PERSPECTIVE--I’ve watched AMC’s hit show, ‘The Walking Dead’, since season one.

The characters grew on me, although only a few of the original cast have survived the zombie apocalypse to date.

But I am losing interest in the show. There was a time where I eagerly looked forward to the new season. I would plant myself in front of the TV at 6:00 PM on Sunday night – thank God for satellite TV, or it would have been 9:00 PM.

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HERE’S WHAT I KNOW-The consumer financial site WalletHub has released a study assessing how efficiently some of America’s largest urban centers apply taxpayer money on key expenditures and LA is at the bottom of the list. WalletHub analysts compared 78 cities for Return of Investment (ROI) on Adjusted Education, Adjusted Law Enforcement, and Parks & Recreation ROI. LA ranked at 55. 

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JUST SAYIN’--While I'm sure there are many potential candidates for people who were targeted and labeled toxic for having reported something that even remotely approximated truth, I find the summary public career execution of television personality Phil Donahue to be a compelling first contender for this dubious distinction. 

In 1996, television talk show host Phil Donahue celebrated what until now remains "the longest continuous run of any syndicated talk show in U.S. television history." And this success was clearly based on the trust his honesty inspired in his fiercely loyal audience. 

And yet by February 25, 2003, when Donahue who "was ranked #42 on TV Guide's 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time," had his career brought to an abrupt end when he was fired by MSNBC for his opposition to the selling of the imminent U.S. invasion of Iraq to the American people. 

Clearly his opposition to the fear and bogus claims of weapons of mass destruction had to be silenced, given his popularity with the American people and any potential that might have had for causing the American people to question this done deal. 

Long before the current film Spotlight deigned to make a film about tolerated child molestation and cover up in the Catholic church, Donahue produced the first national television program in the 1980s showing widespread child molestation by Catholic priests. 

This level of difficult honesty was still something that was tolerated and had a place in American media, but with the selling of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the profit motivated endless war footing this country has remained on, clearly that is no longer the case. 

I don't recall who once said to me that freedom in the 19th century was expressed as the freedom from oppression, while freedom in the 20th century was to be seen as the freedom of expression. But in the 21st century, it seems painfully clear that any supposedly constitutional guaranteed right of expression or any civil liberty that in any way challenges the corporate oligarchy's exclusively profit motivated agenda has been made illegal. 

It is seen as intolerable heresy requiring someone who dares to engage in it like an Edward Snowden someone who must have the moral courage to literally put their life on the line or be willing to seek sanctuary in Russia or elsewhere. Dare to point out that what the U.S. government and its state and local government components openly advocate and implement as being completely and utterly in violation of basic constitutional rights and you better starting looking for a deep hole in which to hide. 

The problem with this awareness is that barring some other insight or proposed course of action, people have tended to become demoralized by their expression of an alternative truth to government party line. 

What people don't realize is their feelings of powerlessness are merely the well executed end product of a corporate media whose goal is to make the majority of people in this country think they are in the minority, because if corporate media no longer reports the tree falling in the forest then it must not have fallen. 

However, this well nurtured corporate media fantasy that the majority is merely a disgruntled and maladjusted minority- be they Left, Right, or somewhere in between- is starting to break down due to an Internet individually connected world where the success of a "not serious candidate" like Bernie Sanders openly contradicts this corporate media "dominant narrative."

In reality, all Americans can still believe and democratically implement that we the people should decide what is good for we the people...if we have the persistence to see through the corporate media exquisitely executed charade of seamless virtual reality.

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com)


SORTING OUT ELECTION SCENARIOS-Senator Bernie Sanders has repeatedly emphasized the importance of mass movements as an essential instrument for social, political and economic change in the United States. For example, here is a typical Bernie quote from a recent CNN interview, “The only way we bring about real change in this country, which represents the needs of the middle class and working families, is … a mass movement, and that's what we are trying to create and are succeeding in creating right now." Bernie has also repeatedly argued that a Sanders administration could only implement his campaign platform with the strong, sustained support from an external mass movement. 

