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NC BUDGET ADVOCATES--The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates (NCBAs) are in the throes of "Budget Season". Budget season begun last year on September 28 when Mayor Garcetti released his 2017-18 Budget Policy and Goals to the General Managers of all City Departments other than the three Proprietary Departments (DWP, Harbor, LAX), and the two pension plans, LACERS, and Fire & Police Pensions. In October, the NCBAs issued a Preliminary White Paper where they urged the City Council and Mayor to implement the following budget recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission, a blue ribbon panel formed at the request of City Council President Herb Wesson: 

  • 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 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. 
  • 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. 

Then In November, the city of Los Angeles departments submitted their budget requests to the Mayor and the City Administrative Officer (“CAO”) as well. 

On March 1, Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin released the City's annual revenue forecast. The Controller’s report highlighted increases in City revenues that fail to keep up with increases in City spending and the need to exercise caution in new spending both for the current fiscal year and for the Mayor's soon-to-be proposed budget for 2017-18. 

A week later, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates met with Mayor Garcetti to present the White Paper, "Back to Basics". The 88 page white paper was submitted to the Mayor and other city officials with several recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year. 

On April 20, the Mayor released his Proposed Budget to the City Council. The Mayors Budget highlighted Key investments in the FY16-17 proposed budget supporting the Mayor’s long-term budget priorities of A safe city: By Strengthening our public safety workforce, PROSPEROUS CITY: By addressing the homeless crisis and quality housing at all levels, A LIVABLE AND SUSTAINABLE CITY: Restoring the condition of the public realm and the quality of our environment, A WELL-RUN CITY: Building a customer-focused City workforce and upgrading technology. 

Now it's crunch time, the Budget and Finance committee will begin meeting to consider the Mayor’s budget on Wednesday. Within two weeks, the Adopted Budget is approved by the Mayor and the City Council and July 1, 2017 is the beginning of the new fiscal year. 

The Budget Advocates will engage in further discussion about the contents of the White Paper with the City Council Budget & Finance Committee and will be making a presentation at Budget and Finance meeting on May 1st in the early afternoon. If you as a Los Angeles resident would like to weigh in on the white paper or add your suggestions, please contact the NCBA's Co-Chairs Liz Amsden at LizAmsden@hotmail.com or Jay Handal at sgrest@aol.com.  #NCBALA 

(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: A.Edwards@NCBALA.com.)

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NEIGHBOROOD COUNCILS BUDGET ADVOCATES--Do you want to get more involved? Are you already advocating for your community? Come be a part of Democracy in Action: Budget Day 2017. 

The Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates have invited citizens of Los Angeles to make your voice heard on local City Services, the city’s fiscal budget and how your money is spent. Every community is different and every community has their own set of problem areas. Here is your chance to let the Mayor’s office, Los Angeles City Council and the City Hall Departments know exactly what matters to you the most! 

As elected officials to the City of Los Angeles, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates represent each and every stakeholder in the City of Los Angeles. We invite you to come work side by side with the Budget Advocate to help pinpoint the problem areas in our city as well as highlight the areas that are successful. 

The 36 Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, representing 12 regions throughout the City, will be in attendance. Make your voice heard and follow our progress throughout the year. 

The NCBAs meet twice a month, the first Monday of the month at 7 PM and the third Saturday of the month at 10 AM to discuss the City’s Budget and finances. The NCBAs also meet with most of the departments and issue departmental reports throughout the year. The NCBAs also issue an annual White Paper, usually in March, that contains their recommendations regarding the departments and the Budget. The departmental reports are part of the White Paper. 

For more information and to check out the 2017 white paper, visit NCBALA.com

Please register for this free event:

 

 

(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: A.Edwards@NCBALA.com.)

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NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--The Donald Trump administration may be committed to rolling back regulations that protect the environment, but Harbor Area and South Bay residents are ready to fight. The action at the South Coast Air Quality Management District meeting on April 1 regarding the PBF Energy Refinery in Torrance, is just the latest example.

About 50 of the 300 people in the room resolutely waved “Ban Toxic MFH” signs whenever MHF was mentioned by the board or speakers.

This meeting took place partly as a result of Torrance residents that became active following the former Exxon Mobil refinery explosion two years before PBF Energy took it over. In February, about 100 people marched in the rain to protest the refinery’s continued use of the alkylation catalyst, modified hydrofluoric acid or MHF. Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Los Angeles County Fire Department and PBF Energy gave reports at the hearing. The main topics were the refinery’s MHF, and public opinion on the chemical.

Speakers explained that in 2015, shrapnel from the explosion nearly pierced a tank containing MHF; a rupture or explosion of the tank would have released gaseous MHF that could have affected 30,000 people.

“MHF not only burns because it is an acid, it is a systematic poison,” said Sally Hayati, panelist at the hearing and president of the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance.

Fluoride ions from hydrofluoric acid easily absorb into human skin. They then bond with calcium in human bodies, making it unavailable; without calcium, cardiac arrest can result. Lungs can also fill with blood and water.

Laboratory scientists consider hydrofluoric acid to be one of the most dangerous chemicals to handle. Using EPA guidelines, Hayati and a team of other scientists determined that the worst case scenario from an MHF release would be lethal exposure.

Since the explosion two years ago, the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance has informed the community of MHF’s potential danger as a refinery catalyst. Their campaign has been successful, prompting government officials to respond to the will of the people.

“My No. 1 priority is to make the people safer,” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, who represents Torrance. “I have introduced a plan to the Assembly to not just make [the PBF refinery] safer but all refineries. That includes a ban on MHF.”

Muratsuchi’s plan consists of five Assembly bills: AB 1645, AB 1646, AB 1647, AB 1648 and AB 1649. In addition to banning MHF, the other bills would call for real time air quality monitoring, a community alert system, more refinery inspectors and codification of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Interagency Refinery Task Force.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn, who was also present at the SCAQMD hearing, supports Muratsuchi’s bills.

“This is personal for me … it involves the safety of my constituents,” said Hahn. “It’s a common sense plan.”

Elected officials from Torrance, including the mayor, were in attendance as well. On March 28, the city council voted against a phase out of MHF. However, Mayor Patrick Furey told SCAQMD board members and the audience about two resolutions the council adopted. One encourages the refinery to adopt safety measures. The other supports regulations that include a safer catalyst than MHF.

Safer catalysts include sulfuric acid and solid acid.  Laki Tisopulos, an engineer with the SCAQMD, and Glyn Jenkins, a consultant with Bastleford Engineering and Consultancy, discussed each catalyst and its potential to replace MHF.

They said that sulfuric acid has been used instead of MHF to refine fossil fuels for decades. Out of the 18 refineries in the state of California, 16 use sulfuric acid. Converting the PBF refinery would cost between $100 million and $200 million.

Solid acid technology is newer. But Jenkins said that there is a refinery in the United Kingdom that successfully refines fossil fuels with it. The same refinery switched away from MHF because it was considered too risky. Like the name suggests, the solid acid process uses a solid catalyst. No acid clouds would result from an explosion, making it safer than either the gaseous MHF or sulfuric acid.

Tisopulos estimated that converting the PBF refinery to use solid acid would cost $120 million initially. Additional costs would come whenever the catalyst had to be replaced.

PBF Energy has not embraced the idea of switching catalysts. In an advertisement in the Daily Breeze, the company stated, “We are confident that the many layers of protection, mitigation steps, and safety systems we have in place allow us to operate the MHF Alkylation Unit safely…”

Their own estimate for converting to another catalyst was around $500 million.

“The discourse [between PBF Energy and the community] has been if the chemical is changed, we lose jobs,” Torrance Councilman Tim Goodrich said.

Fearing any potential job loss, various refinery workers and union members stood up during the hearing’s public comment section and said that they support the status quo. They feel the refinery is safe enough and that the explosion this past year was a fluke.

“…[T]here is no reason why MHF can’t be phased out while jobs are protected,” Hahn responded. “I believe the switch will accelerate newer and safer alternatives, innovation,  and lead to better jobs.”

Muratsuchi agreed. He said he doesn’t want to see the refinery shut down, but it should be safer.

In November 2016, the EPA inspected the safety of the PBF Energy refinery.

“They were not following their own safety procedures,” said Dan Meer, assistant director of the Superfund Division of the EPA.

The EPA released a preliminary report on the inspection in March.

“There are issues the refinery needs to address,” Meer said. “If I had to a rate the current risk, with 10 being an emergency situation, [PBF] would be somewhere between a 5 and 7.”

Meer went on to explain that PBF did not have permits to store certain chemicals it has on site. Management is also not effectively communicating with workers, which could be dangerous in an emergency situation. PBF has until the end of April to respond to the EPA and make changes. Otherwise, the EPA will take administrative and legal action.

“This is an urgent public safety risk,” Hayati said. “The refinery should not be in operation at least until the EPA verifies that procedures are being followed.”

Although the local United Steelworkers don’t want to change the catalyst, the steelworkers at the international level feel differently. A study completed by United Steelworkers found 131 HF releases or near misses and hundreds of refinery violations of Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules.

“The industry has the technology and expertise [to eliminate MHF and HF],” the report stated. “It certainly has the money. It lacks only the will.  And, if it cannot find the will voluntarily, it must be forced by government action.”

Los Angeles Harbor

The SCAQMD has plans to release an environmental impact report on the Tesoro Corporation’s desire to combine its Wilmington refinery with the former British Petroleum refinery in Carson. Environmental organizations view the report as flawed and will call attention to Tesoro’s plans at the Los Angeles People’s Climate March on April 29.

In 2012, Tesoro purchased the refinery in Carson. Tesoro’s expansion into that site would include adding storage tanks to hold 3.4 million barrels of oil.

Communities for a Better Environment and other climate advocates oppose the expansion. But the focus of the march will be to inform the people about Tesoro’s lack of accuracy and transparency in detailing the project’s impacts to the SCAQMD.

“Tesoro has said that this project is going to reduce emissions and will be ‘cleaner,’ but they admitted to their investors that they are switching to a dirtier crude,” said Alicia Rivera, a community organizer with Communities for a Better Environment.

In a presentation to investors, Tesoro called the type of crude oil, “advantaged crude.” The advantage is that it is cheaper than standard crude. The new type of crude will originate from the Canadian Tar Sands and the Midwest’s Bakken Formation. (About 75 percent will come from North Dakota and 25 percent will come from Canada.)

“These fuels have different characteristics than what Tesoro is refining [in Wilmington] now,” said Julie May, senior scientist with Communities for a Better Environment. “They behave more like gasoline. They contain more benzene, which is a volatile organic compound that causes leukemia.”

The draft environmental impact report that Tesoro submitted to the SCAQMD does not clearly mention a crude oil switch. In a comment letter to the SCAQMD, May explained that this failure does not meet the California Environmental Air Quality Act’s project description requirements. Consequently, no one can properly analyze the switches’ impacts, environmental effects and risks to community and worker health and safety.

Another major reason Communities for a Better Environment wants to march against Tesoro is the corporation’s failure to properly evaluate the scope of the project. If the environmental impact report is approved, the refinery will receive fuel via ships traveling from Vancouver, Wash. Vancouver is the site of a rail-to-oil tanker terminal in which Tesoro and Savage Energy invested.

“That [terminal] is the bridge to bring dirty crudes from North Dakota and Canada,” Rivera said. “We call the rail cars that transport the fuel ‘bomb trains’ because some have derailed and exploded.”

Refineries and projects like this undoubtedly have an impact on Harbor Area residents. The challenge now for Communities for a Better Environment is getting residents to come out to the march. Rivera and other Communities for a Better Environment members acknowledged that many of residents are immigrants or working class people; for them, climate change is not always a tangible concept nor an immediate concern.

But Communities for a Better Environment is determined.

