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 THE CITY--‘As I was going up the stair … I met a man who wasn’t there … He wasn’t there again today … Oh, how I wish he’d go away.’ 

This old rhyme states, in a nutshell, the way I think most people view the matter of homelessness in our country. Perhaps now, more than at any time since the Great Depression, significant numbers of Americans are living on the street. Certainly in Los Angeles, homelessness has grown to epidemic proportions. 

In all the years (nearly 40) I’ve been in southern California, the homeless have been present. I lived and worked for a long time in and near downtown Long Beach. My neighbors and I knew many of those who populated our streets. Some were considered to be colorful characters, harmless enough and not really much of a problem. The seriously-disturbed and aggressive panhandlers were rare and seemed not to be around for long. 

I moved across the bay to San Pedro and there, too, was a relatively small population of homeless. They congregated in a particular area of downtown and, for the most part, weren’t considered to be much more than a nuisance; a problem easily avoided. 

And then came the recession. Many lost their homes and never got another one. Social services and government felt the pinch, too. Even now, those with jobs are often hard pressed to afford the rent. As a consequence, we see the homeless hanging out in front of our organic food markets and sleeping on bus benches normally occupied by the people who clean our houses. Occasionally, suburban sensibilities are shocked when someone in a nice neighborhood looks out the window and sees a dilapidated vehicle inhabited by a scruffy individual who may not have seen a bar of soap in weeks or months. 

Spend some time online at Facebook and other social media sites and you will come to the conclusion that, for most commentators, the problem is not that people are homeless, it’s that they are visible. In my community, the response of the vocal majority of the ninety-nine-and-a-half percent who are not homeless is to dehumanize the homeless. These folks delight in posting pictures of the obviously mentally ill and calling them names. All homeless are lumped together as a class that is intellectually and morally bereft. According to the “commentariat,” the homeless are homeless because they want to be homeless. 

The good burghers’ solution for this situation: make the homeless disappear. Send them somewhere else. This is the ultimate NIMBY position -- not in my backyard, not in my neighbor’s backyard, not in my neighbor’s neighbor’s backyard. 

My city councilmember and his homelessness task force recently proposed opening a “navigation center” providing storage for the property of the homeless and offering them services. The suggested location on a commercial street was met with a barrage of criticism from the surrounding area. A public meeting to explain the plan was mobbed by a few hundred angry residents whose answer to everything was a resounding “no.” 

There are as many “solutions” as there are homeless individuals. I don’t know what the best ones are. But I do know what the worst one is: pretending it’s not your problem and wishing it away.


(Doug Epperhart is publisher, a longtime neighborhood council activist and former Board of Neighborhood Commissioners commissioner. He is an occasional contributor to CityWatch and can be reached at: Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

SOUTH OF THE TEN-Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has hit the campaign trail. This past weekend he popped into Arizona to attend a campaign rally for a local candidate running for Sheriff. Normally this wouldn't interest me but a Twitter account I follow made a big deal of who the mayor was campaigning against, along with the t-shirt he was wearing that promoted an anti-police group. 

The Twitter account, @Near_Chaos, has a passion for reporting on the goings-on at the weekly sideshow called the LAPD Police Commission meetings. The meetings themselves appear not to have any merit -- loved ones of the deceased cannot get answers, nor can the Commission really reform the beleaguered department. 

At the core of the weekly ruckus are members of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM). Members publicly protest what they and many others view as the continued disproportionate rate of excessive force used on people of the South LA community.  

BLM Members have camped outside the mayor's house in Hancock Park and City Hall. News vans spotted a cleanup crew at Getty House after it was hit with dozens of eggs. Some have been arrested trying to get the mayor's attention to this issue, to which he responds by either slipping out the back door or publishing an empty column in an urban periodical. And he’s also appointed African-Americans to key positions within his office – all this while supporting Chief Charlie Beck, who has yet to publicly reprimand any of the officers named for shooting an unarmed citizen. 

Back to this past weekend. 

Mayor Garcetti was recorded on social media at a campaign event for Maricopa County Sheriff candidate Paul Penzone, who is running against the infamous “Sheriff Joe” Arpaio. See video here.  

Garcetti prefaced his speech by referring to his strong roots in Arizona and commented that his family still resides there. He further commented that “Sheriff Arpaio is wasting taxpayer money” with his policing policies. Sheriff Joe is well known for racially profiling the Latinos in the area. 

Arpaio styles himself as "America's Toughest Sheriff." He has been accused of abuse of power, misuse of funds, failure to investigate sex crimes, improper clearance of cases, unlawful enforcement of immigration laws, and election law violations. He is currently facing criminal contempt proceedings. 

Maricopa county taxpayers are paying $4.5 million for Arpaio's legal defense fees, related to the racial profiling and open defiance of a federal judge who ordered he change his policies. Sheriff Joe did not comply and is now facing contempt charges. 

At some point during his visit, Mayor Eric donned a t-shirt that read, "Arrest Sheriff Joe," while standing next to a woman whose shirt read, "Arrest Arpaio Not the People.”  

The t-shirts fund a group called "Bazta Arpaio.” Citing 150 deaths in the jails and $140 million in related lawsuits, the group implores you to either donate money and/or buy a shirt to support their cause of ousting the Sheriff. Will Mayor Eric help BLM raise funds to oust him and Charlie Beck? 

Somehow the mayor has time to address the needs of the Latino community in another state, yet has no time to address the problems in his own backyard. The mayor is clearly sending mixed signals as it relates to his position on police abuse, both local and nationwide.  

LAPD recently came out from being under a federal decree, spearheaded by Connie Rice during the Riordan and Villaraigosa administrations. Through her nonprofit, the Advancement Project, she has joined other community activists in South LA by declaring a “state of emergency” in Los Angeles, related to the latest cases of police abuse.  

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s actions are line with an elected official who sympathizes with those who are victims of police brutality. Unfortunately, he is not brave enough to say it here at home and to use his political power in the way he flaunts it in other cities. On the other hand, perhaps his last two LAPD Police Commission appointments are saying it themselves via their actions during the PC meetings. 

Stay tuned.


(Melissa Hébert lives in Inglewood, CA, and blogs on community and political issues on and is an occasional contributor to CityWatch. ) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

TRUE TRANSIT SUPPORTERS-I’ve been taking a bit more transit than usual these days, as a bit of a change of pace from pedaling the Brompton absolutely everywhere. 

My changes of pace, by the way, never involve a private motor car, which I drive four or five times a year under marital duress; I’ve put in enough miles behind the windshield -- that is to say, over a quarter-million or so -- to know exactly what I’m missing by avoiding the driver’s seat, and it is absolutely nothing. Physical and emotional stultification just don’t tickle my innards. 

So there I was on the Wilshire Rapid, making good time to my dentist’s office in SaMo, when we crossed Westwood Boulevard. And of course the intersection hosted a lineup of people on bikes, waiting to proceed to UCLA. A cyclist had just gotten off the bus, presumably for the same purpose; bikes were rolling up and down Wilshire; and the bike racks around the intersection were full to overflowing. 

It naturally brought to mind the lack of bike lanes connecting UCLA with the new Expo Line station at Westwood. This vacuity comes to us, of course, courtesy of chair-warmer District 5 council member Paul Koretz, who has been kowtowing so vigorously to a cabal of Cheviot Hills homeowners that he probably needs a live-in chiropractor. The Chevioteers failed in their attempt to block the entire Expo Line -- yes, they tried to hold the entire western half of LA County hostage to their fear of “those people” crowding onto the train to steal their porch decks -- but cyclists are an easier target than ethnic groups, especially since “cyclist” is often (in white pseudo-suburbia) a code word for “dark.” 

Saving car lanes and parking was the ostensible excuse, but that excuse flew out the window when Ryan Snyder presented a bike lane plan that removed no car lanes or parking, cleverly entitled the Remove Nothing Plan.  

“Remove Nothing went nowhere. Koretz and his puppeteers ignored it, and Koretz went further, saying he would permit no study to be made of any plan including bikeways of any sort on the southern portion of Westwood. 

