TRANSIT LA--Much of our current society's problems is that we're too often willing to be apologists: apologists for Bush's Iraq War, apologists for Obamacare failures, and apologists for our personal causes.  Well, I doubt I am the only one who supports Metro but notes two glaring problems:  the trains are too slow, and there's a big problem with safety/security. 

First, the Good (we love that Sergio Leone paradigm, don't we?):  I think that Metro's leadership and staff, at this immediate time, are among the greatest examples of successful government I have ever witnessed in my lifetime.  They are responsive, they do care, and they're trying to improve their operations. 

Then, the Bad: We are decades behind in building a countywide network that serves the needs of all commuters and of all commuting modes.  We've made some amazing progress, and compared to other cities/counties, LA is the city/county to be beat--but we've done it without hardly any help from Sacramento, and only slight and recent help from Washington. 

Finally, the Ugly: We've got a combination of NIMBY's, transit zealots, and small-minded "neighborhood leaders" who've messed things up for the long-term.   

But things are fixable--and it should be remembered that the "line to nowhere", that Green Line, still had to make the painful, awkward first step before it could potentially be extended to LAX, the South Bay, and Norwalk. 

As aforementioned, there are TWO major problems with our Metro Rail/transit system right now: Speed and Safety/Security.  And those problems HAVE affected ridership.

That said, ridership isn't just related to Metro operations--and it should be remembered that the recently-passed Measure M has lots of money for operations.  Again--Metro KNOWS what problems there are, and compared to other branches of government, Metro DOES have a working paradigm of listening more than others. 

To be blunt, though: 

1) It's NOT Metro's fault that their opponents who fought Metro Rail expansion focused more on blocking the line than fairly mitigating the line.  Case in point--the Expo Line Authority and Metro wanted elevation/grade separation in Santa Monica, but that city dogmatically insisted it be at-grade (street level) and the line is slower there. 

2) It's NOT Metro's fault that the sheriffs and other security personnel don't ride the trains as much as they should, and it's NOT Metro's fault that we're so damned politically correct as to ignore the danger of gang members, thugs, and troublemakers who ride the lines within arm's reach of threatened civilian and law-abiding riders. 

With respect to speed--and I'll use the Expo Line as a case in point yet again--the more the line is grade-separated over major commercial thoroughfares, the faster the line goes and the less invasive the line is for car commuters who want to cross the line (particularly during rush hour). 

Where it's mega-tight, going underground makes the most sense.  Otherwise, a rail bridge works well--and let's knock off the canards about rail bridges being ugly:  the new bridges are not like the elevated trains in the old Chicago network ... in fact, they're downright beautiful and modern. 

FIRST, the SPEED: 

With the Downtown Connector Subway almost completed to connect the Expo/Blue Lines with the Gold Lines, the speed of crossing and accessing Downtown will go way up.  But the street-running portion of the Downtown Expo/Blue Lines will certain be considered for a fix in the years to come...because those lines are too darned slow there. 

In the Westside, the results of the stupid, STUPID political battles opposing the line was that the consideration of a rail bridge at the critical freeway-accessing Overland Avenue was thrown away.  

The LADOT knew the rail bridge idea had merit, but the locals demanded a subterranean crossing or nothing...so the Expo/Metro folks saved some money and threw away the bridge option.  I saw the PowerPoint for that option--and if Paul Koretz and the Westside had demanded a rail bridge at Overland (like Culver City did for its rail crossings), it would have been there. 

Now the trains are a little slower there, and cars are--you guessed it--backed up for 10-15 minutes or more during rush hour.  Feel lied to?  Well, talk to those either too NIMBY or too cowardly to demand a rail bridge because they insisted on an underground, mega-expensive fix instead of the cheaper bridge alternative. 

(Sigh).  At least we can consider now building roads that bridge over the rails...maybe.  And

Downtown should have better signal prioritization favoring traffic--or that Downtown Connector tunnel should be extended further in the future to make it easier for both train and car commuters. 

SECOND, the SAFETY/SECURITY:

I've lost my concerns about offending anyone with this statement:  it's not "progressive" or "liberal" but downright STUPID to let career criminals out of prison, particularly when the police are screaming for us not to do that. 

With the death of a beloved Whittier police officer at the hands of some mutant who had NO business being shuffled repeatedly out of prison, the question of asking when IS it fair to decry Assembly Bill 109, and Props. 47 and 57? 

Good government?  Saving a few bucks on prisons?  Offering second chances?  Not being too harsh on nonviolent drug offenders? 

Well, both violent and non-violent crime are going UP.  We used to enjoy DECREASING crime with Three Strikes.  Some kindness and flexibility was nice to prevent too many individuals from having their lives destroyed, but ... 

... we've gone TOO far. 

Homeowners, business owners, and...transit riders...will increasingly experience "close encounters" with folks who used to safely be thrown behind bars for very long times.  And law-abiding individuals of all colors will continue to be ignored by those of us who want a strong police presence on our trains, buses, etc. 

Apps for quietly and safely calling for help should be installed on all transit vehicles, and trains should be notorious NOT for thugs, hookers, and crazies bothering innocent riders, but for sheriff's deputies who get on and off trains frequently and often. 

It's not racist to demand speedier rides, and it's not racist to demand safer rides, on our taxpayer-funded networks.  We paid for all this...so why SHOULDN'T we get nothing but the best for our taxpayer dollars?

 

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

-cw

SPECIAL ELECTION DEOMGRAPHICS-Three decades ago, as Latinos were about to overtake African Americans as the largest ethnic voting bloc in California, a founder of the state’s oldest and most influential Hispanic political organization admitted his fear that too much was being made of the anticipated age of Latino Power. 

Joe Sanchez, a rags-to-riches Los Angeles businessman and co-founder of the Mexican American Political Association in the 1960s, worried that the historic Latino population changing the face of California would fail to produce equally dramatic changes in politics. 

“The nightmare that scares the hell out of Latinos,” he said, “is one day waking up and finding African Americans holding the governorship, one if not both of the U.S. Senate seats and many of the offices in California that we’ve all thought that Hispanics were destined to win in the future when we are the majority in the state.” 

Indeed, today that fear – or was it prophecy? – already has been partly self-fulfilled, even as the black population of Los Angeles and California has been steadily declining, from more than 14 percent in LA in 1990 to 9.5 percent today. 

And despite the shifting demographic changes, African Americans today wield incredible political power, arguably more than Latinos: The LA County district attorney, the LA City Council President and the chairman of the LA County Board of Supervisors are all African American. 

In 2010, Kamala Harris, daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, was elected the state’s Attorney General, and last November she became only the second black woman in America to win a seat in the U.S. Senate – both offices to which no California Latino has ever been elected. 

Now Harris’ historic senate election, which led to the gubernatorial appointment of longtime Los Angeles Congressman Xavier Becerra to succeed her as Attorney General, threatens to open an old political wound for Latinos. 

For 12 terms, since about the time of Joe Sanchez’s dire warning for Latino politics, Becerra served in Congress representing an inner city district that over the years changed numerical designation and boundaries but has long been considered a politically safe Hispanic seat, especially since its population is almost two-thirds Latino. 

In an upcoming April 4 special election, Becerra’s own successor in California’s 34th Congressional District stretching from the Latino Los Angeles Eastside through downtown and west to Koreatown will come from a field of 23 candidates on the ballot – of whom no fewer than 15 are Hispanic, including two who are immigrants and 11 who are the children of immigrants. 

So ethno-centric is the speculation and jockeying in this special election campaign that has no established frontrunner that the Los Angeles Times, in a Feb. 15 preview, featured photographs of only six candidates – all of them Hispanic Democrats. Only two of those have ever held or run for elective office, indicative of the new blood and politically inexperienced hands drawn to the race. 

Still, the resumes of many of the candidates shone with brilliance and exceptionalism: Ivy League educations; former organizers in Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign; a former staffer of the Obama White House; City commissioners and community volunteers; labor organizers and heads of non-profits; successful sons and daughters of immigrants chasing American dreams. 

But what was that great line that the legendary House Speaker Sam Rayburn once used to caution Vice President Lyndon Johnson about raving too much about the genius that John F. Kennedy’s Ivy League appointees had shown in the administration’s first Cabinet meeting? 

“Lyndon, you may be right, and they may be every bit as intelligent as you say,” Rayburn said to LBJ, according to David Halberstam’s landmark 1972 book The Best and the Brightest, “but I’d feel a whole lot better about them if just one of them had run for sheriff once.” 

This perhaps underscores the political shortcomings of most of the candidates in the 34th District race, not to mention the failure of some to understand that a savvy politician recognizes the importance of identifying closely with the lives and lifestyles of the people they seek to represent.

At recent campaign events, for instance, some candidates who should know better have appeared wearing $500 boots, expensive designer coats and looking as fashionably attired as they would be at an art show opening on the trendy Westside. 

This in a campaign in which many of the candidates don’t even live in what is a predominantly working class district of immigrants, working mothers, garment laborers and minimum wage workers who, in some neighborhoods, are being pushed out by new development, gentrification and millennials. 

Make no mistake. Progressive politics are being heavily pushed. Some are even using an inconclusive Latino Decisions poll released in mid-January to laughably maintain that a Bernie Sanders’ connection could make the difference in an area that has been voting heavily for liberal Democrats dating back to the days of Franklin Roosevelt. 

My own month-long door-to-door walking survey of the district, talking to over 500 registered voters, suggests that longstanding concerns – jobs, schools, crime, immigration, health care, the economy – weigh more heavily on people’s minds than on any white progressive political hero. 

And in that survey, more than three-fourths of those interviewed had no idea who any of the 23 candidates on the special election ballot were. 

In fact, the only candidates who registered recognition from even 10 percent of residents I interviewed were: 

-- State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, 42, a Los Angeles area political insider whose endorsements include the Democratic Party, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Congresswoman Grace Naplitano (D-Norwalk) and State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon.

-- Former Los Angeles school board member Yolie Flores, 54, a social worker who was once the political darling among the Latinas who have historically fought against the good ol’ Latino boy Eastside political machine.

-- And Sara Hernandez (photo above center), 33, the former downtown-area director and special counsel to 14th District LA City Councilmember Jose Huizar, for whom she tackled such issues as urban planning and homelessness policy. 

If there was a favorite or front-runner who emerged in my conversations with voters, many held over a cup of coffee or dinner in their homes, it was Sara Hernandez.

A former middle school teacher in the Teach for America program, Hernandez has also been the first candidate in the 34th Congressional District to air a television commercial, which began running on TV and cable channels in mid-February.

Fitting of the temperament of the time, the 30-second spot goes after President Trump, the bane of many in Latino America.

“How do you stand up to a bully?” a woman narrator’s voice asks. “It takes a classroom teacher… “Vote Sara Hernandez for Congress and take Trump back to school.”

The ad was immediately successful enough to grab the ire of Trump supporters who retaliated by protesting in front of Hernandez’s campaign headquarters.

The expensive ad campaign is also indicative of who has the money in the race. So far it appears to be Gomez, who has raised more than $300,000, and Hernandez with more than $200,000.

Additionally, my door-to-door canvassing mirrors the conclusion of another recent survey showing that the campaign to succeed Xavier Becerra appears to be wide open. No candidate is expected to win 50 percent or more of the votes, meaning that the two highest primary vote-getters likely will face off in a special election runoff June 6.

So remember Joe Sanchez’s words, and enter Adrienne Nicole Edwards (photo left), 28, a community advocate and business owner -- and an African American mom who today can boast what no other candidates in the race can.

Edwards ran against Becerra in two campaigns in which she carved out a niche in a district where 4.4 percent of the residents are black.

But African Americans historically vote at a high rate in Los Angeles. Just look at Los Angeles’ ninth City Council district in South LA, where blacks comprise less than 20 percent of the population but make up more than a third of the people who vote. In 2013, Curren Price, who is African American, defeated a popular Latina for the council seat -- even though the district is 75 percent Hispanic.

In the last two congressional campaigns in District 34, the underdog, under-financed Edwards has won 27 and 23 per cent of the vote running against the longtime incumbent Becerra when he was one of the most powerful members of Congress. That includes Edwards taking 16,924 votes in the mid-term election of 2014 and 36,314 votes in 2016.

Edwards ran those campaigns on so little money you couldn’t even accurately call the one-woman staff and operation as a shoe-string budget. Her biggest asset in those races was a Twitter account with over 34,000 followers.

So what does her past experience count for in this election, one that like in most special elections -- especially in non-Presidential voting years -- is expected to have an abysmally low turnout? And in a heavily Latino district, where voter turnouts are notoriously bad? Not to mention that while Latinos make up 65 percent of the district’s residents, only 38 percent of them are eligible to vote.

Was Edwards’ showing at the polls just an anti-Becerra protest vote or did Edwards tap into something more? Has Latino Power been little more than a myth, a question that former Assembly Speaker John Perez’s stunning defeat in his 2014 California State Controller's race also raised?

In that campaign, Perez had what seemed insurmountable advantages. He was heavily favored, running on the mantel of his legislative power in a state where Hispanics now outnumber whites as well as blacks and Asians. He also had the statewide connections of his famous cousin, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who remains arguably California’s most influential Latino.

But in the 2014 primary, Perez finished a disappointing 481 votes behind fellow Democrat Betty Yee in the race for the second and final spot on the November General Election ballot. That political debacle left Perez and Latino pols across California stunned and looking for excuses.

Understandably, seeking vindication and a comeback, Perez last December was the first candidate to jump into the 34th district race just 45 minutes after Gov. Jerry Brown nominated Becerra to succeed Kamala Harris -- only to drop out a little more than a week later, citing a recent diagnosis of a serious health problem.

His departure opened the floodgates to today’s slew of candidates -- and to the decades-old question of whether Latino Power is real, or just more spray-painted graffiti vandalizing walls in the barrios.

 

(Tony Castro, a former political reporter and columnist, is the author of five books, the most recent being “Looking for Hemingway: Spain, The Bullfights and a Final Rite of Passage” (Lyons Press) He is an occasional contributor to CityWatch. Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tony_Castro). Prepped for CityWatch for Linda Abrams.

EDUCATION POLITICS-The NAACP Charter School Task Force held a hearing in Los Angeles on Thursday, February 9. After calling for a national moratorium on charter schools until certain concerns were addressed (see below), the NAACP received blowback from charter school advocates. But Jitu Brown, of the Journey for Justice, defended the moratorium in the Washington Post's education blog, the Answer Sheet, saying, "corporate reform has failed to bring equitable educational opportunities to all children." 

This hearing was one in a series, a listening tour, making its way across the country. The distinguished members of the Task Force, all pre-eminent civil rights leaders in cities from Boston to Sacramento, states from Mississippi to Minnesota, gathered testimony from people with direct experience with the issues the moratorium seeks to provide the breathing room to address. 

There was massive organized presence by charter advocates. One charter supporter stacked the speaker sign-up sheet with people who would speak against the moratorium, by copying a typed-up charter school roster she had brought. 

The unions showed up, too. UTLA brought a contingent from Dorsey High School and CSEA came. The Santa Ana Teachers Association’s charter school task force came. Former Education Chair of the California Assembly, Jackie Goldberg, gave public comment. 

I was part of a group of the California Badass Teachers Association (BATs), a grassroots group of about 2000 teachers and education activists. I testified as a recovering charter school parent, but what I heard was more important than anything I said. 

I go anywhere if people are willing to talk about what charter schools are doing to public education due to their lack of oversight. Few official bodies in California, and perhaps none in Los Angeles, will openly discuss the need for charter school oversight for fear of the powerful California Charter Schools Association lobby. (Gubernatorial candidate and California State Treasurer John Chiang is a rare exception).

So the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in our country, provided us with a rare opportunity. I was grateful for my two minutes at the mic. When the charter advocates in the back of the room shouted me down, Alice Huffman, the chair, promptly regained order. 

I’m sure for some in the audience it wasn’t my anti-charter message that got them riled up. Some were rightly suspicious of a white Westsider telling them anything about educating urban, black youth. Heck, my own school board member’s chief-of-staff told me not to go to school board meetings, and to find a Latina instead, because it made things awkward for him in our primarily Latino district. 

But I didn’t come to tell them anything about educating black youth. I came to share how charter schools are being used in my neighborhood to segregate our schools. 

The west side of Los Angeles had, for a while, more charter schools than anywhere else on the planet (that distinction now belongs to South LA.) In my neighborhood, charter schools marketed themselves to white, middle class families as a way to send their kids to school without “those kids.” Of course, they phrased it differently. At the charter elementary school my kids attended, we considered our mostly white, middle class school community to be “like minded."

That’s where better oversight might have turned good intentions into fairer access for all children, not just mine. That is what I wanted to tell the NAACP task force. 

After my children transferred to the district middle school across the street, we drove past the charter school every day. One day, my then 11-year old daughter looked out at the charter students during our drive to school and said, “Why was my elementary school almost all white and my middle school is almost all black and brown?” 

Remember, these two schools were separated only by a little street. The middle school was half Latino and half African American. There, my children’s race was indicated as “statistically insignificant” on demographic reports one year. It was a neighborhood school and a magnet school, part of LAUSD's voluntary integration program, for black and Latino children living in parts of the city beleaguered by poverty, violence, and other harms of racial isolation. 

Yet LAUSD has approved nearly every charter school that has been proposed to compete with that school, and offered little extra support to our neighborhood schools. There's no question that charters deserve credit for pushing district schools to step up, but the charter brand also benefits from a grass-is-greener mentality among parents. More choices mean fewer students in each school. That, in turn, means less funding in district schools which results in fewer elective classes and less support. 

I am grateful to the NAACP for the opportunity to share my experience.  

However, far more important than my comments were those made by the Task Force members themselves. (I’m counting on the formal presenters like LAUSD board member George McKenna, California NAACP education chair Julian Vasquez Heilig, Green Dot's Cristina de Jesus, and UTLA's Cecily Myart Cruz, to post their presentations on their own widely read blogs and other forums.) 

The room was mostly cleared out by the time the committee members made their closing remarks. Unsurprisingly, they revealed deeply thought out views by pre-eminent civil rights leaders who are immersed in the issues of equity for black youth in regions across the country. Their thorough understanding of the charter school issue shone in stark contrast to some op-eds that have portrayed the NAACP as out of touch with its members. 

Here is a transcript of their closing remarks: 

Michael Curry is a civil rights leader in Boston, an attorney and President of the nation’s oldest NAACP chapter. He has been involved in redistricting, pushed for Police body cameras and helped to press for a federal inquiry into racial incidents at an elite Boston school. 

“…about their history and about Du Bois and Booker T and Marcus Garvey. Excellent school. So I think the conversation is somewhat twisted. Because people believe that they’re here to tell us not to oppose charter schools, and that’s a false premise. This was never about opposing charter schools. I think we need to lift that up again. That this was a conversation about a traditional public education system that we fight all the time. Another false perception. We fight unions at times about policies. We fight school systems. We just sued--not sued--we brought a civil rights complaint against the Boston Public Schools just a few months ago, and had a civil rights finding against the Boston Public Schools. So it’s not like we don’t fight on the other side too. This is about, now you have a new evolving system.

“And I love to hear the great stories, but what I need to hear from the charter advocates for expansion is that you have problems, too, and how you’re going to work together to solve the problems within this new system. It’s disingenuous if you come and tell a great story about what’s happening in your school, but right down the street, is another charter school that’s expelling kids, suspending kids, not accepting kids, not enrolling kids. 

“And as you have this national conversation about charter schools, let’s keep it real. It’s a problem. It doesn’t mean that your school—that it’s an attack on your personal school but we’ve got to have an honest conversation about what’s going on across the country. My last point on that is I’m always concerned about any new, evolving solution that’s finding us by people who don’t look like us and people who quite frankly wasn’t on the front lines of solving public education since the problem before. So it makes me question why they’re putting this money where they wouldn’t put this money when we were fighting traditional public school. 

We were asking for higher funding, and trying to pass legislation and bring lawsuits. They weren’t there. But now, all the sudden, they’re putting all this money behind charters. You need to ask that question. I don’t know what the answer is, but I look forward to having that conversation soon.” 

James Gallman is a civil rights leader, the retired President of the NAACP South Carolina which, he said, has “the longest running lawsuit in the country because our state refuses to fund all schools the same way.”

“My comments, on comments that Michael made early, very early on in this process. This is my fourth hearing. And I think that we need to clearly understand what we have called for and then I think we need to understand how the NAACP operates. There was a resolution, or there have been resolutions, coming out of our national meetings. It was not the Board that made that decision. We get a unit that would bring forth a resolution. That resolution is presented to a resolution committee, and it is screened and decided how we move forward. And then it goes to those delegates who come to the convention, and they say that this is what they want to have happen. 

“So just being a member is one thing, but you need to understand how the NAACP operates. It’s not just having a $30 card, it’s how we operate. So when we got to the discussion about it, we made this decision. Let’s call for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools at least until such time as--and we identified four things that we wanted to see happen. Nobody said “let’s stop these charter schools.” 

“We said we need to clearly—we need to be sure that there are things that are being done that fit all schools. Charter schools are subject to the same transparency and accountability standards as public schools; public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system; charter schools cease expelling students that public schools have a duty to educate; and cease to perpetuate de facto segregation of the highest performing children from those whose aspirations may be high but whose talents are not yet obvious. 

“So we want to make sure these things are happening at every school. So we didn’t come here tonight to beat up on charter schools or to praise public schools. This young lady here, I can’t remember her name, but she said something about, “we’re on a listening tour.” We are trying to get information from both sides. Then we will, at the end of these hearings, go back and sit down as a group, talk about what we’ve heard, present that to the board and then let the board make a decision. 

“We didn’t come here angry with you. We came here to share with—to hear from you—about what is it that’s being done in your community. What’s going on in this country? And then we can make an intelligent decision as to what’s the best way to move forward with ALL children being given a quality education.”

(Audience: Is the moratorium for a specific amount of time?) No.

Da’quan Love is a civil rights leader, a charter school administrator, and community organizer. As president of the Virginia NAACP Youth and College Division, he led an effort that defeated attempts to invalidate over 16,000 voter registration applications in Virginia during the 2012 U.S. Presidential election. 

“I saw a lot of students, a lot of scholars here today. Are there any scholars still here? Probably left. But nevertheless, as someone who has worked since July in a charter school—a little history on myself. I have worked elementary all the way up to the higher ed level in North Carolina, Virginia, and now Minnesota. As someone who’s worked since July to build a first-year charter school, I was a fifth grade teacher, I was recently promoted to Dean of Institutional Advancement, I understand how difficult it is to get a charter school up and running. So before I move any further, I heard a lot of folks say that ‘I started this school,’ or ‘I started a network of schools.’ And I just want to applaud your efforts because you saw a need and you are trying and you are fulfilling that need in your community. 

“I want to first say that. We should give them a round of applause. It’s no easy feat to do that. Secondly, as it has been stated previously, we are not against charter schools. We want top quality, fair, equitable education for all our kids. Now, if that’s at a charter school, that’s fine. If that’s in a public school, that’s fine.  We just want transparency, as Board member Gallman stated. And we want those four things to be outlined. 

“As I prepare to leave this hearing, one of the things that I am taking away is, quite frankly, many of us have the same objectives. We all want our scholars to be on a pathway to college, and/or career, and ultimately to be successful. We all want to ensure that our teachers have access and are able to feel, as I forgot who said it from, I believe the Green Dot schools, making sure they feel like they’re being empowered, they’re appreciated and they’re ultimately being successful. We’re really all pretty much on the same page. It’s just the manner in which we are approaching reaching these goals. 

“And so I think that there are some things that we can do, and there are some things that we as a task force can take away from this and listen to the ideas and suggestions that you all present. But, moreover, the folks that are in this room and many of the folks who have testified today are the good folks. The bigger folks aren’t here. The folks who we’ve been talking about all afternoon aren’t here. Those are the school management organizations, those charter management organizations -- those big folks are who we really need to be having those conversations with. Those tough schools, those tough charter schools that have not really made adequate performance progress. Those are the schools we need to be really concerned about. And the same for our public schools. So thank you. I appreciate you all for coming and I applaud your efforts. I think that we as a task force have some helpful information to move forward with.” 

Derrick Johnson is a civil rights leaders, an attorney, founder of One Voice, a social justice nonprofit, and President of the NAACP Mississippi. He lectures annually at Harvard University and throughout the country on Voting Rights Act, civil rights, civic engagement, and redistricting. 

“I want to thank Da’quan Love for speaking up because he is a charter school teacher. He’s now a charter school administrator. We are perhaps the worst public school system in the country: Mississippi. We have the weakest teachers unions in the country: Mississippi. So for me, it is not about charter versus public. We have a system of education in this country that has pitted poor and Latino and black children in the worst position possible. 

And now what I’m seeing is the distraction of charter versus public because many folks do not want to fully fund education for all children. And every time we come to one of these meetings, we have well intended, good people—be them charter or public—speaking from their positions, not understanding that we are being used as a distraction. And the real question is, why have we not transformed education to ensure that all children are provided with a quality education? 

Now, in that process, it’s disheartening to see the multi-billionaire class utilize tax dollars to extract, to increase their wealth, on the back of our communities and then give talking points to folks in our communities to say this is where we want the NAACP, when in fact, they never show up here. Ms. Jesus had one of the best comments today: bad schools is our common enemy. And let’s be real. We have some really bad public schools and we have some really bad charter schools. And our children are being exploited and used as pawns. 

“Our role, as the NAACP, is to do all we can to be the stopgap. And that’s [inaudible]. So I fight public education all day long in Mississippi. But I see the problem. When you privatize tax dollars, people are exploited. And if we don’t have transparency and standards and accountability, we will find ourselves just like Detroit, all the charter schools you can find. And I grew up in Detroit and education is worse now because it's like the Wild, Wild West. So we’re not, anyone in this room, enemies. I think we all want the same thing. But let’s not be fooled about what’s really going on. This is about who gets taxed, who’s not taxed, and how those tax dollars are being utilized to increase other people’s profits.”

Alice Huffman is a civil rights leader and has been a political powerhouse in California for decades, as a political consultant. She earned her degree from UC Berkeley, Cum Laude, in two years. She is President of the California/Hawaii NAACP. 

“I want to thank the board members. I do want to make a comment. I came from public schools. And we sat in here and bashed the public schools like they’re all bad. They’re not all bad. They educated most of us in this room, that we’re now educated to run charter schools. And for my [charter] friends in the back, what I wanted to tell you, you need to stop bashing your NAACP. Like you don’t want us to bash charter schools, don’t bash your NAACP for doing its job. Thank you for being here.” 

Next stop on the listening tour: New Orleans.

 

(Karen Wolfe is a public school parent, the Executive Director of PS Connect and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EASTSIDER-A crowd of somewhere between four and six hundred people showed up at the first Council District 1 debate, held at the Sotomayor Learning Academies. My best guess is there were about 450. That’s a lot of people. And on a Thursday evening. Wow! 

Hats off to the group who put this event together: The Glassell Park Improvement Association, with co-sponsorship from the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council, Mt. Washington Homeowners Alliance, Arroyo Arts Collective, Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance, LAUSD, Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council, Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Council, Echo Park Neighborhood Council and the North East Youth Council. Oversight was provided by the League of Women Voters, and the moderator was Univision’s own Gabriela Teissier. 

This was a great example of what can happen when a community gets together at the grassroots level to do actually do something. There were a lot more people attending this event than the debate between Jose Huizar and Gloria Molina a few years ago. And the 2015 Huizar/Molina debate was co-sponsored by Cal State LA, the Pat Brown Institute, the League of Women Voters, and Eyewitness News Channel 7 -- so let’s hear it for our community. 

The Candidates 

Who are these four candidates? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the incumbent is Gil Cedillo. You may even remember his epic knock-down-drag-out battle with Ed Reyes’ Chief Deputy, Jose Gardea, over replacing the termed out Reyes. A couple of million bucks and a runoff later, Gil won. 

Readers of this column know Joe Bray-Ali from my recent article in CityWatch, “Get Ready for a Fight In CD1: Joe Bray-Ali Cleans Up Nice!” 

Joe has moved far beyond his original, contentious bicycle lane revolution and is garnering support from environmental groups, small business owners (he owns his own bike shop), and various constituencies feeling left out by the incumbent. 

Jesse Rosas has been running for office in Northeast LA for a while. In fact, during the last election, he got 7% of the vote and caused the runoff between Gil Cedillo and Jose Gardea. Originally from Mexico City, he’s been very active in Highland Park politics for years. A product of our school system (LAUSD at Belmont High, and then LACC), Jesse is a businessman and is running as such, to get the community the attention we deserve. You can find out more here.  

Giovany Hernandez is by far the youngest candidate for office, and shows the hallmarks of an up and comer. Born and raised in the Pico Union slice of CD1, he graduated from UC Santa Cruz and has worked for SEIU, both as an organizer and signing up community members for Obamacare. 

Currently he’s a parent organizer for the CCSA (California Charter Schools Association). You can find more about him here.

The Debate Questions 

This was a very obstreperous crowd, often loud and rooting for their candidate. Given these circumstances, the League and moderator Gabriela Tessier (Univision) did a great job in maintaining order and making sure that each candidate got equal time for the questions. 

I won’t get into too much detail on the responses -- this column would be way too long. Suffice it to say there were 13 questions in all, bookmarked by opening and closing statements, which is a lot of questions. It was nice that these questions came from the community, and here’s my best recollection of what they were. (After all, I can only take notes so fast.) 

-How long have you lived in CD1? 

-Given the number of homeless, how do you propose to help them in CD1? 

-What’s your position on Measure S (the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative)? 

-What’s your position on Rent Control for residents of CD1? 

-How do you feel about Open Space and Development in CD1? 

-How about small businesses, Community Plans and Neighborhood Councils in CD1? 

-What’s your position on local arts, theater groups, and preservation in CD1? 

-How about keeping CD1 clean? 

-What’s your position on green energy, solar, and the DWP? 

-How do you feel about crime and public safety in CD1? 

-What issues are important for the LAUSD, even though the Council isn’t directly involved? 

-What about transit issues in the District? 

-How about the Figueroa St. corridor and bike lanes? 

Sifting Through the Answers 

It was evident that each of the candidates brought their supporters to the event. Of interest to me were the number of students attending. I assume this was because of Giovany and more particularly, our representative on the LAUSD Board (District 5), Ref Rodriguez. He was kind enough to provide the auditorium at Sotomayor Learning Academies for the event. Political junkies will remember that Ref, backed by the CCSA Charter folks, unseated incumbent Bennett Kayser in the last LAUSD Board election. 

Anyhow, themes emerged as the candidates answered each of the questions. Gil Cedillo was clearly the professional politician at the height of his powers; he had done his homework in giving detailed specifics for each question based on his record in office. He repeatedly made a valid point that it’s easy to say what you will do when running for office, but it’s a different matter to actually legislate in the City Hall environment. He did not go into the 15-0 voting system of the Council. 

In the overall area of Planning, I was very surprised that the only candidate openly supporting Measure S was Jesse Rosas. For me, that was a large disappointment. As many CityWatch articles have detailed, I believe that absent the passage of Measure S, the candidates are all just “blowin’ smoke” when it comes to effecting any change in the City’s development process. I can only assume that the multi-million dollar “No on S” campaign waged by the developers and their cronies is having an impact on voters. 

Joe Bray-Ali shined when it came to small business, bikes, open space, and the environment and he has the endorsements to back it up. I have no doubt that he’s the real deal and is much more community-based than the incumbent. And while his bike lane buddies were wildly enthusiastic, they were much better behaved than during the bike wars. 

To me, the biggest surprise of the evening was Giovany Hernandez. He was bright, energetic, well spoken, and clearly lives, works and plays in CD1. Not to mention that Pico Union has not had anyone from the community be successful in politics that I can remember. He was hell on wheels when it came to rent control, and was the only candidate to deal up front with gentrification. The youth crowd (students & Charter) were clearly in his camp, and he should have a promising future. 

Jesse Rosas was motivated when it came to crime and public safety, and he was less politically correct and more direct than the other candidates about a police/business/town hall approach to involving the community in policing. Since he is intimately involved in the Figueroa St. corridor and the tragic deaths which have occurred there, this was not surprising. The other candidates were more nuanced, but in fairness, this issue is extremely complicated and way beyond the scope of a 13 question candidate forum. 

The Takeaway 

Let’s be honest. The odds are in favor of Gil Cedillo being re-elected. He’s endorsed by the entire LA City establishment, from Mayor Garcetti to the Parke Skelton (now rebranded as SG&A Consultants) stable of insiders, with all their money and clout. Heck, I even received a Local 1014 Firefighters Union endorsement sticker for Gil, although I don’t know how many firefighters actually live in CD1. 

Most important, this election gives the winner 5 1/2 years in office. That’s right, a one-time only deal. I will never underestimate an incumbent with that level of security on the line. 

I must also note that over the years Gil has taken a lot of heat for his very real concerns for our immigrant communities, helping out Dreamers and legislating driver’s licenses for the undocumented, when neither of these stands were popular. I know for a fact that his passion for these issues is genuine and I respect him for that. And he’s been knowledgeably pro-union in an environment where saying that get’s folks like my friend Jack Humphreville all revved up about bankrupting the City. 

At the same time, on the PLUM Committee he has never met a developer that he doesn’t love, just like the rest of City Hall and the Mayor. 

It also seemed pretty clear from the crowd’s reaction that there is a significant chunk of the electorate who are not in love with Mr. Cedillo. 

If I were betting, of all the other candidates, Joe Bray-Ali stands the best chance of getting in to a runoff. He has an innovative Facebook & social media campaign going, which allows him to leverage limited resources in a manner that reminds me of Bernie’s Presidential campaign, and I suspect that the same generational change may be happening here. Surprisingly, he also has the endorsement of the LA Times. 

Giovany Hernandez is a wild card. He did very well with the crowd and his answers were specific to the questions and on point. While his public campaign seems limited, I will never underestimate what the CCSA can do by pouring large sums of money into an election. Just ask Bennett Kayser. 

My best guess is that Jesse Rosas will get about the same percentage as last time. He’s a decent person, but absent any real donor base and/or ground game, this is simply too competitive a race for him to stay in the hunt. 

All in all the real winner in this debate were the members of our community, and everyone and every organization who participated deserves a great big “well done!” I have never seen all our various community groups work together like this. Such a huge crowd size on a school night was awesome. 

So do your bit -- VOTE! Who knows, we could see that rarity in LA politics…a runoff.

 

(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.

 

BROKEN PROMISES-Brentwood residents received an email recently from our Councilmember Mike Bonin touting the approval of the Brentwood School expansion plan. The school is located at the gridlocked intersection of Sunset Blvd. and Barrington Place, just west of the 405 freeway. 

According to the announcement, Brentwood School would meet a new “Sunset Standard” by reducing its peak hour traffic by 40% after a whopping 38% enrollment increase from 695 to 960 students. 

A 40% reduction in school-related traffic would be a welcome relief for the Westside residents and commuters who contend with gridlock on a daily basis. School traffic from parent pick-ups and drop-offs is a big contributor to the problem. 

The community had reason to expect that Brentwood School would have to bring its traffic mitigation program in line with that of the Archer School for Girls just a few blocks away. The City has held Archer to strict standards for its nearly 20 years of existence, including 76% mandatory busing and limits on the number and size of events that can occur during peak traffic hours. 

And in November, the City Planning Commission approved conditions requiring Brentwood School to reduce its traffic by 40% in return for allowing the enrollment increase. 

So what happened? After the City Planning Commission’s ruling, the Council Office and Brentwood School negotiated a new agreement that gutted the CPC’s conditions. 

And then the revised conditions were slammed through PLUM and the City Council without any discussion, without hearing public comment, and not even mentioning that the conditions were different from those recommended by City Planning. 

Although the community, represented by the Brentwood Community Council, had been a part of the negotiations up through the CPC hearing, they were cut out of the discussion while adjustments were made. 

No longer was the school held to a 40% reduction in traffic: 

  • New language introduced loopholes enabling the school to reduce its traffic by only 12.5%. 
  • “Credits” were added to allow Brentwood School to put public school students on buses while its own parents continue to drive kids to school. The public school buses don’t even have to eliminate traffic on Sunset to reduce the school’s own requirements.
  • Daily traffic caps are gone, replaced by average targets which enable the school to frequently exceed its limits. 

Opportunities to make a real difference in traffic don’t come along often, particularly on the Sunset corridor. And it isn’t often that the community and City Planning are in alignment on appropriate mitigations. 

Therefore, it is particularly disappointing that yet another backroom deal between a Council Office and a well-heeled applicant goes against the community’s interest.

 

(Lauren Cole grew up in Los Angeles and has been living in the Brentwood and West LA areas for over 25 years. She is the Transportation Representative to the Brentwood Community Council and on the Board of the South Brentwood Residents Association. When she is not working on neighborhood issues she runs a strategy consulting firm focusing on media businesses, Cole Media. (www.colemediala.com. [[hotlink]] The views expressed in this article are those of Ms. Cole and Ms Cole alone). Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ELECTION WATCH-When it comes to politics, we all tend to talk about the issues on the broader scope, right? Things like U.S. Immigration, U.S. Labor, and the President and his Administration. 

But, even though we all want to make the world a better place, the question is, “What can we do in order to change the things we don’t like?” Let’s be honest: There is nothing we can do besides go and demonstrate, write letters, and so on, but in the end, it barely makes a dent in something we have no control over. 

But, what if we can actually make a difference when it comes to politics right here in our own backyards? No, not the ones with the birds and the trees -- I am talking about the politics within our reach: The Local Ones! 

Just in case you missed it because you are too pooped from last year’s Election experience, there are City elections heading our way, and yes, they are on March, 7, 2017. 

Voters across Los Angeles have option of sticking with the same old business or…they can vote the incumbents out of office. 

I guess by now you are wondering who you would replace them with, right? 

Well, there are a number of candidates running against the City Insider’s Wheel of Fortune. 

The City Ethics Commission’s website has them all listed. From Mayor, City Controller and City Attorney, to all the hopefuls for the uneven numbered City Council Districts. However, instead of taking on the entire world of election-hopefuls and the incumbents, I will stick with those who are near to my heart. 

Even though I am now a Westside resident, I am still very much interested in the well-being of my former area of residency: Council District 13. 

I used to live in Hollywood, which is part of CD 13, and which is currently represented by Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell. 

Mr. O’Farrell has been around since the good old days when he worked under then Council President Eric Garcetti. 

O’Farrell claims that he has brought nothing but good things to the neighborhoods he represents, but from articles and conversations, as well as listening to City Council meetings, I learned that there are a lot of people who will disagree with that. 

One of these people is Douglas “Doug” Haines, a longtime resident of Hollywood and a first-time candidate for Council District 13. 

Doug Haines has earned his recognition in City Hall by speaking up against big developments that threaten the character of a neighborhood, and these neighborhoods don’t necessarily have to be around the corner from him. 

Haines has fought and won in and out of court as a member of the La Mirada Neighborhood Association, and he has voiced his concerns multiple times during meetings of the LA Planning Commission, LA Planning and Land Use Committee (PLUM), as well as before City Council. 

Perhaps that is why he is so very familiar with the way the Big Money Machine works, yet he is not one of those who greases the wheel when it starts squeaking. Instead, Haines goes and starts speaking and, as the last resort, is heard by judges in the California courts. 

He’s been speaking to and with anyone who wants to listen, and he has proven that a lot of talk can actually make a difference. 

His experience with politics started when he got himself involved with saving the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Blvd, a treasured iconic structure that wouldn’t be standing there today if it wasn’t for Doug Haines and his interest in preserving history in Los Angeles. 

Haines also took part in the early stages of forming the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council, and still serves on its board as well as on the board of the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council. 

Living in a community that has been deprived of new park land for decades, Mr. Haines made it another goal of his to bring a new park to the neighborhood. It might not be the biggest park created within the last 50 years, but it sure is a great start for the community surrounding it. 

Mr. Haines knows that he cannot resolve homelessness and problems with gangs and crime all by himself, but he started working on these issues with the LAPD in the Hollywood area. 

Candidate Haines has walked his immediate neighborhood almost every day, cleaning up the streets, speaking with neighbors, reaching out to shopkeepers and helping those who feel that they have no voice in the city. 

Still, what does a successful film editor, who spent most of his time in closed dark rooms working on major movies have to offer when it comes to working with people? My answer is: Everything! 

He is smart, he knows building codes and regulations, he is charismatic and engaging, he listens to people, brings concerns to the front and fights City Hall from the outside in. 

Candidate Haines said that he is not accepting money from developers during his campaign, and he will not accept it at any stage when in office. 

Mr. Haines is ready to spend the next 12 years, give or take, with his constituents, working on identifying the right development for the neighborhoods by keeping an eye on City Codes and Regulations. This time however, he will be doing this from the inside out. 

And let’s not forget that he is a big supporter of Measure S, the initiative that is promising to put a moratorium on overdevelopment throughout the City of Los Angeles. 

If you would like to find out more about this candidate, please check out the web page supporters of Doug Haines have created at https://www.votedoughaines.com/.  

Many candidates stepped up to the plate to run against the incumbents of today’s City Hall, but now it is up to you, dear voters, to decide who will be voted in, who will be voted out and who will remain in office. 

Do yourselves a HUGE favor. Take a look at the candidates on the March 7, 2017 ballot and decide for yourself who is worthy of your vote.

 

(Ziggy Kruse is an activist and reporter for www.HNN-TV.com, where this article was first published. She is also a former Board Member of the Hollywood Studio District Neighborhood Council. Ziggy can be reached at ziggykruse@gmail.com. Ms. Kruse views are her own and do not reflect opinions of either the staff or management of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Here’s an election curiosity: Why did the big real estate companies dedicated to keeping pay-to-play for Los Angeles City Council spot-zoning in motion, hire Parke Skelton’s and Michael Shiplock’s Pasadena-based SG&A campaign firm? Since that firm’s clients are Democrats, on the surface it looks like an odd fit. On one side you have a high profile campaign firm, SG&A, who knows how to sway voters who care about social justice issues, like progressive Bernie supporters, and whose clients are Democrats. 

But, on the other side there is their current client, the 10 large real estate firms opposing measure S and whose business operations have nothing to do with social justice issues. These companies are totally focused on making as much money as possible through highly profitable real estate investments (e.g., mega-projects), some of them speculative. In the past, their businesses used to build tract housing and strip malls, but, responding to new real estate realities, their in-fill projects now range from high-rise luxury mega-projects, like 8150 Sunset, to McMansions and Small Lot Subdivisions. 

My explanation, largely derived from well-known studies by NYU’s and UC Santa Barbara’s Harvey Molotch is that municipal level Democratic Party officials, like Mayors Villaraigosa and Garcetti, are a lynch pin of big city urban growth machines. Once you understand this, it makes perfect sense that the big real estate firms opposed to Measure S would hire SG&A. They need someone who can convincingly dress up greed, corruption, and sweet heart deals in liberal-appearing garments, and they found it. 

SG&A is a campaign firm that can square this circle. They can take vast sums from real estate firms showering City Hall officials with campaign contributions and still mobilize the liberal Democratic base through a laundry list of disingenuous claims. They have mastered the art of appealing to low information liberal voters, especially those who follow the lead of well-meaning non-profits unwittingly on the same wave length of Big Real Estate. What SG&A apparently figured out through their focus groups is that these two groups share a faith in market magic, and their “No on S” campaign has exploited this to the hilt with these themes: 

  • In the name of affordable housing, we should green light all types of housing, even illegal residential projects for the very rich that the LA City Council approves through spot-zoning.
  • In the name of environmental sustainability, we should green light luxury housing complexes proposed for low density areas because they sometimes happen to be near transit corridors and subway stations.
  • In the name of job creation, we should green light mega-projects built by companies who claim they are job producers, yet could care less about unions or their own employees. 

My term for this campaign strategy is crying buckets of crocodile tears. At other times I have called it a liberal head fake. Either way it means that SG&A has mounted its campaign against Measure S by alleging, in so many words, that LA’s spot-zoning, pay-to-pay status quo is progressive, while recurring efforts to reign in uncontrolled real estate speculation in LA through law suits and voter initiatives represent a conservative, right-wing, “NIMBY” agenda. 

In this upside down world, regulation of land use through planning and zoning is a scheme hatched by an entrenched old guard, while scuttling planning and zoning is the truly progressive approach. The beneficiaries of this deregulation, Democratic Party officials at City Hall and real estate speculators, of course, disappear completely through this slight-of-hand deception. 

To get a better understanding of how the No on S campaign fills their buckets with crocodile tears, let’s critically examine five of the major faux “liberal” claims against Measure S. They are all couched in progressive-sounding themes that camouflage the Wild West land use model that the Big Real Estate firms and their well-compensated City Hall abettors so appreciate. 

Crocodile Tears Claim 1: Measure S will stop development in Los Angeles. 

The term “development” has a nice progressive ring to it, but this allegation is flat-out wrong. Even though the No on S campaign only addresses the concerns of its paymasters, getting approvals for private real estate projects, Measure S would not impact any public works projects, such as the Purple Line Subway Extension. As for private real estate projects, it only affects a small percentage, mostly luxury buildings. Each year, LA’s Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) processes about 100,000 permits. Of these, about 600 projects depend on the City Council legislative actions targeted by Measure S. These are almost entirely luxury projects, and with few or none affordable units. 

This is why City Planning’s recent Citywide Metrics Report notes that only two percent of new housing units in Los Angeles are affordable, and they result from density bonuses in which they City Council plays legislative no role. They are in-house quasi-ministerial cases, and they do not require the spot-General Plan amendments and spot-zone changes blocked by Measure S. 

Crocodile Tears Claim 2: Measure S is a housing ban. 

Many of LADBS’s 100,000 annual permits involve housing, and they will continue to process these by-right projects. Their plan checkers and field inspectors will be as busy as ever. This work also includes residential projects with affordable rental units built on commercial lots, where LA’s zoning laws allow by-right construction. Furthermore, about 80 percent of the 3000 annual building permit cases that City Planning reviews do not involve any City Council legislative actions. These cases, too, are exempt from Measure S, as are 100 percent affordable housing projects. 

Crocodile Tears Claim 3: Measure S stops the construction of affordable housing. 

As discussed above, this allegation, too, is totally wrong. Only two percent of new housing in Los Angeles is affordable, and according to the Department of City Planning’s Citywide Metric’s report, this two percent is built through density bonuses, not the parcel-specific City Council land use ordinances that Measure S blocks. 

For that matter, Measure S is fully consistent with the construction of Measure HHH affordable housing on all City of LA-owned lots that are already zoned for residential and commercial uses. In the words of City Controller Ron Galperin, The City of Los Angeles—on behalf of its residents and taxpayers—owns a vast portfolio of real estate, encompassing nearly 9,000 distinct parcels within the County of Los Angeles alone. These include parks; libraries; municipal facilities; parking lots, and commercial, industrial, retail, office and residential buildings and vacant land.” 

Crocodile Tears Claim 4: Measure S is a job killer. 

This claim is based on a Beacon Economics study paid for the big real estate companies funding SG&A’s No on S campaign. But, it is built on a faulty assumption: if real estate firms can no longer obtain pay-to-play spot-zones for their unplanned projects in Los Angeles, they will bolt to other cities. 

There is no evidence for this claim. Nearby well-planned cities that do not engage in these unethical political practices, such as Santa Monica and Pasadena, generate many construction jobs without handing out zone changes and General Plan amendments to real estate developers LA-style. 

Crocodile Tears Claim 5: Measure S promotes urban sprawl and undercuts sustainability. 

This claim harkens back to old land use disputes in Los Angeles, as well as a critique of zoning in some urban planning circles that planning and zoning are tools of the rich. In LA, however, reality is just the opposite. It is the big real estate firms, and those connected to them who have become anti-zoning and anti-planning, not LA’s residents. Furthermore, if these anti-zoning groups bothered to look at the adopted plans they disparage, they would discover that they are all anti-sprawl. Measure S calls for these official documents to be updated and then meticulously followed, not ignored or overturned on behalf of big developers with big pockets who prefer an un-planned Los Angeles. 

Furthermore, sustainability policies and programs are woven through the new Mobility Element, as well as the older elements, such as the General Plan Framework, Land Use, Air Quality, Open Space, and Conservation. Anyone who claims that a voter initiative to strengthen LA’s General Plan and City Charter is really a stalking horse for sprawl has clearly never studied the planning documents they so glibly malign and are ready to dispose of.

 

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

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-If there’s an upside to the turmoil caused by the Trump Administration, it’s this: grassroots activists have been coming out of the woodwork. Newly minted and lifelong activists linked arms at the Women’s March and in Huddle Up events throughout the U.S. 

Now, Huckleberry Bakery and Café’s Zoe Nathan and other talented artisan bakers and pastry chefs throughout Los Angeles, including Friends & Family’s Roxana Jullapat, Proof Bakery’s Na Young Ma, The Rose Café’s Neidy Venegas & Joshua Graves, have joined forces for a new grassroots campaign called Bake & Gather, neighborhood bake sale events to encourage dialogue and raise money for important causes about which the community feels passionate. Nathan hopes to expand the movement to other U.S. cities. 

The first SoCal “neighborhood gathering and bake sale” will be held Saturday, February 25 at Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon Park, 601 Latimer Road. From 9 a.m. to noon, participants will be able to purchase pastries and coffee from Huckleberry Bakery & Café, Caffe Luxxe, and Rusticoffee to benefit the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Counsel, which supports immigrants and underserved communities with pro bono legal services. Downtown LA’s Woo Souvenir Shop has created Bake & Gather t-shirts to sell at the event and at Huckleberry for $40, with 100 percent of the proceeds from the first 100 sold going to the organizations. Any additional profits on top will be donated to the ACLU and Public Counsel. 

Rustic Canyon Family of Restaurants co-owner Nathan says, “The great uniter of all people is food and social rights. Right now, a good majority of people are feeling helpless and scared. I believe if we can get together with our neighbors over great food and coffee, we can slowly start to connect with each other, feel less nervous, and find our voices and footing again,” says Zoe. “This is not about Democrats versus Republicans, but finding the things that unite us during these unprecedented times, while raising money for some important causes in the process.” 

Nathan hopes Bake & Gather will inspire others across Los Angeles and the U.S. to create their own local gatherings to benefit worthy organizations, especially ones that have been recently defunded or are needed to defend basic human rights. 

“You can do anything and gather. This is not just for professional or even amateur bakers,” adds Nathan. “Kids can plan an event at their school or library, artists could sell their paintings and drawings from a friend’s driveway, or surfers could teach lessons at their local beach. The purpose is to get out, talk to your neighbors, and put your energy behind something constructive.” 

The Rustic Canyon event will be the first of many Bake & Gathers in LA.

  •  Saturday, March 11 from 12-3 p.m. at the Silver Lake Reservoir’s Meadow (1850 W. Silverlake Drive), hosted by Roxana Jullapat (behind the forthcoming Friends & Family,) Proof Bakery’s Na Young Ma, and Alimento’s Harriet Ha. 
  • Saturday, March 25 (time and location TBD) with The Rose Café’s Neidy Venegas and Joshua Graves and Broken Spanish’s Ivan Marquez. 
  • April – Cake Monkey’s Elizabeth Belkind and food stylist Staci Valentine will host earlier in the month, followed by Bear Claw Kitchen’s Sarah Lange. 
  • May – Platine Bakery’s Jamie Ginsburg and The Gourmandise School’s Clémence Gossett will host a gathering, with more to come. 
  • Coming This Summer – Hatchet Hall’s Paige Russell, Sqirl’s Sasha Piligian, Lodge Bread’s Jacqui De Borga, Bub & Grandma’s Andy Kadin, and more. 

If you’re interested in starting your own Bake & Gather, a website will soon feature a planning checklist, collateral for posters and promotional materials, and a list of recommended charitable organizations. Join the movement and learn more about upcoming Los Angeles events (and across the country) by following Bake & Gather on Instagram and tagging #bettertogether.

 

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

 VOICES-In 2007 when I met Mitchell Schwartz, he was the President of the Los Angeles League of Conservation voters and the Chair of the Barack Obama campaign for the State of California. I was impressed at that time by how he treated individuals, and how enthusiastic he was about the Obama campaign. 

I was a proponent of the “No on Measure B campaign”, what I thought was not a well thought out solar energy initiative. Mitchell took on the “No on Measure B” campaign, and he lost. But he was so gracious – he met with me and others. We discussed why the Neighborhood Councils were opposed to “Measure B.” 

Mitchel Schwartz has worked in the State Department during the Clinton Administration. He has traveled for the State Department, which indicates to me that he has the knowledge to be able to negotiate on behalf of our government. 

Mitchell has taken a five point pledge regarding fundraising. This has included opting to take matching funds, and not to take any PAC money or money from developers. And he has pledged to serve the full five and one-half year term, and not to run for higher office, a pledge that Mayor Garcetti has not made. 

It is very unclear to me why the Los Angeles Times has endorsed Eric Garcetti when they state in their OPINION section that our Mayor was graded a C by them two years ago. The Times also calls Eric Garcetti out regarding the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative – also known as the “Yes on Measure S campaign.” 

The Times says that Mayor Garcetti, who is against the initiative, “…was too slow to respond when slow-growth advocates proposed the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.” While I believe that Mayor Garcetti has stated that he wants to fund the City Planning Department to update the Community Plans over a ten-year period, a position paper by Mitchell Schwartz calls for updating the General and Community Plans in four years. 

In Mitchell Schwartz’s plans that are posted on his website, he states: 

“Housing is the most pressing issue facing Los Angeles. Los Angeles suffers from an acute shortage of housing, from houses for the middle income families to three and four bedroom apartments for working class families to studios for young people to single resident occupancy units for very low-income individuals.” 

Mitchell calls for “establishing transparency by removing political money from development decisions.” In his Nine Point Housing Plan, he makes recommendations including “creating a Housing Czar to coordinate efforts across departments” as well as using “the incredible intellectual resources of UCLA, USC, Cal State Northridge, and Cal State LA to develop housing strategies that are reasonable and achievable and make economic sense.” 

The difference that I see between Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Garcetti is that Mitchell is the voice of compassion for the homeless and others who are less fortunate in our City. 

Mitchell Schwartz is the voice of change that will benefit all Angelinos -- not just wealthy Angelinos and non-Angelino investors and developers. His recommendations include:   

  • Finding alternative methods of transportation for the elderly to get to the hospital other than calling 911 paramedics. 
  • Green infrastructure programs. 
  • LADWP reform, including an elected Board of Commissioners to oversee the LADWP. 
  • A Citizens Oversight Committee to appoint the Rate Payer Advocate. Mitchell supports an oversight committee that is created by the Neighborhood Councils to pick the Rate Payer’s Advocate and to oversee the Rate Payer Advocate’s Budget. 
  • Support for better transparency by the LADWP which he states often drags out routine records requests for months.  
  • Transparency in reporting crime statistics. He has stated publicly that Mayor Garcetti may be suppressing last year’s crime statistics. 
  • Adding 2,500 officers to the Los Angeles Police Department. 

I support Mitchell Schwartz because he is listening to the people. As a former Neighborhood Councilmember, I used to invite then City Council President Eric Garcetti out to the West Hills Neighborhood Council Board meetings. To the best of my knowledge, he has not been there yet. 

On the other hand, Mitchell Schwartz has shown his interest in listening to the people and meeting the people by visiting Neighborhood Councils and other groups. Last summer, Mitchell met my husband and me in the West San Fernando Valley on two occasions. My husband and I took Mitchell on two “three hour tours” of the West San Fernando Valley; we showed him many points of interest in this area and discussed many of the problems facing the Valley. 

The second tour ended with a visit to the Concerts at the Park in Warner Center where I introduced him to some members of the Woodland Hills Warner Center Neighborhood Council who were manning a booth there. 

Mitchell has recently driven out to the Valley to attend multiple meetings and hearings on the Aliso Canyon Gas wells. I have also pointed out to him on DOGGR maps the locations of the oil and gas wells under the City of Los Angeles – not far from his home. 

If like me, you do not want to give our current Mayor a mandate in our next election – if you want a Choice for Mayor, I recommend that you Vote for Mitchell Schwartz on March 7.

 

(Chris Rowe is a 39-year resident of West Hills.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

CRIME WATCH--On Monday in Whittier a villainous person murdered a police officer and seriously wounded another who had come to render him aid due to his involvement in a traffic accident. Early that day, he had murdered his cousin, Roy Gogers Torres, in East Los Angeles. 

The killer, Michael Christopher Mejia, who was born and grew up in the United States, had been in prison for a felony robbery in 2010 and grand theft auto in 2014 and he had been released from prison in April 2016 – after serving his full prison term. From the frequency with which the authorities had ‘violated” Mejia for his behavior since his April release, it appears that probation knew he posed a serious danger. On February 2, the Sheriff’s Department gave him a “flash incarceration,” and he was released February 11th. They gave Mejia the maximum time under Flash Incarceration which is ten days. 

In the subsequent media-fed hysteria people should know that Mejia was not out of prison due to any of the ‘early release’ measures which the public and legislature have passed. This rumor was fueled by a craven media who seized upon the extreme grief of Whittier Chief Piper who lashed out at the so called ‘early release’ laws while fighting off tears over the murder of his good friend, Officer Keith Boyer (photo above). Also, the Sheriff’s department repetition of this falsehood contributed to a public outcry to reverse the early release program. 

Alt-Facts Rule 

In what world is disseminating false information which is designed to inflame the passions of the public a wise idea? We live in a world where Alt-facts rule and now we see denials on line insisting that the first reports were correct and Mejia was early release. Thus, the solution by politicians who also prefer hyper-emotional Alt-facts is to attack the Early Release Program even if the reality is that early release makes our communities safer. 

Psychopaths Do Not Yield to Easy Solutions 

A few days later, in the face of more reliable information … thank you, LA Times … it appears that Mejia is a Psychopath. Other people describe this type of person criminally insane. Or, we may use the idea that he was a very dangerous person. While we need to await more details, the frequency with which Mejia was jailed for probation violations indicates that the authorities were keeping close tabs on him. It bears repeating that they had given him the maximum ten days under Flash Incarceration. 

We lack data to provide a clinical diagnosis, but it is sufficient for our purposes to recognize that law enforcement knew this individual as extremely dangerous. Let’s stress the word individual. Law enforcement has to deal with specific individual human beings and it is our function as a society to provide them with the tools. We do not do that and tragedy results. 

Systemic Problems Lack Quick Fixes 

No institution in our society adequately deals with people who have mental illness. That applies from the Presidency to the jailer who has to supervise violent prisoners in “lock-down.” Our inability is a systemic problem … that means it is found in all parts of society. Professionals now realize that the term “Mental Illness” is both misleading and counterproductive, but it is an advance over the notions that ‘crazy people” are possessed by demons. 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder [DSM-5] is an attempt to classify behavior patterns which our society finds harmful. Seldom does it shed light on why someone has a certain pattern and the effort to devise a classification system on which people agree is on-going. People cannot decide whether Donald Trump, for example, suffers from a Narcissistic Personality Disorder or a Histrionic Personality Disorder. It is beneficial to look at Trump because one can see how extremely difficult it is to constrain someone who suffers from a mental disorder. 

Donald Trump exists at the tippy top of the social ladder with access to the very best help in the world, while Mejia was on the bottom rung of the ladder. In the final analysis, Donald Trump’s mental disorders are likely to result in far greater death, destruction and bereavement than Mejia’s murderous behavior. 

As a society we need to admit that mental disorders are a systemic aspect of our national life affecting every one of us. There are no quick fixes. Our institutions are unable to handle these very serious problems, but as they say in AA, the first step is admitting that you have a problem. 

And, as a society, we need to agree that the spread of misinformation in an attempt to support a cause, in the end, benefits no one and is harmful to everyone. 

The Times did not seem to contribute to the disinformation but on Wednesday did a rather comprehensive article outlining the errors in the rush to blame the early release programs.

 

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

-cw

OPEN LETTER TO JESSICA LEVINSON, PRESIDENT OF THE LA CITY ETHICS COMMISSION---I am asking for your immediate attention to a troubling situation that involves the potential misuse of our tax dollars and the violation of good government laws overseen, administered and enforced by the City Ethics Commission.

All three candidates for Los Angeles City Council District 11 agreed in writing months ago to participate in a debate. This participation is one of the conditions the candidates had to meet in order to receive matching funds -  our tax dollars - to help underwrite the costs of their political campaigns. City records show Councilman Mike Bonin has received $100,000 in matching funds and challenger Mark Ryavec nearly $46,000; as of this date Robin Rudisill, the third candidate, has not received such matching funds.

At this late date, however, we have not had a bona fide CD11 candidate debate. Yet the candidates have our tax dollars and are undoubtedly spending them.

Recently CD11 constituents were shortchanged when Bonin did not attend a debate on Feb. 16 at the University Synagogue in Brentwood featuring his two challengers, Ryavec and Rudisill. This had all the earmarks of a bona fide debate, moderated by the highly-regarded KNX 1070 Newsradio anchor Frank Mottek. More than 125 persons attended; nearly 300 registered to attend but it is suspected that when it was determined Bonin would not participate, many disgusted voters said 'what's the point.'

Meantime, it was reported that Bonin was indisposed because he was committed to  an event on Feb. 16, in Mar Vista, sponsored by a group called Aging in Place. The minutes of the Mar Vista group establish that Bonin was not the guest speaker at their event attended by 28 persons; the evidence also indicates Bonin was invited to both the Mar Vista and Synagogue events at about the same time.

Bonin’s campaign staff also claimed their candidate was leery about attending  the Synagogue event because some of its organizers supported his rivals. However, that concern was amply mitigated by the fact that Mottek, a veteran journalist and long-time member of the board of the Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, agreed to moderate the debate and call the balls and strikes, if you will.

Bonin's excuses don't pass the smell test.

Now we are hearing there MAY be a debate on Feb. 27. Despite some mixed messages about who would attend or not, the latest news (as of noon, Feb. 2) is that all three candidates will attend. Sort of. Apparently Ryavec will be a "virtual" participant, showing up via live-stream (???) and providing taped responses (???). Whatever all this means, god only knows, but it is not the same as showing up in person.

However, this information – even if true - does not diminish the value and purpose of this petition.

It remains unacceptable that one debate is being held at the tail-end of the primary election season and the time and place of the debate were dictated by the incumbent officeholder, Mike Bonin. To top it off, this debate at this time apparently will NOT be moderated by anyone who can be expected to be objective and disinterested in the outcome of the election or practiced in holding candidates’ feet to the fire. The gold standard for political debates is to have them moderated by journalists; this is a format that should be institutionalized by the City Ethics Commission.

Other reforms worth considering:

  • a requirement that there be at least three debates in the primary; ;
  • that these debates be held in different parts of the district at times and places dictated by the commission;
  • and that the candidates get a down-payment on their matching funds if they show up at a debate. No more: we give you the money and hope you engage in a debate.

Bottom-line: we help fund the campaigns of candidates running for office  with the promise that we will get debates. What’s happening in CD11 makes it clear that this system is, like so much at City Hall, unsatisfactory.

More specifically, as to the Feb. 27th debate (if it indeed comes off as now contemplated): the date is unacceptable. Many voters will have cast absentee ballots by Feb. 27; in effect the election could be decided by absentee voters who had no opportunity to witness a meaningful debate. It is no service to the public to hold a debate on Feb. 27th  - a mere eight days before the election.

It has also been reported that Bonin has demanded that this Feb. 27th “debate” shall NOT include questions about Measure S (which Bonin opposes). It is arbitrary and intolerable for any Los Angeles city candidate to dictate that their position concerning a notable municipal ballot measure, for example, not be discussed as part of a “debate.”

Bottom-line: Many residents of CD11 are deeply concerned that the candidates are acting in bad faith and willfully dodging their responsibility to engage in a meaningful public debate to help the voters make informed decisions about how to vote.

This is not just a question of reasonableness. It is a matter of law (see Los Angeles Municipal Code §§ 49.7.22 et seq). All three CD11 candidates agreed in writing to participate in at least one debate in order to receive matching funds assistance.

The City Ethics Commission should immediately demand that Bonin and Ryavec return the matching funds tax dollars they have received; and that these funds be kept in an escrow account and be released to Bonin and Ryavec only after they have participated in a bona fide public debate. I daresay that what is happening in CD11 is probably not unique and we believe that the City Ethics Commission should take steps to prevent the citywide abuse of the matching funds program.

It is particularly obnoxious when incumbent officeholders, who already have a tremendous fund-raising advantage over their challengers, are allowed to spend our tax dollars to fatten their political warchests while dodging their debate obligations.

But in the meantime, the city Ethics Commission should act immediately to prevent candidates in CD11 from spending our tax dollars until they make good on their written pledge to debate. Our tax dollars and the integrity of the city’s campaign finance reform laws must be protected. Yes, this may cause discomfort to the candidates but it is time to send a strong signal that this dysfunctional system can no longer be tolerated.

This petition is supported by a dozen or so individuals who first encountered it on Nextdoor Neighborhood. However, I did not get their permission to use their names for publication so I have not included them herein.

 

  • ACTION INFO—Show your support for election change, send an email to city.ethics@lacity.org with ‘I support election debate reform’ in the subject line.

 

(John Schwada is a former investigative reporter for Fox 11 in Los Angeles, the LA Times and the late Herald Examiner. He is an occasional contributor to CityWatch. His consulting firm is MediaFix Associates.)

-cw

THE NELSON RISING METHOD--What do we do now, Nelson Rising?

I pose that question not just because this is a confusing and complicated era for California. And not just because no living Californian is better than Nelson Rising—a developer, lawyer, campaign manager, and civic leader from Los Angeles—at navigating our state’s complexities to create communities that endure.

“What do we do now?” is the question that concludes Rising’s one-and-only brush with Hollywood. After Rising ran the successful 1970 U.S. Senate campaign of John Tunney, he was a producer on the 1972 film The Candidate, in which Robert Redford plays an idealistic U.S. Senate candidate corrupted by the political process. When Redford wins an upset victory, he is so empty that in the final scene, he asks his campaign manager, “What do we do now?” The manager has no answer.

