WHAT KIND OF CALIFORNIA DO WE WANT?--Politicians, housing advocates, planners and developers often blame the NIMBY — “not in my backyard” — lobby for the state’s housing crisis. And it’s true that some locals overreact with unrealistic growth limits that cut off any new housing supply and have blocked reasonable ways to boost supply.
But the biggest impediment to solving our housing crisis lies not principally with neighbors protecting their local neighborhoods, but rather with central governments determined to limit, and make ever more expensive, single-family housing. Economist Issi Romem notes that, based on the past, “failing to expand cities [to allow sprawl] will come at a cost” to the housing market.
A density-only policy tends to raise prices, turning California into the burial ground for the aspirations of the young and minorities. This reflects an utter disregard for most people’s preferences for a single-family home — including millennials, particularly as they enter their 30s.
In California, these policies are pushed as penance for climate change, although analyses from McKinsey & Company and others suggest that the connection between “sprawl” and global warming is dubious at best, and could be could be mitigated much more cost-effectively through increased work at home, tough fuel standards and the dispersion of employment.
Of course, cities and regions should be able to produce high-density housing which appeals to many younger people, particularly before they get married or have children. The small minority who prefer to live that way later in life should be accommodated on a market basis.
But density is not an effective way to reduce housing costs in a metropolitan area. Multifamily urban housing, notes Portland State University economist Gerard Mildner, costs far more to build than single-family homes. For example, the median cost for a room in major metropolitan areas is more than $100 more expensive near the urban core than it is on the periphery.
The case for NIMBYism
When people move to a neighborhood, they essentially make assumptions about its future shape. This can be achieved by zoning, albeit sometimes too strictly, but also in Houston’s more market-oriented system, which allows for neighborhood covenants and has spawned migration to a plethora of planned communities.
This is not a petty concern. For most people, their house remains their most critical asset. Yet, our clerical government pays little attention to the concerns of the middle class, and is all too happy to undermine long-standing local democratic processes on these issues.
Some density advocates suggest that their assault on zoning reflects market-oriented principles but rarely extend this laissez-faire approach to peripheral development, the most effective path to lower land and house prices. Under current circumstances, such limited libertarianism leaves middle-income people no protection against either Gov. Jerry Brown’s “coercive state” or their speculator allies.
In my old neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, few locals looked upon the creation of ever larger apartments in the area a boon, but rather as a source of increased congestion that strained sewers, water mains, roads and other infrastructure. Yet, in Los Angeles, where “infill” developers tend to also fill the coffers of politicians, our neighborhood did not stand a chance of opposing densification schemes.
NIMBYs are generally stronger in wealthy (and often bluish) places such as Beverly Hills, Palo Alto, Davis, Napa and San Rafael. The anti-forced-density campaign is also getting stronger in already dense places like San Francisco and has engendered an anti-density initiative on the ballot next spring in Los Angeles.
What kind of California do we want?
Ultimately, the question remains over what urban form we wish to bequeath to future generations. Ours is increasingly dominated by renters shoved into smaller spaces and paying ever more for less. California now has the lowest homeownership rate among the top 10 states for people between the ages of 25 and 34. Not surprisingly, the group leaving the state most is those between 35 and 44, a period that coincides with both family formation and home buying.
Forced densification, and the ban on peripheral building, is particularly harmful to the prospects for minorities. Metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and San Francisco have rates of homeownership among Latinos and African Americans well below the national average, even further below such liberally oriented places as Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Atlanta.
So why only two cheers for NIMBYs? Anti-density activists still need to come up with an alternative housing agenda. You just can’t say no to everything. Communities should embrace some new alternatives, both on the periphery and by building appropriately dense housing in redundant office parks, warehouses and, most particularly, the growing number of semi-abandoned, older malls. These areas can provide housing without overstressing the roads and other infrastructure.
NIMBYs are not the biggest threat to the California dream. That honor goes to planners and speculators seeking to reshape our state and limit the opportunities for single-family and other family-friendly housing. Until the state Legislature recovers some respect for people’s preferences, NIMBYs remain among the last, if imperfect, bulwarks against a system determined to weaken our future middle class, leaving ample housing the province only of those with similarly ample means.
(Joel Kotkin is the R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism (www.opportunityurbanism.org. This column was posted most recently at New Geography.) Graphic credit: LA Weekly.
WELLS FARGO SCANDAL--As the Wells Fargo scandal unfolded, in the back of my mind was just how the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, enacted in 2002 in response to the Enron and Worldcom debacles, did not protect the investors, general public and the bank’s employees.
Sarbanes-Oxley is referred to as SOX. It did not create much in the way of new regulations, but it did formalize how publicly traded companies implemented and enforced internal control policies and procedures. It also raised the stakes for key corporate managers – including the Board of Directors, CEO, CFO and in-house attorneys – as far as their individual roles in assuring that the controls governing financial and ethical performance were observed. For example, corporate attorneys must report suspicions of fraudulent acts to their company’s chief legal counsel and CEO. They can go to the audit committee if there appears to be insufficient effort to investigate.
SOX also created the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), or Peekaboo, as it is known by industry finance, auditing and accounting professionals. Peekaboo oversees the external auditors’ work, which had been largely self-regulated. Audit firms are now subject to inspections by the Board.
Violating any SOX regulation could be worthy of criminal charges, yet few executives have faced charges, much less been convicted, under its umbrella. It is seemingly stupefying considering key executives must sign certifications as to the accuracy of the financial statements, but understandable when CEOs are shielded by sub-certifications their companies make lower-level managers sign, creating buffers. It is reminiscent of a scene from Godfather 2, where a lieutenant of the Corleone Family tells a Senate Committee how the Godfather had layers of people between himself and those who took care of the actual dirty work.
But the impact on Wells Fargo’s financial statements was minimal, only $2.4 million. By itself, that would not create any stir on Wall Street, certainly not enough to push the stock price upwards.
And probably not enough to subject John Stumph (photo right) to criminal charges, much less be convicted, for deliberate misstatement of the financial statements. Just think – the DOJ did not bother pursuing a criminal action against Countrywide’s Angelo Mozilo, so why would it start now?
However, the phony accounts did create an illusion of long-term customer loyalty. One could argue that shareholders would be inclined to hold the stock longer than they otherwise would. Think of it as contrived price support.
Regardless, it was fraud.
It is almost certain that some of the sub-certifiers who knew of the scheme would gladly cooperate with the Feds and help prosecutors construct a trail to Stumph and his key people. Call it buffer-busting.
The DOJ should also look to what SOX refers to as Entity Level controls. Also known as “the tone at the top,” these cover the corporate culture and how it affects the risk of circumventing the activity controls directly related to financial reporting. So, an overly aggressive marketing program, similar to the one used by Wells Fargo, may create an atmosphere of fear among the sales staff and lead to fraudulent actions. A definite red flag which should have caused the SOX auditors to dig deeper at Wells Fargo.
In the end, why do we have SOX if it is not used to help bring down unscrupulous executives?
(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: firstname.lastname@example.org.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Back in May, I wrote about the Hermitage/Weddington project proposed by Urban-Blox. A structure built in the 1930s would be replaced with a small lot subdivision of 26 condos with an expected purchase price of $600,000 each. The project had been granted a density bonus and would have environmental impact, as well as eliminating existing rent control, according to Save Valley Village.
Since I first started covering grassroots activism, I’ve listened to homeowners, tenants and neighbors express their frustration, anger and disappointment that their neighborhoods were being taken over by often unscrupulous developers with accomplices in City Council and on the Planning Commission.
I’ve heard neighbors blind-sided by slipshod planning approvals that have permitted an adjacent house to be demolished without the next door neighbors consent, exposing neighbors to asbestos and knocking down trees on their properties. Houses at the cusp of receiving Historic-Cultural Monument Status have been destroyed; tenants with disabilities and those on fixed incomes have been evicted from their longtime homes to make space for more expensive condos. Properties have been demolished under a loophole that allows “renovation” to mean stripping a property to a single board and some nails.
Although all of these scenarios are mind-boggling, none of these situations quite reaches the level of shock value as the scenario a tenant shared with me this week.
The story features lawsuits to determine property rights, plans to privatize what is now a public street, a handful of squatters who are believed by neighbors to be involved in criminal activity, drug dealing and stealing utilities.
An activist shared with me that council members have ignored thousands upon thousands of pages of evidence on planned projects, as well as the legalities of giving away a public street to a developer. The street issue has elicited the attention and support of State Assembly Member Patty Lopez who has written a letter on the activists’ behalf, although the property is not in her district.
Let’s start at the beginning. In 1934, Clinton Lathrop, Sr. and Jean Lathrop purchased the land on which the property at 5303 ½ Hermitage sits. (Photo left.) This property now contains four residential units.
Upon their parents’ deaths, Sydney Edwards and now deceased Clinton Edwards each owned half interest in the property. Sydney’s interest is now held in The Edwards Living Trust. Upon Clinton’s death, his interest has been held by his wife, Marta Lathrop, who currently holds one-half ownership of the interest.
The sole remaining paying tenant of the property, Jennifer Getz, has been living at the property for over 20 years and claims she entered into a property management agreement with Clinton in 2009. Getz is currently in litigation over what she says was the expectation of first right of purchase, should the owners decide to sell the property, per the property management agreement. Instead, the property was sold to Urban-Blox, the developer that plans to demolish the structures as part of a larger 26-unit small lot subdivision.
UB Valley Village, LLC (Raffi Shirinian, co-founder and principal of Urban-Blox) filed a suit on September 7 against Sydney Edwards (Trustee of the Edwards Living Trust), Marta Lathrop and “Doe’s” 1 through 20 for Specific Performance for Breach of Contract to Sell Real Property and Damages. The suit states that the escrow was to close within 15 days after Getz has been evicted and removed from the property but on September 1, 2016, the defendants had communicated their intention to offer Getz the option to purchase the property. That case is in litigation.
(Neither Urban Blox nor Mr. Shirinian responded to my request for comment.)
If this scenario weren’t eye-opening enough, a posse of squatters has moved into the property. My source says, “We’ve done everything we can to get them off the property and are upset that it’s not working. A larger group joined the original two squatters, unloading trucks on September 2. They’ve been terrorizing and threatening the neighbors. Law enforcement has said this was a civil matter.”
(I confirmed with a spokesperson from LAPD North Hollywood Division that the eviction of squatters is a civil matter. The spokesperson also confirmed the property was currently in litigation.)
On September 29, Sydney Edwards and the trustees of the Edwards Living Trust filed a forcible detainer suit against the squatters, who include Brandon Lee Gregg, Sean M. Mahavik and “Does” 1-10. In 2014, Mahavik was indicted on drug trafficking charges, possession to distribute a Class B Drug and trafficking in methamphetamine in Massachusetts, where he was allegedly connected with a Cape Cod meth lab.
According to my source and a Los Angeles Times neighborhood crime mapping app, there has been an increase in violent and property crimes in the neighborhood. “The squatters are already going through the eviction process,” says my source. “We are not expecting LAPD to remove them, as that must go through the court system. What we DO expect is accountability for the drugs, the vandalism, the break-ins, the damage and harassment to members of the community. Just because they are squatters doesn’t mean they get to break all the other laws. The entire community has been compromised for no other reason.
“At some point, someone does have to stop this. It’s completely unacceptable. It’s not unreasonable for a constituent to ask a council person to follow the guidelines that have been clearly outlined,” said my source. “Nobody seems to understand how permanent these decisions are. Removing a public street changes the grid and the layout of a community that was planned by planners who knew what they were doing. Councilmembers are silent. There’s not a word, despite so many people contacting them. Nobody is stopping the developers. The council people are giving these people an inch and they’re literally taking it all the way.”
What’s next? The two cases are in litigation and the PLUM Committee/City Council will have a final appeals hearing on October 25. Two of the South Valley Planning Commissioners (Maher and Beatty) have voted to uphold the appeal to stop the Urban-Blox development.
My source is appealing to as many concerned citizens as possible to attend the hearing. We’ll keep you posted.
(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
GELFAND’S WORLD--It would be a mistake to jail Dick Cheney just as it would be a mistake to jail Hillary Clinton
The other night, Donald Trump said that if elected, he would throw Hillary Clinton in a dungeon. OK, I exaggerate a bit. He said that he would appoint a special prosecutor whose job it would be to send Hillary to jail. But actually, the two accounts are not all that different, since the desired outcome is essentially the same and the underlying attitude is essentially feudal.
There are powerful historical and social reasons for opposing this approach to government and, curiously enough, they are exactly the same reasons why it would have been wrong for the Obama administration to try to prosecute George W. Bush or his vice president for war crimes.
In stating this assertion, I oppose positions stated emphatically on the one hand by some American liberals and on the other hand by some American conservatives. The one group wanted Dick Cheney sent to prison, and the other group is now calling to have Hillary jailed.
Those who fail to understand why both sides are wrong are failing to understand the fragility of democratic governance.
Consider: We take for granted that there will be a presidential election every four years and that there will be a new president every four or eight years. This hope is actually one extreme on a continuum. It is optimistic in the sense that we have a national tradition -- presidential elections -- that has never been broken, but perhaps under the wrong circumstances could be.
If we are to recognize that maintaining this tradition for over 220 years has at least partly been a lucky break for us, then there is a corollary: We should be careful about not taking democracy for granted, and we should be especially careful about doing what it takes to maintain the democratic tradition.
There is of course an opposing, more pessimistic point of view: In one form, it is the claim that the current president intends to postpone or cancel the next election. I think I first heard people making that statement as far back as the Nixon administration, and the claim seems to get reborn with each new presidency. When you look at this claim carefully, it becomes apparent that it's opposite in one critical way from the throw her in jail trope. The throw her in jail view, although malicious, takes the continuation of our democracy for granted, while the assertion that the president plans to carry out a coup by cancelling elections assumes that our democracy is illusory. After all, if the president can crown himself king or declare himself dictator then it isn't much of a democracy.
Historians tell us that we've had moments in our history when presidents took extraordinary powers. Lincoln negated the right of habeus corpus at one point in his presidency. Nixon in effect took the U.S. off the gold standard. George W Bush allowed the use of torture. Obama is accused (true or not) of violating the Constitution.
Many of these allegations are demonstrably true, and others are matters of opinion. So if it is possible for an American president to act like a dictator, then what sort of democracy do we actually have?
One obvious answer is that no president gets to be a complete dictator. Presidents sometimes push the envelope, but none has so far managed to collect a crown and royal scepter. There is plenty of balance in our system of checks and balances.
But the most important element of this presidential system of ours is that new presidents come in and old presidents go out. The ultimate solution to presidential overreach is to elect a different one. The solution to political party overreach is the same. Routine elections are the answer.
It's how we get rid of dictatorial behavior on the part of our leadership. Presidents stay as long as their electoral terms last, and no longer. It's almost the definition of true democracy vs. faux democracy. Any country in which the leader can cancel the upcoming elections (or never has elections) is not a true democracy.
I'd like to think that there is a reason for why we have been able to maintain our tradition of 8 years and out. Part of that reason is that our government involves the participation of multiple actors, from presidents to senators to congressmen, and they have one thing in common. They are all players in a political game with defined rules of winning (getting more votes) and losing (getting fewer votes). It's not just a game of taking power as in a feudal monarchy, but a game of winning power according to a particular type of conflict.