“We have youth members going to elementary and middle schools and colleges,” Rivera said. “We are pamphleting markets and Catholic churches. When we inform [people] about this project, they want the expansion to stop.”

On the day of the march, Communities for a Better Environment will circulate a petition to marchers.  Its purpose is to pressure the SCAQMD to take Tesoro’s EIR back to a draft stage. Then it can properly detail the project and allow for public input.

The SCAQMD has the authority to finalize the EIR before the march. But that won’t stop Communities for a Better Environment from trying to get the community engaged.

“We need to bring attention to local industries trying to expand in a time when they should be cutting down their emissions,” Rivera said. “Tesoro’s Los Angeles refinery is the highest greenhouse polluter in the state. If the project goes forward, it will be the largest refinery on the West Coast.”

 

(Christian L. Guzman is community reporter at Random Lengths … where this report originated.)

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NC BUDGET ADVOCATES--The city of Los Angeles allows developers to build without adequate parking spaces per unit then tickets vehicles for parking in desperation anywhere they can. It’s a catch 22 and adding to the misery, fines keep increasing each year. The city of Los Angeles is causing the parking problem so why are they charging (ticketing) us? 

Excessive on-street parking is a major issue in Los Angeles. A parking ticket fine in LA on average is $68 but parking is non-existent. So the people of this city are sitting ducks who are quickly fined before they can even put their vehicle in park. If the city keeps going at this rate Los Angeles will be a walking only city. 

According to www.parking.controlpanel.la … a website introduced by the LA Controllers office … the Los Angeles Department of Transportation Citation Program generated close to $148 million in gross ticket revenues in Fiscal Year 2015-16, but some 3⁄4 of ticket revenue went to overhead, salaries and administrative costs. The remaining $41 million was available through the General Fund and used to pay for City services such as police and fire. 

This website also indicates that "the City of Los Angeles also has a responsibility to make sure parking tickets are fair and reasonable". If this is the case, why does the city allow developers to continue to build multi-unit dwellings without sufficient parking? 

Currently Los Angeles drivers who receive tickets for parking violations have a better chance of getting relief because of the 2016 Weiss v. Los Angeles case (Court of Appeal, State of California, 8/8/2016) in which the California Supreme Court ruled that Los Angeles will have to handle parking ticket appeals rather than contracting them out to a for-profit company. 

The ruling came after Cody Weiss filed a lawsuit against the city and lost his appeal of what he believed was an unfair ticket. Weiss sued the city challenging the practice of farming out its ticket appeal process to Xerox, a for-profit company. “Xerox did not give the citizens a fair chance to fight parking tickets,” Weiss told NBC4. “Their motivation was to make money. They were motivated by greed.” 

The issue with Los Angeles did not stop there, around January 2017 budget Advocate Brigitte Kidd was approached by William Taylor a Military Veteran who received a $490.00 traffic citation in the mail and he told her he needed assistance fighting a citation he received on August 7, 2016 at 8:54 am. 

The citation stated that he did not stop for a railroad crossing going westbound on Century Blvd at Grandee Avenue. The letter also instructed Mr. Taylor to respond to Los Angeles Superior Court by September 26, 2016. Mr. Taylor immediately responded claiming that “the timing of the traffic light to the crossing arms and camera has been out of sequence for over three months. Crews have even worked on Sundays to correct the timing issue”. Mr. Taylor claims he did nothing wrong and did not understand why he received a ticket. 

Mr. Taylor appealed the ticket and went to court on November 17, 2016, where he plead not guilty. In court the Judge had Mr. Taylor plea to lesser fine of $285.00 but she did not dismiss the ticket. In response, Mr. Taylor still declaring his innocence, decided to file a civil lawsuit against Metro Transportation Authority and Los Angeles County to get his money back for the traffic infraction. 

After further investigation Mr. Taylor found out the money paid to Los Angeles Superior Court was divided between at least 20 different entities with the last dollar going to Xerox Corporation and that if he wanted to sue he would have to bring all of them to court. 

After finding out this information Mr. Taylor requested a list of the 20 different entities and was denied this information by a MTA representative. After being denied access to this pertinent information, Mr. Taylor filed a complaint with MTA and reached out to several city officials who could not answer any of his questions. 

After not receiving a timely response from MTA, Mr. Taylor went to the next MTA board of directors meeting where he spoke during the public comment time and there he was instructed to meet with a MTA representative in the hallway that could further assist him with this matter. 

In the hallway the MTA representative took down Mr. Taylor’s information and instructed him to file a claim for damages if he wanted to receive a refund. Mr. Taylor agreed but did not understand why he had to file a damage claim instead of MTA just reversing his ticket and giving him his money back. 

Even after receiving a refund Mr. Taylor is still not satisfied because none of his questions about where his $490.00 traffic infraction money went were ever clearly answered. 

Since this incident the city has started making repairs to the light and has also decided to put Eastbound cameras at the Century/Grandee intersection as well and after the local CBS news picked up the Taylor story in February 2017, the city has decided to refund every driver who received a ticket at that intersection a refund but we still have questions. 

Why is a for-profit company still handling Los Angeles city traffic violations after the State Supreme Court ruling?

 

(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: A.Edwards@NCBALA.com.) 

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MY TURN--Personally, it seems to be a combination of schizophrenia, paranoia, disillusionment, idealism, optimistic, and activism. It is difficult to be apathetic living in these times. Events and rhetoric   coming out of Washington DC ranges from the "Gang that couldn't shoot Straight" to "Wow maybe that was a smart move to get China to help with North Korea." 

This almost first 100 days of a new administration has not been boring. It would be good to have a little boredom right now. If I were a betting woman, I would bet that we will not have a "great" tax cut plan; a new "health care" plan; and a government funding continuation this week.   Congress and the White House will probably do what has been done in the past and kick the funding of the government on a temporary basis till September. 

At this stage neither the two political parties or the President can afford to shut the government down!

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Mayor Garcetti did his dog and pony act on budget matters last Thursday and again proved his position as LA's chief cheerleader. My CW colleague Jack Humphreville again jumped in with his "Sky is Falling" commentary on how the Mayor is not being realistic and gave his readers something more to worry about. Both of them are right.   So how do we get to a compromise? 

Unemployment fell in California and our GDP led the federal average. However if the Writers Strike occurs a lot of that good news will quickly disappear. We have the City run-off election on May 16th with two City Council seats, District 1 and District 7. I haven't received a ballot in the mail so I assume I am not involved in any of the runoffs.

I have mentioned in other articles how it seems we in Southern California lives in a bubble. Even Mother Nature looked favorably and ended our drought. Our Governor has done a good job in trying to insulate us from the misguided environmental rollbacks emanating from DC.   Whether they will result in punitive action from the President remains uncertain. 

I was happy to see the CALEXIT group eliminated their ballot initiative for now. California is an important part of this country and when things get tough you don't run away but marshal forces and make changes. 

Lots of hue and cry about California … in particular Los Angeles … being a Sanctuary State or City. I do think that we should deport felonious illegal immigrants. Why do it after their incarceration is beyond me. It is expensive housing prisoners. If they are convicted send them back to serve their prison term in their country of birth.

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Unless you are wealthy the prisons in the US are far nicer than those in other countries. To those who say the criminals will just come back ... we can take part of the ‘wall’ money and put in more technology and personnel to try and keep that from happening. 

Rather than building a "beautiful" wall on our Southern Border it would make more sense and certainly be a more efficient way of saving money and getting rid of undesirable elements. 

Driving without a license is not a felony. Driving without a license and DUI twice is cause for deportation and driving with or without a license and causing an accident is cause for deportation. Maybe we can accomplish two goals ... cut pedestrian deaths which have risen dramatically this last year... and get rid of those who put us in danger every time they get in a car. I wonder what the statistics are on those who commit more than one DUI?

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The two items I am most concerned about in the President's tentative budget are the 20% cut to the National Health Institute and the 30% cut in funding to the EPA. I lived in LA before we had strict regulations. I worked downtown and one couldn't see the next building because of the yellow/brown smog hanging there. 

Now we have more beautiful days than "smog" days. We will never get rid of smog permanently as long as we are a big city. Our geography and love of cars not horses or bicycles will not allow it. But to tell automakers they don't have to adhere to the standards Obama proposed is suicide for the coming generations.

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I can talk about the NIH (National Institutes of Health) from personal experience. Last month a young close family member was diagnosed with Leukemia. If it were eleven years ago her outlook would have been dismal. Fortunately, ten years ago a "miracle" drug was introduced that made this dreaded disease treatable and in many cases full remission was the outcome without the terrible side effects. 

The NIH gives grants to qualifying medical related individuals, pharmaceutical companies, scientists of every ilk to try and eradicate disease.   Again on a personal note, my Brother and Sister-in-law, (Lonnie and Paul Zeltzer) are academic medical Doctors.   As Director of the UCLA Pediatric Pain and Palliative Care Program, my sister-in-law was at the forefront in helping children and adolescents to manage pain. She is invited all over the world to teach some of the techniques she has been instrumental in discovering. 

I was a guest at a recent fundraising event for the UCLA Pediatric and Palliative Pain Program at UCLA. It was organized primarily for and by parents of children who had gone through the Pain Program. I sat there almost in tears and with great pride in hearing these parents talk about how their children not only survived but thrived. Several talked about having a child in a wheel chair and now several years later is a freshman at an away college, or back at a regular High School.   

There is nothing more precious to a parent than the well being of their children. My sister-in-law sits on one of the NIH advisory committees and attends meetings at the Washington DC facility. She has an NIH grant. My Brother is also a Professor and was part of several groups studying immunology for brain tumors. He also is called upon internationally to discuss his work and has been able to work on these life saving measures... and feed his family because of grants. 

If enough people raise their voices about these and other issues it will have an effect. The "March for Science" was awesome. Yes we need to balance our budget. What good is it to be able to shoot down a missile if more people die of heart disease and cancer because of funding? We need a balance! 

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)

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@THE GUSS REPORT-Thomas Sowell nailed it when it comes to politicians: 

DEEGAN ON LA-Lost in the landscape of the homeless people we see across the city are youth experiencing homelessness, struggling to survive. 

They are out there, just like homeless adults, but they have a different sort of pedigree: many are “survivors” of the juvenile justice system or have been aged out of the foster care system. Parental neglect and abuse have also driven many young people into homelessness. 

Nearly 4,000 homeless youth are on the streets of Los Angeles, according to the most recent Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) homeless count. 

They come into their new world of “independence” still dependent on others to help them with the basics that most non-homeless young people have already received from their families and their progression through school: food and shelter, socialization skills, job training and placement, as well as an education.

Many of these wanderers who are educated in the “school of life” find resources tailored just for them at My Friend’s Place in Hollywood. Here, dozens of youth experiencing homelessness drop in every day to access the core free offerings that include the social services triumvirate of Health and Wellbeing, Safe Haven, and Transformative Education programs. For these clients, that translates into case management, legal, medical and mental health referrals, meals and showers, creative arts workshops, educational assistance and help with employment. 

My Friend’s Place serves 1,400 individuals a year and is a member agency of Hollywood Homeless Youth Partnership that calls itself “a collection of preeminent experts on the issues of youth homelessness in Los Angeles, the current homeless capital of America.” As service providers, the Partnership agencies “work to achieve best practices in service delivery with the goal of strengthening interventions to help homeless youth exit the streets, overcoming the traumatic experiences at the core of their homelessness.” 

How does this work? According to Heather Carmichael, Executive Director of My Friend’s Place, (photo, left) “Working with the leading social services providers and educational institutions in the region as well as over 400 volunteers, My Friend’s Place offers a free and comprehensive continuum of care that combines emergency necessities with therapeutic, health, employment and education assistance, and creative arts services through three programmatic areas.” 

The professionally staffed drop-in Resource Center has in its mission statement the goal of “lowering the traditional barriers to service and providing homeless youth with the opportunity to improve their psychological, intellectual and physical capacity to reach their potential.” 

