that she recognized the two Pit Bulls that attacked Mr. Herrera as the same dogs that killed her small white Poodle-mix as her young children watched. She said they are starting therapy this week for the trauma. 

Pit Bull Attacks are Not Limited to Lincoln Heights: 

LA Animal Services' Employee Mauled by Pit Bull ...  

Last month we reported the savage attack on Priscilla Romero, an Animal Care Technician, by a Pit Bull in the same Los Angeles Animal Services' shelter where the dogs in the Lincoln Heights attack are being held. 

GM Barnette and City Officials Stay 'Notably Silent' as LAAS Pit Bull Attack.Victim Begins Long Road to Recovery

Approximately a total of 50 other dogs of this breed have completed their quarantine period after attacks and are being held at in Los Angeles Animal Services shelter. Ten had just completed this "hold" and are available for "rescuers" to remove them and place them in "forever" homes throughout Los Angeles or elsewhere. 

LA Animal Services: Pit Bull with a Violent History Attacks Potential Adopter  

On April 28, 2016, GM Brenda Barnette personally released a dangerous Pit Bull to a "rescue," which fostered it in a home just north of downtown LA. The dog attacked a potential adopter and was killed by a neighbor who stabbed it 19 times. 

Pit Bull Kills Puppy, Attacks Two Men on Ventura Boulevard; L.A. City…  

On February 16, 2014, in Studio City, Stephen Elliott and Howard Fox were walking with their six-month-old Yorkshire Terrier, Vargas, who was on leash and close to Stephen's feet, when a large Pit Bull bolted from a nearby shop, grabbed Vargas and killed him. As they struggled to save the pup, Howard, who was recovering from back surgery, was knocked to the ground and Stephen's finger was bitten off. The Pit Bull was released back to the owner. 

They called Councilman Paul Koretz, who heads the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee. Stephen said Koretz’ senior deputy, David Hersch, said his injury was his own fault for putting his hand down to save his dog and he would not spend more time on this because he had "an event to plan." 

Shortly after that a 29-year-old victim from the Ukraine, appeared before the LA Animal Services Commission to describe a horrible attack by an owned pit bull in the Hollywood area while he was jogging. Among other serious wounds, one of his testicles was bitten off by the dog. He said the dog could have killed him if he were not young and athletic. He described with gut-wrenching emotion the suffering and the emotional trauma that causes him to now be reclusive and fearful and the fact that he may never be able to have children. 

LA Animal Services Officer Injured by Dog Attack ...How Safe Are Residents?   

On August 29, 2014, Animal Control Officer Angela Llerenas (the officer who responded to the attack that injured Valentin Herrera and killed Radar), was seriously injured when she responded to a call that two very aggressive Pit Bulls had entered a backyard in Eagle Rock and attacked a Husky. Both dogs charged the officer as she arrived and found them entering another yard. She later identified them as American Bulldogs -- originally bred to catch and hold wild boars and described by Wikipedia as “capable of jumping in excess of seven feet vertical due to the dense muscle build of the breed.” 

Man Attacked by Pit Bull Mix in Eagle Rock, Hospitalized with Multiple Injuries

On October 13, 2016, a 20-year-old man soliciting donations for D.A.R.E. in front of a sandwich shop in the 2600 block of Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock was hospitalized with multiple facial injuries after being bitten by a pit bull mix. 

Two women in their mid-20s with the dog on a leash allegedly made a donation and indicated the dog was friendly and he could pet it. The woman "brought the dog over to my hand, she rubbed my hand twice and then the dog lunged at me," he said, adding that it bit him on his face, mouth and nose, the report said. 

Pit Bull Rehomed by Humane Society Kills Newborn Baby  

Sebastian Caban, 3-days old, was fatally bitten on the head by a family pit bull-mix while he laid in bed with his parents and the dog. The dog was a rescue. The San Diego Humane Society -- a private organization that has a partnership with San Diego Animal Services -- adopted the dog to the baby's parents 5-months  before. 

Who's Responsible for Dangerous Dog Attacks?

How sad it is that in less than one week two families in Lincoln Heights were robbed of their pets, their peace of mind and their happiness. Both heard the screams and saw their small canine family members drenched in blood -- senselessly killed by two large Pit Bulls to which neither of these tiny creatures was a threat. 

One attack involves young children, who should be laughing and playing, rather than dealing with a senseless, brutal tragedy and this abrupt loss of innocence. Will they ever again trust that they and their loved ones are safe? 

It is time for specific protection for people -- the adults and children who are innocent victims -- as well as for this breed of dog that is being exploited by those it should be able to trust. If it is true this aggression is the result of "training or abuse by bad owners," then adopters/purchasers must be required to be screened and obtain a permit before taking possession of a dog with this strength and drive. 

