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CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--California is already on the defensive in its battle with Donald Trump. Our state needs an offense—now. (Photo above: Former President Ronald Reagan at Presidential Library in 1997.)
Trump’s first four weeks in office have made clear that hopes of California working with this president—in areas like infrastructure—are pure fantasy. Trump is already engaged in non-stop attacks against our state, as if all of California were a political opponent. His strategy is not merely to punish California; he wants to rob our state of its legitimacy within the American polity.
And so the president of the United States has repeatedly and falsely claimed that California’s elections are fraudulent exercises that enable millions of illegal votes. He’s frequently accused our biggest cities of endangering our country by failing to assist federal goons with deportations. He has called the whole state “out of control” and threatened to “defund” our universities and unspecified state programs.
Such attacks are so potentially powerful (since they play into American resentments against our special state) and damaging (since California is the world’s sixth-largest economy and a vital model of diverse peoples prospering together) that we need to be fighting Trump much harder and more directly.
Put simply, California must delegitimize Trump before he delegitimizes us.
There are two ways California must go on offense against Trump. First comes the fist: Californians must aggressively question Trump’s legitimacy as president as often as possible. Second comes the outstretched hand: We must bolster our state’s own legitimacy by reaching out to the rest of America and reaffirming just how proud we are to be a part of this country.
Right now, our response to Trump is led by cautious souls: lawyers, politicians, and lawyer-politicians who focus on legislation and litigation. But this fight isn’t about laws. Trump must be fought on his turf: politics, culture, and media.
Our state needs a war room. Any outrageous allegation Trump makes against us should be answered with greater outrage. If Trump wants to make up claims of fraud in our elections, we should target his own frauds—from questionable business dealings to unpaid taxes to the confidence game that was Trump University. And we should pressure our law enforcement officials to investigate and publicize any questionable moves by his family’s ongoing business interests if they have any connection to California at all.
When Trump alleges again that California is “out of control,” California should press the president on who controls him. Let’s ask him which of the powers behind his throne we should be talking to when we have a complaint about him. Should we be discussing energy policy with your bosses at the Kremlin, Mr. President? Or with the Goldman Sachs executive committee? Or with the white supremacist groups backing you?
And when Trump threatens the funds for state programs, Californians should shout that Trump is trying to bankrupt the whole country. “If Mr. Trump gets his way, California won’t be the only state short of funds,” we should say. “His trade and immigration policies will destroy the economy, and his reckless spending and tax cuts will create unsustainable federal debt.” The strategy: Take the heat off California and put it back on Trump.
Indeed, the most powerful line of attack against this president is to question his patriotism. Trump has put Americanism at the heart of his political story—he’s an unapologetic nationalist, vowing to make America great again. But he’s actually vulnerable on nationalist grounds. He constantly slanders the country—lying about the murder rate, equating America’s leaders with the murderous autocrat Vladimir Putin, tweeting false insults against important American companies and businesses. Californians should point out the truth: that Trump’s attacks on this most American of states are really an attack against our entire country.
We don’t believe Trump is legitimate, but we respect Republicans and Trump voters. To make this sell, California Democrats should hold their noses and deploy the words of California president—and “great communicator”—Ronald Reagan as weapons against the current president.
To emphasize Trump’s lack of patriotism, we Californians must put our American patriotism on full throttle. That starts with killing off the traitorous (and Russian-affiliated) #Calexit movement. Instead, while Trump denigrates America on Twitter, California and its leaders should be looking for opportunities to praise and assist other states.
Our governor and other elected state leaders should be on the road, initiating high-profile meetings with their counterparts across the country, looking for areas of cooperation. When another state faces an emergency or natural disaster, California should be the first to send help. And whenever another state celebrates a great triumph—a game changing new business in North Carolina, a new university campus in Michigan—our leaders should show up and congratulate them in person. (Once there, we can take shots at Trump. A talking point: “In California we’re learning so much from your state’s example, which is important at this time, when Washington D.C. is so consumed with negative attacks.”)
Californians must focus on Trump, not his supporters. We don’t believe Trump is legitimate, but we respect Republicans and Trump voters. To make this sell, California Democrats should hold their noses and deploy the words of California president—and “great communicator”—Ronald Reagan as weapons against the current president.
The Gipper left us bon mots for every occasion.
To explain our fight with Trump: “When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.”
To build solidarity with other states: “You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness.”
When we engage in protests: “No arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.”
And as we counter Trump’s war against refugees and immigrants, we should invoke the 40th president as often as possible. “I, in my own mind, have always thought of America as a place in the divine scheme of things that was set aside as a promised land … any person with the courage, with the desire to tear up their roots, to strive for freedom, to attempt and dare to live in a strange and foreign place, to travel halfway across the world was welcome here.”
In that vein, California should shift its energies from opposing Trump’s Wall—that’s defense after all—and go on offense by demanding the removal of the existing wall along our state’s border with Mexico. The fact that there’s already a wall exposes the blatant wastefulness and redundancy of Trump’s proposed boondoggle—and might be news to Americans elsewhere. And we could point out that the current barrier doesn’t keep out the undocumented (airports are the real border gates), and is little more than an expensive eyesore that inconveniences tourists, businesses, and residents of the San Diego-Tijuana and Calexico-Mexicali regions. “Mr. Trump, tear down this wall!” we could thunder, in another Reagan echo.
Opposing the wall would be welcome in Mexico, and should be part of a California effort to develop our own foreign policy with allies Trump is offending. Governor Brown should press for summits with Mexico’s president and Canada’s prime minister, and seek high-profile meetings with other Trump-attacked U.S. allies from Australia to Germany. The state could then sign environmental, trade, tourism, or educational exchange deals that benefit California and put Trump on the spot. Why doesn’t the president make deals like that?
Sun Tzu advised, “If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him.” The dual offensive strategy outlined here—reaching out to our fellow U.S. states while attacking Trump’s legitimacy as president—would both irritate and isolate him. Such an offense is the best way to weaken Trump—and protect both our state and our country.
(Joe Mathews is Connecting California Columnist and Editor at Zócalo Public Square … where this column first appeared. Mathews is a Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010).)
GELFAND’S WORLD--When presidential candidate John Kerry famously said, "First I voted for it, then I voted against it," the Republicans grabbed the quote and ran with it. The term flip-flop became embedded in our language to imply a particularly unacceptable form of political action. With the current president, the verbal flip-flop is a way of life.
One evening this week, the Trump administration announced that General Michael Flynn had resigned as National Security Advisor because of a problem of trust. (By that point, the whole world had been told that Flynn had openly lied to the Vice President.) In an amount of time approximating the interval required to cool your soup, the president turned around and blamed Flynn's political demise on the press. They treated him unfairly, etc. etc. said Trump.
Trump makes Richard Nixon look like a professor of logic.
Did Michael Flynn freelance, going out on his own to create a back channel with the Russian government, or was he doing Trump's bidding all along? Is it just happenstance that so many of Trump's inner circle have had close ties -- paid work, in other words -- with Putin's government? Anyone remember Paul Manafort?
So which is it? Was Trump in the loop or not? I don't think this is a really difficult question.
There is a growing movement within the center and the moderate left to push for continuing investigations of the ties between Trump and the Russians, although some of it is couched as calls for investigations of Flynn while some is more direct. What's interesting is that some solid conservatives are curious enough to be speaking out, John McCain among others. Perhaps this is one way for McCain to do a little getting even with the man who insulted him so profoundly. Or perhaps McCain is just doing what he sees as his patriotic duty.
Whichever way it is for McCain and the other few (as yet) Republicans in congress who will push the question, it is inevitable that the subject will be kept alive by opinion leaders including the news media. We can expect the same from presumptive candidates for office and pretty much from every living Democrat. If you see a Democrat who is not already complaining, check to see if there is a pulse.
The Trump administration will continue doing its best to cover things up, but the first month shows how difficult that is going to be. The fact that Flynn's phone conversation with the Russian ambassador has become public knowledge was, not to put it too dramatically, just the beginning. Did Trump know about Flynn's conduct or not? It's pretty much that simple. A prediction: It will eventually come out that Trump knew about Flynn's activities, and things will accumulate from there.
If you'd like a fairly comprehensive view of the links between Trump and the Russians, take a look at Steven Harper's chronicle posted on Bill Moyers' site.
Thinking about things other than politics
I like to write about local theater companies in the harbor area. One of the best was known as the Theatrum Elysium. They moved out of their 7th Street quarters last year and more or less fell off the radar. Except that they didn't, at least to local movers and shakers. The original company is now resurrected as the Elysium Conservatory Theatre, and it is enjoying glorious new digs in the space that used to be Ante's Restaurant, once a legendary San Pedro center for conversation, drinks, and mostaccioli. Now the old restaurant space holds a newly enlarged company of actors, both youngsters and seasoned veterans.
Company director Aaron Ganz likes to lead with Shakespearean heavyweights. The previous 7th Street location opened with Hamlet. This year's season leads off with Romeo and Juliet on March 31.
I'm treating this as a story about the creation of art by an organization through its newly enabled recreation of itself as an artistic fount.
So what's new with the ECT? In other words, what's in store for Romeo and Juliet that hasn't been done a thousand times before? And we might even ask, why is it necessary to do anything different when the original is a pillar of western culture?
I can't argue that there should be anything new or novel -- or that there shouldn't be. Shakespeare has been performed by companies that transform the era, the venue, the surroundings, or all of the above, and it generally has not been a hindrance as long as the language is preserved. Shakespeare is also performed in its original trappings to wondrous effect.
So what is the deal with a new Romeo and Juliet that may be worth a trip down the Harbor Freeway? Aaron has some ideas of his own that are worth pondering. His theatrical style has been expanding to the exploration of the use of choral voices along with dance to interpret and communicate the undertones of the great works. The idea isn't all that new actually, going back at least as far as the ancient Greeks. But it's rewarding to watch the development of a new score to accompany something like Romeo and Juliet.
This is, in fact, operatic, as Aaron himself comments. In opera (and for the last century, in film) the musical score accentuates what is happening inside of the characters' heads, sometimes communicating an inner emotion when the character's outward expression is more controlled. You might say that the actor's voice and the musical score harmonize with each other in the emotional sense. Wagner even used musical phrases (leitmotif's) to carry on a musical dialog that could be entirely apart from the thoughts and words of the singers.
So far in early rehearsals, we are seeing the development of a choral piece that accompanies the scene in which Romeo kills Tybalt. It's been interesting watching and listening to the music director as he brings the actors to express grief, pleading, and vengeance using only four or five notes, but coached to bring varying intonations and volume, sometimes at an enormous level. It was also fascinating to watch the dance director bringing together a group of young Shakespeareans to communicate the moods of the play using moves varying from classical to hip-hop.
I'll be continuing to follow the creation of this production over the next month as a study on the process of creativity.
My previous piece here in CityWatch, in which I predicted that the American Republic would survive the Trump administration, provoked a couple of serious comments.
One pointed out that the judiciary in 1930s Germany was not ultimately able to resist Hitler, even though it tried mightily for as long as it could. I was aware of this history in a general sense, but thank the commenter for stating it more clearly. The substance of my argument was (and remains) my judgment that acceptance of the role of the judiciary is strongly embedded in American culture.
In brief, the decision of a single federal judge in the state of Washington prevented the execution of a presidential order, at least for the time being and the American people in general understood that this is our way. I did not pursue the argument further to point out that Anglo-American law -- and therefore the culture of our two realms -- includes a strong element of common law. That is to say, we frame many of our social and economic arguments in terms of legal questions, and from those questions our system creates precedents.
It's hard for us as Americans to imagine the system being different, but it is significantly different in other parts of the world including Europe. The American people accepted that the Supreme Court had the authority to judge the Constitutional validity of the Affordable Care Act. Many of us worried about the outcome, but we didn't directly challenge the balance of power. Even when 1960s era segregationists disagreed hotly with Supreme Court decisions, their demand was that the Chief Justice be impeached, a legally defined remedy under the written Constitution.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
EASTSIDER--I know I keep mentioning that I’m a third generation Californian in these columns. I do it mostly because I have at best a tenuous interest in what happens in the corridors of power back east in places like Washington, DC. Their prep school/’right college’/network of people has essentially run the country for a long time. We in California have always been relegated to acting as an ATM machine for the federal government and the DNC/RNC political establishment. I know it’s a parochial view, but I believe it to be reasonably accurate.
So, I try to avoid thinking about the moral rot of those who govern us, but the recent displays of political discord by both the Democrats and the Republicans has made me wonder what ever happened to the State of California that I grew up in. Forget DC. I don’t much recognize the current California, and how it is sucking the economic marrow out of our children, instead of preparing them for and providing decent jobs.
In retrospect, I was a lucky person to be educated in the California of the 50’s and 60’s. Schools worked differently then. High School still had shop and other vocational classes to provide training for actual jobs when you graduated, and they even had decent class sizes and counselors.
Not that the system was without flaws. There were two tracks - one for those going on to college, and the other for those going on to wherever. Of course they also had homemaking classes for girls, but they let both guys and girls into the shop classes. Hey, it was another time.
They also had a system where the children did not automatically promote from grade to grade in high school. I remember, because I was definitely not a mainstream student, being in a Junior High school in Fullerton, where many of my peers were older kids simply marking time until they were old enough to stop having to attend school.
I mention all this because the LAUSD of today gave up that model of education for the “College & Career Readiness Through A-G”. As they proudly announced in their latest form, the mission statement sets requirements that ‘all students will complete the minimum course requirements for the CSU system’. Good grief.
Funny, in the old days it was recognized that a good chunk of people were not going to go to college, and needed preparation to be able to simply get a job - not necessarily one that required a college degree. In their zeal to get away from the old two track system which did indeed discriminate against some students, we have flipped the system into unreasonable requirements that everyone, as I once quipped, is going to go to Stanford’. Horsepuckey.
The current system has resulted in over 1/3 of entering students never making it to graduation, period, and has utterly failed to produce real jobs for real people. Instead, the LAUSD keeps on lowering the standards to graduate, as if that is going to meet their silly goal. The only thing that it has produced lately is a bunch of Charter schools under the ‘leadership’ of Monica Garcia & funded by a billionaire backed industry looking to siphon education dollars into their coffers.
Let me give you an example. The Department of Water and Power has an acute shortage of line workers -- the ones that work on those poles and towers to provide us with reliable power. These jobs don’t need a degree, but after a few years the employees are going to be making something like $100,000/year, with a defined benefit plan thrown in. However, the DWP can’t go on high school campuses to advertise these jobs because that isn’t going to get the students into college.
This is nuts. Our children need jobs when they graduate, not simply being thrown to the wayside to maybe work in the low paying service industries. Right now, apprenticeships are taking off because our high schools no longer provide the free education to get jobs.
Instead, we have all those ‘technical institutes’, which are simply designed to provide what high schools don’t, and laden the students with a bunch of debt whether or not they complete the course, much less get a job.
And as for those college degrees, all too many students get is over $50,000 in student debt that will hound them for the rest of their lives, whether or not the degree leads to real jobs with anything like a career ladder. This is not cool.
My generation had the California of Governor Brown’s Master Plan for Education, where an excellent, free education was available to all of us. You can read about it here, and weep.
I came out of that system, through Fullerton Jr. College, Cal State Fullerton, and then UC Berkeley. Didn’t cost much, and provided an excellent education. Why we don’t provide the resources to this for our children, I utterly fail to understand.
If our educational system can’t provide jobs for our children, exactly what use is it? Seems to me that we starve the educational system of money, divert a good chunk of what money is left into Charter school experiments, even as many of them fail or in some cases steal the public funds for personal gain.
Even as we try to get rid of tenure for teachers, look forward to breaking the public sector unions, and head down the path of vouchers instead of actual education leading to jobs. Arrgh!
I only mention all of this because I know what a good educational system can produce. And it seems to me that none of the candidates for LAUSD are going to squat about fixing these issues. Not to mention the elected officials in Sacramento and Washington.
C’mon, if we can organize and divert money from the lobbyists with their ‘special deals’ for politicians, corporations & financial services industry sharks, back to educating our children and providing real jobs for them, we will actually be accomplishing something to be proud of.
Too many of my friends have lost jobs and may never have regular full-time employment. They have fallen by the wayside of no longer even being counted in the unemployment numbers, like un-people. Same for many of our children who have to continue to live at home, struggling to make their economic way in the world. As a society, this is simply unacceptable, and political platitudes won’t fix anything.
In the California I grew up in, it didn’t used to be that way. Let’s make our politicians divert our tax dollars back into providing real education and real jobs for us and our children. We know that it can be done.
(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.)
MY TURN-We have a Primary Election on March 7 and will probably see an underwhelming turnout. Maybe it’s because we are still exhausted from the recent national election and its subsequent events. Unfortunately, the March primary and the May final will have more short term -- and perhaps long term -- effects on your day to day living. I must hedge that by saying local elections will matter more providing we don’t have some huge natural or political disaster.