Fortunately, Rising, 75, has some reassuring answers about today’s California, as I learned during two recent long conversations. And if you’re a reader who doesn’t know the name Nelson Rising, don’t worry—that’s the point. Nelson Rising’s story is about all the big things you can get done in California if you’re willing to listen more than you talk. Over the years his impressive accomplishments have spoken for themselves, without much ballyhoo for the man himself.

When you tally up all the big things Rising has helped bring to California, there are simply too many for a short column. You could start with the tallest building in the state, the Library Tower (now the U.S. Bank Tower) in downtown LA. You could throw in Grand Park, LA’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Metropolitan Water District buildings, and the Playa Vista development (now unofficial headquarters of Southern California’s Silicon Beach). You might add San Francisco’s Mission Bay, the largest mixed-use development in that city’s history, and, in San Diego, two mixed-use towers, next to the train station, that were part of the wave that transformed downtown into a thriving residential neighborhood.

But then you’d still be leaving out major developments like Rising’s first big project, Coto de Caza, the quintessential suburban Orange County planned community, made famous through reality television. (“He is to blame for The Real Housewives of Orange County,” says Rising’s son Chris).

And the buildings are just part of his legacy. In LA, Rising managed the mayoral campaign of Tom Bradley, the city’s first African American mayor, who transformed the city into a far more international, educated, and inclusive place. During a stint up north, Rising was chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (where he navigated the disruption of the dot-com bust), chair of the Washington D.C.-based Real Estate Roundtable, chairman of the publicly traded real estate firm Catellus, and chair of the Bay Area Council, a vital business policy group. His sport coats have put the blue in countless blue-ribbon commissions, and he’s led efforts to remake policies on projects as varied as water, redevelopment, and LA’s Grand Avenue.

Rising’s remarkable career stands as a rejoinder to the maddening conventional wisdom of today’s California: that you can’t do big things in our state because everything is too complicated, regulated, and expensive. Any big project requires dealing with too many different constituencies. Who has time to talk with everyone, much less dig into all the details and accommodate all the interests that must be accommodated?

Nelson Rising makes the time.

Which is the secret of success in California. Rising argues that because so few try to do the big, complicated thing, those who are willing to do all the hard work¬—to talk with everybody, to accommodate every opponent, to sweat every detail—can still accomplish great things. In fact, Californians are so used to having their concerns ignored that the act of listening to and working with one’s opposition can be incredibly powerful.

“I enjoy communication, and the best part of communication is listening. Many people don’t do that,” says Rising. “I don’t think I can respond to people unless I know what I’m responding to. So I always start the conversation by asking, ‘What’s your concern? Why don’t you want me to do this development? And if I can figure out a way to solve your concern, will you be supportive of it?’”

Rising’s natural—if quite deliberate—modesty makes this approach particularly effective. In our recent conversations—at his downtown LA office and at the California Club—Rising deflected credit or understated his role, depicting himself as a coordinator of teams that did the real work. Colleagues interjected frequently to say he was being too modest.

But modesty suits the man, who might be the polar opposite of the real estate developer currently occupying the White House. Rising’s parents never attended college; he went from Glendale High to UCLA and later UCLA law school on a scholarship. He’s been married to the same woman for 53 years and lives in La Cañada-Flintridge, far from the fancy Westside precincts favored by other movers and shakers.

He credits his rise to good fortune, good co-workers, and the friendship of Warren Christopher, a colleague at the law firm of O’Melveny & Myers, who brought him into civic and political work, originally through an effort to rebuild the Democratic party after Ronald Reagan defeated Gov. Pat Brown in 1966. “A person cannot be truly accomplished unless they help others to accomplish,” was a Christopher maxim that Rising still recites.

Rising sees his own skill as building teams that help others accomplish, and that accomplishment comes from talking to one’s opponents. That may seem like very old wisdom, but it is revolutionary today, when civic and political contests are often about rallying one’s base of supporters, while discouraging the base of opponents. He says Tom Bradley succeeded because he visited every corner of the city and made a point of engaging people who were inclined to oppose him—over time, the constant reaching out made Angelenos comfortable with him.

There are similar stories of engagement—of embracing conversation and complexity—in Rising’s other successes. He made the Library Tower (and the neighboring Gas Company tower) happen by arranging a complex swap, in which the tower’s builders purchased the air rights to develop above LA’s Central Library, located across the street, and used them to increase the height of the towers. Revenue from the sale helped the library rebuild after a crippling fire.

Rising argues that because so few try to do the big, complicated thing, those who are willing to do all the hard work—to talk with everybody, to accommodate every opponent, to sweat every detail—can still accomplish great things.

Having developed the tallest building in the state, however, did not make Rising self-important. To win approval for the Playa Vista project, he went into living rooms to meet with homeowners in Westchester, who were angry about the vast amounts of multi-unit housing in his plan. He slowly wore down resistance with conversation and with a presentation that used two slide projectors—to show not only the before and after, but also attractive multi-unit housing in places like Savannah and Washington D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood.

The greatest example of the Rising method may be Mission Bay. As the CEO of the public real estate firm Catellus, he took over a development that faced opposition and remade it to satisfy the complaints of San Franciscans. His moves included adding 1,700 units of affordable housing, providing parking for Giants games, and donating 43 acres to UC San Francisco for their biotech campus. The development was ultimately approved without opposition; there wasn’t a single environmental lawsuit.

The feat was so impressive that San Francisco—a place where throngs chant “Beat L.A.” with little provocation— named a street in Mission Bay after the Los Angeles developer—Nelson Rising Lane. “You can walk all over Nelson Rising,” quips his longtime colleague David Herbst, “but you have to go to San Francisco to do it.”

Rising cops to plenty of failures, including twice flunking attempts at retirement. So now he’s building a business with his son Chris, who is named for Warren Christopher. They are raising a $300 million social impact fund for investments, and are focused on three things: Remaking buildings so they produce less carbon (“We’d like to show the real estate industry it doesn’t have to be the number one generator of carbon,” Chris says); making buildings healthier (with more light and air, and designs that are better for workers); and incorporating technology into older, restored places by taking all the copper out and replacing it with fiber networks. (Their revamping of One Bunker Hill in LA will include a signature public lobby with powerful Wi-Fi that they want schoolchildren to use to do their homework.)

Rising remains loyal to downtown LA, and marvels at how the area, once almost entirely an employment hub, has surpassed all expectations by becoming a place to live. He praises the Wilshire Grand Center that, when it’s completed later this year, will supplant the Library Tower as the state’s tallest building.

Rising still works in the historic Beaux Arts PacMutual complex that he restored and then sold in 2015, reportedly at a record per-square-foot price for a downtown office building. His firm has since purchased 433 S. Spring, an Art Deco building where Rising began his career as an O’Melveny lawyer.

The firm is working in LA, San Diego, and San Francisco, and eyeing Sacramento, where the Risings have been impressed with the growth of its downtown. He is critical of President Trump’s policies, but doesn’t think the new administration will be able to undermine California too much. “The state’s economy is poised to keep exceeding the country,” he says, as long as it keeps nurturing its diversity, raises its education levels, and rebuilds its infrastructure.

So what do we do now, Los Angeles … California? We follow Rising’s singular example: Reach out to one another, listen—and recommit to doing the big things that will make a difference.

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

-cw

ILLOGICAL LIABILITY-Even as editorial boards across the city have been falling all over each other in a race to endorse Eric Garcetti for a second term, the Mayor has been busy sowing the seeds for LA's next budget-busting liability fiasco. 

On Thursday, the Metro Board will vote whether to allocate more than $350 million dollars on Mayor Garcetti's indecent proposal to have an all-overtime LAPD force take over the lion's share of security for the Metro. 

First, only a fool would argue that substantial overtime work does not lead to fatigue, and the question of whether fatigue leads to greater harm -- both to police officers and civilians -- is a settled question. Dr. Bryan Vila an ex-LAPD cop found being tired affects a police officer’s ability to exercise safe judgment, capacity to pay attention, and even certain kinds of fine motor coordination crucial in the handling of firearms and laptop-like devices that are now ubiquitous in patrol cars. Dr. Vila and others have noted that as many police deaths are caused by fatigue-related car accidents as by shootings. 

It doesn't take an ACLU lawyer to see the catastrophic liability for the Metro in sanctioning a policy -- not just the frequent occurrence due to unforeseen circumstances, but an actual, premeditated policy -- of an all-overtime force. How long will it take before one of those all-overtime officers ends up – whether justified or not -- shooting a passenger or inadvertently tasing them onto the tracks? 

Already, if a cop is on overtime when a shooting occurs, the liability is increased. But when the whole force is on O.T. -- sanctioned by a room full of virtually every powerful local elected official, including the Mayor and all five members of the County Board of Supervisors -- the taxpayer pays the price.  

None of this is to underplay the problem of declining Metro ridership or the need for more safety officers. Though improving as of late, the Sheriff's performance has been insufficient, but a viable solution is right before us. The Sheriff's department has already made successful use of private security firms which, among other advantages, cost about half as much. The advantage of those savings in this case is that the Metro could hire double the number of security personnel -- and those are jobs for Angelenos -- which would in turn make it possible for many of the buses to have a dedicated security presence on board. 

Regardless, the Metro board owes it to the public to vote down Mayor Garcetti's ultimately self-serving proposal. 

 

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

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Since his first day in office, Trump and his team have fired off a series of Executive Orders, including aggressive immigration policies. His Day 6 “Border Security and Immigration Improvements” order would forward construction of the 1,900 mile long wall along the southern border and beefing up border protection forces.

Also on Day 6, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” called for deporting undocumented immigrants, tripling resources for enforcement, and targeting sanctuary cities by withholding federal funding.

Just one day later, Trump signed an order “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” preventing all refugees from entering the country for 120 days – and putting a three-month halt to immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries. After the Ninth Circuit blocked his travel ban, Trump plans to issue a new executive order this week.

In the meantime, the administration’s actions, particularly the travel restrictions, have been worrisome to those in LA’s international travel and tourism industries, which contribute significantly to the county’s economy. In 2015, tourism brought in over $20 Billion to Los Angeles County – along with seven million international visitors.

Last week, President and CEO, Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board Ernest Wooden Jr. went on record that while the board “recognizes and supports the need for travel security, these Executive Orders are an affront to Los Angeles, where residents from more than 180 countries call home.”

In a letter to stakeholders, Wooden wrote:

Further, they are antiethical to the role travel plays in our society. Despite barriers which governments, religions, political beliefs and economics can seemingly build, travel plays a crucial role in bringing us all together. Tourism fosters understanding between people and cultures and increases the chances for people to develop mutual sympathy and understanding – perhaps even to reduce prejudices.

To ensure we understand the impact that the recent Executive Orders and current political climate may have on our business, we asked Tourism Economics, an independent research partner, to re-evaluate our forecast.

They project that LA County could suffer a potential three-year loss of 800,000 international visitors as a direct result of President Trump’s Executive Orders. These visitors typically spend $920 each while in LA, totaling a potential loss of $736 million in direct tourism spending.

This loss would be significant for our local businesses and families employed by the hospitality industry, which is one of the largest and healthiest job sectors in LA County.

Danny Roman of Bikes and Hikes LA has already seen a drop in international reservations for this coming summer by worried tourists who are delaying or cancelling trips to the U.S. Roman, who is on the Board of the City of West Hollywood and is involved with LA Tourism, as well as promoting tourism in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, says, “We’ve actually started to see the impact in our company. We usually have tons of summer bookings way in advance. We’ve had over twenty cancellations already. When we’ve inquired why, people have said they’re cancelling trips to California or the west coast because they aren’t really sure what’s happening in our government. We’ve had cancellations from Sydney, Melbourne, London, Paris, Canada, Germany and Nordic countries. People are telling us they’re cancelling their entire trip. They aren’t coming to US because everything seems out of whack.”

Roman shares he recently returned from visiting remote villages in Africa where he says many of the residents had never seen a cellphone photo of themselves but “knew about Trump and what was going on. People are talking about this all over the world and it’s on every front page of every newspaper in almost every country of the world.”

“We don’t have very many bookings from states that were banned but Beverly Hills does business with countries directly affected because of the ban. Beverly Hills is a popular destination for wealthy middle eastern visitors who are worried,” adds Roman. 

The travel business is vital for people in LA and the fact that this guy is screwing around is definitely hurting our business. We’re a little mom and pop. It’s very scary,” says Roman, who is concerned that travel will be impacted similarly to after 9/11 when nobody was traveling to the States. “I’m hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.”

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

-cw

MEOW MIX-Last Thursday, February 16, 2017, two cars were swallowed up in a giant sinkhole in Laurel Canyon Boulevard in Studio City. Many were shocked that a huge sinkhole could appear from nowhere. People were flummoxed. Others were frightened about where the next one would appear. Would they be next? 

While some opine that sudden sinkholes are caused by the rain or by saturated soil, the real cause is our love affair with simplistic Alt-Facts. After cat videos, the number one interest of Angelenos seems to be Alt-Facts or No Facts at All. 

Alt-Facts have received more attention since Kellyanne Conway gathered together all the BS, lies, myths and Breitbartisms and put them under one label: “Alternative Facts.” That has become shortened to Alt-Facts to correspond with Alt-Right and Alt-Left. Oh, yes sir, the Alt-Left loves Alt-Facts and always has. That’s why Trumpsters think they’re entitled to their Alt-Facts. 

First we need to understand that since November 8, 2016, only Alt-Facts are allowed and all other facts, what we used to call reality, are discarded. Here are three tests for deciding if a “Proposed Fact” qualifies as an Alt-Fact: 

Test #1 

The first test for an Alt-Fact is whether it emotionally satisfies the reader. This test is similar to cat videos; we watch them because they make us feel good. That is the first job of an Alt-Fact: feeling good. If a proposed fact does not make the listener feel good, it gets dumped into the Fake News file.   

Test #2 

The second test for an Alt-fact is whether it makes one think. If a proposed fact requires thinking, it is discarded as if it never existed. 

Angelenos have been told for over ten years that the City’s infrastructure is crumbling, but that is not a fact to Angelenos. It is not emotionally satisfying like a cat video and it does require asking questions like, “What is infrastructure?” Much easier to shift one’s attention: “Oh look, some puppy dog videos to go with the cat videos.” 

Test #3 

The third test for an Alt-Fact is whether it requires a person to do something other than feel morally outraged. A crumbling infrastructure fails this test. If people took the time to understand what the word infrastructure even meant, they would realize that they should do something – yes, before another huge sinkhole opens and swallows up more cars. Any information that requires a prolonged course of action such as gathering more information, undertaking studies and assessing how much money it would cost and the marginal efficiency of capital for a given project is deleted from the minds of Angelenos. 

Steven (Breitbart) Bannon has adopted the LA mode to deal with fact-based reality: “Largest crowds ever…facts are bad…the media is the enemy of the American people.” 

The Beavis and Butt-Head mentality that engulfs Los Angeles considers cars falling into sinkholes as “really cool.” Yes, and they are giggling about sink sounding like “stink” and we know what the word “holes” means to them. Now they’re Googling “cars in stink holes.” 

We live in a city where water mains burst about three times a week, but we ignore this because bursting water mains are not emotionally satisfying. When news reporters refer to that terrible word “infrastructure” and ask why the mains are busting, it requires thinking. Same goes with all the other signs that LA is becoming a “loser city” -- complete with constant soothing suggestions that everything is okay … no need to worry … no need to think. 

Remember back before the Crash of 2008 when some people tried to explain that rising housing prices was not a good sign? “BORING! Show me more cat videos.”

In this climate, it is no wonder that no one is running against Garcetti for Mayor. Sure, some people placed their names on the ballot, but they are not actually running. One dufus made the point that Garcetti should promise to serve a “full 5 and ½ years.” Why didn’t he just offer to give all his votes to Garcetti? 

We live in a city that’s been controlled by the Beavis and Butt-Head mentality for years. And it is not going to change for the simple reason that the non-Beavis and Butt-Head people are leaving Los Angeles. Those who remain will find more and more busted water mains, sinkholes swallowing cars, billions more missing from City Hall, fewer paramedics, more police shootings and higher crime rates…but they’ll still have their cat videos. 

As Alfred E. Newman said, “What, me worry?”

 

(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.

CALBUZZ EXCLOO--Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration, alarmed by a report of a draft plan to mobilize 100,000 National Guard troops to round up unauthorized immigrants, has quietly concluded that the Trump White House legally cannot take command of California’s National Guard short of declaring immigration to be an “invasion.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Friday said the report by the Associated Press about plans to dragoon the Guard was “100% not true. It is false. It is irresponsible to be saying this. There is no effort at all to round up, to utilize the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants.” 

Of course, Trump famously told Fox News bromance buddy Bill O’Reilly recently that California is “out of control” on immigration. So even the suggestion that Trump might try to seize command of the California National Guard was disturbing enough to cause Brown legal advisers to analyze the state’s options, should Trump seek to activate the Guard as a deportation force.

Don't Tread on Me. In the normal course of events (how fondly and wistfully we remember such bygone days) National Guard troops are under the command of the governor of each state.

At the same time, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prevents the use of federal armed forces (except the Coast Guard) for peacetime law enforcement within the United States. And under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, the president can only call up the National Guard for active duty for a congressionally sanctioned national emergency or war.

Moreover, according to a high-ranking source in the Brown administration, Trump “would have to get the consent of the governor” – something Brown would not provide.

While Brown has not spoken on the issue directly, at least three Republican governors, in Utah, Arkansas and Nevada, have objected to the suggestion that their National Guard troops should be used as a deportation force.

Under federal law, whenever:

(1) The United States, or any of the Commonwealths or possessions, is invaded or is in danger of invasion by a foreign nation;

(2) There is a rebellion or danger of a rebellion against the authority of the Government of the United States; or

(3) The President is unable with the regular forces to execute the laws of the United States; the President may call into Federal service members and units of the National Guard of any State in such numbers as he considers necessary to repel the invasion, suppress the rebellion, or execute those laws. Orders for these purposes shall be issued through the governors of the States or, in the case of the District of Columbia, through the commanding general of the National Guard of the District of Columbia.

Stay Off Our Lawn! California officials thereby have concluded that the state cannot be compelled to use its police or military forces for law enforcement purposes;  in their analysis, controlling immigration is a federal responsibility, not a matter for state or local law enforcement.

On the other hand, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly last week signed new guidelines empowering federal authorities to aggressively detain and deport unauthorized immigrants.

“The surge of immigration at the southern border has overwhelmed federal agencies and resources and has created a significant national security vulnerability to the United States,” Kelly stated in the guidelines.

According to the Washington Post, Kelly cited a surge of 10,000 to 15,000 additional apprehensions per month at the southern U.S. border between 2015 and 2016.

Gov. Brown’s lawyers don’t believe that rationale would hold up in court as an “invasion” justifying federalizing the Guard. And without consent of the governor, they have concluded, Trump cannot deploy California National Guard troops as a border-control or deportation force.

By now, of course, we’d be surprised by exactly nothing that President Screw Loose might attempt to do.

(Jerry Roberts is a California journalist who writes, blogs and hosts a TV talk show about politics, policy and media. Phil Trounstine is the former political editor of the San Jose Mercury News, former communications director for California Gov. Gray Davis and was the founder and director of the Survey and Policy Research Institute at San Jose State University. This piece appeared originally in CalBuzz.)

-cw

@THE GUSS REPORT-All manner of emergencies arose during Friday’s torrential rainstorm, including car-swallowing sinkholes, swift-water rescues and downed power lines. Many, perhaps most, were unpredictable. 

But shortly after Friday’s remarkably brief City Council meeting adjourned, in which half of the chatter was ceremonial, one of those emergency situations turned deadly in Sherman Oaks when a massive tree was ripped from its sidewalk, crushing nearby parked cars and taking down power lines that charged flooding water and electrocuted a 55-year old man. 

But according to a local tree trimmer who came by the scene early on Saturday morning, his company gave the City of Los Angeles ample and repeated warnings about the dangerous conditions that led to the man’s death. Some of these warnings, the man reportedly told neighbors, were in writing. In a KNBC report that aired late on Friday, several neighbors said that they too warned the city about the tree. 

While the address in front of which the deadly incident took place is technically on N. Sepulveda Boulevard, this Google Maps photo from the west side of the street shows that the massive tree towering over adjacent power lines was located on the east side curb of a service road immediately east of Sepulveda Blvd. 

The tree was so immense that by the time it was flattened, it tore through its own sidewalk, the service road and its two parking lanes, a wide median, another parking lane and onto the wider portion of Sepulveda Boulevard. 

Neighbors say the tree trimmer pointed to the trees he claims to have recently pruned directly across the street, advising that the city knew the collapsed tree should have been similarly reduced or removed altogether, but did nothing. 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose TV commercials asking Angelenos for another term in the upcoming March primary are currently flooding the airwaves, originally ran on being a “back to basics” mayor. He has repeatedly banged that drum – despite continuous fails of that promise – throughout his term, giving that responsibility in 2015 to his oft-overwhelmed deputy Barbara Romero. This LA Times article announcing her appointment coincided with Garcetti’s launch of his re-election fundraising. (Romero did not reply to a Sunday morning request to field questions.)   

One of Garcetti’s leading challengers in the March primary, Mitchell Schwartz, says Garcetti is doing much better at his campaign fundraising than he is at delivering those core services to the constituents. “Our ‘back to basics’ Mayor has not delivered improvement on these basic quality of life issues,” he said. “Our pensions now consume 20% of the budget, taking money from other needed services. Instead of traveling to raise money for his current and future campaigns, perhaps Mr. Garcetti should spend a little more time in the city addressing the pressing concerns of residents.” 

In the meantime, four blocks away from the scene of Friday's deadly tree collapse two other massive trees are severely pressing through the sidewalk of an oversized McMansion similar to the one I described in a recent CityWatch article as the city's most hideous.

Whether Garcetti, Romero and the LA City Council do anything about them (or the scores of others endangering the city) in advance of another deadly tragedy remains to be seen.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-My support for Measure S did not just drop off a turnip truck. It is based on my long career as a city planner. This includes positions in two large urban planning departments, a private planning firm, a small non-profit, and a large non-profit. In addition, I have worked as an independent consultant, taught planning courses at three local universities, and written many articles on city planning topics, mostly Los Angeles. 

Three lessons from these assignments lead me to support the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, now called Measure S. Over the past year my support has only grown stronger when I encountered so many half-truths and flat-out lies mounted against Measure S. In fact, I recently learned that the big real estate firms funding the No on S campaign hired Parke Skelton’s and Michael Shiplock’s SG&A campaign firm. Their goal? To defeat this voter Initiative by any means necessary, which is the source, I assume, of the disinformation campaign now at large in LA. 

These are the three reasons why I have consistently supported the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative/Measure S: 

  • Competent governance of a massive metropolitan area.
  • Government transparency in land use decisions.
  • Certainty for local communities and businesses. 
  1. Competent governance of a massive metropolitan area. 

Los Angeles is a big, sprawling, complex city in an even larger, complex metropolitan area. The city has nearly 4,000,000 people, the region has over 12,000,000 people, and there are even more visitors and employees. It has the largest and most congested street system of any American city. For these and many related reasons, such as climate change, LA desperately needs to be well governed, and this is only possible with a strong, timely General Plan that is carefully prepared and adopted, then implemented, adhered to, regularly monitored and updated. LA’s alternative model, of muddling through by riding the erratic booms and busts of speculative real estate cycles, is simply not up to the task. Infrastructure and services slowly fail, at least until the Big One ushers in systemic failure to most infrastructure and service systems. As for the rest of the built environment, such as housing, it becomes disconnected from the public’s need (and right!) for shelter. 

Without a clear understanding and blueprint for Los Angeles that is meticulously prepared, regularly monitored, and periodically updated, an unplanned Los Angeles will never be properly governed. In fact, the messy, corrupt real estate-driven model that now dominates LA’s City Hall is not based on any systematic planning at all. It just muddles through, lurching to and fro, dealing with major social and environmental problems like homelessness, gridlock, and air pollution, with election year clichés and short-term fixes. 

  1. Government transparency in land use decisions. 

The planning process is politically charged. If done correctly, it is based on extensive community participation in formulating plans, and then reviewing deviations from these plans. These tasks should all be out in the open, with total transparency. Nothing should be decided in back corridors and behind closed doors, with a special role carved out for lobbyists and campaign donors. 

But, from LA’s earliest days to the present, the default planning model has been wheeling and dealing, what the LA Times now politely calls “soft corruption.” But, it is really much worse since it turns on pay-to-play. Real estate investors pay off politicians to get the land use approvals they need for their otherwise illegal projects. There is not much that is new about all of these backroom deals, except for the spotlight shined on it by Measure S and Los Angeles Times investigative reporting. 

From the 19th century until the 1970s, pay-to-play meant the transformation of raw land, mostly agricultural, through low-density housing and strip malls. This transformation took place in Los Angeles and smaller cities between the ocean and Western Ave., as well as the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys. Since the 1970s, City Hall’s back room deals changed to become mostly urban in-fill. This presents itself as the redevelopment of existing building sites with larger, more expensive structures. It takes the form of McMansions, Small Lot Subdivisions, and the controversial mega-projects that require special City Council parcel-specific ordinances, mostly spot-zone changes, to become legal. 

In short, pay-to-play has become the handmaiden of unplanned, market-driven urban infill. The consequences, though, are more devastating than the previous suburban model because of the systematic loss of affordable housing through demolitions, displacement, dislocation, and gentrification. In broad terms, the market forces celebrated at City Hall – and even in some university planning programs -- lead to the replacement of lower priced housing with more expensive housing in order to maximize real estate profits. The situation has become so bad that those who can only afford middle income and lower priced housing turn to cheaper housing in far flung exurban areas, like Palmdale and Moreno Valley. This move, unfortunately, is highly unsustainable because it necessitates long commutes, mostly in cars.   

As for those who choose or are forced to remain in Los Angeles, their reality has become homelessness, overcrowding, and unsafe housing in illegally converted garages. Furthermore, LA’s local housing crisis has worsened through the bi-partisan elimination of most Federal HUD housing programs, as well as the dissolution of the Community Redevelopment Agency. These public programs to build or subsidize affordable housing have become historical footnotes. 

The bottom line is that City Hall’s pay-to-play has led to two bad planning outcomes. The first was urban sprawl and low-density development. The second, when the raw land ran out, is unplanned and poorly planned urban infill driven by profit maximization. These two urban forms appear to be different on the outside, but at City Hall the transition was seamless. Real estate interests funded campaigns in order to get what they needed for their short-terms gains, whether it was tract housing in the immediate post WWII era or high-rise luxury condo projects replacing older, low-rise, commercial buildings in the 21st century. 

  1. Certainty for local communities and businesses. 

General Plans, including their mandatory and optional chapters (Elements) and their implementation through a range of zoning ordinances, including specific plans, are only useful when they are followed. If the City Planning Department, the City Planning Commission, and City Council allow these carefully prepared plans and zones to be cast aside by any developer with deep pockets, the plans become irrelevant. The certainty they provide to all parties is discarded, and the adopted plans quickly become shelf documents. They play little or no role in land use decisions, which consist of City Hall welcoming nearly all speculative real estate projects that knock of their door. Since City Hall approves over 90 percent of such in-fill projects, usually with spot-zoning, this is LA’s real land use decision making process. It is totally arbitrary, with all certainty eliminated. 

In contrast, through Measure S we know that LA’s General Plan, including the Community Plans that comprise its required Land Use Element, will be quickly and regularly updated. We also know that this Update process requires extensive community input at all stages, based on open meetings held on weekends and in evening in local communities. 

We further know that any effort to circumvent the updated General Plan must conform to the rigorous legal findings spelled out in the City Charter, as clarified by Measure S. These criteria include limiting General Plan Amendments to Community Plan areas, Specific Plan areas, or collections of parcels at least 15 acres in size. Finally, we know that any efforts to undo these adopted plans will force developers to use EIR consultants selected by the City of Los Angeles. They can no longer rely on their hand-picked consultants. 

In short, Measure S ensures that the land use decision-making process is based on certainty. LA’s current reality, that your neighborhood’s planning and zoning can be pulled out from underneath your feet by City Hall backroom deals, will finally end. 

Coming in my next column: The components of the high quality planning process that Yes on S will usher in. Stay tuned.

 

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

RESISTANCE---Right now, the most effective political action we can take is local. Not Congressional District local: school board local, state house local, city council local, neighborhood council local, #Indivisible group local!

There’s an election in Los Angeles on March 7. Absentee ballots are long out. For many of us, there’s only one item upon which to vote in this election. My La Crescenta ballot has Measure H on it and that’s it. 

(We voted yes!)

Perhaps the most significant local decision for the people of the City of Los Angeles is Measure S.

From two writers I hold in great esteem, Damian Carroll writes the No on S argument in the form of a sonnet and my friend John White replies with the Yes on S argument in fine haiku form: 

NO ON S:

The Measure S proponents aren't wrong:
The City's planning process is a mess
But this proposal takes a tack too strong
And hurts our plans to combat homelessness
We can't afford a two-year building freeze
Our need for housing's sorely overdue
(What's more, the measure's author is a sleaze -
He's trying to stop a tower that blocks his view)
The measure's backers want to take away
Discretion from the leaders we elect
And give more power to the folks who say
Their parking's most important to protect
I get that growing neighborhoods is hard
But we must get past "Not in my back yard."

-- Damian Carroll

YES ON S:

Mansions have their place
Speculator greed, excess
Jam them in small lots

Opponents scream, yell
Recession! Poor homeless rubes!
Their squeals are untrue

-- John White

CityWatch LA has invited all local campaigns, candidates, initiatives, and charter amendment campaigns to submit free video space on our well-visited public Great LA Election 2017 OnLine Debate page. If your candidate or position isn’t up yet, please nudge them to get me a YouTube link. It’s an effort in progress and we’ve been greatly helped by feedback (Thanks Eric! Thanks David S.!) so please continue to help us make this better, more useful, more leveling of the local field. Email me your video!

Me? I’m totally inspired by the national Indivisible movement and urge every single everyone to download the guide! There are two Indivisible groups organizing in La Crescenta! Two! Now is the time to pay attention and get involved!

Find your own way to participate. There are many great guides out there, like this good one from The Nation: Your Guide ... to the Resistance Movement And check out this amazing compilation of local meetings, nationwide from the Town Hall Project

Fill out your ballot now if you’ve got it handy! And look for me out in the streets!

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

-cw

GUEST COMMENTARY-The Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) believes Measure S threatens to delay or stop projects that would otherwise provide affordable housing, and housing for homeless people.

Measure S puts a two-year moratorium on development projects requiring certain zoning or height exemptions, and permanently prohibits developments requiring a General Plan amendment. Thus it could stop projects that would provide permanent supportive housing for people who are homeless -- housing that voters approved with the passage of Measure HHH last November.          

Clearly, there is a great need for government action to protect neighborhoods and much more action is needed to preserve our existing rent-controlled and affordable housing stock. In fact, this lack of action at City Hall, no doubt, opened the door for Measure S to make it to the ballot.

Measure S does have some good provisions. The City should be updating community plans. Obviously, in response to Measure S, the City Council just voted to back an effort to update community plans more frequently.

Additionally, developers should not be allowed to select environmental impact report consultants for their projects.

But, it is our belief that Measure S is a sledgehammer approach that does not provide a solution. In fact, it may make matters worse. 

Measure S is not the answer and should be voted down. 

Measure S … 

  • Does Not Stop Ellis Act evictions. 
  • Does Not Stop condo conversions. 
  • Does Not Stop rent-controlled housing from being demolished. In fact, it may incentivize more destruction of rent-controlled buildings. 
  • Does Not Create new affordable housing. 
  • Does Not Stop big developers from donating to elected officials.

Measure S DOES Stop Affordable Housing from being built. 

CES believes that Measure S would provide an incentive to developers to destroy more rent- controlled buildings. 

A two year moratorium on development targeted in Measure S could steer developers towards other types of development such as more demolitions and conversions of rent-controlled housing to condos resulting in further displacement of low and moderate income renters.

The Measure S moratorium, and its permanent prohibition on the City's ability to issue General Plan amendments, will be stop the building of affordable housing. Although the backers of Measure S claim to exempt affordable housing, Measure S does not actually exempt all 100% affordable housing projects from its reach, and would effectively stop 90% of city-sponsored affordable housing projects.

It is for these reasons CES Urges You to Vote NO on Measure S!

 

(Larry Gross is the Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival and a CityWatch contributor.) Edited for City Watch by Linda Abrams.

DEEGAN ON LA-What had seemed to be a done deal, subject to City Council approval, is now being treated by Councilmember David Ryu (CD4) like some speculative notion that could be up for review and possible re-litigation. (Photo above: Councilman David Ryu.) 

The creation of a Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) has already been endorsed by former CD4 Councilmember Tom LaBonge as well as by David Ryu himself, and approved by a vote of the Cultural Heritage Commission and a vote (with alterations) by the Central Planning Commission (CPC). However, Ryu just sent his Miracle Mile constituents a letter requesting a yes or no answer to his question asking if “you support or oppose the HPOZ for your community?” This is his second attempt to “learn” what the community wants. Right after the CPC vote, he met with representatives of the pro and anti HPOZ groups, but reached no consensus with them on boundaries. 

With his new survey of residents, Ryu seems to be asserting that the very idea of a Miracle Mile HPOZ could be open to review by him, as he faces strong pressure from the Say No HPOZ group. He may not be alone in this reconsideration. The Mayor could want him to limit the HPOZ boundaries so that strips of housing between 8th Street and Wilshire that hold hundreds of affordable housing units, and renters protected by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance, are excluded from the HPOZ – making that space available to developers. Then renters could lose their protection and be evicted. 

This sudden community outreach and polling conducted by Ryu feels a little bit late. A more appropriate time to ask the community to weigh in on a survey about how it feels about a HPOZ would have been way before the matter was sent to the Cultural Heritage Commission and the Central Planning Commission. This could have given the councilmember a benchmark to use as defense against latecomers who are now stealing the narrative -- as well as a means to pushback against City Hall, the Mayor and the Central Planning Commission. Instead, Ryu waited to test the waters by polling the community until after he was bombarded by community unrest over the Central Planning Commission’s slaughter of the original HPOZ plans and the appearance of organized protesters telling Ryu they do not want a HPOZ. 

It’s a mess and Ryu (speaking to MMRA meeting photo left) is right in the middle of it. The ground has suddenly shifted from the original dispute about HPOZ boundaries -- that were reset in December by David Ambroz and the Central Planning Commission -- to Ryu now asking the very basic question, “who wants a Miracle Mile HPOZ?” Results of Ryu’s poll will be revealed at a community meeting he has called for February 22, at 7p.m. in the auditorium of John Burroughs Middle School. Both the Miracle Mile Residential Association and Say No HPOZ are mobilizing for what could be a showdown with Ryu, who is now in a tough position. 

The President of the Central Planning Commission, Mayoral appointee and proxy David Ambroz, is the one who threw a monkey wrench into the CPC boundaries debate, causing an uproar until Ryu brought the HPOZ question back to square one. Ambroz played a divisive role in the looming removal of several hundred affordable housing units in the Miracle Mile when he called for two CPC votes on the issue. The first vote, that would have protected affordable housing, was a tie, while the second, after a quick huddle, broke against the affordable housing renters to insure that the Miracle Mile HPOZ boundaries approved by the Cultural Heritage Commission (and previously supported by Ryu) were denied. With that came the abandonment of protection for the renters of affordable housing. 

This is happening at a time when Mayor Garcetti says he is working hard to create more affordable housing. It’s as if the Mayor’s City Hall colleagues Ambroz and Ryu are working against him by not emphatically protecting affordable housing in the Miracle Mile and opening the way for developers of market rate and luxury housing. That is…unless they are working in collusion with him. Ambroz cast his CPC vote against HOPZ protection for those affordable housing renters, and then organized the second vote to seal its fate. It’s hard to imagine that a political appointee -- Ambroz is not elected but serves at the pleasure of the Mayor -- would vote contrary to his patron’s wishes. 

Ambroz, a Disney executive when not at City Hall, appears to be a Garcetti favorite who is now enjoying his second Mayoral appointment. He has just been named as a Commissioner on the citizen review board overseeing Prop H funds should this ballot measure to help the homeless be approved by voters on March 7. 

The affordable housing issue is center-stage for Ryu now that he threw his own monkey wrench into the Miracle Mile HPOZ debate last week, questioning constituents about having a historic preservation overlay zone (HPOZ) for the neighborhood. 

Residents are circulating a petition demanding “that the areas excluded by the City Planning

Commission from the original boundaries of the Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) as approved by the Cultural Heritage Commission and endorsed by Mid City West Community Council be reinstated into the HPOZ.” This would require Ryu to unequivocally state that he is for the Miracle Mile HPOZ in its original incarnation, with restoration of the sections eliminated by the CPC. He’ll need to stick his neck out to get some support from council colleagues to overturn the CPC vote. By reaching backwards now to poll the community, Ryu has created a vacuum into which developers have rushed. They sense that the wedge he’s created will enable them to get what they want: less restriction and more freedom to control land use for their own benefit. 

“Is David Ryu, barring some possible compromise by him, really ready to back a residential homeowners and tenants group that, I believe, has lost such credibility and has morphed into utilizing the HPOZ status for tenant's advocacy, not neighborhood protection?" asked Henry van Moyland, a Miracle Mile homeowner for the past two years and one of the most vocal leaders of the Say No HPOZ group. 

"They have abused the process by using a HPOZ as a device to promote affordable housing through the Rent Stabilization Ordinance. There is no justification for HPOZ status, either politically by Ryu or from a preservation standpoint for the community. It’s better to switch all houses in the zone to one of the new R-1 variations. That designation does everything necessary to stop McMansions, which was the original intent of creating the HPOZ." 

Miracle Mile resident and real estate businessman Jay Evan Schoenfeldt, founder of Say No HPOZ, adds to his partner’s theme, stating, “Rent stabilization is not the same as affordable housing. There is no income qualification to occupy a rent stabilized apartment. Residents can stay in a rent-restricted rent stabilized unit for decades even though their household income may have grown, while affordable housing uses a household’s gross income as a qualifying factor to live in the unit. Rent stabilization is a public policy issue and should not have anything to do with whether a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) exists or does not exist. In fact, including that in the equation undermines the entire principle of a historic zone.”

Ryu has his work cut out for him in clarifying his position on the HPOZ and gaining credibility among the warring factions -- the Miracle Mile Residential Association that wants the HPOZ and the Say No HPOZ group that does not. 

No side seems to be happy, not the pro-HPOZ, not the anti-HPOZ groups, not the renters who may lose affordable housing, and not David Ryu, who may have been thrust into the middle of this mess by the Mayor. It looks like nobody is going to come out of this in one piece. And all parties, except the Mayor and the developers, may come out losers.

 

(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at timdeegan2015@gmail.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

GELFAND’S WORLD--The local chapter of Indivisible met last week. As you may recall, this is the grass roots reaction to the Trump administration and the new congress. Apparently, the San Pedro locals started with a few people getting together in a living room just a week or two ago. They decided to go public immediately rather than wait around. The time and place of the meeting was spread largely by word of mouth, which is how I found out about it. But suddenly, there we were, a standing room only session running into the better part of sixty or seventy people. At the meeting, word spread that there are now nearly 6000 such groups spread around the country. 

The big question on people's minds is simple. The group is developing in numbers and organization, so what should people do now? There obviously are hundreds of thousands of activists who are flocking to these meetings, and probably millions more who are beginners at activism but nevertheless strongly motivated and energized. How to put this to effective use? 

The guideline proposed by the originators is to form local groups which are dedicated to opposing what the Trump administration and congress are trying to do. You might say it's a liberal version of Just Say No. This presumably starts with preserving the Affordable Care Act and defending civil rights. As the program of the congressional right wingers starts to coalesce in the form of legislation, there will be other things to oppose. 

The guide book for Indivisible explains that the Tea Party conservatives self-organized and descended en masse on congressional town hall meetings. Such meetings used to be fairly calm -- what will the government do about farm price supports and the like -- but suddenly the congressmen were getting an earful. And it was loud, and often enough, not very civil. The Indivisible guidebook does not propose that people be uncivil, but it does suggest that they show up and make their feelings known. 

As Woody Allen pointed out, eighty percent of life is showing up, and that is what has been happening. We are starting to hear of an increasing number of confrontations between worried citizens and the congressmen who nominally represent their interests. A bunch of conservative Republicans are suddenly on the other side of the Tea Party approach. A lot of the discussion, some of it heated, has been about threats to abolish the Affordable Care Act. 

The reason we know this approach has been effective is that the right wing noise machine has been complaining about the behavior of the protesters. When you think back on the Tea Party era, the irony is rich. Those conservatives sure know how to dish it out, but take it? Not so much. 

Breitbart news is even referring to Indivisible as "Soros-linked." This, you have to realize, is actually kind of funny. The right wing used to complain about inferred ties to the Russian government. This no longer being an option, they try to tie their opponents to George Soros. It must be some kind of trigger word for their loyal readers. 

I would like to offer a couple of suggestions regarding where things go from here. 

First, it is obviously important that Indivisible grows in number. It's standard to compare organizational strength to the National Rifle Association. They should make it a goal to grow to at least that size. But it's also important that the resistance to Trump's policies continue to grow outside of the big cities on the two coasts. Therefore, people who are willing to join the opposition should reach out to people who live in political border areas, the places that the news media traditionally refers to as purple (for their near balance of liberals and conservatives). Whether it's relatives or old classmates, online chums or army buddies, it's important for participants to make the effort to bring in at least one or two new people. 

It's also important for the movement as a whole to provide psychological support, as it were, to the hardy folks willing to stick their necks out in the redder areas. It shouldn't be any great surprise that you can't peel people off of one interest group if you don't show them some alternative. 

One measure that seems to be drawing some blood from the congressional Republicans is the telling of truly emotional stories by those who have found improved health and better medical coverage due to the Affordable Care Act. The collection and spreading of such stories is an important message in and of itself, but also adds to the political strength of the movement. 

The need to preserve Medicare is another story that should be spread far and wide. You would think that there wouldn't be any need, what with Medicare traditionally being considered a third rail in American politics along with Social Security. But congressional Republicans have already broadcast their intent to do damage to both of these programs. It's time for Indivisible participants to shout out the danger. 

Back in 1964, John A. Stormer published his book None Dare Call it Treason, a favorite of the right wing during the peak years of the Cold War. In recent weeks, the title has been played on by critics of Trump's connections (whatever they may be, exactly) to the Russian government and Russian business interests. Marty Kaplan wrote a piece for the Jewish Journal that is reprinted on the Bill Moyers website and contains the following (not entirely tongue in cheek) paragraphs: 

"Now that the CIA has determined that the Russians intervened in the presidential election to help Trump win, the Cold War politics of left and right have been flipped. If Stormer rewrote his book for 2016, its thesis might go like this: 

"Beware of Donald Trump. Witlessly or willfully, he’s doing the Kremlin’s bidding. Anyone who enables him — on his payroll or in the press, by sucking up or by silence, out of good will or cowardice — is Vladimir Putin’s useful idiot. This is a national emergency, and treating it like normal is criminally negligent of our duty to American democracy. 

"Trump as traitor: I can just imagine the reaction from the Tower penthouse. Lying media. Paranoid hyperbole. Partisan libel. Sour grapes. A pathetic bid for clicks. A desperate assault on the will of the people. Sad! (Note to the tweeter-in-chief: You’re welcome.)" 

Trump and his close associates as traitors -- indeed, that's how the right wing would have referred to Democrats who dared to get as close to the Kremlin in an earlier era. 

These are legitimate concerns, but may I suggest that an equally strong concern, not only for Indivisible but for all Americans, is Trump's lethargy over national security issues. It's not that he communicates a lack of interest in the subject, but that he isn't willing to do the necessary work. In those meetings with our congressional representatives, we might also point out that political meddling is preventing the U.S. from having a capable National Security Advisor who is allowed to appoint and administer a capable staff. At least, that was the case as of yesterday. Maybe the official policy (if not the actual practice) will change tomorrow. 

We might remember that George W. Bush, when told in his security briefing about Bin Laden's intentions, famously replied, "All right, you've covered your ass now." Trump got a lot of criticism for failing to attend several security briefings during the period between the election and his inauguration. His unwillingness (or inability) to put the necessary mental effort into receiving a full briefing has become known. It's worth worrying about, and it's worth complaining about to your congressional representative.

 

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

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--California is already on the defensive in its battle with Donald Trump. Our state needs an offense—now. (Photo above: Former President Ronald Reagan at Presidential Library in 1997.)

Trump’s first four weeks in office have made clear that hopes of California working with this president—in areas like infrastructure—are pure fantasy. Trump is already engaged in non-stop attacks against our state, as if all of California were a political opponent. His strategy is not merely to punish California; he wants to rob our state of its legitimacy within the American polity.

And so the president of the United States has repeatedly and falsely claimed that California’s elections are fraudulent exercises that enable millions of illegal votes. He’s frequently accused our biggest cities of endangering our country by failing to assist federal goons with deportations. He has called the whole state “out of control” and threatened to “defund” our universities and unspecified state programs.

Such attacks are so potentially powerful (since they play into American resentments against our special state) and damaging (since California is the world’s sixth-largest economy and a vital model of diverse peoples prospering together) that we need to be fighting Trump much harder and more directly.

Put simply, California must delegitimize Trump before he delegitimizes us.

There are two ways California must go on offense against Trump. First comes the fist: Californians must aggressively question Trump’s legitimacy as president as often as possible. Second comes the outstretched hand: We must bolster our state’s own legitimacy by reaching out to the rest of America and reaffirming just how proud we are to be a part of this country.

Right now, our response to Trump is led by cautious souls: lawyers, politicians, and lawyer-politicians who focus on legislation and litigation. But this fight isn’t about laws. Trump must be fought on his turf: politics, culture, and media.

Our state needs a war room. Any outrageous allegation Trump makes against us should be answered with greater outrage. If Trump wants to make up claims of fraud in our elections, we should target his own frauds—from questionable business dealings to unpaid taxes to the confidence game that was Trump University. And we should pressure our law enforcement officials to investigate and publicize any questionable moves by his family’s ongoing business interests if they have any connection to California at all.

When Trump alleges again that California is “out of control,” California should press the president on who controls him. Let’s ask him which of the powers behind his throne we should be talking to when we have a complaint about him. Should we be discussing energy policy with your bosses at the Kremlin, Mr. President? Or with the Goldman Sachs executive committee? Or with the white supremacist groups backing you?

And when Trump threatens the funds for state programs, Californians should shout that Trump is trying to bankrupt the whole country. “If Mr. Trump gets his way, California won’t be the only state short of funds,” we should say. “His trade and immigration policies will destroy the economy, and his reckless spending and tax cuts will create unsustainable federal debt.” The strategy: Take the heat off California and put it back on Trump.

Indeed, the most powerful line of attack against this president is to question his patriotism. Trump has put Americanism at the heart of his political story—he’s an unapologetic nationalist, vowing to make America great again. But he’s actually vulnerable on nationalist grounds. He constantly slanders the country—lying about the murder rate, equating America’s leaders with the murderous autocrat Vladimir Putin, tweeting false insults against important American companies and businesses. Californians should point out the truth: that Trump’s attacks on this most American of states are really an attack against our entire country.

We don’t believe Trump is legitimate, but we respect Republicans and Trump voters. To make this sell, California Democrats should hold their noses and deploy the words of California president—and “great communicator”—Ronald Reagan as weapons against the current president.

To emphasize Trump’s lack of patriotism, we Californians must put our American patriotism on full throttle. That starts with killing off the traitorous (and Russian-affiliated) #Calexit movement. Instead, while Trump denigrates America on Twitter, California and its leaders should be looking for opportunities to praise and assist other states.

Our governor and other elected state leaders should be on the road, initiating high-profile meetings with their counterparts across the country, looking for areas of cooperation. When another state faces an emergency or natural disaster, California should be the first to send help. And whenever another state celebrates a great triumph—a game changing new business in North Carolina, a new university campus in Michigan—our leaders should show up and congratulate them in person. (Once there, we can take shots at Trump. A talking point: “In California we’re learning so much from your state’s example, which is important at this time, when Washington D.C. is so consumed with negative attacks.”)

Californians must focus on Trump, not his supporters. We don’t believe Trump is legitimate, but we respect Republicans and Trump voters. To make this sell, California Democrats should hold their noses and deploy the words of California president—and “great communicator”—Ronald Reagan as weapons against the current president.

The Gipper left us bon mots for every occasion.

To explain our fight with Trump: “When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.”

To build solidarity with other states: “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness.”

When we engage in protests: “No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.”

And as we counter Trump’s war against refugees and immigrants, we should invoke the 40th president as often as possible. “I, in my own mind, have always thought of America as a place in the divine scheme of things that was set aside as a promised land … any person with the courage, with the desire to tear up their roots, to strive for freedom, to attempt and dare to live in a strange and foreign place, to travel halfway across the world was welcome here.”

In that vein, California should shift its energies from opposing Trump’s Wall—that’s defense after all—and go on offense by demanding the removal of the existing wall along our state’s border with Mexico. The fact that there’s already a wall exposes the blatant wastefulness and redundancy of Trump’s proposed boondoggle—and might be news to Americans elsewhere. And we could point out that the current barrier doesn’t keep out the undocumented (airports are the real border gates), and is little more than an expensive eyesore that inconveniences tourists, businesses, and residents of the San Diego-Tijuana and Calexico-Mexicali regions. “Mr. Trump, tear down this wall!” we could thunder, in another Reagan echo.

Opposing the wall would be welcome in Mexico, and should be part of a California effort to develop our own foreign policy with allies Trump is offending. Governor Brown should press for summits with Mexico’s president and Canada’s prime minister, and seek high-profile meetings with other Trump-attacked U.S. allies from Australia to Germany. The state could then sign environmental, trade, tourism, or educational exchange deals that benefit California and put Trump on the spot. Why doesn’t the president make deals like that?

Sun Tzu advised, “If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him.” The dual offensive strategy outlined here—reaching out to our fellow U.S. states while attacking Trump’s legitimacy as president—would both irritate and isolate him. Such an offense is the best way to weaken Trump—and protect both our state and our country.

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

-cw

CORRUPTION WATCH-Thank you Donald Trump for alerting us to a deadly serious problem: Alt-Facts. We are accustomed to Alt-Facts being sprinkled throughout sources of information like small doses of arsenic in our food so that we do not notice how our minds and thinking processes are being poisoned. The Donald, however, makes non-stop use of Alt-Facts. The best part of his Alt-Facts is that they are so obviously fake. 

The Donald did not invent Alt-Facts, but many of Americans treat a panoply of long standing myths as true. 

Here are some national issues that are misrepresented with Alt-Facts: 

Foreign Aid: The general public believes that 25% of the Federal budget goes to foreign aid. You will hear people say we should stop giving away our money to other countries before helping people at home. The Real Fact is that less than 1% of the Federal budget goes to foreign aid. 

3 to 5 Million Illegal Votes: Anyone who does not know about Trump’s bogus claim that he lost the popular vote because there were 3 to 5 million illegal votes for Hillary must have been sealed in an ice cave for the last several months. The interesting thing about Alt-Facts is that after they are proven completely false, their promoter sticks with them. 

PBS and NPR Cost Too Much: Trump says he will help balance the budget, which by the way is a really foolish idea, by cutting things like the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio. Some people believe that PBS and NPR use 5% of the Federal budget, but the Real Fact is that together they are 0.01% (1/100th of 1%) of the Federal budget. 

Military Spending is Discretionary: Because the amount spent on the military is adjusted each year by Congress, people say it is “discretionary,” but I call this an Alt-Fact. Having a military is not discretionary, and thus, spending money on the military is not discretionary. The Real question should be what type of military do we need and how can we pay for it. One way of figuring it says the military is 57% of the budget. Another way of looking at the Federal budget says military spending is only 16%. Why do we argue over different Alt-Facts when both approaches are false? Shouldn’t we grow up as a country and realize that arguing over whose Alt-Fact is correct is not beneficial for any of us? 

Here are some areas where we find Alt-Facts that directly affect Los Angeles: 

Pensions & Benefits: The general public believes that 10% of Federal budget goes to pensions and benefits, when the real number is 3.2%. Also, if we were spending 10% on pensions and benefits, what would be wrong with that? The government’s main function is to provide services. Thus, spending money on pensions and benefits is required in order to have a government. 

At times, however, cities like Los Angeles have huge pension deficits, but the Alt-Fact with LA’s pension deficit is that the pensions themselves are not the problem. No, the problem is that the City has been deliberately under-funding its pensions. If the City had not been committing fraud by not making reasonable contributions to the pension funds, we would not be facing a huge future deficit. The fraud on the public is the false representation that the City is putting away enough money to pay the pensions when city employees retire.

As one can see, Alt-Fact based upon Alt-Fact can lead us into a terrible situation. Had the City of LA been making realistic contributions to the pension funds over the years, we would not be facing a future deficit. Now people want to reduce the pensions for newly hired people. That is an Alt-Fact solution since we know that when we lower the compensation packages, we end up with less qualified employees who do a worse job -- and end up costing the city more money. For one thing, bad employees make mistakes which increase the likelihood of the City being sued. 

LA City’s Lawsuit Settlements: The mayor intentionally understated the size of the upcoming lawsuit settlements and verdicts. Now that the money has to be paid, the City has to borrow about $60 million. If the City had not used Alt-Facts about the liabilities facing us, we would not have to pay Wall Street interest on the money which we now must borrow to pay for the lawsuits. Without the Alt-Facts that the City is using to mislead the public about our true liabilities, the City might not have given $197 million to the private Grand Avenue Project. That is triple the current “lawsuit deficit.” 

Measure S Opponents Say ‘S’ Stops All Construction: Some people who oppose Measure S on the March 2017 Primary Election ballot claim it will stop all construction. That Alt-Fact merits a Liar, Liar House on Fire rating. That is like saying laws against shopping lifting will ban all shopping. The only projects that are temporarily halted are illegal projects. People should ask themselves, what is it that’s wrong with Los Angeles that it now needs to have another law to say it is illegal to break the law? 

Why do we like Alt-Facts? 

The main reason people like Alt-Facts is that they are manufactured to tell people what they want to hear. When Garcetti gets on TV and tells Angelenos that we are moving ahead, when all the independent demographic data show that Los Angeles is moving backwards and that LA is at the bottom of the list for almost all the measures of the good life, people feel good. Unlike the orange buffoon who makes Alt-Facts so obvious, Garcetti is smooth. His brilliance is shown in his use of photo-ops. Unlike Football Tommy (former CD 4 Councilmember Tom La Bonge), who used to elbow his way to the camera, Garcetti appears almost reticent to appear. If we gave Oscars for presenting Alt-Facts, Eric Garcetti would win every year. 

The public is better off when Alt-Facts are yelled at us by lunatics like Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, Steve (media should shut-up) Bannon and most recently and most frighteningly Stephen (“Actung, Thou shalt not question!”) Miller. Nonetheless, making decisions based upon Alt-Facts will never result in wise policy by a nation or by a city.

 

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

PLATKIN ON PLANNING--Whether LA voters adopt or reject Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, on March 7, the Planning Department will eventually update LA’s General Plan, including the city’s Community Plans. This process has already begun, but the unanswered question is how well they will do it. 

While I truly hope I am wrong, based on precedent, it will be a run-of-the-mill job, and once completed, City Hall’s spirits and trolls will quickly attempt to sabotage them.  My crystal ball says that without the combination of Measure S, follow-up voter Initiatives, alert public watchdogs, and numerous law suits, today’s dysfunctional city planning status quo will quickly re-emerge. 

As I previously wrote at CityWatch, based on its work program, the Department of City Planning will update the General Plan, but it will do so in reverse order. More specifically, they are already completing the implementation end-product, a totally revamped zoning code, through re:code LA. 

The City Council has, in fact, already begun to adopt several re-code LA ordinances. When completed over the next several years, LA’s zoning code will become far more permissive. The amended zoning code will permit, by-right, a much wider range of land uses. This will not only allow most new real estate projects to side-step the California Environmental Quality Act, but it will usher in enormous windfalls for commercial property owners. They can sell their properties for a greater price once they are re-zoned and avoid any additional property taxes. Until existing or new owners construct a replacement structure, these valuable City Hall handouts will remain untaxed. 

Meanwhile, the supposed driver of this process, the comprehensive update of the General Plan itself is just starting. What should be one of its final tasks, which actually began over a decade ago, are the updates of LA’s 35 Community Plans and two District Plans.  While the City Council wants these updates to proceed on a six year cycle, this can only happen when the current backlog of Community Plans is finally completed. 

The concluding work product task, which should be the first task, it to fully update LA’s mandatory and optional citywide General Plan elements.  Common sense indicates that you need to carefully understand the big picture before you can drill down to local issues. But, in the case of Los Angeles, common sense appears to be quite uncommon. It is driven by City Hall politics, and in Los Angeles that means the marginally criminal pay-to-play process described in recent months by two astute Los Angeles Times reporters, David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes. In LA’s case, this means that the soft-corruption they exposed at City Hall will prevail over a carefully prepared and adopted planning process. 

This defective planning process will continue to neglect public infrastructure and public services, even though they essential part to urban governance, especially in an era of accelerating climate change. By continuing to separate the planning process from the City’s Capital Improvement Plan and its annual operating budget, we can toss and turn at night knowing that no one is actually minding the store in one of the most tumultuous periods of human history. 

This cart-before-the-horse approach may solve a few imminent political problems, like Measure S, but it is still bad city planning. Plan implementation should follow, not precede, extensive analysis of the entire city and its neighborhoods. It also needs to be mindful of the wide-ranging community outreach process mandated by Measure S.                                                                                                                                

What else should we gird ourselves for, to make sure we will not be hoodwinked during the anti-Measure S “counter-revolution”, especially when it emerges full force on March 8. 

The overturned  Hollywood Community Plan Update is probably the best model we have for turning the planning process into a catalyst for real estate speculation. In its case City Hall used inflated population data to justify 100 pages of up-zones and up-plans for Hollywood. To justify this slight of hand, City Hall resorted to an illusory claim that Hollywood’s existing zoning was not sufficient to house waves of new residents supposedly moving to Hollywood over the next two decades. Reality was just the opposite. Hollywood experienced notable population decline, not growth, from 1990 to 2010, and the most recent data indicates these trends have and will continue. As for a lack of sufficiently zoned parcels, there is no data whatsoever to support this parallel claim. It was and remains a total fiction. 

City Planning will also avoid serious technical monitoring of the completed updates, whether citywide General Plan elements or Community Plans.  At best monitoring will continue to be a public relations exercise. Reports will have the appearance of monitoring, but not its content. The cover page will surely have the word monitoring, but the contents will be so general that no revisions in planning policies or programs will ever be included or solicited. 

Finally, unless Measure S passes and is faithfully implemented, the City Council will incrementally undermine the updated General Plan Elements and zones it adopts through spot-zones, spot-General Plan Amendments, and spot Height District Changes. 

As for sustainability, the City Planning Commission and the City Council will continue to adopt un-monitored, boilerplate Statements of Overriding Considerations for Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs). These statements, will, of course, promise transit ridership and jobs whenever the EIR's forecast unmitigatable levels of Green House Gases resulting from the un-planned projects so favored by LA’s elected officials. 

This grim future, though, is only one alternative. The future is open-ended. It depends on the long-term approach of those who support Measure S. Like earlier waves of community activists who fought for specific plans, Historical Preservation Overlay Ordinances, Proposition U, and important law suits like AB 283 and the General Plan Framework, today’s activists will also need to work on many fronts. This will includes campaigns against individual projects and give-away ordinances, still more voter Initiatives, endless law suits, and electing independent officials who comply with adopted planning and environmental policies and laws.

 

(Dick Platkin is a former LA City Planner who reports on local planning issues for City Watch. He also serves on the board of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association.)

-cw

EASTSIDER--I know I keep mentioning that I’m a third generation Californian in these columns. I do it mostly because I have at best a tenuous interest in what happens in the corridors of power back east in places like Washington, DC. Their prep school/’right college’/network of people has essentially run the country for a long time. We in California have always been relegated to acting as an ATM machine for the federal government and the DNC/RNC political establishment. I know it’s a parochial view, but I believe it to be reasonably accurate. 

So, I try to avoid thinking about the moral rot of those who govern us, but the recent displays of political discord by both the Democrats and the Republicans has made me wonder what ever happened to the State of California that I grew up in. Forget DC. I don’t much recognize the current California, and how it is sucking the economic marrow out of our children, instead of preparing them for and providing decent jobs. 

In retrospect, I was a lucky person to be educated in the California of the 50’s and 60’s.   Schools worked differently then. High School still had shop and other vocational classes to provide training for actual jobs when you graduated, and they even had decent class sizes and counselors. 

Not that the system was without flaws. There were two tracks - one for those going on to college, and the other for those going on to wherever. Of course they also had homemaking classes for girls, but they let both guys and girls into the shop classes. Hey, it was another time.   

They also had a system where the children did not automatically promote from grade to grade in high school. I remember, because I was definitely not a mainstream student, being in a Junior High school in Fullerton, where many of my peers were older kids simply marking time until they were old enough to stop having to attend school. 

I mention all this because the LAUSD of today gave up that model of education for the “College & Career Readiness Through A-G”.   As they proudly announced in their latest form, the mission statement sets requirements that ‘all students will complete the minimum course requirements for the CSU system’. Good grief. 

Funny, in the old days it was recognized that a good chunk of people were not going to go to college, and needed preparation to be able to simply get a job - not necessarily one that required a college degree. In their zeal to get away from the old two track system which did indeed discriminate against some students, we have flipped the system into unreasonable requirements that everyone, as I once quipped, is going to go to Stanford’. Horsepuckey. 

The current system has resulted in over 1/3 of entering students never making it to graduation, period, and has utterly failed to produce real jobs for real people. Instead, the LAUSD keeps on lowering the standards to graduate, as if that is going to meet their silly goal. The only thing that it has produced lately is a bunch of Charter schools under the ‘leadership’ of Monica Garcia & funded by a billionaire backed industry looking to siphon education dollars into their coffers. 

Let me give you an example. The Department of Water and Power has an acute shortage of line workers -- the ones that work on those poles and towers to provide us with reliable power. These jobs don’t need a degree, but after a few years the employees are going to be making something like $100,000/year, with a defined benefit plan thrown in. However, the DWP can’t go on high school campuses to advertise these jobs because that isn’t going to get the students into college. 

This is nuts. Our children need jobs when they graduate, not simply being thrown to the wayside to maybe work in the low paying service industries. Right now, apprenticeships are taking off because our high schools no longer provide the free education to get jobs.

Instead, we have all those ‘technical institutes’, which are simply designed to provide what high schools don’t, and laden the students with a bunch of debt whether or not they complete the course, much less get a job. 

And as for those college degrees, all too many students get is over $50,000 in student debt that will hound them for the rest of their lives, whether or not the degree leads to real jobs with anything like a career ladder. This is not cool. 

My generation had the California of Governor Brown’s Master Plan for Education, where an excellent, free education was available to all of us. You can read about it here, and weep. 

I came out of that system, through Fullerton Jr. College, Cal State Fullerton, and then UC Berkeley. Didn’t cost much, and provided an excellent education. Why we don’t provide the resources to this for our children, I utterly fail to understand.

The Takeaway

If our educational system can’t provide jobs for our children, exactly what use is it? Seems to me that we starve the educational system of money, divert a good chunk of what money is left into Charter school experiments, even as many of them fail or in some cases steal the public funds for personal gain. 

Even as we try to get rid of tenure for teachers, look forward to breaking the public sector unions, and head down the path of vouchers instead of actual education leading to jobs. Arrgh! 

I only mention all of this because I know what a good educational system can produce. And it seems to me that none of the candidates for LAUSD are going to squat about fixing these issues. Not to mention the elected officials in Sacramento and Washington. 

C’mon, if we can organize and divert money from the lobbyists with their ‘special deals’ for politicians, corporations & financial services industry sharks, back to educating our children and providing real jobs for them, we will actually be accomplishing something to be proud of. 

Too many of my friends have lost jobs and may never have regular full-time employment. They have fallen by the wayside of no longer even being counted in the unemployment numbers, like un-people. Same for many of our children who have to continue to live at home, struggling to make their economic way in the world. As a society, this is simply unacceptable, and political platitudes won’t fix anything. 

In the California I grew up in, it didn’t used to be that way. Let’s make our politicians divert our tax dollars back into providing real education and real jobs for us and our children. We know that it can be done.

 

(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.)

-cw

 

EDUCATION POLITICS--Is it true there are LAUSD board candidates “supported by” Betsy DeVos?

Recently this very central, very arresting question was posted to a neighborhood social media website, highlighting the core themes of today’s political perplexity: culpability, association and formal logic.

The thread claimed that those who opposed DeVos should be aware that two carbon copy candidates running in tandem for the LAUSD fourth board district are “supported by” DeVos; today’s mail insisted the same.

Not True” howled the pair’s supporters and indeed I have found no trace that DeVos has funded either candidate directly.

And yet these underlying claims of equivalency are, I believe, spot on.

Why?

Well first, the term “DeVos” has become iconic, representing an attitude, a political ideology and stance.  As well, she has become symbolic of Trump’s predilection for appointing cabinet members who are patently antagonistic to that department which they are tapped to lead.

As unpleasant as the second characteristic is, DeVos’ symbolism is only a secondary characteristic of LAUSD’s board race for the fourth district (BD4). There is little question that incumbent Steve Zimmer is eminently – and the most – qualified candidate for this position.  He has done the job for two terms already and arguably has been extremely effective at it, having climbed a very steep learning curve of mind-boggling complexity. Governing Los Angeles Unified is a gigantic job, so (i) working within a splinter school district just a very small fraction of its size, or (ii) tilting ineffectively against its entrenched bureaucracy (the twinned challenger’s qualifications respectively), does not constitute robust qualification for the post. This district is vast and its issues tremendously difficult to master; job familiarity is a strong asset.

