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GUEST WORDS-Recently I spent two hours in my car and on the subway to travel 40 miles from Agoura Hills to Downtown to attend a transportation conference sponsored by the LA Times at the Los Angeles Central Library. My return trip (not at rush hour) took me one and a half hours. The irony that this journey once took 45 minutes each way did not escape me while I sat listening to numerous heavy hitters on transportation policy talk about the challenges our city will face over the next 10 years. 

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WHAT LOSS OF PRIVACY COST FERGUSON’S WILSON--Just weeks ago, California State Senator Mark Leno introduced SB 1286 that he purports will “improve transparency, accountability and trust between law enforcement and the public.” 

Leno’s words, and those of his supporters, seem only to target police officers by making statements that are relative to them and the communities they serve. To further this notion, reports in the last month have touted SB 1286 as a reaction to the high profile and racially motivated officer involved deaths in Ferguson, Baltimore, Staten Island and San Francisco. 

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UTILITY OVERHAUL-The Los Angeles City Council is preparing to vote on new water and power rate ordinances that will raise DWP rates annually for the next five years. If Mayor Eric Garcetti signs the ordinances, they will start jacking up your bills within months. 

The city has received over 2,000 angry letters of protest about the rate hikes. That may be why Council Member Felipe Fuentes introduced a motion for DWP governance reform to be put on the ballot later this year. 

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PLATKIN ON PLANNING-What exactly do we mean by “business-as-usual” when it comes to city planning in Los Angeles? After all, LA has a long history of recurrent lawsuits, external government mandates and voter initiatives that periodically push back against the ordinary slipshod planning. 

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DOWNTOWN AND SKID ROW- In September 2013, Metro Charter Elementary School first opened its doors as a result of the desperate efforts from a group of frustrated parents in Downtown Los Angeles who saw that this needed resource had apparently been overlooked by City planners and the leaders of Downtown’s now-booming revitalization. 

With so much focus on constructing luxury lofts, high-rise office towers and adaptive reuse projects, single parents and families with small children have found themselves suffering from a lack of quality schools for grades kindergarten through fourth grade. Enter Metro Charter as a solution. 

Amazingly, these parents raised the necessary $250,000, found 16 dedicated teachers (as a start) and even found a qualified and passionate principal in order to open Metro Charter Elementary School. They have increased the number of students each year and now have an extremely long waiting list to get in. This feat is nothing short of a Downtown success story. 

These parents knew, however, that their initial location was temporary and now, the time has come to move. They are looking for a 30-year lease -- seemingly appealing for any property owner desiring a successful long-term tenant -- but have instead met with lots of resistance. 

Metro Charter is experiencing a “step-child locked in the closet” moment because developers and property owners are more focused on projects than n schools. Parents worry they might have to move away from Downtown if something doesn’t change and quickly – as in, within the next school year. The thought of this frustrates people who bought into the excitement and hype connected to Downtown’s massive resurgence. Business growth and high-density residential interests are seeing unlimited potential for widespread expansion; plans abound for many other development options such as hotels, sports stadiums and more. 

As other doors close in its proverbial face, could Metro Charter possibly end up with a permanent home in Skid Row? 

Skid Row is stereotypically known as not being a safe place for children, but it must be noted that several successful schools have existed for decades well within its borders. 

For instance, School on Wheels, which used to be on 5th and San Pedro, now provides afterschool studying for homeless children on 7th and San Pedro. They moved to be closer to LAUSD’s newly-remodeled 9th Street Elementary school which is only a short distance away. 

Also, Para Los Ninos (For the Children) has a Skid Row location on 6th and Gladys Avenue, cattycorner to the popular Gladys Park, deep in the heart of Skid Row. PLN even provides a mental health division to assist children and their families who may struggle to process their families’ struggles to overcome poverty – something that can have a direct effect on the child’s ability to learn. 

Then there’s Las Familias de Pueblo on 7th and Maple, which is directed by Alice Callaghan, who co-founded Skid Row Housing Trust decades ago. This school provides necessary schooling for children of the many Spanish-speaking, working-class families whose parents work in the Downtown area. 

Finally, Inner City Arts, on 7th and Kohler (also in Skid Row), provides arts education for elementary, middle and high school children and was visited a few years ago by Prince William and Duchess Kate (photo above) from England’s Royal family. 

