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WAGING WAR ON BIG MONEY-When it ruled Monday that California lawmakers can ask for voters’ opinions on campaign-spending laws, the state Supreme Court underscored “that the ultimate power of our government is vested in the people,” Common Cause senior vice president Karen Hobert Flynn declared in the wake of the decision.

By upholding the legality of Proposition 49 -- which would ask voters whether Congress should propose an amendment overturning the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United   -- the court spoke “directly to the question we have faced since the Citizens United ruling,” Hobert Flynn continued. “Are we a democracy of, by, and for the people, or are we to be ruled by an elite, moneyed class, where the power of government rests in the hands of a few wealthy special interests?”

The San Jose Mercury News reported on the 6-1 decision:

The California Supreme Court on Monday for the most part upheld the state Legislature’s power to put nonbinding, advisory measures on the ballot -- allowing state politicians to essentially test the waters on issues with voters without actually enacting new laws. The justices left some questions unanswered as to how far the Legislature can go in using such measures in the future.

The unprecedented legal test stems from Proposition 49, a measure removed from the November 2014 ballot by the state’s high court that sought voter views on whether Congress should be asked to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial 2010 Citizens United ruling on unlimited independent campaign spending.

“Long-standing historical practice among the states demonstrates a common understanding that legislatures may formally consult with and seek nonbinding input from their constituents on matters relevant to the federal constitutional amendment process,” the ruling read in part.

“We see no evidence the drafters of the California Constitution intended to deprive the Legislature of a tool other state legislatures have long used to ensure they are truly speaking on behalf of their states in the federal constitutional amendment process,” Justice Kathryn M. Werdegar wrote for the state’s high court.

The development paves the way for the state legislature to put this issue before voters statewide in 2016. “I certainly expect it to be on the ballot one way or another,” Derek Cressman, who was the campaign manager for the proposition before it was removed from the ballot, told the LA Times. Hundreds of thousands of Californians also have spoken in support of an amendment through local advisory referenda, Common Cause points out.

A similar advisory referendum is slated to appear on the ballot this November in Arkansas. And in Washington state, backers of yet another initiative aimed at overturning Citizens United submitted 330,000 signatures to the secretary of state at the end of December -- more than enough to qualify the measure for the 2016 ballot.

“Coast-to-coast, Americans are determined to break the hold of big money donors on our politics,” said Hobert Flynn, “from city hall and the county courthouse to the national capitol and the White House.”

(Deirdre Fulton writes for Common Dreams … where this piece was first posted.) Photo: The Earl Warren Building in San Francisco -- Sanfranman59, licensed under GFDL via Wikimedia Commons.  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 100

Pub: Dec 11, 2015

EASTSIDER-Over the holidays, I started reminiscing about “back in the day,” something I used to hate in my 20’s when “old people” did it. However… 

I was thinking of a black union leader in LA named Walter Backstrom. He headed up the LA City Sanitation Workers Union for SEIU back in the day, and for some reason, he took a young union hothead under his wing. At the time, I was around twenty-six, working in Watts as a Social Worker and with the Social Workers Union – so proud of my UC Berkeley credentials. 

Both Sam Yorty and Tom Bradley were running for Mayor of the City of Los Angeles at the time. After we tired of passing endless resolutions to get out of the Vietnam War, we backed Tom Bradley. After all, he was black and everyone seemed to think he was cool. 

Bradley was cool, even though he was a high ranking police officer with tenuous actual ties to South Central LA. He was not universally perceived by the community as a nice guy. And Walter and Local 347 were backing Sam Yorty. 

Anyhow, we got to talking when I discovered some Yorty backers slapping some pretty nasty bumper stickers on cars in Watts, making it look like Bradley was a black radical.  Morally outraged, I asked Walter “how can this be?” I asked him, “how can you back a racist like Yorty?” I’ll always remember his reply. “Son,” he said, “Tom Bradley doesn’t need any more black support, but Sam Yorty does. I get paid to help my members.” 

Backstrom represented the trash collection workers. They had hard jobs and bad working conditions. They needed all the help they could get, especially from City Hall. 

Yorty went on to win, and I couldn’t help but notice that Local 347 got great contracts -- courtesy of Mayor Sam and wonderful access to City Hall. Walter Backstrom later went on to work for State Senator Bill Green and for Councilman Robert Farrell. We remained friends over the years. Local 347 always got good contracts for trash workers during those times. It was a lesson to me in the “good” RealPolitik

My takeaway is this:  Back then, the politicians were probably no cleaner than they are today, but the system had a network of relationships, built over time, that worked. No one wanted to do anything spectacularly stupid that would jeopardize those relationships -- with a few notable exceptions. It was a time for “grown-ups,” in the sense that everyone was clear about their stake in the game; your handshake really was your bond and most of the real political business got done over cocktails and food or in private meetings. 

In Sacramento, where I did some occasional lobbying work for my union, special interests maintained individual full-time hired lobbyists. The big unions ran tabs at all the bars in town and the eateries like Frank Fats, David’s Brass Rail, and Posey’s. They kept hotel tabs at places like The Senator. While I was there, I never saw a politician pick up a tab or a lobbyist embarrass a politician. Believe me, in the evenings, in the joints with large tables that included the political class and us hangers on, it was the same deal:  your word was your bond. And you didn’t talk or you never came back. 

In those heady, and sometimes corrupt, days in the City and the State, elected officials were basically in for life -- unless they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar or with a seriously underage companion in public.  

There were two plus sides to this system. First, this was a time of direct relationships between the special interests -- sometimes brokered through lobbyists, but often by direct one-on-one meetings. Those relationships lasted over decades. They imposed a degree of personal civility … boundaries that are nonexistent today. 

The other plus side was that everybody had a stake in the game. The politicians tended to gravitate into areas of expertise during their long political careers. Water issues, zoning, taxes, mental health -- you name it -- they found a niche of expertise; they and their staffs became experts.  And that expertise crossed party lines with regularity. Heck, they even read their bills! 

There were characters like Phil Burton and George Moscone and Willie Brown. There were great Republicans like George Milias and Bob Beverly. And they all worked together most of the time. And everyone in the game knew where the practical limits were. 

This worked for the players, even if the public was largely lost in space. The same held true for LA City Hall and the County of Los Angeles, although the County was seriously conservative and secretive compared to the rest of the jurisdictions I dealt with on a continuous basis. 

Then, after a lot of scandals, along came term limits. The thinking was that you couldn’t get an elected official out of office without a crowbar and this was close to true!  As a result, we got a new breed of folks who have no expertise in anything except getting elected to office and making a career out of moving up the rungs of the political ladder. Typically, this occurred at more expense and more to the detriment of the public than under the old system. Talk about unintended consequences!  And today, you still can’t get them out with a crowbar. 

These days, elected officials don’t even read most of the bills they author; votes are pretty much automatic, given the Democratic super majorities. Lost in this process is any pretense of subject matter expertise by these elected officials. It’s all about instant gratification. 

The only relationships that exist are the transitory cash ones between elected officials and the lobbyists, developers, and, yes, the unions who have ponied up the money to keep them in the game.  A handshake is good for a few weeks -- if you’re lucky -- and it’s all about what you are going to do for the incumbent now … now being defined as how what you want fits into their next office … public policy be damned. 

Just look at the LA City Council and the career paths of the majority of these elected officials. Public property, which is theoretically owned by the people of the City of Los Angeles and is held in trust by these public servants, is treated as markers in a monopoly game, while they bounce from job to job. 

My point is not to glamorize the old system or to bring back the good old days of a part-time California Legislature – even though you at least knew who bought who back then. 

I want to encourage some serious thought about how we govern, and how to go about modifying our existing system so that there is some incentive for elected officials to actually know something about the issues they casually shop. 

Land use issues are very complicated if you want to do more than simply sell your vote. Law enforcement issues are likewise very complicated. The second you drill down into the details and set up ‘filtering’ Commissions, it doesn’t seem to do a lot for either the communities we live in or the police themselves. 

The same is true of a host of issues. For instance, water management at the State level. This requires both knowledgeable elected officials who have subject matter expertise, either their own or that of their paid staffs. “Dialing for dollars,” as evidenced in our current system, is not what we need or want. 

So maybe, just maybe, we should take another look at term limits … and their implications.

 

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 3

Pub: Jan 8, 2016

VOICES OF THE PEOPLE--A funny thing happened on the way to asking Angelenos to pay more taxes while watching the laws of physics, biology, and the City Charter:  they got desperate, felt cornered, and started to rebel. 

