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NC BUDGET ADVOCATES--The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates (NCBAs) are in the throes of "Budget Season". Budget season begun last year on September 28 when Mayor Garcetti released his 2017-18 Budget Policy and Goals to the General Managers of all City Departments other than the three Proprietary Departments (DWP, Harbor, LAX), and the two pension plans, LACERS, and Fire & Police Pensions. In October, the NCBAs issued a Preliminary White Paper where they urged the City Council and Mayor to implement the following budget recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission, a blue ribbon panel formed at the request of City Council President Herb Wesson: 

  • 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. 
  • 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. 

Then In November, the city of Los Angeles departments submitted their budget requests to the Mayor and the City Administrative Officer (“CAO”) as well. 

On March 1, Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin released the City's annual revenue forecast. The Controller’s report highlighted increases in City revenues that fail to keep up with increases in City spending and the need to exercise caution in new spending both for the current fiscal year and for the Mayor's soon-to-be proposed budget for 2017-18. 

A week later, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates met with Mayor Garcetti to present the White Paper, "Back to Basics". The 88 page white paper was submitted to the Mayor and other city officials with several recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year. 

On April 20, the Mayor released his Proposed Budget to the City Council. The Mayors Budget highlighted Key investments in the FY16-17 proposed budget supporting the Mayor’s long-term budget priorities of A safe city: By Strengthening our public safety workforce, PROSPEROUS CITY: By addressing the homeless crisis and quality housing at all levels, A LIVABLE AND SUSTAINABLE CITY: Restoring the condition of the public realm and the quality of our environment, A WELL-RUN CITY: Building a customer-focused City workforce and upgrading technology. 

Now it's crunch time, the Budget and Finance committee will begin meeting to consider the Mayor’s budget on Wednesday. Within two weeks, the Adopted Budget is approved by the Mayor and the City Council and July 1, 2017 is the beginning of the new fiscal year. 

The Budget Advocates will engage in further discussion about the contents of the White Paper with the City Council Budget & Finance Committee and will be making a presentation at Budget and Finance meeting on May 1st in the early afternoon. If you as a Los Angeles resident would like to weigh in on the white paper or add your suggestions, please contact the NCBA's Co-Chairs Liz Amsden at LizAmsden@hotmail.com or Jay Handal at sgrest@aol.com.  #NCBALA 

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

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NEIGHBOROOD COUNCILS BUDGET ADVOCATES--Do you want to get more involved? Are you already advocating for your community? Come be a part of Democracy in Action: Budget Day 2017. 

The Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates have invited citizens of Los Angeles to make your voice heard on local City Services, the city’s fiscal budget and how your money is spent. Every community is different and every community has their own set of problem areas. Here is your chance to let the Mayor’s office, Los Angeles City Council and the City Hall Departments know exactly what matters to you the most! 

As elected officials to the City of Los Angeles, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates represent each and every stakeholder in the City of Los Angeles. We invite you to come work side by side with the Budget Advocate to help pinpoint the problem areas in our city as well as highlight the areas that are successful. 

The 36 Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, representing 12 regions throughout the City, will be in attendance. Make your voice heard and follow our progress throughout the year. 

The NCBAs meet twice a month, the first Monday of the month at 7 PM and the third Saturday of the month at 10 AM to discuss the City’s Budget and finances. The NCBAs also meet with most of the departments and issue departmental reports throughout the year. The NCBAs also issue an annual White Paper, usually in March, that contains their recommendations regarding the departments and the Budget. The departmental reports are part of the White Paper. 

For more information and to check out the 2017 white paper, visit NCBALA.com

Please register for this free event:

 

 

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

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NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--The Donald Trump administration may be committed to rolling back regulations that protect the environment, but Harbor Area and South Bay residents are ready to fight. The action at the South Coast Air Quality Management District meeting on April 1 regarding the PBF Energy Refinery in Torrance, is just the latest example.

About 50 of the 300 people in the room resolutely waved “Ban Toxic MFH” signs whenever MHF was mentioned by the board or speakers.

This meeting took place partly as a result of Torrance residents that became active following the former Exxon Mobil refinery explosion two years before PBF Energy took it over. In February, about 100 people marched in the rain to protest the refinery’s continued use of the alkylation catalyst, modified hydrofluoric acid or MHF. Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Los Angeles County Fire Department and PBF Energy gave reports at the hearing. The main topics were the refinery’s MHF, and public opinion on the chemical.

Speakers explained that in 2015, shrapnel from the explosion nearly pierced a tank containing MHF; a rupture or explosion of the tank would have released gaseous MHF that could have affected 30,000 people.

“MHF not only burns because it is an acid, it is a systematic poison,” said Sally Hayati, panelist at the hearing and president of the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance.

Fluoride ions from hydrofluoric acid easily absorb into human skin. They then bond with calcium in human bodies, making it unavailable; without calcium, cardiac arrest can result. Lungs can also fill with blood and water.

Laboratory scientists consider hydrofluoric acid to be one of the most dangerous chemicals to handle. Using EPA guidelines, Hayati and a team of other scientists determined that the worst case scenario from an MHF release would be lethal exposure.

Since the explosion two years ago, the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance has informed the community of MHF’s potential danger as a refinery catalyst. Their campaign has been successful, prompting government officials to respond to the will of the people.

“My No. 1 priority is to make the people safer,” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, who represents Torrance. “I have introduced a plan to the Assembly to not just make [the PBF refinery] safer but all refineries. That includes a ban on MHF.”

Muratsuchi’s plan consists of five Assembly bills: AB 1645, AB 1646, AB 1647, AB 1648 and AB 1649. In addition to banning MHF, the other bills would call for real time air quality monitoring, a community alert system, more refinery inspectors and codification of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Interagency Refinery Task Force.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who was also present at the SCAQMD hearing, supports Muratsuchi’s bills.

“This is personal for me … it involves the safety of my constituents,” said Hahn. “It’s a common sense plan.”

Elected officials from Torrance, including the mayor, were in attendance as well. On March 28, the city council voted against a phase out of MHF. However, Mayor Patrick Furey told SCAQMD board members and the audience about two resolutions the council adopted. One encourages the refinery to adopt safety measures. The other supports regulations that include a safer catalyst than MHF.

Safer catalysts include sulfuric acid and solid acid.  Laki Tisopulos, an engineer with the SCAQMD, and Glyn Jenkins, a consultant with Bastleford Engineering and Consultancy, discussed each catalyst and its potential to replace MHF.

They said that sulfuric acid has been used instead of MHF to refine fossil fuels for decades. Out of the 18 refineries in the state of California, 16 use sulfuric acid. Converting the PBF refinery would cost between $100 million and $200 million.

Solid acid technology is newer. But Jenkins said that there is a refinery in the United Kingdom that successfully refines fossil fuels with it. The same refinery switched away from MHF because it was considered too risky. Like the name suggests, the solid acid process uses a solid catalyst. No acid clouds would result from an explosion, making it safer than either the gaseous MHF or sulfuric acid.

Tisopulos estimated that converting the PBF refinery to use solid acid would cost $120 million initially. Additional costs would come whenever the catalyst had to be replaced.

PBF Energy has not embraced the idea of switching catalysts. In an advertisement in the Daily Breeze, the company stated, “We are confident that the many layers of protection, mitigation steps, and safety systems we have in place allow us to operate the MHF Alkylation Unit safely…”

Their own estimate for converting to another catalyst was around $500 million.

“The discourse [between PBF Energy and the community] has been if the chemical is changed, we lose jobs,” Torrance Councilman Tim Goodrich said.

Fearing any potential job loss, various refinery workers and union members stood up during the hearing’s public comment section and said that they support the status quo. They feel the refinery is safe enough and that the explosion this past year was a fluke.

“…[T]here is no reason why MHF can’t be phased out while jobs are protected,” Hahn responded. “I believe the switch will accelerate newer and safer alternatives, innovation,  and lead to better jobs.”

Muratsuchi agreed. He said he doesn’t want to see the refinery shut down, but it should be safer.

In November 2016, the EPA inspected the safety of the PBF Energy refinery.

“They were not following their own safety procedures,” said Dan Meer, assistant director of the Superfund Division of the EPA.

The EPA released a preliminary report on the inspection in March.

“There are issues the refinery needs to address,” Meer said. “If I had to a rate the current risk, with 10 being an emergency situation, [PBF] would be somewhere between a 5 and 7.”

Meer went on to explain that PBF did not have permits to store certain chemicals it has on site. Management is also not effectively communicating with workers, which could be dangerous in an emergency situation. PBF has until the end of April to respond to the EPA and make changes. Otherwise, the EPA will take administrative and legal action.

“This is an urgent public safety risk,” Hayati said. “The refinery should not be in operation at least until the EPA verifies that procedures are being followed.”

Although the local United Steelworkers don’t want to change the catalyst, the steelworkers at the international level feel differently. A study completed by United Steelworkers found 131 HF releases or near misses and hundreds of refinery violations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules.

“The industry has the technology and expertise [to eliminate MHF and HF],” the report stated. “It certainly has the money. It lacks only the will.  And, if it cannot find the will voluntarily, it must be forced by government action.”

Los Angeles Harbor

The SCAQMD has plans to release an environmental impact report on the Tesoro Corporation’s desire to combine its Wilmington refinery with the former British Petroleum refinery in Carson. Environmental organizations view the report as flawed and will call attention to Tesoro’s plans at the Los Angeles People’s Climate March on April 29.

In 2012, Tesoro purchased the refinery in Carson. Tesoro’s expansion into that site would include adding storage tanks to hold 3.4 million barrels of oil.

Communities for a Better Environment and other climate advocates oppose the expansion. But the focus of the march will be to inform the people about Tesoro’s lack of accuracy and transparency in detailing the project’s impacts to the SCAQMD.

“Tesoro has said that this project is going to reduce emissions and will be ‘cleaner,’ but they admitted to their investors that they are switching to a dirtier crude,” said Alicia Rivera, a community organizer with Communities for a Better Environment.

In a presentation to investors, Tesoro called the type of crude oil, “advantaged crude.” The advantage is that it is cheaper than standard crude. The new type of crude will originate from the Canadian Tar Sands and the Midwest’s Bakken Formation. (About 75 percent will come from North Dakota and 25 percent will come from Canada.)

“These fuels have different characteristics than what Tesoro is refining [in Wilmington] now,” said Julie May, senior scientist with Communities for a Better Environment. “They behave more like gasoline. They contain more benzene, which is a volatile organic compound that causes leukemia.”

The draft environmental impact report that Tesoro submitted to the SCAQMD does not clearly mention a crude oil switch. In a comment letter to the SCAQMD, May explained that this failure does not meet the California Environmental Air Quality Act’s project description requirements. Consequently, no one can properly analyze the switches’ impacts, environmental effects and risks to community and worker health and safety.

Another major reason Communities for a Better Environment wants to march against Tesoro is the corporation’s failure to properly evaluate the scope of the project. If the environmental impact report is approved, the refinery will receive fuel via ships traveling from Vancouver, Wash. Vancouver is the site of a rail-to-oil tanker terminal in which Tesoro and Savage Energy invested.

“That [terminal] is the bridge to bring dirty crudes from North Dakota and Canada,” Rivera said. “We call the rail cars that transport the fuel ‘bomb trains’ because some have derailed and exploded.”

Refineries and projects like this undoubtedly have an impact on Harbor Area residents. The challenge now for Communities for a Better Environment is getting residents to come out to the march. Rivera and other Communities for a Better Environment members acknowledged that many of residents are immigrants or working class people; for them, climate change is not always a tangible concept nor an immediate concern.

But Communities for a Better Environment is determined.

“We have youth members going to elementary and middle schools and colleges,” Rivera said. “We are pamphleting markets and Catholic churches. When we inform [people] about this project, they want the expansion to stop.”

On the day of the march, Communities for a Better Environment will circulate a petition to marchers.  Its purpose is to pressure the SCAQMD to take Tesoro’s EIR back to a draft stage. Then it can properly detail the project and allow for public input.

The SCAQMD has the authority to finalize the EIR before the march. But that won’t stop Communities for a Better Environment from trying to get the community engaged.

“We need to bring attention to local industries trying to expand in a time when they should be cutting down their emissions,” Rivera said. “Tesoro’s Los Angeles refinery is the highest greenhouse polluter in the state. If the project goes forward, it will be the largest refinery on the West Coast.”

 

(Christian L. Guzman is community reporter at Random Lengths … where this report originated.)

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NC BUDGET ADVOCATES--The city of Los Angeles allows developers to build without adequate parking spaces per unit then tickets vehicles for parking in desperation anywhere they can. It’s a catch 22 and adding to the misery, fines keep increasing each year. The city of Los Angeles is causing the parking problem so why are they charging (ticketing) us? 

Excessive on-street parking is a major issue in Los Angeles. A parking ticket fine in LA on average is $68 but parking is non-existent. So the people of this city are sitting ducks who are quickly fined before they can even put their vehicle in park. If the city keeps going at this rate Los Angeles will be a walking only city. 