What benefit, financial or otherwise, is there to the leading humane groups -- including Best Friends Animal Society which occupies the LA City Mission Hills animal shelter cost-free -- for lobbying in opposition to any breed-specific-legislation to protect (not ban) Pit Bulls and the public? 

The compassionate who wail and moan over the possibility that dangerous and vicious dogs will be humanely euthanized need to accept that Pit Bulls are being inordinately abused, neglected, abandoned, tortured and brutally killed and are endangered by the blind disregard for the unpredictable reality of what can happen after they are "saved." But, even more endangered are the helpless, innocent pets, children and adults who become victims of attacks, including our own Valentin Herrera. 

Here are some websites with important statistics: 

http://www.nationalpitbullvictimawareness.org/

http://www.nationalpitbullvictimawareness.org/attack-archives/

http://www.fatalpitbullattacks.com/

http://www.dogsbite.org/blog-posts-dog-attacks-senior-citizens.php

100-Reasons-Why-Breed-Specific-Legislation-Needs-to-be-Enforced-and-Reinforced/ 

On April 11, 2016, we reported that LAAS General Manager Brenda Barnette was conducting a survey of animal concerns in Los Angeles. You can send GM Barnette an e-mail at brenda.barnette@lacity.org.

 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ANIMAL WATCH-Priscilla Romero, Animal Care Technician for LA Animal Services, who was viciously mauled by a Pit Bull on January 14, is healing but the road to physical and emotional recovery will be long and painful, as she realistically acknowledges. She said she can't begin to estimate the future trauma this incident will have on her because she has never been seriously injured before.

Many things in Priscilla's life changed the instant Cielo, a gray-and-white female Pit Bull, lunged at her without warning, ripping the flesh on both her arms, tearing and tossing huge chunks of muscle from her left arm onto the floor of the kennel. She may never be able to return to work with shelter animals, a job she has loved for ten years. And it cannot yet be predicted what permanent physical restrictions will result. 

What will not change for Priscilla is the devotion and support of her coworkers at all LA animal shelters, and especially those at North Central, many of whom were involved in saving her life.

So, where does management of LA Animal Services and other City officials stand regarding this tragic event -- other than to remain notably silent? General Manager Brenda Barnette admitted to the Board of Animal Services Commissioners at their January 24 meeting that she had neither visited nor talked with Priscilla, leaving that to the kennel supervisor.   

There was little concern shown by the five Commissioners who legally head the Department as they continued their "no-kill" pursuit in the name of the Mayor. President David Zaft asked a few generic questions about the incident and alluded to the determination of where responsibility could be placed. Barnette did not announce any investigation of facts. 

She casually discussed providing refresher training for Animal Care Technicians -- rather than addressing the shelter's faulty equipment which failed to keep the dog separated; the absence of a "distress" button to signal an emergency; and the lack of available safety devices throughout the shelter. She also avoided mentioning any causal factors from the practice of keeping dogs that have bitten and are unsuitable for adoption. 

Commissioner Larry Gross tentatively inquired what previous training ACT had. Barnette was hard pressed to describe anything except that she thought they had training in the use of "barrier boards," which they can use to fend off an attacking dog. The Commissioners -- none of whom have any animal sheltering experience -- did not ask how the non-existent boards are supposed to be held while an employee is scooping poop or feeding an animal. 

When I asked several ACT at different shelters about this training later, they seemed surprised and said they can't remember having any formal training after they were hired. Only a few long-timers recalled years ago being taken by now-Assistant General Manager Louis Dedeaux to a protection-dog facility to familiarize them with avoidance techniques using trained attack dogs. The consensus was that they had learned shelter-safety practices by on-the-job experience and the guidance of their supervisors. 

Barnette was asked by the Commission whether the employees had been given any counseling after the incident. She said she believed someone was sent in to hold a session at the shelter. She didn't explain that it was the city's basic EAP service, rather than critical-incident counseling and debriefing. 

Barnette also assured the Commission that Pit Bulls with a bite history are sent to "rescues," rather than adopted out to the public. Apparently she didn't look at the records of the dog that attacked Priscilla Romero, or "Albert," the Pit Bull cited in last week's article, which attacked a young girl as her father contemplated taking him home as a family pet. Is it possible Brenda has not reviewed the numerous documented attacks by animals recently adopted from shelters? 

A standard "no kill," shell-game practice is that Pit Bulls deemed dangerous are released to "rescues," (whose only prerequisite is a 50l(c)3 tax status but no animal-handling experience.) The "rescues" may then place them with "fosters" (members of the public) with the intention of finding a "forever home," also with members of the public. The dogs are often transported to several states or counties to accomplish this. That was the case when Sammy, aka "Sodam," was personally released by GM Barnette in April to an out-of-state rescue. But, prior to transport, he viciously attacked a potential female adopter. 

