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GUEST WORDS--It’s open season on administrative agencies, people. Are you paying attention? 

The Coastal Commission’s longtime Executive Director just got fired. So did the highly respected Executive Officer of the local air pollution agency, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). Big money business interests and political machines are making their moves. 

And now, taking advantage of the turmoil, an old-fashioned Los Angeles County political machine is trying to pay off one of its members with a seemingly insignificant job. But the job is not trivial, and the machine’s move threatens to undermine the integrity of decision making about the air we breathe. 

The Hearing Board at the SCAQMD is an administrative law panel (snore, snore). It has significant powers, though. It can grant temporary exemptions from the air district’s rules. It can overrule the district’s decisions about whether a business gets a permit to operate or how many pollution trading credits a factory must buy. And it can issue orders forcing polluters to shut down or comply with rules. You don’t hear about it much, but the Hearing Board has recently had the Exide lead smelter, the Porter Ranch gas leak, and ExxonMobil’s Torrance refinery on its docket. 

Despite the importance of the Hearing Board, the political machine thinks it can dole out a slot or two on the 5-member board as $50,000-a-year favors to whomever it pleases. The machine crony on the Hearing Board now is the board’s medical member, an old doctor who has said virtually nothing during hearings and often doesn’t seem to be following along. Hosting a fundraiser for one of the machine’s next generation apparently helped the doctor get the job. 

Now the machine thinks it can give one of its oldest members the Hearing Board seat currently occupied by David Holtzman. Holtzman is a highly-qualified, experienced air pollution health scientist and public interest attorney who has been on the Hearing Board for almost three years with no complaints.  

His career in public service has focused on making complex scientific issues understandable to the public. Perhaps most notably, he managed responses to public comments and document updates for California’s health risk assessment of diesel exhaust, the first official document at any level of government to label diesel exhaust particulate matter a cancer-causing substance. 

Holtzman’s volunteer work includes time on a neighborhood council, a short stint with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, and two terms as President of the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles (the first male president there), championing progressive electoral reforms and civic education. 

Bill Burke, the patriarch of one of the machine’s families, is currently chair of the SCAQMD’s Governing Board, which appoints the Hearing Board’s members. With all the recent turmoil, Burke may not be chairing the board much longer. And his longtime friend, the patriarch of another family in the machine, could use a job. And Burke thinks he can get away with booting David Holtzman from the usually-obscure Hearing Board to install his crony, Nate Holden. 

Yes, Nate Holden. The long-ago LA City Councilmember whose legal troubles from sexual harassment charges cost the City over one million dollars, and who got illegal campaign contributions from the private business known as the LA Marathon and controlled by Bill Burke. The machine lives on. Holden and Burke each have a kid in the state legislature. 

The ties between Holden and Burke make Holden uniquely unqualified to serve on the Hearing Board. Every case the Hearing Board hears has SCAQMD on one side, so the Hearing Board must be independent of the SCAQMD’s leadership. 

The Holden and Burke political families are entwined through monetary contributions, political endorsements, and close friendship. An administrative law judge, however, must be independent, beyond a reasonable doubt of the judge’s agency, because the agency is a party in every case before the judge. 

People say integrity and impartiality are incompatible with Nate Holden.  

The appointment vote is scheduled for early on Friday, May 6. You may want to communicate your feelings ASAP about the replacing a qualified judge like David Holtzman with a old-time politician like Nate Holden. So write to the AQMD’s clerk of the board at [email protected] and its new executive officer Wayne Nastri at [email protected]. (Contact information for individual SCAQMD Governing Board members is here.)  

Administrative agencies are important. It’s good that you’re paying attention.

 

(Lauren Steiner is a grassroots activist and organizer who has worked with Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles, the California Clean Money Campaign, the Occupy movement, Food and Water Watch, Hunger Action LA, the LA Food Policy Council and many other groups. Currently she is the lead organizer of Los Angeles for Bernie Sanders trying to get him elected and advance the political revolution he is calling for.)

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GUEST WORDS-The Coalition to Preserve LA said today that a sharp jump in homelessness in Los Angeles, as reported today, vividly points up the devastating effects of LA City Council practices that are driving tragic levels of human displacement and the demolition of 20,000 rent-stabilized apartments that can never be fully replaced. 

A map published this morning by the Los Angeles Times shows in vivid color the city’s heavy new concentrations of severe homelessness -- particularly in Downtown Los Angeles, Venice and Hollywood, areas targeted by multimillionaire developers for frenzied levels of demolition and luxury housing construction. 

Jill Stewart, campaign director for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative sponsored by the Coalition to Preserve LA, called the new data “a stark condemnation of the Los Angeles City Council’s policies to destroy working-class communities and replace them with half-empty luxury towers built by developers who give the City Council a lot of campaign cash.” 

A City of Los Angeles housing report from late 2015 shows that even as homelessness surges citywide, the Los Angeles City Council clings to policies that exacerbate the problem. The city itself admits that housing projects it approved during the past 10 years suffer from a huge vacancy rate of 12%, and that this empty “market rate” housing is aimed at households earning more than $100,000. 

