EDUCATION POLITICS--Dr. Chris Emdin, associate professor at Columbia University's Teachers College in his new book "For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood...and the Rest of Y'all Too," completely misunderstands why poor minority students continue to fail in public school and in the process he comes up with bogus "white hero teacher" alternative facts to explain why these poor minority children continue to fail. 

Somehow Professor Emdin ignores the predictable negative educational deficiencies in our still segregated, racist public schools even though 63 years ago Brown vs. Board of Education declared, "Separate but equal...is inherently unequal." But what else should we expect when that is still the reality for the vast majority of minority children who attend inner-city schools? 

There is complicity among not only White but minority administrators when they continue to enforce failed education policies like social promotion in which students are promoted year after year, whether or not they have mastered prior grade-level standards. This has created a massive population of Black and poor minority students that never had a chance from “Jump Street” in the segregated system that they -- and probably their parents -- have been subjected to unnecessarily. 

It is patently offensive and self-deceiving to falsely romanticize minority student failure (failure that would occur within any ethnicity under in the same failing circumstances) as proof that Black children “learn differently.” They just may learn differently -- or not at all -- not because of their ethnicity, but because of what they have endured in a public education system that "graduates" them -- one way or another -- without the basic literacy and skills they need to develop a profound understanding of their own and other cultures. 

When Professor Emdin seeks to "value the unique realities of minority children, incorporating their culture into classroom instruction," he and others presuppose a level of literacy that is for the most part nonexistent. Why? Because it has never been taught in a public education system that is still purposefully failing these students, families, communities and cultures. 

Education administration, being one of the few upwardly mobile professions open to people of color, finds minority leaders enforcing archaic, racist inner city public school policies that are continuing to assure the ultimate failure of the vast majority of their students. There is a certain sick irony of this negation of racism; when push comes to shove, a public school administrator of whatever ethnicity will turn momma's picture to the wall, protected his or her ability to collect a six-figure salary, no matter what the cost to the kids. 

Don't expect things to change in the near future if educators keep citing the failure to respect Black culture as the alternative fact for why Black students aren't learning. This ignores the real reason for student failure which is a clearly racist public education system that does not implement a timely, age sensitive, subjective student level education.

There is literally no attempt to educate predominantly poor students of color in any manner that remotely resembles the way White students who attend private schools are educated. So expect the prison population to rise in the future, above its present obscene level of 2.3 million. 

"Black culture" has nothing to do with a system of rote public education where the Socratic Method and critical thinking are nowhere to be found in any form. To sanctify this patently inferior and generationally perpetuated system of non-education as a failure because it didn't respect "black culture" ignores the glaring reality that all other non-colored cultures in America have somehow gotten educated without losing their culture of origin. 

All Americans of any ethnicity can hardly deny the significance Black culture has had on our collective national identity. But explaining the premeditated failure of Black and other poor children of color in public schools by saying that their culture is not respected in public schools is patently ludicrous. Having more than a 500 word vocabulary and knowing your times tables is a better measure of whether you will maintain your culture of origin. And throwing in some real estate finance or credit card literacy into the mix might be more likely to promote my kind of Black culture without exploitation. 

The generational failure and objective inferiority created by what remains a segregated public education system is and remains a burden -- not a culture -- that could have been and can still be avoided. One merely needs to recognize that inner city "public education" as presently constituted is no place for students of any ethnicity to recognize their potential. 

It’s wrong to justify this failure with falsehoods like ‘Black students learn differently’ or that it's the fault of White teachers -- themselves many times the victims of the system since they are stymied at every turn and often fired if they embarrass the power structure by actually trying against all odds to educate Black and other children of color to their potential. The excellent public education of our past is the best antidote to racism…but only if, once and for all, it is offered to all our people.

 

(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.

@THE GUSS REPORT-The Los Angeles Times reported last week that the LA District Attorney’s office is investigating whether LA City Councilmember Curren D. Price Jr. is simultaneously married to two women, a story I broke on CityWatch on February 27, with follow-ups on March 2 and March 6.  

The DA’s office subsequently confirmed for me they are also investigating allegations of other misconduct by Price, some of which were outlined in my March 6 article. A forensic dig may reveal a lot.

To review: 

The last time Price attempted to divorce his first wife, Lynn Suzette Green-Price, was 2012. But news sources indicate that he was already remarried at that time to his second (and current) wife, Del Richardson-Price.

At that time, Price and his divorce attorney Albert Robles claimed in a misdated document that they could not locate Lynn Price for the purpose of serving her with divorce papers. They asked that the court instead allow them to serve notice by buying a public notice ad in a local newspaper. 

Price and Robles claimed that Lynn Price’s most recent address was 4519 Don Arturo Place in Los Angeles. But according to Price’s 2013 financial disclosure forms, the occupant of that address was not Lynn Price, but a Dr. and Mr. Earl Jones. Price knew who the tenant was because – bizarre as it sounds – the property belongs to his second wife, Del Richardson-Price, who has owned it since June 21, 2001 to the present. 

If Lynn Price had lived there, as Price and Robles claimed, the address to which they mailed her refunded security deposit would be a more logical address at which to serve her. 

At any rate, locating Lynn Price would not have been a difficult task had Price and Robles endeavored to actually find her. Her address is listed on the website of her law firm in Trenton, New Jersey, as well as on the California and New Jersey Bar Association websites. 

Accordingly, the court rejected Price’s and Robles’ request to publish a divorce announcement in the newspaper and, instead, directed them to ascertain Lynn Price’s address via the forwarding address at the local post office. While it is unclear whether Price and Robles did that, the case has been dormant ever since.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marc D. Gross, who would oversee the case were it re-opened, is aware of the Price divorce controversy, but has yet to schedule a hearing for an Order to Show Cause (OSC), which is the legal equivalent of asking WTH is going on here

Subsequent to my breaking this story a month ago, Robles declared in one interview, “Curren Price is divorced. End of story.”

But since there is zero public evidence that Price and his first wife are divorced, the California Bar Association may take note of the discrepancy and determine why, since Robles insists that they are divorced, there is no record of division of shared assets or spousal support, the basic elements of divorce law, let alone a final determination. 

So back in 2012, Councilmember Price knew he was still married to Green because he was still trying to divorce her. Yet simultaneously, he failed to list her assets and income on his 2012 California Fair Political Practices Commission financial disclosure forms, also known as Form 700. It requires that candidates, officeholders and their spouse (or spouses in Price’s case) list their income and assets. 

But let’s give Councilmember Price the full benefit of the doubt and assume that his failure to disclose Lynn Price’s assets and income was either an honest error, or he was too embarrassed to disclose his divorce chaos. Both would be understandable, although not excusable, since the disclosures are signed under penalty of perjury. 

So why, then, did Price (according to Los Angeles City Ethics Commission records) in 2012 also fail to disclose any of the assets and income of his second wife, Del Richardson-Price? 

It is implausible that Price didn’t know this was required because he previously held elected offices on the Inglewood City Council, California State Assembly, California State Senate (holding various leadership roles while there) before being elected to the LA City Council. 

Real estate holdings Price failed to disclose include:

4519 Don Arturo Place

4171, 4171 ½, 4173, 4173 ½ Brighton

372, 374, 376 W. 12th Street

506 – 510 S. La Brea Avenue 

Since some of Price’s properties are located in the City of Los Angeles, he was supposed to disclose ownership in the event they were impacted by City Council votes on issues such as sidewalk repair, street lighting, street furniture, advertising and redistricting, among others. 

Price also failed to disclose the businesses owned by second wife Del Richardson-Price including DRA Associates, Just Work Inc. and Cuba Travel Service. If they, or their affiliates, applied for contracts from the LA City Council, Price would have had to recuse himself from those discussions and votes. 

Councilmember Price also neglected in 2012 to list any of Del Richardson-Price’s clients who paid her more than $10,000 each. A year later, in 2013, at least 20 businesses and government agencies fit that description:

LACMTA, City of LA HCID, Retirement Housing Foundation, Reiner Comm, HCHC, Harris & Associates, Inc., Turner Construction Company, Beacon Integrated Professional Resources, City of Hawthorne, City of LA Department of Public Works, Deep Gree (sic), Hollywood Park Tomorrow, LADWP, Mark Thomas & Company, Old Timer Foundation, OPC-Westside, Serrano, Vistas, West Hollywood Manzanita, West Valley. 

Councilmember Price either failed to detail his wife’s client-based income in 2012, or she went from zero-to-20 clients as soon as he was elected to LA City Council.

A comparison of Mr. Price’s participation in LA City Council discussions and votes to Del Richardson-Price’s client list will show that he at times failed to recuse himself on issues that benefitted his wife, her clients and, therefore, himself. 

With a Rose Mary Woods twist … 

Mr. Price has refused multiple requests to field live questions. At a time when truth from politicians is in such short supply, you would think Councilman Price would be looking for any opportunity to set the record straight. 

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

 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING--From the days of Not Yet New York in the 1980s to the present, some Angelenos consider New York City to be the opposite of their vision for Los Angeles. This is understandable because New York City, especially Manhattan, has much higher density (people) and intensity (buildings) than Los Angeles. 

New York City: But, appearances can be deceiving because New York City has the lowest per capita carbon footprint of any major city in the United States. The reasons are no mystery since most people in NYC use mass transit and live in apartments, not houses. But, there is more, and this is the real lesson for Los Angeles, a city whose residents generate nearly twice the amount of Green House Gases per capita as New Yorkers.   

As carefully explained by David Owen in Green Metropolis, New York City combines high residential density with high-density commercial, public transit, and other categories of public infrastructure and services, such as parks, schools, and libraries. Unlike Los Angeles, NYC clearly demonstrates how density can (but not necessarily will) address the Green House Gases responsible for global warming and climate change. In contrast, LA's approach: frequent City Council approvals of large and tall buildings where they can only be built through pay-to-play spot zones, is hardly the same. 

Even though LA has no shortage of apologists and boosters for poorly located but highly profitable high-rise buildings, such as 8150 Sunset, there is nothing sustainable about this land use decision-making model. In fact, the City Council’s approvals actually make the environment worse. If we look closely at these special ordinances and approvals, they should be accompanied by a sound track of ringing cash registers and wheezing Angelinos. This is because the Council’s spot-zones and spot-plan ordinances are worth many millions to developers, despite the ensuing air pollution. 

To truly address climate change, Los Angeles needs to make sure that its updated General Plan stipulates dense public services and infrastructure for all areas where greater density is planned. Furthermore, these dense public services and infrastructure components must be available when new projects are completed. After completion, the projects must then be carefully monitored to confirm that that their Green House Gas mitigation programs actually work.  If not, then the City Council ought to lower the boom on them. 

This is why the Los Angeles City Hall status quo model, still soundly championed by many commentators, is and will remain a list of empty environmental promises. All the ballyhoo about randomly located, un-planned high-rise buildings wondrously transforming Los Angeles into a more urban, sustainable, and environmentally friendly city remains hot air. Just as a poorly planned city like Los Angeles spawns dangerous urban heat islands, the hot air from the mega-structures’ boosters and apologists will compound the projects’ adverse environmental impacts. 

CEQA: Luckily, we now have the tools and the hard science to confirm these claims. It is the updated California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Senate Bill 97 now requires Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) to measure Green House Gases (largely CO2, water vapor, and methane) in their air quality section. Big surprise, so far the EIRs for LA’s illegal mega-projects, as well as for official plans to facilitate these mega-structures, like the overruled Hollywood Community Plan Update, confirm the obvious. Unlike NYC, LA’s mega-projects will generate unmitigatable levels of Green House Gases. That’s right, the claims that these projects promote a sustainable Los Angeles are demonstrably false. 

This is why the Los Angeles City Council always adopts a Statement of Overriding Considerations for these cases. The Council sweeps the projects’ toxic environmentally impacts under a bureaucratic carpet. Then, to make sure the carpet stays put, the Council never requires any subsequent monitoring of individual projects, community plan areas, or the entire city. 

If they did proceed with this monitoring, which the General Plan Framework specifies in exacting detail, the thin justifications for their approvals of these otherwise illegal mega-projects would quickly waft into LA’s polluted air. 

This monitoring would also blow the cover story from both the Council’s Statements of Overriding Considerations and the endless hot air spewing from tail pipes, 24/7 HVAC, developers, and the mega-project groupies. 

This, among many reasons, is why Los Angeles urgently needs to properly update its General Plan, then implement and carefully monitor it. 

(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.)

-cw

GUEST COMMENTARY--“Welcome to the Hollywood Ivar Gardens Hotel. We don’t like gays and lesbians or same-sex couples. We oppose a women’s right to choose. We think transgender people are dangerous.” 

Any hotel that posted a sign like that outside its entrance, especially in Los Angeles, might have a hard time filling its rooms or attracting customers to its restaurant. No hotel would risk undermining its business with such bigoted marketing. But a proposed hotel project in Hollywood, currently awaiting approval from the Los Angeles City Council, is led by a company whose president is closely tied to one of the nation’s most extremist anti-gay and anti-choice advocacy groups. 

TIPPING THE ODDS FOR LA--Remember the fiscal crisis which caused the City Council to change the law so that it could issue a kind of judgement obligation bond not used since 2010? Recently we were headed toward violating the 5% Reserve Fund and instituting a plan to issue Judgment Obligation Bonds; this would have cost city taxpayers $20 million in interest over the next 10 years. 

Well, good news. We’re in the clear. At least that’s what our Controller Ron Galperin said in a recent letter to the City Council. The only proviso is that all the city departments must have extra funds on hand at the end of the year, that no need arises for the reserve fund, and also, that we're ok with a 0.66% margin of error. 

What’s baffling is that his rosy prediction isn’t coupled with hard and fast demands for immediate cost cutting. Why not tip the odds a little more in our favor and make some immediate cuts? Here are a few suggestions: 

  • Have a contract panel rate for outside law firms, as the County does. 
  • Rethink the $22,500,000 redo of the Channel 35 studio. 
  • Reign in the chief of police and thereby stop the hemorrhaging of liability payments. 
  • Ask Xerox to lower their special collection parking ticket fee from $35 down to $24. 
  • Ask for 5% back from developers who’ve received tax breaks.  
  • Avoid future liability by ditching the all-overtime LAPD Metro security contract. 
  • Curb even just 5% of the Pay-to-Play that’s going on.  
  • Last but certainly not least, why not have the City Council and the Mayor take 10 percent haircuts, since collectively they’re the highest paid in the country?   

And if Ron Galperin is up for a little self-sacrifice … he's welcome to chip in too.

 

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

 

TRUTHDIG--As the Trump police state tightens its anti-immigrant grip on urban America, resistance is forming in city halls and in police departments charged with enforcing the law.

There is, of course, resistance on other issues, such as President Trump’s senseless proposed budget cuts and his determination to all but wipe out health care assistance for the poor, middle class and elderly. (Photo above: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.)

But it is immigration—the lifeblood of the United States—that most clearly reveals the essential cruelty of the Trump regime and its eagerness to embrace the practices and philosophy of a police state, an attitude shaped by the president’s hostility toward Latino and Muslim immigrants.

Attorneys and prosecutors in California, Arizona, Texas and Colorado have reported that teams of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have swept into courtrooms or are waiting outside to arrest undocumented immigrants, according to the Los Angeles Times. Tani Cantil-Sakauye, chief justice of California’s Supreme Court, asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to stop immigration agents from “stalking” the state’s courthouses to make arrests. “Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws,” Cantil-Sakauye wrote in a letter.

There are reports of great fear in mosques and throughout the Muslim community. Parents have painful talks with children on what to do if mom or dad is picked up by the immigration cops. They also must explain why grandparents or other relatives can’t join them in the United States.

Fear is taking hold of immigrant communities as they face immigration officers now freed from even the small limitations of the Obama administration. These immigration cops feel empowered, as if their time arrived with Trump’s election.

But there is powerful resistance from mayors—often tough, canny politicians—usually ignored by the national media.

Last week, mayors from New York to Los Angeles joined in a Day of Immigration Action to protest ICE enforcement of immigration laws. 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, grandson of immigrants, said, “We have grown into the most diverse city on the face of the earth—a city that champions inclusiveness and tolerance, and welcomes everyone who seeks to realize their dreams and build their families here regardless of national origin or immigration status.

“Today, more than 1.5 million residents of our city are foreign born, and nearly two of every three Angelenos are either immigrants or children of immigrants. Our immigrants are the engine of the Los Angeles economy. … Even more so, our immigrants have woven the social, cultural, and civic fabric of Los Angeles, from our educational institutions to our artistic stages, from the halls of government to community activism, from our vibrant culinary scene to our fields of play.”

The depth of feeling on the issue—and evidence of how it cuts across immigrants’ ethnic lines—was apparent at the nation’s major airports on the last weekend in January, when thousands gathered to protest Trump’s ban on refugees from the Muslim-majority countries of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan. Demonstrators showed up to protest in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Dallas, New York, Raleigh, N.C., Houston, Seattle and other cities. 

Other demonstrations have been smaller. I watched a relatively small group gather in downtown Los Angeles on a weekday afternoon to protest the arrest of Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, an undocumented worker. The protesters met in a corner of Pershing Square and then walked across the street to the high-rise building that houses the federal immigration courts.

Beyond aiming for Avelica-Gonzalez’s release, the rally’s sponsor—the National Day Laborer Organizing Network —is trying to build support for Senate Bill 54, introduced by California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León and now pending in the Legislature. The bill would sharply limit the amount of information jailers can give to ICE agents when undocumented immigrants are released from jail. It would require counties around the state to become sanctuaries, where undocumented immigrants would be given much more protection from ICE.

De León’s bill gets to the heart of one of the many things Trump hates—the “sanctuary city” movement.

Trump issued an executive order threatening local governments with reduction in federal funding if they embrace sanctuary city status and don’t support federal immigration enforcement, refusing to hand over prisoners to ICE. His Department of Homeland Security recently began posting weekly online reports identifying local law enforcement agencies that won’t hold undocumented immigrants in jail until federal officers can pick them up.

The way it works in most cases is that local jailers flag the undocumented when they are freed, permitting immigration agents to seize them and begin deportation proceedings. That’s permitted in Los Angeles County and other counties where the sheriff’s department run the jails. De León’s bill would sharply limit sheriff’s officers’ cooperation with ICE.

It’s different with police in Los Angeles under Garcetti. There, police cooperation with ICE is limited. Officers don’t approach people solely to inquire about their immigration status. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, like his predecessors, says that turning Los Angeles cops into immigration agents will make it difficult to learn about crimes and recruit informants. Police say that undocumented immigrants already hesitate to report domestic abuse for fear of being deported.

Rather than knuckle under to Trump, Garcetti has intensified his opposition to the administration’s anti-immigrant moves.

Garcetti told the police department to continue to refuse to question people about their immigration status. He told the fire chief, the chiefs of the airport and harbor police and other department heads to do the same. He said they must tell his office or Chief Beck if federal immigration cops ask them to help enforce federal immigration laws. The city, the mayor said, must “ensure equal access to facilities, services and programs without regard to any person’s citizenship or immigration status to the maximum extent that the law permits.”

Los Angeles, Garcetti said, must “foster a welcoming atmosphere for all regardless of immigration status.”

As should the United States.

(Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for Truthdig, the Jewish Journal, and LA Observed. This piece was posted first at Truthdig.com.)

-cw

During this month’s meeting of the Metro Board of Directors, there was a protracted discussion about how Measure M’s local return fund would be apportioned to the 88 cities and unincorporated Los Angeles County.

While in the past return dollars have been doled out on a strictly per capita basis, the new sales tax might work a little differently. The local return working group for Measure M (h/t Henry Fung) came up with a plan that would set an annual minimum amount that all jurisdictions would be guaranteed regardless of their population. The money to push these very small cities up to the floor amount would be carved out of the overall local return pot for the year, the remainder of which would then be distributed to the larger cities.

The idea of the floor is to protect very small cities, according to the directors who spoke on its behalf, since these cities are unlikely to benefit in meaningful ways from the megaprojects that will be funded in the coming decades. Due to their size, some of these cities are so small that they will receive on the order of $10,000 annually in return funding, which is not enough to make headway in local transportation spending, the argument continues.

Metro’s board instructed staff to look at the impacts of a floor on local return allotment, but we don’t need to wait for their report to get a sense of what this policy would do. In its first year, Metro’s new sales tax is projected to draw $860 million in new revenue. The local return funding, 16% of the total, will therefore start at $137.6 million annually. With the county’s population over 10 million, each jurisdiction will get approximately $13.44 per resident this year, with future amounts subject to change based on relative population and overall economic activity.

Metro CEO Phil Washington stressed during the board meeting that there has been no decision yet on the exact level that a floor might be set at, but $100,000 was mentioned as potentially acceptable level. Which cities, based on their population, would receive less than $100,000 in local return funding? The list is short. Avalon, Bradbury, Hidden Hills, Industry, Irwindale, La Habra Heights, Rolling Hills, and Vernon are the only eight cities below that mark.

With 16,000 residents combined, the cities have some notable similarities. They belong to one of two groups: wealthy residential communities, and industrial tax havens. Each has a reason for artificially keeping its residential population low. More residents would cut into the geographic remove of the former’s palatial estates, and, for the latter, residents are also a nuisance. After all, they demand tax-funded services and diverse land uses that might not be compatible with concrete plants, Sriracha factories, superfunds, and so forth. Of the eight cities, only one (Irwindale) even voted to pass Measure M.

This group makes a questionable set of targets for a handout like this. The poor cities in Los Angeles County are characterized by their density and crowding. Even small poor cities have far too many residents to hope to benefit from this proposed policy. And, though, as Director Garcia pointed out, $100,000 might not buy a single curb cut, it strikes me that the county has greater equity issues than Hidden Hills having to pick between a curb cut for Drake and one for Kanye. There are undoubtedly real ADA concerns that could be addressed in any of these cities, but, nonetheless, it is difficult to stomach compounding a regressive sales tax with an active redistribution from poorer cities to wealthier ones.

The carve-outs required to fund the local return floor vary in size depending on how many cities receive the subsidy, and the size of the subsidy. As the floor rises, the per capita amount available for the unsubsidized cities falls.

In the scenarios shown above, using a minimum annual allocation for local return funding can play a few different ways. With the $100,000 floor, a small amount of overall funding is redirected, so this scenario is minimally disruptive to the county’s more populous jurisdictions. 

On the other hand, what have we accomplished here? The eight cities subsidized here are not just below the floor, they’re far below it, requiring an average subsidy of 73% to reach the minimum. That minimum, as indicated by the comments of several directors, is seen as insufficient to accomplish the road paving and sidewalk maintenance for which it’s needed. In this scenario, we’re moving money around aimlessly, but without major consequences.

If a $250,000 annual minimum were selected, we would add to the ranks of the aggrieved the likes of Malibu, Westlake Village, and San Marino, where commercial zoning is intentionally suppressed and multi-family housing is forbidden outright. The $500,000 annual minimum level, which seems just comically high, would siphon 7% of the total local return pot.

Even though we are by now capturing nearly half of the jurisdictions in the county, we are still only giving benefits to 7% of county residents, effectively doubling their share of local return funding per capita. In this scenario, these small cities would certainly be able to afford more than a curb cut, but the largest part (about 38%) of the redistributions from the local return floor would go to those original 8 cities with the county’s lowest populations. If these cities lack the necessary funds to pave their roads, or paint bike lanes, it is wholly a concern of their internal political priorities. The higher the floor is set, the more spurious claims to equity appear.

These cities have tailored the public goods they provide so as to ingratiate themselves to wealthy residents or wealthy business interests in a form of aggressive Tiebout sorting, a process in which fragmented municipalities operate as a “market” for public goods that allows citizens to determine the optimal level of local taxation. In reality, the purported positive effects of such sorting are all but negated by, just for example, the use of exclusionary zoning in San Marino to preempt migration into the city, or the rampant externalities of a Vernon, which has repeatedly poisoned the poor residential communities that surround it

If cities such as these are failing to generate the necessary taxes to provide services to their few residents, the reason is that their model is failing. Solutions could be to diversify their land use, expand their tax base, and increase their population. However, the solution should not be for large and small poor cities to donate their tax dollars to small, wealthy cities to bail out a system that, it could be argued, plays an outsize role in stabilizing intraregional inequality. Metro should reject the proposal of a floor amount for local return, and continue to issue funding on a per capita basis.

(Scott Frazier is a graduate student at Cal State University Los Angeles in Public Administration.  This analysis was posted originally at urbanize.la

-cw

NEW GEOGRAPHY--Generation X, the group between the boomers and the millennials, has been largely cast aside in the media and marketing world, victims of their generation’s small size and lack of identity. In contrast to the much-discussed boomers and millennials, few have recognized the critical importance of this group to the future of politics, economics, technology and business.

Gen Xers — defined as aged between 35 and 49 in 2015 — matter because they will be the generation that will run our companies and governments as the boomers, albeit slowly, fade from their long-standing dominance. As millennials struggle to “launch,” the Xers are the group that will be critical to local housing markets, tech development and, perhaps most important, the creation of the next generation of children.

Far more entrepreneurial than their millennial successors, they also will have the money to shape the economy. An analysis by the Deloitte Center for Financial Services finds that they hold 14 percent of the nation’s wealth, compared to just 4 percent for millennials and 50 percent for the boomers. But by 2030, as the boomers finally start to fade from the picture, Xers increasingly will vie with boomers, accounting for 31 percent of the nation’s wealth, twice the percentage for the millennials.

Southern California’s Xer challenge

Southern California needs to focus more on Xers. Unlike the millennials, whose share has been dropping below national norms, our region still retains a higher percentage of Xers than the rest of the country. Yet, their population is being eroded by factors such as high housing prices and weak high-end job creation.

As housing prices move to ever more unsustainable levels, the Xers now are leaving California at a rate faster than any generation, according to the most recent Internal Revenue Service numbers. After all, with households having children and buying houses later, many Xers may be going to more kid-friendly areas with yards like they grew up in. Losing Xers, at least in the short run, may be more dangerous to the state and regional trajectory than millennial migration.

In their preferences, Xers nationally tend to be somewhat like their boomer forebears. An analysis of Xer residences in major metropolitan areas showed that more than 85 percent live in suburban and exurban areas, no doubt driven by such concerns as prices, house size, yards for the kids and recreation, safety and schools. This aspiration does not match with ultrahigh housing prices.

Indeed, in a recent analysis we did for Forbes.com, using U.S. Census Bureau age data of 35-49 as our measurement, Xer shares grew most dramatically in more affordable Sun Belt cities like Austin, Texas; Raleigh, N.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; Las Vegas; Phoenix; Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, which have enjoyed the widest growth in Xer share in the country. Since 2010, emerging tech hubs, notably Denver and Portland, Ore., also did well. In contrast, the Bay Area, despite its torrid economy, has seen its Xer share stagnate, while Los Angeles’ share actually dropped.

Gov. Brown’s war on Xer expectations

Over the past decade, California regulators — citing climate change concerns — have waged a war on the state’s “sprawl,” including recent moves to all but eliminate greenfield development. This policy hits Xers the hardest since they are demonstrably less attracted to living in dense, inner-core neighborhoods and far more likely to prefer suburban locations.

Here in Southern California, Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties all suffered losses in their Xer population share, while the more suburban — and affordable — Inland Empire expanded its proportion significantly, with Riverside up by over 30 percent and San Bernardino up by over 10 percent. Communities that have become more Xer-oriented since 2000 include places like Perris, Indio, Murrieta, Hemet, Victorville, Temecula, Corona and Moreno Valley. The only coastal community to rank among the top 10 for Xer growth was Irvine, with Lake Forest ranked 11th.

In contrast, most coastal cities — from Ventura down to Santa Monica to Newport Beach and San Clemente — did poorly. Similarly, many of the more affluent, high-cost cities in the region also saw large drops in their Xer shares, including Yorba Linda, Alhambra, Mission Viejo and Thousand Oaks.

California’s increasingly rigid approach to peripheral development seems destined to not only reduce the Xer footprint in the region, but also to contribute to an already rapid decrease in the number of children. For example, since 2010, Los Angeles has suffered one of the largest declines in the percentage of people aged 5 to 14 — ranking 45th out of 52 major metropolitan areas, ahead of only five Rust Belt cities, Chicago and Hartford, Conn.

What is happening with Xers could soon also occur among millennials as they enter their 30s. As the growth among twentysomethings slows precipitously, and then starts to decline by 2020, the market for the high-density urban lifestyle so beloved by our planning overloads, already a smallish minority among millennials, seems destined to decline.

Rather than shut off the prospects of young people, sparking continued outmigration and a diminution of our middle-class workforce, California needs to reconsider its current housing and land-use policies. The green-speculator-regulator triad may celebrate the end of “sprawl,” but in doing so they are creating a California that, from a societal perspective, will be fundamentally unsustainable.

Joel Kotkin is the editor of New Geography … where this piece was most recently posted … and is R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, a St. Louis-based public policy firm, and was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission.)

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ANALYSIS--Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch emerged confirmation hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee relatively unbloodied by relentless grilling from Democrats attempting to probe what they consider his extremist judicial philosophy.

The nominee came to the hearings with an ideological judicial rating well to the right of Antonin Scalia, the late conservative justice whose seat he would be filling, as well as with the blessings of the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. Both organizations have been key in the efforts by libertarian Republican mega-donors such as hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and the Koch Brothers to politically reshape the country along more corporate-friendly, neoliberal and socially conservative lines.

Republicans are determined to seat Gorsuch by April 16, in time to hear arguments during the Supreme Court’s final session of the current term. For their part, Democrats remain outraged over last year’s unprecedented, 10-month refusal by the Senate to grant the same hearings to Obama nominee Merrick Garland, while progressives continue to express alarm over Gorsuch’s 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals track record.

Time and again the nominee has sided with large corporations at the expense of individual rights. Cases have included his concurrence on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores — later affirmed by the Supreme Court — in which he found that businesses could deny their employees contraceptive coverage that conflicts with the owner’s religious beliefs. And in the midst of Wednesday’s hearings, Gorsuch’s ruling in a case involving the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, in which he sided against a public school student with autism, was overturned by the Supreme Court 8-0.

If confirmed, Gorsuch is widely expected to deliver the coup de grace to the high court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision, and the right of public-sector unions to collect fair-share agency fees. That landmark labor law narrowly survived last year’s Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case when the court deadlocked following Scalia’s death in February of 2016.

To understand Gorsuch’s potential impact on California, Capital & Main spoke by phone to constitutional law professor Melissa Murray. She is Interim Dean at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and the Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of Law Faculty Director at the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice.

The Golden State, Murray said, should above all be worried by what she and other legal scholars believe is Gorsuch’s most radical and far-reaching judicial prejudice — his extreme skepticism and hostility to the agency authority enshrined in a doctrine called “Chevron deference,” after the 1984 Supreme Court case Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council.

Agency deference is the foundation of the modern administrative state, she explained. It grants policymaking flexibility to agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Communication Commission by giving them the flexibility to adapt often vague and obsolete laws to the changes of a rapidly evolving, technology-based economy. But it has also provided regulatory sinew to fundamental worker protections offered by laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

“That’s a big deal, that’s huge” Murray emphasized. “Honestly, if there was anything that I would be most concerned about, it would be deference, because administrative agencies touch every aspect of everyone’s life.”

Though Gorsuch has been tight-lipped during his confirmations hearings, Murray outlined what Californians can expect from the nominee in different areas of the law based on his opinions and other writings.

Labor:

“Everything we’ve heard on the campaign trail would suggest that this administration is more hostile to labor and, as some of Judge Gorsuch’s critics have noted, he has often been more amenable to corporate interests as opposed to the interests of individuals.

Reproductive Rights:

In his book on euthanasia [The Future of Assisted Suicide], he expressed incredible admiration for what he might call a “culture of life.” And his discussion of euthanasia and assisted suicide would lead many to believe that he would be hostile to the idea of abortion rights or he would actually be quite favorable of broad attempts by the state to regulate access to abortion.

Civil Rights:

I don’t know that [he has] a deep hostility to civil rights; rather, it’s perhaps a broader deference to legislative and executive attempts to curtail [civil rights]. Or, as Chief Justice Roberts said in the voting rights case Shelby County v. Holder, maybe we are past the point where we need the kinds of interventions that the Voting Rights Act provided. I think it’s probably more likely that Gorsuch is one of these people who seems to think that we’re in a kind of post-racial society and these kinds of interventions are no longer needed.

Education:

The [neoliberal] rhetoric of school choice has . . . had very deleterious effects on public schools. By the same token, the idea of choice in other contexts — reproductive rights, contraception apropos abortion — has been pretty much overlooked, and there’s a kind of unevenness in that. So while I could certainly see a Judge Gorsuch being quite favorable in his approach to school vouchers as an expression of personal choice, … I imagine that the same kinds of neoliberal principles would not extend [by Gorsuch] to the right to choose in some other expression of individual liberty.

Immigration/Muslim Travel Ban:

He has made some statements in his confirmation hearings about being independent and the importance of an independent judiciary, especially in standing up to the executive, and I think those are exactly the right things to say in a moment like this one. But he has a very long record of being a government lawyer, and he was a high-ranking official in the Department of Justice under George W. Bush. In that capacity he had a very deferential posture to exercises of executive authority, and I can’t imagine that philosophy will be jettisoned now.

The Environment:

Deference is a big one. The idea that Judge Gorsuch has expressed is that agencies are not equipped to interpret the laws that govern their particular doctrinal areas. He would not be in favor of allowing the EPA to administer and to interpret the Clean Air Act. Instead he would say that was a legislative decision, or rather an executive function.

Gun Control:

He is a purported originalist, so I think he would be very protective of Second Amendment rights.

Should Democrats Filibuster Gorsuch’s Nomination?

Elections have consequences, and one is that the President has the authority to nominate someone to the Supreme Court, and the Senate has the duty to, through their advise and consent function, to appoint that person to the court. Judge Gorsuch is eminently qualified and is, I think, quite an appropriate pick for a more conservative-leaning president. That said, I would have to say that in March, 2016 when Merrick Garland’s name was put before the Senate, President Obama was the president, and it was his right to nominate someone and it was the Senate’s right to use their advise and consent function to give Judge Garland a hearing, and because Judge Garland was an unobjectionable candidate, he should have been appointed.

(Bill Raden is a freelance Los Angeles writer. This analysis was posted first at Capital and Main)

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EMOTION PICTURE CAPITAL--Pema Gyaltsen, a 24-year-old Tibetan man, reportedly set himself alight late last week — one of many such protests in recent years against what rights activists call brutal and repressive policies in China’s far West. Gyaltsen, who lived through his self-immolation, was promptly arrested by authorities; his whereabouts remain unknown.

The international advocacy group Free Tibet first reported Gyaltsen’s self-immolation Sunday on its website, basing the news on information obtained by research partners in northern India, says John Jones, an organizer with Free Tibet.

“The reasons for the self-immolation protests are the occupation and the accompanying human rights abuses,” Jones says. “Tibetans often leave notes or shout slogans during their self-immolation protests, calling for Tibet to be free, for an end to China’s repressive policies, for an end to the attacks on their culture and religion.” The incident was not widely reported in most Western outlets.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Chinese officials expressed outrage to their counterparts in India, after the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso — the Tibetan religious leader living in exile in Dharamsala, India — participated in an Indian state-sponsored Buddhism conference there.

New Delhi typically refrains from indicating any official support for the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing accuses of inciting Tibetan separatism from China. But it appeared this week the Dalai Lama was becoming involved in a long-standing deadlock between the two competing regional and world superpowers, entrenched in territorial disputes more than a half-century after the Sino-Indian War. Like Gyaltsen’s self-immolation, the news development received little attention in the Western media.

This trend is nothing new: With the exception of United States government-funded outlet Voice of America — which routinely reports on human rights violations in hard-to-reach parts of China and other deeply censored media environments — Americans and the international community have largely turned their attention away from Tibet. 

And that worries some ethnic Tibetans.

“Not only does the New York Times mention Tibet less, and not only does the American public … not talk about the issue, and not only is it Hollywood sidestepping this issue,” says a Tibetan activist who asked not to be named out of fear of reprisal from authorities. “The whole world is doing this. It’s because the Chinese government’s influence is growing.”

“But I also believe that as in everything in this life, there is karma,” the activist adds. “So I don’t believe that the Chinese government can always have good luck.”

It wasn’t always this way. In the 1990s, Tibet was Hollywood’s cause célèbre. As a result, for about a decade, Americans often heard of human rights violations in Tibet.

“Tibet has to compete for news coverage with the frequently shocking news from Syria, Ukraine, Sub-Saharan Africa, and other areas where there are wars and natural disasters.”

In 1993, the Academy Awards imposed a ban on actor Richard Gere (he’s since been rehabilitated) in response to a speech he gave advocating for Tibetan rights while presenting the Oscar for Art Direction. In his speech, Gere expressed his wishes that “we could all kind of send love and truth and a kind of sanity to Deng Xiaoping right now in Beijing, that he will take his troops and take the Chinese away from Tibet and allow people to live as free independent people again.”

Four years after Gere’s controversy, two big-budget films set in Tibet were released: In October, there was Seven Years in Tibet, starring Brad Pitt, and, in December, there was Martin Scorsese’s Kundun. Both films featured appearances by the Dalai Lama. One year later, the Dalai Lama himself released his book of philosophy, The Art of Happiness. A favorite at the time, it has sold well over a million copies.

Taking Hollywood’s lead, Free Tibet student groups proliferated in high schools and colleges across the nation.

But these days, the website for the Gere Foundation, dedicated to Tibet and the fight against HIV/AIDS, appears not to have been updated in years. An attempt to reach the organization was not successful, and Gere’s agent did not respond to a request for comment on his recent work for Tibetan rights. 

Gere is, however, still sticking up for Tibetans, even if his activism isn’t as loud or widely publicized as it once was. In February, he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel amid the Berlin release of his forthcoming film The Dinner. At the meeting, the two reportedly discussed Tibet, among other international affairs. 

“For several years recently [Gere] was more engaged with his work on HIV/AIDS than on Tibet, so his return to the Tibet issue, let alone as a strategic player, is a new development,” says Robert Barnett, a Columbia University professor and preeminent scholar on Tibet. “Perhaps media coverage has finally become seen as of secondary importance?”

“As for the Dalai Lama’s popularity, there is a slight shift in his role in the West from being an advocate on the Tibet-China issues to being a leading figure on ethics and religious tolerance in general,” Barnett adds. “The latter position continues to give him a huge audience in universities and other sectors around the world. That’s a shift in the type of media focus he’s interested in, rather than a decline in his profile.”

“It is up to Tibet groups and Tibet’s supporters, both celebrities and regular people, to keep reporting on Tibet.”

Some activists for the Tibetan cause blame a more turbulent world for the decline in international awareness of Tibetan affairs.

“There are many conflicts taking place around the world and Tibet has to compete for news coverage with the frequently shocking news from Syria, Ukraine, Sub-Saharan Africa, and other areas where there are wars and natural disasters,” Jones says. “Tibet retains many of its supporters from the 1990s, but, given the suffocating level of control that China is imposing, it is hard for news to get out of Tibet and for people around the world to get a true sense of how repressive China’s rule there is.”

Many advocates for human rights in China have observed that, with the country’s rise in political and economic power, Washington has been less willing to comment on Beijing’s repression of civil liberties.

Moving forward, Jones says, “it is up to Tibetan groups and Tibet’s supporters, both celebrities and regular people, to keep reporting on Tibet, so that it remains in the public consciousness.”

As for China’s comments to India: Last week, the Dalai Lama was present at an Indian-government sponsored Buddhism conference in India’s eastern district of Nalanda.

“It does look as if Delhi is signaling a somewhat tougher stance to Beijing for the moment, and that’s something the Dalai Lama has long called for,” says Barnett, the Columbia professor.

But don’t expect to find the Dalai Lama at the center of any major conflagrations between New Delhi and Beijing in the near future, Barnett predicts. “Neither [the Dalai Lama] nor Delhi will want to push this too aggressively,” he says. “For both of them, it is an element within their larger negotiating strategies rather than a prelude to confrontation.”

(Massoud Hayoun is an multilingual, investigative, award-winning journalist currently based in Los Angeles. He was most recently a reporter and part-time editor for Al Jazeera America’s website. This perspective was posted originally at Pacific Standard Magazine.

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BELL VIEW--I moved to Los Angeles from Chicago in the late-90s. Chicago – or most of it – is much more traditionally “urban” than LA. In fact, when I first came here, LA’s tree-lined streets and single family homes so confused me that I decided to move downtown. At least that part of town felt like a “city.” And I’ve always been a city kid.

At the time, about the only places to walk to in my new neighborhood were Bloom’s General Store and Al’s Bar. Bloom’s sold cigarettes and cereal – pretty much my steady diet at the time – and Al’s was a crazy cave covered in graffiti where you could grab a beer, shoot a game of pool, and maybe watch The Imperial Butt Wizards set fire to the place.

Al’s is gone, and Bloom’s is now a gourmet pie place where a slice of rhubarb and arugula crumble will set you back seven bucks. Clean, bright, happy-looking, beautiful, young urban elites now stroll the same streets where the homeless once pushed shopping carts and urban tumble weeds once rolled. Hipsters nibble on rattlesnake sausages and browse numbingly-precious displays of Japanese origami greeting cards. 

Is it better than it was? Sure. I suppose. Don’t get me wrong, I like line-caught yellowfin tuna carpaccio with locally-harvested micro greens and lemon sea foam as much as the next guy. But Al’s is gone. Gone forever. And with it a little bit of what made LA different from anyplace else in the world. 

After a year downtown, I dumped my lease and moved to a one bedroom apartment in Los Feliz. Rent set me back $630 a month – which sometimes I could barely scrape out of the couch cushions – and it was in this place I first fell in love with Los Angeles. 

And I think I need to make something clear at this point: I don’t love LA; I’m in love with LA. There’s a difference. I love New Orleans, New York City, and the Hollywood Bowl. Whenever I go to these places, I have a swell time. I don’t have any issues, no complaints. But LA drives me crazy most of the time. LA’s like a bi-polar girlfriend with a gambling problem. You never know whether she’s going to scare the crap out of you or take your breath away; and she’ll push your mother down the stairs for a dollar. But don’t anybody else talk smack about her, and don’t tell me she’s not the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. That’s what being in love feels like. 

When I moved to Los Feliz for the first time, the people in the neighborhood used to think of the place as a “village,” and it fit the bill. The heart of Los Feliz Village in the late 90s was the Onyx Café, where they dealt in bitter coffee, stale muffins, surly cashiers, and real conversation. They stayed open as long as people wanted to keep talking, and they didn’t care if you ever actually bought a cup of coffee. The homeless sat across from film students and talked about Kurosawa. Artists, actors, busboys, novelists, and nurses sat alone or in groups, talked to each other, met each other, had coffee, listened to music, and wandered home together or alone in the blue LA night. 

It was a beautiful, real place – a place like no other anywhere – and it’s gone. Gone forever.

Oh the kids these days! They don’t know what they missed. Los Feliz doesn’t feel so much like a village any more. The Onyx is a snooty French café and down the street, ex-frat boys from Michigan with their hats turned backwards chug expensive beer and scream at big-screen TVs. The kids today want housing. In particular, they want density in close proximity to transit. It’s practically a mantra. There’s no denying the law of supply and demand will have a downward pressure on sky-high rents – but will the addition of new housing bring back the days of the $630 one bedroom apartment in Los Feliz? 

No. Those deals are as dead and gone as the Hollywood Star Lanes, where the Coen Brothers shot the Big Lebowski, and which was torn down in 2002 to make way for an elementary school.

Is there room in this new Los Angeles for the likes of Al’s Bar, the Onyx, or the Hollywood Star Lanes? Nah. The new LA is slick, and shiny, and looks a lot like a corporate office park without the parking. The old LA – at least this is what we always told ourselves – was arguably the most diverse city in the world. Will the new LA be as diverse? Don’t count on it. The immigrant families who’ve managed to educate their children in rent-controlled apartments in neighborhoods like Echo Park and East Hollywood know the “affordable housing” coming to their neighborhoods has no room for them. Generational stakeholders in Boyle Heights are fighting against the intrusion of art galleries – which they rightly see as the thin edge of the wedge of gentrification. Wait till they get a load of what CIM Group has in store for them. 

It’s odd to watch the very young stand up for the rights of billionaires and bankers in their own backyards. I never thought I’d say this, but what is wrong with the kids these days?

 

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

CULTURAL DISCONNECT?--No industry is more identified with Southern California than entertainment. Yet, in the past, the industry’s appeal has lain in identifying with the always-changing values and mythos of American society. But, today, that connection is being undermined, not just by technology, but also by a seemingly self-conscious decision to sever the industry’s links with roughly half of the population. 

This was painfully obvious during the Oscars — the penultimate event of the seemingly endless award season — when speaker after speaker decided to spend their moments of fame denouncing President Donald Trump. For all his personal failings, and often misguided policies, most Republicans and independents disapprove of the relentless Trump bashing in the media. 

Hollywood’s decision to make itself part of the anti-Trump resistance would make for wonderful satire, if you could get it on film. Imagine feminist icon Emma Watson fighting for “women’s empowerment” while baring her breasts in Vanity Fair. Or a host of social justice warriors, like Meryl Streep, demanding justice for the dispossessed, then returning to their estates where these victims of Trumpism are not likely to be found outside the servants’ quarters. 

The results also have a hard side: dismal ratings, down from a traditional viewership of 40 million to a mere 32 million, following a pattern that has seen it slide badly the last three years. Most Trump voters turned off the political speeches, notes one survey. But the Academy had other ways to show its contempt for its customers: None of the 10 largest grossing movies, notes USA Today’s Mitch Albom, got nominated for best picture, best actor or actress, or for supporting roles. 

The everyman era 

The preference of sophisticated opinion may be quintessential to Europe’s boutique film industry, but the blending of popular tastes with art has long propelled Hollywood’s historical success. This separation between audience and the Academy was not always the case. Films like “Gone with the Wind” (1939), “Around the World in 80 Days” (1956), “Ben-Hur” (1959), “The Sound of Music” (1965), “The Godfather” (1972), “Forest Gump” (1994) and “Titanic” (1997) all managed to be both blockbusters and best picture winners. 

Hollywood, wrote author Leo Rosten in 1940, was “the very embodiment” of “magic success,” allowing a truck driver to dream of being a hero, or a small-town waitress “to compare herself to a movie queen.” Hollywood was Middle American to the core, which appealed not just to our own audiences, but also to those around the world. 

In a political sense, Hollywood connected with Americans across the ideological spectrum. During the contentious 1930s, Hollywood could accommodate both the conservative myth of the loner — Gary Cooper and John Wayne — and also produce powerful dramas that touched on issues of class and inequality, such as “Our Daily Bread” (1934), “How Green Was My Valley” (1941) and “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940). 

Some progressive-leaning films were written by people who were later “blacklisted” during the McCarthy era, a tragedy that deprived the industry of some of its greatest talents. The industry instead favored biblical epochs like “Quo Vadis” (1951) as well as innocuous comedies starring the likes of Doris Day. 

“It was boy meets girl, lives happily ever after,” recalled former Los Angeles and Orange County Republican Congressman Bob Dornan, who grew up during this time. “There were clear-cut heroes and villains. Nazis torturing little old ladies, John Wayne landing on the beaches. … America was the bearer, the hope of the world.” 

New closets and old 

In the early 1980s, when Dornan was wistfully reminiscing, things were already changing. As his uncle, Jack Haley Sr., best known for playing the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), grumbled, “The gays have come out of the closet and the conservatives have gotten in.” 

Like the blacklist, the closeting of gays was shameful. But now, particularly after Trump’s election, there’s a new kind of exclusion that marginalizes all but progressive thinking, with conservatives, as one put it, threatened with being “excommunicated from the church of tolerance.” 

Few, even most conservatives, don’t want a return to the self-censorship of the 1950s. It’s simply time to call a moratorium on ceaseless hectoring. Shows with edgy themes packaged in comedy and irony, like “Modern Family,” can still do well with a mass market, but there’s a limited audience for openly activist-driven programs like ABC’s miniseries “When We Rise.” 

A critical economic issue 

This is occurring as overall ticket sales are down to a century low and employment is, for the most part, stagnant. The television industry has also declined in the face of internet-based services, cord-cutting millennials and social media. There is also more competition, both from abroad and within the United States. In 1980, Hollywood employed three-quarters of all movie personnel. Now, as much as 80 percent of film starts take place elsewhere, taking many jobs along with them. 

How the creative industries — responsible for upwards of 700,000 jobs statewide, most of them in Southern California — addresses these issues is critical at a time when we have lost ground to other areas in fields from high-tech to manufacturing and business services. But, to revive fully, the Southern California cultural industry needs to once again speak to the aspirations of most Americans, not just the enlightened sophistos on the coasts. To leave people in Middle America, particularly in their 50s and above, watching reruns of old programs is not exactly a great business strategy for future growth.

 

Joel Kotkin is the R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism (www.opportunityurbanism.org). Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ECONOMIES OF PLACE-This time of year, the swallows return to Capistrano, and I return to my birthplace, San Francisco, for the city’s annual pre-budget finance conference. For the last few years I have kicked things off with an economic outlook for the coming year, replete with a discussion of risks. This being San Francisco, naturally, I had to talk about the high costs of housing as one of the risks to continued economic growth. 

On my way home, I thought of an SAT exam-like question. One of these things is not like the others: San Francisco, Cleveland, Hong Kong, Sydney, and Vancouver. I am going to take a wild guess and say that you, the reader, have chosen Cleveland. 

You are right. But why? After all, Cleveland rocks, but just not in the same way as the other cities. One of the many ways it is different is in the cost of living. Demographia’s just-released 2017 affordability study has Cleveland as one of the most affordable cities for housing, and each of the other cities in my SAT question as among the least affordable. 

This suggests something important about the affordability crisis that has not, but really should, enter the discussion of housing affordability: The cities that we find most attractive are cities where housing is “unaffordable.” In other words, the affordable housing crisis is not just about a lack of housing supply. 

In my current city, Los Angeles, one hears over and over again that everyone is leaving because no one can afford to live here. This talk reminds me of the Yogi Berra homily, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Of course, exactly the opposite is true, and that truth is what should guide us in our housing policy. 

The oft-made mistake is to suggest that housing is expensive because, as Demographia incorrectly puts it in their report, “Studies do not leave the slightest doubt that unaffordable housing is almost everywhere and every time caused by the same factor: housing supply restrictions.” Well, these “studies,” some of which are by very thoughtful people, leave plenty of doubt, and some of their authors ought to go back to Econ 101. Prices are not just a supply phenomenon but are rather an interaction between supply, what is available for sale, and demand, what people want to buy. 

Clearly the people who live in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities on Demographia’s list of cities with an affordability crisis could afford to live there. They just paid a larger portion of their income to do so. They could have moved to a more affordable place to live -- Cleveland, for example. So those who say that housing prices are unaffordable are saying that, at lower prices, there would be more demand than supply. Let’s explore the implications of this. 

Cleveland is so affordable because many people find it less desirable (think “lake effect” blizzards.) Indeed, half the population of Cleveland left over the past 50 years. The housing stock is more than ample for the people who want to live there. Which reminds me of the time I interviewed for a job in Buffalo, New York, right after graduation. Part of the pitch was, “Buffalo is a great place. It is so depressed that you can afford a really good house.” Somehow this did not seem like an endorsement of a community I wanted to move to. 

In my current city, Los Angeles, one hears over and over again that everyone is leaving because no one can afford to live here. This talk reminds me of the Yogi Berra homily, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”  Of course, exactly the opposite is true … 

The reason San Francisco is different is that it is a wonderful place to live. The scenery is spectacular, the climate mild, cultural amenities are abundant, and in a very short time one can be in the Sierra for some incredible winter sports or at Mavericks for world-class surfing. 

Edward Glaeser, in his towering work on urban economies, The Triumph of the City, said “vitality makes people willing to pay for space.” Glaeser, like many other urban economists, argues for more building, but the point repeatedly made by those who study urban migration is that exciting innovation (documented by UC Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti), natural amenities such as beaches, mountains, and lakes (documented in the “superstar cities” study of Goyurko, Sinai, Mayer), and cultural amenities (as oft described by economist Richard Florida) attract people from declining to successful cities. 

To be sure, San Francisco is not to everyone’s taste; some prefer the charm of a Louisiana bayou, and others the silence of a Minnesota winter. But given the housing stock, many more people want to live in San Francisco than can. An estimate in a 2015 paper by Moretti and the University of Chicago’s Chang-Tai Hsieh found that more affordable housing could increase San Francisco’s population by 100 percent or more. So there exists significant demand for San Francisco housing that a moderate change in zoning and building standards will not correct. 

The population growth Hsieh and Moretti found means that today’s locals in places where people want to live are going to have to write a check for the infrastructure to support them. This is an old story in a place like California. In 1967, one of Ronald Reagan’s first acts as governor was to increase taxes dramatically, giving us Californians the highly progressive income tax system we enjoy today, and that Republicans everywhere rail against. The reason? Large-scale migration to the state had caused his predecessor, Pat Brown, to build infrastructure to support a burgeoning population, and as a result the state was running a structural deficit. 

So what’s happening in San Francisco -- or Seattle or Austin, or any number of popular places where the cost of living is rising -- is the market system doing its thing. The market increases prices to ration the available land through the cost of housing. And people economize on their consumption of housing by living in smaller quarters, sharing with roommates, or stacking up generations. And for some, the price is not worth the value they would receive, and they leave. That is how any market rationalizes differences between supply and demand. 

What about those who are squeezed out of California (such as my kids, who moved to Colorado)? The Dad in me says, “That’s horrible, I want them down the block from me.” But the economist in me says, “They do not value what Los Angeles has, relative to their life in a small town in Colorado, enough to sacrifice other things for it.” Resources, when scarce, are appropriately allocated according to their value to those consuming them. 

And what about our schoolteachers, firemen, police, and city officials who struggle to live in the high-priced cities where they work? Here is the rub. When a place is really attractive and therefore really expensive -- take Santa Barbara -- many who perform valuable services live elsewhere, like in Ventura, 90 minutes away during rush hour. 

Instead of wringing our hands about affordability in high-demand places, and trying to build enough to meet a worldwide demand that is difficult to satiate, we should be saying, “Great, we have a really successful city, but we also want to have a city with certain professional, service, and demographic characteristics,” and design housing policy targeted to that. For example, Santa Clara County built high-quality affordable housing that it rents to schoolteachers. It is a small program, but it is a good start. What doesn’t work are overly broad measures, such as directing developers to make 20 percent of their units affordable in exchange for building permits. Such policies generate homes for only a very few San Franciscans (while attracting ever-more newcomers who want to live there.) 

That is not to say we should ignore affordability. We definitely must pay attention to affordability, as we plan the cities we want to live in. But in doing so, we must pay attention not only to whether we have enough housing supply but also to the nature of the demand in places where people want to live. If we ignore demand, we risk creating urban nightmares -- of crowding, traffic, long commutes, and ill health -- in pursuit of a successful and affordable city.

 

(Jerry Nickelsburg, an economist at UCLA Anderson School of Management, writes the Pacific Economist column. He would love to hear from you at Jerry.Nickelsburg@Anderson.UCLA.edu or via Twitter @jnickelsburg. This piece originally appeared in Zocalo Public Square.) prepped for City Watch by Linda Abrams.

TRUMP’S AMERICA-Latinos in Los Angeles are making dramatically fewer reports of rape and domestic violence amid a climate of fear over increased immigration enforcement, according to the city’s Police Chief Charlie Beck. 

Since the beginning of 2017, reports of rape among the city’s Latino population have declined by 25 percent, compared to the same period last year. Domestic violence reports have dropped nearly 10 percent. According to statistics provided by the Los Angeles Police Department, no other ethnic group experienced a comparable decrease.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Beck (photo right) said there was a “strong correlation” between the Trump administration’s new immigration rules, which empower federal agents to more aggressively deport those without documentation regardless of whether they’ve committed a serious crime, and the deflated numbers.

“Imagine a young woman—imagine your daughter, sister, mother, your friend—not reporting a sexual assault because they are afraid that their family will be torn apart,” he said during an appearance with Mayor Eric Garcetti. 

The Pew Research Center estimates that the Los Angeles metro area has one million undocumented immigrants, more than any other area in the country except New York. In a press release, the LAPD cautioned that while “there is no direct evidence that the decline is related to concerns within the Hispanic community regarding immigration, the department believes deportation fears may be preventing Hispanic members of the community from reporting when they are victimized.” 

The statement echoes what advocates and criminal justice experts have long been warning ― that Trump’s immigration crackdown may erode trust between immigrants and law enforcement, with devastating consequences.  

“We have entire communities of people feeling like it’s no longer safe or feasible for them to report crime,” said Jacquie Marroquin, director of programs for the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.  

She said local domestic violence organizations in Los Angeles have been flooded with calls and emails since Trump’s immigration policies were announced, spiking after an undocumented woman was arrested while seeking a domestic violence protective order. The woman now faces up to 10 years in prison. 

Victims who are undocumented may not feel like they can go to police or appear in court without running the risk of deportation, she said. That means that traditional routes to safety ― filing for a protection order, pursuing criminal charges ― are now out of reach. 

