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GUEST WORDS--Westwood Boulevard 2.0: where bicyclists ride in their own lane beside wide and smooth sidewalks, shaded outdoor patios surround fully occupied restaurants and shops, and exercise stations, small library stands and charging docks stand on street corners.

This upgrade is possible. Mayor Eric Garcetti put in place the “Great Streets” program in order to recreate and take advantage of an often-underrated asset in Los Angeles, our streets. In April 2014, Westwood Boulevard was one of the first 15 streets chosen to receive grant opportunities and access to different resources through the mayor’s office in order to get quick improvement results. The opportunities are smaller in nature — like free-standing exercise stations or parklets — but ultimately do contribute to a street’s overall appeal.

But these projects are set back and held off because different departments involved do not list Westwood Village as a priority. This is especially true of two institutions: the Westwood Neighborhood Council and the Westwood Village Improvement Association, also known as BID.

Currently, BID is working with the WWNC in bringing to life an up-to-date boulevard central to their community, but the latter is holding the former back and not aiming to reimagine a better Westwood.

The “Great Streets” program is not being taken advantage of as it should be. Westwood community leaders are hindering improvements that could potentially revive the Village. These institutions should work to find compromises that could recreate Westwood Boulevard as a distinct street in Los Angeles.

Westwood Village used to be the go-to spot after dark, with its numerous theaters, playhouses, restaurants and shops. Today, locals dressed for a night on the town would trip and fall on their walks down the dimly lit and cracked Westwood sidewalks. The bar scene is weak, with Santa Monica and West Hollywood grabbing all the limelight. And vacancies line the streets, with homeless individuals using the abandoned storefronts’ roof for shelter.

Yet even given this, some are hesitant to change. Jerry Brown, president of the WWNC, said that he does not think that Westwood Boulevard should have been chosen as a “great street” and that the council does not have any specific proposals with regards to making a better boulevard, besides basic upkeep such as fixing sidewalks and tending to the vacancy issue.

This means that BID is limited to practical plans due to the WWNC rejecting its more creative ideas. While the plans do address specific issues on the boulevard such as these cracks and vacancies, these plans do not reimagine it into the one-of-a-kind boulevard that it could be.

Instead of shutting down these ideas, WWNC should be open-minded to the idea of temporary implementation of the projects, so that they can later be assessed as successful or not.

And this isn’t something new. In the past, WWNC rejected BID’s proposal for a bike lane, even when presented in the context of this initiative, on account of traffic and safety concerns. Additionally, it rejected a compromise for share arrows, in which signs would be put up to remind drivers and bicyclists to share the road.

Addressing maintenance, as the WWNC wants to do, is only part of the problem. Westwood Boulevard is the gateway to what used to be a popular Mediterranean-themed village. The goal of any Westwood officials should be to bring back the city to what it used to be.

To deny Westwood Village’s heyday period and not aim to go above and beyond in restoring such a history is unfair to the citizens who elect these leading officials, as well as the students who live within and around the village itself.

The effects of the “Great Streets” program peek in and out of Westwood Boulevard’s image, between Wilshire Boulevard and Le Conte Avenue. A solar-powered bus bench with a USB charging station, newly painted crosswalks and installed parking meters for bikes were all added with the help of the program and the mayor’s office.

This initiative is an opportunity to breathe new light into Westwood Boulevard, and possibly, the entire Village.

Shani Shahmoon writes for the Daily Bruin… where this piece was first posted.) Graphic credit: Kelly Brennan/Daily Bruin

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GELFAND’S WORLD--This is the next in a series of articles about emergency preparedness. We stress the attempt to bring the public up to a level of preparation that will be required should we have to deal with a major earthquake. 

The Emergency Preparedness Alliance met again last weekend, this time to discuss disaster communications. Some of what we heard involved technical sounding stuff like the organization of two-way radio networks. Some of it involved learning about sending emergency messages up and down the line through organized chains of command. 

It turns out that there is plenty of room for us civilians in the emergency communications process, provided we make the minimal effort to get an amateur radio license. We learned about programs that train people in as little as a day. There is also the Family Radio (FRS) system which does not require a license, and will be ideal for getting emergency messages out over a range of perhaps a few blocks. The goal is to have a few thousand of us equipped at the FRS or ham radio level so that we can provide ultra-local eyes and ears in the event of a true emergency. 

We then considered an everyday example of emergency communications and their intersection with the emergency response system. The example we heard about is the 911 phone system. In particular, we heard about some of the issues that 911 operators have to deal with. A lot of the time, they take calls from people who are not very good at communicating clearly and tersely in times of stress. That turns out to be most of us. 

We considered the 911 operator because the emergency telephone connection is an example of one node of a complicated system of interacting parts that will also be a crucial element in responding to a larger disaster. The system that starts with your 911 call includes phone operators, ambulances, police, fire fighters, and hospitals, just to mention a few. In short, it represents part of the system that we will have to ramp up when problems are widespread. 