Additionally his opponents champion the charter school ethos underwritten by Eli Broad in “a bold plan to expand the charter sector to serve 50% of Los Angeles public school students.” If such a plan cannibalizes the very system that spawned it, then these candidates could be said to be akin to the DeVos paradigm of anti-leadership because their ascension will destroy that which they are charged with directing.

However these would still be characteristics supported “by“ DeVos in only a derivative sense.

Steve Zimmers’ opponents are more directly supported by DeVos in the first, iconic, sense wherein she represents an enormously wealthied class, functioning as a special interest group in and of herself and her corporatized family. Their enormous wealth is employed toward parochial interests. She represents a numerically small but supremely vast elite that strong-arm elected officials and governance through the bully pulpit of campaign donations.

And make no doubt about it, the forces allied with charterizing America are an array of privateers that play for keeps just as DeVos’ compatriots; our very president explained this system plainly.

One of the biggest of these Education brokers operates right here in Los Angeles. Peering into the not-Zimmer initiative exposes big money focused on deposing the education of our little ones, on a scale that can only be described as fearsome. It is the same eclipsing support that swept Betsy De Vos into office despite patent nonqualification and ideological impropriety. And it harnesses the same cast of characters.

The national triumvirate of Education ®eform is framed by the Foundations of Bill and Melinda Gates, the Walton family, and Los Angeles’ Eli and Edythe Broad.

Both Broads have given both anti-Zimmer candidates separately the maximum in personal contributions, $2,200. Since 1998 they have contributed $29,700 to the personal campaigns of 12 LAUSD board members, all enthusiastic supporters of the Broad agenda (Garcia, Rodriguez, Galatzan, Gomez, Melvoin, Polhill, Johnson, Lee, Hudley-Hayes, Anderson, Sanchez, Vladovic; in descending order of largesse). For reference the couple or their businesses have contributed a total of $169K to the personal campaigns of local politicians in 236 increments below $1,100 each. This is approximately 0.0023% of Eli Broad’s estimated $7.4b net worth, which qualifies him as of 2015 as America’s 58th-wealthiest individual.

That’s nevertheless a lot of tiny little influential bon-bons that add up fast. The cash-on-hand in LAUSD’s wealthy  war-chests ($367,414) totals four times that ($90,200) of Zimmers’.

But the real money comes in Independent Commitees, aka PACs.

IEs come in two flavors: PRO and CON (Support and Opposition). The raft of nasty negative mailings you think you’re fielding is not an artifact of, say, sensitivity or perception. To date more money has been spent oppositionally in BD4 than supportively. And while supportive literature is about 2/3-more prevalent for Steve Zimmer, his doubled-up opposition has spent nearly 8.5 times as much in slamming out put-downs.

Yet the style of campaigning varies with the source of monies. “Labor” coalitions spend nearly 7 times as much to convey reasons you might approve a candidate; “Business interests” spend nearly 1.5 times the resources addressing the opposite side of beyond, a parade of alternative suggestions from the dark side of truth:

But the real question is: who peddles their influence through IEs; who composes these groups? As antagonists, their spending power is mismatched; “business interests” are nearly double “labor’s power”.

In reverse order of beneficence, focusing on Eli Broad simply because he is the patron of our city even while his fellow billionaires exhibit a promiscuousness for place that only the super-wealthy can afford:

The treasurer of Students For Education Reform is a 10-year veteran investor from Goldman Sachs, the group’s chair is on the board of NewSchools Venture Fund, which is heavily supported by the Broad Foundation. The group is organized in New York, with San Francisco ties.

Dick Riordan is LA’s former mayor, a republican who has massaged education politics in Los Angeles for decades, he is one of many mayors who would abolish a democratically elected school board if permitted. Unlike Eli Broad and many supporters of Education ®eform, Richard Riordan is not a billionaire, but a mere multi-millionaire. His wealth is empirically adequate all the same to the task of influence peddling here in the City of Angels.

The CA Charter Schools Association Advocates IE Committee is a conglomerate of individuals plus agglomerated committees. Since the last LAUSD election in 2013, twenty-two million dollars has been donated to this committee. Eli Broad’s individual contribution to this was $1.4m but he is also a contributing donor to many of the committee’s 11 constituent PACs. For example just one of these, EdVoice’s IE Committee, received $12.5m since 2013, $775K of which was from Eli Broad. Several other coalitions are constituted with Broad Foundation money too.

Parent-Teacher-Alliance is, as the myriad flyers littering our landfills declare, “Sponsored by California Charter Schools Association Advocates Independent Expenditure Committee”. This is not your parent’s “PTA”; it is an “alliance”, and never despite careful parroting, the “association” copyrighted over a hundred years ago.

Eli Broad’s contribution since 2013 to this corporate “name-identity theft” is $305K. And so this group is as uroboric as the rest; groups composed of groups composed of the same individuals investing in the same narrative. On a bigger scale exactly the same cast of billionaires continues to nest infinitely inside these same groups: here in this specific node, Carrie Walton Penner ($450K) and Jim Walton ($250K) of Wal-mart, Dorris Fisher ($550K) of the Gap family fortune, Michael Bloomberg ($250K), America’s 6th-wealthiest estimated at a net worth of 45 billion dollars; Reed Hastings ($1.5m), the CEO of Netflix which just so happens to have produced sensational footage of criminality reminiscent of subsequent negative campaigning against Steve Zimmer; John Scully ($200K), CEO of Apple “ipadgate” fame and “executive-in-law” of another ubiquitous Education ®eform investor, Laurene Powell Jobs, plus the ever-present Riordan ($50K).

The point is, there are thousands of these investment repositories hiding one inside another, obscuring the true reach that this small cadre of individuals hold as underwriters of Education ®eform. This is a small convenience sample of the larger financially and managerially incestuous whole. It is a schema designed for influence and speculating, not education and certainly not social welfare as is so often claimed. The convoluted structure hiding contributors masks the extent of collusion and obsession between opportunities most accurately characterized simply as capitalist bonanzas. These names which recur seemingly indefinitely suggest a capacity for political machination that is essentially unbounded.

The final, most spendy PAC, LA Students For Change, is yet another Dick Riordan vehicle for piling fuel on the anti-Zimmer offensive.

A full review of these investor’s roots reveal close ties with charter management organizations, whether nominally “For Profit” or not (e.g., KIPP, Alliance), with investment firms and hedge funds that specialize in Education instruments profiteering on our children’s natural civil right to equitable, accountable education (e.g., Oaktree Capital Management, NewSchools Venture), and with Foundations dedicated to the “vulture philanthropy” that primes this engine of economic opportunism at the expense of our – yet curiously never their – children (e.g., Broad, DeVos, Arnold).

This is the funding juggernaut that underwrites our relatively humble school board race. Those in its clutch seem unaware of the cultivated language they have incorporated and now use as their own. But this implementation of the corporate-elite’s agenda is plain to see if not in denial. This is the sense in which our school board election is recapitulating the DeVos acclamation.

The magnitude and lure of such an extensive network filled with people whose interests are antithetical to public school participants, should cause any supporter of justice to pause.

Ask yourself simply: Why? Why do the hyper-rich want to control your children’s schooling? And since the events in Washington make evident that clearly they do, consider the vulnerability of our children here to elections that inadvertently mirror this horror. Elections here as nationally, have consequences that can be anticipated and isolated with the warning we now have. It isn’t new and is therefore a maxim well worth heeding:  Follow The Money. Beware associations that exact moral sacrifice. Don’t excuse slander even in alternative form. Decency is a leadership trait worth voting for.

Please vote AGAINST Crony Capitalism on the school board. Vote for Steve Zimmer. Vote for Señora-Alva or Parent-Petersen. Do not accept the dictates of our homegrown DeVos.

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

-CW

MY TURN-We have a Primary Election on March 7 and will probably see an underwhelming turnout. Maybe it’s because we are still exhausted from the recent national election and its subsequent events. Unfortunately, the March primary and the May final will have more short term -- and perhaps long term -- effects on your day to day living. I must hedge that by saying local elections will matter more providing we don’t have some huge natural or political disaster. 

Local elections are not exciting. More money is being spent on the race for Board of Education than other offices. I have never seen so many negative flyers against one candidate: Steve Zimmer. He has been blamed for everything wrong with the LA school system and a few other things thrown in for good measure. I am surprised he hasn't been accused of initiating the recent earthquakes. The opposition to him has spent over a million dollars. That could buy a lot of supplies in District 4. 

In my last article I pointed out that this City Council race has all incumbents running except for District 7, the Northeast portion of the San Fernando Valley. Sometimes those who live outside the SFV don't realize that the Valley is as large as Chicago (220 sq. miles) and has almost as many land uses.   

Years ago, I didn't vote for secession from LA, but I now understand why the NE portion of the Valley was so enthusiastic about it. All fifteen Council Districts have their unique sets of challenges. On Wednesday, the LA Times wrote about District 15 and its very divergent stakeholders and problems. The majority of pundits seem to believe that the number of members on both the LA County Board of Supervisors and on the LA City Council is inadequate. Both should be enlarged so that they can more effectively represent their stakeholders. 

Acknowledging that all districts have issues, I must admit that Council District 7 seems to have more than its fair share. Now it seems to be motivated to not to make the same mistake by electing a City Councilmember with his own agenda. Fortunately, Filipe Fuentes resigned and City Council President Herb Wesson took District 7 under his umbrella. He showed up for events and meetings and was able to undo some of the damage that Fuentes inflicted on his stakeholders. 

The good news is there are 19 City Council candidates running campaigns in CD 7. The bad news is they have 19 candidates running for this non-partisan City Council seat. Will there be a runoff? Absolutely! 

Two candidates who have held other local government positions have raised the most money in the District 7 -- by six figures. The majority have raised under $20,000. In looking at the group of candidates I was pleased to see the number of neighborhood activists throwing their hats in the ring. Even though there are only about 65,000 stakeholders in District 7, it runs the gamut economically, politically and ethnically. 

CD 7 has all the challenges the other districts have and a few extra -- plus Governor Brown’s High Speed Rail is supposed to run through their community. They are, as a group very vocal and even though there are the usual power struggles and conflicts over projects, they have historically been participants in trying to get things done for their community. In my opinion, they are a good example of grassroots "doers"...not just noisemakers. 

Several Neighborhood Councils have sponsored candidate forums in the NE Valley. Last Saturday two NCs (Sunland Tujunga and North Hills East) offered one hosted by the Pacoima Chamber of Commerce and All Nations Church. Twenty questions were sent to each candidate. You can view those questions and their answers at the Sunland-Tujunga NC website: stnc.org. The candidates were also allowed to post a two-minute video on the site. After the formal part of the program, visitors were invited to have one on one time at each candidate’s table. Most had flyers, volunteer support as well as the answers to the 20 questions. Measure S seems to be the most controversial issue. 

I also urge you to check the Los Angeles City Ethics Department’s website. It is a real eye opener to see where the money is coming from and to whom. 

I know the last thing we need is more political talk. I have started to switch channels and am enjoying Madam Secretary and House of Cards as my political diversion. At least we can root for the good guys and hiss the villains. At the moment, it’s hard to tell who is who in Washington D.C. 

This is another reason why we need to select our local candidates very carefully. California may end up being on its own with some issues -- although I understand British Colombia has invited California, Oregon, and Washington to join them. 

As always comments are welcome.

 

(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.com) Cartoon: Australian Financial Review. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

RANTZ & RAVEZ-The “Safe Sidewalks LA” program is another example of how City Hall deals with issues impacting the quality of life in Los Angeles and your individual neighborhoods. We are told that walking is good exercise and you should do it on a regular schedule to reduce your weight, lower your chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke and stay in shape. While some join a gym and work out on a regular schedule, many of us walk in our neighborhoods to exercise for health and relaxation. 

With this in mind, we discover that the City approved a $1.4 billion dollar investment in repairing the sidewalks throughout Los Angeles over the next 30 years. This was the result of a lawsuit settlement. Where will most of us who are reading this article be 30 years from now? Take your current age and add 30. When you come up with the final number, you’ll find that many of us will be either in the old folks’ home, living with our children (if they will have us,) at the cemetery or in a box sitting on a mantle. Not many other options available for us Baby Boomers. 

The above photo was taken in the Valley and is reflective of most of the city’s broken sidewalks. Just think how nice the sidewalks might be in the year 2047! It is past time to get this program off the ground for our residential neighborhoods. As of a couple of days ago, the City is still trying to get its act together to move this worthy program forward. To report sidewalks in need of repair, you can call 311 or go to www.sidewalks.lacity.org.  

There is also a program available for those who wish to pay for the sidewalk repair and receive a rebate of up to $2,000 for a residential lot or $4,000 for a commercial lot. If any progress happens in your neighborhood, let me know. To date, the only repairs I have noticed are in areas near government buildings or new construction locations at the expense of the developer.   

Ready or not…Election time is here once again…and few people really care this time around. Vote on March 7! 

While the National Election is over and national protests are continuing over the election of President Donald J. Trump, we find ourselves facing another election in our City of Los Angeles. Our Mayor and a host of other candidates and a couple of other issues are on the ballot. While some councilmembers and other elected officials are facing little to no opposition, there is no real energy behind this election cycle throughout the City. Does anybody know or care that there is an election on March 7 for the Los Angeles Mayor, City Attorney, Controller, some councilmembers and a few ballot measures? 

The Mayor has ten candidates running for his seat. None of them have gained any strength and I predict that Mayor Garcetti will easily win his election. The City Attorney and Controller have no opposition so they will win without any fight. There is a fight in the 5th Council District where Councilman Paul Koretz is facing Jess Creed. I have my money on Jess to win this election. In the 7th District, there is a fight for the open seat. There are also seats on the Community College District Board of Trustees up for election. These are important for the education of our adult population. 

While little attention is being paid to the candidates in the various elections, some publicity is being generated by County Measure H and City Measure S. Measure H is a county tax measure that will generate funds for the homeless. The City already passed the ½ cent sales tax for homeless housing (HHH). Now the County comes at us again for supportive services for the homeless. I say NO MORE TAXES! VOTE NO on Measure H. 

Measure S is a way to give LA an opportunity to catch up with the massive development projects throughout the region. With traffic a mess throughout the City and our infrastructure falling apart, it is time to pause and let the City catch up with these massive developments throughout Los Angeles. I say vote YES on Measure S. It will not cost you any money and hopefully it will improve our quality of life. 

NIMBYS in Walnut Acres 

I have been asked to offer an apology to those in the Walnut Acres neighborhood for my article on the Senior Housing Development on Fallbrook south of Victory Blvd. The attorney that filed the original court action against the project has contacted me and provided me with court documents to review. 

The documents are lengthy and I am in the process of reviewing them. After a review, I will decide if an apology is in order. I do know that I will offer an apology to the seniors who are being deprived of a place to live by the actions of those fighting the development that I approved (and still support) when I served on the LA City Council. 

Should a developer be required to pay $445,000 to settle opposition to a development? More to come on this story.

 

(Dennis P. Zine is a 33-year member of the Los Angeles Police Department and former Vice-Chairman of the Elected Los Angeles City Charter Reform Commission, a 12-year member of the Los Angeles City Council and a current LAPD Reserve Officer who serves as a member of the Fugitive Warrant Detail assigned out of Gang and Narcotics Division. Zine was a candidate for City Controller last city election. He writes RantZ & RaveZ for CityWatch. You can contact him at Zman8910@aol.com. Mr. Zine’s views are his own and do not reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ALPERN AT LARGE--I really feel for those Angelenos getting pummeled between the pro- and anti-Measure S arguments and literature.  Why wouldn't they be confused...especially with the distractions occurring at the federal and state levels of government.  But the question of why Measure S comes down to this:  Does the citizenry of the City of Los Angeles trust the City Council and Downtown government to support the interests of law abiding, taxpaying Angelenos? 

While acknowledging that there are a few good local pols, overall the answer must be a resounding NO

The founder and father of our City's experiment in grassroots democracy, former Mayor Richard Riordan, supports Measure S. 

Our current Mayor, Mayor Eric Garcetti, who is a certain improvement over his predecessor but has overseen megadevelopment that have been ruled as illegal in court, opposes Measure S. 

Those supporting Measure S?  The volunteers.  The environmentalists.  The affordable housing advocates.  The neighborhood preservation advocates who have ALWAYS compromised and encouraged good development for more housing when sustainable and affordable. 

Those opposing Measure S?  Two groups:  the "true believers" that believe that megadevelopment and a "Blade Runner" scenario of a sterile, overcrowded Los Angeles is WONDERFUL, and those who are primarily opposed to Measure S because they're being PAID (Primarily Associated In Development) to fight it. 

After all, nothing says being pro-megadevelopment (and not just pro-REASONABLE development) than Herb Wesson and his band of "Trumplestilskins" on the City Council who are awash in developer money and are much more beholden to their corporate sponsors than the voters they purport to represent. 

And why NOW are the City Councilmembers rushing to update Community Plans, "ban" or "limit" corporate money for City political races? Why are they NOW talking a better Planning Environmental Review process?

Well, after decades of citizens and Neighborhood Councils screaming for a legal, rule-abiding City of Los Angeles, Measure S came up. 

So Let's Make Something Clear: 

1) THIS City Council and Mayor have never truly respected the citizenry and Neighborhood Councils.  A few stand out as listeners and honest brokers, but overall they and the Planning Politburo they've created don't give a DAMN about the citizenry.  We're NIMBY.  We're unenlightened.  We're uneducated.  We're just too darned "mean" to "get it". 

2) THIS City Council and Mayor, and those before them, are continuing a process of undermining the Neighborhood Councils Mayor Riordan rammed through 15-20 years ago just like they've done for LADWP reform and for budget reform.  Lip service, but when push comes to shove it's always on "their terms", with a tweak or two to ensure things stay the same, and that real reform just doesn't get implemented. 

3) THIS City Council and Mayor don't want Planning and related reform.  They want the continued "pay to play" with enough money greased over enough palms to get elected and re-elected, and with a few social issue distractions to make those of us still not too cynical to vote willing to keep them in office. 

To reiterate and summarize, as stated in my last CityWatch article, and with the understanding that I am NOT being PAID

1) If Measure S passes, housing and construction will go on aplenty...just not the illegal megadevelopments.  

2) If Measure S passes, the focus of construction will be on affordable housing for the middle class and for Senior Affordable Housing, Student Affordable Housing, and Workforce Affordable Housing...but not so much for luxury housing unless that luxury housing is done within the confines of the law.  

3) If Measure S passes, there will be plenty of apartments and opportunities to upgrade our commercial corridors to create wonderful new places for people to call "home".  

4) If Measure S passes, high-density housing and development that is transit-oriented will certainly be welcomed next to train stations...but car-oriented megadevelopments will not be.  

5) If Measure S passes, the opportunity for low-rise development to house the middle class can be the new focus of construction throughout the City of the Angels (even for that region south of the I-10 freeway) that prevents gentrification and empowers the middle class. 

Just remember: those supporting Measure S also support livability and environmental sustainability for all Angelenos.  

And also remember: those supporting Measure S are those who've overseen and led us into the problems we now face with inappropriate development, and either have ...  

… a conflict of interest and are getting PAID, or   

… just don't give a damn about the worsening lives of tired, exhausted, and increasingly-disillusioned volunteer Angelenos who just simply want to save their City.

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties.  He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.) 

 

-cw

GUEST WORDS--Right after I graduated college something happened to me that has happened to many other Latino men but few other Members of Congress. My brother and I were pulled over by the police in broad daylight. Suddenly there were five police cars surrounding us. My car was turned inside out without reason. I was questioned belligerently by the police. And we were asked, ‘what gang are you a member of?’ I remember it like it was yesterday.

This is a reality for many Latino men. And right now, it’s Daniel Ramirez Medina’s living hell.

I have serious concerns about the way Mr. Ramirez Medina is being treated. I’m even more irate over the ICE agent’s alleged comment that because Mr. Ramirez Medina wasn’t ‘born in this country,’ it didn’t matter that he is a legal DACA recipient.

This incident is a clear example of the deep-rooted, fundamental problems in our system – especially when it comes to immigration and criminal justice. Not everyone in our country receives fair and just treatment.

ICE’s detainment of Mr. Ramirez Medina, in addition to their LA-based raids and their general lack of transparency, leads me to assume the worst – that this Administration has unleashed a chain of events that will diminish the safety of our country and the stability of our economy for American citizens and immigrants. The Trump Administration has decided to disregard the dignity of our friends and neighbors.

Is it the new Administration’s policy to disregard a person’s legal, government-issued work and residency documents, simply if they weren’t born here? Will we continue to see raids on our communities tearing parents away from their children? Are DACA Recipients and DREAMers in danger? Can we take President Trump at his word that DACA recipients ‘shouldn’t be very worried’ because he has ‘a big heart’?

As an elected public servant, I demand answers to these questions, and I will not be silent until I have answers.

(Tony Cardenas is U.S. Congressman for LA’s 29th District in the San Fernando Valley.)

-cw

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Those who gripe about our city characterize Angelenos as firmly sequestered in our bubbles or in our Priuses or SUVs, listening to Sirius during our freeway commutes. Walkable neighborhoods aside, our experience isn’t typically like cities like New York where crowds pile onto the subway or streets. We tend to circulate in homogeneous groups, by age, culture, income levels; by marital status or lifestyle.

There’s a certain danger in the apathy and lack of empathy that may ensue when you share space only with those who resemble you. We might assume that Angelenos don’t tend to harbor intolerance. After all, we live in a city where many enjoy exploring different cultures, at least on our plates or through our dining habits. But I would bet we’ve all been surprised to hear a friend, neighbor, colleague express some sort of prejudice against a particular group.

This past month, I’ve chosen to ride the Redline downtown on several occasions. As the doors opened, students would enter beside young mothers or fathers with toddlers in strollers. Young people gave up their seats for senior citizens, arms filled with bags. During two of my trips, a young pregnant woman approached passengers for whatever change they could give her. The train truly represents a microcosm of LA life.

I’ve been disappointed and saddened since the election by the rise of intolerance or perhaps the nodding acceptance of what may always have been present. Sharing a Metro ride and a smile, a brief conversation or even a knowing nod with other travelers has been a comfort to me and a gift.

No matter what our age, income level, our background or language, we all share this city. Riding the Metro is a keen reminder that we are all in this together and an experience of which I wish we’d all avail ourselves when we can.

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

-cw

RESISTANCE WATCH--Protesters took to the streets in Los Angeles after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reportedly raided homes and communities around the city and detained over 100 people in a mere three hours. (Photo above: Protesters shut down an intersection near an ICE detention facility in Los Angles.)

Reflecting the growing community-level resistance to President Donald Trump's immigration crackdown, protesters chanted "not one more deportation!" in front of an ICE detention center and later formed a human chain in the street:

While an ICE spokesperson defended the citywide immigration raids as routine, local immigrant advocacy groups say the volume of reports of detentions they received is unusual and frightening, and a part of Trump's harsh crackdown on immigrants' rights.

"This is the kind of situation we feared would happen, and here it is," said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

In Los Angeles on Sunday, according to the Associated Press, United Methodist Pastor Fred Morris 

handed out a double-sided sheet listing congregants' civil rights: Don't open the door to anyone without a warrant. Don't talk. Don't sign any document.

He is planning a community meeting for Monday night.

He has another plan, too. He started organizing a phone chain. If he hears about a raid in his community, he will call five people, who will call five people and so on. They will all show up, stand on the sidewalk and chant: "ICE go home."

"The only weapon we have," he said, "is solidarity."

To that end, Our Revolution, the grassroots political organization launched to harness the energy of Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, is asking supporters to "pledge to take action locally to protect immigrant families and stop the raids."

The alarming raids came the same day a mother of two who has lived in the U.S. for over 20 years was deported from Arizona to Mexico, despite protests from her community and pleas from her children. The deportation was widely seen as just the beginning of Trump's xenophobic campaign against peaceful undocumented immigrants.

Indeed, while ICE claimed its detentions in Los Angeles targeted people with violent criminal records, CHIRLA said that many people detained on Thursday had no criminal convictions to speak of.

Moreover, CHIRLA policy director Joseph Villa also told a local TV station that despite CHIRLA's efforts to speak to those being detained, "ICE is not releasing their names. ICE is not allowing them to see their attorney."

"We can't make this the new normal," Salas said. "People were calling us—we were in the middle of a staff retreat, we stopped everything because we were receiving so many calls from our community. Our community is concerned and they really do feel terrorized."

Watch members of CHIRLA describe the deportations here:

Local advocacy groups have been holding vigils, attempting to connect detained people with immigration lawyers, and offering "know your rights" trainings to help undocumented immigrants fearing raids. A solidarity rally for immigrant rights is planned in New York on Friday. 

Civil rights advocates are also calling on law enforcement to help them resist an emboldened ICE agency. Many local police departments, including the Los Angeles Police Department, have promised not to assist ICE with immigration detentions and deportations. 

As part of the effort to resist Trump's crackdown, immigrant youth group United We Dream also launched a #HereToStay campaign, which asks supporters of human and civil rights to pledge to show up in person when ICE comes to deport members of their community. 

(Nika Knight writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)

-cw

ALPERN AT LARGE--Planning and Transportation is NOT an issue for sissies in the Golden State, and particularly in the City of the Angels. This state, and this city, have been led by those fighting a "War on Math" for decades, and have found it easier to attack those decrying this "War on Math" than to confront it like adults.   

Still confused about Measure S?  I don't blame you.  Yet Measure S is still the best way to bring the adults back to City Hall: 

1) First, know when to get over national/politically partisan leanings. 

Among my own family and friends, I've got members who are zealously pro-Trump, and others who are zealously anti-Trump.  I'm personally zealous towards each expressing their views, because they each have a point or two to make--but there will have to be times when we have to focus on the objective, not subjective, issues surrounding Transportation, Infrastructure, and Planning. 

In short, we've got too many people clustered in too dense a coastline, with respect to our infrastructure.   

That isn't a "hater's declaration" but rather a statement that we're in trouble. 

The Oroville Dam is one case where Governor Jerry Brown is having to ask political nemesis President Donald Trump for help.  And with the understanding that as many people statewide and nationwide have problems even saying "President Trump" as they do "Governor Brown", we need to focus on our water problems. 

We're asked to reduce water consumption while being told to allow more megadevelopments.  In other words, we're supposed to consume and use less water to help the developers make more money?

Why are we not focusing on making sure we keep our water, and direct our water, to ensure the water supply for residents, for farmers, and even to allow the restoration of the Salton Sea? 

Love him or hate him, President Trump is our nation's 45th President.  Governor Brown is our governor.  And we all should consider the reality that the Trump Administration has designated a proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant as one of the top 50 infrastructure projects for our nation to fund and prioritize. 

No one says you have to like our President, or our Governor, but we all have to know when to shut up and work with them. 

2) Second, know when to get over local/politically partisan leanings. 

To suggest that Los Angeles is a city dominated by Democratic politics is to suggest that gravity makes things fall down when they aren't lifted up or supported.  It's our reality, and either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who you ask.  Yet there are conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans in our town, and Measure S is NOT a partisan issue. 

Both sides of the Measure S issue claim the other side is like Trump.  Of course, that's prima facie reaching for your heart or your gut to make you decide who's "good" or who's "bad".

Particularly when we've got "environmentally-friendly" City Council members opposing Measure S while supporting development that's trashing and thrashing our environment.   

Too much density + Not enough water + Not enough affordable housing + Not enough infrastructure = Pollution + Decreased air quality + Worsened congestion = Decreased Quality of Life. 

Yes, Richard Riordan supports Measure S, but also established our Neighborhood Councils and supports local/grassroots empowerment.  He's a Republican...but he's on the same side as: 

U.S. congresswoman Diane Watson, Homeless Advocate Reverend Alice Callaghan, the Ballona Wetlands Institute, Damien Goodmon of the Crenshaw Coalition, Environmental Lawyers Sabrina Venskus and Noel Weiss, and a host of people who are anything BUT Republican...but know disingenuous behavior when they see it and therefore support Measure S

And our City Council, our Mayor, and the Planning Department have been as environmentally-insensitive, as derisive of grassroots empowerment, and as much in the pockets of developers as any "let them eat cake" aristocrats we've ever seen. 

So it should be remembered that those who are pro-Measure S are doing this out of a sense of volunteerism and grassroots empowerment, while those who are anti-Measure S are being PAID (Primarily Associated In Development) to fight it. 

3) Finally, why are those opposing Measure S only NOW acknowledging that City Hall and Planning is out of whack, and only now acknowledging that the "Groupthink" dominating Planning has its limits? 

Simply put, because they know that Angelenos of all political stripes, and who adhere to Common Sense and Fairness and Compromise, have HAD IT. 

Those jackasses at the LA Times opposing Measure S, while attacking Angelenos who volunteer to support it and ignoring why their own readership is going down.  

They're the same lovelies who just LOVED all the overdevelopment supported by Mayor Garcetti, even when they didn't hold up when brought to the courts. 

And the Times was nowhere to be found when developer money and bizarre Planning "Groupthink" and zealotry was developing the City of Los Angeles into the toilet with respect to sustainability, livability, and economic betterment for the average Angeleno. 

After all, if the City Council is NOW (with Measure S on the ballot) trying to limit developer money at City Hall, and raising the issue of addressing the decades-overdue-but-legally-mandated updating of our Community Plans and Planning Policies, why should ANYONE believe or trust the City Council, the Mayor, or the LA Times? 

So rather than attacking those who are volunteering and spending their own money to save the City of Los Angeles, maybe one should look up the story of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and respect them rather than attack their advocacy for Common Sense and Environmental Sustainability. 

And rather than ignore those decrying our unsustainable Planning practices that are illegal (as upheld when they get to the courts), let's just listen to City Planners who want everything to be ... well ... legal. 

1) If Measure S passes, housing and construction will go on aplenty...just not the illegal megadevelopments. 

2) If Measure S passes, the focus of construction will be on affordable housing for the middle class and for Senior Affordable Housing, Student Affordable Housing, and Workforce Affordable Housing...but not so much for luxury housing unless that luxury housing is done within the confines of the law. 

3) If Measure S passes, there will be plenty of apartments and opportunities to upgrade our commercial corridors to create wonderful new places for people to call "home". 

4) If Measure S passes, high-density housing and development that is transit-oriented will certainly be welcomed next to train stations...but car-oriented megadevelopments will not be. 

5) If Measure S passes, the opportunity for low-rise development to house the middle class can be the new focus of construction throughout the City of the Angels (even for that region south of the I-10 freeway) that prevents gentrification and empowers the middle class. 

So we really do NOT need to keep lying to and confusing Angelenos.  We really do NOT need to wait until the next dam breaks, with respect to any of our infrastructure needs. 

Just remember: those supporting Measure S also support livability and environmental sustainability for all Angelenos. 

And also remember: those supporting Measure S are those who've overseen and led us into the problems we now face with inappropriate development, and either have: 

… a conflict of interest and are getting PAID, or  

… just don't give a damn about the worsening lives of tired, exhausted, and increasingly-disillusioned volunteer Angelenos who just simply want to save their City.

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties.  He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.) 

-cw

@THE GUSS REPORT-You know that the City of Los Angeles is in trouble when Councilmember “Grand Jury Nury” Martinez seems like a less risky choice than her colleague Mitch Englander (photo above) to serve as City Council president pro-tem when council president Herb Wesson is not running the meetings. 

Englander, running Friday’s City Council meeting in Wesson’s absence, came this close to putting the city (i.e. the taxpayers) in significant legal jeopardy when he threatened Armando Herman, an all-star button-pushing gadfly, with suspension from future Council meetings as he was being ejected from his second consecutive meeting for violating random, inconsistently enforced and historically illegal decorum rules. 

That is precisely what caused the city to be on the losing side of a very costly federal 1st Amendment lawsuit a few years back when it was brought by 2017 mayoral candidate David “Zuma Dogg” Saltsburg, who wrote the book on successfully exposing local politicians at public meetings, often with colorful rap lyrics. 

California’s Ralph M. Brown Act, passed in 1953, gives great leeway to members of the public to express their beliefs – especially their derision of elected officials – at public meetings. The biggest known settlement the city had to pay for abusing a member of the public exercising that right was the $215,000 it paid in 2014 to Michael Hunt, a black man dressed in a KKK outfit – this was for kicking him out of a 2011 meeting because his outfit was deemed disruptive to the meeting and he refused to take it off. 

Englander, who held various staff positions, including Chief of Staff, in the office of his predecessors Councilmembers Hal Bernson and Greig Smith, during those lawsuits, tangled with virtually every public speaker on Friday, refusing to give them their due leeway to make their points. Englander had his omnipresent chip on his shoulder from the get-go. 

At the 1 hour and 20 minute mark of the video, Englander threatens Herman – who was in his characteristic obnoxious-but-legal mode, “….we are going to ban you for…for a number of meetings, for disrupting the meeting.” 

Englander’s mic was immediately cut, as he turned to consult with the new Deputy City Attorney who advised Englander that he could not make such threats. 

Read Englander’s lips while his mic was silenced. The next thing he says to the Deputy City Attorney is unclear, but in the sentence after that, Englander clearly says, “we can’t?” 

When Dion O’Connell, the previous Deputy City Attorney in charge of enforcing rules at City Council meetings, was recently given a public send-off before going on to his next job, he said that his biggest regret during his lengthy tenure was his failure to protect the city from the Zuma Dogg lawsuit, in which there was a nominal verdict, but massive legal fees to pay.

With Englander still not understanding the legal and financial risks of his own misconduct, it is time for Wesson to step in, protect the city from liability and remove Englander from occasionally running the meetings altogether. 

The reason for Englander’s misconduct might be similar to that of Martinez, who is female, and Wesson; they are the three most diminutive of the city’s 15 lawmakers, and they each adopt a bullying – and costly – mentality when they take the several steps to ascend to the Council President’s elevated podium. 

But things are different with Englander, who at about 5’3”, perpetually tries to project a macho facade.

In his 2016 run for LA County Supervisor, Englander raised the most money of any primary candidate, but came in 5th place out of a field of 6 (of those who got at least 10% of the votes) in part because a judge publicly shot down his effort to list his profession on the ballot as “police officer,” a macho authority figure, when Englander is simply a part-time reserve officer. 

In 2014, Englander was dismissive of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a staffer against him and his chief of staff, John Lee, which a city panel unanimously agreed to settle.

And even with dog licenses, Englander did not pay them for his own purebred Golden Retrievers for years, despite having a high kill shelter located in his own district where he could pay them, until I made a public records act request for those records. Englander still hasn’t paid the late fees for those dog licenses.

Should City Attorney Mike Feuer be forced to defend LA against another free speech lawsuit, his lawyers won’t be able to tell a jury that the city didn’t know about these problems, especially if it is triggered by Englander’s misconduct: the running joke at City Council being Englander’s nickname “The Bad Mitch,” which is used to differentiate him from his colleague, Mitch “The Good Mitch” O’Farrell. 

You can read more about the Ralph M. Brown Act here

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatch, Huffington Post, KFI AM-640 and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

FILM WATCH-Sorry if I'm a little late on reporting this February 9th-20th film and art festival at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, but there is still enough time left for you to enjoy some of the close to 200 films that will continue to have multiple screenings before the festival comes to a close on February 20th. You can go on line for more information about these films and book tickets to see this rich and thrilling variety of films and art exhibits. 

No, I'm not exaggerating. Yesterday I saw one of six free screenings for seniors offered by the festival called "Biography, Battles & Bernard," about the life and times of past LAPD Police Chief Bernard Parks. Unexpectedly, I came away with from this film appreciating how much of Parks' life we all share or can empathize with as Angelenos, Americans, and the more recently arrived -- who not so coincidentally, have remarkably similar stories to those of the Parks family. 

What must it have been like to arrive from Beaumont, Texas, where Parks' dad would walk his mother home from work, with him on one side of the street and his wife on the other? Why? Because she was light-skinned and his father was dark. She was able to find work, again because she was light-skinned, while the father never had an easy time of it. What does this do to the fabric of a family? 

When the Parks family arrived in LA, they lived near Central Avenue, because racially restrictive covenants in force until 1948, made it illegal for them to live anywhere else. The is similar to the five segregated Latino barrios of the same period, as well as the racially restrictive covenants that made the Beverly-Fairfax one of only a few Jewish neighborhoods, because my people could not live legally elsewhere. 

So what is the origin of Parks’ tenacity and drive that was necessary for him to succeed and bring about, against all odds, at least some profound change in Parks life? Well, let's just say that I wasn't surprised that he went to Catholic school and not the Los Angeles Unified School District. 

Once Parks set his mind to something, I seems he never gave up because he had the atypical familial nurturing and education that still remains so rare in the inner city. If he had to work at the old General Motors plant on Van Nuys Blvd. before he got into the police academy and the department, so be it. 

Parks’ rise from cadet to chief is chock full of overt and covert racism that was still the rule through much of his tenure at LAPD. Black male officers could never be partnered with while female officers, even though they shared the same pernicious discrimination by a system that refused to promote them. No matter how well they did on written examinations, they somehow would mysteriously do poorly on their orals when judged by their white male superiors whose primary role was maintaining the segregated status quo. 

Did Bernard Parks ever give up, even when forced out as police chief after only one term by Mayor James Hahn? Well, I don't want to ruin the ending for you, but let's just say his subsequent career in elective politics and the fact that his son wrote, produced, and directed this film might tell you that you can't keep a good Parks down.

 

Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

CORRUPTION WATCH-On Wednesday, February 8, 2017, the Los Angeles City Council unleashed its latest volley of frauds perpetrated on the voters in its attempt to stop approval of Measure S, which would outlaw Spot Zoning. Spot zoning occurs when a developer pays the mayor and a city councilmember to “up zone” his property so that he can build a project which would otherwise be illegal. 

One name for this practice is Pay-to-Play, which means that in order to get what is wanted from the City Council, a person must first make a payment to the mayor and city councilmember. A more commonly understood definition is Extortion-Bribery. These are two sides of the same coin. 

The alternative system for approving projects is one of laws, where a citizen can bring a project to the city planning desk. If the project is legal, the city provides the permits but if the project is illegal the developer gets no approval.  

Of course, the City employees cannot have the final word or else they would be “king of the hill” for this extortion-bribery racket. Thus, in a city run by the rule of law, there has to be a level of appeal and review so that Joe at the Planning Desk does not become a millionaire by approving illegal projects. 

Although the rule of law system is laid out in the city’s planning code, it is not the actual process that exists. Developers do not start with the Planning Department. They start with the councilmember in whose district the developer wants to build. 

The reason they go to the council office first is to find out how much to bribe the councilmember for an approval of the illegal project. Since this horse trading is done behind closed doors, no one in the public gets to see what the councilmember has demanded or what the developer will give in exchange. The first chance the public gets to see a project is after the deal has been struck.

The Purpose of Measure S the City Hates. 

Measure S was placed on the ballot because many voters did not think the city’s zoning laws should be up for sale. The best way to stop the biggest sales was to make spot zoning illegal. The measure halts the up zoning for the mega-projects which have the greatest potential for abuse. The larger the project, the more the mayor and city councilmember can extort from a developer. As the LA Times showed, Garcetti got $60,000 from developer Samuel Leung while hundreds of thousands of dollars went to City Councilmembers for the district. Also, developer Rick Caruso “donated” $125,000. 

 

The fact that Measure S focuses on mega-projects does not mean that much smaller projects are not part and parcel of this extortion-bribery racket. At least Measure S will take a big bite out of the corruption. 

The steps that City Council proposed on Wednesday, February 8, 2017 are laughable in the way they ignore all the extortion-bribery machinations and provide zero relief to Los Angeles’ “planning problem.” 

(1) The Proposal for Panel of Consultants to Write the Environmental Impact Reports. 

The panel will include the same firms which presently write the bogus Environment Review Reports. The only new aspect is that the EIR writing firms will probably have to bribe their way on to the panel. 

(2) Update the Community Plans. 

The City acts as if some horrible force is preventing them from updating the community plans. Really, is Godzilla sitting on top of City Hall waiting to gobble up anyone who updates a community plan? 

The mayor and councilmembers could have updated the Hollywood Community Plan any time after 2001, but Garcetti refused. As Judge Goodman wrote in January 2012, the city knew when the 2010 U.S. Census data was released that the plan was fatally defective. Instead, Garcetti insisted on using bogus data, causing Judge Goodman to reject the 2012 Update. The 1988 Community Plan was reinstated and Garcetti refuses to release a new one. Why would he when he can make millions of dollars off the 1988 Plan? 

How Out-of-Date Community Plans Benefit the Criminals. 

Here’s the great advantage City Hall criminals find in out-of-date community plans. When plans are out-of-date, projects are more likely to run afoul of community plans. That provides the councilmembers and the mayor a plethora of opportunities to extort money from the developers. When a plan is purposefully twenty-five years out-of-date, it does not sound so unreasonable to up zone. The voters say, “Oh well, the plan was so out-of-date that it had to be modernized,” all the while ignoring that the crooks who are shoveling cash into the pockets of elected officials are responsible for the plans being out-of-date. 

Accounting Control Fraud Rules at City Hall. 

Perhaps, Accounting Control Fraud would be taken more seriously if it had a sexier name. Look at RICO, enacted in 1970. It means “rich” in Italian (ricco) and it was directed at the Italian Mafia. Today the name would be politically incorrect, but in 1970, politicians considered it “smart marketing.” 

Accounting Control Fraud applies to cities as well as to corporations like Enron. It occurs where the people in control use accounting to transfer the city’s money into the mayor’s and city councilmembers’ pockets and/or election campaigns. 

As we often find out after the unanimous approvals, the City subsidizes these mega projects. Sometime even smaller projects like CIM Groups’ 5929 Sunset Blvd receive City subsidies. The Grand Ave project got $197 million, CIM Group’s Midtown Project allegedly got $42 million plus all the sales taxes generated at the site. 

In 2015, Garcetti gave $48 million to help the $28.5 billion Westfield Corporation with its $250 million project in the San Fernando Valley. Westfield affiliates have contributed $950,000 to two Garcetti initiatives including Measure M to promote the 2024 Olympics in LA. Thus, Westfield gets $48 million from the City and Garcetti gets almost one million for initiatives to advance his career. Let’s remember that when Garcetti runs for office, he has the protection of the Citizens United case to take as much money as he wants from CIM Group, from Westfield, from the developers of Grand Ave, etc. 

The pattern at LA city Hall is classic Accounting Control Fraud where the money leaves the city treasury for one purpose but works its way back to benefit the people who authorized the gifts. 

The City Council’s Wednesday, February 8, 2017 resolutions did not even hint at stopping this type of criminal looting of the City treasury. 

We have to mention the lynchpin of the massive multi-billion criminal racket which runs Los Angeles. The Vote Trading Agreement. This agreement requires each councilmember to vote Yes for every project proposed by another councilmember and in return, each councilmember must reciprocate with a Yes vote on every project on the city council agenda. That is why all projects pass unanimously. 

Developers would not be giving Garcetti and the councilmembers millions dollars unless the money guaranteed their project’s approval. All a developer has to do is work a deal with one councilmember and when the councilmember places that project on the city council agenda, it will be unanimously approved. Without a vote trading pact, when it comes time to approve a project, Wesson might say, “Well, I don’t know,” and then a few others may say the same. Soon there would be no majority. 

That is the genius of the Vote Trading pact – a developer only has to buy off one councilmember and the mayor and in return he gets a guarantee that his project, not matter how illegal, will receive unanimous approval without a single dissent. Of course such a system of extortion-bribery can never survive any coherent planning. 

Nothing the City Council suggested on February 8, 2017 to stop Measure S addresses any of our problems. Corruption trumps planning.

 

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

DEEGAN ON LA-“Traffic and crime have been overtaken by homelessness as the defining issue for voters right now, and that’s pretty amazing,” said Tommy Newman, spokesperson for the Yes on H campaign, citing internal polls. 

The homeless, seen everywhere and discussed constantly, continue to penetrate the consciousness of city leaders and citizens in the run up to the March 7 Primary Election when voters will be asked to support Measure H: The Los Angeles County Plan to Prevent and Combat Homelessness. 

It will become the third part of a comprehensive plan to help the homeless. If approved, this is what we will have: 

(1) County-sponsored Homeless Initiative.            

A collection of strategies to prevent and combat homelessness within Los Angeles County. Approved by Supervisors in February 2016. 

(2) City-sponsored Measure HHH

$1.2 billion in general obligation bonds to buy, build, or remodel facilities for the homeless, passed by voters in November 2016. 

(3) County-sponsored Measure H.  

A quarter-cent sales tax that is expected to raise about $350 million every year for a decade to fund services for the homeless. Voters will decide this on March 7. 

The County and City will then have moved from lots of rhetoric with zero plans, exactly one year ago, to a fully defined, funded and approved three-part program to deal with homelessness. The politicos, the homeless and the citizens should all be happy about this. Leading the surge toward a solution was the County Board of Supervisors, heavily influenced on homeless issues by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. 

Measure H will fund a menu of services for the homeless that includes:

  • mental health
  • substance abuse treatment
  • health care
  • education
  • job training
  • rental subsidies
  • emergency and affordable housing
  • transportation
  • outreach 

Funds will also be applied to programs for the prevention and supportive services for homeless children, families, foster youth, veterans, battered women, seniors, disabled individuals, and other homeless adults. 

What voter could say no to this? So far, there is no organized opposition, nor is there anyone speaking out singly about the proposed measure. Hopefully, very few will oppose it, and the city will start making a dent in the chronic problem of homelessness. 

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a leader in efforts to support the homeless, gave shape to the measure by describing it as “a critical component in the fight against homelessness and part of an effective one-two punch along with HHH.” 

Approved by 77% of voters in November, Measure HHH allows the City to issue up to $1.2 billion in general obligation bonds to buy, build, or remodel facilities to provide temporary shelters, supportive housing for individuals and families with low income, homeless veterans, and facilities, such as storage and showers. 

“Measures H and HHH complement each other by providing necessary ongoing revenue specifically allocated to funding vital and essential supportive services for homeless children, women and men, while seeking to build thousands of permanent supportive housing units,” says Ridley-Thomas. 

Yes on H’s Newman rounds out this scenario, adding, “The Proposition HHH bond measure (permanent supportive housing, supporting chronically homeless) and H work together and complement each other. Measure H focuses on strategies that are more immediate in their impact -- like street outreach and short term housing as well as paying for supportive services that are part of permanent housing. The scale and scope of what Measure H does is comprehensive and broad -- and covers the entire County of LA. It’s not simply the other half of Proposition HHH -- it's that and more.” 

Another impact, unique because it’s not been at the top of anyone’s list, is the prevention of homelessness that, says Newman, “is being looked for the first time. Measure H allows the assistance to go upstream and prevent the flow of families and individuals into homelessness. Historically, we have primarily dealt with the consequences of homelessness and used our emergency responders -- like the police and fire departments -- to treat those issues. Measure H invests in preventative solutions. Measure H, for the first time, will direct resources to keeping people in their homes, as opposed to waiting until they've lost that stability. It's a smart goal to try to prevent homelessness instead waiting until everything has fallen apart in someone’s life.” 

How will we know if this measure works? Newman explains that “Measure H has significant accountability and transparency components: it will take a 2/3 vote to pass and the funds can legally only be spent on the strategies to end homelessness that are called out in the law -- the funding can't be used for other purposes by county government…the measure includes a citizens oversight committee to monitor how the funds are spent and an annual public audit.” 

Adds Ridley-Thomas, "Our objective here is to evidence that we are serious about accountability, serious about transparency and to be comprehensive as is committed in the ballot language." 

You can bet on that; now, you can go vote on it.

 

(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at timdeegan2015@gmail.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

PERSPECTIVE-The Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) is pretty clear about how it wants state or local governments to report Net Pension Liability. As stipulated by its Statement 68, on the face of the financial statements, not buried in the morass of footnotes. 

But the City of Los Angeles did not read the memo.  

A quick survey of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR) of a few major cities – New York, Seattle and San Francisco – show compliance. 

There are probably a few, besides Los Angeles, who have failed to do so, but weak oversight by GASB is a prescription for sloppiness. 

There is no shortage of other professional or authoritative materials on the subject, for example, articles published by the AICPA, such as this government brief.  

This is also the second year in a row where the liability was not reported on the face of the financial statements…and the pronouncement has only been in effect for two years! Although the required footnote disclosures were included, footnotes amplify the contents of the standard accounting reports; they are not a substitute. 

Before I go any further, why is this even important? 

Analysts, accountants and numbers geeks will know to dive into the footnotes, so who cares if it is not staring at the users on the face of the balance sheet, or statement of net position, as it is also called?

As GASB and others have clearly stated, it is about transparency. 

As residents, we are the most important recipients of the city’s financial statements. We live here and bear the consequences of our elected officials’ decision-making; the financial effects of which are imparted in the CAFR. Even though only a fraction of the residents bother cracking open the CAFR, and those that do rarely get into the footnotes, there is an obligation to provide complete disclosure. Anything less is implicitly misleading and a disservice. 

I would not be as irritated or concerned if this had not occurred before, but suspect political pressure is behind not reporting the NPL as evidently as it should. And that rankles me more…as it should you!

Most of our officials depend on the support of the public unions to fund their campaigns. In return, they receive generous retirement benefits that come at a high cost to the residents of the city. 

Shining the light on the $7 billion net liability that has been incurred to support these plans is not in their best interests. It’s much safer to bury it in a line with other long-term liabilities. Doing so does not invite questions. 

The NPL is over 50% of the total long-term liability in the governmental activities segment. It cries out for the specific recognition GASB 68 mandates. 

To make matters worse, the footnotes downplay its significance by stating it is not, by itself, evidence of economic or financial difficulties. 

Tell that to the city of Richmond, CA, which faces the prospects of bankruptcy. Its residents are already feeling the impact of diminished services, the result of diverting more of the budget to pay for pensions. Add San Bernardino, Stockton and Vallejo to the list, too. Others will follow. 

In Los Angeles, we cannot afford to increase the police budget to deal with the rising crime rate

So while our officials avoid the subject, we will pay more for less service. That’s the city’s plan to deal with the problem. 

The City Controller is in a position to educate the public about the dangers of ignoring this bleak prospect. Ron Galperin has the wherewithal and the standing to heighten awareness, but if he is not willing to at least give it the basic recognition it warrants on the face of the balance sheet, where it is more visible, then it is unlikely to get any attention at City Hall. 

Galperin has not shied away from auditing waste and abuse, however unpopular that has been among some powerful forces. He is still the most effective City Controller we’ve had, but he must lead the charge to fight the pension cancer, which is consuming our city from the inside. 

The NPL is the tip of an iceberg. Pretending it is not there will only run the city into the rest of it.

 

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

ANIMAL WATCH-On Thursday, February 2, Valentin Herrera, 75, was walking with his small, 5-year-old Pomeranian, Radar, about a block from his home in Lincoln Heights -- a community officially designated as "Happy Valley." Suddenly two Pit Bulls from a nearby home escaped their yard and attacked his tiny pet, tearing it "like a piece of cloth," according to a neighbor. 

Eyewitnesses report that Radar was off-leash, walking a distance ahead of Mr. Herrera, who rushed to try to save his dog and himself became a victim of the Pit Bulls. They knocked or pulled him to the ground and were dragging him by his arm, according to KTLA-TV News. 

One neighbor stated that the owner of the dogs merely stood and watched, without trying to stop the attack. Finally someone came out and struggled with the animals to get them back into the yard. Neither dog was licensed, according to KABC-7. The Pit Bulls were transported to the North Central animal shelter by Los Angeles Animal Services' officer Angela Llerenas. They are being held under quarantine for ten days. 

A family member told me they were advised by Animal Services that a woman later claimed the dogs, but they have not been released. A hearing by Animal Services is set for early March. 

Mr. Herrera was placed in a medically induced coma in an attempt to reduce swelling of his brain, and he has not yet regained consciousness, his family says. 

His son, Luis, said his father had three surgeries, one to his head and one on each of his arms which were mauled by the dogs. He added that his father suffered from diabetes and two months ago had actually died from a heart attack; however, doctors were able to revive him. He described how painful it is for the family, after losing him once, to now be facing the possibility of repeating that same grief again so soon. 

Valentin Herrera came to Los Angeles from Jalisco, Mexico. He and his wife, Anita, have been married for 50 years. He was a steel worker and they have lived in their current home in Northeast Los Angeles since 1996. Luis described his father as a strong, loving man and said it is very difficult to see him struggling again for his life. 

A neighbor who has lived on the street since 2003 and frequently talked with Mr. Herrera when he was walking said he had not seen the Pit Bulls out before. However, he resolutely affirmed that he keeps his own dogs in his house for safety. He expressed concern because the house where the attack occurred is less than a block from the high school on the corner at North Broadway. 

Another Lincoln Heights resident, Stefanie Grizzelle, told CBS News  on February 4 that she recognized the two Pit Bulls that attacked Mr. Herrera as the same dogs that killed her small white Poodle-mix as her young children watched. She said they are starting therapy this week for the trauma. 

Pit Bull Attacks are Not Limited to Lincoln Heights: 

LA Animal Services' Employee Mauled by Pit Bull ...  

Last month we reported the savage attack on Priscilla Romero, an Animal Care Technician, by a Pit Bull in the same Los Angeles Animal Services' shelter where the dogs in the Lincoln Heights attack are being held. 

GM Barnette and City Officials Stay 'Notably Silent' as LAAS Pit Bull Attack.Victim Begins Long Road to Recovery

Approximately a total of 50 other dogs of this breed have completed their quarantine period after attacks and are being held at in Los Angeles Animal Services shelter. Ten had just completed this "hold" and are available for "rescuers" to remove them and place them in "forever" homes throughout Los Angeles or elsewhere. 

LA Animal Services: Pit Bull with a Violent History Attacks Potential Adopter  

On April 28, 2016, GM Brenda Barnette personally released a dangerous Pit Bull to a "rescue," which fostered it in a home just north of downtown LA. The dog attacked a potential adopter and was killed by a neighbor who stabbed it 19 times. 

Pit Bull Kills Puppy, Attacks Two Men on Ventura Boulevard; L.A. City…  

On February 16, 2014, in Studio City, Stephen Elliott and Howard Fox were walking with their six-month-old Yorkshire Terrier, Vargas, who was on leash and close to Stephen's feet, when a large Pit Bull bolted from a nearby shop, grabbed Vargas and killed him. As they struggled to save the pup, Howard, who was recovering from back surgery, was knocked to the ground and Stephen's finger was bitten off. The Pit Bull was released back to the owner. 

They called Councilman Paul Koretz, who heads the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee. Stephen said Koretz’ senior deputy, David Hersch, said his injury was his own fault for putting his hand down to save his dog and he would not spend more time on this because he had "an event to plan." 

Shortly after that a 29-year-old victim from the Ukraine, appeared before the LA Animal Services Commission to describe a horrible attack by an owned pit bull in the Hollywood area while he was jogging. Among other serious wounds, one of his testicles was bitten off by the dog. He said the dog could have killed him if he were not young and athletic. He described with gut-wrenching emotion the suffering and the emotional trauma that causes him to now be reclusive and fearful and the fact that he may never be able to have children. 

LA Animal Services Officer Injured by Dog Attack ...How Safe Are Residents?   

On August 29, 2014, Animal Control Officer Angela Llerenas (the officer who responded to the attack that injured Valentin Herrera and killed Radar), was seriously injured when she responded to a call that two very aggressive Pit Bulls had entered a backyard in Eagle Rock and attacked a Husky. Both dogs charged the officer as she arrived and found them entering another yard. She later identified them as American Bulldogs -- originally bred to catch and hold wild boars and described by Wikipedia as “capable of jumping in excess of seven feet vertical due to the dense muscle build of the breed.” 

Man Attacked by Pit Bull Mix in Eagle Rock, Hospitalized with Multiple Injuries

On October 13, 2016, a 20-year-old man soliciting donations for D.A.R.E. in front of a sandwich shop in the 2600 block of Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock was hospitalized with multiple facial injuries after being bitten by a pit bull mix. 

Two women in their mid-20s with the dog on a leash allegedly made a donation and indicated the dog was friendly and he could pet it. The woman "brought the dog over to my hand, she rubbed my hand twice and then the dog lunged at me," he said, adding that it bit him on his face, mouth and nose, the report said. 

Pit Bull Rehomed by Humane Society Kills Newborn Baby  

Sebastian Caban, 3-days old, was fatally bitten on the head by a family pit bull-mix while he laid in bed with his parents and the dog. The dog was a rescue. The San Diego Humane Society -- a private organization that has a partnership with San Diego Animal Services -- adopted the dog to the baby's parents 5-months  before. 

Who's Responsible for Dangerous Dog Attacks?

How sad it is that in less than one week two families in Lincoln Heights were robbed of their pets, their peace of mind and their happiness. Both heard the screams and saw their small canine family members drenched in blood -- senselessly killed by two large Pit Bulls to which neither of these tiny creatures was a threat. 

One attack involves young children, who should be laughing and playing, rather than dealing with a senseless, brutal tragedy and this abrupt loss of innocence. Will they ever again trust that they and their loved ones are safe? 

It is time for specific protection for people -- the adults and children who are innocent victims -- as well as for this breed of dog that is being exploited by those it should be able to trust. If it is true this aggression is the result of "training or abuse by bad owners," then adopters/purchasers must be required to be screened and obtain a permit before taking possession of a dog with this strength and drive. 

What benefit, financial or otherwise, is there to the leading humane groups -- including Best Friends Animal Society which occupies the LA City Mission Hills animal shelter cost-free -- for lobbying in opposition to any breed-specific-legislation to protect (not ban) Pit Bulls and the public? 

The compassionate who wail and moan over the possibility that dangerous and vicious dogs will be humanely euthanized need to accept that Pit Bulls are being inordinately abused, neglected, abandoned, tortured and brutally killed and are endangered by the blind disregard for the unpredictable reality of what can happen after they are "saved." But, even more endangered are the helpless, innocent pets, children and adults who become victims of attacks, including our own Valentin Herrera. 

Here are some websites with important statistics: 

http://www.nationalpitbullvictimawareness.org/

http://www.nationalpitbullvictimawareness.org/attack-archives/

http://www.fatalpitbullattacks.com/

http://www.dogsbite.org/blog-posts-dog-attacks-senior-citizens.php

100-Reasons-Why-Breed-Specific-Legislation-Needs-to-be-Enforced-and-Reinforced/ 

On April 11, 2016, we reported that LAAS General Manager Brenda Barnette was conducting a survey of animal concerns in Los Angeles. You can send GM Barnette an e-mail at brenda.barnette@lacity.org.

 

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

CALBUZZ-Californians resoundingly reject Republican President Donald Trump himself and the intrusions he threatens to implement on state policies governing immigration, health care, climate change and access to abortion, according to the latest survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. 

The state that gave Democrat Hillary Clinton 62% in 2016 -- a margin of about 4.3 million votes – holds Trump in extraordinary low regard, with 58% of adults disapproving of his handling of the presidency and 60% holding an unfavorable view of him. 

Californians’ view of Trump is far worse than Gallup’s historically high disapproval rating nationwide of 52%. 

Fewer than a third -- 30% -- of Californians approve of Trump and those are mostly Republicans, among whom 72% approve of the president. The president’s favorability rating is just 33%.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval rating is historically high -- 62% -- and almost as many people -- 58% -- say they believe the state is headed in the right direction. 

Above-ground Resistance. 

So, it is with considerable support that Brown and the Legislature (57% approval) have tasked California Attorney General Javier Becerra (photo left) and special legislative counsel Eric Holder, the former US Attorney General, to protect California’s interests in key areas where state policies conflict sharply with Trump’s announced intentions. 

– While Trump is promising to build a wall on the Mexican border and deport undocumented immigrants, 85% of Californians (93% of Democrats, 84% of independents and 65% of Republicans) believe there should be a pathway to legality for those immigrants. And 65% say state and local governments should pursue their own policies – not the federal government’s   to protect the rights of immigrants. 

– Although the president has pledged to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (with no sign of “replace” on the horizon), 53% of Californians oppose repeal of the ACA while another 26% say it should not be repealed until a replacement is available. Only 16% of Californians favor outright repeal of the ACA. Moreover, the law is seen favorably by 51% of all adults and unfavorably by just 39%. 

– With Trump calling climate change a Chinese hoax (except where rising seas threaten his seaside golf properties) and threatening to withdraw from historic climate change accords, 65% of Californians see climate change as a major threat and 63% favor the state making its own policies and agreements governing carbon emissions and climate change. 

– Having at one point called for penalties for women who obtain abortions, Trump has declared his intention of stacking the Supreme Court with justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, that made abortion a matter between a woman, her family and doctor. But in California, 71% of adults -- including 60% of Republicans -- say the government should not interfere with a woman’s right to choose, while only 27% want stricter controls. 

“Californians’ policy preferences are deeply at odds with the new federal direction on abortion access, climate change, health insurance, and undocumented immigrants,” said pollster Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. 

PPIC surveyed 1,702 California adults (60% by cell phone and 40% by landline) Jan. 22-31 in English and Spanish. The margin of error for all adults in the survey is +/- 3.3 percentage points.

 

(Jerry Roberts is a California journalist who writes, blogs and hosts a TV talk show about politics, policy and media. Phil Trounstine is the former political editor of the San Jose Mercury News, former communications director for California Gov. Gray Davis and was the founder and director of the Survey and Policy Research Institute at San Jose State University. This piece appeared originally in CalBuzz. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

THIS DEAL MAKES SENSE--I gotta hand it to Mayor Garcetti. He really knows how to put together a group of endorsers. Looking over the list of folks saying “No” to Measure S, makes you say to yourself, “I wanna vote with this crowd!” 

A couple of months ago, I was part of a focus group on Measure S. We studied it quite a bit, talked about it and opined about it. Now, I look at that list of endorsers and I can’t for the life of me see why all these fine folks are voting against it. Maybe they haven’t actually read the measure. I haven’t met anyone who actually has. Well, read it. Here are a few reasons why it makes good sense: 

  • It will place a two-year moratorium on development that “seeks Spot Zoning and General Plan Amendments to Intensify Land Use.” (Taken from the text of the Measure) Basically, there’s been a whole bunch of slicks getting a break from the rules. Why? Who knows? - but City officials have somehow ended up with at least a quarter of a million bucks in campaign contributions from big developers. That’s just what we know about from the Los Angeles Times expose on the Sea Breeze debacle, just to name one. 

Shoot, the moratorium doesn’t even have to run two years if the City gets its’ act together. The Measure provides that the moratorium will be in effect until the City provides 1) an updated General Plan Framework and 2) an updated community plan text and zoning map for a particular community plan area or 3) within 24 months of the effective date of the Act, whichever is sooner. So there ya go. 

  • Ban developers from doing their own environmental impact reports. Let me repeat that. Right now, developers are allowed to do their own environmental impact reports. Well, in a world where the Secretary of Education wants to destroy public education and the head of the EPA is out to gut the EPA, I guess this makes some kind of sense but we Angelinos don’t need this kind of logic. 
  • Provide for an overhaul and ongoing public review of the City’s General Plan, including specific procedures for Amendments which prohibit the practice of amending it for purposes of catering to a single project. As of 2005, it was decided that the City never has to update the Plan at all. This measure provides for a solid plan and a blue print for amendments. Sounds good to me. It might sound Pollyanna but I’d love to keep the backroom deals scenes to movies like Chinatown instead of real life scenes that affect my quality of life. 

We heard a lot in the focus group and I hear a great deal today about the threat of Measure S to affordable housing. They (and the focus group facilitator did not divulge who “they” were) even showed us photos of homeless people and working class families with small children and sad eyes then asked us if that would convince us to vote No. They also asked us about what would convince us to vote Yes. 

I’ve read the articles made by the ‘No on S’ campaign stating, “Don’t believe your own eyes. We’re really in a housing slump.” We are in an AFFORDABLE HOUSING SLUMP - and NO WONDER! Evictions from 2013 – 2015 rose 235%. AN LA Times article from April of 2016 reported that the City took 20,000 rent controlled units off the market since 2001. The Ellis Act, designed to allow Mom and Pop landlords to get out of the rental business without too much pain is being abused by developers who evicted at least 1100 people in 2015 (This from the FT Journal in July 2016.) 

Why do the No people keep repeating the same mantra about lack of affordable housing when Measure S explicitly spells out in black and white that structures built for affordable housing are exempt from the moratorium? Could they be referring to the 3 units out of hundreds that big developers offer up to replace the rent-stabilized units they demolish? Would this be the “affordable housing” we will miss out on if we pass Measure S? 

I called up one of those mega compounds up on Wilshire and La Brea once to see how much their so-called affordable housing was. The “affordable” units started at $2700 a month. 

In some ways, it doesn’t seem that the Mayor and his bunch care that much about affordable housing or about quality of life for those who have less than luxury accommodations. And I hate to say it, because the mayor is a likeable fella. 

I felt good when Mayor Garcetti vowed to defy Trump and keep Los Angeles a sanctuary city. I gotta scratch my head when I see that now, the mayor’s appointed City Planning Commission has decided to hollow out the proposed Miracle Mile Historical Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ), exposing some 1000 residents right here in my neighborhood to eviction. 

These are working people like me who have been living in these units covered by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance for decades. Some of us will become homeless. Some of us will be forced to leave the city. 

Last week, I was out gathering signatures and sending emails trying to appeal to my councilman, David Ryu, who has shown a lot of support for preserving historic affordable housing. I want to urge him to continue to do so. It could be a tough road if he has to go up against the mayor and his developer buds. 

I want to ask Councilman Ryu to consider the working people like me who want to continue to live in our homes which are often quite humble but which we love as we love our neighbors and our city. I want to ask him to consider that quality of life or maybe even having a home at all is more important that mega bucks made by mega builders. 