“We have heard of cases of survivors dropping cases all together,” Marroquin said. “Survivors are more concerned about their safety from ICE and law enforcement than their safety from the person who is hurting them.” 

She gave an example of an undocumented domestic violence victim in LA who has a protective order against her abuser, but is now too afraid to report violations to police, putting her in extreme danger. Another victim expressed fear at having to go to the police department to pick up her toddler as part as her child custody agreement. 

“They are reading about ICE hanging out in courthouses,” she said. “That sends a chilling effect to survivors who are thinking about going to the courts to seek relief.” 

If victims and witnesses are too scared to cooperate in criminal investigations, it can make it hard for prosecutors to hold perpetrators accountable ― placing entire communities at risk. In Denver, City Attorney Kristin Bronson said that four cases involving domestic violence were dropped as victims were afraid of being arrested if they testified. 

“Domestic violence, sexual violence, abuse exist in the shadows,” Marroquin said. “When folks don’t feel like they can come forward and bring these issues into the light, it forces them to remain in harmful situations.”  

(Melissa Jeltsen covers domestic violence and issues related to women’s health, safety and security at Huff Post …where this piece was first posted.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ALPERN AT LARGE--The City and County of Los Angeles are moving away from liberalism, and even beyond progressivism, to the extent that a social engineering project is being rammed down the throats of even the most open-minded of civic leaders.  And woe be unto those who dare speak truth to power, or to at least point out the sky is blue, and that the late George Orwell had a few good points. (Photo above: Couple fighting over parking space.) 

Speaking as one of the "useful idiots" guilty of wanting more mobility for Angelenos to improve their quality of life, we now have a culture where we just don't need any conservatives, moderates and/or Republicans telling us how to live our lives when we've got such a wonderful group of mega-lefties that are more than happy to tell us how to live our lives, instead: 

Myth #1: The Expo Line, the Gold Lines, and all the other lines were meant to megadensify LA. 

Urban infill is good.  Elegant density is good.  Transit-oriented housing is good.  Affordable housing is good.  Neighborhood preservation--and even betterment--is very good. 

But the Expo Line is a cute little trolley meant to offer an alternative to the I-10 freeway, and effectively added a lane or two each way on that horrible gridlocked highway.  Ditto for the Green Line and the I-105 freeway, and for all the freeway alternatives that the Orange and Gold Lines had to offer. 

Encouraging a capacity of overdevelopment--and anything BUT affordable housing and transit-oriented development--is now the name of the game. 

We could easily define affordable and transit-oriented development.  There's Senior Affordable, Student Affordable, and Workforce Affordable housing that all are great for the middle and lower socioeconomic classes and can reduce traffic and enhance our lives.  We could also define what differentiates "transit-oriented" versus "transit-adjacent" development. 

But we don't--because our pols and Planning gurus coddle developers who build market-level, car-oriented, and gentrifying developments that make a mockery of all they say, and what we demand. 

Myth #2--Car commuters are ruthless monsters bent on destroying us all! 

You know who uses their cars?  Most if not virtually all of our political leaders, the leadership of Metro and other transit agencies, and virtually all transit advocates (and kudos to those few mensches who practice what they preach!). 

As for me, I use my car because I live in West LA and work in underserved middle/lower-economic class neighborhoods in Orange and Riverside County. 

My wife uses her car for our children's needs and for groceries--they need transportation to schools too far to walk to, and we need food and household items too small to carry on a bus or train. 

And very, very few (I'm a big exception) transit advocates have children who are still minors, if they have any children at all!  The needs of children (parks, bus/train safety) and women with small children (or even women without children) are ignored by the transit world dominated by childless males ... although a few of us have children who we see will gladly use the train/Uber/Lyft over the car. 

There's no reason to not do anything in our power to allow other options to the car...for all of us.  But to demonize and arm-twist and belittle and besmirch ALL car drivers is rather obtuse, arrogant, and just downright unfair.   

And, in the same vein, demeaning homeowners who "have it so easy" in single-family neighborhoods isn't very kind, either.  But then again, the social engineers think that God (if they believe in God) is on their side, and they won't be disabused from their monopoly as the Wizards of Truth. 

Myth #3--Parking is BAD...very BAD...and always leads to BAD THINGS! 

Don't worry about ISIS and Donald Trump folks it's that neighbor's parking that'll getcha! 

You know, that parking in front of his/her house that YOU feel YOU deserve as a renter who makes less than him/her, and because he/she MUST have had it easier to buy that home because of Proposition 13...even they're in their 30's or 40's? 

You know, that parking next to the supermarkets and restaurants that are always full and in such short supply, and which forces you to hunt for parking in adjacent single-family neighborhoods, and which forces those neighborhoods to be "the mean streets" by establishing preferred parking districts, and which leads to a host of City parking tickets coming to a windshield near you? 

I could count time after time after countless time we've demanded that parking not be free, but the theology of "Parking is the Domain of the Prince of Darkness" and "the Car is the Anti-Christ" would be much easier to believe if:

 a) We could find a way to ensure that unbundled parking and apartments would ensure that apartment renters not purchasing a parking space would NOT be allowed to purchase a car that would, inevitably, be parked on someone else's hard-earned property.

 b) We could find a way to allow families with small or other minor children and/or seniors to actually survive without a car.

 c) We could create senior and student housing developments that would make it silly to purchase a car.

 d) We could find a way for families to buy family-sized grocery purchases without a car.

 e) We could find an economic model for suburban businesses to thrive without parking.

 f) We could get developers to pay for the same amount of transit amenities that they would have to pay for parking, so that they don't weasel out of their legal infrastructure/mitigation requirements in the name of being "environmentally sensitive". 

So we can all continue to be "useful idiots" and help those presiding over a gentrified LA City and County that leads to a further widening of the income gap between rich and poor, and which destroys the lives and dreams of the vanishing middle class, or we could consider treating urban planning and transportation planning like a science ... 

... and not a faith-based theology.

 

(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.)

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CALBUZZ--President Donald Trump’s approval rating, just 39% nationwide, is an anemic 31% in California, according to the latest survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. At the same time, Gov. Jerry Brown, who has sharply criticized Trump on immigration, health care and the environment, enjoys a 58% approval rating at home.

And while Trump has tightened restrictions on travel from majority-Muslim countries and amped up immigration controls at the U.S. border, 58% of Californians disapprove of the president’s travel ban and a whopping 68% of California adults say undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship.

To say California is another country is an understatement.

California Exceptionalism. Trump’s low approval ratings in California, about the same as they were in January, are held up only by the 82% of Republicans who approve of his performance: a staggering 91% of Democrats and 57% of independents disapprove. And while whites (45%) and men (39%) are more likely than women (24%) to approve of Trump, the president does even worse among Latinos (17%) and blacks (16%).

It’s a pathetic showing for the Narcissist in Chief in California where just 26% of voters are registered as Republicans (compared to 45% as Democrats and 24% as independents) and where Democrat Hillary Clinton won the November 2016 popular vote by nearly 3.7 million votes – 8,720,417 to 5,048,398.

Compared to the nearly seven in 10 Californians who say undocumented immigrants should have a legal path to citizenship, just 15% say they should be required to leave. A strong majority of Californians (68%) say that undocumented immigrants living in the US should be allowed to stay and eventually apply for citizenship. An overwhelming majority of Democrats (82%) and a solid majority of independents (62%) want a pathway to citizenship. But so too does a plurality of Republicans – 46%

If the Trump administration intends to round up undocumented immigrants and deport them, it will be against the wishes of the people of California, An even larger statewide majority (72%) is opposed to Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southern U.S. border, an idea supported by just 25% of California adults.

With his 58% approval rating and with 55% of Californians saying the state is headed in the right direction, Gov. Brown is well positioned to rebuke Trump’s attempts to build his border wall in California or – if he should try it — to use California National Guard troops for border security or immigration control.

(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.)

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EASTSIDER-The resignation of Xavier Becerra (photo above) to become California’s Attorney General has opened up a rare opportunity for some lucky Democrat. The prize is a lifetime sinecure as the Congress member for Congressional District 34. I say Democrat because the 34th district is overwhelmingly a Democratic, carved out district. 

As proof, of the 23 -- that’s right -- 23 candidates for the Special Election on April 4, 19 of them are Democrats, with one Libertarian, one No Party Preference, and one Green Party hopeful. Just a single Republican. Need I say more? 

And speaking of opportunities, here in Northeast LA we now have two Democratic clubs -- the been- around-forever NEDC (Northeast Democratic Club), and the new EAPD (East Area Progressive Democrats.) The NEDC has something like 100 members, while the new group advertises around 600 members. Quite a feat for a new Democratic club. You can probably guess where the Bernie people tend to hang out.

What makes political life interesting here in Northeast LA, is that the Eastside Progressives have recently turned the Party on its head. They did it with a huge turnout for the January Delegate race (for the State Democratic Party Central Committee) in the 51st AD. Something like 900 votes, a number more than triple the usual turnout for this event, and the EAPD candidates won all 14 seats!  

Anyhow, this special election offers up an amazing prize in a race where only a handful of voters are likely to pay attention and vote. Special elections tend to have even lower turnouts than City Council elections, if you can believe that. And a congressional seat has no term limits! 

It is also a wonderful opportunity to introduce the next group of Democratic politicians, that next generation of leaders that are looking for a way into the political system outside of the same old same ‘kiss the ring’ old party process. 

So What Did We Get? 

At the end of the day what we saw at the few candidate forums was mostly the same small group of insiders. Since the East Area Progressive Democrats did not endorse anyone, let me concentrate on the Northeast Democrats, who did. 

Three insiders (folks with a track record and some money) and a couple of unknowns were invited, ignoring the other 13 democratic hopefuls. The three I would characterize as insider favorites were Jimmy Gomez, Sara Hernandez, and Yolie Flores. We were at least spared former Assembly Speaker John Perez, who had announced that he was running early on, only to magically withdraw based on “health issues.”

For those who don’t follow politics, Jimmy Gomez is currently the Assembly Member from our 51st AD in Northeast LA, and just won re-election in last November’s General Election with over 86% of the vote. He is also one of those carefully nurtured soon-to-be lifetime professional Democratic politicians the party loves so much. 

UCLA, Harvard MA, worked for Hilda Solis in D.C., came out of AFSCME, and then returned to California as the political director for UNAC (United Nurses of California) while awaiting his opportunity to run for office. Jimmy Gomez is personable and smooth. He also won the NEDC endorsement with 84% of the 58 ballots cast. 

Our other well nurtured Dem insider, “God’s Gift to the Eastside” Jose Huizar, evidently decided that he likes the City Council better than taking a chance on losing to Jimmy Gomez, so he dithered around, finally deciding not to run for Congress. He is another of the carefully created professional Democratic Party lifers. Backed by the establishment, he was handed a seat in the LAUSD before coming to City Hall. The LAUSD gig let him spend our school bond money as head of the District’s Public Works Committee, and even become President of the Board, all while getting tight with developers. 

Huizar’s presence is still on the ballot, however, in the person of a surrogate -- Sara Hernandez. She was Huizar’s Area Director for Downtown Los Angeles, getting to know the rich and powerful just as Huizar did with the LAUSD. She quietly rebranded herself with a little distance from Huizar, by leaving the Council office to become Executive Director of Southern California Coro in mid-2016, prior to announcing her run to replace Becerra this year. Less advertised is her stint with the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). 

Sara Hernandez must have known that the Northeast Dems are death on Charter Schools, because she was a no show at their Endorsement meeting. On the other hand, she is well-funded and has hit the campaign trail with a whole series of TV ads, mailbox stuffers and phone banking. 

Speaking of Charter Schools, the third mainstream candidate was Yolie Flores, registered as a Democrat but really IMHO Monica Garcia “lite” when she was on the LAUSD School Board. She and Monica are deep pocket CCSA backed Charter School advocates, and for my money, they are Democrats in name only. The reason I know she has money behind her this time out is because I’ve had four calls from her campaign people, as well as a number of mailbox pitches. 

All top-down Democrats. 

And What Did We Miss? 

When I asked the President of the NELA Dems who decided who was going to be showcased at the Endorsement meeting, I was informed that the Executive Committee had met, looked at candidate resumes, and then determined a cut off for applying. Cut off indeed. How about a deliberate curtailment of small “d” democracy. 

Personally, I wanted to hear from at least two other candidates that could well be in that top tier for a runoff -- Arturo Carmona and Wendy Carrillo. It seemed to me that these two in particular represent the next generation of grassroots Democrats as opposed to top-down Democrats. 

Arturo Carmona represents the best of Bernie Sanders’ campaign, working tirelessly for the Senator’s vision of a small “d” Democratic Party. My kind of real deal working from the ground up small donor kind of leader we need in the party. You can read more about him here.  

Wendy is young, hails from the Boyle Heights/El Sereno chunk of Northeast Los Angeles, became a citizen by age 21, and went on to get a Masters at USC. Not too shabby. She is another real deal small “d” Democrat. You can check out the LA Times article about her here. 

The Takeaway 

Out of the 19 Democratic candidates for Congress in the 34th CD, only a handful really got heard by anyone in this election. I think that potential voters were cheated by not being able to widely hear from Arturo Carmona and Wendy Carrillo, and that’s sad. It also raises a broader question. 

What about the other 13 candidates? Buried in there somewhere could be the next Xavier Becerra, but we’ll never know. I think a disservice was done to all of these candidates who did not get a chance to appear before a broader audience. They had the guts to go out and run for office, expose themselves to public scrutiny, and devote a huge amount of their time (and probably finances) to actually run for political office. 

If we are going to rebuild and rebrand our Democratic party into something more than a top down vehicle for the limousine liberals like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, we need to get going on actually building a grassroots party. Otherwise, it will be back to the ho-hum maybe 15% voter turnout that allows lobbyists, big developers, and other special interests to own our City, not to mention the Federal government. 

Bottom line, no matter what your political persuasion, get out and vote in the April 4 Special Election! Turnout is likely to be small, and your vote could make the difference in who gets to a runoff, if there is even going to be one. A large turnout could send a message to the Democratic establishment and our politically turned off Angelenos. 

Indifference has a cost. Just look at our current Council, Congress and President.

 

(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.

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--The Ralph M. Brown Act, first approved in 1953, is celebrated for its supposed guarantees that we citizens have a voice in the decisions of all our local governments. (Photo above: Carmen Bella, 76, a resident of Bell, Calif. yells at city council members.)

But today, it is little more than a gag rule.

Over the past six decades, the Brown Act—famous for its guarantee of a 72-hour notice for public meetings—has become a civic Frankenstein, threatening the very public participation it was intended to protect.

The act’s requirements of advance notice before local officials hold a meeting has mutated into strict limitations on the ability of local officials to have any kind of frank conversation with one another, even over email. Brown Act requirements that we, the public, be allowed to weigh in at meetings have been turned against us, by way of a standardized three-minute-per-speaker limit at the microphone that encourages rapid rants and discourages real conversation between local officials and the citizens they represent.

And by effectively prohibiting deeper exchanges among officials and citizens, the Brown Act has empowered professionals outside the civic space—lawyers, labor unions, and especially developers—to fill the conversation void.

At a recent UC Irvine conference on the Brown Act in which I participated, speakers discussed how local elected officials and their staff members, wary of talking to or even emailing each other and violating the Brown Act rules against unannounced meetings, often communicate with each other through developers, who are much freer to meet and talk.

This is one reason why allegations that developers have too much power are routine in California communities. But it is also why proposed reforms to limit the influence of developers—Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti just announced a ban on meetings between city planning commissioners and developers—never last. Under California’s Brown Act, developers are often the most practical conduit for local officials to get information to their colleagues.

“The Brown Act gives developers superior access, because it cuts [local government] staff off from talking to the decision makers in the same way,” said one California local official, quoted in a conference paper.

The problem with the Brown Act is not that the law has changed. It’s that the law has stayed too much the same, while California governance has changed radically.

Back in the 1950s, when the Brown Act was passed, local governments largely ruled via broadly applied laws, policies, and plans. But in subsequent decades, a combination of court decisions, state laws, and ballot initiatives like Prop 13 have limited the power of governments to control their own revenues, and to make and enforce laws.

So to retain some self-determination, local governments have worked around the law, ignoring plans and policies they once followed, and instead embracing ad-hoc decision-making, considering proposals on a case-by-case basis. The most important tool for today’s local governments is not the ordinance or the general plan but rather the closed-door negotiations that produce labor contracts and developer agreements. In the latter, developers typically receive exemptions from present and future rules in exchange for benefits they give to the city.

The problem with the Brown Act is not that the law has changed. It’s that the law has stayed too much the same, while California governance has changed radically.

In this era of government by negotiation, the Brown Act is unhelpful when it’s not beside the point. First, the act’s limits on meetings end up restricting the ability of elected officials to participate fully in such negotiations; such talks end up being conducted by staff or outsider lawyers.

Second, the Brown Act covers public meetings, and doesn’t get the public into closed negotiations. All too often the public hears about negotiations only once deals are done, and brought to a council or a board for approval.

At those late stages, public comments—especially public comments that are limited to just a few minutes—don’t matter very much. And the elected officials to whom they are complaining may have been left out of the talks. So California citizens typically and understandably respond either by checking out of the process entirely or by opposing their local politicians fervently and uncompromisingly. In this way, the Brown Act encourages the worst sort of NIMBYism.

The good news: There are many methods for encouraging earlier and deeper public participation in the deal-making that governs our local communities. Proven approaches to dialogue and idea-gathering should be tried. I personally like participatory budgeting—by which residents of some California cities decide directly how some municipal money is spent—and believe the same model could be applied to planning decisions. Regular citizens could be brought into negotiations and allowed to help decide the particulars of exemptions and community benefits in developer agreements.

The bad news is that such ideas require conversation between elected officials and citizens that would run afoul of the inflexible Brown Act. Indeed, some of the more innovative local government experiments in California—notably the neighborhood councils in the city of Los Angeles—have found their influence and ability to communicate limited by the meetings restrictions of the Brown Act

At the UC Irvine conference, many ideas were raised for amending the Brown Act. The state’s Little Hoover Commission has also suggested several changes in the law.  But the act has created a regime so antithetical to the goal of public participation that it might be better to scrap it and start over—with a new framework providing local governments with more flexibility as long as they pursue policies that enhance public participation in decisions.

The National Civic League has a model participation ordinance that suggests what such a law could look like. Such an ordinance might work even without repealing the Brown Act. Instead, the ordinance could be allowed to supersede the Brown Act rules, exempting from the act’s edicts any process that enhances public participation and civic conversation.

Who could oppose such sensible changes? Answer: Some civic and media organizations are suspicious that reform would limit access. And they claim local officials and lawyers are being overly cautious in limiting conversations because of fear of Brown Act violations. But local governments maintain the caution is well-advised, given how easy it is to sue for violations of the act, and thus block important projects.

While the debate over the Brown Act continues, the everyday reality of California public meetings grows ever more absurd. On a recent Saturday at my local school board, our city’s mayor—one of only a handful of people in attendance—rose to ask questions about the board’s management of a newly passed school bond, the largest in our small district’s history.

The mayor is a public works lawyer with long experience with bonds, and her questions were fair and straightforward. But the board members wouldn’t answer them. Instead, they tried to cut her off after just three minutes, noting that’s the limit on public comment. When one board member sought to answer the mayor’s questions, the school superintendent interrupted to say that any exchange could be a violation of the Brown Act.

Any law that won’t let a mayor and a school board talk about their city’s most important construction project—and at a public meeting—is a bad law. Until our local governments move past the Brown Act, Californians will find it hard to have the kinds of conversations that local democracy requires.

(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). Photo credit: Chris Pizzello/Associated Press.

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PLATKIN ON PLANNING-It is distressing, but hardly surprising, that the Los Angeles Times would use a lead editorial to preach about planning the future of Los Angeles without cracking open the city’s adopted General Plan or mentioning climate change and its own articles on City Hall corruption and new earthquake threats. Apparently, their view of Los Angeles is not 600 amazing complex and vulnerable square miles, but a checkerboard of private lots waiting for real estate investors to swoop in from around the world for short-term profits. 

I will post my full critique of this lead editorial on my blog, Plan-it Los Angeles, but here are some of the paper’s more far-fetched claims, followed by my debunking: 

LAT: For what may be a brief moment in Los Angeles, planning is hot. Measure S, the slow-growth, anti-development initiative, failed at the ballot box but succeeded in one very big way: It drew attention to the city’s broken land-use process and the need for a new comprehensive vision for how Los Angeles should grow.”  

LAT: “Every new project is a political negotiation and a fight over height, density and community impact, making housing construction a high-stakes gamble and turning residents reflexively into NIMBYs.” 

Debunking: Less than one percent of real estate projects in Los Angeles involve the City Council legislative actions that Measure S addressed. And only a small percentage of these cases involve any negotiations, appeals, or legal challenges. In these cases local communities want the City to follow its own planning laws and regulations, as well as the California Environmental Quality Act. 

This means local communities are in no way reflexive in challenging projects. To the contrary, they are highly selective in opposing illegal projects that adversely impact their neighborhoods and depend on City Council spot-zoning to become legal. 

LAT: “Can Los Angeles finally fix this broken system that doesn’t produce enough housing, erodes public trust in government and doesn’t result in well-planned communities?” 

Debunking: Public distrust in local government results from City Hall’s rampant pay-to-play land use decisions. The LAT’s own reporters carefully exposed these practices until several months ago. This is when the newspaper’s editorial page became LA’s highest profile voice championing the city planning status quo -- by leading the charge against Measure S. Furthermore, LA’s plans and zones are not the cause of insufficient housing production and poorly planned communities. The cause is the business model of real estate developers. They do not build affordable housing because it is unprofitable, and they do not follow adopted plans and zones to create well-planned communities because these laws interfere with their bottom line. 

LAT: “Los Angeles runs the very real risk of repeating what it has done time and again: The city develops a plan for growth, homeowner groups oppose it, and then elected officials ignore it.”  

LAT: “Los Angeles as a whole needs to be far more walkable, bikeable and transit-oriented, with most communities within easy reach of frequent bus or rail service and amenities such as parks, libraries and grocery stores.” 

Debunking: The Framework and all other General Plan elements, such as the new Mobility Element, are fully consistent with all alternative transportation modes, including walking, biking, and transit. The adopted plans already address these issues in great detail. Likewise, even though the City Council adopted the General Plan Framework in the 1990s, it is still a visionary document that addresses parks, libraries, and the location of retail stores. Furthermore, the Framework mandated (but never pursued) careful monitoring of its goals and policies to ensure the adequate construction of transportation facilities and other infrastructure categories, such as parks and libraries. 

To cite one of many examples that the Los Angeles Times is apparently unaware of, this is what the Framework proposed regarding parks: 

P14: Formulate/update a Recreation Master Plan (a Recreation and Parks Department document) to provide sufficient capacity to correct existing deficiencies as well as meet the needs of future population. Consider the following actions when developing/updating this Element: 

a.  Identify improvements to the recreation and park system including additional parklands and recreational programs. Priority should be placed on the identification of improvements for the underserved areas of the City. Both traditional and non-traditional solutions to the expansion of facilities should be considered, including the following: 

(1) Revise standards that permit the acquisition of parks smaller than five acres, particularly in those communities with the most severe neighborhood park deficiencies; 

(2) Acquire use, and maintain of properties for recreation and public open space, that are as small as 5,000 square feet in area; 

(3) Develop community gardens on small lots in residential neighborhoods and commercial areas; 

(4) Develop active and passive greenways along fixed rail transit lines and utility corridors, as well as for the development of open space along rivers and principal drainages (as depicted on the Citywide Greenways Network Map); 

(5) Adopt joint use strategies for recreational facilities, wherever appropriate; 

(6) Require for the inclusion of recreational facilities in multi-family residential and mixed-use development projects. 

Will the Los Angeles Times accept this scolding about its need to undertake basic research about LA’s plans and planning process before blathering on about a new planning vision? 

There is always hope, but there is no reason to think that the paper has or will ever give up its fundamental role in what I previously dubbed the Urban Infill Growth Machine. For over a century, even with its founding families departed, the paper has considered real estate speculation to be LA’s economic development machine. Even though conditions have dramatically changed since the 1970s, the paper’s unwavering support for real estate speculation has never faltered. But, the paper will eventually have its come-uppance when thoughtful planning cannot be reconciled with a welcome wagon for every global speculator targeting Los Angeles for its sand castles and Lego buildings.

(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.

 

GUEST WORDS--Let’s face it. Los Angelenos love marijuana. In 2009, there were reportedly more unlicensed dispensaries in the city than Starbucks (over 1,000). By some estimates, medical marijuana is currently a $1 billion market in the city, surpassing Colorado’s entire market. And New Year’s Day 2017 will perhaps be most remembered for the infamous “Hollyweed” sign stunt that garnered international attention. Clearly, Los Angeles is a 420-friendly city. Now, with the passage of Measure M, the City Council will be able get a handle on this popular local industry. 

The City of Los Angeles has had a checkered past with marijuana businesses. In 2003, when the state enacted the Medical Marijuana Program Act it created a legal basis for nonprofit medical marijuana “collectives” to buy and sell marijuana from retail locations. As a result, hundreds of unpermitted shops began popping up around the city. 

Supported by local marijuana consumers, these businesses quickly became very large enterprises. By the time the City began clamping down on this unregulated activity, Los Angelenos were already accustomed to buying cannabis from these shops and supported the dispensaries’ efforts to remain open at the ballot box. 

In 2013, citizens passed Proposition D that essentially immunized 135 of these businesses from prosecution by the City for what would otherwise be criminal activity. Although those dispensaries that were grandfathered in were pleased with this success, this reactive citizen initiative did not foster a productive relationship between City officials and the local cannabis industry. 

In 2016, Proposition D created a direct regulatory conflict between the state and the city when state legislators passed the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. Under MCRSA, the state will begin licensing cannabis businesses in 2018 and will ultimately regulate the entire industry throughout California. In order to obtain a state license, marijuana businesses must possess a license from their local jurisdiction. Since Proposition D only immunized Los Angeles dispensaries from prosecution rather than issue local permits for the activity, those businesses would not have been eligible for state licensure. As a result, Prop. D dispensaries would have been precluded from participating in the state regulatory framework and ultimately would have been deemed illegal despite local protection. 

Facing this harsh reality, a group of Los Angeles dispensaries organized to place a licensing ordinance on the March election. The City Council then drafted Measure M which was similar to the industry initiative but granted authority to City officials to regulate the industry with input from the public. Perhaps as a sign of a new working relationship between the City and the local cannabis industry, the dispensary group ultimately backed the City’s proposal which then easily passed with an overwhelming 79% of the vote. 

Measure M repeals Proposition D thereby allowing the new locally licensed cannabis businesses to be regulated by the state and to participate in the new regulated medical marijuana system. The initiative also enacted local excise taxes for both medical and recreational cannabis businesses creating additional tax revenue to the City. Lastly, the ordinance provides additional law enforcement authority to the City to allow for the speedy prosecution of unlicensed marijuana businesses operating in the City. For example, in addition to civil and criminal penalties, city officials are now authorized to disconnect water and power utilities for those businesses conducting unauthorized cannabis activities. 

Many wonder how these new state and local regulations will affect the local cannabis industry and impact communities. Will the local regulated cannabis market flourish or will the unregulated cannabis market continue to be a major presence in Los Angeles? Although it is impossible to predict the success of the new regulated cannabis industry it will be influenced by several factors. 

First, the federal, state, and local government agencies will continue to influence the black and regulated markets. Despite state and local legalization laws, marijuana remains a Schedule I illegal substance under federal law. If the federal government continues to prosecute individuals engaged in marijuana activity outside of the regulated state system and leaves alone those businesses that comply with state and local laws, then we may see a decrease in the number of unpermitted marijuana businesses operating in the City. Illegal marijuana operators may decide that the risk of federal prosecution does not outweigh any short-term financial benefit. 

Second, the quality and price of products in the legal marijuana industry will likely impact the success of the new regulated industry in Los Angeles. If dispensaries offer unique, safe products and services to cannabis consumers at a competitive price then these businesses should be able to compete with the unregulated, black market. Recent media reports and litigation surrounding the health risks caused by mold and pesticide in cannabis have highlighted some of the dangers of purchasing cannabis from the unregulated market. 

And lastly, consumers will have to support the legal industry over the black market with their pocketbooks. Some compare the purchasing of unregulated cannabis to buying pirated music or DVDs. In order to support those businesses that pay taxes on cannabis, pay their employees a decent living wage, and pay farmers a fair price for their products, consumers should only buy cannabis from properly licensed and regulated businesses. For comparison, the City of San Diego recently supported efforts of a local marijuana trade association with PSA-type magazine advertisements encouraging medical marijuana consumers to only purchase products from licensed dispensaries. 

Assuming all of these factors fall into place and the Los Angeles cannabis industry becomes a fully regulated system, the economic opportunities are endless. Within the same statewide regulatory system, consumers in the city will have access to the world-renowned strains of the famous Emerald Triangle growers. The production regions of Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino Counties are already well on their way to create region-specific or “appellation” zones of high quality cannabis products. 

Capital investment is already pouring into the cannabis industry from institutional investors and private equity funds alike. As the center of the international entertainment industry, Los Angeles is poised to become the “Silicon Valley” of cannabis with the creation of new world class cannabis brands and potential celebrity endorsements of those brands. 

As the new state laws begin to allow for advertising for the cannabis industry, it is not too difficult to imagine a magazine ad in the future featuring Brad Pitt but rather than sipping a martini he is puffing a branded cannabis joint or vape pen. If art imitates life, Hollywood may very well become “Hollyweed” someday.

 

(Lance Rogers manages Greenspoon Marder’s Cannabis Law practice in California and handles a wide array of matters related to cannabis including criminal defense, civil rights, asset forfeiture, land use, business disputes, unlawful detainer, and municipal zoning challenges.)

-cw

TRANSIT WATCH--So here we are in spring of 2017--we've just had two elections that were both bruising and decisive, either in victory or in failure. The city and county of Los Angeles has a new president they overall do NOT like, but can legally drown their disappointment in a haze of legalized marijuana. Public spending on transportation and the homeless is up, and developers are encouraged to build affordable housing ASAP. 

Among other issues on voters/taxpayers minds: trains and mobility, and overall ridership.  We want to get from here to there.  Despite the knee-jerk tendency to complain about everything, Metro has a lot to crow about, and so do we--but we've got a lot to focus on with respect to improving and preventing operations at Metro and other transportation-related services. 

First, THE GOOD: 

1) Ridership is up on the Expo, Gold, and other light rail lines, in ways we kind of predicted but did so a decade ago with our fingers crossed. Ridership on the buses is NOT what we expected, but there's a confounding variable that NOBODY saw coming a decade ago: Uber/Lyft. 

Those who are transit-dependent and find it convenient will use the buses, but for all of us who were fearing doom and gloom because our buses weren't connecting to our trains (myself included!) there is an individual freedom and mobility with Uber/Lyft/Metro Rail that is being achieved by more than we realize... and probably isn't too easily measured. 

2) My teenage son, who I once brought to Friends4Expo Transit meetings in a baby carrier, is now big enough to carry me, and attended a Railroading Merit Badge event with his and other Boy Scout troops.  Interest was high, our trip on the Pasadena Gold Line was standing-room only, and a huge choice of restaurants now exist at Union Station where virtually none existed a decade ago. 

3) Downtown is rapidly becoming a place to go to, rather than a place to avoid.  Interest is almost as high in the Downtown Light Rail Connector as it is the future LAX/Metro Rail Connector. However, the southeast portion of Downtown remains ignored and unloved (more on that later). 

4) As awful as it is that the I-10 and I-110 freeways are, even on the weekend, for those who use them it DOES portend that our economy is coming back big time, in one way, shape or form. Whether it's with decent jobs and/or whether it's due to an underground, cash-only economy are two other questions not to be answered here. 

Next, THE BAD: 

1) It was such a struggle to build the Expo Line that it now goes too slow, and its impacts on traffic actually ARE as horrible--perhaps worse--than many of us had feared. 

Although thoughtful author Ethan Elkind has a lot of good ideas on how to improve our transportation investment after passing Measure M, he too often supports the point of view that gives the "thumbs up" to transit riders to an extreme that throws another, more hostile finger at those who must use their cars to get to work, errands, etc. 

2) Transit advocate Matthew Hetz also opines the need for single-family housing to use mass transit for environmental purposes, and it is hoped that greater awareness of our expanding mass transit system will encourage more to use mass transit. 

And our young Millennials and teenagers, as evidenced by demographic trends, are avoiding the stress of cars and using transit ... and Uber/Lyft ... and walking ... to the benefit of all. 

3) But the lack of elevated grade separations--pursued by too many at Metro, and opposed by too many next-to-the-track neighbors being of visual concerns--is hurting us all.  The trains are too darned slow, and the cars trying to cross the tracks are forced to wait 10-15 minutes or longer during rush hour.  

And ditto for pedestrian grade-separations with our need for pedestrian bridges over major thoroughfares! 

So the next time someone complains of a rail line, or the need for a visually-impacting bridge, either the majority of us (who, when polled, probably do NOT care about the looks of a bridge) and/or Metro should tell the immediate neighbors to "deal with it" or move.   

I'll wager that a bunch of us on the Westside and in Mid-City find the Sepulveda Blvd. bridge to be just beautiful and wish we had a lot more of them to allow our trains and our car traffic to achieve quicker and safer speeds to enhance our mobility, environment, and quality of life. 

Finally, THE STUPID

Simply put, using the underutilized Harbor Subdivision rail right of way for walking and bicycle paths instead of completing a direct LAX to Inglewood to the Blue and Silver Lines to southeast Downtown Los Angeles to Union Station is about as stupid an idea as ... 

... not connecting LAX to Metro Rail, or 

... not connecting the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines with an underground Downtown Light Rail Connector. 

Over the next few years, we will realize that our need for a second "light rail connector" is paramount and hideously overdue to serve the southern and eastern portions of LA County with LAX and Union Station. 

And we're blowing it. Big time. 

So there really IS a lot to crow about in the world of transportation.  And then there's a lot we'll be EATING crow about in that same world of transportation.  

Yet the hope for improving mobility in our future is always there ... as the crow flies.

 

(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.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOO LITTLE DEMOCRACY-Los Angeles is solidly Democratic and has voted so twice in the past five months to prove it. However, it is a sad commentary on both the democratic leadership and our city that an overwhelming majority of voters reelected the mayor and six city councilmen, as well as stopped Measure S in its tracks -- and they did so with one of the lowest voter turnouts in history. It was a landslide, but from a very small hill. 

So what can be taken away from this kind of municipal triumph? Clearly the Berniecrats who were inspired to vote for a social democrat last June were not similarly inspired to vote out the Democratic leadership in a sanctuary city opposing #45notmypresident. This is a dilemma for party leadership here in the desert-city-by-the-sea, a city that likes to see its reflection as Hollywood and LA LA Land, but not Watts or Wilmington. 

The challenge for Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Joe Buscaino, who seem to be connected at the hip, is how to play their roles on the national stage while remaining relevant to the multitude of neighborhoods they represent. After all, Los Angeles is a collection of towns looking to find a city. Every mayor since Tom Bradley has tried to create a Los Angeles epicenter, but this hasn’t made those on the periphery very happy. Just look at the backlash to gentrification in Venice or East Los Angeles or the reactions to continued industrialization at the Port of Los Angeles and the expansion of LAX. There is deep dissatisfaction in the hoods that are distant from City Hall and that harbors an even deeper distrust of the “city family” — a distrust that this election has not resolved. 

However, grassroots democracy is not dead in this city. It’s just waiting for a vacant seat in which to run without the weight of an incumbent blocking the path. Council District 7 is a prime example in which 22 candidates ran for office. All of them learned the hard way about the impediments the city places in the path to running for elected office — not the least of which are the 500 qualified signatures of registered voters needed to get on the ballot. It only takes 50 signatures to qualify for elected offices at the county or state level. But the Los Angeles city clerk’s office can’t even get the petition forms right! 

With the city bureaucracy protecting the superstructure of incumbency and money-in-politics, those who vote with campaign donations often don’t actually reside in the city, but lean heavily on those in power. This was the issue proponents of Measure S made in this past election over spot zoning. While losing 66.72 to 31.28 percent in this election, Garcetti had to realize that nearly 250,000 Angelinos were not happy and he immediately issued an executive order banning ex parte meetings with developers by commissioners. Does that also apply to city councilmembers? 

I seriously doubt that we will ever really eradicate the influence of money in politics, but what we can do is vote for those who are highly resistant to legal bribery. Give us candidates who actually work for the greater good of the city’s citizens, rather than those who aspire to higher office. I sometimes wonder, if Jesus was elected mayor, just how long it would take for the Pharisees of this city to tempt him. All we can hope for is that the people we elect prioritize the greater good over pocketing the money that’s there before them. It’s not inconceivable. It’s just improbable considering that Los Angeles’ current power structure perceives criticism as a threat. 

Just one week after Measure S went down in defeat, Vincent Bertoni, Garcetti’s latest hero in the Department of City Planning came to San Pedro for an early morning chat with the local Chamber of Commerce. He has a great grasp on the challenges of city planning. He even has some profoundly good ideas on how to fix them. Yet, he said something quite peculiar. He said, “LA is a place.” 

Now, the only time that I, as a lifetime citizen of Los Angeles, have self-identified as an Angeleno is when I travel to some place abroad. If you go to Paris, France or Mexico City and someone asks, “Where are you from?” it’s easier to say LA because everyone knows where that is. But it’s relatively meaningless because LA is not A PLACE -- it’s a collection of places each with their own identities, cultural references, landmarks and history. And that is the challenge to citywide planning: one size doesn’t fit all. 

The problem in city planning is the same problem all the other departments have, which is how to have consistent rules and ordinances across the city when there are some reasons, possibly 35 (read community plans) or more, to have exceptions to these rules. This is the raison d’etre for the 95 neighborhood councils; this is among the many reasons for the growing dissatisfaction with City Hall -- too much government and too little democracy. And perhaps this is also the explanation for Donald Trump and the Democrat’s inability to effectively resolve his curious rise to power with their own inadequacies. 

Los Angeles just may be the testing ground for a new form of democratic politics called “Version 20.18.” Clearly, this will not happen if only 10 percent of the citizens continue to turn out to vote in city elections. For, as is said, all politics are local. If you want City Hall to pay attention to your part of this metropolis, you gotta turn up the heat at the ballot box!

 

(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy - Don't listen to that man with the white cap - he might say something that you agree with!" He has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen…and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com.)

URBAN PERSPECTIVE-The day the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, Appeals Court Judge and Scalia’s nominated replacement, Neil Gorsuch, said he could barely get down a ski run in Colorado because he was so blinded by tears at his death. This was not a private utterance or personal feeling of deep emotion that he shared with friends and family. He told of his profound sorrow in a speech in April 2016 at Case Western University. Gorsuch wanted the world to know that Scalia was more than just a heartfelt friend. He was a man and a judge whose legal and judicial mindset he was in total lockstep with. 

Scalia represented judicially everything that liberal Democrats, civil rights, civil liberties, women rights, and public interest groups regard as wrong with the Supreme Court. His opinions and votes on crucial cases read like a “what’s what” of legal horror stories. Scalia tipped the White House to Bush in Bush versus Gore in 2000, voted to gut voting rights, oppose same sex marriage and gay rights protections, scrap the checks on corporate spending on elections, whittle away at abortion rights and to give free rein to corporations to discriminate by narrowing down who could file class action lawsuits. 

The only reason that Gorsuch hasn’t matched his mentor and idol, Scalia’s, 19th Century grounded voting record on key cases is because he hasn’t been on the court for the number of decades as Scalia was on the high court. But there’s enough in his thin resume on some cases that pertain to abortion rights, planned parenthood funding, a powerhouse federal judiciary, and most menacingly, the strictest of strict reading of the constitutionalism (branded “originalism”) to serve as fair warning of what’s to come if he gets on the SCOTUS. And, as with Scalia, it won’t be pretty. 

This is one of the few times that Senate Democrats can do exactly what Senate Republicans did with Obama’s pick to replace Scalia, Merrick Garland: use the filibuster to say no. The GOP concocted the blatant lie to justify their obstructionism that Obama was a lame duck president, and lame duck presidents don’t and shouldn’t have the right to put someone on the high court on their way out. They pooh-poohed the fact that the Senate has approved other lame duck president’s nominations to the courts, including Reagan’s pick of Anthony Kennedy in 1988, Reagan’s last year in office. 

They blocked Garland not because of protocol, propriety, or tradition, but because of raw, naked and brutal partisan politics. The GOP understands that the Supreme Court is not just a neutral arbiter to settle legal disputes. It is a lethal weapon to skirt congressional gridlock and serve a dual role as a judicial and legislative body. This has meant scrapping the long-standing tradition on the court in which justices based their legal decisions solely on the merits of the law, constitutional principles and the public good, and not on ideology. Trump and his hard-right conservative backers are fully aware that the court’s power to be de facto legislators could last for decades. After all, presidents and congresspersons come and go, but justices can sit there until death if they choose. Scalia was proof of that. He sat on the bench for 30 plus years. 

Gorsuch is young, fit, and conceivably could duplicate Scalia’s tenure on the high court. He would sit there long after Trump is gone, and long after other future Democratic presidents that might sit in the Oval Office depart. During those years, he will be a key vote, if not the key vote, on many cases involving labor protections, civil rights, civil liberties, gay and abortion rights, corporate power, environmental issues, education, the death penalty, criminal justice system reforms, voting rights, and many other issues that will alter and shape law and public policy for years, perhaps decades to come. 

Gorsuch was carefully vetted by the Heritage Foundation when it submitted its list to Trump of reliable ultra-conservative judges who would rigidly toe the ultra-conservative line. They took no chance of recommending any judge who might in any way be a high court turncoat, and experience a judicial conversion in philosophy as a few judges thought to be reliably conservative have done in the past. The stakes are simply too high to risk that in the relentless drive by ultra-conservatives to roll back the gains in civil, women’s and labor rights of the past half century. 

The pressure will be enormous on conservative Democratic senators in the Red states to cave quickly and support Gorsuch, by rejecting a filibuster. They’ll be hit with everything from the stock argument that presidents have the right to pick their SCOTUS justices to outright threats that they’ll be top targets when election time rolls around. It will take much for them to do what the GOP did with Garland, and that is to say no and back a filibuster. If they cave, they’ll be terribly sorry.

 

(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author, political analyst and a CityWatch contributor. He is the author of In Scalia’s Shadow: The Trump Supreme Court (Amazon Kindle). He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

NEW GEOGRAPHY--With the first billionaire in the White House, Wall Street booming and, for the first time in almost a decade, very solid and broad based job growth, one would think America’s business elite would be beaming. But that’s not so because the country’s moguls are more divided than at any time in recent history.

This conflict stems largely from divergent interests among rival factions of the putative ruling class. Trump’s backers tend to have links with the “real” economy, that is, those people who make things, such as energy producers, domestic manufacturers, agribusiness, suburban home-builders, and aerospace firms. These interests are increasingly concentrated in parts of America Trump painted “red”—the South, the Midwest, the Great Plains, and Appalachia.

On the other side lies the “ascendant” ephemeral economy, based in such industries as media, entertainment, software, and social media, as well as their financial backers. These industries are less affected by environmental regulations than those in more tangible lines of business. They are also concentrated in the deep blue slivers along the coasts and in college towns, the very places where the progressive social and environmental agenda is most deeply entrenched.

Obama’s Legacy: A New Post-industrial ruling class

Barack Obama’s most “transformative” achievement was the consolidation of this potentially hegemonic, post-industrial ruling class. They reaped high returns from the Obama era embrace of ultra-low interest rates, nudging billions into risky tech ventures and speculative urban real estate. These increasingly oligopolistic interests  also benefited  from a Justice Department that eschewed anti-trust inquiries in such areas as smartphone operating systems, search, and social media, where the main players often control  80 and even 90 percent share globally. IT, telecommunications, and media now compose America’s most concentrated sector and is consolidating somewhat faster than older industries, such as manufacturing, property. and wholesale trade.

In the past, Democrats received some support from business, but the GOP ruled the corporate mainstream. As William Domhoff  illustrated in his classic study Fat Cats and Democrats, Democrats drew support from outsiders, some of them less than savory, in industries from energy,  real estate, and gambling (Trump himself was a long-time Democrat). They also drew on diverse industries. As recently as the Bill Clinton years, Bill White, a savvy oil and gas attorney from Houston, served as chairman of the Democratic Party. It is doubtful now that someone with that background, even with White’s prodigious skills, will again be allowed into the party’s inner sanctum.

Obama’s post-industrial corporate elite emerged in his first 2008 election, with Google, Microsoft, Time Warner, IBM, and General Electric (NBC) ranking among the largest business donors. During his time in office, companies like Google enjoyed unprecedented access to the White House: More than 250 people moved between jobs at Google or related firms, the federal government, and Democratic political campaigns.

In the process,  the technology and media oligarchies became core funders of the  Democratic Party. This could prove more important in the future, as six of the ten and eight of the top 15 richest people on the planet, according to Forbes, derive their fortunes from these businesses. And this could just be the beginning: All of the 12 richest entrepreneurs under 40 come from the tech industry.

Even Hillary Clinton, a far less appealing figure than Obama, garnered most of the big money from tech oligarchs and their employees. Open Secrets notes that among private firms the largest business donors to her campaign included tech media establishments, including Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Microsoft, Apple, Time Warner, and Comcast.

Trump’s victory shocked this cozy alliance, and placed them in opposition. Silicon Valley, along with its idiot aunt, Hollywood, are now the most likely business constituencies to go into hysterics over the most recent inane Trump tweet, with some CEOs active participants in the anti-Trump “resistance.” Those few in Silicon Valley who backed Trump, like Peter Thiel, are now subject to campaigns to drive them from prominent boards. Uber’s Travis Kalanick, himself a rather unpleasant character, has been forced by such pressure to remove himself from any association with the current White House.

Ideology here mixes with self-interest. Mark Zuckerberg, whose $50 billion net worth makes him easily the wealthiest American under 40, recently issued a pronunciamiento that places his company’s objective as far from Trumpian nationalism as possible. He wants to create “a global community” even though his industry has helped foster the most social isolation since people discovered caves. His vision of the future, notes Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky, offers something of a “social dystopia” run by Facebook’s management, with terms of discussion powered by computer algorithms.  

It’s clear what won’t make the cut in Zuckerberg’s “community”: Facebook is  increasingly hostile to any dissenting opinions from the right. The traditional media now wholly or partially  owned by the “ephemeral” economy oligarchs—Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post, Microsoft’s MSNBC and Carlos Slim’s New York Times—have also joined the anti-Trump “resistance,” having just previously served as claques for Obama and Hillary Clinton. Newsrooms may always have tilted somewhat to the left, but today they seem about as objective as those in Putin’s Russia or, for that matter, Fox News.

Immigration may be the biggest hot button issue separating the oligarchs from a   White House that has fanned nativist flames. But for them, embracing immigration—most notably the odious HIB visa program—does not mean adhering to legal norms or American traditions. Instead, their immigration vision fits that of companies seeking indentured tech servants as well as a cheap and inexhaustible supply of undocumented cheap dog-walkers, toenail painters, and nannies.

For this constituency, neither Trump’s proposed infrastructure program nor his moves to deregulate the economy have much appeal. After all, the Bay Area oligarchs seem perfectly fine with California’s regulatory insanity, and the piteously poor condition of the state’s infrastructure. Who needs roads and bridges when you have the cloud?

Of course, not all the new ruling class can dismiss Trump so haughtily. Elon Musk, a Hillary supporter who still sits on the new president’s economic council, needs skilled tradespeople and reasonable regulation to build electric cars and rockets. He yearns to play a role in Trump’s “lunar gold rush.” Caught in the middle, Musk is trying to make nice even in the face of assaults sent to him from the “resistance.”

Trump’s Oligarchs: Old School and Middle Class Friendly

The Obama oligarchs, like establishmentarians everywhere, clearly missed what the Chicago sociologist Richard Longworth predicted two decades ago: that rapid globalization,   now known as Davos capitalism,  would cause a full scale “social crisis.” The middle and working classes, as the Guardian has correctly noted, have little reason to love “superstar” oligarchs who employ few of them and, according to a recent paper by the Bureau of Economic Research, are a primary reason for the growth of inequality.

Trump’s oligarchs, for their part, reflect interests that jibe more closely with those of many middle and working class families. Trump’s so called  “cabinet of billionaires”—their  net worth is estimated at $14 billion—rightly has elicited criticism from   the Guardian and Mother Jones, which predictably also labeled them a bit too pro-Russian. And to be sure, Wall Street’s hoary hand, notably the ubiquitous Goldman Sachs, has secured  top posts at both the Treasury and the head of the National Economic Council.

Nonetheless, these billionaires have embraced a president who trolls corporations sending jobs overseas and bullies foreign firms, like Softbank, into committing themselves to major employment in the states. Obama and his academic coterie might dismiss such behavior as unseemly, darkly nationalistic and even ahistorical, but there may well be political gold there.

Of course, self-interest is a guiding factor, something particularly evident in the energy industry. The Trump cabinet features Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil, as its secretary of State,   Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, as Energy secretary, and Oklahoma’s former attorney general, Scott Pruitt, as director of the EPA. David Wolff, one of the Houston’s largest land owners, notes  the change of administration has sparked renewed optimism across the energy belt. “It is nice to have a president who doesn’t hate your major industry,” Wolff quips.    

Many manufacturers—at least those who build products  here—also have reason to celebrate the Trump ascension. A lot of firms felt threatened by the Democrats’ regulatory regime, which threatened to boost their energy and other costs. They also were the primary victims of globalist trading polices embraced by the grandees of both parties. The 79-year-old billionaire Wilbur Ross, the new Commerce secretary, made his fortune by buying and selling companies in such trade-impacted sectors as steel, textiles, and coal. Trade advisor Peter Navarro is well-known for pushing neo-protectionist and nationalist policies abhorred by the new oligarchs but popular in large parts of the country.

Interregnum or Change of Direction?

To the increasingly disconnected and increasingly concentrated blue state media, Ross and his ilk may epitomize an unhealthy attraction to “backward” sectors that need to be “disrupted” by the geniuses of Silicon Valley. Given their sense of historical inevitably, the tech oligarchs may feel that this shift is just a temporary halt in their drive, as notes Newsweek’s Michael Wolff,  to create “a more careful, regulated, and corrected world.”

Yet many more Americans—particularly blue collar Americans—may prefer the Trump approach. Manufacturing employs some 11 million workers compared to 2.7 million in information. Both have seen their share of jobs go down since 2004, but, suggests the Bureau of Labor Statistics, industrial jobs are likely to remain six times as numerous by 2024. Throw in the mining sector, which includes energy, and the difference is expected to be roughly 9.4 million jobs compared to 2.4 million in the information sector.

Ironically, the workforce in these industries is far more diverse than in those businesses run by the Obama oligarchs, who loudly champion the rainbow ideal but rarely in practice.   Silicon Valley  employs very few African-Americans or Hispanics; they make up barely 6 percent, for example, of Facebook’s workforce while overall leading tech firms employ barely 5 percent. In contrast,  according to 2015 data, 16.2 percent of manufacturing workers are Latinos and 9.7 percent are African-Americans. In mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction, Latinos make up 16.9 percent of the workforce and African-Americans 4.8 percent, while in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting, nearly a quarter of the workforce—23.0 percent—is Latino and 2.7 percent African-American.

If Trump policies can unleash a boom in these industries, he may have more staying power than many in the chattering classes admit. At least the Trumpians offer the prospect of upward mobility, greater independence, and the pride of work. In contrast, Silicon Valley’s vision, notes Greg Ferenstein, who has researched the views of the post-industrial elite, suggests a world where a “greater share of economic wealth will be generated by a smaller slice of very talented or original people”—that is, the denizens of Silicon Valley. “Everyone else,” he continues, “will increasingly subsist on some combination of part-time entrepreneurial ‘gig work’ and government aid. “

One has to wonder whether the prospect of widespread downward mobility for all but the “best and brightest” will prove very attractive to the majority of Americans. In contrast, Trump’s outsized promises, however unrealistic, may retain surprisingly long-term appeal. 

Trump’s business cronies may be grizzled, and even reactionary. They still may well end up as anachronisms, the last devotes of a dying industrial, largely white, America. But the Trump interregnum could become a new dominant paradigm if the Obama oligarchs fail to develop a vision that allows a better future than the jobless, socially stagnant and politically correct one now on offer.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of New Geography … where this analysis was first posted. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. He lives in Orange County, CA.)

-cw

EDUCATION POLITICS--If you know Shakespeare's play “Julius Caesar, the Ides of March -- or March 15 – it is the date in 44 BC when Julius Caesar was assassinated. In California, the Ides of March in 2017 might in the future be looked upon as the date the new California School Dashboard (CSD) student performance evaluation system signaled the purposeful assassination of anything remotely resembling real accountability for the public education system. 

On that date state officials unveiled the CSD public education accountability system that, in reality, is the most comprehensive way yet devised to further obfuscate how students are actually not doing well in public schools. Under CSD it is virtually impossible to address the subjective needs of students, since the CSD assessment never allows for an objective standard to measure even minimally their actual education levels. 

Anything that remotely approximates an objective standard for measuring how students and specific schools are doing -- in comparison to all other students and schools in the state -- has been eliminated in favor of a new color-coded system offering feel good assessments that give contrived acceptable rankings based on “improvement” without any notion of holding students to the mastery of grade-level standards they will ultimately be required to have when they leave school and try (unsuccessfully) to be gainfully employed. 

In a March 16 article, the LA Times acknowledged that this new CSD assessment framework replacing the prior objective standard of the Academic Performance Index (API), "paints a far rosier picture of academic achievement than past measurements." If the patient/student is running a high fever and is very sick, you can either treat the patient/student or break the thermometer. CSD breaks the thermometer. 

So now, under CSD "80% of schools serving grades three through eight are ranked medium to high performing...when last year the majority of the [same] students failed to reach English and math standards." The fact that "those schools whose average math scores fell below proficiency [now] receive the dashboard's highest rating for math" is never addressed. 

There is clearly an effort by the CSD to obfuscate the continuing failure of too many schools and students. The API objective standard let you know that, if you were in an 800 or 900 API school, things were okay; but if you were in a 400 or 500 API school, you couldn't learn even if you wanted to. The CSD makes this kind of assessment or accountability impossible. 

Given the pressure on teachers to pass students whether or not they have been able to do the work, how can passing or rates of graduation be used in CSD assessment when they do not reflect an objective, independently verifiable level of academic achievement? 

CSD even takes into account suspension rates at a school without ever asking the threshold question as to whether teachers still have the power to suspend students from a class where they are making it impossible for their fellow students to learn. 

As reported in the LA Times, Carrie Hahnel of Education Trust West in Oakland said: [the CSD is] "terribly misleading -- communicating things are just fine even if they're not." More telling is what Jenny Singh of the California Department of Education said in opting for having blue or green positive ranked schools: “You don’t want to have an accountability system come out and say there’s not going to be any blue or green schools.” Does she believe this is true, even if you have to engage in hiding the true level of too many schools in order to do so? 

It is not surprising that LAUSD officials have called the new CSD system "useful," since its lack of clear objectively verifiable standards of academic excellence will now allow them to continue putting their careers ahead of the needs of their failing students. For them, it’s a "fairer way of looking at schools," because it continues to not hold them accountable for predictable student failure that could be easily addressed -- if these students were assessed and educated in a timely manner.

 

(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.

EDUCATION POLITICS--California’s school districts expect to issue close to 1,750 teacher layoff notices despite a statewide teacher shortage.

Wednesday was the deadline for districts statewide to issue pink slips, or reduction in force notices, to teachers, counselors, administrators and other credentialed employees who could be laid off at the end of the school year because of potential budget shortfalls.

The 1750-layoff figure is an estimate issued by the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union, based on a survey of key districts.

Educators and union leaders estimate that few if any of the pink-slipped teachers come from the most in-demand jobs, including special education, math, science and bilingual education. (State law requires layoffs be based on seniority, but also allows for districts to protect teachers with limited experience if they’re credentialed in jobs that would be difficult to fill otherwise.)

The teacher layoffs are part of an annual ritual as districts “prepare for the worst” when they start crafting spending plans for next school year that are based on conservative early state budget estimates.

Typically, many of these notices are rescinded before the end of the school year as districts receive better funding estimates from lawmakers before the final budget is approved in June.

But these notices also come during a time when many education leaders, lawmakers, and researchers say California is experiencing the worst teacher shortage  in more than a decade. So it raises the question as to why these teachers face the threat of job loss when so many districts are desperate to hire and retain them.

The answer lies with the set of conflicting state laws for state budget projections and requirements for giving teachers advance warning regarding possible job loss.

By law, public school districts in California had until March 15 to send notices to teachers and other credentialed staff who might be laid off at the end of the school year. This amounts to about a 90-day notice.

Districts make these projections based on the governor’s preliminary budget proposal released two months prior, in January.