But the daily travails of the 911 operator illustrate in microcosm the sorts of problems we might face on a much wider scale if a real disaster should hit. 

Where are you?

Yes, I know you're at home. What's the address?

Yes, I know it's your mother. What is the problem? 

These are the sorts of conversations that 911 operators get into. There is a certain amount of information that is critical for the responders to have before the system can do anything for you or your sick mom. Your location is obviously one of those things, but some people have a difficult time getting the information across. This is particularly true when the emergency is away from the caller's home address. "I'm on Sepulveda" is the beginning of an answer, but it's just a beginning, because you could be in the San Fernando Valley or you could be in Westwood. "I'm on Sepulveda about half a block north of Vermont on the Westside" is better. 

What is the age, condition, and gender of the sick or injured person? These are particularly important data to get across, but most people don't know to explain in detail at first. They have to be walked through things point by point by the operator. And that's just the start because then the operator has to put the right people in motion. 

These points were explained by Jonathan Zimmerman, who works with the LAFD Auxiliary Communications Service. In conversation, we agreed that training the public in how to explain things to the 911 operator would be of help. It wouldn't have to be extended training, just a bit of advice about taking a deep breath and summarizing to yourself the most important points to get across. It will be almost like that old journalistic formula, "Who What When Where Why." In describing an automobile accident that just occurred on La Cienega and Olympic with two people possibly injured, you've already got most of it said, and you are only a few seconds into the call. 

The same advice applies to major disasters. There won't be time for idle chatter. 

Emergency Communications under conditions of disaster 

Now imagine having to ramp up the 911 system by a factor of hundreds because lots of people need help. Buildings are collapsed. Gas mains are leaking. This will require participation by civilian volunteers. We won't have the equipment and phone lines that the 911 system has, so we will have to use our own hand-held radios (or whatever else we have). 

The most important lesson that came through in this week's session was that getting a communications system like this up and running will require having the right kind of organization. It will also involve training us volunteers in how to participate in that organization. 

Let's get specific. Imagine a serious earthquake, and further imagine that you become aware that one or two of your neighbors are injured badly enough to require medical attention. The information comes to you because you are the local volunteer radio operator. You summarize the information in the fewest number of words and tell it to the next level up, which will be at your local fire station. The local fire station contact can then send you help if it is available, or if not, your message will be sent further up the line to a regional center. 

You, the local volunteer, will take the place of the 911 emergency phone system in the event of a major, region-wide emergency. You will work with an efficient and effective chain of other volunteers and well trained professionals. 

In this way, local problems that can be handled on the spot will be dealt with immediately. Problems which require more substantial efforts will go further up the chain. At the top of the chain is the Emergency Operations Center, which will be dealing with citywide issues including logistics and capabilities. The people at the top of the chain will have access to statewide and national aid. 

An important consideration for state and federal agencies will be knowing just where in your neighborhood to send critical help and supplies. That is another reason that the local (you and me), regional (professionals such as the LAFD and LAPD) and citywide responders are so important. 

(Bob Gelfand writes on culture and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected]

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REMEMBERING LOUIE (1961-2016)-On January 17, after a long fight with diabetes and its devastation, Luis (“Louie”) Manuel Moreno suffered a fatal heart attack, leaving family and friends throughout Boyle Heights and the communities of East Los Angeles and the family of LA city workers with a hole the size of Louie’s heart. 

Councilmember José Huizar responded on Instagram: “I am lost for words in hearing of the passing of Louie Moreno. He was a dear friend to all and never backed away from the opportunity to help others, especially our youth. His passion for empowering our youth through sports and education helped motivate many people in Boyle Heights and on the Eastside, including myself. You will be forever missed. Rest in peace, brother… #BoyleHeights” 

Louie loved his daughter, Teresa Michelle Moreno, and she loved him. “Can't sleep. I just miss you so much daddy when I used to cry for you when you left for work or when I hid in the car and said I'm going to work with you. Daddy, you are and always will be my everything always and forever,” said Teresa, sharing the news of Louie’s passing on social media. 

Louie was proud to be a city worker and he took his city service very seriously. It defined him and drove him to do more. 

I knew Louie Moreno. Every day, for so many years, Louie’d greet me with his friendly smile. And if Louie had a union question, it meant 100 other city workers had a question. It was never about him. It was only about “we.” 

Louie showed up after every earthquake. And on 9/11. Like thousands and thousands of public workers – government workers – Louie showed up and served and smiled. 

Eddie Santillan must be the head of all City Hall parking by now. He met Louie in 1985 when he started working for the City. “Dad knew him from a summer youth program back when Art Snyder was the Councilman,” Eddie recalls. “Louie was a good man, a good friend, my best friend. He never stopped, even when his health fell apart, he was always out, working to do good, with the kids, his gig at Steven’s, his sports show, whatever good he could do. He wanted to show the kids that there’s so much out there, so many opportunities. Nothing could stop Louie.” Eddie added sadly, “He never asked for help.” 

