GUEST WORDS-Development has been booming in Los Angeles since the end of the Great Recession -- Angelenos need housing and developers are pumping out bigger and bigger mixed-users to take advantage of this. But not everyone is a fan. 

A ragtag group of Hollywood NIMBYs who call themselves the Coalition to Preserve LA believes the rapid development of Los Angeles is something along the lines of a "Manhattanization" of their beloved city, citing already-dense, development-crazy Hollywood as their exhibit A. Emboldened by their public fight with the Palladium Residences, (photo above) and frustrated by a lack of consistency in the city's zoning practices, the CPLA wants to put an end to the city's practice of using piecemeal amendments to city codes to allow real estate developers to build stuff not normally allowed by LA's extremely outdated zoning code.  To that end, the CPLA has proposed a ballot measure they call the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative that locks developers into iron-clad (and often outdated) density restrictions. 

On the flip side, City Hall is looking to build a lot of housing and fast to meet the needs of residents -- 100,000 units by 2021-- so this ballot measure is triggering fears of red tape that could stifle LA's ability to build its way out of an epic housing crunch. The fear of NIMBYs is real. According to the LA Daily News, Mayor Garcetti is hoping to meet with the CPLA to hammer out some kind of compromise before the initiative can make it on to the November ballot. 

The NII ballot measure would stop all amendments to the city's General Plan, increase oversight from city planning officials, and stop construction on all projects not in compliance with the city's General Plan for up to two years, until their impacts on the community could be reviewed. The CPLA believes this would put a stop to mega developments skirting the zoning codes through what they call "unlawful favoritism" from the city. (NIMBYs sued in the past to prevent a more modern update to the planning guidelines in Hollywood.) 

LA is rapidly approaching a point where outdated city planning guidelines clash with a modern metropolis that has outgrown the concept of sprawl. City officials, worried they could be handcuffed to antiquated zoning laws, are beginning to publicly voice their displeasure with the proposed initiative. 

Last month, Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell said the initiative was "bad for LA" and bad for the city's economy. Garcetti says he agrees with the initiative's "sentiment" of decreasing spot zoning and variances to the city code, but a ballot measure is not the way to accomplish the goal, adding that it would have "unintended consequences," such as rising rents and a decrease in available housing during a housing crisis.” The mayor would like to meet with the CPLA to discuss a compromise that would "get to the heart" of the CPLA's complaints without going to the voters in November. 

CPLA leader Michael Weinstein says he's willing to meet with the mayor, but doesn't show any signs of wavering in his push for the measure. He says in order for CPLA to agree to a compromise, the LA City Council would have to pass severe limits to the granting of exemptions, and commit to "doing a new general plan or community plan on a set timeline." Until then, the CPLA is going ahead with their ballot measure. They even have a PR campaign planned to help gather the 65,000 signatures needed to get on the ballot. And in the next few weeks, they will erect billboards pleading for LA to "Stop Manhattanwood." 

(Jeff Wattenhofer writes for Curbed LA, where this perspective was first posted.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 3

Pub: Jan 8, 2016

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOOMERS--On New Year’s Day, the first baby boomers will turn 70.

From Jan. 1, 1946, through the end of 1964, 76 million babies were born in the U.S., more humans than lived in this country in 1900.

With a little help from LSD and our friends, we’ve won a cultural and technological revolution.

But our earthly survival depends on beating the lethal cancer of corporate domination-and the outcome is in doubt.

The GIs coming back from World War II kicked Rosie the Riveter out of the factories and into the suburbs.

The GI Bill gave them cheap home loans and free college tuition, birthing one of the world’s great university systems and one of its best-educated workforces.

Millions of boomers entered those colleges in the early ’60s. They lit the torch for a cultural revolution. They also invented the personal computer and the Internet.

Pot and psychedelics were essential to both. (Timothy Leary-Photo above)

The cultural revolution began with race and gender. The movements demanding equality for black, Hispanic and female Americans is far from finished. But all have progressed many orders of magnitude since the first boomers were born.