Certainly, the venerable efforts of Save Valley Village, and others like it, are being opposed by City Councilmembers who "understand" but disrespect their sentiments by continuously falling back on a "Downtown Group-Think" which justifies every possible excuse to overdevelop at the expense of the lives, environment, health and financial survival of honest, law-abiding City residents. 

Ditto for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, backed by the same grassroots types who want to have more mobility, economic opportunity, and environmental laws supported by the City Council, but instead have to confront and oppose a City Council, Mayor, and Planning Department which prefers to break the law, change the law, and thwart the lives and wills of their tax-paying constituents. 

And did you hear about the awful (gasp!) organization backing the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, which merely requires a halt on overdevelopments (which, when they're brought before the courts and neighborhood councils, are routinely opposed and shut down) and an adherence to City Charter and its associated environmental laws and laws of democratic governance? 

It's that pesky, evil Aids Healthcare Foundation sponsoring the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative! 

And that evil, dangerous United Neighborhoods For Los Angeles - UN4LA which is pushing for it!   

Heaven forbid that smart development should be ... smart. 

Heaven forbid creating affordable housing should actually do it ... and not overdevelop with boatloads of high-priced, market-value projects with an already insufficient water and infrastructure to support what now exists in our City. 

Heaven forbid that those neighborhoods who really want to help the homeless, create more mobility through mass transit and appropriate transportation/planning measures, and ensure a livable environment should be empowered to actually do all that. 

And Heaven forbid that City Hall should allow those of us working ever more to keep what we have, while paying more and more for taxes and utility rates while getting less and less in return for them, should be allowed to economically survive instead of City leaders focusing on the profits of well-connected developers and a few small-but-connected special interests. 

It's pretty certain that the "true believers" and "density zombies" at Curbed LA and the like, will continue to work with the Mayor to pat us all collectively on the head, give a few tsk-tsk's, and tell us that all this sentiment is understandable but misguided, and make everything worse...and that we're all just a bunch of NIMBY's

It's also pretty certain that those of us who fought (and paid for, and are agonizing over paying more for) to create mass transit and upgrade our infrastructure, and are now being told to swallow ridiculous transit zones of 1/2-mile from train stations, monstrous overdevelopments that destroy and negatively change neighborhoods, and to give up our cars and commute 5-20 or more miles each day on our bicycles and buses... 

...while City leaders and only the wealthy and connected access work through their own cars... 

...will agonize over the decision to pay more for necessary transportation, or say "NO!" even to good transportation measures and its funding just to make a statement to City Hall. 

Finally, the question of taking back City Hall (which was the intent of Mayor Riordan and the Neighborhood Council Initiative) with the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative will also be on our minds if it gets enough signatures to make it on the November ballot. 

So we've got a "S.O.S." to save so much of what we hold dear, and to keep what we fought for while implementing appropriate and fair-minded change: 

1) Let's do what we can to ensure the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative gets on the November ballot 

2) Let's do what we can to ensure a "Measure R-2" for transportation funding on the November ballot, too. 

And let's see what a "S.O.S." can do as ordinary citizens scratch and claw their way to a City that truly represents the will of the citizenry.

 

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee.  He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  [email protected].   He also does regular commentary on the Mark Isler Radio Show on AM 870, and co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) 

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 4

Pub: Jan 12, 2016-01-11

NEW GEOGRAPHY--In presidential election years, it is natural to see our political leaders also as the brokers of our economic salvation. Some, such as columnist Harold Meyerson, long have embraced politics as a primary lever of upward mobility for minorities. He has positively contrasted the rise of Latino politicians in California, and particularly Los Angeles, with the relative dearth of top Latino office-holders in heavily Hispanic Texas. In Los Angeles, he notes, political activism represents the “biggest game in town” while, in Houston, he laments, politics takes second place to business interests and economic growth.

In examining the economic and social mobility of ethnic groups across the country, however, the politics-first strategy has shown limited effectiveness. Latinos, for example, have dramatically increased their elected representatives nationally since the 1990s, particularly in California. But both Latinos and African Americans continue to move to, and appear to do better in, the more free-market, politically conservative states, largely in the South.

Two Paths to Success

Throughout American history, immigrants and minorities have had two primary pathways to success. One, by using the political system, seeks to redirect resources to a particular group and also to protect it from majoritarian discrimination, something particularly necessary in the case of the formerly enslaved African Americans.

The other approach, generally less well-covered, has defined social uplift through such things as education, hard work and familial values. This path was embraced by early African American leaders such as Booker T. Washington and Marcus Garvey. Today, the most successful ethnic groups – Koreans, Middle Easterners, Jews, Greeks and Russians – demonstrate the validity of this method through high levels of both entrepreneurial and educational achievement.

How today’s racial minorities achieve upward mobility has never been more important. Today, Latinos, together with African Americans and Asians, constitute 43 percent of the combined population in the country’s 52 largest metropolitan areas, up from 35 percent in 2000. By 2050, ethnic minorities are expected to constitute close to a majority of the country’s population. As minorities become majorities, too much reliance on racial redress and wealth redistribution will put enormous stress on the economic system and social order.

Temptations of Politics

Conditions vary, and, for some groups, particularly the larger ones, temptation remains to turn growing numbers into political power. African Americans have employed their numbers and political solidarity to achieve considerable electoral success, particularly at the municipal level. The election of Barack Obama as president stands as the supreme achievement of the African American political community.

But has triumph at the top of the political pyramid translated into true gains at the grass-roots level? From 2007-13, African Americans have experienced a 9 percent drop in incomes, far worse than the 6 percent decline for the rest of the population. In 2013, African American unemployment remained twice that of whites, and, according to the Urban League, the black middle class has conceded many of the gains made over the past 30 years.Concentrated urban poverty – on the decline in the booming 1990s – now appears to be growing.

This contradicts the idea that politically achieved generous welfare and subsidy regimeshold the key to ethnic uplift. African Americans, in fact, often do worse in many of the cities – Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago – that have been exemplars of black political power and redistributionist politics.

Conditions are not much better in the generally more prosperous coastal glamour towns, where progressive racial politics remain sacrosanct.Black households in New York have incomes of roughly $43,000, about the same as much as much less-costly Atlanta, Raleigh, N.C., and major Texas cities.

One possible explanation lies in economic transitions – accelerated by tough regulations – that have seen the demise of higher-paying blue-collar jobs that provided opportunities in the past. The rapid shift to an economy centered around high-end business services and tech enterprises has left many behind. Silicon Valley’s African Americans and Hispanics make up roughly one-third of the population but are barely 5 percent of employees in top Silicon Valley firms.

The biggest beneficiaries of political success has not been working families but members of President Obama’s heavily African American inner circle, as well as politically adept cliques at the state and local level. Bourgeois African Americans in politics, the arts and media enjoy more influence than ever at the top, but the grass-roots level confronts street level crime, rising levels of black dissatisfaction and white resentment.

Where are things better?

In a recent study for the Center for Opportunity Urbanism (www.opportunityurbanism.org), demographer Wendell Cox and I tried to identify the U.S. locales with the best economic conditions for African Americans and other racial minorities. The surprising answer: the old Confederacy. In ranking our top 15 areas for African Americans – based on incomes, homeownership, migration patterns and entrepreneurial activity – 13 were in the South, while the others, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., are in historic border areas.

In the Great Migration, from 1910-70, 6 million African Americans moved from the South to the North, notably to Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Detroit, as well as to California. Now the migration pattern has changed dramatically. From 2000-13, the African American populations of Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Orlando, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Raleigh, N.C., Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla., and San Antonio grew by close to or above 40 percent, or higher, versus an average of 27 percent for the 52 metropolitan areas.

In contrast, the African American population actually dropped in five critically important large metros that once were beacons for black progress: San Francisco-Oakland, San Jose, Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit.

Latinos at a crossroad

Like African Americans, Latinos also are moving to places with lower costs and greater opportunities. For Latinos, now the nation’s largest ethnic minority, nine of the top 13 places are cities wholly or partially within the old Confederacy. The majority of newcomers to the South, notes a recent Pew study, are classic first-wave immigrants: young, 57 percent foreign born and not well-educated. “You go where the opportunities are,” explains Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, D.C.

The contrast is revealing between the two leading Latino megastates: hyperprogressive California and right-leaning Texas. The Lone Star state’s Latino population continues to grow rapidly, expanding since 2000 by 68 percent in Houston, 70 percent in Dallas-Fort Worth and 83 percent in Austin. In contrast, Los Angeles saw a relatively meager 15 percent Latino expansion.