People will be riding bicycles on Westwood anyway, and probably slowing traffic in a way they wouldn’t with a bikeway in place. Angelenos old and young, of every shade, will want to get from the Expo Line to UCLA, and, of course, the many delectable restaurants along the way. Fewer will choose to do so lacking a bikeway; a number of those will opt to use cars, further clogging traffic. Stoopid, ain’t it? Opportunity misplaced. 

I won’t call it a lost opportunity, though, because I think we can find it again, and soon; it hasn’t been lost, but simply hidden from view for a while. After all, Jesse Creed is running against Koretz for the council seat in CD5, and he is a strong supporter of transportation choices, including bikeways. He himself endeavors to pedal anywhere within a two-mile radius of home. 

Remember that, come March and the election. If you live in CD5, Creed’s the real deal. (Photo above, left.) 

Naturally, if you live in CD1, the home district of this blog, its Joe Bray-Ali, running to retire “Roadkill Gil” Cedillo. (Photo above, right.) 

If you live anywhere else, send a little cash to these two gentlemen. Two more progressive voices added to Huizar’s on the city council might be enough to transform LA. No more rubber stamp votes against the future! Bray-Ali and Creed for City Council! 

Grass roots vs. trickle down: which side are you on?


(Richard Risemberg is a writer. His current professional activities are focused on sustainable development and lifestyle. This column was posted first at Flying Pigeon.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


VOICES-At a time when Los Angeles City is asking the taxpayers to approve a $1.2 billion bond measure for supportive homeless housing, our Governor continues to refuse to declare homelessness a "State of Emergency" in California – an action that would release $500 million immediately from the rainy day fund. 

How can this Governor close his eyes to the tens of thousands of his citizens, allowing them to sleep in alleys, streets and behind dumpsters…eating from garbage cans and defecating on themselves and on the streets? 

It is time for everyone to light up the switchboards at the Governor’s office and the offices of all our state elected officials, demanding they declare a "State of Emergency" and release the funds. 

And while we are at it.... 

Why is Los Angeles City asking for $1.2 billion when Prop 30 has $2.1 billion already segregated for the same cause, in addition to the availability of half a billion dollars in rainy day funds? 

All this tells me is there is no serious plan and no real political will to end homelessness. 

Remember, if you are not angry about homelessness, then you have just not been paying attention.


(Jay Handal served at the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment for ten months as Election Manager for the 2016 Neighborhood Council elections. He is Treasurer of the West Los Angeles Sawtelle Neighborhood Council, Co-Chair of the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates Committee for the upcoming 2016-2017 fiscal year, and a hearing examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EDUCATION POLITICS--Public education supporters in Los Angeles are shocked and gratified to learn that the staff of the Los Angeles school district has recommended rejection of several charter school petitions to be considered at next week’s school board meeting. For years, it seemed there was no reason to ever expect LAUSD to reject charters and recent reports show senior district staff coordinating with Eli Broad's nonprofit to expand charter choices even as it grapples with decreasing enrollment.

The board will decide whether the staff recommendations will stand at the Tuesday, October 18 meeting. Presumably, that meeting will include heated discussion among the school board and district staff, as well as comments from charter advocates and the public. It’s common for charter schools to organize large showings of supporters at their hearings, usually with matching t-shirts.

The recommendations were posted on the district’s website on Wed. The district’s Charter Schools Division made the recommendations after facing heavy criticism for its perceived mishandling of oversight responsibilities in the wake of financial scandals at El Camino Real Charter High School.

The recommendation which has drawn the most speculation is the one to approve the issuance of a Notice of Intent to Revoke the charter of El Camino Real.

Staff has also recommended the denial of the renewal of three Magnolia Science Academy Schools, part of the Gulen chain of charters which are associated with the Turkish Imam suspected of organizing a coup against the government of Turkey. That California chain has been under fire since a legal complaint was filed last February, calling on the California Department of Education to investigate. The complaint was first reported on the PSconnect blog.  It cited more than accusations, and included findings made in a state audit such as 69% of Magnolia's financial transactions being unaccounted for; that Magnolia routinely awarded large contracts to vendors with overlapping connections to their own employees and board of directors; and that Magnolia had illegally used hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to pay for visas for Turkish nationals. A report in today’s Los Angeles Times shows that number is closer to $1 million. 

Other charter proposals facing the new wrath of the LAUSD: WISH Charter is hoping to add more grades to its school. Citizens of the World wants an additional school and to grow an existing school. Celerity Dyad and Celerity Troika schools are petitioning to renew their charters. Staff is recommending that the board reject all those petitions.

It is unprecedented in recent memory for the LAUSD staff to recommend rejection of so many charters since the district began instituting market based reforms years ago. A top priority of so-called reformers is charter school expansion, and the wind has been at their backs. One year, LAUSD voted for 67 out of 72 charters. California lifted its cap on charters when Netflix founder Reed Hastings forced the California legislature to accept a measure similar to the one currently on Massachusetts' November ballot. Senator Elizabeth Warren has taken a stand against that measure, called Question 2, and it's more and more common to see criticism of charter schools in major news outlets. The Washington Post recently published two pieces (here  and here) by the Network for Public Education's Executive Director, Carol Burris. Capital and Main, a leading Sacramento political blog, has been posting a series (here and here) featuring the billionaires funding California's charter industry, and the NAACP has recommended its board pass a moratorium on new charters. (Diane Ravitch posted phone numbers to call to express support for the moratorium.) 

Whether next week’s agenda represents the beginning of a reversal of fortune for the charter juggernaut in Los Angeles remains to be seen.

(Karen Wolfe is a public school parent, the Executive Director of PS Connect and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)



PLATKIN ON PLANNING-If you think a Hillary Clinton administration, even with another Great Recession and the Democrats in control of Congress, will result in an Urban New Deal, don’t hold your breath. It is not going to happen. This is why. 

Part of the story is the steady decline of the Democratic Party over the past 40 years. It does not just consist of negative campaigning and shallow debates, rigging the Democratic primaries against Bernie Sanders, smearing Dr. Jill Stein; endless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya; flooding the Middle East with US weaponry; and unleashing aerial death squads called drone missiles. Nor is it just mass incarceration of US citizens and refugees, wholehearted support of fracking, and record levels of deportations. 

Less obviously, the Democratic Party’s downward trajectory also includes the total abandonment of the urban programs it once championed, such as public housing. As evidenced by the White House’s recent position paper on affordable housing, as well as a succession of ineffective affordable housing programs in Los Angeles from the 1980s to date, the party’s urban policy has imploded into unrestrained capitalism, also called urban neo-liberalism.  

Long gone are urban programs that included public investment in infrastructure and services, as well as careful regulation of private investment. Since the days of LA Mayor Tom Bradley in the 1980s to date, from Washington, DC, to LA’s City Hall, the Democratic Party’s approach has been a three-legged stool: jettison zoning and environmental laws, abolish government housing programs, and bend over backwards for glad-handing real estate speculators. When challenged, they invariably resort to name-calling. Their critics are always NIMBYs, not supporters of strong planning and environmental regulation. 

So, let’s get into the specifics, including the House LA approach now underway at LA’s City Hall. 

More Revelations from the Mountain Top: Straight from Washington, DC, the Obama Administration has issued a White House Housing Development Toolkit. It identifies two barriers to affordable housing production: local zoning and environmental laws. It never mentions that the U.S. has been in a perpetual housing crisis for the past 40 years and that this crisis coincides with the wholesale elimination of Federal housing programs in the 1970s and 1980s. 

As for the White House’s solutions, they are the same market-based mantras that have been recited by real estate speculators since today’s boomer retirees started paying off their student loans. I have listed them below, with my plain English translation written in italics. 