Meanwhile, average people and the poor cannot find a place to rent. 

Older apartments are being destroyed at a fast pace instead of being preserved, and the City Council has no plan for preserving the older and inexpensive rental housing that acts as the safety net for LA’s working class and middle class. 

“The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative on the March ballot will force the City Council to end its behavior of fanning this frenzy of luxury development,” Stewart said. “We are talking about a group of Los Angeles politicians who take huge sums of money from developers, encourage them to build massive luxury complexes that rent for $3,000 or worse, and then they ignore the displacement of longtime residents due to runaway gentrification they create.” 

In a City Hall affordable housing report released earlier in 2016, Stewart notes, the City does not mention its key role in driving up homelessness. 

Instead, the city report blamed this traffic trend on numerous factors that don’t lead back to City Hall.  

(John Schwada is a former investigative reporter for Fox 11 in Los Angeles, the LA Times and the late Herald Examiner and is the Communications Director for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. He is a contributor to CityWatch. His consulting firm is MediaFix Associates.) Photo credits: Top-LA Times, above right-LACurbed.

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JUST THE FACTS-The Mayor, City Council and Department of Water and Power Commission have all approved recent increases in both the water and power rates for all Los Angeles City consumers. As we read about broken water pipes and aging power poles on a regular basis, we can understand the necessity to raise revenues to upgrade deteriorating systems. Yet this is just a preview of what to expect in the near future for Los Angeles residential and commercial consumers.   

The next rate increases will involve a vote of the public. That means that you have option of approving or rejecting the measures. But this can only happen if you are registered and take the time to vote. Currently, we are saddled with a 9% sales tax in Los Angeles and a portion of that is for our public transit system. 

Here’s a question about our public transit system: How many of you ever ride it in Los Angeles? I would guess that most of you never have. On infrequent occasions, I have ridden on both buses and trains. The stench of marijuana has been present nearly every time, along with the combative and hostile attitude displayed by some riders. This has turned many people off from riding public transit in our region. Many potential riders just don’t feel safe due to the lack of law enforcement presence on the transit lines, other than the ones who check for fare violators at transit stops. 

Politicians are moving forward with a proposed extension and increase in our region’s sales tax to fund an expanded public transit system as well as money to deal with the estimated 40,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County. This will push our sales tax to 9.5% for the next 40 years. Yes, forty years. In addition, there is a proposal to extend the current transit tax for another 40 years. I thought it was interesting that City Hall described the increase as four decades. Maybe this softens the hit by saying four decades, instead of forty years, but the math is the same. 

This is a lot money, and for what? Many of us won’t even be here in forty years, but I know we have to plan for future generations. With that in mind, we should recognize that we have over-populated the city, pushing housing costs and rents out of reach of most young families. Can they afford to pay more taxes? 

Although the Mayor declared a homeless emergency months ago, there is a major lack of funds to help deal with the situation. One proposal is to link a fee to all new developments. This fee, to the tune of thousands of dollars, will just force up the cost of new development. As you can see, there seems to be no easy answer other than more and higher taxes and fees. But I say enough with that! 

I am opposed to any new tax increases to fund the transit tunnel under the 405 freeway or any other pie in the sky solution to traffic gridlock. The solution is more controls on over-development. Our city and county have seen an increase in population in all categories, including 40,000 homeless. Los Angeles County population is currently at 10,241,335, up 0.8% from 2015. Los Angeles City is currently at 4,030,904 people, an increase of 50,000 people since January 1, 2015. California’s growing population is now 39,256,000. 

There is no end in sight to the multiple and weighty matters facing our region. If you want to make a difference, you must get involved and voice your concerns to your elected officials. We are blessed here that most of our elected officials do listen -- to some extent -- to our concerns and issues. While Rome was not built in one day, we need to continue working to remedy the many issues facing all of us in the City of the Angels…… 

Clinton or Trump? We will soon know who will lead this country forward into the future.      

       

(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, a 12-year member of the Los Angeles City Council and a current LAPD Reserve Officer who serves as a member of the Fugitive Warrant Detail assigned out of Gang and Narcotics Division. He writes Just the Facts for CityWatch. You can contact him at [email protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

HELPLINE--In hopefully learning from the suspicious disqualification of approximately 125,000 voters in Bernie Sanders home town of Brooklyn during the New York primary on April 19th of this year, I would suggest that Californians who want to be absolutely sure they can vote and be counted in California's primary on June 7th take the preemptive precaution of avoiding any potential unpleasant surprises on election day by now checking their own voter registration status well before the May 23rd voter registration deadline.

All you need to do is go to the County Registrar of Voters office for the county you live in and click on the link "Online Voter Registration Status." If you find that for some reason you are not deemed registered, you can immediately rectify this situation by clicking on the link "Online Voter Registration" to immediately remedy the problem. So, for example, if you live in Los Angeles County, you would go to the Los Angeles Country Registrar of Voters cite and then click on either the link "Check if your registered" or "Register Now."

It is worth pointing out that unlike the restrictive voting eligibility rules in New York and elsewhere that played no small part in Bernie Sanders' losses in these states, California's somewhat open primary rules allow registered voters with "no party preference, unaffiliated, or declines to state" to vote in either the Democrat or Republican primaries.