You might therefore treat our electoral system as having certain features analogous to chivalry. There is a cultural system with its own norms. Rather than the loyalty of the knight to his duke, we have a certain level of loyalty to a system as a whole. You can call it fealty to Constitutional law, or you can just say that this is the way that things are done. In either case, there were a lot of Republicans who chose loyalty to the system over their loyalty to Richard Nixon during the Watergate crisis. We can see some of the same reaction from Republicans who are deserting Trump.
Now let's imagine for a moment that when Obama ascended to the presidency, he didn't give George W Bush that well-photographed hand clasp, but instead acted to prosecute Bush and Cheney for war crimes. What message would this send?
If you have any sense of history, you would immediately recognize that this would be a recipe for any future Republican president to find some reason to prosecute his predecessor. Allow me to remind you that a lot of Republicans carried decades-long grudges over the forced resignation of Richard Nixon. "He was hounded from office" was their claim. It took a while, but they finally got even (rightly or wrongly) through the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
The effect of a current president taking legal action against a former president would create a dangerous incentive. Any current president would understand the risk inherent in becoming a former president. It could get him or her thrown in prison. One way of avoiding becoming a former president is to find some excuse for cancelling elections.
In other words, our democratic system depends on a tradition, and we don't know whether that tradition is strong enough to stand up to presidents prosecuting their opponents. There's a reason that the authors of the Constitution limited removal of the president to a specific series of actions that require both houses of congress, and leave the sitting president out of the process other than as the person facing trial. The founders even required a supermajority in the Senate to complete the act of removing a president from office. Notice by the way that there have only been two impeachment trials in the history of our republic, and both failed to achieve a guilty verdict.
Viewed in this way, Donald Trump's threat to jail Hillary Clinton is more feudal than modern. It is the idea that kings battle against other kings, with the winner taking all. America rejects that culture, replacing it with written rules that define how authority is gained, and how it is shared among competing arms of government. It's true that there have been occasional lapses, as when a member of congress beat another member in response to a difference of opinion over slavery, or when Alexander Hamilton died in a duel. But our culture does not exult Aaron Burr the way feudal culture exulted conquest and assassination. We make changes in executive power by electing new presidents, not by a process in which presidents imprison their opponents.
While preparing this column, I came across a piece by Garrison Keillor. It says some of what is said here (at least I'd like to think that) but in the unique Garrison Keillor style. It's worth a read, particularly where Keillor, referring to Trump's views, says, "The government is not a disaster; it is a culture of process and law and organization that is alien to him."
One more brief story. A few years ago, I attended a scientific meeting in an eastern city. I shared a cab to the airport with a fellow scientist from one of the remaining dictatorships. He asked me a little about the American system, and as we passed various monuments, I tried to explain: "What made George Washington great was that he gave up power." There have been many military leaders, but not many national leaders have established a tradition of the peaceful transition of power. My fellow scientist looked a little surprised at this answer, as it was not something that his world included.
The peaceful transition of power signified by the presidential inauguration is a continuing miracle in a world that has only slowly been adopting such traditions. It is this peaceful transition of power that Trump mocks in his threats to jail his opponent.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for City Watch. He can be reached at email@example.com)
@THE GUSS REPORT-Alive and well is the perception that LA Mayor Eric Garcetti employs the same approach toward advancing his political aspirations that J. Wellington Wimpy did in the old Popeye cartoons: “I will gladly quash corruption allegations and throw whistleblowers under the bus if you make a massive donation to my next campaign.”
For example, for nearly a year now, Garcetti, his chief-of-staff Ana Guerrero and LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas sat on reports documenting the culture of corruption among some LAFD fire inspectors alluded to in my CityWatch articles on September 5 and October 3, 2016.
Case in Point: The implausible overtime claims of Inspector Glenn Martinez.
On the morning of December 23, 2015, department officials noticed that an odd proportion of the Q4 2015 overtime approved by Terrazas to help reduce the backlog of overdue inspections was claimed by Martinez. While his peers averaged roughly 40 hours that quarter, Martinez claimed 200 hours or about 40% of the total OT allotment.
When LAFD officials dug in to audit Martinez’s work plan for that day and saw that he already put in for a day’s worth of inspections, plus overtime, for time that had not yet occurred, they set out to locate him at the addresses where he claimed to be.
At Our Lady Help of Christians School, Martinez put in for 6½ hours of inspection time, without having been seen by any of the onsite personnel, including those he would have needed to access the places on the property he claimed to inspect. Just eight days earlier, another inspector went through the property….in just two hours. It was a school building that had been closed for more than two years, which only required a walk-thru. How Martinez spent 6½ hours there is a riddle that solves itself.
LAFD personnel looked for Martinez on and all around the Our Lady property at the time he said that he was there, but was seen by no one. Martinez’s time log claimed he was at the school from 11am to 5:30pm, after which he claimed to have spent four overtime hours at Occidental College, starting at – wait for it – 5:30pm, despite the campus being more than 6½ miles away.
(Martinez must have missed the chapter in the bunco playbook about taking into consideration LA drive time between one’s alleged victims du jour.)
Records reflect that at Occidental, Martinez claimed to have spent four hours inspecting two buildings. That’s his modus operandi: take two hours to inspect a building regardless of its size and condition. The problem here is that the campus had, by that date, already been shut down for the winter break for 10 days. As was the case with the previous property, nobody (neither Occidental staffers nor LAFD personnel) saw Martinez or gave him access to where he needed and claimed to go.
This is what prompted LAFD officials to dig deeper into Martinez’s other claimed allocations for those 200 hours of quarterly overtime, including similarly implausible inspection claims at USC, where he put in for extensive OT during much of the weekend of the USC/UCLA football game. That also happened to be the Thanksgiving holiday when the places Martinez said he inspected were inaccessible on his own, and whose safety personnel – who always attentively accompany LAFD inspectors – did not encounter Martinez.
That brings us back to Garcetti.
To date, the only thing he appears to have done in response to these, and other fraud allegations leveled against some of Martinez’s colleagues, is re-assign Deputy Chief John Vidovich who was dutifully doing his job exposing it. Garcetti’s removal of Vidovich from that role coincided with the donation of $350,000 to his re-election campaign, and those of his City Council successors, by the firefighters’ union which had become agitated by the reduced overtime of its members as a result of Vidovich’s work.
At some point, Garcetti goes from being the enabler of the corruption to being an inextricable part of it.
It is time for LA District Attorney Jackie Lacey to set aside the perception that, for her, some in City Hall are fish too big to fry, or cross, and whether Garcetti and the Councilmembers took what may amount to bribery and conspiracy. If she is unable or unwilling to do that, the Feds should jump in.
And while Lacey decides where she stands on enforcing the law, the LA Times owes Vidovich a public apology for its August 24, 2016 article in which it served as nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Garcetti machine, a mistake it has yet to correct.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatchLA, Huffington Post and KFI AM-640. He blogs on humane issues at http://ericgarcetti.blogspot.com/. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of CityWatchLA.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
MY TURN-I literally have spent the last week trying to figure out why there is such fear and loathing expressed when it comes to Hillary Clinton. I have read so many outlandish "facts" from friends and neighbors on Facebook and other sites that baffle me beyond description.
Some are people I have known for forty or more years. We carpooled together...our kids grew up together...we celebrated and commiserated together. How these honest, and in most cases, bright people could not only swallow but repeat these outlandish stories is beyond me.
I have stayed away from writing about the Presidential election. I have never been a partisan voter, even though I identify more with the Democratic platform than with the Republican. I vote according to my considered preference, whether it comes to politicians or initiatives.
When I discussed the content of this article with CityWatch publisher Ken Draper, it was supposed to be ready for last week. I wrote it, then let it sit for a day; then I decided I came off almost as strident and emotional as the people I was accusing.
So I decided to start all over again. Believe it or not, this now represents a far more gentle approach. Now is a good time to reflect with so many "news" programs have lavished opinions and from all sides. Unfortunately, it was too early to start drinking so I doubled my usual caffeine intake.
Many pundits trace the "Hate Hillary" phenomenon to 1992 when Governor Jerry Brown was running for President against Bill Clinton. Brown accused the former Governor of Arkansas of helping his wife’s law practice while he was in office -- an accusation that was never substantiated, like many of the Hillary tales.
Hillary fired back via the press with a sentence that roiled traditionalists who were already fired up by the era’s culture wars:
“I suppose I could have stayed home, baked cookies and had teas,” she said. Most of the media outlets neglected to report her complete quote that went on to say, “The work that I have done as a professional, a public advocate, has been aimed…to assure that women can make the choices, whether it’s full-time career, full-time motherhood or some combination.”
Go back to the eighties and nineties. Women were going through their own evolutionary process. Gloria Steinem was accused of starting a gender war. Women had started to join the workforce but in mostly non-decision making positions.
When Bill Clinton appointed Madelyn Albright as Secretary of State it was a huge achievement for women. I must admit, when I first heard Hillary talk about baking cookies I could relate to this because I felt the same way. My children will never have the memory of smelling freshly baked cookies emanating from their mother’s kitchen. To this day, I still burn the garlic bread.
Intellectually, one can understand why men would have resented Hillary in those days. She was not the kind of role model they wanted their wives and daughters to emulate. And they were starting to resent the changes occurring to the traditional "Father Knows Best" male roles. Unfortunately, men in Trump's age group were the first to experience these vast social changes.
Why do women hate her so much? I think it’s been partly due to jealousy; she’s always been doing important things perhaps while some have remained in traditional roles. However, over the years, she has served as a role model to more and more women, millions of whom have since discovered they have options too.
We should differentiate between what is true and what is urban myth. I don't remember any hue and cry when Ronald Regan accepted a two week, two million dollar fee plus the usual travel/staff perks from Japan shortly after he left the Presidency. At that time, Japan was one of our main trade competitors. Of course, he was a man and was “worthy” of such an expense. A woman receiving $250,000 for a speech was unheard of.
There was no investigation of the private RNC email server President George W. Bush used and where 55 million emails were "lost," even though they are supposed to be retained. There were no investigations of Condoleezza Rice when we had more than five terrorist attacks against U.S. embassies and military bases during her tenure.
The fact is, Jason Chafitz, Utah Congressman and Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, turned down the request for extra money the State Department requested to beef up security at embassies and consulates in dangerous areas. This was before Benghazi.
As a journalist, I have learned to check what are called "facts." Even the Investment Service Motley Fool, known as one of the most reliable Investment companies in the industry, recently included a list of the "Hillary Myths." They certainly do not have anything to gain and I don't see them on the list of Hillary donors.
Trump also blames Hillary for her husband of signing NAFTA, calling it the worst trade deal ever negotiated on the part of the United States. The initial beginnings for NAFTA were under President Reagan, who originally wanted a free trade agreement with Mexico. The famous Conservative think tank, Heritage Foundation, helped draft it and the first President Bush signed it.
While NAFTA was being negotiated, there was a lot of talk about a future extension -- eventually having a “Common Market” for the Americas. It was thought then to be a smart move to compete with the European Union.
One more thing that irritates me: Everyone refers to Trump as "Mr. Trump.” His surrogates, news reporters, employees and even his critics have given him this "Mr." title, which infers he is above everyone else. Hillary refers to him as "Donald," which I am sure, in his world, is a breach of etiquette. On the other hand, most of the time she is referred to by her first name.
The tapes that have been released as of this writing have featured ten women who tell Trump groping stories. He and I are from the same vintage and I will bet almost every woman over fifty who was in business or in the work force has been subjected to verbal and physical sexual overtures. (I can recall almost every incident that I ever experienced.) We didn't say anything because, 1) we would lose our jobs 2) we would lose the client 3) or we would upset our husbands, who might have thought we encouraged this kind of behavior, or worse, would threaten violence against the perpetrator.
I developed some pretty smart responses to those overtures to ensure that a man wouldn't feel resentful and would want to continue our business relationship. I also developed a pretty good right hook. That brings up another couple of points.
The complaint that Hillary said she has a public position and a private position is not a cardinal sin. Anyone in business faces the same situation.
Lastly, appointed Cabinet officials "serve at the pleasure of the President.” As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s responsibility was to carry out the wishes of President Obama, whether she agreed with him or not. Similarly, the job of Trump's surrogates is also to defend his behavior and policies, whether they agree with him or not.
Those of you who have a supervisor or a "boss" do the same.
I think we can all agree that this election is like no other in our lifetimes. The outcome has not been determined and, in spite of the Trump rhetoric, it is not a rigged system. What frightens many of us is the consequences of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump being elected as the 45th President of the United States. It is going to be an interminable three weeks.
My personal opinion is that Hillary Clinton is being subjected to a double standard and is definitely encountering gender bias.
Before you resend an inflammatory email or tweet, check with the professional non-biased fact checkers. Do not add to the very tense and dangerous atmosphere we are encountering. All of the facts I have discussed have been substantiated and are available online.
As always comments welcome.
(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
AT LENGTH-As we watch the bizarre and animated implosion of Donald J. Trump’s campaign tweeting itself into a never-ending spiral of defeat, there is something to be learned from this historic unraveling of a presidential campaign.
The weaponizing of social media through political disinformation, the slow response of major media corporations to fact check candidate statements and the circus of cross allegations meant to confuse the public, should give us all great pause.
Perhaps it is time for some serious self-reflection on the state of our republic and consideration of how the peddling of propaganda and misinformation, disguised as news, has corrupted our political process, while lessening transparency in our government as well.
To this end, we have dedicated our cover story of this edition of Random Lengths to Project Censored. What else could be expected when the world of infotainment is merged with reality TV called Trump’s run for president for ratings gold?
All democracies are dependent upon having an educated and well-informed electorate. Yet, what we have learned since the time of the Spanish-American War, if not before, is that media in service to either government or economic elites can sway public opinion to start wars, repress minorities and destroy the lives of innocent people who hold unpopular opinions.
Social media made it easier for half-truths and outright lies to masquerade as facts. This Trump-inspired penchant for spreading false information and cyber-bullying is spreading by way of Trump’s followers and just about anybody who doesn’t like somebody.
This kind of social media backlash that has exploded nationally is also mimicked locally. The Facebook uprising of Saving San Pedro this past year grew to outsized proportions as it fanned the flames of intolerance against the homeless across Los Angeles. Now the fire has burned the hand that fed it. That is evidenced by Councilman Joe Buscaino’s pleas to his constituents at his Oct. 4 town hall meeting on the Homeless Navigation Center. He was attempting to cool their vitriolic attacks on his homeless taskforce.
“There have been personal attacks against them over Facebook,” he said. “It is unacceptable to threaten neighbors who want to make this community better.”
Yet, exactly where was Buscaino’s cry for civility when these same people used similar attacks against former board members of Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council? They were doing the same and, in my eyes, a better job of searching for solutions to the homeless crisis.
I find it a curious form of Karmic justice that those who were the most vocal in their insults and allegations against me, as then-president of the CeSPNC and the majority of that council, are now on the receiving end of the very same treatment.
What you can’t find in Buscaino’s live stream video of the town hall meeting is the public comment period in which constituents ripped Buscaino, his task force and their lack of transparency when they proposed placing this navigation center less than 500 feet from Barton Hill Elementary School.
