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HEALTHY CA ACT CLEARS FIRST HURDLE--With close to 1,000 supporters rallying outside, California's Senate Health Committee on Wednesday advanced a single-payer healthcare bill that has been described as a potential "catalyst for the nation."
The Healthy California Act (SB562) would create a universal health system (covering inpatient, outpatient, emergency care, dental, vision, mental health, and nursing home care) for every California resident. Unveiled last month, the bill has the support of National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association, who held a rally at the Sacramento Convention Center Wednesday followed by a march to the state capitol and a presence in the committee room.
"The most important thing today was the breadth and depth of support by the dozens of people lining up to back the bill, representing 250 organizations across the state," said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association. "These are organizers who are going to be with us to make the Healthy California Act the law of the land in California."
Supporters got one step closer to that goal on Wednesday, when the Health Committee approved the bill 5-2 after a nearly three-hour hearing. State Sen. Richard Roth said his office had gotten more than 1,000 calls from constituents on the single-payer plan.
The opposition has also reared its head. Courthouse News Service reported: "Several of the groups that have lined up against SB 562 have made political contributions to current members of the Senate Health Committee, including chair Ed Hernandez (D-Montebello), Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), and Richard Roth (D-Riverside). Each member voted in favor of the bill Wednesday."
Still, according to the Los Angeles Times, "Democrats and Republicans alike signaled unease with the major question still unanswered in the legislation: how the program would be paid for."
But Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara, the bill's co-author, said a detailed financial study would be completed in May, before the bill is heard in the Appropriations Committee—its next stop, having cleared the Health Committee hurdle. Lara chairs that committee.
"With today's vote we are closer to being able to say, once and for all, that healthcare is not a privilege, it's a human right," Lara declared. "Every family, every child, every senior deserves healthcare that costs less and covers more, and California has a chance to lead the rest of the nation toward universal care."
State Sen. Toni G. Atkins, also a Democrat and the bill's other co-author, praised the committee members, saying: "They see clearly that the time is right for us to give all Californians the peace of mind that comes with knowing that they and their families will have access to quality healthcare, no matter who they are, how much money they have, or who's in power in Washington, D.C."
As Paul Y. Song, co-chair of the Campaign for a Healthy California and Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) board member, wrote earlier this week, "[t]he fact is that our legislators can no longer turn a blind eye while California remains hostage to a federal government run by a heartless majority who recklessly controls the purse strings in favor of tax cuts for the 1 percent while refusing to view healthcare as a right. As the 6th largest economy, California needs to think boldly and look at what all major industrialized nations do."
"The answer has been there all along," said Song. "But, in order to get a healthcare program for the people, it must come from an unprecedented groundswell by the people. We must hold our elected officials publicly accountable and demand what we are already paying for and readily deserve. The [Affordable Care Act] pointed our state and nation in the right direction, but the time for real universal healthcare is now and the opportunity to do so is golden and now!"
To that end, PNHP announced Wednesday that U.S. Rep. John Conyers' (D-Mich.) Medicare-for-All bill has amassed a record number of House co-sponsors: 104.
Justice Democrats, a group holding the party accountable for its stance on universal healthcare, tweeted: "Congrats to Cali! #SB562 has made it through Senate Health Committee. Here's to making it national."
(Deirdre Fulton writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)
WATER POLITICS--California may be coming out of the drought, but LA’s water system is in dire need of fixing. Angelenos will soon be asked to pay more for their water and they must stay alert to ensure their money is being invested wisely and not wasted on projects for special interests.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is set to make its customers pay higher rates and taxes for a project misleadingly named the “California Water Fix.” This project involves building two massive water tunnels underneath the San Joaquin Delta in Northern California and could cost $25-67 billion.
The tunnels are supported by an alliance of corporate agribusinesses and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), a wholesaler provider that makes money from importing and selling water.
The tunnels would funnel massive amounts of water to Beverly Hills billionaire Stewart Resnick’s agribusiness empire, whose businesses use more water every year than all the homes in Los Angeles combined. The Resnicks, owners of the Wonderful Company, and their agribusiness allies have gamed the state’s water system to grow excessive amounts of pistachios and almonds in the desert and now they want ratepayers and taxpayers to pay for multi-billion dollar tunnels to keep their scheme going.
Governor Brown, a longtime friend of agribusiness, is now working to persuade the Trump administration, to greenlight the project. President Trump cozied up to these same special interests in his campaign stops in California.
The real sucker punch is that the project would not deliver a single drop of new water to Los Angeles. Yet, MWD would charge ratepayers and taxpayers in L.A., Compton, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and other Southern California cities for this boondoggle. An independent analysis found that if the tunnels project were to only cost $25 billion, Angelenos would be stuck $1.6- $3.5 billion of the total cost. And that’s the low end of cost projections.
For LA to be prepared for the next drought, the solution is not to build tunnels that can’t create new water, but to invest in projects that would maximize our local supply and adapt to the effects of climate change. Mayor Garcetti introduced an Executive Directive to make our water safer from earthquakes and climate impacts by 2024, by calling on LADWP to reduce its dependence on imported water, and to increase local water sources. This includes capturing rainwater, recycling water, cleaning up polluted water and augmenting groundwater storage. A one-inch rain storm can produce up to 10 billion gallons of water, and in an average year, Los Angeles wastes more than 500,000 acre-feet of storm water that runs off to the ocean— which is almost the annual water supply of the City of Los Angeles.
Water experts estimate that it would cost LA County $300-$500 million a year to build the local infrastructure that would capture more rain. In addition, a proposed water recycling facility could provide another 400,000 acre-feet per year of water for the region. That means the best way to increase the reliability of our water is to invest here in Los Angeles, not in tunnels hundreds of miles away.
Indeed, the only way Mayor Garcetti can follow through on his plan to cut Los Angeles’ dependence on imported water by half over the next seven years is to make sure not a dime of our DWP bills does towards to building the ill-conceived tunnels.
MWD and agribusiness are funding a spin campaign to sell the tunnels. They even make the claim that these tunnels could help save endangered fish populations. This Orwellian argument was squelched by a recent federal study that showed that the tunnels could decimate the struggling wild salmon population.
The tunnels can only be stopped if Southern Californians rise up and refuse to pay for this scam, reminiscent of the film Chinatown. Mayor Garcetti must protect ratepayers and prevent LADWP from wasting our money on the tunnels. The Mayor must act soon, as the Metropolitan Water District has stated it hopes to secure a rate and tax hike for the project as soon as this summer.
A more reliable LA water system that can withstand the serious impacts of climate change is possible and necessary, but we have to invest in proven local and regional infrastructure now. There is no money to waste to satisfy the greed of special interests.
(Brenna Norton is a senior Southern California organizer with Food & Water Watch.) prepped for CityWatch By Linda Abrams.
GUEST WORDS--Luxury condominiums compete with foreign banks on the new skyline of Koreatown. On a Saturday night, 20-somethings crowd the sidewalks, huddling around food trucks, circling in and out of karaoke bars, biryani places, barbecue joints, and a high-rise driving range. This same neighborhood, and other swathes of Los Angeles, seemed doomed 25 years ago when more than 2,000 Korean business were damaged or destroyed during the three days of civil unrest that followed the infamous verdict in the prosecution of police officers who beat Rodney King.
The distance LA has traveled between then and now marks a journey that has landed this city in a place very much of its own making. There have been strides and setbacks, and not everyone will agree about what constitutes progress or why some big problems remain unresolved. But, if this is a different city— we would say a better city—than the one that burned in 1992, the explanation lies in decisions Angelenos made about how they govern themselves.
First though, the LA story of the past quarter century has to begin with hitting bottom after 1992. In 1994, the Northridge earthquake struck, killing 57 people, injuring thousands more, and costing billions of dollars in property damage. That same year, California voters, including a majority in Los Angeles County, backed the Prop 187 ballot initiative, which prohibited unauthorized individuals from using state-run public services. The isolation, anger, and racial tensions of the 1990s continued with police scandals that eroded trust.
But those scandals also produced reform efforts that, haltingly, created a new model of community-centered law enforcement. And then, in the early 2000s Los Angeles began moving toward a shared destiny, as the region’s economics and demographics shifted.
In 1992, the non-Hispanic white population accounted for 41 percent of Los Angeles County, according to census data; that population now composes only 28 percent of Los Angeles County residents. That happened because whites left, and the non-white population grew not with immigrants but with their children. The flow of new immigrants to Los Angeles peaked in the 1990s as other destinations offered lower living expenses and better job opportunities. The big numbers already here largely stayed in place and made families. Children of immigrants now account for more than one in five residents, the highest share of any major metro.
The remains of a commercial building smolder, as another building burns out of control, in Los Angeles, early on the morning of April 30, 1992, after riots broke out in response to the verdict in the Rodney King beating trial. Photo by Douglas C. Pizac/Associated Press.
Now coming of age, this huge generation of young people has grown up navigating cultural and racial differences. According to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center, second-generation Latinos and Asian Americans are much more likely than members of their parents’ generation to have diverse friends, feel comfortable with interracial marriage, and get along with people of other groups. By necessity, that has become the default attitude in L.A.’s school corridors and playgrounds.
Of course, a whole lot of young people, members of minority groups and growing up without many advantages, could have spelled trouble in the streets. But, as this second generation came of age, crime dropped—a lot. The violent crime rate was more than six times higher at the time of the unrest than it is today. As crime declined and this new home-grown population of cosmopolitans matured, Angelenos began making investments in their collective future.
Over the past decade and a half, voters repeatedly have endorsed tax increases to expand affordable housing, homeless services, school construction, and transit development in the region. These investments benefit everyone in the region, not just specific neighborhoods or populations. The success of these recent ballot measures, which often required support from supermajorities of voters, exemplifies Angelenos’ willingness to take responsibility for the common good.
Los Angeles also has repeatedly chosen to invest significant funds in the city’s arts and cultural resources over the past 25 years, enabling us to examine our history, heal past trauma and racial divides, and build a shared and inclusive cultural identity. Annual income for Los Angeles County arts-related nonprofits is estimated at $2.2 billion, and the arts and creative industries account for nearly 1 out of 6 jobs in Los Angeles County—a significant part of our economy.