However, this does not include people registered to the American Independent or other recognized political parties who would not be able to cross their own party line to vote for either a Democrat or Republican in the June 7th primary. Might this not be a good motivation for a Green Party member to at the very least change their registration to "declines to state" for at least the upcoming primary?

One cannot emphasize enough the marked difference between the relatively open primary process in California with the restrictive primary processes of New York and many other states where younger and first time voters, who are at the core of Bernie Sanders supporters, were blocked from voting by unnecessarily restrictive primary voting qualifications designed to purposefully limit the number of new and younger voters, who have clearly shown their disproportionate support for Sanders in the states he has carried.

It is my firm belief that the only way the corporate-donation-subsidized-politics-as-usual policies of a Hilary Clinton or her predecessors- be they Democrat or Republican- can continue to win in California and beyond from the likes of a Bernie Sanders and the revolution he has started is with a relatively small voter turnout.

Sharing the ideas expressed in this post with your own online networks can go a long way in dismantling and circumventing what up until now has been the continued corporate media success in marginalizing, devaluing and demoralizing what I believe to be the clear majority of voters, who want something more than just more political smoke and mirrors.

In a democracy- at least in theory- the majority is supposed to win isn't it?

(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])

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WESTWATER DOWNTOWN--Nearly three years after Councilman Jose Huizar announced his plan to re-imagine Pershing Square, the project’s leadership met to discuss the proposals, review all the public’s comments – and decide who will re-design the new Pershing Square; a decision which will be publicly announced on May 12. And, so, here is one brief story and two questions which they may wish to consider in their deliberations.

The brief story is how one of the teams arrived in DTLA via the world famous New York City High Line. Two community activists, Josh & Robert (as they refer to themselves in their book on the project) decided to save the High Line and soon unexpected found themselves running a non-profit and then, after Bloomberg was elected Mayor and the money started to come, they began to interview the perfect team to hire to realize their vision.

And among them was James Corner (proposal above photo) with his new firm and they were soon to discovered Corner had a unique way of seeing how all the parts of the project could both fit together and work together and they began to wonder if he might be the one to execute a design that would get the project built. And the projected starting heating up and soon even Zaha Zadid – right after she won the Pritzker Architecture Prize – entered the competition to design the High Line

But everyone they were to meet – including Zadid - convinced them more and more that Corner and his team had what it would take to make this project work. Their problem was - they were uncertain how city would react to someone who wasn’t a big name.   So, Josh wrote in their book – he went to ask the director of Planning for Manhattan - what they should do. And his answer was to ask Josh one question. “Do you want something that you know will be good, or do you want to take a risk for something great?” And as Josh writes, “When he put it that way, it was an easy question to answer.

That left just one more hurdle. The Mayor’s office. And here is Robert’s description of what happened at the big meeting. “It took says a lot about the Bloomberg administration that they were willing to take a risk and pick a team that would bring us such innovative and untested design to a public space in New York.”

And that’s how two neighborhood activists and James Corner and his team turned a decaying rail line that was scheduled to be torn down into one of the biggest tourist attractions in New York with over 7 billion dollars with of new construction surrounding it.

And now for our two really big questions which the Perishing Square decision should be asking themselves ask themselves, if they haven’t already; a question that has not been publicly asked – or debated.

With none of the construction money yet raised – and with no one knowing when current boom times will end (other than every day, we are a day closer to that day) – which of the four teams will be more likely to help the committee generate donations to help build the park – and which team would best be able to help solicit donations themselves for the project -even if the economy slows down?

And ever since the first Phase of the High Line – they have had one of the best track records in helping getting projects funded.

And, the second question is – which team has the best track record over the years in bringing in their projects – both on time – and on budget? Two statistics any major donor is going to research.

And, again, starting with all three phases of the High Line, the projects designed and built by - have consistently been on time and on budget – with one major exception; the project in Santa Monica came in under budget.

Now these two factors cannot - and should not – be a major factor in selecting the winner in a competition such as this.   But if two projects are very close in every other way and it becomes hard to choose between them, these are two questions which will need to be asked.

(Brady Westwater is a writer and a longtime contributor to CityWatch. He is president of Westwater Films and Media.)

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CITY WATCH EASTSIDER-I hear you asking, what do icons have to do with the press? Well, the normal meaning of “icon” may have to do with religious objects or graphic representations. But a secondary meaning of the word has to do with “a person or thing that is idolized.” That’s the Icon of this piece. 

Hillary Clinton is “Madame Secretary”, Dick Cheney is “Mr. Vice President”, Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee are “Governor.” Heck, even Antonio Villaraigosa is “Mr. Mayor.” These “honorific” titles used by the media are being horribly misused. There is a vast difference between a former job title that has specific meaning, and the use of those job titles as misplaced gestures of respect toward people who no longer hold the actual offices. 

What the heck happened to a free press in what used to be a democracy? These titles are being used just like the titles of royalty were in the old days. Do it long enough and we will have a new class of termed-out or voted-out political royalty. Royalty? I think not. 

