CAL BUZZ--Ambitious but termed-out, Kevin de Leon, the 50-year-old state Senate President, on Sunday presented himself as a tougher progressive alternative as he announced a primary challenge to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, 84, one of the nation’s most venerable, influential and well-positioned liberal Democrats.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Earlier this year, this column was first to report that LA City Councilmember Curren D. Price, Jr. is presently – and has for a long while – been married to two women simultaneously, first wife Lynn Suzette Green and second wife Del Richardson.
DEEGAN ON LA-What would you do with millions of dollars, handed to you from various City revenue sharing schemes with very little restriction or strings attached for how to spend it? All City Councilmembers face the challenge of how to manage their “discretionary funds” budgets. If you are Councilmember David Ryu (CD4), you would ask your constituents how they feel the funds should be spent, thereby mixing community empowerment with a campaign promise to get rid of what he called “slush fund” politics. He’s just published a report on how that’s been going.
CAL MATTERS-Many of the 7 million Californians with a prior arrest or conviction can likely relate to Sandra Johnson’s job hunting experience nearly a decade ago. On every employment application, she checked a box that inquired about criminal history.
THE BCK FILE--On Thursday, October 5, Hollywood was buzzing with the fallout from the New York Times story by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein had been paying off sexual harassment accusers for decades. As with Bill Cosby, Weinstein’s reputation had followed him for about as long as he’d been in the business. To date, over two dozen women have come forward with allegations including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie. Actress Rose McGowan took her rape accusations against Weinstein to Twitter, despite a no disclosure agreement.
THE PREVEN REPORT--The LA City Charter requires that when the Mayor of Los Angeles departs the state of California, he or she stops being Mayor … with the role passing to the City Council President.
FUTURE WATCH-The potassium is about to hit the water in urban planning. In other words, the waste material shall soon collide with the wind-making machine. I refer to the mixing of self-driving electric cars with Virtual Presence.
TRUTHDIG-“Refugee Roulette” is the name of the game, and it’s a sure loser for most of the increasing number of unauthorized immigrants being arrested and hauled into court by the Trump administration. They face judges whose decisions amount to a denial of equal justice.
ALPERN AT LARGE--Call it "just desserts". Call it an avoidable tragedy. Call it just part of life and/or human nature. But there was a real nightmare last Friday the 13th in the Westside, and much of it was entirely avoidable.
ANIMAL WATCH-LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette is struggling so desperately to reach the Best Friends' "no kill" goal in 2017 that she now wants increased access to donated money in two prudently restricted City Trust Funds: (1) the Animal Sterilization Fund (aka 'Spay/Neuter Fund' or 'Pet Sterilization Fund'), a special trust established to assure continuity of financial assistance for spaying/neutering pet dogs and cats owned by City residents; and (2) the Animal Welfare Trust Fund, designated to support established shelter programs and capital improvements to maintain safe and healthy conditions for LA's impounded stray, abandoned and unwanted animals.
GELFAND’S WORLD--I was standing on the bow of a sunken tug boat, looking up towards the surface about 100 feet above me, with manta rays swimming near the surface but sometimes coming closer. It seemed real, with the sort of detached feeling you get from being under the ocean. Mind you, that aura is something you get for real on scuba, but this time it was in virtual reality (VR) as demonstrated to me by Steven Xu of Vive.com.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-It’s been over a week since the Las Vegas Massacre that ended the lives of 58 people, as well as injuring almost 500 others. Since Columbine, we’ve watched coverage for far too many of these mass shootings. There are different faces attached to victims and the perpetrators. Typically, we hear about red flags. But each and every time, the display of violence sparks another gun control debate.
TALE OF TWO LA’S--Three doors from my house in Venice, a builder tore down a 1940’s bungalow and put up a two-story spec house that fills every square foot of allowable space on the lot. But when the house didn’t sell at the $4 million asking price, the builder listed it on Airbnb at $1400 a night, and now it’s the functional equivalent of a hotel, with guests coming and going and partying at all hours on the roof deck and around the pool and spa.
RANTZ AND RAVEZ-We have all heard, read and seen countless media reports about 64-year old Steven Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada and the terror, injury and death he inflicted upon thousands of people who attended the Route 91 Country Music Festival adjacent to the Mandalay Bay resort-hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
SPECIAL REPORT--In 2013, I was organizing for the startup Nextdoor, the social networking app for neighborhoods whose logo is a cute ’n chunky house. Nobody had heard of Nextdoor, and Los Angeles had only a handful of users. Four years later, Nextdoor has 10 million registered users in 160,000 neighborhoods in the U.S., Netherlands, U.K., and Germany.
ALPERN AT LARGE--I can't say "no" to gallows humor, but I can say "no" to bigots and bullies.
VOICE OF THE STATUS QUO--Progressives are gearing up to challenge Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) after the long-time senator announced this week that she will run for re-election next year.
JUST SAYIN’-Last week I wrote about the proposed "Drunk Tank" that was uncovered by West LA/ Sawtelle Neighborhood Council and the secrets and lies perpetrated on this community by the LA County Board of Supervisors.
THE COHEN COLUMN-- “When comparing criminal indictments of those serving in the executive branch of presidential administrations it's so lopsided as to be ridiculous. Yet all I ever hear is how corrupt the Democrats are. So why don't we break it down by president and the numbers.
THE KRAMER FILE--The Trump administration is continuing its mission to unravel President Obama’s legacy, this time, rolling back the ACA mandate that employer-provided health insurance policies cover birth control at no cost to women. (President Trump shakes hands with a nun from Little Sisters of the Poor.)
CAL MATTERS-It seems like a simple solution. Raise what you pay doctors for treating low-income patients, and they’ll treat more of them.
VIEW FROM THE CENTER-Platitudes, platitudes everywhere abound on guns. They're becoming as "Americlique" as apple pie. Here's a quick couple from the Right: "All they want to do is take away our guns!"
DEEGAN ON LA-One man’s lawn may be another man’s landmark. That seems to be the proposition being advanced concerning Koreatown’s Liberty Park, a large 2.5-acre swath of green separating Wilshire Boulevard from the 1967-built Beneficial Plaza building, an 11-story Late Modern office building that was set back 315 feet from the roadway to create the green open space.
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--I’m so disappointed in myself.
I really should be 100 percent supportive of the effort to establish a single-payer health system in California. Because all the best Californians are for it.
ANIMAL WATCH-PETA supporters dressed as a cat and a dog demonstrated their dismay on Oct. 3 over the failure of Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles Animal Services' General Manager Brenda Barnette to fix a phone system that continuously fails LA callers needing help for animals.
EDUCATION POLITICS--In the never-ending saga of LAUSD absurdity, last week, my wife and I received a robo- call from Superintendent Michelle King informing us that a music teacher who was not a District employee may have contaminated recorders with semen and given them to students. Any parent concerned that their child might have been affected was instructed to call their office.
NEW GEOGRAPHY--America’s seemingly unceasing culture wars are not good for business, particularly for a region like Southern California. As we see Hollywood movie stars, professional athletes and the mainstream media types line up along uniform ideological lines, a substantial portion of the American ticket and TV watching population are turning them off, sometimes taking hundreds of millions of dollars from the bottom line.
When white women are violated, America responds and the response is immediate.
GELFAND’S WORLD--We've now completed the first weekend of the San Pedro International Film Festival, aka Spiff. The fun part of a film festival, certainly this one, is the chance to see a lot of short films -- both documentaries and fictions -- by young and unknown artists. The abundance of decent quality short films raises an interesting question: In the absence of a movie theater circuit that shows these films, how does a mass audience experience them? It turns out that there are a couple of answers to this question, neither of them being entirely satisfying. There are a lot of well-made stories that deserve to be seen on the big screen by a live audience.
@THE GUSS REPORT-How soon Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu forgets about a rash of burglaries and mail thefts that he and the LAPD ignored this year, all caught on video, in the Sherman Oaks area he represents.
THE EPPERHART EXPRESS-The cover of Life magazine on August 12, 1966 featured a bullet hole in a store window caused by Charles Whitman, whom they dubbed, “The Texas Sniper.” The 25-year-old Whitman was an All-American boy who was an Eagle Scout and Marine Corps veteran. On August 1, 51 years ago, he carried a footlocker containing a shotgun, three rifles and two pistols up to the 29th floor observation deck of the University of Texas administration building in Austin and started shooting.
EASTSIDER-Back in June, I wrote an article in CityWatch about the PLUM Committee’s hearings on Airbnb called, “Airbnb and the PLUM Committee - Houston We Have a Problem.”
ALIENATING THE LEFT AND RIGHT-Our nation’s ruling tech oligarchs may be geniuses in making money through software, but they are showing themselves to be not so adept in the less quantifiable world of politics. Once the toast of the political world, the ever more economically dominant tech elite now face growing political opposition, both domestically and around the world.
EDUCATION POLITICS--When Bernie Sanders, and then Hillary Clinton, made debt-free higher education a byword of the 2016 presidential race, University of California graduates like retired Los Angeles anesthesiologist Steve Auer unexpectedly found themselves the poster children for a time when free college tuition was the norm in California, rather than the radical proposition it seems today.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-By state law every city in California must have a timely, internally consistent, regularly updated, and annually monitored General Plan. This plan must address the entire land area of a city and must include all infrastructure and services categories. It is far more comprehensive than zoning waivers for privately owned parcels, which pretty much sums up planning in Los Angeles.
ALPERN AT LARGE--In my last CityWatch article, I expressed concerns of why our city or school district wants "input" when the political leadership and bureaucracy have NO interest in actually listening or taking that "input" seriously.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Someday, I expect medical science will vindicate my belief that “thinking can physically hurt.” I arrived at this conclusion a few decades ago after I had an auto accident in which a gigantic moving van tried to plow down my little Buick on the Harbor Freeway.
CALMATTERS--There’s sometimes a fine line between good governance and trolling.
HOW MANY MORE MUST DIE-Our thoughts and prayers go out to the nearly 600 victims and their families of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history last Sunday night in Las Vegas. The mass carnage made that city into what can only be described as a war zone. But our response needs to include more than prayers and moments of silence. We need to act to prevent more mass shootings, which are now occurring at an average of more than one per day.
BELL VIEW-I have a few friends from my old neighborhood who qualify as legitimate “gun nuts.” Am I afraid these guys are going to snap and start picking people off from the roof of the Motel 6? No. But I remember being about 15-years-old at a friend of mine’s house for one of those parents-are-out-for-the-night parties. We were drinking beer, shooting pool in the basement, and – eventually – we wandered up into my friend’s parents’ bedroom and took out his dad’s 30-ought-6 hunting rifle.
BUILDING CLEAN-With California doubling and tripling down on climate change as a reality in 2017, a new bill awaiting Governor Jerry Brown’s signature could use the state’s massive purchasing power as the world’s sixth largest economy to address greenhouse gas emissions far beyond its borders.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into legislation a bill that would move the 2020 presidential primary to March 3, the change likely to become law. The most populous state with the most delegates at stake has held early June primaries from 1946 to 1994.
CALIFORNIA--On Friday, the Governor signed a package of housing bills intended to help address the soaring costs of housing in many metro areas in California. Follow-up coverage of that package has (rightly) indicated that those bills are a drop in the bucket in terms of addressing California’s housing crisis.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Why Is Los Angeles designing a Traffic System for 1895 New York City? Hardly anyone in Los Angeles is paying any attention Mayor Garcetti’s Mobility Plan 2035, and as a result, Angelenos do not realize that he is planning a transportation infrastructure appropriate for 1895 Manhattan.
DEEGAN ON LA-Several times daily you feel the splash of hot water and inhale the scent of soap as you routinely wash your hands after any number of tasks. The homeless do not have this experience, but they should, for all the usual reasons, and now with more urgency than ever since the County Department of Public Health has announced an outbreak of Hepatitis A, a potentially serious liver disease nurtured and transmitted by poor hygiene. The homeless are especially vulnerable because they do not have a ready supply of hot water and soap, something most of us take for granted but which is an unreachable luxury for them.
THE PREVEN REPORT--By now it's common knowledge in Los Angeles that Harvard-Westlake, an elite private middle and high school, is trying to erect a 750-car parking structure in the hillside residential neighborhood abutting its campus in Coldwater Canyon.
TRANSIT TALK-Call it an obsession with mobility. Chicago, Montreal, New York, Los Angeles and a drive across Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York State and Massachusetts. This month, “I’ve Been Everywhere” is the song I have been singing in my best imitation of Johnny Cash.
ALPERN AT LARGE--Whether it's taxpayer sentiment, parental sentiment, or City/State laws, the tyranny of the minority is just that--tyranny--if the voters and stakeholders are "heard" and then ignored. To paraphrase Orwell, we're all created equal, but some are more equal than others.
GENTRIFICATION FALLOUT-On a pleasantly warm afternoon, Aaron Flournoy is busy tightening the wheel on a young woman’s bicycle while three other cyclists wait nearby for his services. His mobile bike repair business, called Lil Bill’s Bike Shop, operates curbside at the busy intersection of Hoover Street and Jefferson Boulevard, directly across from an entrance to the University of Southern California campus.
ANIMAL WATCH-Two Los Angeles animal rescuers were sentenced on Friday by Superior Court Judge Shellie Samuels after each was found guilty on one count of animal abuse and two counts of negligence. LA Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette issued a media release on August 23, 2017, announcing, “LA Animal Services investigation leads to animal cruelty conviction for Lucky Puppy Rescue owners." However, the two-week jury trial for Rachel Kennedy and Sandra Vasquez actually ended on August 16.
CAL MATTERS--Just because you're paranoid, the old saying goes, doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has a big problem. The “gelatinous one,” so named because he will never give a straight answer (e.g. is LA a sanctuary city or not?) wants to run for president, but both history and his resume say it will never happen.
JUST SAYIN’-Who would disagree that politics is defined by secrets, lies and deception? Not me. At our recent West LA Neighborhood Council Meeting, County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl sent her team of damage control folks to try to justify why they never told the community they were building a drunk tank in the heart of our revitalizing commercial district.