I understand that Councilman Wesson, who represents my neighbors to the east, is basing his vote on a survey he is taking that excludes tenants and also counts an abstention or a lack of response as a “no” vote. I want to ask him how he figures that is the proper way to represent all of his constituents. I wonder if he’ll ever pass some of the ones who become homeless over on Wilshire Boulevard and if he’ll give them a dollar. 

On a clear day, you can see for miles from the corner of my street. From here, it looks like the very same mega-developers who are praying that Measure S won’t pee in their gravy bowl are the same ones who are eyeballing the RSOs in my neighborhood with an eye for big profit at the cost of broken lives. 

For me, I’ll do all that I can do. Yes on the Miracle Mile HPOZ. Yes on Measure S.

Somebody’s gotta stop ‘em. 

NEED TO KNOW: 

READ THE DANG THING and PLEASE, if you have a good argument why this isn’t a good idea, let me know! I haven’t heard a CONVINCING one yet: text of Measure S

If you live in the Miracle Mile, contact Councilmember David Ryu and City Hall and request that the neighbors excluded by the mayor’s Planning Commission be added back to the Miracle Mile HPOZ.

Email: David.Ryu@lacity.org or Call: 213-473-7004 

And, copy your email to: 

PLUM Committee Secretary Sharon Dickinson:

sharon.dickinson@lacity.org  

and, also copy: 

Herb Wesson:

councilmember.wesson@lacity.org 

(or call him at 213-473-7010) AND ASK HIM HOW HE FIGURES HE’S REPRESENTING ALL OF HIS CONTITUENTS. 

You can also contact PLUM Committee Members

Gilbert Cedillo:

councilmember.cedillo@lacity.org 

Marqueece Harris-Dawson:

councilmember.harris-dawson@lacity.org 

Curran Price:

councilmember.price@lacity.org 

Jose Huizar:

councilmember.huizar@lacity.org 

Mitchell Englander:

councilmember.englander@lacity.org  

You can also attend the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee meeting on February 14, 2017 (contact HPOZ@MiracleMileLA.com for more information or if you need transportation to the PLUM meeting). For more information contact

HPOZ@MiracleMileLA.com

 

(Jennifer Caldwell is a an actress and an active member of SAG-AFTRA, serving on several committees. She is a published author of short stories and news articles and is a featured contributor to CityWatch. Her column at www.RecessionCafe.wordpress.com is dishing up good deals, recipes and food for thought. Jennifer can be reached at recessioncafe@yahoo.com.  Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jennifercald - Twitter: @checkingthegate ... And her website: Jenniferhcaldwell.com)  

-cw

JIM CROW IS ALIVE AND WELL-The film “13th derives its title from the one exception to the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery in 1865: "except as a punishment for crime." As this documentary points out, this exception has allowed the profit-driven institution of slavery to continue unabated over the last 150 years in one form or another. Only the name has changed. 

The coherence with which Compton's own documentary filmmaker Ava Du Vernay insightfully lays out various historical incarnations of this “slavery exception" that occurs within what we now call the “prison industrial complex” left me with an unanticipated takeaway: If the mostly minority contributors to the making of this exceptional film are representative of the awesome human ability and insight it took to make it, just how much more unrealized human potential might be languishing in our prisons? 

What is still being lost within in our for-profit incarceration system -- where 97% of those behind bars never even had a trial because they were too poor or intimidated by the probability of a mandatory 30-year sentence if they went to court and lost? 

Our excessive minimum sentencing laws, pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), offer the mostly minority poor, who are caught up in a rigged criminal justice system, a Hobson's choice of copping a plea to a crime they didn't commit or facing a trial with a potential mandatory minimum 30-year sentence. Under these circumstances, it is understandable that they choose to play it safe and wind up in prison where, once in, many never fully emerge. This is because they are either hit with imaginary infractions that extend their sentences or end up unemployable (if they finally get out of prison) due to their criminal records. 

As Du Vernay points out in “13th,” the one thing that never changes, no matter what incarnation the theft of Black labor takes, is that the greatest impediment to ending racism in America has always been the reality that somebody -- not the worker -- is always making obscene amounts of money in the belief that Black Lives (Don’t) Matter. 

So you might ask, "Why don't I mention the white folks in prison?" The answer is simple. In a prison industrial complex that has gone from a population of 357,292 behind bars in 1970 to 2,306,200 in 2014 we find that Blacks make up 40.2% of the prison population. Put another way, 1 in 17 whites will spend some time in prison during that person’s lifetime. The figure for Black males is I in 3. 

There is one area Du Vernay and her filmmaking colleagues could have explored in greater depth: she mentions in passing that the purposefully degraded, still segregated public education system plays a role in filling our prisons today. This happens when students are pushed through school without being trained or socialized in a manner that could make them productive members of society instead of being swept up in the prison industrial complex. 

Put another way, I don't think the inner city communities like Chicago or other large minority filled urban areas in this country would experience the current levels of violence, murder and incarceration if we did not have purposefully failed and segregated public school systems. These schools seem content to measure success not by the achievements of their students, but by the profits their vendors can make, a process that continues to hold the leadership of these public school systems captive.

 

(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.

ALPERN AT LARGE--To the best of my knowledge, using a car, pushing for new options for mobility, wanting affordable home prices, advocating for better parks and schools, and questioning the quality of life for Angelenos and other Californians isn't against the law...yet.   

So suggesting that the local and state leaders who are screaming and diverting their collective outrage to protest our new President are no better, is it? Why scream about anti-environmental or other new policies coming from Washington when the local and state leaders are just as awful for our environment? 

Enter rising star Assemblymember Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) who just introduced AB 351 to restore billions of dollars back to California taxpayers through road improvements. 

Revenue generated from Vehicle Weight Fees were diverted to the General Fund due to the Great Recession, and AB 351 reallocates the estimated $1 billion Vehicle Weight Fee annual revenue back to the State Highway Account, which would be spent on the new construction, operations and repairs of highways and local streets. 

Of course, this would require our state to acknowledge a few things: 

1) While local and statewide rail and other mass transit projects are worthy and important to support, roads and highways are still worthy and important to support, too. 

2) Those non-transportation Sacramento special interests used to getting fed with transportation funds will have to be shoved away from their feeding troughs and find their meals elsewhere. 

3) Building roads, water storage facilities, and an enhanced electrical grid to keep up with rising needs are among the priorities that taxpayers want a lot more of--and if we don't do that, the middle class (on its way to extinction in California) will be more hurt than ever. 

Of interest is that the new Trump Administration values infrastructure spending more than just about any Republican presidency in recent history.  Only Eisenhower ranks as someone who valued infrastructure as much as President Trump, and it's safe to say that the "Republican Establishment" in Congress is both: 

1) Not on the same page as the President. 

2) Not on the same page as the taxpaying majority--including the Republican voting base. 

As might be expected, the 50 projects that the Trump Administration wants to tackle first are not as nice to California as it is to the East Coast and to the Midwest, which always get represented better to Congress than California...but of note is that the Huntington Beach water desalination plant has a very prominent role to Trump's infrastructure team

In other words, just because someone has a different point of view than the Democratic Orthodoxy in Sacramento doesn't mean that person (in this case, President Trump) is anti-environment...especially when that person also has a different point of view than the Republican Orthodoxy in Congress. 

And it should be remembered that liberal, Democratic California has no shortage of automobile users that won't be able to use mass transit to get their jobs any time soon. 

Assemblymember Melendez, a Republican, has the idea that we don't always need to pay MORE taxes to get more transportation funding...just spend the taxes the way they were promised to be spent. 

Both Republican and Democratic leaders in Los Angeles County just got behind two huge sales tax hikes for transportation, and we're no longer lagging behind other regions in transportation funding--in fact, we're a national leader. 

But wouldn't it be nice if Sacramento were to be as much of a partner for transportation funding as Washington, D.C. was during the Obama Administration?  Wouldn't it be nice to put Sacramento's political elites' collective feet to the fire as much as we do to politicians from Washington, D.C.?  

Our roads (and budding rail systems) are the cornerstone of our economic prosperity--without them we go nowhere--physically or economically.   

Conservative Orange County has more Metrolink service than L.A. County for a variety of reasons, and the more conservative San Gabriel Valley and San Bernardino/Riverside Counties are pushing for both more freeways AND the Gold Line Extension to Montclair and beyond...even to Ontario Airport! 

Liberal LA and SF both want more rail service and lines, but I don't see commuters and taxpayers complaining too much when the roads get fixed and the updates are done. 

Whether it's a road or a rail line, we're not going ANYWHERE until they get done/fixed first.  All the other stuff we divert this money to will, sooner or later, need to be either reduced in funding or funded in a more efficient (and sustainable!) manner. 

Unless you're a partisan political hack, most of us just don't care where the source of the funding comes from--we just want our transportation options preserved and enhanced. 

Some folks in this state love our new President, and many more probably do not.  However, in the middle of all the hullaballoo, maybe remembering how we're going to fix our doggone transportation, energy, and other infrastructure needs to be revisited, and with a focus on results to benefit our Economy, our Environment, and our Quality of Life.

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties.  He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at   alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.) 

-cw 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EASTSIDER-I really don’t mean to keep pickin’ on CalPERS, but lately their Board and smarmy General Counsel seem to be doing a better job of “ready, shoot, aim!” than Donald Trump. 

Recently the CalPERS Board held a junket, I mean retreat, in beautiful Monterey, out of public sight, and without any of the usual videotaping of the event. It must be really rough to be a Board/staff member looking out for our pension money. At this event, a cabal of the appointed members got together to take out the one Board member who has displayed the openness and transparency that the rest pretend to care about. 

That Board member is JJ Jelincic, an actual elected member of the Board who has the temerity to ask questions before the Board does what staff tells them to do. Evidently this Board has a penchant for deliberately keeping you and me in the dark. 

Presided over by Rob Feckner, the thirteen-time elected President of the Board, they might have gotten away with it if someone hadn’t managed to produce a transcript of the hit job. Mr. Feckner personifies the “go along to get along” mentality and he’s been doing so even as he praised Fred Buenrosto back in 2008. For readers of this column, good old Fred was about to be indicted. 

Below is my open letter to Governor Jerry Brown, requesting an investigation into the event and the replacement of the three Board members who are currently appointed: Bill Slaton, Ron Lind, and Dana Hollinger. If you would like to look at the transcript of proceedings I refer to in the letter, you can find it here

 


 

February 8, 2017

 

Governor Jerry Brown

c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA 95814     

 

Via FAX and mail

 

Dear Governor Brown: 

As a third generation Californian, I have been a supporter of yours since your first term in office as Governor, further back than I would care to remember. You have been a pillar of California politics during most of my adult life, and I believe a positive one. These days, I view you as the lone grown-up in the California Democratic Party, fortunately for us, curbing the excesses of our assembly and senate to steer a rational course for the State. 

I am writing you as a retired state employee and beneficiary of CalPERS, regarding the inexplicably bizarre actions of all of the three appointed members of the CalPERS Board of Governors, in engaging in a scurrilous attempt to unseat an elected Board member, JJ Jelincic, for unspecified “breaches of confidentiality” regarding Board information. If somebody tried this stuff in the legislature, they’d be laughed out of the building. 

The main leader in this charge is your direct appointee, Bill Slaton, who I believe is clearly abrogating his fiduciary duties in favor of a witch hunt on the one CalPERS Board member who has been willing to speak out in favor of transparency over the last few years. 

In short, Mr. Slaton has utilized his position to lead a charge, in secret, to sanction a fellow Board member and force him to resign, “or else.” This event took place at an offsite retreat in Monterey which was not videotaped as regular Board meetings are. I attach for your review a copy of the seven page transcript of the discussion in question. 

Mr. Slaton proposes to ban Mr. Jelincic from “attending any closed sessions conducted by any committee or the full board”. The allegedly egregious conduct which would warrant this unprecedented and arguably unlawful action is nowhere specified in the discussion by Mr. Slaton, as you can see from the transcript. 

Directly thereafter, Ron Lind, the joint appointee from the legislature (Senate and Assembly), slides in to support his buddy, and another of your direct appointees, Dana Hollinger, wants “a trial.” 

Presided over by Rob Feckner, the 13-term President, the transcript reveals a fairly well choreographed, in private attack on Mr. Jelincic, who is actually elected to his position.   

So, out of the thirteen members of CalPERS Board, all three of the appointed members basically conspire with the President to take out an elected Board member. I don’t get it. This kind of ‘in my briefcase I have the goods, but I won’t show them to you’ behavior smacks of the days of the House Unamerican Activities Committee. 

As virtually all of my law enforcement friends are fond of saying, ‘if they aren’t doing something wrong, why are they afraid to make everything public”?” 

Even more preposterous, the basis of Mr. Slaton’s attack is that somehow Mr. Jelincic is breaching his “fiduciary duty” in these unnamed disclosures. Evidently Mr. Slaton forgot that the fiduciary duty of the CalPERS Board is to the beneficiaries of the system rather than some kind of smarmy internal politics of the Board itself. Of course, having hired a sleazebag Florida lawyer who wasn’t even licensed in California as the Board’s outside fiduciary counsel, what can we expect? 

If this letter sounds like a rant, I apologize. I know that as Governor you have your hands more than full with the legislature & the budget, and don’t have much time to pay attention to CalPERS. You do, however, have a staff, and I would strenuously urge you to have them look into this matter. This issue directly affects the economic security of us, the beneficiaries. CalPERS is playing around with some $300 billion dollars and some 1.6 million Californians’ pension money, including yours truly, and the Board should not be playing children’s games. 

As you know, public pensions in general, and CalPERS in particular, are under unremitting attack by those who would like to privatize or fundamentally diminish defined benefit plans. Trying to muzzle an elected Board member whose only crime lies in openness and transparency, just gives the fund’s opponents ammunition. The Board needs reminding that theirs is not a private club that can hold secret meetings and do as they will. 

In the event that you determine that the substance of my allegations is true as to what took place, I would urge you to directly remove and replace Bill Slaton, and direct someone to have a chat with Dana Hollinger and Ron Lind. Unlike the elected Board members, you clearly have the authority to do this for appointees. 

Perhaps Mr. Slaton’s talents would be better utilized in playing with community banks and the internal operations of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, instead of the CalPERS Board of Directors. 

Sincerely,

 

Tony Butka

State Mediation & Conciliation Service (Ret.)

 

(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.

GUEST COMMENTARY--As it turns out, Los Angeles’s new love for sports does not end with acquiring the Rams and Chargers to play football.

Los Angeles has its sights set on a bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, and is in competition with Budapest, California and Paris. It has a solid chance – an Eiffel tower backdrop pales in comparison to one of our city’s smog-blurred sunsets. 

While the prospects of international superstars roaming Westwood is exciting, it is worth noting that Los Angeles was not the first choice of the United States Olympic Committee to put forth an American Olympic bid. Boston was the committees first pick, but the city withdrew its bid due to worry from its citizens after concerns arose about the financial repercussions. Students at UCLA and residents of Los Angeles should be worried about expenses, too.

If the International Olympic Committee demands newer facilities and improvements, the city should withdraw its bid. The debts the event could incur are not worth it and could impede city projects for years to come. Montreal took 30 years to pay off the debt incurred by their 1976 Olympics.

It seems readily apparent that Los Angeles is a logical host for the games, with a bustling city center full of infrastructure and experience handling star-studded events. From demonstrations like the Women’s March to red carpet award shows, the city has demonstrated it can easily work with crowds.

“We know how to do this, nobody is taking a chance that Los Angeles will blow this,” said Zev Yaroslavsky, UCLA alumnus and long-time Los Angeles councilman and city politician. Yaroslavsky has experience with the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, which is still famous for its financial success.

The 1984 Olympics went as smoothly as any other Olympics – something that comes rarely – due to the use of existing facilities and private money. Many modern Olympics, like the ones held in Sochi, Russia in 2014 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016, have indebted their respective cities.

While the citizens of Los Angeles voted to amend the city charter to prevent public spending on the games, the charter has since expired, according to Yaroslavsky.

It appears things are lining up differently for this Olympic bid. In addition to the charter’s expiration, Los Angeles is competing with two impressive cities. If the city does host the Olympics, city officials might not be able to cut as many expensive corners.

This Olympic bid has one important similarity with that of 1984: Los Angeles was not the first pick in 1984. In fact, the city was awarded the host of the 1984 Olympics by default when Tehran, Iran, the only other city in contention, withdrew its bid. This allowed Los Angeles to negotiate with the Olympic committee over terms of hosting the Olympics on even ground, without trying to outdo and outspend competing cities.

With Paris and Budapest also trying to hold the 2024 games, Los Angeles will not be able to have the same bargaining power it did in negotiations for the 1984 Olympics.

The competition for hosting privileges is one of the major drivers of expenses in the Olympics, with some hosts willing to spend millions or even billions to build and update facilities to the newest and most ostentatious configuration possible. Los Angeles does not need to do that; the city has numerous stadiums and arenas, from the Staples Center to our own Pauley Pavilion.

There are stadiums as big as the Coliseum, which can hold over 90,000 people, and can handle the enormous crowds. In comparison, Rio de Janeiro’s own Estadio Olimpico, where track and field events for the 2016 Olympics were held, can only contain 60,000 people.

In 1984, there was not even an Olympic village, with the city instead opting to house athletes in dorms at USC, UCLA, and even UC Santa Barbara. The plan for 2024 is to use UCLA dorms. If the IOC does not accept using existing facilities, the city needs to withdraw rather than plan a more expensive bid. 

The IOC might not be okay with collegiate “villages” when other competitors are offering the beautiful-but-costly facilities and villages associated with the Olympics. Los Angeles could host the Olympics cheaply and effectively, but if that is not what the IOC wants, the city needs to withdraw rather than make more costly plans.

For the city council and politicians though, hosting the Olympics is an impressive opportunity to host something memorable and prestigious. If it is not economically viable, are they willing to walk away?

(Stuart Key blogs at the Daily Bruin … where this perspective was first posted.)

-cw

 

VENICE VOX-We are a contingent of Venetian neighbors, business people, property and home owners, renters, political representatives and social activists, as well as constituents of the disenfranchised who up to now have had no united voice. 

The existence of Publius owes itself to one common cause: our vehement opposition to the candidacy of Mark Ryavec (photo above) for the 11th District seat on the LA City Council. 

There are countless reasons to reject Ryavec: restraining orders for stalking; numerous landlord and rental violations; abhorrent ad hominem attacks on anyone disagreeing with his extreme, controverted views; fostering fake health scares throughout Venice; various instances of vicious cyber-bullying; and always, criminalizing those suffering from lack of shelter (Apparently, Ryavec’s privileged upbringing and subsequent inheritance left him devoid of empathy for those less fortunate than he.)

While the Beachhead cartoon of Ryavec as an SS Commandant overseeing the homeless as they enter the gas chambers is admittedly risky satire, it nonetheless accurately encapsulates the lack of feeling Ryavec displays towards those in most need of society’s alms. In Ryavec’s eyes, however, the powerless and marginalized, “can do anything they want with impunity,” leading to his dystopian vision of a Venice where streets are currently choked with “hundreds of individuals” immersed in “harassment, intimidation, trespass, vandalism, home invasions and burglaries.” Venetian Carnage -- to coin a phrase. 

This deprecating, sordid and false impression is antithetical to the views and sensibilities of Publius. While our community has many problems, Venice is not a war zone teeming with violence-prone indigents running roughshod throughout the neighborhoods sans restraint. Ryavec’s toxic vision is simply a scare tactic – prejudicial, hyperbolic, alarmist images are Ryavec’s political bread-and-butter.

This is a primary reason we oppose Mark Ryavec for city council: governing implies bringing residents and neighborhoods together for the common good. Ryavec’s recurrent motive, on the other hand, is always singular and specific: what will best profit Mark Ryavec? His unscrupulous, self-centric purposes make him dangerous; this also explains his unrelenting willingness to stoop as low as possible in furthering his rapacious desire for power and advancement. 

Overtly obtuse about facts and objective reality, Ryavec nonetheless weaves a fine figure -- sometimes in interviews or in person -- that only makes him more dangerous! He’s an educated man who comes off calm and rational and always articulate in his harsh abasement of his enemies and the disenfranchised. Heck, he often makes it sound like he’s concerned for the souls he actually despises. 

Sullen and morose by nature, Ryavec’s peevish disdain for humanity at large reveals itself once you listen carefully. Just lift the rock and look under it. Scrape off the prosaic patina and you will see past the faux grin that is rounded by a caterpillar moustache. This is when you will witness Ryavec’s rabid, petty intolerance for the unhoused, his vitriolic belittling of his many enemies, his vulgar political tactics and the promiscuous power he craves for his own self-aggrandizement.

Publius does not want Ryavec to receive more attention than he is due. We don’t want to give his deluded, self-serving candidacy any more ink than it deserves. But for the welfare and interests of our Eleventh District, we respectfully ask the voters in our community to vigorously reject this most undeserving of candidates.

Ryavec’s constant verbal dreck -- where fungible facts masquerade as concern for the community -- is a political Siren Song. Only deluded faith or willful ignorance could elect such a person to the city council. While serving his moneyed masters, Ryavec may cause the trains run on time, but make no mistake: his epicurean tastes too closely match the whiff of Weimar wafting from Washington. We must not ignore the fatal cancer of this candidacy for city council. 

A final note. Since Ryavec serves as a mouthpiece for the secret cabal of wealthy residents calling themselves the Venice Stakeholders Association (answerable to no one,) we have this to say: when the VSA reveals the names of its membership, we will make known the names of the many residents, business people, activists and other constituents who make up Publius.

Until then, the election of Mark Ryavec would be a disaster for the 11th District. We urge you to VOTE NO and stop his cynical run for the Los Angeles City Council.

 

(Publius is a group of Venetian neighbors, business people, property and home owners, renters, political representatives and social activists, as well as constituents of the disenfranchised who up to now have had no united voice.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

STICKING IT TO THE PEOPLE- In 1984, George Orwell called the government’s propaganda division the “Ministry of Truth” but the names “Ethics Commission” or “Public Integrity Division” would have worked just as well. Los Angeles’ two agencies by those names are tasked with holding government officials accountable for violations of the law, and both do just the opposite. By necessity, there are occasional slaps on the wrist of some higher-ups, but the idea that the Commission or DA would ever take someone with power to task over something substantive? It’s inconceivable. 

But for the rest of the public, for those without power, there’s plenty of enforcement to go around. 

In Los Angeles today, if you put up a shed in your backyard to make room for a relative, and your neighbor turns you in, and a Department of Building and Safety inspector comes out, you will have to pay a Code Violation Inspection Fee [CVIF] of $356, which must be paid when you have been issued an Order to Comply.  Late penalties combined with the original CVIF will total more than $1,246. A Non‐Compliance Fee (NCF) of $660 may be assessed if you fail to comply with the order, or don’t get an extension, within 15 days.  

The penalty for paying late is $2,310. An Investigation Fee (IF) is collected when a permit is required to comply with the Code. You will pay double the permit fee, but never less than $400.00.  A Modification Fee (MF) is paid if you need extra time to correct the violation(s). The Cost is $343.44 but varies and must be paid in person. Failure to pay any of these assessed fees may result in the department placing a credit-ruining lien on your property. All of the above comes to at least $5000 plus the possibility of the lien, which if inflicted, will ruin your credit. 

And who decides whether that lien gets inflicted? A judge? A jury? No, your City Councilmember, precisely the person who should be standing by your side, not sitting in judgment over you. The City Council. The Ministry of the People.

1984! Alive and happening … at Los Angeles City Hall.

 

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

CORRUPTION WATCH-While everyone talks about Measure S in terms of planning, the reality is that Measure S is less about development and planning and writing EIRs than it is about something else: Measure S is about stopping corruption at LA City Hall. 

How Corruption Runs LA City Hall 

The Los Angeles Times has run a few recent articles about corruption at Los Angeles City Hall. This corruption works very simply. 

(1) A developer buys a piece of land on which he wants to build a large project. 

(2) The developer pays money to the Mayor and the councilmember where the project will be located. 

(3) The Mayor and city councilman override all the laws that say the Project is illegal. 

(4) Later, the Mayor and city council usually give the developer millions of tax dollars which can be 10 to 20 times greater than the bribes. 

As the LA Times wrote, developer Samuel Leung gave Garcetti’s “charity,” $60,000 and Garcetti lessened the number of votes necessary for Leung’s project to be approved. Leung also gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the councilmembers. The zoning obstacles disappeared. 

As the LA Times wrote, developer Rick Caruso gave Garcetti’s “charity,” $125,000 and his project got the desired approvals. 

The CIM Group’s project at 5929 Sunset shows the later stages of the corruption dance. The City then gives the developer millions of dollars. As CityWatch  showed, Garcetti gave $17.4 million to a project which violated a court order. 

The many ways to pay bribes exceed the scope of this article. Years ago the bribes seemed smaller. Developers would get employees and relatives to make campaign contributions to the mayors and councilmembers and then the contributors would be paid back by the developer. Try to prove that Larry Bond’s gift to his sister was not a birthday present as opposed to repaying her for her donation to Tom LaBonge? 

Some councilmembers had consulting jobs in foreign countries which they would visit every so often. We know about Swiss banking laws, but few people know that Luxembourg is the money laundering capital of Europe. Many councilmembers and superior court judges are very friendly with Luxembourgers living in Los Angeles. 

A favor today can be paid back via “Citizens United” and no one gets to see who is paying the money. The Citizens United case serves one purpose – to facilitate political corruption. 

How the City Repays the Bribes 

The corruption does have an evil beauty about it. Many developers not only get their illegal projects unanimously approved (which is worth hundreds of millions to them,) but the City then gives them tens of millions of tax dollars. The private Grand Avenue Project in DTLA is getting $197 million from the City. In fact, the corruption is so well known, that China (who is also putting up $290 million,) refers to the Grand Ave project as a “government” project and therefore it cannot fail. 

How Measure S Stops Corruption 

No matter what means a developer uses to buy the Mayor or a city councilmember, there is only one way the Mayor and city council can confer benefits on the developer: Spot Zone his property. If Rick Caruso’s property is not Spot Zoned to what he needs, his project remains illegal. It doesn’t matter how much money he forks over to Garcetti, Koretz or any other councilmember in order to receive unanimous approval. Without the Spot Zoning, his project remains illegal. 

Because Measure S makes Spot Zoning illegal, there will be no reason for any developer to pay Garcetti one cent in bribes. Measure S prevents Garcetti and the councilmembers from doing jack for the developer. 

Gail Goldberg Tried to Stop Spot Zoning 

The corruption behind Spot Zoning is not new. In 2006, former Director of Planning Gail Goldberg tried to stop it. She told then Councilmember Eric Garcetti that allowing developers to set the zoning they wanted was bringing disaster to Los Angeles. Gail Goldberg is out of her job as Planning Director, but Spot Zoning is alive and well. 

Spot Zoning has wreaked havoc on LA because there is no planning. Garcetti and the LA City Council seem to have no regard for our Quality of Life. All that matters is how much loot they can pull in from developers. As a result, Los Angeles has fallen to the very bottom of the list of livable urban areas. The middle class is fleeing and employers are following them to other places in the country with less corruption. Even Chicago, the Windy City, has less corruption and is attracting new businesses. 

Any Candidate Who Opposes Measure S Supports Bribery 

Garcetti opposes Measure S because he supports bribery. And each councilmember who opposes Measure S also supports bribery. How do we know this? Measure S only stops projects based on Spot Zoning, and Spot Zoning rests on bribery. 

This is why the Garcetti Lie Machine is operating overtime to deceive people into believing that Measure S stops all construction. Garcetti does not want voters to understand that Measure S only stops projects based on the bribery for Spot Zoning. 

The Courts Have Found Garcetti Uses Lies and Myths to Subvert the Law 

In January 2014, Judge Allan Goodman found that Eric Garcetti’s Hollywood Community Plan Update was based on Lies and Myths which subverted the law. Speaking in moderate legalese terms, Judge Goodman used the words “fatally flawed data” and “wishful thinking.” In everyday language, that means Lies and Myths. Judge Goodman used the actual word “subvert” when he ruled that Garcetti’s Lies and Myths subverted the law (CEQA - the environmental protection statute.) 

City Hall is desperate to prevent the voters from passing Measure S because it would kill the bribery at Los Angeles City Hall at a time when Garcetti needs to gather up as much cash as possible to run for CA Governor or U.S. Senator. Not only will passage of Measure S cut off the endless bribery, it will harm Garcetti politically. As long as his extortion-bribery racket runs, he is the hero who shovels billions of dollars to his buddies. But if Measure S passes, Garcetti will become political poison. 

A Yes Vote on S stops City Hall Corruption!

 

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

MALL CULTURE REVISITED-When regional shopping centers first appeared in the mid 1950s, they were considered by most Americans to be the wave of the future. As a radical new type of commercial land use, the shiny new malls with their up-to-date modernist architecture, free parking and good access roads were a refreshing contrast to the increasingly tired looking and deteriorating downtowns and main street business districts, which had little or no new construction during the Great Depression, World War II and the initial postwar years. The malls were immediately popular with consumers. They provided the convenience of having retail stores placed together in one location along an automobile free, internal mall “anchored” by at least two major department stores at either ends of the mall. And there was plenty of free parking. 

However, as the decades went by it became increasingly evident that there were undesirable side effects accompanying the widespread development of regional malls:

CBD Deterioration 

Most evident was the stagnation and deterioration of downtowns and main street business districts as customers and then retailers abandoned them for the new regional malls. When developers proposed the malls, most elected officials and planning officials saw them as progress, as forces for economic growth and additions to the local tax base. It occurred to very few officials that, because retail demand is fixed and based on demographics such as population, income levels and the purchasing patterns of different ethnic and racial groups, consumer demand that would be met by the regional malls would come from reduced retail sales in the existing downtowns and main street business districts. So increases in property tax and sales tax revenues from the new malls were at least partly offset by reductions in or a stagnation of property tax and sales tax revenues from the downtowns and the main street business districts. The only way to avoid business district stagnation and deterioration would be for the mall to be located in a city with a growing population and/or with increasing per capita incomes.   

As the downtowns and main streets deteriorated, local governments enacted programs to revitalize them. This resulted in the expenditure of tax dollars to subsidize redevelopment projects, dollars that could have been spent on other basic government services, such as maintaining streets, water mains, sewers and other infrastructure and providing more parks and open space. The only exception to this pattern of business district deterioration are the business districts in elite, upscale communities that have the purchasing power to both support their local business districts and patronize nearby regional malls.

The sharp contrast of shiny new malls and deteriorating business districts could have been avoided with better planning, by adopting a strategy for the location and form of retail development in a city. 

Industrial Land Removed 

Some regional malls, such as the Northridge Fashion Square and Topanga Plaza, are located on land zoned industrial, which otherwise would have been developed with light industrial and other similar uses that would add to a city’s economic base. Industrial zoned land was likely used for those malls because it was less expensive per square foot than commercially zoned land. And the Century City Mall is located on land that was formerly part of a movie studio and the city’s economic base. 

Incoherent Urban Form 

A more subtle, undesirable effect is the erosion of a coherent urban form. Prior to the end of World War II, cities in the United States had prominent downtowns and a series of pedestrian oriented, main street business districts and commercial intersections to serve the individual communities and neighborhoods that make up a city. Each community and neighborhood had a business district that was the center of a community or a neighborhood and was a major part of their identities.   

But, as the regional malls and other shopping centers overlayed this pattern, it became harder to identify community centers. Is the center of Sherman Oaks along a half mile of Ventura Boulevard or is it in the nearby Sherman Oaks Fashion Square mall? Is the center of North Hollywood along a quarter mile section of Lankershim Boulevard or is it in the ValleyPlaza/Laurel Plaza shopping centers near the intersection of Victory and Laurel Canyon Boulevards? Is the center of the Wilshire District in the Miracle Mile along Wilshire Boulevard or is it at the Beverly Center, Beverly Connection, and the Grove shopping centers seven blocks to the north?   

The following shopping centers are properly located within a larger, existing business district: the Seventh Street Marketplace, Hollywood/Highland, Century City, Westside Pavilion, Santa Monica Place, Crenshaw Mall, Promenade Mall, Sherman Oaks Galleria and the Panorama City Mall. The following malls are not located within an existing business district and draw retail sales away from other nearby businesses: The Beverly Center, the Grove, Westfield Mall in Culver City, Fallbrook Square, Topanga Plaza (on the outer edge of Warner Center), Sherman Oaks Fashion Square and Valley Plaza/Laurel Plaza.

Random Locations 

The regional malls are often randomly located, wherever a developer can find large tract of land zoned either commercial or industrial, which also permits commercial development. They were also not evenly distributed throughout Los Angeles. For example, the Promenade, Topanga Plaza and Fallbrook Square shopping centers are clustered together in Woodland Hills on the west side of the San Fernando Valley. Meanwhile, there are no regional malls to the east in Reseda.   

Location by Income Levels 

The regional malls, of course, are not evenly located with regards to income levels in a city. Rather, they are placed in the affluent and middle income sections of a city where there is substantial retail demand. It is no surprise then that there are no malls in poor communities. An example of this is the west side of the Los Angeles. Six regional malls serve it, while less affluent central Los Angeles has only three; the Seventh Street Marketplace downtown, Hollywood/Highland and the Crenshaw Mall. 

And none of the three can really be considered inner city shopping malls because the Seventh Street Marketplace gets a substantial portion of its sales from more affluent customers working downtown and Hollywood/Highland derives some of its sales from tourists and is near the west side of Los Angeles and Hancock Park. Finally, Crenshaw Plaza is near Baldwin Hills, with its higher incomes. 

Incomplete Centers 

While the regional malls are designated “regional centers” on the City of Los Angeles’ community plans, most lack the wide range of commercial and non-commercial uses found in traditional downtowns, such as office buildings, hotels, institutional uses and government buildings. At best, they are only half of a center, lacking the rich mix and diversity of uses in a traditional downtown. This has contributed to the monotony and dullness of suburban communities, where most of the malls are located. If one has seen one suburban regional shopping center, one has seen them all. 

No Pedestrian Orientation 

A clear defect of almost all of the shopping malls is their lack of a pedestrian orientation to the surrounding streets, such as The Grove which faces inward to a lively private pedestrian street. Nearly all of LA’s shopping centers face inward to their interior malls. Most are surrounded by a sea of surface parking and the urban malls have either blank walls or parking structures facing the surrounding streets. 

While the retail buildings in the Grove Shopping Center in the Wilshire district have picturesque architecture, the center has the typical pattern with blank walls facing Third Street and a massive parking structure looming over and facing the adjacent Pan Pacific Park. Rather than just facing inward, stores in a shopping center should also face the street in order to “activate” the street, to make it interesting for pedestrians to encourage pedestrian activity. The new urbanist movement in planning and architecture, which favors downtowns and traditional, pedestrian oriented main street business districts, has been critical of shopping centers due to their lack of orientation to the surrounding streets. 

Traffic 

A final undesirable impact is traffic. Because most shoppers arrive in their cars, regional shopping centers are major traffic draws, creating localized congestion and the need for street widenings as part of their construction. Connecting the malls to Los Angeles’ expanding rail transit system would reduce the amount of traffic congestion. However, less than half of the existing malls will eventually be served by the rail transit lines. They are the Seventh Street Marketplace downtown, Hollywood/Highland, Century City Shopping Center, Santa Monica Place, Crenshaw Mall, the Panorama City Mall and the Promenade Mall in Warner Center. 

The malls that will not have rail transit connections are the Beverly Center, the Grove and Fallbrook Square, Topanga Plaza, Northridge Fashion Square, Sherman Oaks Fashion Square and Valley Plaza/Laurel Plaza in the San Fernando Valley. The Sherman Oaks Galleria, the Westside Pavilion and the Westfield Plaza in Culver City may or may not have a transit connection depending on the route of the subway line between Van Nuys and Westwood that will eventually be built under the Santa Monica Mountains and later extended south to LAX.

Planning Non-Policies 

Despite their major impacts, there are no policies and regulations concerning the location and design of regional shopping centers in LA’s General Plan and in the zoning regulations of the City of Los Angeles. For these planning documents, regional malls do not exist. If a regional shopping center meets all the requirements of the commercial or industrial zoning for a site, then they are deemed to be ministerial projects that need only a building permit for approval. If they do require zone changes, zone variances or conditional use permits, then the final decision on whether to approve a new shopping center is not made by the Planning Department staff or by the Planning Commission. 

Instead the councilmember representing the area in which the mall is to be located makes the decision. These politicians and their deputies usually have no background in city planning, and they will almost always approve new malls within their district due to the promise of more jobs and property and sales tax revenues. The new malls get approved regardless of whether they fit in with surrounding development, whether they have a pedestrian orientation and despite their economic impacts on nearby business districts.

For many decades, market forces rather than sound planning principles have mostly determined the patterns of land use, density and height in Los Angeles. The development community, rather than the Planning Department staff, has done most of the planning in Los Angeles and in most other cities, with most elected officials ratifying decisions made by the developers. 

If approved, Proposition S on the March, 2017 ballot will curb the spot upzones and General Plan amendments which have been used to approve some of the regional malls and expansions of existing malls. 

Policies Needed 

Rather than prohibit regional shopping centers as a land use, policies and regulations on the design and location of new or expanded regional malls are needed in order to improve the quality of the built environment in Los Angeles and avoid their harmful impacts. If the City Council were to finally enact policies and regulations for regional shopping centers, they should have these provisions: 

  1. Regional shopping centers should be located within existing business districts, to strengthen      them, rather than draw retail business away from them. The only exceptions to this policy should be for planned communities built on vacant lands that to not have an existing business district and poor communities not served by any existing regional malls. 

In order for a regional mall to be approved, an economic impact study should be prepared with a study verifying that there is unmet retail demand that the mall would satisfy and that the mall would not have an adverse economic impact on existing business districts within a three mile radius.  

  1. Regional shopping centers should not be located on tracts of land zoned and planned for industrial development, in order to preserve the City’s economic base and because vacancy rates for industrial buildings are lower than those for commercial land uses. 

Regional shopping centers should be designed so that there are stores facing existing commercial streets next to the mall in order so those streets will have a pedestrian orientation. 

  1. So that they are in scale with their surroundings, the height of urban malls should not substantially exceed the height of surrounding commercial buildings. 
  1. The exteriors of the regional centers should have detailing, articulation and façade variations so they are not dull looking, modernist boxes. 
  1. Parking structures serving urban malls should have exterior facades matching the main buildings they serve, so that the structure does not look like a parking structure and the parked cars are not visible from the outside. An example of a parking structure not having exterior facades and appearing very functional is the structure for The Grove. 
  1. Bright digital signs should not be permitted on the exterior facades of shopping centers. 
  1. Overhead utilities along the streets surrounding a new shopping center should be placed  underground. 
  1. Trees and landscaping within the shopping center should be coordinated and compatible with trees and landscaping along surrounding streets. 

Because the regional malls are under unified ownership and thus are easier to manage, they are more likely to be redeveloped and expanded every 20 to 30 years. Policies and regulations are also needed to address existing malls proposed for expansion. Those policies should be:

  1. Stand-alone malls that are not located within an existing business district should not be permitted to expand.   
  1. Stand-alone malls should be encouraged to redevelop with non-commercial uses or mixed use town centers when they reach the end of their economic lives. Such non-commercial uses should be residential or industrial. 

Endangered Malls 

With the era of regional shopping centers now over 60 years old, the malls that competed so successfully with the downtowns and the main street business districts are now themselves facing competition from big box retail stores, factory outlet centers, E-commerce, and other newer malls. With more retail sales now occurring online, there is less need for retail space in the United States. 

Even with unified ownership and management, there are some malls in Los Angeles and other cities in the United States that have declined and lost customers and tenants. Increasingly, “dead” malls are being redeveloped with mixed use, pedestrian oriented town centers favored by new urbanism. In addition, declines in income levels in sections of some cities also mean that the regional malls serving them have had to be redeveloped, with upscale department stores being replaced with discount stores, as with the Panorama City Shopping Center. 

With the changes in the retail environment that the regional malls are facing, the continued success of regional shopping centers in the United States is uncertain and regional malls may increasingly be the wave of the past.

 

(John Issakson is a planning activist living in Los Angeles.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

WHAT THE RESISTANCE LOOK’S LIKE-- More than 120 companies have joined a legal brief rebuking President Donald Trump and his executive order barring refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries from entering the country, Reuters reports. Among those companies are some of America’s biggest players  --

 California’s Apple, Google, and Elon Musk’s Tesla and SpaceX -- who argued in an amicus curiae brief that the Trump administration’s ban “inflicts significant harm on American business.” 

According to Reuters, the brief continued: 

Highly skilled immigrants will be more interested in working abroad, in places where they and their colleagues can travel freely and with assurance that their immigration status will not suddenly be revoked. Multinational companies will have strong incentives … to base operations outside the United States or to move or hire employees and make investments abroad. 

So much for Trump’s technology summit last December. The tech sector wants reform, and it’s willing to flex its muscle to get it. 

And those tech executives aren’t wrong. Restrictions on worker visas like the H1-B program would deprive American tech companies of essential talent. While computer-related jobs are the largest source of new wages in the country (per Code.org), American colleges barely graduate enough skilled workers to tackle the more than 50,000 computing jobs currently open; about 70 percent of tech jobs may go unfilled in 2020, according to the Department of Labor. 

Beyond tech workers, Trump’s travel order has prohibited hundreds of brilliant scientists and academics and nearly 16,000 university students from re-entering the country. Seven founders and CEOs of the tech sector’s most successful companies are the children of immigrants; Trump’s executive order could create a brain drain that the ever-innovative Silicon Valley obviously doesn’t need. 

It would not be churlish to regard tech companies’ benevolence with suspicion. The brief includes Uber, whose CEO Travis Kalanick was a member of Trump’s business advisory council until last week, and his ride-sharing app hemorrhaged users after breaking a New York Taxi Workers Alliance work stoppage at the city’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in protest of Trump’s travel ban. It’s worth noting that Lyft, which enjoyed a corresponding boost in users as a result, is also a signatory -- and a beneficiary of Trump adviser Peter Thiel’s timely investment.  

Tech companies are, at their core, capitalistic enterprises: If business interests happen to overlap with human interests, that’s a happy coincidence that can help a company’s bottom line. This fact is very clear to liberal critics of major corporations, but it’s often lost when the political agenda coincides with left-wing justice. That was certainly the case when corporations boycotted North Carolina businesses last year as a response to the state’s anti-LGBT “religious freedom” legislation. As I asked then: Is it hypocritical for liberals to rail against money-in-politics measures like Citizens United and corporate lobbyists while lauding tech conglomerates for effectively strong-arming elected officials with their economic clout? 

In the case of the Trump order, the will of a corporation isn’t just the will of an executive board with fiduciary responsibilities -- it’s actually the will of people too. That’s according to reporting in the New York Times on Monday that detailed how organizers and activists like the group Tech Solidarity are pushing back on corporate management from within, holding executives accountable for their dealings with the Trump administration and, occasionally, staging internal protests of their own companies. “I want pressure from below to counterbalance the pressure management is already feeling from above,” organizer Maciej Ceglowski told the Times. “We have to make sure we’re pushing at least as hard as Trump is.” 

In the aftermath of the Women’s March on Washington, Jamelle Bouie made a curious observation: Protests actually do work, if only by force of sheer annoyance. This notion that a little complaint, no matter how small, can mushroom into a massive moment on social media has transformed corporate crisis communications in recent years, and these recent events only serve to reiterate how a focused jeremiad of dissent can change the course of those old, impenetrable institutions. 

Conservatives have been using corporate power for years to raise money and reinforce ideological battle lines. And while tech companies and their figurehead billionaires have a history of aiding liberal causes, the mobilization of corporate power from the worker up could be a game-changer. Should the tech industry’s response to Trump’s travel ban solider on as a genuine movement, corporate activism may become a new province of resistance in the Trump age.

 

(Jared Keller, Writer for Hire, is contributing editor at Pacific Standard where this piece first appeared.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

STAND FOR SOMETHING--It’s hard to believe just two weeks ago, three-quarters of a million women, men and children gathered in LA’s Pershing Square to raise our collective voices to send a bold message to the incoming administration. Worldwide, estimates place the number who marched at just under 5 million. The mission and vision of the marches in DC, LA, cities and towns all over the planet, were to “stand in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.” (Photo above: Eleanor Roosevelt. ‘Pussy Hat’ provided by a marcher.)

Many who marched are new to activism, frightened by the rhetoric on the campaign trail and by President Trump’s Twitter rampages. Now that this ground swell of activism and empowerment has been released, what next?

All over Los Angeles – as well as in cities, suburbs, and towns throughout the country and the world – newly minted and experienced activists are planning and participating in “Next Up Huddles,” part of the “10 Actions for the First 100 Days” campaign that was launched at the Women’s March. These groups gather in private homes, at neighborhood bars and restaurants, in parks with the goal of mobilizing millions to “win back the country and the world we want.”

According to the website, groups will “visualize what a more equitable, just, safer, and freer world could look like four years from now— and work backwards to figure out what to do to get there. Huddles are meant to be positive, inclusive, action-oriented and grounded in the tradition of nonviolent resistance.”

Resistance is most effective when organized with specific actions, which is the intent of the Next Up Huddles, gathering Angelenos throughout the city, from downtown to the Westside, from Long Beach to the Valley.

In addition to in-person gatherings, many women throughout Los Angeles have been tapping into social media and texting to spread action lists along with contact information for Senators Feinstein and Harris, as well as congressional representatives to voice opinions about cabinet confirmations and executive orders.

Before November 8, I wrote my column about the election as a referendum for women. As the electoral map unrolled on election evening, many of us were disappointed. In the end, perhaps we have a different type of referendum – showing that women can gather together to make a difference.

To find a Next Up Huddle near you, visit WomensMarch.com.

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

-cw

THERE’S MORE TO IMMIGRATION THAN LAWS-In late 2012, I got a call from a church member. “Seth, Harry’s picking his daughter up from school? Is Sanctuary over?” he asked me. It wasn’t, and Harry -- an undocumented Indonesian immigrant we were sheltering in our church -- wasn’t supposed to be out and about. 

In conversations with the media and our neighbors we had claimed, over and over, that the men we were protecting stayed put inside the walls of the church. It didn’t look good, my parishioner reminded me, for Harry to be walking around our tiny borough of Highland Park, New Jersey, the kind of place where the townsfolk know one another and can spot an outsider on sight. I knew he was right, but I also knew that from Harry’s point of view, picking up his daughter must have outweighed safety that day. I’d rather have bad optics than kill Harry’s soul, I told the church member. 

We had been experiencing many of these uncomfortable moments. For 11 months -- from the beginning of March in 2012, until mid-February in 2013 -- my congregation, the Reformed Church of Highland Park, offered sanctuary to nine Indonesians at risk of deportation. We offered it to keep families together and to keep the government from ruining lives and community, and because of our faith commitment to siding with the oppressed. 

But we learned that while our sanctuary offered freedom from persecution and deportation, it was also a kind of jail. We were locking up free people -- hindering the movement of men who had previously had at least the degree of “freedom” required to make a living, to cover the rent, pay for food, and otherwise contribute to their families’ well-being. They had the freedom to embrace -- and be embraced -- by their wives, to soothe their children, to be comforted by the feeling of family and community. Our friends might have been safe, but they were trapped, dependent on us for pretty much all of their material and emotional needs. Sanctuary turned out to be a perfect storm for depression and despair. 

The refugees’ stories were tragic. Indonesians of Chinese descent, including many Christians, had first fled to the U.S. during the 1990s, targeted as scapegoats during the collapse of the Suharto regime. Saul, who was the first Indonesian refugee we sheltered, told us that his brother-in-law, a priest, was attacked in his own pulpit. Militants cut off his head and then torched his church. Saul’s story was not an anomaly. More than 1,000 churches in Jakarta and beyond were burned to the ground. 

Many people fled, and thousands entered the U.S. on tourist visas. At least 3,000 came to New Jersey, where they got factory jobs. It was the late ‘90s, companies needed low-wage workers, and nobody was asking for work permits. The refugees overstayed their visas, with few consequences. Most opted not to file for asylum, in some cases for fear of government reprisal, or for lack of the language skills perceived to be necessary to make a successful case. But also, some later told me, Indonesians were surrounded by many other undocumented workers from many other lands. It seemed to be the American norm. 

After 9/11, things changed, and by 2006, deportations were in full swing. The first people targeted were often the upstanding ones who had tried to work together with immigration authorities. One night in May of that year, in a town near mine, 35 Indonesian men were rounded up in a predawn raid. None were criminals. Almost all were fathers, with undocumented wives and some combination of older Indonesian and younger American children. We watched in horror as the men were all deported within a month. That was when our church vowed not to let the government abuse immigrant families anymore. 

At first we took things slow, engaging in what I call “sanctuary behavior,” all within the law. After the raid, we invited the families of those who were taken -- and who had fled their homes for fear that they, too, would be deported -- to camp out at the church until they found new housing. We collaborated with immigration advocacy groups and supported pro-immigrant legislation. We visited detention centers, and held vigils. We forged a special relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Newark that lasted for 11 months and brought temporary protection to many people. 

It was only after that relationship broke down and agents started again coming -- this time for Saul and others -- that we began to wonder if it was time to take more drastic action. Our church board prayerfully and methodically considered the implications of going against the government. Ultimately we decided that the only way to help these men that would be truly useful, that might provide some protection from deportation, would be to lock them in the church. 

Saul came first. In a few weeks, the others followed. By April we had transformed almost every Sunday School room into a bedroom, setting up futons that could be folded up during the day, so classes could still take place. At first, the sanctuary-seekers bathed in a kiddie pool; after a month, we installed two showers. We set aside a special section of the church kitchen for “sanctuary tenants.” Area churches brought food. One congregation donated a badminton net, which was put to frequent and appreciative use. 

Our close-knit community rallied to the Indonesians’ aid. We worked to lift the men’s spirits, with games and hymn sings, and hosted dinners for their families on the weekend. Doctors provided free medical clinics. We kept watch for undercover ICE agents, who patrolled in unmarked cars, scouting for “fugitive refugees.” When a town manager expressed concerns about the church not being zoned for housing, we assembled a cadre of volunteers to stand sentry and conduct a daily “fire walk” to ensure everyone’s safety. 

Sanctuary is beautiful, but messy. The narrative is written through real human lives. Those sheltered must have a voice, and the possibility to rewrite the narrative in ways that protect their hearts, minds and souls. 

There were interviews: with CNN, with the New York Daily News, and with The New York Times. People were noticing what we were doing. It was exhilarating, for the Indonesians and for us. The media attention, the ICE sightings, the local support (and anger): all of it felt like important elements in the fight for justice. 

But before long, the reality of what we were doing set in. Our guests were trapped, mere steps down the road from where their children played Little League and went to school -- because of ICE, which would pick them up if they left, and because of us. I was putting myself and the church on the line, and they loved and respected us for it. They felt obligated to abide by sanctuary at its strictest definition, but, over time, the accumulated emotional weight of being shut off from free life was too much to take. People like Harry (photos above) began to slip out to see their families. 

Sanctuary proved psychologically draining for us, too. The hardest part was that there was no obvious end in sight. I felt very guilty about this, and struggled with extreme fatigue (I was also trying to keep up with my church responsibilities). When the men started to leave the premises, I had to unlearn sanctuary a bit. This could only work, I began to realize, if these men could escape from time to time to their true sanctuaries -- their homes and wives and children. I had to learn to accept a possible accusation of fraud, as I publicly staked my reputation and the reputation of my congregation on the sanctity of physical sanctuary while privately knowing that those in my care were buckling under the rigidity of the claim. 

As time dragged on we found ourselves not only supporting the men but also providing major rental assistance to their families, who were on the verge of losing their housing. One church couple renewed their vows to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and raised $5,000 to help with rent. That got us through a particularly difficult month. In all, we put at least $15,000 toward rental assistance. 

I struggled to take things one day at a time. To be honest, it was way too scary to look into the horizon and not be sure how this would all end. In the end, I finally got through to Gary Mead, the head of Enforcement and Removal Operations for ICE, in Washington. He heard us out and instructed the ERO director in Newark to offer Stays of Removal to the refugees in our church. Our dilemma ended. 

Now, nearly four years later, the Indonesians’ families are intact -- a relief and a blessing -- and life has returned to “normal.” Still, none have been granted citizenship. They would have benefited from Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which never happened, or from other immigration reform efforts. I see them regularly. Some worship here. Some just stop by, to remember the blessings, and trials, of living here. 

In recent months, with talk of renewed deportations, increasing numbers of congregations, colleges, and municipalities have said they want to extend sanctuary to their undocumented neighbors. I hope they do—whether that means providing physical sanctuary or engaging in creative, combative, and sustained “sanctuary behavior” such as protesting, advocating with officials, or vigils of support. I hope that as communities make this choice they’ll remember that sanctuary is beautiful, but messy. The narrative is written through real human lives. Those sheltered must have a voice, and the possibility to rewrite the narrative in ways that protect their hearts, minds, and souls. 

And also, would-be sanctuary providers: Relish the moments of hope and possibility. Sanctuary can feel like jail sometimes, for those inside and for those offering protection. Thank God, for us, in the end, it felt like Shalom.

 

(Reverend Seth Kaper-Dale is pastor of the Reformed Church of Highland Park in Highland Park, New Jersey. He is running for governor of New Jersey on the Green Party ticket. This essay is part of a Zócalo Inquiry, Do Sanctuaries Really Bring Peace?  Photos courtesy of Reformed Church of Highland Park. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

HE DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH-President Trump gave his informed testimony this week that people were registered to vote and had voted in multiple states in this last election. It seems for once he knew what he was talking about.

As it turns out, members of Trump’s own family, Tiffany Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner are both registered to vote in two different states. The difference is that, unlike most of the rest of us, they are rich enough to jet set from state to state on Election Day, to vote in more than one state at once.

In fact, he is surrounded by such double registering fraudsters, including Steve Bannon, his radical alt right top adviser, Sean Spicer, his press secretary, and Steve Mnuchin, his mortgage document forger nominee for treasury secretary.

His big expert on voting fraud, Gregg Phillips -- who was Trump's source when he retweeted the lie that three million people had voted illegally -- is registered to vote in three, count them, three separate states.

So when Kellyanne Conway asked rhetorically what everyone is afraid of from an investigation of voting fraud, the most fearful would seem to be Trump himself.

In the meantime, the abuses of power continue to escalate. Sally Q. Yates was required to promise, by no less than Trump's now nominee for U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, she would be independent, as a condition of being approved for the position in the Justice Department. After approval, Acting Attorney General Yates was summarily canned for refusing to defend Trump's unconstitutional ban on Muslim immigrants.

It didn't work for Nixon, when he executed his Saturday Night Massacre, but then of course he had not already stacked the judiciary with pliable quislings.

This dramatically raises the stakes on all judicial appointments going forward, especially the Supreme Court nominees. The Democrats have already vowed to filibuster anyone Trump nominates, justifiably presuming it will be someone from the far right.

We will thoughtfully hold our fire until the nomination is announced. There will be plenty of time for strong opposition, and we will no doubt oppose.

In particular we will require that whoever is nominated must forcefully and unequivocally repudiate both torture and the blanket discrimination against people based solely on their country of origin. We have no doubt that Trump is in the market for torture and prejudice-happy judges, who will do his authoritarian will. We may be seeing just the beginning of more decisions as bad as the Dred Scott case.

Let us remember that in Nazi Germany there were many judges without the basic integrity to resist Hitler's mounting crimes against humanity, who, to their eternal shame, went along with the will of the dictator. This was sold to them as a Christian theocracy too, you know.

It will not happen here because we held our tongues. 

In the meantime, please continue to protest the extreme ignorance of Trump's so-called extreme vetting.


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

RIGHT WING POWER GRAB--President Donald Trump reportedly did not realize he was promoting chief strategist Steve Bannon to the National Security Council (NSC) Principals Committee when he signed the executive order dropping intelligence and defense officials from the top government panel and elevating the former Breitbart News chair in their place.

The New York Times reported over the weekend that Trump had not been fully briefed on his own executive order, which became "a greater source of frustration to the president" than the protests and legal actions over his travel ban blocking immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.

Reporters Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman depicted an administration that's just barely keeping a lid on its internal crises, turf wars, and lack of preparation—and a scheming chief strategist that's successfully taken advantage of it all.

They wrote:

[White House chief of staff Reince] Priebus told Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon that the administration needs to rethink its policy and communications operation in the wake of embarrassing revelations that key details of the orders were withheld from agencies, White House staff, and Republican congressional leaders like Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

Mr. Priebus has also created a 10-point checklist for the release of any new initiatives that includes signoff from the communications department and the White House staff secretary, Robert Porter, according to several aides familiar with the process.

Mr. Priebus bristles at the perception that he occupies a diminished perch in the West Wing pecking order compared with previous chiefs. But for the moment, Mr. Bannon remains the president's dominant adviser, despite Mr. Trump's anger that he was not fully briefed on details of the executive order he signed giving his chief strategist a seat on the National Security Council, a greater source of frustration to the president than the fallout from the travel ban.

Trump seemingly clarified on Twitter that he calls his own shots, "largely based on an accumulation of data, and everyone knows it." He also accused the Times of writing "total fiction" about him.

The executive order promoted Bannon, a white nationalist with no foreign policy or government experience, to a regular seat at some of the most sensitive meetings at the highest levels of government, along with other NSC meetings. Meanwhile, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—who need to be confirmed by the Senate—were directed to only attend meetings when discussions pertain to their "responsibilities and expertise."

The memo led to speculation that the right-wing power grab in the executive branch could be setting the stage for a coup d'état.

(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams  … where this report was first posted.)

-cw

APLERN AT LARGE--In my last CityWatch article, I emphasized what the Measure S supporters are FOR.  A few key questions are in order for those opposing Measure S, particularly because those of us supporting the measure are virtually all volunteers, and virtually all opposing Measure S are getting PAID. 

PAID as in "Primarily Associated In Development", and who are getting either direct or indirect support from developers, either through their salary/job or the promise of new jobs if we continue our out-of-control development policies--er, I mean practices, because we HAVE no coherent policies with respect to Planning, despite it being illegal to not follow our City Charter and Bylaws. 

A few questions are in order for those who oppose Measure S--particularly for the benefit of Angelenos on the fence on this measure, and particularly aimed at those who recognize why the measure is being pushed but fear any "unintended consequences": 

1) How will you address the concerns and needs of those who have--either enthusiastically or with the resigned determination that we now have no choice to save our City--supported Measure S? 

2) Why is the recent "reform in financing City Hall campaigns" and "getting developer money out of politics" something we didn't see before Measure S, and are these talking points from City Hall to be believed at this time, and under these circumstances? 

3) Have more affordable housing and sustainable development been occurring under Mayor Garcetti and the City Council, or have these problems been sharply worsening under their "leadership"? 

4) If Measure S limits OVER-development, but allows legal development that could virtually double our supply of homes and apartments within five years, HOW does Measure S prevent sustainable development and affordable housing? 

5) Do our current development practices at Planning really favoring the average Angeleno, or just the wealthy and connected...and why are so many homeowners groups and affordable housing/homeless advocacy groups supporting Measure S? 

6) Are their enough parks and open space being created by our current development practices in Los Angeles? 

7) What's wrong with City staff, and not "hired guns" paid and influenced by contractors, performing legally-mandated EIR's to ensure their accuracy and impartiality? 

8) If we're to allow decreased parking for developers on certain products, how are we to protect these developments' neighbors from being impacted by cars parked on/next to their private properties, and how we will demand and ensure alternative legal and financial mitigations to secure the transportation/mobility/infrastructure of our City? 

9) How much of these projects are being approved for the financial betterment and welfare of overdevelopers, and why are City residents and neighborhood councils routinely ignored if not demeaned by our City Planning Department? 

10) How DO we prevent spot-zoning, and how DO we expedite the updating of our City Charter and Community Plans? 

Measure S remains supported by a growing number of volunteers and grassroots/non-profit groups who want an accountable and sustainable and environmentally-friendly City, and remains opposed by those getting PAID (Primarily Associated In Development). 

And those who oppose Measure S?  What are they FOR?  Do they want laws to even exist in City Planning and associated with our Community Plans? 

Beyond the platitudes by those opposing Measure S, what are THEIR ideas to ensure the rule of environmental law and rights of individuals living in the City of Los Angeles?   

And is continuing down our current path something we're OK with? 

Vote YES on Measure S on March 7th--a happier, healthier, and more representative City is closer than you think!

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties.  He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at   alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.) 

-cw

EDUCATION POLITICS-On March 7, 2017, Los Angeles will play a duplicate round of last November’s presidential election, and we’ll have the opportunity to trump last year’s presidential fiasco. 

Since January 20, the billionaires have displayed a dummy hand of hubris, lies and slander. That is, the same hand playing out right now in D.C., is being played right here in LA by multi-millionaire, former-mayor Dick Riordan. It’s the choice of the monied-1%, the champions a dystopian DeVos-flavored future devoid of truly accountable or equitable public education. 

In contrast, our path of Resistance steps neatly across the millions of dollars employed to hobble Steve Zimmer’s people-responsive, and people-powered policies. You vote to resist deep-pocketed, super-wealthy, 1%-politics when you vote in March for LAUSD School Board District 4’s incumbent, Steve Zimmer. 

These are some issues to consider when reviewing the leaflets and innumerable forums and conversations littering the landscape: 

1) A school’s “chartering” agency is tasked with its oversight. That means assuring its policies and operations are truly accountable to the public; that means assuring all the public is served, and not just some of it. 

At the same time there is inherent tension between any special interest and its regulators, even not-for-profit Charters. 

So what will a school-regulatory system look like when it is governed by electeds who are financed by Charter partisans such as the CA Charter Schools Association and private equity education-sector investors? 

Two of Steve Zimmer’s challengers are beholden financially to precisely such groups and individuals vested in the special-interests of Charter Schools. 

But Steve Zimmer is not. 

So who will be free of bias to regulate these schools in the best interests of all our public school children? 

2) A school board is concerned with ideology; its superintendent and staff with operations and realizing policy. 

LAUSD’s expensive escapades with technology-driven chicanery were coaxed by LAUSD staff, approved and overseen by its board. It’s an intimate tango to be sure, but the original sin lies in the folly of its architect and engineers, not the signal operators. 

The financial underwriters of the creative team choreographing LAUSD iPad ignominy were Eli Broad and his allied billionaires. John Deasy was their impresario, hand-picked to lead LAUSD. And it was the leadership of Mónica Garcia that orchestrated board approval and oversight of Deasy’s debacle; Eli Broad’s billions supported both Deasy and Garcia. 

Deasy is long-gone but his operations remain under legal scrutiny. Garcia is displaced as board president yet her role as promoter of Deasy’s technology-agenda is unchallenged and her mantle as Broad’s acolyte uncensored. 

Fast-forward to March’s school board election where three candidates benefit directly from Broad and his allies’ wherewithal. Two would tar Zimmer falsely with exclusive blame for the iPads via mailers from Independent Expenditure Committees of the 1%, while the third – Garcia – actually was the scheme’s chief champion. Taxpayer accountability should swamp all three. 

3) Broad’s wealthy billionaire-class underwrites and motivates a central stalking-horse of “Education ®eform”: to disintegrate that core of the teaching profession, its professional teachers. 

As financiers of the defeated Vergara v California, the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of five statues “protecting” classroom teachers, Education-®eforming industry titans seek to circumvent this judgment through elections. By supporting a plaintiff’s witness for LAUSD school board, a defendant would be transformed to plaintiff; the LAUSD itself would accuse its very own constituent teachers. 

This trojan-horse strategy could inflict widespread collateral damage on business-labor relations, tilting the advantage toward those billionaires whose special interests are advanced in supporting their candidate’s role-reversal. 

Obligated by financial support and legal testimony, such a board member’s fealty would be inherently compromised. These candidates are unqualified, in the paradigm of Rick Perry who would shutter the department he is appointed to run, or Steve Mnuchin who would abolish all populist protections governing his department of Treasury. 

Consider how these three issues support the billionaires’ latter-day agenda for a privatized America.

Resisting the will of the 1% means transcribing the will of the 99% onto ballots. 

Listen carefully to the underlying agenda of transformative candidates: reconstitution is not necessarily constructive or progressive. 

Vote for Steve Zimmer and Resist Trumpism.

 

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

BACKTALK—(Editor’s Note: This is a response to Jack Humphreville’s CityWatch article La Kretz Innovation Center: A Pay to Play Pet Project’).  I am the Co-Founder and CEO of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), the primary tenant of the La Kretz Innovation Campus (LKIC).   I can’t speak to the primary thesis of your article on the LKIC – that somehow the LKIC campus is some kind of quid pro quo for Mr. La Kretz’s Hollywood development – but I can speak to some of your points regarding the Campus.

1) The La Kretz Innovation Campus is not a “pet” project of Mayor Garcetti nor Councilmember Huizar.   The project was envisioned by Mayor Villaraigosa in 2008 and the campus was purchased in 2010.  LACI was born in 2011 and is part of a comprehensive plan to build a green economy for the City of Los Angeles.  To describe it as a pet project denigrates the thinking, hard work and commitment of dozens of people who have devoted themselves to helping Los Angeles become a green technology leader.

2) The LADWP was not “forced” to invest in this project as the Department has been a leading proponent of the work we do at LACI and the Campus that supports our work.  You may not be familiar with the requirements of AB32, which makes State utilities seek new sources of sustainable energy for generation, but LACI/LKIC is one of many initiatives that the Department is undertaking to meet these challenging requirements.

3) You note a City Council motion by Councilmenber Huizar to periodically report on the progress of LKIC.  For perspective, we continuously provide metrics to various departments of the City that monitor the progress of LACI and (now) the LKIC campus.  A few key highlights: 

  1. LACI has generated over $270million dollars in long-term economic value for the City of Los Angeles including more than 1200 direct and indirect jobs.
  2. LACI has helped 100 clean technology start-ups locate and prosper in the Los Angeles area.  Our companies have attracted more than $115 million in investment capital and filed over 200 patents.