The one place in California that has seen rapid Latino growth combined with the best economic performance is the most Texas-like region in the state: Riverside-San Bernardino, where the Latino population has expanded by 74 percent since 2000.

These migration figures reflect diverging realities. Start with a Latino poverty rate that, adjusted for cost of living, reaches more than 33 percent in California versus 22.7 percent in Texas. Using a host of key social indicators – marriage rate, church attendance and welfare dependency – Latinos also seem to do much better in the Lone Star State than here.

Surprisingly, the educational performance gap between Latino students and whites is much larger in California than in the nation, while significantly lower in Texas, which spends considerably less per pupil.

But perhaps the greatest distinction is found in housing. In cities like Houston, a majority of Latinos and some 40 percent of African Americans own their homes. Those rates are, on average, 25 percent to 30 percent lower in Los Angeles, as well as in deep-blue cities like New York, San Francisco and Boston.

Homeownership, like education, long has been critical to upward mobility. As a recent report by the liberal think tank Demos indicates, much of the “ethnic wealth gap” – white households with wealth more than 10 times their Latino or African American counterparts – comes from differing home ownership rates.

Lesson for minorities?

It may be tempting for minorities in California and other blue regions to continue demanding their “rights” and investing their hopes in transfer payments, housing subsidies, energy credits and affirmative action to improve their day-to-day lives. But this reliance likely won’t turn them into a new upwardly mobile middle class. To rise up, minorities need to demand economic and housing policies that don’t simply alleviate poverty but put more people on the road to overcoming it.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com and Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is also executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The New Class Conflict is now available at Amazon and Telos Press. He is also author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.)

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 4

Pub: Jan 12, 2016

LABOR VUE--Last July, 2,000 conservatives and Tea Party activists gathered in Las Vegas for the annual FreedomFest, which featured GOP presidential frontrunners Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. But it was a fourth grade public school teacher from Orange  County named Rebecca Friedrichs (photo) who promised the far right a prize that neither Trump nor Rubio could offer. Friedrichs and nine other California school teachers are part of a lawsuit now before the U.S. Supreme Court that could deliver a severe blow to the nation’s public-sector unions. It would radically upend the political power of labor — and also, conservatives hope, of the Democratic Party — across the United States.

Friedrichs’ message last summer was the same as she has told audiences elsewhere: “Supposed [union] benefits are not worth the moral costs.”  

The “moral dilemma,” she claims, is over such union collective bargaining practices as securing pensions and workplace protections for public school teachers, and taking positions on issues like school vouchers, that run contrary to her Christian beliefs.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which is scheduled for oral arguments before the high court today, seeks to invalidate California’s agency shop law that requires all teachers in a union bargaining unit to pay “fair share” fees for collective bargaining, whether or not they are members of the union and disagree with the union’s policies. It also seeks to outlaw a process that requires teachers who don’t want a portion of their fees to go to union political activities to “opt out” of funding those activities. (At present teachers are automatically enrolled in such funding mechanisms, unless they choose to opt out.)

Both fair-share and opt-out policies, plaintiffs maintain, violate the First Amendment rights of  teachers like Rebecca Friedrichs who pay “fair share” fees but no union dues. Should that argument find favor with the court’s conservative majority, the case could go down as organized labor’s Citizens United – decimating membership, crippling the unions’ lobbying efficacy and effectively stifling the collective political voice of public-sector workers.

“It really is about weakening a teacher’s voice to advocate for students,” observed CTA president Eric Heins last Thursday at a media briefing. (Disclosure: CTA is a financial supporter of Capital & Main.) “We’ve seen the disastrous results of that in other states where it’s actually happened. If we look at who’s behind this, the Center for Individual Freedom [is] Koch-funded. They have tried and failed through the ballot box to do this … and now they’re trying to get it through the courts.”

In fact, Friedrichs has been literally tailored to do so and was fast-tracked through the California courts by the plaintiffs’ lawyers who asked judges to rule against them so that they could move the case up more quickly toward the Supreme Court.

“Clearly some justices believe that public-sector collective bargaining is bad,” University of California, Irvine law school professor Catherine Fisk told Capital & Main, “and so I think that Friedrichs was a case delivered by an activist litigation group to provide them the vehicle to hold that all public-sector collective bargaining has to be on a strictly right-to-work basis.”

The case originated with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Individual Rights (CIR), a rightwing litigation shop that designed Friedrichs in response to an inference in Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion in Harris v. Quinn, a “dog whistle” ruling widely seen as inviting a First Amendment challenge to fair-share fees.  

CIR had previously won notoriety for its court challenges to affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act. The attorney arguing for the plaintiffs today is Michael A. Carvin of the white-shoe law firm Jones Day, a libertarian firebrand best known for twice attempting to get the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional.

Arguing for the unions is David Frederick, an appellate expert from the Washington, D.C. firm Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel. Separately arguing on the unions’ side is California solicitor general Ed Dumont and U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr.

The court will be considering two questions today: Whether public-sector agency shop agreements violate the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of speech and assembly, and whether the First Amendment prohibits requiring public employees to affirmatively opt out of subsidizing non-chargeable speech rather than to affirmatively opt in.

At stake are nearly 40 years of protections the U.S. Supreme Court has provided for fair-share union fees — and countless federal, state and local labor laws tied to them — rooted in the court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision, which the Burger Court had deemed a reasonable compromise among the First Amendment rights and responsibilities of unions, members and nonmembers.

That landmark ruling established that a public-sector collective bargaining agreement may contain an “agency shop” clause requiring employees who are not union members to financially support the union’s collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance procedures by becoming “fair share payers.”

CTA’s fair-share payers, who include Friedrichs‘ 10 teacher plaintiffs, represent just under 10 percent of the union’s roughly 325,000 members; their fees are translated as payroll deductions of annual fair-share fees amounting to $641, which gets divided among the local union, CTA and its parent organization, the National Education Association. Full union members pay an additional 35 percent that supports the lobbying efforts that give teachers a voice at the education policy table.

Predicting Friedrichs’ chances of prevailing — in spite of the evident antipathy toward unions from Alito and others in the Roberts Court’s conservative faction — turns out to be tied to a tangle of separate strands of First Amendment precedents denying speech rights for government employees that will require contortions of legal logic by the court to create an exception for Friedrichs’ core argument that public school teachers have those rights to begin with.

One strand, Fisk pointed out, leads to Garcetti v. Ceballos, a 2006 case involving the office of former Los Angeles County District Attorney Gil Garcetti, in which the Roberts Court unequivocally affirmed that individual government employees have no First Amendment protections for on-the-job speech.

Another strand leads to Civil Service Commission v. National Association of Letter Carriers, a 1973 Supreme Court case involving a challenge by Chicago letter carriers to the 1939 Hatch Act, which prohibits federal government employees from engaging in a wide range of off-duty partisan political activity. There the court likewise held that the government can prohibit partisan political activity by government employees — even off-the-job speech — in order to have a nonpolitical civil service.

And though Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is often seen as the swing vote in recent decisions written by the conservative majority, the key vote on Friedrichs, Fisk added, may likely be Antonin G. Scalia, who in a 1991 case, Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, upheld fair-share fees as justified because the law imposes a duty of fair representation on the union to represent everyone, not just its members.

“I think it will be important to see what, if anything, is said about Scalia’s opinion in Lehnert,” Fisk noted. “And I think there is an important issue about what deference do the states get to establish their own labor-relations regimes. … What the petitioners in Friedrichs are asking is to prohibit California from making its own choices, and so how do the [conservative] justices that usually would allow states to do what they want, deal with that issue?”

 If Friedrichs prevails, California — along with the rest of the country — will effectively become a right-to-work state for public employees, one in which their unions will still be required by law to represent fairly every worker without regard to whether they pay fees or not. After Republican Governor Scott Walker pushed through his 2011 anti-union law and stripped most of the state’s public-sector unions of their collective-bargaining rights, Wisconsin’s state employees union membership plunged by 70 percent. Membership in the National Education Association’s state branch fell by one-third.

But the consequences of a Friedrichs victory don’t end there. Rather, its logic will open the door to questions of whether any union chosen by the majority has the right to bargain on behalf of everybody, or when the union goes to the table and negotiates on behalf of everybody if that violates the First Amendment rights of employees who don’t want to have the union speak on their behalf.

“There are already cases arguing that, pending in lower courts in various states. There’s one in Illinois,” said Fisk. “And so what that is going to argue is that collective bargaining by a union chosen by the majority violates the rights of the dissenter. I think it’s one of the complicating things in Friedrichs, which is, if the money is the problem, why isn’t the underlying speech also the problem?”