These investments allow organizations like the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to defy national trends by increasing audiences and revenue, and to provide a wide range of diverse communities with performances and educational programs. Meanwhile, small theaters, studio spaces, and storefront galleries have become focal points of neighborhood regeneration. Simply put, the arts increase social capital and provide a rich cultural landscape in which civic vitality can thrive.
Among the most encouraging developments are moments of civil dialogue that have brought diverse populations together around shared objectives, and there is a valuable example near the burn zone of 1992.
The flow of new immigrants to Los Angeles peaked in the 1990s as other destinations offered lower living expenses and better job opportunities. … Children of immigrants now account for more than one in five residents, the highest share of any major metro.
Consider the Central Los Angeles Promise Zone, one of the first three designated zones (the others were in Philadelphia and San Antonio) under President Obama’s signature anti-poverty initiative that provides preferential status and technical assistance on federal grant applications. The Central Los Angeles Promise Zone encompasses Hollywood, East Los Angeles, Pico Union, Westlake, and, perhaps most significantly, Koreatown. These neighborhoods are collectively home to 165,000 people, 35 percent of whom live in poverty.
Like many urban neighborhoods on the edge of a central business district, this area just west of Downtown Los Angeles had seen slow deterioration of its housing stock, a loss of jobs, weak transportation infrastructure, and growing homelessness in the years leading up to the civil unrest. After much of Koreatown was destroyed in the civil unrest, representatives of many economic interests and a variety of ethnic communities found common cause in the process of drafting redevelopment plans based on public-private partnerships, such as the Wilshire Center/Koreatown Redevelopment Project Area.
Now, more than two decades later, the Central Los Angeles Promise Zone is bringing the community together again to identify shared goals and desired outcomes around good jobs, safe streets, and improved educational opportunities for young people in the community. This process alone has not directly solved problems, but proposed solutions have a much better chance of becoming real when they are based on a deliberative process of community engagement and collective goal setting.
Lastly, Los Angeles has chosen policies that treat the undocumented population as part of the civic family. And they are, literally, a big part. One of every 10 adults in Los Angeles County, and the parents of one of every six kids in the public schools, are undocumented immigrants: one million people, the largest concentration in the country. The region’s commitment to including the undocumented in plans for the future goes way beyond “don’t ask, don’t tell” policies in law enforcement. Angelenos, often in concert with the state government, have helped ensure that unauthorized immigrants have access to health care, public education, drivers’ licenses, and community policing that unambiguously aims at protecting them and their neighbors.
They are part of us. That realization developed slowly, and it applies not just to the undocumented. Los Angeles was a city of contested spaces and tribal rivalries 25 years ago. It’s not that now.
(Roberto Suro and Gary Painter are professors in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California, which is co-hosting a two-day conference April 27-28 that will reflect on the 25 years since the 1992 civil unrest and look at the new community revitalization opportunities facing Los Angeles. Visit socialinnovation.usc.edu for more information. This retrospective was posted first at Zocalo Public Square)
BELL VIEW-It’s a strange day in Los Angeles. The slow drip of slime that has been falling on the head of the only independent candidate for City Council – a guy I once described as a "ray of hope" – has started to leave a real stain. My friend, Don, who’s been pounding the pavement for change since his training wheel days, appealed to everyone for empathy. But I can feel his heart breaking. “Why can’t we have nice things?” another friend asked in response to the breaking story.
I don’t know all the facts, but the ones I know don’t look good for the candidate. Somewhere, a former campaign staffer with an iPhone full of now ironic uplifting moments from this Cinderella story is dusting off her elevator pitch in anticipation of next year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Empathy. It’s hard to find in an era of racism, homophobia, sexism, ageism, fat-shaming, slut-shaming, rape-explaining, and pussy-grabbing. Everything today quickly divides into two camps. And, although I believe in objective truth, and that some things are either right or wrong, I also believe that most of the answers we seek fall somewhere between the two camps. Not some squishy middle where nothing means anything, not the phony objectivity conjured by the “both sides do it” media, but true communities built among diverse people. For that kind of community to exist, we need empathy and we need optimism.
Joe Bray-Ali is done. He only ever had a snowball’s chance, and Gil Cedillo just turned up the heat. That Bray-Ali lit the match himself only adds to the sense of constant defeat that hangs in the air like smog.
Why can’t we have nice things?
Well … we can. Exhibit A: The Silver Lake Reservoir. Like everything, the discussion around the future of the “lake” has broken down into competing ideologies. As usual, no discussion can take place without name calling and unfounded comparisons. Home ownership is likened to Trumpism; urban planning to ethnic cleansing; development to gentrification. I tend to divide the world up between the rich and the rest of us.
But a park is something we should all be able to agree on. Parks are what cities do best. And LA needs more parks.
I have a calculation I do whenever a politician in LA suggests turning some space into a park. I analyze the increased traffic flow, the impact on scarce parking resources, the potential influx of homeless people, the expense of building and maintaining the park….
And then I say yes.
I never met a park I didn’t like. A real park. People point to the disaster that is the “Triangle Park” in Los Feliz – but that was never anything but a glorified traffic median. Open the Silver Lake Reservoir up to people, wildlife, trees, benches, and – yeah – bathrooms and watch it blossom. I empathize with the fears of long-term residents who worry that their neighborhood will be turned into the Santa Monica Pier. I don’t see racism behind the desire to protect the single greatest investment of your life. But real progress almost always involves a leap of faith. And I have faith in the people of Los Angeles.
Let’s make Silver Lake Reservoir a park. And let’s not stop there.
(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING--If your email box is like mine, it is filled with invitations to Saturday’s Climate Change march and rally in Wilmington’s Banning Park. This rally begins at 11 AM, and it will be followed by a march to the nearby Tesoro Refinery, 1331 Eubank Avenue, in Los Angeles.
If you are already going to this rally, the three articles I discuss below will give you a deeper understanding of why this march is so important. Plus, I end with specific suggestions about what you can pursue locally to adapt to and, more importantly, to mitigate climate change.
If you haven’t thought about going to the rally, or are on the fence, then please check out the articles I link to below. I consider their authors – Bill McKibben, John Bellamy Foster, and Michael Klare -- to be the best U.S. writers on climate-related issues. What I appreciate is their accessible writing style and thorough scientific knowledge about climate change. But, more importantly, all three writers dig deeply into the economic, political, and social processes responsible for global warming. These are not writers who fall back on a vague concept of human-caused climate change. Instead, they identify the industries, companies, political forces, and politicians most responsible for what all three writers consider inevitable terracide if not abruptly stopped.
If this strikes you as alarmist, then you are absolutely right. Despite their differences, all three writers are alarmists, and they explain, in painful detail, the political and economic processes that are already leading to planetary-wide destruction. Furthermore, even though their solutions differ, all three call for deep systemic changes beyond their harsh critiques of the Trump administration and of trendy life-style changes dubbed “going green.”
The lead story in the week’s issue of The Nation, On April 29, We march for the Future, is authored by Bill McKibben, this country leading climate writer, advocate, and political organizer. Widely known through his many articles and appearances, McKibben is also the founder of Saturday’s Climate March in Washington, DC, and in many other cities, like Los Angeles.
McKibben describes our current situation in these unsparing words:
“It is hard to avoid hyperbole when you talk about global warming. It is, after all, the biggest thing humans have ever done, and by a very large margin. In the past year, we’ve decimated the Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest living structure on Earth. In the drought-stricken territories around the Sahara, we’ve helped kick off what The New York Times called “one of the biggest humanitarian disasters since World War II.” We’ve melted ice at the poles at a record pace, because our emissions trap extra heat from the sun that’s equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima-size explosions a day. Which is why, just maybe, you should come to … a series of big climate protests that will mark the 100th day of Trumptime. Maybe the biggest thing ever is worth a day.”
McKibben’s solutions largely rest on a combination of mass political pressure on both political parties and extensive technological change. His goal is to keep as much carbon in the ground through total bans on fracking and the Dakota Access and Keystone pipelines. He also calls for the full transformation to renewables: solar panels, bikes, buses, electric cars, wind power, and improved batteries. His ultimate goal is the elimination of all new fossil fuel infrastructure and the transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
In Trump and Climate Catastrophe, University of Oregon environmental sociologist John Bellamy Foster carefully describes the combined political and economic processes that have lead to the current climate catastrophe. Like McKibben, Foster considers the current crisis to be much larger than Donald Trump. And like McKibben, Foster thinks Trump’s efforts to stop climate research and fully deregulate the fossil fuel industry could move the existing current climate crisis past the point of no return. In Foster’s words:
“The effects of the failure to mitigate global warming will not of course come all at once, and will not affect all regions and populations equally. But just a few years of inaction in the immediate future could lock in dangerous climate change that would be irreversible for the next ten thousand years. It is feared that once the climatic point of no return—usually seen as a 2°C increase in global average temperatures—is reached, positive-feedback mechanisms will set in, accelerating warming trends and leading, in the words of James Hansen, … to “a dynamic situation that is out of [human] control,” propelling the world toward the 4°C (or even higher) future that is thought by scientists to portend the end of civilization, in the sense of organized human society.”
Where Foster disagrees with McKibben is over the latter’s faith in a transformation to renewable energy. In Foster’s words, “Even though a conversion to renewable energy is hypothetically conceivable within the system, capital’s demand for short-term profits, its competitive drive, its vested interests, and its inability to plan for long-term needs all militate against rational energy solutions.” In other words, the economic and political barriers of modern capitalism will effectively block the total technological energy transformation that McKibben calls for. Foster is not opposed to such an energy transformation in theory, but in practice he believes that the political barriers cannot be overcome without a parallel economic transformation.
As a result, Foster comes to a dire conclusion; we can continue to live under capitalism or we can make the wide-ranging political and economic changes that will ultimately prevent imminent planetary catastrophe. But, we cannot have our cake and eat it too: we can choose one or the other, but cannot choose both.
Foster calls his alternative political/economic program eco-socialism. He also points out that many others have reached the same radical conclusion, such as Eric S. Godoy and Aaron Jaffe in their October 31, 2016, op-ed piece in the New York Times, “We Don’t Need a ‘War’ on Climate Change, We Need a Revolution.” Their point, like Foster’s, is that we are now at a critical juncture in human history. Governmental and corporate allegiance to fossil fuel profits has become a death knell to humanity. We must now assure that a dangerous economic system ends, not the planet and human civilization. The choice is stark, but it is ours. chael Klare’s recent article, Climate Change is Genocide: Why Inaction equals Annihilation, first appeared on-line at TomDispatch and then was widely republished.
