ROOS RUMINATIONS--Shame on you Los Angeles

The international movement admiring “strongmen” leaders which sanctions rhetorical, and sometimes even physical violence, has seen its latest expression in Los Angeles’ battle for public schools.

EASTSIDER-Thank God May 16 is behind us and the CD 1 runoff is over. Everyone has written about this race ad nauseam, so I won’t say much more, other than the fact that I endorsed Gil Cedillo (you can read it here,) and that in the later phase of the campaign, this race got about as ugly as I’ve ever seen in LA City politics, and that’s ugly indeed. Notwithstanding the huge win for Gil Cedillo (about 70/30) it’s going to take a lot of healing to make this District work together going forward. 

About that Congressional District 34 Race 

I was going to wait for the EAPD’s Endorsement meeting on May 23 to write about the Congressional District runoff, but someone decided to send out the mail-in ballots for this race during the week of May 8. Thus this article, even as people fill out their mail-in ballots. That seems very early to me, and actually overlapped the runoff elections on May 16. 

It also means we will not get to see both Jimmy Gomez and Robert Lee Ahn face-to-face before most of the mailed ballots are in, and I think that sucks. I’m not a political consultant, but I’m sure that Parke Skelton/SG&A has models as to how many mail-in ballots will already be turned in before there is any real forum or opportunity to see both candidates on May 23. This will be a detriment to being able to see both candidates in a robust campaign. 

At least in the CD 1 race, we had a number of face-to-face debates which both galvanized voters and told us a lot about our choices. Here we have a much bigger deal, an opening for a House of Representatives seat, with no term limits, in the midst of a crazy time in D.C., and it’s almost like this runoff is under the radar. 

A note to self: this campaign season has made me decide to stop using the words “progressive” and “Bernie democrat.” Everyone is running as a progressive this year, whatever their real political colors. Both Gil Cedillo and Joe Bray-Ali ran as progressives, and by now the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is trying to pretend that they are progressive. Heck, if he was still in office, Dennis Zine would probably try to pass himself off as progressive. 

Same for who is the true successor to Bernie Sanders. In the wake of the Dems getting creamed by none other than Donald Trump, suddenly the California Democratic Party is all in for Bernie. Happy faces and “The Burton legacy -- Empower the Grassroots, Build for the Future.” Grassroots? Funny how I didn’t see that from the CDP and the Clintonistas last November. And after the post-election Our Revolution staff changes, I’m not too sure who they are anymore and have stopped giving them money. Individual campaigns only. 

About Jimmy Gomez and Robert Lee Ahn 

Jimmy Gomez should need no introduction to California Democrats. Born in Fullerton, he followed the traditional Democratic establishment path to politics. From AFSCME to the obligatory east coast stint at Harvard and then on to Hilda Solis’ staff, he became the Political Director for the Nurses in California (UNAC) as he positioned himself for office. Not bad creds. 

He was elected to the Assembly in 2012, and reelected in 2014, as well as last November 2016. If you have any doubt that he is the establishment candidate in this race, a recent mailer shows Xavier Becerra endorsing Jimmy on one side; the other side reads like a who’s who of every Democratic California official, from federal to state to local. I was going to list them, but then this column would be way too long and no one would read all the names anyway. 

Mr. Gomez is handled by Parke Skelton/SG&A Campaigns, our local powerhouse political fixer lobbyist gang. Of course. Glory be to them, and if Jimmy is successful in this race, I’m sure they will handle the (yes another) Special Election that will have to be run to replace him in the legislature. 

To his credit, Jimmy is a bright, very engaged and articulate politician who has been extremely successful in the California Legislature, and was rumored to be the likely replacement for Kevin de Leon in the Senate. 

On the other side, in this season of uncouth and slimy politics, Robert Lee Ahn is the outsider who allegedly had no chance in a Congressional District carved out for a Latino. Yes, the same 800 pound gorilla as we saw in the CD 1 race.

Yet he beat 21 other candidates to win a seat at the runoff table, and even I was embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of him until the votes were counted in the primary. He is clearly running as the younger, activist, bottom-up small “d” democratic candidate who could shake up the Democratic Party Establishment. 

As far as I know, there are no public debates planned between Jimmy Gomez and Robert Lee Ahn, other than the endorsement meeting of the East Area Progressive Democrats on May 23. I think that this indicates a deliberate strategy by Parke Skelton and his gang to avoid any face-to-face debates between the two candidates. Bury the challenger in targeted mailers casting aspersions on his character, and rely on the big bucks and establishment endorsers to bring home the bacon. 

Witness a mailer I received last week, basically accusing Ahn of being a “closet Republican” trying to secretly galvanize republicans to vote for him, while Jimmy Gomez is the paragon of being “a champion for progressive democratic values.” This is silly -- there aren’t more than a handful of republicans in the district, and you can see from these mailers why I won’t use the “progressive” tag anymore. Everyone Parke Skelton represents is evidently progressively poorer from paying SG&A their fees, I suspect. 

Meet Robert Lee Ahn 

After my article pushing back against an LA Times piece with the spiffy title of LA voters “didn’t just turn their backs on Berniecrat progressivism, they went positively Clintonesque,” some of my fellow Dems let me know that Robert Lee Ahn might not be as big a Bernie progressive as I had been led to believe. Another reason I am trying to avoid the use of “progressive” and “Bernie dem.” 

So I recently went to a local meet and greet in Highland Park for Ahn. He directly took on the rap about being a Republican. His answer was that a lot of immigrants from his parents’ generation who had small businesses became republicans because that’s what business people did, and at that time, politics was not the kind of a life or death game that it has recently turned into. So he went along with his parents, like a lot of other people. 

At the same time, his father founded a non-profit group called PAVA (Pacific American Volunteer Association) which got involved in the LA River, Friends of the LA River, and even actual homeless people with the LA Mission. Mr. Ahn became seriously involved in these efforts, ultimately leading him to become a democrat as his activism increased. Hardly the picture of a conservative republican who simply registered as a democrat in 2012 to run for office. 

I believe this is a credible response. Over the years, I’ve talked to a lot of folks from Lincoln Heights, Boyle Heights, El Soreno, and Highland Park whose parents were Latino (or other) immigrants, had small businesses, and were republicans. Ahn shouldn’t be tarred with the same brush as Joe Bray-Ali has been in the CD 1 donnybrook. And as the candidate quipped, “Elizabeth Warren was once a republican too, and look at her now.” 

As a native Angeleno from the District, Ahn keys on the fact that CD 34 is of one of the poorest Districts in California, and something needs to be done about it. After the meeting I did a fact check, and he’s right. Outside of the San Joaquin Valley, CD 34 is right in there at the economic bottom, with over 25% of our residents living in poverty.  

To me, that’s the kind of thing that a native Angeleno raised locally would know, whereas other professional politicians might not really be aware of it -- or would choose to downplay this reality. Remember, aside from all the newspaper headlines about Washington, congressional members get paid to represent the troops in their district. 

The Takeaway 

Lest you think that I’m simply gushing over Robert Lee Ahn, let me assure you that I’m not. I’m not endorsing anyone. What I am saying is that if you can, delay sending in that mail-in ballot until you find out more about both candidates as legitimate contenders for the job. I just think we deserve a competitive race instead of a coronation. 

Ignore the hit pieces and check out both candidates before you cast your ballot. Obviously I recommend the East Area Progressive Dems meeting on May 23 at the Goodwill Center on San Fernando Road. I am assured that there will be at least a 15-minute or so debate between the candidates before the endorsement vote. Also, Maria Elena Durazo will be making an appearance in her run for California Senate. 

If you can, attend an event for each, or both, candidates. This is likely to be a super low turnout election, and yet it will have a serious impact on the House of Representatives and California for decades to come. We owe it to ourselves to check out our candidates rather than relying on the same old same old system that produced republican majorities in both the House and Senate. 

Your vote is important. The May 16 election had something like an 8 1/2% turnout citywide, which is pitiful, and shame on us. It also means that each and every vote counts big time. With over 61% of the ballots being cast by mail, it is all too easy to fill out a ballot without paying much attention to the candidates. You are important! Check out the candidates and the issues, and pretty please, VOTE! 

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

-cw

THE PREVEN REPORT--Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell's behavior as of late calls to mind that old joke about the Devil and the lawyer. "All the riches and fame in the world will be yours," says the Devil to the lawyer, "but in return you must give me your soul for all eternity." The lawyer pauses briefly and then asks, "What's the catch?" 

O'Farrell's new spin on that old chestnut is that instead of selling his soul for all the riches in the world he's doing it for $3,000. And it wasn't Mephistopheles who offered the cash, it was a relatively small time player named Leeor Maciborski, who was found guilty by the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission of using a series of LLCs to give Mr. O'Farrell campaign contributions in excess of the legal limit. The ruling was over a month ago, and the number of times Councilmember O'Farrell has been asked by two particular members of the public to unhand the illicit contributions is too many to remember. 

Has there ever been a more blaring case of "penny wise and pound foolish" in the history of humankind? 

"Not so fast," Councilmember O'Farrell may retort. "I didn't know those funds were being given illicitly, so why should I be punished?" 

Let's be generous in responding to that line of reasoning and take at face value Mr. O'Farrell's pleading guilty by ignorance. That generosity won't come easy, because when a person makes excess contributions to a political candidate, the whole point is to get credit for pitching in, not to make some grand gesture of anonymous magnanimity. In other words, candidates know who gave them money, because the donors "make" them know.    

But, again, we are taking the high road right now and swallowing with considerable difficulty Mr. O'Farrell's claim of exculpatory ignorance.   

Being let off the hook in this regard, however, does not make it okay for Mr. O'Farrell to keep that $3,000 of illicit contributions, and the public deserves immediate confirmation from him that he will return the money.  

The tougher question is to whom should the money be given? One could dream up various convoluted schemes -- give the money to the public matching fund program, for example -- but the only option that really makes sense is to give the money back to the genius who donated the money in the first place.  

Won't that encourage others to commit the same crime? No, because the illicit donor is being fined $17,000 by the Ethics Commission.  In other words he still comes out behind. 

Alternatively, if Councilmember O'Farrell is planning to double-down on his refusal to loosen his grip on the three grand, why not put that money to good use? Mr. O'Farrell's campaign pledge to banish unaccompanied men from city playgrounds seems to have lost some steam since the election. How about three thousand dollars worth of creepy mailers? 

Give back the money, O'Farrell!

 

(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer and Joshua is a teacher.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

THE ALPERN ADVISOR--As I addressed in a recent CityWatch piece, we just had an UGLY election between two good men on the Westside for the LAUSD Board seat:  both two-term incumbent Steve Zimmer and challenger Nick Melvoin were two good men, but that election was not easy on just about anyone ... and the low-voter turnout was in part a result of that. 

There were a variety of other reasons, of course--the amount of money involved, the recent elections burning people out on more voting, and the propaganda flying back and forth makes many a potential voter throw up their hands and scream "Whatever!  I'll sit THIS one out!" 

And then there are those of us who do not have children, and who do not think this election means much to them...while those of us who have children are both PRO-education but ANTI-LAUSD.

This election, so very expensive and favoring challenger Melvoin, was heavily funded by the pro-charter lobbies.  

And the final vote tally was higher for Melvoin than for the other elected newcomer in the San Fernando Valley, Kelly Gonez (who replaced outgoing LAUSD Boardmember Monica Ratliff).

So did the voters give the charter school lobbies a blank check?  Did the teachers' union (United Teachers Los Angeles) learn their lesson? 

Probably NO to both counts--but both the charter schools and teachers' unions need to know that reform is needed, and that the parents need to be listened to...while their children need to be prioritized by focusing on the students, and spending our ever-growing education tax dollars well: 

1) Acknowledge you screwed over the parents and students by doing the bait and switch by voting to return to the awful, terrible "start in mid-August" school year.  We had a deal.  You got the voter money in November.  And then you reneged.  You lied.  So...goodbye! 

2) Acknowledge that there is a rea$on or three why so many--the majority, even--of parents in the LAU$D send their children to charter schools.  Parents who really love their children often decide to work harder, spend more of their own money, and drive their kids long distances every day to go to their charter school of choice. 

3) Acknowledge that UTLA is really a horrible, horrible union that is as regressive a caricature of out-of-touch, self-serving public-sector unions that we've ever seen.  Hence the flight of so many otherwise-progressive parents and their children to charter schools.  Really, UTLA...you really are one the biggest reasons it's so darned tough to raise kids in Los Angeles. 

4) You can hate Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos all you want, but can we please do better than Common Core?  Standards are awesome, and standardized tests are vital...but the ivory tower wizards who dominate Common Core are the worst--and our children have been hurt because of those evil wizards (who probably think they're doing the Lord's work). 

5) When DO we stop talking and start building bridges between colleges, vocational schools, and other pathways that leads to jobs, financial literacy, and economic self-sufficiency for children? 

6) When DO we start spending our money better and build more colleges (even if that means ripping away 5-10% of state K-12 funding to do it)? 

7) The elections are over--we want parental input and control, and we want front-line teacher input and control.  Probably the principals/administrators are the ones who need reforming (and perhaps some firing) first, but the teacher/parent/student relationship is more vital than ever to consolidate, and those who did vote made it clear that was their #1 goal.   

Who knows if bridges can ever be built by the newcomers to the supporters of those who lost in the LAUSD elections---and arguably, unless UTLA leaders (and members) have a "come to Jesus" moment that the UTLA really is the "Darth Vader" of local education in Los Angeles, will they ever come on board? 

It's up to these relatively low-paid LAUSD Board members with their extremely well-funded election coffers to restore the trust of the voters, taxpayers, parents and other adults who made a tough decision just now. 

But more importantly, it's up to the LAUSD Board to start really, REALLY focusing on the students...because while our educational gurus SAY they're focusing on the children, it's pretty clear that the adults need to admit to their own lack of education, and their own lack of ability, in meeting the needs of the children they are supposed to be serving.

 

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

-cw

LOOMING PENSION PAIN--The Jerry Brown administration last week released its revised May budget and, lo and behold, it has finally decided to (kind of, sort of) tackle the state’s massive and growing level of unfunded liabilities – i.e., the hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer-backed debt to fund retirement promises made to the state’s government employees. 

It’s best to curb our enthusiasm, however. The governor didn’t have much of a choice. This was the first state budget that is compliant with new accounting standards established by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board that requires states to more properly account for retiree medical and benefits beyond pensions. 

Because of those new standards and low investment returns, the state’s unfunded liabilities (including the University of California retirement system) soared by an astounding 22 percent since last year. But even this new estimate of $279 billion in liabilities is on the optimistic side. Some credible estimates pin California state and local governments’ pension liabilities at nearly $1 trillion, based on more realistic rate-of-return predictions. 

The pension system invites eyes-glazing-over debates about the size of the liability. That’s because debts are calculated on guesswork about future investment earnings. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) recently voted to lower its predicted rates from 7.5 percent a year to 7 percent. The lower the predicted rate, the higher the liabilities, which is why CalPERS and the state’s unions are so bullish on Wall Street. 

CalPERS’ latest investment returns were below 1 percent, but the agency insists there’s nothing to worry about and no need to do the unthinkable (reduce future benefit accruals for current employees.) That’s the same CalPERS, of course, that in 1999 assured the Legislature that a 50-percent retroactive pension increase wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime.  I suppose CalPERS was right. It didn’t cost a dime, although it did cost many billions of dollars. Their returns were then yielding 13.5 percent a year, and CalPERS figured the heyday would go on forever. 

The other reason to be skeptical of the Brown administration’s commitment to solving the problem can be found in the May revise itself. The budget “includes a one‑time $6 billion supplemental payment” to CalPERS, according to the Finance Department. “This action effectively doubles the state’s annual payment and will mitigate the impact of increasing pension contributions due to the state’s large unfunded liabilities.” 

Where is the extra $6 billion coming from in a budget that supposedly is so pinched that the governor recently signed a law raising annual transportation taxes by $5.2 billion? 

Simple. The state is borrowing the money to pre-pay some of its debt. “The additional $6 billion pension payment will be funded through a loan from the Surplus Money Investment Fund,” according to the budget summary. “Although the loan will incur interest costs (approximately $1 billion over the life of the loan,) actuarial calculations indicate that the additional pension payment will yield net savings of $11 billion over the next 20 years.” 

In other words, the state will be borrowing the money at fairly low interest rates and then investing the money and earning, it hopes, higher rates. The difference will help pay down some of those retirement debts. Even the well-known pension reformer, Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, lauded the administration for embracing that idea. 

But it’s something of a shell game. It should work out well, provided the markets do as well as the state expects. In doing this, however, the state is taking out new debt that will need to be repaid. There’s no free money here. A number of localities have embraced a similar strategy with pension-obligation bonds, which are a form of arbitrage, in which the government is borrowing money and betting on future market returns. 

This gimmick is similar to the one people will embrace in their personal lives. Are those credit-card debts crushing the family budget? Then borrow money from the home-equity line of credit at 5 percent and use it to pay down the 10-percent credit card loans. It makes sense, but it doesn’t deal with the real problem of excessive consumer spending. 

“This is the Band-Aid,” said Dan Pellissier, a former aide to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and well-known state pension reformer. “The surgery everyone is trying to avoid is on the California Rule – changing the benefits public employees receive in the future.” 

When it comes to pensions, everything comes back to that “rule,” which isn’t a rule but a series of court precedents going back to the 1950s. In the private sector, companies may reduce pension benefits for their employees in the future. An employee can be told that, starting tomorrow, she will accrue pension benefits at a lower rate. The California Rule mandates that public employees, by contrast, can never have their benefit levels reduced. 

That limits options for reform. In 2012, Gov. Brown signed into a law the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act (PEPRA), which promised to address the pension-debt problem by primarily reducing benefits for newly hired employees. A reform that affects new hires will reduce contribution rates but won’t make an enormous difference until they start retiring. 

“Gov. Jerry Brown’s attempt at pension reform has failed,” opined Dan Borenstein, in a recent East Bay Times column. The reason: the rapidly growing pension debt. “The shortfall for California’s three statewide retirement systems has increased about 36 percent. Add in local pension systems and the total debt has reached at least $374 billion. That works out to about $29,000 per household.” 

CalPERS rebutted Borenstein by arguing that he “greatly oversimplifies and needlessly discounts the real impact that Governor Brown’s pension reform has had since it took effect in January 2013.” The pension fund insists, “PEPRA already is bending the pension cost curve – and will keep doing so with greater impact every year going forward.” 

Yet the growing liabilities and the administration’s latest budget plan suggest that whatever minimal cost savings PEPRA is achieving aren’t nearly enough. Of course, union-controlled CalPERS’ goal isn’t protecting taxpayers or the state general fund – it is to enhance the benefits of the state workers whose pensions it manages. 

As Calpensions explained, that $6 billion of borrowed money doubles the amount of general-fund dollars that the state is paying to deal with pension obligations. Meanwhile, as the state borrows money to pay that tab, it raises taxes to fund transportation. If Brown and the Legislature had trimmed pension costs, it would not have needed to raise gas taxes and the vehicle license fee. And the problem reverberates for local governments, too. 

The May revise also showcased the same old issue with the administration’s priorities. Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton noted that “Brown’s entertaining rhetoric itself made him sound, as usual, like a skinflint, a penny-pinching scold. But the introductory document could have been written by Bernie Sanders, if not Depression-era Socialist Upton Sinclair, the losing 1934 Democratic candidate for governor who ran on the slogan ‘End Poverty in California.’” 

The budget championed myriad big-spending programs, including higher pay for public employees. So the state has been spending like crazy, but can’t manage to deal with its pension problem – at least not without borrowing money to temporarily paper over its growing debt. 

All these games are about avoiding dealing with the obvious fact that California’s public-employee pensions are absurdly generous, filled with costly and anger-inducing features (spiking, double-dipping, liberal disability retirements, etc.) and unsustainable. 

In 2011, the state’s official watchdog agency, the Little Hoover Commission, argued to the governor that “Public agencies must have the flexibility and authority to freeze accrued pension benefits for current workers, and make changes to pension formulas going forward to protect state and local public employees and the public good.” Six years later, the governor is still just chipping away at the edges by embracing gimmicks.

 

(Steven Greenhut is a contributing editor to the California Policy Center, on whose website this piece originally appeared. He is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--In the four plus decades I have lived in Los Angeles, I’ve seen the huge impacts on our community -- both positive and negative – of liquor stores, markets, and other retail alcohol establishments. We have many responsible and conscientious business owners that sell alcohol. But not all sellers are in that group. 

Being able to manage how these businesses sell and serve alcohol is crucial, particularly considering the endless influx of more alcohol-related businesses into our crowded neighborhoods. 

There are currently over 900 applications for new alcohol licenses in the City of Los Angeles. The challenge here is that the city and the state rarely if ever deny alcohol license applications. The state cannot provide any real monitoring of problems stemming from these establishments and the city has recently shut the door on public input concerning the acceptable practices of these licensees.

Most of us in LA have felt alcohol’s impact in one way or another. 

No one enjoys having to step over someone who is passed-out on the sidewalk while en route to their morning coffee or their children’s afternoon theater performance. Nor do people like having their late night sleep ruined by loud music with folks screaming outside their window or seeing bunches of after-party red cups strewn throughout the neighborhood on a morning walk. 

For years, committed community members, including LAPD and neighborhood councils, have worked with new business operators, sometimes for months, to reach mutually agreed upon operating standards for alcohol sales, known as “alcohol-specific conditions.” This created a platform for dialogue between alcohol retailers and the community and a means of insuring a neighborhood’s quality of life. 

These conditions -- which for decades, through a public hearing process, were placed on alcohol permits to curtail problems such as late night nuisances and noise, loitering, or the sale of youth-attractive alcohol products -- are routine in cities throughout the state. 

Unfortunately, the City of Los Angeles has recently taken the position that alcohol-specific conditions are no longer permissible, which ultimately silences community input into how alcohol is sold and served locally. In addition to refusing these standards for new businesses, alcohol-related conditions already in place for established businesses are deemed “unenforceable” -- the city is essentially stripping them out.

This is nothing short of outrageous and completely unacceptable. It flies in the face of our democratic process and our rights as residents, business owners, and property owners. 

South Los Angeles residents have long protested the proliferation of liquor stores as well as the absence of healthful food and quality markets.

Downtown and Hollywood have some of the highest concentrations of bars, clubs, and other on-premise alcohol establishments along with the noise, nuisances, fighting, and crime that accompany it. The sale of single-serve containers to serial inebriates helps fuel the homelessness challenges in many parts of the city. 

Westside communities suffer from high concentrations of crowded bars and restaurants that send noisy, drunk patrons out to litter, urinate, and worse in the yards of nearby residents. 

Twelve of 15 Los Angeles City Council districts -- 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14 and 15 -- rank in the top tier for their incidence of three or more different alcohol-related harms -- violent crimes, vehicle crashes, deaths, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations, according to a recent County study. 

And alcohol-related problems pose hardships across LA. In fact, each year alcohol-related problems take approximately 2,800 lives in the county, accounting for approximately 80,000 years of potential life lost, and costing the county an estimated $10.3 billion a year. That’s $1,000 every year for every child and adult in the county! 

LA is one of the only cities in California that prohibits local conditions and this is extremely disempowering for our communities.

These conditions are in many cases our only protection from alcohol-related problems since we absolutely cannot rely on the state to manage those problems for us. 

To rectify the situation and restore our community voice in these important decisions, a “conditions motion” is circulating and gaining momentum across the city. The motion asks City Council to return to its former practice of allowing alcohol-specific conditions, and to cease stripping existing conditions. 

Conditions are good for businesses. Allowing the community to come to a consensus with a new business operator around key practices helps speed the “path to yes.” Getting critical community buy-in facilitates the successful establishment of new alcohol businesses. And when businesses negotiate conditions at the local level, they don’t have to renegotiate at the state level, which saves them time and money, and ultimately encourages more growth and development.

Recently the South Los Angeles Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (SLAANC) voted in favor of this motion. It also has the support of the Zapata-King Neighborhood Council, along with 15 other neighborhood and area councils, including the Westside Regional Alliance of Councils (WRAC), and nearly 20 public health agencies including Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, and alcohol industry watchdog, Alcohol Justice. This motion is critical to ensure that our community’s longstanding efforts to address alcohol problems are not dissolved. 

The Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils and other alliances will soon have an opportunity to support this motion. This way we can get the city to again start honoring these standards.  

I urge the VANC board and others to join with SLAANC and WRAC and all the other neighborhoods in standing up for our communities and businesses by supporting this motion. 

We deserve to have our voices heard again.

 

(Jean Frost is a long time resident of West Adams and chair of the Policy Committee for NANDC, the West Adams neighborhood council organization.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

PERSPECTIVE--In a recent news release, State Treasurer John Chiang said:  “…the Governor and I are partnering on a fiscally prudent plan to buy down our pension debt using what Albert Einstein once called ‘the eighth wonder of the world,’ compound interest. ” 

It’s not Albert Einstein he should be crediting, but Bernie Madoff.

HIGHJACKING DEMOCRACY IN LA-Once Nick Melvoin joins the Los Angeles Unified School District board, he’s going to require all high school civics teachers to add a new lesson plan to their curriculum: “How To Buy An Election.” 

That’s what happened on Tuesday. Melvoin and his billionaire backers dramatically outspent school board president Steve Zimmer’s campaign, making the District 4 race the most expensive in LAUSD history. 

Political pundits will spend the next few days and weeks analyzing the Los Angeles school board election, examining exit polls, spilling lots of ink over how different demographic groups -- income, race, religious, union membership, gender, party affiliation, and others -- voted on Tuesday. 

But the real winner in the race was not Nick Melvoin, but Big Money. And the real loser was not Steve Zimmer, but democracy – and LA’s children. 

Melvoin’s backers -- particularly billionaires and multi-millionaires who donated directly to his campaign and to several front groups, especially the California Charter School Association (CCSA) -- outspent Zimmer’s campaign by $6.6 million to $2.7 million. Melvoin got 30,696 votes to Zimmer’s 22,766. In other words, Melvoin spent 71% of the money to get 57% of the vote. 

Here’s another way of looking at the election results: Melvoin spent $215 for each vote he received, while Zimmer spent only $121 per vote. 

There’s no doubt that if the Zimmer campaign had the same war-chest that Melvoin had, he would have been able to mount an even more formidable grassroots get-out-the-vote campaign and put more money into the TV and radio air war. Under those circumstances, it is likely that Zimmer would have prevailed. 

Billionaires, many of whom live far from Los Angeles, bought this election for Melvoin. Their money paid for non-stop TV and radio ads, as well as phone calls, mailers and newspaper ads (including a huge wrap-around ad on the front of Sunday’s LA Times.) Melvoin’s billionaire backers paid for 44 mailers and at least $1 million on negative TV ads against Zimmer.  

The so-called “Independent” campaign for Melvoin was funded by big oil, big tobacco, Walmart, Enron, and other out-of-town corporations and billionaires. They paid for Melvoin’s ugly, deceptive, and false attack ads against Zimmer, a former teacher and current school board president. Melvoin is so devoted to the corporate agenda for our schools that during the campaign he said that the school district needed a “hostile takeover.” 

Among the big donors behind Melvoin and the CCSA were members of the Walton family (Alice Walton, Jim Walton, and Carrie Walton Penner) ― heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune from Arkansas. Alice Walton (net worth: $36.9 billion), who lives in Texas, was one of the biggest funders behind Melvoin’s campaign. Other Melvoin and CCSA backers included Michael Bloomberg (net worth: $48.5 billion), the former New York City mayor; Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix (net worth: $1.9 billion), who lives in Santa Cruz;  Doris Fisher (net worth: $2.7 billion), co-founder of The Gap, who lives in San Francisco; Texas resident John Arnold (net worth: $2.9 billion), who made a fortune at Enron before the company collapsed, leaving its employees and stockholders in the lurch, then made another fortune as a hedge fund manager; Jeff Yass, who lives in the Philadelphia suburbs, and runs the Susquehanna group, a hedge fund; and Frank Baxter, former CEO of the global investment bank Jefferies and Company that specialized in “junk” bonds. 

What do the corporate moguls and billionaires want? And what did Steve Zimmer do to make them so upset? 

They want is to turn public schools into educational Wal-Marts run on the same corporate model. They want to expand charter schools that compete with each other and with public schools in an educational “market place.” (LA already has more charter schools than any other district in the country.) 

They want to evaluate teachers and students like they evaluate new products -- in this case, using the bottom-line of standardized test scores. Most teachers will tell you that over-emphasis on standardized testing turns the classroom into an assembly line, where teachers are pressured to “teach to the test,” and students are taught, robot-like, to define success as answering multiple-choice questions on tests. 

Not surprisingly, the billionaires want school employees -- teachers -- to do what they’re told, without having much of a voice in how their workplace functions or what is taught in the classroom. Rather than treat teachers like professionals, they view them as the out-sourced hired help. 

The corporate big-wigs are part of an effort that they and the media misleadingly call “school reform.” What they’re really after is not “reform” (improving our schools for the sake of students) but “privatization” (business control of public education.) They think public schools should be run like corporations, with teachers as compliant workers, students as products, and the school budget as a source of profitable contracts and subsidies for textbook companies, consultants, and others engaged in the big business of education. 

Like most reasonable educators and education analysts, Zimmer has questioned the efficacy of charter schools as a panacea. When the billionaires unveiled their secret plan to put half of LAUSD students into charter schools within eight years, Zimmer led the opposition. In contrast, Melvoin is a big backer of charter schools and a big critic of the teachers union.  

Now the billionaires and their charter school operators will have a majority on the school board. LA will become the epicenter of a major experiment in expanding charter schools – with the school children as the guinea pigs. 

Pundits will have a field day pontificating about the LAUSD election, but in the end it’s about how Big Money hijacked democracy in LA.

 

(Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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PERSPECTIVE--Governor Brown is making an appeal to the Trump administration to transfer oversight of environmental reviews of the high-speed rail project from the federal government to the state. 

If this strategy sounds familiar, it is.  The City of Los Angeles allows developers to arrange their own EIRs.

Brown has a vested personal interest in pushing HSR.  It’s his vanity project.  It will probably put the state in a position where it will have to subsidize the system, in direct violation of Proposition 1A, as approved by the voters in 2008.

He and his colleagues, along with other politically connected interest groups who stand to benefit from the most expensive folly in history, are hell-bent to complete the project, regardless of the cost and the diversion of funds from far more critical needs.  Do not think for one moment that the state will take an unbiased approach in evaluating the results of an EIR under its control.

There is no private investor interest in the project.  That is unlikely to change even if an initial segment, constructed over the easiest terrain and serving markets with the least possible need, were to be completed. The risks of tunneling through faults in the San Gabriel Mountains, essential for fulfilling the promise of service between San Francisco and Los Angeles, will be too risky to attract sensible investors unless the state were to offer substantial guarantees and establish reserve funds.  Such a move would put California on the hook for losses. Like a subsidy, that would contradict taxpayer protections in 1A.

CAHSR will collapse under its own weight and from voter frustration with pouring more money in what will be a system which grossly underdelivers for the costs.

There is no scenario where it can be built and operated within the limits of Prop 1A.  The sooner the governor and legislature put aside their personal ambition and admit it will be a fiscal failure, the more likely the state will be able to afford far more pressing capital improvements.

There is much work to do; we do not have endless sources of affordable debt and tax revenue. Choices have to be made, and HSR is near the bottom.

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone and do not represent the opinions of Valley Village Homeowners Association or CityWatch. He can be reached at: phinnoho@aol.com.)

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EDUCATION P0LITICS-- A runoff election Tuesday in Los Angeles will determine the fate of public education in one of the nation's largest school districts, in a first major test of the influence of the Trump-era charter school industry.

Voters will head to the polls on May 16 to choose between charter school ally Nick Melvoin and current LA school board president Steve Zimmer in a race for District 4, and between charter school teacher Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez against public school advocate Imelda Padilla for a seat in District 6.

If the industry-supported candidates win, they will be able to "squash democratic control of public schools," wrote education historian Diane Ravitch on Sunday. That includes diverting public funds to corporate charter chains and entrepreneurs, widening the reach and power of an industry that has no system of public accountability and has been plagued by theft and fraud scandals.

The Los Angeles Times explained Saturday: 

If the charter-backed candidates prevail, charter advocates will win their first governing majority on the seven-member body. If the election goes entirely the other way, unions will strengthen their influence on a board that leans pro-labor. In that scenario, the board would be more likely to limit the growth of charters in the nation's second-largest school system, which has more charters and more charter students than any other school district.

"Think of this as the great Charter War of 2017," said Dan Schnur, former director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at USC. "The stakes are unusually high, substantively but even more symbolically. The outcome of these races will determine control of the largest school district in the western United States."

The election will also serve as a microcosm of the Trump administration's vision for public schools nationwide, with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos having expressed her support for privatization throughout her confirmation hearings and previously compared the controversial issue of school choice to ride-sharing apps. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also referred to public schools as a "product." 

"Unregulated charter schools and vouchers allow private groups to control taxpayer dollars and—in the worst cases—profit from them," Donald Cohen of the watchdog group In the Public Interest wrote at the Huffington Post last week. "But they also help fulfill a vision of society in which government is run like a business and people—and corporations—are customers."

Billionaire Eli Broad and other wealthy supporters—including Walmart heiress Alice Walton, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings—have poured millions into Melvoin's campaign. Zimmer has been endorsed by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, teacher and labor unions in LA, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), and other city officials. But although he received 47.5 of the vote in the primary to Melvoin's 31.2 percent, Zimmer faces a well-funded opposition, and Melvoin has picked up endorsements from major players in the corporate education industry, including former Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

"Why do they want to control it? None of them has a child in the system. They despise public schools and they want to turn Los Angeles into a charter school demonstration district. It is all about power and money," Ravitch, who also endorsed Zimmer, wrote in another recent blog post. "No matter how many scandals [there] are in charter schools in Los Angeles or in California, or how many charter leaders are arrested, or how much money is stolen or misappropriated, the charter school advocates won't give up. They refuse to devote their energy and money to rebuilding the Los Angeles public school system."

(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams … where this report originated.)

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ANIMAL WATCH-"Mexico has made dog fighting a felony with some of the strictest penalties in the world," the Yucatan News announced on May 1, 2017. "All dog fighting in Mexico is now illegal and anyone associated with it will face lengthy imprisonment and huge fines…Until now, most states in Mexico prohibited dog fighting, but now the laws are nationwide and have some big teeth." 

A petition to Ban Dog Fighting in Mexico was initiated by Humane Society International in June 2016, declaring, “There is no place for dog fighting in Mexico.”It also asked for clear enforcement and penalties.  

Over 200,000 people from all over the world signed that petition in support of the nationwide ban, demonstrating agreement with the premise that, "Dog fighting still takes place because no federal law explicitly prohibits it. Federal legislation banning and criminalizing dog fighting would eliminate the loopholes in these state laws and establish strong penalties for anyone associated with this blood competition." 

According to a leading polling agency, 99% of Mexicans condemn dog fights and 85% believe dog fighters should be penalized, the petition states.

In an illustration of the changing attitudes of the new generation and the awareness of animals as sentient beings, David Marcial Pérez, writer for El País, described on November 24, 2016 how over 200 charitable and civil organizations, including coalitions to end human trafficking, presented two initiatives to the Mexican Congress to extend a federal prohibition on dog fighting and include breeding and/or sale of any animal used for the purpose of training dogs for fighting. They also supported changes in penal code sections to include penalties for being a spectator at an event. 

Although dog fighting has been widely considered a cultural tradition, Pérez confirmed that, “a recent study shows that only 1% of people are in favor of these events, while 80% would like to see a ban.”  

Many Mexican states are also looking at imposing severe penalties, activists state. Cruel dog fighting bouts continue unabated in clandestine underground locations, but they also openly take place during municipal celebrations around the country.  

According to activists, an Annual international dog fighting even is held in Aguascalientes in the spring where as many as a dozen dog fighting matches involving pit bulls are on the bill. 

“The dogs can be worth thousands of dollars,” Antón Aguilar, executive director of the Humane Society International in Mexico, told the Mexican News Daily, "and betting at such events can be high. The breed of choice is the pit bull.” He added that the organizers of the fights usually kill dogs that lose. Even those who win the fight often die as a result of injuries or infections they sustained. 

On November 26, 2016, a Mexico News Daily headline read, "Senate approves bill to ban dog fighting," announcing, The Mexican Senate has passed a dog-fighting bill that would prohibit the organization and staging of dog fighting events at the national level and assure all dogs are treated with dignity.” 

The report explains that the bill also amends the General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection and “…stipulates basic principles regarding the care of dogs, such as the provision of adequate food and water and providing medical attention when needed.” 

Martha Carrasco, a Mexican veterinarian who lives in Los Angeles, is the local representative for APRODA (Association for animal rights and the environment,) based in Guadalajara Jal Mexico, which actively supported and is still involved in this project. 

She explained that the law was approved with 71 votes in favor, three against and three abstentions. It provides a modification to the Federal Penal Code to impose a penalty of up five years in jail and a fine of $15,000 for violation. The law will go into effect as soon as it is published in the federal register, Diario Oficial de la Federación.  

OTHER COUNTRIES THAT RECENTLY BANNED DOG FIGHTING AND OTHER ANIMAL CRUELTY 

Adding to the celebration of Mexico's legislative success is that this reflects a change in ethical thinking about how animals are viewed and treated in society in Latin America. Demands are being made on those in political office to honor the will of the people. 

Guatemala 

"On March 7, 2017, Guatemala took a huge step forward in the battle against animal cruelty," writes Susan Bird, an environmental attorney and freelance writer on animal causes. "The Congress of Guatemala passed first-of-its-kind legislation in February 2017. Now, protection is firmly in place for wildlife, animals used in research and companion animals."

The new law also bans animal testing for cosmetics, using animals in circuses, and dog fighting. "Humans who are spectators at any of these events can be criminally charged under the law as well," she adds. 

Honduras

On November 12, 2015, in Honduras Bans Use Of Animals In Circuses And Dog Fighting, Animalequality.net declared, "Honduras joins countries like Canada, Sweden, Greece, Peru, Paraguay and Costa Rica (among others) in banning the use of all animals in circuses. The Honduran National Congress approved the Animal Welfare Act that regulates use of animals in various types of industries and shows." 

The law also bans dog fighting. It credits passage to several organizations, including the Animal Rights Society of Honduras (Sociedad Animalista de Honduras.)  Penalties of three to six years in prison can be imposed and also high fines for abuse or neglect of animals. 

And a strong message was broadcast to those in other countries who want to bring about change for animals, "We hope that other countries [will] join Honduras…It is vital that protection of animals is included in the political agendas of all governments." 

The challenge will, of course, be enforcement, but that is true in every country. The fact that federal law is being written in multiple countries to change actions -- not just acknowledge theory -- will affect the atmosphere in which children are raised and, thus, the mindset of future generations about how animals must be treated.

 

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

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THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Since Trump was elected back in November, and even during campaign season, protests and resist actions have become pretty commonplace. In fact, some have said that marches are the new “brunch.” 

Around 9 a.m. Saturday, a group of about 200 activists who refer to themselves as “Indivisible San Pedro” gathered in a public park within Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes. Trump National Golf Club is a public course owned by The Trump Organization. In a well-executed, creative protest, a flash mob formed the word “RESIST!” on the coastal property to call for a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference in the election, as well as Trump’s administration and for the release of his tax returns. 

In what took about fifteen minutes, the group, dressed in white, created 30-foot tall letters while singing “God Bless America.” Organizers had investigated during the planning and found out they would not need a permit. The space is overseen by the California Coastal Commission, which deals with public access to the ocean and protects the park from encroachment. 

Indivisible San Pedro was organized post-Inauguration to voice concerns about the administration by contacting legislators, attending town halls, and participating in protest marches.

Trump National Golf Club officials and sheriff’s deputies observed from a clubhouse balcony but did not intervene.

Saturday’s flash mob attracted national media coverage and was a peaceful, creative display of resistance. With hope, the continued displays of resistance will result in policy changes and investigations. If there is an upside to the Trump Administration, it’s the increased awareness and participation on the grassroots level that has occurred, whether it be by communicating with legislators via text, phone or emails, marching, or organizing creative displays like this flash mob.

 

(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

@THE GUSS REPORT-The LAPD punted last week when it received a complaint about burglars caught on video breaking into a Sherman Oaks condominium’s mailboxes, refusing to even take a report, explaining that mail theft is a federal crime and should be handled by the U.S. Postal Service. But in doing so, the LAPD ignored the burglary committed to get to the mailboxes and likely identity theft or financial crimes done with the haul that is supposed to be handled at the local level. That enabled three more break-ins, for a total of four, by the same crew at the same location in less than a week. 

The burglaries took place on May 3, 5, 6 and 8 at the upscale condo located across from the Van Nuys-Sherman Oaks Memorial Park.

Detective Meghan Aguilar of the LAPD’s Media Relations division said that while only one such complaint was made to the station, she understood that their lack of response to it dissuaded the victims from reporting the subsequent break-ins by the same crew. 

The May 3 burglary took place at 2:33am, with a Dodger-cap wearing ringleader and a taller male accomplice.

On May 5 at 3:46 a.m. the ringleader returned alone with his face exposed but not captured on camera. 

Then on May 6 at 5:13 a.m. he returned with a waifish female accomplice. (See photo top of page.) 

And on May 8h at 9:48 p.m., he returned by himself again, without a bag for the loot, but this time with his face exposed as he first read the building directory, after which he opened only two of the four mailbox panels and took only targeted contents. 

“This is neither our policy, nor the way the LAPD is supposed to fight crime,” Aguilar said of their poor response, assuring that a detective would be in touch with the condo “in a day or two.” But nearly a week since that promise was made, the LAPD has failed to contact the property management company or condo board of directors. 

“If the LAPD ever does show up to take a report,” an unnamed condo resident said, “we also have bare-faced photos of other prowlers checking for open car doors in our garage.”

There is an unconfirmed report that U.S. postal inspectors may have nabbed the crew’s ringleader but they did not return a request for an interview in time for this article. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office could not be reached for comment.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport.  Verifiable tips and story ideas can be sent to him at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EDUCATION POLITICS-Really. It’s true. You may have heard differently, but if so, what you’ve heard is not correct. Here’s what LAUSD did do: they raised the course distribution requirement for graduation, and decided to retain the same grade requirements. In the end, the net effect was that graduation requirements increased

The confusion arises because the current system is less punishing than a change that would have affected both course and grade requirements. But this whole narrative has been alternatively spun because “lower” graduation requirements were never implemented. 

Simple, right? 

A fuller explanation requires gazing back a dozen years or more, and thinking about ideas like the meaning of Education. It’s a simple concept wrapped in surprising complexity. 

A dozen years ago, folks were merrily chugging along in high school, where a mix of vocational and academic courses were offered to interest kids of varying backgrounds and aspirations. 

Meanwhile qualitative letter grades were awarded, as per usual, but not according to any standard. The history of grading is as disparate as anything across time, place or countries. You may have grown up with some system or other and think that what you know is what must be…but it’s not so. There have always been myriad ways to assign grades, between classes and even within a school. 

And it turns out that what’s considered a passing grade often increases with age. So older, specialized graduate students are expected to demonstrate higher grades to be considered “passing”, because their specialty is presumed of particular interest, and therefore better grades are expected than for a generalized mish-mash of everything. This practice rolls back continuously through the types of schools; passing in college is harder than in high school, grade school frequently doesn’t even consider “passing” a sensible concept. 

But this imposes a problem at the transition between high school and college in California, which has a strong state college system with well-defined requirements. Admissions to CSU and UC colleges requires a “C” grade in a set of prerequisite courses. Meanwhile, to graduate from high school “D” has long been considered passing and adequate to earn a high school diploma. However, there is a disconnect between graduation and admissions. 

There is another prerequisite to higher education in California: a set of fifteen courses known collectively as “A-G.” These are typically “academic” classes and not “vocational” -- e.g. Math and English, not auto-mechanics. And accordingly they are sometimes considered more “rigorous” in the sense that there is a core body of knowledge to be mastered in order to demonstrate “proficiency.” 

Now demonstrating these quantitative measures of proficiency is a hallmark of our modern computer society. Because we can measure it among millions of people relatively easily nowadays, there are powerful forces urging us to believe that we must. 

Therefore several factors coincided resulting in a different landscape for the courses offered at LAUSD. 

While kids were focusing on a vocational-track of courses, they progressed through LAUSD’s graduation requirements successfully, even sometimes receiving a diploma before understanding that their course load failed to satisfy the “A-G” requirements to be considered for admissions to a California state college. 

This disconnect between graduation requirements and subsequent ability to proceed to the next educational level upset many. It came to light that some schools, typically composed of poorer children, did not even offer their students those courses necessary to become eligible for higher education. This was understood – rightfully – to be terribly inequitable. 

To make the A-G courses available to all students at all high schools was expensive in terms of money and also kids’ schedules. It required rearranging curricular priorities and graduation requirements; course schedules became filled with academic classes that squeezed out the vocational. Consequently many vocational classes were closed in favor of providing sufficient “A-G” classes to enroll the entire student body. 

So now that these more academic courses were available to one and all, the district faced a new problem: encouraging former vocational students to sign on to the new, more rigorous course of instruction. A stick approach was adopted whereby all students were required to take “A-G” courses in order to graduate from LAUSD. Thus the curriculum became more rigorous for one and all. 

Meanwhile, the grading discontinuity remained; while a “D” was adequate for passing high school and receiving a diploma, this still resulted in a certain subset of students who, even though they took and passed “A-G” classes, were still not eligible for college with its higher level of “passing.” 

To bridge this gap and align graduation requirements from LAUSD with CSU/UC eligibility requirements, on May 23, 2012 the board passed a resolution to take effect only with the class of 2017, raising LAUSD graduation requirements in “A-G” classes from a “D” grade to a “C.” If you graduated from LAUSD, you would then be eligible for admissions to a CSU or UC school. 

However this imposed a double-whammy of increased rigor on our high schoolers, harder courses coupled with the higher designation of “passing.” Suddenly a whole subpopulation of students was ineligible for graduation and disenfranchised; they met the challenge of enrolling in the more rigorous “A-G” courses, but having received what once was considered a passing grade, they were now denied a diploma. They had risen to the challenge and followed the rules but did not receive reciprocal academic recognition. 

And so the prospective rule-change was understood to be inequitable; it clearly impacted disadvantaged students disproportionately. 

Accordingly in a subsequent board resolution on June 9, 2015, “To Recommit to A-G for all”, the grade requirement for graduation was dropped, restoring the old grade requirement for graduation in all classes. 

Thus graduation requirements were never lowered, but they were restored to their traditional level. And the reason for doing so was a joint initiative by board members Garcia, Zimmer and McKenna, acknowledging the injustice of disenfranchising students who had met graduation requirements. 

Already, LAUSD students had been returning and staying in school at ever-growing rates, even under the more rigorous “A-G“ program requirements. The percentage of graduates eligible for CSU/UC admissions was increasing strongly. To rebrand a whole subset of diligent students as “failures” was inappropriate and improper as it denied them their diplomas, earned under expected conditions. 

So why is it necessary to draw out this explanation in such gory detail? 

Because the CCSA’s candidate for board district four has exploited this slightly complicated and obscure history by misleading parents into fearing some great social injustice is being maliciously foisted on our students. His supporters have absorbed a narrative of outrage surrounding a spurious injustice that never was, buttressed by fake statistics that are not real. 

Writing in the DeVos Foundation-supported LA School Report, a parent suggests that “…school board members voted to lower the student requirements for A-G college prep coursework from a C grade to a D. As a result, more than half of LAUSD’s 2016 graduates were not eligible for CSU or UC universities. Our own elected officials failed our children….” 

None of these confused tangle of claims is true. There was no vote to lower student graduation requirements. More than half our graduates are not ineligible to continue in the California college state system (see chart above) the school board’s vote did not affect anyone’s eligibility, but the imminent and unfair ineligibility of dozens was stopped. Our elected officials did not “fail” our children: far from it. They acted to increase equitability and prevent cruel and unfair disenfranchisement from K-12 schooling. 

Melvoin’s message assuages educational jingoism by offering outrage for a grand social injustice that simply didn’t happen. This is not a tale of quality downgraded or standards diminished. There is no story of fiddled with statistics. There is no yarn here of a vulnerable population done wrong. 

In reality, LAUSD met the mandate of providing more rigorous schooling for one and all, and it has met the challenge of engaging its greater access equitably – and even with a dramatically increasing rate of graduates. 

It can be argued that this has come at a cost to important vocational and even science training, as well as widespread, fully activated arts programming. The budget for public schools is insufficient, but if only Melvoin’s corporate supporters would redirect their seemingly infinite resources into district schools rather than swamping a private campaign coffer, the equations governing our kids could change overnight.

 

(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor, who blogs at redqueeninla.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

DEEGAN ON CALIFORNIA-The board of the Metropolitan Water District, the mammoth agency that brings water from the Colorado River to lots of Southern California, has announced a $10 million dollar capital campaign as a solution to what had been described as awful living conditions being suffered by their workers -- highlighted by a March 8 petition to MWD Chair Randy Record from three dozen workers asking him to step in about a sewage leak at the Gene camp, one of the desert housing centers. All MWD camps now are slated for major infrastructure improvements in the plan the MWD board just approved. 

“We were notified in late February 2017 about leaking waste water pipes under five desert houses, and the problem was addressed immediately,” Jim Green, the manager of MWD’s Water System Operations Group (WSO) told CityWatch.

Green added, “The recent sewage leak validated the approach we were taking upgrading desert housing as part of a comprehensive capital campaign that was unanimously approved by the MWD board last week. We consider desert housing at the same level of importance as the pumps and pipes that transport the water.” 

Who knew the MWD was a landlord housing workers in several remote desert camps, built many decades ago and badly in need of the upgrade that is now in the works? The board directors did, and so did the management. Now, they are doing something about it. 

And, why are those workers so important in keeping MWD running smoothly? It sounds archaic and reminiscent of “company towns” where workers were forced to endure whatever conditions the employer placed them in, but there’s a reason these workers are located in harsh-conditioned, isolated desert camps. 

According to MWD Director Stephen Faessel, to help understand why the housing infrastructure devolved into what some would call “slum-like” conditions, you must take a trip back in time to eighty-six years ago when William Mulholland was assigned to create an aqueduct to carry water from the Colorado River to the Southern California region.

In 1913, Mulholland had already tapped the Owens Valley for water, but the population explosion in Southern California demanded yet more water. The Colorado River Compact gives California a large share of that river’s water and that is what Mulholland went after. 

Construction of the 242 mile Colorado River Aqueduct began in 1931 and took eight years and 10,000 men to complete. It has been described by historians as the biggest Depression era public works project in Southern California. It’s a massive engineering feat that is recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) as one of the "Seven Engineering Wonders of American Engineering.” 

The aqueduct pumps more than one billion gallons of water each day through pipes 10 feet in diameter that bring the Colorado River water to Southern California, from Lake Havasu/Parker Dam, the main holding reservoir for the Colorado River Aqueduct, to six counties in Southern California, providing water to more than 19 million people throughout the region (the Los Angeles DWP got 70% of its water from the MWD last year.) It accomplishes this by moving the water through a system of 90 miles of tunnels, nearly 55 miles of cut-and-cover conduit, almost 30 miles of siphons, and five pumping stations. The Gene pumping station, located near Parker Dam, one of the five that lift water up over the mountains, is where the sewage problem was. 

The danger of pumping such massive quantities of water is that there may be a harmful “back flow” if the pressure suddenly drops and water is flushed backwards through the system, wreaking havoc on, and potentially destroying, the pumping machinery. The most effective safety valve for this contingency is to have MWD workers live no more than 15 minutes away from the five sets of pumps that service pipes that stretch across the desert from the river to the sea, so they can immediately intervene. Hence, when the pumps and pipes were built, MWD built worker housing to be sure their workers were within the 15 minute call-zone. It’s those tenants, who pay rent to the MWD to live in company housing, that have been living in bad conditions. 

Speaking about the $10 million dollar capital campaign that will pay for a major overhaul to upgrade the desert housing conditions at the five pumping plants, MWD’s Green said, “It’s just phase one of our major capital improvement plan.” It could, like MWD Director Brett Barbre said, “make it a paradise so people strive to live there….and say Metropolitan takes care of its people.” Some board members were shocked when they saw pictures of the living conditions and said they did not know about the sewage problem. One MWD board member, Sylvia Ballin, told CityWatch, “I’m really upset about this and distraught.” 

 

 

(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 timdeegan2015@gmail.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--All the debate about how to address California’s massive housing shortage is obscuring the big picture: a state takeover of local housing policy has begun.

That’s the real import of the more than 100 bills that have been introduced in the legislature to change housing policy in various ways. None of the current proposals is up to the task of getting the state to build sufficient housing. But the varied legislative activity—proposals to cover production incentives for builders, rental assistance, streamlining regulations, new regional planning initiatives, increased enforcement of state housing laws, and even taxation of second homes—clearly signals the state’s intention to take a leading role in how California houses itself.

The prospect of a Sacramento intervention is usually worrisome. But this one should be welcomed. The threat of the state seizing power may be one of the few levers that could prompt the biggest obstacles to new housing—local governments—to get out of the way.

One can hardly blame state government for aggressive meddling in housing. California has a nasty history of destabilizing calamities: from the run-up in housing prices in the 1970s that produced the Prop 13 backlash; to the debt-fueled mid-2000s increases that led to the housing crash and the Great Recession.

Today, California’s crisis is rising prices resulting from a profound failure to create enough units to meet the population’s needs. While the state needs an estimated 180,000 new units a year, it has been getting less than half of that. By one estimate, the resulting shortage is a $140 billion annual drag on the state economy. Companies and individuals leaving the state most often cite housing costs as their top reason. Home ownership is at the lowest rate in California since the 1940s.

The crisis also represents a public health issue. Millions of Californians pay so much for housing that they have less to spend on health care, food, education, and transportation. Housing costs force Californians into long commutes that damage our health, infrastructure, and environment. And housing prices are one big reason why California suffers from the greatest homelessness and the highest poverty rate of any state.

Adding to the difficulty is the bewildering mix of federal, state, and local policies that affect housing. Federal and state programs support people who seek housing and those who wish to provide moderately priced housing. But such programs are tiny compared to the need for subsidies in expensive California; the Legislative Analyst’s Office found that most low-income households receive no assistance with housing, and that nearly twice as many households are on waiting lists for housing vouchers as there are available vouchers.

Local governments add to the shortage by passing and enforcing limits on housing development, density, and sometimes rents themselves. This local hostility to new housing is fueled by NIMBYism, environmentalism, and a state fiscal system that encourages local governments to pursue retail development (which produces sales tax for local coffers) instead of housing.

The state’s goal should be straightforward: more housing. That should mean more assistance to those seeking housing, more incentives to produce more housing, and fewer regulations that limit housing.

The state has a great deal to do, but its goal should be straightforward: more housing. That should mean more assistance to those seeking housing, more incentives to produce more housing, and fewer regulations that limit housing. But the politics are wickedly complicated, even by California standards.

The debate is already dividing key interests that must come together to pass ambitious laws. Labor is split on housing, as building trades unions oppose reforms to lower housing costs, a change that would benefit working-class members of service sector unions. There also are divides among environmentalists (between those who embrace denser development and hardliners who oppose any growth at all), advocates for the poor (between those who want to revive poorer communities with new housing and those who fear new housing will merely displace poor people), and even among Republicans (between those who want to protect older people and their housing values and those who want more housing for the young families in their inland communities).

“I’m not super optimistic about the state being a positive force in housing yet,” says Chris Hoene, executive director of the California Budget & Policy Center. “The number and range of proposals suggests that there isn’t consensus yet among state leaders and housing advocates about what levers to pull.”

Some of the more than 100 housing bills could make things worse, by adding to the costs of housing, or creating disincentives for local governments to approve housing. It’s also difficult to make even small gains in encouraging more housing for poor and working-class people.

State Senator Toni Atkins of San Diego, for example, has built a formidable coalition behind a bill to provide a dedicated funding stream to support below-market housing. Politically, such funding would be a major breakthrough. But the legislation would produce just $250 million a year, a fraction of the tens of billions in affordable housing needs statewide.

And subsidized housing reflects only a fraction of the California housing market. The Legislative Analyst’s Office has called for a focus on encouraging additional private housing construction in high-demand coastal areas. Shortages there, the legislative analyst said, have rippled across the state, sending people further inland in search of cheaper housing, and driving up housing costs for everyone in the process.

The crisis is urgent and has been years in the making, and the state’s legislative efforts to gain power over the problem could take many years, with hiccups and mistakes. Is there any way to go faster? Perhaps, but it would require the politically difficult step of empowering developers.

One model, with roots in Massachusetts, gives private developers, nonprofit organizations, and local authorities great powers to challenge land-use regulations that prevent housing development. The developers get an especially free hand in localities that fail to meet state requirements on housing. The Massachusetts model thus puts local governments on the defensive. They can no longer say no to housing projects; they either must make plans for housing, or watch as developers do as they please.

Such pressure from the state may sound extreme. But so are the consequences of our housing shortage.

(Joe Mathews is Connecting California Columnist and Editor at Zócalo Public Square … where this column first appeared. Mathews is a Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

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EDUCATION POLITICS--(Steve Zimmer, who is running for re-election for the Los Angeles Unified School District school board, wrote this unusual article, “The Case Against Myself.” The election is Tuesday. Decide for yourself whether he persuaded you.)

I want to present four legitimate arguments against me. These are good and fair reasons to vote against me on May 16th.

I know this is unusual, but because my opponent has lied so much about my record, I thought I would just go ahead and do this myself. I hope you will share this with your friends and family and explain to them that everything they are reading about me is a lie whether it is on the television, on the radio, or wrapped around their Sunday newspaper. Give them the real reasons to vote against me. Here they are:

  1. I believe independent charter schools need to be regulated to ensure that they serve every student that comes to their school house door. I believe independent, privately operated charter schools must be accountable for all public funds they receive. I believe charter schools should operate in the district that authorizes them. If you believe independent charter schools should be completely de-regulated, you should vote against me.
  2. I have moved resources to meet the needs of district students living in the highest concentrations of poverty, including thousands in my own district. In real and understandable ways, this has been difficult for certain schools in my district. But I believe it is the only moral way to do this job when 83% of students in the LAUSD live below the poverty line. Some voters may be concerned about these decisions and choose to support my opponent who has only focused his campaign in the more affluent areas of the district.
  3. I have been endorsed by the teachers and school employees of our district. I work with our teachers and I work with their union. I vote against their recommendations when I think they are wrong. But it is a priority for me to build trust with the people who deliver education to our students, to be allies in our struggle for equity, to make significant improvement in LAUSD schools. If you don’t believe I should engage our teachers and their unions then I understand why you would vote against me.
  4. I oppose the ranking of teachers, students, and schools. I oppose high stakes standardized testing. I believe that the things that are the most beautiful and wondrous about children can never be measured by a standardized test. If you believe we should be constantly testing and ranking students, teachers and schools then I understand why you wouldn’t support me.ur workday the right

Bottom of Form

This is what I have done. I understand some people can’t vote for someone who has done this.

But Nick Melvoin hasn’t used any of these reasons. Instead he has lied and he has distorted. I can’t stop someone from lying, but I can certainly tell you that this is not how you should win an election. Here are some of the lies he tells about me:

Nick’s Lie #1: The iPads were my program

The Actual Truth #1: The iPad program was started by Melvoin supporter John Deasy. I voted to end the program once it became clear that Deasy had lied to the school board and lied to the public.

Nick’s Lie #2: I created a $1.4 billion deficit.

The Actual Truth #2: The Board has balanced our budget every year. With the Governor’s latest announcement , we will have our budget balanced for 10 years straight.

Nick’s Lie #3:: I lowered graduation standards

The Actual Truth #3: We raised the rigor for all students by ensuring that all students be enrolled in college preparatory courses. While we increased rigor, we have raised graduation rates to record levels, from 56% to over 75%

Nick’s Lie #4: I laid off teachers

The Actual Truth #4: I anchored the difficult negotiations that allowed us to save our schools and save thousands of jobs

Nick’s Lie #5: I cut arts education

The Actual Truth #5: I stopped the cuts to arts education and have added over 18 million dollars to the arts budget each year.

I respect the democratic process and I value debate about the important issues facing our public schools. But that’s not what’s happened in this election. I am not perfect and I try to be a better board member every day. If Nick and the California Charter Schools Association waged an honest campaign, I would not be writing this argument against myself. It terrifies me that such an important election could be determined solely on lies and distortions. It should scare us all.

There is much more than even the control of our public schools that is on the line this Tuesday.

Our democratic values and the value of truth itself seem to have worked their way into this moment. I am proud to stand for honesty and service. I hope we can set a better example for our kids.

(Steve Zimmer represents District 4 — which stretches from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley — on the LAUSD school board. Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)

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CORRUPTION WATCH-When the courts jettison facts and law, all of society suffers. The resulting corruption is so systemic that people often cannot recognize where things went wrong. As we previously showed, but for the corrupt California judiciary, we would not have had the 1992 Insurrection in South Central. Not only did judges hideously abuse Blacks but the courts maneuvered moving the Rodney King Trial to Simi Valley in order to secure a victory for the police officers on trial. The corrupt nature of the California courts is not limited to victimization of minorities: rather, abusive “corruptionism” is its essential character. 

How did California end up with such a corrupt system? 

Starting with the judicial elections of 1986, the California judicial system has been devolving into a primitive institution that threatens society itself. Without taking the effort to consider the type of people who would be put in charge of the state court system, Californians ousted three judges because they were not killing enough people. That allowed Governor Deukmejian to appoint his law partner, Malcolm Lucas, as Chief Justice; and he appointed three new “hangin’ judges” to the Supreme Court. 

Myths blind Californians to the court’s danger to society. 

Californians allow myths and taboos to control their minds and this perpetuates a system in which personal loyalty enables cronyism to trump the rule of law. Why do people think that judges are above reproach? Why in the world would society protect corrupt judges by penalizing lawyers who criticize them? Why do we allow those judges to operate in secret, along with the faux oversight of the Commission on Judicial Performance whose hallmark is also secrecy? 

The high and mighty set forth the shibboleth that we lowly citizens need to have respect for judges or else they cannot do their jobs. Really? They’ve got bailiffs with guns to shoot people in their courtrooms. When they rule, they can order the police to take writs of execution and empty people’s bank accounts. If people knew how judges act in the court system, they would have no respect for it. 