This year, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a minimal 2.1 percent increase for K-12 education in January, which educators said would not be enough to cover districts’ increasing salaries, benefits and costs.

“It’s already a struggle to find qualified teachers, especially in hard to fill jobs,” said Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association. “Districts and the state should instead be working on finding better incentives to keep their teachers.”

The California Teachers Association says that has led to about three dozen districts sending a combined 1,750 pink slips. These figures represent a small fraction of the more than 325,000 teachers statewide. And the number of notices is far below the 25,000 that were sent out in the peak of the recession in 2010.

San Diego Unified, the state’s second-largest district, sent out 850 notices, the most of any district. Santa Ana Unified sent out 287 notices. Montebello Unified sent out 333 notices. About 30 other districts sent out 50 or fewer, according to the teachers union.

Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest district, sent out 1,300 notices to administrators, but none to classroom teachers. So these figures were not included in the union estimate despite the fact that many of those administrators could bump back to a teaching position if they have a credential.

Los Angeles Unified spokeswoman Barbara Jones said the district hopes to rescind most, if not all of these notices. And even if some administrators return to the classroom, no current teachers would lose their job, she said.

Analysts and educators expect the governor’s updated version of the budget released in May to be more generous to K-12 education, especially as the state’s economy has continued to grow, meaning most of these jobs will be saved.

Teri Burns, legislative analyst for the California School Boards Association, said that even if most of the teachers receiving notices end up keeping their jobs, this yearly cycle exacerbates the state’s teacher shortage.

“These notices disrupt peoples’ lives unnecessarily,” she said. “If you’re a teacher and you receive one of these notices, then you start looking or another job, or even look to leave the profession.”

Burns said for students considering careers as teachers, reading reports of pink slips given each spring to teachers might signal that it’s a very volatile career.

The California School Boards Association has recommended that the state eliminate the March 15 warning deadline, and instead use the June 15 date for informing teachers that they’re actually being laid off.

Other groups have also proposed that move, but it’s been opposed by the California Teachers Association, with union leaders saying teachers need as much warning as possible to look for other jobs or make other preparations just in case they face unemployment.

Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, the state’s second-largest teachers union, said the number of spring layoff notices is also not a valid measurement of how the state is being affected by the teacher shortage.

“You have to look at whether a district giving out layoff notices is experiencing declining enrollment, or if they have their own unique budget problems. Not every district is the same,” he said.

Districts facing the most severe teacher shortages are reporting no layoff notices including San Francisco Unified, San Jose Unified, Oakland Unified, and Fresno Unified.

This story originally appeared on EdSource

 

(Fermin Leal is EdSource’s career and college readiness reporter, based in Southern California. Fermin previously worked for 13 years as an education reporter at The Orange County Register. He covered k-12 education and the California State and University of California systems. This piece originated at EdSource and was posted most recently at Huff Post.) 

-cw

EDITING INFORMATION-Only a fool would accuse the mainstream LA press of dabbling in fake news. But what to call a political endorsement, then, that omits mention of a raging and worsening fiscal crisis caused in large part by the endorsee? 

In their endorsements of Mayor Garcetti, every one of the mainstream news outlets, while chastising him for seemingly serious failings, omitted any mention of a fact which was well-known at the time --and in many cases even reported by those outlets on January 9, 2017 -- that since November 2016, the reserve fund has stood at about $295 million, a number the CAO reported was “only precariously above” the minimum amount required under city policy -- 5% of the General Fund budget. They also neglected to report that the LA City Council had just been forced to change the law in order to borrow up to $70 million through judgement obligation bonds, a form of borrowing not used since 2010.  

Why does this matter? Why omit a fact that readers would no doubt consider important in choosing how to vote, or just as important, in choosing whether to vote? 

Maybe readers wouldn’t have changed their vote. And it’s unlikely that the outcome would have been changed. But discussion of the issue might have produced pressure to expand coverage of the race, and in any case would have given the public a chance to ask tougher questions of the Mayor -- to make him earn his reelection – and to commit to meaningful reforms. Maybe even hold his feet to the fire.  

By offering seemingly “tough” criticisms of the Mayor yet excluding genuinely tough topics, the media misrepresents "by omission" and so denies readers their right to think for themselves.  

The motive for engaging in such whitewashing? You’ll have to ask the press outlets. Incumbents often set up “velvet rope” systems whereby reporters who criticize them too harshly are denied access. This can hurt business, and so they avoid stories that are too hard-hitting, especially in an election where the outcome seems certain. Why stick out their necks by reporting things unfavorable to the incumbent when they know it will be he who has the power after the election?  

The problem with this attitude is that it misleads the audience, and we believe it hurts the bottom line. Readers want hard-hitting truth. And incumbents respect organizations that don’t kowtow because they think they have to. The best way to deal with the velvet rope is to blow right past it.

 

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

CORRUPTION WATCH--People do not operate on the basis of reality. Rather, they function on their beliefs. If their beliefs are close to reality, then their actions are more likely to be beneficial to them. Thus, logic tells us that people want information which reflects reality as much as possible. Then, their actions would benefit them as much as possible. 

Logic is incorrect because the belief that people operate on logic is false. Experience shows that people accept as true information which pleases them. The more the news pleases them, the more likely that they will believe it. 

We should point out that many people love to feel outraged. People who feel cheated, want their abusers to be trounced. Some people love to feel angry and news which allows them to vent rage is a narcotic for them. 

When the Politics of Revenge hooked up with Alt-Right news, a powerful force was created. The Politics of Revenge, as the name implied, was not based on positive affirmations of becoming better in every way every day, but instead it zeroed in on making the SOBs pay. 

The path for Alt-Right news had been paved by the mainstream media which had perfected Alt-News to an art form. While some newspapers followed the Who, What, When, Where, Why, How format, many newspapers such as the Hearst Publications and Los Angeles Times did not. From its start, a main purpose of the LA Times was to promote the agenda of whoever was in power – be it the railroads, oil tycoons, or real estate developers. 

Objectivity did not rate high in the LA Times’ pantheon of values. Today’s historians know that during the so-called Zoot Suit Riots in 1943, the Mexican-American youth were primarily the target of the violence by the servicemen whose anger was fueled by LA Times Alt-News machine. 

“The mobs may have operated with the tacit support of local law enforcement, but they earned the explicit praise of the Los Angeles press. On June 7, the Los Angeles Times ran a story with a lead paragraph that read: "Those gamin dandies, the zoot suiters, having learned a great moral lesson from servicemen, mostly sailors, who took over their instruction three days ago, are staying home nights." August 29, 2012, KCET, Los Angeles' 1943 War on the Zoot Suit by Nathan Masters, http://bit.ly/2mK7sjI In reality, the Zoot Suiters were primarily the victims and not the perps, but that news would not make Anglos feel good. 

Because the LA Times is one of the Rembrandts of Alt-News, it realized that many stories had to be factual. Thus, any item which did not impact the financial interests of the rich and powerful could be faithfully reported. When time for dissembling arrives, the art of omission is employed. Since Garcetti’s election in 2001 as councilmember for Hollywood’s council district 13, the LA Times has accepted almost every piece of BS in support of his Manhattanization of Los Angeles. People are lead to believe that the increase in housing prices is due to a high demand for housing despite facts to the contrary. It was only in 2004-2007 that the LA Times attributed the nationwide increase in housing prices to high demand and ignored the trillion dollar mortgage frauds which were deceiving people into believing that there were millions of home buyers all across the nation. 

Since LA is owned by real estate developers, the LA Times comes out with the same Alt-News now that it pushed upon people before the Crash of 2008.   According to the LA Time’s Alt-Fact, LA’s housing problem is lack of supply. In a rather typical Alt-News article in July 2016, the LA Times wrote: 

“Yes. Like most things, it’s a supply/demand situation. The number of [housing] starts hasn’t been able to take care of that pent-up demand. The pricing has gone up accordingly, and that has been accommodated by low [mortgage] interest rates. Continued low interest rates have in essence subsidized a rapid ascent in pricing.” 

In reality, the cause of Los Angeles’ escalating housing prices is not supply and demand. As the LA Times knew or certainly should have known, LA had glut of higher end apartments constructed in the last decade. 

Here’s an HCIDLA Report from Nov, 2015: “The average rent in Los Angeles is $2,031 while new apartments built in the preceding ten years rent for $2,609 and have a 12 percent vacancy rate; a 5 percent vacancy rate indicates that supply and demand are in balance. At these rental rates, families must earn $81,240 to afford the average rent and $104,360 to afford a newly built apartment. In reality, the Los Angeles median income is only $50,543 and the current living wage of $15 per hour translates to $26,254 in annual wages; both wages leave a tremendous wage gap for workers seeking to rent in Los Angeles. The high vacancy rate for newer, more expensive housing exemplifies the disparity in the type of housing being built demonstrating that new, higher cost housing, is out of reach for many Angelenos.” 

Thus, the LA Times would appear to have been intentionally publishing Alt-Facts that there was a shortage of housing and that shortage was pushing up housing prices. Omitted from the LA Times article was the fact that the City had demolished over 21,000 rent controlled houses since 2001 and that in 2013, the City was constructing only 37% of the housing needed for low income people. Those figures were verboten because people would be able to see that the only housing shortage was for the very poor and that was due to the City’s destroying their homes: 

Then, we see the entrance of Donald Trump, who is his own 24 hr Alt-News Service via Twitter. I suspect that during his stay in LA as editor of Breitbart, Steve Bannon saw the extreme gullibility of readers of the LA Times. Although I’ve never spoken with Bannon, I fantasize that he was green with envy that the LA Times could publish Alt-Facts with impunity. 

Under Trump-Bannon, however, Alt-News is no longer like your Grandfather’s Buick. His variant of Alt-News is more aggressive -- like a souped up Dodger Challenger without a muffler. His Alt-News is obviously fake. Maybe it was part the Revenge of the Nerds Syndrome. Sick and tired of the Alt-News of BS publications like the LA Times, he was going to use Right Wing Alt-News to destroy “News” itself. 

This is a dramatic change. Bannon is not old man Hannity ranting stuff like the senile uncle one has to invite to Thanksgiving. Trump is not only Twittering Alt-Facts at us, but Bannon even has Missy Kellyanne Conway tell the entire world that they are Alternative Facts. Then, he sends out Herman Goebbles look-a-like Herr Stephen Miller commanding us not to question. Did Herr Miller start with “Actung, ich befehle Sie” or is that just my imagination? 

Bannon has launched a war on Americans’ consensus of reality. Building upon over a 100 years of sophisticated Alt-News distorting reality so that the public would vote for it own demise, Bannon-Trump have made America unsafe for reality. Herr Miller is correct – Truth is what Trump says it is – do not question. 

In what may be the most brilliant display of the destruction of reality came with Rachel Maddow’s March 14, 2017 release of Donald Trump’s 2005 Tax Returns. Had Maddow adhered to Honest Journalism 101, she would never have mentioned these phony documents. When one thinks of Ben Bradley, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and their extreme efforts for confirmation, the rash stupidity with which Maddow hyped her having “Trump’s Tax Returns,” one feels sick. One never brings forth a document unless one has proof that the document is what it purports to be? There are accepted modes of confirmation. Step number one is to read, step number two is think. Standing alone, these two pages reeked of “set up.” 

To aggravate this deplorable breach in journalism, David Cay Johnson tells Rachel that he has no way to authentic the documents since they “came over the transom.” In journalism, that ends the matter. Woodward and Bernstein did not print what Deep Throat said without confirmation. 

One needs to emphasize the enormity of Maddow’s malfeasance. Even if it should later turn out that these two pages are genuine, that is not the real point which is: Maddow did not abide by the tiniest bit of journalistic ethics before standing before the entire world proclaiming these two pages to be genuine copies of Trump’s 2005 federal income taxes. In light of the favorable light in which the 2005 tax returns cast Trump, they are more likely Alt-Tax Return leaked by Donald Trump.   

This sad episode shows how little regard people have for truth. We live in a world of Alt-Facts where honesty plays no significant role. 

The use of Alt-Facts is ingrained in American life. The Trump-Bannon regime is forcing us to confront reality by its incessant and unrepentant use of falsehoods.

 

(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)

PERSPECTIVE-Deportations of illegal immigrants has been in the news quite a bit since Donald Trump took office. Possession of stolen Social Security numbers by those detained or deported have played a role in some of the cases. A recent, well-publicized, deportation involved Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos. She was arrested in Arizona and returned to Mexico for a 2009 felony conviction stemming from a stolen SSA number she used. Her case was reviewed by ICE seven times after the conviction. A removal order was issued in 2013. 

One source reported the actual owner of the number was a young man in Tucson. While I cannot confirm that, even if Garcia de Rayos had created one from randomly selected digits there would have been at least a 50% chance of it belonging to a citizen, living or deceased. As of 2014, approximately 450 million numbers had been issued out of one billion possible numeric combinations. 

The remaining 50% will be issued over the next several decades. The current rate is 5.5 million per year (there are blocks of numbers which are unavailable.) Eventually, all illicitly used random numbers will, in effect, be stolen. 

That begs the question: if you are aware that an action you have taken has a 50% chance of amounting to theft, are you guilty of a felony? There is no easy answer, but it at least can be considered some form of fraud or misrepresentation. It would be enough for me to lose my CPA license (or worse) if I filed a tax return for a client who I knew was using a W2 with an unauthorized SSA number. 

SSA numbers are stolen for two purposes: financial gain, as in taking out a fraudulent loan in the name of the person to whom it is legally assigned, or for purposes of obtaining employment. The former can create significant harm to a person’s credit and reputation; the latter can create other problems, such as impeding a background check or delaying the payment of a federal entitlement. The most vulnerable victims in either case are children. Until they are old enough to enter the job market or apply for certain federal benefits, they will not be aware of the theft. 

Thefts for financial gains will always be a problem. Nothing short of persistent, proactive measures by the government and other institutions who possess SSA numbers will make a dent in this form of criminal activity. Even then, sophisticated hacking will occasionally breach any firewall. It is ultimately up to individuals to prevent or limit damage by practicing relentless vigilance. Take any seemingly legitimate communication you receive from a financial institution with a grain of salt. Carefully scrutinize all requests for information appearing to originate from a government body. 

Preventing the use of SSA numbers for employment purposes is difficult to stop, too, maybe even more so because theft can be accomplished using low tech resources. Illegal immigrants normally use their own names for the stolen numbers. Creating authentic-looking documents is fairly easy. However, they will not accrue benefits if the number is fictitious or has already been assigned. The Social Security Administration screens employer W2 filings for mismatches or no evidence of issuance. Employee contributions will be held in the Earnings Suspense File.  

In 2010, it was estimated that these suspense dollars provided around $12 billion to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.  While that is a windfall, it is a pittance compared to the funding needs of the two programs. The contributions are likely more than offset by the uncompensated services provided by emergency rooms across the nation to those who are not authorized to be here. That’s according to the American College of Emergency Physicians.   

I would not rule out future benefit claims against previously unmatched contributions by those who may one day attain legal status, or through a class action. If that occurs, the windfall effect could be greatly diminished. The United States could be facing a growing contingent liability that could bite a large chunk from the Retirement and Medicare trust funds when we least expect it, and when less prepared to deal with the fallout. The Suspense File has accumulated $1.2 trillion through 2012 from 333 million unmatched W2s. Claims against a fraction of that could easily exceed $100 Billion. 

Except through a small pilot program, neither the IRS nor SSA will notify you if your Social Security number pops up as a mismatch. It is important for you to compare your earnings against those shown on your annual Social Security Statement. Do not depend on the SSA to catch all fraudulent W2s and assign them to the Suspense File. 

The most sensible line of defense against illicit use of SSA numbers for employment purposes would be to increase the use of the E-Verify system. There must be penalties for employers who do not perform reasonable due diligence in screening hires.

There are concerns about mandatory use and the cost of the system to businesses. My suggestion would be to use it as an audit tool – not everyone would be required to use it. Employers submitting too many W2s with mismatched SSA numbers would have to as long as the problem persists…and suffer consequences for their carelessness if it did not cease. In time, it may be practical to require widespread use as efficiency is improved through experience. 

Ultimately, we need to come to grips with the primary cause of employment-purposed SSA number theft. There are some jobs Americans will not do at current levels of compensation, in some cases kept artificially low by the availability of cheap labor. Rooting out unauthorized SSA number use could open up some labor segments to American citizens. Then there are those jobs most citizens will shun at almost any rate of pay. Do not expect to find more than a few Americans picking crops or working in a poultry processing plant. That was not the case in days gone by, but that train left the station many decades ago, and it is not returning. 

There should be regulated guest worker programs, subject to the protection of labor laws, for certain industries and jobs when needs are proven. Employees will not get rich, but could earn a path to citizenship and all the opportunities that has to offer. Costs of certain products would rise, but the use of unauthorized SSA numbers could significantly diminish. 

If the integrity of the SSA database is compromised by a steady inflow of bogus information, the ramifications will be painful to the economy and greatly diminish trust in the institutions responsible for our financial and physical well being. That pain will be far worse than what would be felt by taking steps to deal with the problem now.

 

(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.

MY TURN--I really thought this time would be different.   Especially after all the toxic political atmosphere had spurred thousands into marches; phone calls to numerous members of Congress; noisy town halls; increased sales in tranquilizers; campaign events; lots of the "sky is falling" on social media; and huge viewership increases in cable news shows; the Los Angeles voting electorate didn't manage to reach even a 12% turnout.   Our previous election turnout in 2013 was 21% and that was nothing to brag about. 

The largest turnout for a Mayoral election was when Tom Bradley challenged Sam Yorty for Mayor. Yorty won that election with a 76% turnout. There is no doubt that racial prejudice played a big part in his victory.   Tom Bradley won the next election against Yorty with a 64 % turnout. Richard Riordan received the biggest turnout for Mayor in recent years at 45%. That was after the riots and Rodney King. 

Does this mean we must have a crisis in order to go to the polls? Maybe our Federal crisis has taken so much energy that Angelenos don't realize the local elections affect their everyday lives. Since we will not garner a lot of sympathy or care from President Trump (after all he lost by double digits in CA) it is even more important to have strong, smart, ethical, elected leaders to make sure we can survive whatever comes our way from Washington DC. 

The Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State University did a study on "Who Votes in Los Angeles Local Elections". They analyzed the 2013 election at that time was one of the lowest turnouts. They found that in reality the voter turnout was not a very good representation of the City's population. Voters were predominately white, older home owners. The lowest turnout group was Latinos, which is unfortunate, since statistics point out that 90% of Latinos reaching the voting age of 18 were born in the U.S. 

The report is really interesting. It concludes with both structural and civic reform. The structural reform suggestion to move the elections to even years has already been voted on and passed.   

The other structural change was to increase the City Council currently covering two million registered voters to twenty one.   There are currently five LA County Supervisors for more than five million registered voters. Both legislative branches should increase their elected representatives. Having smaller geographic areas would allow the City Council Member to be closer to his/her constituents thereby being more inclusive. It is even more relevant for the County. 

District 5, as an example, has both parts of the City and the Valley. Some of the other districts have different ethnic, economic and social challenges within the district. It makes more sense for each District to be more homogeneous. 

The last time enlarging the City Council was on the ballot was 1999 and there have been huge demographic changes since then. 

Maybe someone should take the bull by the horns and start a petition to have an increase in both areas. It is almost impossible to do a good job with so many constituents. Since CALEXIT is such a slight possibility; having smaller geographic areas would give the City and County electorate a much better look at local government and what their "electeds" are doing ... or NOT doing. 

The PBI Report also had suggestions for Civic Reform commenting that local issues for working class people, young people and minorities do not have as much interest in local as they do in federal elections. In addition, people who are active and knowledgeable about City and County challenges ... vote. Those who are not knowledgeable don't vote because of either lack of interest or lack of knowledge.   The candidates also can and should do more to show their prospective voters why the issues are relevant to them. 

So what else can we add to Civic Reform? 

Better and more civic involvement for High School students. Get them excited about the possibilities of making a difference. When I went to High school in Los Angeles we had something called a "student congress" at City Hall. Civics’ classes would discuss the challenges of the day. Kids can get their parents motivated to vote. Elected and appointed officials can have Department speaker bureaus, where they send an enthusiastic and knowledgeable people to talk about what they are doing and how it affects each student’s life. 

Adapt the target marketing, instead of sending out thousands of the same expensive print pieces. After the initial mailer, most people I know sent the mailers straight into the recycle bin. Utilize Social Media. Do the research showing what each group of constituents really wants or fears. Internet messaging has brought down costs in printing and postage but one size does not fit all groups.  

Neighborhood Councils (NC's) attract only 15% participation of our City's populace. Some have seen the light and are having youth projects and activities. Most Boards of Directors are made up of older adults, set in their ways and who want the status quo. There were quite a few younger generation attendees at the last Neighborhood Congress but as far as I know, nothing has been done to follow up. Yes, there is a so called leadership program, but again theory instead of practical and no follow up. 

Perhaps DONE should hire a young millennial to do nothing but motivate and organize an effective program to distribute to the various neighborhood councils. Why not ask each Board member to bring a new person to each Board meeting? 

Local NC Boards should be able to send out to the High School s in their area energetic and interesting speakers to talk about involvement and WHY it is important. 

Most of the Neighborhood Council Board meetings are as exciting as watching paint dry! Perhaps DONE could come up with program ideas. I don't recommend the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners (BONC) be asked to do anything since they are not effective. In fact, in my opinion the entire Neighborhood Council System needs an upgrade. For something that has so much promise to bring people together and participate in making this City better ... they (again in my opinion,) get a ‘C-' in performance, vision and creativity. and an ‘A’ in bureaucratic gobbledygook. 

As always comments are welcome as well as suggestions or ideas to make our City better.

 

(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.com)

-cw

WEST COAST CITY OF LIGHTS-Imagine stepping into a time machine and traveling 100 years into the future. You find out that the city of Fargo, North Dakota, once barely a speck on the map, has become the country’s second-largest metropolis and the place to be for cosmopolitans and immigrants of every stripe – an internationally renowned commercial and cultural hub. 

That’s exactly what Los Angeles is today. Over a century, the city has risen meteorically from a sleepy farming town in the middle of nowhere to a world-famous center of entertainment, business and pretty much anything else you can name. As of 2015, the Greater Los Angeles area was home to over 15 million people, making it the second largest urban area in the country and 19th largest in the world. Los Angeles’ gross domestic product is closing in on $1 trillion, placing it in the top tier of urban economies globally. 

But for all its people and businesses, the city faces equally legendary problems: Its housing shortages, traffic jams, homelessness, inequality and issues of racial injustice have all become as well known as any movie studio in this city. And with it, the city is going through a bit of an identity crisis. 

Make no mistake, Los Angeles’ era as a boomtown is over. The city – built on natural assets and sustained by the offer of a unique lifestyle centered around the automobile – now needs to reinvent itself as a true urban center if it wants to remain important in the coming years. 

City leaders are emphasizing density, transit and social justice more than ever. But in order to find a way forward, the city must establish its civic identity once and for all – in other words, what it means to be an Angeleno in the 21st Century. 

The Western frontier 

Americans didn’t really pay attention to Los Angeles for most of its early history. 

When Felipe De Neve – then-governor of the Spanish province of Alta California and namesake of our beloved dorms and dining hall – commissioned the establishment of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de Porciuncula in the Los Angeles Basin in 1777, the site was a chaparral-covered prairie home to dozens of native Tongva tribes. 

A hundred years later, the pueblo had become a ranching community of about 6,000 people built on the backs of native laborers. Spanish and Mexican rule, the California Gold Rush and the cattle rancheros had come and gone, but Los Angeles was still just a Wild West town – rowdy and lawless, with most of the violence squared on its Mexican population. 

All that quickly changed when the railroads came to town. In the process, Los Angeles found a civic identity as a booming farm town on the western frontier supported by good weather, cheap land and wealth eventually provided by the oil and movie industries. 

When the Southern Pacific Railroad was completed in 1881, it provided Southern California’s first direct link to the eastern United States. That same year, the California State Normal School opened a southern branch – one that would eventually become UCLA. Los Angeles was clearly moving up in the world. 

Local farmers soon found that the area’s temperate Mediterranean climate was perfect for growing big, juicy oranges. With the advent of refrigerated boxcars, agriculture replaced cattle ranching as a mainstay of the Southern California economy. The orange industry left an impression on the growing town that can still be felt to this day. 

By 1890, over 50,000 people called Los Angeles home. 

It’s tough to pin down a single explanation for the city’s sudden explosive growth. In an 1890 edition of the “Historical Society of Southern California,” historian J.M. Guinn laid out various reasons for the city’s stunning success. First, railroads from the U.S.’s eastern population centers eliminated the six-month transcontinental trek to even reach the place. Second was the orange business, which attracted thousands of migrants looking for work. Third, the area’s world-famous sunny and warm climate proved an obvious draw for frostbitten easterners. 

There were other factors too: easily available land through the Homestead Act of 1862 promised newcomers a healthy chunk of Southern California real estate, and the discovery of oil in 1892 attracted speculators – and their money – in droves. 

Looking back, it’s easy to see similar factors and growth patterns in other Sunbelt cities like Houston, San Diego and later Phoenix. But Los Angeles was the only city with a potent enough combination of cheap and open land, a strong economy and good weather in the prime time of Western settlement to sustain a population boom that lasted decades. 

Land was cheap when Los Angeles was still booming. This advertisement for lots at Pacific Palisades ran in a February 1929 issue of the Daily Bruin. (Daily Bruin archives)

If Los Angeles’ early growth was fueled by its natural assets, it was quickly becoming a major city in its own right – complete with electric trolleys, the newly opened University of Southern California and a 280-mile aqueduct carrying water from the Owens River in the Sierra Nevada area to the Southland. The city even had its first skyscraper, the Braly Block, open in 1904. 

The population would continue to boom over the next 20 years as the petroleum and silent film industry attracted more residents and business to the Southland. 

But this was just LA’s warmup. A particular invention that was becoming popular at the time would cement the city’s place as the boomtown of the 20th century: the automobile. 

Eventually, the orange groves would give way to palm trees and housing subdivisions as Los Angeles discovered its next identity. 

Paradise on the freeway 

Fun fact: Only one species of palm tree is actually native to Southern California. Of the countless different types of palms throughout LA, every one that isn’t the tall Washingtonia filifera – better known as the California fan palm – came from elsewhere. 

Yet palms of every shape and size have come to define the city’s urban landscape, and they provide an important clue to discerning why Los Angeles continued to grow and thrive while other cities across the country lost population and relevance. 

Los Angeles’ second identity was, simply put, a 20th-century paradise. It promised its citizens what its eastern counterparts could not: a mild climate, affordable housing and – most importantly – an entire city built around the allure of a freewheeling auto-centered lifestyle. 

And it delivered – at least for a while. 

The city had plenty of room to grow into this model from its perch in 1920: its population of almost 600,000 was largely confined to the city center and got around with one of the most extensive streetcar systems in the country. Most of the surrounding land was still farmland or wilderness – including a pocket of land out west where a new UCLA campus opened in 1929. Los Angeles also began aggressively annexing surrounding communities. City Hall opened in 1928 as a towering celebration of the city’s newfound prominence. The 408-foot structure would remain the tallest building in the city for 40 years. 

By 1930, the population of Los Angeles had ballooned to over a million people, cementing its place as one of America’s great cities. No one was ignoring LA anymore. 

The population only continued to grow during the Great Depression and World War II, when the Southland set itself up as the West Coast’s economic center and primary magnet for wartime manufacturing.

All those people had to live somewhere, so housing tracts began to spread in all directions from the city center, aided by a growing street grid and an intricate Red Car streetcar system – the largest in the world at its peak. 

And traffic isn’t just a modern LA gripe: riders often complained of slow streetcar speeds along its busiest lines, prompting civic leaders to look into an alternative route of transportation. They found it in the freeway. When the national freeway frenzy began in earnest during the 1950s, the megaroads were considered saviors that would be cheaper, faster and more versatile than the streetcars. The Red Car system began dismantling at the same time.

By the 1950s, LA’s trajectory was clear. The city was still growing at a breakneck pace in every direction. Every direction, that is, except up. The city passed an ordinance way back in 1911 restricting the height of any new building to 150 feet, with the sole exception of City Hall.

But that played perfectly into LA’s allure. People – wealthy white people, to be specific – were fleeing America’s crowded, polluted and oftentimes snowy inner cities en masse for suburbs in the phenomenon known as “white flight.” And LA marketed itself as one giant suburb. 

Even the buildings were built around the car. The line of skyscrapers down Wilshire Boulevard’s “Miracle Mile” were envisioned as the nation’s first “linear downtown,” where every building was easily accessible just by driving down the street. 

A large, single-family home on a generous lot, with a lawn artificially irrigated by water from the Colorado and Owens rivers – the American dream offered itself in full gear. And lest residents ever feel that they weren’t living in paradise, the palm trees were always there to emphasize the tropical vibe. 

Los Angeles and the California lifestyle made its mark on the national psyche through pop culture: James Dean raced cars in “Rebel Without a Cause” and The Mamas and The Papas had some “California Dreamin’,” singing “I’d be safe and warm, if I was in LA.”

Which was all well and good – if you were white. But discriminatory housing covenants meant that the Angeleno take on the American dream was virtually off-limits to the city’s sizeable Latino and black populations. The covenants were banned by the Rumford Fair Housing Act of 1963 but reinstated when California voters approved Proposition 14, which nullified the Rumford Act, in 1964. The California Supreme Court declared the proposition unconstitutional in 1966, but racial minorities were still forced into the eastern and southern parts of the city. These neighborhoods suffered from decades of divestment and neglect, which can still be felt to this day. 

Los Angeles continued to grow throughout the postwar era – in sharp contrast to its already-developed counterparts in the East and Midwest, which saw their populations decimated in a one-two punch from economic malaise caused by deindustrialization and suburbanization at the expense of the inner city. Notably, of the U.S.’s 10 largest cities in 1950, only New York and Los Angeles have a larger population today.

 But all this growth led to a whole host of new problems, forcing the city to question its comfortable suburban identity and once again transform – this time into the densifying urban colossus we see today.

City of lights 

The year was 1984, and cheers flooded the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Athletes from around the world gathered to show their physical prowess in the XXIII Summer Olympics. And Los Angeles was the center of the world’s attention. 

A mere 100 years after it was a rough-and-tumble farm town newly connected to the outside world, Los Angeles had become a behemoth megapolis that was hosting the Olympics for the second time and had just overtaken Chicago to become the second-largest city in the country. The age of modern LA was just beginning. 

But as the saying goes, not everything that glitters in this city of lights is gold. The modern city is defined by dichotomy: old and new, rich and poor, low and high-rise. Many of the current issues Los Angeles faces like homelessness, traffic, pollution and housing shortages stem from its status as a boomtown metropolis for most of the 20th century. 

In 1957, city voters repealed the ordinance restricting building heights. The Union Bank Plaza opened downtown 11 years later as LA’s first modern skyscraper and part of a controversial redevelopment of the Bunker Hill neighborhood. The neighborhood’s stately old Victorian homes were quickly razed and replaced by gleaming glass and steel skyscrapers. 

Some people liked those Victorians, though. There has always been a tension between pro- and anti-development visions for the city, reflected in the fact that control over development has been the one of the most contentious issues in local politics as of late – the high rise-restricting Measure S on this year’s ballot is just the most recent example. 

This tension underscores yet another one of Los Angeles’ civic identities. But this time, the city is torn between visions of its suburban, exclusionary past and diverse urban future, and Angelenos are living in a moment of civic rediscovery. 

The facade of a car-based utopia was already beginning to crack by the 1970s, as it turned out that building an entire city around the automobile had some unintended consequences. Jammed freeways and an internationally notorious smog problem prompted swift and aggressive action by the city. Now, most of Los Angeles’ transportation initiatives are aimed at getting people out of their cars – not into them. 

Moreover, the still-rising population introduced a problem new to Angelenos: Housing was becoming too expensive. Some people couldn’t even pay their property taxes anymore. In the “taxpayer revolt” of 1978, California voters passed Proposition 13, which caps property taxes and provided respite from crushing tax burdens – at the expense of state coffers. 

A bigger backlash to the city’s rapid development took place in 1986, when city voters passed Proposition U. The measure imposed significant reductions on the size and height of buildings in many areas of the city. 

And the suburban legacy of racial injustice has continued into the 21st century. Today’s majority-minority neighborhoods are still struggling with basic environmental justice issues like having enough grocery stores and handling toxic waste. The issue has slipped under the city’s radar for years, but thanks to increased activism and focus on social justice, it may finally be getting the attention it deserves. 

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom for Los Angeles, though. The city is still growing, albeit not as quickly as before. It’s made significant investments in mass transit, most recently via Measure M, a sales tax passed last November that will finance major expansions in the city’s transportation infrastructure. And in the era of President Donald Trump, Los Angeles’ leaders have positioned themselves as advocates of social justice – how well they can carry out that promise and address the city’s infamous inequality and racial tensions remains to be seen. 

The legacies of the city’s previous identities have manifested in the attractions and problems of the LA we see today. But housing tracts are a lot harder to bulldoze than orange groves, and unlike before, Los Angeles isn’t going to be able to organically grow its way out of its problems. 

The decisions city leaders make over the next few years can determine whether LA sinks or swims – if it becomes a thriving metropolis influenced by its suburban roots, or just another overcrowded city that can’t meet its residents’ needs.

Changing tides

Every now and then, when I get a break from my responsibilities at the Daily Bruin, I take the Expo rail line downtown. It helps me escape the Westwood bubble for a bit, and I like watching the city whiz by as the train barrels down the tracks – or crawls, as it gets closer to downtown. 

From my window, there’s a pretty stark difference in the layout and development between Westwood and Palms – and Crenshaw, and West Adams, and Exposition Park and Downtown, for that matter. 

But there’s one thing all these places, along with the countless other neighborhoods throughout the city, have in common: They’re developed, yet still growing. 

Los Angeles is a megapolis. The chaparral-covered wilderness and orange groves are long gone, replaced by houses, apartments, skyscrapers and strip malls. The City of Angels’ days as a frontier boomtown and America’s suburb are over. 

And yes, the city faces challenges of Angeleno proportions: homelessness, crime, inequality, fights over development, gridlock and gentrification. Unaddressed, these issues threaten to buckle the city under the weight of its own problems. 

But tackling these issues can put Los Angeles on the brink of a major urban transformation. Like it has in the past, it will grow and change yet again. It must adapt to changing cultural and demographic tides to cultivate a bustling but sustainable and livable environment for all its citizens.

If it’s done right, the city can find a new identity as true urban center. The assets are there: an economic, entertainment and cultural hub of international prestige, a wide array of lifestyle options and one of the most diverse places in the world to boot. 

Now, it needs to do what it hasn’t before and provide the Angeleno dream to all its citizens. It’s a future the city must embrace – after all, it’s already grown out. Both literally and metaphorically, the only way to go now is up.

 

(Chris Campbell is the current Daily Bruin Opinion editor. He previously served as Radio Director and as a Radio contributor. He writes about everything, but focuses on Westwood and city issues. This column appeared originally in the Daily Bruin.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

RUN-OFF?-Last week, I had a brief sit down with Joe Bray-Ali – the upstart, independent candidate for the City Council seat in Council District 1. As of this writing, Bray-Ali looks poised to head into a runoff with Gil Cedillo. It would be hard to create a more polished, poised, committed, and competent candidate than Bray-Ali. If Mr. Smith rode his bike to Washington, he’d look and sound a lot like Joe Bray-Ali. (Photo above: Joe Bray-Ali on left, Gil Cedillo.) 

Contrasted with the mumbly, creepy-uncle vibe of Cedillo, it’s hard to believe we even need a runoff. But this is LA, where voter turnout inching above 18% is considered pretty darn good, and the population completely tunes out local politics until it spills into their backyard. In a city full of faux-progressives screaming at their iPhones over the latest outrage in Washington, Los Angeles had a collective yawn on Election Day and sent a crop of bought-and-paid-for incumbents back to City Hall to kick business as usual into overdrive.

I can’t say I’ve been paying much attention to CD1 – most of my time is spent in my own neighborhood. But I’ve known Joe for a while, seen him in action in the community, and know he’s paid his dues. We disagreed over Measure S, but – as I’ve said all along – we don’t need Measure S if we have elected officials committed to doing what’s right in our neighborhoods rather than the bidding of bankers and developers. Joe Bray-Ali is that kind of guy. 

But even a surface understanding of the race in CD1 leads overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the time has come to elect a true independent to City Council. 

Word on the street is that Cedillo can’t really be bothered to get to know his true constituents. Even his supporters note his "somewhat aloof governing style."  If you want the opposite of aloof, vote for Joe Bray-Ali. He’s literally on the streets of his neighborhood every day, riding his bike, working for his neighbors, and talking to people. You don’t need to be a VIP to talk to Joe. Just look for him in the neighborhood. 

But the most important reason to vote for Joe is because he’s not beholden to the big money interests who look at our neighborhoods the way Donald Trump looks at a cheap steak. Cedillo – like every one of the incumbents on his (and I do mean “his”) way back to the halls of power – is in deep with the money men, including local do-gooders Chevron Corporation.  

During our conversation last week, Joe made an interesting point. He said, although he could compete with the incumbent on a 19th Century playing field – shaking hands, going door-to-door, meeting people in the neighborhood – as well as on a variety of 21st Century platforms – Internet, social media – the 20th Century was killing him. Big media – newspapers, radio, television – where blood and money are the only things that break through the gate, and old-fashioned mailers – where name recognition is forged in the minds of many low-information voters – all came down to one element: money. In order to break through the strangle-hold that money and apathy have on City Hall, we’ve got to find a way to get up off the couch and vote.

It can’t be that hard.

 

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

HEALTHCARE WATCH--The GOP's healthcare plan narrowly passed out of the House Budget Committee on Thursday, while "stakeouts" began in Congressional home districts aimed at pressuring lawmakers to vote against the widely unpopular legislation. (Graphic above: A sign at the stakeout targeting Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas)

Three right-wing Republicans on the committee, Reps. Dave Brat (Va.), Mark Sanford (S.C.), and Gary Palmer (Ala.), voted against advancing the American Healthcare Act (AHCA) —but their opposition was not enough to stymie the plan. Now, the bill heads to the House Rules Committee, "where leadership might make amendments to appease conservatives and moderates unhappy with the current legislation," The Hill reported. A full House vote could come as early as next week. 

And so the resistance must act fast, hence this week's "Congressional Stakeouts to Save Healthcare," organized by MoveOn.org and taking place outside the district offices of nine Republican senators and more than two dozen Republican representatives who "hold the decisive votes" on AHCA.

"By holding vigil outside the offices of key Republicans who hold the decisive votes on 'TrumpCare,' MoveOn members will ensure that anyone coming in or out of the office—staff, visitors, and the members of Congress themselves—will face their constituents and hear our health care stories, our songs, our hopes, our anger, and our cheer," said Victoria Kaplan, organizing director for MoveOn.org.

"Passing this repeal bill is the GOP's top legislative priority—but because of strong opposition from constituents recently, including at intense and packed town hall meetings, GOP leaders are in a bind," she continued. "If millions of MoveOn members and activists nationwide mobilize—by showing up at Congressional offices, making phone calls, and sharing our healthcare stories—we can prevent this bill from ever becoming law."

The targeted lawmakers are:

Senators:

  • Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
  • Tom Cotton (Ark.)
  • Jeff Flake (Ariz.)
  • Cory Gardner (Colo.)
  • Bill Cassidy (La.)
  • Susan Collins (Maine)
  • Dean Heller (Nev.)
  • Rob Portman (Ohio)
  • Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.)

Representatives:

  • Martha McSally (Ariz.)
  • David Valdao (Calif.)
  • Ed Royce (Calif.)
  • Darrell Issa (Calif.)
  • Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.)
  • Mimi Walters (Calif.)
  • Jeff Denham (Calif.)
  • Steve Knight (Calif.)
  • Carlos Curbelo (Fla.)
  • Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.)
  • Peter Roskam (Ill.)
  • Kevin Yoder (Kan.)
  • Erik Paulsen (Minn.)
  • Leonard Lance (N.J.)
  • John Katko (N.Y.)
  • Elise Stefanik (N.Y.)
  • Patrick Meehan (Pa.)
  • Ryan Costello (Pa.)
  • Pete Sessions (Texas)
  • Will Hurd (Texas)
  • John Culberson (Texas)
  • Barbara Comstock (Va.)
  • Dave Reichert (Wash.)

The stakeouts had begun as of Thursday afternoon.

And with additional town hall meetings planned for this weekend, legislators are likely to get an earful over the next few days—much like Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price did during a CNN town hall on Wednesday night.

"Medicaid expansion saved my life and saved me from medical bankruptcy," colon cancer survivor Brian Kline of Pennsylvania said to Price during the televised session. "Now, I earn $11.66 an hour at my retail job. And obviously, I cannot afford to pay for my cancer care out of pocket. My life really depends on having access to my doctors and medical care. Getting a cancer diagnosis is bad enough. But Medicaid expansion gives me the economic security in knowing that funding is always going to be there for my cancer care. So my question for you, Secretary Price, is pretty straightforward: Why do you want to take away my Medicaid expansion?"

Price responded: "The fact of the matter is, we don't. We don't want to take care away from anybody. What we want to make certain, though, is that every single American has access to the kind of coverage and care that they want for themselves."

Kline said later that he didn't think the secretary had answered his question.

Watch the exchange:

Another attendee zeroed in on the plan's attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. 

(Deirdre Fulton writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)

-cw

RANTZ & RAVEZ--A RantZ is something negative while a RaveZ is something positive. I will begin with some RaveZ this week. 

Hats off and Congratulations to Mayor Eric Garcetti for a huge victory in the election for Mayor of Los Angeles. With 10 opponents in the race, Mayor Garcetti was able to generate a huge victory with over 80% of the votes. That is an incredible victory for our Mayor who will have a firm position to continue his vision for Los Angeles over the next 5 and one half years. 

While the usual term for the Mayor and the other elected city officials is 4 years, a change in the election cycle is providing the leaders of our city with an extra year and a half to adjust the election cycle to align with state and federal elections. The intended purpose is to encourage more voters out to vote in local elections. 

Time will tell if this tactic works. It has not worked in the past and that is why the city elections pulled away from the state and federal election cycle to stand alone a few years ago. It was part of the Charter Reform. If there is a magic formula to motivate large numbers of voters to vote, Los Angeles needs it. 

It is interesting to note that while thousands of eligible voters can gather to protest an issue or situation they refuse to vote where real change can be made. While many of the protests are peaceful, a quicker way to make change in America is by voting. A simple and highly successful process in our form of Government in America. 

For the record, the County of Los Angeles spent around $19 Million Dollars of our tax money on the March 7 election.    

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The vision of the Mayor includes an urban city with denser development along transit lines. That means the continuation of more apartment and condo construction throughout the city and an expansion of the public transit lines. With the passage of Measure M in a previous election, the funds will be there to push forward with more public transit projects. It is all part of the vision to build up with more density. More residential units in the form of condos and apartments. 

With rents of newly constructed one bedroom apartments going for over $2,000 in many communities of the San Fernando Valley, and much higher in other parts of the city, rents will never be brought down to a more reasonable cost. No matter how many residential units are being built in Los Angeles, the rents will remain out of the reach of many families. In order to purchase a single -family home in the Los Angeles area, a person needs to make an annual income in the Hundred Thousand Dollar range to simply qualify for a loan. With interest rates increasing, fewer people will have the funds to purchase a single -family home with a yard for the children to play and a dog to run around. 

The only option is to pay rent for an apartment or hope to possibly purchase a condo that one can qualify for and afford.

####

My son recently showed interest in a condo in Culver City. The condo had 3 bedrooms and had been upgraded. The asking price was over ONE Million Dollars. To say the least, he did not purchase the unit. 

Congratulations again to Mayor Garcetti for his victory in leading Los Angeles forward for the next possibly 5 1/2 years. The door is open for the Mayor to run for United State Senator if Diane Feinstein decides to retire or California Governor when Governor Brown terms out of office. Either way the future for Mayor Garcetti is clear to follow his dreams for leadership in our region of America.

####

Congratulations are also extended to the other Elected City Officials that won their race with no opposition in the race, City Attorney Mike Feuer, Controller Ron Galperin and District 3 Councilman Bob Blumenfield all won. The odd numbered seats of the council will all be returning and there will be a runoff for the North East San Fernando Valley Council seat in the 7th District. 

Congratulations to District 1. Councilman Gil Cedillo, District 5 Paul Koretz, District 9 Current Price, District 11 Mike Bonin, District 13 Mitch O’Farrell, District 15 Joe Buscaino.

###

How about Measures S and H? 

It turned out that the majority of the voters were opposed to measure “S” and supportive of measure “H”. 

What this means is that massive development will continue in Los Angeles and the gridlock transportation and congestion will not be improved in our region of California in the immediate future. More apartments and condos and traffic on our roadways. When it comes to rents in the new units, it is all about Market Rate that means what the market will bear. Little is any will be affordable for people making $10.15 or even $15.00 an hour.   

Being a native of Los Angeles all my life, I can remember the public transit system that once transported people around Los Angeles in a smooth and efficient manner. Once very efficient and effective all scraped for the comfort and convenience of a personal car. Now we all live in gridlock 7 days a week on our freeways and local roads. The people have voted on Measure S and we will all live with it into the future. 

Measure “H” won in the election. The measure will increase the sales tax in Los Angeles County, not just the City of LA, ¼ cent for the next 10 years. Time will tell if the 10 years turn into permanent as others have in the past. The money will be used to assist with the homeless situation in Los Angeles County. 

Serving as a Board member for Hope of the Valley, a Homeless Service Center in the Valley, I have seen firsthand the sadness of the Homeless in our region. Will the funds honestly be applied to those organizations dealing with the Homeless or just chewed up with administrative and other operational costs? 

The homeless situation is not improving and if the funds are not properly used to address and help eliminate the homeless on the streets with supportive services, we can point the finer and blame ourselves for not holding our elected officials responsible for improving the quality of life for all in our county.   

I welcome your observations and comments.

 

(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.)  

-cw 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CYBER CRIME FOR SALE-Last March, Bloomberg Business ran an article called “How to Hack an Election” in which Andrés Sepúlveda, a computer hacker now serving time in a federal prison in Colombia, describes his career rigging elections throughout Latin America. Usually, Sepúlveda explains, he was working for Juan José Rendón, a Miami-based political consultant who’s been called the Karl Rove of Latin America. 

For $12,000 a month, according to the article, a customer could hire Sepúlveda and a crew of 5-10 to hack smart phones, spoof and clone Web pages, and send mass e-mails and texts. The premium package, at $20,000 a month, also included a full range of digital interception, attack, decryption, and defense. 

“My job was to do actions of dirty war and psychological operations, black propaganda, rumors,” Sepúlveda is quoted as saying, “the whole dark side of politics that nobody knows exists but everyone can see.”  

Pretty shocking stuff, but get together a group of government watchdogs these days, and you might be surprised what you hear. The truth is that a fair number in that community have experienced first-hand some of the dirty tricks just described. And not in ways that are subtle or open to “gee that’s paranoid” dismissals.  

Recent examples include a “black hat SEO [Search Engine Optimization] technique called cloaking. ‘Black hat’ SEO is defined as the use of unethical methods to manipulate search engine results. The technique, called ‘cloaking,’ refers to any of several means to serve a page to the search-engine spider that is different from that seen by human users. It can be an attempt to mislead search engines regarding the content on a particular website.”  

Watchdogs’ computers have been hacked, some through a specific technique called “rootkit,” which is a malicious software that takes full control over a system, while overriding anti-virus software.

And then, outside of computers, there’s a recent example of “this kind of thing doesn’t happen in the United States, does it?” dirty business. And it involves an author of this piece, LA City Council critic Eric Preven who, seated quietly at a meeting, caught on audio a police officer threatening to arrest him if he was “ruled out of order” by the Council President. Arrest was not a sane option given the situation. 

During the recent Presidential election, it was rumored that Juan José Rendón had been working for Donald Trump (Rendón denies the rumor.) What’s not a rumor is Andrés Sepúlveda’s view of whether the recent Presidential election was rigged: 100% yes. He should know.

 

(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.

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-LA’s March 7 election appeared to be decisive. Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, was soundly defeated. As a result there is no legal mandate to stop the steady flow of pay-to-play mega-projects that the City Council approves through spot-zoning and spot-General Plan Amendments. Likewise, there are no clarifications to the City Charter’s prohibition on these legislative actions. Likewise, there is no mandate to quickly update the General Plan or to produce a finding that every ministerial (by-right) land use decision is consistent with the General Plan. 

Nevertheless, such prominent opponents of Measure S as Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Times immediately sounded like they made an about-face. Within a day they repeated many Yes on S’s campaign points. They cautioned that the election results should not be over-interpreted. They both stated that the defeat of Measure S should not justify City Hall maintaining the status quo of pay-to-play spot-zoning substituting for a legally required professional planning process. 

More specifically, on March 9 Mayor Garcetti issued Directive 19. It is a comprehensive executive order that, if actually followed, could make a significant difference in the way Los Angeles is planned. Its 18 specific sub-directives almost sound like the points I have repeatedly offered in many CityWatch columns. For example, the Mayor wrote, “The Director of Planning shall develop a schedule for the immediate systematic public review and update of all elements of the General Plan, with a periodic review process to occur every five years thereafter. This program should include the review and possible updating of the thirty-five Community Plans.” 

But, let’s not count our chickens before they hatch. This is what I read between the lines, and why I fully expect that little will change at City Hall. Appearance should never be confused with substance, especially when it comes to our esteemed elected officials. The City Hall leopard is not about to permanently change its spots. 

Why the appearance of reconciliation by the Mayor and the LA Times? 

The no on S campaign had a strong victory on paper, but it was only a superficial ballot box victory. In the words of the LA Times, “Measure S tapped into the angst that many Angelenos feel about how growth and development are changing their communities, and in some cases displacing their inhabitants. The concerns over density, traffic and gentrification are not going away because the forces behind them are not abating.” 

To paraphrase the LA Times in straightforward English, about six percent of the voting public was persuaded by duplicitous arguments. The no on S victory depended on farfetched claims that Los Angeles could address its housing crisis through new luxury housing and trickle down deals from real estate speculators. Meanwhile, as the public waits for these miracles, they do not like what endless real estate speculation produces in Los Angeles: unplanned density, with its predictable consequences of displacement, gentrification, and traffic congestion. The LA Times and the Mayor recognize this will be the real outcome of the no on S victory. They also know that goose laying its wonderful golden eggs could be sent to the slaughterhouse in the next voter initiative. 

And they also know their victory came with another serious cost. It was based on explicit promises to the Democratic Party’s liberal base in Los Angeles, and there is little chance that City Hall can deliver significant housing for the homeless, even through Measure HHH and inclusionary housing via linkage fees and Measure JJJ. 

The bottom line is that Angelenos will not see continued arbitrary loosey-goosey land use decisions decrease rents, reduce economic and racial inequality, improve LA’s public infrastructure and services, facilitate bicycling and walking, generate alternative energy, plant one million trees, and combat climate change. 

What other flies are in the no on S ointment? 

This following list is only a beginning: 

1) The urban growth machine’s tactic of turning to the California State legislature to override local land use planning will run its course. In fact, many activists already are targeting the errand boys of the real estate industry, like Santa Monica Democrat Richard Bloom. A few defeats of these surrogates will quickly realign local planning politics. 

2) Many major projects are in the pipeline. Measure S might have stopped them, but its defeat means they will soon appear in many Los Angeles neighborhoods. They will generate displacement, traffic snarls, and demolitions. They will also result in many more project-specific movements and lawsuits. In fact, the defeat of Measure S is a full employment act for land use attorneys and the experts they hire to pursue their cases. 

3) Real estate investors will still engage in soft-corruption at City Hall by making a variety of payments to elected officials. 

4) Without Measure S cleaning up the City Charter, many new real estate projects will apply for and obtain spot-zones, spot-Height District changes, and spot-General Plan Amendments. The Charter’s unclear findings for General Plan Amendments will continue, despite a lack of evidence of good zoning practices and public benefits. 

5) Even though the City Charter bars individuals from initiating General Plan Amendments, the Department of City Planning will still do this on behalf of large real estate investors, in conflict with spirit of the City Charter. 

6) Real estate investors will continue to select their EIR consultants, and all EIR findings of significant environmental impacts will be cast aside through the City Council’s Statements of Overriding Considerations. Boilerplate about mega-projects generating jobs and transit ridership will be approved with perpetual 15-0 City Council votes. Once adopted, these claims will never be monitored or verified. 

7) The updates of the General Plan’s citywide elements and its Community Plans will continue to rely on chronically inflated demographic data from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). 

8) Once updated, the General Plan will not be regularly and reliably monitored to determine if its demographic assumptions are correct. Likewise, City Hall decision makers will never know if the updated plans’ implementation programs appeared and if they meet the General Plan’s goals. 

9) The General Plan will still be prepared and adopted in reverse order, beginning with re:codeLA, then Community Plan updates, and finally the citywide General Plan elements, such as the General Plan Framework element. 

10) Code enforcement will continue to be the weakest part of the land use process. Zoning and building code violations will still be rampant, with contractors regularly gaming the system since they know that Building and Safety cannot or will not stop their dirty tricks. 

11) Finally, it is unimaginable that the Mayor will fire any General Managers who slow walk his 18-point planning-related directive. Mayoral precedents of showing three recent Directors of Planning the door for not processing zoning applications quickly enough will not repeat with Directive 19. 

Can the City Hall Leopard Change its Spots? 

CityWatch readers, please join me in a City Hall Watch, to see what unfolds at City Hall after the March 7 election. Will it be the pieties of the Mayor and the Los Angeles Times? Or will pay-to-play return to City Hall after a short vacation? Will the leopard’s spots quickly return?

 

(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.

CALWATCHDOG--President Trump on Wednesday launched the first salvo in what seems likely to end up a war with the state of California and many liberal states over vehicle mileage rules that Gov. Jerry Brown and environmentalists depict as crucial to control pollution and to reduce the emission of gases believed to contribute to global warming.

At a ceremony at a Detroit-area auto facility after meeting with auto executives, Trump declared his intention to pursue “fair” regulations that “protect and defend” jobs.

Before his remarks, Trump staffers gave background briefings to reporters on his plans to scrap mileage rules approved by President Obama’s EPA in his final weeks on the job. The new rules would require cars and small trucks to average 54.5 miles per gallon in 2025, up from the present 36 miles per gallon.

Automakers were unhappy with the Obama administration’s speedy decision-making – new rules weren’t required until 2018. They believe the rules will require them to sell vehicles Americans don’t want to buy in an era in which gasoline prices are low and relatively stable because of a heavy increase in domestic oil production. Warning that the new rules would put more than 1 million jobs at risk, automakers have been lobbying Trump since they were enacted.

Brown administration officials have already filed a challenge to Trump’s directive, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Any weakening or delay of the national standards will result in increased harms to our natural resources, our economy, and our people,” the brief asserted.

13 states use California’s tougher standards

But while the president rattled state officials with his actions, he didn’t go as far as some environmentalists feared.

Under the federal Clean Air Act of 1970, California was given the right to waive federal vehicle mileage rules in favor of stricter standards because of the state’s severe problems with smog and ozone pollution in Southern California. The waiver allows other states to follow California’s tougher standards. Thirteen do, and as a result about 40 percent of the nation’s residents who buy about 40 percent of vehicles do so under California’s stricter rules, irking automakers who don’t like to have to deal with what are essentially two national standards.

The Trump administration could have tried to end California’s waiver entirely or prevent other states from using the Golden State’s rules. Instead, Reuters reported the administration hopes to work with the state on a compromise.

But that is close to certain to be a nonstarter, given Brown’s and the California Legislature’s approval of a law requiring the state to have greenhouse-gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Achieving that goal appears close to impossible without sharply cutting emissions from the state’s transportation sector, which generates 36 percent of California’s carbon emissions, according to the most recent statistics.

Vehicle emissions rule a potent weapon for state regulators

Stanford environmental law professor Michael Wara said tough vehicle mileage standards have been the state’s strongest tool in combating greenhouse gas emissions.

“California is going to fight, to deploy every resource it has, to keep this stuff, because this is big,” Wara told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Wednesday’s developments were foreshadowed by the January confirmation hearing of Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, like Trump a climate change skeptic and longtime EPA critic. Under questioning by Sen. Kamala Harris, D-San Francisco, Pruitt refused to say whether the Trump administration supported allowing California to continue to waive federal air pollution rules in favor of tougher standards.

Given that California’s waiver is written into federal law, it is unclear whether the Trump administration could force the state to follow federal rules. In 2008, George W. Bush’s administration challenged new state rules, prompting a lawsuit from then-Attorney General Jerry Brown that was joined by 15 other states. But no court decision was forthcoming before Barack Obama succeeded Bush the following year. The Obama administration quickly dropped the challenge

(Chris Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego and a contributor to CalWatchdog … where this perspective was first posted.)

