DEEGAN ON LA-(Editor’s note: there is a link in this article for a pop-up poll asking you to interact with this article and express your opinion. Please take a moment and join the poll after reading.) There may be some debate about new housing coming onto the market. Some say it’s not as “affordable” as they want it to be; others are disturbed that it’s compacted into higher density than we’re used to; still others -- depending on personal preferences – find some of it tasteless. But, there’s no question about this: much of it is being built as a result of tearing down the old to make way for the new. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--This is intended to be an update on the status of our volunteer efforts in disaster preparedness in Los Angeles. The conclusion: We're not there. We need to get started on a public effort that will bring hundreds of thousands of people up to speed. What I find is that government professionals are concentrating on their own issues but largely ignoring the idea of a public-governmental partnership.

@THE GUSS REPORT-Did Leah Tamu Wilson (photo above), the new Executive Director of the State Bar of California, spend the first 15 years of her career dodging the Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements she is now paid $267,500 to enforce against all Active status California attorneys? 

VOICES--Voters in Eastside and Northeast LA are now casting ballots in a special election for the state legislature. The neighborhoods covered by California's 51st Assembly District are overwhelmingly Democratic and progressive. Support for clean energy and opposition to fracking run high. So when the foul smell of money from Big Oil came oozing into the district's contest last week, it set off some alarms. 

LEANING RIGHT--As the headlines scream "Sanctuary State!" and "California Economy Booming!", while the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles bash President Donald Trump and (admit it, Reader Friend) we're relieved to NOT live in the Hurricane Zone or Tornado Land, things may not be so Golden in the Golden State. 

NEW GEOGRAPHY--When Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, followed by a strong hurricane in Florida, much of the media response indicated that the severe weather was a sign of catastrophic climate change, payback for mass suburbanization — and even a backlash by Mother Nature against the election of President Donald Trump.

LA SCHOOL REPORT--The day after a seemingly uneventful and smooth-running school board meeting that newly elected LA Unified School Board President Ref Rodriguez proudly ended at an earlier-than-usual 5 p.m., the district seemed to be shaken to its core.

CORRUPTION WATCH-Last time we discussed how Mayor Garcetti and Los Angeles City Council have imposed the horrendous Wall Street tax on Angelenos.  

‘GOTTA PULL SOME LEVERS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE’--Following the Planning and Land Use workshop at the Congress of Neighborhoods led by Cindy Cleghorn, Chair of PlanCheckNC, neighborhood council members and stakeholders spoke further about development taking place in their communities. They painted similar pictures as they shared personal experiences and perspectives. 

THIS MUCH I KNOW--On September 16, the California Legislature approved a bill that would create a tiered system for the state’s sex offender registry. The bill, SB-384, is expected to be signed by Governor Brown. 

TURF BATTLES AND UNION AGENDAS--Senate Bill 769 was just one of dozens of measures that were effectively killed by legislative appropriations committees this month without formal votes or explanations why. 

CA CLOSING IN ON SINGLE PAYER HEALTH CARE--While anticipating inevitable resistance from monied interests, it can nevertheless be accurately demonstrated that three Americans—or, rather, groups of Americans—have received the most benefits from years of national productivity, and should provide most of the initial funding.

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-When it comes to justifications for big, speculative real estate projects, the big bamboozlers have no limit. But, the bigger their lies, the harder they fall. In this case their lie is the “conventional wisdom” that suburban sprawl leads to extensive driving, so therefore in-fill development reduces driving and is an important step to halt climate change. 

EASTSIDER-A while ago I wrote an article on the Skid Row election, among other happenings, and promised a fuller look at their election. Well, here’s the follow up, and it isn’t pretty. 

RANTZ AND RAVEZ-The donkey pulls the cart up the steep hill and over the many challenging fields carrying all sorts of items for the owner who is collecting materials for the home he is building in the mountains. Day in and day out, the loyal donkey continues to perform challenging tasks until one day he collapses and dies from exhaustion. The donkey was a loyal and obedient animal that followed the directions of his master until his untimely death. 

ALPERN AT LARGE--After having just gone through a nightmarish post Labor Day two weeks with the fight over the Venice Blvd reconfiguration (loss of one car lane, and creating a protected bicycle lane, in Downtown Mar Vista, among other changes) as part of Mayor Garcetti's Great Streets Program, the good news is that the City still values Transparency.  Ditto with Sincerity and Efficiency.

KILLING A CULTURE-In cities around the world, gentrification has long been a threat to culture — and Los Angeles is no exception. Just take the recent L.A. Times article on the plight of mariachis in Boyle Heights. Yet in a piece that’s clearly about gentrification, the Times doesn’t once use the word. What’s going on? 

BELL VIEW--I have outrage overload. I know I’m supposed to write about issues facing the City here – but I can’t keep up with the president. From Nazis to Sherriff Joe to DACA, the outrage just keeps coming. The march in Charlottesville – which seems like a strange interlude from a distant past, for example – took place in August. 

FOCUS ON THE FOOTNOTES-California pension worries most often focus on CalPERS and CalSTRS, the state’s two multi-employer behemoths. But the state has many other underfunded plans, and these city and county systems pose significant challenges for governments that contribute to them. 

NEW GEOGRAPHY--California’s political leaders having ignored and even abetted our housing shortage now pretend that they will “solve it.” Don’t bet on it.

MY TURN-Last month the City of Los Angeles celebrated "Women's Equality Day" and I wondered what century I was living in? I had seen this movie before and I didn't like it the first time! The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was proposed as a means to adjust the U.S. Constitution and make gender equality a Constitutional right. It was first introduced to Congress in 1923, although it did not pass. In 1972, it passed both houses in Congress and was submitted to the states for ratification. By 1979, the deadline for ratification, it had been approved by 35 states – but that was three short of the 38 required. 

CORRUPTION WATCH-Who should make the important decisions for society? Should we allow those folks who support themselves by robbing 7/11 stores to make the laws concerning armed robbery?   

GELFAND’S WORLD--The twin hurricane disasters have shed light on the inadequate level of our Local disaster preparedness here in LA. Bluntly speaking, we are not ready for a major earthquake. I would like to present here an approach that could lead to public awareness and survival skills. It involves setting up a citywide volunteer communication system first, and then filling in the details which will involve offering a small amount of training to the public. 

CAL MATTERS--If we – the California public – are to hold politicians and other government officials accountable, we must first know what they are doing or not doing.

DEEGAN ON CALIFORNIA- (Editor’s note: there is a link in this article for a pop up poll asking you to interact with this article and express your opinion. Please take a moment and join the poll after reading). For twenty-five years, Californians have relied on the dependability of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to fight for our state's interests and to be a significant voice in the U.S. Senate on national and international issues. 

COMMON SENSE CONTINUED--In a previous article,  writing about the fear of riding buses and trains in LA, I shared with readers how, in 1992, I began to ride transit in the Los Angeles region. My main concerns have been to reduce my carbon footprint locally, to reduce Los Angeles’ notorious and harmful air pollution, and globally, to help reduce the looming threats of global warming and climate change.  

CONTINUING FOLLY-On September 25, 2017, Target’s opening brief is due in the Second District Court of Appeals.  Sometime after that, the court will have a hearing and then several months later the court will issue another opinion. Since Judge Fruin ruled 100% against the City and Target in his April 2017 decision, the injunction on construction will not be lifted during this phase of litigation. 

GUEST COMMENTARY-For the second time in two years, a state parole board panel has ruled that cold-blooded killer Leslie Van Houten should be freed. 

MEMO TO: Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. From: The Golden (and Still Sovereign!) State

This is a legal proposal, but I must start with the following stipulation. 

You are monsters. 

ANIMAL WATCH-Finally, someone 'got it!' "It" being the shameful exploitation of LA shelter animals by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Animal Services' GM Brenda Barnette in recurring announcements that LA is near an elusive "no-kill" nirvana (the date has changed several times.) 

ALPERN AT LARGE--In my last CityWatch piece, I raised the questions surrounding whether we have the Courage to truly, really, meaningfully help Labor.  That means the courage to protect Dreamers, and to protect native-born Americans, and to protect the Rules, Laws, and Constitution of the United States. 

FANS DESERVE BETTER THAN SPINMIESTERS--Much has been written, much of it in frustration, about the Dodgers’ recent and historic meltdown.  It’s gotten to the point where some people are prepared to believe it’s a curse.  It’s hard to fathom that a team which was so good this year has suddenly, inexplicably, changed course and is now “the worst team in baseball,” as Dodger third baseman Justin Turner recently said in a moment of frustration -- and refreshing honesty. 

@THE GUSS REPORT-Kevin B. Taylor’s job as Senior Trial Counsel for the State Bar of California is to mete out punishment for misbehaving attorneys. He may soon find himself in a world of hurt for his own misconduct. 

THE PREVEN REPORT--Just last year Herbalife was fined $200 million by the Federal Trade Commission for being a pyramid scheme—and yet this coming Saturday, September 16th, at Malibu’s Zuma Beach, thousands of participants and spectators will gather for the “Herbalife International Distance Race Triathlon.”    (Photo above: 2016 Malibu Triathlon.) 

CAL MATTERS--The cultural firestorm over statues, flags and other symbols of the Confederacy, ignited by a violent clash of white supremacists and their opponents in Charlottesville, Virginia, would seem far removed from California.

A LITTLE COMMON SENSE-(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series on Fear of Riding in LA.) It seems some, or maybe many, men and women are fearful of riding buses and trains. I find this quizzical and disturbing. I became a regular rider of Los Angeles mass transit in 1992, to do my part to reduce air pollution in the LA Region, the major environmental issue at the time. While I am always cautious, but I do not believe I am fearful. 

PERSPECTIVE-As I wrote in an earlier article, State Senator Bob Hertzberg is a master of the English language. According to his bio, as an undergraduate English major, he wrote a 400-page handbook titled A Commonsense Approach to English

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--No one can know for sure whether any of California’s four National Football League teams—the 49ers, Raiders, Rams, and Chargers—will emerge as big winners in the new season.

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-In city planning circles Houston is (in)famous for its lack of zoning laws.  Furthermore, Houston only adopted its first General Plan in January 2017, which means blind market forces continue to determine all of its local land use decisions. The result is that developers can and do build anything they want anywhere, and that includes areas with a long history of flooding.  

GELFAND’S WORLD--The simple equation is that a garden variety hurricane passing above overly-hot seawater is what is required to create a monster storm.  The transition from category 1 to category 4 or 5 can happen within hours, as we've seen twice just within the past weeks. As the average seawater temperature in the gulf rises year by year -- this is where global warming comes in -- the total number of hurricanes may not rise, but from that total, the number of hurricanes that become monsters appears to be going up. 

BELL VIEW—‘When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, `I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.’-Matthew 27:24 

EASTSIDER-It seems clear by now that the phrase “climate change” means that we can look forward to erratic and wide fluctuations in our weather for the foreseeable future. Witness sudden years of drought followed by equally sudden massive rain and flooding. Like we experienced recently. It’s a prescription fraught with dangers to our water supply. 

STREET LEVEL REALITY-Los Angeles politicians and developers dread saying the words “gentrification” and “displacement.” In fact, Mayor Eric Garcetti rarely utters the g-word in public.  It causes all kinds of political headaches, so they resort to using code words that are more palatable for public consumption.

CORRUPTION WATCH-The City of Los Angeles is losing population, but no one wants to admit it. When the City bases planning for the future on the falsehood of a rapidly increasing population, the observation that it is really losing population is unwelcome at City Hall.

ANIMAL WATCH--As firefighters continue battling largest fire in the City of Los Angeles history, hundreds of horses, dogs, cats, goats, chickens and more have been evacuated and are filling our already filled to the brim City shelters and being temporarily housed at evacuation sites such as Hanson Dam and Pierce College.

AT LENGTH-Two years ago, the City of Los Angeles woke up to the shocking realization that it had a homeless crisis after a young activist by the name of Elvis Summers started building tiny homes and giving them to homeless people. (Photo above left: LA City Councilmember Joe Buscaino with Mayor Garcetti.)

ALPERN ON LABOR--There are those of us who "Resist".  There are those of us who want to "Make America Great Again".  And then there are those who point to Neo-Nazis, ANTIFA, RINO's, DINO's, Globalists, and Social Justice Warriors (or a combination thereof) as the forces destroying the American Dream. But that Dream is ... what, now?  And Labor's role is ... what, now?

BACKTALK---Denyse Selesnick recently authored in CityWatch an article entitled, “Fake News: My Very Own Focus Group.” In that article, she alleges that the statistics regarding the registration overages in the California voter rolls exposed by Election Integrity Project California are “fake news.” As she proceeds to explain herself, it becomes clear wherein her error lies. 

LAST STRAW BETRAYAL-The Los Angeles City Council should reject a recommendation by Fred Pickel, Director of the Office of Public Accountability at the LADWP, that the city back tunnels altering water diversions South from the San Francisco Bay Delta, and should fire him for once again favoring utility over ratepayer interests, Consumer Watchdog said today.

@THE GUSS REPORT-Race and racism come with an asterisk at LA City Council, where last week it discussed whether to locally change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day. 

LABOR DAY 2017--To many of us, September’s’ first Monday is a three-day weekend to close out the summer season with burger and hot dogs on the grill, pool parties, a last wearing of white pants. But, historically, Labor Day was created by the Labor Movement to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers. 

RANTZ AND RAVEZ-It was a Saturday night in August when I went to the Westfield Topanga Mall to eat at CPK with a friend. After dinner, we strolled around and ran into a mutual friend. I love to shop and shopping for a deal is very special for my two friends and me. The three of us checked around for sales at the various stores and noticed a number of vacant storefronts. The most common sign on blacked out windows included the words, “New Retailer Coming Soon” or “We love change.... exciting partner coming soon.” 

ARE YOU GOOD WITH THIS?--A new city Ethics Commission report reveals that developers continue to shell out eye-popping cash for lobbyists to influence L.A. politicians and bureaucrats. In the first quarter of 2017, seven developers landed on the city’s Top 10 list for highest paying clients of lobbyists.  

EASTSIDER-I have no idea why Assembly member Raul Bocanegra (photo above)  (D-AD39) continues to want to run Los Angeles from his Sacramento vantage point. Maybe he drank too much untreated water out there in the San Fernando Valley. Anyhow, now he wants the State of California to set up and run a school district right here in Los Angeles. 

ALPERN AT LARGE--It bears repeating--as stated in a previous CityWatch article, the problems facing Angelenos and other Californians are mainly local/state-induced, and have nothing to do with President Donald J. Trump.  Lots of Angelenos are fed up with Trump, and for good reasons, but he ain't the one telling you to shut the hell up and take it. 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-My roots as a city planner go back to Seattle, where I studied city planning at the University of Washington and worked for the City of Seattle, before heading south to Los Angeles.

GAMING GRIDLOCK-Usually they work individually, but in the August 27, 2017 edition of The Daily Breeze, Joel Koktin and Wendell Cox formed a tag-team for their latest article, “The Great Transit Rip-Off.”  

MIS-DIRECTION MISERY-This famous experiment helps explain why Angelenos cannot see the mass transit disaster that already is afflicting them. For those who do not already grasp my cryptic reference, click this link before reading more.  

BELL VIEW-When I was just a kid, I liked Ronald Reagan. He seemed upbeat, competent, presidential. He had a sense of humor. Then, during the 1988 presidential campaign, I saw the Willie Horton Ad.  It hit me like a freight train. “My god!” I thought. “These guys are racists!” 

MY TURN-Continuing my quest to identify and combat fake news has become almost an obsession. I have spent hours tracking down a ton of fake news sites. Some of them are so disgusting that when I finished, I needed to take a shower! 

THE PREVEN REPORT--In a July 17 CityWatch piece, we cited the following response given by Mayor Eric Garcetti to a question about how he manages to balance career planning with fulfilling his current role as Mayor of Los Angeles: 

@THE GUSS REPORT-My neighbors took in four tiny foster kittens last week because the LA Animal Services shelter nearest us said that they were going to be killed by 5 p.m. if they didn’t, and that there were many other animals who weren’t going to make it. 

CAL MATTERS--The California Public Utilities Commission must, by its nature, straddle the fine line between providing consumers with dependable electric power, natural gas and other utility services at fair prices and protecting the financial health of the huge corporations that supply those services.

ANIMAL WATCH-On August 23, General Manager Brenda Barnette issued a media release announcing, “LA Animal Services investigation leads to animal cruelty conviction for Lucky Puppy Rescue owners.” Undoubtedly, news outlets did not rush to break this story, because the "guilty verdict" for one count of animal abuse and two counts of negligence against Rachel Kennedy and Sandra Vasquez was rendered almost a week earlier, on August 16. 

DEEGAN ON LA-What do we remember…and why? That’s an intriguing question. How important are concepts like legacy and heritage? Why is #TBT (“throwback Thursdays”) embedded in our current culture? How about the term “Back in the Day?” These memes can connect us with times and places. 

California's budding YIMBY movement is up for a real test. Under a new pilot program approved last week, Los Angeles County homeowners are being asked to literally open up their backyards to the homeless. 

REVEALED--The silence from LA’s Democratic community on the recent death of a 26-year-old Black gay male escort in the West Hollywood apartment of 63-year-old prominent Democratic political donor Ed Buck has been astounding. 

GETTING THERE FROM HERE--As outlined in my last CityWatch article, the problems facing Angelenos and other Californians are mainly local/state-induced, and have nothing to do with President Donald J. Trump. 

NEW GEOGRAPHY--When Democrats made their post-election populist “Better Deal” pitch, they took a strong stance against pharmaceutical and financial monopolies. But they conspicuously left out the most profound antitrust challenge of our time—the tech oligarchy

CAPITAL & MAIN REPORT--For Mayor Eric Garcetti and the rest of the bid committee working to bring the Summer Olympics back to Southern California, the 1984 Los Angeles games are not just a beloved chapter of local history, but one to be emulated as closely as possible. With its storybook marriage of private investment and civic management, the myth of the glorious LA Olympics is alive and well at City Hall. But not everyone’s memories of the Summer of ’84 are quite so golden.

JUST ASKIN’-Once a year, volunteers from LA’s neighborhood council system get together and orchestrate an NC "Congress." 

CAL MATTERS-In the main, issues that dominate any session of the California Legislature reflect what the public and news media consider at the time to be the most burning. That’s why, for instance, the state’s acute housing shortage will receive much attention during the final month of this year’s session. 

EASTSIDER-Coming out of the free speech/anti-war movement of Berkeley in the 60’s, I hoped that we, as a society, had already tested the boundaries of free speech and found common ground. The deal was that you could say virtually anything you want with your mouth. Notwithstanding the fact that government and most people really don’t like free speech at all. 

