Grid List

HAWTHORNE--In a move that stunned local residents, the Hawthorne City Council voted to extend their own terms by an additional year in the March 14th, 2017 meeting.

Under the guise of compliance with Senate Bill 415, city leaders swiftly made a motion to bring Hawthorne Ordinance 2136 from the table and called for an immediate vote. Ordinance 2136 serves to alter the election cycle of the City of Hawthorne by extending current terms by one year to accommodate the switch to even-year elections.

Two weeks prior, Councilmember Haidar Awad called for the ordinance to be tabled indefinitely due to public outcry, leading many residents to believe the ordinance would not be voted on.

Councilmember Nilo Michelin quickly objected to the motion on March 14th to bring the ordinance off the table and called for discussion. He was censured by Mayor Vargas because he was out of his seat during the motion. After a second objection by Michelin, Mayor Vargas called the vote again but allowed discussion on the Ordinance 2136 after.

“There are other ways to do this,” cited Councilman Nilo Michelin. “The state said that the elections need to be on even years by 2022. There’s nothing about extending terms. It could start in 2017 or 2019. It could be shorter terms.”

Councilmember Awad quipped that the residents in opposition were running for political office themselves, and only serving self-interests. After allowing Michelin and Awad time to speak, the Mayor again called for a vote on the ordinance which passed 4-1.

Up for re-election in November 2017 were Councilwomen Olivia Valentine and Angie English-Reyes. Valentine was appointed to council in a special appointment process after losing her seat by election to incumbent Nilo Michelin and newly elected Haidar Awad. Both Valentine and English-Reyes remained silent during the discussion, but ultimately voted to give themselves an additional year to fundraise and campaign.


Several residents are gathering outside of City Hall on Tuesday, March 28th, 2017, prior to the City Council Meeting to speak out against sitting elected officials canceling a scheduled election and extending their own terms. Advocates for voting rights are encouraged to come and participate. The address to Hawthorne City Hall is 4455 W. 126th Street, Hawthorne CA 90250.

(Amie Shepard is an activist and a one-time candidate for Hawthorne City Council.)


NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--The city’s plan to put the unfinished Target project in Hollywood back on track moved ahead on Wednesday after the city council approved a plan in which Target will pay a $1.2 million in-lieu fee for employee child care.

The issue regarding how Target would satisfy the city’s requirement to provide childcare was one of the final steps for the project to receive approval to resume construction. However, the project still must clear a remaining hurdle in court before construction can begin again on the partially completed store at Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue.

The Los Angeles Superior Court must rule on a lawsuit filed by the La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association, which contends the city violated zoning laws in approving the project because it exceeded allowable height limits. A court hearing on the matter is expected to occur soon.

The Los Angeles Superior Court previously ruled in favor of the neighborhood association and construction was stopped in 2014. Target appealed the ruling to an appellate court, and the city altered zoning regulations at the site to allow for a taller building. The La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association filed a second lawsuit against the revised zoning plan last year, and the appellate court sent the matter back to the superior court for consideration. (Read the rest.) 


NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Thank you for your support Thank you for standing up for your property rights.  Thank you for being someone who wants to allow Los Angeles to flourish. If it were not for you, we would have never brought light to this abuse of the planning system.  We have received calls from other neighborhoods in which HPOZs are in process inquiring how to stop theirs.  The answer is to organize and stand up early enough in the process, not be afraid to speak out.  We did that. Without us taking a stand together, we could not have achieved what we did: a significantly liberalized Preservation Plan. Your energy gave us a voice. 

Yesterday’s Planning Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee was a stark reminder that even when it appears you have a chance, the cards may be stacked against you. It was a stark reminder of the inequalities of politics.  It was a stark reminder that we live in a great city which can make great errors in judgement. Government is a machine oiled with backroom promises and lack of discussion. Yesterday was a reminder of that.   PLUM’s decision to push the Miracle Mile HPOZ to City Council is an indication of everything that is wrong with our City government. 

What have we accomplished?  We prevented a horrible Preservation Plan from being adopted and instead we will have the most lenient in the City.  We made sure you can paint your house any color you like.  We made sure an arborist report will not be required if a property owner decides to remove mature trees.  We made sure that solar panels are permitted as per state law (and if they try to prevent drought tolerant, just let us know).  We replaced the language that would mandate transparent gates with allowances for solid.  Many additions that were prohibited under the old rules will now be allowed, including many second stories. And for those who don’t want to imitate ‘20s architecture, we forced the City to allow contemporary. To be sure, the language is still a mess, but it’s not what it was. 

What did we learn?  We learned that had we been involved and organized earlier, this abuse would likely never have happened. We learned that we could make a difference. And we learned that the people who were drawn to our group saw the future not as something frightening or repugnant, but to be embraced. That is why we are setting up Miracle Mile Forward. We look forward to seeing you all at future meetings - more information to come.


(Say No HPOZ is a citizen group formed to fight a proposed Miracle Mile HPOZ. They can be reached at 




NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Less than two months after a horrific warehouse fire killed 36 people at the Ghost Ship artist colony in Oakland, city inspectors came knocking at the Think Tank Gallery in Los Angeles’ Fashion District.

On Jan. 18, two officials with the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety showed up unannounced to the art studio and event space, which also was home to 17 artists. As the inspectors made their rounds, residents frantically posted in a community Facebook group to try to find out why two strangers with clipboards were surveying the property and asking to look inside their bedrooms.