GELFAND’S WORLD--Over the past week, numerous angry comments have appeared regarding remarks by Kevin de Leon, the state Senate President Pro Tem. Basically, de Leon insulted neighborhood council members and what we try to accomplish. In a televised interview, he said that City Council members (who he left unnamed) were secretly asking him to pass a pro-development bill that they felt they had to oppose publicly.
OBSERVER--As law enforcement officials release more information about Stephen Paddock, the suspect in the Las Vegas shooting that killed nearly 60 people and injured more than 500 Sunday night, much of the reporting on his identity has focused on the fact that he is a "local individual" and a "lone wolf"—terminology that critics say has been used to signify that Paddock was a white male, and therefore not a terrorist.
RANTZ AND RAVEZ-Respect in and for America has continued to melt away along with patriotic support for our country and flag. Did this happen suddenly? No. It has been a growing trend for many years. Attacks on the system are nothing new. They’ve just gotten worse year after year thanks to our instant media and internet communications. Is there more to come? I am sure there will be. And it will take a major incident like the tragic 911 attack to wake up the people in our country who are concerned, as well as the many lazy, disconnected others in America.
EDUCATION POLITICS--California legislators had a rare opportunity this year to make a significant improvement in the lives of millions of children at little or no cost – and they muffed it.
THE PREVEN REPORT-There's no better way to describe it: the vehemence with which Mr. Bonin reacted upon learning that our August 17 CityWatch article about his "road diet" policies ("But Councilman Bonin, You Promised!") had been posted on the Facebook page of the Palisades News, which is the Pacific Palisades' hometown newspaper.
MY TURN--Two diametrically opposite events caught my attention recently and yet they shared an underlining theme: Freedom of speech. What does the first amendment to the Constitution really mean? I'm sure the Founding Fathers (FF) saw it differently than we do today. Just like many other issues in our contemporary life we interpret differently.
BELL VIEW-So, taking a knee disrespects the flag, the anthem, the troops and the Country? But waiving the Confederate Battle flag is your heritage? The essence of taking a knee, of silent protest, is respect. Respect for yourself and respect for the object of your protest. The players taking a knee are not burning the flag; they’re not spitting on the flag. They are engaged in silent, respectful protest. Just listen to Eric Reid, the 49’ers player who took a knee with Colin Kaepernick explain why he did it:
“BEHIND THE SCENES, WINK WINK”--A firestorm erupted in LA neighborhoods this week after State Sen. Kevin de Leon (photo above an NBC press conference), the second-most powerful man in Sacramento, told KNBC that elected volunteers on LA’s Neighborhood Councils have “strangled” and “handcuffed” and issued “threats” against the Los Angeles City Council over housing development.
ENVIRONMENT POLITICS--Union members, environmental justice advocates and green transportation activists packed a meeting room Tuesday evening in Downtown Los Angeles to send a loud and clear message to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC): the city and state should make electric transportation in the city and at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports a priority.
EASTSIDER-Outside of being the former Mayor of San Francisco, and (also) formerly being married to Fox News Contributor Kimberly Guilfoyle, what do most of Southern Californians know about Gavin Newsom, who is running hard to be the next Governor of California? Not much.
GUEST COMMENTARY-Imagine the following: A candidate for elected office in California says to donors and voters that, if elected, he will innovate state services so they are as consumer-friendly and digitally-available as, say, Apple’s services. But the candidate also seeks the political support of government employees (e.g. school district and DMV employees) for whom such innovation would likely mean fewer jobs and stricter performance measures. Given that government employees are the largest contributors to political campaigns in California, what do you think the candidate, if elected, will actually do? The answer: Not innovate.
DEEGAN ON LA-Now that we’ve had two years of announcements, promises, photo-ops, budget proposals, ballot measures and votes all aimed at improving the plight of people with homelessness, have you noticed less homeless people on the streets? Or does it look like more of the same…or worse? The answer may be a little bit of both: there’s been some looks-good-on-paper progress, but not much visual progress. And since visuals track more closely with the truth, this is not very encouraging.
Let’s start with the sobering statistic that the city’s homeless count of just over 34,000 was up 20% from 2016, according to a May 30, 2017 Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Report.
If you add in the county’s numbers, the homeless population rose 23% in the year. Once a cheerleader for progress on the homeless issue, Mayor Eric Garcetti could only say, “There's no sugarcoating the bad news.” That’s a huge turnaround for a civic leader who promised from the steps of City Hall two years ago that there would be $100 million dedicated to solving the homeless crisis.
As things turned out, that was a press release, not a fact. Garcetti’s next announcement was a $138 million allocation for the homeless in his recent budget, but that also under-delivered with lots of finger-pointing as to why.
So, what are the facts? Ultimately, Bond Measure HHH providing $1.2 billion for housing the homeless was placed on the November 2016 ballot and was approved by 77% of the voters, a strong indication that people want a solution and are willing to pay for it. Property owners will pay an annual tax of around $33 per year for ten years. This will help finance the construction of 10,000 units of affordable permanent-supportive housing over the next ten years.
That’s where the paperwork part of the problem looks good -- which is a great start -- but the upstream to completion will take years. Who knows how many more homeless will appear on our streets in the meantime? Will that negate the effects of a billion-dollar housing program designed to house only 10,000 homeless people? It’s possible that this effort will become part of Los Angeles’ mythology: our version of the Greek myth of Sisyphus who was forced by the gods to roll a huge boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down over and over again each time he neared completing his never-ending task. Like him, we may be pushing the homeless rock up the hill forever. Our enviable climate and easygoing lifestyle make Los Angeles a magnet for many, including the homeless.
It’s not only about the City of Los Angeles: the homeless problem is evident in other cities like West Hollywood where plans are driven less by economics -- they show no signs of throwing lots of money at the problem -- and more by solutions provided by city government, particularly the public safety component.
Their strategies are reminiscent of how the British defeated the Spanish Armada which sent its wind-driven warships into the English Channel in 1588 to invade Britain. The British responded with smaller craft, often oar-powered for mobility, so they could maneuver around the bigger ships without relying on wind strength and direction, eventually defeating the Spanish. The moral of that war story was “be nimble.” Perhaps our WEHO neighbors have something to offer for helping the homeless. Online news source WEHOville.com had a four-part series on the homeless last week about how they are tackling the homeless problem.
The WeHo plan includes contracted-out substance abuse treatment, information sharing on outreach efforts and homeless services by the Sheriffs who attend homeless-related meetings with everyone from the Chamber of Commerce to Neighborhood Watch meetings. In addition, there are public speaking appearances by City staff members, the Mayor and Sheriff’s Captain; block captain training, including how to deal with the homeless, is provided by the Sheriff’s department. None of this required a bond issue.
Is LA “too big” to succeed at solving its homeless problem? Are we the “Spanish Armada” versus the “British Small Boats” of West Hollywood?
Adding some urgency to the problem is the announcement a few days ago by Dr. Barbara Ferrer, LA County Public Health Director, at the weekly meeting of the LA County Board of Supervisors that LA is experiencing an outbreak of Hepatitis A. Recently the same outbreak occurred in San Diego, hitting the homeless population hard; a similar outbreak was also reported in Santa Cruz.
Michael Weinstein, president of AHF (Aids Healthcare Foundation), responded, “This declaration must be followed with immediate and forceful actions: portable toilets and hand-washing stations should be deployed immediately and the City of Los Angeles should put an immediate halt to rousting homeless encampments and concentrate instead on improving overall sanitary conditions…This outbreak is a result of, and is likely to be further fueled by the deplorable living conditions of homeless populations in Los Angeles.”
So, now a potential public health hazard has been added into the mix of the overall homelessness issue. Something more tangible and immediate than the prospect of a billion-dollar housing plan over ten years reminds us that microbes, not money, may be where the attention should go. Will bleaching the sidewalks of homeless tent encampments be next? The homeless do not even have the dignity of public restrooms yet, but the looming Hepatitis A problem -- a hazard for everyone -- may accelerate the decision to provide them.
What do you think: are we on the right track for finding solutions for people with homelessness?
Please take a moment and share your opinion about these issues by taking the brief poll below and press “view” to see how your responses compare with others.
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(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.) Photo credit: WEHOville.com
Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
PROPUBLICA REPORT-California regulators said they have required Nationwide and USAA to adjust their auto insurance rates as a result of a report by ProPublica and Consumer Reports that many minority neighborhoods were paying more than white areas with the same risk.
GELFAND’S WORLD--It will be a fine spring day in the year 2023 when Los Angeles achieves earthquake survivability. That's because the owners of approximately 13,500 properties were given 7 years (starting March 3, 2016) to upgrade buildings that are the most dangerous in earthquakes. We're talking mostly about those apartment buildings in which the first level of apartments are built above garage spaces which are only held up by thin poles or other inadequate support.
THE PREVEN REPORT--It's against the law not to pay fuel excise taxes, but that’s exactly what the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office did for years, according to the LA County Auditor-Controller's January 2016 report on the "Voyager" Charge Card program. To date there’s been not a single disciplinary action taken over the matter, even though everyday residents of Los Angeles are prosecuted all the time for less serious violations of the law. The Auditor-Controller writes:
JUST ASKIN’-County Supervisor Kuehl has decided unilaterally that an alcohol center should be opened in West LA – something that both Culver City and Venice rejected for their communities.
EASTSIDER-Whatever happened to staid old CalPERS and its ho-hum “under the radar” elections? Evidently a lot. The contested election currently underway is exposing some serious fracture lines in the way they run those elections!
ALPERN AT LARGE--Whether you're Jewish or not, I wish you all a Happy, Healthy New Year. Always a time to reflect, review and restore our goals and outlook with respect our lives, our community, our nation, and our world. So much has changed, and so much remains the same...so why do I get the idea that things are about to undergo some serious Change?
VOICES--Okay, maybe it’s not so surprising that half of us drink alcohol, and the half of us that do, drink excessively.
GETTING THE NUMBERS RIGHT-How many times can a city reach four million population for the first time? I submit that Los Angeles (my birthplace), now near its fourth such celebration, is the undisputed champion, with each of the first three having not actually been reached.
THE ISENBERG FILE--"When you see something that's wrong, eventually you have to do something about it." -- Rosa Parks, quoted from Reverend Barber's book, “The Third Reconstruction.”
BELL VIEW--Yesterday, a memory popped up on my Facebook feed from eight years ago. In 2009, the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council took part in a citywide event known as "Parking Day LA." The event began in 2005 in San Francisco as an effort to draw attention to the lack of public space in major cities. Admittedly, the event is a bit precious. A bunch of hipsters get together and make a temporary “park” out of a metered parking space.
UNDERFUNDED LIABILITY-A recently completed actuarial report shows that Los Angeles County has over $25 billion in unfunded retiree healthcare liabilities — and this constitutes the greatest threat to the county’s long term fiscal sustainability. LA County’s Other Postemployment Benefit (OPEB) unfunded liability turns out to be greater than its unfunded pension liability.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Unlike many taxes, the Wall Street tax gets us taxpayers nothing in return. We do not get sewers or streets or parks or police or paramedics. Each month, millions of Angelenos cough up anywhere from $500 to $4,000 for the Wall Street tax. No one has taken the time to calculate the exact amount of it, but we know that newcomers pay a higher tax than Angelenos who are long-time residents. The Wall Street tax is the extra rent or mortgage Angelenos pay each month for housing costs over and above the fair market value. One way or another, our rent and mortgage payments end up on Wall Street.
SPECIAL REPORT—(Editor’s Note: Legal Marijuana is the fastest growing industry in the U.S. As you are aware, medical marijuana is legal in California and beginning next January, recreational marijuana will be legal in the Golden State as well. This the first of a number of CityWatch reports on the politics and business of this industry.) When Mona Zhang told her parents she wanted to leave her job to report full-time on cannabis and build up her newsletter, Word on the Tree, they were skeptical to say the least.
DEEGAN ON LA-(Editor’s note: there is a link in this article for a pop-up poll asking you to interact with this article and express your opinion. Please take a moment and join the poll after reading.) There may be some debate about new housing coming onto the market. Some say it’s not as “affordable” as they want it to be; others are disturbed that it’s compacted into higher density than we’re used to; still others -- depending on personal preferences – find some of it tasteless. But, there’s no question about this: much of it is being built as a result of tearing down the old to make way for the new.
GELFAND’S WORLD--This is intended to be an update on the status of our volunteer efforts in disaster preparedness in Los Angeles. The conclusion: We're not there. We need to get started on a public effort that will bring hundreds of thousands of people up to speed. What I find is that government professionals are concentrating on their own issues but largely ignoring the idea of a public-governmental partnership.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Did Leah Tamu Wilson (photo above), the new Executive Director of the State Bar of California, spend the first 15 years of her career dodging the Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements she is now paid $267,500 to enforce against all Active status California attorneys?
VOICES--Voters in Eastside and Northeast LA are now casting ballots in a special election for the state legislature. The neighborhoods covered by California's 51st Assembly District are overwhelmingly Democratic and progressive. Support for clean energy and opposition to fracking run high. So when the foul smell of money from Big Oil came oozing into the district's contest last week, it set off some alarms.
LEANING RIGHT--As the headlines scream "Sanctuary State!" and "California Economy Booming!", while the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles bash President Donald Trump and (admit it, Reader Friend) we're relieved to NOT live in the Hurricane Zone or Tornado Land, things may not be so Golden in the Golden State.
NEW GEOGRAPHY--When Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, followed by a strong hurricane in Florida, much of the media response indicated that the severe weather was a sign of catastrophic climate change, payback for mass suburbanization — and even a backlash by Mother Nature against the election of President Donald Trump.
LA SCHOOL REPORT--The day after a seemingly uneventful and smooth-running school board meeting that newly elected LA Unified School Board President Ref Rodriguez proudly ended at an earlier-than-usual 5 p.m., the district seemed to be shaken to its core.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Last time we discussed how Mayor Garcetti and Los Angeles City Council have imposed the horrendous Wall Street tax on Angelenos.
‘GOTTA PULL SOME LEVERS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE’--Following the Planning and Land Use workshop at the Congress of Neighborhoods led by Cindy Cleghorn, Chair of PlanCheckNC, neighborhood council members and stakeholders spoke further about development taking place in their communities. They painted similar pictures as they shared personal experiences and perspectives.