Carmichael has been doing this type of work for over 23 years as a Licensed Clinical Social worker helping at-risk and high-risk youth, and working at My Friend’s Place for 17 years where she has helped grow the organization to be one of the largest comprehensive service centers in Los Angeles for youth experiencing homelessness. 

The composition of this mostly invisible homeless youth population can be eye-opening: My Friend’s Place serves homeless youth ages 12 to 25 and their children. That’s right -- their children -- a mostly under-acknowledged population that is homeless, just like the more familiar populations that are segmented into homeless male adults, homeless women with children, and homeless veterans. 

Any entry barrier that could be created by the cost of services is kept deliberately low for the young people who flock to the safe haven of My Friend’s Place in Hollywood. Carmichael, her staff and dozens of volunteers all work to “create positive attachment” with them, as she describes their process. 

Along with traditional social services, My Friend’s Place has become a beacon for youth with a level of distress above the norm, as described in a recent snapshot by Children's Hospital Los Angeles. In side-by-side categories, these homeless young people were shown to be more vulnerable than homeless youth accessing services at other agencies. The needs assessment conducted by CHLA, with support from the California Endowment, was overlaid with data from My Friend’s Place, revealing that the homeless youth who access services at My Friend’s Place exhibit significantly higher rates of substance abuse, past trauma, and mental health challenges. 

Carmichael explains, “As for the level of distress of the youth receiving support here at MFP, many of the youth we serve have not been able to thrive in other structured environments and have lost housing, been banned from other community resources leaving them with fewer options and leading them to more intense survival behaviors, greater exposure to victimization and the further delaying of healing of childhood abuse and neglect. We operate as a kind of ‘urgent care’ center for youth who are super distrusting of adults and social services. We meet youth ‘where they are at’ in the ultimate intention to engage them on a path toward wellness and stability.” 

A good example of someone helped by their program is 23 year old "Alicia" (she asked that a pseudonym be used to protect her privacy) who offers that "being homeless, you quickly become used to people not caring. But there was never a day I felt like I couldn’t come to My Friend’s Place and find support. Eventually, with the help of My Friend’s Place and other organizations, I got into shelter, I got a job and I began to really work on myself." 

Being a homeless youth in Hollywood does not mean being without friends or a place to get help, as My Friend’s Place now demonstrates five days a week, operating for the past 29 years since 1988 when a small staff started it all by packing 50 sack lunches and heading out for their first Friday night meal drive. They were greeted by over 100 young people in need of food. It was the first of thousands of “moments” in Hollywood that have made My Friend’s Place “home” to homeless youth, and such a significant contributor to the community.

 

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

CITYWATCH RESISTANCE WATCH--My day began bright and early yesterday at 5:00 a.m. I and two friends loaded up the car with our DJ equipment and headed off to the March for Science at Pershing Square. As official DJs for the march, we had permission to set up our gear at the corner of 6th and Hill. After setting up and securing our official t-shirts, I headed off to the press booth to pick up my press badge. 

The day was a scorcher but the mood was buoyant as some 50,000 people gathered to send a message to public servants from local and state officials to the Trump administration: BELIEVE IT OR NOT, SCIENCE IS REAL. 

I was doing double duty at the event which marked the 47th anniversary of Earth Day. I spoke to dozens of people of all ages and nationalities about why they came down to Pershing Square. Here is some of what they said: 

Earth Day 2017 at the March for Science LA    

The event was a great way to get first hand information from all manner of scientists, researchers, activists, educators and enthusiasts. The speakers list was filled with brainiacs like organizers Jennifer and Philip Wheeler, CSUN astrophysicist Farisa Morales, seismologist Lucy Jones, US congressman Brad Sherman, high school student Joanne Boadi, Children’s Hospital LA pediatrician Diane Tanaka, NextGen Climate founder Tom Steyer, Hidden Figures screenwriter Allison Schroeder, and CSUN plant biologist Maria Elena Zavala. 

The Square was lined with booths from scientific and environmental organizations such as NASA, Cal Tech and the Sierra Club with scientists and activists holding impromptu educational sessions right then and there. 

As for my time over at the DJ booth, we had people getting into the groove to the sound of cumbia, salsa, tribal, jazz and African beats with a dash of classic oldies from the 60s through 90s and a pinch of today’s top hits. We’ve also added a new addition to our collective – DJ Rockin’ Riot. His infectious brand of Record Hop with Wild Boppers, Hot Jivers & Cool Strollers had dreaming of lindy hop magic as they waited in line for the various offerings from the food trucks lining Hill Street near our booth. 

It was a beautiful day on Earth Day 2017 and I am filled with hope at the fact that 45 is making resisters out of people who never thought they would be protestors. #KeepResisting !!

(Jennifer Caldwell is a an actress and an active member of SAG-AFTRA, serving on several committees. She is a published author of short stories and news articles and is a featured contributor to CityWatch. Her column at www.RecessionCafe.wordpress.com is dishing up good deals, recipes and food for thought. Jennifer can be reached at recessioncafe@yahoo.com.  Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jennifercald - Twitter: @checkingthegate ... And her website: Jenniferhcaldwell.com) 

-cw

THE PREVEN REPORT--The publication of the Pentagon Papers on June 13, 1971 is often cited as the newspaper industry's finest moment.  And the hero of that moment is, by almost every account, Arthur Ochs "Punch" Sulzberger, then publisher of the New York Times, who made the decision to print the leaked documents despite the sternest of warnings from the Times' longstanding outside law firm. 

With the press under siege now, Sulzberger’s heroism takes on special significance—especially if you understand the not widely known context of his decision. 

For a year and a half, Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon consultant who leaked the 7000 page document, had been trying to make those papers public; in particular, he had approached several prominent members of Congress, including William Fulbright, George McGovern, Charles Mathias, and Pete McCloskey, pointing out that those men would have immunity from prosecution because of the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution. By putting the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional record, those elected officials would have insured that the papers could not be locked away unseen. 

And yet despite their anticipated immunity, not one of the Congressmen approached by Ellsberg was willing to take the risk.  

Sulzberger’s decision to publish, by contrast, was made with the full knowledge that he would not have any of the immunities just described. And he was told by his outside lawyers in no uncertain terms that he could very well go to prison for choosing to publish. To print the papers, they warned, could be construed as treasonous and would in any case be unpatriotic and irrevocably defaming of the paper. 

All this faced by a man who had assumed the leadership role at the Times unexpectedly and at a point when no one believed he was ready. He was just 36 years old, making him the youngest New York Times publisher in that paper's history.  He had also been under attack in some circles for extending the paper into commercial enterprises such as more casual sections having to do with things like fashion.   

Sulzberger took several days to consider the decision—his editor in chief Abe Rosenthal threatening to resign if the papers weren’t published—but in the end he made his famous choice, and not just to publish but to do so on the front page, where the documents' impact was predictably powerful, leading to demonstrations in the streets against the war.  

This was not a time when those decisions were made lightly. The press at that stage was far more trusting and compliant with government, generally deferring to their authority. 

Just hours after the Pentagon Papers were printed on June 13, 1971,  President Nixon, in a telephone call with Henry Kissinger, expressed amazement at the boldness of Sulzberger’s decision.  

''My God,'' the president said, ''can you imagine The New York Times doing a thing like this 10 years ago?” Kissinger couldn’t. Nor could the rest of the free world. Nor perhaps could Sulzberger himself. But he did it. And that’s what counts.

 

(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer and Joshua is a teacher.)

-cw

THE POLITICS OF RACISM-I wanted to believe that Jeff Sessions is not a racist. I wanted to believe that even if he was a racist as a young man that he has since converted to a higher plane of thinking. I wanted to believe that he is a changed man because I believe that anyone is capable of redemption. After-all, St. Paul hunted down early Christians. Tolstoy was a slave owner. And Nelson Mandela almost blew up a school bus as a terrorist. We are all capable of undergoing unfathomable transformation if divine grace and luck have their way. 

We are also capable of remaining the same for our entire lives. Like the calcium that never gets discovered, we can remain locked in sediment forever. As much as I wanted to believe Attorney General Jeff Sessions is no longer an old fashioned bigot from another time in our nation's history, his public words once again reveal a belief system that blatantly denigrates minorities and belittles the “other.” 

Most recently, he said that he was “amazed” a judge in Hawaii could halt President Trump’s order blocking people from six predominately Muslim countries from entering the U.S. 

As first reported on CNN, Trump’s top lawman said on The Mark Levin Show: “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.” 

The judge he is referring to is U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, a Hawaii native, who issued an order March 15 that put a stop to Trump’s second attempt at an unconstitutional and immoral travel ban. Sessions’ Department of Justice is challenging this before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco.

There are several aspects to Session’s flub that I find disconcerting as an American citizen. First, what is Sessions doing on “The Mark Levin Show?” How is this a sign of good sense, common decency, and legal impartiality? As the nation’s most influential broker of crime and punishment, and as the supreme arbiter of social justice, Jeff Sessions should know that Mark Levin is a media personality who makes a living inciting impassioned feelings that verge on hate speech. The very act of showing up on his program is a violation of his ethical duties. 

Second, Sessions is “amazed” that a judge in Hawaii could halt the president because he has never held genuine respect for people of color. He has done everything that is required of him to not ruin his political career -- and he has been careful to strategically amend his views with the passage of time -- but Jeff Sessions has always held a derogatory opinion of minorities in this country. He has been especially brutish to African-Americans. 

In 1986, a Senate committee denied Sessions, then a 39-year-old U.S. attorney in Alabama, a federal judgeship. His former colleagues testified Sessions used the n-word and joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought they were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.” 

That should have ended his rise to power. That is to say, if we lived in a non-racist society, those words would have stopped him cold in his tracks. We obviously live in a thoroughly racist society because the author of those words not only survived, he kept going all the way to the U.S. Capital. 

Third, what difference does it make that it was a judge from an island? What if we replaced the word “island” with “judge from the ghetto?” What if we replaced the word “island” with “judge from Islam,” or “judge from the LGBTQ community?” What if the word “island” was replaced with “judge from the opposite sex?” We would think that he was out of touch, demeaning, uncouth, and politically stupid. We would say that he is not equipped for the role of United States Senator. He certainly is not capable of leading the nation's law enforcement apparatus in the 21st century. His ideas are outmoded. His worldview is archaic. His way of using power is both obsolete and ineffective. 

The ideas that Sessions represents are dinosaurs that should have gone extinct as a result of the meteorite that was the Civil Rights Movement. Like a bridge between two eras, the Attorney General represents the reason we need to cross over into the promised land of a dream no longer deterred.

 

(George Cassidy Payne is a writer, photo journalist, SUNY Adjunct Professor of Humanities and a CityWatch guest contributor.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

CALIFORNIA DEATH PENALTY FANS … TAKE HEED--Appointed February 13 by ousted “Love Gov” and misdemeanant Robert Bentley, Alabama’s Attorney General (AG) Steven Marshall is new on the job. 

This could, in theory, be one reason AG Marshall is taking to Twitter, Facebook, and Alabama’s news media to drum up support for the so-called “Fair Justice Act.” He promises the proposed law will speed the state’s executions by hacksawing the amount of time already overwhelmed and underfunded death penalty attorneys have to effectively represent their clients. 

Vociferous in his support of the “Fair Justice Act” – a bill there’s nothing fair about  – it’s notable and unacceptable that AG Marshall has yet to make any public statement explaining the horrible circumstances of Alabama’s last execution – the horrendously botched execution of Ronald Bert Smith on December 8, 2016; Mr. Smith endured a thirteen-minute death-rattle as lethal injection chemicals ravaged his insides – when he was supposed to be unconscious – heaving, coughing, clenching his fists, moving his lips, and opening his left eye. 