BELL VIEW-What is a troll? I’ve been accused of being one myself – although I never thought I fit the profile. In fact, it took me forever to admit trolls even existed. “Don’t feed the trolls,” I am often cautioned when I engage with people who disagree with me. I didn’t believe trolls were real because I was brought up in a tradition of vigorous debate. My grandfather was a lawyer and dinners at his table often erupted into shouting matches. I loved it. I couldn’t understand why anyone would have wanted dinner to be anything other than a raucous debate over the most difficult issues of the time. 

GETTING THE FACTS-Recently there was a story on local NPR affiliate KPCC about how the homeless population, which disproportionately suffers from untreated mental illness, has exploded in recent years. This story was presented without ever mentioning that, during the 1960s and 1970s, the State of California consciously emptied out most of the state mental institutions of patients who knew their own names and what day of the week it was, irrespective of whether they were profoundly mentally ill and in dire need of treatment. 

KPCC SPECIAL REPORT--Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — a longtime critic of big money in local politics — has set a surprising city record requesting large contributions, using a little-known and largely unregulated process called “behested payments,” KPCC has found.

GUEST WORDS—In 1950 my parents and grandmother were able to afford to buy a duplex for us to live in for $11,000 a mile north of the LaBrea tar pits here in Los Angeles. For two years I have watched the destruction of house after house in my neighborhood to build ugly McMansions selling for $4 million, and my block is a noisy construction pit to make developers rich.

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS-There is a war going on in Long Beach, a war fought in the most unlikely of places: the dog park. It can be seen in the nervous sizing up of new dogs when they enter the metal gates, as their owners unlatch harnesses from bellies. It is a war often fought only with stickers, flyers and sharpened glares as pets are corralled into opposing corners of a dust-covered park. But on occasion, these hostilities bubble up into angry words that boil in the unrelenting sunlight: “Fix your dog!” 

TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE--In my last CityWatch article, I reminded everyone that the need to create transportation/infrastructure for mobility, water, electricity, sewage, etc. is greater than ever … but our political polarization is getting in the way. 

STAND UP AND BE COUNTED-What has regrettably become the sole motivation behind using technology to communicate with customers, is not what it should be – providing better service -- but rather to increase profit by reducing costs, which further degrades service. Corporations have as their sole raison d'etre the yearly increasing of profit (growth), no matter what the effect on their ability to fairly and morally supply goods and services to the customer. 

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Yesterday, I joined the ‘Alt Right is Not Alright’ March in Venice -- and knew I’d write an article about my experience. What I could not foretell was that the column I’d write would end up being quite different from what I had intended. 

ANIMAL WATCH-Two LA Animal Services' Commissioners appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti propose that potential adopters should not be informed of the breed -- or apparent breed -- of dogs they consider taking home from Los Angeles city shelters. 

PC POLITICS--Without going through another weedy analysis of James Damore’s firing from Google – Holman JenkinsGeorge Leef and Nick Gillespie have done a fine job of that – let’s just say the Silicon Valley engineer was canned for stating what most scientists and sensible people have known ever since Adam and Eve frolicked in Eden – that there are biological differences between men and women and also for suggesting that the tech giant has become an “ideological echo chamber.” So the politically correct, party line zealots at Google decided, 1984-like, to shove the thought-criminal out the door.

LOS ANGELES--Though the beating of Rodney King that sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots occurred in the Northwest Valley, the epicenter of the civil unrest that followed was South Central, a region southwest of downtown LA. In the 25 years since, South Central has proven to be a popular backdrop for movies that look at the implications of the riots: Straight Outta Compton and Menace II Society are both set in a tense post-Rodney King South Central, while documentaries including Rize and Burn Motherf*cker, Burn! focus, to some degree, on civil unrest in the area's neighborhoods. (Photo above: Gook star, writer, and director Justin Chon.)

DEEGAN ON LA-Move over Magic. Step aside CT3. Bono, go to the back of the room. All you one-name celebrities -- meet your match and more: P-22, LA's iconic Puma (also known as a Mountain Lion or Cougar), a popular “extreme survivor” who lives in the Griffith Park hills. He’s even been honored with his own official day by a Mayoral and City Council Decree -- October 22 is P-22 Day in LA. 

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Or is it malling? It’s both. And it’s bad. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--The 2020 presidential campaign has started and the stakes couldn't be higher. How do we know that we are officially in campaign season already? One clue is that Los Angeles will be without its mayor for the next two weeks. Eric Garcetti is leaving home to campaign in New Hampshire. Ostensibly, he will be campaigning for someone else, a person who is running to be the mayor of Manchester, a town that is 2568 miles from here and has a population of 110,000 people. I guess we're supposed to believe that the choice of who gets elected mayor of Manchester is a question of major importance to the people of Los Angeles. To dust off the phrase made popular by Jim Bouton, Yeah, Sure

JUST ASKIN’--Earlier this year the City entered into an Exclusive Franchise Trash Agreement, commonly called a Monopoly. 

@THE GUSS REPORT-Trump and Nazis and Kaepernick, oh my! As deeply flawed and forever tarnished as Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson and many of their contemporaries were on the subject of slavery (Adams didn’t own slaves and was opposed to slavery, but worked to slow Abolition) they were brilliant on the five freedoms afforded us by the 1st Amendment, which are freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceful assembly and to petition the government without fear of punishment. 

GETTING THERE FROM HERE--For those of us who remember the movie "The Running Man" with Dustin Hoffman, the question of "Is it safe?" still has meaning.  Now it's time to ask that question about water, power, transportation, etc.  There are those who want division, who are outraged, or are both ... but for the issues that USUALLY unite us (transportation/infrastructure), is it safe to raise those issues again. 

MY TURN-It’s the question many of us are asking these days: what exactly is fake news? Is it news you disagree with? Or is it advertising that looks like news but isn’t -- as is the case with an “advertorial” in which an advertiser who wants to hype a new product pays for it to be written about as if it were a news story. (These types of articles should be identified as such and the Internet tries to make that distinction by calling them "sponsored.") 

RESPONSIBILITY IS PERSONAL-“…I’m not the angry racist they see in that photo….” But if not you, then who? Because someone is. 

THE PREVEN REPORT--Just hours before releasing a YouTube video promising his constituents that he would “bring all perspectives to the table” before moving forward with any further “road diet” projects, LA City Council member Mike Bonin moved forward with another “road diet” project. Bonin introduced and got passed a motion appropriating $490,594 to expand environmental clearance work for the “Lincoln Boulevard Bridge Widening Project.”   

NEW GEOGRAPHY-Images of California, particularly the southern coast, are embedded with those associated with youthfulness — surfers, actors, models, glamorous entrepreneurs. Yet, in reality, the state — and the region — are falling well behind in the growth of their youthful population, which carries significant implications for our future economic trajectory and the nature of our society. 

RANTZ AND RAVEZ-I recently discussed the current living conditions in the City of Los Angeles with a 30-ish, married resident of the San Fernando Valley who works for the City of LA. He is quite upset with the current state-of-affairs here: traffic congestion, increasing crime, lack of affordable housing, the economy, the constantly expanding homeless population and a host of related topics. In addition to the direction in which the city is headed, we discussed the Mayor’s plan and vision for LA. 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Driving through Skid Row, witnessing homeless encampments near luxury apartment complexes, encountering people living in their cars, hearing stories about long commutes to the Antelope Valley for cheaper housing, or reading the latest data of soaring housing prices and rents lets you know that LA is in the midst of a severe housing crisis.

EASTSIDER-As I attended the community meeting/development proposal meeting at the old Goodwill Auditorium in Lincoln Heights, it was clear that Councilmember Gil Cedillo has “learned a thing or two” from his recent, bruising, re-election Campaign for Council District 1.  

BELL VIEW-The outrage comes so quickly these days. From North Korea to Nazis, all in the course of a weekend. Trump takes credit -- through the sheer audacity of his “tough talk” -- for backing Kim Jong Un off his threat to annihilate the US -- as if all the other presidents in history have just let North Korea bomb us back into the Stone Age.  

PRECEDENT SETTING--A U.S. District Court this week blocked federal prosecutors from moving forward with their conspiracy case against a pair of Northern California cultivators because the duo was determined to be in compliance with Golden State medical marijuana laws.

CALIFORNIA POLITICS--When two New York baseball teams, the Dodgers and the Giants, moved west six decades ago, their ancient cross-town rivalry merged into the equally intense – and equally long – competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco for economic, cultural and, of course, political dominance of California.

EDUCATION WATCH-The Cal State system's recent decision to get rid of the requirement that as many as 25,000 incoming freshman take non-credited remedial courses in Entry Level Math (ELM) and the English Placement Test (EPT) before taking college level coursework is irrational. It defies common sense to think that students who have not mastered prerequisite grade-level standards in Math and English are able to understand college level coursework – coursework that relies on basic foundational knowledge to understand the college level classes they are now allowed to take. 

ANIMAL WATCH-According to the WeHo Times on August 7, 2007, the Los Angeles County Coroner reported he had closed the case on the death of Gemmel Moore, 26, at 7:22 p.m. on July 27, determining that it was an accident and caused by the use of methamphetamine. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--I'll start with the more serious side of this story, but then we'll get into a little MTA bashing which, I assure you, they well deserve. Let's start by imagining that there is an emergency in the harbor (maybe a fire on a ship is creating toxic fumes) that would require an evacuation. There are basically three northbound streets connecting San Pedro to the rest of the city -- Pacific Ave, Gaffey, and Western. There are a couple of roads leading across the Palos Verdes peninsula to the west, but they are minor elements in the transportation network. The bulk of traffic into and out of the area is along the north-south axis. 

DEEGAN ON LA-Movie mogul and studio owner Jack Warner helped to build Hollywood, a town that is now slowly being broken down like the set on one of his many movies. But it’s not movie crews who are doing post-production tear-down. It’s developers and politicos who are striking the set every time they collaborate to replace a successful expression of Hollywood architecture with their version of the sequel. Each demolition tears away at Hollywood’s history and destroys the character and fabric of Hollywood neighborhoods. 

EMBRACING THE OTHER-At 3 p.m. on January 28, 2017 -- the day after Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travel to the United States by citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries -- I frantically tried to stop the departure of a plane carrying Ali Vayeghan. 

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--If the apocalypse comes to California, I’ll be ready. After all, I’ve been to San Juan Bautista, which has centuries of experience with the ending of worlds. (Photo above: Scene from the Hitchcock movie Vertigo)

@THE GUSS REPORT-Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo played a Joseph McCarthy-esque Pied Piper with his 14 law-making colleagues last week in which they pondered “taking names,” as it were, of all businesses that profit from President Donald J. Trump’s proposed border wall.

SHOW UP AND SPEAK UP (AGAIN)-Mayor Garcetti's Interim CAO, Richard Llewellyn, is trying to raise land use appeal fees to discourage the average Joe from filing an appeal. This may happen at the City’s PLUM Committee meeting this coming Tuesday, August 15, 2017 at 2:30 p.m. Under our Constitution, the people have a basic right to make a complaint to, or seek the assistance of, their government, without fear of punishment or reprisals.

GUEST WORDS--As we all now know, this weekend in Charlottesville, hundreds of white supremacists gathered with torches, shouting racial, ethnic and religious epithets about Black and Jewish people, chanting Nazi slurs, waving the Confederate flag and banners emblazoned with giant swastikas. A peaceful protester was murdered. Two brave police officers lost their lives.

PERSPECTIVE-In several of my articles, I’ve characterized the City of Los Angeles’ finances as being in a state of virtual bankruptcy. Pension costs are the key drivers of the city’s unsustainable model. Growing pension costs are plugged by reducing service levels or holding them flat in the face of higher demand. 

THE PREVEN REPORT--To the casual observer there was nothing remarkable about the Studio City Neighborhood Council’s (SCNC) vote last Monday to oppose Harvard-Westlake School’s “Parking, and Athletic Improvement Plan,” which involves building in the hillside abutting the school’s campus a 750-space parking structure topped with a lighted athletic field that is connected to the school by a covered pedestrian bridge arching over Coldwater Canyon Boulevard. 

INFLATED EXPECTATIONS-It will soon be nine years since high-speed rail was passed in California. But Californians haven’t gotten the high-speed rail system they were promised. Instead, high-speed rail has taken a new form: something more expensive and smaller in scope that will substantially increase traffic congestion in urban areas. 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-The announcement that Los Angeles will host the 2028 Olympics has lead to a highly contagious disease: Olympic Fever. It is particularly virulent among the same well-off crowd that imagines a few iconic buildings designed by celebrity architects, such as the Disney Concert Hall, the Getty Center, or yet another remodel of LACMA, will finally turn Los Angeles into a truly global city. 

THE EPPERHART EXPRESS--I know a lot of people who are proud hyphenates—Italian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, and so on. Many are the children and grandchildren of immigrants. Interestingly, those of my friends who are immigrants themselves tend to self identify simply as Americans once they gain citizenship. Plain American is how I’ve always thought of myself. 

EASTSIDER-CalPERS is having an election which will directly affect more than 1.5 million Californians who are part of the CalPERS system, have huge tax implications for the rest of us, and probably affect the fate of a $300 billion dollar plus institution. I am urging everyone to vote for Michael Flaherman and Margaret Brown for the Board. They are serious about addressing CalPERS’ problems, and have the right background to truly make a difference. 

MY TURN-The most overused "buzz phrase" in today's communication is Fake News. We could even call it trendy or fashionable. Late Night TV uses it as a source to increase its ratings. John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, Shawn Hannity and Alex Jones and most of the others are creating their own style of fake news. No one who stays up that late would possibly think this is anything but satire. 

BELL VIEW--I’ve been struggling with an issue lately. My first taste of local politics came via the Neighborhood Council system. I lived up the street from the City’s light pole storage facility. Directly across from a Carnegie Library, in the middle of one of the denser neighborhoods in Los Angeles, filled with school-age kids and renters without backyards, the East Hollywood Light Yard, as it came to be known, represented for me a lost opportunity to make the lives of the people in East Hollywood just a little better. 

CORRUPTION WATCH-The normal pattern for the mafiazation of a business is that the thugs move in on an established business and by using threats, physical intimidation and murder, they force honest businessmen out of the field. The objective of organized crime is to create a situation in which it has a geographic monopoly. When you own the only trash hauling company in your part of town, people pay what you demand or your trash piles up, and up, and up. 

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Renting in LA is about as enjoyable as having a third job -- which many renters have, spending nearly half their monthly income on rent. 

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA-President Trump claims that California allowed millions of non-citizens to cast ballots in the 2016 elections. This allegation, while totally bogus, has put California and its political leaders on the defensive. They are forced to respond as Trump and his allies use the lie to justify a new federal commission devoted to making it harder for all Americans to vote.

THE PREVEN REPORT--At 6:30pm Monday evening, the Studio City Neighborhood Council, in a unanimous vote, adopted a Resolution strongly opposing the Harvard-Westlake School’s “Parking, and Athletic Improvement Plan.” The vote comes on the eve of a Public Hearing regarding the project, which has been controversial and is anticipated to draw a large number of speakers on both sides of the issue. The hearing will take place at 9am on Tuesday, August 8th at Van Nuys City Hall, 14410 Sylvan Street, Room 201 Van Nuys, CA 91401. 

SO-CALLED ‘CHANGE’ AND ‘DISPLACEMENT’-For too long, whenever City Hall politicians and developers want to approve and build another luxury-housing project, they conveniently use the excuse that Los Angeles is experiencing a “housing crisis” — it gives them political cover. But the facts point to a more specific and troubling problem, which they’d rather ignore. To borrow a phrase, LA is facing an affordable housing crisis, stupid. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--Dark of the Moon seems like a rather dated play, but it contains some up to the minute concepts. It is currently being performed by the Elysium Conservatory Theatre in San Pedro.

ANIMAL WATCH-It appears from the lack of statistical support, that Councilman Paul Koretz and LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette were duped into believing a pet shop/puppy mill ban -- prohibiting 11 pet shops in Los Angeles from selling puppies, kittens and bunnies -- would notably impact Midwestern puppy mills (which breed an estimated 2.5 million puppies annually) and would empty City shelters. 

AT LENGTH-Not much crosses the waterfront in Southern California’s twin ports that isn’t in the jurisdiction of the International Longshore Workers Union. Every kind of commodity and product, legal or not, comes here from around the world — 42 percent of all imports into the United States, to be exact. What could possibly go wrong? 

@THE GUSS REPORT-As the City of Los Angeles prepares to issue costly citations for anyone whose dog is unlicensed, providing no amnesty for unpaid licenses from the past, it should issue its first citation to LA Police Commission Vice President Steve Soboroff, who pledged last year (after being shown that he was decades behind in licensing) that he paid for all dog licenses he owed – he has had 10 dogs over the past 20 years – while refusing to provide the receipts showing exactly how much he paid and for what

CORRUPTION WATCH-We complain when we’re dissatisfied but we insist on ignoring Pogo who identified the origin of our problems: ourselves. More specifically, our refusal to think about the future allows others to plan our lives for us. Surprise! They’re choosing what is best for their pocketbooks and not what enhances our lives. Here are some things we should be discussing while the Davos Set makes their own plans for our lives. 

OLYMPICS POLITICS--By the time you read this, the Los Angeles City Council may have already voted to accept the invitation to host the 2028 Summer Olympics Games. 

PERSPECTIVE--The town of Loyalton, CA is a short scenic drive north of Truckee and, seemingly, a world away from the financial strain facing CalPERS. It is the equivalent of a gnat on an elephant’s back. (Photo above: Loyalton Mayor Mark Marin.)

POLITICS--As stated in my last CityWatch article, we've got a lot to do with respect to transportation, not the least which includes a rapid transit system that has both east-west and north-south lines...and a DIRECT LAX-DOWNTOWN line that is being avoided because of political correctness and downright stupidity.   

THE PREVEN REPORT--What to make of George Lucas' forthcoming museum of narrative art?  Recently approved by the Mayor and City Council of Los Angeles, and blessed by the County Board of Supervisors, the museum will be erected adjacent to the California Science Center, the California African American Museum and the Museum of Natural History.  

EASTSIDER-When last we visited Walnut Canyon in February, the question was whether there could be a deal with Abode at Glassell Park.  As we shall see in this update, so much for rationality. 

DEEGAN ON LA---Predating by centuries, the existence of the Harvard-Westlake School, an institution that itself is over 100 years old, is the adjacent Coldwater Canyon mountainside they intend to invade with a new development project. It is a home and habitat for a variety of wildlife as part of the known wildlife corridor running East of the 405 through the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s also the home of a rare Oak/Walnut habitat. 

The City Council’s powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee quietly approved a 34-story luxury housing tower for the Westside on Tuesday — and City Hall politicians are again giving a developer the kind of sweetheart deal that doesn’t seriously address LA’s affordable housing crisis.