Whether or not Abood can withstand this latest challenge remains unclear, but one thing that is certain is that the fate of America’s public-sector labor movement will be determined by the next President, who may get to appoint as many as three Supreme Court justices.

“If the petitioners don’t win this time,” Fisk reflected, “it’s going to depend on who wins the next election — like everything else, you know, whether it’s the Republican or Clinton or Sanders, because the next Supreme Court appointments are going to matter a lot in this area of law as in every other.”

 (Bill Raden is a freelance Los Angeles writer. This article was first posted at  Capital & Main.

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 4

Pub: Jan 12, 2016

 


CALBUZZ-“They keep coming,” the advertisement’s narrator intoned, while the screen showed footage of undocumented immigrants scurrying across a highway. The year was 1994, and the ad was the centerpiece of California Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s re-election campaign.

Trailing in the polls after a lackluster first term, Wilson resurrected his prospects by excoriating the Clinton administration for its presumed lack of border enforcement and by backing a ballot measure (Proposition 187) that would deny all public services, including the right to attend K-12 schools, to the undocumented.

Short-term, the strategy worked. Wilson won re-election; Proposition 187 passed handily, though it was soon struck down by the courts. Long term, Wilson’s strategy proved to be a Republican cataclysm—indeed, in a state on track to become “majority minority,” (today, California is 39 percent Latino, 13 percent Asian, 6 percent black and 38 percent non-Hispanic white), a more thorough act of political suicide is hard to imagine. (Editor’s note: Last July, Calbuzz explained how Donald Trump has done for the national GOP what Wilson did for California. Here’s the link

GOP Latino Outreach. In 1996, Latinos began voting in far greater numbers, overwhelmingly for Democratic candidates; in time, as the GOP’s anti-immigrant crusades continued, they were joined by the state’s Asian voters as well. What had been a politically purple state at the time of Wilson’s re-election turned deepest blue.

Today, Democrats hold nearly two-thirds of the seats in the legislature, represent more than 70 percent of the state’s congressional districts, and of the 56 regularly scheduled elections for statewide office that have been held since 1994 (for the eight statewide constitutional officers and the two U.S. senators), Republicans have won exactly one—Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2002 gubernatorial bid.

Wilson Replay. In only slightly modified fashion, updated versions of Wilson’s ad began popping up on TV screens and social media this week. Donald Trump’s very first ad features a narrator proclaiming, “He’ll stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our southern border that Mexico will pay for,” over footage showing a mass of people streaming across the border.

Ted Cruz responded with an ad showing people in proper business attire hastening across the border, while Cruz asks if economic elites would be so blasé about immigration if the migrants were a threat to professional, rather than low-wage, jobs—a right-populist twist if ever there was one. (Given America’s changing demographics, of course, Trump and Cruz are likely inflicting the same kind of long-term damage on the national Republican Party that Wilson inflicted on California’s GOP, but candidates and their managers are existentially allergic to thinking long-term.)

The Cruz footage, of course, was staged. But then, the Trump footage, as his campaign belatedly acknowledged, was a video clip not of the U.S.-Mexican border, but of the border between Morocco and the North African Spanish enclave of Melilla. (Mexico, Morocco—sound alike, swarthy people, don’t speak English: What’s the diff?)

Seen this Movie Before. But Republicans have a long tradition of staged border footage. Indeed, the very first political ad ever screened was of dangerous, foreign-accented hordes streaming over the California border. Only, the hordes were really actors, the footage was shot by MGM, and it was presented to the California public not as an ad but as a documentary newsreel that was screened in virtually every movie theater in the state.

The “newsreel” (actually, newsreels—there were three of them) was the linchpin of the GOP’s ultimately successful effort to defeat the 1934 gubernatorial campaign of socialist author and activist Upton Sinclair, who had stunned the state by winning that year’s Democratic gubernatorial primary and who was clearly favored to win the general election until the Republicans launched a multi-million-dollar barrage of falsifications designed to bring Sinclair down.

The barrage included a well-publicized effort to suppress voter turnout by threatening to prosecute and send to prison for up to seven years “fraudulent” voters with no fixed addresses or who had recently moved. (There is little new under the Republican sun.)

But the “newsreels,” which were commissioned by MGM studio chief Irving Thalberg, were the GOP’s pièce de resistance. In answering a question on how he’d follow through on his pledge to create jobs in Depression-wracked California, the somewhat ethereal, political novice Sinclair had said he’d be so successful that the unemployed of other states would flock to California.

Thus inspired, the MGM crew staged footage of unsavory characters with menacingly foreign accents crossing the state line into California, endorsing Sinclair as they came. (Some of the footage was actually outtakes from the William Wellman-Warner Brothers picture Wild Boys of the Road, about Depression-engendered hobos.) One bearded figure with a heavy Yiddish accent said of Sinclair, “Vell, his system vorked vell in Russia; vy can’t it vork here?” (In actuality, Sinclair had a long record of anti-communism, and the Communist Party reviled him during the campaign as a “social fascist.”)

The “newsreels” so enraged Sinclair supporters that arguments broke out in movie theaters across the state, and some chains stopped showing them. They also alarmed many in California’s Jewish community for their blatant use of anti-Semitic stereotypes (much as many Latinos and Muslims are alarmed today by the GOP’s descent into racist and nativist stereotypes.) Some Jewish leaders condemned the studio heads (all of whom opposed Sinclair and all of whom were Jewish) as traitors to their people.

History Repeats Itself. The only real political difference between the 1934, 1994, and 2016 versions of the GOP’s border demagogy is that the 1934 version focused on state lines, not international borders. The opposition of the California right to economic migrants from other states during the Depression was every bit as intense as the Republicans’ opposition to transnational immigrants today, and the stereotyping every bit as vile.

The Oakies who came to California fleeing the Dust Bowl in the years immediately following 1934 were often stopped at the state line and turned back by self-appointed border guards, or subjected to vigilante violence in attacks on migrant farmworker camps. (Such scenes are depicted in both the book and the film of The Grapes of Wrath.) Given the right conditions and sufficient rabble-rousing, even God-fearing white Protestant Americans could be turned into the “other.”

No matter the particulars, the GOP’s determination to exploit and engender anxiety and bigotry for political gain, even, or especially, when it requires blatant and repetitive falsification, has a long and storied pedigree, as more than 80 years of the party’s border propaganda makes sickeningly clear.

(Harold Meyerson is the executive editor of The American Prospect. This piece originally appeared in CalBuzz.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 -cw 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 4

Pub: Jan 12, 2016

THE GOLDEN STATE--The $171 billion budget proposal released this week by California Gov. Jerry Brown shows how politics can work well in a state with the 8th largest economy in the world. It also offers a clear contrast to the political dysfunction in the budget process in Washington. Long derided for its "fruit-and-nuts" politics, California is leading the way in envisioning a political system that can actually get things done. 

The key to Brown's budget is that it addresses the most pressing needs of California's citizens, from homelessness and education to needed infrastructure improvements, at the same time setting aside a substantial "rainy day fund" to prepare for future economic downturns. While not everybody is happy with the budget and it will clearly by tinkered with -- Democrats want more social spending and Republicans don't like the tax proposals -- it represents governance built on compromise and common sense.

Most importantly, it seeks to restore the trust of the public in the ability of government to set priorities and accomplish realistic goals. Unlike some state governments that are paralyzed by ideology and political polarization, blue-state California has found a more moderate, pragmatic path to governance. Social wedge issues have largely been put aside, with greater focus on the well-being of the citizenry and the health of the economy.

While Gov. Brown's tough and experienced leadership is part of the successful equation, there have been important structural and strategic changes to the political system that laid the groundwork for success. In 2012, the state moved to an "open" primary process for elections. Instead of a handful of activist Democrats or Republicans choosing the nominees in their own primary elections in safe districts, any voter can now vote in the primary. The general election in November is then between the top two vote getters, even if they are from the same party.

In practical terms, these means that candidates must seek votes from all voters -- Democrats, Republicans and independents. So even in a safe Democratic district, for example, a candidate can win by getting more votes from Republicans and independents. Candidates with views that appeal only to the Democratic base may lose if they don't get some votes from non-Democratic voters. The same is true in Republican districts where a candidate appeals only to his or her base. The result is that more moderate candidates are elected on both sides of the aisle -- candidates that more accurately reflect the views of the broader electorate.