-cw

EDUCATION POLITICS--Last month a seven-member panel met in the state Capitol to discuss the calamitous funding situation of the California State University system, as well as the prospects for creating free public higher education in the state. The latter idea of nationally establishing cost- and debt-free learning at the college and university levels had been popularized by Bernie Sanders during his presidential campaign last year. Yet in California, the legacy of the revenue-slashing Proposition 13, which California voters approved in 1978 to cut property taxes, remains a formidable stumbling block. (Photo above: Cal State University professor Melina Abdullah.)

At the heart of the February colloquium in Sacramento was a new report released by the California Faculty Association called Equity, Interrupted: How California is Cheating Its Future. (Disclosure: CFA is a financial supporter of Capital and Main.) Among the report’s findings is that the CSU student body rose 64 percent from 1985 to 2015, yet state funding for the system as a percent of the total general fund fell from 4.4 percent to 2.4 percent.

Panelist and Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) stressed the practical politics of raising taxes and spending them on public higher education. Ting, who chairs the Assembly Budget Committee, pointed to November’s approval by San Francisco voters of Proposition W, which will establish free City College of San Francisco tuition for students who are city residents. It will be funded by a real estate tax on properties that sell for over $5 million.

A similar proposal is on the radar in New York state, where Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed in January that residents with annual household incomes of $125,000 or less attend state colleges without paying tuition. New York’s 2011-2015 median household income—the point at which one-half is below and the other half is above— was $59,269, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Such large-scale public investment in free education is not new. In 1944 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, better known as the GI Bill of Rights. That federal policy allowed mainly white ex-soldiers to attend colleges and universities, free of fees and tuition. (Jim Crow segregation kept nonwhite veterans from attending many public higher education institutions.)

The economic impact of the GI Bill investment, which also funded apprenticeships and job-training, in California and across the U.S., was huge. Upward mobility accelerated, according to panelist and Assemblymember Jose Medina, (D-Riverside), a retired classroom teacher who today chairs the Assembly Committee on Higher Education. “The support and the lower cost was there,” he said.

Government intervention on behalf of higher education through targeted taxation and spending worked then and later, with the California Master Plan. The CMP provided free higher education to state residents at public universities, along with state and community colleges, beginning in 1960, although a decade later Governor Ronald Reagan would cut higher education spending and set the stage for tuition-based funding.

“I think we have to revisit that vision of raising taxes to spend them on public higher education for the CSU,” Medina said, while Ting added that California voters are “aspirational,” and care enough about their kids’ futures to vote for taxes to hike investment in higher education.

Ting believes that a battle to win the hearts and minds of voters must be waged to convince them that the local and state taxes they approve for higher education will actually get to students and teachers. He pointed to such voter-approved initiatives as Proposition 30, which increased personal-income and sales taxes to fund public education and thereby avoid deep spending cuts. (The law was extended in November with the passage of Proposition 55.)

Another panelist, Robert Shireman, who is a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, spoke of another fraction of voters to sway in the battle over public opinion, albeit a tiny one: elite opinion makers on editorial boards of news media. Paradoxically, he said, many of these same elites attended well-resourced institutions of higher education, e.g., Ivy League universities, where ample private funding stands in sharp contrast to CSU’s continual disinvestment.

Improving access and success in higher education does require more money, according to Shireman. For instance, he emphasized the importance of CSU libraries receiving adequate funding to keep their doors open and shelves stocked. These libraries, Shireman said, provide alternatives to cash-strapped students coping with the high cost of textbooks.

Economics have intersected with demographics in startling ways for the state university system. From 1985 to 2015, the enrollment of CSU’s white students declined from 63.2 percent to 25.7 percent. At the same time, nonwhite CSU enrollment, which was 26.8 percent in 1985, rose to 62 percent 30 years later. The population of Latino/a CSU students spiked from 13.1 percent in 1985 to 37.6 in 2015, nearly tripling. Meanwhile, the African-American CSU student body has plunged significantly.

“We have seen a plummeting of Black student enrollment in the CSU, with the Black student population cut in half,” said panelist Professor Melina Abdullah, chair of Pan-African Studies at CSU Los Angeles wrote in an email. Abdullah is a founding member of Black Lives Matter in L.A. “That is almost identical to the percentage cut in state funding to the CSU over the last 30 years.”

One recurring theme during the CFA panel discussion was that state spending reflects policymakers’ priorities – which are revealing.

California’s budget for 2016–2017 provides $14.5 billion of general fund revenue to the University of California, CSU and community college systems versus $10.6 billion to operate the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, according to the Public Policy Institute.

Alma Hernández (photo above), executive director of the 700,000-strong Service Employees International Union California, said her members have deep concerns about being able to fund their kids’ higher education — no small stressor in the households of working families. (Disclosure: Some California SEIU locals are financial supporters of this website.)

“I had a conversation with an eligibility worker,” Hernández said, “and in order to fund half of her kids’ education under the ScholarShare program, she needed to be putting away $552 a month. She said to me, ‘That’s what my paycheck is.’ So you can image the fear and the concern. Our members are also fighting for their children to have a pathway to the middle class.”

Margarita Ines Berta-Ávila, a professor in the College of Education at CSU, Sacramento, laid out the impacts of nonwhite CSU students receiving less state resources than what white CSU students got 30 years ago. For example, she shed light on why first-generation CSU Chicana/o and Latina/o students, whose family members’ lack higher education experience, seek out her and other nonwhite faculty for help to navigate the system. Too often, however, CSU minority faculty are absent on campuses because CSU disinvestment has increased class sizes, with fewer professors teaching more students, she said.

In a question-and-answer period that ended the CFA panel briefing, Berta-Ávila stressed the importance of engaging with first-generation minority students’ parents to harvest progressive policies for the CSU.

“When parents realize that their child is working so hard to go through those four or five or six years to graduate, or they see how much their son or daughter struggles, they will make those phone calls and write those letters and make sure that they advocate for their child,” she said. “So we cannot forgo the power of our communities in making these changes.”

(Seth Sandronsky is a journalist and member of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. He can be contacted at sethsandronsky@gmail.com.) 

-cw

TENANTS RIGHTS--Los Angeles, Homeless Capital of the Nation, is a city in which 64% of its residents are renters and a majority of those renters are paying unaffordable rents. That’s why I support the passage of Assembly Member Richard Bloom's AB 1506 repealing the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act: it will address the problem of Vacancy Decontrol on rent-controlled housing in California. 

LA is the most unaffordable city in the nation for renters with tenants paying the highest percentage of their income to rent in the nation. We have the highest poverty rate in the country at 26%, meaning one out of every four households lives in poverty. 

We have the most over-crowded conditions; seven out of the top ten zip codes with the most over-crowded housing conditions are here in LA. 

We are the homeless capital of the nation. How can this be if we have rent control? Two answers: the Costa-Hawkins Housing Act and the Ellis Act, which provide landlords the ability to leave the rental market and evict tenants. 

The Costa-Hawkins Act ties the hands of local governments to adequately address their housing needs. It is the reason LA cannot pass an inclusionary housing ordinance to obtain more affordable housing units the City so desperately needs. 

The Costa-Hawkings Act puts a bullseye on the back of every long term, low rent tenant in every rent-control jurisdiction in the state. That's because landlords know if they can get those tenants to move, either by legal or illegal means, they can jack up rents without limits due to mandated vacancy decontrol. 

This is the reason why 64% of Angeleno renters are paying unaffordable rents. If we are ever going to adequately address our affordable housing crisis we must let local municipalities have the flexibility to develop policies to address the particular needs of their communities. 

This is why we fully support the repeal of the Costa Hawkins Housing Act and why AB 1506 should be passed by the State Legislature.

 

(Larry Gross is Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival (CES) and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

IN HIS OWN WORDS (VIDEO)—LA’s just reelected Mayor Eric Garcetti answers these questions and more in this special 7 ½ minute interview with one of SoCal’s most important journalists … PBS reporter David Lazar. What’s ahead for LA’s rising crime stats, transportation, community plans, density, his political future? Get the answers straight from the Mayor to you. A CityWatch guest report. 

 

 

(David Nazar is a longtime Los Angeles journalist and PBS reporter.)

-cw

GUEST COMMENTARY-In the aftermath of Measure S, it seems everyone is offering their post mortem observations about this giant struggle over land-use and development in Los Angeles. I'd like to add my "two cents.” 

First, the voters made the right choice in sinking Measure S. We can breathe a sigh of relief that a blanket moratorium did not go into effect that would have vaporized thousands of construction jobs and wreaked havoc on our economy. Now we can continue to address the serious shortfall in housing in our region. 

Second, although the voters rejected Measure S, it was not a vote of support for the status quo. Far from it. Both residents and businesses made it clear that the current system is broken and needs to be fixed. 

Third, the Mayor and City Council need to follow through on the reforms that were promised, among which were to update community plans in a timely fashion and to have the Planning Department select the consultants performing environmental impact reports. 

Fourth, once community plans are updated, "spot zoning" (changing land-use rules to accommodate specific projects) should become the exception rather than the rule in approving projects. It would be helpful if criteria could be drawn up that explains when it is appropriate to grant an exception. 

Fifth, greater transparency should occur throughout the entire process, so that trust can be established with the public. One particular area that needs improvement is with community benefits packages. The Planning Department and councilmembers now negotiate these packages, sometimes extracting millions of dollars from developers for projects that will benefit LA. This process needs to be revised so that the public has more of an opportunity to provide suggestions on things that would benefit the impacted neighborhoods. 

And once a package is finalized and the developer hands over to the City mitigation funds, there needs to be accountability so that the public knows to which department the funds went and that they were spent according to the plan. 

An example may help. When the Hollywood & Highland complex was built back in 1988, the City negotiated a contribution from the developer for more than $9 million to be spent on traffic improvements, etc. Years afterward, when I tried to find out if the money had been spent, I could get no answer. Yet, more than 10 years after the project was completed, I saw a motion before the City Council approving the expenditure of some of the mitigation money from that project. I am not implying that anything was done incorrectly. What I am saying is that the system was not set up for transparency with the public. 

With today's technology, there is no reason that a tracking system cannot be set up on a City website that easily allows the public to see what the community benefits packages are for each project and to track the expenditures of those funds as they occur. This is an issue of trust. If the public can see that these funds are truly going to benefit them and are actually being spent on the purposes intended, it will help to instill trust in the system. 

Finally, in my conversations with neighborhood councils, one of their largest concerns is with evictions that are taking place to make way for some new projects. Most of these evictions are occurring with rent-controlled buildings and by-right projects. With the affordable housing crisis, some tenants are losing their homes with no place to go. The city needs to review its current policy to strike a balance between property rights and fairness for those being evicted. It is a complicated issue with no easy answers because of conflicting state and local laws, but the conversation needs to occur. 

The voters have indicated by large margins in the last two elections that they understand the need to "densify" our City rather than to continue expanding outward. That is the proper course of action, but it is not easy to achieve. The Hollywood Community Plan update will be coming back later this year for reconsideration. Stakeholders will have ample opportunity for public input into the process. With all of the development and changes occurring in Hollywood, we really need to have an updated plan rather than operate under one that dates back to 1988. Let's have the discussion necessary to adopt a plan that will move this community forward and which will help to reestablish trust in our land-use process. 

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

FILM WATCH--The most pernicious aspect of our purposefully failing, corporate-profit-driven public education system (when it comes to students of color and the poor) is that student victims of this system end up thinking something is wrong with them. The truth is, the public education system has let them down from the moment they entered kindergarten. 

The real problem lies in public education's unwillingness to educate all students in a timely age-sensitive manner. Instead they are assigned to often arbitrary, inaccurate grade-level designations determined by age rather than their subjective ability level. The longer this public education system is allowed to do this, the more damage will be done to innocent students, whose lives it continues to destroy. 

Predictably, this leads to more violence and costly damage to all of our society. Ultimately, this continued failure to socially and economically integrate such a large segment of our population costs big bucks. Surprisingly, it would be easier and much less expensive to integrate and educate these students so they can become part of this country's future. At some point one must ask if the real purpose of public education as it is presently constituted is to educate the young or to reinforce class and racial stereotypes to maintain the status quo. 

The movie The Bad Kids is a new feel good documentary that will screen on your local PBS station at 10 p.m. on March 20. It purports to show (in a faux “objective” documentary format) the day-to-day life of "bad kids" – a.k.a., underachieving students. What it never addresses is that although these students are being offered a second chance at getting an education and making something of themselves, they are also victims of fraud. Their second chance ignores the measurable academic deficits these "bad kids" have been allowed to acquire after years of being socially promoted with no mastery of the prior grade-level standards. This has impeded their ability to reach their academic potential. 

Placing these “bad kids” in a continuation school to help them finish high school is an act that is doomed from its inception, because it is based on the false assumption that you can make somebody ready for high school by merely waving a magic wand and declaring it so. This is in being done despite them not having mastery of the prerequisite prior grade-level standards that would actually give them a chance to succeed. Not exactly a formula for building self-esteem. 

Simply stated: How can you do Algebra, when you haven't learned your times tables? Or how are you supposed to read a 12th grade English literature or Government book, when you have a 3rd grade reading ability? But these and other issues are never addressed in “The Bad Kids,” whose sole purpose seems to be the creation of positivity and hope without any substance to back it up. 

In addition, the mystical value of a high school diploma is set as the unquestioned goal for all students at Black Rock High School Continuation School students in Yucca Valley, California. No context or questioning of this goal is ever presented and no subsequent academic success or failure of the students is ever presented. 

The Black Rock website lists statistics touting 38% for English and 50% for math as the numbers of students in the school district that are at grade-level; however, the specific statistics of Black Rock Continuation High School students are noticeably omitted. And when it comes to how many Black Rock students are actually "College Ready," the website says "N/A" for not applicable. Why is that? 

At no time during the after screening discussion I attended, lead by KPPC Reporter Adolfo Guzman Lopez, was the premise of “The Bad Kids” ever questioned critically. That is, not until I raised my hand and mentioned what I thought there were relevant questions that needed to be addressed: 

  1. Since 70% of students going to California junior colleges with high school diplomas cannot pass the entrance/placement examination and wind up taking remedial classes until most drop out, why is a high school diploma so important, especially since students could get a GED or high school diploma contemporaneously with doing other community college work? Are all high school diplomas created equal if some are given away irrespective of whether or not a student has mastered the material? 
  1. Since the total capacity of all colleges and universities in the United States is only 40% of all high school graduates, why are we closing down industrial arts and other direct occupational training programs that could enable students to find gainful employment, making them self-sustaining, tax paying members of our society with professions and/or the ability to pay for further education without going into debt? 
  1. What justifiable rage and antisocial behavior is predictably acted out when the vast majority of students in continuation school programs like Black Rock High School ultimately figure out that they have been scammed by being given high school diplomas that aren't worth the paper they are written on? And how much effort would it take the school district or the state to test students to see if they really earned a high school diploma? 

While schools in the past served as the key societal integration mechanism that levelled the playing field by equalizing academic opportunity for all American socio-economic classes, the difference in opportunity between what the affluent receive and what minorities and the poor receive today has never been greater. Is it any wonder there are over 2.3 million people behind bars? If nothing else, it would seem that the cost of timely education would be far less than the $78,000 a year it costs to incarcerate a juvenile...unless you are the for-profit corporation running the prison. 

The free exchange of ideas and knowledge we need as a putative democratic society to continue making decisions that will allow America to be great – “great again” or maybe for the first time -- requires that we the people be given a marketplace of ideas from which to choose -- something more than mere propaganda. Could that be why the core of these rights are in the First Amendment? 

What I found most reprehensible at the screening of “The Bad Kids” was witnessing an example of the cowardice of the news media (both commercial and public) who seem to care more about keeping their jobs than going to where the facts lead them, irrespective of the corporate or foundation interests that either own or subsidize them. The Reporter Adolfo Guzman Lopez, who emceed the evening, is an extremely intelligent person and excellent writer who knows more than I do with regard to what is really going on in public education. But, as a reporter, he’s doing nothing to question the education system; rather, he gives distorted credibility to it by his mere unquestioning presence. 

When I asked him why he never questioned something as irrational as LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King's recent call for 100% graduation rate, while LAUSD has an audited effective truancy rate of 52%, Guzman Lopez said, "She must have meant she would like to have 100% graduation." Other than President Donald Trump's Press Secretary Sean Spicer, is it the function of a reporter to slant and interpret without input? Or rather, should he proactively ask how such an apparent contradiction could exist? Shame on you Adolfo!

 

(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.

TASER TROUBLE-Last chance for Charlie Beck. Back-to-back Taser-stained police shootings last weekend--one by LAPD officers, the other by LA County Sherrif's Deputies--have brought things to a head, and it’s time for Beck to make a choice: will he pull the plug on his aggressive Taser deployment policy, or let it pull the plug on him?

It may be too late. To save his legacy there's two things he can do: 

First, take the lead in the nation in calling out Taser International for what it is  -- a fraud -- and then dump it wholesale, demanding LA’s money back. 

Second, take the $370 million all-overtime contract he just snatched for providing Metro security and use a big portion of it to subcontract a private security force that can field enough personnel to provide each bus a dedicated guard. 

The jury is in: not only do Tasers fail to reduce police shootings, they cause them. The two police shootings last weekend were just two more data points on a graph that everyone in law enforcement across the country knows to be true. 

1) Tasers fail up to fifty percent of the time and thereby not only provoke the subject into aggressive behavior (leading to shootings by police officers) but also leave the officer exposed at close range and so more in need of using deadly force. Taser International advises officers to avoid shooting at the torso of a subject for fear of causing cardiac complications. At which part of the body is an officer supposed to aim? 

2) There is already an effective means of subduing subjects -- pepper spray -- which, however awful and imperfect, is reliable. It’s also sufficiently messy and inconvenient to discourage unwarranted use. The groan of rank and file cops over having to suffer that inconvenience will be like the groan of teenagers being forced to do something that they know is right. 

Charlie Beck let the Wall Street wolf into the chicken coop. By masquerading as pro-cop, the hedge fund managers who own Taser International are laughing all the way to the bank. 

Monday morning the City of Los Angeles Claims Board will grapple with a multi-million dollar Taser-involved police shooting judgment from 2013. What if the shootings last weekend had taken place at a Metro stop under Beck's all-overtime contract? The liability would be off the charts. 

It takes a village to put so many people -- cops, civilians, taxpayers -- in harm's way, but Eric Garcetti is off this weekend at what the Times is calling a “cattle call” for Presidential hopefuls, and he’ll be long gone when all this comes crashing down in flames. 

Will Charlie Beck's legacy come down with it? 

 

(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.

ALPERN AT LARGE--In a shock to many, Measure S failed by a wide margin ... after a host of City Council motions and reform measures were promoted to suggest that Planning and Zoning and EIR's would be updated and changed to reduce developer/Downtown collusion and corruption. 

Jill Stewart, former LA Weekly editor who stuck her head in the lion's mouth to preserve the integrity not only of the neighborhoods of Los Angeles but of the laws and policies of Los Angeles, wrote a well-timed piece that emphasized how Measure S lost the election but won the argument. 

Similarly, Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation … the key funder of Measure S … who also put his head in the lion's mouth just to maintain a legal and sustainable LA, said it best when he stated, "This will go down in history as a campaign that didn't win the vote that had the best results.  Nobody in this campaign has defended the current system." 

So there are two big questions to answer:   

1) If Measure S was so awful, why was there such a big last-second push at City Hall to implement it?  

2) What happens next? 

Well, I've got my own "ears to the ground" and found a few reasons that Measure S failed in such a surprising manner. Here are my "top ten" (an ode to David Letterman, back when he was still funny): 

10) All those Democratic and Republican mailers that opposed it (wait ... why are they all coming from the same address?)! 

9) To screw all those volunteer community and homeless advocates who wanted Reform and Affordable Housing! 

8) Planning and Zoning Laws?  We don't need no stinking laws! 

7) Who needs "Neighborhood Integrity" when we've got Herb Wesson, Curren Price and Paul Koretz to save us all and uphold the law? 

6) Take THAT, Donald Trump! 

5) EIR's? Community Plans? Boooooring! 

4) Because the LA Times told me so ... because the LA Times told me so ... because the LA Times told me so ... because the LA Times told me so ... because the LA Times told me so... 

3) We're LA, damn it!  We can handle the traffic!  Heck ... traffic is COOL! 

2) Don't you mess with MY job!  I get PAID by these developers you keep talking smack! 

1) Measure S?  What's Measure S?  Wait ... there's a vote coming up?  Didn't we just have one last November?

 

(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

IMMIGRATION WATCH--As the Trump administration ramps up deportations of undocumented immigrants, federal officials say they need more lock-ups in which to hold them, especially near the border with Mexico.

But California may refuse to help — with detention or any other aspect of the deportation surge. In fact, the state is considering a bill that, among other provisions, would bar county sheriffs from contracting with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to house immigration detainees in county jails.

Senate President pro Tem Kevin de Leon’s Senate Bill 54, the California Values Act, is seen as a statewide sanctuary law that would largely keep state law enforcement officials and other state institutions from collaborating with federal immigration authorities.

The California State Sheriffs’ Association is one of the bill’s staunchest opponents, in part because since the 1990s, local sheriffs have reaped millions of dollars annually by renting jail space to ICE for its detainees.

Some legislators might sympathize with the sheriffs’ financial concerns. But poor conditions in which many detainees are held could also shape the debate. Inspection reports have shown county jails have violated ICE rules by denying detainees timely medical treatment or adequate recreation. And, in the Yuba County jail in Marysville, about 40 miles north of Sacramento, detainees like 38-year-old Orsay Alegria Sumita are alleging outright brutality and mistreatment.

Alegria said in a sworn statement that he suffers from epilepsy, especially when he’s stressed. Last October as he waited to be booked in the Yuba County jail, he felt an epileptic seizure coming on. He vaguely remembers that a guard told other detainees not to help him. Then the guard began kicking him. Alegria said that after the beating, he was left alone in a cell for three days, and later pressured to withdraw his complaint against the guard who assaulted him, which he refused to do.

Alegria and approximately 1,400 other ICE detainees housed in jails in three other California counties, including Orange, Contra Costa and Sacramento, aren’t accused of crimes.

They’re simply awaiting deportation or, like Jorge Alberto Manriquez, fighting immigration cases before a judge while confined at the Yuba County jail.

Manriquez is a U.S. Marine veteran who said in a sworn declaration that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, brought on when he witnessed two cadets kill themselves during basic training. He is anxious and has trouble sleeping. When he entered the jail, he said he told a nurse that he needed medication for his PTSD, but he didn’t get to see a psychiatrist for three months. Manriquez also alleged that it took two weeks for him to get medication for a heart condition.

In Yuba County, ICE detainees are distinguished from other prisoners by their red jumpsuits. County inmates who are awaiting trial or serving time wear orange. But Carter White, who heads the Civil Rights Clinic at the University of California, Davis law school and represents the Yuba County Jail inmates in a class action lawsuit, said that’s largely where the differences end. ICE detainees and inmates serving time or awaiting trial, sometimes for serious crimes like murder or rape, are treated the same.

“They’re all treated badly. There are serious problems, especially with mental health, but also with medical care. It [Yuba County jail] is understaffed and staffed with people who are not qualified. That transcends red and orange,” White said.

White and his students have interviewed more than 200 inmates in three years, enlisted experts in their investigation and toured the jail repeatedly.

White and other attorneys for the prisoners are asking a judge to put an end to alleged constitutional violations at the jail.

“These include the County’s deliberate indifference to suicide hazards, woefully inadequate medical and mental health care, segregation of the mentally ill including in unsanitary ‘rubber rooms’ covered in blood and feces, and the lack of meaningful access to exercise and recreation,” court papers say. The attorneys further alleged in court documents that there were at least 41 suicide attempts at the jail in 30 months.

In its 2014-15 report, the Yuba County Grand Jury painted an equally dreary picture of jail conditions, noting that some inmates are housed in a section of the jail known as “the dungeon,” which has few windows and is perpetually dark. There is no registered nurse on staff and a doctor visits for just a few hours a day. Suicidal inmates are confined to padded cells, sometimes for weeks, and may or may not get blankets. “…little stabilization can be expected under such bleak conditions,” grand jurors wrote.

Yuba County Sheriff Steve Durfor told Capital & Main that he can’t comment on pending litigation. But he argued that inmate safety is important to him and his officers.

“It’s the highest priority,” Durfor said. “We take very seriously the proper treatment of all individuals in our care.”

Yuba County has housed ICE detainees since the 1990s, and its contract with the agency has been a financial windfall, currently providing about $5 million annually. That’s nearly half of his $11 million jail budget, Durfor said, and 20 percent of the entire sheriff’s department budget.

“It’s a huge financial impact,” Durfor said of the potential loss of revenue that SB 54 would bring. “It offsets costs of employing officers, medical and mental health staff and maintaining the jail.”

ICE detention contracts have also meant big infusions of cash to sheriffs’ coffers across the state. Orange County takes in about $22 million annually for housing more than 800 people in two of its jails. A spokesman for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department said its average daily population for calendar year 2016 was 3,920. Of those, 138 were ICE inmates. In fiscal year 2015-16, the county received a total of $4.9 million in reimbursement revenue for housing the ICE inmates at the department’s Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center. A contract provided by Contra Costa County shows that ICE pays nearly $6 million annually, also to hold some 200 detainees in its jail. The Santa Ana city jail has also housed ICE detainees, but an ICE spokeswoman reports the government is ending its contract with the city.

If SB 54 passes, Yuba, Orange, Sacramento and Contra Costa counties would likely continue to house ICE detainees until their agreements with the federal government expire.

In addition to ending the practice of local detention contracts with ICE, de Leon’s bill would bar law enforcement from sharing information and collaborating with the agency in most cases and limit assistance with immigration enforcement at other public facilities, including courthouses, schools and health clinics.

Sheriff Durfor called SB 54 “misguided” and said that “SB 54’s severely limiting cooperation with federal authorities doesn’t serve effective public service. We all need to work together.”

As in Yuba County, detainees in other county jails in California have also been held in substandard conditions, according to reports by ICE’s Office of Detention Oversight and Orange County’s grand jury. The reports cited are the most current that Capital & Main could immediately obtain.

A 2014 ICE inspection in Yuba noted that jail personnel failed to investigate a potential sexual assault and that two inmates subjected to use of force by guards waited three and five hours, respectively, for medical care after the incidents.

The 2015-16 Orange County Grand Jury cited an investigation into the Orange County Jail by the Department of Justice that found limited mental health treatment and an over-reliance on segregation cells and said so-called safety cells “don’t sufficiently mitigate risk for suicidal patients.” The DOJ report also noted concerns about use of force and medical care, grand jurors said.

Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens declined an interview request.

A 2013 ICE inspection at Orange County’s Theo Lacy jail revealed that staff didn’t do required weekly reviews of prisoners who were placed in segregation for disciplinary reasons. Thus, they may have remained apart from fellow inmates longer than was necessary. ICE inspectors further found that jail staff used a chokehold on an ICE detainee. In total, the Lacy facility complied with just seven of the 18 ICE detention standards reviewed by inspectors.

A 2012 review by ICE of conditions at the Sacramento County Jail showed it complied with just six of 18 standards. Among inspectors’ findings: Jailers denied recreation to inmates placed in segregation cells and failed to offer a medical exam to a detainee involved in a use of force incident.

In Contra Costa County in 2013, inspectors found the jail complied with nine of 17 standards. They noted problems with medical care for chronically ill inmates, no dental screenings and the use of detainees to interpret for medical personnel.

“We take them very seriously,” said ICE spokesman James Schwab of failures to meet detention standards. Schwab promised to respond further but couldn’t do so in time for publication.

On Monday, SB 54 is set for a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee, where it is likely to come under attack by the sheriff’s association.

The detention ban carries unintended consequences, said Cory Salzillo, a spokesman for the group.

After all, ICE won’t stop detaining unauthorized immigrants just because local sheriffs won’t house them, and it may be better for detainees not to be shipped out of state, far from friends and family, Salzillo said.

Moreover, detainees might find equally inhospitable and sometimes dangerous conditions in ICE detention centers across the country, many of which have come under fire by human rights groups for years.

So far, support for the bill has been along party lines, with five Democrats voting to pass it out of the Senate Public Safety Committee in late January, and two Republicans voting no.

The California Peace Officers Association also opposes SB 54 in its current form. But other law enforcement groups have been mostly mum, neither supporting nor opposing.

De Leon’s bill is an urgency measure and as such requires a two-thirds vote and would take effect immediately after passage. That’s 27 votes in the Senate, or the exact number of Democrats in that body.

Democratic defections may be unlikely.

“It’s authored by the president pro tem of the Senate, so I think it has a good chance,” Salzillo said.

(Robin Urevich is a journalist and radio reporter whose work has appeared on NPR, Marketplace, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Las Vegas Sun. This report was posted first at Capital and Main.

-cw

TAKING THE HYDRID APPROACH-To reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California, the state has pledged that by 2030, emissions will be brought to 40% below 1990 levels. One major component in reaching this goal is to achieve a 23% reduction in driving by the state’s residents. This is a challenge. It will be difficult. Electric vehicles are part of the solution, but not the complete solution. They currently account for under 5% of vehicle sales, and should the percentage of electric vehicles increase, it is seriously doubtful the entire stock of vehicles in California could be turned over by 2030 to meet the 23% reduction in driving emissions. 

No matter how many electric vehicles are on the roads in the near future, there will still be plenty of vehicles with gas powered engines. Indeed, with projected population growth, there will be more vehicles on the road, increasing gridlock. While an electric vehicle does not emit tailpipe exhaust, the health strains of driving in gridlock still remain. 

I switched to a hybrid commuting style that involves some driving but also taking mass transit for as many trips I can for as many days possible. This is change to one’s concept of moving around Los Angeles. It is a challenge, but it can be done on many levels. 

The reduction of driving by using mass transit can be achieved in the daily work commute, and for other trips, too, like shopping, movies, concerts and eating out. This is what I do. It can be done. 

In the March 6, 2017, edition of the Los Angeles Times, the director of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG,) Hasan Ikhrata, is quoted as saying, “We’re doing to our best, but I think it’s too ambitious, to be honest with you.” Honesty from public officials is fine, but where is the attitude of pursing a goal and chasing it down every pathway in a relentless pursuit to achieve something? Where is the resolution to step-up and make a change? It’s not there.  

This is an attitude of capitulation. Cleaning the air of pollution and reducing greenhouse emissions will not be achieved this way. We must face the problem head-on and charge into it.  

Moreover, the current trend toward finding a partial solution for reducing greenhouse emissions is to create dense housing around transit hubs and centers that will encourage those residents to ride transit. This is a good goal, and could come to fruition, but why stop there? Why be locked into rigid thinking that only residents of dense housing will ride transit? 

Why are the residents of single family homes not called upon to do their share too? This is outdated thinking based on social norms, the belief that if a person lives in the suburbs, exurbs or in the homes with lawns inside cities, riding mass transit is a sign of descending into society’s lower depths.  

As long as there is the lack of will from officials to confront the very serious issue of a planet warming from greenhouse emissions from vehicles, as well as the idea that certain people living in single family homes do or will not ride mass transit, then we are lost. Air pollution will continue to increase. The earth’s temperature will continue to rise, melting the ice caps, raising the levels of the oceans and causing widespread devastating floods. Damaging storms will grow in frequency and intensity, destroying homes, farmland and life.  

We see this here in California, having experienced the worst period of drought over the past five years followed by a record-smashing period of rainfall. Right now, the wet Spring ground which should remain moist for months to nurture life is already being dried by sudden spikes in temperature and drying winds which in the not too distant past only blew in the Fall.  

The threats are here from global warming, and this is predicted to only get worse if action is not taken to drive less and reduce greenhouse emissions. These are dangers we can try to run from, or drive from, but we cannot hide from them. These threats will find us unless we show resolve and change our social norms. 

 

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

FRONT LINE REPORT-- Dateline March 25, 1911 – On this day, tragedy was the spark that resulted in International Women’s’ Day. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City was a firetrap waiting to happen. The women who worked there, mostly young immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, did not have the right to vote. They did not have the right to any kind of break, lunch or otherwise. The bosses locked them in each day to make sure they wouldn’t try and take one. 

Just one year earlier, the women of the Triangle Factory, along with many others across New York’s garment district, had organized a strike for better wages and conditions. The owners refused to concede. When the fire broke out that day in March, 126 young women burned to death or died leaping from the ninth floor windows of the factory. They perished in just 20 minutes. 

The horrific event sparked a movement for justice and equality that continues today. In 2016, women have yet to be paid equal to men and we bear the majority of household and child-rearing work as well as the work of saving mother earth. 

Ironically, today’s corporate bosses are doing their damnedest to co-opt the spirit of International Women’s’ Day. This past week, companies such as Caterpillar, British Petroleum and PepsiCo were listed as supporters of InternationalWomensDay.com. Looking at their website, a gal would think these mega giants invented the day themselves as a way of paying tribute. 

But today’s woman will not be fooled. She knows that British Petroleum has brought the greatest destruction to the environment in US history; that PepsiCo is the wet nurse of childhood obesity and diabetes and that Caterpillar destroys homes and sacred burial sites everywhere from Standing Rock to Palestine. 

She knows that the gains we have today were not handed over but won through decades of struggle. 

Today’s woman is in for a fight. We’re fighting for rights, which many of us never thought would be jeopardized. Nineteen states passed sixty new abortion restrictions in 2016. 

Our Pussy-Grabber-In-Chief intends to take the food out of the mouths of babes with his plans to restrict access to food stamps so that immigrants cannot feed their children. 88% of those children living with immigrants are themselves citizens. 

All over the country, women are getting involved in the push for change. The national March for Women on the day after the inauguration began the counter-inaugural and the resistance that will continue. We intend not only to hold the ground we’ve gained, but to move even further into new territory, with gender parity, much needed programs for women’s’ empowerment and childcare and a cultural revolution in the way we think about the roles of women and men. 

For the women of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, for the women of Standing Rock, for the women who pick our food every day: We march on.

(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. Jennifer can be reached at recessioncafe@yahoo.com.  Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jennifercald - Twitter: @checkingthegate ... And her website: Jenniferhcaldwell.com) 

-cw

GELFAND’S WORLD--My CityWatch colleague Ken Alpern recently published his views, as a practicing physician, on the current controversy over Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, colloquially referred to as Obamacare. I agree with several of his concerns, but as a medical consumer rather than a medical provider, I tend to disagree with some of his views. Let's consider the agreements and the disagreements. 

Dr. Alpern makes the point that drug prices are too high. He is definitely right on this. He argues, "Innovation and capitalism are great, but predatory pricing must end. NOW!" 

Dr. Alpern also supports the aim of preventing insurance companies from refusing coverage based on preexisting conditions. He mentions in a positive light the rule that coverage on parental policies should continue to extend to offspring up to the age of 26. This has been a popular rule under Obamacare, and I certainly agree with Dr. Alpern on this. 

Dr. Alpern makes the general point that government should not create rules that by themselves create economic disincentives for businesses to maintain and expand employment. He makes the valid point that economic sustainability is a must. 

I don't have any problem with these points as general principles and as problems to work on. The real question is what to do about them. 

We might begin with a fundamental disagreement that is partly a matter of judgment but which depends on the facts. Dr Alpern states quite directly, "Which is arguably why 'Obamacare' was doomed to fail. Some benefitted, and some were truly hurt." 

This has to be my strongest disagreement. I don't think the Affordable Care Act is a failure. Whole shelves of books have been and will be written about the ACA and the historical era in which it was passed, so it would be redundant to insert an extended argument here. Instead, I will simply link to an excellent summary by Kevin Drum in which the overall success of the ACA is described:  At the time that Obamacare began, the United States had nearly one-fifth of its under-65 citizens lacking health insurance. At this point, the number of uninsured is down to ten percent. The success would be even greater except for the resistance by Republican governors and legislatures to the expansion of Medicaid in many states. A prominent example is the state of Texas, with an uninsured population of more than 4.3 million people. 

The problem isn't the Affordable Care Act itself, but the fact that a politicized Supreme Court created the loophole that allowed Republican governors to throw a wrench in the gears. Dr. Alpern uses the term predatory to refer to some pharmaceutical companies, but I think that the term fits equally well for the Republican governors who have been withholding Medicaid coverage from their poorest residents. Without this purely partisan (and spiteful) action, the levels of uninsured in the United States would be well below ten percent right now. 

And, might I suggest, a lot of heart attacks and cancers would have been treated earlier and more effectively had the victims of these predatory governors had access to Medicaid. 

There are a few other points to be made about Obamacare as a success. I suspect that most of us know someone who did not have health insurance prior to Obamacare. I know of at least two people close to me who have health insurance through the system. One has a low level chronic condition that now receives treatment, and that treatment makes it much less likely that he will suffer a major difficulty such as a heart attack. The overall benefit to our nation of limiting the need for treatments such as cardiac surgery is enormous, even if you only consider it on economic grounds. If you consider it from the standpoint of the individual who manages to avoid surgery or a prolonged hospitalization, it is even greater. 

Dr. Alpern seems to be optimistic that the new president and the Republican congress will be reasonable. He quotes the president as saying the he wouldn't let people die in the streets. He remarks, "The new GOP Congress is sticking its neck out there, and they should be open to compromise and negotiations with all sides -- especially Democrats -- because a loss of coverage for millions of Americans is NOT an option." 

Allow me to mention one fact that is all over the news. The repeal of Obamacare under the current bill in the House of Representatives is likely to reduce the number of insured in the United States by 15 million people, give or take a few. That's what the experts say. There is an expectation among the same experts that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will come up with a number pretty close to this level. 

So what did the Republican congress actually do when faced with this issue? Did they talk with their Democratic counterparts and try to find some compromise? Did they listen carefully to medical associations and business associations that oppose the bill? 

Hardly. The two House committees that had jurisdiction over the bill rushed to pass it out of committee before the CBO report could be finished. In addition, the right wing news outlets have been engaging in a propaganda campaign of their own to undermine the credibility of the CBO. The Republican allergy to facts and reason is getting to be a problem, whether it be medical economics or global warming. 

I'll give Dr. Alpern a plus for asserting an idealistic vision of Republicans and Democrats working together for the common good. I don't see it, but then again, I have a problem with the Republican bill getting rid of Planned Parenthood funding. I don't believe that the Republicans (or Donald Trump) will do anything about drug pricing. Mostly, I understand the view of expert economists that the real function of this bill is simply to cut taxes on the rich and pay for it by reducing medical services to the poor. 

And this brings us to one other fundamental point. Dr. Alpern makes a heartfelt argument about rights (in this case medical coverage) being linked to responsibilities. Here is some of what he says: 

"But otherwise-healthy individuals need to be (and this should be at a STATE level, not a FEDERAL level, because of that thing we call the CONSTITUTION) offered opportunities to work for their benefits, even if it means a part-time job that is required for state-covered healthcare. 

"If a person works 1-2 jobs without benefits, and is forced to get that part-time job just to get that healthcare, it's still an opportunity.  And it is NOT an incentive to avoid work to GET health benefits, which is what California and so much of the nation has now." 

Curiously enough, I agree with some of the sentiment expressed here, in the sense that people should have a chance to have gainful employment. Dr. Alpern says that people should be offered opportunities to work for their benefits. This sounds at least a little like the way that the federal government created WPA jobs during the great depression. 

He also suggests that creating disincentives to employment is a bad thing. I couldn't agree more, but I seriously doubt that the existence of Medicaid (or MediCal, as we call it in California) is enough by itself to convince people to avoid starting careers. For some people, getting medical attention is what they need to be able to hold a job. 

I will disagree with Dr. Alpern's assertion that job programs and medical coverage subsidies need to be on the state rather than the federal level as a matter of Constitutional law. Everybody likes to cite the words in the Preamble "to promote the general welfare," which seems to fit the ACA, but there is also Article I section 8, which gives Congress the power to tax. The Chief Justice of the United States argued the Constitutionality of the ACA based on this expressly stated authority. 

I would like to bring up one problem that neither the congress nor Dr. Alpern have talked about recently. The United States, for whatever reason, spends way more on health care per capita than any other advanced nation. We are all alone, out on the edge of the curve, for medical spending. For that amount of money, we don't get better longevity, and unlike other civilized countries, we leave some of our citizens entirely without coverage. 

The Affordable Care Act was supposed to be a start on dealing with both horns of this dilemma, the uninsured citizens was the first part but the uncontrolled growth in costs was definitely intended as part of the equation. This is the sort of problem that has to be confronted at the federal level if there is to be any progress. Perhaps Dr. Alpern has a different idea, but I don't see a big future in getting drug costs under control without federal intervention. The same argument may possibly apply to hospital bills too, since the amount that is paid depends largely on contracts with insurance companies and with Medicare. 

I think we've just scratched the surface here, and I suspect that Dr. Alpern and I may actually agree on a lot. For example, the number of medical residencies (and therefore the number of new doctors we turn out) is rather artificially restricted. That could be changed. Preventive medicine saves pain, lives, and money, as thousands of melanoma survivors understand. Let's not go back to the days when the history of a single basal cell carcinoma was a preexisting condition that made it impossible to get insurance in the individual market. 

But let's also try to remember that the current system makes being a medical consumer an ordeal almost anytime you have to deal with an insurance company. I wish the doctors would understand that the current health insurance system is just as hard on the patients as it is on your office staff.

 

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

-cw

EDUCATION POLITICS--A plaintive parent declares that with “one kid in a regular public district school and another in a charter school”, we should all just “get along”.

Here’s the formula for getting along: (1) You have to tolerate me and (2) I have to tolerate you; (3) Your existence cannot impinge on mine and (4) my existence cannot impinge on yours.

Charters and regular public district schools do not operate independently from one another, because two commodities are shared: (i) money (aka “resources”) and (ii) pupils.

These commodities are not infinite; both entities (charters and “regular district schools” – let’s call them “RDS”) essentially compete for the same “fixed” (amount of) commodity. This is what’s known as a zero-sum setup; the “margins are fixed”, the amount of available education dollars is more-or-less invariant, the amount of available pupils will not change (not appreciably, cities swell and drain a little but basically, babies have been born to this cohort already and we’ve got who we’ve got present now to educate).

The only change these commodities can see therefore is to “rearrange the deck chairs” – the ship is still going down the same way, but the chairs might be clustered differently. Pupils might congregate inside different schoolyards; monies might get distributed differently.

To make matters worse, the needs of both entities is not reciprocal, nor is the distribution of these commodities without impact on the other entity. That is, the cost to educate every pupil is not equivalent, some are costlier than others. And where you cluster funds is not a matter of +$1 here means -$1 there because the impact of a dollar matters depending where it is. There are economies of scale, for example, to be gained or it is long-acknowledged that severely disadvantaged communities require more money to come to equity (this is what Federal Title 1 dollars provide, it is why the new “LCFF” uses a formula to assign more money per capita to poorer schools than to relatively richer ones).

Therefore while it’s possible for both entities to tolerate one another, it’s not possible for their existence not to impact the other.

That’s where the fallacy lies. Folks who wonder ingenuously why we can’t all “just get along”, seem not to understand the pernicious consequences of charter schools on the totality of a public education system.

The underlying game-plan of charters is to rarefy its pupil-population, by hook or by crook. Sometimes in the past, this has been done illegally through fixing lotteries or selections processes. Sometimes the lottery process has been weighted through a sanctioned, if questionable, process. Empirical reports of “counseling out” already admitted kids are easy to come by; discouraging applicants to begin with through onerous application or enrollment procedures, for example, which disproportionately impact the “wrong sort” is another trick.

There are many, many, many sleights of hand employed to fix the underlying demographic of a charter school in a certain fashion (there are, after all, many, many charter schools). The reciprocal of fashioning a student body just-so, means that elsewhere in the system whatever is overrepresented among charters, is underrepresented among RDS.

Because remember, attendance is zero-sum; you cannot get more students into a school system than are there at the bottom line, you can only shuffle their distribution between schools.

That’s the meaning of segregation. It means collecting a certain type in one place.

By definition, then, the density of that type must be diminished elsewhere. When one school concentrates all jugglers within their walls, say, that means there are far fewer jugglers available to reside within a different set of walls.

When one school concentrates all ‘engaged-parents’ within their walls, say, that means there are far fewer engaged parents available to reside within a different set of walls.

This is the “business plan” of charters. To manipulate the pupil demographic (and concomitant parent demographic) to their advantage.

And the problem is that this necessarily impinges on me, my children and their school. By definition.

And this violates rules #3 and #4 of “just getting along”.

Sure we can get along if what you need does not negatively effect what I need. But your school system inherently, necessarily, diminishes mine. It will inherently, necessarily, with time, bankrupt mine. And it will inherently, necessarily, with time grow what is to me democratically intolerable social inequity with time.

“Regular Public District Schools” were designed to be by, for and about the public: it is democracy itself.

Charters are simply the modern incarnation of ancient tribalism, constitution-era separatism, pre-Plessy “separate but equal” schools. 

Sending your child – yes, yours – to sit beside someone who is different, smells different, looks different, speaks differently, thinks differently, acts different: this plurality is intrinsically valuable. It sustains a system of equal opportunity and it assures a possibility of awareness and tolerance of things-different.

As we march today nationally, even internationally, toward fascism, protecting with fierceness a public education system of equity for, and by us all, seems about as critical – most very especially for “progressive democrats” – as the very sustenance of democracy itself.

(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

Tags: Sara Roos, Education Politics, public schools, charters, equality, fascism, racism, segregation

 

NEW GEOGRAPHY--No issue divides the United States more than immigration. Many Americans are resentful of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, worry about their own job security, and fear the arrival of more refugees from Islamic countries could pose the greatest terrorist threat. At the other end of the spectrum are those who believe the welcoming words on the Statue of Liberty represent a national value that supersedes traditional norms of citizenship and national culture.

What has been largely missing has been a sharp focus on the purpose of immigration. In the past, immigration was critical in meeting the demographic and economic needs of a rapidly growing nation. Simply put, the country required lots of bodies to develop its vast expanses of land and natural resources and to work in its factories.    

The need for foreign workers remains important, but the conditions have changed. No longer a largely rural, empty country, more than 80 percent of Americans cluster in urban and suburban areas. Many routine jobs have been automated; factories, farms and offices function more efficiently with smaller workforces. Since at least 2000, notes demographer Nicholas Eberstadt, the “Great American Escalator” has stopped working.

These changes suggest the need to rethink national immigration policies. In a country where wages for the poorest workers have been dropping for decades and incomes have stagnated for the middle class, allowing large numbers of even poorer people into the country seems more burden than balm. They often work hard, but largely in low-income service jobs and in the low end of the health care field. In California, home to an estimated 2.7 million largely Latino undocumented immigrants, approximately three in four Latino non-citizens struggle to make ends meet, as do about half of naturalized Latino citizens, according to a recent United Way study.

Overall, our current immigrants, legal and illegal, have not advanced as quickly as in previous generations. This, along with the crisis in much of Middle America, should be our primary national concern. This doesn’t necessarily translate to mass deportations or even severe cutbacks in legal immigration, as some, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several congressional Republicans, have said. But it certainly does suggest taking a fresh look at how we view immigration.    

Learning From Abroad

So, what kind of immigration is best for America?

Models to consider are those that put premiums on marketable skills and language proficiency rather than family reunification. The Canadian and Australian systems, as President Trump correctly noted, are more attuned to their own national needs, compared with the U.S approach, which emphasizes family re-unification. Canadian authorities allow some 60 to 70 percent of their immigrants to come for economic purposes, notes Carter Labor Secretary Ray Marshall, supporting their system mainly by “filling vacancies that are measured and demonstrated in the Canadian economy.”    

Such a needs-based program would be a better, and fairer, way of addressing skills shortages than the odious H-IB program, which allows temporary indentured tech workers to replace American citizens. Instead, talented newcomers would be welcomed as future citizens and given the right to negotiate their own labor rates and conditions.

This emphasis on admitting immigrants with needed skills leaves Canadians and Australians with generally more positive views about immigration than Americans. Australia is one of only three countries in the world where children of migrants do better at school than children of non-migrants. Canadian support for immigration is particularly high in Toronto, which has been transformed from a sleepy Anglo enclave to a vibrant, diverse global capital.

But such hospitality is not limitless. A former Canadian immigration judge told me recently, in a tone of alarm, that his country’s invitation to 25,000 Syrian refugees could incubate the same sort of disorder that we see across Europe. There, in many heavily immigrant communities, poverty and isolation has persisted, sometimes for generations.    

I doubt many Americans would want to see the kind of social unrest we see across once peaceful places like Sweden, where women now complain of being perpetually harassed, even as supposedly feminist politicians look the other way. In France, Muslims make up about 7.5 percent of the French population compared to 1 percent in the U.S., but France has been ravaged by Islamic terrorism, Muslim-fueled anti-Semitism, and a widening cultural gap between the immigrants and the indigenous French population. In France and many other European countries, we see the rise of nativist politicians that make Donald Trump seem like Mother Theresa.

Citizenship and National Culture

The United States could be headed to a similar devolution. America’s ideals may be universal, but our political community has always been based on U.S. citizenship. You should not have to be an Anglo to admire the Founders, or to embrace the importance of the Constitution. Yet it’s now fashionable among some progressive activists to reject established American political traditions, which constitute a fundamental reason people have come here for the last two centuries.

Yet the “open borders” lobby on the progressive left increasingly demeans the very idea of citizenship. In some cases, they see immigration as way to achieve their desired end of “white America.” Some advocates for the undocumented, such as Jorge Bonilla of Univision, assert that America is “our county, not theirs” referring to Trump supporters. Others, like New York Mayor Bill di Blasio, refuse to differentiate between legal and illegal immigrants.

As usual, California leads the lunacy. Gov. Jerry Brown, who famously laid out a “welcome” sign to Mexican illegal and legal immigrants, has also given them drivers’ licenses and provides financial aid for college, even while cutting aid for middle-class residents. Some Sacramento lawmakers are pressing to give undocumented immigrants’ access to state health insurance. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon recently boasted, “Half of my family would be eligible for deportation under the executive order, because they got a false Social Security card, they got a false identification.”

The “open borders” ideology has reached its apotheosis in “sanctuary” cities which extend legal protection from deportation to criminal aliens, including those who have committed felonies. Donald Trump opportunistically emphasized this absurd and inappropriate situation—sometimes invoking the names of murdered Americans—during his 2016 campaign. The only mystery is why it would surprise the chattering class that many voters responded to his message.

Most Americans are more practical about immigration than politicians in either party. The vast majority of us, including Republicans, oppose massive deportations of undocumented individuals with no serious criminal record. Limiting Muslim immigration appeals to barely half of Americans. Only a minority favor Trump’s famous “big beautiful wall” on the Mexico-U.S. border.

Yet even in California, three-quarters of the population, according to a recent U.C.-Berkeley survey, oppose “sanctuary cities.” Overall, more Americans favor less immigration than more. According to a recent Pew study, most also generally approve tougher border controls and increased deportations. They also want newcomers to come legally and learn English, notes Gallup. This is not just an Anglo issue. In Texas, by some accounts roughly one-third of all Latino voters supported Trump.

Sadly, immigration as an issue has been totally politicized. Obama deported far more undocumented aliens than his Republican predecessor, or any previous president, for that matter, without inciting mass hysteria. To be sure, Republicans face severe challenges with new generations that are more heavily Latino and Asian and generally more positive about immigration. The undocumented account for roughly one in five Mexicans and upwards of half of those from Central American countries, meaning that overly brutal approaches to their residency would be eventual political suicide for Republicans in many key states, including Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Colorado and even Georgia.

Any new immigration policy has to be widely acceptable -- both where immigrants are common as well as those generally less diverse areas where opposition to immigration is strongest. Unlike many issues, immigration cannot be devolved to local areas to accommodate differing cultural climates; it is, and will remain, a federal issue. A policy that melds a skills-based orientation, compassion, strong border enforcement, expulsion of criminals, and forcing the undocumented to the back of the citizenship line seems eminently fair.

Economic Growth: The Secret Sauce of Immigration Policy

Strong, broad-based economic growth remains the key to making immigration work. A weak economy, unemployment, population density, or sudden uncontrolled surges in migration, notes a recent Economic Policy Institute, drives most anti-immigration sentiment. The labor-backed think tank suggests it would be far better to bring in migrants with skills that are in short supply and avoid temporary workers, such as H-1B visa holders, who are paid lower wages, undercutting the employment prospects for Americans.

Given the demands of competition and changes in technology, it seems foolish to allow many additional lower-skilled people enter our country. This is not elitism: Industry needs machinists, carpenters and nurses as well as computer programmers and biomedical engineers. What we don’t need to do is flood the bottom of the labor market. Again, this reality is race-neutral. Economist George Borjas suggests that the influx of low-skilled, poorly educated immigrants has reduced wages for our indigenous poor, particularly African-Americans, but also for the recent waves of immigrants, including Mexican Americans, over the past three decades.

Like most high-income countries, America’s fertility rate is below that needed to replace the current generation. This constitutes one rationale for continued legal immigration. But our demographic shortcomings are also entwined with lack of economic opportunity, crippling student debt, and the high cost of family-friendly housing stock. In other words, one reason Millennials are putting off having children is because they can’t afford them.

Overall immigration is a net benefit, if the economic conditions are right. An overly broad cutback in immigration would deprive the country of the labor of millions of hard-working people, many of whom are highly entrepreneurial. The foreign-born, notes the Kaufmann Foundation, are also twice as likely to start a business as native-born Americans. It’s always been thus—and these aren’t just small, ethnic, family-owned restaurants we’re talking about. More than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or their offspring.    

American immigration has succeeded in the past largely due to economic expansion. The historical lesson is clear: a growing economy, more wealth and opportunity, as well as a sensible policy, are the true prerequisites for the successful integration of newcomers into our society.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of New Geography … where this analysis was first posted. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. He lives in Orange County, CA.)

-cw

STOP EXPECTING DIFFERENT RESULTS-When applied to a city, “entropy” means that the socio-political structure is disintegrating toward chaos. Re-phrased for Los Angeles, Entropy Theory asks: When will Los Angeles’ entropy reach a critical mass so that the city implodes as a viable entity? 

Economists ask a similar question: How can we know when the boom phase of the business cycle will crash and we enter the bust phase? 

One thing seems pretty clear – no one in the world is worse at predicting when a crash will occur than Wall Street. I doubt Wall Street has noticed a crash except in hindsight. Leading up to the Crash of 1929, there were many signs of trouble, but Wall Street attributed each jolt as an idiosyncratic event like Clarence Hatry’s use of fraudulent collateral to purchase U.S. Steel. Collectively, Wall Street failed to realize that the Whack of Mole Syndrome was due to an underlying systemic weakness. By the autumn of 1929, however, the problems may have been too deep to have yielded to any painless intervention. Also, when people are making money, their ears are closed to any warning of financial danger. 

Afterwards in 1936, John Maynard Keynes published his General Theory, showing that we did not have to wait until disaster was upon us, but rather could temper a too heated boom while lessening the decline of the bust phase. To say that Keynes is referring to “deficit financing” is to show that one does not understand Keynes. Step one in protecting the economic system was the same for Keynes as it was for Adam Smith in 1776, when he published Wealth of Nations – protect the price system. 

Similar to how the Barons of Wall Street ignored the price system during the 1920s, the United States departed from both Keynes and Smith in 1999 when Congress and President Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall. That allowed massive trillion dollar frauds to wreak havoc with price system. Around the same time, the government legalized credit default swaps. The result was the Crash of 2008. 

Yes, it is deja vu all over again. The prospect of listing Los Angeles’ obvious weaknesses is exhaustingly boring. It seems that the only thing keeping LA afloat is vast ignorance. People act on the basis of Belief with no use for Reality. People race toward a Charlatan who promises to restore them to the glory days of greatness or who serenades them with Alt-Fact after Alt-Fact. Trump’s and Garcetti’s personalities may be polar opposites, but their game plan is the same – “Alt-Facts uber alles.” 

As noted in a previous CityWatch article, Alternative Facts’ are Nothing New for Angelenos,” the first attribute an Alt-Fact must have is to please the listener. Alt-Facts are tailored to make people feel good; myths are more soothing than reality. No one wants to hear that Cinderella was ugly and Prince Charming was an abuser. Fairy tales do not end with, “Ten years and four children later, Cinderella had to hide in the forest to escape the beatings of Prince Charming.” 

Thus, the LA Times and Eric Garcetti spin myth after myth, while most Angelenos slip off into dream land, never noticing that Wall Street is robbing them blind with mortgages and rents which are two, three or four times higher than merited. LA voters do not heed Albert Einstein who said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. 

Thus, Angelenos know that for over a decade the city has been Manhattanizing, the infrastructure has been crumbling, traffic gridlock is the worse in the entire world, housing prices are among the highest in the country, Family Millennials are fleeing the City, LA has become the least desirable place for upper middle class workers, the streets are terrible, our taxes are increasing while our tax base is shrinking, we lost a $1.3 billion lawsuit due to our dangerous sidewalks, employers are leaving, crime is increasing, the city is insolvent again, and the mayor and city councilmembers are taking bribes to up-zone everything. 

Amidst this decay, Angelenos had a chance to call a halt to it and reassess the situation. Instead, they decided to push ahead doing the same thing that’s been destroying the city. They believe more densification will solve their problems as if the cure for arsenic poisoning is more arsenic. For some reason which defies explanation, Angelenos think that tearing down more rent-controlled housing and building more luxury units will reduce homelessness. 