The birth control pill opened the floodgates for sexual freedom. But except for socialist and feminist Emma Goldman in the 1910s, America had hosted virtually zero public dialogue about homosexuality-until the Stonewall riots of 1969. Gay activists were at last openly out, vocal and explicit. An astonishingly powerful, fast-paced movement has transformed the mainstream and media, where gay and interracial couples have become “no big deal” in record time.

In tandem has come the music. Rock ’n’ roll grew organically from the blues, ragtime, gospel, swing, bebop, and rhythm and blues. It rode the 1930s invention of the electric guitar. But it took a quantum leap in the ’60s as pot and LSD morphed the music of Jimi, Janis, Dylan, the Doors and especially the Beatles and their Sgt. Pepper. From Monterey to Woodstock, the Stones to the Dead, something happened to the pop/rock culture and we’re still not sure exactly what it was, but LSD and pot were at the bottom of it.

The media tried to drown it out with a tedious tsunami of endless psychobabble. In 1971, Richard Nixon launched his racist, anti-youth drug war, complete with 41 million arrests, aimed at crushing the civil rights and counterculture movements.

But something else was happening and we didn’t know what that was, either. In Northern California, around Stanford University and some early Silicon Valley startups, a transcendent band of uniquely stoned code warriors blew open the bravest new world of human interconnection. A million stoned rants about how we humans are “all of one mind” suddenly became tangible with the personal computer and the Internet, all miraculously linked.

Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs and a host of merry geeksters merged cannabis and psychedelics with music and activism (see John Markoff’s “What the Dormouse Said”) into a magical, digital mystery tour, a transcendent PC/Internet wave that we all now ride. Humankind has never known a more transformative amplification of consciousness and technology.

With it has come a revolution in green power. The silicon chip has yielded the silicon solar cell and the ability to turn the sun’s energy into electric current and amazingly efficient LED lighting. With them have come massive wind turbines with escalating efficiency and the power to envision a solartopian earth freed of the grid-to be totally electrified by cheap, sustainable, job-creating green energy that is owned and managed through a democratized network of small communities and stand-alone rooftops.

To that has been added a new level of mass transit (see the train systems in Europe, China, Japan) and the electric car-zero emission, low maintenance, increasingly affordable-with a conjoined revolution in mass-produced batteries ready to stretch our range and smooth the “intermittency” of renewable generation.

Would this all have been possible if LSD had not mimicked for a new American generation what peyote and other ritual substances did for our indigenous tribal (and matriarchal) ancestors so long before the whites came? Did that ancient prophecy really say a generation of whites would someday come with a Hopi-sounding name (“hippies”) to bring lasting peace?

More critical is to finally pay attention to the wisdom our indigenous forebears had to share about living in harmony with our Mother Earth.

And how to transcend the corporate cancer that’s killing us all.

In medical terms, we’re at a breakthrough moment. A mix of natural cures (like cannabis), balanced with carefully targeted DNA-based chemotherapies, stem cells and genetic therapy, have transformed the fight to survive. Stem cells in particular promise a wide range of treatments we can only barely envision.

My friend Peter Simon, one of our generation’s great photographers, has seen a new “boutique” chemotherapy (taken with cannabis suppositories) reduce his lung cancer by half. Another friend’s lung cancer has been defeated with new stem-cell therapy.

With new ideas being facilitated by the PC and shared on the Internet, saturation chemo and contempt for natural cures are being blown away by a radical new storm of holistic integrated treatments.

But the fight against the most lethal cancer of all seems seriously stuck. We have transformed our culture and our technology. But our politics have been metastasized by the lethal toxins of corporate cash.

Somehow our courts grant corporations human rights with no human responsibilities. Their DNA carries just one imperative—make money. If a corporation can make an extra buck by killing you and your family, it’s legally bound to do so. They can slash maintenance at your local nuclear power plants, melt them down, blow them up, exterminate you and your family with no liability to the corporate entity. Their profoundly anti-human ethos protects them from paying the human and planetary costs because they are immune. Yet they’re programmed to gouge out as much financial excess as possible for their unelected CEOs, no matter what happens to workers or the surrounding population or to the world in which we all live (but that they seem to be just visiting).