Even though both the legislative and executive branches in California are controlled by Democrats, the government has avoided much of the ideological posturing that occurs in other states, particularly those dominated by Republicans. While this is in part due to the open primary system, it is also a result of a more moderate position taken by Republicans in the California legislature. For the most part, California Republicans steer clear of social issues and focus on fiscal responsibility and efficient government. In those areas, the Republicans have found occasional allies in both the governor and moderate Democratic legislators.

The Brown budget is also noteworthy in a couple of other respects. First, it sets clear priorities rather than being a jumble of allotments to special interests or political causes. It adds money for education and health services, but also for corrections and transportation, while it actually reduces spending for environmental protection, one of Brown's pet causes. It also extends a tax on health insurance companies, but sets aside $2 billion for the rainy-day fund. Democrats want more spending on social services instead of the fund set-aside, while Republicans are generally unhappy with the tax proposal. When everybody is a little unhappy, it's probably a sign of good government.

Compare the example of California's reformed political system with the dysfunction in Washington and in many other states. California demonstrates that total victory over the opposing political party or ideology is not only unrealistic, but it is undesirable. Government works best when it sets clear, practical priorities that meet the needs of the broader citizenry. Ideology is never a good guide for government, which is at best a messy, trial-and-error endeavor. If our national government could look to the example of California, we'd all be better off.

(Hoyt Hilsman is an award-winning author, journalist and former candidate for Congress. He has written films and television shows for the major studios and networks. This column was posted earlier at HuffingtonPost.com

-cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 4

Pub: Jan 12, 2016

 

 

AT LENGTH-On the very same day that President Barack Obama grew emotional as he made a passionate call for a national “sense of urgency” to limit gun violence nationwide, the California Legislature passed a $2 billion package to “Prevent and Address Homelessness” in communities within the state. 

This happened during the same week armed men broke into the desolate headquarters of a federally owned wildlife refuge in Oregon and refused to leave, “until the government stops its tyranny.” 

What a week of contrasts to start off the New Year.

I was left asking what took the president so long in taking executive action on gun control; the state legislature to act on homelessness? And just what does Ammon Bundy and his anti-government group, Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, really want?

It’s easy to get cranial whiplash following mainstream reporting of events without any sort of historical context. Why should this year start any differently?

The common thread that connects these three events is that they are attempts to redress long-term, one might say chronic, problems that have been with us forever it seems.

America’s long and storied relationship with guns was established more than 200 years ago with the first shot that was fired at Concord, Connecticut marking the beginning of the American colonies’ uprising against the tyranny of British rule. These colonists, our ancestors, were called “terrorists” as they fought using guerrilla warfare tactics against the regimented lines of the red coats.

We still celebrate our heritage, if not the tradition of resistance against repression in our history, whether it’s the American Revolution, the 1791 Whiskey Rebellion or the War of 1812. Even now, every sporting event begins with a performance of the “Star Spangled Banner.” The line, “The bombs bursting in air…” is not just a patriotic metaphor, it’s a national conviction in opposition to tyranny, whether foreign or domestic.

I could write this entire column on the American love affair with guns going all the way back to duel between Vice President Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton (he’s the guy on your $10 bill), in which Hamilton was fatally shot.

The Sandy Hook shooting is what moved Obama to decisively act, without the support of a Republican Congress. The rural uprising in southeast Oregon stands out as the counterpoint to the president’s message. This is a political conundrum that at present seems intractable.

The homeless issue on the other hand seems equally insolvable, yet the grassroots uprising for curing this complicated and chronic epidemic has some new resolve.

Getting our state legislators to act, to pass a $2 billion bond, to do anything at all to deal with a social crisis is astounding at the very least. It does show what can happen when people of good will, social consciousness and political support can accomplish when inspired and motivated.

Yet, the money is just one part of a much bigger problem.

I cannot believe that in a nation that can build the biggest dams to stave off droughts, bend rivers to provide waters to semi-arid regions like Los Angeles, and that has the capacity to place a man on the moon, cannot solve homelessness or control the kinds of senseless massacres we’ve seen across this great land.

What I do see as a possible cure to all of this is a new form of “civility” beginning to rise up against the nativist incivility that has from time to time gripped this nation out of fear of “the others”—particularly in the wake of the shootings in San Bernardino.

What I see is a sense of community that embraces people—neighbor to neighbor—across previous boundaries of race, class and religion. That, at its heart, has more to do with a very American creed of life, liberty and justice for all.

This, I believe, is in the very core of our national consciousness and, in the end, will serve us far better than having a militarized state where everyone has to carry a gun and thousands are left without homes.

(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy- Don't listen to that man with the white cap--he might say something that you agree with!" He was elected to the presidency of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council in 2014 and has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen … and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com )  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw  

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 4

Pub: Jan 12, 2016 

UPON FURTHER REVIEW--If, as Calvin Coolidge long ago declared, the business of America is business, then there are few businesses more American than the National Football League.

And as with any American business, it can be cold and cruel.

Tuesday was a day for the business of business, the league's 32 owners, a collection of the nation's wealthiest and most powerful entities, approved the plan of Stan Kroenke to move his St. Louis Rams to a palatial stadium he will build on an old horse track in Inglewood, Calif.

It sends the Rams back to Los Angeles, the city they ditched 21 years ago on another day that was bitter or sweet depending on your zip code.

The NFL also gave the San Diego Chargers a year to work out a deal to join the Rams, get a new stadium built back home or go to Plan C, whatever that might entail. If the Chargers don't move to L.A., then the Oakland Raiders will have a shot. The NFL will give each franchise $100 million if they choose to build a stadium in their current towns. The Chargers/Raiders proposed stadium in Carson, Calif., is dead.

Time will tell for those franchises and those communities and those fans bases. For Chargers fans, this tense nightmare continues, a desperation chance to keep the team, yet with the depressing reality that they are working with an owner, Dean Spanos, who would've left them dead and buried if he hadn't lost a knife fight of high-stakes politics.

Spanos can join the Rams in Inglewood, but he'll forfeit the NFL's $100 million pledge and pay out a $550 million relocation fee. Besides, the building is being built by Kroenke, and with each day that goes by the Rams will strengthen their position as the area's top team by wrapping up the best sponsors and partners and most devoted fans. That cements the reality that they'll be the NFL version of the favored Lakers and the Chargers/Raiders will be the second-class Clippers.

Tuesday really was a victory out of Kroenke's wildest dreams.

Meanwhile, it's over for the folks in St. Louis, who are left feeling the worst loss imaginable for a sports fan: abandonment and betrayal, a realization they are just powerless pawns, if even that much.

There is no tomorrow, no next game, no next season when the moving vans come. There is just anger and pointed fingers and shaken fists and faded sweatshirts they feel like fools for wearing in the first place.

Kroenke had the right to make the move. Don't get confused on that. The business of business has been good for this country.

And for two decades Los Angeles sat available for anyone to make the NFL happen. A collection of business titans and powerful politicians tried and failed. With multi-billions of dollars behind him and experience as both a real estate developer and a global sports owner, Kroenke cracked the code.

He acquired nearly 300 acres near LAX, has the money to put $1.86 billion – at least – into a stadium, retail and housing development that will be help transform the area. The centerpiece will be a glass-roofed stadium that can seat capacities of 100,000, capable of hosting not just two NFL tenants, but Final Fours, mega concerts, political conventions, Super Bowls, Olympics, World Cups and everything else.

As a businessman, Kroenke makes things happen. The new place will likely usurp Jerry Jones' AT&T Stadium as the nation's premiere stadium-sized venue. It's long overdue for Southern California. From the broad view, it all makes sense. It all seems smart.

This does nothing for those left behind in Missouri, the ones who loudly and loyally supported the Rams, who embraced the franchise, who made it part of their lives and now are told no one cares. The ones who didn't do anything other than what the team asked them to do back in the 1990s – prove that St. Louis was a viable NFL market.

Kroenke grew up in tiny Mora, Mo., attended the University of Missouri and, along with wife, Ann Walton, Kroenke raised their children in Columbia despite outrageous fortune. He was, ironically, brought into the deal as a local minority owner to the L.A.-based Georgia Frontiere, who inherited the team from the fifth of her six husbands.

Frontiere died in 2008. Kroenke took full ownership, and now it's the local guy who is sending them back to L.A., just one more kick in the shins for the fans who understandably feel betrayed by everyone from Kroenke to local politicians, to the system, to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

The argument that a multibillionaire has the right to take what felt like a community institution, even if it never really was, so he can make even more money goes only so far when you're explaining to your kid why it's done and gone.