IT’S ALL ABOUT TRANSPO--Congrats, LA! We're getting the Olympics in 2028!  Now ... get to work! We've got a City and County of Los Angeles to prepare for the big event!   

THE BUTCHER SHOP … NO BONES ABOUT IT--I love Greg Nelson’s meanderings through the stories of the origins of Los Angeles’ neighborhood councils. He was a real champion for genuine participation going way back. But he was far from alone. 

CORRUPTION WATCH-Some Angelenos are upset over the pay-to-play nature of Los Angeles City Hall, according to a recent article in the LA Times. They have labored under the misapprehension that if reformers spend all their time and energy limiting the money developers may give to the mayor and councilmembers, this will somehow magically fix what’s wrong at City Hall. Wrong! 

THE COST OF UNION POWER-America’s public school systems are notorious for their rubber rooms.  That’s where teachers deemed unfit to work in a classroom pass the time as their disciplinary actions or terminations move through the convoluted system. This can take years, and while it does, the teachers collect their full paychecks as they twiddle their thumbs. It’s a vestige of our union-dominated school system, which has so many protections (for teachers, not kids) that it’s nearly impossible to fire bad actors. 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Although I have taken the Los Angeles Times to task for its coverage of local planning issues, especially when it became a mouthpiece for the no on S campaign, on Sunday, July 30, 2017, the paper got it right. So, hats off to investigative reporters Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahnizer. 

AS CALIFORNIA GOES--With control of the House of Representatives up for grabs, and as many as six Republican Congressional seats in the state deemed competitive, California will once again be in the national political spotlight next fall. 

PREVEN PAPERS--Here’s the message Darren Martinez, the City Attorney in charge of matters relating to the Neighborhood Council system, sent on August 1st to every Board Member of the Studio City Neighborhood Council (SCNC) in connection with what has turned out to be a postponed vote on the Harvard-Westlake School’s plans to build a multi-story parking structure across the street from their campus in Coldwater Canyon: 

PREVEN PAPERS--Here’s the message Darren Martinez, the City Attorney in charge of matters relating to the Neighborhood Council system, sent this afternoon to every Board Member of the Studio City Neighborhood Council (SCNC) in connection with a vote tomorrow night on the Harvard-Westlake School’s plans to build a multi-story parking structure across the street from their campus in Coldwater Canyon: 

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--Sorry, Utah.

And apologies to the rest of the West. California’s epidemic shortage of housing hasn’t just sickened our own state—by driving up prices, forcing residents into rentals and onto the street, and putting a $140 billion annual drag on the Golden State’s economy. The disease is spreading to our neighbors, too.

PERSPECTIVE--Recently I read Richard Florida's book, The New Urban Crisis. Among the critical issues he identifies is the decline of the middle class in our urban centers. What his research found was that the middle class is the smallest in the most economically vibrant places, in particular, what he defines as "superstar cities" and tech hubs. Los Angeles was identified as one of these urban areas where the middle class is the smallest.

CAP & MAIN REPORT--When I read that some right-wing agitators had gone to Cudahy to disrupt a city council meeting, I thought, “Why?” What’s the point of going to a public meeting in the second smallest city in Los Angeles County to create a nasty scene? But after reading a June Capital & Main piece by Robin Urevich, I realized these people chose Cudahy precisely because the town is small, Latino and a self-proclaimed “sanctuary city.” The hecklers have also attended other council meetings in the area.

@THE GUSS REPORT-On Wednesday, the City of Los Angeles is going to try to improve its efforts to collect dog licensing revenue by issuing citations for unlicensed dogs, a problem which would not exist if only it had a quality spay/neuter law, and enforcement of it was the #1 priority. Revenue would skyrocket and expenses would, over the course of time, plummet. But don’t hold your breath expecting logic and efficiency from government. 

PROMISED TRANSPARENCY-Mayor Eric Garcetti must end the disarray and secrecy surrounding his Open Space plans for Los Angeles in light of new earthquake zone maps released last week that show areas of Palms, Brentwood, Westwood, West LA and Pacific Palisades where no new buildings can be constructed, under state law.

ANIMAL WATCH-At the LA Animal Services Commission meeting on July 25, long-time Best Friends' Animal Society volunteer Layne Dicker, new Board appointee of Mayor Eric Garcetti, submitted 17 items he wants considered for revisions to LAAS policies or practices. Sadly, not one was related to public safety or enforcement of humane laws. Most sounded like they were copied from the Best Friends' website, where Mr. Dicker has his own page, Dog Volunteer Work Leads Los Angeles Couple to Utah.  

UNIONS AND CHOICE-When some people become frightened, they’ll say and do some amazingly asinine things. Utilizing that as a guide, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten (photo above)  is apparently scared spitless. With Supreme Court decisions on the horizon that could eradicate forced unionism and eliminate laws that states have been using to thwart school choice, the union leader could be in for a considerable loss of money and power. 

MASS TRANSIT TALK-A disturbing phrase has taken hold in the American vernacular. It needs to stop. “Thrown under the bus,” is used to describe a dishonorable act when someone has been unfairly treated, deceived, wrongly accused, sacrificed for the unjust or unethical benefit of others, rejected, denied due process, or other acts of harm and betrayal. 

JUSTICE--Immigrants across the country are facing what appears to be a swelling tide of xenophobia and anti-immigration sentiment in spite of the fact that we are a nation of immigrants. Thousands risk life and limb to come to this country to seek economic stability, or in fear of their lives from gangs, cartels and/or shady government agencies. The recent tragedy in San Antonio Texas illustrates all too clearly the callous way these human beings are often treated. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--As a Californian, I take it for granted that I can show up at my precinct on election day and pick up a ballot without first presenting a drop of blood, my birth certificate, or a retinal scan. It's part of that sense of freedom that politicians talk about on Memorial Day. 

A HYPER-FUTURE-Since Elon Musk introduced hyperloop in 2012, several startups have been formed to commercialize the technology. Hyperloop is a 21st century approach to intercity travel in which pods fly through sealed, low pressure tubes at speeds of up to 760 mph. Although a large amount of hyperloop research is occurring in California, our state government is ignoring it while pressing ahead with a costly high-speed rail project that is based on mid-20th century technology. 

MY TURN-This is kind of a segue from my last article "Not in My Back Yard" for which we received many comments. One of my more constant critics thinks I live in an alternative universe. That can be taken as a compliment because there is at least light at the end of my tunnel. His must be really gloomy! 

GETTING THERE FROM HERE--Maybe some of us are so scared of lawsuits that we've forgotten how to defend the rule of law itself.  Maybe some of us are so politically correct that common sense has been tossed into the dustbin of history.  And maybe some of us are just friggin' morons.  Yet the efforts to make LA (and, by extension, California) safe and convenient to use mass transit merit some respect for those who use it. 

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES-Politics will never exist without spin doctors. Yet, as cynical as our political system has become, recent ballot measures sold to the public as "public safety" measures have gone beyond the pale. Nearly every soft on crime law enacted in the last half decade included the words "safe" or "safety" in the description. No two better examples exist than Propositions 47 and 57.  

BELL VIEW--Hate. It’s everywhere these days. When Carlos Hakas overturned an immigrant street vendor’s food cart in a fit of rage over a slight inconvenience, the inevitable video went viral and the tsunami of hatred started flowing in both directions. Don’t get me wrong – Carlos is easy to hate. I’ve just burned through so much hate since November, I’m having trouble keeping the flame going. (Photo above: Hakas overturns vendor cart.) 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING--In an editorial critical of the pushback against gentrification in Boyle Heights, the Los Angeles Times portrays gentrification as a result of blind economic forces that also uplift local communities. 

CORRUPTION WATCH-Which is more important, data or propaganda? Answer: data…because it provides a map of reality. Then again, propaganda is important since it lets you do what you want. 

EDUCATION POLITICS--While it remains politically correct to say Black and Latino students can learn, there's a little problem. Those running our still de facto segregated public education system for their own short-term personal interest and financial profit don't share this belief. Oh, they'll continue talking in platitudes about students being "life-long learners," the “100% graduation rate" and "everybody’s going to college," but the reality is drastically different. In fact, these goals represent disingenuous educational expectations for the overwhelming majority of Black and Latino students. 

PERSPECTIVE--If you take Interstate 15 about two hours north from Los Angeles, heading into the high desert of San Bernardino County, you’ll reach a for-profit federal detention facility called the Adelanto Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Processing Center. The center’s named for the neighboring town of Adelanto, which means “advancement” or “progress” in Spanish, and it’s not an inappropriate title for a town founded a century ago by the inventor of the Hotpoint Electric Iron. But the name now carries a rather different set of associations due to the ICE facility’s presence there.

EASTSIDER-CalPERS recently trumpeted that they got an 11.2% return on investments this year, which should make everyone feel good about their investment portfolio, even though it was less than 1% last year, and far from hitting the 7% average rate per year that they assume. 

PROPUBLICA REPORT--Last Wednesday, July 19, was something of a busy news day. There was word North Korea was making preparations for yet another provocative missile test. The Supreme Court, in its latest ruling in the controversial travel ban case, said that people from the six largely Muslim countries covered by the immigration enforcement action could enter the U.S. if they had a grandparent here, refusing to overturn a ruling that grandparents qualified as “bona fide relatives.”

THE PREVEN PAPER--At its Vision Zero community update this coming Saturday at Loyola Marymount University, the Los Angeles City Department of Transportation will have some explaining to do.  

REFORM ROUND ROBIN-California’s previous attempts at pension reform have had a negligible impact.  We should look to solutions from other states to tackle our growing pension problem. Last week, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a landmark school pension reform bill that will cap the growth of pension liabilities. California legislators need to follow Michigan’s lead to save its pension funds from insolvency. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--People often divide themselves into two broadly defined camps, the first of which insists on obedience to all rules, while the other defines itself by its anti-authoritarianism. May I suggest that each faction is asking the wrong question. 

@THE GUSS REPORT-This article is a bell that the California Department of Consumer Affairs doesn’t want to be rung about one of its 42 Boards that license and regulate an array of industries in the state, including the California Veterinary Medical Board. 

AT RANDOM-Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council’s July 10 agenda-setting meeting turned out to be a rowdy affair. Some 20 stakeholders got riled up over the proposed standing rules change that removed the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the meetings and voted against every item proposed until a resolution keeping the Pledge was placed on the agenda for the next meeting. This rule was passed by the previous council and, as it turns out, was not always adhered to. 

CORRUPTION WATCH-Should politics invalidate medical science? Politicos readily allow interests of a tiny segment of society to dictate medical decisions for our children. For years local politicians allowed toxic-spewing industrial plant Exide to poison children who lived nearby. While the plant was physically located in Vernon, many of the 10,000 affected families lived in the city of Los Angeles. 

POLICY--Last week, my friend Ethan announced that he is moving to Ohio. Ethan is an extremely bright entrepreneur in his mid-thirties, who grew up in Southern California. He’s civic minded – joined non-profit boards, gave to charities what he could afford, and was even been elected to his local water board.

ANIMAL WATCH-A surge in attacks on humans and pets by bobcats testing positive for rabies across the U.S. in 2017 is getting the attention of public health officials who say it is unusual for bobcats to contract this disease and also abnormal for this elusive wild feline to attack humans. Officials warn that in any case where a bobcat attacks a human, rabies should be suspected. 

CONNECTION CALIFORNIA--California, do you want to be an incubator for great ideas—or a bubble that shuts out the world?

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Back in October of 2015, SoCal Gas employees discovered a massive natural gas leak from a well within the Aliso Canyon underground storage facility in the Santa Susanna Foothills near Porter Ranch in the San Fernando Valley. Owned by Southern California Gas, a division of Sempra Energy, the gas field covers 3,600 acres. 

BELL VIEW-One of the many privileges of my middle class life is health insurance. As far as I can tell, it’s decent coverage. At least I think it’s decent – I can’t pretend to understand it, but I don’t feel like I’m one accident away from total ruin. In the midst of the current debate over the fate of the American healthcare system, it’s hard to overstate the level of peace of mind having basic coverage provides to a person. And despite the high price I pay for this coverage and the amount of work I have to do to maintain it, I recognize that – in 21st Century America – I’m privileged to have healthcare coverage. 

CORRUPTION WATCH-Starting in 2014, Judge Alan Goodman and Judge James Chalfant warned us that Super Gridlock was being planned for Los Angeles, but we weren’t listening. Perhaps, we missed them sound the alarm. They used polite legalese.  

RANTZ & RAVEZ-First of all, a Big RaveZ for LA City Councilman Bob Blumenfield and the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. The Woodland Hills Recreation Center located at 5858 Shoup Avenue in the West Valley has a sparkling new pool and recreation center after a long four years of meetings, delays and construction-related problems. It was one thing after another that held up construction of the facility, including contaminated soil that had to be removed and heavy rains that hit the community.  

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Hiking Runyon Canyon is one of LA’s most popular outdoor workouts – in a city where Angelenos drive to Flywheel or hot yoga. Getting close enough to the Hollywood Sign for that vacation Instagram post is on the to-do lists of many tourists. 

LIVING THE DREAM-When one thinks about the visionaries who made Hollywood what it is today, there are a lot of candidates to consider: Sid Grauman who dreamed up the picture palaces and movie premieres; C.E. Toberman, who built most of the grand buildings on Hollywood Blvd. and made the Hollywood Bowl a reality; the Chandler family and their associates who put the huge Hollywood Sign on Mt. Lee; Johnny Grant, who built the Hollywood Walk of Fame into an international icon. The list could go on and on. 

DEEGAN ON LA-Movie producer Michael Costigan (Brokeback Mountain,” “A Bigger Splash”) and his wife Linda are about to give Los Angeles County $98,241 -- but for what? The County’s Notice of Public Hearing says it’s for 3,275 square feet of mostly unusable, steep mountainside land adjacent to the Costigan’s Outpost Canyon home. The County operates on a $30 billion annual budget and doesn’t really need the money. 

CAPITAL & MAIN--At  6 p.m. on any weekday evening, Interstate 10 from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles is the fifth most crowded stretch of road in the United States. A light rail line paralleling the freeway has done little to help, despite exceeding rider estimates. A carpool lane or road expansion would likely fail as well, due to a phenomenon known as “triple convergence”: When you make more room on a roadway, peak-hour drivers who would otherwise have detoured, taken the bus or left earlier, show up to fill it. (This may be the only application of Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s novel interpretation of supply and demand.) 

TRANSPO WATCH--To most of us, building a new highway, a new rail line, or a new bikeway (or any other mobility-oriented project) involves something that combines benefits to our Economy, Environment, and Quality of Life.  Such a project should allow for greater mobility/freedom, and perhaps enhance the ability of ALL of us to financially benefit … hence the need for public funding. 

EDUCATION POLITICS--How do you look parents in the eye and say you’ve taken a 174% pay raise right after you’ve closed the library at their child’s school? 

EASTSIDER-A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the upcoming Special Election to replace Jimmy Gomez in California’s 51st Assembly District. In that column I characterized an internal fight over the process followed to endorse a candidate as a “kerfuffle.”   

15 CANDLES—(Editor’s Note: Have LA’s Neighborhood Councils accomplished what they promised 15 years ago? What have we learned? What would we change? I’m sure you’ve heard myriad answers to these questions. Most often from folks whose claims and participation were marginal. Greg Nelson created LA’s Neighborhood Councils. He was, at the time, Chief of Staff for LA City Councilman Joel Wachs who became the engine for Greg’s idea. For the first time, in this CityWatch retrospective,  the person responsible for Los Angeles’ Neighborhood Councils looks back … and ahead … talks about how it happened and if he had it all to do over again, what he would change.) 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-By now most of us know what ails Los Angeles. To cite some of the city’s most imminent emergencies: 

URBAN PERSPECTIVE-O.J. Simpson won’t go away. I posed the question on my Facebook page “Should O.J. be paroled?” It drew an avalanche of responses. Even while respondents hotly protested they didn’t care, they still debated, raged, and fumed on the page about him. He still touches a sore nerve. 

ANIMAL WATCH-Best Friends' Animal Society, Los Angeles, is offering discounted pets as a 2-for- $10 pair during July. Their posted "Current Special" features two adult dogs. Is the former religious group -- which started as the Church of the Process of the Final Judgment -- -becoming desperate to achieve its (registered) mission to "save them all" and reach a "no kill" metric by the end of 2017? 

GELFAND’S WORLD--This is an exercise in thinking about a political left-center that is coherent enough to act effectively. Today's issue is the loss of health insurance for tens of millions of Americans at the hands of Mitch McConnell. Tomorrow's could be the phase out of Medicare under Speaker Ryan. How do we bring organized power to bear against their actions? 

THE VIEW FROM HERE--Can the One L.A. Organization "make democracy work" again in Los Angeles? Not without addressing a still segregated and purposefully dumbed-down LAUSD that is exclusively run for the benefit of its entrenched bureaucracy and the obscene profits of their corporate vendors' interests that keep them in power. 

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Earlier this year, Airbnb host Tami Barker refused to honor Dyne Suh’s reservation, tweeting, “I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners. It’s why we have Trump.”

AFFORDABLE HOUSING BATTLE--The California State Assembly will soon be voting on SB 35, and United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (UN4LA) urges local representatives to reject it. While it's being sold as a way to cut through red tape and accelerate the creation of housing, this bill is poorly conceived and will do more harm than good. SB 35 would create a streamlined approval process for multi-family projects that include a certain number of affordable units. We need to build more housing, but we can't abandon planning in the process. 

NEW GEOGRAPHY-As its economy bounced back from the Great Recession, California emerged as a progressive role model, with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman arguing that the state’s “success” was proof of the superiority of a high tax, high regulation economy. Some have even embraced the notion that California should secede to form its own more perfect union. 

CORRUPTION WATCH-The benefits of living in Los Angeles are god-given, while the liabilities are man-made. There was a time in the first part of the 1900s, when Angelenos more or less tried to preserve the good. Those days are gone. 

PERSPECTIVE-I am a member of LA Fitness. I most often use the facility at Universal City because it has a hardwood basketball court. 

UNAFFORDABLE HOUSING-Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission ignored South LA residents’ concerns about displacement and gentrification, swiftly approving a luxury mixed-use redevelopment of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.  The City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) will now consider the mega-project.

THE PREVEN REPORT--Here’s what Mayor Eric Garcetti had to say when asked in a recent KPCC radio interview how he manages to balance career planning with fulfilling his current role as Mayor of Los Angeles: 

MY TURN-Full disclosure: I am not an expert in City Planning. Having attended a few Planning Commission meetings and Neighborhood Council rallies "against" new developments, I have seen people display the most discourteous behavior. Sometimes I have mentally checked out when faced with myriad of statistics presented by engineers and architects. 