According to www.parking.controlpanel.la … a website introduced by the LA Controllers office … the Los Angeles Department of Transportation Citation Program generated close to $148 million in gross ticket revenues in Fiscal Year 2015-16, but some 3⁄4 of ticket revenue went to overhead, salaries and administrative costs. The remaining $41 million was available through the General Fund and used to pay for City services such as police and fire. 

This website also indicates that "the City of Los Angeles also has a responsibility to make sure parking tickets are fair and reasonable". If this is the case, why does the city allow developers to continue to build multi-unit dwellings without sufficient parking? 

Currently Los Angeles drivers who receive tickets for parking violations have a better chance of getting relief because of the 2016 Weiss v. Los Angeles case (Court of Appeal, State of California, 8/8/2016) in which the California Supreme Court ruled that Los Angeles will have to handle parking ticket appeals rather than contracting them out to a for-profit company. 

The ruling came after Cody Weiss filed a lawsuit against the city and lost his appeal of what he believed was an unfair ticket. Weiss sued the city challenging the practice of farming out its ticket appeal process to Xerox, a for-profit company. “Xerox did not give the citizens a fair chance to fight parking tickets,” Weiss told NBC4. “Their motivation was to make money. They were motivated by greed.” 

The issue with Los Angeles did not stop there, around January 2017 budget Advocate Brigitte Kidd was approached by William Taylor a Military Veteran who received a $490.00 traffic citation in the mail and he told her he needed assistance fighting a citation he received on August 7, 2016 at 8:54 am. 

The citation stated that he did not stop for a railroad crossing going westbound on Century Blvd at Grandee Avenue. The letter also instructed Mr. Taylor to respond to Los Angeles Superior Court by September 26, 2016. Mr. Taylor immediately responded claiming that “the timing of the traffic light to the crossing arms and camera has been out of sequence for over three months. Crews have even worked on Sundays to correct the timing issue”. Mr. Taylor claims he did nothing wrong and did not understand why he received a ticket. 

Mr. Taylor appealed the ticket and went to court on November 17, 2016, where he plead not guilty. In court the Judge had Mr. Taylor plea to lesser fine of $285.00 but she did not dismiss the ticket. In response, Mr. Taylor still declaring his innocence, decided to file a civil lawsuit against Metro Transportation Authority and Los Angeles County to get his money back for the traffic infraction. 

After further investigation Mr. Taylor found out the money paid to Los Angeles Superior Court was divided between at least 20 different entities with the last dollar going to Xerox Corporation and that if he wanted to sue he would have to bring all of them to court. 

After finding out this information Mr. Taylor requested a list of the 20 different entities and was denied this information by a MTA representative. After being denied access to this pertinent information, Mr. Taylor filed a complaint with MTA and reached out to several city officials who could not answer any of his questions. 

After not receiving a timely response from MTA, Mr. Taylor went to the next MTA board of directors meeting where he spoke during the public comment time and there he was instructed to meet with a MTA representative in the hallway that could further assist him with this matter. 

In the hallway the MTA representative took down Mr. Taylor’s information and instructed him to file a claim for damages if he wanted to receive a refund. Mr. Taylor agreed but did not understand why he had to file a damage claim instead of MTA just reversing his ticket and giving him his money back. 

Even after receiving a refund Mr. Taylor is still not satisfied because none of his questions about where his $490.00 traffic infraction money went were ever clearly answered. 

Since this incident the city has started making repairs to the light and has also decided to put Eastbound cameras at the Century/Grandee intersection as well and after the local CBS news picked up the Taylor story in February 2017, the city has decided to refund every driver who received a ticket at that intersection a refund but we still have questions. 

Why is a for-profit company still handling Los Angeles city traffic violations after the State Supreme Court ruling?

 

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

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STREET TALK--Of course! I am sure that you have most probably and most definitely heard by now that Skid Row has lost its bid; it's election for recognition by the city as an official subdivision of the downtown neighborhood council! Skid row lost by 62 votes!   

General Jeff Page is bound and determined to be recognized by the city! He has filed a number of grievances and challenges! Nine challenges to be exact! Other actions are most definitely on the horizon in retaliation and in response to the city's denial of recognition of a SRNC! 

Last I heard; one of his challenges has already been successfully received, found valid! He is most definitely moving forward! He is moving onward and upward, towards victory for the Skid Row community!  

However!  

There is mutiny in the midst! Members of the community who doubt that the city will adequately, efficiently and effectively represent, recognize, minister to and meet the needs of Skid Row have organized and separated from Jeff Page and the original Skid Row formation committee; forming their very own 'new Skid Row neighborhood council'!  

DLANC has a long history of denying support and funding to various entities and organizations on Skid Row; especially those who fight for increased accessible affordable housing and those who expose civil/human rights violations, police brutality etc! 

Undoubtedly, DLANC does not want the primarily black residents  on Skid Row to get any money! Neither do they want the people of Skid Row to have a voice in exposing and preventing police brutality, in determinng, selecting, ensuring adequate, increased, accessible affordable housing, or in determining just what new businesses are in Skid Row etc! Thereby raising the standard of living; upsetting the status quo in favor of the poor and colored people who live in Skid Row! Lovingly and fondly referred to as 'Skid Rowdians'! That would be 3rd street to the north! 7th street to the south! Alameda to the east! Main street to the west!   


(Yvonne Michelle Autry is a Skid Row activist and a voice for the homeless.)

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PLATKIN ON PLANNING-It goes by many names – the free market, trickle-down economics, supply side economics, market magic, market fundamentalism, and neo-liberalism – but its content is the same. Let the private sector maximize its profits through deregulation, bailouts, tax breaks, and financial incentives. Then the ensuing rising tide of investment will lift all ships. It will create jobs aplenty, while also building affordable housing. The resulting glut in pricey housing will not only drive down all housing prices, but grants to non-profit affordable housing corporations and inclusionary housing programs, such as LA’s density bonus program, will fill LA’s affordable housing vacuum. Just sit back, and market magic will fix what ails us, like a vibrating waistband that peels off extra pounds at the flip of a switch. 

The basic supply-side argument, whether articulated by the Mayor, the City Council, academics, realtors, LA Times editorial writers, dependent non-profit organizations, Chamber of Commerce boosters, or anonymous Internet trolls, is as straightforward as could be. Planning and zoning laws restrict housing production, and this is the main cause of expensive housing in Los Angeles. 

Therefore, if City Hall loosens up land use regulations, developers will march into LA, build oodles of housing, which increases supply and supposedly reduces prices to the point that housing again becomes affordable. 

What trickle-down got right and got wrong. 

Whatever the name, it is a superficially convincing theory, and one part of it is even correct. The deregulation of zoning and environmental laws has allowed real estate profits to soar in Los Angeles. Trickle-down has really been trickle-up, and the market fundamentalists at least got that part of the equation correct. 

But, as for the other part of the equation – fixing LA’s housing crisis – their theory has been a bust. Despite years of granting real estate developers every zoning request they request, as well as notoriously lax enforcement of the City’s building and zoning codes, LA’s housing crisis has continued to worsen, especially since the 2008-9 Great Recession. Gentrification, housing prices, and income inequality have all soared, pricing out many residents and newcomers. 

To begin, there is no evidence that trickle-down generates jobs. Real estate projects built through zoning deregulation -- such as pay-to-play spot-zones and spot-plan amendments, wide-scale up-zoning through Community Plan Updates, Community Plan Implementation Ordinances, re-code LA, or indirectly through slipshod code enforcement -- have not resulted in net gains of short-term construction jobs or long-term building management and maintenance jobs. 

In fact, this often repeated jobs claim has only served two other purposes. The first purpose is to justify City Council votes to deflect dangerous Environmental Impact Report findings with the untested claim that a project is really a major job-generator. The second purpose was to lasso trade unions and non-profit groups to oppose Measure S in LA’s recent March 7 election. 

But, that still leaves the second claim: an uptick in housing construction leads to greater housing affordability. Even if the new units are expensive apartments, condos, and houses, they supposedly pull down all housing prices. The result is alleged to be more affordable housing. In fact, according to this theory, some of LA’s 50,000 homeless  should finally be able to get a real roof over their head. 

Like other missing benefits of deregulation, there is still no evidence that increasing the supply of expensive apartments somehow increases the supply of affordable housing. One of the reasons should be obvious; the widespread gentrification of many LA neighborhoods has not missed a beat. In fact, since 2001 the LA Times reports a loss of 20,000 official affordable units. What took their place? More expensive housing, of course, for the new urban gentry. 

Gentrification: This gentrification process is now painfully obvious in Los Angeles neighborhoods experiencing mansionization, small lot subdivisions, and Ellis Act evictions. In all these cases, older housing, some of which is subject to LA’s rent stabilization ordinance, and all of which is less expensive than the new housing that replaces it, is sacrificed for new, expensive houses, apartments, condos, and townhouses. The evicted residents must then scramble for replacement housing, spending a higher percentage of their income to find a place to live. In fact, in Los Angeles, over 59 percent of renters are now officially cost-burdened because they spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. 

The other reason why trickle-down economics has led to a housing market crisis should also be obvious. Luxury housing and affordable housing are separate housing markets. Developers rake in sizable profits by building, selling, and renting expensive housing. But, they would commit financial suicide if they went into the affordable housing business. This is why they don’t do it. Even when they overbuild at the expensive end, such as in DTLA, they never drop selling prices or rents to the point that their new units become affordable. Instead, they hold on to the vacant units until the market changes, turn to Airbnb short-term rentals, or offer modest incentives such as free parking. But, they never rent out expensive units at a financial loss. Never. 

This is why supply-side economics trickles down to a dry stream bed when it comes to affordable housing. The real process should be called trickle-up, which explains why the supply-side beneficiaries spent $11 million in LA’s recent Measure S election to perpetuate their trickle-up business model. 

Now, with memories of the March 7 fading away, the free market campaign slogans are not faring well. Campaign bluster can go a long way, but ultimately reality asserts itself; Los Angeles has had a continuous affordable housing crisis since the end of most Federal housing programs over 40 years ago. 

More empty claims about beneficial market forces: 

In case there are still a few true believers clinging to their faith in market magic, here are several more realities they should consider when the supply-siders resurrect their empty claims. 

1) They don’t work. Since the elimination of most HUD public housing programs in the 1970s and 80s, every county in the entire United States has a demonstrable shortage of affordable housing. Regardless of supply, demand, local land use regulations, local wealth or poverty, the private housing market is simply not capable of providing affordable housing. It never has and never will. 

2) Measure HHH is trickling-up. Until a few years ago, the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) filled some of this funding gap by devoting 20 percent of its budget to quasi-public housing. But the California State legislature dissolved all CRA’s several years ago. Since then, the closest the trickle-downers have come to replacing the CRA is Measure HHH. But as Patrick McDonald reported in the April 18, 2017, CityWatch, HHH funding is quickly moving into the “croneysphere.” City Hall now wants to use the affordable housing bond issue to bankroll mixed-use buildings and mixed-income housing. The trickle-down from this bond issue is, as expected by critics such as myself, already trickling up to real estate speculators. 

3) Un-tapped zoning potential. The free marketeers also claim that LA's housing crisis results from wide-scale downzoning since the 1980s, but this is bunk. According to detailed City Planning studies from the early 1990's, which are still the most recent official data, Los Angeles could reach a population of 8,000,000 people based on existing zoning. But, led by UCLA's Prof. Greg Morrow, these trickle-downers declare that Los Angeles has virtually no more un-used zoning potential for housing. But, this is simply not true. In addition to lots zoned R-3 and R-4, Los Angeles is filled with long, low-rise transportation corridors (e.g., Pico, Olympic, Washington, Vermont, Hoover) featuring commercial zoning. 

Since all of these commercial zones can be used for by-right R-4 apartments, Los Angeles still has an enormous untapped potential for housing construction. Furthermore, these future apartments could be built up to 35 percent over the zoning code's requirements. Based on SB 1818, developers could set aside 20 percent of their units to become affordable. They then obtain incentives that raise the overall number of market and affordable units. 

4) Developers’ Business model is the real culprit. The basic problem is, therefore, not LA's zoning build-out potential, but the private developers’ business model. They must make a serious profit, and this is only possible through pricey housing. We could totally eliminate planning and zoning laws in Los Angeles, like Houston has, and these real estate investors would still build expensive housing. They would simply build it in more locations.   

5) Short-term fixes. In the meantime, though, there are several things we can do in Los Angeles until the real fix appears, the restoration of Federal and local public housing programs: 

  • Eliminate vacancy de-control from LA's Rent Stabilization Ordinance.  
  • Apply the Rent Stabilization Ordinance to all rental units, not just those built before 1979. 
  • Prosecute the speculators who illegally evict people from small apartment houses in order to demolish the buildings and replace them with expensive housing. 
  • Demolish all speculative structures built through code violations. 
  • Properly fund and monitor LA’s Department of Building and Safety, LA’s Housing and Community Investment Department, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and LA County Public Housing to ensure that zoning, building, and health codes are enforced.