The Rams will play the next three seasons at the L.A. Coliseum as their stadium is built. Within moments of the vote, NFL.com changed the team name to Los Angeles Rams.

That's how pro sports work, and that's what fans should remember the next time they are marketed to as being part of a "[insert team name] Nation," or told they are the greatest in the world. Everything is negotiable. Loyalty has a price. If an owner can make an extra buck somewhere else, there isn't much anyone can do to stop it.

In 1995, St. Louis spent $280 million in public money on a new stadium, guaranteed $20 million in profits for season tickets and held a raucous downtown rally where thousands chanted "Georgia! Georgia!"

Only Tuesday they could only call into talk radio and rant.

Of all the relocation candidates, St. Louis did the most to keep its team, pledging $400 million in public funds and clearing all sorts of hurdles for a new dome stadium. It didn't matter. Oakland did the least – essentially nothing – yet the Raiders are likely staying put … at least for now.

None of it is "fair." None of it ever was supposed to be, though.

The NFL has detailed and arcane bylaws and processes and committees and so forth. Those are mostly worthless. A panel of owners who analyzed dueling stadium bids voted 5-1 in favor the Chargers/Raiders plan in Carson, Calif. That was ignored.

There is no rhyme to it, no flow, no process to follow. Spanos felt confident he had the necessary nine franchises to block the Rams' plan, only enough of them bailed during a secret ballot. In the end, Kroenke had the most money and the most know-how and all along it was fairly easy to predict that the rest of the league wasn't going to turn its back on that.

Money talks. The Rams walk.

"St. Louis is just out of luck?" Giants co-owner Steve Tisch was asked by reporters after the vote.

"Apparently," Tisch said.

Where once Missourians cheered for the Californian who brought the Rams to them, now Californians will cheer the Missourian who brought them back.

St. Louis will be left trying to lure the Raiders, or maybe even the Chargers, or who knows who is next. The hunted will be back to being the hunter.

Round and round it goes, too many cities desperate for a team, too many fans willing to beg, and the NFL barons cheerily playing musical chairs to sweeten pots.

The regular guy doesn't matter, and never has. It's a bad, brutal day, but no one who matters cares.

This is business, and this is America.

(Dan Wetzel is an author, screenwriter, and national columnist for Yahoo Sports and Yahoo.com … where this column was first posted.)

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 5

Pub: Jan 18, 2016

HERE’S WHAT I KNOW-When rock icon David Bowie died Sunday night following an 18-month battle with cancer, celebs blew up the Twittersphere and just about everyone of a certain age, myself included, posted YouTube links to Space Oddity or Modern Love with such magnitude of tribute that I don’t remember seeing since the death of George Harrison or maybe Michael Jackson. 

Bowie was no doubt a trailblazer in his music and his style. When a friend asked why so many seemed grief-stricken by his passing, I shared I suspected the loss of those who gave us the soundtrack of our youth reminds us of our own mortality.

As with most celeb obits, the accolades were quickly followed by the seamy B-side of fame. Back in the seventies when Bowie was pushing convention with his glittery rock, Sunset Strip’s Rainbow Bar & Grill, the Whiskey, and Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco were the playground of not only luminaries like Bowie and Jimmy Page but also adolescent 12-16 year olds who had garnered some fame of their own as Baby Groupies.

The seventies perhaps epitomized Sex, Drugs, Rock ‘n Roll with endless supplies of coke, Quaaludes, and sex partners. This was before HIV and TMZ. Handlers, club managers, and the staff at the Continental Hyatt looked the other way when rock stars and their entourage threw TVs out the window or held orgies with preteens. And the well-established narrative included Bowie, along with a host of other rock stars.

In a November Thrillist interview, Lori Mattix spilled details in I Lost My Virginity to David Bowie: Confessions of a Seventies Groupie. At 15, Mattix was just one of the Baby Groupies who frequented clubs on the Strip while the closest their peers got to a rock star was in a poster on their bedroom walls. Although the age of consent in California has been 18 since 1970, Mattix says she didn’t consider herself as underage.

“I was a model. I was in love. That time my life was so much fun. It was a period in which everything seemed possible. There was no AIDS and the potential consequences seemed to be light. Nobody was afraid of winding up on YouTube or TMZ. Now people are terrified. You can’t even walk out the door without being photographed. It has become a different world.”

Should we look at the past through the filter of heavily drugged rockers who likely saw these adolescents as a perk of fame? Bowie was open about his drug use, telling Cameron Crowe in a 1975 interview, “I’ve had short flirtations with smack and things but it was only for the mystery and the enigma. I like fast drugs. I hate anything that slows me down.”

Of course, drug use doesn’t lead to sex with minors but excesses of any sort were essential to the seventies brand of hedonism. More than a few comment threads about Bowie’s engagement with the Baby Groupies are peppered with “Those were different times.” Still, handlers knew enough to try to keep this behind closed doors.

Others brush off concerns about the age of consent by addressing the groupies’ willingness. After all, what teen wouldn’t swoon from the attention of a musician, whether Sinatra, one of the Beatles, or One Direction.

Legally, enthusiasm or flirtation in a mini-dress doesn’t absolve one from the boundaries of consent. Nor does a haze induced by a binge of coke, ‘ludes,’ or fifths of vodka.

Can we isolate the behaviors from talent? We likely consider that question every time we watch a Woody Allen or Roman Polanski film or listen to just about any track from the seventies.

Rebecca Hains, associate professor of media studies at Salem State University, wrote following Bowie’s death, “Calling out artists’ (alleged) abuse of others doesn’t necessarily negate the cultural value of their bodies of work.”

Perhaps we can continue to appreciate an artist’s oeuvre while remembering the abuses as a cautionary tale.

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

-cw

  

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 5

Pub: Jan 15, 2016

TRUTHDIG-Obamacare is leaving millions in serious financial pain, pointing up the need for universal health care -- Medicare for all. That’s Sen. Bernie Sanders’ position, and it is a crucial difference between him and Hillary Clinton, his chief rival for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. 

Reiterating one of his major themes Saturday, Sanders told a Putting Families First forum in Des Moines, Iowa, “What this campaign is about is ending the disgrace of the United States being the only major country not to provide healthcare to all people as a right.” 

Clinton, who did not join Sanders and fellow candidate Martin O’Malley at the forum, has offered a considerably more limited plan. She would fix the Affordable Care Act rather than replace it with Medicare for all. She would limit what patients pay for doctor visits and prescription drugs and repeal the law’s planned tax on high-cost, employer-sponsored insurance. And she would try to stop excessive insurance rate increases and limit drug price increases. 

These would just be fixes to a system scathingly described this way by Robert Pear of The New York Times: “For many families, the Affordable Care Act has not made healthcare affordable.” 

A recent study by the New York Times and the Kaiser Family Foundation shows how Obamacare falls short of rescuing Americans from the nagging medical insecurity the act was supposed to have ended. 

On the plus side, Obamacare has made health insurance available to millions who were previously denied it, such as those with pre-existing conditions or freelancers, small-business people and those who found themselves without insurance after losing a job and being confronted by few choices and astronomical rates. Insurance is purchased through an online marketplace -- an exchange -- with subsidies for those with lower incomes. The poor can buy insurance through Medicaid in the 31 states that have agreed to accept federal funding through Obamacare. A total of 16.4 million people have gained coverage under Obamacare. In addition, millions more have health insurance through employers or with policies purchased individually. 

But the survey by the Times and the Kaiser Foundation showed great weakness in this complex system, which is pretty much run by the insurance industry. 

The survey consisted of in-depth interviews of 1,204 adults ages 18 to 64 who said that they or someone in their household had problems paying or were unable to pay medical bills in the previous 12 months. 

Confusing insurance company networks have thrust patients into the hands of physicians and other caregivers who are “out of network,” so patients are only partly covered or not covered at all. Policies with low premiums can impose high deductibles and payments. Despite the goals of Obamacare, people find it confusing to shop for policies or to sign up. 

The survey showed that “problems related to unaffordable medical bills and medical debt are prevalent, affecting roughly 1 in 4 non-elderly adults in the United States. Certain groups are more vulnerable, including individuals and families with lower incomes and limited financial assets, people with chronic medical conditions and disabilities, the uninsured, and people insured by plans with high deductibles.” Also hurt are “people … [with] higher incomes, who are insured, or who are otherwise in good health and then experience unexpected health problems.” 

“Of those who were insured when the bills were incurred, three-quarters … say that their share of the medical cost was more than they could afford,” the report said. 

