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OPEN LETTER TO JESSICA LEVINSON, PRESIDENT OF THE LA CITY ETHICS COMMISSION---I am asking for your immediate attention to a troubling situation that involves the potential misuse of our tax dollars and the violation of good government laws overseen, administered and enforced by the City Ethics Commission.
All three candidates for Los Angeles City Council District 11 agreed in writing months ago to participate in a debate. This participation is one of the conditions the candidates had to meet in order to receive matching funds - our tax dollars - to help underwrite the costs of their political campaigns. City records show Councilman Mike Bonin has received $100,000 in matching funds and challenger Mark Ryavec nearly $46,000; as of this date Robin Rudisill, the third candidate, has not received such matching funds.
At this late date, however, we have not had a bona fide CD11 candidate debate. Yet the candidates have our tax dollars and are undoubtedly spending them.
Recently CD11 constituents were shortchanged when Bonin did not attend a debate on Feb. 16 at the University Synagogue in Brentwood featuring his two challengers, Ryavec and Rudisill. This had all the earmarks of a bona fide debate, moderated by the highly-regarded KNX 1070 Newsradio anchor Frank Mottek. More than 125 persons attended; nearly 300 registered to attend but it is suspected that when it was determined Bonin would not participate, many disgusted voters said 'what's the point.'
Meantime, it was reported that Bonin was indisposed because he was committed to an event on Feb. 16, in Mar Vista, sponsored by a group called Aging in Place. The minutes of the Mar Vista group establish that Bonin was not the guest speaker at their event attended by 28 persons; the evidence also indicates Bonin was invited to both the Mar Vista and Synagogue events at about the same time.
Bonin’s campaign staff also claimed their candidate was leery about attending the Synagogue event because some of its organizers supported his rivals. However, that concern was amply mitigated by the fact that Mottek, a veteran journalist and long-time member of the board of the Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, agreed to moderate the debate and call the balls and strikes, if you will.
Bonin's excuses don't pass the smell test.
Now we are hearing there MAY be a debate on Feb. 27. Despite some mixed messages about who would attend or not, the latest news (as of noon, Feb. 2) is that all three candidates will attend. Sort of. Apparently Ryavec will be a "virtual" participant, showing up via live-stream (???) and providing taped responses (???). Whatever all this means, god only knows, but it is not the same as showing up in person.
However, this information – even if true - does not diminish the value and purpose of this petition.
It remains unacceptable that one debate is being held at the tail-end of the primary election season and the time and place of the debate were dictated by the incumbent officeholder, Mike Bonin. To top it off, this debate at this time apparently will NOT be moderated by anyone who can be expected to be objective and disinterested in the outcome of the election or practiced in holding candidates’ feet to the fire. The gold standard for political debates is to have them moderated by journalists; this is a format that should be institutionalized by the City Ethics Commission.
Other reforms worth considering:
- a requirement that there be at least three debates in the primary; ;
- that these debates be held in different parts of the district at times and places dictated by the commission;
- and that the candidates get a down-payment on their matching funds if they show up at a debate. No more: we give you the money and hope you engage in a debate.
Bottom-line: we help fund the campaigns of candidates running for office with the promise that we will get debates. What’s happening in CD11 makes it clear that this system is, like so much at City Hall, unsatisfactory.
More specifically, as to the Feb. 27th debate (if it indeed comes off as now contemplated): the date is unacceptable. Many voters will have cast absentee ballots by Feb. 27; in effect the election could be decided by absentee voters who had no opportunity to witness a meaningful debate. It is no service to the public to hold a debate on Feb. 27th - a mere eight days before the election.
It has also been reported that Bonin has demanded that this Feb. 27th “debate” shall NOT include questions about Measure S (which Bonin opposes). It is arbitrary and intolerable for any Los Angeles city candidate to dictate that their position concerning a notable municipal ballot measure, for example, not be discussed as part of a “debate.”
Bottom-line: Many residents of CD11 are deeply concerned that the candidates are acting in bad faith and willfully dodging their responsibility to engage in a meaningful public debate to help the voters make informed decisions about how to vote.
This is not just a question of reasonableness. It is a matter of law (see Los Angeles Municipal Code §§ 49.7.22 et seq). All three CD11 candidates agreed in writing to participate in at least one debate in order to receive matching funds assistance.
The City Ethics Commission should immediately demand that Bonin and Ryavec return the matching funds tax dollars they have received; and that these funds be kept in an escrow account and be released to Bonin and Ryavec only after they have participated in a bona fide public debate. I daresay that what is happening in CD11 is probably not unique and we believe that the City Ethics Commission should take steps to prevent the citywide abuse of the matching funds program.
It is particularly obnoxious when incumbent officeholders, who already have a tremendous fund-raising advantage over their challengers, are allowed to spend our tax dollars to fatten their political warchests while dodging their debate obligations.
But in the meantime, the city Ethics Commission should act immediately to prevent candidates in CD11 from spending our tax dollars until they make good on their written pledge to debate. Our tax dollars and the integrity of the city’s campaign finance reform laws must be protected. Yes, this may cause discomfort to the candidates but it is time to send a strong signal that this dysfunctional system can no longer be tolerated.
This petition is supported by a dozen or so individuals who first encountered it on Nextdoor Neighborhood. However, I did not get their permission to use their names for publication so I have not included them herein.
- ACTION INFO—Show your support for election change, send an email to email@example.com with ‘I support election debate reform’ in the subject line.
(John Schwada is a former investigative reporter for Fox 11 in Los Angeles, the LA Times and the late Herald Examiner. He is an occasional contributor to CityWatch. His consulting firm is MediaFix Associates.)
THE NELSON RISING METHOD--What do we do now, Nelson Rising?
I pose that question not just because this is a confusing and complicated era for California. And not just because no living Californian is better than Nelson Rising—a developer, lawyer, campaign manager, and civic leader from Los Angeles—at navigating our state’s complexities to create communities that endure.
“What do we do now?” is the question that concludes Rising’s one-and-only brush with Hollywood. After Rising ran the successful 1970 U.S. Senate campaign of John Tunney, he was a producer on the 1972 film The Candidate, in which Robert Redford plays an idealistic U.S. Senate candidate corrupted by the political process. When Redford wins an upset victory, he is so empty that in the final scene, he asks his campaign manager, “What do we do now?” The manager has no answer.
Fortunately, Rising, 75, has some reassuring answers about today’s California, as I learned during two recent long conversations. And if you’re a reader who doesn’t know the name Nelson Rising, don’t worry—that’s the point. Nelson Rising’s story is about all the big things you can get done in California if you’re willing to listen more than you talk. Over the years his impressive accomplishments have spoken for themselves, without much ballyhoo for the man himself.
When you tally up all the big things Rising has helped bring to California, there are simply too many for a short column. You could start with the tallest building in the state, the Library Tower (now the U.S. Bank Tower) in downtown LA. You could throw in Grand Park, LA’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Metropolitan Water District buildings, and the Playa Vista development (now unofficial headquarters of Southern California’s Silicon Beach). You might add San Francisco’s Mission Bay, the largest mixed-use development in that city’s history, and, in San Diego, two mixed-use towers, next to the train station, that were part of the wave that transformed downtown into a thriving residential neighborhood.
But then you’d still be leaving out major developments like Rising’s first big project, Coto de Caza, the quintessential suburban Orange County planned community, made famous through reality television. (“He is to blame for The Real Housewives of Orange County,” says Rising’s son Chris).
And the buildings are just part of his legacy. In LA, Rising managed the mayoral campaign of Tom Bradley, the city’s first African American mayor, who transformed the city into a far more international, educated, and inclusive place. During a stint up north, Rising was chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (where he navigated the disruption of the dot-com bust), chair of the Washington D.C.-based Real Estate Roundtable, chairman of the publicly traded real estate firm Catellus, and chair of the Bay Area Council, a vital business policy group. His sport coats have put the blue in countless blue-ribbon commissions, and he’s led efforts to remake policies on projects as varied as water, redevelopment, and LA’s Grand Avenue.
Rising’s remarkable career stands as a rejoinder to the maddening conventional wisdom of today’s California: that you can’t do big things in our state because everything is too complicated, regulated, and expensive. Any big project requires dealing with too many different constituencies. Who has time to talk with everyone, much less dig into all the details and accommodate all the interests that must be accommodated?
Nelson Rising makes the time.
Which is the secret of success in California. Rising argues that because so few try to do the big, complicated thing, those who are willing to do all the hard work¬—to talk with everybody, to accommodate every opponent, to sweat every detail—can still accomplish great things. In fact, Californians are so used to having their concerns ignored that the act of listening to and working with one’s opposition can be incredibly powerful.
“I enjoy communication, and the best part of communication is listening. Many people don’t do that,” says Rising. “I don’t think I can respond to people unless I know what I’m responding to. So I always start the conversation by asking, ‘What’s your concern? Why don’t you want me to do this development? And if I can figure out a way to solve your concern, will you be supportive of it?’”
Rising’s natural—if quite deliberate—modesty makes this approach particularly effective. In our recent conversations—at his downtown LA office and at the California Club—Rising deflected credit or understated his role, depicting himself as a coordinator of teams that did the real work. Colleagues interjected frequently to say he was being too modest.
But modesty suits the man, who might be the polar opposite of the real estate developer currently occupying the White House. Rising’s parents never attended college; he went from Glendale High to UCLA and later UCLA law school on a scholarship. He’s been married to the same woman for 53 years and lives in La Cañada-Flintridge, far from the fancy Westside precincts favored by other movers and shakers.
He credits his rise to good fortune, good co-workers, and the friendship of Warren Christopher, a colleague at the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers, who brought him into civic and political work, originally through an effort to rebuild the Democratic party after Ronald Reagan defeated Gov. Pat Brown in 1966. “A person cannot be truly accomplished unless they help others to accomplish,” was a Christopher maxim that Rising still recites.
Rising sees his own skill as building teams that help others accomplish, and that accomplishment comes from talking to one’s opponents. That may seem like very old wisdom, but it is revolutionary today, when civic and political contests are often about rallying one’s base of supporters, while discouraging the base of opponents. He says Tom Bradley succeeded because he visited every corner of the city and made a point of engaging people who were inclined to oppose him—over time, the constant reaching out made Angelenos comfortable with him.
There are similar stories of engagement—of embracing conversation and complexity—in Rising’s other successes. He made the Library Tower (and the neighboring Gas Company tower) happen by arranging a complex swap, in which the tower’s builders purchased the air rights to develop above LA’s Central Library, located across the street, and used them to increase the height of the towers. Revenue from the sale helped the library rebuild after a crippling fire.
Rising argues that because so few try to do the big, complicated thing, those who are willing to do all the hard work—to talk with everybody, to accommodate every opponent, to sweat every detail—can still accomplish great things.
Having developed the tallest building in the state, however, did not make Rising self-important. To win approval for the Playa Vista project, he went into living rooms to meet with homeowners in Westchester, who were angry about the vast amounts of multi-unit housing in his plan. He slowly wore down resistance with conversation and with a presentation that used two slide projectors—to show not only the before and after, but also attractive multi-unit housing in places like Savannah and Washington D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood.
The greatest example of the Rising method may be Mission Bay. As the CEO of the public real estate firm Catellus, he took over a development that faced opposition and remade it to satisfy the complaints of San Franciscans. His moves included adding 1,700 units of affordable housing, providing parking for Giants games, and donating 43 acres to UC San Francisco for their biotech campus. The development was ultimately approved without opposition; there wasn’t a single environmental lawsuit.
The feat was so impressive that San Francisco—a place where throngs chant “Beat L.A.” with little provocation— named a street in Mission Bay after the Los Angeles developer—Nelson Rising Lane. “You can walk all over Nelson Rising,” quips his longtime colleague David Herbst, “but you have to go to San Francisco to do it.”
Rising cops to plenty of failures, including twice flunking attempts at retirement. So now he’s building a business with his son Chris, who is named for Warren Christopher. They are raising a $300 million social impact fund for investments, and are focused on three things: Remaking buildings so they produce less carbon (“We’d like to show the real estate industry it doesn’t have to be the number one generator of carbon,” Chris says); making buildings healthier (with more light and air, and designs that are better for workers); and incorporating technology into older, restored places by taking all the copper out and replacing it with fiber networks. (Their revamping of One Bunker Hill in LA will include a signature public lobby with powerful Wi-Fi that they want schoolchildren to use to do their homework.)
Rising remains loyal to downtown LA, and marvels at how the area, once almost entirely an employment hub, has surpassed all expectations by becoming a place to live. He praises the Wilshire Grand Center that, when it’s completed later this year, will supplant the Library Tower as the state’s tallest building.
Rising still works in the historic Beaux Arts PacMutual complex that he restored and then sold in 2015, reportedly at a record per-square-foot price for a downtown office building. His firm has since purchased 433 S. Spring, an Art Deco building where Rising began his career as an O’Melveny lawyer.
The firm is working in LA, San Diego, and San Francisco, and eyeing Sacramento, where the Risings have been impressed with the growth of its downtown. He is critical of President Trump’s policies, but doesn’t think the new administration will be able to undermine California too much. “The state’s economy is poised to keep exceeding the country,” he says, as long as it keeps nurturing its diversity, raises its education levels, and rebuilds its infrastructure.
So what do we do now, Los Angeles … California? We follow Rising’s singular example: Reach out to one another, listen—and recommit to doing the big things that will make a difference.
(Joe Mathews is Connecting California Columnist and Editor at Zócalo Public Square … where this column first appeared. Mathews is a Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010).)
BROKEN PROMISES-Brentwood residents received an email recently from our Councilmember Mike Bonin touting the approval of the Brentwood School expansion plan. The school is located at the gridlocked intersection of Sunset Blvd. and Barrington Place, just west of the 405 freeway.
According to the announcement, Brentwood School would meet a new “Sunset Standard” by reducing its peak hour traffic by 40% after a whopping 38% enrollment increase from 695 to 960 students.
A 40% reduction in school-related traffic would be a welcome relief for the Westside residents and commuters who contend with gridlock on a daily basis. School traffic from parent pick-ups and drop-offs is a big contributor to the problem.
The community had reason to expect that Brentwood School would have to bring its traffic mitigation program in line with that of the Archer School for Girls just a few blocks away. The City has held Archer to strict standards for its nearly 20 years of existence, including 76% mandatory busing and limits on the number and size of events that can occur during peak traffic hours.
And in November, the City Planning Commission approved conditions requiring Brentwood School to reduce its traffic by 40% in return for allowing the enrollment increase.
So what happened? After the City Planning Commission’s ruling, the Council Office and Brentwood School negotiated a new agreement that gutted the CPC’s conditions.
And then the revised conditions were slammed through PLUM and the City Council without any discussion, without hearing public comment, and not even mentioning that the conditions were different from those recommended by City Planning.
Although the community, represented by the Brentwood Community Council, had been a part of the negotiations up through the CPC hearing, they were cut out of the discussion while adjustments were made.
No longer was the school held to a 40% reduction in traffic:
- New language introduced loopholes enabling the school to reduce its traffic by only 12.5%.
- “Credits” were added to allow Brentwood School to put public school students on buses while its own parents continue to drive kids to school. The public school buses don’t even have to eliminate traffic on Sunset to reduce the school’s own requirements.
- Daily traffic caps are gone, replaced by average targets which enable the school to frequently exceed its limits.
Opportunities to make a real difference in traffic don’t come along often, particularly on the Sunset corridor. And it isn’t often that the community and City Planning are in alignment on appropriate mitigations.
Therefore, it is particularly disappointing that yet another backroom deal between a Council Office and a well-heeled applicant goes against the community’s interest.
(Lauren Cole grew up in Los Angeles and has been living in the Brentwood and West LA areas for over 25 years. She is the Transportation Representative to the Brentwood Community Council and on the Board of the South Brentwood Residents Association. When she is not working on neighborhood issues she runs a strategy consulting firm focusing on media businesses, Cole Media. (www.colemediala.com. [[hotlink]] The views expressed in this article are those of Ms. Cole and Ms Cole alone). Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
EDUCATION POLITICS-The NAACP Charter School Task Force held a hearing in Los Angeles on Thursday, February 9. After calling for a national moratorium on charter schools until certain concerns were addressed (see below), the NAACP received blowback from charter school advocates. But Jitu Brown, of the Journey for Justice, defended the moratorium in the Washington Post's education blog, the Answer Sheet, saying, "corporate reform has failed to bring equitable educational opportunities to all children."
This hearing was one in a series, a listening tour, making its way across the country. The distinguished members of the Task Force, all pre-eminent civil rights leaders in cities from Boston to Sacramento, states from Mississippi to Minnesota, gathered testimony from people with direct experience with the issues the moratorium seeks to provide the breathing room to address.
There was massive organized presence by charter advocates. One charter supporter stacked the speaker sign-up sheet with people who would speak against the moratorium, by copying a typed-up charter school roster she had brought.
The unions showed up, too. UTLA brought a contingent from Dorsey High School and CSEA came. The Santa Ana Teachers Association’s charter school task force came. Former Education Chair of the California Assembly, Jackie Goldberg, gave public comment.
I was part of a group of the California Badass Teachers Association (BATs), a grassroots group of about 2000 teachers and education activists. I testified as a recovering charter school parent, but what I heard was more important than anything I said.
I go anywhere if people are willing to talk about what charter schools are doing to public education due to their lack of oversight. Few official bodies in California, and perhaps none in Los Angeles, will openly discuss the need for charter school oversight for fear of the powerful California Charter Schools Association lobby. (Gubernatorial candidate and California State Treasurer John Chiang is a rare exception).
So the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in our country, provided us with a rare opportunity. I was grateful for my two minutes at the mic. When the charter advocates in the back of the room shouted me down, Alice Huffman, the chair, promptly regained order.
I’m sure for some in the audience it wasn’t my anti-charter message that got them riled up. Some were rightly suspicious of a white Westsider telling them anything about educating urban, black youth. Heck, my own school board member’s chief-of-staff told me not to go to school board meetings, and to find a Latina instead, because it made things awkward for him in our primarily Latino district.
But I didn’t come to tell them anything about educating black youth. I came to share how charter schools are being used in my neighborhood to segregate our schools.
The west side of Los Angeles had, for a while, more charter schools than anywhere else on the planet (that distinction now belongs to South LA.) In my neighborhood, charter schools marketed themselves to white, middle class families as a way to send their kids to school without “those kids.” Of course, they phrased it differently. At the charter elementary school my kids attended, we considered our mostly white, middle class school community to be “like minded."
That’s where better oversight might have turned good intentions into fairer access for all children, not just mine. That is what I wanted to tell the NAACP task force.
After my children transferred to the district middle school across the street, we drove past the charter school every day. One day, my then 11-year old daughter looked out at the charter students during our drive to school and said, “Why was my elementary school almost all white and my middle school is almost all black and brown?”
Remember, these two schools were separated only by a little street. The middle school was half Latino and half African American. There, my children’s race was indicated as “statistically insignificant” on demographic reports one year. It was a neighborhood school and a magnet school, part of LAUSD's voluntary integration program, for black and Latino children living in parts of the city beleaguered by poverty, violence, and other harms of racial isolation.
Yet LAUSD has approved nearly every charter school that has been proposed to compete with that school, and offered little extra support to our neighborhood schools. There's no question that charters deserve credit for pushing district schools to step up, but the charter brand also benefits from a grass-is-greener mentality among parents. More choices mean fewer students in each school. That, in turn, means less funding in district schools which results in fewer elective classes and less support.
I am grateful to the NAACP for the opportunity to share my experience.