Once again, I accuse the councilman’s propaganda guru, Branimir Kvartuc, and others on his staff for blocking access to the public comment period in their video. From my perspective, this very unflattering episode was caused by the very ignorance and incompetency of the council office itself.
I have it from more than one source that the council office under both Hahn and Buscaino knew that the renovation of Harbor Park, where Reggie the alligator once roamed, would end up evicting some 167 homeless people when that project was started.
Elise Swanson, San Pedro Chamber of Commerce president and member of the homeless task force, was then-councilwoman Hahn’s district director. When Councilman Buscaino succeeded Hahn, neither he nor his staff ever called on or consulted with his predecessor on the matter.
Even after he took office, there were reports to the Park Advisory Board about this problem and the response then was as it is now—Los Angeles City Ordinance 56.11. It’s the municipal code that makes it illegal to camp or sleep in a public park, even in areas that the public rarely uses.
Since that time, Los Angeles, at the behest of Buscaino’s office, has been chasing the homeless around like a whack-a-mole game, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, with only an exacerbated problem in the form of more homeless encampments to show for it.
Surprise, surprise—who knew? Buscaino knew and he should have done the right thing before it ended up in front of the U.S. Post Office on Beacon Street.
That our smiling councilman and his team of surrogates are now receiving the blame for the lack of transparency by the very people he has manipulated to take over the neighborhood councils is just too precious not to mention.
And by the way, after that notorious Oct. 4 town hall meeting, those newly-minted neighborhood council members on the receiving end all adjourned to the Green Onion Restaurant on Sixth Street, to drown their sorrows—an alcohol fueled violation of the Brown Act.
In the end, Buscaino’s council office, his homeless team and the new neighborhood council leadership will learn the hard way about transparency, true accountability and the necessity of holding open public meetings.
It’s time to demand that Buscaino’s Homeless Task Force meetings hold public meetings with advanced notice, that his office release the video of public comments from the second half of the Oct. 4 meeting and that the Los Angeles City Council dedicates itself to the only legal and moral solution to the homeless crisis — providing shelter first.
Perhaps the greatest lesson to learn from this exceedingly curious season is that civility and democracy start at home.
(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy - Don't listen to that man with the white cap - he might say something that you agree with!" He has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen…and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
TRUTHDIG--Though the 400 to 500 women and men awaiting Bernie Sanders in the parking lot of the American Federation of Musicians in Hollywood represented a fraction of the numbers greeting him during the primary election, the turnout still was impressive—evidence of his continued popularity and support for the cause he was advocating. (Photo above: Sanders campaign headquarters in Los Angeles.)
For me, listening to him and talking to activists in the audience before he spoke was like stepping into a clear, clean lake after wading through the putrid muck of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton. I wondered where all these decent people come from, these folks I never see on television? Was I dreaming?
Sanders was in Hollywood Friday afternoon to speak on behalf of California Proposition 61, which seeks to reduce the exorbitant prices that drug companies are charging for pharmaceuticals. “The pharmacy industry is one of the most powerful forces in Washington,” he said. “They are getting nervous. And you are making them very nervous.”
His oratorical style was as compelling as it was the last time I heard him. That was in May before a crowd that covered much of the football field at Santa Monica High School.
Those in the audience in the Hollywood parking lot were enthused. Sanders seemed to make them feel as though they were part of an inspiring cause bigger than themselves, just as he did during the campaign. Unfortunately for Hillary Clinton, she doesn’t have that skill. She is workmanlike, too cautious to dig into her inner self for the words and emotions that would send people away from her appearances ready to crusade.
What Sanders didn’t do was mention Clinton—a notable oversight, whether accidental or deliberate. That doesn’t matter much in California, a solid Clinton state. But hopefully he urges a vote for his former rival when he’s speaking in battleground states, where Trump wants to suppress the Democratic vote. There, Clinton needs a big turnout.
I heard a yearning for Bernie as I walked through the crowd talking to people before his speech. I also found a new willingness to vote for Clinton as a way of voting against Trump.
Mike Wong, a server with day and night jobs at two restaurants, said Sanders’ loss was hard for him to take.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Wong, a Sanders volunteer during the primary. “But it’s heartening to see Bernie endorsing causes and candidates. That’s why I’m here. The primary was painful. You invest so much into something you feel so deeply about.”
Wong, now for Clinton, had not decided what to do until a month after the Democratic National Convention. “I weighed whether to sit it out,” he said. He didn’t think Green candidate Jill Stein or Libertarian Gary Johnson was viable, “and I don’t want Trump to be president.” In the end, he said he hopes he and the other Bernie backers “will hold [Clinton] accountable for Bernie’s platform.”
I encountered John Cromshaw, who hosts a program, “Politics or Pedagogy,” on progressive radio station KPFK. “I’ve never been a fan of Hillary,” he said. ”She has corporate sponsors. … I’m concerned about her militarism.” But on the plus side, he said, “she’s a typical politician who can be swayed with people who influence her. Bernie Sanders shows he is someone who can influence the course of politics.”
Not a ringing endorsement, but Cromshaw will be pitching for Clinton and against Trump on his program at the end of October, to be built around the theme “eight days, eight years—eight days to elect Hillary, eight years to keep her responsible.”
Wendi Blankenship and her son Jacob were awaiting Sanders’ arrival. “I was pretty disappointed after the primary,” Jacob said. “A few days after the Democratic convention, after Bernie’s speech [backing Clinton] I decided what he said made sense.”
“I think more people will look into Hillary—I hope,” said his mother. “We’re supporting Hillary now,” said Jacob. “She’s obviously the better candidate.”
Sanders supporter Stanley Chatman, who is African-American, told me, “Trump should not be let near the White House. We cannot have a sexual predator in the White House.”
The main item on the agenda, the drug-price control measure Proposition 61, brought Chatman to the rally. “This is something that will touch everyone you know,” he said. The drug companies “will make a little less, but they still would be profitable.”
The measure would require the state to pay the same prices for prescription drugs as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, known as the federal government’s hardest bargainer when it comes to buying drugs for its patients.
California state agencies spend an estimated $4.2 billion a year for prescription drugs for the state’s Medi-Cal (Medicaid) patients, retirees and current employees through benefit programs and for prisoners. That’s a small part of the $298 billion spent nationally on prescription drugs, but as Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik wrote that “it’s enough to give the state potentially massive influence on drug pricing.” Proposition 61 campaigners say they expect Big Pharma to spend at least $100 million to defeat the measure.
“They can spend all the money they want, but they are a bunch of crooks and we are going to beat them,” Sanders told the crowd. “It is an industry that is extraordinarily greedy and one we must stand up to … enough is enough.” He called 61 the “most significant proposition in the country today. … Brothers and sisters, work hard on this issue. The entire country is looking at California.”
This is part of the revolution he talked about during the campaign, centered on electing progressives around the country and promoting citizen action. Speaking in the musician’s union parking lot, with no national media or presidential campaign-sized crowds, is unglamorous work, spreading a message to a few hundred voters at a time. Hopefully in California, those voters will spend the next three weeks campaigning hard against the drug companies.
It was good to see the old warrior, fiery as ever, spurring them on.
VOX POP--On October 11, at a Los Angeles City Council meeting, Christopher Thornberg, the founding partner of Beacon Economics and a popular talking head, chose not to reveal a little known, yet important fact — he’s a paid campaign consultant for the developer-funded campaign that seeks to kill the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative and stop reform of LA’s rigged development approval process.
You see, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, a March 2017 ballot measure that’s sponsored by the Coalition to Preserve LA, seeks a much-needed fix of LA’s broken planning and land-use system. Even Mayor Eric Garcetti agrees it should be revamped.
But the Coalition to Protect LA Neighborhoods and Jobs, the misleadingly named campaign that’s funded by billionaire developers and LA business interests, is hell-bent on maintaining the status quo for developers, smashing anything that gets in the way of huge profits. Miami-based Crescent Heights and Australia-based Westfield are major funders of that anti-reform campaign.
Enter Christopher Thornberg (photo above), who’s often quoted by the Los Angeles Times and other news outlets and a founder of the LA-based research firm Beacon Economics.
According to the city’s Ethics Commission, Beacon Economics and Thornberg have been hired by the Coalition to Protect LA Neighborhoods and Jobs as a high-priced campaign consultant. So far, Beacon Economics has incurred $11,400 in fees.
Now cut to October 11 at LA City Hall inside Council chambers. An articulate, glad-handing Thornberg shows up in front of the LA City Council to deliver a presentation about the economic health of LA.
“It’s nice to be back today,” says Thornberg, “particularly to present all sorts of wonderfully good news.”
He makes a strong sell for more development in LA — and says that the reforms in the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative must be stopped.
“We know the propositions that are coming up,” he says. “We know the rules that people are trying to put into place…My only last message to you is: Please, don’t allow them to win.”
Thornberg adds, “You are seeing a growing interest in urbanization…it’s the dense, urban cities that are growing. And that’s a wonderful opportunity for the city to capitalize on.”
Defeating the reform movement that’s the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative and building more luxury development will also help wealthy developers — the people who are paying Thornberg’s bills — reap millions upon millions in profits. And often at the expense of lower-income and middle-class Angelenos.
But does Thornberg disclose to citizens who are watching the Council meeting that he’s a paid consultant for the anti-reform campaign funded by billionaire developers? Nope. Never.
That’s how things work at City Hall, where lack of transparency, backroom deals and soft corruption are the norm. And that’s why citizens across LA are joining the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative movement.
(Patrick Range McDonald writes for Preserve LA. Read more news and find out how you can participate: 2PreserveLA.org.)
Morris Brown, founder of Derail (a citizen group opposed to California’s high speed rail project) writes over at Fox and Hounds Daily that newly enacted California Assembly Bill 1889 is unconstitutional.
Brown could not be more on the mark. In 2008, the California legislature had placed a number of protections in a Proposition authorizing bonds for California’s high speed rail line. These were intended as enticements to voters to approve the proposition. The legislature and Governor promised. The people approved. And, now the legislature and Governor have gone back on their promise.
In short, the legislature and Governor have revised the conditions of the proposition, something that requires a vote of the people. With respect to high speed rail (and perhaps other propositions) California has replaced rule of law with rule of men (and women). That this should have occurred with respect to a voter approved proposition is particularly egregious, since such measures (such as initiative and referendum) were Progressive Era reforms, under Governor Hiram Johnson in 1911, intended to permit the people to take legislative authority from the legislature and governor when they felt it appropriate.
Meanwhile, the California high speed rail project has become a legendary “white elephant,” with costs going through the roof and little hope for achieving the promised travel time between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Brown’s analysis can be accessed here….
(Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm and blogs at New Geography … where this piece was first posted.)
NO ON MEASURE RRR--The Water and Power Associates opposes Measure RRR on the November 8 ballot.
Here’s why: If passed, it will amend the City Charter to seriously change the governance of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
We concur that reducing political interference in LADWP’s business activities would be a positive step. However, the proposed Charter changes do no such thing. Instead, these amendments would transfer the City Council’s oversight over water and power rates to LADWP’s bureaucracy. This would quash the appropriate governmental oversight of the policies and performance of this vital asset of the City of Los Angeles, while conveniently deflecting voter outrage for increased rates. We also believe that the proposed amendments would encourage, not deter political interference.
On July 1, 2000, the last major revisions to the City Charter dealing with the LADWP were implemented. They culminated from the activities of two separate commissions, one appointed and the other elected, working over a period of two years with extensive and open public input. In the previous Charter Amendment process, the public knew exactly what they were voting for.
By contrast, these measures were prepared in the proverbial smoke-filled room, with little public involvement, and they allow changes to the Civil Service Procedures through future Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) between the labor unions and the LADWP, which the public is not privy to, subject to generic and non-specific requirements.
The LADWP currently operates under a number of constraints that were approved through the same proposed MOU process, which the public would probably not have approved of, such as: required union approval of all contracts affecting union membership; a requirement that all employees affected by contracting out be offered a minimum of 10% overtime; and the Letter of Agreement granting generous Longevity Pay Bonuses originally intended to go only to linemen – a group traditionally difficult to attract and retain – which were extended to 86 different easy-to-retain civil service classes such as painters, roofers and plumbers.
Allowing an open-ended MOU process, which the public is not invited to, to determine how the LADWP is run is not the appropriate process for making such major changes as substantially modifying the Civil Service System.
The Associates agree that LADWP needs to be able to streamline but work within the Civil Service System; improve flexibility in hiring and promoting qualified candidates; and be able to fill positions in a timely manner. The proposed amendment, as written, could change many Department jobs from Civil Service status to “At Will” status and open the door to political appointments rather than merit-based appointments. The proposal also allows the Council to delegate the salary setting authority to the LADWP Board.
In the 1930s, Los Angeles recalled Mayor Frank Shaw and convicted his brother and Aide Joe Shaw, for selling civil service jobs and promotions in order to fatten the campaign coffers of Mayor Shaw. While we are not accusing anyone of planning such activities, Measure RRR makes them possible. Allowing open-ended changes to this system, which has safeguarded the City from corruption for nearly a century, with neither thorough analysis nor full public participation is not the way to accomplish this. It benefits neither the LADWP nor other City Departments to curtail the interdepartmental transfers that would occur with the removal of the Civil Service System from the LADWP, as allowed in this Charter change.
As stated in the Ralph M Brown Act, 1953 -- “The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.”
The Department needs reforms, but they should not be left in the hands of the unions and politicians. The Associates recommend that Measure RRR be rejected at the ballot box.
(Edward A. Schlotman is President of Water and Power Associates, Inc. Water and Power Associates, a non-profit corporation, was established in 1971 to inform and educate its members, public officials and the general public on critical water and energy issues affecting the citizens of Los Angeles, of Southern California and of the State of California. It also promotes preservation of the history of how the development of water and energy has affected the development of Los Angeles and California.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
TRANSPORTATION POLITICS-Proposition M brings out many conflicting views held in the LA Basin communities and in many suburban areas -- viewpoints of what is needed in the towns, cities and communities regionally. Citizens are demanding better and more representative planning.
This is important because Prop M is now asking for hundreds of billions in tax dollars that will set a course for spending for decades. Much of the conflict is related to the proposed commuter rail. Due to that extensive and expensive influence, there could be a lifestyle and economic impact for many affected citizens.
This issue is critical because Proposition M does not work physically (can’t put rail in existing boulevards), socially (because of inequity and lack of social mobility options for many), or economically (excessive costs of new corridor impact mitigations). It will lead to over concentration of density (leading to even higher land and housing costs for the majority) and will require a behavior modification for many who would prefer a more convenient and direct means of mobility.
Furthermore, Metro has proposed unworkable and infeasible additions to the transportation system that can’t achieve goals for better mobility or bring about a sufficient reduction in VMT and reduced GHG emissions as required by SB32; it also creates some rail redundancy that puts the whole system in potential jeopardy.
Prop M is being rejected by citizens because of these conflicts and deficiencies. Everyone should take note because there are much better alternatives that do not require such excessive spending and actually are the technological future of transportation in greater Los Angeles.
