DEMOCRACY REMEMBERED--The writer, politician, and anti-war activist Tom Hayden died yesterday at the age of 76, a year and a half after suffering a stroke. Now, as they say, he rests in peace—a man who devoted his life to making the world a place where the living can do the same. From helping to found the New Left in the 1960s right up to this turbulent election season, Hayden was a pillar of Democratic politics, a brilliant strategist and political thinker, and a leading advocate for a more just and equal society.
Here at The Nation we are especially saddened by the loss of a close friend. A longtime contributor to these pages, Hayden joined our editorial board just weeks before the attacks of September 11, which gave a new resonance to his life’s work. He attended most biannual meetings, often in person and sometimes by Skype, until September of 2015. His most recent piece for the magazine, published in April, was a moving essay about why he was supporting Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary:
So here we are, at the end of one generation on the left and the rise of another. Both camps in the party will need each other in November—more than either side needs to emerge triumphant in the primary. We still need the organizing of a united front of equals to prevail against the Republicans. It will take a thorough process of conflict resolution to get there, not a unilateral power wielding by the usual operatives. It’s up to all of us.
Though an irreplaceable voice for peace has been silenced, there will be one more reminder of Hayden’s unsurpassed ability for making readers understand what it takes to hold the powerful to account. Next spring, Yale University Press will publish Hayden’s final book, Hell No: The Forgotten Power of the Vietnam Peace Movement. For now, here is a sampling of some of the important work Hayden published in our pages.
A month after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as president, Hayden wrote a cover story titled “The Future Politics of Liberalism” (February 21, 1981), which showed that there was much more to his vision of the United States that the limited set of issues that usually falls under the rubric of politics:
We need more than ever a participatory society in which persons of all life styles believe that they matter, instead of the escapist culture that absorbs millions in irrelevance. We cannot contend with the coming of external limits unless we delve more into our rich inner potentials.
It comes down to moving from a wasteful, privately oriented, self-indulgent existence to a more conserving, caring and disciplined life style. The cornerstone has to be a renewal of self-reliance, not the outmoded frontier fantasy of the Republican philosophers, but the reassertion of personal responsibility in everything from conserving resources to decentralizing services to keeping ourselves well through self-care to practicing a “right livelihood” in business. It is a change from planned obsolescence to the production of useful goods that last, from consumer madness to the achievement of inner satisfactions, from the opulence of Jay Gatsby to the frugal self-assurance of Henry David Thoreau.
More important than money and technique in elections is the factor of motivation and vision. The Democrats (or someone else) will return to national leadership when they are inspired again.
The following year Hayden was elected to the California state assembly, where he passed important bills on education and animal rights and participated in a US Commerce Department delegation to Northern Ireland. In 1992, voters promoted him to the state senate, and a few years later he began writing often for The Nation.
“Unfinished Business: Can We Beat the Special-Interest State?” (September 9/16, 1996):
Though for the next few months most progressives like myself will work to re-elect Bill Clinton and a Democratic Congress, it is not enough o beat back the Gingrichites only to return to the Democratic status quo. The next great debate, reminiscent of the sixties, should be over the values and direction of the Democratic Party. The fight will be for the soul of our politics, not a policy-wonk debate about training vouchers for jobs that may not exist. I would begin with a public demand to free the political system from the suffocating grip of special-interest money, thus opening the possibilities of building a sustainable economy and environment for the next generation, instead of dooming them to corporate downsizing, a public sector dominated by prisons and a planet degraded beyond repair.
Too many of our elders in the sixties discarded their rebellious children or remained silent when the time came to take a controversial stand against their government. The question haunts me: now that authority has fallen to this generation, how will we be different from our parents toward those downsized to despair?
Twenty years later, with the Clintons likely to return to the White House, it’s still a good question.
More important than money and technique in elections is the factor of motivation and vision.
In May of 1999, Hayden wrote about “The Liberals’ Folly” in supporting the Clinton Administration’s bombing of Kosovo. Drawing on his memory of the fight against the Vietnam War, Hayden said it was the job of liberalism to critique such military adventures abroad, not to support them when Democrats were in the White House. The “confident expectation of an early military victory,” Hayden wrote, “is sinking in a Vietnam-style quagmire. Their political fortunes in 2000 are fast becoming collateral damage.”
In 2002, Hayden reflected on “The Port Huron Statement at 40”:
Perhaps the most important legacy of the Port Huron Statement is the fact that it introduced the concept of participatory democracy to popular discourse and practice. It made sense of the fact that ordinary people were making history, and not waiting for parties or traditional organizations.
The notion was used to define modes of organization (decentralization, consensus methods of decision-making, leadership rotation and avoidance of hierarchy) that would lead to social transformation, not simply concessions from existing institutions. It proved to be a contagious idea, spreading from its academic origins to the very process of movement decision-making, to the subsequent call for women’s liberation.
These participatory practices, which had their roots in the town hall, Quaker meetings, anarchist collectives and even sensitivity training, are carried on today in grassroots movements such as the one against corporate globalization.
The strength of organizations like the early SDS or SNCC, or today’s Seattle-style direct-action networks, or ACT UP, is catalytic, not bureaucratic. They empower the passion of spontaneous, communal revolt, continue a few years, succeed in achieving reforms and yet have difficulty in becoming institutionalized.
But while hierarchical mass organizations boast more staying power, they have trouble attracting the personal creativity or the energy of ordinary people taking back power over their lives. Participatory democracy offers a lens for looking at all hierarchies critically and not taking them as inevitable. Perhaps the two strands–the grassroots radical democratic thrust and the need for an organization with a program–can never be fused, but neither can one live without the other.
The Port Huron Statement claimed to be articulating an “agenda for a Generation.” Some of that agenda has been fulfilled: The cold war is no more, voting rights for blacks and youth have been won, and much has changed for the better in the content of university curriculums. Yet our dreams have hardly been realized.
The Port Huron Statement was composed in the heady interlude of inspiration between the apathetic 1950s and the 1960s’ sudden traumas of political assassinations and body counts. Forty years later, we may stand at a similar crossroads. The war on terrorism has revived the cold war framework. An escalating national security state attempts to rivet our attention and invest our resources on fighting an elusive, undefined enemy for years to come, at the inevitable price of our civil liberties and continued neglect of social justice.
To challenge the framework of the war on terrorism, to demand a search for real peace with justice, is as difficult today as challenging the cold war was at Port Huron. Yet there is a new movement astir in the world, against the inherent violence of globalization, corporate rule and fundamentalism, that reminds us strongly of the early 1960s. Is history repeating? If so, “participatory democracy” and the priorities of Port Huron continue to offer clues to building a committed movement toward a society responsive to the needs of the vast majority. Many of those who came to Port Huron have been on that quest ever since.
Increasingly, Hayden turned his attention to how that quest could be linked up with similar ones around the globe, including among those dispossessed by the forces of neoliberal globalization. After attending the World Social Forum at Porto Alegre, Brazil, in early 2003, Hayden wrote that “an alternative” to global capitalism was emerging in Latin America:
Instead of NAFTA’s corporate escape from New Deal-style regulation, the new agenda would be an extension of the most progressive elements of the New Deal to global society, a new social contract in place of market fundamentalism. Globalization from the bottom up. Instead of NAFTA-style agreements that solely protect foreign investors, this alternative model would offer enforceable protections to workers, women and the environment as well–on both sides of the border. Instead of sweatshops and child labor there would be unions and literacy programs. Instead of damming rivers and slashing rainforests, there would be conservation programs for future generations.
As he concluded, “Powerful new coalitions for change are being birthed.”
The same week that issue of The Nation hit newsstands, the United States began bombing Iraq. As the war foundered and those promised WMDs mysteriously disappeared, an anti-war movement began to gain steam, and Hayden had plenty of wisdom to offer about how best to proceed. In “How the Peace Movement Can Win” (December 17, 2007), Hayden proposed engaging in a “domestic war” to take back control of the government in the 2008 elections and end the war. The United States was “approaching a similar chasm in public opinion” as the one that tore the country apart in the late 1960s. “With a majority of Americans wanting and expecting a withdrawal from Iraq, the outcome of 2008 may depend on who has the greater will to win.”
Another piece worth revisiting is Hayden’s essay from the Nation of April 16, 2012, “Participatory Democracy: From the Port Huron Statement to Occupy Wall Street,” in which he reflected on the similarities and differences between the two movements a half-century apart:
I don’t know whether history begins anew or just repeats its sputtering cycles again and again. What is clear enough is that the Occupy movement began without pundit predictions, without funding, without organization, with only determined people in tents, countless Davids taking on the smug Goliath in spontaneous planetary resistance. While Occupy could not and would not agree on making detailed demands, it did agree, as noted earlier, on “direct and transparent participatory democracy” as its first principle.
There is endless speculation these days about the future of Occupy Wall Street. Since I was pleasantly surprised by its birth, I am not one to predict its growth. I prefer to wait and see. Across the Western world, the smoldering division is becoming one between unelected wealthy and foreign private investors and the participatory democracies of civic societies with their faltering elected governments.
Hayden was critical, however, of what he saw as the Occupiers’ unwillingness to sully themselves by working with elected officials to enact at least modified versions of the sweeping changes they proposed. Among the new generation of activists, he said, there is a broad suspicion of seeking reforms that require alliances with top-down organizations, especially with progressive elected officials.
The same dilemmas arose in the ’60s in the relationships between SNCC and the national civil rights leadership, and between SDS and the liberal Democrats we blamed for starting the Vietnam War. In retrospect, however, it’s impossible to reach a majority, much less the 99 percent, while rejecting coalition politics.
Nevertheless, some Occupy theorists seem to believe they can do so. For example, Micah White, a brilliant editor at Adbusters, writes that “an insurrectionary challenge to the capitalist state” will be mounted by “culture-jammers” who create “fluid, immersive, evocative meta-gaming experiences that are playfully thrilling and [that] as a natural result of their gameplay” a social revolution will arise as “pure manifestation of an anonymous will of a dispersed, networked collective.” It is as if the pure insurrectionary act, memorialized as performance art, is more important than the construction of any alliances, or any consequences that flow from it.
Ultimately, however, he thought the two movements had much in common:
It is time for a participatory New Deal, to bring the banks and corporations under the regulations and reforms they have escaped through runaway globalization. This year marks the first presidential campaign in our lifetime when the gluttony of Wall Street, the failures of capitalism, the evils of big money in politics and a discussion of fundamental reform will be front and center in election debates. No doubt the crisis that gave rise to Occupy will not be fixed by an election, but that’s beside the point. Elections produce popular mandates, and mandates spur popular activism. It’s time to organize a progressive majority, and the vision and strategy of Port Huron is worth considering as a guide.
And so it still is. Goodbye, Tom.
GUEST WORDS-First let me declare that I am a liberal and a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party. And I have voted for most tax increases in the past for schools, infrastructure and the like.
Not this time.
I’m fed up with our political “leaders” and their patrons – developers and union interests that treat local politics as their piggy bank. We’ve all seen the absurdly lavish salaries, from the DWP to City Hall, and the shockingly generous pensions and lifetime health insurance they bestow upon themselves. Personally, I just received notice of a 29% increase in my health insurance. And yet I am being asked to fork over more taxes?
I don’t think so. Not until some balance returns to the system.
The problem is corruption across the whole spectrum of local government that sees the few (the political class and their patrons) benefit off the backs of millions of taxpayers who get no say, and no seat at the table.
It was reported that Herb Wesson (president of the City Council) abruptly cut off the public commentary phase at a recent hearing. As in: please shut up and go away you annoying peons. Arrogant? You decide.
I live on the eastside and read recently that the city has simply given up on EVER repairing the concrete streets we have in this part of town because they are too expensive to fix. Huh? The city to whom I pay thousands each year in property and other taxes can’t do the most basic thing like fix the streets?
So that is why I am asking you: why continue to be a sucker?
Why continue to be an enabler? Why not stand up and say: no more tax increases until some balance finds its way back into the equation.
Ask yourself this: what are the great ideas our local public servants have in mind for the gigantic sums of money they haul in now? (LA City alone has an $8.7 BILLION budget). Fix our streets? Repair sidewalks? As if.
No, they want to commit billions to bringing the Olympics here and removing concrete from the sides of the LA River -- concrete installed to control flooding, which the LA Times just reported remains a long term threat.
It’s just plain nuts. LA is like a homeowner whose house has holes in the roof, termites, leaky plumbing – and decides to build a shiny new pool! It would be funny except it isn’t anymore.
The joke is on us unless we speak up and demand they begin to address OUR basic needs. If not we’ll find ourselves living in a third world city with ruble for streets, failed infrastructure, and banana republic politics.
Oops. We’re already there.
So I am voting against most tax increases, and I urge you to do the same until some accountability returns to the system. And it’s not just on philosophical terms. It’s also on the “merits” and fine print of most of these issues.
Case in point: Measure M.
I’m all for a wise and sensible plan for a comprehensive public transportation system for LA and surrounding cities, and could support a tax increase to achieve this. But the key phrase is “a wise and sensible plan.”
Measure M is neither. Forget the fact that we are being asked to increase our sales tax to a full 2% of every dollar spent -- FOREVER. As in no sunset clause. As in: this-tax-will-never-ever-ever-stop. Forever. Taylor Swift should write a song about it.
But my fundamental problem is not with the tax. It’s with what’s planned for it.
Basically the idea is to build a few more choo-choo trains. This when Metro admits there has been a 10% drop in transit boardings from 2006 to 2015 despite a 9 BILLION dollar investment. They like to point to a small uptick of ridership on the new Red line, without explaining how the last 9 billion they spent led to a 10% DROP. Despite population grown in the millions?
We have at least 1200 square miles to serve in the greater LA region. Rail transit works well when areas served are geographically dense, and riders are close enough to walk to stations. But this will never be the case in LA.
The whole multi-billion dollar scheme is based on a faulty premise and last-century thinking.
I have a radical proposal: forget choo-choos. We should embrace next-century thinking. Why not think outside the box and invest in a system of automated, driverless units that work like Uber. Call them transport pods. Get Elon Musk and the best minds from Silicon Valley to design a “driverless, people mover system” that carries 6-8 people each. It could be like a small van with three rows of seats. And they would be electric.
We could afford tens of thousands of these for less than the price of a few absurdly inefficient trains. They could roam they city 24/7 like Uber drivers do now, and you would hail them with an app. There would be a share component so that open seats would be matched with other riders coming and going. Plus there would be room for transporting groceries etc. And they would take you from point to point.
Far fetched you say?
Uber’s driverless cars will be on the road within five years. This plan could be up and running in ten years or less, DECADES sooner that the choo-choos proposed and we could have an emission free, smart system that would really work.
Forget last century thinking and wasting billions on a system destined to fail. Vote No on Measure M, and take a hard look at the other tax increases they want you to approve.
And pass the stoopid test.
(Michael Wilson is a director and producer who has lived in Los Angeles for thirty-five years.)
DEEGAN ON CALIFORNIA-In California, smoke is in the air, along with a warm glow of anticipation, as voters are asked to legalize weed statewide by voting “yes” on Prop 64, the California Marijuana Legalization Initiative.
From the “Golden Triangle” at the northernmost edge of the state, to the Mexican gateway at our state’s southern extreme and from the ocean to the deserts and the Sierras, weed is consumed by Californians daily. It’s illegal under Federal law, but legal for some under a state law that allows for the dispensing of “medical marijuana.”
If passed by the voters on November 8, Prop 64 will allow anyone age 21 and older “to possess one ounce of cannabis for recreational use, and to grow up to six plants for cultivation.” It’s an honor system; nobody can imagine these restrictions will be binding or really enforceable.
But what else do we need to know? What might we not be considering beyond just the headlines? Will unanswered questions about the marijuana ballot proposal be a “buzz kill” to the high life? Growers, dealers and consumers may rejoice, but there is a whole as yet unformed infrastructure that is still wide open for review.
What are we looking at? There are farm-workers and growers, the taxman, the bankers, the Feds, felons, cartels, vapers, quality control, producers and abusers…plus lots of weed. Figuring out how to tax, regulate and control marijuana will have to follow its legalization.
The “Golden Triangle” of Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties, situated contiguously north to south at the very top of the state -- with two of them fronting the Pacific Ocean where fresh, moist air helps cultivation, similar to the wine counties south of the triangle -- is allegedly the largest cannabis-producing region in the United States and possibly the world. This is where urban legend supposes that 60 percent of the nation’s herb may be grown. The problem with illegal trade, though, is that there are no metrics that quantify the scope of production at this “ground zero.” Note also that the votes for passage will be harvested from the major population centers like the SF-Bay area, Los Angeles and San Diego.
Proponents for the “get high on weed” campaign run the gamut, trying to appeal to everyone. Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, who is possibly running for higher office, has endorsed legalization. (He wants to be Governor in 2018 and a victory for Prop 64, a campaign that he is so closely identified with, could boost his chances.) Newsome chaired the state’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy (BRC) to study legalization. Stoner Tommy Chong (“Dave’s not here”), whose personal brand promotes getting high, already markets “Chong’s Choice, a line of flower buds” in Washington state where weed is legal. The California Democratic Party and the California Nurses Association union are among the many other supporters. The “no” group is politically non-partisan, including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) and the California Republican Party, along with many law enforcement agencies.
Giving the people what they want -- there are many who like getting high often, sometimes daily -- is not such a bad idea, especially if the state can monetize it and bring in new tax revenues. Long ago, the “sin taxes” on tobacco and alcohol were enacted to make what some considered morally dubious products acceptable. It was a balancing act in which the known risks of tobacco and alcohol were offset by the cash revenues they could bring into state and local economies.