Smith’s grisly torture followed Alabama’s January 2016 execution of Christopher Brooks, an execution where questions remain whether, like Smith’s patently brutal and violent poisoning, Brooks too was not properly anesthetized and then burned alive from the inside with caustic chemicals. Other than opaque and blanket denials in court filings, AG Marshall has thus far adopted the same officious silence on the possibility Alabama tortured Brooks to death – just as it did Smith. 

Conscientious Alabamians can’t let AG Marshall get away with it. 

Conscientious, justice-loving Alabamians who want to ameliorate Alabama’s long, dark history of capital punishment – and its reputation around the world for human and civil rights abuses – must demand AG Marshall investigate and publicly address the circumstances of both Smith and Brooks’ deaths. 

Conscientious, justice-loving Alabamians should harangue AG Marshall and the Fair Justice Act’s legislative sponsor, state senator Cam Ward, to answer: Why are you pushing a poorly drafted, unstudied, confusing new death penalty law to speed up executions? Why are you doing it right now – when all available evidence shows the last two executions in Alabama went horribly wrong? 

Moreover, although the current version of the bill under consideration by the House of Representatives provides a meager 365 days (provided for by current law) instead of the disastrous proposal of chopping it to 180 days for the filing of postconviction motions – the shortened time period the bill would impose is still way too short for even the best, most committed, most hard-working lawyers to effectively investigate and litigate motions for death-sentenced clients in Alabama. 

That’s because of yet another one of the Fair Justice Acts’ proposed time-accelerators for the filing of these complex Last Chance Not to Be Executed (Tortured) Despite Your Constitutional Rights Having Been Violated-type motions – motions advancing claims of juror misconduct or that the defense lawyer was a train wreck – not infrequent occurrences in capital cases in Alabama. 

This additional cockamamie time-accelerator in The Fair Justice Act was deconstructed at the end of last week in a cogent op-ed by Birmingham attorney, Lisa Borden.  Borden writes how the bill “would require persons convicted of capital offenses to pursue post-conviction legal claims at the same time the direct appeals from their convictions are being considered.” 

Mincing no words, Borden waves the red flag of warning at all folks who care about the Constitution and preventing injustice in Alabama, opining that this “proposal is neither fair nor just, and [it] will only increase the already substantial likelihood that Alabama will execute a wrongfully convicted person . . . . [It] take[s] a long time to untangle the convoluted mess that is created by Alabama’s haphazard rush to send poor people to their deaths.”       

Conscientious Alabamians concerned that, like Ray Hinton, freed after a hellacious thirty years on Alabama’s death row proclaiming his innocence, additional innocents might be unjustly thrust towards terrible and inhumane deaths – without an adequate chance to prove their innocence and/or that their constitutional rights were violated – you need to speak up. You need to speak up now! 

Demand that instead of potentially innocent, unfairly convicted poor Alabamians, that it be this unprincipled, unconstitutional, blood-thirsty Fair Justice Act that’s killed. 

And killed fast.

 

(Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas including CityWatch. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California. Follow him on Twitter @SteveCooperEsq)

INFORMED COMMENT-The marches for science in the United States and around the world are an expression of alarm about the Trump administration’s budget proposals, which slash public funding for science, medical and technology research and seek to increase the Pentagon budget by $54 billion. 

Federal funding for certain kinds of research is absolutely crucial. There are diseases, for instance, that private companies don’t see as a priority because they strike a small number of people or the cure for which is unlikely to produce big profits because most victims are poor and live in the global south. 

If you live in Florida or other semi-tropical parts of the U.S., and your family is expecting a child, you may be alarmed at the rise of the Zika virus. It is the National Institute of Health that is funding the search for a vaccine. Perhaps you remember the deep public concern about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014. Who is working on a vaccine? The U.S. government and Merck.  In the U.S. system, vaccine development is a government-private-public partnership: “Of the $1.4 billion that fund U.S. vaccine research and development annually, 46% comes from vaccine sales, 36% from taxpayers, and 18% from risk capital.” 

As for technology, entrepreneurs most often build on government-funding. Of a ten-mile journey toward innovation, 9 of the miles are often traversed by government-backed research, and the entrepreneurs come in for the last mile. Forbes admits, “the basic technologies that Apple AAPL -0.13% products are built on (and those of all tech firms), from the chips, to the Internet, to GPS, to the software protocols, were all supported or wholly developed by government programs.” 

Trump’s cuts will not only make us sick and retard the technological advances that make our lives more convenient, he will harm us in precisely the area he imagines himself to champion – U.S. competitiveness. 

You don’t compete with the rest of the world by giving an extra $54 billion to the military and deeply cutting research and development (R&D) funding. 

The National Science Foundation observes that China, South Korea and India are putting enormous government money into R&D, as well as investing in science education and the production of skilled science and engineering students. Trump, in contrast, gave away U.S. education to Betsy DeVos, who ruined Michigan K-12 education and wants Americans brought up in fundamentalist charter schools.  

The NSF writes, “Indicators 2016 makes it clear that while the United States continues to lead in a variety of metrics, it exists in an increasingly multi-polar world for S&E that revolves around the creation and use of knowledge and technology. According to Indicators 2016, China is now the second-largest performer of R&D, accounting for 20 percent of global R&D as compared to the United States, which accounts for 27 percent. 

China is already increasing its annual outlay far more than the United States, growing R&D spending nearly 20 percent a year every year from 2003 to 2013. That rate of increase far outstripped that of the U.S. in those years, and now Trump actually wants us to slash spending, while the Chinese go on investing in technological innovation.

The day when China outspends the U.S. on research and development annually is just around the corner, and Trump’s budget would bring it even more quickly. 

In some areas, China is nipping at our heels. The global share of the US in high-tech manufacturing? 29%. 

The global share of China in high-tech manufacturing? 27%! Almost half of all the bachelor’s degrees awarded every year in China are in Science and Engineering. 

In the U.S. it is only one third. 

While China and South Korea massively ramp up government R&D investments, the Tea Party Congress in the U.S. has been deeply cutting ours. 

“In 2013, government funded R&D accounted for 27 percent of total U.S. R&D and was the largest supporter (47 percent) of all U.S. basic research”... “Indicators shows that Federal investment in both academic and business sector R&D has declined in recent years… Since the Great Recession, substantial, real R&D growth annually -- ahead of the pace of U.S. GDP -- has not returned.” 

Inflation-adjusted growth in total U.S. R&D averaged only 0.8 percent annually over the 2008-13 period, behind the 1.2 percent annual average for U.S. GDP. 

The world will not stand still while Trump walks the nation’s science and technology into mere clay.

In fact, if Trump gets his way on the science budget, my advice to Americans is to start studying Chinese. 

Ooops. Trump is cutting money for that, too.

 

(Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan and an occasional contributor to CityWatch. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia. This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s website.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LA WATCHDOG--On Monday, April 17, the Board of Public Works approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the Bureau of Sanitation and Discovery Cube Los Angeles to “develop, promote, and assist with Sanitation’s educational events and programs for a term of three years at a cost not to exceed $3 million.”  This includes increasing the awareness of the City’s environmental programs and services and promoting environmental stewardship for the next generation of Angelenos.  

But this deal is accompanied by an unpleasant aroma because of the controversial “investment” in 2013 of $7.5 million in the Discovery Cube by Sanitation and the Department of Water and Power and the failure of the Board members to analyze the economics and efficiency of this $3 million transaction. 

The Discovery Cube has a spotted history.  

In 2003, then City Council President Alex Padilla (now California’s Secretary of State) hatched an ill-conceived plan to move the Children’s Museum to the Hansen Dam complex, an out of the way location 22 miles north of City Hall.  By 2013, the City’s mismanagement resulted in a $22 million “architectural eyesore” that needed an additional $21 million to design and build the exhibits. And if the City failed to open the museum, it would be on the hook to repay $18 million to other governmental entities.    

As part of its reorganization plan, the City entered into a long-term management contract with Discovery Cube Orange County, a successful operator of a strategically located science oriented museum in Santa Ana. 

The City Council also decided to hit up Sanitation for $3.6 million by raiding the Sewer and Solid Waste Recovery funds that are financed by the fees that are part of our DWP bill. In addition, DWP and its Ratepayers were fleeced for $3.9 million, for a total of $7.5 million. 

While the City Council justified the heist of our money by saying that our children would benefit from this “world-class education center” and environmentally oriented museum, this investment was the responsibility of the Department of Recreation and Parks and the City’s General Fund, not the DWP and Sanitation Ratepayers. 

Of course, in their haste to approve this new contract, none of this history was discussed by the Board members when it approved this $3 million contract that once again involved the inappropriate use of our money. 

Nor did the Board members discuss the services to be performed under this open-ended contract that did not have a specific work plan or a specific list of projects.  But more to the point, they did not examine the capabilities of the Discovery Cube and its ability to deliver cost effective services to Sanitation, especially when compared to other advertising mediums or venues.  

Nor did the Board members consider the financial condition of the Discovery Cube and whether it is generating enough cash to cover its $5.4 million operating budget.  More than likely, the museum is not hitting its financial projections and is running short of cash.  This places the City in an awkward position which is why the Mayor and the City Council are putting the arm on Sanitation and its Ratepayers to fund the operational shortfall of this poorly located facility. 

But once again, this financial obligation belongs with Rec & Parks and the General Fund, not the Sanitation Ratepayers. 

The Mayor, the City Council, and the Board of Public Works will not have second thoughts about sticking it to Sanitation’s Ratepayers.  But this will confirm why we cannot trust them to be responsible stewards of our money. 

But this is nothing. Just wait until we see the games they are playing with the Budget.  Hearings begin on Wednesday at 1 PM at City Hall.  Bring your hip boots.

 

(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:  lajack@gmail.com.)

-cw

 

 

 

LA WATCHDOG--We are still ploughing through the more than 1,800 pages of budget material that was dropped on us this afternoon, trying to figure out what games the City is playing to finance this year’s budget deficit and how it proposes to close the $245 million budget gap for the upcoming fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017. 

However, based on the City’s General Fund Budget Outlook, our Back to Basics City is having a difficult time living within its means as the cumulative budget deficit over the next four years is expected to be almost $300 million despite a $675 million increase in revenues. 

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, the last full year of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s second term, the City is projecting a surplus of $10 million, a pittance considering that over his nine years in office, revenues are expected to increase by $1.9 billion, or 42%. 

This modest surplus of $10 million is pure fiction.  It does reflect the real world.  

The Budget Outlook does not take into consideration any new labor contracts for the police, firefighters, and civilian workers.  This will cost the City at least $200 million a year more than projected.

The annual required contribution to the City’s two underfunded pension plans are understated as it is unlikely that the return on invested assets will meet the assumed rate of return of 7.5%, an overly optimistic rate per investment professionals such as Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway fame and fortune.

The City may also follow the example of CalPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System), the country’s largest pension plan, by lowering its investment rate assumption. This would add hundreds of millions to the annual required contribution. 

The City is also not addressing the deferred maintenance on its streets, sidewalks, parks, trees, building and facilities, and the rest of its deteriorating infrastructure. The deferred maintenance ticket has been estimated to be north of $10 billion a year. 

If the City were to have a comprehensive plan to repair and maintain our streets and sidewalks, it would require at least another $100 to $200 million a year.  

The City also needs to strengthen the Reserve Fund to an amount equal to 10% of General Fund revenues, a level recommended by the City Administrative Officer.  The $100 million Budget Stabilization Fund would also be included in the rainy-day fund calculation.  This will require an investment of $250 million over the next five years. 

This additional investment in the Reserve Fund will benefit from the issuance of $60 million of Judgment Obligation Bonds, a done deal given the City’s desperate need for cash. 

In his State of the City address, Mayor Eric Garcetti said that “our work will not be measured by what we do for ourselves today.  It will be remembered for what we leave behind for our children and grandchildren.” 