Local elections are not exciting. More money is being spent on the race for Board of Education than other offices. I have never seen so many negative flyers against one candidate: Steve Zimmer. He has been blamed for everything wrong with the LA school system and a few other things thrown in for good measure. I am surprised he hasn't been accused of initiating the recent earthquakes. The opposition to him has spent over a million dollars. That could buy a lot of supplies in District 4.
In my last article I pointed out that this City Council race has all incumbents running except for District 7, the Northeast portion of the San Fernando Valley. Sometimes those who live outside the SFV don't realize that the Valley is as large as Chicago (220 sq. miles) and has almost as many land uses.
Years ago, I didn't vote for secession from LA, but I now understand why the NE portion of the Valley was so enthusiastic about it. All fifteen Council Districts have their unique sets of challenges. On Wednesday, the LA Times wrote about District 15 and its very divergent stakeholders and problems. The majority of pundits seem to believe that the number of members on both the LA County Board of Supervisors and on the LA City Council is inadequate. Both should be enlarged so that they can more effectively represent their stakeholders.
Acknowledging that all districts have issues, I must admit that Council District 7 seems to have more than its fair share. Now it seems to be motivated to not to make the same mistake by electing a City Councilmember with his own agenda. Fortunately, Filipe Fuentes resigned and City Council President Herb Wesson took District 7 under his umbrella. He showed up for events and meetings and was able to undo some of the damage that Fuentes inflicted on his stakeholders.
The good news is there are 19 City Council candidates running campaigns in CD 7. The bad news is they have 19 candidates running for this non-partisan City Council seat. Will there be a runoff? Absolutely!
Two candidates who have held other local government positions have raised the most money in the District 7 -- by six figures. The majority have raised under $20,000. In looking at the group of candidates I was pleased to see the number of neighborhood activists throwing their hats in the ring. Even though there are only about 65,000 stakeholders in District 7, it runs the gamut economically, politically and ethnically.
CD 7 has all the challenges the other districts have and a few extra -- plus Governor Brown’s High Speed Rail is supposed to run through their community. They are, as a group very vocal and even though there are the usual power struggles and conflicts over projects, they have historically been participants in trying to get things done for their community. In my opinion, they are a good example of grassroots "doers"...not just noisemakers.
Several Neighborhood Councils have sponsored candidate forums in the NE Valley. Last Saturday two NCs (Sunland Tujunga and North Hills East) offered one hosted by the Pacoima Chamber of Commerce and All Nations Church. Twenty questions were sent to each candidate. You can view those questions and their answers at the Sunland-Tujunga NC website: stnc.org. The candidates were also allowed to post a two-minute video on the site. After the formal part of the program, visitors were invited to have one on one time at each candidate’s table. Most had flyers, volunteer support as well as the answers to the 20 questions. Measure S seems to be the most controversial issue.
I also urge you to check the Los Angeles City Ethics Department’s website. It is a real eye opener to see where the money is coming from and to whom.
I know the last thing we need is more political talk. I have started to switch channels and am enjoying Madam Secretary and House of Cards as my political diversion. At least we can root for the good guys and hiss the villains. At the moment, it’s hard to tell who is who in Washington D.C.
This is another reason why we need to select our local candidates very carefully. California may end up being on its own with some issues -- although I understand British Colombia has invited California, Oregon, and Washington to join them.
As always comments are welcome.
(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.com) Cartoon: Australian Financial Review. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Herb Wesson led City Council are opposed to Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, that is on the March 7 ballot. Instead, they support the status quo where real estate developers make billions, the politicians receive millions, and we get the shaft.
In a slick mailer paid for by real estate developers and the County Federation of Labor, Garcetti said, “Measure S will cause major job losses, will cost taxpayers millions, and will make our housing and homelessness even worse.”
But the “facts” (see below) supporting Garcetti’s comments are based on the flawed Economic Policy Analysis by Beacon Economics, a local consulting firm that has close financial ties to opponents of Measure S, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Los Angeles City Hall.
This not so independent analysis has not been peer reviewed. Nor has it been the subject of an open and transparent discussion by the City Council, the City Administrative Officer, or the Chief Legislative Analyst as the business-as-usual Council Members are not willing to subject this report to rigorous scrutiny.
The fatal flaw in this analysis is that it compares the impact of Measure S with the market prior to the approval by the voters on November 7 of Initiative Ordinance JJJ, the Affordable Housing and Labor Standards Related to City Planning Initiative.
This overly complex ordinance that is over 10,000 words of confusing legal mumbo jumbo is a real deal and job killer.
According to a previous Beacon analysis prepared to support the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce’s opposition to JJJ, this measure’s “potential to drastically reduce residential construction would further accelerate increases in home prices and rents in Los Angeles.”
[Note: The Los Angeles Times also opposed JJJ as it “could make LA’s housing crisis even worse.”]
JJJ would require a developer of a residential project of 10 or more units who seeks a zoning change to essentially enter into a “project labor agreement” that requires construction workers be paid the “prevailing wage,” a rate that is significantly higher than market rates. This will drive up project costs by 46% according to Beacon.
At the same time, developers will have to set aside up to 25% of a project’s units for low and moderate income tenants, thereby lowering the projected rental income.
The combination of Higher costs and lower rents is good reason not to build in LA, a reality that must be considered when analyzing the relative impact of Measure S.
Garcetti is also claiming that Measure S will stymie the development of affordable housing and permanent supportive housing. But this claim does not take into consideration that developers can build “as of right” without having to get zoning changes from City Hall. And with 785,000 parcels of property in the City, there are ample opportunities for the development of market rate, affordable, and permanent supportive housing under the Measure S 24-month moratorium.
Garcetti and the City Council claim they are beginning to reform the planning process. They are developing ordinances to update the city’s General Plan and its 35 Community Plans and to have the City (not the real estate developers) oversee the Environmental Impact Statements and Traffic Studies. They have introduced motions to limit campaign contributions from real estate developers.
But if the voters reject Measure S, will we ever get an objective analysis of the impact of JJJ, the union inspired initiative that will make the building of multifamily buildings uneconomic? Will the City continue to update on an accelerated basis the City’s General Plan and its 35 Community Plans in an open and transparent manner as required by Measure S? Will the City provide the Planning Department with the necessary resources, especially after July 1, 2018 when the new labor contracts kick in and result in a tsunami of red ink? Will the Garcetti and the City Council cut off the hand that feeds them and limit campaign contributions from real estate developers?
The answer is obviously NO since we cannot trust Garcetti and the Council Members when it comes to their ultimate aphrodisiac, campaign cash.
Vote Yes on S and end the status quo of a corrupt pay-to-play culture where real estate developers make billions, politicians receive millions, and we get the shaft.
- Costs taxpayers over $70 million each year.
- Destroys 12,000 jobs each year.
- Cost $640 million in lost wages each year.
- Results in losses of $1.9 billion to our City every year it is in effect
- What is the impact of JJJ and how does that compare to Measure S?
(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.)
NEW ATTACKS COMING ON YOUR INTERNET--Back in June, when the insanity of the election and the chaos to follow was simply a glistening bomb lingering on the horizon, the United States Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit made a huge decision regarding the future of how America looks at the Internet. In the decision, the court upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s rules over net neutrality, which require Internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all traffic equally.
At the very least, it kept the lid tight on the can of worms that would allow ISPs to offer preferential treatment (read: faster load times, more bandwidth for video streaming) to websites that chose to pay whatever money the ISPs wanted, deregulating the Web into a purely capitalistic experiment that also, weirdly, gave the power to the near-monopolistic gatekeepers. It would probably have been really bad.
But more than the specifics, the case moved the needle in the minds of those considering how the Internet should act. Should the Web be a battle of private enterprises butting up against one another to, theoretically at least, provide consumers with the fastest, most reliable, most affordable service? Or should it be thought of as a public utility, something like electricity or sewage, owned by singular communities?
The biggest argument for keeping the Internet as it currently exists is that its “free market” incentivizes innovators to invent new products. The other pathway would lead toward a bureaucratic mess that takes over any public institution. But the failure with this line of thinking is that the Internet marketplace was never really a free market. Most of this has to do with its history.
At first, the Internet was a dial-up service, in which computers talked to one another by piggybacking onto the pre-existing copper wires of telephonic infrastructure that was already in place throughout America. As such, this Internet was essentially just a visual version of a phone system: It was slow and unwieldy, sure, but it also could be turned off and on as you would a phone call. When broadband Internet came around — in the form of either cable or DSL — the entire concept of the Internet suddenly shifted from a portal into a 24/7 link into this other world.
The Internet marketplace was never really a free market.
Since the demands of this connection far outpaced what dial-up wires would allow, this development necessitated a whole new infrastructure. Luckily, one was already in place: cable television.
In the eight years following the Telecommunications Act of 1996, cable companies spent upwards of $65 billion laying down additional broadband networks that were able to “provide multichannel video, two-way voice, high-speed Internet access, and high definition and advanced digital video services all on a single wire into the home.” And because of this initial investment in infrastructure, the cable companies have had close to full control.
The market, therefore, was never really free, as much as those who succeeded were able to do so because they had an initial leg up. As a result, only a few massive companies have been able to compete with one another, and a majority of those competitions have ended in a kind of stalemate where they just end up carving up the marketplace block by block, or building by building, and forcing the residents to either choose their service or choose nothing.
Maybe your own place isn’t like that. Maybe you have multiple choices when it comes to deciding where you want your Internet from. If so, that puts you in the minority. According to a 2015 report by the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, 61 percent of U.S. households have either one or zero choices when it comes to high-speed broadband providers in their area.
But this kind of thing already happened in American history a little over a century ago with this newfangled thing called electricity. As Susan Crawford writes in her book Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age:
[P]rivate electrical companies consolidated, wielded enormous influence in state and national legislatures, cherry-picked their markets, and mounted huge campaigns against publicly owned electrical utilities, calling them “un-American.” At the beginning of the twentieth century, private power companies electrified only the most lucrative population centers and ignored most of America, particularly rural America. Predictably, the private utilities claimed that public ownership of electrical utilities was “costly and dangerous” and “always a failure.
This practice ended in the middle of the 20th century, when electricity was soon considered a “natural monopoly,” meaning that the high barrier of cost of entry — you can’t just pool together money and construct a power plant and transmission wires — meant that it didn’t make sense for competitors to invest money in this business. Other examples like public water and garbage collection work the same way. One publicly owned company is good enough for each district to handle its own business; there are hundreds of electric utility companies in the U.S., each servicing a relatively small chunk of the country.
Many would argue this is the direction American Internet should head.
As it stands, there is not only no incentive for the cable companies to not only expand far beyond the metropolitan areas where there are residences — it doesn’t make fiscal sense to go much further, which is why 43 percent of rural California residents have no broadband access — but there’s no real incentive for them to even innovate their products to provide better service for their existing customers. They’re getting their $50–80 a month for their substandard service anyway, as the only other choice is cutting the cord entirely.
Perhaps the dissonance is one of first impressions. When the Internet was introduced, it was a strange portal into a hidden “other” world. There was an entry point — PC computer screen, dial-up modem — so there was a division between being online and off. That has completely changed, not least because of the smartphone. Now, if you don’t have the Internet at home, you miss out on connecting with peers and culture, sure, but also the ability to bank, work, or do homework.
In the 20 years since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Internet has gone from optional to obligatory. It is now a part of the world. It only makes sense to change the way it’s delivered.
(Rick Paulas writes for Pacific Standard Magazine … where this report was first posted.)
OTHER WORDS-In July 2016, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch committed the Department of Justice to investigating the shooting of Alton Sterling, a black man who was murdered by police outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge.
The move represented the deepening of a tangible (if tenuous) relationship between the Department of Justice and the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained national prominence in 2014 after the police shooting of Eric Garner.
Until this year, civil rights advocates and critics of police violence had allies in both the Department of Justice and the White House — one of whom was President Obama himself.
At a minimum, these allies were sympathetic to the fight for racial justice. Not infrequently, they were willing to expend their institutional resources to secure it. The fruits of this relationship included a series of damning reports on police misconduct from Ferguson, Missouri to Cleveland, Chicago, San Francisco, and Baltimore.
In the age of Trump, that alliance has come to an end. In the false dichotomy between holding police accountable and advocating for communities of color, Trump has made it clear that his administration will come down on the side of the police.
Under Trump, the official White House website now ridicules the movement for police accountability as an effort to “to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter.” In the Trump administration’s version of the world, protesters are disorderly agitators whose demands for justice only interfere with the work of good men and women in blue.
If law enforcement has found a new friend in Trump, it’s consistently had one in Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator just confirmed as attorney general — during Black History Month, no less.
As a senator, Sessions published an opinion on consent decrees, which are agreements local departments make with Washington to reform policing practices that violate their citizens’ rights. Sessions called those deals “dangerous.”
In 2015, Sessions participated in a Senate hearing provocatively titled “The War on Police,” during which he lambasted the Obama administration’s aggressive investigations into police misconduct. He called those actions evidence of “an agenda that’s been a troubling issue for a number of years.”
During his confirmation hearings, Sessions again reiterated his disdain for consent decrees, claiming that they “undermine respect for our police officers” and testifying that he might be interested in doing away with them altogether.
Nor has Sessions ever bothered to hide his disdain for civil rights activists. At the same 2015 hearing, Sessions chastised, “I do think it’s a real problem when we have Black Lives Matter making statements that are really radical, that are absolutely false.”
Trump’s censure of the movement has been even more provocative. After lamenting the murders of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling as “terrible” in the summer of 2016, Trump quickly changed his tune. He condemned police reform advocates for “dividing the country” and blamed them for the murders of two police officers in Baton Rouge.
Candidate Trump went so far as to claim that he’d charge his attorney general with leading an investigation into the Black Lives Matter movement — an assignment that Sessions, by the looks of things, would enthusiastically accept.
There will be more police shootings of black men in the future. There will be more protests that call for justice for these victims. But with a Department of Justice led by Jeff Sessions, people who want justice will be on their own.
(Ebony Slaughter-Johnson is a freelance writer whose work covers history, race, and the criminalization of poverty. Provided to CityWatch by OtherWords.org.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING--Whether LA voters adopt or reject Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, on March 7, the Planning Department will eventually update LA’s General Plan, including the city’s Community Plans. This process has already begun, but the unanswered question is how well they will do it.
While I truly hope I am wrong, based on precedent, it will be a run-of-the-mill job, and once completed, City Hall’s spirits and trolls will quickly attempt to sabotage them. My crystal ball says that without the combination of Measure S, follow-up voter Initiatives, alert public watchdogs, and numerous law suits, today’s dysfunctional city planning status quo will quickly re-emerge.
As I previously wrote at CityWatch, based on its work program, the Department of City Planning will update the General Plan, but it will do so in reverse order. More specifically, they are already completing the implementation end-product, a totally revamped zoning code, through re:code LA.
The City Council has, in fact, already begun to adopt several re-code LA ordinances. When completed over the next several years, LA’s zoning code will become far more permissive. The amended zoning code will permit, by-right, a much wider range of land uses. This will not only allow most new real estate projects to side-step the California Environmental Quality Act, but it will usher in enormous windfalls for commercial property owners. They can sell their properties for a greater price once they are re-zoned and avoid any additional property taxes. Until existing or new owners construct a replacement structure, these valuable City Hall handouts will remain untaxed.
Meanwhile, the supposed driver of this process, the comprehensive update of the General Plan itself is just starting. What should be one of its final tasks, which actually began over a decade ago, are the updates of LA’s 35 Community Plans and two District Plans. While the City Council wants these updates to proceed on a six year cycle, this can only happen when the current backlog of Community Plans is finally completed.
The concluding work product task, which should be the first task, it to fully update LA’s mandatory and optional citywide General Plan elements. Common sense indicates that you need to carefully understand the big picture before you can drill down to local issues. But, in the case of Los Angeles, common sense appears to be quite uncommon. It is driven by City Hall politics, and in Los Angeles that means the marginally criminal pay-to-play process described in recent months by two astute Los Angeles Times reporters, David Zahniser and Emily Alpert Reyes. In LA’s case, this means that the soft-corruption they exposed at City Hall will prevail over a carefully prepared and adopted planning process.
This defective planning process will continue to neglect public infrastructure and public services, even though they essential part to urban governance, especially in an era of accelerating climate change. By continuing to separate the planning process from the City’s Capital Improvement Plan and its annual operating budget, we can toss and turn at night knowing that no one is actually minding the store in one of the most tumultuous periods of human history.
This cart-before-the-horse approach may solve a few imminent political problems, like Measure S, but it is still bad city planning. Plan implementation should follow, not precede, extensive analysis of the entire city and its neighborhoods. It also needs to be mindful of the wide-ranging community outreach process mandated by Measure S.
What else should we gird ourselves for, to make sure we will not be hoodwinked during the anti-Measure S “counter-revolution”, especially when it emerges full force on March 8.