4) You point out that LADWP has invested about $20M (it’s actually closer to $18M) and that its real estate investment should be closely evaluated.  I think this misses the point of LKIC – it’s not a real estate play but an economic development initiative – whose mission is to help develop family supporting jobs for the citizens of Los Angeles.  Yet, if one were to evaluate LKIC strictly from a real estate perspective, one would find that LADWP has leveraged its investment by more than 2:1; that it now owns a large piece of property in the fastest growing part of Los Angeles; and that it could sell this property tomorrow for a very sizeable profit.

Taking a step back, I would like to editorialize a bit myself on the importance of making the City of Los Angeles a cleantech innovation center, thus building a huge green economy for the City of Los Angeles and the role that LACI/LKIC play in this effort.

As background, the clean technology business sector has been the fastest growing sector on the face of the earth for the past five years, growing more than 25% annually.  Most experts predict continued growth for decades to come.  Frankly, we want to grab more than our fair share of this new business growth for Los Angeles’ citizens, thus providing long term job creation.   Not only are these higher paying jobs, but research shows that 1 out of 4 cleantech jobs are manufacturing jobs vs. 1 out of 9 in non-cleantech.  Building a huge green economy for LA will rebuild Los Angeles’ industrial base in tomorrow’s fastest growing industry.   In my way of thinking, this isn’t an optional extra pet project but a critically important long term initiative for Los Angeles.

Creating companies that have innovative clean technologies and helping them get to market is the most important component of expanding this embryonic market.  Cities that create an environment that nurtures these companies will reap long term rewards.  Think Silicon Valley.  Think San Diego’s biotech hub.   Think Boston’s Route 128 technology corridor. And this is exactly what the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator does at its La Kretz Innovation Campus.  We help create innovative start-ups.

 How do we do that?  Well yes, we provide under-market priced real estate to our Portfolio Companies because these companies can’t afford market rates in Los Angeles. (they will simply go elsewhere if they can’t afford to do business here).  But, the heart of our efforts to help these companies is to provide them with seasoned, experienced coaching by successful entrepreneurs and -- once they’re ready – we introduce them to people/companies that might help them.  For example, right across the hall from where these companies are seated is the LADWP energy and water efficiency test and certification R&D labs.  This accelerates the growth of our Los Angeles-based start-ups by providing easy access to a leading utility’s R&D lab.  Nowhere else in the country – and perhaps the world – is there such close cooperation between innovators and utility engineers than at LKIC.

I have given close to six years of my life to this project because I believe it represents the future for Los Angeles.  I urge you and your readers to not only support this effort, but to encourage the City of Los Angeles to double-down on its investment.  It will pay off in ways unimaginable.

 (Fred Walti is the founder and chairman of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator.)

-cw

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Mr. Mayor, other than reelection, you have a tough assignment, and it is much more than finding unusual photo ops. You are the mayor of the second largest city in the United States, and one of our planet’s creative capitals. Los Angeles’ population is approaching 4,000,000 people, and 2,000,000 work in Los Angeles. City Hall has a work force of 50,000 employees and an annual budget of at least $9 billion. It covers over 550 square miles, and has the largest and most congested street system in the United States. (Photo above: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.) 

This is why the public – knowing your fine education, extensive political connections, and obvious hopes for higher office – wants you to lead. They don’t want a Mayor who just echoes the talking points of financial backers from the real estate sector, as you did last week at an anti-Measure S press conference.  

This is when you became the lead mouthpiece for some of the major real estate players that the Los Angeles Times exposed as engaging in soft-corruption.  According to the Times, these companies engage in City Hall pay-to-play to obtain spot-zones and spot-General Plan Amendments for their unplanned mega-projects. 

As I review your comments, it boils down to a basic claim. A deregulated private market can do a better job in addressing such pressing issues as homelessness and high rents than preparing, adopting, implementing, following, and updating a carefully prepared and monitored General Plan. 

Mr. Mayor, when you return from you photo-ops, just look at that Los Angeles that will be maintained if your advocacy against Measure S prevails. All the dire things you predict with a Measure S victory are already widespread in today’s Los Angeles. Your case that conditions will get better by maintaining the status quo is just not credible. The evidence is right in front of us. We only need to look at nearby cities with current General Plans that they adhere to, like Pasadena and Santa Monica. Without the spot-zone changes and spot-plan amendments stopped by Measure S, these cities demonstrate that good planning can address a housing crisis, a well-maintained infrastructure, and robust economic activity. They have no need to give away the store in exchange for handouts from developers. 

Now, let’s get into the specifics of the Chicken Little sky-is-falling claims about Measure S. 


1) No, Mr. Mayor, Measure S does not stop housing construction. 

Nearly all housing, including apartments, in Los Angeles is built by-right. It does not require a spot-zone change or spot-General Plan Amendment from the ever-obliging City Council. The projects requiring these special City Council ordinances, like the Caruso project on LaCienega, are a small percentage of residential construction projects. 

The underlying problem is that because of economic inequality, few people can afford the rents of these new apartments, especially the luxury ones that Measure S opponents, like you, so venerate. There is also no evidence that a glut of luxury units, which is already happening in Downtown Los Angeles, cause landlords of less expensive apartments to lower their rents to make them affordable for the rest of the public.

This is because the "free" market will never build more than a minuscule amount of affordable housing through programs to privatize affordable housing, like SB 1818 (density bonus). The real way to expand the supply of affordable housing is for the public sector to build affordable housing, and that requires government programs, such as Measure HHH, an approach consistent with Measure S.


2) No Mr. Mayor, Los Angeles is not on verge of a population boom and must therefore open the floodgates to unplanned luxury apartment construction

The General Plan Framework, and the City's population prediction was 500,000 people too high. At present, LA has 3.9 million people, and it is only growing by about 10-20,000 people per year. It is doubtful LA will even reach the 2010 figure by 2050. 

The Framework and the prior AB 283 project also concluded that LA could reach a population of 8 million residents based on existing zoning. This clearly means that LA’s existing zones and plans do not present any barriers to (legal) housing construction.


3) No. Mr. Mayor, Los Angeles does not have a shortage of lots whose plan designations and zones permit apartment construction. 

If or when LA reaches the Framework’s demographic forecast, the city will have more than enough existing zoning to accommodate that population. Los Angeles has no need for the spot-zones and spot-plans you champion. For example, every commercially zoned parcel in Los Angeles already allows R-4 apartment houses. This means that all of LA's long commercial corridors, such as Vermont, Van Nuys, Pico, and Washington, could accommodate three story apartment buildings, including optional ground floor retail. They would not require any zone changes or plan amendments. And with SB 1818 incentives, these new buildings could incorporate four or five stories of apartments.


4) No Mr. Mayor, Measure S does not stop high density housing at subway stations. 

For example, on Wilshire Boulevard, where METRO is constructing the Purple Line Extension, existing plans and zones allow unlimited height. If, for example, the Caruso project were built one-half mile to the north, at LaCienega and Wilshire, it would not need to all those planning entitlements you support. It would also be adjacent to a future subway station. Furthermore, building luxury housing near subway or light rail stations does NOT create affordable housing. There is no supply and demand linkage between these totally disconnected parts of the housing market.


5) No Mr. Mayor Los Angeles does not have high rents because of its existing zoning. 

Rents are high because of four other reasons:

-  LA’s rent stabilization ordinance is weak, and it needs to be amended to stop vacancy decontrol and automatic annual rent increases. 

-  Congress eliminated nearly all Federal affordable housing programs, beginning in the 1970s.

- The California State Legislature dissolved the Community Redevelopment Agency, which spent 20 percent of its budget on affordable housing.

- In Los Angeles the real estate developers who fund City Hall campaigns do not want to build by-right affordable housing and market housing where it is permitted because they make fatter profits through luxury high rise buildings. Their business model, not zoning, is the barrier. 

6) No Mr. Mayor, the purpose of updating LA’s General Plan is not to facilitate the wishes of real estate investors. 

The reason we need to update the General Plan is to address climate change, determine where there is adequate infrastructure and services for existing and future development, where geology and hydrology affect the built environment, and where there is the greatest demand for housing, jobs, infrastructure improvement, and public services. 

7) No Mr. Mayor, Measure S does not prevent the City of Los Angeles from using City-owned property for affordable housing. 

This program has been on the books since the 1980s, initiated by your predecessor, Mayor Tom Bradley. The City Council then hired consultants to identify thousands of city-owned properties, but in the intervening 30 years only the air rights over several parking lots have been used for affordable housing. 

Now, coming out of a Rip Van Winkle sleep, your administration has resurrected this Bradley-era program, selecting 11 out of 9000 separate parcels that may or may not be stopped by Measure S. The thousands of parcels that would NOT be blocked by Measure S have been kept out of view, and there are no details on what is actually proposed for the 12 sites since, so far, there is only a Request for Proposals (RFP). 

If this results in serious proposals, and if they are for 100 percent affordable housing, and only need a zone change, Measure S would not make any difference. 

Meanwhile, stop scraping the bottom on the barrel to find a few hypothetical conflicts with Measure S. It is high time for you to direct your staff to identify which of the remaining 8,993 City-owned parcels are already suitable for by-right affordable housing construction. 

LA’s Cycle of Decline 

Mr. Mayor, the approach to governance revealed by your public opposition to Measure S draws Los Angeles into cycle of further decline. In LA, with all it complexity and energy, City Hall is now just governing by the seat of its pants, lurching one way or another depending on which real estate honcho walks through the mahogany doors. A diametrically different approach, one based on the careful planning and monitoring mandated by Measure S, is the leadership Los Angeles now needs.

 

(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.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

@THE GUSS REPORT-LA City Council got a sliver of local media attention last week when it stated its objection to President Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even though it regularly prevents members of the public from speaking on issues not under its purview. Regardless, Pruitt was approved 11-0 in the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee and his nomination now moves to the full Senate. 

So the Councilmembers threw caution to the wind at their subsequent meeting on Friday with an agenda item that objected to all of Trump’s other nominees. Kinda. Sorta. Well, not really. 

What they ended up doing is not thinking things through, and it could cost LA big-time, including the Olympics. 

For instance, the Councilmembers objected to Trump nominee Rex Tillerson to head the State Department. But it must have been lost on them that Tillerson is no longer a nominee, but the actual Secretary of State, sworn-in and presently overseas on his first trip. Details, details. 

Wait, wait, it gets better … 

I pointed out to City Council president Herb Wesson that for a city seeking the Olympics and in desperate need of infrastructure for it, it is not a good idea to oppose Elaine Chao as Trump’s nominee to head the Department of Transportation -- especially since she, too, was already approved, sworn-in and on the job. And one more thing: she is married to Mitch McConnell, the all-powerful U.S. Senate majority leader; not a good guy to piss-off. 

Aside from that, the blurb on City Council’s agenda condemning Chao erroneously reads that Chao’s appointment as Secretary of Transportation would, among other things, negatively impact “the rights of employees” and “a fair minimum wage.”

Huh? Since when does the Department of Transportation handle what the Department of Labor and Congress do?

Whoever wrote these blurbs for City Council may have tried to do their homework, but got it completely wrong.

Chao was the 24th Secretary of Labor for President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009, the longest tenure in that role since WWII. And she was the Director of the Peace Corp. And she was the President and CEO of United Way. And she has a Harvard MBA. And she was the first Asian female ever to serve in a presidential cabinet. She came to the United States at age 8 from Taipei, Taiwan, not speaking a word of English and grew to personify the American Dream. 

Yep, Elaine Chao is thoroughly unqualified for a presidential cabinet position, according to the Los Angeles City Council. 

Later, Wesson sheepishly directed his colleagues to strike their objection to Chao. They did -- after I pointed out that she was already approved by the U.S. Senate 93-6. 

The Councilmembers also oppose Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, citing (among other inane notions) not that he lacks experience in this field, but that he would bring a negative impact on….religious tolerance? Carson, it so happens, was approved in the first round of screening by none other than the Democrats’ leaders of the left Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, among others. 

When it came to Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, who is actually still a nominee, City Council cited in its objection to her possible negative influence on “the economy of the American people.” 

Say what? 

If LA City Councilmembers think that the Secretary of Education influences the nation’s economic policy, perhaps DeVos should dismantle the public education system….at least those schools attended by these Councilmembers….and with good cause. 

Seriously, who wrote this stuff…former Councilmember Tom LaBonge? (Thank you, Ron Kaye, former Editor of the LA Daily News for forever memorializing this clip.) 

Councilmember Paul Koretz admitted an oversight on the list: his colleagues should also disapprove of Steve Mnuchin, the nominee for the Department of Treasury. 

It was hardly their only omission.

Does the LA City Council not object to conservative federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch as Trump’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court? He is Columbia- , Oxford- and Harvard Law-educated and, at age 49, could serve 35 to 40 years on the bench, and have immense impact on the lives of all Americans. Given the blanket nature of City Council’s hit list, our 15 lawmakers either implicitly approve of Gorsuch by not having his name on it … or their lack of awareness of his name in the headlines is pretty half-baked. Or it was fully-baked, as Benjamin Braddock said in The Graduate.

Watch and see if City Council scrambles in the next week or so to voice its objection to Gorsuch now that I have pointed it out here. 

They also forgot to add objections, assuming they have them, to already-approved General James Mattis of the Defense Department, Mike Pompeo of the CIA, General Mike Flynn of the NSA, and so on and so forth. If they do not do this, it means that they either implicitly approve of these Trump appointments, given their public decrying of Trump’s other nominees, or their opinions on them are a day late and a dollar short. 

When all was said and done, the Councilmembers voted unanimously against all of them…except Chao, of whom they did not explicitly approve. You could hear a pin drop in the room. It was a bunch of ceremonial nothingness, and equal to the amount of thought they put into it. 

In an ironic twist, City Council’s opinion on these appointments will be considered by the White House with the same degree of disregard that City Council pays to the public at its own meetings.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatch, Huffington Post, KFI AM-640 and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

MAKING POINTS-As a shorthand way to address the LA Times’ dismissal of Eric Preven’s candidacy for Mayor of Los Angeles, the Preven campaign invites the public to view this brief video showcasing some of his beliefs, abilities and credentials. We also urge you to visit www.ericpreven.com to read the numerous articles we’ve written about the fiscal and social challenges facing Los Angeles. 

Regarding the Times’ calling into question Eric Preven’s ability to run a city the size of Los Angeles, we would note first of all that the incumbent was a legislator, not an executive, when he took office. Eric Preven has had extensive experience managing multi-million dollar TV production budgets. 

What’s important in a mayor is judgement. Our campaign is happy to be compared to the incumbent in this regard. 

For instance, we think it is imprudent that the incumbent’s Metro plan would have LAPD officers, all working overtime, take over the lion’s share of security for the Metro. While having the highest regard for law enforcement, we believe that such a plan not only endangers the residents of Los Angeles by turning its police force into an overworked group (a situation known to increase accidents such as police shootings) but this plan opens the city to catastrophic liability. We call on the incumbent to withdraw his proposal, which is scheduled to be voted on February 23 at the next MTA Board meeting. 

We believe it showed poor judgment for the incumbent to earmark City revenues for a legal defense fund for undocumented immigrants, when it was obvious that such an action would have the inadvertent effect of arousing resentment from a significant portion of LA’s population and thereby, in effect, put a target on the back of undocumented immigrants. There was no shortage of willing private donors to fund that very worthy project. Everyone deserves legal representation, and our commitment to the welfare of undocumented families is unbreakable. 

At the same time, we consider unconscionable the extent to which the incumbent has ignored -- and so delegitimized -- the real and understandable concerns of an important segment of LA’s population which feels that, as U.S. citizens, they are getting less attention than those who are not documented.  

The incumbent recently stated on network television that he believes Donald Trump is “very open minded” when it comes to the deportation of undocumented immigrant families. We consider his assessment to be naive, and believe that while it is important to cooperate with the President regarding issues of infrastructure and other economic concerns, on the particular issue of LA ever taking part in a round up its residents, we should be as adamant as Churchill was against WWII Germany. 

We’re proud of Eric Preven's partnership over the past four years with the ACLU with whom he recently won a landmark case in the California Supreme Court -- a case which helps preserve the liberty of all Californians. 

We consider imprudent -- and unethical -- the incumbent's current policy of making up for lost revenues by imposing exorbitant fines on Angelenos based on minor code infractions that, in many cases, occurred as much as a decade ago.  

We think it questionable that the incumbent has spent nearly a quarter a million dollars on a particular company named Daily Consulting, LLC which shows no evidence of being registered to do business in this state despite what the LA Times was told.  

Since September of 2016 (as we have written about before), the incumbent has systematically blocked Council District 7 from having any of its residents be appointed as a voting member of the City Council to temporarily replace Felipe Fuentes, who went to work for a lobbyist firm in Sacramento. This happened long before the CD7 primary election that is taking place on March 7. Also in violation of the law, is the incumbent’s recent flouting of the California Public Records Act. He is fifty days out of compliance with a recent request but offers no explanation. 

All this is just a sample of why we consider false the Times' contention that the incumbent is the only viable candidate on the ballot for Mayor of Los Angeles.

 

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

MIRACLE MILE--I’m sure if Mayor Eric Garcetti were asked to vote for more homelessness in Los Angeles he would answer resoundingly: NO! I’m equally sure that were each member of the Los Angeles City Council asked the same question we’d hear the same resounding answer: NO. Some might even say HELL NO! 

So, that leaves many of us in the Miracle Mile thoroughly puzzled by Councilmember David Ryu’s answer to us when he was asked to save the 500 rent stabilized (RSO) apartments the City Planning Commission ripped out of the Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ). Ryu has been a consistent advocate for rent controlled housing, yet he seems genuinely convinced that one or more of his colleagues will vote to sink the entire HPOZ if he steps up and demands that the Council save the rent stabilized apartments in the heart of the Miracle Mile. 

Perhaps Ryu is worried that the Mayor will veto an HPOZ that preserves those rent stabilized apartments, which stand in the path Garcetti and his allies have carved out for supersized, transit-close development. If Ryu successfully convinces Council to restore the original HPOZ plan drafted by the Planning Department and approved by the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission, Garcetti will be foiled. The Mayor’s appointed Planning Commission eliminated those 500 RSO units from the HPOZ, so that gives us a clue as to what the Mayor might do—but maybe not. What we do know is that approximately 1000 renters will face imminent eviction if their apartments lose HPOZ protection. 

Statistically that could mean that 7 of those individuals will end up homeless. And there could be more if Council President Herb Wesson follows through with his unwarranted and unscientific poll – taking in only the views of owners, not renters – that could result in another 300 rent stabilized units being sliced from the CD 10 portion of the Miracle Mile HPOZ. 

The tenants of these RSO units are our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters and friends. They are valued members of our community and they cannot be cast into the streets because of the “significant investment that we’re making in Wilshire Boulevard,” as Planning Commission President David Ambroz recently said. Fellow Commissioner Dana M. Perlman echoed Ambroz: All those historic, small-scale, rent controlled apartments in the Miracle Mile between 8th Street and Wilshire had to go because the multibillion dollar investment in the Purple Line subway extension requires a future of high-rise, high-density, luxury apartments. 

Preserving the neighborhood, and saving the homes of countless residents, Perlman dismissed as short-sighted. “We’re doing it for today and we’re not planning for the future, and part of our responsibility, of course, is to look to the future,” Perlman said. A future, that is, without affordable housing within walking distance of the subway being built specifically to address the needs of the transit-dependent – which is to say, people who do not live in luxury apartments and do not drive luxury cars! 

Thus far, the city’s carte blanche for developers in the Miracle Mile has eliminated 100 rent stabilized apartments, constructed 1,800 market-rate luxury units, and built just 2 low-income dwellings. This is the reality which Ryu now seems willing to embrace and extend, and with it, the guarantee that some residents will end up living on the streets. Meanwhile many others will be pushed further away from the very transit corridor they were living in because they’ll be permanently priced out of the new housing being built. That’s a morally bankrupt tradeoff, plain and simple. 

So it goes. Planning Commissioner Robert Ahn (now running for U.S. Congress), made the objective all too clear when he applauded the removal of Olympic Boulevard from the HPOZ. He inadvertently let the cat out of the bag when he said “I think we need to maintain flexibility on a major street like Olympic Boulevard for the future planning purposes.” Is no street safe from the gilded grasp of the Mayor’s developer buddies? 

Will there be a vote in favor of more homelessness? If the answer is NO, then it can only come if Councilman Ryu refuses to support the CPC gutting decision and demands all the removed properties be reinstated. And then he’ll have to show his mettle in City Council. He will need 9 other members to stand with him to override the CPC. 

Councilman Ryu supports saving RSO units. He has proven that on several occasions. We need to support and encourage him to take a stand against the CPC and the Mayor. This is his Council District and he was elected to protect our neighborhoods. 

No excuses will be entertained. A vote to sustain the CPC decision is a vote for homelessness. A vote to restore the RSO units is a vote against homelessness. Let’s make sure all our elected officials say NO to homelessness! Reinstate the Miracle Mile HPOZ! Save historic, affordable, rent-controlled housing!

 

(James O’Sullivan is President of the Miracle Mile Residential Association and co-founder of Fix the City … a non-profit, citizen association whose stated goal is its name … to Fix the City. He is an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)

-cw

@THE GUSS REPORT-Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin finally woke up from the slumber he has been in during his first term in office regarding alleged LAFD fire inspector fraud, a subject about which he and Mayor Eric Garcetti have long since known, but failed to remedy. Or even address.

It was here on CityWatch where the alleged fraud was first exposed in 2016, followed by stories in the LA Weekly by Hillel Aron and then on KCBS by David Goldstein. The LA Times has yet to correct its fallacious story on Deputy Fire Chief and fraud whistleblower John Vidovich. 

While there is proof that Galperin’s office is finally poking around the edges of the story, you wouldn’t know it by speaking with anyone there.

Deborah Hong, Galperin’s Assistant Deputy of Communications, a week ago denied knowledge of an investigation. Then, late last week, she said “our office’s policy is to neither confirm nor deny whether we are investigating.”  

But when asked why that rule didn’t apply to Galperin’s abundance of public appearances on radio and television during his investigation of the $40 million that disappeared within two LADWP non-profits, Hong said that she wasn’t with Galperin at the time and didn’t know the answer. 

Instead, she referred me to Ted Rohrlich, Galperin’s Deputy Controller, Policy and Internal Affairs.

Rohrlich, too, sidestepped the issue of LAFD fraud, the LADWP, LA Animal Services and other cases where the rule didn’t apply.

The other questions which Galperin’s office refused to address are as follows: 

  1. Why is the Controller’s office investigating the LAFD now, even though there is documentation that they have long since known about the fraud allegations? 
  1. Did Galperin’s delay have anything to do with the $350,000 that the firefighter’s national union donated to local incumbents up for re-election? 
  1. Did the delay have anything to do with LAFD firefighter trainees being allowed – for the first time – to vote in union leadership elections? 

And…

  1. Does Galperin acknowledge that his failure to proactively pursue a fraud investigation, and make referrals of any wrongdoers to District Attorney Jackie Lacey for prosecution, resulted in the racial discrimination lawsuit filed last week in which several of the plaintiffs were fire inspectors implicated by Vidovich? 

According to FireLawBlog.com

“The suit was filed yesterday in Los Angeles County Superior Court by Battalion Chief Jerome Boyd, Captain Gary Carpenter, Captain Andre Johnson, Captain David Riles, Inspector Aaron Walker and Inspector Glenn Martinez. The complaint describes Chief Boyd, Captain Carpenter, Captain Johnson, David Riles, and Inspector Walker as African American and Inspector Martinez as Hispanic.” 

Martinez and Walker are two of the inspectors identified as fraudsters by Vidovich, who is a co-defendant in the lawsuit along with LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas, Assistant Chief Kwame Cooper and the City of Los Angeles, which is sure to cost the taxpayers a fortune to defend. 

In what may be the ultimate irony, the lawsuit alleges that the LAFD is an “all-white boys club.” Terrazas is Latino and Cooper is black. 

Instead of a good, proactive performance as City Controller, Galperin now has the City of Los Angeles playing defense. 

An even bigger breach of civic duty might have been committed by the LA Times, which does not appear to have reported on the discrimination lawsuit or Galperin’s investigation at all, based on a cursory search of its website.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatch, Huffington Post, KFI AM-640 and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

SPORTS POLITICS--To put it mildly, the National Football League needs the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers’ Inglewood stadium, scheduled to open in 2019, to deliver — and deliver big.

It had better, because a seemingly worst-case scenario has unfolded since the league a year ago voted to allow the St. Louis Rams to spurn public funding in St. Louis and relocate to Los Angeles.

EASTSIDER-The Developer vs. NELA Open Space fight is one we Angelenos understand all too well. What makes this dispute different is that there is a rational developer, and based on the respective positions of the two sides, there should be a solution that works for all. Since that hasn’t happened, the question is “why the heck not?” For the scene, the struggle, and possible solutions, read on. 

Background 

For those of you who don’t know, Glassell Park is that series of hills near downtown LA, bordered by the Glendale Freeway on the west, and the 5 Freeway on the south. Recently overwhelmed by a wave of gentrification, suddenly a small home in these hills is going for something like $600,000 - $800,000 and beyond. 

Aside from proximity to downtown, one of the main attractions of what was a sleepy little community is the presence of 4 or 5 (depending on how you count) of the last open space canyons in the City, preserving native species from critters to trees in a natural habitat. 

Over the last 15 years or so, these canyons have been ground zero for hotly contested disputes between developers, who see a great commercial opportunity, and a variety of community based groups, such as the Glassell Park Improvement Association (a homeowners group), the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council, the Mt. Washington Homeowners Association, and a coalition of open space groups under the umbrella of Nelagreenspace.  

To no one’s surprise, the amount of this open space has diminished to the point that we are essentially left with two large open spaces -- Walnut Canyon and Moss Canyon (Barryknoll is already in the midst of development.) 

The Shifting Sands of Northeast LA Politics 

Over these same fifteen years, there have been three Council Districts involved with Glassell Park -- CD1, CD13, and CD14. During that time, the political elite of the City have seen fit to gerrymander the area covered by each of these three districts so that there is little political continuity, a fact which I believe has led to the tenuous interest of the current crop of Councilmembers in actually giving a damn about the folks who live here. Two of our three Councilmembers (Huizar and Cedillo) are on the PLUM Committee. 

For example, our very own Mayor, Eric the Bold, used to have a good chunk of the community in CD13, but that has now diminished to a teeny area mostly around San Fernando Road and Fletcher Square. The District is now run by his former staff person, Mitch O’Farrell.

CD14, which used to encompass most of Glassell Park when Antonio Villaraigosa was the Councilmember, got shrunk to a pittance after his successor, Jose Huizar, decided he could make more money selling off Boyle Heights and Downtown LA. 

And finally, CD1, which was run by that paragon of planning, Ed Reyes, got radically expanded in the last redistricting exercise, and is now under the tutelage of Gilbert Cedillo. His district now includes the bulk of these canyons. 

I think the redistricting shuffle is a pretty good variation of three card monte, and gives you a clue as to exactly how rotten the state of politics currently is on Northeast LA. 

That said, accompanying the gerrymandering there has been an equal upheaval in how the politicians view Glassell Park. Back in the day, our Three Amigos (Reyes, Huizar, and Garcetti) were dead against building in the hills. They passed a bunch of legally questionable Interim Control Ordinances, Community Design Overlays, Q Conditions and many more bogus “planning tools,” all of which had the effect of stopping virtually all building of single family homes in the hills.   

The open space people were ecstatic, but some of us noticed that the real thrust of the Council actions were aimed against the right of individual people like you and me to be able to build our own home on a lot in the hills. They didn’t touch their big time campaign contribution base of large developers. The land was being warehoused. 

Of note, the bulk of the people wanting to build were multicultural families who had owned these lots for some time, and simply wanted to build their family a home. In other words, people with no real money and therefore no political power. 

Then came the housing crash in 2007-2008, and god took care of the hillsides for a while. Instead of open space, we all concentrated on figuring out how to cope with a 40% drop in the value of our homes, not to mention staying employed to pay the bills. 

The Adobe at Glassell Park 

Now the worm has turned, and housing near downtown is hot! Silverlake properties are largely unattainable, unless you are running an Airbnb party house, and anything around Echo Park has popped up like pot grown in a hothouse. We in Glassell Park (and to some extent, Cypress Park) have gotten discovered as the next great thing. 

In the midst of all this, along came the developers of The Adobe at Glassell Park, a four-acre piece of the 30-acre Walnut Canyon. Unfortunately for those who want to preserve the canyon, Adobe has the legal ability to build 32 single family homes on their four acres. This is because that land was zoned and 32 lots were approved way back when. 

With virtually no inventory in Glassell Park and a housing comeback, in 2014 the developers got serious about moving forward with their plan. It’s Unusual for developers, but these folks actually did engage the community and have a number of community meetings. Furthermore (gasp), they were and continue to be open to selling their property as open space, for a park or such, and reaffirmed this willingness last Saturday at the Glassell Park Community Center. 

On the other hand, this is a capitalist country (even before Trump), and the developers are interested in making a decent profit out of the deal. Duh. 

Saturday’s Meeting at the Glassell Park Community Center 

On January 28, a community meeting was held at our community center, a space leased by Council District One. The event (and thank you very much) was cosponsored by the Glassell Park Improvement Association and the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council

As usual, the crowd was huge, and the rhetoric was as toxic as the bike lane meetings were in Highland Park/Cypress Park/Glasell Park. Toxic indeed. While it is clear that the community will do everything in its power to stop the development and preserve Walnut Canyon, it is equally clear that the owners have a right to build, and the most the community can hope to do is delay the project, not stop it. 

I think it is that frustration which has led to the vehemence in attempting to block the project, a frustration over our community’s lack of political power to preserve the canyons. 

Of course an unmentioned fact is that most of the groups in our area supported the loser in the last race for CD1: Ed Reyes’ Chief of Staff Jose Gardea. In an almost $2 million dollar campaign, Gil Cedillo won by 52% to 48%. And wouldn’t you know it, the Mt. Washington crowd was prominent in the Gardea camp, many of whom had some pretty incendiary things to say about Mr. Cedillo. I won’t say that elections have consequences, but I haven’t seen a lot of kiss and make up since the election. Sigh. 

The Takeaway 

The real problem is that public institutions have failed in step up to actually do something to preserve what little open space there is left in Glassell Park. For example, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and its OberGrupenFuhrer ‘Ranger Joe’ Edmiston, has been too busy posturing to come up with the money from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to buy the land. 

It also turns out that the spiffy new Measure “A” Parks money which was just passed by the voters won’t really be available until sometime in 2019. After all the hype it turns out that even then the funds will be up for grabs by various denizens of the Supervisorial District. So good luck to our local open space folks. 

That leaves the City of Los Angeles. It seems to me that this is a grand opportunity for Council District 1 to see about some fresh ideas on how to keep Walnut Canyon as open space. God knows the rest of LA is turning into a concrete jungle, a place where the only open spaces are the potholes.

There is precedent for the City stepping up for open space. After all, a few years ago Jose Huizar proudly bought Elephant Hill for over $9 million bucks and hailed it as a great victory. 

The value of a pristine canyon or two is inestimable to all the citizens of Los Angeles, particularly those people squashed into outrageously priced condos in the downtown area. Maybe Huizar could help out, since he runs the PLUM Committee. He, after all, was the one who gerrymandered his way out of Northeast LA in favor of downtown, and I think his constituents just might like to take a ride and see a tree, or a critter, in a canyon. 

 

(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.

REFORMING LA FOR THE PEOPLE-While I can't reasonably speak for all of those who advocate for Measure S, I can reasonably say the following: neighborhood/volunteer/community advocates have been stymied by a Downtown/Mayor/City Council/Planning elite for decades. This elite has thwarted attempts by neighborhood councils and grassroots groups to create affordable, sustainable, environmentally-favorable, and economically-beneficial living conditions in the City of Los Angeles. 

Common sense, right? And this same elite is coming out against Measure S. Most of their allies are comprised of the same ilk that has benefited financially while causing the majority of Angelenos to suffer a decrease in quality of life or to flee the City altogether, often after years of fighting against this elite. 

Despite the lies and distortions, most of this unholy alliance of builders and developers are the same people who flout the laws themselves or pay off Downtown to flout the laws. They benefit financially while they do this and -- as would be expected -- have overseen a worsening of the environment, economy and quality of life in LA as a result of their actions. 

So the same folks who have fought for grassroots voices and for neighborhood councils are fighting for Measure S. Perhaps it's sad we have come to this, but has the City Council elite (those who oppose Measure S) bothered to police itself over the last few decades? 

The answer is No. So this is what Measure S is FOR, as per Ballotpedia:  

1) FOR TWO YEARS, WE WILL STOP MEGADEVELOPMENTS, ALLOW DEVELOPMENTS THAT DON'T NEED HUGE VARIANCES, AND UPDATE OUR GENERAL PLAN/COMMUNITY PLAN/ZONING LAWS.  WE WILL HAVE THE CITY OBEY ITS OWN LAWS, AND THEY WILL BE UPDATED WITH LEGAL/COMMUNITY INPUT. 

2) THERE WILL BE A PERMANENT PROHIBITION AGAINST "SPOT-ZONING", WHICH IS WHEN THE CITY VIOLATES THE LAWS FOR A GIVEN PROJECT, BUT THE ABILITY TO PERFORM LEGAL/COMMUNITY-SUPPORTED VARIANCES WILL BE MAINTAINED. 

3) THE CITY GENERAL/COMMUNITY/AIRPORT DISTRICT PLANS WILL HAVE A LEGAL REQUIREMENT TO HAVE A PUBLIC REVIEW EVERY FIVE YEARS. 

4) ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORTS (EIR'S) WOULD HAVE TO BE PERFORMED BY CITY STAFF, AND NOT BY INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS PAID BY (AND BEHOLDEN TO) THE DEVELOPERS.  IN OTHER WORDS, THESE EIR'S WOULD BE UNBIASED. 

5) NO MORE THAN ONE-THIRD OF A REDUCTION OF ON-SITE PARKING REQUIREMENTS COULD OCCUR FOR A GIVEN DEVELOPMENT. 

So now you have read the basics -- the essence of Measure S. It's a shame that we have to pursue Measure S at this time, but after decades of being lied to, of being "owned" by developers and their allies who want to make big bucks and harm the daylights out of the rest of us, we have no choice. 

Measure S supporters are your neighbors, the affordable housing advocates, and the volunteers who want parks and a livable City where children and seniors and families can thrive and enjoy life. They want big projects to remain Downtown where they belong, and for there to be smaller projects in the suburban portion of the City, with accessible jobs as well. 

It's what we're FOR. And those who oppose Measure S? What are THEY for? 

Vote "YES" on Measure S on March 7, 2017. 

A happier, reformed Los Angeles may be coming a lot sooner than you think!

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties.  He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at   alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.) Photo: LA Times. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

ELECTION POST-MORTEM-If you have found yourself profoundly depressed since the election of Donald Trump, you should have been at Occidental College on Wednesday night -- it would have given you hope. The Reverend Dr. William Barber II not only laid out in painful detail what put Trump in the White House, but also took the time in the clearest of terms possible to lay out the steps we the people can do about it now. It involves coming together and asserting our majority status in this democracy. 

Barber’s thesis is that endemic racism is not only alive and well, but is literally the only force powerful enough to get poor White voters in 95 of the poorest counties in the United States and elsewhere in the South to vote against their own economic self-interest. 

These poor voters should wonder why some of those pushing Trump or prior Republican candidates make as much as $97,000 an hour while they fight a $15 an hour minimum wage. The "gift" of racism is that it is able to deflect the blame of poor White exploitation by the obscenely rich to the usual Black, Latino, Muslim, and Jewish suspects, which continues to succeed in the 21st century by offering equally poor and downtrodden working class Whites the consolation prize of feeling at least nominally superior. 

What this left us with in the latest election -- and many of the ones proceeding it -- is the voting reality that this profoundly poor racist motived the voter core of 13 Southern states to give conservative Republicans and now Trump an almost insurmountable 171 Electoral College leg-up. Republicans then only need to accumulate another 99 electoral votes out of the remaining 37 states. 

But in North Carolina, Barber didn't stop at just pointing out the racist fear motivated model that has kept putting conservatives and now Trump in power. His Moral Mondays and other programs coordinated with litigation networked across racial and state lines to engage a multi-racial and ethnic have-not majority that has finally given constitutional "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" a substantive new reality as reflected in the election of a new Democratic governor and other elected officials. 

This has been accomplished, while waging a successful judicial confrontation and a reversal of what had been the systematic gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  

What I found to be a vindication of Dr. Barber's approach to all exploited people is something he mentioned briefly in passing. In the state of West Virginia where Trump won, Dr. Barber has now been asked to speak before predominantly White audiences ow that these folks have come to realize that the racially tainted Obamacare is actually the Affordable Care Act, and that is what Trump is in the process of taking away from them. 

The significance of race in the election of Donald Trump was clearly illustrated when Dr. Barber said, "There would have been no Trump without Obama first having been president for eight years" as a catalyst to White fear expressed in racism. But by the end of the evening it was also clear to the packed audience that if we organize now across racial and ethnic lines, then 95 million Americans will not sit out the next election as they did this one. And a 77,000 vote margin will never again be allowed to put a Trump into office. 

North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP | P.O. Box 335,Durham NC 27702 | 919‑682‑4700 | Fax 919‑682‑4711 | info@naacpnc.org

 

(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.

DEEGAN ON LA-Will David Ryu’s inaction, as alleged by renters, help evict 500 Miracle Mile affordable housing renters to make room for high end developers? What had been thought of as “secured borders” may now be plums ripe for the picking for developers who are aggressively moving into Miracle Mile. They want to transform up to 500 affordable housing units currently protected by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance into massive, high-end apartment and condo complexes. 

To accomplish this, they would evict workforce renters and tear down historic structures -- a blow to the community and a blow to the City’s efforts to increase the number of affordable housing units. 

This is leading to questions as to whether or not Councilmember David Ryu (CD4) has become a conduit for City Hall’s development plan for the Miracle Mile – a plan that would see it explode with high-end luxury housing taking the place of affordable housing. The upgrading of Museum Row and the installation of the Purple Line Extension subway are driving wedges between the status quo and the future. David Ryu is caught in the crossfire. 

The area between 8th Street and Wilshire Boulevard is primarily vulnerable, but properties fronting on Olympic Boulevard, as well as on the west side of Orange Grove Avenue south of 8th Street, will also be impacted. 

Concerned renters and building owners in the affected area of the Miracle Mile are upset with what they see as Ryu’s lack of continued backing, if not his reversal, of the original boundaries of the historic preservation plan contained in the Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) currently winding its way through City Hall hearings. It’s headed for a decisive vote by the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management committee (PLUM) on February 14. 

Fears of a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre by Ryu and PLUM Committee will hopefully be mitigated by a meeting with affected renters in the Miracle Mile on Monday, February 6. Ryu has been invited there so they can explain what they consider to be his abandonment of the original borders of the Miracle Mile HPOZ: namely, the strip between 8th and Wilshire, a strip along Olympic, and a strip west of Orange Grove to Fairfax – all of which have been hollowed out of the HPOZ and would be made available to developers, they say, with Ryu’s tacit approval. 

At press time, Ryu’s office was unable to confirm that he would attend the renters’ meeting, but the clock is ticking. One week after the meeting the PLUM committee is scheduled to hear and discuss the issue that has suddenly caught fire: how and why did the original boundaries change? 

On December 8, 2016, the City Planning Commission endorsed the Miracle Mile Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ), but, at the last minute, the Commission rewrote the HPOZ boundaries that had been approved by the City’s Cultural Heritage Commission, recommended by the Planning Department, and endorsed by Ryu. But these boundaries excluded properties fronting on Olympic Boulevard, properties north of 8th Street, as well as properties on the west side of Orange Grove Avenue south of 8th Street. 

These carve-outs of areas offering affordable housing, if allowed to stand, will become a developer’s playground. 

In March, the Interim Control Ordinance now protecting the Miracle Mile, will expire and without a fully approved HPOZ covering the original territory, the land grab by developers will be on. 

Until recently, the renters believed that Ryu was on their side, but in their passionate letter to him requesting a meeting, a copy of which was obtained by CityWatch, the community challenged him, saying: 

“We relied upon your promise to protect our neighborhood and your vow to ensure that multifamily residents – especially so many rent stabilized apartment dwellers – from rampant development. Why did you allow your staff to remain silent when the Planning Commission redrew the boundaries, in effect, issuing eviction notices to those of us living in more than 500 historic rent stabilized units? Unless you take decisive action to undo the newly proscribed boundaries unjustifiably drawn and adopted by the Planning Commission, our neighborhood will be left unprotected.” 

Ryu has scrambled under community pressure before and may be able to calm down the community with a public pledge to reinstate the original HPOZ borders. He will need to reinforce that by appearing at PLUM and publicly announcing his views since this is the key issue in dispute. 

This will not entirely solve his problem: Ryu would then need to explain himself to the developers and his City Hall colleagues. Or, he may just keep it a secret as to why he will not do what the community believes he originally promised them he would do. 

(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at timdeegan2015@gmail.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

WISHFUL THINKING ABOUNDS-Thank you Kellyanne Conway. Now we have a name for the phenomenon, Alternative Facts. We needed a simple term to encompass the lies, deceit, misinformation, disinformation, “fair and balanced untruths,” the fake news, the fatally flawed data, and the wishful thinking that have been plaguing us for years. 

When his eminence President Donald Trump tweets about fake news, he too may have a point. The Left loves fake news. The media loves fake news. The Los Angeles Times has perfected Fake News by Omission. That’s why I stuck the LA Times with the motto: “All the News the Elite Wants You to See.” The media can fake the news by using misleading headlines and by omitting crucial facts. The most notorious example is, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” As we now know, Michael Brown was not standing with his hands up surrendering when shot. 

President Trump’s greatest contribution to our understanding of Alternative Facts is his ability to “perchance” Tweet From the Hip. I imagine some of his advisers have pasted signs on the walls of the West Wing urging, “THINK before your TWEET.” If that is so, the signs have been ineffective. While Trump presents a clear and present danger to the Union, we should realize that he did not invent the use of Alternative Facts. We are all in this current nightmare because Alternative Facts have become as American as apple pie. 

Propaganda vs. Love of Truth 

Many decades ago in the build-up to World War II, Alternative Facts ran rampant in the world. Europe had the Nazi Party, but American had its Lindberghs and the American Bund Movement.  America also had a couple of Jewish kids, Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, high school students from Cleveland, who created Superman in 1933. Interestingly, Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent, was a nerdy guy who worked for a newspaper, The Daily Planet – a rather universal sounding name. 

Although Superman’s powers were allegedly involved with leaping tall buildings in single bound, etc., in reality his greatest super power was his belief in “Truth, Justice and the American Way.” 

Somewhere after WW II, our belief in “Truth Justice and the American Way” waned somewhat. Instead, Alternative Facts came into favor with doctors telling Americans that smoking cigarettes was good for their health and the government warning us that smoking a single reefer would make you commit suicide. 

Yet, we Americans had our limits in those yesteryears, as was shown on June 9, 1954, when chief counsel for the United States Army Joseph Welsh brought the McCarthy Era to an end by asking the Republican Senator from Wisconsin, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” In the 1950's, Truth, Justice and the American Way was not yet a dead. 

Are Truth, Justice and the American Way, a Thing of the Past? 

With Donald Trump’s cleansing of Jews and Genocide from the Holocaust Remembrance Day, with his claims that Mexicans are rapists and drug lords, and with the banning of Muslims from certain nations while expressly exempting Christians from the ban, Americans are drowning in a tsunami of Alt-Rightism that is emanating from the White House. There is a constant barrage of Alternative Facts about millions of illegals voting for Hillary Clinton, along with Trump’s cropped photo of his inauguration he showed to David Muir on ABC. It clouds our minds to the reality that Trump did not make America safe for Alternative Facts. That happened long ago. 

We have become aware of Alternative Facts not because Trump has brought us something new. We are only shocked by the brazen absurdities of his Alternative Facts. Thus, we all need to stop and look at ourselves; we must remember Pogo who pointed out that we have found the enemy and he is us. Let me tweak that -- we have found the enemy and the enemy is our acceptance of Alternative Facts. 

Alternative Facts Govern Los Angeles 

In January 2014, Judge Alan Goodman warned Angelenos that the City intentionally used Alternative Facts to mislead the public and subvert the law. Judge Goodman’s exact words were, “fatally flawed facts,” “wishful thinking.” The judge said, “…material [facts] are necessary to informed decision-making and informed public participation.” As a result of then Councilmember Eric Garcetti’s habitual use of Alternative Facts, Judge Goodman rejected the Hollywood Community Plan. 

In its aftermath, Mayor Garcetti has repeatedly said how important community plans are for the city. Yet, more than three years have passed and there is no new draft of the Hollywood Community Plan. In April 2016, Mayor Garcetti released a foreshadowing of that Community Plan. It was intentionally based on fatally flawed data claiming that Hollywood’s population had grown from 198,288 people in 2010 to 206,000 people in 2016. He cited something called the SCAG 2012 RPT as the source for this “fact.” That SCAG document had absolutely no – nada, zilch -- population data for Hollywood. Lies, deceit, fake news, Alternative Facts are falsehoods are that are found everywhere, too numerous to mention. 

Does Garcetti’s perennial use of Alternative Facts matter? He has used them to divert over $2.5 billion to his developer buddies and he is proposing several mega-projects in Hollywood based on his lies about Hollywood’s population. 

What did the 15-member Los Angeles City Council do when they were asked to approve the Hollywood Community Plan based on lies? During a council hearing on June 19, 2012, one councilmember asked whether City Planning could redo the Plan with accurate data. Senior Planner Kevin Keller basically said, “Yes, that is possible.” Whereupon Garcetti insisted that his Hollywood Community Plan, which everyone knew was based on falsified data, be approved. The LA City Council then unanimously approved it. 

Alternative Facts that the entire City Council knew were false, ended up carrying the day. The Los Angeles City Council is often faced with projects based on Alternative Facts and each and every project is unanimously approved. 

While Mayor Garcetti and Donald Trump are habitual users of Alternative Facts, does this pollute America? Or is using them something akin to a used car salesman’s saying, “This car was used only by a little old lady who only drove it to church on Sunday.” 

The New Yorker ran an article in its January 30, 2017 issue called “Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich” in which Evan Osnos noted: 

“Even financiers who supported Trump for President, hoping that he would cut taxes and regulations, have been unnerved at the ways his insurgent campaign seems to have hastened a collapse of respect for established institutions. Dugger said, "The media is under attack now. They wonder, is the court system next? Do we go from 'fake news' to 'fake evidence'? For people whose existence depends on enforceable contracts, this is life or death." 

The New Yorker, Mr. Osnos, and financiers are woefully behind the curve. Back in 1992, the California Supreme Court ruled that the court must enforce decisions where errors of fact and law are apparent on the face of the award and where they cause substantial injustice. See Moncharsh v. Heily & Blase, (1992) 3 Cal. 4th 1, 27-28. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Kennard noted, “the majority's holding requires our trial courts not only to tolerate substantial injustice, but to become its active agent.” Yes, the California Supreme Court requires its lower courts to treat known Alternative Facts as true! 

The California Supreme Court ruled that some things are more important than Truth, Justice and the American Way, and winning is one of those things. The threat facing America does not come from Donald Trump, from Breitbart, from the corrupt Los Angeles City Council, or from judges who find facts and fiction to be fungible commodities. The threat comes from our acceptance of those lies, deceit, fake news, dishonest judges, dishonest media, lying Presidents, and prevaricators calling themselves Members of Congress while knowing that they are bold faced liars. 

After the world economic crash in 2008, the nation accepted the Alternative Fact that certain Wall Street executives took unwise risks. That’s a “liar, liar, pants on fire” type of Alternative Fact. The economy crashed due to intentional multi-trillion dollar frauds perpetrated by Wall Street executives, none of whom went the prison. Why? Because we believed the in the Alternative Realty that criminality was mere carelessness. 

Our nation seems to run on Alternative Facts. The use of perjury to convict people is so common that in January 2015, the federal courts said that the California courts had an “epidemic of misconduct” after a prosecutor took the stand and committed perjury in order to convict a defendant. Did U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, who was then California’s Attorney General, do anything about that perjury? No. She just took the credit for another successful prosecution.

As bad as Donald Trump may be, we the American people have created the swamp where Alternative Facts create Alternative Realities. The difference among Trump’s lying Alternative Facts, the court’s lying facts, the media’s lying facts, and Eric Garcetti’s lying Alternative Facts is basically nothing. A lie is a lie is a lie. The fault rests not in the stars nor even in the politicos but in ourselves for pretending that falsehoods are part of Truth, Justice and the American Way.

 

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

MY TURN-This doesn't happen often! Remember college days when you ran to watch "Days of Our Lives" on TV, anxious to find out what disaster befell which member of the cast? Each morning I reach for the news to see what happened. It’s like living in an alternate universe and I keep hoping that, with time, I will be able to look at the "happenings" more dispassionately. 

When last I wrote at the end of the year, I was leaving on my annual R&R break, giving me a chance to travel – my second favorite thing…after writing for CityWatch, of course. Getting away is a good way to clear the head and think about the upcoming year. People who don't take a work break are doing themselves harm. No one is indispensable. 

I went to see longtime friends in Australia and New Zealand. I would suggest adding both countries to your travel "bucket" list. And it was the perfect time to be gone from all the political noise. Both countries have beautiful scenery, great food and wine, warm friendly people, stable governments and a lot of interest in the political changes taking place in the United States. 

In fact, I've not experienced this much curiosity about our country in many a year. They both have an arsenal of cartoonists and journalists who are having a great time at our expense. 

My first stop was a lake house north of Sydney that didn't have CNN or Fox News. The first couple of days withdrawing from news was like quitting smoking. But I adjusted and managed to clear my head by reading books and having huge political discussions with four generations under one roof. The patriarch of this family was a big Trump supporter but most of the rest were definitely not. The "Aussies" have always been strong allies of the U.S. but seem disconcerted about what is happening with our 45th President.

That was somewhat surprising because Australia tends to lean more conservative than its neighbor New Zealand, a country that was the birth of Greenpeace and remains very environmentally conscious. During my visit to New Zealand, I stayed with friends living in a forest overlooking a bay. There, they had both CNN and Fox News so my viewing habits returned quickly. 

I became accustomed to people asking me if I was from "Trump Land" -- and this was before the inauguration. Some of my fellow American travelers told people they were from Canada so they would avoid the usual comments and questions! 

I’ve been home for a short time now, and would say the atmosphere is certainly promoting increased sales in tranquilizers – especially for those who lost the election. Let's hope this will be a lesson learned for 2018: there is no such thing as a "sure thing" and staying involved is vital to a working democracy. 

So many words have been written about the national state of affairs. Unfortunately, much of the harsh rhetoric has extended to personal insults on social media. One of my long-term activist friends called me to say that she can't even look at her Facebook account. Many relationships have broken apart due to this Presidential election. 

One can criticize a policy but should not insult the person. President Trump was not my candidate but he won the election. No one else has called the voting into question. We need to respect the office and the people who voted for him. I am well aware that this courtesy was often not extended to ex-president Obama, but he set a great example by showing dignity and class.   

I have been paying attention to our local elections and have been bombarded by phone calls and flyers. If it was ever important before, it’s now of paramount importance. Never again will local government have as much influence on our lives as it will for the next four years. 

And no, I don't think CalExit is an option. I am an American by choice. I love this country and, like a marriage, it’s for better or for worse! 

Will we lose Federal funding? Maybe. But I believe we send more money to the Federal government than they remit to us. What are the contingency plans? There are many candidate meetings where constituents have the opportunity to ask the tough questions. The race for City Council seats is rather mild with only District 7 without an incumbent. This is the seat vacated by the infamous Felipe Fuentes where there are now 19 candidates. 

Does the Mayor’s recommendation mean an automatic winners? The majority of candidates are civic activists competing against a couple of professionals. One has to decide if political experience counts more or less than new ideas and a fresh outlook. It is really tough to raise money without strong backing. 

District 3 has Councilman Bob Blumenfield running unopposed as are Mike Feuer for City Attorney and Ron Galperin for Controller.

More and more I tend to think that in local elections like LA City Council, each candidate that qualifies should have the same amount of money to spend. How they use it will be a good indicator of how creative and financially responsible they are. 

We lose good people who would make great public servants because of unequal funding. Several candidates have stated they will not accept money from Real Estate Developers. They should also refuse union money. Both have vested interests in who is elected and have a disproportionate influence on the outcomes. 

I am sure that if every LA resident was asked to pay a small "fee"(since tax is a dirty word) to finance our local elections, the majority would do so if it would keep special interest money from gaining an unfair advantage. 

Not all "special interests" are evil. But instead of raising money for elections they could hold Town Halls and community meetings. This would give them a better opportunity to educate the electorate about their issues than sending dozens of flyers that often "stretch" the truth. 

We are a nation of survivors and if we do our part we will make sure that the next four years will not be the end of the world. 

As always, comments welcome.

 

(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.com) Cartoon: Australian Financial Review. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

SAVING A SYMBOL-Not all historic places engender strong positive feelings or associations from the public. Perhaps no place illustrates this better than Parker Center, the 1955 former LAPD headquarters in downtown LA’s Civic Center. 

Sometimes a site’s history is so mired in controversial events or personalities that people can’t imagine keeping it. Yet significance can encompass both positive and negative elements in multiple layers of history. Parker Center and other places with such importance can teach us valuable lessons and empower us to face, and own, the totality of our history – both the good and bad parts. 

Efforts to preserve places with difficult histories is not a new idea. For instance, the nearly twenty-year effort to preserve LA’s iconic Ambassador Hotel became more challenging without support from the family of Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated there in 1968.     

We all know that history is not always pretty. It can be painful, and it includes some events, actions, and outcomes that we would like to forget. We need to ask ourselves: are we being honest and preserving the full, authentic story of a place, or only the bits and pieces that form our preferred image of history? 

Located at 150 North Los Angeles Street in downtown LA, Parker Center is partly known as the backdrop for television’s long-running Dragnet television series and home to Sergeant Joe Friday. People generally feel good about this association. But there are other layers of history that evoke less nostalgic feelings, ranging from displacement to discrimination. These elements need to be confronted and acknowledged as well. 

As Parker Center currently stands vacant and in a prime location, some in the City’s administration are calling for its demolition and replacement with a new, nearly thirty-story tower for City office space. 

The Conservancy and our Modern Committee, the City’s Cultural Heritage Commission, and others are advocating for Parker Center’s preservation and reuse. Soon the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee will hear the pending Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) nomination for the building. The full City Council will have until mid-February to decide whether to designate Parker Center as an HCM. 

When Parker Center was built in 1955, the eight-story, International Style building with integrated art and landscaping components was a significant, postwar addition to the Los Angeles Civic Center. Designed by Welton Becket & Associates and J. E. Stanton with landscape by Ralph E. Cornell, Parker Center was then known simply as the Police Facilities Building (renamed in 1966 for Police Chief William H. Parker.) 

Exemplifying Becket’s “Total Design” philosophy, the building prominently features art installations, including a piece by sculptor Bernard J. Rosenthal and one of the largest mosaics ever built, the “Theme Mural of Los Angeles” by Joseph Louis Young. The building’s innovative design, which integrated virtually all departments into a centralized facility, was critically acclaimed at the time as a model for modernizing the police force -- as were the state-of-the-art crime labs and communications center. In 1956, Popular Mechanics called Parker Center “the most scientific building ever used by a law-enforcement group.” 

By these facts alone, Parker Center’s significance is undeniable. The building has been identified as individually eligible for the California Register of Historic Resources and as a contributor to a National Register-eligible historic district of the Los Angeles Civic Center. 

Yet the stories of how Parker Center came to be and what it later symbolized make preserving it all the more challenging and compelling. Before it was Parker Center, the site contained two of the most vibrant blocks in Little Tokyo. It housed many small mom-and-pop businesses and cultural organizations serving the Japanese-American community. Starting in 1948, the City earmarked these blocks as part of a Civic Center expansion plan and an early form of urban renewal. The site was cleared of all existing buildings -- many of which would be considered historic if still standing. The property was remade into a single superblock, with Parker Center’s construction beginning in 1952. 

Despite being a federally supported program that ended more than forty years ago, urban renewal remains a touchy subject today, especially for preservationists and for those personally affected. Thousands of historic buildings, as well as part or all of neighborhoods such as Little Tokyo and Bunker Hill, were lost during this era of massive urban redevelopment. Parker Center’s construction was particularly hard felt: in addition to displacing hundreds of Japanese Americans, it spurred feelings that history was repeating itself, as some of these same people had been forcibly removed just a decade earlier and confined in World War II internment camps. 

Parker Center’s role in telling the story of Little Tokyo’s history is not without controversy. Yet it is also meaningful -- something many do not want to forget or wipe away through demolition. 

In September 2014, the Little Tokyo Historical Society joined the Conservancy in urging the City to support a preservation alternative that calls for preserving the main portion of Parker Center while allowing for an expansion at the rear of the site. In recent months, as the Civic Center Master Plan process has gotten underway, the Historical Society has decided to support demolition. Some in the Little Tokyo community are calling for Parker Center’s destruction as a form of retribution. While understandable, is this a good basis for deciding the future of LA’s Civic Center? If so, it raises similar and complex questions for other urban renewal areas in LA that have very similar origins and also resulted in displacement, including Bunker Hill and Chavez Ravine.   

In addition to Parker Center’s early urban renewal roots, its subsequent layers of law enforcement history were not always perceived as positive. William H. Parker, who oversaw the building’s construction, was one of the most distinguished -- and controversial -- police chiefs in Los Angeles’ history. During his leadership (1950-1966), he professionalized the police force and developed crime-fighting concepts that are now standard practice. Yet his tenure was also marred with discrimination against the African American and Latino communities, a deep-rooted problem brought into the national spotlight during the 1965 Watts Riots. 

Even after Parker’s death in 1966, for many the building continued to symbolize racial inequalities and police brutality in the city. The most visible example occurred in 1992, when violent protesters surrounded the building following the acquittal of four officers accused of brutally beating Rodney King.   

Some argue that it is counter-intuitive, or at the very least ironic, to want to preserve a place like Parker Center today. Yet without the physical place in which these events happened, it is infinitely harder to tell the stories and demonstrate just how far we have come. Parker Center has the ability to teach us many things, and perhaps in today’s uncertainty, is more relevant than ever before. 

The fact that Parker Center brings out so many strong feelings only underscores its important role in Los Angeles’ history and how it can help us remember our past while also allowing us to move forward. In a recent piece about why old buildings matter, Tom Mayes at the National Trust for Historic Preservation wrote, “[t]he history of an old place may be viewed differently over time -- and interpreted and reinterpreted as our conception of who we are as a people changes.” 

The effort to save Parker Center will likely continue to play out over the next month or so, as cases are made for and against preservation and reuse, and demolition and new construction, and which approach makes the most sense. That decision comes down to simple facts of dollars and cents, feasibility, and developing creative design solutions. What is not so easy to measure are feelings about a place and deciding whose feelings are more important than others. However, whether these emotions are positive or negative, there should be no question about Parker Center’s significance.

 

(Adrian Scott Fine is the Director of Advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

RANTZ & RAVEZ-How much does it cost a well-intentioned community-concerned developer to buy off an unscrupulous attorney and a homeowner who filed a court action protesting a much needed eldercare residential facility adjacent to Walnut Acres in Woodland Hills? 

A number of years ago when I represented Council District 3, I was approached by a developer who wanted to build an eldercare residential facility on Fallbrook Ave just south of Victory Blvd in a mixed neighborhood. The development was within walking distance of a major shopping center consisting of a Ralph’s supermarket, a Target, a Wal*Mart, movie theaters, restaurants and a host of other retail establishments. 

The neighborhood immediately to the south of the proposed development is close to a fire station, retail stores, a medical marijuana store, a gas station, houses of worship, other markets, a restaurant and multiple single-family residences -- all located on a multi-lane roadway with a 45 mph speed limit and traffic lights at strategic intersections. In other words, the area is a mixture of business, commercial and residential. 

The prospective development site was a former private school that generated noise from the students; I received complaints from neighbors about that noise and associated factors connected with the students who played in the schoolyard at recess and other times. In negotiations with the community, the developer reduced the size of the structure and made other concessions to gain support from those who filed court actions against the project. When it was finally agreed upon by those who filed the legal action, the facility was ready to begin construction. 

To add more support for the development, the City of LA’s Zoning Administrator was in favor of it. Before the first shovel of dirt was turned, a new group of residents from Walnut Acres began to protest the facility and to pressure the current councilman, Bob Blumenfield, to deny it. I bet that this new group of “concerned residents” now wants its piece of the action just like the unscrupulous attorney and resident obtained. And what is their price to remove their objections? In a recent conversation with Councilman Blumenfield about the development, I expressed my continual support for it and urged him to move forward in spite of the opposition from this new group that wants its piece of the Money Pie.

I will continue to report on this matter as progress is made. I may even name the people that have little to no concern for the seniors in our community. 

I was involved in the Second Annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless count on January 24 

I teamed up with Valley resident Diane Jack Delaney and we headed out to our sector in the western portion of the West San Fernando Valley. We patrolled the area west of Valley Circle and north of Roscoe Blvd. While we did not locate any homeless people residing in the quiet residential neighborhoods, we did observe a quiet community reflective of tranquil mountain living.

On our way back to the Homeless Count command post at the Canoga Park Community Center, we drove down streets in the Canoga Park area and found a number of homeless people living in motor homes and on the street. In one area, the sidewalk was so congested with tents and shopping carts, you could not walk down the sidewalk. While the good people of the city are counting and providing information on the homeless population to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, the number of homeless is increasing and we see little reduction in the number of people living on the streets, sidewalks and parking lots in Los Angeles. 

Those of you who voted for the $1.2 billion Los Angeles Bond measure to address homelessness in Los Angeles may want to think twice before you vote for the pending Los Angeles County Tax measure to provide supportive services for the homeless. Money alone is not appearing to help reduce the homeless population in and around Los Angeles. 

While we are on the subject of LA’s homeless, let me share with you the latest city plan for the homeless living in vehicles on our city streets: LAMC 85.02

As of January 5, 2017, there is now a map for “vehicle dwelling” on the streets of Los Angeles.                 

There are three areas listed: 

1) No vehicle dwelling at any time. These are Red Zones. 

2) No vehicle dwelling overnight between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. They must comply with all posted parking restrictions. These are Yellow Zones. 

3) Vehicles are permitted but they must comply with all posted parking restrictions. These are Green Zones. 

The areas approved for vehicle dwelling are along major roadways. 

For additional information go to: goo.gl/79tLQc 

Upcoming City Elections 

The Mayor, City Attorney, Controller and the odd numbered council district offices are up for election. This will be a very sleepy election cycle. After the recent Presidential election and the turmoil associated with it, few care about Los Angeles’ local elections. I will be reporting on the races in the near future. 

Building Developments and Los Angeles Politics 

Developer Rick Caruso is a former LA Police Commissioner and someone who can influence local politics. While his campaign contributions are significant, he is well connected with local elected officials. In a recent project Caruso is pursuing on the Westside, the community expressed concern about the size of the development. Being a man who likes to win, Caruso modified his project and gained the support of the local councilman and city council to approve the project. Councilman Paul Koretz supported it, then pulled his support, but then supported it once again. Talk about a councilman that can blow with the wind…Paul Koretz wins the title! He is facing a strong opponent in his re-election bid from Jesse Creed. I have met with Jesse and he is determined to beat Paul in this race. Is it time for Paul Koretz to move on? Time will tell.        

Los Angeles Traffic and Housing and Measure S 

I recently took my son and granddaughter to Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park on a Saturday. Traffic from the San Fernando Valley to Buena Park was congested both going to and returning from the park. Orange County, Los Angeles County and this entire region is smothered by excessive traffic congestion seven days a week, day and night. While the public transit system is not the answer for most of us, we continue to get more and more frustrated with the lack of traffic relief. Our elected officials can only give us false promises with no real relief or improvements in sight. 

Remember the billions of dollars spent on the 405 expansion and improvements? Not much has changed from before the construction until after it was completed. That brings me to Measure S and what it will do to force our elected officials and planning departments to deal with the traffic and shrinking quality of life we are all experiencing in this region. I say YES on Measure S. A Yes Vote on Measure S will offer an opportunity for city leaders to finally deal with development and traffic in the city. 

More election news will be coming in future editions of RantZ & RaveZ.

 

(Dennis P. Zine is a 33-year member of the Los Angeles Police Department and former Vice-Chairman of the Elected Los Angeles City Charter Reform Commission, a 12-year member of the Los Angeles City Council and a current LAPD Reserve Officer who serves as a member of the Fugitive Warrant Detail assigned out of Gang and Narcotics Division. Zine was a candidate for City Controller last city election. He writes RantZ & RaveZ for CityWatch. You can contact him at Zman8910@aol.com. Mr. Zine’s views are his own and do not reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

GELFAND’S WORLD--It's 1968 all over again, except that this time people are marching in favor of science, women's rights, and the freedom of Muslims to travel. It's different than the chants of "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh," but the emotion is right up there. Oh, and there's one other difference that is as the night to the day. 

As the eleven o'clock news came on Sunday night, local television stations had something live to cover, and for once, it wasn't a car chase on the 405. For the second night in a row, large crowds of protestors gathered at the Tom Bradley international terminal at LAX (photo above). By now everyone knows about the Trump administration's moves to freeze international travel for people from a few countries. (Ironically, the countries that provided the participants in the September 11 attacks and hosted Bin Laden weren't affected.) Los Angeles has a huge Iranian community, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and it was inevitable that some local families were going to be affected. 

So there they were, thousands of protesters with signs and chants, or just being there to make a point. They filled sidewalks and parts of the terminals and from time to time interrupted traffic flow on the airport's main roads. 