However, a basic regional commuter rail network and Metrolink are being constructed now, paid for by the existing Measure R and Props A and C. This is what Downtown LA wants and they are on their way to getting it – a DONE DEAL. By purchasing previous rail corridors at low cost, Metro has brought the basic network together along with Metrolink, which is good. The low hanging fruit is being picked.
From here, however, there is a lack of available low cost corridors for urban commuter rail transit. The impacts of forcing such corridors through communities makes it necessary to re-think what is the best way to improve both mobility and the socio-economic circumstances for livability in our communities and region.
Thankfully, there are vehicular innovations emerging for cars and trucks, as well as buses – innovations that can make Bus Rapid Transit truly rapid and with an extensive and very affordable network. These improvements support existing development; and it’s integral, not like old RR lines that were built away from existing suburban towns and city development.
Prop M should be turned down and better planning should be prepared. It may also mean that no such future sales tax increase is needed. Both the presidential candidates and the government in general want to begin increasing Federal spending for infrastructure, so it is very likely the LA County taxpayers do not need to be hit so hard and long as they would be with the Prop M two cent out of every dollar “forever tax.” Federal contributions and better planning can make that possible.
This needed better planning is consistent with not having over-development in the LA Basin communities. It would also turn towards making more urbanizing growth in existing suburbs, bringing sustainability and becoming a way to help achieve climate change goals.
Already there are protests from LA Basin communities about over-development and traffic congestion, a conflict that would increase with new rail-induced development. More rail and associated Transit Oriented Development, especially regional office and commercial land uses, would increase vehicular traffic and the intrusion of cutting through neighborhoods. This is especially so when rail is put into existing boulevards such as Lincoln, Sepulveda, Santa Monica, La Brea, Van Nuys and others, as has been referenced in Prop M. Such a tactic has been identified by the recent Westside Mobility Plan studies as resulting in “unavoidable impacts and increased congestion” plus intrusions into neighborhoods. Neighborhood traffic impacts and social equity impacts would increase. All of that would occur while VMT and GHG emissions are not being reduced.
Fixing LA Basin congestion so there are not excessive GHG emissions as well as reducing the average length of trips in the suburbs with the proximity of urbanizing land use, is a strategy that can massively reduce GHG emissions countywide. It gets the County on the path to the transportation share of reduced emissions to meet SB32 goals. This is meaningful because Prop M will not achieve the necessary reductions in GHG emissions.
As it stands, suburban towns, small cities and communities would not have enough funds to develop transportation improvements that work best for their communities in order to improve the function, livelihood and livability that is needed.
So now we are at the point where community-scaled planning concerns and multi-community connections require a transportation improvement method. Since rail impacts the community scale and brings more congestion, a more integral mode for fixing LA Basin congestion corridors and helping to structure future growth to the suburbs is needed. That kind of innovation is emerging in transportation technologies in both vehicular and innovative roadway use, as we now read about in the media every day.
GHG EMISSION EXAMPLE: If the LA Basin congestion were fixed in the Santa Monica Boulevard corridor and 405 corridor on the Westside, it would be equivalent to the Measure R rail GHG savings of gasoline. The Measure R rail program is taking almost 40 years to be built and more than $20 billion in costs. Fixing the Santa Monica and 405 corridors would achieve the same reductions in gasoline used, would be about one twentieth as much in cost, and would take about 4 years.
By combining advanced vehicular improvements with advanced roadway architecture in selected urban corridors, car, bus and truck modalities are given improved function and become part of the general solution which reduces GHG emissions and VMT growth.
It is evident that the suburbs and dispersed cities of the County want and need to plan for their own growth and sustainability, instead of looking to the LA Basin for job security. In that case, it means evolving existing streets into advanced roadways that support and structure community growth in a timely process, according to their internal needs for growth.
Combined with the envisioned dispersed growth is the objective of reducing VMT by reducing average trip length, due to the proximity of needed land use functions as each community, town and city becomes more self-sufficient.
If you have kept up with transportation strategies of reducing GHG in significant amounts, this will occur by increasing, each year, the CAFE standards of greater mpg for vehicles. This massive reduction in GHG emissions is now in process.
The County TSSP traffic signal program for suburban streets, where signals are spaced greater than two miles apart, is very “cost effective” at reducing GHGs. In the TSSP program, along 220 miles of streets, this is equivalent to reducing 3.74 times the amount that Measure R will reduce -- and at 1/1,000th the cost. Another way of describing the cost efficiency is that $1 of signal synchronization is worth $4,125 put into rail development, as is proposed in Measure R. And more areas of the County can use TSSP.
In the LA Basin, already congested communities can eliminate congestion because “advanced roadways and advanced vehicles” can now come to our streets combined as digital systems.
For this more urban context, where signals are close together, a new innovative roadway architecture can allow continuous flowing traffic, essentially doubling the capacity of normal street lanes that presently have stop-and-go driving. The LA Automatic Traffic Surveillance and Control (ATSAC) system gives the necessary signal timing and brings integration with other related existing areas of the street network. What would be taking place is the “digitization of roadways” in selected portions of the vehicular network, with the new roadway architecture facilitating “continuous flowing traffic” (CFT).
An example of improvement with CFT would be the elimination of the 5 mph traffic congestion on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. Today’s failing 5 mph peak period stop-and-go speed has a capacity of around 300 vehicles/lane/hour and is emitting GHGs at about 2.5 times the amount as when traffic flows at 30 mph. A managed speed of 30 mph (not allowing slower or faster traffic,) provides CFT capacity at about 1200 vehicles/lane/hour -- four times as much than the 5 mph failing traffic flow. This solves traffic congestion and GHGe.
In the I-405 corridor and its related cross streets from Sunset to Pico Boulevards, the area encompasses a daily traffic volume of around 680,000 trips per day. It’s a problem that a tunnel for vehicles or a single line of rail transit, however configured, cannot address. The congestion is inherently a vehicular problem where traffic to the Westside is widely dispersed north, south, east and west in the morning and collected again in the PM. So the congestion solution lies with advanced vehicles and roadways with high capacity.
Metro talks about a “rail tunnel” going through the Sepulveda Pass, making a light rail line connection between the Valley and LAX. That would be one expensive line! First, finding a corridor from LAX to WLA, then the tunnel, probably under the 405 from the I-10 to Sherman Oaks or further, would involve enumerable problems. The rationale is flawed in that the through-travel demand is just 42,000 person-trips/day. Given the possible 40% attraction to a rail tunnel being just 17,000 person-trips/day, this would become way too low of a ridership to justify such a construction expenditure.
A much better use of a tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass is for extending the Purple Line Subway to the Valley. That connection has the ability to attract as much as 54,000 person-trips/day ridership (70% of 76,000 travel demand,) in that it not only connects to Westwood and UCLA but goes on to Century City, Beverly Hills and the Wilshire corridor -- all the way to Downtown.
A Boston Consulting Group (bcg.com) report warns about costly low ridership rail lines: “Rail companies may even end up in a downward (economic) spiral with reduced overall ridership. Rail companies’ overall unit costs for all remaining passengers will escalate because of the inherently high proportion of fixed costs in operating a train network. This could trigger price increases or reduced schedules, which would result in a further reduction in ridership.”
Segments that include a costly “rail tunnel” with low ridership, too many low ridership commuter lines and forcing rail into boulevards (where mitigation is costly and there is vehicular competition,) would incur losses threatening to consume the entire rail system with costs -- setting a downward spiral for all of the County system. And the taxpayers would be required to pick up the cost of such losses.
This is why better planning is required in all areas of the County. More citizen participation is needed to define exactly what communities, towns and cities should be. Greater attention must be paid to all the economic costs and benefits.
Citizens, Prop M has the ingredients for creating a rail transit and real estate bubble which would collapse, leaving the County with bankruptcies. VOTE NO ON M!
(Phil Brown AIA, has invented the CFT roadway system improvement by research and development that has occurred over the last twelve years analyzing the Westside traffic problems and the socio-economic needs of Greater Los Angeles. Contact is available through the website FlowBlvd.com as well as postings of his previous recent CityWatch articles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
ELECTION 2016--This election cycle has been filled with thrills, chills, and media spills. Ugh, double ugh, and triple ugh. If ever there was a time for cynicism and a focus on logic and "what will my candidate/this proposition DO" it's this year, when both major presidential candidates are justifiably feared for their personal character flaws. And we MUST also ask what each proposition/measure will DO.
As mentioned in my last CityWatch article a tough assessment of why so many governmental hands are in our face for more money is critical.
The economy, despite what propaganda that the Pravda/Tass-like media proclaims, or whichever government outlet states, is NOT doing so great, and part-time jobs are too much "the new normal" while the City, County, and State budgets are (like the rest of us) hanging on by their collective fingernails.
Public sector spending is NOT acceptable because it is NOT sustainable--hence the need for more taxes when we're already more taxed than virtually all other states, and the middle class is under siege. So here's the big questions for any financial/tax/bond measure or proposition:
Will the new money be spent well, is it already being spent well and is it a priority?
There are a lot of city, county, and state governmental hands in our faces, asking for money, money, and more money! Our money.
1) Vote YES on County Measure M--After being on the fence for the past year, it's becoming obvious to most of us that this measure is the most transparent and needed of all we're being asked to vote on. The biggest complaint is that it doesn't go far enough. But it pays for transit and freeway and road operations. This stands out as the one measure that deserves our vote.
2) Vote NO on County Measure A--I love parks and recreation, but a parcel tax is coming on the heels of many past, current and future parcel taxes. Everyone should pay into this, and if we keep over-relying on homeowners, we'll see another Proposition 13-style taxpayer revolution. I admit to being less concerned if this passes than with other measures.
3) Vote NO (heavens, NO!) on LA Community College District Measure CC--What on earth is this district doing asking us for more money after burning through and misspending on lousy and scandal-plagued work? Don't give an addict money and expect proper spending.
4) Vote NO on LA City Measure HHH--This is painful for me to oppose one my personal heroes (Councilmember Mike Bonin). He is responsible in large part for the aforementioned Measure M...but Metro has developed a reputation for proper oversight, while the city homeless czars have earned quite the opposite reputation.
Will this $1.2 billion bond measure money be spent well? Is this our top priority over our aging infrastructure? We must listen to our neighbors and constituents and NOT let our City be a "homeless magnet"...but efforts to convert the West LA VA Med Ctr to help our vets should be lauded. I applaud Mr. Bonin for all of his efforts, but I don't trust those spending this money.
5) Vote NO on Measure JJJ--There are a lot of "feel-good" features, and minimum wage/residency requirements appear good on first glance, but the "Build Better LA" initiative is a cheap, tawdry distraction from the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative (NII) which will be voted on this spring. The NII will demand we obey our City laws and build within long-overdue updated Community Plans.
6) Vote YES on Measure RRR--It's only modest reform to the LADWP, but it's a good start.
7) Vote NO on Measure SSS--If our public sector pension is driving the City into bankruptcy, or threatening our financial stability, why would adding to that instability make any sense? Yes, our LA Airport Police Officers deserve a good pension, but the whole darned police/fire/public sector pension system is...just...not...sustainable. Let's really FIX the problem, please? Pretty please?
So it's now on to the state, with a gazillion propositions. I don't have the time here to get into all of them, but I'll address the most co$tly ones. Let's recap and remember: California is NOT doing well economically because the middle class is under siege and/or has fled the state.
There are NOT enough millionaires to pay for everyone, and if there's another Wall Street decline (it happens, you know!), then the loss of the middle class will be felt more keenly than ever. A guide:
1) Vote NO on Proposition 51 (heavens, NO!)--Our K-12 population is stable or even decreasing. Previous K-12 school building bond funds have been hideously, if not criminally, misspent (overpriced iPads come to mind). See the diatribe above for more community college districts funds (NO on Measure CC). Even the Governor isn't on board with this.
2) Vote NO on Proposition 52--This measure is too opaque and vague, and too fraught with the likelihood of ill-advised spending/benefits for wealthy hospital CEO's, for a yes vote. Do our hospitals need our support? Yes--but this proposition is too vague without a more careful measure of how the money will be spent.
3) Vote YES on Proposition 53--Requiring the voters/taxpayers to be able to vote on bond measures that cost over $2 billion is a no-brainer. We've the right to deny Sacramento a blank check. And YES, our fellow voters/taxpayers can be entrusted to do the right thing and invest in our future.
4) Vote YES on Proposition 54--Posting all Legislature bills on the Internet, changes and all, before it could vote on these bills is entirely consistent with the Brown Act and all "sunshine" acts. As with Proposition 53, this is a no-brainer. It's called "transparent, good government". This is long overdue!
5) Vote NO on Proposition 55--We were TOLD that the temporary tax hike on those making over $250,000 would be just that...temporary. Folks making over $250,000 in THIS state are hardly poor, but they sure as heck aren't rich. Furthermore, all the claims of "the schools need the money" should be answered with:
a) Will this money be spent well? Has the previous money been spent well?
b) Is this a blank check? Can the Legislature take this same amount of revenue and backfill it into our ever-growing maw of the pension crisis and/or special interests and/or prevent it from truly helping our schools, our poor, etc.?
c) Will this further drive small business owners and retirees out of this state?
d) Stop with the class envy! If we're going to tax higher-income earners, can we at least allow for transparency in how it will be spent?
6) Vote NO on Proposition 56--I very much USED to favor cigarette taxes, but these have gone up so high that it's amazing there's not more of an illegal cigarette industry than there already is. There are fewer smokers than ever. Choose a "better" sin tax, California! And again...will the money be spent well???
7) The "moral" or "law and order" initiatives have to be addressed in a future CityWatch article, but PLEASE consider what the police have to say about them. Laws and punishment have their roles, and throwing away the laws just to give us all a warm, fuzzy feeling inside ignores the rising crime trends that are occurring in our state. LISTEN to the cops--they're trying to protect us!
And please take the time to vote November 8, ya hear?
(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)
THE CITY--‘As I was going up the stair … I met a man who wasn’t there … He wasn’t there again today … Oh, how I wish he’d go away.’
This old rhyme states, in a nutshell, the way I think most people view the matter of homelessness in our country. Perhaps now, more than at any time since the Great Depression, significant numbers of Americans are living on the street. Certainly in Los Angeles, homelessness has grown to epidemic proportions.
In all the years (nearly 40) I’ve been in southern California, the homeless have been present. I lived and worked for a long time in and near downtown Long Beach. My neighbors and I knew many of those who populated our streets. Some were considered to be colorful characters, harmless enough and not really much of a problem. The seriously-disturbed and aggressive panhandlers were rare and seemed not to be around for long.
I moved across the bay to San Pedro and there, too, was a relatively small population of homeless. They congregated in a particular area of downtown and, for the most part, weren’t considered to be much more than a nuisance; a problem easily avoided.
And then came the recession. Many lost their homes and never got another one. Social services and government felt the pinch, too. Even now, those with jobs are often hard pressed to afford the rent. As a consequence, we see the homeless hanging out in front of our organic food markets and sleeping on bus benches normally occupied by the people who clean our houses. Occasionally, suburban sensibilities are shocked when someone in a nice neighborhood looks out the window and sees a dilapidated vehicle inhabited by a scruffy individual who may not have seen a bar of soap in weeks or months.