The overturned Hollywood Community Plan Update is probably the best model we have for turning the planning process into a catalyst for real estate speculation. In its case City Hall used inflated population data to justify 100 pages of up-zones and up-plans for Hollywood. To justify this slight of hand, City Hall resorted to an illusory claim that Hollywood’s existing zoning was not sufficient to house waves of new residents supposedly moving to Hollywood over the next two decades. Reality was just the opposite. Hollywood experienced notable population decline, not growth, from 1990 to 2010, and the most recent data indicates these trends have and will continue. As for a lack of sufficiently zoned parcels, there is no data whatsoever to support this parallel claim. It was and remains a total fiction.
City Planning will also avoid serious technical monitoring of the completed updates, whether citywide General Plan elements or Community Plans. At best monitoring will continue to be a public relations exercise. Reports will have the appearance of monitoring, but not its content. The cover page will surely have the word monitoring, but the contents will be so general that no revisions in planning policies or programs will ever be included or solicited.
Finally, unless Measure S passes and is faithfully implemented, the City Council will incrementally undermine the updated General Plan Elements and zones it adopts through spot-zones, spot-General Plan Amendments, and spot Height District Changes.
As for sustainability, the City Planning Commission and the City Council will continue to adopt un-monitored, boilerplate Statements of Overriding Considerations for Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs). These statements, will, of course, promise transit ridership and jobs whenever the EIR's forecast unmitigatable levels of Green House Gases resulting from the un-planned projects so favored by LA’s elected officials.
This grim future, though, is only one alternative. The future is open-ended. It depends on the long-term approach of those who support Measure S. Like earlier waves of community activists who fought for specific plans, Historical Preservation Overlay Ordinances, Proposition U, and important law suits like AB 283 and the General Plan Framework, today’s activists will also need to work on many fronts. This will includes campaigns against individual projects and give-away ordinances, still more voter Initiatives, endless law suits, and electing independent officials who comply with adopted planning and environmental policies and laws.
(Dick Platkin is a former LA City Planner who reports on local planning issues for City Watch. He also serves on the board of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association.)
ANXIETY CENTRTAL--Americans have been taking to the streets in record numbers since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, but amid that uptick in resistance something else has been rising within the U.S. electorate: personal anxiety and stress caused by the nation's new political reality. (Photo above: White House press secretary Sean Spicer.)
According to a new survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), 66 percent of respondents report feeling increasingly stressed out by the current political climate and prospects for the nation's future.
The APA findings—contained in their Stress In America: Coping With Change (pdf) report—reveal that 57 percent of those surveyed said that politics have become either a "very" or "somewhat" significant source of anxiety in their lives. Meanwhile, 49 percent of those questioned said the outcome of the 2016 election, in which Trump was elected president and the Republican Party kept control of both the House and Senate, has become a specific source of new stress.
On these questions, the divide unsurprisingly broke along partisan and ideological lines. "While Democrats were more likely than Republicans (72 percent vs. 26 percent) to report the outcome of the 2016 presidential election as a significant source of stress, a majority of Republicans (59 percent) said the future of our nation was a significant source of stress for them, compared to 76 percent of Democrats," the report notes.
Vaile Wright, a licensed psychologist and member of APA's Stress in America team, speaking with the Washington Post, admitted the severity of the findings caught her off guard.
"The fact that two-thirds of Americans are saying the future of the nation is causing them stress, it is a startling number," Wright told the Post. "It seems to suggest that what people thought would happen, that there would be relief [after the election] did not occur, and instead since the election, stress has increased. And not only did overall stress increase, what we found in January is the highest significant increase in stress in 10 years. That's stunning."
Prior to its 2016 poll, the APA explained, "top stressors for the American population remained steady, with Americans being most likely to report money, work, and the economy as very or somewhat significant sources of stress in their lives."
However, as the election took center stage in the spring of 2016, APA's member psychologists began reporting that their patients were increasingly concerned and anxious about the political climate. It was this trend that spurred the group to make specific inquiries about how national politics were impacting stress levels for Americans.
While the group conducted surveys and collected data last year during the campaign and after the election, it was a new round of questions posed to Americans last month, subsequent to Trump's taking office, that fueled the latest findings.
"From the appointees to the executive orders to the laws that have just been proposed ... it's hard for me to see a bright future for my family, which in turn causes me a great amount of stress," Bryanna Zoltowski, a 40-year-old mother of two from Macomb Township in Michigan told the Detroit Free Press.
"I'm afraid," Zoltowski said. "I really am afraid. I'm scared for the future of my kids."
Are you feeling stressed? Earlier this month, the Huffington Post reported on 10 things therapists and psychologists recommend when it comes to de-stressing around politics.
(Jon Queally writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)
RANTZ & RAVEZ-The “Safe Sidewalks LA” program is another example of how City Hall deals with issues impacting the quality of life in Los Angeles and your individual neighborhoods. We are told that walking is good exercise and you should do it on a regular schedule to reduce your weight, lower your chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke and stay in shape. While some join a gym and work out on a regular schedule, many of us walk in our neighborhoods to exercise for health and relaxation.
With this in mind, we discover that the City approved a $1.4 billion dollar investment in repairing the sidewalks throughout Los Angeles over the next 30 years. This was the result of a lawsuit settlement. Where will most of us who are reading this article be 30 years from now? Take your current age and add 30. When you come up with the final number, you’ll find that many of us will be either in the old folks’ home, living with our children (if they will have us,) at the cemetery or in a box sitting on a mantle. Not many other options available for us Baby Boomers.
The above photo was taken in the Valley and is reflective of most of the city’s broken sidewalks. Just think how nice the sidewalks might be in the year 2047! It is past time to get this program off the ground for our residential neighborhoods. As of a couple of days ago, the City is still trying to get its act together to move this worthy program forward. To report sidewalks in need of repair, you can call 311 or go to www.sidewalks.lacity.org.
There is also a program available for those who wish to pay for the sidewalk repair and receive a rebate of up to $2,000 for a residential lot or $4,000 for a commercial lot. If any progress happens in your neighborhood, let me know. To date, the only repairs I have noticed are in areas near government buildings or new construction locations at the expense of the developer.
Ready or not…Election time is here once again…and few people really care this time around. Vote on March 7!
While the National Election is over and national protests are continuing over the election of President Donald J. Trump, we find ourselves facing another election in our City of Los Angeles. Our Mayor and a host of other candidates and a couple of other issues are on the ballot. While some councilmembers and other elected officials are facing little to no opposition, there is no real energy behind this election cycle throughout the City. Does anybody know or care that there is an election on March 7 for the Los Angeles Mayor, City Attorney, Controller, some councilmembers and a few ballot measures?
The Mayor has ten candidates running for his seat. None of them have gained any strength and I predict that Mayor Garcetti will easily win his election. The City Attorney and Controller have no opposition so they will win without any fight. There is a fight in the 5th Council District where Councilman Paul Koretz is facing Jess Creed. I have my money on Jess to win this election. In the 7th District, there is a fight for the open seat. There are also seats on the Community College District Board of Trustees up for election. These are important for the education of our adult population.
While little attention is being paid to the candidates in the various elections, some publicity is being generated by County Measure H and City Measure S. Measure H is a county tax measure that will generate funds for the homeless. The City already passed the ½ cent sales tax for homeless housing (HHH). Now the County comes at us again for supportive services for the homeless. I say NO MORE TAXES! VOTE NO on Measure H.
Measure S is a way to give LA an opportunity to catch up with the massive development projects throughout the region. With traffic a mess throughout the City and our infrastructure falling apart, it is time to pause and let the City catch up with these massive developments throughout Los Angeles. I say vote YES on Measure S. It will not cost you any money and hopefully it will improve our quality of life.
NIMBYS in Walnut Acres
I have been asked to offer an apology to those in the Walnut Acres neighborhood for my article on the Senior Housing Development on Fallbrook south of Victory Blvd. The attorney that filed the original court action against the project has contacted me and provided me with court documents to review.
The documents are lengthy and I am in the process of reviewing them. After a review, I will decide if an apology is in order. I do know that I will offer an apology to the seniors who are being deprived of a place to live by the actions of those fighting the development that I approved (and still support) when I served on the LA City Council.
Should a developer be required to pay $445,000 to settle opposition to a development? More to come on this story.
(Dennis P. Zine is a 33-year member of the Los Angeles Police Department and former Vice-Chairman of the Elected Los Angeles City Charter Reform Commission, a 12-year member of the Los Angeles City Council and a current LAPD Reserve Officer who serves as a member of the Fugitive Warrant Detail assigned out of Gang and Narcotics Division. Zine was a candidate for City Controller last city election. He writes RantZ & RaveZ for CityWatch. You can contact him at Zman8910@aol.com. Mr. Zine’s views are his own and do not reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
CAPITAL & MAIN REPORT--Andrew Puzder (photo above), whose nomination by President Donald Trump to head the Department of Labor ignited heated controversy even against a field crowded with contentious cabinet picks, withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday afternoon. Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, the corporation that owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s diners, was the target of growing criticism amid charges he and his company had a history of shortchanging store workers and managers of wages and promotions, as well as discriminating against women and minority employees.
Puzder was the subject of a six-week series of investigative stories by Capital & Main, which was widely cited in other media outlets as well as in Senator Elizabeth Warren’s February 13 letter to Puzder. Our team of reporters found a widespread pattern of alleged employee abuse at CKE Restaurants, which has been named in dozens of civil suits and federal complaints. The public record of these court cases, alongside our interviews conducted with current and past employees, reveal a male-dominated culture extending from CKE’s highest executive ranks to franchise store kitchens — and a company that seems to operate with impunity and a special contempt for employees who are seen as weak or a burden on the company.
Focusing on Puzder’s more than 16 years as CEO of CKE, our stories uncovered the following:
- Seventy-eight employment discrimination cases filed in federal court alone, more than any other large U.S. hamburger chain on a per-revenue basis.
- Six Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cases filed against CKE and its restaurants, far more than any other large burger chain on a per-revenue basis, with the exception of Sonic Drive-In. The EEOC only takes on the most serious of discrimination cases.
- Twenty-seven cases, representing 41 people, filed in California state courts against CKE directly, alleging wrongful termination or discrimination in the company’s decision to fire employees. Of these cases, 20 of the employees involved worked at the store level, 12 of the employees involved worked at the corporate level, and 10 cannot be undetermined.
These cases show a similar pattern of workers being targeted for termination and harassment, including: workers who get sick or take medical leave, including maternity leave; workers who go to human resources offices for help with sexual harassment, discrimination or safety violations; and workers who are older and have worked their way up to a higher salary. (These legal complaints do not include the many cases that deal with wage and hour violations.)
- Twenty-two complaints filed with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleging discrimination at CKE or its franchisees.
- One lawsuit filed in California at the executive level of management describing behavior by Puzder and his executive team that was discriminatory and sexually inappropriate. The lawsuit alleges the kind of sexual harassment that was reported in recent interviews collected by the Restaurant Opportunities Center with workers in Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants. It depicts a culture in which women are demeaned, sexual impropriety is tolerated and those who complain are punished.
- Nine interviews with former or current workers, most describing the same working conditions alleged in the lawsuits — an environment where employees have no security, where discrimination is persistent and where anything seen as making a worker inconvenient or too expensive is grounds for termination. Two workers had positive things to say about the work environment.
- A practice at some locations of paying employees with fee-based debit cards, resulting in sub-minimum wages. This practice was found by the Department of Labor to violate minimum wage laws in a 2014 case involving Hardee’s.
- A refusal to take responsibility for labor violations at franchised locations. The basis for this position is the assertion that the company does not exercise control over the behavior of franchisees – despite the fact that CKE requires franchisees to sign a highly detailed agreement stipulating a wide range of conditions. That same agreement exempts CKE from any responsibility for compliance with labor laws.
(This analysis was posted first at Capital and Main.)
FILM POLITICS--Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has shared some incredibly poignant thoughts on the way Oscar-favorite “La La Land” handles its black characters.
The critically-acclaimed film stars Emma Stone as an aspiring actress who falls in love with Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a struggling musician with dreams of opening his own jazz club one day.
In an op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter published Wednesday, Abdul-Jabbar praises the film for being “bold, daring and deserving of all its critical and financial success,” but points out that it has a few weaknesses, specifically “its portrayal of jazz, romance and people of color.”
The NBA icon thinks the film’s biggest fault is in its only main black character Keith (John Legend), a jazz musician who has found success in the mainstream.
“No, I don’t think the film needs more black people,”Abdul-Jabbar explains.
“Writer-director Damien Chazelle should tell the story as he sees fits with whatever ethnic arrangement he desires. However, it is fair to question his color wheel when it involves certain historical elements — such as jazz.”
Abdul-Jabbar goes on to add that he’s “disturbed” by the fact that the only major black character in the film is portrayed as “the musical sellout,” while Gosling’s character is seen as more authentic and more passionate about jazz.
“It’s not that a black man can’t be the sellout or the drug dealer, it’s just that they shouldn’t be if they’re the only prominent black character in the story,” he says.
“Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, that sends a bigoted message rippling through our society.”
“La La Land” is currently the favorite to win Best Picture at the upcoming Academy Awards, where it leads with 14 nominations.
(Zeba Blay is culture writer for Huff Post … where this piece was first posted.)
GUEST WORDS--Right after I graduated college something happened to me that has happened to many other Latino men but few other Members of Congress. My brother and I were pulled over by the police in broad daylight. Suddenly there were five police cars surrounding us. My car was turned inside out without reason. I was questioned belligerently by the police. And we were asked, ‘what gang are you a member of?’ I remember it like it was yesterday.
This is a reality for many Latino men. And right now, it’s Daniel Ramirez Medina’s living hell.
I have serious concerns about the way Mr. Ramirez Medina is being treated. I’m even more irate over the ICE agent’s alleged comment that because Mr. Ramirez Medina wasn’t ‘born in this country,’ it didn’t matter that he is a legal DACA recipient.
This incident is a clear example of the deep-rooted, fundamental problems in our system – especially when it comes to immigration and criminal justice. Not everyone in our country receives fair and just treatment.
ICE’s detainment of Mr. Ramirez Medina, in addition to their LA-based raids and their general lack of transparency, leads me to assume the worst – that this Administration has unleashed a chain of events that will diminish the safety of our country and the stability of our economy for American citizens and immigrants. The Trump Administration has decided to disregard the dignity of our friends and neighbors.
Is it the new Administration’s policy to disregard a person’s legal, government-issued work and residency documents, simply if they weren’t born here? Will we continue to see raids on our communities tearing parents away from their children? Are DACA Recipients and DREAMers in danger? Can we take President Trump at his word that DACA recipients ‘shouldn’t be very worried’ because he has ‘a big heart’?
As an elected public servant, I demand answers to these questions, and I will not be silent until I have answers.
(Tony Cardenas is U.S. Congressman for LA’s 29th District in the San Fernando Valley.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--A displacement study conducted on the impact of The Reef, a proposed development in historic South Central with 1,440 luxury housing units priced well above the level affordable to the surrounding residents, found that the project would put 43,756 residents at a very high to moderate risk of being displaced. That is the impact of having just ONE mega development with so many "market-rate" units imposed on a South LA community.
This is not academic for us. And we've seen it before locally and in other parts of the country. What we are witnessing is a form of economic violence, and no corner in South LA is safe.
The Reef project, the proposed 30-story Cumulus skyscraper at La Cienega/Jefferson with 1,200 luxury apartments, and the nearly 1,000 all-luxury housing element of the Crenshaw Mall redevelopment in Leimert Park all break the same zoning law so that they can be built in areas that they don't belong: General Plan Amendments.
Measure S is one solution to stop these massive traffic-causing projects from wiping out all that we have built - our community, our institutions, our relationships with our neighbors.
RSVP now for a critical community action forum on Tuesday the 21st about Measure S, encouraging development not displacement, and addressing some of the biggest lies said by the Downtown establishment about the measure.
On March 7th, literally our neighborhood is on the ballot.
(Provided by the Crenshaw Subway Coalition.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--In an extraordinary video posted here by the MMRA, Julia Duncan attempts to rally support for the HPOZ among renters. One of them says, “The single family owners can eat it,” and gets something close to agreement from Julia Duncan. Is that really David Ryu’s attitude to single family owners in the Miracle Mile?
Meanwhile, James O’Sullivan, embattled President of the MMRA, writes in a bizarre article in CityWatchLA.com here that rejection of the Miracle Mile HPOZ will result in the loss of 500 rent controlled apartments, with homelessness thrown in for good measure, and seems to blame Mayor Garcetti for it all! The MMRA has clearly lost all credibility with homeowners in the Miracle Mile and is now morphing into a tenant advocacy organization.
Finally, a flyer has popped up dated February 2nd here from Councilmember Ryu's Senior Planning Deputy, Julia Duncan, asking the neighborhood to weigh in on the Miracle Mile HPOZ by Tuesday, February 14, 2017. Problem is, nobody, not even the MMRA, seems to have received it. For the record, write and/or call Julia at firstname.lastname@example.org, (213) 473-2346, to tell her what you think of the HPOZ.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
I M P O R T A N T D A T E
M I R A C L E M I L E T O W N H A L L M E E T I N G
When: Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at 7:00pm (show up at 6:30p).