This wasn’t the first time city officials had discovered people were living in the commercial warehouse space at 939 Maple Ave. For more than a year, in fact, the city had known Think Tank was illegally housing residents. But it wasn’t until the tragedy in Oakland that the city took more forceful action.

“We knew once the Ghost Ship fire happened, we were like, ‘This is it,’” says Think Tank Gallery executive director Jacob Patterson.

After the inspection, the LA City Attorney’s office served an order-to-comply notice to the property owners, giving the gallery until Feb. 13 to either acquire a certificate of occupancy or have residents removed under threat of a criminal complaint. By the end of the month, all of the artists had moved out.

In the wake of the fire, LA City Attorney Mike Feuer assembled a warehouse task force along with building safety officials, promising an “aggressive response” to illegal-use commercial spaces. The city’s D.I.Y. community has been on edge ever since, and the threat of a widespread crackdown on underground lofts and warehouse spaces has left many artists in fear of eviction. (Read the rest.


NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCIL BUDGET ADVOCATES--The City of Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates met with Mayor Eric Garcetti on March 8th to present and discuss their White Paper for the coming city budget fiscal year 2017 – 2018. 

The White Paper will contain priorities, recommendations to improve revenue generation, collection and operations and the efficient use of our tax dollars. 

The Budget Advocates take on the arduous task and spend hundreds of hours in meetings with city department and agency General Managers, and senior staff to learn, study and analyze their departments' strategic plans, operations, budget proposals and then develop recommendations. 

The Budget Advocates will next meet with and present our findings to the City Council Budget & Finance Committee followed by a presentation to the full City Council in the coming months. 

Please contact me if you wish to receive a copy of the Budget Advocates White Paper.or more information on the white paper please visit, track our progress while we wait to see how our Los Angeles City Mayor responds.

(Adrienne Nicole Edwards is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. She can be reached at: 


NEIGHBORHOODS--From the Middle East conflicts to an incredibly divided America, religion plays a most important part in our politics and our lives … and prompts me to tell you about Venice’s Open Temple. 

I was raised until I was 10 years old in the Beverly-Fairfax area of Los Angeles. We affectionately referred to it as The Borscht Belt due to the Eastern European origins of the vast majority of its inhabitants. At 10, my upwardly mobile parents decided to move to Northridge in the northwest end of the San Fernando Valley. It was only then that I found out the rest of the world was not Jewish. 

My family wasn't religious. In fact, I wasn't even bar mitzvahed, when I turned 13. But the pervasive secular liberal Jewish culture that surrounded me, my family, and most of our friends exposed me to a unique way of looking at life- whether expressed in humor, politics or fundamental ideas of fairness- that has continued to manifest itself throughout my life with its roots in the ancient Jewish religion. 

But the dilemma that has always faced the Jews and other ethnicities that value their cultural identities of origin- be it religious or secular- is how can we maintain these religions and cultures and yet integrate ourselves into the dominant amalgamated American culture that up until recently has continued to make America great- again and again- by incorporating that which is best in its component peoples? 

If the key for our or any specie's continued viability is to continue to evolve, this unique American heterogeneous cultural integration mechanism that takes the best of what all our tribes have brought to America seems to have served our survival rather well. So, why have our religions remained so segregated? 

Up until I recently experienced going to Open Temple in Venice, I found that organized religion in general pretty much saw itself as right and other religions or atheists and agnostics as being wrong- even if the G-d of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims is historically the same G-d. 

Open Temple in Venice, CA, is a nascent example of a community that responds to these concerns. An engagement model for "the Jew-ishly curious and those who love us," Open Temple utilizes the mosaic of Los Angeles to breathe life into the Moses of the Bible. In recent services, Muslims and LAPD officers played the roles of G-d, Abraham, and Sarah during the Torah service. A local homeless man "disrupted" the performance artist "playing homeless" as a chastening of the Torah reading's view on expulsion (both men were hired by the rabbi for this interaction). And words from Hamilton's "My Shot" were re-written for the Yom Kippur confessional prayer. 

The community is spearheaded by its founding rabbi Lori Schneide Shapiro who also serves as the community's artistic director. She views Judaism through the lens of a pragmatic spiritual aesthetic designing her approach to melding traditional Jewish ideas with how they now can be applied to making sense in the 21st century. 

Like me, Rabbi Lori grew up with no Jewish identity or upbringing, until as a young adult she traveled around the States and the Middle East in search of meaning and found her Jewish light.

Open Temple is the realization of the constant dream she has had since that discovery of what she calls her Jewish light. She wanted to create a place where people could explore their spirituality through creativity. Rabbi Lori believes that Torah is the blueprint for us to do so. When she moved into Venice, it was clear that there was no community with which to share this vision, so she has created it with Open Temple. 

Rabbi Lori met with community organizers, like One Voice L.A. to learn how to organize. She began a grass roots effort collecting names at the Abbot Kinney Festival and meeting people in house talks and coffee dates. Today Open Temple has over 2000 people on its mailing list and has had over 1000 active participants since September 2016.

As Rabbi Lori points out, "Venice is going through a time of exciting and extreme change. Open Temple seeks to be a forum curating spiritual conversation, where people on all sides can feel safe and enter into the conversation. WE are holding space for community engagement and pluralsim; we will never discriminate based on point of view and seek to unify 'old' and 'new' Venice as we go through this adaptive change." 