The corruptionism that infects the California court system is more complex than, for instance, just the act of someone handing a judge an envelope of money in exchange for a favorable ruling. Rather, it revolves around judges’ believing they are above the law. They can alter facts, conceal evidence, manufacture evidence, intimidate witnesses, and all the while be assured that no one will be able to do anything about it. When a judge writes an opinion that changes the evidence, the appellate court overlooks that falsity and pretends it is true. For example, if a judge changes the undisputed evidence that a Mrs. Jones ran the red light to a Mr. Smith ran the red light, everyone in the system will look the other way. And because of that, the public never learns that Mrs. Jones’ lawyer and the judge are fishing buddies. As the federal court said in January 2015, everyone in the state court system “turns a blind eye.” 

Commission of Judicial Performance’s passion for secrecy. 

Some naive people believe that the California Commission of Judicial Whitewashing, er, I mean, Performance, is there to protect the public from wayward judges. 

The Commission’s behavior shows that its actual mission is to protect judges rather than the public. Let’s look at the type of charges the Commission made public in 2016. Out of more than 1,200 complaints, charges were publicized against two judges and one commissioner: 

Clarke, Edmund (LA County judge) publicly rude to prospective jurors. 

Culver, Taylor (Alameda Co Commissioner) rudeness to defendants in court. 

Kreep, Gary (San Diego Co judge), public misstatements during election campaign and ten other counts. 

While everyone should consult the Commission’s webpage to make their own determination, the Commission’s primary concern seems to arise when a judge’s behavior makes the courts look bad in the public eye. Due to the Commission’s passion for secrecy, no one can gather statistics about the allegations of serious misconduct. Instead the public has to rely on the Commission’s categorization of the complaints in its annual reports. The Commission will not even divulge the number of complaints made by county.

Commission presents its scant data in deceptive manner. 

On its website, the Commission tells us that in 2016, it received 454 complaints about persons who were not California judges, but it is silent about the 1,234 complaints it received about California judges. Why highlight the number of complaints that were misdirected to the Commission and remain quiet about the real complaints? 

One has to dig into the 2016 Annual Report to find out that there were 1,234 complaints. Going through the number of complaints per year, 1,200 is about average. In 2015, there were 1,245; in 2014, there were 1,212; in 2013, there were 1,209; in 2012, there were 1,143. 

The Commission’s web page reports eleven judge removals, but when looking at the dates, it appears that those eleven comprise the total number of removals over twenty-one years -- which amounts to about half a judge per year. Reporting removals in 21-year batches conceals that fact that in the years 2009 through 2015, only one judge was removed from office. That means that with almost 11,000 complaints in the last seven years, only one judge was removed! That case involved fixing traffic tickets for family and friends (Judge Richard Stanley, Orange County January 11, 2012.) 

Types of complaints cataloged by public advocates. 

One out-of-state activist compiled a list of illicit judicial behaviors, and the list seems in line with the complaints which reform activists are compiling for California. The range of alleged misconduct is extensive, and the types of charges are similar to ones we are hearing about in California. 

Without naming any judges, the list of charges includes: (1) Ignore the Law, (2) Cite Invalid Law, (3) Ignore the Facts, (4) Ignore Issues, (5) Conceal Evidence, (6) Say Nothing in Orders (The Ninth Circuit has made this complaint about the California supreme Court in habeas corpus cases,) (6) Block Filing of Motions and Evidence, (7) Tamper with Evidence, (8) Deny Constitutional Rights, (9) Violate and Ignore the Rules of Civil Procedure, (9) Automatically Rule against Certain Classes of People, (10) Order Monetary Sanctions against Parties they want to Damage, (11) Refuse to Disqualify Themselves, (12) Violate their Oath of Office and the Code of Judicial Conduct, (13) Conspire with Fellow Judges and Judicial Employees, (14) Allow Perjury, (15) Deny Hearings, (16) Dismiss Cases or Grant Summary Judgments, (17) Deny Jury Trials, (18) Don't Publish the Improper Orders. (Complied by Bill Windsor of Lawless America) 

Reform activists are complaining about substantial abuses of the law, but the Whitewash Commission never sees any of it. The reformists, however, concur with the (federal) Ninth Circuit’s January 2015 accusations, as cited in the LA Times, about the epidemic of judicially inspired misconduct.  

With a court system that tramples upon Truth, Justice and the American way with impunity, corruptionism flourishes throughout the State. The only thing these types of judges seek is a piece of the action. As we will see in future articles, judges retaliate against people who disclose their nefarious dealings by throwing them in jail under the pretext of civil contempt.   

Let’s remember that even a foolish President cannot subvert the rule of law the way a corrupt judiciary can.

 

(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

@THE GUSS REPORT-The election cycle ended for most people back on November 8 when the president and a full slate of national, state and local votes were cast.

In LA’s spring primary when other key races and issues were decided, turnout was, as California political strategist Michael Madrid pointed out in the LA Times, abysmal regardless: “People here seem more political than in the past — they go to a lot of protests and town halls, and they fill their social media accounts with anti-GOP screeds. But less than 12% of eligible voters showed up.” 

On Tuesday, we reach the actual end of the voting cycle, which includes two LA City Council runoffs representing 13% of City Council’s voting power; Measure C, which addresses how LAPD officers may be disciplined (the LA Times’ Editorial Board opposes it); and two LA School Board seats.

Despite the likelihood of an even smaller sliver of voters showing up on Tuesday, at least one panicked person claiming to be a polling place volunteer says they will be woefully understaffed: 

“I have [only one other volunteer] with me for this election, to cover four precinct table jobs, voter roster clerk, street index clerk, ballot clerk and voting machine clerk. [And we have] three precincts instead of the usual two….The city saves $100 per clerk and $40-50 on a polling place. This is abuse by the city of me and my poll worker by under-manning the precinct this way and will cause a delayed and poorly supported voting experience for LA voters.” 

While we were not given time to confirm whether these claims are accurate, these are fair points if true. In 2014, LA City Council president Herb Wesson was so mortified by local turnout that he turned to cash prizes to boost the numbers and enhance the experience. 

Still, LA School Report’s Mike Szymanski wrote last week to not worry, “…if history is any indicator, the poll workers … will have plenty of down time.”

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport.  Verifiable tips and story ideas can be sent to him at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EDUCATION POLITICS--Some of America’s most powerful corporate plutocrats want to take over the Los Angeles school system but Steve Zimmer (photo above, center), a former teacher and feisty school board member, is in their way. So they’ve hired Nick Melvoin to get rid of him. No, he’s not a hired assassin like the kind on “The Sopranos.” He’s a lawyer who the billionaires picked to defeat Zimmer.

The so-called “Independent” campaign for Melvoin — funded by big oil, big tobacco, Walmart, Enron, and other out-of-town corporations and billionaires — has included astonishingly ugly, deceptive, and false attack ads against Zimmer.

This morning (Friday) the Los Angeles Times reported that “Outside spending for Melvoin (and against Zimmer) has surpassed $4.65 million.” Why? Because he doesn’t agree with the corporatization of our public schools. Some of their donations have gone directly to Melvoin’s campaign, but much of it has been funneled through a corporate front group called the California Charter School Association.

To try to hoodwink voters, the billionaires invented another front group with the same initials as the well-respected Parent Teacher Association, but they are very different organizations. They called it the “Parent Teacher Alliance.” Pretty clever, huh? But this is not the real PTA, which does not get involved with elections. In fact, the real PTA has demanded that this special interest PAC change their name and called the billionaires’ campaign Zimmer “misleading,” “deceptive practices,” and “false advertising.”

These out-of-town billionaire-funded groups can pay for everything from phone-banks, to mailers, to television ads. Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez described the billionaires’ campaign to defeat Zimmer, which includes sending mails filled with outrageous lies about Zimmer, as “gutter politics.”

As a result, the race for the District 4 seat — which stretches from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley — is ground zero in the battle over the corporate take-over of public education. The outcome of next Tuesday’s (May 16) election has national implications in terms of the billionaires’ battle to reconstruct public education in the corporate mold.

The contest between Melvoin and Zimmer is simple. Who should run our schools? Who knows what’s best for students? Out-of-town billionaires or parents, teachers, and community residents?

Before examining just who these corporate carpetbaggers are, let’s look at who Steve Zimmer is, what he’s accomplished, and what he stands for.

Zimmer grew up in a working class community and attended public schools. His father was a printer and his mother was a school teacher. After college, he became a teacher, beginning with Teach for America in 1992.

He spent 17 years as a teacher and counselor at Marshall High School. When he taught English as a second language, he used an experiential approach that related to his students’ daily lives. He created Marshall’s Public Service Program to make public service intrinsic to the student experience. He founded Marshall’s Multilingual Teacher Career Academy, which was an early model for LAUSD’s Career Ladder Teacher Academy.

To help address the concerns of at-risk youth, he founded the Comprehensive Student Support Center to provide health care services for students and their families. He helped create the Elysian Valley Community Services Center, a community owned-and-operated agency that provides after-school, recreational and enrichment programs, a library, and free Internet access.

He was elected to the school board in 2009 and re-elected in 2013 despite the onslaught of billionaire bucks against him.

What are some of Zimmer’s most important accomplishments on the school board?

  • Improving student success. Zimmer’s leadership helped increase local graduation rates into their highest level ever. LAUSD schools achieved across-the-board improvements in state testing and all measurable forms of student achievement.
  • Balanced budgets. As school board president, Zimmer helped bring LAUSD’s budget into balance while simultaneously increasing funding to the classrooms. Zimmer helped lead the fight to get Congress to pass the Education Jobs Bill passed, which provided LAUSD with $300 million. He has fought for increased federal Special Education funding. He championed Proposition 30 and its extension, Proposition 55, which added more school funding for LAUSD. His stewardship has paid off. LAUSD has been awarded the highest credit rating of AAA.
  • More schools, more opportunities.As a result of Zimmer’s leadership and in response to parent interest, LAUSD has added many more magnet schools, STEM programs and dual immersion language programs.
  • Restoring arts education. Zimmer worked to restore arts programs not just in some schools but in all schools. He believes access to arts education needs to be a right for all students in every community. It is an essential component to a well-rounded education. Since he’s been in office, arts funding has increased by $18 million dollars and the Arts Equity Index that he championed, now ensures resources where they are needed the most.
  • Protecting vulnerable students.As a school board member, Zimmer has been the leading advocate for vulnerable students. He authored the school board resolution in support of the Dream Act, federal legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented students who do well in school and attend college. He authored the resolution ensuring schools are safe zones where students and families faced immigration enforcement actions can find safety and seek assistance and information. He helped create Student Recovery Day, a twice-yearly event that takes scores of district staff into students’ homes to support students who have dropped out. Hundreds of students have returned to class after being sought out and connected with the support services they need. He has ensured that the school district supports the needs of students living in poverty, students facing trauma, special education students, undocumented students, LGBT students, English Learners, standard English learners and foster children.
  • Healthy food. Zimmer’s commitment to making sure students eat healthy meals is unparalleled. His Good Food Purchasing resolution has been a model around the country for making sure student lunches have met the highest nutritional, environmental and animal welfare standards.

As a member of the Board, and his last two years as President, Zimmer led the school district through difficult times, weathering a recession, dealing with tragedies, and transitions in leadership. He used his skills to resolve challenges by working collaboratively.

Zimmer has received numerous awards for his work with children and families, including the LA’s Commission of Children, Youth and their Families “Angel Over Los Angeles” award, El Centro Del Pueblo’s “Carino” award and the LACER Foundation’s “Jackie Goldberg Public Service Award.”

Nick Melvoin is the candidate completely sponsored by the 1 percent. His extreme lack of experience clearly doesn’t bother them. Melvoin is so devoted to the corporate agenda for our schools that he claims a “hostile takeover” is needed.

Who are some of the billionaires and corporate lobby groups that want to defeat Steve Zimmer and elect Nick Melvoin?

  • Members of the Walton family(Alice Walton (photo left), Jim Walton, and Carrie Walton Penner) ― heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune from Arkansas ― have contributed $2.2 million to the PAC attacking Zimmer in the last two years. Alice Walton (net worth: $36.9 billion) lives in Texas and is one of the biggest funders behind Melvoin’s campaign. She and other members of her family also donated to the Super PAC that worked to elect Donald Trump, donated to Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, and to the Alliance for School Choice, an organization that Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos helped to lead.
  • Oil and Enron executives from Texas and Oklahoma have contributed more than $1 million to the same committee.
  • JOBSPAC — a PAC “largely funded by oil and tobacco companies,” according to the Los Angeles Times– contributed $35,000 to the same committee funding the attacks on Zimmer.
  • Doris Fisher, co-founder of The Gap who has a net worth of $2.7 billion, has given $4.1 million to the California Charter School Association’s political action committee in 2015 and 2016. She lives in San Francisco.
  • John Arnoldmade a fortune at Enron before the company collapsed, leaving its employees and stockholders in the lurch. Then he made another fortune as a hedge fund manager. His net worth is $2.9 billion. He and his wife Laura donated $1 million last year to CCSA’s political committee and $4400 directly to Melvoin. They live in Houston, Texas.
  • Jeff Yass,who lives in the Philadelphia suburbs, has given the maximum allowed contribution to Melvoin. He runs the Susquahanna group, a hedge fund. He has close ties to Betsy DeVos’ efforts to privatize public school. Yass donated $2.3 million to a Super PAC supporting Rand Paul’s presidential candidacy.
  • Frank Baxterand his wife Kathrine donated $100,000 to CCSA’s political committee in the past two years and $3,300 directly to Melvoin. Frank Baxter is former CEO of the global investment bank Jefferies and Company that specialized in “junk” bonds. He is a major Republican fundraiser and was appointed ambassador to Uruguay by George W. Bush. He is one of at least five donors to Melvoin’s campaign who sit on the board of charter schools. He is also a big financial backer of Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Cong. Devin Nunes of California, and Cong. Steve King of Iowa (a Tea Party favorite).

What do these corporate moguls and billionaires want and what has Zimmer done to make them so upset?

They want to turn public schools into educational Wal-marts run on the same corporate model. They want to expand charter schools that compete with each other and with public schools in an educational “market place.” (LA already has more charter schools than any other district in the country). They want to evaluate teachers and students like they evaluate new products — in this case, using the bottom-line of standardized test scores. Most teachers will tell you that over-emphasis on standardized testing turns the classroom into an assembly line, where teachers are pressured to “teach to the test,” and students are taught, robot-like, to define success as answering multiple-choice tests.

Not surprisingly, the billionaires want school employees — teachers — to do what they’re told, without having much of a voice in how their workplace functions or what is taught in the classroom. Rather than treat teachers like professionals, they view them as the out-sourced hired help.

Congresswoman Karen Bass, LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Senator Bernie Sanders are among the many elected officials who have endorsed Steve Zimmer

The corporate big-wigs are part of an effort that they and the media misleadingly call “school reform.” What they’re really after is not “reform” (improving our schools for the sake of students) but “privatization” (business control of public education). They think public schools should be run like corporations, with teachers as compliant workers, students as products, and the school budget as a source of profitable contracts and subsidies for textbook companies, consultants, and others engaged in the big business of education.

Like most reasonable educators and education analysts, Zimmer has questioned the efficacy of charter schools as a panacea. When the billionaires unveiled their secret plan to put half of LAUSD students into charter schools within eight years, Zimmer led the opposition. Zimmer isn’t against all charter schools but he doesn’t want the board to rubber-stamp every charter proposal. He wants LAUSD to carefully review each charter proposal to see if its backers have a track record of success and inclusion. And he wants LAUSD to hold charters accountable. This kind of reasonable approach doesn’t sit well with the billionaires behind their front group, the California Charter School Association.

Zimmer has also questioned the over-reliance on high-stakes standardized testing as the primary tool for assessing student and teacher performance. Testing has its place but it can also become an excuse to avoid more useful and holistic ways to evaluate students and teachers — and to avoid the “teach to the test” obsession that hampers learning and creative teaching. Zimmer has called for — and helped negotiate the deal for — some portion of teacher evaluations to include test scores. But that’s not what the billionaires want.

As a former LAUSD teacher with 17 years in the classroom, Zimmer respects teachers as professionals. He understands the jobs and frustrations of teaching. He wants LAUSD to create schools that are truly partnerships between teachers, parents, students and the district. He is often allied with United Teachers Los Angeles, but he is nobody’s lapdog. He has always been an independent voice and has disagreed with UTLA on some significant matters.

In fact, four years ago, Times’ columnist Lopez wrote that Zimmer “... has tried to bridge differences among the warring parties, winning supporters and making enemies on both sides in the process.”

But the billionaires don’t want a bridge-builder. They want a compliant rubber stamp, and that’s what they’ve found in Nick Melvoin, the advocate for a “hostile takeover.”

Zimmer is endorsed by many LAUSD parents and community activists as well as Mayor Eric Garcetti, Senator Bernie Sanders, Congressmembers Karen Bass, Judy Chu and Maxine Waters, City Attorney Mike Feuer and the Councilmembers serving the neighborhoods in his 4th School Board District. At the state level, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, State Controller Betty Yee, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon have all endorsed Zimmer. At the County level, he’s backed by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl along with former Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

In his endorsement of Zimmer, Mayor Garcetti said: “The campaign against Steve has turned vicious, and I feel compelled to reach out on behalf of a champion for all our kids. I’ve worked closely with Steve Zimmer for more than 15 years. I’ve watched him make change in the lives of kids and in the fabric of our communities. Under Steve’s leadership, Los Angeles Unified schools have shown impressive progress. Steve’s collaborative, ‘all kids, all families’ approach is what we need on the School Board.”

The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest school system in the country with over 700,000 students. So gaining control of its board — and its budget — is a good “investment” for the billionaires who want to reshape education in this country.

Melvoin’s campaign and backers have outspent Zimmer by a huge margin. Their battle has turned into a remarkable David vs. Goliath contest. But let’s recall who won that Biblical battle. Goliath had the big weapons but the feisty David had the slingshot. That’s how Zimmer beat another hand-picked billionaire-backed candidate four years ago, with a grassroots campaign that relied on parents, teachers, and neighborhood residents, and he’s hoping to do it again next Tuesday.

(Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)

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BELL’S VIEW--The other day a video posted on Facebook drew my attention. In it, a motorcycle moves in slow motion toward the middle of an intersection and a certain crash with a left-turning car. I could see where this was heading, but I couldn’t look away. I have no real desire to watch a motorcyclist pinwheel through the air and crash to the pavement (he survived, thanks to his helmet), but I watched anyway.

So many events I have seen I wish I hadn’t. I’ll never get the video of the Tamir Rice shooting out of my head. And I don’t suppose I should. Maybe this destruction of our illusions – the illusion that we can prolong our innocence through looking away – is the price we have to pay to bring any real change to the world. We live in in-between times, where one person’s truth is another’s lie. How can that be possible? I’ve never completely bought the old chestnut that there are two sides to every story. Tamir Rice was a thirteen-year-old boy playing in the park. I don’t care what the grand jury said. 

Another slow-motion wreck sucking my attention these days is the continuing saga of the Joe Bray-Ali (photo above) campaign to unseat incumbent City Councilman Gil Cedillo – the 70’s B-movie villain currently ignoring his constituents in Council District 1. As anyone following the story knows, Bray-Ali either had his character assassinated or his true identity revealed last week when LAist broke the story of Bray-Ali’s former career as an Internet troll. The story prompted Bray-Ali to publicly attempt to recreate John Hurt’s chestbuster scene from the first Alien movie. He apologized, but he didn’t do it. He’s only human, but he’s not that guy. He made mistakes, but he was only trying to do the right thing.

Flailing, he revealed a few other juicy indiscretions (tax evasion, marital infidelity, and tagging, in that order) and promised to explain it all later as he blithely reassumed his campaign persona. Meanwhile, the old Joe came out swinging on a few Facebook threads, where he just couldn’t seem to help himself. In one, he trotted out a list of some of the crazy misdeeds (bigamy anyone?) of our current City Councilmembers, including Mike Bonin’s long-past meth habit.  How, one commenter asked, is Bonin’s triumph over addiction comparable to your Mr. Hyde impression on Voat?  

How indeed? One truth has emerged: Bray-Ali’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington shtick is not exactly the real thing. He’s brash, he’s bold, he’s – either – racist, sexist, and transphobic, or some kind of satirical anthropologist employing the awesome power of the n-word to move us all toward positive social change. 

The question remains whether Bray-Ali’s move-along, nothing-to-see-here approach can sweep him into the Council chambers on May 16th. A few prominent Bray-Ali supporters have jumped ship, while others have either drunk the kool-aide or just admitted they don’t care. I sympathize fully with the impulse to support the lesser of two evils. City Hall needs a shakeup. The question District1 voters have to ask themselves is: how much is too much?

Bray-Ali’s explanations have been satisfying only to the rubberneckers and the kool-aide drinkers. The pen, they say, is mightier than the sword, but, at this point, Bray-Ali needs to get hold of something sharp and cut out t he rotten bits. Words just aren’t going to do it this time. As a proponent of the power of language, I’ve never felt so adrift. Debate has evolved away from a means of challenging ideas and into a method of silencing our opponents. Shame, humiliation, degradation, and name-calling – all dressed up as free speech – work only to drive speech into hiding, oblivion, or meaninglessness. Joe Bray-Ali has seen this process from both sides – from give and take – and now he’s in the fight of his life with the beast we’ve all been feeding since the turn of the millennium.

On May 16th, the voters in District 1 have a choice – but the choice is all Joe’s at this point. He needs to find a way to the other side of the wall he’s built for himself. And he needs to do it fast.

 

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

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CAPITAL & MAIN REPORT--If you’re bidding to build the border wall, the City of Los Angeles may soon want to know about it. In the latest effort by blue cities to resist President Trump’s anti-immigrant policies, a Los Angeles City Council member announced Thursday that he will introduce a motion requiring city contractors to disclose whether they’re bidding or working on Donald Trump’s border wall – or risk stiff fines and penalties. The motion is the first of its kind, but follows a trend of major cities exercising their authority to oppose the wall.

Los Angeles is home to more than 1.5 million immigrants. Voters in the county voted more than three to one for Hillary Clinton; the president’s policies remain unpopular here, and the school district and City Council have already taken other measures against the administration.

“City residents deserve to know how the City’s public funds are being spent, and whether they are supporting individuals or entities involved in the construction or operation of the Border Wall,” reads a draft of the motion, which Councilmember Gil Cedillo’s office says will be introduced Friday.

The move is being supported by a broad coalition of religious and immigrant-rights groups as well as unions, whose members include construction workers. “Every construction worker I know takes great pride in showing their children the things they built,” says Rusty Hicks, who leads the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. “None of them want to point with pride to something as horrible as a wall between two countries.”

If firms are forced to disclose any bids on the wall, advocates will then have an opportunity to put pressure on these companies — something that many businesses might rather avoid.

The city’s approach is novel, and it’s informed by the work of the Partnership for Working Families (PWF), a national network of advocacy organizations that develop city-based policy campaigns. In March, PWF sent a letter to major contractors urging them not to bid on the border wall; few companies responded. PWF has also been working with officials in individual cities to figure out how to identify contractors that are planning to bid on the wall and have existing city contracts. In Los Angeles, it’s been working closely with the LA Alliance for a New Economy, or LAANE, to get a motion off the ground.

New York City’s public advocate unveiled a plan to block border wall contractors from getting city contracts. Berkeley’s city council voted unanimously to approve a resolution that both denounces the wall and seeks to divest from any companies that are working on the project. It was the first to do so.

But Berkeley’s plan may face a legal challenge. John Yoo, a former Bush administration official who now teaches at the University of California, Berkeley Law School, told Fox Business that the resolution “may violate the Dormant Commerce Clause, which prevents cities from discriminating against outside companies, and there’s no legal exception for political disagreements.” Any ordinance that blocks corporations working on the border wall from operating in certain cities may also violate federal preemption statutes, which stipulate that when local and federal laws are in conflict, the federal standard applies.

The proposed Los Angeles ordinance seeks to circumvent these restrictions by requiring city contractors to disclose their participation in the wall rather than penalizing them. That doesn’t mean corporations bidding to work on the border wall wouldn’t file suit or otherwise protest should L.A. move forward with the ordinance. Tom Janssen, who directs external affairs for Nebraska-based Kiewit, a corporation that’s registered as an interested party to build the border wall, says the company doesn’t publicly discuss its projects. He withheld further comment pending release of the motion’s full language.

Enforcing the ordinance may also present a challenge. A wide spectrum of contractors do business with the City of Los Angeles, and keeping track of their involvement with the border wall could prove challenging. When the city council passed an anti-apartheid ordinance 30 years ago restricting contracts with companies that did business in South Africa, more than 900 ordinance exemptions were racked up in just three years. But PWF’s Jackie Cornejo, who has been coordinating efforts for various border wall ban and disclosure proposals, is confident the city’s Bureau of Contract Administration will ensure accountability. “It’s worked to keep policies like the city’s living wage in place,” she says.

Councilmember Cedillo has high hopes that the proposed ordinance will soon become law. “We will work with the City Attorney’s office to make it a reality,” says Cedillo, “and start talking with colleagues on the City Council to build consensus.”

(Aura Bogado posts at Capital and Main … where this report originated.)

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DODGER BLUES-When Los Angeles Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley opened Dodger Stadium on April 10, 1962, his ticket price structure was simple, straightforward, and inexpensive: $3.50 for box seats, $2.50 for reserved seats, and $1.50 for general admission and the outfield pavilions. That was for every home game, regardless of opponent -- whether it was the hated San Francisco Giants, with whom the Dodgers were engaged in an epic pennant race that year, or the hapless expansion Houston Colt .45s. 

These prices remained the same until 1976. As late as 1997, the last full year Walter’s son Peter O’Malley owned the team before selling it to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Group, a box seat cost $12, and you could sit in the pavilions for $6. 

In case you’re wondering, $3.50 in 1962 is the equivalent of $28 today. Good luck trying to buy a box seat at Dodger Stadium in 2017 for 28 bucks. If you want to see the Dodgers play the Giants this season from that seat location, you could be paying as much as $600 for the privilege. Present-day Dodger Stadium’s slogan might well be: “Welcome, fans. Bring money.” 

But it was not always this way. The O’Malleys’ low ticket price strategy was part of a larger business plan, centered on getting as many repeat customers into their ballpark as possible. Like Disneyland, the theme park showplace that Dodgers executives visited and studied, Dodger Stadium would feature affordable prices that would attract families, and especially women and children. Once they were through the turnstiles and “in the building,” these families would spend money on concessions --lots and lots of Dodger Dogs -- as well as all manner of Dodger logo branded souvenirs to be worn, waved, and displayed. 

Most important of all was the atmosphere inside the stadium. Beautiful views of downtown and the mountains. Organ music. Friendly and efficient park employees. Cleanliness. Safety. Fan greetings on the scoreboards. Promotions. Autograph and picture days. Not to mention Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Maury Wills, Steve Garvey, Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, and eight National League pennants in the stadium’s first quarter century of operation. 

Dodger Stadium was privately owned, which meant the O’Malleys bore all risks but reaped all rewards -- which also let them play the long game. If say, a six-year-old could visit the stadium with his family and have an experience that would make him want to come back again, the seeds would be planted for a lifetime of patronage and profit. “Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man,” runs the famous Jesuit aphorism, and under O’Malley ownership from 1962 to 1997, the Dodger Stadium experience epitomized it. 

This business model also served to make the stadium one of Los Angeles’ most inclusive and diverse public venues, since its affordable ticket prices drew fans from across racial, ethnic, and class lines. Club box and dugout level seating, which were class-exclusionary, represented only 3 to 4 percent of available ticketing options at Dodger Stadium in the 1960s. So if any institution in Los Angeles could be termed “democratic,” in the sense of offering the greatest good for the greatest number, it was Dodger Stadium during that time. 

No one would call Dodger Stadium democratic today. It is not designed for repeat visitors, unless they are hedge fund managers or employees fortunate enough to get their hands on the company season tickets. The team, owned by Guggenheim, a financial services consortium, has gone upscale. It has spent more on players and stadium renovations, while also charging fans much more for tickets and parking. If you’re planning to come as a family, make sure your monthly rent or mortgage payment is covered first. Even a family of four that bought the cheapest tickets in the ballpark, along with four hot dogs and four drinks, would spend $134. The same family would spend approximately $120 for the same combination at a movie theater, where parking is often free. 

The Dodger Stadium that tied a transient, race-and-class stratified city together is gone. Now, the chances that the fan in the seat next to you will be from the same social class and racial background are higher than ever. 

In a 21st-century Los Angeles rife with income stagnation, racial separation, and social alienation, we need Dodger Stadium to return to its roots. The emphasis, as it was when the O’Malleys owned the team, needs to be on families and on children. Let kids under 14 in for half price. And give families a special discount. The money lost on the front end would be a fraction of what lifelong Dodger fans would spend over the years at their favorite stadium. A democratized Dodger Stadium would not solve all of the city’s problems, but every small, good thing counts in a time like this. 

(Jerald Podair is a professor of history at Lawrence University and author of the recently published, City of Dreams: Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles (Princeton University Press). This piece originally appeared at Zocalo Public Square.

Primary Editor: Joe Mathews. Secondary Editor: Sarah Rothbard.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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PILGRIMS’ PROGRESS?-The Hollywood sign has taken on significant cultural, economic (tourism) and even mythical properties. People from around the world want their selfies with the sign in the background. I find this quite curious. In my sixty years as a Los Angeles native the sign has always been there, and it was not a big deal. It was there like the mountains, and the ocean, and palm trees. The sign was there, but it didn’t hold the mystique it does today.

As a young man exploring the Los Angeles region and taking trip to Hollywood, friends and I never thought of hiking up a canyon to get close to the sign. We would hike canyons like Topanga, Malibu, Corral Peak or Tuna. But hike to the Hollywood sign?

The sign was always there in the background. In the 1960s through the 1980s it was too many times hidden behind a blanket of smog, lessening its significance even more.

The sign did and does hold social connotations. In my youth Hollywood was going through transformations from the so-called Golden Age to a more cynical age of excess that included drink, drugs and sex parties. It was not a magnet of attraction.

Over the years the sign went into disrepair, symbolizing the disrepair and sloughing of the Hollywood image. Its most famous moments came when letters began to crumble and its name was changed by vandals. This act was a further blurring of the essence of the sign.

But now the sign is made anew and pilgrims worldwide, along with some locals, hike to the sign. Maybe some of these locals are new transplants who find a uniqueness to the sign which for us natives is just another part of growing up and living in Los Angeles, similar to the Coliseum, Dodger Stadium, freeways and Pink’s Hotdogs. They are there, it is part of the city. Yes, I see the sign, so what?

Now, with its newfound mystique, the arrival of these pilgrims overwhelmed the area. Locals living near the sign were invaded by throngs who left trash, blocked the streets with their cars, defecated and what not. That is not neighborly behavior, so they objected, understandably.

A horse stable was losing business because the pilgrims were restricting traffic.

Due to the crush of too many visitors, their disturbances and the waste and litter they left behind, the main trail for pilgrims to the sign is now gated close. They’ve been moved further away and the sign is no longer being venerated as it was. The city fathers need to find a solution to allow the pilgrims back to the sign.

The solution could be a gondola. Why a gondola?

A gondola could be shut down for safety during heavy winds, which seem to be more prevalent these days. Part of the scientific predictions concerning the consequences of global warming is more wind, so we can expect more wind storms of greater intensity.

High above the bone-dry brush, how far would ashes from a cigarette or vapor pipe fly from inside a gondola car? And once they fall to the ground how quickly would they set the land ablaze?

I’ve been to Disneyland when its gondola has broken down leaving cars stranded between stations. But Disneyland is flat, with a predictable landscape and a reliable service team always on standby.

These canyon areas do not have predictable terrain. Good luck trying to get a large ladder truck up a canyon to rescue stranded gondoliers if they are within a few feet of the road. If the stranded gondola is over open terrain away from a road, perhaps over a ravine or the cliff side of the canyon, how would they be reached? How tall would a ladder need to be to get to a gondola from the bottom of a ravine? And how quickly could rescue and repair teams get to the passengers?

Perhaps the less glamorous choice of a bus or rail would work. Why is there not now a daily service of multiple buses to take visitors up to the sign? They could start from the flatlands of Hollywood and this would save the sign’s neighbors from the crush of parked cars along the canyon. There could be a bus station with restrooms to help the keep the hillside clean. This might drive traffic to local restaurants and shops, increasing business.

These buses could be smaller in size like the DASH buses to save space on the narrow roads. There could be an environmentally sensitive, architecturally respectful bus station at the top to further aid the pilgrims.

Charging a nice fee would partially offset the costs of the buses. Have them run on clean burning natural gas, or go electric and then use these buses as prototypes to jump start a conversion of city buses to electric. 

Or go with a train. Griffith Park has the wonderfully idiosyncratic Travel Town which is an outdoor museum of sorts featuring old train locomotives, cars, and a fantastic small gauge open car train. The tracks are narrow, and they carry joyous kids and adults in a loop around the trains. Use natural gas engines or battery electric motors since electric tracks and overhead power lines could pose a danger.

The steepness of the grade of the ascent may be too great for a train, and rail beds may have to be built away from the existing road to make sure there is enough room for emergency vehicles. But it would be fun to ride a slow ascent on a little train up the canyon through the chaparral, taking in the sights and views on the way to the sign.
       
The train would be so much fun that I, a native Los Angeleno who is able to walk from my house and down the block about fifty yards to glimpse the Hollywood sign, would venture a train ride to take the pilgrimage up to see the sign myself.

 

(Matthew Hetz is a Los Angeles native. He is a transit rider and advocate, a composer, music instructor, and member and president and executive director of the Culver City Symphony Orchestra.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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EASTSIDER-Long before there was a Measure HHH, there was a lot of discussion at LANCC and other community meetings about what kind of shelter we could provide to our homeless population -- something to tide them over until supportive services could kick in and find longer term solutions for their complex issues. 

At the time, here was a lot of talk about sub-$30,000 “tiny homes.” Of course, almost all discussion about this concept disappeared the day after Measure HHH -- the $1.2 billion bond measure -- passed last year. 

We’ll get back to what went wrong with Measure HHH later, but for now let’s take a look at serious, inexpensive housing. Notice I did not say “affordable.” There are at least three, and probably many more, actual examples of these tiny inexpensive, quickly built and installed homes. 

From right around here in Los Angeles, a group of USC students came up with a $25,000 stackable housing pod of about 92 sq. ft. They are big enough to provide a bed, bathroom, desk and storage, and to give shelter from the elements. You can read more about the project here

From San Francisco, an outfit called Panoramic Interests, has come up with a business model involving larger, 160 sq. ft. “micro-apartments.” These modular housing units are also stackable, like the USC project. Currently built and shipped from China, they are designed to be leased for about $1000/year per unit. This is a whole lot cheaper than most alternatives, and there is some talk of building the units locally. For more, about their vision, look here.  

These are only two examples of numerous kinds of groovy ideas for this type of inexpensive shelters, as you can see from this article on a popular travel blog. 

So Why is the City Unable to Perform? 

All pretty words aside, the truth is there’s no money to be made (or spent) when it comes to cheap housing. No sir. Money comes from controlling what and where something is going to be built; and to pad the profit, it should be “affordable housing,” not just a place to provide shelter from the elements for the homeless. 

So one of the first things the Council did when they got the bond money was to take Controller Ron Galperin’s database of about 9000 city owned properties and trim it down into twelve parcels. 

As I wrote in an earlier CityWatch article, as soon as the bond passed, City Hall did a bait and switch to now provide “affordable housing:” 

“If you contrast the bond measure rhetoric with what the City has actually done so far, the disconnect looms like the Grand Canyon. Affordable housing is not permanent-supportive housing; it’s simply another opportunity for real estate developers to make money building more housing.” 

Even worse, as fellow CityWatch columnists Eric & Joshua Preven noted, the first meeting of the 7 member Citizens Oversight Committee (all appointed by the Mayor), was in fact a secret meeting which had a “technical glitch” and the audio recording of the meeting didn’t work. Great start to the openness and transparency promised when they begged for $1.2 billion in bonds.

In their follow-up article, they showed that the City has no intention of telling us what they are going to do with the money. 

Then we had a devastating piece by Patrick Range McDonald, showing how the Mayor and Council made nice until they were able to defeat Measure S. Then came the real deal that they had hidden: 

The City Administrative Officer recommended, and the City Council approved, an AHOS program that now offered ‘affordable multifamily housing,’ ‘mixed-income housing,’ ‘affordable homeownership,’ ‘innovative methods of housing,’ and, finally, “permanent supportive housing” for the homeless.”  

And on May Day (May 1), the Prevens gave us a column with the heading Red Flag Warning, a nice summary of the bait and switch. The answer to the question of how many actual new units of housing for the homeless have been built is around zero. With some 9 projects in the pipeline (mostly refurbishments) for some $10 million.

Finally, in a pathetic attempt to redirect our limited attention, the City Council proudly urged that the City declare a year-round shelter crisis. The motion was made by none other than Jose Huizar (CD 14), who can’t even get anything done in Boyle Heights, and that master of saying one thing and doing something else, Mike Bonin (CD 11). 

The Takeaway 

Let’s go back to what we were told in the run up to passage of Proposition HHH. The advertised promise was for some 10,000 units of affordable permanent-supportive housing over 10 years, to the tune of $1.2 billion in bonds. 

What we’ve got is a new bureaucracy called HCID, run by a new general manager (Ray Cervantes), looking for staff and talking about $75 million in bonds to fund something like 440 units of supporting housing, with a total of 615 units. Maybe. And with no timeline. 

HCID, for the acronym challenged, stands for “Housing & Community Investment Department.” That very description should make us shudder, as we add another bureaucracy to the City that can’t balance a budget. On the other hand, they have a really spiffy website.  

This is a far cry from the promised 10,000 units of housing for the homeless and support services, and the Prevens indicate that the real number to date is around zero. If the City took a look at the pod/tiny houses mentioned at the beginning of this article, the process now would be very different. For about $30 million ($30,000 per unit) you could build 1000 units of homeless housing. And under the USC model, it could all be built here, providing jobs for local folks. 

Furthermore, at the moment the City is only looking at nine projects, using their tortured system, and there has been huge community pushback on many of their proposed sites. If you broadened the parameters and looked at all the 9000 parcels identified by Controller Galperin, I refuse to believe that the City couldn’t find places to put these mini-homes. 

Not only that, just look at the amount of money the City has blown in court battles over the police department seizing homeless people’s belongings and the costs of storing their stuff. I’m guessing millions, as referenced in a recent Curbed Los Angeles piece. With the pods, storage is already there. 

All I can say is, thank god for CityWatch and its intrepid band of investigative columnists! 

And the next time City Hall wants us to pay for a special purpose tax, listen to Jack Humphreville. Vote NO.

 

(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.

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EDUCATION POLITICS-Why do we let Nick Melvoin’s words bounce off him and stick to LAUSD’s world? Negative Ads Undermine Democracy. Mostly, the fourth district school board race has been one of incessant negativity and lies. Why do we permit this uncivilized behavior? 

I can tell you that, walking my neighborhood, I am met with deep weariness, wariness and hostility. This is the legacy of democracy abused. This race has been nothing if not about Big Lies and electoral abuse, and that’s a lesson being bought – and paid for – dearly. 

Independent Committee expenditures (IECs, the new normal for “PAC”s) in favor of both candidates have been about the same, averaging $1.8 million dollars at the moment. Each. You read that right. Think of the children. (Think of the printers.) 

What is not similar is IC expenditures in opposition to their candidate. Melvoin’s IC devotes half an order of magnitude more in slandering Steve Zimmer than Zimmer’s IC spends to oppose Melvoin. 

Thus, quite apart from the overall total spent (which is obscene), a dramatic distinction between candidates is evident from what’s being spent to smear the other guy. Zimmer’s adherents spent less than 25% of that average in denigrating their opposition ($441K). Melvoin’s buddies sunk 140% of that average spent in support of their candidate ($2.4 million) on negative ads

In fact, the amount Zimmer’s IEC devoted to negative campaigning is so comparatively trivial, the negligible difference between both campaign’s positive expenditures, which is just 6% – this sum ($114K) is 25% of what Zimmer’s camp spent in negativity altogether. His challenger spent five and a half times as much as the incumbent in stuffing our mailboxes with scurrilous lies. 

So the current overall total of IECs is $6.4 million, and the electorate has responded with a resounding, “Beat It.” 

The blowback to our electoral democracy is fierce. When I try to speak with my own neighbors with whom I have worked side-by-side for over twenty years improving their neighborhood, my neighborhood, everyone’s lives, their doors stay shut. They make clear they are fortressed against hearing anything “political.” 

What they have absorbed are buzz words: “bad,” “failing,” “violent,” “drop-out,” “waste,” “fraud,” “scandal” – and on and on and on. 

What they have forgotten is that their littlest neighbors, my children, are part of that system being smeared. And I volunteer within that system improving it just like I work to improve our neighborhoods. 

My children are NOT bad, failures, violent, drop-outs, wasteful, fraudulent or scandalous. My children actually reflect wonderfully on those self-same neighbors, and likewise upon the school system, the schools and the teachers who taught them. One attends the most selective school in the country, the other strives to follow in those footsteps. We are all working tirelessly to bring our community up and forward its betterment. LAUSD has supported my children even as our family contributes to improve it. This is what democracy looks like and its integrity needs safeguarding from lassitude and confusion. 

Because that is the outcome when candidates shred their opposition and tear down community. They wound us all with their messages of negativity and hopelessness: it sticks. What’s conveyed is deep and unsettling: don’t try to pretend things are good here, that you can better your lot, that you can effect it or counter us. Reality and facts are immaterial. If you dare to counter the message, you will be buried in an avalanche of Big Lies, marginalized, and transformed into a puddle of electoral glue coated in an onslaught of slander we the people are too traumatized to withstand through reason or thought. 

This is what is Trumpian about the might of the California Charter Schools Association’s money and power in this battle for the school board. Intimidation, slander and ultimate electoral paralysis. They strive to overwhelm us with false equivalence such that even the stark consequence of ideological differences so riven as represented by these candidates, is obscured. 

Please do not let all this money win your single democratic voice. You must turn out to the polls in order to use it. This is the one and only way to assert Resistance. Then, give Steve Zimmer your vote.

 

(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor, who blogs at redqueeninla.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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15 CANDLES---(Editor’s Note: It has 15 years since Los Angeles certified its first Neighborhood Council … Wilmington Neighborhood Council … in December of 2001. The ’15 Candles’ campaign celebrates the occasion, looks back at the early days and considers the future of LA’s NCs. Jerry Gaines served on the Appointed Reform Commission and remembers how it all began.) 

The City of Los Angeles experienced a renaissance in its governance structure during the last half of the 20th Century, brought on in part by events related to the desire by parts of the 461 Square Mile city to secede from Los Angeles. Economic, social, cultural, and political forces interacted to kick start action to “break up” the entrenched power of the city’s existing government structure. 

The general belief was that the downtown government power drew economic benefits from areas such as the San Fernando Valley and the Harbor without returning desired economic growth and support in those parts of the city. The progressive history of Los Angeles led to a weak Mayor, and defused power among the City’s 15 Council Members, the City’s Controller, and the various city department heads and commissions. 

To respond to this frustration, then Mayor Richard Riordan led efforts to place an initiative to the voters via an elected 15 member Charter Reform Commission to draft and seek approval of a new City Charter aimed at addressing contentious elements of the existing city government. The then City Council responded by appointing its own 21 member Charter Reform Commission, to in effect try to blunt the impacts that could come from the Mayor’s Elected Charter Reform Commission. This author served on the Appointed Charter Reform Commission. 

The result after months of public hearings and debates held by the two dueling commissions led the respective Chairs to seek a unified Charter to present to the voters, realizing there was little chance separate work products could get majority support from the voters. This effort was successful as the voters approved the Unified Charter by over 60%. In effect the Elected Charter Reform Commission (like the House of Representatives) and the Appointed Charter Reform Commission (like the Senate) came together to craft the new Charter. 

Aside from the defining the power of the Mayor and Controller as well as oversight of the city’s department heads and commissions, efforts were made to address the grass roots frustrations between the various communities and the central government. Seven Area Planning Commissions and a Neighborhood Council System were part of the restructuring of the city governance program to craft improved interaction between the central government and the diverse communities throughout the 461 square miles of the city. 

In regard to crafting the neighborhood council system, I and other interested parties such as Greg Nelson (later a former department head of DONE), and Dr. Raphael Soneshein (Appointed Commission Executive Director) traveled to other cities to study adopted neighborhood council systems. St. Paul, Minnesota and Portland Oregon had experience with such systems. Work was then done to draft a section of the Unified Charter (Sec. 900) to build a framework for such a system. After voter approval, this led the City Council to adopt an ordinance on May 25, 2001 to set in motion the system of establishing neighborhood councils. 

Over the past fifteen years efforts have been made to evaluate and modify various elements of the neighborhood system. The intent for those of us framing the program was for local neighborhood councils to in effect simulate in concept a New England style of town hall council with a goal of each of them representing some 20,000 to 40,000 residents. They were defined as advisory (not quasi judicial, etc.) so that membership could include stakeholders from those living, working, owning property or other defined interests with a nexus to the local community. 

There have been challenges for sure, focused on relationships between the formal government oversight (DONE) and local autonomy of neighborhood councils to address diverse community interests. The framers intent was to facilitate a grass root line of communications to the formal city policy makers (elected and appointed). We included an early warning system requirement (Sec. 907) to help here. Also budget input was required (Sec. 909). And DONE was to be stand alone (Sec. 913). 

Observations on my part indicate that there has been optimism from many observers engaged with the neighborhood council system, notwithstanding challenges in city finances, specific local political polarized issues, and the learning curve for new members volunteering civic service to this aspect of LA City governance. The more recent establishment of the Leadership Academy led by the Cal State Los Angeles Pat Brown Institute (headed by Dr. Raphael Sonenshein ) is a sign of a broader effort to bring interested stakeholders into an opportunity to contribute to the betterment of local communities. The annual gathering of delegates coming together has demonstrated engaged interest in taking ownership of seeking solutions to specific community issues and learning from each other. Collaboration with trust is a way to solving civic issues, whether it is within a city block, a defined neighborhood, or the city of some four million in population.

 

(Jerry Gaines served on the Los Angeles City Appointed Charter Reform Commission, one of two commissions responsible for creating neighborhood councils. This is one in a series of stories and videos on Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils 15th birthday.) Edited by Doug Epperhart.

-cw

THE COHEN COLUMN--Oh, say can you can “C” by the deception that we fight.  What so naively we hoped at the City’s last elections. Whose broad promise we bought though the methods unclear gave proof that our trust was sadly mistaken.  (With apologies to F.S. Key.) 

Julie Butcher in CityWatch gave the overall lay of the land with Charter Amendment C.  It is must reading for a fuller analysis of the issue.  

Simply put Measure C (on the LA City ballot Tuesday, May 16th) would allow an LAPD officer, whom the Chief of Police has recommend termination, demotion or suspension, to choose whether the disciplinary hearing is to be before a Board of Rights composed of three people, two police officers (Captains or higher rank) and one civilian or, before a board of just three civilians. 

The key take-a-way is that the police officer has the choice, it is not imposed.  Which would you pick? Frankly who wouldn’t pick the board that might give a more lenient verdict? 

Julie explained: During the period from 2011 to November 2016, civilians were consistently more lenient than their sworn officer counterparts. 

In fact what we have is a wolf in civilian oversight's clothing. The LA City Legislative Analyst's study found that when the board of rights found an officer not guilty of misconduct, the civilian member always voted to acquit. 

So what’s your pick? – The civilian board, duh. 

How is Charter Amendment C present by its supporters? They insist it gives more civilian oversight even though it is at least possible that the all civilian board may never hear disciplinary case – if the [allegedly] misbehaving police officers so choose. That could happen if the board of rights was actually composed of members of the community at large and they held LAPD officers to a high standard of conduct.  

The civilians now sitting on the board come from a very restricted group, they are “…attorneys who sit on the panels for 10 and 20 years in a row.” 

Attorneys I suspect that would have a professional interest in playing good guy to LAPD cops. Just a thought. 

Why is the Los Angeles Police Protective League behind this change? Well first of all it is called the Police PROTECTIVE League not the Police ACOUNTABILITY League. It is a lobbyist for its members. 

 “The mission of the Los Angeles Police Protective League is to vigilantly protect, promote, and improve the working conditions, legal rights, compensation and benefits of Los Angeles Police Officers.” Check it out.  

OK, we can discount its bias. That is its job paid for by some 10,000 officers serving and retired. 

When wanting favorable outcome politicians seem to catch the alt-reality flu. Facts shmacks spin it and tell ‘em just what we want them to know. 

The Mayor and City Council caught it. Herb Wesson, LA City Council President claims “Amendment C increases civilian oversight … by increasing an alternative all civilian board to review police disciplinary matters.” 

We have seen that the alternative civilian board is alternative in name only. It essentially serves at the request of the accused officer. 

Where did Amendment C come from? It was birthed by the L.A. Police Protective League and nurtured by the City’s elected. 

Read Craig Lally’s, President of the LAPPL, own words. 

Why is the Mayor supporting it? Some say that “ … it’s really about a mayor who has ambitions to seek higher office doing a favor for the police union."   

More: 

 “Under heavy lobbying from the union that represents rank and file LAPD officers, the Los Angeles City Council Wednesday took the first step toward creating civilian panels that would review discipline involving cops accused of misconduct. 

The change could tip the balance in favor of officers — studies show civilians are actually more lenient with cops involved in wrongdoing than command officers.” 

What the City of Angles really need is something like what The City of Las Vegas has [believe it or not] a real citizen’s review board. L.V.M.P.D. Citizen Review Board

The genesis for the citizens review board as stated on their web site is: 

“In response to the 1997 fatal shooting of Daniel Mendoza by off duty Metro police officers, minority communities from the city joined in efforts to establish an independent citizen police review board with subpoena power and the authority to recommend sanctions for officer misconduct. 

The mission of the L.V.M.P.D. Citizen Review Board is to serve as an independent civilian oversight agency to review complaints of misconduct against Metro peace officers and to review internal investigations done by the L.V.M.P.D. 

The Board is composed entirely of civilian volunteers whose purpose is to make objective determinations on the merits of every case and respect the rights of both officers and complainants. 

CRB members may recommend disciplinary action, if findings show that misconduct occurred, or may recommend additional training or changes in existing policy where warranted. “ 

Las Vegas even makes it easy to apply for a seat  on the board, unlike LA

See their application.   

Clamor loudly for real civilian oversight. Vote NO on C Tuesday May 16th

 

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

-cw

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-I recently saw the new documentary about Jane Jacobs, called Citizen Jane: Battle for the City. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times praised it to the heavens, but my take is more muted. 

The film’s history of New York City in the immediate post-WW II era clearly offers some valuable lessons for LA’s endless city planning disputes. In New York the vision of Robert Moses, the City’s construction czar, prevailed through the 1960s. It was based on the top-down rebuilding of New York City inspired by the modernist vision of Swiss architect, Le Corbusier.  As applied to New York and other major cities, including Los Angeles, this approach lead to widespread urban renewal projects based on three planning principles: automobiles, freeways, and high rise buildings. In New York the new high-rise buildings took the form of public housing complexes built through well-intentioned slum clearance projects. 

This top down planning model eventually collided with the bottoms-up vision of professional writer and neighborhood activist, Jane Jacobs. Through her many articles, widely read books, and community organizing, she lead grass roots campaigns in the 1950s and 1960s that stopped several of Moses’ later rebuilding projects, most notably the Lower Manhattan Expressway. Her successes then inspired similar efforts to block new urban freeway projects and high-rise housing projects in many other U.S. and Canadian cities. 

Useful Lessons from this documentary: 

Lesson 1) Public and private projects should serve the needs of local residents and organic communities. Meeting broad public goals by destroying local communities through top-down redevelopment and transportation projects seldom works and must be opposed. 

Lesson 2) Despite the extraordinary power of elected officials and developers, the public can successfully organize to block truly awful top-down projects and replace them with their own bottoms-up vision. It is not easy, but even in Los Angeles there have been notable successes, such as the long-forgotten Beverly Hills Freeway. If built, it would have would have replaced Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue with a new freeway linking the I-405 to the 101. First proposed in the early 1940s, official maps finally erased this freeway in 1975 after several decades of well-organized west-side opposition. 

But, despite these useful lessons, this documentary also needs some serious updating. This Jane Jacobs story stopped in the early 1970s, when most freeway and public housing construction ground to a halt. But, coincidence is not cause, and those private economic interests that supported and handsomely benefited from Robert Moses’ massive projects never threw in the towel. They quickly adapted their business models to new urban realities. Decades later, they still harbor top-down grandiose visions for rebuilding American cities, like Los Angeles, through an alliance of their companies with local officials. 

To begin, the Vietnam War, just as much as local political opposition inspired by Jane Jacobs, led to the demise of large public housing buildings and most new freeway projects. In the 1960s President Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) claimed he could fight the Vietnam War without domestic cutting backs. He called his approach, “Guns and Butter.” But, LBJ was wrong. The guns won, the butter lost; and the subsequent Nixon administration unleashed public housing cutbacks that continue nearly 50 years later. 

Instead of replacing large, high-rise super-blocks of public housing with low-rise townhouses, Congress and the White House simply eliminated most public housing programs. This is why we are now left with such weak affordable housing band-aids as density bonuses, inclusionary housing, and a corrupt Federal affordable housing tax credit program.  Now in its fifth decade, the elimination of these public housing programs spawned more backroom deals, relocation to distant suburbs, inner city overcrowding, and mass homelessness. These are hardly victories that Jane Jacobs would have celebrated. 

As for freeway construction, budget constraints also killed most new projects, and now most states, like California, are struggling to maintain an Interstate Highway System begun in 1956 to defend the United States from the Russkies. No kidding! 

While a few over-priced freeway projects still squeak through, like the $1.4 billion project to widen the still gridlocked I-405 between the Santa Monica and Ventura Freeways, that big-ticket era is now over. And, at this point it will take far more than another Cold War, even with cheerleading by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow,  to reignite a second freeway building frenzy. 

But, real estate developers and their ever-faithful City Hall and State House enablers have fully reinvented themselves since the 1970s. Of course, they still hope to make piles of quick profits, but instead of government contracts to build freeways, they clamor for public works projects to build light and heavy rail. Plus, instead of “donations” to elected officials for contracts to build public housing, they have turned their attention to pay-to-play spot-zones and plan amendments for high-rise luxury housing and shopping centers. Sometimes, for good PR or an extra discretionary approval, the developers will add a few affordable apartments into the mix. But, since the pols then make sure there will never be on-site inspections of these affordable units, the developers are free to increase their rents to market rates. 

As a result, developers can still demolish old buildings and then displace local residents to make way for new tenants. The difference from the Jane Jacobs era is that their business model no longer depends on urban renewal projects, freeways, and high-rise public housing projects. They can get to the same place through piece-meal, pay-to-play soft corruption to build private, market rate developments. It is more labor intensive, but they almost always finish the race, especially when they claim (without a shred of evidence) that their real estate projects are transit-oriented. But, just like the mega-projects of the Moses-Jacobs era, the new mega-projects are still automobile-oriented despite the endless hype about transit. Whether new luxury apartments, office buildings, or shopping centers, nearly all employees, residents, and shoppers drive to these destinations, even when they happen to be near mass transit. 

Why was such important information excluded from this film? 

The documentary’s opening credits identify the film’s underwriters: The Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Both foundations have a long, well-documented history of urban projects that selectively support handpicked activists. If they focus on community and then steer their activism away from exposes of collusion and corruption between large real estate investors and public officials, local groups apparently pass the threshold for major foundation funding. 

How did the Robert Moses approach, vilified in the documentary, appear in Los Angeles? 

Los Angeles had two famous slum clearance projects, and one actually resulted in some new, high-rise replacement housing. 

Bunker Hill, which can still be seen in many classic film noir movies set in Los Angeles, was on the western edge of the downtown. Through the Bunker Hill urban renewal project, the original Victorian houses, their residents, and some hills were removed, replaced by the Harbor Freeway and the high-rise, pedestrian-free, car-oriented hotels and banks on Flower and Figueroa Streets. But, at least the Angelus Plaza high-rise public housing complex for seniors was folded into this urban renewal project. Unlike the Moses style high-rise public housing projects that were total failures, the public housing on Bunker Hill is doing just fine after 37 years of continuous operation. Nevertheless, to avoid street level pedestrian activity, the CRA proposed an underground and elevated People Mover transit system to the tune of about $300 million. Killed by the Reagan Administration in 1981, in current dollars it would have cost over $1 billion. 

Chavez Ravine is the most infamous LA slum clearance project. Under the leadership of Frank Wilkinson, Special Assistant to the Director of the Los Angeles Housing Authority, this old Mexican-American community was supposed to make way for well-designed new public housing through a slum clearance project. Called Elysian Park Heights, the famous Austrian-American architect Richard Neutra completed detailed designs. His online renderings reveal that it would have included many two-story buildings, mid-rise residential towers, and substantial landscaping. In fact, it would have resembled another Le Corbusier-inspired residential project in Los Angeles, Park LaBrea

The first step met with substantial local resistance, but eventually the Los Angeles Housing Authority moved out all local residents. But, the next step, Neutra-designed public housing, never appeared. Instead, Wilkinson and other Housing Authority officials were fired because of their presumed Communist Party affiliations. Once pushed out of the way, the Los Angeles City Council quickly handed over the emptied Chavez Ravine to Walter O’Malley so he could build a stadium for the recently relocated Brooklyn Dodgers. 

Today’s reality. By 2017, slum clearance projects and new freeways have become a thing of the past in Los Angeles. Instead, the private market, in cahoots with public officials, gradually forces out low and middle income residents through a variety of gentrifying programs. These include mansionization, cash-for-key evictions, Ellis Act evictions, Small Lot Subdivisons, and deliberate negligence that makes apartments so unlivable that tenants leave on their own.

But, no matter how residents are legally or illegally evicted, the next step is similar. In-fill replacement housing caters to the well-off, while nearly all of the evicted double up, live in cars and the streets, head off to much cheaper cities, or reluctantly move to distant suburbs. If they luck out, they find affordable apartments, but they still must tolerate long commutes, strangers in lieu of neighbors, and a low-amenity environment. 

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

-cw

ON THE BUTCHER BLOCK-Charter Amendment C on LA’s citywide May 16 ballot is exactly the kind of measure that makes people cynical. This ”[n]oxious sleight of hand” was snuck onto the ballot by a quiet, unanimous vote of the City Council this past January. No deep public engagement, no hearings at the Police Commission. 

For most people, at first blush, it sounds good. How many people already voted yes just ‘cause the Mayor and the Police Union signed the ballot argument in favor of it? Smart people, engaged citizens? Duped and cynical. 

Thankfully we’ve got a good local newspaper.

From the LA Times first editorial against Measure C, Measure C pretends to be about police reform. Instead, it's a noxious sleight of hand. Vote no!  

The charter amendment would leave the selection of civilians — who is eligible, how the pool is chosen — to the City Council. Will the pool be stocked with retired police officers? We don’t know. Will it be filled by police reformers or critics from Black Lives Matter? We don’t know — although the police union seems confident that the council will craft the selection process to its satisfaction. 

That’s why, despite assertions in campaign brochures that Charter Amendment C would create a “civilian review board,” implying that it would operate like those in other cities and which reform advocates here have long sought, it would do no such thing. That’s why most reform advocates strongly oppose the measure. They see it for what it is: a sleight of hand that gives the appearance of civilian oversight while actually giving the union just what it wants. 

But the sneakiest part of the measure is the May 16 ballot itself. There are runoffs in two council districts and two school board districts, but otherwise Charter Amendment C is the only thing on the ballot, so few voters — other than those rallied by the Police Protective League and city politicians that crave the union’s support — are expected to bother. Voters can, and should, resist that cynical tactic and the ill-considered change in police discipline by voting “No.” 

And from its second editorial against the measure, Don't be fooled — Measure C is a union ploy to go soft on police misconduct:  

Over two decades, there have been many thoughtful, independent analysts who agreed with the union that the current Board of Rights system should be replaced — but who rejected all-civilian panels. The Rampart Independent Review Panel, for example, urged the city to limit the Board of Rights to fact-finding — did the officer truly commit misconduct? — and leave actual punishment decisions to the chief, who would have to follow guidelines adopted by the Police Commission. 

Other proposals have included making the Police Commission itself a true civilian review board by allowing it to make discipline decisions. These and other suggested reforms are well considered and should be among the options presented to voters or the council. 

They are not on the May 16 ballot, because Charter Amendment C is not one of those thoughtful proposals that an independent panel arrived at following a process of interviews, testimony and study. It is the result of private talks between top city officials and the Police Protective League. Union leaders surely see the advantage to their members of being able to choose among differently formatted Boards of Rights. If some future council changes the criteria for selecting civilian members to make them tougher on accused officers, those officers would still be able to select a board without a civilian majority. 

It’s not as though the Boards of Rights are inordinately tough on officers. They reject more than half of the chief’s requests for discipline. 

Police officers have a constitutional right not to be fired or otherwise punished on a whim or out of personal animus or political pressure. They are entitled to an appeals system that offers due process, and they ought to have a system they perceive to be fair. What they will get, if Charter Amendment C passes, is an unwarranted choice of arbiters and a chance to further undermine the chief’s ability to run his department, as well as the public’s ability to hold him accountable. Voters should say no to Charter Amendment C. 

How did this happen? Politicians snuck it on the ballot in the last off-year election LA will see? Oh my, cynical me! But look! There are still investigative reporters at the LA Times, A 'backroom deal'? Groups that pushd crackdown on police misconduct were left out of talks between Garcetti and the LAPD union (I love The Palms! Do they still have those amazing pickled tomatoes?): 

…those groups — and the larger public — were effectively locked out as Garcetti and the LAPD’s rank-and-file officers union worked on an overhaul of the department’s disciplinary system, interviews and city records obtained by The Times show. Those talks, launched roughly two years ago, led to the creation of Charter Amendment C, which would introduce one of the most significant changes to the LAPD’s disciplinary process in decades. 

Those same groups are now campaigning against the May 16 ballot measure, which would allow police disciplinary panels, also known as Boards of Rights, to be composed entirely of civilians. Foes warn the measure will make the panels more lenient toward officers, pointing to a city report that concluded civilians have been voting for less severe punishment. 