Where: John Burrows Middle School located at 600 S McCadden Place in Los Angeles.
What: David Ryu is hosting a town hall meeting specifically on the HPOZ. The purpose presumably is to try to rally support for the HPOZ.
PLEASE ARRIVE AT 6:30PM WE WILL BE THERE
TO DEMONSTRATE THE OPPOSITE!
JOIN US SHOW COUNCILMEMBER DAVID RYU THAT PROPERTY OWNERS
IN MIRACLE MILE DON'T WANT THIS!
NEIGHBORHOODS LA--I know or have met a number of our elected officials and their staff. I have tremendous respect for some of these people. To me, “YES on Measure S” is not about which elected officials have taken funds from developers. It is about our quality of life in the City of Los Angeles and protecting our Neighborhoods from over-development. That being said, I do believe that it is true, that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”, or in other words, the more that you donate or work for a campaign or support an elected official, the more likely you are to get access later.
As a former Neighborhood Council member, I have been hesitant to endorse elected officials because of my fear that if I endorse one, and someone else is elected, that I will not have access to that elected official.
The “YES on Measure S Campaign” to me focuses on one issue – the need to update our community plans. Unless you are a developer, or you have a problem in your neighborhood, it is my opinion that the vast majority of Los Angeles residents do not even know what a Neighborhood Council is, let alone what a Community Plan is.
In my community of West Hills, we fall under two Community Plans – we are in the Chatsworth - Porter Ranch Community Plan for residents / businesses north of Roscoe, and in the Canoga Park – Winnetka - Woodland Hills -West Hills Community Plan for residences and businesses south of Roscoe.
One of my first projects as a member of the West Hills Neighborhood Council (WHNC) was the development of “Corporate Pointe”. This is at the site of what was the DeVry campus at Roscoe and Fallbrook. Around 2008, I was invited to tour that property with the owner’s representatives. In the meantime, the local neighbors had become strongly organized against a project that would allow a commercial structure on this property that is surrounded on three sides by single family residences. This proposed structure could be 100 feet tall under the Chatsworth - Porter Ranch Community Plan. Since the elevation of the lot was greater than thirty feet above its local neighbors, the building would rise about 130 or more feet above those neighbors.
If this project was in West Hills south of Roscoe, the height limit would be only 45 feet!
At the time, I was not familiar with the City Planning process. I was not told the date of the City’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee – PLUM. So my Neighborhood Council colleagues and I went to the City Hall meeting where this project was on the agenda. We filled out the required speaker cards. And this is when I learned that if a project has already been approved in PLUM, and by the Councilmember, that the City Council would vote on this item with a bunch of agenda items in an automatic fashion. The Councilmember did not even have to be in their chair for an affirmative vote to count.
Since that time, I have learned a great deal about City Planning issues. I have the greatest respect for the City Planning staff members that I have worked with on many projects. However, I have seen their recommendations overridden by members of the local Planning Commissioners or the City Planning Commission.
Why do we need a moratorium on the Community Plans for two years? It is because our community plans are old and inaccurate. In the Canoga Park – Winnetka - Woodland Hills - West Hills Community Plan, it places the West Hills boundaries as:
West Hills--This primarily single-family neighborhood is bound by Roscoe Boulevard to the north, Topanga Canyon Boulevard on the east, the Ventura Freeway to the South, and the Simi Hills on the South and Southwest.”
In other words, this plan was written prior to the development of the Neighborhood Council system where the Neighborhood Council boundaries vary greatly from this definition.
Then let’s look at the same Community Plan for Woodland Hills:
Woodland Hills--This subarea lies in the southern portion of the Community Plan Area. The boundaries run generally along Victory Avenue from Corbin Street to Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Topanga Canyon Boulevard to US 101, US 101 Freeway west to the City limits, and the Santa Monica Mountains on the south. This subarea contains a variety of predominantly single family homes and is home to Pierce College and Warner Center.”
If you notice, the Community Plan places the southern boundary for West Hills at the Ventura Freeway, while at the same time placing the Woodland Hills northern boundary at Victory Blvd. Why wasn’t this corrected decades ago?
The reality is that neither of these boundary descriptions for West Hills or Woodland Hills is accurate. The southern boundary of West Hills is the middle of Victory Blvd. The eastern boundary follows Shoup from Victory to Roscoe, turns east on Roscoe, where it goes north on Topanga Blvd to Nordhoff Street.
Then we have several properties in West Hills that have been Zoned “A” for Agricultural. Owners and developers are forced to go to the City to rezone these properties. However, because the Community Plans are outdated, these developers take advantage of our outdated community plans and their zones, and they often get approval to build more dense projects than the surrounding single family neighborhoods.
The “NO on Measure S Campaign” states that we have a housing shortage, and that a “YES on S” will block a lot of low income projects. This is actually not true – there are numerous areas where low income projects can be legally built. The “NO on S” campaign emphasizes the need for housing for the homeless. One caller from this campaign complained that Measure S would not allow the city to rezone Industrial areas for the homeless. My question is this – why would we want to place the homeless, some of our most vulnerable residents, in an industrial area that could potentially have ground water or soil contamination, or probably has some of the worst air quality in the City? Please do not fall for this argument by the “No on Measure S” campaign.
As a senior citizen, what I see in development is a lack of affordable housing for not only the homeless but for the middle class. In the Canoga Park – Winnetka - Woodland Hills - West Hills Community Plan, it states that there is a: “Need to preserve existing single family neighborhoods.” And yet, because of other ill approved projects, instead of building projects on small lots which are consistent with the surrounding neighborhood, developers are coming in with multi – family projects that are like condos, or Small Lot Subdivisions, that have a much greater density than the surrounding parcels.
Developers do not want to build single family one story homes according to one architect that I spoke with. One story homes take more land, and they require more materials for their foundations and roofs than the two story homes. So there is not as much profit in one story homes for them. I think our elected officials need to look at our real needs – not the number of units, but what kinds of units and where? “One size does not fit all” in developing communities.
When I attended a meeting with City Planning on Small Lot Subdivisions, residents of Van Nuys complained that their affordable housing units were being demolished to put in Small Lot Subdivision homes that none of them could afford. This placed these people at risk of becoming dependent on relatives or they risk becoming homeless.
In West Hills, we have an area that is currently being developed as a Small Lot Subdivision which we call the Lederer property. As a former member of the West Hills Neighborhood Council’s Zoning and Planning Committee, and as their former Environmental Committee Chair, I used a map on one of our City’s tools called ZIMAS. I estimated the number of single family home parcels that would fit on this property if they were roughly 7000 – 8000 square foot lots like those of the three surrounding neighbors. I found that only 17 homes would fit on this property, but I believe, that about 51 Small Lot Subdivision homes have been approved.
If the West Hills Neighborhood Council had updated their Community Plan years ago, as one of their former Committee Chairs was trying to do, or if their Board members had voted to take the community plans of West Hills to their Councilmember and asked to have an Interim Control Ordinance for our Community, we could have requested that the few remaining areas of developable land be zoned consistent with those adjacent single family homes. But the West Hills Community Plan has been on the back burner because, frankly, Neighborhood Council members are volunteers. Some of these volunteers have paying jobs while others take on many projects. And updating our Community Plan has not become a priority.
Our Mayor has stated that he will fund, I believe, additional staffing for City Planning to allow all of the Community Plans to be updated in about ten years. By that time, we will no longer have any buildable land, and our open space will be developed with dense projects and McMansions.
We need a “Yes on Measure S” vote to provide funding to the City Planning department to expedite the updating of these Community Plans in two years; to make zoning standards the same throughout communities that are divided into more than one community plan like West Hills; to find parcels that are appropriate for the homeless and for low income housing; and to require developers to create the much needed one story homes for the disabled and seniors who wish to age in place.
If our middle class had access to more affordable housing, if there were more single story homes, then people who own two story homes could downsize, which would allow for younger families to purchase existing homes in established single family neighborhoods.
(Christine L. Rowe is a Former West Hills Neighborhood Councilmember and a Public Health and Environmental Health Advocate.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Parking and politics aren’t mixing well for Robertson Boulevard businesses, leaving some to question whether retailers have become pawns in the lead-up to the city’s March elections.
The recently opened campaign headquarters on Robertson Boulevard of Jesse Creed, who is running against incumbent Paul Koretz for a chance to represent the fifth district on the Los Angeles City Council, was followed with a surprise for the street’s other tenants: the removal of a two-hour free parking garage program some allege was taken away to stop Creed’s volunteers from using it.
Free parking is gold in Los Angeles, where gridlock and circling blocks to find an open metered spot is factored into all commute times. For Robertson Boulevard, it’s perhaps even more critical as some hope for a revival of the occupancy-challenged street. Offering the first two hours free in the structure — a common carrot in places such as Beverly Hills or Santa Monica — is seen as a way to woo people to the street.
“Free parking on Robertson is imperative to the success of the street and small business owners like us especially,” said Alissa Jacob, the cofounder and ceo of the multibrand concept shop Reservoir. “We are competing with Beverly Hills’ free parking and have many customers who are incentivized to come here only if there’s available free parking for a portion of their time on the street. The street is really suffering, with many more homeless people than ever, and if the city doesn’t do something now to help businesses, then this street will continue to suffer and more businesses will shut down or relocate.”
At issue is what the city of Los Angeles calls lot 703, the parking garage it owns at 123 S. Robertson Boulevard. Between Dec. 15 and Jan. 15, the structure offered the first two hours of parking free. Business owners reported anecdotally a lift in foot traffic and sales during that time.
A two-week free parking program was approved for the holiday via a council motion, a Los Angeles Department of Transportation spokesman said. The motion was done as an incentive for holiday shoppers and will not be coming back, the spokesman also confirmed.
That’s a different story than what was told to Fraser Ross, the founder of Kitson and owner of the new boutique concept Kitross on Robertson Boulevard. Ross has attempted to work with the city since May beginning with Manav Kumar, deputy counsel to Mayor Eric Garcetti, before being shuttled to Garcetti’s senior director, William Chun. He was passed on to the office of councilman Paul Koretz, who oversees the fifth district where Robertson is located, and has since been working with John Darnell, district director for Koretz.
Darnell, according to Ross, said at the onset the free parking would be extended every two weeks before swinging to full-time in March. Ross had a free parking sign made after he said he was told the city couldn’t afford to make such signage.
“Why do I have to make signs for the city? I’ve got enough to do. I have to pick up the garbage, get the tree [on the sidewalk] trimmed, get the phone booth [on the sidewalk] down. When was the last time Paul [Koretz] has walked the streets of Robertson to see the problems first hand?” Ross said.
Darnell, Koretz and Koretz’s spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.
The sign’s lettering was slashed, by an unknown party, last week with the end of the free parking program.
“It looked like we possibly had his [Koretz’s] attention, but since Creed’s office [opening], I’m having difficultly talking to his office,” said one merchant on the street, requesting anonymity.
Ross on Monday started a petition to bring the free parking back and expects to get to 1,000 within a week. He also, per his style, dressed his store’s window with a hard-to-miss statement accusing Koretz of taking away the parking. “Pay for play. All talk, no action,” part of the window reads.
Creed, the incumbent running against Koretz for the council, said he moved onto the street because he had seen the thoroughfare languish and took up the space as a statement of what he said was solidarity with the other business owners. He called the sequence of events — free parking available when his headquarters moved in Jan. 1 and then no free parking Jan. 15 — “suspicious.” One other observation since his move onto the street few would argue with: “The merchants here are desperate for help,” Creed said.
“There’s no ownership and Mayor Garcetti and Paul Koretz were down at the march on Saturday and they’re saying stand up for your rights and fight the fight. Well, we’re fighting the fight against you [politicians],” Ross said, pointing to American Apparel, BCBG Max Azria Group, The Limited and other retailers shuttering doors. “I mean, come on. You can see there’s a problem in this brick-and-mortar retail business. You’ve got to invite people to stores and make common areas again.”
Instead, what people see are empty and sometimes dirty storefronts, some of that city-owned real estate.
Bob Esho, the owner of the optical and sunglass store Optx, has been on the street for some 15 years. He previously occupied the storefront, owned by the city, located next to the city-owned parking garage. He shared the space with a doctor who decided he wanted to exit Robertson in 2015. Esho said he asked if the city could re-write the lease, removing the doctor from the contract, and was told no one was available to redo the paperwork. He closed in July 2015 and inked a lease across the street a few months later at a building owned by a private individual.
Esho’s former space is still empty.
Nathan Sager, who owns Sager French Salon, has expressed interest in leasing Esho’s previous space on Robertson. It would have been a homecoming of sorts, with Sager French on the street for 17 years before relocating to Beverly Hills after losing its lease when the building underwent major renovations. Sager was told by Darnell he would have to apply for the space via a request for proposal process through the Department of Transportation.
The city expected the RFP to post by mid-August, according to e-mails between Darnell, Chun and parking and LADOT analyst Rene Sagles. Darnell followed up with Sagles in November, at which time he was told the RFP would be released the first week of December. On Dec. 2, a follow-up e-mail between Darnell and Sagles indicated what Sagles called a “small setback we need to resolve” and that the RFP would be out the following week. The RFP has not yet been posted.
“I don’t understand it,” Esho said. “Why wouldn’t you lease the space and have a tenant there paying … There’s no accountability. Who are you going to hold accountable for it? They will blame each other [at the city].”
And even as lease deals get inked, merchandising of the street’s tenants needs to be done with a more careful eye, Sager added, factoring in services and lessons learned from the street’s past boom and then bust.
“The street’s lost so much of the retail and we understand that you cannot support retail without services,” Sager said.
It didn’t help that big brands — Chanel, Ralph Lauren and Lululemon, among others — moved in years ago, boosted rents and later left with the recession and rise of competing streets offering cheaper prices. It wasn’t good for real estate and it wasn’t good for a street aimed at trendsetters and neighborhood shoppers, some would say.
“These people [big brands] don’t really look at recessions,” Sager said. “These people have an agency that is looking for them and what is the hottest location. None of these owners stand on the street and see what people are walking them. They have location scouters.”
“I’ve been here for 20 years. This street, I’ve never seen it so bad,” said Sylvia Diaz, owner of the restaurant Cuvée. “Any little thing we can get that would increase our business, I’m shocked that the city doesn’t get it.”
Diaz said longtime customers come in and regularly ask her what happened to the street, referencing the heyday when celebrities shopped there and tour buses rolled through. Today, she’s contemplating whether she should relocate following a rough six months capped by a November and December that were the worst months the business has had during its run on the street.
“It’s never been this bad,” she said. “I’m working harder. I’m trying to come up with new ways of drawing in business and it’s hard. I’ve never had to cut [employee] hours before. These employees of mine, it really breaks my heart.”
(Kari Hamanaka writes for WWD.com … where this piece was first posted.)
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS-----The effort to legalize street vendors is moving forward at City Hall. The proposal has proven controversial in the past, with many residents as well as brick-and-mortar business owners opposed to the idea. But most of the business owners and managers who were interviewed by The Eastsider were open to but cautious about the measure.
“If it’s a taco stand, of course it’s competition,” said Miguel Perez, the manager at Acapulco restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, near Virgil Avenue in East Hollywood. But, “as long as [vendors] keep it nice and clean, that would fine.”
Perez’s answer was typical among [business owners] but so was his surprise to hear that the city was considering the matter; Perez, like most of the other businesses owners and employees who were interviewed, had not heard about the renewed efforts to legalize vendors.
The latest push comes as advocates are concerned that undocumented immigrants who are cited for illegal vending may face deportation under a Trump presidency. Under a proposal that came out last week from a Council committee, each block could have up to four vendors – two on each side of the street. Adjacent businesses owners would also have the power to approve their presence. The plan goes to the full City Council for review next spring.
“I know people who are against vendors,” said Meghan Dhaliwal, a manager at Caffe Vita in Los Feliz. “But I think cheap street food is great.”
Dhaliwal said vendors nearby probably wouldn’t create much competition with her store, since Caffe Vita doesn’t serve hot food.
Christian Chavez, owner of Echoes Under Sunset on Glendale Boulevard in Echo Park, had heard of the recent vendor proposal and unabashedly supported it.
“I got no problem with street vendors. They’re convenient,” said Chavez, whose business is primarily a comedy venue – selling drinks, but not much food. “So it’s kind of cool for us to have the street vendors.”
He added that the vendors are clean and don’t take away from other businesses, since his neighborhood sees so many people.
“Some people come out of a club or bar get something to eat and keep running,” he said.
The City Council is scheduled to take up the most recent street vendor proposal early 2017.