Coincidentally with being taken to Open Temple by a friend, I just happened to finish reading an excellent book entitled A History of the Jews in the Modern World by Howard M. Sachar. One of the many many ideas that Sachar deals with in the book is that of Mordecai Kaplan, who developed Judaism not as a theology or legal system, but rather as a "civilization." 

Was it just a coincidence that Rabbi Lori is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College founded by Mordecai Kaplan disciples, whose work is foundational to Rabbi Lori's perspective, mission, and thought? 

Check out Open Temple if at least part of you is Jewishly inclined. Who knows, you might just find your bashert- spiritual or incarnate ... or maybe even both. 

Open Temple House 

1422 Electric Ave.

Venice, CA

(310) 821-1414


(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at Leonard can be reached at


BELL VIEW--I moved to Los Angeles from Chicago in the late-90s. Chicago – or most of it – is much more traditionally “urban” than LA. In fact, when I first came here, LA’s tree-lined streets and single family homes so confused me that I decided to move downtown. At least that part of town felt like a “city.” And I’ve always been a city kid.

At the time, about the only places to walk to in my new neighborhood were Bloom’s General Store and Al’s Bar. Bloom’s sold cigarettes and cereal – pretty much my steady diet at the time – and Al’s was a crazy cave covered in graffiti where you could grab a beer, shoot a game of pool, and maybe watch The Imperial Butt Wizards set fire to the place.

Al’s is gone, and Bloom’s is now a gourmet pie place where a slice of rhubarb and arugula crumble will set you back seven bucks. Clean, bright, happy-looking, beautiful, young urban elites now stroll the same streets where the homeless once pushed shopping carts and urban tumble weeds once rolled. Hipsters nibble on rattlesnake sausages and browse numbingly-precious displays of Japanese origami greeting cards. 

Is it better than it was? Sure. I suppose. Don’t get me wrong, I like line-caught yellowfin tuna carpaccio with locally-harvested micro greens and lemon sea foam as much as the next guy. But Al’s is gone. Gone forever. And with it a little bit of what made LA different from anyplace else in the world. 

After a year downtown, I dumped my lease and moved to a one bedroom apartment in Los Feliz. Rent set me back $630 a month – which sometimes I could barely scrape out of the couch cushions – and it was in this place I first fell in love with Los Angeles. 

And I think I need to make something clear at this point: I don’t love LA; I’m in love with LA. There’s a difference. I love New Orleans, New York City, and the Hollywood Bowl. Whenever I go to these places, I have a swell time. I don’t have any issues, no complaints. But LA drives me crazy most of the time. LA’s like a bi-polar girlfriend with a gambling problem. You never know whether she’s going to scare the crap out of you or take your breath away; and she’ll push your mother down the stairs for a dollar. But don’t anybody else talk smack about her, and don’t tell me she’s not the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. That’s what being in love feels like. 

When I moved to Los Feliz for the first time, the people in the neighborhood used to think of the place as a “village,” and it fit the bill. The heart of Los Feliz Village in the late 90s was the Onyx Café, where they dealt in bitter coffee, stale muffins, surly cashiers, and real conversation. They stayed open as long as people wanted to keep talking, and they didn’t care if you ever actually bought a cup of coffee. The homeless sat across from film students and talked about Kurosawa. Artists, actors, busboys, novelists, and nurses sat alone or in groups, talked to each other, met each other, had coffee, listened to music, and wandered home together or alone in the blue LA night. 

It was a beautiful, real place – a place like no other anywhere – and it’s gone. Gone forever.

Oh the kids these days! They don’t know what they missed. Los Feliz doesn’t feel so much like a village any more. The Onyx is a snooty French café and down the street, ex-frat boys from Michigan with their hats turned backwards chug expensive beer and scream at big-screen TVs. The kids today want housing. In particular, they want density in close proximity to transit. It’s practically a mantra. There’s no denying the law of supply and demand will have a downward pressure on sky-high rents – but will the addition of new housing bring back the days of the $630 one bedroom apartment in Los Feliz? 

No. Those deals are as dead and gone as the Hollywood Star Lanes, where the Coen Brothers shot the Big Lebowski, and which was torn down in 2002 to make way for an elementary school.

Is there room in this new Los Angeles for the likes of Al’s Bar, the Onyx, or the Hollywood Star Lanes? Nah. The new LA is slick, and shiny, and looks a lot like a corporate office park without the parking. The old LA – at least this is what we always told ourselves – was arguably the most diverse city in the world. Will the new LA be as diverse? Don’t count on it. The immigrant families who’ve managed to educate their children in rent-controlled apartments in neighborhoods like Echo Park and East Hollywood know the “affordable housing” coming to their neighborhoods has no room for them. Generational stakeholders in Boyle Heights are fighting against the intrusion of art galleries – which they rightly see as the thin edge of the wedge of gentrification. Wait till they get a load of what CIM Group has in store for them. 

It’s odd to watch the very young stand up for the rights of billionaires and bankers in their own backyards. I never thought I’d say this, but what is wrong with the kids these days?


(David Bell is a writer, attorney, former president of the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council and writes for CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

CULTURAL DISCONNECT?--No industry is more identified with Southern California than entertainment. Yet, in the past, the industry’s appeal has lain in identifying with the always-changing values and mythos of American society. But, today, that connection is being undermined, not just by technology, but also by a seemingly self-conscious decision to sever the industry’s links with roughly half of the population. 