Spend some time online at Facebook and other social media sites and you will come to the conclusion that, for most commentators, the problem is not that people are homeless, it’s that they are visible. In my community, the response of the vocal majority of the ninety-nine-and-a-half percent who are not homeless is to dehumanize the homeless. These folks delight in posting pictures of the obviously mentally ill and calling them names. All homeless are lumped together as a class that is intellectually and morally bereft. According to the “commentariat,” the homeless are homeless because they want to be homeless.
The good burghers’ solution for this situation: make the homeless disappear. Send them somewhere else. This is the ultimate NIMBY position -- not in my backyard, not in my neighbor’s backyard, not in my neighbor’s neighbor’s backyard.
My city councilmember and his homelessness task force recently proposed opening a “navigation center” providing storage for the property of the homeless and offering them services. The suggested location on a commercial street was met with a barrage of criticism from the surrounding area. A public meeting to explain the plan was mobbed by a few hundred angry residents whose answer to everything was a resounding “no.”
There are as many “solutions” as there are homeless individuals. I don’t know what the best ones are. But I do know what the worst one is: pretending it’s not your problem and wishing it away.
(Doug Epperhart is publisher, a longtime neighborhood council activist and former Board of Neighborhood Commissioners commissioner. He is an occasional contributor to CityWatch and can be reached at: Epperhart@cox.net) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
SOUTH OF THE TEN-Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has hit the campaign trail. This past weekend he popped into Arizona to attend a campaign rally for a local candidate running for Sheriff. Normally this wouldn't interest me but a Twitter account I follow made a big deal of who the mayor was campaigning against, along with the t-shirt he was wearing that promoted an anti-police group.
The Twitter account, @Near_Chaos, has a passion for reporting on the goings-on at the weekly sideshow called the LAPD Police Commission meetings. The meetings themselves appear not to have any merit -- loved ones of the deceased cannot get answers, nor can the Commission really reform the beleaguered department.
At the core of the weekly ruckus are members of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM). Members publicly protest what they and many others view as the continued disproportionate rate of excessive force used on people of the South LA community.
BLM Members have camped outside the mayor's house in Hancock Park and City Hall. News vans spotted a cleanup crew at Getty House after it was hit with dozens of eggs. Some have been arrested trying to get the mayor's attention to this issue, to which he responds by either slipping out the back door or publishing an empty column in an urban periodical. And he’s also appointed African-Americans to key positions within his office – all this while supporting Chief Charlie Beck, who has yet to publicly reprimand any of the officers named for shooting an unarmed citizen.
Back to this past weekend.
Mayor Garcetti was recorded on social media at a campaign event for Maricopa County Sheriff candidate Paul Penzone, who is running against the infamous “Sheriff Joe” Arpaio. See video here.
Garcetti prefaced his speech by referring to his strong roots in Arizona and commented that his family still resides there. He further commented that “Sheriff Arpaio is wasting taxpayer money” with his policing policies. Sheriff Joe is well known for racially profiling the Latinos in the area.
Arpaio styles himself as "America's Toughest Sheriff." He has been accused of abuse of power, misuse of funds, failure to investigate sex crimes, improper clearance of cases, unlawful enforcement of immigration laws, and election law violations. He is currently facing criminal contempt proceedings.
Maricopa county taxpayers are paying $4.5 million for Arpaio's legal defense fees, related to the racial profiling and open defiance of a federal judge who ordered he change his policies. Sheriff Joe did not comply and is now facing contempt charges.
At some point during his visit, Mayor Eric donned a t-shirt that read, "Arrest Sheriff Joe," while standing next to a woman whose shirt read, "Arrest Arpaio Not the People.”
The t-shirts fund a group called "Bazta Arpaio.” Citing 150 deaths in the jails and $140 million in related lawsuits, the group implores you to either donate money and/or buy a shirt to support their cause of ousting the Sheriff. Will Mayor Eric help BLM raise funds to oust him and Charlie Beck?
Somehow the mayor has time to address the needs of the Latino community in another state, yet has no time to address the problems in his own backyard. The mayor is clearly sending mixed signals as it relates to his position on police abuse, both local and nationwide.
LAPD recently came out from being under a federal decree, spearheaded by Connie Rice during the Riordan and Villaraigosa administrations. Through her nonprofit, the Advancement Project, she has joined other community activists in South LA by declaring a “state of emergency” in Los Angeles, related to the latest cases of police abuse.
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s actions are line with an elected official who sympathizes with those who are victims of police brutality. Unfortunately, he is not brave enough to say it here at home and to use his political power in the way he flaunts it in other cities. On the other hand, perhaps his last two LAPD Police Commission appointments are saying it themselves via their actions during the PC meetings.
(Melissa Hébert lives in Inglewood, CA, and blogs on community and political issues on 2urbangirls.com and is an occasional contributor to CityWatch. ) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
TRUE TRANSIT SUPPORTERS-I’ve been taking a bit more transit than usual these days, as a bit of a change of pace from pedaling the Brompton absolutely everywhere.
My changes of pace, by the way, never involve a private motor car, which I drive four or five times a year under marital duress; I’ve put in enough miles behind the windshield -- that is to say, over a quarter-million or so -- to know exactly what I’m missing by avoiding the driver’s seat, and it is absolutely nothing. Physical and emotional stultification just don’t tickle my innards.
So there I was on the Wilshire Rapid, making good time to my dentist’s office in SaMo, when we crossed Westwood Boulevard. And of course the intersection hosted a lineup of people on bikes, waiting to proceed to UCLA. A cyclist had just gotten off the bus, presumably for the same purpose; bikes were rolling up and down Wilshire; and the bike racks around the intersection were full to overflowing.
It naturally brought to mind the lack of bike lanes connecting UCLA with the new Expo Line station at Westwood. This vacuity comes to us, of course, courtesy of chair-warmer District 5 council member Paul Koretz, who has been kowtowing so vigorously to a cabal of Cheviot Hills homeowners that he probably needs a live-in chiropractor. The Chevioteers failed in their attempt to block the entire Expo Line -- yes, they tried to hold the entire western half of LA County hostage to their fear of “those people” crowding onto the train to steal their porch decks -- but cyclists are an easier target than ethnic groups, especially since “cyclist” is often (in white pseudo-suburbia) a code word for “dark.”
Saving car lanes and parking was the ostensible excuse, but that excuse flew out the window when Ryan Snyder presented a bike lane plan that removed no car lanes or parking, cleverly entitled the “Remove Nothing Plan.”
“Remove Nothing went nowhere. Koretz and his puppeteers ignored it, and Koretz went further, saying he would permit no study to be made of any plan including bikeways of any sort on the southern portion of Westwood.
People will be riding bicycles on Westwood anyway, and probably slowing traffic in a way they wouldn’t with a bikeway in place. Angelenos old and young, of every shade, will want to get from the Expo Line to UCLA, and, of course, the many delectable restaurants along the way. Fewer will choose to do so lacking a bikeway; a number of those will opt to use cars, further clogging traffic. Stoopid, ain’t it? Opportunity misplaced.
I won’t call it a lost opportunity, though, because I think we can find it again, and soon; it hasn’t been lost, but simply hidden from view for a while. After all, Jesse Creed is running against Koretz for the council seat in CD5, and he is a strong supporter of transportation choices, including bikeways. He himself endeavors to pedal anywhere within a two-mile radius of home.
Remember that, come March and the election. If you live in CD5, Creed’s the real deal. (Photo above, left.)
Naturally, if you live in CD1, the home district of this blog, its Joe Bray-Ali, running to retire “Roadkill Gil” Cedillo. (Photo above, right.)
If you live anywhere else, send a little cash to these two gentlemen. Two more progressive voices added to Huizar’s on the city council might be enough to transform LA. No more rubber stamp votes against the future! Bray-Ali and Creed for City Council!
Grass roots vs. trickle down: which side are you on?
(Richard Risemberg is a writer. His current professional activities are focused on sustainable development and lifestyle. This column was posted first at Flying Pigeon.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
VOICES-At a time when Los Angeles City is asking the taxpayers to approve a $1.2 billion bond measure for supportive homeless housing, our Governor continues to refuse to declare homelessness a "State of Emergency" in California – an action that would release $500 million immediately from the rainy day fund.
How can this Governor close his eyes to the tens of thousands of his citizens, allowing them to sleep in alleys, streets and behind dumpsters…eating from garbage cans and defecating on themselves and on the streets?
It is time for everyone to light up the switchboards at the Governor’s office and the offices of all our state elected officials, demanding they declare a "State of Emergency" and release the funds.
And while we are at it....
Why is Los Angeles City asking for $1.2 billion when Prop 30 has $2.1 billion already segregated for the same cause, in addition to the availability of half a billion dollars in rainy day funds?
All this tells me is there is no serious plan and no real political will to end homelessness.
Remember, if you are not angry about homelessness, then you have just not been paying attention.
(Jay Handal served at the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment for ten months as Election Manager for the 2016 Neighborhood Council elections. He is Treasurer of the West Los Angeles Sawtelle Neighborhood Council, Co-Chair of the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates Committee for the upcoming 2016-2017 fiscal year, and a hearing examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
EDUCATION POLITICS--Public education supporters in Los Angeles are shocked and gratified to learn that the staff of the Los Angeles school district has recommended rejection of several charter school petitions to be considered at next week’s school board meeting. For years, it seemed there was no reason to ever expect LAUSD to reject charters and recent reports show senior district staff coordinating with Eli Broad's nonprofit to expand charter choices even as it grapples with decreasing enrollment.
The board will decide whether the staff recommendations will stand at the Tuesday, October 18 meeting. Presumably, that meeting will include heated discussion among the school board and district staff, as well as comments from charter advocates and the public. It’s common for charter schools to organize large showings of supporters at their hearings, usually with matching t-shirts.
The recommendations were posted on the district’s website on Wed. The district’s Charter Schools Division made the recommendations after facing heavy criticism for its perceived mishandling of oversight responsibilities in the wake of financial scandals at El Camino Real Charter High School.
The recommendation which has drawn the most speculation is the one to approve the issuance of a Notice of Intent to Revoke the charter of El Camino Real.
Staff has also recommended the denial of the renewal of three Magnolia Science Academy Schools, part of the Gulen chain of charters which are associated with the Turkish Imam suspected of organizing a coup against the government of Turkey. That California chain has been under fire since a legal complaint was filed last February, calling on the California Department of Education to investigate. The complaint was first reported on the PSconnect blog. It cited more than accusations, and included findings made in a state audit such as 69% of Magnolia's financial transactions being unaccounted for; that Magnolia routinely awarded large contracts to vendors with overlapping connections to their own employees and board of directors; and that Magnolia had illegally used hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to pay for visas for Turkish nationals. A report in today’s Los Angeles Times shows that number is closer to $1 million.
Other charter proposals facing the new wrath of the LAUSD: WISH Charter is hoping to add more grades to its school. Citizens of the World wants an additional school and to grow an existing school. Celerity Dyad and Celerity Troika schools are petitioning to renew their charters. Staff is recommending that the board reject all those petitions.
It is unprecedented in recent memory for the LAUSD staff to recommend rejection of so many charters since the district began instituting market based reforms years ago. A top priority of so-called reformers is charter school expansion, and the wind has been at their backs. One year, LAUSD voted for 67 out of 72 charters. California lifted its cap on charters when Netflix founder Reed Hastings forced the California legislature to accept a measure similar to the one currently on Massachusetts' November ballot. Senator Elizabeth Warren has taken a stand against that measure, called Question 2, and it's more and more common to see criticism of charter schools in major news outlets. The Washington Post recently published two pieces (here and here) by the Network for Public Education's Executive Director, Carol Burris. Capital and Main, a leading Sacramento political blog, has been posting a series (here and here) featuring the billionaires funding California's charter industry, and the NAACP has recommended its board pass a moratorium on new charters. (Diane Ravitch posted phone numbers to call to express support for the moratorium.)
Whether next week’s agenda represents the beginning of a reversal of fortune for the charter juggernaut in Los Angeles remains to be seen.
(Karen Wolfe is a public school parent, the Executive Director of PS Connect and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-If you think a Hillary Clinton administration, even with another Great Recession and the Democrats in control of Congress, will result in an Urban New Deal, don’t hold your breath. It is not going to happen. This is why.
Part of the story is the steady decline of the Democratic Party over the past 40 years. It does not just consist of negative campaigning and shallow debates, rigging the Democratic primaries against Bernie Sanders, smearing Dr. Jill Stein; endless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya; flooding the Middle East with US weaponry; and unleashing aerial death squads called drone missiles. Nor is it just mass incarceration of US citizens and refugees, wholehearted support of fracking, and record levels of deportations.
Less obviously, the Democratic Party’s downward trajectory also includes the total abandonment of the urban programs it once championed, such as public housing. As evidenced by the White House’s recent position paper on affordable housing, as well as a succession of ineffective affordable housing programs in Los Angeles from the 1980s to date, the party’s urban policy has imploded into unrestrained capitalism, also called urban neo-liberalism.
Long gone are urban programs that included public investment in infrastructure and services, as well as careful regulation of private investment. Since the days of LA Mayor Tom Bradley in the 1980s to date, from Washington, DC, to LA’s City Hall, the Democratic Party’s approach has been a three-legged stool: jettison zoning and environmental laws, abolish government housing programs, and bend over backwards for glad-handing real estate speculators. When challenged, they invariably resort to name-calling. Their critics are always NIMBYs, not supporters of strong planning and environmental regulation.
So, let’s get into the specifics, including the House LA approach now underway at LA’s City Hall.
More Revelations from the Mountain Top: Straight from Washington, DC, the Obama Administration has issued a White House Housing Development Toolkit. It identifies two barriers to affordable housing production: local zoning and environmental laws. It never mentions that the U.S. has been in a perpetual housing crisis for the past 40 years and that this crisis coincides with the wholesale elimination of Federal housing programs in the 1970s and 1980s.
As for the White House’s solutions, they are the same market-based mantras that have been recited by real estate speculators since today’s boomer retirees started paying off their student loans. I have listed them below, with my plain English translation written in italics.
- Establishing by-right development. (Up-zone commercial properties to avoid discretionary zoning applications, environmental reviews, public notices, public hearings, and appeals.)
- Taxing vacant land or donate it to non-profit developers. (Thirty years ago Mayor Tom Bradley called for using the air rights above City parking lots for affordable housing.)
- Streamlining or shortening permitting processes and timelines. (Cutting corners for well-connected real estate investors.)
- Eliminate off-street parking requirements. (Under-park apartments before a mass transit system is in place.)
- Allowing accessory dwelling units. (Turn single-family homes into duplexes without upgrading public facilities and infrastructure to accommodate a population increase.)
- Establishing density bonuses. (Allow developers to get free variances in exchange for a handful of unverified affordable units.)
- Enacting high-density and multifamily zoning. (Permit apartment houses in single-family neighborhoods without upgrading infrastructure and services.)
- Employing inclusionary zoning. (Require new market-rate apartment buildings to include a small percentage of uninspected affordable units.)
- Establishing development tax or value capture incentives. (Allow developers of market housing to pay an in lieu fee for off-site affordable units.)
- Using property tax abatements. (In addition to Prop. 13 provisions that freeze most commercial property taxes to late 1970 rates, any increase in assessed valuations would also be exempt from property taxes.)