However, far more important than my comments were those made by the Task Force members themselves. (I’m counting on the formal presenters like LAUSD board member George McKenna, California NAACP education chair Julian Vasquez Heilig, Green Dot's Cristina de Jesus, and UTLA's Cecily Myart Cruz, to post their presentations on their own widely read blogs and other forums.)
The room was mostly cleared out by the time the committee members made their closing remarks. Unsurprisingly, they revealed deeply thought out views by pre-eminent civil rights leaders who are immersed in the issues of equity for black youth in regions across the country. Their thorough understanding of the charter school issue shone in stark contrast to some op-eds that have portrayed the NAACP as out of touch with its members.
Here is a transcript of their closing remarks:
Michael Curry is a civil rights leader in Boston, an attorney and President of the nation’s oldest NAACP chapter. He has been involved in redistricting, pushed for Police body cameras and helped to press for a federal inquiry into racial incidents at an elite Boston school.
“…about their history and about Du Bois and Booker T and Marcus Garvey. Excellent school. So I think the conversation is somewhat twisted. Because people believe that they’re here to tell us not to oppose charter schools, and that’s a false premise. This was never about opposing charter schools. I think we need to lift that up again. That this was a conversation about a traditional public education system that we fight all the time. Another false perception. We fight unions at times about policies. We fight school systems. We just sued--not sued--we brought a civil rights complaint against the Boston Public Schools just a few months ago, and had a civil rights finding against the Boston Public Schools. So it’s not like we don’t fight on the other side too. This is about, now you have a new evolving system.
“And I love to hear the great stories, but what I need to hear from the charter advocates for expansion is that you have problems, too, and how you’re going to work together to solve the problems within this new system. It’s disingenuous if you come and tell a great story about what’s happening in your school, but right down the street, is another charter school that’s expelling kids, suspending kids, not accepting kids, not enrolling kids.
“And as you have this national conversation about charter schools, let’s keep it real. It’s a problem. It doesn’t mean that your school—that it’s an attack on your personal school but we’ve got to have an honest conversation about what’s going on across the country. My last point on that is I’m always concerned about any new, evolving solution that’s finding us by people who don’t look like us and people who quite frankly wasn’t on the front lines of solving public education since the problem before. So it makes me question why they’re putting this money where they wouldn’t put this money when we were fighting traditional public school.
“We were asking for higher funding, and trying to pass legislation and bring lawsuits. They weren’t there. But now, all the sudden, they’re putting all this money behind charters. You need to ask that question. I don’t know what the answer is, but I look forward to having that conversation soon.”
James Gallman is a civil rights leader, the retired President of the NAACP South Carolina which, he said, has “the longest running lawsuit in the country because our state refuses to fund all schools the same way.”
“My comments, on comments that Michael made early, very early on in this process. This is my fourth hearing. And I think that we need to clearly understand what we have called for and then I think we need to understand how the NAACP operates. There was a resolution, or there have been resolutions, coming out of our national meetings. It was not the Board that made that decision. We get a unit that would bring forth a resolution. That resolution is presented to a resolution committee, and it is screened and decided how we move forward. And then it goes to those delegates who come to the convention, and they say that this is what they want to have happen.
“So just being a member is one thing, but you need to understand how the NAACP operates. It’s not just having a $30 card, it’s how we operate. So when we got to the discussion about it, we made this decision. Let’s call for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools at least until such time as--and we identified four things that we wanted to see happen. Nobody said “let’s stop these charter schools.”
“We said we need to clearly—we need to be sure that there are things that are being done that fit all schools. Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools; public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system; charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate; and cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet obvious.
“So we want to make sure these things are happening at every school. So we didn’t come here tonight to beat up on charter schools or to praise public schools. This young lady here, I can’t remember her name, but she said something about, “we’re on a listening tour.” We are trying to get information from both sides. Then we will, at the end of these hearings, go back and sit down as a group, talk about what we’ve heard, present that to the board and then let the board make a decision.
“We didn’t come here angry with you. We came here to share with—to hear from you—about what is it that’s being done in your community. What’s going on in this country? And then we can make an intelligent decision as to what’s the best way to move forward with ALL children being given a quality education.”
(Audience: Is the moratorium for a specific amount of time?) No.
Da’quan Love is a civil rights leader, a charter school administrator, and community organizer. As president of the Virginia NAACP Youth and College Division, he led an effort that defeated attempts to invalidate over 16,000 voter registration applications in Virginia during the 2012 U.S. Presidential election.
“I saw a lot of students, a lot of scholars here today. Are there any scholars still here? Probably left. But nevertheless, as someone who has worked since July in a charter school—a little history on myself. I have worked elementary all the way up to the higher ed level in North Carolina, Virginia, and now Minnesota. As someone who’s worked since July to build a first-year charter school, I was a fifth grade teacher, I was recently promoted to Dean of Institutional Advancement, I understand how difficult it is to get a charter school up and running. So before I move any further, I heard a lot of folks say that ‘I started this school,’ or ‘I started a network of schools.’ And I just want to applaud your efforts because you saw a need and you are trying and you are fulfilling that need in your community.
“I want to first say that. We should give them a round of applause. It’s no easy feat to do that. Secondly, as it has been stated previously, we are not against charter schools. We want top quality, fair, equitable education for all our kids. Now, if that’s at a charter school, that’s fine. If that’s in a public school, that’s fine. We just want transparency, as Board member Gallman stated. And we want those four things to be outlined.
“As I prepare to leave this hearing, one of the things that I am taking away is, quite frankly, many of us have the same objectives. We all want our scholars to be on a pathway to college, and/or career, and ultimately to be successful. We all want to ensure that our teachers have access and are able to feel, as I forgot who said it from, I believe the Green Dot schools, making sure they feel like they’re being empowered, they’re appreciated and they’re ultimately being successful. We’re really all pretty much on the same page. It’s just the manner in which we are approaching reaching these goals.
“And so I think that there are some things that we can do, and there are some things that we as a task force can take away from this and listen to the ideas and suggestions that you all present. But, moreover, the folks that are in this room and many of the folks who have testified today are the good folks. The bigger folks aren’t here. The folks who we’ve been talking about all afternoon aren’t here. Those are the school management organizations, those charter management organizations -- those big folks are who we really need to be having those conversations with. Those tough schools, those tough charter schools that have not really made adequate performance progress. Those are the schools we need to be really concerned about. And the same for our public schools. So thank you. I appreciate you all for coming and I applaud your efforts. I think that we as a task force have some helpful information to move forward with.”
Derrick Johnson is a civil rights leaders, an attorney, founder of One Voice, a social justice nonprofit, and President of the NAACP Mississippi. He lectures annually at Harvard University and throughout the country on Voting Rights Act, civil rights, civic engagement, and redistricting.
“I want to thank Da’quan Love for speaking up because he is a charter school teacher. He’s now a charter school administrator. We are perhaps the worst public school system in the country: Mississippi. We have the weakest teachers unions in the country: Mississippi. So for me, it is not about charter versus public. We have a system of education in this country that has pitted poor and Latino and black children in the worst position possible.
“And now what I’m seeing is the distraction of charter versus public because many folks do not want to fully fund education for all children. And every time we come to one of these meetings, we have well intended, good people—be them charter or public—speaking from their positions, not understanding that we are being used as a distraction. And the real question is, why have we not transformed education to ensure that all children are provided with a quality education?
“Now, in that process, it’s disheartening to see the multi-billionaire class utilize tax dollars to extract, to increase their wealth, on the back of our communities and then give talking points to folks in our communities to say this is where we want the NAACP, when in fact, they never show up here. Ms. Jesus had one of the best comments today: bad schools is our common enemy. And let’s be real. We have some really bad public schools and we have some really bad charter schools. And our children are being exploited and used as pawns.
“Our role, as the NAACP, is to do all we can to be the stopgap. And that’s [inaudible]. So I fight public education all day long in Mississippi. But I see the problem. When you privatize tax dollars, people are exploited. And if we don’t have transparency and standards and accountability, we will find ourselves just like Detroit, all the charter schools you can find. And I grew up in Detroit and education is worse now because it's like the Wild, Wild West. So we’re not, anyone in this room, enemies. I think we all want the same thing. But let’s not be fooled about what’s really going on. This is about who gets taxed, who’s not taxed, and how those tax dollars are being utilized to increase other people’s profits.”
Alice Huffman is a civil rights leader and has been a political powerhouse in California for decades, as a political consultant. She earned her degree from UC Berkeley, Cum Laude, in two years. She is President of the California/Hawaii NAACP.
“I want to thank the board members. I do want to make a comment. I came from public schools. And we sat in here and bashed the public schools like they’re all bad. They’re not all bad. They educated most of us in this room, that we’re now educated to run charter schools. And for my [charter] friends in the back, what I wanted to tell you, you need to stop bashing your NAACP. Like you don’t want us to bash charter schools, don’t bash your NAACP for doing its job. Thank you for being here.”
Next stop on the listening tour: New Orleans.
(Karen Wolfe is a public school parent, the Executive Director of PS Connect and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
LA WATCHDOG--Our City’s budget and finances are a mess. But City Hall is less than transparent, treating us like mushrooms, keeping us in the dark and dumping tons of ripe manure on our heads.
But on Saturday, you will have the opportunity to learn more about the City’s budget and finances by attending one of the six Regional Budget Day meetings throughout the City that are being hosted by the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates. These meetings begin at 9:30 in the morning and will last for about two to three hours. Refreshments will be served. See below for the location nearest you or click here.
Importantly, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates are interested in your ideas about how to make the City more efficient and transparent and to increase revenues.
While the Advocates have produced many recommendations over the years that have saved the City considerable sums and increased revenues, City Hall has been resistant to implement common sense suggestions that would make the City’s finances and operations more transparent and curb its out of control spending.
On October 4, 2106, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates urged the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti to implement the following four excellent budget related recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission.
- 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 develop a three-year budget and a three-year baseline budget with the goal to understand the longer-term consequences of its policies and legislation. (Council File 14-1184-S2)
- Be honest about the cost of future promises by adopting a discount rate and pension earnings assumptions similar to those used by Warren Buffett.
- Establish a “Commission for Retirement Security” to review the City's retirement obligations in order to promote an accurate understanding of the facts.
For more information on this recommendation, see the October 6, 2016 CityWatch article, NC Budget Advocates Argue for Transparency Office and Truth in Budgeting Law.
But the City Council and the Mayor have done nothing to implement these recommendations despite the fact that they were enthusiastically endorsed by City Council President Herb Wesson at a press conference on April 9, 2014. Interestingly, Wesson was also the moving force behind the formation of the blue ribbon LA 2020 Commission headed by former Secretary of Commerce Mickey Kantor and Austin Beutner.
The City’s budget is out of control.
In January, the City Administrative Officer said that the City is looking at a potential budget deficit of $245 million this year (it was “balanced” on July 1, 2016) and that the Reserve Fund is in danger of dipping below mandated levels. As a result, the City’s credit rating is in jeopardy.
The City is projecting a river of red ink over the next four years despite revenues being up $1 billion over the last four years and another $600 million over the next four years. Our lunar cratered streets have continued to worsen, so much so that our gridlock is the worst in the developed world according to The New York Times. And our unfunded pension liability of more than $20 billion (according to Moody’s Investor Services) is a weapon of mass financial destruction aimed at the heart of all Angelenos.
In March, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates will issue its annual “White Paper” that will propose a “Back to Basics” Plan. This will include a call for long range planning, a policy of not entering into budget busting labor contracts, a plan to repair and maintain our streets and the rest of our infrastructure, and the development of a business friendly environment which encourages employers to remain and invest in our City.
The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates look forward to your input. After all, it is our City.
See you on Saturday morning at 9:30 at the one of the following locations where coffee will be on the house.
- ACTION INFO
Regional Budget Day Locations
Marvin Braude Center
6262 Van Nuys Boulevard
Van Nuys 91401
Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Griffith Park Drive
Los Angeles 90027
Glassell Park Community Center
3650 Verdugo Road
Glassell Park 90065
Ridley Thomas Constituent Center
8475 S. Vermont Avenue
West LA Municipal Building
1645 Corinth Avenue
Los Angeles 90049
Croatian Cultural Center
510 W. 7th Street
San Pedro 90731
More info here.
(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: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
CRIME WATCH--On Monday in Whittier a villainous person murdered a police officer and seriously wounded another who had come to render him aid due to his involvement in a traffic accident. Early that day, he had murdered his cousin, Roy Gogers Torres, in East Los Angeles.
The killer, Michael Christopher Mejia, who was born and grew up in the United States, had been in prison for a felony robbery in 2010 and grand theft auto in 2014 and he had been released from prison in April 2016 – after serving his full prison term. From the frequency with which the authorities had ‘violated” Mejia for his behavior since his April release, it appears that probation knew he posed a serious danger. On February 2, the Sheriff’s Department gave him a “flash incarceration,” and he was released February 11th. They gave Mejia the maximum time under Flash Incarceration which is ten days.
In the subsequent media-fed hysteria people should know that Mejia was not out of prison due to any of the ‘early release’ measures which the public and legislature have passed. This rumor was fueled by a craven media who seized upon the extreme grief of Whittier Chief Piper who lashed out at the so called ‘early release’ laws while fighting off tears over the murder of his good friend, Officer Keith Boyer (photo above). Also, the Sheriff’s department repetition of this falsehood contributed to a public outcry to reverse the early release program.
In what world is disseminating false information which is designed to inflame the passions of the public a wise idea? We live in a world where Alt-facts rule and now we see denials on line insisting that the first reports were correct and Mejia was early release. Thus, the solution by politicians who also prefer hyper-emotional Alt-facts is to attack the Early Release Program even if the reality is that early release makes our communities safer.
Psychopaths Do Not Yield to Easy Solutions
A few days later, in the face of more reliable information … thank you, LA Times … it appears that Mejia is a Psychopath. Other people describe this type of person criminally insane. Or, we may use the idea that he was a very dangerous person. While we need to await more details, the frequency with which Mejia was jailed for probation violations indicates that the authorities were keeping close tabs on him. It bears repeating that they had given him the maximum ten days under Flash Incarceration.
We lack data to provide a clinical diagnosis, but it is sufficient for our purposes to recognize that law enforcement knew this individual as extremely dangerous. Let’s stress the word individual. Law enforcement has to deal with specific individual human beings and it is our function as a society to provide them with the tools. We do not do that and tragedy results.
Systemic Problems Lack Quick Fixes
No institution in our society adequately deals with people who have mental illness. That applies from the Presidency to the jailer who has to supervise violent prisoners in “lock-down.” Our inability is a systemic problem … that means it is found in all parts of society. Professionals now realize that the term “Mental Illness” is both misleading and counterproductive, but it is an advance over the notions that ‘crazy people” are possessed by demons.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder [DSM-5] is an attempt to classify behavior patterns which our society finds harmful. Seldom does it shed light on why someone has a certain pattern and the effort to devise a classification system on which people agree is on-going. People cannot decide whether Donald Trump, for example, suffers from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder or a Histrionic Personality Disorder. It is beneficial to look at Trump because one can see how extremely difficult it is to constrain someone who suffers from a mental disorder.
Donald Trump exists at the tippy top of the social ladder with access to the very best help in the world, while Mejia was on the bottom rung of the ladder. In the final analysis, Donald Trump’s mental disorders are likely to result in far greater death, destruction and bereavement than Mejia’s murderous behavior.
As a society we need to admit that mental disorders are a systemic aspect of our national life affecting every one of us. There are no quick fixes. Our institutions are unable to handle these very serious problems, but as they say in AA, the first step is admitting that you have a problem.
And, as a society, we need to agree that the spread of misinformation in an attempt to support a cause, in the end, benefits no one and is harmful to everyone.
The Times did not seem to contribute to the disinformation but on Wednesday did a rather comprehensive article outlining the errors in the rush to blame the early release programs.
(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.)
CONSIDER THIS--Recently, I’ve been catching up on episodes of “The Americans.” It’s a television program about Russian sleeper agents posing as a middle-class couple in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. in the Reagan era. In one show, a veteran KGB agent talks about a colleague who was declared an “enemy of the people” and taken away never to be heard from again.
Donald Trump’s recent tweet referring to media as an enemy of the people suggests he may have picked up the phrase from his pal ex-KGB agent Vladimir Putin. Though the rhetoric might be borrowed from Soviet-era Russia, presidential enmity toward the press has a long history in America.
The first official action aimed at media was the Sedition Act of 1798. President John Adams and the Federalists were so put out by their opponents’ newspapers they passed a law making it a crime to “defame” the government. Punishment included fines and imprisonment. Although clearly unconstitutional, it would be five years before the Supreme Court established its right to review and rule on the actions of Congress. In any event, the law expired in 1801, at which time those in jail were released and those who had been fined got their money back.
Jefferson and his successors understood freedom of the press was necessary to making democracy work. That didn’t mean they liked it. But they understood there was only one First Amendment and it protected them and their supporters the same as the opposition.
It’s only in the last 80 years or so that technology has allowed presidents direct access to the American people. Franklin Roosevelt used the power of radio to reach out in a series of speeches called “fireside chats” to promote his programs and positions on events at home and abroad.
Truman was often vilified by the press and once threatened to beat up a columnist who criticized his daughter, Margaret, who had embarked on a career as a professional classical singer.
As president, Lyndon Johnson installed three televisions in the oval office so he could watch the major network news programs at the same time. If he didn’t like what he saw, he’d call network executives and complain about the coverage.
Johnson understood the power of media (he owned radio and TV stations) and especially the credibility of news broadcasters like Walter Cronkite of CBS, often referred to as the most trusted man in America. When Cronkite criticized the war in Vietnam, Johnson said, “When I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”
Johnson’s successor, Richard Nixon, hated the media. Questions about Nixon’s relationship with campaign donors and acceptance of gifts started as early as the 1952 campaign, when Nixon was running for vice president. Ten years later, after losing the California governor’s race, Nixon famously told reporters, “You’re not going to have Nixon to kick around anymore.”
In 1969, comeback achieved, Nixon took the oath of office and sent his vice president, Spiro Agnew, out to declare war on the media. Calling them “nattering nabobs of negativism”, Agnew chastised TV networks and major market newspapers as out of touch with the average American. Nixon claimed to represent the “silent majority”, who didn’t like hippies, supported law and order, and were fine with whatever the government wanted.
Mark Twain warned about picking fights with people who bought ink by the barrel. Instead of intimidating the press, Nixon invigorated them. The first major fight happened when the New York Times and Washington Post published secret Department of Defense documents critical of American actions in Vietnam. When the government tried to stop publication of “The Pentagon Papers”, the courts turned it down saying it could not engage in prior restraint.
Along the way to Watergate, reporters wrote about systemic corruption involving shadowy figures engaging in bribery and dirty tricks. Syndicated columnist Jack Anderson was a particular thorn in the side of the Nixon administration. Ultimately, the burglary at the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic National Committee was the thing that broke open the Pandora’s box of wrongdoing by Nixon and much of his government. What ended it was Congressional committees, grand juries, independent prosecutors, and judges who brought the full weight of the law to bear on conspirators, high and low, who believed the ends justified the means.
If there is a key to predicting the future of the Trump administration, this is it. Trump can refer to the press as an enemy of the people. He can deride the judiciary and claim to be above the law. He has the advantage that half of Americans have tuned out truth and embraced “alternative facts”. But he does not have enough to become a dictator. At least not as long as the First Amendment still guarantees freedom of speech.
(Doug Epperhart is a publisher, a long-time neighborhood council activist and former Board of Neighborhood Commissioners commissioner. He is a contributor to CityWatch and can be reached at: Epperhart@cox.net) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Here’s an election curiosity: Why did the big real estate companies dedicated to keeping pay-to-play for Los Angeles City Council spot-zoning in motion, hire Parke Skelton’s and Michael Shiplock’s Pasadena-based SG&A campaign firm? Since that firm’s clients are Democrats, on the surface it looks like an odd fit. On one side you have a high profile campaign firm, SG&A, who knows how to sway voters who care about social justice issues, like progressive Bernie supporters, and whose clients are Democrats.