(Barry Lank posts at The East Sider where this report originated.) Photo of Boyle Heights Vendor by Ana Facio-Krajcer.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--ECHO PARK – A cluster of classic, Spanish-Revival style bungalows on Echo Park Avenue could be demolished to make way for as many as a dozen new homes, according to city records.
An application filed by the developer with the Planning Department seeks permission to carve up the property at 1456 Echo Park Avenue to build up to 12 single-family homes under the city’s small-lot development ordinance, which allows for more dense development of single-family homes. The project, proposed by Bixel House LLC, would require the demolition of 7 apartments and the removal of nearly 4,000 cubic feet of earth.
This project of 3-story homes would have a big impact on this section of the avenue, where most of the surrounding one- and two-story buildings date back to the 1920s or earlier and there has not been much in the way of new construction during the past 30 years.
The request to subdivide the property would be subject to public hearings and additional reviews. Stay tuned.
Update: In response to the developer’s application, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell issued the following response through his spokesman, Tony Arranaga: “This proposal flies in the face of historic preservation and the Councilmember’s efforts at revising the Small Lot Subdivision ordinance …. In addition, the proposal does not align with the Councilmember’s goals to maintain the historic character of our Echo Park neighborhood.”
(This report was first published at The Eastsider)
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Those who gripe about our city characterize Angelenos as firmly sequestered in our bubbles or in our Priuses or SUVs, listening to Sirius during our freeway commutes. Walkable neighborhoods aside, our experience isn’t typically like cities like New York where crowds pile onto the subway or streets. We tend to circulate in homogeneous groups, by age, culture, income levels; by marital status or lifestyle.
There’s a certain danger in the apathy and lack of empathy that may ensue when you share space only with those who resemble you. We might assume that Angelenos don’t tend to harbor intolerance. After all, we live in a city where many enjoy exploring different cultures, at least on our plates or through our dining habits. But I would bet we’ve all been surprised to hear a friend, neighbor, colleague express some sort of prejudice against a particular group.
This past month, I’ve chosen to ride the Redline downtown on several occasions. As the doors opened, students would enter beside young mothers or fathers with toddlers in strollers. Young people gave up their seats for senior citizens, arms filled with bags. During two of my trips, a young pregnant woman approached passengers for whatever change they could give her. The train truly represents a microcosm of LA life.
I’ve been disappointed and saddened since the election by the rise of intolerance or perhaps the nodding acceptance of what may always have been present. Sharing a Metro ride and a smile, a brief conversation or even a knowing nod with other travelers has been a comfort to me and a gift.
No matter what our age, income level, our background or language, we all share this city. Riding the Metro is a keen reminder that we are all in this together and an experience of which I wish we’d all avail ourselves when we can.
(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.)
RESISTANCE WATCH--Protesters took to the streets in Los Angeles after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reportedly raided homes and communities around the city and detained over 100 people in a mere three hours. (Photo above: Protesters shut down an intersection near an ICE detention facility in Los Angles.)
Reflecting the growing community-level resistance to President Donald Trump's immigration crackdown, protesters chanted "not one more deportation!" in front of an ICE detention center and later formed a human chain in the street:
While an ICE spokesperson defended the citywide immigration raids as routine, local immigrant advocacy groups say the volume of reports of detentions they received is unusual and frightening, and a part of Trump's harsh crackdown on immigrants' rights.
"This is the kind of situation we feared would happen, and here it is," said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).
In Los Angeles on Sunday, according to the Associated Press, United Methodist Pastor Fred Morris
handed out a double-sided sheet listing congregants' civil rights: Don't open the door to anyone without a warrant. Don't talk. Don't sign any document.
He is planning a community meeting for Monday night.
He has another plan, too. He started organizing a phone chain. If he hears about a raid in his community, he will call five people, who will call five people and so on. They will all show up, stand on the sidewalk and chant: "ICE go home."
"The only weapon we have," he said, "is solidarity."
To that end, Our Revolution, the grassroots political organization launched to harness the energy of Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, is asking supporters to "pledge to take action locally to protect immigrant families and stop the raids."
The alarming raids came the same day a mother of two who has lived in the U.S. for over 20 years was deported from Arizona to Mexico, despite protests from her community and pleas from her children. The deportation was widely seen as just the beginning of Trump's xenophobic campaign against peaceful undocumented immigrants.
Indeed, while ICE claimed its detentions in Los Angeles targeted people with violent criminal records, CHIRLA said that many people detained on Thursday had no criminal convictions to speak of.
Moreover, CHIRLA policy director Joseph Villa also told a local TV station that despite CHIRLA's efforts to speak to those being detained, "ICE is not releasing their names. ICE is not allowing them to see their attorney."
"We can't make this the new normal," Salas said. "People were calling us—we were in the middle of a staff retreat, we stopped everything because we were receiving so many calls from our community. Our community is concerned and they really do feel terrorized."
Watch members of CHIRLA describe the deportations here:
Local advocacy groups have been holding vigils, attempting to connect detained people with immigration lawyers, and offering "know your rights" trainings to help undocumented immigrants fearing raids. A solidarity rally for immigrant rights is planned in New York on Friday.
Civil rights advocates are also calling on law enforcement to help them resist an emboldened ICE agency. Many local police departments, including the Los Angeles Police Department, have promised not to assist ICE with immigration detentions and deportations.
As part of the effort to resist Trump's crackdown, immigrant youth group United We Dream also launched a #HereToStay campaign, which asks supporters of human and civil rights to pledge to show up in person when ICE comes to deport members of their community.
(Nika Knight writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)
ALPERN AT LARGE--Planning and Transportation is NOT an issue for sissies in the Golden State, and particularly in the City of the Angels. This state, and this city, have been led by those fighting a "War on Math" for decades, and have found it easier to attack those decrying this "War on Math" than to confront it like adults.
Still confused about Measure S? I don't blame you. Yet Measure S is still the best way to bring the adults back to City Hall:
1) First, know when to get over national/politically partisan leanings.
Among my own family and friends, I've got members who are zealously pro-Trump, and others who are zealously anti-Trump. I'm personally zealous towards each expressing their views, because they each have a point or two to make--but there will have to be times when we have to focus on the objective, not subjective, issues surrounding Transportation, Infrastructure, and Planning.
In short, we've got too many people clustered in too dense a coastline, with respect to our infrastructure.
That isn't a "hater's declaration" but rather a statement that we're in trouble.
The Oroville Dam is one case where Governor Jerry Brown is having to ask political nemesis President Donald Trump for help. And with the understanding that as many people statewide and nationwide have problems even saying "President Trump" as they do "Governor Brown", we need to focus on our water problems.
We're asked to reduce water consumption while being told to allow more megadevelopments. In other words, we're supposed to consume and use less water to help the developers make more money?
Why are we not focusing on making sure we keep our water, and direct our water, to ensure the water supply for residents, for farmers, and even to allow the restoration of the Salton Sea?
Love him or hate him, President Trump is our nation's 45th President. Governor Brown is our governor. And we all should consider the reality that the Trump Administration has designated a proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant as one of the top 50 infrastructure projects for our nation to fund and prioritize.
No one says you have to like our President, or our Governor, but we all have to know when to shut up and work with them.
2) Second, know when to get over local/politically partisan leanings.
To suggest that Los Angeles is a city dominated by Democratic politics is to suggest that gravity makes things fall down when they aren't lifted up or supported. It's our reality, and either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who you ask. Yet there are conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans in our town, and Measure S is NOT a partisan issue.
Both sides of the Measure S issue claim the other side is like Trump. Of course, that's prima facie reaching for your heart or your gut to make you decide who's "good" or who's "bad".
Particularly when we've got "environmentally-friendly" City Council members opposing Measure S while supporting development that's trashing and thrashing our environment.
Too much density + Not enough water + Not enough affordable housing + Not enough infrastructure = Pollution + Decreased air quality + Worsened congestion = Decreased Quality of Life.
Yes, Richard Riordan supports Measure S, but also established our Neighborhood Councils and supports local/grassroots empowerment. He's a Republican...but he's on the same side as:
U.S. congresswoman Diane Watson, Homeless Advocate Reverend Alice Callaghan, the Ballona Wetlands Institute, Damien Goodmon of the Crenshaw Coalition, Environmental Lawyers Sabrina Venskus and Noel Weiss, and a host of people who are anything BUT Republican...but know disingenuous behavior when they see it and therefore support Measure S.
And our City Council, our Mayor, and the Planning Department have been as environmentally-insensitive, as derisive of grassroots empowerment, and as much in the pockets of developers as any "let them eat cake" aristocrats we've ever seen.
So it should be remembered that those who are pro-Measure S are doing this out of a sense of volunteerism and grassroots empowerment, while those who are anti-Measure S are being PAID (Primarily Associated In Development) to fight it.
3) Finally, why are those opposing Measure S only NOW acknowledging that City Hall and Planning is out of whack, and only now acknowledging that the "Groupthink" dominating Planning has its limits?
Simply put, because they know that Angelenos of all political stripes, and who adhere to Common Sense and Fairness and Compromise, have HAD IT.
Those jackasses at the LA Times opposing Measure S, while attacking Angelenos who volunteer to support it and ignoring why their own readership is going down.
They're the same lovelies who just LOVED all the overdevelopment supported by Mayor Garcetti, even when they didn't hold up when brought to the courts.
And the Times was nowhere to be found when developer money and bizarre Planning "Groupthink" and zealotry was developing the City of Los Angeles into the toilet with respect to sustainability, livability, and economic betterment for the average Angeleno.
After all, if the City Council is NOW (with Measure S on the ballot) trying to limit developer money at City Hall, and raising the issue of addressing the decades-overdue-but-legally-mandated updating of our Community Plans and Planning Policies, why should ANYONE believe or trust the City Council, the Mayor, or the LA Times?
So rather than attacking those who are volunteering and spending their own money to save the City of Los Angeles, maybe one should look up the story of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and respect them rather than attack their advocacy for Common Sense and Environmental Sustainability.
And rather than ignore those decrying our unsustainable Planning practices that are illegal (as upheld when they get to the courts), let's just listen to City Planners who want everything to be ... well ... legal.
1) If Measure S passes, housing and construction will go on aplenty...just not the illegal megadevelopments.
2) If Measure S passes, the focus of construction will be on affordable housing for the middle class and for Senior Affordable Housing, Student Affordable Housing, and Workforce Affordable Housing...but not so much for luxury housing unless that luxury housing is done within the confines of the law.
3) If Measure S passes, there will be plenty of apartments and opportunities to upgrade our commercial corridors to create wonderful new places for people to call "home".
4) If Measure S passes, high-density housing and development that is transit-oriented will certainly be welcomed next to train stations...but car-oriented megadevelopments will not be.
5) If Measure S passes, the opportunity for low-rise development to house the middle class can be the new focus of construction throughout the City of the Angels (even for that region south of the I-10 freeway) that prevents gentrification and empowers the middle class.
So we really do NOT need to keep lying to and confusing Angelenos. We really do NOT need to wait until the next dam breaks, with respect to any of our infrastructure needs.
Just remember: those supporting Measure S also support livability and environmental sustainability for all Angelenos.
And also remember: those supporting Measure S are those who've overseen and led us into the problems we now face with inappropriate development, and either have:
… a conflict of interest and are getting PAID, or
… just don't give a damn about the worsening lives of tired, exhausted, and increasingly-disillusioned volunteer Angelenos who just simply want to save their City.
(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 is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs 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.)
@THE GUSS REPORT-You know that the City of Los Angeles is in trouble when Councilmember “Grand Jury Nury” Martinez seems like a less risky choice than her colleague Mitch Englander (photo above) to serve as City Council president pro-tem when council president Herb Wesson is not running the meetings.
Englander, running Friday’s City Council meeting in Wesson’s absence, came this close to putting the city (i.e. the taxpayers) in significant legal jeopardy when he threatened Armando Herman, an all-star button-pushing gadfly, with suspension from future Council meetings as he was being ejected from his second consecutive meeting for violating random, inconsistently enforced and historically illegal decorum rules.
That is precisely what caused the city to be on the losing side of a very costly federal 1st Amendment lawsuit a few years back when it was brought by 2017 mayoral candidate David “Zuma Dogg” Saltsburg, who wrote the book on successfully exposing local politicians at public meetings, often with colorful rap lyrics.
California’s Ralph M. Brown Act, passed in 1953, gives great leeway to members of the public to express their beliefs – especially their derision of elected officials – at public meetings. The biggest known settlement the city had to pay for abusing a member of the public exercising that right was the $215,000 it paid in 2014 to Michael Hunt, a black man dressed in a KKK outfit – this was for kicking him out of a 2011 meeting because his outfit was deemed disruptive to the meeting and he refused to take it off.
Englander, who held various staff positions, including Chief of Staff, in the office of his predecessors Councilmembers Hal Bernson and Greig Smith, during those lawsuits, tangled with virtually every public speaker on Friday, refusing to give them their due leeway to make their points. Englander had his omnipresent chip on his shoulder from the get-go.
At the 1 hour and 20 minute mark of the video, Englander threatens Herman – who was in his characteristic obnoxious-but-legal mode, “….we are going to ban you for…for a number of meetings, for disrupting the meeting.”
Englander’s mic was immediately cut, as he turned to consult with the new Deputy City Attorney who advised Englander that he could not make such threats.
Read Englander’s lips while his mic was silenced. The next thing he says to the Deputy City Attorney is unclear, but in the sentence after that, Englander clearly says, “we can’t?”
When Dion O’Connell, the previous Deputy City Attorney in charge of enforcing rules at City Council meetings, was recently given a public send-off before going on to his next job, he said that his biggest regret during his lengthy tenure was his failure to protect the city from the Zuma Dogg lawsuit, in which there was a nominal verdict, but massive legal fees to pay.
With Englander still not understanding the legal and financial risks of his own misconduct, it is time for Wesson to step in, protect the city from liability and remove Englander from occasionally running the meetings altogether.
The reason for Englander’s misconduct might be similar to that of Martinez, who is female, and Wesson; they are the three most diminutive of the city’s 15 lawmakers, and they each adopt a bullying – and costly – mentality when they take the several steps to ascend to the Council President’s elevated podium.
But things are different with Englander, who at about 5’3”, perpetually tries to project a macho facade.
In his 2016 run for LA County Supervisor, Englander raised the most money of any primary candidate, but came in 5th place out of a field of 6 (of those who got at least 10% of the votes) in part because a judge publicly shot down his effort to list his profession on the ballot as “police officer,” a macho authority figure, when Englander is simply a part-time reserve officer.
In 2014, Englander was dismissive of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a staffer against him and his chief of staff, John Lee, which a city panel unanimously agreed to settle.
And even with dog licenses, Englander did not pay them for his own purebred Golden Retrievers for years, despite having a high kill shelter located in his own district where he could pay them, until I made a public records act request for those records. Englander still hasn’t paid the late fees for those dog licenses.
Should City Attorney Mike Feuer be forced to defend LA against another free speech lawsuit, his lawyers won’t be able to tell a jury that the city didn’t know about these problems, especially if it is triggered by Englander’s misconduct: the running joke at City Council being Englander’s nickname “The Bad Mitch,” which is used to differentiate him from his colleague, Mitch “The Good Mitch” O’Farrell.
You can read more about the Ralph M. Brown Act here.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatch, Huffington Post, KFI AM-640 and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
FILM WATCH-Sorry if I'm a little late on reporting this February 9th-20th film and art festival at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, but there is still enough time left for you to enjoy some of the close to 200 films that will continue to have multiple screenings before the festival comes to a close on February 20th. You can go on line for more information about these films and book tickets to see this rich and thrilling variety of films and art exhibits.
No, I'm not exaggerating. Yesterday I saw one of six free screenings for seniors offered by the festival called "Biography, Battles & Bernard," about the life and times of past LAPD Police Chief Bernard Parks. Unexpectedly, I came away with from this film appreciating how much of Parks' life we all share or can empathize with as Angelenos, Americans, and the more recently arrived -- who not so coincidentally, have remarkably similar stories to those of the Parks family.
What must it have been like to arrive from Beaumont, Texas, where Parks' dad would walk his mother home from work, with him on one side of the street and his wife on the other? Why? Because she was light-skinned and his father was dark. She was able to find work, again because she was light-skinned, while the father never had an easy time of it. What does this do to the fabric of a family?
When the Parks family arrived in LA, they lived near Central Avenue, because racially restrictive covenants in force until 1948, made it illegal for them to live anywhere else. The is similar to the five segregated Latino barrios of the same period, as well as the racially restrictive covenants that made the Beverly-Fairfax one of only a few Jewish neighborhoods, because my people could not live legally elsewhere.
So what is the origin of Parks’ tenacity and drive that was necessary for him to succeed and bring about, against all odds, at least some profound change in Parks life? Well, let's just say that I wasn't surprised that he went to Catholic school and not the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Once Parks set his mind to something, I seems he never gave up because he had the atypical familial nurturing and education that still remains so rare in the inner city. If he had to work at the old General Motors plant on Van Nuys Blvd. before he got into the police academy and the department, so be it.