It is my contention, especially for Los Angeles, these programs did not work several decades ago, and they will not work now. The simple reason is that the private sector has never been able to meet the housing needs of lower-income Americans. You can easily enrich the crony capitalists buzzing around elected officials intoxicated by the sweet nectar of laissez faire capitalism, but the cumulative, long-term result is dismal. After several decades, these market schemes have only managed to build a tiny fraction of the affordable housing needed in the United States. In fact, the situation is now so bad that every county in the entire county has an affordable housing shortage.
Bradley Administration: To understand House LA, we need to step back in time to the Tom Bradley administration, when LA first acknowledged that it had an affordable housing crisis. Like the Depression, in the 1980s, only one family in five could afford to buy a home, 200,000 families were doubled or tripled up, 40,000 families lived in garages, and 150,000 families were homeless at some point in a year.
Initially slow to respond, Mayor Bradley eventually made it clear that the crisis resulted from the extensive cutbacks in urban programs that began during the Nixon-Ford years (1968-1976), and only got worse under Carter (1976-1980), Bush 1 (1980-84), and Clinton (1984-1992). By the late 1980s, nearly all Federal urban programs, especially housing, had been eliminated. This era marked the end of New Deal liberalism and the beginning or urban neo-liberalism: the myth that the private market could solve persistent urban problem if showered with enough deregulation and financial incentives.
Beginning in 1988, that is exactly what Mayor Bradley undertook through a detailed proposal whose premise was a quickly discredited low-ball calculation of LA’s residential zoning potential. The Bradley program intended to eliminate environmental reviews of small and medium sized apartment houses, permit apartment houses and second units in single-family neighborhoods, demolish houses with code violations to furnish free building sites to non-profit housing corporations, impose linkage fees on new residential projects to fund affordable housing projects, and build affordable housing in the airspace above 105 city-owned parking lots, beginning with 10 prototypes.
In response to widespread community opposition, however, the initial Bradley program was modified to include the rehabilitation homes and apartments in low-income neighborhoods and a slumlord task force to target slum properties for criminal prosecution. It also shifted the construction of affordable apartments from single-family neighborhoods to transit corridors and stations.
The Planning Department’s updated housing calculations also revealed that Los Angeles had sufficient zoning for one million additional housing units, or 25,000 new units per year for the next 40 years. Other Planning Department estimates from the early 1990s indicated an even larger buildout potential. Based on existing zoning, Los Angeles could add nearly 5,000,000 more people, reaching a total population of 8,000,000. In the intervening 26 years, however, the City has never updated any of its zoning build out calculations. Despite claims and counter-claims, the actual changes between 1990 and 2016 are not known.
House LA - Old Wine in New Bottles: Based on information from the Los Angeles Business Council, House LA appears to be the Los Angeles version of the White House Housing Tool Kit. It mostly repackages old, off-the-shelf market programs. Unfortunately, most of them go back nearly three decades, with little to show for themselves. As before, my translation is in italics.
- Expansion of Expedited Processing Section in Planning. (Pay to Play: Quick zoning approvals for well-off real estate speculators.)
- Site Plan Review Modifications. (Zoning deregulation.)
- Permitting Micro Unit Housing (Increasing density without upgrading public services and infrastructure.)
- Deferring Fees. (Municipal subsidies for well-connected real estate speculators, like AEG.)
- Expanding the Use of Shared Vehicles. (Under-parking new buildings prior to the build-out of the mass transit system.)
- Facilitating Accessory Dwelling Units for Affordable Housing. (Turning single family’s homes into duplexes without upgrading public services and infrastructure and without collecting additional property taxes.)
- Using City-owned parking lots for affordable housing. (House LA recently added Tom Bradley’s long-neglected program to use City-owned properties, mostly parking lots, as affordable housing sites. Other than a 30 year hiatus, the only other differences is that House LA identifies 100 not parking lots and proposes 11 not 10 affordable housing sites.)
Why so much hostility from House LA to the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative? Gil Cedillo, the City Councilmember who has campaigned for the House LA market-incentive proposals, has sharply criticized the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. But, his talking points come straight from the Astroturf funders: CH Palladium, LLC and Westfield DD&C, LLC. These Big Real Estate players have every reason to oppose an Initiative that will force the City of Los Angeles to systematically and quickly update its General Plan, including permanent bans on parcel level spot-zoning and spot-General Plan amendments.
This is because the Palladium and Westfield business models rely on spot-zoning and spot-planning. As they scour Los Angeles for shopping center and high-rise building sites, they inevitably run into conflicts with zoning and planning ordinances. But, they could care less if their projects conflict with the character and scale of existing neighborhoods or exceed the capacity of existing infrastructure.
For them, their criterion is profitability. But, they can hardly go to the city’s voters and fess up that they oppose the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative because it impinges on their bottom line. So instead, they have created an Astroturf organization, the Coalition to Save Los Angeles Neighborhoods and Jobs, that claims spot-zoning and spot-planning is essential to the production of affordable housing.
It doesn’t matter that they cannot identify projects from the Bradley to the Garcetti eras where affordable housing projects required zone changes and General Plan Amendments. Even their latest gambit, grabbing a hold of the Tom Bradley program of using city parking lots for affordable housing sites, is a desperate act. This is because this option has been around for nearly 30 years, has hardly ever worked, and could be easily pursued on city-owned parcels that did not require the City Council to adopt spot-zones and spot-plans.
So, with deception in one hand, and a check in the other, they march on to block a voter initiative that would force the City of LA to properly plan, including rigorous criteria for the approval of any deviations from legally adopted plans and zones.
(Dick Platkin is a veteran city planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatch. He also serves on the boards of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association and East Hollywood Neighborhood Council Planning Committee. Please send comments and corrections to email@example.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
AN AMERICAN IS CRIMINALIZED EVERY 25 SECONDS--Two prominent human and civil rights organizations are calling on the U.S. government to decriminalize all drug use and possession in a new report which finds that the so-called war on drugs has caused “devastating harm.”
The joint report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that there were 574,640 arrests for marijuana possession nationwide in 2015, outnumbering arrests for all violent crimes combined, and that the massive enforcement of drug laws takes a toll at every level, from the individual to the institutional—ruining lives and pulling families apart, discriminating against people of color, and undermining public health.
In fact, the groups found, in the U.S., someone is arrested for low-level drug offenses every 25 seconds.
“Every 25 seconds someone is funneled into the criminal justice system, accused of nothing more than possessing drugs for personal use,” said the report’s author and HRW/ACLU Aryeh Neier fellow Tess Borden. “These wide-scale arrests have destroyed countless lives while doing nothing to help people who struggle with dependence.”
The long-term impacts of drug law enforcement range from the separation of families to lifelong discrimination, the report states. People arrested for drug use can be excluded from employment opportunities, housing and welfare assistance, and the right to vote, among other things. The organizations interviewed hundreds of drug users, family members of those prosecuted, government officials, defense attorneys, activists, and service providers, and analyzed data from Texas, Florida, New York, and the FBI.
One woman interviewed in the report, “Nicole,” whose name was changed for privacy, was held pretrial for months in Houston, Texas away from her three children and eventually pled guilty to her first felony—possessing an empty baggie with heroin residue. The conviction cost her student financial aid, employment opportunities, and the food stamps she used to feed her children.
“The felony conviction is going to ruin my life…I’ll pay for it for[ever]. Because of my record, I don’t know how or where I’ll start rebuilding my life: school, job, government benefits are now all off the table for me,” she states in the report. “Besides the punishment even [of prison]...It’s my whole future.”
The report also found that while black adults do not use drugs more than white adults, they are over two-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested for possession. When looking just at marijuana possession, they are almost four times as likely to be arrested.
“Under international human rights law, prohibited racial discrimination occurs where there is an unjustifiable disparate impact on a racial or ethnic group, regardless of whether there is any intent to discriminate against that group,” the report states. “Enforcement of drug possession laws in the U.S. reveals stark racial disparities that cannot be justified by disparities in rates of use.”
As the organizations point out, since the war on drugs was formally declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, use has not significantly declined—and criminalization, coupled with a lack of treatment for addicts, forces users to go “underground,” exposing them to increased risk of disease, overdoses, and other dangers, while making it less likely that they will recover.
“While families, friends, and neighbors understandably want government to take action to prevent the potential harm caused by drug use, criminalization is not the answer,” Borden continued. “Locking people up for using drugs causes tremendous harm, while doing nothing to help those who need and want treatment.”
The report concludes by calling on state legislatures and U.S. Congress to decriminalize personal use and possession of all drugs, and invest in risk reduction and voluntary treatment programs.
“Criminalizing personal drug use is a colossal waste of lives and resources,” Borden said. “If governments are serious about addressing problematic drug use, they need to end the current revolving door of drug possession arrests, and focus on effective health strategies instead.”
(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams … where this piece was first posted.)
PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, ROUND 2--The second presidential debate arrived, and if this were another year and a different set of candidates, we would probably be reading that Trump came back from his earlier defeat due to a stronger performance this time. After all, he didn't melt down into a pool of slag or run pouting from the stage. He stood his ground and exchanged punch for punch, accusation for accusation. Some commenters will score this one as a draw or even a modest Trump victory. But it's not a different year or a different Republican candidate, and this debate took place under circumstances that were not only bizarre, they appear to be rebounding against Trump.
The following episodes are historically unprecedented but as we shall see, they have something in common.
Trump came into the day of the second debate facing a situation in which a significant number of Republican leaders were pulling their support from him due to his comments about groping women. When you lose John McCain and others of his stature, you are pushing the envelope pretty hard. Trump got off a sort-of-apology for his comments, but he tried to make it sound as if it was just a boyish phase he was going through. After all, he was only 59 years old at the time.
But what defines Trump as a political phenomenon is that he does things that others won't. In this case, it was his press conference held on the same day as the debate, in which he introduced women who had all accused Bill Clinton of doing something bad. The subtext was "if I did something wrong, the Clintons have done worse." The fact that his opponent is Hillary Clinton, not Bill, is obvious, but this was a play to Clinton haters of all stripes.
The pre-debate press conference caused the MSNBC commenters to be all aflutter, with worried prognostications that Trump might call Bill Clinton a rapist during the debate itself. The story must have played out interestingly in foreign markets.
During the debate, in response to Hillary Clinton's suggestion that Trump has avoided paying income taxes, Trump responded with dreary repetitions that a couple of other billionaires -- Warren Buffet and George Soros, alleged to be Hillary's friends -- also use available tax deductions. Once again, it was the argument that whatever Trump does, some liberal does it worse.
When you look at these Trumpian games, it eventually becomes obvious that Trump is engaging in a technique that the American right wing has developed into a fine art: Whatever you are most guilty of, accuse your opponent of the same thing. When George W. Bush was facing a real war hero in the person of John Kerry during the 2004 reelection campaign, his side brought out the Swift Boaters. All of a sudden, Bush's failure to serve was balanced by a concerted attack on Kerry's battlefield performance.
It's like the psychological concept of projection, except that instead of unconscious thoughts being painted onto other people, the political technique is to recognize your own defects at the conscious level and then to defend your own vulnerability by accusing the opposition of the same thing.
In the case of Sunday night's debate, Trump took this technique to the extreme. Here is an excerpt from CNN.com.
Donald Trump on Sunday night issued a remarkable threat against Hillary Clinton, telling the Democratic presidential nominee he would seek to imprison her if he was elected next month.
"If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your (missing email) situation," Trump said, "because there has never been so many lies, so much deception."
Trump's threat -- which he has made before on the campaign trail -- is extraordinary even by the standard of the vitriolic 2016 campaign.
The comment is remarkable for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is how it forced Trump's campaign workers to scramble in the aftermath. His latest adviser explained this remark as Trump channeling the strong feelings of his followers. That reacting at this level to mob sentiment is the opposite of leadership didn't seem to occur to this spokesperson. The irony is rich indeed.
But we should also notice that Trump's remark is another example of Trump doing a little conscious projection. He is the one who is under attack over the Trump University fraud as well as other scandals. He may not be at the level of criminal prosecution, but the trial over the Trump University case is approaching.
So Trump threw the first punch. Now it happens to be true that the argument about jailing Hillary is not new. It's been going around since the early days of Trump's campaign. But this was a new element for a presidential debate. Those of an age to remember the Nixon-Kennedy and subsequent debates will recognize how weird this was.
So Trump took out a little insurance against his own potential prosecution in the event that he does not win the presidency. He got in the first punch. But his threat is so out of bounds that even Ari Fleischer objected. You can read his remark in the CNN story quoted above.
As for Hillary Clinton, she held her own on substantive points, but that wasn't what this debate was all about. She was forced to repeat the approach she took in the first debate, namely:
1) Point out that it is hard to fact-check Donald Trump during the debate itself, so the viewers should check out her website.
2) Point out that what you just heard wasn't true, and that Donald lives in his own reality.
These were useful stratagems during the first debate, but they weren't delivered with quite the oomph this time around. They sounded like something that Hillary was reminding herself to say, and didn't get the follow-up they could have profited by.
On the other hand, Hillary did an effective job explaining that Trump is not fit for the job of president. She also got a boost from the moderators when Trump was asked to stop interrupting.
There is one major difference in their competing personas. Over the course of their nomination acceptance speeches and two debates, the difference became clear. Trump presents himself as perpetually angry, outraged, and pessimistic. It's worked for him during the primary process, but it remains to be seen how well it will work for him in a general election. Hillary has taken the more optimistic approach.
In one way this was forced on her, because it was necessitated by Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again." How do you compete with that, other than to say that America is great already? She is also trying to ride the Obama coattails, so she has to claim that things are improving. It's been a tightrope for Hillary to walk, but she seems to be doing about as well as she can. Historically, presidential candidates who present a positive message seem to have an advantage, as Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama showed.
As of this writing a few hours after the second debate, snap polls show Hillary Clinton as the winner. Interestingly, she won big in the category of appearing more presidential. Perhaps this can be explained by Hillary's ability to maintain a straight face in response to Trump's attacks. Compare that to Trump's constant grimacing and frowning when attacked. Perhaps future historians will conclude that Hillary turned out to be the better actor, in spite of Trump's television experience. Or perhaps it was a mistake for Trump to adopt his television persona during his presidential campaign. Alternatively, it may be that the majority of the public found Trump's aggression distasteful and for that reason, found him to be less presidential.
One question: Does Trump always know that he is going over the line? Admittedly a lot of his performance is contrived, a vaudevillian shtick. But perhaps that anger he presents is the real Trump, and what we are hearing is that anger spilling over. What presidential candidate would fail to know that threatening to jail your opponent is off limits in the American political tradition? At the extreme level, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis were not thrown in prison by the victorious side. Perhaps Trump's followers should remind him.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
HUFFINGTON POST--People took notes during shoots of “The Apprentice,” even when those moments didn’t make it into the show.
Top Democratic operatives have offered to pay millions of dollars for unaired footage of Donald Trump on the set of “The Apprentice,” hoping to unearth another unscripted moment like the one that surfaced Friday from 2005, when Trump said he would grab women “by the pussy.”
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-By now, we’ve all heard the Access Hollywood tape from 2005. Presidential candidate Donald Trump joked with Billy Bush about “moving on her (Nancy O’Dell) like a b*tch”” and how fame is an open door to grabbing women’s genitals.