The television millionaire talking heads who “report” this drivel have to spend around an hour in makeup before they read prepared scripts from their teleprompters -- as if it were truth. Their print counterparts should take a big time editing class because any real reporting they do is doomed to get killed on the spike of “editorial review.” In either case, if they persist in honest reporting, the billionaires who own the media outlets have them fired. 

My god, Ida Tarbell, author of “The History of the Standard Oil Company,” and Frank Norris, author of “The Octopus,” would be rolling over in their muckraking graves. Upton Sinclair of “The Brass Check,” and I.F. “Izzy” Stone would be throwing up. Hard core gonzo reporters like John Ross and even Hunter Thompson would be shaking their heads over the end of honest reporting as we know it. They might just retreat to do some serious drugs. 

Take my current pet peeve: meaningless fawning. In our system of electoral musical chairs, a person runs for office, holds that office then leaves that office. The office itself, Mayor, Governor, President, Assembly/Senator, etc., is the title. The office remains the office before, during, and after all the frail human beings assume and leave their positions. The office is permanent, the occupants of the office change all the time. So when did these statutory positions suddenly become permanent honorifics for every person who has ever inhabited them?

These politicians are not royalty. They are a bunch of folks who got in bed with whomever was willing to buy them their public office; afterwards they revert to who they really were all the time – plain Hillary Clinton, Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, and Mike Huckabee…even Antonio Villaraigosa. Not Madam Secretary, Mr. Vice-President, Governor or Mayor. 

Why does the media act like a bunch of genuflecting lick spittles towards these folks? And why do we let them get away with it? On the media side, of course, it’s simple. The people who own the media want us to think of these people as true blue authority figures so we will believe whatever horse puckey they spout. It’s a fraud, pure and simple. And it’s bought and paid for Citizens United capitalism -- foisted on all the suckers who will unthinkingly assume we should believe ex-elected officials -- even when their words and deeds are blatantly unbelievable

If you and I can separate ourselves from our iPhones and Android devices for a few seconds, we can all see what I’m saying is true. These politicians are not authority figures. Increasingly, they are not even, by and large, very honest. Generally, they are simply folks who have some kind of weird narcissistic need to tell other people what to do in exchange for a bunch of money and a great pension plan. They are absolutely not role models. No mas. 

Remember the four phases of a politician who gets caught: (1) I didn’t do it, (2) I’m in rehab, (3) you can’t prove it, and (4) my plea deal was to spare my spouse and friends. Some role models, right? 

Now, I am not silly enough to argue that journalism used to be all about the truth. As Upton Sinclair proved beyond any doubt in his really cool book, “The Brass Check,”  all too many journalists have always been for sale. 

I should note the title of his book refers to an old custom in which the customers of a brothel were issued a chit (the brass check.) Written way back in 1919, it’s a must read to provide context for our contemporary media. Really. No one these days has ever heard of the book and I suspect that it’s not on the reading list for journalism/communications majors. However, it should be. 

Also, take a look at Izzy Stone’s attempts to make a living as an honest muckraking reporter, and how he was hounded, vilified, and trivialized for his entire career. Check out his great biography, All Governments Lie!   

Let these real reporters wake us up to do our own research. It’s easy these days. All we need is to spend a little time on the internet and our view of politicians will never be the same. Do a Google search on almost any of these folks (remembering to skip the first couple of pages that pop up since they’re mostly ads) and incredible bags of details will emerge. In fact, I can do better research online in an hour than I used to be able to do in a whole day spent in the stacks of a really well stocked library. Read and you will no longer believe the 15 second “sound bytes” that the mass media is trying to sell you! 

Try a little internet surfing and you will never view the news media and their products the same way again. C’mon, take a walk on the dark side and do a reality check on what you’re being fed as truth. Who knows, you might just turn into the next gonzo journalist or muckraker!

 

(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

BUTCHER ON LA-“Instead of sleeping on the sidewalks, they’ll help us to build the sidewalks.”

— Paul Krekorian, Los Angeles City Councilmember, Chair, Budget & Finance Committee, commenting at 2016-17 budget hearings. 

Last Friday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti “signed a landmark Executive Directive to restore core city services and create long-awaited job opportunities for LA’s most under-served communities, as his administration prepares to hire thousands of new employees. 

Executive Directive #15 was developed with a Back to Basics approach to strategically restore critical City services. The directive builds upon a historic labor agreement the Mayor signed in partnership with the City Council and the Coalition of Los Angeles City Unions this past March, which included long-term savings of more than $16 million for the City's budget, and a goal of hiring more than 5,000 new civilian employees over the next three years. The directive will also ensure that all Angelenos have equitable access to good paying city jobs. 

“With 46 percent of our City workers eligible to retire by 2018, LA has an unprecedented opportunity to rethink the way we deliver services to meet the 21st century demands of our residents…Today we start that transformation. As the third-largest employer in our County, we are prioritizing local hiring -- to ensure that every qualified Angeleno has an equal opportunity to apply for full-time city jobs. Everyone deserves a chance at success.”  