According to current shelter records, approximately 50 Pit Bulls who have bitten or injured a human have been removed from quarantine at the shelter and are waiting in the back kennels of LA city shelters for Dangerous Dog hearings or "rescue." At least one has been there since April 2016. It is estimated that at least a dozen more are still completing the ten-day rabies-hold period required by County Health Dept. so they can add to the stockpile. 

These are dangerous animals into whose kennels unprotected LAAS shelter workers and volunteers will go daily to clean, comfort and provide food and water. Attacks on shelter employees and volunteers do not usually become known to the public, but lawsuits, settlements and the prolonged housing of these dogs are real costs borne by taxpayers. There is also the consideration of the inhumaneness of locking these high-drive animals in isolated cages for months or years, which is as unfair to the dogs as it is to staff and public. 

It doesn't appear that even this close call with death by a shelter worker will cause the Mayor, Councilman Paul Koretz (who chairs the Committee which makes LA's animal-related decisions,) or the Commission, to acknowledge that LA Animal Services’ staff, the public -- as well as the animals themselves -- are being deliberately placed in danger by the mythical, lucrative fund-raising illusion of GM Brenda Barnette and Best Friends Animal Society that the above methods (and others equally dubious, dangerous and inhumane) are achieving "no kill." 

A recent informal poll of LA Animal Services Commissioners showed that none of them owns or has owned a Pit Bull. If, after this highly predictable tragedy in the agency they head, they still want all animals -- regardless of history -- to be released from the shelters and "saved," I suggest they, Mayor Garcetti, Councilman Koretz, and GM Barnette, set the example by each taking home several of the Pit Bulls which just finished the required confinement after biting and are now, according to Brenda Barnette, ready to rejoin society.

(Here is the full story )

 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ANIMAL WATCH-LA Animal Services’ GM Brenda Barnette announced on the Department’s intranet messaging board on September 15 at 5:00 p.m., that new Assistant General Manager Derek Brown—hired in June--had resigned. Barnette stated that the job was “not a good fit” for him.

The job description clearly stated that the decision on hiring would be made by Brenda Barnette, and the person selected would serve entirely at the pleasure of the GM. 

Derek Brown (not to be confused with Animal Services Asst. GM Dana Brown) is the fourth highly qualified and experienced AGM to leave abruptly during Barnette’s six-year tenure (plus the sudden recent resignation of impeccable Commission Secretary/Management Analyst II Rita Moreno, whose loss prompted a Commissioner to comment that he proposed a motion to not let her leave).

That’s a lot of high-level professionals who apparently were “not a good fit” at LAAS! 

Derek Brown is a former 20-year LAAS employee who began as an animal control officer. He left in 2007, at the rank of Captain, to take on the responsibilities of Deputy Director at L.A. County Animal Care and Control. He remained in that position until, after a lengthy recruitment process, Barnette hired him as AGM to oversee field operations. He also appeared representing the GM at several Commission meetings. So, if, after three months on the job, he was “not a good fit,” it wasn’t because Derek Brown lacked experience or industry expertise. 

Although he is a very private person, close friends and colleagues say that, soon after Derek’s appointment, he became concerned about---what I will call—a difference between his “management style” and that of Barnette and Director of Field Operations Mark Salazar. 

Salazar was hand-selected by Barnette two months after her appointment in 2010. His experience as an animal control officer was very limited. Media reports (below) document his challenges as a manager after that and, according to L.A. City Personnel Dept., were known to Barnette. 

Let’s take a look at the public management histories of both Brenda Barnette and Mark Salazar--whom Barnette frequently praises publicly--before and after they took over LAAS.

Brenda Barnette was appointed GM in September 2010; however, the hiring announcement was first made at a media conference on June 17, by former-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilman Paul Koretz (who was involved in selecting her.)

Villaraigosa stated that, after a year-long, nationwide search, which he called “the most intensive he’s ever seen,” Brenda Barnette, CEO of the (very small) Seattle Humane Society, was most qualified out of a reported 120 candidates. Barnette, a WA resident, did not have the one mandatory prerequisite for the job--a CA driver’s license. She also had no prior animal-control experience. 

Barnette, a self-described former dog breeder, had another position in Seattle. She was Legislative Representative for the American Kennel Club (AKC), which, she told the press, meant merely hitting the “forward key” when the world’s largest purebred dog-breeding registry sent her issues to oppose or support. 

Brenda Barnette was beleaguered by labor issues at Seattle HS, according to an Oct. 20, 2009, media release by the Animal Control Officers’ Guild (ACOG), “The SHS with around 70 staff has had over 60 employees turnover in the last 18 months, this is over 75%! Staff fears this is not just the nature of the job but from a complete lack of attention to training, employee retention and morale by management leading to a lack of continuity in care of animals.” 

On Oct. 10, 2010, GM Barnette announced to her employees (via the internal message board) that after an extensive interview process that included answering three essay questions in advance, answering two question at the interview, and an in-person interview, she had decided to hire outsider Mark Salazar as the Director of Field Operations (DFO) in charge of law-enforcement and field services. Barnette explained in the post, “My job, as your General Manager, is to lead and leaders do not always get to make popular choices….” 