A corporation cannot sacrifice short-term profit for long-term environmental benefit. Greed is the absolute master of all the corporation does, with human and ecological consequences of zero concern except for public relations reasons, which fluctuate.

When a corporation does business, it expects to gouge you. When it crashes, it expects you to bail it out, with no penalties to those in charge (see the crash of 2007). When it demands global trade deals, it expects to negate the power of the human community.

If you wanted to design an economic/industrial entity more perfectly suited to eradicating human life and destroying our planet, you could hardly do better than the modern transnational corporation.

Our species at this time seems impotent to control this malignancy. We may have hugely transformed our views on race, feminism, sexuality, sexual preference, music, the arts, the environment, organic food, imperial war and much more; but the global corporation is the twisted, mean-spirited sociopath that turns all it touches to death itself.

By legal charter these malignant parasites cannot stop sucking the life force from all of us. Unopposed, they will persist until every possible ounce of profit can be extracted from our bodies, souls and planet, even as they hire armies of PR bloviators to make us believe that’s how “the system” must work: Fukushima is good for us. Smoking does not cause cancer. Aspartame will make you thin. Slave wages will make you free. Ignorance is strength.

And, above all, war is peace.

In response, a new world of music provides a fabulous soundtrack to accompany our class and culture war. We know how to love each other beyond race, gender, class and preference. We understand that the earth is one and we humans are neither separate nor superior.

What we don’t yet know is how to dethrone greed, how to strip from the corporate genetic code the power and proclivity to kill us all.

The real acid test of the baby boomers is to unite with those who’ve come before and since to rid our body politic of the power of money and the poisons it produces.

Feed your head, the dormouse said. And may the force be with us.

(Harvey Wasserman is an author. His “America at the Brink of Rebirth: The Organic Spiral of US History” is now available for your comments, in early draft, pre-publication form, at www.solartopia.org. He was born on the last day of 1945. Posted earlier at the excellent Truthdig

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

HERE’S WHAT I KNOW-As we close out 2015, let’s take a look at how the history books (or more likely, Wikipedia) will view the past year for women. On the national stage, 2015 has been a year of rollbacks. State legislatures around the country have passed 57 bills restricting women’s right to choose, with at least a hundred more laws up for consideration in the New Year. (Photo: Anne Gust, California First Lady.)

One of President Obama’s first presidential acts was to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, easing the path for women to fight wage discrimination – yet women still make about 78 cents on the dollar (84 cents in California) compared to men with comparable jobs, even when adjusted for experience and education.

Of the remaining GOP candidates, many have an abysmal track record on equal pay, voting against, obstructing, and deriding equal pay legislation in their states. Chris Christie vetoed equal pay legislation in New Jersey numerous times, including a bill that would have required salary transparency for public contractors, referring to the legislation as “senseless bureaucracy.” Rand Paul not only voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act but compared the act to the Soviet Union’s Politboro and has criticized the idea of equal pay for women. Marco Rubio joined Paul in voting against the Paycheck Fairness Act, saying any equal pay legislation is “wasting time.” Ted Cruz joined his colleagues in voting against the act and derided it as a “show vote.” When questioned about the Paycheck Fairness Act, Jeb Bush wasn’t even sure what it was and has referred to the Equal Rights Movement as “kind of a retro subject.”

Despite the seeming downturn for issues impacting women, our state of California seems to be on the opposite side of the spectrum, passing numerous pieces of legislation signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on matters ranging from abortion to sexual assault on college campuses.

This year, the Governor signed the Reproductive FACT Act into law, requiring licensed healthcare facilities to post or distribute a notice stating, “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception, prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women,” along with contact information for local county social services. Unlicensed facilities must disseminate a notice that the facility is not licensed as a medical facility by the state of California. This law, which goes into effect January 1, ensures clinics provide accurate information and places some restrictions on crisis pregnancy centers that are known to use scare tactics and misinformation to dissuade clients from seeking abortions.

With regard to birth control access, a California law allowing pharmacists to prescribe birth control pills will go into effect in the New Year. Most health plans in the state are required to cover contraception, as well as counseling, follow-up, and voluntary sterilization. 