Despite all the fine rhetoric and lofty goals, we are doing a “disservice” to the next generations of Angelenos as we will leave them with a broken system and tens of billions in liabilities that will devour their future as they will pay for the sins of the past. 

Back to Basics means that the City of Los Angeles must learn to Live Within Its Means. 

(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:  lajack@gmail.com.)

-cw

LA WATCHDOG--On Thursday morning, Mayor Eric Garcetti will deliver his State of the City address at City Hall where he will present his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year beginning on July 1, 2017. And over the next two weeks, the Budget and Finance Committee headed by Paul Krekorian will conduct a review of the budget, even though the major points have already been negotiated behind closed doors.     

In California, elected officials at all levels of government are constantly complaining about the need for more money, even though we are one of the highest taxed states in the county.  At the same time, something is not right as we have the worst roads in the nation and vital services are being crowded out by ever increasing pension contributions.    

Over the past year, the tax burden for the four million Angelenos has ballooned by almost $1.6 billion.  This includes not only taxes initiated by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council, but our proportionate share of numerous other taxes and fees dumped on us by the County, State, and other governmental entities.  This ding of $1.6 billion does not include the Soak the Rich income tax surcharge (Proposition 55) that would have added $700 million to the tab.  

Most of us do not recognize the enormity of these tax increases because they are spread over multiple jurisdictions.  They also come in many different shapes and forms: property taxes, parcel taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes, vehicle license fees, storm water taxes (aka the Rain Tax), income taxes, and a 20% tax on our DWP power bill.  

LIVE LA BUDGET MEETING COVERAGE BEGINS THURSDAY—ON CITYWATCH

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For the average Angeleno, the $1.6 billion hit averages about $390 per person, or $1,560 for a family of four. 

To put it in a different perspective, if all these new levies were placed on our houses and apartments, our property taxes would balloon by almost 30%. 

Or if the $1.6 billion in new taxes were to be paid via the sales tax, it would soar to 11.4%. 

But wait, there’s more! 

The City, the County, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and State, are seriously considering an additional $2.7 billion in new taxes.  

This does not include any initiatives from the Los Angeles Unified School District. Nor does it include any direct taxes to pay for our share for the tens and tens of billions of the unfunded pension liabilities, although a good argument can be made that a portion of these new and contemplated taxes will indirectly fund our ever-increasing pension contributions.  

Combining the contemplated taxes with the 2016 and 2017 tax increases, the hit is $4.3 billion, or $1,100 for every Angeleno, $4,400 for a family of four and would result in a 16% sales tax (up over 80%), and an 80% bump in our property taxes. 

So, when our elected officials come pleading poor mouth, you know the not so proper response to these money grubbing, self-servicing politicians.  We are not your #*@^&+# ATM.   

++++++++ 

The following is a list of new taxes by jurisdiction which details our proportionate share.  They are followed by taxes that are being considered by the financial wizards who occupy City Hall, the County Hall of Administration, the AQMD, and the State Capitol.  You can also access the attached spread sheet for a one page summary.  

NEW TAXES 

City of Los Angeles (100%) 

Measure HHH – The $1.2 billion homeless bond that was approved by voters in November will cost us an average of $65 million a year for the next 30 years. 

DWP – The five year, $1 billion rate increase in our water and power rates that was approved by Mayor Garcetti and the City Council will provide the City with $150 million in tax revenue by 2021.  

Metro (40%) 

Measure M – The half cent increase in our sales tax that was approved in November is projected to raise $750 million a year. Our 40% share is $300 million. 

County (40%) 

Measure A – The parks parcel tax will raise about $100 million.  Our 40% share is $40 million. 

Measure H – The quarter cent increase in our sales tax that was approved in March will provide $375 million to fund services for the homeless. Our 40% share is $150 million. 

Los Angeles Community College District (75%) 

Measure CC – The $3.3 billion bond that was approved in November will cost us an average of $150 million over the next 30 years. 

State of California (10%) 

Measure 51 – Our share of the $9 billion educational facilities bond that was approved in November is $50 million a year for the next 30 years. 

Measure 56 – Our share of the $1.4 billion cigarette tax that was approved by the voters in November is $140 million a year. 

Gas Tax (SB 1 - The Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017) – Governor Jerry Brown recently approved the $5.2 billion a year increase in the gas tax and vehicle license fees. We are on the hook for $520 million a year.  

TAXES UNDER CONSIDERATION 

City (100%) 

Street Bond – The Measure M Local Return revenue from Metro and the funds allocated to local governments in the new Gas Tax reduced the street repair bond to $2 billion from $4.5 billion.  This will cost us $120 million for the next 30 years. 

The Affordable Housing Linkage Fee will raise an estimated $100 million a year from new residential and commercial developments. This fee will eventually flow through to us as there is no such thing as a free lunch. 

County (40%) 

Stormwater Tax – The County is considering a Rain Tax (“God created rain and you figured out how to tax it.”) to finance a $20 billion storm water capture plan over the next 20 years.  Our share will be $400 million a year. 

South Coast Air Quality Management District (25%) 

The SCAQMD is discussing an increase in the vehicle license fee of $30, raising an estimated $300 million.  This money will fund smog reduction programs in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties.  Our share will be an estimated $75 million.  

State (10%) 

Sales Tax - Senator Bob Hertzberg is pushing to expand the sales tax to include services.  Our share of the $10 billion increase will be $1 billion. 

Split Roll – Property taxes on commercial and manufacturing property would be based on market value and not on the values established under Proposition 13.  Our share of this $10 billion tax haul will be $1 billion. 

UC Bonds – The State is considering asking the voters to approve a $2 billion bond to finance facilities for the University of California and the California State University systems. Our share will be $12 million a year for the next 30 years. 

Park Bonds – The State is also considering placing a measure on the ballot to raise $3 billion to pay for the repair of the neglected State Parks.  Our share will be $18 million a year for the next 30 years. 

The creative geniuses that are responsible for our Structural Deficits, our lunar cratered streets and failing bridges, and tens of billions in unfunded pension liabilities will no doubt create other schemes to pick our pockets. They will select a hot button issue that appeals to our sympathies that has been underfunded because they are not willing to prioritize their spending, preferring to answer the demands of the campaign funding leaders of the City’s public unions. 

Tax Angeles … to be continued!  Unfortunately!

 (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:  lajack@gmail.com.)

-cw

LA WATCHDOG--Contrary to the recommendation of Controller Ron Galperin, the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution on Wednesday approving the issuance of up to $60 million of Judgment Obligation Bonds.  The net proceeds will be used to replenish the City’s Reserve Fund that has been the source of the cash needed to pay for a slew of lost law suits that far exceeded the $68 million in the City’s budget. 

Under this plan to fatten up the Reserve Fund, the City will be on the hook for annual payments of almost $8 million for the next ten years, a total of $80 million.  This includes approximately $20 million in interest payments to wealthy California investors who love double tax exempt bonds, money that the City could devote to priorities such as our streets and sidewalks, Vision Zero (safe streets), or the homeless.  

This annual payment of $8 million is in addition to the $9 million payment associated with the $50 million of Judgment Obligation Bonds issued in 2010 to fund, in part, the legal payments involving the May Day demonstrations in and around McArthur Park in 2007.  

Galperin, on the other hand, recommends that the City save $20 million in interest expense by forgoing the issuance of the Judgment Obligation Bonds.  He proposes to restore the balance of the Reserve Fund to a level above the targeted threshold amount of $279 million (an amount equal to 5% of the General fund revenue) by sweeping unspent departmental funds at year end into the Reserve Fund. 

Financing everyday operating expenses (including legal judgments) and the Structural Deficit with long term debt is a fool’s solution that is embraced by Paul Krekorian, the Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee of the City Council.  Not only is it poor financial policy, it burdens the next generation with the sins of the past.  

At the City Council, Krekorian argued that it was prudent for the City to preserve the option to issue the Judgment Obligation Bonds because of the great uncertainties facing the City.  These include projected budget deficits, revenue shortfalls, pressure on the Reserve Fund, a downturn in the economy, less money from Washington, a downgrade by the rating agencies, an adverse stock market, and a lowering of the investment rate assumption for the City’s two pension funds.  

But this argument of preserving the City’s options is pure baloney.  When City Hall smells new sources of cash, it is full speed ahead.  There is no more dangerous place than standing between the members of the City Council and new cash for the General Fund unless it is between them and campaign contributions from real estate developers. 

The Judgment Obligations Bonds would not have been necessary if Krekorian and his Budget and Finance Committee had followed the recommendation of the City Administrative Officer to increase the Liability Claims budget to $120 million, a number approximating the prior year’s expenditure of $110 million, almost a double of the budgeted $68 million.  

If the Krekorian and the Budget and Finance Committee had been true stewards of the City’s treasury and our money, they would not have needlessly diverted $213 million from the Reserve Fund to the General Fund over the last three years to pay for everyday operating expenses.  After all, revenues during this three-year period increased by almost $600 million. 

If the Reserve Fund had not been raided, its balance would be almost $500 million, negating the need for any Judgment Obligation Bonds. 

Krekorian also said that the lowering of the investment rate assumption for the City’s pension plans would be a “disserve to the public” because it would increase the City’s pension contributions by hundreds of millions.  But that begs the question of how he proposes to eliminate the City’s unfunded pension liability that is estimated by Moody’s Investor Services to be more than $20 billion. 

But it is Krekorian and his Budget and Finance Committee that are doing a “disservice to the public” by continuing to kick the budget can down our lunar cratered streets and broken sidewalks.  We have rivers of red ink, Structural Deficits, massively underfunded pension plans, and some of the worst streets in the nation. 

As a first step in reforming our City’s finances, deep six the Judgment Obligation Bonds and save us $20 million. 

And then Krekorian and his Budget and Finance Committee need to develop a long term plan that will require the City to Live Within Its Means. Is that too much to ask of the highest paid City Council in the country?

(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:  lajack@gmail.com.)

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RESISTANCE WATCH--As President Donald Trump is set to mark his first 100 days in office on Saturday, the resistance movement that sprang up alongside his rise to power is also celebrating its accomplishments and taking stock of where it stands—and where it is going. (Photo above: Women’s March 2017, Los Angeles.)

Much has been said about the failure of Trump to live up to the promises of his campaign, which Democratic lawmakers are highlighting this week. 

But, as many have noted, the swell of popular opposition has not only stymied the administration's plans to ban Muslim visitors or dismantle healthcare for 30 million Americans. It has also prompted a reckoning within the Democratic Party, forcing establishment leaders to move left and bringing popular progressive ideas such as a single payer healthcare system into mainstream conversation.

Alicia Garza, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, said Sunday that despite the many "low points" over the past few months, she is "hopeful."

"The disorganization of our political landscape offers abundant opportunities for new strategies and a transformation in the way we care for one another," Garza wrote at the Guardian. "We have no choice other than to fight back, to take back what was always flawed but still holds the promise of what could be."

Tallying up some of the greatest successes and moments of the anti-Trump resistance, The Nation's John Nichols wrote Monday:

The epic Women's March on Washington restored the faith that many of us had lost on Election Day. Trump's Muslim ban was thwarted not just by judges, but by immediate and massive opposition across the country. His attempt to overturn the [Affordable Care Act] was tripped up, at least in part, by overwhelming opposition from an "Indivisible" movement that packed town halls with Americans who proudly declared that they wanted not just Obamacare, but health care as a right. Trump's initial pick for labor secretary, Andy Puzder, withdrew because, as Puzder admitted, "the left and the Democrats really didn't want [me]."

To that list, one could add the #GrabYourWallet boycott campaign, which has driven major retailers to drop Trump family products, and other massive mobilizations including Saturday's global March for Science and last week's Tax March, as well as the upcoming Peoples Climate March.

