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Isn’t it Time to Stop Looking Away?

THE CITY-Lost in Space? One possibility is Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson -- who are both heading up to space this month, Branson EIGHT days ahead of the richest man in the world, at press time – could establish an $800 a month housing program on a purchase and decree basis.

Bezos has $210 billion in the kitty and among the nearly 1,000 giving pledge billionaires, probably a trillion in giving pledge money. 

So, the thing about this program, is it helps people who want to live and work here but can't afford to live here. By purchasing places at above market, if necessary to get greedy landlords out, we can lower the price of housing through a robust and rapacious acquisition campaign. And all the units will be modern, clean IKEA style designs.  

National Trash Talk: 

An explosion in visitors Is threatening the very things National Parks try to protect. More people are visiting national parks, but fewer are working at them. 

The overcrowding crisis comes at a time when national parks are struggling to fill positions. There is a perception that the natural beauty is getting trampled. 

One constructive idea would be to mobilize/inspire the expanded number of visitors coming to the park to become a pro bono clean-up force of nature! We should hand out bags and pins. Once it's clear how cool and civic minded it is to pack-out trash, all trash, not just the trash you personally packed in coupled with the possibility of winning a Moab hat, we'll have to establish a trash preservation tax!  

India: 

India is the place of wide gaps between the haves and the have-nots. The heartbreaking story in the newspaper last week about orphans who lost their parents to COVID thanks to the hubris-infused bungles of Narendra Modi still lingers. 

And now our mayor is moving closer to confirmation. . .as the ambassador to India. 

I'm not going to jump on the pile of folks trying to tackle Garcetti as he boards a jumbo jet for the other side of the world, but the mayor has let us down. 

To promote him off to a job reserved for people who helped the president raise a lot of money, simply brings to heightened relief how checked out he was when the boots on the ground commitment was needed. 

The Times Editorial board, an elite group of self-anointed geniuses have always believed, "The candidate should come prepared with a comprehensive program, including goals, a budget and a way to measure their success." On those terms, or any other terms LA has suffered under Mayor Garcetti from the precise lack of such a comprehensive program. 

The mayor deserves to go to India to do outreach work, but Garcetti is not going to India for that reason. He's going to hobnob and find a way to use expand his international profile to "do good" -- translation "raise money" -- and promote the interests of Casey Wasserman et al.  

The fact that the tip of Garcetti's fundraising spear, Rick Jacobs is at worst a sexual predator, or at best a severely disturbed creep, cannot be ignored. 

Garcetti was bragging this week about how the Embassy team in India is the largest in the world.  

The cornerstone of the New Dehli structure was laid by Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren on September 1, 1956. The building was estimated to cost $2,000,000 and replaced the former Maharajah's palace where the American embassy was previously housed. Warren stated that he hoped the embassy would become a "temple of peace." 

The sprawling diplomatic compound is one of the most secure in Delhi, with multiple layers of manned and electronic security. Still, an incident of sexual assault occurred in February 2020 inside the Embassy grounds when Indian police revealed a 5-year-old girl had been raped.  

The U.S. Embassy was deeply disturbed by the alleged misconduct, took action immediately, and brought the matter to the attention of the Delhi Police. 

Don't look away. Take a stand. 

Isn't that Special: 

The first time the term Special Election arose for me, was after Felipe Fuentes, who the Times had endorsed in 2013 for the 7th District on the Los Angeles City Council, decided on August 14, 2016, to announce his resignation from the council effective September 11, 2016. 

The decision was framed by Dakota Smith of the Daily News at the time, as a choice: either appoint a non-voting caretaker or pick a voting member to represent the district. Despite many questions, Herb Wesson appointed himself to rule of CD7 and CD10 simultaneously, often as mayor too, when Garcetti was AWOL.  

"Decency, common sense and the law," my brother Joshua and I wrote in the Daily News, "require that Mayor Eric Garcetti — in accordance with his oath of office — uphold the Charter of the City of Los Angeles by dismantling City Council President Herb Wesson’s recent self-appointment to the council seat vacated by Felipe Fuentes." 