Like McKibben and Foster, Klare, who teaches at Hampshire College, contends that humanity is at the precipice. Emerging conditions in Africa reveal what this catastrophe eventually portends for the entire planet. In Klare’s words:
“The overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists agree that any increase in average world temperatures that exceeds 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial era -- some opt for a rise of no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius -- will alter the global climate system drastically. In such a situation, a number of societies will simply disintegrate in the fashion of South Sudan today, producing staggering chaos and misery. So far, the world has heated up by at least one of those two degrees, and unless we stop burning fossil fuels in quantity soon, the 1.5-degree level will probably be reached in the not-too-distant future. Worse yet, on our present trajectory, it seems highly unlikely that the warming process will stop at 2 or even 3 degrees Celsius, meaning that later in this century many of the worst-case climate-change scenarios -- the inundation of coastal cities, the desertification of vast interior regions, and the collapse of rain-fed agriculture in many areas -- will become everyday reality.
Klare’s program is not fully articulated in his Tom Dispatch article, but he does spell it out in more detail elsewhere, and he also calls for readers to join one of the April 29 Climate Marches. More specifically, Klare proposes that those who understand the calamity already underway work on two fronts. The first is broad political struggle, similar to McKibben, especially against the Trump administration, as well as a full energy transformation. The second is local actions that can proceed with or without hostile laws and regulations from the Trump administration.
Therefore, let us consider a few of these local actions, especially since the effects of climate change are already appearing in California as more intensive forest fires, droughts, heat waves, tree dies offs, beach erosion, and heavy rains.
What you can do at the local level: As I have previously written at CityWatch and Progressive City, despite weak leadership in both major parties on climate issues in Washington, DC, there is still much we can achieve at the municipal level.
Extensive urban tree planting: As explained by a recent LA Times investigative study of tree die-offs in Southern California, climate change plays a decisive role. It expresses itself as five years of drought, which weakened trees, followed by an extremely wet year in which insects now thrive, including invasive species. The result is millions of dead trees, with no end in sight. Therefore, we need to accelerate our planting of a highly diverse urban forest in Los Angeles so future combinations of extreme climate events, plant dise ases, and invasive species will not devastate entire neighborhoods.
Once achieved, this vigorous urban forest will reduce CO2 levels, which have recently reach 410 parts per million (ppm). Trees can also filter out other dangerous air pollutants, such as particulate matter. In addition to climate change mitigation, trees also play an important role in adapting to climate change by creating shade that protects us from heat waves and makes walking more inviting, while buffeting heavy rains and allowing percolation into aquifers.
Alternative Transportation Modes: Los Angele already has a range grass roots group that advocate for more transit, bicycle infrastructure, and pedestrian improvements. While all these options require money, they also need public supporters who are fully engaged. They must write articles and letters-to-the-editor, heavily lobby elected officials, make their case at public meetings and hearings, organize participatory events and demonstrations, and when necessary, engage in civil disobedience.
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA): On one hand, we have a powerful tool to understand the climate impacts of plans, programs, and public and private projects. It is the California Environmental Quality Act, which also provides elected officials with a lever to stop or downsize projects that contribute to global warming. On the other hand, our elected officials have a developer-guided political agenda to reduce the scope and power of CEQA. Since the developers have no intention of changing this cozy relationship, it is up to local activists to drown out and expose the City Hall pay-to-play that is contributing to terracide.
Conclusion? When Saturday’s march is over, roll up your sleeves for the long haul. Through CityWatch, you will get some report cards and action plans for the tumultuous years ahead.
(Dick Platkin is a former LA city planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatch. He recently taught courses in sustainable city planning at USC’s Price School of Social Policy, where he used articles by the three authors cited in the above column. Please send any comments and corrections to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
EASTSIDER-When the dust cleared from the 23 candidate race to replace Xavier Becerra in the 34th Congressional District Special Election, Mariel Garza of the Los Angeles Times couldn’t resist a condescending Opinion piece with the pretentious title of LA voters didn’t just turn their backs on Berniecrat progressivism, they went positively Clintonesque.
We’ll get into why this is balderdash in a bit, but first a confession from yours truly. I totally forgot that the boundaries of the 34th Congressional District don’t match up at all with the City Council boundaries. It basically covers all of CD1 and CD14, as well as all of Koreatown – as opposed to the Wesson-led effort that came up with the gerrymandered redistricting map that chopped Koreatown into four City Council Districts.
As a result, I didn’t check the financial reporting until it came out a few days before the election, and discovered Robert Ahn, who was not terribly visible in my area of town but still scored something like $500,000 in contributions as of that last reporting period before the election. Shame on me, and let’s hear it for Ahn, who came in second in the race and will face Jimmy Gomez in the June 6 runoff. My bad.
Behind the Primary Numbers
While Gomez and Ahn are the survivors of the primary, let’s not forget that between the two of them, they got less than 48 percent of the vote (25% and 22%) and nine of the 23 candidates got over 1000 votes, with Maria Cabildo scoring over 10% (4259.) That ain’t bad. From my point of view, these numbers repudiate the assumptions buried in the Times OpEd that it’s business as usual.
Those numbers demonstrate to me exactly what the “Bernie Revolution” was really about -- creating the next generation of younger, grassroots, bottom-up progressive democrats that will take over the ho-hum Democratic Party establishment. Good for them and shame on Mariel Garza and the Times.
And while Garza’s piece was written before the final tally, the actual final turnout numbers were 14% of eligible voters, not the 10% she reported. That represents some 43,000 voters, of which over 50% were vote by mail. While that is not a huge number, it isn’t terrible in a year where we have had election after election, with more to come, and a number of my friends have complained about voter burnout. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could rationalize our voting system?
Also, the voting shift from going to the polls vs. mail-in-balloting is getting progressively larger, courtesy of the permanent vote-by-mail, called “permanent absentee voter” in Registrar-ese. I think that the 50% number is going to continue to grow, as people become less interested in taking their decreasing personal time to actually go to the polls on Election Day, and are more comfortable with social media and other not-in-the-flesh ways of communication.
Democratic Clubs and the 34th Congressional District
In large part because of all the interesting and contentious elections in what used to be boring old Northeast LA, our Democratic clubs have been growing by leaps and bounds. At last week’s Northeast Dems endorsement debate, around 200 members packed the venue to hear Gil Cedillo and Joe Bray-Ali. And these were actual dues paying members, since you had to be a member to vote. Good for them.
I won’t get into the NEDC’s CD1 endorsement debate, since it mirrored other recent debates between incumbent Gil Cedillo and challenger Joe Bray-Ali. I will only say that the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of Gil Cedillo. The one variable I’m not quite sure about is that in the “old” days you had to have been a member by the beginning of the year to vote. I heard that the new criteria had a much shorter time frame and might have been responsible for the dramatic increase in the club’s numbers for this endorsement vote.
As for the EAPD (East Area Progressives), they have had almost a geometrical membership growth, and are probably at around 800 members as I write this column.
Since the Northeast Dems endorsed Jimmy Gomez before the primary and the East LA Progressive Dems have not yet made an endorsement, it made the April 25 meeting important.
I will again have to admit that I wasn’t familiar with Robert Lee Ahn until recently -- I don’t go to Planning Commission meetings because I believe that they either do what the Council tells them or the Council will overrule whatever action they take. Mr. Ahn is on that Commission and it would have been helpful to see him in action, notwithstanding the City Council’s 15-0 closed ranks “we don’t care what the Planning Commission thinks” attitude.
So I’m glad I attended the EAPD meeting. From a very articulate and passionate pitch by Mr. Ahn’s surrogate, Peter Choi, I will admit that I am fascinated, and want to learn more, not to mention meet and greet Robert Lee Ahn. A native Angeleno, (LAC/USC Hospital) he came up in the Congressional District, and ultimately became a practicing public interest attorney after obtaining his law degree from USC.
His resume is seriously impressive. In addition to being on the LA City Planning Commission, he reads like an honest-to-god-no-kidding Bernie progressive, kind of like Joseph Bray-Ali in CD1, but this time, a straight-up lifer grassroots democrat with a real progressive track record. And a public interest lawyer to boot.
Jimmy Gomez we know. Currently in the Legislature, well-spoken, and beyond a doubt the front runner. He’s endorsed by everybody -- Xavier Becerra himself, the California Democratic Party, and SEIU, and so on.
At the meeting Mr. Gomez spoke very knowledgeably about current California legislation, like the Disclose Act (AB 14), which he co-authored and would require the big bucks donors on ballot measures to cough up their names. He also talked about SB 54 (the “sanctuary state” bill), authored by his friend Kevin de Leon -- which recently passed out the Senate.
Here’s the thing. As with Council District 1, Congressional District 34 is an up-front carve-out designed to be a safe Latino District within our wonderfully partisan federal redistricting process. I’m so used to City Hall slicing and dicing Koreatown into digestible pieces, that I missed the fact that all of Koreatown is in the 34th Congressional District. And I’m sure that I am not alone in that unfortunate assumption.
Still, it may not all be locked up for the front-runner Jimmy Gomez. After all, he wound up with only 25% of the total vote, about 2% more than Robert Lee Ahn. It’s all about turnout. If the real Bernie progressives show up in force, and there are enough of them on that list of 23 candidates, Robert Lee Ahn could win. As the primary proved, he has the ability to be raise enough funds and votes to be competitive in a runoff election.
The trick is, Robert Lee Ahn needs to be able to reach out to everyone in the district to let them get to know him and see him in action, including me. Remember, this vote could have national implications in the toxic Washington battles to come.
So I urge everyone to try and see both Ahn and Gomez before they cast a ballot. Hint, hint, the EAPD Endorsement Meeting will be on May 23, and it would be an excellent opportunity to see both candidates in action. You can find out more about them here.
As readers of this column know, I love a real, competitive race for office. Witness Council District 1, the only runoff against an incumbent in LA City. Something is happening in Northeast LA, even as we gentrify. In this race the stakes are infinitely higher than for a local election, so we need to pay serious attention. This job could be for life, and we don’t need someone who will simply follow the Nancy Pelosi party line -- she and her pre-anointed candidate are what got Donald Trump elected President.
