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POLITICS--It's amazing how cute the headlines can be, both in how they're being written and presented, and in how we're supposed to read and take them at face value.  Ever get the idea that we're all being tooled?  No worries...you're not alone...and I am happy to help with translating the double-speak for you. 

1) From the Public Policy Institute of California:

The California Economy: Underemployed and Discouraged Workers  

Translation--With all due respect to the Millennials, who've never known a robust economy, and who don't realize how life is so wonderful with a full-time job and benefits, and who've never known anything but part-time jobs, most of us are underemployed.   

Those of us older folks who remember the Reagan and Clinton eras, back when both conservatives and liberals alike showed much more kindness and respect towards their fellow Americans, and when bipartisanship was a reality and not just a buzzword, respect the need for an adult and his/her family to have a respectable, affordable lifestyle based on pay, benefits and retirement. 

California's rich and powerful elites are doing fine, so why aren't you.  You've got part-time work, you're out of the unemployment figures, so rather than work like hell for an economy with "real" jobs, just lower the bar and tell everyone you're fine...and diminish those declaring we've got a service economy from hades to be haters, bigots, and whiners. 

2) From Fortune Magazine:

UnitedHealth Hasn't Given Up on Obamacare Altogether 

Translation--All the King's Horses, and All the King's Men, won't stop Obamacare from being financially sustainable unless we're all willing to pay 2-3 times more for our health care while getting 2-3 times less. 

But hey, why try to fix the problem, and replace a financial whirlpool into chaos, when it's easier to just demean and defame those who are simply pointing out the Emperor Has No Clothes.   

United and all the other creepy, self-serving health plans who (in large part) got us into this mess, and who wrote this politically-and-not-economically driven "Affordable Care Act" are now bailing out because (gasp!) they're losing money no matter how much more we're all being asked to pay into the system, and because (gasp!) the competitive/capitalist approach to health plans fighting to reduce costs and improve care isn't part of the ACA. 

And the plans that United will stay with?  Those similar to the ones that those who have health care through their employer now have.  But improve FULL-TIME employment with benefits to really fix the problem?   

Well...did you read the first translation above about underemployment?  Easier just to blame the evil conservatives and Republicans instead of focusing on reality, right? 

3) From The Sacramento Bee:

Medi-Cal set to expand coverage to undocumented children

Translation—No ... our taxpayer dollars would, never, never, NEVER pay for those not here illegally!  No, those who employ workers illegally, or the legal residents/relatives paying for and sponsoring their families, couldn't possibly be asked to clean up their mess. 

After all, we were promised by our government leaders this would neeeeeeeeeeever happen, right? 

How much nicer to have the rest of us pay for their mess, and decry those who want more Medi-Cal funds to go to cancer and autoimmune disease and disabled native-born and legal immigrants as bigots, monsters, and Nazis.  After all, why should an African-American child born in South LA have a higher priority for our tax dollars than an "undocumented" child whose parents and parents' employers knowing broke the law? 

4) From NBC News Online:

Most Americans Live in Areas With Unhealthy Levels of Air Pollution, Study Finds 

Translation--The LA/Long Beach area tops the list of unhealthy regions in our nation, which means that those who have been encouraging waves and waves of development and population influx, without ignoring the science of having too many people in too small a condensed region, are anything but environmentally smart or even friendly. 

But isn't it so much easier to blame those asking how we can allow so much population influx and development without enough water and space?  After all, asking to have enough infrastructure to sustainably accommodate hordes of new residents is the same as opposing affordable housing and racial justice, right? 

Because there's nothing so politically successful when trying to ram a bag of flaming razor-blades down the throats of those playing by the rules, and demanding we all play by the rules, than to demean and defame those trying to point out the obvious. 

Final Translation: Yes, we're being led by liars and cheaters and scoundrels. 

But if you don't like it, then leave.  After all, look what a great job we did in kicking out the generations who built this state to what it is now.  Yes, their money and resources and jobs are in Texas and all sorts of other states, but at least we don't have to hear them all complain anymore, so the problems they decried aren't really true, after all. 

And if you try to take action to fix the lawbreaking, science-defying, truth-smashing efforts we're shoving down your throats?  Well, look out...because next we're coming for YOU.

 

(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

EXCLUSIVE TO CITYWATCH--Condemned by some as pornography and lauded by others as the empowering of women, Playboy was the quintessential men's magazine. It was the first to combine intelligence and wit with pictures of pretty girls … and Wow … what a combination.  (Photo above: Playboy new and old. Marilyn Monroe was first Playboy cover.) 

