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EASTSIDER-Not that long ago, I wrote an article for CityWatch after the Audit Report was released on the DWP with the DWP recommendations for rate increases over the next five years. I suggested that the only place to stop the DWP Rate Increase avalanche headed our way was with the City’s Energy and Environment Committee. 

My theory was (and is) that all five of these committee members are up for re-election next year and they might be subject to pressure to back off of the transfer fees and utility tax that DWP gives to the City. Silly me. 

The Fuentes Cabal 

Shortly after my article appeared (and no, I am not so egotistical as to believe it had anything to do with his decision) the Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee, Filipe Fuentes, announced he would not be running for re-election in Council District 7. Of course, the real reason that Mr. Fuentes announced his intention had a whole lot to do with the fact that most of his political allies and cronies in the Northeast San Fernando Valley are under investigation by the FBI and Grand Jury. This includes Congressman Tony Cardenas and his staffer Gabriela Marquez, as well as Fuentes staff member Tania Soto, CD 6 Councilmember Nury Martinez and her staffer Jim Dantona -- and last, but not least, Fuentes’ aunt and staffer Yolanda Fuentes Miranda. 

In spite of a nod back in 2010 from the LAWeekly as “The Worst Legislator In California,” the LA Times got it wrong as usual and endorsed Fuentes in 2013, fatuously claiming that he had “valuable background and experience in getting things done in the North Valley.” 

Right. I guess they meant “experience” like having almost half the bills he introduced in the legislature ghostwritten by those who bought him the seat. By the way, one of those was ghostwritten by the City Community Redevelopment Agency (remember them?) to expand the definition of ‘blight’ so the CRA could disenfranchise more poor people of color in the City.   

In defense of the LA Times, this was during the heyday of the Chicago Tribune ownership of the paper…so what else could we have expected? 

Anyway, Fuentes suddenly announced last month that he wouldn’t be running for re-election -- at age 44…during his first term…and with no explanation. What a guy. Well at least this should make the Sunland/Tujunga Neighborhood Council feel better after he kicked them out of their City offices. 

The Fuentes Governance Hijack 

There is a lot of good information in the Navigant IEA 2015 DWP Survey, particularly the some 51 pages of Volume 4, “Governance,” the result of a lot of time and money spent analyzing the Department. Even though it’s unlikely that anyone will read it, it contains a good analysis of a range of alternative governance structures including the pros and cons of each alternative. 

There is also a perfectly reasonable proposal in an LA Times article by two of the lead members of the LA2020 Commission, Mickey Kantor and Austin Beutner. Remember the 2020 Commission and Report -- the one Herb Wesson and the Council blessed with faint praise and then buried in a grave deeper than they dig at Forest Lawn? This is the Commission that recommended an independent Board to run DWP. 

The Commission suggested four steps: (1) cap the total amount of money that goes to the City; (2) use a portion of rate increases to help low-income customers; (3) separate the DWP hiring process from the LA City Civil Service System; and (4) establish an independently elected Commission, with subject matter expertise, that would appoint the General Manager and have complete control over rates and employee union contracts. 

But, oh no. Mr. Fuentes, that exemplar of self-serving politics, had just come up with his very own (four page) Motion for DWP Reform -- even as the matter was going in front of him as Chair of the Energy and Environment Committee (see Council File 16-0093 for the Motion.) Not only that, but that motion is also backed by another professional political operative, Council President Herb Wesson, and a fellow Committee member, Mitch O’Farrell.

The Fuentes-Wesson-O’Farrell motion essentially directs the City Attorney and CAO to come up with a November ballot measure based on their four page document. 

Are we to believe that this all comes along just as the E&E Committee is set to vote on the five-year DWP rate increases? C’mon, folks, give us a little credit for recognizing a political hijack when we see one -- in fact, that’s the title of a recent article by our own Jack Humphreville. 

So here we have the City Hall insiders once again diverting attention from the work they are bound to do -- voting on the DWP Rate Increase Plan in front of them – and employing a bait and switch operation to forestall any meaningful discussion by all of us on how to best change the governance of the Department of Water and Power. 