The Mayor’s Executive Directive implements part of the 4-year collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the City and the Coalition of City Unions, ratified in March 2015, covering 20,000 city workers in six international unions.

Reverend William Smart, Jr., president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, and Alice Goff, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3090 and AFSCME District Council 36, explain the significance of the deal in the October 6, 2015 edition of Capital & Main:

“In an effort to stabilize the City budget, LA officials turned first and foremost to its workforce for cost-saving solutions. City workers stepped forward and made very real sacrifices, such as increasing worker pension contributions to the highest in the state; accepting more costly healthcare co-pays in order to lower healthcare costs; and taking voluntary early retirement. Five thousand jobs were cut, leading to severe cuts to City programs and services. 

“The ramifications of these cutbacks extended into our neighborhoods. Trees went untrimmed, alleyways were strewn with uncollected trash, cracked sidewalks were neglected and school intersections went unguarded, compromising quality of life and public safety. Middle-class City jobs, which for decades provided a higher standard of living for tens of thousands of people and brought new opportunity to communities of color, were put at risk. 

“Thus was born Fix LA,’  a movement that calls attention to the causes of LA’s economic hardship and puts a face on the serious impacts to communities. Over the course of a year, faith and community leaders, City workers and neighborhood groups united to create public awareness of the toll of the crash brought on by Wall Street’s abusive practices. We demonstrated at big banks to highlight their culpability in the crash of Wall Street and to their bad faith dealings with the City of Los Angeles. We held media events across Los Angeles to shine a spotlight on the unmet needs of neighborhoods. Our message has been simple: It’s time to fix LA. 

“City workers took those issues and concerns to heart and to the bargaining table. As part of its proposals, the Coalition of City Unions raised items that affected workers and residents alike. The Coalition platform included ideas aimed at improving services to residents, holding big banks accountable, creating jobs and job-training programs for residents and devising cost-saving and revenue-enhancing opportunities for the City. 

“The agreement between the City of Los Angeles and the Coalition of LA City workers is a true win-win. The newly ratified contract calls for the City to hire an additional 5,000 civilian workers by Fiscal Year 2017-18 and create a Strategic Workforce Development Task Force to oversee the process. The ripple effect of this provision is immeasurable. It represents true outreach to a local workforce, providing job training and access to quality civil service jobs. In turn, communities will begin to see a restoration of services. 

“The agreement also improves transparency of the City’s outsourcing contracts by establishing a public online database of City contracts and adding good government practices. Under the agreement, the City Council will establish a Commission on Revenue Generation, which will develop recommendations for raising City revenue through means such as enforcement of blight ordinances, commercial property reassessments and tax loopholes and other mechanisms. In addition the agreement protects quality, middle-class jobs by ending overuse of part-time workers, safeguarding health care and preserving retirement security, all in a fiscally responsible manner.

“With the economy recovering, and the City possessing the greatest reserve fund in its history, it’s time to rebuild and restore the essential jobs and services that have been decimated over the last eight years. Our communities deserve no less.” 

As reported in MyNewsLA.com Hope for homeless, ex-criminals: 5,000 new LA city jobs on April 29, 2016: “Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered city departments Friday to hire thousands of new employees over the next three years, with a focus on recruiting people who have been homeless, possess criminal records or face other challenges to finding jobs. 

“Under an agreement with municipal employee unions, the city has set a goal of hiring 5,000 people to fill thousands of jobs frozen as a result of an unsettled economy and to account for the fact that about 46 percent of the city workforce will reach retirement age in the next two years. 

“An executive order signed by the mayor Friday officially sets that hiring effort in motion and creates guidelines for city officials to follow when recruiting. 

“Garcetti said the city has ‘an unprecedented opportunity to rethink the way we deliver services to meet the 21st century demands of our residents.’” 

According to Councilmember and member of the Budget & Finance Committee, Paul Koretz, “Mayor Garcetti’s Executive Directive is a fine mix of the practical and the visionary.” 

He’s right! From the Directive: “[t]he recently adopted agreement with our labor partners in the Coalition of Los Angeles City Unions represents the ground breaking start to transforming how Los Angeles recruits, hires, and retains its employees so as to strengthen the delivery of City services with innovative workforce development strategies. The agreement sets a goal of hiring 5,000 civilian employees over the coming years. As the third largest employer in Los Angeles County-with a broad range of positions at all skill levels-the City has an obligation to ensure that every Angeleno has the opportunity to apply for good City jobs that put them to work now and set them on track for careers in the years ahead.

“Unfortunately, those opportunities are often not realized in the lives of people in our City who face the biggest barriers to full-time employment: the unsheltered; people with criminal records including those with a history of incarceration; veterans; and disconnected youth at risk of unfortunate outcomes. 

“Understanding that not all Angelenos currently have equal access to opportunity, it is essential that the City consider a wide range of populations while marketing, conducting outreach, and ultimately hiring for City jobs. The recently established Targeted Local Hire Task Force is working to create alternative pathways into the City workforce through trainee and vocational worker programs while reaching out to these communities. 