But, on the other side there is their current client, the 10 large real estate firms opposing measure S and whose business operations have nothing to do with social justice issues. These companies are totally focused on making as much money as possible through highly profitable real estate investments (e.g., mega-projects), some of them speculative. In the past, their businesses used to build tract housing and strip malls, but, responding to new real estate realities, their in-fill projects now range from high-rise luxury mega-projects, like 8150 Sunset, to McMansions and Small Lot Subdivisions.
My explanation, largely derived from well-known studies by NYU’s and UC Santa Barbara’s Harvey Molotch is that municipal level Democratic Party officials, like Mayors Villaraigosa and Garcetti, are a lynch pin of big city urban growth machines. Once you understand this, it makes perfect sense that the big real estate firms opposed to Measure S would hire SG&A. They need someone who can convincingly dress up greed, corruption, and sweet heart deals in liberal-appearing garments, and they found it.
SG&A is a campaign firm that can square this circle. They can take vast sums from real estate firms showering City Hall officials with campaign contributions and still mobilize the liberal Democratic base through a laundry list of disingenuous claims. They have mastered the art of appealing to low information liberal voters, especially those who follow the lead of well-meaning non-profits unwittingly on the same wave length of Big Real Estate. What SG&A apparently figured out through their focus groups is that these two groups share a faith in market magic, and their “No on S” campaign has exploited this to the hilt with these themes:
- In the name of affordable housing, we should green light all types of housing, even illegal residential projects for the very rich that the LA City Council approves through spot-zoning.
- In the name of environmental sustainability, we should green light luxury housing complexes proposed for low density areas because they sometimes happen to be near transit corridors and subway stations.
- In the name of job creation, we should green light mega-projects built by companies who claim they are job producers, yet could care less about unions or their own employees.
My term for this campaign strategy is crying buckets of crocodile tears. At other times I have called it a liberal head fake. Either way it means that SG&A has mounted its campaign against Measure S by alleging, in so many words, that LA’s spot-zoning, pay-to-pay status quo is progressive, while recurring efforts to reign in uncontrolled real estate speculation in LA through law suits and voter initiatives represent a conservative, right-wing, “NIMBY” agenda.
In this upside down world, regulation of land use through planning and zoning is a scheme hatched by an entrenched old guard, while scuttling planning and zoning is the truly progressive approach. The beneficiaries of this deregulation, Democratic Party officials at City Hall and real estate speculators, of course, disappear completely through this slight-of-hand deception.
To get a better understanding of how the No on S campaign fills their buckets with crocodile tears, let’s critically examine five of the major faux “liberal” claims against Measure S. They are all couched in progressive-sounding themes that camouflage the Wild West land use model that the Big Real Estate firms and their well-compensated City Hall abettors so appreciate.
Crocodile Tears Claim 1: Measure S will stop development in Los Angeles.
The term “development” has a nice progressive ring to it, but this allegation is flat-out wrong. Even though the No on S campaign only addresses the concerns of its paymasters, getting approvals for private real estate projects, Measure S would not impact any public works projects, such as the Purple Line Subway Extension. As for private real estate projects, it only affects a small percentage, mostly luxury buildings. Each year, LA’s Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) processes about 100,000 permits. Of these, about 600 projects depend on the City Council legislative actions targeted by Measure S. These are almost entirely luxury projects, and with few or none affordable units.
This is why City Planning’s recent Citywide Metrics Report notes that only two percent of new housing units in Los Angeles are affordable, and they result from density bonuses in which they City Council plays legislative no role. They are in-house quasi-ministerial cases, and they do not require the spot-General Plan amendments and spot-zone changes blocked by Measure S.
Crocodile Tears Claim 2: Measure S is a housing ban.
Many of LADBS’s 100,000 annual permits involve housing, and they will continue to process these by-right projects. Their plan checkers and field inspectors will be as busy as ever. This work also includes residential projects with affordable rental units built on commercial lots, where LA’s zoning laws allow by-right construction. Furthermore, about 80 percent of the 3000 annual building permit cases that City Planning reviews do not involve any City Council legislative actions. These cases, too, are exempt from Measure S, as are 100 percent affordable housing projects.
Crocodile Tears Claim 3: Measure S stops the construction of affordable housing.
As discussed above, this allegation, too, is totally wrong. Only two percent of new housing in Los Angeles is affordable, and according to the Department of City Planning’s Citywide Metric’s report, this two percent is built through density bonuses, not the parcel-specific City Council land use ordinances that Measure S blocks.
For that matter, Measure S is fully consistent with the construction of Measure HHH affordable housing on all City of LA-owned lots that are already zoned for residential and commercial uses. In the words of City Controller Ron Galperin, “The City of Los Angeles—on behalf of its residents and taxpayers—owns a vast portfolio of real estate, encompassing nearly 9,000 distinct parcels within the County of Los Angeles alone. These include parks; libraries; municipal facilities; parking lots, and commercial, industrial, retail, office and residential buildings and vacant land.”
Crocodile Tears Claim 4: Measure S is a job killer.
This claim is based on a Beacon Economics study paid for the big real estate companies funding SG&A’s No on S campaign. But, it is built on a faulty assumption: if real estate firms can no longer obtain pay-to-play spot-zones for their unplanned projects in Los Angeles, they will bolt to other cities.
There is no evidence for this claim. Nearby well-planned cities that do not engage in these unethical political practices, such as Santa Monica and Pasadena, generate many construction jobs without handing out zone changes and General Plan amendments to real estate developers LA-style.
Crocodile Tears Claim 5: Measure S promotes urban sprawl and undercuts sustainability.
This claim harkens back to old land use disputes in Los Angeles, as well as a critique of zoning in some urban planning circles that planning and zoning are tools of the rich. In LA, however, reality is just the opposite. It is the big real estate firms, and those connected to them who have become anti-zoning and anti-planning, not LA’s residents. Furthermore, if these anti-zoning groups bothered to look at the adopted plans they disparage, they would discover that they are all anti-sprawl. Measure S calls for these official documents to be updated and then meticulously followed, not ignored or overturned on behalf of big developers with big pockets who prefer an un-planned Los Angeles.
Furthermore, sustainability policies and programs are woven through the new Mobility Element, as well as the older elements, such as the General Plan Framework, Land Use, Air Quality, Open Space, and Conservation. Anyone who claims that a voter initiative to strengthen LA’s General Plan and City Charter is really a stalking horse for sprawl has clearly never studied the planning documents they so glibly malign and are ready to dispose of.
(Dick Platkin is a former LA city planner who reports on local planning issues in Los Angeles for CityWatch LA. Please send your comments and corrections to email@example.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
TRANSIT LA--Much of our current society's problems is that we're too often willing to be apologists: apologists for Bush's Iraq War, apologists for Obamacare failures, and apologists for our personal causes. Well, I doubt I am the only one who supports Metro but notes two glaring problems: the trains are too slow, and there's a big problem with safety/security.
First, the Good (we love that Sergio Leone paradigm, don't we?): I think that Metro's leadership and staff, at this immediate time, are among the greatest examples of successful government I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. They are responsive, they do care, and they're trying to improve their operations.
Then, the Bad: We are decades behind in building a countywide network that serves the needs of all commuters and of all commuting modes. We've made some amazing progress, and compared to other cities/counties, LA is the city/county to be beat--but we've done it without hardly any help from Sacramento, and only slight and recent help from Washington.
Finally, the Ugly: We've got a combination of NIMBY's, transit zealots, and small-minded "neighborhood leaders" who've messed things up for the long-term.
But things are fixable--and it should be remembered that the "line to nowhere", that Green Line, still had to make the painful, awkward first step before it could potentially be extended to LAX, the South Bay, and Norwalk.
As aforementioned, there are TWO major problems with our Metro Rail/transit system right now: Speed and Safety/Security. And those problems HAVE affected ridership.
That said, ridership isn't just related to Metro operations--and it should be remembered that the recently-passed Measure M has lots of money for operations. Again--Metro KNOWS what problems there are, and compared to other branches of government, Metro DOES have a working paradigm of listening more than others.
To be blunt, though:
1) It's NOT Metro's fault that their opponents who fought Metro Rail expansion focused more on blocking the line than fairly mitigating the line. Case in point--the Expo Line Authority and Metro wanted elevation/grade separation in Santa Monica, but that city dogmatically insisted it be at-grade (street level) and the line is slower there.
2) It's NOT Metro's fault that the sheriffs and other security personnel don't ride the trains as much as they should, and it's NOT Metro's fault that we're so damned politically correct as to ignore the danger of gang members, thugs, and troublemakers who ride the lines within arm's reach of threatened civilian and law-abiding riders.
With respect to speed--and I'll use the Expo Line as a case in point yet again--the more the line is grade-separated over major commercial thoroughfares, the faster the line goes and the less invasive the line is for car commuters who want to cross the line (particularly during rush hour).
Where it's mega-tight, going underground makes the most sense. Otherwise, a rail bridge works well--and let's knock off the canards about rail bridges being ugly: the new bridges are not like the elevated trains in the old Chicago network ... in fact, they're downright beautiful and modern.
FIRST, the SPEED:
With the Downtown Connector Subway almost completed to connect the Expo/Blue Lines with the Gold Lines, the speed of crossing and accessing Downtown will go way up. But the street-running portion of the Downtown Expo/Blue Lines will certain be considered for a fix in the years to come...because those lines are too darned slow there.
In the Westside, the results of the stupid, STUPID political battles opposing the line was that the consideration of a rail bridge at the critical freeway-accessing Overland Avenue was thrown away.
The LADOT knew the rail bridge idea had merit, but the locals demanded a subterranean crossing or nothing...so the Expo/Metro folks saved some money and threw away the bridge option. I saw the PowerPoint for that option--and if Paul Koretz and the Westside had demanded a rail bridge at Overland (like Culver City did for its rail crossings), it would have been there.
Now the trains are a little slower there, and cars are--you guessed it--backed up for 10-15 minutes or more during rush hour. Feel lied to? Well, talk to those either too NIMBY or too cowardly to demand a rail bridge because they insisted on an underground, mega-expensive fix instead of the cheaper bridge alternative.
(Sigh). At least we can consider now building roads that bridge over the rails...maybe. And
Downtown should have better signal prioritization favoring traffic--or that Downtown Connector tunnel should be extended further in the future to make it easier for both train and car commuters.
SECOND, the SAFETY/SECURITY:
I've lost my concerns about offending anyone with this statement: it's not "progressive" or "liberal" but downright STUPID to let career criminals out of prison, particularly when the police are screaming for us not to do that.
With the death of a beloved Whittier police officer at the hands of some mutant who had NO business being shuffled repeatedly out of prison, the question of asking when IS it fair to decry Assembly Bill 109, and Props. 47 and 57?
Good government? Saving a few bucks on prisons? Offering second chances? Not being too harsh on nonviolent drug offenders?
Well, both violent and non-violent crime are going UP. We used to enjoy DECREASING crime with Three Strikes. Some kindness and flexibility was nice to prevent too many individuals from having their lives destroyed, but ...
... we've gone TOO far.
Homeowners, business owners, and...transit riders...will increasingly experience "close encounters" with folks who used to safely be thrown behind bars for very long times. And law-abiding individuals of all colors will continue to be ignored by those of us who want a strong police presence on our trains, buses, etc.
Apps for quietly and safely calling for help should be installed on all transit vehicles, and trains should be notorious NOT for thugs, hookers, and crazies bothering innocent riders, but for sheriff's deputies who get on and off trains frequently and often.
It's not racist to demand speedier rides, and it's not racist to demand safer rides, on our taxpayer-funded networks. We paid for all this...so why SHOULDN'T we get nothing but the best for our taxpayer dollars?
(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 firstname.lastname@example.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.)
NEW GEOGRAPHY--While running for office, President Trump said the border wall would cost about $8 billion, a figure widely recognized as an unreasonably low estimate". This week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) estimated the cost of construction at $21.6 billion. Figuring out what the wall would cost has been a source of debate for longer than the last election cycle. In 2013, the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" senators set aside $1.5 billion for a plan to add 700 miles of wall - also a completely unrealistic budget.
In this edition of TruMpISSION: Impossible we examine the numbers behind building a wall along the U.S.- Mexico border. There are five main reasons why this mission is impossible.
- It will be hideously expensive. The un-walled portion of the border covers the most difficult terrain, a lot of which could cost $17 million per mile. Historically, building on flat land cost about $4 million per mile. The government spent $2.4 billion between 2006 and 2009 to build a stretch of wall along 670 miles of easy terrain (Secure Fence Act of 2006). A 2009 attempt to build along one rugged stretch of the border was budgeted at $58 million for just 3.5 miles.
Since most of the easier stuff is already built, I calculated that the cost for the next 1.289 miles could easily run $19.3 billion - I think the new DHS estimate is close to the mark. To put the number into perspective, the cost will be about seven times the entire 2016 budget of the U.S. Border Portal. Construction isn't the only expense. Section 10 of the Executive Order basically "deputizes" local law enforcement - at the expense of local taxpayers - to act as immigration officers for carrying out deportations.
- More than 1,000 of the open border is under water. Building a wall in the water would be wildly expensive and would have to be replaced frequently. In February 2012, construction began to extend began to extend an 18-foot high border fence 300 feet into the Pacific Ocean to seal off the gap that opened at the beach between Tijuana and San Diego during low tide. The private contractor who built it (Granite Construction Company, NYSE:GVA) gave the government a 30-year warranty. The budget for that Surf Fence Project was $4.3 million (I did not find the final cost in any public source). Based on that budget, the cost of building the wall in water could run $75.9 million per mile or about 4.5 times the cost of building on rugged land and nearly 20 times the cost of building the parts on more level ground. Building a fence on the water part of the border would cost close to $9 billion alone.
- Maybe Trump does not really mean to build on the border that lies underwater. The Executive Order defines the "Southern border" as only the "land border". To avoid the extra expense of building in the ocean, the gulf, and two rivers, we can build on the land outside the flood-plain/tidal-zone. It is likely the Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto has heard of the "adverse possession". Along the border, state laws transfer rights to abandoned property to the possessor in 5 to 10 years. Building just one half mile from the rivers means the United States could relinquish at least 657 square miles to Mexico. Are we prepared to cede to Mexico an area 1.5 times the size of Los Angeles?
Fox News has noted that "[w]hile 1,254 miles of [the] borders is in Texas, the state has only 100 miles of wall". At least 65 miles of the 100 mile route proposed through Texas in 2008 sat a half mile from the border. In some places, like the McAllen area of Texas, the proposed track separated a water reservoir from the pumping stations that bring water to US citizens. Building up to a mile into the US side has already stranded the property of US citizens on the Mexico side of the wall.
- The border land that is not under water or already fenced is mostly in private hands. In a January 2016 story Fox News recognized that finishing the wall along the border in Texas could require hundreds of lawsuits by the federal government. The Washington Post also reported going into the 2009 expansion of the wall that much of the planned route would slice through private property. Private property adds an average of $61,491 per mile (based on actual costs in 2012).
During the 2009 expansion, 135 private landowners refused to let surveyors onto their property. Seventy percent of the landowners who held out were in Texas. Anybody remember Jade Helm 15 when part of Texas was labeled "hostile territory" during military exercises? The Governor ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor the exercises. What do you think will happen if bulldozers show up uninvited to begin claiming 1,000 miles of Texan's private property? The federal government can use eminent domain, but it is costly, takes a long time and holds an uncertain outcome.
- There may not be enough brick and mortar to build a wall along the US/Mexico border, especially if Trump keeps talking it up. During the 2009 expansion of the wall, cost estimates ballooned as a Border States construction boom led to labor shortages and rising costs for construction materials (e.g., steel and cement). Try building more than 1,000 miles of border wall while re-building transportation infrastructure, the strain will be beyond the global peak in prices seen when shovel-ready projects were initiated under post-financial-crisis stimulus spending.
Sources various, including https://www.ibwc.gov/files/US-Mx_Boundary_Map.pdf
The Executive Order gave DHS 180 days (until about the second anniversary of Jade 15) to come up with a plan. DHS also has to figure out how to return deportable aliens “to the territory from which they came” – imagine millions of aliens lined up along the US/Mexico border. DHS has less time (until March 26) to figure out how to pay for the wall by withholding “all bilateral and multilateral development aid, economic assistance, humanitarian aid, and military aid” that the US may be planning to send to Mexico. That sounds like it could actually work to balance the budget outlay. Except that it won’t actually work. Total U.S. foreign aid to Mexico disbursed from all agencies in 2015 was $338.5 million (that’s “million” with an “m”). At that rate, it will take 54 years to recover the cost!
Aid to Mexico includes $215 million for international drug and law enforcement plus $50 million more for in-country drug enforcement. The other hundred million or so was for justice projects, legal reform, crime prevention and military support. According to former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, “…experience teaches that border security alone cannot overcome the powerful push factors of poverty and violence that exist in Central America. Ultimately, the solution is long-term investment in Central America to address the underlying push factors in the region.”
[After I calculate the costs for several more truMpISSIONs, I will calculate the cost of financing with debt. Just because something is impossible, doesn’t mean Trump won’t spend your money on it.]
(Susanne Trimbath, Ph.D. is CEO and Chief Economist of STP Advisory Services. Dr. Trimbath’s credits include appearances on national television and radio programs and the Emmy® Award nominated Bloomberg report Phantom Shares. This piece was posted first at New Geography.)
INSIDER REPORT--As a team of elite U.S. commandos found themselves under unexpectedly heavy fire in a remote Yemeni village last month, eight time zones away, their commander in chief was not in the Situation Room.
It’s unclear what he, personally, was doing. But his Twitter account was busy promoting an upcoming appearance on the Christian Broadcasting Network.
“I will be interviewed by @TheBrodyFile on @CBNNews tonight at 11pm. Enjoy!” read a tweet from President Donald Trump’s personal account on Saturday, Jan. 28.
Whether it was Trump himself or an aide who sent out that tweet at 5:50 p.m. ― about half an hour into a firefight that cost a Navy SEAL his life ― cannot be determined from the actual tweets, and the White House isn’t saying. Likewise, it’s not clear who deleted the tweet some 20 minutes later, or why the new president, just a week on the job, chose not to directly monitor the first high-risk military operation on his watch.
The CBN interview did not actually air until the following night, Jan. 29, and Trump or an aide may have realized the error and deleted the tweet for that reason. Alternatively, Trump or an aide might have realized that the Yemen operation was going badly and deleted the tweet to avoid looking callous. The tweet appears to have been sent via an iPhone, not via Android. Tweets sent from an iPhone are generally from the president’s staff, often taking his dictation, while tweets sent by Android are usually composed by Trump himself.
The White House did not respond to The Huffington Post’s queries on the issue.
“He was obviously aware of the strike occurring,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the day after the raid. “He was kept in constant contact Saturday night of the status of the mission, both of the success that it had and the tragic loss of life that occurred to that member.”
Spicer, though, has not specifically said what Trump was doing between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 28, other than to say he was in the White House residence ― not in the Situation Room. That’s the hour ― 1:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. local time ― when the firefight in Yemen resulted in the deaths of some 30 people, according to news reports. U.S. forces had called in air strikes because of the ferocity of the resistance they encountered. At least 10 of those killed were women or children.
The last event on the presidential schedule released to the media for that Saturday was a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at 5 p.m. According to the White House pool reporter that day, Trump was on the phone with Turnbull at 5:11 p.m. when reporters were taken to witness the call through the Oval Office windows.