So, what was so special about Mark Salazar that would cause new GM Barnette to emphasize her “leadership” in hiring him, and bypass many experienced, fully qualified officers already managing field operations? (Although he is called “Commander,” for some undisclosed reason, Salazar has reportedly never worn a badge at LAAS.)   

Here’s Mark Salazar’s public management record before joining LAAS: 

A January 7, 2016, article in the Press Enterprise reports a new lawsuit: RIVERSIDE: City Workers Allege Harassment.  This article reviews a similar suit filed against Mark Salazar in 2008 in great detail, stating: 

It’s not the first lawsuit to allege harassment and other impropriety in the city’s code enforcement department. In 2008, five former employees sued the city and former code enforcement manager Mark Salazar, who they said harassed and discriminated against them based on age, sex and disabilities. (Emph. added) 

“In those cases, workers alleged Salazar inappropriately touched them, made sexual and insulting comments to employees and retaliated when they complained, including sending three of them to work out of a dirty, dangerous metal shed in the city yard. 

A suit filed in March 2008 by Mary Furfaro, Todd Solomon and Steve Livings was settled in 2010. Livings, who had been fired, was reinstated to his job with back pay.” 

Now, let’s look back at what was published about Mark Salazar in 2008. 

Mark Salazar was verified as the code enforcement supervisor named in the following lawsuit: 

Former Riverside code enforcement officers cite discrimination in suit – The article describes allegations against Mark Salazar of inappropriate touching, discrimination, harassment and retaliation, including having them work from a metal storage shed, with stored hazardous materials, no air-conditioning, no heating or drinking water. (These incidents allegedly occurred in 2005/2007.)  (The Press Enterprise, 3/19/08)    

2 more former Riverside code enforcement officers sue city” – Two more former Riverside code enforcement officers sued the city claiming age and sex discrimination. “The main accusations in both suits are against Mark Salazar, the city’s former code enforcement manager.” 

According to the City of Riverside, Mark Salazar “stopped working as a city employee in February and was given a contract as an advisor on code, which ended in August,” the article states. 

Mark Salazar made headlines again as the Executive Director of the Northeast Texas Humane Society in Longview, TX, in 2010, where he had reportedly worked for only nine months, and where he stated in his own report, with his photo, The Northeast Texas Humane Society has a euthanasia rate of 80%. 

Dispute grows over contract with Humane Society - Mark Salazar refused the request of the city which funds the Humane Society to perform an audit of finances in Oct. 2010... (LongviewNewsjournal.com, 10/14/10) 

Open the Books: Humane Society’s unwillingness to open records raises questions (Longview Newsjournal.com 10/17/10) 

Humane Society director resigns - “Mark Salazar, executive director of the Humane Society of Northeast Texas, has resigned and will be returning to Los Angeles to work in that city’s animal services department.” (Longview News-journal.com, 11/24/2010)  

Following is the short list of the Barnette/Salazar management-team decisions (and City embarrassments) since 2010: 

8/5/2011 - LAPD, City Seize Guns at 6 L.A. Animal Shelters  Plainclothes LAPD officers are reported to have taken about 120 weapons, including shotguns, rifles and .38-caliber handguns from the six animals shelters, the LA Times explained, “The city's 75 animal control officers are issued firearms to kill wild animals that are too injured to transport to shelters.” 

An audit was requested by Animal Services head Brenda Barnette, according to the Daily News.  Lt. Troy Boswell said they were unaware of any concerns. The police handed workers at the East Valley Shelter a note from Barnette and then took .38-caliber handguns from the premises. "We were given no explanation," he said.

10/21/2011 Phew! All of L.A. Animal Services Guns Are Accounted For, Audit Finds   “Thursday, officials announced the audit determined that all of the department's weapons were accounted for…”, the LAist reported. 

2/14/2012 – Six Animal Shelter Captains Benched Pending Vending Machine Contract Probe

“The city has sent home six animal shelter commanders pending a police probe into shelter vending machine contracts,” the Daily News has learned. “The six captains were placed on paid administrative leave Sunday by Brenda Barnette, general manager for Los Angeles Animal Services.” 

“Each captain earns up to $75,000 a year. Each has been ordered not to speak with each other or the media.” 

“The vending machines had been employed by the commanders since the 1950's to provide petty cash ($20-30/mo.) for shelter decorations, prizes and pizza for workers and volunteers. The practice was codified by the department in 2008. Barnette signed another amendment early last year granting captains permission to earn shelter money through recycling or machine vending, as long as they kept records,” the Daily News reported. 

The captains were being investigated by the LAPD's Burglary Crimes Division, “their crime, explained to them by a police detective: They had eaten shelter pizza they'd helped buy by contracting for the vending machines.” 