California also leads on the issue of equal pay. This year, Gov. Brown signed one of the toughest pay equity laws in the U.S. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report just this year, California women employed full time receive a median of 84 cents for every dollar received by our male counterparts. The California Fair Pay Act, supported by the California Chamber of Commerce and most GOP lawmakers, broadens federal and state laws requiring equal pay for the same job to include “substantially similar work,” even if titles differ or employees work at different sites. The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who ask for or discuss wages. 

Two new laws will impact pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers. State universities can no longer mandate that female grad students take leaves of absence for pregnancy and those who do take leaves must be allowed to return in good standing. Larger airports in California must provide an area apart from restrooms for lactating mothers to express breast milk. 

Sexual assault has been a prominent issue this past year across the U.S. In California, new laws will impose a mandatory 180 days in jail for paroled sex offenders who fail to report for fitting with a GPS tracking device or who make the device inoperable. As of July this year, California college campuses are required to immediately inform law enforcement about sexual assaults reported on campus. The law also provides a chain of command for first response, collection and sharing of evidence, and privacy laws. An additional law requires colleges and universities in the state to adopt affirmative consent by both participants. 

California public schools will be required to publish the number of girls and boys who participate in each sport to demonstrate equal access to programs. 

Overall, California has a much better report card with regard to issues impacting women than most of the other 50 states and the nation as a whole. Although we have a way to go, women in California are ending 2015 on the up escalator.

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

-cw

  

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

 

 

HERE’S WHAT I KNOW-Author E.M. Forster once wrote, “I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars.” 

Although giving birth might not be a determining factor in the follow-through or even existence of activism, mothers have a longstanding tradition of mobilizing to get the job done. We joke about how a group of mothers can organize the logistics of running the soccer snack shack or a gift wrap drive that pays for those ELMO projectors in the classroom. These days, groups like Moms Demand Action, which has chapters in all fifty states, lobby members of Congress to push expanded background checks for guns. 

The President’s speech laying out the executive order to expand background checks for buyers and close the “gun show loophole” that exempts most small-sellers from keeping formal records of sale referenced the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook, from the introduction by Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was killed in the school mass shooting to the closing moments of the speech.

Sandy Hook was also a pivotal point for Shannon Watts, (photo above) an Indianapolis mother who started a Facebook page, “One Million Moms for Gun Control,” the day after the mass shooting. The page has grown into a nonpartisan advocacy group. The group’s “We Can End Gun Violence” video features President Obama as well as Julianne Moore, Spike Lee, Amy Schumer, and Michael J. Fox. Last fall just before the third anniversary of Sandy Hook, the organization’s Orange Walks around the country to “honor all the lives taken by gun violence in America and show just how determined we are to end it.” (Moms Demand Action)

The Indianapolis mother has become a leader in the movement to end gun violence, joined by supporters across the country who have started local or statewide chapters. How did Watts turn a personal mission into a national powerhouse?

Watts has stated that she modeled Moms Demand Action after Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD.) Since MADD was incorporated in 1980, the organization has evolved into one of the most influential grassroots-founded nonprofits in the U.S.

Like Moms Demand Action, MADD was founded by a mother. Candy Lightner took action after her 13-year old daughter was killed by a driver who had multiple records of arrest for intoxication and a hit-and-run drunk driving charge less than a week before the fatal accident. Today, drunk driving carries consequences but it hasn’t always been that way. At the time of Cari Lightner’s death, drunk driving was rarely prosecuted. Cari was one of 2,500 alcohol-related traffic fatalities that year in California when her mother lobbied Governor Jerry Brown to set up a task force on drunk driving. Lightner became the first member.

A year later, California had passed a law imposing minimum $375 fines for drunk drivers and mandatory sentences for repeat offenders. President Reagan tapped the California mother to serve on the National Commission on Drunk Driving. The commission recommended raising the drinking age to 21 and revoking licenses for repeat offenders. By 1984, the President had signed a law that reduced federal highway grants to states that had not raised the drinking age to 21 and all states had imposed stronger DUI laws. MADD had about 320 chapters and 600,000 volunteers throughout the country by 1985.