And on a personal note, Xavier Becerra was absolutely loyal to Nancy Pelosi for his entire career in the U.S. Congress, and what he got for all that loyalty was to be passed over a lot. Even as Pelosi failed to take the hint that she’s why the Dems lost the House, and ran for re-election as House Minority Leader.
Becerra’s a good guy (even if he has pre-endorsed in this runoff) and I’ve followed him his entire career. What the D.C. Dems did wasn’t right, and all their actions simply show that they won’t let the next generation step up and take their rightful place in Washington. You know, the ones that might actually be progressive.
Follow this race closely, engage in the debate, and above all, VOTE if you are in the District!
(Tony Butka is an Eastside community activist, who has served on a neighborhood council, has a background in government and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
A SPECIAL REPORT--It’s Monday afternoon in Bellflower, a small suburb in southeastern Los Angeles County, California. Juana, 34, and a neighbor from her apartment complex are watching their sons. (All names in this story have been changed to protect undocumented people’s identities.) It’s one of Juana’s two days off per week from the luxury hotel she works at in Beverly Hills as a housekeeper.
The two boys, both 3 years old, are playing on the couch in the small living room that doubles as a dining area, with a kitchen tucked into a corner. Aside from helping watch over the children, Juana’s neighbor holds a gaze through an opening in the front window curtain, and eventually spots someone outside. “That’s the man with the gas company,” she tells Juana in Spanish. “It’s fine if you want to open the door when he knocks.”
Both women are originally from El Salvador. They help one another with ordinary neighborly tasks like saving a washer in the building’s laundry room for a load of clothes. As women from Central America who are terrified of Donald Trump, they watch one another’s backs the way immigrants and refugees would under a new administration that partly came into power on the promise of mass deportations. These days, the women say, every knock on the door, every step outside, and every ride on public transit merits scrutiny.
I spent the better part of a week with Juana – morning, noon and night – to try to make sense of her life under Trump, watching her calculate and recalculate even the smallest decisions in her life.
The man at her door, it turns out, works with an energy-savings assistance project and he’s here to let Juana know she’s eligible for a free, brand-new refrigerator. He just needs to confirm she qualifies for the program, which rewards low-income residents with energy-efficient appliances. He enters the tiny one-bedroom apartment to inspect the existing refrigerator, as Juana explains there are three others living here: her husband Roberto, her 9-year-old daughter Bella and her son Bobby. The man jots down some notes and leaves.
Juana’s friend – who currently has an open asylum claim after fleeing El Salvador with her then-toddler son two years ago – is part of an informal support network that helps keep Juana safe as an undocumented immigrant in Los Angeles, the place she’s called home since shortly after arriving here in 2006. Conversations between the women persistently return to the issue of immigration; Juana’s husband, Roberto, is undocumented, while her children are both United States-born citizens.
Later, she tells me that had her friend not been there to inform her that the man wasn’t an agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, she wouldn’t have opened the door. Instead, she would have hidden inside all day and into the night.
ICE employs what it calls a sensitive location policy, which dictates that agents should take considerable measures to avoid enforcement actions at hospitals, schools and churches. Yet since Trump assumed office, ICE has detained a woman at a hospital, a father a few blocks from his daughters’ schools and a group of men leaving a church shelter where they were keeping warm.
“Did you hear about the young woman who entered on a visa from Argentina and talked to the press?” Juana asks me one evening. She’s referring to Daniela Vargas, who was detained by ICE moments after speaking at a news conference. Juana knows the story of every high-profile detention and deportation since Trump took office. Although ICE’s policy discourages agents from targeting people at the site of a public demonstration like the one Vargas addressed, that didn’t stop her from being detained. “It’s a risk for us to talk to reporters,” Juana reminds me.
A few weeks ago, Juana was on her way to work on a Metro train when she saw a friend’s Facebook post about ICE’s presence at Union Station – a stop she wasn’t headed toward but which, nevertheless, is on the same line she was riding. When her shift ended, she asked her friend at work for a ride back home, rather than risk the train. She avoided public transportation entirely for the next five days.
In addition to verifiable news about ICE’s enforcement, and warranted warnings from her network of supportive friends, false rumors have also taken root in Juana’s life and have caused her to drastically alter her decision-making. She’d long planned to send her daughter, Bella, to visit El Salvador for the first time, either during winter or spring break, but heard that immigration agents – with vicious dogs – were swarming LAX. Although there’s no evidence of this, the rumor alone is enough for Juana to completely avoid an airport she’s visited in the past. Juana’s fear means Bella can’t visit her parent’s homeland – at least until Trump leaves office.
Juana does have rights as an undocumented immigrant, but she’s not sure what those rights are. The labor union she belongs to holds know-your-rights workshops, but she’s terrified that if she attends, her co-workers will figure out her status. Only one friend at work knows Juana is undocumented; she fears if more find out, it could all be downhill from there.
Aside from the psychological toll the constant vigilance since Trump’s election has taken on her, Juana is also risking her physical health. While she has employer-based health insurance through Kaiser, she canceled an annual physical because the fake document (which contained her real name and birthday) she was previously using to identify herself, has expired. “There are a lot of racist people,” she tells me. “What if one of them starts questioning me about my documentation?” Although she’s been struggling with digestive issues and poor circulation, she’s willing to forgo a doctor’s visit because of her uncertainty.
I explain how she can use another form of identification to go to Kaiser, like a passport. Sometime later, she shows me her Salvadoran passport and wonders why her initial panic stopped her from thinking about using it as a different form of ID. What Juana knows about this administration hurts her – but what she doesn’t know about her rights under Trump harms her, too.
Juana came to the United States in 2006, when she was 23. El Salvador’s civil war had ended in 1992, but the vast rift between the haves and have-nots that largely fueled the war lives on – and it continues to inform the country’s violence.
Juana had done especially well in mathematics in school but her family couldn’t afford to send her to college to prepare for her dream of becoming an accountant. Instead, she worked factory jobs after graduating high school. She came to the U.S. at a time when there were no real options for her to escape poverty at home. In the decade she’s been gone, El Salvador has exploded with a kind of violence that scares her far more than the threats from Trump’s administration.
“The first tragedy we lived through was in 2011, when my mom’s older brother couldn’t pay the rent,” she says. The rent she’s referring to isn’t a payment made to a landlord, however, but payments extorted by local gangs. Her uncle was killed. Then, in 2012, a second uncle was killed because he, too, couldn’t pay the rent. That left one uncle behind, who came to the U.S. that year and was granted asylum here.
In 2013, her aunt came to the U.S. and was also granted asylum along with her two children. That year, however, Juana’s father was shot in the legs but can apparently still walk. “I can’t really tell you how well my dad is doing,” shrugs Juana. “I haven’t seen him since before he was shot.”
In 2015, her brother-in-law, an undercover cop who had helped put away several gang members, was killed after his boss set him up for a pay-off. His wife, Juana’s sister, became a target after it was rumored that she was a police informant. Her sister went into hiding along with her 11-year-old daughter before fleeing north. They were apprehended just over this side of the U.S. border but were soon released pending an asylum hearing.
But there’s no such process that Juana thinks is currently available to her – she can be an undocumented immigrant, but not an asylee. This, despite the fact her family has consistently been hunted down in El Salvador, a place she’s seen grow increasingly violent from a distance. “I can’t imagine myself back there,” she says.
Juana wakes up at 5 a.m. on her workdays, Wednesday through Sunday. Roberto does custom construction work six days a week and has Sundays off – which means the two rarely get to spend a day together. Roberto drives and has a license under California’s undocumented driver program. The license, which is part of a database, is marked to distinguish his undocumented status, but Roberto says it’s better to be licensed and insured than to fly under the radar. Juana never got a license and the car she was using for short errands started acting up recently; instead of getting it fixed, she’s opted to stop driving. It’s too risky now, anyway.
It’s still dark out and Roberto yawns while he puts his boots on. “There’s no rest here,” he tells me, adding that it’s all work and bills in the United States. He works 48 hours a week earning $12 an hour as an independent contractor. The pay could be worse but it’s challenging every April when the couple forks over their share of taxes to the government.
By 5:35 a.m., Roberto is warming up the car. Bella is walking with her backpack on as Juana carries a sleeping little Bobby in a blanket. They all get into the car and drive a few minutes over to the friend who will watch the children; she’ll walk Bella to school and back, and watch Bobby all day. By 6:10 a.m., Roberto drops Juana off at a rail stop.
Juana works the 8 a.m. shift cleaning rooms. She likes the union job and its perks – but as with any job, it comes with its challenges. People who can drop a thousand dollars a night on a hotel stay tend to be demanding. Some can say inappropriate things. There was a fistfight between two guests at the hotel several months ago and the police were called. She didn’t think much of it then, but is terrified of being near police since Trump got elected.
After an eight-hour shift, Juana walks back to the bus to begin her commute home, along with her friend from work – the one who knows she’s undocumented. This afternoon we’re all walking down a posh but ill-designed residential Beverly Hills street that’s become a throughway for heavy traffic, when the driver of a new sports car almost runs us over. Juana and her friend keep walking as if nothing happened. She tells me later that some Beverly Hills residents assume that because of our skin color, we’re all housekeepers and are therefore not worthy of common courtesy. Confronting the driver could result in further scrutiny from law enforcement – so rather than say anything to him, the women ignored the incident.
On the last train back home, I spot a sheriff’s deputy quickly board the car in the front of us. As soon as I let her know, Juana calmly puts her phone away and tries to distinguish the deputy through the shadows caused by the sun beginning to set on Los Angeles. For the next three stops, Juana trains her eyes on him without flinching. If I didn’t know what she was doing, I’d guess she was zoning out. She’s not.
When we detrain, Juana asks me to look back and confirm the deputy’s not following us. He’s not, I assure her. She explains she was extremely alarmed because he was alone when he should have been with a partner, since that’s how they always patrol railcars. Even for people terrified of law enforcement, one deputy shouldn’t garner more trepidation than two deputies, but in Juana’s case, it makes sense. There was something out of the ordinary and it required closer examination – this time, her complete attention to make sure the deputy wasn’t an ICE agent.
Immigration enforcement is a system – abstract and difficult to put your finger on. Sure, Juana fears the system, but that fear has also caused her to fear individuals, too: the obliging appliance man, the imaginary Kaiser receptionist, the obnoxious sports car driver – they all present a potential danger to an undocumented woman surviving the Trump era.