"We have a plan of action," Brenda Barnette told Daily News reporter Dana Bartholomew. "We have been working with the city psychologist on how to manage change."

6/13/2012 Los Angeles Animal Services Captains Cleared 

Six Los Angeles Animal Services captains returned to work this week after being cleared of any wrongdoing for improper vending machine contracts during "Pizzagate”…. The cost of their combined paid leave: $426,000…,” the Daily News announced, adding, “Barnette did not return calls for comment.”

Mar 18, 2013Los Angeles Animal Services' Brenda Barnette: 'No Night Care for Animals in City Shelters’  

“The on-going tragic implosion of Los Angeles Animal Services continues in an undated communication from General Manager Brenda Barnette, entitled, “Graveyard Shift Change for Animal Services,” … She states, “At the end of this month, Animal Services will not have Animal Care Technicians (ACTs) in the shelters from midnight until 6 AM…” 

Jul 3, 2013 – LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette Says Shelters Need Puppies  

After supporting an ordinance to prohibit pet stores from selling puppies, kittens, dogs or cats from puppy mills or local breeders, former dog breeder Brenda Barnette, issued a report…recommending that the Department stop spaying late-term pregnant dogs and foster them with rescuers or fosters until the puppies are eight weeks old, when they would be returned to LAAS to be adopted out for additional revenue. 


Oct 26, 2013
- Brenda Barnette's Daughter is a 'Responsible' Dog Breeder, Says Best Friends-L.A.’s Director   

Brenda Barnette’s daughter--Mary Alice Davis--was hired by Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles after Barnette arranged the $1-per-year giveaway of the new $19 million Northeast Valley Animal Shelter to Best Friends. (Plus, the City provides $200,000 a year in maintenance while Best Friends occupies the shelter.) A dog show roster dated May 23, 2013, shows Brenda Barnette and her daughter Mary Alice Davis listed as co-owners of a “Puppy Bitch” in competitions at the Southern California Portuguese Water Dog Club.                                        

When questioned about this, Marc Peralta, Director of Best Friends-LA, wrote back to advocate Daniel Guss: “Mary Alice Davis is not an adoption coordinator, rather she is the foster care coordinator at our pet adoption center in Mission Hills….While Best Friends always advocates adoptions from shelters or rescues for those looking for a pet, we do acknowledge that there are responsible and caring breeders (with definitions attached). Mary Alice falls into the category of responsible breeders. (October 8, 2013 e-mail from Marc Peralta, Director of Best Friends-LA)

Sept 28, 2015 - Memo to GM Barnette and LA Council: LA Animal Control Officers are at Risk ...  

On September 16 the City Council’s Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee heard a dismal report on the condition of LA Animal Services’ fleet of Animal Rescue Vehicles (ARV’s.) None of these animal-collection trucks have been replaced since 2000-2003, according to General Services Asst. GM Angela Sherick-Bright and Fleet Services Manager Richard Coulson. 

These high-mileage trucks are driven by solitary Animal Control Officers to animal-related emergencies and humane investigations, 24/7, throughout the 469 square miles of urban and rural Los Angeles. Following are a few of the alarming ARV mechanical/equipment failures that have been reported by officers...(read more) 

May 23, 2016 - LA Animal Services: Pit Bull with a Violent History Attacks Potential Adopter...  

A Pit Bull named Sammy with a prior record of repeated aggression, and who had just bitten a Los Angeles Animal Services kennel worker in the abdomen, was released on April 28, 2016, to NovaStar Rescue, at the personal instruction of LA Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette. 

On May 15, Los Angeles Fire Department and LAPD responded to a house near downtown LA at approximately 9 p.m., where a pit bull was attacking a woman who “was visiting the dog to determine if she wants to adopt from the rescue who had been fostering the dog.” That dog was later identified by LA Animal Services as Impound #1608123, “Sammy.” “Sammy” was alive but had been stabbed 19 times by a neighbor who heard the victim screaming. 

Also: LA Animal Services Removes Animal Control Officers from Harbor Shelter: Staffing Shortages or Poor Management?   

Mayor Garcetti OK’s $800,000 for Feral Cat Report While the City’s Homeless Struggle

LA Animal Services Brenda Barnette Hiding theTruth about Coyote Attacks and Rabies or Clueless 

Unfortunately, these are just a few of the alarming and embarrassing public 'errors' made by Brenda Barnette and Mark Salazar. It is unforgivable for taxpayers to pay for this gross mismanagement and for LA’s homeless animals to be victimized by the waste of LA Animal Services $46-million budget designated for their care.

Maybe “not being a good fit” with the current upper-management status quo at LAAS is a good thing!  

But this begs greater questions: Is anyone managing the City of LA? And, why is this undisputable history of incompetence being allowed to continue?