 

(Dick Platkin is a former Los Angeles city planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatchLA. Please send any comments or corrections to rhplatkin@gmail.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

BELL VIEW-Years of banging the podium at City Hall for my allotted sixty seconds of screaming into the abyss have taught me one basic truth: Whenever a problem -- or a "crisis," as most problems are referred to these days – needs fixing, the people trying to fix the problem have to answer one question before anything can happen. Not "How do we fix this problem?" or "How do we solve this crisis?" Not "Where do we get the money?" or even "Can this problem be solved?" The first question that must be answered before absolutely anything can happen in 21st Century America is "How will the rich get richer?" 

Before we decide what we're going to do to, say, cure cancer, or save an endangered species, or stop the planet from killing us off, we, first, need to figure out how the solution is going to make the rich much richer. 

Luckily for us, our elected officials have been working hard at coming up with an answer to this central question of our time. 

War, for example, is a no-brainer. The rich always get richer off of war. War makes money coming and going. The rich get richer blowing things up. Then get richer again putting things back together. The rich have even figured out how to get rich on things like addiction, disease, and poverty: just declare war on them and the cash starts rolling in. 

And say what you will about the qualifications of our current Secretary of Education, at least she has solved the basic conundrum of how the rich get richer off of public education. 

Unfortunately, once the rich have taken their share – there is almost never much left to solve the problem we wanted to solve.

On the local level, the rich have a juicy housing crisis to feast upon. You don’t need a degree in economics to figure out how the rich get richer off of a housing crisis. But homelessness – ah, that’s been a tough nut for the rich to crack. How, exactly, do the rich get rich off of the homeless? For the longest time, I struggled with this question. 

Now, it looks as if Mayor Garcetti and the City Council have found a solution. Remember the $1.2 billion we decided to raise for the homeless in Measure HHH? Remember how the bulk of the funds were earmarked for “Supportive Housing” – the kind of housing the chronically homeless need? The drug addicted, the mentally-ill, the elderly. Remember being told that no more than 20% of the funds raised would go to “affordable housing” – designed to help people who had not quite ended up on the streets, but were headed in that direction? 

Well … that’s no fun at all. And, since it doesn’t make the rich richer, it was basically a non-starter. Now, it turns out, only 50% of the “supportive housing” needs to be supportive housing – and only 50% of that needs to be reserved for the chronically-homeless. Get it? So the 80% of the $1.2 billion that was supposed to be used to help the most desperate of LA’s massive homeless population will now be sliced up into smaller and smaller chunks with only about 25% of it going to the people it was meant to help. 

When I lived in East Hollywood, a real do-gooder rehabbed an old apartment building and put a dozen formerly-homeless families into real homes. These are families with kids that were living in their cars before they got a hand up. No one in the neighborhood even knows the place is "homeless" housing. It's a model that could succeed all over the city. 

But the threesome cooking crack in a tent in the alley behind this place? They're not exactly candidates for this type of solution. 

So, when someone tells me that "studies show" the homeless do better when they're integrated into the community -- I don't disagree. I just need to point out that not all the homeless are the same. Anyone who thinks people are going to pay market rent to live down the hall from a crackhead are smoking something.  

No. Something tells me this new market-based solution to chronic homelessness will peter out just after Job One is accomplished. The rich will get richer and the truly desperate homeless will still be looking for a place to land.

 

(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

MCDONALD REPORT--New York Times reporters often cover Los Angeles as if they are newly arrived missionaries encountering a lost Amazonian tribe for first time  — and the “unsophisticated” natives don’t know what’s best for them. It would be funny if it wasn’t so wrong. 

That mentality was on display on April 11 when the paper published, “‘A Different Los Angeles’: The City Moves to Alter Its Sprawling Image.”  The piece essentially told the world that the natives in LA have finally gotten their acts together and will build a dense city like any proper metropolis should. But as is also too often the case, the newbie missionary ignores, or has little idea of, the street-level impacts of what he or she is championing. 

Before we keep going, we believe the Times is an important newspaper that contributes mightily to American society and helps us maintain (and gain) our rights and freedoms. It provides similar, and invaluable, services on the international stage. People should read the New York Times

Let’s go back to LA. 

From the get-go, the informed reader sees trouble coming just by looking at who’s quoted in the article. No social justice activists, no homeowner groups, no good government watchdogs. In sum, no citizen, activist, or grassroots organization that knows what’s happening on the street. That’s not good. 

Instead, the New York Times talks with Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and wealthy developer Nelson Rising. That’s it. All are members in good standing of LA’s political and civic establishment, and that establishment wants to build tall and dense — billions of dollars in profits and millions of dollars in campaign contributions can be made.  

For Hawthorne, he’s been pushing a theory called the “Third LA,” which proposes a denser Los Angeles with a more pedestrian culture. He helps to promote the politicians and developers’ agenda. 

Since only the LA Establishment gets to have its say, readers never learn why so many activists and residents are up in arms over new development.  

Right now, lower- and middle-class Angelenos from the San Fernando Valley to the Westside to the Eastside to South LA are dealing with displacement and gentrification caused by all forms of dense, luxury housing. Over the past several years, City Hall politicians have been rubber-stamping such high-end projects for deep-pocketed developers who hand over campaign contributions and other political money. 

It makes perfect sense that residents are resistant to change, also called “progress” by the L.A. establishment that kicks them out of their homes. The Times makes no mention of all that.

The establishment wants to build transit-oriented development. By only talking with the establishment, the New York Times essentially approves of that desire. But a recent UCLA study found that transit-oriented development in L.A. creates gentrification

The Times shows no knowledge of the study, but the self-righteous missionary is unconcerned about learning such details. He or she knows best no matter what, even if the tribe will suffer.

Such a missionary is also not troubled by some chicanery in order to “civilize” the natives.

In one shocking passage, which undoubtedly made LA activists do a spit take in disbelief while drinking their morning coffee, the Times noted: 

Mr. Garcetti said he planned to eliminate regulations that stymie innovation, “whether it’s the size of units, or the connectivity of transportation modes.” 

“We’re writing the rules as we go,” the mayor said, acknowledging “that can be very disruptive to people.” But, he added, “We need to get with it.” 

All of this signals a move toward building that Third LA. 

Read that again. 

In Los Angeles, the second largest city in the nation, the mayor just told the New York Times that laws and regulations that protect residents do not matter. In fact, he’s going to deregulate and make things up as he goes.

If the current president of the United States said that, the Times would have a conniption. But Garcetti, a liberal establishment figure with an Ivy League education and the son of a former Los Angeles County District Attorney, gets a pass. 

In fact, the Times appears to think that Garcetti’s by-any-means-necessary method for building a denser city is laudable. But neighborhood and social justice activists know it spells trouble.

Garcetti and the City Council have already shown they won’t adhere to city rules and ordinances that protect residents and neighborhoods from numerous quality-of-life problems, and they’ll give developers anything they want to build a luxury city that only the affluent can afford. There’s a long track record of LA politicians performing such shenanigans, which judges often find illegal. 

Again, the New York Times shows no knowledge of that. It’s what happens when you don’t talk with the neighborhood activist or good government watchdog. 

The Times’ approach in covering LA is actually humorous in a screwball kind of way — there goes that poor, nutty missionary again. But such a person can cause serious pain for the natives. 

By uncritically pushing the establishment’s vision for LA, the New York Times is actively helping Garcetti, the City Council, and developers ignore the rules, dismantle protections for residents and neighborhoods, and usher in a gentrified Third LA For Angelenos, getting forced out their homes is not progress, and it’s no laughing matter.

 

(Patrick Range McDonald, an award-winning investigative journalist, worked on the Measure S campaign as senior researcher and website editor. This perspective was posted most recently at washataw.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

RUSSIAN RELATIONS ROULETTE-Democrats, liberals and some progressives might be feeling a little perplexed over what has happened to Russiagate, the story that pounded Donald Trump every day since his election last November -- until April 4, that is. 

On April 4, Trump fully capitulated to the neoconservative bash-Russia narrative amid dubious claims about a chemical attack in Syria. On April 6, Trump fired off 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase; he also restored the neocon demand for “regime change” in Syria; and he alleged that Russia was possibly complicit in the supposed chemical attack. 

Since Trump took those actions -- in accordance with the neocon desires for more “regime change” in the Middle East and a costly New Cold War with Russia -- Russiagate has almost vanished from the news. 

I did find a little story in the lower right-hand corner of page A12 of Saturday’s New York Times about a still-eager Democratic congressman, Mike Quigley of Illinois, who spent a couple of days in Cyprus which attracted his interest because it is a known site for Russian money-laundering, but he seemed to leave more baffled than when he arrived. 

“The more I learn, the more complex, layered and textured I see the Russia issue is -- and that reinforces the need for professional full-time investigators,” Quigley said, suggesting that the investigation’s failure to strike oil is not that the holes are dry but that he needs better drill bits.

Yet, given all the hype and hullabaloo over Russiagate, the folks who were led to believe that the vague and amorphous allegations were “bigger than Watergate” might now be feeling a little used. It appears they may have been sucked into a conspiracy frenzy in which the Establishment exploited their enthusiasm over the “scandal” in a clever maneuver to bludgeon an out-of-step new President back into line. 

If that’s indeed the case, perhaps the most significant success of the Russiagate ploy was the ouster of Trump’s original National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was seen as a key proponent of a New Détente with Russia, and his replacement by General H.R. McMaster, a protégé of neocon favorite, retired Gen. David Petraeus. 

McMaster was viewed as the key player in arranging the April 6 missile strike on Syria and in preparing a questionable “intelligence assessment” on April 11 to justify the rush to judgment. Although McMaster’s four-page white paper has been accepted as gospel by the mainstream U.S. news media, its many weaknesses have been noted by actual experts, such as MIT national security and technology professor Theodore Postol. 

How Washington Works 

But the way Official Washington works is that Trump was made to look weak when he argued for a more cooperative and peaceful relationship with Russia. Hillary Clinton dubbed him Vladimir Putin’s “puppet” and “Saturday Night Live” portrayed Trump as in thrall to a bare-chested Putin. More significantly, front-page stories every morning and cable news segments every night created the impression of a compromised U.S. President in Putin’s pocket. 

Conversely, Trump was made to look strong when he fired off missiles against a Syrian airbase and talked tough about Russian guilt. Neocon commentator Charles Krauthammer praised Trump’s shift as demonstrating that “America is back.” 

Trump further enhanced his image for toughness when his military dropped the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” on some caves in Afghanistan. While the number of casualties inflicted by the blast was unclear, Trump benefited from the admiring TV and op-ed commentaries about him finally acting “presidential.” 

But the real test of political courage is to go against the grain in a way that may be unpopular in the short term but is in the best interests of the United States and the world community in the longer term. 

In that sense, Trump seeking peaceful cooperation with Russia -- even amid the intense anti-Russian propaganda of the past several years -- required actual courage, while launching missiles and dropping bombs might win praise but actually make the U.S. position in the world weaker.

Trump, however, saw his fledgling presidency crumbling under the daily barrage of Russiagate, even though there was no evidence that his campaign colluded with Russia to interfere with the U.S. election and there wasn’t even clear evidence that Russia was behind the disclosure of Democratic emails, via WikiLeaks, during the campaign. 

Still, the combined assault from the Democrats, the neocons and the mainstream media forced Trump to surrender his campaign goal of achieving a more positive relationship with Russia and greater big-power collaboration in the fight against terrorism. 

For Trump, the incessant chatter about Russiagate was like a dripping water torture. The thin-skinned Trump fumed at his staff and twittered messages aimed at changing the narrative, such as accusing President Obama of “wiretapping” Trump Tower. But nothing worked. 

However, once Trump waved the white flag by placing his foreign policy under the preferred banner of the neoconservatives, the Russiagate pressure stopped. The op-ed pages suddenly were hailing his “decisiveness.” If you were a neocon, you might say about Russiagate: Mission accomplished! 

Russiagate’s Achievements 

Besides whipping Trump into becoming a more compliant politician, Russiagate could claim some other notable achievements. For instance, it spared the national Democrats from having to confront their own failures in Campaign 2016 by diverting responsibility for the calamity of Trump’s election.

Instead of Democratic leaders taking responsibility for picking a dreadful candidate, ignoring the nation’s anti-establishment mood, and failing to offer any kind of inspiring message, the national Democrats could palm off the blame on “Russia! Russia! Russia!” 

Thus, rather than looking in the mirror and trying to figure out how to correct their deep-seated problems, the national Democrats could instead focus on a quixotic tilting at Trump’s impeachment.

Many on the Left joined in this fantasy because they have been so long without a Movement that the huge post-inaugural “pussy hat” marches were a temptation that they couldn’t resist. Russiagate became the fuel to keep the “Movement” bandwagon rolling. #Resistance! 