THIS MUCH I KNOW--On September 16, the California Legislature approved a bill that would create a tiered system for the state’s sex offender registry. The bill, SB-384, is expected to be signed by Governor Brown.
TURF BATTLES AND UNION AGENDAS--Senate Bill 769 was just one of dozens of measures that were effectively killed by legislative appropriations committees this month without formal votes or explanations why.
CA CLOSING IN ON SINGLE PAYER HEALTH CARE--While anticipating inevitable resistance from monied interests, it can nevertheless be accurately demonstrated that three Americans—or, rather, groups of Americans—have received the most benefits from years of national productivity, and should provide most of the initial funding.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-When it comes to justifications for big, speculative real estate projects, the big bamboozlers have no limit. But, the bigger their lies, the harder they fall. In this case their lie is the “conventional wisdom” that suburban sprawl leads to extensive driving, so therefore in-fill development reduces driving and is an important step to halt climate change.
EASTSIDER-A while ago I wrote an article on the Skid Row election, among other happenings, and promised a fuller look at their election. Well, here’s the follow up, and it isn’t pretty.
RANTZ AND RAVEZ-The donkey pulls the cart up the steep hill and over the many challenging fields carrying all sorts of items for the owner who is collecting materials for the home he is building in the mountains. Day in and day out, the loyal donkey continues to perform challenging tasks until one day he collapses and dies from exhaustion. The donkey was a loyal and obedient animal that followed the directions of his master until his untimely death.
ALPERN AT LARGE--After having just gone through a nightmarish post Labor Day two weeks with the fight over the Venice Blvd reconfiguration (loss of one car lane, and creating a protected bicycle lane, in Downtown Mar Vista, among other changes) as part of Mayor Garcetti's Great Streets Program, the good news is that the City still values Transparency. Ditto with Sincerity and Efficiency.
KILLING A CULTURE-In cities around the world, gentrification has long been a threat to culture — and Los Angeles is no exception. Just take the recent L.A. Times article on the plight of mariachis in Boyle Heights. Yet in a piece that’s clearly about gentrification, the Times doesn’t once use the word. What’s going on?
BELL VIEW--I have outrage overload. I know I’m supposed to write about issues facing the City here – but I can’t keep up with the president. From Nazis to Sherriff Joe to DACA, the outrage just keeps coming. The march in Charlottesville – which seems like a strange interlude from a distant past, for example – took place in August.
FOCUS ON THE FOOTNOTES-California pension worries most often focus on CalPERS and CalSTRS, the state’s two multi-employer behemoths. But the state has many other underfunded plans, and these city and county systems pose significant challenges for governments that contribute to them.
NEW GEOGRAPHY--California’s political leaders having ignored and even abetted our housing shortage now pretend that they will “solve it.” Don’t bet on it.
MY TURN-Last month the City of Los Angeles celebrated "Women's Equality Day" and I wondered what century I was living in? I had seen this movie before and I didn't like it the first time! The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was proposed as a means to adjust the U.S. Constitution and make gender equality a Constitutional right. It was first introduced to Congress in 1923, although it did not pass. In 1972, it passed both houses in Congress and was submitted to the states for ratification. By 1979, the deadline for ratification, it had been approved by 35 states – but that was three short of the 38 required.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Who should make the important decisions for society? Should we allow those folks who support themselves by robbing 7/11 stores to make the laws concerning armed robbery?
GELFAND’S WORLD--The twin hurricane disasters have shed light on the inadequate level of our Local disaster preparedness here in LA. Bluntly speaking, we are not ready for a major earthquake. I would like to present here an approach that could lead to public awareness and survival skills. It involves setting up a citywide volunteer communication system first, and then filling in the details which will involve offering a small amount of training to the public.
CAL MATTERS--If we – the California public – are to hold politicians and other government officials accountable, we must first know what they are doing or not doing.
DEEGAN ON CALIFORNIA- (Editor’s note: there is a link in this article for a pop up poll asking you to interact with this article and express your opinion. Please take a moment and join the poll after reading). For twenty-five years, Californians have relied on the dependability of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to fight for our state's interests and to be a significant voice in the U.S. Senate on national and international issues.
COMMON SENSE CONTINUED--In a previous article, writing about the fear of riding buses and trains in LA, I shared with readers how, in 1992, I began to ride transit in the Los Angeles region. My main concerns have been to reduce my carbon footprint locally, to reduce Los Angeles’ notorious and harmful air pollution, and globally, to help reduce the looming threats of global warming and climate change.
CONTINUING FOLLY-On September 25, 2017, Target’s opening brief is due in the Second District Court of Appeals. Sometime after that, the court will have a hearing and then several months later the court will issue another opinion. Since Judge Fruin ruled 100% against the City and Target in his April 2017 decision, the injunction on construction will not be lifted during this phase of litigation.
GUEST COMMENTARY-For the second time in two years, a state parole board panel has ruled that cold-blooded killer Leslie Van Houten should be freed.
MEMO TO: Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. From: The Golden (and Still Sovereign!) State
This is a legal proposal, but I must start with the following stipulation.
You are monsters.
ANIMAL WATCH-Finally, someone 'got it!' "It" being the shameful exploitation of LA shelter animals by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Animal Services' GM Brenda Barnette in recurring announcements that LA is near an elusive "no-kill" nirvana (the date has changed several times.)
ALPERN AT LARGE--In my last CityWatch piece, I raised the questions surrounding whether we have the Courage to truly, really, meaningfully help Labor. That means the courage to protect Dreamers, and to protect native-born Americans, and to protect the Rules, Laws, and Constitution of the United States.
FANS DESERVE BETTER THAN SPINMIESTERS--Much has been written, much of it in frustration, about the Dodgers’ recent and historic meltdown. It’s gotten to the point where some people are prepared to believe it’s a curse. It’s hard to fathom that a team which was so good this year has suddenly, inexplicably, changed course and is now “the worst team in baseball,” as Dodger third baseman Justin Turner recently said in a moment of frustration -- and refreshing honesty.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Kevin B. Taylor’s job as Senior Trial Counsel for the State Bar of California is to mete out punishment for misbehaving attorneys. He may soon find himself in a world of hurt for his own misconduct.
THE PREVEN REPORT--Just last year Herbalife was fined $200 million by the Federal Trade Commission for being a pyramid scheme—and yet this coming Saturday, September 16th, at Malibu’s Zuma Beach, thousands of participants and spectators will gather for the “Herbalife International Distance Race Triathlon.” (Photo above: 2016 Malibu Triathlon.)
CAL MATTERS--The cultural firestorm over statues, flags and other symbols of the Confederacy, ignited by a violent clash of white supremacists and their opponents in Charlottesville, Virginia, would seem far removed from California.
A LITTLE COMMON SENSE-(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series on Fear of Riding in LA.) It seems some, or maybe many, men and women are fearful of riding buses and trains. I find this quizzical and disturbing. I became a regular rider of Los Angeles mass transit in 1992, to do my part to reduce air pollution in the LA Region, the major environmental issue at the time. While I am always cautious, but I do not believe I am fearful.
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--No one can know for sure whether any of California’s four National Football League teams—the 49ers, Raiders, Rams, and Chargers—will emerge as big winners in the new season.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-In city planning circles Houston is (in)famous for its lack of zoning laws. Furthermore, Houston only adopted its first General Plan in January 2017, which means blind market forces continue to determine all of its local land use decisions. The result is that developers can and do build anything they want anywhere, and that includes areas with a long history of flooding.
GELFAND’S WORLD--The simple equation is that a garden variety hurricane passing above overly-hot seawater is what is required to create a monster storm. The transition from category 1 to category 4 or 5 can happen within hours, as we've seen twice just within the past weeks. As the average seawater temperature in the gulf rises year by year -- this is where global warming comes in -- the total number of hurricanes may not rise, but from that total, the number of hurricanes that become monsters appears to be going up.
BELL VIEW—‘When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, `I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.’-Matthew 27:24
EASTSIDER-It seems clear by now that the phrase “climate change” means that we can look forward to erratic and wide fluctuations in our weather for the foreseeable future. Witness sudden years of drought followed by equally sudden massive rain and flooding. Like we experienced recently. It’s a prescription fraught with dangers to our water supply.
STREET LEVEL REALITY-Los Angeles politicians and developers dread saying the words “gentrification” and “displacement.” In fact, Mayor Eric Garcetti rarely utters the g-word in public. It causes all kinds of political headaches, so they resort to using code words that are more palatable for public consumption.
CORRUPTION WATCH-The City of Los Angeles is losing population, but no one wants to admit it. When the City bases planning for the future on the falsehood of a rapidly increasing population, the observation that it is really losing population is unwelcome at City Hall.
ANIMAL WATCH--As firefighters continue battling largest fire in the City of Los Angeles history, hundreds of horses, dogs, cats, goats, chickens and more have been evacuated and are filling our already filled to the brim City shelters and being temporarily housed at evacuation sites such as Hanson Dam and Pierce College.
AT LENGTH-Two years ago, the City of Los Angeles woke up to the shocking realization that it had a homeless crisis after a young activist by the name of Elvis Summers started building tiny homes and giving them to homeless people. (Photo above left: LA City Councilmember Joe Buscaino with Mayor Garcetti.)
ALPERN ON LABOR--There are those of us who "Resist". There are those of us who want to "Make America Great Again". And then there are those who point to Neo-Nazis, ANTIFA, RINO's, DINO's, Globalists, and Social Justice Warriors (or a combination thereof) as the forces destroying the American Dream. But that Dream is ... what, now? And Labor's role is ... what, now?
BACKTALK---Denyse Selesnick recently authored in CityWatch an article entitled, “Fake News: My Very Own Focus Group.” In that article, she alleges that the statistics regarding the registration overages in the California voter rolls exposed by Election Integrity Project California are “fake news.” As she proceeds to explain herself, it becomes clear wherein her error lies.
LAST STRAW BETRAYAL-The Los Angeles City Council should reject a recommendation by Fred Pickel, Director of the Office of Public Accountability at the LADWP, that the city back tunnels altering water diversions South from the San Francisco Bay Delta, and should fire him for once again favoring utility over ratepayer interests, Consumer Watchdog said today.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Race and racism come with an asterisk at LA City Council, where last week it discussed whether to locally change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
LABOR DAY 2017--To many of us, September’s’ first Monday is a three-day weekend to close out the summer season with burger and hot dogs on the grill, pool parties, a last wearing of white pants. But, historically, Labor Day was created by the Labor Movement to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers.
RANTZ AND RAVEZ-It was a Saturday night in August when I went to the Westfield Topanga Mall to eat at CPK with a friend. After dinner, we strolled around and ran into a mutual friend. I love to shop and shopping for a deal is very special for my two friends and me. The three of us checked around for sales at the various stores and noticed a number of vacant storefronts. The most common sign on blacked out windows included the words, “New Retailer Coming Soon” or “We love change.... exciting partner coming soon.”
ARE YOU GOOD WITH THIS?--A new city Ethics Commission report reveals that developers continue to shell out eye-popping cash for lobbyists to influence L.A. politicians and bureaucrats. In the first quarter of 2017, seven developers landed on the city’s Top 10 list for highest paying clients of lobbyists.
EASTSIDER-I have no idea why Assembly member Raul Bocanegra (photo above) (D-AD39) continues to want to run Los Angeles from his Sacramento vantage point. Maybe he drank too much untreated water out there in the San Fernando Valley. Anyhow, now he wants the State of California to set up and run a school district right here in Los Angeles.
ALPERN AT LARGE--It bears repeating--as stated in a previous CityWatch article, the problems facing Angelenos and other Californians are mainly local/state-induced, and have nothing to do with President Donald J. Trump. Lots of Angelenos are fed up with Trump, and for good reasons, but he ain't the one telling you to shut the hell up and take it.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-My roots as a city planner go back to Seattle, where I studied city planning at the University of Washington and worked for the City of Seattle, before heading south to Los Angeles.
GAMING GRIDLOCK-Usually they work individually, but in the August 27, 2017 edition of The Daily Breeze, Joel Koktin and Wendell Cox formed a tag-team for their latest article, “The Great Transit Rip-Off.”
MIS-DIRECTION MISERY-This famous experiment helps explain why Angelenos cannot see the mass transit disaster that already is afflicting them. For those who do not already grasp my cryptic reference, click this link before reading more.
BELL VIEW-When I was just a kid, I liked Ronald Reagan. He seemed upbeat, competent, presidential. He had a sense of humor. Then, during the 1988 presidential campaign, I saw the Willie Horton Ad. It hit me like a freight train. “My god!” I thought. “These guys are racists!”
THE PREVEN REPORT--In a July 17 CityWatch piece, we cited the following response given by Mayor Eric Garcetti to a question about how he manages to balance career planning with fulfilling his current role as Mayor of Los Angeles:
@THE GUSS REPORT-My neighbors took in four tiny foster kittens last week because the LA Animal Services shelter nearest us said that they were going to be killed by 5 p.m. if they didn’t, and that there were many other animals who weren’t going to make it.
CAL MATTERS--The California Public Utilities Commission must, by its nature, straddle the fine line between providing consumers with dependable electric power, natural gas and other utility services at fair prices and protecting the financial health of the huge corporations that supply those services.
ANIMAL WATCH-On August 23, General Manager Brenda Barnette issued a media release announcing, “LA Animal Services investigation leads to animal cruelty conviction for Lucky Puppy Rescue owners.” Undoubtedly, news outlets did not rush to break this story, because the "guilty verdict" for one count of animal abuse and two counts of negligence against Rachel Kennedy and Sandra Vasquez was rendered almost a week earlier, on August 16.
DEEGAN ON LA-What do we remember…and why? That’s an intriguing question. How important are concepts like legacy and heritage? Why is #TBT (“throwback Thursdays”) embedded in our current culture? How about the term “Back in the Day?” These memes can connect us with times and places.
California's budding YIMBY movement is up for a real test. Under a new pilot program approved last week, Los Angeles County homeowners are being asked to literally open up their backyards to the homeless.
REVEALED--The silence from LA’s Democratic community on the recent death of a 26-year-old Black gay male escort in the West Hollywood apartment of 63-year-old prominent Democratic political donor Ed Buck has been astounding.