The survey found about seven in 10 of those interviewed reported cutting back or delaying vacations or major household purchases, as well as reducing spending on food, clothing and basic household items. About six in 10 said they used up all or most of their savings in order to pay medical bills. 

These are more than dry figures for policy wonks who study healthcare. They help explain the anger simmering in the country, as well as numbers that show the discouraged unemployed dropping out of the workforce while income gains go mainly to the top earners. 

Sanders is campaigning for an end to this. He’s doing it in a blunt, forthright way that appeals to Democrats tired of an economic system stacked against them. His message, uncluttered with Clinton-like ambiguities, seems to be resonating in the states of the first two contests: Iowa, where caucuses will be held Feb. 1, and New Hampshire, which has a Feb. 9 primary. Clinton, in the latest polling, is leading Sanders slightly in Iowa and trailing him in New Hampshire. 

These numbers were pumping up the dozen or so volunteers making phone calls for Sanders in a Hollywood studio built in 1916 by Mack Sennett, the pioneer director of slapstick comedies. I watched in the big barn of a soundstage as the volunteers phoned people in Iowa, determining whether they were potential Sanders voters and then pitching those who were. Laptops connected to Sanders’ headquarters in Vermont, provided the numbers and dialed them. This scene was repeated in other places in the country. 

The way the volunteers stuck with it on a Sunday afternoon was impressive. Sanders is on to something, connecting with the anger in a positive way, as opposed to Donald Trump’s foul negativism. 

Sanders has been every bit a match for the overly cautious Hillary Clinton -- maybe enough of a match to beat her in Iowa, New Hampshire and elsewhere. 

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

-cw

  

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 5

Pub: Jan 15, 2016

OTHER WORDS-Most presidential candidates, with the glaring exception of Donald Trump, say Islam is no enemy of the United States. I agree wholeheartedly. And how could there be a better way to prove that point than for a Muslim cartoonist to lead this great nation? 

That’s why I’m stepping up again. I want to be your prez in a fez. 

People always ask me: “Mr. Bendib, where’s the beef?” and — more importantly — “is the beef Halal?” (Kosher, for Muslims.) What would a Bendib presidency deliver, my fellow Americans?

I’m so glad you asked. Here’s the heart of my presidential platform: 

Foreign policy: Why stop at turning swords into ploughshares? Box cutters, machetes, Ginsu knives — I’d turn all sharp cutting implements into organic food-cultivating instruments. 

Pork barrel spending: As a self-respecting Muslim, you can guess how I feel about pork. 

Education: We need pens, not guns; books, not bombs; and math instruction, not mass destruction. 

Making war vs. making love: As your president, I’d ban all wars and make love mandatory. To those who lust for ever more military conquests, I’d simply repeat that love conquers all. 

Military overreach: As your commander-in-chief, I’d shut down the hundreds of overseas military bases we possess around the world and turn them into marijuana dispensaries. During the Great Depression, Herbert Hoover promised “a chicken in every pot.” I’d guarantee a little “pot in every kitchen.” 

Nuclear proliferation: Instead of threatening to bomb Iran if it breaks the nuclear deal, I’d shame the Islamic Republic into voluntarily abandoning its nuclear ambitions forever. How? Leading by example, I’d demand the dismantlement of all nuclear weapons everywhere — starting with the world’s largest arsenal, our very own. 

The environment: I’d do everything in my power to save the planet’s magnificent biodiversity and preserve all the animal species and all the plants…except for nuclear plants. I’d rid our country of all nukes. Green power to the people, I say. How about slapping more solar panels and wind turbines on those carbon-guzzling Trump Towers while we’re at it? 

Economic justice: Why throw Bernie Madoff in prison for stealing from the rich while allowing billions in bonuses for those who steal from the 99 percent? I’d pardon Madoff and ask him to keep up the good work. I might even appoint him treasury secretary. 

Immigration: I’d throw the gates open. Instead of Wall Street speculators moving our jobs and money across borders, people would be free to come and go as they please — including some of the Syrian huddled masses yearning to breathe free. I’d build bridges instead of walls, paying for them in dollars instead of pesos. Let’s let friendship trump paranoia. 

Right-wing demagogues seem to forget the positive contributions Muslims have made to Western civilization over the past 14 centuries. Do you know who introduced coffee to the Western world? If you said the Arabs of Yemen and the Muslims of Turkey, you’re right. 

Imagine how unproductive America would be today without its daily cup of Arabica. Donald Trump, it’s time for you to wake up, smell the coffee, and stand down. 

President John F. Kennedy didn’t bring the Vatican into the White House, as initially feared during his 1960 campaign. Likewise, I wouldn’t bring Mecca into the Oval Office. To paraphrase a great president before me, “The only thing we have to fear is the fear of Islam itself.” 

God bless America and as-salaamu alaikum — may peace be with you.

(OtherWords cartoonist, artist, and radio host Khalil Bendib lives in Berkeley, California. Since he was born in Paris, he’s not technically eligible to run for president.)

(Khalil Bendib is OtherWords’ editorial cartoonist, an artist, and the author or co-author of several books, including the widely translated graphic novel Zahra’s Paradise. He was born in Paris as a refugee of Algeria’s war of independence and grew up in Morocco and Algeria. He lives in Berkeley, California. Column provided CityWatch by OtherWords.org) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw  

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 5

Pub: Jan 15, 2016

PLATKIN ON PLANNING--The simultaneous announcements from the Mayor’s Office that the current Director of City Planning, Michael LoGrande, has resigned, and his successor will be – pending confirmation -- Vince Bertoni, currently Pasadena’s Planning Director, speaks volumes.   

For one thing, there clearly was no national search for a new Director of Planning for the second largest city in the United States.  No job announcements in professional planning magazines.  No interviews of short-listed candidates before the City Planning Commission or the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee.  Just an uncharacteristically quick and decisive executive decision by Mayor Eric Garcetti.   

It indicates that LA now functions like a small town in which everyone knows each other since prior to Pasadena Vince Bertoni was a former Deputy Director of Planning in Los Angeles. City Hall no longer has an interest in tapping professional planning expertise from other metropolitan areas, such as Indianapolis (Cal Hamilton), New York City (Conn Howe), San Bernardino County (Ken Topping), or San Diego (Gail Goldberg).   

To be clear this lack of a national search is not because City Planning staff is so knowledgeable that there is no need to look elsewhere.  Rather, City Hall’s pro-development institutional culture is so in-grained that hiring professional planning from the outside could gum up the urban growth machine.  Better to tap a familiar face and hope that new Director of Planning can somehow placate two forces closely at odds with each other.  

On one side are the investors, contractors, realtors, and their ilk hard at work hustling permits and entitlements for everything from McMansions to skyscrapers.  

On the other side are the community groups that turn to publications like City Watch to make it clear that LA is in the midst of a speculative real estate bubble in which character, scale, environmental impacts, and infrastructure capacity barely factor into permitting decisions.  In fact, it is this “approve everything” attitude that gave rise to the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative that may have fueled Michael LoGrande’s unexpected departure. 

Presumably, the City Hall rumor mill will eventually leak the particulars of this revolving door, but until then speculation rules.  Did the City lose too many planning-related lawsuits, especially in Hollywood?  Did some City Hall insider not get the goods delivered in time?  Is the public being thrown a bone to undermine the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative?  At this point the public simply does not know, which is why rumors fly so easily. 

But regardless of the reasons, Vince Bertoni (photo left) clearly must have some mixed emotions about his new position.   He will inherit a department that is finally well staffed with over 400 employees, but the bulk of them are new hires because around 75 or more veteran planners left the Planning Department over the past decade through a golden hand shake or induced retirements.  

Their institutional memory and knowledge about planning and the particularities of Los Angeles walked out the door with them.  While the drive and ambition of recent hires can fill some of this vacuum, it also means that there will be avoidable mistakes and duplicated work. 

Since Vince Bertoni is a planning professional, he will quickly realize, if he does not already know it, that the planning function of LA City Planning is the runt of the litter.  Most of those 400 employees are dealing with zoning entitlements for specific projects, not planning Los Angeles.  Moreover, many of these entitlement projects require amendment to the General Plan, a clear indicator that market forces, not adopted plans, are shaping the Los Angeles of the future. 

The remedy for this situation is no easy task, and hundreds of zoning technicians cannot be quickly retooled to update, implement, and monitor the different elements of LA’s General Plan.  Only two of these elements are up-to-date:  Housing and Transportation (Mobility), and the latter is subject to a lawsuit.  One other optional element, Health, was recently adopted, but the other General Plan elements are seriously out-of-date and in need an urgent update.  