Stories from the 1920s, however, parallel what we see in Los Angeles in 2017. People select the Alt-Facts which please them without regard to logic. When they hear that there is a glut of upper income apartments with a growing vacancy rate, they fail to realize the underlying reality -- if there were a demand for this housing, we would not have such a huge vacancy rate. The vacancy rate for rent-controlled units should not be confused with the vacancy rate for up-scale units. Tearing down 22,000 rent-controlled units does not create 22,000 tenants for high end apartments. Rather, it creates a housing shortage at the bottom end of the market which will never, ever be satisfied by constructing more luxury condos. 

Now that Angelenos, or the 8.28% of them who voted No on Measure S, have decided that we must densify, densify, densify, the task turns to figuring out when the Crash will hit. The difficulty is not knowing when people will realize that Prince Charming is wearing a “wife beater” tank-top.

 

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

 

@ THE GUSS REPORT-The primary qualifications for electoral longevity in the City of Los Angeles are identity politics and incumbency. Not crime fighting, traffic reduction, budget surpluses, better sidewalks or killing of fewer shelter animals, none of which have been achieved or improved upon by Mayor Eric Garcetti. He failed to permanently return the LA Rams to their 20th Century turf, or build Farmer’s Field, the never-to-be-built stadium where said turf was supposed to lay. He probably will not bring home the 2024 Olympics, either. 

And Garcetti evaded debates prior to last week’s city primary as though they were the inside doorknob of a public bathroom. 

How the heck former Mayor James Hahn lost his 2005 re-election bid to Antonio Villaraigosa is anyone’s guess, though it suggests that only identity politics can beat incumbency. Or Latino identity politics trumped Hahn’s familial identity politics.

But the point is this: In Los Angeles, just being there at the public trough is a reliable path to victory … when running for re-election. Why accomplish good things for the people when it doesn’t matter on Election Days? 

Of all the incumbents at 200 N. Spring Street in the era of LA term limits – ironically, expanded term limits -- nobody behaves more incumbently (yes, that’s an adverb) than Mayor Eric Garcetti. 

At 46 years old, Garcetti has spent 61% of his adult life as an elected city official, and nearly 40% of it as either City Council President or Mayor. Those percentages will grow – slightly – depending on what sliver of his second term he actually serves before unwisely seeking higher office. 

Unwisely, because Garcetti has so little to show for his time in office, he is regularly mocked on KFI-AM 640’s “The John and Ken Show” as “Mayor Yoga Pants,” in part for infamously saying that society owes a debt of thanks to parolees for serving their time. 

The statistics bear out Garcetti’s uninspiring tenure. 

Of the 2,031,733 registered voters in the city for last week’s primary, Garcetti, despite an intoxicating level of name recognition (his familial legacy includes his father Gil being the District Attorney on the losing side of the O.J. Simpson murder case,) convinced only 202,278 of us, less than 10 percent of all registered voters, to vote for him. And he did it against a field of candidates who can charitably be described as very unknown. 

How will Garcetti inspire the 90% of registered LA voters who didn’t vote for him to suddenly support him when he runs to replace Jerry Brown or Dianne Feinstein as governor or senator, respectively?

If he runs as the candidate from Los Angeles, he will have to split that label with his predecessor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is still chasing his first legitimate post-mayoral job. If he runs as the Latino candidate, he will again share it with Villaraigosa. 

As I predicted for LA in 2017, “After Mayor Eric Garcetti is re-elected, he will abandon that which helped get him hired and quietly cooperate in federal programs to deport criminal residents, causing fear within law-abiding immigrant communities.” 

To wit: two weeks ago, our friends at LAist published a piece entitled “Confusion Remains Over Garcetti's Position On L.A. As A Sanctuary City.” 

How exactly Garcetti plans on winning the governor’s job by wavering on whether LA is or is not a sanctuary city, will be interesting to watch. He seems to have check-mated himself as someone who either causes LA to lose federal funding by not cooperating with federal immigration agencies, or by losing Los Angeles votes by passively enabling mass deportation. Villaraigosa, by comparison, has the luxury of not having to waver, since he is no longer governing.

Garcetti’s two leading opponents, themselves gurus in identity politics, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (i.e. the San Francisco candidate and LGBT champion) and State Treasurer John Chiang (the Sacramento and Asian candidate) both currently hold state-wide seats and have similar advantages over Garcetti. Fortunately for all of them, at least former Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin recently decided to not run for Governor, but don’t expect her to endorse any declared candidate any time soon. 

Things are not going to be any easier for Garcetti should he instead try to run for U.S. Senator.

Former California Attorney General Kamala Harris is now firmly ensconced as Barbara Boxer’s replacement – a job she may hold onto for decades. And last week, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger toyed with the idea of running to replace incumbent Dianne Feinstein who, as she approaches 84 years of age, seems hell-bent on keeping the job for the duration. 

That leaves Garcetti having to do what he has yet embrace: his day-to-day job as Mayor of Los Angeles, rather than just its trappings and visibility. Otherwise, his second term as Mayor will be his final elected job. That’s how Antonio Villaraigosa treated being Mayor, and he is still looking for his next gig.

 

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

ALPERN AT LARGE--The concepts and opinions surrounding the "rights" and "needs" and "responsibilities" of Americans for their own healthcare are undeniably all over the place, and are as divergent as Americans' political affiliations.  Which is arguably why "Obamacare" was doomed to fail. Some benefited, and some were truly hurt.   

But the intent was good, and the arguments that we should just repeal "Obamacare" will fall as flat as those who rammed it down the throats of so many Americans.  There was too little transparency, and too little compromise, and too little economic incentive to help the nation's businesses and working families: 

1) The "Affordability" issue must be confronted.  

The "Affordable Care Act" wasn't affordable, except in the opinions of those getting subsidized and those not having to change their health plans (and those were the individuals most in favor of it!).

Drug prices are too damned high.  Not the new blockbusters, by and large, but the generics and older drugs that were going up so much faster than inflation that it made everyone's head spin. 

But credit the new president for compromise, and it should be remembered that Trump was the one who declared he wouldn't let people die in the streets.  Trump's meeting with his otherwise-erstwhile opponent, Rep. Elijah Cummings, on drug prices therefore bodes well. 

Innovation and capitalism are great, but predatory pricing must end.  NOW!  The research and development claims have some merit, but not enough to justify the kind of price hikes we've seen over the past decade. 

2) We mustn't let "Obamacare" or "Obamacare 2" become "Obamascare". 

Those who are truly struck down medically must be protected, and afforded access to quality healthcare, but there has to be compromise to allow affordability.  However, those who need a boot in the rear to get access to health care need to be confronted as well. And both groups very much exist. 

Trump had and has made no secret that he likes the no-preexisting-conditions and coverage-until-age-26-by-your-parents part of "Obamacare".  Young people with no income and/or in school, as well as cancer/seriously-ill patients must be protected. 

But otherwise-healthy individuals need to be (and this should be at a STATE level, not a FEDERAL level, because of that thing we call the CONSTITUTION) offered opportunities to work for their benefits, even if it means a part-time job that is required for state-covered healthcare. 

If a person works 1-2 jobs without benefits, and is forced to get that part-time job just to get that healthcare, it's still an opportunity.  And it is NOT an incentive to avoid work to GET health benefits, which is what California and so much of the nation has now. 

So the "repeal and replace" is more centrist than other plans, and will probably also need to be joined with the term "rights and responsibilities" in order to make this financially work out.

And for those healthy individuals who don't want to work?  Well, their access to the county health system is free, and our need to fret about them should be minimized. 

3) Finally, this isn't about politics--it's about health care.

The new GOP Congress is sticking its neck out there, and they should be open to compromise and negotiations with all sides--especially Democrats--because a loss of coverage for millions of Americans is NOT an option

Yet it's also about affordability, and fiscal/economic sustainability. 

Are we going to incentivize, or smack down, businesses, families and individuals to push them towards contributing to their own health care? 

Are we willing to allow more tax credits and cut costs elsewhere in government to pay for that? Are we going to encourage policies that incentivize hiring, or incentivize not hiring? 

Because when we encourage hiring of good jobs, particularly those with benefits, we best ensure that people and businesses will pay for insurance. Arguably, this was the greatest failure of the Obama Era, and it turned the Bush Recession into an Obama Depression paid for by $10 trillion in debt. 

GOP and Democratic partisans need to deal with their parties past failures, and move forward with a sense of apology and responsibility to the American people. 

Ad perhaps that last sentiment is the ultimate motivation--and answer--the long-awaited and debated issue of health care access and affordability for the United States of America.

 

(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

RESISTANCE WATCH--A New York Times column dated March 8 questioned whether Wednesday’s A Day Without A Woman protests would “test the movement’s staying power.” The answer seems to have been voiced by thousands of red-clad activists who participated in rallies, protests, and strikes in over 400 cities and over 50 countries worldwide.

In New York on Wednesday, four organizers of A Day Without A Woman were among over a dozen arrested for civil disobedience after blocking traffic near Trump International Hotel & Tower at Columbus Circle. Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Bob Bland – who were also the lead organizers of the Women’s March on Washington – were released by the end of the day. 

Closer to home, the day kicked off with close to 200 women in red standing behind Nury Martinez, the sole female member of Los Angeles City Council (photo above). At midday, protestors gathered at Grand Park at First and Spring, a considerably smaller crowd than had gathered on January 21 but still significant. Satellite protests were held throughout the city, including one at the intersection of Ventura Blvd. and Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Woodland Hills where a vocal red-clad group marched and shouted to the honking horns of commuters and passers-by. 

Organizers stated on the March for Women on Washington site, “On International Women’s Day, March 8, women and our allies will act together for equity, justice, and the human rights of women and all gender-oppressed people through a one-day demonstration of economic solidarity.” The group recognizes “the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system – while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerabilities to discrimination, sexual harassment, job insecurity. We recognize that trans and gender nonconforming people face heightened levels of discrimination, social oppression, and political targeting. We believe in gender justice.” 

Women were encouraged to show support in one or more of three ways – to take the day off of paid or unpaid labor, to avoid shopping for one day (with the exception of small women- and minority-owned businesses, and/or to wear red in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman. 

Regardless of how women and others showed support for A Day Without A Woman, the movement seems likely to thrive for as long as it is needed. As part of The Feminist Majority’s rallies and fundraising walks to support women’s equality – and the ERA – the group is organizing the 1st Annual Los Angeles Rally and Walk for Equality to be held Sunday, March 26 in Pan Pacific Park, details forthcoming. 

For more information on Los Angeles-area events, visit Women’s March Los Angeles Foundation

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

GELFAND’S WORLD--Serious thinkers have been comparing the current situation in the U.S. with Germany and Italy in the 1930s. There is some legitimacy to this comparison, particularly in terms of the use of bullying and propaganda at the highest levels of government. But it's also fair to look back at the 1960s and '70s, to the aftermath of the civil rights movement and Viet Nam, and to the slow bloodletting of the Watergate affair. The way those events played out offer some clues as to how the Trump affair will itself play out. 

What do they all have in common? For one, they represent stark breaks from the status quo of the day. The Jim Crow, segregationist society was changed permanently, a nation at peace since the Korean War turned against itself over an undeclared war, and the presidency itself was tarnished by crime and cover up. Words like revolutionary can be used to describe the tumult. 

In the post-Watergate era, it was hard for Americans to pretend that the nation was without blemishes or that our leadership was always trustworthy. It was fashionable for commentators to use phrases like "this nation, for all its faults and for all that we must do to repair those faults, remains the greatest country on earth." You would have noticed that what we think of as American exceptionalism   took a big hit back then. Those with a long enough memory will recall that it was, curiously enough, the First Gulf War that signaled the end to the culture of self-flagellation that we had been enduring. The older President Bush had suggested that whatever position anyone had taken in the Viet Nam protest era, there should be the equivalent to a statute of limitations on blame. 

Another thing about that era and its events: Not only did the civil rights movement, Viet Nam, and Watergate signify revolutionary changes, they were also national embarrassments. Jim Crow and segregation were an embarrassment for obvious reasons. The Viet Nam conflict created distinct unpopularity overseas, and Watergate speaks for itself. 

We are now going through a moment which holds distinct parallels in terms of the revolutionary aspect of the Republican takeover and the international embarrassment that is Donald Trump. 

The point I'm reaching for is that at least in the early- to mid-1970s, Americans spoke about American exceptionalism in more hushed tones and, often enough, prefaced by the admission that as a nation, we had sinned. The current generation of Trump supporters seems to be rebelling against the idea that we could or should regret or apologize for anything. 

This raises the question which shall, I suspect, remain of paramount interest for a while: At what point if ever will Trump supporters begin to realize, and having realized, admit, that Trump is unadulterated poison to democracy and to the country's well being. When will they talk of American exceptionalism prefaced by admissions of imperfection? 

In particular, at what point will a substantial majority of the American public recognize that you cannot tell whether Trump is telling the truth or spinning a yarn -- about anything -- ever? 

We can imagine a not so distant future when it will be possible to ask with a straight face, "Which Trump are you talking about, the birther Trump or the later Trump, following his admission that Obama was born in the United States? Which Trump are you talking about, the Trump who claimed that Obama bugged the Trump Tower, or the later Trump? 

Bernie Sanders …asks, "What should we do if the president is a liar?" A tough question, indeed. 

The Republican answer to the Affordable Care Act 

Well, this is one of the emergencies we have been predicting and dreading. The House of Representatives now has a bill to replace Obamacare with its own version. As several analysts have pointed out, it's really just a tax cut for the rich which makes up for some of the federal income reduction by reducing the subsidies that poorer people on Obamacare and Medicaid have been getting. You can fill in your own reverse Robin Hood joke here, but it's potentially less of a joke and more of an American disaster. 

So far, the hard right also dislikes the proposal, but in their case, it's because the bill isn't cruel enough. 

Another thing -- when Trump was on the campaign trail, he made brash promises about fixing the whole health insurance problem so that everybody gets great care and we all spend less money. It was a typical Trump approach to campaigning -- make grandiose promises backed up by nothing but bluster, mix in a dollop of hate towards foreigners, stir, and collect the votes. It will be a big question for historians whether Trump believed his own claims or whether it was just a con. Either interpretation speaks badly of the candidate and of the country that elected him.

 

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

-cw

WELCOME TO CITY HALL--Hat tip to Lucy Han of Playa Del Rey and her group, FOTJ (Friends Of the The Jungle), for this one. 

The Issue--While both the City and the LAUSD are charged with maintaining a safe environment for our school children, it turns out they don’t talk to each other much, and the safety of our school children can be suspect when it comes to their interactions with the homeless. 

Aside from just living in LA, there are two circumstances under which our children can interact with the homeless -- going and coming to school, and going on field trips within the City. 

In terms of going and coming to school, the City of Los Angeles has a Municipal Code (Section 85.02) which says that the homeless cannot live within 500 feet of a public school or other “sensitive area” like a park. Okay, for the majority of students who get dropped off and picked up by car or bus, that’s fine. 

But it isn’t fine for those k-12 students walking to school across the 500 foot zone. And it isn’t as if the homeless population has any clue about the Municipal Code, or would care if they did know. 

The second major area where school kids can interact with the homeless population just happens to be in the Ballona Wetlands  in Playa Del Rey. 

It’s a major preserve that over 7000 school children visit each year, and the ingress and egress from there just happens to be a place where a large number of homeless hang out, “dwelling”in their vehicles and using the public restroom facilities. 

‘No, No, Not My Problem’--The FOTJ folks have been trying to use the political system to rectify this problem. First they reached out to Councilmember Mike Bonin (CD11), a veritable paragon of probity. He’s been running for re-election, but without any serious opposition, his re-election will be a lock by the time you read this. 

His Chief of Staff, Chad Molnar, did what politicians do -- he blew the issue off on the City Attorney. So there you have it: not Bonin’s problem. This is probably true, since Bonin’s real problem is bending over for every big developer in his District. See my article, It’s Called a Bonin.  Within that context, why indeed would he care about school children? 

Being stout of heart, the FOTJ folks went to the City Attorney’s Office. Since Friends of the Jungle is not the City Attorney’s client, they got what you would expect. A regurgitation of the Municipal Code. Chalk another one up to Feckless Feurer for caring. 

Finally, the FOTJ went to the ultimate power in LA City, Mayor Eric Garcetti who is all over TV and re-election mail, but largely absent in the wetlands. After being directed to the Mayor’s “Homeless Policy Director,” Alisa Orduna, they were told how wonderful the Mayor’s Healthy Streets Program is; she opined that if the FOTJ would just talk to the homeless, these people would say “cool” and leave. 

For the rest of it, she told them they should talk to their Councilmember. Right on. 

Finally, as of the deadline for this article, they have contacted their LAUSD representative, Steve Zimmer, so we won’t know the outcome until after the LAUSD election. For those who don’t know, Mr. Zimmer is under attack by the California Charter School Assn. folks (CCSA), led by none other than our former mayor, Richard Riordan. There are a number of candidates on the ballot, but the runoff will be with Charter favorite, Nick Melvoin – all fueled by millions of dollars spent on the District 4 race instead of education. 

Personally, I hope Zimmer wins. He actually pays attention to his District, and would likely see what he can do to help the school children who visit the Ballona Wetlands. 

The Disconnect--Only in LA do you find dichotomies like this. On the one hand, there are somewhere over 50,000 homeless youths in LA County, which is a scary number. At the same time, the LA Unified School District acknowledges somewhere around 15,000 students who are homeless, and even has a special homeless unit within the District to help them. 

So, on the one hand we have a significant homeless problem, and even the LAUSD student body has one as well. 

On the other hand, the City of Los Angeles and its City Attorney have this weird way of claiming to protect their student population in the LAUSD from adult homeless folks, many of whom have severe mental and physical health issues. 

It is pretty clear that the politicians at City Hall have no clue what they are doing about this, and it is equally clear that the bureaucracies of LA City and the LAUSD don’t coordinate or talk to each other. 

The Takeaway--By the time this column posts, we in Los Angeles will have approved yet another tax to help the homeless, Measure H, a new 1/4 cent sales tax for the County of Los Angeles. This is on top of the $1.2 billion LA City bond measure the voters approved in the November 8 General Election. 

For those who voted for Measure H without reading the fine print, the expenditure of its 1/4 cent sales tax for the next ten years is to “comply with the Approved Strategies to Combat Hopelessness,” a 130 page document that supposedly integrates with the 300 pages of the LA City Bond measure HHH. You can read about the County ballot measure here, including links to the details.

If the early results of the already implemented City Bond Measure (HHH) are any indication, with Measure H we will be once more throw money at a problem without a realistic chance of success in implementing this County measure. Check out this article 

At a recent LANCC meeting, we were told Assembly Member Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-54th AD) that once the number of homeless grows to much over 50,000 in LA, the problem rapidly becomes insurmountable. Well, by the time the November LA City Measure (HHH) was passed, I was told that the real number of homeless in LA was already well over 50,000 and climbing. As of this column, the results of a January recount were not available. 

The $1.2 billion in bonds that you and I will have to pay for are already a fizzle by all accounts. When we throw in the new 1/4 cent tax to address the overwhelming complexities of our homeless, all controlled by over 400 pages of bureaucratic “planning,” does anyone actually believe that the issue will really be ameliorated? 

Pardon my cynicism, but no wonder the City Hall elite can’t cope with helping 7000 school children avoid potential problems when interacting with the homeless parked at Ballona Wetlands. The LA City incumbents have won in a walk, and can now go back to their real business: approving every big real estate development they can find.

On the other hand, maybe Steve Zimmer will win the runoff for LAUSD seat 4. One can hope.

 

(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.

MEASURE S … A PLANNER’S ANALYSIS--In the past few days the foreign media, like the Guardian, and even most of the U.S. media, have blasted out the story of the 9,000 CIA hacking documents that WikiLeaks made public after redacting critical information. 

Based on press reports, these documents reveal a long list of cyber tools that invade computers, cell phones, and smart TVs. The release’s long-term impact is hard to know, but before WikiLeaks went public with this information, one scholar already concluded that World War III would likely be a cyber-war. 

In the words of the University of Wisconsin historian Alfred McCoy, a WW III conflict between the United States and China will end with an electronic whimper, not a bang: 

As the Chinese virus spreads uncontrollably through the F-6 satellite architecture, while those second-rate U.S. supercomputers fail to crack the malware’s devilishly complex code, GPS signals crucial to the navigation of U.S. ships and aircraft worldwide are compromised. Carrier fleets begin steaming in circles in the mid-Pacific. Fighter squadrons are grounded. Reaper drones fly aimlessly toward the horizon, crashing when their fuel is exhausted. Suddenly, the United States loses what the U.S. Air Force has long called “the ultimate high ground”: space. Within hours, the military power that had dominated the globe for nearly a century has been defeated in World War III without a single human casualty.  

But, without WikiLeaks and Professor McCoy, in Los Angeles we can figure out the city’s deep politics and players without a City Hall deep throat. Even though Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, lost in the March 7 election, it allowed us to learn the following about the inner workings of LA’s urban growth machine:  

  • Based on the extensive research of the Los Angeles Times and Patrick McDonald for Measure S, real estate developers and City Hall’s elected officials engage in extensive pay-to-play. We now know who exactly make the payments, who receives the payments, and what goes on between them: money buys discretionary planning and zoning approvals. 
  • We also have a better idea of what these many land use entitlements are worth to property owners and investors, although more research would be helpful for the certain planning-related fights to come. 
  • We also know who financed the no on S campaign to ensure that the cozy and lucrative status quo continues. The big funders were 10 large real estate companies, who openly contributed $8 to $10 million. Furthermore, their accomplice was Rusty Hicks, the well-paid director of the LA County Federation of Labor, who ponied up more than a $1 million of his members’ dues. According to the LA Times, Hicks is also close to Parke Skelton whose SG&A firm lead the campaign against Measure S. 
  • We also know that the no on S campaign strategy focused on LA’s housing crisis, an approach SG&A gleaned from focus groups. 
  • For that matter, reading between the lines, we also know the “economic” theory that the no on S funders wear as a fig leaf to justify their private greed. It is neo-liberalism, especially its belief in trickle-down economics. Its other principles are deregulation of land use and elimination of Federal and CRA urban programs, except for policing. Even though City Hall’s elected officials are nearly all corporate Democrats, they are fully onboard with this once Republican approach to municipal governance. 
  • For that matter, without WikiLeaks the no on S campaign also revealed another supporting player for their “urban growth machine.” These are the non-profits that the SG&A campaign operatives drew into their top-down “coalition.” 
  • We also learned about the contentious role of the non-profits. They maintain the status quo by (inadvertently) putting balm on the wounds created by their affluent funders and board members, especially those who maximize profits through real estate speculation. 

While the supporters and staff of the non-profits usually have the best of intentions, they rarely examine the cause of the problems they address, such as real estate speculation. Likewise, because of their close relationship to their funders, they have incrementally absorbed their trickle-down theories. As result, the non-profits no longer call for the restoration of slashed urban programs or local laws regulating land use. Even though it is still too early to know which non-profits experienced direct economic pressure to oppose Measure S, the broad outline is already visible. Most of them are ideologically lined up with the large real estate companies and City Hall politicians who ardently campaigned against Measure S. 

How should we now use all of this information? 

One of the most useful long-term lessons from this campaign was, “There are no permanent defeats, and no permanent victories.” I interpret this to mean several things: 

First, the election results are obvious; the status quo prevailed, so the no on S boosters now need to put up or shut up. Based on what we have learned, my crystal ball tells me to expect the following, all of which conflicts with their often-vituperative no on S message. 

  • City Hall's soft corruption will hardly miss a beat. 
  • Despite a glut of luxury housing, home prices and rents will continue to rise until the next great recession hits and/or rampant foreign speculative investments in local real estate dries up. 
  • As for LA’s housing crisis, the city’s inclusionary zoning programs, existing and proposed, will not keep up with the loss of affordable housing through demolitions, displacement, and gentrification. 
  • Ditto for Measure JJJ since its loopholes will prevail over it promises. 
  • Measure HHH will also prove to be a disappointment. Cronies will get fat contracts through insider deals, followed by relaxed scrutiny. 
  • Traffic congestion will worsen because nearly all new projects, both by-right and spot-zoned mega-projects, are automobile-centric. 
  • Bicyclists will still face dangerous roads with serious accidents because LA is not following the example of cities, like NYC, where the City builds separated bicycle lanes. 

Second, the resurgent status quo creates enormous opportunities for the organization, energy, and knowledge that the Yes of S campaign mobilized to morph into a permanent organization, such as United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles. Even without a City Hall WikiLeaks, we know more than enough to take on many important tasks, such as: 

  • Strategic support for the many future local campaigns against City Council approved but un-planned mega-projects. 
  • Networking these local ad hoc organizations together into a permanent, citywide organization focused on good city planning, especially through the (promised) updates of the General Plan’s different elements. 
  • Strengthening CityWatch and other alternative news and information outlets so they can engage in relentless exposes of City Hall’s continued skullduggery, including pay-to-play and the exceedingly poor planning outcomes it inflicts on Los Angeles neighborhoods and residents. 
  • Developing a progressive planning agenda based on three principles: sustainability, equity, and community-based planning. In future columns I will attempt to flesh-out this agenda, such as a focus on public improvements in lieu of private real estate deals. 

Your help is greatly appreciated in all of these efforts.

 

(Dick Platkin is a former Los Angeles city planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatchLA. Comments and corrections invited at rhplatkin@gmail.com.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LA IS NOT NEW YORK--According to the LA Times, LA Metro ridership is still falling -- even though billions have been (mis)spent on extra capacity over the last 30+ years. By my count that's the second time this year that the Times has broached this tender topic. As a member in good standing of the LA "good government" (googoo) establishment, the paper had for many years chosen to tip-toe around the bad news. 

Readers may know that some of us began flogging the dead horse in the mid-1970s. Go to the attached proceedings and read the contribution by the late UCLA Prof. George Hilton. He was among the first to write sensibly and clearly that LA is not NY -- and trying to make it so would be a phenomenal waste. But even LA Times’ coverage will be for naught. Billions more will be spent. Pouring good money after bad is what the great and the good in City Hall do for a living. 

We are in the early years Uber/Lyft and all manner of ICT information sharing. These are the game-changers. For the past two months, my wife and I have graduated from a two-car household to a one-car-plus-Uber-plus-walkable-neighborhood HH. The game-changers are here. Conventional transit was never a game-changer.

 

(Peter Gordon is Emeritus Professor, USC Price School of Public Policy. His current research addresses how the nature of cities impacts economic growth prospects. This perspective was posted first at New Geography.)  Photo by John Schreiber/MyLANews.com   Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

SPECIAL TO CITYWATCH … NEIGHBORHOOD INTEGRITY JUST GETTING STARTED--In our huge and wonderful Los Angeles, the "civic conversation" is often said by academics to be weak. And it's true that I can point to only a few times in which LA residents engaged in and led a big, brawling conversation about where the city should head. 

One such brawl was the successful blogger-led fracas (remember bloggers?) over whether the hated Department of Water and Power should control much of the solar-installation industry. Another was the unsuccessful Valley Secession movement, which asked voters whether 1.6 million people should form their own city to free themselves from a City Hall that repeatedly cheated them on services and political clout. 

In both cases, it turned out that the residents were not disinterested or weak. But in our livable LA, made up of many villages and numerous downtowns, residents could not to find a way to be heard. And their frustration finally exploded into healthy ballot box wars that proved, once again, that true democracy is not only crucial, it's messy. 

Measure S, which was defeated at the polls on March 7, falls directly into that category. That's why it has inspired the most robust civic conversation in Los Angeles in years. 

Measure S was soundly defeated — our numbers fell from a neck-and-neck race shortly before Election Day, when billionaire developers poured in a last-minute $5 million to dominate the airwaves, and even Gov. Jerry Brown came out against Measure S. 

But it's clear from post-election media coverage that while our reforms failed, Measure S won the argument.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council have promised many reforms in reaction to Measure S — almost all stuck in committee or gathering dust on a shelf. 

On Thursday, Garcetti again proposed a vague plan without any deadline for updating the long-stalled Community Plans. He finally signed an Executive Directive enacting a very limited reduction in "ex parte," or backroom meetings, aimed solely at his Planning Commission — and only after a developer formally files an application to get around zoning rules, an action that often happens long after numerous backroom meetings.

Many of Garcetti's planning commissioners deny they hold private meetings. According to city officials who were asked to produce records of the Planning Commissioners' private meetings under the California Public Records Act, none of his planning commissioners bothers to maintain any record of who they meet with.

At his Thursday press conference, under questioning by journalists, Garcetti again refused to adopt the key reform, of ending backroom dealmaking between City Council members and developers and himself and developers. 

Garcetti is no doubt relying on a convenient opinion from the City Attorney last year that developers and their lobbyist are "residents" of LA and elected leaders need to hold private meetings with residents. Aside from the fact that many key billionaires who get backroom deals do not live in LA, it's absurd to conflate these private deals with informational meetings with LA residents. 

As a lifelong LA journalist-now-campaign manager, I was also pleased to read a media report that quoted Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the key funder of Measure S, as saying, “This will go down in history as a campaign that didn’t win the vote that had the best results. Nobody in this campaign has defended the current system.” 

The website, known for its "skyscraper porn," and avidly pro-developer bent, then went on: 

That’s true. Even Mayor Eric Garcetti, who handily won reelection Tuesday night, acknowledged that, “the diagnosis is agreed upon by all of us.” But he opposed Measure S, calling it the wrong “prescription.” The election results are not likely to put to rest a heated battle over the future landscape of Los Angeles. 

And that brings us to what happens next. 

Despite public agreement that City Hall's development process is broken, elected leaders continue to let mega-developers, from the Lowy mall billionaires to the Lowe resort billionaires, treat LA communities like pieces on a chess board. The City Council and Planning Commission repeatedly override LA zoning as if the rules are a mere annoyance. 

Important reform sometimes needs more than one cathartic effort. 

Gay marriage took more than one try on the ballot, a fact that is almost impossible to believe today. The far more wonky "redistricting reform" — a statewide vote to stop seat-warming legislators from gleefully custom-drawing the voting district lines around their preferred voters, to ensure their own re-elections — was a robust debate. Until voters approved redistricting reform, few Californians were certain what a "voting district" even was. 

Los Angeles is a great city, and it's worth making sure we get it right. 

Getting it right may mean a second ballot measure. Or it may mean free training so that neighborhood leaders have as many tools to fight City Hall as lobbyists have tools to manipulate City Hall. 

Or it may mean that powerful people who privately agreed with Measure S will now join us in tilting the balance of power. 

"Getting it right" won't be a debate over what types of towering buildings get built where. This is far more fundamental. It's about who decides how and where LA's infrastructure, housing, parks and services are planned and intertwined, as required, to best serve residents. 

That's not radical. It's crucial. 

Getting it right means that the City Council and mayor must relinquish the secrecy to which they are addicted — and which obscures from the public eye LA's wildly non-democratic planning and zoning system. 

More than 77,000 people voted for Measure S because backroom deals cut between our individual City Council members (yes, your City Council member, too), the mayor, and rich developers are repugnant in a democracy. 

Not surprisingly, they are creating an imbalance between what LA really needs, and what it's getting. 

As then-LA City Planner Gail Goldberg famously warned in 2006, "In every city in this country, the zone on the land establishes the value of the land. In Los Angeles, that's not true. The value of the land is not based on what the zone says ... It's based on what [the] developer believes he can change the zone to." 

Gail Goldberg went on: "This is disastrous for the city. Disastrous. Zoning has to mean something in this city." 

We agree. (Please read the Yes on S campaign's report, here, Pay-to-Play in Los Angeles City Government.) The Pay-to-Play report details years of secret meetings between developers and city council members, council staff, city planning officials, and other city staff.  

Under this system, City Hall can only produce more of the mess that Gail Goldberg foresaw: 

-massive traffic backups on our streets, created by bad planning

-pushing out our working families through ill-advised gentrification

-skyrocketing rents set off by a foolish frenzy of approvals of luxury housing that, clearly, does not trickle down. 

We are hearing from residents citywide asking "what's next? How does this get fixed?" 

We will continue to press our elected leaders to reform themselves. But meanwhile, we at Measure S will keep the faith with residents, by tapping their energy and their new awareness. 

Measure S during the past year held dozens of meetings, town halls, debates, rallies and press conferences, from Chatsworth to San Pedro to Baldwin Hills to Westchester to Koreatown to Woodland Hills to Studio City to the Palisades and beyond. 

We made the case that the City Council, by putting our zoning system up for sale, has fueled an unprecedented level of land speculation and greed in LA After the defeat of Measure S, we wrote in an open letter to our supporters:
"The Measure S campaign succeeded, completely, in challenging City Hall to be worthy of LA's residents.

"LA elected leaders now widely agree that wealthy developers should of course not get to write their own environmental impact reports, a glaring conflict of interest, nor should developers hold private meetings to try to influence LA city planning commissioners.

"LA elected leaders also now agree with Measure S, that the City Council must return to its long-abandoned job of updating our 20-year-old General Plan and Community Plans. They also agree that the Council's frequent rewarding of special exemptions that let developers ignore these Plans must be a very rare act.

"It is now up to us, to see that City Hall does not bury these promises in committee, or otherwise delay these reforms. In the wake of this hard-fought election, they know we're watching them."

(Jill Stewart, a former journalist, is campaign director for the Coalition to Preserve LA, sponsor of the Measure S.

-cw

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.” 

(Photo: Fernando Hurtado and his wife, Amy Areli, with two of their four children at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center.) 

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 LA, 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?’” 

(Photo: Jim Mangia, President and CEO of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center.) 

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 LA 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.

MY TOWN--One upside to the acrimonious debate over the ill-fated Measure S is the number of people who have been pulled into the discussion over the future of our City. Of course, this new engagement didn’t seem to translate into actual voter turnout, but … baby steps, right? 

The resounding victory of the No on S campaign – even without the benefit of a catchy, rhyming slogan – places the burden squarely on that unlikely coalition of billionaires, Berniecrats, bankers, and bicycle advocates to come up with solutions to the various crises we face as a result of the status quo.

After all, Measure S sought to change that status quo – the opponents fought to keep it in place. And by status quo I mean the longstanding practice of granting zone changes to specific projects contrary to the language of the City Charter. I don’t mean to imply opponents of Measure S want to keep the City as it is.

To the contrary, the No on S crowd seems to want a development-driven Utopia, where housing is cheap and abundant and the homeless cease to exist. If you, like me, actually kind of like Los Angeles as it is – you are in a distinct minority. Apparently, a majority of the ten percent of registered voters who actually vote in Los Angeles would prefer LA to be more like Houston – where the absence of zoning laws have kept rents low and developers happy. 

We know what Rick Caruso, CIM Group, and Wells Fargo want: more development. And for the armchair activists so recently engaged in local politics, that should be good enough. With each new glitzy skyscraper, the pro-development-at-all-costs people can pat themselves on the back secure in the knowledge that they’ve done their part for the poor, the displaced, and the homeless. Well done people!

But for those of us more engaged in the actual struggle of the poor, undocumented, and homeless in our communities, we all should be able to agree that Phil Anschutz has not exactly been waiting for an excuse to ride in on a white horse and save us.

Nonetheless, the No on S coalition have pointed to several specific actions designed to help the poor, the young, renters, and the homeless that otherwise would have been stymied by passage of Measure S.

For example, the opponents of Measure S argued that many essentially shovel-ready affordable housing units would have been stopped by Measure S. Since Measure S no longer poses an obstacle to those projects, we should be able to track their progress. 

The same can be said for rising rents and home prices as well as loss of rent-controlled units and displacement of long-term low-income residents – all of which the opponents of Measure S told us would be increased by the measure’s passage. The removal of Measure S from that equation should be expected to result in a decrease in that type of activity around the City. Let’s see how that works out.

Finally, we’ve been told that the City has committed itself to updating the zoning laws on a regular basis in order to respond to the changing needs of our communities. In fact, the City has recently passed an ordinance requiring update of the community plans every six years. Let’s see if the City Council lives up to that commitment.

Since the opponents of Measure S consistently told us that updating the zoning laws was a long, onerous process – and, therefore, we couldn’t afford Measure S’s moratorium in order to pressure the City to update its plans – this particular goal should be something we see progress on fairly quickly. We shouldn’t need to wait six years, in other words, to know whether the City is going to update its community plans.

Although every ounce of optimism has been wrung from my soul by the long slog to make some positive change in this City, those who opposed Measure S seems fairly giddy at the sea change this election has brought. Let’s see if they can deliver.

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

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--Los Angeles should drop its bid for the 2024 Olympics -- before it gets chosen. It’s true that Paris has long been the favorite to be awarded the games during an upcoming vote in September. The Paris bid has broad international support, the City of Light has come close to winning the games in recent bids, and sentiment is on its side. 2024 would be the 100th anniversary of the last Olympics in Paris, the 1924 Games portrayed in the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire

But the contest is changing. All other contenders for 2024 have now dropped out (Budapest hung on the longest before bailing last month,) leaving just LA and Paris. And after reviewing documents from and about both bids, it looks to me that LA has the superior bid, with greater public support, stronger management (led by two of LA’s most skilled civic operators, Casey Wasserman and Gene Sykes,) and a better plan for producing an exciting event without the organizational meltdowns and cost overruns of previous Olympics. 

Indeed, what’s most promising about LA’s bid is also what makes it perilous. Los Angeles is bidding not merely to hold the Olympics but to transform them. Specifically, LA pledges “to create a new Games for a new era” and to “refresh” an Olympics brand. 

There’s plenty of transforming and refreshing to be done. The Olympics over the last generation has become more associated with corruption than sport: There’s the constant doping by individual athletes and nations’ sports federations. There’s the vote-buying by previous bid cities, including Atlanta and Salt Lake City. There’s the propagandistic use of the Games by the world’s worst human rights violators, from Russia to China. There’s the displacement of poor people, from East London to Rio, that has come with Olympic facility construction. And there’s the overspending and overpromising that has left generations of Olympic cities with debt and dead Olympic-related infrastructure. 

(Photo left: Mary Lou Retton celebrates her balance beam score at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Retton, 16, became the first American woman ever to win an individual Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. Photo by Lionel Cironneau/Associated Press.) 

All of which raises the same hard questions you might ask of a wonderful neighbor who romantically pursues a dashing foreigner even though the foreigner’s previous relationships ended badly. 

Do we really want the Olympics? How can we be sure that Olympic corruption won’t sully our reputation? And most of all, if an LA Games did succeed in hosting a profitable and “clean” Olympics, what’s to prevent the Olympics’ wheeler-dealers from exploiting an LA triumph to revert to their old tricks and take advantage of other global cities for future Games? 

Such questions may sound peculiar, but California has a peculiar relationship with the Olympics. While the rest of the world has become a sea of discontent with the corrupt Olympic movement -- in this cycle, Toronto, Hamburg, Rome, and Boston all have dropped bids -- we remain an island of Olympic love. One poll in Los Angeles showed 88 percent support for the Games. 

California’s Olympics love is rooted in nostalgia, for both the 1932 Games and for the famously well-run and profitable 1984 Games, which remain one of LA’s proudest civic moments, when we embraced a vision of ourselves as an international city. I attended those games as an 11-year-old (I saw Edwin Moses win the 400-meter hurdles) and remember them fondly. 

But the Games we’re bidding for now are not those Olympics. Today’s Games are bigger and bloated, with too many sports and expense. They also come with more baggage. The most recent Summer Olympics, held in Brazil last summer at twice the anticipated cost, were a disaster for that developing country, contributing to economic and political turmoil, and leaving behind useless infrastructure. 

The budget for the next Summer Games, in Tokyo in 2020, is now projected at four times the original estimate. And these recent problems come on the heels of other disasters. The 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, were beset by state-sponsored doping and massive construction corruption, with Vladimir Putin’s government rewarding friends with lucrative contracts. The 2008 Games in Beijing provided a pretext for China’s rulers to crack down on dissent and demolish important neighborhoods. The 2004 Games in Athens left massive debts that contributed to that country’s economic collapse. 

These games all centered on the “Development Model” of Olympics -- using the bid to transform cities by building. LA’s bid is a welcome departure because it relies on existing facilities for nearly everything, which helps contain the projected budget at just over $5 billion. (Sochi spent a reported $50 billion.) 

Viewed purely as a question of LA’s self-interest, the case for seeking the Games is strong. 

California’s economy depends so heavily on international trade and tourism that an Olympics could serve as advertising for our global connections and openness, particularly as much of America turns isolationist. And a 2024 Games would allow LA to show off its rapidly expanding transit system.

Plus, the Olympics, for all of its problems, still offers opportunities to volunteer (an LA Olympics would need tens of thousands of volunteers,) to root for your country, to promote the value of physical exercise, and to take a two-week respite from contentious politics during an election year. 

The Olympics would be fortunate to have us host. No city in the world is better suited to the games, from our dry and temperate summer weather to our wealth of sports facilities to our expertise in handling mega-events. “Make Los Angeles the permanent host of the Summer Olympics,” the sports economist Andrew Zimbalist advised last year.  

Most of the typical concerns about a Los Angeles Olympics -- about cost overruns, about traffic, about terrorism and security costs -- are overblown, and are well planned for in LA’s bid documents. The Games would be run by LA 2024, a separate organization, which means Olympic planning shouldn’t be a distraction for local elected officials who need to focus on Southern California’s everyday needs, from ill-repaired roads to the housing shortage. 

Some news reports have suggested that President Trump and his bans on travel and refugees and immigrants could hurt LA’s chances of winning. But the French have their own anti-immigrant, racist populist -- the leading presidential contender Marine Le Pen -- to defend. And Olympics politics is much more about the politics of the International Olympic Committee and the federations for all the different sports. 

No, the real question about LA’s bid is whether we’re too good for the Olympics. Our association is likely to sully us, and require moral compromises. For example, The New York Times reported last month that the U.S. Olympic Committee was soft-pedaling its response to the Russia doping scandal because of fears that a hard U.S. line could hurt LA’s Olympic bid. 

Such compromises pale in comparison to the moral hazard of saving the Olympics with an excellent LA bid. Hollywood warned us about a situation like this. If we win, our Games could become an Olympic version of The Bridge on the River Kwai, a 1957 film classic about Allied prisoners of war who dutifully build a railroad bridge that serves the interests of their Japanese captors. In the same way, an Olympic movement, restored by Los Angeles’ dutiful work, would be newly free to go back into the world and grant the Games to repressive regimes and developing countries that can’t really afford it. Do we really want to make that possible? 

Nope. It’s not our job to save the Olympics. Instead, Los Angeles should preserve its Olympic ideals -- by dropping our bid. Yep, that means handing the 2024 Games to Paris. C’est la vie. We’ll always have 1984.

 

(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). Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

CORRUPTION WATCH-On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, Americans elected Donald Trump President on the basis of the Politics of Rage. Millions of Americans, albeit less than 50%, were out for revenge. Although the Democrats’ hubris coupled with an inability to count votes in the Electoral College tipped the scales in favor of Trump, without the passion for revenge throughout much of the nation, Trump would not have won. 

On Tuesday, March 7, 2017, Angelenos re-elected Eric Garcetti Mayor of Los Angeles on the basis of the Politics of Ignorance. 

Garcetti was already the longest serving politico at LA City Hall. The voters first elected him as councilmember for Council District 13 in 2001. In 2006, he became City Council President which in LA is an extremely powerful position anyway, but even more so then because Mayor Villaraigosa was seldom in town and when he was, Tony V was primarily concerned with chasing skirt. Thus now, more than anyone else in LA, Garcetti can take credit for the city’s current condition. 

During Garcetti’s tenure, Los Angeles has declined from being a Destination City to which people aspire to an Exodus City from which people are fleeing. Every day in every way, life is LA is becoming worse. Yet, Angelenos are ignorant of the connection between city government and the deterioration in the quality of their lives. 

  1. The infrastructure is decaying with about three water mains bursting a week and creating sink holes into which cars disappear. 
  1. Traffic congestion has gone for bad to terrible to second worst in the nation to worst in the country to worst in the U.S. and Europe to having the worst traffic gridlock in the entire world. (Inrix 2017 Traffic Scorecard.) 
  1. There is an outward migration of the middle class that has to aggravate to split between the very poor and very wealthy since the middle has picked up stakes and moved away. The lack of a vibrant middle class also kills the opportunity ladder and the middle class is to step out of poverty. 
  1. The City’s Dependency Ratio is progressively worst each year. The Dependency Ratio is important to gauge a city’s future since it measures the percent of people working versus the percent of dependents. Generally, that is the number of young people between 0 and 18 added to the number of over age 65 versus everyone in the middle. Since the young and the elderly do not generate income, they are a drag on the tax base. The smaller the middle class, the greater the tax burden on the middle class. 
  1.  The City’s homeless problem is escalating due to Garcetti’s Manhattanization of Los Angeles which has destroyed over 22,000 rent-controlled units since 2001. When veterans, the disabled and the poor are evicted, they often cannot afford market-rate housing and thus they end up on the street. An increasing number live in SUVs and cars. The services for the homeless are very expensive for the LA, but Garcetti does not provide extra funds to make up for the loss of police and paramedics because of the need for them to tend to the increasing problems of homelessness. 
  1. Garcetti promoted Measure HHH to allegedly build affordable housing, but via Measure JJJ, that money can subsidize luxury apartments -- of which the city has a glut, over a 12% vacancy rate. (As the UN reported on March 1, 2017, it is worldwide trend to construct dense housing units for money launderers and oligarchs to hide and cleanse their money. Thus, LA provides money to construct “investments” for wealthy Russians. I guess in some respects, Garcetti is not all that different from Trump.) 
  1. Housing prices in LA are beyond out of control due to the developers’ practice of “being nice to” councilmembers to get whatever Up Zoning they desire. Once a friendly councilmember places any Up Zoned project on the city council agenda, it automatically passes unanimously – even if no councilmember votes for it. The City Council vote tabulating machine is programmed to Vote Yes for everything all the time. 
  1. In the 15 years of Garcetti’s tenure, LA has gone from a world class destination City to a failing city which is again insolvent -- and yet a whopping 81% re-elected Garcetti for Mayor. 
  1. The City is insolvent – again —with a $250 million deficit. 
  1. The crime rate is ratcheting upwards. 
  1. LA is the most park poor large city in the country. 
  1. The density in DTLA and Hollywood and the Westside has only just begun to escalate. Once it is under way, it will make traffic even worse and housing prices continue to rise. As traffic worsens, it seems that more people use cars because mass transit is very slow; in addition, it goes very few places while cars go everywhere and it is increasingly dangerous with unreliable timetables. Thus, the mere prospect of an arduous commute results n people seeking the comfort and relative safety of their own vehicles. 

The Difference between Trump and Garcetti 

Unlike Trump, who is a mentally disturbed, twitter-addicted braggart held aloft on the wing of resentment and rage, Eric Garcetti speaks softly and carries a big war chest. He is a low-keyed political genius who skims along on a cloud of misinformation and misdirection. Also, he is backed by the LA Times which has been the master of Alt-News since its inception in the 1800s. The LA Times’ secret motto is “All the News the Elite Wants You to See.” Thus, Angelenos swim in a vast sea of ignorance. They know things are worse every day but they are clueless as to the cause. 

The results of the Politics of Rage and the Politics of Ignorance are essentially the same – deterioration.

 

(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.

CITY HALL EXPOSED--This is a timeline of City Council and LA City Staff backroom meetings with developers and lobbyists; campaign donations to City Officials; and “spotzoning” approvals for controversial projects. 

A Special March 4, 2017 Report on Backroom Governing and Undue Developer Influence Upon LA Elected Leaders 

Sourcing: All facts provided by Los Angeles City Ethics Commission or contained in official documents released by Los Angeles City Council members as required by the California Public Records Act. 

Released by the Coalition to Preserve LA, Yes on Measure S 

Summary:

Yes on Measure S today releases a special report of official city information that has been released publicly, but unpublished to date. It reveals how LA City Hall works behind closed doors, on behalf of developers and usually without the knowledge of the public, to get around an area's zoning rules.

Most developers donate to LA elected leaders throughout the backroom process. 

"Pay to Play In Los Angeles City Government" contains a comprehensive timeline of private meetings and dinners involving billionaire developers, elected City leaders and their staffs. It reveals that private meetings are rarely granted by elected leaders to LA residents who question the developments. 

The timeline, entirely made up of official city documents released under the California Public Records Act, or official city campaign finance and lobbyist data published by the L.A. City Ethics Commission, includes: 

- Dates and people present at private backroom meetings between developers and City Council officials and city employees. 

- Donations received by elected officials from these developers during the process. 

- City Council approval of projects achieved by badly bending LA zoning rules, often after private meetings and/or donations from the developer. Nine Los Angeles City Council members were asked by the Coalition to Preserve LA to divulge this public information. All nine failed to release the

subject of these backroom meetings with developers. They divulged only the fact that the meetings happened, in response to California Public Records Act requests by the Coalition. 

The nine LA City Council members, of 15 on the City Council, were asked for their official appointment calendars regarding these large-scale developments, because their Council Districts contain a significant number of projects that have been allowed, by vote of the City Council, to ignore city zoning rules. 

Some of the nine City Council members responded long after the 10-day deadline under the California Public Records Act (CPRA). 

City Councilman Jose Huizar failed for several months to provide his meeting calendar. Councilman Huizar complied with California state law only after attorneys for the Coalition demanded that he divulge this public information. 

The official city data provides a direct look at the campaign and lobbying cash spent to influence City Hall leaders as they decide, in a non-transparent and money-influenced system, how and where LA and its neighborhoods should absorb large-scale developments. The official city campaign and lobbying data, and the official calendars released by City Council members, show that collusion between megadevelopers and elected officials is endemic. Zoning is for sale at City Hall. (Read the complete report here.)

 

-cw

IMMIGRATION WATCH--California legislators have filed a Freedom of Information Act request to learn what federal immigration authorities are up to in their state. 

The request was filed this week by California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, both Democrats, for “information about recent Department of Homeland Security policies and Immigration and Customs Enforcement activities.” 

Federal authorities appear to be cracking down on immigration with a recent “surge in enforcement activities,” the lawmakers said in a statement. But federal authorities have provided “limited information,” despite repeated requests, the statement continued. California is home to 5.4 million non-citizen immigrants, and almost half of all children in the state have at least one parent who is an immigrant. 

“When the safety of Californians is at stake, we must demand greater transparency, with the backing of federal courts if necessary,” the lawmakers said. “The lives and physical safety of many thousands of Californians — citizens and immigrants, documented and undocumented — depend upon knowing this information.” 

Immigration authorities arrested hundreds of people in February in raids across the country. Dozens of those seized had no criminal record. An ICE official said the activity was “routine.” 

Rendon and DeLeon seek details on recent federal enforcement in California, including the massing of immigration agents outside a Southern California church shelter in order to “ambush, arrest and detain homeless individuals seeking warmth there.” They also cite the case of an immigrant woman attempting to obtain an order of protection against her husband in a courthouse, where agents escorted her out and arrested her. 

The lawmakers demand information on ICE and Department of Homeland Security enforcement in California near “sensitive” areas, such as at schools, hospitals and churches; detainees’ access to lawyers; and treatment of young people in the Dreamers program who were brought to the U.S. as children. 

The request also seeks information about people detained and deported in an intensive five-day sweep in Los Angeles County last month that netted some 161 individuals. 

An ICE spokeswoman provided a link to the agency’s policies concerning sensitive locations, and cautioned that some information about detainees may not be available because of privacy concerns, the Sacramento Bee reported. 

Santa Cruz police blasted federal officials last month for lying, using a crackdown on a local gang as an excuse to secretly round up undocumented immigrants. 

Immigration enforcers said they felt constrained under former President Barack Obama. But now, after President Donald Trump campaigned on an anti-immigration platform, agents are feeling emboldened, according to unions representing Border Patrol agents and ICE officers.

 

(Mary Pappenfuss is a Trends reporter for the Huffington Post where this piece was originally posted.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ANIMAL WATCH-LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette informed the Commission at a West Valley meeting this week that it is safe and recommended by UC Davis to surgically sterilize six-week-old kittens at only 1-1/2 pounds in order to adopt them out of the shelter at their highest level of “cuteness.”

She also announced that the City is implementing a “pilot program” with this new policy at the Chesterfield Square shelter in South Los Angeles. If it is successful, in three months it will be extended to all city shelters. 

If LA’s desperation to reach the elusive “no kill” goal continues, this could also soon mean these tiny, helpless creatures may be given away “free.” That is what happened recently under a grant by the ASPCA, which paid adoption fees for cats and eliminated the need for adopters to make an investment. This does not say much about sustainability of the “no kill” plan. What happens when the mythical metric is met and those who benefit from the acclaim and increased donations move their subsidies out of Los Angeles? 

Under the Hayden Law, California policy for shelters, states, “Adoptable animals are those over eight weeks of age…”  Barnette did not discuss the violation of this provision.

The plan to perform surgery on barely weaned kittens became the topic of impassioned opposition by distraught shelter volunteers and rescuers at the meeting. 

The pilot program for this “experiment” at a shelter in one of the most economically challenged areas of Los Angeles did not include any long-term study or data that indicates performing sterilization surgery on barely weaned kittens and releasing them to uncontrolled and unmonitored adopters at public shelters has been successful. As a public, tax-funded shelter, LA Animal Services cannot refuse adoption to anyone without proof of past violations of laws regarding animal care or cruelty.

The Chesterfield Square shelter is located in a blighted, semi-industrial area of South Los Angeles, where stray and diseased feral cats roam the streets and starving kittens cry for help from behind a fenced lot across the street from the shelter. It is mystifying to rescuers and advocates why this shelter would be chosen for a “pilot program” to release vulnerable 6-week-old kittens with immature immune systems. A few have suggested cynically that a high post-adoption mortality or illness rate might be less likely to be reported in this community. 

It is necessary to understand the limitations and challenges of this area to fully grasp the mind-boggling decision to start such a precarious program in South Central LA, where the largest part of the surrounding population has limited income for potential veterinary bills or special pet care. And, it is unlikely many adopters from other parts of the city will drive to Chesterfield Square. 

In 2013 Eric Brightwell wrote on Amoeblog, “Chesterfield Square is without a doubt, one of Los Angeles’ most obscure neighborhoods. The obscurity is somewhat surprising given the neighborhood’s longstanding and dubious distinction of having the city’s and county’s highest violent crime rate.”

The latest LA Times Mapping Tool shows Chesterfield Square still ranked No. 1 in the city for violent crime. The median population age is 31 years, and more than 30 percent of residents have not completed high school. Average household income is $37,737, with over 50 percent at less than $20,000 year, according to the Times

Residents of this area represent various ethnic groups. Most are hard-working, honest people, but many who own pets also struggle with the constraints of poverty and are plagued by the hazards of their daily lives. Thousands of dogs and cats run loose in the streets and have open sores resulting from mange, parasites and untreated wounds. Many starve to death in alleys or are killed by cars.

Xaque Gruber wrote in a 2013 Huffington Post article, “Nowhere is Los Angeles' homeless dog population a more chronic problem than in South Central where thousands of canines run wild. And nowhere is a blind eye turned more than in this section of the city.” 

Do we wonder how cats fare in this desperate and disease-ridden environment for animals? GM Barnette admits in her Board report dated February 7, 2017, that, "South LA Chesterfield Square shelter has been struggling with an inordinate influx of cats and kittens infected with life threatening virus infections..." 

DOES “CUTENESS” JUSTIFY SURGICAL RISK? 

Cuteness? If this is the criteria for choosing a pet kitten, what happens in a very few weeks when it becomes a cat? Kittens grow quickly and are not toys. They need to learn bite-inhibition and non-injurious play from interaction with siblings. If “cuteness,” rather than personality and affection, is the criteria GM Barnette is using for adoption-appeal, it appears the audience is families with young children, rather than adults who are more concerned with long-term bonding. 

Kittens at this age, by necessity are focused on their own survival,” says early-age spay/neuter expert Dr. W. Marvin Mackie, who advises waiting until eight weeks of age for surgical sterilization. “At six weeks they are being thrust by Nature from dependency on their mother or a ‘foster’ into a world where they must be able to provide for their own subsistence and safety. Adopters should look for a kitten old enough to develop interests beyond its basic egocentric needs so that they can forecast the basic personality and desire for human interaction of a pet that will share their home for the next 15 to 20 years.” 

While veterinarians agree on the importance of getting kittens out of the shelter environment as soon as possible, Dr. Mackie, who pioneered contemporary early-age spay/neuter in the late 1980’s, expressed shock that a shelter would not do all possible to assure the safety of these tiny juveniles -- not only from the surgical-aspect, but also from a developmental and socialization perspective. (View kitten growth progression here.)   

The Best Friends blog states, “Eight-week-old healthy kittens are fully weaned and should soon be ready to be spayed or neutered and to find their new forever homes.” 

WHY IS BARNETTE SUDDENLY IN SUCH A RUSH TO ALTER KITTENS? 

Brenda Barnette, a former dog breeder and AKC legislative representative in Seattle, is on record opposing mandatory spay/neuter laws. Her December 2016 Woofstat report shows 492 breeding licenses have been issued to unaltered-dog owners in Los Angeles, with a 42% increase this year. 