(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com.  She lives in Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

ANIMAL WATCH-California is one of the states with the highest percentage of surplus wild horses and burros; yet, little public or political attention has focused on this. Because of the projected wild-equine population increase, it is a humane issue that is becoming critical from both an ethical and financial standpoint and has gained heightened importance after a recent recommendation by the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board for disposing of these animals. 

An estimated 67,027 wild horses and burros roam 31 million acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the Western U.S. The agency’s recommended total sustainable population for this space is 26,715. This means the number of animals now exceeds the maximum appropriate level by more than 40,000; and, it is increasing at a rate of 15 to 18 percent annually. The BLM's historical finding is that both wild horse and burro herds double in size about every four years.

Additionally, in August 2016 the BLM reports that the number of off-range -- unadopted or unsold -- wild horses and burros maintained in holding facilities called Herd Management Areas (MHA's) from California to Illinois was over 45,000.

The federal Bureau of Land Management is mandated to manage, protect and control wild horses and burros under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. This law also authorizes the BLM to remove excess wild horses and burros, which have no significant natural predators, from the range to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for multiple uses, in accordance with the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act. 

Each year, an inventory is required of the number of wild horses and burros roaming BLM-managed lands. From this, the Appropriate Management Level (AML) is determined. This is the number of animals that can thrive in balance with other public land resources and uses. The AML for California is estimated at 2,200. However, the Golden State's wild equine population is now at 4,925 horses, plus an additional 3,391 burros, for a total of 8,316. 

In neighboring Nevada, an epic number of 34,531 wild horses and burros inhabit the federal rangelands -- nearly three times the AML 12,811 figure the BLM says the state can support. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) announced in April he will take legal action to force the federal government to fund the management of Nevada’s wild horse population at appropriate levels because of the impact on the state's economy.

The BLM has been rounding up and relocating wild horses and burros to its holding facilities so that privately owned cattle could graze on the land, critics contend. The cost of maintaining almost 46,000 horses in these overcrowded facilities reached $49 million in 2015. 

Director Neil Kornze says it can cost about $50,000 per animal to feed and care for wild horses sitting in corrals and pastures over their lifetime and that cost has doubled over the last seven years. He predicts that if the BLM cannot adopt out and/or transfer a significant number of the wild horses and burros being held to other government agencies upon request (such as, the Border Patrol), the cost of feeding and caring for them during their lifetime could rise to $1 billion. 

On September 9, in an effort to curb the increasing overpopulation West-wide, the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, which suggests policy for the Bureau of Land Management, proposed a program that would either euthanize (which means shoot) or sell without limitation “all suitable animals in long and short term holding deemed unadoptable.” 

Cries of outrage by animal activists accused the government of squandering its very limited resources in rounding up and holding the animals instead of launching a wide-scale birth-control effort. 

A petition to the United States Congress claiming that not enough had been done to have the horses adopted was posted by Protect Mustangs  on September 12, declaring, “The public is outraged. Wild horses and burros are living symbols of freedom and the pioneering spirit of the American West.”

Ginger Kathrens, executive director of The Cloud Foundation, a wild horse advocacy group based in Colorado, stated the BLM should advance the use of fertility control vaccines that keep populations in check but allow horses and burros to remain free on the range. 

In a chart titled, Population Growth-Suppression Treatments, the BLM explains that the currently available fertility control vaccine (PZP) is limited to a one-year period of effectiveness (initially assumed to be 22 months) and must be hand-injected into a captured wild horse." If deployed via ground-darting, PZP has the same duration but is very difficult to deliver to an animal which avoids human contact and the sizes of the herds makes it difficult to locate or track individual animals. 

Kathrens told the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands earlier this year that. “Current management practices of round-up, removal and warehousing … cause compensatory reproduction – an increase in populations as a result of decreased competition for forage.” 

"In other words, there would not be a surge in wild horses if the BLM hadn’t removed most of them from their land in the first place," summarizes Inhabitat. 

Director Neil Kornze advised Congress in his 2017 budget request that the BLM is "overwhelmed" and sees no slowdown in population of these animals. BLM is requesting the establishment of a congressionally chartered foundation that would help fund and support efforts to adopt horses that have been rounded up.

Kornze told a House Appropriations subcommittee in March that the growing herds are causing environmental harm to vast swaths of rangeland. Among other things, he asked Congress to help by authorizing tax credits to "incentivize adoption" of wild horses (E&E Daily, March 4.) 

Skeptics pointed to the Washington Times article on October 24, 2015, confirming a report by the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General that between 2009 and 2012, the BLM sold 1,794 federally protected wild horses to a Colorado rancher who admitted that most of the horses that he purchased through the BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program went to slaughter. The Times also reports that taxpayers footed the $140,000 cost of delivery of the animals. 