And that, you see, is where that big difference between 1968 and 2017 became apparent. Blocking a street or an intersection in 1968 was a whole different affair. An earlier generation remembers the police reading out the words, "This is an unlawful assembly." There was an official script that was colloquially referred to as "reading the riot act." Failure to disperse led to the police firing tear gas and, often enough, moving forward with clubs against the crowds. 

June 23, 1967: Los Angeles residents remember the so-called police riot at the Century Plaza hotel. More than ten thousand demonstrators began in Cheviot Hills Park and walked over towards the Century Plaza Hotel to protest the presence of President Lyndon Johnson and the escalation of the Viet Nam War. The crowd got jammed in front of the hotel and backed up for blocks along the street. I remember the noise of motorcycles being gunned and people screaming, then crowds retreating back towards Pico Blvd. Middle class, middle aged white people from all over the city were shoved around and hit with clubs. The event soured relations between Angelenos and the LAPD for a decade and more. 

Sunday night was different. As one reporter explained, the police had worked out an agreement with the protesters which allowed the crowd to close down the airport road for fifteen minutes of each half hour. 

Imagine that. No tear gas or swinging clubs. The police and the protesters kept the peace. This is not to say that the situation won't break down at some point, but the attitude on the part of the city's leaders is worlds away from how things used to be. 

There are a couple of differences between 1967 and 2017 that help to explain the change in outcomes. The biggest difference is that Los Angeles in 2017 is semi-officially in rebellion against the existence of the Trump administration. It isn't surprising that residents and elected leaders are on the same side in being annoyed with how the administration is toying with the lives of our own residents. 

Los Angeles in 2017 is enormously multinational, with dozens of Asian nationalities and probably an equal number of nationalities from the middle east and Africa. A lot of this is fairly new compared to the Los Angeles of 1967 -- if you add up the Iranians and Koreans you are looking at somewhere between half a million and a million Los Angeles residents. Add Jews, Latinos, African-Americans, and Armenians, and you have a disparate population that has in common the propensity to self-identify as members of minority populations. 

The 1960s were an era in which a smaller group of white, middle class people found themselves on the wrong side of the police barricades. There was a lot of anger on both sides. Somehow, much of the bad feeling has slowly evaporated. Perhaps it's the result of changes made since the federal court consent decree, but a lot of it is just time passing since a war that much of the current population wasn't around for. There is also the fact that we no longer have to deal with people like Chief Parker, who used the police to enforce racial separation and wasn't shy about saying so. 

This obviously doesn't mean that the LAPD is without issues, but at least it has learned to deal with a serious demonstration in a constructive way, a negotiated settlement that allowed both sides to retain their dignity and pride. 

The leftside Tea Party develops 

Recently, CityWatch referred to the development of the left wing equivalent of the right wing's Tea Party. The two sides are comparable in their total opposition to an elected president and their willingness to protest. The movement has recently become symbolized by a banner that said "Resist." 

This week, Eric Loomis in Lawyers Guns and Money wrote: 

I spent the afternoon celebrating my birthday by protesting with about 2000 fellow Rhode Islanders in support of our Muslim and Latino comrades.

Standing out there today, I realized that what we are seeing is the opening of the left Tea Party. Or at least that’s how it feels in Rhode Island. 

When we start to see demonstrations, even small ones, in Alabama and Mississippi and Kentucky, we will know that change is coming.  

What would scientists march for and against? 

This is a question that merits a detailed response, possibly a column (or a book) of its own. But there is one topic that needs to be explored, and a group of scientists and people who respect the process of science would be just as good as any others to push it. We should be getting really sick and tired of this administration reveling in its lies. Whether you call them alternative facts or just plain lies, the problem is clear. We might also add, "How can anybody trust a president and his administration when they can't even deal with something as trivial as the number of people who came to the inauguration? 

What are we going to do when something serious -- like an escalation of the tension with North Korea -- lands in our lap? People remembering the 1960s may also remember that Lyndon Johnson began to suffer from what the news media called the credibility gap. It seems to me that Trump has always had his own credibility gap, and it doesn't seem to be getting any better.

 

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

-cw

ANIMAL WATCH-Priscilla Romero, Animal Care Technician for LA Animal Services, who was viciously mauled by a Pit Bull on January 14, is healing but the road to physical and emotional recovery will be long and painful, as she realistically acknowledges. She said she can't begin to estimate the future trauma this incident will have on her because she has never been seriously injured before.

Many things in Priscilla's life changed the instant Cielo, a gray-and-white female Pit Bull, lunged at her without warning, ripping the flesh on both her arms, tearing and tossing huge chunks of muscle from her left arm onto the floor of the kennel. She may never be able to return to work with shelter animals, a job she has loved for ten years. And it cannot yet be predicted what permanent physical restrictions will result. 

What will not change for Priscilla is the devotion and support of her coworkers at all LA animal shelters, and especially those at North Central, many of whom were involved in saving her life.

So, where does management of LA Animal Services and other City officials stand regarding this tragic event -- other than to remain notably silent? General Manager Brenda Barnette admitted to the Board of Animal Services Commissioners at their January 24 meeting that she had neither visited nor talked with Priscilla, leaving that to the kennel supervisor.   

There was little concern shown by the five Commissioners who legally head the Department as they continued their "no-kill" pursuit in the name of the Mayor. President David Zaft asked a few generic questions about the incident and alluded to the determination of where responsibility could be placed. Barnette did not announce any investigation of facts. 

She casually discussed providing refresher training for Animal Care Technicians -- rather than addressing the shelter's faulty equipment which failed to keep the dog separated; the absence of a "distress" button to signal an emergency; and the lack of available safety devices throughout the shelter. She also avoided mentioning any causal factors from the practice of keeping dogs that have bitten and are unsuitable for adoption. 

Commissioner Larry Gross tentatively inquired what previous training ACT had. Barnette was hard pressed to describe anything except that she thought they had training in the use of "barrier boards," which they can use to fend off an attacking dog. The Commissioners -- none of whom have any animal sheltering experience -- did not ask how the non-existent boards are supposed to be held while an employee is scooping poop or feeding an animal. 

When I asked several ACT at different shelters about this training later, they seemed surprised and said they can't remember having any formal training after they were hired. Only a few long-timers recalled years ago being taken by now-Assistant General Manager Louis Dedeaux to a protection-dog facility to familiarize them with avoidance techniques using trained attack dogs. The consensus was that they had learned shelter-safety practices by on-the-job experience and the guidance of their supervisors. 

Barnette was asked by the Commission whether the employees had been given any counseling after the incident. She said she believed someone was sent in to hold a session at the shelter. She didn't explain that it was the city's basic EAP service, rather than critical-incident counseling and debriefing. 

Barnette also assured the Commission that Pit Bulls with a bite history are sent to "rescues," rather than adopted out to the public. Apparently she didn't look at the records of the dog that attacked Priscilla Romero, or "Albert," the Pit Bull cited in last week's article, which attacked a young girl as her father contemplated taking him home as a family pet. Is it possible Brenda has not reviewed the numerous documented attacks by animals recently adopted from shelters? 

A standard "no kill," shell-game practice is that Pit Bulls deemed dangerous are released to "rescues," (whose only prerequisite is a 50l(c)3 tax status but no animal-handling experience.) The "rescues" may then place them with "fosters" (members of the public) with the intention of finding a "forever home," also with members of the public. The dogs are often transported to several states or counties to accomplish this. That was the case when Sammy, aka "Sodam," was personally released by GM Barnette in April to an out-of-state rescue. But, prior to transport, he viciously attacked a potential female adopter. 

According to current shelter records, approximately 50 Pit Bulls who have bitten or injured a human have been removed from quarantine at the shelter and are waiting in the back kennels of LA city shelters for Dangerous Dog hearings or "rescue." At least one has been there since April 2016. It is estimated that at least a dozen more are still completing the ten-day rabies-hold period required by County Health Dept. so they can add to the stockpile. 

These are dangerous animals into whose kennels unprotected LAAS shelter workers and volunteers will go daily to clean, comfort and provide food and water. Attacks on shelter employees and volunteers do not usually become known to the public, but lawsuits, settlements and the prolonged housing of these dogs are real costs borne by taxpayers. There is also the consideration of the inhumaneness of locking these high-drive animals in isolated cages for months or years, which is as unfair to the dogs as it is to staff and public. 

It doesn't appear that even this close call with death by a shelter worker will cause the Mayor, Councilman Paul Koretz (who chairs the Committee which makes LA's animal-related decisions,) or the Commission, to acknowledge that LA Animal Services’ staff, the public -- as well as the animals themselves -- are being deliberately placed in danger by the mythical, lucrative fund-raising illusion of GM Brenda Barnette and Best Friends Animal Society that the above methods (and others equally dubious, dangerous and inhumane) are achieving "no kill." 

A recent informal poll of LA Animal Services Commissioners showed that none of them owns or has owned a Pit Bull. If, after this highly predictable tragedy in the agency they head, they still want all animals -- regardless of history -- to be released from the shelters and "saved," I suggest they, Mayor Garcetti, Councilman Koretz, and GM Barnette, set the example by each taking home several of the Pit Bulls which just finished the required confinement after biting and are now, according to Brenda Barnette, ready to rejoin society.

(Here is the full story )

 

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

On January 6, the Housing Committee of the L.A. Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates led by Barbara Ringuette met with Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) for a brief rundown of their program and funding. LAHSA is an independent agency established by the County and City of Los Angeles whose primary goal is to coordinate funding in providing services to homeless people throughout the City and County of Los Angeles. 

“We are a pass-through entity,” said Stuart Jackson, Chief Finance Officer of LAHSA. “We receive funds from the City, County, and the federal government –U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and we pass it on to nonprofits in the community to do the foot work.”

LAHSA works with the City and County of Los Angeles, and HUD partners to do an Annual Needs Assessment for the community. Last year, their collaborative effort culminated in the County Homeless Initiatives and City Homeless Strategies. Additional partners include the County Department of Health Services, County Department of Mental Health and the United Way. 

“We came together with a needs assessment of what types of programs are needed to address homelessness in our community, and created the Homeless Initiatives and Strategies that were approved by the County Board of Supervisors and Los Angeles City Council,” said Stuart Jackson. Based on the programs of need that were identified, the County and City provided funds to LAHSA. 

“We fine tuned the programs of need. Put them into a working process, then asked our nonprofit partners to submit proposals for funding following the guidelines of the program that they’ll be doing,” said Stuart Jackson. 

The challenge is the timing of going through the process with the nonprofit partners: Creating a list for proposals, opening a window for submission, and the scoring of the proposals that require both time and the funding. Most of the programs were ready to be funded by October 1st, said Jackson. He added that because of the lengthy process, in a sense it seems as though “we’re just getting started.” Nonprofits that were funded have experienced growth in a short period of time, as LASHA has also, he said. 

Agency funds services that range from street outreach to several different shelter types for families and singles. It includes several housing intervention types – from supportive rapid and transitional housing with short-term financial assistance to permanent supportive housing with in depth services and ongoing rental subsidies, explained the Director of Programs Paul Duncan. 

Jackson added that the main increases in funding this year have been for Rapid Re-Housing accommodating Singles and Youth Systems. In the past, United Way funded these Rapid re-housing through fundraising and other activities as a pilot program. Now that Rapid Housing has become a proven system of excellence for the community, it’s been incorporated into our government structure. Last year was the first year that the City and County funded rapid housing for singles and youth, Jackson said. 

Staffing

This year, LAHSA’s staff increased 100 %. Personnel doubled from 100 to 200 to manage the increased funding we have received from the City, County and HUD, said Jackson. 

Director of Communications Tom Walden added that LAHSA has 80 emergency response team members in the field, “a doubling from last year.” There are now more field workers dispersed throughout the City and County of Los Angeles engaging everyday with the homeless in the streets, and especially where there’s a concentration of homelessness such as Venice, Downtown, and Hollywood, said Walden. 

Funding Increase for Fiscal Year 2016-2017 (Per Records viewed on 01/06/17) 

  • LAHSA’s funding from City, County, State, and HUD for FY 2016-17 increased 35% or slightly over $34.5 Million. The total funding for the whole Program and Operations was slightly over $132.1 Million. 
  • There was a 53% increase or an additional $20.3 Million from the City of Los Angeles’ General Fund, totaling $58.5 Million. 
  • While some County funding programs for the homeless dissolved others emerged.  The County’s Homeless Strategy Initiative dedicates nearly $12.9 Million for services to the homeless. In addition, a new state grant with funds nearing $1.5 Million has been committed by the state. 
  • Department of Public and Social Services for families increased funding to the homeless by 51% or $5.7 Million, totaling about $17 Million. Also, the Department of Children and Family Services increased funding by $861,180. totaling nearly $3 Million. “The latter funds are for foster care youth,” said Jackson. 
  • HUD increased funding by 12% or nearly $2.9 Million, a total of $26.9 Million for the Continuum of Care Program that includes: Permanent Housing, Rapid Re-Housing, Transition Housing, and Supportive Services.     

Coordinated Entry Systems

The fastest growing homeless population is women said Walden. We’ve seen an increase in the last three years, and often single women with kids, he said. 

Walden explained that using the Coordinated Entry System (CES), LAHSA is able to coordinate the different populations serviced: Homeless Families, and the Singles and Youth System. It tracks histories, shows where individuals are in the process as well as the assistance each individual received. 

“This is a better way to coordinate our services throughout the continuum of care for individuals,” he said.

Service Planning Area (SPA) 

There are seven Service Planning Areas in Los Angeles County. Each SPA covers nearby communities. For example, SPA 4 ---North East Los Angeles (NELA)--- encompasses 13 neighboring communities. LAHSA allocates funding across the county based on the geographical need of the particular SPA, said Duncan. “We try to distribute funds based on our homeless count,” he said. 

Winter Shelters 

LAHSA’s Winter Shelter Program provides homeless adults with overnight shelter, meals, showers, and case management services from December 1 – March 1. Free daily transportation is available to and from the shelters by going to any of the pick-up locations. Shelter Hotline: 1(800) 548-6047 

“I can’t force someone to move into housing. Therefore, I have to build a relation and through that relationship, hopefully, I built a trust that I’m looking for their best interest,” Paul explained. “We have success that we can quantify.”  

 

(Connie Acosta participates in the neighborhood council system and frequently reports on Neighborhood Council matters.)

 

 

 

 

 

@THE GUSS REPORT-Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz has a new way to squander the city’s already strained legal and financial resources on a solution in search of a cause, namely his floundering re-election campaign. 

At a time when the City of Los Angeles faces really big problems -- when does it not? -- ranging from the usual crime, traffic, housing, homelessness and how to pay for public pensions to the very real possibility of losing hundreds of millions of federal dollars when it has to borrow money to pay wrongful death claims, Koretz wants to force gun store and shooting range owners to post suicide hotline notices -- force being the operative word. 

Koretz did not provide any hard statistical data, opting instead for his standard vague claim: “suicide is the leading cause of death among Californians who have purchased a firearm within a year.”   

The specifics Koretz failed to provide are: 

  1. How many years back is he counting? The most recent year? The past five or 20 years? 
  1. Is he talking about first-time gun buyers? Koretz’ claim goes out the window if he is counting people who bought otherguns more than a year before and did not commit suicide within a year of those purchases. 
  1. How does the city define suicide? We know Koretz’ definition of deathis funky when it comes to killing thousands of healthy, adoptable shelter animals and still managing to call LA “No Kill.” Does Koretz’ definition of “suicide” include, for instance, suicide by cop, where someone entices a law enforcement officer to shoot them by pointing a gun, or a gun replica, in their direction without actually shooting it? Dollars to donuts it does…or he doesn’t know. 
  1. Why is the message limited to suicide while excluding homicide and other misuses? 
  1. Why did Koretz choose the one-year timeframe, since someone purchasing a gun for the purpose of ending his life is probablyintent on doing it imminently, rather than waiting a year? Does someone plan a suicide a year in advance, or is this Koretz’s way of casting an illogically wider net so that his claims are contorted to fit his goal? 
  1. And what exactly isKoretz’ goal? Is this Koretz’ Trumpian effort to create a distraction and get his name out of the way of a much bigger story this very same week? 

So what is that other story? It’s how Koretz enabled wealthy real estate developer Rick Caruso to build yet another oversized luxury building in his Council District despite an affordable housing crunch, and despite an outcry about its quality of life impact by Koretz’ constituents and opponents in the upcoming City Council primary where he seeks a third and final term.   

Recently, when pressured, Koretz (who never met a real estate developer’s donation he didn’t embrace) reversed his earlier support for Caruso’s luxury project, but then voted in favor of it when some square footage was lopped off -- even though it still violated long-established community guidelines. That is Trump 101. 

If Koretz is genuinely interested in pursuing nanny-state interests, as he has done throughout his career, perhaps he will consider doing it in ways that might have far greater benefits for Los Angeles.  

For instance, he could try to force Jack-in-the-Box, Fat Burger and other fast food joints to post messages about how fat, sodium and cholesterol in its products lead to obesity, diabetes and heart attacks. This is another form of suicide that impacts infinitely more Angelenos, especially in the poorer reaches of the city. Former Councilmember “Hamburger” Jan Perry tried to ban new fast food restaurants a few years back. How did that turn out? 

Maybe City Hall can force CVS and Target to post overt notices warning of opiate addiction, sexually transmitted diseases and sugar in the pharmacy, condom and candy aisles -- just to cover all bases. 

If Koretz really wants to save us from ourselves, he should first force Verizon, ATT and T-Mobile to warn of the hazards of texting while driving. They already do, but Koretz’ love of having government creep into our lives should make it mandatory; he could also dictate the size, location and color of the signs. 

Koretz would serve us much better if – rather than spending copious amounts of money on lawyers forcing private business owners to take action – he simply created a program where posting such notices is voluntary. Cooperative awareness is more affordable than attorneys, and it is probably as effective. 

For what it’s worth, I don’t own a gun and never have. I believe we need infinitely more effective gun control laws, crisis screening and stronger, mandatory penalties for people possessing guns without a license.  

It isn’t Koretz’ message that is objectionable. It is his priorities, method and motive.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatch, Huffington Post, KFI AM-640 and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ALPERN AT LARGE--It's very cute, if not a bit appalling, to see our local and state leaders falling over each other to prove how "with the people" they are while making laws and backroom deals that fly in the face of fiscal transparency and good government.  And obeying the law. So we're supposed to believe that the local/state anti-Trump pols are ANY better than the Orange Man they're pillorying? 

You like big projects?  I like big projects.  Most of us like big projects.  Except when they're unnecessarily (and potentially harmfully) big.  And when they're too darned expensive (NOT as in, they cost a lot but worth it, but costing 2-3 times or more the reasonable cost of those big projects. 

1) You like high-speed rail?  I like high-speed rail.  Most of us, in the right setting, want those trains we ride (or hear about, at least) to go as fast as is reasonable and as safe as possible.  Amtrak and Metrolink and Caltran to be speedy and cost-efficient...of course! 

A California High-Speed Rail (CAHSR) blasting through budget projections.  Well, the outgoing Obama Administration might have cut the CAHSR Authority some slack, but it's doubtful the Trump Administration will be any kinder to cost overruns than they are to Boeing or other air/military contractors who charge too darned much to the taxpayers. 

And it's doubtful that the contracts for the CAHSR to Senator Feinstein's husband's firm, or to bait-and-switch extraordinaire Ron Tutor will make too many of Trump's opponents too happy, because they want the high-speed rail built cost-effectively as well. 

So to the high and mighty state authorities who love the CAHSR but hate Trump (but who will certainly want him to approve money for this Trump-style big project), maybe you should just...go...Trump yourself! 

2) You like the Wilshire Subway?  I like the Wilshire Subway.  Most of us, for that matter, want that project built like...yesterday!  So who does the Metro Board of Directors vote to give the construction contract to extend that project to Century City? 

Why Ron Tutor, of course!  He of the bait-and-switch, substandard construction and master of the "better to ask for forgiveness than for permission" style of doing business!  After his legal battles with Metro for his past subway work, why he'd be even allowed anywhere near Metro is anyone's guess.

Funny how this was approved AFTER Measure M was just passed.  

So for those who are now flush with taxpayer dollars (from those, like myself, who hesitatingly supported Measure M), maybe you should just...go...Trump yourself! 

3) You like Good Planning?  I like Good Planning.  You like Good Government?  I like Good Government. You like the City obeying its Bylaws and Charter?  I like the City obeying its Bylaws and Charter. 

So imagine why those of us community/volunteer activists have concluded that Measure S, which would force updating of Community Plans (rules for zoning and height and density in each region of the City), and which would force megadevelopers to pay for traffic analysts who are impartial and not just "hired guns" to accurately predict impacts of development, is the only way to go. 

Obeying the law.  No longer threatening our environment, finally establishing affordable housing, creating a sustainable infrastructure.  Imagine having reasonably tall and dense development throughout LA in a matter of years to address the housing shortage, and to address affordability and access to our City. All do-able with respect to quick, easy, approvable projects that obey the law and establish neighborhood-friendly and neighborhood-compatible new projects, and which create gobs of jobs. 

And yet WE who support Measure S--the neighborhood council and neighborhood association leaders, and the affordable housing advocates--are the ones pilloried by the "fake news" by the high-and-mighty City Council. 

So while the Mayor and City Council are ramming lawless overdevelopments down our throats (which are ALWAYS thrown out in court if they ever are challenged), and while they're giving us all sorts of "head fakes" to show us how they'll protect us from President Trump, maybe the REAL question is: 

WHO WILL PROTECT US FROM THE MAYOR, THE CITY COUNCIL, AND THE PLANNING POLITBURO? 

So for you Downtown clowns, and you Sacramento clowns, so very used to stepping on the necks of the taxpayers and residents of our city, county, or state, maybe enough of us are finally on to you, enough to tell you to: 

GO TRUMP YOURSELF!

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties.  He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at   alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.) 

 

 

DEEGAN ON LA-It’s hard to find building projects that create no public outcry about zoning variances, no destructive impacts to neighborhoods, and no challenges to developers and politicos. But these projects are everywhere – hiding in plain sight -- in downtown Los Angeles. The reason they are unseen is because all of the work is being done inside already constructed buildings. 

While downtown Los Angeles is exploding with lots of new construction projects, it is also recapturing the past through adaptive reuse of many old buildings. These projects provide an increase in housing stock and remind us that there are many forms of development. Repurposing what's already there does not generate the type of community blowback and the bad vibes caused when developers announce new projects that set off struggles with communities opposed to uncontrolled growth -- especially when the developers destroy older buildings to clear the way for the new ones. 

Specialists in the adaptive reuse of buildings are capitalizing on new laws such as the city’s Adaptive Reuse Ordinance with dozens of downtown projects. While this ordinance was designed to cluster housing, retail and workspaces around transit stops, theoretically lessening traffic, it is also establishing multiple “new urbanism” hubs in downtown. This is transforming repurposed buildings into mixed commercial and residential uses where you can work, play, shop and be entertained within easy reach of each other. Cutting down traffic may be a planner’s goal; living in a cool, adaptively repurposed building with some embedded historic character with many of your needs locally met, could be a tenant or owner’s dream. 

The city’s Office of Historic Resources describes the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance, approved for DTLA in 1999 and extended to a few other neighborhoods in 2003, as “one of the most significant incentives related to historic preservation in Los Angeles, facilitating the conversion of dozens of historic and under-utilized structures into new housing units,” pointing out that “it provides for an expedited approval process and ensures that older and historic buildings are not subjected to the same zoning and code requirements that apply to new construction.” 

The impact is that “several thousand new housing units, with thousands more in the development pipeline, [are] demonstrating that historic preservation can serve as a powerful engine for economic revitalization and the creation of new housing supply.” 

Architects and designers face a new hurdle, though, in aligning historic codes and principles with modern requirements for building safety and fire department codes. 

"Regulations of LAFD and Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety are my biggest challenges, not neighborhood blowback,” explains Karin Liljegren, the Principal and Founder of Omgivning Architecture and Interior Design. “Trying to find the fine line between liability and historic codes that allows a project to go forward with historic integrity can be difficult. Sometimes, developers will pull out of a project when it becomes too much.” 

Those stress points have not slowed down Omgivning, as evidenced by a visit to its downtown office that is overflowing with workstations, workers as well as several friendly dogs roaming through the space. A look at their project list is exhausting. While Liljegren does not follow the Frank Lloyd Wright practice of building and then furnishing structures in holistic harmony, her teams of architects, designers and urbanists are capable of providing everything from the heavy lifting of architectural visioning to the tiniest design details. 

Off-menu is exorcisms, like expunging the ghosts from one of their projects, the Cecil Hotel, (photo above) which has had a reputation over the past 90 years as a very creepy place -- allegedly home to murders, suicides, missing persons and serial killers. This building needed not only some adaptive reuse, but some proactive P.R. There will likely be a waiting list for occupancy after its makeover. 

The new urbanism is experienced on an intimate scale at the rooftop “farm garden” at the repurposed 801 S. Broadway building, providing fresh vegetables to the several restaurants on the ground floor. One of Omgivning’s biggest projects (at 1.1 million square feet) is the former Hamburger's and May Company Department Store which has also seen service as a garment factory and a branch library on its third floor. According to Omngiving, it is being repurposed into “a large and small retail, a market collective, creative office, and hotel, with a 110,000 SF rooftop that will include a public park, two pools and seven restaurant/bars.” Talk about new urbanism and having everything local: all they need is a curb cut for Uber pick-ups and drop offs. 

New Urbanists, a lifestyle group slowly progressing from cult to broader acceptance, will find lots of opportunities to live, shop, work and play within a small radius at any one of the several repurposed buildings adapted by Omngivning and others in DTLA. 

Best of all, the new urbanists will move into unique and historic housing stock that has not been marred by the contention between communities and developers, negative energy that has affected a great swath of Los Angeles. All those bad vibes, much like what once suffocated the Cecil Hotel, will not be part of their move-in package.

 

(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at timdeegan2015@gmail.com.)

CAPITAL & MAIN SPECIAL REPORT-Fernando E. Hurtado scrolled through photos on his mobile phone in a pristine new examination room of South Los Angeles’ federally funded St. John’s Well Child and Family Center. Nearby, his wife, Amy Areli, waited with two of their four children as the younger boy fidgeted nervously. 

“He’s getting his immunization shots today,” Hurtado grinned at the 3-year-old before pausing at a close-up of a woman’s forearm and what looked like a mosquito-bite-sized bump surrounded by a patch of ruddy inflammation. The next image revealed a gaping, half-dollar-sized crater where the bump had been.

“My wife got a tiny cut on her arm that became infected,” Hurtado explained. “It was [Methicillin-resistant] staphylococcus. She spent nine days in the hospital. They told me that if we hadn’t had Medi-Cal, the bill would have been more than $100,000. If this would have happened without medical coverage, there would have been no way for us to afford to pay that kind of expense.” 

On the same day that congressional Republicans set the stage to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the 35-year-old father, who installs artificial lawns, grimly reflected on the shadow that his family and the majority of St. John’s patients have been living under since the election of Donald Trump signaled the coming end of the law that has dramatically transformed California’s health-care landscape. “Before my wife got the infection,” Hurtado said, “our 2-month-old baby was also in the hospital, with an infection for [chicken pox], when he got an infection in his head and he was hospitalized for four days for the same [staph] bacteria. I imagine them not having medical coverage. Yes. Of course I’m worried.” 

Though the form that Trumpcare will take remains vague, for Hurtado and his family -- and the more than 50 percent of their newly insured South LA neighbors, who now rely on the state’s ACA Medi-Cal expansion for their health coverage -- the future remains frighteningly uncertain. They are not alone. 

Over five million Californians have received coverage under Obamacare -- 3.7 million through Medi-Cal and 1.4 million through Covered California -- and the state has logged the largest percentage-point decline in its uninsured rate of any state, dropping from nearly 17.2 percent in 2013 to 8.6 percent in 2015. 

St. John’s alone has enrolled over 18,000 previously uninsured Angelinos, nearly all of them black or Latino, and more than doubled its insured-patient base. The health center has aggressively embraced the new ACA population to dramatically expand preventative and primary care throughout the region, which before the law had been ground zero of California’s uninsured crisis. 

“We provide free medical, dental, mental health and support services, and case management in about 300,000 patient visits a year at 14 sites and two mobile [clinics],” St. John’s Well Child and Family CEO Jim Mangia told Capital & Main.  “We provide health-care services to the homeless. We serve thousands of homeless folks through two mobiles that go into the riverbeds and to help buy homeless shelters. And we’re the largest health provider in South L.A., which is the largest area of contiguous poverty in the United States.” 

But with Trump now in the White House, those gains are in the crosshairs of the new president and the Republican congress. At stake for Californians is $20.5 billion a year in federal ACA subsidies. The murkiness surrounding what will happen next has left the state’s political and public health leadership with little choice but to brace for the worst and hope for the best. 

“It is almost impossible to develop a contingency without knowing exactly what we are dealing with,” state Senate Health Committee Chair Dr. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) told Capital & Main in an email. “A loss of federal funding would be devastating for low-income and middle-class Californians who rely on the ACA for their health insurance. We plan to do everything we can to protect the people of our state and ensure stability in the health insurance market and Medi-Cal program.” 

St. John’s spotlights a lesser-known aspect of the Affordable Care Act — namely, its role as a conduit for $12 billion in construction infrastructure spending and operational funding for the expansion of private nonprofit health centers, which are known as Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC). These provide low-income and immigrant communities with quality health care, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. That makes the center both an exemplar of how much California stands to lose, as well as an unexpected harbinger of what resistance to the abolition of the ACA might look like. 

“I started that literally the day after the election,” Mangia said about planning for the Trump era, “and now I’ve got all of these players. There’s a lot of special interests that benefited from the Affordable Care Act. … We’re talking about, ‘Okay. What’s our advocacy need to look like? Who do we need to be talking to? Who do we need to bring to the table to craft a solution in the state?’” 

Forty-five percent of St. John’s patients are ineligible for insurance under ACA because of their immigration status. According to Mangia, who was part of President Obama’s health policy committee when the Affordable Care Act was first being drawn up, addressing the plight of those ineligible for Obamacare because of immigration status was always part of the plan. Care for the undocumented is partially paid by My Health LA, a no-cost health-care program run by L.A. County. Private fundraising makes up the rest. 

The FQHCs have been instrumental in braking the country’s decades-long expansion of America’s health-care inequality gap, which continues to be one of Obamacare’s most significant achievements. 

Even more transformative, perhaps, is the quality of the medical care and the innovations that ACA has delivered. The law reorganized payment methodology and radically re-prioritized the health-care system with pay-for-performance measures that shifted the focus of providers from end-of-life and sick care to prevention and primary care. It encouraged innovations like the patient-centered “medical home  -- a holistic delivery model designed to improve quality of care through team-based coordination of care, for the “whole” patient. Tying Medicare payments to the quality, rather than the quantity, of care that characterized the pricey, pre-Obamacare fee-for-service model, created efficiencies and surpluses for health centers like St. John’s that could then be used to serve California’s estimated 3.3 million uninsured, along with its undocumented population. 

“These relatively modest reforms actually ended up being revolutionary in all sorts of different ways,” recalled Anthony Wright, executive director of the advocacy coalition Health Access California. “There was all this really exciting work to provide people medical homes, and have early intervention to keep people healthy before they got sick in the first place. There was exciting work about how to treat issues around substance abuse and behavioral health medically, rather than criminally, which was starting to have profound benefits to not just our health system but to our criminal justice and corrections systems. If we undo the Medicaid expansion, we undo all that progress in one swoop.” 

Preserving that expansion has been the focus of California resistors, including consumer groups, labor unions and Democratic lawmakers, since election day, both in the current campaign by patient advocates, to bring public pressure on Trump and Republicans, and in anticipating the full extent of the damage to California’s Medi-Cal expansion that will need to be controlled. 

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to resist what is still unknown. And the extent of that damage won’t be clear until the plan is unveiled sometime after Trump’s nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, Georgia Representative Tom Price, is approved by the Senate. 

Recent promises by Trump for a speedy and concurrent repeal and replacement of ACA with “insurance for everybody” that is “much less expensive and much better” have only further muddled the picture. The broad strokes remain at odds with what has been outlined in separate ACA alternatives by Price, who opposed ACA’s fundamental reforms, and by House Speaker Paul Ryan. And Price’s Tea Party antipathy to federal entitlements makes future attempts to cut Medicare and Medicaid likely. 

“Both of [the plans] would repeal most of the regulations under the ACA, but they would restore some aspects of the law, including subsidies for people to buy health insurance,” explained Gerald Kominski, Professor of Health Policy and Management, and director of the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research. “But their subsidies would be substantially lower than those currently available under the ACA, and would [go] back to a market that’s largely regulated at the state level rather than [have] the layer of federal regulations [that has standardized] the individual insurance market. So it’d be a little bit of a free-for-all.” 

California resistors are divided as to whether the state would have the political will or financial wherewithal to make up the federal government’s $20 billion share of the Medi-Cal expansion and Covered California, should it be cut, or to even go it alone with a version of single-payer. 

“I have always believed that health care is a right for everyone in California and the country,” state senator Ed Hernandez said. “The dilemma arises on how to finance it and whether the public supports it. … The state would be unable to backfill the loss of $20 billion in federal funds without massive tax increases or major program reductions.” 

Wright illustrated California’s difficulty in translating a moral imperative into a health-care entitlement by pointing out that the recent passage of Proposition 56, the two-dollar cigarette tax that, beginning in April, will generate a billion dollars annually for Medi-Cal, had faced three ballot fights — and $200 million in opposition spending by tobacco companies — to become law. 

“Before we get to what California does,” he cautioned, “we all need to be focused on the federal fight. The framework and financing that they provide is going to be very determinative about what is possible for California to do, whether it is an Obamacare lookalike or single-payer or anything else.”

Mangia expressed what might be the ultimate vision of California resistance. “I think it would make a very, very strong political statement across the country if the Republicans repeal [Obamacare] and California says, ‘Okay. Well, we’re going to keep it.’ Democrats control two thirds of the legislature. There’s a Democratic governor. I think we have a real opportunity.”

 

(Bill Raden is a freelance Los Angeles writer. This article was first posted at Capital & Main.)  Illustration by Lalo Alcaraz. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EDUCATION POLITICS--Why a vote for Steve Zimmer in the LAUSD Fourth Board District is like bringing to life an avatar for RESISTANCE

Apply to the County Registrar before the close of February for your ballot to be counted here!

Point of order:

‘Resisting’ means here: Refusing to be manipulated deviously by plutocrats. (Plutocrats are those whose power derives from their wealth.)

Resisting signifies here: Refusing to abdicate your vote, which is your portkey to democracy.

Several “Independent Expenditure’s (IEs) have been made by Political Action Committees (PACs), and unlike forcing notrump in the game of Bridge, these are no paeans to subtlety or finesse.

Everyone should be aware that former-mayor Richard Riordan just plunked down $1m to establish a PAC brazenly titled “LA…Opposing Steve Zimmer for Schoolboard”.

Remember Dick Riordan? He’s LA’s octogenarian, thrice-divorced, Irish-American, Republican, self-styled “tough-guy”, the 39th Mayor, who reigned from 1993-2001. He has been agitating to emasculate Los Angeles’ popularly elected schoolboard for decades. He’s not the only major contributor to IEs opposing Zimmer, and there are more such crocks of gold. Riordan contributed $15,000 to an IE for Nick Melvoin and donated $22,000 (total), the maximum allowable personally to each of Steve Zimmer’s other two LAUSD4 opponents. Like this race, his political machinations are nonpartisan.

And unbounded by moral compunction either; just last summer Riordan was fined $11,250 by LA’s Ethics Commission for shenanigans of incomplete disclosure during the previous LAUSD elections.

Dick Riordan’s net worth is estimated at a mere $100 million, which sadly doesn’t put him anywhere near Forbes’ Fortune 400 list, home to so many of today’s other Education “advocates”.

But nevertheless he is a card-carrying member of the über-rich, a constituent of the immensely wealthy upper echelon, where a wide swathe among the 1% have lately become preturnaturally obsessed with Education Opportunities for the rest-of-us. In particular, this national cabal of multi-millionaires and billionaires is inordinately interested in throwing the outcome of a local populist candidate, to a populist post, in a populist election: Steve Zimmer.

So every single last one of us recently-Berned, Left Without, and rendered outraged electorate should be asking ourselves: Why? Why are the super-wealthy so intensely interested in Public Education? And why are they *particularly* eager to see Steve Zimmer unseated? What does it mean to vote for the plutocrats’ pick?

We should be excruciatingly vigilant against unwittingly empowering yet another pivotal sycophant.

But more to the point, we should be acutely sensitized to beholden money and the consequences of empowering a politically compromised leader.

Ironically, simply having the most money does not immunize against indebtedness; operating through firm moral grounding with an ideology derived internally – not externally – matters.

Independent expenditures may be employed properly to support a candidate but the donors ought never to shape, own or direct the elected’s ideology.

That external rogue influence is what characterizes our Trump crisis, and resisting its furtherance is what understanding the power working to undermine Zimmer’s candidacy will inoculate us against, protecting us from the jeopardy we now face nationally.

So that is why voting for Zimmer is an act of resistance: it protects us from stealth, undisclosed and pernicious, gratuitous agendas.

What clues signal threat from among the supporters of Zimmer’s opponents?

The funders of the PACs supporting Zimmer’s two opponents are constitutionally ambiguous; the same organization chips in $20,000 for one, $25,000 for the other (1/1/16-1/26/17), seemingly without care or ideological conviction regarding which paired endorsee exhibits stronger ideological compatability. From this funder’s dispassionate point-of-view the goal is not to recognize or identify merit but to draw votes from Zimmer thereby forcing an expensive, inefficient electoral run-off less likely to advantage the incumbant than in a primary. This outfit seeks to elevate any non-Zimmer, the better to secure that board seat for their staff. The actual corporeal realization of Zimmer’s loss is irrelevant to them; their indebtedness is not.

And the group running this ambivalent opposition? It is the California Charter School Association (CCSA), equivalently and disingenuously – if not illegally through copyright infringement – conferring advantage through a front group aka “Parent Teacher Alliance”.

Do not imagine for a moment this is the iconic “PTA”, the national Parent-Teacher Association in whose shadow your parents raised you. This copycat Parent Teacher “Alliance” is a Gorgon of a wholly different composition and end-game. It should be enough to note the unapologetic and deliberate replication of the CA State PTA’s moniker, (“CAPTA”, as it’s known here in this state). Observe the palpable difference between this CCSA-“sponsored” and funded, professional web-presence and PTA‘s – a genuine grassroots parent-organization powered by volunteers, who give freely of their time (from many into the thousands of hours sometimes) in service of “children, families and education”.

In contrast CCSA’s “PTA” is a group supported by IEs, dedicated to CCSA’s special interest in seating LAUSD board members. This disclosure anchors the homepage in small print but the implied association clearly piggybacks on the 120 year strong reputation of PTA – and that connection is simply not valid.

So far CCSA has invested $94K toward this special interest of theirs in the LAUSD election. Half this devotion supports the ‘lets-see-who-sticks’ candidate-pair opposing Steve Zimmer. Despite authorizing more charters than anyone anywhere, even in the face of defiance and deception, CCSA deems it intolerable that LAUSD should exercise the oversight of charter schools which it is mandated by election and law to conduct.

And in addition to this “PTA” wannabe group, CCSA funds a network of associated but shrouded special-interest support groups. SpeakUp.com is a parent-branded ‘alternative-news’ website that evades PAC rules for transparency because they are nominally informational and not political. The personnel among these and previous iterations of the same ineffective Edu®eform tropes are abidingly static. But the connection with Trumpism remains: who funds CCSA and why do their initiatives betray common cause with destructive billionaires like Bill Gates, the Walton family and Trump’s nominee for the Department of Education, Betsy DeVos?

While excoriating Zimmer’s acceptance of PAC money from legitimate interests that never were “special” or tangential to teaching and education – that is: Teachers (via their collective association, UTLA), meanwhile “special interests” that truly are dark, obscure and undisclosed actually do underlie Zimmer’s opposition. Ten times that scraped together by his fellow education-professionals – an entire order of magnitude more money – has been spent (so far) by America’s wealthiest-of-the-wealthy to occlude Steve Zimmer, via money funneled through private contributions and the aggregated-money PACs of CCSA and others.

Refusing to accept the cherry-picked candidates of the 1% is precisely the resistance to Trumpism we must engage.

Zimmer’s opposition are all candidates hand-picked by the billionaires. We must resist the temptation to empower them no matter how slick the astroturfed literature that champions support from the faux- or misled grassroots

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I certainly appreciate the resourcefulness of the real estate moguls opposing Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. It is easy to appreciate their dilemma. They can’t exactly go to the public and state the truth. “We have a successful business model, and we want to keep it. Paying off elected officials so we can build our lucrative real estate projects where we want them is working out just fine for us, so why upset the apple cart?” 

Instead, they have to pay big bucks to PR firms to create AstroTurf organizations that then claim their unplanned and therefore illegal projects are actually creating a tidy, well planned city. As for the supporters of Measure S, they are then tarnished with the claim they are clandestine advocates of urban sprawl hiding behind support for a strong General Plan for Los Angeles. Creative and convincing to some low information voters? Yes. Correct? Absolutely not. It is just more of the fake news and “alternative facts” we have recently heard so much about. 

So, what is a wrong with their roundabout claim that LA’s General Plan, both existing and presumably when Measure S accelerates its update, is really a blueprint for urban sprawl? And what is wrong with their parallel argument that left to it momentum, land use decisions based on developers maximizing profit for individual parcels will somehow produce a Los Angeles that turns its back on sprawl in favor of a planned and sustainable city? 

The answer is plenty! 

The claim that supporters of the General Plan and its update – the essence of Measure S -- are supposedly opposed to density and instead really want sprawl is absolute nonsense. 

Measure S supporters, such as myself, have clearly laid out what we want, directly and by implication: 

  • A well planned city, including areas for high density, through an updated and unwavering General Plan.
  • Planned alternative transportation modes, including those funded through Measure M, which LA County voters adopted in November 2016.
  • Adherence to the City Charter’s provisions regarding General Plan amendments: “conformity with public necessity, convenience, general welfare and good zoning practice.”
  • Systematic updates of the General Plan, including its Community Plans, based on extensive outreach to all Los Angeles neighborhoods.
  • Orderly implementation of the General Plan through planned density and planned alternative transportation modes, per Measure M.
  • Careful, annual monitoring of the city’s General Plan, including its implementation programs.
  • Regular mid-course General Plan corrections when annual monitoring reveals that adopted plans are not achieving their objectives. 

Measure S supporters have also clearly stated what we do not want

  • Unplanned development based on market whims.
  • Weak EIRs and Statements of Overriding Considerations that allow unmitigatable levels of Green House Gases.
  • Pay-to-play pat-a-cake between developers and elected officials so illegal projects can get spot-zones and spot-General Plan amendments.
  • Auto-centric shopping and luxury towers that obtain their spot-zones and spot-plan ordinances through phony, unmonitored claims of being transit-oriented. 

None of this remotely translates into support for urban sprawl, and, in fact, LA’s adopted plans have been distinctly anti-sprawl since the 1970s Concept Plan. This early plan evolved into the General Plan Framework, and its Transportation Chapter is also anti-sprawl, and is the new Mobility Element that the City Council recently adopted. 

Furthermore, there is not the slightest chance that the update of the existing General Plan triggered by Measure S will somehow promote a decentralized, sprawl-prone city. That era is long gone, and this allegation is just the contrivance of worried beneficiaries of the status quo, those who are funding the opposition to Measure S.

While I see no evidence that this information about the actual anti-sprawl content of the prior, current, anticipated General Plan will have much impact on the true believers who imagine that unrestrained market forces beneficially shape LA’s land use patterns, I hope this information will sink in among those who sensed but could not quite identify the deceptive arguments from the anti-S groups.

 

 (Dick Platkin regularly reports on planning issues for CityWatch. Please send any comments or corrections to rhplatkin@gmail.com.)

CORRUPTION WATCH-President Donald J. Trump and his adviser Kellyanne Conway use “Alternative Facts,” which Meet the Press host Chuck Todd correctly identified as “Falsehoods.” In 2014, our own Judge Allan Goodman made the same observation about Eric Garcetti and his use of Alternative Facts when His Honor rejected Garcetti’s update to the Hollywood Community Plan. As judges often do, Judge Goodman used polite legalese, saying that Garcetti used “fatally flawed data” and “wishful thinking” -- which we know mean Lies and Myths. 

How Lies and Myths and Alternative Facts crashed the economy in 2008. 

Lies, Myths and Alternative Facts (LMAFs) resulted in the Crash of 2008 which devastated millions of Americans. The crash grew out of the ethos of Alternative Facts which originated from corrupt business practices right here in the Los Angeles area. Mortgage lenders like Countrywide and Indymac Bank were selling defective mortgages to Wall Street. (A defective mortgage is one in which the lender knows that the homeowner cannot pay off the loan and will default.) Wall Street would then bundle together defective mortgages and sell them to pension funds, foreign countries, etc. (Goldman Sachs executive and Trump’s Secretary of Treasury-designate Steven Mnuchin made his multi-million fortune by buying Indymac Bank after the Crash of 2008.) 

We need to focus on how LMAFs crashed the economy in 2008 because, once again, they are at work both nationally and locally. Unless we stop this massive and near perpetual disinformation, life will become much worse for everyone. 

Normally, a Wall Street investment firm like Goldman Sachs selling junk mortgages would result in investors not buying any more products; but the nature of defective mortgages was covered up by a second corrupt practice: The investment houses would guarantee the buyers that if the income from the bundled mortgages dipped below a certain amount, the investment firm itself would make up the difference. Thus, all those pension funds, foreign countries, etc. felt safe in buying the bundled mortgages. 

However, there was a third level of fraud. The insurance sold by the investment houses to guarantee that the bundled mortgages would pay out the benefits was not insurance. Insurance should require the investment house to set aside insurance premiums to pay off the claims. Goldman Sachs et al were not putting those “premiums” into accounts so they would have the cash to pay future claims. Rather, they counted the premiums as regular income and spent the premium money. If State Farm spent all the premium money it collected, it would have no money to rebuild your home if it burned down. Likewise, when the investment firm spent all the “premiums” from the “insurance” it sold to buyers of the bundled, defective mortgages, it had no stock pile of cash to pay the claims. 

Then, there was the fourth level of fraud. Insurance may only be sold to people with an insurable interest in a house or person. Thus, I cannot take out fire insurance on my neighbor’s house and my neighbor may not take out insurance on my life.   

This is what occurred with bundled defective mortgages. Wall Street executives who created the defective bundles bought the “insurance” that would pay executives when their bundles failed. How long do you think you would be alive if MS-13 owned a $25 million dollar life insurance policy on your life? This is the criminal core of the Crash of 2008. Wall Street executives intentionally created defective bundled mortgages, then bought “insurance” on them. It’s the same as betting against a race horse you just drugged. 

Since the bundles of defective mortgages had been designed to fail in order for the “insurance” to pay off, Wall Street executives started buying worthless mortgages from Countrywide, Indymac Bank and similar mortgage lenders. The faster the bundled defective mortgages failed, the sooner the Wall Street executives would collect on their “insurance.” 

Because so many mortgages were being “sold,” the public erroneously assumed that people were buying all these new homes. Thus, billions of dollars were diverted to housing construction. All the mortgage companies wanted was a signature on a piece of paper, then they’d sell it to Wall Street with no regard as to whether the home “buyer” was employed or even existed. It got to the point that mortgage companies were inventing buyers and selling fake documents to Wall Street. 

Wall Street executives did not care if homeowners could not afford the homes or that these homeowners were non-existent. The worse the mortgages became, the faster the bundles crashed and the faster the executives would put in their insurance claims. They called the insurance “credit default swaps” solely to evade any insurance regulations. 

Because these Wall Street executives sold trillions of dollars of “insurance” on defective bundled mortgages, investment firms were faced bankruptcy unless one of two things happened: 

(1) The U.S. government could immediately insure all mortgages. 

Then no bundled mortgage would fail and no one could make a claim under the “insurance” (credit default swap.) No investment house would face failure as there would be no insurance claims based on defective mortgages. The cost to the government to start up such a program overnight could have been as high as $100 billion. 

(2) The U.S. Government could bail out the Wall Street firms. 

Using this approach, all the bundled mortgages would fail and Wall Street executives could collect their trillions of dollars through “insurance claims.” That is why the Obama-Geithner chose to bail out Wall Street – to make certain Wall Street firms had enough cash to pay off the crooks who had perpetrated the greatest economic crime in world history. Trillions of dollars flowed to Wall Street firms while Main Street went bankrupt. This corruptionism is also the origin of the Politics of Revenge that has brought us President Donald Trump. 

Lies, Myths and Alternative Facts underlie the current LA housing market. 

The current high prices for Los Angeles residential real estate is similarly based on Lies, Myths and Alternative Facts. 

LMAF #1: There is no high demand for housing in Los Angeles. 

Just as people incorrectly believed there was a huge demand for housing between 2002-2007 because it appeared that so many homes were being purchased, the high price of Los Angeles houses does not mean there is a demand for housing. As we learned in 2008 and forgot by 2009, crooks can manipulate markets thereby deceiving millions of people into believing there is a demand for housing. But there is always a crash. 

LMAF #2:   There is no single LA Housing market. 

In reality, Los Angeles has several markets for homes and what happens in one housing market does not always affect another market. Each situation requires analysis based on real facts. 

Families who want to buy a home in Echo Park are not driving up the cost for mansions in Bel Air. There is a stratification by price range for Los Angeles housing, but there is bleed over between nearby prices ranges. For example, after the City had 22,000 rent-controlled units destroyed and allowed judges to improperly eject poor people from their rent-controlled homes, four things resulted: 

  • Those people who could afford places in the next higher housing bracket bid up the rents for apartments which were just above the rent-control level. 
  • Those who could not afford to pay more than the low rent-controlled prices, e.g. the elderly and disabled on fixed income, became homeless. We do not add their rent of Zero Dollars to the cost of housing.   
  • Rental agencies reported that average rents had increased and used that biased data to raise rents. 
  • People believed that higher rents reflected an increased demand when in reality it reflected the fact that the Garcetti Administration reduced the supply of apartments for poor people by destroying rent-controlled housing. 

The forces threatening Middle Class neighborhoods are more deceptively insidious. 

As written in previous CityWatch articles, the worse threat to Los Angeles Middle Class is that homes are no longer valued by their value as Living Space but rather by their value as Speculative Investments. Because developers know that they can re-zone any property to anything that they want, they buy homes in lower priced residential areas where they plan to build two to eight houses on a single family lot. 

The lot where the developer plans to put a Granny Flat is worth more to him as Speculation than it is worth to a family as Living Space. Because the developer knows that he can bribe his way to a Small Lot Subdivision, the price of the “family home” zooms into the stratosphere. A small parcel with 8 homes, each separated by 6 inches, is worth far more money to a developer than the family can afford. 

A middle class family does not have to be in direct competition with a developer to be faced with a detached home’s Speculative Value. The realtor who sets the listing price researches recent sales prices for comparable homes. If two streets over, a home which was worth $300,000 for Living Space sold for $1.2 million on its Speculation Value, then the new home is priced at around $1 million even if the Living Space value is less than one third as much. 

The evils which flow from residential properties’ prices being based on Speculative Value. 

People, who pay attention to facts and the laws of economics, as opposed to Lies, Myths and Alternative Facts, know that certain evils always follow the “market dislocations” caused by LMAFs. 

(1)   The Middle Class moves away. 

It’s a form of osmosis where upwardly-mobile middle class families move away from the High Cost, Low Opportunity cities like Los Angeles to Low Cost, High Opportunity cities like Nashville, Denver, or Austin, Texas. Los Angeles is already experiencing a significant net loss of its Family Millennials too this trend. 

(2)   The reduced demand for housing does not lower housing prices. 

Prior to the Crash of 2008, there was virtually no demand for housing, yet the prices continued to increase. Mathematically, all financial frauds collapse; but until they do, prices show little or no indication of the bust that is a few months or weeks away. Prices remain high because they are based on the public believing the LMAFs. Eventually, however, people see reality and the crash arrives. 

(3)   Millions of homeowners who bought high are stranded in homes worth far less than the equity they have in those homes. 

This drop in prices often wipes out families’ “nest eggs” since they have dumped all their cash into mortgages for homes which were inflated by two, three or four times of their true value by the Garcetti Administration’s disinformation. They can neither sell nor renegotiate these mortgages. 

People who purchased homes based on inflated Speculative Values live in finance hell. They must continue paying these mortgages based on old values that are much higher than the new lower values. Since they dumped all their extra cash into their homes, they do not have adequate insurance or stocks, pensions or other investments. They are often “house poor” – with every cent tied up in the house. They just have to pray they can hold on until a better economy returns. 

When the economy turns down, people are laid off. If a lay-off happens to a family that is “under water” with its mortgage, it may be headed for the streets. There will always be a kind and loving Steven Mnuchin ready to foreclose on that family, even if it was only 27 cents short in a payment. 

The need for Residential Mortgage Insurance. 

Since Obama-Geithner refused to institute Residential Mortgage Insurance (RMI,) once people are laid off, they needlessly lose their homes. Sure, they may find decent jobs – a year after their homes’ foreclosure -- but that’s of no help to them or the economy. Residential Mortgage Insurance is like fire insurance where the insurer makes up the short fall in the mortgage payment due to a financial disaster. 

For example, if the Mom is laid off and the family lacks $1,500 on the $4,000 mortgage, the insurance pays the $1,500. This government insured program is good for the general welfare of the nation because it will stop a crash in the housing market like what happened in 2008. But Obama-Geithner thought a complete crash was preferable, and thus, they refused to institute RMI on even an emergency basis. Now, the nation is again vulnerable. 

The Big Lie on which the LA residential housing market rests. 

It is fraudulent to insist that there is demand for dense housing, that people want to live in mixed-use projects next to freeways, that people want Granny Flats or that people want to pay $850,000 to live in a house six inches away from another with no yard, no garden, no place for a dog, and no room for the kids to pitch a tent. Thus, we are paying taxes on billions of dollars of city bonds to construct the very type of dense housing which is emblematic of the fraud eating away at our economy. 

We know that Garcetti is still feeding us a diet of Lies and Myths, just as we know that Family Millennials are moving away from LA to places where they can afford to buy a detached home with a nice yard with fruit trees and plenty of space. Worse yet, the decent employers are following the Family Millennials out of town.

 

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

BUTCHER ON LA-On Saturday, January 21, 2017, an estimated 750,000 people took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles in support of the Women’s March on Washington organized as a day of action, celebration, and protest in cities across the country and world. A local announcement billed it as an event for: “Everyone who stands for human rights, workers’ rights, civil rights, and compassion for our shared humanity.”

It was wonderfully festive, totally unorganized, peaceful as could be. About half of the participants, by my observation, were young (mostly) women who'd never marched before; the rest were all the rest of us. It was joyous and magical! 

Said one participant, echoed by many, backed by so much pink: “There was an incredible politeness from the majority of the protesters. People were so close and I had never had so many boobs bump into me but everyone was saying ‘sorry’ and ‘excuse me.’ It was amazing!  There was a variety of people there from old to young and of all races. The women who spoke were amazing. Janet Hahn was great and I think made us proud to be Angelenos.” 

There was no appreciable parade route. My adult son Steven, his friend Raj and I walked from City Hall to Pershing Square, got as close as we could, and along with a mass of other people, turned around where we were to march back to City Hall. I saw bunches of LA City traffic officers but no police. Of course there was no need as it was peaceful, safe for babies and children and dogs, and so many women. Everywhere you looked, in every direction. I’ve been in large marches and rallies and this was by far among the largest of LA gatherings. 

For me, it felt historic. To march with my son – on the weekend just before my 60th birthday – felt glorious and so very hopeful!

 

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

MUSING WITH MIRISCH--In a city in which an election was won four years ago by seven votes, every vote should count. But only the votes that should count should count. And that’s a problem in Beverly Hills.

Voter fraud is real. It’s alive. It’s happening. And we have to stop it. Whether or not it happens at the federal level, we know it happens at the local level. We have seen it ourselves and our own investigations have proven it happens.

Last night at a marathon City Council meeting, the Beverly Hills City Council at my request unanimously agreed to launch an Anti-Voter Fraud Initiative. The initiative will attempt to use every tool at the Council and City’s disposal to protect the integrity of our local election, the next of which is March 7 (and in which I and the vice mayor are up for re-election). 

We will attempt to inform our own voters to help report suspected instances of unauthorized voters (“If you see something, say something”), as well as continue to lobby the Secretary of State, our DA and other officials to take the matter of suspected voter fraud seriously and to take action. The decision to launch the Anti-Voter Fraud Initiative follows a Monday meeting of the City’s Sunshine Task Force which we created to make our city a model of transparency and good government.

Yes, we are frustrated.

Our frustration and the decision to educate, lobby and take whatever local action we can to deal with voter fraud is preceded by two Council study sessions in which we discussed the matter with representatives from the local registrar-recorder and the Secretary of State, one meeting more exasperating than the other. We shouldn’t have to self-police and we are extremely limited as to what we can do locally to put an end to voter fraud.

Some background information is in order, particularly for those who aren’t familiar with Beverly Hills, beyond the stereotype, or suggest that voter fraud doesn’t exist.

In 2008 a local developer won a referendum by 129 votes which granted a controversial building entitlement. The developer spent millions of dollars prior to the election with all manner of expensive propaganda. The grass-roots group opposing the developer’s plans suspected that many voters who had voted in Beverly Hills were not bona fide or legal residents of the City, but nonetheless voted in the election.

In a Herculean effort, volunteers canvassed the city, going door-to-door to investigate the claims of voter fraud. They uncovered 569 documented cases of voters who were not entitled to vote in our local election. The group of phony voters included random people registered at unsuspecting residents’ addresses, non-U.S. citizens, Beverly Hills residents’ adult children who themselves were domiciled elsewhere, etc. That’s right: there were 569 documented cases of illegal voters in an election which had been won by 129 votes. The math is pretty simple.

The citizens’ group turned over their voluminous documentation over to the local DA’s office, which complimented them on their meticulousness and then proceeded to do... absolutely nothing. No indictments. No prosecution. No convictions. Nothing.

Fast forward to the months preceding the Nov. 2016 election: the same developer who had won the tainted 2008 election was now attempting to pass an initiative to build a 375-foot skyscraper in Beverly Hills. As in 2008, the developer spent millions of dollars in campaign propaganda (it turns out that the developer ended up spending more than $1000 per vote in a losing effort), and reports of potential illegal voters arose once again. The City received a list of over 500 voters registered at a few business addresses. As a Council colleague remarked, the limited number of business addresses makes this seem like an organized effort. We turned the list over to the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder, who sent letters out to these 500 registered voters, informing them that their voting status would be placed on hold pending their verifying that they actually lived in Beverly Hills and were entitled to vote here.

It turns out that only two of the over 500 registered voters ended up verifying that they actually live in Beverly Hills.

If we had not been provided with a list of unauthorized registered voters, which we forwarded to the registrar with the request to invalidate the registrations pending further confirmation, we could have had 500 illegal voters in the November election. This is in a City in which, as mentioned, a councilmember won election in 2013 by a mere seven votes.

At our Council study session earlier this month in which we asked for representation from the local registrar, the Secretary of State’s office and the DA, only the registrar seemed to take the problem of voter fraud seriously. The Secretary of State’s representative gave answers which actually decreased our confidence in its ability to protect the integrity of our voting process and raised the frustration levels of the entire Council. After having refused to prosecute the widespread 2008 voter fraud, the DA’s office refused to even send a representative to our Council meeting, even after I followed up the initial refusal with a letter to County DA Jackie Lacey, personally asking her to send a representative to discuss this serious issue. Their job is not just to prosecute voter fraud (something they evidently refuse to do, as was the case in 2008) but also to help us avert such crimes which undermine our electoral system. This nonchalance was both shocking and stupefying.

At that meeting, as confirmed by our City Clerk, we pointed out various ways in which voter fraud could occur and evidently had occurred: people could simply register at houses where they did not live, either with or without the bona fide residents’ knowledge or they could register at business addresses, as they had done in the past. At the polls, they could comb through the voter rolls and see who had not voted and simply get replacements to vote in their stead. There is effectively no way under our current system to avoid or deal with most of these situations, particularly if the local DA’s office is unwilling to take action.

According to today’s Washington Post: “Multiple investigations of the extent of in-person voter fraud — someone showing up to vote fraudulently — have found that it’s not a significant problem.” Well, if these “investigations” are anything like our own experience, this is a prime example of a self-fulfilling conclusion. Our Secretary of State’s office and our own DA seem unwilling to investigate or even acknowledge the problem. Small wonder that ostrich “investigators” - in opposition to grass-roots residents - are finding that voter fraud is “not a significant problem.” See no evil. Hear no evil... You get the picture.

Our situation is different from President Trump’s claims of voter fraud in that many (though not all) of the phony voters in Beverly Hills are US citizens who simply don’t live in Beverly Hills and therefore are not entitled to vote in municipal elections. But the problem remains a serious one at any level of government and we deserve to have faith in the integrity of our electoral system at all levels of government.

On Tuesday, the National Association of Secretaries of State issued the following statement: “We are not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump, but we are open to learning more about the administration’s concerns.”

How about also being open to learning about the concerns of cities in which elections are won and lost by seven votes? How about taking action in instances in which voter fraud clearly has taken place and in which there are ongoing attempts to rig our elections?

Whatever the situation at the national level, we in Beverly Hills are committed to doing whatever we can to protect the integrity of our local elections, even if we do not receive the support from the authorities who are tasked with doing so. Because if the integrity of our electoral system is not protected, if bad actors know that they can literally get away with voter fraud without any consequences, then we can expect to see this phenomenon spread and grow, further undermining our democracy.

Local government, when done right, is the best form of democracy because it is closest to home. For it to mean anything, though, the elections in which the residents choose their local leaders and decide on local issues must be on the up and up. Sacramento, we have a problem.

And so the Beverly Hills Anti-Voter Fraud Initiative is born. Let’s hope other cities and municipalities join us to create a coalition against voter fraud. Our democracy is too precious to allow its very fundament, our elections, to be subverted.

(John Mirisch is the Mayor of Beverly Hills. He has, among other things, created the Sunshine Task Force to increase transparency, ethics and public participation in local government. Mayor Mirisch is a CityWatch contributor.)

-cw

 PLATKIN ON PLANNING-In writing and speaking about Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, I have recently encountered an emotionally charged argument that Measure S is a ruse by old geezers (baby boomers like myself) living in single-family homes. Apparently the boomers want to maintain their property values at the expense of Millennials -- that is, the 20 and 30 somethings. Curiously though, the old geezers who own and run the four large real consortiums funding the opposition to Measure S and devising the anti-S arguments repeated by these Millennials play no role in this imaginary generational conflict. 

While one of the great lessons from the recent presidential election was the enormous support from Millennials for the two most progressive candidates, Senator Bernie Sanders and Dr. Jill Stein, these anti-S Millennials are apparently outliers. Their belief, nevertheless, that market magic can cure urban ills -- especially overpriced rental housing, poor job creation, and inadequate transit ridership -- needs to be addressed. 

In their view, since Measure S jump-starts LA’s legally required but moribund General Plan process, and then reinforces the new plans with well-defined rules on how developers can adulterate them, these strengthened land use regulations will stymie vast market forces. If unleashed by even more deregulation, the private market will create a cornucopia of cheap housing and alternative transportation modes for Millennials. 

As a parent of two Millennials, let me explain why this bewildering belief in market magic, which we usually associate with Garcetti-type neo-liberal politicians and their developer patrons, is bunkum. Whatever their ages, those who have drunk this Kool-Aid only need to look outside their apartment or house windows to debunk these market magic myths. In LA, they will see what happens when private greed substitutes for rational city planning: homeless encampments, billboards and super-graphics, McMansions in the shadows of luxury towers, crumbling sidewalks, a patchwork of risky bike lanes, gridlocked streets full of potholes, widespread building code violations, demolition of rent stabilized apartments, illegal evictions, sagging overhead wires, treeless boulevards, and barely paved alleys filled with discarded couches. 

Then, it they go to City Hall, they will see pay-to-play politics on open display at the City Council. There, every big real estate project, such as the Caruso luxury tower near the Beverly Center, obtains its special spot-planning and spot-zoning ordinances by a consistent 15-0 margin. For them, the LA Times exposes of developer contributions to elected officials to obtain land use entitlements barely registers. 

I suppose a few people, whatever their age, welcome these byproducts of deregulation, but most of those opposing Measure S, including Millennials, have not yet come to terms with what actually lies ahead if Measure S fails. 

They will rediscover LA’s status quo. Their expected rosy future will be nothing more than the broken present that the corporate funders of anti-S ads wish to maintain. It is the dystopia we already live in, not the utopia they imagine will result from the full-on deregulation of private land in Los Angeles. 

The plethora of affordable market housing and low income housing that the anti-S corporate funders promise is just a ploy. It will not appear because, like today, developers want to maximize their profits. That is why they build luxury housing and then repeatedly claim – despite zero evidence – that these unaffordable units actually create affordable housing through filtering and over-supply.  

This is why I have also previously suggested that anyone who seriously believes that market magic is a panacea for Los Angeles should screen Bladerunner. (Photo, above) It is an extreme, free market vision of the dystopia we already live in. 

Why ‘market magic’ does not work in Los Angeles 

Los Angeles is already a city with virtually no effective regulation of land. Yes, land use laws and regulations are still on the books, but they are peripheral to day-to-day decision-making and code enforcement. Nearly every waiver from LA’s legally adopted plans and zoning sails through in unanimous votes, including the spot-zone changes and the spot-General Plan Amendments that the City Council routinely grants through special ordinances. 

As for LA’s rampant violations of the City’s zoning and building codes, it up to residents to phone them into the Department of Building and Safety (LADBS). Once there, they apparently disappear into a time warp because nothing ever happens. Developers therefore know they can game the permitting and inspection system because the LADBS code enforcement function is in deep hibernation. 