During Barnette’s tenure in LA, there has been no consistent city-wide media promotion or enforcement effort to stop backyard and in-home breeding of dogs and cats. Barnette and Councilman Paul Koretz of the Council’s Personnel and Animal Welfare (PAW) Committee have blatantly rejected microchipping or licensing of cats to stop overpopulation and provide accountability for ownership of owned outdoor cats.  

Why the sudden rush to alter infantile kittens? Maybe because Barnette has repeatedly said kittens and cats keep her from reaching “no kill.” She admits in her February 7 Board report that the "South LA Chesterfield Square shelter has been struggling with an inordinate influx of cats and kittens infected with life threatening virus infections..." (Emph. added.) So, why institute a risky surgical program in that facility? 

Here are some questions/comments proposed by skeptics and cynics: 

--“Is the purpose of six-week surgeries and adoptions to place feral kittens as pets without having to disclose their background?” 

--“For each one-pound kitten that dies from a spay, Brenda counts as a spay for her credit and not as a euthanasia -- also to her credit. Fake metrics.” 

--“If they die during or after surgery, it will reduce the shelter’s cat population.” 

--“Whether adopted into homes without experience (or even those that are former cat owners) the possibility of post-surgical complications is much more likely in these very fragile animals. Will they be able to afford the care?” 

--“Will they report morbidity or deaths to the shelter? Does Brenda Barnette really want to know?”

And some questions/comments from veterinarians: 

--“Can shelter staff determine age? This needs to be done on dentition and choosing those under 6 months of age could put the animals at more risk. Is there adequate shelter staff to monitor recovery?” 

--“Testicles drop into the scrotal sac around 6 weeks, so many may still be retained, which will cause the surgeon to go deeper to look for them-- more invasive surgery and increased time under anesthesia for these kittens.” 

--“If the gas is delivered by intubation the tiny tubes plug up easily with even a small amount of mucous and the animal can suffocate.” 

--“My guess is that someone needs data to publish a paper regarding spay/neuter at this age, so you can get data fast through a large agency with a huge number of cat impounds. In academia, it is publish or perish.” 

OPINIONS ON FACEBOOK AND ELSEWHERE 

Many veterinarians commented on a Facebook page started by Dr. Robert Goldman, highly respected veterinarian and specialist in spay/neuter who worked for LA Animal Services. Some support this program, but most wrote that they felt six weeks is too young and articulated their professional concerns. 

Dr. Kate Hurley of UC Davis wrote: “…[T]his recommendation came from me and my team and is well supported by science and an enormous amount of experience…A number of shelters have now spayed thousands of kittens at this age with no documented increase in morbidity or mortality.” 

Brenda Barnette also joined in with a rather caustic comment and Dr. Goldman replied:

Brenda Barnette: The pilot we are planning to try at one shelter is supported by UCDavis Koretz (sic) Shelter Medicine Program, Maddies Shelter Medicine Program in Florida and the Shelter Medicine Veterinary Assoc. I am disappointed to see you making this public grandstanding on Facebook rather than through you (sic) professional associations. Seems decisive I’m sorry to say.” 

Robert GoldmanSorry if this seems like grandstanding to you. This is me reaching out to friends on professional associations as well as other stakeholders concerned. My question to Dr. Julie Levy is to the heart of the issue: if Veterinary Medical Professionals are to make the best decisions for their patients but in a municipal setting are judged by non medical personnel who hold sway over their employment but also set the conditions for the patients, how is that conflict resolved in the best interest of all?” 

There is another exchange between GM Barnette and Dr. Goldman, who wrote a public letter addressed to the LA Times in regard to LAAS shelters and Barnette’s contention that “…by the end of the end of this year Los Angeles will achieve 90% live save for shelter dogs and cats.” 

He states (in part), “As a veterinarian who performed spays and neuters for the Department on a part time basis from August 2015 to October 2016, I witnessed first-hand how the focused (and often falsified) pursuit of these numbers, called "metrics," has taken the focus off the shelter animals themselves and resulted in animal neglect that is at times tantamount to animal abuse.” 

Dr. Goldman writes that he was informed on July 13, 2016, there was no more funding for his spay-neuter vet position after he supported the position of a volunteer who spoke about shelter conditions.

There has been no shortage of spay/neuter funds. The LA Animal Services report shows a balance of $5,193,971.40 in the Animal Sterilization Fund during the period July 1 – July 31, 2016. 

IS LA REALLY REACHING “NO KILL”? 

What is really going on at LAAS to cause a sudden rush to do spays and neuters most vets consider inadvisable? Why push kittens that may not be completely weaned into adoptive homes with unknown experience and resources? Is it related to the fact that Best Friends is already past its promised deadline to make LA “no kill”? 

Barnette announced at the Feb. 28 meeting that Best Friends will be paying its NKLA rescuers from $75 to $150 each to “pull” cats from the LAAS shelters to reach “no kill.” Relocating animals is not the same as adopting them from the shelters directly to permanent local homes. How will “no kill” be sustained in Los Angeles after the funding by Best Friends and ASPCA moves on?

 

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

GUEST WORDS--Will Los Angeles finally admit it’s a metropolis? And if so, what kind of metropolis does it want to be?

That may seem a strange question, given the size of the LA region. But Los Angeles is of at least two minds. Yes, we’re home to world class universities, two pro football teams, the nation’s largest port complex by volume, the third-busiest airport in the U.S., more manufacturing than any other American city, and we’re bidding to host the Olympic Games for the third time. But many people in LA also expect the city to be as open and livable as any suburb.

How we Angelenos see our city, and what we want for its future, is coming to a head not in a pitched street battle out of West Side Story, but at the ballot box. On March 7, Los Angeles voters will consider Measure S, an anti-development ballot measure that proposes to put a moratorium on certain types of building projects for two years.

Many of the measure’s details address rather arcane urban planning codes that are admittedly outdated. But the campaign for Measure S has secured a base of support by tapping into a sentiment closely held by older residents, suburban dwellers within in the city limits, and NIMBY (“Not In My Backyard”) constituencies that Los Angeles is changing too rapidly into a dense, mega-city.

As Los Angeles residents experience record-high rental rates and property values, developers are constructing larger infill projects, building multi-story apartment complexes akin to more traditional urban forms. The way Measure S supporters see it, these denser developments create more traffic, change the character of neighborhoods, and create more luxury housing at the expense of more affordable housing in older, smaller complexes. In short, LA is becoming too much of a metropolis.

But the coalition opposing Measure S—developers, businesses, affordable housing advocates, urban living enthusiasts, and most of the political establishment—have a fundamental disagreement with the basis for Measure S. These opponents say L.A must preserve any and all avenues for construction of schools, hospitals—and especially scarce housing. Cutting off the supply of housing with overly restrictive regulations in the midst of a well-documented housing shortage is a prescription for land use malpractice. Without needed supply, rents and property values increase to match housing demand. It’s a simple argument, which also happens to make tremendous sense.

Maybe the answer is even simpler than we wish to acknowledge: We’re not just metropolitan; we’re a metropolis. We just need to be a better one.

Reality, if not perception, is with the opponents. Angelenos don’t realize it, but LA is already the densest urbanized area in the nation, with some 7,000 people per square mile. (New York is in third place, at a mere 5,319 people per square mile.) But the enormous growth of the suburbs in post-WWII Los Angeles gave Southern California an ethos that’s been hard to shake, even in the 21st century: The relic of a notion that we’re entitled to two cars in every driveway and a Weber grill on every backyard patio.

Los Angeles is of at least two minds. Yes, we’re home to world class universities, two pro football teams, the nation’s largest port complex by volume, the third-busiest airport in the U.S. … But many people in LA also expect the city to be as open and livable as any suburb.

Of course, LA has evolved into a metropolis as it has grown in population, driven by domestic migration, immigration from Asia and the Americas, and the simple math of the birthrate for Angelenos already here. But it can be hard to understand that because, as Reyner Banham wrote in his 44-year-old book, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, the city is so multifaceted. Banham saw his four ecologies—the hills, the flatlands of the coastal plain, the beaches, and the freeways—as being so disparate that there was no shared narrative about the place.

“Los Angeles does not get the attention it deserves,” Banham wrote. “It gets attention, but it’s like the attention that Sodom and Gomorrah have received, primarily a reflection of other people’s bad consciences.” Could it be we have finally matured as a city so that we are no longer seeing reflections, but a new urban reality?

Today, it can feel as if different generations are living in very different LAs. While older residents cling to suburban neighborhoods, young people are living more urbanized lives, with Lyft and Uber and Metro trains coexisting with fusion restaurants and food trucks. Downtown Los Angeles loft-dwellers—a species that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago—walk their dogs, zip around via our expanding transit system, and enjoy a thriving culinary scene that’s nationally—and internationally—recognized as one of the most vibrant anywhere.

I’m not young anymore, but I appreciate how this newer metropolis allows me to live in Valley Village, an increasingly urban environment near Studio City and North Hollywood that is less dependent on the automobile, and that has more to offer as a result.

From my San Fernando Valley neighborhood, I take the Metro Red Line to my office in downtown Los Angeles’ Historic Core, getting to work faster than I did driving surface streets from where I previously lived in the Miracle Mile. I walk to my local grocery store, the dry cleaners, and my daughter’s elementary school.

I’m also within walking distance of the Los Angeles River Recreation Path, and I’m about a six-minute drive from hiking trails maintained by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. Another two minutes in the car (yes, I own and use a car) and I can take Parker, our family’s terrier mix, to one of the city’s largest dog parks. And I’m comfortably within the delivery radius of a brand new restaurant that’s easily the best Thai food I’ve ever had. (Measure S would have been smart to exclude ethnic restaurants from its building moratorium, don’t you think?)

To be sure, my neighborhood has all the plagues that Measure S supporters worry about: traffic, police and ambulance sirens, and, yes, noise from construction sites building much-needed housing. But on the whole, I feel fortunate to live in a place where I’m not stuck in the backyard. I feel connected to the city, literally and figuratively.

For me, that’s progress. And the moment we realize that we are a metropolis, restrictions like those proposed by Measure S will be seen as a relic, too.

(David Gershwin is a Los Angeles-based public affairs consultant, Zócalo Public Square board member, and teaching fellow at UCLA Anderson School of Business. This perspective was posted originally at Zocalo Public Square.) Photo by Reed Saxon/Associated Press.

-cw 

TRANSIT IN TRANSITION--In case you haven’t noticed, as the city has increased the density in the Basin Los Angeles traffic has become much worse. According to the measures used by Inrix’s 2017 Traffic scorecard, on a worldwide basis, Los Angeles now has the worst traffic gridlock in the world

Tom Tom places Los Angeles as fourth worse and in some ways, Tom Tom is more useful. Each urban area with worse traffic congestion than Los Angeles has more density, so it is clear that making LA Basin more dense will make LA’s traffic worse. 

Traffic congestion makes cars more popular. 

As Judge Allan Goodman ruled in January 2014, Garcetti uses Lies and Myths to deceive the public. (The judge’s actual legalese was “fatally flawed data, wishful thinking that subverts the law.”) Thus, the claim that making LA denser will reduce traffic congestion is the opposite of the truth. Kellyanne Conway is envious that Garcetti can spew forth Alt-Fact after Alt-Fact and never get caught. He succeeds where Kellyanne failed because Garcetti only has to deal with the LA Times which has been in the Alt-Fact business since its inception. 

One huge Alt-Fact is that people will use the subways if the city makes traffic unbearable. Our traffic congestion has become the worst in the world, yet cars more popular than ever. The use of mass transit has been decreasing since 1985. Although the Expo Line ran service to Santa Monica and the Gold Line went to Azusa in 2015, usage between 2015 and 2016 fell. People were fooled into voting $200 billion for mass transit because the vast majority of voters expected that others will use the buses and subways, thus making the streets and freeways clearer for them. 

Transit usage fell because increased density which created worse traffic congestion makes cars more popular. So we are experiencing the obvious: more density in the Basin attracting more people into the Basin, increasing traffic congestion, causing more people to use their cars. 

We love our cars for good reason. 

(1) The Metro is slow. 

Metro ignores the time it takes a commuter to get from his home to the train or subway station and the time it takes to walk to his destination. A car starts at one’s home and ends up at most destinations. Even if the office is in DTLA, the person may have to park and walk a couple blocks, it takes 27.9 minutes for a one way commute by car and 52.2 minutes by rail, so a car is much faster. 

(2) The Metro does not go where people need to go. 

Using car, 43.3% of people can reach work within 30 minutes, while only 0.7% can reach work in 30 minutes via transit. The reality is that the overwhelming number of jobs are not reasonable accessibly via transit. 

(3) Cars are more comfortable. 

Not only is a car almost twice as fast as transit, cars are much more comfortable. Taking a subway or a bus means dealing with the weather. Although LA generally has nice weather, people do not like to be rained on or to have to walk an extra half mile in 90 degree heat. Also, the car’s driver seat can be adjusted to fit perfectly; and with a car, there’s no need to stand inside a crowded transit bus or subway car. 

(4) Cars are more convenient. 

Cars are the most flexible mode of transportation, making side trips easier. The subway will not change its route to take you to Ralphs or the cleaners on your way home from work. And a car lets you carry a lot of stuff. Getting off a bus to go to Ralphs, then walking back to board another bus, you are is limited as to what can be carried. It’s not realistic to carry a 50 lb. bag of dog food on the subway or bus; with a car, you can load in 200 lbs. of dog food and four bags of groceries plus stop at the cleaners. Anyway, buying the largest bag of something like dog food is generally cheaper. So grocery shopping is overall cheaper when you can load up your car with a few hundred pounds of goodies. It’s also easier to snack on those cookies on the way home. 

(5) Most cars will be electric. 

Within the foreseeable future, most cars will be electric. While short-term auto emissions are a problem for people who walk or ride bicycles along major thoroughfares, long range planners have to realize that cars will not be polluting the city as much within ten years. Thus, the ecological bias against cars will disappear. 

(6) Cars will become self-driving. 

At some time in the future, cars will become self-driving. This means that commuters will be free to do other things than pay attention to the road. People will be able to work on their computers and have video conferences with others around the world while driving to work. Of course, a huge portion of physical commuting will already have been replaced by Virtual Presence aka Cisco type Telepresence ©. Planners will need to work out the future interactions between physical transportation and virtual transportation. 

(7) Advances in automobile technology will make homes less expensive. 

When electric, self-driving cars are combined with Virtual Presence, homes will become less expensive. Virtual Presence will reduce the need to physically leave the home which will reduce traffic, and at the same time, self-driving cars will allow passengers to do things other than drive. As a result, the annoyance factor of traffic congestion will disappear. The experience of driving is much different on a stop ‘n go bumper-to-bumper freeway where you have to be alert every second than it is in a situation where you can watch the evening news and not even notice a slowdown in traffic. 

When you combine the impact of self-driving cars and Virtual Presence, people can live farther apart. Yes, we can return to sprawl — and sprawl is the key to decent housing at a decent price. Homes are always less expensive and usually more spacious on the periphery. 

Our wonderful, fantastic love affairs with cars. 

Our love affair with the cars is unlike other love affairs – it is based in reality. Cars may be the greatest invention of mankind, and there is every reason to believe that our passion for cars will only deepen in the future. A city that makes itself car unfriendly will have made itself inhospitable to human beings.

 

(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.

RESISTANCE CALENDAR--Since November 8, activists have been mobilizing to get in front of Donald J. Trump’s agenda. We’re working to put out fires on so many different fronts, civil rights, immigrant rights, health care, the environment. We’re writing postcards, making phone calls, sharing information via social media. We’re attending town hall meetings in far greater numbers than before. March 8 will be A Day Without A Woman, following the lead of the Day without Immigrants.  

On April 22 from 9 AM to 4 PM, over 50,000 are expected to participate in the March for Science starting at Pershing Square, which has become Ground Zero for such activity in our city. LA’s March is one of over 300 independent satellite marches for the national March for Science in Washington, DC happening the same day. The LA March will also feature a science and technology expo. 

According to the umbrella website, the mission of The March for Science is to “champion robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policymakers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest.” 

While sharing the overall goals of the umbrella March, the March for Science Los Angeles also asserts the diversity of scientists in Southern California, a crucial driver of economic growth, protector of resources, and important to the health of the region’s citizen. 

The LA March organizers are a team of more than fifty volunteer with diverse backgrounds and expertise, from organic chemistry to business, all concerned about the increasing mistrust in science and applying evidence to policy decisions, as well as the growing lack of transparency in federally-funded research communications.

I sat down with March for Science LA lead organizer Alex Bradley to talk about the March and the importance of safeguarding scientific research for all of us. Bradley, a PhD candidate in Molecular Biology at UCLA, shared how he got involved in the LA satellite march, which is expected to be among the largest worldwide. 

Around the time the national group was getting support, I was at lunch with a friend, discussing how uncertain the funding climate was for science. I was frustrated by the recent changes in the way science was perceived by the public. It seemed like my friend didn’t find this too interesting -- he was looking at his phone. It turned out he had received an invitation to join the National DC Group’s Facebook page from a friend in biotech in San Diego. It looked like we were going to have a Science March.  It struck me as an opportunity to play a role in understanding the role of science. I was tired of not standing up to do something. -- Alex Bradley 

Bradley adds that members of the scientific community connected early on, despite not knowing each other before but were on the same page quickly. “We synergized well with our skills and were honest about our failures along the way. Jennifer Wheeler, Program Director of the Los Angeles March and her husband were a “formidable organizing force,” says Bradley, coordinating with over fifty people working on various committees as a “well-oiled machine.” 

Stakeholders use a communal Slack platform and private channels for local and global efforts. Designers across the world bounce ideas for logistics, fundraising. “Lots of us spearheading don’t have event planning experience so we’ve had to rely on experts in their respective fields. Lots of people who are great at their jobs are volunteering their time. It’s awesome to watch,” adds Bradley. 

What motivated the group to commit themselves to this mission? “Our primary goal is to emphasize science in driving policy decisions. We want to drive that home. We’re concerned that there’s been this trend that the pursuit of ideological agenda is superseding the appreciation for scientific fact in the interest of environment and public health. We want to reverse that trend,” says Bradley. 

Current crowd estimates are based off people who have expressed interest and the word of the march has spread by word of mouth and social media. The stakeholders are starting to establish an infrastructure that will include ambassadors representing various communities to further spread awareness. Ambassadors will be provided with resource packets, fliers, and other tools. Bradley hopes to drive people to the March’s website and Facebook page. “Once people have read our mission statement and our core values, it’s hard not to want to be part of this,” he says. 

Amazingly, I think maybe 10 percent of the team are scientists. The vast majority are non-scientists. Science is an integral part of all of our lives, embracing the purest of truths. We are also humanizing scientists. We’re notoriously good at distancing ourselves from the layperson, which we don’t intend to do. The fact that we use terms like “layperson” suggests elitism. I think all the scientists I’ve spoken to in academia recognize that the public plays an integral part. It’s not us and them. It’s all of us together embracing the pursuit of truth. 

There’s a systemic mistrust or misunderstanding of science and we need to work from the ground up to educate the public on what science is and how valuable science is to society. It’s a beautiful thing. We need well-rounded STEM education and this is the first step in that effort. 

Science is not a belief system. You can have a religious belief system -- whatever compels you to have faith is your individual experience. Science is something we all participate in. It’s not an opinion of whether you’re inhaling oxygen. It’s a scientific fact. It’s really important that children are able to make that distinction. 

The March for Science Los Angeles is likely to be the largest number of pro-science advocates ever assembled. We’ve never felt the need before. This will be a monumental occasion. -- Alex Bradley 

NEED TO KNOW: 

Visit the March for Science LA website for more information about the March and how you can help. Companies and organizations interested in endorsing or financing the March can also find information at the site, as well as anyone interested in being an Ambassador. 

Currently, the fiscal sponsor is being secured so the group may not utilize funds as of yet as a non-profit. Tax-free donation links and an apparel store will be up as soon as the relationship with the fiscal sponsor is formalized. 

People can commit their interest for shirts by filling out a pre-order apparel form for a 15 % discount once the store is launched. A pre-order form, as well as all other forms, are in the FAQ section of the site.

For more information about the March for Science and other satellite marches across the country and globe, visit March for Science.

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

-cw

@THE GUSS REPORT-On Friday, March 3, Dakota Smith, writing for the LA Times, referenced my article in CityWatch in her report on the bigamy allegation swirling around District 9 City Councilmember Curren Price. 

Smith noted that Price, whose opponent Jorge Nuño was endorsed by the LA Times for the city’s March 7 Primary Election, was scrambling to prove that he is actually divorced from his first wife, Lynn, stating:   

“Price and his legal team are trying to locate records that would prove the divorce was finalized.” 

Since Smith had access to the entire divorce file and could see that no such document exists in it -- and Price has refused to tell Smith whether he filed for divorce elsewhere -- she shouldn’t hold her breath waiting for those “missing” records to surface from Price’s people. 

Smith then quoted Josh Pulliam, Price’s campaign spokesman: 

Mr. Price has been operating on the belief that his divorce is full and final,” said his campaign spokesman, Josh Pulliam. “Based on the questions raised in the past few days, he immediately requested all of the files and records regarding the divorce so we can get this resolved.” 

Did Smith ask Pulliam how can that be, since records show that Price and wife #1 did not split real estate they co-owned and never resolved other financial or spousal support issues? 

Does Smith blindly accept that Price (who has a law degree, but not a license to practice) and his divorce attorney both forgot to address this since the case’s last hearing in 2012?

What divorce lawyer forgets to split assets? 

Last week, I challenged Mr. Pulliam on his assertion that Price immediately asked for his divorce file upon hearing of the bigamy allegation. In fact, it was way back in a January 20 email exchange that I first asked Price’s City Hall media relations person, Angelina Valencia, in what state, county and year did Price divorce his first wife? She never provided a date. Pulliam replied, “that’s news to me.” 

An impromptu face-to-face I had with Price before the February 3 LA City Council meeting in Van Nuys went as follows: 

DG: Can you please tell me in what state, county and year you divorced your first wife, Lynn? 

Price: Why do you want to know that? 

DG: Because it’s an interesting question.           

Price: Why do you think it’s an interesting question?

DG: Because the court shows that your divorce was never finalized, and that you are, and have for a long time, been married to two women. 

Price turned and walked away without saying another word. 

These two exchanges were one and two months ago. 

I also repeatedly raised the subject in public comments at several City Council meetings. Price, Pulliam told Smith, only asked for his divorce records from his attorney just the other day…after the first of my two earlier articles on the subject. Price sat on the subject for months; he did not take immediate action to find out what is going on. Is that because he already knew?

In her Times article, Dakota Smith also quoted Price’s divorce attorney Albert Robles as saying: 

“Curren Price is divorced, end of story,” Robles said in a statement. “I was Curren Price’s attorney; my office filed the paperwork. As far as Curren Price is concerned, his divorce was settled years ago and that’s what was communicated to Mr. Price at the time.” 

This is the exact quote Robles gave the LA Sentinel a few days after my first article was published. Smith also failed to write about whether Price perjured his Los Angeles Ethics Commission financial disclosure forms. Had she examined Price’s ethics forms, she could have asked him why he listed no spousal assets from either wife on his 2012 form, or why Price failed to list wife #1’s financial assets in any subsequent year’s disclosure forms since he had to have known – according to his own legal activity – that he was still married to her. 

More glaringly, Smith did not mention that in Price’s divorce file in 2012, he, his attorney Albert Robles, and their process server swore (on a misdated document) that they unsuccessfully tried to serve divorce papers on Lynn Price, wife #1, at 4519 Don Arturo Place in Los Angeles. 

Astonishingly, that is an address that Price’s wife #2, Del Richardson, has owned since 2001, according to real estate records and Price’s City Ethics forms, which says that the income from that house came from “Dr. and Mr. Earl Jones.” 

How does that math work? Pardon the pun, but that is Price-less.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is an Active Member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

PERSPECTIVE-I yearn for the days when I covered the CD2 special election back in 2009, one that pitted three insiders against seven average citizens. I attended almost every forum (there were at least a dozen) and provided the most comprehensive coverage of any outlet. 

The seven grassroots candidates were instrumental in forcing a runoff; unfortunately, the top two finishers were insiders. At least the two had to dig deep in their pockets in what was one of the most expensive council races in the city’s history. 

In recent years, I have traveled extensively for business reasons. I miss attending the forums; I miss writing about them even more. 

Measure S is the headliner of this year’s ballot; the citywide races offer little drama, although it would be worthwhile for voters to consider an alternative to Eric Garcetti, whose promises of DWP reform and fiscal responsibility have fallen well short of what is needed to support sustainable services. 

Measure S pits democracy against plutocracy. Either we have a city where the residents have a say in the shape and structure of development, or planning is left in the hands of wealthy developers and their proxies in City Hall – a plutocracy only Vladimir Putin could embrace. Their funding of the opposition to S amounts to the financial equivalent of hacking the election. 

If you want planning that facilitates community-wide needs and desires, vote Yes on S. We must stop straining our already over-burdened infrastructure any further, curtail the growing traffic on our streets and prevent mini-Manhattans from dominating the landscape. We want growth to be the result of smart planning – within our capacity to manage and control its effects. 

The one council race I have watched from afar is CD7’s. 

With 20 candidates vying for an open seat, voters – at least the few who bother to cast a ballot – are certain to find someone to their liking. I am at least somewhat personally acquainted with, or have followed the postings in social media of a few: Terrence Gomes, Bonnie Corwin, David Barron and Krystee Clark. I can say, with confidence, they are true activists whose motives are not political, but rooted in the best interests of their community. I am sure there are others as well. 

On the other end of the spectrum is Karo Torrossian. He is Councilman Krekorian’s land use deputy who, if elected, will be certain to do the bidding of developers at the expense of residents. He has done a poor job of advocating for the residents in my part of the Valley. 

You have important choices in other races as well, but these two are the most competitive and offer the best chances for a positive change in how the city operates.

 

(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.

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Both sides of the debate over Measure S have inflated expectations of what their vote will produce on March 7, especially those voting no. This is why I admonish both camps to be careful what they wish for. 

What yes on S voters should expect after a victory 

To my fellow supporters of Measure S, do not think that if S wins on Tuesday, Los Angeles’s skewed and dysfunctional planning system will quickly self-correct. This is a long war, and this will only be one victory. Future struggles will be over the following: 

  • The General Plan is only as good as its monitoring program. The General Plan Framework requires a special monitoring unit in the Department of City Planning to develop and track measures of the General Plan’s successes and failures. This unit was charged with presenting these findings in an annual reporting leading to revisions of the General Plan’s elements. City Planning never created this monitoring unit, and since 1997, City Planning staff has only presented five incomplete reports. None examined the successes or failures of the programs intended to implement the General Plan, and none resulted in any mid-course corrections. 
  • City Hall’s in-fill density hawks are already hatching schemes to circumvent Measure S if it passes. These presumably include accelerated Community Plan updates that will apply extensive ordinances up-zoning and up-planning to large swaths of Los Angeles. 
  • Re-code LA has already quickened some of its five-year program, and these zoning code revisions can become still another Measure S work around. 
  • The Department of Building and Safety’s turn-the-other eye approach toward real estate speculation and its low staffing levels ensure that contractors easily game the system. The mansionizers have already been doing this for years, and there is little stopping the mega-projects in the sights of Measure S from doing the same. 

What no on S voters should expect with a victory 

As for those no on S advocates (whose claims I have repeatedly rebutted through CityWatch), you particularly need to be careful what you wish for. We have heard your extravagant claims about tackling homeless, creating affordable housing, and generating jobs, but all a no on S vote does is maintain the City Hall status quo. On March 8 you will simply get more of what LA already has. This includes all of the following, plus more, since the 10 large real estate firms funding the no on S campaign will feel their oats with a victory. Likewise, the SG&A campaign firm they hired will have learned how to pitch all manner of trickle-down economic programs as answers to homelessness, displacement, gentrification, traffic congestion, suburban sprawl, and job creation. 

But reality will soon assert itself, and City Hall will quickly forget these no S claims. In fact, they will be replaced by the following: 

  • City Hall’s pay-to-play system of soft corruption, that allows large real estate firms to make their illegal projects legal through City Council spot-zoning and spot-planning ordinances, will quickly reappear. 
  • Gentrification resulting from many forms of urban infill, including displacement through projects requiring City Council legislative approvals, will continue until the faucet of foreign investment in Los Angeles real estate finally runs dry. 
  • The magical, trickle down belief that luxury housing produces affordable housing through supply-and-demand and filtering will continue to produce more expensive housing, but nothing more. The rich will have abundant housing, while middle and low-income residents will still continue to double up, live in cars and converted garages, and flee to distant suburbs where developers have raw land to build middle class housing. 
  • The few affordable rental units built after a Measure S defeat will still result from SB 1818 density bonuses. And, the Housing Department will still refuse to inspect any of these affordable units to assure that low-income renters occupy them. 
  • City Planning’s accelerated General Plan updates will slow down, and the Department will continue to prepare and adopt new and updated elements out of sequence. 
  • Developers will continue to select their own EIR consultants, and the City Council will continue to ignore adverse EIR findings through boilerplate Statements of Overriding Considerations. Furthermore, these Statements will still claim that any structure built on near an express bus-line or a mass transit station is automatically transit-oriented. No decision maker will ever request verification of these pie-in-the-sky transit claims.

What liberals who hopped on the no on S campaign wagon should expect

As far as I can determine, your main argument to oppose Measure S was a repetition of the no on S campaign’s major talking point. “Measure S is a housing ban and an affordable housing ban.” 

But, over the last year through my CityWatchLA planning columns and private communications, I have repeatedly asked for the addresses of any affordable housing constructed through the spot-zones and spot-General Plan Amendments stopped by Measure S. During this year only one person gave me an address that checked out. City Planning, however, has (inadvertently?) published the underlying reason for this lack of evidence for the claim that Measure S is an affordable housing ban. 

As I have previously reported, according to City Planning’s CITYWIDE POLICY PLANNING 2016 PERFORMANCE METRIC REPORT, the amount of affordable housing built in LA through discretionary actions is tiny, only two percent of all new housing. Furthermore, developers build this housing through density bonuses when they include 10 to 20 percent low and moderate-income rental units in a market or luxury project. Because this inclusionary zoning process does not require any City Council ordinances, Measure S will leave it intact. 

Second, Measure S is fully consistent with Measures H and HHH. This new supportive housing for the homeless can be constructed on all commercial lots in Los Angeles and R-3 and R-4 lots without any City Council ordinances. This includes parcels owned by the City of Los Angeles. In fact, City Controller Ron Galperin identified 9000 city-owned parcels, and they include over 200 commercial parcels, all of which could become a location for new by-right affordable housing. 

The third reason undermining the alleged no on S affordable housing claim is that private developers can already legally build by-right affordable housing throughout the entire city of Los Angeles. They are not choosing to build this low-priced housing for a simple reason. They can't make enough profit at it. This means the real culprit in LA’s housing crisis is their profit-maximization business model. It has nothing to do with existing zoning or claims they need zone changes to build affordable housing. 

Apparently the organizations and individuals aligning themselves with the big real estate companies opposing Measure S have forgotten a basic feature of large, free-market capitalist cities, like Los Angeles. Housing is a scarce commodity, not a right, under capitalism. Since developers will not build more than a few units through inclusionary zoning, there is an obvious progressive lesson. Either capitalism must change or the public sector must step in to build the low-income housing that the free market cannot and will not build. This was U.S. housing policy from the 1930s to the 1980’s, and the subsequent trickle-down market gimmicks (inherent to no on S) to replace these slashed programs have been an abysmal failure.

Debates about density 

Some liberals have also cast Measure S as a homeowner-driven anti-density campaign.  In their view homeowners want low density because they supposedly financially benefit from it. These liberals are, therefore, opposed to Measure S because they believe it is really a low-density voter initiative to oppose higher densities in Los Angeles. Some even argue that Measure S is a pro-urban sprawl measure. 

But, these claims are not correct. It is a straw man argument, totally misrepresenting the proponents of Measure S before rebutting these imaginary advocates. 

Since 1970 all legally adopted Los Angeles General Plan elements have called for planned density carefully linked to much denser public services and infrastructure, especially mass transit. This adopted vision requires a strong General Plan. City Hall must not only adhere to it, but also apply it to the City's capital and operating budgets. But none of this has happened because real planning is one City Hall’s lowest priorities. Without enormous pressure from below, it does not happen, and this is the open agenda of Measure S. 

Instead, the alternative land use model behind no on S is greater density if it coincidentally appears through in-fill real estate speculation. This model is totally oblique to planned density. It also oblivious to where there is an unmet demand for greater density, as well as the supportive public infrastructure and services to support larger buildings, and more residents, employees, shoppers, and visitors.  

As for who benefits from a defeat of Measure S, many liberal advocates have missed what is right in front of their eyes. It is not tenants, but the large real estate companies and their allied politicians who engage in pay-to-play. As for owners of single-family houses, they have little power in Los Angeles, as revealed by their interminable 11-year campaign to stop mansionization, as well as the closely related campaign against Small Lot Subdivisions.  If homeowners were really in the driver’s seat, these two forms of real estate speculation would have been nipped in the bud long ago, not allowed to fester through one flawed ordinance after another. 

Furthermore, other land use restrictions have the most tenuous relationship to home prices. For example in the late 1980s, AB 283 forced the City of Los Angeles to make sure that its plans and zones were in synch with each other. This resulted in some areas being downzoned, but according to the General Plan Framework Element, there were and still are more than enough parcels in Los Angeles zoned for residential and commercial uses to accommodate all growth scenarios in the entire 21st Century. 

The City Council has also created about 30 Historical Preservation Zones, five Residential Floor Area (RFA) Districts, and many specific plans. But they cover about 15 percent of the residential areas in Los Angeles, and most deal with design review, not zoning restrictions. For that matter, even if the City Council rescinded these overlay zones, as well as all single-family zones, real estate developers would still not build affordable housing. They would simply overbuild expensive houses, such as the luxury high-rises and mid-rises, McMansions, and small lot subdivisions they are already building. Their profit maximization business model is set in stone. 

Next? 

For these reasons and more, the liberal organizations and advocates who attached themselves to big real estate’s no on S campaign should be particularly careful about what they wish for. I have no doubt that their analysis and expectations will soon hit the ground with a loud, trickle-down thud if LA’s voters reject Measure S. 

But if Measure S wins, they will also have a chance to see if the sky is really falling. When it doesn’t, they might even become advocates for a well-planned Los Angeles that will finally tame City Hall’s infatuation with real estate speculation.

 

(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.

ELECTION PERSPECTIVE--Eric Preven is not your average duck.  

He will upend Eric Garcetti. 

The public will have a chance to compare how the two Erics spend their time. 

They will get to follow Eric Preven as he takes the subway downtown every morning, diligently searches  through the agenda for things that undermine the public interest and then goes to bat for that interest. 

They will get to see the incumbent slapping liens on poor people to raise revenue he lost by inappropriate litigation and then see Eric Preven getting those liens taken off by shaming the Council members in public comment.  

Eric Preven, if in a run-off, would obviously get professionals to help with a real campaign; nonetheless, Eric Garcetti’s war chest of funds becomes unattractive to the public in the face of Eric Preven’s ethos. 

Isn’t Eric Preven a watchdog? That’s different than being a mayor … 

Yes he is a watchdog and frankly that’s a big part of the mayor’s job too. The mayor should be reading every contract etc and vetoing them when appropriate. Eric Preven has been doing that except that he doesn’t have a veto. 

Garcetti has 3 million dollars! He’s unbeatable … 

If Eric got into a runoff, the press would be forced to cover him, and Garcetti would be forced to debate. The need for 3 million dollars becomes less important in that case. 

Does he have the temperament? Being a watchdog is pretty confrontational … 

Yes. Otherwise he wouldn't have been able to have jobs his whole life. And also, again, a mayor needs to be able to stand-up to powerful special interests. 

Even if Eric Preven got into a runoff and didn’t win, a public service will have been done. Eric Preven knows Garcetti’s transgressions well, and the public would get to see them challenged. 

Eric would generate enthusiasm, because he is passionate and an underdog. 

If you think Garcetti is an inevitable win, then vote for Eric Preven to provide him support in his watchdog work. It helps establish legitimacy. 

(Joshua Preven is an educator, a CityWatch contributor and the brother of mayoral candidate Eric Preven.)

-cw

PEOPLE POWER-It has been my honor and pleasure to help coordinate your on-line debate. Ken -- and all of us at CityWatch -- thank the candidates and campaigns that participated by submitting videos and accompanying info. If you’ve not checked it out, here’s the LA Election 2017: The Great Online Debate page as of the weekend before the election. 

While many of LA’s candidates (Zuma Dogg, for example) used the free opportunity quickly and wisely, I’m personally not all that happy with the engagement. I’m not sure we met our aims, and I’d like to hear from our readers in anticipation of the next election. 

Is this an idea worthy of further work? How can we make it more engaging? 

When I told him I was writing a final just before Election Day piece, Editor Ken Draper suggested I answer this question: “…why should anyone bother voting in this poor excuse for an election?” 

He went on about the dilemmas facing the LA voter: “…incumbents that have been involved in so-called soft corruption (Sea Breeze, Rick Caruso, etc.); homeless population remaining at 45,000, sidewalks unfixed, trees toppling; jobs are scarce, affordable housing non-existent; crime numbers continue to grow, cops are still shooting mentally disturbed people with pipes in their hands, etc. ... vs. a candidate list that is mediocre at best.” But you know me. I’m just too much of an optimist to go that dark. Plus, I just re-planted seedlings I grew from seed and next week we turn the clocks ahead. If it’s not raining or too cold (below 65 degrees, that is) I’ll attend my first Indivisible meeting tonight. 

And, oh yeah, the page got between 750K and a million hits, he tells me. Oh. 

Just in case anyone cares about my election recommendations, here they are: 

County Measure H:             YES!!! 

City Measure S:                  NO!!! 

Measures M & N:               Yes on M; no on N (this is a consensus opinion of all interested parties -- and me) 

LA Charter Amendment P:  Yes 

Mayor:                              Eric Garcetti 

Controller:                         Ron Galperin 

City Attorney:                    Mike Feuer 

CD 1:                                Gil Cedillo 

CD 3:                                Bob Blumenfield 

CD 5:                                Paul Koretz 

CD 7:                                Karo Torossian 

CD 9:                                Curren Price 

CD 11:                               Mike Bonin 

CD 15:                               Joe Buscaino 

If you’re not convinced about Measure S, I recommend the LA Times editorial and pretty much anything written by the Times about the initiative and its backer. Or read this thorough treatment from Capital & Main, Strange Bedfellows Unite to Stop Anti-Development Ballot Measure in Los Angeles.  

For me, it’s hard to be pessimistic about the future if you spend any time with people under 30. Also, again, I’m retired and living in La Crescenta. Don and I have the beginnings of a small, lovely garden. And a grandchild and his wonderful Mama and Papa in Highland Park. Besides writing here, I’ve covered several meetings of the local Land Use committee for the Crescenta Valley Weekly News and even witnessed community approval of a potentially controversial condo project. Because the developer came to the community and its genuine organizations early and openly, and then listened to real concerns he heard, the sub-development won widespread support. The battered owner will likely have to add more rock to the front of the finished project (not a problem in this rocky foothill.) Still, I anticipate new housing will be built on Foothill Blvd. 

I also covered the passage of a “Safe Haven” resolution by the Glendale Unified School District strongly asserting support for every student without regard to immigration status. The only opposition raised at the packed public hearing was that the language wasn’t strong enough. Many members of the exceedingly diverse community anticipated administrators barring the doors to the schools from INS officials. The discussion was welcoming and supportive; community members produced their own lawn signs, in English, Spanish, and Armenian: “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.” 

Community activist Sharon Weisman testified about the signs and their origins: 

Strong, active community support for GUSD’s Resolution No. 17: Reaffirming all GUSD Campuses as Safe Haven for all Students 

This original black-and-white wooden sign (photo left) at Immanuel Mennonite in Harrisonburg, Va., has inspired thousands of yard signs. It was written by Pastor Matthew Bucher and translated with the help of congregation members and friends.   (Courtesy of Immanual Mennonite.)  

In Riverside, my old friend John Russo, former Oakland City Attorney, Alameda City Manager, now the esteemed City Manager of Riverside, announced this week that the City is moving customer service forward even beyond its front desk concierge! Happy or not? (Can you imagine this in Los Angeles City Hall?) 

Our ballots only had one item on them: Los Angeles County Measure H. We voted yes and our ballots are long in the mail. Yours? 

If you vote in Tuesday’s municipal election, you’ll be making history: it is the last city election in an odd year. Vote! Vote! Vote!

 

(Julie Butcher writes for CityWatch and is editor of the CityWatch Great Online Election Debate project, 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.’) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

SAVING THE SYSTEM-Having read General Jeff’s CityWatch article about online voting for Neighborhood Council elections, it is clear that both sides have a good argument.

From Jeff's perspective, online voting has its challenges. 

But, denying online voting to all of DLTA and Historic Cultural is disenfranchising all of those who do have computers and smart phones and would like to use them to vote. 

I personally believe that in order to have a fair and equitable Skid Row NC election -- since both the DLANC and Historic Cultural all vote -- the following should take place: 

1) Online elections should occur with two weeks advance voting. 

2) Pop-up polls should be pre-designated throughout the three areas. 

3) Vote by mail should be available for anyone who wishes to vote. 

4) Three onsite polling locations should be set up: one in skid row, one in DLANC and one in Historic Cultural. 

5) Since the homeless are not documentation voters, then all three locations should use self-affirmation. 

6) All polling locations should be open for six hours and be centrally located within each of the three districts. 

If there is an issue with the timing being too soon for the above to be instituted, then I think everyone would agree that the elections should be postponed for 60 days. 

As for online voting, here’s my two cents. The reason the beta test was not as big a success as the department wanted is because: 

1) The LA City Council under-funded the entire project, thereby not allowing the department to order and use the equipment that would have streamlined the process. (For the record, the medical marijuana industry uses a system to register patients by IPad using "Indica,” a cloud based service that registers patients in two minutes.) 

2) We were all led to believe that online voting would dramatically increase the number of voters. This is not true. The lack of outreach by DONE, as well as the resistance to spending neighborhood council money by the NC's, led to only 14 of the 35 NC's having an increase in voters -- and the department realizing a less than a couple of hundred voter increase over 2014. This is certainly not what was expected. 

The Skid Row and Hermon elections will also be lackluster if there is no concentrated effort to market the campaign, which DONE is woefully poor at doing; that is under-funded as well. 

As I see it, the Skid Row election is heavily weighted toward Skid Row, having only one polling location, and with the Skid Row Formation Committee responsible for the outreach, which, based on my conversations with both Downtown and Historic Cultural, has been minimal to non-existent. There are claims of falsehoods being told about what was done in areas quoted within the Skid Row application. 

And as for Hermon, my only question to all is the following: 

How do you give $42,000 to an area with less than 3,300 people, when you also give $42,000 to Koreatown that has more than 100,000 people? 

So, something is dramatically wrong with the NC System and it’s time for President Wesson to fulfill his promise to fix it. 

Herb, step up and step in. Make the tough decisions and begin the process of fixing the best thing that could have happened to our City -- as opposed to watching it cave in under its own weight.

 

(Jay Handal served at the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment for ten months as Election Manager for the 2016 Neighborhood Council elections. He is Treasurer of the West Los Angeles Sawtelle Neighborhood Council, Co-Chair of the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates Committee for the upcoming 2016-2017 fiscal year, and a hearing examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

GELFAND’S WORLD--Over the weekend, demonstrators numbering in the hundreds carried out rallies in support of the Trump presidency in several cities. That's not quite at the level of the hundreds of thousands who participated in anti-Trump protests, but we have to concede that the motivation is different. The pro-Trump side isn't spurred by the fear of Trump. (Photo above: Viet Nam war protest.) 

In several of the places where these demonstrations occurred, an approximately equal number of counter-demonstrators showed up in opposition. What's interesting in a morbid sort of way is the response of the pro-Trump side to the anti-Trump side. As news stories reported, the pro Trump groups chanted, "USA, USA" at their opponents. It's nothing new, actually. The right wing has been wrapping itself in the symbolism of American patriotism for a long time now, as if only right wingers are entitled to love their country. 

From the right wing point of view, it's a chance to insult the liberals by suggesting that only right wingers are true patriots. What the right wingers fail to realize is that their action is damaging to the idea of American patriotism because it rules out, if nothing else by insinuation, that anybody to the left of Ronald Reagan can't be a patriot and doesn't love America. 

From the standpoint of national unity, this is potentially disastrous, because it drives a cleft between people who differ mainly on domestic policy. But what happens when all of us, left right and center, have to come together over some major emergency such as a natural disaster or a foreign attack? We managed to do so after the September 11 attacks. Would the nation rally around the Trump administration following a similar attack, considering the contempt that his movement expresses towards the majority of American citizens? Some people would feel free to wash their hands of the whole patriotic thing, considering how they've been taught by the right wing that they can't really be patriotic. 

That chant of USA, USA is obviously meant as a taunt, and a mean-spirited one at that, but it is an illegitimate attack. The right wing is trying to rob its opposition of the symbols of American pride. The proper response to this chant is to chant, "USA, USA" right back at them. Don't let them steal the symbols of democracy from the rest of us. The liberal side should not allow this to happen. 

The current generation of American right wingers either forgets or is too young to know that in the aftermath of the Viet Nam War, overt displays of American patriotism were inhibited to a substantial extent. The chant of USA, USA that we have heard in recent broadcasts of the Olympic Games represents a switch from that previous era. It shows the slow acceptance that the national differences generated by the Viet Nam conflict are largely past us. The USA chant belongs to all of us, even people who just want to root for their team in an international setting. The chant should not be perverted in the service of political malice. If the right wingers had true patriotism, they would be working to create a sense of unity among all Americans, not just among their closest allies. 

Remembering Watergate 

The current situation with regard to Trump's connection to the Russians is eerily reminiscent of the Watergate affair. The older generation remembers how that series of events eventually sorted out. For them, it's like a movie they've already seen. They know that a presidential resignation is the appropriate ending. 

As revelations accumulate, a sense of inevitability isn't quite there yet, but it is building. Right now, it's at the level of it could happen. Trumpgate (or Kremlingate -- what will we finally call it?) is no longer just a low level embarrassment or a minor scandal. The number of top level resignations is building. Attorney General Sessions might as well be numbered as a resignation, considering how his credibility has been destroyed by his own lying. 

We can even expect to be hearing the original Watergate question, "What did the president know, and when did he know it?" A few pundits have already dusted it off. This question is of interest, but may I suggest that it is secondary to the main question: What deal did Donald Trump cut with the Russians prior to the election? 

It's not hard to speculate on a few possibilities. We've already seen and heard Trump's attempts to undercut the Nato alliance and to undermine the Republican platform language on American policy towards Russia. Perhaps those efforts were the result of a (so far) secret deal between Trump and Putin. The other prize for Putin would be a chance to take over Ukraine without American resistance. If Russian aggression in the eastern part of Ukraine escalates, we will have a pretty good idea of whose strings are being pulled. 

A note on the March 7 election 

We're still reeling from the November elections and now we have a city election and ballot measures to deal with. Voter fatigue doesn't begin to describe what isn't happening out there. The mayor is spending huge amounts of money on television ads mainly designed to explain to us that there is an election. That's because March 7 is an odd day for an election. He is also taking credit for bringing filming back. He doesn't mention that it's done using your tax dollars as bribes incentives to the production companies. My mail box is filled each day with slick political ads that I mostly don't read. 

There couldn't be any better argument for moving the city elections to the November time slot. (Hint: We did change that rule, which is why the City Council winners will be elected to terms ending more than five years from now.) 

One thing to remember: All of those television ads and political mailers have to be paid for. It takes lots of campaign donations dollars. This is one reason that real estate developers are so influential in Los Angeles politics. Theoretically we can fix this, but it will take a collection of ballot initiatives. We could write the initiatives and get the signatures we need. We should talk about doing this. 

I figure that we could get the initiatives on the ballot for a million dollars or so -- people who stand in front of your local supermarket with initiative petitions get paid by the signature. It's possible. 

Therefore, may I suggest that in our next Neighborhood Council Congress in September, we have a session on re-imagineering LA city government.

 

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

-cw

MEDIA WATCH-The mere fact that Dustin Lance Black’s When We Rise is on the air, even in 2017, is remarkable. Running a seven-hour miniseries covering the LGBT movement is a courageous endeavor for ABC in a time when a significant number of viewers still find its subject matter divisive and offensive at worst, and uninteresting at best. 

This sad fact has provided the creators a unique opportunity to not only entertain, but to also enlighten people who are less tolerant and understanding. And that’s what makes their missteps that much more disappointing. 

A tale that both honors LGBT heroes but also introduces these champions and their causes to the masses, When We Rise has been undermined by uneven writing and direction and, perhaps more important, by a failure to reach across the ideological divide. 

Creator Black is seemingly the right man for the job, having already penned the acclaimed Milk biopic about the legendary San Francisco city supervisor/activist Harvey Milk, for which he won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. His participation gives immediate credibility for those already familiar with the topic. Black could have gone high and introduced his characters by emphasizing robust personalities and their passion and struggles, making them underdogs for whom to root in our age of egregious intolerance. Instead, he goes low. 

Black focuses on three seminal figures in the gay movement, all played by a young actor and then an older one, as they journey to San Francisco and pass through nearly half a century, illuminating a cross section of those fighting for LGBT causes. There is Cleve Jones (Austin P. McKenzie and Guy Pearce), a wide-eyed young Caucasian with model looks who would eventually become a student intern working for Milk, and who was one of the first people to see the assassinated supervisor’s lifeless body. We also watch legendary woman’s rights activist Roma Guy (Emily Skaggs and Mary-Louise Parker), a woman whose radicalism and sexuality are awakened all at once. Rounding out the triptych is Ken Jones (Jonathan Majors and Michael Kenneth Williams) an African-American sailor who went on to become a pioneering activist, but not before having to subjugate his sexuality in the service, deal with racism in both the straight and gay worlds, and endure extreme homophobia in the black community. 

Before Black decides to show these figures and their epic stories of personal struggle, he makes a curious choice: They each appear locked in a libidinous and illicit embrace with a separate lover. It’s a bold creative choice, made rather less profound by the fact that the objects of their lust all look like Abercrombie and Fitch models. Every time things boil over, it’s as if a Bruce Weber doc has suddenly broken out on primetime. To viewers, this comes across as a shocking start for sure, but also emerges as a disservice, a harsh and facile distraction from these heroes’ coming exploits. 

Once the lips and limbs unlock, the 90-minute pilot then follows our triumvirate on its burgeoning journey of private sexuality and public activism. The directing and writing bounces between riveting scenes of societal discomfort and awkward dialogue during activist meetings that is less special and more Afterschool Special. One minute Ken watches in horror as patrons are roughed up as they are forced out of a gay bar in a powerful scene of confusion and chaos, and then the next Cleve watches San Francisco cops beat a gay colleague in a clunky scene right out of a comic book. Speaking of comics, Rosie O’Donnell and Whoopi Goldberg have supporting roles and their broad acting is only obscured by their atrocious coifs, which suggest they shop at the same bad wig shop. 

Meanwhile, the three primary figures hurtle through history until they eventually encounter each other in a convenient and presumptive collision of purpose. It’s so pat, one can almost see the lesson plan passed out in schools across America to accompany screenings of the miniseries. 

Black has said he made this piece for all of America. If that is truly the case, he should have at first focused more on the thorny issues these heroes faced rather than homing in on the horny. When We Rise does to some degree elevate exploits that have far too long remained in the shadows but, sadly, Black wastes the opportunity to have them soar into the collective consciousness where they so rightfully belong.

 

(Alex Demyanenko has created, developed, sold, and produced over 500 hours of television, including close to a dozen hit series and specials. In the past year he has sold shows to multiple networks and has also consulted for companies both in the United States and abroad. This piece was posted most recently at Capital & Main.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EASTSIDER--The good news is that after a lot of external pushback (thank you, LA Times and Naked Capitalism,) the appointed Board members have evidently backed off of trying to get JJ Jelincic bounced off of the CalPERS Board. 

The not so good news is that the leaders of that attempt are being elected to run major committees of the Board. The critical Investment Committee now has Bill Slaton (the ringleader of the group) as Vice-Chair, with the Chair being former LAUSD business manager Henry Jones, who just got re-elected as Vice-President of the Board and openly covets President Rob Feckner’s job. 

The Pension & Health Benefits Committee is now Chaired by Priya Mathur, another of the group who wanted to dump JJ Jelincic, and who has proved her very own self to be ethically challenged in the past. See the article here. 

The Risk & Audit Committee is now headed by yet another appointee, Dana Hollinger, along with fellow appointee Ron Lind. 

Dangling out there are the elections for Chair and Vice-Chair of the all-important Board Governance Committee. They will be elected in March. Those elections will round out the re-election of Rob Feckner as President and Henry Jones as Vice-President back in January. 

Of note, the President and Vice-President are elected by the full Board to one year terms, while the Committee elections are for four year terms

If these elections are indicative of what is to come in March, there is a serious realignment of the Board power structure taking place. And these are the key committees who determine how the fund’s money is invested, as well as being responsible for oversight. 

The CalPERS announcements of these February elections can be found here.  

The Creation of a Cabal? 

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a cabal is “the contrived schemes of a group of persons secretly united in a plot.” The current restructuring of the Board, together with the increasing secrecy of their work, should give the actual beneficiaries and the public pause. At the risk of being alarmist, I’m starting to think that the not-so-open tenure of Ann Stausboll was a model of transparency compared to the current emerging structure of CalPERS. 

Of course every good conspiracy needs a leader, and my vote is for General Counsel Matthew Jacobs. Readers may recall an article I wrote a while ago about him orchestrating the hiding of the internal workings of the Board behind the attorney-client privilege. You may also recall that this kind of stuff is what got Aetna Insurance Co. in trouble when they faked their reasons for pulling out of Obamacare behind attorney-client privilege and got caught by a judge. 

Let me give you two examples of how this secrecy stuff works. First, we still don’t know who the permanent outside fiduciary counsel is to the Board of Directors, despite my public records requests. Odds are that Ashley Dunning already has the job in all but name, since she and her firm are playing patty-cakes with Matthew Jacobs. But there has still been no public announcement, no public Board discussion that I am aware of, and no methodology given for how or when this will happen. 

What we do know is that she was billing the relatively tiny Marin County Pension Board some $10,000/week, at a $580/hour fee, and she was front and center at the CalPERS retreat in Monterey, providing fiduciary training. Anyone want to take a bet that she already has the job? I wonder how much a huge agency like CalPERS will put in her pockets? 

My second example, has to do with the question of how on earth the Board would approve a $135,000 bonus for their Chief Investment Officer, Ted Eliopoulos, even as the fund made the underwhelming return on investment of 0.6%. That’s right, less than a 1% return on investment. Even as the stock market soared. And even as the Board has had to lower their key anticipated rate of return from 7.5% to 7%, which will result in increased contributions to keep the plan afloat. 

It’s not like Mr. Eliopoulos is some big time investment maven. No, he’s a well-connected political insider. You can read about it here from the well-respected Pensions & Investments website 

For a detailed analysis of what’s in store for the Fund, take a look at a recent article by Calpension’s own Ed Mendel. 

Since there is no rational explanation for this kind of raise based on performance, you have to wonder why the Board approved it. My suspicion is that Mr. Jacobs is quietly providing both the shield and incentives, and is rewarding staff and Board members for toeing the party line according to Mr. Jacobs. 

Anyhow, the result is that Mr. Eliopoulos now makes a cool $700,000 a year or so! Lest you think I jest, check out this article explaining how the bonus was inconsistent with CalPERS policy, in addition to being unwarranted from a performance standpoint. 

This is a big deal. If CalPERS was publicly embarrassed by hiring that sleazebag Florida lawyer Robert Klausner (and they were), why stonewall any public input or openness in the hiring process of his successor? If CalPERS had a terrible year with its investments, why, oh, why would they give their Chief Investment Officer a large and questionably legal bonus? 

With a modicum of openness, transparency and public input, yeah, even public comment at Board meetings, we would know the answers to these questions. 

Their current lineup does not inspire confidence. President Feckner has never failed to sign any press release put in front of him by staff. A prime example would be his remark about Fred Buenstroso’s “retirement,” in 2008, that “he was talking to us for a while about retiring and seeing about doing something else.” Yeah, like going to jail. 

Vice-President Jones is going to play with the General Counsel as he awaits his opportunity to become President. Maybe he can bring us some of that great fiscal wisdom he practiced at the Los Angeles Unified School District. 

The Takeaway 

You don’t have to be a conspiracy buff to see that something is seriously amiss at CalPERS. While it is objectively true that they are under siege over the cost of the pensions and the paltry return on investment that they are achieving, the way to go about addressing these concerns is not to run and hide behind their Attorney. 