GETTING THERE FROM HERE--As outlined in my last CityWatch article, the problems facing Angelenos and other Californians are mainly local/state-induced, and have nothing to do with President Donald J. Trump.
CAPITAL & MAIN REPORT--For Mayor Eric Garcetti and the rest of the bid committee working to bring the Summer Olympics back to Southern California, the 1984 Los Angeles games are not just a beloved chapter of local history, but one to be emulated as closely as possible. With its storybook marriage of private investment and civic management, the myth of the glorious LA Olympics is alive and well at City Hall. But not everyone’s memories of the Summer of ’84 are quite so golden.
JUST ASKIN’-Once a year, volunteers from LA’s neighborhood council system get together and orchestrate an NC "Congress."
CAL MATTERS-In the main, issues that dominate any session of the California Legislature reflect what the public and news media consider at the time to be the most burning. That’s why, for instance, the state’s acute housing shortage will receive much attention during the final month of this year’s session.
EASTSIDER-Coming out of the free speech/anti-war movement of Berkeley in the 60’s, I hoped that we, as a society, had already tested the boundaries of free speech and found common ground. The deal was that you could say virtually anything you want with your mouth. Notwithstanding the fact that government and most people really don’t like free speech at all.
BELL VIEW-What is a troll? I’ve been accused of being one myself – although I never thought I fit the profile. In fact, it took me forever to admit trolls even existed. “Don’t feed the trolls,” I am often cautioned when I engage with people who disagree with me. I didn’t believe trolls were real because I was brought up in a tradition of vigorous debate. My grandfather was a lawyer and dinners at his table often erupted into shouting matches. I loved it. I couldn’t understand why anyone would have wanted dinner to be anything other than a raucous debate over the most difficult issues of the time.
GETTING THE FACTS-Recently there was a story on local NPR affiliate KPCC about how the homeless population, which disproportionately suffers from untreated mental illness, has exploded in recent years. This story was presented without ever mentioning that, during the 1960s and 1970s, the State of California consciously emptied out most of the state mental institutions of patients who knew their own names and what day of the week it was, irrespective of whether they were profoundly mentally ill and in dire need of treatment.
KPCC SPECIAL REPORT--Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — a longtime critic of big money in local politics — has set a surprising city record requesting large contributions, using a little-known and largely unregulated process called “behested payments,” KPCC has found.
GUEST WORDS—In 1950 my parents and grandmother were able to afford to buy a duplex for us to live in for $11,000 a mile north of the LaBrea tar pits here in Los Angeles. For two years I have watched the destruction of house after house in my neighborhood to build ugly McMansions selling for $4 million, and my block is a noisy construction pit to make developers rich.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS-There is a war going on in Long Beach, a war fought in the most unlikely of places: the dog park. It can be seen in the nervous sizing up of new dogs when they enter the metal gates, as their owners unlatch harnesses from bellies. It is a war often fought only with stickers, flyers and sharpened glares as pets are corralled into opposing corners of a dust-covered park. But on occasion, these hostilities bubble up into angry words that boil in the unrelenting sunlight: “Fix your dog!”
TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE--In my last CityWatch article, I reminded everyone that the need to create transportation/infrastructure for mobility, water, electricity, sewage, etc. is greater than ever … but our political polarization is getting in the way.
STAND UP AND BE COUNTED-What has regrettably become the sole motivation behind using technology to communicate with customers, is not what it should be – providing better service -- but rather to increase profit by reducing costs, which further degrades service. Corporations have as their sole raison d'etre the yearly increasing of profit (growth), no matter what the effect on their ability to fairly and morally supply goods and services to the customer.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Yesterday, I joined the ‘Alt Right is Not Alright’ March in Venice -- and knew I’d write an article about my experience. What I could not foretell was that the column I’d write would end up being quite different from what I had intended.
ANIMAL WATCH-Two LA Animal Services' Commissioners appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti propose that potential adopters should not be informed of the breed -- or apparent breed -- of dogs they consider taking home from Los Angeles city shelters.
PC POLITICS--Without going through another weedy analysis of James Damore’s firing from Google – Holman Jenkins, George Leef and Nick Gillespie have done a fine job of that – let’s just say the Silicon Valley engineer was canned for stating what most scientists and sensible people have known ever since Adam and Eve frolicked in Eden – that there are biological differences between men and women and also for suggesting that the tech giant has become an “ideological echo chamber.” So the politically correct, party line zealots at Google decided, 1984-like, to shove the thought-criminal out the door.
LOS ANGELES--Though the beating of Rodney King that sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots occurred in the Northwest Valley, the epicenter of the civil unrest that followed was South Central, a region southwest of downtown LA. In the 25 years since, South Central has proven to be a popular backdrop for movies that look at the implications of the riots: Straight Outta Compton and Menace II Society are both set in a tense post-Rodney King South Central, while documentaries including Rize and Burn Motherf*cker, Burn! focus, to some degree, on civil unrest in the area's neighborhoods. (Photo above: Gook star, writer, and director Justin Chon.)
DEEGAN ON LA-Move over Magic. Step aside CT3. Bono, go to the back of the room. All you one-name celebrities -- meet your match and more: P-22, LA's iconic Puma (also known as a Mountain Lion or Cougar), a popular “extreme survivor” who lives in the Griffith Park hills. He’s even been honored with his own official day by a Mayoral and City Council Decree -- October 22 is P-22 Day in LA.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Or is it malling? It’s both. And it’s bad.
GELFAND’S WORLD--The 2020 presidential campaign has started and the stakes couldn't be higher. How do we know that we are officially in campaign season already? One clue is that Los Angeles will be without its mayor for the next two weeks. Eric Garcetti is leaving home to campaign in New Hampshire. Ostensibly, he will be campaigning for someone else, a person who is running to be the mayor of Manchester, a town that is 2568 miles from here and has a population of 110,000 people. I guess we're supposed to believe that the choice of who gets elected mayor of Manchester is a question of major importance to the people of Los Angeles. To dust off the phrase made popular by Jim Bouton, Yeah, Sure.
JUST ASKIN’--Earlier this year the City entered into an Exclusive Franchise Trash Agreement, commonly called a Monopoly.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Trump and Nazis and Kaepernick, oh my! As deeply flawed and forever tarnished as Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson and many of their contemporaries were on the subject of slavery (Adams didn’t own slaves and was opposed to slavery, but worked to slow Abolition) they were brilliant on the five freedoms afforded us by the 1st Amendment, which are freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceful assembly and to petition the government without fear of punishment.
GETTING THERE FROM HERE--For those of us who remember the movie "The Running Man" with Dustin Hoffman, the question of "Is it safe?" still has meaning. Now it's time to ask that question about water, power, transportation, etc. There are those who want division, who are outraged, or are both ... but for the issues that USUALLY unite us (transportation/infrastructure), is it safe to raise those issues again.
MY TURN-It’s the question many of us are asking these days: what exactly is fake news? Is it news you disagree with? Or is it advertising that looks like news but isn’t -- as is the case with an “advertorial” in which an advertiser who wants to hype a new product pays for it to be written about as if it were a news story. (These types of articles should be identified as such and the Internet tries to make that distinction by calling them "sponsored.")
THE PREVEN REPORT--Just hours before releasing a YouTube video promising his constituents that he would “bring all perspectives to the table” before moving forward with any further “road diet” projects, LA City Council member Mike Bonin moved forward with another “road diet” project. Bonin introduced and got passed a motion appropriating $490,594 to expand environmental clearance work for the “Lincoln Boulevard Bridge Widening Project.”
NEW GEOGRAPHY-Images of California, particularly the southern coast, are embedded with those associated with youthfulness — surfers, actors, models, glamorous entrepreneurs. Yet, in reality, the state — and the region — are falling well behind in the growth of their youthful population, which carries significant implications for our future economic trajectory and the nature of our society.
RANTZ AND RAVEZ-I recently discussed the current living conditions in the City of Los Angeles with a 30-ish, married resident of the San Fernando Valley who works for the City of LA. He is quite upset with the current state-of-affairs here: traffic congestion, increasing crime, lack of affordable housing, the economy, the constantly expanding homeless population and a host of related topics. In addition to the direction in which the city is headed, we discussed the Mayor’s plan and vision for LA.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Driving through Skid Row, witnessing homeless encampments near luxury apartment complexes, encountering people living in their cars, hearing stories about long commutes to the Antelope Valley for cheaper housing, or reading the latest data of soaring housing prices and rents lets you know that LA is in the midst of a severe housing crisis.
EASTSIDER-As I attended the community meeting/development proposal meeting at the old Goodwill Auditorium in Lincoln Heights, it was clear that Councilmember Gil Cedillo has “learned a thing or two” from his recent, bruising, re-election Campaign for Council District 1.
BELL VIEW-The outrage comes so quickly these days. From North Korea to Nazis, all in the course of a weekend. Trump takes credit -- through the sheer audacity of his “tough talk” -- for backing Kim Jong Un off his threat to annihilate the US -- as if all the other presidents in history have just let North Korea bomb us back into the Stone Age.
PRECEDENT SETTING--A U.S. District Court this week blocked federal prosecutors from moving forward with their conspiracy case against a pair of Northern California cultivators because the duo was determined to be in compliance with Golden State medical marijuana laws.
CALIFORNIA POLITICS--When two New York baseball teams, the Dodgers and the Giants, moved west six decades ago, their ancient cross-town rivalry merged into the equally intense – and equally long – competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco for economic, cultural and, of course, political dominance of California.
EDUCATION WATCH-The Cal State system's recent decision to get rid of the requirement that as many as 25,000 incoming freshman take non-credited remedial courses in Entry Level Math (ELM) and the English Placement Test (EPT) before taking college level coursework is irrational. It defies common sense to think that students who have not mastered prerequisite grade-level standards in Math and English are able to understand college level coursework – coursework that relies on basic foundational knowledge to understand the college level classes they are now allowed to take.
GELFAND’S WORLD--I'll start with the more serious side of this story, but then we'll get into a little MTA bashing which, I assure you, they well deserve. Let's start by imagining that there is an emergency in the harbor (maybe a fire on a ship is creating toxic fumes) that would require an evacuation. There are basically three northbound streets connecting San Pedro to the rest of the city -- Pacific Ave, Gaffey, and Western. There are a couple of roads leading across the Palos Verdes peninsula to the west, but they are minor elements in the transportation network. The bulk of traffic into and out of the area is along the north-south axis.
DEEGAN ON LA-Movie mogul and studio owner Jack Warner helped to build Hollywood, a town that is now slowly being broken down like the set on one of his many movies. But it’s not movie crews who are doing post-production tear-down. It’s developers and politicos who are striking the set every time they collaborate to replace a successful expression of Hollywood architecture with their version of the sequel. Each demolition tears away at Hollywood’s history and destroys the character and fabric of Hollywood neighborhoods.
EMBRACING THE OTHER-At 3 p.m. on January 28, 2017 -- the day after Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travel to the United States by citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries -- I frantically tried to stop the departure of a plane carrying Ali Vayeghan.
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--If the apocalypse comes to California, I’ll be ready. After all, I’ve been to San Juan Bautista, which has centuries of experience with the ending of worlds. (Photo above: Scene from the Hitchcock movie Vertigo)
@THE GUSS REPORT-Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo played a Joseph McCarthy-esque Pied Piper with his 14 law-making colleagues last week in which they pondered “taking names,” as it were, of all businesses that profit from President Donald J. Trump’s proposed border wall.
SHOW UP AND SPEAK UP (AGAIN)-Mayor Garcetti's Interim CAO, Richard Llewellyn, is trying to raise land use appeal fees to discourage the average Joe from filing an appeal. This may happen at the City’s PLUM Committee meeting this coming Tuesday, August 15, 2017 at 2:30 p.m. Under our Constitution, the people have a basic right to make a complaint to, or seek the assistance of, their government, without fear of punishment or reprisals.
GUEST WORDS--As we all now know, this weekend in Charlottesville, hundreds of white supremacists gathered with torches, shouting racial, ethnic and religious epithets about Black and Jewish people, chanting Nazi slurs, waving the Confederate flag and banners emblazoned with giant swastikas. A peaceful protester was murdered. Two brave police officers lost their lives.
PERSPECTIVE-In several of my articles, I’ve characterized the City of Los Angeles’ finances as being in a state of virtual bankruptcy. Pension costs are the key drivers of the city’s unsustainable model. Growing pension costs are plugged by reducing service levels or holding them flat in the face of higher demand.
THE PREVEN REPORT--To the casual observer there was nothing remarkable about the Studio City Neighborhood Council’s (SCNC) vote last Monday to oppose Harvard-Westlake School’s “Parking, and Athletic Improvement Plan,” which involves building in the hillside abutting the school’s campus a 750-space parking structure topped with a lighted athletic field that is connected to the school by a covered pedestrian bridge arching over Coldwater Canyon Boulevard.
INFLATED EXPECTATIONS-It will soon be nine years since high-speed rail was passed in California. But Californians haven’t gotten the high-speed rail system they were promised. Instead, high-speed rail has taken a new form: something more expensive and smaller in scope that will substantially increase traffic congestion in urban areas.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-The announcement that Los Angeles will host the 2028 Olympics has lead to a highly contagious disease: Olympic Fever. It is particularly virulent among the same well-off crowd that imagines a few iconic buildings designed by celebrity architects, such as the Disney Concert Hall, the Getty Center, or yet another remodel of LACMA, will finally turn Los Angeles into a truly global city.
THE EPPERHART EXPRESS--I know a lot of people who are proud hyphenates—Italian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, and so on. Many are the children and grandchildren of immigrants. Interestingly, those of my friends who are immigrants themselves tend to self identify simply as Americans once they gain citizenship. Plain American is how I’ve always thought of myself.
EASTSIDER-CalPERS is having an election which will directly affect more than 1.5 million Californians who are part of the CalPERS system, have huge tax implications for the rest of us, and probably affect the fate of a $300 billion dollar plus institution. I am urging everyone to vote for Michael Flaherman and Margaret Brown for the Board. They are serious about addressing CalPERS’ problems, and have the right background to truly make a difference.