(Aura Bogado is a writer based in Los Angeles. She has written for the Guardian, Teen Vogue, Mother Jones and the Nation. This piece was co-produced by The American Report and Capital and Main.)
THE COHEN COLUMN--Back in his college days George W. Bush was infamous for denying he'd said what he just said 30 seconds earlier. Lately, Trump has repeatedly claimed he never promised he'd do in 100 days all the things he put in his 100 day "contract" as a candidate.
It is interesting, given his history of breaching contracts, that Donald Trump would call his campaign promises a contract.
This is not the first time that a Republican candidate has offered America a contract, framed just that way. In 1994, the Republicans took back Congress behind such pledging by Newt Gingrich, but at least they actually tried to pass the legislation they promised they would bring to a vote.
BTW: That legislation was their undoing when voters booted them out in the next bout of Congressional elections. After which Newt resigned as Speaker of the House of Representatives. If only Trump would act so.
Trump hasn't even bothered to introduce most of what he promised. He did not have idea one about how to draft a "great" health care bill. And even now it is not clear how the Republicans in congress, who also campaigned on a health care repeal promise, are going to get it together to pass anything.
It’s like his campaign promises? What campaign promises?
What will he tell us he never said next?
What's a contract with Donald J. Trump worth? Not much if you ask the guy who sold him pianos for his casino, who Trump then refused to pay, along with innumerable other contractors he stiffed on his way to four bankruptcies. He has even espoused this as a smart business strategy, breach your contracts and force people to sue you.
This brings us to the so-called wall. You remember the wall … the one Mexico was going to pay for? Now Trump wants Congress to pay for it. They won't, even though Trump said he wouldn’t sign a budget unless it was included. Now it's "Mexico will pay us BACK." Sure they will. Maybe we can sue them for the money.
BTW Read how Trump’s lone border visit foreshadowed his flawed vision for a wall and [spoiler alert] how afraid he actually was.
Trump said he would fight for his supporters. Trump is not even willing to go to the wall (so to speak) for his own boondoggle folly of a wall.
He promised them a big, beautiful wall. But at most all they may end up with is a fence, like what we ALREADY have on at least 1/3 of our 2000 mile southern border.
The reason we go on like this is because someone needs to keep truth alive out here.
Somebody needs to keep calling him out on his relentless output of bigger and bigger lies.
Somebody needs to constantly be setting the record straight and asking 'who's the real fake here?'
The news media is starting to seriously editorialize instead of just repeating his lies as if they could be taken at face value,
Be one of those voices calling Trump out for his lies.
Keep truth alive. And somehow we'll all make it through this.
(Michael N. Cohen is a former board member of the Reseda Neighborhood Council, founding member of the LADWP Neighborhood Council Oversight Committee, founding member of LA Clean Sweep and occasional contributor to CityWatch.)
URBAN PERSPECTIVE-#45 Trump got one thing right about the media-hyped first 100 days measuring stick of a new president. It’s a silly measure. In fact, presidents from John F. Kennedy to Obama have derided the 100-day fetish and correctly noted that the far better to gauge how effective or bumbling an incoming president is the first 1000 days. A quick look at the presidency of Clinton and Bush is enough to prove that. Clinton bombed badly in pushing Congress for a $16 billion stimulus package; he bungled the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gays in the military, and got the first flack on his healthcare reform plan. Yet, the Clinton presidency is regarded as one of the most successful, popular and enduring in modern times.
Then there’s the Bush presidency. He got off to a fast start. At the 100-day mark in April 2001, his approval ratings matched Obama’s. He was widely applauded for his trillion-dollar tax cutting program, his “Faith-Based” and disabled Americans Initiatives, and for talking up education, healthcare reform and slashing the national debt. But aside from the momentary adulation he got after the 9/11 terror attack his presidency is rated as one of the worst in modern times.
But while Trump, like Kennedy and Obama, got it right in ridiculing the 100-day time span as being way too short to call a new presidential administration a success or failure, it’s not too short a period to call his White House stint the worst 100 days ever. It’s not his consistent bottom wallowing popularity rating that tags his administration the worst first time start ever. It’s not even his record of non-accomplishment which amounts to a slew of inconsequential executive orders that mostly attempt to torpedo some of Obama’s executive orders, and his disastrous, court-derailed Muslim immigrant ban. It’s the utter lack of any hint that things will get any better during his next 100, or even 1000 days in the White House.
The tip offs of his future cluelessness are everywhere. He’s the least politically equipped winning presidential candidate to ever sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. Now that was the great asset that got him elected since so many Americans were supposedly so fed up with the insular, corrupt, deal making, corporate dominated, politics of Beltway Washington. Trump was supposedly the remedy for that. This delusion should have been shattered with the parade of Goldman Sachs tied, Pentagon connected generals, and Trump corporate cronies that he plopped into his cabinet and top staff positions. This could only mean one thing, the corporate and political regulars that Trump pretended to sneer at would do what they always do and that’s run the government show for him, as they have for other GOP presidents.
The flop on the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the polarizing vote on his Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch did two seemingly impossible things. It turned off legions of hard right GOP House conservatives and moderate Senate Democrats who had made some soundings about trying to work out an accommodation with Trump on some legislative and policy issues. The future here is going to be one of never-ending, time consuming, get nothing done rancor and in-fighting between Trump and Congress.
The Russia election meddling scandal, Trump’s refusal to disclose his taxes, and his dubious conflict of interest business dealings insure that the screams for congressional investigations will only get louder in the days and months to come. This will continue to keep the tens of millions who want Trump bounced from office revved up. They’ll continue to turn up at GOP and Democratic congresspersons town halls and shout them down on any defense they try to make of Trump’s policies and actions.
Trump’s weak defense against prolonged and guaranteed failure is to toss a few missiles or drop a bomb every now and then or saber rattle the usual suspect villains, ISIS, Assad, the Taliban, and the North Koreans. The media will run with this for a time, and some commentators who should know better will even call his acts forceful and presidential. This will wipe his political and legislative flops off the front page for a day or so, and give him a point or two bump up in the polls. But even here, he can only go to the well so often with the military tough guy act before this starts to wear thin, and some begin to catch on to his wag the dog game.
The 1000-day mark that Obama, Kennedy and other presidents cited as the more realistic time frame is not an arbitrary number. That marks the near end of a president’s first White House term. The honeymoon is over, and the president has fought major battles over his policies, initiatives, executive orders, court appointments and programs with Congress, the courts, interest groups and the media. Battles that by then have been won or lost, or fought to a draw, and there’s enough time to gauge their impact and the president’s effectiveness. In Trump’s case, it won’t matter. His first 1000 days will be like his first 100, the worst presidency ever.
(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst and CityWatch contributor. He is the author of the new ebook How the Democrats Can Win in The Trump Era (Amazon Kindle). He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
COMMON DREAMS REPORT--A new report shows that many previous estimates of global sea level rise by 2100 were far too conservative, the Washington Post reported, and the research comes as new maps and graphics from Climate Central vividly show how disastrous that flooding will be for U.S. cities.
The Post writes:
The assessment found that under a relatively moderate global warming scenario—one that slightly exceeds the temperature targets contained in the Paris climate agreement—seas could be expected to rise "at least" 52 centimeters, or 1.7 feet, by the year 2100. Under a more extreme, "business as usual" warming scenario, meanwhile, the minimum rise would be 74 centimeters, or 2.4 feet.
The report explored a minimum rise scenario, but not a maximum or worst-case scenario. However, a separate report (pdf) published at the end of the Obama administration by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) did just that, and found that in the most extreme case, the sea in some locations will rise a stunning eight feet by the century's end.
Illustrating how devastating this would be, Climate Central created 3D visualizations of what U.S. cities will look like in NOAA's most extreme scenario.
(President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort would be completely drowned in the most extreme scenario for sea level rise. (Image: Climate Central)
Rising seas alone may displace over 13 million people in the U.S., dispersing climate refugees and reshaping inland cities, as Common Dreams reported last week.
But even Trump won't be spared from the looming disaster, Climate Central observes, showing that the projected sea level rise will completely flood the president's Mar-a-Lago resort.
(This is a Common Dreams report.)
THE PREVEN REPORT-It was “La La Land” at City Hall…the Greatest Show on Earth! Bungee jumpers (photo above) plunging from impossible heights -- and Mayor Eric “move-over-Scott-Joplin-there’s-a-new-sheriff-in-town” Garcetti jamming hard on the piano. (He’s good. See photo, below left.)
Not advertised but taking place at the same time on the 15th floor of City Hall East was a magnificent pick-pocket demonstration by the Prop HHH Administrative Oversight Committee (AOC), headed by Richard Llewellyn, who made the unorthodox leap from being Eric Garcetti’s personal lawyer to being the Chief Administrative Officer of the City of Los Angeles. The public couldn’t believe its wallet was gone. How’d they do that?
Since we last wrote about this group, things have gone from bad to worse.
Prop HHH was a great victory for Mayor Garcetti, no? He was proud to have led the charge, and wasn’t shy about saying so on TV.
So why the sudden secrecy? Don’t they want to keep that Great Spirit going? Fill the room with excited members of the public? Celebrate our progress towards ending homelessness in LA?
Apparently not. Just the opposite. Now, it’s round-the-clock evasion, obfuscation and silly tricks.
Is this because they’re doing a great job? Are they planning a surprise party?
It’s time for the public to send a message to Mayor Garcetti and his team: We are watching. It is not OK to persuade Angelenos to give money for a cause they believe in only to have that money diverted to serve an alternate agenda.
Here’s some specific demands:
Meeting agendas must include links to all supplementary materials to be discussed at the meeting -- and audio recordings of those meetings should be posted without delay -- just as every other meeting does.
The AOC discussed the need for the city to be compensated for the time it spends on work related to Prop HHH. It would take the form, in effect, of a “commission” on each project.
The precise percentage has not been determined, but it’s not a good sign that when co-author Eric Preven asked what the commission would be on a $3.5 million project and, as the presenter started to answer the question, the CAO shushed the staffer, saying that they weren’t taking questions from the floor. He then authorized another employee to not-answer the question.
It's true the proposition allows for the City to recoup “costs incidental to issuing the general obligation bonds,” but those should be minimal. And that phrase does not give permission to set up a “billable hours” system.
It’s the City’s job to handle various funding sources. If we’re going to take a commission off every HHH project, then let’s go to the car dealership model. There are slow months and busy months in any job. You don’t get paid extra for the busy months.