At this late date, our local press is paying attention. Decent analysis, for instance, from Los Angeles Magazine, May 8: If You Care About Police Oversight, You Need to Vote on May 16:

Believe it or not, May 16 marks yet another local election. With so few items on the ballot, it’s tempting to sit this one out—especially if you’re not in a district with a city council run-off, or if you’re not up on the latest school board elections. For many Angelenos there’s only one thing to even vote on—a little-discussed Charter Amendment that, at first glance, seems like a good thing. (Civilian oversight! Police being held accountable for misconduct! Who could argue with that?) But here’s why you should still show up on May 16—and why you should vote “No” on C. 

And KPCC’s Frank Stoltze offers an excellent summary and analysis of the measure (as usual!) LA's Measure C upends politics around police discipline:  

Concerned that all-civilian panels would be too soft on misbehaving cops, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, civil rights attorney Connie Rice and Black Lives Matter leader Melina Abdullah have all lined up against Measure C. 

"Charter Amendment C is the wolf in civilian oversight's clothing," said Abdullah. "I think it’ s really about a mayor who has ambitions to seek higher office doing a favor for the police union." 

Jason McGahan writes on the measure for the LA Weekly: Will Measure C Make It Easier for Misbehaving Cops to Go Unpunished?  

LAist summarizes the opposition organizing against Measure C: Why The L.A. Times, The ACLU, And Black Lives Matter Oppose Measure C.  

Rabbi Aryeh Cohen in the April 28 Jewish Journal, Oppose Charter Amendment C—and strengthen democracy, explains why the process of getting Measure C to the ballot is as bad as the substance of the ill-conceived change:

“Beyond the fact that this amendment is bad for the residents of the city, the process is bad for democracy. In order for there to be a robust democratic conversation about the issues that impact our city, the residents of the city need to be convinced that the conversation matters, that things can change for the better. If instead of this, the ballot process is used in an underhanded and disingenuous way people—who in any event are working really hard to support themselves and their families, and do not have an abundance of leisure time—will be dissuaded from taking part in the process. Turnout for special elections is already low. We need to defeat this spurious measure so that special elections are no longer used to pass measures that otherwise would be debated and defeated.” 

Rosemary Jenkins opposes the measure in Dick & Sharon's LA Progressive:  

“I urge a No vote when you go to the polls this May. All officers must be held accountable for their actions–for all their actions–the good, the bad, the ugly, and the unforgiveable–but let us make certain that the procedures are objective and fair to all and are not tilted toward one or the other side of the scales of justice. We must never be guilty of being party to a low-voter turn-out. Each vote does count, and we must make ours not only count but be cast as an enlightened act. In the end, it is better to vote on what you know than guess about something about which you have little understanding. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to be part of an informed electorate.” 

And from the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN)

The Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) and over 75 other local organizations from across LA urge all voters to vote NO on Charter Amendment C on May 16. 

If passed, Charter Amendment C would actually give LAPD officers already found guilty of misconduct a way to avoid discipline and punishment. It is a intentionally misleading ballot measure that was created and is being funded by the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the LAPD police union. Why would the LAPD union want more “accountability” and “civilian oversight”? Simple: They don’t. 

This measure is NOT about accountability. It will actually make LA more unsafe by giving officers ALREADY FOUND GUILTY OF MISCONDUCT more options to avoid punishment – putting these guilty officers back on our streets and in our communities. 

Charter Amendment C is NO about “civilian” oversight. According to the measure, a “civilian” must have years of mediation and arbitration experience. Also, there are only 38 of these “civilians” currently allowed to serve on the Board of Rights panel – and the majority of them have been in this group for over 9 years. Does these people sound like your neighbors, family members, or friends? 

Charter Amendment C is NOT about accountability or oversight. It is about guilty cops getting out of discipline. Vote #NoOnC on May 16!

 

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

-cw

RANTZ AND RAVEZ-The Homeless situation in Los Angeles is getting worse each and every day. More and more people are living on the streets of LA and local government officials are doing little other than talk and raise taxes and fees to address the situation. 

In the areas surrounding LA City Hall, all over downtown, along the Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley and on the streets of Hollywood, Central LA, and in the West and South LA areas, the situation continues to worsen. Many people, including young students, are forced to walk to school stumbling over the homeless with their collection of various items lying on sidewalks. They are sleeping on bus benches and generally flopping anywhere and everywhere they choose to plant themselves on private and public property.

It is not that I am heartless and don’t care about my fellow human beings. For whatever reason -- be it drugs or mental illness or a number of other factors -- homelessness has become a lifestyle for many people living on the streets. It is totally out of control and not reducing in numbers. 

Throwing money at the problem has not worked; the newly established bond measure to build 10,000 residential units -- supported by an increase in the property tax -- is not going to improve things. No community wants the homeless in its neighborhood. Additionally, the ¼ cent sales tax to assist the homeless, voted into law in the County of Los Angeles, is not going to do much to rectify the situation either. How can it have any impact when a select group of 50 people are attempting to find ways to spend the money that will be generated by the new tax? Imagine how 50 people working together are going to establish any solution as to how to spend the money. Just look at our City Council and you can see how elected officials find ways to spend money yet not improve the quality of life in our city.      

I have been a board member of the rescue shelter Hope of the Valley for the past number of years. This organization deals with the homeless in the greater San Fernando Valley by providing a number of services and locations with beds for those left out in the streets. From hospital dumping of patients on the streets to those down on their luck, Hope of the Valley is constantly struggling to find the funds to keep operating in the San Fernando Valley. 

There is also the LA Mission, the Union Rescue Mission, the Fred Jordan mission and a number of other organizations designed to provide food, clothing and shelter to the homeless in and around Los Angeles. Some even help families and children. Unlike years ago when there were mostly homeless men confined to the Skid Row area in downtown LA, the situation has changed with growing numbers of women with children living homeless on the streets and various communities throughout LA.

Missions and existing shelters are all in need of funds to continue to operate and provide services to those in need. I have a novel idea. Why don’t the bureaucrats handling the additional tax revenues provide sufficient funds to the established facilities that are struggling for dollars? This will help them continue providing the valuable services to the homeless. Now, is that such a novel approach to begin and address the growing homeless population in Los Angeles? 

Gordon Murley should be remembered for all the passion and dedication he displayed for the South West San Fernando Valley and, in particular, Woodland Hills.  

With the death of Gordon Murley a few months ago, there are those in the Woodland Hills community who want to remember all the good work he did for the community for many years. From community meetings to development to being a protector of neighborhoods, Gordon was there year after year speaking, arguing and supporting community pride and success in any and all developments. When Gordon did not like a project, he would gather his posse together and fight to make sure it became a benefit for the community and not just another building occupying space. 

Love, commitment and dedication to the community are what Gordon was all about. There are those in the community who want to name a monument or facility in Gordon’s memory. Johnny Walker, a friend, local resident and community organizer is gaining support from various organizations in Woodland Hills to name the currently under construction Shoup Park in honor of Gordon. 

I will be the first to admit that naming a city facility in particular a park in honor of Gordon is most appropriate. The tribute is an honor and I am sure Gordon’s family and friends will appreciate it. While I appropriated the funds to renovate the park when I was the councilman for the district, the current councilman, Councilman Bob Blumenfield will have to approve naming the park in honor of Gordon. I know that he and his staff worked with Gordon during the past years on various developments in the council district. 

Gordon was the president of the Woodland Hills Homeowners Organization, Founder of the Woodland Hills-Warner Center Neighborhood Council, South Valley Planning Commissioner and a proud Military Veteran. A man of distinction, commitment and honor deserves a community facility or a monument in his name. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all Moms 

I would like to wish all Mothers a Happy Mother’s Day. While my Mom passed several years ago, I remember the good times we shared with my Mom, Alice, and the family over the years. Show love and appreciation to your Mom, Grandmother and Godmother on Mother’s Day and every day. As we age, we come to appreciate more and more what our Moms do and have done to frame, encourage and strengthen our lives. As I remember and pray for my Mom, I urge you to demonstrate your love and appreciation for the Moms in your family. Will it be roses or candy or jewelry for her? 

Whatever it is make sure it is delivered with lots of love and appreciation.     

I welcome your thoughts and comments at Zman8910@aol.com.

 

(Dennis P. Zine is a retired LAPD Sergeant, Former Elected Charter Reform Commissioner, Retired Los Angeles City Councilman; and the current Honorary Mayor of Woodland Hills and General Manager of Bell Canyon’s Community Services District in Ventura County.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

ALPERN AT LARGE--As the proud parent of two wonderful LAUSD students, and as someone who has pushed for numerous spending motions on local students within the boundaries of the Mar Vista Community Council, and as a proud Boy Scout dad (and former Eagle Scout), I am joining the ranks of so many Angelenos who are fed up by an out of touch LAUSD Board and administration. 

You guys at the top really are the worst--and the more we (the taxpayers) feed you, the more out of touch and self-absorbed you become. 

Lots of money in these school board races, right? 

It is very difficult to proclaim that the charter school champions (Funded by billionaires, I tell you! BILLIONAIRES!) are awful candidates when the education unions fund THEIR champions. 

Frankly, why the devil would anyone trust either group, when it appears to be all about the money? 

Seriously, what would happen if the "for profit" charter systems and the "for profit" education unions were put on a results-only, strict diet that had their operations "graded" by the parents and recent graduates of our public school system? 

But I live in the real world--charter schools may be where I lean--no, I don't think Eli Broad is a bad guy, and the parents voting with their feet to flood the charter schools can't keep being ignored by the disgusting UTLA--but the stories of charter school abuse can't be ignored, either. 

And the money train isn't going away, either... at least for the time being. 

In the Westside, I think there is a tough decision between two overall fine candidates:  both Nick Melvoin and Steve Zimmer are two honorable men who would do well by their constituents. 

So long as the constituents that get top billing are the students and their parents. 

And in this world of diversion--as in let's talk non-stop about how much we hate Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos while we locally slam one stiletto after another between the ribs of the taxpayers and helpless students--there are so many issues to be addressed: 

1) Common Core is hated by liberals and conservatives alike. 

2) The bait-and-switch of extending and then contracting the 2017 summer break on the part of the LAUSD school board is hated by liberals and conservatives alike. 

3) The lack of vocational training for students who should be taught a vital and necessary skill is hated by liberals and conservatives alike. 

4) The misappropriation of K-12 funds, and the lack of budgetary control and new UC/Cal State university construction, is hated by liberals and conservatives alike. 

5) The out of control need to take Advanced Placement courses aplenty while not allowing students to test out of high school at an early age, and proceed to local junior colleges, is hated by liberals and conservatives alike. 

And so it goes.  Trump and DeVos are worthy of all sorts of criticism, but that has nothing to do with the fact that there are armies of miserable and victimized students and their parents, as well as sincere and underpaid teachers, who are held down by the figurative and collective boot of California education lobbies--a boot that will not stop stepping on their victims' figurative and collective neck. 

My patients (and I see them virtually every day, now!) who are leaving this state to achieve not only a more affordable cost of living but a chance to achieve an affordable college education for their children, can't all be crazy. 

The majority of high school-aged students' families pursuing public school education that is affordable, but also independent of UTLA and many LAUSD constraints, can't all be crazy. 

And those liberal and conservative education reformers can't all be crazy, either. 

Really, you "education gurus".  You, really, REALLY are the worst.

 

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

-cw

TRANSIT WATCH--Enough of the agendas! We're already hearing talk of Measure M local funds to the City of Los Angeles being diverted away from potholes, and the new voter-approved homeless funds are potentially up for grabs to be spent in non-transparent, concerning directions.  At the city, county and state levels, we're seeing taxpayer funds treated like private/political funds. 

Overall, Metro's "agenda" is smart and balanced...but the staff can only be directed by its political boardmembers, who've perhaps gotten the wrong idea about what the passage of Measure M meant. 

The Metro Board needs to know they did NOT get a blank check, nor an excuse to close their ears and eyes to those too busy working and taking care of their families to attend meetings.  

And while there are very good things Metro is working on, the choice of a bikeway to connect regions of South L.A. to the L.A. River is about as "smart" as the decision to create an Orange Line Busway instead of holding out for a light rail line. 

Because a do-over is much worse, and much more expensive, than doing it right the first time.

And just as the San Fernando Valley (and Metro will pay big bucks for not spending smart on their publicly-owned rail rights of way to create an Orange Line light rail to connect Warner Center with the Gold Line in Pasadena, the greater part of the L.A. County will suffer if we do a feel-good bikeway instead of a light rail line on the Harbor Subdivision Right of Way: 

1) The Eastside will lose a direct rail path connecting the jobs-rich LAX region with their communities. 

2) The opportunity of a regional rail network to serve the Arts District, the southeast portion of the Downtown region, southeastern L.A. County and the San Gabriel Valley will have a long and circuitous route to access LAX. 

3) Opportunities to revitalize South L.A. and create a flurry of middle-class, affordable housing, and an associated network of parks and bikeways will be greatly harmed. 

4) Commuters from LAX accessing Downtown will discover they're being "taken on a ride" up Crenshaw Blvd., with a forced change of trains at Crenshaw/Exposition, thereby harming our developing global economy and our growing tourism economy. 

5) We will lose out on a vital chance to focus on a "Second Downtown Light Rail Connector" to tie the Green, Crenshaw, Blue, and Gold Lines together on a publicly-owned right of way that's as vital as was the Expo Line right of way.   

And this will all come crashing down on the short-sighted, agenda-driven Metro Board between now and 2022, when all the good work to connect LAX and Metro Rail will suffer a horrible public relations black eye because Downtown and LAX weren't directly connected. 

The Crenshaw/LAX light rail line reaches its truest, fullest potential when it is extended northwards to the Wilshire Purple Line Subway and beyond (with a projected ridership of over 100,000 per day of commuters between LAX and the Wilshire Blvd. commercial corridor ...

... but that should NOT preclude a direct LAX-Downtown commute for rail commuters and with an adjacent bikeway and parkway, to boot. 

Like it or not, the Expo Bikeway, which I fiercely fought for and still am infuriated to not see completed through Cheviot Hills, did have to take a "backseat" to the Expo Light Rail Line. 

So the "suggestion" or "promise" that the Bikeway will not preclude a future light rail line won't hold water. 

And if no widened right of way is purchased right NOW, there will be a growing call before and during 2022, when the Metro Rail/LAX connection should be completed, with the following message: 

What the hell were we thinking when we failed to build a direct LAX to Southeastern and Eastern LA and Union Station when we had the chance?

 

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

-cw

SKID ROW- Last week, an Election Challenge Review Panel agreed with all three election challenges officially filed by the Skid Row Neighborhood Council- Formation Committee. The challenges were filed as the result of a cheating scandal connected to a front organization that attempted to thwart Skid Row’s efforts to create it’s own neighborhood council. 

In the first-ever subdivision election in the history of the City of Los Angeles, Skid Row’s efforts to break away from the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC) fell short by only a mere 60 votes (nearly 1600 people participated in the election). However, an anonymous source uncovered a plot to deceive potential voters through e-mail blasts that went out as much as four times a day with the DLANC logo and a message of “Vote NO on Skid Row separation”. 

City regulations deem these acts illegal if issued by a neighborhood council. Skid Row NC leaders claimed they had proof (including video) which show the e-mail URL’s and contact info such as mailing addresses connecting back to DLANC. While DLANC denied any involvement, the video and other evidence was presented before a three-member review panel made up of NC leaders from various communities across Los Angeles. 

The 5-hour hearing ended with the review panel siding with Skid Row over Downtown LA NC. 

The panel recommended the City’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) immediately initiated an investigation to conclude in 60 days and if it could be determined that DLANC played even more of a role than they denied, Skid Row should automatically get it’s NC. If not, a new election without online voting should happen 30 days after the conclusion of said investigation. 

The reality is, though, that the review panel’s recommendations are only that- recommendations. The final determination is up to DONE. They have not given any clues as to what their decision might be. 

On their website, it says there are 5 penalty options; 1) A Letter of Reprimand (which seems too thin to be appropriate in this matter), 2) Disqualification of Candidate (in this case, that would be DLANC and would also automatically give Skid Row it’s NC), 3) Disqualification of Votes (with such a small margin of only 60 votes, even a 5% vote reduction of No votes would give Skid Row the victory, due to the need to multiply by 3 [amount of challenges]), 4) Funding penalties (more than likely not applicable) and 5) Referral to City Attorney’s office for Criminal Prosecution (definitely a possibility depending on the outcome of the City’s investigation over the next 60 days) 

Most importantly, the website clearly states that “Redoing the entire NC election IS NOT a remedy” and goes on to say “unless the challenge affected every seat on the ballot”. 

The Skid Row Neighborhood Council- Formation Committee contends that all of it’s challenges only apply to the “No votes” and therefore eliminate any possibilities of a new election. 

So the Review Panel recommended a new election without online voting and Skid Row says a new election is not a valid option. 

“What will DONE say?” is the biggest question of 2017 in Downtown LA. 

The legal teams are already being assembled on both sides. The bylaws, boundaries and board seats aren’t even a concern at the moment. 

Even Tupac says “All eyes are on DONE”. I think I even heard Edgar Allen Poe say “All eyes are upon DONE”. No matter what your verbal vernacular, DONE is on the hot seat. 

Either the right side of history will embrace the inclusion of Skid Row’s remarkable efforts to create a neighborhood council from which the necessary solutions can be created to greatly improve the area, or the wrong side of history will embrace the uber-rich developers who continue to conspire to keep things just the way they are so that they can buy up all the land at as low a price possible, only to significantly increase rents, and thus their profits, once Skid Row is no longer able to provide the limited protection of rent control to Downtowners. 

Of course, there are other factors in play as well, but that’s another article. 

The laws, regulations, guidelines, evidence videos, official statements on video and even DONE’s website all point to Skid Row getting it’s neighborhood council. 

But, it is DONE who has the final say.

What say you, DONE?

 

GELFAND’S WORLD--Bernie Sanders says we need a revolution in American politics. He made a strong case for this argument as he slammed the opposition Republican Party in a speech he gave to approximately 2000 people on Sunday. 

The curious viewer might ask some of the following questions: What does it mean to have a revolution in American politics? What aspects of the current system should we be revolting against, and what should we replace them with? 

We do have a start on recognizing the problem. Most of us feel that there is something seriously wrong with the system and that changes need to be made, but we are not entirely sure of the diagnosis. Lacking agreement over the diagnosis, we are at somewhat of a loss to prescribe the proper remedy. 

Bernie Sanders thinks he has the diagnosis and speaks with assurance. 

On Sunday, he spoke to a near-capacity crowd at the Saban Theater on Wilshire in an event sponsored by Writers Bloc.  He raised several themes, the most important being the descent of the American political system into oligarchy. A few wealthy, powerful families control a large part of the nation's wealth. As Sanders remarked, "You now have billionaire control over our political system." 

As Sanders explained, the oligarchy has been pushed by billionaires investing money in the political system, gaining even more power through the disastrous Citizens United case. He also mentioned the actions of governors -- Sanders referred to them as "cowards" -- who have gone along with voter suppression efforts. 

The result of this control is the series of terrible bills and bad votes that we have been seeing in the Republican controlled congress. The targets range from health care funding to every other imaginable social welfare program, whether it be school lunches, meals on wheels, or Medicaid. There isn't much room for such luxuries if government revenue is to be cut dramatically. And obscene spending cuts are what become necessary if you plan to cut taxes on the wealthy as dramatically as has been proposed. 

It's not just income taxes, either. 

Sanders warned that the Republican plan to abolish estate taxes would benefit the top 0.2% of the people to the tune of $353 billion. He pointed out that the family that owns Walmart would benefit by $50 billion, the Koch brothers' family by $30 billion, and even the Trump family by $4 billion. 

He spoke of the Republican's health care bill as not really a healthcare bill so much as it is a bill that cuts taxes on the richest Americans. He called it "one of the most disgusting pieces of legislation," a remark that drew prolonged applause. 

In a related remark, Sanders pointed out, "One of the unique problems we have with the Trump presidency is that he lies every day." It's hard to carry on an intelligent, honest debate when only one side is being honest. 

Still, Sanders was not entirely unsympathetic to Trump voters. He asked the audience to recognize that as much as we opposed those votes, we should also understand that there is a lot of hurt and pain among the American people. The middle class is shrinking, and people find themselves working for much lower wages than they expected. What then should we do about all these problems? 

In answering this question, he was not kind to his closest colleagues, the leaders of the Democratic Party. He blames them for a lot of the electoral failure that we just endured. 

What are the problems with the Democratic Party that need fixing? This raises the central question: What do we want the Democratic Party to be? 

Sanders spoke of the model of the Democratic Party being broken. Briefly, it's too top-down and not enough grass roots. The party needs to be opened up and transformed so that it will gain voters it should have kept. "You can't do that unless you have an agenda that means something to ordinary Americans." 

I would guess that a large fraction of the audience were Democrats, but the message was received without a murmur of dissatisfaction from the crowd. Indeed, there were a few who obviously agreed strongly, including one who shouted, "Bernie, the DNC rigged the election." Most of the audience did not appear to be willing to go that far, but there did seem to be strong agreement that the Democratic Party needs to be fixed. We might take note of the fact that Sanders supporters have created their own reform movement among the California Democratic Party, suggesting a real (and demonstrably grass roots) movement among lower level activists. 

(As an aside, I would tend to agree based on personal experience as a one-time party volunteer and activist. At that time, I noticed that the higher-ups didn't exactly care what I thought or said. Rather, the organization had a very top-down feel to it. Leaders would appear at the local club and announce that the key words that year would be vote by mail or some such. We were supposed to be loyal to the leadership rather than reformist thinkers. The system worked for insider organizations because they knew what they wanted, but political reform was not a priority for those who already had a great deal of power within the system. It's hard to be a loyal activist within an organization that expects you to swear undying fealty to Paul Carpenter.) 

Sanders seconded the standard Democratic Party message that global warming is real and is already doing harm. He spoke about the need to fight the fossil fuel industry and convert our energy production to sustainable methods such as solar, wind, and geothermal. He wasn't big on the details, but the crowd loved it. Despite his earlier demands for guts and courage in taking on vested interests, he failed to take on the vested interest within the left of opposing nuclear power. If you really accept the fact that global warming is our biggest current challenge (as I do) then you ought to look at the plusses as well as the minuses of a legitimate alternative to coal. He also failed to mention the human population explosion, in spite of the fact that the discussion was on everyone's lips when he was young. Bernie, the problem hasn't gotten better

Sanders seconded standard Democratic Party themes including support for immigration reform including a path to citizenship: "Our diversity makes us strong." 

He got a standing ovation for his promise to introduce a bill to create Medicare for All: "Every other country guarantees healthcare to their people as a right." You might say that this issue defines the gulf between the Democratic left and the conservative right wing. On a personal note, might I suggest that the idea of healthcare as a right should be one of those big truths I wrote about in a previous column. 

He also spoke about legislation to raise the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour. Curiously, he waited until fifty minutes into his speech to mention unions. But when he did, he reminded the audience that unions have been the driving force behind many of the improvements that we now enjoy. He failed to explain how we can resurrect union power, considering that much of the loss of union influence and membership goes back to bad legislation passed by the congress in the 1940s. Why not add repeal of union-busting legislation to your wish list? 

Sanders spoke to the feelings of fear and anger that many of us feel. Taking a page from Tim Snyder and others, he said, "Despair is not an option." It's a difficult message to accept, but perhaps it's the most important one that we heard on Sunday. 

Bernie Sanders is on tour for his new book Our Revolution. This was not intended as a book report because it's just out, but we may speak of it in the future. We may also take up Sanders themes such as the need for full public financing of elections, a position that has been supported by at least some of our local neighborhood councils for more than a decade.

 

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

-cw

WHERE YOUR MONEY GOES--Three Los Angeles city firefighters earned a combined $1.36 million last year — $974,779 of which came from overtime pay alone, according to just-released 2016 salary data from TransparentCalifornia.com.

The trio was able to boost their earnings so dramatically as a result of having received the three largest overtime payouts of the more than 550,000 workers surveyed statewide: 

  1. Fire captain Charles Ferrari received $334,655 in OT, with total earnings of $469,198.
  2. Fire captain James Vlach received $332,583 in OT, with total earnings of $469,158.
  3. Firefighter Donn Thompson received $307,542 in OT, with total earnings of $424,913.

Remarkably, this is the trio’s 2nd year in a row as the state’s top overtime earners, having also topped the of the more than 2.4 million government workers surveyed in 2015.

Thompson earns $1.23M over 3 years

Thompson’s overtime pay was at least the 3rd highest of the more than 2 million public workers surveyed in each of the past three years, boosting his total earnings to $1,229,504

Six-figure OT payouts at the LAFD up 760%

Over the past five years, the number of Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) workers who earned at least $100,000 in overtime pay increased by 760 percent, rising from 51 in 2012 to an all-time high of 439 last year.

By comparison, there was only one fire employee in the entire state of Nevada who earned over $100,000 in overtime pay last year, according to TransparentNevada.com

LAFD’s OT at national-high levels

At $197 million, overtime pay accounted for 31 percent of LAFD’s total budget for the 2016 fiscal year. This dwarfs the rate of other major fire departments like New York (19%), Orange County (12%), San Diego (12%), Houston (5%) and Phoenix (3%).

In response, Transparent California research director Robert Fellner stated:

“The issue is not a lack of solutions. Those have been forthcoming from a coalition of experts, including those from LAFD’s own ranks, for decades. The issue is lack of a political will for the precise reasons an official outlined nearly two decades ago: fear of political retaliation.”

Transparent California’s full report on overtime pay at the LAFD can be found here. 

Port Pilots earn over $500k

The three highest-compensated Los Angeles city employees were:

  1. Chief port pilot II Michael Rubino, who earned: $582,734.
  2. Port pilot II John Betz, who earned: $501,907.
  3. Chief port pilot II John Dwyer, who earned: $488,607.

To view a more detailed version of this release, please click here.

(Transparent California is California’s largest and most comprehensive database of public sector compensation and is a project of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank. Learn more at TransparentCalifornia.com.) 

-cw

ANIMAL WATCH-On May 3, the Los Angeles City Council reaffirmed its intention to make Los Angeles a “no kill” city, meaning 90% of all adoptable animals would leave the shelter alive. Where they go after that is not of particular concern, as evidenced by the lack of monitoring of rescues nationwide and the inability to follow the destination of animals that are transported freely across the country and to Canada, and often relocated numerous times. 

While responsible rescues are vital to Los Angeles, we wonder if local politicians watched the revealing investigative report, Some So-Called Nonprofit Pet Rescues May Not Really Be Charities, by David Goldstein of CBS News. Goldstein attempted to interview the owner of Saving Spot Rescue, an alleged 501(c)3 dog rescue in Los Angeles, which claims to be non-profit but was found to not be in good standing either with the IRS or the CA Attorney General. 

CITY COUNCIL CLUELESS ABOUT LA'S 'ALMOST' SUCCESS 

Los Angeles Councilman Paul Koretz’ representative discussed the City's "no kill" achievement with KABC, stating, “We enacted several policies that will get us there. It’s not going to happen overnight but we increased funding to spay and neuter, that was a big part of it.” 

What he didn’t say, or may not have known, was that as of March 31, 2016, LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette had an unspent balance of $5,004,395.66 in the Animal Services Pet Sterilization Trust Fund and had to be instructed by the Commission to increase her spay/neuter efforts. Barnette admitted that an additional 2016-2017 annual contribution by the Council was canceled because of her high reserve. 

“We try to make it as reasonable as possible for people to adopt,” Councilman Paul Koretz (who claims he had 19 cats as a child) told KPCC. He did not admit that an ASPCA grant funded "free" cat adoptions, and discounted LA Animal Services' dog and cat adoption fees to $20.17 from December 27 through December 31, 2016. And he ignored that Best Friends is adopting out kittens, cats and dogs for the Cinco de Mayo weekend for $5 each. 

While “cheap” or “free” adoptions may empty shelters and lower euthanasia stats, what happens if that animal needs expensive veterinary care, special food, or training and the adopter merely wanted a freebie or bargain-basement special? Isn't it also the duty of a shelter to assure the adoption of a helpless animal is considered a serious investment and long-term responsibility--not just a trial run? 

The issue of owner responsibility, along with their failure to insure law enforcement as one of the obvious causes of stray and homeless animal problems, seems to allude Los Angeles officials.

WHAT IS THE OFFICIAL ‘NO-KILL’ RATE? 

For more than five years we have heard that LA Animal Services was quickly climbing to the coveted 90% live-save rate called, "no kill." However, under the Best Friends' Policy and Statements, it seems it is not quite that simple. 

After stating that a benchmark is important, Best Friends affirms, "Generally, the no-kill threshold for a community is considered to be 90 percent." 

But, the next paragraph states: "It is important to note that a 90 percent save rate is not necessarily defined as no-kill. This is because a community with a 90 percent save rate could still be killing animals who are not cases of true euthanasia. It is also possible that…a given community may achieve no-kill even if the save rate isn’t 90 percent." 

So, perhaps the formula explained in a March 13, 2017 Best Friends' media release will help us better understand the method of computation:

LA Animal Services reported an 86.6 percent live release rate from July through December 2016 (the fiscal year to date.) This is a formula that calculates the percentage of animals that leave shelter facilities alive through adoption, return to owner, or transfer and is calculated on total animals entering the shelter system. As a national organization, Best Friends uses the save rate benchmark, which reflects intake minus euthanasia outcomes divided by intake, for all its program cities. Save rate reflects only the percentage of animals not euthanized and does not account for the number of animals still held in the shelter or in foster care

DO RESCUES AND TRANSPORTS ASSURE A ‘FOREVER’ HOME? 

There are no audits of Best Friends' by the City Controller; however, at the September 8, 2015, LA Animal Commission meeting, Marc Peralta,  Director for Best Friends at the Mission Hills shelter stated that, under its No Kill Los Angeles program, Best Friends pays each NKLA rescue $150 for each animal it “pulls” for adoption over the number taken the year before, and that it has more than 110 participating organizations in the NKLA coalition.  

On November 1, 2013, Best Friends posted, Pup My Ride transports 10,000th pup, which describes that an LA city shelter dog, named Bart "...rolled away on the Pup My Ride van to Greenhill Humane Society in Eugene, Oregon, making him the 10,000th pet transported by Best Friends Animal Society-Los Angeles to an adoption rescue partner across the country. 

Once an animal is transported, there is no guarantee of its fate. PETA provides an ongoing list of "rescues" that have gone awry at ‘No-Kill’ Label Slowly Killing Animals. Here are a few of these media reports for the past two months: 

NJ Pet Rescue Owner Charged in Second Animal Cruelty Case, April 26, 2017 -- FLEMINGTON, NJ -- For the second time in less than 18 months, the owner and operator of the Catnip Friends Rescue has been charged with animal cruelty by the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Frank Rizzo, chief of the Law Enforcement Division of the NJSPCA, said in a statement. In February 2016, Wilferth plead guilty to one $500 civil count of animal cruelty based on charges filed against in December 2015 regarding the death of a dog. 

Woman Charged With Animal Neglect…50 Cats Found in Cages at Store, April 20, 2017 - RIVERSIDE, Mo. -- An animal neglect charge was recently handed down against the owner of Street Cats Rescue in Riverside after police discovered awful odors and 50 cats inside cages, some of which suffered from poor health, KSHB reports. The court documents describe strong odors of feces and urine coming from the business, and cats being found in such poor health that they had to be euthanized. 

24 dogs, 10 cats seized from Phoenix rescue group in "devastating" condition, March 15, 2017 -- PHOENIX, AZ -- ABC15.com reported that authorities had seized 24 dogs and 10 cats from a self-professed animal “rescue” doing business as Wiggle Butts Dog Rescue…animals were found covered with ticks, suffering from hair loss and untreated injuries, and “extremely malnourished.” Many animals were covered with feces, and their paws were stained, evidently from standing in their own waste. 

Washington County Woman Charged with Animal Neglect, March 11, 2017 – WASHINGTON COUNTY, OR -- KATU reported that a woman who had allegedly been operating a “cat shelter” at her home had been charged with first-degree animal neglect after a dead cat was found near the residence. Authorities investigated after receiving complaints alleging that the woman had moved out of state and left cats without care, including some inside the house…at least one of the cats found in the abandoned residence had a serious bacterial infection and another had ringworm. Some also had severe upper respiratory infections and could be heard wheezing loudly before they were even seen hiding throughout the house. 

Fayetteville Woman Facing Animal Cruelty Charges After Nearly 30 Dogs, 3 Dead, Found In Her Home,  March 8, 2017 -- FAYETVILLE, AR -- 5NewsOnline.com reported that authorities had seized 26 live animals and three dead dogs from a woman who told them that she worked with self-professed animal “rescue” groups. The animals were found inside small cages with accumulated feces inches deep, their coats were saturated with urine and feces, and several were “abnormally thin or weak.” In some areas of the home, accumulations of feces were 3 feet deep. A veterinarian who examined the three dead dogs determined that one of them had been dead for months. The woman had reportedly adopted 10 dogs since 2015 from a self-professed “no-kill” group in Texas doing business as San Antonio Pets Alive and had adopted another dog from a shelter in Fort Smith, Arkansas. 

Dozens of Animals Seized from Florence Animal Shelter, March 22, 2017 -- FLORENCE, TX -- Authorities had seized 89 cats and a dog from a self-professed “no-kill” shelter [[[ http://5newsonline.com/2017/03/08/fayetteville-woman-facing-animal-cruelty-charges-after-nearly-30-dogs-3-dead-found-in-her-home/ ]]] doing business as R.U.G. Activity Center Animal Shelter after a state health inspector found cats housed in cages “with not enough room to move about,” overflowing litterboxes that contained days’ worth of feces and urine, and sick cats housed with healthy ones, FOX7 reported. 

Greyhound Adoption Shelter Accused of Mistreating Animals, March 2, 2017 -- Hopkinton, MA -- FOX25 Boston reported that a self-professed “no-kill” “rescue” doing business as Greyhound Friends, Inc., had been issued a cease and desist order by state authorities. A former board member said that state officials had told the “rescue” that cages were too small for the size of the dogs being held there. Two former board members who were interviewed said that they were alarmed to learn that many dogs had been kept in cages at the “rescue” for years. 

WHAT HAS BEST FRIENDS GAINED FROM LOS ANGELES? 

When a new Los Angeles city animal shelter and clinic broke ground in 2008, it promised to provide the Northeast Valley with badly needed animal control services. In fact, the plea to pass Prop. F bond funds in the amount of $154,000,000 was based upon studies which showed it was essential for animal welfare and public safety to provide an additional shelter in that area. 

However, upon completion of the Mission Hills (NE Valley shelter) in 2011, the City decided it couldn’t afford to staff it. It was the perfect opportunity for Best Friends, which leases the $19 million facility for $1 per year, plus the City pays $200,000/year for maintenance. 

A December 7, 2016 report by the City Administrative Officer states, "Since January 2012, BFAS has invested over $3.5 million annually in the operation of the NEV facility." 

In the five-year period ending in 2015, Best Friends "took in $313,676,006 in total support -- tens of millions of dollars more than when it came to LA in 2011," according to the Guss Report on January 9, 2017. 

OTHER LARGE CITIES CLAIM ‘NO-KILL’ 

AUSTIN, TX -- "This coming February, Austin will celebrate its five-year anniversary of being America’s largest no kill city, saving more than 90 percent of its homeless animals since 2011," writes Kristen Auerbach for the Huffington Post.  

But, there's another side of the story: As City Reaches No-kill, Free-roaming Dogs Still Trouble Neighborhoods  April 27, 2016 -- At about the same time as one of the most brutal dog attacks in recent San Antonio history — a South Side man had his scalp and ear ripped off by a pack of dogs in December, before a police officer arrived and shot three of the animals — the city's Animal Care Services department announced it had reached a long-elusive goal. As 2015 closed, more than 9 out of every 10 dogs were being released from ACS care alive. 

NEW YORK CITY, NY 

ANIMAL CARE CENTERS OF NYC (ACC) RELEASES Q1 2017 DATA -- 94.3% Placement Rate Highest in Nation -- April 18, 2017 -- Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC), the only open-admissions animal shelter serving all five boroughs, announced today…the overall placement rate for cats and dogs reached 94.3% with 95.5% of cats and 92.6% of dogs finding placement, either through direct adoptions or through its New Hope adoption partner program. Risa Weinstock, ACC’s Executive Director, attributes this accomplishment to the ASPCA, 200 active New Hope Partners; however, she also notes that “intake has decreased by 35% over last year..." 

LA BREEDERS' LICENSES INCREASE WHILE IMPOUNDS GO DOWN 

Efforts to ban easy retail access to purebred dogs can merely make them more desirable and/or drive purchasers to a nearby city or to the Internet, which is rife with easy access to every breed. This can be a desire to replicate a childhood pet, preference for certain genetic characteristics, or a loss of confidence in the transparency of shelter information and fear of potential temperament liability caused by the desperation to "save" every animal. 

This could provide an insight into why the number of breeders' licenses sold by LA Animal Services increased by 44% -- from 466 to 669, according to Brenda Barnette's Woofstat report for February 2017, and was up 71% from the same period last year. 

Also, LAAS statistics have shown a decrease in impounds. If this were due to intense low-income community spay/neuter efforts, then it is admirable. However, it is clouded by the fact that City residents claim they can't reach LA shelters by phone to get stray and aggressive animals picked up in their communities; and Los Angeles has the highest number of bites to postal carriers in the U.S. in 2016. 

DECLARING A SHELTER ‘NO KILL’ DOES NOT DESCRIBE THE ENTIRE CITY 

In discussing the laudable efforts to increase the live-save rate in Austin, John Bachman, co-executive director of Voice for Animals, makes a point that should also be heeded by Los Angeles: "By being obsessed with...no-kill and then say 'Oh we've reached it,' they give a false impression to the whole city that 'Oh we don't have to worry anymore, we're no-kill.’" 

In Los Angeles, we must share the concerns that announcements of a city reaching "no kill" can cause politicians and communities where stray animals are not a constant threat to safety to tune out other serious animal-related issues. We already see it in the failure to hire badly needed Animal Control Officers and replace dangerous vehicles in service for over 15 years. 

NOT ALL PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED BY ‘SAVING’ ANIMALS 

The emotionally charged, enigmatic buzzwords “No Kill” is right at the top of on-going controversies over semantics and statistics and can be strategically interjected into any discussion regarding animal shelters in order to elicit passionate response by the public -- i.e., donors -- where tugging on heartstrings usually opens pocketbooks.  

But are we really getting the truth about the plight of unwanted animals and a clear concept of what is meant by reaching “no kill?” Or are statistics and reports regarding euthanasia manipulated to show progress or failure depending on who stands to benefit philosophically and/or financially? 

Factors that are missing in the mandate to just "save" animals at all costs is the need to create and enforce owner responsibility and to solve the "birth problem" to avoid overpopulation, strays, and the need for euthanasia. John Bachman said it is pure mathematics: "Adoption is like treatment. You're treating the problem, but you're not solving the epidemic."

 

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

-cw

CORRUPTION WATCH-Should California judges put personal self-interest and loyalty to other judges ahead of their duty to support the Constitution? 

In ancient days, loyalty to one’s own family or tribe predated concepts of justice. Early societies realized social cohesion could not exist without people knowing that power was not the controlling factor in all matters. From the start of civilization, all societies have had some institution to apply the laws. 

Hammurabi’s famous code found perjury highly offensive (3,745 to 3,703 years ago.) We all know about the commandment “not to bear false witness against one’s neighbor.” Because one’s own may be guilty, there is an inherent conflict between loyalty to one’s own and telling the truth. 

After the Fall it was pretty much downhill as far as truth-telling is concerned. However, as mankind settled into an agricultural mode, populations expanded, and people became more interdependent, mankind at least had the sense to recognize that falsehood was a serious problem. As Sissela Bok puts it in her study of lying, "trust in some degree of veracity functions as a foundation of relations among human beings; when this trust shatters or wears away, institutions collapse." An ethic of loyalty to kith and kin may be enough for an extremely primitive sort of existence. [“False Witness,” 1993, by Richard H. Underwood, Univ. of Kentucky)

The civilized world’s legal codes have realized that society’s survival depends upon trust in institutions and that trust requires honesty. The point which most people miss about the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah is that, according to the rabbis, the extreme offenders were the judges themselves, who were named Liar, Habitual Liar, Deceiver, and Perverter of the Law. While everyone can grasp the troubles that came for regular people who lied in individual cases, it was when the judges themselves are the culprits that the existence of society itself became imperiled.

(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

@THE GUSS REPORT-Did a rogue Los Angeles deputy city attorney criminally misuse his authority to dupe a Los Angeles Times reporter into publishing an untrue article about a criminal charge he said he filed, but did not – one that he never intended to prosecute? 

That prosecutor, Eugene Hall, Jr, appears to have done this to intimidate and coerce with negative publicity a prospective defendant so that he would drop his civil rights lawsuits against Hall’s employer, the City of Los Angeles, and several of its officials. That practice is strictly prohibited by the California Bar Association, which tightened such rules on May 1; it may be criminal as well. 

Here’s how it went down…. 

Wednesday March 29 – 4:35 p.m.: Los Angeles Times reporter Emily Alpert Reyes sent notorious City Hall gadfly/Encino immigration attorney Wayne Spindler, the following text message: 

“Hi Wayne, this is Emily Alpert Reyes with the LA Times. The City Attorney’s office informed me they are filing criminal charges against you for illegally possessing an assault weapon. I’d like to get any comment you can provide. I’m available at this number. Thanks!” 

(Note: Spindler turned in the gun for destruction back on May 20, 2016 as part of a court order that he is appealing. What transpired between then and the allegation leveled against him this spring is that he has since filed civil rights lawsuits against the city and several of its officials. His purchase receipt for the gun is dated January 25, 1989, predating the 1991 ban which at most calls for a $500 citation, though a recent state program with a faulty website allowed gun owners to register without ramification.)

Before Spindler reached Reyes, her article was published on the Times’ website at 6:10 p.m., and read, “Spindler was charged with a misdemeanor and is scheduled to be arraigned in April,” citing Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for City Attorney Mike Feuer

But Reyes failed to confirm whether that was truthful, because no such charge, or any other charge, was listed against Spindler on the court’s website (which is the official record) on March 29 or any of the subsequent six days. 

An email from CityWatch contributor Eric Preven to Spindler, which is now part of the court record, alleges that reporter Reyes told Preven that she did not get her information from Wilcox, whose press release was not distributed until later the next day: 

“How did Emily hear about it? She says she didn't get the City Attorney press release... and referred me to the company spokeswoman when I asked her.” 

Spindler says that later in the evening of March 29, after Reyes’ article was published online, he told her he was unaware of the charge, but she would not tell him how she heard about it.

The only person other than Wilcox who would likely have had access to the case information was Deputy City Attorney Eugene Hall, Jr. who, along with Reyes, Wilcox, and Feuer, has refused to answer questions for this article. 

Thursday March 30 – 2:11 p.m.: With Reyes’ article about Spindler now in the print edition of the Times without any corrections, I contacted her to determine whether she had any unconventional or inappropriate contact with prosecutor Hall. Both Reyes and the LA Times spokesperson to whom she referred me, Hillary Manning, refused to answer, citing: 

“We do not have a comment on this, as it relates to the details of our newsgathering. If you have a question about the information as reported in the published story, please let me know.” 

That is precisely what I did, but Reyes and Manning offered only circular replies.

Monday April 3rd – 9pm: With still no charge against Spindler in the court system, CityWatch published my article about the false information in Reyes’ LA Times piece.

Tuesday April 4 – 8:04 a.m.: Reyes sent Spindler the following text: 

“Hi Wayne, this is Emily with the LA Times. Did you ever get a notice to appear for the weapons charge? I’m driving in to work right now but will be available in about an hour.” 

Having had no contact with Spindler since March 29, Reyes would only have asked that question as a result of reading the accusations in my article.

Instead of replying to Reyes, Spindler says he watched the next several hours unfold as follows. He believes that Reyes may have been confronted with my article by LA Times brass and/or she made a panicked call to prosecutor Hall to find out why there was still no case on the court’s website a full six days after she wrote that the case was filed and is scheduled for arraignment. Spindler plausibly explains that Hall – fearing possible disbarment, criminal charges and civil liability as a result of my article – then had to file the charge, which is precisely what Hall did on the 4th. 

The likely reason why Hall didn’t actually file the charge prior to April 4 is because he knew that if it was filed, it would permanently remain on Spindler’s record even if he didn’t prosecute the case; he would have no bargaining chip in such a scenario. But by just appearing to have filed the case, but not actually doing so, Hall could assure Spindler that the charge would never appear on his record, and use it as a bargaining chip to coerce Spindler to drop his civil suits. 

It was Hall’s sloppy paper trail that unraveled his ruse. 

The court’s website shows that Hall did not file the case until April 4, but the case file contains a paper copy of the complaint, stamped and dated by the court clerk as “Filed March 30, 2017.” 

If Hall’s March 30 paper complaint had been filed as its stamp indicates, which it was not, it would have immediately shown up on the court’s website. Even to this date, it has not. He somehow got a deputy court clerk named Elawna Brown to stamp his Spindler complaint as “filed,” perhaps during a window visit in which clerks often stamp dozens of documents for attorneys, and pulled back that particular one without having it actually processed into the court system. In other words, Hall got his complaint stamped as filed, without the actual filing of the complaint that the stamp reflects was done. 

Hall appears to have used his fraudulently stamped document to get Reyes to write her article, before Wilcox’s press release (which she allegedly said she never received) was distributed. There is seemingly no other way Reyes could have learned about the case other than through Hall’s fraudulently stamped complaint. 

And Hall, who is based in the City Attorney’s office in Van Nuys, signed the fraudulently stamped Spindler complaint not in Van Nuys on March 29, but in Los Angeles, meaning downtown LA, which is where reporter Emily Alpert Reyes is based and published her article on March 29 with no other logical source for the false information. 

As Barry Scheck, a defense attorney in the O.J. Simpson murder trial, legendarily barked, “there…..there, how about that Mr. Fung?” 

Public records support that Hall had no intention to file the charge, but was forced to cover his tracks by filing it on April 4, immediately after my April 3 article was published.

But things are much worse than that for prosecutor Eugene Hall Jr. 

On March 29, when Hall signed his complaint against Spindler (the one later fraudulently stamped as “filed” on March 30) it triggered three letters from his boss, Supervising Deputy City Attorney Richard A. Schmidt, that were sent to each of Spindler’s residences, which falsely stated: 

“Please be advised that a criminal complaint has been filed charging you with a violation of Section P30605a, commonly known as possession of assault weapon.” 

Since there was no such complaint at that time, and for the subsequent six days, each mailed letter might constitute a misuse of prosecutorial power and mail fraud. 

Reyes, as late as last Friday, continues to refuse to state where she got her faulty story information. When Spindler texted her again to ask, she replied: 

“Because Dan has been making an issue of this, I don’t want to say anything beyond what we’ve put in the newspaper. But I think the story is clear about who provided the information.” 

So much for the Times’ policy about not explaining its newsgathering practices…. 

The judge in the case, the amiable, semi-retired Bernard J. Kamins, who earned the nickname “Judge Bear” for giving teddy bears to children involved in his cases, and for his successful drug rehabilitation programs, may be particularly receptive to claims of prosecutorial misconduct; he is a former public defender. 

If proven, that spells immense and costly trouble ahead for Hall, Schmidt, Feuer, Brown, Reyes and their respective employers.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport.  Verifiable tips and story ideas can be sent to him at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--In a 10-0 vote Friday, the city council passed a resolution authored by Councilmember Bob Blumenfield  appealing to Congress to investigate whether Trump has violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. The resolution also calls for investigations into high crimes and misdemeanors that could lead to impeachment against the president. Blumenfield represents Council District 3, the northwest San Fernando Valley, including Canoga Park, Reseda, Tarzana, Winnetka and Woodland Hills. Absent from Friday’s vote were Councilman Mitch Englander, the sole Republican on the Council, as well as Council Members Jose Huizar, Paul Koretz and Joe Buscaino.

Since the election, many are familiar with the Emoluments Clause, also known as the Title of Nobility Clause, which is a provision in Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution.

No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

Trump’s extensive business and real estate dealings have brought concerns, particularly with respect to foreign government agencies that may fall within the clause’s scope. For example, back in March, China granted 38 provisional “Trump” trademarks scheduled to become permanent within 90 days.

Blumenfield worked on the resolution with We st Valley Resistance, which supports investigating Trump for possible impeachable offenses; similar resolutions have passed in other cities and towns across the country, including Richmond, Alameda and Berkeley, as well as Cambridge, Massachusetts.

While Trump has issued statements that the Trump Organization would be donating any profits derived from foreign government guests at his DC hotel to the Treasury and that his organization would not enter into any deals with foreign governments during his term, the Trump Organization is opening a 57-story Trump Tower in Manila and a spokesman for Blumenfield says the president’s relationship with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte should be investigated. Duterte has been criticized for alleged human rights violations against suspected drug dealers in his country.

While the council resolution is only symbolic, the Trump presidency is certainly a game changer. We’ve yet to see a president and an administration with so many questionable actions and conflicts. Whatever messages we can send to Washington, whether involving Emoluments Clause violations or high crimes and misdemeanors seem to be fair game.

(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.)

-cw

PERSPECTIVE--Illegal sources of income are subject to federal and state income tax; so, why would I object to the City of Los Angeles collecting Transitory Occupancy Tax (TOT) revenue from illegal short-term rentals, such as Air BnB?

In the former case, taxation does not exempt scofflaws from prosecution.  If anything, tax compliance requirements are useful tools to bring criminals to justice or enhance their sentences . If Al Capone were alive, he would agree.

The latter is different – it creates an impediment to enforcing zoning laws.  A cash-strapped city like Los Angeles will not want to bite the hands that feed it.  It is the equivalent of bribery.  Pay to play, and the city will not pursue enforcement of residential zoning codes. The City Council and mayor will drag their feet, if not completely overlook, the protection of honest residents’ right to enjoy their neighborhoods without the adverse effects associated with revolving door occupancy.

In his annual budget letter to the mayor and City Council, City Controller Ron Galperin weighed in.  He said the city must be “vigilant to consider the potential TOT revenue impacts to the general fund.”

As I read between the lines of his statement, that’s not really an endorsement of the policy. If anything, it is a carefully nuanced assessment.  Ron is the controller and he is required to advise the city on any financial matter – good or bad.

But zoning violations should not be ignored just because the cash generated by the TOT partially mitigates the effects of the city’s reckless approach in managing its budget. Please note that Galperin also emphasized the importance of a prudent and well-balanced budget. Ignoring laws does not meet the definition of prudent.

It’s a good thing that a city-sanctioned, short-term rental scheme did not exist when Scarface Al was around. No telling how much more power he would have wielded in Chicago.

We now face an army of non violent mini-Als, no baseball bats or Chicago pianos, but armed with industry lawyers and plenty of money. 

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone and do not represent the opinions of Valley Village Homeowners Association or CityWatch. He can be reached at: phinnoho@aol.com.)

-cw

MEDIA POLITICS--Hollywood's primary writer’s union has come to the defense of member Stephen Colbert after Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai said he was investigating an anti-President Donald Trump monologue the comedian delivered on his Late Show last week. 

In a radio interview last Friday, Pai said that his agency was looking into a Late Show monologue delivered on May 1st that criticized Trump for abruptly aborting an interview with CBS News' John Dickerson. Pai said the agency had received complaints—some online critics have labeled Colbert's monologue homophobic—and promised it would "apply the law" set out by the courts.

In a joint statement this morning, Writers Guild of America East and West presidents Michael Winship and Howard Rodman wrote that they were "appalled" by Pai's remarks. "Pai's remarks are just the latest in a series of statements by the current administration indicating a willful disregard of the First Amendment," they wrote. "What is obscene is not what Colbert said but any attempt by the government to stifle dissent and creativity."

The FCC reviews complaints of broadcast content and typically issues fines when it concludes flagged content is obscene or indecent. A fine on Colbert seems unlikely, however, owing in part to the higher tolerance for explicit content in late-night time programming. 

(Katie Kilkenny is an associate editor at Pacific Standard  … where this piece was first posted. She covers culture both online and in print.)

-cw

GUEST WORDS--(Editor’s note: As is often the case in development arguments, things are seldom black and white. This is the Hollywood Chamber’s perspective where jobs and community convenience have priority. Richard Lee Abrams, has other thoughts not the least of which is that the General Plan … the voice of the community … deserves to be upheld. Check them both out. Let us know what you think.) 

By now, most people have heard the disappointing news that Superior Court Judge Richard L. Fruin, Jr. has once again sided with a very small group of plaintiffs to prevent Hollywood's new Target from being completed. I thought it might be appropriate to offer of few of my own observations on this sad state of affairs. 

Let me first offer a little background. It has now been nine years since Target first filed to build a store in Hollywood. When it was initially approved by the City and threatened with a lawsuit, Target decided to do a complete Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to strengthen its case against lawsuits. However, that later proved to be of little value. 

At issue was a quirk in the Station Neighborhood Area Plan (SNAP) that governs development in that area. The SNAP ordinance allows projects that are strictly retail to only be 35 feet in height, but allows mixed-use projects to be up to 75 feet. The City Council and Planning Commission felt that the Target would be a benefit to the neighborhood and granted a variance to allow the project to be built at the 75-foot height. 

The La Mirada Neighborhood Association, which is reputed to have only two or three members, sued. Judge Fruin ruled that the EIR was fine, but that the city erred in granting a variance and should have changed the zoning. 

The City, in order to comply with the judge's order, created a new Subarea F zoning category for big box retail centers. Once again, the La Mirada Neighborhood Association sued, saying that the City should have performed a new EIR to justify the new zoning designation. And once again, the judge agreed with the plaintiffs. It serves no purpose to rebut the judge's rationale for his decision, but I would like to share my thoughts on what a loss this means for Hollywood. 

Between 250 and 300 permanent jobs have been lost to the community now for several years because of these lawsuits. These are jobs that could have been filled by many of the low-income residents in the neighborhood close to the Target site. In addition, the Target would have provided expanded shopping opportunities for our entire Hollywood community, and would have been within walking distance for many low-income neighborhoods. It is only two blocks from the Hollywood/Western subway station and so is easily reachable from all areas of Hollywood. We haven't had a department store since Sears closed its Hollywood store in 2008, so this would have been a wonderful addition to the community. 

I get more questions about the status of the Target from both residents and businesses than any other subject. There is overwhelming support in Hollywood for this store. So the question is "What are the specific reasons why these few people are opposing the Target so vehemently?" 

Robert Silverstein, the plaintiff's attorney, usually responds that the plaintiffs aren't against a Target -- they just want them to follow the city's rules. My objection to that answer is that rules set by a city are not cast in stone. 

Historically, cities have always had broad discretionary powers to determine land use within their bounds. The SNAP ordinance is not the U.S. Constitution. The City should have the right to make changes as circumstances warrant. 

We live in an urban area. What value is achieved by limiting a retail center to one story? When we have attended past hearings on the Target, the main justification of the opponents for their position is that they want housing built in the neighborhood, not just retail centers. If developers want added height, they have to provide housing as well, they say. They also have voiced concerns over views being blocked or a building built out-of-scale with the neighborhood. 

I could understand these arguments eight years ago, but circumstances have changed dramatically since that time and the rationale for those positions no longer applies. In the interim, three projects have been announced and are in the entitlement phase across the street from the Target that will provide 1,293 housing units. These projects will all be as high, or higher, than the Target. So what purpose is to be achieved by forcing the Target to be torn down and rebuilt at one story? My answer would be, "absolutely none." 

The opponents can bask in their latest court victory, but in my view, they should be asking themselves if they are really serving the greater good for Hollywood? If Target pulls out because they are tired of fighting this small group of naysayers, have the interests of Hollywood really been served? Does the loss of these needed jobs and shopping opportunities mean anything to the opponents? 

Being with the Chamber of Commerce, I am an eternal optimist. We have been through some difficult times in Hollywood, and despite setbacks, the community's revitalization continues to move forward. I remain hopeful that a solution can be found so that the Target can be completed. Meanwhile, I would urge everyone who is supportive of having the Target finished to not be silent. Let the La Mirada Neighborhood Association know how you feel.


(Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 24 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

CORRUPTION WATCH--(Editor’s note: As is often the case in development arguments, things are seldom black and white. See the Hollywood Chamber’s perspective where jobs and community convenience have priority. This is Richard Lee Abrams perspective. He has other thoughts not the least of which is that the General Plan … the voice of the community … deserves to be upheld. Check them both out. Let us know what you think.) 

In the April 27, 2017 issue of CityWatch, Dave Bell wrote an article, Why Can’t We Have Nice Things?   Judge Richard Fruin has answered that question in his seventeen page explanation again rejecting the Hollywood Target Store. The reason that partially-finished monster is still looming over Sunset-Western can be summed up in one word -- Garcetti. Since Judge Fruin must use “legalese,” he cannot come out and act like a Biblical prophet pointing at King David proclaiming, “Thou art the man!” 

By the way, Petitioners did not sue after the store was partially built. Target started building after the case was already in court, knowing that a 74-foot store was illegal. It was a cynical ploy to tell Judge Fruin that it would be an economic waste not to allow the Target Store to continue constructing the illegal store. And Judge Fruin was not favorably impressed. 

Judge Fruin’s legal reasoning in again rejecting the Target Store made it clear that the problem rests with the City and not with the Petitioners. And when the judge refers to the City, he clearly means Garcetti. Garcetti was then the councilman who insisted that Target violate the law back in 2008-2009. After the court rejected the first Target Store, Garcetti insisted on appealing. The case has been all the way to the California Supreme Court and back down, but the City, i.e. Garcetti, does not listen. 

The City Persists in Violating the Law 

In 2016 the City tried to do another end-run around Judge Fruin and the law, the same way Garcetti and his love-child project at 5929 Sunset had tried to do by demolishing the facade of the Spaghetti Factory. As a result of those Garcetti machinations, that huge residential project sits vacant. Nonetheless Garcetti had the City give his buddies at CIM Group $17.4 Million

Then in 2015, the courts rejected The Millennium (Earthquake) Towers in Hollywood as a violation of the law. These last two cases were before Judge James Chalfant. 

Garcetti also subverted the law with his 2012 Update to the Hollywood Community Plan. In January 2014, Judge Allan Goodman rejected the Hollywood Community Plan Update as based on “fatally flawed data and wishful thinking that subverted the law (CEQA).” 

These legal loses are not the fault of the City Attorney’s Office which has to follow the directions of its client, the City. That means when the City Attorney tells Eric Garcetti that a project is illegal and he should follow the law, the City Attorney still has to show up in court and put on the best face possible. If Garcetti would heed the wise advice of the City Attorney’s Office, the City could operate more smoothly and would not be spending millions on attorney fees to lose cases. There was also the $1.3 billion sidewalk case that came with $15 million in attorney fees. 

The Issue in Target II 

The fundamental issue in this recent Target case is whether the City could make a major change in the zoning law, i.e. the Specific Plan “SNAP,” without conducting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIR). Think of an EIR as like a final exam: if you skip the final, you fail the course. Duh! Maybe, trust fund babies who went to Harvard-Westlake are allowed to buy their way out of final exams. Who knows? 

Thus, Garcetti decided that there was no need to have the final exam for the recent change in SNAP. Garcetti has yet to learn that just because he says something, does not make it so. He may be able to fool the voters, but he cannot fool the professionals. If he had listened to the City Attorney back in 2009, Hollywood would have probably had a Target by 2010. If he had listened to the legal professionals in early 2016, he would not have insisted on adding a Subarea F to SNAP without conducting an EIR. 

A Brief History of SNAP 

The citizens and professionals who drafted SNAP took years to classify every single parcel of property within its area as belonging to one of five Subareas A through E. SNAP rejected the idea of a Subarea F as it did not want mega-stores. SNAP is a new zoning law that became effective in March 2001. When Garcetti decided to ignore it in 2008, SNAP was less than a decade old – not some ancient zoning code which had become out dated. 

Adding a New Subarea F Was a Huge Change in SNAP 

Adding a Subarea F which would allow mega big box stores in Hollywood was a significant change to SNAP. It required the City to conduct a new EIR to assess the impacts on Hollywood if the streets were filled with these warehouse type mega-stores. 

Starting back in 2008, Garcetti could have cooperated and allowed Target to build a legal store with its parking underground. If then-Councilmember Garcetti had permitted Target to construct the type of facility the law allowed, the store could have been operating by 2010. Instead, there has been close to a decade of lawsuits; we may very well face another decade of them. 

The decision is up to Garcetti. Does he want to guarantee that Hollywood has no Target Store while he spends millions on attorneys to take the same matter to the appellate court, then on to the Supreme Court, only to be told, “You cannot graduate from high school without taking the final exam?” 

In the end, what are Hollywoodians going to get? Endless Garcetti litigation? Or will Mayor Garcetti allow Target to construct a legal store? Don’t expect a resolution to this fight or construction on the Target store … any time soon.

 

(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--Dig deep enough into any of California’s biggest problems, and you’ll eventually hit upon a common villain: our court system.

California’s housing shortage, its poverty, its poor business climate, and its failing infrastructure all are explained in no small part by the failure of our underfunded, delay-prone courts to provide anything resembling timely justice. But in public narratives of what’s wrong with the state, we have mostly let the courts dodge responsibility for their many crimes against California’s future.

This is, in part, because, our courts have been broken for so long that we’ve stopped expecting them ever to work. In the meantime, we have become lazily addicted to blaming our favorite perpetrators—our regulators, our politicians, our media, our unions, our businesses, and, more recently, President Trump—for our collective failure to build a state that meets its population’s needs.

But the biggest reason why we’ve allowed the courts to skate responsibility involves a public lack of understanding of the courts, and a resulting underestimation of their importance. State government has been treating the courts, which account for less than 3 percent of state spending, as a small problem, distinct from the state’s other maladies. But the courts’ impact is far larger than their budget imprint, making them a dangerously faulty foundation for our state’s economy and government.

If you want to block a project in California, your best bet is to get it into the courts, where you can delay for years until the project’s supporters can no longer afford to go forward. This happens regularly in California’s housing battles. But rather than blaming the courts, real estate types routinely blame a law—CEQA, the abbreviation for the California Environmental Quality Act—for the state’s struggles to build sufficient housing and infrastructure.