And the Board committees are stacked with political appointees. Those same appointees who recently went after the only open and transparent elected Board member, JJ Jelincic. With the whole gang shielded by attorney-client privilege as orchestrated by one Matthew Jacobs. 

Clearly missing is leadership by the newly appointed CEO, Marcie Frost. One can only imagine her trying to get up to speed even as the staff go their own way, the agency is under attack, and her attorney has an agenda of his own. I feel sorry for her. 

At the same time, Marcie Frost is the only hope on the horizon. Coming from the outside (the state of Washington), she does not have the institutional harness of the good ‘ol boy go-along-to-get-along so exemplified by the staff and the Board. 

I hope she knows that the way through tough times is to be open, transparent, admit failures and plan for success. I just hope that she gets the message and is able to do something about what she inherited before something really, really bad happens -- as this is usually the outcome of cabals.

 

(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 CITY--Nearly three years after Councilmember Paul Koretz sponsored a Motion to reform the city’s fatally-flawed citywide mansionization ordinances, the City Council has voted to adopt amendments that go a long way to cutting McMansions down to size.

Despite the passage of the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance (BMO) and Baseline Hillside Ordinance (BHO) in 2008 and 2011 respectively, out-of-scale homes have proliferated in Los Angeles, and the problem has worsened steadily over the last decade.

Mansionization is a citywide problem, and not just because it violates the scale and character of neighborhoods across the city. It also impacts affordable housing citywide. When McMansions replace modest homes, folks get priced out, and the spillover demand drives up prices in less expensive neighborhoods. And so on down the line. It’s like squeezing a balloon.

The amendments passed on Wednesday make major improvements. The basic tool for setting size limits for any structure – residential or commercial – is the ratio of building size to lot size. The ratios vary according to the size and type of lot – urban, suburban, rural, etc.

Small city lots – the so-called R-1 zones that make up about 70 percent of single-family properties in Los Angeles -- have been hardest hit. On these properties, the old ordinance would allow a ratio well above 70 percent, when you factor in bonuses and exemptions. As folks in those neighborhoods can tell you, a 4,350 square foot house on a 6,000 square foot lot deprives its nearest neighbors of air, light, and privacy and blows up the character of the neighborhood.   With a far more sensible ratio and the elimination of bonuses, the limit on that same R-1 lot is now closer to 3,000 square feet – enough for a spacious, modern home that plays nicely with others.

In every category, the amendments reduce the ratios from ridiculous to reasonable. They do away with most bonuses and exemptions, increase setbacks, and curtail grading and hauling allowances in hillside areas. Regrettably, the ordinances still exempt up to 200 square feet of front-facing attached garages from floor space and fall short of a really rigorous standard and transparent process for granting variances to institutions located in residential neighborhoods.

Though imperfect, these ordinances set a firm foundation for a selection of “variation zones” that will allow neighborhoods to tailor regulations to their individual scale and character.   And they provide benefits far beyond the specific neighborhoods where they apply. This kind of meaningful reform sets a strong precedent for many issues that follow, including limiting development in multi-family zones and coming to terms with “small-lot development.”

Success is said to have many fathers. In this case, the Big Daddy is unquestionably Councilmember Paul Koretz. He put the mansionization issue on the table, kept a firm grip on it for almost three years, and engineered a crucial course correction just last December. Councilmember Ryu has also been steadfast in his support, and Council President Wesson stepped up exactly when we needed him most. Through a long, tough slog, city planners kept their wits about them, and hundreds of Angelenos spoke up to promote livable, sustainable neighborhoods.

Mayor Garcetti is expected to sign the measure promptly, and it should take effect some time before March 24. If you’re keeping track, Wednesday, March 1 was a good day in the City of Angels.

(Shelley Wagers is a homeowner, community activist, an expert on Los Angeles’ mansionization crisis and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.

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COMPARE SILICON BEACH, SPACE X VS. 45,000 HOMELESS, 37% ‘CAN’T MAKE ENDS MEET’---With two football teams moving to Los Angeles, a host of towers rising in a resurgent downtown and an upcoming IPO for LA's signature start-up, Snapchat parent Snap Inc., one can make a credible case that the city that defined growth for a half century is back. According to Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Rams, Chargers and the new mega-stadium that will house them in neighboring Inglewood, show that “that this is a town that nobody can afford to pass up.”

And to be sure, Los Angeles has become a more compelling place for advocates of dense urbanism. Media accounts praise the city’s vibrant art scene, its increasingly definitive food scene and urbanist sub-culture. Some analysts credit millennials for boosting the population of the region and reviving the city’s appeal. Long disdained by eastern sophisticates, there’s an invasion from places like New York. GQ magazine called downtown LA “America’s next great city” last year.

Downtown has transformed itself into something of an entertainment district, with museums, art galleries, restaurants, and sports and concert venues. Yet it has not become, like San Francisco or New York, a business center of note. In fact, jobs in the region have continued to move out to the periphery; downtown accounts for less than 5% of the region’s employment, one-third to half the share common in older large cities.

Downtown’s residential growth needs to be placed in perspective. Since 2000 the population of the central core has increased by only 9,500; add the  entire inner ring and the population is up a mere 23,000. Meanwhile over the same span, the L.A. suburbs have added 600,000 residents. Jobs? Between 2000 and 2014, the core and inner ring, as well as older suburbs, lost jobs, U.S. Census data show, while newer suburbs and exurbs added jobs.

In our most recent ranking of the metro areas creating the most jobs, Los Angeles ranked a mediocre 42nd out of the 70 largest metro areas; San Francisco ranked first. That’s well behind places like Dallas, Seattle, Denver, Orlando, and even New York and Boston, cities that we once assumed would be left in the dust by LA.

A New Tech Hub?

The emergence of Snap has led some enthusiasts to predict LA’s emergence as a hotbed of the new economy. And to be sure, there is a growing tech corridor in the Santa Monica-Marina area that may gradually gain critical mass (see graphic above). Talk of a growing confluence between tech and entertainment content -- the signature LA product -- and the proliferation of new entertainment venues, could position the area for future growth. At the same time, the presence of Elon Musk’s Space X in suburban Hawthorne, near LAX, has excited local boosters.

Yet despite these bright spots, Los Angeles’ current tech scene is almost piteously small. One consistent problem is venture capital. Despite the massive size of its economy, and huge population, Los Angeles garners barely 5% of the nation’s venture capital, compared to 40% for the Bay Area, 10% for New York and Boston. Companies that were born in LA often end up moving elsewhere, like virtual reality pioneer Oculus, which was frog marched to the Bay Area after being acquired by Facebook.

Indeed, despite bright spots like Snap, since 2001 STEM employment in the LA metro area has been flat, in sharp contrast to high rates of job growth in the San Francisco Bay Area, Austin, Houston and Dallas, and the 10% national increase. Tech employment per capita in the LA area hovers slightly below the national average, according to a recent study I conducted at Chapman University. Los Angeles County, once the prodigious center of American high-tech, is also now slightly below the national average of engineers per capita.

The Poverty Economy

The regional economy, notes a recent Los Angeles Development Corporation report, continues to produce largely numbers of low-wage jobs, mostly in fields like health, hospitality and services. Sixty percent of all new jobs in the area over the next five years will require a high school education or less, the report projects.

At the same time in the year ending last September, employment dropped in three key high-wage blue collar sectors: manufacturing, construction and wholesale trade notes the EDC The largest gains were in lower-wage industries like health care and social assistance, hospitality and food service.  Since 2007 Los Angeles County has 89,000 fewer manufacturing jobs, which pay an average of $54,000, but 89,000 more in food service that pay about $20,000. No surprise more than one out every three LA households have an income under $45,000 a year.

All this works well for the people who are increasingly coming to enjoy LA’s great restaurants, hipster enclaves and art venues. The football teams will add to this mixture, offering employment selling peanuts, popcorn and hot dogs to generally affluent fans in the stands.

Yet low wages could prove catastrophic in a region that lags only the Bay Area in housing costs. Some 45,000 are homeless throughout the metro area, concentrated downtown but spreading throughout the region all the way to Santa Ana, in the south. Housing prices have risen to five times median household income, highest in the nation and more than twice the multiple in New York, Chicago, Houston or Dallas-Ft. Worth. LA leads the nation’s big metro areas in a host of other negative indicators, including the percentage of income spent on housing, overcrowding and homelessness. A city which once epitomized middle class upward mobility is increasingly bifurcated between a wealthy elite, mostly Anglo and Asian, and a largely poor Latino and African-American community.

A recent United Way study, for example, found that 37% of LA families can barely make ends meet, well above the 31% average for the state; the core city’s south and east sides have among the largest concentrations of extreme poverty in the state. Once a beacon for migrants from all over America, LA now has a similarly high rate of mass out-migration as New York. But unlike New York, where immigrants continue to pour in, newcomers to the U.S. are increasingly avoiding Los Angeles – it had the lowest growth in its immigrant population of any major metropolitan area over the past decade. Perhaps even more revealing, the Los Angeles area has endured among the largest drops in the number of children since 2000, notes demographer Wendell Cox,  more than New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

Altered DNA

The writer Scott Timberg notes that LA’s middle class, was once “the envy of the world.” L.A. used to be a place where firemen, cops and machinists could own houses in the midst of a great city. Dynamic, large aerospace firms, big banks and giant oil companies sustained the middle class.

But the city has lost numerous major employers over the years, most recently longtime powerhouse Occidental Petroleum, and the U.S. headquarters of both Toyota and Nestle. The regional aerospace industry, which provided nearly 300,000 generally high-wage jobs in 1990, is now barely a third that size. High housing cost have devastated millennials, whose home ownership rate has dropped 30% since 1990, twice the national average.

Many urbanists hail the emergence of a transit-oriented, dense city. Since 1990, Los Angeles County has added seven new urban rail lines and two exclusive busways at the cost of some $16 billion. Yet ridership on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority rail and bus services is now less than its predecessor Southern California Rapid Transit District bus services in 1985, before any rail services were opened. The share of work trips on transit in the entire five-county Los Angeles metropolitan region, has also dropped, from 5.1% in 1980 and 4.5% in 1990 to 4.2% in 2015. Meanwhile the city endures the nation’s worst traffic.

Some longtime Angelenos are mounting a fierce ballot challenge -- known as Measure S – to slow down ever more rapid densification. The ballot measure would bar new high-density construction projects for the next two years. “The Coalition to Preserve LA,” which is funding the measure, claims to be leading in the polls for the March 7 vote, but faces well-financed opposition from politically connected large developers, Mayor Garcetti, both political parties, virtually the entire city council, and much of the academic establishment. The LA Times denounced Proposition S as a “childish middle finger to City Hall” and its architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, has urged the citizenry “to move past the building blocks of post-war Los Angeles, including the private car, the freeway, the single-family house and the lawn.”

Proposition S proponents include many neighborhood and environmental groups, as well progressives and conservatives, including former Mayor Richard Riordan. The people controlling Los Angeles may dream of being the “next” New York but many residents, notes longtime activist Joel Fox, “are tired of the congestion and development and feel that more building will only add to congestion.”

Renewing La La Land

Of course, slowing or banning development by popular proposition is probably not the ideal  way to get control over the deteriorating situation. Yet it is clear that the current trajectory towards more dense housing is not addressing the city’s basic problems. Los Angeles, as the movie “La La Land” so poetically portrays, remains a “city of dreams” but that mythology is clearly being eroded by a delusional desire to be something else.

In my old middle-class neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, heavily populated by people from the creative industry, the worsening congestion, the upsurge of ever taller buildings and ever more present homeless did not reflect the giddiness of “La La Land.”

Yet despite all these problems, Los Angeles has the potential to make a great comeback. It has a dispersed urban form that allows for innovation and diversity, and an unparalleled physical location on the Pacific Rim. Its ethnic diversity can be an asset, if somehow it can generate higher wage employment to stop the race to the bottom. The basics are all there for a real resurgence, if the city fathers ever could recognize that the City of Angels needs less a new genome but should build on its own inimitable DNA.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of New Geography … where this analysis was first posted. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. He lives in Orange County, CA.)

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THE CHAPMAN REPORT--She watched him for five minutes, the man with his dog sitting outside on a Starbucks patio, on a bitter cold day in Napa. No one else was there.   

‘He wasn’t bothering anybody,’ she said. He didn’t ask for money. He didn’t stand in front of retail doors. He was just sitting quietly and she was fairly sure he was homeless, cold and hungry. In a snap decision, she bought him a bowl of sweet and sour chicken with noodles from the next door Panda King to brighten the man’s day. 

It was meant to be a cup of kindness, but for her, it wound up more like a slap in the face. The man accepted the food, blessed her and said how very grateful he was that someone recognized his plight. 

The trouble came afterward, when Jen – whose much more like my daughter than my friend – walked into the Starbucks to order a cup of java so she could study for school. Jen, 33, had recently moved up from Bakersfield where she worked at a popular bakery and had since successfully broken into the Napa food industry. Originally, she was from Los Angeles and quite familiar with the fact that the county has nearly 47,000 homeless and in her mind such folks deserved at the very least food. It appears voters in the city of Los Angeles—where the homeless population has surged and poured onto our streets and sidewalks and neighborhoods – agreed something must done. In November, voters approved a $1.2 billion measure to build homeless housing … way over the margin of votes that were necessary.  

So, she didn’t really expect what happened next when she decided to get a cup of coffee at Starbuck’s. 

As she came forward to order, the Starbuck’s employee at the register announced she really hated when people fed the homeless. Jen’s face burned. It didn’t stop there however. When the employee came out to wash down the tables, the slap continued. When people feed the homeless, the employee muttered, “then they never go away.” Jen nearly gasped with disbelief. It became quiet in the Starbucks and other customers appeared nervous and uncomfortable. No other employees advised the worker to stop and it seemed an odd attitude for a Starbuck’s since the socially conscious company headquartered in Seattle has gone out of its way to embrace the homeless.  

Jen’s face turned red with anger. If you knew the fabric of this woman you’d understand why. Kindness seems threaded in her very heart and then some.  “I knew she was talking about me,” Jen said. “I was offended. It’s not like I was giving him drugs and alcohol. All I was giving him was food. It was so rude.”  

She fed him, she said, because: “I just felt deep inside I needed to help him.”  

It’s not the story Reggie Borges, a Starbuck’s spokesman in Seattle, wanted to hear after he had just returned from Austin, Texas where his company launched an expansion of its “food share” program this month to Houston and San Antonio.   

The program, suggested by its very own partners (employees), donates Starbuck’s surplus food to local agencies that feed the homeless and the company has set a goal to donate all its extra food to local non-profit agencies from its 7,000 U.S. stores. Surplus ready-meals are already served up to the impoverished Starbuck’s style in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Denver, Las Vegas and Colorado Springs with a goal of reaching 50 million such meals a year. 

When Borgess called the Soscol Avenue store in Napa, no employees could remember such an incident. But if it happened, he added, it’s not the way Starbuck’s would want any customer treated, even a homeless customer. 

“We strive to create a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.,” he emailed. “We want everyone who visits our store in enjoy their visit,” and that includes homeless.  

He added that he hopes to work with the customer to discuss her concerns.  

I know some of you out there are howling that Jen should never have fed that man. He doesn’t deserve it. He’s not working. Others of you are probably saying it really hurts businesses and customers don’t want homeless outside stores. I get that. I get that it can hurt small, local business, especially a mom and pop. Because I’ve had a fair amount of dealings with those living on the streets, I’ve decided not to give money any more but I will buy food and a cup of coffee. 

If it’s a small local business, I will typically ask first if it’s alright because those are the retailers that suffer the most. A place like Starbuck’s and most chain retail stores don’t lose much business if the homeless are standing outside. Hundreds of people pour into the Napa Starbucks on Soscol Avenue every day. I’ve seen it. It would take a lot more than feeding a homeless person to divert them.  

“You can’t blame Starbucks for one bad person,” my cousin warned. I agree, but you can give better training and perhaps explain it’s not wise not to reprimand a customer for doing what many would consider a good deed.  

Personally, I’m glad Jen went with her gut. Perhaps that particular day that man was so troubled he didn’t know what to do next. There’s no doubt our streets have become a torrent of homeless infiltrating our sidewalks and our roadways, setting up tents, begging for money and accosting customers looking for a hand out. But can you really blame them? It’s what I’d do if I found myself on the streets. What do you think you would do? If we keep closing our eyes, they’ll still be there when we wake up. Doing nothing won’t work. 

The National Bureau of Economic Research, reported that unemployment rose from 4.7 percent to ten and over eight million jobs were lost from Nov. 2007 to Oct. 2009, “the most dramatic since the Great Depression.”  

We still see the ugly residue of this more-than-belt-tightening time. Many are still without work. 

One day, another friend and I left a small diner in San Pedro where an older woman, shriveled and weathered, bustled up to us in search of money or food. We didn’t have change, but as were walking away my friend turned and said: “I have this half sandwich I haven’t even touched. Would you like it?”
 
The women quickly shunted up to us and took the sandwich. We turned back to look at her gobbling it down with a look of such satisfaction. She glowed as though she has just finished a six-course dinner.   

So, I applaud what my friend did. It’s time for all of us to wake up and offer a cup of kindness. It seems sometimes there’s so little left.

.
(Diana Chapman is a writer/journalist and an occasional CityWatch contributor. She has written for magazines, newspapers and the best-seller series, “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” You can reach her at: hartchap@cox.net.)

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@TheGussReport -- On Monday night, CityWatch published my article based on public records that suggest Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren D. Price was simultaneously married to two different women. The next day, the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper published a statement attempting to refute my story, but misled its readers in numerous ways.  

The Sentinel article wrongfully or misleadingly alleges:

  1. “Mr. Price’s opponents apparently tried to muddy the waters in a last minute smear campaign.”

The article is the result of my own research and writing, and it was seen by nobody other than me prior to submitting it to my publisher. I have never met Mr. Price’s opponent, Jorge Nuño (who the LA Times endorsed over Price), nor anyone else from his campaign or family at any time. In fact, a few weeks earlier, I publicly pressured Mr. Nuño to identify his stances on various ballot issues in next week’s primary, until his campaign manager publicly requested that I cease, which I did.

  1. “As of Sentinelpress time no factual data has been produced to show that the councilmember has done anything wrong.”

That’s because at no time prior to publishing its statement did anyone from the Sentinel contact me in any way, shape or form to ask for proof, or anything else for that matter. Subsequent to its publishing, I sent Sentinel Publisher Danny Bakewell and its Managing Editor Brandon Brooks two emails letting them know that nobody from their publication contacted me, and that the documentation is free and readily available online. I also posted two comments on their website below the text of their statement. The Sentinel responded to none of them.

  1. The Sentinel quotes Albert Robles, the attorney who handled Mr. Price’s divorce efforts, “Curren Price is divorced, end of story.  I was Curren Price’s attorney, my office filed the paperwork.  As far as Curren Price is concerned, his divorce was settled years ago and that’s what was communicated to Mr. Price at the time.  I am no longer Curren Price’s attorney…”

According to Los Angeles court records, Mr. Price’s divorce is “pending,” (i.e. not finalized) and has been in that status since it was taken off-calendar on April 17, 2012.   On May 1, 2012, Mr. Robles was sent, and the court record contains, a notice by the court that the divorce dissolution was rejected. As of yesterday, the case is still pending and there has been no further activity in that file since May 1, 2012. The court records also show no new divorce filings from Mr. Price. Moreover, the record contains no withdrawal from Mr. Robles of his representation of Mr. Price, so while he says he is no longer his attorney, the record reflects otherwise.

Note: According to the California Bar Association, Mr. Robles was ineligible to practice law in California in 2014 for not complying with attorney continuing education requirements, and again less than a year later in 2015 for not paying his Bar Association dues.   He is presently licensed to practice, and bills himself as “The Best Eviction Attorney in California.”

I made numerous efforts to reach Messrs. Bakewell, Brooks and Robles to see if any of them could furnish proof that Mr. Price was, in fact, divorced, and received no reply from any of them. The Sentinel story remains on its website, with no updates to its content.

So let’s cut to the chase.

This is a 2013 article in which Del Richardson Price, Mr. Price’s second wife, discusses her chronic health condition. In it, she refers to a 2009 incident and references her husband….Curren Price.   But if Mr. Price was married to Del Richardson as of 2009, and he was still trying to divorce his first wife, Lynn, as late as 2012, it not only means he was married to two women simultaneously, it means he knew he was still married to Lynn, his first wife, when he married Del Richardson. It would also mean that Mr. Price (according to public records) is still married to both women.

Based on that information, this is bigamy, and it was committed by Mr. Price with knowledge aforethought. And if Del Richardson Price knew that she was marrying an already married man (there is no evidence to show that that is the case) it would mean that she, too, committed bigamy.

Finally, on Mr. Price’s Los Angeles City Ethics forms, which he has signed under penalty of perjury each year since 2012, he was required to identify any financial holdings of his or his spouse’s. In 2012, he identified no spouse. In each subsequent year, he identified only Del Richardson as his spouse. Since Mr. Price knew that he was still married to first wife Lynn, as evidenced by his unsuccessful divorce filings as late as 2012 (i.e. the same year he signed his first Ethics Form 700) it means that he perjured himself on each Ethics form he submitted by not including his first wife and her financial interests on each them.

It’s bigamy. It’s perjury. So say the records. Why is all of this so important? Because, these days more than ever, with our elected officials, what could be more important than trust?

(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.)

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RANTZ & RAVEZ-It has been a practice in some parts of the country and here in Los Angeles to “shakedown” developers when residents or homeowner groups oppose specific residential or commercial projects adjacent to their neighborhoods. This happened in the San Fernando Valley when a commercial project was proposed and a lawsuit filed demanding modifications to the project. 

In this case, the developer made a number of modifications to the development and paid “fees” to move forward with the project that is in full operation at this time. A development project on the Westside that became a recent news story culminated with a large amount of money given to an adjacent condo building as well as modifications to the proposed project. 

The cost of doing business as a developer in Los Angeles is getting more and more complex and expensive due to associated city fees and related expenses. In addition to the community groups and homeowner associations voicing their concerns, there is the threat of litigation. All this does is drive up the expense of building residential construction resulting in higher rents, forcing more and more families to turn to the streets to live. Truly a sad situation in the City of the Angels. 

Los Angeles River as the Flood Control protection. 

With all the talk about turning the Los Angeles Flood Control System into the Los Angeles River Development we must consider the heavy rains that happen in our city. While the rains are infrequent, I can remember years ago when it rained for numerous days and the Flood Control System did the job of protecting Los Angeles from flooding. Being a new member of the LAPD at that time, I remember the damage caused by the heavy rains. There were landslides in various areas of the city and caskets that were unearthed in the foothill community. With this in mind, we need to remember what the Los Angeles River was initially designed for. Before we spend millions or billions of dollars building developments along the river, we need to remember the intended purpose of the Flood Control System that has been effective in protecting Los Angeles and surrounding communities for many years. 

LA…one of two cities still in the running for the Olympics. 

As the days pass, Los Angeles remains in the running along with Paris for the 2024 Olympics. If LA is selected to host the games, there will be plenty of activities for residents to enjoy. The estimated $5.3 billion dollar budget will push prime ticket event prices to $1,700 while the less popular activities are expected to run in the range of $30 to $50. If you are interested in being an observer, there will be plenty of security and other positions available. The LA 2024 Summer Olympics organizers are currently accepting applications from those interested in volunteering for the games. 

LAPD to the rescue. 

The Metro Board of Directors has approved a transfer of police powers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to the LAPD for transit security within the City of Los Angeles. The Sheriff’s Department had the responsibility for all Metro Transit operations throughout the county prior to the transfer. The Long Beach Police Department will assume responsibility for Metro operations in the city of Long Beach. The Sheriff’s Department will patrol all other Metro lines in the region.    

You may wonder where the LAPD Officers will be coming from. Since the LAPD still cannot reach its authorized strength of 10,000 officers to patrol our communities and fight crime, the answer is very simple. Deploy the officers on overtime. Yes, overtime. With most LAPD Officers working either 12- or 10-hour shifts, in addition to appearing in court and the drive to work, when will they rest? I know that many officers will enjoy the extra money that will come along with these overtime details. With their salary and living expenses, overtime money comes in handy for them and their families. I am just concerned that they don’t burn out with all the hours they will be working. When you see an LAPD officer on the Metro Lines, stop and thank them for the protection they are providing you, Metro operators and your families.         

Measure S. 

The March 7 local primary election will be lucky to draw 20% of the voters. People are burned out from the recent Presidential election. The Democrats are not happy with the victory of President Donald Trump as evidenced by the demonstrations that have been taking place. With this in mind, the low Republican registration in Los Angeles does not drive many to the election booth. I encourage you to take the time and vote on the other matters on the ballot. There are measures with will cost you more money and you should be concerned with that.

I am supporting Measure S and opposing Measure H. 

If you are happy with the traffic gridlock in Los Angeles and streets that are not being paved and the water pipes that are bursting causing sinkholes, then vote against S. On the other hand, if you are like me, you are sick of the 7-day a week gridlock throughout this region and tired of having streets that are falling apart, vote Yes on S. With little if any senior or affordable housing being built, it is time for us to voice our concern for the neglect that has been taking place in Los Angeles. Don’t believe that all construction will come to a stop if measure S is passed. There are hundreds of projects that have already been approved for construction in Los Angeles and will be built in the next two years. 

While the homeless situation has not improved with the $1.2 billion bond measure, Measure H will only add more taxes to your purchases in Los Angeles County. The homeless situation will not be improved by passing more and more tax measures. It is not always about taking money out of your pocket to fix the problems that have been neglected for years.

 

(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--Last Friday, the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (sbccog) held its 18th Annual General Assembly. The assembly is a chance for city managers, elected officials, and the general public to hear some new ideas and chew over old problems. This year, the SBCCOG chose to take up an optimistic topic, the promise of innovative technologies in making the region both more livable and more wealthy. 

Techno-fixes for transportation 

This being the Los Angeles area, one topic was obvious: What's new in transportation? The subject the organizers chose for discussion was driverless cars. There are numerous advantages to the idea, along with a substantial hurdle. Actually, the advantages and the hurdle to be surmounted go together. You can't have one without the other. 

Here they are: 

The hurdle is that you really need to have every car on the road (and pretty much every other object that can move) under constant centralized control. The buzz word is totally managed systems. Maybe it's a buzz phrase instead of a buzz word, but it carries a heavy load of futuristic thinking. We'll get back to what some of that load entails a little later, but it's worth considering the advantages. 

Engineers who think about getting the most use out of driverless cars like to think of a substantial group of the m all moving together, going in the same direction, all at the same time. The buzz word for this grouping of cars is a platoon. There are several advantages to platooning our cars, if we could do it safely. For one, cars can move at high speed without a lot of separation. Instead of separations in the dozens or hundreds of feet, a platoon of electronically controlled driverless cars could be separated from each other by a few inches. Even if you give them a foot or two, that's putting a lot more cars on the same section of pavement. 

There is one more advantage that didn't come up at the meeting, but it's obvious if you think about it. Imagine sitting in a long line of cars at a traffic light. When the light turns green, do you start forward immediately? Not if you don't want to run into the car in front of you, you don't. You have to wait for the first car to move, then the second car to get moving, and so on. It would be a lot quicker if we could all start moving at the same time, the way that train cars all move together. But that would involve every driver in the line starting to move forward at exactly the same time. It would also require that we increase our speed in exactly the same increments. If I go two miles per hour too fast, I'll run into the car in front of me. 

Computerized control systems have it over us humans in terms of this level of control. Electronic signals move faster than our nerve impulses, and electronic computers calculate faster than our brains can. 

By the way, the sbccog program didn't seem to notice that when we imagine platoons of driverless vehicles all moving in tandem, able to execute speed-ups and slow-downs with precision, we are probably imagining that the vehicles are propelled by some electrical means rather than gasoline engines. For gasoline powered cars, there is a distinct lag in getting a car moving forward upon pushing down on the accelerator pedal, and every car is a little different. The way to solve this problem is to have speed sensors that control the movement of the cars with exquisite precision, which could be accomplished using electric motors. In this way, a platoon of fifty cars could move together as if they were all cars on the same train. 

There are also distinct advantages in terms of parking and storing driverless cars. You can drop your car at the garage, and it can be stored alongside other such cars, all of them parked only inches apart. You don't need to leave room to open the car door. The garage space can also be built with lower ceilings. All in all, we might imagine a doubling or tripling of the parking capacity for every square foot of ground. One speaker joked about not needing to park your car (and pay for parking) at all. Just send it by itself on a trip down the freeway so that it returns when you are ready to go. After all, it doesn't need a driver. 

Long-time readers of this column may notice that the concept of the driverless car is similar in a lot of ways to the concept of personal rapid transit (PRT). The idea behind PRT is that individual passenger pods travel along elevated guide rails. Both concepts involve a system in which a computerized system controls every aspect of moving, changing directions, and stopping. The PRT system has the advantage that you don't have to take over streets and highways. It's hard to imagine us driving our old gas-burners on the same road with a platoon of driverless vehicles moving like the proverbial bat out of Hell. For any roadway, it's the one or the other, not both. 

The disadvantage of the PRT network is that you have to build the elevated structures and supply the passenger pods. That is costly, although projected to be considerably cheaper than light rail. 

The disadvantage of the driverless vehicle concept is that the vehicles themselves will be costly (although not necessarily a lot more costly than a new car) and the roadway itself will be costly. The PRT system might turn out to be a lot cheaper, although it would be less versatile in terms of covering an entire city in dense detail. 

Municipal Fiber Optic Broadband 

Another topic at the sbccog was the idea of cities putting in their own digital broadband capability. That means that you can get high speed internet and all that this entails, including full speed, full sized movie downloads or high throughput data transmission for your business. The buzz word is fiber optic. It's a method of carrying information that has been around a long time, but has only recently started to be adopted in the U.S. as a way of connecting the internet to the end user. 

The term fiber optic sounds more complicated than it really is. A beam of light can carry information in the same way that a radio wave or television signal carries information. But the ray of light can carry a lot more information. Thousands of times more. Instead of copper wire or radio waves, fiber optics carry light down strands of glass. When the light reaches its destination, it can be decoded into electrical signals and sent to your computer or television set. 

We've come to refer to the ability to carry digital information as bandwidth. The ability to carry a lot of information is therefore called broadband. The thing is, current methods of internet service are mostly using outmoded systems. The same coaxial cable that carries your cable tv signal can also carry a modest amount of internet information, but even cable systems are becoming inadequate pretty quickly. That's because the need for bandwidth is increasing. High definition video and lots of other applications use up bandwidth. Also, when you are hooked up to a cable system, you are sharing bandwidth with all the other houses and apartments and businesses that are connected to the cable. 

The problem with relying on local cable and telephone companies for broadband is that they have been slow in upgrading, when they do it at all. They have a stranglehold on their own part of the market, and they don't think they have to improve a lot. Where I live, the telephone company is already a couple of generations behind in technology. The cable tv company is . . . a cable tv company, with all that this implies. 

What we learned at SBCCOG is that some cities have developed their own fiber optic broadband systems. We don't typically think of Chattanooga, Tennessee as a leader in high tech growth, but in terms of providing broadband to its residents, Chattanooga is way ahead of Los Angeles. Likewise for Ammon, Idaho. 

Another place that is working on getting fiber optic broadband installed is Santa Monica. City Manager Rick Cole (previously Deputy Mayor in charge of budgeting for the city of Los Angeles) spoke about it in detail. Cole spoke of Santa Monica's ambition to be Silicon Beach. Broadband internet is part of that process. 

The city of Los Angeles is way behind. It's worth thinking about municipal fiber optics for the entire region. We can expect the cable companies to resist mightily, with all that implies in the Los Angeles political environment, but the fight with their lobbyists to get us up to par with other areas would be worth it.

 

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

-cw

CAPITAL & MAIN SPECIAL REPORT--On election night last November, Nathan Damigo, a 30-year-old white nationalist and student at California State University, Stanislaus, met up with friends in the Northern California city of Folsom. As they bounced from bar to bar, it became clear that Donald Trump was outperforming most polls; when the election was called for the former reality TV star, Damigo and his buddies were euphoric. On the drive home, still buzzed by the victory, Damigo pulled out a bullhorn and shouted at passersby in the street, presumably those with darker skin than his, “You have to go back! You have to go back!” 

“Trump’s election has been a major boost to morale,” he later told an interviewer. “Something is happening. Things are changing and it’s not going to stop.” 

Damigo is part of an ascendant far-right movement, however uncoordinated, that sees the election of Trump as a sign that an extremist vision for the country -- which includes millions of undocumented immigrants deported and an open hostility to Muslims -- is moving from dream to reality. And this is not only about rhetoric. Since Trump’s election, groups that track hate crimes have reported spikes in the number of incidents, including within the deeply blue state of California. 

Damigo grew up in San Jose, joined the Marine Corps after graduating from high school, and completed two tours in Iraq. He returned with post-traumatic stress disorder and in 2007, after an afternoon of heavy drinking in San Diego, pulled a gun on a cabdriver who he believed was Iraqi, robbing him of $43. He pleaded guilty to a felony count of robbery and spent five years behind bars, where he discovered former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke’s autobiography, My Awakening: A Path to Racial Understanding. Last March, he founded a group called Identity Evropa, geared towards attracting college students to white nationalism, a broad term whose adherents espouse white separatist ideologies. 

Damigo has positioned himself as a sort of a West Coast sibling to Richard Spencer, the 38-year old who coined the term “alt-right” and who has become the country’s most prominent white supremacist, due in part to a video of him being punched by a presumed protester that went viral.

The pair appeared together at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where Damigo live-streamed the event for Red Ice Radio, a white supremacist network broadcasting from Sweden. And last November, two-dozen members of Identity Evropa traveled to Washington, DC for Spencer’s National Policy Institute conference, at which many attendees were seen flashing the Nazi salute. 

When I reached out, Damigo emailed that he was on the East Coast in an area with limited cellphone coverage. Curious, I scanned Identity Evropa’s Twitter feed. Posted from early that morning were pictures of the group’s flyers plastered across the campus of Kutztown University, in rural Pennsylvania. The effort is part of “Project Siege,” which targets colleges with pro-white propaganda. A day earlier, the provost of Indiana University reported that the group’s flyers were posted on the office doors of faculty members of color. Also hit were schools in Illinois, Texas, Georgia and Virginia. 

“Our members tend to be whites from diverse areas, because they have actual experience with multiculturalism,” he tells me over Skype. Damigo keeps his blond hair in the “Hitler youth” style -- longer on top, shaved on the sides -- and on the day we speak is wearing a black sweater and looks tired. Asked for an example of a problem caused by multiculturalism, Damigo pauses a beat. “You know, black people constantly being dicks to white people, starting fights with them, harassing them.” His answer to what he sees as the problem of multiculturalism, which he views as inherently anti-white, is as simple as it is quixotic: the creation of a white ethno-state for Americans of European descent. (Damigo doesn’t consider Jews to be white, and they are barred from joining his group. Asked recently about whether the Holocaust occurred, he declined to answer, stating that he’s “not a history buff.”) 

Damigo says that the majority of Identity Evropa’s members are in California, but he dreams of taking his group, which he describes as “Identitarian,” national. “A lot of people started becoming interested in politics a year ago,” he says. “They knew something was wrong but didn’t quite get what. Advocating for whites is going to become normalized: People are waking up to subjects that were once very taboo.” Damigo first told me that over the past five months, Identity Evropa had signed up about five new members a day, which comes to roughly 750 members. A couple of days later, however, he estimated the membership at 300. 

He likens the white nationalist movement to the early years of the gay rights movement. “Back then, if someone was homosexual and came out, they would be dealing with chronic unemployment and ostracism. We’re dealing with the same thing.” But he tells me that he sees signs that change may be on the way, accelerated by the election of Trump. “It’s starting to snowball.” 

California is like America, only more so,” said novelist Wallace Stegner, echoing journalist Carey McWilliams’ earlier opinion that “Californians are more like the Americans than the Americans themselves.” California, McWilliams continued, “is the great catch-all, the vortex at the continent’s end into which elements of America’s diverse population have been drawn, whirled around.” 

The state is solidly liberal, with political leaders who have promised to resist Trump’s agenda.

“California is not turning back,” Governor Jerry Brown declared last January in his State of the State address. “Not now, not ever.” When San Francisco International Airport erupted in protest after Trump signed his executive order targeting Muslims, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom was there, shaking hands in the crowd and registering his dissent. And a week after Trump signed another sweeping executive order -- this one stepping up enforcement actions against undocumented immigrants-- the state took its first steps to create a “sanctuary state,” which would prohibit the state and its localities from enforcing federal immigration laws. 

Yet California also has a rich history of right-wing extremism, xenophobia and racism, which it has exported, with varying degrees of success, to the rest of the country. Perhaps the best example is Proposition 187, which was overwhelmingly passed by voters in 1994. The law was drafted in part by a lobbyist with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an organization that seeks to severely curtail immigration to the U.S. and whose founder, John Tanton, believes that the U.S. must remain a majority-white state. FAIR is designated as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which defines the term as a group with “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” 

(Left, undated photo of KKK march, possibly taken in Santa Barbara.) 

Proposition 187 prevented undocumented immigrants from receiving most tax-supported benefits, including medical care at publicly funded hospitals and the use of public schools. (It was immediately challenged in court and eventually declared unconstitutional.) Less remembered is that Prop. 187 also compelled all law enforcement agents and school officials to investigate the immigration status of individuals they believed might be in the country illegally, and to refer such individuals to both federal immigration agencies and the state attorney general. It was the mother of all anti-immigrant bills, from SB 1070 in Arizona to HB 56 in Alabama, a specter that continues to haunt our country as a new wave of raids takes shape. 

Anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican sentiments go back much further than the mid-1990s, of course. For the first half of the last century, Mexicans and Mexican-Americans were forcibly segregated into second-class schools and shunted into fieldwork. When they attempted to organize for higher wages, they were met with violence from the state, surveilled by sprawling private spy networks or simply deported. Business owners posted “White Trade Only” signs in their windows, and care was made to prevent races from mixing in public facilities. For years the City of Orange, for example, allowed children of Mexican descent to use its public pool only on Mondays. The pool was drained on Monday night and cleaned and refilled on Tuesday, to protect white children from contamination. 

Racial hysteria swept the state during World War II, this time targeting the Japanese. In January of 1945, the federal government reopened the West Coast to Japanese-Americans, who had been rounded up into internment camps three years earlier. Fearing anti-Japanese hostility, the government offered funds to any former internee who decided to remain east of the Rockies, but most elected to return. This unleashed what the War Relocation Agency characterized as a “widespread campaign of terrorism.” In the first six months, Japanese-Americans were targeted in 22 shootings and 20 cases of arson. Vigilantes burnt their sheds to the ground and fired bullets into their homes. Most of the violence was in rural areas, but not all. In San Francisco, the windows of a hostel sheltering Japanese were smashed. 

The post-war period saw the resurgence of the Klan in California, in response to returning veterans of color who were impatient to finally live in the democracy they had fought for. In Fontana, 50 miles east of Los Angeles, an African American named O’Day Short moved his family into a new home in 1945. The house was south of Base Line Road; the saying around town was “Base Line is the race line.” Blacks were supposed to stay north of the road. A group of men, likely from the local KKK, visited Short and advised him to leave, but he didn’t budge. A few days later, his home was firebombed and Short, along with his wife and two young children, perished. A generation would pass before another black would buy property south of Base Line. 

This sort of racial segregation was the rule in California, often enforced through restrictive housing covenants that forbade selling a property to a person of color. (Short was light-skinned, so may not have been identified as black by the seller.) In addition, California had a comparatively high number of “sundown towns”—white communities that barred blacks and other people of color after nightfall. 

Damigo’s vision, then, of whites living apart from other races, does have a historical precedent, and his anxiety about the browning of the state comes from a deep strain of nativism. A century ago, boosters held up Los Angeles as a “city without slums” and “more Anglo-Saxon than the mother country today.” That Eden was soon spoiled, however. In 1928, a reporter for the Saturday Evening Post complained that the city was filled with “the shacks of illiterate, diseased, pauperized Mexicans” who breed “with the reckless prodigality of rabbits.” This invasion of foreigners -- forgetting for the moment that California was once part of Mexico -- is the animating force behind white nationalists like Damigo. They long for a past that never was, and he hopes to tap into the power of Trump’s ahistorical nostalgia. One of the posters that Identity Evropa posts on college campuses proclaims, “Let’s Become Great Again.” 

In more recent decades, the state has cranked out a who’s who of notable racists and immigrant bashers. Richard Butler, the founder of Aryan Nations, spent decades in California before retreating to his compound in Idaho. Tom Metzger, who would launch White Aryan Resistance, got his start by attending John Birch Society meetings in Southern California in the 1960s. And it was a retired accountant from Orange County, Jim Gilchrist, who put out the call for armed volunteers, or so-called Minutemen, to patrol the southern border in 2005. 

According to the SPLC, there are currently 79 hate groups scattered across California, the state with the highest number in the nation. (Florida is second with 63.) Many keep a low profile, but last year they were impossible to miss, as two brawls erupted between white power groups and much larger contingents of counter protestors. The first was a Klan rally in Anaheim, the second a joint rally between the Golden State Skinheads and the Traditionalist Workers Party. In each, multiple people were stabbed. 

“California has been a cornucopia of extremism on all sides of the political spectrum,” says Brian Levin, who directs the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. “It’s the place where you can come from anywhere and define your own American Dream, and everybody’s got a gripe. The fringes are as hot here as they are anywhere.” 

Muslims have borne the brunt of that hate. The SPLC recently claimed that anti-Muslim hate groups nearly tripled in the last year, from 34 in 2015 to 101 in 2016. According to Levin, hate crimes targeting Muslims in California jumped 122 percent between 2014 and 2015, a period that coincided with the San Bernardino terror attack and Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. This past January, someone broke the windows of a mosque in Davis and left bacon at the front door. Several days later, in a radio story about the Muslim ban, Jeff Schwilk of San Diegans for Secure Borders Coalition -- which supports dramatic curbs on immigration and opposed what it called Hillary Clinton’s “mass unvetted Muslim refugee dumping plans” -- told a KQED reporter that “not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” 

On the morning of January 29, in one of his Twitter bursts, Trump wrote: “Christians in the Middle-East have been executed in large numbers. We cannot allow this horror to continue!” Later that evening, Alexandre Bissonnette, a college student and Trump supporter, walked into a Quebec mosque and opened fire during evening prayers, killing six worshipers. 

Such developments have Muslims in California on edge. Hamdy Abbass came to the U.S. from Egypt in 1979, and for more than three decades has lived in San Martin, a rural area south of San Jose. For years, he and his fellow worshipers have held services in a converted barn. In 2006 they bought a 16-acre lot with plans to build a mosque. But Abbass has run into fierce opposition from some local residents, led by a group called the Gilroy-Morgan Hill Patriots, whose president is Georgine Scott-Codiga. “They are claiming they are worried about the environmental impact, but that is a smokescreen,” Abbass says. “It’s Islamophobia.” 

In an interview, Scott-Codiga tells me that she doesn’t have anything against Muslims, but indeed has concerns about the environmental impact of the proposed mosque. I ask her about her group’s Facebook page, which is filled with links to articles with titles like “The Muslim Plot to Colonize America,” and interviews from a group called Political Islam, identified by the SPLC as an anti-Muslim hate group. Her organization also sponsored a local talk by Peter Friedman, who runs a website called Islamthreat.com -- again, listed as a hate group by SPLC -- entitled “What the Mosque Represents and the Threat of Islam.” 

“Well, the people that are committing all of these terrorist acts, they have one thing in common,” she says. “So you have to ask yourself, what’s going on?” 

I ask her what is going on. 

“Look, it has nothing to do with Islamophobia,” she says, and hangs up. 

At a recent community meeting, Abbass tells me, a man warned that the mosque would be used as a base for terrorist attacks. “That was maybe one of the kinder things that was said,” says Abbass. Still, he is undaunted. If all goes as planned, his congregation will begin building the mosque next year. “We have to go with the assumption that we will be targeted,” Abbass says. “But we have to also pray that nothing will happen.”

 

(Gabriel Thompson is an independent journalist who has written for publications that include the New York Times, Harper's, New York, Slate, and the Nation. His forthcoming book is Chasing the Harvest: Migrant Workers in California Agriculture. This piece was first posted AT Capital & Main.)  Klan march photo credit: Los Angeles Public Library Collection. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

MY TURN-I did not vote for Donald Trump, which I'm sure will come as no surprise to all of you. I have watched his administration the last forty days or so with an almost morbid curiosity, which runs from incredulity to terror. I am, however, an American (adopted) and he was elected President. 

There was a collective country-wide sigh of relief after his speech before Congress on Tuesday night – or maybe because the bar had been set so low, anything different sounded "Presidential." 

Noticeably missing from his remarks was any mention of Russia and even more importantly ... no blasts at the mainstream press. 

Perhaps since most news reports gave him high marks, he might enjoy getting accolades instead having brick bats hurled at him. Maybe he’ll continue in a less bombastic manner. Broad strokes and few details were the sum of the comments about the speech. But I was heartened by his referral to looking for a bi-partisan approach to an immigration bill. 

I love comparisons and the company WalletHub.com has the most amazing set of statistics and comparisons on almost every topic for all 50 States. 

In light of recent developments in U.S. immigration policy, WalletHub’s analysts compared the economic impact of foreign-born populations in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. They determined which states benefit the most -- and least -- from immigration using 18 key indicators, ranging from “median household income of foreign-born population” to “jobs generated by immigrant-owned businesses as a share of total jobs.” 

It's no surprise that California ranks first in both foreign entrepreneurs and foreign workforce. New York and New Jersey are second and third respectively. The mass deportation would have a disastrous effect on our economy as well as a social impact. 

I flipped channels after the speech to see what the right, the left and pundits in the middle had to say. Naturally, there were raves and jeers depending on who was speaking. 

Being a half glass full kind of person I've spent a considerable amount of time trying to find something to cheer about. Some of you have accused me of being naïve. One of my loudest detractors said I was "nuts.” But I prefer to live in my half bubble that says one can almost always find something good in a given situation and I think I have found something positive. 

As an electorate...we suck! Half the eligible voters in our country…don't. Many who didn’t vote were either turned off by both candidates or thought Hillary Clinton had it in the bag and didn't need their votes. Others didn't care who won since they thought their votes wouldn't change anything anyway. 

But the Trump win has managed to do something that we haven't seen in a long time: it has caused a huge number of people to suddenly become "politically active." The Town Halls being held across the country have had huge turnouts with people who seem to understand the issues that affect them. Even with all of the enthusiasm for President Barak Obama's campaign, these crowds today have a different vibe. 

So, maybe it took something like a Donald Trump to get Americans to realize that they need to participate in democratic institutions. They need to communicate with their elected representatives and yes...they need to run for office. 

This is very timely because we have a local primary election next week, which historically gets an even lower turnout. We will have a good idea at the end of next week as to whether President Trump was instrumental in getting Angelenos out to vote...or whether all the marches, sit-ins, phone calls and Town Halls were just a reaction with no follow through. 

For as long as I have been writing for CityWatch, I have pontificated on the importance of voting. Those of you who read CW are among the most knowledgeable and I'm sure almost all of you take your voting responsibility seriously. It's the rest of our collective neighbors we need to motivate. 

There are new faces on the ballot. Will they get elected? We won't know until the finals in May.   There are some offices in which the incumbent is running unopposed. Both Controller Ron Galperin and City Attorney Mike Feurer are unopposed. City Councilman Bob Blumenfield in District 3 is also unopposed. 

District 3 is almost the easiest to manage District out of the 15 Council Districts. Blumenfield shows up for lots of events and issues proclamations, but aside from potholes and traffic concerns the challenges in his District are minor in comparison to the others. He wants to get the City wired, which is admirable, but keeping such a low profile should change now that he has five and a half years left. 

Maybe, now that we have term limits, potential candidates are looking at those three offices and are preferring to wait 5 1/2 years until a given seat is open. 

Beating an incumbent is very difficult. They have the name recognition and unless there has been some kind of scandal during their terms, it’s tough to raise the money and support. Surprisingly, the Los Angeles Times did NOT endorse all the incumbents for either City Council or the Board of Education. They did endorse a prior Trustee, an incumbent and a newcomer for the Community College Board of Trustees. Their endorsement list with explanations is on their website. 

It seems like there is a lot more interest and candidate meetings than ever before. It could be the folks involved now are just noisier. 

Next week will give us a clue as to whether President Donald Trump has given any real impetus to grassroots action. Or is it just more talk? 

As always, comments welcome.

 

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

 

THE TWO FACES OF LAT--According to the Los Angeles Times editorial page, “Measure S isn't a solution to LA’s housing woes, it's a childish middle finger to City Hall.” Later, similar articles made the same and related points when the paper took the lead in opposing Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. 

Yet, the same newspaper’s investigative reporters have performed a tremendous public service by unearthing an extensive city planning pay-to-play operation at City Hall.  In what the Times called soft corruption, deep-pocketed developers make extensive contributions to elected officials in order to get their mega-projects permitted in locations where they are by barred by LA’s planning and zoning laws. Instead of telling the developers to move their projects to parcels where they are legally permitted, or to scale their projects down so they can legally build them in their preferred spots, the elected officials vote to change the planning and zoning laws for the individual lots where the mega-projects are proposed. 

Voila! Spot-zoning and spot-General Plan Amendments for those who pay-to-play. 

How can we make sense of this two-faced approach by LA’s most prominent newspaper? 

On one hand, the newspaper has totally substantiated one of the main arguments of the Yes of S campaign, City Hall pay-to-play to has become LA’s land use planning process. On the other hand, the same newspaper has repeated, nearly verbatim, the no on S campaign’s talking points. 

The easy part of my analysis – at the end of this column -- is to debunk the Times’ growing list of claims about Measure S. The harder part is to explain the paper’s two-faced approach. This is my explanation. 

For over a century, LA's land use planning process has been little more than real estate speculators calling the shots at City Hall. Los Angeles has experienced many waves of municipal reform – such as the adoption of the first zoning code in the United States in 1909 -- since the end of the 19th Century to control this type of corruption. Nevertheless, after each reform, such as the new City Charter in 2000, AB 283, and The General Plan Framework Element, City Hall methodically undermined each of them.

When Los Angeles was a new city with raw land, real estate speculation focused on housing construction. Despite occasional victories by good government forces in Los Angeles, there was never much concern about the environment, infrastructure, and public services at City Hall. Now, in 21st Century LA there is hardly any raw land left. In a famous essay from former city planning professors at USC, the end of this economically-induced low-density development model was described as "Sprawl Hits the Wall."  Their account also dovetailed with Mayor Tom Bradley’s LA 2000 – A City for the Future report, which attempted to transform Los Angeles from an unrestrained fast growth city to a controlled growth city. Both visions were then turned into an official plan, the General Plan Framework.  

Infill Development. 

But, what these scholars and civil leaders did not fully realize was that the end of raw land Los Angeles hardly meant the end of real estate speculation. The old Urban Growth Machine simply put on a new set of clothes. The same Growth Machine real estate investors turned their attention away from tract housing to infill housing, including luxury towers, McMansions, and small lots subdivisions. 

While the schemes to demolish and replace existing, affordable homes with more expensive residences do not require any spot-zones from the City Council, most new high-rise luxury apartment buildings do. They are usually tall, dense structures because of real estate economics – high profits follow high buildings. This, then, is the old Growth Machine’s new real estate model: private infill projects regardless of social consequences adopted plans and zones. 

But, even though tract housing and luxury towers look much different, their political and economic content are the same. Real estate speculators need to move fast on their projects. They lose money when they are hemmed in by planning, zoning, and the California Environmental Quality Action (CEQA) laws and regulations. Like before, they want a pliant City Hall and are willing to liberally contribute to elected officials to make sure they get it. 

If they can’t wangle this through widespread up-zoning and up-planning ordinances, such as those appended to the overturned Hollywood Community Plan, they then move on to their Plan B. They resort to pay-to-play and spot-zoning to legalize their new lucrative projects, one-by-one, in all the wrong places. 

How Measure S fits into this history. 

This is what Measure S is all about, the historic struggle in Los Angeles between good governance types who know that large cities need to be carefully planned versus commercial real estate interests bound together in the Urban Growth Machine, including boosters from local newspapers

The updated Urban Growth Machine, though, has learned a few lessons through focus groups and strong voter support in Los Angeles for two affordable housing initiatives, Measures JJJ and HHH. One is that they should present their old free market Reaganesque arguments about deregulation with liberal buzzwords. This is why the “no on S” campaign frames their case around affordable housing, jobs, and transit. It also explains why they claim that spot-zoning and spot-planning is necessary to build affordable housing (it isn’t). It also accounts for their claim that the strong planning and zoning championed by Measure S is really a clever tool of the haves to wage class struggle against the have-nots, largely racial and ethnic minorities. 

But, these election ploys are just window dressing for the hidden agenda of the real estate firms enmeshed in pay-to-play, including their partners in the press. Their priority was and still is maximizing return on their real estate investment. It is not about carefully planning cities, and this is the conundrum of the Los Angeles Times editorial board. They are caught between these competing narratives, even when one side of the argument comes from their own reporters. 

Do they side with their traditional Urban Growth Machine allies in the real estate sector, or do they side with their own reporters, as well as the advocates of good government? Will the paper continue to side with topsy-turvy real estate markets, as they have since the days of Otis Chandler, Harry Chandler, and Harrison Gray?  Or will they line-up with the solid planning and zoning that has been the best option for Los Angeles since the 1980s? 

Torn by these conflicting forces, the LA Times has taken a Solomon-like approach when it comes to Measure S. The first half of their editorial approach gives credit to their own reporting, and the second half ignores their own reporting, and parrots the talking points of the no on S campaign. In so many words the paper states, as do many no on S advocates, “Yes, LA’s City Hall is corrupt and yes, the City’s planning process is broken, but we still need pay-to-play to overcome our problems of becoming a world-class city.” 

The LA Times Editorial Board approach, though, ultimately fails. 

To pull off this two faced approach, through its own editorials, and subsequent feature stories by its own reporters and guest columnists, the Times simply became a megaphone for the no on S campaign. Since these talking points are well known, I have selected the most prominent ones to debunk. 

“Measure S would enact a permanent ban on General Plan amendments for any property less than 15 acres.” 

Really? The LAT should review their own editorials supporting the new year 2000 Los Angeles City Charter.  It is the updated City Charter that states that all General Plan Amendments must be for geographically significant areas. Measure S simply clarifies this Charter provision to mean significant areas must be 15 acres of larger, a specific plan, or a community plan.

“Because the existing city’s land-use plans are so out of date and so riddled with inconsistencies that it’s not unusual to need a zone change to build a simple apartment building in a row of existing apartment buildings.” 

Really? The Times’ own reporter’s summary of Measure S notes that commercial zones in Los Angeles permit the by-right construction of apartment buildings. The only impediment in some cases is Proposition U, and this is routinely avoided through density bonuses. They do not require a City Council-spot zone or spot-plan amendment. This is why Measure S is not a barrier to the construction of apartment buildings, other than high-rise luxury towers located in areas with low-rise planning and zoning.

“Measure S would worsen the housing shortage.” 

Really? No argument that Measure S could hinder the construction of luxury apartments in low-rise areas because in these locations the building permits depend on spot-zoning. But this luxury housing market is totally disconnected from the middle income and low income housing in short-supply. Any developer who wants to build for these markets has massive pent-up demand, many by-right building sites, and lenders around the world interested in the Los Angeles real estate market. Measure S does not stand in the way of any of this since the only barrier is, essentially, self-imposed. Affordable housing has such low profit margins that developers avoid it. No change in local zoning laws will be able to change this basic feature of real estate economics, the need to make a profit. 

The measure would do nothing to create more affordable housing or to protect existing affordable housing.” 

Really? Measure S requires that all land use decisions be consistent with the General Plan: “5) Require the City to make findings of General Plan consistency for planning amendments, project approvals and permit decisions.” This legal finding alone has the power to pull the rug out from underneath many types of speculative real estate leading to displacement, especially McMansions, Small Lot Subdivision, some mid-rise projects built through the demolition of older structures and the evictions of their tenants. For example the General Plan Framework’s Policy 4.3 is clearly one criteria that can and should be used to slow down gentrification and displacement, “Objective 4.3: Conserve the scale and character of residential neighborhoods.”

Furthermore, LA’s Community Plans, all part of the General Plan, contain anti-displacement policies, such as Policy 1.4-2 from the Wilshire Community Plan. It could easily be used as a finding to block gentrification, “Ensure that new housing opportunities minimize displacement of residents. Program: Decision-makers should adopt displacement findings in any decision relating to the construction of new housing.” 

Measure S will make it nearly impossible to convert a parking lot, a defunct public building or a strip mall into housing.” 

Really? Strip malls are built on commercially zoned lots, which allow by-right apartment buildings. As for public buildings and parking lots, it depends on the underlying zoning, but Los Angeles has no shortage of parcels on which apartments, both market-rate and affordable, can be built. In fact, the General Plan Framework Element concluded that Los Angeles has sufficient commercially zone land (which include apartment buildings) for all 21st century growth scenarios: The Plan's capacity for growth considerably exceeds any realistic market requirements for the future. For example, there is sufficient capacity for retail and office commercial uses for over 100 years even at optimistic, pre-recession, market growth rates.”  