“Obviously, if a raid is only 20 minutes in, you should wait to see how it turns out before tweeting,” said one former National Security Council participant under former President Barack Obama. The staffer added that while Obama did not monitor every operation from the Situation Room (as he did during the one that killed Osama bin Laden), it seemed odd that Trump did not monitor this operation. “It is your first one.”
The timing of the CBN tweet and its deletion is the latest detail in the story of a military special operation that went not at all as planned.
Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens was killed in the raid, and four U.S. service members were wounded. A $75 million Osprey aircraft was damaged and had to be destroyed to keep it from falling into enemy hands. Subsequent reports pointed out that Trump did not participate in a formal National Security Council review of the plan, but instead was briefed over a dinner meeting three nights before the raid.
Spicer on Feb. 2 said that Defense Secretary James Mattis, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, CIA director Mike Pompeo, then-national security adviser Mike Flynn, National Security Council chief of staff Keith Kellogg, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Stephen Bannon took part in that dinner, as did Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
“Doing it over dinner with Kushner and Bannon, without someone from the State Department present? I considered that a little odd,” said Luke Hartig, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the NSC under Obama. He added that more comprehensive planning might not have averted problems, but could have ensured that better contingency strategies were in place.
In any event, Spicer on Feb. 2 essentially described the raid as something planned and approved under Obama (a characterization that Obama aides dispute). That places it about midway along the evolution of the White’s House description of the operation ― from immediately afterward, when Spicer declared the raid a complete success, to the following week, when he accused anyone who questioned that assessment of dishonoring the fallen serviceman.
In the initial aftermath, Spicer said the raid had killed 14 fighters with the group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Within a few days, as reports spread of civilian deaths which the Defense Department acknowledged, Spicer said the whole point of the mission was “intelligence gathering,” in the form of laptops and cellphones that were taken.
By the following week, amid reports that Yemen had withdrawn permission for U.S. troops to conduct raids there and that the purported main target of the raid, AQAP leader Qassim al-Rimi, had escaped and was now taunting Trump, Spicer denounced criticism of the raid of any kind.
“The life of Chief Ryan Owens was done in service to this country and we owe him and his family a great debt for the information that we received during that raid,” Spicer said on Feb. 8. “I think any suggestion otherwise is a disservice to his courageous life and the actions that he took, full stop.”
(Shirish Dáte is a senior White House correspondent at The Huffington Post ... where this report was first posted. He's the author of five novels and two political biographies, including one of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.)
GUEST WORDS--On Monday, NBC News reported that a wave of bomb threats had resulted in the evacuations of Jewish Community Centers in 10 cities across the country, from Milwaukee and Cleveland to Nashville and Birmingham. The new outbreak of threats makes 69 incidents at 54 centers in 27 states this year, according to the JCC Association of America. The FBI told CNN that, together with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, it is “investigating possible civil rights violations in connections with threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country.”
Though Monday’s wave of threats were proven to be hoaxes, the anxiety felt by Jewish Americans is still very real. These bomb threats weren’t an isolated incident, coming amid the vandalizing of the grave sites of more than 170 Jews at a St. Louis cemetery. More significantly, these events came in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, which became a magnet for white nationalists and neo-Nazis—the sort of people who would gather in Washington, D.C. with so-called alt-right leader Richard Spencer to throw up Nazi salutes in the Ronald Reagan Building and proclaim “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” That Trump forgot to remember the Jews in his official White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day certainly hasn’t helped quell those anxieties.
Under growing pressure from Jewish community and civil rights leaders, Trump on Tuesday morning denounced “age-old” anti-Semitism for the first time since he announced his candidacy in 2015. “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible, and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” he told the New York Times.
At the same time, the president quietly distanced himself from allegations that his campaign is somehow responsible for the uptick in anti-Semitic hate crimes. “Anti-Semitism is just terrible. You don’t know where it’s coming from, and I hope they catch the people responsible,” he said in an interview with NBC News on Tuesday. “I think you maybe have had it for longer than people think, and it gets brought up a little bit more. Anti-Semitism is horrible and it has to stop.”
But given the fears of anti-Semitism that have dogged Trump’s campaign, these attacks raise the question as to whether it’s appropriate to saddle the president with responsibility for the rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes. Trump claims he denounces anti-Semitism at every turn, but until today, that hasn’t been the case. Consider Thursday’s presser, where Trump was questioned by Jake Turx of the ultra-Orthodox Ami magazine regarding the strains of anti-Semitism that permeated Trump’s unusual campaign. Trump’s answer was a simple but forceful dismissal: “Here’s the story, folks. number one: I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life.”
The truth is that the connection between Trump and the sudden uptick and anti-Semitic hate crimes is more complicated than most realize. Blaming Trump for anti-Semitism also ignores the fact that anti-Semitism has been here all along.
Despite the fact that Jews are the most positively received of all religious groups according to a recent Pew Research Center report (and also benefit from increasingly warm feelings among Americans toward religion in general), they’re also a major target of religiously-motivated hate crimes. Per FBI data, 56.8 percent of the 1,140 anti-religious hate crimes committed in 2014 targeted Jews; while anti-religious hate crimes saw a 22 percent increase in 2015 mainly due to an uptick in anti-Muslim bias, Jews still remained the victims of the majority of religiously motivated hate and harassment.
It’s also not as if there’s definitive proof of the election itself serving as a direct catalyst for a spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes. Indeed, despite the vivid examples detailed by local media reports, there’s very little coherent statistical evidence that Trump’s election unleashed a rising tide of anti-Semitism versus a temporal wave of far-right enthusiasm.
Part of this is a methodological problem: As Quartz points out, the federal government doesn’t collect hate-crime data on a weekly basis (although cities do), and informal counts by places like the Southern Poverty Law Center rely on anecdotal evidence that, while powerful and persuasive, “do not comprise long-term, normalized data that can be used to track granular trends.”
Even the anecdotal data is lacking: An SPLC survey of almost 867 reports of harassment and intimidation in the 10 days following Trump’s electoral victory found 100 instances of anti-Semitic violence, a tally eclipsed by racist or anti-immigrant acts. One month after the election, anti-Semitic hate crimes had dropped off, replaced instead by anti-LGBT and anti-Muslim crimes.
Going by the SPLC survey, it’s white nationalists with an axe to grind against Muslims and immigrants who have disproportionately flocked to the Trump campaign. And the reality is that despite the ongoing rise of extremist groups across the country, neo-Nazis never became an organized, coherent force outside of relentlessly harassing journalists on Twitter and calling in phony bomb threats to local temples. According to the SPLC, organized and dangerous white nationalism during the 2016 campaign tended to coalesce around anti-immigrant xenophobia, while attempts to build coherent neo-Nazi coalitions failed miserably:
Aside from the rise of Andrew Anglin’s Daily Stormer site and its real-world “clubs” — new chapters that profited directly from the Trump phenomenon — the year on the neo-Nazi scene was marked by a number of attempts to build new coalitions among groups. Several of them, like the Coalition of Aryan Organizations and the United Aryan Front, collapsed almost as quickly as they appeared.
That left what was first called the Aryan Nationalist Alliance and then was rebranded as simply the Nationalist Front. The unity effort was spearheaded by Jeff Schoep, leader of the National Socialist Movement, Josh Steever of the Aryan Strikeforce, and Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Worker Party.
The coalition peaked at 26 mostly tiny groups, but that had fallen by year’s end to 16, reflecting the perennial infighting that characterizes the neo-Nazi scene.
This doesn’t make the anxiety spreading through American Jewish communities any less real. This fear of anti-Semitism is best articulated by Rabbi Francine Roston, whose town of Whitefish, Montana, was menaced for months by neo-Nazis who threatened to parade through town to flaunt their newfound power. “It has been very depressing to accept the reality that Nazism and Nazi imagery and ideas are alive and well and raging in our country.” The virulent enclaves of vile trolling that comprise the nodes of the alt-right are just the latest manifestation of a sad truth Jews around the world have always known: They’re not always as welcome as they might feel.
Trump may be only somewhat responsible for emboldening America’s neo-Nazi elements, but he is fully responsible, as president, for doing something to bring an end to the fear sweeping through American Jewish communities. That’s why many assert it’s important for Trump to take the symbolic yet powerful step of actually attending services at a synagogue—as a show of solidarity with Jews navigating uncertain times.
As Anne Frank Center for Mutual respect executive director Steven Goldstein put it, the president’s remarks on Tuesday on anti-Semitism is “a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own Administration … When President Trump responds to anti-Semitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this President has turned a corner. This is not that moment.”
(Jared Keller is a contributing editor at Pacific Standard … where this piece was first posted. His articles have been published in The Atlantic, Entrepreneur, LARB, Maxim, Slate, Smithsonian, Village Voice and CityWatch.)
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-If there’s an upside to the turmoil caused by the Trump Administration, it’s this: grassroots activists have been coming out of the woodwork. Newly minted and lifelong activists linked arms at the Women’s March and in Huddle Up events throughout the U.S.
Now, Huckleberry Bakery and Café’s Zoe Nathan and other talented artisan bakers and pastry chefs throughout Los Angeles, including Friends & Family’s Roxana Jullapat, Proof Bakery’s Na Young Ma, The Rose Café’s Neidy Venegas & Joshua Graves, have joined forces for a new grassroots campaign called Bake & Gather, neighborhood bake sale events to encourage dialogue and raise money for important causes about which the community feels passionate. Nathan hopes to expand the movement to other U.S. cities.
The first SoCal “neighborhood gathering and bake sale” will be held Saturday, February 25 at Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon Park, 601 Latimer Road. From 9 a.m. to noon, participants will be able to purchase pastries and coffee from Huckleberry Bakery & Café, Caffe Luxxe, and Rusticoffee to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Counsel, which supports immigrants and underserved communities with pro bono legal services. Downtown LA’s Woo Souvenir Shop has created Bake & Gather t-shirts to sell at the event and at Huckleberry for $40, with 100 percent of the proceeds from the first 100 sold going to the organizations. Any additional profits on top will be donated to the ACLU and Public Counsel.
Rustic Canyon Family of Restaurants co-owner Nathan says, “The great uniter of all people is food and social rights. Right now, a good majority of people are feeling helpless and scared. I believe if we can get together with our neighbors over great food and coffee, we can slowly start to connect with each other, feel less nervous, and find our voices and footing again,” says Zoe. “This is not about Democrats versus Republicans, but finding the things that unite us during these unprecedented times, while raising money for some important causes in the process.”
Nathan hopes Bake & Gather will inspire others across Los Angeles and the U.S. to create their own local gatherings to benefit worthy organizations, especially ones that have been recently defunded or are needed to defend basic human rights.
“You can do anything and gather. This is not just for professional or even amateur bakers,” adds Nathan. “Kids can plan an event at their school or library, artists could sell their paintings and drawings from a friend’s driveway, or surfers could teach lessons at their local beach. The purpose is to get out, talk to your neighbors, and put your energy behind something constructive.”
The Rustic Canyon event will be the first of many Bake & Gathers in LA.
- Saturday, March 11 from 12-3 p.m. at the Silver Lake Reservoir’s Meadow (1850 W. Silverlake Drive), hosted by Roxana Jullapat (behind the forthcoming Friends & Family,) Proof Bakery’s Na Young Ma, and Alimento’s Harriet Ha.
- Saturday, March 25 (time and location TBD) with The Rose Café’s Neidy Venegas and Joshua Graves and Broken Spanish’s Ivan Marquez.
- April – Cake Monkey’s Elizabeth Belkind and food stylist Staci Valentine will host earlier in the month, followed by Bear Claw Kitchen’s Sarah Lange.
- May – Platine Bakery’s Jamie Ginsburg and The Gourmandise School’s Clémence Gossett will host a gathering, with more to come.
- Coming This Summer – Hatchet Hall’s Paige Russell, Sqirl’s Sasha Piligian, Lodge Bread’s Jacqui De Borga, Bub & Grandma’s Andy Kadin, and more.
If you’re interested in starting your own Bake & Gather, a website will soon feature a planning checklist, collateral for posters and promotional materials, and a list of recommended charitable organizations. Join the movement and learn more about upcoming Los Angeles events (and across the country) by following Bake & Gather on Instagram and tagging #bettertogether.
(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
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 email@example.com
Check out our website for information about our training program and rates.
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.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Images of soccer fans waving Korean flags in the summer wind could be replaced with images of residents and shoppers snarling into parking lots at the site of one of the very few parks availble to Koreatown residents. If Jamison Properties moves forward with a skyline-altering project, a new glass tower would rise above 3700 Wilshire where Liberty Park stands today. The park was designed 50 years ago to address the scarcity of green space in Koreatown and this shortage rings truer than ever today.
Councilmember Jose Huizar highlighted neighborhood’s desperate need for parks in his message announcing the approval for increased funding for parks. The $8 million annual funding increase for parks projects would come from a hike to the fees developers pay under the Quimby Act. These “Quimby fees” on residential projects allow developers to pay a fee in lieu of creating sufficient park space for the community where they are building. How much of this funding would go to Koreatown parks remains to be seen.
“Green space is really important to the community,” recognizes Jamie Hwang, a deputy representing the north west region of Herb Wesson’s Council District 10.
KOREATOWN NEEDS PARKS--Koreatown has been identified as one of the most park-poor areas in the city. It has 0.1 acres of park space available for every 1,000 people, according to a countywide ‘park needs’ assessment. The region houses 170,000 residents. The report estimates 94 percent of residents have a “Very High” need for parks.
HISTORY TO BE BULLDOZED AWAY?--The sites historic value prompted residents to reach out to the Los Angeles Conservancy. While the park has served as a soccer viewing venue for fans of South Korea’s team, the space’s true historic value dates back to its conception.
Beneficial Insurance Group, the original developer of the property, built an 11-story building and included the green space intentionally to address the lack of open space in a growing Koreatown 50 years ago. Since the park was (and still is) a privately owned property, the LA Times called it the nation’s “deepest setback” between city street and private office building at the time, according to the Conservancy.
Beneficial hired award-winning landscape architect Peter Walker, who is now recognized for his work on the National September 11 Memorial in New York City, among many accolades in his extensive career.
In addition to adding 2.5 acres of green space to the bustling Wilshire Boulevard, the park‘s design offered a futuristic, post war optimism theme.
The objects included a replica of the Mercury, the first U.S. space capsule; a full-scale model of the Apollo space capsule; and an exact replica of Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell, made by the same London company as the original. This bell remains onsite to this day.
WHAT WOULD THE DEVELOPMENT INCLUDE?--Jamison’s 36-story glass tower would contain 506 residential units ranging from one bedroom to three-bedroom penthouses, more than 40,000 square feet of retail space, and nearly 22,000 square feet of restaurant space, ranging from fast food to quality dining. Four liquor licenses are in the works. The more than 530,000-square-foot building would replace the 46,000-square-foot lawn and plaza (i.e. Liberty Park) that lies next to to the 11-story Radio Korea building today.
WHAT DOES THE OPPOSITION SAY?--Members of the community are concerned about the removal of green space, loss of historic value, and Jamison Properties dismal reputation as a property owner.
As one of the largest commercial property owners in Koreatown, Solair resident Anne Kim says Jamison has a reputation in the neighborhood of running its properties to the ground, with poor maintenance and high vacancies. “The community doesn’t need more retail,” she said, noting there is a large area of empty commercial space in her building.
“We saw that this historically significant site was not properly evaluated by the City as part of the project review,” said Marcello Vavala, preservation associate at the Conservancy.
In a letter addressed to the planning department, local urban designer Mia Lehrer hails the park’s design as a “classic example” of Walker’s “minimalist, reductive style.”
“Liberty Park was originally intended by Beneficial Insurance Group as a monument to the nation’s heritage and an outdoor museum of patriotic objects heralding great moments in American history,” Vavala said.
Vavalo said the Conservancy submitted comments to also alert the planning department of Jamison’s flawed historic analysis on its proposal. City Planning representative Yeghig L. Keshishian said these historic assessments are completed by third party consultants, which are approved by the Office of Historic Resources. The original assessment determined the site is not a historic resource based on a 2009 report from the now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency. Vavalo claims this survey is irrelevant, however, because it only analyzed buildings built prior to 1962, while 3700 WIlshire was completed in 1967.
“The historic resources survey involved the visual examination of a total of 1,911 properties constructed before 1962,” states the Community Redevelopment Agency report. Therefore, the decision that the site lacks sufficient historic value was based on a report that never reviewed the property to begin with.
AN ATTEMPT TO CHANGE THE ZONING--The city honored Beneficial’s president and CEO in 1966 for contributing open space to the community. The Conservancy says a city 1968 planning case zoned the green space under a “P,” or parking designation, which essentially precludes the space from commercial use. This designation is the closest thing the city can do to protect a property, short of purchasing land for public open space, the Conservancy says, citing key language from the case: “The interests of good zoning practices and relevant considerations of public necessity, convenience and general welfare would best be served by retaining this open space asset to the community and preclude further intensification of land use in this block.”
In contradiction of this protection, Jamison has requested for the city to change the “P” zone on the park portion of the property to allow commercial development.
DONATIONS TO THE CITY--Since Jamison is a large development company and owns a lot of projects in the district, the council office meets with the company to evaluate the impact of each project on the community, as it does with any other developer, she said. The company has more than $106,000 in contributions to all city candidates and officeholders on the record since 2001. In the past 13 years, more than $13,000 have gone to Council District 10 office and candidates, with more than $11,000 of that going to Wesson’s campaigns since 2005. These Ethics Commission disclosures, however, do not include possible contributions to programs promoted by the Council office or Wesson as an individual. In response to resident claims that Jamison has bribed the Council District office to usher their projects through approvals quickly, Hwang said the office has no special relationship with the company.
CD 10's PLAN--The district has proposed to convert the parking lot at a nearby library into a park, potentially with underground parking. In an opposition letter to 3700 Wilshire, resident Keith Kresge argued the proposed park is much smaller than Liberty Park and it could be a potential illegal gift of a public asset if it is being offered as a replacement. He recommended a City Attorney investigation.
CD 10 Deputy Hwang denies claims this park was a concession project. While the library is in close proximity to Liberty Park, she said this project has been in the works for years before Jamison submitted its proposal and is not related to the potential loss of Liberty Park. The project’s timing and proximity are “just a coincidence”.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?--The planning department confirmed the proposal is currently on hold. A Feb. 9 planning department hearing for the project has been suspended. Jamison is currently reevaluating the site’s historic value, according to Hwang. This process could take about a month.
The Conservancy recommends that residents interested in saving the park learn more about what they can do at savelibertypark.org, a website organized by Kim and other opponents. Vavalo also suggests contacting Councilmember Wesson’s office to express concerns.
THANK YOU to resident Mark Lawrence for alerting TNN to this story.
(Carla Pineda is a staff reporter for The Neighborhood News … where this piece was first posted … and currently the site editor for Link TV Digital, after serving as associate international news editor and social media manager for other KCETLink properties. The Neighborhood News is a ‘get engaged’ partner of CityWatch)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--LA City Council candidate Jesse Creed hosted a press conference to call for safety improvements on Westwood Boulevard. Creed is running for the Westside’s Council District Five.
Creed declared that, due to more than 300 injury collisions over the past five years, Westwood Boulevard is “virtually a deathtrap.” According to Creed, despite Westwood being among the 15 mayoral Great Streets Initiative sites for the past two years, “virtually nothing” has changed. Due to high rates of collisions and death, Westwood Blvd. is part of the city’s Vision Zero High Injury Network, streets that experience more than their share of deadly crashes. Creed stressed that his priority is to “make Westwood Boulevard safe for everyone” and pledged that “one of his first actions as councilmember” will be to commission a safety study for Westwood.