At a recent conference at Chapman University in Orange County, Emile Haddad, the chairman and CEO of FivePoint, the largest developer of mixed-use communities in coastal California (from the Great Park Neighborhoods in Irvine to Candlestick Point in San Francisco), pointed to the courts instead.

“I’m one of those probably odd developers who say they love CEQA,” he said, praising environmental laws that protect communities and add to quality of life and the value of housing.

The real problem, he said, is “the entire legal system.” He recounted a project that got local government approval in 2003, but still hasn’t happened, as his company is now litigating the project’s 30th lawsuit.

With each challenge or problem with permits, he loses even more years, Haddad said, because “I have to go through the same courts that have approved me already … because I cannot go directly back to the Supreme Court or the appellate court and tell them that I’ve done what they needed me to do.”

Such legal delays bear a heavy responsibility for our historic housing shortage and add to housing costs that are more than twice the national average. In turn, costlier housing is a huge factor in California’s highest-in-the-nation poverty rate and its high incidence of homelessness.

Poverty is now highest in coastal areas with the most development restrictions, which produce more litigation and costlier housing. And the clogged courts make it harder for poor people to challenge evictions from housing, or mistreatment by people and financial institutions that prey on the poor.

Such legal delays bear a heavy responsibility for our historic housing shortage and add to housing costs that are more than twice the national average. In turn, costlier housing is a huge factor in California’s highest-in-the-nation poverty rate and its high rate of homelessness.

The same court-related delays and resulting costs also plague any number of transportation and water projects, and of countless attempts to launch new businesses. The most high-profile example is the state high-speed rail project. While the state authority in charge of the project has drawn withering coverage for its mistakes—construction remains at an early stage, nearly nine years after voters approved the bonds for it—most of the delays involve the courts.

The state itself has a long history of using the courts to delay meeting even its meager funding obligations to schools and health programs. The state courts so utterly failed to resolve California’s prison overcrowding problems that federal receivers and the U.S. Supreme Court had to step in.

Meanwhile, the courts are being asked to do more with less. Newer reforms on criminal justice resources (Governor Brown’s realignment), sentencing (Propositions 47 and 57), and recreational marijuana (Proposition 64) have created new questions and petitions that boost court workloads.

At the same time, the Great Recession and budget crises were particularly tough on the courts. Thousands of court staffers have lost their jobs in the last decade, and more than 50 courthouses and 200 courtrooms have been shuttered. Delays have more than doubled; it now can take more than five years to have your civil complaint heard by a judge or jury. (One prominent lawsuit, by California local governments against lead paint manufacturers, is now 17 years old.)

Flat pay and a heavy workload have led to walkouts by court workers, and sparked bitter infighting among state judges. Court officers in 49 of 58 counties warned in a February letter to Gov. Brown that without more money in this year’s budget, they’ll need to cut existing levels of service.

The pressure on the courts would be even worse if the total number of court filings hadn’t declined by 25 percent over the last decade. But that may be bad news. Almost all the decline has been in small claims, challenges to infractions, and minor civil cases. Regular Californians have simply given up on seeking justice in our courts.

“Inadequate funding and chronic underfunding of the courts is just one way a justice system can become unjust,” warned California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye in a recent speech, noting that since 2011 the state has added 6,408 laws while the judiciary budget lags.

I recently walked three blocks from my office to the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, the state civil courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. Like other central courthouses in California’s increasingly glittery city centers, the court building stands out as an eyesore, its exterior scars clashing with the new park and federal courthouse next to it.

Inside, nothing—from bathrooms to Wi-Fi—works particularly well. Lawyers receive trial dates that are usually more than two years in the future, court reporters are scarce, and overworked clerks scramble to keep things from breaking down. A lawyer acquaintance who took me around quoted Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, a 19th-century novel about the delays and injustice of England’s Court of Chancery.

Broken courts, Dickens wrote, promote a crippling fatalism through a society, “a loose belief that if the world go wrong, it was, in some off-hand manner, never meant to go right.”

It’s way past time for California to pull itself out of this Dickensian muck. Yes, fixing our court system—making it the fastest and most efficient in the country—would be challenging politically. But it also would be relatively cheap, just a couple billion more dollars a year in a state with a $150 billion budget and a $2.5 trillion economy.

Justice delayed is justice denied. This budget season, let’s return timely justice to the courts, and stop this crime against California’s future.

(Joe Mathews is Connecting California Columnist and Editor at Zócalo Public Square … where this column first appeared. Mathews is a Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

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PERSPECTIVE--Mayor Eric Garcetti caught some flak in a recent LA Times article for failing to mention the $1.1B the city must pay to fund employee pensions. 

But let’s be fair: the Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee deserves an equal share of the criticism:

“Despite recent funding shortfalls, over long periods the performance of the pension system’s investments has met or surpassed expectations.” Council Member Paul Krekorian (photo above), as quoted in the LA Times, November 18, 2016.

This is an example of the naiveté of our elected officials. Mr. Krekorian forgets, or chooses to ignore, that past performance is no indication of future returns; the further back in time, the less relevant are the results. The 15-year return for LACERS is 6.5%; the 10-year is 5.9%. The world economy has undergone major structural changes over the 30 year period, for which the average return was 8.4%.  Projecting investment performance based on data from over 20 years ago is as useful as comparing Barry Bonds’ stats to Hank Aaron’s.

Or maybe it’s an acknowledgement that city officials do not represent the public as a whole, only the city employees and retirees, many of whom reside outside of the city. According to the results of a 2014 study reported by the Times, about two-thirds of city employees live elsewhere. So much for a multiplier effect. While those employees cannot vote in city elections, the unions representing them are powerful political forces. 

The mayor and City Council hope to make a dent in the problem by taxing short-term, Airbnb style rentals, effectively trashing zoning in residential neighborhoods.  Certainly, a share of the new gas tax will flow to the city, along with some “legalized” pot-related revenue (it remains to be seen how the Justice Department deals with the conflict between federal and state laws).  However, the city could lose some, or all, of the surplus transfer from the DWP.

The fact remains, 20% of the general fund goes to cover the city’s pension contribution, a rate that has increased from 5% in 2002. It’s been fairly flat at around 20% for a couple of years. In 2012 it was 15%, the same for 2008, during the height of the subprime mortgage meltdown. Overall, city revenue has increased by $1.2B since Garcetti took office. With that much of an increase, one would expect the city’s contribution rate to drop.  It’s an inconsistency any CEO would have to explain to a board in the form of a simple variance analysis.

It is the result of the deteriorating pension position.  While explaining what an unfunded liability means would put any general audience to sleep, it is far easier – and more understandable – to present an analysis of the contribution rate over a period of several years.  It would make the growing unsustainability of pension promises apparent in terms the public could appreciate.

I will propose to the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) to make such information a required disclosure in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).

Who knows – maybe Paul Krekorian would be enlightened.

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone and do not represent the opinions of Valley Village Homeowners Association or CityWatch. He can be reached at: phinnoho@aol.com.)

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THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Earlier this year, I covered Caney Arnold’s Council District 15 run. The progressive grassroots candidate had hoped to parlay his background in Air Force acquisition and program management, as well as a graduate degree in Public Policy and Administration, to create change at the council level but his campaign was truncated by the March primary. 

Arnold is still on course to create change. “Now that the City Council races are over, I’ve moved on to other projects,” he shares. I sat down with Arnold to discuss his role as Our Voice LA Leader and the national Our Voice Initiative.  

Started by Sam Ronan, the young Air Force Reserve who ran for DNC Chair, Our Voice Initiative is a national nonpartisan grassroots organization to bring “movements and groups together...and provide a common toolbox of strategy, policy, and organizing/funding resources to new candidates who want to take on the establishment.” -- Our Voice Initiative.  The group will focus on providing information on propositions, laws, and regulations proposed at all levels of government; vetting candidates; and organizing protests, rallies, town hall meetings, marches, inquiries, and hearings. 

Arnold says he was inspired by Ronen’s drive to help create a political and campaign system that belongs to the people. “Our Voice Initiative will act as a political consultant to help those interested in participating more in the process -- to help them understand how to do that.” The former candidate’s own campaign experience led him to appreciate the need for an information conduit. “A lot is getting info to the people in a way they can digest without having to spend their entire lives trying to access that information. People just don’t have the time to collect information. CityWatch is doing a great service, similar to what Our Voices is trying to do,” he says. “We want to bring information to the people about what is going on with the government behind closed doors and to encourage them to participate in the process themselves, whether it’s as simple as participating in campaign finance and advocacy or running for office.” 

While Our Voice is a national organization with state chapters, Arnold says he approached the group about organizing at the city level in Los Angeles. “I think ours is the first at the city level -- not an official chapter -- but they’re supporting us and are thrilled that we’re working in LA,” he adds. 

“What we’re trying to do is to create a more nonpartisan umbrella group and to extend to the local level while other groups are stuck at the state congressional or federal level,” Arnold says. “In order to develop grassroots candidates, we have to start with city council and school board races -- and build from there. That’s what I am interested in going in LA and it’s the purpose of Our Voice, as well.” 

Arnold says he “learned a lot from his run for City Council. “There’s an unfairness built into the campaign system and the election process. We face voter apathy and those are things I want to get more involved in -- to just help make people more aware. During the council race, a couple of motions were offered up by city councilmember on campaign finance, involving a lower hurdle for matching funds, for example. I think they brought up some motions that never went anywhere. They just died in committee. It seems like a disingenuous photo opp to try to convince voters that they’re interested. I’d be interested in resurrecting this or improving upon it to help create a fair campaign process in Los Angeles.” 

Arnold sees the Resist Movement as a catapult to change. “The main thing is there’s lots of commonality as far as grassroots concerns go on the left and the right. Everyone agrees that there’s too much corruption in government. Plenty of people will march, which is great to raise awareness but they don’t want to go the distance, to do voter registration or Get Out the Vote, to donate $25, phone bank, or canvas. It isn’t as sexy. But we’re all in this together. We can do both. We need to raise awareness and to move forward. That’s what Our Voice will do -- to pull people together.” 

For more information on Our Voice Initiative, visit the site

Donate to Our Voice Initiative through Indiegogo

 

(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.)

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EDUCATION POLITICS-This is the third post in a series. We’ve been deep diving into a Unified Enrollment scheme, a top priority of the charter lobby, that’s being pushed on LAUSD officials without a discussion of policy implications and almost no public input. 

In the first post, we laid out some of the scholarly research that finds Unified Enrollment systems exacerbate inequitable access to schools. They’ve been funded by the pro-charter Walton Family Foundation in New Orleans and Denver. 

In the second post, we revealed a process that looks a lot like the iPad scandal, complete with secret meetings to lobby board members and slick, pseudo-public presentations. Policy implications are not on the agenda. 

In this post, as promised, we’ll introduce the privatizers who have infiltrated the school district to advance the interests of the charter lobby. 

Conspiracy theory? Hardly. This just looks like the new business model. Since the iPad scandal, privatizers have had to find new ways to move their agenda. The scandal made direct corporate lobbying behind the scenes too risky. But there’s no need, if you have managed to plant your sales force inside the school system itself.  

The District personnel pitching the Unified Enrollment scheme are not just any LAUSD employees. They are Broad and Walton acolytes, trained and placed in the school system to move the corporate reform agenda forward from the inside. 

Ani Bagdasarian Packard started working at LAUSD while corporate reform poster boy John Deasy was Superintendent. For two years, she worked in LAUSD as a Broad fellow, just as Broad’s education empire shifted its focus. Previously a training academy for Superintendents, it would now focus on lower level staff “to make it easier for superintendents to define policy agendas, influence public opinion, coalesce political forces, and advance bold reforms on the ground,” according to a Washington Post article from that time. 

Bagdasarian Packard is now “advancing bold reforms on the ground” as Program Policy Development Advisor for LAUSD. 

In her presentation to LAUSD’s Early Education and Parent Engagement Committee on February 28, 2017, Bagdasarian Packard explained that after the technology scandals that led to John Deasy’s ouster from LAUSD, “…my colleague and I decided to move forward with this, and we worked with IT to go with solution B, Plan B.” 

Her colleague? 

Maybe she was talking about Jodie Newbery, who presented with her at that meeting as well as at last week’s Bond Oversight Committee (BOC) to try to get the secret project funded with $24 million in school construction bonds. 

Newbery was also hired when Deasy was Superintendent, in October 2011. 

Where did she come from? Her three previous positions were in charter school promotion, according to her LinkedIn profile. First for the New York City Center for Charter School Excellence and then for the California Charter Schools Association. Her most recent job was as "Senior Manager, Walton Family Foundation Grant and Los Angeles School Development." Then she made the jump to LAUSD as Program and Policy Advisor, Portfolio Management. That doesn't require a conspiracy theory. How much more explicit could you get? 

So a couple of low level co-workers inside LAUSD are behind a major policy shift for the District? 

That is bold. And could be great, if it meant that LAUSD was truly becoming receptive to bottom-up innovation. But the dynamic seems to be about something other than welcoming diverse input. 

At the BOC, District administrative staff balked when BOC member Rachel Greene asked what Board policy the project was advancing before approving its funding. The answers were vague at best. District staffer Diane Pappas said the policy was Board approved in the Superintendent’s Strategic Plan. She neglected to mention that the Board has refused to vote on the Strategic Plan. Anyway, she said, they'd been meeting privately with individual board members to get buy-in. 

I have found no evidence that a policy decision about Unified Enrollment has even occurred. 

The BOC agenda materials claim that the Unified Enrollment System falls under the catch-all “School Upgrade Program” which is for “upgrading, building and repairing school facilities to improve student health, safety and educational quality.” Seems like a stretch in this case, as it did when Deasy used the same rationale to use bond funds to pay for the iPad Common Core Technology Project. 

Just as with the iPad scandal, District staff is pushing hard. When BOC member Stuart Magruder, largely credited with first putting the brakes on the iPad boondoggle, asked if they were sure the District could meet the short timeline for Common Enrollment, Pappas answered, “We’re ready.”

Bagdasarian seemed more than ready. “These are just some snapshots of what it will look like” – she stopped herself -- “What it ‘may’ look like,” she said in the February presentation. 

And what multi-million dollar “reform” would be complete without a PR campaign? 

Reports of a new coalition to advocate for the inclusion of charters.  

Cue PEAPS-LA, a coalition of nonprofit education reformers to champion Unified Enrollment. The Partnership for Equitable Access to Public Schools Los Angeles includes Parent Revolution (of Steve Barr and Ben Austin acclaim) and Partnership for Los Angeles Schools (of Antonio Villaraigosa and Marshall Tuck acclaim), among others. 

So once again, all the pieces are in place, and the public only gets a seat to watch the result. With the iPads, the scandal surrounded alleged private lobbying efforts by corporate execs at Pearson. This time, the lobbying is hidden in plain sight, by LAUSD staff themselves. All they need now is the School Board's green light. No discussion necessary.

 

(Karen Wolfe is a public school parent, the Executive Director of PS Connect and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

CORRUPTION WATCH-In the April 27, 2017 issue of CityWatch, Dave Bell wrote an article, Why Can’t We Have Nice Things?  Judge Richard Fruin has answered that question in his seventeen page explanation again rejecting the Hollywood Target Store. The reason that partially-finished monster is still looming over Sunset-Western can be summed up in one word -- Garcetti. Since Judge Fruin must use “legalese,” he cannot come out and act like a Biblical prophet pointing at King David proclaiming, “Thou art the man!” 

By the way, Petitioners did not sue after the store was partially built. Target started building after the case was already in court, knowing that a 74-foot store was illegal. It was a cynical ploy to tell Judge Fruin that it would be an economic waste not to allow the Target Store to continue constructing the illegal store. And Judge Fruin was not favorably impressed. 

Judge Fruin’s legal reasoning in again rejecting the Target Store made it clear that the problem rests with the City and not with the Petitioners. And when the judge refers to the City, he clearly means Garcetti. Garcetti was then the councilman who insisted that Target violate the law back in 2008-2009. After the court rejected the first Target Store, Garcetti insisted on appealing. The case has been all the way to the California Supreme Court and back down, but the City, i.e. Garcetti, does not listen. 

The City Persists in Violating the Law 

In 2016 the City tried to do another end-run around Judge Fruin and the law, the same way Garcetti and his love-child project at 5929 Sunset had tried to do by demolishing the facade of the Spaghetti Factory. As a result of those Garcetti machinations, that huge residential project sits vacant. Nonetheless Garcetti had the City give his buddies at CIM Group $17.4 Million

Then in 2015, the courts rejected The Millennium (Earthquake) Towers in Hollywood as a violation of the law. These last two cases were before Judge James Chalfant. 

Garcetti also subverted the law with his 2012 Update to the Hollywood Community Plan. In January 2014, Judge Allan Goodman rejected the Hollywood Community Plan Update as based on “fatally flawed data and wishful thinking that subverted the law (CEQA).” 

These legal loses are not the fault of the City Attorney’s Office which has to follow the directions of its client, the City. That means when the City Attorney tells Eric Garcetti that a project is illegal and he should follow the law, the City Attorney still has to show up in court and put on the best face possible. If Garcetti would heed the wise advice of the City Attorney’s Office, the City could operate more smoothly and would not be spending millions on attorney fees to lose cases. There was also the $1.3 billion sidewalk case that came with $15 million in attorney fees. 

The Issue in Target II 

The fundamental issue in this recent Target case is whether the City could make a major change in the zoning law, i.e. the Specific Plan “SNAP,” without conducting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIR). Think of an EIR as like a final exam: if you skip the final, you fail the course. Duh! Maybe, trust fund babies who went to Harvard-Westlake are allowed to buy their way out of final exams. Who knows? 

Thus, Garcetti decided that there was no need to have the final exam for the recent change in SNAP. Garcetti has yet to learn that just because he says something, does not make it so. He may be able to fool the voters, but he cannot fool the professionals. If he had listened to the City Attorney back in 2009, Hollywood would have probably had a Target by 2010. If he had listened to the legal professionals in early 2016, he would not have insisted on adding a Subarea F to SNAP without conducting an EIR. 

A Brief History of SNAP 

The citizens and professionals who drafted SNAP took years to classify every single parcel of property within its area as belonging to one of five Subareas A through E. SNAP rejected the idea of a Subarea F as it did not want mega-stores. SNAP is a new zoning law that became effective in March 2001. When Garcetti decided to ignore it in 2008, SNAP was less than a decade old – not some ancient zoning code which had become out dated. 

Adding a New Subarea F Was a Huge Change in SNAP 

Adding a Subarea F which would allow mega big box stores in Hollywood was a significant change to SNAP. It required the City to conduct a new EIR to assess the impacts on Hollywood if the streets were filled with these warehouse type mega-stores. 

Starting back in 2008, Garcetti could have cooperated and allowed Target to build a legal store with its parking underground. If then-Councilmember Garcetti had permitted Target to construct the type of facility the law allowed, the store could have been operating by 2010. Instead, there has been close to a decade of lawsuits; we may very well face another decade of them. 

The decision is up to Garcetti. Does he want to guarantee that Hollywood has no Target Store while he spends millions on attorneys to take the same matter to the appellate court, then on to the Supreme Court, only to be told, “You cannot graduate from high school without taking the final exam?” 

In the end, what are Hollywoodians going to get? Endless Garcetti litigation? Or will Mayor Garcetti allow Target to construct a legal store? Don’t expect a resolution to this fight or construction on the Target store … any time soon.

 

(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

THE BUTCHER SHOP-Measure C? Charter reform of the police disciplinary system? On the May 16 runoff ballot? Seriously? Wonder why people are so cynical?

Right now, the improvements made by the LAPD in the 25 years since those scary nights of the LA riots are hailed as the way forward for big city police departments. Communities across America look to Los Angeles for a way out of Ferguson and Cleveland and Florida – and the bad old days of the LAPD. 

Instead, Measure C represents a step backwards for police reform and accountability at a time the LAPD and the LAPPL should shine and lead. 

As the recommendations of the Christopher Commission were implemented in and after 1992, the composition of Police Review Boards (BOR) changed from all sworn to three-member panels that include one civilian along with two LAPD officers at the level of Captain or above. At the time, the police union opposed the change. 

During the charter reform years, both panels debated changes to police discipline, seeking to be fair to the workers and to the community they serve.

There’s not a lot that’s as reliable in the City of Los Angeles as a report from the City Legislative Analyst (CLA). Here are their numbers: 

ANALYSIS OF OUTCOMES

According to the LAPD, the Department concluded 287 BOR hearings from 2011 to November 2016. In 229 cases, the Chief directed an officer to a BOR hearing with the recommendation that the officer he terminated. The remaining hearings were cases in which an officer opted to have a hearing on a demotion or suspension.

According to LAPD, BORs returned a guilty verdict in 190 cases, but only recommended removal of the officer in 112 cases. Less than half of the officers directed to a BOR by the Chief with a recommendation that they be removed from employment were actually terminated after the hearings. Similarly, in the 58 Opted Boards for demotion or suspension cases over the last six years, BORs have acquitted 15 officers and have concurred with the Chiefs recommended disciplinary measures in only 12 cases. 

Civilian Voting Patterns

When evaluating the merits of an all-civilian or majority-civilian BOR panel over a panel made up of sworn officers and a civilian, the Council may wish to consider the voting history of civilian Hearing Examiners. During the period from 2011 to November 2016, civilian Hearing Examiners were consistently more lenient than their sworn officer counterparts. In the 39 Directed BOR cases where the Chief recommended termination but a BOR acquitted accused officers, the civilian member voted for acquittal in every case. During this period, 16 of the remaining 190 termination cases heard by BORs were decided by 2-1 margins. In each case, the Hearing Examiner voted for the more lenient option. 

Civilian BOR members have also voted for reduced penalties in every case where a BOR found an officer guilty of misconduct, and have also consistently voted for lesser punishments or acquittals in Opted Boards dealing with demotions or suspensions. As in Directed Boards, civilian BOR members did not vote in the minority in demotion or suspension cases, and have been reliable votes for either lesser penalties for misconduct or for acquittal. During this period, there were 4 demotion or suspension cases decided by a 2 to 1 margin. In all cases, the civilian voted for the more lenient outcome. 

On the other side of the building, a May 2 report from the Inspector General to the Police Commission delineates 25 specific recommendations for action. From the LA Times’ Police panel calls for more LAPD reforms to address racial bias, discipline and community policing: “Los Angeles police commissioners approved a wide-ranging set of recommendations on Tuesday that called on the LAPD to improve how it guards against possible racial bias by officers, strengthen community policing and evaluate the department’s discipline system.” 

The 54-page report, Review of National Best Practices, pulls extensively from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, 2015 “Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing”: One of the Task Force’s overarching recommendations is that law enforcement culture embrace a “guardian mindset” to build public trust and legitimacy, and that agencies adopt the concept of procedural justice as the guiding principle for their policies and practices, both external and internal. As part of this process, the Task Force recommended that agencies “acknowledge the role of policing in past and present injustice and discrimination” and the difficulty this poses in building community trust. 

“We need to keep looking for ways to continue to make this department the best it can be,” said Matt Johnson, the panel’s president, in response to the report. “We need to continue engaging meaningfully with questions about community trust, race and use of force. I believe that these reports and recommendations provide a path forward to doing just that.” 

Council President Herb Wesson told the LA Times on January 24 City Council approves ballot measure that could put more civilians on LAPD discipline panels that, as far as he is concerned, this is just a start: “I believe that once we open this door, it will be easier for us to open it again and again if we want to make additional changes,” he said. “Is this perfect? No. Is it flawed? Yes. But I do believe that it’s a step in the right direction.” 

In its strong endorsement against the measure, the LA Times’ Measure C pretends to be about police reform. Instead, it's a noxious sleight of hand. Vote no begins: “Seldom has an effort to alter Los Angeles’ governing blueprint been as clever and underhanded as Charter Amendment C, a little-noticed measure on the little-noticed May 16 city ballot that would change how police officers are disciplined for misconduct. Seldom have city officials been so sly in their effort to slip something so noxious past L.A. voters.” 

Here's what the League of Women Voters Los Angeles say Measure C would do:

Measure C would amend the City Charter to give the City Council the authority to allow a police officer accused of misconduct to choose to have the case heard by a Police Department Board of Rights panel composed either of: a) two police officers with the rank of captain or above, and one civilian chosen from a list of carefully screened professional mediators, as is currently the case, or b) three civilians. Measure C does not define the criteria for who would serve on this 3-member civilian panel. Police officers could choose whether to have their case heard by the traditional Board of Rights or the civilian Board of Rights. 

On Larry Mantle’s Air Talk, April 27, We debate Measure C: Should all-civilian boards review police disciplinary matters? PPL President Craig Lally argued that it’s a matter of fairness, that there’s an inherent conflict because everyone reports to the same Chief and that they’re always worried about the impact “bucking a decision” might have on future promotions or assignments. “There are four captains suing right now,” he noted, after rendering not guilty determinations. “They’ve experienced reduction in rank, didn’t get promotions they should’ve received.” 

Peter Bibring responded on behalf of the Southern California ACLU and a growing coalition opposing the measure: “Given that civilian examiners are more lenient than sworn examiners in every instance of dispute and more than half of the cases referred from BOR’s are overturned, this would make it dramatically harder to hold the police accountable; this is not a measure to increase transparency or accountability.” 

WHO’S ORGANIZING AGAINST MEASURE C? 

From Bike the Vote:

Measure C – the lone item on the May 16 general election ballot for most voters in the City of Los Angeles. The Measure, which is backed by the L.A. Police Protective League, purports to increase civilian oversight of the L.A. Police Department, but is in actuality a deceptive ploy to reduce accountability. Bike The Vote L.A. joins organizations concerned with civil rights, social justice, and police reform – including ACLU of Southern California, Black Lives Matter L.A., Community Coalition, L.A. Community Action Network, and Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, among others – in opposing this harmful measure. 

Organizing opposition is starting to show up to call out this cynical, hypocritical move by LA’s pols:

Share this powerful video message from LA-CAN: Los Angeles: Vote NO on Charter Amendment C on May 16!  

Rabbi Jonathan Klein of CLUE (Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice) says of his organization’s opposition to the measure: “A transparency measure suddenly appearing on an off-cycle ballot, that sneaked up on us and which lacks a published communal rebuttal argument?  If the appearance of this ballot measure feels so unexpected, is supported by the very agencies that community groups believe need more oversight, why should anyone trust that this is what it says it is?  Sure enough, the ACLU and others have the data that lead us to believe that this might actually DIMINISH true civilian oversight. Both CLUE and our Black-Jewish Justice Alliance (in partnership with the SCLC) oppose Measure C.” 

Get the facts! Share the facts! Time for voting! Sign the pledge to vote no on C here and share this information with all your LA-voting friends! Yes on Los Angeles moving forward – No on C! No on cynicism! 

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

MCDONALD REPORT-From neighborhood activists to city planners, everyone knows that Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council love transit-oriented development. What many people don’t know, and what LA politicians would rather not discuss, is that it’s fueling gentrification in the nation’s second largest city.

UCLA researchers dropped that fact bomb about transit-oriented development in LA last August. 

Teaming up with the Urban Displacement Project at UC-Berkeley, they released a study with several alarming findings. In their own words, they wrote: 

  1. Areas around transit stations are changing and many of the changes are in the direction of neighborhood upscaling and gentrification; 
  1. Examining changes relative to areas not near light-rail or subway projects from 2000 to 2013, neighborhoods near those forms of transit are more associated with increases in white, college-educated, higher-income households and greater increases in the cost of rents. Conversely, neighborhoods near rail development are associated with greater losses in disadvantaged populations, including individuals with less than a high school diploma and lower-income households (read that again… it’s the very definition of gentrification); 
  1. The impacts vary across locations, but the biggest impacts seem to be around the downtown areas where transit-oriented developments interact with other interventions aiming to physically revitalize those neighborhoods. 

UCLA provides a map and data to back up those hard facts. If Garcetti and the City Council haven’t done so already, they should take a long, hard look. 

In fact, Paul Ong, director of UCLA Luskin’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge, says California politicians should use the report to ensure that “progress” through development is “fair and just.”  

Unfortunately, LA elected officials hate public dialogues about the Big Picture definitions of “progress,” and they spend little time considering what’s “fair and just” development for the masses. 

Instead, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council talk about creating a more “environmentally sustainable” city by cutting down on car usage. Hence, the need for more apartment complexes and mixed-use buildings near bus or rail stops — known as transit-oriented development. 

Developers and politicians, though, regularly greenwash controversial developments for political cover. What’s worse, serious plans for a more “economically sustainable” city for the working- and middle-class — teachers, garment workers, senior citizens, struggling artists, among others — are nearly non-existent at LA City Hall. 

Unsurprisingly, UCLA and UC-Berkeley researchers also found that “Bay Area municipalities have in their books many more anti-displacement policies than municipalities in LA County.” In the city of Los Angeles, Garcetti and the City Council have implemented few substantive and specific anti-displacement policies. 

It’s one big reason why, as the Los Angeles Times reported last year, more than 22,000 rent-controlled apartments have been taken off the market since 2001. An LA Times graph shows that disturbing trend dramatically up-ticked during Garcetti’s time as mayor. 

All in all, as stewards of the nation’s second largest city, LA politicians have shown that they are not interested in addressing the impacts of gentrification-inducing transit-oriented development. So what are they interested in? 

Maintaining power. Or, put another way, keeping their jobs and possibly landing better ones. Politicians do that by raising lots of money, which helps them fend off challengers on Election Day. Enter the deep-pocketed developer. 

For years, developers have been key benefactors for LA politicians. They contribute enormous sums of campaign cash and other political money — such as giving to a politician’s favorite cause or “officeholder” account, a kind of slush fund that elected officials use for dining and travel expenses.

Garcetti, in fact, established a non-profit called the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles. It has attracted big bucks from developers and various companies  — in its first year, Garcetti collected a whopping $14.6 million.  

The Coalition to Preserve LA, which sponsored the development reform initiative known as Measure S, found that developers and other bigwigs in the real estate industry (also known as LA’s “real estate industrial complex”) forked over at least $6 million in campaign contributions to city politicians since 2000.  

That’s a conservative number. It’s probably much higher. 

In the past year, for example, the LA Times reported that billionaire developer Rick Caruso shelled out hundreds of thousands to L.A. politicians and their causes while seeking City Hall approvals for a luxury housing tower for the super wealthy. One beneficiary was Garcetti’s non-profit, which accepted $125,000 from Caruso. 

The billionaire developer, by the way, greenwashed the controversial mega-project, a gigantic high-rise plopped down at a gridlocked intersection. To the aggravation of neighborhood activists, Caruso promoted it as a transit-oriented development. 

The LA Times also uncovered the shocking “Sea Breeze Scandal.” Perhaps illegally, developer Samuel Leung, who also needed City Hall to green light a luxury housing mega-project, funneled more than $600,000 to Mayor Eric Garcetti and other LA politicians. 

In the end, Caruso and Leung got what they wanted. 

As one can see, political money is also part of the gentrification equation. Developers shell out beaucoup bucks to L.A. politicians, and Garcetti and the City Council return the favor by approving transit-oriented and luxury developments. Developers then make tens of millions in profits, politicians have fatter campaign chests, and residents get hit by a wave of gentrification.  

Adding insult to injury, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council are selling out the working- and middle-class for what amounts to chump change. One’s life, home, and family are worth much more than $125,000.

 

(Patrick Range McDonald, an award-winning journalist, was senior researcher and website editor for the Coalition to Preserve LA.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

BELL’S VIEW--The other day a video posted on Facebook drew my attention. In it, a motorcycle moves in slow motion toward the middle of an intersection and a certain crash with a left-turning car. I could see where this was heading, but I couldn’t look away. I have no real desire to watch a motorcyclist pinwheel through the air and crash to the pavement (he survived, thanks to his helmet), but I watched anyway.

So many events I have seen I wish I hadn’t. I’ll never get the video of the Tamir Rice shooting out of my head. And I don’t suppose I should. Maybe this destruction of our illusions – the illusion that we can prolong our innocence through looking away – is the price we have to pay to bring any real change to the world. We live in in-between times, where one person’s truth is another’s lie. How can that be possible? I’ve never completely bought the old chestnut that there are two sides to every story. Tamir Rice was a thirteen-year-old boy playing in the park. I don’t care what the grand jury said. 

Another slow-motion wreck sucking my attention these days is the continuing saga of the Joe Bray-Ali (photo above) campaign to unseat incumbent City Councilman Gil Cedillo – the 70’s B-movie villain currently ignoring his constituents in Council District 1. As anyone following the story knows, Bray-Ali either had his character assassinated or his true identity revealed last week when LAist broke the story of Bray-Ali’s former career as an Internet troll. The story prompted Bray-Ali to publicly attempt to recreate John Hurt’s chestbuster scene from the first Alien movie. He apologized, but he didn’t do it. He’s only human, but he’s not that guy. He made mistakes, but he was only trying to do the right thing. 

Flailing, he revealed a few other juicy indiscretions (tax evasion, marital infidelity, and tagging, in that order) and promised to explain it all later as he blithely reassumed his campaign persona. Meanwhile, the old Joe came out swinging on a few Facebook threads, where he just couldn’t seem to help himself. In one, he trotted out a list of some of the crazy misdeeds (bigamy anyone?) of our current City Councilmembers, including Mike Bonin’s long-past meth habit. How, one commenter asked, is Bonin’s triumph over addiction comparable to your Mr. Hyde impression on Voat

How indeed? One truth has emerged: Bray-Ali’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington shtick is not exactly the real thing. He’s brash, he’s bold, he’s – either – racist, sexist, and transphobic, or some kind of satirical anthropologist employing the awesome power of the n-word to move us all toward positive social change. 

The question remains whether Bray-Ali’s move-along, nothing-to-see-here approach can sweep him into the Council chambers on May 16th. A few prominent Bray-Ali supporters have jumped ship, while others have either drunk the kool-aide or just admitted they don’t care. I sympathize fully with the impulse to support the lesser of two evils. City Hall needs a shakeup. The question District1 voters have to ask themselves is: how much is too much?

Bray-Ali’s explanations have been satisfying only to the rubberneckers and the kool-aide drinkers. The pen, they say, is mightier than the sword, but, at this point, Bray-Ali needs to get hold of something sharp and cut out the rotten bits. Words just aren’t going to do it this time. As a proponent of the power of language, I’ve never felt so adrift. Debate has evolved away from a means of challenging ideas and into a method of silencing our opponents. Shame, humiliation, degradation, and name-calling – all dressed up as free speech – work only to drive speech into hiding, oblivion, or meaninglessness. Joe Bray-Ali has seen this process from both sides – from give and take – and now he’s in the fight of his life with the beast we’ve all been feeding since the turn of the millennium.

On May 16th, the voters in District 1 have a choice – but the choice is all Joe’s at this point. He needs to find a way to the other side of the wall he’s built for himself. And he needs to do it fast.

 

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

-cw

EASTSIDER-Mendacity is generally defined as “an act of not telling the truth.” It also has a bunch of helpful synonyms, like deceit, deception, falsification, fraud and lying. I think it is a great word, and according to the Cambridge Dictionary, “Politicians are often accused of mendacity.” 

After a great deal of searching, I believe that I have found the poster child for mendacity in the form of California Senator Steven Bardford, who recently introduced SB 163, which makes it easy for political candidates to live outside the district they want to represent. 

Obviously a great mind at work. The reason that we have residency requirements is that we have a new political class, the lifer elected officials who go wherever there are safe races after being termed out in their current gigs. The idea is that, at a minimum, an elected official should live and work in the district that elected him or her. You know, like the pre-term-limits days, when politicians actually had roots in the communities they represented. 

Well, no mas, and if Senator Bradford has his way, no penalty for living far away from the community you seek to represent. 

I am obliged to mention a few examples of elected officials who got in trouble over this. Yvonne Burke, of course, but she got a pass by declining to run again for office. Our very own Richard Alarcon (and his wife) who got convicted of perjury and voter fraud, but later got it tossed out by an appeals court on the grounds that the judge gave “improper jury instructions.” 

On the state level, Senator Roderick Wright got popped for the same thing, lying about where he actually lived. In this case, I guess the jury instructions were ok, because the appeals court upheld the conviction last year. 

While Alarcon and Wright are the poster children for this kind of behavior, they are far from the only ones. As the Sacramento Bee reported back in 2014, there’s a whole list of them.  

Most go unprosecuted, partly because of the fact these are not slam dunk cases, and I suspect most also get a pass because the District Attorneys who should prosecute these cases are elected officials themselves. Take a look at some of these unindicted conspirators in the Bee article. 

What’s even scarier is that the Federal Government, a fountain of legerdemain, simply finesses the whole idea that you should live with the folks you represent. Under their rules, you only have to live in the state where you are running for office. Logical for senators, but for gerrymandered congressional districts? C’mon. 

Under that rubric, Darrell lssa could run to replace Xavier Becerra in the 34th Congressional District special election. Or maybe McClintock. 

Actually, at the federal level running for office where you don’t live has become a favorite sport. Recently, Roger Hernandez ran from outside against Grace Napolitano, who won her own seat by running from outside the district. It’s enough to give a person a headache. 

My personal favorite is Tom McClintock, a seriously conservative republican from Ventura, who makes Rand Paul look like a lefty. Back in the 80s, he ran for office and became an Assemblyman and State Senator, until he termed out. I remember him as a forerunner of Howard Jarvis with his “no new taxes” stance, and in fact, they are joined at the hip to this day. 

Tom ran for almost everything in California outside of the legislature; Controller (1994 and 2002), the recall election over Grey Davis in 2003, and Lieutenant Governor in 2006 -- all unsuccessfully. Thereafter, he abandoned Sacramento. In a masterpiece of irony, Mr. McClintock, a self-stated arbiter of morality and ethics, went all the way up to Sacramento (actually the Gold Rush country east of there) to represent the 4th Congressional District. Long way from Ventura, and a great graphic example of what I’m talking about in residency requirements. 

The Takeaway 

The first question is whether or not this residency stuff is cheating. You bet it is, and it is an insidious craven kind of cheating, further insulating our elected officials from us, the troops. It also encourages the lifetime permanent politician class, since they can move from place to place depending on their best shot to have the lobbyists, special interests, and political consulting firms get them their next gig in the ladder of the lifer politician. 

In other words, this system blows a hole in the term limits laws akin to “the mother of all bombs.” 

People who we elect from geographically created districts are supposed to live in those districts -- hopefully to even work, live and play there. That provides the essential connection between us and those who govern us. Otherwise, they might as well all simply live in Sacramento, or Washington, or LAX, or in homes bought for them by lobbyists. 

I believe that by “legalizing” a felony, the author is guilty of compounding a felony to help out the political class -- thus eliminating any sense of actual physical connection to the governed. As such, I award Senator Steven Bradford the first Bodacious Mendacity award! And yes, it is a really, really great award. 

(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.

RACE RIOT OR NOT?-The 25th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles civil disturbance is at hand, and the corporate media again routinely portray this historic event as a race riot resulting from the acquittal of four policemen who viciously beat up Rodney King, an African-American motorist. The media then systematically report that inter-ethnic and police-community relations in Los Angeles are much improved. Case closed since another “riot” is no longer in the cards. 

But was this event really a race riot – not a class riot based on extreme inequality -- and have its underlying causes been truly ameliorated by overhauling the Los Angeles Police Department and reporting improved inter-ethnic relations? 

The answers do not just depend on facts. They also depend on which theory of racism you subscribe to. While the facts are extraordinarily complex, we do know the following: 

The civil disturbance lasted for three days, from Thursday, April 29 to Saturday, May 1, 1992, although the City of Los Angeles maintained curfews and marshal law until the following Monday, for a full five days. When the city lifted the curfew, there was short-term intervention by public agencies to aid residents and businesses whose structures were damaged or destroyed during the event. This was soon followed by Re-Build LA (1992-97) a private sector initiative whose legacy is 259 boxes of non-digitized files at the Loyal-Marymount University library. There was also the official Christopher Commission report, whose focus was the conduct of the LAPD, including police reform proposals. 

But there were no prosecutions related to the 55 people slain between Thursday and Saturday. The media suggested they were victims of random bullets or other rioters shot them during looting. Since there is no evidence for these suspicions, it is just as likely that police officers or merchants protecting their buildings and stores murdered these 55 people. 

Based on the number of people arrested, (between 10,000 -13,000 of whom 52 percent were Latino, 10 percent white, and 38 percent Black), wounded (4,000), deported (several hundred), killed (55), looted or torched buildings (4,000), lost jobs (40,000), and damaged property ($1 billion in 1992 dollars), this was the second most destructive civil disturbance in U.S. history. Only New York City’s 1863 anti-draft riot was larger! While the two events are similar in their length and damage, they have a major difference. Historians have extensively researched the 1863 insurrection in New York City, while, at least until its 25th anniversary, social scientists, public officials, filmmakers, artists, pundits, and journalists mostly ignored the 1992 Los Angeles event. 

It is the perfect example of a structured absence, an epochal historical event that has been methodically overlooked for a quarter century. In the language of George Orwell’s “1984,” it was flushed down the memory hole. 

Based on my reconstruction, LA’s 1992 civil disturbance moved through three stages

Stage 1 began in the late afternoon of Thursday, April 29, after the Simi Valley acquittals of the four police officers who attacked Rodney King. The response was largely spontaneous, beginning with several widely rebroadcast televised incidences of inter-racial violence in a largely African-American neighborhood. 

By the end of Thursday afternoon, looting and arson also began. It targeted particularly disliked stores and swap meets. Most ominously, an enormous cloud of dark smoke enveloped Los Angeles. In non-riot areas, such as West LA, pandemonium resulted. Nearly all employees left work early to join their families at home, picking up children at schools where teachers and staff refused to remain on-site. 

There were also more spontaneous events protesting the trial in different parts of the Los Angeles, mostly minority neighborhoods in south Los Angeles and Pico/Union, with pervasive political graffiti, typically “No Justice, No Peace." Demonstrators also targeted and torched overtly political targets. These included a military recruitment center, a City of Los Angeles multi-agency office that included an African-American LA City Council member’s field office, as well as many black-owned businesses. 

One of the most interesting political targets was a commercial center, WLCAC, funded through anti-poverty programs. Local residents physically chased its founder, Ted Watkins, through WLCAC’s grounds, but he managed to escape. 

By Thursday evening, on the streets of south Los Angeles, one of the locations where the rebellion began, a party atmosphere developed without any evidence of racial or ethnic friction, partially explaining why whites comprised 10 percent of those arrested. People were just people, partying on the streets, often sharing “free” consumer items grabbed from the stores. 

As for the notoriously brutal Los Angeles Police Department, they were stunned by events. They withdrew from the epicenter and only watched events. Likewise the Los Angeles Fire Department was overwhelmed, and it could not save many buildings. 

As a result, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Marshal Law and imposed a curfew, eventually on the entire city. He also requested intervention from the State of California and Federal Government. They responded on Friday, sending in the National Guard from northern California, as well as the California Highway Patrol, Federal marshals, police and sheriff brigades from many other jurisdictions, and Marines from Camp Pendleton. 

These complex events, though anecdotal, belie the media spin that Los Angeles had a race riot, similar to many American cities at the end of World War I, or a 1960s-style ghetto rebellion. 

Stage 2 was the second day, when 4,000 federalized National Guard troops arrived in Los Angeles to augment the overwhelmed Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff. Nevertheless, this is when most of the arson and looting took place. Near my house, in Los Angeles’ Miracle Mile area, I watched people ram a station wagon through an appliance store plate glass window and then fill up their car with TVs. 

I also remember hearing radio news reports about looting at a drug store on Western Avenue, north of the I-10, in what we now call Koreatown. The reporter described a completely multi-racial crowd consisting of Asians, Latinos, Blacks, and Anglos, all grabbing consumer goods off the shelves. It was during this second day that the civil disturbance spread over the entire Los Angeles metropolitan area, and also leapfrogged to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Tampa, Seattle, Toronto, Washington, DC, and even several European cities. 

Stage 3 appeared on Saturday, after most of the political protests and high intensity “discount shopping” subsided. At this point, organized crime joined the fray, targeting specific stores, such as Samy’s Camera, which was then located on Beverly Boulevard near LaBrea. At the camera store men armed with automatic weapons held neighbors at bay while they shot the locks off of the door. 

They then went into the store and selectively grabbed the most expensive camera equipment. By this time the entire city was under Marshal Law and police forces and federal troops patrolled the entire city until May 24, including areas that had or little or no demonstrations, looting, or fires. The press reported that the National Guardsmen’s rifles were loaded and aimed at pedestrians, with the safeties turned off, as they patrolled LA’s streets in military trucks. 

Saturday, by the way, was also May Day. Despite the enormous police and military presence, there were May Day rallies in Watts and in downtown Los Angeles, along with many smaller demonstrations focused on police misconduct and poverty issues. These events were highly political and were met with an enormous inter-agency police response, but no one was attacked or arrested for demonstrating. 

How do we interpret this story? 

Clearly, most press coverage continues to portray these events as a race riot. The total militarization of the civil disturbance was presented as efforts by elected officials to protect the public, not commercial property or institutions, even though much of the subsequent Federal and Rebuild LA aid efforts focused on rebuilding stores that had been looted or burnt down. 

Nevertheless, a look at immediate press coverage, such as the next issue of Newsweek, presented the uprising as a class riot, a conflict between have-nots and haves. It was only later that government and media spin machines repackaged this civil disturbance, with its major multi-racial class component, as a race riot, not an economic uprising suppressed by an integrated military and police response. 

Nevertheless, the overwhelming data and analysis confirms that the 1992 civil disturbance was primarily an urban rebellion focused on property, with strong political and economic components, not a race riot. The misperception that it was a race riot largely results from the several televised racial attacks at the very beginning of the events. Furthermore, by focusing on the ethnicity of burned-out merchants, rather than their economic role, many television viewers were also misled to believe that the attacks on their stores were racially based. 

Which Theory of Racism? The classic theory of race relations, developed by W.E.B. DuBois and Oliver Cox, dominated social science until the 1940's. It considered racism to be institutional. It originated with slavery and colonialism and evolved into laws maintaining apartheid and segregation, supporting ideologies and social-psychological attitudes (prejudice), and discriminatory acts, usually called bias and bigotry. According to this theory, the purpose of these laws and beliefs is to sustain economic exploitation in which some ethnic or racial groups are super-exploited. Because racism generates so much inequality and because this inequality then produces acts of individual and collective resistance, geographical segregation usually allows this resistance to be quarantined. 

According to this theory, prejudiced attitudes and prejudiced behavior, including racist mobs and pogroms, result from racism. They are not its cause. This theory, interprets LA’s 1992 civil disturbance as primarily a multi-racial urban rebellion directed against business and government institutions that the participants held responsible for economic exploitation and political repression. Scattered incidences of interracial violence were not the main event. 

The competing contact theory of racism presents the 1992 Los Angeles civil disturbance as a race riot in which the Simi Valley trial acquittal of white police officers provoked anti-white violence by African-Americans. This theory is based on ideas of supposedly innate ethnocentrism and xenophobia refined in the 1940s through such famous scholars as Gunnar Myrdal, author of An American Dilemma.” The contact theory has been the dominant theory in the field of race and ethnic relations ever since. It argues that racial and ethnic categories are obvious and self-evident to people. Individuals automatically know which ethnic or racial group they are in and what groups other people are in. They largely and “naturally” see the world divided into these various national and sub-national groups. 

Humans are essentially genetically hardwired to see their own group positively (ethnocentrism) and other groups negatively (xenophobia). When different groups have contact, these natural processes kick in. At the more benign end of the contact spectrum, prejudice spontaneously appears. At the extreme end, inter-racial or inter-ethnic contact results in violent race riots, sometimes even in genocide. According to this theory, contact produces “organic” prejudice resulting from people reacting negatively to obviously perceptible group differences. These prejudiced attitudes, in turn, result in prejudiced behavior, which aggregates into racist practices and patterns. 

In terms of Los Angeles, there are scattered facts that support the contact theory, such as the televised beating of a white, Latino, and Asian motorist. Others point to the burning of Korean-owned stores in many neighborhoods. 

As for the arson and looting, the same acts occurred in the 1965 Watts Rebellion, but then the target was another middleman minority, Jews. In both cases, scattered merchants were burnt out, with little evidence that their ethnicity, rather than their economic niche, was the cause of arson. 

Furthermore, in the case of 1992, many of the merchants who got burnt out operated in Latino neighborhoods, like Koreatown, which had nothing to do with Black grievances against the police. In fact, the 1992 statistics indicate that the LAPD arrested more Latinos than Blacks, yet the press never reported widespread friction between Latinos and Koreans. 

My conclusion is that the overwhelming data confirms that the 1992 civil disturbance was primarily an urban rebellion based on economic inequality, not a race riot. Newsweek was correct when they called it a class riot. Furthermore, the role of the police, reinforced by the corporate media for over two decades, was to stop the rebellion, protect property, and squelch its political dimension, not separate warring racial and ethnic groups. 

This leads to the next question, then. Could it happen again? According to the most recent public opinion poll, conducted by Loyola Marymount University, an increasing number of Angelinos – over a majority -- think another civil disturbance is likely to happen. According to the lead investigator, Prof. Fernando Guerra, “Economic disparity continues to increase, and at the end of the day, that is what causes disruption. . . People are trying to get along and want to get along, but they understand economic tension boils over to political and social tension.” 

Considering City Hall’s role in promoting economic inequality through real estate speculation, General Plan Amendments and Zone Changes benefiting property owners, wide scale demolitions and dislocation, and the resulting gentrification, the public is not apparently bamboozled by reports of LAPD reforms and feel good stories about ethnic fusion restaurants.

 

(Dick Platkin reports on local planning issues for City Watch. Progressive Planning published an earlier version of this article. Please send any questions, comments, or corrections to: rhplatkin@gmail.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

EDUCATION POLITICS-One of the most disturbing and regrettable trends in today's news reporting is the systematic and often premeditated failure to even mention highly relevant facts that, if addressed, would cause the reader to come up with a completely different interpretation or conclusion. 

A recent case in point can be found in KPCC 89.3 FM reporter Kyle Stokes' article: What should LAUSD do about its ballooning benefits costs?  Stokes approaches this issue through the respective positions of incumbent LAUSD Board Member Steve Zimmer and his challenger, charter schools-backed opponent Nick Melvoin. He asks each how he would deal with the looming $13.6 billion unfunded health and other benefits package obligations, but nowhere in the article does he mention that, for the last eight years, LAUSD has been "dealing" with this problem by systematically and illegally targeting and removing (with fabricated charges) teachers at the top of the salary scale and/or others about to vest in expensive lifetime health or other retirement benefits. 

Approximately 93% of the thousands of teachers who have and continue to be targeted for removal from their senior teaching positions at LAUSD find it difficult to get others to believe that they did nothing wrong or that this kind of heinous, illegal behavior is even going on. People just don't want to think the LAUSD administration would have any motive for acting this way. 

If nothing else, the magnitude of how far in the red LAUSD is with its health and other benefits programs offers an even greater motivation for LAUSD to target its more senior, expensive employees. To quote the late Vito Corleone, "It's just business." 

And why hasn't the State of California gone after LAUSD to defend these senior teachers and other targeted certificated and classified employees? If (and more likely when) LAUSD goes bankrupt, it’s the State of California that will be left holding the bag to bail them out. This clearly represents a conflict of interest for the state when it comes to defending wrongfully charged teachers whose greatest actual "crime" is being too expensive.

But if LAUSD can save $60,000 a year in salary and benefits a piece by getting rid of high seniority teachers -- in an attempt to balance the benefits budget that is billions in the red and could bankrupt the system in the next two years -- then perhaps LAUSD’s reprehensible actions against its targeted employees will offer a compelling reason for someone in a position of legal or journalistic authority to ask what the hell is going on. After all, it's not as if LAUSD has made any attempt to hide what they have been doing. 

KPCC's Kyle Stokes feels compelled to disclose in his article that Professor Fernando Guerra of Loyola-Marymount, who he cites, is on the KPCC Board. However, when it comes to disclosing the significantly more relevant information about how much money KPCC receives from corporate-controlled foundations that are moving to privatize public education with non-profit charters run by for-profit corporations, that somehow is not worthy of discussion.

 

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

 

CORRUPTION WATCH-Twenty-five years after the 1992 LA Insurrection, we are deluged by retrospectives and analyses. Many of them are excellent. All ignore one of the bedrock causes – a corrupt judicial system. 

As some of the documentaries mention in passing, many Blacks believed that finally with the trial of the four police officers, there would be some modicum of justice. After decades of being harassed, beaten and railroaded into prison by a predatory police department, many believed that the Rodney King case would hold the occupying army to an accounting.   

The judicial system played a far greater role in causing the uprising than by merely moving the trial to a bedroom community of police officers. For decades judges in the criminal courts had been lynchpins in the abuse, unjust jailing, and murders of Blacks by “the system.” After the disgraceful judicial elections in 1986 where the public had thrown three justices off the Supreme Court for not killing enough people, trial court judges knew their careers were tied to a high conviction rate. While one appellate decision had tried to stop these abusive judges by limiting the use of lying jailhouse informants to railroad people into prison, the bulk of those judges were of like mind: “if they’re not guilty of this, they’re guilty of something.” 

While the “white” community still lives in denial of the corrupt nature of the judicial system, the Black community was (and still is) not so naive. That knowledge was a major factor in the explosion after the Rodney King verdicts. Even with videotaped evidence, the courts made certain that the police officers were set free. The Black community knew that calling the courts “halls of justice” was a mockery and a fraud. 

Back then, as now, society lived in denial. While the LAPD was an occupying force, no one would admit that the ring leaders of the predatory system were the judges who knew their careers were buttered on the side of brutalizing minorities. Judges did far more than look the other way at police perjury or the concealing of exculpatory evidence. Some judges engaged in witness intimidation and active collusion with assistant DAs in order to convict people without regard as to whether or not they were guilty. 

Many judges like Judge Jacqueline Connor had served as Assistant District Attorneys and were not only aware of the perjury and falsification of evidence -- they expected it, they encouraged it, and they engaged in it. When Judge Connor was upset that a witness in a case pending before her had rebuffed the DA’s demand that he commit perjury in order to support a falsified police report, Judge Connor lodged a bogus complaint against the witness with the State Bar. The witness happened to be a lawyer. Her State Bar complaint was structured to sound as if it had been made by the defendant, but she insisted that the State bar keep her identity a keep secret. 

After her bogus complaint was revealed as judicial obstruction of justice, the Commission on Judicial Performance found that it was fine for a judge to intimidate a witness in a case pending in her courtroom. That was after the 1992 Insurrection, but before the Ramparts Scandal, where the criminal court judges, including Judge Connor, again played a key role. 

The Christopher Commission Report covered-up the role that judges played in the years of civil rights abuses; everyone blamed only the LAPD. While there is no doubt the officers did many horrible things (like attempting to murder Javier Ovando  and when he was only paralyzed, prosecuting him for attempting to kill the police officers) the judges also played a pivotal role in the misconduct. They had the power to stop these gross injustices against Blacks and Latinos and others who displeased the police. Not only could the judges have held police officers who committed perjury responsible, they could have held the prosecutors who used perjured testimony liable for their misconduct. Instead, some judges showed prosecutors how to intimidate witnesses.

Mentioning the existence of corrupt judges has always been taboo. As related in a prior CityWatch article, some federal judges have recently begun a crusade against prosecutorial misconduct, but they also tippy-toe around the role played by California state court judges. Judge Kozinski indirectly blames the state courts by saying that they suffer from an “epidemic of misconduct” because judges “turn a blind eye” to misconduct. 

On both the criminal and civil sides, judges and justices do far more than “turn a blind eye.” They actively encourage and engage in hideous misconduct, turning the state court system into a capricious scourge on the Constitution in which no one can predict when an abusive judge will alter evidence, lie outright in his or her opinions to railroad innocent people, or intimidate attorneys into abandoning their clients. 

Federal Judge Jay S. Bybee, in writing his concurring opinion in Curiel v Miller, (2016) 830 F.3d 864, suggested that the California Supreme Court needs a new composition, beginning with a new Chief Justice. Leopards do not change their spots and criminally abusive judges and justices of the California judiciary are not going to reform themselves.   

Will the corrupt judiciary result in another insurrection in South Los Angeles? Probably not. Much of the Black community has dispersed to the Inland Empire and north to the Newhall area, if not completely out of state. The area is now heavily Latino. To the extent it has “illegals,” the community knows the necessity of keeping a very low profile. Garcetti’s gentrification should soon further decimate the community, but that does not mean that judicial abuse will stop. 

Just because certain demographic changes indicate that LA won’t have the same reaction in the same place where it occurred in 1967 and 1992 does not mean society itself is safe from a corrupt judiciary. Wherever they live, minorities and the poor will be disproportionately victimized by abusive judges. Others are foolishly naive if they think that a lighter shade of skin makes them safe from the same judicial injustices.

  

(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

TRAFFIC WATCH--According to The New York Times, the car used to be “king” in the city (municipality) of Los Angeles. “'A Different Los Angeles', The City Moves to Alter its Sprawling Image,” was another story that seeks to portray the nation’s second largest municipality as having fundamentally changed.

Following this now popular meme, a Slate story in 2016 referred to Los Angeles becoming “America’s next great transit city.” Los Angeles has surely become America’s greatest transit tax city, with Los Angeles County voters in 2016 approving a fourth half-cent sales tax increase principally for transit since 1980. Yet transit's market share has fallen, not only in the nation's largest county but even in the city of Los Angeles.

The Ascent of Transit: A False Narrative

The Los Angeles political establishment and media is virtually unanimous in its praise for the now quarter century old rail system. Yet, despite more than $15 billion being spent on rail transit the already meager levels of transit commuting in the city have fallen further, while solo driving has risen to an all time high. Unless platitudes are more important than results, rail’s success is a false narrative. People are driving more and using transit less according to the American Community Survey for 2015.

The share of city of Los Angeles residents commuting by transit fell from 11.2 percent in 2010 to 9.5 percent in 2015 (Figure 1, note truncated axis). The 2010 figure was the highest decennial census year transit figure in the period starting in 1980. Just five years later, in 2015, however, the city of Los Angeles transit commuting share had fallen below 1980 levels.

In 1980, 10.8 percent of the city’s commuters used transit, a figure that fell to 10.5 percent just before the initial Long Beach “Blue Line” opened in 1990. While new light rail lines and the Metro (subway) line opened after 1990, transit’s market share fell further, to 10.1 percent by 2010. During the 2000s, transit commuting rose 1.1 percentage points to the 11.2 percent figure, propelled by unprecedented gasoline price increases. But progress was short-lived as the share dropped to 9.5 percent in 2015.

City of Los Angeles Surge in Driving Alone

At the same time, commuters were turning even more to driving alone. In 2015, 69.8 percent of work trip access was by solo drivers. This represents a substantial increase from the 66.8 percent drive alone share in 2010. From 1980 to 2010, driving alone edged up slightly, much less than the increase in the last five years. In 1980, 65.1 percent of commuters drove alone. In 1990, a nearly identical 65.2 percent drove alone. In the last five years, driving alone has risen more than the entire previous 30-year increase in the city of Los Angeles.

The news could get worse. According to new American Public Transportation (APTA) data, total ridership on all Los Angeles County MTA services dropped more than five percent from 2016. The APTA reported decline is astounding, since the highly touted extension of the Expo light rail line to downtown Santa Monica opened in 2016. Even more astounding is that the expensive, at least seven line (counted at radial line ends plus the transverse Green Line) system has added not a soul to transit ridership on the Los Angeles MTA bus and rail system since 1985. Not all MTA service is in the city of Los Angeles, however, the APTA data could presage a further transit market share decline in the city with the American Community Survey data due in the Autumn.

All of this is consistent with the larger trend in the Los Angeles metropolitan area (which includes Los Angeles and Orange Counties). Overall, the transit work trip market share in the metropolitan area fell from 6.1 percent in 2010 to 5.1 percent in 2015. The MTA 2016 decline is likely to push this figure lower.

The Illusion of a "Different Los Angeles"

Yet to read the press and media accounts in Los Angeles, one might be inclined to believe an alternate reality that LA transit is ascendant.

Christopher Hawthorne, who teaches urban and environment policy at Occidental College told The New York Times that the recent defeat of a development moratorium, along with approval of the transit tax and an affordable housing measure is “a very clear statement from the voters that they want a different Los Angeles.”

The voters may want a different Los Angeles, but apparently commuters are sufficiently happy with driving and have been for the more than a quarter century since rail transit was restored to Los Angeles. This is not surprising, since the average commuter can reach 60 times as many jobs by car in 30 minutes in the Los Angeles metropolitan area as by transit. (30 minutes is the average one-way commute time in the metropolitan area). Data is not available for the city of Los Angeles (see: “Access in the City”). 

However, it is a generally hopeless task for transit to be an alternative to the automobile, except for trips to and from the urban core (downtown and nearby). The reality is that it could take as much as the total income, every year, of a metropolitan area to provide transit that could effectively compete with the car throughout a metropolitan area for work and other trips.

Platitudes do not ride, people do. At least with respect to the implied transit ridership increases and forsaken cars, the “different” Los Angeles is an illusion, completely inconsistent with reality.

(Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is a Senior Fellow of the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (US), Senior Fellow for Housing Affordability and Municipal Policy for the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (Canada), and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Center for Demographics and Policy at Chapman University. This perspective was posted originally at New Geography.

-cw

DEEGAN ON LA-One of the city’s under-publicized scandals is the long-running shotgun marriage between city council members and developers using the Ellis Act to force tenant evictions throughout the city. 

Anyone that has been caught in this compact between developers and council members knows how devastating these evictions can be. They lead to despair, sometimes homelessness, and definitely serve to shut down affordable housing in neighborhoods since any replacement housing is priced at higher, market rate levels. 

Once today’s affordable housing is removed there will be no substitute -- just new housing at significantly higher prices. Once affordable rent-control housing is taken away, it is gone forever. 

A degree of unscrupulousness is evident and not surprising when you consider that, according to the Coalition For Economic Survival, “Ellis Act evictions are being done by developers who have owned the property less than a year…[and have] “been corrupted by large developers whose sole objective is to acquire rent-control housing, destroy it, evict tenants and replace the existing housing with high-priced luxury housing.” 