Also, the bond will save the City money by, as the bond says, mitigating “financial pressures on the General Fund.”
Something’s got to give. If Mayor Garcetti keeps pushing forward with his public-unfriendly agenda (why else would his team be hiding themselves away?) then public outrage will mount until the whole ugly story winds up on the front page of the New York Times. There is such a thing as bad press, and it’s called “being accused in a national newspaper of stealing money from the homeless.”
Alternatively, the Mayor can throw in the towel on his agenda, open up the whole process, and wind up on the front page of the NY Times as a star. La La Land forever!
(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.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
GUEST COMMENTARY--In recent years' videos of law enforcement in action have become commonplace. Departments have adopted video cameras to record their deputies and officers in action, bystanders have posted cellphone videos of police action, and surveillance cameras have captured images which have been replayed on local and national media.
Cameras have proven to be another tool to improve officer safety and accountability, enhance training and improve prosecution of criminal cases. Review of videos by officers has proven valuable in the accurate documentation of criminal activity as well as an enhancement to subsequent testimony and presentation of evidence in court.
We expect video recordings will increase deputy sheriffs' effectiveness by documenting crimes and refuting frivolous claims of police misconduct. Time and again, we have seen that some of the best evidence against made-up tales of law enforcement abuse is the complete, unedited video footage of an incident captured in its entirety and with proper context.
In this age of videos, one concern that law enforcement leaders now face is that the public believes that they know the whole story after a snippet of video on from an incident is captured posted online or shown on television. Unfortunately, while outwardly compelling videos images tell only part of the story, they often do not depict what occurred before and after an incident. Those few moments in time do not provide context and may not reveal the subtleties behind an encounter, what led up to it and the totality of what occurred during it. It is understandable that for most people a collage of images might be all they need to pass judgment, and this leads to a disconnect as to why law enforcement leaders and prosecutors cannot come to the same quick judgment.
The narrow scope of a video lens cannot show a deputy's perception of what occurred or in some cases what actually occurred. Cognitive science research has clearly demonstrated that perceptions and memories are not literal representations of reality, and a deputy's behavior is affected by our perceptions of reality not necessarily reality itself. A peace officers' actions reflect their perception of the event from their point of view.
Videos, whether they be cell phones or body cameras are a tool to document events; they are not the whole story. Interactions with the public, particularly stressful situations such as uses of force, are dynamic and deputies are not able to stop and take notes or record information as cameras can. That is why we have long been a strong proponent of having deputies review videos of incidents before writing their report. Viewing a video allows them to recall details more accurately or at the very least account for those details they didn't perceive or do not remember. The fact that something is recorded doesn't mean the entire context of an event is captured, as this New York Times video documents.
A complete airing of all the facts can often end up in a different conclusion. For example, as video of three LAPD officers led to public outcry and a civil lawsuit, a federal jury later unanimously rejected the civil rights lawsuit after examining all the facts, and not just focusing on the most sensational piece of video "evidence." In another high-profile case, after repeated airing on television, it was later revealed in court that a video used by a gang member and his attorney to smear the good names of two honest police officers had been doctored.
We certainly do not quarrel with the use of videos. In fact, they often provide key evidence which can exonerate deputies and officers in the face of questions regarding the use of force actions or claims of misconduct While on television crimes can be solved in in an hour, the intricate legal issues often seen on videos, including those related to law enforcement training, department policies and procedures, control and perception, take more than an hour to analyze.
Despite their usefulness, it is critical that everyone understands that videos have limitations. Videos are only part of the evidence in an incident, not "all the evidence." This key point needs to be remembered every time there is a claim that a snippet of video "proves" what happened in any incident.
(The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) is the collective bargaining agent representing more than 7,900 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County.)
15 CANDLES--Fifteen years ago, more or less, the first neighborhood councils in Los Angeles opened for business. I was there at the beginning as chair of the group that organized the second certified council, Coastal San Pedro. Our election in February 2002 was the first ever held.
It’s not that we didn’t know what we were doing. Let’s just say there was a lot of improvising. We were lucky in that we had a lot of experienced people who helped draft our bylaws and knew how to run meetings.
Guidance from the fledgling Department of Neighborhood Empowerment amounted to “don’t violate the Brown Act or get sued.” Back then, staff was consumed with getting as many neighborhood councils certified as fast as possible. They didn’t worry about much else. The rules, regulations, and mandatory training were yet to come.
Mayor Jim Hahn and his sister, Councilmember Janice Hahn, were enthusiastic supporters of the councils. Subsequent administrations not so much. It seems now that many city hall politicos and bureaucrats view councils as a chronic infection of the body politic. They can’t cure it, so they try to manage it.
For the first half-dozen or so years, neighborhood councils were often referred to as an “experiment” in grassroots democracy. That was mostly wishful thinking on the part of those selfsame politicians who didn’t want to be bothered. When councils were threatened with a drastic reduction in funding, they rose up and acted to protect their budgets. Similarly, a proposal to eliminate the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment met with a resoundingly negative reaction.
Ironically, it was when neighborhood council board members started acting more like the politicians they professed to detest that references to an “experiment” ended. For good or ill, the neighborhood council system -- Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, Board of Neighborhood Commissioners, and 90-plus neighborhood councils -- is here to stay.
The story of neighborhood councils in Los Angeles is the story of the people who first thought of bringing councils here, those who wrote the charter and established the law governing councils, staff who helped -- or not -- the volunteers who created and ran the councils, and the volunteers themselves.
Over the next few months, CityWatch will be telling the story of the last 15 years. The people who brought us here will be talking about their experiences building this system. If there’s someone you think played a key role in the story of LA’s neighborhood councils or if you have ideas about what we should include in our anniversary coverage, please let us know.
(Doug Epperhart is a publisher, a long-time neighborhood council activist and former Board of Neighborhood Commissioners commissioner. He is a contributor to CityWatch and can be reached at: Epperhart@cox.net) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
INSIDER REPORT--Last week, as far-right political agitators made plans to descend on Berkeley, California, I heard that some members of the Three Percenters militia movement would be among them. Having gone undercover with a border militia last year, I went to Martin Luther King Jr. park to observe them and a hodgepodge of other right-wingers seeking to hold their second "free speech" rally in less than two months in the historically liberal college town. Anarchists and left-wing activists—who viewed the event's "free speech" billing as nothing more than cover for white supremacist and fascist groups to gather—organized a counter-demonstration called "Defend the Bay." Here's what I saw.
At 10:45 a.m. I arrive at the park, which is surrounded by flimsy, three-foot-high traffic-orange plastic mesh. It's sunny and warm. At the entrance, the police are inspecting bags, confiscating anything that could be considered a weapon. They take knives, mace, a stun gun, bear spray, an ax handle, and a can filled with concrete. The park is split down the middle with more orange mesh, creating a six-foot buffer between the left-wing side, represented largely by black-clad "antifascists," or "antifa," and the right-wing side, with pro-Trump banners and American flags. Antifa protesters are holding a large banner saying "FASCIST SCUM YOUR TIME IS DONE." The other side is facing them with a banner that reads "Defend America." There is a lot of shouting. Riot police file in and form a line between the two groups.
I walk into the right-wing side. A group of white men with matching comb-over haircuts are wearing skull half masks and shouting at the left-wing side. I pull out my phone and start to film the skull guys.
"Are you with us?" one asks.
"I'm a journalist," I say.
"Get the fuck out of here then," another says, shoving me. I continue filming.
"Fake news!" one says into a megaphone pointed at my face. He wanders off and starts chanting, "Build a wall! Build a wall!" Another puts up his fists and shuffles his feet like a boxer.
Nearby, I overhear two men discussing the nuances of their white nationalism. One has a shield made of skateboards painted with the flag of the black sun of Odinism, an archaic symbol appropriated by neo-Nazis. The other calls himself a National Socialist. When I photograph them, they both sieg heil.
Another man, with an American flag wrapped around his face, tells me he came to defend "Western civilization." Nathan Domigo, a 30-year-old ex-Marine and the head of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, is milling in the crowd. Later in the day, he'll be filmed punching a woman in the face during a street brawl. (After the video goes viral, the woman, Louise Rosealma, says she has been facing harassment and death threats.)
The right-wing side is almost entirely male. Some are dressed in motorcycle half helmets, ski goggles, gloves, and various forms of ghoulish masks. One is wearing a shirt that says "Proud Supporter of the Muslim Ban." Another's shirt says "Straight Pride." They aren't entirely white. A Latino man wearing a protective vest goes around shouting "Latinos for Trump!"
I talk to an African American man in a Trump "MAGA" hat who says his name is Malechite. He tells me he came up from Los Angeles to show support for the president because Trump is "a businessman." "He's all about building the entrepreneurs up. It's about people owning stuff, having businesses, owning houses, cars, things of that nature. We don't need these things, but we like to have these things. We gonna stand for something." I ask whether he thinks Trump is racist. "He's our president," he says. "There's nothing we can do about that, so it's either work with this man or go against the grain, and it could be a horrible four years for us."
Many of the signs people carry relate to free speech or references to the obscure, online subcultures of the far right. A few carry the green flag of the Republic of Kekistan, a fictional country for internet trolls invented on 4chan. One man is holding a sign that says "Da Goyim Know," a 4chan meme about uncovering Jewish conspiracies to run the world. Another sign says "Green Lives Matter" with a picture of Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character appropriated by the so-called alt-right, the loose-knit movement of white supremacists and other bigoted groups that gained attention in the 2016 election.
Some people on this side came in from other parts of the country. A white man named Ian Herrin tells me he came from Colorado Springs to be "part of the movement." He says he was inspired to come by Lauren Southern, an alt-right activist and writer. Southern is walking around in a helmet surrounded by a security entourage of Proud Boys, a group of self-proclaimed "Western chauvinists" led byVice magazine co-founder Gavin McInnes. I approach a man dressed head to toe in camouflage, who wears a mask reminiscent of Jason from Friday the 13th. Mike won't tell me his last name, but he says he's from Orange County, California, and a member of the West Coast Patriots Three Percent, a militia-type prepper group that does armed paramilitary training. "The last rally when they shut down Milo, it kinda pissed me off," he tells me. "Everyone has a right to say what they want to say, regardless of whether you agree with it or not. That's what the Second Amendment—uh, First Amendment—is for."