Parks’ rise from cadet to chief is chock full of overt and covert racism that was still the rule through much of his tenure at LAPD. Black male officers could never be partnered with while female officers, even though they shared the same pernicious discrimination by a system that refused to promote them. No matter how well they did on written examinations, they somehow would mysteriously do poorly on their orals when judged by their white male superiors whose primary role was maintaining the segregated status quo.
Did Bernard Parks ever give up, even when forced out as police chief after only one term by Mayor James Hahn? Well, I don't want to ruin the ending for you, but let's just say his subsequent career in elective politics and the fact that his son wrote, produced, and directed this film might tell you that you can't keep a good Parks down.
Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
ELECTION WATCH--Back on January 7, we wrote about Gilbert Cedillo’s alleged misuse of his City Council resources in his CD 1 reelection bid. Only a week later, we again covered Cedillo’s alleged misuse of his office resources when city-funded newsletters were displayed next to campaign collateral at his election bid event – and city employees proudly displayed the official city seal on windbreakers they chose to don at the same event.
Activist Marc Caswell says, “Since the article detailing the issue appeared in CityWatch, the City Hall address was removed from the template of his campaign emails but now we have even more evidence that they are using the same account and template for both official City business and electioneering,” which Caswell says “proves that someone is using the same Nationbuilder account for electioneering, likely paid for by taxpayer CD 1 funds.”
And on February 8, Cedillo apparently sent a detailed four-page letter defending his suitability for endorsement to the LA Times editorial staff – using, yes, his City Council letterhead!
Below the official City Seal and his office identification – Gilbert Cedillo, First Council District, Cedillo writes:
For the record, in your recent endorsement statement, you called for a city leader who believes wholeheartedly in a more sustainable type of growth. In terms of creating a more sustainable Council District 1, I have championed fairness of access, social equity, and environmental justices for my constituents …
According to Caswell, ethics violation complaints have been filed.
FYI the LA Times editorial board has endorsed Cedillo’s challenger, newcomer Bray-Ali for the March 7 election.
Will Cedillo continue to temp the Ethics Violation gods? We’ll keep you posted.
(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.)
ELECTION MIRACLE EXPLAINED--Eighty-one percent of evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. In a sense, the choice isn’t surprising. Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, is unambiguously pro-life, and Trump’s promise to “destroy” the Johnson Amendment — a provision in the tax code barring non-profits from political participation — closely follows the evangelical playbook. (Photo above: Donald Trump delivers the convocation at the Vines Center on the campus of Liberty University on January 18th, 2016.)
But in another way, Christian support for Trump is puzzling. Trump’s Christian bona fides are (at best) shaky and his personal demeanor, marked by swashbuckling moral indecency, contradicts the evangelical temperament. Evangelicals made these concerns widely known during the campaign. The Atlantic noted how the Trump vote “concealed deep, painful fractures.”
Still, for all the angst over electing a moral reprobate, the evangelicals delivered. Why? One explanation is pragmatic: The ends (desired political outcomes) justified the means (Trump’s ethically offensive personal demeanor).
But to stop with this explanation would be to overlook a deeper and less tangible motivation. Remember: Evangelicals — and Christians in general — elected a man who has systematically and blatantly denigrated women, suggested that he’d date his daughter were she not his daughter, proclaimed “you can never be too greedy,” mocked a disabled reporter, characterized Mexicans as rapists and criminals, and bragged that “the beauty of me is that I’m very rich.” None of this is especially Christ-like. Ends-means pragmatism can only take us so far.
To better understand the evangelical mindset, I contacted Jon Bialecki, honorary fellow with the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, and the author of the forthcoming A Diagram for Fire: Miracles and Variation in an American Charismatic Movement. Bialecki spent three years doing an ethnographic study on members of the Vineyard, an American evangelical movement that started in Southern California in 1975 and has since become a global religious movement (with over 1,500 churches).
During his fieldwork, Bialecki attended Vineyard services, recorded and studied sermons, conversed daily with church members, visited prayer groups, observed and analyzed rituals (which often included casting out demons or being healed), and interviewed church leaders. He studied several Vineyard chapters, but eventually settled on one, a Southern California congregation whose leaders welcomed him into its inner sanctum.
Vineyard members, as with many charismatic Christians, “are part of an evangelical Left concerned with combating racism and anti-immigrant sentiments, criticizing American military overreach, and exposing the deleterious effects of unhampered capitalism.”
One might expect a congregation of evangelicals to be universally politically conservative. But, much to Bialecki’s surprise, this was not entirely the case with his subjects. He writes that some Vineyard members, as with many charismatic Christians, “are part of an evangelical Left concerned with combating racism and anti-immigrant sentiments, criticizing American military overreach, and exposing the deleterious effects of unhampered capitalism.” Many members “have even argued for a more open and affirming attitude toward gay, lesbian, and transgender people.”
These opinions did not always resonate well with the Vineyard establishment. Internal arguments sometimes ensued. But the fact remains that genuine political diversity — at least in terms of different opinions over specific issues — prevailed within the Vineyard community.
For all the diversity of opinion within Vineyard churches, members of the “evangelical Left” didn’t necessarily represent that diversity at the polls. While some obviously voted for Hillary Clinton, third-party candidates, or abstained from voting, many pressed the button for Trump despite the fact that his platform and policies ran counter to their political opinions.
On the surface, this disparity makes little sense. Why would people vote against their interests? Or could it be that we have misunderstood what is meant by “interests”? Bialecki thinks the latter. One of his central discoveries was that the evangelical mindset, whatever its political suasion, craves something beyond policy prescriptions to political change: it craves a miracle.
In an email, he explains:
I was surprised how “left” or “progressive” many of these Vineyard believers were. But when they talked about political action, they kept on talking about “big things” where someone would change their mind, or where some unjust institution would fall away. In short, the surprising nature of the turn was what allowed them to understand politics as being “of God” and not “of Man” or “the flesh.”
It seems that what mattered politically was less the platform than the miraculous implications in its delivery. To a non-evangelical person, this distinction will likely seem inane, but, as Bialecki further elaborates the idea, “the progressive wing of the Vineyard, instead of calling for incremental social activism through coalition politics, is drawn toward hopeful anticipation of large transformative events.” Such a “politics of the miraculous” taps into a spiritualized disposition that not only favors the “logic of surprise,” but it’s a logic of surprise that “hampers the capacity to work through the usual institutions.”
Bialecki believes this quest for the miraculous is not necessarily limited to his Vineyard members. A lot of Christians — and I suppose some non-Christians — prefer to think in terms of miracles rather than contemplating the boots-on-the-ground work of incremental social change, at least enough to shape their choice at the polls.
Bialecki developed his argument well before the rise of Trump. But when I ask him to relate his research to the election of 2016, he explains:
On the day after the election, Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, posted on Facebook to explain why he felt that the “secular media” didn’t see [Trump] coming. The secular media, he said, was “shocked.” This, Graham said, was because they didn’t understand “the God-factor.” He explained that, all over America, Christians were praying, and that, when they went to the polls, “God showed up.”
There are two things that have to be highlighted here: first, this was counter to the usual order of things. Stuff like Trump’s election does not happen, and was even unimaginable by the secular media. This was, in other words, a surprise. The second thing to highlight was that the election was not framed as, say, a group of people reclaiming power after having been marginalized (which is one of many other ways that Graham could have presented it). It was presented as God showing up.
And he had weird hair, a fake tan, and small hands.
In 1964, the historian Richard Hofstadter published The Paranoid Style of American Politics. In it, he argued that American political activity was driven by paranoia-like fear of unknown corporate, intellectual, and religious conspiracies. Perhaps today, as the most recent reminder that American voters of all political persuasions do not necessarily vote their interests in the way we might expect them to, we should acknowledge the miraculous style of American politics. Trump, after all, is, according to Bialecki, “a break with the natural order of things.” He demands, in turn, “an unusual causal account.”
(James McWilliams is a Writer. Runner. Reader. Plant eater. Coffee snob. Impending recovering academic. Who posts at Pacific Standard … where this perspective was first posted.)
GELFAND’S WORLD--A large number of intelligent, knowledgeable people have been pointing out the parallels between Trumpism and the development of Fascism and Naziism in 1930s Europe. The parallels are, indeed striking. The Trumpist arguments are taken right from the totalitarian playbook -- that we are in dire straights, that only one man is capable of bringing us to safety, and that the process requires total loyalty lest we suffer further international humiliation. Our CityWatch colleague Doug Epperhart referred to the sum total of Trump's message as a witch's brew, a not unreasonable description of a poisonous mixture.
If nothing else, Trump's propensity to lie is unique in the annals of the American presidency. This leads to the next question which has a few of the deep thinkers staying awake at nights: Does Trump actually believe the statements he makes with such surety? Does he believe deep down that the crowd at his inauguration was larger than Obama's or that millions of illegal votes were cast in the presidential election?
The difference is between that of a pompous ass vs. somebody with some form of mental illness. Is it bluster or is it delusional thinking? One respected political writer, Andrew Sullivan, argues that it is the latter. Sullivan's piece is worth reading in the entirety. He invites us to imagine a neighbor whose newly painted living room is blue, yet continues to describe it as red. (I know, it seems a bit simplistic, but it fits the inauguration argument perfectly.) Here's how Sullivan sums up:
"If the next time you dropped by, he was still raving about his gorgeous new red walls, what would you think? Here’s what I’d think: This man is off his rocker. He’s deranged; he’s bizarrely living in an alternative universe; he’s delusional. If he kept this up, at some point you’d excuse yourself and edge slowly out of the room and the house and never return."
Whether Trump is merely a liar's liar and a bully's bully or whether he is already at the point of delusion is, I think, yet to be determined. Only those extremely close to him might possibly know, and their behavior since before the Republican convention tells us that whichever way it is, they are in on the scam.
So the question we have before us might be summed up as follows: Is this 1933 all over again, or is it merely 1968? Is it the beginning of fascism in America -- and the consequent loss of some of our liberties -- or are we just going through a phase in which the prevailing political power in the executive and legislative branches is not to our liking? Is it to be a horrid disaster or just a political setback?
In assaying the prediction I am about to make, I understand full well that I will be disappointing a number of friends and colleagues who live in other countries or came here from elsewhere. They recognize the parallels all too well, particularly those who lived at one time or another under dictatorships. They chuckle (a little contemptuously) at what they see as my naivety. But my response is that in some ways we are seriously different from Europe in 1933, or Asia or South America at other times. There are two main reasons.
The first: If anything can save us, it is an independent judiciary serving under a written Constitution. The defense against dictatorial conduct will depend on what Trump referred to as a "so-called judge" and a few hundred of his colleagues. We can also put some small hope in members of congress who went to law school and practiced law before going into politics.
Why do these things matter? The comparison comes down to the relationship between the European and his sovereign prior to the twentieth century. Admittedly there are nuances, but the concept of individual rights, particularly of minorities among the majority, is more entrenched in American thought going all the way back to 1788 than existed in 1933 Germany or Italy.
To put it more simply, any attempt by Trump to muzzle the New York Times or CNN shouldn't last very long in the federal courts, certainly not at the lower level. We should also be able to expect of higher courts including the Supreme Court that they will find within themselves the duty to uphold the most fundamental rights of Americans. Freedom of speech, religion, and the right to assemble (ie: to join demonstrations on public streets) will be upheld by the courts. We have the right to expect this from our judges.
And yes, I would be the first to agree that there have been a lot of bad decisions made by the Supreme Court over the years, just as there have been many bad laws introduced in state legislatures. But good decision or bad, each has been made under the basic fundamental fact that the Constitution exists and that it is the supreme law of the land. It's been a long time now that our Constitution has been in effect, approaching two and a half centuries. We're coming up on half the age of the Roman empire, even if we still think of ourselves as a young country.
So any federal judge faced with the latest lawsuit over a Trump executive order has that tradition at his back. It's in our blood and bones.
The difference between Americans and our foreign-born colleagues is that we Americans expect our institutions, including the armed forces and governmental agencies, to obey the lawful orders of the courts. We expect the courts to follow the Constitution. We've seen worrisome tendencies such as the secret powers conferred by the Patriot Act, but we have the right to expect that our fellow Americans will not give up all our liberties for an emotional security blanket. Trump is wrong to think that he is the one necessity in order that we be saved from a hideous menace. Rather, he is the menace, and it's the sum total of our Constitution, our fealty to its principles, and the agencies we have developed in their defense that we should depend on.
The second reason to argue that this is just 1968 and not 1933 is that we've been through the Second World War, we've seen communism and dictatorships, and we've learned from them.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
GELFAND’S WORLD--What do Fairbanks, Alaska, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma have in common with Los Angeles and San Francisco? The answer: All of them have newly established resistance groups dedicated to opposing Donald Trump's policies. How this came to be, and how the rest of us can join in opposition to Trump's craziness is a short but fascinating story.
In these first 3 weeks of the Trump presidency, the shocks have piled up, one outrage atop the other, ranging from the billionaire's club of unqualified Cabinet appointees to the president's executive orders which spurred tens of thousands of our fellow citizens to take to this country's streets and airports.
It became painfully obvious that resistance is necessary. It was equally obvious that we couldn't bumble along as before, with hundreds of different groups, each with its own vision and agenda, and each believing itself to be the epitome of progressivism. Some of us (such as me) even cling to the old fashioned term liberal, as opposed to the new-fangled (i.e.: since Ronald Reagan) term progressive.
This is a national emergency. We have to put our differences aside. The stakes are too great. For some, such as the people who would lose their health coverage under the extremist right wing, it's literally a matter of life and death. For the country as a whole, it is the question as to whether this nation will face up to critical challenges such as global warming or be stuck in denialism.
We have to be effective, and that means that we have to be together. Many of us have reached this conclusion either independently or by reading each others' blogs. There is really only one meaningful question: Which group shall we mutually create and then join?
I think we have an answer.
Only a few days back, I (like so many others) was musing about the spontaneous development of a leftward-leaning version of the conservative Tea Party. I even linked in passing to an instruction set, as it were, for how it might best be done. The instruction set was titled Indivisible. It explained how the right wing Tea Party had developed and how it had acted in order to damage the work of the Obama administration. The description of how to be your own progressive version of the Tea Party is the part that is of interest.
And apparently a lot of people all over the country took the hint, read through the guide book, and joined the movement.
Indivisible is the resistance. How do we know that? One clue is that within the past few weeks, close to 5000 groups have joined in the Indivisible coalition.
By the way, the authors of the Indivisible guide point out that at this moment in history, the best approach to resistance is to create groups that act locally and defensively. That is to say, the message is to stop Trump from getting away with what he is trying to do, and the way to do this is to stay on your congressman's butt without letup. We don't need to divide ourselves over long-term agendas. (Anybody really want to whine about the quest for single-payer when the Affordable Care Act itself is in jeopardy?)
It's important to go to congressional town hall meetings and in the absence of publicly advertised meetings, to protest at any and all opportunities. The really advanced activists will be thinking about how to reach out to the media and to the people and businesses that have been supporting each congressman.
So how do you join the movement? It's simple. Go to the Indivisible website and click on the button that says Find a Local Group. A little basic math tells us that on the average, each congressional district will have about a dozen such groups. Obviously there are some places (such as Los Angeles) that have more. In fact, the L.A. area already has nearly 200 groups associated with Indivisible. But there are groups in Idaho Falls, Idaho and Casper, Wyoming, not to mention Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. We need such groups to form up in every congressional district.
As the authors of the Indivisible guide like to point out, the one most important issue to a congressman is getting reelected. Everything else is secondary. Let's apply that to a local congressional seat. Darrell Issa beat Democrat Doug Applegate by 1621 votes out of a total of more than 310,000. That's a little over half of one percent. How is Issa going to react when he is set upon by groups of people asking him about whether he will support phasing out Medicare? It's not just a gotcha question. It's a serious question that deserves an answer. In the past, Issa has been able to skate on such issues, but maybe this time things will be different.
Meanwhile, there is some reason to think that the protests have had an effect on the Trump administration and on the congress in terms of their intent to do violence to the Affordable Care Act. They have been forced to face a lot of difficult questions about what it would mean to replace the ACA, and they are not coming up with good answers. As they start to move away from their original positions and start talking about repairing the ACA rather than destroying it, perhaps something can be salvaged.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for City Watch. He can be reached at email@example.com)
INSIDE TRUMP’S HEAD--In 2009, the historian David Kaiser, then a professor at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, got a call from a guy named Steve Bannon. (Photo above sitting right.)
Bannon wanted to interview Kaiser for a documentary he was making based on the work of the generational theorists William Strauss and Neil Howe. Kaiser, an expert on Strauss and Howe, didn’t know Bannon from Adam, but he agreed to participate. He went to the Washington headquarters of the conservative activist group Citizens United, where Bannon was then based, for a chat.