Eddie and Louie worked together throughout the years, at security, special events, Council District 14 activities, whatever needed to be done – in City Hall and in the community -- always for the kids. 

A 1980 graduate of Roosevelt High School, Louie Moreno loved giving back to all of the communities of East Los Angeles and to his beloved Boyle Heights. Rough Rider Forever.    

Mayor Sam’s Scott Johnson sums it up with the voice of a compadre: “For decades, Louie's endeavors in promoting the positive, mentoring values in sports, saw him give selflessly of his time in supporting the … Boyle Heights Wolfpack Pop Warner Program, the El Sereno Stallions, the annual East LA Classic between Roosevelt and Garfield…while himself teaching those same values on the field of play to community youth, including someone who would become Boyle Height's current City Councilperson.” 

For years, Louie hosted a public access “Sports Rap Up” program and Channel 35 local sports program, aimed primarily at LA kids. He emceed and DJ’d countless community events, helped organize an annual toy giveaway supporting hundreds of Ramona Gardens children, Movie Day at the old Edwards Theater in Alhambra, Council Office activities, and union gatherings.

Louie is mourned and missed by the LA32 Neighborhood Council, the Community Police Advisory Board (CPAB) of Hollenbeck, city officials and city workers, visitors to LA City Hall…so many.

Like Eddie said, “Louie never stopped.” 

From the Los Angeles City Council draft adjourning motion (CD14) honoring the life of Louie Moreno:

“More than anything, Louie loved his community. Louie’s goal for this year was to become Honorary Mayor of Boyle Heights. I think many of us always saw him that way anyway. No title necessary. 

“He was truly a community ambassador and by far one of the most faithful servants Boyle Heights and the eastside has ever seen. 

“Louie Moreno was a loving son, father, nephew, and friend who taught us all, no matter how rough things get, life is beautiful. Even as Louie’s health declined, his spirits remained positive. On the day before his passing, he reminded us all to smile.” 

Funeral services are set for Saturday, February 6 at 11:00 a.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 407 S. Chicago St., LA 90033 followed by a reception at Steven’s Steak House, 5332 Stevens Pl., Commerce 90040. 

Louie’s friends and family have set up a GoFundMe page to help honor Louie with a funeral and send-off befitting his life of service and love. Here’s the link: https://www.gofundme.com/mckqjj2k. Please do what you can! 

(Julie Butcher is a retired union leader, enjoying Riverside and her first grandchild.)

PERSPECTIVE-The year 2016 will offer some local drama to Los Angeles, complementing the spectacle of the national elections. In what may be the most far-reaching ballot measure of this century, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative will affect how the city does business with developers. The backers have targeted the November ballot. 

I sat down with Jill Stewart last Saturday to get some insight and clarity on the measure.  She is the campaign manager for the initiative who believed that its objectives were important enough for the good of the city that she resigned as managing editor of the LA Weekly to lead the effort. 

It is an understatement to say that anything to do with land use is a very technical subject; therefore, this article is only a start in understanding the complexities. I hope to discuss it further with Stewart and others. 

In her view, spot general plan amendments are creating congestion and reducing affordable housing.

Today, such amendments are granted on a piecemeal (spot) basis. They have led to spurious, disjointed development. 

She explained that this approach favored the financial return to a developer over the needs of the residents. Contiguous areas generally lose their character as a hodgepodge of architectural styles and transformation of demographics replace the harmonious nature of established neighborhoods, which is what happens current residents and businesses are banished. The high-density nature of these one-off projects almost assures congestion. Even when situated close to a major transit route, the occupants are unlikely to give up their cars in numbers sufficient to reduce traffic. If anything, there will be more cars as the neighborhood population increases. 

In addition, the number of affordable units are low in relation to the total. 

From my own experience, I have witnessed the displacement of middle-class residents as a result of projects with density bonuses granted under SB1818. The bonus is in return for the developer setting aside a few units as “affordable.” Unfortunately, the buildings which were replaced contained far more affordable units. For the record, the affordable units that were destroyed in my community were not substandard. They lacked the bells and whistles of newer units, but they were very livable and within reach of most budgets. Recently passed AB2222 closed the gap somewhat, but projects built under spot amendments are another matter. 

Stewart emphasized the importance of “significant areas” in determining how and if a General Plan amendment could be approved. Amendments must encompass an area which, as defined in the measure, has significant social, economic or physical identity. That translates to an entire community, district plan or specific plan area, an entire neighborhood council, or an area not less than 15 acres. 

She believes this allows ample leverage to address blighted areas. Carefully planned amendments could offer a coordinated revitalization process over wide swaths (as opposed to disparate projects.)