MY TURN-The most overused "buzz phrase" in today's communication is Fake News. We could even call it trendy or fashionable. Late Night TV uses it as a source to increase its ratings. John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, Shawn Hannity and Alex Jones and most of the others are creating their own style of fake news. No one who stays up that late would possibly think this is anything but satire.
BELL VIEW--I’ve been struggling with an issue lately. My first taste of local politics came via the Neighborhood Council system. I lived up the street from the City’s light pole storage facility. Directly across from a Carnegie Library, in the middle of one of the denser neighborhoods in Los Angeles, filled with school-age kids and renters without backyards, the East Hollywood Light Yard, as it came to be known, represented for me a lost opportunity to make the lives of the people in East Hollywood just a little better.
CORRUPTION WATCH-The normal pattern for the mafiazation of a business is that the thugs move in on an established business and by using threats, physical intimidation and murder, they force honest businessmen out of the field. The objective of organized crime is to create a situation in which it has a geographic monopoly. When you own the only trash hauling company in your part of town, people pay what you demand or your trash piles up, and up, and up.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Renting in LA is about as enjoyable as having a third job -- which many renters have, spending nearly half their monthly income on rent.
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA-President Trump claims that California allowed millions of non-citizens to cast ballots in the 2016 elections. This allegation, while totally bogus, has put California and its political leaders on the defensive. They are forced to respond as Trump and his allies use the lie to justify a new federal commission devoted to making it harder for all Americans to vote.
THE PREVEN REPORT--At 6:30pm Monday evening, the Studio City Neighborhood Council, in a unanimous vote, adopted a Resolution strongly opposing the Harvard-Westlake School’s “Parking, and Athletic Improvement Plan.” The vote comes on the eve of a Public Hearing regarding the project, which has been controversial and is anticipated to draw a large number of speakers on both sides of the issue. The hearing will take place at 9am on Tuesday, August 8th at Van Nuys City Hall, 14410 Sylvan Street, Room 201 Van Nuys, CA 91401.
SO-CALLED ‘CHANGE’ AND ‘DISPLACEMENT’-For too long, whenever City Hall politicians and developers want to approve and build another luxury-housing project, they conveniently use the excuse that Los Angeles is experiencing a “housing crisis” — it gives them political cover. But the facts point to a more specific and troubling problem, which they’d rather ignore. To borrow a phrase, LA is facing an affordable housing crisis, stupid.
ANIMAL WATCH-It appears from the lack of statistical support, that Councilman Paul Koretz and LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette were duped into believing a pet shop/puppy mill ban -- prohibiting 11 pet shops in Los Angeles from selling puppies, kittens and bunnies -- would notably impact Midwestern puppy mills (which breed an estimated 2.5 million puppies annually) and would empty City shelters.
AT LENGTH-Not much crosses the waterfront in Southern California’s twin ports that isn’t in the jurisdiction of the International Longshore Workers Union. Every kind of commodity and product, legal or not, comes here from around the world — 42 percent of all imports into the United States, to be exact. What could possibly go wrong?
@THE GUSS REPORT-As the City of Los Angeles prepares to issue costly citations for anyone whose dog is unlicensed, providing no amnesty for unpaid licenses from the past, it should issue its first citation to LA Police Commission Vice President Steve Soboroff, who pledged last year (after being shown that he was decades behind in licensing) that he paid for all dog licenses he owed – he has had 10 dogs over the past 20 years – while refusing to provide the receipts showing exactly how much he paid and for what.
CORRUPTION WATCH-We complain when we’re dissatisfied but we insist on ignoring Pogo who identified the origin of our problems: ourselves. More specifically, our refusal to think about the future allows others to plan our lives for us. Surprise! They’re choosing what is best for their pocketbooks and not what enhances our lives. Here are some things we should be discussing while the Davos Set makes their own plans for our lives.
OLYMPICS POLITICS--By the time you read this, the Los Angeles City Council may have already voted to accept the invitation to host the 2028 Summer Olympics Games.
PERSPECTIVE--The town of Loyalton, CA is a short scenic drive north of Truckee and, seemingly, a world away from the financial strain facing CalPERS. It is the equivalent of a gnat on an elephant’s back. (Photo above: Loyalton Mayor Mark Marin.)
POLITICS--As stated in my last CityWatch article, we've got a lot to do with respect to transportation, not the least which includes a rapid transit system that has both east-west and north-south lines...and a DIRECT LAX-DOWNTOWN line that is being avoided because of political correctness and downright stupidity.
THE PREVEN REPORT--What to make of George Lucas' forthcoming museum of narrative art? Recently approved by the Mayor and City Council of Los Angeles, and blessed by the County Board of Supervisors, the museum will be erected adjacent to the California Science Center, the California African American Museum and the Museum of Natural History.
EASTSIDER-When last we visited Walnut Canyon in February, the question was whether there could be a deal with Abode at Glassell Park. As we shall see in this update, so much for rationality.
DEEGAN ON LA---Predating by centuries, the existence of the Harvard-Westlake School, an institution that itself is over 100 years old, is the adjacent Coldwater Canyon mountainside they intend to invade with a new development project. It is a home and habitat for a variety of wildlife as part of the known wildlife corridor running East of the 405 through the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s also the home of a rare Oak/Walnut habitat.
The City Council’s powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee quietly approved a 34-story luxury housing tower for the Westside on Tuesday — and City Hall politicians are again giving a developer the kind of sweetheart deal that doesn’t seriously address LA’s affordable housing crisis.
THE BUTCHER SHOP … NO BONES ABOUT IT--I love Greg Nelson’s meanderings through the stories of the origins of Los Angeles’ neighborhood councils. He was a real champion for genuine participation going way back. But he was far from alone.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Some Angelenos are upset over the pay-to-play nature of Los Angeles City Hall, according to a recent article in the LA Times. They have labored under the misapprehension that if reformers spend all their time and energy limiting the money developers may give to the mayor and councilmembers, this will somehow magically fix what’s wrong at City Hall. Wrong!
THE COST OF UNION POWER-America’s public school systems are notorious for their rubber rooms. That’s where teachers deemed unfit to work in a classroom pass the time as their disciplinary actions or terminations move through the convoluted system. This can take years, and while it does, the teachers collect their full paychecks as they twiddle their thumbs. It’s a vestige of our union-dominated school system, which has so many protections (for teachers, not kids) that it’s nearly impossible to fire bad actors.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Although I have taken the Los Angeles Times to task for its coverage of local planning issues, especially when it became a mouthpiece for the no on S campaign, on Sunday, July 30, 2017, the paper got it right. So, hats off to investigative reporters Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahnizer.
AS CALIFORNIA GOES--With control of the House of Representatives up for grabs, and as many as six Republican Congressional seats in the state deemed competitive, California will once again be in the national political spotlight next fall.
PREVEN PAPERS--Here’s the message Darren Martinez, the City Attorney in charge of matters relating to the Neighborhood Council system, sent on August 1st to every Board Member of the Studio City Neighborhood Council (SCNC) in connection with what has turned out to be a postponed vote on the Harvard-Westlake School’s plans to build a multi-story parking structure across the street from their campus in Coldwater Canyon:
PREVEN PAPERS--Here’s the message Darren Martinez, the City Attorney in charge of matters relating to the Neighborhood Council system, sent this afternoon to every Board Member of the Studio City Neighborhood Council (SCNC) in connection with a vote tomorrow night on the Harvard-Westlake School’s plans to build a multi-story parking structure across the street from their campus in Coldwater Canyon:
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--Sorry, Utah.
And apologies to the rest of the West. California’s epidemic shortage of housing hasn’t just sickened our own state—by driving up prices, forcing residents into rentals and onto the street, and putting a $140 billion annual drag on the Golden State’s economy. The disease is spreading to our neighbors, too.
PERSPECTIVE--Recently I read Richard Florida's book, The New Urban Crisis. Among the critical issues he identifies is the decline of the middle class in our urban centers. What his research found was that the middle class is the smallest in the most economically vibrant places, in particular, what he defines as "superstar cities" and tech hubs. Los Angeles was identified as one of these urban areas where the middle class is the smallest.
CAP & MAIN REPORT--When I read that some right-wing agitators had gone to Cudahy to disrupt a city council meeting, I thought, “Why?” What’s the point of going to a public meeting in the second smallest city in Los Angeles County to create a nasty scene? But after reading a June Capital & Main piece by Robin Urevich, I realized these people chose Cudahy precisely because the town is small, Latino and a self-proclaimed “sanctuary city.” The hecklers have also attended other council meetings in the area.
@THE GUSS REPORT-On Wednesday, the City of Los Angeles is going to try to improve its efforts to collect dog licensing revenue by issuing citations for unlicensed dogs, a problem which would not exist if only it had a quality spay/neuter law, and enforcement of it was the #1 priority. Revenue would skyrocket and expenses would, over the course of time, plummet. But don’t hold your breath expecting logic and efficiency from government.
PROMISED TRANSPARENCY-Mayor Eric Garcetti must end the disarray and secrecy surrounding his Open Space plans for Los Angeles in light of new earthquake zone maps released last week that show areas of Palms, Brentwood, Westwood, West LA and Pacific Palisades where no new buildings can be constructed, under state law.
ANIMAL WATCH-At the LA Animal Services Commission meeting on July 25, long-time Best Friends' Animal Society volunteer Layne Dicker, new Board appointee of Mayor Eric Garcetti, submitted 17 items he wants considered for revisions to LAAS policies or practices. Sadly, not one was related to public safety or enforcement of humane laws. Most sounded like they were copied from the Best Friends' website, where Mr. Dicker has his own page, Dog Volunteer Work Leads Los Angeles Couple to Utah.
UNIONS AND CHOICE-When some people become frightened, they’ll say and do some amazingly asinine things. Utilizing that as a guide, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten (photo above) is apparently scared spitless. With Supreme Court decisions on the horizon that could eradicate forced unionism and eliminate laws that states have been using to thwart school choice, the union leader could be in for a considerable loss of money and power.
MASS TRANSIT TALK-A disturbing phrase has taken hold in the American vernacular. It needs to stop. “Thrown under the bus,” is used to describe a dishonorable act when someone has been unfairly treated, deceived, wrongly accused, sacrificed for the unjust or unethical benefit of others, rejected, denied due process, or other acts of harm and betrayal.
JUSTICE--Immigrants across the country are facing what appears to be a swelling tide of xenophobia and anti-immigration sentiment in spite of the fact that we are a nation of immigrants. Thousands risk life and limb to come to this country to seek economic stability, or in fear of their lives from gangs, cartels and/or shady government agencies. The recent tragedy in San Antonio Texas illustrates all too clearly the callous way these human beings are often treated.
GELFAND’S WORLD--As a Californian, I take it for granted that I can show up at my precinct on election day and pick up a ballot without first presenting a drop of blood, my birth certificate, or a retinal scan. It's part of that sense of freedom that politicians talk about on Memorial Day.
A HYPER-FUTURE-Since Elon Musk introduced hyperloop in 2012, several startups have been formed to commercialize the technology. Hyperloop is a 21st century approach to intercity travel in which pods fly through sealed, low pressure tubes at speeds of up to 760 mph. Although a large amount of hyperloop research is occurring in California, our state government is ignoring it while pressing ahead with a costly high-speed rail project that is based on mid-20th century technology.
MY TURN-This is kind of a segue from my last article "Not in My Back Yard" for which we received many comments. One of my more constant critics thinks I live in an alternative universe. That can be taken as a compliment because there is at least light at the end of my tunnel. His must be really gloomy!
GETTING THERE FROM HERE--Maybe some of us are so scared of lawsuits that we've forgotten how to defend the rule of law itself. Maybe some of us are so politically correct that common sense has been tossed into the dustbin of history. And maybe some of us are just friggin' morons. Yet the efforts to make LA (and, by extension, California) safe and convenient to use mass transit merit some respect for those who use it.
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES-Politics will never exist without spin doctors. Yet, as cynical as our political system has become, recent ballot measures sold to the public as "public safety" measures have gone beyond the pale. Nearly every soft on crime law enacted in the last half decade included the words "safe" or "safety" in the description. No two better examples exist than Propositions 47 and 57.
BELL VIEW--Hate. It’s everywhere these days. When Carlos Hakas overturned an immigrant street vendor’s food cart in a fit of rage over a slight inconvenience, the inevitable video went viral and the tsunami of hatred started flowing in both directions. Don’t get me wrong – Carlos is easy to hate. I’ve just burned through so much hate since November, I’m having trouble keeping the flame going. (Photo above: Hakas overturns vendor cart.)
PLATKIN ON PLANNING--In an editorial critical of the pushback against gentrification in Boyle Heights, the Los Angeles Times portrays gentrification as a result of blind economic forces that also uplift local communities.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Which is more important, data or propaganda? Answer: data…because it provides a map of reality. Then again, propaganda is important since it lets you do what you want.
EDUCATION POLITICS--While it remains politically correct to say Black and Latino students can learn, there's a little problem. Those running our still de facto segregated public education system for their own short-term personal interest and financial profit don't share this belief. Oh, they'll continue talking in platitudes about students being "life-long learners," the “100% graduation rate" and "everybody’s going to college," but the reality is drastically different. In fact, these goals represent disingenuous educational expectations for the overwhelming majority of Black and Latino students.
PERSPECTIVE--If you take Interstate 15 about two hours north from Los Angeles, heading into the high desert of San Bernardino County, you’ll reach a for-profit federal detention facility called the Adelanto Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Processing Center. The center’s named for the neighboring town of Adelanto, which means “advancement” or “progress” in Spanish, and it’s not an inappropriate title for a town founded a century ago by the inventor of the Hotpoint Electric Iron. But the name now carries a rather different set of associations due to the ICE facility’s presence there.
EASTSIDER-CalPERS recently trumpeted that they got an 11.2% return on investments this year, which should make everyone feel good about their investment portfolio, even though it was less than 1% last year, and far from hitting the 7% average rate per year that they assume.
PROPUBLICA REPORT--Last Wednesday, July 19, was something of a busy news day. There was word North Korea was making preparations for yet another provocative missile test. The Supreme Court, in its latest ruling in the controversial travel ban case, said that people from the six largely Muslim countries covered by the immigration enforcement action could enter the U.S. if they had a grandparent here, refusing to overturn a ruling that grandparents qualified as “bona fide relatives.”