Legalization of pot was on the California ballot in 1972 via Prop 19; it was defeated by a not-even-close seven percent spread. But that was before medical marijuana, drug courts, drug diversion programs, the boom in drug recovery programs and the general decriminalization of marijuana for personal use were part of the picture.
Two states, Colorado and Washington, have recently legalized marijuana without dire consequences. Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved a “Rocky Mountain high” by a landslide thirty-nine point spread; and Washington state’s voters emphatically voted yes for legalization with a seventeen point spread. California Proposition 215, the Medical Marijuana Initiative was passed by the voters in 1996.
But, before you vote “yes” on Prop 64 for legalizing pot, here are some questions to think about – a possible hangover from any marijuana high:
- Big Tobacco - Will small producers be protected by encouraging a “craft” production paradigm (like craft beer), or will Big Tobacco be allowed to dominate the production process?
- Growers - Who can grow weed? How do we keep this a “down home” business and not have the grower community be swamped by carpetbaggers rushing into the state, like some reenactment of the 1849 California Gold Rush? Will a residency period be required?
- Labor - Will the marijuana industry be labor-friendly? Does marijuana cultivation and processing need to be unionized to protect workers’ rights and provide for collective bargaining? For mom and pop growers, probably not. But for Big Tobacco-like growers, probably yes.
- Taxation - How will cannabis be taxed, and where will the tax revenues go? Taxation is one of the most compelling reasons to legalize weed. Colorado, with 12% of our state’s population, collected $1 billion in marijuana tax last year, reports Fortune magazine.
Is it conceivable that Golden State weed sales could provide the state with billions of dollars of tax revenue annually? Today, “sin taxes” (taxes on cigarette and alcohol sales) are projected in the state budget to bring in under one-half-billion dollars in revenue. Weed, with potentially billions in taxes, would be the biggest sinner/winner of them all. What to do with the tax, and the numerous claims for a piece of it, will be very important. Careful thought must be given to programs that can benefit from the new revenue stream so the state doesn’t just rely on drug taxes the way addicts rely on drugs.
- Banks - How to deal with the Feds and banks? Federally insured banks will likely not allow drug money to process through their systems, because possession of weed, or drug money, is against federal law. A banking alternative needs to be created to eliminate the dangers associated with a cash business. Medical marijuana dispensaries are routinely robbed of both their cash and their merchandise. That cannot be allowed to happen here.
- Cartels - What about the Mexican drug cartels? How will they react to the possible evaporation of the currently illegal market to which they are the principal suppliers? Legalization may shut off the demand for their product, or, if they feel threatened by market forces, force them into aggressive tactics to preserve at least a market share, if not their dominance of it. They could copy new templates for quality control, create their own branding, and push their product through their well-established underground distribution networks, seriously underselling California growers and denying the state treasury of sales and excise taxes.
- Felons - Will ex-felons be allowed to be employed in the marijuana industry? The cultivation and marketing of weed will be a big business, with or without Big Tobacco, and this new industry may grow into a large employer. Will any of the thousands who have been convicted of marijuana-related crimes be allowed employment? The BRC says let them work. What will lawmakers say?
- Vaping and the contact high - How will weed and vaping commingle, as vapers exhale lungs-full of pot smoke into the general population? Some may like the unexpected “contact high,” but it’s a public safety issue.
- Medical use - What should be done about pricing so as to stabilize both the medical and recreational marijuana markets? With a pricing imbalance, one sector or the other could inflate demand in order to force up prices.
- DUI - What to do about people driving while stoned? How long does the effect of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary psychoactive, mind-altering ingredient found in the cannabis plant) stay in the blood system, and what impact will that have on a field sobriety test that could come days after use of weed? What about people, many of them, that smoke weed daily? Should they be allowed to drive if they ingest more than a threshold level, and what would that level be?
- Purity - How to tell what’s in your weed? Microsoft may have an answer to this with a software program that tracks marijuana plants from “seed to sale” that will keep tabs on sales and commerce. If industry standards are agreed on by a yet to be formed trade association, Microsoft’s software could include those quality designation labels as part of their tracking system. This would give the retailer and consumer a complete provenance record from planting the seed to inhaling the smoke.
- Water--Where’s the water coming from to irrigate pot cultivation in the midst of an ongoing drought?
Lots to think about as you consider your vote on Prop 64. And there’s more to it than the stoner generation’s anthem (dating back to 1966 and held sacred ever since) penned by newly minted Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan: “Everybody must get stoned.”
(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-As we head to the last weeks of the most contentious election cycle in my memory, I’ve come to realize that our choice is much bigger than who will reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Certainly, we need to consider party platforms, candidates’ views on the economy, foreign policy, SCOTUS nominations, immigration, and civil rights. We need to look at which candidate is best qualified to serve as president.
Perhaps it’s neither irony nor a coincidence that in the first election where a woman is on top of a major party ticket, her opponent has a decades-long history of sexual objectification and attempts to humiliate women. This election is a referendum on feminism and the way we see women in a fast-evolving world.
For decades, Donald J. Trump has included his “bad boy” objectification of women as part of his brand. He’s made countless guest spots on Howard Stern, where their shtick typically included rating, ranking, and discussing female celebrities in graphic sexual terms. In December 2004, Trump initiated a discussion about then 18-year old Lindsay Lohan that was capped by his observation that “deeply troubled women are the best in bed.” He approved of Stern referring to his daughter Ivanka as “a piece of ass” and jokingly agreed when Stern’s sidekick Robin characterized him as a predator.
Trump shares his ideas about women whether or not he believes the mic is hot. In 1994, he told Primetime Live’s Nancy Collins that “putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing,” blaming the demise of his first marriage to putting wife Ivana in a management position at one of his Atlantic City casinos.
Three years earlier in May 1991, he was quoted in an Esquire magazine profile about bad press, “You know, it doesn’t matter what they write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass. But she’s got to be young and beautiful.”
The Republican candidate’s Twitter account has been his arsenal to disparage the looks of any woman who criticizes him, from Arianna Huffington to New York Times columnist Gail Collins, as well as a Who’s Who of celebrities.
Trump’s surrogates and campaign staff appear on cable news panels and interviews to defend his words as “entertainment” but his words denote his character and he has escalated his M.O. since he first declared his candidacy. Many of us watched Mr. Trump taunt Megyn Kelly when she asked him during a primary debate about his insulting attacks on female celebrities. He’s come to the defense of Roger Ailes and Jeffrey Epstein as “nice guys” and said if a woman is sexually harassed at work, she should find a new job. On abortion, Trump has backpedaled on his statement that any woman seeking abortion should receive “some sort of punishment.”
By now, we’ve all heard the 2005 tape where Trump (“egged on by the host to say bad dirty words,” per Melania) bragged how his fame allows him to grab women’s vaginas or kiss them without consent. Trump, along with Melania, Rudy Giuliani and other surrogates, have attempted to minimize his words as “locker room talk” or what happens when two teenaged boys get together.
In a recently shared Entertainment Tonight report from 1992, Trump jokes about a ten-year old girl on the escalator at Trump Tower: “In ten years, I’ll be dating her.”
As of this article, at least ten women have come forward alleging Trump had touched them without their consent, a list that includes People’s Natasha Stoynoff. Trump has denied all allegations, shouting at his rallies that the women weren’t “hot enough” for him to assault. “Have you seen her? She wouldn’t be my first choice.”
At the second debate, Secretary Clinton brought up Alicia Machado, the Miss Universe Trump taunted with names and had subjected to a humiliating personal training session in front of members of the press. Mr. Trump’s early morning tweets challenged followers to watch her “sex tape.”
And of course, at the third debate, Trump muttered under his breath, calling Secretary Clinton a “Nasty Woman,” which has become the rallying cry for feminists.
Secretary Clinton spoke what many of us have been thinking each time Mr. Trump attacks women. “Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. He goes after their dignity, their self-worth and I don’t think there is a woman anywhere who doesn’t know what that feels like. So we now know what Donald thinks and what he says and how he acts toward women. That’s who Donald is.”
We do need to examine the issues and the platforms to determine which candidate we believe aligns with our ideals for our country. That’s the responsibility we all carry as participants in a democracy.
But beyond this, our vote may serve as a strong message to every man who has touched or grabbed us without our consent, to every classmate, teacher, husband, partner, colleague, boss, family member, and stranger who has attempted to humiliate us in order to boost his own ego. Our vote is a message to every man and woman who has downplayed the importance of rape, who has unfairly victim-blamed, and who has referred to aggressive references to sexual assault as “locker room talk” or “boy talk.” Assuming all men are rapists waiting for opportunity is a tremendous insult to men, as well. As Howard Beale screamed in Network (1976), “We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore!”
Our vote can also deliver the message that women can be intelligent, accomplished, educated, and strong. And maybe one of us can even be the president.
(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
URBAN PERSPECTIVE-The race for the White House is effectively over. Hillary Clinton will be the 45th president of the U.S. The question now is what can Americans expect from a Clinton White House? She has laid out pages after pages of policy wonk positions on civil and women’s rights, civil liberties, taxes, jobs, the economy, health care, education, military preparedness, and combatting terrorism on her campaign website. Most of them are the almost obligatory positions that Democratic presidential candidates have taken on the big-ticket issues.
However, it’s one thing to spell out an agenda on paper and another to get any of it through. She’ll almost certainly kick things off by trying to make good on the pledge that she made in a speech at a Michigan auto and aircraft parts manufacturing plant near Detroit in August, 2016. She promised a big spending plan to the tune of nearly $300 billion on a vast array of infrastructure building and repair projects -- roads, bridges, airports schools, sewer systems and so on. The projects would create new jobs for thousands.
Clinton made it clear that she expects the rich to foot much of the bill by demanding hefty tax hikes on them. She added the final FDR touch to her big spending plan by promising to plop the legislation on Congress’ table within her first 100 days in office.
Clinton knows full well the perils ahead. The biggest threat is the Congress that she’ll have to go to with her big spending package. A GOP-controlled Congress will be as hostile to her big budget and tax increases as it was to Obama’s.
With a big White House win, Clinton is on far more solid ground when she tries to follow through with the pledge. This will give her the breathing space needed to get parts of her jobs, education, health care, and infrastructure overhaul programs through.
A Democratic take-back of the Senate is absolutely a must be when it comes to the Supreme Court. Arizona Senator John McCain has openly saber rattled for the GOP to block any Clinton high court pick. Clinton almost certainly will have the chance to pick one, two, or even three more justices to the bench. The judges she will choose will be in the mold of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. They will not be radical ideologues of the left. They will be judges with long standing court experience, solid legal credentials, and the highest ratings from the ABA and other legal groups. They will deliver safe and predictable votes on everything from women’s and civil rights to stemming environmental abuses.
Clinton can’t and won’t try to avoid the problem that has been perennially the single biggest tormenting lightening rod for black-white discord, namely, wanton police violence against blacks and minorities, and the astronomical numbers of blacks in America’s jails and prisons.
Her Oval Office to-do list is a mix of old and new proposals on police and criminal justice reform. They will meet with a wall of intense opposition, stonewalling or disregard by conservative Democrats and GOP congresspersons and state legislators, police and prison unions, and victim rights groups. To get one or more of her justice initiatives through Congress she’ll need a lot of help from Democrats within and without Capitol Hill. She’ll get lots of help here from civil rights groups and criminal justice reformers.
Clinton’s policies on foreign affairs, military security, the fight against terrorism and checking Iran’s nuclear ambition, will be more muscular than Obama’s. She won’t send in troops to Syria. But she’ll be tough on sanctions, and enforcing a no-fly zone there. She will back with weapons and logistical support any faction with a pronounced tilt toward the U.S. that purports to be any kind of real alternative to ISIS and the Assad regime.
She’ll rigorously monitor Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, cut not a penny from U.S. military financial backing to Israel, while making the obligatory nod on paper to a Palestinian state. She will take the hardest of hard lines on Russia’s saber rattling in Eastern Europe and other hot spots. But this is still a far cry from a big ramp up in the U.S. military presence in Iraq or Afghanistan as Obama did.
President Clinton will be pulled and tugged at by corporate and defense industry lobbyists, the oil and nuclear power industry, government regulators, conservative family values groups, conservative GOP senators and house members, foreign diplomats and leaders, and in turn, LGBT, women, civil rights and liberties, and environmental watchdog groups. They all have their priorities and agendas and will vie to get either White House support for their pet legislation, or to kill or cripple legislation that threatens their interests.
Clinton’s entire political history, if anything, has shown that she will keep a firm, cautious and conciliatory eye on American public opinion when it comes to making policy decisions and determining priorities. That’s what presidents, all presidents, must do and President Clinton will be no different.
(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of What We Can Expect from President Hillary Clinton (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/earlhutchinson.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
NEW GEOGRAPHY--For progressives, the gloating is about to begin. The Washington Monthly proclaims that we are on the cusp of a “second progressive era,” where the technocratic “new class” overcomes a Republican Party reduced to “know-nothing madness.”
To be sure, Trump himself proved a mean-spirited and ultimately ineffective political vessel. But the forces that he aroused will outlive him and could get stronger in the future. In this respect Trump may reprise the role played another intemperate figure, the late Senator Barry Goldwater. Like Trump, Goldwater openly spurned political consensus, opposing everything from civil rights and Medicare to détente. His defeat led to huge losses at the congressional level, as could indeed occur this year as well.
Goldwater might have failed in 1964, but his defeat did not augur a second New Deal, as some, including President Lyndon Johnson, may have hoped. Instead, his campaign set the stage for something of a right-wing resurgence that defined American politics until the election of President Obama. Pushing the deep South into the GOP, Goldwater created the “Southern strategy” that in 1968 helped elect Richard Nixon; this was followed in 1980 by the victory of Goldwater acolyte Ronald Reagan.
History could repeat itself after this fall’s disaster. People who wrote off the GOP in 1964 soon became victims of their own hubris, believing they could extend the welfare state and the federal government without limits and, as it turned out, without broad popular support. In this notion they were sustained by the even then liberally oriented media and a wide section of the “respectable” business community.
Three decades later a similar constellation of forces —- Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street—have locked in behind Hillary Clinton. But it is the transformation of the media itself both more ideologically uniform and concentrated more than ever on the true-blue coasts, that threatens to exacerbate Progressive Triumphalism. In this election, notes Carl Cannon, no Trump fan himself, coverage has become so utterly partisan that “the 2016 election will be remembered as one in which much of the mainstream media all but admitted aligning itself with the Democratic Party.”
Progressive Triumphalism may lead the Clintonites to believe her election represented not just a rejection of the unique horribleness of Trump, but proof of wide support for their favored progressive agenda. Yet in reality, modern progressivism faces significant cultural, geographic, economic and demographic headwinds that will not ease once the New York poseur dispatched.
Successful modern Democratic candidates, including President Obama and former President Clinton, generally avoid openly embracing an ever bigger federal government. Obama, of course, proved a centralizer par excellence, but he did it stealthily and, for the most part, without the approval of Congress. This allowed him to take some bold actions, but limited the ability to “transform” the country into some variant of European welfare, crony capitalist state.
Hillary Clinton lacks both Obama’s rhetorical skills and her erstwhile husband’s political ones. Her entire approach in the campaign has been based on creating an ever more intrusive and ever larger federal government. Even during Bill Clinton’s reign, she was known to be the most enthusiastic supporter of governmental regulation, and it’s unlikely that, approaching 70, she will change her approach. It seems almost certain, for example, that she will push HUD and the EPA to reshape local communities in ways pleasing to the bureaucracy.
Yet most Americans do not seem to want a bigger state to interfere with their daily life. A solid majority—some 54 percent—recently told Gallup they favor a less intrusive federal government, compared to only 41 percent who want a more activist Washington. The federal government is now regarded by half of all Americans, according to another poll by Gallup, as “an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens.” In 2003 only 30 percent of Americans felt that way.
Nor is this trend likely to fade with time. Millennials may be liberal on issues like immigration and gay marriage, but are not generally fans of centralization, fewer than one-third favor federal solutions over locally based ones.
Due largely to Trump’s awful persona, Hillary likely will get some wins in “flyover country,” the vast territory that stretches from the Appalachians to the coastal ranges. In certain areas with strong sense of traditional morality, such as in Germanic Wisconsin and parts of Michigan, notes Mike Barone, Trump’s lewdness and celebrity-mania proved in the primaries incompatible with even conservative small town and rural sensibilities, more so in fact than in the cosmopolitan cores, where sexual obsessions are more celebrated than denounced.
Yet Trump’s strongest states, with some exceptions, remain in the country’s mid-section; he still clings to leads in most of the Intermountain West, Texas, the mid-south and the Great Plains. He is still killing it in West Virginia. This edge extends beyond a preponderance of “deplorables” and what Bubba himself has referred to as “your standard redneck.”
Exacerbating this cultural and class discussion is the growing division between the coastal and interior economies. Essentially, as I have argued elsewhere, the country is split fundamentally by how regions makes money. The heartland regions generally thrive by producing and transporting “stuff”—food, energy, manufactured goods —while the Democrats do best where the economy revolves around images, media, financial engineering and tourism.
Energy is the issue that most separates the heartland from the coasts. The increasingly radical calls for “decarbonization” by leading Democrats spell the loss of jobs throughout the heartland, either directly by attacking fossil fuels or by boosting energy costs. Since 2010, the energy boom has helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the heartland, many of them in manufacturing. At the same time, most big city Democratic strongholds continued to deindustrialize and shed factory employment. No surprise then that the increasingly anti-carbon Democrats control just one legislature, Illinois, outside the Northeast and the West Coast.
Trump’s romp through the primaries, like that of Bernie Sanders, rode on the perceived relative decline of the country’s middle and working classes. For all her well-calculated programmatic appeals, Hillary Clinton emerged as the willing candidate of the ruling economic oligarchy, something made more painfully obvious from the recent WikiLeaks tapes. Her likely approach to the economy, more of the same, is no doubt attractive to the Wall Street investment banks, Silicon Valley venture capitalists, renewable energy providers and inner city real estate speculators who have thrived under Obama.