  • Establishing by-right development. (Up-zone commercial properties to avoid discretionary zoning applications, environmental reviews, public notices, public hearings, and appeals.) 
  • Taxing vacant land or donate it to non-profit developers. (Thirty years ago Mayor Tom Bradley called for using the air rights above City parking lots for affordable housing.) 
  • Streamlining or shortening permitting processes and timelines. (Cutting corners for well-connected real estate investors.) 
  • Eliminate off-street parking requirements. (Under-park apartments before a mass transit system is in place.)
  • Allowing accessory dwelling units. (Turn single-family homes into duplexes without upgrading public facilities and infrastructure to accommodate a population increase.) 
  • Establishing density bonuses. (Allow developers to get free variances in exchange for a handful of unverified affordable units.) 
  • Enacting high-density and multifamily zoning. (Permit apartment houses in single-family neighborhoods without upgrading infrastructure and services.) 
  • Employing inclusionary zoning. (Require new market-rate apartment buildings to include a small percentage of uninspected affordable units.) 
  • Establishing development tax or value capture incentives. (Allow developers of market housing to pay an in lieu fee for off-site affordable units.) 
  • Using property tax abatements. (In addition to Prop. 13 provisions that freeze most commercial property taxes to late 1970 rates, any increase in assessed valuations would also be exempt from property taxes.) 

It is my contention, especially for Los Angeles, these programs did not work several decades ago, and they will not work now. The simple reason is that the private sector has never been able to meet the housing needs of lower-income Americans. You can easily enrich the crony capitalists buzzing around elected officials intoxicated by the sweet nectar of laissez faire capitalism, but the cumulative, long-term result is dismal. After several decades, these market schemes have only managed to build a tiny fraction of the affordable housing needed in the United States. In fact, the situation is now so bad that every county in the entire county has an affordable housing shortage.  

Bradley Administration: To understand House LA, we need to step back in time to the Tom Bradley administration, when LA first acknowledged that it had an affordable housing crisis. Like the Depression, in the 1980s, only one family in five could afford to buy a home, 200,000 families were doubled or tripled up, 40,000 families lived in garages, and 150,000 families were homeless at some point in a year. 

Initially slow to respond, Mayor Bradley eventually made it clear that the crisis resulted from the extensive cutbacks in urban programs that began during the Nixon-Ford years (1968-1976), and only got worse under Carter (1976-1980), Bush 1 (1980-84), and Clinton (1984-1992). By the late 1980s, nearly all Federal urban programs, especially housing, had been eliminated. This era marked the end of New Deal liberalism and the beginning or urban neo-liberalism: the myth that the private market could solve persistent urban problem if showered with enough deregulation and financial incentives. 

Beginning in 1988, that is exactly what Mayor Bradley undertook through a detailed proposal whose premise was a quickly discredited low-ball calculation of LA’s residential zoning potential. The Bradley program intended to eliminate environmental reviews of small and medium sized apartment houses, permit apartment houses and second units in single-family neighborhoods, demolish houses with code violations to furnish free building sites to non-profit housing corporations, impose linkage fees on new residential projects to fund affordable housing projects, and build affordable housing in the airspace above 105 city-owned parking lots, beginning with 10 prototypes. 

In response to widespread community opposition, however, the initial Bradley program was modified to include the rehabilitation homes and apartments in low-income neighborhoods and a slumlord task force to target slum properties for criminal prosecution. It also shifted the construction of affordable apartments from single-family neighborhoods to transit corridors and stations. 

The Planning Department’s updated housing calculations also revealed that Los Angeles had sufficient zoning for one million additional housing units, or 25,000 new units per year for the next 40 years. Other Planning Department estimates from the early 1990s indicated an even larger buildout potential. Based on existing zoning, Los Angeles could add nearly 5,000,000 more people, reaching a total population of 8,000,000. In the intervening 26 years, however, the City has never updated any of its zoning build out calculations. Despite claims and counter-claims, the actual changes between 1990 and 2016 are not known. 

House LA - Old Wine in New Bottles: Based on information from the Los Angeles Business Council, House LA appears to be the Los Angeles version of the White House Housing Tool Kit. It mostly repackages old, off-the-shelf market programs. Unfortunately, most of them go back nearly three decades, with little to show for themselves. As before, my translation is in italics. 

  • Expansion of Expedited Processing Section in Planning. (Pay to Play: Quick zoning approvals for well-off real estate speculators.) 
  • Site Plan Review Modifications. (Zoning deregulation.) 
  • Permitting Micro Unit Housing (Increasing density without upgrading public services and infrastructure.) 
  • Deferring Fees. (Municipal subsidies for well-connected real estate speculators, like AEG.) 
  • Expanding the Use of Shared Vehicles. (Under-parking new buildings prior to the build-out of the mass transit system.) 
  • Facilitating Accessory Dwelling Units for Affordable Housing. (Turning single family’s homes into duplexes without upgrading public services and infrastructure and without collecting additional property taxes.) 
  • Using City-owned parking lots for affordable housing. (House LA recently added Tom Bradley’s long-neglected program to use City-owned properties, mostly parking lots, as affordable housing sites. Other than a 30 year hiatus, the only other differences is that House LA identifies 100 not parking lots and proposes 11 not 10 affordable housing sites.) 

Why so much hostility from House LA to the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative? Gil Cedillo, the City Councilmember who has campaigned for the House LA market-incentive proposals, has sharply criticized the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. But, his talking points come straight from the Astroturf funders: CH Palladium, LLC and Westfield DD&C, LLC. These Big Real Estate players have every reason to oppose an Initiative that will force the City of Los Angeles to systematically and quickly update its General Plan, including permanent bans on parcel level spot-zoning and spot-General Plan amendments. 

This is because the Palladium and Westfield business models rely on spot-zoning and spot-planning. As they scour Los Angeles for shopping center and high-rise building sites, they inevitably run into conflicts with zoning and planning ordinances. But, they could care less if their projects conflict with the character and scale of existing neighborhoods or exceed the capacity of existing infrastructure.

For them, their criterion is profitability. But, they can hardly go to the city’s voters and fess up that they oppose the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative because it impinges on their bottom line. So instead, they have created an Astroturf organization, the Coalition to Save Los Angeles Neighborhoods and Jobs, that claims spot-zoning and spot-planning is essential to the production of affordable housing. 

It doesn’t matter that they cannot identify projects from the Bradley to the Garcetti eras where affordable housing projects required zone changes and General Plan Amendments. Even their latest gambit, grabbing a hold of the Tom Bradley program of using city parking lots for affordable housing sites, is a desperate act. This is because this option has been around for nearly 30 years, has hardly ever worked, and could be easily pursued on city-owned parcels that did not require the City Council to adopt spot-zones and spot-plans. 

So, with deception in one hand, and a check in the other, they march on to block a voter initiative that would force the City of LA to properly plan, including rigorous criteria for the approval of any deviations from legally adopted plans and zones.


(Dick Platkin is a veteran city planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatch. He also serves on the boards of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association and East Hollywood Neighborhood Council Planning Committee. Please send comments and corrections to Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

AN AMERICAN IS CRIMINALIZED EVERY 25 SECONDS--Two prominent human and civil rights organizations are calling on the U.S. government to decriminalize all drug use and possession in a new report which finds that the so-called war on drugs has caused “devastating harm.”

The joint report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that there were 574,640 arrests for marijuana possession nationwide in 2015, outnumbering arrests for all violent crimes combined, and that the massive enforcement of drug laws takes a toll at every level, from the individual to the institutional—ruining lives and pulling families apart, discriminating against people of color, and undermining public health.

In fact, the groups found, in the U.S., someone is arrested for low-level drug offenses every 25 seconds

“Every 25 seconds someone is funneled into the criminal justice system, accused of nothing more than possessing drugs for personal use,” said the report’s author and HRW/ACLU Aryeh Neier fellow Tess Borden. “These wide-scale arrests have destroyed countless lives while doing nothing to help people who struggle with dependence.”

The long-term impacts of drug law enforcement range from the separation of families to lifelong discrimination, the report states. People arrested for drug use can be excluded from employment opportunities, housing and welfare assistance, and the right to vote, among other things. The organizations interviewed hundreds of drug users, family members of those prosecuted, government officials, defense attorneys, activists, and service providers, and analyzed data from Texas, Florida, New York, and the FBI.