Hugh Hefner created a formula to allow us “Boomer Men” (and several generations beyond) to hold our heads high while appreciating female beauty and, at the same time, providing a platform for social discourse. Yes, Playboy was fantasy to the endmost degree, but it was also a force for social and political change. 

From hard hitting contemporary interviews to political and social satire, Playboy consistently supported civil rights and personal freedom. Its editorial page pulled no punches. 

It also supported the arts showcasing writers and artists from many different and diverse disciplines such as Photography, Painting, Drawing, Music, Dance, and Theatre, to name a few. 

And there were articles about sports and liqueur, and fashion, and social graces in the mix. 

Of course, Sex was the driving force that allowed Playboy its platform. It catered to young adult male fantasies while at the same time infusing Hefner's own social values. And yes, much of it was sophomoric and silly, but that does not demean the real and positive things Hugh Hefner was doing … like shining light on injustice and supporting civil rights … like promoting freedom of speech and fighting censorship … and always supporting women's causes … something playboy's critics never acknowledge. 

"What am I talking about?" I hear you cry. "Like Hefner, Playboy is still alive".  Alas, I beg to differ.  The magazine is alive in name only. 

Just recently I received an offer I couldn't refuse. A Playboy subscription at a ridiculously low price. They were practically giving the magazine away. As a previous subscriber to the magazine (albeit not for many years), I accepted the offer and received my first issue this month. I was expecting a nostalgic stroll down memory lane, but was appalled to discover an homogenized magazine that had little resemblance to the Playboy of old. To their credit, they did have an interview and a few articles … and there was a pretty girl on the cover, but that is all that remains of the iconic magazine. 

If Hugh Hefner was dead, I would say he was rolling over in his grave, but he is alive and I suspect has nothing to do with the magazine … his name positioned as Editor in Chief not withstanding. 

Disclaimer: 

I don't know if Hugh is actively involved with Playboy or not. And, of course, my critique of Playboy Magazine is only my opinion. 

In conclusion: 

I raise my glass to Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Magazine of Old… and say Thank You.  Thank you for my first glimpse at the beauty that is woman.  Thank you for the many cartoons and jokes that made me laugh.  Thank you for the many articles that informed me and made me think.   Thank you for the stories that entertained me.   Thank you for always holding up sex as a positive force in the human experience.  And thank you for always supporting women's rights. 

To Hugh Hefner and Playboy Magazine of old; Farewell and I salute you!!

 

(Charles Tarlow is a CityWatch contributor and lives in Los Angeles.)

-cw

EDUCATION MATTERS-In the last few days, the LA Times has published misleading information on the California Appeals Court decision this week denying the lower court ruling in the Vergara lawsuit – a suit wherein a few carefully chosen students were urged to press a lawsuit to terminate teachers without due process, changing the law pertaining to what they call tenure. In addition, this lawsuit would serve to weaken teachers unions.

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HOMELESSNESS: A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE--I lost my brother Steve last week. He died of cardiac arrest at 63. Steve was the black sheep of our family of six children. He did not go to college and struggled to make a living building decks and remodeling bathrooms and kitchens. If my parents had not let him live in a converted garage behind their house in Santa Monica, he would very likely have ended up like many of the folks we see living on the street in Venice – and he certainly would have died much sooner than he did. 

From an early age Steve abused drugs, alcohol and food. Although he was from a family of walkers and runners, exercise was not in Steve’s vocabulary. Alcohol and food exacerbated his late on-set diabetes, required three-times-a-week dialysis for the last 11 years and led to the loss of his eyesight in his early fifties. 

He had been living in an assisted living facility in Culver City when he paused to sit down in the lobby, passed out and never woke up. 

His life was not without laughter, love, pleasure or accomplishment, though these were rarer after the dialysis started and his sight was gone. 

For many years I have looked at the homeless population in Venice as though I was looking at countless Steves struggling with substance abuse, limited skills, and self-defeating behaviors. The human tendency to get stuck, to become habituated, both to addiction and to a status quo, is the dominant thread I saw in Steve and also in those living on the Boardwalk and Third Street and behind Ralphs. 