FIRST TIME AVAILABLE--Monday, TransparentCalifornia.com released 2016 pension payout data from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) — the nation’s largest municipal utility district. 

VOICES--Many Californians have fond memories of landing their first decent-paying job, working long hours to save enough for a down payment, and finally buying a family home. Many of us poured our weekends and hearts into repairing beautiful old houses.

FINANCE POLITICS--Inadequate roads are leaving Californians stuck in traffic. According to a 2016 study by Inrix, a data company that specializes in traffic-related analytics, Los Angeles, California has the worst traffic in the United States. San Francisco takes the number three spot, and San Diego comes in number 14. In all, 17 California cities rank among the 100 most congested cities in America. 

A disturbing new LA Times investigation of Mayor Garcetti's embrace of Black Lung Lofts has laid open a system of buck-passing and internal disarray, with the Mayor defending freeway-adjacent housing as legally untouchable because it's "in the pipeline." 

BELL VIEW--This morning I was running late to work. Screaming at red lights to turn green, cursing other drivers too timid to make left turns when they had the chance, I looked ahead of me and saw a cyclist taking the lane as he trudged up a small hill. I’ve ridden my bike in the streets of LA, so I gave the guy a wide berth as I slowed to a crawl behind him. I couldn’t get around him because I had to turn right and he was in my lane. “Come on, come on, come on …!” I repeated to myself as the ticking clock seemed to mock my predicament. What a nightmare! I thought. 

PARTY DOWN--Whether the issue is the privatization of public education for corporate profit and the further dumbing down of America or the continued suppression of the will of the majority by gerrymandering and/or removing legally registered voters from the voting rolls based on clearly false charges of multiple registration or any one of many other corporate inspired programs to thwart the will of a democratic majority, the response from the Left in this country has been anything but logical, effective or reasonable. 

VOICES--TPS Parking Management, doing business as The Parking Spot (TPS) filed a legal challenge to the Los Angeles World Airport's (LAWA) Environmental Impact Report for the Landside Access Modernization Plan (LAMP), asserting that the report's conclusions would negatively impact thousands of Los Angeles area residents who are members of the company's loyalty program. 

@TheGussReport – Just when you thought City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office made enough poor decisions in the Wayne Spindler (photo above) gun case, his spokesman Rob Wilcox and prosecutor Eugene Hall, Jr. dug deeper and doing so may cost the taxpayers dearly. 

EASTSIDER-For those living under a rock, California Senate Bill 562 is a California Only, Single-Payer Healthcare Bill. After passage by the Senate and moving to the Assembly for a vote, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) pulled the bill from further action this legislative session. He did note that since this is the first of a two year session, the bill can be revisited next year. 

RESISTANCE WATCH--Feeling bad? First take care of yourself, of course. I like this a lot: Ways to Stay Motivated in this Shit-Shellacked Era of Epic Stupid which begins:  

PLATKIN ON PLANNING--What a pleasant, but short-lived surprise to discover that in late June 2017 UCLA’s renowned Luskin School of Public Affairs sponsored a forum entitled, Can LA fix its Broken Planning System?  Needless to say, I read an article about the forum on the Luskin’s School’s website with great enthusiasm, expecting to see a serious professional urban planning analysis of LA’s tottering and shady city planning system.  After all, these issues are presented twice weekly through CityWatch, formerly at Ron Kaye’s LA, and even in an occasional Los Angeles Times, KCRW, and KPCC story. (Photo above: Wedding of Former King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.) 

BLUE PRINT FOR PAIN-It's 10:00 a.m. on Monday morning, and while most people are filling up their second cup of coffee, Nellie is busy sorting loaves of bread, leafy greens, and egg cartons for a line of eager customers. Next to the I-580 overpass and across the street from a Safeway is the Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program, which she founded 30 years ago with the belief that "food should always be available to everyone." She's been volunteering her time -- eight hours a day, five days a week -- ever since. Asked why she continues to do this work without pay, Nellie says: "We serve almost 300 families every day, and you never know: Tomorrow it could be you who needs the help.” 

FIRST PERSON REPORT--The Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) did its job Tuesday night, and had the dubious distinction of making it into the LA news, talk radio, and other media sources. Traffic changes were the hot-button subject and new MVCC Chair Sarah Auerswald did a first-rate job of making sure everyone could talk during public comment, despite letting everyone know we had to be out by 10pm from our meeting site. 

NEW GEOGRAPHY-In its race against rapidly aging Europe and East Asia, America’s relatively vibrant nurseries have provided some welcome demographic dynamism. Yet, in recent years, notably since the Great Recession and the weak recovery that followed, America’s birthrate has continued to drop, and is now at a record low. 

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING--The district attorney who put O.J. Simpson behind bars believes the former football star will win parole at his hearing later this month.

David Roger won convictions against Simpson in 2008 for robbery and kidnapping in Clark County, Nevada.

POLICY--Across California, many local governments have raised taxes while cutting services. Local officials desperate for union support have made irresponsible deals with public employee unions, creating staggering employee costs. Taxpayer money meant to provide essential services to the least well-off instead goes directly to higher salaries and benefits. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--We are the west coast -- accent on that word coast. What makes California different from Nebraska and Colorado is that we have an ocean. We have sea cliffs, beaches, and kelp beds you can explore underwater. We even have the remains of a shipwreck that you can walk right up to, at the base of a local cliff. Californians take pride in the fact that the beach and the water belong to all of us. But it's not a done deal in all places. 

NEW GEOGRAPHY-California’s economic revival has sparked widespread notions, shared by Jerry Brown and observers elsewhere, that its economy — and policy agenda — should be adopted by the rest of the country. And, to be sure, the Golden State has made a strong recovery in the last five years, but this may prove to be far more vulnerable than its boosters imagine. 

ANIMAL WATCH-At the June 27 meeting of the Los Angeles Animal Services' Commissioners -- all appointees of Mayor Eric Garcetti -- Commissioner Roger Wolfson, a screenwriter, urged the creation of an LAAS poster on how to handle a dog attack, indicating he had already received support of the idea from GM Brenda Barnette and Commission President Larry Gross. 

@THE GUSS REPORT-In a Van Nuys court room on Friday, the illegal gun possession charge hastily filed by LA City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office against City Hall critic Wayne Spindler (photo above) died a death as curious as its life. 

CORRUPTION WATCH-The hubris that comes with holding public office is usually rational. Public officials so seldom are held accountable for their actions that they never think of possible criminal liability for their behavior. The times, they may be changing. 

BOYARSKY’S LA--Immigration court in Los Angeles is in an undistinguished, rectangular office building in the center of downtown. Every weekday, immigrants make their way there to plead before one of the judges for a chance to remain in the United States. 

DEEGAN ON LA-In less stressful times, the relationships between tenants and landlords were ruled by the market economy of supply and demand. Lately, however, affordable housing has entered a state of crisis, as space is needed to squeeze in more people who want to live here or park their money in real estate investment. A third wheel has been attached to the landlord-tenant equation: developers eager to make their profits in a booming upscale housing market is leaving many renters in the dust. 

PEOPLE POWER—(Editor’s Note: This is one a series of profiles and reports celebrating Resistance Heroes … people like you who have stood up to power and won.)

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--What’s the fastest way to change California?

EYES ON THE PRIZE--At the LA Press Club’s 59th Annual Awards Ceremony on Sunday, at the Biltmore Millennium Hotel, brothers Eric Preven and Joshua Preven took first prize in the category of online political commentary, for their CityWatch article “It’s Time to End LA’s Secret Meetings: What Do City Council Members and LA’s County Supervisors Have to Hide?” More than five hundred journalists and media executives attended the event.

THE COHEN COLUMN--The Senate Republicans were going to quick-fix their massive tax cut for the rich, pretending to be a health care bill, which the independent Congressional Budget Office slammed worse than the House bill. Then they ducked out of town one day early.

PREVEN REPORT-“I am pleased to share that our Parking, Safety and Athletic (PSA) Improvement Plan will have its first public hearing with the City of LA on on Monday July 24, 2017,” writes Harvard-Westlake President Rick B. Commons in a recent email to “friends and families” of the school referring to Harvard-Westlake's proposed 750-space parking garage and accompanying roof-top athletic field and 163-foot pedestrian bridge over Coldwater Canyon Boulevard. 

RANTZ AND RAVEZ-On July 1, 2017, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and LA City Council members were sworn into office for the next 5 1/2 years. Now that they are officially in position, in power to serve the public, what will they do to improve the quality of life in Los Angeles? What will they do to address transportation gridlock, the high cost of housing, increasing crime and a host of other pressing matters using over $8 billion in taxes? 

RIGGING THE RULES-The public employee unions, especially the teacher union variety, are very jittery over the prospect that the Janus case, if successful in the U.S. Supreme Court next year, could free government workers from paying forced dues to a union as a condition of employment. Enter California’s AB 119, a trailer bill, which was signed into law last week. As R Street Institute’s Steven Greenhut reminds us, a trailer bill is typically intended “for last minute and non-controversial technical fixes to budget matters.” While, AB 119 was certainly last minute, it is anything but non-controversial. 

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. Bill Christopher Chaired the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners … BONC … beginning in June of 2001 and, working at fever pitch, oversaw the certification of some 60 neighborhood councils in a two year period. Bill takes a look back and considers what he might do differently.)  

CORRUPTION WATCH-Millions of Americans on the Left are being scammed by the call for “Single Payer Health Care.” We have naively allowed ourselves to be so polarized by the endless hogwash from both parties that we will believe anything. The Left is consumed with insane Tweets from a mentally ill President and by the stupendous avarice of the GOP in Congress; a majority of Americans have lost the ability to think. 

EASTSIDER-I rarely write directly about what I do for a living, but as a neutral person with some 25 years experience in California public sector labor relations, I feel compelled to write about the merits of the DWP/IBEW settlement itself, especially after the recent flood of articles casting the contract in unflattering terms. 

TENANT’S RIGHTS--Close to four Million people reside in Los Angeles according to an annual population report by the California Department of Finance dated May 1, 2017 

PERSPECTIVE-Much has been written and discussed about the recently approved contract with DWP’s IBEW Local 18 members...but not enough. 

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA-- Dear America, I suppose I should wish you happy birthday. But I’m just not feeling it.

BUTCHER SHOP--A surprising much has been already written about the DWP deal including this alarmist screed Will outrageous DWP pay hikes ignite anti-union firestorm in California? in which the author hyperventilates in horror that workers who climb 75 feet in the air to fix live electric lines will see increasing wages in the years to come and then vividly imagines the resultant revolt of the masses.

PLATKIN ON PLANNING--While we plebeians dawdle away our lives cooking, cleaning, studying, working, raising families, and helping friends and relatives in need, we can (kind-of) sleep comfortably knowing our local elected officials are hard at work combatting climate change … through press conferences.  Luckily for them, they have Donald Trump as their climate foil, blasting away at him with their sound bites for pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. 

DEEGAN ON LA—-Arnold Schwarzenegger had Columbia Pictures promote one of his movies by painting the title logo on the main fuselage of an unmanned rocket that was then launched into outer space by NASA. Anything  to get attention: although in the case of his 1993 movie "Last Action Hero” even that stratospheric publicity stunt could not help. 

MY TURN-Immigrant bashing has become the new national sport in some areas of our country, even though some bastions of white conservatism have been revitalized by an influx of immigrants. These groups have given new life to towns once on the verge of extinction. Diversity in all areas of Los Angeles is more evident than ever. We have traveled a long way since Proposition 187. (Photo above: Corinne Ho) 

LABOR WATCH-- I just got out of a special meeting called by SAG-AFTRA union leadership to share a TV/ Theatrical negotiations update with the membership. When I saw the letter on the website to all of us from Executive Director and Chief Negotiator David White and Gabrielle Carteris, SAG-AFTRA President and Chair of the Negotiating Committee, I was surprised to see that it did not say that a reasonable agreement had been reached and we would be called upon to ratify. (Photo above: Jennifer Caldwell.) 

EASTSIDER-Only in Northeast LA. First there was the Special Election to replace Xavier Becerra’s seat in Congress, won by Jimmy Gomez. Now there will be another Special Election to replace Jimmy Gomez’ seat in the 51st Assembly District. What’s an “only in California” moment is that Gomez has not yet resigned his Assembly seat. So, no election for the moment, and we still don’t have a timetable for the Special Election itself. 

SKID ROW- Last week, an article in the LA Weekly titled “Who Killed the Skid Row Neighborhood Council?” shed even more light on the still-unfolding plot to prevent a Skid Row NC from becoming a reality. The plot, involving numerous “players” in Downtown politics, was first discovered when a cheating scandal by the opposition was uncovered and after months of “digging for gold”, now new revealing words found in the LA Weekly article confirm the shenanigans included City Hall, which allowed online voting less that two weeks before the April 6th subdivision election in which Skid Row attempted to break away from the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council to form it’s own neighborhood council. (Photo above: Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar.) 

NICE PAYDAY—The Daily News reports that former audio-visual technician for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was sentenced today to five years in state prison for embezzling more than $4 million in public funds.  

BELL VIEW-I wish I could draw because I can see a perfect political cartoon in my head. On one side of the frame Trump, Ryan, Mnuchin, and Sessions are feeding poor children into a sausage grinder; on the other an outraged hipster is foaming at the mouth pointing in the direction of a Democratic politician and screaming: “He said LGBT, not LGBTQ!” When Republican voters talk about how political correctness is destroying America, they’re right. Just for the wrong reason. Political correctness is destroying America by distracting otherwise decent Americans from the carnage happening right under their noses. 

AFFORDABLE HOUSING--The folks in Sacramento are in a frenzy right now trying to pass legislation to ease the housing crunch.  They realize that housing costs are becoming an extreme burden for Californians, and there's an avalanche of bills cascading through the state legislature that purport to address the crisis.  While some of these bills are thoughtful, reasonable attempts to create solutions, others are poorly conceived and could end up doing more harm than good.

GETTING THERE FROM HERE-I doubt I'm the only transportation advocate who's wondered where our priorities have gone astray. Of course, most transportation advocates (and transportation engineers) focus on policy, providing more options, and numbers-based/outcomes-based results. Unfortunately, transportation policy has been eclipsed by planners and utopians who suffer from too much wishful thinking. 

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--The current political climate has brought a clear divide among states on social and environmental issues. While Governor Brown and the state legislature work to pass bills to bypass President Trump’s agenda, Attorney General Xavier Becerra is also lending his chops to signal dissatisfaction with Kentucky and three other states that have passed legislation that would restrict LGBT rights. 

JUSTICE INTERRUPTED!--Last Tuesday, which the United Nations observes as World Refugee Day, a charter bus full of clergy, religious activists and lawyers was barred from visiting inmates at the Adelanto Detention Facility, located in the high desert 85 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The intention had been to speak to asylum seekers, green card holders held for minor legal infractions and undocumented immigrants scooped up in recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids. The nonprofit group CIVIC, which coordinates volunteer visits to 43 of the 211 federal detention centers across the nation, unsuccessfully negotiated for over an hour with prison authorities and ICE for us to get in. (Photo above: Immigrant rights activists en route to Adelanto.)

ANIMAL WATCH-After years of ignoring a burgeoning problem of stray dogs and cats in the streets, aggressive dog attacks and fear of disease have caused China's major cities to replicate the government's reaction to a perceived need for human population control by issuing a one-child rule in 1979. However, since pets can be hidden or just released, enforcement will be challenging -- especially restrictions such as Qingdao's ban on 40 breeds considered "dangerous." 

GELFAND’S WORLD--Saturday was full of irony. The Los Angeles Times published an editorial that raised red flags about the way the city's elected officials are trying to sneak through a large pay raise for employees of the LA Department of Water and Power (LADWP). The Times had previously published a story by David Zahniser and Dakota Smith revealing the sordid details

NEW GEOGRAPHY--Amazon’s stunning acquisition last week of Whole Foods signaled an inflection point in the development of retail, notably the $800 billion supermarket sector. The massive shift of retail to the web is beginning to claw into the last remaining bastions of physical space. In the last year alone, 50,000 positions were lost in the retail sector, and as many as 6 million jobs could be vulnerable nationwide in the long term. Store closings are running at a rate higher than during the Great Recession.

CALBUZZ SPECIAL REPORT--Imagine losing days, weeks, or months of your life rotting in a jail cell even though, in the United States, you’re supposed to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

DEEGAN ON LA-The parallels are uncannily similar: two different parts of LA, each beginning with an important, historical movie footprint and evolving into a land use bonanza. Century City, once the very busy 20th Century Fox backlot (and before that a ranch belonging to western silent movie icon Tom Mix), became a real estate behemoth studded with skyscrapers, traffic congestion, and high prices. Central Hollywood, once a folksy, low slung neighborhood, is about to be transformed into its own real estate behemoth with the massive proposed Crossroads of the World project. It, too, will be studded with skyscrapers, traffic congestion, and high prices. 

@THE GUSS REPORT-If you live in the Valley, Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Attorney Mike Feuer and the LA City Council have taken this approach to fighting property crime: Do It Yourself. 

THE CITY--On June 19, the Neighborhood Council Alliance of River Communities (ARC) welcomed Nicholas Maricich, City Director of Planning Policy and Development, and Michelle Garakian, from the Mayor’s Office of Legislative and External Affairs, to discuss details of the proposed Affordable Housing Linkage Fee Ordinance. 

WHAT WAS HE THINKING?--Advocates of the single-payer healthcare proposal which has been steadily advancing through the California legislature were voicing outrage and disappointment on Saturday after Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat, announced he was pulling the bill from further consideration this year.

CORRUPTION WATCH-The Hollywood Community Plan has no Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the June 2017 Update. This means that all these super-mega projects being proposed in Hollywood are based on data from the 1960s and the mid-1980s. 

EDUCATION POLITICS--Four days before the end of the school year, Venice High School students, organized by the Black Student Union and the Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan, walked out of class to protest their principal allegedly firing an African American college counselor. 

JUSTICE--The biggest lie about Proposition (“Prop”) 66, California’s poorly drafted new death penalty law – only missing another “6” in numbering to be properly identified as the devil’s spawn – is speed. 

NEW GEOGRAPHY--“We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” —Justice Louis Brandeis

LEANING RIGHT--From all the attention focused on "special elections" in Georgia, South Carolina, Montana, and elsewhere, one would think that we've got nothing better to do than focus on politics in other states, particularly "Red States".  One would also think that our finances and policies are going swimmingly well in California, a "Blue State" which is bleeding its middle class out of existence. 

CREATIVE MINDS MEET GRASSROOTS ACTIVISTS--Following news that legislation aiming to power California solely with renewable energy by 2045 passed the state Senate, bestselling author Naomi Klein joined Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz and community leaders on Wednesday in calling for a "World War II-scale mobilization" to combat climate change and lead the way in developing environmentally safe technology. (Photo above: LA Councilman Paul Koretz.)