Yet more of the same seems unlikely to reverse income stagnation, as exemplified by the huge reserve army of unemployed, many of them middle aged men, outside the labor force. The fact remains that Obama’s vaunted “era of hope and change,” as liberal journalist Thomas Frank has noted, has not brought much positive improvement for the middle class or historically disadvantaged minorities.
The notion that free trade and illegal immigration have harmed the prospects for millions of Americans will continue to gain adherents with many middle and working class voters—particularly in the heartland. We are likely to hear this appeal again in the future. If the GOP could find a better, less divisive face for their policies, a Reagan rather than a Goldwater, this working-class base could be expanded enough to overcome the progressive tide as early as 2018.
The one place where the progressives seem to have won most handily is on issues of culture. Virtually the entire entertainment, fashion, and food establishments now openly allied with the left; the culture of luxury, expressed in the page of The New York Times, has found its political voice by identifying with such issues as gay rights, transgender bathrooms , abortion and, to some extent, Black Lives Matter. In contrast, the Republicans cultural constituency has devolved to a bunch of country music crooners, open cultural reactionaries and, yes, a revolting collection of racist and misogynist “deplorables.”
Yet perhaps nowhere is the danger of Progressive Triumphalism more acute. Despite the cultural progressive embrace of the notion that more diversity is always good, the reality is that our racial divide remains stark and is arguably getting worse. As for immigration, polls say that more people want to decrease not just the undocumented but even legal immigration than increase it.
And then there’s the mountain rebellion against political correctness. Relative few Americans have much patience with such things as “micro-aggressions,” “safe spaces,” the generally anti-American tone of history instruction whose adherents are largely concentrated in the media and college campuses. Fewer still would endorse the anti-police agitation now sweeping progressive circles. For some, voting for Trump represents the opportunity to extend a “middle finger” to the ruling elites of both parties.
Yet Trump’s appeal also represented something of a poke in the eye for the old-school religious right; Trump has actually helped the GOP by embracing openly gay figures like Peter Thiel. He may have caused many bad things, but the New Yorker succeeded, as no Republican in a generation, in making the holy rollers largely irrelevant.
The dangers for the Democrats lie in going too far in their secularism. As recent emails hacked by WikiLeaks have demonstrated, there is widespread contempt in left circles for most organized religion, most importantly for the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, even under a more progressive Pope. Some Democrats may argue that irreligiosity will remain “in” among millennials. Yet this was also said about boomers and turned out to be wrong. Few sociologists in the 1970s would have expected a religious revival that arose in the next decade.
Simply put, millennials’ economic and cultural views could shift, as they become somewhat less “idealistic” and more concerned with buying homes and raising children. They could shift more the center and right, much as Baby Boomers have done.
No matter what happens this year, the battle for America’s political soul is not remotely over. Trump may fade into deserved ignominy and hopefully obscurity, but his nationalist and populist message will not fade with him as long as concerns over jobs, America’s role in the world, and disdain for political correctness remain. If Hillary and her supporters over-shoot their nonexistent mandate and try to impose their whole agenda before achieving a supportable consensus, American politics could well end up going in directions that the progressives, and their media claque, might either not anticipate or much like.
(Joel Kotkin is the R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism (www.opportunityurbanism.org. This column was posted most recently at New Geography.)
LA WATCHDOG--Last week, the Times Editorial Board rightfully criticized Mayor Eric Garcetti for not taking a position on Build Better LA (Measure JJJ, the Affordable Housing and Labor Standards Relating to City Planning), saying we “need straight talk from [our] City leaders” and “now’s the time for them to come out of hiding on Measure JJJ.”
The measure’s sponsor and major proponent, the politically powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, claims that Build Better LA will create more affordable housing and more well-paying construction jobs.
The truth is that if JJJ is approved by the voters, it will stymie the development of multifamily residential housing, create fewer jobs, make affordable and market rate housing more expensive, and deprive the City of much needed revenues.
And given the loopholes in Build Better LA that allow the City Council to amend this initiative and the massive amounts of cash involved, there is the potential for mischief and corruption.
If passed, developers who want a zoning, height, or density change will be required to have up to 25% of the project’s units be affordable for low and moderate income tenants. But inclusionary housing, especially at the levels dictated by JJJ, is not a free lunch because it will have a significant downward impact on rents and the developer’s return on investment.
Developers will also have to meet stringent hiring requirements. These will require that construction workers be paid the “prevailing wage,” a rate that is significantly higher than market wages. Developers would also have to meet local hiring requirements and comply with onerous reporting requirements. Overall, these “project labor agreement” mandates will increase costs by more than 40% according LA based Beacon Economics, a well-regarded research and consulting firm that has been retained by the City on numerous occasions.
Between the lower per square foot rents resulting from the addition of affordable apartments and the significantly higher costs per unit caused by the prevailing wage and other hiring and union mandates, the developers’ return on investment tanks, the risks increase, the banks refuse to make construction loans, investors bail, and developers abandon projects that would have been viable if not for JJJ, Build BAD LA.
As a result, fewer apartments will be built, there will be fewer construction jobs, and rents will increase because of the scarcity factor. The City’s revenues will also be impacted by fewer construction and development related fees that are required from real estate developers.
And the City’s economy will be adversely impacted by the downturn in construction.
JJJ allows the City Council to adjust the affordable housing percentages if the developer is able to show that such adjustments are necessary to ensure the developer a “reasonable return on investment.” Of course, given the amount of money involved, a few targeted campaign contributions will help ensure that the affordable set-asides guidelines are relaxed.
The developers may also pay an “in-lieu fee” into the City’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund if they do not want to include affordable units in a project. This will allow the developers to maintain luxury buildings where the high end tenants do not have to mix with the hoi polloi.
But once this cash is in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the Mayor and creative geniuses on the City Council will no doubt figure out a way to direct these funds to their pet projects without these deals seeing the light of day.
We are being sold a bill of goods by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, which, along with IBEW Local 11, have invested over $1 million in this ballot initiative.
But where is Mayor Eric Garcetti? Why isn’t he shedding light on this scam that is being perpetuated by the same wise guys that tried (but failed) to pull a fast one by exempting companies whose workers were represented by unions from the recently enacted minimum wage requirements?
Or is our upwardly mobile Mayor, the wannabe Governor, Senator, or Cabinet Secretary, willing to sell us out for fear of alienating the campaign funding unions that are feasting at our expense?
The Los Angeles Times urges a NO vote as JJJ because it will make LA’s housing crisis even worse by making affordable housing more unaffordable.
Vote NO on JJJ. It is BAD for LA.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Jack is affiliated with Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: email@example.com.)
CALBUZZ--Despite Nate Silver’s argument that we should leave the LA Times/USC Dornsife “Daybreak Poll” alone, this poor excuse for a survey has been so wrong so persistently – and has been so constantly cited by Donald Trump as evidence of his campaign success – that it’s time for the Calbuzz Green Eye Shade Division to call them to task.
We’d be tempted to accept Silver’s admonition that all you have to do is add 6 percentage points to Hillary Clinton’s standing in the survey to accommodate for its “house effect,” except for the fact that the survey continues to arrogantly insist that “This chart tracks our best estimate, over time, of how America plans to vote in November.”
World class flapdoodle So we’re sorry to say that our old friends David Lauter of the LA Times and Dan Schnur of USC will forever have to take responsibility* for the single most reckless name-brand survey of the 2016 election season. Even if they succumb to pressure from the polling world and re-weight their flawed sample in the coming weeks so that they end up in the ballpark (like Survey USA usually does), they will have overseen an entire season of faulty, misleading polling that has misinformed the public and given Trump false bragging rights and his allies false hope.
As of Wednesday, when most national polls by reputable organizations were showing Clinton leading Trump by 4 to 11 percentage points, the screwball LA Times/ USC Dornsife “daybreak” survey showed Clinton and Trump tied at 44% — after weeks of showing Trump leading Clinton by significant margins.
Garbage in... Why? Because they started with a faulty, pro-Trump panel of internet respondents, weighted their reported 2012 vote for president and then stuck with that panel as part of their methodology. Garbage at the start; garbage all throughout.
“What’s the source of the LA Times poll’s Trump lean?” Silver wrote. “There are good ‘explainers’ from The New York Times’s Nate Cohn and Huffington Post Pollster’s David Rothschild. Long story short: The poll’s results are weighted based on how people said they voted in 2012. That’s probably a mistake, because people often misstate or misremember their vote from previous elections.”
Here’s their graph:
Interestingly, the LA Times so did not believe its survey that coverage, by most of its fine political writers, have paid it no mind.
On Wednesday, Lauter himself tried to hide his paper’s miserable poll’s findings – a tied race — with a front-page story that focused on survey respondents’ expectations of who will win the race instead of their stated voter preference.
“More and more, his own supporters no longer think he can win, the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Daybreak poll has found,” Lauter wrote.
Hide the turkey. Except that this was not a new finding at all. The survey’s respondents had consistently said they thought Clinton would win the race – with even larger proportions predicting her victory back in August. The story gave the Times an opportunity to use its miserable survey as a way to convey to readers the paper’s conviction that Clinton is actually leading Trump.
“The Daybreak poll asks people whom they plan to vote for and which candidate they expect will win,” Lauter wrote. “The question of voter expectations has often, although not always, proved to be a more reliable forecaster of election outcomes than asking voters their candidate preference.”
This is, on its face, an absurd argument. First of all, how would the Times know that asking voter expectations is “a more reliable forecaster of election outcomes” until they know what the outcome is? By comparing this question in their survey to other national polls? Second, why are they asking voter preference if they think it’s an inferior measure of election outcomes – which their own statement on the survey about their “best estimate” flatly contradicts?
This is a sneaky way to mask the findings of their flawed survey.
Piling it on. Then, on Thursday, Lauter wrote about how the poll stands up if it is re-weighted to discount USC’s original weighting for who candidates said they had voted for in 2012 — which was a dumb idea from the get-go. This is exactly the kind of legerdemain that Survey USA and other sleazy operations use to make their final polls look legit.
The re-weighting, by Ernie Tedeschi, an economist formerly with the Treasury Department “provides reassurance that although the poll differs from other surveys, its data about the trends in the election — the ups and downs in support for the two candidates — are consistent with what others have found,” Lauter wrote.
Oy. It was a bad poll design. USC and the LA Times are stuck with it.
* Lauter and Schnur get responsibility, but here’s how Lauter (LA Times Washington Bureau Chief) explained the origin of the survey in an email to us:
“The researchers at USC’s Center for Economic and Social Research https://cesr.usc.edu/, led by Prof. Arie Kapteyn, developed the poll. They based it on a very similar survey they did four years ago when they were at the RAND Corp. (That 2012 poll was one of the most accurate of the election year and the only major survey not to underestimate Obama’s margin). Dan introduced Arie’s team to those of us at The Times, and we were (and are) very happy to partner with them to publish the results.”
When we asked Schnur (director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, USC Dornsife College) if he is responsible for his organization’s survey, he replied: “Jill Darling is the Survey Director for the Center for Economic and Social Research. I’m sure she’ll be happy to answer your questions. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org“
(Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine … long time journalists … publish the award-winning CalBuzz.com)
@THE GUSS REPORT-In May 2014, the City of Los Angeles significantly doctored its pet adoption statistic without telling the public that it was doing it, let alone why.
It was done with the knowledge of Mayor Eric Garcetti, his minions and more disturbingly, City Controller Ron Galperin who failed to address this (and other) fraudulent LA Animal Services activities in his bogus audit roughly one year later.
The reason why Garcetti did this was so that he could claim humane successes where programs either failed or where programs didn’t exist; and he did it to justify his rehiring of LAAS GM Brenda Barnette, who was all too happy to stay generously employed by Garcetti given her well-documented real estate struggles.
The proof that Garcetti did this is as follows …
Prior to May 2014, LA Animal Services records claimed that between July 1, 2009 and January 31, 2014 (a span of 1,675 specific days,) it adopted out 97,757 dogs and cats, not including any other types of animals in the shelter system. That claim is shown here on LAAS’s own spreadsheet.
City Hall insiders knew all along that this was a false statistic because LAAS counted as “adopted” animals that it simply shuffled from cages in some LA city-owned shelter buildings to cages in other LA city-owned shelter buildings. No matter how you slice it, sitting in a government cage does not reflect the love or trappings of a dog or cat adopted into a family…but this was how Eric Garcetti, as City Council president and as Mayor, knowingly counted them during this time span.
But suddenly, and stealthily, the statistic changed dramatically.
In this subsequent LAAS spreadsheet, captured in June 2014, the claimed adopted statistic on the spreadsheet that used to be 97,757 was suddenly 92,580.
How does an adoption statistic suddenly go down by thousands of animals?
In fact, the number of animals Garcetti claimed were adopted during this time frame is even lower than that. To fully understand Garcetti’s ruse, we need to employ some nerdy math.
In the second spreadsheet, the date-range includes February, March and April 2014. In order to make an apples-to-apples comparison of the same exact 1,675 days, the adoption figures for those months (which are in the red box) must be subtracted from the new 92,580 figure. The result: Garcetti and LAAS now claimed that it adopted out only 88,950 dogs and cats during this time.
That’s 8,807 fewer adoptions than the city previously claimed -- and without explanation.
The city altered its adoption statistics with malice aforethought, too. In an April 22, 2014 email, David Zaft, the Garcetti-appointed president of the LAAS Commission wrote, “Assuming that the reports on the website are changed…and I agree with you that they should be…I believe it would be appropriate for some explanation of the change to be given.”
But since animals are silent victims, and Zaft (as Commission president) controls what goes on the LAAS Commission agenda, to date, this has never been explained because it is the proverbial loose string on a sweater. Expose this, and you will expose the fake impound numbers generated – in violation of the city’s agreement with Best Friends – for animals who never set foot in any city shelter, as well as even deeper problems.
As of October 2016, the Garcetti administration has no idea what became of those 8,807 animals, and has refused to honor CPRA requests because the wealthy, stealthy Best Friends organization is not held accountable (as all other rescue organizations are required to report) on where they shipped those animals which, in Best Friends case, includes sending them to high kill shelters in other cities and states. Garcetti may very well soon find the city sued over those records.
Since the time that the statistics were quietly altered, Garcetti has repeatedly told the public “adoptions are up,” when all he did was lower the starting figure. In his world, it is better to make thousands of animals disappear rather than show up as kills on his statistics.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatchLA, KFI AM-640 and Huffington Post. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
VOICES--When it comes to public/private partnerships, the past four months have been a mixed bag for Milwaukee Bucks’ co-owner and recently exposed defrauder-of-LA-county, Wesley Edens.
On the down side, Mr. Edens just got sent packing by the City of Atlanta where five golf course concessions crucial to one of Edens' most important investment schemes just met their maker.
According to an email blast sent out this Saturday by the American Golf Corporation (the subsidiary through which Mr. Edens runs his golf investments), they "will no longer lease or operate" any of the city’s courses as of November 1st. That’s a big deal, because American Golf has been operating those courses for thirty years. The details of the ways-parting are murky but the big picture is clear.
What has this got to do with LA? On the plus side for Wesley Edens, the profit margin on his golf operations in Los Angeles County and elsewhere around the nation have soared; as announced on a recent investor conference call. Newcastle Investment Corporation is now running a 25% profit margin on its gym-like membership program “The Player’s Club.”
On the dark side of things however, that return violates the “reasonable profit margin” clause of Mr. Edens’ contracts with LA County. And, to no one’s surprise, so far not a peep from LA Parks and Rec. So the good times can continue to roll—especially if the County continues its non-enforcement of American Golf’s contractual obligation to disclose its Players Club membership revenue figures.
Mr. Eden’s current good fortune doesn’t end there. He has been given a free pass on his ongoing violations of LA County’s minimum wage ordinance. At the time of this writing, to cite just one example, La Mirada golf course is advertising a job with an hourly rate below the mandated minimum wage. As of September 9, 2016, Brookside golf course—located in but not owned by LA County—was advertising on the American Golf website a job paying an hourly rate of $8. (Screenshots available upon request.)
And so, while we want to express our heart-felt condolences to Mr. Edens on his recent losses in Atlanta, we also want to ‘congratulate’ him on his expert work in Los Angeles County. He should never forget that whatever may happen in other parts of the country, he's always welcome in the fiefdom of the LA County Supes of the Roundtable. No mention yet of a possible Edens knighting.
(Eric Preven is a CityWatch contributor and a Studio City based writer-producer and public advocate for better transparency in local government. He was a candidate in the 2015 election for Los Angeles City Council, 2nd District. Joshua Preven is a CityWatch contributor and teacher who lives in Los Angeles.)
LA’S NEIGHBORHOODS--Once again, the City Attorney’s office and the Planning Department have played the City Council for fools. This time around, the City’s legal advisors and planning bureaucrats blatantly lied on the Council floor, spinning a fabricated tale that, if the Council would approve Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell’s September 13 motion to open a window for 5 days at the end of September for new second unit applications to be filed under very permissive state “default” standards (rather than the City’s stricter adopted standards), only a handful of new applications would be filed -- probably only about seventeen.
O’Farrell stated that initially he had drafted his September 13 motion to “grandfather” only a handful of specific “stranded” second unit developers in his district who had been previously turned away by LADBS when they had sought to file their applications.
These additional grandfathered developers would be added to the hundred or more second unit applicants and permittees who had sought and/or obtained permits under the very permissive state “default” standards that the City had been illegally using since May 2010. In early 2016, the Superior Court had declared that the planning and building departments’ dubious policy of following permissive “default” standards, rather than the City’s own adopted, much stricter standards -- based on the City Attorney’s mistaken legal advice -- was unlawful, and it ordered those departments to stop following those “default” standards.