By saving the $3M by not having a special election, Wesson gave the impression he was being fiscally responsible, not focused on CD7 political power.  

Instead, we got a yearlong period of Karo Torossian, the CD2 chief of staff, running against Garcetti backed Monica Rodriguez for CD7, while acting as Krekorian's chief of staff. This is a ripe condition. The power broker's, chief of staff with pending appointments to provide council support to all sorts of characters and their initiatives, while also fundraising. . .#bad.  

A contribution of $500 to see Karo elected to CD7 will not interfere with any platforming of a CD2 issue or a contributor hoping to energize or advance a project. Eric Hacopian, who represented Torossian and O'Farrell, who was caught by the Ethics Commission accepting excessive contributions, and is often quoted by the LA Times, is probably an expert on cross district contributing. 

Joan Pelico, running for CD4 while serving as the CD5 chief of staff to Paul Koretz (who finked out), is another candidate who dabbled. 

As for Torossian, he received contributions from Gibson Transportation (a city favorite) and two contributions from the Austin Family Development LLC and their team, who own several parcels 700 feet west of Whitset on Ventura Boulevard in CD2 Studio City.  

The Austin project, that had been kept under the radar, is called, Sunswept Place. . . 

Sunswept under the carpet:  

"Dear Jessica: 

The location here is where the city granted a developer a street vacation for a potentially large project. If there is a large project being planned at or very near this location the details of the project should be revealed to the public instead of being discussed behind closed doors and included in any traffic studies for the Harvard Westlake Sports Complex.  

Any traffic studies should be delayed until the Sportsmen’s Landing project is complete, and all of the stores have time to settle in. Traffic and parking issues are real as the Sportsmen’s project was approved with inadequate parking. 

The lack of parking is a bigger problem now that the uses have changed to more restaurants and the addition of the Erewhon market resulting in the peak hours of most of the businesses colliding." 

Sir, you're disrupting the meeting.  

Englander, AZ: 

When Mitchell Englander went off to be an alleged lobbyist with the Oakview Group / FBI suspect, it was so weird. Why would Irving Azoff, a music titan, hire this sociopath, city insiders wondered?  

It simply did not scan, and when that happens, we often turn to the paper of record. 

The paper went along with the narrative and applauded the crass return of Greig Smith, despite his violating the city's lifetime ban on lobbying, in the role of the "cleaner" (think Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction).  

In this miraculous line up of CD12 incumbent interests, Greig Smith, the former councilman and waste management lobbyist agreed to return to the seat just long enough for a special election to be held six months down the road, that would benefit his protege's, protege, Staffer B John Lee.  

Unfortunately, out of respect for Greig's wife, county strongman Herb Wesson, declared a special election would be necessary.  

The public noted it would. . . 

  • cost taxpayers several million dollars. 
  • in effect be rewarding Englander and Smith and Lee for the ignominious bailing out on the civic responsibilities to serve out a term. 
  • and would result in 22 straight months of election time, that would clearly benefit Lee and Englander Knabe & Allen, who have a large role in CD12 election profit. 

The LA Times, to their credit, did cover the CD12 Special Election and Kerry Cavanaugh of the Editorial Board sniffed briefly at the argument that Englander should pay the millions to hold a special election to ensure his cronies retained power.  

The City Council approved on January 15, 2018, the Rules, Elections, and Intergovernmental Relations Committee recommendation that Councilmember Greig Smith be appointed pursuant to Charter Section 409(b).  

The Times simply. . .looked away. 

Sebastian "Riddle me this. . ." Ridley-Thomas 

Anyone who knows AD54 well, knows that it is Mark Ridley-Thomas country. And nobody is more conversant than MRT in the local dialect known as. . .Special Elections. 

His now infamous 2nd district initiative into the first Special Election of Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, his son, has resulted in very nice email chain and also a chain of Special elections and promotions from within the MRT family.  

The most recent special election was necessitated by Sydney Kamlager’s election to the state Senate in a special election March 2, filling the vacancy caused by Holly J. Mitchell’s election to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in November. The winner, Isaac Bryan, has advised Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Kamlager on youth development and strategies aimed at reducing the number of people becoming homeless. 