It didn’t matter that the “scandal” -- the belief that Russia somehow conspired with Trump to rig the U.S. presidential election -- amounted to a bunch of informational dots  that didn’t connect.

Russiagate also taught the American “left” to learn to love McCarthyism since “proof” of guilt pretty much amounted to having had contact with a Russian -- and anyone who questioned the dubious factual basis of the “scandal” was dismissed as a “Russian propagandist” or a “Moscow stooge” or a purveyor of “fake news.” 

Another Russiagate winner was the mainstream news media which got a lot of mileage -- and loads of new subscription money -- by pushing the convoluted conspiracy. The New York Times positioned itself as the great protector of “truth” and The Washington Post adopted a melodramatic new slogan: “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” 

On Thanksgiving Day, the Post ran a front-page article touting an anonymous Internet group called PropOrNot that identified some 200 Internet news sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other major sources of independent journalism, as guilty of “Russian propaganda.” Facts weren’t needed; the accused had no chance for rebuttal; the accusers even got to hide in the shadows; the smear was the thing. 

The Post and the Times also conflated news outlets that dared to express skepticism toward claims from the U.S. State Department with some entrepreneurial sites that trafficked in intentionally made-up stories or “fake news” to make money. 

To the Post and Times, there appeared to be no difference between questioning the official U.S. narrative on, say, the Ukraine crisis and knowingly fabricating pretend news articles to get lots of clicks. Behind the smokescreen of Russiagate, the mainstream U.S. news media took the position that there was only one side to a story, what Official Washington chose to believe. 

While it’s likely that there will be some revival of Russiagate to avoid the appearance of a completely manufactured scandal, the conspiracy theory’s more significant near-term consequence could be that it has taught Donald Trump a dangerous lesson. 

If he finds himself in a tight spot, the way out is to start bombing some “enemy” halfway around the world. The next time, however, the target might not be so willing to turn the other cheek. If, say, Trump launches a preemptive strike against North Korea, the result could be a retaliatory nuclear attack against South Korea or Japan. 

Or, if the neocons push ahead with their ultimate “regime change” strategy of staging a “color revolution” in Moscow to overthrow Putin, the outcome might be -- not the pliable new leader that the neocons would want -- but an unstable Russian nationalist who might see a nuclear attack on the U.S. as the only way to protect the honor of Mother Russia. 

For all his faults, Trump did offer a more temperate approach toward U.S.-Russian relations, which also could have tamped down spending for nuclear and other strategic weapons and freed up some of that money for infrastructure and other needs at home. But that was before Russiagate.

 

(Robert Parry is an Investigative reporter who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, “America’s Stolen Narrative,” either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). This piece appeared originally on Consortiumnews and Truthdig.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

POLITICAL HULLABALOO--Ryan Lizza has a blockbuster of a story about California’s Devin Nunes and the Trump administration in the New Yorker. It doesn't seem like anyone cares anymore. But they should: 

Recently, several members and staffers on the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s role in the Presidential election, visited the National Security Agency, in Fort Meade, Maryland. Inside the enormous black glass headquarters of America’s largest spy agency, the congressmen and their aides were shown a binder of two to three dozen pages of highly classified intercepts, mostly transcripts of conversations between foreign government officials that took place during the Presidential transition. These intercepts were not related to the heart of the committee’s Russia investigation. In fact, only one of the documents had anything to do with Russia, according to an official who reviewed them.

What the intercepts all had in common is that the people being spied on made references to Donald Trump or to Trump officials. That wasn’t even clear, though, from reading the transcripts. The names of any Americans were concealed, or “masked,” the intelligence community’s term for redacting references to Americans who are not the legal targets of surveillance when such intelligence reports are distributed to policy makers.

The binder of secret documents is at the center of the bizarre scandal created by what may be the most reckless lie President Trump has ever told. On March 4th,
he tweeted, “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” The White House made several efforts to justify Trump’s claim, including using Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, as a conduit for the documents, which allegedly offered some substantiation. A former Nunes staffer now working for the White House dug up the transcripts and shared them with Nunes. As Bloomberg View reported, earlier this month, Susan Rice, Obama’s national-security adviser, had used a process that allowed her to request that the masked names be revealed to her. Rice had to log her unmasking requests on a White House computer, which is how Trump’s aides knew about them. Nunes and the White House presented this as a major scandal. “I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story,” Trump told the Times, adding, while offering no evidence, that Rice may have committed a crime.

It is now clear that the scandal was not Rice’s normal review of the intelligence reports but the coördinated effort between the Trump Administration and Nunes to sift through classified information and computer logs that recorded Rice’s unmasking requests, and then leak a highly misleading characterization of those documents, all in an apparent effort to turn Rice, a longtime target of Republicans, into the face of alleged spying against Trump. It was a series of lies to manufacture a fake scandal. Last week, CNN was the first to
report that both Democrats and Republicans who reviewed the Nunes material at the N.S.A. said that the documents provided “no evidence that Obama Administration officials did anything unusual or illegal.”

I spoke to two intelligence sources, one who read the entire binder of intercepts and one who was briefed on their contents. “There’s absolutely nothing there,” one source said. The Trump names remain masked in the documents, and Rice would not have been able to know in all cases that she was asking the N.S.A. to unmask the names of Trump officials.

Nunes is being investigated by the House Ethics Committee because, in talking about the documents, he may have leaked classified information. But this is like getting Al Capone for tax evasion. The bigger scandal is the coördinated effort to use the American intelligence services to manufacture an excuse for Trump’s original tweet.

The intelligence source told me that he knows, “from talking to people in the intelligence community,” that “the White House said, ‘We are going to mobilize to find something to justify the President’s tweet that he was being surveilled.’ They put out an all-points bulletin”—a call to sift through intelligence reports—“and said, ‘We need to find something that justifies the President’s crazy tweet about surveillance at Trump Tower.’ And I’m telling you there is no way you get that from those transcripts, which are about as plain vanilla as can be.”

I know we're supposed to be upset that someone in the intelligence community leaked the story of that freakshow Michael Flynn (a man with a top security clearance who went on TV and accused Hillary Clinton of being a pedophile) talking to the Russian ambassador about lifting Russian sanctions because it shows the government using secret information for political purposes. Of course, others would call such a leaker a patriotic whistleblower so ...

This, however, is truly an abuse of intelligence for political purposes. There is no other way to look at it. It's appalling. And the president himself publicly smeared Susan Rice in truly egregious fashion. I've never seen anything like that. He owes her an apology. But she'll have to stand in a very long line and be prepared to wait forever to get it.

(Heather Parton blogs under the pseudonym Digby at the blog site she created: Hullabaloo and also writes for Salon and ourfuture.org

-cw

COHEN TALK-Jonathan Karl said it all yesterday when he asked White House press  secretary Sean Spicer to admit, "that the president is NEVER going to release his tax returns." (Emphasis added.) Spicer's stunning response was, "We'll have to get back to you on that," strongly

suggesting the truth had been spoken.   

There have been some rumblings that Congress may have to subpoena Trump's tax returns to fully investigate Russian influence on his administration. I say absolutely. 

Congress must obtain Trump's long insincerely promised tax returns to know what dark agendas are at play now in the White House. Is Trump making decisions that secretly favor his private business interests? Do foreign powers have undue influence on him? American needs to know. 

Seriously, at what point do the American people suddenly wake up and realize they've been played for chumps? Was so-called Trump University not enough of a wildly flapping red flag? He campaigned with exactly the same boiler room pitch, for anyone with ears to hear it. 

Oh, sure you're going to release your tax returns, just like every other modern president, just as soon as the so-called audits are over. Sure you will. 

At one point Trump claimed that there was an audit in progress on his tax returns from the last 2-3 years. But he won't voluntarily release ANY of his tax returns from any year EVER.  What about the latest one? Does he automatically get to claim an audit mulligan on that one too? 

It was easy enough as a campaign ruse to accuse President Obama of not being transparent enough. Once in office, Trump has lurched dramatically in the opposite direction, hiding the White House visitor logs, which even President Obama, allowed to be made public. In fact, Trump has in less than 100 days reversed himself on EVERYTHING he ever said before, and even his most diehard supporters are starting to notice. 

What's the so-called security issue about publishing these visitor logs AFTER the visitors have left, for example? It used to be called history, and we should not have to wait for 5 years after he's left office before we know about it, long after all the damage has been done. 

Nobody's asking for advance notice, if it is a security issue which it is claimed to be. In fact what are we being told that it is impossible to protect visitors to the White House if anyone knows who is coming? 

So, one is led to ask, is it impossible to protect Trump himself if anyone knows that he is in the White House? 

Oh that’s right, that would never happen much, since he spends most of his time at Mar-A-Lago playing golf. Oops, sorry, another security breach there. With that slip all the evil doers can anticipate when and where he'll be playing golf.  

The American people need to know who Trump is meeting with and why, whether it's at the White House or anywhere else. He works for us now, or at least he's supposed to. If he doesn't want that job, he should not have it.

(Michael N. Cohen is a former board member of the Reseda Neighborhood Council, founding member of the LADWP Neighborhood Council Oversight Committee, founding member of LA Clean Sweep and occasional contributor to CityWatch.)

-cw

PERSPECTIVE--In the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s shocking decision to depart from his stated foreign policy objectives and attack the Syrian government, critics of Bashar Al Assad’s regime are clamoring for further Unites States involvement. The costs and merits of regime change are debatable, but the conversations surrounding such policies often fail to address the most critical question in the event of Assad’s removal: What next? Grappling with the full scope, scale, and complexity of the Syrian conflict is vital to ensuring that any transition process maintains the stability of the region.

Yet even before the U.S. government scrambles to look into its crystal ball, there are key groups that ought to be involved in future decision-making: Syrians and Syrian Americans.

On Wednesday, New America welcomed Ammar Kahf and M. Yaser Tabbara, the co-founders of the Omran Center for Strategic Studies, to discuss the research that their organization has conducted on the issues that must be addressed on the road to peace. Robert L. McKenzie moderated the event, and he explained that bringing Syrian and Syrian-American voices into the formulation and design of policy is one of his primary goals as the founding director of the Muslim Diaspora Initiative at New America.

The need for these voices goes beyond shallow appeals to diversity and inclusion — rather, they cut to the heart of our most cherished ideals: democracy, representation, and sovereignty. Kahf and Tabbara both offered visions for reform built on strong, democratic principles, but grounded in the realities of the modern Syrian state.

Kahf laid those realities out bluntly by explaining the dysfunctional role of the Syrian state security network. The multiple state security apparatuses, often with overlapping jurisdictions, foster an unstable system, mired in inter-agency conflict and corrupt management. Kahf contended that Syrian state security’s destabilizing policies are rooted in a historical pattern of the Ba’ath regime, and the Assads in particular, sowing discord in order to consolidate power.

The country’s competing factions will need to place the construction of a transitional security and justice mechanism at the forefront of their agenda in order to ensure a stable political process.

Tabbara helped to establish the state of political organization in Syria by focusing on the Omran Center’s research on Local Administration Councils, often democratically elected bodies that provide services and serve political roles. While these councils have their issues with limited resources and fairness, they are also respected for their key roles in service delivery and their relatively stable governance grounded in local issues.

Tabbara argued that, compared to the councils, Assad’s ability to manage the regime’s territory has ceded much of the local administration of services and security to militias and warlords. While many among the foreign policy elite grouse about the potential for Syria to collapse the day after a regime change, Tabbara explained that many Syrians now see Assad as a uniquely harmful force:

One cannot imagine anything worse than hundreds of people being gassed, or tens of thousands of detainees who are being tortured, as we speak, to death in Assad prisons, areas that are under siege for months, if not years…. We have come to this point in time where I can tell you, as a Syrian, the Libyan scenario looks like a very good scenario for me, compared to what we have right now.

That sentiment was countered by a Syrian-American audience member who questioned the speakers on the unstable conditions that nearly always emerge as conflicts come to a head. Tabbara and Kahf explained that their proposals are aimed at reckoning with that instability. Tabbara pointed to some local administrative councils’ success in easing sectarian violence on the borders between different zones of influence.

This dialogue about the political needs and goals of the Syrian people comes as a breath of fresh air after a week of media hand-wringing about the interests of international actors in the conflict, like the U.S., Iran, and Syria. Trump has fired a warning shot, but it is far from clear what his next move will be. In the meantime, everyone from policymakers and state officials to journalists and students should be taking the time to listen to what the people directly affected by this humanitarian crisis have to say. There’s no silver bullet to achieving peace in a conflict as complex as this, but it’s obvious that the people for whom this is a lived reality have a deeper understanding of these issues — and, more importantly, a bigger stake.

Years after the conflict has faded from foreign minds, Syrians will be the ones who have to live with the legacy of this conflict. After decades of numerous failed American interventions and feints at democracy in the region, it’s vital that we learn from what has come before and finally listen to the will of the people.