Creed was joined by Westwood residents, academics, and business leaders, all of whom called for greater safety features, including bike lanes, on Westwood Boulevard. Residents and business leaders criticized a lack of representation. UCLA professor Michael Jerrett, a bicycle commuter himself, criticized bike lane opponents as “putting peoples’ lives at risk.” Many speakers emphasized connections between UCLA, which is implementing a bike-share system this year, and Metro rail stations, including the existing Expo Line station and the future Purple Line subway station.
Creed is drawing a clear distinction between his platform and the record of Fifth District incumbent Councilmember Paul Koretz. Koretz quashed an earlier study of designated bike lanes for Westwood Boulevard, and further undermined the city’s Mobility Plan by yanking Westwood from the city’s Bicycle Enhanced Network.
(Joe Linton is the editor of StreetsblogLA ... where this perspective was first posted. He founded the LA River Ride, co-founded the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, worked in key early leadership roles at CicLAvia and C.I.C.L.E., served on the board of directors of Friends of the LA River, Southern California Streets Initiative, and LA Eco-Village.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--In an extraordinary video posted here by the MMRA, Julia Duncan attempts to rally support for the HPOZ among renters. One of them says, “The single family owners can eat it,” and gets something close to agreement from Julia Duncan. Is that really David Ryu’s attitude to single family owners in the Miracle Mile?
Meanwhile, James O’Sullivan, embattled President of the MMRA, writes in a bizarre article in CityWatchLA.com here that rejection of the Miracle Mile HPOZ will result in the loss of 500 rent controlled apartments, with homelessness thrown in for good measure, and seems to blame Mayor Garcetti for it all! The MMRA has clearly lost all credibility with homeowners in the Miracle Mile and is now morphing into a tenant advocacy organization.
Finally, a flyer has popped up dated February 2nd here from Councilmember Ryu's Senior Planning Deputy, Julia Duncan, asking the neighborhood to weigh in on the Miracle Mile HPOZ by Tuesday, February 14, 2017. Problem is, nobody, not even the MMRA, seems to have received it. For the record, write and/or call Julia at firstname.lastname@example.org, (213) 473-2346, to tell her what you think of the HPOZ.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
I M P O R T A N T D A T E
M I R A C L E M I L E T O W N H A L L M E E T I N G
When: Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at 7:00pm (show up at 6:30p).
Where: John Burrows Middle School located at 600 S McCadden Place in Los Angeles.
What: David Ryu is hosting a town hall meeting specifically on the HPOZ. The purpose presumably is to try to rally support for the HPOZ.
PLEASE ARRIVE AT 6:30PM WE WILL BE THERE
TO DEMONSTRATE THE OPPOSITE!
JOIN US SHOW COUNCILMEMBER DAVID RYU THAT PROPERTY OWNERS
IN MIRACLE MILE DON'T WANT THIS!
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Lauri Burns (Photo above, center), the founder and president of The Teen Project in Venice, reports that antibiotic resistant bacteria are not the only health threat incubating in the homeless encampments along Venice Beach.
Alerted by the recent report by Lava-Mae of six – and possibly nine – apparent MRSA cases at 3rd and Rose, Ms. Burns called the VSA to tell of her own experience with insects carried by the population.
“I took a young homeless woman into my home for one night on an emergency basis and it resulted in an infection of sand mites that took over half a year to eradicate,” She said.
“Both I and my boyfriend received bites for months, which were very painful,” she said.
“We tented the house, we had exterminators back regularly, we washed the bedding every day,” she said, “but it still took a long time to eradicate the mites.”
“I don’t think the public understands that the unsanitary conditions in which these people are forced to live, and in very close proximity, are a very favorable breeding ground for disease and insects.”
“It’s a ticking time bomb and should drive more sanitation measures than we are currently seeing and quicker re-housing where the homeless can get away from these unsanitary conditions and get treated,” Burns said. “The homeless people want a chance at life. They don't want to stay homeless.”
Burns, who was homeless herself as a young woman, notes that eradicating disease and infection is the first priority for her clients at FREEHAB, the free drug treatment facility for homeless young women that she opened in 2015 in Sun Valley. Burns says the facility has hosted 442 women with a 90% success rate at getting them off drugs and keeping them off the street with both drug treatment and vocational training.
(The Venice Stakeholders Association is dedicated to civic improvement. The VSA supports slow growth, protection of the limits of the Venice Local Coastal Specific Plan, neighborhood safety, better traffic circulation, increased parking for residents, neighborhood beautification projects, historic preservation and protection of coastal waters.)
BUDGET ADVOCATES--This Saturday, February 25, from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates will host the annual Regional Budget Day. Come out and Make your voice heard!
The purpose of this 3 hour session is to hear your concerns about your neighborhood, and how you believe the City can better spend its funds for an improved quality of life in Los Angeles.
Get involved by asking questions during open Q & A and enjoy informed presentations from special guest speakers and many more. Come meet some of your local City Officials, Budget Advocates and Neighborhood Counsel Members. Get involved!
The Budget Day forum is free to the public.
Also, after your regional Budget Day Forum you and your family can enjoy the zoo at a discounted rate with this special coupon code NBHDFEB25 for free parking, with discounted zoo entry at $12 per Child and $16 per adult.
Budget Day Locations
6262 Van Nuys Blvd,
Van Nuys, CA 91401
Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Griffith Park Dr,
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Glassell Park Community Center
3650 Verdugo Rd,
Glassell Park, CA 90065
Ridley Thomas Constituent Center
8475 S. Vermont Ave,
Los Angeles, CA 90044
West LA Municipal Building
1645 Corinth Ave,
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Croatian Cultural Center
510 W. 7th Street,
San Pedro, CA 90731
(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: A.Edwards@NCBALA.com.)
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--California is already on the defensive in its battle with Donald Trump. Our state needs an offense—now. (Photo above: Former President Ronald Reagan at Presidential Library in 1997.)
Trump’s first four weeks in office have made clear that hopes of California working with this president—in areas like infrastructure—are pure fantasy. Trump is already engaged in non-stop attacks against our state, as if all of California were a political opponent. His strategy is not merely to punish California; he wants to rob our state of its legitimacy within the American polity.
And so the president of the United States has repeatedly and falsely claimed that California’s elections are fraudulent exercises that enable millions of illegal votes. He’s frequently accused our biggest cities of endangering our country by failing to assist federal goons with deportations. He has called the whole state “out of control” and threatened to “defund” our universities and unspecified state programs.
Such attacks are so potentially powerful (since they play into American resentments against our special state) and damaging (since California is the world’s sixth-largest economy and a vital model of diverse peoples prospering together) that we need to be fighting Trump much harder and more directly.
Put simply, California must delegitimize Trump before he delegitimizes us.
There are two ways California must go on offense against Trump. First comes the fist: Californians must aggressively question Trump’s legitimacy as president as often as possible. Second comes the outstretched hand: We must bolster our state’s own legitimacy by reaching out to the rest of America and reaffirming just how proud we are to be a part of this country.
Right now, our response to Trump is led by cautious souls: lawyers, politicians, and lawyer-politicians who focus on legislation and litigation. But this fight isn’t about laws. Trump must be fought on his turf: politics, culture, and media.
Our state needs a war room. Any outrageous allegation Trump makes against us should be answered with greater outrage. If Trump wants to make up claims of fraud in our elections, we should target his own frauds—from questionable business dealings to unpaid taxes to the confidence game that was Trump University. And we should pressure our law enforcement officials to investigate and publicize any questionable moves by his family’s ongoing business interests if they have any connection to California at all.
When Trump alleges again that California is “out of control,” California should press the president on who controls him. Let’s ask him which of the powers behind his throne we should be talking to when we have a complaint about him. Should we be discussing energy policy with your bosses at the Kremlin, Mr. President? Or with the Goldman Sachs executive committee? Or with the white supremacist groups backing you?
And when Trump threatens the funds for state programs, Californians should shout that Trump is trying to bankrupt the whole country. “If Mr. Trump gets his way, California won’t be the only state short of funds,” we should say. “His trade and immigration policies will destroy the economy, and his reckless spending and tax cuts will create unsustainable federal debt.” The strategy: Take the heat off California and put it back on Trump.
Indeed, the most powerful line of attack against this president is to question his patriotism. Trump has put Americanism at the heart of his political story—he’s an unapologetic nationalist, vowing to make America great again. But he’s actually vulnerable on nationalist grounds. He constantly slanders the country—lying about the murder rate, equating America’s leaders with the murderous autocrat Vladimir Putin, tweeting false insults against important American companies and businesses. Californians should point out the truth: that Trump’s attacks on this most American of states are really an attack against our entire country.
We don’t believe Trump is legitimate, but we respect Republicans and Trump voters. To make this sell, California Democrats should hold their noses and deploy the words of California president—and “great communicator”—Ronald Reagan as weapons against the current president.
To emphasize Trump’s lack of patriotism, we Californians must put our American patriotism on full throttle. That starts with killing off the traitorous (and Russian-affiliated) #Calexit movement. Instead, while Trump denigrates America on Twitter, California and its leaders should be looking for opportunities to praise and assist other states.
Our governor and other elected state leaders should be on the road, initiating high-profile meetings with their counterparts across the country, looking for areas of cooperation. When another state faces an emergency or natural disaster, California should be the first to send help. And whenever another state celebrates a great triumph—a game changing new business in North Carolina, a new university campus in Michigan—our leaders should show up and congratulate them in person. (Once there, we can take shots at Trump. A talking point: “In California we’re learning so much from your state’s example, which is important at this time, when Washington D.C. is so consumed with negative attacks.”)
Californians must focus on Trump, not his supporters. We don’t believe Trump is legitimate, but we respect Republicans and Trump voters. To make this sell, California Democrats should hold their noses and deploy the words of California president—and “great communicator”—Ronald Reagan as weapons against the current president.
The Gipper left us bon mots for every occasion.
To explain our fight with Trump: “When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.”
To build solidarity with other states: “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness.”
When we engage in protests: “No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.”
And as we counter Trump’s war against refugees and immigrants, we should invoke the 40th president as often as possible. “I, in my own mind, have always thought of America as a place in the divine scheme of things that was set aside as a promised land … any person with the courage, with the desire to tear up their roots, to strive for freedom, to attempt and dare to live in a strange and foreign place, to travel halfway across the world was welcome here.”
In that vein, California should shift its energies from opposing Trump’s Wall—that’s defense after all—and go on offense by demanding the removal of the existing wall along our state’s border with Mexico. The fact that there’s already a wall exposes the blatant wastefulness and redundancy of Trump’s proposed boondoggle—and might be news to Americans elsewhere. And we could point out that the current barrier doesn’t keep out the undocumented (airports are the real border gates), and is little more than an expensive eyesore that inconveniences tourists, businesses, and residents of the San Diego-Tijuana and Calexico-Mexicali regions. “Mr. Trump, tear down this wall!” we could thunder, in another Reagan echo.
Opposing the wall would be welcome in Mexico, and should be part of a California effort to develop our own foreign policy with allies Trump is offending. Governor Brown should press for summits with Mexico’s president and Canada’s prime minister, and seek high-profile meetings with other Trump-attacked U.S. allies from Australia to Germany. The state could then sign environmental, trade, tourism, or educational exchange deals that benefit California and put Trump on the spot. Why doesn’t the president make deals like that?
Sun Tzu advised, “If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him.” The dual offensive strategy outlined here—reaching out to our fellow U.S. states while attacking Trump’s legitimacy as president—would both irritate and isolate him. Such an offense is the best way to weaken Trump—and protect both our state and our country.
(Joe Mathews is Connecting California Columnist and Editor at Zócalo Public Square … where this column first appeared. Mathews is a Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010).)
MY TURN-In this Rollercoaster world where we live, and each day brings a new revelation, it seems like an oxymoron to celebrate Thanksgiving let alone Tuesday, November 29 as the "International Day of Giving." But life goes on!
Many Los Angeles organizations prepared Thanksgiving Dinner for those less fortunate. Some were sponsored, like the Midnight Mission servicing the Downtown location. One that particularly intrigued me was the annual Westside Community Dinner.
They have over three decades of tradition serving the community a wonderful, free sit-down Thanksgiving dinner. They also provide free haircuts, blankets, clothing, hygiene kits, medical, optical, dental services, vaccination, a resource fair and a children's carnival.
The Celebration was open to everyone -- no reservations necessary. They fed over 3000 people, both visitors and volunteers. Five hundred turkeys were cooked! It was an eclectic collection of groups and individuals -- students, singles, low-income families, seniors and homeless -- brought together to celebrate Thanksgiving. No one asked who they supported for President and although there may have been political discussions, nothing got out of hand.
Each year the dinner has received more support. It was held on the grounds of the Westside Veterans Center, whose service personnel gave the attending Veterans information and referrals. The Mayor’s office also provided personnel to pass out information on services provided by the City.
No videos or press are allowed and no one organization blows its own horn. Publicity for the dinner was handled by all of the Westside organizations and businesses. Everything was donated, mostly products and food, with some cash donations to purchase needed items. It truly is a community affair.
Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC) President Terrence Gomes has been volunteering at this event since he was a young student. He remarked that one of his teachers turned him on to the importance of volunteering. "Chief Chef and civic activist Jay Handel was pleased that so many chefs from throughout the City donated their time and talent to help cook.
This is the America I know and love. I have no desire to secede from the United States. Those who are talking about the West Coast doing a "Westexit" are frankly not to be taken seriously.
It is comforting to be able to write about Americans doing good things together for causes they believe in.
Aside from Black Friday and Cyber Monday having strong sales, we will also be celebrating on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) International Day of Giving. #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. Since its inaugural year in 2012, #GivingTuesday has become a movement that celebrates and supports giving and philanthropy with events throughout the year and a growing catalog of resources.
#GivingTuesday was founded by New York’s 92nd Street Y, in partnership with the United Nations Foundation. Together, with a team of influencers and founding partners, they launched a global movement that has engaged over 30,000 organizations worldwide.
It was created by the team at the recently renamed Belfer Center for Innovation and Social Impact at the 92 Y -- a cultural center in New York City since 1894 that has brought people together around the values of service and giving back. #GivingTuesday connects diverse groups of individuals, communities and organizations around the world for one common purpose: to celebrate and encourage giving. A team of influencers and founding partners joined forces, collaborating across sectors, offering expertise and working tirelessly to launch #GivingTuesday and have continued to shape, grow and strengthen the movement.
92Y is a world-class cultural and community center where people from all over the world connect through culture, arts, entertainment and conversation. For over 140 years, it has harnessed the power of arts and ideas to enrich, enlighten and change lives, and the power of community to repair the world.
As a proudly Jewish organization, 92Y enthusiastically welcomes and reaches out to people of all ages, races, faiths and backgrounds while embracing Jewish values like learning and self-improvement, the importance of family, the joy of life, and giving back to our wonderfully diverse and growing community, both locally and around the world.
These "giving" examples are from both coasts but I know, without a doubt, that similar types of activities are taking place in every other State. This is what makes me optimistic that as Americans we will do the right thing. There will always be people who need to feel superior; there will always be those who have the victim mentality and need someone to blame for their mistakes; there will always be people who think their God is the only one and their beliefs are the only true dictates of human behavior. Fortunately, they are a small minority!
Do we have problems in this country? Certainly! Can we solve them? Of course! The very characteristic that fringe elements want to eradicate is what makes us great: our diversity, productivity and creativity. Each of us brings something to the table.
Not everyone can donate money to a favorite cause, but each one of us can give something of ourselves to make the world a better place. So maybe "pay it forward" is a good idea for this Tuesday. As always, comments are welcome.
(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
ILLOGICAL LIABILITY-Even as editorial boards across the city have been falling all over each other in a race to endorse Eric Garcetti for a second term, the Mayor has been busy sowing the seeds for LA's next budget-busting liability fiasco.
On Thursday, the Metro Board will vote whether to allocate more than $350 million dollars on Mayor Garcetti's indecent proposal to have an all-overtime LAPD force take over the lion's share of security for the Metro.
First, only a fool would argue that substantial overtime work does not lead to fatigue, and the question of whether fatigue leads to greater harm -- both to police officers and civilians -- is a settled question. Dr. Bryan Vila an ex-LAPD cop found being tired affects a police officer’s ability to exercise safe judgment, capacity to pay attention, and even certain kinds of fine motor coordination crucial in the handling of firearms and laptop-like devices that are now ubiquitous in patrol cars. Dr. Vila and others have noted that as many police deaths are caused by fatigue-related car accidents as by shootings.
It doesn't take an ACLU lawyer to see the catastrophic liability for the Metro in sanctioning a policy -- not just the frequent occurrence due to unforeseen circumstances, but an actual, premeditated policy -- of an all-overtime force. How long will it take before one of those all-overtime officers ends up – whether justified or not -- shooting a passenger or inadvertently tasing them onto the tracks?
Already, if a cop is on overtime when a shooting occurs, the liability is increased. But when the whole force is on O.T. -- sanctioned by a room full of virtually every powerful local elected official, including the Mayor and all five members of the County Board of Supervisors -- the taxpayer pays the price.
None of this is to underplay the problem of declining Metro ridership or the need for more safety officers. Though improving as of late, the Sheriff's performance has been insufficient, but a viable solution is right before us. The Sheriff's department has already made successful use of private security firms which, among other advantages, cost about half as much. The advantage of those savings in this case is that the Metro could hire double the number of security personnel -- and those are jobs for Angelenos -- which would in turn make it possible for many of the buses to have a dedicated security presence on board.
Regardless, the Metro board owes it to the public to vote down Mayor Garcetti's ultimately self-serving proposal.
(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer and a candidate for Los Angeles mayor. Joshua is a teacher.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
CORRUPTION WATCH-A grand assemblage of knaves, fools and moral Lilliputians rule the city Los Angeles. Do not expect that to change.
Recently, a few Americans have shown concern for Fake News. They realize that Fake News has real consequences as when a fool shows up at a pizza shop with an automatic weapon to “self-investigate” Hillary Clinton’s role in a child abuse ring in Washington D.C.
In Los Angeles, Judge Alan Goodman warned the public about our own form of Fake News: Information from the City of Los Angeles. In January 2014, Judge Goodman ruled that Eric Garcetti’s update to the Hollywood Community Plan was based on lies and myths, which Judge Goodman described in polite legalese, saying that the city’s planning was based on “fatally flawed data” and “wishful thinking.”
When the City published stories about how Hollywood has been revitalized and that its population is growing at a robust rate, when in fact is was deteriorating and rapidly shrinking, this was Fake News. Based on the continuing Fake News that Hollywood is still the center of the universe and hordes of people are descending up the town, one huge mega-project after another is being unanimously approved the LA City Council. And the approvals are justified by the endless Fake News emanating from City Hall.
Hollywood’s “official” population fluctuates as frequently as Donald Trump tweets. Just as no one can find the millions of illegal votes that were cast for Hillary Clinton to disguise the “fact” that Trump won the popular vote, no one can find the real Hollywood population. In its April 2006 Notice of Preparation for its latest Update to the Hollywood Community Plan, the Garcetti Administration claimed that the population was 206,000 people, citing “SCAG’s 2016 RTP” (that is, the 2016 Southern California Association of Government’s Regional Transportation Plan.) Fake News. The SCAG 2016 RTP has no data at all for Hollywood. The only “Hollywood” which the RTP mentioned is West Hollywood.
Upon investigation, we discovered that SCAG had done some other demographic analysis for Hollywood’s population, but never found that Hollywood’s population was as high as 206,000 people. The highest number that can be extrapolated from the SCAG data was 204,700. When this Fake News was shared with the City, the Garcetti Administration chose to stick with the fake numbers. We know the reason. This Fake News supports the false need to construct all the mega-projects.