DRIP, DRIP, DRIP--LA City Planning this week released a backward-looking, slow-moving and poorly reasoned plan — more than a year in the making — that fails to reduce greed-driven evictions of residents, or to preserve thousands of low-rent units being eyed by land-flippers and speculators.

MCDONALD REPORT--After years of alarming studies and in-depth news coverage, the Los Angeles City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti have yet to address the devastating health impacts to residents who live in freeway-adjacent housing, which LA politicians continue to approve. On Tuesday, at the Planning and Land Use Management Committee meeting, the Coalition to Preserve LA and other community groups urged council members to finally take substantive action. 

MUSING WITH MIRISCH-It is sometimes both sad and shocking how City Halls throughout the state, along with some of our elected officials, can be in such denial of reality, data and math.  

BELL VIEW-When it comes to elections, I obsess over one number: turnout. We have been told, for example, that turnout was through-the-roof for the special election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, where Democrat Jon Ossoff narrowly lost to Republican Karen Handel. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution gushed: “In a district with about 526,000 registered voters in all, nearly half of them came out: unofficial turnout stood at about 49 percent in the race.” 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Before memory fades completely, this is the time to take stock of the Occupy mass movement of 2011. A few years into the Great Recession, it began with Occupy Wall Street, and then quickly spread to over 1000 encampments, including other countries, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and Israel. 

RANTZ & RAVEZ-The Westfield “Village” at Victory and Topanga Canyon in the West San Fernando Valley has turned into a place to walk your dog and pay for parking (some validate) to do business with local vendors that remain open for business despite the poor foot traffic and slow sales in the area. More and more of the businesses in the “Village” are experiencing financial difficulties; sales have not been what was expected. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--In the Hollywood Fringe festival as in other parts of life, we wander along, ignoring the mediocre, enjoying the pretty good, and hoping to find that diamond in the rough that is effective and affecting. I think we've got one here. 

CORRUPTION WATCH-What if Angelenos had a City Council that maximized our quality of life instead of aggrandizing the profits of a handful of real estate developers?

DEEGAN ON LA-“Neighborhood Councils were slighted … they were not given a chance to speak at a public hearing,” alleges Robin Greenberg, President of the Bel Air-Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council which advocates for more than 27,000 residents representing hillside communities stretching from Laurel Canyon to Sepulveda Boulevard, and from Sunset Boulevard to Mulholland Drive. It also speaks for 35 residential associations, local schools, businesses, and faith-based institutions. 

ANIMAL WATCH-Before his re-election in March 2017, Mayor Eric Garcetti was accused of being silent on LA’s rising crime.  Opponents claimed Garcetti was hiding and suppressing 2016 crime statistics that showed a 10 percent increase in violent crime in the city and ignoring the need to hire more police officers. The Mayor's political ambitions may have also been the reason he and Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette made no public comments about two tragic Pit Bull attacks in Los Angeles in early 2017. 

THE PREVEN REPORT-For matters requiring urgent attention, the City Council of Los Angeles has the power to convene a Special Meeting, whereby the amount of advanced notice it is required to give the public before taking action is reduced from three days to one. 

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--If you wish to inspect the frontlines of the conflict between Donald Trump and California, head for San Diego.

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--On Friday, behemoth retailer Amazon announced a $13.7 Billion-value purchase of Whole Foods, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval. The purchase has sent other grocery stocks tumbling, opening publicly held grocery companies ripe for takeovers, as well. 

TRANSIT WATCH--It's interesting ... and maybe a little sad ... that while the transit advocates behind the Expo Line revolution (who then turned their sights to the LAX/Metro Rail, Wilshire Subway, Downtown Light Rail Connector) have to some degree separated and gone on to other issues, venues, and their own personal lives, some battles still remain, and are just not going away. 

VOICES – (This article was first posted in CityWatch in 2013. Considering the political and social division and voter apathy Los Angeles is experiencing in 2017, it seemed appropriate to post it again.)

EDUCATION POLITICS--Large school districts are often less responsive to the needs of students and the hopes of parents than smaller districts. Public educational behemoths – such as Los Angeles Unified – are more likely to fall under the influence of well-organized interest groups such as teachers’ unions. By breaking up large districts into smaller ones, parents can achieve greater accountability. Although California makes school district secessions difficult, groups in Malibu and Walnut Creek are making impressive strides. 

VOICES--As someone who has been critical of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation over the years for being stuck in the past, I am delighted to see them putting in more bike lanes, even if it means taking lanes out for other traffic. These bike lanes make it safer for the many people who depend on bicycles to get around for their daily needs. They also encourage more to ride for transportation and recreation. This is good for us. 

EASTSIDER-It was supposed to be the equivalent of show and tell with a predetermined outcome. Then hundreds and hundreds of people showed up for the hearing. The Council Chamber quickly filled up, there was another overflow room that overflowed, and ultimately a large crowd wound up outside City Hall on the adjacent lawn. All this before the 2 p.m. start time. I heard estimates of something like 500, give or take, and the PLUM Committee was obviously not ready for the sheer magnitude of their audience. 

PENSION BRINKMANSHIP-Governor Brown’s proposal to fund CalPERS with borrowed money parallels a similar move by Puerto Rico in 2008. Borrowing to meet pension obligations can work under certain circumstances, but it is a risky policy. It backfired in Puerto Rico and can do so here. 

GUEST COMMENTARY-The false testimony given by Kim McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition during recent testimony before the Senate Public Safety Committee is greatly disturbing. As detailed in a blog by Michele Hanisee and Eric Siddall, Ms. McGill gave her testimony before the Senate Public Safety Committee to attempt to "humanize" overturning California law adding mandatory prison time for using a gun in a crime. Several Senators specifically cited her testimony as their reason to support the bill. 

POLITICS--As Trump and the Republicans work to eliminate Obamacare and “replace” it with an economic unicorn that would wipe out health insurance for tens of millions Americans, some politicians in California are pushing for a single-payer healthcare system in the Golden State.

NEW GEOGRAPHY--California is widely celebrated as the fount of technical, cultural and political innovation. Now we seem primed to outdo even ourselves, creating a new kind of socialism that, in the end, more resembles feudalism than social democracy. 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-When you are hammer, the whole world looks like a nail, or in the case of the City of Los Angeles, when you are totally wedded to real estate speculation, you only have one hammer, up-zoning to fix all urban ills/nails. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--In the movie Invictus (above), Nelson Mandela is hoping to create a bond with South Africa's white population He invites the captain of the country's largely white rugby team to visit him at the presidential palace. 

SENATE SEXISM ALIVE AND WELL--For the second time in as many weeks, Kamala Harris was cut off by her Republican colleagues while posing questions at a Senate intelligence committee hearing. To most, seeing yet another example of a woman silenced by male senators only reinforces the reality that there are different rules for the different genders, but many on the right remain stubbornly unwilling to acknowledge that a male-dominated government led by a pussy-grabbing misogynist would exhibit sexist attitudes toward women.

BILLBOARD WATCH-Public safety, aesthetics, and the will of the people continue to get short shrift at the City Council Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee, as it caves to the powerful billboard lobby. After years of hearings and reports, the committee on May 31 gave instructions to the City Attorney to finally draft a new Citywide Sign Ordinance that will govern billboards, known legally as off-site signs (Council File 11-1705). We should all enjoy the dark night skies while we can, because if this bill becomes a law, digital billboards will be going up in all kinds of new places, flashing messages in our faces every 8 seconds.

MY TURN-My "June Gloom" came early this year, like in April. To those of you who enquired as to why I have been absent from CW, here is my explanation: there was nothing good to write about. We could call it "writers block," but it was more like "Life Block." 

ROAD DIET OVERDOSE, PART 2-The City has been sued – again! This time it is due to its desire to expose children to toxic fumes while they are exercising. See HELP and CCLA v City of Los Angeles, BS 157813. Previously, these groups have prevailed in the Hollywood Community Plan case and in the Target case. Both times the City lost because it refused to follow the law. 

GUEST WORDS--Is this justice or does this mean just us. Politicians are bragging about HHH and what they will do. The question is, what are they doing now. 931 to 937 E. Pico and 1518 S. Paloma St. have been left in the wash in the political bragging. 

TRANSIT WATCH--In the Los Angeles Times June 14, 2017, article in the California section, Mayor Garcetti proposes to run a monorail above the San Diego, 405, Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass. This ignores two issues:  

BELL VIEW--Many years ago, I sat drinking a beer on the steps of an old wooden house in Canaryville – a white working-class neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago – with my friend Tommy, an Irish singer and guitar player who could fill a bar with his voice without the benefit of a microphone. Tommy, who would later be killed by a drunk driver, was one of the great ones: a singer, a fighter, a family man, a decent all-around person. As quick as he could be with his fists, at his core he was gentle and soft-spoken. He ran a thrift shop for the children’s hospital.

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS-- Since the recent April 6th vote to create a Skid Row Neighborhood Council resulted in a lost effort by a mere 60 votes (in which over 1600 total voters participated), from which a “Vote No” cheating scandal was uncovered and a shocking dismissal by the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) of 3 valid election challenges by an Election Challenge Review Panel convened by DONE, the number one response far and wide is “Sounds like something the ACLU would take on” or “Have you guys (Skid Row Neighborhood- Formation Committee) contacted the ACLU?”

GUEST COMMENTARY--A cynic will feel welcome in the entertainment media landscape. 

In it, there are no promises of humanity — no assurances of justice — no unbreakable bond of truth. There is but one king: popularity (and more plainly, profit).

ROAD DIET OVERDOSE-Why does Mayor Garcetti think that it is a good idea to expose children to high levels of toxic fumes by constructing Bike Lanes in heavily trafficked thoroughfares?

GELFAND’S WORLD--Dear Mr City Attorney: If the Trump administration were to send federal officials into your office and announce that they were taking control of your department, you would no doubt feel rather put out. After all, you are an elected official acting under the authority of state law and the City Charter. The fact that Donald Trump doesn't like the way you interpret our sanctuary city status does not give him carte blanche to violate your lawful authority. May we therefore ask you to apply the same standards to our neighborhood council system?

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--A: Test me all night, baby.

No, really. Sign me up to be the subject of A/B testing. I’d even be willing to sign a blanket consent form, right now, so that all of Silicon Valley’s biggest brains can test me for the purpose of improving the human future.

DEEGAN ON LA-In the dark before the dawn, on the grimy streets of Skid Row, a small group of homeless men and women and a Superior Court judge meet in a unique everyone-is-equal-here relationship. No other elected official has gone to the same extreme that Judge Craig Mitchell (photo above, center) has by reaching out to a cohort of down and out homeless men and women, personally investing his time, compassion and hard work on behalf of people who many wish were invisible and often treat that way.

PRISON POLITICS-If you ever wondered what’s wrong with California’s state government, then mull over this simple example: While California cuts its prison population and staff, it’s increasing the amount of money it spends to operate its massive prison system.

SPECIAL CAPITAL AND MAIN REPORT--On June 15, 2003, before Los Angeles had its CicLAvia events, several thousand bikers and pedestrians descended upon the Pasadena Freeway for a bike and walk ride on the freeway. The event, called ArroyoFest, demonstrated the emerging capacity of LA bike groups. It also indicated a strong community presence in Highland Park, where the closing of the freeway for a few hours seemed like a magical moment.

ANIMAL WATCH-On April 10, LA Animal Services' GM Brenda Barnette issued a media release, entitled, "Canine Influenza Notice - Dogs Imported from Asia by Rescue group." 

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-You are me and I am you. And we are one. We are here today to send a message loud and clear…We resist homophobia; we resist poverty, anti-Semitism, and we resist hatred toward Muslims and all religions. – Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles)

THE PREVEN REPORT--After the publication a few weeks ago of an article we wrote about Harvard-Westlake School’s plan to build a massive parking structure in the hillside neighborhood surrounding their campus, we got an email from a Harvard-Westlake parent who opposes the project. She made the following persuasive point

AT LENGTH-It is perhaps far too symbolic that Councilman Joe Buscaino will have his swearing-in ceremony for his second full term representing the 15th Council District at the reopening of Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park and Machado Lake on June 17. It’s going to be a very fun family day with lots of activities and performances. Everyone is welcome, except the homeless. It only cost $130 million in renovations, plus the eviction of Reggie the alligator and some 167 homeless souls, considered “invasive species,” and neither will be welcomed back.

@THE GUSS REPORT-Has paralysis on the part of the LAPD and LA City Councilmember David Ryu concerning a recent spate of San Fernando Valley mail theft burglaries led to a worsening of the situation?

TALKBACK--I’m a Volunteer at the LA’s West Valley Animal Shelter. I think this new policy, allowing finders of stray dogs and cats to keep the animals they find in their homes during the hold period, is a good idea. Since I work with dogs at the Shelter, I’ll direct my comments to dogs, but I think the same applies to cats. (This is in response to Phyllis Daugherty’s CityWatch column “Finders-Keepers: LA Doesn’t Want Your Lost Dogs or Cats in City Shelters.”) 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Last week I explained why Los Angeles is so poorly planned, but there is no reason that Angelinos must be tied to the substandard city planning that emanates from City Hall. It is one thing to explain it, as I did in my previous column, but it quite another thing to put up with it. 

CA LEADING THE FREE WORLD, NOT US--Over the weekend, as the acting United States ambassador to China was resigning from his post following the Trump administration's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, California Governor Jerry Brown was over in the Chinese city of Chengdu, hanging out with a rotating cast of Chinese diplomats as part of a weeklong trip aimed at climate collaboration. He also made time to see the pandas at an eco-tourism park in Chengdu.

ALPERN AT LARGE--Asking others, and asking ourselves, to do the right thing is often much, MUCH harder to do in the real world, the adult world, the world that IS, compared to the world that we wished it would be. 

BELL VIEW--When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, Channel 7 News had a weatherman we used to call “Crazy John Coleman.” Compared to actual 21st Century media craziness John Coleman doesn’t really stack up. But he was undeniably a goof. He’s made his way back into the news by denying that manmade climate change is real.  

PET POLITICS--Earlier this week, Phyllis Daugherty published an analysis of some of the failures of the 2012 Los Angeles ban on cat, dog, and rabbit sales. Her piece is worth reading in full as the Senate considers a misguided bill, Assembly Bill 485, to ban these pet sales statewide. As a fellow animal advocate who also opposed the 2012 ban, I join Ms. Daugherty in shining a spotlight on what the state Assembly risked by passing AB 485 last week. 

EDUCATION POLITICS--Three of the nation’s five most expensive schools are in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Each ranks among the lowest performing schools in California.

GUEST WORDS-What should not be lost in the wake of our article exposing the lies used to manipulate the elimination of mandatory sentences for gun crimes is the cavalier dismissal of victims of gun crime.    

RANTZ AND RAVEZ-I begin with a reply to Dr. Dana Sherman, a professor I have known for a number of years, who I respect for his work at a local university and the volunteer time he spends at a local boy’s home. The doctor and I share mutual interests in volunteering for charitable organizations and in bicycle riding. He replied to my last article on the city’s plan to spend $24 million on Vision Zero, a program to end all fatal collisions in Los Angeles by the year 2025. 

EASTSIDER-Three recently reported events by my fellow CityWatch contributors, convinced me to take a look at the further neutering of the Neighborhood Councils, which never had much power in the first place. The three events were (1) the suppression of due process in denying Skid Row a fair election, (2) the use of “exhaustive efforts” by DONE to take over the San Pedro Neighborhood Council, and (3) Jay Handal’s report on BONC excluding regular stakeholders from being able to participate in some NC Committees.

CAP & MAIN REPORT--Our grandchildren moved to San Clemente earlier this year. They’re a stone’s throw over the county line from San Diego County. More important, they can walk to their favorite surf spot – “Trestles.” Disturbingly, they now live about three miles from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. It no longer produces electricity, but a pile of radioactive waste sits there waiting to be moved somewhere.

CORRUPTION WATCH-What is the impact on the overall LA economy when Angelenos have to pay thousands extra per month for mortgages or rent? 

RESISTANCE WATCH--Inspired by the Pixar film “UP,” artist Anne Hars placed balloon bouquets at noon, June 4, on two apartment complexes slated for demolition by luxury housing developer Michael Cohanzad of The Wiseman Group. 

THE BUTCHER SHOP … NO BONES ABOUT IT--A small, influential group of celebrities and animal activists have reinvigorated their failed 2009 campaign to move Billy the elephant out of the LA Zoo. On April 19, Councilmember Paul Koretz introduced a motion to “immediately cancel any current or future elephant breeding activities” and to move Billy to a “sanctuary environment.” 

TRANSIT WATCH--Money is best spent well, and to its credit, LA Metro has overall earned the bragging rights to money well spent, and to not taking the taxpayers' money for granted.  But we've seen lots of interesting data, and we've not always had the best partners in Sacramento and Washington...so how do we best proceed? 

DEEGAN ON LA-"Who's on first?", the comedy routine made famous by Abbott and Costello, came to mind listening to representatives of official Los Angeles explaining how the city’s little understood housing “vacancy rate” is established. But comedy turns to tragedy as we look at the consequences brought on when this controversial, almost secret “rate” is implemented to allow developers to convert affordable rent-stabilized housing into condos.

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-California’s State Senate and Assembly have been busy writing and voting on legislation that would stall Trump’s agenda – or at least, protect Californians from fallout. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--So there I was, sitting in the front row of a little theater on Santa Monica Blvd when a rolled-up pair of socks came flying through the air and hit me in the back of the head. I wasn't alone, since the actor on stage was himself getting bombarded with socks. Within a few minutes, the stage was covered with socks. Thus begins my account of this year's Hollywood Fringe festival. 

RESISTANCE WATCH--A bill that would create the first state-level single payer healthcare system in the United States passed the California Senate on Thursday, generating applause as a major step forward in creating a necessary proving ground for a national 'Medicare for All' program.

The state of California is working to reduce urban per capita water use by 20 percent by the end of 2020. One major concern to reaching this goal is the car washing industry.  

TRUMP WATCH--Donald Trump’s favorite local TV chain is about to get a lot bigger thanks to — wait for it — Donald Trump.

EDUCATION POLITICS-When New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg spent half a million dollars to kick Steve Zimmer off the LA School Board, Zimmer (photo above) picked up the phone. In a departure from his self-described “conflict averse” nature, he wanted to pitch his version of collaborative school reform to the “education mayor.” 

ANIMAL WATCH-After much media fanfare on October 24, 2012, regarding passage of a ban on pet shops selling "mill-bred" puppies, kittens and rabbits, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilman Paul Koretz and LA Animal Services' General Manager Brenda Barnette have been notably silent on its success. 