One woman interviewed in the report, “Nicole,” whose name was changed for privacy, was held pretrial for months in Houston, Texas away from her three children and eventually pled guilty to her first felony—possessing an empty baggie with heroin residue. The conviction cost her student financial aid, employment opportunities, and the food stamps she used to feed her children.

“The felony conviction is going to ruin my life…I’ll pay for it for[ever]. Because of my record, I don’t know how or where I’ll start rebuilding my life: school, job, government benefits are now all off the table for me,” she states in the report. “Besides the punishment even [of prison]...It’s my whole future.”

The report also found that while black adults do not use drugs more than white adults, they are over two-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested for possession. When looking just at marijuana possession, they are almost four times as likely to be arrested.

“Under international human rights law, prohibited racial discrimination occurs where there is an unjustifiable disparate impact on a racial or ethnic group, regardless of whether there is any intent to discriminate against that group,” the report states. “Enforcement of drug possession laws in the U.S. reveals stark racial disparities that cannot be justified by disparities in rates of use.”

As the organizations point out, since the war on drugs was formally declared by President Richard Nixon in 1971, use has not significantly declined—and criminalization, coupled with a lack of treatment for addicts, forces users to go “underground,” exposing them to increased risk of disease, overdoses, and other dangers, while making it less likely that they will recover.

“While families, friends, and neighbors understandably want government to take action to prevent the potential harm caused by drug use, criminalization is not the answer,” Borden continued. “Locking people up for using drugs causes tremendous harm, while doing nothing to help those who need and want treatment.”

The report concludes by calling on state legislatures and U.S. Congress to decriminalize personal use and possession of all drugs, and invest in risk reduction and voluntary treatment programs.

“Criminalizing personal drug use is a colossal waste of lives and resources,” Borden said. “If governments are serious about addressing problematic drug use, they need to end the current revolving door of drug possession arrests, and focus on effective health strategies instead.”


(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams … where this piece was first posted.)



PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE, ROUND 2--The second presidential debate arrived, and if this were another year and a different set of candidates, we would probably be reading that Trump came back from his earlier defeat due to a stronger performance this time. After all, he didn't melt down into a pool of slag or run pouting from the stage. He stood his ground and exchanged punch for punch, accusation for accusation. Some commenters will score this one as a draw or even a modest Trump victory. But it's not a different year or a different Republican candidate, and this debate took place under circumstances that were not only bizarre, they appear to be rebounding against Trump. 

The following episodes are historically unprecedented but as we shall see, they have something in common. 

Trump came into the day of the second debate facing a situation in which a significant number of Republican leaders were pulling their support from him due to his comments about groping women. When you lose John McCain and others of his stature, you are pushing the envelope pretty hard. Trump got off a sort-of-apology for his comments, but he tried to make it sound as if it was just a boyish phase he was going through. After all, he was only 59 years old at the time. 

But what defines Trump as a political phenomenon is that he does things that others won't. In this case, it was his press conference held on the same day as the debate, in which he introduced women who had all accused Bill Clinton of doing something bad. The subtext was "if I did something wrong, the Clintons have done worse." The fact that his opponent is Hillary Clinton, not Bill, is obvious, but this was a play to Clinton haters of all stripes. 

The pre-debate press conference caused the MSNBC commenters to be all aflutter, with worried prognostications that Trump might call Bill Clinton a rapist during the debate itself. The story must have played out interestingly in foreign markets. 

During the debate, in response to Hillary Clinton's suggestion that Trump has avoided paying income taxes, Trump responded with dreary repetitions that a couple of other billionaires -- Warren Buffet and George Soros, alleged to be Hillary's friends -- also use available tax deductions. Once again, it was the argument that whatever Trump does, some liberal does it worse. 

When you look at these Trumpian games, it eventually becomes obvious that Trump is engaging in a technique that the American right wing has developed into a fine art: Whatever you are most guilty of, accuse your opponent of the same thing. When George W. Bush was facing a real war hero in the person of John Kerry during the 2004 reelection campaign, his side brought out the Swift Boaters. All of a sudden, Bush's failure to serve was balanced by a concerted attack on Kerry's battlefield performance. 

It's like the psychological concept of projection, except that instead of unconscious thoughts being painted onto other people, the political technique is to recognize your own defects at the conscious level and then to defend your own vulnerability by accusing the opposition of the same thing. 

In the case of Sunday night's debate, Trump took this technique to the extreme. Here is an excerpt from 

Donald Trump on Sunday night issued a remarkable threat against Hillary Clinton, telling the Democratic presidential nominee he would seek to imprison her if he was elected next month.

"If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your (missing email) situation," Trump said, "because there has never been so many lies, so much deception."

Trump's threat -- which he has made before on the campaign trail -- is extraordinary even by the standard of the vitriolic 2016 campaign. 

The comment is remarkable for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is how it forced Trump's campaign workers to scramble in the aftermath. His latest adviser explained this remark as Trump channeling the strong feelings of his followers. That reacting at this level to mob sentiment is the opposite of leadership didn't seem to occur to this spokesperson. The irony is rich indeed. 

But we should also notice that Trump's remark is another example of Trump doing a little conscious projection. He is the one who is under attack over the Trump University fraud as well as other scandals. He may not be at the level of criminal prosecution, but the trial over the Trump University case is approaching. 

So Trump threw the first punch. Now it happens to be true that the argument about jailing Hillary is not new. It's been going around since the early days of Trump's campaign. But this was a new element for a presidential debate. Those of an age to remember the Nixon-Kennedy and subsequent debates will recognize how weird this was. 

So Trump took out a little insurance against his own potential prosecution in the event that he does not win the presidency. He got in the first punch. But his threat is so out of bounds that even Ari Fleischer objected. You can read his remark in the CNN story quoted above. 

As for Hillary Clinton, she held her own on substantive points, but that wasn't what this debate was all about. She was forced to repeat the approach she took in the first debate, namely:

1) Point out that it is hard to fact-check Donald Trump during the debate itself, so the viewers should check out her website. 

2) Point out that what you just heard wasn't true, and that Donald lives in his own reality. 

These were useful stratagems during the first debate, but they weren't delivered with quite the oomph this time around. They sounded like something that Hillary was reminding herself to say, and didn't get the follow-up they could have profited by. 

On the other hand, Hillary did an effective job explaining that Trump is not fit for the job of president. She also got a boost from the moderators when Trump was asked to stop interrupting. 

There is one major difference in their competing personas. Over the course of their nomination acceptance speeches and two debates, the difference became clear. Trump presents himself as perpetually angry, outraged, and pessimistic. It's worked for him during the primary process, but it remains to be seen how well it will work for him in a general election. Hillary has taken the more optimistic approach. 

In one way this was forced on her, because it was necessitated by Trump's slogan "Make America Great Again." How do you compete with that, other than to say that America is great already? She is also trying to ride the Obama coattails, so she has to claim that things are improving. It's been a tightrope for Hillary to walk, but she seems to be doing about as well as she can. Historically, presidential candidates who present a positive message seem to have an advantage, as Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama showed. 


As of this writing a few hours after the second debate, snap polls show Hillary Clinton as the winner. Interestingly, she won big in the category of appearing more presidential. Perhaps this can be explained by Hillary's ability to maintain a straight face in response to Trump's attacks. Compare that to Trump's constant grimacing and frowning when attacked. Perhaps future historians will conclude that Hillary turned out to be the better actor, in spite of Trump's television experience. Or perhaps it was a mistake for Trump to adopt his television persona during his presidential campaign. Alternatively, it may be that the majority of the public found Trump's aggression distasteful and for that reason, found him to be less presidential. 