O’Farrell explained that, as he was drafting his September 13 motion, the City Attorney’s office persuaded him to expand it so it would open to one and all a 5-day end of September filing window for new applications under the permissive “default” standards.
Councilmember Paul Koretz vigorously objected, saying that, whenever the Council announces that loose zoning restrictions are about to be tightened up, very substantial increases in permit application filings (seeking to take advantage of those looser restrictions) are very common. Accordingly, the number of new second unit applicants filed during the 5-day window would probably be closer to a hundred, not a mere handful. LA Neighbors in Action also protested that LADBS’s second unit application forms are so simplistic that they present no practical difficulties at all to anyone seeking to take advantage of the 5-day window.
But Planning Department and City Attorney representatives repeatedly testified on the Council floor that the practical difficulties of filing a second unit application would limit the number of applications to a “very small” number. The 5-day window would be “fair” to the “very small” number of developers who would be in a position to take advantage of it, so it would not be overly disruptive to the surrounding single family residential neighborhoods throughout the City.
Specifically relying on their advice, Council members Krekorian, Blumenfield and Ryu expressed their support for O’Farrell’s motion, and the Council overwhelmingly approved O’Farrell’s proposed end of September 5-day window.
Now the results are in. The City Attorney recently reported to the Superior Court that, during the 5-day window, second unit developers filed fully 140 new applications -- almost ten times the City’s planning and legal advisors’ disingenuous projection, and, in one week, more than double the average annual number of second unit applications filed in the past dozen years!
These are not idle numbers. LADBS must now process and approve “by right” 140 newly filed second unit applications with no discretion to impose any mitigation measures. The proposed second units need merely meet very weak “default” standards allowing construction of oversized 1,200 SF second units -- the size of many primary residences and almost double the 640 SF that the City’s existing standards allow.
These oversized second units can be squeezed into backyards in single family neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles -- and sometimes into front yards! And, even though the City’s adopted standards would otherwise forbid it, the 140 second unit applications filed during the 5-day end of September “window” can be built in designated “hillside” areas and on “substandard” streets. (Ugly, severely impacting second units of the kind allowed under the default standards during the 5-day window can be seen in the attached photos.)
Notably, shortly after the Superior Court’s ruling earlier this year, the Planning Department strongly (but inaccurately) urged the Council that it had only one “feasible” option: repealing the City’s adopted strict second unit standards so that the state’s permissive standards would thereafter apply by “default.” This extreme proposal -- which the Department put on a fast-track approval process -- generated a storm of controversy.
Neighborhood Councils and homeowner associations throughout the City strongly objected, demanding that the City’s adopted protective second unit standards be maintained. Meanwhile, “stranded” developers demanded that their second units be grandfathered, since they had relied on the City’s unlawful second unit policies before the Superior Court declared them illegal.
Finally, on August 31, the Council approved a compromise motion addressing both side’s principal objectives. On one hand, “stranded” developers and applicants would be “grandfathered” so their proposed second units can be completed -- even if they exceed the adopted standards and negatively impact the surrounding neighborhoods. On the other hand, going forward, the Council would retain the existing adopted protective standards until, based on a transparent process with robust public outreach and study, it decided to change them while customizing them to the City’s diverse neighborhoods.
Matters appeared heading toward the Council’s approving an ordinance that would implement this compromise, until O’Farrell’s September 13 motion suddenly proposed the new 5-day late September open window allowing second units under the permissive default standards. To that point, the planning and legal bureaucrats had always argued that the proposed grandfathering could be justified, because, despite the negative “spillover” impacts of these oversized, improperly located second units, the financial impacts on the “stranded” developers arguably offset these neighborhood impacts. They emphasized that the stranded developers had “relied to their detriment” on the City’s unlawful second unit policies and practices, and, if they were stopped in mid-process, they might sue the City for substantial financial compensation.
But for the first time, O’Farrell’s September 13 motion proposed that during this late September 5-day window, second unit developers would not need to establish any “reliance interest” at all and yet would still be allowed to take advantage of the permissive default standards and inflict adverse impacts on their neighbors. Under O’Farrell’s motion, it was sufficient simply to submit an application and pay the required fee.
Since reliance would not be necessary, the Council members who backed O’Farrell’s motion stressed the Planning Department’s and City Attorney’s representations that only a “very small” number of applications -- about 17 -- could likely be filed during the 5-day window.
- Council member Krekorian, for example, was particularly fooled. Although he was led to expect only about 17 applications citywide, the recent City Attorney report to the court revealed that fully 23 applications were filed in his district alone. Krekorian will have some serious explaining to do to the 23 neighborhoods that will be disrupted and potentially devastated by oversized, poorly located second units.
- Similarly, a dozen second units in Council member Blumenfield’s district will now get away with conforming merely to the permissive “default” standards. Not exactly the “very small” number Blumenfield anticipated citywide.
- Some 19 new second units will be built in Council member Englander’s district under the permissive default standards. Did Englander realize that those 19 neighborhoods would be adversely impacted even though none of the developers in question needed to show they ever relied on the City’s prior unlawful conduct? What explanation will Englander give to homeowners who will have to live with new oversized second units peering into their backyards and bedrooms?
Notably, as with second unit permits issued throughout the past decade and a half, by far the most applications filed during the 5-day window (more than 100 of the 140 applications) will be located in the North and South San Fernando Valley. Twenty-two of the new second units will be sited on lots that City planners concede are “environmentally sensitive.”
Ironically, the City Attorney’s recent report to the Court related that only five of the new second unit applications filed during the 5-day window are located in O’Farrell’s district. If O’Farrell had ignored the City Attorney’s spurious advice to expand the scope of his motion, those five applicants -- the mere handful that he attested were his specific concern -- could have obtained their second unit applications without baselessly wreaking havoc on some 135 additional single family neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles.
Instead, O’Farrell allowed himself to get sucker punched by the City Attorney, while the Council again foolishly placed its trust in the Planning Department and City Attorney staffs’ testimony. Will this misplaced confidence just keep on going and going? Will they ever learn?
(Carlyle Hall is an environmental and land use lawyer in Los Angeles who founded the Center for Law in the Public Interest and litigated the well-known AB 283 litigation, in which the Superior Court ordered the City to rezone about one third of the properties within its territorial boundaries (an area the size of Chicago) to bring them into consistency with its 35 community plans. He also co-founded LA Neighbors in Action, which has recently been litigating with the City over its second dwelling unit policies and practices.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
MEMO TO LAT COLUMNIST MICHAEL HILTZIK: In your Sunday, October 22, 2016, column about Measure HH in Beverly Hills, are you sure you only talking about Beverly Hills. There are numerous identical issues in your article with Rick Caruso's planned 20+ story luxury project at 333 South LaCienega, at the site of the former Loehman’s. store.
Mr. Caruso has pledged $500,000 to the condo association at the adjacent Weatherly Tower if he gets approval for his project. When suggested that he lop off some floors to make the building less obtrusive, he stated, "It doesn't pencil out." As my mother used to say, "Nebbuch," Yiddish for awww, too bad.
Mr. Caruso wants the Loehman’s parcel to be rezoned, and he is trying mightily to push approval through before the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative comes to the ballot on March 7, 2017. Why do you think he is in such a hurry?
Mr. Caruso's drawings illustrate a green space at the promontory of the property, much like the proposed Beverly Hills project, and like the proposed Beverly Hills green space, the "park" will be available only selectively to tenants of his very high end apartments and to customers of the proposed street level restaurant and stores - not to the public. Patrolling security will filter others from using the space, and it will be closed at night.
Oh, but Mr. Caruso has promised that he will install a plaque at sidewalk level thanking the local homeowner's association for their cooperation. That's a great sop, isn't it? Install a plaque that can be urinated upon by passersby in exchange for local agreement to build 20 stories in a low rise and mid-rise corridor, and nearby 1-2 story residential neighborhoods.
Armistead Maupin wrote of "Tales Of The City". You need to write about "Tales Of Our Broken City". I ask you Mr. Hiltzik, how much more money does a billionaire need?
(Toby Horn serves on the board of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association, which has hired an attorney to challenge any City Council parcel-specific legislative actions that will permit the Caruso project.)
VOICES OF THE PEOPLE--Councilmember David Ryu’s recent letter to the City’s Planning Land Use Management committee (PLUM) stating he cannot support the new Frank Gehry project at 8150 Sunset was welcome news to everyone who opposes the project. Lots of people and groups have contacted the Councilman in an effort to help him understand just how bad this project really is.
While I know some believe this is an effort on his part to continue negotiating with the developer and that, ultimately, he will support the project, I see it differently. I see it as a fulfillment of the Pledge he signed while running for office. His statement, “I want to be clear that I will not support a de facto revision to the Community Plan for this area. Zoning and the General Plan must be respected,” is unambiguous and leaves no room to tinker around the edges.
However, no one should be under any illusions that the Planning Department and the City Attorney will second David’s position. The City has thrown in with the developers and thrown down the gauntlet challenging its residents, its rules and its laws. Today it is happening in Hollywood; tomorrow it could happen anywhere -- even in your neighborhood.
Part of the difficulty that the Councilman, his staff and the community have had to struggle with is the spin put on it by the Planning Department’s Major Projects Unit. This has created a fog obscuring the truth, allowing the City (CPC) to disregard the law and approve the project.
When I was first asked to look at the project it was described as “almost by-right” with an SB 1818 (density bonus) twist. I accepted that as a working premise but soon realized it was not the case. The first aspect of the project that caught my eye was the proposal to close a section of southbound Crescent Heights without going through a street vacation process. I didn’t think that was possible and brought in a friend for a second opinion. She agreed with me but what we didn’t know then was that we had just fallen down the rabbit hole. In the months that followed, we dug and dug to uncover the history of the site and surrounding neighborhood in order to properly evaluate it. It was not easy but we finally got to the core of the issue and guess what? The project as presented is anything but “almost by-right” and cannot be built. Furthermore, the City’s cavalier attitude towards the Alquist-Priolo Act’s requirements will put people’s lives at risk during an earthquake.
The core of the issue is that the zoning on the site limits the buildable area to a 1:1 Floor Area Ratio not the 3:1 tripling they are trying to get through using SB 1818. There is a “D” development limitation on the site which is public knowledge but what was unknown until now is that the limitation (1:1 FAR) was imposed as a CEQA Mitigation during the 1988 Hollywood Community Plan update. The planning department has to know this but they continue to ignore that fact. We were told that the City Attorney’s office had convinced everyone including Councilman Ryu that we are wrong and will lose any lawsuit we file. We are used to hearing that and continue to prove them wrong. Fortunately it appears that the Councilman saw through the spin the City was putting out and decided not to support the project.
The only way this project can be built in its current form is for the City to remove the “D” condition. In order to do that the City must find that the conditions that caused the CEQA mitigation in the first place no longer exist. As the EIR for the 1988 Community Plan stated, the 1:1 FAR limitation is linked to “an effort to make the transportation system and other public facilities and service systems workable.” The 1988 EIR noted that, under the 1973 Plan, “this level of development activity has resulted in significant burdens on the traffic circulation system within the Community Plan area, as well as other adverse impacts on public services and infrastructure. Development activity has also resulted in numerous land use conflicts and incompatibilities reflected in parking problems, aesthetic impacts, light, shade-shadow impacts of new larger buildings on existing lower density properties, the removal of architecturally or historically significant buildings, among other impacts.”
Does anyone seriously believe that the issues that required the current CEQA mitigations no longer exist in Hollywood? Compounding the problem is that there is already another project in the queue (7500 Sunset Blvd) which is a mirror image of 8150. Councilman Ryu and the community need to understand that the entire commercial stretch of Sunset between West Hollywood and LaBrea has the same “D” Limitation zoning as 8150 and those buildings will fall one by one if he does not get this right. Instead of the 1 and 2 story commercial buildings that now line the boulevard serving the community there will be 6, 8, 15 story mixed use projects. You will get more market rate apartments, a few affordable units, ground floor national chain restaurants and lots and lots of cars pulling in and out of those buildings. This is virgin territory to the development community and they are all watching what happens here.
What will happen when the project goes to the full Council? That is the great unknown. Will the other members vote to support the project against the Councilman’s wishes? I cannot remember a time that has happened. But I am willing to bet that it could happen here because the development community wants it to happen. This is a modern day gold rush and they can’t wait to stake their claim to the newest bonanza.
If the other councilmembers do disrespect the Councilman and his constituents I hope he has a long memory and lets them know that payback will come when they least expect it. In the meantime we must support his efforts to stop this and every other project on Sunset with the “D” limitation.
The court decision on 8150 will prove that the City is wrong and put an end to this madness but the community cannot wait for that to happen. They must start organizing now to stop 7500 Sunset if the Councilman is not able to do it on his own.
In the meantime, I want to make a suggestion that the Councilman use some of the office’s discretionary funds to consult with a private CEQA attorney to verify that what we have put into the record is correct. He will probably need to keep that attorney’s number on speed dial if he wants to protect his constituents until the court decision is rendered.
(Jim O’Sullivan is one of the Fix the City founders and President of the Miracle Mile Residential Association.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
READ EM AND WEEP--These two bulletins from the City News Service are real and edited only for space.
October 14, 2016, City News Service
Four City Council members will begin a weeklong trip to Europe Saturday for a Cisco Systems-led tour of two cities where private citizens and governments have connected the internet into various household objects and day-to-day functions.
Executives with the telecom hardware giant will show council members Bob Blumenfield, Gil Cedillo (photo above), Curren Price and Mitch Englander around Hamburg, Germany, and Copenhagen, Denmark, said company lobbyist Arnie Berghoff.
The “smart and connected cities” tour will include a stop at Hamburg’s inland port, which has been fully automated, he said. In both cities the council members will meet with elected and other government officials, he said.
Berghoff said Cisco will not be paying for the council members’ trip-related expenses.
October 18, 2016, City News Service
Los Angeles City Council meetings for the rest of the week have been canceled because not enough members will be in town to attend them.
Five council members are out of town, leaving just nine City Council members to attend meetings, which is not enough for the required quorum.
Council members Bob Blumenfield, Gil Cedillo, Mitchell Englander and Curren Price are in Europe this week taking part in a Cisco Systems-led tour of Hamburg, Germany, and Copenhagen, Denmark.
There are a total of 15 City Council seats, but one has been vacant ever since former Seventh District councilman Felipe Fuentes stepped down last month to go work for a Sacramento lobbying firm.
Some City Council committee hearings will still go on, depending if a quorum can be reached.
These two bulletins from the City News Service are real and have only been edited for length and the insertion of links to related campaign finance and lobbyist activity posted at the Ethics Commission website.
There are many who think the councilmember’s travel costs might be better spent on a ‘Priority-Setting 101’ workshop for our city leaders.
(Eric Preven is a CityWatch contributor and a Studio City based writer-producer and public advocate for better transparency in local government. He was a candidate in the 2015 election for Los Angeles City Council, 2nd District. Joshua Preven is a CityWatch contributor and teacher who lives in Los Angeles.)
RISEMBERG FOR THE RECORD--“Duty Now for the Future” was the title of a Devo album from way back in ’79, and of course it was redolent of the cynicism and pure snark that pervaded much of New Wave.
But we can look at the phrase a little differently today, now that Bernie Sanders has shown us that the “Audacity of Hope” Obama spoke of can really make things better…if we raise the level of audacity.
Sanders really did fail to gain the nomination; there was no fix. He says so himself. But he got close. Just as Trump’s swell of race-driven nationalism (and when have we seen that before?) exposed the morass of fascism that underlies much of the US mindscape, so Sanders’s progressive populism showed us that our diverse polity has stronger urges towards compassion than towards hate.
Hillary Clinton, however much, and for whatever reasons, you may dislike her, will keep us from going backwards eighty years and to another country. Meanwhile, we can work on the future—a future in which the human scale supersedes the economy of scale.
This future is beginning to blossom in the most unlikely of places: Germany—a country with a history of militarism , fascism, and corporate domination, but one now the world leader in modern environmentalism. A country which is likely to pass a law banning all new internal-combustion vehicles by 2030, and one which recently ran a full day almost entirely on renewable electricity. Clean energy is real and routine in Germany.
It’ snot coincidental that the Green Party holds significant power in Germany. And they got there by running candidates for councils and mayor’s office in towns large and small for decades.
Doing the groundwork, in other words.
Here’s where you come in. Because “third party” candidates will get nowhere nationally till they get somewhere locally. And you’ve got one running for City Council right here in your own front yard. (You may have encountered him literally in your own front yard in recent weeks!)
Joe Bray-Ali, owner of the Flying Pigeon bike shop, former white-hat developer, once an aide to an Assembly member, and now candidate for City Council, is running in District 1, which he’s called home for over a decade.
A true progressive, champion of local businesses and neighborhood empowerment, safe streets and transportation diversity advocate, and probably the one soul who knows the LA Municipal Code better than anyone else.
You want a future that belongs to neither the pinstripes nor the brownshirts? Bray-Ali is your man. But he won’t get into the council chambers unless you vote for him.
Look at his campaign website, and you’ll see why you want him to win.
So get ready to vote for the next four years in November…and for the next forty in March, when the city votes for local offices.
And sling Joe a bit of cash if you can. Or better yet, volunteer, hit the streets, and change the world.
One council seat at a time.
EXPOSING THE LOOPHOLES, BACK DOORS, TRAP DOORS AND CROSSED FINGERS--In nearly every election in California, there's a ballot measure that uses the tricks of phrasing I have long dubbed “And Other Uses” to obtain riches for people who don't deserve them and haven't earned them.