To those who question my sympathy for the homeless, this column is an acknowledgement that my experience with Steve hardened me. Living close to an addict for most of my life made me acutely aware of how easily our “help” is counter-productive and simply enables self-defeating behavior to continue. It also made me see how obstinate a human being can be in pursuing their own destruction. My parents’ enabling of Steve kept him from the street but also kept him from successfully confronting his addictions and a fuller life. A stint in AA was promising but did not last. We all stood by, feeling helpless as he descended into renal failure, blindness and loss of mobility. 

For me, the corollaries abound in Venice. Public feeding programs at Venice churches and along the Boardwalk invite more homeless here while offering just enough to keep them ensconced on the street. Handing out blankets only makes the campers a little warmer while still living in a dangerous, exposed setting. Providing showers, toilets and a place to use a computer without engagement with a case worker and a path to a bed encourages the camping to continue. Allowing tons of personal possessions to take over portions of Venice Beach and local sidewalks assures the campers stay nearby. Mandating a right to live on a sidewalk further habituates the homeless to being homeless while creating noxious conditions for nearby residents (just as Steve became more obnoxious to those around him as his disease progressed.) 

The decades-long failure of Los Angeles City and County to devote the funds, services and housing to the un-housed population compounded the nightmare exponentially. Now, Councilman Bonin has presented his plan to help all those who have not been as fortunate as my brother to have a roof over their head. As with the City’s overall plan, it is a grand vision – but also without much funding. Mike’s leftist tradition shines through on each page; he proposes initiatives that salve the liberal conscience but that in some instances will not solve the problems we face. 

With two fundamental facts staring Mike in the face, he blinked and defaulted to ideology. The first fact is that if City authorities make it easier and easier to live on the street it will be much harder to get people off the street. Mike exaggerates what the courts have ruled and opposes enforcement options that are still legal, such as returning to enforcement of the City’s “no lying, sitting, sleeping” on a sidewalk ordinance. The second fact is that the longer people are on the street the more habituated they become to it. As the City Council removes almost all vagrancy laws little leverage remains to nudge people into case management, rehab programs, shelters or shared housing. Despite all the lofty goals, the lack of funding and of enforcement in Mike’s plan will condemn most of the more than 1,000 souls now on Venice streets to remaining there. 

The most poorly thought out proposal is to turn the Westminster Senior Center into a storage facility for homeless possessions. This location has previously been used as a campground by transients and some of them have relentlessly preyed upon the nearby residents. The LAPD has only in the last year kept the park relatively clear and addressed the crime in the area. Drawing transients to this site on a daily basis will certainly result in renewed camping around the center and in nearby alleys and more opportunistic crime directed at the residents. 

It makes far more sense to rent warehouse/office space in the industrial strip along Del Rey Avenue between Washington Boulevard and Maxella for use as an intake center for the County’s Coordinated Entry System (CES), with storage – both voluntary and involuntary – as an ancillary element. This location is removed from residences, would draw transients away from the impacted areas on Venice Beach, and offers a site for case workers to enroll homeless into the CES, which tracks and coordinates all governmental contacts with homeless individuals. It also allows social workers to develop and carry-out tailored placements into services, secure benefits and housing. Storage without engagement just leaves folks on the street. 

Similarly, Mike’s proposal to re-purpose the Venice median parking lot between Pacific and Dell as subsidized housing for the homeless misses the stated target in several ways. 

While Venice is indeed losing affordable housing due to rising rents, the proposed subsidized housing on the median lot will be for those at the very bottom of the economic ladder, not the college students, cashiers, teachers, nurses, security guards, artists, etc., who cannot afford an apartment in Venice. Adding more subsidized housing for the homeless will not address the loss of this type of work force housing in the least. 

When asked if Mike had identified any other city parking lots or land in CD 11 for similar homeless housing, Mike’s chief deputy Chad Molnar said Mike “started in Venice because the homeless population is greatest there and (Venice) is losing more affordable housing at a faster clip there.” But Venice already has twice as much subsidized housing per capita as any other community in Council District 11.* It is long overdue for other communities in CD 11 to step up and offer their parking lots for homeless housing to match Venice’s track record. 

Venice has a large transient population not because of higher rents in recent years; I bet Bonin’s staff could not find more than ten people living on Venice Beach who were forced out of apartments in Venice by rent increases, which are limited by rent control to three percent per year. Venice has this large population due to the beach, sun, drugs, fast food outlets, and most importantly, lack of enforcement and failure to stop the storage of tons of personal possessions along the Boardwalk, which is not allowed, for example, in the park next to City Hall. 