The Ellis Act is a three-decade old state law originally intended to help small landlords exit the rental business, but developers have figured out how to use it to drive their profit engines. Twenty-thousand rent-controlled units, home to low and moderate income tenants, seniors, disabled and working families, were destroyed between 2001 and 2016, according to CES. 

The long and abusive use of Ellis Act evictions throughout the city is reflected on this map that was created by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project and the Coalition for Economic Survival. 

Could that be changing? 

Help may be on the way for tenants at risk of being evicted by landlords that use the Ellis Act, a state law with good intentions enacted in the 1980’s originally intended to help small landlords exit the rental business, but that has morphed into a device to vacate a building so it can be turned by developers into condos or market rate housing. 

Two motions passed by the LA City Council in the past couple of sessions may bring some order, as well as some relief for tenants. One, Motion CF14-0268-S5“to modify the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) in order to strengthen provisions relating to the enforcement of the Ellis Act and the preservation of RSO units,” was signed into law by the Mayor on April 19. 

The other is Motion CF17-0203, directing “the HCID (Housing + Community Investment Department) and the Planning Department to track the cumulative net gain/loss of affordable housing units [i.e. covenanted units and RSO units] in the City, and regularly post this information online as a public dashboard that includes cumulative data as well as annual and quarterly accounting.” 

There are currently 630,000 units stabilized with caps on rent increases and additional protections for tenants under the City’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance. That’s what will be tracked. 

Together, these motions and the apparent new understanding by council members of the crisis state of Ellis Act evictions should help ease anxieties by tenants that their housing will be swept away from under them. 

Both motions passed without dissent, although not all council members voted. The motion to modify RSO’s was introduced by Gil Cedillo (CD1) (in the heat of a very tight race to retain his council seat) and seconded by Mike Bonin (CD11). Council members Jose Huizar (CD14) and Joe Buscaino (CD15) were absent for the vote. 

Huizar may have missed one important vote, but was key in the second vote to track housing by introducing the motion that was seconded by Marqueece Harris-Dawson (CD8). All council members voted for that one except Paul Krekorian (CD2), who was absent for the vote. 

This more clearly brings into focus and lets the council members understand what tenants already know: that they are being squeezed out of affordable housing in neighborhoods they call “home.” To tell an evicted tenant there is “affordable housing” at another, more distant location, is not a viable solution. 

Time will tell how serious the politicos are about reining in the out-of-control developers. Council members Huizar and Cedillo serve on the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) committee (Huizar is chair) so they are in the catbird seats to be among the most vigilant observers and enforcers of land use and development in the city. Now, with these two motions, they have some added resources to protect renters.

 

(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 timdeegan2015@gmail.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

KEY RACE VOTER GUIDE--The many resistance marches in this ‘speak up’ era make me optimistic and are encouraging, but what about increasing and improving engagement and participation in local elections?

I understand and appreciate that this upcoming Los Angeles election is the penultimate election of the year (Jimmy Gomez and Robert Lee Ahn will face off in another local election for the 34th Congressional District on Tuesday, June 6, a special election forced after Xavier Becerra left Congress to become California’s Attorney General) and that soon enough local elections will coincide with national elections. All that’s a good thing, in my opinion.

Local elections matter. Working families need to be able to count to eight on the Los Angeles City Council. Can we? How far over can the LAUSD board bend for the Charter Schools’ lobby? As current schoolboard member Steve Zimmer said, just after the election: “Looking ahead to the runoff, Zimmer said he hoped that voters understood what’s at stake. 

‘Voters have a stark choice,’ he said, ‘between whether we can make more dreams come true for kids through working together with our teachers and parents or whether we’re going to return to the politics of conflict, competition and confrontation.’”

“Why, you may ask, is this special election taking place on April 4, a month after the un-special municipal primary and six weeks before the even less special municipal general election? Because election officials are heartless and cruel.” Hillel Aron explains it all in the LA Weekly: Yes, Los Angeles, It's Time for Another Election.

And in the March 15 LA Weekly he sets us all a bit straighter on the actual turnout numbers in Los Angeles city elections (what HAS happened to Mariel Garza’s objectivity?): Actually, Voter Turnout in L.A.'s Last Election Wasn't That Bad There’s a graph, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The [above] chart, put together by Mitchell for the delight of his Twitter followers, shows voter turnout in LA municipal elections since 2003. It excludes even-year statewide and national elections, which have much higher turnout. As you can see, projected turnout for the 2017 primary election – 18.5 percent – dwarfs  the 11 percent turnout of 2015, when there was no mayor's race. It fell a bit short of the 21 percent turnout in 2013 – but that was a highly competitive mayor's race to fill an open seat. 

“The most recent citywide election where, like this year, a mayor was running for a second term was in 2009, when Antonio Villaraigosa was up for re-election. That year, turnout was ... 18 percent. Exactly what it was this year.

“‘If people were looking for signs that you’re going to have this crazy engaged electorate in every election now that people are protesting in the airports and watching Sean Spicer press conferences, if you were to think that that would lead to more people voting, you’d be wrong,’ Mitchell says. ‘This turnout seems to be pretty consistent with prior past elections.’”

We vote, we win. The more people who register and vote, the better off we’ll all be.

Speaking about upcoming local elections, I’m as mired in that muck as anyone else plus I spent 20+ years driving Figueroa. And while I’ve witnessed incumbents voted off the City Council beyond MAV (Joy Picus and Joan Milke Flores to name two) I’ve never, ever seen the LA Times withdraw an endorsement

Me? I love reading Tony Butka’s writing on northeast Los Angeles. He thinks what I think about the race in CD 1

“I also like Gil. He’s a hard guy to get to know, and he does not have that “hi, how are ya’” plastic veneer of the true professional politician -- like Eric Garcetti or Herb Wesson, who smile at you even though they’d do you in without even a flicker of emotion. At the same time, I know that Gil has always had a real passion for the under-represented like the undocumented and dreamers, even though those people mostly don’t vote and have a very healthy distrust of government. He’s demonstrated these qualities going all the way back to when he ran SEIU Local 660 (now SEIU Local 721) in LA County. And that was at a time when these opinions were not without controversy. Same for the California state legislature.” 

Here's one of the “grafs” that irked me most:

“Cedillo was a champion for immigrants during his time in the state Legislature, particularly those who are undocumented, and that good will surely counted for a lot in this heavily immigrant district. But how long can he coast on that?” Mariel Garza opinion piece in the LA Times on March 20 

I know Gil Cedillo, and he’s never coasted, not now, not ever.

   

 

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

-cw

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EDUCATION POLITICS--LAUSD keeps trying to put its technology demons behind it. But the ghost of tech projects past is still haunting. Yesterday, it visited the school board room during a Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee (BOC) hearing. 

At the meeting, Chief Information Officer Chief Shahryar Khazei promised an end to the past streak of “massive failures of Biblical proportions,” such as the iPad scandal and the MiSiS crisis (student information system) that sent former superintendent John Deasy packing. 

But a sweeping technology agenda item #7 (page 81), encompassing four huge projects, seemed awfully resistant to being coaxed into the light. What could be seen looked eerily familiar. All were being pushed by LAUSD administrative staff without any meaningful public input. 

The four projects: 

  • Learning Management System – $23 Million – A platform that allows for personalized learning, online gradebook, deployment of professional development, teacher/student/parent communication, teacher collaboration, and integration with other instructional tools. 
  • Unified Enrollment System – $24 Million – Unified Enrollment will provide a one-stop online search engine and application system that allows families to locate and save their school program preferences, rank schools, submit a placement application. 
  • Enterprise Reporting System – $8 Million – A self-service report generator for MiSiS, Welligent, MyData (existing data systems). 
  • 40 School Telecommunications Modernization Projects – $24 Million – Replacement of telephone and P.A. systems at school sites. 

That last one might be the only project that seemed to reflect what voters intended when they passed five school bond measures. Is an enrollment system used in a school district’s central office an operating expense? If so, it might need to be paid for out of the General Fund rather than the Bond Fund. The BOC seemed unconcerned about that though. 

Standing at the bond trough, administration staff from the I.T. department strangely touted the Learning Management system as so good that the country of Uruguay uses it. 

Really. 

The Learning Management system and Unified Enrollment system raised so many questions that two committee members tried to divide the matter to allow the other two projects to be voted on unencumbered. Ultimately, all four projects remained together, but a vote failed for lack of a quorum. Why the BOC bothered to vote without enough active members present is a mystery. Only six of the Committee’s ten members even attended the meeting, and a whopping four of the 15 seats are vacant.

Without a recommendation from the BOC, the projects are still expected to advance to the School Board for its May 9 meeting. The rules call for a hearing, not for approval. 

Whether the School Board will vote without the information that seemed to be lacking for the BOC is anybody’s guess. With the Unified Enrollment alone having a price tag of $24 million, one would think that both the advisory BOC and the School Board would get to see a budget, or at least a list of items that the $24 million would buy. Or is it lease? Or is it develop? Is it hardware or software? Is training for users included? We don’t know because the RFP #2000001340 is under a “Cone of Silence”.

BOC member Rachel Greene got the stink eye more than once during the meeting, maybe for interrupting the expedited presentation to ask some exploratory questions. Greene, a parent who represents the PTA on the committee, wondered if the School Board had even voted on a policy of Unified Enrollment before the BOC would approve spending $24 million to implement it. She said that before heading down the road toward what might be a district wide enrollment lottery system, it would be helpful to know the Board’s policy intent. 

“Cart before the horse?” she asked. 

CEO of Project Management and Digital Innovation, Diane Pappas tried to reassure the BOC by explaining that they had been meeting privately in individual board members’ offices and had gotten their buy-in. 

So much for public scrutiny.

Continuing to make their pitch, I.T. staff said that of course the Board backed this policy. After all, Unified Enrollment was even in Superintendent Michelle King’s Strategic Plan. 

They must have missed the memo -- or news articles -- reporting the Board’s refusal to vote on the Superintendent’s Strategic Plan. 

If this is where the Unified Enrollment policy exists, it hasn’t been approved by the Board. So far, all we have are sales jobs. (I wrote last week about the slick presentation at the Early Childhood and Parent Engagement Committee meeting.) 

BOC member Greene's comment about approving a bond before approving the policy that justified it applies equally to the whole process. Instead of a truly public process, the LAUSD administration seems to have done an end run: a sales job on the Board of Education in private meetings, without the benefit of input from critical or moderating points of view. It seems the BOC was expected to harvest in public what had already been planted and watered in private. A thumbs-up from the little-known BOC would have taken the heat off the Board of Education and made its vote a foregone conclusion. 

It seems the only lesson we’ve learned from the iPad fiasco is that the iPad deal was bad, but nothing about the flaws in the process that produced that terrible deal. 

Let’s bring the ghost out into the spotlight. We’ll look at who’s driving this in my next post.

Concerned about LAUSD's Universal Enrollment? E-mail, call or write your school board member:


  213-241-6387
Steve.Zimmer@lausd.net
  213-241-6385
Richard.Vladovic@lausd.net
  213-241-6388
Monica.Ratliff@lausd.net
  213-241-6382
George.McKenna@lausd.net
  213-241-5555
Ref.Rodriguez@lausd.net
  213-241-6180
Monica.Garcia@lausd.net
  213-241-8333
Scott.Schmerelson@lausd.net 

And the Superintendent:
superintendent@lausd.net 
213-241-7000

 

 

(Karen Wolfe is a public school parent, the Executive Director of PS Connect and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

@THE GUSS REPORT-Say hello to Judi, a perfect dog I rescued from the deadly Los Angeles Animal Service’s East Valley shelter several years back. Her story is a perfect example of just one of the ways that LAAS loses millions of dollars each year while city officials look the other way.

This is a perfect week to tell Judi’s story because City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee addresses departmental budgets for the coming fiscal year, including that of LAAS, starting on Monday. 

In the City of Los Angeles, the vast majority of dogs are unlicensed. If your dog happens to have one, and you ignore the “official” license renewal postcard from LAAS, your and Rover’s names will be purged from the system and you will never get another notice asking for that money. That’s never as in ever. 

Take a look at that postcard. 

It has no dog’s name, license number, amount owed, due date or whether proof of inoculations or spay/neuter is needed. It is no wonder that despite ongoing pet population problems and no spay/neuter law, LAAS sells roughly the same 100,000 dog licenses annually for a city that – a decade ago – was estimated by Mayor Villaraigosa’s office to have more than 1 million dogs! People simply ignore the cards and the city stops asking to be paid. 

LAAS loses that money not only for that year, but for each subsequent year of each dog’s life. And that’s not counting the hundreds of thousands of dogs who were never licensed in the first place.

Do you know whose names fell out of the system when they ignored LAAS’s dog license renewal postcard? None other than City Council president Herb Wesson and his Pro Tem Mitch Englander, both of whom were delinquent for years, and who only paid what they owed after I made a Public Records Act request for those records, though LAAS now refuses to turn over other such records.   Wesson paid a late fee for each year his licenses were past due, but Englander did not; more lost revenue. 

Not that LAAS does, or ever has, used money wisely, efficiently and honestly, but LAAS’s financial failures result in poor care for the city’s homeless animals; lack of fully funded spay/neuter programs; un-air conditioned transport vehicles for the animals in sweltering weather; and as my CW colleague Phyllis Daugherty regularly points out,  severe understaffing at LAAS (both in the shelters and an embarrassingly low number of Animal Control Officers out in the field) has resulted in life-threatening injuries so much so that a loss of life seems inevitable. 

This was one of the issues I documented with precision at Wesson’s request after our lengthy meeting in his office on January 3, 2014 during which he said he would call for an audit – guaranteeing that it would be seconded by City Councilmember Paul Koretz (“to give Koretz cover”). But Galperin’s audit sidestepped each of the LAAS issues identified for him, presumably to keep them from embarrassing Mayor Garcetti. For two years, Galperin dodged doing an interview on his audit and now that it is two years later, after agreeing to do an interview, he has stated through his spokesperson, that the audit is now ancient history

Each year that LAAS did not send a license renewal for Judi, I contacted LAAS GM Brenda Barnette. Nothing was resolved, and most years, no reply. 

In 2014, I again contacted Barnette, Councilmember Paul Koretz (whose committee oversees LAAS), Barnette’s Assistant GM John Chavez, Garcetti’s LAAS Commissioners and their administrative aide, and Patty Whelan, who at that time, was Garcetti’s liaison to LAAS, though her primary “qualification” for the job (which she treated as a virtual no-show when it came to meetings) was that her mother was the top personnel executive for the city. 

I got no reply, let alone a solution. 

They didn’t contact me for Judi’s 2014 license fee, or her 2015 or 2016 fees, either. 

So I ran an experiment. In 2016, I went online to buy a $55 dollar three-year license for Judi and other dogs adopted in one form or other through the non-profit rescue that I founded. I paid a total of $220. LAAS took the money, but never asked for the dogs’ spay/neuter certificates or proofs of vaccination.

LAAS never followed-up even though month after month has passed. 

To prompt them, I poked at the hornet’s nest and challenged the charge through my credit card company which, correctly, denied my challenge. I only did it to see if LAAS would get its act together. It didn’t. To this day, LAAS, which never contacted me about this issue, has no idea how much money it failed to collect in dog license fees; whether the amount paid is correct (since a license fee for a spayed or neutered dog is significantly less expensive than for an intact dog) or whether Judi and the other dogs are properly altered or vaccinated.

One would think that if they check up on anyone, it would be an LAAS watchdog of more years than I care to count…. 

So when Councilmember Paul Krekorian and his City Council colleagues start talking cash with LAAS, he should raise Judi’s name, this article, and demand some answers, because failure to collect revenue is only one of the ways this department, under Mayor Garcetti, has failed Los Angeles.

And there are plenty of other examples to share. 

As for Garcetti, his failure is the direct result of his and predecessor Antonio Villaraigosa’s firing of capable volunteer Commissioners whose lives are dedicated to humane issues -- replacing them with people who have little, if any, background for it. Case in point: the new LAAS Commission President is Larry Gross….a renown and leading advocate….not for humane issues, but rather, tenants’ rights.

All this has happened because, with Garcetti, the appearance of being successful is more important than admitting fault, starting fresh and making things work better.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport.  Verifiable tips and story ideas can be sent to him at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

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LEANING RIGHT--May Day!  May Day!  The LA Times Editorial Board gets it wrong again, and shreds both its credibility and subscribing membership yet again!   

So how well has the City and County of LA done with only one major paper editorializing and spinning reality? 

And when do the thorny issues surrounding legal and illegal immigration finally get confronted by the Times Editorial Board? 

As a former subscriber and former regular reader of the Times (since childhood), I feel kinda bad because I've met and befriended many a Times reporter who adheres to principles, balance, and reality. But it's nice to be free of the kooky, alternative world of the Times Editorial Board (which is a different group of people than its reporting staff). 

But while the Times overall readership continues to spiral downward (partially because of the global trend away from print readership), its editorial board continues to please its loony/lefty adherents while annoying a greater number of current/former regular readers who recognize the Times' continued decline into its self-made oblivion formed of ivory tower irrelevance ... 

... and an irrelevance that has Orwellian overtones. 

Whether one loves or hates the Times, one can't ignore the fact that Trump won this past election because so many Americans have "had it" with the biased and "we know more than you" attitudes of newspapers (like the Times) that fly in the face of Common Sense. 

And whether one loves or hates the Times, a not-so-big secret is that while a mere hundred days of President Trump has federal laws and policies changing more rapidly than anyone could have ever guessed, in response the City and County of Los Angeles and the State of California have been lurching angrily leftwards for a variety of reasons that all ignore an inevitable bankruptcy of the state and its cities. 

The immigration question is, as with other issues, tied to the fact that the middle class is shrinking in California, and our governmental budget is being paid for by a shrinking and over-taxed minority holding up the state: 

1) University of California President Janet Napolitano's vow to protect "immigrant students" from President Trump's crackdown on illegal immigrants flies in the face of a damning audit of the UC system

The top staff of the UC president's office overpaid top staff and mishandled budget money, while hiding $175 million in surplus money while calling for bigger budgets and higher tuition costs.  The Times reporters do their job, while the Times Editorial Board actually has the nerve to defend Napolitano while admitting her screwups. 

And while other papers are not so quick to defend Napolitano, too many of us are missing the big picture: 

There is no one in either Sacramento or among the UC Regents defending the struggling, exhausted California taxpayers in restoring affordable tuition with the same vigor that they are protecting "immigrants". 

2) Of course, there are two infuriating and confounding realities for us all to confront in California--and President Trump was elected by many of the other fifty states to avoid having the entire nation fall into the same trap that we now are stuck with in California. 

First, illegal immigrants broke the law to enter the United States, while legal immigrants did not break any laws...and to confuse the two groups is a raw slap in the face to those who believe in the rule of law.  There very much IS a difference between legal and illegal immigration. 

Second, children who are here because their parents broke the law are hardly to be blamed for their parents illegal actions...but how much should they and their parents benefit because of those illegal actions?  Do children of bank robbers get to keep the stolen funds from those banks? 

Feel free to ask legal immigrants about illegal immigrants...and you will untap a fury that makes "nativist" Americans' anger appear to be a slight annoyance in comparison. 

Legal immigrants believe in a rule of law and have fled their countries of origin to escape the consequences of lawlessness, while illegal immigrants (and more importantly, their knowing and money-grubbing employers) all-too-often are more than happy to break the law when it serves their purposes. 

So when Baltimore and other states and local governments start asking and instructing prosecutors to avoid charging illegal immigrants with minor, non-violent crimes to avoid immigration enforcement by the Trump administration, the same question comes up as it does with UC tuitions and taxpayer rights: 

Since when did the rights, needs, and prioritization of illegal immigrants (and their employer/politician enablers) become greater than those of native-born citizens and legal immigrants who are following the rules and laws of this nation...and do we even value those rules and laws, anymore? 

3) While one in eight children in California schools have an "undocumented" parent, the question of whether our educational budget and priorities becomes more difficult to answer. 

Because if an illegal immigrant has three children who are educated from K-12 at roughly $10,000 per year, the resultant $400,000 spend on those three children begs the question of what our amount spent per student would be if we enforced immigration law in California... 

...and where that $400,000 could go if it were spent on legal citizens and legal immigrants, who pay by far more in taxes than illegal immigrants.  Roads?  Adding on to our UC and Cal State system? 

So while the children can't be blamed for the actions of their parents, when DO we take the parents to task for appropriating funds from the taxpayers that are NOT legally theirs?   

Should the children be forced to pay out-of-state college tuition to make sure they don't benefit from their parents appropriation of others' tax funds, and to reimburse the taxpayers for their parents' illegal actions? 

Should those here illegally for decades be given a slap on the wrist, or be made to pay a much larger fraction of the six-digit figure they have inevitably taken from their neighbors?  Perhaps should their employers pay? 

Or should the United States freeze and confiscate any U.S. assets from the illegal immigrants' countries of origin that we could use to reimburse the taxpayers? 

In the end, it comes down to whether those here illegally (and their lawbreaking employers) owe the taxpayers and law-abiding citizens and legal immigrants of California, or vice versa. 

4) Finally, while the Times Editorial Board continues to call Trump a "bully" and demand he do better on immigration, it could just as easily be concluded that the Times Editorial Board, and those judges and state/local politicians who are thwarting federal law, are the real bullies. 

Because what SHOULD we do to those employers of illegal immigrants, and those employers who violate the intent of foreign hiring laws to save on employer wages ... and who who really are at the center of this problem and are a big reason we now have Trump as our President?  

Whether it is California IT workers, or whether it is Disney, or whether it is Silicon Valley, American workers are being shafted and destroyed by ruthless employers (some proclaiming to be liberal and loving of "diversity") who will do anything to reduce labor costs. 

So while many on May Day will be protesting Trump and his policies, including those on illegal immigrants and those who feel workers' rights are being hurt by Trump, it will not be hard to critique those doing the marching as undermining their own causes: from the environment to workers' rights to income inequality, California and its cities are doing everything wrong by promoting lawbreaking. 

In short, the Times Editorial Board continues to lead local and state government down the wrong path, and will continue to believe God is on their side (if they even sanction a belief in God) while sending those still gullible enough to adhere to the Board's views down the rabbit hole that is our City and state's misguided direction. 

Meanwhile, the rest of us are left to wonder when it's our turn to flee the City of the Angels, or even to leave the state altogether, in order to find a community that's not overdeveloped, and where both attainable employment and the cost of living allows hard-working middle-class families to thrive and prosper the way they used to back when California was once the Land of Opportunity.

 

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

-cw 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE PREVEN REPORT--Those of you who voted for Proposition HHH, the $1.2 billion homelessness-reduction bond measure which passed in November 2016, might be wondering, “Where’s my money? Have any homeless people been given housing yet?” 

The guy you want to talk with about that is Rushmore Cervantes, the General Manager of HCID, the agency tasked with implementing construction paid for by Proposition HHH. Fortunately, he just testified a few days ago at the Budget Hearings, so here’s your answer from the horse’s mouth: 

 “Recently, we were able to get $75 million worth of bond proceeds … to fund 9 projects, 440 units of permanent supporting housing; all totaled 615 units.” 

Wow! That sounds great.  

Only wrinkle is that documentation handed out at the Administrative Oversight Committee’s meeting on April 25th seems to convey a different story. Those documents agree with Rushmore Cervantes that there are 9 projects, but in the documents almost all the projects are refurbishments, not new units of housing, and the dollar amount is around $10 million, not 75.   

If Mr. Cervantes wouldn’t mind publishing the plans he has for those 440 units the public would be grateful. 

Also on the topic of where Prop HHH money is being spent, Mr. Cervantes had this to say: “We’re going to be able to charge against the bond from the point of underwriting until the time it’s placed in service.” 

Red flag. 

“We have staffing requests now that we’ve received approval for several positions and I believe there are 5 more in the queue for potential determination.” 

Red flag. 

Once these projects are put in service that will obviously cause a burden on the back end that is monitoring those covenants and monitoring those loans.” 

Burden monitoring loans? 

Red flag. 

When managers talk about needing to beef up on staffing, it’s time to grab your wallet. The HHH bonds should not be squandered on massive staffing and administrative fees. That’s the oldest trick in the book.  

Ominous developments which hurt the public’s interest.  

The Prop HHH measure states that allocations of money will be recommended by the Civilian Oversight Committee, an idea which for many Angelenos creates a desirable impression— that a group of thoughtful  advocates for the homeless will use their expertise to craft an effective and humane policy, but in fact that was changed.  Now, the system will be that each city council member will bring projects to the council for approval. 

Isn't that precisely the process which causes pay-to-play? Isn’t that what voter initiatives are for, to circumvent that form of corruption? 

New rule: only 5% of the bond money can be used to have outside organizations build projects. Everything else will have to be spent by the city, where there will be no RFPs and the cost will be decided internally. 

Red flag. 

On April 25, 2017, the Administrative Oversight Committee held a special meeting, which was recorded on audio. Every committee under the sun in LA City government has its audio posted online so that the public can understand how their tax dollars are being spent. And yet the Prop HHH committee, despite mounting pressure, simply refuses to post the audio?  

Why? 

It’s worth thinking about. Because on Wednesday the Prop HHH team announced that they will not be posting online any audio recordings for any of their meetings at any point in the future. 

Red flag.

 

(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer and Joshua is a teacher.)

-cw

ANIMAL WATCH- (WARNING: Content of this article may disturb some readers.) Sex with animals is not a common or popular topic of conversation, unless there is a recent arrest or conviction making headlines, or you are into bestiality. The thought of someone having sex with the family dog or any other animal is repugnant to most civilized sensibility and as enraging to many as the rape of a child. Experts confirm that it should be. 

Yet, for all of the moral indignation and disdain that erupts from a report of human-animal sex/abuse (which can include cats, rabbits, birds, chickens, dogs, horses, sheep and other farm animals, wildlife or even involve reptiles, "pocket pets," and other small animals), entirely new markets for deviant sex have been opened by the internet; and bestiality and zoophilia are reportedly flourishing. 

“A common sexual theme found in pornography is bestiality, sex with animals," write Holmes & Holmes, in Sex Crimes: Patterns & Behavior.  “There is a darker side to bestiality. In the work that we have done with serial killers, we have noted that several had a background of cruelty to animals.” 

The number of arrests in 2014 for animal sex abuse and exploitation in the U.S. was more than double the total number in the 30 years between 1970 and 2000, according to US News.  

In November 2016, ABC10 News reported, Abused Stockton dogs believed to be rented for sex, Rescuers said that veterinary examinations showed two of the dogs had severe damage and had been sexually abused, including the use of foreign objects. Neighbors and people in the community said that “the dogs were being rented for sex." The news station confirmed that, “the vet hospital was able to show us medical records and graphic photos of the assaults.” 

CURRENT CA BESTIALITY LAW 

Current California law, Cal. Penal Code § 286.5 SUMMARY reads: “This California law provides that any person who sexually assaults any animal for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of the person is guilty of a misdemeanor.” 

Standard California misdemeanors are offenses that are punishable by a maximum six-month county jail sentence and a maximum $1,000 fine. (See Shouse CA Law.) However, with CA’s penchant for quick release of offenders, a perpetrator could conceivably be discharged within hours. 

The charge can be expanded to include violation of Cal. Penal Code § 597 Animal Cruelty if the animal is diagnosed by a veterinarian to have endured physical harm and/or suffering. But, experts say, often, if the animal is a large dog or a farm animal, or if there has been time for wounds to heal, there may be not sufficient visible evidence to prove physical damage. That doesn’t mean it did not happen or that the animal has not or is not suffering. 

Some believe this law should go farther, for a variety of reasons. For instance, at the beginning of the current legislative year, a leading animal-protection organization apologized for the necessity to mention “an awful topic,” in an e-mail, but explained it had been alerted to a possible deficiency in the current law prohibiting bestiality. 

The e-mail said that, according to several members involved in law enforcement, a deficiency in the wording of PC 286.5 has been a barrier to prosecution in some cases because, “…this does not include sexual assault that is done for the sexual arousal/gratification of the animal.” 

My first reaction was that I misread the message. I couldn’t envision someone rolling over and asking an animal they just violated, "So, was that good for you?"  Or, are they be insinuating the animal--which unequivocally has sexual urges and emotions -- “was asking for it” or “initiated intimacy? 

Now, after a little more research on justifications/excuses used by perpetrators, I wondered if assuring our state law includes wording to counteract a defense claim that the animal consented, needed or enjoyed the contact or attention would be advisable.  

WHAT IS ZOOPHILIA OR BESTIALITY? 

Zoophilia or bestiality are terms from the Greek (zṓion, "animal") and (philia, "friendship" or "love"). It is the practice of sexual activity between humans and non-human animals (bestiality), or a preference for or fixation on such practice (zoophilia), according to Wikipedia 

ZETA – Zoophiles Engagement für Toleranz und Aufklärung, a Berlin-based worldwide association, states that it seeks understanding about zoophilia and bestiality: 

We zoophiles do not want to be rubberstamped as sadists, but be seen as real people with a genuine sexual orientation (as e.g. homosexuality is) which incorporates to love an animal as one can love a human. We condemn horse ripping, the killing of dogs and similar at least as much as the next normal person. 

Another problem we are facing in the struggle for tolerance is that most people recognise animals only as asexual entities, which are not believed to particularly enjoy intercourse in general. Such a stance has been scientifically disproven long ago. We’d therefore want to battle this misconception in favour of the idea that it may be possible to be intimate with an animal without hurting it, without the need to specifically train such a performance. But don’t take just our word on this, we compiled for this reason many studies and further reading suggestions for you to form your own picture. 

CAN AN ANIMAL "CONSENT" TO SEX WITH A HUMAN? 

Peter Singer, the renown Australian moral philosopher and Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, is venerated for such quotes as, “All the arguments to prove man's superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering the animals are our equals.” In his book, Animal Liberation, he wrote, “If possessing a higher degree of intelligence does not entitle one human to use another for his or her own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit non-humans?” 

Yet, in his 2001 article, “Heavy Petting,” Singer discusses a book by Otto Soyka, Beyond the Boundary of Morals, which concedes the futility of prohibitions against deviant acts of human sexual desire and contends that bestiality should be illegal, “…only in so far as it shows cruelty towards an animal.” 

Singer writes, “But sex with animals does not always involve cruelty.” He provides the analogy of the pet dog that may grip a human leg and vigorously rub against it. He contends that, while this may not be acceptable in public, “…in private not everyone objects to being used by her or his dog in this way, and occasionally mutually satisfying activities may develop.” 

The problem is, how can it be proven that consent was given by an animal?  Is an animal capable, under the law, of consenting?  (An attorney advises that this is probably struck down in court by the same principle as any "age-of-consent" law, which also considers "capacity" to consent.) 

Whether or not we agree with the morality of such activities, some animal behaviorists and veterinary professionals contend that there are also psychological damages, as well as physical trauma, to an animal that is subjected to penetration.  

Dr. Kersti Seksel, Registered Veterinary Specialist in Animal behavior, states in a must-read Conference Paper, “The behavioural manifestations of animal cruelty / abuse 

Sexually abused animals may present with injuries of the sexual organs, rectum or anus.

These can involve lacerations of the organs, ligatures applied to the sexual organs and may involve the use of implements (eg tampons, spoons, broom handles, knives etc.). It should also be noted that as is that case with some sexual abuse in children no obvious visible injury may be observed. 

Emotionally abused animals may show similar signs as emotionally abused children. These signs may be fearful behaviour in the presence of their owner, may cower in their presence, have anxiety disorders, present with panic attacks, show extremes in behaviour, such as being overly compliant or extremely demanding, show extreme passivity (learned helplessness), or aggression.  

It should be noted that some of these behaviours will not be obvious during a normal veterinary consultation and they may be missed unless specific questions are asked. 

IS SEX WITH ANIMALS A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT? 

In 2012, Carlos Romero, a Florida farmhand, race-horse exerciser and groomer was caught in a barn engaging in an intimate act with his miniature donkey, Doodle, and arrested. Romero had testified that he wanted his case to go to trial and that he would fight to get Doodle back. He later accepted a plea bargain on the day jury selection was to begin. 

The agreement occurred just days after Romero’s three Assistant Public Defenders filed a motion in Marion County court, challenging the constitutionality of the charges against Romero. 

The legal trio claimed that Florida’s new anti-bestiality law, which prohibits any and all zoophilic acts, infringed on Romero's due process rights and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by interfering with “personal liberty and autonomy when it comes to private intimate activities.” 

They claimed there was no injury to the donkey, and that prosecutors can't claim that act was non-consensual, and contended that, "The personal morals of the majority, whether based on religion or traditions, cannot be used as a reason to deprive a person of their personal liberties." 

“If the statute were to require sexual conduct with animals to be nonconsensual or to cause injury in order to be a crime, then perhaps the State would have a rational basis and legitimate State interest in enforcement,” the motion stated. 

INVESTIGATING/PROSECUTING BESTIALITY 

Detective Jeremy Hoffman, of the Fairfax County, VA., Sheriff's Office, told Bloomberg BNA, “Bestiality ‘is the single greatest predictor of people who will molest children.’” As he investigated websites dedicated to child pornography, Hoffman said he routinely came across links to bestiality websites or advertisements selling animals for sexual purposes. 

Detective Hoffman told Bloomberg he “…prefers statutes that classify bestiality as a sex crime.” He and Jenny Edwards, a criminologist and independent researcher, are training law enforcement nationwide how to investigate bestiality. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation began last year to report animal cruelty offenses in its national crime statistics. Jenny Edwards says that bestiality is not easy to isolate because animals in these cases are often just removed and impounded in shelters without receiving a thorough examination by a veterinarian. 

She told US News she advises using human rape kits to determine whether the animal has been sexually assaulted. 

HOW DOES CALIFORNIA’S BESTIALITY LAW COMPARE TO OTHER STATES? 

Zoophilia and the law in the United States looks at the progress of laws prohibiting sex with animals in the United States of America: 

--As of December 2016, sex with animals is illegal in 42 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

-- The most recent states to ban it are Alaska (2010), Florida (2011), Alabama (2014),New Jersey (2015), New Hampshire (2016) and Ohio (2016).  

--In 2017, five states (Texas, Kentucky, West Virginia, Vermont and Nevada) introduced legislation to ban interspecies sex. 

--Two states, Michigan and Idaho, allow life in prison for sex with animals 

Animal Legal and Historical Center provides an updated table comparing laws and penalties for all states. It emphasizes the split between categorizing this types of crime as a misdemeanor or felony (23 misdemeanor, 19 felony) and the wide span of penalties, for example: 

In Rhode Island, conviction results in imprisonment for not less than seven years up to twenty years. Idaho gives a sentence of not less than five years in state prison. Georgia also has a mandatory minimum of one year in jail up with a maximum of up to five. Massachusetts leaves a window of imprisonment that must not exceed twenty years. 

In contrast, about half of states label the crime a misdemeanor. However, in some of those states, such as Kansas and Maine, the severity level jumps to a felony if the actor causes or coerces juveniles to engage in the activity or if the person has previous convictions of bestiality. 

There is no federal law prohibiting sex between humans and animals except for the District of Colombia and military personnel. But, Lectric Law Library explains that, "There are a few federal laws, however, which list bestiality, along with many other forms of sex, which are prohibited when involving children." (18 USCS @2256, 3509 (1994)) 

SHOULD CALIFORNIA GET TOUGHER ON BESTIALITY? 

Dea Avise, who describes herself as a “Los Angeles casting director who is also a psychotherapist who works with abused and traumatized children for low or no cost,” says that a misdemeanor is not a severe enough punishment and wants the penalty for sex with animals to be increased to a felony: 

I am working on changing the California bestiality law (CA Penal Code 286.5 PC) from a misdemeanor with a $1000 fine and a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail to a FELONY with much higher fines and much higher sentences to include counseling for the perpetrator(s) paid for by the perpetrator(s) and the perpetrator(s) being forced to pay for any rehabilitation and/or shelter of any abused animals. This law will contain degrees to include an increase of felony level to a higher degree if children under the age of 16 are involved. 

On her site, Stop Bestiality in California   Change CA Penal Code 286.5 to a Felony!” she is not asking for money, but for celebrity endorsements – at no pay and no cost -- who “would consider lending their name only on the list of Sponsors." 

California could also review nationwide laws and consider a broader and more enforceable description of its prohibition; e.g., Ohio's new law, which includes, "No person shall knowingly engage in sexual conduct with an animal or knowingly possess, sell, or purchase an animal with the intent that it be subjected to sexual conduct." Or, Illinois' felony law for sexual conduct or sexual contact with an animal. 

WHAT DO YOU THINK? 

Should California increase the level of penalty for engaging in sex with an owned or any other animal? Or, should bestiality just be considered a personal love of animals?

 

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

AT LENGTH-It was some 25 years ago when I stepped into the bar at Ante’s Restaurant looking for Tony Perkov only to find my nemesis Rod Decker, a former Los Angeles Police Department officer. Back then, he was a vocal racist with whom I had exchanged more than a word or two regarding his casual use of racial epithets. That night television screens across the United States displayed the police beating of Rodney King. 

Walking into Ante’s, I was taken by surprise. Decker, sitting at the bar with his back to the door, could see me walking-by in the mirror behind the bar. Before I could say anything, he turned around and said, “No lo contendre, pardner,” in an affectation of Spanglish. “That was a completely unrighteous bust.” 

This ended a months-long conflict that started at this very same bar with me standing up one night after one of his racist rants. I threw my hat on the bar and told him in no uncertain terms, with a helping of Anglo-Saxon swearing, that I wasn’t going to put up with his shit anymore! There was dead silence as everyone looked into their drinks and pondered my words. 

The moral to this story is that words do hold power and they often divide us, but in the end, actions — our own or others’ — speak louder in defining us and occasionally bringing opposites together.

The past year in the political fervor ramping up to the November presidential elections, two of San Pedro’s neighborhood councils elected majorities supported by the Saving San Pedro Facebook activist group opposing the homeless with very disparaging postings. One of the first actions they took after gaining power was to institute the obligatory Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of every meeting. 

I objected on various grounds -- not the least of which being the “under God” portion, which was not part of the original pledge, and which now can be argued separates rather than unites Americans, making us not so “indivisible.” 

Subsequently, both Coastal and Central San Pedro Neighborhood Councils have become so divided that they are dysfunctional and have not addressed the homeless crisis at all. Rather, they have spent an inordinate amount of time battling amongst themselves over petty issues, such as Neighborhood Purpose Grants, and battling the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment over meeting dates and places and Brown Act violations. Basically, the inability to run a meeting or collaborate with others on their own councils stands in their way. This sounds a lot like Congress, doesn’t it? 

At one point, the former president of Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council, after he was forced to resign, posted on Facebook that city funding of neighborhood councils was a waste of taxpayer monies and the city should use the revenue for fixing sidewalks. 

Clearly, this is the vision of many people who gain political position for the first time and are shocked to realize that governing is not the same thing as having an uprising. This is akin to what is happening to Trump and his supporters. This is also the problem of people who are constantly opposing whatever it is they are against and never offering a positive solution to the issues at hand. 

This brings me back to the issue of Los Angeles City Hall, the homeless crisis and the Democratic leadership of the city. 

The liberal leadership of the city, the state and even those in Congress have all become united against everything President Donald Trump has campaigned on: the immigration ban, the wall and deportation orders; rolling back EPA regulations; and the reform of the national health care law. But what you haven’t heard from them are alternative solutions. 

At City Hall in Los Angeles, they have proposed and passed a $1.2 billion bond to address housing for the homeless while at the very same time amending Los Angeles Municipal Code 56.11 to shorten the legal notice time from 72 to 24 hours on homeless encampment sweeps. Has this actually solved anything or just exacerbated an already bad situation? The homeless population hasn’t declined even though the city and the county continue to throw money at the issue. 

It’s a fine act of resistance to oppose Trump’s threats against sanctuary cities and file lawsuits against his blanket executive orders on Muslims. I actually applaud these actions. 

Yet, the more Trump pushes his agenda, the more he drives centrist Democrats into taking measures to resist. However, most of the liberal electeds are calling upon activists to do their bidding for them, while at home, they defend an uncertain status quo. A significant uprising against all things Trump in Los Angeles just might also take down City Hall’s power structure as the city’s 35 communities have grown tired of being treated as disempowered vassals of a city, while their needs go unmet. 

There is no glue that keeps this city or perhaps even this nation “indivisible” as we the people take some great liberties in being divisive! There is nothing in our Constitution or charter that says we must be united, except in name only. We’ve even fought a Civil War and had many civil uprisings to prove this point. The riot 25 years ago in LA is still referred to in South Central as an “uprising.” 

Yet, it is a very good thing that Mayor Eric Garcetti comes out with this announcement on Trump’s threats to our city: 

Today’s ruling by Judge Orrick [blocking Trump’s order] is good news, and reminds us that people’s rights transcend political stunts. The Constitution protects cities’ right to create humane, sensible policies that keep our neighborhoods safe and our communities together. It is time for the federal government to stop attacking cities and scapegoating immigrants, and begin focusing on the hard work of comprehensive immigration reform. I will keep working to defend the rights of all our residents — including immigrants — and fighting to protect our own federal tax dollars, which Angelenos want to invest in keeping their families safe and our city strong. 

It would be consistent with this statement if the mayor felt the same way about protecting our rights against the abuses of city government. However, it would be quite another thing to see Garcetti leading a march on the federal building with the other liberal council members showing solidarity with the grassroots resistance and then proposing the visionary reforms that were first enunciated in 1944 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his Second Bill of Rights: 

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made. In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all — regardless of station, race, or creed. Among these are: 

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation; 
  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation; 
  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living; 
  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad; 
  • The right of every family to a decent home; 
  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; 
  • The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; 
  • The right to a good education. 

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world. 

If and when the Democratic leadership decides to stand up for its historic core values both here in Los Angeles and in our legislatures, that is when our nation has a chance to become united again and the Democratic Party can find its soul. 

Until then, they will look more like Republicans arguing over healthcare reform than a party prepared to govern for the economic security of the people.

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

GUEST WORDS--Luxury condominiums compete with foreign banks on the new skyline of Koreatown. On a Saturday night, 20-somethings crowd the sidewalks, huddling around food trucks, circling in and out of karaoke bars, biryani places, barbecue joints, and a high-rise driving range. This same neighborhood, and other swathes of Los Angeles, seemed doomed 25 years ago when more than 2,000 Korean business were damaged or destroyed during the three days of civil unrest that followed the infamous verdict in the prosecution of police officers who beat Rodney King.

The distance LA has traveled between then and now marks a journey that has landed this city in a place very much of its own making. There have been strides and setbacks, and not everyone will agree about what constitutes progress or why some big problems remain unresolved. But, if this is a different city— we would say a better city—than the one that burned in 1992, the explanation lies in decisions Angelenos made about how they govern themselves.

First though, the LA story of the past quarter century has to begin with hitting bottom after 1992. In 1994, the Northridge earthquake struck, killing 57 people, injuring thousands more, and costing billions of dollars in property damage. That same year, California voters, including a majority in Los Angeles County, backed the Prop 187 ballot initiative, which prohibited unauthorized individuals from using state-run public services. The isolation, anger, and racial tensions of the 1990s continued with police scandals that eroded trust.

But those scandals also produced reform efforts that, haltingly, created a new model of community-centered law enforcement. And then, in the early 2000s Los Angeles began moving toward a shared destiny, as the region’s economics and demographics shifted.

In 1992, the non-Hispanic white population accounted for 41 percent of Los Angeles County, according to census data; that population now composes only 28 percent of Los Angeles County residents. That happened because whites left, and the non-white population grew not with immigrants but with their children. The flow of new immigrants to Los Angeles peaked in the 1990s as other destinations offered lower living expenses and better job opportunities. The big numbers already here largely stayed in place and made families. Children of immigrants now account for more than one in five residents, the highest share of any major metro.

The remains of a commercial building smolder, as another building burns out of control, in Los Angeles, early on the morning of April 30, 1992, after riots broke out in response to the verdict in the Rodney King beating trial. Photo by Douglas C. Pizac/Associated Press.

Now coming of age, this huge generation of young people has grown up navigating cultural and racial differences. According to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center, second-generation Latinos and Asian Americans are much more likely than members of their parents’ generation to have diverse friends, feel comfortable with interracial marriage, and get along with people of other groups. By necessity, that has become the default attitude in L.A.’s school corridors and playgrounds.

Of course, a whole lot of young people, members of minority groups and growing up without many advantages, could have spelled trouble in the streets. But, as this second generation came of age, crime dropped—a lot. The violent crime rate was more than six times higher at the time of the unrest than it is today. As crime declined and this new home-grown population of cosmopolitans matured, Angelenos began making investments in their collective future.

Over the past decade and a half, voters repeatedly have endorsed tax increases to expand affordable housing, homeless services, school construction, and transit development in the region. These investments benefit everyone in the region, not just specific neighborhoods or populations. The success of these recent ballot measures, which often required support from supermajorities of voters, exemplifies Angelenos’ willingness to take responsibility for the common good.

Los Angeles also has repeatedly chosen to invest significant funds in the city’s arts and cultural resources over the past 25 years, enabling us to examine our history, heal past trauma and racial divides, and build a shared and inclusive cultural identity. Annual income for Los Angeles County arts-related nonprofits is estimated at $2.2 billion, and the arts and creative industries account for nearly 1 out of 6 jobs in Los Angeles County—a significant part of our economy.

These investments allow organizations like the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to defy national trends by increasing audiences and revenue, and to provide a wide range of diverse communities with performances and educational programs. Meanwhile, small theaters, studio spaces, and storefront galleries have become focal points of neighborhood regeneration. Simply put, the arts increase social capital and provide a rich cultural landscape in which civic vitality can thrive.

Among the most encouraging developments are moments of civil dialogue that have brought diverse populations together around shared objectives, and there is a valuable example near the burn zone of 1992.

The flow of new immigrants to Los Angeles peaked in the 1990s as other destinations offered lower living expenses and better job opportunities. … Children of immigrants now account for more than one in five residents, the highest share of any major metro.

Consider the Central Los Angeles Promise Zone, one of the first three designated zones (the others were in Philadelphia and San Antonio) under President Obama’s signature anti-poverty initiative that provides preferential status and technical assistance on federal grant applications. The Central Los Angeles Promise Zone encompasses Hollywood, East Los Angeles, Pico Union, Westlake, and, perhaps most significantly, Koreatown. These neighborhoods are collectively home to 165,000 people, 35 percent of whom live in poverty.

Like many urban neighborhoods on the edge of a central business district, this area just west of Downtown Los Angeles had seen slow deterioration of its housing stock, a loss of jobs, weak transportation infrastructure, and growing homelessness in the years leading up to the civil unrest. After much of Koreatown was destroyed in the civil unrest, representatives of many economic interests and a variety of ethnic communities found common cause in the process of drafting redevelopment plans based on public-private partnerships, such as the Wilshire Center/Koreatown Redevelopment Project Area.

Now, more than two decades later, the Central Los Angeles Promise Zone is bringing the community together again to identify shared goals and desired outcomes around good jobs, safe streets, and improved educational opportunities for young people in the community. This process alone has not directly solved problems, but proposed solutions have a much better chance of becoming real when they are based on a deliberative process of community engagement and collective goal setting.

Lastly, Los Angeles has chosen policies that treat the undocumented population as part of the civic family. And they are, literally, a big part. One of every 10 adults in Los Angeles County, and the parents of one of every six kids in the public schools, are undocumented immigrants: one million people, the largest concentration in the country. The region’s commitment to including the undocumented in plans for the future goes way beyond “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies in law enforcement. Angelenos, often in concert with the state government, have helped ensure that unauthorized immigrants have access to health care, public education, drivers’ licenses, and community policing that unambiguously aims at protecting them and their neighbors.

They are part of us. That realization developed slowly, and it applies not just to the undocumented. Los Angeles was a city of contested spaces and tribal rivalries 25 years ago. It’s not that now.

(Roberto Suro and Gary Painter are professors in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California, which is co-hosting a two-day conference April 27-28 that will reflect on the 25 years since the 1992 civil unrest and look at the new community revitalization opportunities facing Los Angeles. Visit socialinnovation.usc.edu for more information. This retrospective was posted first at Zocalo Public Square)

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INSIDER REPORT--Last week, as far-right political agitators made plans to descend on Berkeley, California, I heard that some members of the Three Percenters militia movement would be among them. Having gone undercover with a border militia last year, I went to Martin Luther King Jr. park to observe them and a hodgepodge of other right-wingers seeking to hold their second "free speech" rally in less than two months in the historically liberal college town. Anarchists and left-wing activists—who viewed the event's "free speech" billing as nothing more than cover for white supremacist and fascist groups to gather—organized a counter-demonstration called "Defend the Bay." Here's what I saw. 

At 10:45 a.m. I arrive at the park, which is surrounded by flimsy, three-foot-high traffic-orange plastic mesh. It's sunny and warm. At the entrance, the police are inspecting bags, confiscating anything that could be considered a weapon. They take knives, mace, a stun gun, bear spray, an ax handle, and a can filled with concrete. The park is split down the middle with more orange mesh, creating a six-foot buffer between the left-wing side, represented largely by black-clad "antifascists," or "antifa," and the right-wing side, with pro-Trump banners and American flags. Antifa protesters are holding a large banner saying "FASCIST SCUM YOUR TIME IS DONE." The other side is facing them with a banner that reads "Defend America." There is a lot of shouting. Riot police file in and form a line between the two groups.

I walk into the right-wing side. A group of white men with matching comb-over haircuts are wearing skull half masks and shouting at the left-wing side. I pull out my phone and start to film the skull guys.

"Are you with us?" one asks.

"I'm a journalist," I say.

"Get the fuck out of here then," another says, shoving me. I continue filming.

"Fake news!" one says into a megaphone pointed at my face. He wanders off and starts chanting, "Build a wall! Build a wall!" Another puts up his fists and shuffles his feet like a boxer.

Nearby, I overhear two men discussing the nuances of their white nationalism. One has a shield made of skateboards painted with the flag of the black sun of Odinism, an archaic symbol appropriated by neo-Nazis. The other calls himself a National Socialist. When I photograph them, they both sieg heil.

Another man, with an American flag wrapped around his face, tells me he came to defend "Western civilization." Nathan Domigo, a 30-year-old ex-Marine and the head of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, is milling in the crowd. Later in the day, he'll be filmed punching a woman in the face during a street brawl. (After the video goes viral, the woman, Louise Rosealma, says she has been facing harassment and death threats.)

The right-wing side is almost entirely male. Some are dressed in motorcycle half helmets, ski goggles, gloves, and various forms of ghoulish masks. One is wearing a shirt that says "Proud Supporter of the Muslim Ban." Another's shirt says "Straight Pride." They aren't entirely white. A Latino man wearing a protective vest goes around shouting "Latinos for Trump!"

I talk to an African American man in a Trump "MAGA" hat who says his name is Malechite. He tells me he came up from Los Angeles to show support for the president because Trump is "a businessman." "He's all about building the entrepreneurs up. It's about people owning stuff, having businesses, owning houses, cars, things of that nature. We don't need these things, but we like to have these things. We gonna stand for something." I ask whether he thinks Trump is racist. "He's our president," he says. "There's nothing we can do about that, so it's either work with this man or go against the grain, and it could be a horrible four years for us."

Many of the signs people carry relate to free speech or references to the obscure, online subcultures of the far right. A few carry the green flag of the Republic of Kekistan, a fictional country for internet trolls invented on 4chan. One man is holding a sign that says "Da Goyim Know," a 4chan meme about uncovering Jewish conspiracies to run the world. Another sign says "Green Lives Matter" with a picture of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character appropriated by the so-called alt-right, the loose-knit movement of white supremacists and other bigoted groups that gained attention in the 2016 election.  

Some people on this side came in from other parts of the country. A white man named Ian Herrin tells me he came from Colorado Springs to be "part of the movement." He says he was inspired to come by Lauren Southern, an alt-right activist and writer. Southern is walking around in a helmet surrounded by a security entourage of Proud Boys, a group of self-proclaimed "Western chauvinists" led byVice magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes. I approach a man dressed head to toe in camouflage, who wears a mask reminiscent of Jason from Friday the 13th. Mike won't tell me his last name, but he says he's from Orange County, California, and a member of the West Coast Patriots Three Percent, a militia-type prepper group that does armed paramilitary training. "The last rally when they shut down Milo, it kinda pissed me off," he tells me. "Everyone has a right to say what they want to say, regardless of whether you agree with it or not. That's what the Second Amendment—uh, First Amendment—is for."

There are perhaps a few hundred protesters in total, with the right appearing to slightly outnumber the left. At the front line between Trump supporters and antifa, there is a white man in a Spartan helmet with a red, white, and blue crest. He is wearing a GoPro on his chest, American flag shorts, and a Trump flag on his back, like a cape. "I ain't no fascist!" he shouts across the line at an antifa protester. A woman next to him, in a pink MAGA hat with an American flag painted on her cheek, shouts at the antifa man, "You're a fucking piece-of-shit terrorist! That's what you guys are: fascist terrorists!"

"Suck a dick!" the Spartan shouts to the antifa man.

"I love sucking dick!" the antifa man shouts back.

Suddenly, there is a loud bang, possibly from an M-80 firecracker, on the right-wing side of the demarcation. The men in skull masks rush across the barrier and start punching people. Dozens of people are brawling, throwing punches, curling up on the grass, taking kicks. The police slowly move in. "Let the cops take care of it!" someone from the pro-Trump side shouts. "Fall back!" They go back to their side. People resume shouting at each other. Some police officers start filming the crowd. A Berkeley man walks around offering people Hershey's kisses. His shirt says, "Empathy as the basis for action is key to a better world."

By late morning, under a stand of trees several hundred feet back from the front line, people gather in front of a stage to hear the event's speakers. Three Percenter militiamen dressed in camouflage stand with their backs to the stage, looking out over the crowd. Their flag, and others from far-right groups, hangs from a tree. Speakers include Brittany Pettibone, a writer for AltRight.com who pushes the conspiracy theory of "white genocide." A man from a group called Based in LA identifies himself as a "gay, Christian, Trump supporter" and says, "If you wanted to call me a faggot, you can do that." An Oathkeeper leader calls for a round of applause for the Berkeley Police Department "because they didn't run" from the antifa.

Kyle Chapman, known as "Based Stickman," takes the stage. Chapman became a figurehead of far-right street brawlers after a video went viral of him breaking a wooden signpost over the head of an antifa activist during the clash in March over Milo Yiannopoulos's thwarted Berkeley appearance. "No longer will we cower in the shadows," Chapman says. "It is time we push back against the assault on freedom-loving Americans! This assault comes from all directions—the mainstream media, corrupt government officials, crony capitalism, and our education system which indoctrinates our youth. But today we stand opposed to one specific threat. And that threat is domestic terrorism!" he shouts, pointing in the direction of the left-wing side. "They have been relentless in trying to annihilate our constitutional right of free speech. They have destroyed and buried our communities. They are intent upon the destruction of Western civilization. Enough is enough! Your days are numbered and Americans will rise up against you!" The crowd cheers. Later, Chapman is arrested by Berkeley police on a warrant for the March assault.

An African America woman from LA, wearing a Trump T-shirt and an American flag bandana, takes the microphone. "Do I look like a racist?!" she says. "Do I look like a Nazi?! I am a black American!" Another M-80 explodes in the distance. "African Americans are being put in categories as Muslims. We are not Muslims! We are not from Africa! We are black Americans. And for all you mothers and fathers out there: Protect your daughters because the Muslim Brotherhood believes in marrying nine-year-old girls. They are kidnapping these little girls in America. We as Americans have to take matters into our own hands."

"We love you!" someone shouts.

"Black Americans helped build this country. We were brought here 400 years ago as slaves and we have developed this country for anybody to be here to enjoy!"

"Except for the illegals!" someone shouts.

"Except for the illegals," she repeats, laughing nervously. "Black Americans built the White House on the backs of slaves and we'd be doggoned if we let these foreign people come to our country and take America away from us. We will fight you tooth and nail and we will conquer our country back! We will fight for Donald J. Trump!"

Nicki Stallard, a white trans woman, takes the stage. She is from the Pink Pistols, an LGBT "self-defense" group whose membership grew after the Orlando shooting. They reference the tragedy as a reason to support Trump's Muslim ban. "Now I know that with many of you here we may have disagreements," Stallard says to the crowd, "but how many here love the US Constitution? Say yeah!"

"Yeah!"

"How many of you support the Bill of Rights? Say yeah!"

"Yeah!"

"I'd like every single one of you to turn to the person next to you and high five them." The crowd ripples with slapping palms. "Because you are brave. You are standing up here for the First Amendment, for free speech. It's kind of funny. They say anti-fascism," she says, pointing at the antifa, "but boy, they are surely demonstrating how they've perfected it. They don't have brown shirts. They have black shirts. But they are still authoritarian fascists. America was founded on freedom. We don't necessarily have to like each other, but we have to defend each other's right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. America is about freedom, not slavery, not submission, not authoritarianism. If you agree with me, say yeah!"

"Yeah."

The counterprotesters, she says, are "Americans in Name Only: ANOS. Okay? ANOS. If you agree with me, say yeah!"

"Yeah!"

Around noon, a group of people dressed in black come up the street with a sound system blasting YG's song "FDT." The left-wing sidesteps over the orange fencing and pours onto the street, singing the chorus, "fuck Donald Trump." Trump supporters chant: "USA! USA!" People stare each other down along the front line. Soon, bottles and rocks start to fly through the air. The street erupts in punching and kicking. Hundreds of people flock to and surround the spasms of violence.

It goes on like this for nearly two hours. The riot police are conspicuously absent. The left-wing side makes attempts to break through right-wing lines and enter the park. The groups face off, brawl, and retreat over and over again. When the leftists get close to the stage, the leader of the Three Percenters orders his men to rally up and take defensive positions. The man in the Spartan mask yells out a battle cry, lunging into the left-wing side, and someone pepper sprays him. He takes his shirt off, squirts milk into his eyes from a spray bottle, and continues fighting.

A man in an InfoWars T-shirt stands on top of a dumpster and gyrates to the antifa's music. A comrade dancing with him wields a Pepsi can.

Two men who appear to be cops film the scene from a nearby rooftop. At times, it feels like a war zone, yet the violence becomes ritualized and predictable. Various participants get seriously pummeled and bloodied. People on each side retreat for care from their medics or to debrief with friends and comrades. Away from the fighting, there is an "empathy tent" set up by a small group of people with a sign saying, "Want to talk? We listen." It is empty.

By 2 p.m., the right-wing Trump supporters charge up a street toward downtown Berkeley, chasing antifa. Some antifa attempt to stop their momentum, picking out individuals to fight with. A group of antifa pull a fence into the street, but the right-wingers plow through it. A man in a skull mask jump-kicks an antifa activist. People cough from breathing tear gas.

Soon, roughly 100 Trump supporters, members of the alt-right, Proud Boys, militiamen, and neo-Nazis swagger into downtown Berkeley. From their point of view, the ability to say whatever they want has been triumphantly upheld in a city known as the lefty home of the free-speech movement.

But the left continues to confront them. For the next hour, hostilities continue to ebb and flow. A right-wing guy shouts at an antagonist, "This is funded by Soros! You are fighting for the man! Do your research!" A Trump supporter pulls out a knife but backs down after being surrounded by opponents. A man blows bubbles over everyone. Both sides throw some more punches, but they have become less committed. People have been fighting for hours and most seem to be fading. A local man sets up an easel and begins painting the scene.

A block away, police stand near their cars. I approach an officer and ask why they haven't intervened more during the last couple of hours of mayhem.

He shrugs. "That would be a good question for the chief of police."

"I've been seeing people get beat up all day. I haven't seen you guys around much."

"Mmmhmmm. Okay. And?" By the end of the day, they will have arrested more than 20 people, on charges including assault with a deadly weapon, battery, and committing a criminal offense while wearing a mask. (The Berkeley PD didn't respond to my request for comment, but in a written statement disseminated after the event, it said, "The Berkeley Police Department remains focused on protecting the peaceful expression of free speech and will continue to develop criminal cases and seek prosecution against all those who infringed on the rights of others and participated in riotous acts." It added that "police will be reviewing social media video footage to identify and arrest anyone involved in crimes on Saturday.")

By mid-afternoon, people slowly trickle away and the remaining members of the far-right contingent march back down the street, cheering. A man plays a snare drum as if he's some marching soldier from the Civil War. The day's events suggest that violent street battles between the far right and left could continue, perhaps here—with right-wing demagogue Ann Coulter scheduled to speak on the University of California-Berkeley campus on April 27—or perhaps in other cities. As the rally fizzles out, several people point their cameras at Chapman, a.k.a. Based Stickman. "Boston, Seattle, we are coming for you," he says. "You will no longer take our constitutionally protected rights from us."

A bearded man standing next to him in goggles, a bike helmet, and a Captain America T-shirt let's out his best menacing

(Shane Bauer is a senior reporter at Mother Jones … where this special report originated … and recipient of numerous awards, including the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism. He is also the co-author, with Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal, of A Sliver of Light, a memoir of his two years as a prisoner in Iran. )

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A SPECIAL REPORT--It’s Monday afternoon in Bellflower, a small suburb in southeastern Los Angeles County, California. Juana, 34, and a neighbor from her apartment complex are watching their sons. (All names in this story have been changed to protect undocumented people’s identities.) It’s one of Juana’s two days off per week from the luxury hotel she works at in Beverly Hills as a housekeeper. 

The two boys, both 3 years old, are playing on the couch in the small living room that doubles as a dining area, with a kitchen tucked into a corner. Aside from helping watch over the children, Juana’s neighbor holds a gaze through an opening in the front window curtain, and eventually spots someone outside. “That’s the man with the gas company,” she tells Juana in Spanish. “It’s fine if you want to open the door when he knocks.” 

Both women are originally from El Salvador. They help one another with ordinary neighborly tasks like saving a washer in the building’s laundry room for a load of clothes. As women from Central America who are terrified of Donald Trump, they watch one another’s backs the way immigrants and refugees would under a new administration that partly came into power on the promise of mass deportations. These days, the women say, every knock on the door, every step outside, and every ride on public transit merits scrutiny. 

I spent the better part of a week with Juana – morning, noon and night – to try to make sense of her life under Trump, watching her calculate and recalculate even the smallest decisions in her life.

The man at her door, it turns out, works with an energy-savings assistance project and he’s here to let Juana know she’s eligible for a free, brand-new refrigerator. He just needs to confirm she qualifies for the program, which rewards low-income residents with energy-efficient appliances. He enters the tiny one-bedroom apartment to inspect the existing refrigerator, as Juana explains there are three others living here: her husband Roberto, her 9-year-old daughter Bella and her son Bobby. The man jots down some notes and leaves. 