“Our future as a City depends on taking meaningful steps to lead on employment equity. It is our responsibility to ensure that all of our residents have a fair chance at success, and that begins with real prospects for gaining employment. This is not only the right moral course of action, but it is fundamental to Los Angeles's long-term economic development and the safety of our communities.” 

LA’s future just got a little brighter, thanks to is workers and its unions. Against all trends, Los Angeles is hiring!

As reported in an important recent read in the New York Times MagazineWhere Did the Government Jobs Go?”, “since the recession hit, private employers have added five million jobs and the government has lost 323,000. The country has recovered from the recession. But public employment has not.  

“The public sector has long been home to the sorts of jobs that lift people into the middle class and keep them there. These are jobs that have predictable hours, stable pay and protection from arbitrary layoffs, particularly for those without college or graduate degrees. They’re also more likely to be unionized; less than 7 percent of private-sector workers are represented by a union, while more than a third of those in the public sector are. In other words, they look like the blue-collar jobs our middle class was built on during the postwar years. 

“The public sector’s slow decimation is one of the unheralded reasons that the middle class has shrunk as the ranks of the poor and the rich have swollen in the post-recession years.”

And as reported in the New York Times, “Public-Sector Jobs Vanish, Hitting Blacks Hard: The Labor Department counts half a million fewer public sector jobs than before the start of the recession in 2007. That figure, however, understates just how much the government’s work force has shrunk, said Elise Gould, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research organization in Washington. That is because it fails to account for the normal growth in the country’s population: Factor that in, she said, and there are 1.8 million fewer jobs in the public sector for people to fill.” 

But in LA, last Friday city workers stood behind Mayor Garcetti’s big prop desk as he signed this monumental order, a strong nod toward the future of the City, affirming labor solidarity and a mutual commitment to cooperation and collaboration, a unique and genuine willingness on the part of the workers to stand up for services and for the communities and neighborhoods of Los Angeles. 

On May 2, 2016 the unions of the coalition presented their analyses and recommendations to the Budget Committee. 

Chair Paul Krekorian set the tone: “As I said at the outset of these bearings, just a few short years ago this City was facing financial ruin. There was a former mayor predicting that bankruptcy was inevitable. We were looking at a $1 billion budget deficit. Over the course of the last four to five years, we’ve whittled down that deficit, gotten to a place of relative stability, avoided the parade of horribles. We did that in close partnership with city workers, in many respects, at their sacrifice -- in positions not filled, through furloughs, the rest, which also resulted in the sacrifice of city residents with correspondingly fewer services.” 

“We’ve gotten through the challenges that we’ve gotten through so far by making sure that we were partners with labor and not at war with labor,” Krekorian said, inviting the union and community representatives to “sit at this table, as full and equal partners, not just for two minutes of public comment.” 

Coalition Chair Cheryl Parisi led the presentation summarizing the historic and unprecedented agreement with LA labor to address the City’s crises of jobs and services. 

SEIU 721 researcher Dr. Molly Rhodes described the unique nature of the bargaining, “partnering with community organizations who are also fighting for services and good jobs.” Three specific examples of dramatic cuts in service to the public show up in the coalition’s PowerPoint. In FY2007-08 City traffic officers chalked up 90,478 hours of intersection control (traffic directing). In 2014-15 that was down to 27,622 hours. Similarly, the City cleaned and cleared 112,300 flood control catch basins in 2007-08, down to 73,772 in 2014-15. In 2007-08, when the City still had a division of “Urban Forestry,” it trimmed 97,341 trees. In 2014-15, only 13,351 LA trees were trimmed. 

Tree contractors have produced inflated bids, understanding that the City is desperate, and the Board of Public Works has been required to slow the processing of these contracts. There’s barely one operational emergency tree crew functioning and there’s no tree division like there was before the recession. 

Community member Tim McDaniel addressed the committee for ACE and as a member of the Watts Neighborhood Council: “Our recession started over 50 years ago. Certain areas of the City have been left to fend for ourselves. This is a good step in the right direction,” McDaniel said. “I’m glad to hear about the agreement to restore services and to do it by creating jobs people in South LA can fill.” 

Continuing, however, we have concerns about the $5 million contracted for trees and catch basin cleaning while unemployment is so high. The City is one of the largest employers in the region and it should set the standard when so many are living in poverty. “My grandmother has lived in the Watts area for 50 years and she deserves a lot better.” 

“Five thousand new jobs, targeted local hiring sounds good. I urge you to commit to funding one-third of these jobs this year. That’d be 1600 jobs.” 

AFSCME representative Teresa Sánchez summarized the opportunities: The Mayor’s Directive instructs all the City’s General Managers to fill service gaps by hiring city workers. Targeting the areas with the highest unemployment and the highest poverty, leveraging all the existing resources and making them available to all Angelenos at any one of 17 Workforce Centers, integrating these efforts with the nine campuses of the Los Angeles Community College District as well as the LAUSD, we’ve modernized the civil service process, hope to potentially touch every person in Los Angeles. Through the Strategic Workforce Development Taskforce and the Targeted Local Hire Workgroup – public bodies convened by the Mayor’s representative Jackie Goldberg, “universally loved and accepted,” linking together systems and infrastructure, proper mentoring and training, experience gained through years of welfare-to-work programs -- the biggest question is when do we start? 