This was painfully obvious during the Oscars — the penultimate event of the seemingly endless award season — when speaker after speaker decided to spend their moments of fame denouncing President Donald Trump. For all his personal failings, and often misguided policies, most Republicans and independents disapprove of the relentless Trump bashing in the media. 

Hollywood’s decision to make itself part of the anti-Trump resistance would make for wonderful satire, if you could get it on film. Imagine feminist icon Emma Watson fighting for “women’s empowerment” while baring her breasts in Vanity Fair. Or a host of social justice warriors, like Meryl Streep, demanding justice for the dispossessed, then returning to their estates where these victims of Trumpism are not likely to be found outside the servants’ quarters. 

The results also have a hard side: dismal ratings, down from a traditional viewership of 40 million to a mere 32 million, following a pattern that has seen it slide badly the last three years. Most Trump voters turned off the political speeches, notes one survey. But the Academy had other ways to show its contempt for its customers: None of the 10 largest grossing movies, notes USA Today’s Mitch Albom, got nominated for best picture, best actor or actress, or for supporting roles. 

The everyman era 

The preference of sophisticated opinion may be quintessential to Europe’s boutique film industry, but the blending of popular tastes with art has long propelled Hollywood’s historical success. This separation between audience and the Academy was not always the case. Films like “Gone with the Wind” (1939), “Around the World in 80 Days” (1956), “Ben-Hur” (1959), “The Sound of Music” (1965), “The Godfather” (1972), “Forest Gump” (1994) and “Titanic” (1997) all managed to be both blockbusters and best picture winners. 

Hollywood, wrote author Leo Rosten in 1940, was “the very embodiment” of “magic success,” allowing a truck driver to dream of being a hero, or a small-town waitress “to compare herself to a movie queen.” Hollywood was Middle American to the core, which appealed not just to our own audiences, but also to those around the world. 

In a political sense, Hollywood connected with Americans across the ideological spectrum. During the contentious 1930s, Hollywood could accommodate both the conservative myth of the loner — Gary Cooper and John Wayne — and also produce powerful dramas that touched on issues of class and inequality, such as “Our Daily Bread” (1934), “How Green Was My Valley” (1941) and “The Grapes of Wrath” (1940). 

Some progressive-leaning films were written by people who were later “blacklisted” during the McCarthy era, a tragedy that deprived the industry of some of its greatest talents. The industry instead favored biblical epochs like “Quo Vadis” (1951) as well as innocuous comedies starring the likes of Doris Day. 

“It was boy meets girl, lives happily ever after,” recalled former Los Angeles and Orange County Republican Congressman Bob Dornan, who grew up during this time. “There were clear-cut heroes and villains. Nazis torturing little old ladies, John Wayne landing on the beaches. … America was the bearer, the hope of the world.” 

New closets and old 

In the early 1980s, when Dornan was wistfully reminiscing, things were already changing. As his uncle, Jack Haley Sr., best known for playing the Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), grumbled, “The gays have come out of the closet and the conservatives have gotten in.” 

Like the blacklist, the closeting of gays was shameful. But now, particularly after Trump’s election, there’s a new kind of exclusion that marginalizes all but progressive thinking, with conservatives, as one put it, threatened with being “excommunicated from the church of tolerance.” 

Few, even most conservatives, don’t want a return to the self-censorship of the 1950s. It’s simply time to call a moratorium on ceaseless hectoring. Shows with edgy themes packaged in comedy and irony, like “Modern Family,” can still do well with a mass market, but there’s a limited audience for openly activist-driven programs like ABC’s miniseries “When We Rise.” 

A critical economic issue 

This is occurring as overall ticket sales are down to a century low and employment is, for the most part, stagnant. The television industry has also declined in the face of internet-based services, cord-cutting millennials and social media. There is also more competition, both from abroad and within the United States. In 1980, Hollywood employed three-quarters of all movie personnel. Now, as much as 80 percent of film starts take place elsewhere, taking many jobs along with them. 

How the creative industries — responsible for upwards of 700,000 jobs statewide, most of them in Southern California — addresses these issues is critical at a time when we have lost ground to other areas in fields from high-tech to manufacturing and business services. But, to revive fully, the Southern California cultural industry needs to once again speak to the aspirations of most Americans, not just the enlightened sophistos on the coasts. To leave people in Middle America, particularly in their 50s and above, watching reruns of old programs is not exactly a great business strategy for future growth.


Joel Kotkin is the R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism ( Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ECONOMIES OF PLACE-This time of year, the swallows return to Capistrano, and I return to my birthplace, San Francisco, for the city’s annual pre-budget finance conference. For the last few years I have kicked things off with an economic outlook for the coming year, replete with a discussion of risks. This being San Francisco, naturally, I had to talk about the high costs of housing as one of the risks to continued economic growth. 

On my way home, I thought of an SAT exam-like question. One of these things is not like the others: San Francisco, Cleveland, Hong Kong, Sydney, and Vancouver. I am going to take a wild guess and say that you, the reader, have chosen Cleveland. 

You are right. But why? After all, Cleveland rocks, but just not in the same way as the other cities. One of the many ways it is different is in the cost of living. Demographia’s just-released 2017 affordability study has Cleveland as one of the most affordable cities for housing, and each of the other cities in my SAT question as among the least affordable. 