Although Lightner parted ways with the organization she started in 1985, MADD continued to impact DUI laws, waging a successful campaign to lower the national legal blood alcohol level (BAC) from 0.1 percent to 0.08. MADD’s lobbying efforts have led to numerous other laws and practices, including administrative license suspensions and ignition interlock laws. MADD continues to work towards their mission to “end drunk driving, help fight drug driving, support the victims of these violent crimes, and prevent underage drinking.”

E.M. Forster may have been right. If mothers like Candy Lightner and Shannon Watts can impact issues like DUI legislation and gun licensing, what other causes can be spearheaded by mothers who make a difference?

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

-cw

  

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 3

Pub: Jan 8, 2016

URBAN PERSPECTIVE--There’s no shortage of chatter about GOP Presidential contender Donald Trump campaigning. But almost nothing has been said about how a “President” Trump would actually govern. 

While there’s no consensus that he could be elected in the general election, there is a consensus now that he has a real shot at winning the GOP nomination and making a real run for the White House. 

It’s based on these very real facts. Since he officially declared for the presidency last June except for one brief moment he’s consistently gapped every other GOP contender in poll ratings; no expected implosion has happened.

He has fired up a big swatch of the GOP base, conservatives, and white evangelicals, but more ominously he’s stirred passion and zealotry among millions of disaffected, alienated white blue collar workers. He’s been a rating’s, and thus a cash cow bonanza, for much of the media and a sound bite dream machine for newsrooms. They will continue to play up every Trump quip, dig, and inanity big time. This will further cement his name, reputation, and even appeal to millions.

Despite predictions that his backers will resoundingly shut down on him when they get in the voting booth in the primaries, there’s a good likelihood that many won’t.

The GOP presidential nominee needs 50 percent plus one of the 2,470 delegates to bag the nomination.  Party leaders gloat and nervously plot that Trump will crash and burn long before he gets anywhere close to that number. Maybe, but 11 states have winner take all primaries, ten states assign delegates proportionally, and 17 states use a caucus and convention to hand pick delegates.

With only Texas senator Ted Cruz and Florida Senator Marco Rubio flirting with double digit poll support, it’s no stretch to see Trump netting hundreds of committed delegates from more than a handful of states.

Though Trump has seemingly warred with the GOP establishment, the fight has been over mostly over his style, personality, and comportment, but not on the key issues from abortion and Planned Parenthood to the economy and foreign policy.

Take Trump’s rough edge off his bluster about these issues, and his stance on them is mostly in line with the party’s on these issues with some curious exceptions.

So the question that once seemed absolutely ludicrous to think, let alone ask, is now a question that can be seriously asked and … even to an extent answered. Just how would Trump govern?

There’s little reason to think Trump is suited to patient give and take negotiation and compromise to get his initiatives through Congress. His style is to bellow, bully, and harangue to get his way.

As for the issues, Trump has been on the political scene long enough to have enough of a paper trail to piece together from his statements in debates and interviews and speeches a fairly accurate picture of what he will say and do on the big ticket issues. Those issues are the budget, government spending, civil rights enforcement, the environment, crime control, the military and foreign policy. He’ll be totally hand’s off Wall Street and the banks on regulatory matters, slash corporate taxes to “0” percent, impose no cap and tax on big oil, and radically slash funding for the EPA and the Department of Education. But he’ll also cut funding for the Defense Department.

On civil rights and civil liberties, he accepts the Supreme Court decision in support of gay marriage, says he’s “fine” with affirmative action, and will enforce the laws on hate crimes. He’s disparaged the Black Lives Matter movement, but did acknowledge that black lives do matter.

He’ll let states decide what they’ll do about medical marijuana, legalizing marijuana, and the drug laws.

On the one hand, he derides climate change as a “hoax” but on the other acknowledges that there may be some need to take some action.

He repeats the GOP party line that the Affordable Care Act is a “disaster.” So, he will try to repeal and replace Obamacare.