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IT’S ALL ABOUT JOBS--A week ago, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (METRO) Board held a hearing on a proposed $120-billion plan to dramatically expand mass transit throughout the region. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce was on hand to support the Crenshaw Northern Extension. We have pressed for this project for several years, and so were pleased that it was included in the list of projects to be funded. However, we were disappointed that it is not scheduled to begin construction until 2049. (Photo: Work on Crenshaw/LAX line in progress.)

A little background for those not familiar with this project. The Crenshaw line is a north-south light rail line that will connect to an LAX people mover. Its northern terminus is at the Expo Line below the 10 Freeway. The proposal would extend that line north through the Mid City area and West Hollywood before terminating at the Hollywood & Highland Metro Station. I think most people would agree that it makes sense to connect the airport to the region's top tourist destination. Hopefully, we can get this project's timeline moved forward. 

The important thing at the moment, though, is to get this plan approved on November 8th by the voters. That is not necessarily an easy thing, because all of the improvements (as currently proposed) would be funded by an extension of the existing sales tax for 18 years and an additional half-cent sales tax for at least 40 years, boosting the county's base sales tax rate to 9.5-percent. The measure must be supported by two-thirds of the electorate.

In the past, LA voters have been supportive of mass transit, passing Measure R in 2008, and more recently, falling just short of the needed votes for Measure J in 2012, gaining 66.1-percent in support but needing 66.7-percent. 

The new initiative calls for highway improvements as well as a dozen mass transit projects that would double our existing system. Having a transit system that gets people to where they want to go is key to the economic future of this region. It is also key to having a livable city.  

One of the criticisms we often hear from opponents of mass transit expenditures is that the system doesn't take people where they want to go - despite the fact that METRO is currently building five lines, more than any other place in the country. This new measure will expand the system even further. The sooner we get started on this expansion, the sooner there will be a system that gets people to more destinations. 

The METRO network is the key to dealing with growth issues in the region, and is the only solution that I have heard from any source that makes sense. As is currently happening in Hollywood, future development would be encouraged in close proximity to transit stations. Yes, that may require up-zoning in areas near the stations, but by focusing development there, it also allows the City to preserve existing single-family neighborhoods elsewhere. As the system is built-out, residents will be able to utilize mass transit to get around. It is true that people will still have cars and use them, but by orders of magnitude, we will see significant improvement as the system is expanded. 

There are three general suggestions to handle growth that I have heard that do not make sense. Some people suggest that we merely concentrate all development in Downtown L.A., but that is not an answer for growth. This region is so vast and spread out that you cannot accommodate all development in the center city. Besides that, if you do not encourage development within sub regions, those communities will deteriorate. New development is critical to revitalizing our neighborhoods. 

The proponents of the proposed Neighborhood Integrity "no growth" Initiative don't want increased density near transit stations. For them, the solution is to merely build-out under the current zoning citywide. The problem with that is it would spread development all over the city whether near transit or not, resulting in more congestion everywhere. Plus, you cannot justify the high cost of building a mass transit system if you cannot concentrate potential riders near the stations.

And then there are those who say they don't care where development goes so long as it isn't built near their neighborhoods. That is again not a solution and an abrogation of our responsibility. Development must go somewhere if we are to have a healthy economy, and it is better to have a plan than no plan at all.

Which brings us back to the Metro proposal that will likely be placed before voters this fall. There are hundreds of successful transit examples worldwide that point the way for Los Angeles. We have reached the physical limits of growth in this region. The basin is filling in. If our children are to have a future here, we have to find a way to grow and improve mobility.

Voters need to seriously consider the benefits of this expansion of our transit system and determine if those benefits justify the increase in sales taxes. Personally, I believe that the expansion is warranted. 

This region is on the right track, and with the support of voters we will continue in the right direction.