Then in November 2016, mirabile dictu, the Garcetti Administration announced that Hollywood’s 2015 population was 210,511 people. Does that mean that the April 2016 NOP had missed 4,500 people or that between December 2015 and April 2016, Hollywood’s population had declined by 4,500? Don’t bother asking…it’s all Fake News!
People are accustomed to Fake News. In fact, people prefer it. Megyn Kelley hit the nail on the head in 2012, when she doubted Karl Rove’s insistence that Mitt Romney was winning the presidential election by asking, "Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better, or is this real?"
Megyn Kelley’s diagnosis was correct – people invent the news that makes them feel better, or in the case of Los Angeles, justifies the perpetuation of a criminal enterprise which we call the Los Angeles City Council. Oh, that LA had Megyn Kelly instead of the LA Times, whose motto is “All the news that the elite wants you to believe.”
Poor Edgar Maddison Welch from Salisbury, North Carolina, who drove all the way to Washington to self-investigate the pizza parlor. At least Mr. Welch’s “self-investigation” placed him far ahead of the Angelenos who merely accept whatever Fake News gushes forth from City Hall.
Fake News Has Real Consequences.
While the false story about child-molesting at the pizza parlor was an extreme aggravation for its owner, the Fake News from LA City Hall has had a devastating impact on all of Los Angeles. In a report the Garcetti Administration never thought the public would find, the City admitted in November 2015, that in 2013, the last year for which it had data (why the 2 year lag?), it had constructed “150% [of the] units needed by above moderate income earners,” adding to the 12% vacancy rate of such apartments constructed in the last decade. The City said that a 5% vacancy rate was equilibrium. Generally, when the vacancy is 2.5 times equilibrium, one does not push ahead with plans to construct even more vacant housing.
Why is LA City Hall so committed to Fake News? The main reason is that the City is run as a criminal enterprise whose function is to siphon off public money to make a few landowners very wealthy while everyone else suffers.
This phenomenon is not new. Over 100 years ago in its 1915 Study of Street Traffic Conditions in the City of Los Angeles, civil engineers warned that a few land owners would want to restrict office and industrial usage to the core of the city in order to make themselves wealthy. But the engineers explained, with sound mathematics related to Los Angeles geography, that the city had to allow all segments of the community, offices, homes, industry, community and civic center to expand outwards in unison. In other words, decentralization was essential.
Restricting the distribution of all segments of the community, however, resulted in massive projects to be built in areas like Bunker Hill, Century City, and Westwood while at the same time turning the Valleys into bedroom communities. Separating those dense office areas from the residential communities would then require expensive transportation projects to convey so many people from the 5,000 square mile county to a few tenths of square miles of the Bunker Hills, Century, City, Westwood, and now to DTLA and Hollywood.
Like the serfs of the 1400s, Angelenos have come to accept this arrangement as the natural order of life. Should it be brought to the attention of Angelenos that their city leads in all the negative indicators and lags in all the positive indicators for quality of urban life, we have endless Fake News from City Hall to falsely assure us that we’re still the premier destination city.
Will Angelenos Act Before it is too late?
No. It already is too late. Besides, the criminal enterprise is firmly established and everyone wants it to continue. Look at the people throwing their hats in the ring to run of City Council in March 2017. How many are willing to give up the chance to become the Lord of their Council Fiefdom? None.
Is there any City Council candidate who will relinquish the power to have each and every item he or she places on the City Council agenda unanimously passed? If so, please step forward.
Nor is there any danger that the criminal enterprise where every developer gets unanimous approval for projects will go away soon. Judge David Fruin has declared that the City is above the law.
According to this learned jurist, Penal Code 86, which criminalized the vote trading agreement that is the glue that holds the LA City Council together, is Non-Justiciable – beyond the power of the courts. It does not matter what laws the California State Legislature passes; the Los Angeles City Council does not have to follow any law unless it voluntarily chooses to do so.
The Law May be Pernicious, but it is not Fake.
The problem with placing the City Council above the law is more serious than a lone self-investigator showing up with an automatic rifle. Our infrastructure has crumbled, the homeless rate has escalated, the crime rate is out of control no matter how much Garcetti tries to have the LAPD fudge the data, the Family Millennials and the high-end employers are fleeing the city for places like the Texas Triangle.
Alea jacta est. The die has been cast for our future tax base which, for a generation going forward, will have lower skilled wage earners and a higher percent of children and elderly retired. Just as Julius Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon sealed the fate of the Roman Republic, Judge Fruin is sealing LA’s fate of being ruled by a criminal enterprise.
(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Since his first day in office, Trump and his team have fired off a series of Executive Orders, including aggressive immigration policies. His Day 6 “Border Security and Immigration Improvements” order would forward construction of the 1,900 mile long wall along the southern border and beefing up border protection forces.
Also on Day 6, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” called for deporting undocumented immigrants, tripling resources for enforcement, and targeting sanctuary cities by withholding federal funding.
Just one day later, Trump signed an order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” preventing all refugees from entering the country for 120 days – and putting a three-month halt to immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries. After the Ninth Circuit blocked his travel ban, Trump plans to issue a new executive order this week.
In the meantime, the administration’s actions, particularly the travel restrictions, have been worrisome to those in LA’s international travel and tourism industries, which contribute significantly to the county’s economy. In 2015, tourism brought in over $20 Billion to Los Angeles County – along with seven million international visitors.
Last week, President and CEO, Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board Ernest Wooden Jr. went on record that while the board “recognizes and supports the need for travel security, these Executive Orders are an affront to Los Angeles, where residents from more than 180 countries call home.”
In a letter to stakeholders, Wooden wrote:
Further, they are antiethical to the role travel plays in our society. Despite barriers which governments, religions, political beliefs and economics can seemingly build, travel plays a crucial role in bringing us all together. Tourism fosters understanding between people and cultures and increases the chances for people to develop mutual sympathy and understanding – perhaps even to reduce prejudices.
To ensure we understand the impact that the recent Executive Orders and current political climate may have on our business, we asked Tourism Economics, an independent research partner, to re-evaluate our forecast.
They project that LA County could suffer a potential three-year loss of 800,000 international visitors as a direct result of President Trump’s Executive Orders. These visitors typically spend $920 each while in LA, totaling a potential loss of $736 million in direct tourism spending.
This loss would be significant for our local businesses and families employed by the hospitality industry, which is one of the largest and healthiest job sectors in LA County.
Danny Roman of Bikes and Hikes LA has already seen a drop in international reservations for this coming summer by worried tourists who are delaying or cancelling trips to the U.S. Roman, who is on the Board of the City of West Hollywood and is involved with LA Tourism, as well as promoting tourism in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, says, “We’ve actually started to see the impact in our company. We usually have tons of summer bookings way in advance. We’ve had over twenty cancellations already. When we’ve inquired why, people have said they’re cancelling trips to California or the west coast because they aren’t really sure what’s happening in our government. We’ve had cancellations from Sydney, Melbourne, London, Paris, Canada, Germany and Nordic countries. People are telling us they’re cancelling their entire trip. They aren’t coming to US because everything seems out of whack.”
Roman shares he recently returned from visiting remote villages in Africa where he says many of the residents had never seen a cellphone photo of themselves but “knew about Trump and what was going on. People are talking about this all over the world and it’s on every front page of every newspaper in almost every country of the world.”
“We don’t have very many bookings from states that were banned but Beverly Hills does business with countries directly affected because of the ban. Beverly Hills is a popular destination for wealthy middle eastern visitors who are worried,” adds Roman.
The travel business is vital for people in LA and the fact that this guy is screwing around is definitely hurting our business. We’re a little mom and pop. It’s very scary,” says Roman, who is concerned that travel will be impacted similarly to after 9/11 when nobody was traveling to the States. “I’m hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.”
(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.)
WHAT LA CAN LEARN FROM PORTLAND--If you thought Wells Fargo’s fake account scandal was bad, get a load of this. Wells Fargo is one of six banks keeping the private prison industry in business.
We know a lot about the private prison industry. We’ve found that private prisons increase the chances of people returning to prison and encourage mass incarceration. But we’ve always wanted to follow the money—so that’s what we did.
Our new report, The Banks That Finance Private Prison Companies, uncovers the banks that provide financing to the two largest private prison companies, GEO Group and CoreCivic (formerly CCA). The companies rely on Wells Fargo and other Wall Street banks for money to build new prisons, get huge tax breaks and expand their control of the criminal justice system. All the while, the banks profit from charging interest and fees.
Private prison companies are licking their lips after Donald Trump’s victory. So are investors. Fortune magazine called CoreCivic “the biggest winner of the election,” since the company’s stock shot up more than 40 percent the next day.
Now we know who else would profit from Trump’s “law and order” policies and plans to deport millions of immigrants.
By providing loans, credit and bonds to private prison companies, Wells Fargo and banks like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have been complicit in mass incarceration and the criminalization of immigration, and they stand to profit even more.
But we’re fighting back.
The Portland City Council is currently considering a plan to stop borrowing money from banks like Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase that do business with private prison companies. Nationally, the #ForgoWells campaign is urging cities to cut ties with Wells Fargo because of the recent scandal and the bank’s involvement in the private prison industry and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Support these campaigns and push your city to divest from the banks that keep the private prison industry in business. We need to be innovative in the Trump era, but even more importantly, we need to work together.
(Donald Cohen is the founder and executive director of In the Public Interest, a national resource and policy center focusing on privatization and responsible contracting. This piece was posted first at Capital and Main.)
ANXIETY CENTRTAL--Americans have been taking to the streets in record numbers since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, but amid that uptick in resistance something else has been rising within the U.S. electorate: personal anxiety and stress caused by the nation's new political reality. (Photo above: White House press secretary Sean Spicer.)
According to a new survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), 66 percent of respondents report feeling increasingly stressed out by the current political climate and prospects for the nation's future.
The APA findings—contained in their Stress In America: Coping With Change (pdf) report—reveal that 57 percent of those surveyed said that politics have become either a "very" or "somewhat" significant source of anxiety in their lives. Meanwhile, 49 percent of those questioned said the outcome of the 2016 election, in which Trump was elected president and the Republican Party kept control of both the House and Senate, has become a specific source of new stress.
On these questions, the divide unsurprisingly broke along partisan and ideological lines. "While Democrats were more likely than Republicans (72 percent vs. 26 percent) to report the outcome of the 2016 presidential election as a significant source of stress, a majority of Republicans (59 percent) said the future of our nation was a significant source of stress for them, compared to 76 percent of Democrats," the report notes.
Vaile Wright, a licensed psychologist and member of APA's Stress in America team, speaking with the Washington Post, admitted the severity of the findings caught her off guard.
"The fact that two-thirds of Americans are saying the future of the nation is causing them stress, it is a startling number," Wright told the Post. "It seems to suggest that what people thought would happen, that there would be relief [after the election] did not occur, and instead since the election, stress has increased. And not only did overall stress increase, what we found in January is the highest significant increase in stress in 10 years. That's stunning."
Prior to its 2016 poll, the APA explained, "top stressors for the American population remained steady, with Americans being most likely to report money, work, and the economy as very or somewhat significant sources of stress in their lives."
However, as the election took center stage in the spring of 2016, APA's member psychologists began reporting that their patients were increasingly concerned and anxious about the political climate. It was this trend that spurred the group to make specific inquiries about how national politics were impacting stress levels for Americans.
While the group conducted surveys and collected data last year during the campaign and after the election, it was a new round of questions posed to Americans last month, subsequent to Trump's taking office, that fueled the latest findings.
"From the appointees to the executive orders to the laws that have just been proposed ... it's hard for me to see a bright future for my family, which in turn causes me a great amount of stress," Bryanna Zoltowski, a 40-year-old mother of two from Macomb Township in Michigan told the Detroit Free Press.
"I'm afraid," Zoltowski said. "I really am afraid. I'm scared for the future of my kids."
Are you feeling stressed? Earlier this month, the Huffington Post reported on 10 things therapists and psychologists recommend when it comes to de-stressing around politics.
(Jon Queally writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)
EASTSIDER ON THE LIES AND DIRTY TRICKS OF 2016-Having spent most of my adult life working for politicians and union officials (which are pretty much the same,) I have totally lost count of the number of times that I’ve reminded them of the headline to this article. And never, never, never -- except for a few days after some devastating headline -- have any of them paid a bit of attention to what they send out in their emails.
Yet every time their failure to take a pause between their brain and their keyboard bites them in the you know what, they run around blaming the messenger. Witness the recent blame game between the Clintonistas and the Trumpsters. My god, even the President of the United States and the CIA and the FBI are duckin’, bobbin’ and weaving and pointing fingers.
In the midst of all this, not once in this post-election dust up have I heard any talking heads in our esteemed media state the obvious: if they didn’t want to look like underhanded scumbags then maybe they shouldn’t have written the darned emails. And is there any real discussion as whether these emails are the honest to golly emails that Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Podesta & Co actually wrote?
No. You bet they were the real thing and they reveal the true depth of how scummy the Democratic National Committee and the Clintonistas really are. How they try to rig outcomes, just like Bernie’s people said. No doubt the same is true of the Republican National Committee, but with Donald Trump tweeting for twits 24/7 nobody has bothered to expose the RNC. The media is too busy covering every tweet that the President-Elect pops out.
Maybe it’s just that the heads of the big media outlets are terrified that someone’s going to hack into their email accounts. I wonder if any of Roger Ailes’ emails that came into play with Megyn Kelly contributed to his recent demise. Hmm.
Honestly. It’s almost 2017 and the best that we can fill our channels with is, “The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!” Next thing you know we’ll be asked to practice our nuclear attack drills and build bomb shelters like back in the 50s. Sheesh! So much for adult political discourse.
When professional slime mongers like political consultants send emails, they have no one but themselves to blame for the content.
Here’s the Disconnect
Most of the younger people I know (which is pretty much everybody) gave up the notion of any privacy long ago -- emails, cell phone calls, tweets, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat -- you name it. They know either expressly or subconsciously, that everything we do electronically is tracked by corporations, google and their ilk, aggregators, as well as every spy agency in the United States of America. Ho hum, move on.
After years of this, you and I are pretty much inured to the fact that there is no privacy. We simply rely on the fact that most of us will never be “important” enough to have the fickle finger of hackers, cops, spies or the news media actually focus on us.
But politicians and government officials seem to march to a different drum. Why are government institutions and politicians different? Simple, really. The politicians still believe that they can hide stuff from us because we have “no right to know.” It’s called legislative immunity. Goodness. What a quaint concept.
And then there’s the Brown Act and the Public Records Act. Try to get a document or an email from a public figure and the entire legal establishment of the United States of America unleashes its refusals, evasions and redactions -- generally making it so expensive in time and money that you and I will never get to know what they’re doing.
Clearly what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander, as my grandparents used to say. I say, let’s ask the same standard question of them that every law enforcement agency I’ve ever seen asks of us citizens: “If you aren’t doing something illegal, what are you afraid of?” What, indeed. I wonder if it’s the same reason that law enforcement folks don’t want to reveal any information about themselves to anyone.
I have no idea what happened to the notion of privacy as a sacred constitutional right that we were taught in school. Events of the last decade or so clearly prove that our government views the Constitution of the United States as an archaic concept, along with movies like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” or the cartoon about “how a bill becomes a law” they teach in school.
Recognizing that people have widely different and passionately held views on the issue of privacy and leaks, here’s my take.
If it wasn’t for Snowden, we would never know how deep and insidious our government’s spying is on you and me as ordinary citizens. We’re talking about secret courts with rubber-stamp judges and government gag orders on big tech companies -- forcing them to hand over all our information and then lie about whether they do. And all the while, government agencies and Congress lie to us denying that they’re doing any such thing. That’s not the America I knew.
If it wasn’t for The Panama Papers, we would not know for real how the superrich, dictators and drug lords happily launder money using fake overseas corporations, aided and abetted by handsomely compensated law firms, banks and consultants. No taxes, just graft. I say we should know about these events.
And finally, our political processes. When the head of the DNC conspires in the dark to take out Bernie Sanders, keeping him from his aspiration to become the Democratic nominee for President; when the Clinton machine engages in dirty tricks to marginalize him; when paid democratic talking heads like Donna Brazille give debate questions in advance to Hillary and not Bernie, then I say we should have a right to know.
Most secrets are, in fact, not vital to America’s national security. They are secret because powerful people have done dirty deeds and are terrified that you and I might find out about it.
I can only infer that the 1/2 of 1% at the top of the economic food chain believe they are safely insulated from the rest of us by virtue of their elevated position – all enforced by countless lobbyists, lawyers, accounting firms, and a stacked regulatory and judicial system.
I say, let the disclosures roll. If those in power want to restore our constitutional right to privacy, then, and only then, we should revisit the issue.
When these folks get outed, I personally rejoice. Heck, I even gave Wikileaks some money. I want to see more, I tell you! Maybe then, these people will think twice before they trample all over your and my rights.
Of course I still believe in the tooth fairy.
(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.) Photo: Elizabeth Daniels/LA Curbed. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
MEDIA WATCH--On Monday, some of the biggest names in TV news trooped into Trump Tower for an off-the-record meeting with the president-elect.
It was an all-star cast. Not just on-air stars like Lester Holt, Wolf Blitzer and George Stephanopoulos, but their bosses were also summoned before the Potentate of Fifth Avenue.
The meeting was a huge success — for Donald Trump.
GUEST WORDS--When we think about nuclear energy, what usually comes to mind are its worst consequences. The disastrous accidents of Chernobyl and Fukushima—as well as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—loom large in the debate over whether we should rely more heavily on nuclear power as part of a shift toward a low-carbon energy economy. But do these terrible events loom too large? In a recent piece in Genetics, biologist Bertrand Jordan, of Aix-Marseille University in France, argues that most of us have an exaggerated view of the dangers of radioactivity, and that this is distorting the debate over nuclear power as a viable clean energy option.
Jordan bases his argument on the results of long-term studies of Japanese atomic bombing survivors.
The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were terrible human tragedies, but they were well-measured ones. In the weeks and years after the bombings, American and Japanese scientists assessed not only the physical injuries of the bombing victims, but also their level of exposure to radiation emitted by the bombs. These initial assessments grew into the world’s most important study of the health risks of radioactivity. Atomic bombing survivors of all ages and sexes, including some still in the womb, were exposed to different doses of radiation. Nearly 100,000 of them have been tracked over the subsequent six decades.
This large study, a joint United States-Japanese effort called the Life Span Study, has also followed 77,000 children born to bombing survivors, and it continues to this day. Results from this study are the primary basis for essentially all government regulations and guidelines on safe exposure to radiation, from limits on medical x-rays and CT scans to recommendations for airline flight crews, who, working at high altitudes, are exposed to more cosmic ray radiation from space.
What do the results of the Life Span Study show? Jordan argues that, as terrible as the atomic bombings were, there is “a very striking discrepancy between the facts and general beliefs” about the long-term effects of radiation on the bombing victims. Because we associate radiation with the awful power of nuclear weaponry (which threatened world destruction for half a century), or with disasters like Chernobyl, we tend to think that radiation is more harmful than it actually is. But if we look at the data of the Life Span Study, Jordan says, we find instead “measurable but limited detrimental health effects in survivors, and no detectable genetic effects in their offspring.”
Jordan first points to cancer rates among survivors, which are indeed elevated, but still relatively low. Cancer is one of the most feared effects of radiation: At a low to moderate dose, you can’t see or feel radiation, yet that can be enough to cause mutations that produce a deadly cancer decades later. But only a minority of atomic bomb survivors ever developed cancer — even among those who were exposed to higher levels of radiation. For example, among one set of about 45,000 survivors, there was a 10 percent increase in solid cancers (such as breast or stomach cancer) compared to an unexposed population. This equates to roughly 850 cases (out of 45,000 people) that can be attributed to atomic bomb radiation — tragic, to be sure, but, according to Jordan, much less common than most people would expect.