I shudder to think what’s in all of this for Mr. Fuentes personally, and what will come to light when it’s too late for us to do anything about it. 

I believe the timing of this sudden Motion is no coincidence, given that all five members of the Energy and Environment Committee are up for re-election next year -- well, except Fuentes. City Hall is usually incapable of moving with this kind of speed to run a Ballot Measure unless something really naughty is being contemplated by the pols. 

Is all this a cute way to take the heat off and have a 15-0 vote by the Council for a Ballot Measure so the Committee can say that they’re not the ones that did anything wrong? Will hearings be real and open discussions? Or will they be another giant kabuki dance with the usual guaranteed outcome? 

Remember this: No matter what smoke screens they put up, four of these five Committee Members are up for re-election next year. You should remind them that there are consequences for their actions. Call them on the details of the rate Increases, the transfer fees and the utility taxes -- not to mention pet projects. 

Demand openness and transparency, and (gasp) maybe even honesty in the Committee’s recommendation to the full Council. 

The Committee members are Fuentes (CD7), Cedillo (CD1), Blumenfeld (CD3), Koretz (CD5), and O’Farrell (CD13).

 

(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.

EXPOSED--Vegas odds are against an Oscar win this Sunday for indie favorite Spotlight (photo above)—which tells the true story of journalists in Boston who under the leadership of editor Marty Baron expose the Catholic Church’s systemic concealment of sexual abuse by priests. A loss for Spotlight would be good news for “soft-hitting” newspaper publishers but bad news for the public’s right to know. 

Let’s hope that Spotlight inspires LA’s fifth estate to stop turning a blind eye to this city’s growing scourge of “pay to play.”’ 

A good place to start is in Coldwater Canyon, where Harvard-Westlake, having just released a revised DEIR, is moving full steam ahead with its plans to build a widely opposed three-story parking garage, complete with flood-lit sports field on top and private pedestrian skybridge over the public thoroughfare of Coldwater Canyon Boulevard, with the purpose being, in Havard-Westlake Vice President John Amato’s words: “Our kids have to perform in front of audiences so we have to have parking for visitors, and we want to have all our parking in one location.” 

As reported in these pages over two months ago, the public official who wields near absolute power over the fate of the parking project—District 2 Councilmember Paul Krekorian—has accepted donations from eighteen Harvard-WestlakeTrustees, with all but two giving the maximum $700 contribution and none disclosing their relationship to the school on the donation form.  

All but a few of the contributions were made on the same day—a feat which tops the virtually simultaneous contributions made to Mr. Krekorian by the same trustees and administrators on February 18, 2011, also with not a single trustee identifying his or her connection to the school. This activity resulted in a windfall for Mr. Krekorian's campaign committee from the school's trustees alone.  

Incredibly, Mr. Krekorian did not return the $20,950 he garnered from the recent contributions. On the contrary, he used the money to obtain public matching funds from the City, so that each Harvard-Westlake contribution was in effect supplemented by $500 of taxpayer funds. In other words, literally the very same people who are having their quality of home life intruded on by the school's plan were made to match the Harvard-Westlake influence-peddling donations. 

LA residents may disagree as to whether Councilmember Krekorian, given his power over the fate of the parking garage project, should return the eighteen contributions he received from Harvard-Westlake Trustees, togthether with all of the matching funds he obtained through use of the Harvard-Westlake money—if only to remove any appearance of partiality.  

Whatever one’s opinion, it would seem obvious that Mr. Krekorian should have been asked about it … by a media that has been strangely silent. Not a single reporter has said a word to Mr. Krekorian. It’s been seventy days since the facts were known. What is the press waiting for? How is their silence not an abnegation of their duty to serve the public’s right to know?

We can only hope that Oscar Sunday will inspire someone to step up to the plate. If not, hopefully editor Marty Baron will help out.