When I was the news editor, and then managing editor, of LA Weekly for nine years, my favorite story that dug into the loopholes and scams lurking on our California ballots was “Reading the Fine Print: How to spot the Loopholes, Legal Doozies and Loose Phrasing in California's Ballot Initiatives.”
In the article, I explain how millions of dollars from the voter-approved “Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act of 2006” got diverted away from the desperate and the poor, by Los Angeles elected leaders, into spending on glitzy sidewalk upgrades and other fixes to the posh Figueroa Corridor leading to Staples Center.
How on Earth did billionaire Phil Anschutz's fantastically profitable Staples Center, which former City Councilman Joel Wachs fought long and hard (and sucessfully) to deny public subsidies, end up benefitting from a crucial bond measure meant to help battered women and the homeless?
“And Other Uses.”
Every year, there's a ballot measure jammed with loopholes, back doors, trap doors and crossed fingers that can be mined later for somebody else's profit. Typically, the news media do not call out these loopholes. Journalists are busy, they don't notice, they don't get to page 38 in a ballot measure's endless jargon. Whatever.
This November 8, Measure JJJ is the whopper of the season, at least in Los Angeles County. A disaster. A canard. I could go on.
Let's call JJJ what it is: a Jargon-Jammed Joke. It pulls an inexcusable trick on voters by promising something LA needs, “affordable housing.”
I know a lot about Measure JJJ because it wasn't primarily written to build affordable housing — it was written by City Hall's most connected insiders, to hurt the ballot measure for which I am now the campaign director, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, which will appear on the ballot in March of 2017.
We at the Coalition to Preserve LA, backers of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, got calls about JJJ's underlying purpose back in February. At that time it was dubbed “Build Better LA.” We knew it was coming. And we knew its final language was approved by the most connected people in town. We knew it wasn't primarily about “affordable housing.”
The crafters of JJJ were out to kill our City Hall reform effort — we want to reform the backroom wheeling and dealing at City Hall, a broken and rigged system in which the richest developers in the nation are being allowed to ignore local zoning rules, destroy our neighborhoods, gridlock our streets, and displace thousands of longtime L.A. residents. All in service to erecting luxury housing towers, luxury housing megadevelopments and other luxury glass boxes.
But the City Hall insiders who wrote JJJ failed to stop us. And now their tainted measure is on the November ballot, not an “affordable housing” measure, but a literary miracle of ways to reword and massage the long-proven “And Other Uses” loopholes and trap doors to achieve something other than “affordable housing.”
The Coalition to Preserve LA has published our position paper against JJJ on our website, 2PreserveLA.org.
Below, then, are the 5 Fatal Loopholes that void every promise made by Measure JJJ about “affordable housing” and “local-hire” jobs.
1) The “We don't think this developer is making enough profit” loophole
Under JJJ, developers can ignore your community's zoning to build hundreds of huge, and thus more profitable, luxury towers that aren't allowed under the rules — as long as they promise to add some affordable housing. This promise is false. The City Council can declare the developer is not making “a reasonable return on investment” and then undo the affordable housing promise. (JJJ Section 5, A, g)
2) The “Forget about building affordable housing — just pay City Hall a 'fee'” loophole
Under JJJ, no affordable units have to be built inside these new towers at all, as long as the developer pays an “in lieu” fee after refusing to build affordable housing units. This in-lieu amount is unknown to voters, it will be announced after the election — by the developer-cozy City Council. (JJJ Section 5, A, b3.)
3) The “Forget the affordable housing, forget the fee, just pay a 'surcharge'” loophole
Under JJJ, developers can refuse to pay even the modest in-lieu fee, and opt for a Deferral Surcharge — a price to be set later by the City! This Deferral fee amount, unknown to voters, does not have to be spent on affordable housing. The City Council can divert this cash to pay city employees for running L.A.'s rent-stabilization program — jobs the City must already pay for, by law. (JJJ Section 5, A, c2)
4) The “L.A.'s Affordable Housing Trust Fund is a piggy bank” loophole
Under JJJ, the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund does not have to be spent on affordable housing. The fund can go to whatever the politicians decide. City Hall's ability to raid our housing construction funds is set out in JJJ as “such other housing activities as that term shall be defined.” (JJJ Section 5, B, c)
5) The “We say we'll create local jobs, but not a single local hire is required” loophole
Under JJJ, contractors need only “make a good-faith effort” to hire residents of L.A. or people living within 5 miles of a proposed luxury skyscraper or a proposed massive luxury complex, a toothless and meaningless standard that will never be met. (JJJ Section 5, A, g).
Please enthusiastically vote No on JJJ on November 8. It wasn't meant to fix a problem. It was meant for other uses.
(Jill Stewart, a former journalist, is campaign director for the Coalition to Preserve LA, sponsor of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.)
PLAYTIME AT CALPERS (Part 2)-- Back in the day, CalPERS had a national reputation as the best run, most socially conscious pension fund in the US. However, things began to change by 2000, as returns diminished and “pay to play” allegations began to surface.
The Backdrop-Indictments--Ultimately it emerged that Fred Buenrosto, CEO of CalPERS, and former Board Member Alfred Villalobos had started playing footsie with each other by engaging in falsifying documents and corruption and bribery, as was finally charged in a series of indictments. These schemes started around 2005 and continued until they were caught. Matters clearly came to a head when, as the schemes unraveled, Mr. Buenrosto suddenly decided to “retire” in 2008.
When the heat ratcheted up and it was clear that an illegal conspiracy was in the offing, CalPERS, in the best tradition of large institutions, hired a white shoe corporate law firm (Steptoe & Johnson) to whitewash the mess. And this they did -- putting as happy a face on it as money can buy. Reading their final Report, it is obvious their job was to make everyone still employed look good, and then to come up with “go forward” recommendations. None of that finger-pointing stuff for them. Not bad for $11 million in fees.
The CalPERS Staff--Key to this or any other story involving billions and billions of dollars of public money, is the staff. After all, the Board can only effectuate their will through their staff, and it is therefore the staff that is at the heart of the issues facing CalPERS.
Marcie Frost - CEO (as of October 3, 2016)--Marcie Frost is a veteran public pension manager from the State of Washington. She served as the Executive Director of the Washington State Department of Retirement Systems (DRS) prior to being selected as the successor to Ann Stausboll.
At this point, it would not be fair to say anything more, since she has only been on board for a brief time. In fact, when I clicked on her photo under “Executive Officers” on the CalPERS website last week, I got a 404 error message of “page not found.”
So let’s see what she’s inherited.
Ann Stausboll – CEO--Ann Stausboll (photo above) served as CEO from the demise of Fred Buenstroso in 2008 until August of this year. The LA Times hailed her as the change agent to overcome “steep losses” with the fund, even as they glossed over the criminal scandal of Buenstroso and company.
Stausboll, however, was no newcomer to either CalPERS or government. She had previously worked for CalPERS in the 1990s, when the General Counsel was Richard Koppes, later with the big time politically connected law firm, Jones Day. And when Phil Angeledes became State Treasurer, Stausboll left CalPERS to become a Deputy Treasurer and General Counsel from 1999 to 2004.
In 2004, Stausboll returned to CalPERS as their Chief Operating Investment Officer, and twice during that period was the CIO.
Bill Lockyer, who was Treasurer in 2008 and sat on the CalPERS Board, was quoted as saying that “the Board liked her because she is a team player.”
As we shall see, this becomes important because she has appointed virtually all of the current Executive Team to their positions during her tenure; she has also created the current Executive Officer structure.
Ted Eliopoulos, Chief Investment Officer--Stausboll appointed Ted Eliopoulos as CIO in 2014. He started out as an attorney with Latham & Watkins, another of the California power elite law firms whose progeny populate California government. Not coincidentally, he too worked for California Treasurer Angeledes, and became Chief Deputy Treasurer from 2002-2006. And oh, by the way, he was the designated representative for the Treasurer on the CalPERS Board during this time.
In 2007, when Stausboll was back at CalPERS, Eliopoulos came on board as Senior Investment Officer for the Real Estate Division. Under her tutelage he moved from SIO for Real Estate to SIO, and then to SIO for all of the Real Assets Investments.
Douglas Hoffner - Deputy Executive Officer, Operations & Technology--Ann Stausboll appointed Mr. Hoffner to this position in mid-2012. Douglas started out in politics for then Assembly member Fred Aguiar (R-San Bernardino). He also became the Executive Director of & Associates, handling two trade associations (California Building Officials, and the Roofing Contractors Association.
He then worked for 2 years as ‘Assistant Director of Legislation’ for the CA Department of General Services, and moved up to a Deputy Cabinet Secretary under the Schwarzenneger Administration. From there he moved over to the CA Labor and Workforce Development Agency, where he was tapped by Stausboll.
Obviously a politically connected Republican type, Ann Stausboll had him named Interim CEO of CalPERS after she announced her retirement effective August 2016.
Matthew G. Jacobs - General Counsel--Mr. Jacobs came to CalPERS via the big time global corporate sector, namely DLA Piper, LLC. They play with the care and feeding of large corporations; they claim, “we also advise governments and public sector bodies.” The scant information that is readily available would seem to indicate that his area of expertise was in federal litigation.
Cheryl Eason - Chief Financial Officer--Cheryl Eason became the first CFO for CalPERS in 2012. Prior to that, she worked for the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation, and then the British Columbia Pension Corporation. The newly created position was designed to provide oversight of budgeting, accounting, risk compliance, pension contract management and prefunding.
In March of this year, CalPERS announced the creation of a new position reporting to Ms. Eason. Marlene Timberlake D’Adamo is now the new Chief Compliance Officer, a position advertised as strengthening the “Pension Fund’s transparency, accountability and ethics.” She comes from PNC Bank in Philadelphia where she worked in Portfolio and Risk Management.
Donna Lum - Deputy Executive Officer, Customer Services and Support--A longtime employee, Donna Lum started as the IT person for the CA Department of Education Department of Toxic Substances Control. In 1999, she came to CalPERS and served as Chief of the Benefit Services Division before being promoted to Deputy Executive Officer for Customer Services and Support, the division that handles administration of retirement and health account benefits and the associated customer services.
Doug P. McKeever - Deputy Executive Officer, Benefit Programs Policy and Planning--Mr. McKeever came to CalPERS from the Department of Corrections and Mental Health, where he was Director of Juvenile Programs & Director of Mental Health. He is lead for dealing with the health benefits function of CalPERS, such as contracting out health plans, long-term care, retirement planning and research. This function involves some 1.4 million people and more than $8 billion per year.
Brad W. Pacheco - Deputy Executive Officer, Communications and Stakeholder Relations--Originally coming from the CA Association of HMO’s as its Communications Director, Mr. Pacheco joined CalPERS in 1995. Essentially the PR person, he was promoted to the newly created position of DEO, Communications and Stakeholder Relations in 2015.
As such, he is responsible for the CalPERS websites, social media, video, media relations and employee communications -- not to mention that he now deals with public record act requests, not a success story for CalPERS in the past.
The Takeaway--Clearly, after being promoted to CEO in 2008, Ann Stausboll created a whole new structure for her executive team and personally populated it with her picks. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, most of the key management players on the Board Administrative side were simply not around at the time of the corruption scandals involving Messrs. Buenrosto and Villalobos. Also, Eliopoulos, Hoffner, and Jacobs all had heavy political and corporate backgrounds.
Second, having personally created the structure and filling it with her choices, there was little likelihood that any of her staff would say anything to the Board that was not previously vetted by her.
So here’s the question: Why did Ms. Stausboll suddenly announce her retirement in August of this year at age 59?
(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Deregulation, the elimination of governmental review of private investments, many of them speculative, has benefited a small percentage of high stakes investors, while inflicting tremendous social costs on the rest of the population. In fact, the dramatic increase in inequality in the United States over the past three decades closely tracks the many types of deregulation implemented by the Federal government and local municipalities. While the resulting economic hardship became painfully obviously in the Great Depression of 2007-8, when unemployment, bankruptcies, and foreclosures soared, the sordid history of deregulation is much worse.
A quick Google search for “failures of deregulation” reveals thousands of articles, including the airline industry, stock market, banking, telecommunications, electric power generation and distribution, and agriculture. But, most of these discussions overlook deregulation at the municipal level, which is a national policy easily observable in American cities, such as Los Angeles.
Last week in my CityWatch column I blasted the White House Affordable Housing Tool Kit for offering nothing more than old, recycled calls for municipal deregulation. If followed, its impact and probably its intent would be a lifeline to real estate speculators who extensively donate to Democrats in local and state elections. I also linked the local deregulation that the White House extolls to the long history of ineffective, market-based, affordable housing programs, including LA’s, around since the 1980s. In nearly 30 years they have not produced any net gains in affordable housing, just increased levels of overcrowding and homelessness.
During those three decades political cronies, from Mayors Bradley to Garcetti, have reaped many financial benefits from municipal deregulation, but that is about it. In fact, I would not be surprised to learn that the many Los Angeles Times articles alleging totally fictitious benefits of zoning and planning deregulation – usually the construction of affordable housing – are linked to these same cronies. Like the Gipper, these articles whistle the same old song of deregulation despite a flood of data that it is only a boon for market housing, especially luxury housing.
More specifically, how does deregulation actually take place in Los Angeles?
Spot-zoning: The most common form of local deregulation is the extensive up-zoning and up-planning of private parcels through the legislative actions in the sights of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. The City’s elected officials bend over backwards to adopt spot-zoning changes and General Plan Amendments that green light larger real estate developments for individual parcels. These special laws then allow property owners to dodge future public notices, hearings, debates, appeals, CEQA, as well as additional property taxes on the increased value of their land. Such a deal!
Re-code LA: The most grandiose effort to deregulate zoning is re:code LA. When completed, it will redefine local zoning for most of Los Angeles by establishing a greater latitude of permitted uses. This approach is called form-based zoning, and it is a citywide approach to eliminate the need for real estate speculators to apply for zone changes or variances to build structures that are not currently allowed by-right. Like spot-zoning, this massive, citywide rezoning program allows property owners to avoid future discretionary actions, environmental reviews, and increases in property taxes.
Community Plan Updates: The long-stalled program to update LA’s General Plan by attaching extensive zoning and planning amendments to Community Plans is now resuming, with a focus on the downtown. These complex amendments run on for many pages and substantially increase the by-right population density and building intensity for hundreds of private parcels. Once adopted as an appendix to Community Plans, they not only allow a greater range of uses and building sizes, but also exempt countless parcels from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by eliminating the need for future discretionary actions.
CEQA “Reform:” Another broad brush form of deregulation is efforts to weaken the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), such as annual proposals from the Governor and State Legislature to streamline environmental reviews and appeals. In his latest “reform” initiative, Governor Jerry Brown proposed a statewide ban on additional zoning reviews for residential projects that conform to local zoning.
EIR Exemptions: Complimenting these statewide efforts to erode CEQA are local efforts, most notably Statements of Overriding Considerations. These are City Council legislative actions that grant building permits to mega-projects even though their Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) document serious environmental impacts. A stroke of the pen and a majority vote whisk away these adverse environmental impacts with lofty – but unverified -- promises of future jobs and transit ridership.
Zoning and Development Streamlining: Year-after-year, like CEQA reform, development streamlining has remained a key priority at City Hall. The actual streamlining, though, only proceeds in small increments, such as the creation of an Expediting Unit in the Department of City Planning. It is here that the City’s zoning specialists advise applicants who have paid extra case processing fees on the best way to quickly get their pet developments through the project review process.
Restricted case notifications: Ideally, all discretionary actions should mail hearing notices to every resident and property owner within a 500 foot radius of a project. In practice, though, many projects only send notices to adjacent properties. This truncated noticing process reduces participation in hearings and appeals for Specific Plans and Historical Preservation Overlay Zones with review boards, Community Design Overlay Districts, and SB 1818/Density Bonus projects.
SB 1818/ Density Bonus is a nearly bullet-proof quasi-zone variance process for many residential projects. Any developer of apartment buildings can apply for on-menu “incentives” to eliminate zoning requirements in exchange for the inclusion of a small percentage of affordable units. Even though this legislation is considered a discretionary action, there are no mandatory findings, no effective right of appeal, and no field inspections. Unlike most other discretionary actions, these cases also do not require posted or mailed notices. If immediate neighbors do not happen to catch a project’s environmental notice in the Thursday Los Angeles Times, the first time they would learn of a nearby SB 1818 density bonus project is when they receive a written determination in the mail. Considering that nearly all such determinations grant additional height that adversely impacts neighbors, this amounts to a gag order on critical comments.
Reactive code enforcement: In Los Angeles, bootlegged structures, such as illegal signs and garage conversions, are widespread. Since LA’s Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) does not proactively cite code violators when City staff observes infractions, the default is reactive code enforcement. The public submits the locations of code violations to LADBS, and the violators are then occasionally issued citations. But, there are rarely consequences, such as prosecution or city-ordered demolitions, when the contractors fail to comply. The result is that LA is filled with illegal buildings and signs. In effect, the City’s failure to enforce its own land use and building laws results in extensive deregulation.
Easy discretionary actions. The approvals that the Department of City Planning grants to projects that violate zoning and planning laws are called discretionary actions. They are almost always “approved with conditions,” such as restrictions on hours of operation. But, there is no reliable authority at City Hall to enforce these extensive conditions, which means they are really sops intended to assuage project critics.
General Plan negligence. In California every city must have an up-to-date and comprehensive General Plan that is regularly monitored. In LA most of the General Plan’s elements are out-of-date, and the City has deliberately refused to monitor the General Plan’s components since the late 1990s. While City Planning is beginning to update LA’s General Plan, other than housing data, the General Plan’s monitoring program has so far been ignored.