Trump's presidency has clearly fueled a new wave of political engagement, particularly among women. Notably, more than 12,000 women have contacted Emily's List seeking information and assistance in running for political office, which the organization notes is a 1000 times more than last year.

Going forward, Nichols said that to continue to derail the Trump train, "Americans must stay in the streets."

"Democrats," he continued, "must answer the call of their base and run hard in red states like Kansas, Georgia, Nebraska, and Montana—putting in place a full-scale 50-state strategy for the 2018 midterms."

Similarly, George Goehl, co-executive director of People's Action, declared Sunday evening that "now, more than ever, we need strategy."

Speaking at the start of the People's Action founding convention in Washington, D.C., Goehl outlined the steps to transform a resistance movement into lasting political power. 

"First, we have to build a resistance that turns Defense into Offense. That means being exactly where they don't want us to be, exactly when they don't want us to be there," he said. "We have done it on healthcare, and we can do it on immigration, we can do it on policing, we can do it on the budget, and more." 

"Number two, Being the resistance is not enough. We need a visionary resistance," he continued. "Let me ask you this: Is now the time to retreat on our big ideas? Is it time to soften our demands?  No. Now is a moment that calls for a radical imagination of what's possible. Every time we protest their agenda, we must demand and articulate and push for our agenda."

"Finally," Goehl added, "let's turn protest power into political power."

To that end, Our Revolution, the organization that sprang from Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) presidential campaign, hosted a livestream Sunday evening to assess the "State of the Revolution" and kick off the next phase of its national organizing plan, which aims to build change by winning local elections.

"It's not just about fighting Trump," said the organization's chair, Larry Cohen. "It's also about fighting for what we want." The progressive platform laid out by the speakers included a $15 minimum wage, policing reform, immigrant rights, and Medicare-for-All, among other issues.

"From the school house to the White House," added former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, "local elections matter." 

Looking to the 2018 midterm elections and beyond, Nichols added, "Now is the time to turn resistance into something more: a coherent opposition that is capable of saying 'no' to Trump and holding him to account while at the same time organizing, marching, campaigning, and voting for a whole new politics that will consign crony capitalism, militarism, fear mongering, and the cruel chimera of the 'CEO president' to the dustbin of history."

(Lauren McCauley writes for Common Dreams … where this perspective was first posted.)

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RESISTANCE WATCH--In high school, I had a girlfriend who was involved in student government and all sorts of good works. While she paid attention to all that was happening in those years of the early '60s, she essentially was a moderate — certainly not some movement rebel. Or so we thought ... until one lazy, Sunday afternoon. As we aimlessly "cruised the drag" of our small town in a '54 Chevy, we were paused at a red light across from a root beer stand where some teens were hanging out. Suddenly, my "moderate" girlfriend lunged halfway out of the backseat window and shouted "Wake up and piss, kids, the world's on fire!"

I stared at her wide-eyed and whopperjawed, wondering where that came from.

I've thought of that moment recently as I've seen instance after instance of the innate rebelliousness of the American people erupting across the country in surprising ways, unexpected numbers, and with astonishing intensity. No need to wonder where this comes from, however. The outbursts are a spontaneous, rapidly expanding mass rejection of Trumpism.

Our Twitter-president plays to his most frenzied partisans with his daily rata-tat-tat of executive orders and public fulminations — firing at refugees, federal judges, Chuck Schumer, the media, Nordstrom, the EPA, Mexico's president, Elizabeth Warren, laws that protect consumers from Wall Street greed, Sweden, Arnold Schwarzenegger and ... no telling who's next.

But while some delightedly squeal at his wild moves, many more see Trump as not merely unpresidential, but bull goose bonkers! And dangerous — recklessly using the enormous power of the presidency as a personal cudgel to attack, stigmatize and seriously harm individuals, entire religions and races, the Bill of Rights and our nation's basic values of tolerance, fairness and opportunity for all. In a twist of ironic justice, The Donald's deep darkness has sparked a prairie fire of mass opposition, raging political activism and movement organizing for the long haul.

Many of us are activists already, ranging from occasional campaigners to us warped gluttons for full-time, full-tilt punishment. No matter your past involvement, with our ship of state entering dire straits, each of us must do a bit extra. And we can help focus the anger roiling the countryside by sharing some how-to-make-a-difference tips to friends, co-workers, et al. "Traump-atized" by Washington's new extremist kakistocracy (government by the worst).

After all, millions of our neighbors have long been disengaged, viewing the political scrum as somewhere between irrelevant and repugnant. But, suddenly they're back — alert not only to Trump, but to their congress critters and to that menagerie of freaky, rightwing corporate mutants that Trump-Pence has put in charge of our government. In January, one red-district Texan told a reporter: "I think of politics the way I think of my car. I just want it to run [without my spending] a lot of time." Only a few weeks into the Trump-Does-Washington spectacle, he learned a fundamental lesson: "You get the politics you work for."

 So, it's time to get to work. This is not just a one-time, resist-and-dump Trump campaign we're undertaking, but the mobilization of a long-term grassroots movement to reject the systemic corporate takeover of our elections and government at every level, from our local school boards to our White House. 

Simply ousting Trump won't do that. The job, then, is as simple as it is difficult: To have a People's government, we must build it. 

Democracy requires us common folk to join together, with each of us doing as much as we can, as strategically as we can, for as long as we can. IndivisibleGuide.comOurRevolution.com, and MovementVote.org are just a few organizations you can check out to help you get active and start building a more democratic way of governing.

 

(Jim Hightower is a columnist for OtherWords as well as a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, and a member of the Public Citizen board.)

 

OTHER WORDS--It’s that time of year again. Flowers are flowering, spring is springing, and across the country college graduates are graduating with their newly awarded degrees held high.

Also high is the mountain of student debt most of these recent graduates are taking on. All told, 44 million Americans now owe student debt — including 7 in 10 graduating seniors last year, who owe an average of $37,000.

If you’re not one of those tens of millions of people, you might’ve missed how out of control student debt has become. Total student debt is approaching $1.4 trillion, surpassing auto loans and credit card debt.

Between job searches and apartment hunting, post-graduate life is already stressful — and student debt makes it worse. The average monthly payment for borrowers in their 20s is $351.

If you’re making minimum wage, that’s 48 hours of work for your loans alone — never mind shelter and food. No wonder more than 4 in 10 have either stopped making payments or fallen behind.

There is nothing positive about student debt.

Many indebted graduates begin their work lives with damaged credit histories and greater economic vulnerability. They’re less able to start a business or work in public service. And they delay starting families and buying houses, which makes them less wealthy in the long run.

The only winners are the predatory loan servicing agencies.

One reason for the explosion of student debt is that states and the federal government have drastically cut education spending, forcing students and parents to pick up the costs. Public college spending is still $10 billion below pre-recession levels.

To make things worse, Trump’s secretary of education, billionaire Betsy DeVos, is reversing protections put in place by the Obama administration to protect student loan borrowers by regulating loan servicing companies and capping interest rates at 16 percent (at a time when bank loan rates are below 6 percent).

It shouldn’t be this way. And it doesn’t have to be.

Ask the millions of people who attended college between 1945 and 1975 and graduated with little or no debt. Millions of baby boomers paid tuition at the great flagship universities of this land just by working summer jobs. That wasn’t on a different planet — it was mere decades ago.

Some places are experimenting with new models. At the city level, San Francisco has taken the lead by creating a free tuition program for anyone who’s lived in the city for at least a year, regardless of income. It’s funded by a voter-approved tax on properties worth over $5 million.

At the national level, Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Pramila Jayapal recently introduced the College for All Act, a plan Sanders got into the Democratic platform last summer. It would eliminate tuition and fees at public universities for those with incomes under $125,000 — all paid for by a small sales tax on Wall Street trades.

These ideas could mean a brighter future for students to come. But what about for those already crushed by debt?

For them, there’s a silver lining. When you owe $50,000, the bank owns you. But when the bank’s trying to bleed you for $1.4 trillion, you own the bank.

It’s time for the 44 million student debt households to flex our muscles and demand change.

(Chuck Collins writes for Other Words … where this piece was first posted.)

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RESISTANCE WATCH--After fierce nationwide opposition forced the Obama administration to halt the Keystone XL pipeline, President Donald Trump has given it the green light and the climate movement has vowed to fight it once again. (Image via Rainforest Action Network)

Kicking off a week of actions targeting the institutions financing the controversial Keystone XL (KXL) tar sands pipelines, activists on Saturday protested at banks in 25 cities to shine a spotlight on the roll they are having on climate destruction.

"It's back—and so are we," reads the call to action. After fierce nationwide opposition forced the Obama administration to halt the project, President Donald Trump has given it the green light and the climate movement has vowed to fight it once again.

The peaceful demonstrations are "designed to shine a spotlight on the the four key financial institutions bankrolling the KXL pipeline— Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and TD Bank—and pressure them and the broader financial community to pull out and 'defund' the project," said the Rainforest Action Network, which is organizing the week of protest.

In addition to demonstrating outside banks, activists across the country are also planning a banner drop in Los Angeles and a protest targeting local government in San Francisco throughout the week of action, which will culminate on Earth Day. Find an action near you here

"The KXL is a bad idea, full stop. It's bad for the climate, for clean water, and for communities all along the route of this pipeline," said Rainforest Action Network's Scott Parkin.

"This is part of the Trump plan to 'unleash fossil fuels' in the U.S., which is terrible on every level—it flies in the face of science and the very real climate change crisis; it shackles the U.S. to an outdated and dirty energy system; it sets us back in the race to lead in clean energy technology; and it's an environmental disaster waiting to happen," Parkin continued. "Because pipelines fail, all the time. And we will be stuck with the toxic mess and the bill—while the oil industry friends of the president and the secretary of state get even richer."

Activists will share updates and images from the week of action on social media with the hashtag #defundKXL

(Lauren McCauley writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)

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ANIMAL WATCH--Let's say you’ve discovered some mouse droppings, maybe even seen a mouse or rat scurrying by one night.  So you decide to get some rat poison and put it out confident the problem has been solved. The rat eats the poison and makes its way across the yard where it catches the eye of a cat, a hawk, an owl that move in to catch this easy prey because it has slowed down or is moving erratically.  Let's say the neighbor’s cat catches it, eats it.  A few days later the heartbroken neighbor is posting signs wondering where their cat has disappeared to while a distraught neighbor a few doors over is calling dead animal pick up for the cat lying under the bushes. 

This is not an unusual scenario.  Using poison to kill rodents creates a serious hazard to cats and local birds of prey. 

From PetMD – 

Strychnine is a very strong and dangerous poison that is often added to bait for killing rats, moles, gophers, and other rodents or unwanted predators. Having a very short duration of action, the clinical symptoms of strychnine poisoning typically appear within ten minutes to two hours after ingestion, resulting in sudden death.

Patients often will die due to spamming of the muscles involved in respiration, resulting in strangulation. Cats of all ages are equally susceptible to the adverse effects of strychnine.

The following are some of the symptoms of strychnine poisoning:

- Limb rigidity
- Stiff muscles
- Uncontrolled violent seizures (sometimes in response to bright lights or noise)
- Severe spasms leading to arching of the head, neck and back in extreme hyperextension (opisthotonus)
- Elevated heart rate
- High body temperature
- Breathing difficulties, inability to breathe,
- Vomiting

So how do we get rid of rats without creating lethal danger to our wonderful local cats, hawks and owls, all of whom provide the BEST way to kill rats and mice?  

First of all a message to all the kind people providing food to their local feral population, do NOT put food out and keep it out.  Put it out at specific times in the day and pick up whatever the cat doesn’t eat.  That food attracts other creatures as well. Cats will know when the food is coming especially if you call them every time. 

We also discourage the use of glue traps as it is a particularly cruel and inhumane, time consuming way to kill a rodent.  The mouse runs onto it, sticks, and is terrified while its struggles to escape. It will either die slowly of dehydration or starvation. The traps can rip off fur and skin while they struggle, and rodents have attempted to chew through their own limbs to get free. Other animals can get trapped on it as well. 