AFSCME Local 3090 president Alice Goff focused her testimony on the need to fill vacancies and to best utilize civilians in the Los Angeles Police Department: The budget includes plans to hire 656 new police officers to net 525 – that’d put the LAPD at 10,500 sworn officers. The budget shows a current civilian vacancy rate of 15% -- 2800 positions – which was significantly lower at 11% at the height of the recession. 

The recent audit by the Controller Maximizing Use of Civilians in LAPD to Increase Deployment includes numbers which should cause alarm. In 2008 a similar audit identified a large number of civilian jobs being done by sworn officers. Now the numbers are the same and the recommendations are the same: hire civilians. Following the 2008 audit, the Department civilianized one position. 

Our recommendations for initial steps towards efficient civilianization would save $21 million this budget year, moving 458 police officers who are doing civilian work. Right now, we’re down 62 PSR positions (911 dispatchers) with forced overtime at an all-time high. One of two classes of new hires (maximum 30 in each class) has already been cancelled. This hiring doesn’t address vacancies or natural attrition. Same thing with divisional records clerks, records and identification staff, crime and forensic professionals. 

We urge you to immediately hire 250 civilians, freeing up police officers to move back out into the field. 

David Sanders, SEIU 721, thanked the committee “for having us back again.” He shared a bit of negotiations history: They told us these were permissive, not mandatory subjects of bargaining, “that there was no place at the table for the concerns of the communities we serve.” And yet we came together to achieve this aspirational initiative. “This is do-able,” Sanders averred. “For example, the City has committed to $31 million a year in sidewalk repair. We are prepared to do the work and propose a detailed program of Insourcing starting with this critical sidewalk work.” 

Cheryl Parisi connected the loss of jobs to the diminution of services. The coalition agreement aims to stop the massive increase in the City’s use of part-time workers. “Just between 2012 and 2014 there’s been a 58% increase in as-needed hours,” Parisi testified. “This devolution from good jobs with job security and benefits to sustain a family have been replaced by jobs characterized as unbenefited, precarious scheduling, and a deliberate policy edict to churn workers, that is to schedule full-time jobs with part-time workers at 40 hours a week until 900 hours and then work furlough the employee. This has made good jobs poor jobs….In policy, this was solved on Friday with the Mayor’s Directive. 

“Departments have been told to move from part-time, intermittent workers to regular half-time status; the agreement provides benefits after one year of 1000 hours worked and prohibits intentionally scheduling to avoid the payment of benefits. 

“Now the budget needs to align with these policies. For instance, DOT’s budget includes an increase in as-needed hours, proposes an additional 100 part-time traffic officers who are not full service and are not transitioning into full-time jobs. In the Bureau of Sanitation’s Call Center the practice has been quite egregious, particularly as the bureau is special-funded, not reliant on the City’s general fund. The call center has added a second location, moved to 24 hour operations, without adding staff, and is actively working to “churn” qualified, trained employees. 

“The budget for Recreation & Parks shows an additional $1 million in part-time hours. Ironically, as the City seeks to fight homelessness, these policies have, in some cases, caused homelessness.

“The Coalition seeks greater budget transparency and asks that the City make clear jobs that are budgeted, filled, or vacant. Additionally, the unions expect funding for a Revenue Commission codified in the labor agreements aimed at exploring new and innovative streams of revenue.” 

Against all odds, in stark light of an Eeyore-ish CAO hell-bent on remaking the City in the image of the County (services provided by contractors, part-time, intermittent, seasonal, non-full time, unbenefited workers), optimism, hope, and investment win. As the Mayor says: “Each one of our workers embodies our City’s commitment to a life-affirming principle at the heart of the American Dream: everyone deserves a fair chance to be employed, earn an honest living, and achieve self-reliance. This aspiration will become a new reality for many of our fellow Angelenos with this Executive Directive.” 

LA is hiring! Start the application here or attend an event at Trade-Tech this week!

 

(Julie Butcher writes for CityWatch, is a retired union leader and is now enjoying Riverside and her first grandchild. She can be reached at [email protected]) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

URBAN PERSPECTIVE--Los Angeles civil rights leaders on Sunday called LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell’s pledge to conduct random email audits of LA County Sheriff’s employees and deputies emails a good first step toward insuring against racially biased policing. The step comes in the wake of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable’s call for both a full email audit of all LA County Sheriff Deputies and employees emails and the resignation of L.A. County Sheriff Department Chief of Staff Tom Angel.

But Angel’s resignation and a “random” email audit is not enough. Sheriff’s officials must spell out specific timetables for the audits, what employees will be audited, and what the results of the audits are. The goal must be transparency and accountability of a sensitive public agency. 

The Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable will monitor the LA County Sheriff’s Department pace and progress of the email audit. They will call for a timely review and disclosure of the results of the audit to help identify employees who demean and disparage minorities and Muslims. These are public employees who work in a highly sensitive public agency that has a highly sensitive interaction with minority communities in LA County.