The cumulative effect of these many forms of local deregulation is to make real estate speculation the default city planning process in Los Angeles. Carefully planned and monitored growth of public and private areas has been replaced by unplanned growth resulting from multiple investors’ disconnected, short-term efforts to maximize financial return on individual parcels. While these investors do well, the public pays a tremendous price. It takes the form of strapped public services, slow fire and paramedic responses, crumbling infrastructure, unsafe buildings, traffic congestion, sound and air pollution, and esthetically grim corridors and centers.
(Dick Platkin is a former Los Angeles City Planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatch. Please submit any comments or corrections to email@example.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
SPECIAL REPORT--Public support for the legalization of recreational marijuana in the U.S. is at a historic high—so to speak—of 60 percent, according to a new Gallup poll just released.
The results come just as a growing number of states vote to legalize recreational marijuana, with another five states casting ballots on the issue this November. Local surveys indicate the efforts are likely to pass in Arizona, California, Maine, and Massachusetts. Nevada, the final state considering legalization, seems more conflicted. (Voters will also decide on medical marijuana questions in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota.)
A Pew Research Center poll released last week found similar results.
Gallup first asked the question in 1969 and found that public support for legalization stood at 12 percent. It increased slightly to 28 percent during the mid-'70s, but fell back down during the "Just Say No" anti-drug era of the '80s and wavered around 25 percent in the '90s. But it has climbed steadily since 2000, paving the way for an increasing number of states to legalize recreational marijuana, and in 2013 reached a majority for the first time.
The survey also found that young adults overwhelmingly back legalization, with 77 percent of people aged 18-34 expressing their support. But older generations increasingly favor it too, with support at 45 percent among people aged 55 and older.
Politically, the group that favors legalization the most is Independents, who poll at 70 percent support, up from 47 percent in 2003 and 2005. The next is Democrats, at 67 percent, up from 38 percent during that same time period. Republican support has more than doubled, polling now at 42 percent versus 20 percent in 2003 and 2005.
The pollsters said the numbers were particularly important with regards to California's legalization effort. The bottom line, Gallup says, is that California is a political trendsetter in the U.S.—so if it passes there, many other states will likely follow.
"As more states legalize marijuana, the question of whether the drug should be legal may become when it will be legal," Gallup's managing editor Art Swift explained in a write-up of the poll results.
In this election alone, "[t]he percentage of Americans living in states where pot use is legal could rise from the current 5 percent to as much as 25 percent if all of these ballot measures pass," he wrote.
(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)
GOD BLESS OUR INDIRECT DEMOCRACY--Suppose we ask all Americans to vote on whether anyone whose first name starts with the letter “A” should pay an extra tax, giving everyone else a tax break. The appalling measure would probably pass.
From the perspective of us A-listers (sorry, couldn’t resist), that would amount to a classic case of the kind of “tyranny of the majority” our Founding Fathers were so eager to avoid, illustrating why certain filters, or brakes, on direct democracy are desirable. The idea was that people shouldn’t legislate themselves, but instead leave that up to their representatives.
And even if the people’s representatives get carried away, our political system has other checks and balances to insulate it from too much democracy: Congress itself is split into two bodies; unelected judges protect the Constitution from lawmakers; our nation’s monetary policy is set by an “independent” (undemocratic, that is) Federal Reserve Board. We’ve also developed a stable of technocratic agencies like the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Communications Commission to govern areas of American life at a dotted-line remove from the democratic process.
All these checks on democracy, together, constitute the genius of American democracy. We pride ourselves on our freedom to do as we damned please, but at the same time we’ve locked away all the chocolate and given the key to a friend, and warned him not to listen to us if we call to ask for it urgently late some night. Of course we then complain about how the system doesn’t work, about how we can’t binge on chocolate whenever we want.
Such complaints are the fuel of the term “populism.” The word wasn’t current in the era of the Founders, and it remains vaguely defined in ours, but it’s precisely what our republic’s designers were intent on protecting against: The danger that over-indulging majority passions could overwhelm and subvert the system at any given moment.
This is the election year of mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore populism (to cite the Howard Beale character from the classic Network movie), with Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump railing against how bankers, Washington, the Federal Reserve, foreigners, and conspiring elites are holding back “the people.” Those are familiar rants, yet, there is something novel about the threat posed by today’s populism: The real threat nowadays is a potential tyranny of an agitated minority, more so than a potential tyranny of the majority.
The two dangers are easy to confuse because agitated minorities can look very much like a majority now that they can mobilize via once unimaginable communications technology and dominate wall-to-wall cable TV news coverage. Who knows how far William Jennings Bryan or Eugene V. Debs would have gotten with a Twitter following, a YouTube channel, and the ability to call into CNN?
Let’s tweak our imagined tax referendum to illustrate what a tyranny of the minority looks like. Suppose that instead of asking Americans whether people whose first name starts with an A should pay more taxes, we ask them to vote on whether A-listers should be exempted from ever again having to pay any taxes.
This measure, if uncoupled from any other balloting in a low-turnout vote, might conceivably pass. Why? Because we A-listers would turn out to vote in droves, and most everyone else would have little incentive to vote, or to speak out against the measure.
The real threat nowadays is a potential tyranny of an agitated minority, more so than a potential tyranny of the majority.
It’s an extreme hypothetical, but too much of American political life has become vulnerable to hijacking by intensely motivated and agitated minorities. It’s why teachers unions can control school board elections, why the gun lobby can punch above its weight in Washington, and why we haven’t fixed our broken immigration system.
The danger of not appreciating the threat posed by an extremely motivated minority, as opposed to an untrammeled majority, is that our society is enabling the former threat with its overzealous vigilance against the latter. So, for instance, while a bicameral Congress and the separation of powers that allots the executive a veto and the courts judicial review are good brakes on majority rule, the Senate’s filibuster rules and the so-called “Hastert Rule” observed by House Republicans go too far in empowering agitating minorities.
The Senate’s longtime filibuster rules were infamous in delaying the adoption of needed civil rights in the 20th century, long after a majority of Americans were ready to go along. This was a case of an aggrieved minority—white Southern Democrats—subverting the will of the majority to protect said minority.
The Hastert Rule in the House is a more recent, and less formalized, tradition in the House of Representatives that has similarly served to block immigration reform favored by a majority of Americans, and by a majority of their representatives in Congress. The policy, enunciated by Dennis Hastert when he was the Republican Speaker of the House (long before he was revealed to be a child molester), and loosely followed by some predecessors and successors, is that proposed legislation should not be brought for a vote on the floor of the House unless it is supported by a majority of the party’s own caucus.
As speaker in recent years, John Boehner set aside the rule at key times to allow for bipartisan votes to keep the government open when some far-right Republicans were threatening to close it down, and that’s one reason Mr. Boehner is no longer in office. But he did not allow the House to vote on a sensible immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in 2013, which would have legalized the status of the millions of undocumented workers in this country. The bill could have passed in the House with the support of Democrats and more moderate Republicans (as it did in the Senate), but the Hastert Rule stood in the way.
The Founding Fathers intended for both chambers of the Congress, as well as the president and the judiciary, to all wrestle with thorny issues like immigration—balancing the will of the people with the Constitution. It’s a perversion of their design for one faction within the House to hijack the process, and allow for an agitated minority of anti-immigration nativists to become the arbiters of what constitutes a proposal worth voting on.
Immigration and international trade feature prominently in this election cycle’s populist discourse, but it’s inaccurate to portray these issues, as the media often does, as pitting elites against “the people.” Opinion polls consistently show that a majority of Americans view trade in a positive light and favor immigration reform along the lines of what the Senate passed three years ago (as opposed to mass deportations and a wall). It’s easy to lose track of that reality, though, given the asymmetry of passion and interest between supporters and opponents of immigration and free trade.
Richard Nixon’s odes to the concept of a “silent majority,” whose support he cherished, were often mocked by pundits in his day but it’s a concept worth revisiting. Today there is a silent majority that thinks it’d be insane to deport millions of hard-working, law-abiding immigrant workers. But, like many other insane ideas out there, this one isn’t going to keep most people from going about their daily business. It’s the supporters of the insanity who likely consider immigration THE ISSUE of our times, and can be found screaming at rallies and pestering their members of Congress, threatening to have them “primaried” if they work with Democrats on the issue.
The dangers posed by agitated minorities are not merely an American phenomenon. They are wreaking greater havoc in other western democracies, like Colombia and Britain, that have ill-advisedly put big questions to a public vote in 2016. Elites in London and Bogotá were seeking additional legitimacy for their decisions to stay in the European Union and reach a final peace settlement with a vanquished narco-insurgency by engaging their silent majorities in the process. In the end, sizable impassioned minorities prevailed.
Trump’s populist campaign narrative of elites pitted against “the people” is off. Today’s politics is pitting elites and a silent (or quieter) majority against a loud, angry, mobilized faction of people susceptible to a populist pitch. The question on November 8 is whether the silent majority makes itself heard, or whether it will cede the electoral battleground to the more clamorous minority.
(Andrés Martinez is the executive editor of Zócalo Public Square. Primary Editor: Joe Mathews. Secondary Editor: Sara Catania. Photo by Brynn Anderson/Associated Press.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.)
GELFAND’S WORLD--This week, the nation's press and pundits are all aflutter about Donald Trump's response to a question that came up in Wednesday's third and final presidential debate. Trump refused to agree to accept the results of the November 8 election. His answer is being quoted by every commentator: "I will look at it at the time," but it might just as well have been, "I'll jump off that bridge when I come to it." My view is that the editorial writers are taking a rather pessimistic view of the American people in treating this one remark as the most newsworthy event of the evening.
First of all, let's make the point that a Trump loss without a formal concession speech would not be the worst outcome ever for an American presidential election. Consider one previous election back in the 1860s, when the state of South Carolina attacked a federal fortification and seceded from the United States. They didn't even wait until Lincoln's inauguration.
So when Trump loses, it hardly matters whether he makes a gracious concession speech, engages in fiery rhetoric, or says nothing at all. It's not going to lead to a civil war. The fiery rhetoric would actually be better for his reputation, because his failure to say anything would just mark him as a pouting loser.
Perhaps I'm being a little naive here, but I took Trump's response to be an attempt at his Trumpian form of standup comedy. His follow up line, "I will keep you in suspense," made that point. What he may have been trying to say in effect was that we are all getting a little tired of the pomposity of debate moderators, so take this question and shove it.
Of course turning the presidential election into one big joke is not what normal people expect, but it's in line with the entire Trump campaign. I suspect that the long-term interpretation of that response eventually will be that Trump came unprepared for this question -- unprepared in the deeper political sense -- just as he has been unprepared on so many other topics.
This is my day to be optimistic about American democracy (fueled in part by the substantial repudiation of Trump's answer by so many well known conservatives). Assuming Hillary Clinton wins, which is becoming ever more likely, the majority of the American people will accept the result as legitimate. It's true that some will refuse to accept the result, but that would be the case whether Trump concedes or not. Most of us will tune in to the inauguration on January 20 and watch the peaceful transfer of power. Those who have some grasp of world history (and particularly European history) will be thankful.
As to the debate itself, a few points are worth making. Let's start with the lesson of Richard Nixon and John Kennedy from their initial debate back in 1960. Historians love to tell us that people who heard the presidential debate on the radio either called it a draw or felt that Nixon won marginally. But television viewers got a favorable view of John Kennedy and an unflattering view of Nixon when picture was added to sound.
Somehow, Donald Trump didn't get the memo. In contrast to Hillary Clinton's poise, he couldn't keep himself from twitching, frowning, smirking, and interrupting. He did a little better job of holding back on the interruptions during the first half hour or so, where he appeared to be scripted and rehearsed. His answers were plainly arguable from the intellectual standpoint, but he had his words in grammatical order and his attacks followed one another in some semblance of structure.
In this, he seemed to have help from the moderator, who has paradoxically been praised for his performance in a lot of places. It's true that he asked real questions and largely stayed away from Bill Clinton's sex life, but his economic biases came through. Particularly when he brought up the national debt, his question, you might say, was questionable. One commentator on the Daily Kos website who writes under the pseudonym dcg2 summed up the moderator's approach deftly. The moderator took it as a given that a mounting national debt is a bad thing, even though some serious economists point out that we don't, at this time, have an economic problem based on the debt.
And yes, it's true that the questions thrown at the candidates were filtered through the conservative perspective, without raising real world worries such as climate change or the continuing loss of union power. This had two opposing effects, one negative and one positive. The negative effect was to force the more liberal candidate to recite a few conservative platitudes such as creating a deficit-free federal budget. The more positive side is that it allowed Hillary Clinton to present the liberal argument on topics such as Planned Parenthood, Roe vs. Wade, and social security, all without some obnoxious talk show host constantly interrupting her. There are not all that many opportunities for the liberal side to tell its story to conservative viewers, and Hillary made use of this one.
Speaking of interruptions, the Donald managed to hold himself in check for that first half hour or so. Perhaps he shouldn't have agreed to participate in 90 minute debates, because he obviously cannot maintain self control for more than a few moments. His style of interrupting with the word "wrong" escalated through the evening, leading to his most serious mistake of the evening, his interruption with the phrase, "Such a nasty woman." Perhaps Trump was trying to play to those who have been propagandized against the Clintons for decades, but the remark will reverberate against him for the remainder of the campaign.
After the debate, I chatted with a few people to get their take. One view struck me as perspicacious: Trump comes across as somebody who is used to talking to underlings. In that context, he can interrupt, insult, and be dead wrong, and he doesn't expect to be corrected. In short, he expects to be treated as the boss. Some of this came out earlier in the campaign, when he complained about debate moderators such as Megyn Kelly. He expects subservience from most everyone, and goes ballistic when he doesn't get it.
In the world of the corporate board meeting, the CEO presides not as an equal, but literally as the boss. There is a big contrast in candidate debates, where no candidate has the right to rule over the others. Trump understands this at some intellectual level, but his lifelong habits, now ingrained as instincts, keep pushing him towards the boss role. He appears unable to help himself, and keeps succumbing to his instincts by making irritating interruptions.
Some of the deeper thinking pundits are beginning to understand that Hillary Clinton is not just the passive beneficiary of Trump's ineptitude. She, along with her otherwise invisible campaign staff, have played Trump like a violin, and he has cooperated in his own downfall.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
PUFFED UP POLITICS-In a few more weeks, on the heels of a final Presidential decision by voters, and after the punditry and handwringing recedes, we may get a breather from the spew that has shredded this election season’s political discourse. This is neither the first nor last battering that will be visited on democracy’s dented carapace, but rather another in a long series of assaults born of ignorance, profit-seeking, appeals to outrage and delight in cheap and cheesy titillation.
Those who pitch their political wares from such a low view of the world are regrettable, but expected features of the human landscape. They often rise higher than their deserved station on the back of moxie, materialism, vanity, and cultural division. This election cycle we have experienced a species of this parasitic ilk that personifies incivility. We’ve borne witness to a kind of acting out that sunders civil discourse and rejects a shared sense of mutuality and reciprocity. Instead of a striving vision for a common future, we’ve received a “gonna-tell-it-like-is” tough-guy, sneering and dog-whistling to the very darkest beliefs and urges in those who see themselves as losing out to everyone else.
Highly visible figures, especially those inclined to preen in their own perceived exceptionalism, tacitly approve and effectively uncork ideas and actions in people who occupy the more impulsive margins of society. They stir the latent anger, rage and pent-up hatreds of society's discontents, too often at the peril of people who prefer to behave – and live alongside others who behave – in more civilized and tolerant ways.
Community grows at the epicenters of tolerance and civility. Chaos threatens when those willing to pull the strings of a distorted public imagination grant their adherents permission to act in concert with base, even violent instincts, no matter the cost or collateral damage to others. There's nothing inherently wrong with alternative views, outright protest, angry demonstration, competing ideologies, and even nonviolent rebellion that challenges the status quo. We see these in all forms and permutations, often contained in the places where American civil society and nonprofit organizations offer a social safety valve to blow off steam and channel discontent productively. Problems arise, however, when putative leaders ignite righteous passions and then turn their backs on or disavow responsibility for the consequences of the rebellion they incite.
Unbound, the “tell it like it is” mantra becomes “do as you please, it’s okay.” That’s when people end up getting wounded, further disaffected or abandoned. Surely a large part of the American electorate, called to take up electoral arms, will suffer political abandonment in the months and years ahead. Those who have chanted racist, sexist, anti-immigrant and other vicious incantations will resort to simmering and stewing, some feeling validated enough by their so-called democratic engagement to abuse and damage civility even more. Others will see loyalty and devotion rewarded by their crass commodification as the next audience for a low-brow television series or as customers for more worthless crap hocked their way.
The degree of abuse visited on American democracy this election season has left civility punched in the face and momentarily knocked senseless on the street. We’re owed a refund, I believe, but it’s one we are never likely to collect because professed leaders obsessed with merely their own grasping, groping needs think not a jot about what happens next, nor do they care for the collective who.
It is up to those who care about strengthening democracy to see demagoguery for what it is, to name it, to call it out and, in so doing, to sustain the vigilance and struggle that counters chaos and strives toward civil society.
(Paul Vandeventer is President and CEO of Community Partners.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.)
VOICES FROM THE SQUARE--For most of 2016, American politics could best be described as caught in a populist moment. Populism has always come in two variations, and we’ve seen both this year. The most familiar form, ably represented in all its raw madness-of-crowds by Donald Trump, is based on resentment of immigrants and other non-majority identities (racial, ethnic, linguistic, and religious most prominently), and rancor directed at political elites for their perceived role in changing social norms. This is the populism familiar from historian Richard Hofstadter’s “status anxiety” explanation of late 19th Century populism, or, in more recent history, the presidential campaigns of George Wallace.
The other version of populism is built around policies that would support working and low-income families, often coupled with a sharp critique of economic elites—“the 99 percent” versus “the 1 percent.” This was the populism that Bernie Sanders rode during a surprisingly successful challenge to the anointed Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and that mobilized younger voters almost as powerfully as Barack Obama had eight years earlier.