CORRUPTION WATCH-The recent user poll from METRO is pure propaganda based on absurd claims designed to benefit only the super-duper rich. 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Among City Hall’s elected and appointed officials it easy to round up a quorum of Clinton Democrats, with non-presidential candidate Mayor Eric Garcetti at the head of the table. If you look hard you can also find a momentary Berniecrat, recently re-elected Councilmember Gil Cedillo, and a plain vanilla Republican who lost his bid to become an LA County Supervisor, Councilmember Mitchell Englander. 

EASTSIDER-Last week, in the run up to the June 6 Special Election runoff for Congressional District 34, replacing Xavier Becerra, we saw what may be the only pre-election public forum for choosing between favorite Jimmy Gomez and challenger Robert Lee Ahn. 

GUEST WORDS--I had the privilege of attending the release and presentation of the 2017 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. And I can tell you that I am not surprised by the 23% increase in homelessness in Los Angeles County. Homelessness is visible now more than ever and in places that one would not envision. 

PLANNING--The gradual decimation of local voice in planning has become accepted policy in Sacramento. The State Senate is now considering two dangerous bills, SB 35 and SB 167, that together severely curtail democratic control of housing.

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--Riddle: When is a miracle also bound to be a disappointment?

Answer: When the miracle is a project of the state of California.

GUEST WORDS-What if I told you there’s a customer who has a goal to buy $1 billion worth of goods and services from small businesses? This customer buys everything from office supplies and computers, consultant services, clothing, hygiene products, food, bedding, cookware, furniture, and more. 

This customer is Los Angeles County. 

SKID ROW-Little Tokyo (north side) and Skid Row (south side) are neighbors on opposite sides of 3rd Street in Downtown Los Angeles. The recent election to decide on the creation of a Skid Row Neighborhood Council (SRNC) is mostly known as a battle between Skid Row and the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council. What is not well known is that Little Tokyo was the deciding factor in that election. Over 1600 people voted in this extremely close election, yet it was decided only by a 60 vote margin – it was the Little Tokyo votes that made the difference. Hundreds of LT voters went to pop-up polls or voted online. If Little Tokyo had supported Skid Row, the outcome of the election would have been completely different. 

EDUCATION POLITICS-I spent the Memorial Day weekend with an old teacher friend who lives and works in an upscale bedroom community out on Long Island, NY and was unexpectedly enlightened by yet another lesson on the state of public education in this nation. Our failing, predominantly poor minority-filled inner city public education system bears no resemblance to the still excellent public education system that remains the rule in the affluent suburbs, where the middle class live and can still exert their substantial financial influence.

CAPITAL & MAIN SPECIAL REPORT--Last August, on a scorching afternoon that saw temperatures reach 115 degrees, a small but noisy group of protesters gathered in front of an ARCO gas station in Mecca, an impoverished, unincorporated community 40 miles southeast of Palm Springs. It was an unusual setting for a demonstration: Miles from the nearest city and along a desolate stretch of highway, where the only crowds are typically farm workers and Border Patrol agents gathered during the morning rush at a nearby Starbucks. (Photo above: Elon Musk, center) 

ALPERN AT LARGE--There's a new word in our city that merits an opening in our ever-growing English lexicon: Garcettiville.  Do you live near homeless encampments ... you know:  Garcettivilles.

@TheGussReport – The injuries that 15-year old Van Nuys skateboarder Anthony Hernandez suffered from a fallen tree branch last week were severe; reported to be fractured ribs and a lower back. That raises the question of whether a city which has shown no will, ability – or money - to cure its arbor and other infrastructure dangers is prepared for an Olympics and all of the expense and risk that come to town with it.

WHEN EDUCATION HITS THE RIGHT NOTES--The number of kids across the state taking advanced placement exams is on the rise it was revealed in February. 28.5% of the state’s graduates achieved 3 out of 5 or better on their AP exams making California the 5th best state in the nation. This has also seen a 8% rise in results since 2006 according to Tom Torlakson, the Superintendent. What are the reasons for improved scores?  

ANIMAL WATCH--If your dog or cat goes missing in the city of Los Angeles, Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette has a plan to keep it out of her shelters, but you may not be happy with this alternative. 

PENSION MANIPULATION?--Retired LA schools chief Ramon Cortines received pension benefits totaling a remarkable $238,383.67 last year, possibly through a controversial pension-spiking practice known as “air time” – the purchase of credit for time not worked. 

On her way home recently, Sonia Fernandez drove past a West Covina billboard that surprised her. “Happy Memorial Day, honoring all those who served.” She says the sign reflects the confusion many have about the significance of May’s annual tribute. 

The Box DONE Come--Less than 24 hours before the most recent special meeting of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council on May 16, the Los Angeles Department of Neighborhood Empowerment disempowered this council by issuing a letter announcing “exhaustive efforts” and taking control over the published agenda. (See report.

COMMENTARY--The City of LA’s elected officials do not like State Senator Tony Mendoza’s efforts to bring much-needed reform to the governance structure of LACMTA (the LA County Metropolitan Transit Authority). Not only do LA’s elected officials reject Mendoza’s latest bill SB 268, they do it with a vehemence which suggests they doth protest too much.  

NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Last week at the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners meeting, a startling new policy was allowed in the new Hermon Neighborhood Council Bylaws. 

TRUMP, KUSHNER AND LA’S VERY OWN CIM---The Watchtower in Brooklyn Heights is one of the most noticeable edifices in New York. It’s a complex of buildings on a bluff above the East River, with a sign on top that flashes the time and temperature. It used to be the world headquarters of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

MEMORIAL DAY MOMENT--We just had another epic effort by an army of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Sea Scouts, Cub Scouts, Brownies, Daisies, and a host of other youth groups () to commemorate and honor those who served and even gave their lives so that we could debate, argue, work for and give it our all for Freedom and the American Dream. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--Los Angeles has a new, 97th neighborhood council by the name of Hermon. Hermon is the name of a small area (one-half square mile according to my trusted source Wikipedia) in northeast Los Angeles. The new council asked to secede from the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council, and has now been granted full certification by the City of Los Angeles. This creates one problem which ought ultimately to provoke a crisis within the city's neighborhood council system. 

NATIONAL PARK POLITICS--I’m writing this from Yellowstone National Park (photo above). Established in 1872, this was our first National Park. The world’s first, in fact.

In an interesting window into how politics worked then (and now, arguably), Congress agreed to preserve this land only after being assured that it was entirely “worthless.” 

EDUCATION POLITICS--Supporters of charter schools, homeschooling and other forms of school “choice” are so used to fighting in the trenches against the state’s muscular teachers’ unions that they often forget how much progress they’ve made in the last decade or so. Recent events have shown the degree of progress, even if they still face an uphill – and increasingly costly – battle. 

PERSPECTIVE--If your financial adviser suggested that you invest in an arbitrage arrangement but offered no information concerning the risks, would you?

EASTSIDER-Ever since Anne Stausboll suddenly announced her retirement effective August 2016, I have wondered what’s going on with CalPERS. She was seemingly at the peak of her powers running the pension giant, and there was no particular event that precipitated her leaving. Now we have a new CEO, Marcie Frost, as of October 2016, fresh from Washington State’s Department of Retirement Systems (DRS.) 

CORRUPTION WATCH-The appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate the Russian meddling in our elections shows that American institutions are on life-support. 

PREVEN REPORT--“Our kids have to perform in front of audiences,” said then Harvard-Westlake School VP John Amato in 2013, referring to that school’s proposed multistory, 750-space parking garage and accompanying roof-top athletic field and 163-foot pedestrian bridge over Coldwater Canyon Boulevard, "so we have to have parking for visitors, and we want to have all our parking in one location.” 

RANTZ & RAVEZ--After nearly three weeks of budget meetings with Department Heads, Councilmembers, the Budget and Finance Committee, various city staff, the City Administrative Officer, the Chief Legislative Analyst, and a host of other city hall personnel and members of the public, the final city budget for next fiscal year has been approved and presented to the people of Los Angeles. What can we expect to see as we move into the next fiscal year starting July 1 with this $9.2 Billion Budget? Just think what you could do with $9.2 billion if you ran the City of Los Angeles.

GUEST COMMENTARY--What would you think if you were repeatedly rejected for promotion in favor of a less qualified and less experienced candidate? What conclusion might you arrive at if these "nationwide" searches always seemed to result in locals with ties to the current leadership being selected? How would you react if you saw a deterioration of morale of your fellow employees and how the unprepared outside hires were jeopardizing the mission?

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Yes, traffic congestion in Los Angeles is bad and getting worse. In fact, Los Angeles has the worst traffic congestion of any US city. A recent study from the Washington State based Inryx institute concluded that Angelinos are, on average, stuck in traffic 104 hours per year, and that Los Angeles has the planet’s worst traffic congestion. 

So, LA’s power brokers can boast that at least in one category Los Angeles is now a true global city. Of course, I don’t doubt there are those perpetual cynics who want to rain on this wonderful parade, and argue that Los Angeles – despite Beijing and Mexico City -- should instead claim world recognition for its poor air quality. They do have a case, too, since the only US cities with worse air than Los Angeles are Bakersfield and Fresno. 

Given LA’s notorious traffic congestion and poor air quality, we should not be surprised at the long list of fake solutions to the city’s gridlock. While these phony fixes allow contractors to build freeways and investors to pursue lucrative but short-sighted real estate deals, we get nothing but hems and haws about what could truly reduce traffic congestion: spending serious money, such as Measure M and much more, on alternative transportation modes, especially transit, biking, and walking. 

The major fake solutions? 

Freeway widening: The $1.6 billion spent on widening the still gridlocked I-405 could have been devoted to re-engineering many miles of local boulevards to lure drivers and passengers out of their cars and into alternative transportation modes. What is now happening through the My Figueroa project between downtown Los Angeles and USC could have appeared throughout much of Los Angeles. At $5,000,000 per mile, 320 miles of major Los Angeles area arteries could have had a new, well maintained tree canopy, grade separated bike lanes, enhanced street lighting, legal ADA curb cuts, and repaired and widened sidewalks. If combined with improved bus service built on rider comfort, lower fares, and more frequent service, this array of carrots would have achieved far more than resuscitating a dinosaur, adding two more lanes to the still busiest freeway in the entire United States. 

Encourage high-density residential buildings in neighborhoods “near” mass transit hubs, stations, and corridors. 

This approach to link transportation and land use planning is usually called Transit Oriented Districts, although both Los Angele City Planning and METRO defer to the alternative term Transit Oriented Communities. In theory, these areas should be substantially improved through My Figueroa-type public improvements for walking, bicycling, and access to public transit. 

But, as made clear by both agencies, their joint version of Transit Oriented Communities is really Transit Oriented Development. Their actual program is not major local public improvements for alternative transportation modes, but broad incentives to private investors for the construction of new market rate apartment buildings. In an amazing developer-friendly approach City Planning’s proposed guidelines have some startling features: 

1) The incentive areas will radiate out in a half-mile radius from major bus stops, Bus Rapid Transit stops, Metrolink Rail stops, and Metro Rail stops. As a result, except for the San Fernando Valley, most of Los Angeles will become a vast TOC incentive area.

2) In these incentive areas, residential projects with more than five units can increase the number of rental units between 50 to 80 percent, while the building’s mass (FAR) can reach a ratio between 2.5 to 4.0.

3) Other incentives include reductions in required parking, yards and setbacks, open space, lot coverage, lot width, density, height, and transitional height. 

In effect, this ordinance will completely undercut the existing zoning code’s residential requirements in much of Los Angeles, as well as some of re:code LA. It will also sidestep the City’s current efforts to update LA’s General Plan in several dangerous ways: 

1) There is no monitoring program to assess the effectiveness of these incentivized residential projects. Are the new affordable units actually there? Are they reducing homelessness and overcrowding? Were their occupants subjects to an income verification review? Do any of the residents in these new buildings regularly use transit? We have no way to answer these basic questions because there will be no monitoring to determine the TOC ordinance’s effectiveness, and there will be no on-site inspections of the supposed affordable units. None of this is new, of course, since the lack of monitoring or on-site affordable housing inspections is already standard practice in LA. The only difference is that will now be much more speculative real estate to sweep under the carpet. 

2) If these new residential projects actually increase local populations, there is no concern over the additional public services and infrastructure required to service these residents, even though this approach should be the essence of Transit Oriented Districts. Improved bicycle infrastructure and sidewalks? Tree canopies? Undergrounding utility wires? Park ‘n ride and Kiss ‘n Ride for mass transit stations? Street and parking capacity? Electricity, water, and telecommunications? Schools, parks, and libraries? Emergency services, especially to deal with special events, floods, fires, and earthquakes? Their status will continue to be, to quote Donald Rumsfeld, unknown unknowns. 

Stop high-density buildings so Los Angeles will not become another New York City. 

The grass roots campaigns against bad planning in Los Angeles are clearly moving in the right direction. But in some cases they have seen a few trees, but missed the forest with anti-density slogans like Not Yet New York and Manhattanwood. These well-intention community activists see the high-rise buildings of New York City, especially Manhattan, but forget that its high density is far more than high-rise buildings. New York City also has one of the planet’s best mass transit systems, as well as a dense network of public amenities. These include wide, well-maintained sidewalks, with ADA curb cuts and a tree canopy. It includes a vast network of small neighborhood parks and playgrounds, as well as local schools, libraries, and fire stations. Furthermore, in NYC, there are hardly any overhead utility lines or the visual pollution of super-graphics and billboards, except in Times Square. 

In other words, in NYC density refers to both private and public spheres, while LA’s density hawks, as well some as their opponents, only imagine that density refers to private real estate projects, not the entire built environment. 

Reduce the amount of required parking, while increasing its cost. 

This is a great bargain for real estate developers because it reduces their construction costs, without paying for any public improvements to make non-car alternatives more appealing. This stick only forces habituated car drivers to spend more time driving in circles looking for a place to park. The real solution is the carrot of changing the built environment – most of which is public space – to make alternatives to driving cars appealing in their own right. 

As for the real solutions, they are either ignored or left poorly funded so they cannot be put to the test. 

There is no evidence that building more market rate apartments within a half-mile of bus stops and mass transit stations increases ridership or reduces homelessness. So far, it is just an empty claim that also turns the relationship between mass transit and land use on its head. The purpose of housing should be put a roof over people’s heads, not fill up busses and subway cars. This is why the Los Angeles proponents of “Transit Oriented Communities” never bother to verify their claims that affluent tenants will switch to transit if it is “close” to their condo or apartment. As a result neither of their twin goals will be met: reducing traffic congestion and reducing homelessness and overcrowding. 

The real purpose of most of these fake solutions to traffic congestion is to put a fig leaf over real estate speculation, and this is why it is not the serious planning that could result from a systematic update of LA’s legally required General Plan. If City Hall really wanted an authentic connection between housing and transit, they would only build affordable housing near transit, and they would extensively upgrade neighborhoods on transit corridors to make alternatives to cars more appealing. As written above, this means wider, smoother sidewalks, ADA curb cuts, pedestrian safety improved streetlights, tree canopies, undergrounding utility lines, playgrounds, safe bike lanes. Certainly not cheap, but at least not a waste of money, like freeway widening. 

The idea of making the entire built environment supportive of transit, walking, and bicycling is hardly a new insight. What would be new, however, is forcing our elected official to look at the TOC folly they are about to unleash. While it might result in more market rate apartments, it will not reduce traffic congestion and freeway gridlock in Los Angeles. 

Remember you read it here. This fake solution will make LA’s traffic situation worse, not better.

 

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

-cw

ROOS BLUES--It never was very clear why someone who attended private primary, secondary, and post-secondary schools, and then attended law school on a scholarship intended for the disadvantaged – it never made a lot of sense why he would ally forces with an advocate for a school system that is independent of the district on whose board he ran for a seat – none of this made a lot of sense until reading that all along he considers this entity of which he is an incipient board member, to be “an abstract concept”. 

ALPERN AT LARGE--We just had one of the most important elections that no one paid much attention to, and which moved the LAUSD towards reform...and moved Angeleno parents and their children towards self-sufficiency. So here's a Nota Bene for you Millennials and post-Millennials (and even pre-Millennials!):  learn to take care of yourselves!

BELL VIEW--Yesterday morning LAPD took a homeless man from the front seat of my neighbor's car. My neighbor noticed him as he loaded his kid's into their car seats. The man was asleep, oblivious, he did not stir. My neighbor waited for LAPD on his front lawn, with a baseball bat in his hand. Just in case. 

RIDERS HAVE RIGHTS TOO-Ridership on Metro Buses is declining rapidly and in large percentages. Metro is in a tailspin. To reverse this decline, the mindset of Metro and the cities the buses pass through must change. Some of the changes must be directed to the routes, how often the buses run, how early and how late. Thinking must also shift to what occurs outside the bus when riders are approaching or leaving a bus stop, how well placed the stop is, how comfortable the stop is for the rider, and the experiences riders have when boarding and exiting a bus.  

POLITICS--California Democrats on Friday kicked off their three-day convention with a "raucous start" in Sacramento, where a wave of single-payer advocates demanded the party work towards a system that makes healthcare a human right. 

The gathering comes amid growing momentum nationwide for a single-payer, or Medicare-for-All, healthcare system, and as the Republican's widely scorned American Healthcare Act (AHCA) is days away from receiving its potentially problematic Congressional Budget Office (CBO) assessment.

In a evening rally and march that went from the capitol to the Sacramento Convention Center, a crowd of nurses and other healthcare activists urged support for SB562—the advancing Healthy California Act—which would create a universal health system for Californians, and could "send a message" and "be a catalyst for the nation."

Here’s the CalBuzz version of what happened. 

Of the fight for single payer, RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association, which organized the action, thinks California Democrats "cannot be in denial anymore that this is a movement that can primary them."

DeMoro, who is also executive director of National Nurses United (NNU), took to Twitter to capture speeches at the rally and images of the sign-carrying marchers:

Their message, however, was not warmly received by California Democratic Party chairman John Burton.

In fact, he "had nothing but F-bombs and sarcasm for the protesters who disrupted the welcome reception of the California Democratic Convention Friday, calling for universal healthcare and chanting 'Hey hey, ho ho, corporate Dems have got to go,'" Bay Area News Group reported.

Video captured and posted to Twitter by Politico reporter David Siders shows Burton telling them to "shut the fuck up or go outside."

"Parade all you want, but unless we put it on the ballot or elect new Democrats you can walk up and down the street and people still aren't going to have decent healthcare. So let's get with it," the LA Times reports Burton as also saying.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, who this year beat the NNU-backed Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) for the post, also spoke at the podium. He tried to inject some levity into the situation, comparing it to Thanksgiving dinner with extended family. He appealed to party members to seek unity, saying: "Donald Trump has to go. And that is why we must work together as Democrats."