He reminds all that he opposed the Iraq War, but will put boots on the ground against ISIS, take a hard line confrontational stance in confronting North Korea and Iran on their nuclear capacity.

On the signature issues that get him raves from millions, he’ll do everything to further erode labor unions, flatly oppose any minimum wage increase, try to wall off the borders, and crack down on Muslims coming and going in the country.

Trump hasn’t as yet laid down a specific blueprint for how he’ll work with Congressional Democrats or even Congressional Republicans, let alone foreign leaders, if elected, but there’s really no need to do that at this point. It would actually ham string his free-wheeling, shoot from the lip approach to campaigning. If anything the absence of such a blueprint adds to his take-no-prisoners, tough talking, rip the establishment, allure.

As for Trump’s hyped up, disgruntled, vengeful backers, they see all of this as the prescription for a new type of White House -- and better still, a change in the substance and style of governance. This would be nothing short of a monumental disaster and turn Washington into a home and away laughingstock. But in a political season of wide voter rage and discontent, too many, how Trump will actually govern is less important than that he will govern.

 

(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is President of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.) 

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 97

Pub: Dec 1, 2015

ANOTHER YEAR OF SAMEOLD, SAMEOLD--As 2015 comes to a close, veterans are still on the “losing end” when it comes to healthcare, housing and Constitutional rights.

For decades, each new Administration has proclaimed a debt of gratitude to our veterans and promised supportive medical, education and housing assistance upon their return from war yet each administration has further complicated or ignored VA problems and made them even worse for veterans to navigate the continuing corrosion and corruption that never seems to “get fixed.”

When the new Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs Robert A. McDonald was confirmed by the US Senate and sworn into office in July 2014, he touted his experience as a CEO for a major company an asset for the VA. McDonald replaced General Eric Shinseki who resigned amid intense fire over allegations that some VA health care facilities across the nation, particularly Phoenix, AZ, were covering up excessive patient wait times for veterans, veterans' deaths and even secret waiting lists at VA hospitals across the country. 

McDonald laid out a 90-day plan to increase efficiency and improve care at the department.

In a press conference at the VA headquarters in D.C. in September 2014, McDonald promised, “to be transparent about the Department, vowing to do away with the hierarchy and make veterans the top priority.” Yet, a year later no one has been “done away with.” The quest to “weed out corruption” has not resulted in the termination of anyone’s employment but rather two demotions. Sharon Hellman, who is believed to have supervised the manipulation of veteran wait times in Phoenix, AZ a year ago, remains on paid leave with a salary of $170,000 per year, “pending investigation.” At that time, the VA Inspector General’s Report found deep problems and a “corrosive culture” throughout the national VA health system that extended far beyond Phoenix to over 69 facilities nationwide. 

The New York Times (NYT) reported just three months ago that veterans seeking health care from the VA often end up on waiting lists of a month or longer has increased over 50%.

At the largest VA care facility in the country, the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration (WLAVA) wait times still remain excessive. Thousands of veterans still wait six months to a year for appointments. Yet Congress is being told that wait times have drastically improved.

Billions of dollars are pumped into the VA yearly, yet nothing improves, and again, the VA faces a budget shortfall of nearly $3 billion dollars.

NYT reported the DVA “is considering furloughs, hiring freezes and other significant moves to reduce the gap” after McDonald assured Americans in 2014 that “the DVA has added more clinic hours, are recruiting additional staff, deploying mobile medical units, and having high-performing facilities share their best practices to help facilities all over the country rise to a higher level of improvement.” An even better question that deserves an honest answer is, “Where is all the money being spent?” Accountability is buried in bureaucracy.

In March 2009, President Barack Obama stood aside former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, promising to end veteran homelessness in five years and pumped nearly $270 Million into programs aimed at addressing the problem. Millions of dollars were pumped into Housing and Urban Development agencies (HUD) for housing vouchers for veterans yet over six years later, thousands of veterans remain homeless in part, because of 2013 sequestration funding cuts, that in 2016 will purportedly restore only one third of the vouchers in the VASH program. Landlords have stopped taking HUD VASH vouchers because they are not worth enough to cover high rents in many cities- coupled with the presumed safety risks of renting to mentally ill veterans whose illnesses may be exacerbated by drugs and alcohol because they do not seek treatment.