It would be a mistake to treat these two populisms as flip sides of the same coin. The white cultural resentment generated by Trump—particularly because it represents a distinct minority defined by identity rather than ideology—is a profound challenge to the Republican Party and to mainstream conservatism, just as Wallace’s was to the Democratic Party in another era. The policy differences between populist Democrats like Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren and their mainstream counterparts such as Clinton and her running mate Tim Kaine, however, are subtle. Sanders’ proposals, for example, flowed easily enough into the party platform and the vision of its nominee Hillary Clinton.
Remaining policy differences between the two camps are relatively minor, such as those between “free college” and “debt-free college,” or between a restoration of the New Deal-era Glass-Steagall banking regulations repealed in 1998 and a proposed new regulatory regime. These are still differences of ideology, but modest ones; and the differences in identity between the Sanders and Clinton camps, other than on matters of age and style, are hard to find. Instead, the left’s version of populism can seem more like a fresh coat of paint, or a sharper argument for otherwise standard liberal policies.
Nonetheless, the distinction between left populism and mainstream progressive politics does diverge in one significant way: Sanders and Warren want to name names. Their narrative, like Trump’s, is one of “heroes and villains”—the villains being not immigrants, but the “millionaire and billionaire class” or big political donors. Warren, for example, has been relentlessly focused on personnel, more insistent on limiting the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street and going after the Obama administration acolytes of former Citigroup chairman and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin (whom she blames for the tame treatment of executives during the financial crisis) than on any other particular policy.
In Hillary Clinton’s view of the world, though, there are few villains, and when they are named it is with legalistic care. (Trump himself is a villain, but carefully distinguished from other Republicans, even those who support him.) Politics, in this view, is a matter of problems, to be fixed, often by elites wielding dispassionate expertise.
So one of the central questions of our era has become: Does successful American politics need villains? Since the rise of the Tea Party in 2009, left populists have imagined that the politics of resentment that motivates the right can be coopted or converted to the left, redirected toward corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy. While Trump attacks the “corruption” that leads to, in his view, bad trade deals, an ill-fated embrace of immigration and diversity, and American failure, left populists seem to be betting that an attack on “corruption” that names alternative targets betraying the American ideal—the Citizens United decision, middle-class wage stagnation, or the cost of college—will hook voters in the same way.
But there are major flaws in this thinking. The bonds of right populism are not so easily broken and reformed. The “heroes and villains” of Trump’s narrative (he is the only hero) are not forged by policy positions but by deep ties of cultural identity and affinity. Put more bluntly, white Trump and Tea Party supporters are not interested in a populism that involves an alliance with non-white, younger, culturally diverse voters. Meanwhile, the relentless attack on “corruption” from populists on both sides has led to the strange paradox that voters still view Hillary Clinton, merely a lifelong denizen of the existing political system, as more corrupt than the genuinely venal Trump, a master of tax scams, direct-marketing scams, and charity scams. Politics based on resentment and attacks on “corruption” have merely deepened mistrust of government, which is in itself a barrier to the policies that left populists favor.
Instead, perhaps what American politics really needs is a third kind of populism. Instead of the “them” populism of left and right, we should look to the tradition of “us” populism—one in which citizens work together, from local to national levels of government, to define and solve problems. A politics in which citizens are not just engaged as angry protestors calling on the system to change, but as part of the system itself.
America has had a populism like this before, as described in historian Lawrence Goodwyn’s portraits of the rise of late 19th century agrarian alliances, in Democratic Promise: The Populist Moment in America, and several other books. Where Hofstadter saw only resentment and status anxiety, Goodwyn saw millions of people who had been quiescent suddenly becoming engaged, participating fully through unions, farmers alliances, and new political movements to redesign the economic structures of a fast-growing country. He celebrated the cross-racial alliances forged in the South and the transformations of political consciousness experienced by individuals participating in this democratic renascence.
Our democracy would benefit from an investment in this kind of “us” populism, especially its ideas about refining existing institutions to strengthen citizen voices and public trust, and creating new mechanisms for public engagement and deliberation. This might include steps such as setting up participatory budgeting or seeing labor unions, community organizations, and similar associations as civil society institutions—rather than just economic claimants.
This new populism can’t simply be conjured into existence. It has to rise up from the lived experience of millions of individuals. But we have tools, including new technologies and new techniques of organizing, that can help. There are signs of a more meaningful and participatory democracy emerging in many American cities. Perhaps by the next presidential election, this budding “us” populism can compete with the populism of resentment that dominated in 2016.
(Mark Schmitt is the director of the Political Reform Program at New America. This piece originated at Zocalo Public Square.)
GELFAND’S WORLD--It would be a mistake to jail Dick Cheney just as it would be a mistake to jail Hillary Clinton
The other night, Donald Trump said that if elected, he would throw Hillary Clinton in a dungeon. OK, I exaggerate a bit. He said that he would appoint a special prosecutor whose job it would be to send Hillary to jail. But actually, the two accounts are not all that different, since the desired outcome is essentially the same and the underlying attitude is essentially feudal.
There are powerful historical and social reasons for opposing this approach to government and, curiously enough, they are exactly the same reasons why it would have been wrong for the Obama administration to try to prosecute George W. Bush or his vice president for war crimes.
In stating this assertion, I oppose positions stated emphatically on the one hand by some American liberals and on the other hand by some American conservatives. The one group wanted Dick Cheney sent to prison, and the other group is now calling to have Hillary jailed.
Those who fail to understand why both sides are wrong are failing to understand the fragility of democratic governance.
Consider: We take for granted that there will be a presidential election every four years and that there will be a new president every four or eight years. This hope is actually one extreme on a continuum. It is optimistic in the sense that we have a national tradition -- presidential elections -- that has never been broken, but perhaps under the wrong circumstances could be.
If we are to recognize that maintaining this tradition for over 220 years has at least partly been a lucky break for us, then there is a corollary: We should be careful about not taking democracy for granted, and we should be especially careful about doing what it takes to maintain the democratic tradition.
There is of course an opposing, more pessimistic point of view: In one form, it is the claim that the current president intends to postpone or cancel the next election. I think I first heard people making that statement as far back as the Nixon administration, and the claim seems to get reborn with each new presidency. When you look at this claim carefully, it becomes apparent that it's opposite in one critical way from the throw her in jail trope. The throw her in jail view, although malicious, takes the continuation of our democracy for granted, while the assertion that the president plans to carry out a coup by cancelling elections assumes that our democracy is illusory. After all, if the president can crown himself king or declare himself dictator then it isn't much of a democracy.
Historians tell us that we've had moments in our history when presidents took extraordinary powers. Lincoln negated the right of habeus corpus at one point in his presidency. Nixon in effect took the U.S. off the gold standard. George W Bush allowed the use of torture. Obama is accused (true or not) of violating the Constitution.
Many of these allegations are demonstrably true, and others are matters of opinion. So if it is possible for an American president to act like a dictator, then what sort of democracy do we actually have?
One obvious answer is that no president gets to be a complete dictator. Presidents sometimes push the envelope, but none has so far managed to collect a crown and royal scepter. There is plenty of balance in our system of checks and balances.
But the most important element of this presidential system of ours is that new presidents come in and old presidents go out. The ultimate solution to presidential overreach is to elect a different one. The solution to political party overreach is the same. Routine elections are the answer.
It's how we get rid of dictatorial behavior on the part of our leadership. Presidents stay as long as their electoral terms last, and no longer. It's almost the definition of true democracy vs. faux democracy. Any country in which the leader can cancel the upcoming elections (or never has elections) is not a true democracy.
I'd like to think that there is a reason for why we have been able to maintain our tradition of 8 years and out. Part of that reason is that our government involves the participation of multiple actors, from presidents to senators to congressmen, and they have one thing in common. They are all players in a political game with defined rules of winning (getting more votes) and losing (getting fewer votes). It's not just a game of taking power as in a feudal monarchy, but a game of winning power according to a particular type of conflict.
You might therefore treat our electoral system as having certain features analogous to chivalry. There is a cultural system with its own norms. Rather than the loyalty of the knight to his duke, we have a certain level of loyalty to a system as a whole. You can call it fealty to Constitutional law, or you can just say that this is the way that things are done. In either case, there were a lot of Republicans who chose loyalty to the system over their loyalty to Richard Nixon during the Watergate crisis. We can see some of the same reaction from Republicans who are deserting Trump.
Now let's imagine for a moment that when Obama ascended to the presidency, he didn't give George W Bush that well-photographed hand clasp, but instead acted to prosecute Bush and Cheney for war crimes. What message would this send?
If you have any sense of history, you would immediately recognize that this would be a recipe for any future Republican president to find some reason to prosecute his predecessor. Allow me to remind you that a lot of Republicans carried decades-long grudges over the forced resignation of Richard Nixon. "He was hounded from office" was their claim. It took a while, but they finally got even (rightly or wrongly) through the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
The effect of a current president taking legal action against a former president would create a dangerous incentive. Any current president would understand the risk inherent in becoming a former president. It could get him or her thrown in prison. One way of avoiding becoming a former president is to find some excuse for cancelling elections.
In other words, our democratic system depends on a tradition, and we don't know whether that tradition is strong enough to stand up to presidents prosecuting their opponents. There's a reason that the authors of the Constitution limited removal of the president to a specific series of actions that require both houses of congress, and leave the sitting president out of the process other than as the person facing trial. The founders even required a supermajority in the Senate to complete the act of removing a president from office. Notice by the way that there have only been two impeachment trials in the history of our republic, and both failed to achieve a guilty verdict.
Viewed in this way, Donald Trump's threat to jail Hillary Clinton is more feudal than modern. It is the idea that kings battle against other kings, with the winner taking all. America rejects that culture, replacing it with written rules that define how authority is gained, and how it is shared among competing arms of government. It's true that there have been occasional lapses, as when a member of congress beat another member in response to a difference of opinion over slavery, or when Alexander Hamilton died in a duel. But our culture does not exult Aaron Burr the way feudal culture exulted conquest and assassination. We make changes in executive power by electing new presidents, not by a process in which presidents imprison their opponents.
While preparing this column, I came across a piece by Garrison Keillor. It says some of what is said here (at least I'd like to think that) but in the unique Garrison Keillor style. It's worth a read, particularly where Keillor, referring to Trump's views, says, "The government is not a disaster; it is a culture of process and law and organization that is alien to him."
One more brief story. A few years ago, I attended a scientific meeting in an eastern city. I shared a cab to the airport with a fellow scientist from one of the remaining dictatorships. He asked me a little about the American system, and as we passed various monuments, I tried to explain: "What made George Washington great was that he gave up power." There have been many military leaders, but not many national leaders have established a tradition of the peaceful transition of power. My fellow scientist looked a little surprised at this answer, as it was not something that his world included.
The peaceful transition of power signified by the presidential inauguration is a continuing miracle in a world that has only slowly been adopting such traditions. It is this peaceful transition of power that Trump mocks in his threats to jail his opponent.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for City Watch. He can be reached at email@example.com)
MY TURN-I literally have spent the last week trying to figure out why there is such fear and loathing expressed when it comes to Hillary Clinton. I have read so many outlandish "facts" from friends and neighbors on Facebook and other sites that baffle me beyond description.
Some are people I have known for forty or more years. We carpooled together...our kids grew up together...we celebrated and commiserated together. How these honest, and in most cases, bright people could not only swallow but repeat these outlandish stories is beyond me.
I have stayed away from writing about the Presidential election. I have never been a partisan voter, even though I identify more with the Democratic platform than with the Republican. I vote according to my considered preference, whether it comes to politicians or initiatives.
When I discussed the content of this article with CityWatch publisher Ken Draper, it was supposed to be ready for last week. I wrote it, then let it sit for a day; then I decided I came off almost as strident and emotional as the people I was accusing.
So I decided to start all over again. Believe it or not, this now represents a far more gentle approach. Now is a good time to reflect with so many "news" programs have lavished opinions and from all sides. Unfortunately, it was too early to start drinking so I doubled my usual caffeine intake.
Many pundits trace the "Hate Hillary" phenomenon to 1992 when Governor Jerry Brown was running for President against Bill Clinton. Brown accused the former Governor of Arkansas of helping his wife’s law practice while he was in office -- an accusation that was never substantiated, like many of the Hillary tales.
Hillary fired back via the press with a sentence that roiled traditionalists who were already fired up by the era’s culture wars:
“I suppose I could have stayed home, baked cookies and had teas,” she said. Most of the media outlets neglected to report her complete quote that went on to say, “The work that I have done as a professional, a public advocate, has been aimed…to assure that women can make the choices, whether it’s full-time career, full-time motherhood or some combination.”
Go back to the eighties and nineties. Women were going through their own evolutionary process. Gloria Steinem was accused of starting a gender war. Women had started to join the workforce but in mostly non-decision making positions.
When Bill Clinton appointed Madelyn Albright as Secretary of State it was a huge achievement for women. I must admit, when I first heard Hillary talk about baking cookies I could relate to this because I felt the same way. My children will never have the memory of smelling freshly baked cookies emanating from their mother’s kitchen. To this day, I still burn the garlic bread.
Intellectually, one can understand why men would have resented Hillary in those days. She was not the kind of role model they wanted their wives and daughters to emulate. And they were starting to resent the changes occurring to the traditional "Father Knows Best" male roles. Unfortunately, men in Trump's age group were the first to experience these vast social changes.
Why do women hate her so much? I think it’s been partly due to jealousy; she’s always been doing important things perhaps while some have remained in traditional roles. However, over the years, she has served as a role model to more and more women, millions of whom have since discovered they have options too.
We should differentiate between what is true and what is urban myth. I don't remember any hue and cry when Ronald Regan accepted a two week, two million dollar fee plus the usual travel/staff perks from Japan shortly after he left the Presidency. At that time, Japan was one of our main trade competitors. Of course, he was a man and was “worthy” of such an expense. A woman receiving $250,000 for a speech was unheard of.
There was no investigation of the private RNC email server President George W. Bush used and where 55 million emails were "lost," even though they are supposed to be retained. There were no investigations of Condoleezza Rice when we had more than five terrorist attacks against U.S. embassies and military bases during her tenure.
The fact is, Jason Chafitz, Utah Congressman and Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, turned down the request for extra money the State Department requested to beef up security at embassies and consulates in dangerous areas. This was before Benghazi.
As a journalist, I have learned to check what are called "facts." Even the Investment Service Motley Fool, known as one of the most reliable Investment companies in the industry, recently included a list of the "Hillary Myths." They certainly do not have anything to gain and I don't see them on the list of Hillary donors.
Trump also blames Hillary for her husband of signing NAFTA, calling it the worst trade deal ever negotiated on the part of the United States. The initial beginnings for NAFTA were under President Reagan, who originally wanted a free trade agreement with Mexico. The famous Conservative think tank, Heritage Foundation, helped draft it and the first President Bush signed it.
While NAFTA was being negotiated, there was a lot of talk about a future extension -- eventually having a “Common Market” for the Americas. It was thought then to be a smart move to compete with the European Union.
One more thing that irritates me: Everyone refers to Trump as "Mr. Trump.” His surrogates, news reporters, employees and even his critics have given him this "Mr." title, which infers he is above everyone else. Hillary refers to him as "Donald," which I am sure, in his world, is a breach of etiquette. On the other hand, most of the time she is referred to by her first name.
The tapes that have been released as of this writing have featured ten women who tell Trump groping stories. He and I are from the same vintage and I will bet almost every woman over fifty who was in business or in the work force has been subjected to verbal and physical sexual overtures. (I can recall almost every incident that I ever experienced.) We didn't say anything because, 1) we would lose our jobs 2) we would lose the client 3) or we would upset our husbands, who might have thought we encouraged this kind of behavior, or worse, would threaten violence against the perpetrator.
I developed some pretty smart responses to those overtures to ensure that a man wouldn't feel resentful and would want to continue our business relationship. I also developed a pretty good right hook. That brings up another couple of points.
The complaint that Hillary said she has a public position and a private position is not a cardinal sin. Anyone in business faces the same situation.
Lastly, appointed Cabinet officials "serve at the pleasure of the President.” As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s responsibility was to carry out the wishes of President Obama, whether she agreed with him or not. Similarly, the job of Trump's surrogates is also to defend his behavior and policies, whether they agree with him or not.
Those of you who have a supervisor or a "boss" do the same.
I think we can all agree that this election is like no other in our lifetimes. The outcome has not been determined and, in spite of the Trump rhetoric, it is not a rigged system. What frightens many of us is the consequences of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump being elected as the 45th President of the United States. It is going to be an interminable three weeks.
My personal opinion is that Hillary Clinton is being subjected to a double standard and is definitely encountering gender bias.
Before you resend an inflammatory email or tweet, check with the professional non-biased fact checkers. Do not add to the very tense and dangerous atmosphere we are encountering. All of the facts I have discussed have been substantiated and are available online.
As always comments welcome.
(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
LA WATCHDOG--Since California is not a battleground state, we have been spared from many of the inane ads for Hillary and The Donald. But that is not to say we are off the hook as an estimated $400 to $500 million will be spent on the State’s 17 ballot measures by powerful special interests trying to convince us to reject or approve selected ballot measures.
Of the 17 November ballot measures, three ballot measures are attracting a substantial portion of cash: Proposition 56 (Cigarette Tax), Proposition 61 (Prescription Drug Pricing), and Proposition 55 (the extension of the “temporary” Soak the Rich Income Tax Surcharge).
Rather than succumb to barrage of ads, we should tell the big money special interests to take a hike, to buzz off, sending a loud and clear message that we are not for sale to the highest bidder, especially when they bombard us with many misleading advertisements.