One controversial action, if the measure is approved, involves an up to two-year moratorium on amendments (unless required by the Department of Building and Safety.) A staff person for a Councilmember expressed concern if this should happen. He told me it would probably kill a major deal that’s in the early stages. 

According to Stewart, the moratorium is designed to allow a systematic review the General Plan (this review will be performed periodically as a requirement under Section 5 of the proposal.) It appears to me that this would amount to an undertaking which would likely attract the attention of every conceivable interest group with a stake in the city. The review could be as important as passing the measure itself. 

She indicated that the city’s current approach to development has pushed the working class farther out, created a boom-or-bust construction economy and replaced industrial zones with gentrified communities. 

Developers or their agents will not be allowed to prepare Environmental Impact Reports (EIR) under the measure’s rules. This will eliminate a blatant conflict of interest. Only the public’s lead agency can prepare the report, recovering the cost from the applicant. 

As I see it, the current system invites widespread corruption. There are simply insufficient checks and balances. Spot amendments can serve as the liquid currency of municipal political quid pro quo and create temptation some officials find irresistible. This is one reason why former mayor Richard Riordan is supporting the initiative.  

Councilmembers trade amendments for contributions. According to Stewart (and consistent with Riordan’s observations,) the net result of these deals are higher rents. So-called affordable units are priced starting at $3,000 per month. 

Stewart plans to develop a web of supporters representing a diverse cross-section of residents and interest groups to educate the public, collect signatures and otherwise promote the initiative. Her background as a journalist for a widely-read publication seems well-suited for reaching out to the many component groups of Los Angeles. She anticipates the full-court challenge the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative will face from elected officials and their allies. 

So much needs to be shared with the public. Case studies providing clear examples of what to expect would be most helpful. 

There will be much more to come on this subject, from any number of sources. Reform is needed; the initiative could be a catalyst to that end. It deserves our attention.

 

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone and do not represent the opinions of Valley Village Homeowners Association or CityWatch. He can be reached at: [email protected].) Photo: Talbot Troy/Flickr. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

EDUCATION POLITICS-The annual commemoration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King -- a national holiday that most employers except the government ignore – is marred by a glaring disconnect between the rhetorical “feel-good” civil rights dream of Dr. King and the stark underachieving reality of Black America. This is accentuated when juxtaposed with the incessant illegal behavior of local, state, and federal legal authorities who do little to address the injustice imposed on Black communities. 

Some injustices are a result of civil negligence, resulting from an unintentional act or omission when there is a duty to act. Worse, however, is criminal negligence that results when there is a clear and unambiguous illegal action such as what happened in Flint, Michigan with the city's water supply. This happened because of a reckless disregard of an easily ascertainable truth, namely, when the city connected the Flint municipal water supply to the known polluted Flint River, something that amounts to assault, battery, and probably worse criminal acts. Until those responsible for this see the inside of a prison cell, these actions to save money will continue unabated, no matter how many people of color have their lives destroyed in the process. 

It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about the execution-style killing of a non-threatening criminal subject caught on police video in Chicago (and covered up for over a year by public officials including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, who was more concerned with his re-election than seeing that justice was done,) or Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s appointment of Emergency Manager Kevyn D. Orr, who, while charged with saving Flint, a city in fiscal despair, wound up poisoning it with a polluted water source not fit for human consumption. These cases and myriad of others like it will never result in long prison terms for such criminal behavior. 

What adds insult to injury is that the American ruling class is never held accountable for its crimes. An additional affront is the fact that our corporate-dominated government will have to pick up the cost of this ever increasing criminal behavior – behavior that those guilty of these crimes should be forced to pay for both monetarily and criminally. 

Building a Belmont High School on an irremediable toxic waste dump is soon forgotten as long as innocent predominantly Latino children are the ones who go to school on the site. And O'Melveny and Myers are not held accountable for their conflict of interest in representing both LAUSD and the developer of this public works project designed to screw the public. Yes, fundamental to all of these public scandals are the conflicts of interest – cases where the career and financial well-being of a few powerful people is systematically placed over the needs of the public. The only fiduciary duty these government leaders seem to have is to themselves, their corporate cronies – and never the public. But has it always been this way? 

And of course, the granddaddy of these kinds of illegal and dangerous schemes, in terms of their sheer magnitude, remains the credit default swaps and sub-prime scams. The corporate criminalsin those cases not only got the government to bail them out; they got them to pay their bonuses. 

(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 [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EAST LOS ANGELES--Salesian High School, an all male Catholic school in Boyle Heights, and also the Ruth Webb Pre Physician Assistance Society in the City of Alhambra both held sock drives for donation to Homeless Health Care Los Angeles (HHCLA) for the homeless in the region of SEW: Silverlake, Echo Park, Westlake, Pico-Union, Chinatown, and Korea Town. 

During the month of October 2015, both junior and varsity teams engaged “on a quest to collect and donate as many pairs of new socks to benefit the homeless communities,” read their outreach poster. 