Furthermore, radiation had little impact on the life expectancy of survivors. At moderately high doses, the Life Span Study found a roughly one year reduction in life expectancy. At lower doses, this reduction was less than two months. This, Jordan notes, is much less than the effect of a major social disruption, like the one that took place in Russia after the end of the Cold War, where life expectancy decreased by five years between 1990 and 1994.
Finally, radiation from the atomic bombs does not appear to have affected the next generation. Harmful mutations caused by radiation can sometimes be passed on from parents to children, which means that, in theory, the effects of the bombs’ radiation could persist across a generation. But Jordan notes that, among the children of atomic bombing survivors, there is “no detectable radiation-related pathology.” Jordan acknowledges the important caveat that some of these children are still relatively young (in their 40s and 50s), and thus an increased risk of cancer among them may not be evident for another few decades.
Given these relatively small effects, Jordan argues that the “contradiction between the perceived (imagined) long-term health effects of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombs and the actual data [is] extremely striking.” He believes that the issue of nuclear energy is much like the issues of climate change or the safety of genetically modified foods, where public misunderstanding gets in the way of good policy solutions. It is therefore “important to try to clear up these questions, and to disseminate widely the scientific data when [it exists], in order to allow for a balanced debate and more rational decisions.”
Are our fears of radiation really preventing us from rationally considering an effective, no-emissions source of energy as part of our plans to curb greenhouse gases?
Probably not. It’s true that, if you survive an atomic bombing, you are still unlikely to develop cancer and your children will probably not be afflicted by genetic diseases. And major nuclear accidents are not common — there have only been five in the past 69 years. That’s certainly a much better track record than coal-fired plants, whose emissions affect the health of thousands of people in the U.S. every year.
Yet even rare nuclear accidents affect the lives of hundreds of thousands to millions of people. The reactor meltdown at the the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011 ultimately led to the evacuation of about 170,000 people. Although nearby residents were exposed to only low levels of radiation, the accident caused an enormous disruption that measurably harmed residents’ mental health.
The explosion of the Chernobyl reactor in 1986 was even worse. The World Health Organization estimates that five million people currently live in areas contaminated with radioactive materials blown across Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, after the explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. WHO researchers estimate that this single accident will ultimately cause up to 4,000 deaths, largely from cancers that develop decades later. And so, even if, as Jordan argues, the health risks of radiation aren’t quite as bad as most of us believe, the dangers of a nuclear accident are still considerable.
When you consider these very real dangers alongside other major issues associated with nuclear power — disposal of extremely hazardous waste, security from terrorist threats, and the generally unfavorable economics of nuclear power — it’s clear that nuclear energy faces bigger problems than our irrational fears.
(Mike White is Assistant Professor of Genetics at Washington University in St. Louis and is a contributing writer at Pacific Standard magazine … where this piece was first posted.)
AT LENGTH--It is one thing to pledge allegiance to the flag in the security of a neighborhood council or chamber of commerce board meeting. It is quite another to stand up to the newly-elected president of the United States and tell him that his latest executive order on immigration is indefensible and probably unconstitutional. I call that true patriotism. That’s what the now former-acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates did the other day when she directed the Department of Justice lawyers to disobey the executive order. The executive order bans entry to the United States from 7 Muslim-majority countries. Christians are exempt from the order.
“In litigation, DOJ Civil Division lawyers are charged with advancing reasonable legal arguments that can be made supporting an Executive Order. But my role as leader of this institution is different and broader,” Yates said regarding her decision. “My responsibility is to ensure that the position of the Department of Justice is not only legally defensible, but is informed by our best view of what the law is after consideration of all the facts…. I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the Executive Order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the Executive Order is lawful.”
Ol’ President No. 45 fired Yates. Or, just as likely, the newly-elected’s alt-right-ego and former white nationalist news blog Breitbart editor-turned-“chief strategist” and newly- minted member of the National Security Council, Stephen Bannon, fired Yates. This only added more confusion to Trump’s executive order on immigration, which has been protested by thousands and challenged in federal court by the American Civil Liberties Union. A temporary stay has been issued by the U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of New York on Jan. 25. Now, instead of protecting America from foreign enemies, Trump has become one of the “bad hombres” that he warned us about. So much for those who have been saying, “just give the new president a chance to prove himself”.
Nyet! I say hurrah for those many thousands who are protesting, chanting, standing up shouting, “No Trump! No KKK! No fascist USA!” and who are now suing this administration.
Ms. Yates heroically upheld her oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
To many Americans, the current occupant of the Oval Office is ignorant of the Constitution he swore to uphold and is driving the nation into a direct collision with the fundamentals of our very liberties. The chaos emanating from the bloviator-in-chief would be amusing if it weren’t so tragic.
In just his first 10 days on the job, Trump has already signed more executive actions than any previous president, including Barack Obama. Trump has issued two proclamations, seven executive orders and seven presidential memoranda.
He’s even invented a new form of presidential directive — the national security presidential memorandum — and signed three of those.
For those who thought Trump’s antics were just campaign rhetoric, it is clear now that his campaign rhetoric was his real agenda — an agenda supported by “alternative facts,” his alt-right interpretation and his non-existent understanding of the Bill of Rights.
Reince Priebus signed the Memorandum to the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies, freezing all new regulations; it is clear that this regime is on the warpath to overturn, dismantle or destroy as much of the Obama agenda as it can by executive fiat before Congress can act in the first 100 days.
Trump’s Executive Order 13767 and his Executive Order to “Protect the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” are just a two of 19 objectionable executive actions. The other messes he’s started includes creating diplomatic rifts with Mexico over his Great Wall; lobbing the opening salvo in dismantling the Affordable Care Act; restarting the Dakota Access Pipeline; and threatening sanctuary cities. (See pg. 10 to read the whole list of Trump’s executive orders thus far.) Trump has cancelled the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, but his penchant for alienating U.S. allies and rivals alike could have real effects on import industry jobs in the Los Angeles Harbor and consumer price inflation nationwide. In the end, will Trump actually create more jobs?
That the mainstream media should now seem shocked by any of this after promoting his celebrity status and profiting from the TV ratings that Trump generated during the bizarre 2016 campaign is a sad irony.
Even more disconcerting is mainstream media’s late arrival on fact checking and investigating his relationship to Russian President Vladimir Putin or even demanding the release of his taxes. Only now are some mainstream media outlets beginning to use the “L” word when reporting on Trump’s or his subordinate’s lies.
He is just a brand name like Coca-Cola or Twitter: empty of substance and short on communication. That he is now slamming and abusing the White House press corps is just trumpish exploitation of the way things are in these great post-factual United States of America. Bannon said the other day that the press should, “Just shut up and listen.” As if journalists should be obedient stenographers rather than professional skeptics of the Fourth Estate.
This conflict has been coming to a head for some time as corporate public relation firms have been spoon-feeding journalists “alternative facts.”
The rest of us should not be shocked at the political confrontation now in play. From the very birth of this nation—beginning with the Boston Tea Party through the Civil War and emancipation of the slaves and every decade and era since—the conflict has been between the rights of the people versus the tyranny of money, property and privilege. Liberty sometimes gets confused with ownership, depending on who owns what or whom.
That Trump is held up as a champion of the neo-Tea Party, neo-fascists and others only confuses both our American sensibilities and our American linguistics, such as they are. Trump is nothing more than an empty Coke bottle full of fizzy colored politics with no moral values.
Making America Great is a slogan, not a course of action or a cure for what ails this country. His inauguration was not much more than an insulting reiteration of his empty sloganeering soaked in sugar water.
However, from this chaos there will rise true patriots and heroes who, like many before Sally Yates, will stand up to speak truth to power.
(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.)
GUEST WORDS-High above, somewhere behind the black glass façade, President-elect Donald J. Trump was huddled with his inner circle, plotting just how they would “drain the swamp” and remake Washington, perhaps the world. On the street far below, inside a warren of metal fencing surrounded by hefty concrete barriers with “NYPD” emblazoned on them, two middle-aged women were engaged in a signage skirmish. One held aloft a battered poster that read “Love Trumps Hate”; just a few feet away, the other brandished a smaller slice of cardboard that said “Get Over It.” (Photo above: Security agents in front of Trump Tower, New York.)
I was somewhere in between ... and the Secret Service seemed a little unnerved.
Trump Tower is many things -- the crown jewel skyscraper in Donald Trump’s real-estate empire, the site of the Trump Organization’s corporate offices, a long-time setting for his reality television show, The Apprentice, and now, as the New York Times describes it, “a 58-story White House in Midtown Manhattan.” It is also, as noted above its front entrance: “OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 8 AM to 10 PM.”
When planning for the tower began in the late 1970s, Trump -- like other developers of the era -- struck a deal with the city of New York. In order to add extra floors to the building, he agreed to provide amenities for the public, including access to restrooms, an atrium, and two upper-level gardens.
When I arrived at Trump Tower, less than a week after Election Day, the fourth floor garden was roped off, so I proceeded up the glass escalator, made a right, and headed through a door into an outdoor pocket park on the fifth floor terrace. Just as I entered, a group of Japanese tourists was leaving and, suddenly, I was alone, a solitary figure in a secluded urban oasis.
But not for long.
Taking a seat on a silver aluminum chair at a matching table, I listened closely. It had been a zoo down on Fifth Avenue just minutes before: demonstrators chanting “love trumps hate,” Trump supporters shouting back, traffic noise echoing in the urban canyon, the “whooooop” of police sirens, and a bikini-clad woman in body paint singing in front of the main entrance. And yet in this rectangular roof garden, so near to America’s new White House-in-waiting, all was placid and peaceful. There was no hint of the tourist-powered tumult below or of the potentially world-altering political machinations above, just the unrelenting white noise-hum of the HVAC system.
On His Majesty’s Secret Service
The Stars and Stripes flies above the actual White House in Washington, D.C. Inside the Oval Office, it’s joined by another flag -- the seal of the president of the United States emblazoned on a dark blue field. Here, however, Old Glory flies side by side with slightly tattered black-and-silver Nike swoosh flags waving lazily above the tony storefronts -- Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent, Burberry and Chanel -- of Manhattan’s 57th Street, and, of course, Trump Tower-tenant Niketown.
That I was standing beneath those flags gazing down at luxe retailers evidently proved too much to bear for those who had been not-so-subtly surveilling me. Soon a fit, heavily armed man clad in black tactical gear -- what looked to my eye like a Kevlar assault suit and ballistic vest -- joined me in the garden. “How’s it going?” I asked, but he only nodded, muttered something incomprehensible, and proceeded to eyeball me hard for several minutes as I sat down at a table and scrawled away in my black Moleskine notepad.
My new paramilitary pal fit in perfectly with the armed-camp aesthetic that’s blossomed around Trump Tower. The addition of fences and concrete barriers to already clogged holiday season sidewalks has brought all the joys of the airport security line to Fifth Avenue. The scores of police officers now stationed around the skyscraper give it the air of a military outpost in a hostile land. (All at a bargain basement price of $1 million-plus per day for the city of New York.) Police Commissioner James O’Neill recently reeled off the forces which -- in addition to traffic cops, beat cops, and bomb-sniffing dogs -- now occupy this posh portion of the city: “specialized units, the critical response command, and the strategic response group, as well as plainclothes officers and counter-surveillance teams working hand-in-hand with our intelligence bureau and our partners in the federal government, specifically the Secret Service.” The armed man in tactical gear who had joined me belonged to the latter agency.
“You one of the reporters from downstairs?” he finally asked.
“Yeah, I’m a reporter,” I replied and then filled the silence that followed by saying, “This has got to be a new one, huh, having a second White House to contend with?”
“Yeah, pretty much,” he answered, and then assured me that most visitors seemed disappointed by this park. “I think everyone comes up thinking there’ll be a little more, but it’s like ‘yeah, okay.’”
Small talk, however, wasn't the agent’s forte, nor did he seem particularly skilled at intimidation, though it was clear enough that he wasn’t thrilled to have this member of the public in this public space. Luckily for me (and the lost art of conversation), we were soon joined by “Joe.” An aging bald man of not insignificant girth, Joe appeared to have made it onto the Secret Service’s managerial track. He didn’t do commando-chic. He wasn’t decked out in ridiculous SWAT-style regalia, nor did he have myriad accessories affixed to his clothing or a submachine gun strapped to his body. He wore a nondescript blue suit with a silver and blue pin on his left lapel.
I introduced myself as he took a seat across from me and, in response, though working for a federal agency, he promptly began a very NYPD-style interrogation with a very NYPD-style accent.
“What’s going on, Nick?” he inquired.
“Not too much.”
“What are you doing? You’re all by yourself here…”
“Yeah, I’m all by my lonesome.”
“Kinda strange,” he replied in a voice vaguely reminiscent of Robert De Niro eating a salami sandwich.
“I don’t know. What are you doing? Taking notes?” he asked.
I had reflexively flipped my notepad to a fresh page as I laid it between us on the table and Joe was doing his best to get a glimpse of what I’d written.
I explained that I was a reporter. Joe wanted to know for whom I worked, so I reeled off a list of outlets where I’d been published. He followed up by asking where I was from. I told him and asked him the same. Joe said he was from Queens.
“What do you do for a living?” I asked.
“I was just saying to your friend here that it must be a real experience having a second White House to contend with.”
“Yeah, you could call it that,” he replied, sounding vaguely annoyed. Joe brushed aside my further attempts at small talk in favor of his own ideas about where our conversation should go.
“You got some ID on you?” he asked.
“I do,” I replied, offering nothing more than a long silence.
“Can I see it?”
“Do you need to?”
“If you don’t mind,” he said politely. Since I didn’t, I handed him my driver’s license and a business card. Looking at the former, with a photo of a younger man with a much thicker head of hair, Joe asked his most important question yet: “What did you do to your hair?”
“Ah yes,” I replied with a sigh, rubbing my hand over my thinned-out locks. “It’s actually what my hair did to me.”
He gestured to his own follically challenged head and said, “I remember those days.”
Trump Tower’s Public Private Parts
Joe asked if there was anything he could do for me, so I wasn’t bashful. I told him that I wanted to know what his job was like -- what it takes to protect President-elect Donald Trump and his soon-to-be second White House. “You do different things. Long hours. Nothing out of the ordinary. Probably the same as you,” he said. I told him I really doubted that and kept up my reverse interrogation. “Other than talking to me, what did you do today?” I asked.
“I dunno,” he responded. “Look around. Security. We’re Secret Service.” It was, he assured me, a boring job.
“Come on,” I said. “There’s got to be a lot of challenges to securing a place like this. You’ve got open public spaces just like this one.”
There are, in fact, more than 500 privately owned public spaces, or POPS, similar to this landscaped terrace, all over the city. By adding the gardens, atrium, and other amenities way back when, Trump was able to add about 20 extra floors to this building, a deal worth at least $500 million today, according to the New York Times. And in the post-election era, Trump Tower now boasts a new, one-of-a-kind amenity. The skies above it have been declared “national defense airspace” by the Federal Aviation Administration. “The United States government may use deadly force against the airborne aircraft, if it is determined that the aircraft poses an imminent security threat,” the agency warned in a recent notice to pilots.
Back on the fifth floor, a metal plaque mounted on an exterior wall lays out the stipulations of the POPs agreement, namely that this “public garden” is to have nine large trees, four small trees, 148 seats, including 84 moveable chairs, and 21 tables. None of the trees looked particularly large. By my count the terrace was also missing three tables -- a type available online starting at $42.99 -- and about 20 chairs, though some were stacked out of view and, of course, just two were needed at the moment since Mr. Tactical Gear remained standing, a short distance away, the whole time.
This tiny secluded park seemed a world away from the circus below, the snarl of barricades outside the building, the tourists taking selfies with the big brassy “Trump Tower” sign in the background, and the heavily armed counterterror cops standing guard near the revolving door entrance.
I remarked on this massive NYPD presence on the streets. “It’s their city,” Joe replied and quickly changed topics, asking, “So business is good?”
“No, business is not too good. I should have picked a different profession,” I responded and asked if the Secret Service was hiring. Joe told me they were and explained what they looked for in an agent: a clean record, college degree, “law experience.” It made me reflect upon the not-so-clean record of that agency in the Obama years, a period during which its agents were repeatedly cited for gaffes, as when a fence-jumper made it all the way to the East Room of the White House, and outrageous behavior, including a prostitution scandal involving agents preparing the way for a presidential visit to Colombia.
“What did you do before the Secret Service?” I inquired. Joe told me that he’d been a cop. At that point, he gave his black-clad compatriot the high sign and the younger man left the garden.
“See, I’m no threat,” I assured him. Joe nodded and said he now understood the allure of the tiny park. Sensing that he was eager to end the interrogation I had turned on its head, I began peppering him with another round of questions.
Instead of answering, he said, “Yeah, so anyway, Nick, I’ll leave you here,” and then offered me a piece of parting advice -- perhaps one that no Secret Service agent protecting a past president-elect has ever had occasion to utter, perhaps one that suggests he’s on the same wavelength as the incoming commander-in-chief, a man with a penchant for ogling women (to say nothing of bragging about sexually assaulting them). “You should come downstairs,” Joe advised, his eyes widening, a large grin spreading across his face as his voice grew animated for the first time. “There was a lady in a bikini with a painted body!”
Joe walked off and, just like that, I was alone again, listening to the dull hum of the HVAC, seated in the dying light of the late afternoon. A short time later, on my way out of the park, I passed the Secret Service agent in tactical gear. “I think you’re the one that found the most entertainment out here all day,” he said, clearly trying to make sense of why anyone would spend his time sitting in an empty park, scribbling in a notebook. I mentioned something about sketching out the scene, but more than that, I was attempting to soak in the atmosphere, capture a feeling, grapple with the uncertain future taking shape on the chaotic avenue below and high above our heads in Manhattan’s very own gilt White House. I was seeking a preview, you might say, of Donald Trump’s America.
Descending the switchback escalators, I found myself gazing at the lobby where a scrum of reporters stood waiting for golden elevator doors to open, potentially disgorging a Trump family member or some other person hoping to serve at the pleasure of the next president. Behind me water cascaded several stories down a pink marble wall, an overblown monument to a bygone age of excess. Ahead of me, glass cases filled with Trump/Pence 2016 T-shirts, colognes with the monikers “Empire” and “Success,” the iconic red “Make America Great Again” one-size-fits-all baseball cap, stuffed animals, and other tchotchkes stood next to an overflowing gilded garbage can. Heading for the door, I thought about all of this and Joe and his commando-chic colleague and Trump’s deserted private-public park, and the army of cops, the metal barricades, and the circus that awaited me on the street. I felt I’d truly been given some hint of the future, a whisper of what awaits. I also felt certain I’d be returning to Trump Tower -- and soon.
(Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch, … where this piece was first posted … a fellow at the Nation Institute, and a contributing writer for the Intercept. His book Tomorrow's Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa recently received an American Book Award. His latest book is Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan. His website is NickTurse.com.)
LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Herb Wesson led City Council are opposed to Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, that is on the March 7 ballot. Instead, they support the status quo where real estate developers make billions, the politicians receive millions, and we get the shaft.
In a slick mailer paid for by real estate developers and the County Federation of Labor, Garcetti said, “Measure S will cause major job losses, will cost taxpayers millions, and will make our housing and homelessness even worse.”
But the “facts” (see below) supporting Garcetti’s comments are based on the flawed Economic Policy Analysis by Beacon Economics, a local consulting firm that has close financial ties to opponents of Measure S, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Los Angeles City Hall.