This suggests something important about the affordability crisis that has not, but really should, enter the discussion of housing affordability: The cities that we find most attractive are cities where housing is “unaffordable.” In other words, the affordable housing crisis is not just about a lack of housing supply. 

In my current city, Los Angeles, one hears over and over again that everyone is leaving because no one can afford to live here. This talk reminds me of the Yogi Berra homily, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” Of course, exactly the opposite is true, and that truth is what should guide us in our housing policy. 

The oft-made mistake is to suggest that housing is expensive because, as Demographia incorrectly puts it in their report, “Studies do not leave the slightest doubt that unaffordable housing is almost everywhere and every time caused by the same factor: housing supply restrictions.” Well, these “studies,” some of which are by very thoughtful people, leave plenty of doubt, and some of their authors ought to go back to Econ 101. Prices are not just a supply phenomenon but are rather an interaction between supply, what is available for sale, and demand, what people want to buy. 

Clearly the people who live in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and other cities on Demographia’s list of cities with an affordability crisis could afford to live there. They just paid a larger portion of their income to do so. They could have moved to a more affordable place to live -- Cleveland, for example. So those who say that housing prices are unaffordable are saying that, at lower prices, there would be more demand than supply. Let’s explore the implications of this. 

Cleveland is so affordable because many people find it less desirable (think “lake effect” blizzards.) Indeed, half the population of Cleveland left over the past 50 years. The housing stock is more than ample for the people who want to live there. Which reminds me of the time I interviewed for a job in Buffalo, New York, right after graduation. Part of the pitch was, “Buffalo is a great place. It is so depressed that you can afford a really good house.” Somehow this did not seem like an endorsement of a community I wanted to move to. 

In my current city, Los Angeles, one hears over and over again that everyone is leaving because no one can afford to live here. This talk reminds me of the Yogi Berra homily, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”  Of course, exactly the opposite is true … 

The reason San Francisco is different is that it is a wonderful place to live. The scenery is spectacular, the climate mild, cultural amenities are abundant, and in a very short time one can be in the Sierra for some incredible winter sports or at Mavericks for world-class surfing. 

Edward Glaeser, in his towering work on urban economies, The Triumph of the City, said “vitality makes people willing to pay for space.” Glaeser, like many other urban economists, argues for more building, but the point repeatedly made by those who study urban migration is that exciting innovation (documented by UC Berkeley economist Enrico Moretti), natural amenities such as beaches, mountains, and lakes (documented in the “superstar cities” study of Goyurko, Sinai, Mayer), and cultural amenities (as oft described by economist Richard Florida) attract people from declining to successful cities. 

To be sure, San Francisco is not to everyone’s taste; some prefer the charm of a Louisiana bayou, and others the silence of a Minnesota winter. But given the housing stock, many more people want to live in San Francisco than can. An estimate in a 2015 paper by Moretti and the University of Chicago’s Chang-Tai Hsieh found that more affordable housing could increase San Francisco’s population by 100 percent or more. So there exists significant demand for San Francisco housing that a moderate change in zoning and building standards will not correct. 

The population growth Hsieh and Moretti found means that today’s locals in places where people want to live are going to have to write a check for the infrastructure to support them. This is an old story in a place like California. In 1967, one of Ronald Reagan’s first acts as governor was to increase taxes dramatically, giving us Californians the highly progressive income tax system we enjoy today, and that Republicans everywhere rail against. The reason? Large-scale migration to the state had caused his predecessor, Pat Brown, to build infrastructure to support a burgeoning population, and as a result the state was running a structural deficit. 

So what’s happening in San Francisco -- or Seattle or Austin, or any number of popular places where the cost of living is rising -- is the market system doing its thing. The market increases prices to ration the available land through the cost of housing. And people economize on their consumption of housing by living in smaller quarters, sharing with roommates, or stacking up generations. And for some, the price is not worth the value they would receive, and they leave. That is how any market rationalizes differences between supply and demand. 

What about those who are squeezed out of California (such as my kids, who moved to Colorado)? The Dad in me says, “That’s horrible, I want them down the block from me.” But the economist in me says, “They do not value what Los Angeles has, relative to their life in a small town in Colorado, enough to sacrifice other things for it.” Resources, when scarce, are appropriately allocated according to their value to those consuming them. 

And what about our schoolteachers, firemen, police, and city officials who struggle to live in the high-priced cities where they work? Here is the rub. When a place is really attractive and therefore really expensive -- take Santa Barbara -- many who perform valuable services live elsewhere, like in Ventura, 90 minutes away during rush hour. 

Instead of wringing our hands about affordability in high-demand places, and trying to build enough to meet a worldwide demand that is difficult to satiate, we should be saying, “Great, we have a really successful city, but we also want to have a city with certain professional, service, and demographic characteristics,” and design housing policy targeted to that. For example, Santa Clara County built high-quality affordable housing that it rents to schoolteachers. It is a small program, but it is a good start. What doesn’t work are overly broad measures, such as directing developers to make 20 percent of their units affordable in exchange for building permits. Such policies generate homes for only a very few San Franciscans (while attracting ever-more newcomers who want to live there.) 

That is not to say we should ignore affordability. We definitely must pay attention to affordability, as we plan the cities we want to live in. But in doing so, we must pay attention not only to whether we have enough housing supply but also to the nature of the demand in places where people want to live. If we ignore demand, we risk creating urban nightmares -- of crowding, traffic, long commutes, and ill health -- in pursuit of a successful and affordable city.