On September 15, BLM spokesman Jason Lutterman issued a rapid response that the agency will NOT institute the controversial proposal by the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. “The BLM will not euthanize or sell without limitation any healthy animals. We’re going to continue caring for and seeking good homes for the un-adopted animals in our off-range corrals and pastures.” 

To sell the animals “without limitation" essentially removes protocols established in a BLM 2013 policy aimed at ensuring they won’t be slaughtered and includes other provisions to assure that these protected animals are not resold or do not fall into the hands of abusers. 

BLM Director Kornze also asked Congress to help by authorizing tax credits to "incentivize adoption" of wild horses (E&E Daily, March 4.) 

However, The Verge points out, adoptions are only $125 apiece, and even purchasing all 45,000 equines for $5,625,000 would do little to offset the $49 million that the BLM spent on them just last year.

Now we have more facts, but resolution still seems to be at an impasse. How would Californians react to the possibility that -- without progress in management -- thousands of the Golden State's wild horses and burros could face euthanasia?

                                                                                   

(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com. She lives in Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.  

ANIMAL WATCH-On September 9, 2016, important changes to Los Angeles Municipal Code Sec. 53.63 -- BARKING DOG NOISE were agendized for consideration by the City Council. But, with only ten council members present, it was rescheduled for September 20. 

If there is a dog in your home or in your community, or if you own or operate any business in Los Angeles, this could affect you at any time. We never know when our quality of life, and the welfare of our family, may be impacted by a new dog in our neighborhood that barks incessantly and/or seemingly without reason -- or is barking because of neglect or improper care. We also don't really know how much our own dog barks when no one is home! How do we want the impact measured by the City in the event of a dispute? 

There is another aspect of this law that can have a serious impact on business locations. Please review all the proposed changes and the existing clause that should be changed. There is still time to comment. 

BACKGROUND--In December 2011, LAMC Section 53.63 was amended by Council, as recommended by LA Animal Services, to define ‘excessive dog noise’ as “barking that is continuously audible for ten minutes or intermittently audible for 30 minutes within a three-hour period.” 

However, these parameters did not work well, according to General Manager Brenda Barnette’s letter and report on April 22, 2014. Over the next two years it became apparent that having to record exact minutes of barking over a period of time placed too onerous a burden on victims of barking dogs that unduly disturbed their lives, sleep and quality of life. She also claimed it limited the ability of the Department of Animal Services (DAS) to effectively address concerns and complaints that did not fall into these specific, limited patterns. 

Defendant dog owners at Commission appeals contended there was no way to ascertain whether such recordings were the result of intentional provocation from the complainer who may be standing on the other side of a wall with a recorder -- or from outside stimulation, such as a mail carrier making deliveries on the street. 

Also, with a timeframe as the sole determiner of violation, there was no way to address the possibility that the barking might have been due to of lack of proper care and attention by a negligent or uneducated owner. 

In April 2014, the Animal Services Commission approved the Department’s request for revision of this LAMC section to allow more discretion for hearing officers to consider factors other than strict time standards in recommending options, i.e., training, improved care and conditions, or changed housing options such as requiring that the dog(s) be kept indoors during certain hours. They expressed their belief this would also permit the Commission, upon appeal, to explore additional remedies if the initial recommendations by the General Manager/staff had not resolved the problem(s). 

Commission President David Zaft emphasized that dogs are rarely ordered to be removed from a home because of barking, since most owners -- rather than give up their pet -- will comply with conditions and restrictions to protect neighbors from excessive noise. But, occasionally, when there are obvious indicators that the owner is not acting responsibly in other aspects of caring for the animal and does not intend to make needed improvements, removal can allow the dog’s needs to be better served by rehoming it through the shelter or a rescue organization. 

The revision was approved by the PAW Committee on June 3 and adopted by Council on September 10, 2014, with the request that the City Attorney prepare the ordinance. It then disappeared for almost two years, until a new report and the ordinance were placed on the PAW agenda for August 26, 2016, (the motion expiration date) and fast-tracked to Council. 

HOW THE ORDINANCE WOULD CHANGE--The proposed definition of ‘excessive noise’, in the Ordinance to be considered on September 20, 2016, adds reasonable and pertinent factors that the Department may consider other than strict periods of time of prolonged barking: 

For purposes of this section, the term “excessive noise” shall mean noise which is unreasonably annoying, disturbing, offensive, or which unreasonably interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property of one or more persons occupying property in the community or neighborhood, within reasonable proximity to the property where the dog or dogs are kept. Factors that the Department may use to determine whether the barking is excessive may include, but are not limited to, the following: 

(i)    the nature, frequency and volume of the noise;

(ii)  the tone and repetitiveness;

(iii) the time of day or night;

(iv) the distance from the complaining or affected party or parties;

(v)  the number of neighbors affected by or complaining about the noise;

(vi) any other relevant evidence demonstrating that the barking is unduly disruptive; and

(vii) whether the dog is being provoked. 