As such, both Proposition 56 (Cigarette Tax) and Proposition 61 (Prescription Dug Pricing) deserve a YES vote as Big Tobacco and Big Pharma have spent over $150 million into ads opposing these two ballot measures.
On the other hand, Proposition 55 (Soak the Rich Income Tax Surcharge) deserves a NO vote as the California Teachers Association and the California Association of Hospitals have sunk over $55 million into this ballot measure that is betrayal of our trust and not in the best interest of the State and its economy.
YES on 56, the Cigarette Tax
If voters approve this initiative sponsored by the American Cancer Society, taxes on cigarettes will increase by $2.00 a pack. This economic signal to the market will discourage people from either continuing or taking up this nasty habit that costs us billions in healthcare costs.
The expected haul of $1.4 billion in the first year (which will decline over time as fewer butts are consumed) from this new tax will be allocated primarily to funding health care for low-income Californians.
But Big Tobacco (primarily Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds) has “invested” over $66 million to defeat this measure, making numerous misleading claims that this tax will benefit special interests (the medical industry) and deprive schools of much needed money. But these claims have been debunked by numerous credible sources, including our Los Angeles Times which endorses this proposition.
While many people oppose ballot box legislation, this initiative was the result of the failure of the Legislature to pass tax increases because our elected officials were bought off by generous campaign contributions (or threats) from the tobacco industry and their lobbyists.
YES on Proposition 61, Prescription Drug Pricing
Once again, our cowardly legislators have failed to represent their constituents as they have placed the profits of the pharmaceutical industry and their political careers and campaign war chests above our best interests.
In this case, the Legislature’s failure to pass laws that would increase transparency into the rapidly increasing prices of prescription drugs has prompted an initiative led by the Aids Healthcare Foundation (“AHF”) that will prohibit the State of California from buying any prescription drug at a price greater than the lowest price paid by the Department of Veteran Affairs.
While AHF has spent about $15 million placing this initiative on the ballot and purchasing airtime, this amount is dwarfed by the $87 million spent to date by pharmaceutical companies. And the industry is expected to dump considerably more cash into its efforts to defeat this measure, with some expecting expenditures of at least $100 million. The Los Angeles Times, which opposes this measure, raised a number of valid points as to why we should vote NO. But its solution to “fast rising drug prices” is a comprehensive, national solution that addresses competition, the speedy approval of new drugs, the role of federally funded research, and the development of new insurance models is not going to happen without prodding from the likes of AHF and the voters.
By voting YES on 61, we will send a message to Sacramento and the international drug companies that they need to get their asses in gear and develop a comprehensive policy that is acceptable to the voters of California. Otherwise, nothing will change and we (and our wallets) will continue to be sitting ducks for Big Pharma.
NO on Proposition 55, the Soak the Rich Income Tax Surcharge
In 2012, 55% of California’s voters approved Proposition 30. This measure authorized a “temporary” surcharge on higher income Californians to help plug the State’s budget deficit. And now that the State’s revenues have increased by almost $50 billion to almost $170 billion, there is no need to extend the Soak the Rich Income Tax Surcharge beyond its 2018 expiration date.
However, the California Teachers Association and the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems are leading a $56 million campaign to extend this surcharge for another 12 years. They are also supported by a slew of elected officials, organizations that rely on the State’s cash, and public sector unions that are addicted to our cash and who have no problem betraying the promises that were made in 2012.
While this surcharge will produce an estimated $7 billion a year, it also increases the State’s dependence on the income tax derived from wealthy Californians. But this places the State’s finances in a very precarious position, especially when the stock market tanks, capital gains disappear, and incomes shrivel, resulting in significantly lower tax revenues and massive budget deficits like the State experienced during the Great Recession.
This is why the Los Angeles Times opposes Proposition 55, calling for the Legislature to produce a more comprehensive overhaul of the State’s budget process.
Rather than being bamboozled by Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, and the State’s public unions, we have the opportunity to see through their misleading ads and vote for what is in our best interests and not follow the lead of our Elected Elite who have their own personal agendas.
Vote YES on 56, Vote YES on 61, and Vote Hell NO on 55.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Jack is affiliated with Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
LA WATCHDOG--Of the 24 ballot measures on the November ballot, only four are specific to the City of Los Angeles. And of these four, only one deserves a YES vote (RRR - DWP Reform), two deserve a NO vote (HHH - the $1.2 billion homeless bond and SSS – Fire and Police Pension Plans), and one deserves a HELL NO vote (JJJ - Build Better LA). (See Ballot Summaries below.)
When determining how to vote, the first and most important question is whether you trust the proponents of the ballot measure. And in the case of the City of Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council have not earned our trust and confidence as they have not embraced the reform of our City’s finances. They have ignored the excellent budget recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission, have refused to address the Structural Deficit where the increase in personnel expenditures (salaries, pensions, and medical benefits) exceed the growth in tax revenues, have passed on reforming the City’s two pension plans which are $15 billion in the hole, have failed to develop a plan to repair our streets and the rest of our failing infrastructure, and continue to bow to the wishes of real estate developers and billboard operators.
NO on Proposition HHH, the $1.2 Billion Homeless Bond
While our Enlightened Elite who occupy City Hall have told us that addressing homelessness is a priority, they have failed to make the average payment of $65 million a year a budget priority despite a $1 billion increase in City revenues over the last four years and another $600 million over the next four years. Rather than continue with this $2 billion revenue grab over the next 30 years (including interest payments) through an increase in our property taxes, the City has the capacity to pay for the homeless bonds by eliminating their discretionary slush funds, reduce their bloated staffs, and discontinue the hundreds of millions in “giveaways” to international hotel operators and mall operators such as Westfield.
The City has not developed a credible financial plan to fund the $2.8 billion gap between the $4 billion cost of 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing and the $1.2 billion in bond proceeds. Nor has it addressed the over the top cost of $400,000 a unit. Nor has it entered into a definitive agreement with the County which is considering a quarter cent increase in our sales tax ($350 million) to fund its service to the homeless.
The concept of throwing cash at the homeless problem without a financial and operational plan does not pass muster, especially given the lack of meaningful oversight.
For more information, see the CityWatch article, Los Angeles Must Resolve Its Homeless Crisis … This $1.2 Billion Taxpayer Ripoff is Not the Way to Do It.
NO on Charter Amendment SSS, the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension Plans
If approved by a majority of the voters, Airport Police officers will be eligible to participate in the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension Plans (“LAFPP”) instead of the less generous Los Angeles City Employees Retirement System (“LACERS”) plan. But without real pension reform that addresses the billions of unfunded liabilities of both LACERS and LAFPP, this ballot measure does not deserve our support. This scheme will also result in significantly higher pension contributions by the Airport and eventually its airline tenants.
The Los Angeles Times urges a NO vote. Police Pension Measure SSS Raises Too Much Doubt to Support.
HELL NO on Initiative Ordinance JJJ / Build Better LA Initiative
The Build Better LA Initiative is a crude attempt by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor to take advantage of the affordable housing shortage in the City of Los Angeles. It would require real estate developers who request a zoning change or variance to include units of affordable housing in the development and to agree to the equivalent of a Project Labor Agreement. While there has not been any detailed analysis of the financial impact of this measure on housing costs, preliminary estimates indicate that it would drive up costs by 30% to 40%. This added expense will result in a transfer of money intended for affordable housing into the pockets of construction workers and their unions.
This misleading, self-serving ballot measure will make affordable housing more unaffordable.
The Los Angeles Times urges a NO vote. Measure JJJ Could Make LA’s Housing Crisis Even Worse.
For additional information, see the CityWatch article, Build Better LA Initiative: Affordable Housing Made More Unaffordable
YES on Charter Amendment RRR, DWP Reform
The major problem with our Department of Water and Power is City Hall. Unfortunately, this charter amendment does not address the issue of Ratepayers being used as an ATM by Mayor Garcetti and the City Council. Nor are there any major changes in the governance of the Department. But it does allow for more efficient procurement and contracting, increased oversight by the Ratepayers Advocate and a newly created Water & Power Analyst that reports directly to the Board of Commissioner, and a more transparent process of appointing a new General Manager. It also requires the Department and the Board of Commissioners to prepare a Four Year Strategic Plan beginning in 2020 for consideration by the City Council and the Mayor.
The major source of controversy is that this charter amendment begins the process that may lead to the Department establishing its own Human Resources Department for its 9,000 employees that is separate and distinct from the City’s Personnel Department and remove the Department from the City’s cumbersome civil service rules and regulations. The City’s civilian unions are labeling this as a “power grab” because it would lessen their influence over the affairs of the Department and limit the transfer of City employees to better paying jobs at DWP. But any major changes would require Council approval which would “undoubtedly prompt an epic political battle.”
While this ballot measure is not the answer to our prayers, it is a step in the right direction.
As a side note, City Council President deserves a pat on the back for ushering this ballot measure through the City Council. And with his leadership, hopefully other meaningful changes will be implemented by the City Council.
The Los Angeles Times in a very good editorial urges a YES vote.
Ballot Summary / Question
HHH - HOMELESSNESS REDUCTION AND PREVENTION, HOUSING, AND FACILITIES BOND. PROPOSITION HHH.
To provide safe, clean affordable housing for the homeless and for those in danger of becoming homeless, such as battered women and their children, veterans, seniors, foster youth, and the disabled; and provide facilities to increase access to mental health care, drug and alcohol treatment, and other services; shall the City of Los Angeles issue $1,200,000,000 in general obligation bonds, with citizen oversight and annual financial audits?
SSS – CITY OF LOS ANGELES FIRE AND POLICE PENSIONS; AIRPORT PEACE OFFICERS. CHARTER AMENDMENT SSS.
Shall the Charter be amended to: (1) enroll new Airport peace officers into Tier 6 of the Fire and Police Pensions System; (2) allow current Airport peace officers to transfer into Tier 6 from the City Employees’ Retirement System (LACERS) at their own expense; and (3) permit new Airport Police Chiefs to enroll in LACERS?
JJJ – AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND LABOR STANDARDS RELATED TO CITY PLANNING. INITIATIVE ORDINANCE JJJ.
Shall an ordinance: 1) requiring that certain residential development projects provide for affordable housing and comply with prevailing wage, local hiring and other labor standards; 2) requiring the City to assess the impacts of community plan changes on affordable housing and local jobs; 3) creating an affordable housing incentive program for developments near major transit stops; and 4) making other changes; be adopted?
RRR – CITY OF LOS ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF WATER AND POWER (DWP). CHARTER AMENDMENT RRR.
Shall the Charter be amended to: (1) add qualification requirements, stipends and removal protections for DWP Board; (2) expand Board to seven members; (3) require DWP prepare four-year Strategic Plans for Council and Mayoral approval; (4) modify DWP’s contracting, rate-setting and other authority; (5) permit future alternatives to existing civil service standards for DWP employees through collective bargaining; and (6) require monthly billing?
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Jack is affiliated with Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: email@example.com.)
LA WATCHDOG--On Tuesday, the Board of Water and Power Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to approve an above market, 10 year, $41 million lease of four vacant floors of subpar office space at Figueroa Plaza, a 615,000 square foot, City owned office complex located north of the downtown Central Business District.
LA WATCHDOG--On September 28, Mayor Eric Garcetti issued his Fiscal Year 2017-18 Budget Policy and Goals to all of the General Managers of All City Departments. The goals include closing a projected $85 million deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017, identifying over $40 million in new general funds to maintain the City’s current commitment to the homeless, and hiring 5,000 new employees by June 30, 2018 to restore services and replace retiring workers.
This missive is focused on next year’s budget and does not address the long term reforms that are desperately needed to tackle the City’s Structural Deficit (where the growth in personnel costs exceeds the increase in revenues), the massive unfunded liabilities of its two unsustainable pension plans (estimated to be in the range of $15 billion based on a more realistic investment rate assumption), and the deferred maintenance on its infrastructure (estimated to be north of $10 billion).
On October 4, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates (“NCBAs”)* delivered the following recommendation to Mayor Garcetti and the City Council.
Early White Paper Recommendation
The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates (the “NCBAs”) urge the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti to implement the following recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission as part of its budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year:
- Create an independent “Office of Transparency and Accountability” to analyze and report on the City’s budget, evaluate new legislation, examine existing issues and service standards, and increase accountability.
- Adopt a “Truth in Budgeting” ordinance that requires the City to develop a three year budget and a three year baseline budget with the goal to understand the longer-term consequences of its policies and legislation. (Council File 14-1184-S2)
- Be honest about the cost of future promises by adopting a discount rate and pension earnings assumptions similar to those used by Warren Buffett.
- Establish a “Commission for Retirement Security” to review the City's retirement obligations in order to promote an accurate understanding of the facts.
We request that the Budget and Finance Committee assign a Council File for each of the recommendations and agendize each of these items for its next meeting on October 17, 2016.
The implementation of these recommendations will be the first step in addressing the City’s Structural Deficit, the massive unfunded liabilities of its two unsustainable pension plans, and the deferred maintenance on its infrastructure.
The adoption of the recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission will result in increased transparency into the City’s complex operations and finances and begin the process of restoring Angelenos’ trust and confidence in City Hall and its elected officials.
The NCBAs are making these recommendations prior to the 2017 Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates White Paper so that they will be an integral part of the upcoming fiscal year’s budget process.
The NCBAs look forward to a timely response.
Stay tuned to see if Mayor Garcetti and the City Council are willing to implement meaningful reform or will it be business as usual, kicking the can down the road and dumping tens of billions in unfunded obligations on the next generation of Angelenos.
NEED TO KNOW
*The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates are the elected to represent the charter authorized Neighborhood Councils. Their role is to explore, research, study, seek input, prepare and present the concerns and interests of the communities of the City of Los Angeles ("City") about the use of City funds, City revenue collection, City budget and budget allocations, efficiency of City government, City finances, City financial obligations and other such concerns and related to financial matters of the City to the Mayor and City Council.
Join the discussion:
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Jack is affiliated with Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.) – cw
LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti and his budget team are putting a full court press on the Board of Water and Power Commissioners to approve an above market, 10 year, $41 million lease for four vacant floors of office space at Figueroa Plaza, a two tower, 615,000 square foot City owned complex located north of the Central Business District in DTLA. (Photo above: Sculpture by Terry Allen. The bronze statue is located in Downtown L.A. at 7+FIG Plaza, on the corner of 7th and Figueroa Street, outside the corporate offices of Ernst Young)
But this deal, like the previous 10 year, $63 million lease for six vacant floors that was proposed in June, does not pass the smell test because this above market lease is not in the best interests of the Department of Water and Power or its Ratepayers.
Which leads us to the question of whether the five Commissioners, led by President Mel Levine and Vice President Bill Funderburk, will stand up for the interests of the Department and the Ratepayers or will they bow to the pressure from Mayor Garcetti and his budget team who are looking to balance the City’s budget on the backs of the Ratepayers?
Figueroa Plaza is not considered a desirable location for law firms, investment banks, commercial banks, consulting firms, or other professional organizations that occupy Class A space because of its poor location north of the Central Business District. In addition to being out of the way, this older building has a poor reputation for maintenance, services, and amenities. This is not helped by rent roll dominated by government employees.
Yet the City wants our Department of Water and Power to pay Central Business District Class A rents for this subprime space. At the same time, the City wants DWP to pony up $9 million for tenant improvements, an expense that is usually born by the landlord, in this case, the City of Los Angeles.
From the Mayor’s perspective, in the first year of the lease, the City will receive $3 million in rent and “save” $9 million in tenant improvements. This $12 million swing will help the City close its projected $85 million budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year.
The Department maintains that it needs this additional space to accommodate 700 new employees. But without a well thought out Space Utilization Plan for its 9,576 employees, an 8 to 10 year lease is inappropriate, especially given its above market cost.
Any space plan would need to address the updating of DWP’s 50 year old historic headquarters building located across from the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles. But this is problematic as IBEW Local 18, DWP’s domineering union, will assert jurisdiction over all the work at overtime rates, doubling the cost and the time to completion. This will cost Ratepayers an additional $150 to $200 million.
The question has also been raised whether the IBEW and Union Bo$$ d’Arcy would claim jurisdiction over the work at Figueroa Plaza.
At its meeting on September 20, the Board of Commissioners discussed the proposed $41 million lease in closed session. When the $63 million lease was on the agenda in June, the Board deferred the matter until a later time. As a result, there has not been a public discussion or any outreach involving this controversial lease whose main beneficiary appears to be the City, not DWP or the Ratepayers.
The Department has prepared a 229 page memo outlining this transaction. This includes a 161 page report that justifies the lease. But several experts, including potential tenants and their representatives, have discounted this report stating it was “made as indicated” and does not reflect the real rental market.
Will the Commissioners conduct an open hearing on this above market lease? Will the Commissioners demand that DWP prepare a Space Utilization Plan before entering into this above market lease? Will this study include many different alternatives, including selling the DWP headquarters and moving to an area that would benefit from the economic development? Will the Commissioners demand that the Department update its Personnel Plan to reflect the addition of 700 new employees?
In other words, will the Commissioners act in the best interests of the Department and the Ratepayers and tell the Mayor and his budget team to buzz off?
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and a member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: email@example.com.)-cw
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LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Herb Wesson led City Council are using the homeless issue to pick our pockets for almost $2 billion over the next 30 years in an effort to cover up their abject failure to make this unfortunate situation a priority in the City’s budget over the last four years.
If Proposition HHH (Homeless Reduction and Prevention, Housing, and Facilities Bond) is approved by two-thirds of the voters, the City will issue $1.2 billion of bonds over the next ten years. These funds, along with billions from politically wired real estate developers and other governmental entities, will finance the construction of 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing for LA’s homeless population at a cost as high as $4 billion.