Thus, parent Cynthia De La Cruz coordinated a sock drive with the football teams for the homeless in collaboration with (HHCLA). 

“Our 85-member football team wanted to reach out to the homeless in an effective manner seeing that homelessness is a big issue facing our city,” said Ms. De La Cruz. 

Parent stated that her son David De La Cruz was a key figure in initiating the effort. David “Googled” homeless agencies in the area and “HHCLA came about.” Upon the coach’s approval, “they ran with it. The boys and their parents went to family, friends, and neighbors and asked for new sock donations,” said De La Cruz. 

“The response was overwhelming! We collected over 550 pairs of socks,” she said. The socks were presented to HHCLA at the last Varsity Football home game. “It’s always nice to give back to the communities,” said Ms. De La Cruz. 

SEW Lead Street Outreach Specialist of Americorps Hope for the Homeless Xavier Puente said that socks help to create a direct service to the homeless community because they help reduce the risk of contracting a severe (foot) disease. “Socks provide comfort during these winter cold nights as well as provide a means of engagement to a population that has been reticent of receiving help,” Puente said. 

Puente added that though socks might appear as a minuscule donation “in resolving the concerns of homelessness within the County of Los Angeles, it's a great step forward in helping to engage an extremely marginalized community to services.” 

This effort “will eventually lead to helping someone manage their challenges and connect them to a housing opportunity,” he said. 

              

                  Photo of sock drive collection by Ruth Webb Pre-PA society 

 

The second organization that held a sock drive for the homeless was the Ruth Webb Pre Physician Assistance Society in the City of Alhambra.

This cohort comprised of undergraduate and graduate students meet monthly to work on community based projects and provide access to health related projects within the community. Group’s objective in this case was to help HHCLA to engage clients and help alleviate homelessness within the community. They collected 540 pairs of socks for HHCLA during the last months of 2015. 

Leslie Howard coordinator of the program said that he was very proud of the group, “they’re very dedicated to service.” 

Homeless Health Care Los Angeles, SEW Regional CES, Coordinator Monica Quezada said that Street Outreach Staff uses socks and hygiene kits specifically towards outreach efforts. 

“We go to the LA River bed for example, to engage and to built a rapport with the homeless. We introduce ourselves and tell them we’d like to help them get off the streets. This is more than just giving a gift,” said Ms. Quezada. “I see homeless with foot blisters and dirty socks. My staff gives them hygiene kits and in them we put socks.” 

“Socks go a long way for us; they help built trust,” she said. 

Quezada stated that even after when the formerly homeless individuals are permanently housed, a few have returned and asked if I remember the time when I gave them a pair of socks. “Of course,” I say. 

“This is the kind of relationship and trust that we create around socks,” she said.

 

(Connie Acosta is a member of the Echo Park Neighborhood Council and a former secretary of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC)).

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JUST THE FACTS-I began my employment with the City of Los Angeles in December 1967. While attending college, I became as a student worker with the Los Angeles Police Department. Following that, I moved onto the Police Academy in August 1968 and continued working with the LAPD for 33 years. That’s thirty-three years on the streets of L A, working a variety of assignments including Patrol, Detectives, Traffic under cover assignments, being a Protective League Director and beyond. How do my experiences compare to the current employment situation within the City? 

First of all, both salary and hard to find pension and health benefits have significantly improved over the years. Replacing comp time is cash paid for overtime. The rotary phone and typewriter were replaced by the push button phone, cellphones and computers. Instead of Liquid Whiteout, we have the backspace bar on the computer keyboard. Replacing carbon paper is a printer that will print multiple copies of a document in a variety of colors. Cars that used to lack air conditioning are now adequately equipped with dependable air conditioning. 

As society has changed and advanced, so has the role of local government and the jobs and benefits that local government provides. But when is it too much? It appears that the limits have not yet been reached for LA City employees. The most recent benefit being tossed around City Hall by two councilmembers (one under an inquiry by the FBI and the other an anti-gun advocate,) is the four weeks of paid time off for maternity leave. Employees can currently use their vacation and other accumulated time to bond with their child – one month off with full pay. 

As the father of two grown sons, I know the challenges of parenthood and the financial impact on the family. While it’s a nice benefit to have four weeks of full pay for those bringing that bundle of joy into the world, should the taxpayers be saddled with this added cost … a whole month of full salary? It’s something to think about when the City that just raised your water and power rates and is working on increasing the local sales tax to help provide the basic services we’ve all been paying for over the years. 

Homeless count 

I have been writing about the homeless population in Los Angeles for a number of months. Calling attention to this situation and the negative impact it has on our neighborhoods is a matter that has not seen significant improvement at City Hall. We hear about millions of dollars being directed to remedy the situation, but little, if anything, has been done. The same homeless population while empty promises to improve the situation continue to be made. In order to get a first-hand view of the matter, I will be participating in the Homeless Count on January 27 and will report my findings in a future article.