Building on underused sites is the best way to create more housing without displacing existing residents. 

Really? LA Open Acres has created a searchable map of thousands of vacant lots in Los Angeles, including 3000 in South Los Angeles. Per the Times preference, most are suitable for residential construction without displacement, and Measure S does not affect them. But, since the year 2000 Los Angeles has lost 20,000 rest stabilized units, as well as many more affordable units, through demolitions and evictions. 

This is the dysfunctional city planning status quo that no on Measure S protects. In contrast, a Yes on S vote allows the city to slow down dislocation and gentrification through findings of inconsistency with the General Plan, as discussed above. 

In addition, Measure S would make it harder to address homelessness. Just three months ago, LA voters passed Measure HHH to build 10,000 units of low-income and permanent supportive housing for the homeless

Really? Measure S supporters also strongly supported Measure HHH. This is because the City of LA already owns thousands of parcels where affordable housing can be constructed by-right. It does not need to use private parcels or city-owned sites where the zoning does not allow residential. This is why the City of LA, which has had a program to use city-owned sites for housing since 1988, has never bothered to change the zoning or plan designations of sites not zoned for residential uses.

Don’t hold hostage badly needed housing with this overly broad ballot measure. 

Really? An updated General Plan can identify where in LA there is the greatest need for middle income and low-income housing. It can also determine where there is sufficient infrastructure and services capacity for increased housing, as well as which parts of the city have the greatest amount of zoning suitable for residential development. This information, especially if coupled with housing programs like HHH or a restoration of Federal and CRA housing programs, can address LA’s housing crisis. It is a much better model than the status quo, which almost entirely depends on the ups and downs of private real estate investors to provide a barely detectable trickle of affordable housing. 

Final words. 

In light of LA’s history, we know that a Measure S election victory will not be a permanent defeat for the Urban Growth Machine, but it will be a serious set back. Nevertheless, it will try to slowly worm its way back into City Hall with backdoor pay-to-play for spot-zones. Supporters of strong planning must, therefore, be vigilant. 

We also know that an election defeat of Measure S will quickly lead to backsliding over City Council promises to quickly update the General Plan, refuse campaign contributions from real estate investors, and improve Environmental Impact Reports. 

But, we also know that the process that Mayor Tom Bradley began in the late 1980’s to turn LA into a planned city will only grow. This is because Los Angeles’ future will become a dystopian world like Blade Runner if market forces continue to substitute for a strong, adhered to General Plan. 

As a result, either by choice or by urban implosion, an infill-focused Urban Growth Machine will lead to LA’s demise. The city will then have no choice but to fully embrace a planned future.

 

(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.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LOOK AND LISTEN-Unfortunately, it appears we’re off to a red-flag-riddled start with Prop HHH. The first implementation meeting took place on February 17th, though you wouldn’t know it unless – well, actually, there is no “unless.” There was simply no reasonable way for any Angeleno to have found out about it. 

No worries. We’ll just listen to the audio recording of the meeting ... except that … 

The following brief letter is real and is reprinted here verbatim: 

Mr. Preven - earlier today you asked about audio recordings for both the COC [Civilian’s Oversight Committee] and AOC [Administrative Oversight Committee] meetings for Prop HHH. 

I followed up with staff and it is our intention, similar to all of our other bond oversight Committees, to record all of these meetings. However, there was a technical problem at the COC meeting last Friday and so we do not have an audio recording for that meeting. Tomorrow's meeting will be recorded assuming no problems with the equipment.  

We do not currently post audio recordings of any bond oversight meetings and do not currently have plans to begin doing so. We can and do provide them to the public when asked. 

Sincerely, [name redacted]

Assistant City Administrative Officer 

We’ll take that as …“Yes, I didn’t mean what I just wrote and of course we’ll post every audio recording immediately, so that the public doesn’t rise up and roar the Mayor and the rest of us out of City Hall and half way to Kingdom come.” 

Thank goodness that four out of the seven Citizens Oversight Committee members for HHH were appointed by the Mayor! With a straight shooter like Garcetti calling the shots, the public’s sure to get a good deal. Better yet, the other three Committee members were appointed by the not-at-all-compliant City Council. With that body’s integrity in the mix, the future couldn’t be brighter, right? 

Are you sitting down? One of the Mayor’s appointees for the Citizens Oversight Committee is former CAO Miguel Santana. Last we saw him he was receiving a commendatory resolution and a lionizing farewell. (By the way, he said that everyone can get in free to the County Fair  if they give him a jingle. We’ll keep that under our hats and not tell the people whose livelihoods depend on ticket sales.) 

But Miguel is back and although he has worked for the Mayor since forever, he’s turned over a new leaf during the past the six weeks and is now ready to do some 100% independent oversight.  

Here’s an idea; let’s lose the nascent obfuscations and secretiveness, and get this billion dollar operation off to a non-fishy start. Let’s make it so that an everyday resident can find an agenda or any notice of these oversight meetings without hiring a private detective. Trust and verify.  

And about that audio equipment? We know a great guy downtown. 

(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.

ELECTION WATCH--One of the most competitive Los Angeles City Council contests that voters could decide next week pits the incumbent against two challengers – one with a large campaign war chest to leverage. (Photo above: Jesse Creed, Mark Herd, Paul Koretz, candidates for LA’s CD5)

Councilmember Paul Koretz is running for his third term representing District 5. Covering communities like Bel Air, Encino, Hollywood and Westwood, the district is among the wealthiest and well-educated among the council's 15 represented areas.

Koretz' challengers are Mark Herd, who has been active in several community groups and is the founder of the Westwood Neighborhood Council, and attorney Jesse Creed.

Among the challengers in the eight City Council contests on Tuesday's primary election ballot, Creed is the top campaign fundraiser, with the exception of one candidate running for the open District 7 seat in the San Fernando Valley.

Creed has collected about $298,800 in contributions, as of the latest filling deadline, but is trailing incumbent Koretz who has about $440,300 in contributions. Both Koretz and Creed also accepted public matching funds. Herd has not reported any fundraising.  

Creed claims he's gained significant local support by walking the district's neighborhoods. He said he has spent three to five hours a day since December knocking on doors.

"Our donation base comes from individuals, people with a pulse, not PACs, corporations or LLCs. And it comes from people who live in and around the city," he said.  

Koretz points toward accomplishments like helping to save the Century Plaza Hotel, boosting code enforcements and his work on environmental issues. He is well-known as an advocate for animal rights and worked to outlaw declawing cats and puppy mills in Los Angeles.

For his next term, Koretz said he'll be able to get more done for constituents thanks to funding improvements, a reference to improved city revenues since the recession. 

"We'll trim more trees, but we've been doing that already. We'll fix more streets, but we've been doing that already. We have money committed to fix sidewalks and we'll do that more aggressively," he said.

Creed promises he will only be beholden to voters and he's taken a pledge not to accept any money from developers or lobbyists. 

"I will be an independent voice for the neighborhoods, for residents, for the basic issues that people care about on a day-to-day basis," he said.

Koretz dismisses Creed's charges that the incumbent is beholden to developers. Koretz took heat for his handling of the developer Rick Caruso's high-rise residential building project located across from the Beverly Center. 

The Los Angeles Times reported that Koretz received $2,200 in donations from Caruso. After the story ran, Koretz removed his support for the project, and then ultimately restored his support after Caruso lowered the project's height by 55 feet.

Koretz told KPCC "it didn't turn out perfectly." He said he'd intended to remove his support for the project all along unless it was shortened, but was motivated to act faster when the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association held a press conference to voice strong opposition to the project.

"At the end of the day, I think it was the right compromise," Koretz said. 

He called Creed's campaign "the most shockingly negative" that he's ever seen. 

"Every developer in town knows I've been their worst enemy," Koretz said. "The idea that contributions have made me any less independent, I think, is absurd."

Despite the Caruso project controversy, Koretz was among five incumbent City Council members endorsed by the Los Angeles Times. The newspaper praised him for caring "deeply about his district and his constituents" and for making himself available to them. 

On the other hand, the Los Angeles Daily News endorsed Creed, noting his work as an advocate for homeless veterans and what it described as his broad knowledge of district issues.

Koretz also has the backing of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, and several politicians like Mayor Eric Garcetti.

If no candidate reaches the majority threshold of 50 percent of voter support plus one vote in the primary, then the top two vote-getters will move on to the general election on May 16.

Voters who are still undecided on the District 5 race can check out KPCC's candidate survey, which features the candidates' backgrounds and answers to campaign questions. 

(This analysis was posted originally at KPCC radio.

-cw

NEW GEOGRAPHY--The cracks in the 50-year-old Oroville Dam, and the massive spillage and massive evacuations that followed, shed light on the true legacy of Jerry Brown. The governor, most recently in Newsweek, has cast himself as both the Subcomandante Zero of the anti-Trump resistance and savior of the planet. But when Brown finally departs Sacramento next year, he will be leaving behind a state that is in danger of falling apart both physically and socially.

Jerry Brown’s California suffers the nation’s highest housing prices, largest percentage of people in or near poverty of any state and an exodus of middle-income, middle-aged people. Job growth is increasingly concentrated in low-wage sectors. By contrast, Brown’s father, Pat, notes his biographer, Ethan Rarick, helped make the 20th century “The California Century,” with our state providing “the template of American life.” There was then an “American Dream” across the nation, but here we called it the “California Dream.” His son is driving a stake through the heart of that very California Dream.

California crumbling

Nothing so illustrates the gap between the two Browns than infrastructure spending. Oroville Dam’s delayed maintenance, coupled with a lack of major new water storage facilities to serve a growing population, reflects a pattern of neglect. Just this year alone, the massive water losses at Oroville Dam and other storage overflows have almost certainly offset a significant portion of the hard-won drought water savings achieved by our state’s cities. A sensible state policy would have stored more water from before the drought, and would now be maximizing the current bounty.

Once a national and global leader in infrastructure, according to a report last year by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, California now spends the least percentage of its state budget on infrastructure of any state. In the critical Sacramento-San Francisco Delta, an ancient levee and dike system is decaying, and ever more stringent environmental regulations limit key state and federal water facility operations. To be sure, Brown has supported a “water fix” — a dual tunnel through the Delta — to address some of these problems, but his efforts have only produced a mountain of paper, rather than real-world improvements. In terms of preparing for the future, California’s current penchant for endless studies and environmental hand-wringing is fostering pre-Katrina Louisiana conditions, rather than the forward-looking capital investments previously the state’s hallmark.

Remarkably, this year’s water system fiasco could have been prevented if Brown had actually heeded his own climate change rhetoric, which anticipates that more rain and less snow will fall in the state. But his climate change obsession failed to spark any rush to modernize or expand water storage to capture the potentially increased rainfall. There has not been a major new dam or reservoir constructed since the first “Moonbeam” era — in large part, due to environmental opposition and Sacramento’s disinterest in basic state services.

You don’t have to be a hard-core climate activist to see the need to expand our storage capacity. Contrary to the prevailing media narrative, droughts and floods have been repeated throughout our history. Back in 1861, it rained for 54 days, flooding much of state and creating lakes in the Central Valley. Yet, Brown, and his immediate predecessors, have not chosen not to invest in this critical infrastructure, leaving us with an aging set of water resources that date, like the Oroville Dam, from the 1960s or earlier.

Nor is the water infrastructure alone in terms of neglect. California’s roads are among the worst maintained in the country. The Los Angeles area has the worst road conditions of all major metropolitan areas, followed closely by the Bay Area. But fixing roads is hardly a Brown priority, given that the state wants to put us all on a “road diet.” Instead, we are faced with the mounting costs for a high-speed choo choo that Brown wants to leave us as his legacy, but solves none of California’s basic transportation problems. Despite paying billions in gas taxes and other levies that are supposed to maintain roads, Californians, as the San Francisco Chronicle recently suggested, will be required to pay new, more regressive taxes if they want fewer potholes and sound bridges.

The wages of narcissism — and opportunism

Brown’s recent pronunciamentos suggest we will have ever more extreme climate policies, including virtual bans on all greenfield housing, and regulations covering everything from how houses are built to cow farts. Sadly, all this will have no real effect on the global climate, given California’s relatively small footprint; the shift of people, jobs and productive industries to other, less temperate states like Texas all but wipes out whatever might be gained from the state’s increasingly extreme greenhouse gas limitations.

Brown’s actions seem rooted in a desire to present himself as the savior of the planet. Yet, while he postures, Brown is leaving a legacy not of salvation, but rather of devastation — at least for everyone but a handful of tech oligarchs and the state’s pensioners. His successors must cope with voter ire over such mundane things as ever more crowded roads, a perennial shortage of secure water supplies and cascading prices for everything from electricity to housing. These realities, not the praise heaped on Brown from the media, will constitute the essence of his legacy.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of New Geography … where this analysis was first posted. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. He lives in Orange County, CA.)

-cw

 

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Donald J. Trump and Co. have occupied the Oval Office for over a third of his first 100 days or edging toward 1,000  hours, give or take a few trips to Mar A Lago. Thirty-eight days have passed since Women’s Marches were held across the planet. 

To date, social media feeds are still primarily occupied by political posts, to the chagrin of those who long for the days of “cute puppies and grandmas” (this from an actual Facebook post I read a couple of weeks ago!) 

Since that first Tuesday in November, many of us have experienced disappointment leading to fear and anxiety. I’ve described the slew of executive orders and statements as brush fires we’re working to extinguish all over the yard while hosing down the house to protect it from going up in flames. 

So what can we do next? Can we survive this pace for another three years, ten and a half months? 

This past week, I co-hosted a Huddle event, a follow up effort in coordination with The Sister March Network. I attended a Town Hall hosted by Assemblyman Matt Dababneh (D-Encino) in the Van Nuys State Building atrium. Rep. Dababneh, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) fielded questions from a standing-room only crowd of constituents. Over the weekend, I also joined a group of Santa Monica and westside residents at the first Bake & Gather event coordinated by baker/restaurateur Zoe Nathan and colleagues. Lines snaked around a park and pastries sold out for the first time within the first hour as participants jammed twenty dollar bills into jars to raise money for the ACLU and Public Counsel. 

I spoke with and listened to participants at all these events. Here’s my takeaway. As much as we need to formulate concrete plans to address what’s going on in Washington, D.C., we also need to gather to heal. It’s far too easy to slip into hopelessness and despair. Knowing we are not alone goes a long way toward being able to address and even survive the days of this administration. 

During the election cycle, I joined a number of private Facebook groups that either supported Hillary Clinton or opposed Trump, as much to share information and grievances as to help me to process what was happening. During the final days before the election, we questioned what would happen should these groups disband. As a reaction to the outcome, many of the groups are still active but the focus has shifted to resistance, as well as commiserating and venting. 

Since the election, and certainly since January 20, we have seen the rise of many groups in response to Trump’s executive orders, cabinet picks, and presidency in general. The shift has attracted many who were previously not engaged in the process but who are fully embracing their new roles as activists. Throughout the country, hundreds of people attend town hall meetings, a far greater number than in years past. I’ve heard from friends who attended town hall meetings in red states where the constituents in attendance were plentiful, infuriated and anxious, just like us in blue states. In fact, more than a few members of Congress have refused to participate in town hall meetings because they don’t want to face the rage and questions of their constituents. 

Throughout the country, people are sharing to-do lists to contact representatives and address numerous issues and pending legislation. People are continuing to gather for marches, meetings, and to plan the next steps at every turn. They are mobilizing to turn around seats in the midterm elections. Others are contemplating running for local offices. 

This administration is a bit like a dysfunctional or unhappy marriage. Venting and commiserating certainly have value for getting through each day in response to all the landmines -- but taking the next step is equally, if not more, crucial. Complain, express disapproval, find like-minded people for peace of mind but also take steps to move forward

To find a Huddle group in your neighborhood, visit www.womensmarch.com/100/action2/.
Join the next Bake & Gather March 11, 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.

 

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

@THE GUSS REPORT-An article I wrote last year cautioned that when speaking with politicians, and those surrounding them, one should “listen closely, because what they say matters; their evasion matters more; and their evasion while speaking matters most.”

Today’s column starts innocently at a community meeting in Hollywood a few weeks ago when a woman named Del Richardson offered money to the residents of 12 rent-stabilized addresses on Yucca Avenue and Vista del Mar Avenue to persuade them to move elsewhere so developers could use their landlord’s property for more lucrative purposes. (Photo above: Del Richardson, blue dress; Councilman Price, white jacket.)

What Richardson and her company, Del Richardson Associates (DRA), were in the habit of not offering is this tidbit of information: according to media sources, she is married to Curren DeMille Price, Jr., the Los Angeles City Councilmember who happens to be on the city’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee. (DRA which has been in business for decades does not appear to have a website, or at least not one that is currently functioning.)

When the locals confronted Richardson (who is listed as “Del Richardson Price” on the Councilmember’s Wikipedia page and elsewhere) about that relationship, and whether she was offering fair market money to vacate their units, she begrudgingly admitted that she is married to Price but claimed that she had no conflict of interest. Still, it is believed that she left or was removed from the project days after the disclosure.

In order to determine how long Price and Richardson have been married, a search of public records shows that Price was, indeed, married…to Lynn Suzette Price, his first wife, and that he twice filed for divorce from her in the Los Angeles court system, with neither effort finalized. Mr. Price’s second such effort to obtain that divorce tells a curious story, to say the least.

In 2012, Mr. Price tried to persuade the LA court to grant him a divorce hearing because, he claimed, he was unable to locate Lynn, and he wanted to serve notice on her via a paid announcement in a newspaper. But the court staff directed Mr. Price to ascertain from the post office whether Lynn used a change of address form, and to explore serving her at that address, if one was provided.

The case file shows no further activity in that divorce pursuit…because Mr. Price knew quite well where Lynn was living and working.

Lynn Price is an attorney practicing in Trenton, New Jersey. It says so on her website, and in various bar associations to which she has belonged since 2003, after receiving her law degree from Southwestern University. Her physical address, an active phone number and email address are all readily available.

Price knew all along where to serve his wife with divorce papers – had he wanted to.

Instead of having a New Jersey process server go to Lynn’s office address, Mr. Price’s SoCal process server swore to the court in a misdated 2012 document that no response was ever received to the two letters mailed to her Trenton office address.

No one can know why the process server or Mr. Price misled the court in declaring under penalty of perjury that Lynn could not be located, though his not wanting to split assets with his first wife that he currently co-owns with his second wife is a prevailing thought. Mr. Price is no amateur when it comes to serving legal papers. According to his biography, he earned a law degree from the University of Santa Clara. But according to the California Bar Association, he never received a license to practice law in California.

In addition to there being no record of a divorce between Mr. Price and his first wife in Los Angeles courts, court clerks in Sacramento, Houston, Trenton and Washington, D.C. (i.e. places where either or both were known to have lived prior to Price marrying Richardson) indicate there is no such divorce record in those locations either.

Lynn Price did not respond to several voicemail messages requesting comment on the status of her marriage to Mr. Price. Del Richardson, for weeks, did not respond to questions about her real estate dealings. And Mr. Price similarly dodged questions about either subject.

Until last week.

That’s when the LA Times endorsed Jorge Nuño, Price’s young Latino challenger for his CD9 seat on the LA City Council, a community which is quickly transitioning from largely African-American to predominantly Latino.

Within minutes of my publicly pointing out Nuño’s rise, I received coordinated emails – within minutes of each other – from Del Richardson and Price’s media relations person, Angelina Valencia.

Richardson declared, “I conduct all my business with honesty and integrity in a fair, ethical and forthright manner, and in compliance with laws and regulations.”

But this 2004 LAUSD audit concluded that Richardson’s firm overbilled the school district by $83,128 for unauthorized charges. The audit recommended that the amount should be recovered from DRA, or deducted from its future invoices. It is unclear whether Richardson’s excess fees were ever repaid, or if any of her other government contracts are under audit.

Moreover, while Richardson stated that there was “public disclosure of my business interests in the Councilmember’s ‘Form 700,’ economic interest statement,” there was no such mention of it in Price’s 2012 Ethics Commission Form 700, when he was a candidate for LA City Council. He only made that disclosure in subsequent years, when he already had the job.

The huge financial increase between Mr. Price’s 2012 and 2013 economic interest disclosures are the likeliest reason why he wanted a divorce from his first wife without serving her directly.

So if the LAUSD could not rely on Richardson’s financial figures, it comes as no surprise that the residents of rent-stabilized apartments were no less concerned that she dealt fairly with them, either.

And finally, there were the emails from Angelina Valencia, Mr. Price’s Communications Director, who, when asked when and where Price divorced his first wife, wrote back, I am currently running your request by the City Attorney's Office. I will have a response for you shortly.”

Why would the City Attorney’s office have knowledge of, let alone anything to say about, when, where – and whether – Mr. Price divorced his first wife? Ms. Valencia has yet to reply.

More on the Councilmember’s connubial chaos soon.

(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--It is a serious chore to keep up with the deceptive claims about Measure S. Today I heard that it would cause rents to increase because of supply and demand, while yesterday I heard just the opposite. Supposedly Measure S will block the construction of luxury housing (partially true), and it therefore reduces the amount of affordable housing because of supply and demand. (Graphic above: Caruso luxury development on Burton Way, Los Angeles.) 

Only one of these contradictory claims could possibly be true, even though as a city planner, I think they are both false.   This is why. Rents for luxury apartments, like Caruso Affiliated's at 8150 Burton Way and 333 S. LaCienega, are not connected to middle class and affordable housing markets. 

In response to Caruso's projects, charging average rents of $12,000 per month, nearby landlords are not going to move their rents either up or down. They will continue to impose the three percent annual rent increases allowed through LA’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance. And, because of vacancy decontrol, they will attempt to rent-out newly vacated units at slightly higher prices. Finally, when given the right combination of carrots and sticks, some landlords will sell out to the likes of the Wiseman Company

As the new owner, they will evict the tenants they inherited and then demolish the small apartment building they just bought. All of this takes place in a universe separate from the luxury apartments that sprout up down the street through City Council spot-zoning ordinances. 

Anyone, including opponents of Measure S, who truly wants to maintain affordable apartments and houses, needs to first stop the dislocation caused by urban infill, whether for luxury mega-projects, medium-rise apartment buildings, Small Lot Subdivisions, or McMansions. They then need to toughen up LA's Rent Stabilization Ordinance to eliminate automatic rent increases and vacancy decontrol. 

Beyond those defensive steps, if they want to increase the supply of affordable housing, they need to campaign for the restoration of all the slashed HUD public housing programs and the local Community Redevelopment Agency. 

“Law” of supply and demand: But what about the miraculous law of supply and demand that can simultaneously cause rents to increase and affordable housing units to appear from thin air? This assumed feature of capitalism actually plays little role in LA’s housing market for one obvious reason.   Supply and demand only works within capitalism's one true iron law, profit maximization. 

Maximizing profit is the purpose of all capitalist ventures and investment decisions. As a result, no one buys or sells things for long – including real estate -- when they are not making sufficient profit, regardless of surplus supply or unmet demand.   

If you look at housing in LA, there is a massive unmet demand for middle income and affordable housing, even when thousands of foreclosed properties sit empty. There are also vast piles of underperforming capital available for housing construction, as well as ample building sites for new market and affordable apartment buildings. How so? Because all commercially zoned property in Los Angeles can be used for by-right apartment houses.  While it is true that Proposition U limits the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) on some commercial lots, the subsequent Density Bonus Ordinance allows developers to dodge this restriction by including 10 or 20 percent affordable housing in their projects.

So given available capital, potential building sites, and enormous demand, why is there is so little construction of market and affordable housing in LA? As far as I know, no Los Angeles developers are choosing to meet this pent-up demand for affordable housing by building low-priced housing, even though it would immediately fill up or sell.  They can't make enough money at it, so they don't do it.  They need subsidies, and these subsidies have totally dried up through the elimination of Federal housing programs and the dissolution of the Community Redevelopment Agency.

Nevertheless, some anti-Measure S true believers maintain -- without a shred of evidence -- that the construction of luxury housing increases the supply of affordable housing. Through CityWatch I have repeatedly asked them where in Los Angeles one can find these new affordable units. So far no one has given me an addresses or told me about a neighborhood where this affordable housing can be found. If some reader knows its location, please speak up. 

Until I learn otherwise, my explanation is simple. There is no area in Los Angeles where new luxury housing causes the price of older housing to go down. Even when there is a glut of luxury housing, such as Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), the price of non-luxury housing stays fixed or also slowly rises, as part of broad market trends.  At best, the landlords of the luxury housing repond to high vacancy rates with offers of free parking or a month of free rent. That is as far as they go, which is many thousands of dollars away from affordability.   

Filtering: The anti-S diehards also argue that new luxury housing eventually filters down to become affordable housing, although it takes 25 years.  I have therefore asked them where in Los Angeles one can find affordable housing that was built as luxury housing in 1992 or earlier.  If it actually exists, it is such a well-kept secret that even those who make these claims do not identify these hidden locations. They are as mum as could be, so if they know, they, too, need to finally speak up.

Domino Theory: Another new anti-Measure S supply and demand argument is a domino theory.  It argues that a new tenant of luxury housing frees up a lower priced unit, and this cascades through the entire housing market, creating affordable housing at the lowest ends.   

But, quite frankly this is just a quack theory contrived by the anti-S campaign.  There are no facts and studies whatsoever to back up this newly minted domino theory.  There is simply no evidence that the construction of luxury housing triggers a chain reaction that methodically generates low priced housing at another location.   

If this were the case, Hollywood should have lots of new affordable housing, but reality is just the opposite. Affordable housing, including rent-stabilized apartments, has largely disappeared in Hollywood. The supply of low priced units and the low-income people who lived in them have plummeted, alongside the construction of new luxury housing.   

Part of the reason is the demolition of affordable housing, about 20,000 units, since 2000, as well as broad increases in rents that have displaced the poor.  They have no choice but to double up, live in cars, live on the streets, live in garages and warehouses, or move to far-flung regions like Palmdale. 

It is time for Angelinos to get real and stop believing in the fairly tales dreamed up by the no on S campaign. The only housing bans in L.A. are the end of affordable housing programs funded by the Federal government and the CRA, as well as the profit-based business model of developers. The supposed law of supply and demand will never substitute for these programs, which is one more reason Angelinos should vote for Measure S.

 

(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.)

-cw

SKID ROW POLITICS-LA City Council will soon decide whether to activate or delay online voting for the upcoming Skid Row Neighborhood Council (SRNC) subdivision vote. 

With so many underlying factors, one thing is definitely for sure, this decision will greatly influence the outcome of this grassroots, community-led effort. 

Skid Row has thousands of homeless residents without access to computers which greatly limits their participation in online voting. On the other hand, potential opponents of a Skid Row NC are more likely to have access to computers, cell phones, wi-fi tablets and other online options with electronic voting capability. 

City Council voted in June, 2016 to temporarily delay online voting, mostly because of the significantly-flawed Studio City Neighborhood Council online voting process. (It should be noted that the online voting option in NC elections was a brand-new pilot project for 2016 NC elections.) 

Initially it was thought that there was plenty of time to correct those flaws prior to the 2018 NC elections. 

But suddenly, it became apparent that the 2017 neighborhood council subdivision elections would also be included within the previously established timeframe for corrective online voting. (There are two communities vying to become newly-formed NC’s -- Skid Row in Downtown and Hermon in Northeast LA.) 

The City’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) reported to City Council in January, 2017 stating they would be able to meet City Council deadlines and encouraged the re-instatement of online voting. (DONE was also hoping to receive over $340,000 in funding for the pilot program’s corrections.) 

While it is unclear if City Council is willing to allocate the requested amount of money, there’s another problem: City Council isn’t close to reaching it’s final decision, mostly due to its legal obligation to give the new system a test-run prior to a final vote, also known as, “due diligence.” 

What’s even more problematic is the fast-approaching subdivision election dates which have already been selected by the City: April 6 for Skid Row and April 8 for Hermon. These subdivision elections are less than 40 days away. 

Is that really enough time to allow for adequate outreach to all potential voters? 

The Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation Committee says “No!” 

As SRNC-FC Chair, I have officially filed a letter with the City Clerk’s office this week supporting the City Council motion to suspend NC online voting and also extend the delay beyond the upcoming subdivision vote, which is scheduled to happen only a little more than a month from now. 

Council File 15-1022 (S)(2), moved by Councilmember Krekorian and seconded by Council President Wesson, was originally filed in June, 2016 shortly after the April, 2016 Studio City NC elections which had online voting woes that included widespread failure to safely secure the personal data of voters. Also, DONE’s January, 2017 report to City Council included an admission that “voters were reluctant to upload sensitive documents to complete voter registration online.” 

Furthermore, Skid Row NC-FC’s letter to extend the delay includes the following points of contention: 

“With said SRNC-FC subdivision election vote being arguably the most important vote in the history of our Skid Row community…our outreach efforts are severely compromised as long as the status of online voting remains pending, which thereby prohibits any type of realistic implementation of outreach strategies to ensure as high voter turnout as possible.” 

Another point seemingly laid the groundwork for “possible civil litigation.” 

Not only should the Skid Row NC-FC do outreach to potential voters within the Downtown Los Angeles NC boundaries (whom they seek to subdivide from,) they also need to reach out to potential voters within the Historic Cultural NC (because the HCNC boundaries overlap with the “natural boundaries” Skid Row NC-FC applied for.) 

This thereby means that the maximum outreach campaign area where the Skid Row NC-FC has to “shake hands and kiss babies” spreads all across Downtown, from areas around Dodger Stadium over to the 10 freeway (north and south) and from the LA River to just past the 110 freeway near Good Samaritan Hospital in City West (east and west.) 

And this has to be done in a little more than 30 days? 

How can this be a fair and square democratic process? 

The only solution that makes sense is for City Council to further delay the online voting option for the unusually-close subdivision elections and instruct DONE to instead have the online voting option comfortably ready for the NC elections in 2018. 

And after researching California State Law, Election Code 19217 clearly speaks to this matter in a way that our City Council should heed: 

Section 19217 - A voting system shall comply with all of the following: (6041) 

(a) No voting system or part of a voting system shall be connected to the Internet at any time. (6042) 

(b) No voting system or part of a voting system shall electronically receive or transmit election data through an exterior communication network, including the public telephone system, when the communication originates from or terminates at a polling place, satellite location, or counting center. (6043) 

(c) No voting system or part of a voting system shall receive or transmit wireless communications or wireless data transfers. (6044) 

Also: 

Section 19210 - The governing board may adopt for use at elections any kind of voting system, any combination of voting systems, any combination of a voting system and paper ballots, provided that the use of the voting system or systems involved has been approved by the Secretary of State...  

It is quite apparent that no correspondence and/or determination by the Secretary of State can be located anywhere in Council File 15-1022(S)(2) regarding online voting in neighborhood council subdivision elections. 

The Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation Committee has laid out its case. Now, it’s all on City Council to decide!

 

(General Jeff is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles. Jeff’s views are his own.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ENVIRONMENT POLITICS-Lately there's been a lot of talk about reforming the California Environmental Quality Act, also known as CEQA. A number of people, many of them developers and politicians, have been speaking out against CEQA, saying that it's basically a tool used by rabid NIMBYs to stifle development. On the other side there are community groups who see the law as their only protection against projects that destroy their neighborhoods. 

But before I go on, let's do a little review. CEQA was enacted by the California state legislature in 1970. This landmark law was the result of a growing awareness that we had been way too reckless in the way we treated the environment. Across the U.S., cities were choking on toxic air and there were a number of horror stories about polluted water. The Federal government enacted the National Environmental Policy Act in 1969, and the following year California went even further by adopting CEQA. This was not the result of a coup backed by a few whiny tree-huggers. There was broad support from citizens concerned about levels of air and water pollution. A nasty oil spill in Santa Barbara in 1969, which dumped 200,000 gallons of crude into the ocean, helped make the case for immediate action. 

That was over 40 years ago. These days it seems like the folks at City Hall and the Department of City Planning (DCP) consider CEQA nothing more than a useless impediment. But they aren't going to wait around for someone to try and reform the law. They've decided it's easier to just ignore it. 

You think I'm kidding? The environmental review process in LA has become a joke. The DCP thinks nothing of adopting incomplete and inaccurate environmental documents. Citizens show up at hearings to point out the numerous problems with these assessments. City officials listen politely and then go ahead and approve the project. They know the only way anybody can stop them is by filing a lawsuit, and there are very few people who have the resources to do that. So the City routinely flouts the law, knowing that they have a damn good chance of getting away with it. 

Let me give you a few examples... 

One of the most mind-boggling experiences I've had in recent years was the City Planning Commission (CPC) hearing on the proposed Tommie Hotel at 6516 Selma in Hollywood (ENV-2016-4313-MND). This project should have warranted a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR), but the DCP chose to do a less rigorous Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND). The developer wants to build an 8-story hotel that includes bar/lounges on the ground floor and the rooftop, while also offering live entertainment. During the hearing the project reps talked about how this would be a great addition to Hollywood nightlife, but I kept wondering why the MND didn't mention Selma Avenue Elementary School in the section titled Surrounding Land Uses. The authors list the Capitol Records building and the Palladium, both about half a mile away, but neglect to mention an elementary school that's less than 500 feet away. 

I was wondering if the Commissioners knew about the school, so I made sure to bring it up during public comment. Didn't even faze them. The prospect of building a party hotel offering liquor and live entertainment less than 500 feet from an elementary school apparently doesn't worry them at all. They did not mention the school once during the entire hearing. 

This kind of thing isn’t unusual. Environmental assessments approved by the City routinely downplay or exclude information that might cause problems for the developer. Just take a look at the MND for the Ivar Gardens project (ENV-2015-2895-MND), a 21-story hotel to be built at Sunset and Cahuenga. This is one of the most congested areas in Hollywood, and driving through it during evening rush hour can be a grueling ordeal. But you’d never know that looking at the MND. The consultants who did the traffic assessment studied six intersections, and found that all but one operates at Level of Service A during PM rush hour, which means that traffic is flowing freely. 

But anyone who’s travelled through this neighborhood after working hours knows that traffic northbound on Cahuenga and eastbound on Sunset often slows to a crawl. A number of people who spoke at the CPC hearing on the project pointed out how bad congestion already was in the area, and said a 21-story hotel would make things even worse. Did that stop the Commissioners from adopting the MND? Of course not. After some squabbling over community benefits, they voted to give it the green light. 

The Mayor and the City Council do a lot of grandstanding about the environment, and to listen to them talk you’d think they were making LA the cleanest, greenest city on the planet. But their actions tell a different story. Greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are a huge concern these days, since the vast majority of climate scientists agree that they cause global warming. CEQA requires an assessment of a proposed project’s GHG impacts, but the documents approved by the City often play fast and loose with the numbers. In assessing CO2 emissions for Ivar Gardens, the MND says the “project net total” will be 1,921 metric tons per year (MTY). But if you look at the numbers carefully, you’ll see that the real total is 3,102 MTY. The first number actually represents the INCREASE in CO2 emissions caused by the project. 

The scary thing is, this isn't the exception, it's the norm. At a time when we should be doing everything we can to stave off global warming, the DCP routinely approves environmental assessments that play games with the numbers to downplay GHG emissions. Take a look at the Draft EIR for the Wyvernwood redevelopment project (ENV-2008-2141-EIR), which would have tripled the size of an existing multi-family complex. Most developments these days incorporate some measures to reduce GHG emissions, and the law allows developers to make a case for their project based on what reductions they'll achieve compared to standard development practices, or a "business-as-usual" project. In the Wyvernwood EIR, the authors argued that the project would produce 30% to 31% less GHG emissions than a business-as-usual project. They come to the conclusion that, "...the project would not have a significant impact on the environment due to its GHG emissions." 

What the authors don't mention is that the new development would actually MORE THAN DOUBLE the GHGs produced by the existing multi-family complex. There's no question that the proposed redevelopment of the site would have a significant impact on the environment. But the City doesn't challenge these bogus assessments, and in fact, the DCP does everything it can to push them through as quickly as possible. 

A number of Boyle Heights community groups were staunchly opposed to the project, citing issues including displacement, loss of open space and historic preservation. After years of protests, Councilmember Jose Huizar finally listened to the community and announced that he opposed the project, which seems to have scuttled it. Still, there are those in Boyle Heights who fear it could be revived. 

But to my mind, the most outrageous example of City Hall's absolute contempt for CEQA is the EIR for the Southern California International Gateway.  The proposed SCIG involved the construction of a huge new rail facility for handling containerized cargo from the Port of Los Angeles. 

From the outset, it was clear to the surrounding communities that the project would have severe negative impacts on air quality. Citizens groups protested that the SCIG would be detrimental to the health of nearby residential communities, which included schools and a veterans housing facility. In fact, the project was so toxic that the opposition grew to include the City of Long Beach, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). 

Apparently unconcerned about the possibility of long-term health impacts to surrounding communities, the LA City Council approved the SCIG. Numerous plaintiffs took the City to court and, no surprise, they won. The judge who heard the case found that the EIR failed to address the project's impacts, not only in terms of air quality, but also in its analysis of noise and traffic. So we have to ask, why did City Hall ignore the pleas of so many people who obviously knew what they were talking about? Why did City Hall turn a deaf ear to the City of Long Beach, the SCAQMD and the NRDC? And ultimately, why does City Hall care so little about the health and safety of the people of Los Angeles? 

You may view CEQA as a law crafted to protect the environment that all of us live in. That's not how City Hall sees it. In their view it's nothing more than a roadblock. And how do they deal with it? They step on the accelerator, bust right through, and keep on driving as if nothing happened.

 

(Casey Maddren is a native Angeleno, and currently serves as president of United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (www.un4la.com). He also blogs about the city at The Horizon and the Skyline.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

GUEST WORDS--Standing stiffly in overly-starched police blues it was obvious, even before he admitted so himself, that Officer Sean Dinse wished he wasn’t addressing the congregation of the Community Church in Woodland Hills, California. 

But, in the tremulous wake of President Donald Trump’s xenophobic and terrifyingly aggressive immigration policies, Officer Dinse said it was important as a matter of both public and police safety for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to “put the word out” that local police do not – and they will not – enforce federal immigration laws. Dinse said that beginning in January the department began reaching out to religious and other community-based organizations to schedule speaking engagements where they could communicate this message directly to the people.    

Stressing the difference between LAPD and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Dinse said: “We are all human. We have to respect the law. But we also have to respect people who are just trying to survive.”  

Notably, over fifty-six years earlier, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached a similar message of unity and inclusion at Woodland Hills Community Church (photo left). Invited to Southern California by a persistent white pastor named Fred Doty who revered King and wouldn’t let the extremely busy and over-extended civil rights leader refuse, King addressed the congregation on his birthday, on January 15, 1961, saying: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself … You are commanded to do that. That is the breadth of life.” 

Asked whether Trump’s immigration policies were going to make police work harder, Officer Dinse squinted, looked down at his boots, and sighed. Standing even more uncomfortably ramrod straight than before, Dinse said: “It’s inevitable that people are going to be scared of us now.” 

Dinse explained that whereas before Trump took office, LAPD could count on citizens and even “gangsters” to willingly come forward with information about neighborhood crime – information critical to effective law enforcement – he believed fear, paranoia, and the downright panic engendered by Trump’s hastily executed executive orders on immigration would soon change all that. Dinse wryly observed that, after all, that was why he was there at a church on a Sunday, on official police duty, in the first place. “We can’t control what ICE and the federal government does,” Dinse said, but “we do want people in Los Angeles to know that the LAPD will treat people as humans. And we will not separate ourselves from [our] community.”            

Asked whether President Trump’s immigration policies would make his work less safe because undocumented people may, in desperation, flee police contact and act more volatile – even violent – in an effort to escape deportation, Dinse unhesitatingly opined: “I can guarantee you that we will see an increase in [police] pursuits.” 

Shaking his head in disbelief, Dinse related in a halting and pained fashion how recently a rumor had spread along Sherman Way (a bustling neighborhood thoroughfare lined with strip malls and heavily patronized by Latinos) that a mounted LAPD unit on routine patrol was really ICE coming to round everyone up. Projecting a genuine and deeply felt sadness, Officer Dinse remarked how the people had fled the area in fear until the street was completely barren. Dolefully ending this account, Dinse stared down again at his big black boots and his eyes widened as if he was seeing them for the first time; he said it was impossible not to draw parallels to the reaction of Jews fleeing Nazi patrols during World War II. 

After Officer Dinse finished speaking we thanked him profusely for his address, for his honesty and most of all, for his service. Then both the congregants and Officer Dinse left the sanctuary of the church, none of us feeling any safer.   

 

(Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers … including CityWatch … in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California. Follow him on Twitter@SteveCooperEsq)

-cw

TINSELTOWN POLITICS--In Hollywood, nerds have always held a soft spot for ridicule. Tinseltown has a history of movies making fun of geeks, and there’s even an entertaining list of film titles that reveled in nerd glory.

Rarely, though, have they made it to the Oscars. On Sunday, they did – and this revenge of the nerds has possibly put the Academy Awards at the same laughable low spot that was once the unenviable cellar of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and its Golden Globes awards.

Those nerds behind the most humiliating flub in the almost nine decades of Oscar history are the geeks from PricewaterhouseCoopers, the London-based accounting multinational that has handled the balloting process at the Academy Awards for years.

They are the geeks who are responsible for the monumental error at the 89th Academy Awards Sunday night when Hollywood legends Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty mistakenly announced the Oscar for best film had been won by fan favorite “La La Land,” instead of low-budget outlier “Moonlight.”

The morning after the Oscars it’s likely most people who watched the show or had attended in person had even viewed the award-winning film “Moonlight,” but they probably had seen news or online video and pictures of the Dolby Theatre onstage uproar -- and possibly of the pair of PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants identified with the goof.

It wasn’t as if PricewaterhouseCoopers geeks had sought to avoid the limelight before the Oscars, and they certainly couldn’t avoid it afterwards.

The fancy bean-counters behind the incredible goof include Brian Cullinan, a PricewaterhouseCoopers partner who possibly has been doing this Oscars job too long. His biography on the PricewaterhouseCoopers website describes him as a Matt Damon lookalike. Seriously? In his dreams, is this Cornell Ivy Leaguer a Jason Borne wannabe as well?

His Oscar show PricewaterhouseCoopers teammate since 2015 has been Martha Ruiz, a tax partner in the company’s entertainment, media and communications practice. For the Oscars she wore a beautiful red gown that outshone some of the bad choices of a few presenters. Tax deductible as well, no doubt.

And make no mistake, Cullinan and Ruiz obviously see themselves as more than mere accountants and more than just  book keepers to the stars. Think of it. They attended the annual Oscar nominee luncheon, rubbed shoulders with the world’s biggest movie stars and basked in the glory of Hollywood believing themselves to be more than just privileged tourists.

They were also themselves the stars of a promotional video on the PricewaterhouseCoopers website, and they likely did more interviews leading up to the Oscars than any accountants since those who testified against Capone.

The pair even boasted their own Twitter accounts on which Cullinan Sunday tweeted photos of himself with Oscar winning composer/singer John Legend and his wife, model and actress Chrissy Teigen.

The tweets, however, stopped after the Oscar disaster, and by Monday morning, news reports had made more mention of the names Brian Cullinan  and Martha Ruiz than of most Academy Awards winners.

And The London Sun headlined a story: “Is Brian Cullinan the man who caused the most epic blunder in Oscar’s history?” There were also numerous photos showing Cullinan and Ruiz taking heat, including one where the caption read: “Brian was seen getting a stern talking to by Warren Beatty as he was told of the error.”

In the moments after the worldwide telecast that showed the onstage bewilderment over how this could have happened, the flub that could be called the revenge of nerds Cullinan and Ruiz have brought them more attention than they probably ever thought they would get. Gone were the days of anonymity. Here were the days of notoriety.

As the Oscars show was ending, it quickly became apparent that Dunaway and Beatty had been given the wrong red envelope by the team of nerds from PricewaterhouseCoopers whose only real job at that moment had been to hand them the correct name of the winner.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the star struck Cullinan was seen tweeting backstage just minutes before giving the wrong envelope to Best Picture presenter Warren Beatty — and then tried to cover up that he had been posting on the social media site.

 

Cullinan tweeted “Best Actress Emma Stone backstage! #PWC” along with a photo of the Oscar-winning actress at 9:05 p.m. Pacific time — about three minutes before Beatty and Dunaway walked on stage to present the award for best picture.

"Mr. Cullinan gave Mr. Beatty the envelope that was supposed to contain the name of the best-picture winner, people close to the production said,” the Journal reported. "In reality, however, Mr. Beatty was given a duplicate copy of the envelope containing Ms. Stone’s name as best actress. As a result, Ms. Dunaway mistakenly named 'La La Land,' in which Ms. Stone starred, as best picture.”

 

Cullinan later deleted the tweet, but the Journal reported having seen copies of it.

Soon PricewaterhouseCoopers issued a heart-felt apology, promising to investigate how this had happened. EnvelopeGate, some were calling it. Maybe Cullinan and Ruiz weren’t really at fault. If so, our apologies. The producers and cast of “Moonlight” are examples of how to graciously handle terrible mistakes.

But how do you roll back the flub? How do you give the correct winners of “Moonlight” the brief minutes to deservingly bask in their well-earned Oscar glory and make their emotional speeches that they were denied giving before a U.S. audience of 32.9 million and tens of millions more worldwide?

You don’t. How do you write that off?

The Oscars now have an accounting nightmare you once could only imagine in the movies.

(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).

-cw

GELFAND’S WORLD--It was a hollow ball about a foot across, the surface built up out of rivulets of glass. Through the glass channels, light itself moved up, as if it were plant tendrils photographed in slow motion, themselves splitting off into multiple pathways and different shades. We could have been looking at an artistic rendition of the human brain, or a variation on a prop in a science fiction film. 

There is a problem with trying to describe what you see in the Museum of Neon Art using words. There are amazing glass sculptures, but they are more than sculptures because they contain moving parts. But the moving parts are the light that is produced by passing electromagnetic waves through a gas or a plasma. Like I said, you kind of have to be there to really get it. The sculpture described is by Bernd Weinmayer and can be caught at the current show at MONA's new site on Brand Blvd in Glendale. 

by Ed KirshnerAt the show, I met Ed Kirshner of Oakland, California (photo left). He is not just a pioneer in the technology of this art form, he is an engaging teacher who began to explain to me some of the craft (and the physics) of working with plasma. Here, we are using the word plasma to refer to the substance that results when electrons and atomic nuclei are knocked away from each other by electricity or heat energy. What results is the aurora borealis, or the surface of the sun. Plasmas can also exist right here on earth, within a glass sculpture that has been filled with the right gas (or gasses) at the right concentration. When electromagnetic energy is applied to the gas, plasma is created. The effect of this process is to generate light. But in the sculptures we are talking about, the light isn't monolithic like in the fluorescent light hanging over your sink. It spins and crackles and writhes its way up and around. It is almost literally lightning in a bottle. 

If this sounds like something out of a 1930s era monster film like Frankenstein, or a silent era classic like Metropolis, it's not mere coincidence. The lightning in a bottle effect was used by early filmmakers to represent something futuristic. It helped to have a mad scientist wringing his hands and muttering in a vaguely eastern European accent. 

In MONA's new show, the work of Wayne Strattman (Designing the Improbable) has a distinctly Fritz Lang sense to it. In fact, one of his light sculptures is frankly robotic, and based on Lang's film Metropolis

Other works by other artists went from the delicate to the naturalistic, or played on Day of the Dead themes that would be directly understood by southern Californians. 

Mundy Hepburn's work Hummingbird drew a lot of attention as an abstraction based on a natural form. Hepburn is related to the late actress of the same last name, but explained (curiously enough) that this was his first visit to Los Angeles. 

Candice Gawne is familiar to San Pedro folks based on her undersea images which have been shown at the Loft gallery quite a few times. 

The show included a performance by Susan Rawcliffe, who works in clay but is also a musician. She played a glass didgeridoo which itself featured a plasma effect. I have to say I know I'm not in Kansas anymore when I can write a sentence like that last one. 

Michael Flechtner was walking around wearing a portable neon sculpture of a camera. He does interesting work [www.flektro.com] including doing the first U.S. postage stamp of a neon sculpture. 

In conversations with the artists, it became apparent that this was more than just a show, as it was also an attempt to bring together some of the foremost practitioners of the art in order for them to discuss the practical aspects of gas sculpture with each other. As Ed Kirshner explained to me, there is a lot of this craft that isn't actually written down in textbook form. I suspect that a record of this meeting would be of interest to art historians half a century from now. 

There is one more point worth making here. In earlier days, neon signs were thought of as just one more bit of the commercial environment -- if not total schlock, then merely plebeian. They were the signs on highway 99 and Route 66 that you could see from a long distance away on a dark night, telling you whether a motel was open or closed. The word neon itself suggested something garish. We even have cultural jokes about part of a sign going dark, like the play titled Hot L Baltimore, or the even older joke about the time that the letter C burned out on the big Sinclair sign. 

But to borrow from critic Walter Kerr, the great art that we recognize in the present came out of the commercial entertainment of its time, whether it was Shakespeare or Casablanca. Likewise, there were a lot of schlocky neon signs in their day, just as there were a lot of Elizabethan plays that we don't remember. But what survives from an earlier era of signage includes some elegant paintings in light. It took a long while for intellectuals to recognize the art in cinema. Perhaps the same evolution will occur for neon. 

MONA is dedicated to preserving and celebrating that commercial work that rises to the level of art while simultaneously featuring modern gas sculptures that are conceived and constructed purely as works of art.

 

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

-cw

ALPERN AT LARGE--Some of us obsess about President Trump.  Some of us obsess about the Oscars.  And then some of us focus mainly on the day-to-day challenges of our jobs, families and neighborhoods ... which is one of the main reasons we should know when government has OUR backs because they demand their own political and fiscal loyal from US. 

Well, let's give credit (both favorable and unfavorable) where it's due.  It's only fair, right? 

My last CityWatch article was supportive of Metro, yet complained about travel time and safety/security problems.  Metro DOES listen, and hence it's out of support that I point out their problems ... because they DO strive to do better for their taxpaying, farepaying constituents. 

So imagine my surprise when--on the same day I submitted my last article--it was announced by Metro that both delays/travel time and increasing security were to be addressed for the Metro Blue Line. 

In other words, Metro "gets it".  Operations and quality of "the ride" means something to them. A speedier and safer ride makes for better ridership, of course.  So Metro won't be turning a blind eye lest its ridership plunge more now that gasoline prices are overall lower (and the economy is doing sufficiently better to allow riders a choice between traffic and Metro). 

Bigger-ticket items includes grade separation of its light rail lines, and/or signal prioritization, but for now the option of more trains and careful operations at the shared portion of the Blue and Expo Lines is do-able, and do-able right now. 

Similarly, the use of multiple police forces to replace the LA Sheriff's Department (using the LAPD and Long Beach Police Department) is long overdue.  The creeps need to be limit-set (and they are very much present), and the law-abiding and vulnerable need to be protected. 

It's delightful when government listens! 

Yet it's awful when government does not listen, or actually preys upon the general population that begs for honest representation. 

Case in point #1:  

So many efforts on the part of the City Council to provide lip service to those grassroots Angelenos forming a small army to pass Measure S begs the question:  if we hadn't finally howled for Downtown and the Planning Politburo to obey the laws on development, zoning, and the environment, would they ever have done it on their own? 

Case in point #2: 

The Los Angeles Times editorial board can "piss off" because they've overseen a diminution of the economic growth of the City of Los Angeles while favoring overdevelopment and law-breaking to the detriment of all law-abiding, compromising, and civic-minded Angelenos who were open-minded ... but not OK with being abused.   

And the LA Times editorial board (not so much its reporters, who work hard to reach out to the citizenry), with its contemptuous approach towards those who are wanting the City to obey its laws, should be ignored on its merciless attacks on those promoting Measure S.   

The Times has for too long been an offshoot of bad-behaving government and they've earned the right to have the rest of us vote "opposite to what the Times says". 

Worsening this is the role that Sacramento has played in promoting overdevelopment no matter what law-breaking is needed to do that environmentally-harmful activity.   

No water?  No problem.  No infrastructure?  No problem.  No fiscal oversight?  No problem.

Build, dammit, build! 

And if cities and counties want to be sustainable and live within their means with respect to growth, infrastructure, environmental sustainability, etc.?  Well along come childish jackasses like Assemblyman Miguel Santiago to make it harder for slow-growth measures

And gone are the days when Governor Jerry Brown gave a damn about the environment and the law. 

Gutting CEQA and Coastal Act protections just to promote development...sure.   

Attacking those volunteers who are promoting Measure S just to save the livability of LA for its residents ... sure.  Way to go, Guv!  Are you "progressively" losing your soul or just out of touch with those of us still in tune with ... the law? 

So let's give credit to Metro and any other branch of government that listens, and cares, and works for the people.  As for those who collectively hurt us?   

Well, you'll get your own credit, too--but not the kind that you'd probably like.  But hey ... you've earned it.

 

(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.) 

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SPECIAL TO CITYWATCH--A storm is brewing in the City of Los Angeles. Despite clear direction by the Los Angeles City Council to move the City along a path to 100% clean renewable energy, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is moving forward plans to dump money into  new and  costly fossil fueled power plants.   LADWP’s insistence on these power plants also puts it at odds with Mayor Garcetti, on the need to address climate changing emissions--and appoints all of the members of LADWPs Board of Commissioners. 

This fight comes during a time of renewed scrutiny of how we meet our energy needs across the state. Recently, a Los Angeles Times investigation found that “Californians are paying billions for power they don’t need.”    The story is an important look at why California’s energy regulators keep approving new natural gas power plants even though it is clear that California “has a big--and growing—glut of power.”  I am confident that I don’t need to label the following as a spoiler alert: the answer is a poorly designed deregulation scheme adopted in 1996, combined with poor regulatory oversight, and utility company self-interest that exploits the system to maximize its profits. 

DWP faces a much deeper problem than self-interested profit maximization: intransigence.  The DWP is fighting for its own very expensive glut of natural gas power.   It has proposed to spend $2.2 billion by 2029 on rebuilding natural gas power plants, not because it needs the energy, but because, it seems, it cannot envision an energy system for the 21st century.   

LADWP is anchored to the past—the energy vision of its founding more than100 years ago when giant, centralized fossil fuel power plants churned out electricity (and pollution) to the sprawling city. 

While visionary in 1916, when DWP started delivering electricity, it’s anachronistic today.  Electricity today—and, importantly, tomorrow—is clean and distributed; centralized power plants are solar, wind, and geothermal supported by battery storage for when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.   

Further, energy generation isn’t only centralized fossil fueled power plants, it’s on roof tops and in garages with resilient micro-grids and interactive communication networks between users and generators of energy. 

Instead of embracing the future of energy, the DWP staff is trying to push through power plants even though it has plenty of capacity to generate electricity that is needed to meet the City’s energy needs.  The record peak demand for DWP was in 2014, when it reached 6,396 MW.  DWP has 7,880 MWs of capacity—that’s nearly 20% more than the City has ever used.   

Also, the City’s energy use is declining because of increases in energy efficiency over time. The DWP forecasts the trend will continue with at least a 2% decline over the next 5 years—and that decline doesn’t acknowledge the increasing levels of rooftop solar, or expanding energy efficiency, or demand response programs. And you know what else? The power plant units that DWP insists upon rebuilding don’t run very often.  One ran at about 44% of its capacity in 2015.  The others ran between about 2% and 24%.   

Look, facts are facts—even today.  And in the LADWP’s massive 596 page energy plan, it never provides a clear answer to the obvious question: why do you need to sink all this money into these power plants?  

We asked DWP to provide data to support its claim that this massive investment in these fossil fueled power plants is needed.  To date, DWP has not provided that data. Instead, they say the new units will use less ocean water than the current units and make the truly shocking claim that natural gas is a “bridge fuel.” Not only do neither of those responses have anything to do with meeting the City’s energy needs, it’s also as if the DWP has slept through both the Aliso Canyon gas release disaster and the revolutionary advances in battery storage technology.   

For example, last year Southern California Edison decided to build a massive battery plant in Long Beach to eliminate a natural gas peaker power plant—and use less ocean water.  A “bridge” to the future?  More like an anchor to the past.   

The next step DWP should take is quite small, really.  DWP staff is requesting approval from its Board of Commissioners to sink an estimated $630 million into rebuilding portions of the Scattergood power plant.  Last year, because those units almost never ran, they provided less than 50 MWs of energy capacity to the City. Replacing that capacity with clean energy is a project that should easily be within the reach of DWP. The Commissioners should refuse to allow the Scattergood rebuild to move forward.  The ratepayers, and breathers, of Los Angeles deserve better. 

The City Council and the Mayor have articulated a vision of a clean energy system for the City of Los Angeles.  If the staff of LA DWP won’t provide the leadership to make that vision a reality, the Board of Commissioners should. If they won’t, Mayor Garcetti must.

 

(Angela Johnson Meszaros is an Earthjustice staff attorney with the California regional office in Los Angeles)

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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.) 

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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