This not so independent analysis has not been peer reviewed. Nor has it been the subject of an open and transparent discussion by the City Council, the City Administrative Officer, or the Chief Legislative Analyst as the business-as-usual Council Members are not willing to subject this report to rigorous scrutiny.
The fatal flaw in this analysis is that it compares the impact of Measure S with the market prior to the approval by the voters on November 7 of Initiative Ordinance JJJ, the Affordable Housing and Labor Standards Related to City Planning Initiative.
This overly complex ordinance that is over 10,000 words of confusing legal mumbo jumbo is a real deal and job killer.
According to a previous Beacon analysis prepared to support the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce’s opposition to JJJ, this measure’s “potential to drastically reduce residential construction would further accelerate increases in home prices and rents in Los Angeles.”
[Note: The Los Angeles Times also opposed JJJ as it “could make LA’s housing crisis even worse.”]
JJJ would require a developer of a residential project of 10 or more units who seeks a zoning change to essentially enter into a “project labor agreement” that requires construction workers be paid the “prevailing wage,” a rate that is significantly higher than market rates. This will drive up project costs by 46% according to Beacon.
At the same time, developers will have to set aside up to 25% of a project’s units for low and moderate income tenants, thereby lowering the projected rental income.
The combination of Higher costs and lower rents is good reason not to build in LA, a reality that must be considered when analyzing the relative impact of Measure S.
Garcetti is also claiming that Measure S will stymie the development of affordable housing and permanent supportive housing. But this claim does not take into consideration that developers can build “as of right” without having to get zoning changes from City Hall. And with 785,000 parcels of property in the City, there are ample opportunities for the development of market rate, affordable, and permanent supportive housing under the Measure S 24-month moratorium.
Garcetti and the City Council claim they are beginning to reform the planning process. They are developing ordinances to update the city’s General Plan and its 35 Community Plans and to have the City (not the real estate developers) oversee the Environmental Impact Statements and Traffic Studies. They have introduced motions to limit campaign contributions from real estate developers.
But if the voters reject Measure S, will we ever get an objective analysis of the impact of JJJ, the union inspired initiative that will make the building of multifamily buildings uneconomic? Will the City continue to update on an accelerated basis the City’s General Plan and its 35 Community Plans in an open and transparent manner as required by Measure S? Will the City provide the Planning Department with the necessary resources, especially after July 1, 2018 when the new labor contracts kick in and result in a tsunami of red ink? Will the Garcetti and the City Council cut off the hand that feeds them and limit campaign contributions from real estate developers?
The answer is obviously NO since we cannot trust Garcetti and the Council Members when it comes to their ultimate aphrodisiac, campaign cash.
Vote Yes on S and end the status quo of a corrupt pay-to-play culture where real estate developers make billions, politicians receive millions, and we get the shaft.
- Costs taxpayers over $70 million each year.
- Destroys 12,000 jobs each year.
- Cost $640 million in lost wages each year.
- Results in losses of $1.9 billion to our City every year it is in effect
- What is the impact of JJJ and how does that compare to Measure S?
(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: email@example.com.)
LA WATCHDOG--The County Board of Supervisors has placed Measure H on the March 7 ballot, which, if approved by the two-thirds of the voters, will increase our sales tax by a quarter of a cent to 9 ½%. This ten year tax increase will generate $350 million a year which will be earmarked to finance services for the homeless.
Measure H is expected to be approved by County voters based on the results of the November election.
Measure HHH was approved by 77% of the voters. This measure authorizes the City to issue $1.2 billion in general obligation bonds to fund permanent supportive housing for the homeless. The County will be responsible for providing the necessary services as outlined in the ballot measure.
Measure M, approved by 71% of the County’s voters, authorizes a permanent half cent increase in our sales tax to finance Metro’s ambitious capital expenditure program and its money losing operations.
And 75% of the County’s voters approved Measure A, a $100 million tax to fund its Department of Parks and Recreation.
The proponents of Measure H have also raised over $1.5 million from the usual suspects, including our old friend, Frank McCourt of Dodger infamy, and other real estate developers as well as many other City and County ring kissers looking for future paybacks.
However, voter turnout in March is expected to be considerably lower than in November. While 3.4 million votes were cast in the County for the Presidential candidates, turnout in March is expected to be in the range of 1 million voters (30%), representing a very different voter profile.
In addition, County voters outside of the City have tended to be more fiscally prudent than City voters. And they outnumber City voters by 50%.
Voters in March may also be in a foul mood as a result of being hit with so many new taxes in 2016 and the prospect of even more taxes over the next two years.
In 2016, Angelenos were hit with a $150 million tax increase in connection with the massive DWP rate increase of over $1 billion.
Measure HHH, the $1.2 billion homeless bond, will cost City property owners an average of $65 million a year over the next 30 years.
The Los Angeles Community College District’s issuance of $3.2 billion in bonds will cost an average of around $200 million a year for the next 30 years.
County property owners will be tagged for another $100 million to fund its parks.
The Metro half cent sales tax increase will cost County residents an additional $750 million a year.
And this does not include state taxes associated with the new $2 a pack cigarette tax, the $9 billion K-12 school construction bond, or the Soak the Rich income tax surcharge.
There are more taxes that are in the pipeline.
The County Board of Supervisors is actively considering a Stormwater Tax that will raise between $300 and $500 million a year from property owners.
The City is still considering a multibillion Street Repair Bond that will tag taxpayers for $100 to $200 million a year.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District is contemplating raising $300 million through a new Vehicle Licensing Fee.
And the State is considering a $3 billion increase in our gas tax, a $10 billion expansion of the current sales tax (thank you, Bob Hertzberg), a multibillion bond to repair its neglected parks, and a $2 billion bond to finance University of California facilities.
There is also the issue of trust.
During the last election, the County Supervisors, Mayor Garcetti, and the management of Metro withheld information about significant cost overruns on the widening of the Sepulveda Pass and Downton Regional Connection until after the election.
And then you have the City’s budget and the tsunami of red ink, the County’s massively underfunded retirement plans, our failing infrastructure, the unwillingness of our elected officials to say no to unaffordable union demands, and the corrupt pay-to-play culture that permeates City Hall and the County Hall of Administration.
The Supervisors, Mayor Garcetti, and the City Council have told us that homelessness is their number one priority. If so, then the Supervisors need to find $350 million in the County’s $30 billion budget rather than hitting us up with yet another increase in our regressive sales tax.
By voting NO on H, we can send a message to Eric, the City Council, and the Board of Supervisors that they need to use our tax dollars more efficiently and that we are not their ATM.
Measure H: Los Angeles County Plan to Prevent and Combat Homelessness.
To fund mental health, substance abuse treatment, health care, education, job training, rental subsidies, emergency and affordable housing, transportation, outreach, prevention, and supportive services for homeless children, families, foster youth, veterans, battered women, seniors, disabled individuals, and other homeless adults; shall voters authorize Ordinance No. 2017-0001 to levy a ¼ cent sales tax for ten years, with independent annual audits and citizens’ oversight?
(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: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
LA WATCHDOG--In August of 2015, the City of Los Angeles announced what turned out to be a budget busting contract with the Coalition of City Unions that represents the City’s 20,000 civilian workers. According to Mayor Eric Garcetti, this agreement “prioritizes service delivery and strengthens our long term fiscal health.”
To the contrary, this back room deal contributed to the City’s never ending Structural Deficit (where personnel costs increase faster than revenues) and blew a gaping hole in the 2020 budget, turning a projected surplus of $68 million into $101 million deficit.
But that’s not all, folks.
The City also committed to a “goal” of hiring 5,000 civilian employees by June 30, 2018. But in a December report prepared by the City’s Personnel Department that outlined the Targeted Local Hire Program, not one mention was made about the cost of this program or the impact on the City’s budget. Yet the City is looking at an $85 million deficit next year, but that was before the City Administrative Officer informed us on January 6 that this year’s breakeven budget is a pipedream as the shortfall may be as high as $245 million thanks to lower revenues and higher than budgeted litigation costs.
While some of the new employees will replace higher cost retiring workers, the hit to the City’s budget has been rumored to be in the range of $250 million when considering the fully loaded costs of salaries, Cadillac healthcare plans, and very generous pensions.
The Targeted Local Hire Program appears to be more of a social welfare program as it is focused on hiring and retaining of local Angelenos from underserved communities. Under the proposed system, over 80% of the positions would be allocated to the applicants from the designated underserved communities.
But what about all the other Angelenos who have stayed out of trouble and done what was expected of them. Don’t they deserve a fair shot at these high paying, guaranteed for life City jobs that have very generous benefits that far exceed those in the private sector? And don’t the odds favor them doing a better job?
This is not the time to be expanding the City’s workforce. The City is looking at a river of red ink of almost $300 million over the next four years, and that was before the realization that this year’s unexpected deficit may be as high as $245 million. The depleted Reserve Fund is under severe pressure to fund this shortfall. And more than likely, the economy is going to be hitting some headwinds that will put additional pressure on the budget. And as we know, it will be hard to lay off employees that are represented by the campaign funding leaders of the City’s self-serving public unions who consider us their ATM.
Rather than hiring and training 5,000 new workers and adding to the City’s permanent overhead, why not hire independent third parties to complete specific tasks such as repairing our streets and sidewalks, trimming our trees, and maintaining our parks?
Before proceeding with the Targeted Local Hire Program, Councilmember Paul Koretz, the Chair of the Personnel Committee and one of the main promoters of this less than transparent program, should conduct public hearings and outreach so that we have a better understanding of this very expensive initiative and its impact on the City’s already precarious finances.
At the same time, Koretz, City Council President Herb Wesson, and Mayor Eric Garcetti would be wise to follow the advice of the Los Angeles Times to “commission and independent analysis of the impacts” of the program and “allow plenty of time for the public [and the Neighborhood Councils] to ask questions.”
A year ago, Koretz wrote, “The City of Los Angeles has a mission to provide the highest quality public service to the residents of the City in the most efficient and cost effective manner.”
Koretz must honor this pledge.
- Read More
Strategic Workforce Development Taskforce / Personnel Department / Letter of Agreement / Hiring Civilian Employees Council File 16-0109
LA WATCHDOG--Despite General Fund revenues being up by over $1 billion since Eric Garcetti became our Mayor, the City Administrative Officer indicated in a January 6 memo that the “combined potential deficit [for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017] currently stands at $245 million.”
You have to be kidding. A billion bucks and these jokers cannot balance the budget.
The budget is being hammered by higher than anticipated expenditures and lower than expected revenues. But there are not many real operational solutions since the Mayor, the Personnel Committee headed by Paul Koretz, and the City Council are not even willing to considering laying off or furloughing unionized employees who represent the bulk of City budget expenditures.
Spending is anticipated to be $70 to $80 million over amounts approved by the City Council and Mayor Garcetti in June. The primary culprit is legal settlements and verdicts against the City that are more than double the budgeted $67 million. But this budgeted amount was significantly less than the amount recommended by the City Administrative Officer (rumored to be $120 million) last April when Garcetti presented his budget to the City Council.
The revenue shortfall (including those at risk) is projected to be $165 million, consisting of lower than expected reimbursements from the proprietary and special departments, lower taxes on DWP Ratepayers as Power System revenues are below projections, and lower collection of property and sales taxes.
The CAO has proposed a number of nickel and dime solutions which, when taken as a whole, may help eliminate some of the budget deficit. These include curtailing any new expenditures, limiting hiring, increasing revenues by collecting the hotel tax from short-term rental sites in addition to AirBnb, investigating the revenue potential of billboards on City property (subject to the approval of the City Council), and being reimbursed for services by major event venues.
As expected, the CAO has proposed that the City proceed with a ten year Judgment Obligation Bond of up to $70 million. The proceeds from this offering would be used to replenish the Reserve Fund so that it would have the capacity to help close the budget deficit.
But this financial strategy of using long term debt to finance operating losses highlights the financial follies that have been dumped on us by Garcetti, the Paul Krekorian Budget and Committee, the Personnel Committee chaired by Paul Koretz, and the Herb Wesson led City Council. They have steadfastly refused to follow the many common sense recommendations of Miguel Santana, the City Administrative Officer who, unfortunately, is leaving to become the Chief Executive Officer of the troubled Los Angeles County Fair Association.
The City will muddle through this financial mess by issuing Judgment Obligation Bonds, developing new sources of revenues, selected budget cuts, fewer hires, and/or raiding the Reserve Fund and maybe even the previous sacrosanct Budget Stabilization Fund. But it will not be pretty, especially when we have to listen to all the excuses of the City Council and the Mayor.
This financial fiasco demonstrates why the City Council and Garcetti need to place on the ballot a LIVE WTHIN ITS MEANS* charter amendment so that voters have the opportunity to either accept or reject budget reform.
Finally, Garcetti and Personnel Chair Paul Koretz do not deserve to be re-elected in March because they have failed the citizens of Los Angeles by refusing to adopt realistic budget and personnel policies that will allow the City to balance its budget and provide basic services to all Angelenos.
Time for a change. Throw the bums out.
*The “Live Within Its Means” charter amendment will require the City to develop and adhere to a Seven Year Financial Plan; to pass three year balanced budgets based on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles; to prohibit any labor contracts that result in future budget deficits; to benchmark the efficiency of its operations; to fully fund its pension plans within twenty years; to implement a twenty year plan to repair and maintain our streets, sidewalks, and the rest of our infrastructure; and to establish a fully funded independent Office of Transparency and Accountability to oversee the City’s finances and operations.
LA WATCHDOG--In 2013, Mayor Eric Garcetti told us that the revitalization of the 11 mile stretch of the Los Angeles River from Griffith Park to the Arts District was projected to cost $1.1 billion, of which the City’s share was $432 million.
In 2015, the cost increased to $1.4 billion, but our share for the 11 mile revitalization ballooned to $1.2 billion as federal regulations limited the Army Corps of Engineers contribution to $200-$300 million. While the City had no clue how it was going to come up with its share, the City Council authorized the City Administrative Officer to issue a letter to Army Corps of Engineers stating the City will have the financial capability to meet its cost sharing obligations.
In late 2016, the revitalization plan was expanded to include the first 32 miles of the 51 mile long Los Angeles River that flow through the City, beginning in Canoga Park and ending at the Vernon line. But once again, the cost ballooned, this time to an estimated $7 billion. The cost per mile also increased to $219 million, up 72% from the $127 million per mile for the 11 mile revitalization plan.
Importantly, EIFDs are not permitted to fund operating expenses such as ongoing maintenance and repairs, adding another level of expense to the river revitalization plan that has not been considered.
Consistent with past practice, Garcetti has not developed a plan to finance this aspirational, multi-decade project. However, one alternative that is being considered by the City Council and the Economic and Workforce Development Department (“EWDD”) is Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts (“EIFD”), a new financing vehicle authorized by the State in 2015 that allows local governments to fund capital projects by diverting “incremental” property tax revenues from the City to an EIFD to finance the payment of interest and principal on long term bonds.
In many ways, EIFDs are intended to replace the controversial and often corrupt Community Redevelopment Agencies by limiting their taxing authority to ‘consenting” entities (in this case the City and County, but not LAUSD) and requiring a 55% vote of the EIFD voters to approve the issuance of bonds.
The recent report prepared at the request of EWDD recommends establishing nine EIFDs along the 32 miles of the river that would be entitled to collect 75% of the incremental property taxes from properties within one mile of the River due to the City and County (52% of the total as any incremental tax revenues due LAUSD would not be included) that exceed the existing assessed value. This amount would then be reduced by interest payments, interest reserves, and delinquency reserves. And then another 20% would be set aside for affordable housing.
Over the next 30 years, the report indicated (but only after massaging the massive amounts of data) that over $7.6 million in incremental tax revenues would be available to the nine river EIFDs. But after financing costs (interest, interest coverage, and reserves) and the affordable housing set aside, only $1.5 billion (20%) is available for investment in river related projects. This is an unacceptable proposition that is dependent on issuing massive amounts of debt.
The report also indicates that the EIFDs will not increase taxes of the properties in the district. While true, it will divert the incremental property tax revenue from the City’s General Fund, resulting in less money for services for those who live in the remaining 88% of the City based on the assessed value of all City property. Again, this is not an acceptable proposition since the City’s voters do not have a say in the matter.
There are also issues of transparency and accountability that need to be addressed as the EFIDs may have a life span of up to 45 years and may have the ability to increase fees and assessments without the approval of the voters in the districts or the City.
What is not to like about a revitalized Los Angeles River? But does the river revitalization plan take priority over repairing our lunar cratered streets, our parks, and our urban forest; public safety (LAPD and LAFD); affordable housing and the homeless; and the restoration of City services. And should the City develop a pay as you go revitalization plan instead of issuing billions in new debt?
Before proceeding with the $7 billion river revitalization plan and the establishment of EIFDs, the City needs to reach out to the entire City and its Neighborhood Councils to determine the City’s priorities and educate the public on the revitalization plan and the intricacies of the Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts.
LA WATCHDOG--The City is looking at an $82 million year end deficit according the Second Financial Status Report prepared by the City Administrative Officer. This gap does not include the possibility of lower revenues from the utility users’ tax, the sales tax, parking fines, and the 8% Transfer Tax from our Department of Water and Power.
One of the major reasons for this shortfall is that payouts from the Liability Claims Account are expected to be “at least” $135.5 million, $67 million over $68.5 million in the City’s Adopted Budget that was blessed by the City Council in May.
Included in these payouts is a jury verdict for an eye popping $23 million in a wrongful death suit against the deep pocketed City for its failure to repair a dangerous intersection in San Pedro. The City intends to finance this cash payout by raiding its Reserve Fund that can ill afford this hit.
And on Tuesday, the City Council approved the payment of $8 million to settle lawsuits involving three men who were shot and killed by LAPD officers. And once again, the Reserve Fund will end up footing the bill.
According to City Hall sources, there are a number of other lawsuits involving the Police Department that could cost the City big bucks. But rather than take the risk of being slammed by huge verdicts from runaway juries, the City, viewed as a deep pocket by the plaintiff ‘s bar, will elect to settle many of these cases for what appears to be outrageous amounts, but tiny compared to the potential exposure.
The City is considering financing the $67 million of excess settlements by issuing up to $70 million of Judgment Obligation Bonds. These bonds, which must be approved by the State and are payable over a maximum of ten years, would shore up the Reserve Fund’s liquidity, an important component in protecting the City’s high quality bond ratings.
At the same time, the bonds are paying for what is realistically considered an operating expense, allowing the City to continue to “kick the can down the road,” dumping yesterday’s obligation on tomorrow’s taxpayers.
A classic example is the $16 million judgment for the 2007 May Day demonstrations that was financed with a 2010 Judgment Obligation Bond that will not be paid off until 2020, 13 years after this incident involving the LAPD and 295 demonstrators in and around MacArthur Park.
Unfortunately, this low ball budgeting scam is not an isolated event. Last year, the City budgeted $54 million for Liability Claims, but ended up forking over $110 million in settlements.
In the future, the City needs to develop a realistic budget for it Liability Claims Account instead of relying on the Reserve Fund and Judgment Obligation Bonds.
At the same time, the City should make the Police Department and every other City department “own” its liabilities rather than relying on the General Fund and the Reserve Fund. This would force the Police Chief, the Fire Chief, and all department heads to focus on preventing potential liabilities.
Finally, the City should use its political clout in Sacramento to implement tort reform as California is considered one of the country’s top “Judicial Hellholes.”
But maybe we asking too much of Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Herb Wesson led City Council. After all, they have our wallets to raid. And they would not want to alienate the campaign funding lawyers who make an excellent living by suing our cash strapped City.