One question: Does Trump always know that he is going over the line? Admittedly a lot of his performance is contrived, a vaudevillian shtick. But perhaps that anger he presents is the real Trump, and what we are hearing is that anger spilling over. What presidential candidate would fail to know that threatening to jail your opponent is off limits in the American political tradition? At the extreme level, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis were not thrown in prison by the victorious side. Perhaps Trump's followers should remind him.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at


HUFFINGTON POST--People took notes during shoots of “The Apprentice,” even when those moments didn’t make it into the show. 

Top Democratic operatives have offered to pay millions of dollars for unaired footage of Donald Trump on the set of “The Apprentice,” hoping to unearth another unscripted moment like the one that surfaced Friday from 2005, when Trump said he would grab women “by the pussy.”

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-By now, we’ve all heard the Access Hollywood tape from 2005. Presidential candidate Donald Trump joked with Billy Bush about “moving on her (Nancy O’Dell) like a b*tch”” and how fame is an open door to grabbing women’s genitals.

TRUTHDIG--Most of you are already sick of this election and are looking forward to Nov. 8. But don’t count on it being over after Election Day. 

Donald Trump is already crying fraud. People with Cold War memories are warning of Russian hackers disrupting the election. Vote-counting systems are antiquated and often poorly run. All this adds up to investigations and lawsuits alleging miscounted votes and fraud stretching far beyond Election Day, and making doubters even more skeptical of the results. 

The combination of Trump’s paranoia and fears of mysterious hackers are fuel for conspiracy theorists. But with the rapid advance in computer technology and Russian hackers’ suspected penetration of Democratic National Committee (DNC) files, even people who don’t buy the conspiracy theories are alarmed. 

The Department of Homeland Security said 25 states have asked for federal help in assessing vulnerabilities and fighting computer attacks on their voting systems, Politico reported Wednesday. 

I spoke with attorney and election expert Robert Stern, who co-authored the California Political Reform Act and was chief counsel for the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission. Stern, definitely not a conspiracy theorist, is also concerned. 

“People don’t trust anything anymore, and the people who lost the election will say it was rigged,” he said. “I think now [that] we have learned Russians hacked the DNC … anything is possible. We did not anticipate all these hacks.” Stern pointed out that state election offices are often less sophisticated than federal agencies, such as the State Department and the FBI. “So,” he said, “it is much more a source of concern. … A large number of citizens will say ‘revote, revote,’ and that’s what [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wants. He wants mistrust, and probably the Chinese and [North] Koreans do, too.” 

Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, wrote in August: “In the last two weeks, there have been credible reports that Russia is attempting to influence our elections by hacking into the Democratic Party’s email server and other campaign files. These reports are troubling. But an attack on our country’s voting machines, once deemed far-fetched, is even more disturbing.” 

Norden and other election experts cited dangers in the use of voting machines, which don’t leave a countable paper record of the votes cast. One threat could involve hackers changing the count on machines, with no way to check the results after the election. “In November, tens of millions of voters in 14 states, including Pennsylvania and Virginia [battleground states], will vote on paperless electronic voting machines,” Norden wrote. 

“The threats to the integrity of our elections go beyond potential hacks to change the vote count on polling place voting machines,” he said. “Attackers could attempt a ‘denial of service’ attack, where machines simply crash more often. In those cases, voters could be forced to wait in line for hours while technicians work to fix the machines or replace them. Many would give up and never vote. Alternatively, the systems could be attacked after voting is complete, when results from individual machines are tallied at a central location.” 

Election Justice USA, which describes itself as a nonpartisan organization fighting election fraud, examined the possibility of attacks on the machines. It issued “Democracy Lost: A Report on the Fatally Flawed 2016 Democratic Primaries” and collaborated on another report, “An Electoral System In Crisis.”  

The organization alleges that hackers installed algorithms (a set of instructions) in electronic vote-counting machines. This would “have increased [Hillary] Clinton’s share of the vote and decreased [Bernie] Sanders share of the vote” enough to deny Sanders the Democratic presidential nomination. The group would like a rerun of the Clinton-Sanders race. 

Election Justice’s researchers also said they found evidence that the Clinton and Ted Cruz campaigns manipulated results in Wisconsin, where Cruz defeated Donald Trump in the primary.

The theory doesn’t make sense to me. Every crime needs a perpetrator and a victim. If both Clinton and Cruz were suspected perpetrators, did their campaigns work together on this scheme? Or did each have separate algorithm-installation operations? If it was a joint operation, why target two such diverse victims as Trump and Sanders?

The “Electoral System in Crisis” report admits the fraud-hunters don’t have a perpetrator. 

“At this point, we are unable to say who might be responsible for any data breaches to the voting equipment. There could be any number of independent players who would benefit from the victory of a particular candidate and would be willing to take action to influence the results. Our research also indicates that in some elections the footprint of more than one unofficial player is evident,” the report said. 

While Cruz beat Trump in Wisconsin, Clinton overwhelmed Sanders in California (2,713,259 to 2,326,030) and in New York (1,054,083 to 763,469.) That’s a lot of votes to fix. 

My first thought was to dismiss Election Justice USA. 

But this is 2016, the year of doubt and suspicion, and if Election Day is followed by months of lawsuits and investigation, the Election Justice USA reports no doubt will take their place in the evidence cited by those litigating the results. 

In addition, Trump has taken up long-standing -- and unproved -- Republican accusations of voting fraud. These allegations have inspired Republican legislatures around the country to impose limits on voting hours and demands for all-but-impossible voter identification. The moves are designed to reduce the turnout of Democratic-leaning African-American and Latino voters and students of all ethnicities. 

Trump, in fact, is urging his supporters to act as Election Day vigilantes in battleground states. “You’ve gotta go out, and you’ve gotta get your friends, and you’ve gotta get everyone you know and you’ve gotta watch your polling booths, because I hear too many stories about Pennsylvania, certain areas,” he said at a recent rally. “I hear too many bad stories, and we can’t lose an election because of you know what I’m talking about. So go and vote, and go check out areas, because a lot of bad things happen and we don’t wanna lose for that reason.” 

Trump adviser Roger Stone said, “The issue here is both voter fraud, which is limited but does happen, and election theft through the manipulation of the computerized voting machines.” 

A nationwide hack of American election machinery is probably impossible. Elections are run by thousands of local governments, loosely supervised by state governments. Each has its own system, ranging from well-run to incompetent. But a hack of electronic voting machines in a few crucial counties in key states is not impossible. And that could affect a close presidential election. 

Controversy -- remember Florida 2000? -- will follow fraud charges by Trump and others. This will sow even more doubt about the electoral process among voters ready to believe the worst about government, and inspire demands for a recount.


(Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for Truthdig, the Jewish Journal, and LA Observed. This piece was posted first at Photo: Seth Perlman/AP. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EASTSIDER-I am old enough to have grown up in and around labor unions and the union-management collective bargaining system, a system that today is largely broken, even as the 1/2 of 1% grow obscenely rich and the rest of us are beggared into a two class system. In fact, most people alive today have never experienced labor unions since manufacturing, American companies with roots in America, and the concept of full time employment of our citizens have all been supplanted by a new system of global financial manipulation masking as “Free Trade.” 

I mention all this because there was a method for conflict resolution that came out of those days called “arbitration.” Born out of World War II and the War Labor Board, the idea was to establish a relatively efficient, bilateral system to quickly resolve disputes without the necessity of spending zillions of dollars and decades of time playing with lawyers and the court system. It was well understood then, as now, that the American civil court system is essentially run for the exclusive benefit of those who can afford to use it. 

Anyhow, back in the day, arbitration presumed that there were two institutional parties -- labor and management -- who came to the table as relative equals interested in the resolution of their disputes. The idea was that they would agree upon a neutral third party, called an arbitrator, to hear their disputes, cogitate, and render timely, final and binding decisions as to the outcome. 

Of course, this system, which worked quite well as an alternative to the courts, flourished in a time when America actually built things in the U.S., and where a significant part of the labor force was unionized and covered by collective bargaining agreements. It also assumed that employees could work for most of their careers for the same employer or industry. 