There is now a popular, new and effective trap that is being used by responsible residents. An electric trap. Small box with lure at back. Only mice and rats can fit in and are immediately zapped.  More humane and less messy than the old fashioned snap traps. Just Google electric rat traps. 

Here are some websites that give excellent instruction on ways to discourage rodents from visiting at all including the use peppermint oil - Add 20-30 drops of peppermint essential oil to each cotton ball and lay strategically around your home. Refresh every week or so, or whenever you notice the smell is fading.) Did you know rodents hate to cross aluminum foil? 

MORE INFO 

 

(Dianne Lawrence is a dog trainer and the publisher of The Neighborhood News. Reach her at: whatagooddogla.com/) 

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ANIMAL WATCH-At the March 14 LA Animal Services Commission meeting, Brenda Barnette included in her GM Oral Report a short but very precise and lucid overview of the Animal Services’ widely publicized hearing held on March 1. This was the inquiry to determine whether two Pit Bull that killed a tiny Pomeranian and then inflicted injuries which may have resulted in, or contributed to, the death of the dog’s owner, Valentin Herrera, 76, should be declared “Dangerous Animals.” 

Barnette concluded with a clear and succinct statement: “Those dogs have been humanely euthanized.” 

She later told a CBS reporter that she may have been confused and claims she “misspoke.” However, Barnette was voluntarily summarizing one single event---not discussing a number of cases or under stress that might have muddied her memory. 

None of the Commissioners has experience in animal control, but they are thoroughly familiar with LA Municipal Code SEC. 53.18.5.  HEARING PROCEDURES AND LICENSE REVOCATIONS, since, with Commissioner Larry Gross presiding, they serve as the Appeals Board in Dangerous Animal and Barking Dog hearings and review these cases regularly. In fact, they had heard four such appeals that morning. 

But, with three attorneys present, not one asked about the euthanasia of the Pit Bulls prior to an appeal period. GM Barnette’s statement was delivered so unequivocally that no one raised the basic question to determine the right of LAAS to euthanize: “Did the owner relinquish the dogs?” 

On Monday, March 20, after my CityWatch article appeared, LA Killer Pit Bulls Euthanized…Are Dog Attacks Now an Epidemic?, which quoted Barnette’s statement, I received numerous communications from reliable sources that the Pit Bulls in the Lincoln Heights attack were very much alive and being held at North Central Animal Shelter awaiting the end of the owner’s appeal period on March 22. 

At 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 21, I electronically submitted a California Public Records Act Request (CPRA) to Commission President David Zaft and GM Brenda Barnette, asking for the records in their database regarding the status of these dogs. 

Very promptly, at 2:20 p.m. I received all requested material, and a surprise! An entry by a shelter supervisor at approximately 3:45 p.m. on March 20, states: 

“Administration has notified me that (Redacted name) is appealing DA 171117 NC and the determination that her dogs are “dangerous” (A1679513 AND A1679514). These dogs are to be held until the appeal is decided.

How could Brenda Barnette, who has more than six years as General Manager at one of the largest animal-control agencies in the U.S. and is the person who signs the decisions made at all Dangerous Animal hearings, forget there is an appeal period before allegedly dangerous dogs can be euthanized under law? 

Also, there were two Assistant General Managers, Louis Dedeaux and Dana Brown, in the room at that time. Either could have slipped a note to their boss or whispered in her ear that she “misspoke.”  (Asst. GM Louis Dedeaux has over 25 years in field and shelter experience at LA Animal Services and is the person who approves ALL animal euthanasias in City shelters.) Since neither of them corrected her, there was no reason for anyone present or those listening to the "On Air" broadcast to doubt Barnette’s word. 

ALARMING INFORMATION FROM KENNEL IMPOUND 

Here’s a little more information garnered from the Kennel Impound Cards: The two Pit Bulls involved in the February 2 attack on Mr. Herrera and his dog are named, “Rocky” (60 lbs.) and “Blue,” (83 lbs.) Both have a DOB of 02/03/2015. Neither is neutered or microchipped. There is no indication of dog licenses. Their physical condition does not indicate any negative findings but the description for each under OBJECTIVE FINDINGS, reads, “Patient will not allow full examination – SCARED.” A note for Rocky’s skin condition states: “MUZZLE SOILED W/BLOOD O/W OK.” 

When CBS spoke to the grandson of the victim, Valentin Herrera, he was upset that the owner is requesting return of these dogs. However, an expert opined that it is possible the decision to appeal has as much to do with limiting potential civil liability. Simply allowing the dogs to be euthanized could be interpreted as an admission that they are dangerous, he said. The owner may believe there is a possibility of overturning the ruling by the LAAS Hearing Examiner, either on an appeal to the Commission or by filing an action in Superior Court. 

If the owner prevails, it could mean the dogs will be released to her and returned to the Lincoln Heights location or merely moved to a location outside the city limits. 

THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME GM BARNETTE HAS “MISSPOKEN.” 

Brenda Barnette -- who had no animal control or law-enforcement experience when she was appointed to be LA City’s “Top Dog” by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- has “misspoken” or “misinformed” on numerous occasions, with very costly results to taxpayers, animals and LAAS employees. 

Here are just a few of the published examples: 

Aug. 5, 2011 -- Guns, Ammunition Seized at L.A. Animal Shelters as Probe Expands  

Oct. 21, 2011 -- Phew! All of L.A. Animal Services' Guns Are Accounted For, Audit Finds.  

Feb. 14, 2012 – Six Animal Shelter Captains Benched Pending Vending Machine Contract Probe  

June 13, 2013 – Los Angeles Animal Services Captains Cleared   

Mar 18, 2013 – Los Angeles Animal Services' Brenda Barnette: 'No Night Care for Animals in City Shelters’   

Jul 3, 2013 – LA Animal Services’ GM Brenda Barnette Says Shelters Need Puppies  

Sept. 28, 2015 -- Memo to GM Barnette and LA Council: LA Animal Control Officers are at Risk  

July 23, 2017 -- LA Animal Services' Employee Mauled by Pit Bull ... Who Cares? 

SHOULD “MISMANAGEMENT” BE EXCUSED? 

Barnette’s annual salary is now over $230,000 (Comparatively, Governor Jerry Brown makes $190,100, and the Assembly Speaker and Senate President pro tem are each paid $119,734, according to the LA Times.)  

Shouldn’t we expect that she would not “misspeak” or “misinform” (without correction) on a matter as serious as Pit Bulls that are alleged to have killed a man and his dog? 

Should the Commission (or anyone else) believe her on other issues -- including her insistence that Los Angeles is almost “No Kill,” although streets in many areas are rife with stray dogs and cats and thousands of homeless animals are merely being transported to other cities/states or “fostered” without a permanent home? 

After more than six years, shouldn’t Barnette be expected to know the basic elements that are a regular part of her job? 

Barnette’s “mismanagement” has systematically devastated a vital public safety department and endangered her staff, the public and animals; but there have been no consequences. 

Is that because Barnette is automatically excused from “misspeaking” or “misinforming?” Or, is it because the political leadership of Los Angeles does not want to bring attention to its own rampant systemic manipulation of the truth?

 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ANIMAL WATCH-GM Brenda Barnette announced at the LA Animal Services’ Commission meeting on March 14, that the two Pit Bulls impounded after the tragic attack which killed Valentin Herrera, 76, and his small dog last month have been euthanized. 

Mr. Herrera and his 5-year-old Pomeranian were walking in the 2600 block of Lincoln Park Blvd. near his home on February 2, when two male Pit Bulls which had escaped from a nearby yard grabbed the tiny dog, "shredding his body like a piece of material,” according to a neighbor. An eyewitness said that the owner of the Pit Bulls saw the dogs attacking but took no action to stop them.

When he tried to save his best friend, Mr. Herrera was also attacked, suffering severe injuries to his head and arms. 

He underwent surgery but remained in a coma and never regained consciousness. According to a statement by a family member on their GoFundMe page to help with funeral expenses, "...after about 3 weeks of being in the hospital the doctors have told us that his brain is no longer functioning. The family and I have decided to let him go and rest, because we know he has been through so much."

Mr. Herrera died on February 28, just before a scheduled hearing on the attack by the Los Angeles Department of Animal Services on March 1.

Brenda Barnette told the Commission that because the hearing was so emotional for both the victim’s family members who attended and the owner of the Pit Bulls, reporters were allowed in the room but no cameras were permitted inside.

KABC reported that, although the owner of the dogs did not want to be on camera, “at the hearing he said he was on medication at the time and in shock.” 

A disabled woman, who claimed she lives on the same property as the owner of the Pit Bulls, previously told KABC  that “the dogs were her ‘security’… against intruders who invaded the yard to steal fruit from its trees.” An earlier report stated that the dogs were not licensed. 

Another resident of Lincoln Heights, Stephanie Grizelle, informed CBS that the same two Pit Bulls had killed her small therapy dog, Tulula, four days earlier, as her two young children watched. She added that both children required therapy. 

Valentin Herrera was a steelworker who came to Los Angeles from Jalisco, Mexico. He purchased the home in Lincoln Heights in 1996. His son, Luis, described his father as a strong, loving man and wonderful father. Mr. Herrera leaves behind his wife of more than 50 years, Anita, children and grandchildren, and a shaken and grieving community.

THE INDIRECT VICTIMS OF DOG ATTACKS 

Pit Bull attacks or other severe dog attacks, whether fatal or not, affect far more than the obvious victim. They impact neighbors and others who witness the grisly event or the aftermath. A family is often robbed of a parent, child, spouse, or animal companion. Even if the victims live, they may be permanently grossly disfigured and mentally traumatized -- unable to recover a previous lifestyle or continue a career. If a child is severely injured or killed, future hopes and dreams are lost forever. 

Additionally, the family of victim of a dog attack can often suddenly find themselves with overwhelming unexpected veterinary, medical and/or funeral bills.

ARE PIT BULL ATTACKS BECOMING EPIDEMIC? 

A prior CityWatch article about the attack on Valentin Herrera cited numerous recent local Pit Bull attacks, but this is not a problem unique to Los Angeles. 

Here are just a few of the many attacks reported across the country from December 2016 – March 2017: 

Woman undergoes surgery after attack by 2 pit bulls 

On March 16, 2017, a 63-year-old woman underwent surgery after she was attacked by two pit bulls in Pembroke, NC, according to the Red Springs Citizen. Both dogs were euthanized for rabies testing. The woman’s identity and condition were not yet disclosed because the case is also being handled as a “communicable disease investigation." 

Early during 2016 a pit bull attacked and killed a Lumberton child, the report said, prompting the city to adopt an ordinance targeting dogs deemed “vicious.” A Pembroke woman lost an arm after being attacked last year by a Pit Bull. 

Pit bull attack in Bensenville IL leaves man with 30 bite marks   

On March 13, 2017, Chris Kazmierczak, 22, was walking to his car with a friend in Bensenville, IL, when he said he heard something running up behind him. "...(I) turned around to see what it was and next thing I know the thing was on my arm," he told WGN-TV. He described the attacking dog as a white Pit Bull, wearing a collar. His friend was finally finally able to kick and pull the dog away, but Kazmierczak will need to undergo rabies treatment if the animal isn't found. 

Also, there is a gaping wound on his left arm and about 30 bite marks. Kazmierczak does construction for a living and said he won't be able to work with his hands for at least two months. 

Joliet’s Pit Bull Problems So Bad Police Dept Hires Dangerous Dog Officer  

Feb 22, 2017- Joliet will hire a part-time police officer whose sole job will be to follow-up on dangerous dog calls. Last year in July the city revealed that they had 11 dangerous dog hearings concerning 17 dog attacks in 7 months. The city admitted that most attacks were committed by pit bulls, but would not give exact numbers. In August, after that city report on dangerous dogs, another serious Pit Bull attack left a woman nearly dead.