REFORM ROUND ROBIN-California’s previous attempts at pension reform have had a negligible impact. We should look to solutions from other states to tackle our growing pension problem. Last week, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a landmark school pension reform bill that will cap the growth of pension liabilities. California legislators need to follow Michigan’s lead to save its pension funds from insolvency.
GELFAND’S WORLD--People often divide themselves into two broadly defined camps, the first of which insists on obedience to all rules, while the other defines itself by its anti-authoritarianism. May I suggest that each faction is asking the wrong question.
@THE GUSS REPORT-This article is a bell that the California Department of Consumer Affairs doesn’t want to be rung about one of its 42 Boards that license and regulate an array of industries in the state, including the California Veterinary Medical Board.
AT RANDOM-Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council’s July 10 agenda-setting meeting turned out to be a rowdy affair. Some 20 stakeholders got riled up over the proposed standing rules change that removed the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the meetings and voted against every item proposed until a resolution keeping the Pledge was placed on the agenda for the next meeting. This rule was passed by the previous council and, as it turns out, was not always adhered to.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Should politics invalidate medical science? Politicos readily allow interests of a tiny segment of society to dictate medical decisions for our children. For years local politicians allowed toxic-spewing industrial plant Exide to poison children who lived nearby. While the plant was physically located in Vernon, many of the 10,000 affected families lived in the city of Los Angeles.
POLICY--Last week, my friend Ethan announced that he is moving to Ohio. Ethan is an extremely bright entrepreneur in his mid-thirties, who grew up in Southern California. He’s civic minded – joined non-profit boards, gave to charities what he could afford, and was even been elected to his local water board.
ANIMAL WATCH-A surge in attacks on humans and pets by bobcats testing positive for rabies across the U.S. in 2017 is getting the attention of public health officials who say it is unusual for bobcats to contract this disease and also abnormal for this elusive wild feline to attack humans. Officials warn that in any case where a bobcat attacks a human, rabies should be suspected.
CONNECTION CALIFORNIA--California, do you want to be an incubator for great ideas—or a bubble that shuts out the world?
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Back in October of 2015, SoCal Gas employees discovered a massive natural gas leak from a well within the Aliso Canyon underground storage facility in the Santa Susanna Foothills near Porter Ranch in the San Fernando Valley. Owned by Southern California Gas, a division of Sempra Energy, the gas field covers 3,600 acres.
BELL VIEW-One of the many privileges of my middle class life is health insurance. As far as I can tell, it’s decent coverage. At least I think it’s decent – I can’t pretend to understand it, but I don’t feel like I’m one accident away from total ruin. In the midst of the current debate over the fate of the American healthcare system, it’s hard to overstate the level of peace of mind having basic coverage provides to a person. And despite the high price I pay for this coverage and the amount of work I have to do to maintain it, I recognize that – in 21st Century America – I’m privileged to have healthcare coverage.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Starting in 2014, Judge Alan Goodman and Judge James Chalfant warned us that Super Gridlock was being planned for Los Angeles, but we weren’t listening. Perhaps, we missed them sound the alarm. They used polite legalese.
RANTZ & RAVEZ-First of all, a Big RaveZ for LA City Councilman Bob Blumenfield and the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. The Woodland Hills Recreation Center located at 5858 Shoup Avenue in the West Valley has a sparkling new pool and recreation center after a long four years of meetings, delays and construction-related problems. It was one thing after another that held up construction of the facility, including contaminated soil that had to be removed and heavy rains that hit the community.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Hiking Runyon Canyon is one of LA’s most popular outdoor workouts – in a city where Angelenos drive to Flywheel or hot yoga. Getting close enough to the Hollywood Sign for that vacation Instagram post is on the to-do lists of many tourists.
LIVING THE DREAM-When one thinks about the visionaries who made Hollywood what it is today, there are a lot of candidates to consider: Sid Grauman who dreamed up the picture palaces and movie premieres; C.E. Toberman, who built most of the grand buildings on Hollywood Blvd. and made the Hollywood Bowl a reality; the Chandler family and their associates who put the huge Hollywood Sign on Mt. Lee; Johnny Grant, who built the Hollywood Walk of Fame into an international icon. The list could go on and on.
DEEGAN ON LA-Movie producer Michael Costigan (“Brokeback Mountain,” “A Bigger Splash”) and his wife Linda are about to give Los Angeles County $98,241 -- but for what? The County’s Notice of Public Hearing says it’s for 3,275 square feet of mostly unusable, steep mountainside land adjacent to the Costigan’s Outpost Canyon home. The County operates on a $30 billion annual budget and doesn’t really need the money.
CAPITAL & MAIN--At 6 p.m. on any weekday evening, Interstate 10 from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles is the fifth most crowded stretch of road in the United States. A light rail line paralleling the freeway has done little to help, despite exceeding rider estimates. A carpool lane or road expansion would likely fail as well, due to a phenomenon known as “triple convergence”: When you make more room on a roadway, peak-hour drivers who would otherwise have detoured, taken the bus or left earlier, show up to fill it. (This may be the only application of Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s novel interpretation of supply and demand.)
TRANSPO WATCH--To most of us, building a new highway, a new rail line, or a new bikeway (or any other mobility-oriented project) involves something that combines benefits to our Economy, Environment, and Quality of Life. Such a project should allow for greater mobility/freedom, and perhaps enhance the ability of ALL of us to financially benefit … hence the need for public funding.
EDUCATION POLITICS--How do you look parents in the eye and say you’ve taken a 174% pay raise right after you’ve closed the library at their child’s school?
EASTSIDER-A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the upcoming Special Election to replace Jimmy Gomez in California’s 51st Assembly District. In that column I characterized an internal fight over the process followed to endorse a candidate as a “kerfuffle.”
15 CANDLES—(Editor’s Note: Have LA’s Neighborhood Councils accomplished what they promised 15 years ago? What have we learned? What would we change? I’m sure you’ve heard myriad answers to these questions. Most often from folks whose claims and participation were marginal. Greg Nelson created LA’s Neighborhood Councils. He was, at the time, Chief of Staff for LA City Councilman Joel Wachs who became the engine for Greg’s idea. For the first time, in this CityWatch retrospective, the person responsible for Los Angeles’ Neighborhood Councils looks back … and ahead … talks about how it happened and if he had it all to do over again, what he would change.)
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-By now most of us know what ails Los Angeles. To cite some of the city’s most imminent emergencies:
URBAN PERSPECTIVE-O.J. Simpson won’t go away. I posed the question on my Facebook page “Should O.J. be paroled?” It drew an avalanche of responses. Even while respondents hotly protested they didn’t care, they still debated, raged, and fumed on the page about him. He still touches a sore nerve.
ANIMAL WATCH-Best Friends' Animal Society, Los Angeles, is offering discounted pets as a 2-for- $10 pair during July. Their posted "Current Special" features two adult dogs. Is the former religious group -- which started as the Church of the Process of the Final Judgment -- -becoming desperate to achieve its (registered) mission to "save them all" and reach a "no kill" metric by the end of 2017?
GELFAND’S WORLD--This is an exercise in thinking about a political left-center that is coherent enough to act effectively. Today's issue is the loss of health insurance for tens of millions of Americans at the hands of Mitch McConnell. Tomorrow's could be the phase out of Medicare under Speaker Ryan. How do we bring organized power to bear against their actions?
THE VIEW FROM HERE--Can the One L.A. Organization "make democracy work" again in Los Angeles? Not without addressing a still segregated and purposefully dumbed-down LAUSD that is exclusively run for the benefit of its entrenched bureaucracy and the obscene profits of their corporate vendors' interests that keep them in power.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Earlier this year, Airbnb host Tami Barker refused to honor Dyne Suh’s reservation, tweeting, “I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners. It’s why we have Trump.”
AFFORDABLE HOUSING BATTLE--The California State Assembly will soon be voting on SB 35, and United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (UN4LA) urges local representatives to reject it. While it's being sold as a way to cut through red tape and accelerate the creation of housing, this bill is poorly conceived and will do more harm than good. SB 35 would create a streamlined approval process for multi-family projects that include a certain number of affordable units. We need to build more housing, but we can't abandon planning in the process.
NEW GEOGRAPHY-As its economy bounced back from the Great Recession, California emerged as a progressive role model, with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman arguing that the state’s “success” was proof of the superiority of a high tax, high regulation economy. Some have even embraced the notion that California should secede to form its own more perfect union.
CORRUPTION WATCH-The benefits of living in Los Angeles are god-given, while the liabilities are man-made. There was a time in the first part of the 1900s, when Angelenos more or less tried to preserve the good. Those days are gone.
PERSPECTIVE-I am a member of LA Fitness. I most often use the facility at Universal City because it has a hardwood basketball court.
UNAFFORDABLE HOUSING-Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission ignored South LA residents’ concerns about displacement and gentrification, swiftly approving a luxury mixed-use redevelopment of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. The City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) will now consider the mega-project.
THE PREVEN REPORT--Here’s what Mayor Eric Garcetti had to say when asked in a recent KPCC radio interview how he manages to balance career planning with fulfilling his current role as Mayor of Los Angeles:
MY TURN-Full disclosure: I am not an expert in City Planning. Having attended a few Planning Commission meetings and Neighborhood Council rallies "against" new developments, I have seen people display the most discourteous behavior. Sometimes I have mentally checked out when faced with myriad of statistics presented by engineers and architects.
FIRST TIME AVAILABLE--Monday, TransparentCalifornia.com released 2016 pension payout data from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) — the nation’s largest municipal utility district.
VOICES--Many Californians have fond memories of landing their first decent-paying job, working long hours to save enough for a down payment, and finally buying a family home. Many of us poured our weekends and hearts into repairing beautiful old houses.
FINANCE POLITICS--Inadequate roads are leaving Californians stuck in traffic. According to a 2016 study by Inrix, a data company that specializes in traffic-related analytics, Los Angeles, California has the worst traffic in the United States. San Francisco takes the number three spot, and San Diego comes in number 14. In all, 17 California cities rank among the 100 most congested cities in America.
A disturbing new LA Times investigation of Mayor Garcetti's embrace of Black Lung Lofts has laid open a system of buck-passing and internal disarray, with the Mayor defending freeway-adjacent housing as legally untouchable because it's "in the pipeline."
BELL VIEW--This morning I was running late to work. Screaming at red lights to turn green, cursing other drivers too timid to make left turns when they had the chance, I looked ahead of me and saw a cyclist taking the lane as he trudged up a small hill. I’ve ridden my bike in the streets of LA, so I gave the guy a wide berth as I slowed to a crawl behind him. I couldn’t get around him because I had to turn right and he was in my lane. “Come on, come on, come on …!” I repeated to myself as the ticking clock seemed to mock my predicament. What a nightmare! I thought.
PARTY DOWN--Whether the issue is the privatization of public education for corporate profit and the further dumbing down of America or the continued suppression of the will of the majority by gerrymandering and/or removing legally registered voters from the voting rolls based on clearly false charges of multiple registration or any one of many other corporate inspired programs to thwart the will of a democratic majority, the response from the Left in this country has been anything but logical, effective or reasonable.
VOICES--TPS Parking Management, doing business as The Parking Spot (TPS) filed a legal challenge to the Los Angeles World Airport's (LAWA) Environmental Impact Report for the Landside Access Modernization Plan (LAMP), asserting that the report's conclusions would negatively impact thousands of Los Angeles area residents who are members of the company's loyalty program.
@TheGussReport – Just when you thought City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office made enough poor decisions in the Wayne Spindler (photo above) gun case, his spokesman Rob Wilcox and prosecutor Eugene Hall, Jr. dug deeper and doing so may cost the taxpayers dearly.
EASTSIDER-For those living under a rock, California Senate Bill 562 is a California Only, Single-Payer Healthcare Bill. After passage by the Senate and moving to the Assembly for a vote, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) pulled the bill from further action this legislative session. He did note that since this is the first of a two year session, the bill can be revisited next year.
RESISTANCE WATCH--Feeling bad? First take care of yourself, of course. I like this a lot: Ways to Stay Motivated in this Shit-Shellacked Era of Epic Stupid which begins:
PLATKIN ON PLANNING--What a pleasant, but short-lived surprise to discover that in late June 2017 UCLA’s renowned Luskin School of Public Affairs sponsored a forum entitled, Can LA fix its Broken Planning System? Needless to say, I read an article about the forum on the Luskin’s School’s website with great enthusiasm, expecting to see a serious professional urban planning analysis of LA’s tottering and shady city planning system. After all, these issues are presented twice weekly through CityWatch, formerly at Ron Kaye’s LA, and even in an occasional Los Angeles Times, KCRW, and KPCC story. (Photo above: Wedding of Former King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.)
BLUE PRINT FOR PAIN-It's 10:00 a.m. on Monday morning, and while most people are filling up their second cup of coffee, Nellie is busy sorting loaves of bread, leafy greens, and egg cartons for a line of eager customers. Next to the I-580 overpass and across the street from a Safeway is the Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program, which she founded 30 years ago with the belief that "food should always be available to everyone." She's been volunteering her time -- eight hours a day, five days a week -- ever since. Asked why she continues to do this work without pay, Nellie says: "We serve almost 300 families every day, and you never know: Tomorrow it could be you who needs the help.”
FIRST PERSON REPORT--The Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC) did its job Tuesday night, and had the dubious distinction of making it into the LA news, talk radio, and other media sources. Traffic changes were the hot-button subject and new MVCC Chair Sarah Auerswald did a first-rate job of making sure everyone could talk during public comment, despite letting everyone know we had to be out by 10pm from our meeting site.
NEW GEOGRAPHY-In its race against rapidly aging Europe and East Asia, America’s relatively vibrant nurseries have provided some welcome demographic dynamism. Yet, in recent years, notably since the Great Recession and the weak recovery that followed, America’s birthrate has continued to drop, and is now at a record low.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING--The district attorney who put O.J. Simpson behind bars believes the former football star will win parole at his hearing later this month.
David Roger won convictions against Simpson in 2008 for robbery and kidnapping in Clark County, Nevada.