Juana’s friend – who currently has an open asylum claim after fleeing El Salvador with her then-toddler son two years ago – is part of an informal support network that helps keep Juana safe as an undocumented immigrant in Los Angeles, the place she’s called home since shortly after arriving here in 2006. Conversations between the women persistently return to the issue of immigration; Juana’s husband, Roberto, is undocumented, while her children are both United States-born citizens.

Later, she tells me that had her friend not been there to inform her that the man wasn’t an agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, she wouldn’t have opened the door. Instead, she would have hidden inside all day and into the night. 

ICE employs what it calls a sensitive location policy, which dictates that agents should take considerable measures to avoid enforcement actions at hospitals, schools and churches. Yet since Trump assumed office, ICE has detained a woman at a hospitala father a few blocks from his daughters’ schools and a group of men leaving a church shelter where they were keeping warm. 

“Did you hear about the young woman who entered on a visa from Argentina and talked to the press?” Juana asks me one evening. She’s referring to Daniela Vargas, who was detained by ICE moments after speaking at a news conference. Juana knows the story of every high-profile detention and deportation since Trump took office. Although ICE’s policy discourages agents from targeting people at the site of a public demonstration like the one Vargas addressed, that didn’t stop her from being detained. “It’s a risk for us to talk to reporters,” Juana reminds me. 

A few weeks ago, Juana was on her way to work on a Metro train when she saw a friend’s Facebook post about ICE’s presence at Union Station – a stop she wasn’t headed toward but which, nevertheless, is on the same line she was riding. When her shift ended, she asked her friend at work for a ride back home, rather than risk the train. She avoided public transportation entirely for the next five days. 

In addition to verifiable news about ICE’s enforcement, and warranted warnings from her network of supportive friends, false rumors have also taken root in Juana’s life and have caused her to drastically alter her decision-making. She’d long planned to send her daughter, Bella, to visit El Salvador for the first time, either during winter or spring break, but heard that immigration agents – with vicious dogs – were swarming LAX. Although there’s no evidence of this, the rumor alone is enough for Juana to completely avoid an airport she’s visited in the past. Juana’s fear means Bella can’t visit her parent’s homeland – at least until Trump leaves office. 

Juana does have rights as an undocumented immigrant, but she’s not sure what those rights are. The labor union she belongs to holds know-your-rights workshops, but she’s terrified that if she attends, her co-workers will figure out her status. Only one friend at work knows Juana is undocumented; she fears if more find out, it could all be downhill from there. 

Aside from the psychological toll the constant vigilance since Trump’s election has taken on her, Juana is also risking her physical health. While she has employer-based health insurance through Kaiser, she canceled an annual physical because the fake document (which contained her real name and birthday) she was previously using to identify herself, has expired. “There are a lot of racist people,” she tells me. “What if one of them starts questioning me about my documentation?” Although she’s been struggling with digestive issues and poor circulation, she’s willing to forgo a doctor’s visit because of her uncertainty. 

I explain how she can use another form of identification to go to Kaiser, like a passport. Sometime later, she shows me her Salvadoran passport and wonders why her initial panic stopped her from thinking about using it as a different form of ID. What Juana knows about this administration hurts her – but what she doesn’t know about her rights under Trump harms her, too. 

Juana came to the United States in 2006, when she was 23. El Salvador’s civil war had ended in 1992, but the vast rift between the haves and have-nots that largely fueled the war lives on – and it continues to inform the country’s violence. 

Juana had done especially well in mathematics in school but her family couldn’t afford to send her to college to prepare for her dream of becoming an accountant. Instead, she worked factory jobs after graduating high school. She came to the U.S. at a time when there were no real options for her to escape poverty at home. In the decade she’s been gone, El Salvador has exploded with a kind of violence that scares her far more than the threats from Trump’s administration. 

“The first tragedy we lived through was in 2011, when my mom’s older brother couldn’t pay the rent,” she says. The rent she’s referring to isn’t a payment made to a landlord, however, but payments extorted by local gangs. Her uncle was killed. Then, in 2012, a second uncle was killed because he, too, couldn’t pay the rent. That left one uncle behind, who came to the U.S. that year and was granted asylum here. 

In 2013, her aunt came to the U.S. and was also granted asylum along with her two children. That year, however, Juana’s father was shot in the legs but can apparently still walk. “I can’t really tell you how well my dad is doing,” shrugs Juana. “I haven’t seen him since before he was shot.” 

In 2015, her brother-in-law, an undercover cop who had helped put away several gang members, was killed after his boss set him up for a pay-off. His wife, Juana’s sister, became a target after it was rumored that she was a police informant. Her sister went into hiding along with her 11-year-old daughter before fleeing north. They were apprehended just over this side of the U.S. border but were soon released pending an asylum hearing. 

But there’s no such process that Juana thinks is currently available to her – she can be an undocumented immigrant, but not an asylee. This, despite the fact her family has consistently been hunted down in El Salvador, a place she’s seen grow increasingly violent from a distance. “I can’t imagine myself back there,” she says. 

Juana wakes up at 5 a.m. on her workdays, Wednesday through Sunday. Roberto does custom construction work six days a week and has Sundays off – which means the two rarely get to spend a day together. Roberto drives and has a license under California’s undocumented driver program. The license, which is part of a database, is marked to distinguish his undocumented status, but Roberto says it’s better to be licensed and insured than to fly under the radar. Juana never got a license and the car she was using for short errands started acting up recently; instead of getting it fixed, she’s opted to stop driving. It’s too risky now, anyway. 

It’s still dark out and Roberto yawns while he puts his boots on. “There’s no rest here,” he tells me, adding that it’s all work and bills in the United States. He works 48 hours a week earning $12 an hour as an independent contractor. The pay could be worse but it’s challenging every April when the couple forks over their share of taxes to the government. 

By 5:35 a.m., Roberto is warming up the car. Bella is walking with her backpack on as Juana carries a sleeping little Bobby in a blanket. They all get into the car and drive a few minutes over to the friend who will watch the children; she’ll walk Bella to school and back, and watch Bobby all day. By 6:10 a.m., Roberto drops Juana off at a rail stop. 

Juana works the 8 a.m. shift cleaning rooms. She likes the union job and its perks – but as with any job, it comes with its challenges. People who can drop a thousand dollars a night on a hotel stay tend to be demanding. Some can say inappropriate things. There was a fistfight between two guests at the hotel several months ago and the police were called. She didn’t think much of it then, but is terrified of being near police since Trump got elected. 

After an eight-hour shift, Juana walks back to the bus to begin her commute home, along with her friend from work – the one who knows she’s undocumented. This afternoon we’re all walking down a posh but ill-designed residential Beverly Hills street that’s become a throughway for heavy traffic, when the driver of a new sports car almost runs us over. Juana and her friend keep walking as if nothing happened. She tells me later that some Beverly Hills residents assume that because of our skin color, we’re all housekeepers and are therefore not worthy of common courtesy. Confronting the driver could result in further scrutiny from law enforcement – so rather than say anything to him, the women ignored the incident. 

On the last train back home, I spot a sheriff’s deputy quickly board the car in the front of us. As soon as I let her know, Juana calmly puts her phone away and tries to distinguish the deputy through the shadows caused by the sun beginning to set on Los Angeles. For the next three stops, Juana trains her eyes on him without flinching. If I didn’t know what she was doing, I’d guess she was zoning out. She’s not. 

When we detrain, Juana asks me to look back and confirm the deputy’s not following us. He’s not, I assure her. She explains she was extremely alarmed because he was alone when he should have been with a partner, since that’s how they always patrol railcars. Even for people terrified of law enforcement, one deputy shouldn’t garner more trepidation than two deputies, but in Juana’s case, it makes sense. There was something out of the ordinary and it required closer examination – this time, her complete attention to make sure the deputy wasn’t an ICE agent. 

Immigration enforcement is a system – abstract and difficult to put your finger on. Sure, Juana fears the system, but that fear has also caused her to fear individuals, too: the obliging appliance man, the imaginary Kaiser receptionist, the obnoxious sports car driver – they all present a potential danger to an undocumented woman surviving the Trump era.

 

(Aura Bogado is a writer based in Los Angeles. She has written for the Guardian, Teen Vogue, Mother Jones and the Nation. This piece was co-produced by The American Report and Capital and Main.)

-cw

GUEST COMMENTARY--In recent years' videos of law enforcement in action have become commonplace. Departments have adopted video cameras to record their deputies and officers in action, bystanders have posted cellphone videos of police action, and surveillance cameras have captured images which have been replayed on local and national media.  

Cameras have proven to be another tool to improve officer safety and accountability, enhance training and improve prosecution of criminal cases. Review of videos by officers has proven valuable in the accurate documentation of criminal activity as well as an enhancement to subsequent testimony and presentation of evidence in court.  

We expect video recordings will increase deputy sheriffs' effectiveness by documenting crimes and refuting frivolous claims of police misconduct. Time and again, we have seen that some of the best evidence against made-up tales of law enforcement abuse is the complete, unedited video footage of an incident captured in its entirety and with proper context. 

In this age of videos, one concern that law enforcement leaders now face is that the public believes that they know the whole story after a snippet of video on from an incident is captured posted online or shown on television. Unfortunately, while outwardly compelling videos images tell only part of the story, they often do not depict what occurred before and after an incident. Those few moments in time do not provide context and may not reveal the subtleties behind an encounter, what led up to it and the totality of what occurred during it. It is understandable that for most people a collage of images might be all they need to pass judgment, and this leads to a  disconnect as to why law enforcement leaders and prosecutors cannot come to the same quick judgment. 

The narrow scope of a video lens cannot show a deputy's perception of what occurred or in some cases what actually occurred. Cognitive science research has clearly demonstrated that perceptions and memories are not literal representations of reality, and a deputy's behavior is affected by our perceptions of reality not necessarily reality itself. A peace officers' actions reflect their perception of the event from their point of view. 

Videos, whether they be cell phones or body cameras are a tool to document events; they are not the whole story. Interactions with the public, particularly stressful situations such as uses of force, are dynamic and deputies are not able to stop and take notes or record information as cameras can. That is why we have long been a strong proponent of having deputies review videos of incidents before writing their report. Viewing a video allows them to recall details more accurately or at the very least account for those details they didn't perceive or do not remember. The fact that something is recorded doesn't mean the entire context of an event is captured, as this New York Times video documents.  

A complete airing of all the facts can often end up in a different conclusion. For example, as video of three LAPD officers led to public outcry and a civil lawsuit, a federal jury later unanimously rejected the civil rights lawsuit after examining all the facts, and not just focusing on the most sensational piece of video "evidence." In another high-profile case, after repeated airing on television, it was later revealed in court that a video used by a gang member and his attorney to smear the good names of two honest police officers had been doctored. 

We certainly do not quarrel with the use of videos. In fact, they often provide key evidence which can exonerate deputies and officers in the face of questions regarding the use of force actions or claims of misconduct While on television crimes can be solved in in an hour, the intricate legal issues often seen on videos, including those related to law enforcement training, department policies and procedures, control and perception, take more than an hour to analyze. 

Despite their usefulness, it is critical that everyone understands that videos have limitations. Videos are only part of the evidence in an incident, not "all the evidence."  This key point needs to be remembered every time there is a claim that a snippet of video "proves" what happened in any incident. 

 

(The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) is the collective bargaining agent representing more than 7,900 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County.)

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PLATKIN ON PLANNING--If your email box is like mine, it is filled with invitations to Saturday’s Climate Change march and rally in Wilmington’s Banning Park. This rally begins at 11 AM, and it will be followed by a march to the nearby Tesoro Refinery, 1331 Eubank Avenue, in Los Angeles.

If you are already going to this rally, the three articles I discuss below will give you a deeper understanding of why this march is so important. Plus, I end with specific suggestions about what you can pursue locally to adapt to and, more importantly, to mitigate climate change. 

If you haven’t thought about going to the rally, or are on the fence, then please check out the articles I link to below. I consider their authors – Bill McKibben, John Bellamy Foster, and Michael Klare -- to be the best U.S. writers on climate-related issues.   What I appreciate is their accessible writing style and thorough scientific knowledge about climate change. But, more importantly, all three writers dig deeply into the economic, political, and social processes responsible for global warming. These are not writers who fall back on a vague concept of human-caused climate change. Instead, they identify the industries, companies, political forces, and politicians most responsible for what all three writers consider inevitable terracide if not abruptly stopped.

If this strikes you as alarmist, then you are absolutely right. Despite their differences, all three writers are alarmists, and they explain, in painful detail, the political and economic processes that are already leading to planetary-wide destruction. Furthermore, even though their solutions differ, all three call for deep systemic changes beyond their harsh critiques of the Trump administration and of trendy life-style changes dubbed “going green.” 

The lead story in the week’s issue of The Nation, On April 29, We march for the Future, is authored by Bill McKibben, this country leading climate writer, advocate, and political organizer. Widely known through his many articles and appearances, McKibben is also the founder of Saturday’s Climate March in Washington, DC, and in many other cities, like Los Angeles. 

McKibben describes our current situation in these unsparing words: 

“It is hard to avoid hyperbole when you talk about global warming. It is, after all, the biggest 
thing humans have ever done, and by a very large margin. In the past year, we’ve decimated the Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest living structure on Earth. In the drought-stricken territories around the Sahara, we’ve helped kick off what The New York Times called “one of the biggest humanitarian disasters since World War II.” We’ve melted ice at the poles at a record pace, because our emissions trap extra heat from the sun that’s equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima-size explosions a day. Which is why, just maybe, you should come to … a series of big climate protests that will mark the 100th day of Trumptime. Maybe the biggest thing ever is worth a day.” 

McKibben’s solutions largely rest on a combination of mass political pressure on both political parties and extensive technological change. His goal is to keep as much carbon in the ground through total bans on fracking and the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines. He also calls for the full transformation to renewables: solar panels, bikes, buses, electric cars, wind power, and improved batteries. His ultimate goal is the elimination of all new fossil fuel infrastructure and the transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. 

In Trump and Climate Catastrophe, University of Oregon environmental sociologist John Bellamy Foster carefully describes the combined political and economic processes that have lead to the current climate catastrophe. Like McKibben, Foster considers the current crisis to be much larger than Donald Trump. And like McKibben, Foster thinks Trump’s efforts to stop climate research and fully deregulate the fossil fuel industry could move the existing current climate crisis past the point of no return. In Foster’s words: 

The effects of the failure to mitigate global warming will not of course come all at once, and will not affect all regions and populations equally. But just a few years of inaction in the immediate future could lock in dangerous climate change that would be irreversible for the next ten thousand years. It is feared that once the climatic point of no return—usually seen as a 2°C increase in global average temperatures—is reached, positive-feedback mechanisms will set in, accelerating warming trends and leading, in the words of James Hansen, … to “a dynamic situation that is out of [human] control,” propelling the world toward the 4°C (or even higher) future that is thought by scientists to portend the end of civilization, in the sense of organized human society.

Where Foster disagrees with McKibben is over the latter’s faith in a transformation to renewable energy. In Foster’s words, Even though a conversion to renewable energy is hypothetically conceivable within the system, capital’s demand for short-term profits, its competitive drive, its vested interests, and its inability to plan for long-term needs all militate against rational energy solutions. In other words, the economic and political barriers of modern capitalism will effectively block the total technological energy transformation that McKibben calls for. Foster is not opposed to such an energy transformation in theory, but in practice he believes that the political barriers cannot be overcome without a parallel economic transformation. 

As a result, Foster comes to a dire conclusion; we can continue to live under capitalism or we can make the wide-ranging political and economic changes that will ultimately prevent imminent planetary catastrophe. But, we cannot have our cake and eat it too: we can choose one or the other, but cannot choose both.   

Foster calls his alternative political/economic program eco-socialism. He also points out that many others have reached the same radical conclusion, such as Eric S. Godoy and Aaron Jaffe in their October 31, 2016, op-ed piece in the New York Times, “We Don’t Need a ‘War’ on Climate Change, We Need a Revolution.” Their point, like Foster’s, is that we are now at a critical juncture in human history. Governmental and corporate allegiance to fossil fuel profits has become a death knell to humanity. We must now assure that a dangerous economic system ends, not the planet and human civilization. The choice is stark, but it is ours. chael Klare’s recent article, Climate Change is Genocide: Why Inaction equals Annihilation, first appeared on-line at TomDispatch and then was widely republished. 

Like McKibben and Foster, Klare, who teaches at Hampshire College, contends that humanity is at the precipice. Emerging conditions in Africa reveal what this catastrophe eventually portends for the entire planet. In Klare’s words:

The overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists agree that any increase in average world temperatures that exceeds 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial era -- some opt for a rise of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius -- will alter the global climate system drastically.  In such a situation, a number of societies will simply disintegrate in the fashion of South Sudan today, producing staggering chaos and misery. So far, the world has heated up by at least one of those two degrees, and unless we stop burning fossil fuels in quantity soon, the 1.5-degree level will probably be reached in the not-too-distant future. Worse yet, on our present trajectory, it seems highly unlikely that the warming process will stop at 2 or even 3 degrees Celsius, meaning that later in this century many of the worst-case climate-change scenarios -- the inundation of coastal cities, the desertification of vast interior regions, and the collapse of rain-fed agriculture in many areas -- will become everyday reality.

Klare’s program is not fully articulated in his Tom Dispatch article, but he does spell it out in more detail elsewhere, and he also calls for readers to join one of the April 29 Climate Marches. More specifically, Klare proposes that those who understand the calamity already underway work on two fronts. The first is broad political struggle, similar to McKibben, especially against the Trump administration, as well as a full energy transformation. The second is local actions that can proceed with or without hostile laws and regulations from the Trump administration. 

Therefore, let us consider a few of these local actions, especially since the effects of climate change are already appearing in California as more intensive forest fires, droughts, heat waves, tree dies offs, beach erosion, and heavy rains. 

What you can do at the local level: As I have previously written at CityWatch and Progressive City, despite weak leadership in both major parties on climate issues in Washington, DC, there is still much we can achieve at the municipal level. 

Extensive urban tree planting: As explained by a recent LA Times investigative study of tree die-offs in Southern California, climate change plays a decisive role.   It expresses itself as five years of drought, which weakened trees, followed by an extremely wet year in which insects now thrive, including invasive species. The result is millions of dead trees, with no end in sight. Therefore, we need to accelerate our planting of a highly diverse urban forest in Los Angeles so future combinations of extreme climate events, plant dise ases, and invasive species will not devastate entire neighborhoods. 

Once achieved, this vigorous urban forest will reduce CO2 levels, which have recently reach 410 parts per million (ppm). Trees can also filter out other dangerous air pollutants, such as particulate matter. In addition to climate change mitigation, trees also play an important role in adapting to climate change by creating shade that protects us from heat waves and makes walking more inviting, while buffeting heavy rains and allowing percolation into aquifers. 

Alternative Transportation Modes: Los Angele already has a range grass roots group that advocate for more transit, bicycle infrastructure, and pedestrian improvements. While all these options require money, they also need public supporters who are fully engaged. They must write articles and letters-to-the-editor, heavily lobby elected officials, make their case at public meetings and hearings, organize participatory events and demonstrations, and when necessary, engage in civil disobedience. 

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA): On one hand, we have a powerful tool to understand the climate impacts of plans, programs, and public and private projects. It is the California Environmental Quality Act, which also provides elected officials with a lever to stop or downsize projects that contribute to global warming. On the other hand, our elected officials have a developer-guided political agenda to reduce the scope and power of CEQA. Since the developers have no intention of changing this cozy relationship, it is up to local activists to drown out and expose the City Hall pay-to-play that is contributing to terracide. 

Conclusion? When Saturday’s march is over, roll up your sleeves for the long haul. Through CityWatch, you will get some report cards and action plans for the tumultuous years ahead.

 

(Dick Platkin is a former LA city planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatch. He recently taught courses in sustainable city planning at USC’s Price School of Social Policy, where he used articles by the three authors cited in the above column. Please send any comments and corrections to rhplatkin@gmail.com.)

-cw

THE PREVEN REPORT-It was “La La Land” at City Hall…the Greatest Show on Earth! Bungee jumpers (photo above) plunging from impossible heights -- and Mayor Eric “move-over-Scott-Joplin-there’s-a-new-sheriff-in-town” Garcetti jamming hard on the piano. (He’s good. See photo, below left.) 

Not advertised but taking place at the same time on the 15th floor of City Hall East was a magnificent pick-pocket demonstration by the Prop HHH Administrative Oversight Committee (AOC), headed by Richard Llewellyn, who made the unorthodox leap from being Eric Garcetti’s personal lawyer to being the Chief Administrative Officer of the City of Los Angeles. The public couldn’t believe its wallet was gone. How’d they do that? 

Since we last wrote about this group, things have gone from bad to worse. 

Prop HHH was a great victory for Mayor Garcetti, no? He was proud to have led the charge, and wasn’t shy about saying so on TV. 

So why the sudden secrecy? Don’t they want to keep that Great Spirit going? Fill the room with excited members of the public? Celebrate our progress towards ending homelessness in LA?  

Apparently not. Just the opposite. Now, it’s round-the-clock evasion, obfuscation and silly tricks. 

Is this because they’re doing a great job?  Are they planning a surprise party? 

It’s time for the public to send a message to Mayor Garcetti and his team: We are watching. It is not OK to persuade Angelenos to give money for a cause they believe in only to have that money diverted to serve an alternate agenda.  

Here’s some specific demands: 

Meeting agendas must include links to all supplementary materials to be discussed at the meeting -- and audio recordings of those meetings should be posted without delay -- just as every other meeting does. 

The AOC discussed the need for the city to be compensated for the time it spends on work related to Prop HHH. It would take the form, in effect, of a “commission” on each project.  

The precise percentage has not been determined, but it’s not a good sign that when co-author Eric Preven asked what the commission would be on a $3.5 million project and, as the presenter started to answer the question, the CAO shushed the staffer, saying that they weren’t taking questions from the floor. He then authorized another employee to not-answer the question. 

It's true the proposition allows for the City to recoup “costs incidental to issuing the general obligation bonds,” but those should be minimal. And that phrase does not give permission to set up a “billable hours” system.  

It’s the City’s job to handle various funding sources. If we’re going to take a commission off every HHH project, then let’s go to the car dealership model. There are slow months and busy months in any job. You don’t get paid extra for the busy months.  

Also, the bond will save the City money by, as the bond says, mitigating “financial pressures on the General Fund.” 

Something’s got to give. If Mayor Garcetti keeps pushing forward with his public-unfriendly agenda (why else would his team be hiding themselves away?) then public outrage will mount until the whole ugly story winds up on the front page of the New York Times. There is such a thing as bad press, and it’s called “being accused in a national newspaper of stealing money from the homeless.”  

Alternatively, the Mayor can throw in the towel on his agenda, open up the whole process, and wind up on the front page of the NY Times as a star. La La Land forever!

 

(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer and Joshua is a teacher.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LEANING RIGHT--While I believe that my previous article about creating an LA countywide rail network that makes sense to most commuters tied the idea of science to policy fairly well, I regret that my more recent article about tying science to politics and policy didn't make my case as I wish it should have. 

The Scientific Method, in a nutshell, states that a person's observations, or a group of people's opinions, are NOT proof, and that that person or group of people do not KNOW anything; they just believe it with a good reasonable guess. Spending money based on what one knows, or has observed, is not scientific "proof" but rather an educated guess ... but statistics and data can easily fall into bias and a distorted view that leads to a distorted conclusion. 

What's true:  environmental regulations and law did help the smog situation between the 1970's and the present in LA County. 

What's also true: smog existed even in the era where only Native Americans lived in the LA basin, because the San Gabriel Mountains and the easterly winds from the Pacific Ocean would allow campfires to cause a mild form of smog. 

What's also true still: exploding the population of the LA basin without enough water, mobility, environmental and utility infrastructure is not sustainable and cannot possibly lead to a reliable, long-term water/air/soil environmental scenario. 

These are observations, but in theory I don't "know" anything.  And neither does the LA Board of Supervisors, the LA City Council, and all the other do-gooders who usually end up performing and implementing policy that helps a few but hurts the majority. 

Do people need affordable housing?  Yes--particularly true when they have children. 

Do people need open space for recreational and psychological purposes?  Yes--particularly true when they have children. 

Do people need clean and sufficient water, affordable food, and affordable utility to allow for comfortable (and healthy) temperatures in their homes and workplaces?  Yes--regardless of age. 

Has the city and county of Los Angeles built more for middle-class housing and needs?  Decidedly not.  The "policy makers" of Sacramento and Downtown LA keep harping on the need to help the middle class, but yet it's no secret that the middle class is shrinking throughout this state and that our three-class society is rapidly devolving into a two-class society. 

Do observations of historical, economic, and political experiments in extreme left-wing, top-down societies (such as the former USSR, Cuba, Venezuela, Greece, and other nations) support the notion that this sort of policy-making leads to improved health, quality of life, prosperity, and environmental standards for the average citizen in those nations. 

Decidedly not. 

There is a difference between "liberal" (open-minded, self-sufficient, sustainable) and "progressive" (keep making laws, top-down government, always finding new ills to "fix" at the taxpayers' expense), and we are going to have to figure out which is better, liberal or progressive. 

(Ditto between conservative/common sense versus right-wing dogma, by the way) 

So when we have a Planning Commission that unanimously approves a monstrosity overdevelopment that is virtually 3 times as tall as anything anywhere in the adjacent region of the Westside, and is vigorously opposed by local Councilmember Mike Bonin, is that "liberal" or Big Brother politics by that Planning Commission? 

Is it scientifically valid, when just about every traffic and neighborhood analyst states it's acceptable to build at 40-50 feet maximum, but not 80 feet, and that it's a traffic/environmental failure? 

Furthermore, it's nowhere near a rail station, unlike the large development of residential/commercial structures at the Red/Orange Line intersection in North Hollywood. So it's NOT transit-oriented development, but rather transient-oriented development. 

Just because the Planning Commission, Mayor Garcetti and Sacramento scream "BUILD! BUILD! BUILD!" does not make that approval good science, or consistent with human quality of life or health. 

Just like "SPEND! SPEND! SPEND!" does not make for good economic policy. 

And as the middle class leaves California to go to either Texas or other states, the economy of California appears to be filled with mobility for an elite few/wealthy, while filled with roadblocks and shredded dreams for the average man or woman (particularly if they're trying to make a living in the private sector). 

Is this science based on observation?  Yes, and on experience, and based on the ability to discern that we can't build our way out of traffic, overpopulation, urban blight and the like. 

Is it "proof"?  No--that's NOT how the Scientific Method works. 

But the "theory" that overbuilding and not shoring up our infrastructure as we overbuild, and overdensify in the suburbs (while creating new "downtowns" that were never built for being that dense) is hardly scientifically invalid. 

It may be my theory, or the theory of a few of us, but I'm sticking with it. 

Because to do otherwise would be to throw away everything my eyes, ears, and memory has taught me throughout my whole life ... and would it be scientifically valid at all to ignore it based on some "feel-good" idea of how the world "ought" to be, rather than what the world actually is?

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

-cw

RANTZ AND RAVEZ-The 70 Year Anniversary of the Los Angeles Police Reserve Corps was celebrated on Saturday evening, April 22, at the Skirball Cultural Center in the hills adjacent to the 405 freeway and Mulholland Drive. There were celebrities present, along with active and reserve LAPD police officers and their families. Chief Charlie Beck came to greet arriving guests along with members of the LAPD Command Staff. Even former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca attended the banquet to show his support for the men and women of the LAPD. 

Dr. Phil McGraw was honored for his unwavering support for law enforcement officers across America. Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander was also honored as an LAPD Reserve Officer along with Bob Keller, a retired LAPD Sergeant and Reserve Officer Coordinator and current elected official in the city of Santa Clarita. Throughout the festivities of the evening there was great and sincere recognition for the Reserve Officers from the 21 Patrol, Traffic, Air Operations and many specialized divisions throughout the city. Officers were acknowledged for their true and unselfish dedication to the people of Los Angeles. One reserve officer was even recognized for his 50 years of service to the people of our City. 

Noticeably absent was Mayor Garcetti, the City Attorney, the City Controller, all LA City Councilmembers except for Councilman Mitchell Englander (who was recognized and honored during the event) and all five of Mayor Garcetti’s appointed members of the Los Angeles Police Commission. 

This lack of attendance by elected officials and members of the Los Angeles Police Commission tells the story of just how little those people who make the decisions in Los Angeles care about the citizens who volunteer to try and keep LA safe as members of the Los Angeles Police Reserve Corps. 

My ride on the Metro Orange and Red Lines to downtown on a Friday night. 

There was a man threatening to jump from an overpass on the 110 freeway during the evening commute time last Friday evening. I was invited to a judicial dinner at the Biltmore Hotel and did not want to be late. Since I was in the West San Fernando Valley and did not want to get caught up in traffic gridlock as reported on KNX Radio, I decided to take the Metro Orange Line to the Red Line in North Hollywood and hopefully arrive on time.  

I missed the first bus and had to wait for the second one to arrive. I boarded the Orange Line Bus and headed to North Hollywood. I was the only person on the bus wearing a suit. There were the usual public transit riders listening to music on their cell phones and eating and drinking on the bus. The ride went smoothly. I arrived in North Hollywood only to miss the Red Line Train that left just as I approached the boarding area. I waited around 20 minutes and took the next Red Line headed for Union Station. When I sat down, I immediately felt liquid on my pants from something that had been spilled. So now I was wearing whatever it was on suit my pants. Once I found a dry seat and sat down again I started to question why I chose to take public transit rather than drive my car. 

We finally arrived at the Pershing Square station. I left the train and walked the short distance to the Biltmore Hotel and located the event in the banquet room where everyone was already seated. I found the seating chart and located my seat at table 15. The program had already begun; people were eating their salads. Around 30 minutes later, a person arrived and was seated to my left. This individual was the Consul General from Egypt. We discussed his late arrival. Somehow he had ended up in San Pedro and had to drive back to downtown for the event. His delay could have been caused by the individual who was threatening to jump. 

The evening concluded and I walked back to the Pershing Square Red Line station and waited for the rail car to arrive. I boarded the train and headed to the North Hollywood Metro Station. While traveling on the train, I noticed a large amount of trash on the floor of the rail car. At one of the next stops, a Metro employee wearing an orange vest and pushing a large gray trash can boarded the train but stood there doing nothing. He ignored the trash on the floor and exited after a few stops. I don’t know if he was just lazy or if it “was not his job” to pick up the trash. My evening of adventure concluded at the Canoga Park Metro parking lot where I walked to my car and drove home.  


 

I did not notice any law enforcement personnel on any of the Metro vehicles I rode. The lack of visible presence of law enforcement personnel is one of the reasons many people refuse to use the Metro bus and trains to get around Los Angeles. Personal safety is critical when utilizing the Metro. Stats reveal a significant drop in the number of people that ride the public transit lines in Los Angeles. 

Metro is now charging for parking in the North Hollywood Parking lots. The cost is three dollars. Just another reason to avoid taking the Metro in Los Angeles. 

They tricked you once again! 

Senate Bill 1 established a new formula to rip more money out of your pocket when you purchase gas or diesel fuel. The current gas tax is increasing along with diesel fuel and your license plate fees. 

What the Establishment failed to tell you is that all the components of the gas, diesel fuel and license plate surcharges include a clause allowing for inflation. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, all the prices in the new gas formula are tied to inflation and the same goes for car registration. As your fees increase, remember to blame the Governor and the Sacramento politicians who voted for this and pulled another one over on you. 

The articles you have just read are a true reflection of my most recent experiences residing in Los Angeles. I welcome your comments and observations at Zman8910@aol.com.

 

(Dennis P. Zine is Honorary Mayor of Woodland Hills, a 30-year retired LAPD Sergeant, Elected Charter Reform Commissioner, Former Los Angeles City Councilman and current LAPD Reserve Police Officer.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

HEALTHY CA ACT CLEARS FIRST HURDLE--With close to 1,000 supporters rallying outside, California's Senate Health Committee on Wednesday advanced a single-payer healthcare bill that has been described as a potential "catalyst for the nation." 

The Healthy California Act (SB562) would create a universal health system (covering inpatient, outpatient, emergency care, dental, vision, mental health, and nursing home care) for every California resident. Unveiled last month, the bill has the support of National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association, who held a rally at the Sacramento Convention Center Wednesday followed by a march to the state capitol and a presence in the committee room. 

"The most important thing today was the breadth and depth of support by the dozens of people lining up to back the bill, representing 250 organizations across the state," said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association. "These are organizers who are going to be with us to make the Healthy California Act the law of the land in California."

Supporters got one step closer to that goal on Wednesday, when the Health Committee approved the bill 5-2 after a nearly three-hour hearing. State Sen. Richard Roth said his office had gotten more than 1,000 calls from constituents on the single-payer plan.

The opposition has also reared its head. Courthouse News Service reported: "Several of the groups that have lined up against SB 562 have made political contributions to current members of the Senate Health Committee, including chair Ed Hernandez (D-Montebello), Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), and Richard Roth (D-Riverside). Each member voted in favor of the bill Wednesday."

Still, according to the Los Angeles Times, "Democrats and Republicans alike signaled unease with the major question still unanswered in the legislation: how the program would be paid for."

But Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara, the bill's co-author, said a detailed financial study would be completed in May, before the bill is heard in the Appropriations Committee—its next stop, having cleared the Health Committee hurdle. Lara chairs that committee.

"With today's vote we are closer to being able to say, once and for all, that healthcare is not a privilege, it's a human right," Lara declared. "Every family, every child, every senior deserves healthcare that costs less and covers more, and California has a chance to lead the rest of the nation toward universal care."

State Sen. Toni G. Atkins, also a Democrat and the bill's other co-author, praised the committee members, saying: "They see clearly that the time is right for us to give all Californians the peace of mind that comes with knowing that they and their families will have access to quality healthcare, no matter who they are, how much money they have, or who's in power in Washington, D.C."

Indeed, LA Times reporter David Lazarus suggested in March that the GOP's attempt to gut the U.S. healthcare system could in fact bode well for single-payer efforts like California's.

As Paul Y. Song, co-chair of the Campaign for a Healthy California and Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) board member, wrote earlier this week, "[t]he fact is that our legislators can no longer turn a blind eye while California remains hostage to a federal government run by a heartless majority who recklessly controls the purse strings in favor of tax cuts for the 1 percent while refusing to view healthcare as a right. As the 6th largest economy, California needs to think boldly and look at what all major industrialized nations do."

"The answer has been there all along," said Song. "But, in order to get a healthcare program for the people, it must come from an unprecedented groundswell by the people. We must hold our elected officials publicly accountable and demand what we are already paying for and readily deserve. The [Affordable Care Act] pointed our state and nation in the right direction, but the time for real universal healthcare is now and the opportunity to do so is golden and now!"

To that end, PNHP announced Wednesday that U.S. Rep. John Conyers' (D-Mich.) Medicare-for-All bill has amassed a record number of House co-sponsors: 104.

Justice Democrats, a group holding the party accountable for its stance on universal healthcare, tweeted: "Congrats to Cali! #SB562 has made it through Senate Health Committee. Here's to making it national."

(Deirdre Fulton writes for Common Dreams  … where this report was first posted.)

-cw

COMMON DREAMS REPORT--A new report shows that many previous estimates of global sea level rise by 2100 were far too conservative, the Washington Post reported, and the research comes as new maps and graphics from Climate Central vividly show how disastrous that flooding will be for U.S. cities.

The report, Snow, Water, Ice and Permafrost in the Arctic, found that previous estimates of sea level rise didn't account enough for the fast pace of melting ice in the Arctic and Greenland. 

The Post writes:

The assessment found that under a relatively moderate global warming scenario—one that slightly exceeds the temperature targets contained in the Paris climate agreement—seas could be expected to rise "at least" 52 centimeters, or 1.7 feet, by the year 2100. Under a more extreme, "business as usual" warming scenario, meanwhile, the minimum rise would be 74 centimeters, or 2.4 feet.

The report explored a minimum rise scenario, but not a maximum or worst-case scenario. However, a separate report (pdf) published at the end of the Obama administration by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) did just that, and found that in the most extreme case, the sea in some locations will rise a stunning eight feet by the century's end.

Illustrating how devastating this would be, Climate Central created 3D visualizations of what U.S. cities will look like in NOAA's most extreme scenario.

 

(President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort would be completely drowned in the most extreme scenario for sea level rise. (Image: Climate Central)

Rising seas alone may displace over 13 million people in the U.S., dispersing climate refugees and reshaping inland cities, as Common Dreams reported last week.

See more examples of Climate Central's visualizations here and here, and find a 2D map of sea level rise projections here

The ominous new research come as President Donald Trump continues to dismantle climate policies, boosts the fossil fuel industry, and considers pulling out of the Paris climate accord.

But even Trump won't be spared from the looming disaster, Climate Central observes, showing that the projected sea level rise will completely flood the president's Mar-a-Lago resort.

(This is a Common Dreams report.)

-cw

WATER POLITICS--California may be coming out of the drought, but LA’s water system is in dire need of fixing. Angelenos will soon be asked to pay more for their water and they must stay alert to ensure their money is being invested wisely and not wasted on projects for special interests. 

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is set to make its customers pay higher rates and taxes for a project misleadingly named the “California Water Fix.” This project involves building two massive water tunnels underneath the San Joaquin Delta in Northern California and could cost $25-67 billion. 

The tunnels are supported by an alliance of corporate agribusinesses and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), a wholesaler provider that makes money from importing and selling water. 

The tunnels would funnel massive amounts of water to Beverly Hills billionaire Stewart Resnick’s agribusiness empire, whose businesses use more water every year than all the homes in Los Angeles combined. The Resnicks, owners of the Wonderful Company, and their agribusiness allies have gamed the state’s water system to grow excessive amounts of pistachios and almonds in the desert and now they want ratepayers and taxpayers to pay for multi-billion dollar tunnels to keep their scheme going. 

Governor Brown, a longtime friend of agribusiness, is now working to persuade the Trump administration, to greenlight the project. President Trump cozied up to these same special interests in his campaign stops in California. 

The real sucker punch is that the project would not deliver a single drop of new water to Los Angeles. Yet, MWD would charge ratepayers and taxpayers in L.A., Compton, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and other Southern California cities for this boondoggle. An independent analysis found that if the tunnels project were to only cost $25 billion, Angelenos would be stuck $1.6- $3.5 billion of the total cost. And that’s the low end of cost projections. 

For LA to be prepared for the next drought, the solution is not to build tunnels that can’t create new water, but to invest in projects that would maximize our local supply and adapt to the effects of climate change. Mayor Garcetti introduced an Executive Directive to make our water safer from earthquakes and climate impacts by 2024, by calling on LADWP to reduce its dependence on imported water, and to increase local water sources. This includes capturing rainwater, recycling water, cleaning up polluted water and augmenting groundwater storage. A one-inch rain storm can produce up to 10 billion gallons of water, and in an average year, Los Angeles wastes more than 500,000 acre-feet of storm water that runs off to the ocean— which is almost the annual water supply of the City of Los Angeles. 

Water experts estimate that it would cost LA County $300-$500 million a year to build the local infrastructure that would capture more rain. In addition, a proposed water recycling facility could provide another 400,000 acre-feet per year of water for the region. That means the best way to increase the reliability of our water is to invest here in Los Angeles, not in tunnels hundreds of miles away. 

Indeed, the only way Mayor Garcetti can follow through on his plan to cut Los Angeles’ dependence on imported water by half over the next seven years is to make sure not a dime of our DWP bills does towards to building the ill-conceived tunnels. 

MWD and agribusiness are funding a spin campaign to sell the tunnels. They even make the claim that these tunnels could help save endangered fish populations. This Orwellian argument was squelched by a recent federal study that showed that the tunnels could decimate the struggling wild salmon population. 

The tunnels can only be stopped if Southern Californians rise up and refuse to pay for this scam, reminiscent of the film Chinatown. Mayor Garcetti must protect ratepayers and prevent LADWP from wasting our money on the tunnels. The Mayor must act soon, as the Metropolitan Water District has stated it hopes to secure a rate and tax hike for the project as soon as this summer. 

A more reliable LA water system that can withstand the serious impacts of climate change is possible and necessary, but we have to invest in proven local and regional infrastructure now. There is no money to waste to satisfy the greed of special interests.

 

(Brenna Norton is a senior Southern California organizer with Food & Water Watch.) prepped for CityWatch By Linda Abrams.

EASTSIDER-When the dust cleared from the 23 candidate race to replace Xavier Becerra in the 34th Congressional District Special Election, Mariel Garza of the Los Angeles Times couldn’t resist a condescending Opinion piece with the pretentious title of LA voters didn’t just turn their backs on Berniecrat progressivism, they went positively Clintonesque.  

We’ll get into why this is balderdash in a bit, but first a confession from yours truly. I totally forgot that the boundaries of the 34th Congressional District don’t match up at all with the City Council boundaries. It basically covers all of CD1 and CD14, as well as all of Koreatown – as opposed to the Wesson-led effort that came up with the gerrymandered redistricting map that chopped Koreatown into four City Council Districts.

As a result, I didn’t check the financial reporting until it came out a few days before the election, and discovered Robert Ahn, who was not terribly visible in my area of town but still scored something like $500,000 in contributions as of that last reporting period before the election. Shame on me, and let’s hear it for Ahn, who came in second in the race and will face Jimmy Gomez in the June 6 runoff. My bad. 

Behind the Primary Numbers 

While Gomez and Ahn are the survivors of the primary, let’s not forget that between the two of them, they got less than 48 percent of the vote (25% and 22%) and nine of the 23 candidates got over 1000 votes, with Maria Cabildo scoring over 10% (4259.) That ain’t bad. From my point of view, these numbers repudiate the assumptions buried in the Times OpEd that it’s business as usual. 

Those numbers demonstrate to me exactly what the “Bernie Revolution” was really about -- creating the next generation of younger, grassroots, bottom-up progressive democrats that will take over the ho-hum Democratic Party establishment. Good for them and shame on Mariel Garza and the Times

And while Garza’s piece was written before the final tally, the actual final turnout numbers were 14% of eligible voters, not the 10% she reported. That represents some 43,000 voters, of which over 50% were vote by mail. While that is not a huge number, it isn’t terrible in a year where we have had election after election, with more to come, and a number of my friends have complained about voter burnout. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could rationalize our voting system? 

Also, the voting shift from going to the polls vs. mail-in-balloting is getting progressively larger, courtesy of the permanent vote-by-mail, called “permanent absentee voter” in Registrar-ese. I think that the 50% number is going to continue to grow, as people become less interested in taking their decreasing personal time to actually go to the polls on Election Day, and are more comfortable with social media and other not-in-the-flesh ways of communication. 

Democratic Clubs and the 34th Congressional District 

In large part because of all the interesting and contentious elections in what used to be boring old Northeast LA, our Democratic clubs have been growing by leaps and bounds. At last week’s Northeast Dems endorsement debate, around 200 members packed the venue to hear Gil Cedillo and Joe Bray-Ali. And these were actual dues paying members, since you had to be a member to vote. Good for them. 

I won’t get into the NEDC’s CD1 endorsement debate, since it mirrored other recent debates between incumbent Gil Cedillo and challenger Joe Bray-Ali. I will only say that the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of Gil Cedillo. The one variable I’m not quite sure about is that in the “old” days you had to have been a member by the beginning of the year to vote. I heard that the new criteria had a much shorter time frame and might have been responsible for the dramatic increase in the club’s numbers for this endorsement vote. 

As for the EAPD (East Area Progressives), they have had almost a geometrical membership growth, and are probably at around 800 members as I write this column. 

Since the Northeast Dems endorsed Jimmy Gomez before the primary and the East LA Progressive Dems have not yet made an endorsement, it made the April 25 meeting important. 

I will again have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with Robert Lee Ahn until recently -- I don’t go to Planning Commission meetings because I believe that they either do what the Council tells them or the Council will overrule whatever action they take. Mr. Ahn is on that Commission and it would have been helpful to see him in action, notwithstanding the City Council’s 15-0 closed ranks “we don’t care what the Planning Commission thinks” attitude. 

So I’m glad I attended the EAPD meeting. From a very articulate and passionate pitch by Mr. Ahn’s surrogate, Peter Choi, I will admit that I am fascinated, and want to learn more, not to mention meet and greet Robert Lee Ahn. A native Angeleno, (LAC/USC Hospital) he came up in the Congressional District, and ultimately became a practicing public interest attorney after obtaining his law degree from USC. 

His resume is seriously impressive. In addition to being on the LA City Planning Commission, he reads like an honest-to-god-no-kidding Bernie progressive, kind of like Joseph Bray-Ali in CD1, but this time, a straight-up lifer grassroots democrat with a real progressive track record. And a public interest lawyer to boot. 

Jimmy Gomez we know. Currently in the Legislature, well-spoken, and beyond a doubt the front runner. He’s endorsed by everybody -- Xavier Becerra himself, the California Democratic Party, and SEIU, and so on. 

At the meeting Mr. Gomez spoke very knowledgeably about current California legislation, like the Disclose Act (AB 14), which he co-authored and would require the big bucks donors on ballot measures to cough up their names. He also talked about SB 54 (the “sanctuary state” bill), authored by his friend Kevin de Leon -- which recently passed out the Senate. 

The Takeaway 

Here’s the thing. As with Council District 1, Congressional District 34 is an up-front carve-out designed to be a safe Latino District within our wonderfully partisan federal redistricting process. I’m so used to City Hall slicing and dicing Koreatown into digestible pieces, that I missed the fact that all of Koreatown is in the 34th Congressional District. And I’m sure that I am not alone in that unfortunate assumption. 

Still, it may not all be locked up for the front-runner Jimmy Gomez. After all, he wound up with only 25% of the total vote, about 2% more than Robert Lee Ahn. It’s all about turnout. If the real Bernie progressives show up in force, and there are enough of them on that list of 23 candidates, Robert Lee Ahn could win. As the primary proved, he has the ability to be raise enough funds and votes to be competitive in a runoff election. 

The trick is, Robert Lee Ahn needs to be able to reach out to everyone in the district to let them get to know him and see him in action, including me. Remember, this vote could have national implications in the toxic Washington battles to come. 

So I urge everyone to try and see both Ahn and Gomez before they cast a ballot. Hint, hint, the EAPD Endorsement Meeting will be on May 23, and it would be an excellent opportunity to see both candidates in action. You can find out more about them here.  

As readers of this column know, I love a real, competitive race for office. Witness Council District 1, the only runoff against an incumbent in LA City. Something is happening in Northeast LA, even as we gentrify. In this race the stakes are infinitely higher than for a local election, so we need to pay serious attention. This job could be for life, and we don’t need someone who will simply follow the Nancy Pelosi party line -- she and her pre-anointed candidate are what got Donald Trump elected President. 

And on a personal note, Xavier Becerra was absolutely loyal to Nancy Pelosi for his entire career in the U.S. Congress, and what he got for all that loyalty was to be passed over a lot. Even as Pelosi failed to take the hint that she’s why the Dems lost the House, and ran for re-election as House Minority Leader. 

Becerra’s a good guy (even if he has pre-endorsed in this runoff) and I’ve followed him his entire career. What the D.C. Dems did wasn’t right, and all their actions simply show that they won’t let the next generation step up and take their rightful place in Washington. You know, the ones that might actually be progressive. 

Follow this race closely, engage in the debate, and above all, VOTE if you are in the District!

 

(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.

BELL VIEW-It’s a strange day in Los Angeles. The slow drip of slime that has been falling on the head of the only independent candidate for City Council – a guy I once described as a "ray of hope" – has started to leave a real stain.  My friend, Don, who’s been pounding the pavement for change since his training wheel days, appealed to everyone for empathy. But I can feel his heart breaking. “Why can’t we have nice things?” another friend asked in response to the breaking story.

I don’t know all the facts, but the ones I know don’t look good for the candidate. Somewhere, a former campaign staffer with an iPhone full of now ironic uplifting moments from this Cinderella story is dusting off her elevator pitch in anticipation of next year’s Sundance Film Festival. 

Empathy. It’s hard to find in an era of racism, homophobia, sexism, ageism, fat-shaming, slut-shaming, rape-explaining, and pussy-grabbing. Everything today quickly divides into two camps. And, although I believe in objective truth, and that some things are either right or wrong, I also believe that most of the answers we seek fall somewhere between the two camps. Not some squishy middle where nothing means anything, not the phony objectivity conjured by the “both sides do it” media, but true communities built among diverse people. For that kind of community to exist, we need empathy and we need optimism.

Joe Bray-Ali is done. He only ever had a snowball’s chance, and Gil Cedillo just turned up the heat. That Bray-Ali lit the match himself only adds to the sense of constant defeat that hangs in the air like smog. 

Why can’t we have nice things? 

Well … we can. Exhibit A: The Silver Lake Reservoir. Like everything, the discussion around the future of the “lake” has broken down into competing ideologies.  As usual, no discussion can take place without name calling and unfounded comparisons. Home ownership is likened to Trumpism; urban planning to ethnic cleansing; development to gentrification. I tend to divide the world up between the rich and the rest of us. 

But a park is something we should all be able to agree on. Parks are what cities do best. And LA needs more parks. 

I have a calculation I do whenever a politician in LA suggests turning some space into a park. I analyze the increased traffic flow, the impact on scarce parking resources, the potential influx of homeless people, the expense of building and maintaining the park…. 

And then I say yes.

I never met a park I didn’t like. A real park. People point to the disaster that is the “Triangle Park” in Los Feliz – but that was never anything but a glorified traffic median. Open the Silver Lake Reservoir up to people, wildlife, trees, benches, and – yeah – bathrooms and watch it blossom. I empathize with the fears of long-term residents who worry that their neighborhood will be turned into the Santa Monica Pier. I don’t see racism behind the desire to protect the single greatest investment of your life. But real progress almost always involves a leap of faith. And I have faith in the people of Los Angeles. 

Let’s make Silver Lake Reservoir a park. And let’s not stop there.  

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

DEEGAN ON LA-Lost in the landscape of the homeless people we see across the city are youth experiencing homelessness, struggling to survive. 

They are out there, just like homeless adults, but they have a different sort of pedigree: many are “survivors” of the juvenile justice system or have been aged out of the foster care system. Parental neglect and abuse have also driven many young people into homelessness. 

Nearly 4,000 homeless youth are on the streets of Los Angeles, according to the most recent Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) homeless count. 

They come into their new world of “independence” still dependent on others to help them with the basics that most non-homeless young people have already received from their families and their progression through school: food and shelter, socialization skills, job training and placement, as well as an education.

Many of these wanderers who are educated in the “school of life” find resources tailored just for them at My Friend’s Place in Hollywood. Here, dozens of youth experiencing homelessness drop in every day to access the core free offerings that include the social services triumvirate of Health and Wellbeing, Safe Haven, and Transformative Education programs. For these clients, that translates into case management, legal, medical and mental health referrals, meals and showers, creative arts workshops, educational assistance and help with employment. 

My Friend’s Place serves 1,400 individuals a year and is a member agency of Hollywood Homeless Youth Partnership that calls itself “a collection of preeminent experts on the issues of youth homelessness in Los Angeles, the current homeless capital of America.” As service providers, the Partnership agencies “work to achieve best practices in service delivery with the goal of strengthening interventions to help homeless youth exit the streets, overcoming the traumatic experiences at the core of their homelessness.” 

How does this work? According to Heather Carmichael, Executive Director of My Friend’s Place, (photo, left) “Working with the leading social services providers and educational institutions in the region as well as over 400 volunteers, My Friend’s Place offers a free and comprehensive continuum of care that combines emergency necessities with therapeutic, health, employment and education assistance, and creative arts services through three programmatic areas.” 

The professionally staffed drop-in Resource Center has in its mission statement the goal of “lowering the traditional barriers to service and providing homeless youth with the opportunity to improve their psychological, intellectual and physical capacity to reach their potential.” 

Carmichael has been doing this type of work for over 23 years as a Licensed Clinical Social worker helping at-risk and high-risk youth, and working at My Friend’s Place for 17 years where she has helped grow the organization to be one of the largest comprehensive service centers in Los Angeles for youth experiencing homelessness. 

The composition of this mostly invisible homeless youth population can be eye-opening: My Friend’s Place serves homeless youth ages 12 to 25 and their children. That’s right -- their children -- a mostly under-acknowledged population that is homeless, just like the more familiar populations that are segmented into homeless male adults, homeless women with children, and homeless veterans. 

Any entry barrier that could be created by the cost of services is kept deliberately low for the young people who flock to the safe haven of My Friend’s Place in Hollywood. Carmichael, her staff and dozens of volunteers all work to “create positive attachment” with them, as she describes their process. 

Along with traditional social services, My Friend’s Place has become a beacon for youth with a level of distress above the norm, as described in a recent snapshot by Children's Hospital Los Angeles. In side-by-side categories, these homeless young people were shown to be more vulnerable than homeless youth accessing services at other agencies. The needs assessment conducted by CHLA, with support from the California Endowment, was overlaid with data from My Friend’s Place, revealing that the homeless youth who access services at My Friend’s Place exhibit significantly higher rates of substance abuse, past trauma, and mental health challenges. 

Carmichael explains, “As for the level of distress of the youth receiving support here at MFP, many of the youth we serve have not been able to thrive in other structured environments and have lost housing, been banned from other community resources leaving them with fewer options and leading them to more intense survival behaviors, greater exposure to victimization and the further delaying of healing of childhood abuse and neglect. We operate as a kind of ‘urgent care’ center for youth who are super distrusting of adults and social services. We meet youth ‘where they are at’ in the ultimate intention to engage them on a path toward wellness and stability.” 

A good example of someone helped by their program is 23 year old "Alicia" (she asked that a pseudonym be used to protect her privacy) who offers that "being homeless, you quickly become used to people not caring. But there was never a day I felt like I couldn’t come to My Friend’s Place and find support. Eventually, with the help of My Friend’s Place and other organizations, I got into shelter, I got a job and I began to really work on myself." 

Being a homeless youth in Hollywood does not mean being without friends or a place to get help, as My Friend’s Place now demonstrates five days a week, operating for the past 29 years since 1988 when a small staff started it all by packing 50 sack lunches and heading out for their first Friday night meal drive. They were greeted by over 100 young people in need of food. It was the first of thousands of “moments” in Hollywood that have made My Friend’s Place “home” to homeless youth, and such a significant contributor to the community.

 

(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 timdeegan2015@gmail.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EDUCATION POLITICS-The pro-privatization LA School Report (LASR) spun a school board committee meeting report last month to say that just about everybody in LAUSD wants charter schools to be included in a universal enrollment system. This was alarming since universal enrollment is an urgent priority of the charter lobby. 

“Common enrollment is a big Walton idea to put charters on the same footing as public schools,” education historian and national treasure Diane Ravitch told me in an email.

Whether they call it universal enrollment, common enrollment, unified enrollment, or OneApp, charters want to piggyback on the establishment. Always insisting that they are “public schools,” they want to be viewed that way by every parent, “regardless of zip code.” Similar enrollment systems in New Orleans and Denver were funded by the pro-charter Walton Family Foundation

Yet the headline to the meeting recap cheered, “All sides push for earlier inclusion of charters as LAUSD readies its Universal Enrollment site.” 

This caused a bit of a stir because the article said that even the privatizers’ nemesis, UTLA, was on board. 

“One of the committee members, Robin Potash, a teacher representing UTLA, said it was important for the district to include charter schools in the list of options and to do it faster than their present timeline….“We all know there are many new charters opening in the district and they should be included as soon as possible,” Potash said. “These are all our students and they should be listed as options.” 

Given that universal enrollment is such a boon for charters, could it be true that there is consensus among the California charter lobby, the UTLA representative and all three LAUSD board members on that committee? 

I called UTLA’s Robin Potash to find out if LASR quoted her accurately. 

She explained that her comments at the meeting came after a rosy presentation by the LAUSD School Choice department. (You can watch here.) 

One LAUSD staffer said it was like a shopping cart. “What this will allow parents to do now is a one stop shop.” 

We’re “hoping to increase the equity and access,” said another. 

That resonated with Potash. She said her school, located in South Central LA, has four co-located charters impacting it. She was hopeful that the inclusion of charters in LAUSD’s enrollment application would also bring some much needed oversight of them. 

Potash was looking for solutions to a problem that is so common that the ACLU issued a report last year admonishing the one in five California charter schools that were found using discriminatory enrollment practices, according to the report. The NAACP found discriminatory enrollment by charters to be such a significant problem that it called for a national moratorium on charter expansion until that and other issues were corrected. 

Maybe including charters in LAUSD’s enrollment process would be a way of making them more accountable for using the standard enrollment methods employed by district schools. At least that’s what Potash hoped. 

She’s not alone. 

Last year, California’s State Senate Education Committee held a hearing about charter oversight. The committee was asked to push school districts for common enrollment for the same reasons Potash thought it might help. 

In testimony to the committee, Silke Bradford, the Director of Quality Diverse Providers for Oakland Unified School District, suggested that a common enrollment system like New Orleans uses, would go a long way toward providing the oversight and accountability that charters need. You can watch her testimony here.  

She said for charter schools to be “pure public schools,” a term she coined to distinguish charter schools that are using public funds transparently from those that are not, they have to do better about including all students. Specifically, she asserted that the increased oversight of a common enrollment system would prevent exclusionary enrollment because all parents would get applications rather than just the parents handpicked by a particular charter or those savvy enough to navigate a complex system. She said charters would no longer counsel out students who proved challenging or expensive to educate. She also thought it would give foster students a better shot at enrolling. Left on their own, charters set application deadlines before foster youth are placed in homes. 

To be clear, Bradford is a charter oversight authority -- a former Green Dot Charter School administrator -- who was asking the State Legislature to push districts to enact common enrollment in order to help hold charters accountable for their failure to provide equitable access.

It should not be surprising, then, that someone would sit through a presentation about the wonders of universal enrollment and conclude that it could help provide some oversight that charters are currently lacking. 

Plus, LAUSD’s School Choice department was so convincing. You can watch their presentation here.

So it seems the policy makers are all in. What does the research say? 

Let’s visit the petri dish -- or swamp -- of charter takeover, New Orleans. Researcher and author, Mercedes Schneider previously examined the New Orleans’ unified enrollment experiment, “OneApp”, in July 2013. That post might have been the most in-depth review of the topic at the time. She said the selective enrollment has continued under OneApp. 

In fact, four years later, we now know that inequity is worse in New Orleans than it was before implementation of the common enrollment system, according to a Stanford University study.  

Education researchers Frank Adamson, Channa Cook-Harvey, and Linda Darling-Hammond have issued a report called, “Whose Choice? Student Experiences and Outcomes in the New Orleans School Marketplace.” 

In an email, Dr. Adamson told me, “The common enrollment approach is a major cornerstone of how schools end up selecting students (instead of the other way around). This usually occurs through a variety of loopholes (some schools maintaining neighborhood, sibling, or other preferential treatment), lack of equal access in the stratification by race and class in terms of access to higher performing schools.” 

You can read the full report here.   

Even a Walton funded report conceded problems. It quoted a parent as saying, “They make us believe that we actually have a choice and we’re involved in the process of picking our children’s school, but ultimately, if the computer didn’t pick your [lottery number], it doesn’t matter.” 

Last year, when Oakland Unified School District was considering common enrollment, Dr. Adamson was joined in a panel discussion by Julian Vasquez Heilig, the head of Cal-State Sacramento’s education leadership PhD program. He also chairs the education committee of the NAACP of California and is a board member of the pro-public school Network for Public Education co-founded by Diane Ravitch. His blog is called Cloaking Inequity

Dr. Vasquez Heilig said, “We know a lot about what happens with common enrollment from New Orleans.”  

He explained that the higher performing schools fill up and many kids get stuck in lower performing schools. The more elite or higher performing schools create additional hoops that some parents don’t have access to, such as attending seminars or filing extra applications.

“OneApp is disingenuous because there are alternative pathways,” into the higher performing schools, he said. 

He summed up the lessons learned in New Orleans this way: “They’re last or nearly last in every single education indicator.” 

The research on New Orleans provides extensive evidence about the consequences of unified enrollment. LAUSD officials should do their homework before implementing such a system in the second largest school district in the country.

Concerned about LAUSD's Universal Enrollment? E-mail, call or write your school board member:

  213-241-6387Steve.Zimmer@lausd.net
  213-241-6385
Richard.Vladovic@lausd.net
  213-241-6388
Monica.Ratliff@lausd.net
  213-241-6382
George.McKenna@lausd.net
  213-241-5555
Ref.Rodriguez@lausd.net
  213-241-6180
Monica.Garcia@lausd.net
  213-241-8333
Scott.Schmerelson@lausd.net

And the Superintendent:
superintendent@lausd.net 
213-241-7000

 

(Karen Wolfe is a public school parent, the Executive Director of PS Connect and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

CITYWATCH RESISTANCE WATCH--My day began bright and early yesterday at 5:00 a.m. I and two friends loaded up the car with our DJ equipment and headed off to the March for Science at Pershing Square. As official DJs for the march, we had permission to set up our gear at the corner of 6th and Hill. After setting up and securing our official t-shirts, I headed off to the press booth to pick up my press badge. 

The day was a scorcher but the mood was buoyant as some 50,000 people gathered to send a message to public servants from local and state officials to the Trump administration: BELIEVE IT OR NOT, SCIENCE IS REAL. 

I was doing double duty at the event which marked the 47th anniversary of Earth Day. I spoke to dozens of people of all ages and nationalities about why they came down to Pershing Square. Here is some of what they said: 

Earth Day 2017 at the March for Science LA    

The event was a great way to get first hand information from all manner of scientists, researchers, activists, educators and enthusiasts. The speakers list was filled with brainiacs like organizers Jennifer and Philip Wheeler, CSUN astrophysicist Farisa Morales, seismologist Lucy Jones, US congressman Brad Sherman, high school student Joanne Boadi, Children’s Hospital LA pediatrician Diane Tanaka, NextGen Climate founder Tom Steyer, Hidden Figures screenwriter Allison Schroeder, and CSUN plant biologist Maria Elena Zavala. 

The Square was lined with booths from scientific and environmental organizations such as NASA, Cal Tech and the Sierra Club with scientists and activists holding impromptu educational sessions right then and there. 