(Krish Lingala writes for Pacific Standard magazine … where this perspective was first posted.)

-cw

LA WATCHDOG--We are still ploughing through the more than 1,800 pages of budget material that was dropped on us this afternoon, trying to figure out what games the City is playing to finance this year’s budget deficit and how it proposes to close the $245 million budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017. 

However, based on the City’s General Fund Budget Outlook, our Back to Basics City is having a difficult time living within its means as the cumulative budget deficit over the next four years is expected to be almost $300 million despite a $675 million increase in revenues. 

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, the last full year of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s second term, the City is projecting a surplus of $10 million, a pittance considering that over his nine years in office, revenues are expected to increase by $1.9 billion, or 42%. 

This modest surplus of $10 million is pure fiction.  It does reflect the real world.  

The Budget Outlook does not take into consideration any new labor contracts for the police, firefighters, and civilian workers.  This will cost the City at least $200 million a year more than projected.

The annual required contribution to the City’s two underfunded pension plans are understated as it is unlikely that the return on invested assets will meet the assumed rate of return of 7.5%, an overly optimistic rate per investment professionals such as Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway fame and fortune.

The City may also follow the example of CalPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System), the country’s largest pension plan, by lowering its investment rate assumption. This would add hundreds of millions to the annual required contribution. 

The City is also not addressing the deferred maintenance on its streets, sidewalks, parks, trees, building and facilities, and the rest of its deteriorating infrastructure. The deferred maintenance ticket has been estimated to be north of $10 billion a year. 

If the City were to have a comprehensive plan to repair and maintain our streets and sidewalks, it would require at least another $100 to $200 million a year.  

The City also needs to strengthen the Reserve Fund to an amount equal to 10% of General Fund revenues, a level recommended by the City Administrative Officer.  The $100 million Budget Stabilization Fund would also be included in the rainy-day fund calculation.  This will require an investment of $250 million over the next five years. 

This additional investment in the Reserve Fund will benefit from the issuance of $60 million of Judgment Obligation Bonds, a done deal given the City’s desperate need for cash. 

In his State of the City address, Mayor Eric Garcetti said that “our work will not be measured by what we do for ourselves today.  It will be remembered for what we leave behind for our children and grandchildren.” 

Despite all the fine rhetoric and lofty goals, we are doing a “disservice” to the next generations of Angelenos as we will leave them with a broken system and tens of billions in liabilities that will devour their future as they will pay for the sins of the past. 

Back to Basics means that the City of Los Angeles must learn to Live Within Its Means. 

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

-cw

LA WATCHDOG--On Thursday morning, Mayor Eric Garcetti will deliver his State of the City address at City Hall where he will present his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2017. And over the next two weeks, the Budget and Finance Committee headed by Paul Krekorian will conduct a review of the budget, even though the major points have already been negotiated behind closed doors.     

In California, elected officials at all levels of government are constantly complaining about the need for more money, even though we are one of the highest taxed states in the county.  At the same time, something is not right as we have the worst roads in the nation and vital services are being crowded out by ever increasing pension contributions.    

Over the past year, the tax burden for the four million Angelenos has ballooned by almost $1.6 billion.  This includes not only taxes initiated by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council, but our proportionate share of numerous other taxes and fees dumped on us by the County, State, and other governmental entities.  This ding of $1.6 billion does not include the Soak the Rich income tax surcharge (Proposition 55) that would have added $700 million to the tab.  

Most of us do not recognize the enormity of these tax increases because they are spread over multiple jurisdictions.  They also come in many different shapes and forms: property taxes, parcel taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, vehicle license fees, storm water taxes (aka the Rain Tax), income taxes, and a 20% tax on our DWP power bill.  

LIVE LA BUDGET MEETING COVERAGE BEGINS THURSDAY—ON CITYWATCH

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For the average Angeleno, the $1.6 billion hit averages about $390 per person, or $1,560 for a family of four. 

To put it in a different perspective, if all these new levies were placed on our houses and apartments, our property taxes would balloon by almost 30%. 

Or if the $1.6 billion in new taxes were to be paid via the sales tax, it would soar to 11.4%. 

But wait, there’s more! 

The City, the County, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and State, are seriously considering an additional $2.7 billion in new taxes.  

This does not include any initiatives from the Los Angeles Unified School District. Nor does it include any direct taxes to pay for our share for the tens and tens of billions of the unfunded pension liabilities, although a good argument can be made that a portion of these new and contemplated taxes will indirectly fund our ever-increasing pension contributions.  

Combining the contemplated taxes with the 2016 and 2017 tax increases, the hit is $4.3 billion, or $1,100 for every Angeleno, $4,400 for a family of four and would result in a 16% sales tax (up over 80%), and an 80% bump in our property taxes. 

So, when our elected officials come pleading poor mouth, you know the not so proper response to these money grubbing, self-servicing politicians.  We are not your #*@^&+# ATM.   

++++++++ 

The following is a list of new taxes by jurisdiction which details our proportionate share.  They are followed by taxes that are being considered by the financial wizards who occupy City Hall, the County Hall of Administration, the AQMD, and the State Capitol.  You can also access the attached spread sheet for a one page summary.  

NEW TAXES 

City of Los Angeles (100%) 

Measure HHH – The $1.2 billion homeless bond that was approved by voters in November will cost us an average of $65 million a year for the next 30 years. 

DWP – The five year, $1 billion rate increase in our water and power rates that was approved by Mayor Garcetti and the City Council will provide the City with $150 million in tax revenue by 2021.  

Metro (40%) 

Measure M – The half cent increase in our sales tax that was approved in November is projected to raise $750 million a year. Our 40% share is $300 million. 

County (40%) 

Measure A – The parks parcel tax will raise about $100 million.  Our 40% share is $40 million. 

Measure H – The quarter cent increase in our sales tax that was approved in March will provide $375 million to fund services for the homeless. Our 40% share is $150 million. 

Los Angeles Community College District (75%) 

Measure CC – The $3.3 billion bond that was approved in November will cost us an average of $150 million over the next 30 years. 

State of California (10%) 

Measure 51 – Our share of the $9 billion educational facilities bond that was approved in November is $50 million a year for the next 30 years. 

Measure 56 – Our share of the $1.4 billion cigarette tax that was approved by the voters in November is $140 million a year. 

Gas Tax (SB 1 - The Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017) – Governor Jerry Brown recently approved the $5.2 billion a year increase in the gas tax and vehicle license fees. We are on the hook for $520 million a year.  

TAXES UNDER CONSIDERATION 

City (100%) 

Street Bond – The Measure M Local Return revenue from Metro and the funds allocated to local governments in the new Gas Tax reduced the street repair bond to $2 billion from $4.5 billion.  This will cost us $120 million for the next 30 years. 

The Affordable Housing Linkage Fee will raise an estimated $100 million a year from new residential and commercial developments. This fee will eventually flow through to us as there is no such thing as a free lunch. 

County (40%) 

Stormwater Tax – The County is considering a Rain Tax (“God created rain and you figured out how to tax it.”) to finance a $20 billion storm water capture plan over the next 20 years.  Our share will be $400 million a year. 

South Coast Air Quality Management District (25%) 

The SCAQMD is discussing an increase in the vehicle license fee of $30, raising an estimated $300 million.  This money will fund smog reduction programs in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties.  Our share will be an estimated $75 million.  

State (10%) 

Sales Tax - Senator Bob Hertzberg is pushing to expand the sales tax to include services.  Our share of the $10 billion increase will be $1 billion. 

Split Roll – Property taxes on commercial and manufacturing property would be based on market value and not on the values established under Proposition 13.  Our share of this $10 billion tax haul will be $1 billion. 

UC Bonds – The State is considering asking the voters to approve a $2 billion bond to finance facilities for the University of California and the California State University systems. Our share will be $12 million a year for the next 30 years. 

Park Bonds – The State is also considering placing a measure on the ballot to raise $3 billion to pay for the repair of the neglected State Parks.  Our share will be $18 million a year for the next 30 years. 

The creative geniuses that are responsible for our Structural Deficits, our lunar cratered streets and failing bridges, and tens of billions in unfunded pension liabilities will no doubt create other schemes to pick our pockets. They will select a hot button issue that appeals to our sympathies that has been underfunded because they are not willing to prioritize their spending, preferring to answer the demands of the campaign funding leaders of the City’s public unions. 

Tax Angeles … to be continued!  Unfortunately!

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

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LA WATCHDOG--Contrary to the recommendation of Controller Ron Galperin, the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution on Wednesday approving the issuance of up to $60 million of Judgment Obligation Bonds.  The net proceeds will be used to replenish the City’s Reserve Fund that has been the source of the cash needed to pay for a slew of lost law suits that far exceeded the $68 million in the City’s budget. 

Under this plan to fatten up the Reserve Fund, the City will be on the hook for annual payments of almost $8 million for the next ten years, a total of $80 million.  This includes approximately $20 million in interest payments to wealthy California investors who love double tax exempt bonds, money that the City could devote to priorities such as our streets and sidewalks, Vision Zero (safe streets), or the homeless.  

This annual payment of $8 million is in addition to the $9 million payment associated with the $50 million of Judgment Obligation Bonds issued in 2010 to fund, in part, the legal payments involving the May Day demonstrations in and around McArthur Park in 2007.  

Galperin, on the other hand, recommends that the City save $20 million in interest expense by forgoing the issuance of the Judgment Obligation Bonds.  He proposes to restore the balance of the Reserve Fund to a level above the targeted threshold amount of $279 million (an amount equal to 5% of the General fund revenue) by sweeping unspent departmental funds at year end into the Reserve Fund. 

Financing everyday operating expenses (including legal judgments) and the Structural Deficit with long term debt is a fool’s solution that is embraced by Paul Krekorian, the Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee of the City Council.  Not only is it poor financial policy, it burdens the next generation with the sins of the past.  

At the City Council, Krekorian argued that it was prudent for the City to preserve the option to issue the Judgment Obligation Bonds because of the great uncertainties facing the City.  These include projected budget deficits, revenue shortfalls, pressure on the Reserve Fund, a downturn in the economy, less money from Washington, a downgrade by the rating agencies, an adverse stock market, and a lowering of the investment rate assumption for the City’s two pension funds.  

But this argument of preserving the City’s options is pure baloney.  When City Hall smells new sources of cash, it is full speed ahead.  There is no more dangerous place than standing between the members of the City Council and new cash for the General Fund unless it is between them and campaign contributions from real estate developers. 

The Judgment Obligations Bonds would not have been necessary if Krekorian and his Budget and Finance Committee had followed the recommendation of the City Administrative Officer to increase the Liability Claims budget to $120 million, a number approximating the prior year’s expenditure of $110 million, almost a double of the budgeted $68 million.  

If the Krekorian and the Budget and Finance Committee had been true stewards of the City’s treasury and our money, they would not have needlessly diverted $213 million from the Reserve Fund to the General Fund over the last three years to pay for everyday operating expenses.  After all, revenues during this three-year period increased by almost $600 million. 

If the Reserve Fund had not been raided, its balance would be almost $500 million, negating the need for any Judgment Obligation Bonds. 

Krekorian also said that the lowering of the investment rate assumption for the City’s pension plans would be a “disserve to the public” because it would increase the City’s pension contributions by hundreds of millions.  But that begs the question of how he proposes to eliminate the City’s unfunded pension liability that is estimated by Moody’s Investor Services to be more than $20 billion. 

But it is Krekorian and his Budget and Finance Committee that are doing a “disservice to the public” by continuing to kick the budget can down our lunar cratered streets and broken sidewalks.  We have rivers of red ink, Structural Deficits, massively underfunded pension plans, and some of the worst streets in the nation. 

As a first step in reforming our City’s finances, deep six the Judgment Obligation Bonds and save us $20 million. 

And then Krekorian and his Budget and Finance Committee need to develop a long term plan that will require the City to Live Within Its Means. Is that too much to ask of the highest paid City Council in the country?

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

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LA WATCHDOG--Pension and postretirement benefits have slammed the finances of IBEW Local 18, the union that represents more than 90% of the employees of our Department of Water and Power.  Over the last five years, the liability for postretirement benefit obligations has tripled, increasing by $4 million to $5.9 million.  At the same time, the net worth of Local 18 has taken a 70% hit, declining by almost $5 million, from $7.1 million to only $2.2 million.  

While dues from members has grown by $1.4 million (17%) to almost $10 million (1.25% of salaries) since 2011, increased costs for pensions and postretirement benefits have contributed to annual losses, including a ding of $1.6 million in 2016. 

All this makes for a very nice pension plan for IBEW Union Bo$$ d’Arcy, the Local 18’s long time business manager.  But if you talk to his members, they are not complaining about his generous compensation or his rich retirement package.  To the contrary, they believe he has earned every cent given what he has accomplished for his more than 8,000 members who enjoy above average wages and benefits.  