POLICY--Across California, many local governments have raised taxes while cutting services. Local officials desperate for union support have made irresponsible deals with public employee unions, creating staggering employee costs. Taxpayer money meant to provide essential services to the least well-off instead goes directly to higher salaries and benefits.
GELFAND’S WORLD--We are the west coast -- accent on that word coast. What makes California different from Nebraska and Colorado is that we have an ocean. We have sea cliffs, beaches, and kelp beds you can explore underwater. We even have the remains of a shipwreck that you can walk right up to, at the base of a local cliff. Californians take pride in the fact that the beach and the water belong to all of us. But it's not a done deal in all places.
NEW GEOGRAPHY-California’s economic revival has sparked widespread notions, shared by Jerry Brown and observers elsewhere, that its economy — and policy agenda — should be adopted by the rest of the country. And, to be sure, the Golden State has made a strong recovery in the last five years, but this may prove to be far more vulnerable than its boosters imagine.
ANIMAL WATCH-At the June 27 meeting of the Los Angeles Animal Services' Commissioners -- all appointees of Mayor Eric Garcetti -- Commissioner Roger Wolfson, a screenwriter, urged the creation of an LAAS poster on how to handle a dog attack, indicating he had already received support of the idea from GM Brenda Barnette and Commission President Larry Gross.
@THE GUSS REPORT-In a Van Nuys court room on Friday, the illegal gun possession charge hastily filed by LA City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office against City Hall critic Wayne Spindler (photo above) died a death as curious as its life.
CORRUPTION WATCH-The hubris that comes with holding public office is usually rational. Public officials so seldom are held accountable for their actions that they never think of possible criminal liability for their behavior. The times, they may be changing.
BOYARSKY’S LA--Immigration court in Los Angeles is in an undistinguished, rectangular office building in the center of downtown. Every weekday, immigrants make their way there to plead before one of the judges for a chance to remain in the United States.
DEEGAN ON LA-In less stressful times, the relationships between tenants and landlords were ruled by the market economy of supply and demand. Lately, however, affordable housing has entered a state of crisis, as space is needed to squeeze in more people who want to live here or park their money in real estate investment. A third wheel has been attached to the landlord-tenant equation: developers eager to make their profits in a booming upscale housing market is leaving many renters in the dust.
PEOPLE POWER—(Editor’s Note: This is one a series of profiles and reports celebrating Resistance Heroes … people like you who have stood up to power and won.)
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--What’s the fastest way to change California?
EYES ON THE PRIZE--At the LA Press Club’s 59th Annual Awards Ceremony on Sunday, at the Biltmore Millennium Hotel, brothers Eric Preven and Joshua Preven took first prize in the category of online political commentary, for their CityWatch article “It’s Time to End LA’s Secret Meetings: What Do City Council Members and LA’s County Supervisors Have to Hide?” More than five hundred journalists and media executives attended the event.
THE COHEN COLUMN--The Senate Republicans were going to quick-fix their massive tax cut for the rich, pretending to be a health care bill, which the independent Congressional Budget Office slammed worse than the House bill. Then they ducked out of town one day early.
PREVEN REPORT-“I am pleased to share that our Parking, Safety and Athletic (PSA) Improvement Plan will have its first public hearing with the City of LA on on Monday July 24, 2017,” writes Harvard-Westlake President Rick B. Commons in a recent email to “friends and families” of the school referring to Harvard-Westlake's proposed 750-space parking garage and accompanying roof-top athletic field and 163-foot pedestrian bridge over Coldwater Canyon Boulevard.
RANTZ AND RAVEZ-On July 1, 2017, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and LA City Council members were sworn into office for the next 5 1/2 years. Now that they are officially in position, in power to serve the public, what will they do to improve the quality of life in Los Angeles? What will they do to address transportation gridlock, the high cost of housing, increasing crime and a host of other pressing matters using over $8 billion in taxes?
RIGGING THE RULES-The public employee unions, especially the teacher union variety, are very jittery over the prospect that the Janus case, if successful in the U.S. Supreme Court next year, could free government workers from paying forced dues to a union as a condition of employment. Enter California’s AB 119, a trailer bill, which was signed into law last week. As R Street Institute’s Steven Greenhut reminds us, a trailer bill is typically intended “for last minute and non-controversial technical fixes to budget matters.” While, AB 119 was certainly last minute, it is anything but non-controversial.
15 CANDLES-- (Editor’s Note: It has 15 years since Los Angeles certified its first Neighborhood Council … Wilmington Neighborhood Council … in December of 2001. The ’15 Candles’ campaign celebrates the occasion, looks back at the early days and considers the future of LA’s NCs. Bill Christopher Chaired the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners … BONC … beginning in June of 2001 and, working at fever pitch, oversaw the certification of some 60 neighborhood councils in a two year period. Bill takes a look back and considers what he might do differently.)
CORRUPTION WATCH-Millions of Americans on the Left are being scammed by the call for “Single Payer Health Care.” We have naively allowed ourselves to be so polarized by the endless hogwash from both parties that we will believe anything. The Left is consumed with insane Tweets from a mentally ill President and by the stupendous avarice of the GOP in Congress; a majority of Americans have lost the ability to think.
EASTSIDER-I rarely write directly about what I do for a living, but as a neutral person with some 25 years experience in California public sector labor relations, I feel compelled to write about the merits of the DWP/IBEW settlement itself, especially after the recent flood of articles casting the contract in unflattering terms.
TENANT’S RIGHTS--Close to four Million people reside in Los Angeles according to an annual population report by the California Department of Finance dated May 1, 2017
PERSPECTIVE-Much has been written and discussed about the recently approved contract with DWP’s IBEW Local 18 members...but not enough.
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA-- Dear America, I suppose I should wish you happy birthday. But I’m just not feeling it.
BUTCHER SHOP--A surprising much has been already written about the DWP deal including this alarmist screed Will outrageous DWP pay hikes ignite anti-union firestorm in California? in which the author hyperventilates in horror that workers who climb 75 feet in the air to fix live electric lines will see increasing wages in the years to come and then vividly imagines the resultant revolt of the masses.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING--While we plebeians dawdle away our lives cooking, cleaning, studying, working, raising families, and helping friends and relatives in need, we can (kind-of) sleep comfortably knowing our local elected officials are hard at work combatting climate change … through press conferences. Luckily for them, they have Donald Trump as their climate foil, blasting away at him with their sound bites for pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord.
DEEGAN ON LA—-Arnold Schwarzenegger had Columbia Pictures promote one of his movies by painting the title logo on the main fuselage of an unmanned rocket that was then launched into outer space by NASA. Anything to get attention: although in the case of his 1993 movie "Last Action Hero” even that stratospheric publicity stunt could not help.
MY TURN-Immigrant bashing has become the new national sport in some areas of our country, even though some bastions of white conservatism have been revitalized by an influx of immigrants. These groups have given new life to towns once on the verge of extinction. Diversity in all areas of Los Angeles is more evident than ever. We have traveled a long way since Proposition 187. (Photo above: Corinne Ho)
LABOR WATCH-- I just got out of a special meeting called by SAG-AFTRA union leadership to share a TV/ Theatrical negotiations update with the membership. When I saw the letter on the website to all of us from Executive Director and Chief Negotiator David White and Gabrielle Carteris, SAG-AFTRA President and Chair of the Negotiating Committee, I was surprised to see that it did not say that a reasonable agreement had been reached and we would be called upon to ratify. (Photo above: Jennifer Caldwell.)
EASTSIDER-Only in Northeast LA. First there was the Special Election to replace Xavier Becerra’s seat in Congress, won by Jimmy Gomez. Now there will be another Special Election to replace Jimmy Gomez’ seat in the 51st Assembly District. What’s an “only in California” moment is that Gomez has not yet resigned his Assembly seat. So, no election for the moment, and we still don’t have a timetable for the Special Election itself.
SKID ROW- Last week, an article in the LA Weekly titled “Who Killed the Skid Row Neighborhood Council?” shed even more light on the still-unfolding plot to prevent a Skid Row NC from becoming a reality. The plot, involving numerous “players” in Downtown politics, was first discovered when a cheating scandal by the opposition was uncovered and after months of “digging for gold”, now new revealing words found in the LA Weekly article confirm the shenanigans included City Hall, which allowed online voting less that two weeks before the April 6th subdivision election in which Skid Row attempted to break away from the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council to form it’s own neighborhood council. (Photo above: Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar.)
NICE PAYDAY—The Daily News reports that former audio-visual technician for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power was sentenced today to five years in state prison for embezzling more than $4 million in public funds.
BELL VIEW-I wish I could draw because I can see a perfect political cartoon in my head. On one side of the frame Trump, Ryan, Mnuchin, and Sessions are feeding poor children into a sausage grinder; on the other an outraged hipster is foaming at the mouth pointing in the direction of a Democratic politician and screaming: “He said LGBT, not LGBTQ!” When Republican voters talk about how political correctness is destroying America, they’re right. Just for the wrong reason. Political correctness is destroying America by distracting otherwise decent Americans from the carnage happening right under their noses.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING--The folks in Sacramento are in a frenzy right now trying to pass legislation to ease the housing crunch. They realize that housing costs are becoming an extreme burden for Californians, and there's an avalanche of bills cascading through the state legislature that purport to address the crisis. While some of these bills are thoughtful, reasonable attempts to create solutions, others are poorly conceived and could end up doing more harm than good.
GETTING THERE FROM HERE-I doubt I'm the only transportation advocate who's wondered where our priorities have gone astray. Of course, most transportation advocates (and transportation engineers) focus on policy, providing more options, and numbers-based/outcomes-based results. Unfortunately, transportation policy has been eclipsed by planners and utopians who suffer from too much wishful thinking.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--The current political climate has brought a clear divide among states on social and environmental issues. While Governor Brown and the state legislature work to pass bills to bypass President Trump’s agenda, Attorney General Xavier Becerra is also lending his chops to signal dissatisfaction with Kentucky and three other states that have passed legislation that would restrict LGBT rights.
JUSTICE INTERRUPTED!--Last Tuesday, which the United Nations observes as World Refugee Day, a charter bus full of clergy, religious activists and lawyers was barred from visiting inmates at the Adelanto Detention Facility, located in the high desert 85 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The intention had been to speak to asylum seekers, green card holders held for minor legal infractions and undocumented immigrants scooped up in recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids. The nonprofit group CIVIC, which coordinates volunteer visits to 43 of the 211 federal detention centers across the nation, unsuccessfully negotiated for over an hour with prison authorities and ICE for us to get in. (Photo above: Immigrant rights activists en route to Adelanto.)
ANIMAL WATCH-After years of ignoring a burgeoning problem of stray dogs and cats in the streets, aggressive dog attacks and fear of disease have caused China's major cities to replicate the government's reaction to a perceived need for human population control by issuing a one-child rule in 1979. However, since pets can be hidden or just released, enforcement will be challenging -- especially restrictions such as Qingdao's ban on 40 breeds considered "dangerous."
GELFAND’S WORLD--Saturday was full of irony. The Los Angeles Times published an editorial that raised red flags about the way the city's elected officials are trying to sneak through a large pay raise for employees of the LA Department of Water and Power (LADWP). The Times had previously published a story by David Zahniser and Dakota Smith revealing the sordid details.
NEW GEOGRAPHY--Amazon’s stunning acquisition last week of Whole Foods signaled an inflection point in the development of retail, notably the $800 billion supermarket sector. The massive shift of retail to the web is beginning to claw into the last remaining bastions of physical space. In the last year alone, 50,000 positions were lost in the retail sector, and as many as 6 million jobs could be vulnerable nationwide in the long term. Store closings are running at a rate higher than during the Great Recession.
CALBUZZ SPECIAL REPORT--Imagine losing days, weeks, or months of your life rotting in a jail cell even though, in the United States, you’re supposed to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
DEEGAN ON LA-The parallels are uncannily similar: two different parts of LA, each beginning with an important, historical movie footprint and evolving into a land use bonanza. Century City, once the very busy 20th Century Fox backlot (and before that a ranch belonging to western silent movie icon Tom Mix), became a real estate behemoth studded with skyscrapers, traffic congestion, and high prices. Central Hollywood, once a folksy, low slung neighborhood, is about to be transformed into its own real estate behemoth with the massive proposed Crossroads of the World project. It, too, will be studded with skyscrapers, traffic congestion, and high prices.
@THE GUSS REPORT-If you live in the Valley, Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Attorney Mike Feuer and the LA City Council have taken this approach to fighting property crime: Do It Yourself.
THE CITY--On June 19, the Neighborhood Council Alliance of River Communities (ARC) welcomed Nicholas Maricich, City Director of Planning Policy and Development, and Michelle Garakian, from the Mayor’s Office of Legislative and External Affairs, to discuss details of the proposed Affordable Housing Linkage Fee Ordinance.
WHAT WAS HE THINKING?--Advocates of the single-payer healthcare proposal which has been steadily advancing through the California legislature were voicing outrage and disappointment on Saturday after Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat, announced he was pulling the bill from further consideration this year.
CORRUPTION WATCH-The Hollywood Community Plan has no Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the June 2017 Update. This means that all these super-mega projects being proposed in Hollywood are based on data from the 1960s and the mid-1980s.
EDUCATION POLITICS--Four days before the end of the school year, Venice High School students, organized by the Black Student Union and the Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan, walked out of class to protest their principal allegedly firing an African American college counselor.
JUSTICE--The biggest lie about Proposition (“Prop”) 66, California’s poorly drafted new death penalty law – only missing another “6” in numbering to be properly identified as the devil’s spawn – is speed.
LEANING RIGHT--From all the attention focused on "special elections" in Georgia, South Carolina, Montana, and elsewhere, one would think that we've got nothing better to do than focus on politics in other states, particularly "Red States". One would also think that our finances and policies are going swimmingly well in California, a "Blue State" which is bleeding its middle class out of existence.
CREATIVE MINDS MEET GRASSROOTS ACTIVISTS--Following news that legislation aiming to power California solely with renewable energy by 2045 passed the state Senate, bestselling author Naomi Klein joined Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz and community leaders on Wednesday in calling for a "World War II-scale mobilization" to combat climate change and lead the way in developing environmentally safe technology. (Photo above: LA Councilman Paul Koretz.)