Over time, the concept of lifetime employment relationships with employers was systematically destroyed and unions went into decline. Company CEOs were transformed into financial drones, managing debt rather than actually looking out for the long term health of the companies they ran. I can still recall President Bill Clinton proudly announcing that we should get over the idea of working for one employer, and begin to spend our lives constant retraining for whatever jobs the ‘new economy’ might require. Unmentioned was the implied destruction of pensions, employer-paid medical care, and most of the middle class. Welcome to the new “shared” or “gig” economy. 

Arbitration continued, of course, but it was and is largely a niche market for those who still work in a collective bargaining environment -- employees in the public sector and what remains of private sector unions in areas like health care, education and a few other industries who are still the beneficiaries of this system. 

But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum. As unions went into decline, those pesky personal injury attorneys started to replace the arbitration of collective bargaining with civil litigation in the court system. Given that there is no real check and balance governing the behavior of companies anymore, it is not surprising that they often engaged in behaviors which did not pass muster in court. 

Actually, as a young hot dog union organizer, I used to just love nonunion companies. You could quietly organize a key group of employees, hook up with an attorney, and start filing a bunch of tort claims in court to make them realize a contract was a lot cheaper than a bunch of expensive lawsuits resulting in damage awards, not to mention attorney fees. 

While companies hated those “shyster” plaintiff attorneys, even worse from their standpoint was the rise of class action firms who became rich in their own right, jet-setting around the country in search of raw group litigation meat. You know, like John Edwards used to do prior to his presidential dreams. 

Ultimately, companies began to feel the economic sting of all of these lawsuits. As firms like Littler, Mendelson and Jackson Lewis managed to destroy the unions, they became the victims of their very success and were putting themselves out of business. The solution was to quickly reinvent themselves as ‘employment law’ specialists to union-free employers. 

Mandatory Arbitration 

Of course, never underestimate the ability of a lawyer to turn rules on their head and make up look like down. Finally, the companies and their law firms hit upon a brilliant scheme: Bring back arbitration -- but in a rigged system that they could totally control. This brainstorm morphed into what we call today “mandatory arbitration” agreements. 

Here’s how it works: Companies and their high-priced lawyers figured out a long time ago that their worst fear is someone finding a lawyer, going to court, and suing the bejesus out of them for unlawful acts. While the plaintiffs’ attorneys might get the bulk of any award, there was still enough left over for aggrieved citizens to find that lawyer and avail themselves of their constitutional rights. And in the case of class action lawsuits, there was enough money involved that, suddenly, millions of dollars could be at risk just waiting for a hungry attorney. 

On the other hand, if you could control the arbitrators, you could (a) largely control the outcome, and (b) deny folks their constitutional right to the civil litigation system. To control the arbitrators, all you really needed to do was create a new class of “arbitrator” where you and your client get to choose the so-called neutral. That way, any arbitrator who rules against you would cease to get any more cases. 

Just to give this new system the appearance of propriety, along came a whole class of retired or retiring judges eager to make the big bucks they believed that they were denied when working for the public. You know, in relatively low-paying jobs like superior court judges. 

It worked like a charm. Agencies like JAMS & the American Arbitration Association were perfect vehicles to provide the appearance of authority and neutrality for such a system, and served as a shield between the corporate attorneys and the arbitrators themselves. Even better, the arbitrators loved the system, because they could charge hundreds of dollars an hour for their labors without fear of pushback. After all, the attorneys representing the companies were charging more than that, times the number of attorneys involved, so the arbitration fees looked reasonable. Everyone wins except the innocents sucked into the system.  

Wow! This worked so well that if you read the fine print in almost any commercial transaction agreement, you will discover (usually too late) that you have given up your right to sue the rascals for any transgressions or misdeeds against you. Instead, you will be subject to a mandatory arbitration clause in lieu of being able to go to court. 

If you listen to the people who cooked up these deals, they will proudly declare that this is a fast and efficient way of resolving disputes without clogging up the court system. Just like the tooth fairy is real. 

What they won’t tell you is that the corporate attorneys control virtually all of the so-called arbitrators, and you the innocent consumer/employee can be on the hook for 1/2 of the thousands and thousands of dollars that the arbitrators will charge for your little case. In my humble opinion, we have successfully transformed the one dollar one vote of Citizens United into a unilaterally controlled private justice system by this technique. 

A Few Examples 

If you’re not living under a rock, most of us watched or read about the recent grilling of Wells Fargo’s CEO John Stumpf regarding the millions of fake accounts they made their employees create under threat of termination. Well, buried in the testimony, there is a reference to mandatory arbitration by Mr. Stumpf himself: 

“Brad Sherman asked if consumers who had forced arbitration clauses who wanted their day in court would get one. Stumpf tried to pass off the idea that having Wells pay for mediation was just as good but finally admitted, ‘no’.” 

Another favorite Wall Street firm of the Great Recession, JP Morgan Chase, is also a great fan of mandatory arbitration. In an article called Wall Street’s Protection Racket: Mandatory Arbitration,” Pam and Russ Martens point out the huge differences between mandatory arbitration and a court, where the public and the press can actually observe the proceedings, and even write about it. 

In point of fact, this issue has become so pervasive that the New York Times recently described the process as In Arbitration, a Privatization of the Justice System. 

The Times article describes a whole litany of horror stories, including how an ER doctor in Philadelphia brought a sex discrimination suit, was forced into private arbitration, had an ‘in the bag’ arbitrator, and is still paying off some $200,000 that the experience cost her even after she lost the case. The article is part two of a three part report - it’s a good read, and you can follow the links. 

Recent Hopes 

It does look like the government has started to figure out that mandatory arbitration clauses are popping up in almost every kind of contract between consumer and corporation. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is actually in the process of adopting a rule that will simply bar mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer financial products (read banksters). Chalk one up to Dodd-Frank. 

Also, in a recent 7th Circuit Court of Appeals case  in Chicago, the court threw out an arbitration clause which banned employees from joining together as a class to fight their employer. 

I mention this case because in many ways it draws my story full circle. In less than a century we have gone from meaningful labor management relations with honest and cost effective arbitration, to attempts to turn arbitration on its head and make unionization as well as group action illegal. Gee, where did that pesky idea of freedom of assembly and association come from? Oh yeah, the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. 

Moral of the story: read the fine print, and don’t believe the spin doctors.


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

LA WATCHDOG--Of the 24 ballot measures on the November ballot, only four are specific to the City of Los Angeles. And of these four, only one deserves a YES vote (RRR - DWP Reform), two deserve a NO vote (HHH - the $1.2 billion homeless bond and SSS – Fire and Police Pension Plans), and one deserves a HELL NO vote (JJJ - Build Better LA). (See Ballot Summaries below.) 

When determining how to vote, the first and most important question is whether you trust the proponents of the ballot measure.  And in the case of the City of Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council have not earned our trust and confidence as they have not embraced the reform of our City’s finances.  They have ignored the excellent budget recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission, have refused to address the Structural Deficit where the increase in personnel expenditures (salaries, pensions, and medical benefits) exceed the growth in tax revenues, have passed on reforming the City’s two pension plans which are $15 billion in the hole, have failed to develop a plan to repair our streets and the rest of our failing infrastructure, and continue to bow to the wishes of real estate developers and billboard operators. 

NO on Proposition HHH, the $1.2 Billion Homeless Bond 

While our Enlightened Elite who occupy City Hall have told us that addressing homelessness is a priority, they have failed to make the average payment of $65 million a year a budget priority despite a $1 billion increase in City revenues over the last four years and another $600 million over the next four years.  Rather than continue with this $2 billion revenue grab over the next 30 years (including interest payments) through an increase in our property taxes, the City has the capacity to pay for the homeless bonds by eliminating their discretionary slush funds, reduce their bloated staffs, and discontinue the hundreds of millions in “giveaways” to international hotel operators and mall operators such as Westfield.  