The amount of housing required to house Los Angeles’ homeless population is staggering to contemplate and even more bewildering when one considers the time it will take to fund, design, acquire sites and construct it. Whatever units could be built on the Venice median site would be a drop in the bucket compared to the vast number of units that are required. They also would not be available for many years, while the encampments in Venice fester and continue to ruin the quality of life of nearby residents and business owners. 

It makes far more sense to take the funds available for that project and master rent apartment buildings in less expensive areas of LA County (as OPCC in Santa Monica does) and operate them as shared housing with four beds in each two bedroom apartment and a case worker on site. This would truly implement the “Housing First” concept and allow the social service agencies in Venice to quickly move some of our campers into housing. 

The other nonsensical aspect of using the median site for subsidized housing is that it runs counter to Venice’s need for parking. The one message I heard continuously from the Coastal Commission in our years-long battle to garner overnight restricted parking was that Venice desperately needs an over-arching plan to develop far more visitor serving parking spaces. An automated parking structure on that median lot, with one subterranean floor and two above ground would start to address the Commission’s concern. 

Finally, as I pointed out in an earlier column, affordable housing, even for those initially homeless, cannot be built without its own dedicated parking without inevitably robbing parking from Venice residents who now use it. As former homeless tenants improve their lives they acquire jobs, mates, occasionally children and cars. So, on this site, a significant amount of tenant parking will be required, which will cut into either the number of units that can be built or the number of parking spaces left for visitors and current residents. The City can finance far more units on less expensive land inland. 

Mike, may I suggest that you give up both the storage use on the Westminster site and the homeless housing project on the Venice median site.  Instead, focus all your attention on enrolling our street campers in the Coordinated Entry System, get case workers working on each and every case every day, fund the agencies that have a track record of master leasing inexpensive apartment buildings wherever they find them, and get on with helping people get off the Boardwalk, Third Street and from behind Ralphs now. 

*This information was provided by the City Housing Department to the VNC Ad-Hoc Committee on Homelessness several years ago.

 

(Mark Ryavec is president of the Venice Stakeholders Association. This first appeared on Yo!Venice.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

“A POSTER CHILD FOR WHAT’S WRONG”--Fix the City, a nonprofit advocacy organization, has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court challenging the Mayor’s and City Council’s approval of the controversial 27-story 269-unit luxury apartments known as Catalina Tower in Koreatown. (See graphic above.) 

The suit names Michael Hakim/Colony Holdings as Real Parties in Interest. 

This project is the poster child for what is wrong with the planning approval process in Los Angeles. The Mayor and City Council actually approved a project that their own City Planning Commissioner called a “tumor.” 

That’s because the 27 story project was approved in a neighborhood that has predominantly two to five story buildings. 

In the name of the need for increased density, neighborhoods are being destroyed in violation of the law. The City’s traffic is already unbearable. Its first-responders are asked to do more with less - with response times suffering as a result. Residents are asked to go to extreme measures to conserve water while the Council and Mayor approve huge projects that will consume tens of millions of gallons of water. (This one consumes 29 million gallons per year). 

Mayor Garcetti claimed in his State of the City Address that “we’ve transformed City Hall from a place of closed doors and backroom deals, to one of openness and accountability.” 

The Catalina project is the poster child not only for bad planning and violation of city laws but also for mysterious backroom deals. Nothing has changed in City Hall. 

The lawsuit alleges that: (1) the General Plan Amendment was not legally initiated by the City; (2) the project was dead-on-arrival because the developer never appealed the CPC rejection; (3) it challenges the failure of the city to require an Environmental Impact Report for this massive project, and (4) it asks that the City comply with its General Plan Fire/Emergency Section – Mitigation Measures mandate to “require that [the] type, amount, and location of development be correlated with the provision of adequate supporting infrastructure and services.” 

Adding more density to a city already collapsing under its own deteriorating infrastructure is as wise as trying to put out a fire with gasoline. It is time for city leaders to remember that they not only have to obey the law, they have an obligation to protect and respect those of us who already live here. As Koreatown goes, so goes every neighborhood. 

(Laura Lake is a board member at Fix the City.) Graphic credit: KCRW radio.

-cw

TAX OVERLOAD--In my last CityWatch article, I addressed the national/global issue of taxes, and how the mighty who want us to pay ever more taxes have their own tendencies to avoid paying them, and to avoid playing by the rules on just about everything else. Well, the same thing applies on a local level for the City of the Angels.