 

(Eric Preven is a CityWatch contributor and a Studio City based writer-producer and public advocate for better transparency in local government.  He was a candidate in the 2015 election for Los Angeles City Council, 2nd District. Joshua Preven is a teacher who lives in Los Angeles. Views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch. )

-cw

HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD--With all of the recent attacks on developers by NIMBYs (not-in-my-backyard) who don't want to see growth, I thought I would provide a case study on the positive aspects of new development. Columbia Square (photo above) is a perfect example. This $450-million, 700,000-sq.ft., mixed-use project by Kilroy Realty will have an "outsized" positive impact on Hollywood. 

One of the most historic buildings on Sunset Blvd., Columbia Square was the West Coast home of CBS for many years. (Photo right.) Built in 1938, it originated such shows as Jack Benny's Lucky Strike Program, the Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, and The Swan Show starring George Burns and Gracie Allen. When CBS moved their studios out of Hollywood in 2007, its future was in question.

Now, thanks to the work and investment of Kilroy Realty Corp., Columbia Square is shining once more. The historic buildings have been restored and renovated as the LA hub for Neuehouse, a New York-based creative workspace collaborative. Acclaimed New York architect David Rockwell, who also designed the interior of the Dolby Theatre, designed the space. Architectural Digest gave the facility glowing reviews in January. 

Writer Mayer Rus said of the space, "If you'd like a window into the leading edge of creative work (and play) spaces in 2016, you need look no further than the recently completed NeueHouse Hollywood, the West Coast counterpart to the original Manhattan office hub for the so-called creative class. ...the LA complex boasts a few attributes its Gotham forebear cannot claim: a building with an impeccable modernist pedigree; a site with a long and compelling history in the production of popular American culture; and the kinds of amenities one can enjoy only in a heavenly Mediterranean climate."

Rus continued in the Architectural Digest article that "there are a number of restaurant and lounge experiences, including alfresco dining on the roof terraces - in facilitating discourse and comfort in the workplace."

Not only has the historic building been preserved, which benefits the community enormously, but it is a place that visitors and residents can patronize and enjoy. Several restaurants have or are in the process of opening, including Rubies + Diamonds, Sugarfish, Sweetgreen and Paley.

Also preparing to move into Columbia Square is Viacom. CEO Philippe Dauman recently discussed the pending move into 180,000-sq.ft. of space with the LA Times. He noted that this will become the headquarters for their West Coast media networks and home base for about 700 employees from MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, BET, Spike, TV Land and Logo. It will provide them with new production stages, a lot of shooting space and a rooftop area for shoots with views of the Hollywood Sign. He noted that the Hollywood facility will be the largest mobile content studio in the industry. 

Besides Viacom, Kilroy has announced that Fender Guitar has leased 40,000-sq.ft. and will be moving their headquarters from Scottdale, Arizona, to Hollywood. These will be new, high quality jobs for Southern California and Hollywood.

After the loss of dozens of entertainment firms over the past 20 years, the announcements by Viacom and Fender Guitar send a great message that Hollywood is back. However, of even greater import is bringing more than 700 quality jobs to the community. Hollywood has an opportunity to show that with smart growth, it is possible to grow a community with balanced jobs and housing. We are building both. We currently have 1,800 housing units under construction and more in the pipeline. In addition, there are several hundred thousand square feet of office space in development as well as several hotels.    

This balance of different uses is what makes the revitalization of Hollywood so exciting. Locating jobs and housing in close proximity with nearby entertainment options and shopping are especially attractive to the Millennials who are locating here. When you consider the compact nature of Hollywood which makes it walkable, as well as its transit connectivity, one begins to see how growth can and should occur to make a community livable.

Due to this single project, we will see the preservation of a historic landmark, hundreds of construction jobs, hundreds more permanent jobs, new opportunities for dining as well as outstanding architecture. It is a win-win for the community. And it would not have been possible without the vision and investment of a developer. 

Let's keep this in mind when next you hear the negative attacks against development.