Kaiser was impressed by how much Bannon knew about Strauss and Howe, who argued that American history operates in four-stage cycles that move from major crisis to awakening to major crisis. These crises are called “Fourth Turnings” — and Bannon believed the U.S. had entered one on Sept. 18, 2008, when Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke went to Capitol Hill to ask for a bailout of the international banking system.
“He knew the theory,” Kaiser said. “He obviously enjoyed interviewing me.”
Bannon pressed Kaiser on one point during the interview. “He was talking about the wars of the Fourth Turnings,” Kaiser recalled. “You have the American Revolution, you have the Civil War, you have World War II; they’re getting bigger and bigger. Clearly, he was anticipating that in this Fourth Turning there would be one at least as big. And he really made an effort, I remember, to get me to say that on the air.”
Kaiser didn’t believe global war was preordained, so he demurred. The line of questioning didn’t make it into the documentary — a polemical piece, released in 2010, called “Generation Zero.”
Bannon, who’s now ensconced in the West Wing as President Donald Trump’s closest adviser, has been portrayed as Trump’s main ideas guy. But in interviews, speeches and writing — and especially in his embrace of Strauss and Howe — he has made clear that he is, first and foremost, an apocalypticist.
In Bannon’s view, we are in the midst of an existential war, and everything is a part of that conflict. Treaties must be torn up, enemies named, culture changed. Global conflagration, should it occur, would only prove the theory correct. For Bannon, the Fourth Turning has arrived. The Grey Champion, a messianic strongman figure, may have already emerged. The apocalypse is now.
“What we are witnessing,” Bannon told The Washington Post last month, “is the birth of a new political order.”
Strauss died in 2007, and Howe did not respond to requests for comment. But their books speak for themselves. The first, Generations, released in 1991, set forth the idea that history unfolds in repetitive, predictable four-part cycles ― and that the U.S. was, and still is, going through the most recent cycle’s tail end. (In Generations, Strauss and Howe became perhaps the first writers to use the term “Millennials” to describe the current cohort of young people.)
Strauss and Howe’s theory is based on a series of generational archetypes — the Artists, the Prophets, the Nomads and the Heroes — that sound like they were pulled from a dystopian young adult fiction series. Each complete four-part cycle, or saeculum, takes about 80 to 100 years, in Strauss and Howe’s reckoning. The Fourth Turning, which the authors published in 1997, focuses on the final, apocalyptic part of the cycle.
Strauss and Howe postulate that during this Fourth Turning crisis, an unexpected leader will emerge from an older generation to lead the nation, and what they call the “Hero” generation (in this case, Millennials), to a new order. This person is known as the Grey Champion. An election or another event — perhaps a war — will bring this person to power, and their regime will rule throughout the crisis.
“The winners will now have the power to pursue the more potent, less incrementalist agenda about which they had long dreamed and against which their adversaries had darkly warned,” Strauss and Howe wrote in The Fourth Turning. “This new regime will enthrone itself for the duration of the Crisis. Regardless of its ideology, that new leadership will assert public authority and demand private sacrifice. Where leaders had once been inclined to alleviate societal pressures, they will now aggravate them to command the nation’s attention.”
Cyclical models of history are something academics kick around every now and then, said Sean Wilentz, an American history professor at Princeton University. But the idea has not caught on among historians or political actors.
“It’s just a conceit. It’s a fiction, it’s all made up,” Wilentz said about cyclical historical models. “There’s nothing to them. They’re just inventions.”
Michael Lind, a historian and co-founder of the New America Foundation, a liberal think tank, has called Strauss and Howe’s work “pseudoscience” and said their “predictions about the American future turn out to be as vague as those of fortune cookies.”
But Bannon bought it.
“This is the fourth great crisis in American history,” Bannon told an audience at the Liberty Restoration Foundation, a conservative nonprofit, in 2011. “We had the Revolution. We had the Civil War. We had the Great Depression and World War II. This is the great Fourth Turning in American history, and we’re going to be one thing on the other side.”
Major crises “happen in about 80- or 100-year cycles,” Bannon told a conference put on by the Republican women’s group Project GoPink that same year. “And somewhere over the next 10 or 20 years, we’re going to come through this crisis, and we’re either going to be the country that was bequeathed to us or it’s going to be something that’s completely or totally different.”
The “Judeo-Christian West is collapsing,” he went on. “It’s imploding. And it’s imploding on our watch. And the blowback of that is going to be tremendous.”
War is coming, Bannon has warned. In fact, it’s already here.
It’s war. It’s war. Every day, we put up: America’s at war, America’s at war. We’re at war. White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, 2015
“You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China,” he said during a 2016 radio appearance. “They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian West is on the retreat.”
“Against radical Islam, we’re in a 100-year war,” he told Political Vindication Radio in 2011.
“We’re going to war in the South China Seas in the next five to 10 years, aren’t we?” Bannon asked during a 2016 interview with Reagan biographer Lee Edwards.
“We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism,” he said in a speech to a Vatican conference in 2014. “And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it.”
In a 2015 radio appearance, Bannon described how he ran Breitbart, the far-right news site he chaired at the time. “It’s war,” he said. “It’s war. Every day, we put up: America’s at war, America’s at war. We’re at war.”
To confront this threat, Bannon argued, the Judeo-Christian West must fight back, lest it lose as it did when Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453. He called Islam a “religion of submission” in 2016 — a refutation of President George W. Bush’s post-9/11 description of Islam as a religion of peace. In 2007, Bannon wrote a draft movie treatment for a documentary depicting a “fifth column” of Muslim community groups, the media, Jewish organizations and government agencies working to overthrow the government and impose Islamic law.
“There’s clearly a fifth column here in the United States,” Bannon warned in July 2016. “There’s rot at the center of the Judeo-Christian West,” he said in November 2015. “Secularism has sapped the strength of the Judeo-Christian West to defend its ideals,” he argued at the Vatican conference. The “aristocratic Washington class” and the media, he has claimed, are in league with the entire religion of Islam and an expansionist China to undermine Judeo-Christian America.
This sort of existential conflict is central to Strauss and Howe’s predictions. There are four ways a Fourth Turning can end, they argued, and three of them involve some kind of massive collapse. America might “be reborn,” and we’d wait another 80 to 100 years for a new cycle to culminate in a crisis again. The modern world — the era of Western history that Strauss and Howe believe began in the 15th century — might come to an end. We might “spare modernity but mark the end of our nation.” Or we might face “the end of man,” in a global war leading to “omnicidal Armageddon.”
Now, a believer in these vague and unfounded predictions sits in the White House, at the right hand of the president.
“We’re gonna have to have some dark days before we get to the blue sky of morning again in America,” Bannon warned in 2010. “We are going to have to take some massive pain. Anybody who thinks we don’t have to take pain is, I believe, fooling you.”
“This movement,” he said in November, “is in the top of the first inning.”
(Paul Blumenthal Money in Politics Reporter at Huff Post … where this piece was first posted.)
THE PROTEST ECONOMY-Dear So-Called President Trump: I was among the roughly five million Americans who took to the streets in cities across the country a few weeks ago in opposition to your outrageous policies regarding women, Muslims, school children, immigrants, workers, the environment, and people who need health care. (That’s me in the photo above with my 20-year old daughter Sarah.) I left my home around 7 a.m., took the subway from Pasadena to downtown Los Angeles, and participated in the demonstration -- marching, holding signs, shouting chants, listening to speakers and musicians -- until about 4 p.m. I got back on the subway and returned to my house around 5 p.m. In other words, I spent about 10 hours involved in the protest.
That was the largest one-day protest in American history. A majority of the five million participants (750,000 in LA alone) were protesting for the first time. I didn’t really understand what brought them out to protest on a sunny Saturday when they could have been doing so many other things. But your recent Tweet explained why.
Last week you Tweeted that “Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
Thank you for the reminder. I forgot to pick up my paycheck for protesting. Whomever is paying people to protest left me off the list -- or just ripped me off. Since the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, I am owed at least $72.50 for the 10 hours I spent protesting that Saturday. However, as of this January 1, the California minimum wage is now $10.50 an hour, so I’m actually owed $105, and even more if the people who are paying people to protest against you abide by overtime rules.
If all five million Americans who protested that day got paid the federal minimum wage, and if people spent an average of five hours protesting, those patriotic rabble-rousers are owed a total of at least $181 million in unpaid protest wages.
I think you’ll agree that putting $181 million in Americans’ pockets is good for the economy. If you will recall the Economics 101 course you probably took at college, this is called an increase in “consumer demand.” Economists also call it the “multiplier effect.” The five million protesters will spend that $181 million in their local economies -- boosting sales, revenues, and jobs. So thank you for reminding us that protest is good for the economy.
You will be pleased to know that Americans will continue to protest your policies for the next four years. Not all the protests will be as large as the January 21 women’s march, but the number of Americans who feel compelled to protest against you will certainly grow as you pursue reckless, dangerous and inhumane policies. Every week, in cities, suburbs and small towns across America, people will be in the streets, at town meetings, on college campuses, at their workplaces, at airports, in churches and synagogues, and elsewhere raising their voices in opposition to almost everything you are trying to do.
Let’s take a conservative estimate that every week, on average, 100,000 Americans engage in some kind of local protest over the next four years. Let’s assume that each person spends an average of three hours participating in protest and earns the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. That adds up to $452 million during your four years as president -- assuming you are not impeached.
Of course, you won’t be surprised that in addition to all those local protests, at least four times a year, Americans will mount the kind of major nationwide protests that we saw a few weeks ago, with five million people taking to the streets. So let’s add another $181 million for each protest -- four times a year, for four years. This will increase the protest payroll by another $2.9 billion. Altogether, that’s $3.42 billion in protest paychecks over four years. I haven’t even factored in the higher minimum wage levels in many states and cities.
You are already doing your part by adopting policies and making statements that make Americans so angry that they are joining protests in record numbers. But if you’d really like to do something to improve the economy even more, you could raise the federal minimum to $15 an hour. That would quickly and dramatically increase America’s protest payroll and be a real boost the economy.
I realize that it is selfish of me to bring this up, but what about all the back pay I’m owed for the protests I’ve participated in since the 1960s? I’ve been to hundreds of protests for civil rights, against the Vietnam war, for women’s rights and against apartheid, for more funding for public schools, against the U.S. overthrow of Chile’s president Salvador Allende and against U.S. aid to the Nicaraguan contras, against police killing of unarmed Black Americans, in favor of workers’ rights, and against government bail-outs to Wall Street banks.
As you can see in the above photographs, I brought my twin daughters Amelia and Sarah to a protest in Los Angeles in 2002 against the U.S. invasion of Iraq and I joined with my wife Terry, our dog Mia, and our friends last year at a huge march of workers and supporters demanding a $15 minimum wage in my hometown of Pasadena. (You’ll be please know that we won that fight). On a rainy night two weeks ago I joined about 150 people at a protest in front of the $26 million Los Angeles mansion owned by Steve Mnuchin, the Wall Street predator (known as the “foreclosure king”) who was your campaign finance chair and whom you’ve nominated to be Secretary of the Treasury. (That’s me, with the gray hair, behind the sign).
Shouldn’t the hundreds of millions of Americans who, over the years, sat in at lunch counters, participated in strikes, carried picket signs for reproductive rights and same-sex marriage, rallied against nuclear weapons, and shouted “no justice, no peace” and “end racism” get paid for their protest activism? Rep. John Lewis, who put his body on the line hundreds of times for social justice -- and whom you described as “all talk, no action” in a twitter tantrum last month -- would be owed a fortune in back protest pay.
Do you think we could find a “so-called” judge who would be sympathetic to this wage-theft cause and order the owners of Protest Inc. to compensate us for our labor?
I don’t consider this reparations for radicals and reformers. I see it as the kind of economic nationalism you’ve been talking about. You can’t export protest jobs. These are American jobs for Americans. As any economist could tell you, those back payments would do wonders for the economy.
Just as George W. Bush was known as the “war president,” and Barack Obama was known (at least by Republicans) as the “food stamp president,” you will surely go down in history as the “protest president.” You’ve done more than any other U.S. president to unite Americans and galvanize them into an oppositional protest movement. You’ve called us “paid protesters.” Once we all get paid, we will feel proud to have helped make America Great Again.
(Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department, at Occidental College.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
DIVINE THE FUTURE--As a student of history, I’m always drawing parallels between the present and the past. Like many of us, I believe that to divine the future we must understand what has gone before. That’s what makes the actions of Trump, Bannon and company so damn frightening.
Let’s turn back the cover of the fascist playbook and see what’s inside.
First, the lies and then the people who choose to believe them.
Despite the fact that the United States under Barack Obama experienced recovery from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, significant expansion in healthcare coverage, and a fairly peaceful world scene, Donald Trump ran a campaign that painted our nation as a failure, crime-ridden and downtrodden, kowtowing to the Chinese and even worse, radical Islam.
The target of these lies was, and continues to be, the susceptible individuals made receptive to belief in “alternative facts” through years of indoctrination by right-wing radio and alt right websites. It’s no accident that Trump’s chief henchman, Steve Bannon, comes from that world. Propaganda is most effective when there’s a willing audience and if anyone knows how to exploit that audience, it’s Bannon. As chief executive at Breitbart, he led the pack of alt right media hounds.
Trump’s battle cry of “Make America Great Again” was just good enough to get him the prize. He is president only because of an anachronistic electoral system in which losing by three million votes at the ballot box becomes winning by 77 in the Electoral College. So the United States is experiencing what life might have been like if someone such as the junior senator from Wisconsin, Joseph R. McCarthy, had become president instead of Eisenhower. Nixon’s “law and order” rhetoric, anti-media bias, and enemies list don’t come close to what may in store under the current regime.
The formula for Trump’s authoritarian witches’ brew is simple:
You are in danger.
Muslims are the enemy.
Only I can save you.
Anyone who opposes me is the enemy (including apparently those who no longer want to sell Ivanka’s clothing brand.)
In keeping with his pledge to remake government, Trump has moved quickly to eliminate regulations to rein in polluters. Gutting consumer protection rules again allows the wolves of Wall Street to roam free. He’s attacked Obamacare, seeking to loosen administrative rules that make the system work.
Most egregious, however, is his order to ban Muslims from seven nations. Despite protestations that this executive decree is not aimed at a particular religion, many know better. The judges who have done their sworn duty to the Constitution are being attacked as encouraging enemies of the state.
The comparisons many in the United States and around the world have made to Trump’s regime and the fascists of the 1920s and ‘30s is apt. For some, “America First” carries the flavor of “Deutschland Uber Alles.” Referring to the current reality in Washington, D.C., Bannon said, “What we are witnessing is the birth of a new political order.”
In 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt, talking about an earlier political reality, said, “These men and their hypnotized followers call this a new order. It is not new. It is not order.”
It’s time to heed the lessons of history.
(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.
LA WATCHDOG--Section 245 (see below) of the Los Angeles City Charter allows the City Council to assert jurisdiction over any action by the Board of Commissioners of a City Commission by a two-thirds vote of the Council. There are certain exceptions for the Ethics Commission, pension plans, and personnel matters.
While the City Council has the ability to veto the action by a two-thirds vote, it does not have the ability to “amend, or take any action with respect to the Board’s action.”
However, there is an exception for City Planning that allows the City Council to amend the action of the City Planning Commission or the local Area Planning Commissions.
And my oh my, have the members of the City Council taken advantage of this loophole. They have extracted millions in campaign contributions and other favors from real estate speculators and developers, regardless of the impact on our neighborhoods and the increase in traffic.
The Los Angeles Times had a well-researched, front-page expose of the $600,000 in pay to play campaign contributions involving the approval of the $72 million Sea Breeze residential development in the Harbor area of the City. In this case, the City Council reversed the decision of the Area Planning Commission and the City Planning Commission, both of which had turned down the developer’s request for a zoning change for this industrial zoned property.
This City Council granted variance resulted in an increase in the value of the land of $25 million according to a CityWatch article by Austin Beutner. Of course, the beneficiaries of these laundered campaign contributions (Council members Joe Buscaino, Jose Huizar, Mitch Englander, and Nury Martinez as well as Supervisor Janice Hahn and Mayor Eric Garcetti) claim with a straight face and a touch of indignation that these overly generous cash contributions from people they had never met before did not influence their decision to grant the developer’s request.
There is also the recent action of the City Council that permitted a Beverly Hills developer to erect a 27 story residential skyscraper in a low-rise neighborhood in Koreatown. In this case, $1.25 million in contributions to two slush funds bought the cooperation of Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Council President Herb Wesson.
The list of developments where money talks goes on and on, including, but certainly not limited to, the Palladium in Hollywood, the Reef in South LA, the Cumulus at Jefferson and Rodeo, as well as many other mega-developments throughout the City that will cause increased congestion and stress on our already overtaxed infrastructure.
The net is that real estate speculators and developers make billions, our local politicians collect millions, and we and our neighborhoods get the shaft.
One of the major benefits of Measure S is that it will put the brakes on the corrupt pay to play culture at City Hall as “up zoned” developments will be prohibited under the two year moratorium. This will protect our neighborhoods and our quality of life while the City engages in real planning in an open and transparent manner.