(Jerry Nickelsburg, an economist at UCLA Anderson School of Management, writes the Pacific Economist column. He would love to hear from you at or via Twitter @jnickelsburg. This piece originally appeared in Zocalo Public Square.) prepped for City Watch by Linda Abrams.

TRUMP’S AMERICA-Latinos in Los Angeles are making dramatically fewer reports of rape and domestic violence amid a climate of fear over increased immigration enforcement, according to the city’s Police Chief Charlie Beck. 

Since the beginning of 2017, reports of rape among the city’s Latino population have declined by 25 percent, compared to the same period last year. Domestic violence reports have dropped nearly 10 percent. According to statistics provided by the Los Angeles Police Department, no other ethnic group experienced a comparable decrease.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Beck (photo right) said there was a “strong correlation” between the Trump administration’s new immigration rules, which empower federal agents to more aggressively deport those without documentation regardless of whether they’ve committed a serious crime, and the deflated numbers.

“Imagine a young woman—imagine your daughter, sister, mother, your friend—not reporting a sexual assault because they are afraid that their family will be torn apart,” he said during an appearance with Mayor Eric Garcetti. 

The Pew Research Center estimates that the Los Angeles metro area has one million undocumented immigrants, more than any other area in the country except New York. In a press release, the LAPD cautioned that while “there is no direct evidence that the decline is related to concerns within the Hispanic community regarding immigration, the department believes deportation fears may be preventing Hispanic members of the community from reporting when they are victimized.” 

The statement echoes what advocates and criminal justice experts have long been warning ― that Trump’s immigration crackdown may erode trust between immigrants and law enforcement, with devastating consequences.  

“We have entire communities of people feeling like it’s no longer safe or feasible for them to report crime,” said Jacquie Marroquin, director of programs for the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.  

She said local domestic violence organizations in Los Angeles have been flooded with calls and emails since Trump’s immigration policies were announced, spiking after an undocumented woman was arrested while seeking a domestic violence protective order. The woman now faces up to 10 years in prison. 

Victims who are undocumented may not feel like they can go to police or appear in court without running the risk of deportation, she said. That means that traditional routes to safety ― filing for a protection order, pursuing criminal charges ― are now out of reach. 

“We have heard of cases of survivors dropping cases all together,” Marroquin said. “Survivors are more concerned about their safety from ICE and law enforcement than their safety from the person who is hurting them.” 

She gave an example of an undocumented domestic violence victim in LA who has a protective order against her abuser, but is now too afraid to report violations to police, putting her in extreme danger. Another victim expressed fear at having to go to the police department to pick up her toddler as part as her child custody agreement. 

“They are reading about ICE hanging out in courthouses,” she said. “That sends a chilling effect to survivors who are thinking about going to the courts to seek relief.” 

If victims and witnesses are too scared to cooperate in criminal investigations, it can make it hard for prosecutors to hold perpetrators accountable ― placing entire communities at risk. In Denver, City Attorney Kristin Bronson said that four cases involving domestic violence were dropped as victims were afraid of being arrested if they testified. 

“Domestic violence, sexual violence, abuse exist in the shadows,” Marroquin said. “When folks don’t feel like they can come forward and bring these issues into the light, it forces them to remain in harmful situations.”  

(Melissa Jeltsen covers domestic violence and issues related to women’s health, safety and security at Huff Post …where this piece was first posted.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ALPERN AT LARGE--The City and County of Los Angeles are moving away from liberalism, and even beyond progressivism, to the extent that a social engineering project is being rammed down the throats of even the most open-minded of civic leaders.  And woe be unto those who dare speak truth to power, or to at least point out the sky is blue, and that the late George Orwell had a few good points. (Photo above: Couple fighting over parking space.) 

Speaking as one of the "useful idiots" guilty of wanting more mobility for Angelenos to improve their quality of life, we now have a culture where we just don't need any conservatives, moderates and/or Republicans telling us how to live our lives when we've got such a wonderful group of mega-lefties that are more than happy to tell us how to live our lives, instead: 

Myth #1: The Expo Line, the Gold Lines, and all the other lines were meant to megadensify LA. 

Urban infill is good.  Elegant density is good.  Transit-oriented housing is good.  Affordable housing is good.  Neighborhood preservation--and even betterment--is very good. 

But the Expo Line is a cute little trolley meant to offer an alternative to the I-10 freeway, and effectively added a lane or two each way on that horrible gridlocked highway.  Ditto for the Green Line and the I-105 freeway, and for all the freeway alternatives that the Orange and Gold Lines had to offer. 

Encouraging a capacity of overdevelopment--and anything BUT affordable housing and transit-oriented development--is now the name of the game. 

We could easily define affordable and transit-oriented development.  There's Senior Affordable, Student Affordable, and Workforce Affordable housing that all are great for the middle and lower socioeconomic classes and can reduce traffic and enhance our lives.  We could also define what differentiates "transit-oriented" versus "transit-adjacent" development. 

But we don't--because our pols and Planning gurus coddle developers who build market-level, car-oriented, and gentrifying developments that make a mockery of all they say, and what we demand. 

Myth #2--Car commuters are ruthless monsters bent on destroying us all! 