As for my time over at the DJ booth, we had people getting into the groove to the sound of cumbia, salsa, tribal, jazz and African beats with a dash of classic oldies from the 60s through 90s and a pinch of today’s top hits. We’ve also added a new addition to our collective – DJ Rockin’ Riot. His infectious brand of Record Hop with Wild Boppers, Hot Jivers & Cool Strollers had dreaming of lindy hop magic as they waited in line for the various offerings from the food trucks lining Hill Street near our booth. 

It was a beautiful day on Earth Day 2017 and I am filled with hope at the fact that 45 is making resisters out of people who never thought they would be protestors. #KeepResisting !!

(Jennifer Caldwell is a an actress and an active member of SAG-AFTRA, serving on several committees. She is a published author of short stories and news articles and is a featured contributor to CityWatch. Her column at www.RecessionCafe.wordpress.com is dishing up good deals, recipes and food for thought. Jennifer can be reached at recessioncafe@yahoo.com.  Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jennifercald - Twitter: @checkingthegate ... And her website: Jenniferhcaldwell.com) 

-cw

CORRUPTION WATCH-Secrecy is power. Power tends to corrupt. Corruption destroys. The courts are the most secretive branch of government. The secrecy which the California courts enjoy has resulted in serious constitutional violations. 

While anyone may bring a video camera to record other public meetings, the law forbids the recording any judicial proceeding without the express, prior permission of the court. California Rule of Court 1.150: 

1.150 (c) Photographing, recording, and broadcasting prohibited 

Except as provided in this rule, court proceedings may not be photographed, recorded, or broadcast… 

1.150 (d) Personal recording devices 

The judge may permit inconspicuous personal recording devices to be used by persons in a courtroom to make sound recordings as personal notes of the proceedings. A person proposing to use a recording device must obtain advance permission from the judge. The recordings must not be used for any purpose other than as personal notes.

In contrast, California law mandates that all other public meetings may be recorded by the public. 

Government Code, § 54953.5. (a) Any person attending an open and public meeting of a legislative body of a local agency shall have the right to record the proceedings with an audio or video recorder or a still or motion picture camera in the absence of a reasonable finding by the legislative body of the local agency that the recording cannot continue without noise, illumination, or obstruction of view that constitutes, or would constitute, a persistent disruption of the proceedings. 

Trials are not secret proceedings closed to the public and the Brown Act recognizes that the recording of a public meeting is no different from a person’s watching and listening to a public meeting. Is there any reason that people, including parties to litigation and the news media, must obtain the express permission of the judge in order to record a trial? Even if the judge permitted a record, under Rule 1.150(d) the recorder’s use is limited “personal notes.” “The recordings must not be used for any purpose other than as personal notes. Rule 1.150(d) 

Since we have all seen trial excerpts actually televised, the courts are ignoring the law when it suits the court’s interests. If a judge wants a recording made public, he ignores the law that limits the use to “personal notes.” In a nation based on the rule of law rather than the whim of men, judges should follow the law, but they do not. Rather, in California the judges and justices do whatever personally pleases them. That is tyranny. 

In the last several years, judicial abuse has become worse since the courts have ceased to have official court reporters. As a result, only the wealthy can afford to pay for court reporters and those court reporters are beholden to the law firm which retains them. The number of missing words and “inaudibles” which appear favorable to the party who hired the court reporter is suspiciously high. Others who were present in court not only do not have permission to use a tape recorder, but if they obtained permission, they are forbidden to use their recording to augment or correct an inaccurate transcription. “The recordings must not be used for any purpose other than as personal notes. Rule 1.150(d) 

It is worse than ironic that public court hearings during which someone’s life may be destroyed -- where he may be judicially robbed of all he owns or placed on death row -- may not be recorded, yet the Brown Act mandates that anyone may record a public meeting which discusses which sidewalks need repair. 

Sunshine Is the Disinfectant that Rids Government of Corruption 

Over a century ago in his book, Other People’s Money (1914), soon to be Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote: 

“Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman. And publicity has already played an important part in the struggle against the Money Trust.” 

More than 100 years later, the disinfectant of sunlight is shut out of California courts. The power of secrecy keeps the public from knowing what is being done to them. The federal court system, however, is one institution with many opportunities to witness the persistent constitutional violations of the California judiciary. 

The nation has two court systems. While each state has its own courts, the federal government has its own system organized into districts. California State Courts fall in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which covers the entire western United States. When it comes to the U.S. Constitution, the federal system has the final say. 

California’s Epidemic of Misconduct 

The Federal courts have been trying for decades to force the California courts to rectify their unconstitutional behavior. In January 2015, three federal judges complained that the California courts display an “epidemic of misconduct” and placed the blame on state court judges and, in particular, on California Supreme Court Chief Justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye (albeit the problem predates her tenure.)

The January 2015 case involved both a lying jailhouse informant and the prosecutor who committed perjury in order to convict the defendant. When the State Court of Appeals learned about the lying jailhouse informant and the prosecutor’s perjury, they said it was “harmless error.” A prosecutor solicits perjured testimony and then himself falsely testifies in the front of the jury that the lying jailhouse informant is credible. Yet, the California judges find committing two felonies to be harmless error. As the three federal judges knew from their experience, this type of misconduct was not rare, but rather California was suffering from an epidemic. 

Federal Judges Acknowledge that the California Courts Will Persist in their Constitutional Violations 

As federal Judge Kozinski noted, prosecutors "got caught this time but they are going to keep doing it because they have state judges who are willing to look the other way." 

As Judge Kozinski predicted, a year later the federal courts were faced with the unconstitutional behavior of the California justices themselves. This time, the justices were not merely turning a blind eye, but they were, in fact, the perpetrators. The case was Curiel v Miller (9th Cir. # 11-56949, March 23, 2016.) 

Writs of Habeas Corpus, Briefly Explained 

The Curiel Case presents an esoteric issue for the layman, i.e. when may the federal court review the state court’s denial of a writ of habeas corpus? Simply speaking, when someone believes that he is wrongfully imprisoned, he may ask the court to be released. He seeks a writ of habeas corpus. If granted, the court then tells the jail to release imprisoned person. 

The writ process is slow since the wrongfully incarcerated person has to start with the trial court, work his way through the state court system, and if denied by the California Supreme Court, he has to petition the federal courts. Thus, a wrongfully imprisoned person can spend several months or years in jail without a just basis for being locked up. (Curiel was convicted in March 2006, and the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion a decade later in March 2016.) 

The California state courts have a history of locking up people who have done nothing wrong. Former U.S. Attorney Richard I. Fine, for example, was thrown in jail for fourteen months because he had brought to light the fact that all the judges in Los Angeles County were receiving millions of dollars in extra salary from the County. In retaliation, Attorney Fine was disbarred, ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars and thrown in jail. Thus, readers should realize that we are discussing being soft on crime. People who have done nothing wrong except anger California judges can find themselves incarcerated. 

In his concurring opinion in the Curiel case, Judge Jay S. Bybee, who is a recent George Bush appointee to the Federal Court, related the extensive history of the Federal courts’ attempts to have the California Supreme Court provide an accurate explanation why a writ for habeas corpus has been denied. If a prisoner has filed his writ late, then the federal court may not review the propriety of his incarceration, but if his writ is defective, then the federal court may review and reverse the denial. Then, the prisoner may be released or he may have a new trial. 

California Supreme Court Intentionally Interferes with the Functioning of the Federal Judiciary 

In order to thwart the federal court’s review of its denial of habeas corpus petitions, the California Supreme Court often refuses to say whether the habeas corpus petition was late or defective. The California Supreme Court’s intentional perpetuation of this ambiguity prevents defective denials from being reviewed. As stated, a late habeas corpus petition is not subject to federal review. In order to take a case for review, the federal court needs to show that the case involved a defective writ. When the Supreme Court obfuscates the basis for denying the writ, the federal court cannot show that the writ was denied because it was defective. Can one imagine a more gross violation of constitutional rights than locking someone up and then refusing to tell the reviewing court why? (This conundrum has its origin with the U.S. Supreme Court which has established a habeas corpus writ review procedure that makes it easy for the state courts to violate the U.S. Constitution and evade review by the federal courts.) 

Thousands of Californians are subjected to these Constitutional Abuses 

Since there about 3,400 denials of writs of habeas corpus each year, a significant number of people are affected by the California Supreme Court’s intentional interference with the federal court’s work. Federal Judge Stephen Reinhardt stated that the California Supreme Court’s behavior leaves “even clearly erroneous constitutional decisions of the state courts...uncorrected and leave[s] defendants without the check on constitutional error…” 

The Constitutional Crisis that Arises from the Recalcitrant Nature of California Supreme Court Justices 

Federal Judge Jay S. Bybee went so far as to suggest that the California Supreme Court needs new justices. When the degree of intransigence in denying people their constitutional rights has become so serious that a federal judge recommends a change of the composition of the California Supreme Court, we have an extraordinarily grave constitutional crisis.

“I recognize that I am writing against a long history of conversations between our court and the California Supreme Court over precisely these kinds of concerns. Perhaps changes in the composition of that court will give it the opportunity to rethink how it disposes of its summary habeas docket.” Judge Bybee, concurrent opinion, page 25, fn 1. 

Federal Judge Bybee recognizes that the problem with the California judiciary rests with the character, or lack of character, of the people who serve on the court. Because a fish rots from the head down, his suggestion that the composition of the Supreme Court be changed focuses attention where it belongs – on the moral failures of the California judiciary.

 

(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

MY TURN--Personally, it seems to be a combination of schizophrenia, paranoia, disillusionment, idealism, optimistic, and activism. It is difficult to be apathetic living in these times. Events and rhetoric   coming out of Washington DC ranges from the "Gang that couldn't shoot Straight" to "Wow maybe that was a smart move to get China to help with North Korea." 

This almost first 100 days of a new administration has not been boring. It would be good to have a little boredom right now. If I were a betting woman, I would bet that we will not have a "great" tax cut plan; a new "health care" plan; and a government funding continuation this week.   Congress and the White House will probably do what has been done in the past and kick the funding of the government on a temporary basis till September. 

At this stage neither the two political parties or the President can afford to shut the government down!

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Mayor Garcetti did his dog and pony act on budget matters last Thursday and again proved his position as LA's chief cheerleader. My CW colleague Jack Humphreville again jumped in with his "Sky is Falling" commentary on how the Mayor is not being realistic and gave his readers something more to worry about. Both of them are right.   So how do we get to a compromise? 

Unemployment fell in California and our GDP led the federal average. However if the Writers Strike occurs a lot of that good news will quickly disappear. We have the City run-off election on May 16th with two City Council seats, District 1 and District 7. I haven't received a ballot in the mail so I assume I am not involved in any of the runoffs.

I have mentioned in other articles how it seems we in Southern California lives in a bubble. Even Mother Nature looked favorably and ended our drought. Our Governor has done a good job in trying to insulate us from the misguided environmental rollbacks emanating from DC.   Whether they will result in punitive action from the President remains uncertain. 

I was happy to see the CALEXIT group eliminated their ballot initiative for now. California is an important part of this country and when things get tough you don't run away but marshal forces and make changes. 

Lots of hue and cry about California … in particular Los Angeles … being a Sanctuary State or City. I do think that we should deport felonious illegal immigrants. Why do it after their incarceration is beyond me. It is expensive housing prisoners. If they are convicted send them back to serve their prison term in their country of birth.

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Unless you are wealthy the prisons in the US are far nicer than those in other countries. To those who say the criminals will just come back ... we can take part of the ‘wall’ money and put in more technology and personnel to try and keep that from happening. 

Rather than building a "beautiful" wall on our Southern Border it would make more sense and certainly be a more efficient way of saving money and getting rid of undesirable elements. 

Driving without a license is not a felony. Driving without a license and DUI twice is cause for deportation and driving with or without a license and causing an accident is cause for deportation. Maybe we can accomplish two goals ... cut pedestrian deaths which have risen dramatically this last year... and get rid of those who put us in danger every time they get in a car. I wonder what the statistics are on those who commit more than one DUI?

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The two items I am most concerned about in the President's tentative budget are the 20% cut to the National Health Institute and the 30% cut in funding to the EPA. I lived in LA before we had strict regulations. I worked downtown and one couldn't see the next building because of the yellow/brown smog hanging there. 

Now we have more beautiful days than "smog" days. We will never get rid of smog permanently as long as we are a big city. Our geography and love of cars not horses or bicycles will not allow it. But to tell automakers they don't have to adhere to the standards Obama proposed is suicide for the coming generations.

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I can talk about the NIH (National Institutes of Health) from personal experience. Last month a young close family member was diagnosed with Leukemia. If it were eleven years ago her outlook would have been dismal. Fortunately, ten years ago a "miracle" drug was introduced that made this dreaded disease treatable and in many cases full remission was the outcome without the terrible side effects. 

The NIH gives grants to qualifying medical related individuals, pharmaceutical companies, scientists of every ilk to try and eradicate disease.   Again on a personal note, my Brother and Sister-in-law, (Lonnie and Paul Zeltzer) are academic medical Doctors.   As Director of the UCLA Pediatric Pain and Palliative Care Program, my sister-in-law was at the forefront in helping children and adolescents to manage pain. She is invited all over the world to teach some of the techniques she has been instrumental in discovering. 

I was a guest at a recent fundraising event for the UCLA Pediatric and Palliative Pain Program at UCLA. It was organized primarily for and by parents of children who had gone through the Pain Program. I sat there almost in tears and with great pride in hearing these parents talk about how their children not only survived but thrived. Several talked about having a child in a wheel chair and now several years later is a freshman at an away college, or back at a regular High School.   

There is nothing more precious to a parent than the well being of their children. My sister-in-law sits on one of the NIH advisory committees and attends meetings at the Washington DC facility. She has an NIH grant. My Brother is also a Professor and was part of several groups studying immunology for brain tumors. He also is called upon internationally to discuss his work and has been able to work on these life saving measures... and feed his family because of grants. 

If enough people raise their voices about these and other issues it will have an effect. The "March for Science" was awesome. Yes we need to balance our budget. What good is it to be able to shoot down a missile if more people die of heart disease and cancer because of funding? We need a balance! 

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)

-cw

LEANING RIGHT--The problem with fascists is that they can't be disabused of the fact that they're not always right.  And the problem with those who take a few factoids and call it "science" is that they ignore the reality that science, medicine, economics, and the scientific method takes us to really, really complicated (and often painful) conclusions. 

Which means those marching in the crowds are often wrong, while those being decried and demonized will later be proven right.  Galileo suffered a lot of grief for suggesting that the sun was the center of the solar system, not earth, because he defied those who mixed religion with politics. 

And now, the new "religion as science" paints Orwellian imagery of "climate change" as everything that should lead to statism, socialism, and those painting themselves as "know it all" types telling us how to live our lives while doing everything they can to get power confined to a small elite few. 

You like science?  I like science!  And so did most of my fellow nerds in high school and science, most of who have fled the state of California because that state does everything BUT do politics, economics and policy based on real science. 

We just had a big rally "for science" and "for the facts" that was filled with self-righteous individuals who are completely ignorant of how our city and county of LA, and the entire state of California is being driven into mathematical and scientific ruin. 

You hate climate change?  I hate climate change?  And without hesitation there's man-made climate change going on. 

But, what the hell are we supposed to do when those screaming about man-made climate change are those actually causing and worsening climate change? 

I graduated in 1985 from Roger Revelle College at UC San Diego, being its first graduate to do so in 9 quarters (thank you, high school AP classes, although I wish I could have spent another year learning and growing).  Despite graduating summa cum laude, I always felt that DOING well in school wasn't the same as LEARNING the subject or KNOWING the truth. 

Still do. And much of it has to do with my time spent with Roger Revelle, the man who championed the concept of liberal arts for scientists, and who first came up with the man-made climate change. 

He's the one who inspired Al Gore in the latter's political and economic crusades, but there's a key difference: Roger Revelle was a sincere scientist and student of both scientific and human nature, while Al Gore is a self-absorbed idiot who really only cares about ... Al Gore.   

Revelle inspired scientists and "Renaissance Man" types, while Al Gore inspires zealots and politicians who probably aren't that much into debate and thinking outside the political box. 

Anyone who's ever visited Glacier National Park knows that the glacier which inspired that name is rapidly disappearing over the last few decades.  Man-made climate change and other environmental impacts are very, very real.   

But Roger Revelle made it clear to me that what to OBSERVE and what to DO about man-made climate change, and what to DO about man-made and even natural impacts, requires pragmatic and scientific thought. 

When I raised concerns about how the United Nations was going astray in its mission for world diplomacy, governance and scientific policy, he made it clear to me that the answer was for the United Nations to be restored back to Western control (from whence it started) and not to let the crazies run the U.N. into the ground. 

In other words, the U.S. and Britain and France needed to bring the Third World to bear when it came to human rights, and to let science and population control be the right approach to how best to lead Planet Earth and Humanity to a better future. 

So let's review a few key issues about what REALLY is science: 

1) You like science?  I like science!  So why the hell are we destroying our middle class and our economy in this state, and its cities, and counties by taxation, anti-business policies, and one-party politics? Environmentalism and pollution cleanup requires MONEY, so thrashing our tax base by driving business to Texas and other states is ... well ... very UN-scientific. 

2) You like science?  I like science!  So why the hell did we, and are we, encouraging so many poorly-educated and poorly-skilled "migrants" when we should be focused on population control and importing well-educated, high-skilled immigrants who we can build a middle-class economy around. 

3) You like science?  I like science! Why, then, are we budgeting more for retired civil servants than for current civil servants and ignoring the pension problem?  Based on our population growth, we are about 3-5 UC colleges short and about 5-10 Cal State colleges short...while giving raises to a privileged, connected few that prevents poor and middle-class families from having a chance to succeed (without moving to another state, of course). 

4) You like science?  I like science! So why are we turning the other way when women's quality of life and empowerment are actually getting WORSE because they HAVE TO work while raising children, and/or have to CHOOSE between having a career and having children.  It's too damned expensive to raise a child in this state, unless you're filthy rich or don't work at all. (And how about raising a call against ANY Third World, anti-woman culture pervading our society and world, even if it's politically incorrect) 

5) You like science?  I like science! So where are all the tear-downs of some of the more blighted neighborhoods to create parks and open space? 

6) You like science?  I like science! So why have we no water or electrical infrastructure after years of ripping a new one into those decrying that lack of infrastructure?  Why are we mega-developing when we have insufficient water and infrastructure to support our current population? 

7) You like science?  I like science!  So why is debate being squelched?  You hate Trump ... fine. Lots of legitimate complaints about him abound.  But what got him elected?  Are the Democratic and Republican Party establishments he thrashed responding in a way that shows they "get it" with respect to the plight of the vanishing middle class? 

In short, Roger Revelle was a scientist.  We need scientists, not "social justice warriors" or "anti-fascists" who probably flunked out of any science class they ever took.  Scientists are nerds who report and say things people don't want to hear...but have to hear. 

In short, socialism, a lack of women's rights, a smashing of the middle class, not prioritizing education and higher learning, and true free speech helps science. 

In short, those "marching for science" may not be so much pro-science as they are marching for the status quo.  They're being played at best, and they're trying to get a "piece of the action" as this state, and its cities and counties, are devolving into a secular theocracy that is anything BUT what a scientist would want.

 

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

-cw

@THE GUSS REPORT-Thomas Sowell nailed it when it comes to politicians: 

VOICES--The South Los Angeles Area Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (SLAAANC) voted to join the Westside Regional Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (WRAC) and dozens of other neighborhood councils and public health and safety organizations in supporting a motion to the Los Angeles City Council to reassert local community control over how alcohol is sold and served at new bars, nightclubs, liquor stores and other prospective alcohol retailers.

The motion calls for the reinstitution of “alcohol-specific conditions” on permits issued by the City, which enable community members to negotiate reasonable standards around how alcohol is sold and served, including hours of alcohol sales, types of products sold, drink specials, marketing to youth and other practices. Utilizing local conditions is the means by which local residents and other stakeholders, including LAPD, neighborhood councils and city council members, can mitigate problems that stem from retail alcohol establishments.

For decades, the City allowed community members to negotiate alcohol-specific conditions with new alcohol businesses, but in recent years reversed this practice, not only disallowing such conditions, but also systematically removing them from all existing alcohol licenses.

“The recent position by the City severely disempowers local communities and undermines public health, safety and quality of life for residents across LA,” stated Jean Frost, West Adams Neighborhood Council and SLAANC board member. “On principle alone, the current practice must be reversed, and the groundswell of votes in favor of this conditions motion is a call to the City Council to step up for neighborhood quality of life by doing just that.”

Cities and counties throughout the state allow and routinely utilize alcohol-specific conditions on local permits to help minimize alcohol-related problems associated with the rapidly growing number of restaurants, bars and other alcohol retailers. Without the ability to negotiate how new businesses sell and serve alcohol at a local level, through the planning and zoning process, community members are forced to do so at the state level through the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which takes longer and places more burden on community members.  

“For decades, the City of Los Angeles allowed conditions to be placed on the sale of alcohol under its land use and planning authority,” said Sarah Blanch, Venice resident with Westside Impact Project. “There is absolute legal precedent for local control. Asking us to negotiate at the state level is an undue burden and really suppresses community voices.”

 The motion approved last night by SLAANC also calls on the City Council to cease the City’s new practice of removing existing alcohol-specific conditions from local permits. According to the motion’s organizers, these conditions are arrived at by a substantial consensus process between the new business owners and neighboring residents.

“These hard-fought agreements are being actively disregarded and stripped from the permit without any notification from the City whatsoever,” observed Frost. 

Organizers also say that the ability to negotiate conditions at the local level is good for businesses by streamlining the process for developers and allowing community members to say yes to projects they would otherwise oppose. 

“Alcohol-specific conditions negotiated through local planning and zoning departments are a ‘path to yes’ for businesses,” said Dana Sherrod of the Institute for Public Strategies, one of the public health agencies championing the initiative. “Through local conditions, LAPD, Council Offices and community members can negotiate with businesses to reach agreements that allow projects to move forward.”  

So far, a total of 16 neighborhood and community councils have approved the measure. More than a dozen community organizations have also publically endorsed the conditions motion, including Children’s Hospital, Alcohol Justice and Behavioral Health Services.

Advocates for the motion say its recent successes underscore the high level of concern residents across the City have about maintaining quality of life in Los Angeles neighborhoods in the face of the proliferation of bars, restaurants and liquor stores.

A 2016 Los Angeles County Department of Public Health report, “Alcohol Outlet Density & Alcohol-Related Consequences by City and Community in Los Angeles County,” demonstrated a strong link between many public health and safety problems — including violent crime, emergency room admissions and hospitalizations — and alcohol retailers. According to the study, 12 of 15 Los Angeles City Council districts rank in the highest tier for their incidence of three or more different alcohol-related problems: violent crimes, vehicle crashes, deaths, emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

Organizers are confident the support for the initiative from community groups and neighborhood councils, public health agencies and social service agencies citywide will speed the motion’s path to consideration by the City Council.

(Sarah Blanch speaks for The Westside Impact Project. The WIP aims to reduce alcohol problems in Santa Monica, Venice and Westwood at the community level. The Project is funded by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and directed by the Institute for Public Strategies, a nonprofit organization utilizing evidence-based strategies to help communities make lasting improvements in health, safety and quality of life. Project implementation assistance is provided by CLARE Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services. To learn more, please contact the Westside Impact Coalition at 310-215-9924 or by email at impact@publicstrategies.org.) 

-cw

URBAN PERSPECTIVE--It has become a ritual with me. On the 10th, 20th, and now 25th anniversary of the LA riots, I do a press tour of several of the same burned out empty lots in South LA. I preface the tour with a finger point at the empty lots, and ask, no challenge, with the question: “Why years after the riots are these empty lots where thriving businesses once stood still empty today?” (See photo above)

I quickly point out that in the years, no decades, since many parts of Los Angeles from the Westside to downtown have been virtually remade and billions have been poured into the construction of glitzy, pricey, showy, and functional office buildings, retail stores, boutiques, restaurants, hi-tech centers, and light industry and manufacturing enterprises.

The building bonanza has resulted in thousands of new construction and entry level and professional jobs. In the process, it’s enriched the tax coffers of the city and surrounding cities. The lame excuse that there’s no economic incentive to build in South L.A won’t fly. Residents spend millions on consumer goods and services, tens of thousands are well-to-do business and professional and trades persons, and they repeatedly clamor for quality retail, restaurant and service business in South LA. But the lots remain empty.

While speaking with the press at the burned-out lots, my mind continually goes back to those two fateful days at the end of April and the first day of May 1992, I ducked around police cordons and barricades, and cringed in fear and anxiety at the cackle of police gunfire and the non-stop roar of police fire engines and siren all around my house in South LA.

I choked, and gagged on and was blinded by the thick, acrid smoke that at times blotted out the sun and gave an eerie surreal Dante’s Hell feel to Los Angeles.

I watched many Los Angeles Police Department officers stand by virtually helpless and disoriented as looters gleefully made mad dashes into countless stores. Their arms bulged with everything from clothes to furniture.

I watched an armada of police from every district throughout California and the nation, National Guard units and federal troops drive past my house with stony, even scared looks on their faces, but their guns at ready.

I watched buildings, stores and malls that I shopped at and frequented, instantly disappear from the landscape in a wall of flames.

Several friends that lived outside LA and were concerned about my safety implored me to leave my home in the middle of the riot area and stay with them until things blew over. I thanked them but I decided to stay put. As a journalist, I felt bound to observe and report first-hand the mass orgy of death and destruction that engulfed my South Los Angeles neighborhood during the two fateful days of the most destructive riot in U.S. history. 

The warning signs that LA was a powder keg were there long before the Simi Valley jury with no blacks acquitted the four LAPD cops that beat Rodney King. There was the crushingly high poverty rate in South LA, a spiraling crime and drug epidemic, neighborhoods that were among the most racially balkanized in the nation, anger over the hand slap sentence for a Korean grocer that murdered a black teenage girl, Latasha Harlins, in an altercation.

Black-Korean tensions that had reached a boiling point.

And above all, there was the bitter feeling toward an LAPD widely branded as the nation’s perennial poster police agency for brutality and racism.

This year, on the 25th anniversary of the King verdict and the LA riots, many still ask the incessant question: Can it happen again? The prophets, astrologers and psychics couldn’t answer a question like that with absolute certainty. But there are two hints that give both a “yes” and “no” answer to the question.

The yes is the repeated questionable killings of young unarmed African Americans by police, such as Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, and Philando Castile, nationally and in LA County. This continues to toss the ugly glare on the always fragile, tenuous, and at times openly hostile relations between African Americans and the police. The other cause for wariness is conditions in South LA and other urban communities.

On the fortieth anniversary in 2005 of the other LA riot that ripped the nation, namely the Watts riots in 1965, the LA chapter of the National Urban League and the United Way issued an unprecedented report on the State of Black LA. 

The report called the conditions in South LA dismal, stating that Blacks still had higher school drop-out rates, greater homelessness, died younger and in greater numbers, were more likely to be jailed and serve longer sentences, and were far and away more likely to be victims of racial hate crimes than any other group in LA County. The most cursory drive through the old riot areas still shows that for many residents little has changed.

The LA riots are no longer the national and world symbol of American urban racial destruction, neglect and despair. But it’s is still a cautionary tale; a warning that in the Trump era, the poverty, violence and neglect that made the LA riots symbolic may not have totally evaporated twenty-five years after the flames. And, so it will remain … as long as the lots, and what they symbolize, remain empty. 

 

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

-cw

GELFAND’S WORLD--The April 22 March for Science brought out at least a hundred thousand people on the west coast alone. If we count the demonstrations in other American cities including Washington D.C. -- and the marches in dozens of other countries around the world -- the world wide attendance was likely in the millions. 

The importance of the event is summarized in the speech by noted seismologist Lucy Jones, which communicated the theme that reality matters. More of that below. 

Unfortunately, what I saw of local television news ignored the Jones speech. The few seconds of coverage available on the 11 o'clock news involved brief comments from marchers, shown as if this were the Rose Parade. The efforts of tens of thousands of serious minded people can't compete with car chases. So much for the myth of liberal media bias. 

Luckily, the Los Angeles Times ran Lucy Jones' speech (linked above). Please read it if you haven't done so already. 

Reality matters. The idea seems obvious. Why must we have to recite it out loud? And why is doing this so urgent? The answer is sadly obvious: It is the underlying political environment that made this speech and the march necessary. 

Reality matters in the sense that we can't continue to ignore global warming without enduring serious consequences not only on a global level, but also in our own communities. To borrow from an earlier Zocalo discussion, if the San Fernando valley were to suffer a heat wave that went to 127 degrees for several days in a row, how would our people deal with it? What would the death toll be? What would happen if this were to become the normal state of affairs in most summers yet to come? 

That would obviously be a reality that matters. The only question is whether it will happen, and how soon. 

Jones (photo) pointed out, "No one who understands how climate works thinks we can continue to pollute our atmosphere without catastrophic cost." 

That message, repeated by other speakers and by many scientists over the past few years, leads us to the central point that television avoided and public radio kind of dodged. The March for Science was in fact totally political, but not because science itself either is or is not political. Science has tried to be science rather than politics for most of its existence. But the march was necessary and it was necessarily political because a war against science has emerged out of the political right wing as a cynical and utterly dishonest political technique. 

The motives for this attack on science are presumably economic rather than philosophical, but whatever the ultimate origin, the result has been an assault on facts, reason, and rationality. It started as a political attack against governmental regulations, and has gradually expanded, by now including direct attacks on the actions and budgets of the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, and other critical departments. The situation has now become so serious that rational people feel that they have to respond. To put it a little more bluntly, the new administration has ramped up the war on science so aggressively that a determined response became necessary. 

Public radio did get one thing right. The Republican war on science is a war on environmental protection. Attacks on the functioning of the Environmental Protection Agency serve a remarkably cynical economic purpose. But in order to rationalize those attacks, the congress relies on two strategies -- (1) attack the science that has already become publicly known, and (2) forbid the agency to fund new science. 

The careful observer might notice one little subtlety in all of this. If climate change brought on by human action is a myth, then further research will eventually reveal that as a fact. On the other hand, if climate change is ongoing and is the result of human actions, then continued research will continue to be consistent with that result. Working theories that are based on solid natural events continue to give positive results no matter how you study them -- we will continue to find that DNA determines heredity using whatever methods happen to be at hand, because DNA is the hereditary chemical. Such theories are robust in the sense that experiments based on them continue to give positive results. So far, anthropogenic global warming is looking to be a robust theory. 

In championing the denial of climate change as the result of human economic activity, the Republicans have profoundly endangered the future not only of countless species but also of the human race. 

Consider the sum total of the following: the scientific method, the results of using that method, and the sum total of scientific findings (ranging over climate science, medical science, geology, biology, and more). For this collection of techniques and results, we used the word science as the defining symbol on April 22. In a sense, the word science is being used here to represent both reality and our best methods for discovering what that reality is. Reality matters. 

It's relevant to insert a few words from the famous Richard Feynman speech titled Cargo Cult Science, talking about the scientific method:

 

That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school—we never explicitly say what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation.  It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly.  It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards.

 

Feynman was a strong exponent of another principle which I will paraphrase as follows: The one test for whether a scientific idea is valid is experiment.

 

Suffice it to say that in science, it's the facts and the theoretical analysis of the facts that matter. Unfortunately, some politicians and corporate hacks have adopted a different approach, in which attacks on the scientists themselves have become the norm. For years now, the core right wing attack on climate scientists is that they tailor their work to what funding sources demand. When you look at the attacks on climate science by the politically motivated, you come to realize that the attackers are simply projecting their own worst quality -- slavish obedience to dogma -- onto scientists. Instead, those who attack climate science should be looking in the mirror.

 

Perhaps some of the more thoughtful conservatives should reconsider being anti-science

 

It's curious that the leaders of a couple of coal companies have recently asked the Trump administration to hold off on pulling out of the Paris agreement to limit global warming. It's not so much that they've suddenly gotten religion over scientific facts. It's that they would like to be included in international negotiations over the use of coal because they want to be able to export their coal overseas. This is the utilitarian motive for being part of the discussion. You can't go into an international discussion babbling like a fool and expect to be taken seriously.

 

There is another reason. As the facts accumulate and as global warming becomes more and more apparent, the denial group looks more and more irrational. At some point, those who deny the reality of scientific findings will be seen to be idiotic. It's not a happy position for those who want votes from the more thoughtful members of the electorate.

 

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

-cw

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Signatures of the post-Inaugural Women’s Marches in Los Angeles and around the globe were the peacefulness and inclusion, features Women’s March LA Foundation aims to bring to LA’s annual May Day March. This year, Los Angeles March organizers are lending their muscle to May Day 5.1.17 My Voice, My Vote. I sat down with Emiliana Guereca, Co-Executive Founder of Women’s March LA Foundation to talk about the organization’s role in the upcoming event. 

The organization will lend support to the May 1 California-based SEIU USWW-sponsored General Workers’ Strike. The SEIU, the country’s largest service union, has called for a general workers’ strike on the historically important May 1. Women’s March LA Foundation was created to focus on the struggles faced by marginalized communities, as well as assaults on human rights and civil liberties. 

Emiliana Guereca says, “In the past, May Day has not been very peaceful and the Women’s March was peaceful. When they asked us to participate, we said ‘Yes.’”

The Women’s March LA Foundation brings a new, crucial angle to the annual protest -- getting out the vote. “Our big thing was voter education and registration. We can have as many marches as we want but if we don’t turn out to vote, we won’t turn the needle,” says Guereca. The Foundation has partnered with Rock the Vote for the roll-out of a Voter Registration Initiative in Los Angeles and throughout California. 

“We want to empower people to let their legislators know what is important to them on Election Day. Voter registration and education are key to social change and we are excited to partner with Rock the Vote in Los Angeles, across the state of California, and we hope nationally as well,” adds Guereca. 

“We have a few schools in LAUSD and some private schools, different charter schools, two groups coming from UTLA and USC, as well,” says Guereca. “We have lots of volunteers from USC to help with voter registration. Across the board, our pledge is voter turnout. Those already registered can check where they are registered, which has been an issue.” 

Guereca adds that an additional goal is to educate about the power in voting. She says many Millennials and Latinos say their votes don’t count. “If your vote doesn’t count, I tell them, why are so many trying to switch things around or take it away? It’s obvious it counts,” she explains. “By reaching parents, we can get to kids at a young age. We cannot walk into the space at voting age when they might not be going to vote if they believe it won’t matter if they are active.” 

Aware of recent events in Berkeley, Guereca notes that there’s a possibility of resistance on the other side. “Our core is to be peaceful and our core messaging is not to engage in the negative,” she notes. “We have different opinions but we must be respectful of the space and the city around us. We aren’t going to get anywhere unless we respect each other.” As numerous fights seem to pop up almost daily, Guereca says we need to focus on Flipping the House in 2018. 

Guereca encourages anyone interested in participating in the day’s events to pre-register in advance for logistical purposes through Event Brite or at the foundation website.  Organizers have been coordinating with Metro and LAPD, as well as the Fire Department and have partnered with groups to bus people in. “We’ve been working with city officials. We will have music all day at Pershing Square, as well as speakers and interactive booths. The City has definitely been very helpful with resistance,” she says. 

About May Day: May 1 has been recognized as International Workers Day since 1886 when on that day, 35,000 workers went on strike for an 8-hour workday. California-based SEIU-USWW, whose members include janitors, bank security officers, baggage handlers, hospital staff, hotel workers, and stadium and amusement park workers is calling for a General Strike on Monday, May 1. 

About Rock the Vote: The largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization in the country has a mission of driving the youth vote to the polls. Since 1990, Rock the Vote has fused pop culture, music, art and technology to build long-term youth political power and in the past six Presidential elections, the organization ran the largest voter registration drives for young people, working with over 25,000 partners through its online multilingual voter registration tool. Rock The Vote is committed to mobilizing the vote, protecting voting rights and advocating for an electoral process, as well as a voting system that works for the Millennial generation.

 

(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.) Prepped for Citywatch by Linda Abrams.

CAPITAL & MAIN-A nationwide movement that began 53 years ago to reform the pretrial incarceration and money bail process has finally reached the legislative committees and political bargaining tables in Washington and Sacramento. Reform advocates – including legislators, prosecutors, attorneys, judges and grassroots organizations – contend that the use of a money bail system for pretrial release is unfair to the poor and unsafe for the public. 

In 1964, then-U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy told the Senate: “Every year in this country, thousands of persons are kept in jail for weeks and even months following arrest. They are not yet proven guilty. They may be no more likely to flee than you or I. But nonetheless, most of them must stay in jail because to be blunt, they cannot afford to pay for their freedom.” 

Kennedy’s efforts helped pass the Criminal Justice Act of 1964 and the Bail Reform Act of 1966, which created a presumption of release before trial for most federal defendants, and mostly did away with the money bail system in federal proceedings. But not for local and state jurisdictions, which account for most of the country’s jail population and in which the money-bail system still controls the release of defendants, dangerous or not. Only two countries, the U.S. and the Philippines, currently use the money bail system, according to California legislators. 

Four months ago California State Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced the California Money Bail Reform Act of 2017 — identical pieces of legislation (Senate Bill 10 and Assembly Bill 42) that would phase out excessive money bail systems statewide for most misdemeanors and some nonviolent felonies. And this past March, Los Angeles-area Congressman Ted Lieu introduced the No Money Bail Act of 2017 in Washington. 

Median bail in California is $50,000. If an arrestee uses a bail bond agent, he or she has to pay the agent a nonrefundable 10 percent for release – in the case of the median bond, that’s $5,000. Even bail for many misdemeanors can run over $1,000 – still beyond the reach of many indigent defendants. This results in poor defendants spending weeks or months in jail awaiting trial, causing the loss of jobs, homes, cars and in many cases, the family’s primary breadwinner. 

According to a report issued by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), more than 62 percent of county jail inmates are awaiting trials or sentencing, translating into about 46,000 Californians on a daily basis, say Hertzberg and Bonta. Most remain in jail because they can’t afford bail. 

“The current cash bail system is the modern equivalent of a debtor’s prison — it criminalizes poverty, pure and simple,” Hertzberg told a December news conference when he and Bonta introduced their legislation.

“In many cases,” added Bonta, “if you have enough money to pay your bail, you can get out of jail regardless of whether you are a danger to the public or a flight risk. But if you’re poor and not a flight risk or a danger to the public, you are forced to stay in jail, even when the charge is a misdemeanor. That’s not justice.” 

Ato Walker of San Jose shared his own story at that same press conference. 

“I was falsely accused of something and went to jail for five days,” Walker told reporters. 

“My bail was $165,000 initially and through the arraignment my bail got to be down to $85,000,” he said. “And that’s after I had hundreds of letters of support from people in my community saying I was a decent human being…but still inside the courtroom the district attorney said it seems like he’s a threat to society and the judge went with that.” 

Walker was released, he said, when his mother, a retired U.S. Postal Service worker, came up with the 10 percent he needed to pay a bail agent. 

A choked-up Walker, who was there with his young son, said he recognized he would have had to stay in jail. “If my mother had not stepped up and taken money out of her retirement account … [she did] that so I could be there to support my family.” 

When Walker eventually went to his pretrial proceeding, he said, the charges against him were dropped. But his mother lost the money she had to give a bail agent to get him out of lockup.

Walker said he appreciated the support that he got from his family and the community, but that he knew that many poor detainees don’t have that support and he wanted to publicly thank the politicians who are trying to change the current bail system. 

Bonta and Hertzberg are heading a coalition of support that includes Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, the American Civil Liberties Union, Californians for Safety and Justice, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the Essie Justice Group, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Service Employees Union International, California, and others. 

Instead of relying exclusively on a money bail system that forces people to pay nonrefundable deposits to private companies, Bonta and Hertzberg are seeking a system that follows the lead of the federal government, the District of Columbia’s local courts and a number of other states that have already reformed their systems. 

Those systems rely mainly on pretrial services and assessment examinations to cut down on the pretrial jail population, thereby saving tax money, increasing rates of court appearances by detainees who have been bailed out and protecting the public by refusing bail to inmates deemed a danger to society or a flight risk, no matter how much money they have. 

Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) a coauthor of AB 42, said at the December news conference that research has shown that “prisoners held two or three days are 22 percent more likely to fail to come to court.” 

The proposed legislation, as currently written, will require counties to set up a “pretrial services agency that would be responsible for gathering information about newly arrested persons, conducting pretrial risk assessments, preparing individually tailored recommendations to the court and providing pretrial services and supervision to persons on pretrial release.” It also: 

  • Provides for the use of “unsecured appearance bonds,” by which defendants agree to pay a specific amount if he or she fails to appear in court. 
  • Gives reminders to defendants about upcoming court dates, and helps with transportation, if needed. Money bail options are included in these bills, provided the bail is the “least restrictive necessary to assure the appearance” in court, and the court must conduct an inquiry to determine the defendant’s ability to pay the bail. 
  • Enables prosecutors to file a motion for pretrial detention and precludes people from being eligible for pretrial release if they are charged with a capital crime, a felony involving violence or sexual assault, or if the person’s release would likely result in harm to others, or if the person had threatened harm to others. 

Hertzberg’s bill passed through the Senate Public Safety Committee by a 5 to 1 vote in early April and is headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Bonta’s version of the bill receives a hearing Tuesday in the State Assembly’s Committee on Public Safety. 

The cost to house California inmates averages about $114 per day, according to the PPIC. In Los Angeles the average cost for Fiscal Year 2015-2016 was slightly more than $178 per day, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which reports that about $797 million – or 24 percent of the department’s total budget – goes to operate the county’s jail system. 

There’s been no study done in LA County regarding how many inmates remain in its jail system because they are too poor to post a money bail, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida.

Based on the experience of other locales, Bonta said, he’s learned that most nonviolent offenders will show up for their court appearances and not commit additional crimes after they’ve been released from jail without posting a money bond. “I also learned that over 50 percent of the jail cells were being taken up by people who couldn’t pay bail,” Bonta said, noting that the current money bail system is “clearly discriminatory against the poor and people of color.” 

In addition to a mandatory pretrial risk assessment examination, Bonta told Capital & Main, he’s also open to using ankle monitoring systems and even small bail amounts — for example, $100 — as a very last resort. 

Beth Chapman, (photo left) the wife and business partner of the reality TV bounty hunter, Duane “Dog” Chapman, has testified before a federal Court of Appeals panel that “people are not in jail because they’re poor. They are trying to paint a picture that all poor people are languishing in jail, and it just isn’t true.” She has also appeared in Breitbart News interviews on the subject of bail reform, which the right-wing site has connected to plots allegedly hatched by billionaire George Soros and others.  

Capital & Main’s repeated phone calls for comment to the Professional Bail Agents of the United States, a trade group Beth Chapman heads, were not returned. The organization’s website, though, warns in red letters that “the bail industry is under attack!” Capital & Main’s calls to another bail-bonds trade organization, the California Bail Agents Association, were also not returned. 

Jeff Clayton is the executive director of the Lakewood, Colorado-based American Bail Coalition, a 10-year-old trade association representing insurance underwriters of bail bonds across the country. In California, he said, all bail bonds must be underwritten by an insurance company. 

Clayton told Capital & Main that nationwide, the bail bond industry is a multibillion dollar business and that lobbying efforts against the California and House versions of bail reform are in full swing. He insisted the vast majority of bonds issued help guarantee that defendants would show up for court. 

Clayton acknowledged that there were problems related to the top 10 percent of bonds issued to defendants who could be dangerous or flight risks, and to the bottom 10 percent of indigent defendants. 

He said that the industry would be open to working with legislatures to fix those problems, especially regarding misdemeanor defendants. 

Clayton also said there were discussions underway with Hertzberg and Bonta’s offices on their proposed bills and that he felt confident that a “viable compromise,” which would maintain the money bail process in California, could be worked out. 

Ted Lieu’s previous No Money Bail Act died in the House last year. His 2017 version is short and straightforward. It would prohibit the payment of money as a condition of pretrial release in any federal case. (Federal judges can still order property bonds as a condition of release.) It would also amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to make any state that did not reform its bail system within three years of passage and signing of this law, ineligible for funding under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program. 

In Fiscal Year 2016 California received more than $28.9 million in JAG awards, with more than $10.7 million going to counties and cities, and more than $18.2 million going to the California Board of State and Community Corrections, according to Lieu’s office. 

“Some conservatives and libertarians have shown interest because reform will save tax money and the bill is flexible on how states can handle the reform process,” Lieu said. “Kentucky is a very red state and yet they have instituted reform measures in their bail system.” 

The U.S. Justice Department, under former President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, also weighed into the debate over bail reform, filing friend-of-the-court briefs in several cases in Georgia and Alabama in 2015 and 2016 — calling money bail systems that continue to jail defendants because they are poor unconstitutional. Civil rights division attorneys filed court papers stating categorically that “bail practices that incarcerate indigent individuals before trial solely because of their inability to pay for their release violate the Fourteenth Amendment.” Justice Department attorneys also stated, “Fixed bail schedules that allow for the pretrial release of only those who can pay, without accounting for the ability to pay unlawfully discriminate based on indigence.” 

Washington, DC’s local courts have the most experience using a pretrial release system that is based on inmate assessments rather than money bail. Cliff Keenan is the director of DC’s Pretrial Services Agency, a federally funded, independent entity within the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency charged with formulating release recommendations and providing supervision and services to defendants awaiting trial. His office handles some 22,000 cases a year, including 4,000 felonies and 17,000 misdemeanors. 

Keenan told Capital & Main that the District stopped using any money as a condition of pretrial release in 1992, when a new Bail Reform Act mandated that defendants would receive a hearing with 24 hours of their detention to determine their release status. The act’s reforms have also enabled judges to hold defendants without bail, Keenan said, “if they were determined to be a flight risk or a danger to the community or to witnesses in their case.” 

While there have been failures, Keenan pointed to his office’s latest published figures showing that “91 percent of released defendants remained arrest-free while their cases were adjudicated; 98 percent of released defendants were not rearrested for a crime of violence while in the community pending trial; 90 percent of released defendants made all scheduled court appearances and 88 percent of released defendants remained on release at the conclusion of their pretrial status.” 

New Jersey, the most recent state to reform its former money bail release system, began its new system in January. Elie Honig, New Jersey’s Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, told Capital & Main the bail reform process began in 2014 and first required a vote to change the state’s constitution so that dangerous criminals charged with non-capital crimes could be held without bail after their arrest. 

“The reforms have focused more of our attention on dangerous cases – and in those cases prosecutors are fighting hard for detention without bail,” Honig said. The first report on the impact of the state’s reforms is due by the end of June. 

New Jersey’s new system uses a computerized Public Safety Assessment (PSA), six-point tool to quickly issue a score for each defendant based on various risk factors, including the seriousness of the alleged crime, and the defendant’s criminal and court history. The PSA tool, Honig said, was not the endpoint but a starting line for determining whether a defendant could be safely released. The state’s pretrial services agency is then charged with providing a full assessment of a defendant’s risk forrelease before a judge determines the final outcome. 

The new law also mandates a speedy trial system for defendants, Honig continued, requiring that a detained defendant must be arraigned within 90 days of his or her arrest and the case brought to trial within 180 days. 

Neither LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey nor the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles would comment on any of the pending bail reform legislation offered by Lieu, Hertzberg or Bonta. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida told Capital & Main it was “too early [for the sheriff] to comment on this [California legislation] since the language is still being finalized by Senator Hertzberg and Assemblyman Bonta.” 

So far, law enforcement opposition includes the Association for Deputy District Attorneys, the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association several uniformed-officer unions. 

“I don’t expect Lieu’s legislation to go anywhere,” said the American Bail Coalition’s Jeff Clayton. “States make more money off [taxing] the bail bond industry than they would lose in JAG grants, so I don’t think you can coerce them into making reforms.” Besides, he said, “Cash bonds are tools that judges can use to insure that justice is done. You want to give judges more tools, not take them away.” 

Despite a Republican-controlled House and Senate, and the election of Donald Trump as president and a Justice Department now overseen by a hardline conservative, former Alabama U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, Congressman Lieu remains optimistic about his bill’s prospects.t a money bail system was patently discriminatory against the poor and people of color, Lieu noted that there are more than 450,000 people nationwide now sitting in jail — many if not most of whom are there just because they can’t afford to post bail. “America’s criminal justice system isn’t just broken,” Lieu said, “it violates our nation’s core values.”

 

(Jim Crogan is a writer for Capital & Main, where this piece was first posted.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

EDUCATION POLITICS--Elections have a way of setting up false choices. In the runoff for the LA School Board’s 4th District seat, voters are told to line up behind either pro-union or pro-charter candidates.

Progress for our schools, however, lies beyond the campaigns of these two firmly entrenched camps.

Especially now, when the Betsy DeVos agenda makes such a stark (and easy) enemy, public education advocates need to do more to further our cause than follow campaign narratives. It simply cannot be that the only stakeholders who matter are school district employees and those who want to privatize our schools.

The situation cries for an independent voice, a radical middle.

Individual school communities understand this. Parents, teachers, students and principals have been working together to strengthen and improve our schools outside the terms of the political debate. Yet, there has been little opportunity for us to be heard above the powerful interests during this critical election.

There is little talk about how schools will be supported, about policies that will improve our schools, about fighting legislation that causes schools to struggle. As we have seen in the last four years, a board majority “on our side” does not guarantee support for our schools in the fight against privatization.

After recent meetings with Steve Zimmer, I am now confident that he understands this and that he will welcome the independent voices. 

So I am endorsing Steve Zimmer for school board and I'm endorsing a process to help advocates for public schools hold him more accountable for seeing his rhetorical goals through.

Zimmer still differs from public education activists on some fundamental issues. His unequivocal support for school choice as a right should cause alarm to anyone fighting against privatization. Put another way, school choice is a way for our government officials to tell schools they’re on their own. And Zimmer’s unapologetic support of the temporary teaching corps, TFA, undermines the stability of our schools and the teaching profession.

Nick Melvoin supports these things, too. But he has tapped into the demands of parents and community members frustrated with an unresponsive school district. While I believe Melvoin would support efforts to improve schools regardless of which camp they come from, his reform agenda goes too far. His refusal to support legislation that would make charter schools as accountable with public money as public schools are seems to show that he is carrying the water of corporate privatizers more than being the independent voice he could be.

Moreover, the stakes of Zimmer’s re-election are higher than they were in the March primary because UTLA sat out of the race to unseat corporate reformer Monica Garcia who coasted to re-election in District 2.

LAUSD has a long way to go toward the right side of some key issues. Steve Zimmer gives us the best chance, but only if those in the movement to save and support public education push him and the rest of the school board long after the election.

Think of it as the radical resistance.

(Karen Wolfe is a public school parent, the Executive Director of PS Connect and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)

-cw

GELFAND’S WORLD--Earlier this week, Writers Bloc presented a panel discussion aptly titled, Is Freedom of the Press Under Siege? It was chaired by Kevin Roderick, [www.LAobserved.com] founder of LAobserved. The panelists included Dylan Byers of CNN, Cathleen Decker, senior political journalist for the LA Times, and Karlene Goller, an attorney who was formerly with the LA Times. 

You might recall that back in February, Trump referred to the media as "the enemy of the American people."  He had made comments during the campaign about making life more difficult for the New York Times, particularly when it came to their right to print negative comments about him. When a person with the power of the presidency makes such threats, it's not surprising that his targets become concerned. 

As Cathleen Decker recounted, Trump's campaign rallies included nasty remarks about the press that were picked up by his audience. As the campaign wore on, members of those audiences came to rallies prepared in advance to shout nasty epithets at reporters. Since the Trump campaign segregated reporters within a bullpen, they were an easily identifiable target. 

The American press found itself in a bind. The news media found themselves reporting on a pathological liar, but Trump was a liar who retaliated against those who were trying to expose him. Trump, it must be said, has a certain talent for retaliation. He talked about the "failing" New York Times, and refers to truthful stories about himself as fake news. 

A generation of journalists who had grown up on Orwell's 1984 and The Manchurian Candidate found themselves looking at the same sorts of ugly propaganda that were made famous not only in those works of fiction, but also in the propaganda efforts of communist and fascist governments.

Calling the media the enemy of the American people was something of a last straw, raising some very real concerns among those who began to view Trump's election as "regime change" that went beyond normal boundaries. We've had some pretty conservative presidents over the past couple of decades, but neither Reagan nor either Bush tried to turn the American people against the press as a legitimate element of American governance. 

Now all of a sudden, we are experiencing that very thing. It's not surprising that serious thinkers became concerned, or that people would be asking whether freedom of the press is under siege. 

What's interesting here in April is that the members of this panel didn't seem as concerned about impending loss of freedoms as people were as recently as February. It's not so much that people feel secure with Trump and Ryan in charge of things, but that the immediate, direct threat to freedom of the press doesn't seem as serious all of a sudden. 

What's going on? 

I would guess that members of the mainstream press have found out that they can give as good as they are getting. They have stayed on the story of Russian influence in spite of Trump's protestations. And while all this has been going on, there has been a distinct absence of jackbooted thugs breaking down the doors of newsrooms and rounding up editors. Trump gets to continue to complain, but he's beginning to discover that he can't forbid fact checking. Moreover, there is a longstanding tradition both here and abroad: When the president of the United States says something -- anything at all -- it is supposed to be taken seriously. Members of the press and of the opposite political party listen carefully, parsing each comment. It is expected that the president considers carefully what to say in public. 

Until The Donald, that is. And by shooting from the hip, Trump makes a fool of himself, and lessens his ability to play the dictator. It's hard to do that when people don't take you seriously. 

Trump is only now learning (if he is learning) that when the government says we are sending an Armada to Korean waters to send a message to North Korea, it is going to look pretty stupid if that carrier task force is actually traveling in the opposite direction. In the early going of this presidency, those who tell the truth about Trump's lies are holding a modest lead, in that public acceptance of Trump as president continues to fall. 

In other words, there is still room in our journalistic universe for the truth to be told. Even the president's powers are limited. Panelists pointed out that the Los Angeles Times just published a series on Trump's propensity to lie. As Dylan Byers politely pointed out, this was pretty much preaching to the choir. That is likely correct, but the ability to preach to the choir is an important part of press freedom. 

There was also some legal and technical discussion. The panelists agreed that getting sources within the administration is important. It follows that protecting sources is equally important. 

Attorney Goller provided a fairly involved explanation for the current state of the law. As of now, the view of the courts is that as long as a reporter does not do anything directly illegal, that reporter can make use of sources that innocently fall into his or her hands. That doesn't mean that a government staffer who works in the White House can't be prosecuted for taking a document and providing it to a reporter. But if the reporter receives a comment (with or without a document) from a White House source, the reporter is legally safe. The reporter's task is therefore to learn to protect human sources and to hide the origins of documents. 

The punch line to all this legalistic stress is that newsrooms and reporters are learning to use electronic masking tools to protect the origins and content of emails. Encryption is becoming a journalistic skill that is just as important to the new generation as the Associated Press Style Manual. 

This has been a necessarily incomplete rendition of a complex discussion carried out among a learned panel. There are a couple of issues that I would like to raise based on some of that discussion. 

As reporter Decker pointed out, modern newspapers keep separation between the editorial and reporting sides. Editorial positions are determined by separate groups of people and written by editorial writers. In theory, this protects the integrity -- and therefore the reputation -- of the news-gathering side. 

I question the usefulness of this separation in one regard. When it comes to arguments involving fact -- let's take as an example the credibility of anti-vaccination vs. pro-vaccination views -- there is a legitimate and overwhelming balance in favor of the safety and efficacy of vaccination. It's taken years for the news media to begin to report that one side is right and the other is wrong. 

Through long tradition, the journalistic, reporting side of the news doesn't like to use the word liar or the word lie when it comes to obvious untruths. There are a couple of problems with this approach. The first is that it fails to complete the story. When one side is clearly lying, it fails to make clear to the reader that this is the case. The other problem with this is a little more nuanced. In a battle between legitimate reporters and liars, the legitimate side is fighting with one arm tied behind its back. Infowars makes some story up out of whole cloth, Brietbart repeats it, and legitimate newspapers are stuck in a very old rut, reporting the allegation and filling in a little "balance" by explaining that there is no evidence that Obama ever apologized to Japan for the American use of the atomic bomb, nor did he wiretap Trump. 

Meanwhile, gullible people read such stories on the internet and on their Facebook feeds, and become poisoned in their attitudes toward voting for non-Republican candidates. 

There is a bigger question that I raised briefly with a couple of the panelists at the end. Back in the early 1990s, Rush Limbaugh started to push the idea that the mainstream media have a liberal bias. It's an entirely nonsensical assertion, unless you interpret liberal bias to mean anything and everything that is not in agreement with what Limbaugh says on any given day. But an entire generation of American voters was exposed to this, in spite of the fact that most major newspapers and television networks are owned by fabulously wealthy individuals and corporations. Meanwhile, Fox News does the Limbaugh approach as an entire television news network. 

So the basic question, yet to be answered effectively, is how to combat wholesale lying by wealthy interests. It may be impossible to convince a whole generation of conservatives that there could be at least some validity to the idea of providing health care in spite of preexisting conditions, but it is important to communicate to those people that there is a debate. In short, has freedom of the press been downgraded by the big lie, but remains one means in the pursuit of telling the truth to gullible people?

 

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

-cw

TRANSIT WATCH--For years, I've been among those who've been told that this or that project "will neeeeeever happen" and then it does happen.  Sometimes, it's a win:  the Expo Line, or a Metro Rail/LAX Connection. Sometimes, it's a loss: Measure S, and the hope that LA will embrace legally-, scientifically- and environmentally-coherent Planning policy. 

But then there's the issue of not repeating the mistake of throwing away a perfectly good rail right-of-way, owned by all taxpaying citizens, which could provide a cost-effective "Second Downtown Light Rail Connector" to link LAX to South and Southeast LA, the Blue Line, the Gold Line, and Union Station. 

The idea of relegating a rail right of way (the Harbor Subdivision Right of Way) between the Crenshaw and Blue Lines, or the Crenshaw Line and the LA River, to a walkway/bikeway instead of a full light rail line WITH a walk/bikeway makes as much sense as ... 

... when the Expo Line rail right of way was to be relegated to a walk/bikeway instead of the light rail line (with a walk/bikeway) like we now have.  That was a stupid idea which we avoided in 2001, when the Expo Light Rail Line was decided by the Metro Board, and this "Rail to Rail" idea pushed by the Metro Board now is just as stupid. 

And short-sighted. And insulting to the taxpayers and to commuters and to tourists ... and to just about anyone with common sense. 

Heck, I'll go out on a limb and guess that even the Metro planners got stuck with this "Rail to River" idea against their will.  Virtually all of the Metro planners/staff I've ever met are sincere, receptive, and visionary engineers and professionals who have made me PROUD to pay my sales taxes in L.A. County. 

There is a growing interest in having an urban renewal and redevelopment, coupled with a Metro station or in the Arts District and the industrialized portion of southeast Downtown. 

There is also a growing interest as to which route the proposed light rail line from southeast L.A. County to Downtown should take.  

There is also a growing interest as to ensuring that BOTH the proposed routes of the Eastside Gold Line (SR-60 freeway route, and Montebello/Whittier route) are built out. 

Put this all together, as well as the knowledge that the Blue Line is virtually at full capacity, and the Expo Line is racing to full capacity decades faster than planned ... 

... and the idea of a SECOND DOWNTOWN LIGHT RAIL CONNECTOR using the Harbor Subdivision to connect LAX to Inglewood, the Blue Line, the Southeast Cities Light Rail Line, the Arts District, the Gold Lines, and Union Station virtually writes itself. 

Yes, portions of that right-of-way need repair because the Alameda Freight Corridor ripped through it (and appropriately so, based on our priorities twenty years ago), but a bridge or two could fix that. 

And Yes, we need an accompanying walkway/bikeway just like we need an Expo Bikeway to accompany the Expo Light Rail Line. 

And YES, this will help create affordable housing for the middle class to access their jobs and revitalize an area of Los Angeles that has been ignored for too long. 

So let's throw out that Major Investment Study to do Rail to River/Rail the right way, and not make the same mistake that we almost made with the Expo Line. 

And while we're at it, could we throw out another Major Investment Study to extend the Green Line to Torrance and the Blue Line? 

Clearly, a rail system, as with a freeway system, makes sense when we create a full network. 

Not rocket science here, folks ... just rail science and good, healthy dose of common sense and respect for the taxpayers.

 

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

-cw

EASTSIDER-Since this is the last article before vote-by-mail runoff balloting begins this week, I am going to get a little lengthy and cover two different events. First was the Monday night knock down drag-out debate between Gil Cedillo and Joe Bray-Ali held in the Pico/Union area of the district. Second is the allegation that Joe Bray-Ali was a Republican who switched to Democrat simply in order to take on Cedillo

The Pico Union Debate 

If the Highland Park “bike wars” scene was Joe Bray-Ali’s home turf, the Pico/Union District is Gil Cedillo’s. The differences between the Glassell Park primary debate held at Sotomayor Learning Academies, and this one, are huge. At the Glassell Park debate, Joe had the bulk of the crowd on his side. Here at Pico/Union, both sides had a large, rowdy contingent unafraid to express themselves vigorously, but Gil clearly had the majority. And it was another very large crowd. The Monsenor Romero Hall is listed as holding 250, but my best guess is that there were more like 300 packed in. 

For those unfamiliar with the area, it is home to some of the poorest in Los Angeles -- homeless, undocumented, dreamers, with everyone mostly squished into a ton of old rental units. It is also a recent victim of the relentless gentrification we Angelenos are getting used to, in this case aided and abetted by clever owner/landlords who know how to threaten and manipulate people without power or resources to fight back. 

With a very high density, the area is over 80% Latino, home for a lot of folks from El Salvador and Mexico. It also has pockets of old Victorian houses on big lots, locations that have the non-affordable “affordable housing” developers salivating. 

Anyhow, with all the chips on the line, this event was only marginally civil. While Joe Bray-Ali didn’t actually call Gil Cedillo “Road Kill Gil,” that subtext was there loud and clear. And basically, Gil Cedillo did call Joe Bray-Ali a “liar who will say anything to get elected.” Ya gotta love it. 

More important to me were the questions asked by the moderator, La Opinion’s Pilar Marrero, who did a good job (under trying circumstances) to maintain some semblance of order and get the questions answered. 