So NO to pay-to-play corruption. Say YES to real planning. And Vote YES on Measure S.
Sec. 245. City Council Veto of Board Actions.
Actions of boards of commissioners shall become final at the expiration of the next five meeting days of the Council during which the Council has convened in regular session, unless the Council acts within that time by two-thirds vote to bring the action before it or to waive review of the action, except that as to any action of the Board of Police Commissioners regarding the removal of the Chief of Police, the time period within which the Council may act before the action of the Board shall become final shall be ten meeting days during which the Council has convened in regular session.
(a) Action by Council. If the Council timely asserts jurisdiction over the action, the Council may, by two-thirds vote, veto the action of the board within 21 calendar days of voting to bring the matter before it, or the action of the board shall become final. Except as provided in subsection (e), the Council may not amend, or take any other action with respect to the board’s action.
(b) Waiver. The Council may, by ordinance, waive review of classes or categories of actions, or, by resolution, waive review of an individual anticipated action of a board. The Council may also, by resolution, waive review of a board action after the board has acted. Actions for which review has been waived are final upon the waiver, or action of the board, as applicable.
(c) Effect of Veto. An action vetoed by the Council shall be remanded to the originating board, which board shall have the authority it originally held to take action on the matter.
(d) Exempt Actions. The following actions are exempt from Council review under this section:
(1) actions of the Ethics Commission;
(2) actions of the Board of Fire and Police Pension Commissioners;
(3) actions of the Board of Administration for Los Angeles City Employees Retirement System;
(4) actions of the Board of Administration of Water and Power Employees Retirement Plan;
(5) quasi-judicial personnel decisions of the Board of Civil Service Commissioners;
(6) actions of a board organized under authority of the Meyers-Milias Brown Act for administration of employer-employee relations;
(7) individual personnel decisions of boards of commissioners other than the Board of Police Commissioners; and
(8) actions which are subject to appeal or review by the Council pursuant to other provisions of the Charter, ordinance or other applicable law.
(e) Exceptions for Actions of City Planning Commission and Area Planning Commissions. The Council shall not be limited to veto of actions of the City Planning Commission or Area Planning Commissions, but, subject to the time limits and other limitations of this section, after voting to bring the matter before it, shall have the same authority to act on a matter as that originally held by the City Planning Commission or Area Planning Commission.
(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-The La Kretz Innovation Campus is a welcome addition to the City’s economic development infrastructure. Located on 3.2 acres in the Arts District, this one story, renovated warehouse consists of 60,000 square feet of “modern, creative office and laboratory spaces” that will serve as an “incubator of startups and early stage businesses focused on the commercialization of clean technologies.”
Importantly, this tasteful, LEED certified development respects the character of the neighborhood, a rare feat in modern day Los Angeles.
There is also an attractive 25,000 square foot neighborhood park that will be leased to and operated by the Department of Recreation and Parks.
This $43 million development was named after Morton La Kretz, a philanthropist and real estate speculator who made a tax deductible contribution of $3 million in return for the naming rights to the Campus.
He is also one of the forces behind the controversial 1.4 million square foot, Crossroads of the World development that is located near Sunset and Highland, right in the middle of already traffic congested Hollywood. This massive mixed use development does not respect the character of this low rise neighborhood as it will have buildings that are 400 feet tall, will house 1,250 residential and hotel units, and will have 280,000 square feet of office, retail, and commercial space.
Needless to say, this massive project will require the approval of local Council Member Mitch O’Farrell, the Planning and Land Use Management Committee chaired by Jose Huizar, the Herb Wesson led City Council, and Mayor Eric Garcetti who represented this part of Hollywood when he was a member of the City Council.
In September, Jose Huizar made a motion (Council File 16-1109) calling for the Chief Legislative Analyst and the Economic and Workforce Development Department to report on the progress of the Campus, including incubating early stage green businesses and supporting energy and water conservation through research and education.
But no report would be complete unless it analyzed the adequacy of the economic returns to our Department of Water and Power which was forced to “invest” $20 million in this pet project of Eric Garcetti and Jose Huizar and to absorb the operating costs of $895,000 a year. The report should also include an analysis of whether the bargain rents from “green” tenants are consistent with the market and the high cost of the Campus.
This report should also address La Kretz’s use of philanthropy for his own personal gain. This would include not only the Crossroads of the World development in Hollywood, but his two controversial projects on the Los Angeles River, one in Atwater Village and the other across the river in Elysian Village.
La Kretz should be complimented for his generosity in helping to fund the Campus. And while he has not taken the well-travelled road of contributing to the campaign coffers of the Mayor and the members of the City Council, he has achieved a level of influence through his charitable gifts that may result in the approval of this massive, out of character development in Hollywood. More than likely, this will result in estimated profits in excess of $100 million.
Not a bad return on a tax deductible $3 million investment.
The pay to play culture surrounding the Crossroads of the World development is just another example of why we should VOTE YES ON MEASURE S on March 7 so we can help stem the corruption that has infected City Hall to the detriment of our neighborhoods.
(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--You can’t make this stuff up.
Council District Nine Incumbent Curren Price’s campaign slogan, The Price is Right for the Ninth, is spot on given the pay to play culture permeating the cesspool of corruption known as City Hall.
This begs the question to Price, “What is the price that the deep pocketed real estate developers paid you to support the out of context, $1.2 billion high rise development of The Reef in South Central that has the very real potential to displace tens of thousands local residents?”
But Price is not alone.
We should demand that Mayor Garcetti and all of the members of the Herb Wesson led City Council come clean about all their shady dealings with real estate developers, starting with Garcetti, Buscaino, Englander, Huizar, and Martinez and their involvement with the $600,000 of laundered campaign contributions involving the $72 million Sea Breeze development that was disclosed in a well-researched front page story of the Los Angeles Times.
And the list of neighborhood destroying developments are too many to enumerate, but involves billions of congestion causing, “up zoned” developments approved by the Mayor Garcetti, the Herb Wesson City Council, and the Jose Huizar led Planning and Land Use Management committee.
As of December 31, the Mayor and the seven City Council incumbents have been showered with over $5 million in campaign contributions with millions more expected prior to the March 7 election. And this does not include millions in self-serving contributions to “independent” expenditure committees to support individual candidates and politically favored ballot measures.
While the price of admission to the cesspool of corruption known as City Hall is chump change relative to the value of favors granted to City Hall’s generous real estate development cronies, what is the price that we Angelenos will have to pay?
Trust me, it ain’t chump change.
Vote Yes on S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative.
LA WATCHDOG--As a result of Angelenos' accurate perception that our corrupt City Council and Mayor are unduly influenced by the campaign contributions of real estate developers, the leaders of the City’s public sector unions, and other special interests, Councilmember Mike Bonin introduced his “Clean Money Elections for Los Angeles” motion on January 17.
Under his proposal that “gets money out of politics,” the City would establish a system of publically financed municipal elections where candidates would “agree to forgo corporate donations, special interest money, further donations from individuals, or significant self-financing” in return for “a statutorily established amount of money sufficient to run an aggressive and well-financed campaign.”
This voluntary program would be fully funded by a dedicated revenue stream. According to Bonin’s motion, specific sources of financing would include fees on development and a severance tax for all oil and gas produced within the City of Los Angeles.
But rather than levying new taxes on the business community which will be passed onto all Angelenos, the City Council should investigate the use of their less than transparent discretionary slush funds that are reputed to haul in $20 to $25 million a year.
Sources of cash for these slush funds include the Street Furniture Fund (advertising revenues from bus shelters), Oil Pipeline Franchise Fees, the Real Property Trust Fund (50% of the proceeds of the sale of surplus property), and AB 1290 Funds (tax increment funds from the dissolution of the corrupt Community Redevelopment Agency).
There are also lucrative fees from the Lopez Canyon Landfill, the Sunshine Canyon Landfill, and the Central LA Recycling and Transfer Station that never see the light of day.
Unfortunately, these slush funds are shrouded in mystery as the City Council refuses to allow a detailed audit that is available to the public. Rather, our Elected Elite’s idea of transparency is a data dump of more than 100 pages of computer printouts which require an experienced forensic accountant to decipher.
And when asked by Mayor Villaraigosa in 2010 to “lend” $40 million to shore up the City’s Reserve Fund in the face of a projected $485 million deficit, the answer was a self-serving and resounding NO.
Despite this lack of transparency, each Councilmember has detailed information on their own discretionary slush fund.
Another source of cash would be to tap the combined $100 million annual budgets of the Mayor and City Council. But like the slush funds, this might be hitting too close to home and limit the ability of our Elected Elite to finance their pet projects and reward their friends, cronies, family, and contributors to their election campaigns.
Bonin requested that the Chief Legislative Analyst and the City Administrative Officer develop cost estimates and revenue sources for the Clean Money Public Campaign Financing System. He also moved that the Ethics Department to prepare a ballot measure for our rejection or acceptance in 2018.
Any reform will also need to address Independent Expenditure committees that are funded by real estate developers, the leaders of the City’s public unions, and other special interests. These committees are designed to support individual candidates, ballot measures, or tax increases where the Mayor and other elected officials put the arm on well healed donors who are looking for special treatment at City Hall.
Of course, any reform will require the cooperation of our 18 elected officials and any candidate for office. And this will be near impossible as campaign cash is the ultimate aphrodisiac for the money grubbing occupiers of City Hall and their cronies.
Note: The recent flurry of Council motions endorsing campaign reform, including a Ban on Developer Campaign Contributions, are an effort to blunt wide spread voter support of Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, and to offset voter outrage over the pay to play corruption involving real estate developers.
Recent articles and editorials in the Los Angeles Times and CityWatch have detailed the corruption involving the Sea Breeze development where $600,000 in suspicious money laundering campaign contributions to Supervisor Janice Hahn, Mayor Garcetti, and Councilmembers Buscaino, Jose Huizar, Mitch Englander, and Nury Martinez resulted in the approval of a $72 million development that was rejected by both the Area and City Planning Commissions.
The Los Angeles Times, CityWatch, and other LA area publications have also had a field day commenting on the pay to play corruption at the over height development of billionaire Rick Caruso near the already congested Beverly Center, the oversized Cumulus development at Jefferson and La Cienega, the out of character Reef in South Central, and the 27 story development at Catalina and Eighth in Koreatown where Garcetti and Wesson extorted $1.25 million from the Beverly Hills developer in return for a variance valued at an estimated $20 million.
LA WATCHDOG--In August of 2015, the City of Los Angeles announced what turned out to be a budget busting contract with the Coalition of City Unions that represents the City’s 20,000 civilian workers. According to Mayor Eric Garcetti, this agreement “prioritizes service delivery and strengthens our long term fiscal health.”
To the contrary, this back room deal contributed to the City’s never ending Structural Deficit (where personnel costs increase faster than revenues) and blew a gaping hole in the 2020 budget, turning a projected surplus of $68 million into $101 million deficit.
But that’s not all, folks.
The City also committed to a “goal” of hiring 5,000 civilian employees by June 30, 2018. But in a December report prepared by the City’s Personnel Department that outlined the Targeted Local Hire Program, not one mention was made about the cost of this program or the impact on the City’s budget. Yet the City is looking at an $85 million deficit next year, but that was before the City Administrative Officer informed us on January 6 that this year’s breakeven budget is a pipedream as the shortfall may be as high as $245 million thanks to lower revenues and higher than budgeted litigation costs.
While some of the new employees will replace higher cost retiring workers, the hit to the City’s budget has been rumored to be in the range of $250 million when considering the fully loaded costs of salaries, Cadillac healthcare plans, and very generous pensions.
The Targeted Local Hire Program appears to be more of a social welfare program as it is focused on hiring and retaining of local Angelenos from underserved communities. Under the proposed system, over 80% of the positions would be allocated to the applicants from the designated underserved communities.
But what about all the other Angelenos who have stayed out of trouble and done what was expected of them. Don’t they deserve a fair shot at these high paying, guaranteed for life City jobs that have very generous benefits that far exceed those in the private sector? And don’t the odds favor them doing a better job?
This is not the time to be expanding the City’s workforce. The City is looking at a river of red ink of almost $300 million over the next four years, and that was before the realization that this year’s unexpected deficit may be as high as $245 million. The depleted Reserve Fund is under severe pressure to fund this shortfall. And more than likely, the economy is going to be hitting some headwinds that will put additional pressure on the budget. And as we know, it will be hard to lay off employees that are represented by the campaign funding leaders of the City’s self-serving public unions who consider us their ATM.
Rather than hiring and training 5,000 new workers and adding to the City’s permanent overhead, why not hire independent third parties to complete specific tasks such as repairing our streets and sidewalks, trimming our trees, and maintaining our parks?
Before proceeding with the Targeted Local Hire Program, Councilmember Paul Koretz, the Chair of the Personnel Committee and one of the main promoters of this less than transparent program, should conduct public hearings and outreach so that we have a better understanding of this very expensive initiative and its impact on the City’s already precarious finances.
At the same time, Koretz, City Council President Herb Wesson, and Mayor Eric Garcetti would be wise to follow the advice of the Los Angeles Times to “commission and independent analysis of the impacts” of the program and “allow plenty of time for the public [and the Neighborhood Councils] to ask questions.”
A year ago, Koretz wrote, “The City of Los Angeles has a mission to provide the highest quality public service to the residents of the City in the most efficient and cost effective manner.”
Koretz must honor this pledge.
- Read More
Strategic Workforce Development Taskforce / Personnel Department / Letter of Agreement / Hiring Civilian Employees Council File 16-0109
LA WATCHDOG--Despite General Fund revenues being up by over $1 billion since Eric Garcetti became our Mayor, the City Administrative Officer indicated in a January 6 memo that the “combined potential deficit [for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017] currently stands at $245 million.”
You have to be kidding. A billion bucks and these jokers cannot balance the budget.
The budget is being hammered by higher than anticipated expenditures and lower than expected revenues. But there are not many real operational solutions since the Mayor, the Personnel Committee headed by Paul Koretz, and the City Council are not even willing to considering laying off or furloughing unionized employees who represent the bulk of City budget expenditures.
Spending is anticipated to be $70 to $80 million over amounts approved by the City Council and Mayor Garcetti in June. The primary culprit is legal settlements and verdicts against the City that are more than double the budgeted $67 million. But this budgeted amount was significantly less than the amount recommended by the City Administrative Officer (rumored to be $120 million) last April when Garcetti presented his budget to the City Council.
The revenue shortfall (including those at risk) is projected to be $165 million, consisting of lower than expected reimbursements from the proprietary and special departments, lower taxes on DWP Ratepayers as Power System revenues are below projections, and lower collection of property and sales taxes.
The CAO has proposed a number of nickel and dime solutions which, when taken as a whole, may help eliminate some of the budget deficit. These include curtailing any new expenditures, limiting hiring, increasing revenues by collecting the hotel tax from short-term rental sites in addition to AirBnb, investigating the revenue potential of billboards on City property (subject to the approval of the City Council), and being reimbursed for services by major event venues.
As expected, the CAO has proposed that the City proceed with a ten year Judgment Obligation Bond of up to $70 million. The proceeds from this offering would be used to replenish the Reserve Fund so that it would have the capacity to help close the budget deficit.
But this financial strategy of using long term debt to finance operating losses highlights the financial follies that have been dumped on us by Garcetti, the Paul Krekorian Budget and Committee, the Personnel Committee chaired by Paul Koretz, and the Herb Wesson led City Council. They have steadfastly refused to follow the many common sense recommendations of Miguel Santana, the City Administrative Officer who, unfortunately, is leaving to become the Chief Executive Officer of the troubled Los Angeles County Fair Association.
The City will muddle through this financial mess by issuing Judgment Obligation Bonds, developing new sources of revenues, selected budget cuts, fewer hires, and/or raiding the Reserve Fund and maybe even the previous sacrosanct Budget Stabilization Fund. But it will not be pretty, especially when we have to listen to all the excuses of the City Council and the Mayor.
This financial fiasco demonstrates why the City Council and Garcetti need to place on the ballot a LIVE WTHIN ITS MEANS* charter amendment so that voters have the opportunity to either accept or reject budget reform.
Finally, Garcetti and Personnel Chair Paul Koretz do not deserve to be re-elected in March because they have failed the citizens of Los Angeles by refusing to adopt realistic budget and personnel policies that will allow the City to balance its budget and provide basic services to all Angelenos.
Time for a change. Throw the bums out.
*The “Live Within Its Means” charter amendment will require the City to develop and adhere to a Seven Year Financial Plan; to pass three year balanced budgets based on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles; to prohibit any labor contracts that result in future budget deficits; to benchmark the efficiency of its operations; to fully fund its pension plans within twenty years; to implement a twenty year plan to repair and maintain our streets, sidewalks, and the rest of our infrastructure; and to establish a fully funded independent Office of Transparency and Accountability to oversee the City’s finances and operations.