There are perhaps a few hundred protesters in total, with the right appearing to slightly outnumber the left. At the front line between Trump supporters and antifa, there is a white man in a Spartan helmet with a red, white, and blue crest. He is wearing a GoPro on his chest, American flag shorts, and a Trump flag on his back, like a cape. "I ain't no fascist!" he shouts across the line at an antifa protester. A woman next to him, in a pink MAGA hat with an American flag painted on her cheek, shouts at the antifa man, "You're a fucking piece-of-shit terrorist! That's what you guys are: fascist terrorists!"
"Suck a dick!" the Spartan shouts to the antifa man.
"I love sucking dick!" the antifa man shouts back.
Suddenly, there is a loud bang, possibly from an M-80 firecracker, on the right-wing side of the demarcation. The men in skull masks rush across the barrier and start punching people. Dozens of people are brawling, throwing punches, curling up on the grass, taking kicks. The police slowly move in. "Let the cops take care of it!" someone from the pro-Trump side shouts. "Fall back!" They go back to their side. People resume shouting at each other. Some police officers start filming the crowd. A Berkeley man walks around offering people Hershey's kisses. His shirt says, "Empathy as the basis for action is key to a better world."
By late morning, under a stand of trees several hundred feet back from the front line, people gather in front of a stage to hear the event's speakers. Three Percenter militiamen dressed in camouflage stand with their backs to the stage, looking out over the crowd. Their flag, and others from far-right groups, hangs from a tree. Speakers include Brittany Pettibone, a writer for AltRight.com who pushes the conspiracy theory of "white genocide." A man from a group called Based in LA identifies himself as a "gay, Christian, Trump supporter" and says, "If you wanted to call me a faggot, you can do that." An Oathkeeper leader calls for a round of applause for the Berkeley Police Department "because they didn't run" from the antifa.
Kyle Chapman, known as "Based Stickman," takes the stage. Chapman became a figurehead of far-right street brawlers after a video went viral of him breaking a wooden signpost over the head of an antifa activist during the clash in March over Milo Yiannopoulos's thwarted Berkeley appearance. "No longer will we cower in the shadows," Chapman says. "It is time we push back against the assault on freedom-loving Americans! This assault comes from all directions—the mainstream media, corrupt government officials, crony capitalism, and our education system which indoctrinates our youth. But today we stand opposed to one specific threat. And that threat is domestic terrorism!" he shouts, pointing in the direction of the left-wing side. "They have been relentless in trying to annihilate our constitutional right of free speech. They have destroyed and buried our communities. They are intent upon the destruction of Western civilization. Enough is enough! Your days are numbered and Americans will rise up against you!" The crowd cheers. Later, Chapman is arrested by Berkeley police on a warrant for the March assault.
An African America woman from LA, wearing a Trump T-shirt and an American flag bandana, takes the microphone. "Do I look like a racist?!" she says. "Do I look like a Nazi?! I am a black American!" Another M-80 explodes in the distance. "African Americans are being put in categories as Muslims. We are not Muslims! We are not from Africa! We are black Americans. And for all you mothers and fathers out there: Protect your daughters because the Muslim Brotherhood believes in marrying nine-year-old girls. They are kidnapping these little girls in America. We as Americans have to take matters into our own hands."
"We love you!" someone shouts.
"Black Americans helped build this country. We were brought here 400 years ago as slaves and we have developed this country for anybody to be here to enjoy!"
"Except for the illegals!" someone shouts.
"Except for the illegals," she repeats, laughing nervously. "Black Americans built the White House on the backs of slaves and we'd be doggoned if we let these foreign people come to our country and take America away from us. We will fight you tooth and nail and we will conquer our country back! We will fight for Donald J. Trump!"
Nicki Stallard, a white trans woman, takes the stage. She is from the Pink Pistols, an LGBT "self-defense" group whose membership grew after the Orlando shooting. They reference the tragedy as a reason to support Trump's Muslim ban. "Now I know that with many of you here we may have disagreements," Stallard says to the crowd, "but how many here love the US Constitution? Say yeah!"
"How many of you support the Bill of Rights? Say yeah!"
"I'd like every single one of you to turn to the person next to you and high five them." The crowd ripples with slapping palms. "Because you are brave. You are standing up here for the First Amendment, for free speech. It's kind of funny. They say anti-fascism," she says, pointing at the antifa, "but boy, they are surely demonstrating how they've perfected it. They don't have brown shirts. They have black shirts. But they are still authoritarian fascists. America was founded on freedom. We don't necessarily have to like each other, but we have to defend each other's right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. America is about freedom, not slavery, not submission, not authoritarianism. If you agree with me, say yeah!"
The counterprotesters, she says, are "Americans in Name Only: ANOS. Okay? ANOS. If you agree with me, say yeah!"
Around noon, a group of people dressed in black come up the street with a sound system blasting YG's song "FDT." The left-wing sidesteps over the orange fencing and pours onto the street, singing the chorus, "fuck Donald Trump." Trump supporters chant: "USA! USA!" People stare each other down along the front line. Soon, bottles and rocks start to fly through the air. The street erupts in punching and kicking. Hundreds of people flock to and surround the spasms of violence.
It goes on like this for nearly two hours. The riot police are conspicuously absent. The left-wing side makes attempts to break through right-wing lines and enter the park. The groups face off, brawl, and retreat over and over again. When the leftists get close to the stage, the leader of the Three Percenters orders his men to rally up and take defensive positions. The man in the Spartan mask yells out a battle cry, lunging into the left-wing side, and someone pepper sprays him. He takes his shirt off, squirts milk into his eyes from a spray bottle, and continues fighting.
A man in an InfoWars T-shirt stands on top of a dumpster and gyrates to the antifa's music. A comrade dancing with him wields a Pepsi can.
Two men who appear to be cops film the scene from a nearby rooftop. At times, it feels like a war zone, yet the violence becomes ritualized and predictable. Various participants get seriously pummeled and bloodied. People on each side retreat for care from their medics or to debrief with friends and comrades. Away from the fighting, there is an "empathy tent" set up by a small group of people with a sign saying, "Want to talk? We listen." It is empty.
By 2 p.m., the right-wing Trump supporters charge up a street toward downtown Berkeley, chasing antifa. Some antifa attempt to stop their momentum, picking out individuals to fight with. A group of antifa pull a fence into the street, but the right-wingers plow through it. A man in a skull mask jump-kicks an antifa activist. People cough from breathing tear gas.
Soon, roughly 100 Trump supporters, members of the alt-right, Proud Boys, militiamen, and neo-Nazis swagger into downtown Berkeley. From their point of view, the ability to say whatever they want has been triumphantly upheld in a city known as the lefty home of the free-speech movement.
But the left continues to confront them. For the next hour, hostilities continue to ebb and flow. A right-wing guy shouts at an antagonist, "This is funded by Soros! You are fighting for the man! Do your research!" A Trump supporter pulls out a knife but backs down after being surrounded by opponents. A man blows bubbles over everyone. Both sides throw some more punches, but they have become less committed. People have been fighting for hours and most seem to be fading. A local man sets up an easel and begins painting the scene.
A block away, police stand near their cars. I approach an officer and ask why they haven't intervened more during the last couple of hours of mayhem.
He shrugs. "That would be a good question for the chief of police."
"I've been seeing people get beat up all day. I haven't seen you guys around much."
"Mmmhmmm. Okay. And?" By the end of the day, they will have arrested more than 20 people, on charges including assault with a deadly weapon, battery, and committing a criminal offense while wearing a mask. (The Berkeley PD didn't respond to my request for comment, but in a written statement disseminated after the event, it said, "The Berkeley Police Department remains focused on protecting the peaceful expression of free speech and will continue to develop criminal cases and seek prosecution against all those who infringed on the rights of others and participated in riotous acts." It added that "police will be reviewing social media video footage to identify and arrest anyone involved in crimes on Saturday.")
By mid-afternoon, people slowly trickle away and the remaining members of the far-right contingent march back down the street, cheering. A man plays a snare drum as if he's some marching soldier from the Civil War. The day's events suggest that violent street battles between the far right and left could continue, perhaps here—with right-wing demagogue Ann Coulter scheduled to speak on the University of California-Berkeley campus on April 27—or perhaps in other cities. As the rally fizzles out, several people point their cameras at Chapman, a.k.a. Based Stickman. "Boston, Seattle, we are coming for you," he says. "You will no longer take our constitutionally protected rights from us."
A bearded man standing next to him in goggles, a bike helmet, and a Captain America T-shirt let's out his best menacing
(Shane Bauer is a senior reporter at Mother Jones … where this special report originated … and recipient of numerous awards, including the Hillman Prize for Magazine Journalism. He is also the co-author, with Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal, of A Sliver of Light, a memoir of his two years as a prisoner in Iran. )
RANTZ AND RAVEZ-The 70 Year Anniversary of the Los Angeles Police Reserve Corps was celebrated on Saturday evening, April 22, at the Skirball Cultural Center in the hills adjacent to the 405 freeway and Mulholland Drive. There were celebrities present, along with active and reserve LAPD police officers and their families. Chief Charlie Beck came to greet arriving guests along with members of the LAPD Command Staff. Even former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca attended the banquet to show his support for the men and women of the LAPD.
Dr. Phil McGraw was honored for his unwavering support for law enforcement officers across America. Los Angeles City Councilman Mitchell Englander was also honored as an LAPD Reserve Officer along with Bob Keller, a retired LAPD Sergeant and Reserve Officer Coordinator and current elected official in the city of Santa Clarita. Throughout the festivities of the evening there was great and sincere recognition for the Reserve Officers from the 21 Patrol, Traffic, Air Operations and many specialized divisions throughout the city. Officers were acknowledged for their true and unselfish dedication to the people of Los Angeles. One reserve officer was even recognized for his 50 years of service to the people of our City.
Noticeably absent was Mayor Garcetti, the City Attorney, the City Controller, all LA City Councilmembers except for Councilman Mitchell Englander (who was recognized and honored during the event) and all five of Mayor Garcetti’s appointed members of the Los Angeles Police Commission.
This lack of attendance by elected officials and members of the Los Angeles Police Commission tells the story of just how little those people who make the decisions in Los Angeles care about the citizens who volunteer to try and keep LA safe as members of the Los Angeles Police Reserve Corps.