Homeless veterans still remain, largely, at risk. In 2010, the DVA estimated that on any given night there were 76,000 homeless veterans sleeping on the streets. Those statistics were measured using data from the Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS) administrative database. The database only reflected the number of veterans who used emergency shelters or transitional housing during the 12-month period. Homeless veterans who did not utilize either were not included in the estimates. In warm climates, homeless simply sleep on the streets and rarely go into shelters. 

In 2015, the DVA says that estimation nears 50,000. Critics believe those estimates are extremely low because data used in compiling statistics was incomplete. 

In Los Angeles, estimates of homeless veterans over the past five years have varied greatly from 5000 to 20,000 and sometimes more. In the past year, homelessness rose 6% but no one knows exactly what number it rose from. 

In February 2015, the DVA detailed its plan to end veterans' homelessness in Los Angeles by 2016, pledging to build permanent and temporary housing on the 387-acre property at the West LA VA. For more than 15 years, “chest-bumping” politicians have spewed these same promises to veterans. It took years to renovate building 209 into 55 apartments with a price tag of over $20 M so it’s a good guess that 2016 will come and go before more housing for veterans is built on the West LAVA campus. 

Since former Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, released a 2009 report labeling veterans as “extremists” the VA has been actively reporting veteran’s names to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) database to prohibit veterans from owning, buying or selling firearms. The VA’s “guilty before proven innocent” scam has denied rights, without interference, for hundreds, perhaps thousands of veterans simply because they were injured during war.

In 2013 Senator Richard Burr attempted to pass legislation that would allow only individuals who were adjudicated by a judge if their illness or disability posed a threat either to themselves or others to be placed on the FBI’s NICS database. No one expected Congress to pass a bill would favor a veteran. 

Senator Chuck Grassley also showed great concern over arbitrary actions by the FBI and the VA. In a 2013 letter to Attorney General Eric Holder Grassley wrote, "The VA’s regulation appears to omit important findings and never reaches the question of whether a veteran is a danger to himself, herself, or others. 

“Thus, a VA determination that a veteran is “incompetent” to manage finances is insufficient to conclude that the veteran is “mentally defective” under the ATF’s standard that is codified in federal law," Grassley continued. "Furthermore, when a veteran receives a letter stating that the VA believes he is unable to manage his finances, that veteran now has the burden of proving that he is in fact competent to manage his benefit payments and does not need a fiduciary. 

“However, underlying the hearing is a real possibility that the right to firearms will be infringed. Therefore, in light of the liberty and property interests involved, placing the burden of proof on the veteran is highly suspect. Under similar circumstances, the burden is generally on the government.” 

It is, unequivocally, unsound and irrational thinking that sends our young men and women off to war and EXPECTS them to come home “whole.” Most veterans experience minor depression, minor PTSD, and even minor short-term memory loss when they return home but can still function- competently. 

No court would find them incompetent and strip them of their second amendment rights for such minor diagnoses unless they were proven to be a detriment to society.  

In some of these cases, the VA does not even offer reasons or evidence for such a Determination yet their names are arbitrarily added to the NICS database. Would it surprise you that OVER 99% of the names added by all authorized agencies came from the VA? 

VA determinations are not made by mental health professionals or adjudicated in a Court of law, but rather by a benefit administrator- a policy that is quite different than the rest of the population whose cases must be adjudicated in a Court of law. Veterans are not given a hearing before these determinations are made by the VA but can request a “hearing” after the fact or can file an appeal to dispute the VA’s findings. Guilty before proven innocent? 

The 14th Amendment of the US Constitution is very clear. “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” 

America, we need to demand “better treatment” for the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep this country safe. We owe them a debt of gratitude and they deserve nothing less than the benefits they were promised and equal protection under the law as all else are entitled to.

 

(Katharine Russ is an investigative reporter and a regular contributor to CityWatch. She can be reached at Katharine.russ@charter.net.)

-cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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