Let me give a shout out to the sponsors, including Inquilinos Unidos, Eviction Defense Network, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), Inner City Law Center, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, Hunger Action LA, WORKS, the Los Angeles Human Right to Housing Collective, and the National Lawyers Guild’s Housing Committee. 

The Eleven Questions 

I counted eleven questions. From my hastily written notes, here’s the issues they covered: 

  1. Development, particularly density, affordability, increased mixed use, and displacement issues. 
  1. How to promote real affordable housing, and also answer if affordable housing is really a bait and switch. 
  1. Top three priorities in dealing with gentrification and resulting displacement. 
  1. Handling eviction attempts. 
  1. Housing Authority waiting lists have been closed since 2012, while only homeless are currently getting any vouchers. What’s to be done? 
  1. Renters are often harassed in Pico/Union. Why not adopt an Anti-harassment Ordinance in Los Angeles, like other cities have done? 
  1. What provisions would you make for affordable services for LGBT youth in the area? 
  1. In the Pico/Union area, not to mention McArthur Park/Westlake areas, how will you protect the poor and undocumented as the developers move in and try to displace them? 
  1. How will you ensure affordable housing and at the same time protect the natural environment? 
  1. For renters, how can you help ensure that landlords provide timely and quality repairs for tenants? 
  1. How will you handle the privatization of remaining public spaces? 

You can see how closely these questions match up to the demographic realities of the area, along with the fears and vulnerability of many who live there. Clearly these questions played to Gil Cedillo’s strengths and legislative history. 

I won’t go into a detailed discussion of each question, since some answers strayed pretty far from the questions and there were often interruptions by one group or another; occasionally, a candidate did not really answer the question. Suffice it to say that these are people and issues that Gil Cedillo is very familiar with, and while Joe Bray-Ali gave it a decent try, this was a far cry from his home base of Highland Park and Glassell Park. 

On the substance of the answers, and factoring out personal attacks, Cedillo clearly had the best of it, recognizing that some of these important questions really have no simple answers that can be addressed in a debate setting. 

Is Joe Bray-Ali Really a Closet Republican? 

Last Saturday a flyer made the rounds from Eric Bauman, head of the LA County Democratic Party. It essentially said that Joe Bray-Ali was registered as a Republican back in 2012, and has only changed his affiliation to Democrat in order to run against Gil Cedillo in an overwhelmingly Democratic Council District. 

I understand why Joe would change his affiliation to run in CD 1 -- a Republican might just as well commit suicide as run under that banner in this district. And I don’t question his right to do so, for whatever reasons. But it seemed pretty weird that this issue did not surface until now. 

Actually, it all makes me wonder if the EAPD (East Area Progressive Democrats) knew about it when they endorsed Joe as a Dmocrat, and you can be sure it will be a hot topic at the NEDC (Northeast Dems) endorsement meeting on April 19. While I am unaware of any particular rule that the Democratic Party or, for that matter, either of the clubs have regarding how long you have to be a Dmocrat to be eligible for an endorsement, you would think that it would be a proper subject for discussion. 

So I sent an email to Ari Bessendorf, Joe Bray-Ali’s Campaign Manager, asking for a response to the hit piece. I have never heard back from him. Due to this non-response, and based on the fact that during the Pico/Union Debate Joe never denied that he had been a Republican, I conclude that the allegations are true. 

Maybe I’m just old school, and it may be that the younger generation moving into CD 1 are a lot more cynical and apolitical than my generation and don’t care too much about party affiliation. Goodness knows, they have enough on their plate with huge student loans, no guaranteed jobs, and outrageous housing costs. Besides, as readers of CityWatch know, the Mayor and City Council are pretty non-partisan as they march to the tune of the developers, 15-0 no matter what. 

In the end, for me, the issue of being a Democrat over time is a big deal. My dad was a progressive Democrat and dentist in Orange County, and paid a pretty big price for his views in the heyday of the John Birch Society. Personally, I’ve always been part of the ground-up progressive wing of the Democratic Party, demanding that they listen to the troops instead of acting like a top down club for lifer politicians and the big money that co-opts them all too often. And that was before I went to Berkeley in the 60s. 

The Takeaway 

Over the years, I’ve pretty much lived all over LA, from Beachwood Dr. and Laurel Canyon, to Park LaBrea and The Brewery in Lincoln Heights. Even spent some time over in the soft underbelly of East Hollywood by LA City College; and now I live in Glassell Park. It’s a glorious, crazy and very unforgiving town unless you have money.

For all that, throughout my journey I have come love this patchwork that we call Los Angeles, even with all its constant upheavals.

In terms of the runoff, I actually like both candidates. Even though he acted like an out-of-control you-know-what during the “bike wars”in Highland Park, Joe is not afraid to call out the establishment and put pedal to the metal. He’s willing to give his all to try and change the system -- running for office without serious money is not for the faint of heart. He has a passionate following and it is only likely to grow as CD 1 continues to morph into whatever gentrified entity we are going to become, increasing inequality and all. 

I also like Gil. He’s a hard guy to get to know, and he does not have that “hi, how are ya’” plastic veneer of the true professional politician -- like Eric Garcetti or Herb Wesson, who smile at you even though they’d do you in without even a flicker of emotion. At the same time, I know that Gil has always had a real passion for the under-represented like the undocumented and dreamers, even though those people mostly don’t vote and have a very healthy distrust of government. He’s demonstrated these qualities going all the way back to when he ran SEIU Local 660 (now SEIU Local 721) in LA County. And that was at a time when these opinions were not without controversy. Same for the California state legislature. 

And yes, Gil plays the game and takes the developer/Chevron money. But of course, so does the entire rest of the LA City Council, the Mayor, and the City Attorney -- including, by the way, CD 13’s Mitch O’Farrell, a Democrat who recently endorsed Joe Bray-Ali. 

At the end of the day, I’m voting for Gil Cedillo and would urge you to do so as well.

 

(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.

PREVEN REPORT-A message from the City of Los Angeles to Taser International CEO Rick Smith: “Rick, it has been a pleasure doing business with you and now, without further ado, we are going to kick your ass.” Why? It’s hard to explain with our hands trembling in rage. 

Rick Smith announced two weeks ago that Taser International will offer body cameras and cloud storage free of charge for a year to any eligible police department in America. “We’re taking a pretty big financial risk,” he said to Fast Company magazine, “but we looked at this and we frankly feel that the benefits are so overwhelming. If we can get cameras in the hands of police officers, they will immediately pay for themselves.” 

To avoid conflicts of interest, Taser will not offer the eye-popping promotion to agencies with whom it’s already pursuing business. 

Let’s see. One year of free cameras and cloud storage for every police department in the country. But wasn’t it just ten months ago, on June 22, that you charged LA $8 million for “one year of body cameras and cloud storage?” And didn’t you tell us that this was a great deal -- the best possible, as required by your “most favored” pricing policy? Is the remainder of the $31 million contract – years 2 through 5 -- also a great deal? 

“If we can get cameras in the hands of police officers, they will immediately pay for themselves,” we’re told. If that’s true, then why did LA get charged the $8 million? It would have been a rip-off, apparently, even if we hadn’t paid a nickel for year one. But we paid $8 million. 

No worries. Taser can just refund us for year one -- extend the deal to LA. 

But Rick Smith fears not because, he says, we’re already in his fleecing machine and so it would be a conflict of interest to give us the promotion. 

All this and then in return we receive a defective product -- a camera which endangers civilians and officers by failing to produce an accurate account of an encounter. The cameras can’t see what the officer looks at since they “chop” the heads off of those being spoken to and they get blocked when the officer assumes the shooting stance. 

Ahem … Mr. Mayor?


(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer and Joshua is a teacher.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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

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

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

However!  

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

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

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


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

-cw

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

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

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

Let’s go back to LA. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read that again. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

What trickle-down got right and got wrong. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More empty claims about beneficial market forces: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Since Campaign 2016, a chasm has erupted and the fault lines continue to crack. As protesters gathered on April 15 from Fifth Avenue to Pershing Square to demand President Trump release his tax returns, heated -- and violent -- exchanges ensued between pro- and anti-Trump camps at a Berkeley park that was the scene of a stabbing, as well as at least 20 arrests for assault with a deadly weapon and several felony assaults. 

Police say seven protesters had to be taken to the hospital and at least eleven were injured. Between 500 and 1,000 were gathered in the park at the height of the protests with about 100 moving the fights to a nearby intersection. 

This melee was a three-peat -- following earlier episodes of violence and vandalism in February after UC Berkeley cancelled a scheduled talk by Milo Yiannopoulos, former editor of Breitbart. Last month, a mix of about 500 pro- and anti-Trump demonstrators resulted in punching, spraying and clubbing.

This Saturday, a pro-Trump group had scheduled a “Patriots Day free-speech rally and picnic” in Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley. Anti-Trump protesters responded with a counter-rally. Police banned any potential weapons, including pepper spray, mace, baseball bats, and glass bottles. A Farmers Market held next to the park was cancelled.

Fights broke out despite the precautions as police in riot gear worked to keep sides apart and members of a citizen militia protected Trump supporters. The two sides were separated by a barricade, which did not stop people from throwing cans and bottles.

While our First Amendment Rights of Speech and Assembly are essential to democracy, the disturbing trend that appears to be happening in Berkeley is hopefully not the harbinger of violent exchanges across the country.

Many of us have experienced divides and rifts between family members and friends over politics and more deeply, over the values that are represented by those politics, whether protection of human and environmental rights or globalism vs. isolationism. The violent protests are symptomatic of these deep divides -- and the divisiveness in our country is profoundly troubling.

With hope, we can heal as a nation and we can put these days of hostility and violence behind us. The 1st Amendment promises the right to speak freely, not the right to fight. Reminder: Democracy is not a bystander sport. Closing the divide begins with me … and you.

(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.)

-cw

BUDGET ADVOCATES--On Thursday April 20, at 10 a.m., Mayor Garcetti will present the 2017-18 budget at City Hall. Whether you live in East Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley or West Los Angeles, we can no longer afford to live in a bubble. The budget will change how the city operates and you should be there to hear the specifics. 

The city budget matters if; 

  • You work. Some city services may have to be trimmed to balance the budget and your organization may be impacted and have to lay people off. 
  • Neighborhood safety is a concern. Your neighborhood has had an increase in crime because of lack police patrol and you were placed on hold when you called 911. There are officers, but they are on desk duty. 
  • You own property or rent. Property taxes will increase and rental rates now consume more than 40% of a person’s paycheck in most cities.   
  • You feel nothing will change: Things always change. For some neighborhoods the change is positive and for others the change can have a negative impact. 
  • You don’t trust the system. Some city relationships have been an obvious conflict of interest, while others were cemented before the public was made aware of them. Attend and ask for the transparency needed that will help you support the mayor’s city initiatives and budget. 
  • Math isn’t your thing. If you have ever purchased something, prepared a cooked meal, received a paycheck, paid bills or voted, you are better at math than you give yourself credit for. In most cases we can all recognize when a number is too big or too small. 

By law the mayor has to balance the budget. There is a $224-million deficit, which includes

50-million in lawsuit settlements. Mayor Garcetti’s budget is said to account for critical services, street repair, and homelessness. Attend and hear for yourself how the budget will be balanced. 

The great thing about our government is that you can participate in various ways. Remember you can write or email your local council person about neighborhood concerns and join your neighborhood council as a budget representative or budget advocate this coming June. 

On Thursday, April 20 the 2017-18 proposed city budget will be posted at http://cao.lacity.org/budget/index.htm, but you can view past budgets now. 

To learn more about the roles of budget representative and budget advocate visit http://ncbala.com/responsibilities/.   

(Brigette Kidd is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate from Region 9.)

-cw

TAX DAY: THE NUCLEAR OPTION-"Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I'll tell you what you value," said former Vice President Joe Biden, quoting his father. He knew that a budget reflected the values and priorities of our nation. Each April our country funds its priorities. Ultimately, as the Rev. Jim Wallis has said, "Budgets are moral documents." 

Each year Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles calculates how much money the United States spends on nuclear weapons programs for the current tax year. The Nuclear Weapons Community Costs Project has identified that for tax year 2016 the United States spent $57.6 billion on nuclear weapons programs. California contributed more than $7 billion to this amount while Los Angeles County sent approximately $1.8 billion to the federal coffers to fund weapons that can never be used. In Flint, Michigan, where we have allowed our children to be poisoned by lead in their drinking water, $9 million was spent. In the nation’s poorest county, Buffalo County, South Dakota, they spent more than $142,000 on nuclear weapons. 

Every dollar spent on nuclear weapons is a dollar taken from programs that support the health and well being of our country, our communities, and our loved ones. These are critical funds that we can never get back. 

The Trump administration is proposing a dramatic increase in the budget for nuclear weapons while simultaneously proposing a dramatic decrease for social and environmental programs. This is in addition to the nuclear grand bargain of the Obama administration's proposed buildup of our nuclear arsenal to the tune of $1 trillion over the next three decades. This is the opening salvo as other countries follow suit in this new nuclear arms race.  

Having grown weary of our actions and failure to meet our legally binding commitment to work in good faith toward the abolition of nuclear weapons, the non-nuclear nations are refusing to be held hostage by the nuclear states any longer. Taking their future into their own hands the vast majority of the non-nuclear nations will complete negotiations at the United Nations this July on an international nuclear ban treaty that will outlaw nuclear weapons just as all other weapons of mass destruction have been banned. This will leave the United States and other nuclear nations once again in breach of international law.  

Fortunately, a world under constant threat of nuclear apocalypse either by intent or accident is not the future that has to be. But change will not happen on its own. Each of us has a role to play. Ultimately it will take the people of the United States to awaken from our trance and join the rest of the world in demanding that our leaders work to abolish nuclear weapons and to redirect these expenditures to secure a future for our children and address the real needs of our country. 

The time for action is now.   

Contact your representatives at: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

 

(Robert Dodge is a family physician practicing full time in Ventura, California. He serves on the board of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles serving as a Peace and Security Ambassador and at the national level where he sits on the security committee. He also serves on the board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions. He writes for PeaceVoice. This piece appeared most recently in CommonDreams.org.)  Prepped for City Watch by Linda Abrams.

@THE GUSS REPORT-Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren D. Price Jr. has been implicated for fraud and perjury, perhaps unwittingly, by his own attorney Stephen J. Kaufman. 

And that’s the least of Price’s problems. 

The backstory is this: In a misdated 2012 affidavit, Price and his then-divorce attorney Albert Robles (who is the current Mayor of Carson, CA) claimed that Price’s first wife Lynn could not be located for the purpose of serving her divorce papers, although they repeatedly tried to serve her at her residence at 4519 Don Arturo Place in Los Angeles. 

The problem is, Lynn Price never lived there.  

A bigger problem is that Curren Price knew that Lynn Price never lived there. 

That’s because the property was and remains owned by Price’s second wife, Del Richardson-Price, since June 21, 2001. 

Yet, as documented in Mr. Price’s and Mr. Robles’ affidavit, they repeatedly sent his process server, Antonio D. Inocentes, to that address on January 18, 19 and 21, 2012 to document multiple attempts to serve her – to a location at which Mr. Price, and perhaps Mr. Robles, knew she never lived. 

A few days ago, I got an email from Mr. Price’s current attorney, Stephen J. Kaufman, in which he echoed a call he made to me a few days earlier, perhaps without understanding the implication of his words. “Lynn Suzette Price never lived at 4519 Don Arturo Place,” he reiterated to me. 

Was it Mr. Price’s goal in misleading the court his desire to obtain a divorce from his first wife Lynn without serving her notice of it? His reason for doing that may have been to shield the assets of his second wife, Del Richardson-Price, and his own assets (worth millions of dollars combined) from being split as community property.

Why would the assets of Price’s second wife, Del, be subject to community property splitting with his first wife, Lynn? 

Because records suggest that Curren D. Price, Jr., a Los Angeles City Councilmember, is concurrently married to both women.

While Mr. Price has denied being a bigamist in media reports, he refuses to state when he married his second wife, Del. According to some of their sworn documents, he and Del wed between August 8, 2008 and April 1, 2014, without his first divorcing his first wife Lynn. The big “if” is whether their sworn statements on real estate and other documents are truthful. 

According to Mr. Price’s LA City Ethics forms, at the time he claimed his first wife Lynn resided at the Don Arturo house, he simultaneously received more than $10,000 in annual rental income (possibly a great deal more) for its occupancy from Dr. Josephine B. Isabel-Jones, a pediatric cardiologist at UCLA, and her family, whose residency at the hillside home-with-a-view has been confirmed. 

So sit with that for a moment.  

Knowing that his first wife Lynn never resided at the house on Don Arturo Place, Mr. Price still had his process server repeatedly go to that address, disrupting his paying tenants, the Jones family, in order to willfully mislead the divorce court that he was making an attempt to serve Lynn there. 

A few months later in 2012, the Los Angeles Superior Court didn’t buy Price’s and Robles’ claim that they could not locate Lynn Price and denied their request to instead serve notice with a paid newspaper advertisement. Lynn Price’s address was readily available on the website of her Trenton, N.J., law firm, on the California and New Jersey Bar Association websites and through other sources. The divorce file has been in limbo ever since, and is overdue for a housecleaning update, or an “Order to Show Cause,” by the court. 

While District Attorney Jackie Lacey and apparently the FBI investigate Price’s activity in this mess, what those agencies may not yet know is this: 

According to Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder records, the voter registration of Mr. Price’s first wife Lynn has been dormant for all elections from 2002 to the present. But in August 2010, in the midst of Mr. Price’s unsuccessful and dubious attempt to get a divorce from her, someone changed Lynn’s address on her voter registration to – you guessed it – 4519 Don Arturo Place, without her ever living there, and without her using that address to vote in that year or in any year since. (Lynn Price has for years been registered to vote in New Jersey.) 

Mr. Price’s current attorney Stephen J. Kaufman denies that his client or anyone close to him had anything to do with changing Lynn Price’s voter registration, claiming that it was automatically changed through the United States Postal Service’s National Change of Address System.

But that’s not possible, according to both the USPS and the LA County Registrar-Recorder’s office.

“The Postal Service’s National Change-of-Address system does not reach out and ‘change’ a customer’s address” without explicit direction from the person or someone pretending to be her, said Evelina Ramirez, a USPS spokesperson. And the USPS doesn’t change someone’s voter registration, at all. The LA County Registrar-Recorder’s office in Norwalk echoed that sentiment. A voter registration is only changed when they receive a mail-in affidavit or DMV change, which is scanned and saved, or via correspondence, which is not. 

Because Lynn Price’s change of voter registration address has no stored affidavit or DMV transaction, it is believed to have been changed through correspondence. 

Attorney Kaufman, when told that his client Mr. Price claimed on his 2012 affidavit that Lynn Price did reside at the Don Arturo address, stopped talking altogether and did not respond to the following questions:

  1. Could he identify anyone other than Curren Price or Del Richardson-Price who stood to benefit from that change of Lynn Price’s voter registration address? 
  1. Why, if Lynn Price never lived at the Don Arturo Place house, did the National Change of Address system just happen to choose his client’s second wife’s house as the new address for her voter registration? 
  1. Why does he believe that the National Change of Address system changed Lynn Price’s long-dormant Los Angeles voter registration, but not her active one in New Jersey? 
  1. Why, if Lynn Price never lived at Don Arturo, did his client have his process server attempt to serve her there three times in January 2012? 

Kaufman’s deflections are not only ludicrous on their surface, but also statistically questionable. 

There are 3.267 million residential housing units in Los Angeles County. The odds of Lynn Price’s voter registration being randomly and illegally transferred to an address owned by her husband and his second wife are significantly worse than her odds of winning a high-end grand prize in a California Lottery scratcher game, which is about 1 in 3,000,000. And this just happened to occur at a time when Mr. Price and Mr. Robles tried to convince the court that they could not locate her at that exact address. 

Further, throughout a five-year correspondence that Del Richardson-Price had with the IRS from at least June 2010 to July 2015, Del used Don Arturo as her address at the time Lynn Price’s voter registration was changed to the same address in August 2010

Mr. Price refuses to state where he lived during this time. 

The can of worms that that opens is this: if Del Richardson-Price told the truth about her residence address on her years-long communications with the IRS, why was she registered to vote, and still is, at a different address, in a different LA City Council District, far below her admirable, affluent economic status? 

The Don Arturo house is located on a nicely manicured cul-de-sac in a hillside community with a sweeping view befitting someone of a doctor’s, or Curren Price’s and Del Richardson-Price’s, professional success. But it is located in LA City Council District 8. 

Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren D. Price, Jr., represents Council District 9, aka, “The New 9th,” and it is illegal for him to reside outside of the community he represents. Just ask former LA City Councilmember Richard Alarcon what happened when he did that

According to Curren Price’s and Del Richardson-Price’s current voter registrations, in stark contradiction to their address on IRS correspondence as late as 2015, they reside in a downscale, multi-family rental property in a working class community with a flock of roosters cock-a-doodle-doo’ing across the street and an inexpensive, conspicuously license-plated car, parked where millionaires with two six-figure incomes generally do not live.

Is something that started out as a simple inquiry of whether Mr. Price is a bigamist about to morph into something with far bigger consequences? 

The evolution of this story can be found in my earlier CW articles: 

February 27: “LA’s Own Bigamist-ery.”  

March 2: LA Sentinel Throws Up a Smoke Screen for Councilman Price on the Bigamy Mystery.”  

March 6: LA Times Tiptoeing Around the Price Bigamy Allegations.”  

March 27: Curren Price Plot Thickens: Councilman’s Problems are Bigger than Bigamy.”  

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport.  Verifiable tips and story ideas can be sent to him at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

DEATH PENALTY WATCH-Ghoulishness envelops Arkansas’ decision to pump deadly drugs into eight men over the next fortnight. Although two of the eight scheduled executions have definitively been stayed and a temporary restraining order has been issued as to the remaining six, the state plans an emergency appeal. 

Articles about “midazolam,” the drug whose expiration date prompted Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to schedule this unprecedented mass execution are abuzz on the internet and social media. By this point many Americans have heard or are generally aware that while midazolam is supposed to render the condemned unconscious and insensate, it has been linked to a number of gruesome and botched executions in the United States. 

These are lethal injections where instead of drifting into a sterile, serene, slumber-like death, the condemned have for minutes and even hours, convulsed, coughed, clenched their fists, writhed and thrashed their bodies, murmured, spoken, or cried out in obvious distress; some have gasped for interminably long periods of time mimicking the discomfiting death-throes of still-live fish thrown flat on a sunbaked pier, to suffocate and to burn. 

Importantly, torturous executions linked to midazolam have occurred when just one or at most two executions have been scheduled at one time. This is why a chorus of lawyers, law professors, medical experts, ethicists, and former correctional officials, have all raised their voices in the last few days against Hutchinson’s mass-killing decree. 

“Multiple executions create rushed circumstances. Rushed circumstances risk error,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. In other words, the assembly-line nature of Hutchinson’s expediency-centric execution schedule exacerbates the risk that one or more of the men to be executed next week will suffer an excruciatingly painful execution; an execution plainly in violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. 

In January 2016, I wrote about the then-impending execution of Christopher Brooks in Alabama – an execution likely botched by the controversial use of midazolam – a drug that according to competent medical experts, is inappropriate for use in executions. 

Specifically, I wrote: “In the United States, we rightly condemn barbaric executions in other countries, like in North Korea, where, in front of an audience, Kim Jon-Un executed his defense minister with an anti-aircraft gun, or, in Saudi Arabia, where beheading remains a common practice. We have especially condemned ISIS executions, executions that have included burning and burying people alive.” 

Highlighting Brooks’ federal defenders’ arguments that, because of the documented problems with midazolam, Brooks would feel like “he is [both] being buried alive” and “burn[ed] alive from the inside”, I plaintively demanded: “How can we countenance the fact that we, as Americans, may also be subjecting human beings – irrespective of their crimes, even heinous ones – to that same end? Can the fact that US executions are not broadcast to the masses from some windswept desert in the Middle East, and occur, instead, in sterile prisons, under the color of law, really make such a difference? Isn’t it morally wrong to execute someone by reproducing the sensation of being buried alive followed by burning them from the inside out?” I lamented, “Aren’t we, as a nation, and as people, better than that?”   

Next week, if Arkansas’ state-sanctioned killing spree goes forward, the answer to that question will resoundingly be “no.” It’ll be no, no, no, no, no, no. 

And as far as the title of my one-year-old Huffington Post blog, When Will the United States Stop ‘Tinkering With The Machinery of Death?’”, based on the monumentally-high level of depravity promising to be on display next week in Arkansas, not soon enough.    

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Saturday morning federal Judge Kristine G. Baker of the Federal District Court in Little Rock, AR, halted the state’s plan to execute the eight prisoners. The Arkansas Attorney General has vowed to appeal the decision.)

 

(Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California. Follow him on Twitter #SteveCooperEsq.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

CORRUPTION WATCH-When medicine bottles are filled with poison, people die. The most famous incident was in October 1982, when someone laced Tylenol capsules in the Chicago area with cyanide, resulting in seven deaths. While the nation moved quickly to guarantee the safety of over-the-counter medicines, the adulteration of our judicial system has been pandemic for generations. 

From civilization’s beginning, mankind has striven to develop institutions that ensure an honest and just society. In the beginning of Genesis, we learn about the corrupt judges in Sodom. Their abuse was so destructive that they were named Liar, Habitual Liar, Deceiver and Perverter of the Law. According to Jewish tradition, these judges so adulterated Sodom, that God destroyed the city and all its inhabitants. From a moral stand point, filling political institutions with poisonous men is as lethal to society as putting cyanide in medicine. 

One difference between lacing Tylenol capsules with cyanide and allowing corrupt people to have positions of importance is that corruption is slow acting and spreads insidiously until the entire society becomes morally bankrupt. The first injustice by a Sodomite judge did not cause fire and brimstone to hail down on Sodom. Cruelty and injustice enriched some Sodomites, causing extreme harm to their victims. As the corruption spread, evil dominated without any thought that a day of reckoning would arrive. 

During the 1770s, people in the American British Colonies became displeased that the Crown was contaminating British institutions. The colonists believed there should be no taxation without representation. They believed they were entitled to impartial courts when they had just grievances against the Crown. But King George and Parliament believed otherwise and saw no reason that their “Tylenol” bottles should not also contain tyranny. The King’s courts were a farce. Like in Sodom, truth, honesty, and justice had been supplanted by power. The colonists expressed their displeasure with this adulteration of the judicial system in the Declaration of Independence, stating: “He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.”   

Our Declaration of Independence posited that all individuals have certain inalienable rights and among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. We drafted the U.S. Constitution to secure the Blessings of Liberty, not to continue the rule of tyrants. The foremost objective of the judiciary is to protect an individual’s fundamental rights. The legal system is not to be manipulated for the benefit of the rich and powerful.   

For decades, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) was an abusive occupying force in South Central Los Angeles (aka Watts) where, in 1965, police brutality after the stopping of a black motorist triggered six days of violence and civil unrest. There was $40 million ($308 million in 2017 dollars) in property damage and 34 deaths. The unrest was fueled not only by the racist nature of the former LAPD, but also by the courts when they backed up a police department that engaged in the brutalization and criminalization of the Black community. 

Twenty-six years later, in 1992, Los Angeles again erupted in violence with the worst civil unrest since the Civil War – with 54 dead and $1.5 billion (in 2017 dollars) in property damage. Again, a poisonous judiciary had been crucial in the breakdown of civil society. 

While the acquittal of the police officers was what sparked that violence, the foundation for the death and destruction was laid months before by the appellate court’s manipulation of the location of the police officers’ trial to Simi Valley, a bedroom community for police officers. The appellate court claimed that due to publicity, a fair trial could not be had in LA County. Thus, the trial was moved to Ventura County, where the media coverage was as extensive as in Los Angeles County but the jury pool was extremely pro-police. In brief, the appellate court concocted a ruse to place the police officers’ trial in a place where the jury would be overwhelming sympathetic to white police officers and hostile to their Black victim. 

After decades of police brutality and a corrupt court system, the Black Community believed that with the video of the beating of Rodney King, there would finally be justice in at least one case. The appellate court knew better. The Simi Valley jury consisting of 10 whites, one Hispanic and one Filipino acquitted all the officers. 

As the violence mounted in South Central Los Angeles in response to the acquittals, the police pulled back, leaving citizens and businesses defenseless to marauding thugs. When a white truck driver, Reginald Denny, was yanked from his truck at the intersection of Normandie and Florence, no police or National Guard responded. Instead, local people (Bobby Green, Lei Yuille, Titus Murphy and Terri Barnett) who saw the brutal attack on TV, rushed from their homes and saved Reginald Denny’s life. Many people do not want to acknowledge the social disintegration unleashed on Los Angeles that was caused by the appellate court’s moving the trial to Simi Valley. 

Decades later, in 2015, when three federal judges told us our State Court system has suffered from an epidemic of misconduct, we shut our ears and allowed the sadistic abuse to continue. In January 2015, the Federal courts complained about state court prosecutors’ committing perjury in order to obtain convictions, but their real target was the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye. 

The three judge federal panel identified the cause of the epidemic of misconduct as the California court system itself which turned a blind eye to lying jailhouse informants, prosecutors who took the stand and committed perjury and a host of other misdeeds. If Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, who has held her position since July 22, 2010, had taken remedial steps in the intervening four years, one of the three federal judge would have taken note. 

However, since January 2015, the Chief Justice seems to have done nothing to remove the poison from our judicial system. According to The Orange County Register, “The U.S. Department of Justice launched a civil rights investigation of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department on Thursday (December 15, 2016) over allegations that prosecutors and deputies withhold evidence and use jailhouse informants to illegally obtain confessions.” 

A significant number of judges are former prosecutors, so they are very familiar with these illegal tactics and recognize when they are deployed in their courtrooms. The complaints of the cyanide in the Orange County courts pre-date the complaints by Judge Kozinski in January 2015. Nonetheless, it takes another federal agency to investigate the same type of vile betrayal of public trust which we saw 4,000 years ago in Sodom and Gomorrah. 

Angelenos should not become complacent by thinking that these abuses are relics of bygone eras. Facts and fiction are still fungible commodities in courtrooms. No fact can be too firmly rooted in reality for a judge to proclaim that its opposite is an Undisputed Fact; perjury which favors a judge’s position is preferable over truth. Just as no one knows when the weight of economic frauds will again crash the economy, no one knows when judicial corruption will cause another outbreak of violence.

 

(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

TNN REPORT--Five years ago when the City of Los Angeles Redistricting was finalized, residents of  Koreatown launched a lawsuit, Lee v. City Of Los Angeles (15-55478). It challenged the redrawing of district boundaries with the primary intent of increasing the African American vote within Council District 10. (Photo above: LA Councilman Ryu, standing.)

Redistricting happens every 10 years after the US Census identifies population numbers within particular districts. In order to have fair elections district borders have to be redrawn to ensure that each district has the same number of residents.  In the last census the boundaries had to be redrawn to contain 252,000 residents per district. 

The Redistricting Commission of 2011-12 requested input from residents. The Koreatown community organized and mobilized in an unprecedented manner, bringing out  thousands in total to more than three dozen Redistricting Commission board meetings and town hallsThey were adamant and clear over their displeasure of their historic use as a donation funding bank for CD 10 Council members including Councilman Wesson -while their issues and concerns remained minimized or ignored.  They introduced a letter allegedly from a local business begging to be released from the constant need to donate. 

Research by TNN showed that over a third of the donations to Councilman Wesson came from Korean residents while they represent only 10% of the district. (Redistricting Awakens Koreatown). They were requesting to be released from CD 10 and included in CD 13 the next district over. This would also solve the problem of their Neighborhood Council being divided into multiple council districts. 

But by granting this reasonable Koreatown request, a ready source of funding to Councilman Wesson through allegedly pressured donations, would end. 

The final result approved by the Redistricting Commission (which was headed by a man who quit his job with Councilman Wesson to head the commission) ignored their request and instead redrew boundaries to not only keep Koreatown and its donations in place but to increase African American voter numbers. The lawsuit contends that using the criteria to increase African American votes is illegal while the City argues it was not used as a criteria.  But evidence might prove their undoing.

From TNN report Aug 2, 2013 -  “A secretly taped video at a Los Angeles Baptist Ministers conference is not going to help Wesson's cause. Despite claims he had nothing to do with redistricting, when Councilman Wesson was asked to come and explain his rumored influence on the breakup of their district, he admitted he had a hand in it. ‘I did the best I could to retain ‘assets’ for all of the districts. One person. Alone. Every member came to me to discuss what they wanted ...’ He went on to claim he had secured assurance that three of the districts would have African-American representation for the next 30 years.”  Article can also be found here.

In addition, in a smoking gun email, a Herb Wesson redistricting appointee said:

“We attempted to protect the historical African American incumbents in this district by increasing the black voter registration percentage and CVAP #s accordingly. As you can discern on the attachment, we were able to increase the numbers to 50.12% and 42.8%, respectively.  This was a significant increase in the black voters in CD 10 which would protect and assist in keeping CD 10 a predominately African-American opportunity district.  ... This move would allow CD 10 to divest itself of this diverse populated area, and increase the AA population to the South.”

Because the Redistricting Commission claimed they were going to give priority to keeping the 95 Neighborhood Councils whole, the Koreatown community used the boundary of the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council (“WCKNC”) district and sought, along with other Asian American communities, including Historic Filipinotown and Thai Town, to be kept together in a single council district in order to keep similar immigrant populations with similar language needs.  

The Koreatown community provided the Commission with abundant and compelling testimony for the unification of WCKNC in Council District 13. But, as the final map shows, the Koreatown community’s unprecedented efforts were ignored while the map that was selected focused on increasing the number of African American residents in Council District 10. 

In 2012 Koreatown residents filed a lawsuit accusing the city of redrawing the boundaries for a predominantly racial intent. It was denied but Lee v. City Of Los Angeles (15-55478) is still ongoing and awaiting a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The three judge panel led by the Honorable Alex Kozinski heard oral arguments at the stately Pasadena Courthouse in January 2017But the appellants’ attorneys requested that the judges wait until the United States Supreme Court ruled on Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections before ruling on the Lee v. City Of Los Angeles matter.  

The Virginia Legislature had redrawn district lines packing more than 55% African American voters into various districts in order to minimize the African American presence in other districts.  This would dilute the vote of neighboring districts with less African Americans allowing the voter numbers to skew Republican. The legislature argued that they used traditional criteria such as keeping equal numbers of people within the districts and that boundary lines were continuous avoiding strangely shaped districts, often a sign that gerrymandering had occurred. 

On March 1, the United States Supreme Court ruled and it doesn’t look good for the City of Los Angeles. It was unanimous in its decision held in Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections that even if traditional criteria were met it didn’t mean that racial criteria wasn’t a predominating factor – which isn’t allowed. 

The United States Supreme Court decision bolsters the Lee appellants’ arguments that the City’s boundary lines for City Council District 10 were drawn for unconstitutional racial purposes and therefore should be void.  The City’s argument- that since traditional redistricting criteria were met, the racial intent claims have no merit - is no longer a winnable argument after the Bethune-Hill decision.

No amount of rationalization of traditional redistricting criteria explanations will be able to obfuscate what was plainly and openly done during redistricting.  The LA Times Editorial Board called it “an exercise in power politics, not democracy.” LA’s flawed redistricting process, Los Angeles Times Editorial, February 17, 2012

and

“...Angelenos should by now recognize the gap between the official story -- that the process was transparent and decisions were made publicly -- and the all-too- obvious reality: Line-drawing was the result of backroom deals, using private criteria, and Wesson and the other officials who drew the maps protected themselves from accountability for their decisions by cynically hiding behind their redistricting commission appointees. Some of those appointees no doubt intended to be independent; others no doubt knew full well they were on the panel to do the bidding of the elected officials who appointed them.”

From LA, redistricting done wrong, Los Angeles Times Editorial, August 12, 2012

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling should come out soon and will certainly be worth reading.  Hopefully, the Lee v. City of Los Angeles matter will be remanded allowing a trial to go forward.  

Justice is not easy nor quick, but worth the fight.  Justice comes at the cost of perseverance and tenacity.

As of this date, a judgment had not been reached.    

(Dianne Lawrence is the editor and publisher of The Neighborhood News.   Grace Yoo is an estate planning attorney, who attended more than 90% of all the 2011-2012 Redistricting Commission meetings, and was a 2015 candidate for city LA Council District 10.)

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ANIMAL WATCH-On April 6, 2017, the U.S. Postal Service announced that dog bites to mail carriers in Los Angeles soared to #1 in the country in 2016, with a total of 80 attacks.

This was a 43% increase from 2015, when Postal workers in LA incurred only 56 total bites.

Houston, TX, was #2 with 62 bites in 2016. The number of Postal Service employees attacked by dogs last year nationwide reached 6,755 — more than 200 higher than in 2015, USPS reported, with LA at the top of the list. 

Looking back to 2011, GM Brenda Barnette’s first year at LA Animal Services, there were only 44 bites for the entire year, almost one-half of the current rate. Los Angeles is definitely catapulting in the wrong direction. 

This is not only a danger to the public, but also to LAAS Animal Control Officers who suffer serious bites and risk other injuries attempting to avoid attacks. In 2015, Director of Field Operations Mark Salazar announced at a Harbor Neighborhood Council meeting that workers' compensation claims for LAAS had risen 350%. 

Reports of loose dogs (categorized as "dogs-at-large") -- owned or strays -- need to be addressed when complaints are received by the department and before the first bite occurs, in order to keep residents and service employees (including mail and package delivery) safe. The primary function for which municipal animal control agencies were established under State law was to insure the impounding of stray (loose) dogs for public health and safety. This was prompted by rabies epidemics. 

Dogs are territorial and, when allowed to roam streets and neighborhoods, their "territory" is expanded. If the dog is aggressive by nature and, especially if it is also an unaltered male, it is statistically far more likely to pose a serious threat to the community. 

However, "Dogs-at-large" (running loose or escaped from yards) are No. 18 on the priority list authorized by Brenda Barnette for her field officers.

Although animal attacks are a #2 priority, officers state that they are so busy that they rarely arrive at a dog-bite scene before the victim has been assisted by LA Fire Department and/or transported for medical care. They also confirm that attacks happen almost daily in Los Angeles, including the maiming or killing of someone's beloved pet.

According to Assistant GM Dana Brown, there are still only 50 Animal Control Officers working 24/7 from six shelters to serve 469 square miles with almost 4 million residents and their pets. Eight officers are on long-term leave or restrictions and 25 positions are vacant. She explained at the April 11 Commission meeting, that they had only been able to start four new ACO's during the past two years because of a “glitch” in the hiring process.

Adding to this is the failure to replace the 2001-2003 fleet of dangerously malfunctioning animal control trucks that the city's fleet manager told Councilman Paul Koretz publicly in 2015 were already "falling apart." Assistant GM Brown admitted at the meeting that there had been "miscommunication" in the ordering of the 17 new trucks authorized. She added that now the department is facing budget cuts and the extra funding to correct the errors in the functional design might not be available. 

DOG BITE STATISTICS NOT KEPT BY LA ANIMAL SERVICES 

GM Brenda Barnette admits she does not keep stats on dog bites/attacks in the city. There is widespread speculation that this is to evade revealing the actual frequency and severity. It could also be a tactic to avoid filling LA’s shelters with aggressive dogs that might need to be euthanized and, thus, destroy the myth of the “No Kill” city.

This is very disturbing not only because LA stakeholders paid over $44 million in taxes, and $230,000 for the GM's salary in 2016, but also because victims of attacks or those who are threatened by menacing dogs have nowhere else to turn for help except LAAS. 

Equally if not more alarming is that no one in City government seems to care.

CITY OFFICIALS IGNORE THE USPS REPORT -- DISCUSS FERAL CATS 

On April 11, five days after the widely publicized USPS report, the Board of Animal Services Commissioners met. This is a Board of five volunteer residents appointed by the Mayor and designated by the City Charter as head of the Los Angeles Animal Services Department, with the General Manager setting policy. 

Not one of the Mayor's appointees mentioned the upsurge or dangers of increased dog bites -- not even to request it as a future agenda item.

The Commission, GM Barnette and a room populated with representatives from various city departments, including the offices of the Mayor and City Attorney, were there to discuss feral cats and a proposed city-funded TNR (Trap/Neuter/Release) program to allow free-roaming, unowned, unsocialized cats to be released into neighborhoods citywide.

This plan hinges on the successful results of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s tax-funded $800,000 Environmental Impact Report (EIR) by the City’s Bureau of Engineering, which they hope will show that a Trap/Neuter/Release (TNR) program that results in tons of cat feces and urine excreted on streets and yards of residential areas; the spread of parasites and diseases such as toxoplasmosis; and rampant destruction of birds and other small mammals by colonized cats all over the city will not have a negative impact on communities.

WHY USPS “DOG-BITE” STATS ARE IMPORTANT 

The USPS annual dog-bite statistics during “Dog Bite Prevention Week" are headlined in media reports and TV news across the country as a significant indicator of neighborhood safety.

Any increase should be regarded as warning of a deficit in enforcement and/or effectiveness of the officials in charge of animal control, along with the elected or appointed representatives who seek positions with the responsibility for guarding the public’s interest and welfare.

Expecting government officials and agencies to be concerned about injuries inflicted by dogs, which can be as damaging as those incurred during robberies or gunshots or car accidents, is not asking for a special favor.

The lack of reaction by GM Brenda Barnette and the entire political hierarchy of Los Angeles to the USPS alarming report of increasing dog-bites -- while they focus on releasing feral cats into communities with no regard for homeowners' opinions, or impact on quality of life, or public health and safety -- is just another indicator of Los Angeles' lack of leadership and systemic disconnect with reality. 

The feral cat issue was fast-tracked to the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee for discussion and further approval on Tuesday, April 19, with no discussion of the USPS dog-bite report on the agenda.

                                                           

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

MCDONALD REPORT--In the nation’s second largest city, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council have quietly perverted a much-needed housing program for homeless men, women, and children. And affordable housing advocates and the Los Angeles Times are not sounding the alarm. (Photo above: Mayor photo-oping with the homeless.) 

Los Angeles is currently facing one of its worst homeless crises in recent memory. It’s so bad, the Times reported, that LA has the highest number of unsheltered homeless people in the entire United States. 

As a 2013 mayoral candidate, Garcetti told an audience of affordable housing advocates that he would end homelessness. Now, in 2017, he essentially backed off that campaign promise, saying that homelessness was a “long-term crisis” that needed “long-term solutions.” 

One of those solutions was a $1.2 billion bond initiative to build homeless housing, known as Measure HHH. Voters overwhelming approved it in November 2016. 

Another was a kind of pilot project for Measure HHH, known as the Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites (AHOS) program. It will utilize several city-owned properties on the Westside and in Lincoln Heights and South L.A., among other locations, to build more housing. 

The LA Times has described AHOS as a program that will build “permanent supportive housing,” which specifically caters to the homeless and provides important services. 

The paper also reported that Garcetti and the City Council “spent months developing plans for converting as many as 12 city-owned sites [through the AHOS program] into housing for the city’s homeless residents.” 

Garcetti, City Council President Herb Wesson, and other council members also used their time to campaign against a development reform initiative called Measure S. It sought to fix LA’s severely broken planning and land-use system, which numerous critics say has fueled the city’s homeless crisis. 

To get LA’s liberal voters to vote down Measure S, Garcetti and council members repeatedly said the initiative would stop the city from building homeless housing through the AHOS program. 

In a January interview on the local ABC TV affiliate, for example, Garcetti said that “nine out of the 10 (AHOS) properties, the city’s going to build housing for the homeless on, couldn’t be built if Measure S gets passed.”  

City Hall politicians regularly linked the AHOS program to homeless housing — and to Measure HHH, which voters expect Garcetti and the City Council to use for homeless housing, not something else.

But only weeks after Measure HHH was approved on November 8, the betrayal of the homeless — and LA voters — was well underway at the hands of Garcetti, the City Council, and the City Administrative Officer. 

In December 2016, the City Council approved the final details of the AHOS program, which was organized by the City Administrative Officer with much input from the City Council and mayor. It had turned into something startlingly different from what City Hall politicians had been promising — and what the LA Times had been describing. 

The City Administrative Officer recommended, and the City Council approved, an AHOS program that now offered “affordable multifamily housing,” “mixed-income housing,” “affordable homeownership,” “innovative methods of housing,” and, finally, “permanent supportive housing” for the homeless.  

The City Administrative Officer also recommended that it enter into negotiations with developers who have proposed a “mix of supportive, affordable, and market-rate units.” Again, the City Council approved. 

On December 7, 2016, at the City Council’s Homeless and Poverty Committee, Yolanda Chavez, a top official with the City Administrative Officer, revealed another disturbing fact. 

An AHOS project that’s officially deemed “permanent supportive housing” only needs to earmark half of its units for the homeless. In other words, not even the homeless housing will truly be homeless housing. 

“You can have a project that has 50 percent affordable units and 50 percent supportive,” said Chavez. “They have to be 50 percent supportive, and 50 percent of those have to be reserved for the chronically homeless. So that’s the definition of permanent supportive housing.” 

Chavez talked as if everything was perfectly okay. Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, chair of the homeless and poverty committee, said nothing. Affordable housing advocates, who were present, also kept mum. 

Instead, advocates had only good things to say about the AHOS program — perhaps because they wanted city contracts to build AHOS projects. 

The LA Times was unconcerned, casually reporting that the “city initially planned to offer the [AHOS] sites for supportive housing, which would include on-site services. But the recommendation released Thursday said proposals could include affordable housing, mixed-income housing, market-rate housing and occupant-owned housing as well.”  

The fact that a homeless housing program, which Garcetti and City Council members touted as a vital first step to address LA’s homeless crisis, could now build market-rate housing did not alarm the LA Times in the least. 

All this is happening in a city run by liberal Democrats (Garcetti and Wesson included) in what’s considered to be one of the top progressive bastions in the U.S. — with the left-leaning LA Times supervising. 

Today, Angelenos remain largely uninformed about the specifics of the AHOS program. LA politicians quietly, and hurriedly, pushed it through; the LA Times never raised an eyebrow; and affordable housing advocates took a powder.  

City officials are currently sorting through the proposals for projects that will make up the AHOS program. With complete certainty, permanent supportive housing will not be built at every city-owned property — five sites in Lincoln Heights, which is represented by Councilman Gil Cedillo, have already been designated for “mixed-income” housing. 

As a result, the city’s use of Measure HHH money for the AHOS program will not go entirely to homeless housing, and homeless men, women, and children will not receive the full amount of housing and services that Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council had promised. 

Instead, an affluent professional, the only person who can afford market-rate housing in L.A., may land a nice pad on city-owned property in increasingly gentrified Lincoln Heights or near the beach on the Westside. It’s the very definition of a scandal. 

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

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For the first time, on the day of March 23, 40 percent of Californian grid power between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. was generated by utility-scale solar plants. 

This proportion was a seasonal effect but not a fluke, and it certainly points to what will be routine in the very near future.

California has so much solar power now that sometimes the price of electricity turns negative. Natural gas plant owners actually have to pay the state to take their electricity when that happens. But they make up for it during high-demand periods.

The negative prices were not passed on to consumers because they get charged for the whole mix, and California electricity rates are among the highest in the country.

If you count in the electricity generated by r ooftop solar panels, then on that day at that time, California was actually getting 50 percent of its electricity from solar.

This level of solar electricity generation is new in California. During the past year, there has been a 50 percent increase in utility-scale solar generation.

California now has nearly 10 gigawatts of solar power. That is more than all of Britain. It is more than the entire country of France. Even more than the entire country of India. 

If you looked at all the electricity generated in California on the day of March 23, you’d find that 56.7 percent of it was generated by renewables—in addition to solar there are wind turbines, hydroelectric from dams, geothermal and biomass.

Jobs in solar energy in California expanded by 67 percent year on year. 

California wants a third of its grid energy to come from renewables in only 3 years, in 2020. It wants the proportion to rise to 50 percent by 2030.

(Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan and an occasional contributor to CityWatch. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia. This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s website.)

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EDUCATION POLITICS--A state audit gave Alliance College-Ready Public Schools a mixed review last week, following an 11-month examination of spending and privacy issues related to Alliance’s two-year battle against teachers organizing a union at the charter network’s 28 schools. 

Though Alliance has been cleared of suspicions that it might have used public tax dollars in its heated anti-union campaign, the report did criticize the charter management organization’s compliance level with federal student privacy rules when it released protected student data to third parties.

The conflict dates to March of 2015, when a group of Alliance teachers and counselors announced its decision to organize a union and join the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). In that same month, according to auditors, the Alliance Home Office, which is Alliance’s nonprofit charter management organization (CMO), created a special account and spent nearly $1 million of a $1.7 million war chest raised from private donors.

Other findings include:

  • In fiscal year 2015–16, philanthropy accounted for 63 percent of total spending by Alliance Home Office. The CMO took in $29.4 million in private giving against $46.5 million in expenses.
  • The Alliance CMO donated more funds to its charter schools in fiscal years 2014–15 and 2015–16 than it had in fiscal year 2013–14, before the unionization efforts began.
  • Classroom expenditures did not decline because of Alliance’s anti-union campaign.
  • Alliance Home Office used private funds to reimburse its schools for staff time spent on anti-union activities.
  • Alliance’s policies and procedures did not establish adequate segregation of duties over the Alliance charter schools’ procurement process to mitigate the chance of fraud and abuse.

Both sides were quick to claim wins in the findings. An Alliance spokesperson was quoted as saying the audit represented a vindication for the franchisor. For its part, California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), whose own role in using Alliance parent-student data was examined by auditors, released a statement commending Alliance but downplaying the audit’s privacy criticisms.

“The audit confirmed that all public funds received by the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools were directed to the classroom,” it stated, “and that per-pupil classroom spending at three Alliance charter schools reviewed for the audit had in fact increased during the period of 2013 to 2016.”

But Alliance teachers claimed a victory in what they said amounted to the first official acknowledgment by the charter that it was actively fighting unionization.

“The Alliance has been claiming over and over again that they’re not running an anti-union campaign,” said Alisha Mernick, an art teacher at Alliance Gertz-Ressler High School. “They’re really still sticking to this narrative that this is an illusion that we’ve painted as some kind of tactic. In this report, it says this is the anti-union campaign. This is dollars spent, documented carefully.”

Charter schools are publicly financed but privately operated, and fears by the state legislature’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee that the 12,500-student, 28-school Alliance network, which is the largest charter chain in Los Angeles, might be misspending tax dollars, became one of the audit’s objectives. But the committee also tasked the auditor to look at whether Alliance’s use of the confidential information about parents, students and alumni had violated the protections of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Those concerns were prompted by reports that part of the anti-union effort was led by CCSA, the state charter industry’s trade and lobbying organization. CCSA had recruited former Alliance students and paid them to work at a phone bank in an outreach program that asked Alliance parents to oppose the union drive. Parent and student phone numbers and addresses are considered protected data under FERPA, and parents have the right to opt out of allowing a school to share the information with third parties.

On the first allegation, the auditor found that although the school’s charter management organization, Alliance Home Office, had spent $917,759 as of June, 2016 on the union fight out of a total of $1.7 million in private philanthropy raised to block the union, that money was segregated in a separate account from tax revenues. Auditors also said that Alliance had used an additional $2 million in pro bono legal work in the campaign.

That grand total drew a sharp rebuke from UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. In a statement, Caputo-Pearl blasted Alliance’s spending priorities, charging that “Raising funds for a war chest to fight your own employees is just plain wrong. Operators of publicly funded schools should be working to see that every available dollar is spent to further quality education for students.”

But giving student directory information to CCSA was another matter, according to auditors. The report rejected Alliance’s claim that under FERPA’s broad exception of “legitimate educational interest” it was free to share confidential student information without undergoing the cumbersome process that requires parents to annually opt out of waiving their privacy rights. The catch, auditors insisted, was that Alliance would have had to define the terms of the exception in annual notifications to parents, which it had failed to do.

But even had the charter sent out the notifications, the audit had no way to verify Alliance claims that it removed student data based on required parent opt-outs for the simple reason that the school hadn’t bothered to save any of the parent letters. Though that lapse effectively allowed the CMO to narrowly dodge a FERPA violation, auditors felt compelled to warn the operator in an addendum that its carelessness did not equate to following the law.

“Alliance is putting undue emphasis on the fact that the deficiencies we found related to its management processes do not violate specific provisions of law,” auditors reprimanded. “Strong management processes, sometimes referred to as internal controls, help ensure that entities do not misuse public funds or otherwise violate the law.”

Teacher Alisha Mernick remains skeptical that Alliance followed the opt-out process at all before the audit, insisting that in her six years at Alliance, she has only one memory of ever passing out the letters.

“I remember handing out those letters,” she asserted. “You know, ‘These are your privacy rights. This is the law. If you wish to opt out from this policy, you need to write a letter, asking to opt out and deliver it to the office.’ The one and only time I’ve handed out that letter was after we learned about CCSA phone-banking parents.”

Rosalba Naranjo, who has a seventh grade daughter at Alliance Richard Merkin Middle School, and was an early supporter of the unionization effort, told Capital & Main that she knew nothing about an opt-out letter or any other notification from Alliance informing her that the school reserved the right to share her child’s information with outside vendors unless she objected in writing.

“I never received a letter saying I had that option,” said Naranjo. “But I think it’s wrong that parents are receiving mailer after mailer, telling us that teachers forming their union is going to be bad for kids. What’s bad is kids being exposed to all that negative propaganda.”

UTLA currently represents over 1,000 educators in independent charter schools within LAUSD’s boundaries. Forming a bargaining unit at Alliance would require a majority vote by Alliance teachers and other certificated staff.

Mernick thinks that both momentum and the support of parents are on the teachers’ side.

“When parents are able to connect that teachers are going to be advocating on behalf of our students,” said Mernick, “and [that] teachers having a more equal say in how our [school] works is ultimately going to be good for the students as well, parents have been supportive. I’ve yet to meet a parent who reacts negatively.”

(Bill Raden is a freelance Los Angeles writer. This article was first posted first at Capital & Main.)

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RANTZ AND RAVEZ-If you check past California records, you will find that our voters have passed a number of measures to repair the roads, strengthen and repair bridges around the state and complete a variety of other transportation related projects in our so-called Golden State. While Governor Brown has dedicated billions of dollars to build the Bullet Train from nowhere to nowhere, we all manage our finances and tighten our belts to make ends meet.

EDUCATION POLITICS-A new study of public charter school funding has found that California’s explosive charter growth of the past 15 years has left school districts straining under a glut of new charter classrooms that are no better at educating California children than traditional public schools. Released Monday by the research and public advocacy group In the Public Interest (ITPI), Spending Blind reveals the extent to which tax dollars have been used to create privately held real estate empires — charter properties that, because they aren’t owned by the public, could, theoretically, one day be converted into luxury condominiums or shopping complexes. 

Subtitled, The Failure of Policy Planning in California Charter School Funding, the report zeroes in on the costs and impacts of the $2.5 billion in charter school construction and rent subsidies that has been made available to prospective charter operators in a taxpayer-subsidized system of 10 state and federal public funding programs mostly administered by the California School Finance Authority (CSFA). 

The report found that the facilities-funding programs had unintended effects, particularly that they 

  • Incentivized adding classroom space to districts that didn’t need it. 
  • Created charter schools that underperformed in comparison to their traditional public school neighbors. 
  • Funded charters that in hundreds of cases were later found to have discriminatory enrollment policies. 
  • Paid for privately owned real estate enterprises. 
  • Enabled some of the state’s charter school scandals of last year. 

The charter school industry relies upon a system of state and federal grants, loans, tax credits, and state and district bonds to pay for classroom space. Spending Blind represents the first time, its author, political economist Gordon Lafer, told Capital & Main, that this system has been subjected to the kind of cost-benefit questions that the public school side of the equation is typically required to answer. 

“The most surprising discovery was just the total disconnect between the education policy goals of creating charter schools – [that] I think are still pretty much what people think is the point of charter schools – and how that money is spent,” said Lafer, who is also an associate professor at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center. “I expected that it would be like, you know, ‘We have these goals, we write the goals into funding.’ Instead, it was a total disconnect.” 

Charter schools are financed with the same taxpayer dollars that pay for public schools, but are managed by private companies. Passed in the early 1990s, the state’s original charter law created the charter school of the popular imagination -- a statutory zone of deregulation that allows boutique schools to develop superior curricula geared to persistently low-performing students. 

But beginning in the late ’90s, a flurry of changes to the law included generous facilities subsidies that effectively opened the door to charter management organizations (CMOs) — scaled-up corporate franchises whose overall performance has roughly mirrored that of existing public schools. From having fewer than 200 charters in 1998, California now boasts 1,230 schools with 581,100 students, giving it the largest charter enrollment in the nation. The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) has vowed to nearly double that number by 2022. 

In a prepared statement, CCSA brushed aside the report’s findings as an attempt to generate support for Senate Bill 808, a charter school reform measure authored by State Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia). It also accused ITPI of a “well-documented and biased point of view on the role charter schools play in the public education system.” 

Nevertheless, Lafer found that public facilities funding has been disproportionately concentrated among the fewer than one-third of schools that are owned by CMOs of between three and 30 schools. And it pointed to the state’s four largest California CMOs — Aspire, KIPP, Alliance and Animo/Green Dot — as claiming an even more disproportionate share. 

Lafer also alleged that Los Angeles’ Alliance College-Ready Public Schools network of charter schools also led the big CMOs in using public facilities financing to build up subsidized inventories of private real estate. Lafer’s study reports that Alliance alone has translated $110 million in federal and state taxpayer support into a portfolio of privately owned property “now worth in excess of $200 million.” 

“I don’t think anybody in the legislature ever intended — and I wouldn’t think most citizens or taxpayers intended or would approve of the idea —that public tax dollars are going to be used to buy somebody private property,” Lafer said. 

Yet California charter schools can become the private property of a charter operator when they are paid for with proceeds from the state’s three public conduit bond programs offered by the CSFA, the California Municipal Finance Authority (CMFA) and the California Statewide Communities Development Authority (CSCDA). An operator could also get the same result using private funding subsidized by California’s New Market Tax Credits program, or by getting the school’s mortgage payments reimbursed through CSFA’s Charter School Facilities Grant Program, more commonly known as SB 740. 

Should the authorizer revoke the charter, the state and the local school district would be left scrambling to house displaced students. The now-unencumbered former charter operator, however, would be free to turn the buildings into luxury condominiums or sell them at a profit. 

The danger, Lafer explained, is that because there is no meaningful cap written into California’s education code, any CMO bent on aggressive expansion could effectively become too big to fail. If a privately owned chain expands into a General Motors-like behemoth, then one day goes irredeemably bad, the district would be faced with the staggering cost of replacing those privately owned classrooms. 

“You potentially lose those choices if the price of making those choices is prohibitively high,” Lafer explained. “And the more of this [facilities financing] that happens, the closer to that situation we get.”

That scenario is more than theoretical. Tri-Valley Learning Corporation (TVLC) might be the poster child for California’s taxpayer subsidy program. It is one of three California case studies that Lafer features from last year’s charter scandals. The school, which operates two charters in Livermore and two in Stockton, collapsed last November after a run of poor managerial and financial decisions that included taking on $70 million in charter facilities bond debt. Though its schools are still technically open for business, the company’s death rattle continues to echo in Stockton, where both TVLC charters, Acacia Elementary school and Acacia Middle school, will be shuttered in May.

 

(Bill Raden is a freelance Los Angeles writer. This article was first posted at Capital & Main.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

TONE DEAFNESS AT CITY COUNCIL- The vast majority of Angelenos who show up at LA City Council meetings to address their representatives have never been there before. They come from every corner of the city, from every age group, and for different purposes, but there’s one thing they all have in common -- genuine, heart-felt passion about their reason for coming. Without such feeling, these Angelenos would never find the impetus to take time off from or risk losing their jobs, might not find a caretaker for their young kids, or, as senior citizens, might never venture out into the unfamiliar and frightening web of buses and subways. 

The expectations these people have when they attend a City Council meeting vary as much as their reasons for coming. Many have no idea what will happen when they take those fateful few steps up to the public comment podium once the agenda item for which they’ve travelled all this way to speak with their representatives is called by the Council President. What none of them expect (but which happens at least half of the time) is that they won’t be allowed to address the Council at all.  

Sometimes the bad news is delivered politely by the Sergeant-at-Arms, sometimes curtly, but the effect is devastating nonetheless.  

And the reasons they are turned away? Most frequently, the cause is that the agenda item was already “taken up in committee”-- and the Brown Act says that if an opportunity for public comment is given at a committee meeting, then the Council doesn’t have to hear public comment at the regular meeting.  

Sometimes the reason for the bad news is that the Council has decided -- during the meeting -- to “continue” the agenda item to another date. That means they’ve decided not to address the issue that day but rather at a future meeting.  

Other times the reason for denial of public comment is that the item was “already approved,” as a result of Council President Wesson taking up the issue in the first few seconds of the meeting, even if the item appears near the end of the published agenda.  

In every one of these cases, Council President Wesson can easily make it possible for these Angelenos to make their comments. Yet he rarely does that.  

Even for the lucky ones who make it up to the podium to say their piece there is disappointment. They will find many of the Councilmembers -- often as many as half or more -- are missing or engaged in side conversations, or, as happened recently, holding a press conference.

It’s heartbreaking. It’s wrong.  

In October, on a motion by Paul Krekorian, the amount of time afforded to those who have journeyed down to City Hall to address their representatives was cut in half. How much time does that mean? Five minutes? Three? No, the answer is: one. A single minute. 

It’s no wonder that the respect level for politicians is at an all time low. It’s no wonder that voter turnout for Los Angeles elections is embarrassingly miniscule. It’s no wonder that more citizens than ever are going to court to get the attention of their representatives. As former LA Councilman Joel Wachs said in his run for mayor as far back as 1992, the people have become cynical about government and no longer believe anyone is listening or capable of understanding them. 

It’s interesting to imagine how successful politicians might be in today’s cynical climate if they were to include a promise of human compassion as a high priority in their political campaigns. Of course that would require that they possess that quality in the first place. And, based on the treatment of constituents in the Los Angeles City Council chambers, human compassion is running in short supply.

 

(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer and Joshua is a teacher.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LOS ANGELES … ONLY THE RICH NEED APPLY--From Los Angeles to Berlin, developers and politicians, not to mention the “new urbanists,” are creating