The free market apparently means developers know they are free to do whatever they want: illegal demolitions (that ignore regulations for asbestos and lead paint), billboards, supergraphics, McMansions, bootlegged signs, garage conversions, and even unpermitted remodels have become routine. 

This stark reality means that any Angelenos who imagine that a free market utopia is waiting in the wings should stop believing their lying eyes. The Los Angeles they already live in reveals market magic hard at work, and it will only get worse if Measure S fails on March 7. Then, an even more deregulated Los Angeles will pull them -- including Millennials – down further. Still more expensive housing will appear when the City Planning Department, City Planning Commission, and the City Council continue to sideline the General Plan, adopted zoning, and the California Environmental Quality Act. 

The free market is the culprit, not planning and zoning 

As for the other part of the free market equation, economic inequality will increase when developers can build what they want, where they want, when they want through easily obtained zone variances, zone changes, and General Plan Amendments. Their underlying parcels will quickly appreciate in market value when planning and zoning restraints are removed. But this windfall does not come out of thin air; it comes out of the pockets of tenants who are painted into a corner by systematic rent increases, overcrowding, and cutbacks in public services. Of course, they are the lucky ones because they do not yet need to live in cars, garages, or on the streets. 

Furthermore, the downward mobility experienced by many Millennials does not result from cities sticking to their legally adopted plans and zones. It is exactly the opposite. Apparently some Millennials have succumbed to the developers’ claims that existing zoning holds back housing construction. But, LA’s status quo already has more than enough zoning where developers could build apartments, but choose not to

There are no legal barriers to the construction of three to five story market rate and affordable apartments on LA’s long commercial corridors. Instead, the barriers are strictly self-imposed. Such buildings are not as profitable as luxury high-rise towers with sky-high rents. The free market adored by Measure S opponents is the real culprit, not zoning and planning rules. 

Final word on who benefits from the defeat of Measure S 

All we need to do is follow the money since a defeat perpetuates the pay-to-play status quo in Los Angeles. That means anti-S claims about large, unplanned real estate projects (i.e., unrestrained real estate speculation) generating transit ridership, jobs, and affordable housing will be quickly exposed as the disingenuous arguments of self-serving opportunists. 

While luxury high-rise towers and shopping centers are certain to appear through spot-zones and spot-plans, anyone who imagines that they will usher in these social benefits will get a harsh dose of reality. None of these imagined social benefits have appeared in the past and present, and none will appear in this future.

 

(Dick Platkin is former LA City planner who recently taught courses on sustainable city planning at USC and CSUN. He is also a former union officer, who worked hard to create labor-neighbor alliances in Los Angeles. Please send corrections or comments to rhplatkin@gmail.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EASTSIDER-You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that CalPERS has taken some hits over the past months. There was the series of articles in the LA Times, OpEd pieces everywhere from the Sacramento Bee to a pretty concerted attack in a variety of electronic media. Almost all were directly aimed at CalPERS and the two court cases bobbing up at the California Supreme Court on the “California Rule.”

While that’s been going on, the CalPERS Board of Directors has been more concerned with visiting Monterey for a retreat and deciding who gets to be their President and Vice-President, than in real governance. Witness the puff pieces CalPERS has been issuing: “CalPERS joins Global Sustainability Benchmark for Real Assets Program,” “Diverse Director DataSource joins Equilar Diversity Network,” and “CalPERS Adopts Environmental, Social and Governance Strategic Plan.” 

My favorite was “CalPERS Honored as Sustainable Business of 2016.” Really, you can read it here

While the puff piece was actually about conservation, the double entendre of CalPERS’ own fiscal sustainability is impossible to ignore. Indeed, new CEO Marcie Frost noted in her lead article in the winter issue of their magazine PERSPECTIVE that “...one of my immediate priorities will be ensuring the long-term sustainability of the fund.” I wish her luck. 

Underneath the Rhetoric 

Underneath the happy face public persona of the Board and their CEO, I believe that a much darker change is occurring. Namely, the joint has been turned over to and is being run by a bunch of self-serving lawyers. 

Now lawyers, used properly, are a very good thing -- that’s why we have them to keep us out or get us out of trouble. Lawyers, given carte blanche, on the other hand, can be a very scary thing. Just look at the law firms involved in the Panama Papers overseas money laundering for the rich, or, closer to home, note the fact that around half or more of our elected politicians in California are lawyers. No wonder the State is in trouble. 

Let me give you a specific example regarding the dearth of any transparency at CalPERS, that’s been organized and orchestrated by their very own General Counsel. Readers of my column will recall that I wrote a pretty scathing piece about the hiring of a sleazebag Florida attorney named Robert Klausner to be their Fiduciary Counsel, even though he was scandal-ridden and not even licensed in the State of California. 

The process of hiring Klausner was so shoddy and manipulated by then CEO Ann Stausboll, that I characterized it as a Betrayal of Public Trust 

Well, the combination (maybe a little bit) of my articles and a lot of heat from the Naked Capitalism blog must have struck home. The NC folks partnered up with California’s First Amendment Coalition and an excellent attorney (Karl Olsen) to actually sue CalPERS and their attorneys for violating the Public Records Act. 

You can read the tale here, [[[   http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2016/08/calpers-tainted-fiduciary-counsel-robert-klausner-departs-after-nc-publicizes-his-dubious-history.html ]]] and it says a lot about CalPERS General Counsel Matthew Jacobs ethics. Reads like a soap opera, except they’re playing with billions of dollars of public funds. 

When Klausner magically departed around August with no notice and no explanation as to why or how he was dumped, I became very interested in what was going to happen next. After all, look at the process that brought us Klausner. So I did what any red blooded American would do -- I filed a Public Records Request. 

Hiding Behind Lawyers While Rome Burns 

Orchestrated by General Counsel Jacobs, here was the dance. I wrote in mid-October asking for any and all documents regarding CalPERS search for a new fiduciary counsel. In mid-November I get a letter saying that they are “searching” and will get back to me by the end of November. 

On November 30, they send me a letter which says, basically, that everything I have asked for is exempt on the grounds of attorney-client privilege and confidentiality. So, I get a copy of the Solicitation Bid for Outside Counsel. Period. Have a nice life, pound sand. 

Then, as I am searching through Board Agendas to find out what if anything ever actually happened regarding outside fiduciary counsel, I find this gem buried in the Day 3 Agenda covering a spiffy little “offsite” Board/Executive Retreat which was held January 17-19 in Monterey CA, at the Monterey Tides. (It’s evidently hard work to be on the CalPERS Board.) 

9:05 am                  Fiduciary Training

Open Session          (Points Ballroom) 

A little digging around and I discover that the presenter for this event was one Ashley Dunning, a Partner at Nossaman LLP, one of the “mid-sized hot list” California-based law firms. Parenthetically, our very own Richard Riordan was a name partner in this same firm before he became Mayor of the City of Los Angeles. 

I also got a copy of the 75-Slide Power Point presentation Dunning gave to the Board and assembled multitudes at the session. I wonder how many Board members went to sleep as soon as the lights dimmed and the power point cranked up. C’mon. 

Upon further investigation, I note that Dunning was a partner at Manatt, Phelps, the Democratic Party powerhouse lobbying/law/consulting firm. Notice I said, was, because Nossaman LLP proudly announced in a January 6 Press Release, that she was joining the firm as Partner and Co-Chair of the firm’s Pension and Investments Group. 

Gee. Given the January 6 announcement and the January 19 presentation, does anyone doubt that she has a deal with Matthew Jacobs and is the new fiduciary counsel for CalPERS? Ya gotta love how General Counsel Jacobs wheels and deals beneath the shield of attorney-client privilege. I wonder if the tame Board ever even voted. 

Final disclosure. According to the Marin Independent Journal, Ms. Dunning does not come cheap. She was advising the Marin County Pension Board at $580/hour until her switch to Nossaman, and racked up in the neighborhood of $400,000 in one year’s billings.  

The Takeaway 

CalPERS CEO Marcie Frost is new to the job and had very little transition time when former CEO Ann Stausboll suddenly retired. Therefore she is very dependent on her executive staff, including particular lawyers like General Counsel Matthew Jacobs. 

If history is a guide, the vast majority of the Board is more interested in who gets to be their President and Vice-President and who gets to go off on junkets, than in any serious oversight of their staff. All you have to do is watch a video of their meetings. 

So everyone defaults to doing what the lawyers say. It further seems clear that the lawyers are only interested in what I characterize as a “siege mentality,” a hide-and-seek attorney-client privilege governance model used to make sure no one will really know what they’re up to. That ain’t good. 

For example, the Board recently granted Ted Eliopoulis, their Chief Investment Officer, a huge bonus ($135,000) that was probably impermissible under CalPERS own rules. Ignoring the terrible optics, this was granted just as CalPERS had to admit that the Fund’s return on investment for 2016 was a paltry 0.6%. Anybody see a disconnect here? 

Lordy, Lordy. All greased by the General Counsel. At the risk of being churlish, I note for the record that Mr. Eliopoulis has a JD. Does anyone believe that Ted is going to go against whatever Matthew Jacobs wants? 

Meanwhile, the Board of Directors proudly announces the re-election of Feckner as President and Jones as Vice-President. This is Rob Feckner’s 13th term as President. Jones scores a mere 3rd term as Vice-President. Bang up job, guys. 

Personally, I think all of this demonstrates that the staff, led by elder statesman and General Counsel Matthew Jacobs, has a ring in the collective nose of the Board of Directors; they don’t do boo without staff telling them what they should do. 

Or take a look at an even more acerbic analysis of The Role of Conflicted Lawyers At CalPERS”. 

And I thought the process that CalPERS used to hire Robert Klausner was sleazy. I had no idea what stone wall hiding really was until the lawyers got involved. 

On the other hand, they might just want to be a bit more open and transparent. In a recent federal court case blocking Aetna’s pull-out out of Obamacare in all but four of the fifteen states they serviced: 

“Aetna executives had moved heaven and earth to conceal their decision-making process from the court, in part by discussing the matter on the phone rather than in emails, and by shielding what did get put in writing with the cloak of attorney-client privilege, a practice Bates found came close to ‘malfeasance’.” 

Hmm...

 

(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.

THE EVE OF DESTRUCTION-As I write this, rescuers in central Italy are desperately trying to pull victims out from a hotel that was buried in tons of snow by an avalanche. 

The avalanche was caused by a series of earthquakes. 

Although they can be extremely destructive, earthquakes are natural phenomena. 

On January 18, we learned that public education in Los Angeles was buried by a million dollar avalanche in the form of a single contribution to a local school board race by former mayor and billionaire Richard Riordan. 

Riordan is only one of many billionaires who have decided to use their vast resources in an attempt to drown out electoral competition. But there is no precedent for a million dollar campaign contribution in a municipal school board race. 

In the world of Education Reform, the GOP and the billionaires have found common ground in their rampage against the spirit of public education. We all know their names: Walton. Gates. Bezos. Zuckerberg. Individuals whose money buys them tremendous political clout. Consider this from Besty DeVos, Donald Trump’s nominee to become Secretary of Education: 

“My family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party…I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now, I simply concede the point. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican Party to use the money to promote these policies and, yes, to win elections.”  

Few confirmation nomination hearings were as depressing as multi-billionaire DeVos’ pathetic stumbling over understanding federal mandates or even basic education questions. This is a woman who never studied education or attended public school or sent her children to public school; she has never held an education position. DeVoss listed as her qualifications for the position in the form of Letters to the Editor and press releases. She claims that she would still be nominated even if she hadn’t contributed over $200 million to the GOP -- that she wasn’t buying the influence she claimed earlier that, well, she was intent on buying. 

In a December, 2010 New Yorker profile on Eli Broad entitled, “The Art of the Billionaire: How Eli Broad took over Los Angeles,” former mayor Antonio Villaraigosa provided this swooning support: “What is Los Angeles -- when they write the chronicles of LA -- without Eli Broad? He can close his eyes and see the future.” 

In the shadow of Hollywood, Villaraigosa parrots one of the great confrontation scenes in cinematic history. When Jack Nicholson’s 1940’s PI Jake Gittes goes up against multi-millionaire Noah Cross (John Huston somehow channeling contemporary Eli Broad) and demands to know why brute power is so important to him, he says: “Why are you doing it? What could you buy that you can’t already afford?” 

Cross gleefully (and horrifically) responds, “The future, Mr. Gittes! The future!” 

And yes, that future is the common denominator that these financial titans are determined to buy for their own and on their terms. 

Broad’s tremendous (and outlandish) financial support has provided the backing for much of LA’s and the nation’s Ed Reform movement through his goofy, self-aggrandizing “Broad Academy” of superintendents. His greatest achievement was forcing the installation of academically and ethically challenged John Deasy to head LAUSD. After his tumultuous reign and disastrous stewardship of its finances and pedagogy, Broad took Deasy back into his secret lair, providing him ample compensation for training other “leaders” of his same mindset. Deasy rarely slinks back into public view, only choosing rare editorial appearances in the safe, rich confines of the Campbell Brown right-wing School Reform publication, The 74 (which also runs its sister LA School Report.) Follow the dominoes. It’s funding is through – sigh -- Betsy DeVos. 

In blue, blue, blue California, you are obviously going to get nowhere if you adhere to a Right Wing social agenda. The neo-liberal Education Reform Democrats eschew that portion of the GOP horror show and pretend that they are not connected to Neanderthal thinking. 

It is no surprise that the billionaires have been very quiet about DeVos’ nomination because they know they are wading into dangerous territory by supporting her. They actually support many of her privatization and charter initiatives, but of course her repugnant other right-wing beliefs are areas they are loathed to get mixed up in. 

This has always been the conundrum for Ed Reform Democrats who share the same Education Reform mentality with some of the most grotesque reactionary figures of the Republican Party. The Democrats who are running for school boards (and here in California, they are all “proud” Democrats) and who garner billionaire dollars may think Trump, DeVos and other Republicans might be wrong about economics, gay rights, Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, environmental policies or taxes, but they believe the Right Wing are geniuses about Education Policy. 

The sole issue that separates the Education Reform Democrats from their GOP counterparts is vouchers, which, ironically, Charters also have huge financial incentive to oppose. 

This was the California Charter School Association’s take on Betsy DeVos after Trump nominated her for the Education Secretary position: 

“We congratulate Betsy DeVos, a longtime supporter of charter schools, on her appointment as Secretary of Education. Mrs. DeVos has long demonstrated a commitment to providing families with improved public school options and we look forward to working with the administration on proposals allowing all students in California to access their right to a high quality public education. We encourage DeVos and the new administration to craft broad policies allowing all students and families to continue accessing the quality educational options they deserve.” 

Monica Garcia, the school board representative of LA’s 2nd District, is a long time Ed Reform favorite of billionaires and CCSA. She is not a Progressive. Right Wing education champions endorse her and her pedagogy. A Betsy DeVos stewardship of education would find quite an ally in Garcia in many areas they both support. Her championing of John Deasy’s pedagogy, charters and privatization has been miserable for the children of LA and stand in stark contrast to the fundamental ideals that Progressive educators value. 

Although School Board President Steve Zimmer’s voting record hardly seems to warrant Riordan’s financial assault on him -- since he actually has supported many of the things Riordan demands -- the name of Riordan’s organization, “LA Students for Change, Opposing Steve Zimmer for School Board 2017,” is just too stupid to be real. But, alas, it is. 

If only there was some Progressive Billionaire who would front an organization called, “Students Opposed to Dick Riordan’s Green Hose Spraying Millions of Students.” That would be an attention getter and as legitimate and accurate a moniker. 

With the advent of Trump’s absurdly plutocratic administration -- whose members’ portfolios and bank accounts boast their vile ability to influence public policy -- Richard Riordan’s fat, gold and diamond-encrusted finger on the scale has coarsened our Democracy. The whole idea and philosophy of Public Education will be lost under the weight of this dirty cash that opposes and oppresses it. 

I’m afraid that there is very little Progressives can do on horseback when confronted with the tanks and artillery Riordan and his billionaire kin can muster. Guerilla fighting in the hills might be our only recourse as we hope for a more enlightened time to re-emerge. 

The billionaire and Republican Party policies are going to define public education from now on. I have no idea how long it will take for us to dig out from the blizzard of grim policies that will smother us. The Supreme Court’s valentine to the rich through their Citizens United decision has also brought us a climate change of crisis in the role of politics and finances. 

Richard Riordan and the other plutocrats are single-handedly buying the “future” they insist we all must endure. 

Grab your shovels now, Progressives.

 

(Joshua Leibner taught in LAUSD public schools for 20 years. He is a National Board Certified teacher.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

GELFAND’S WORLD--Raphe Sonenshein (photo above) is the learned professor and expert on politics who has been teaching neighborhood council participants about the structure and function of LA city government. You might say that his public lecture series called Civic University is a primer for amateur activists. A couple of decades ago, Raphe (short for Raphael) got involved in the Charter reform movement that ultimately led to the creation of the neighborhood council system. He's been following it ever since. 

The Civic U is educational and it is also fun, largely because Raphe spins yarns about the folks who make the city run, going back to the unruly City Council members of the 1970s, Mayor Bradley, and up through today's zillions of departments and agencies we might want to know about. 

As somebody who has been both a participant and an observer of the neighborhood council system since its beginnings in 2000-2001, I've been listening to the lectures with an interested but quizzical ear. I keep thinking about what we might have done differently. What worked and what didn't? If we could change things, what would they be? 

After the class the other night, I chatted briefly with Raphe and said I had some questions for the final class meeting. Thinking about it a little more, I then suggested to him that I would like to share my questions with CityWatch readers in advance. After all, I've been grinding my own axes here for years, so why not do a little ax grinding for the CU? 

Here goes. 

  1. Are the populations served by most neighborhood councils too large? For example, a neighborhood council whose boundaries include 85,000 people is already one-third the size of a City Council district. Wouldn't we be better off if most councils included, at most, 10,000 people? Greg Nelson used to tell us about some study that suggested optimal participation in groups that were at most four or five thousand people. So what's the best trade-off between the current 96 mostly-oversized councils and the level of 4000 people per council, which would require a thousand councils in this one city? 
  1. Would the system have been better off if, from the start, neighborhood council stakeholders had simply been defined as the residents of their districts rather than the current broadly based definition with all its other categories (eg: work in the district, own property, have some other interest)? Would it be possible (say through a timely Charter amendment) to make the switch in the near future? 
  1. When I lived in an eastern city a number of years ago (hint: it is associated with deflated footballs) the residents explained very seriously that their police and politicians were "the best that money can buy." I don't see Los Angeles as having that level of corruption, nor do I find that attitude among our residents. But I do see a lot of cynicism among people who live here. It comes down to the widespread belief that the developers own the elected officials and get to do (mostly) what they want. First of all, is this cynicism merited? If it is merited, should it be explained as the result of officials who want to do good things but are trapped in a system in which campaign financing is the first necessity? Is there anything we can do about it, such as full public financing? Overall, how corrupt is the city government, if at all? 
  1. A critical question that is mostly left unverbalized, but underlies a lot of other discussions: The neighborhood councils have no official power over things such as zoning applications or where parking meters go, or any of the thousands of other choices that elected officials make. Should neighborhood councils have some power(s) and if so, which? 
  1. One long-standing gripe of mine is this: City officials say a lot of nice things to neighborhood councils, but they don't do anything to let the wider population of LA know that we even exist. That's understandable -- if more LA residents were involved in neighborhood councils, then the councils would have more political influence and they could create difficulties for elected officials. How can we solve this problem and build our numbers, either through our own efforts or through creating enough pressure on the City Council? 

Bonus question: Did the Neighborhood Council Review Commission fail in its essential mission of evaluating the structure and function of the system and if so, was that because it avoided considering changes that would require a Charter amendment? 

Second bonus question: The Charter language seems to suggest that neighborhood councils are expected to communicate with each other and work together in order to have more influence. Beyond what we've already done in terms of regional and citywide alliances, what can we do to make this happen? 

Cynicism upheld: the consolation prize 

Down where I live, there was a tightly contested congressional election to fill the seat previously held by Janice Hahn. Under the new election system, there was a runoff between two Democrats. Isadore Hall came to the battle with a long-standing career in politics, having previously served in the Assembly and the state senate. His relatively untested opponent was Nanette Barragan, an attorney who served on the Hermosa Beach City Council. Hall lost the election by four percentage points, a real shellacking for a guy who was supposed to be Hahn's heir apparent. 

Hall was out of a job, government-wise. A few days ago, the governor appointed Hall to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board. As news stories explained, the position has a salary of $142,095. I wonder if the governor would have appointed Hall if Hall had been a Republican. Will any of the reform minded Democrats who just got elected to state party committees complain about this kind of conduct?

 

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

-cw

SOUTH OF THE 10-2 Urban Girls was the first to report on the arrest of Mr. Salvador Galvan and his "alleged" confession. The LA Times followed up the story with a salacious headline FBI investigates allegations of embezzlement against Compton's deputy treasurer, authorities say.  Yet, neither of the article’s authors, Angel Jennings and Veronica Rocha, attributed that to anyone associated with the FBI. 

“Sheriff’s Cmdr. Joe Gooden said the FBI is investigating the case. However, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the agency would not confirm or deny an investigation.” 

Spokeswoman Laura Eimiller also confirmed to 2 Urban Girls that they could not confirm or deny an investigation and also clarified that there was not an open case out of their office against Galvan. She went further, stating she couldn't corroborate anything in the media regarding this case. 

LA County District Attorney spokesperson Greg Risling also confirmed that their office didn’t have an open case against Galvan and referred us back to the Compton Sheriff’s department. 

2 Urban Girls reached out to both Capt. Thatcher and Sgt. Wargo asking if a case had been submitted to the District Attorney’s office. 

Capt. Thatcher confirmed that their office has not presented a case for prosecution. 

During the regular Compton City Council meeting on Tuesday, it was brought to residents’ attention that Galvan had allegedly pilfered $3 million of taxpayer money. 

City Manager Cecil Rhambo issued a memo to city treasurer Douglas Sanders regarding new cash handing procedures, including one as basic as no backpacks in the area where employees are counting money. 

Mr. Rhambo: How about not having the treasurer's office handle any cash at all, as is the case in other neighboring cities? And where are the surveillance cameras? 

Isn’t it ironic that former Compton Mayor Omar Bradley is still facing misdemeanor charges regarding theft of public dollars, while Mr. Galvan has no charges pending against him, even though he supposedly confessed? Mr. Risling had no comment on that fun fact.

 

(Melissa Hébert lives in Inglewood, CA, and blogs on community and political issues on 2urbangirls.com and is an occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

EDUCATION ALARM BELLS-Trump’s been working overtime to enroll anti-cabinet members, a sort of Through-The-Looking-Glass collection of zombie-apocalypse advisors whose prerequisite qualification seems to be whatever their predecessors were not. Anti-intellectual, antithetical, an anti-professional Barbarian horde of ideological battering rams, poised for imminent despoiling of the public purse and the public purpose. 

Everyone knows the drill; it has been well-commented on already. What’s still flummoxing us all is the question:  how to beat back these privateers

“Resist” is the catch-phrase du-jour, but it is a description, not a formula: Resist what, who or whom and how? 

Well, Steve Zimmer is clearly the anti-Trump choice of LAUSD 4.  

To resist Trump’s rogue cabinet of government deconstructivists, we must stand against those who would rebrand the public as private, who would catalyze the transformation of public commons into private holdings. 

We must stare down that ideology which would privatize social security, the postal service, our public park service and lands, corrections facilities and military operations, and forsake public health to a profiteering, insurance-industrial complex, as well as deny science and public broadcasting the assurance of unbiased funding altogether. 

And in insisting on that which is rightfully public and accountable to us, we must likewise desist in denying the alchemy of public district schools transformed into public charters. Operating outside of the public eye, without public input and absent public accountability, these schools are public only in the narrow sense that they siphon funds which are public. They are the ideological stepsister of privatization. But their champions are cloaked in disguises. 

Not surprisingly it is hard to see what’s going on in the confusion of revolution, particularly one in which communications have been so deliberately scrambled. It is tricky to distinguish friend from dissembling foe, real from alternate fact. 

But fortunately that same metaphorical blizzard-rope remains strung across the discombobulating swamp just as it ever was, stretching through the years of muck and gas at least as far back as Nixon’s Regime of disinformation and corruption: Follow The Money 

Remember in 2013 when New York City’s card-carrying member of the 1%, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, sent shock waves through a boring little schoolboard (schoolbored?) race on the opposite side of the country? He suffused our hyper-local election with a cool one million dollars from his citadel 3,000 miles away. And why would he do that? Who’s ever even heard of their schoolboard members -- much less had the foggiest idea what he or she does, or even paid the slightest attention to their election? 

Here’s a clue: the budget of Los Angeles’ Unified School District (LAUSD) is larger than that of the City of Los Angeles (CoLA). Moreover, half the number of CoLA electeds – just seven individuals on the LAUSD Board – control that money. And incidentally, they thereby govern the vital, bedrock, foundational process of educating our city’s youngest citizens, and raising them up to be your neighbor. 

Well that multi-million-dollar-laced schoolboard race is back on: it’s 2017 and March 7 is right around the corner. This time, the exogenous sugar daddy is LA’s republican former Mayor Dick Riordan. He is supported now as then, by LA’s own stealth puppeteer and public education foe, Eli Broad. And he’s anted up into the same fast-forwarded schoolboard race that, this time around, sports not just one, but no less than three individual challengers – all of whom are backed by the same ultra-rich, very narrow interests. 

When an election features multiple ideological clones, double- and triple-endorsed by the same billionaire-backers, that’s code, not for strength of support, but for intensity of opposition: Witnessing such big bucks being pumped into the campaign against Steve Zimmer should concern all Trump resistors. 

When the 1% swarm the public Commons they are animated not by a concern for the public, but by their interest in the public monies and by the public policies formed there.  

Bernie-supporters and Trump-resistors should no more permit Betsy DeVos to desecrate the integrity of our nation’s Office of the Secretary of Education than accept any of Zimmer’s challengers to the board of LA Unified. 

Steve Zimmer is the only candidate in LAUSD’s board District 4 who believes in public education.

Voting for Steve Zimmer is what it means to Resist Trump.  

Submit your absentee ballot application for Steve by 2/28/17.

 

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

LABOR DIGS IN VS. TRUMP--California’s labor laws are stronger than federal regulations in most areas, including the minimum wage, paid sick leave, overtime for agricultural workers and domestic worker rights. The state also leads the national trend for predictive scheduling. (In 2014 San Francisco passed the nation’s first measure that requires employers to inform workers of schedules two weeks in advance; 13 states and other municipalities are currently pursuing the policy.

But it’s not all sunshine, now that fast-food mogul Andrew Puzder has been nominated to be the next Secretary of Labor. Puzder, the CEO of CKE, which owns the Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s chains, is no admirer of California’s labor codes and last year began moving the parent company’s headquarters from California to Tennessee, complaining that “you can’t be a capitalist in this state.” Donald Trump’s nominee is widely regarded by labor advocates as a substantial threat to working standards around the country. The fallout from a Puzder labor department could well reach California.

“We may be big and we may have the Sierras, but we’re not an island,” says Ken Jacobs, who is the chair of the University of California, Berkeley’s Labor Center. “There are very serious challenges.”

But as union membership shrinks nationally and workplace protections have come under attack, California has created labor-organizing models to resist attempts to erode labor standards and impose right-to-work measures —two predicted hallmarks of a Trump administration labor policy.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245 has developed and exported to other states a leadership model that goes beyond the shop floor and trains stewards to engage in an organizing agenda to counter anti-labor attacks and to support local political and contract fights.

The California local, which has a strong presence in the Central Valley and Nevada, created an Organizing Stewards program that recruits stewards, teaches them how to connect with members and trains them in door-to-door canvassing and leadership skills.

Much of it involves on-the-ground training. Just this month the California organizing corps helped Baltimore Gas & Electric workers buck a national anti-union trend to win representation.

Nine organizing stewards went to Wisconsin to join rallies at the state capitol against Governor Scott Walker’s right-to-work policies and to reach out to other workers. Local 1245 also fielded 100 organizing stewards and active members during the 2016 election season to work full time on campaigns across California, Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Ohio to support labor-friendly candidates, says Fred Ross Jr., an organizer for the local who, along with colleague Eileen Purcell, developed the program.

Tom Dalzell, Local 1245’s business manager, views a Trump administration, especially Trump’s Supreme Court picks, with concern, but is resigned to resisting. “I don’t know what it’s going to look like,” he says. “We know we’re going to have to do it.”

Dalzell worries about potential Supreme Court decisions that could permit public employees to opt out of union membership. The only answer, he says, will be counter-organizing in the workplace with one-on-one meetings to explain why an employee should stick with his or her union. “It will be like an organizing campaign,” Dalzell says, of “people who are already taking the message of the union to people who have never had to fight for it or live without it.”

Silicon Valley Rising, a coalition of the Communication Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Service Employees International Union Local 521, SEIU-USWW and UNITE HERE Local 19, plus nine community organizations, formed two years ago in this region dominated by tech development.

“Silicon Valley was the poster child for income inequality,” says Maria Noel Fernandez, SVR’s campaign director. The Silicon Valley work culture is famous for its perks — shuttles sent to a tech worker’s front door, chefs serving gourmet meals, game rooms and massages. Those details make for good headlines but hide the gulf between tech employees who earn, on average, $113,000 annually, and the support staff of janitors, cafeteria workers and others, the majority of whom are contract workers who average under $20,000 a year, according to a study by University of California, Santa Cruz researchers. While tech development drives jobs in Silicon Valley, the majority of those jobs belong to service workers that serve meals and clean offices.

Silicon Valley Rising is poised to push the state of California to keep moving forward on labor and immigration standards, and to continue campaigns around employee rights, work-week rules and local minimum wage measures. The coalition is also working with employers to ensure that employees that work on the sprawling company campuses are protected from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities while on the job.

Tech employees—those considered the industry talent— recently joined service workers in a march in front of the data analytics company Palantir Technologies. The protest targeted Palantir’s involvement in technologies that could support Trump’s announced programs of mass deportation and “extreme vetting” of Muslim immigrants. Trump mega-donor Peter Thiel holds the largest share of the company, one of the world’s most valuable venture-capital-backed companies.

The tech workers’ message, says Fernandez, is that “’This is not how we want our talent to be used.’ That’s not the Silicon Valley they signed up for.”

Local action is critical, says Fernandez. Labor has won on wage and work standards in cities, and Trump administration policies will thwart gains at the federal level. “Cities have to be the centers of resistance.”

The University of California system exudes the same prosperous air as the tech sector—but grad students working here as teaching assistants, tutors and lab technicians at 10 campuses in the UC system can make as little as $18,000 annually.

The fight here concerns labor standards—but has other ramifications. Funding for research and research assistants is federal, says Anke Schennink, the president of United Auto Workers Local 5810, which represents 7,000 post-doctoral researchers in the UC system. “Most of our international students are on work visas, so we’re doing education and strategy discussions around what exactly is going on and what we can do.” The local works with the national UAW to press on protecting immigrant post-doc rights.

Schennink is an immigrant from the Netherlands where “a lot of power is in the hands of labor — strikes are a common thing, not unique.” Under-paid post-doctoral students are her rank-and-file but the union’s issues go beyond pay and working conditions, and the local is prepared to defend against attacks on immigrant rights and potential federal cuts that could decimate funding for climate science, clean energy and some medical research.

“We of course have to put together a legislative and political plan with Trump as a factor,” she says.  An October contract win that created family leave and other amenities has boosted union activism and the Trump victory has actually accelerated organizing.

The Oakland-based Local 3299 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union has a similar big-picture perspective. The local organizes front-line health-care staff members who answer phones and check in patients at UC’s 10 campuses, five medical centers and additional clinics, research laboratories and UC Hastings College of the Law. “The cuts to health care will be devastating to our members and leave millions without health care,” predicts Elizabeth Perlman, the local’s executive director.

For Perlman, guaranteeing worker rights in the Trump era means doubling down on the union’s information campaign in the face of anticipated right-to-work initiatives that are legislated from Congress or adjudicated by a Trump Supreme Court. This defensive war will require keeping in close touch with her local’s members, so “the union knows what’s important to them, what connects them to the union, who they are, where they work. It’s focus groups, it’s polling, it’s every piece of data we can collect.” The union, she says, must make hard assessments about how it connects with workers. If Supreme Court decisions give employees a choice as to whether to opt into the union, locals must work to find out what makes members value their union and be willing to participate and pay dues.

UC Berkeley’s Jacobs is encouraged by California’s innovation and energy, but remains cautious about predicting the national impact.

“We have incredible people [and] unions—if anybody can craft a solution it’s us. We should be clear-eyed that people need to fight the changes on a national level— we’re going to also have to figure out what to do as a state.”

(Bobbi Murray has reported on politics, economics, police reform and health-care issues for Los Angeles magazine, L.A. Weekly and The Nation. This piece was posted originally at Capital and Main.) Illustration by Lalo Alcaraz. –cw

ELECTION 2017-“What’s the biggest problem facing LA today, and what would you do to solve it?” That’s the question Mayor Garcetti answered last week in a groundbreaking, single-question interview with the LA Times

Groundbreaking?  

Check it out. You’ll know what we mean before you even hit “play.” 

It’s not what the Mayor says in the video but what surrounds him, which are videos of the other mayoral candidates -- eight of the ten, to be precise -- answering the same question. Finally a clean shot for Angelenos to recognize the candidates if they fall over one. 

And the mayoral videos are a hit.  

The 2012 televised mayoral debate posted on YouTube (in two videos) has been viewed collectively 2131 times, and that’s over the course of three years.  

By contrast, the eight, two-minute videos posted on the Times Opinion Facebook page have been viewed collectively 4130 times, and that’s after only ten days. (But that’s not because of the mayor, whose viewership is average.) 

The televised debate, meanwhile, was a disservice to the public, excluding every candidate except for “the Big Four” (“no comment”), based on a criterion the moderator could not bring himself to state on air and which cannot be found on the website to which he directed the audience. 

People are just excited to hear what the candidates have to say -- and they say really interesting things. We look forward to meeting them in person. 

All this is great, but it’s just a start. And heads up to the rest of the press because you’re about to have a scrum of mayoral candidates knocking on your door. Two minutes is the magic number. That’s all we need. However you want to do it.  

But we’ll be taking notes, so….

 

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

WESTWATER DTLA--Growing up in the 1960’s in the heart of Los Angeles, I experienced multiple different political movements and their demonstrations ranging from the civil rights protests to the Vietnam War protests.

Then, when I moved to DTLA (Downtown Los Angeles) in the 1990’s to help revitalize the heart of our city, instead of moving to the Arts District as my friends expected me to, I instead chose the area around 5th and Spring.

It was then a decaying old neighborhood that, one hundred years earlier, had been the most important corner in DTLA and the heart of the city. But it was then just a half-block from 5th and Main - a notorious corner that was the entrance to Skid Row as well as being the heart of the largest drug selling district in the world.

And others then too soon came to this area to help fix the heart of our city - and the people living in it. And - in a less than two years, a couple dozen of us who made what happened here, happen the way it happened - had all arrived. And while we had never met before, we were soon all working together.

I bring this up because 5th & Spring ended up being exactly half-way between Tom Gilmore's Old Bank District next to 4th & Main and Izek Shomof's Spring Street district between 6th and 7th and that meant the old heart of the old city had also became the new heart of the new city.

And that helps explain why the starting point of the Woman's March was in Pershing Square. Located just one block west of 5th and Spring, Pershing Square is the oldest park in LA and it had long been a free speech center of the city.

Our neighborhood is also a hub for demonstrations since City Hall and the County, State and Federal buildings are all just a few marching blocks away (as is the LA Times) and a subway entrance is a block away from 5th and Spring, directly across from Pershing Square. And 5th and Spring is also where the Spring Arts Tower has the largest book store in California, the world famous The Last Bookstore.

And that is why the Woman's March first gathered and then started to march from Pershing Square.

And those are the same reasons practically every single march, protest or demonstration in DTLA passes either through or within a half-block of the corner of 5th & Spring.

That then brings us to yesterday's march and what made it unique.

But before I answer one part of your question, I should state I have been politically involved and involved in community affairs since, at least, the age of five.

But I have never once marched in demonstrations or gone into the streets to protest. I have always felt my time was better spent doing the less glamorous and less exciting day to day details of helping make things better.

That, however, doesn't mean I don't - fully and totally - support the rights of people who wish to show what they oppose and what they approve of, through public demonstrations, as long as they remain non-violent. (Though I must confess, back when we were ruled by an overseas King, my ancestors were among those UI who fired the first shots of the Revolutionary War at both the bridges of Lexington and Concord. But things were a bit different then)

So to answer the bulk of your question, yes I feel the demonstrators had legitimate reasons to show the rest of the nation what they were concerned about and what they supported.

And they tried to be on their best behavior as guests in our neighborhood. And that was a first for this neighborhood.

And, yes I agree there was far more of a sense of joy about their coming together here then there was despair over what they feared might happen.

And, yes I agree, many of them came here to have a good time and to enjoy themselves as much as they came out to protest.

But I don't think that in any way discredited their motives. If anything, it showed that these demonstrators were not just the usual suspects, and that they also represented those who don't normally march in the streets.

And, lastly, I will soon be posting more specific details and descriptions of yesterday's events and what may happen next.

 

(Brady Westwater is a writer and a longtime contributor to CityWatch. He is president of Westwater Films and Media. This perspective was posted first at Quora.com and is used here with the permission of the author.)

-cw

GUEST WORDS--On Saturday, I was proud to join with millions of my sisters in California and across the country to march and make clear that we have the power to advance an agenda rooted in equality, justice, and tolerance for all. It was an extraordinary day where millions of women proved we cannot be dismissed or written off to the sidelines.

I had the privilege of speaking briefly to the more than half a million people who came to Washington, D.C. for the March. Here’s what I told them: while they may have taken the House, the Senate, and the White House, they have not and cannot take away our power.

We have the power to stop this administration from targeting communities of color and deporting millions of people who have known no other home than the United States.

We have the power to create a more perfect union where the law finally guarantees equal pay for equal work, no matter your gender or race.

We have the power to defend women’s reproductive rights and the millions of women who would be left without care if Planned Parenthood is defunded by the Republicans.

We have the power to save the Affordable Care Act and our social contract from policies that would leave millions of people without access to quality and affordable health insurance.

Yesterday was the beginning of a movement where millions of women (and men) rose up to challenge lawmakers in Washington who are trying to take us backward. This movement knows that the arc of the universe is slow, but it bends toward justice -- and it is now our responsibility to continue our work and bend it ourselves.

Remember that your voice is your power. You cannot effect change if you sit on the sidelines waiting for someone else to solve the problems facing your community. Whether you were able to participate in the march yesterday or not, we need you to dig deep from here on out to take ownership of the future ahead of us.

We are stronger when we raise our voices together -- and that is precisely what we did yesterday. When people of all ages, colors, religions, and backgrounds come together, unified in our collective struggle for justice, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.

Let’s make yesterday a beginning. Stay involved -- and we will win this fight in the end. Thank you.

(Kamala Harris is US Senator for California and former California Attorney General. She can be reached here.

-cw

@THE GUSS REPORT-The problem with one particular McMansion currently being built in Sherman Oaks is not that it towers head and shoulders above the houses to its north, the ones to its south, and all the houses across from it on the west side of the street except for one equally obese McMansion. 

The problem is that its garage also reaches far lower into the ground because it is subterranean, accessed by a deeply sloping driveway. (Photo above) This is a singularly unique feature when compared to a concentric circle of the 500 nearest single family homes.

Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, who authored the city’s porous and ineffective moratorium on McMansions, refused to personally answer direct questions about the property, but denied through a staffer any responsibility for its permit because at the time it was issued, this address was not yet covered by the moratorium. It originally only insulated some communities, including several in the San Fernando Valley…but not this one.

Torn down to make room for the massive McMansion monstrosity was this 1479 square foot, 2-bedroom, 1.75 bath house previously on the lot since 1950.  

The old house sold for an astonishing $620,000 in February 2015. The moratorium was approved in March 2015. A permit for the teardown and construction was not finalized until September 2015. But this particular address was not protected by the moratorium until June 29, 2016, according to Koretz’s office. And the actual teardown and construction did not start until around that date. 

Koretz’s challengers in the upcoming primary point to this situation as another deliberate Koretz failure, influenced by developer money. 

One of those opponents, Jesse Creed, says, “Koretz always takes the easy route through hasty motions and legislative fixes that are worth only the paper they are written on. The toughest issue is under-enforcement, which Koretz has failed to address. This situation of under-enforcement is the developers' dream. Neighbors in my neighborhood, Beverly Grove, have complained to me of houses that are as large as the ones the new rules were supposed to eliminate.” Creed has been endorsed in the race by former LA City Controller Laura Chick. 

Another Koretz opponent, Mark Herd, says, “[Koretz’s] McMansion ordinance had a major garage loophole, and yes it was intentional….I’m sure the past will repeat itself if there’s money in it.” Of these three candidates, Herd is the only one who, to date, supports Measure S, an anti-development ballot effort that has long been a thorn in Koretz’ side. 

“Unbelievable,” a decades-long resident of the neighborhood said while looking at the construction as children played and parents chatted. “It doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. It sticks out like a mall parking garage.”

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EDITOR’S PICK—(Editor’s Note: You can mix your castor oil with orange juice or vodka but it still makes you gag. The same can be said for corruption at Los Angeles City Hall. You can call it ‘soft corruption’ or ‘moral corruption’ or ‘business as usual’ but the gagging part doesn’t go away. As this guest column mentions, some try to blame pay-to-pay on outdated LA’s Community Plans. We’re not buying it. Taking money … in any form and by any circuitous process from developers whose projects you’re about to vote on is wrong. And, if it weren’t, it’s stupid and clearly demonstrates that you think the people of Los Angeles are fools. Austin Beutner … former member of the LA 2020 Commission … have some thoughts on how we can put a lid on this pay-to-play. It’s worth the 10 minutes it will take you to consider what he had to say.)

A mysterious developer bundles large sums of money from suspicious donors and contributes it to the campaigns of the mayor and several City Council members who then approve, over the unanimous objections of the City Planning Commission, City Hall staff and much of the surrounding community, a controversial real estate project called Sea Breeze. Tammany Hall circa 1870? A remake of “Chinatown”? How about Los Angeles City Hall in 2017.

Allegations of wrongdoing surround the Sea Breeze project are serious enough to spark an investigation by the Los Angeles County district attorney. While many of the allegations involve potential violations of campaign finance laws, what about the elephant in the corner of the room? How did Los Angeles become a place where monied developers can build whatever they want without regard to existing laws or the wishes of the community?

The math on Sea Breeze is simple. The developer’s land in LA’s Harbor Gateway neighborhood was worth about $17 million zoned for industrial use. He donated $600,000, got his land rezoned for residential use and, like magic, the next day it was worth $42 million. Most people have to drive to Morongo to try and turn $600,000 into a $25 million profit overnight.

Los Angeles’ outdated zoning rules and poor planning processes are at the root of this issue. State law requires cities to maintain general plans, which must be updated every five years. The Los Angeles General Plan includes 35 separate community plans that establish legal land-use parameters for the city’s neighborhoods, plus one each for the Port of Los Angeles and Los Angeles International Airport. Unfortunately, most of these community plans have not been updated in 20 years or more. Despite City Hall’s rhetoric about zoning reform and a vision for the future, the plans remain hopelessly out of date.

What happens when Los Angeles tries to move forward with outdated plans? Requests for “updates” — zoning and planning variances — land in the hands of the 15 City Council members. They more or less have the authority to ignore the old rules and decide what projects will be built in their districts, subject to sign-off by the mayor. No project of any consequence can move forward without these approvals.

This “spot-zoning” system gives those who can afford to fill campaign coffers outsized influence over the size, shape and location of new developments in the city, with average Angelenos left out of the backroom cycle of monied interests and City Hall politicians. Is it any wonder developers are the biggest donors to City Hall?

Why is the city gifting $25 million to the Sea Breeze developer and getting back nothing, save for the $600,000 in campaign contributions to a few politicians?

The city and county are raising sales tax rates for funds to address the issues of homelessness and transportation infrastructure in our community. Both issues need to be solved, and it will cost money. But why is so much of the burden falling on the working poor? Won’t property owners benefit from better transportation infrastructure to serve their buildings, and a community with fewer homeless people? Developers already have the benefit of the bargain in Los Angeles, as real estate here is taxed at rates meaningfully less than comparable property in New York.

Is what happened at Sea Breeze unlawful? That’s for the DA to decide. By any moral standard, it is wrong and it’s a terrible waste of economic opportunity for the city. Let’s assume the project should have been approved on its merits and had the support of the community. We know the developer would have paid the City at least $600,000 to get Sea Breeze approved, same as what he gave to the politicians. But he still walked away with $24.4 million in profit, all due to the stroke of a pen in City Hall. Seems pretty obvious the city could get a better deal.

The solution to this:

  • Update the city’s community plans. The city should embark on a serious effort to make sure its plans reflect the needs of a city of the future and the input of the community. This will greatly reduce the casino atmosphere in City Hall.
  • Restrict the ability of developers to buy favors from City Hall. Several years ago, the Securities and Exchange Commission imposed strict limits on how Wall Street firms and their employees, family members and agents could contribute to city and state politics. L.A. should adopt the same rules and apply them to developers.
  • Get a better deal from developers. The city should implement a program to capture for public coffers some portion of the value from the “up-zoning” on large, new projects. This will provide funds to address high-priority needs like homelessness and transportation infrastructure.

The Sea Breeze project and others like it should be a wake-up call. We deserve a transparent and equitable way for land-use decisions to be made in our community. And we deserve to see the benefits reinvested in city services and public infrastructure, not just the pockets of developers and their elected friends.

(Austin Beutner Founder and Chairman of Vision To Learn and former member of the LA 2020 Commission. This perspective was posted earlier at Huff Post.) 

-cw

CORRUPTION WATCH-The reason Los Angeles housing prices are outrageously high will never published by the LA Weekly, the LA Times or any other news outlet. You can be sure you will never hear it from KNBC’s Channel 4's Conan Nolan, Garcetti’s sycophant extraordinaire. Los Angeles residential real estate does not sell for its value as Living Space but rather for the hyped-up value as a Speculative Investment. The result is that Los Angeles homeowners pay a huge Corruption Tax

In 2006, Gail Goldberg, then LA’s Director of Planning, warned Eric Garcetti against allowing developers to buy the zoning they wanted rather than allowing the law to set the rules. Eric Garcetti completely ignored Director Goldberg

A developer knows he can buy five R-1 homes and then “bribe” for then to be up-zoned to multi-family, allowing him to build 30 to 60 apartments. Sure, he may have to pay an additional $10,000 to $25,000 to Mayor Garcetti’s Fund and kick down some more favors to the councilmember, but in Los Angeles, the developer, and not the law, sets the zoning for land. 

The Need for Families to Park Their Wealth 

If you’re a Family Millennial, you are looking for somewhere to “park” your wealth. Part of everyone’s income needs to be set aside and not consumed for day to day expenses. The question is, where to park one’s income? 

The Pros of Cons of Traditional Places to Park Your Wealth 

Bank accounts do not pay enough interest to make them a good place to park savings long-term. Stocks do well, but in a market rigged for the high-end traders, it’s a serious risk. In the Crash of 2008, some once “ultra-safe” stocks like Hartford Insurance lost over 90% of their value. Whole life insurance can be a very safe place to park cash, provided you deal with an insurance company that is admitted to do business in New York State. If one does not prematurely die, Whole Life Insurance will have accumulated considerable cash value by retirement time and that can become a safeguard in old age. Millions of Americans, however, park most their money in their homes. 

Traditionally, home values tend to increase over time, at least enough to keep up with inflation. The mortgages are usually paid off before retirement, which means seniors can live “rent free” except for property taxes and special assessments. In 1950, the average age to get married was 22.8 years old for men and 20.3 for women. By the year 2000, those ages had increased to 26.8 for males and 25.1 for females. After the Crash of 2008, the age at which the young started families increased to 29 for males and 27 for females (2013 data.) These figures are important because they show that people are starting families and their economic planning about seven years later than the Baby Boomers did. That leaves them less time to accumulate income for old age. 

While typical Baby Boomers will have paid off their 30-year mortgages when they are in their early fifties, most of today’s Millennials will be in their late 50s or early 60s when they finish their mortgage payments. 

When Baby Boomers, many of whom are about to retire, originally put into their homes, it was based on the homes’ value as Living Space. Now, in areas like Los Angeles, the prices of new homes are no longer based on Living Space value but on the Speculative Value to a developer. This is one facet of the disaster which Gail Goldberg foresaw. When developers can just purchase the zoning they want, they know that buying in an R-1 or R-2 area is cheaper than buying into areas which already have been up-zoned. Thus, it makes sense to buy-up detached homes. Their payments to the Mayor’s Fund and to the councilmembers will achieve whatever up-zoning the developer needs. 

In a City not based on corruption, developers would know that zoning sets the property’s use; they would not even try to buy R-1 properties. Had Garcetti heeded Gail Goldberg, today’s families could afford to purchase homes based on their value as Living Space. 

Los Angeles’ Millennial Family has to compete against developers who will bid up the price of a detached home based on its Speculative Value. Even if the family could outbid a developer today, it has to realize that tomorrow another developer can come along and buy up five or ten nearby homes and, after contributing to Garcetti’s Mayor Fund, be able to have the land up-zoned for a four-story condo project overlooking that family’s backyard. 

Residences Purchased on their Speculative Value Result in a Crash 

As more Family Millennials re-locate away from Los Angeles, reality begins to sneak into the housing market. There are fewer people to rent these new apartments or buy those new condos in the sky. 

The birth rate of the Millennials peaked twenty-five years ago. Thus, each year there will be fewer young Millennials moving into dense urban areas. While Los Angeles’ birth rate is currently high enough to out-pace deaths and the flight of the Family Millennials, LA’s birth rate is still dropping. (This is inevitable since the Family Millennials leaving are in the child-bearing age range.) 

Why Economists Fear “Corruptionism” 

There are two types of inflation: There is the normal slow upwards creep of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Since it is slow, people can adjust to a creeping rise in consumer prices and employers can afford to pay their employees a little more so that, over all, the system remains in equilibrium. 

But Los Angeles experiences another type of inflation in the form “corruptionism” which introduces hyper-inflation into the housing market. As we have pointed out, a combination of destroying the homes of poor people and the re-valuation of residential properties for their Speculative Value have resulted in a huge increase in the cost of LA housing – an increase which reflects no increase in actual value. The housing market is based on Speculation, so rents increase in response to price increases based on that Speculation. But employers cannot afford to pay higher wages just because their employees are over paying for mortgages and rents. When housing costs jump 7% in one year, no employer can increase all his employees’ salaries by 7%.   

The increase of housing costs does not reflect an increase in the actual value of these properties as living spaces. A three-bedroom craftsman built in 1920 is not worth any more as Living Space today than it was in 1920, 1960 or 1970. Yet, when one looks at the current mortgages, one sees a monthly mortgage of about $4,000/month on a $900,000 home. Adjusted for inflation, the monthly mortgage in 2017 based on Living Space should be less than $2,000. 

Angeleno Homeowners and Renters Pay a Monthly Corruption Tax 

That means the homeowner or renter is paying over $2,000/month as a “corruption tax.” That is the amount an LA family has to pay to the bank over and above the increase of the CPI. That extra mortgage money paid each month represents no additional value to the property.   

Suppose all the money the homeowner paid in LA Corruption Tax had been invested in the stock market. Let’s be very conservative and assume that the corruption tax is only $10,000 per year. If that money had been invested in 2009, it would show a rate return of 14.315% (not adjusted for CPI inflation.) In other words, a $10,000 stock market investment in 2009 has become $14,315. In ten years, the homeowner would have an extra $140,000! 

We can all figure out our own Corruption Tax rate and how much money we would have if we had been able to invest that money in the stock market. 

Of course, we will all face the financial nightmare when corruption in the housing market again brings down the rest of the economy. That is likely to wipe out stock portfolios as well. The irony is that the closer we get to a crash, the more we should park money in insured federal bank deposits. Unlike equity in a home or stocks, those dollars do not disappear in a crash. In other words, an increase in insured savings is a hedge against the next crash. 

As Keynes knew, liquidity of capital is important to the individual. When the crash starts, you cannot get cash from your non-liquid assets fast enough to save yourself. Thus, money in government insured bank deposits can save a middle class family. But first, that family cannot have parked all its wealth in its home. The only way to avoid that financial trap is to buy a home in states like Texas or Utah or Georgia or Colorado. That way a family does not pay the LA Corruption Tax and has enough money to diversity its investments.

 

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

ALPERN AT LARGE--We just saw a huge (yuuuuge?) turnout in Downtown LA (and throughout the nation) to let our new President know he was on notice to represent all citizens and constituencies of our nation.  So why does our City Council get away with treating ITS citizens and constituencies like lower life forms?   

Measure S allows us to have our own local turnout to serve the Mayor and the City Council that THEY, like our new President, is on notice to represent ALL of us. 

The LA Downtown Establishment, the Planning Politburo, the Developer Elites, and the Density Hawks are all ready to send us straight to an unlivable, environmentally-nightmarish, and family-unfriendly City of Los Angeles. 

Oh, those pesky taxpayers and ratepayers.  Give us an LADWP Ratepayer Bill of Rights while overcharging us in order to indirectly get that illicit cash to the City of Los Angeles General Budget! 

Talk to us about raising taxes while spending our taxes poorly and hurting us with initiatives that don't fulfill the intentions of those tax hikes. 

Supposedly, the upcoming Measure S "befuddles" candidates--and 10 out of 14 sitting City Councilmembers and our Mayor have come out against Measure S. 

And developers are "howling" over an end to spot zoning of oversized projects, while they KNOW DAMN WELL they could build aplenty along our major commercial corridors an ocean of 2-4 story livable projects with sufficient affordable housing and parking and infrastructure mitigations to the community.  

Unfortunately our "anti-Trump" "progressive" City Council only backs down when the taxpaying, voting citizens of our City raise a hoopla--like Paul Koretz did when developer Rick Caruso tried to ram an oversized project into the Beverly Center area. 

And now our LA Times, which has supported overdevelopment (to hell with true environmental and sustainable development!) as "progress" for years suddenly comes up with the idea of banning developer contributions to City Hall ... 

... because the Times, the Downtown Elites, and the Planning Politburo know that the process is rigged, favoring big money and sending the taxpayers of our City straight to hell.  We can scream and be ignored. 

  • Until Measure S became a reality.
  • Homeless advocates:  For Measure S.
  • Affordable housing advocates:  For Measure S.
  • Environmental advocates:  For Measure S.
  • Neighborhood advocates:  For Measure S. 

Measure S is NOT cruel.  It demands that City Hall and the Planning Department obey its own laws, and that they cannot thwart the rule of law and the laws of physics to support oversized development "for the greater good" or "for overriding considerations" of whatever nonsensical tripe that can be thrown into the faces of the rest of us...who have to obey and uphold the law! 

We CAN make more affordable housing.  We CAN obey the law.  We CAN create livable and environmentally-sustainable neighborhoods. 

And the City of Los Angeles can learn to represent us and obey the laws.  It's a doggone pity it had to take Measure S to do it, but at this point it's the only chance we have to ensure that City Hall represents its own constituents and obey its laws. 

Vote YES on Measure S, and reclaim the City of Los Angeles as YOUR city, too!

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties.  He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  alpern@marvista.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.) 

-cw

GELFAND’S WORLD-Los Angeles Times journalists were forbidden by their management to attend Saturday's enormous demonstration against racism and misogyny. Presumably this edict did not apply to reporters who were assigned to the story, but it did ban everyone else on the staff. Normal people who haven't attended journalism school may find this a bit incomprehensible. If the KKK were marching through Silverlake, would Times employees who live there be forbidden from standing on the sidewalk and jeering? Apparently they would be. 

I would like to suggest that the Times action, although based on an old and honored principle, went too far. I would also like to suggest that the whole underlying philosophical structure that supports this sort of ruling needs to be reassessed because it is causing modern newspaper journalism to fail us. 

What is that underlying principle? The Times management used that old term objectivity to explain their reasoning. You can read about it in Kevin Roderick's piece from LA Observed in which Times representative Marc Duvoisin wrote: 

"The Women’s March on Washington and related events in Los Angeles and around the country will take place Saturday, and a number of newsroom staffers have asked if it is OK for them to participate. 

"In keeping with the LA Times’ long-standing ethics guidelines, the answer is no. Times journalists who are not covering these events should not participate in them. 

"Under our ethics guidelines, we are all obliged to refrain from public expressions of our personal political views, in order to safeguard The Times’ objectivity in fact as well as appearance." 

The idea seems to be that newspapers like the Times feel the need to be seen as honest and honorable to a fault. On a big city daily newspaper, no reporter should bring a personal interest, either emotional or financial, to an investigation, as that direction leads to biased stories. Everybody is supposed to be the reincarnation of Detective Joe Friday from Dragnet: "All we want are the facts, ma'am." 

At the level of simple facts, there is a lot to be said for journalistic objectivity. It's important to avoid printing that Joe Smith was arrested for DUI when it was, in fact, Joe Jones. It is important to quote people accurately and to avoid making accusations without careful fact checking. 

This approach to journalistic care evolved over time. By the time I started writing for The American Reporter, the editor explained to me that before I could report that someone had likely committed a crime, it was my duty to give that person a call. Even in the most obvious cases, it was my responsibility to give the subject a chance to defend himself. The rule goes wider than this, basically to all disputes, both criminal and civil. If you accuse Jones of hitting Smith, then you have to give Jones a chance to respond. 

That's an aspect of so-called objective journalism that is defensible. Our criminal justice system guarantees the right to respond to accusations. There is no reason that journalism should be less careful. 

There is a problem though. Not everyone is honest. Some people being interviewed are not credible. Some responses are grossly illogical and some are clearly and obviously contrary to facts. 

For example, the problem comes to a head when people arguing against the science of vaccination use grossly inaccurate allegations knitted together with illogic. Up until a couple of years ago, reporters took statements from both sides of the vaccine argument and treated them more or less equally. The story would be balanced in terms of pros and cons, even though there is a mass of evidence (and a mass of expert opinion) that vastly tends towards one side rather than the other. Out of this, the defenders of science have developed the term "false balance" to describe the old fashioned (and lazy) way that such stories used to be handled. 

When it comes to journalism, politics can be a lot more difficult to write than science, because politics allows for value judgments. Opposing candidates may disagree on tax policy without necessarily doing damage to the facts. One candidate believes in spending tax dollars on public services while the other believes in protecting taxpayers from rate increases. 

So far so good. Objective journalism calls for providing the statements of both candidates, as opposed to presenting the words of the person you like better or, alternately, glorifying the person who is going to hire your nephew when he gets elected. 

Now listen very closely. That system is fine, but it's based on a world in which big city daily newspapers had a lot of clout. They helped get people elected and once in a while they helped get somebody defeated or even sent to prison. It was considered OK to send somebody to prison by exposing the facts, and not OK to try to send somebody to prison using a lot of made-up lies. 

But we're in a different world. The Los Angeles Times is competing with Fox News and the National Enquirer. They are mostly not competing for advertisers but they are competing for an audience and, critically important, they are competing in trying to present their particular world views. 

Let's consider the assertion that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. The story had supporters in the tabloids and in snarky remarks made on Fox News. According to the old tenets of objective journalism, a newspaper like the Times would be careful to review the facts, provide documents and statements made to reporters, and treat the issue as done as of that point. 

Meanwhile, the big lie was circulated and repeated on a thousand talk radio stations and by the tabloids and Fox News. 

And this is where the big city dailies have failed us. At a certain point, the assertions of the birthers (as they were called) became the story. The misstatements and illogical assertions that made up birtherism had been debunked -- they were not taken seriously by logical thinkers -- but the liars kept lying and the big lie continued to circulate. 

The real story was the violation done to journalism itself in the interest of a nasty form of partisan politics. The dailies treated this national big lie as outside of the boundaries of the objective journalism they were willing to engage in. 

There is another point of view developing. Talking Points Memo refers us to a speech given by a journalist named Dan Gillmore. Speaking to an international group in Barcelona, he argued that journalists must become activists. The full text of his speech is fairly long, but the gist is that freedom of the press and of speech are in jeopardy, and journalists have to defend them. Gillmor argues that journalists need to be activists. 

The Gillmor speech and the actions of the LA Times are directly contradictory. Gillmor presents a model of journalists as critical thinkers who work to unearth the facts and to present them while in all cases maintaining their own integrity and self respect. Journalists are expected to have principles of their own and to directly defend the principles that deal with educating the public as to the real facts. 

It's a little hard to take that heroic view of journalism as a profession and as a calling, and then explain to your staff that they can't even make a personal statement against bigotry. The vision of the newspaper employee as political eunuch comes to mind. 

The Times ban against participating in a demonstration meant to defend personal and reproductive freedom is just one symptom of the problem. 

The right wing has a giant apparatus determined to destroy the ability of the newspapers to teach what is true. That's why the right wingers constantly refer to liberal bias in newspapers. They feel the need to tear down legitimate news in order to get away with the lies they tell. 

The newspapers sort of respond -- not by embracing the idea of a healthy and constructive liberalism or even a healthy and constructive conservatism -- but by denying that any staff member suffers anything close to a political thought. 

Meanwhile, the right wing opposition is nothing but political, and revels in it. 

Until the big city newspapers recognize that they are in a fight not only for advertising dollars but for defining peoples' world view, they are on the losing side. 

The old joke is that reality has a liberal bias. It came out of the recognition that conservatism has denied such straightforward truths as evolution and global warming. 

To newspapers I say, why not embrace your bias towards real truth and allow your stories to bring out the fact that Trump's staff are lying outright to the public? 

I think we can see some of that attitude coming out in the online community. It's only been three days since the inauguration, and the amazing propensity of Trump spokesmen such as Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway to lie brazenly is becoming a bigger story than the substance of what they are actually saying. 

Conway has already coined the phrase that may ultimately be best remembered from the Trump years, alternative facts. Here we are, less than a week into Trump's first term (OK, just wanted to see if you were listening) and Conway has already created her own version of Hiking the Appalachian Trail. Who knows what she'll create in week number two? 

It's time that the so-called objective sources including the Times take up the real story, the objective fact that the right wing leadership has made it a practice of telling lies chronically and without moral concern. Conway's defense of "alternative facts" should be the only clue we need. 

It should be perfectly acceptable for a political story to make clear that a politician lied to the reporter. More importantly, it should be the obligation of legitimate news sources such as the Times to develop an ongoing storyline about how the right wing outlets such as Fox are misrepresenting the facts and misleading the public.

 

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

-cw

ANIMAL WATCH-Priscilla Romero, a beloved and respected ten-year veteran Animal Care Technician (ACT) at LAAS North Central shelter, credits the heroic and selfless efforts of her coworkers with saving her life when she was viciously attacked by a Pit Bull on January 14. Without hesitation, they ran to her rescue, risking their own safety -- knowing they could also become victims. 

The following is how Priscilla remembers this horrific event from her hospital bed, augmented by the emotional memories of shelter employees who were on duty that morning. 

As is customary on Saturday mornings, there had been early visitors in the kennels looking at dogs for adoption or searching for lost pets. However, by around 10:30 a.m. members of the public walking in the kennels had diminished, leaving no one in the immediate area to hear Priscilla’s screams for help. 

Priscilla entered a kennel at the back of the shelter which housed a female grey-and-white Pit Bull, named Cielo. She tried to isolate the dog in a separate area, but the mechanism to keep the metal gate lowered and in place was defective (as are many in the shelter, according to employees.) Since the dog seemed calm and was standing quietly near her, Priscilla scooped the feces from the floor and reached for the hose to wash the kennel.

Without warning, the Pit Bull lunged at her, clamping onto her right arm, disabling her from reaching her holstered radio to call for help and pulling her to the floor. The dog then attacked her left arm, tearing out large chunks of flesh and muscle. 

Because of the loud barking of dogs alarmed by the attack, Priscilla's screams could not be heard at the front of the shelter where most other staff was working. Fortunately, two male ACT's were approaching the area at that time. They heard her cries and saw her covered in blood, struggling on the floor as the dog relentlessly bit and shredded her arm.

As they ran to her, one made a radio "distress" call for assistance. Other ACT’s and the Kennel Supervisor immediately rushed to help, calling 911 and bringing a "catch" pole. The first ACT's were trying unsuccessfully to physically separate the dog from Priscilla, but it kept circling back to attack her and charge them. The Supervisor then arrived with another employee and used the pole to capture the dog. 

Seeing blood flowing profusely from Priscilla's upper left arm, Kennel Supervisor Garens Lloyd quickly used a dog leash to create a tourniquet and apply it tightly above her wounds. Two male ACT's removed their shirts and covered her arms to soak up the blood and also, so she would not see the severity of the attack. 

Paramedics arrived shortly and commended Garens for his quick action. The doctor later said the tourniquet was done perfectly. One fireman commented that Priscilla’s injuries looked like a "shark attack."

Priscilla was admitted to the hospital in critical condition. She underwent emergency surgery that lasted over five hours. Both arms are bandaged from her fingers to her shoulders. From photos, it appears her entire left biceps are gone. She was hospitalized for six days and may need numerous reconstructive surgeries. 

Where was Brenda Barnette? 

No one from LAAS management visited Priscilla at the hospital, although shelter employees from the Valley to the Harbor came. GM Brenda Barnette called Priscilla’s cell phone the day after the attack, saying, “I’m checking in to see how you're doing” and left a short, awkward, dispassionate message, which did not include "I’m sorry this happened to you." 