Cape Cod, MA, records that Pit Bulls are top in dog bites  

So far this year, Yarmouth has seen at least three pit bull attacks on small dogs, one which led to the death of a 3-year-old terrier named Doc….the type of dog known as Pit Bull shows up more in reported attacks across the Cape than any other breed, according to the Cape Cod Times.

Between January 2016 and February 2017, Yarmouth logged 19 Pit Bull bites on dogs and people, according to data from the town's Board of Health. Not included was a recent incident in which a Pit Bull bit its owner, severing the top part of her finger when she tried to break up a fight between it and another Pit Bull, according to Yarmouth Deputy Police Chief Steven Xiarhos. 

Across the Cape during the same period, towns reported Pit Bull bites on humans and dogs 58 times. Pit bulls represented 12.6 percent of the breeds listed in the bite reports, but make up only 1.2 percent of the registered dogs on Cape Cod.  

Police Fatally Shoot Two Attacking Pit Bulls in Bushwick [NY] 

On March 11, 2017, police officers shot and killed two Pit Bulls that were mauling a man, according to the NYPost.com

NYPD reported that multiple officers rushed to an apartment near the corner of Hancock Street and Bushwick Avenue at roughly 10:30 p.m., where they found a 50-year-old man inside being attacked by the two dogs. The injured man, identified by the Post as Paul "Nitty" Davis, was rushed to Kings County Hospital.  

The dogs belonged to Devon Dixon, 26, a roommate of Davis, who said he had rescued them from a neighbor's yard after they had been abandoned, the Post notes.  Dixon recalled trying to beat the dogs back with a two-by-four board, but was unable to stop them until police arrived and shot both dogs. 

“But they had to, Nitty was losing a lot of blood," he told the Post

Pit Bull seriously injures four-year-old boy in Pocatello  

On Sunday, December 4, 2016, a four-year-old boy in Pocatello, Idaho, was attacked by a Pit Bull owned by his mother’s boyfriend, reports KIFI. The mother has custody of the child. 

The boy’s father explained that the “…attack damaged two of the boy's facial nerves, which control movements, like smiling. Other wounds damaged the spit glands, the upper lip and below one eye.” Surgery to repair the boy’s face took six and a half hours and more than 1,000 stitches, according to the father. He said the surgeon told him it was one of the worst cases he’d ever seen and they don’t know if his son would ever get back functionally and he will have a big scar. 

THE NATIONAL PIT BULL AWARENESS VICTIM page shows the faces and tells the stories of Pit Bull attack victims all over the country. The organization also provides the following statistics that show the increase in attacks: 

Pit bull attacks on humans in the U.S. have reached an epidemic level, increasing 773 percent from 2007-2014. In a 30-year study of dog attacks in Canada and the US, 3394 people were attacked by dogs in a fatal and disfiguring manner. 2,113 or 60% of the attacks were by pit bulls and pit bull mixes

FATAL PIT BULL ARCHIVES:   

From 2009 to 2016, the most recent 8-year period, pit bulls averaged 22.9 deaths per year, a 690% increase, according to U.S. Pit Bull Fatalities. 

Following are the listed attacks from June 2016 - Feb 2017: 

Valentine Herrera is the 508th American killed by a Pit Bull. 

  1. February 2017, Los Angeles County, CA
    Valentine Herrera, 76
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. January 2017, Fulton County, GA
    Logan Braatz, 6
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. December 2016, Cabell County, WV
    Isaiah Franklin, 6
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. October 2016, Staten Island, NY
    Daisie Bradshaw, 68
    Fatal dog attack involving pit bull(s) 
  1. September 2016, Shawnee County, KS
    Piper Dunbar, 2
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. August 2016, Jefferson County, CO
    Susan Shawl, 60
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. August 2016, Clark County, NV
    Derion Stevenson, 9
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. August 2016, Screven County, GA
    Michelle Wilcox, 30
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. July 2016, Honolulu County, HI
    Crisencio Aliado, 52
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. July 2016, Navajo County, AZ
    Kayden Begay, 3
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. July 2016, Wayne County, MI
    Elizabeth Rivera, 71
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. June 2016, Fresno County, CA
    Susie Kirby, < 1
    Fatal dog attack involving pit bull(s) 
  1. June 2016, Penobscot County, ME
    Hunter Bragg, 7
    Fatal pit bull attack 
  1. June 2016, San Joaquin County, CA
    Earl Stephens Jr., 43
    Fatal pit bull attack 

    (See more at U.S. Pit Bull Fatalities)

DogsBite.org provides Google State Map:  “California Fatal Pit Bull Attacks” 

 

(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former City of LA employee and a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

ANIMAL WATCH-Before Brenda Barnette was hired as General Manager of LA Animal Services in 2010, the mantra for the Department was, at all times, “officer, animal and public safety.” Whenever there was a major disaster such as a fire or an earthquake, Animal Control Officers were placed on alert at all city shelters -- whether of or not they were ultimately dispatched to the emergency scene. 

The Animal Services’ Emergency Response Coordinator (for many years the well-known and highly experienced Captain Karen Knipscheer), once notified that a fire/disaster command center had been set up, and aware that the focus of fire and police personnel is to stop destruction and evacuate humans, would either go to the location or send a representative to advise that LA Animal Services was available to help with any animal-related need. 

But, in the current LAAS “Department Emergency Plan,” it states that, The Department of Animal Services will send an Agency Representative (AR) to the Police [Fire/Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control] Incident Command Post “ONLY when requested…” (Emphasis added.) 

On Monday, May 23, at 2:20 pm, a fast-moving fire was reported near the 13000 block of Wheatland Avenue above Lake View Terrace and at the border of the Angeles National Forest. Hundreds of city, county and federal firefighters joined to protect the multi-jurisdictional area. Spotter planes and water-dropping helicopters helped battle the blaze, which burned a total of about 185 acres. 

On that day, prompt response, the level of preparedness and expertise, and the wind-direction blew the fire away from structures and into the National Forest; no evacuation was required. 

However, notably absent to those who worry about pets and other animals in these situations (Lake View Terrace and other Valley areas still have substantial equine communities) was any announcement that LA Animal Services was on standby in case the wind-blown fire changed its course and headed toward populated areas.

City fire Capt. Daniel Curry told KTLA.  “The fire spread very rapidly due to the steep terrain and the status of the fuels in the area.” The south end of the fire, closer to homes, was part of the containment line, he said. Special attention was given to protecting structures in the Little Tujunga Canyon Road to Big Tujunga Canyon Road areas "as a precaution," according to Los Angeles Fire Department’s Erik Scott.

Angelenos are aware that fire season is approaching and that the “Big One” may rock Los Angeles at any time, putting their homes instantly in danger. The City advises us to be prepared. That message also applies to pets and large animals who will need to leave disaster areas with their owners or to be evacuated by LA Animal Services and taken to safety. 

But, recent changes in the allocation of funds for LA Animal Services by the Mayor and City Council have resulted in a lack of resources that have been the stalwarts of safety for animals during past emergencies. City Hall doesn’t seem to care much. 

While the Council Budget & Finance Committee easily allotted $800,000 of taxpayer money for a Feral Cat/Trap-Neuter-Release/Relocate Report so that feral cats can be released to roam unimpeded on residential and commercial property throughout the city and be sterilized using City funds, it rejected a request for ten badly needed animal control trucks as part of the replacement of the dilapidated and unsafe LAAS fleet not replaced since 2000 and 2003. 

The current situation is that the Animal Services’ entire fleet of animal control trucks (animal collection vehicles) needs to be replaced immediately. Some can no longer be driven safely on the streets and officers state that, even when sent for repair, they seem to break down almost immediately. 

Dangerous enough under normal conditions, but should trucks that break down or suddenly not start, with failing brakes and doors that fly open (both on the passenger cab and animal compartments) be allowed behind fire lines? 

This lack of assistance by Animal Control Officers to pick up pets trapped in homes during a fire or disaster, or to catch frightened animals that have escaped, could leave beloved furry and feathered family members behind to die. 

The Department is expecting (after unconscionable delays) to hire 30 new animal control officers soon; however, if there aren’t enough vehicles, they will not be able to work in the field. Even with 13 anticipated new vehicles that are tentatively expected within ten months, this will be fraction of what is needed to replace the current decrepit fleet. 

Even now, animal control officers that could be helping injured and stray animals and doing humane investigations are reportedly sitting in the shelters because of a lack of vehicles. 

This should be no surprise to Councilman Paul Koretz. 

During a report to the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee (chaired by Koretz) on September 16, 2015, at which Koretz feigned great concern about heat affecting animals in collection vehicles with inadequate ventilation or cooling, he was advised that the officers, animals and the public are endangered by the deterioration and poor mechanical condition of the fleet of collection trucks. General Services Fleet Director Richard Coulsen confirmed there are repeated breakdowns while officers are driving trucks which are “falling apart.” Koretz has never agendized this matter again. 

Coulsen announced at the May 24 LAAS Commission meeting that there is now authorization to order twenty-two trucks by the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year for another partial fleet replacement. Director of Field Operations Mark Salazar has subsequently recited a litany of fiascos occurring from LAAS designing totally unsuitable vehicles and then receiving new trucks that have such serious defects they have been returned to the manufacturer. In addition, he has noted the painfully slow process of upgrading vents on ten 2008 animal-rescue vans currently not in use because they lack an alternate air-circulation system. This left Commissioners and attendees obviously confused. 

After Salazar’s additional lengthy and convoluted excuses for all these mistakes, frustrated activist Michael Bell stated in public comment, “…I didn’t understand anything you said. It seemed one thing piled on another…this is just silliness.” He encouraged the Commission to “just get this done because it is obvious that General Services and Officer Salazar are not doing it.” 

With the current deficit in officers and equipment (the Department also has 33% less horse-hauling vehicles,) it is important for all small and large-animal owners to realize that, if a disaster hits, you may be on your own.

The following are some basic tips from experts for saving or safeguarding your pets and horses in a disaster. However, since each situation and animal is different, please talk with your neighbors, experts and community advisors and/or go on the Internet for a wide variety of information. (Plus, we invite any readers to leave comments to help.) 

Devise a disaster plan in advance, which includes -- but is not limited to -- these basics, and please microchip your pets and horses. 

SMALL ANIMALS: 

  1. Have a strong kennel/travel cage that can be securely latched ready for each pet.  (Keep it in a place easy to access quickly.) 
  2. Store or fill containers with enough water to sustain your pet for several days. 
  3. Have a tightly closed container filled with enough food for each pet (use the kind your pet regularly eats) for several da
  4. Keep a fresh supply of medications your pet takes (enough for several days).
  5. Have some toys/blankets familiar to the pet ready to take. 
  6. Practice placing your pet in a kennel/cage at least monthly, so that it is comfortable with the process.
    Rotate/replace food/water/meds every 3 to 6 months. 
  7. Have your pets’ licensing/microchip info handy to take, along with a photo of you with your animal(s). Keep contact information current on microchip and license.

LARGE ANIMALS: 

  1. Have a plentiful backup supply of water, and plenty of buckets available to take with you. 
  2. Halter/lead rope for every animal. (For smaller farm animals, keep transfer cages easily available.) 
  3. Training and practice. Make sure your animal loads in a trailer quickly and easily before an incident occurs. 
  4. Have an evacuation plan in place. Know where you expect to take your animal(s) and practice ahead of time. 
  5. Have special feed or medications set aside with easy access in an emergency. 
  6. Have your horses microchipped and update the contact information regularly
  7.  Have any licensing/other info ready to take with you, along with a photo of you with your    horse, showing any special markings on the animal.

                                                                       

(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com.  She lives in Los Angeles.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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