TRUTHDIG--Most of you are already sick of this election and are looking forward to Nov. 8. But don’t count on it being over after Election Day.
Donald Trump is already crying fraud. People with Cold War memories are warning of Russian hackers disrupting the election. Vote-counting systems are antiquated and often poorly run. All this adds up to investigations and lawsuits alleging miscounted votes and fraud stretching far beyond Election Day, and making doubters even more skeptical of the results.
The combination of Trump’s paranoia and fears of mysterious hackers are fuel for conspiracy theorists. But with the rapid advance in computer technology and Russian hackers’ suspected penetration of Democratic National Committee (DNC) files, even people who don’t buy the conspiracy theories are alarmed.
The Department of Homeland Security said 25 states have asked for federal help in assessing vulnerabilities and fighting computer attacks on their voting systems, Politico reported Wednesday.
I spoke with attorney and election expert Robert Stern, who co-authored the California Political Reform Act and was chief counsel for the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission. Stern, definitely not a conspiracy theorist, is also concerned.
“People don’t trust anything anymore, and the people who lost the election will say it was rigged,” he said. “I think now [that] we have learned Russians hacked the DNC … anything is possible. We did not anticipate all these hacks.” Stern pointed out that state election offices are often less sophisticated than federal agencies, such as the State Department and the FBI. “So,” he said, “it is much more a source of concern. … A large number of citizens will say ‘revote, revote,’ and that’s what [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants. He wants mistrust, and probably the Chinese and [North] Koreans do, too.”
Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, wrote in August: “In the last two weeks, there have been credible reports that Russia is attempting to influence our elections by hacking into the Democratic Party’s email server and other campaign files. These reports are troubling. But an attack on our country’s voting machines, once deemed far-fetched, is even more disturbing.”
Norden and other election experts cited dangers in the use of voting machines, which don’t leave a countable paper record of the votes cast. One threat could involve hackers changing the count on machines, with no way to check the results after the election. “In November, tens of millions of voters in 14 states, including Pennsylvania and Virginia [battleground states], will vote on paperless electronic voting machines,” Norden wrote.
“The threats to the integrity of our elections go beyond potential hacks to change the vote count on polling place voting machines,” he said. “Attackers could attempt a ‘denial of service’ attack, where machines simply crash more often. In those cases, voters could be forced to wait in line for hours while technicians work to fix the machines or replace them. Many would give up and never vote. Alternatively, the systems could be attacked after voting is complete, when results from individual machines are tallied at a central location.”
Election Justice USA, which describes itself as a nonpartisan organization fighting election fraud, examined the possibility of attacks on the machines. It issued “Democracy Lost: A Report on the Fatally Flawed 2016 Democratic Primaries” and collaborated on another report, “An Electoral System In Crisis.”
The organization alleges that hackers installed algorithms (a set of instructions) in electronic vote-counting machines. This would “have increased [Hillary] Clinton’s share of the vote and decreased [Bernie] Sanders share of the vote” enough to deny Sanders the Democratic presidential nomination. The group would like a rerun of the Clinton-Sanders race.
Election Justice’s researchers also said they found evidence that the Clinton and Ted Cruz campaigns manipulated results in Wisconsin, where Cruz defeated Donald Trump in the primary.
The theory doesn’t make sense to me. Every crime needs a perpetrator and a victim. If both Clinton and Cruz were suspected perpetrators, did their campaigns work together on this scheme? Or did each have separate algorithm-installation operations? If it was a joint operation, why target two such diverse victims as Trump and Sanders?
The “Electoral System in Crisis” report admits the fraud-hunters don’t have a perpetrator.
“At this point, we are unable to say who might be responsible for any data breaches to the voting equipment. There could be any number of independent players who would benefit from the victory of a particular candidate and would be willing to take action to influence the results. Our research also indicates that in some elections the footprint of more than one unofficial player is evident,” the report said.
While Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin, Clinton overwhelmed Sanders in California (2,713,259 to 2,326,030) and in New York (1,054,083 to 763,469.) That’s a lot of votes to fix.
My first thought was to dismiss Election Justice USA.
But this is 2016, the year of doubt and suspicion, and if Election Day is followed by months of lawsuits and investigation, the Election Justice USA reports no doubt will take their place in the evidence cited by those litigating the results.
In addition, Trump has taken up long-standing -- and unproved -- Republican accusations of voting fraud. These allegations have inspired Republican legislatures around the country to impose limits on voting hours and demands for all-but-impossible voter identification. The moves are designed to reduce the turnout of Democratic-leaning African-American and Latino voters and students of all ethnicities.
Trump, in fact, is urging his supporters to act as Election Day vigilantes in battleground states. “You’ve gotta go out, and you’ve gotta get your friends, and you’ve gotta get everyone you know and you’ve gotta watch your polling booths, because I hear too many stories about Pennsylvania, certain areas,” he said at a recent rally. “I hear too many bad stories, and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about. So go and vote, and go check out areas, because a lot of bad things happen and we don’t wanna lose for that reason.”
Trump adviser Roger Stone said, “The issue here is both voter fraud, which is limited but does happen, and election theft through the manipulation of the computerized voting machines.”
A nationwide hack of American election machinery is probably impossible. Elections are run by thousands of local governments, loosely supervised by state governments. Each has its own system, ranging from well-run to incompetent. But a hack of electronic voting machines in a few crucial counties in key states is not impossible. And that could affect a close presidential election.
Controversy -- remember Florida 2000? -- will follow fraud charges by Trump and others. This will sow even more doubt about the electoral process among voters ready to believe the worst about government, and inspire demands for a recount.
(Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for Truthdig, the Jewish Journal, and LA Observed. This piece was posted first at Truthdig.com.) Photo: Seth Perlman/AP. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
EASTSIDER-I am old enough to have grown up in and around labor unions and the union-management collective bargaining system, a system that today is largely broken, even as the 1/2 of 1% grow obscenely rich and the rest of us are beggared into a two class system. In fact, most people alive today have never experienced labor unions since manufacturing, American companies with roots in America, and the concept of full time employment of our citizens have all been supplanted by a new system of global financial manipulation masking as “Free Trade.”
I mention all this because there was a method for conflict resolution that came out of those days called “arbitration.” Born out of World War II and the War Labor Board, the idea was to establish a relatively efficient, bilateral system to quickly resolve disputes without the necessity of spending zillions of dollars and decades of time playing with lawyers and the court system. It was well understood then, as now, that the American civil court system is essentially run for the exclusive benefit of those who can afford to use it.
Anyhow, back in the day, arbitration presumed that there were two institutional parties -- labor and management -- who came to the table as relative equals interested in the resolution of their disputes. The idea was that they would agree upon a neutral third party, called an arbitrator, to hear their disputes, cogitate, and render timely, final and binding decisions as to the outcome.
Of course, this system, which worked quite well as an alternative to the courts, flourished in a time when America actually built things in the U.S., and where a significant part of the labor force was unionized and covered by collective bargaining agreements. It also assumed that employees could work for most of their careers for the same employer or industry.
Over time, the concept of lifetime employment relationships with employers was systematically destroyed and unions went into decline. Company CEOs were transformed into financial drones, managing debt rather than actually looking out for the long term health of the companies they ran. I can still recall President Bill Clinton proudly announcing that we should get over the idea of working for one employer, and begin to spend our lives constant retraining for whatever jobs the ‘new economy’ might require. Unmentioned was the implied destruction of pensions, employer-paid medical care, and most of the middle class. Welcome to the new “shared” or “gig” economy.
Arbitration continued, of course, but it was and is largely a niche market for those who still work in a collective bargaining environment -- employees in the public sector and what remains of private sector unions in areas like health care, education and a few other industries who are still the beneficiaries of this system.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. As unions went into decline, those pesky personal injury attorneys started to replace the arbitration of collective bargaining with civil litigation in the court system. Given that there is no real check and balance governing the behavior of companies anymore, it is not surprising that they often engaged in behaviors which did not pass muster in court.
Actually, as a young hot dog union organizer, I used to just love nonunion companies. You could quietly organize a key group of employees, hook up with an attorney, and start filing a bunch of tort claims in court to make them realize a contract was a lot cheaper than a bunch of expensive lawsuits resulting in damage awards, not to mention attorney fees.
While companies hated those “shyster” plaintiff attorneys, even worse from their standpoint was the rise of class action firms who became rich in their own right, jet-setting around the country in search of raw group litigation meat. You know, like John Edwards used to do prior to his presidential dreams.
Ultimately, companies began to feel the economic sting of all of these lawsuits. As firms like Littler, Mendelson and Jackson Lewis managed to destroy the unions, they became the victims of their very success and were putting themselves out of business. The solution was to quickly reinvent themselves as ‘employment law’ specialists to union-free employers.
Of course, never underestimate the ability of a lawyer to turn rules on their head and make up look like down. Finally, the companies and their law firms hit upon a brilliant scheme: Bring back arbitration -- but in a rigged system that they could totally control. This brainstorm morphed into what we call today “mandatory arbitration” agreements.
Here’s how it works: Companies and their high-priced lawyers figured out a long time ago that their worst fear is someone finding a lawyer, going to court, and suing the bejesus out of them for unlawful acts. While the plaintiffs’ attorneys might get the bulk of any award, there was still enough left over for aggrieved citizens to find that lawyer and avail themselves of their constitutional rights. And in the case of class action lawsuits, there was enough money involved that, suddenly, millions of dollars could be at risk just waiting for a hungry attorney.
On the other hand, if you could control the arbitrators, you could (a) largely control the outcome, and (b) deny folks their constitutional right to the civil litigation system. To control the arbitrators, all you really needed to do was create a new class of “arbitrator” where you and your client get to choose the so-called neutral. That way, any arbitrator who rules against you would cease to get any more cases.
Just to give this new system the appearance of propriety, along came a whole class of retired or retiring judges eager to make the big bucks they believed that they were denied when working for the public. You know, in relatively low-paying jobs like superior court judges.
It worked like a charm. Agencies like JAMS & the American Arbitration Association were perfect vehicles to provide the appearance of authority and neutrality for such a system, and served as a shield between the corporate attorneys and the arbitrators themselves. Even better, the arbitrators loved the system, because they could charge hundreds of dollars an hour for their labors without fear of pushback. After all, the attorneys representing the companies were charging more than that, times the number of attorneys involved, so the arbitration fees looked reasonable. Everyone wins except the innocents sucked into the system.
Wow! This worked so well that if you read the fine print in almost any commercial transaction agreement, you will discover (usually too late) that you have given up your right to sue the rascals for any transgressions or misdeeds against you. Instead, you will be subject to a mandatory arbitration clause in lieu of being able to go to court.
If you listen to the people who cooked up these deals, they will proudly declare that this is a fast and efficient way of resolving disputes without clogging up the court system. Just like the tooth fairy is real.
What they won’t tell you is that the corporate attorneys control virtually all of the so-called arbitrators, and you the innocent consumer/employee can be on the hook for 1/2 of the thousands and thousands of dollars that the arbitrators will charge for your little case. In my humble opinion, we have successfully transformed the one dollar one vote of Citizens United into a unilaterally controlled private justice system by this technique.
A Few Examples
If you’re not living under a rock, most of us watched or read about the recent grilling of Wells Fargo’s CEO John Stumpf regarding the millions of fake accounts they made their employees create under threat of termination. Well, buried in the testimony, there is a reference to mandatory arbitration by Mr. Stumpf himself:
“Brad Sherman asked if consumers who had forced arbitration clauses who wanted their day in court would get one. Stumpf tried to pass off the idea that having Wells pay for mediation was just as good but finally admitted, ‘no’.”
Another favorite Wall Street firm of the Great Recession, JP Morgan Chase, is also a great fan of mandatory arbitration. In an article called “Wall Street’s Protection Racket: Mandatory Arbitration,” Pam and Russ Martens point out the huge differences between mandatory arbitration and a court, where the public and the press can actually observe the proceedings, and even write about it.
In point of fact, this issue has become so pervasive that the New York Times recently described the process as “In Arbitration, a Privatization of the Justice System.”
The Times article describes a whole litany of horror stories, including how an ER doctor in Philadelphia brought a sex discrimination suit, was forced into private arbitration, had an ‘in the bag’ arbitrator, and is still paying off some $200,000 that the experience cost her even after she lost the case. The article is part two of a three part report - it’s a good read, and you can follow the links.
It does look like the government has started to figure out that mandatory arbitration clauses are popping up in almost every kind of contract between consumer and corporation. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is actually in the process of adopting a rule that will simply bar mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer financial products (read banksters). Chalk one up to Dodd-Frank.
Also, in a recent 7th Circuit Court of Appeals case in Chicago, the court threw out an arbitration clause which banned employees from joining together as a class to fight their employer.
I mention this case because in many ways it draws my story full circle. In less than a century we have gone from meaningful labor management relations with honest and cost effective arbitration, to attempts to turn arbitration on its head and make unionization as well as group action illegal. Gee, where did that pesky idea of freedom of assembly and association come from? Oh yeah, the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
Moral of the story: read the fine print, and don’t believe the spin doctors.
(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.
LA WATCHDOG--Of the 24 ballot measures on the November ballot, only four are specific to the City of Los Angeles. And of these four, only one deserves a YES vote (RRR - DWP Reform), two deserve a NO vote (HHH - the $1.2 billion homeless bond and SSS – Fire and Police Pension Plans), and one deserves a HELL NO vote (JJJ - Build Better LA). (See Ballot Summaries below.)
When determining how to vote, the first and most important question is whether you trust the proponents of the ballot measure. And in the case of the City of Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council have not earned our trust and confidence as they have not embraced the reform of our City’s finances. They have ignored the excellent budget recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission, have refused to address the Structural Deficit where the increase in personnel expenditures (salaries, pensions, and medical benefits) exceed the growth in tax revenues, have passed on reforming the City’s two pension plans which are $15 billion in the hole, have failed to develop a plan to repair our streets and the rest of our failing infrastructure, and continue to bow to the wishes of real estate developers and billboard operators.
NO on Proposition HHH, the $1.2 Billion Homeless Bond
While our Enlightened Elite who occupy City Hall have told us that addressing homelessness is a priority, they have failed to make the average payment of $65 million a year a budget priority despite a $1 billion increase in City revenues over the last four years and another $600 million over the next four years. Rather than continue with this $2 billion revenue grab over the next 30 years (including interest payments) through an increase in our property taxes, the City has the capacity to pay for the homeless bonds by eliminating their discretionary slush funds, reduce their bloated staffs, and discontinue the hundreds of millions in “giveaways” to international hotel operators and mall operators such as Westfield.
The City has not developed a credible financial plan to fund the $2.8 billion gap between the $4 billion cost of 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing and the $1.2 billion in bond proceeds. Nor has it addressed the over the top cost of $400,000 a unit. Nor has it entered into a definitive agreement with the County which is considering a quarter cent increase in our sales tax ($350 million) to fund its service to the homeless.
The concept of throwing cash at the homeless problem without a financial and operational plan does not pass muster, especially given the lack of meaningful oversight.