The Sacramento Bee writes that "the throng advocating for a statewide publicly funded, universal health care system snaked down a staircase behind Perez, shouting down his calls for unity."

As for the outcome of the convention, Politico reports that it will "reverberate" nationwide:

With President Donald Trump in a tailspin and the Republican House majority appearing increasingly vulnerable, what happens here at the California Democratic Party state convention this weekend will reverberate across the map.

Featuring as many as seven vulnerable GOP-controlled House seats, this solidly blue state is key to flipping the House in 2018. But when more than 3,000 activists in the nation's largest Democratic Party gather this weekend in Sacramento to forge opposition strategy and choose new party leadership, the state party's internal squabbles will also be closely watched.

Iowans were also hoping to underscore the importance of a universal healthcare system over the weekend, with rallies in seven cities.

"It just shows how important it is for us to be putting out an alternate vision for what our future should be rather than just saying no all the time," said Chris Schwartz, a community organizer with Americans for Democratic Action Iowa.

(Andrea Germanos writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)

-cw

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--We have reached the high holy days of California’s budget season, as our governor and legislative leaders decide which programs will gain new life, and which will be sacrificed. And so our state government’s ministers have begun their ritual sermons on the dangers of overspending. (Photo: California’s Oroville Dam, the nation’s tallest.)

They are preaching nonsense. California’s real problem is underspending.

Go ahead and dismiss my claim as blasphemy. After so many years of budget crises and big deficits, Californians have adopted a budget theology grounded in self-flagellation, even though our recent budgets contain small surpluses. You can probably recite the catechism yourself: We’re still sinners who spend too much on state services! Far more than we take in! So save us, Non-Denominational Higher Power, from our profligate selves! Punish us with budget cuts or spending limits or a rainy day fund!

I’m sorry, but what our spending religion really needs is reformation.

And that requires genuine revelation. Our state’s tendency to produce big deficits is not caused by big spending. We have had big deficits because our state budget is based on volatile formulas that tend to expand deficits in unpredictable ways. In fact, California has long been on par with other states in expenditures per capita and in spending as a percentage of state GDP. Still, we cling to our budget religion and, fearing overspending, we take the cheaper path—which often costs the state more money in the long run.

The problems of underspending are most obvious when it comes to pension obligations. California governments and employees have long spent too little money on contributions to pension funds, which are underfunded. So, to try to catch up to our pension obligations, California taxpayers are having to make much bigger contributions now. And those catch-up contributions are leading to even more underspending on critical services, as money that should go to schools or health care or infrastructure is used to cover pensions.

The costliness of underspending is also the story behind rising public higher education costs in California. Over generations, the state has cut back its relative contribution to the University of California and California State University systems. This underspending has been made up for in part with ever-higher tuition fees for students. And, despite what you may read, the latest UC scandal is also about underspending; a state audit’s central allegation is that UC’s office of the president accumulated more than $100 million in funds that it wasn’t spending.

That scandal reveals a hypocrisy in our budget religion; overspending may be the stated enemy, but underspending gets you into far more trouble. The state parks department kept a secret reserve of unspent funds that became a major scandal in 2012. In California’s prisons, underspending led to an intervention by the federal courts, which ordered the state to spend more on its unconstitutionally overcrowded prisons and reduce its prison population.

Our state’s leaders understand the problem with underspending, but they haven’t been successful at explaining the problem, credibly, to the public. It also hasn’t helped that when state officials do need to spend big, they haven’t been very good at it.

Underspending also explains problems with our basic services. Studies have found that the state spends tens of billions less on schools than would be necessary to provide all Californians with an adequate education. And that underspending has real costs: California is not producing enough college graduates and skilled workers.

The state has made bold promises on child care and early childhood education that it hasn’t adequately funded, leaving citizens to pay for the rest. Child care now costs more than college tuition here. And housing costs more than just about anything, in part because we’ve spent so little on housing that we have a massive shortage, which forces Californians to pay housing prices more than twice the national average.

That the state has failed for generations to spend enough to build and maintain infrastructure is obvious in the degraded condition of roads, bridges, and waterways. The state’s failure to create strong enough spillways at Oroville Dam is forcing California to make hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of repairs and upgrades before the next rainy season.

Our state’s leaders understand the problem with underspending, but they haven’t been successful at explaining the problem, credibly, to the public. It also hasn’t helped that when state officials do need to spend big, they haven’t been very good at it. Examples include the new Bay Bridge, with its delays, cost overruns, and questions about the integrity of its steel rods, and the high-speed rail project, where spending and construction has been so slow that many people think the project will die.

In recent budgets, Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislature have sought to counter the state’s tendency to underspend now and pay later. They’ve made a great show of efforts to pay down debt. In his current budget proposal, Brown suggests making a large advance contribution to pensions now, in order to reduce liabilities later.

But that payment, unfortunately, is achieved in a questionable manner: by borrowing billions from a state special fund. As Stanford lecturer and former Schwarzenegger advisor David Crane wrote recently, since pension contributions get invested, that payment amounts to a “leveraged bet” on a stock market that Governor Brown himself has warned is overdue for a correction.

Brown has grown popular as a proselytizer of the credo that California can be managed on the cheap. That’s appealing dogma for a state whose people struggle with a very high cost of living.

But the realities of our state should remind us that successfully running California on the cheap is a fantasy that has curdled into a costly article of faith. And we parishioners are being stuck with the tab.

(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)

-cw

SKID ROW POLITICS- In a stunning turn of events the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) issued a shocking “final determination” in the highly controversial Skid Row Neighborhood Council subdivision election which led to three election challenges that were each upheld by an Election Challenge Review Panel convened by DONE itself.

(Photo above: General Jeff Page.) 

DONE completely threw out each of the Review Panel’s recommendations, which included initiating a 60-day investigation (to possibly uncover more evidence) followed by the possibility of an entirely new election, and instead decided to certify the election results as they stood on election day, with Skid Row’s hopes of creating a much-needed neighborhood council crushed by a mere 60 votes, 826-766. 

The election challenges arose from evidence of illegal online campaign propaganda which connected to the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council (DLANC) which, if found in violation, could have resulted in an overturned election. 

How did DONE come to this seemingly out-of-nowhere decision? Let’s examine the facts. 

On April 6, the Skid Row subdivision election took place. Any challenges had to be filed within 5 days. Skid Row representatives filed 5 official election challenges, of which two were dismissed in DONE’s initial review, leaving three valid challenges. 

On April 14, a letter was issued to Skid Row NC- Formation Committee leaders and in paragraph 7 it states “The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment reviewed the election challenges, and will be convening an Election Challenge Review Panel to resolve the pending challenges”. 

Just as two of the other challenges were dismissed rather quickly by DONE, if there wasn’t sufficient evidence in the remaining three challenges, why didn’t DONE dismiss those challenges also? 

In DONE’s “final determination” letter it states, “Per Section XII of the Subdivision Election Manual, the supporting documentation for election challenges MUST prove that the alleged challenges are not only valid, but would also have made a difference in the election results for the Election Challenge Panel to have the factual basis to uphold the challenges”. 

What DONE failed to include is the very next sentence- “Challenges without such supporting documentation will AUTOMATICALLY be rejected.” 

So, again, if DONE (who in their own words) stated they reviewed each of Skid Row’s challenges, why didn’t they AUTOMATICALLY dismiss all 5 Skid Row challenges from the beginning? Instead they wasted everyone’s time, money and energy only to ultimately toss out both the Review Panel’s recommendations and subsequently Skid Row’s challenges, then at the end of the process point to reasons that were already in their control when they first reviewed the documentation but also completely contradict DONE’s logic in their final determination. Were they hoping a “negative to Skid Row” Review Panel decision would’ve been to blame so DONE wouldn’t look like the bad guys? ...Oops! 

Further, during Skid Row’s presentation before the Review Panel on May 3rd, their Formation Committee Chair revealed that DONE’s metrics used to reach an “inconclusive” determination in their initial report to the Review Panel was flawed, thus causing an incorrect determination which DONE again mistakenly referred to in it’s “final determination” letter. 

To be specific, DONE compared a “Unite DTLA” e-mail to what they wrongfully claimed was a “second” Unite DTLA e-mail. But, in fact, the second e-mail was from “DTLA United”, which thereby automatically created different outcomes in DONE’s in-house investigation. 

Their inconclusive determination was strongly based on inaccurate metrics. And instead of getting it right the second time (for their “final determination”), they, again, somehow drew the very same conclusion based on the very same metrics. 

This suggests that either DONE didn’t bother to correct it’s previous mistakes or was simply too lazy to perform the necessary due diligence. This, then, suggests severe negligence and/or dereliction of duty. 

Even further, in DONE’s “final determination” letter, in the Inappropriate Remedy section, they stated the Review Panel’s “remedy of redoing the election is not appropriate for these challenges even if they were deemed to be valid”. 

The problem with this is DONE was at the hearing (General Manager and other high-ranking staff) as was the City Attorney’s office (highest-ranking neighborhood council division staff member), yet no City officials with extensive knowledge of this process stepped in to make sure that the Review Panel, who publicly deliberated right in front of the entire audience, reached at least one qualifying remedy for each of the three upheld challenges. 

This is even more evidence of negligence and/or dereliction of duty. Either said City officials simply stood by quietly (already knowing the preferred outcome they desired and anticipating it’s arrival soon thereafter) or were stunned “like deer caught in the headlights” at what the Review Panel was in the process of concluding as a result of their determined commitment to get this right to the best of their abilities. 

Throughout all of this, it should be noted that the Review Panel, selected individually by DONE, stayed focused and engaged for the entire 5-hour hearing, including listening to public comments from over 60 “concerned citizens”, the majority of which were pro-Skid Row NC- including members of other NC’s, Skid Row residents and volunteer supporters with professional expertise. 

While there are still “tons” more reasons to marvel at DONE’s position, this article closes with this- In DONE’s Subdivision Election Manual in the Challenge Remedy section, the first sentence states “If a challenge is found to be valid, remedies will be narrowly interpreted to affect ONLY the voters, candidates or seats affected.”

 

Not only did Skid Row have “a challenge which was found to be valid”, they had THREE of them! Then, DONE’s own language implies that there is a NARROW INTERPRETATION of the wideness of the scope and range for any and all remedies which are thereby limited to affect only the voters, candidates or seats affected. 

… And DONE went away from it’s own rules, regulations and procedures and hid behind their flawed findings and improper determinations. 

No surprise that the Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation Committee is now seeking legal representation.

 

(General Jeff … Jeff Page … is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles. Jeff’s views are his own.)

ANIMAL WATCH-Captain Jeff Perry of The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced on May 16, that they had confiscated 7,000 birds in the largest-ever seizure of fowl used for illegal cockfighting. 

The raid was a joint effort by major agencies that included the Sheriff’s Department, LA County Animal Care and Control, LA County District Attorney, Bureau of Investigation; Humane Society of the U.S., and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA.) 

On Monday, the Sheriff’s Department served a search warrant on an 80-acre property in the 29000 block of Jackson Street in Val Verde, a rural, unincorporated area of the Santa Clarita Valley. Approximately 100 personnel from the sheriff's office, along with over 50 officers and veterinary staff from animal control were involved. 

Mobile fighting rings, gaffs (curved knives which are attached to the roosters’ feet for fighting,) medications, syringes, steroids and other items were found and confiscated at the site -- all indicative of illegal cockfighting.   

The sheriff's video of the raid takes us through the scene, from arrival to the discovery of dead roosters thrown in a garbage bag. Numerous dogs are seen running loose and in kennels, and hens are caged with numerous chicks. Officials said many of the birds were sick. 

Eric Sakach, Senior Law Enforcement Specialist for The Humane Society of the United States, described how cockfighting often "goes hand-in-hand" with such other crimes as gambling, drug-dealing, illegal gun sales and murder. 

While this site has pits for fighting, Sakach said it appears to be primarily used for breeding and selling the birds, which can be "extremely lucrative." 

Officials estimated that the sales price of these animals would range from $50 to $1,500 each, meaning this seizure could result in a total loss to the bird owners (aka "cockers") of $350,000 to $10,500,000. 

Sakach said this location had been raided in 2007, when approximately 2,700 birds were seized, but it apparently started up again and expanded. 

Marcia Mayeda, Director of LA County Animal Care and Control, emphasized in a written statement: 

Cockfighting is a serious crime. Not only is it an abusive practice in which animals suffer greatly, but cockfighting birds have been found to carry diseases that pose a threat to public health and the poultry industry. Many other serious crimes occur at cockfighting operations, including the presence of illegal drugs and weapons, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, and physical assaults. We urge residents to report any cockfighting activities, or locations where large numbers of roosters are housed, to their local animal law-enforcement agency. 

She confirmed that approximately 36 bird owners had relinquished their animals. All the dogs on the property were also relinquished and are receiving veterinary care and evaluation prior to being made available for adoption. 

Captain Perry said approximately ten people were initially detained, and the property owner has been identified and is the primary suspect in the case. The investigation is ongoing and the sheriff's department anticipates making more arrests. 

California law for cockfighting is multi-faceted -- addressing animal cruelty, training animals for the purpose of fighting, possession of implements, and being a spectator at an event. There is also an important prohibition against bringing a minor to a cockfight. 

Even if only convicted of misdemeanors, the financial penalties levied against the owner of a site for the cost of the investigation, seizure and care of the animals can be enormous and can become a lien against the property. 

Captain Perry urged anyone with information about any type of animal blood-sport activity to call their local law enforcement agency.  

Anyone with information about this current investigation, is asked to contact the Sheriff's Department Community Partnerships Bureau at 323-981-5300. Any illegal animal fighting can also be reported to "Crime Stoppers" at (800) 222-TIPS (8477) or any County law-enforcement agency. 

A SECOND COCKFIGHT BUST IN LOS ANGELES THIS WEEK 

The investigation of a location in the 13000 block of Telfair Ave. in Sylmar, prompted by complaints from neighbors of noise and offensive odors, caused members of the Los Angeles City Animal Cruelty Task Force (ACTF) to obtain a search warrant. This week they discovered 454 gamefowl in what appeared to be a training site for fighting cocks, an official confirmed.  

Most of the roosters discovered were mature and had been "altered" (a procedure called, "dubbing," which involves removing the comb, wattles and sometimes earlobes of roosters.) Only about 20 of the birds were hens, and there did not appear to be a breeding operation at this location, according to the report.  

The ACTF was formed in 2005 and is made up of LAPD officers and detectives, LA Animal Services Officers, and Deputy City Attorneys. 

A petition filed on the LAPD website indicated a hearing under Penal Code Section 599aa was set for Monday, May 15. The LA Superior Court also authorized the disposition of the gamefowl, which was carried out on Friday, May 19. It is illegal to own or maintain gamefowl within the city limits of Los Angeles, an ACTF representative advised.  

The owner of the property is reportedly facing numerous misdemeanor charges, including training animals for fighting, cockfighting, and owning/maintaining gamefowl within the City limits. 

LA CITY'S ONE-ROOSTER LIMIT    

The City of Los Angeles has a one-rooster limit, with other specific allowances, introduced by then-Councilmember Janice Hahn and adopted in 2008, (Sec. 53.71 LAMC). At that time 31 surrounding municipalities had completely banned roosters or placed severe restrictions on owning them, including requiring health inspections and special permits which could be revoked upon complaint. 

Prior to its passage, City Council offices and Animal Services reported receiving hundreds of calls per month about crowing roosters all over LA. 

Officers say the LA limit has dramatically decreased the number of complaints about crowing, sanitation and odor issues related to neighbors keeping numerous (often free-roaming) roosters, as well as curtailed the incidents of cockfighting. 

The ACTF advised that they investigate all reports of more than one rooster on a property or of suspected cockfighting, and "one-by-one is assuring that no such operation exists within the city limits." 

Another restriction that discourages keeping even one rooster is that most Angelenos living in residential or commercial zones cannot meet the distance requirements (LAMC Code Sec. 40.03), which requires a rooster or any fowl capable of crowing or making "like" noises to be cooped or otherwise humanely confined 100 feet from neighboring dwelling. This distance includes attached garages and means zero free roaming.  

IS LOS ANGELES WINNING THE BATTLE AGAINST COCKFIGHTING? 

Similar to dog-fighting, cockfighting is difficult for law enforcement to effectively address unless there is an event in progress when they arrive. Neighbors are afraid to report known or suspected cockfighters because of the violent nature of the sport and its aficionados. 

Cockfighting is not a cultural or ethnic issue. It is animal cruelty in a disturbing, perverse, public display of brutality. Participation for generations does not make it an acceptable or excusable tradition. These events commonly include drugs, guns and prostitution and are often linked to human trafficking and international crime rings. 

When cockfights are held in backyards or vacant lots, the worst members of society converge upon neighborhoods where children and innocent adults also become victims of noise, violence and exposure to criminals who would not otherwise be in the community. 

Cockfighting is now illegal in all 50 states, and California has strong, comprehensive laws to address it (see below.) Law-enforcement agencies in LA city and county have committed to winning this fight -- but they will need our help. 

If you suspect cockfighting (or other cruelty to animals) in the City of Los Angeles, call the Animal Cruelty Task Force at (213) 486-0450 or provide as much information as possible -- anonymously if necessary -- to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (1-800-222-8477.) 

CA Fighting-Animal Provisions Related to Cockfighting: 

                                                           

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

-cw

 

DEATH WATCH--Before Ronald Bert Smith’s corpse grew cold – following his patently botched execution by lethal injection on December 8, 2016 – authorities in Alabama launched a campaign of obfuscation and misinformation about what happened to him. 

It began when Prison Commissioner Jeff Dunn, himself a witness to Smith’s execution, protested: “Early in the execution, Smith, with eyes closed, did cough but at no time during the execution was there observational evidence that he suffered.” 

Dunn not only doth protest too much, Dunn lied.  

Because if you credit the macabre and unambiguous accounts of the unbiased media witnesses in attendance – not only is there a great deal of “observational evidence” Smith suffered – the publicly available information suggests he suffered a painfully slow, torturous death. 

Kent Faulk, a reporter for Alabama’s largest media outlet (al.com) and a witness to previous state executions, appeared eerily pale and shaken as he questioned Dunn on camera immediately following Smith’s death. The next day, Faulk posted a piece titled, “Alabama Death Row inmate Ronald Bert Smith heaved, coughed for 13 minutes during execution”; it includes several chilling hallmarks of an execution gone wrong: 

During 13 minutes of the execution, from about 10:34 to 10:47, Smith appeared to be struggling for breath and heaved and coughed and clenched his left fist after apparently being administered the first drug in the three-drug combination. At times his left eye also appeared to be slightly open. A Department of Corrections captain performed two consciousness checks before they proceeded with administering the next two drugs to stop his breathing and heart. The consciousness tests consist of the corrections officer calling out Smith’s name, brushing his eyebrows back, and pinching him under his left arm. Smith continued to heave, gasp, and cough after the first test was performed at 10:37 p.m. and again at 10:47 p.m. After the second one, Smith’s right arm and hand moved. 