The City has not developed a credible financial plan to fund the $2.8 billion gap between the $4 billion cost of 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing and the $1.2 billion in bond proceeds.  Nor has it addressed the over the top cost of $400,000 a unit.  Nor has it entered into a definitive agreement with the County which is considering a quarter cent increase in our sales tax ($350 million) to fund its service to the homeless. 

The concept of throwing cash at the homeless problem without a financial and operational plan does not pass muster, especially given the lack of meaningful oversight.  

For more information, see the CityWatch article, Los Angeles Must Resolve Its Homeless Crisis … This $1.2 Billion Taxpayer Ripoff is Not the Way to Do It.  

NO on Charter Amendment SSS, the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension Plans 

If approved by a majority of the voters, Airport Police officers will be eligible to participate in the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension Plans (“LAFPP”) instead of the less generous Los Angeles City Employees Retirement System (“LACERS”) plan.  But without real pension reform that addresses the billions of unfunded liabilities of both LACERS and LAFPP, this ballot measure does not deserve our support.   This scheme will also result in significantly higher pension contributions by the Airport and eventually its airline tenants.  

The Los Angeles Times urges a NO vote. Police Pension Measure SSS Raises Too Much Doubt to Support. 

HELL NO on Initiative Ordinance JJJ / Build Better LA Initiative 

The Build Better LA Initiative is a crude attempt by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor to take advantage of the affordable housing shortage in the City of Los Angeles.  It would require real estate developers who request a zoning change or variance to include units of affordable housing in the development and to agree to the equivalent of a Project Labor Agreement.  While there has not been any detailed analysis of the financial impact of this measure on housing costs, preliminary estimates indicate that it would drive up costs by 30% to 40%.  This added expense will result in a transfer of money intended for affordable housing into the pockets of construction workers and their unions. 

This misleading, self-serving ballot measure will make affordable housing more unaffordable.  

The Los Angeles Times urges a NO vote.  Measure JJJ Could Make LA’s Housing Crisis Even Worse.   

For additional information, see the CityWatch article, Build Better LA Initiative: Affordable Housing Made More Unaffordable  

YES on Charter Amendment RRR, DWP Reform 

The major problem with our Department of Water and Power is City Hall.  Unfortunately, this charter amendment does not address the issue of Ratepayers being used as an ATM by Mayor Garcetti and the City Council.  Nor are there any major changes in the governance of the Department.  But it does allow for more efficient procurement and contracting, increased oversight by the Ratepayers Advocate and a newly created Water & Power Analyst that reports directly to the Board of Commissioner, and a more transparent process of appointing a new General Manager. It also requires the Department and the Board of Commissioners to prepare a Four Year Strategic Plan beginning in 2020 for consideration by the City Council and the Mayor. 

The major source of controversy is that this charter amendment begins the process that may lead to the Department establishing its own Human Resources Department for its 9,000 employees that is separate and distinct from the City’s Personnel Department and remove the Department from the City’s cumbersome civil service rules and regulations.  The City’s civilian unions are labeling this as a “power grab” because it would lessen their influence over the affairs of the Department and limit the transfer of City employees to better paying jobs at DWP.  But any major changes would require Council approval which would “undoubtedly prompt an epic political battle.” 

While this ballot measure is not the answer to our prayers, it is a step in the right direction. 

As a side note, City Council President deserves a pat on the back for ushering this ballot measure through the City Council.  And with his leadership, hopefully other meaningful changes will be implemented by the City Council. 

The Los Angeles Times in a very good editorial urges a YES vote.  




Ballot Summary / Question 


To provide safe, clean affordable housing for the homeless and for those in danger of becoming homeless, such as battered women and their children, veterans, seniors, foster youth, and the disabled; and provide facilities to increase access to mental health care, drug and alcohol treatment, and other services; shall the City of Los Angeles issue $1,200,000,000 in general obligation bonds, with citizen oversight and annual financial audits? 


Shall the Charter be amended to: (1) enroll new Airport peace officers into Tier 6 of the Fire and Police Pensions System; (2) allow current Airport peace officers to transfer into Tier 6 from the City Employees’ Retirement System (LACERS) at their own expense; and (3) permit new Airport Police Chiefs to enroll in LACERS? 


Shall an ordinance: 1) requiring that certain residential development projects provide for affordable housing and comply with prevailing wage, local hiring and other labor standards; 2) requiring the City to assess the impacts of community plan changes on affordable housing and local jobs; 3) creating an affordable housing incentive program for developments near major transit stops; and 4) making other changes; be adopted? 


Shall the Charter be amended to: (1) add qualification requirements, stipends and removal protections for DWP Board; (2) expand Board to seven members; (3) require DWP prepare four-year Strategic Plans for Council and Mayoral approval; (4) modify DWP’s contracting, rate-setting and other authority; (5) permit future alternatives to existing civil service standards for DWP employees through collective bargaining; and (6) require monthly billing?



(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and is the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  He is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  Jack is affiliated with Recycler Classifieds --  He can be reached at:

– cw

LA WATCHDOG--On Tuesday, the Board of Water and Power Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to approve an above market, 10 year, $41 million lease of four vacant floors of subpar office space at Figueroa Plaza, a 615,000 square foot, City owned office complex located north of the downtown Central Business District.  

LA WATCHDOG--On September 28, Mayor Eric Garcetti issued his Fiscal Year 2017-18 Budget Policy and Goals to all of the General Managers of All City Departments. The goals include closing a projected $85 million deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017, identifying over $40 million in new general funds to maintain the City’s current commitment to the homeless, and hiring 5,000 new employees by June 30, 2018 to restore services and replace retiring workers.   

This missive is focused on next year’s budget and does not address the long term reforms that are desperately needed to tackle the City’s Structural Deficit (where the growth in personnel costs exceeds the increase in revenues), the massive unfunded liabilities of its two unsustainable pension plans (estimated to be in the range of $15 billion based on a more realistic investment rate assumption), and the deferred maintenance on its infrastructure (estimated to be north of $10 billion). 

On October 4, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates (“NCBAs”)* delivered the following recommendation to Mayor Garcetti and the City Council.


Early White Paper Recommendation

The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates (the “NCBAs”) urge the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti to implement the following recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission as part of its budget for the 2017-18 fiscal year: 

  • Create an independent “Office of Transparency and Accountability” to analyze and report on the City’s budget, evaluate new legislation, examine existing issues and service standards, and increase accountability. 
  • Adopt a “Truth in Budgeting” ordinance that requires the City to develop a three year budget and a three year baseline budget with the goal to understand the longer-term consequences of its policies and legislation. (Council File 14-1184-S2)  
  • Be honest about the cost of future promises by adopting a discount rate and pension earnings assumptions similar to those used by Warren Buffett.   
  • Establish a “Commission for Retirement Security” to review the City's retirement obligations in order to promote an accurate understanding of the facts. 

We request that the Budget and Finance Committee assign a Council File for each of the recommendations and agendize each of these items for its next meeting on October 17, 2016.  

The implementation of these recommendations will be the first step in addressing the City’s Structural Deficit, the massive unfunded liabilities of its two unsustainable pension plans, and the deferred maintenance on its infrastructure.  

The adoption of the recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission will result in increased transparency into the City’s complex operations and finances and begin the process of restoring Angelenos’ trust and confidence in City Hall and its elected officials.  

The NCBAs are making these recommendations prior to the 2017 Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates White Paper so that they will be an integral part of the upcoming fiscal year’s budget process.  

The NCBAs look forward to a timely response.



Stay tuned to see if Mayor Garcetti and the City Council are willing to implement meaningful reform or will it be business as usual, kicking the can down the road and dumping tens of billions in unfunded obligations on the next generation of Angelenos. 




*The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates are the elected to represent the charter authorized Neighborhood Councils.  Their role is to explore, research, study, seek input, prepare and present the concerns and interests of the communities of the City of Los Angeles ("City") about the use of City funds, City revenue collection, City budget and budget allocations, efficiency of City government, City finances, City financial obligations and other such concerns and related to financial matters of the City to the Mayor and City Council.  