My ride on the Metro Orange and Red Lines to downtown on a Friday night.
There was a man threatening to jump from an overpass on the 110 freeway during the evening commute time last Friday evening. I was invited to a judicial dinner at the Biltmore Hotel and did not want to be late. Since I was in the West San Fernando Valley and did not want to get caught up in traffic gridlock as reported on KNX Radio, I decided to take the Metro Orange Line to the Red Line in North Hollywood and hopefully arrive on time.
I missed the first bus and had to wait for the second one to arrive. I boarded the Orange Line Bus and headed to North Hollywood. I was the only person on the bus wearing a suit. There were the usual public transit riders listening to music on their cell phones and eating and drinking on the bus. The ride went smoothly. I arrived in North Hollywood only to miss the Red Line Train that left just as I approached the boarding area. I waited around 20 minutes and took the next Red Line headed for Union Station. When I sat down, I immediately felt liquid on my pants from something that had been spilled. So now I was wearing whatever it was on suit my pants. Once I found a dry seat and sat down again I started to question why I chose to take public transit rather than drive my car.
We finally arrived at the Pershing Square station. I left the train and walked the short distance to the Biltmore Hotel and located the event in the banquet room where everyone was already seated. I found the seating chart and located my seat at table 15. The program had already begun; people were eating their salads. Around 30 minutes later, a person arrived and was seated to my left. This individual was the Consul General from Egypt. We discussed his late arrival. Somehow he had ended up in San Pedro and had to drive back to downtown for the event. His delay could have been caused by the individual who was threatening to jump.
The evening concluded and I walked back to the Pershing Square Red Line station and waited for the rail car to arrive. I boarded the train and headed to the North Hollywood Metro Station. While traveling on the train, I noticed a large amount of trash on the floor of the rail car. At one of the next stops, a Metro employee wearing an orange vest and pushing a large gray trash can boarded the train but stood there doing nothing. He ignored the trash on the floor and exited after a few stops. I don’t know if he was just lazy or if it “was not his job” to pick up the trash. My evening of adventure concluded at the Canoga Park Metro parking lot where I walked to my car and drove home.
I did not notice any law enforcement personnel on any of the Metro vehicles I rode. The lack of visible presence of law enforcement personnel is one of the reasons many people refuse to use the Metro bus and trains to get around Los Angeles. Personal safety is critical when utilizing the Metro. Stats reveal a significant drop in the number of people that ride the public transit lines in Los Angeles.
Metro is now charging for parking in the North Hollywood Parking lots. The cost is three dollars. Just another reason to avoid taking the Metro in Los Angeles.
They tricked you once again!
Senate Bill 1 established a new formula to rip more money out of your pocket when you purchase gas or diesel fuel. The current gas tax is increasing along with diesel fuel and your license plate fees.
What the Establishment failed to tell you is that all the components of the gas, diesel fuel and license plate surcharges include a clause allowing for inflation. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, all the prices in the new gas formula are tied to inflation and the same goes for car registration. As your fees increase, remember to blame the Governor and the Sacramento politicians who voted for this and pulled another one over on you.
The articles you have just read are a true reflection of my most recent experiences residing in Los Angeles. I welcome your comments and observations at Zman8910@aol.com.
(Dennis P. Zine is Honorary Mayor of Woodland Hills, a 30-year retired LAPD Sergeant, Elected Charter Reform Commissioner, Former Los Angeles City Councilman and current LAPD Reserve Police Officer.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
LEANING RIGHT--While I believe that my previous article about creating an LA countywide rail network that makes sense to most commuters tied the idea of science to policy fairly well, I regret that my more recent article about tying science to politics and policy didn't make my case as I wish it should have.
The Scientific Method, in a nutshell, states that a person's observations, or a group of people's opinions, are NOT proof, and that that person or group of people do not KNOW anything; they just believe it with a good reasonable guess. Spending money based on what one knows, or has observed, is not scientific "proof" but rather an educated guess ... but statistics and data can easily fall into bias and a distorted view that leads to a distorted conclusion.
What's true: environmental regulations and law did help the smog situation between the 1970's and the present in LA County.
What's also true: smog existed even in the era where only Native Americans lived in the LA basin, because the San Gabriel Mountains and the easterly winds from the Pacific Ocean would allow campfires to cause a mild form of smog.
What's also true still: exploding the population of the LA basin without enough water, mobility, environmental and utility infrastructure is not sustainable and cannot possibly lead to a reliable, long-term water/air/soil environmental scenario.
These are observations, but in theory I don't "know" anything. And neither does the LA Board of Supervisors, the LA City Council, and all the other do-gooders who usually end up performing and implementing policy that helps a few but hurts the majority.
Do people need affordable housing? Yes--particularly true when they have children.
Do people need open space for recreational and psychological purposes? Yes--particularly true when they have children.
Do people need clean and sufficient water, affordable food, and affordable utility to allow for comfortable (and healthy) temperatures in their homes and workplaces? Yes--regardless of age.
Has the city and county of Los Angeles built more for middle-class housing and needs? Decidedly not. The "policy makers" of Sacramento and Downtown LA keep harping on the need to help the middle class, but yet it's no secret that the middle class is shrinking throughout this state and that our three-class society is rapidly devolving into a two-class society.
Do observations of historical, economic, and political experiments in extreme left-wing, top-down societies (such as the former USSR, Cuba, Venezuela, Greece, and other nations) support the notion that this sort of policy-making leads to improved health, quality of life, prosperity, and environmental standards for the average citizen in those nations.
There is a difference between "liberal" (open-minded, self-sufficient, sustainable) and "progressive" (keep making laws, top-down government, always finding new ills to "fix" at the taxpayers' expense), and we are going to have to figure out which is better, liberal or progressive.
(Ditto between conservative/common sense versus right-wing dogma, by the way)
So when we have a Planning Commission that unanimously approves a monstrosity overdevelopment that is virtually 3 times as tall as anything anywhere in the adjacent region of the Westside, and is vigorously opposed by local Councilmember Mike Bonin, is that "liberal" or Big Brother politics by that Planning Commission?
Is it scientifically valid, when just about every traffic and neighborhood analyst states it's acceptable to build at 40-50 feet maximum, but not 80 feet, and that it's a traffic/environmental failure?
Furthermore, it's nowhere near a rail station, unlike the large development of residential/commercial structures at the Red/Orange Line intersection in North Hollywood. So it's NOT transit-oriented development, but rather transient-oriented development.
Just because the Planning Commission, Mayor Garcetti and Sacramento scream "BUILD! BUILD! BUILD!" does not make that approval good science, or consistent with human quality of life or health.
Just like "SPEND! SPEND! SPEND!" does not make for good economic policy.
And as the middle class leaves California to go to either Texas or other states, the economy of California appears to be filled with mobility for an elite few/wealthy, while filled with roadblocks and shredded dreams for the average man or woman (particularly if they're trying to make a living in the private sector).
Is this science based on observation? Yes, and on experience, and based on the ability to discern that we can't build our way out of traffic, overpopulation, urban blight and the like.
Is it "proof"? No--that's NOT how the Scientific Method works.
But the "theory" that overbuilding and not shoring up our infrastructure as we overbuild, and overdensify in the suburbs (while creating new "downtowns" that were never built for being that dense) is hardly scientifically invalid.
It may be my theory, or the theory of a few of us, but I'm sticking with it.
Because to do otherwise would be to throw away everything my eyes, ears, and memory has taught me throughout my whole life ... and would it be scientifically valid at all to ignore it based on some "feel-good" idea of how the world "ought" to be, rather than what the world actually is?
(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at email@example.com. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. #NCBALA
(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: A.Edwards@NCBALA.com.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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!
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.
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?
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.
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)
@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 email@example.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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jennifercald - Twitter: @checkingthegate ... And her website: Jenniferhcaldwell.com)
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.)
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: email@example.com.)
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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
LA Watchdog reports live daily from every important budget meeting
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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: email@example.com.)
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?
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.)
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.com, OurRevolution.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.)
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.)
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,
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?
(Dianne Lawrence is a dog trainer and the publisher of The Neighborhood News. Reach her at: whatagooddogla.com/)
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
June 13, 2013 – Los Angeles Animal Services Captains Cleared
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- February 2017, Los Angeles County, CA
Valentine Herrera, 76
Fatal pit bull attack
- January 2017, Fulton County, GA
Logan Braatz, 6
Fatal pit bull attack
- December 2016, Cabell County, WV
Isaiah Franklin, 6
Fatal pit bull attack
- October 2016, Staten Island, NY
Daisie Bradshaw, 68
Fatal dog attack involving pit bull(s)
- September 2016, Shawnee County, KS
Piper Dunbar, 2
Fatal pit bull attack
- August 2016, Jefferson County, CO
Susan Shawl, 60
Fatal pit bull attack
- August 2016, Clark County, NV
Derion Stevenson, 9
Fatal pit bull attack
- August 2016, Screven County, GA
Michelle Wilcox, 30
Fatal pit bull attack
- July 2016, Honolulu County, HI
Crisencio Aliado, 52
Fatal pit bull attack
- July 2016, Navajo County, AZ
Kayden Begay, 3
Fatal pit bull attack
- July 2016, Wayne County, MI
Elizabeth Rivera, 71
Fatal pit bull attack
- June 2016, Fresno County, CA
Susie Kirby, < 1
Fatal dog attack involving pit bull(s)
- June 2016, Penobscot County, ME
Hunter Bragg, 7
Fatal pit bull attack
- 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.
- Have a strong kennel/travel cage that can be securely latched ready for each pet. (Keep it in a place easy to access quickly.)
- Store or fill containers with enough water to sustain your pet for several days.
- Have a tightly closed container filled with enough food for each pet (use the kind your pet regularly eats) for several da
- Keep a fresh supply of medications your pet takes (enough for several days).
- Have some toys/blankets familiar to the pet ready to take.
- 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.
- 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.
- Have a plentiful backup supply of water, and plenty of buckets available to take with you.
- Halter/lead rope for every animal. (For smaller farm animals, keep transfer cages easily available.)
- Training and practice. Make sure your animal loads in a trailer quickly and easily before an incident occurs.
- Have an evacuation plan in place. Know where you expect to take your animal(s) and practice ahead of time.
- Have special feed or medications set aside with easy access in an emergency.
- Have your horses microchipped and update the contact information regularly.
- 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.