So many children have walked to school in Skid Row over the years and one would have to think long and hard about the last time a child was harmed there. It can be argued that Skid Row is much safer for children than many other parts of Los Angeles. 

It’s feasible that Metro Charter could join the long list of successful, quality schools in Skid Row. I’m confident that the Skid Row Neighborhood Council would support this notion. Recently, School on Wheels celebrated not one but two students who were accepted at UCLA. Metro Charter Elementary School could contribute to the successful learning of children in Skid Row. 

If the rest of Downtown doesn’t want them, we’ll take ‘em!

 

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

EDUCATION POLITICS--Once upon a time a “test” assessed a student’s comprehension of a subject, or perhaps a student’s relative degree of comprehension compared with his classmate’s; even occasionally a teacher’s professional realization of her intended curriculum. Even this last variant was ultimately grounded in the student’s goals as a learner. The student was the object.

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BALLOT BATTLE TAKES ON NEW DYNAMIC--One very interesting (and overall great) thing about the Trump/GOP and the Sanders/Clinton feuding is the heightened interest that the average American has in our federal and electoral processes.  Apathy is a terrible thing, and bad political processes occur as a result.

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DEEGAN ON LA-- Citing “an overcrowded November election with a least 20 ballot measures” the Coalition to Preserve LA has announced that they are pushing back their Neighborhood Integrity Initiative from November to the Spring 2017 City election. Campaign Director Jill Stewart and AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein jointly presented their new plans at a media conference on the steps of City Hall Tuesday morning. 

“We are going to shift gears”, said Weinstein. “The November ballot is very crowded, with many state issues and the Presidential race. The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is a city issue, better suited for a city election, which we will have in March 2017”. 

The Mayor and some city councilmembers will also be on the same ballot, and that will help amplify the debate, and extend the conversation about development in Los Angeles. It will also force politicos hoping to hold onto their seats into making a public declaration how they stand on development, and identifying which developers are helping to finance their campaigns. This will be a unique and an unexpected benefit of the change in ballot dates. 

With this shift to the Spring City election, anti-development candidates interested in running may have an opening in contested districts to attract attention to themselves in stark contrast to many incumbents that have benefitted from their linkage to developers. This is a strategy that helped to get David Ryu (CD4) elected. 

An unhappy-with-development electorate may be expected to be enthusiastically against any politico running for reelection that does not favor some sort of review and roll back of the out of control building schemes that are dwarfing LA’s residential neighborhoods and robbing them of their character. 

Stewart added that they have resubmitted a petition to the City Clerk that is now “Eight pages … down from 23 … which makes it easier for the public to understand when being asked to sign and support the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative”. 

While stressing that “90% of the goals remain the same”, Stewart revealed that “One change is if a project is 100% affordable housing, it would be allowed to go forward during the moratorium in most cases." 

The reschedule, from the November to the Spring 2017 election, will allow for better understanding and greater buy-in of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, a ballot measure that makes City Hall: 

  • Obey the Law
  • Play by the Rules
  • Do their job - update the City’s Plans
  • Respect the Character of the Neighborhoods
  • Stop Traffic Density Gridlock
  • Stop City Planning Lawlessness
  • Curb Undue Influence by Developers

Once approved by for circulation by the City Clerk, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative will need 61,486 signatures by the end of August to qualify for the Spring 2017 City election.

 

(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at timdeegan2015@gmail.com.)

-cw

 

GELFAND’S WORLD--This is the 15th year of the neighborhood council system, and is therefore the year that people will be asking, "Are the neighborhood councils a failure? If so, why? If they are at least partial successes, then why?" 

I offer the beginnings of an answer. It has to do with a specific error that makes it impossible for many of our so-called leaders to exert leadership. Coincidentally, my answer applies to other groups outside of the neighborhood council system. 

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DEEGAN ON LA-Very quickly, what has been historically clean is on the verge of becoming very dirty. California, especially our Los Angeles region, has just taken two big hits to its environment, both aimed directly at our quality of life. These twin impacts involve air pollution and density pollution and should be of concern to everyone. The air we breathe may now become compromised by less control over emissions. And there is danger to our coastline because developers that may have had their shackles loosened might be allowed to increase building on our beach fronts. 

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