 

(Dennis P.  Zine is a 33 year member of the Los Angeles Police Department and former Vice-Chairman of the Elected Los Angeles City Charter Reform Commission, 12 year member of the Los Angeles City Council and current LAPD Reserve Officer. He writes Just the Facts for CityWatch. You can contact him at [email protected]) Photo: Huffington Post. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

EDITOR’S PICK--More than 30 boxes from former Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge’s office, marked for destruction, have been recovered by the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, according to a city attorney spokesperson. However, it is believed more than another 150 boxes may either be unaccounted for or destroyed. 

According to Rob Wilcox, a spokesperson for City Attorney Mike Feuer, 35 boxes pertaining to Council District 4 (CD4) have been in the City Attorney’s possession “for several months” since it was discovered the boxes were at Piper Technical Center, a city facility, east of downtown, that houses varies city offices, including its records management and elections divisions. 

It is not clear who alerted the City Attorney’s office that boxes from CD4 were at the facility. 

According to Wilcox, representatives from the City’s Attorneys office were seeking legal documents relative to a least one lawsuit, a land use issue in Los Feliz, when “management” learned documents related to that litigation and other CD4 documents were at Piper. Wilcox said, the City Attorney’s office then had the Los Angeles Dept. of General Services transport the 35 boxes to the City Attorney’s office. 

According to Wilcox, it is not known how long the boxes were at Piper facility. Additionally, Wilcox said he was still seeking information about who alerted the City Attorney’s office of the boxes.

Additionally, Michael Miller, a former city attorney who lives in Los Feliz, said in an interview today, that another 100 or more boxes may have already been destroyed. (Read the rest.) 

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MY TURN-History does repeat itself. This is why scholars and smart politicians review episodes in history to help them find answers for today's challenges. Even though the issues we face today may appear different...they are just basically the same with some new twists. 

Given all the chatter surrounding the California Coastal Commission and its effort to discharge its current manager, I thought I'd talk with one of the Commission’s initial proponents, former City Councilmember Joy Picus. (Photo: ribbon cutting ceremony at Griffith Observatory in 2006) 

The California Coastal Commission was a grass roots effort initiated in part by the American Association of University Women, League of Women Voters and other civic organizations. They gathered enough signatures to get Proposition 20 on the ballot in 1972 and it passed. Picus was one of the more involved activists. The main goal was to save the California coastline from over-development and to preserve its beauty for future generations. This early interest in the environment would play an important role during her public life. 

Proposition 20 gave the Coastal Commission permit authority for four years. Then the California Coastal Act of 1976 extended the Coastal Commission's authority indefinitely. This state authority controls construction along California’s 1,100 miles (1,770 km) of shoreline. The Commission is composed of 12 voting members, 6 chosen from the general public, and 6 appointed elected officials. The panelists are neither paid a salary nor a stipend for their work; it is a very political body with various degrees of interest in preservation. 

Picus was a native of Chicago and started her political science studies at the University of Wisconsin. She and her long-time husband, Gerald Picus, a physicist, then moved to Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley. 

She became active in the Parent-Teacher Association and League of Women Voters and served as president of the Valley branch of the American Association of University Women. She was also employed for three years as community relations director for the Jewish Federation Council. 

In the late sixties and early seventies women were pretty much relegated to the" back benches." Picus, like many other women, was influenced by Betty Friedan's 1964 book, the Feminine Mystique

Her political career began in 1973 when she challenged the incumbent City Councilman, Donald Lorenzen, in LA Council District 3. Lorenzen won in a tight election that demanded a recount; the vote was 27,575 for Lorenzen and 27,027 for Picus...a matter of 548 votes. 

She took on Lorenzen again, and though he kept referring to her as a "wild-eyed environmentalist”... she won! "The big surprise was that this middle class democratic woman beat the incumbent in a district that voted 80% for Ronald Reagan," Picus told me. 

She was the first woman to hold a City Council seat in the San Fernando Valley. District 3 covered the southwest corner of the Valley, including Woodland Hills, Tarzana and parts of Encino, Canoga Park and Reseda. 

She remains the longest serving City Councilmember... a total of sixteen years. Because term limits came into play soon after she left office, that record of longevity still holds. 

I asked her what it was like being a female politician in those days. She said that there were several women on the City Council during her sixteen years. She became accustomed to the double entendres and occasional outright propositions by both city officials and the public. A recall campaign against her was started by the fire and police unions since she was thought to be "anti-labor." But she said that she was able to have a collegial relationship with most of the men and the women went out of their way to help each other. 

In 1981, the Los Angeles Times wrote about District 3: 

Although the district is largely white and middle class, it is complicated and anything but homogenous. A study in contrasts, it has expensive ranch homes in Woodland Hills that are minutes away from shack-like dwellings in Canoga Park, a largely Hispanic barrio dating from the early 1900s.” 