You know who uses their cars?  Most if not virtually all of our political leaders, the leadership of Metro and other transit agencies, and virtually all transit advocates (and kudos to those few mensches who practice what they preach!). 

As for me, I use my car because I live in West LA and work in underserved middle/lower-economic class neighborhoods in Orange and Riverside County. 

My wife uses her car for our children's needs and for groceries--they need transportation to schools too far to walk to, and we need food and household items too small to carry on a bus or train. 

And very, very few (I'm a big exception) transit advocates have children who are still minors, if they have any children at all!  The needs of children (parks, bus/train safety) and women with small children (or even women without children) are ignored by the transit world dominated by childless males ... although a few of us have children who we see will gladly use the train/Uber/Lyft over the car. 

There's no reason to not do anything in our power to allow other options to the car...for all of us.  But to demonize and arm-twist and belittle and besmirch ALL car drivers is rather obtuse, arrogant, and just downright unfair.   

And, in the same vein, demeaning homeowners who "have it so easy" in single-family neighborhoods isn't very kind, either.  But then again, the social engineers think that God (if they believe in God) is on their side, and they won't be disabused from their monopoly as the Wizards of Truth. 

Myth #3--Parking is BAD...very BAD...and always leads to BAD THINGS! 

Don't worry about ISIS and Donald Trump folks it's that neighbor's parking that'll getcha! 

You know, that parking in front of his/her house that YOU feel YOU deserve as a renter who makes less than him/her, and because he/she MUST have had it easier to buy that home because of Proposition 13...even they're in their 30's or 40's? 

You know, that parking next to the supermarkets and restaurants that are always full and in such short supply, and which forces you to hunt for parking in adjacent single-family neighborhoods, and which forces those neighborhoods to be "the mean streets" by establishing preferred parking districts, and which leads to a host of City parking tickets coming to a windshield near you? 

I could count time after time after countless time we've demanded that parking not be free, but the theology of "Parking is the Domain of the Prince of Darkness" and "the Car is the Anti-Christ" would be much easier to believe if:

 a) We could find a way to ensure that unbundled parking and apartments would ensure that apartment renters not purchasing a parking space would NOT be allowed to purchase a car that would, inevitably, be parked on someone else's hard-earned property.

 b) We could find a way to allow families with small or other minor children and/or seniors to actually survive without a car.

 c) We could create senior and student housing developments that would make it silly to purchase a car.

 d) We could find a way for families to buy family-sized grocery purchases without a car.

 e) We could find an economic model for suburban businesses to thrive without parking.

 f) We could get developers to pay for the same amount of transit amenities that they would have to pay for parking, so that they don't weasel out of their legal infrastructure/mitigation requirements in the name of being "environmentally sensitive". 

So we can all continue to be "useful idiots" and help those presiding over a gentrified LA City and County that leads to a further widening of the income gap between rich and poor, and which destroys the lives and dreams of the vanishing middle class, or we could consider treating urban planning and transportation planning like a science ... 

... and not a faith-based theology.


(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 CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)


CALBUZZ--President Donald Trump’s approval rating, just 39% nationwide, is an anemic 31% in California, according to the latest survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. At the same time, Gov. Jerry Brown, who has sharply criticized Trump on immigration, health care and the environment, enjoys a 58% approval rating at home.

And while Trump has tightened restrictions on travel from majority-Muslim countries and amped up immigration controls at the U.S. border, 58% of Californians disapprove of the president’s travel ban and a whopping 68% of California adults say undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship.

To say California is another country is an understatement.

California Exceptionalism. Trump’s low approval ratings in California, about the same as they were in January, are held up only by the 82% of Republicans who approve of his performance: a staggering 91% of Democrats and 57% of independents disapprove. And while whites (45%) and men (39%) are more likely than women (24%) to approve of Trump, the president does even worse among Latinos (17%) and blacks (16%).

It’s a pathetic showing for the Narcissist in Chief in California where just 26% of voters are registered as Republicans (compared to 45% as Democrats and 24% as independents) and where Democrat Hillary Clinton won the November 2016 popular vote by nearly 3.7 million votes – 8,720,417 to 5,048,398.

Compared to the nearly seven in 10 Californians who say undocumented immigrants should have a legal path to citizenship, just 15% say they should be required to leave. A strong majority of Californians (68%) say that undocumented immigrants living in the US should be allowed to stay and eventually apply for citizenship. An overwhelming majority of Democrats (82%) and a solid majority of independents (62%) want a pathway to citizenship. But so too does a plurality of Republicans – 46%

If the Trump administration intends to round up undocumented immigrants and deport them, it will be against the wishes of the people of California, An even larger statewide majority (72%) is opposed to Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southern U.S. border, an idea supported by just 25% of California adults.

With his 58% approval rating and with 55% of Californians saying the state is headed in the right direction, Gov. Brown is well positioned to rebuke Trump’s attempts to build his border wall in California or – if he should try it — to use California National Guard troops for border security or immigration control.

(Jerry Roberts is a California journalist who writes, blogs and hosts a TV talk show about politics, policy and media. Phil Trounstine is the former political editor of the San Jose Mercury News, former communications director for California Gov. Gray Davis and was the founder and director of the Survey and Policy Research Institute at San Jose State University. This piece appeared originally in CalBuzz.)