Over the years, the IBEW Labor Premium has been estimated to be in the range of $200 to $250 million.  This does not include the impact of overly restrictive work rules and burdensome staffing requirements.  

The key to Union Bo$$ d’Arcy’s success is that he has enjoyed the support of many members of the City Council who have benefitted from his generous campaign contributions.  He has also intimidated those who would dare to oppose his contract demands.  Just ask Bernard Parks who barely beat an incompetent opponent who was bankrolled by the IBEW in 2011.  

The undue influence of Union Bo$$ d’Arcy is why we must insist on an open and transparent discussion of the ongoing labor negotiations between DWP and the IBEW.  While personnel costs now exceed $1.5 billion, there are many other issues besides wages, healthcare benefits, and pensions that need to be addressed.  These include overtime, outsourcing, work rules, staffing levels, benchmarking of operations, training (especially after the recent audit of Controller Ron Galperin), and the Joint Training and Safety Institutes.  

As suggested by the Los Angeles Times, there needs to be public hearings that lay out the expectations and goals of the Department and the City and their impact on Ratepayers.  These hearings should also disclose the status of the current negotiations as the existing contract expires on September 30. 

We should also be informed on a timely basis (say 24 hours) of any offers and counter offers made by either party during the negotiations.  

The cost of all offers or proposals should be analyzed by a qualified independent third party who, unlike the City Administrative Officer and the Chief Legislative Analyst, is free from political pressure.   

All communications between the participants and their staffs must also be disclosed on a timely basis.  

Finally, there must be adequate time for a “full and public analysis” of the contract before it is placed on the agenda of the City Council.  

In the past, we have been presented with a “done deal” that is automatically approved by the City Council and Mayor without any real input from Ratepayers who are paying the bill.  In this era of political upheaval and uncertainty, now is the time for our Elected Elite to endorse reform and implement an open and transparent process in labor negotiations that will help restore our trust and confidence in City Hall and the Department of Water and Power.  

A little sunshine never hurt anyone.

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

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RESISTANCE WATCH--In high school, I had a girlfriend who was involved in student government and all sorts of good works. While she paid attention to all that was happening in those years of the early '60s, she essentially was a moderate — certainly not some movement rebel. Or so we thought ... until one lazy, Sunday afternoon. As we aimlessly "cruised the drag" of our small town in a '54 Chevy, we were paused at a red light across from a root beer stand where some teens were hanging out. Suddenly, my "moderate" girlfriend lunged halfway out of the backseat window and shouted "Wake up and piss, kids, the world's on fire!"

I stared at her wide-eyed and whopperjawed, wondering where that came from.

I've thought of that moment recently as I've seen instance after instance of the innate rebelliousness of the American people erupting across the country in surprising ways, unexpected numbers, and with astonishing intensity. No need to wonder where this comes from, however. The outbursts are a spontaneous, rapidly expanding mass rejection of Trumpism.

Our Twitter-president plays to his most frenzied partisans with his daily rata-tat-tat of executive orders and public fulminations — firing at refugees, federal judges, Chuck Schumer, the media, Nordstrom, the EPA, Mexico's president, Elizabeth Warren, laws that protect consumers from Wall Street greed, Sweden, Arnold Schwarzenegger and ... no telling who's next.

But while some delightedly squeal at his wild moves, many more see Trump as not merely unpresidential, but bull goose bonkers! And dangerous — recklessly using the enormous power of the presidency as a personal cudgel to attack, stigmatize and seriously harm individuals, entire religions and races, the Bill of Rights and our nation's basic values of tolerance, fairness and opportunity for all. In a twist of ironic justice, The Donald's deep darkness has sparked a prairie fire of mass opposition, raging political activism and movement organizing for the long haul.

Many of us are activists already, ranging from occasional campaigners to us warped gluttons for full-time, full-tilt punishment. No matter your past involvement, with our ship of state entering dire straits, each of us must do a bit extra. And we can help focus the anger roiling the countryside by sharing some how-to-make-a-difference tips to friends, co-workers, et al. "Traump-atized" by Washington's new extremist kakistocracy (government by the worst).

After all, millions of our neighbors have long been disengaged, viewing the political scrum as somewhere between irrelevant and repugnant. But, suddenly they're back — alert not only to Trump, but to their congress critters and to that menagerie of freaky, rightwing corporate mutants that Trump-Pence has put in charge of our government. In January, one red-district Texan told a reporter: "I think of politics the way I think of my car. I just want it to run [without my spending] a lot of time." Only a few weeks into the Trump-Does-Washington spectacle, he learned a fundamental lesson: "You get the politics you work for."

 So, it's time to get to work. This is not just a one-time, resist-and-dump Trump campaign we're undertaking, but the mobilization of a long-term grassroots movement to reject the systemic corporate takeover of our elections and government at every level, from our local school boards to our White House. 

Simply ousting Trump won't do that. The job, then, is as simple as it is difficult: To have a People's government, we must build it. 

Democracy requires us common folk to join together, with each of us doing as much as we can, as strategically as we can, for as long as we can. IndivisibleGuide.comOurRevolution.com, and MovementVote.org are just a few organizations you can check out to help you get active and start building a more democratic way of governing.

 

(Jim Hightower is a columnist for OtherWords as well as a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, and a member of the Public Citizen board.)

 

OTHER WORDS--It’s that time of year again. Flowers are flowering, spring is springing, and across the country college graduates are graduating with their newly awarded degrees held high.

Also high is the mountain of student debt most of these recent graduates are taking on. All told, 44 million Americans now owe student debt — including 7 in 10 graduating seniors last year, who owe an average of $37,000.

If you’re not one of those tens of millions of people, you might’ve missed how out of control student debt has become. Total student debt is approaching $1.4 trillion, surpassing auto loans and credit card debt.

Between job searches and apartment hunting, post-graduate life is already stressful — and student debt makes it worse. The average monthly payment for borrowers in their 20s is $351.

If you’re making minimum wage, that’s 48 hours of work for your loans alone — never mind shelter and food. No wonder more than 4 in 10 have either stopped making payments or fallen behind.

There is nothing positive about student debt.

Many indebted graduates begin their work lives with damaged credit histories and greater economic vulnerability. They’re less able to start a business or work in public service. And they delay starting families and buying houses, which makes them less wealthy in the long run.

The only winners are the predatory loan servicing agencies.

One reason for the explosion of student debt is that states and the federal government have drastically cut education spending, forcing students and parents to pick up the costs. Public college spending is still $10 billion below pre-recession levels.

To make things worse, Trump’s secretary of education, billionaire Betsy DeVos, is reversing protections put in place by the Obama administration to protect student loan borrowers by regulating loan servicing companies and capping interest rates at 16 percent (at a time when bank loan rates are below 6 percent).

It shouldn’t be this way. And it doesn’t have to be.

Ask the millions of people who attended college between 1945 and 1975 and graduated with little or no debt. Millions of baby boomers paid tuition at the great flagship universities of this land just by working summer jobs. That wasn’t on a different planet — it was mere decades ago.

Some places are experimenting with new models. At the city level, San Francisco has taken the lead by creating a free tuition program for anyone who’s lived in the city for at least a year, regardless of income. It’s funded by a voter-approved tax on properties worth over $5 million.

At the national level, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Pramila Jayapal recently introduced the College for All Act, a plan Sanders got into the Democratic platform last summer. It would eliminate tuition and fees at public universities for those with incomes under $125,000 — all paid for by a small sales tax on Wall Street trades.

These ideas could mean a brighter future for students to come. But what about for those already crushed by debt?

For them, there’s a silver lining. When you owe $50,000, the bank owns you. But when the bank’s trying to bleed you for $1.4 trillion, you own the bank.

It’s time for the 44 million student debt households to flex our muscles and demand change.

(Chuck Collins writes for Other Words … where this piece was first posted.)

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RESISTANCE WATCH--After fierce nationwide opposition forced the Obama administration to halt the Keystone XL pipeline, President Donald Trump has given it the green light and the climate movement has vowed to fight it once again. (Image via Rainforest Action Network)

Kicking off a week of actions targeting the institutions financing the controversial Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipelines, activists on Saturday protested at banks in 25 cities to shine a spotlight on the roll they are having on climate destruction.

"It's back—and so are we," reads the call to action. After fierce nationwide opposition forced the Obama administration to halt the project, President Donald Trump has given it the green light and the climate movement has vowed to fight it once again.

The peaceful demonstrations are "designed to shine a spotlight on the the four key financial institutions bankrolling the KXL pipeline— Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and TD Bank—and pressure them and the broader financial community to pull out and 'defund' the project," said the Rainforest Action Network, which is organizing the week of protest.

In addition to demonstrating outside banks, activists across the country are also planning a banner drop in Los Angeles and a protest targeting local government in San Francisco throughout the week of action, which will culminate on Earth Day. Find an action near you here

"The KXL is a bad idea, full stop. It's bad for the climate, for clean water, and for communities all along the route of this pipeline," said Rainforest Action Network's Scott Parkin.

"This is part of the Trump plan to 'unleash fossil fuels' in the U.S., which is terrible on every level—it flies in the face of science and the very real climate change crisis; it shackles the U.S. to an outdated and dirty energy system; it sets us back in the race to lead in clean energy technology; and it's an environmental disaster waiting to happen," Parkin continued. "Because pipelines fail, all the time. And we will be stuck with the toxic mess and the bill—while the oil industry friends of the president and the secretary of state get even richer."

Activists will share updates and images from the week of action on social media with the hashtag #defundKXL

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

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RESISTANCE WATCH-"I do not want followers who are righteous, rather I want followers who are too busy doing good that they won’t have time to do bad." -- Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk 

So I added to the opening of the Butcher Haggadah (guaranteed shorter than ten minutes) the main point of Passover: We were slaves then and now we’re free, and a good friend said: “Are we really?” (I have very cynical friends.) 

Lots of folks are freaked, scared, and/or overwhelmed about the future and the world. Action is the only answer, the best antidote. 

That’s why Ken has asked me to help curate a Resistance corner here. In my attempt to be most helpful and not duplicate efforts already underway, I’m continuing to reach out to determine our best place in this burgeoning movement. Keep your opinions, thoughts, suggestions, and criticisms (of course!) coming, please and thank you! 

First, upcoming events: 

Join MeetUp: Los Angeles #RESIST here to keep up with all of the various events happening nearby. 

As you’ll note, for instance, on Friday evening (5 – 8 p.m.), Representative Grace Napolitano is holding a town hall forum on immigration issues in El Monte. 

Many members of Congress are holding events or town halls while they’re home. 

Have you attended a congressional town hall? Tell me about it, please! 

Then there’s a Tax March in downtown Los Angeles this Saturday (Tax Day!) leaving Pershing Square for City Hall at 11 a.m. 

From the event organizers: 

April 15, 2017: Join us in a march from Pershing Square to City Hall, and demand Trump release his returns! Donald Trump works for us, and we demand transparency and accountability. 

Speakers include U.S. Rep Ted Lieu, State Sen. Mike McGuire, U.S. Rep Brad Sherman, County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, Tudor Popescu from Indivisible, Justine Bateman, Kristina Wong, and leaders from grassroots and labor organizations. 

There will also be awesome music and a YUUUGE CHICKEN DON!!
 

Way bigger picture, I’m finding the MoveOn.com recess resistance materials to be both complete and inspiring. I often avoid their stuff because they always ask for money but now that’s not nearly as annoying as the alternatives. 

I’m loving the youthful, inspiring organizing of the Run for Something organizing.

Check out this story, as an example, complete with de facto organizing guide! 

Why We Run: Nelson Roman  

Nelson Roman serves as a City Councilor in Ward 2 of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Last year, he was elected on a community uplift-focused platform -- and as an openly gay, HIV-positive, formerly homeless person. Below, he talks with us about owning his story and proudly serving his community. 

Note that these organizers are encouraging new people, young people, formerly apolitical people, to run for local office, not for Congress. In every city and community, there are boards and commissions, committees and neighborhood councils, union boards, religious leadership opportunities, service organizations -- all needing and seeking quality involvement and participation.

At an event I covered, ten outstanding women were honored as State Senator Anthony Portantino’s Women of the Year 2017; one of the honorees, Alta Skinner, called out to do just that and bring along a young person: “…[S]he was most proud that her three grandsons all volunteer in various ways, that they’ve experienced ‘the warm, cozy feeling of supporting the community.’ However, she added, ‘our organizations are all “graying out” and our number one priority must be to bring one young person along with you, onto a board or a committee. If we each turn one young adult on to the lifelong love of service, to community involvement and volunteerism, then we’ll have done our part.’” 

In the recent Glendale City Council elections, the young, progressive candidate Mike Van Gorder picked up 2378 votes in an election where 7885 won one of three seats. He’s become active in the Democratic Party and we’ll see him again. 