Several letters of opposition in CF14-0681, claim this wording is too vague: 

“Eliminating a clear definition of excessive noise and replacing it with something entirely subjective and essentially unprovable will only result in more dogs being removed from their homes.” 

A letter of support from A. Bold states: 

Please approve the proposed changes to LAMC 53.63. I am a victim of nuisance barking and have had a great deal of experience with Animal Services and LAMC 53.63. 

When it comes to nuisance barking, only Animal Services can help. Not the police and not community groups. The courts will only help if there is an Animal Services Order. So it all comes down to Animal Services and LAMC 53.63. 

LAMC 53.63 currently in place is unjust because it allows only two very specific scenarios to be nuisance barking. This is completely unrealistic when it comes to any noise nuisance.

Current LAMC 53.63 is also very onerous to prove and, I allege, is therefore discriminatory. 

THE BUSINESS IMPACT: DID KORETZ OVERLOOK (OR PLAN) THIS?--In 2013, LA’s Chief Zoning Administrator Linn Wyatt issued a Zoning Administrator’s Interpretation (ZAI), exempting “pet shops” from the requirements for dog “kennels,” if they offer four or more adult shelter or rescued dogs for sale. 

The Planning Dept. said this was requested by LAAS GM Brenda Barnette to enhance Koretz’ ban on the sale of commercially bred puppies in pet stores. 

Historically, pet shops are in commercial (C-2) zones and only offer puppies under four months of age, which exude small amounts of easily disposable waste and do not bark. This ZAI presumed that "adult shelter or rescued dogs" do not bark as offensively as adult dogs in commercial boarding or training facilities -- which can operate only in proper zoning, or under a Conditional Use Permit. 

After four months of age, pups are considered adults (dogs). If more than three adult dogs are maintained on any premise in the city of LA, they are automatically regulated as kennels by LAMC Section 12.03 of the Zoning Code and prohibited unless in ‘M' (light manufacturing) zones -- and at least 500 feet from residences.

On May 27, 2015, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell ruled that the, “City of Los Angeles Zoning Administrator’s Interpretation … exceeded the Zoning Administrator’s authority and is thus an abuse of discretion.” 

Koretz has subsequently sought to have the Planning Dept. change the kennel code to allow unlimited adult rescued/shelter dogs in ANY C-2 zoned "kennel/pet shop" in any area --including those which adjoin residential communities. 

Proposed revised LAMC Sec. 53.63 – BARKING NOISE, retains the following wording

"The provisions of this section shall NOT apply to any commercial animal establishment permitted by zoning law." (Emphasis added.) 

An industry expert opined, “This means that this change in zoning would deregulate an entire aspect of the animal industry in the city, leaving affected business owners, or residents within 500 feet with no recourse for the overreaching negative impact of ‘excessive noise’ from such operations and no way to file complaints, as provided for other city residents or businesses.” 

How can the City effectively address the disruptive impact of barking dogs on the surrounding community -- whether measuring only the exact length the noise is made or weighing a multitude of factors -- while exempting every commercial animal operation?

Shouldn’t this be changed/clarified while Sec. 53.63 is being revised? Or, is it part of Koretz’ plan? 

WHAT DO YOU THINK?--Chronic or static barking that repeatedly interferes with living and sleep patterns of animals or humans is a serious health and safety threat. 

Should the City focus on the exact number of minutes or hours a dog barks as the measure of a nuisance or consider the total disruptive impact on neighbors and other stakeholders in the community? 

(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com. She lives in Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.                                                        

Dogs with Tags and Chips Come Home

 

THE DOG BLOG--"My dog never gets out." Famous last words.  

Recently Los Angeles experienced an exciting thunder and lightning storm.  When I went to my front window to enjoy the light show, I saw a dog, soaking wet, running down the street in an utter panic. Over the next few days, neighborhood websites lit up with “Found Dog” and “Do you know who this dog belongs to?” A day after the rains, I saw an unaltered brown male pit bull, dazed, lethargic, shuffling slowly in front of my place.  He had probably been running for most of the night. He seemed exhausted. I went out and gave him water.  He wouldn't eat the food.  

Read more ...

Weather

Los Angeles United States Mostly Cloud (day), 66 °F
Current Conditions
Sunrise: 6:50 am   |   Sunset: 7:8 pm
56%     4.0 mph     34.169 bar
Forecast
Sat Low: 54 °F High: 69 °F
Sun Low: 55 °F High: 69 °F
Mon Low: 53 °F High: 74 °F
Tue Low: 52 °F High: 77 °F
Wed Low: 54 °F High: 81 °F
Thu Low: 57 °F High: 80 °F
Fri Low: 55 °F High: 80 °F
Sat Low: 58 °F High: 81 °F
Sun Low: 61 °F High: 81 °F
Mon Low: 58 °F High: 78 °F

 

CW FEATURES

Grid List