Picus became a "hero of local conservationists" since she pushed builders to provide more open space for parks. She also supported transportation projects, called attention to the need for waste recycling, and opposed oil drilling in the Pacific Palisades. 

Those were heady days in Los Angeles politics that produced more than its fair share of political scandals. Armand Hammer, the multimillionaire industrialist, wanted to drill oil off the Pacific Palisades Coast. But the Palisades had always had a strong community organization and they convinced Picus to fight the drilling. When it came up before City Council it passed 9 to 6. The big surprise was that the new Mayor, Tom Bradley, vetoed it. In order to over-ride the veto, they needed ten votes. 

She recalled fondly that all of the sudden she became very popular and was invited to all the Armand Hammer social events; everyone was putting pressure on her to change her vote. He finally stopped inviting her and drilling off the Pacific Palisades never happened. 

Developing policies and programs on behalf of working parents and their children was another priority for Picus. She authored the city's Child Care Policy, which made Los Angeles one of the first cities in the country to hire a full-time child-care coordinator. 

She also spurred the opening of a child-care center for Civic Center employees in Downtown Los Angeles, financed by the city and federal governments. In 1989, she persuaded the City Council to create preferences in city contracts for companies that offered child-care benefits to their employees. 

The City Hall South Children’s Center was named the Joy Picus Learning Center in 1996. 

Picus was named "Woman of the Year” by Ms. Magazine in 1985, a result of her successful drive to include an historic "pay equity" plan in the city's collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME.) She was the only politician to receive the award that year. 

Also known as "comparable worth," the effort refers to upgrading pay rates for jobs that were paid lower wages because they had traditionally been held by women. The magazine credited Picus with "helping bring about a $12 million pay equity agreement between the City of Los Angeles and 3,900 of its employees, most of them women." 

According to an old Los Angeles Times interview, Picus was dubbed by some as a "Mary Poppins," because of the " 'flighty impression' she sometimes conveys." She replied that her "preparation for political life came from activities primarily with other women," and so in the beginning she was not "taken as seriously" as were the men. She emerged, the reporter wrote, "as a woman of enormous ego and drive, with tremendous energy and determination." 

Today Joy Picus remains active and involved. She is still serves on the boards of several civic and cultural groups. She keeps track of what goes on in the City politically. She notes that some of the things she and her colleagues tried to change are still status quo

The point of this article is to not just revisit the past, but to remind our City Councilmembers that great things have been accomplished in the past by prior City Council colleagues. 

The job is not just about fixing potholes or passing zoning changes – it’s about having the vision and persistence to tackle the big challenges. And much more than worrying about the next election! 

As always comments welcome…

 

(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

EDITOR’S PICK--“Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges.I don’t have to show you any stinking badges”— Mexican bandits to Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of Sierra Madre 

For long, dreary months CNN, MSNBC and most other news channels have violated me by refusing to report anything other than what’s easy, boring and accessible, the lunatic primary races.  Aside from the Flint water poisoning scandal and snow storms outside their offices, that’s it.

So, because I need sometimes to get a whiff of the real world’s oxygen I step outside my door into the sweaty, chattering, roach coach world of Durango, Chiapas, Jalisco, Michoacan and Zacatecas – home states of the immigrant workmen and women– gardeners, tree trimmers and dry wallers, nannies and housekeepers – who way outnumber Anglos any weekday in my neighborhood.   They work fiercely hard and depart at sundown in their pickups.  We don’t know their names except they work cheaper than the original, now-aging Japanese American gardeners whose own kids prefer white collars to leaf blowers.

In any real sense Los Angeles is a Mexican town – sorry, Donald! – with an added mix of Central Americans looking for jobs or dodging MS13-style murder or both.  In LA alone there are tens of thousands of Mexican gardeners; on building sites round my corner “American” is a foreign language.  Without them southern California would implode.

Their home country is two-and-a-half hours down the I-5 South of San Diego to Tijuana, Baja California and deep into Cartelia.   But as far as most of my mainstream news outlets are concerned Mexico might be located in Tibet or at the bottom of the Bermuda Triangle.   I know more about Mosul in Iraq or Kiev in the Ukraine than I do about anything south of my border.

What I do know is that  Mexico is North America’s ISIS, a raging war with itself.

And that the drug cartels are effectively Mexico’s shadow government, exerting control at every level from village to Presidential palace.  98% of murders go unsolved, few people report crime to the police who themselves may be the criminals.

All I have to do is flip over to a Spanish-only TV channel and even without knowing the language it’s perfectly clear who actually runs the country.  Images tell the story.  Multiple beheaded corpses and bodies hanging from bridges, thousands of youngsters “disappeared” (43 in one small town Iguala alone), uncountable mass graves, 100 local mayors assassinated in the past decade.