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TRANSIT TALK-Change the Purple Line before it’s too late. Metro is proceeding with the construction of this subway extension. From the Metro website, “From the current terminus at Wilshire/Western, the Purple Line Extension will extend westward for about nine miles with seven new stations. It will provide a high-capacity, high-speed, dependable alternative for those traveling to and from LA’s “second downtown,” including destinations such as Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills, Century City and Westwood.”  

This is all wrong. I do not mean the route of the subway, or the station locations, I refer to the color of the line. It is all wrong. Why? It shares tracks, stations and maps with the Red Line. These two colors are too similar in the color wheel. This leads to confusion for riders.  

It is the same for Blue and Expo Lines which share lines, and both have shades of blue. For Expo it’s an Aqua color. 

While similar colors may work from a design standpoint, and look attractive on maps in a designer’s and Metro offices, for the rider in a train station or on the train this color scheme is a disaster. 

Differentiating between two very similar colors is difficult in dimly lit places, such as the 7th Street Metro Station, terminus for the Blue and Expo Lines and in some subway stations.  

There are also problems of how well the colors print, and how badly the colors wear over time.  With colors fading over time into similarities of each other, red and purple look the same, as do blue and aqua.  

There are those who have difficulties with colors. A rider standing in a busy Metro station trying to read a Metro map where two separate lines have very similar colors is difficult enough in the best of days, but for those with color identification problems, or any vision problems, in dimly lit stations, they are faced with unnecessary obstacles. 

Quick and easy identification of a light rail of subway is critical to the rider, particularly if the rider is new to the system. The sole mission of Metro is not to only build rail transit. Another critical mission, and indeed responsibility of Metro, is to take into consideration the complete riding experience, from those exploring Metro transit for the first time, to seasoned riders. 

Metro and its designers have been using a black background for the rail line maps. In Metro stations this creates a visual black hole with two dots of similar color barely poking out from the blackness and the visual competition in the stations. It is worse when these posters are in shaded areas. This does not quickly communicate to riders which rail line is which color. 

This is no small problem. Two rail lines of similar colors leads to rider frustration, anxiety, especially for transit riders, including this transit rider, and it does lead to riders to taking the wrong train, which this transit rider has done. 

I have done this with the Red and Purple Lines. I’ve spoken with riders on the Expo Line who took the Blue Line because they couldn’t separate blue from aqua.  

Once on the wrong train, the rider, once they come to the conclusion they are on the wrong train, then needs to exit at the next station and then wait for the next train traveling in the opposite direction to get back to the station which will get them onto the correct train. This is a colossal waste of time, and does much to discourage more people from riding Metro trains in the future. 

I have a suggestion to stop the Purple Line coloring of the subway. Don’t use purple. True, the color has already been designated by Metro for this extension of the subway, but it is better to change it now before the line is built. This cannot be too difficult for Metro which in the course of a few years changed its name from RTD to MTA to Metro. Those changes must have cost a nice sum in printing costs, and other changes throughout the organization. 

Give the color purple to the Crenshaw Line where no color has yet been designated. The Purple Line in the Leimert Park/Crenshaw Black American centers would not be lost in name association to the movie of the same name.  

Take the aqua color and give that to the wrongly colored Purple Line. Then, for the Expo Line, go back to the original color proposed by for City Councilman Bernard Parks: rose. Rose is a lovely color. 

With these changes the subway would have two distinct colors: red and aqua, and the Blue Line and Expo light rail lines would have two distinct colors: blue and rose.  

These changes will go a long way to easing the frustration and anxiety of riding transit in Los Angeles. Another way to look at is that this is good for the rider. Doesn’t Metro want that?

 

(Matthew Hetz is a Los Angeles native. He is a transit rider and advocate, a composer, music instructor, and member and president and executive director of the Culver City Symphony Orchestra)

-cw

 

RECLAIMING THE POWER-For the first time in decades, California is poised to play a significant role in determining each party’s presidential nominee. Being a reliably blue state, presidential candidates in the recent years have done little campaigning in the Golden State. As Angelenos know, whenever President Barack Obama’s entourage arrives in town, Southern California in particular has served little purpose in national and state politics other than as a source of money from the region’s Hollywood elite.

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CAMPAIGN 2016-Candidate Janice Kamenir-Reznik is the sole woman running for State Senator Fran Pavley’s 27th District Seat. The longtime attorney and social activist shared her thoughts about the implementation of the state’s expanded Paid Family Program, the housing crisis, and education. In the second part of this interview, we discuss the drought and infrastructure issues, utilities, campaign finance reform and criminal justice.

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