(Leron Gubler has been serving as the President and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce for the past 23 years. His tenure since 1992 continues to oversee the great comeback story of Hollywood. This perspective was posted earlier at the Hollywood Chamber and Fox and Hounds.) 


THE CITY--Neighborhood activists scored a rare victory recently at LA City Hall when lawmakers reversed their prior approval of a 252-unit townhome/condo project that critics say was part of a backroom deal cooked up by former councilman Tom LaBonge and a project that exemplified the city’s immoral practice of allowing residential projects to be built in freeway-adjacent ‘Black Lung zones.’

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EASTSIDER-Speaking as a 3rd generation Californian, I finally just couldn’t take the babblings of the talking heads today as they cheerfully said how Bernie should pack it up and go home – that he would have, except for the fact that he has bags of money and got lucky in six of the last seven states, including Wisconsin. 

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WHISTLING A DIFFERENT TUNE--Back in February, when the enormous gas leak in Aliso Canyon was finally plugged, SoCal Gas promised to do everything in its power to offset the disastrous environmental effects of the largest methane release in American history. Seeking to ensure the company followed through with that promise, Governor Jerry Brown had officials with the state's Air Resources Board come up with a step-by-step plan for the company to follow in reducing emissions. Having received a draft of that plan, however, SoCal gas seems to have changed its tune a little. Okay, actually a lot.

George Minter, Regional Vice President of SoCal Gas, writes on the first page of a written response to the ARB's proposed plan: 

As you are aware, the ARB explicitly decided not to regulate fugitive emissions, such as those from the leak at Aliso Canyon, a decision confirmed by the ARB on multiple occasions. Thus, any proposed mitigation program from the ARB does not itself impose any legal obligations on SoCal Gas.

Translation: We're going to go ahead and ignore your recommendations because you can't legally make us do anything about any of this.

As the LA Times points out, technically SoCal Gas is right that there is no current law that would force them to comply with the state's recommendations. But given the extraordinary scale of the leak, the impact it had and continues to have on residents of Porter Ranch and surrounding areas, and how much it has negatively affected California's emissions goals, it seems callous for the company to reject state proposals for addressing the problem. And boy has SoCal Gas rejected those proposals.

The plan drafted by the ARB includes recommendations that SoCal Gas focus on cutting methane emissions, which have a much larger effect on climate change than carbon; invest in offsetting opportunities in and around the site of the leak; and act quickly to reduce global emissions, putting a timeline of five to ten years on reduction efforts. SoCal Gas politely declined to follow all of these recommendations.

Most egregiously, the gas company disputed an important measurement of the leak's environmental impact. The ARB wants SoCal Gas to offset the leak according to a metric that accounts for methane's enormous short-term effect on the environment. SoCal Gas, however, wants to use a more traditional measurement that would allow it to spend considerably less money offsetting the emissions. According to a report by KPCC, by the standards SoCal Gas wants to use, the company would achieve only 30% of the emissions mitigation that the state is asking for, saving itself $64 million in the process.

Making matters worse, some environmental activists say even the state's recommendations will not fully offset the enormous damage caused by the leak. Anna Moritz, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, told KPCC that "it will be incredibly difficult to mitigate those effects not only on local communities, and the ecology of the area, and the climate... it may be impossible, in fact, to get us back to prior to the leak."

SoCal's rejection of the state's proposals comes amid news that the CEO of parent company Sempra Energy will be receiving a year-end bonus of more than $3 million, bringing her total compensation for 2015 to $16.1 million.

LA City Attorney Mike Feuer has filed a lawsuit against SoCal Gas that would force it to adhere to a state plan for the emissions offset, but the company doesn't seem to worried about the case. As KPCC reports, SoCal Gas recently told shareholders that the value of the gas lost plus emissions mitigation would be just $33 million. For those keeping score at home, that's about the cost of two years worth of pay for Sempra Energy's CEO.

(Elijah Chiland is associate editor at LA Curbed … where this piece originated.)



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