In “Witnessing death: AP reporters describe problem executions,” Kim Chandler, also a witness to Smith’s execution, described observing the exact same “observational evidence” as Faulk. Indeed, Chandler’s description of Smith’s execution only amplifies the constitutional concern it violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment; Chandler observed that while Smith’s chest was heaving, “he had regular loud coughing,” strong evidence he was not unconscious (and not insensate) when the excruciatingly painful lethal injection drugs were administered. 

In a sharply worded op-ed for the Washington Post on May 11, David Waisel, an associate professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School wrote, “[t]he drugs we use for executions can cause immense pain and suffering.” Specifically, Waisel opined that “[m]ounting evidence suggests that midazolam does not anesthetize inmates during executions, as shown by movement and difficulty breathing (each a sign that someone isn’t anesthetized) long after injection[.]” 

While Waisel’s column focused on Arkansas’ assembly line executions in April – in particular, the problematic execution of Kenneth Williams – his opinion is just as trenchant and ultimately damning for the future of constitutionally kosher executions in Alabama.  

Waisel concluded: (1) “When midazolam is used, executions predictably go awry;” (2) “[V]iolent and painful executions will continue as long as we attempt to use midazolam as an aesthetic; and (3) perhaps of greatest salience as Alabama charts its next course on capital punishment: “The state’s self-serving statements that [an] execution was flawless and proceeded according to plan do not make it so, especially when numerous eyewitnesses contradict the version of events the state is promoting.”     

At the end of October of last year, I wrote that Alabama’s Department of Corrections (ADOC) and Commissioner Dunn had duped me into believing that Alabama’s second-to-last execution – the lethal injection of Christopher Brooks on January 21, 2016 – had also gone “smoothly” and according to plan. (See “Alabama’s last execution may have burned a man alive”.) Using court filings by Brooks’ federal defenders that were buttressed by affidavits from expert medical witnesses, I accused Alabama, through the false representations of Commissioner Dunn, of “painting Mr. Brooks’ execution as a peaceful passing – like he just curled up in a comfy hammock and dozed off – never to wake again.”  

Outrageously, despite mountainous waves of “observational evidence” indicating Ronald Bert Smith’s execution was botched just as Brooks’ may have been, ADOC and Commissioner Dunn are in denial-and-hide-the-ball-mode again. 

As we careen closer to the nation’s and Alabama’s next execution – that of Tommy Arthur scheduled on May 25 – Dunn and ADOC are still pigheadedly denying the objective evidence observed by the seasoned, unbiased reporters that saw Smith die -- “observational evidence” Professor Waisel has since given undeniable and absolutely odious meaning to. 

Alabama courts are complicit in the cover-up. As reported by the Associated Press on May 16, Montgomery, Alabama Circuit Judge J.R. Gaines has ruled: “Alabama can keep secret its records from recent lethal injections, including documents about [the executions of Ronald Bert Smith and Christopher Brooks].” Arthur’s lawyers had argued for the release of ADOC logs and other records indicating Smith and Brooks may have been tortured noting, “[t]he people of Alabama have a right to know what their government is doing in their name, especially when it involves taking a life.” 

Rejecting this commonsense plea for knowledge and for decency, Judge Gaines wrote: “Any release of the execution logs would be detrimental to the best interests of the public.” 

Recently I urged “conscientious, justice-loving Alabamians” to demand that Alabama’s newly appointed Attorney General Steven Marshall “investigate and publicly address the circumstances of both [Ronald Bert] Smith and [Christopher] Brooks’ deaths.” I’m making that same plea again. But this time, instead of only Alabamians, I’m inviting all conscientious, justice-loving Americans and citizens of the world to join too.  

Demand that authorities in Alabama be honest and transparent about executions. Demand that death row inmates receive effective counsel and that they be treated fairly and humanely. Demand that torture be prohibited. And, until that can be assured, if it can ever be assured, demand that Governor Kay Ivey issue a moratorium on all executions going forward. Demand that Alabama comply with the state and federal constitutions.  

Don't ask for these things. Demand them.

 

(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 … including CityWatch. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills. Follow him on Twitter @SteveCooperEsq.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-The post-inaugural Women’s March in Los Angeles brought over 750,000 participants, many of whom were women. The policies of the Trump administration, coupled with a renewed sense of “can-do” has led to an increase in grassroots activism throughout Los Angeles and beyond. The Women’s March LA Foundation committed to the national organization’s 10 Actions in 100 Days. One of those actions was the formation of Huddles, groups of neighbors, friends, or colleagues gathered for postcard, e-mail, and texting campaigns, to attend town hall meetings and marches, as well as other initiatives to make their voices heard. 

We might have suspected that, despite the disappointment many women felt when Trump took office that this organization and commitment to change would bring a new breed of Year of the Woman; but at some level, the progress of women in government, both in Los Angeles and on the national stage, has not followed suit. 

In California, we do have two female senators, following Kamala Harris’s election to the Boxer seat. However, despite Los Angeles’s status as a fairly progressive city, when Monica Rodriguez (photo above-center) edged Karo Torossian for the Council District 7 seat, capturing 52,9 percent of the vote, she became ONLY the second female member of Los Angeles City Council, joining Nury Martinez who represents the East Valley. Women and girls make up 51 percent of the city’s population but are underrepresented in the City Council. 

The underrepresentation of women office holders often results in policy repercussions. Certainly, male candidates may support legislation supporting women and families -- and characterizing such issues as “women’s issues” does us no favors. We are all impacted by policies that do not support families or women’s health issues. However, female office holders may present an additional focus on these issues. For example, Nury Martinez has committed herself to fighting human trafficking, establishing, along with LAPD Operations-Valley Bureau Deputy Chief Bob Green, the bureau’s Human Trafficking Task Force, for which she secured $1 million to fund through this year. 

The current status of female representation on the Los Angeles City Council is mirrored at the federal level where women were noticeably absent from Trump appointments, with the exception of Elaine Chao (Department of Transportation) and Betsy DeVos (Department of Education.) Women were also noticeably absent from the Senate Committee on Healthcare. The GOP’s initial healthcare package excluded many services for women, including pregnancy coverage as an “essential benefit.”

The path to increase representation at the city, state, and national levels must include support for female candidates, both in outreach and in campaign financing/fundraising. 

Groups such as She Should Run, a non-partisan project created in 2008 that has grown into a movement to inspire women to run for public office, and Emily’s List connect potential candidates with resources and organizations to forward their runs. 

By supporting these organizations, we can support a more gender-balanced government at every level, which is sound policy for all of us.

 

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

GUEST WORDS--It's hard not being near the top of the political food chain. It's tough being white, proud, and so easily threatened by this:

As has been increasingly obvious, “Racial attitudes made a bigger difference in electing Trump than authoritarianism.” Part of that is the sense that growing ethnic and racial diversity is a threat to white supremacy and status. Not necessarily in the Klan sense, but in the societal privilege sense. “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”: 

All this anger we see from people screaming “All Lives Matter”  in response to black protesters at rallies. All this anger we see from people insisting that their “religious freedom” is being infringed because a gay couple wants to get married. All these people angry about immigrants, angry about Muslims, angry about “Happy Holidays,” angry about not being able to say bigoted things without being called a bigot... 

A poll last week indicates nationwide attitudes are definitely shifting, just ever so slowly. Like when they threw the wheel on the Titanic hard over and she kept heading straight for the iceberg for what seemed like minutes before beginning to turn.

Pew Research reported last week:  

In 2015, 17% of all U.S. newlyweds had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity, marking more than a fivefold increase since 1967, when 3% of newlyweds were intermarried, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. In that year, the U.S. Supreme Court in the Loving v. Virginia case ruled that marriage across racial lines was legal throughout the country. Until this ruling, interracial marriages were forbidden in many states.

More broadly, one-in-ten married people in 2015 – not just those who recently married – had a spouse of a different race or ethnicity. This translates into 11 million people who were intermarried. The growth in intermarriage has coincided with shifting societal norms as Americans have become more accepting of marriages involving spouses of different races and ethnicities, even within their own families.

The most dramatic increases in intermarriage have occurred among black newlyweds. Since 1980, the share who married someone of a different race or ethnicity has more than tripled from 5% to 18%. White newlyweds, too, have experienced a rapid increase in intermarriage, with rates rising from 4% to 11%. However, despite this increase, they remain the least likely of all major racial or ethnic groups to marry someone of a different race or ethnicity. 

Furthermore (pg. 7): 

The decline in opposition to intermarriage in the longer term has been even more dramatic, a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the General Social Survey has found. In 1990, 63% of nonblack adults surveyed said they would be very or somewhat opposed to a close relative marrying a black person; today the figure stands at 14%. Opposition to a close relative entering into an intermarriage with a spouse who is Hispanic or Asian has also declined markedly since 2000, when data regarding those groups first became available. The share of nonwhites saying they would oppose having a family member marry a white person has edged downward as well. 

Stormfront commenters were less sanguine about what that meant. One wrote,"... it just seems America is officially over. This WILL be a complete third world nation within thirty years. Absolutely finished." Strange, because when Obama became president and the T-party rose up, Ann Coulter declared "we don't have racism in America any more" like it was a good thing. Despite Pat Buchanan lamenting “The End of White America,” in Shelby v. Holder, Chief Justice John Roberts declared. “Our country has changed."

Ask black voters in North Carolina how much.

After calling for President Trump's impeachment, U.S. Rep. Al Green of Texas received racially tinged threats. He played a few voice mails for a town hall meeting Saturday: The seven-term Democrat told the crowd of about 100 people that he won't be deterred.

"We are not going to be intimidated," Green said Saturday. "We are not going to allow this to cause us to deviate from what we believe to be the right thing to do and that is to proceed with the impeachment of President Trump."

One male caller used a racial insult and threatened Green with "hanging from a tree" if he pursues impeachment. Another man left a message saying Green would be the one impeached after "a short trial" and then he would be hanged, according to the recording.

Green took to the House floor on Wednesday to say he believes Trump committed obstruction of justice and no one's above the law. 

The good news is their numbers are shrinking, but as Jesus said, bigots you have with you always. Or something.

(Tom Sullivan is a North Carolina-based writer who posts at Hullabaloo and Scrutiny Hooligans. A former columnist for the Asheville Citizen-Times, his posts have appeared at Crooks and Liars, Campaign for America's Future, Truthout.org, AlterNet, and TomPaine.org.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

 

JUDICIAL CORRUPTION WATCH-As Ricky used to say to Lucy, “you’ve got a lot of splain’ to do.” So too does the California Commission on Judicial Performance. 

For the years 2009 through 2015, only one judge has been removed despite nearly 11,000 complaints. As regular readers know, in 2015, the federal court’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals complained that due to the behavior of California judges and justices, California courts have experienced an “epidemic of misconduct.” With an increasing number of complaints, averaging about 1,200 per year, the idea that over 10,000 people could be so far off mark that only one judge’s behavior was bad enough to merit removal is hard to accept. More investigation is required. 

Let’s Look at the Behavior of Some Judges over the Years. 

In 2010, the attorney for a Child Custody Evaluator appeared in Family Court to obtain an order compelling the father to cooperate in the evaluation in light of the evaluator’s suspicions that the father may have questionable conduct with his teenage daughter. The judge said that he would take the matter under submission and told the evaluator’s attorney that he could leave as the court discussed other issues not concerning the child custody evaluator with the attorneys for the divorcing parents. 

After the evaluator’s attorney had left, the judge spontaneously re-opened the issue raised by him and proceeded to fire him saying, it was not the evaluator’s business to delve into such matters and that he, the judge, would handle it the “old fashioned way,” i.e. the teenage girl would come to court and explain the situation to the judge. 

The judge then directed lawyers not to give any notice of ruling but that he would provide notice. Thus, the child custody evaluator did not know that he had been fired by the court and the judge prevented him from following up on the father’s conduct. Months later someone sent the child custody evaluator’s attorney a copy of the hearing transcript. While the evaluator’s attorney had been complaining that he had not received any order from the court, the presiding judge in the family court sent a hostile and intimidating letter. Subsequently it was clear that the presiding judge knew about the deception which was being perpetrated upon the child custody evaluation and the judge had stopped the investigation into the father’s behavior. 

Two years later, in 2012, the CJP wrote the evaluator’s attorney a letter saying, “The commission has considered the matter and taken an appropriate corrective action as to certain but not all of your allegations. Please be advised that this is the extent of the notice and disclosure allowed by rule 102(e) of the Rules of the Commission on Judicial Performance.” When the Private Admonitions for the year 2012 were consulted for this article, there is no fact pattern which fits the complaint. Thus, there had been no private reprimand. 

Since the CJP letter came in 2012, there was certainly plenty of time for the CJP to have included it in its description of 2012 cases. From the CJP files themselves, the logical conclusion is that the CJP lied to the complainant and in reality no private reprimand had been given for the judge’s re-opening the hearing and firing the child custody evaluator in order to protect the father from investigation. 

The CJP CYAs Itself by Adding the Following to its Website: 

“In order to maintain confidentiality, certain details of the cases have been omitted or obscured, making the summaries less informative than they otherwise might be, but because these summaries are intended in part to educate judges and the public and to assist judges in avoiding inappropriate conduct, the commission believes it is better to describe the conduct in abbreviated form than to omit the summaries altogether.” 

In other words, the CJP’s description of the basis of the wrongful behavior may be so vague and abbreviated, that the complainer cannot recognize his own complaint.  

CJP Allows Judges to Obstruct Justice by witness Intimidation. 

In another case dating back to 1995, the judge in a criminal case submitted a false but secret complaint to the state bar about an attorney who happened to be a witness in her court. Two weeks earlier, the District Attorney had threatened the attorney-witness that unless the witness committed perjury and testified exactly as the DA wanted some judge would get him. After it was discovered that it was the judge who had made the secret complaint (which had been worded to appear it had been made by the defendant) the CJP said that the judge had done nothing wrong in filing the false, secret complaint against the witness. The judge refused to recuse herself. 

This judge was the infamous Judge Jacqueline Connor who five years later in 2000 presided over the first trial of the Ramparts Officers and who reversed the jury convictions and acquitted them. She had previous involvement with one of the main witnesses, Officer Rafael Perez, and had reason to be angry with him. The public has no way to assess the reality behind the appearance. 

Serious Misconduct which the CJP Conceals. 

Based upon information from the data on the CJP website, there are a number of far more serious violations of both judicial ethics and law which the CJP Website ignores. 

Why do appellate court justices get to overrule trial court decisions when no one has appealed the trial court ruling? 

Why do judges and justices have the right to keep secret their ex parte communications from opposing counsel? 

Why do judges and justices get to change the facts in a case? 

Why do judges and justices get to manufacture evidence in a case? 

Why do judges and justices get to exclude attorneys from sidebars and hearings because the judges dislike the attorney for “refusing Jesus Christ?” 

Why do judges and justices get to make adverse rulings against parties because a given party’s attorney has been blacklisted for complaining about judicial misconduct? 

Why do judges and justices get to frame people for things which they did not do and then lock them up in jail for civil confinement? This practice is more widespread than previously believed and seems to be one of the prime methods the courts use to silence their critics. 

Why do judges get to ignore the fact that Prosecutors present falsified evidence? 

Why do judges get to ignore the fact that attorneys have presented perjured declarations? 

Why do appellate court justices get to communicate to trial court judges the decisions which they should make in cases? Does the use of the attorney for the superior court make the communication between the justices and the judges proper? 

Sources outside the CJP have no trouble finding these unacceptable behaviors, but the CJP seems to be blind. Or, could it be that the CJP and the judges retaliate against attorneys who make complaints. Only 3% of complaints come from attorneys, yet they are in the best position to recognize unethical conduct as opposed to an adverse decision. 

The CJP Encourages Misconduct. 

The more one looks into the Commission of Judicial Performance and the behavior of judges, one sees that the Ninth Circuit Judges understated the situation by saying that California judges and justices “turn a blind eye” to attorney misconduct. Not only do they condone and thereby encourage extreme attorney misconduct, but they themselves actively engage in outrageous behavior with impunity. 

While the various state court judges and justices can thank Justice Paul Turner for launching these series of articles, they should rest assured (or rest very uneasily) that so much additional credible information has already flowed in and the roster of miscreants has ballooned far beyond any expectation with information ranging from the San Francisco Bay Area down to San Diego. In the Internet days, reformers spread their data around the world with a few emails, forever placing the incriminating data beyond the power of the “bad boys” to retrieve and destroy. 

As the songwriters Gilman and Scott wrote (© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC):     

“Bad boys, bad boys

Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do

When they come for you?”

(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.

-cw

EDUCATION POLITICS-Recently there was a piece on local NPR affiliate KPCC about how the homeless population, which disproportionately suffers from untreated mentally illnesses, has exploded in recent years. This story was told without ever mentioning that the State of California emptied out most of the state’s mental institutions during the 1960s and 1970s, releasing those who knew their names and what day of the week it was, irrespective of whether they were profoundly mentally ill and in dire need of treatment. 

This was done to save money in the short-term so the State would not have to hospitalize the mentally ill and address their needs in a timely manner. This segment of the population did and does not have the political power to advocate on its own behalf. 

At the time, State courts, having an undisclosed conflict of interest, determined that profoundly mentally ill people had the "civil right" to be free...and homeless. The fact that the State of California saved a short-term fortune back then is coming back to haunt everybody a half century later with an even more massive homeless population. And often, the term “mentally ill” is not even mentioned in the context of today's news about the homeless problem. 

In brief, "news" regarding the homeless situation in the state is consistently presented without relevant historic facts and context. This is not an accident, but rather the conscious manipulation of the public to limit our options so that those in government and their corporate supporters -- who financially profit from this perverse system -- are never held accountable for prior improper actions, actions that could have been avoided if the democratic process had not been mismanaged. 

But it is not necessary to go back half a century to find other illustrations of how the public is manipulated by not being presented with all options before deciding how to take action on a given issue. In the recent LAUSD Board elections for the 4th District, the only two candidates with financial support were either from the for-profit charter industry (Melvoin) or the corrupt UTLA union leadership (Zimmer.) Neither candidate ever addressed the important issues facing public education. And neither offered any ideas on how to fix what has purposefully been allowed to go wrong in public education. 

Maybe this is why only 8% of the eligible voters bothered to vote in the LAUSD Board run-off elections. What's the purpose of voting when neither one of the candidates offers any hope for real change or ways to address the needs of the majority? 

What do you think would happen in this country, if there was a third option on the ballot every election day: the chance to choose “none of the above?”

 

(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.

-cw

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