Racist emails undermine public confidence in law enforcement and heighten suspicion that law enforcement officers engage in racially biased policing. Other police departments including San Francisco and Ferguson, Missouri have conducted similar audits after discovering racist emails by deputies. The offenders were suspended or fired.

A full email audit is absolutely essential to ensure that employees do not bring their racial biases into policing in LA County. It will also send the message that there is zero tolerance in the LA County Sheriff’s Department for racially biased attitudes on the part of sheriff’s deputies and that any demeaning of minorities and Muslims will be severely punished.

(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is President of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable and an occasional contributor to CityWatch. For more Hutchinson insight.) 

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OVER THE RAINBOW-Hollywood leaders have a history of dreaming BIG and making things happen that might not happen elsewhere. The Hollywood Sign is a perfect example. Hollywood entrepreneurs put it up on the hillside, and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce rescued it when it was falling down in 1948. It has become the symbol of Southern California. 

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WESTWATER’S DOWNDOWN--A few years ago, four finalists were telling Downtown LA & Boyle Heights residents why they were qualified to design and build the replacement for the fabled 6th Bridge that had long connected the two communities.

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COUNTY WATCH--On Tuesday, May 3, LA County’s Supervisors will consider a ballot measure that could create parks and recreation options for communities that need them most. It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve a long-standing injustice against low-income communities of color, which have been left behind in the allocation of these resources.

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ANIMAL WATCH-On April 20, Mayor Garcetti released his proposed budget for 2016-2017, which includes over $800,000 for a report on the estimated 3 million feral cats roaming Los Angeles and whether they have an impact on public health, wildlife and the environment. 

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AT LENGTH-San Pedro is once again waiting at the threshold of another round of redevelopment and speculation, based upon the Port of Los Angeles’ commitment to waterfront development and the “about-to-be-signed” lease on Ports O’ Call Village, newly minted as the “San Pedro Public Market.”

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ANIMAL POLITICS--Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus is a Latin phrase most familiar in legal circles meaning if a witness lies about one thing, you may assume that he lies about everything.

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PERSPECTIVE-When State Senator Bob Hertzberg announced his tax proposal, SB8, in late 2014, he made no secret of using it as a tool to raise taxes by a net $10 billion – that is, per year.

The senator tried to pass it off as “tax modernization.” 

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EDUCATION POLITICS-According to the Declaration of Independence, "All men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights." That is unless they have been systematically and purposefully subjected for generations to what remains a measurably inferior racist public education model specifically designed to assure their non-attainment of potential and the "unalienable Rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness," which in no small part is dependent on the achievement of such an education.

Predominantly students of color continue to exclusively be subjected to a non-education system of rote regurgitation of multiple choice answers with little or no writing or analysis. Their Pearson lessons consist of fragments of texts comprised of words and concepts they have never been taught. What most educational reformers ignore, who either have never been in an inner city classroom or do not care about dealing with the subjective reality they would find there, is that both teachers and students in these schools have an acquired aversion to the Socratic method of dialogue between teacher and student and the critical thinking it is designed to stimulate in both the student and the teacher.

The teacher's excuse is that they are faced with students who arrive in their class already years behind grade-level and their peer group. The majority of these students have continually been socially promoted grade after grade without prior grade-level standards mastery. Teachers now faced with this reality and no administrative plan or support to do otherwise have opted in their own Pearson subsidized self-defense to give these unprepared students multiple choice busywork to preempt the chaos that would be sure to follow from the boredom of students whose youthful vitality and potential has never been addressed in school. Can anyone explain to me the educational value of a word search on a grid of mixed letters?

As for the student, who has been socially promoted into subsequently harder grades with few if any critical thinking skills ever having been taught to them, the very act of now trying to educate these students in a relevant educational process that is asking them to think and not just choose A, B, C, or D is a destabilizing activity that will more than likely lead to a classroom rebellion against an activity of thinking they have never been asked to engage in before- perfectly predictable and understandable.

Social promotion or fraudulent credit recovery programs that offer students with profound academic deficits a passing grade in courses they objectively cannot pass by any honest measure is only deferring the students failure, while wasting the precious time of their youth, which could be more profitably used by honestly identifying and teaching the necessary academic foundation standards they literally have never been taught.

As for White folks- 94% of whom are out of public education- they literally have no idea as to the abysmal level of their local public school, because 62 years after Brown v. Board of Education, they are still able to avoid going to these schools by putting their children in private schools. Probably the quickest way to improve public education would be to require attendance for all in public schools as is done in Finland- the best educated country in the world.

Human beings are creatures of habit. And it is not easy work to finally teach a minority student what they should have been taught from pre-kindergarten and beyond. But there is literally no other alternative to doing this, if we want to finally break the cycle of racism in the United States.

Racist inspired underachievement has become such a part of American society that one does not even question why such a large part of the African American community- that which is under-educated- still speaks with an accent, while other immigrants have long since been incorporated into the fabric of American society.

Truly successful public education reform can only take place where there is both recognition and factoring in of the damage that institutionalized public education racism over generations has made our present day dysfunctional public school 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 [email protected])

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