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

POLITICS-This 2016 election cycle will certainly be one for the history books, and one for the historians, sociologists and political scientists to evaluate and study for decades to come.  But while no one can really encapsulate the "Trump" phenomenon in a single bullet point, here's a talking point to consider:  Donald John Trump's original flirtation with presidential politics was with the 2000 presidential election ... as a Reform Party candidate

The Reform Party ... as in Ross Perot.  Yes, THAT Ross Perot--the man who hated former President George Herbert Walker Bush and his clan so much he helped President Bill Clinton get elected ... twice ... and who was virtually made irrelevant in his failure to prevent the passage of the NAFTA trade agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. 

So is Donald John Trump the living revenge of Henry Ross Perot, that same Perot who once stated that "War has rules, mud wrestling has rules - politics has no rules"? 

Do both Republicans and Democrats in very large numbers regret the election of both George Bush the Elder in 1988 and George Bush the Younger in 2000? 

If NAFTA could be repealed today, and was up for a vote to that effect in Congress, would it be repealed? 

Numerous third party presidential and other movements have been tried and failed for virtually the entire history of the United States, but as with the Progressive Party of 1912 (also known as the Bull Moose Party) of Teddy Roosevelt the Republican Party was and is split among those who were fiercely pro-American with respect to economic and political power, but wanted more economic competition and welfare for the needy. 

And a split Republican party led to the election of Democratic Woodrow Wilson, whose terms in office have been both praised and derided aplenty to this very day. 

Hence we have a Republican "Establishment" (hated by the Republican "Base" as being too much in the pocket of Wall Street) that is now in shock and panic mode with the fall of the Bush Family and is scrambling to do anything (ANYTHING!) to gather behind one candidate...who will probably be Marco Rubio. 

Close your eyes, listen to the screams of the anti-Wall Street/Establishment cries of the Tea Party and pro-Trump crowds, and it might sound frightfully similar to the complaints of the Occupy Movement. 

Open your eyes, and you'll see that these same crowds despise the socialism and leftist extremes of the Occupy and Bernie Sanders movements:  these crowds are ardently anti-Wall Street but equally ardent pro-American and pro-capitalism. 

Which can be confusing as heck to anyone trying to figure this out--even "The Donald" was confused when MSNBC anchor described to him the description of a candidate who appeared to be Trump himself ... but was actually Bernie Sanders! 

So is Donald Trump a closet Socialist, a male version of Hillary Clinton, and a secret, wannabe Democrat with "New York Values" as promoted by his Republican detractors? 

Hardly, if anyone's read his writings over the course of his entire life.  He despises socialism but hates crony capitalism and wants a fair playing field.  He's repeatedly threatening to prosecute Hillary Clinton for breaking the law, and his hatred of the Bush Family mirrors that of the aforementioned H. Ross Perot. 

And his unwavering support of American exceptionalism and American worldwide hegemony goes beyond that of Ronald Reagan to the principles of Teddy Roosevelt. 

So IS the ascendancy of Donald Trump merely an attempt to achieve a Republican Party that is more akin to the Reform Party of Perot?  Certainly, the colossal waste of money and effort to promote Jeb Bush's failed candidacy is emblematic of an out-of-touch GOP leadership that apparently forgot that former President G.W. Bush was persona non grata and out of sight at both the 2008 and 2012 GOP Presidential Conventions. 

Furthermore, the willingness to achieve reform in this nation--first within the GOP, and with "Exhibit A" being the Iraq War, which proved to be such a painful drag on the nation (and especially within the Republican voting base)--reform is a phenomenon that is hard to ignore. 

Everyone appears to believe in one way, shape, or form that "reform" is needed, and that "business as usual" just won't be tolerated during what appears to be a Second Gilded Age. 

(And for those who never learned post-Civil War History, the Gilded Age of the late 19th Century was an era of political and economic excess that created horrific income inequality and ushered in the union era ... look it up

So it appears that the GOP is being dragged kicking and screaming on its way to a historical cleansing that will be one for the ages. 

But if Trump does win the GOP nomination, then one can look forward to him taking "reform" to the Democratic Party next--because as Iraq was to the Bush Administration, "Obamacare" is to the Obama Administration. 