We shrug.  “Oh, Mexico – what can you expect? corruption is as old as the country itself,” and ignore the inescapable fact that the Sinaloa, Zeta, Los Rojos and Knights Templar drug rings are moving on from shaking down government to boldly taking over the apparatus.  Their own mayors, their own governors and police chiefs.

Forget the Hollywoodized “capture” of El Chapo.  Some triumph! Every time our DEA and Mexico’s “elite Marines” nab or kill a “kingpin”, it gets worse because his underlings splinter into even more predatory gangs.  That’s how we spend our $300 million a year in “drug war aid” to the fabulously corrupt Mexican federal government which turns over much of the money to municipalities which are forced to hand it over to the criminals.  Thus, our epidemic craving for cocaine, heroin and Mexican weed, and our “war on drugs” tax money, feeds the head-choppers and torturers.

Although star TV anchors like Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper have abandoned their posts by ignoring the al-Queda-like war in our nearest southern neighbor, no blame to the Mexican media whose reporters, editors and photographers daily risk their lives just by going to the office.

If you work as a Mexican journalist you accommodate to the sicarios, the hired (often teenage) killers, or pay a terrible price not only yourself but your family.  So you check with the gangsters first who brazenly have their own media directors.  Some drug bosses love publicity, and some will burn you alive for it. 

In the past ten years four journalists have been killed at El Manana,one of the leading papers along the US-Mexican border that must print different editions for different places depending the good or bad will of cartel psychopaths like El Chapo.  Grenade and fire bombings are routine; likewise kidnappings.  

Self censorship is like a Kevlar vest, as necessary to a reporter as armor is to a battlefield soldier.  At least 88 journalists have been murdered since 2000, and more to come.

Come on, Rachel and Anderson, get off your duffs and do some leg work on the Syria so near to us, so far from God.

(Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives.  This piece was posted first at CounterPunch.org.) 

-cw

 

THIS MUCH I KNOW--The California coastline has inspired artists, poets, rock lyricists, and any of us who have taken a drive up Highway 1, the spectacular panorama of mountains peering above crashing waves. The Coastal Commission has an over 40-year legacy of protecting the coastline, despite the attempts of developers and their lobbyists to encroach by weakening or even eliminating the commission. 

But the protection of our unspoiled coastline may be at a turning point as pro-development interests attempt to oust Dr. Charles Lester, the Executive Director of the Commission. Dr. Lester has refused to resign quietly, calling for a public hearing, which will be held February 10 in Morro Bay. 

The reasons for the attempted coup are vague. As one commissioner stated off the record, there’s a “growing sense that there are management issues.” Lester, however, has helmed the Commission during an impressive list of accomplishments, including increased transparency and recently received permission to levy penalties against individuals who violate the Coastal Act’s access provisions to the tune of $11,500 per violation per day. 

Lester has a solid report card from fifty environmental and social justice groups for his interpretation and enforcement of the Coastal Act. A coalition of representatives from the NRDC, Heal the Bay, and dozens of other groups made their feelings known in a letter they sent to commission chair Steve Kinsey and state leaders. 

The Coastal Commission serves as the zoning board for the 840 miles of coastline. Established by voter initiative in 1972 and made permanent by the legislature through the adoption of the California Coastal Act of 1976, the 12-member board is appointed by the Governor, Speaker of the Assembly, and the Senate Pro Tem. 

Just what’s at stake? A proposal to build 1,100 houses in the coastal zone in Southern California is before the commission right now. At $1.5 million per ocean view house, there’s nearly $2 billion at play. Developers regularly challenge coastall staff rulings, empty their wallets to candidates, and hire teams of lobbyists to encourage commissioners to make exceptions to give their projects the go-ahead. 

The Coastal Commission decides on proposals for residential properties, hotels, energy production facilities and other projects that are worth billions of dollars, all without much transparency in the process. Hotel developers, for example, hire lobbyists who are classified as agents under law and don’t have to report how much they are paid, often donating to the campaigns of commissioners who run for local office. 

There are rules in place to protect against conflict of interest but there is potential for abuse, which makes attempts by the commissioners to take control of the agency from the staff even more troubling. 

Since taking the job in 2011, Lester and his staff’s expert opinion to deny coastal projects hasn’t pleased commissioners. In 2006, the commissioners denied 26 projects. During Lester’s tenure, the commission has turned down 24 projects over the entire four year period. 

Ironically, the group of commissioners attempting to oust Lester are Brown appointees and it was Governor Brown who signed the Coastal Act into law forty years ago. These appointees serve at-will appointments, unlike the eight commissioners who serve a fixed four-year term. The governor can replace them if he’s unhappy with them but has so far not stepped up to defend the commission’s independence under Lester. 

The California Coastline must not be up for grabs to the highest bidder. Governor Brown should not leave that as his legacy.

 

(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles-based writer and CityWatch contributor.)

-cw

 

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