For sane, meaningful means of sustaining long-term activism, I’m loving the work of these two: Jennifer Hoffman’s Weekly Action Checklist for Democrats, Independents, and Republicans of Conscience  and Dear Wendy's Weekly Steps of Activism

The significant work of Swing Left is on point. Check ‘em out; put in your zip code and they’ll find the best, potentially swingable congressional district closest to you and offer you a specific, myriad list of easy and less easy ways to help organize in that district. For me, I’m thinking it’d be great to see Representative Stephen Knight face a viable challenger. 

Please let me know what you think and what you’ve found and what would be most helpful. And keep sharing all of your thoughts, sources and resources. I am grateful to you all!

 

(Julie Butcher writes for CityWatch and is a retired union leader now enjoying her new La Crescenta home and her first grandchild. She can be reached at juliejbutcher@gmail.com or on her new blog ‘The Butcher Shop - No Bones about It.’) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ANIMAL WATCH--Let's say you’ve discovered some mouse droppings, maybe even seen a mouse or rat scurrying by one night.  So you decide to get some rat poison and put it out confident the problem has been solved. The rat eats the poison and makes its way across the yard where it catches the eye of a cat, a hawk, an owl that move in to catch this easy prey because it has slowed down or is moving erratically.  Let's say the neighbor’s cat catches it, eats it.  A few days later the heartbroken neighbor is posting signs wondering where their cat has disappeared to while a distraught neighbor a few doors over is calling dead animal pick up for the cat lying under the bushes. 

This is not an unusual scenario.  Using poison to kill rodents creates a serious hazard to cats and local birds of prey. 

From PetMD – 

Strychnine is a very strong and dangerous poison that is often added to bait for killing rats, moles, gophers, and other rodents or unwanted predators. Having a very short duration of action, the clinical symptoms of strychnine poisoning typically appear within ten minutes to two hours after ingestion, resulting in sudden death.

Patients often will die due to spamming of the muscles involved in respiration, resulting in strangulation. Cats of all ages are equally susceptible to the adverse effects of strychnine.

The following are some of the symptoms of strychnine poisoning:

- Limb rigidity
- Stiff muscles
- Uncontrolled violent seizures (sometimes in response to bright lights or noise)
- Severe spasms leading to arching of the head, neck and back in extreme hyperextension (opisthotonus)
- Elevated heart rate
- High body temperature
- Breathing difficulties, inability to breathe,
- Vomiting

So how do we get rid of rats without creating lethal danger to our wonderful local cats, hawks and owls, all of whom provide the BEST way to kill rats and mice?  

First of all a message to all the kind people providing food to their local feral population, do NOT put food out and keep it out.  Put it out at specific times in the day and pick up whatever the cat doesn’t eat.  That food attracts other creatures as well. Cats will know when the food is coming especially if you call them every time. 

We also discourage the use of glue traps as it is a particularly cruel and inhumane, time consuming way to kill a rodent.  The mouse runs onto it, sticks, and is terrified while its struggles to escape. It will either die slowly of dehydration or starvation. The traps can rip off fur and skin while they struggle, and rodents have attempted to chew through their own limbs to get free. Other animals can get trapped on it as well. 

There is now a popular, new and effective trap that is being used by responsible residents. An electric trap. Small box with lure at back. Only mice and rats can fit in and are immediately zapped.  More humane and less messy than the old fashioned snap traps. Just Google electric rat traps. 

Here are some websites that give excellent instruction on ways to discourage rodents from visiting at all including the use peppermint oil - Add 20-30 drops of peppermint essential oil to each cotton ball and lay strategically around your home. Refresh every week or so, or whenever you notice the smell is fading.) Did you know rodents hate to cross aluminum foil? 

MORE INFO 

 

(Dianne Lawrence is a dog trainer and the publisher of The Neighborhood News. Reach her at: whatagooddogla.com/) 

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ANIMAL WATCH-At the March 14 LA Animal Services Commission meeting, Brenda Barnette included in her GM Oral Report a short but very precise and lucid overview of the Animal Services’ widely publicized hearing held on March 1. This was the inquiry to determine whether two Pit Bull that killed a tiny Pomeranian and then inflicted injuries which may have resulted in, or contributed to, the death of the dog’s owner, Valentin Herrera, 76, should be declared “Dangerous Animals.” 

Barnette concluded with a clear and succinct statement: “Those dogs have been humanely euthanized.” 

She later told a CBS reporter that she may have been confused and claims she “misspoke.” However, Barnette was voluntarily summarizing one single event---not discussing a number of cases or under stress that might have muddied her memory. 

None of the Commissioners has experience in animal control, but they are thoroughly familiar with LA Municipal Code SEC. 53.18.5.  HEARING PROCEDURES AND LICENSE REVOCATIONS, since, with Commissioner Larry Gross presiding, they serve as the Appeals Board in Dangerous Animal and Barking Dog hearings and review these cases regularly. In fact, they had heard four such appeals that morning. 

But, with three attorneys present, not one asked about the euthanasia of the Pit Bulls prior to an appeal period. GM Barnette’s statement was delivered so unequivocally that no one raised the basic question to determine the right of LAAS to euthanize: “Did the owner relinquish the dogs?” 

On Monday, March 20, after my CityWatch article appeared, LA Killer Pit Bulls Euthanized…Are Dog Attacks Now an Epidemic?, which quoted Barnette’s statement, I received numerous communications from reliable sources that the Pit Bulls in the Lincoln Heights attack were very much alive and being held at North Central Animal Shelter awaiting the end of the owner’s appeal period on March 22. 

At 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 21, I electronically submitted a California Public Records Act Request (CPRA) to Commission President David Zaft and GM Brenda Barnette, asking for the records in their database regarding the status of these dogs. 

Very promptly, at 2:20 p.m. I received all requested material, and a surprise! An entry by a shelter supervisor at approximately 3:45 p.m. on March 20, states: 

“Administration has notified me that (Redacted name) is appealing DA 171117 NC and the determination that her dogs are “dangerous” (A1679513 AND A1679514). These dogs are to be held until the appeal is decided.

How could Brenda Barnette, who has more than six years as General Manager at one of the largest animal-control agencies in the U.S. and is the person who signs the decisions made at all Dangerous Animal hearings, forget there is an appeal period before allegedly dangerous dogs can be euthanized under law? 

Also, there were two Assistant General Managers, Louis Dedeaux and Dana Brown, in the room at that time. Either could have slipped a note to their boss or whispered in her ear that she “misspoke.”  (Asst. GM Louis Dedeaux has over 25 years in field and shelter experience at LA Animal Services and is the person who approves ALL animal euthanasias in City shelters.) Since neither of them corrected her, there was no reason for anyone present or those listening to the "On Air" broadcast to doubt Barnette’s word. 

ALARMING INFORMATION FROM KENNEL IMPOUND 

Here’s a little more information garnered from the Kennel Impound Cards: The two Pit Bulls involved in the February 2 attack on Mr. Herrera and his dog are named, “Rocky” (60 lbs.) and “Blue,” (83 lbs.) Both have a DOB of 02/03/2015. Neither is neutered or microchipped. There is no indication of dog licenses. Their physical condition does not indicate any negative findings but the description for each under OBJECTIVE FINDINGS, reads, “Patient will not allow full examination – SCARED.” A note for Rocky’s skin condition states: “MUZZLE SOILED W/BLOOD O/W OK.” 

When CBS spoke to the grandson of the victim, Valentin Herrera, he was upset that the owner is requesting return of these dogs. However, an expert opined that it is possible the decision to appeal has as much to do with limiting potential civil liability. Simply allowing the dogs to be euthanized could be interpreted as an admission that they are dangerous, he said. The owner may believe there is a possibility of overturning the ruling by the LAAS Hearing Examiner, either on an appeal to the Commission or by filing an action in Superior Court. 

If the owner prevails, it could mean the dogs will be released to her and returned to the Lincoln Heights location or merely moved to a location outside the city limits. 

THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME GM BARNETTE HAS “MISSPOKEN.” 

Brenda Barnette -- who had no animal control or law-enforcement experience when she was appointed to be LA City’s “Top Dog” by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- has “misspoken” or “misinformed” on numerous occasions, with very costly results to taxpayers, animals and LAAS employees. 

Here are just a few of the published examples: 

Aug. 5, 2011 -- Guns, Ammunition Seized at L.A. Animal Shelters as Probe Expands  

Oct. 21, 2011 -- Phew! All of L.A. Animal Services' Guns Are Accounted For, Audit Finds.  

Feb. 14, 2012 – Six Animal Shelter Captains Benched Pending Vending Machine Contract Probe  

June 13, 2013 – Los Angeles Animal Services Captains Cleared   

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

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

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

July 23, 2017 -- LA Animal Services' Employee Mauled by Pit Bull ... Who Cares? 

SHOULD “MISMANAGEMENT” BE EXCUSED? 

Barnette’s annual salary is now over $230,000 (Comparatively, Governor Jerry Brown makes $190,100, and the Assembly Speaker and Senate President pro tem are each paid $119,734, according to the LA Times.)  

Shouldn’t we expect that she would not “misspeak” or “misinform” (without correction) on a matter as serious as Pit Bulls that are alleged to have killed a man and his dog? 

Should the Commission (or anyone else) believe her on other issues -- including her insistence that Los Angeles is almost “No Kill,” although streets in many areas are rife with stray dogs and cats and thousands of homeless animals are merely being transported to other cities/states or “fostered” without a permanent home? 

After more than six years, shouldn’t Barnette be expected to know the basic elements that are a regular part of her job? 

Barnette’s “mismanagement” has systematically devastated a vital public safety department and endangered her staff, the public and animals; but there have been no consequences. 

Is that because Barnette is automatically excused from “misspeaking” or “misinforming?” Or, is it because the political leadership of Los Angeles does not want to bring attention to its own rampant systemic manipulation of the truth?

 

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

ANIMAL WATCH-GM Brenda Barnette announced at the LA Animal Services’ Commission meeting on March 14, that the two Pit Bulls impounded after the tragic attack which killed Valentin Herrera, 76, and his small dog last month have been euthanized. 

Mr. Herrera and his 5-year-old Pomeranian were walking in the 2600 block of Lincoln Park Blvd. near his home on February 2, when two male Pit Bulls which had escaped from a nearby yard grabbed the tiny dog, "shredding his body like a piece of material,” according to a neighbor. An eyewitness said that the owner of the Pit Bulls saw the dogs attacking but took no action to stop them.

When he tried to save his best friend, Mr. Herrera was also attacked, suffering severe injuries to his head and arms. 

He underwent surgery but remained in a coma and never regained consciousness. According to a statement by a family member on their GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses, "...after about 3 weeks of being in the hospital the doctors have told us that his brain is no longer functioning. The family and I have decided to let him go and rest, because we know he has been through so much."

Mr. Herrera died on February 28, just before a scheduled hearing on the attack by the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services on March 1.

Brenda Barnette told the Commission that because the hearing was so emotional for both the victim’s family members who attended and the owner of the Pit Bulls, reporters were allowed in the room but no cameras were permitted inside.

KABC reported that, although the owner of the dogs did not want to be on camera, “at the hearing he said he was on medication at the time and in shock.” 

A disabled woman, who claimed she lives on the same property as the owner of the Pit Bulls, previously told KABC  that “the dogs were her ‘security’… against intruders who invaded the yard to steal fruit from its trees.” An earlier report stated that the dogs were not licensed. 

Another resident of Lincoln Heights, Stephanie Grizelle, informed CBS that the same two Pit Bulls had killed her small therapy dog, Tulula, four days earlier, as her two young children watched. She added that both children required therapy. 

Valentin Herrera was a steelworker who came to Los Angeles from Jalisco, Mexico. He purchased the home in Lincoln Heights in 1996. His son, Luis, described his father as a strong, loving man and wonderful father. Mr. Herrera leaves behind his wife of more than 50 years, Anita, children and grandchildren, and a shaken and grieving community.

THE INDIRECT VICTIMS OF DOG ATTACKS 

Pit Bull attacks or other severe dog attacks, whether fatal or not, affect far more than the obvious victim. They impact neighbors and others who witness the grisly event or the aftermath. A family is often robbed of a parent, child, spouse, or animal companion. Even if the victims live, they may be permanently grossly disfigured and mentally traumatized -- unable to recover a previous lifestyle or continue a career. If a child is severely injured or killed, future hopes and dreams are lost forever. 

Additionally, the family of victim of a dog attack can often suddenly find themselves with overwhelming unexpected veterinary, medical and/or funeral bills.

ARE PIT BULL ATTACKS BECOMING EPIDEMIC? 

A prior CityWatch article about the attack on Valentin Herrera cited numerous recent local Pit Bull attacks, but this is not a problem unique to Los Angeles. 

Here are just a few of the many attacks reported across the country from December 2016 – March 2017: 

Woman undergoes surgery after attack by 2 pit bulls 

On March 16, 2017, a 63-year-old woman underwent surgery after she was attacked by two pit bulls in Pembroke, NC, according to the Red Springs Citizen. Both dogs were euthanized for rabies testing. The woman’s identity and condition were not yet disclosed because the case is also being handled as a “communicable disease investigation." 