The "Affordable Care Act" is set to die an unavoidable death on its own economic unsustainable principles, and if it is not repealed then it will inevitably be gutted and undergo dramatic revisions--and for President Obama to hope for a sensible health care debate once he's gone is commensurate to concluding that his very presence and tone with Congress prevented a sensible debate during his tenure. 

Perhaps President Obama was so desperate to have ANY form of health care reform that he was willing to have such an acrimonious passage of the ACA and force the issue to finally be confronted by Congress, but the ACA is anything but "affordable" and is perceived by so many to be economically harmful that we might see Congress remain Republican because of the ACA blunders in the same way that Congress became Democratic because of the Iraq blunders. 

Which may lead many Democratic and other political analysts wishing that--with the fall of the Bush Family--there was a better and more successful option for toppling the Clinton Family than the well-meaning but potentially unelectable Bernie Sanders. 

Because the Democratic Party inevitably needs reform, too.

 

(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  Alpern@MarVista.org.   He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.) 

-cw

GETTING THERE FROM HERE--Let's start by warning anyone reading this that if you're big into political correctness, this article isn't for you.  If the concept of Blue Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter is tough for you, then this may not be the article for you...and maybe you're part of the problem affecting our City, State, and Nation.

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BIKERVIEW--As you may know, the City of Burbank recently knuckled under to one-percenter pressure and banned bicycles from the Mariposa Bridge over the LA River. You now can’t even dismount and push them across: bicycles are not allowed in any way, shape, or form on this bridge. The reason: fear that they will “spook” the horses ridden by the ultimate in self-entitled privilege junkies, the Equestrian-(un)American community infesting Riverside Drive. 

Yes, from up on their skittish beasts, they literally look down on everyone else. So, no bikes on the bridge. Even though, according to a 1938 Burbank Daily Review article quoted in an LA Times report, this bridge “would be for ‘only equestrians, cyclists and hikers.'”

None of that mattered to the present-day pseudo-centaurs growling out bike hate: their horses are just too nervous to be anywhere near a bicycle. Somehow, though, horses have been trained to go calmly into war for millennia. Yes, they can put up with flying bullets, arrows, and spears, flashing swords and bayonets, roaring cannons, and screams of rage and agony all around -- but they can’t see a bicycle without suffering a heart attack. Maybe modern-day equestrians are just too lazy to train their beasts? 

In another extralegal assumption of privilege, horse folks actually made up their own official-looking signs “banning” bikes from the bridge long before Burbank’s city council (which had originally approved a cyclists-dismount provision) finally gave into their relentless kvetching. No surprise: I’ve actually had horse people tell me that hiking was prohibited on Sierra trails for the same reason. You know, just plain walking. This was untrue, by the way. 

The equestrians’ main argument is that bikes are prohibited on the dirt trails of Griffith Park, to which the bridge leads. This is true. But, a few feet from the park end of the bridge is a paved trail (AKA, a “road”) where bikes are permitted, and could be walked to. And, of course, the LA River bike path will soon be extended past the bridge. 

However, as CiclaValley reports, the very same Burbank City Council just met to consider accepting Metro funds to build a bicyclist- and pedestrian-only bridge about half a mile west of Mariposa, connecting Bob Hope Drive to the park side of the river. This is in anticipation of the bike path extension. 

No word yet on the results of this august body’s deliberations. Maybe they’ll quit horsin’ around and allow all the city’s denizens free access to the river and Griffith Park. Or maybe they’ll cower in fear of the stirrup set again and let the opportunity pass them by. 

We’ll just have to wait and see.

 

(Richard Risemberg is a writer. His current professional activities are focused on sustainable development and lifestyle. This column was posted first at Flying Pigeon.Photo: LA Times. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams

 

CITYWATCH—Let’s be clear at the outset: I want our mayor to succeed. It is not my goal or my nature to push for a great LA by wishing that LA’s leadership fails. But, let’s also be clear about this: Our mayor has himself in a political pickle. 

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HERE’S WHAT I KNOW-Last Wednesday, state assembly members Melissa A. Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore), Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), and Mike Gatto (D- Los Angeles) introduced legislation that would require school districts to adequately protect the personal information of their students. 

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