Join the discussion: 


(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 --  He can be reached at: – cw


LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti and his budget team are putting a full court press on the Board of Water and Power Commissioners to approve an above market, 10 year, $41 million lease for four vacant floors of office space at Figueroa Plaza, a two tower, 615,000 square foot City owned complex located north of the Central Business District in DTLA.  (Photo above: Sculpture by Terry Allen. The bronze statue is located in Downtown L.A. at 7+FIG Plaza, on the corner of 7th and Figueroa Street, outside the corporate offices of Ernst Young) 

But this deal, like the previous 10 year, $63 million lease for six vacant floors that was proposed in June, does not pass the smell test because this above market lease is not in the best interests of the Department of Water and Power or its Ratepayers. 

Which leads us to the question of whether the five Commissioners, led by President Mel Levine and Vice President Bill Funderburk, will stand up for the interests of the Department and the Ratepayers or will they bow to the pressure from Mayor Garcetti and his budget team who are looking to balance the City’s budget on the backs of the Ratepayers? 

Figueroa Plaza is not considered a desirable location for law firms, investment banks, commercial banks, consulting firms, or other professional organizations that occupy Class A space because of its poor location north of the Central Business District.  In addition to being out of the way, this older building has a poor reputation for maintenance, services, and amenities.  This is not helped by rent roll dominated by government employees.  

Yet the City wants our Department of Water and Power to pay Central Business District Class A rents for this subprime space.  At the same time, the City wants DWP to pony up $9 million for tenant improvements, an expense that is usually born by the landlord, in this case, the City of Los Angeles.  

From the Mayor’s perspective, in the first year of the lease, the City will receive $3 million in rent and “save” $9 million in tenant improvements.  This $12 million swing will help the City close its projected $85 million budget deficit for the upcoming fiscal year.  

The Department maintains that it needs this additional space to accommodate 700 new employees.  But without a well thought out Space Utilization Plan for its 9,576 employees, an 8 to 10 year lease is inappropriate, especially given its above market cost.  

Any space plan would need to address the updating of DWP’s 50 year old historic headquarters building located across from the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles.  But this is problematic as IBEW Local 18, DWP’s domineering union, will assert jurisdiction over all the work at overtime rates, doubling the cost and the time to completion.  This will cost Ratepayers an additional $150 to $200 million.  

The question has also been raised whether the IBEW and Union Bo$$ d’Arcy would claim jurisdiction over the work at Figueroa Plaza.  

At its meeting on September 20, the Board of Commissioners discussed the proposed $41 million lease in closed session.  When the $63 million lease was on the agenda in June, the Board deferred the matter until a later time.  As a result, there has not been a public discussion or any outreach involving this controversial lease whose main beneficiary appears to be the City, not DWP or the Ratepayers. 

The Department has prepared a 229 page memo outlining this transaction. This includes a 161 page report that justifies the lease. But several experts, including potential tenants and their representatives, have discounted this report stating it was “made as indicated” and does not reflect the real rental market. 

Will the Commissioners conduct an open hearing on this above market lease?  Will the Commissioners demand that DWP prepare a Space Utilization Plan before entering into this above market lease?  Will this study include many different alternatives, including selling the DWP headquarters and moving to an area that would benefit from the economic development?  Will the Commissioners demand that the Department update its Personnel Plan to reflect the addition of 700 new employees?  

In other words, will the Commissioners act in the best interests of the Department and the Ratepayers and tell the Mayor and his budget team to buzz off?

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and a member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- He can be reached at:

  • See also:

DWP Deserves ‘Free’ Rent at Fig Plaza

The Fig Plaza Stick Up: Ripping Off DWP Ratepayers for $40 Million

--Exposed! City Overcharging DWP Millions on Downtown Fig Plaza Rent



LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Herb Wesson led City Council are using the homeless issue to pick our pockets for almost $2 billion over the next 30 years in an effort to cover up their abject failure to make this unfortunate situation a priority in the City’s budget over the last four years. 

If Proposition HHH (Homeless Reduction and Prevention, Housing, and Facilities Bond) is approved by two-thirds of the voters, the City will issue $1.2 billion of bonds over the next ten years.  These funds, along with billions from politically wired real estate developers and other governmental entities, will finance the construction of 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing for LA’s homeless population at a cost as high as $4 billion.  

LA WATCHDOG--Many believe that California would be better off if we sent Attorney General Kamala Harris to Washington to succeed Barbara Boxer, the 75 year old “junior” senator from California.  But then again, is it fair to the rest of the country to stick the nation with the highly partisan Kamala Harris when Loretta Sanchez is the more qualified candidate? 

Kamala Harris’ fatal flaw is that she is a staunch opponent of pension reform.  

During the last two years, she has authored unfavorable and biased summaries for two bipartisan ballot measures that would have reformed California’s unsustainable pension plans.  Pension reform is the most important financial issue facing all levels of government as ever increasing pension contributions are required to cover the estimated unfunded liability of up to $500 billion. But these growing contributions are crowding out basic services such as public safety and the repair of our infrastructure as well as progressive initiatives involving education, affordable housing, and services to the homeless. 

This has resulted in numerous ballot measures for new taxes which, despite their stated use, are really going to fund the upside down pension plans.  

But rather than endorsing pension reform, Harris sold out to the campaign funding leadership of the public unions who are vehemently opposed to any reform of the very generous pension plans.  As a result, Harris has benefitted from significant cash contributions to her campaign war chest.   

Obviously, Harris did not get the memo from Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo that “you can’t be a progressive and be opposed to pension reform.” 

Ever since Harris was elected Attorney General in 2010, she has used her office as a stepping stone for higher office.  Over the years, she has been gallivanting around the country, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on first class travel, five star hotels, and limousines and hitting up the usual out of state suspects for campaign donations. 

She has also used her office to reward her campaign contributors.   In 2015, Harris placed so many conditions on Prime Healthcare’s acquisition of the money losing hospitals owned by the Daughters of Charity that the buyer walked away from the transaction.  According to subsequent litigation, it was alleged that Harris was doing the bidding of the SEIU which was in a labor dispute with Prime Healthcare.  

No wonder the SEIU has been so generous to Harris’ campaign war chest.  

Harris has been so busy running around the country raising money and planning her next campaign that her office has suffered from the lack of organization and leadership and high turnover.  Her office has failed to implement or follow through on numerous initiatives such as gun control and criminal justice. But that has not stopped her from claiming credit for the work of others as was the case with the national mortgage settlement that was spearheaded by the Attorney Generals in New York and Delaware.  

Sanchez, on the other hand, has developed a reputation over her twenty years in House of Representatives as a legislator who can work in a bipartisan manner, much like Senator Diane Feinstein who has been an effective proponent for California. She has the endorsement of 17 of the State’s Democratic Congressional representatives, almost double the number that are supporting Harris.  

Sanchez also has a strong working knowledge of immigration, a very important issue to Californians, as she is the co-chair of the Immigration Task Force, a member of the Hispanic Caucus, and the daughter of hard working immigrants who achieved the American Dream. 

She has an excellent understanding of the water issues facing the State, having worked on matters involving conservation, groundwater, the Salton Sea, and other complex problems facing Orange County and Southern California. 

She is a ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, but voted against the Iraq War, and the House Homeland Security Committee.  

Without doubt, Sanchez, an MBA and a financial analyst in the private sector before she upset B1 Bob Dornan in the 1996 election, is familiar with the federal budget, a complex issue that impacts all Californians. 

While Sanchez and Harris are both Democrats, we have the choice between Harris, a San Francisco ideologue who has derailed pension reform in return for union campaign cash, or Sanchez, a Southern Californian and a seasoned legislator with private sector experience who has demonstrated that she can work in a bipartisan manner to get things done. 

While Harris is leading in the polls, Sanchez has the unique opportunity to upset Harris by putting together a coalition of Hispanics, moderate Democrats, independents, and Republicans. 

Viva Sanchez.  

(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee and a member of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council.  Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- He can be reached at:


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