Foremost among those elements requiring an immediate update is the optional General Plan Framework Element.  It ties together the entire General Plan but is based on 1990 Census data.  It population forecast for 2010 overshot the 2010 census by nearly 500,000 people.   Another optional element, Infrastructure, dates back to the Calvin Hamilton era, and is now 50 years old. 

Furthermore, Los Angeles urgently needs two other optional General Plan elements.  One is Economic Development, a perennial issue in Los Angeles because employment levels have been stagnant for over two decades. 

The other optional element is Climate Change.  Many cities have already prepared a Climate Change Element, and the State of California has prepared detailed guidelines to assist cities in preparing this new element.  Instead, both Mayors Villaraigosa and Garcetti had their staff prepare Climate Action Plans.  In effect, the implementation program is there, but not the policies to guide and monitor it. 

In the case of the adopted General Plan elements, the situation is the reverse.  The policies are there, but their implementation is haphazard because there is no linkage whatsoever between the City’s planning process and its budgeting process, including the Capital Improvement Program.  Like each city Departments’ work program, they exist in parallel universes. 

Finally, all of the General Plan elements need to be carefully monitored, and the General Plan Framework mandates exactly what this monitoring entails.  But, the monitoring program does not exist, and City Planning has only produced one highly incomplete monitoring report in the past 16 years.  Public law suits have attempted to correct this enormous flaw, but the response of the Planning Department and the City Attorney was to fight the lawsuits, not to finally establish the monitoring program and produce the annual monitoring reports carefully delineated in the General Plan Framework. 

This tension between planning and zoning will not go away on its own in Los Angeles, and it is the job of a strong Director of Planning to make sure they are on an equal footing.  For this to happen, Vince Bertoni clearly has his work cutout for him.

 

(Dick Platkin is a former LA city planner who reports on planning issues for CityWatch.  He also serves on the boards of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association and Planning Committee of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council. Please direct any comments or corrections to [email protected]. )

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 3

Pub: Jan 8, 2016

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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 [email protected].)

-cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 14 Issue 1

Pub: Jan 1, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PERSPECTIVE-I occasionally like to go off-topic and cover subjects or events outside of LA or California politics and government. This week, I am compelled to do so. 

The ISIL-inspired act of terrorism in San Bernardino, a city that can be considered part of the greater metropolitan area of Los Angeles, within commuting distance of downtown, would make any other topic an escape from reality. 

The loss of life and injuries cannot be described in any more words than have already be written and said. I cannot begin to express my sadness and anger over the senseless murder of innocent people in the name of an ideology. 

Instead, I’d rather focus on what events such as this exposes about us. 

Our nation has been steadily transformed into a partisan society, conceptually not too different from the sectarian rivalry evident in the Middle East. Whether political or religious in nature, irreconcilable conflict is poison. 

One only needs to follow sound bytes, Facebook posts and tweets from political leaders, and the people who elect them, concerning the string of mass murders in recent years to understand we are heading for our own version of destructive dysfunction. 

Executions, like the event in San Bernardino, have riled up the pro-gun segment. After all, its supporters claim, it is terrorism or mental illness and not assault weapons responsible for the carnage. Ultra-liberals are in denial over the danger of radical Islam. Even our president cannot form the words to acknowledge its culpability. Neither side recognizes the merits of the other’s arguments. 

The fact of the matter is, we allow the sale of military style weapons to almost anyone in the name of the Second Amendment. We also permit too many to enter this country from regions where twisted fundamentalism thrives. 

We should no more allow the sale of powerful weapons to the public than we should permit entry to this country in numbers too great to properly vet. 

Serious gun control is needed now. Mere possession or sale of assault or any semi-automatic weapons should be declared grounds for possible criminal prosecution. A period of amnesty should be granted for all to turn in these weapons – even reimbursing the owners who can provide proof of purchase; otherwise, allow them to surrender the weapons anonymously. 

Likewise, all applicants for entry into the United States for any form of long-term stay need to be investigated in a manner that digs below the surface. It is apparent that the current background checks are not enough. 

Civil records, if they are available, don’t begin to tell the whole tale. An applicants for admission could be squeaky clean on the surface, with no traceable ties to militants. But it’s what in their hearts and minds that counts just as much. Persons who find liberal society a threat to their values are ticking time bombs who can be swayed by radical elements to create mayhem down the road. Sophisticated questioning by FBI-trained personnel, including the use of polygraph tests, must be employed to uncover possible anti-Western leanings. 

That could add months to the already long process that refugees face, but we owe it to all of us living here. 

The United States should be a country that assists those who need protection from despots and persecution, but people coming here must prove themselves worthy of our trust and be in alignment with the facets of an open, liberal society. 

We are not obligated to allow anyone the privilege of residency; we are obligated to protect those who are here.

 

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone. They should not be construed to represent the opinions of the VVHA or the residents of Valley Village, individually or as a group. He can be reached at: [email protected].) Photo: LA Weekly. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw                                          

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 99

Pub: Dec 8, 2015

 

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DOWNTOWN-Thursday night’s Downtown LA Neighborhood Council (DLANC) Executive Committee meeting was abruptly cancelled. While no official reason was given by DLANC, those close to the situation have indicated that it was due to recent illegitimate Board of Directors’ votes. 

The legitimacy of multiple board votes is in question because of one Board member who is also on the DLANC Planning and Land Use committee -- Robert Newman. 

Newman recently shared on his personal Facebook page that he no longer works for Skid Row Housing Trust, stating that he “left [the] job at Skid Row Housing Trust.” He qualified for one of DLANC’s Social Service Provider seats as an employee of SRHT. Newman has served on this Board since 2012 and is fully aware of the rules that qualify a person for that particular Board seat. It is unclear as to what his motives were for not stepping down. 

Now that multiple grievances have been filed, it must be determined how many DLANC votes were tainted. It appears as though at least two consecutive months of votes, including Letters of Support for various development projects Downtown, will be affected. If a LOS is still desired from the DLANC, these developers (as well as all other projects) will need to go back before the planning committee and then to the full Board. This means it will take a minimum of another two months before the first batch of projects will be able to resume their development plans. 

Letters of Support from a neighborhood council are imperative to fulfill the City’s requirement regarding a project’s potential impact on the community. 

With the massive influx of Downtown development in recent years, this setback exposes just the latest of numerous blunders by the DLANC. 

Countless grievances have been filed over the years and over 50 grievances against DLANC have been accepted by DONE (Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.)  Illegal Board meetings have been held in venues which failed to secure lease agreements with the City; there have been matters in which Board members should have but refused to recuse themselves. The DLANC has had many close calls with decertification, a consequence that would instantly bring Downtown development to a screeching halt. 

Adding to all of this is the Skid Row community’s lack of inclusion, something that has prompted the collective effort to create the Skid Row Neighborhood Council. 

A separate grievance, filed at the same time as the others, has resulted in the Skid Row resident director Board seat being empty -- due to the fact that Ron J. Smith has left his job at SRO Housing Corporation. As a manager, he had been provided on-site housing by the company. But now that Smith works for a new company, that housing is no longer available for him, thus making him unqualified for a resident Board seat. 

The timing for this sudden departure is even more interesting because there is a proposed development in Skid Row to convert buildings that were previously used by Salvation Army (photo) to provide housing and services to homeless and formerly homeless. The developer now wants to change it into an adaptive reuse project which plans to provide market-rate, micro-unit housing to students and workforce members -- in the heart of Skid Row! 

Skid Row residents are livid because they currently don’t have any Board representation to represent their voice. 

The question now becomes, will DLANC be forced to hold special elections to fill these new Board seats before it can re-vote on the Letters of Support for all the development projects -- including the ill-timed adaptive housing project in Skid Row? 

If so, this could significantly slow development projects with fast-approaching hearing dates because, by not having a LOS from the local NC, their applications will not be complete and subject to delays which also incur cost increases. 

DONE is already severely understaffed. The last thing they need is all of these problematic issues that warrant priority status in the eyes of the Downtown business sector. And who’s supposed to log-in all the extra hours necessary to undo the current mess at the DLANC? 

One thing’s for sure, this was not the fault of Skid Row; it was not the fault of the residents of Downtown; and it isn’t City’s fault. 

That said, for the sake of NC political correctness, and now that the truth is out, maybe the finger pointing will stop. We need corrective measures!  

 

(General Jeff is a homelessness activist and leader in Downtown Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 99

Pub: Dec 8, 2015

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