When Sebastian Ridley-Thomas stepped down it resulted in the Special election of Sydney Kamlager Dove, County Supervisor Mark Ridley-­Thomas' Child commissioner, who was sworn in on April 16, 2018. This resulted in putting a representative in the seat after 56 days rather than allowing 83 days until a regularly scheduled election.  

The public saved 27 days of leadership at a cost of $66,666 a day and still got a primary election. 

Despite lingering questions about former Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas' segue to his new role as a member of the faculty at the University of Southern California, I have not seen any reporting as to what condition caused him to step down and bounce back so quickly.  

I think both constituents and readers have a right to understand without judging or stigmatizing anyone for any reason. No matter the type of medical condition that the former Assembly member handily bested through five surgeries, we expect our leaders to stand up to stigma and discrimination, not kowtow to it. 

By treating the reason for a public official's segue from the public sector to a private university as “non-disclosable” to the public it heightens the need for public scrutiny on the decision to hold a $1.8 million-dollar Special Election at taxpayers’ expense. 

Was it a requirement by law? Who decided on what date with what information? When you are a public figure, you have an obligation to tell the public something.  

The Times simply. . .looked away. 

Vortex of Wrongdoing: 

Garcetti's office has been described that way. 

My first encounter was when I asked to see who he was e-blasting such perky news all the time. Richard Llewellyn, his general counsel at the time, gave me the list - though it was professionally scrambled and chunked up with false addresses, but still thousands of email addresses were valid and I appreciated his following the CPRA. 

When I tried to bring Garcetti's office information about our Neighborhood council corruption, by introducing a clear revision to our bylaws, they all looked away.  

One time, Garcetti announced that he spent most of his time helping the homeless (spit-take). We did a PRA and got his meeting log and tallied it all up, more like 5.6%. . .he spends most of his time pontification and cutting ribbons, giving speeches. . . 

The mayor is a world class glad-hander and one thing he undoubtedly shares with former President Trump -- an appetite for free press.  

360 press appts. 22%

300 meetings  18%

200 breakfasts, presentations 12%

200 ceremonies, graduations,  12%

100 galas, receptions, unveilings, grand openings, ribbon cuttings, 6%

100 staff meetings 6%

100 cabinet meetings 6%

 90 appts. on Homelessness and poverty 5.6% 

 84 Council members / Pols / Gov officials 5.3%

 49 Other Mayors 3% 

The question is, if the Mayor of Los Angeles' travel is paid for by a private source, is it still the public's business? I think it is. Still, he refused to explain who paid for journeys to Philadelphia, Mexico, Qatar, and Brazil.   

Eventually, this led to a request for "out of town" notices sent to the council president from the mayor's office. Here, we discovered that he'd been out of state more than an entire year. Wesson mayor 

Special Mayor Election: 

We should definitely have a Special Election. . .to fill the giant void and urban landfill left by Eric Garcetti.   

Firstly, the confirmation by the Senate is not a foregone conclusion and if he can't be confirmed. . .do we really want him back?  

The fact is the citizens of Los Angeles actually crave an urgent change in leadership. There is no reason to delay so money can be raised, there is too much at stake.  

There can be no more urgent moment than now to come out and talk about what to do and have a series of fair conversations, and we should do it immediately. 

Garcetti leaving cannot lead to a year of good bye fundraisers, wherein the public is left to marinate in our problems as the incumbents shift and wiggle for position without accountability... clinging to one another in a scrum of like-minded, electeds, who are slaves to the forces that put and keep them in office. 

In many cases, moneyed interests who could care less about our problems and are solely interested in clearing obstacles in the service of greed expansion, sweeping the region, in parallel with our metastasizing homelessness crisis.  

"Shark Tank" follow up: 

It's been ten days and they've still refused to pay their rent which is so fucking creepy when people are in your residence, squatting there. There's not a thing we can do about it and that is a terrible, terrible feeling. 

We will hold Corcoran accountable.  