Brenda Barnette doesn't seem to think employee injuries are serious incidents. At the last LA Animal Services Commission Meeting on January 10, GM Barnette laughed as she described the injury to an LA Animal Services Officer attacked by an aggressive Pit Bull while responding to a call. She laughed again as she announced a second injury when the officer was later attacked by a 160-pound dog and had to fight for his life. This is not the first time GM Barnette -- who has no animal control experience--chuckled about an employee being attacked in the shelter or field. 

LAAS Commission, Council and Mayor Also Ignore Dangers to Employees 

The Commission, which heads LA Animal Services, has never questioned Barnette's inappropriate reaction and dismissal of the dangers to her employees. Neither has the Commission, Councilman Paul Koretz, the SEIU union, nor the Mayor's office insisted that corrections be made to many documented safety hazards at LAAS shelters or that faulty field equipment be repaired or replaced. LAAS  employees are still driving 2001 and 2003 trucks that LA City's Director of Fleet Services, Richard Coulson reported to Koretz’ PAW Committee in Sept. 2015 were “falling apart."  

Another example of faulty equipment and poor management was the attack on a night-shift female Animal Control Officer, who responded to a call about two attacking Pit Bulls in Eagle Rock. The ACO captured one of the 90-lb. dogs (later identified as American Bulldogs) but the other bit her leg and wrist causing serious bleeding. There was no ACO back-up on night shift, her radio emergency button “went nowhere,” and no one answered the shelter phone. Luckily, a witness called 911. 

Attacks by Pit Bulls Available for Adoption 

There are frequent reports of attacks by dogs with a recorded history of aggression adopted from LA City shelters, and numerous tearful accounts of pets being almost instantly attacked or killed. There is also a history of incidents involving humans: 

"Cielo" 

Cielo, the female Pit Bull that attacked ACT Priscilla Romero had two prior entries regarding aggression. Also, she was surrendered on Oct. 16, 2016, because she attacked other dogs. Still, she was being offered for adoption to the public. Since the real world is filled with “other dogs,” why isn’t known background information clearly described on a kennel card for prospective adopters to read?  

On Oct. 27, ACT Romero wrote that the dog bit her finger, but didn’t break the skin. On Nov. 12 another ACT noted, "BE CAUTIOUS OF THIS DOG---DOG WILL GROWL, BARE TEETH AND TRIES TO BITE AS I’M TRYING TO OPEN THE KENNEL DOOR TO PICK UP EMPTY FOOD BOWL." Wouldn’t you want to know this before taking the dog home? 

Keeping behavioral records in the computer only is unfair to employees, who do not have time to check each dog for new information every day. There is no method at LAAS kennels to discover that a new negative behavioral warning has been entered, as at other shelters. Could this be because euthanizing dangerous animals would belie Brenda Barnette’s and Best Friends’ “no kill” claims? 

“Albert” 

On Oct. 23, 2015, a stray blue-and-white male Pit Bull was impounded at the West LA shelter and named "Albert." On August 11, 2016, a man saw Albert and wanted to test his reaction to his daughter before adopting him. Albert seriously bit and injured the 8-year-old child, “… during an introduction to the family in the shelter’s play yard." A critical incident report filing was made. 

A Jan. 14, 2016, note on Albert predicted problems: “This dog is an escape artist….I would use caution around this dog, requires a very strong handler. WILL BITE WHEN IN KENNEL.” Why was Albert offered eight months later to a family with a child? 

On Aug. 30, 2016 -- nineteen days after that attack -- Albert was still at the WLA shelter, with the comment, “No owner information, no interested parties, no networking being done on Albert. Euthanasia scheduled.” Why was Albert still available for release to anyone after a critical attack on a child? And why are taxpayers paying for these prolonged stays for unadoptable animals? 

“Sammy” 

On  April 28, 2016, a Pit Bull surrendered as “Sodam” (renamed “Sammy”) with-a-violent-history of repeated-aggression, and who had just bitten an LAAS kennel worker in the abdomen, was released to NovaStar Rescue at the personal instruction of LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette.

However, the Hayden Bill does not require the release of surrendered animals to rescues. 

On May 15, 2016, LA Fire Department and LAPD responded to an unkempt home near downtown LA at approximately 9 p.m., where a Pit Bull was attacking a woman who “was visiting dog to determine if she wants to adopt from the rescue who had been fostering the dog.” That dog was later identified by LA Animal Services as Impound #1608123, “Sammy.” 

Sammy was alive but had been stabbed 19 times by a neighbor who heard the victim screaming.

Warehousing Aggressive Pit Bulls 

LAAS employees have expressed on-going concerns about prolonged warehousing of, especially, Pit Bulls, in the City's six shelters, where confinement and isolation increases the animals' hopelessness, frustration and aggression. Many of the Pit Bulls shown on the LAAS site have been caged for months or over a year. Why? These dogs are miserable. They are not adoptable and they take up space that could allow dozens of dogs to find new homes during that same period.

Nothing in California law requires dogs that have exhibited aggressive or dangerous behavior to be offered for adoption to individuals or families where they may attack/kill humans or other pets. But Brenda and Best Friends are determined to reach a metric called "no kill." If the dogs die from injuries or illness, they are not counted in the shelter's euthanasia stats. 

Are dog attacks just "business as usual" at LA Animal Services? 

Here is an email to Mayor Garcetti by an employee who was present when ACT Priscilla Romero was attacked. Although the writer’s name has been removed, the despair obviously is beyond caring about retaliation. This feeling is increasingly permeating Los Angeles Animal Services: 

 

Date: January 14, 2017 at 12:04:24 PM PST
To:
mayor.garcetti@lacity.org
Subject: Dog mauling city employee 

            You have a serious problem within Animal Services starting and ending with Brenda [Barnette]. An hour ago a fellow employee was wheeled into the medical room, in shock, with a tourniquet on her left arm, pale as a ghost, and with tissue strewn across her chest. Employees also in shock, some crying.  Paramedics responded quickly and rushed her to the hospital.  

            The lack of response of your office, the negligence, and the dereliction that starts as your responsibility is atrocious. You should be ashamed, as this person is a friend and a good employee. Our response from our AGM after being notified and asked to temporarily close the shelter, was that 'dog bites happen all the time.' To be clear there are dog bites, and I've bandaged them, but this was a mauling. 

            This mauling, as most are now a days, was predictable. You the mayor, with the goal of "save them all" have increased and, in fact, demanded that the nature of employee's being attacked, is acceptable. Our kennels are full, dogs are in inappropriate cages, aggressive dogs are held perpetually until our statistics show that we euthanized one less dog than last year.  

            Our general manager isn't here. Why not? If I firefighter was injured on duty, or an officer shot, would the commander tell them "buck up, it's a function of your job, get back to work?" Or would they show leadership and understanding and go to the hospital to personally show their condolences. 

            This department is ridiculous and it's happening under your auspices. This time around I imagine the city will be sued, as this dog has previous memos of its aggressive nature and was otherwise placed in a public area.

(Signed by employee)

I'm sorry if this is bad form, but I'm slightly traumatized by this as well.

 

Time for a Grand Jury Investigation 

It is time for a grand jury to investigate why “no kill” is more important to the Mayor, Council and Brenda Barnette than protecting humans, ensuring the welfare of employees like Priscilla Romero, and safeguarding children and pets from aggressive/fighting-breed dogs. It also needs to determine the total cost of "no kill" to taxpayers. 

A grand jury should audit how much money is being contributed to LA City political campaigns and/or elected office-holders’ charitable accounts by all humane organizations (including their for-profit and non-profit affiliates/partners) which have programs or contracts with Los Angeles Animal Services and which demand/encourage the very inhumane "no kill" agenda. 

The focus of that myopic agenda necessitates the warehousing of aggressive/fighting dogs and other animals in city shelters despite documented evidence that they pose a safety hazard to employees and the public.  

"No kill" garners big donations from those who don't understand the suffering of these caged animals. It is time to acknowledge the misery and dissect the underlying financial motivation. 

                       

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

FIRST PERSON REPORT--On the Saturday following the Inauguration, I joined three-quarters of a million women, men, and children gathered in downtown Los Angeles in what would be the largest women’s march in the world. The crowd represented both experienced and newly minted activists. Perhaps some had originally joined for what my kids refer to as “FOMO” or fear of missing out, snapping selfies in front of colorful signage. For others, being part of something bigger quelled the fears and anxieties that had surfaced on November 8th. With hope, everyone who participated (and those who followed from their living rooms) will feel empowered to continue activist efforts to protect rights at risk and the future of the planet. 

Helen Reddy’s a capella rendition of her feminist anthem, “I Am Woman,” spoke to those of us who are old enough to remember the seventies. Women, like one in a clip broadcast on the side of a media trailer, never believed they’d be marching again for battles fought decades ago. As I stood near the staging later in the day, I overheard a college student explain to a new friend that she had stumbled into the march– but “I’m also a feminist, you know.” If we’ve become complacent about defending our rights, this election and what’s at stake may serve as a wake-up call for those of us who have been politically active, as well as those who are new to the experience. 

The mission of the Official Women’s March Los Angeles was to “stand together in solidarity for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country” and in support of “the advocacy and resistance movements that reflect our multiple and intersecting identities.” In many ways, the crowds that gathered downtown represent the diversity that makes our city so special, unified to defend the rights of all. 

As many of the speakers at the event expressed to the crowd, it’s crucial to stay organized, not only for one day. Actress and activist Christine Lahti added, “If you don’t know what choice to make, make one that helps someone else, through city council, your neighborhoods, working on ordinances.” This is just the first step.

  • For more pix on ‘sister’ Women’s Marches around the country and the world. 

 

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

-cw

IMPRESSIONS--The Saturday, Jan. 21 Women’s March in Downtown Los Angeles against the incoming Trump Administration was one of hundreds of similar marches across the United States and in other countries. (Photo above: Marchers on Grand Avenue in Downtown LA, one of many packed streets.) 

Occidental College political scientist Peter Dreir has calculated that the total for all demonstrations in the United States exceed 4,000,000 people. He also wrote that the final tally could be higher once more reliable counts are collected. For instance, in Los Angeles, ABC news, as well as the march organizers, estimated there were 750,000 people in total, while the New York Times reported 100,000, even lower than the LAPD’s estimate. Having been at both, I think this march was comparable in size to the immigrant rights march of 2006, which had 500,000 people. 

With such a mammoth event, many people never arrived on time, or at all, because METRO’s busses and subways were overwhelmed, with waits of two hours in North Hollywood to take the Red Line. Others followed from home through traditional media and social media. 

As an eyewitness, these are my other impressions, beyond the unexpected size of the event: 

  • Nearly all signs were made at home, with hardly any handed out at the event itself by organizers or other supportive groups. 
  • Domestic issues prevailed. The messages of these homemade signs were focused on domestic issues such as opposition to all types sexism, bigotry, racism, and nativism. They also included opposition to mass deportations, erosion of health care, and violations of civil liberties, as well as the need to combat fascist trends through more enormous street actions. 
  • Foreign policy issues ignored. Media and Democratic Party finger pointing at Russia and Vladimir Putin did not gain any traction with the demonstrators. During the entire march, among the tens of thousands of signs that swept by me, I only saw two that mentioned Russia or Putin. Clearly this highly charged dispute within the foreign policy establishment over US-Russian relations did not motivate 750,000 people to walk the streets of downtown LA for this anti-Trump Women’s March. 
  • Diversity: Those attending were of all ages. They ranged from babies to the elderly. On the east coast, I even heard a personal story of a 93-year-old woman who attended her first demonstration and loved it. Despite being called a Women’s March, there were also lots of men, but Latinos, Asians, and African-Americans were under-represented. If they were there in proportion to those who voted by Hillary Clinton or Jill Stein in the November election, there would have easily been over 1,000,000 demonstrators. 
  • Missing: During four hours at this march, we did not see anyone from the LAPD, LADOT traffic control officers, or the media. On the various approach routes, there were many LAFD trucks, but otherwise it was just waves of marchers, in some cases mixing with snarled traffic. According to news reports, a few public officials spoke at Pershing Square and City Hall, including Mayor Eric Garcetti. Apparently Hizzoner was unaware of the irony of a mayor whose administration is in total collusion with Big Real Estate through pay-to-play protesting a President whose cabinet represents total collusion between Big Business and the federal government. 
  • Insufficient planning: The organizers, working with City departments, expected 80,000 to 100,000 people, but downtown LA’s streets were overwhelmed with much greater numbers. The demonstrators had to compete with traffic on streets like Grand until sheer numbers imposed total gridlock. At Red and Purple line subway stations, there were hardly any METRO employees to help those new to transit navigate the ticketing systems and entrances. At bus stops METRO had not posted alternative routes and times because of the march. To METRO’s credit, though, bus drivers were extremely helpful in getting demonstrators into and out of the downtown 
  • What next? The tiny fraction of demonstrators who heard speeches or got handouts at Pershing Square or City Hall might have been give direction for next steps, but the vast majority of those who made it to downtown LA left in quandary over what comes next, despite their feel-good day. There are so many ways, though, for them to be engaged, including those I outlined in a previous City Watch article on climate issues, that anyone who so desires can find a vast array of local projects to help with, such as immigrant rights, environmental-justice, or the expected military conflicts either in the works or to be blundered into by the new administration.

 

(Dick Platkin is former LA City planner who recently taught courses on sustainable city planning at USC and CSUN. He is also a former union officer, who worked hard to create labor-neighbor alliances in Los Angeles. Please send corrections or comments to rhplatkin@gmail.com.)

-cw

BUTCHER ON LA-Let me tell you a little bit about CityWatch. Before it was CityWatchLA, it was CharterWatch. Mark Siegel kept us all updated throughout those twenty-two tedious months we affectionately think of as “charter reform” back at the turn of the millennium. Ken Draper and the Neighborhood Councils took over and remade it as a “voice of the neighborhoods” after the new charter passed. He tells me the first mailing went to 255. Today that number has increased both logarithmetically and influentially.

Ken has an extreme vision of dramatically more engagement, deep advocacy, crisp respectful dialogue. He’s always right, you know. So: If you’re not signed up to get CityWatch, do that right now. Please share it on every one of your social media platforms. Find us on Twitter and Facebook as well. Like us, share us! For Ken! Not for me, for Ken. And Mark. And every one who claims it as part of our past and history. 

Way back when we won Neighborhood Councils in the charter, many of us wanted more; many of us took shit for years because of it. Charter §900 establishes the purpose of LA’s NCs to “promote more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs…” 

Are we all doing all we can to make that real? Participating to the maximum in upcoming city elections? For candidates as well as on issues? Is it time for that next new generation of activism and leadership in your neighborhood? What’s your Neighborhood Council doing? Attend a meeting! Check out an event!

If it’s cold in LA that means that it’s budget season in the departments as the CAO’s office is preparing the next budget. With a fairly unpopular interim CAO in that spot, it’ll be wildly interesting to watch the budget process, as it is always! 

Watch for and help the volunteers who’ve agreed to crack the code on the City and dive deep into the budget. It is, after all, the finest refinement of program development.

As President Obama said so beautifully in his farewell speech: 

“Ultimately, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try to talk with one in real life. If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself. Show up. Dive in. Persevere. Sometimes you’ll win. Sometimes you’ll lose. Presuming a reservoir of goodness in others can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire. And more often than not, your faith in America – and in Americans – will be confirmed.” 

“If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.” 

“Show up. Dive in. Persevere.” 

I’ll see you in Downtown Los Angeles this Saturday for the Women’s March, even if it’s cold, even if it’s raining (wah!) Pershing Square at 9:30 a.m. 

I am so inspired by the Indivisible organizing guide put out by former congressional staff members (on their own time) and the movement it is birthing. Read it, share it, love it and live it! 

There are more than 3000 “indivisible” groups organizing and mobilizing across the U.S. right now, using these lessons learned from the Tea Party’s local organizing. 

When they go low, we go local! 

As Bayard Rustin said, “We need in every bay and community a group of angelic troublemakers.”

 

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

RANTZ & RAVEZ--I will begin with Governor Jerry Brown’s California High Speed Rail commonly referred to as the Bullet Train. The 800 mile and 220 MPH top speed Train is expected to run from San Diego to San Francisco sometime in the distant future and possibly in our lifetime. 

The projected budget for this transportation project began at $60 plus BILLION DOLLARS with the Central Valley portion scheduled for completion in 2017. The new date for completion of this phase is now expected in 2024, seven years behind schedule. 

We now find the current facts about this transportation project that is way behind schedule and struggling for additional dollars to move forward by a Federal Railroad Administration audit. It is now known that the project is currently being built by an independent authority that has never built anything and depends on a large network of consultants and contractors for directions. 

When I talk about behind schedule I am not kidding. With this in mind, how long will this craziness continue? It will continue until the State of California gets a governor that has some common sense and is willing to admit that the Bullet Train is not going to work for California and scraps the project saving billions of dollars that can be used for a host of pressing state issues. Issues like the homeless, crime, finding the funds to keep state prisons open and a host of other serious matters that impact our daily lives. More to come on this subject as additional reports are released.

+++++++

METRO SECURITY–While I am reviewing public transportation on trains, I must bring to your attention that the Metro, our Bus and Train Service in the Los Angeles Region, has established a 24 – Hour Hotline to provide counseling to transit riders who have experienced unwarranted sexual contact or harassment on buses or trains. The Hot Line number is 844-Off-Limits or 844-633-5464. Counselors from Peace Over Violance, which has been offering counseling for sex-abused victims for more than 40 years, staff this service. 

Since I am an infrequent rider on the Orange and Red Rail Lines, Metro should start placing uniformed officers on the Lines to provide protection for the passengers. Seldom do I ever see a law enforcement officer actually riding on a bus or train in the Los Angeles region.

+++++++

CRIME REPORT--We are now in January 2017 and the crime stats for the year 2016 are being tabulated by the LAPD.   I will publish them when they are available. It is interesting to note that as of January 7, 2017, the LAPD is at 9,892 officers compared to 9,897 as of December 17, 2016. That is 5 fewer officers protecting and serving the people of Los Angeles. 

Knowing that the LAPD is having a difficult time recruiting police officers and keeping crime down, why would the City of Los Angeles try and take over from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Transit Policing throughout Los Angeles? MONEY. It is all about the MONEY and how the City of LA can use it for various programs. 

While the Metro Board reviews the proposals from the Sheriff’s and LAPD, the people of Los Angeles deserve to have sufficient police officers available to protect their homes and businesses. 

A recent protest in San Pedro brought to light the fact that the jail in the harbor station has been closed and that crime is increasing in the neighborhoods. From the San Fernando Valley to San Pedro and all parts in between deserve their fair share of police officers. Assigning transit operations to the LAPD will only reduce the number of LAPD officers patrolling the streets of Los Angeles.

+++++++

ILLEGAL ALIENS AND DEPORTATION--It has been recently reported that the City of Los Angeles does not have the funds to pay pending lawsuits. While the City is now pleading poverty, they come up with $2 MILLION to help defend illegal aliens facing Immigration Enforcement with the LA Justice Fund. It is all about priorities. 

While I have always believed that the legal system is there to sort out the truth and that justice must prevail, I can’t see how the taxpayers should be responsible to defend people facing Federal Immigration matters. While the City is posting $2 million dollars, the County of Los Angeles is posting $3 million. An additional $5 Million is coming from the private sector.

+++++++

LA ELECTION--Our Mayor Eric Garcetti is facing an election on March 7 along with half the City Council and the City Attorney and Controller. 

As far as the contests for Mayor, it is smooth sailing for Garcetti who is facing light opposition and over $2 Million to spend. 

Both Mike Feuer the City Attorney and Ron Galperin the City Controller are both running unopposed. The City Attorney has raised $682,091 and the Controller has raised $446,838. 

The City Council Races will be featured in my next article.  

+++++++

GRACIAS--Thank you to Ron Rinard for his email concerning my RantZ and RaveZ article that is “A Great Read.” 

Thank you to Jan Kanowitz for her comments and concern about the lack of a pedestrian safety zone in West Hills. I am working with Councilman Bob Blumenfield’s office to correct the situation.

 

(Dennis P. Zine is a 33-year member of the Los Angeles Police Department and former Vice-Chairman of the Elected Los Angeles City Charter Reform Commission, a 12-year member of the Los Angeles City Council and a current LAPD Reserve Officer who serves as a member of the Fugitive Warrant Detail assigned out of Gang and Narcotics Division. Disclosure: Zine was a candidate for City Controller last city election. He writes RantZ & RaveZ for CityWatch. You can contact him at Zman8910@aol.com. Mr. Zine’s views are his own and do not reflect the views of CityWatch.) Graphic credit: LA Daily News.

-cw

DEEGAN ON LA---"This compromise is a joke!" exclaimed Diana Plotkin, president of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association, responding to CD5 Councilmeber Paul Koretz’ announcement to the the city council’s Planning and Land Use Management committee that he had reached what he called a “reasonable compromise for a middle ground” where developer Rick Caruso would reduce the height of his proposed 333 La Cienega tower by almost 25% (from 245 feet to 185 feet), and contribute a half-million dollars to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund that creates affordable rental housing for low and very low income households. (Photo above: Developer Rick Caruso in front of La Cienega tower, Councilman Paul Koretz-inset.) 

Caruso, who told the committee that he agreed to the height reduction and was “happy to provide $500,000 to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund”, and Koretz had settled their differences, but one very interested party was left out in the cold and was steaming hot about what had just happened: Diana Plotkin who said “we need affordable housing, not luxury housing. It’s pay to play and we ask you (PLUM) to say no.” In a hallway interview with CityWatch, Plotkin amplified her distress charging that “Paul Koretz’ statement that he supports the community is a lie. The fact is that he never supported this community on this issue, all the way through. Our community is being crushed by this pay to play. They want a monument to their ego. Paul Koretz is out of touch with the residential community of people who vote”. 

Other stakeholders---dozens of them made pro or con public statements at the hearing-- had mixed feelings about the impact this building will have in an area currently zoned for 45 feet high. 

An overflow crowd had assembled in council chambers at City Hall to learn what’s next for developer Rick Caruso’s dream project at 333 S. La Cienega Boulevard. Leading up to the hearing, Caruso was accepting compliments from some in the community, including the Mid City West Community Council and the residential tenants of the Westbury tower adjacent to the proposed building site, but he was also fending off complaints from the homeowners association and the local Councilmember. 

At back to back press conferences two weeks ago, Diana Plotkin and Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD5) publicly announced opposition to the project. Plotkin presented Koretz with 1,000 signatures on a petition to block the project, because it was 240 feet in a 45 foot zone, and that was enough for Koretz to say the tower would be “too tall. 

Leading up to the PLUM hearing was the expectation that Caruso and Plotkin would have reached a state of detente. It turned out that it was Koretz and Plotkin that never made it to the alter. 

The neighborhood council (Mid City West Community Council) voted 22-6 to support the original 240 foot height of 333 La Cienega, and was touted by themselves and other project supporters as one of the crucial stakeholders able to influence the project. But it, too, was showing signs of disunion, through divergent takes on the value of the 333 project. “The reduction is a disappointment”, said Planning and Land Use chair Ravi Bhatia, who continued “the fund amount is only 1.4 units at MCW market price. City council does not understand the cost or importance of inclusionary zoning. Mom and pops must continue to bear the burden. It’s a land acquisition cost of well over $500,000 for mom and pops. They would still have to pay to build. That is one unit”. 

It raises the question if this is really affordable housing coming into the community. That was answered obliquely by his colleague’s public statement when MCW chair Scott Epstein said that “We are very concerned about affordable housing. A project like this will not displace affordable housing. It has the strong support of the Mid City West Community Council”. While not “displacing” affordable housing, because no housing units are being torn down to make room for the tower, this project is not creating significant affordable housing in the community either, as Bhatia points out. 

A guy that initially was the focus of community opprobrium seemed to walk out of the chamber in Teflon armor, a happy warrior in this battle that now shifts to being an almost certain done deal when the full city council meets as soon as next week to vote approval of his project, while a Councilmember and some of his constituency are at serious odds. Building a tower may be much easier than mending fences.

 

(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at timdeegan2015@gmail.com.)

-cw

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Last week, I introduced you to Caney Arnold, a progressive candidate running in the March primary. Arnold and I sat down to discuss some of his ideas to turn the city around. The candidate, who brings a background in Air Force acquisition and program management, as well as a graduate degree in Public Policy and Administration, shares that he was inspired to support progressive causes around the time of the Gulf War. 

“This campaign and my commitment while serving in office will be built around the following values: government transparency, grassroots democracy, ecology, social justice, and nonviolence,” he says. 

Transparency: 

Arnold says he is ready to support transparency because he’s “used to dealing with bureaucracy to weed out this sort of thing based on (my) career work for the Department of Defense and in the Air Force” where he learned how to work with management to get things done right. He is committed to stand up to the City Council and to work with the media to uncover conflicts of interest. “It’s not just in the campaign business but officeholders and committees are getting money from developers for office and city related purposes,” he says. 

Grassroots Democracy and Transparency: 

Arnold says listening to citizens will be an integral part of the daily management of the city -- and Neighborhood Councils will play a big part in that. “I want to increase communication with the NCs and with constituents to ensure citizens have more input in the decision-making process,” he says. He plans to actively seek input from the neighborhood councils and provide research to them before casting a vote on City Council, which is the reverse of the current practice. “As volunteers, NC board members usually don’t have the time to do this research. My office will provide information packets to each NC and formally request feedback.” 

Ecology: 

Arnold notes that his 15th District is “home to numerous oil drilling and refineries, as well as oil and natural gas storage facilities.” Safety failures involving explosions and toxic releases at these facilities have placed the community at risk. The candidate also supports reducing energy use by providing incentives to consumers and businesses, especially in fossil fuels consumption, by creating a plan to transition to sustainable 100 percent renewable energy sources, which must be approved by the Mayor and Council, backed with a firm schedule, adequate funding, and oversight. Water consumption is also an important issue that should be addressed in part by reconsidering plans for urban growth and development. 

Social Justice: 

Arnold was inspired to run in part by his volunteer involvement with the homeless population. “We need to do a better job helping our neighbors without housing,” he says. “The Housing First strategy has worked in cities across the U.S. and is the preferred approach by the federal government. We need to move away from treating homelessness as a police issue and see the root causes of homelessness, as well as to help keep people in their homes.” The Housing First approach removes the homeless from unsafe environments on the street to get them into housing, providing them with services to help them find employment and become self-sustaining again. 

Nonviolence: 

Arnold’s platform includes improved relations between police and citizens to reduce over-policing and use of excessive force. He cites the positive approach of bringing police together with citizens to address issues, promoting programs such as the Institute for Nonviolence in Los Angeles Days of Dialogue program on the Future of Policing, sponsored by Mark Ridley-Thomas’s office. 

Arnold is focused on rolling up his sleeves to turn around the status quo so that Los Angeles is a city for all residents and not just a selective few.

 

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

CORRUPTION WATCH-Now that we’re all beset upon by the new Tweeter-in-Chief, we have to take seriously the Power of the Ignoranti. While Donald Trump makes his wisdom or lack thereof visible for all to see, most of America is smugly unaware of that of which they are unaware. That’s just in the nature of being unaware. 

Over ninety-nine percent of Americans do not know that John Maynard Keynes was murdered. That does not disturb them because they don’t even know who Keynes is, or rather, was. It would be more accurate to say that Keynesianism was murdered by the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. Again, that does not disturb the public because they don’t know who or what Glass-Steagall was either. 

The Danger of Not Understanding the Laws of Economics. 

The problem with vast ignorance is that Ignorance Kills. Los Angeles City Hall is a Temple to Crimogenics due to the fact that Angelenos are suffering from fatal doses of Ignoranitus Economicus. See my June 26, 2016 article in CityWatch. In brief, we know nothing about the laws of economics. The rest of America similarly suffers ever since Bill Clinton, Wall Street, and Congress joined together to kill off Keynesian economics with the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999, the legitimizing of criminal Credit Default Swaps and allowing Wall Street to evade the 1936 Commodities Exchange Act. 

Since Hollywood is the land of re-runs, sequels, and remakes, it is fitting that this remake of Keynesian Economics comes from La La Land.

The Price System - The Bedrock of All Economic Systems. 

John Maynard Keynes, as well as Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek, found the need to protect the Price System to be axiomatic – and what honest person wouldn’t? The Price System involves the billions of individual decisions made each day by billions of people about what to buy and what to sell and for how much. Adam Smith referred to this as the Invisible Hand which many people misunderstood to mean God. No, God does not set prices. People set the prices. 

The first domestic function of any and all governments is to protect the Price System so that the prices we pay for things and services are based upon their actual values. No frauds and no manipulation can be allowed to taint the Price System. No economy can function properly when people do not know what things are worth. 

If I buy a Mercedes SL and all I get is a shell with a 1970's Pinto interior, I feel cheated. Fraud destroys the Price System. People need to know what they will get for their money. Likewise, if I buy a real Mercedes and give the guy counterfeit money which the government then confiscates, the guy is cheated. If I buy a home for $900,000, but it is worth only $390,000, I have been cheated. 

It bears repeating: The first priority of any government is to guarantee that the Price System reflects the actual value of everything. 

Los Angeles Has Corrupted the Price System for Housing. 

The Price System for housing in Los Angeles has been destroyed by massive corruptionism. 

Everywhere people are talking and writing about Los Angeles’ high housing prices with no knowledge why our housing prices are so much higher than elsewhere. It is not due to increased demand for housing. Since our modest population increase comes from our birth rate rather than people moving to LA, the demand for housing is either stagnate or dropping. In fact, LA has a net exodus. The Family Millennials in particular are leaving. Babies do not rent new apartments, but every person who leaves LA for Austin Texas leaves a vacancy. 

The City Intentionally Spreads False Information about Housing. 

Because of constant disinformation from City Hall, people falsely believe that the demand for housing is increasing. A shortage does not mean an increased demand. Because our mayor, Eric Garcetti, has destroyed over 22,000 rent-controlled units, there has been a dramatic drop in supply. A reduction in supply means the same number of people are bidding against fewer units and that forces up prices. 

In fact, the unlawful eviction of poor people – something at which judges like LA Superior Court Judge Deborah Christian excel, raises the average rent. As soon as the old tenant has been unlawfully evicted, then the landlord raises the rent. There has been no increase in demand – only an unlawful eviction. 

Los Angeles’ poor people are involved in a different housing market than the middle and upper middle classes. The long-term financial health of a city, including its ability to provide for the poor, depends on a vibrant middle class. When massive fraud and financial manipulations from a corrupt city hall artificially raise all housing prices, the middle class moves away from LA. 

As Keynesian economics shows, material misinformation in the housing market can cause the entire economy to crash. Of course, we do not need Keynes to verify this fact since Corruptionism in housing is what crashed the economy in 2008. Nonetheless, there have been no reforms and similar distortions in the Price System for the housing market are killing Los Angeles.

How LA’s Temple to Crimogenics Drives up Housing Costs. 

Residential housing should be based on its value as Living Space. Once zoning is destroyed, residential housing in Los Angeles is not based on its value for raising a family. About 80% of the nation’s population prefers a detached home with a yard for their families. Thus, any city which adopts the New Urbanism, with its war on the single family home, is telling 80% of the new middle class that it is not wanted. 

“Corruptionism,” which has infested Los Angeles City Hall since at least 2001 when Eric Garcetti was first elected councilmember for District 13, has destroyed the Price System for residential housing. Because any developer can buy or bribe whatever zoning he wants, the value of homes then becomes their Speculative Value. 

Housing Prices should be Based on the Value as Living Space and not on the Value of Speculative Redevelopment. 

California and Los Angeles have laws which intentionally destroy the Price System for residential properties. One of them is allowing Granny Flats. Any developer can buy a house and turn it into a commercial enterprise by building a second house in the backyard and then renting out both houses. Then, he buys another house in a single family area and builds another Granny Flat and rents out both houses. It may take a few years, but eventually an owner-occupied single family neighborhood becomes an area of multi-family renters with absentee landlords. 

Into this deteriorated and demoralized neighborhood comes a developer. He buys or pays bribes to get an up-zoning to a 4-plex; another developer then buys or bribes to get an up-zoning to multi-family apartments along, say along Magnolia. Now there’s a 4-story apartment overlooking a single family neighborhood. 

The Key to Los Angeles’s High Residential Prices is: Residential properties cost an arm and a leg because their prices are set by the lands’ Speculative Value and not by its value as Living Space. 

To aggravate matters, home buyers know that the day after they buy their dream home for three times its actual worth, a series of Granny Flats can be constructed or a gaggle of “single family homes” will be build next door because the developer chanted the magic words: “Small Lot Subdivision.” Small Lot Subdivision means the developer can build six or more small homes on one lot with eight inches between them next to your newly purchased single family home. The eight inches between these de facto apartments allows them to be fictitiously treated as if they were detached homes and not apartments or condos in a neighborhood of single family homes. 

Keynes Opposes a Stimulus as the Business Cycle Moves into the Boom Phase. 

People think that Keynes says to spend money to stimulate the economy. This belief is false. Just because a doctor prescribes chemotherapy to treat cancer does not mean he prescribes it for pneumonia. When an economy suffers from a decimated Price System and it is entering the Boom Phase of the business cycle, Keynes does not recommend a stimulus. Yet, that is exactly what the Garcetti Administration is doing. There is probably no greater fiscal error than dumping billions of tax dollars into an economy whose Price System is wracked with fraud. 

Keynesian Steps to Fix Los Angeles’s Economy: 

  1. Down-zoning. The Los Angeles Basin needs to de-densify. Thus, the Basin needs drastic down-zoning. This need is particularly strong in Hollywood. No more offices should be constructed on Bunker Hill or elsewhere in DTLA. 
  1. Get rid of Granny Flats. They are a dagger into the Price System for Los Angeles residential housing. 
  1. Get rid of AB 1818. This is a foolish state law. Los Angeles should down-zone everything as much as possible so that when a developer tries to up-zone density by 35%, he will be at a livable level for Los Angeles. 
  1. Abolish all Small Lot Subdivisions. 
  1. Modify the Anti-Mansionization ordinance so that larger homes can be constructed and older homes can be upgraded, but only in strict compliance with the nature of quality of the neighborhood. I would call them quasi-HPOZs. The “palaces” that loom over their neighbors’ homes and yards are unacceptable and unnecessary. 
  1. End the vote trading pact at City Hall since it is criminal under Penal Code § 86. No city should be governed by a feudal criminal conspiracy no matter how much Judge Richard Fruins loves the idea. 
  1. Never allow any CRA or EIFD type district for any reason. Simply put, they are vehicles to steal money from City Hall and give it to billionaires. 
  1. Prohibition on City investing in any private project. Although Eric Garcetti loves the Chinese model where the government is the developer, that arrangement is verboten under Keynes. The City should never invest in a private project. It destroys the relationship between the marginal efficiency of capital and the rate of interest. This only results in bad projects being constructed and money being misdirected away from better uses.

 

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

EASTSIDER-The smart money crowd (Democrat insiders, lobbyists, developers and their progeny) have already basically claimed victory for incumbent Gil Cedillo. You can tell by the fact that they are warehousing campaign funds and, so far, are not going to engage in any debates. 

As I have written before in CityWatch, the political math is all in their favor. Less than 10% of the voters in CD1 even bother to vote in municipal elections, and these days a majority of them are vote-by-mail voters. With a few hundred thousand in the war chest (and bags more available if needed), Gil has the hip, slick and cool mainstream dems/political consultants and democratic party insiders all already lined up. They’ve got the machine, the incredibly detailed voter databases, and we can look for the usual postcard deluge just prior to the vote-by-mail start date in February. 

In terms of deep-pocket backing, they are secure in the belief that Giovany Hernandez, Jesse Rosas, and Joe Bray-Ali won’t be able to make the race competitive and Gil will cruise to victory in March with over 50% of the vote. 

I say this because the last race for CD1 was a doozy. Ed Reyes was termed out, and it was a race between his Chief of Staff Jose Gardea and Gil Cedillo, recently termed out from the California legislature. Between the primary and runoff elections, they spent close to $2 million dollars in the race! The final margin was 52% for Cedillo vs. 48% for Gardea. 

Of interest here is the fact that the only reason we had a runoff was because Jesse Rosas got 7.2% of the vote, forcing it to happen. There’s a message there. 

So Who is Joe Bray-Ali? 

I have met Joe Bray-Ali (photo above) three times. The first time was during what I call the “Bicycle Wars” in CD1. And I do mean war. To give you a taste of how bad it was, here’s a quote from my CityWatch article from last year: “These 2014 meetings were ugly -- somewhere between the Jerry Springer Show and a really bad hair day meeting of the Echo Park Neighborhood Council. For example, at the Highland Park NC meeting, they voted to cancel advertising in the Boulevard Sentinel (our local newspaper) on the grounds that the editor, Tom Topping, was anti-bike. There were a number of comments casting aspersions on his person and character. Public comments were simply a litany of “pro” and “anti” sentiments regarding bike-lane people. And there was virtually no discussion on the merits of the plan before the NC reversed its position.” 

At the time, I recall referring to Joe as “one of the loudest and least civil pro bike-lane supporters.” 

The second time I met Joe was at a Northeast Democratic Club meeting. He was a new person, coat and tie civil, enthusiastic, and talking about more inclusive issues like the environment, land use, and neighborhood public policies. The Northeast Dems, of course, largely ignored his presence. 

The third time I met Joe was last week at the Bowtie Parcel of the Los Angeles River. He was there to announce his Endorsement from Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters. It was presented by their director, Stephanie Molen, and was streamed on Facebook live. Again Joe was civil, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable about the issues facing voters in Council District 1. He is also a small businessman whose business actually lies within the boundaries of the District. 

I’ll admit it…I was impressed. 

Does Anyone Stand a Chance Against Gil? 

My initial cynicism about the race has been based on the “‘normal” math of beating an incumbent with huge resources and the ability to lock up the overwhelming lions’ share of vote-by-mail during the primary election in March. 

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. I remembered that seven percent Jesse Rosas got the last time in the battle of the giants, and the fact that his percentage of votes denied Gil the 50% plus 1 he needed to win. 

I have also noticed that there is a generational issue going on. The party insiders know how to crush someone using the traditional tools of targeted outreach, bags of money and phone banking. But it’s all old stuff, sorta like Hillary vs. The Donald. 

The Bray-Ali folks are betting on serious use of social media. Not just putting up a Facebook page, or sending out some emails -- serious social media. It’s something new and it’s a wildcard. Just ask Hillary. Let’s see if a candidate can effectively use the media to fire up younger voters who mostly don’t participate because they know the system is rigged. Lessons from Bernie and The Donald. Also something that the traditional consultants like Parke Skelton (aka SG&A Campaigns) aren’t that good at. 

For someone who’s not a part of the Democratic Party establishment, this is an advantage. Also, actual progressives are starting to step up for a change -- witness the results of the recent AD51 Delegates Election where Bernie folks scored big, and a poll was conducted by Latino Decisions for who’s who in the upcoming Congressional District 34 election to replace Xavier Becerra. You can check out the posts from January 6 and 18 at MayorSam.  

The Takeaway 

Look at it this way: it isn’t as if Mr. Cedillo is beloved in the District. He’s mostly loved by big real estate developers and the Democratic Party machine. And most of them don’t live in the District. As readers of CityWatch know, there is a large sentiment of “throw all the bums out” among the City’s electorate. The trick is to get some of them to the polls. 

Also, as reported in a couple of recent CityWatch articles by Beth Cone Kramer, the Cedillo campaign has had some troubles with the Ethics Commission.  While there may or may not be violations that are ultimately upheld by the City Ethics Commission, the behavior complained about seem to be beginners’ errors for a big bucks, professionally-run campaign. 

Helping the challenger is Joe’s recent announcement that he is the first candidate for CD1 to have qualified for 2:1 matching funds from the City. In order to do this he submitted over 1000 signatures of registered voters and raised contributions from over 270 CD1 donors. 

So is it a long shot? Sure. But if Joe Bray-Ali can force Cedillo into a runoff, all the electoral math changes in a hurry. If an incumbent with all the advantages can’t put the election away in the primary, he’s viewed as wounded meat and all bets are off. 

So for now, all Jesse Rojas and Joe Bray-Ali have to do is attract some new voters, get some more of the “regular” voters to simply vote against Gil Cedillo (or not vote at all), and try to deny the incumbent 50% plus 1 of the vote on March 7. 

Maybe they can even force Mr. Cedillo to have a public debate or two. Should be interesting. And, like I said, Joe Cleans Up Nice!

 

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

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-In an increasingly desperate tactic to stop Measure S, Big Real Estate -- a handful of large real estate companies -- is opting for the Big Bamboozle. They are pulling out all the stops to defeat the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative in LA City’s March 7 election. 

Their Big Bamboozle is a pack of blatant lies targeting key interest groups in the hope that they can sway them into voting against their own self-interest. The goal is to keep City Hall’s pay-to-play soft corruption in motion for their pet mega-projects. But, when their whoppers fail to gain traction, their fall back position is an old magician’s trick: distraction. Their strategy is to keep the voters’ attention averted from Measure S’s primary impact: ending City Hall’s soft corruption for the spot-zoning and spot-planning that allow hundreds of parcel-level mega-projects to sprout up in nearly every nook and cranny of Los Angeles. 

In this case, their magic trick is to conjure up obscure, hypothetical conflicts with Measure S. The hope is that low information voters will think these imaginary scenarios are so real and so important that they will prevail over the real corruption and real spot-zoned mega-projects harming communities throughout Los Angeles.

Why is Big Real Estate opting for this smoke and mirrors? 

There is no mystery here. They want to make sure that such minor hurdles as LA’s legally adopted General Plan element and their zoning implementation will not block their business model: squeezing as much profit as possible from individual parcels through unplanned, openly illegal mega-projects. But, since it impossible to win an election with such an honest, but highly unpopular campaign position, Big Real Estate has only two choices. They can sacrifice some short-term profits by adhering to Los Angeles’ land use laws. This means building by-right projects that conform to adopted General Plan elements and the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC). 

Their other option, the one they have turned to, is the Big Bamboozle: throwing the kitchen sink at Measure S, hoping that enough gunk will stick so City Hall’s corrupt political culture can linger on. They are crossing their fingers that once the March election is over and the Los Angeles Times’ impressive coverage of their skullduggery fades; they can re-emerge from the barely drained swamp. 

If they pull off this Big Bamboozle, newly adopted General Plan Elements, including Updated Community Plan and zones, will be severed from City Hall’s land use decisions. Those major cases with multiple entitlements that preoccupy City Hall and Neighborhood Councils – to the tune of between 300 to 600 per year – can then reemerge, at least until the next round of public outrage sweeps Los Angeles.  

Who are Big Real Estate’s players in this “Toxic Sludge is Good for You” game? 

As I previously wrote there are four major Big Real Estate players funding the opposition to Measure S. These large firms have a global reach, with billions of assets stretching far beyond their pay-to-pay operations in Los Angeles.  They include: 

  • Westfield Group, based in Australia, owns and operates shopping centers throughout the world, including 38 malls in the United States. In Los Angeles their malls include Century City and Warner Center. In Warner Center their latest project, rebuilding the old Promenade Center, will cost $1.5 billion. 
  • Crescent Heights, based in Miami, builds and operates up-scale commercial and residential projects throughout the United States, including the proposed Palladium high-rise tower in Hollywood.  By August 2016 this firm had already donated over a half million dollars to their No on S astroturf organization: the Coalition to Protect LA Neighborhoods & Jobs. 
  • Lowe Enterprises is headquartered in Los Angeles and invests in commercial and residential real estate projects throughout the United States. Their local projects include 1.4 million square feet of commercial space at the Howard Hughes Center in LA’s Westchester area.  
  • Eli Broad, based in Los Angeles, has not completely moved on from insurance and tract housing to philanthropy and museums.  He did find time to donate $25,000 to oppose Measure S. 

What is their actual Bamboozle? 

Like every magician, these opponents of Measure S are trying to keep voters distracted by obscure, rare, or totally hypothetical glitches with the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative until March 7. For example, at a recent Measure S debate in Sherman Oaks I heard the following allegations, all of which fell apart when I researched them: 

  • Under Measure S, private schools, churches and synagogues, and hospitals cannot get building permits because they require General Plan Amendments. In fact, these uses are allowed by right in many zones throughout Los Angeles, and in other zones they can be permitted as a Conditional Use. They can all be built without the City Council adopting the spot-zones and spot-General Plan Amendments blocked by Measure S. 
  • Under Measure S real estate development on Ventura Boulevard and other areas with a legacy of “embedded parking zones” will be obstructed. In fact, this is another rare and almost entirely hypothetical problem. This is also an argument for the quick and proper updating of Community Plans to address this rare problem, not allowing soft corruption and spot-zoning for mega-projects – as well as “embedded P zones” -- to continue unabated. 
  • Under Measure S, desirable projects, such as the repurposing of an old LA Times printing plant for a Google Fiber facility, will be blocked. In fact, this project did not require a General Plan Amendment, and this hypothetical conflict rarely if ever appears as real cases that Building and Safety sends to City Planning for a legislative fix. And, with the expedited updating of the General Plan and the Community Plan that Measure S triggers, these make-believe problems can be addressed by comprehensive planning based on extensive public participation. 

Who is being targeted by the bamboozle? 

Affordable Housing Advocates: he No on S campaign is targeting organizations and groups with totally legitimate concerns about LA’s lack of affordable housing. They are told that Measure S is either a total development ban, a housing ban, or it creates impenetrable barriers to the construction of affordable housing. Of course, Measure S is nothing of the sort. 

For nearly an entire year I have repeatedly asked City Watch readers to identify any affordable housing projects that required a General Plan Amendment or even a zone change to begin construction. So far, I have only been told about one case in all of Los Angeles. And, City Planning's recent Citywide Metrics Report confirms this. Only two (2 !) percent of LA’s new housing is affordable, and this tiny fraction results from Density Bonus/SB 1818 projects, not the City Council adopted spot-zone changes and spot-General Plan Amendments barred by Measure S. 

Another allegation against Measure S is that it will prevent the construction of affordable housing on parcels owned by the City of Los Angeles. In fact, the idea of building affordable housing on City property originated with Mayor Tom Bradley in 1988. That is nearly 30 years ago, and as far as I can determine, since then the only result has been the use of air-rights above several city-owned parking lots for affordable housing. 

In three decades the City of Los Angeles has not managed to use any of its 9,000 documented properties for affordable housing, including sites where housing is permitted by-right. Now, suddenly, this long-ignored affordable housing option has been taken out of mothballs. It has become a pressing reason to tolerate hundreds of illegal mega-projects that a benevolent City Council routinely legalizes for its patrons through spot-zoning and spot-planning ordinances. 

Nevertheless, other claims about Measure S barring the construction of affordable housing keep popping up. One of the more imaginative assertions is that Measure S is punitive because it only allows zone changes for projects that are 100 percent affordable housing. If projects are less than 100 percent affordable, they are therefore out-of-luck. This hypothetical problem then leads to an imaginary corollary; Measure S is punitive against affordable housing contractors despite any supportive evidence. In fact, its only punitive actions are against Big Real Estate companies opting for luxury housing on parcels where such projects conflict with the General Plan and with zoning. 

This line of reasoning, however, ignore the obvious benefits of updating the General Plan when it comes to affordable housing. These updates will identify areas where there are existing parcels already zoned for denser housing construction, as well as neighborhoods with the greatest need for additional affordable housing.  Most likely, these areas will overlap in the form of long, low-rise commercial corridors, such as Pico Boulevard. Their commercial parcels could all be built out as four or five story apartment or mixed-use buildings through SB 1818/ Density Bonus incentives.  

If these were legitimate reasons to stop Measure S, its subtext is, "I have no problem with the many mega-projects sprouting up in many LA neighborhoods through City Council spot-zones lubricated by developer money handed over to city officials." 

Environmentalists: Some clever-by-half advocates of sustainability imagine that every large and tall apartment building is automatically transit-oriented. If they actually looked at the transportation patterns of the residents, however, they would have to return to the drawing board. Nearly all of LA’s high-rise apartment buildings, such as the luxury towers in Hollywood, Century City, Wilshire Boulevard, Koreatown, and elsewhere are only transit-adjacent, not transit-oriented. They are all auto-centric buildings whose tenants own and drive cars that they park on-site.   

What these unwitting shills for Big Real Estate have not realized is that two other elements are necessary to build transit-oriented buildings. The buildings’ units must have affordable and low-income rents, and the tenants must be transit dependent. Without these features, clichés about transit use are just ploys for real estate speculators to get their valuable spot-zones and spot-General Plan designations. 

While it is certainly possible to rebuild Los Angeles as a transit-oriented city, it will take much, much more than locating high-rise apartment buildings with well-off tenants near bus stops. To become another New York City, London, Paris, Tokyo, or San Francisco, Los Angeles needs a dense, fully built-out dense mass transit system. It also needs better streetlights, street trees, pedestrian-oriented sidewalks interfacing with transit, and a fully developed system of bike lanes and bicycle infrastructure. 

When these components of LA’s built environment finally appear, then transit-adjacent buildings can finally become transit-oriented housing. Until then, extravagant claims about transit-oriented projects are just another bamboozle ginned up by real estate speculators to take advantage of well-meaning but poorly informed supporters of alternative transportation modes. 

Labor: The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor has been co-opted to become a public bamboozler for the No on S real estate interests. As a former union officer at the City of Los Angeles, I am not surprised, but it is time for union members to call out the union staffers who made this sordid deal. Don't they know the identities of the Big Real Estate companies who asked for their endorsement? Don’t they know that most building projects, whether by-right or permitted through spot-zones, prefer short-term, non-union construction workers?ies will treat organized labor like chumps once the election is over and their political support is no longer needed? Don’t they know that every zone change and General Plan Amendment is also a transfer of wealth to large corporations that comes out of the pockets of their members and non-unionized working people in Los Angeles? 

Their supporters will not benefit from these shady land-use deals, and in fact, they will soon be on the short-end of the stick when they are gouged for expensive rents, down payments, or monthly mortgage payments. And, for those many union members and other employees who are pushed out of LA by real estate speculators demolishing rent stabilized apartments to make way for units renting at $3000 per month or more, cheaper housing in distant suburbs is offset by long, deadening commutes. 

Why do they have no shame about their Big Bamboozle? 

As we learned from the Corleone family in The Godfather trilogy, “It’s just business.” They are checking-in facts and ethics at the door as the March 7 election looms closer.

 

(Dick Platkin is former LA City planner who recently taught courses on sustainable city planning at USC and CSUN. He is also a former union officer, who worked hard to create labor-neighbor alliances in Los Angeles. Please send corrections or comments to rhplatkin@gmail.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

THE PREVEN REPORT--On December 15 of last year, Mayor Garcetti approved by signature an expenditure of $50,000 for specialized legal services to assist in responding to a Department of Justice investigation.  

Provided by Arent Fox LLP, the specialized legal services are described as a “new” two-year contract. New two-year contract? There’s more than one? Have there been others, with different law firms perhaps? 

The people of Los Angeles need to know what is going on. We won’t tolerate another “Independent Living Ctr. vs. the City of Los Angeles” … a case that should have been settled years ago but instead was litigated endlessly by Mayor Garcetti and the rest of the Council. The losses, already $225 million, continue to rise. A similar case, Willits vs. City of LA, soared all the way to $1.37 billion.  

The people of Los Angeles have a right—indeed, an obligation—to see all invoices to date that specify the amounts that the City of Los Angeles has been billed by Arent Fox LLP, or any other law firm, in connection with this Department of Justice investigation. 

On December 29, 2016, the California Supreme Court, ruling in favor of petitioners  Eric Preven (co-author of this article) and the ACLU of Southern California, affirmed, in effect, the right of the public, in the face of secretive government malfeasance, to pull back the curtains and have a look around, to confront our elected representatives and assess the damage (and so start the process of repair).  

It's time for us to exercise that right.

(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer and a candidate for Los Angeles mayor. Joshua is a teacher.)

-cw

THE REAL WORLD--I've had enough of CD 5 Councilman Paul Koretz. I can't be spun by his niceness, anymore. And, I'm sick of hearing him say, 'Perhaps we should consider, at some time in the future, entertaining the notion of pursuing this matter with further discussion, possibly leading to a study, in the future; before we move ahead." (Way to take a stand, Paul! The softest community stiff-armer, in the horseshoe.)

There are two other candidates running against Paul "Korrupt" Koretz, in the March 7th election: Jesse Creed and Mark Herd. Jesse has a lot of money raised; and Herd is the only #YesOnS candidate in the CD 5 election. Get out the word, to get out the vote; for one of these two candidates. We must take Koretz and replace him to show City Hall that enough community backstabbing is enough.

As you probably know, the LA Times did an article exposing all the money that billionaire developer Rick Caruso was spreading around City Hall to get his 20-story mixed-use, mega-project approved for the Beverly Center area, where average (big) building height is 8 stories.

Of course, Paul Koretz was on Caruso's payroll, as was LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, to get this project, out of scale and character of the community, approved.

After the LA Times article, Koretz came out against the project. But, here’s how the game is played: ask for a little more than you know you can get ... then say, "Well, we scaled back the project, and I am now for it." Guess what. Caruso offered to cut 3 stories off the project and Koretz said “I am now for it.”

Koretz can hide behind scaling it back from 20 stories to 17 stories; but the people weren't against the project over the 15% reduction of something that is completely out of scale and character for the area.

Just because Caruso wants to jam something into the area for his portfolio doesn't mean the community wants to jam up the neighborhood with another shopping plaza of stores and restaurants for tourists.

And there is big citywide outrage over the exposure of how Carsuo buys off elected officials to do what he wants; with the pay-to-play type donations he makes to Koretz, Garcetti and others.

Q: Did Paul Koretz and Eric Garcetti give back the money they took from Caruso? A: NO!

Does reducing it three stories, when they always ask for more than they expect; and reduce it down in the negotiation ... I'm pretty sure this was a back room deal all along. ("Yeah, we'll ask for 20 stories, then cut it down to 17.")

The Caruso project should have its own district and councilmember. Is EMS/Fire/Police going to be able to staff up for increased demand this project will be placing on city infrastructure? Traffic is so gridlocked in the area this is certain to increase response times; for emergencies across the community. (Like when elderly call for ambulance; or you call for fire response.)

I know some people are unsure about Measure S. They think it goes too far.


But, Garcetti, Koretz, Council and the developers who run them have proven they are out of control, corrupt, pay-to-play maniacs who can't stop themselves, like any addict. Replace Koretz with one of the other two candidates on the ballot in his race.

The problem isn’t the Koretzes of the city, it’s the people who keep voting for them. Look in the mirror. Do the right thing.

 

(David (Zuma Dogg) Saltsburg is a candidate for Los Angeles mayor. He has been a community activist in Los Angles for more than 10 years successfully taking on City Hall on numerous occasions. Learn more here.

-cw

LATINO PERSPECTIVE--Zillow which is the leading real estate and rental marketplace dedicated to empowering consumers with data, inspiration and knowledge around the place they call home, and connecting them with the best local professionals who can help has published a report that concludes that minorities in Los Angeles are more likely to have negative equity loans. 

In LA’s predominantly Latino neighborhoods, 7 percent of all homeowners owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth — that’s compared to 4.3 percent of homeowners in predominantly white neighborhoods and 5.7 percent of all homeowners in L.A., according to the Zillow report. 

“Our previous research has shown that negative equity is more concentrated among less expensive homes, and now we know that it is also more prevalent in minority neighborhoods than in white communities, which are also trailing in the overall housing recovery,” Zillow chief economist Svenja Gudell said in a statement. “These gaps can and will have long-lasting implications for growth and equality.” 

That conclusion is important for Latino residents in Los Angeles. For Latinos one of the most, if not the most important issue facing the city of Los Angeles right now is housing and development. Latinos in particular need to pay close attention to this problem since they can be directly affected by what voters decide in regards to measure “S” and other measures. 

Housing in Los Angeles is increasingly becoming extremely expensive, and things will get worse before they get better. It just doesn’t make sense to live in this city when 50 percent or more of a family’s income goes to pay just for rent. What’s going to happen? Families will have to move out of the city and commute, this will not only increase traffic but the quality of life for all will be affected. This is not the way to grow. 

Our city leaders along with community leaders, developers, residents, and lenders need to work together and be smart about how to grow the city of Los Angeles, just look a the homelessness problem. We still have time to figure things out, let’s do it.

(Fred Mariscal writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch. He came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He can be reached at fred.gwnc@gmail.com.)

-cw

@THE GUSS REPORT-It would be easier to write something positive about Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti if there wasn’t the gnawing feeling that virtually everything he says is torturously measured, in need of dissection and adding an asterisk or three.

For example, last week the San Diego Chargers announced they are leaving the team’s home of 56 years to come to LA … the County of Los Angeles, not the City of Los Angeles where Garcetti is Mayor.  

The Chargers wisely chose to play their next few seasons in the nearby City of Carson’s diminutive, but new and fun 30,000-seat StubHub Center and have the place filled to the brim with fans rather than in Garcetti’s half-empty, soon-to-be-vacant and soon-to-be 95-year old LA Memorial Coliseum while the Rams’ billion dollar stadium in the City of Inglewood is being built. 

So let’s back-up and dissect, shall we? 

The Chargers are moving between three cities not named Los Angeles. They are leaving San Diego, temporarily to Carson, and will eventually wind-up in Inglewood. They will only be in the City of Los Angeles if, and when, they play the soon-to-be-leaving Rams. 

But in Garcetti’s mind, he needs to make the public (i.e. voters) feel as though he accomplished something, and so put out a statement welcoming the Chargers “back to” LA: 

“….Today, we welcome an important part of (LA’s sports) history back with the Chargers returning to Los Angeles….The Chargers will make our NFL tradition even richer….” 

What NFL tradition? The City of Los Angeles does not have its own franchise anymore, and hasn’t in decades. What is this “will make” you speak of, Mayor Garcetti? 

The Chargers played in the City of Los Angeles for just one season, in 1960, when the Coliseum was only 37 years old. There was so little interest in them despite their having a winning season that on December 10, 1960 only 9,928 people attended the game in the nearly 100,000 seat Coliseum. Their highest attendance that season was 21,805. 

By “returning to” Los Angeles, Garcetti once again tries to blur the lines between the City which he does govern and the County which he does not.

The only City of Los Angeles Mayor to bring the Chargers here was C. Norris Poulson, who also lured the Dodgers to LA from Brooklyn. Garcetti misleads the public on the NFL because there is nothing that an ambitious politician loves more than those awkward stadium groundbreaking photos where he (or she) wears a pricey suit with a silver hard hat and holds a shovel. Politicians crave them because, they feel, the massive cost of the project to the taxpayers takes a backseat to being able to claim that they brought a sports team and thousands of jobs to the area. 

In each chapter of Garcetti’s career in City Hall he never got that photo so he issues statements and Tweets, all deceptively. 

(Note: there is an unintentionally humorous and ironic anecdote on Mayor Poulson’s Wikipedia page which reads “Poulson's victory in the Los Angeles mayoral race came after a contentious battle in which his opponent, incumbent Mayor Fletcher Bowron, claimed that the Los Angeles Times wanted to control city government and, by endorsing Poulson, would have a puppet in the mayor's office.)

Some things never change, but I digress. 

Garcetti’s NFL charade is nothing new. During his failed quest for the Rams to make the City of Los Angeles its permanent home, he discouraged other U.S. mayors from doing the same thing, telling ESPN, “Don't be so desperate for a sports franchise and don't put your city in debt for decades.” 

But that is precisely what Garcetti did during his 12 years on the LA City Council, six of which he spent as its president, and during his first term as Mayor. 

Last May, I wrote that City Hall squandered too much time groveling for a Super Bowl that it wouldn’t – and didn’t – get. 

And in June, I pointed out that Garcetti was still awkwardly and deceptively Tweeting that he succeeded in getting the 2021 Super Bowl when he didn’t. 

The only rich NFL tradition that Garcetti and the LA City Council have is their ill-advised begging for it, always coming up empty and never quite telling it like it is.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

@THE GUSS REPORT-It’s so very “Rich” in both the proper noun and the adjective sort of way. Last week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed his adviser Rich Llewellyn as interim Chief Administrative Officer after Miguel Santana’s exit, a departure that is referred to in some corners of City Hall as another Garcetti mammal jumping off a sinking ship. 

It’s true that Llewellyn has held a number of Chief-of-Staff-ish positions in the City and has a background with the County government as well. That is valuable experience. But make no mistake; there is nothing about this appointment that will help unlock the gridlock, and rid us of waste and status quo. If anything, Llewellyn is the Super Glue that holds the deep dollar deceptions together.

Llewellyn has, at most junctures of his career, taken measures to suppress transparency that many of us CityWatch contributors and our brethren elsewhere work to crack open for you. 

In my own never-ending quest to shine a light on Garcetti’s deceptions, I had numerous occasions to make public records act requests of the Mayor’s office. 

The most shameful response ever written to me was by Llewellyn on April 27, 2016, and it takes the cake. 

In it, he explained the myriad reasons why I got virtually none of my requested records. One was an unwanted invasion of personal privacy, except that I did not request any private information. Another was that the documents are pre-decisional. I get that. You get that. There is no argument there. But Llewellyn’s third reason was perfectly telling about the corrupt nature of local politics. 

“….records for which the public interest served by withholding the records clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure, and may be withheld pursuant to Government Code 6255.” 

In other words, less disclosure is better than more, because the “public interest” is not, and never will be, defined. 

But as I showed in my articles throughout 2016, public interest in Garcetti World means his own personal and political interest, not ours and that of the city as a whole. 

The most telling comment about Garcetti appointing Llewellyn, who served as Chief Deputy and Chief of Staff respectively, to those paragons of virtue former City Attorney Rocky “Crash” Delgadillo and current Councilmember Paul Koretz, is this assurance from City Council President Herb Wesson: “We are pleased the Mayor is committed to a national search to fill the vacancy of Chief Administrative Officer.” 

Wesson was similarly committed to finding a replacement for Felipe Fuentes (who shockingly quit his City Council position in his first term) but decided that Fuentes’ district was better off with himself (Wesson) running it than it would be by immediately electing someone who actually lived there. 

Llewellyn is the ultimate insider where the game first and foremost involves kicking the can down the road and keeping elected officials employed in their jobs or getting them elected to the next ones. His career of knowing the insider stuff will serve the city’s 18-elected officials well, but will benefit few others. Well-paid insiders rarely do right by the people, and you shouldn’t expect this appointment to be any different.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

 

CITYWATCH ‘FIRST PERSON’ COVERAGE BEGINS THURSDAY--More than 20 U.S. lawmakers have now said they will not attend Friday's inauguration ceremony, while Saturday's Women's March continues to gain steam. 


 

TNN Editor/Publisher Dianne Lawrence will provide ‘first person’ perspectives on Saturday’s Women’s March from Washington DC beginning Thursday in CityWatch.


 

Fusion is keeping a list of representatives who are skipping President-elect Donald Trump's inauguration—a list that grew overnight after Trump lashed out  at Rep. John Lewis in a series of tweets. 

"While I do not dispute that Trump won the Electoral College, I cannot normalize his behavior or the disparaging and un-American statements he has made," California Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) said in a statement on Saturday. "For me, the personal decision not to attend Inauguration is quite simple: Do I stand with Donald Trump, or do I stand with John Lewis? I am standing with John Lewis."

In a statement posted online Sunday morning, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) declared:

I was planning on attending the Inauguration on Friday out of respect for the office of president, while still making it back home on Saturday to attend the Women's March in Madison. However, after long consideration based on reading the classified document on Russian hacking and Trump's candidacy on Thursday, the handling of his conflicts of interest, and this weekend's offensive tweets about a national hero Rep. John Lewis, I am no longer attending the event. At minimum, it's time for Donald Trump to start acting like President Trump, not an immature, undignified reality star with questionable friends and a Twitter addiction. I hope for better, but will not hold my breath.

Speaking to Politico, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, suggested there might be similar announcements in the works. 

"You can guarantee this will cause people to organize with even greater intensity," he said of Trump's attacks on Lewis. "This will make it even more likely that additional members skip the inauguration."

Many of those who are ditching Friday's festivities have explicitly stated that they do plan to participate in the Women's March on Washington happening the following day—or in a solidarity event taking place closer to home.

The march's organizers this week released a four-page platform (pdf) described as "the definition of intersectional feminism" and "an unapologetically radical, progressive vision for justice in America." In keeping with the march's broad agenda, the document does not mention Trump, but honors "the legions of revolutionary leaders who paved the way for us to march," including Ella Baker, Berta Cáceres, Rachel Carson, Shirley Chisholm, Winona LaDuke, Audre Lorde, Gloria Steinem, and Harriet Tubman. 

"Our liberation is bound by each other's," its authors write, outlining demands including:

  • accountability and justice for police brutality and ending racial profiling and targeting of communities of color;
  • dismantling the gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system;
  • reproductive freedom;
  • LGBTQIA rights;
  • workforce opportunities that reduce discrimination against women and mothers;
  • rights, dignity, and fair treatment for all unpaid and paid caregivers;
  • a living minimum wage;
  • restoring and protecting voting rights; 
  • ending mass deportation, family detention, violations of due process, and violence against queer and trans migrants; and
  • clean water, clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands.

"We believe Gender Justice is Racial Justice is Economic Justice," the document reads. "We must create a society in which women, in particular women—in particular Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, Muslim women, and queer and trans women—are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments."

There's a good chance the Women's March will outdraw Trump's inauguration—despite the president-elect's Saturday night claim that his celebration "is turning out to be even bigger than expected." 

The Washington Post reported Thursday that "far more parking permits are being sought for buses for the Women's March on Washington the day after inauguration than for the inauguration itself," according to D. C. city council member Charles Allen.

Meanwhile, pink yarn is reportedly flying off the shelves as knitters fashion pink "pussy hats" for Saturday's demonstration, and Broadway star Jennifer Holliday said this weekend that she would not, in fact, perform at an inaugural event Thursday after outcry from fans. 

(Deirdre Fulton writes for Common Dreams … where this report originated. Watch for CityWatch ‘first person’ coverage beginning Thursday.)

-cw