For more information, see the CityWatch article, Los Angeles Must Resolve Its Homeless Crisis … This $1.2 Billion Taxpayer Ripoff is Not the Way to Do It.
NO on Charter Amendment SSS, the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension Plans
If approved by a majority of the voters, Airport Police officers will be eligible to participate in the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension Plans (“LAFPP”) instead of the less generous Los Angeles City Employees Retirement System (“LACERS”) plan. But without real pension reform that addresses the billions of unfunded liabilities of both LACERS and LAFPP, this ballot measure does not deserve our support. This scheme will also result in significantly higher pension contributions by the Airport and eventually its airline tenants.
The Los Angeles Times urges a NO vote. Police Pension Measure SSS Raises Too Much Doubt to Support.
HELL NO on Initiative Ordinance JJJ / Build Better LA Initiative
The Build Better LA Initiative is a crude attempt by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor to take advantage of the affordable housing shortage in the City of Los Angeles. It would require real estate developers who request a zoning change or variance to include units of affordable housing in the development and to agree to the equivalent of a Project Labor Agreement. While there has not been any detailed analysis of the financial impact of this measure on housing costs, preliminary estimates indicate that it would drive up costs by 30% to 40%. This added expense will result in a transfer of money intended for affordable housing into the pockets of construction workers and their unions.
This misleading, self-serving ballot measure will make affordable housing more unaffordable.
The Los Angeles Times urges a NO vote. Measure JJJ Could Make LA’s Housing Crisis Even Worse.
For additional information, see the CityWatch article, Build Better LA Initiative: Affordable Housing Made More Unaffordable
YES on Charter Amendment RRR, DWP Reform
The major problem with our Department of Water and Power is City Hall. Unfortunately, this charter amendment does not address the issue of Ratepayers being used as an ATM by Mayor Garcetti and the City Council. Nor are there any major changes in the governance of the Department. But it does allow for more efficient procurement and contracting, increased oversight by the Ratepayers Advocate and a newly created Water & Power Analyst that reports directly to the Board of Commissioner, and a more transparent process of appointing a new General Manager. It also requires the Department and the Board of Commissioners to prepare a Four Year Strategic Plan beginning in 2020 for consideration by the City Council and the Mayor.
The major source of controversy is that this charter amendment begins the process that may lead to the Department establishing its own Human Resources Department for its 9,000 employees that is separate and distinct from the City’s Personnel Department and remove the Department from the City’s cumbersome civil service rules and regulations. The City’s civilian unions are labeling this as a “power grab” because it would lessen their influence over the affairs of the Department and limit the transfer of City employees to better paying jobs at DWP. But any major changes would require Council approval which would “undoubtedly prompt an epic political battle.”
While this ballot measure is not the answer to our prayers, it is a step in the right direction.
As a side note, City Council President deserves a pat on the back for ushering this ballot measure through the City Council. And with his leadership, hopefully other meaningful changes will be implemented by the City Council.
The Los Angeles Times in a very good editorial urges a YES vote.
Ballot Summary / Question
HHH - HOMELESSNESS REDUCTION AND PREVENTION, HOUSING, AND FACILITIES BOND. PROPOSITION HHH.
To provide safe, clean affordable housing for the homeless and for those in danger of becoming homeless, such as battered women and their children, veterans, seniors, foster youth, and the disabled; and provide facilities to increase access to mental health care, drug and alcohol treatment, and other services; shall the City of Los Angeles issue $1,200,000,000 in general obligation bonds, with citizen oversight and annual financial audits?
SSS – CITY OF LOS ANGELES FIRE AND POLICE PENSIONS; AIRPORT PEACE OFFICERS. CHARTER AMENDMENT SSS.
Shall the Charter be amended to: (1) enroll new Airport peace officers into Tier 6 of the Fire and Police Pensions System; (2) allow current Airport peace officers to transfer into Tier 6 from the City Employees’ Retirement System (LACERS) at their own expense; and (3) permit new Airport Police Chiefs to enroll in LACERS?
JJJ – AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND LABOR STANDARDS RELATED TO CITY PLANNING. INITIATIVE ORDINANCE JJJ.
Shall an ordinance: 1) requiring that certain residential development projects provide for affordable housing and comply with prevailing wage, local hiring and other labor standards; 2) requiring the City to assess the impacts of community plan changes on affordable housing and local jobs; 3) creating an affordable housing incentive program for developments near major transit stops; and 4) making other changes; be adopted?
RRR – CITY OF LOS ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF WATER AND POWER (DWP). CHARTER AMENDMENT RRR.
Shall the Charter be amended to: (1) add qualification requirements, stipends and removal protections for DWP Board; (2) expand Board to seven members; (3) require DWP prepare four-year Strategic Plans for Council and Mayoral approval; (4) modify DWP’s contracting, rate-setting and other authority; (5) permit future alternatives to existing civil service standards for DWP employees through collective bargaining; and (6) require monthly billing?
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Jack is affiliated with Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: email@example.com.)
LA WATCHDOG--On Tuesday, the Board of Water and Power Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to approve an above market, 10 year, $41 million lease of four vacant floors of subpar office space at Figueroa Plaza, a 615,000 square foot, City owned office complex located north of the downtown Central Business District.
LA WATCHDOG--On September 28, Mayor Eric Garcetti issued his Fiscal Year 2017-18 Budget Policy and Goals to all of the General Managers of All City Departments. The goals include closing a projected $85 million deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017, identifying over $40 million in new general funds to maintain the City’s current commitment to the homeless, and hiring 5,000 new employees by June 30, 2018 to restore services and replace retiring workers.
This missive is focused on next year’s budget and does not address the long term reforms that are desperately needed to tackle the City’s Structural Deficit (where the growth in personnel costs exceeds the increase in revenues), the massive unfunded liabilities of its two unsustainable pension plans (estimated to be in the range of $15 billion based on a more realistic investment rate assumption), and the deferred maintenance on its infrastructure (estimated to be north of $10 billion).
On October 4, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates (“NCBAs”)* delivered the following recommendation to Mayor Garcetti and the City Council.
Early White Paper Recommendation
The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates (the “NCBAs”) urge the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti to implement the following recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission as part of its budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year:
- Create an independent “Office of Transparency and Accountability” to analyze and report on the City’s budget, evaluate new legislation, examine existing issues and service standards, and increase accountability.
- Adopt a “Truth in Budgeting” ordinance that requires the City to develop a three year budget and a three year baseline budget with the goal to understand the longer-term consequences of its policies and legislation. (Council File 14-1184-S2)
- Be honest about the cost of future promises by adopting a discount rate and pension earnings assumptions similar to those used by Warren Buffett.
- Establish a “Commission for Retirement Security” to review the City's retirement obligations in order to promote an accurate understanding of the facts.
We request that the Budget and Finance Committee assign a Council File for each of the recommendations and agendize each of these items for its next meeting on October 17, 2016.
The implementation of these recommendations will be the first step in addressing the City’s Structural Deficit, the massive unfunded liabilities of its two unsustainable pension plans, and the deferred maintenance on its infrastructure.
The adoption of the recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission will result in increased transparency into the City’s complex operations and finances and begin the process of restoring Angelenos’ trust and confidence in City Hall and its elected officials.
The NCBAs are making these recommendations prior to the 2017 Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates White Paper so that they will be an integral part of the upcoming fiscal year’s budget process.
The NCBAs look forward to a timely response.
Stay tuned to see if Mayor Garcetti and the City Council are willing to implement meaningful reform or will it be business as usual, kicking the can down the road and dumping tens of billions in unfunded obligations on the next generation of Angelenos.
NEED TO KNOW
*The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates are the elected to represent the charter authorized Neighborhood Councils. Their role is to explore, research, study, seek input, prepare and present the concerns and interests of the communities of the City of Los Angeles ("City") about the use of City funds, City revenue collection, City budget and budget allocations, efficiency of City government, City finances, City financial obligations and other such concerns and related to financial matters of the City to the Mayor and City Council.
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(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Jack is affiliated with Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.) – cw
LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti and his budget team are putting a full court press on the Board of Water and Power Commissioners to approve an above market, 10 year, $41 million lease for four vacant floors of office space at Figueroa Plaza, a two tower, 615,000 square foot City owned complex located north of the Central Business District in DTLA. (Photo above: Sculpture by Terry Allen. The bronze statue is located in Downtown L.A. at 7+FIG Plaza, on the corner of 7th and Figueroa Street, outside the corporate offices of Ernst Young)
But this deal, like the previous 10 year, $63 million lease for six vacant floors that was proposed in June, does not pass the smell test because this above market lease is not in the best interests of the Department of Water and Power or its Ratepayers.
Which leads us to the question of whether the five Commissioners, led by President Mel Levine and Vice President Bill Funderburk, will stand up for the interests of the Department and the Ratepayers or will they bow to the pressure from Mayor Garcetti and his budget team who are looking to balance the City’s budget on the backs of the Ratepayers?
Figueroa Plaza is not considered a desirable location for law firms, investment banks, commercial banks, consulting firms, or other professional organizations that occupy Class A space because of its poor location north of the Central Business District. In addition to being out of the way, this older building has a poor reputation for maintenance, services, and amenities. This is not helped by rent roll dominated by government employees.
Yet the City wants our Department of Water and Power to pay Central Business District Class A rents for this subprime space. At the same time, the City wants DWP to pony up $9 million for tenant improvements, an expense that is usually born by the landlord, in this case, the City of Los Angeles.
From the Mayor’s perspective, in the first year of the lease, the City will receive $3 million in rent and “save” $9 million in tenant improvements. This $12 million swing will help the City close its projected $85 million budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year.
The Department maintains that it needs this additional space to accommodate 700 new employees. But without a well thought out Space Utilization Plan for its 9,576 employees, an 8 to 10 year lease is inappropriate, especially given its above market cost.
Any space plan would need to address the updating of DWP’s 50 year old historic headquarters building located across from the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles. But this is problematic as IBEW Local 18, DWP’s domineering union, will assert jurisdiction over all the work at overtime rates, doubling the cost and the time to completion. This will cost Ratepayers an additional $150 to $200 million.
The question has also been raised whether the IBEW and Union Bo$$ d’Arcy would claim jurisdiction over the work at Figueroa Plaza.
At its meeting on September 20, the Board of Commissioners discussed the proposed $41 million lease in closed session. When the $63 million lease was on the agenda in June, the Board deferred the matter until a later time. As a result, there has not been a public discussion or any outreach involving this controversial lease whose main beneficiary appears to be the City, not DWP or the Ratepayers.
The Department has prepared a 229 page memo outlining this transaction. This includes a 161 page report that justifies the lease. But several experts, including potential tenants and their representatives, have discounted this report stating it was “made as indicated” and does not reflect the real rental market.
Will the Commissioners conduct an open hearing on this above market lease? Will the Commissioners demand that DWP prepare a Space Utilization Plan before entering into this above market lease? Will this study include many different alternatives, including selling the DWP headquarters and moving to an area that would benefit from the economic development? Will the Commissioners demand that the Department update its Personnel Plan to reflect the addition of 700 new employees?
In other words, will the Commissioners act in the best interests of the Department and the Ratepayers and tell the Mayor and his budget team to buzz off?
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and a member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: email@example.com.)-cw
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LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Herb Wesson led City Council are using the homeless issue to pick our pockets for almost $2 billion over the next 30 years in an effort to cover up their abject failure to make this unfortunate situation a priority in the City’s budget over the last four years.
If Proposition HHH (Homeless Reduction and Prevention, Housing, and Facilities Bond) is approved by two-thirds of the voters, the City will issue $1.2 billion of bonds over the next ten years. These funds, along with billions from politically wired real estate developers and other governmental entities, will finance the construction of 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing for LA’s homeless population at a cost as high as $4 billion.
LA WATCHDOG--Many believe that California would be better off if we sent Attorney General Kamala Harris to Washington to succeed Barbara Boxer, the 75 year old “junior” senator from California. But then again, is it fair to the rest of the country to stick the nation with the highly partisan Kamala Harris when Loretta Sanchez is the more qualified candidate?
Kamala Harris’ fatal flaw is that she is a staunch opponent of pension reform.
During the last two years, she has authored unfavorable and biased summaries for two bipartisan ballot measures that would have reformed California’s unsustainable pension plans. Pension reform is the most important financial issue facing all levels of government as ever increasing pension contributions are required to cover the estimated unfunded liability of up to $500 billion. But these growing contributions are crowding out basic services such as public safety and the repair of our infrastructure as well as progressive initiatives involving education, affordable housing, and services to the homeless.
This has resulted in numerous ballot measures for new taxes which, despite their stated use, are really going to fund the upside down pension plans.
But rather than endorsing pension reform, Harris sold out to the campaign funding leadership of the public unions who are vehemently opposed to any reform of the very generous pension plans. As a result, Harris has benefitted from significant cash contributions to her campaign war chest.
Obviously, Harris did not get the memo from Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo that “you can’t be a progressive and be opposed to pension reform.”
Ever since Harris was elected Attorney General in 2010, she has used her office as a stepping stone for higher office. Over the years, she has been gallivanting around the country, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on first class travel, five star hotels, and limousines and hitting up the usual out of state suspects for campaign donations.
She has also used her office to reward her campaign contributors. In 2015, Harris placed so many conditions on Prime Healthcare’s acquisition of the money losing hospitals owned by the Daughters of Charity that the buyer walked away from the transaction. According to subsequent litigation, it was alleged that Harris was doing the bidding of the SEIU which was in a labor dispute with Prime Healthcare.
No wonder the SEIU has been so generous to Harris’ campaign war chest.
Harris has been so busy running around the country raising money and planning her next campaign that her office has suffered from the lack of organization and leadership and high turnover. Her office has failed to implement or follow through on numerous initiatives such as gun control and criminal justice. But that has not stopped her from claiming credit for the work of others as was the case with the national mortgage settlement that was spearheaded by the Attorney Generals in New York and Delaware.
Sanchez, on the other hand, has developed a reputation over her twenty years in House of Representatives as a legislator who can work in a bipartisan manner, much like Senator Diane Feinstein who has been an effective proponent for California. She has the endorsement of 17 of the State’s Democratic Congressional representatives, almost double the number that are supporting Harris.
Sanchez also has a strong working knowledge of immigration, a very important issue to Californians, as she is the co-chair of the Immigration Task Force, a member of the Hispanic Caucus, and the daughter of hard working immigrants who achieved the American Dream.
She has an excellent understanding of the water issues facing the State, having worked on matters involving conservation, groundwater, the Salton Sea, and other complex problems facing Orange County and Southern California.
She is a ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, but voted against the Iraq War, and the House Homeland Security Committee.
Without doubt, Sanchez, an MBA and a financial analyst in the private sector before she upset B1 Bob Dornan in the 1996 election, is familiar with the federal budget, a complex issue that impacts all Californians.
While Sanchez and Harris are both Democrats, we have the choice between Harris, a San Francisco ideologue who has derailed pension reform in return for union campaign cash, or Sanchez, a Southern Californian and a seasoned legislator with private sector experience who has demonstrated that she can work in a bipartisan manner to get things done.
While Harris is leading in the polls, Sanchez has the unique opportunity to upset Harris by putting together a coalition of Hispanics, moderate Democrats, independents, and Republicans.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and a member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)