Early during 2016 a pit bull attacked and killed a Lumberton child, the report said, prompting the city to adopt an ordinance targeting dogs deemed “vicious.” A Pembroke woman lost an arm after being attacked last year by a Pit Bull. 

Pit bull attack in Bensenville IL leaves man with 30 bite marks   

On March 13, 2017, Chris Kazmierczak, 22, was walking to his car with a friend in Bensenville, IL, when he said he heard something running up behind him. "...(I) turned around to see what it was and next thing I know the thing was on my arm," he told WGN-TV. He described the attacking dog as a white Pit Bull, wearing a collar. His friend was finally finally able to kick and pull the dog away, but Kazmierczak will need to undergo rabies treatment if the animal isn't found. 

Also, there is a gaping wound on his left arm and about 30 bite marks. Kazmierczak does construction for a living and said he won't be able to work with his hands for at least two months. 

Joliet’s Pit Bull Problems So Bad Police Dept Hires Dangerous Dog Officer  

Feb 22, 2017- Joliet will hire a part-time police officer whose sole job will be to follow-up on dangerous dog calls. Last year in July the city revealed that they had 11 dangerous dog hearings concerning 17 dog attacks in 7 months. The city admitted that most attacks were committed by pit bulls, but would not give exact numbers. In August, after that city report on dangerous dogs, another serious Pit Bull attack left a woman nearly dead.


Cape Cod, MA, records that Pit Bulls are top in dog bites  

So far this year, Yarmouth has seen at least three pit bull attacks on small dogs, one which led to the death of a 3-year-old terrier named Doc….the type of dog known as Pit Bull shows up more in reported attacks across the Cape than any other breed, according to the Cape Cod Times.

Between January 2016 and February 2017, Yarmouth logged 19 Pit Bull bites on dogs and people, according to data from the town's Board of Health. Not included was a recent incident in which a Pit Bull bit its owner, severing the top part of her finger when she tried to break up a fight between it and another Pit Bull, according to Yarmouth Deputy Police Chief Steven Xiarhos. 

Across the Cape during the same period, towns reported Pit Bull bites on humans and dogs 58 times. Pit bulls represented 12.6 percent of the breeds listed in the bite reports, but make up only 1.2 percent of the registered dogs on Cape Cod.  

Police Fatally Shoot Two Attacking Pit Bulls in Bushwick [NY] 

On March 11, 2017, police officers shot and killed two Pit Bulls that were mauling a man, according to the NYPost.com

NYPD reported that multiple officers rushed to an apartment near the corner of Hancock Street and Bushwick Avenue at roughly 10:30 p.m., where they found a 50-year-old man inside being attacked by the two dogs. The injured man, identified by the Post as Paul "Nitty" Davis, was rushed to Kings County Hospital.  

The dogs belonged to Devon Dixon, 26, a roommate of Davis, who said he had rescued them from a neighbor's yard after they had been abandoned, the Post notes.  Dixon recalled trying to beat the dogs back with a two-by-four board, but was unable to stop them until police arrived and shot both dogs. 

“But they had to, Nitty was losing a lot of blood," he told the Post

Pit Bull seriously injures four-year-old boy in Pocatello  

On Sunday, December 4, 2016, a four-year-old boy in Pocatello, Idaho, was attacked by a Pit Bull owned by his mother’s boyfriend, reports KIFI. The mother has custody of the child. 

The boy’s father explained that the “…attack damaged two of the boy's facial nerves, which control movements, like smiling. Other wounds damaged the spit glands, the upper lip and below one eye.” Surgery to repair the boy’s face took six and a half hours and more than 1,000 stitches, according to the father. He said the surgeon told him it was one of the worst cases he’d ever seen and they don’t know if his son would ever get back functionally and he will have a big scar. 

THE NATIONAL PIT BULL AWARENESS VICTIM page shows the faces and tells the stories of Pit Bull attack victims all over the country. The organization also provides the following statistics that show the increase in attacks: 

Pit bull attacks on humans in the U.S. have reached an epidemic level, increasing 773 percent from 2007-2014. In a 30-year study of dog attacks in Canada and the US, 3394 people were attacked by dogs in a fatal and disfiguring manner. 2,113 or 60% of the attacks were by pit bulls and pit bull mixes

FATAL PIT BULL ARCHIVES:   

From 2009 to 2016, the most recent 8-year period, pit bulls averaged 22.9 deaths per year, a 690% increase, according to U.S. Pit Bull Fatalities. 

Following are the listed attacks from June 2016 - Feb 2017: 

Valentine Herrera is the 508th American killed by a Pit Bull. 

  1. February 2017, Los Angeles County, CA
    Valentine Herrera, 76
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. January 2017, Fulton County, GA
    Logan Braatz, 6
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. December 2016, Cabell County, WV
    Isaiah Franklin, 6
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. October 2016, Staten Island, NY
    Daisie Bradshaw, 68
    Fatal dog attack involving pit bull(s) 
  1. September 2016, Shawnee County, KS
    Piper Dunbar, 2
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. August 2016, Jefferson County, CO
    Susan Shawl, 60
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. August 2016, Clark County, NV
    Derion Stevenson, 9
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. August 2016, Screven County, GA
    Michelle Wilcox, 30
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. July 2016, Honolulu County, HI
    Crisencio Aliado, 52
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. July 2016, Navajo County, AZ
    Kayden Begay, 3
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. July 2016, Wayne County, MI
    Elizabeth Rivera, 71
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. June 2016, Fresno County, CA
    Susie Kirby, < 1
    Fatal dog attack involving pit bull(s) 
  1. June 2016, Penobscot County, ME
    Hunter Bragg, 7
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. June 2016, San Joaquin County, CA
    Earl Stephens Jr., 43
    Fatal pit bull attack 

    (See more at U.S. Pit Bull Fatalities)

DogsBite.org provides Google State Map:  “California Fatal Pit Bull Attacks” 

 

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

ANIMAL WATCH-Before Brenda Barnette was hired as General Manager of LA Animal Services in 2010, the mantra for the Department was, at all times, “officer, animal and public safety.” Whenever there was a major disaster such as a fire or an earthquake, Animal Control Officers were placed on alert at all city shelters -- whether of or not they were ultimately dispatched to the emergency scene. 

The Animal Services’ Emergency Response Coordinator (for many years the well-known and highly experienced Captain Karen Knipscheer), once notified that a fire/disaster command center had been set up, and aware that the focus of fire and police personnel is to stop destruction and evacuate humans, would either go to the location or send a representative to advise that LA Animal Services was available to help with any animal-related need. 

But, in the current LAAS “Department Emergency Plan,” it states that, The Department of Animal Services will send an Agency Representative (AR) to the Police [Fire/Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control] Incident Command Post “ONLY when requested…” (Emphasis added.) 

On Monday, May 23, at 2:20 pm, a fast-moving fire was reported near the 13000 block of Wheatland Avenue above Lake View Terrace and at the border of the Angeles National Forest. Hundreds of city, county and federal firefighters joined to protect the multi-jurisdictional area. Spotter planes and water-dropping helicopters helped battle the blaze, which burned a total of about 185 acres. 

On that day, prompt response, the level of preparedness and expertise, and the wind-direction blew the fire away from structures and into the National Forest; no evacuation was required. 

However, notably absent to those who worry about pets and other animals in these situations (Lake View Terrace and other Valley areas still have substantial equine communities) was any announcement that LA Animal Services was on standby in case the wind-blown fire changed its course and headed toward populated areas.

City fire Capt. Daniel Curry told KTLA.  “The fire spread very rapidly due to the steep terrain and the status of the fuels in the area.” The south end of the fire, closer to homes, was part of the containment line, he said. Special attention was given to protecting structures in the Little Tujunga Canyon Road to Big Tujunga Canyon Road areas "as a precaution," according to Los Angeles Fire Department’s Erik Scott.

Angelenos are aware that fire season is approaching and that the “Big One” may rock Los Angeles at any time, putting their homes instantly in danger. The City advises us to be prepared. That message also applies to pets and large animals who will need to leave disaster areas with their owners or to be evacuated by LA Animal Services and taken to safety. 

But, recent changes in the allocation of funds for LA Animal Services by the Mayor and City Council have resulted in a lack of resources that have been the stalwarts of safety for animals during past emergencies. City Hall doesn’t seem to care much. 

While the Council Budget & Finance Committee easily allotted $800,000 of taxpayer money for a Feral Cat/Trap-Neuter-Release/Relocate Report so that feral cats can be released to roam unimpeded on residential and commercial property throughout the city and be sterilized using City funds, it rejected a request for ten badly needed animal control trucks as part of the replacement of the dilapidated and unsafe LAAS fleet not replaced since 2000 and 2003. 

The current situation is that the Animal Services’ entire fleet of animal control trucks (animal collection vehicles) needs to be replaced immediately. Some can no longer be driven safely on the streets and officers state that, even when sent for repair, they seem to break down almost immediately. 

Dangerous enough under normal conditions, but should trucks that break down or suddenly not start, with failing brakes and doors that fly open (both on the passenger cab and animal compartments) be allowed behind fire lines? 

This lack of assistance by Animal Control Officers to pick up pets trapped in homes during a fire or disaster, or to catch frightened animals that have escaped, could leave beloved furry and feathered family members behind to die. 

The Department is expecting (after unconscionable delays) to hire 30 new animal control officers soon; however, if there aren’t enough vehicles, they will not be able to work in the field. Even with 13 anticipated new vehicles that are tentatively expected within ten months, this will be fraction of what is needed to replace the current decrepit fleet. 

Even now, animal control officers that could be helping injured and stray animals and doing humane investigations are reportedly sitting in the shelters because of a lack of vehicles. 

This should be no surprise to Councilman Paul Koretz. 

During a report to the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee (chaired by Koretz) on September 16, 2015, at which Koretz feigned great concern about heat affecting animals in collection vehicles with inadequate ventilation or cooling, he was advised that the officers, animals and the public are endangered by the deterioration and poor mechanical condition of the fleet of collection trucks. General Services Fleet Director Richard Coulsen confirmed there are repeated breakdowns while officers are driving trucks which are “falling apart.” Koretz has never agendized this matter again. 

Coulsen announced at the May 24 LAAS Commission meeting that there is now authorization to order twenty-two trucks by the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year for another partial fleet replacement. Director of Field Operations Mark Salazar has subsequently recited a litany of fiascos occurring from LAAS designing totally unsuitable vehicles and then receiving new trucks that have such serious defects they have been returned to the manufacturer. In addition, he has noted the painfully slow process of upgrading vents on ten 2008 animal-rescue vans currently not in use because they lack an alternate air-circulation system. This left Commissioners and attendees obviously confused. 

After Salazar’s additional lengthy and convoluted excuses for all these mistakes, frustrated activist Michael Bell stated in public comment, “…I didn’t understand anything you said. It seemed one thing piled on another…this is just silliness.” He encouraged the Commission to “just get this done because it is obvious that General Services and Officer Salazar are not doing it.” 

With the current deficit in officers and equipment (the Department also has 33% less horse-hauling vehicles,) it is important for all small and large-animal owners to realize that, if a disaster hits, you may be on your own.

The following are some basic tips from experts for saving or safeguarding your pets and horses in a disaster. However, since each situation and animal is different, please talk with your neighbors, experts and community advisors and/or go on the Internet for a wide variety of information. (Plus, we invite any readers to leave comments to help.) 

Devise a disaster plan in advance, which includes -- but is not limited to -- these basics, and please microchip your pets and horses. 

SMALL ANIMALS: 

  1. Have a strong kennel/travel cage that can be securely latched ready for each pet.  (Keep it in a place easy to access quickly.) 
  2. Store or fill containers with enough water to sustain your pet for several days. 
  3. Have a tightly closed container filled with enough food for each pet (use the kind your pet regularly eats) for several da
  4. Keep a fresh supply of medications your pet takes (enough for several days).
  5. Have some toys/blankets familiar to the pet ready to take. 
  6. Practice placing your pet in a kennel/cage at least monthly, so that it is comfortable with the process.
    Rotate/replace food/water/meds every 3 to 6 months. 
  7. Have your pets’ licensing/microchip info handy to take, along with a photo of you with your animal(s). Keep contact information current on microchip and license.

LARGE ANIMALS: 

  1. Have a plentiful backup supply of water, and plenty of buckets available to take with you. 
  2. Halter/lead rope for every animal. (For smaller farm animals, keep transfer cages easily available.) 
  3. Training and practice. Make sure your animal loads in a trailer quickly and easily before an incident occurs. 
  4. Have an evacuation plan in place. Know where you expect to take your animal(s) and practice ahead of time. 
  5. Have special feed or medications set aside with easy access in an emergency. 
  6. Have your horses microchipped and update the contact information regularly
  7.  Have any licensing/other info ready to take with you, along with a photo of you with your    horse, showing any special markings on the animal.

                                                                       

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

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