DRIP, DRIP, DRIP--LA City Planning this week released a backward-looking, slow-moving and poorly reasoned plan — more than a year in the making — that fails to reduce greed-driven evictions of residents, or to preserve thousands of low-rent units being eyed by land-flippers and speculators.
MCDONALD REPORT--After years of alarming studies and in-depth news coverage, the Los Angeles City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti have yet to address the devastating health impacts to residents who live in freeway-adjacent housing, which LA politicians continue to approve. On Tuesday, at the Planning and Land Use Management Committee meeting, the Coalition to Preserve LA and other community groups urged council members to finally take substantive action.
MUSING WITH MIRISCH-It is sometimes both sad and shocking how City Halls throughout the state, along with some of our elected officials, can be in such denial of reality, data and math.
BELL VIEW-When it comes to elections, I obsess over one number: turnout. We have been told, for example, that turnout was through-the-roof for the special election in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, where Democrat Jon Ossoff narrowly lost to Republican Karen Handel. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution gushed: “In a district with about 526,000 registered voters in all, nearly half of them came out: unofficial turnout stood at about 49 percent in the race.”
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Before memory fades completely, this is the time to take stock of the Occupy mass movement of 2011. A few years into the Great Recession, it began with Occupy Wall Street, and then quickly spread to over 1000 encampments, including other countries, such as Canada, the United Kingdom, and Israel.
RANTZ & RAVEZ-The Westfield “Village” at Victory and Topanga Canyon in the West San Fernando Valley has turned into a place to walk your dog and pay for parking (some validate) to do business with local vendors that remain open for business despite the poor foot traffic and slow sales in the area. More and more of the businesses in the “Village” are experiencing financial difficulties; sales have not been what was expected.
GELFAND’S WORLD--In the Hollywood Fringe festival as in other parts of life, we wander along, ignoring the mediocre, enjoying the pretty good, and hoping to find that diamond in the rough that is effective and affecting. I think we've got one here.
CORRUPTION WATCH-What if Angelenos had a City Council that maximized our quality of life instead of aggrandizing the profits of a handful of real estate developers?
DEEGAN ON LA-“Neighborhood Councils were slighted … they were not given a chance to speak at a public hearing,” alleges Robin Greenberg, President of the Bel Air-Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council which advocates for more than 27,000 residents representing hillside communities stretching from Laurel Canyon to Sepulveda Boulevard, and from Sunset Boulevard to Mulholland Drive. It also speaks for 35 residential associations, local schools, businesses, and faith-based institutions.
ANIMAL WATCH-Before his re-election in March 2017, Mayor Eric Garcetti was accused of being silent on LA’s rising crime. Opponents claimed Garcetti was hiding and suppressing 2016 crime statistics that showed a 10 percent increase in violent crime in the city and ignoring the need to hire more police officers. The Mayor's political ambitions may have also been the reason he and Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette made no public comments about two tragic Pit Bull attacks in Los Angeles in early 2017.
THE PREVEN REPORT-For matters requiring urgent attention, the City Council of Los Angeles has the power to convene a Special Meeting, whereby the amount of advanced notice it is required to give the public before taking action is reduced from three days to one.
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--If you wish to inspect the frontlines of the conflict between Donald Trump and California, head for San Diego.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--On Friday, behemoth retailer Amazon announced a $13.7 Billion-value purchase of Whole Foods, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval. The purchase has sent other grocery stocks tumbling, opening publicly held grocery companies ripe for takeovers, as well.
TRANSIT WATCH--It's interesting ... and maybe a little sad ... that while the transit advocates behind the Expo Line revolution (who then turned their sights to the LAX/Metro Rail, Wilshire Subway, Downtown Light Rail Connector) have to some degree separated and gone on to other issues, venues, and their own personal lives, some battles still remain, and are just not going away.
VOICES – (This article was first posted in CityWatch in 2013. Considering the political and social division and voter apathy Los Angeles is experiencing in 2017, it seemed appropriate to post it again.)
EDUCATION POLITICS--Large school districts are often less responsive to the needs of students and the hopes of parents than smaller districts. Public educational behemoths – such as Los Angeles Unified – are more likely to fall under the influence of well-organized interest groups such as teachers’ unions. By breaking up large districts into smaller ones, parents can achieve greater accountability. Although California makes school district secessions difficult, groups in Malibu and Walnut Creek are making impressive strides.
VOICES--As someone who has been critical of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation over the years for being stuck in the past, I am delighted to see them putting in more bike lanes, even if it means taking lanes out for other traffic. These bike lanes make it safer for the many people who depend on bicycles to get around for their daily needs. They also encourage more to ride for transportation and recreation. This is good for us.
EASTSIDER-It was supposed to be the equivalent of show and tell with a predetermined outcome. Then hundreds and hundreds of people showed up for the hearing. The Council Chamber quickly filled up, there was another overflow room that overflowed, and ultimately a large crowd wound up outside City Hall on the adjacent lawn. All this before the 2 p.m. start time. I heard estimates of something like 500, give or take, and the PLUM Committee was obviously not ready for the sheer magnitude of their audience.
PENSION BRINKMANSHIP-Governor Brown’s proposal to fund CalPERS with borrowed money parallels a similar move by Puerto Rico in 2008. Borrowing to meet pension obligations can work under certain circumstances, but it is a risky policy. It backfired in Puerto Rico and can do so here.
GUEST COMMENTARY-The false testimony given by Kim McGill of the Youth Justice Coalition during recent testimony before the Senate Public Safety Committee is greatly disturbing. As detailed in a blog by Michele Hanisee and Eric Siddall, Ms. McGill gave her testimony before the Senate Public Safety Committee to attempt to "humanize" overturning California law adding mandatory prison time for using a gun in a crime. Several Senators specifically cited her testimony as their reason to support the bill.
POLITICS--As Trump and the Republicans work to eliminate Obamacare and “replace” it with an economic unicorn that would wipe out health insurance for tens of millions Americans, some politicians in California are pushing for a single-payer healthcare system in the Golden State.
NEW GEOGRAPHY--California is widely celebrated as the fount of technical, cultural and political innovation. Now we seem primed to outdo even ourselves, creating a new kind of socialism that, in the end, more resembles feudalism than social democracy.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-When you are hammer, the whole world looks like a nail, or in the case of the City of Los Angeles, when you are totally wedded to real estate speculation, you only have one hammer, up-zoning to fix all urban ills/nails.
GELFAND’S WORLD--In the movie Invictus (above), Nelson Mandela is hoping to create a bond with South Africa's white population He invites the captain of the country's largely white rugby team to visit him at the presidential palace.
SENATE SEXISM ALIVE AND WELL--For the second time in as many weeks, Kamala Harris was cut off by her Republican colleagues while posing questions at a Senate intelligence committee hearing. To most, seeing yet another example of a woman silenced by male senators only reinforces the reality that there are different rules for the different genders, but many on the right remain stubbornly unwilling to acknowledge that a male-dominated government led by a pussy-grabbing misogynist would exhibit sexist attitudes toward women.
BILLBOARD WATCH-Public safety, aesthetics, and the will of the people continue to get short shrift at the City Council Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee, as it caves to the powerful billboard lobby. After years of hearings and reports, the committee on May 31 gave instructions to the City Attorney to finally draft a new Citywide Sign Ordinance that will govern billboards, known legally as off-site signs (Council File 11-1705). We should all enjoy the dark night skies while we can, because if this bill becomes a law, digital billboards will be going up in all kinds of new places, flashing messages in our faces every 8 seconds.
MY TURN-My "June Gloom" came early this year, like in April. To those of you who enquired as to why I have been absent from CW, here is my explanation: there was nothing good to write about. We could call it "writers block," but it was more like "Life Block."
ROAD DIET OVERDOSE, PART 2-The City has been sued – again! This time it is due to its desire to expose children to toxic fumes while they are exercising. See HELP and CCLA v City of Los Angeles, BS 157813. Previously, these groups have prevailed in the Hollywood Community Plan case and in the Target case. Both times the City lost because it refused to follow the law.
GUEST WORDS--Is this justice or does this mean just us. Politicians are bragging about HHH and what they will do. The question is, what are they doing now. 931 to 937 E. Pico and 1518 S. Paloma St. have been left in the wash in the political bragging.
TRANSIT WATCH--In the Los Angeles Times June 14, 2017, article in the California section, Mayor Garcetti proposes to run a monorail above the San Diego, 405, Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass. This ignores two issues:
BELL VIEW--Many years ago, I sat drinking a beer on the steps of an old wooden house in Canaryville – a white working-class neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago – with my friend Tommy, an Irish singer and guitar player who could fill a bar with his voice without the benefit of a microphone. Tommy, who would later be killed by a drunk driver, was one of the great ones: a singer, a fighter, a family man, a decent all-around person. As quick as he could be with his fists, at his core he was gentle and soft-spoken. He ran a thrift shop for the children’s hospital.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS-- Since the recent April 6th vote to create a Skid Row Neighborhood Council resulted in a lost effort by a mere 60 votes (in which over 1600 total voters participated), from which a “Vote No” cheating scandal was uncovered and a shocking dismissal by the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) of 3 valid election challenges by an Election Challenge Review Panel convened by DONE, the number one response far and wide is “Sounds like something the ACLU would take on” or “Have you guys (Skid Row Neighborhood- Formation Committee) contacted the ACLU?”
GUEST COMMENTARY--A cynic will feel welcome in the entertainment media landscape.
In it, there are no promises of humanity — no assurances of justice — no unbreakable bond of truth. There is but one king: popularity (and more plainly, profit).
ROAD DIET OVERDOSE-Why does Mayor Garcetti think that it is a good idea to expose children to high levels of toxic fumes by constructing Bike Lanes in heavily trafficked thoroughfares?
GELFAND’S WORLD--Dear Mr City Attorney: If the Trump administration were to send federal officials into your office and announce that they were taking control of your department, you would no doubt feel rather put out. After all, you are an elected official acting under the authority of state law and the City Charter. The fact that Donald Trump doesn't like the way you interpret our sanctuary city status does not give him carte blanche to violate your lawful authority. May we therefore ask you to apply the same standards to our neighborhood council system?
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--A: Test me all night, baby.
No, really. Sign me up to be the subject of A/B testing. I’d even be willing to sign a blanket consent form, right now, so that all of Silicon Valley’s biggest brains can test me for the purpose of improving the human future.
DEEGAN ON LA-In the dark before the dawn, on the grimy streets of Skid Row, a small group of homeless men and women and a Superior Court judge meet in a unique everyone-is-equal-here relationship. No other elected official has gone to the same extreme that Judge Craig Mitchell (photo above, center) has by reaching out to a cohort of down and out homeless men and women, personally investing his time, compassion and hard work on behalf of people who many wish were invisible and often treat that way.
PRISON POLITICS-If you ever wondered what’s wrong with California’s state government, then mull over this simple example: While California cuts its prison population and staff, it’s increasing the amount of money it spends to operate its massive prison system.
SPECIAL CAPITAL AND MAIN REPORT--On June 15, 2003, before Los Angeles had its CicLAvia events, several thousand bikers and pedestrians descended upon the Pasadena Freeway for a bike and walk ride on the freeway. The event, called ArroyoFest, demonstrated the emerging capacity of LA bike groups. It also indicated a strong community presence in Highland Park, where the closing of the freeway for a few hours seemed like a magical moment.
ANIMAL WATCH-On April 10, LA Animal Services' GM Brenda Barnette issued a media release, entitled, "Canine Influenza Notice - Dogs Imported from Asia by Rescue group."
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-You are me and I am you. And we are one. We are here today to send a message loud and clear…We resist homophobia; we resist poverty, anti-Semitism, and we resist hatred toward Muslims and all religions. – Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles)
THE PREVEN REPORT--After the publication a few weeks ago of an article we wrote about Harvard-Westlake School’s plan to build a massive parking structure in the hillside neighborhood surrounding their campus, we got an email from a Harvard-Westlake parent who opposes the project. She made the following persuasive point:
AT LENGTH-It is perhaps far too symbolic that Councilman Joe Buscaino will have his swearing-in ceremony for his second full term representing the 15th Council District at the reopening of Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park and Machado Lake on June 17. It’s going to be a very fun family day with lots of activities and performances. Everyone is welcome, except the homeless. It only cost $130 million in renovations, plus the eviction of Reggie the alligator and some 167 homeless souls, considered “invasive species,” and neither will be welcomed back.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Has paralysis on the part of the LAPD and LA City Councilmember David Ryu concerning a recent spate of San Fernando Valley mail theft burglaries led to a worsening of the situation?
TALKBACK--I’m a Volunteer at the LA’s West Valley Animal Shelter. I think this new policy, allowing finders of stray dogs and cats to keep the animals they find in their homes during the hold period, is a good idea. Since I work with dogs at the Shelter, I’ll direct my comments to dogs, but I think the same applies to cats. (This is in response to Phyllis Daugherty’s CityWatch column “Finders-Keepers: LA Doesn’t Want Your Lost Dogs or Cats in City Shelters.”)
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Last week I explained why Los Angeles is so poorly planned, but there is no reason that Angelinos must be tied to the substandard city planning that emanates from City Hall. It is one thing to explain it, as I did in my previous column, but it quite another thing to put up with it.
CA LEADING THE FREE WORLD, NOT US--Over the weekend, as the acting United States ambassador to China was resigning from his post following the Trump administration's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, California Governor Jerry Brown was over in the Chinese city of Chengdu, hanging out with a rotating cast of Chinese diplomats as part of a weeklong trip aimed at climate collaboration. He also made time to see the pandas at an eco-tourism park in Chengdu.
ALPERN AT LARGE--Asking others, and asking ourselves, to do the right thing is often much, MUCH harder to do in the real world, the adult world, the world that IS, compared to the world that we wished it would be.
BELL VIEW--When I was a kid growing up in Chicago, Channel 7 News had a weatherman we used to call “Crazy John Coleman.” Compared to actual 21st Century media craziness John Coleman doesn’t really stack up. But he was undeniably a goof. He’s made his way back into the news by denying that manmade climate change is real.