The company was founded by Barbara Corcoran, the woman who appears as one of the sharks on ABC's "Shark Tank." 

She's something of a likeable character sitting next to Mark Cuban but Corcoran's General Counsel, Andrew R. Levinson, has not been engaged in "likeable conduct" under the banner of the rainbow-colored Corcoran logo. 

Rather, he's been looking away from one of his agent's serious wrongdoing. Pamela Liebman, the CEO is also uninterested in seniors being abused. I spoke directly to her office, and she declined to call back. 

The Corcoran group who are working under Barbara Corcoran's name are, it turns out, a pernicious bunch of lookaways. That's super uncool.  

Look away - avert one's gaze: 

Looking away, is the best reason that Mayor Eric Garcetti and team should not be confirmed by the senate. 

I'll never forget how following reports of the arrests in the Penn State scandal in which Sandusky had allegedly been engaged in sexual abuse, members of Penn State leadership and Joe Paterno himself were accused of "protecting Penn State's brand instead of a child." 

Former sports commentator Keith Olbermann called for Paterno to be immediately fired, saying that "he failed all of the kids -- the kid kids and the player kids -- he purported to be protecting." 

He compared Paterno's downfall to a Greek tragedy and suggested that despite his many good deeds, pride and age contributed to his failure to report the incident to police. "In a country that says it values families and children, we simply cannot look away, nor forget these children." 

What about Garza and Ciardiullo and Casas and Yashir Ali?  

And the dozens of others who were subjected to an ethos that values the capacity to. . ."see something but say nothing."  

Garcetti's office has a structural program wherein they all systematically look away.  

There is a police officer parked outside of the mayor's office with whom you register if you've come to meet with the mayor's office. On several occasions, frustrated by the unprofessional non-response to a request to meet or for compliance and provision under the California public record act, he'd just shrug. 

Dozens of people were forced through a kind of occupational hazard to just “look away” from the fact that a citizen was in the lobby, begging to speak to a supervisor to understand why the laws of California are not being followed by such an upscale and appealing mayor's office. 

It's hard to remain "appealing" when you're failing down on the job and refusing to disclose who among the thousands of contributors was paying your way on so many boondoggles out of state to raise money, while our city was literally imploding into deeper and deeper unrelenting homelessness. 

The city staff have suffered. Poor Henry Casas was very nice. He'll remember my request to meet with the Mayor of Los Angeles and the City Attorney Mike Feuer, now running for mayor.  

We all work for someone, and my logic was simple: if they are elected, they must agree to meet the constituents. Casas was diligent but could not get it done.  

He, like so many before him are tested by how effective they are at quieting angry citizen, without disrupting the mayor's inner circle.  

Fast Walker:  

As previously, reported, Feuer is a long-legged fellow, who, the moment he spots a sharp critic, will accelerate his gait to near 5 mph an hour, where the top speed of critics (and that of his armed security guard ) is 3 mph max. It is possible to start running in pursuit of the super busy City Attorney, but it does raise the question, what is he afraid of. 

Truthfully, neither Feuer nor Garcetti are the type of leaders we want to export abroad if we care about our national image.  

City Attorney Feuer went even further around the bend, to avoid being held accountable by a constituent who knows how the Brown Act and California Public Record Act work, and also, how to make an appointment. 

Feuer, worried that a growing stack of complaints about his office could be construed as a. . .paper trail, or maybe a “fire hazard” so his office posted paper signs outside the elevator on the 8th floor of the building, where his office is situated, in City Hall east: No public allowed.  

This resulted in one of the most embarrassing clashes between the city and its many hispano hablantes.  

It took a mighty storm to get a posted warning in city offices forbidding any kind of disruption, also posted in Spanish. Why? Vivienne Swanigan, who wears the hat over there at City Attorney, and also runs the show re : posted trespassing warnings in English only, is a good resource on why. 

I asked her to put the flyer in both languages. . .and to include the language pointing to constitutional protections.  

David Michaelson, who has lost more battles with Carol Sobel than seems conceivable, simply refused to take action.  

Look away. . .

 

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch.)