GELFAND’S WORLD--There is a tradition on the internet that the use of analogies to Hitler and the Nazis are disqualifying. This unofficial rule was originally stated by Mike Godwin back in 1990 and is known colloquially as Godwin's Law. That tradition may now be obsolete, having been surpassed by current events. In a talk this week, distinguished historian and author Timothy Snyder rejected our hesitancy to discuss the Nazis and the holocaust, particularly with respect to the way that Hitler's rise parallels much of what we are seeing in the American political landscape. He paints a grim picture of the methods that turn democracies into tyrannies, but offers lessons by which to resist the process and to survive if possible. 

His book On Tyranny is subtitled Twenty lessons from the twentieth century. It's a mere 126 pages from cover to cover and physically small enough to fit in your jacket pocket. Snyder points out that what has just happened in America parallels what happened in Ukraine just a few years earlier. A giant campaign of disinformation originating in a foreign power was used to attempt to affect a national election. As Snyder explains, the foreign power is Russia, and the plan was effective in America. The Ukrainians were better able to resist the Russian propaganda campaign. 

Snyder spoke to a packed crowd at Writers Bloc on Tuesday night. If the audience reaction suggests anything, it is that On Tyranny is going to be read by lots of people and will become, alongside the Indivisible guide, the manual for how to deal with the Trump years. Snyder's book is darker and more ominous, making the Indivisible guide seem optimistic by comparison. His analysis and the accompanying corollaries are chilling. 

As Snyder explains both in person and through his book, the situation in the United States under the new presidency goes beyond mere electoral misfortune. It is regime change. What Snyder means by that term is developed more fully in the book, but comes down to the idea that our idea of American democracy is not inevitably destined to survive. The process is not automatic. Other western democracies failed, turning into dictatorships during the 1930s and '40s. We've taken a dangerous first step. 

I'll mention just a few of the twenty lessons. 

Lesson one says, "Do not obey in advance." It seems obvious, but it isn't. As Snyder points out, people tend to follow along and even anticipate what will be expected of them. I'll quote the lesson in its entirety: 

"Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked. A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do." 

Snyder expands and explains the lesson through the history of how Nazi rule arose out of a free election, bit by bit gobbling up the institutions that might have withstood Hitler but ultimately failed. 

Lesson Ten says, "Believe in truth." Here is the expanded description: "To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights." 

The idea isn't new; it's something that most ethical journalists treat as an implicit assumption. But putting Believe in Truth right up there as an explicit principle is something that we need. If nothing else, it is a statement to the opposition who have accepted Trump's big lie campaign as, if nothing else, amusing. It's time that we remind Trump followers that truth is something that matters. 

Some of the lessons are more appropriate to people who live in already-fascist countries. "Make eye contact and small talk." 

Snyder summarizes a point that has occurred to many of us. When Donald Trump attempted to blame any future terrorist attack on federal judges who uphold the Constitution and civil rights, it was a first step towards preparing the American people to turn against their fellow citizens and to accept significant loss of freedom. Snyder says, "Be calm when the unthinkable arrives . . . When the terrorist attack comes, remember that authoritarians exploit such events in order to consolidate power." Snyder develops the argument by referring to the 1933 fire that burned the German Reichstag (the parliament building). Hitler used the fire to blame his enemies, tear down the authority of legitimate institutions, and consolidate power in himself. 

Notice that there is a tendency for the reviewer (either the person who interviewed Snyder at Writers Bloc or yours truly) to take up one's favorite lessons from the book and quote them. I suspect that a lot of people will be doing this in the near future. I happen to like "Be kind to our language" and "Stand out." The former was explored by George Orwell. The latter is the warning that because there are some philosophies and movements that you should not follow, there are times when you should not be a follower. 

One thread in these arguments is a little jarring, so there is an argument that has to be made explicitly. As mentioned above, Snyder brought it up and discussed it at Writers Bloc. The issue is using the history of the holocaust in present day discussions about present day politics. 

The counterargument has some merit. The Nazi holocaust was such supreme evil that it stands out against most other human history. Snyder points out that treating the holocaust as unique and not to be spoken of lightly has a certain validity. But he then argues that if we treat the holocaust as a sort of sacred subject that is out of bounds for use in comparisons, then how can we use it to extract lessons for the present day? Timothy Snyder is ready and willing to compare the onset of the Trump presidency to the rise of Adolph Hitler. 

It turns out that Snyder is not alone in rejecting the underlying tenets of Godwin's Law, at least for one tongue in cheek statement in the Urban Dictionary


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


FIRST PERSON--Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently called marijuana use a “life-wrecking dependency” that is “only slightly less awful” than heroin.


If that were true, maybe my little brother would be alive.

I don’t know the full story of my brother’s drug use. He kept it a careful secret from our family. I can only piece together the details from his autopsy and what his friends told me after his death.

My brother had a severe anxiety disorder, with daily panic attacks. If you’ve never had one, all you need to know is that people often respond to their first panic attack by calling 911 because it feels like they’re dying.

He went through that every day.

In a better world, he would’ve gone to therapy and sought appropriate medical help. But he didn’t. Deep down, he thought he was so awful that all a therapist would do was confirm that he was a repulsive freak who deserved no love. He couldn’t face that.

As a teenager, he found a Band-Aid for his anxiety: marijuana.

It wasn’t healthy. It didn’t address the root of his problems. But it provided some comfort and it got him through the day.

He smoked pot for years. He preferred it to alcohol, although he drank too. His friends told me he dabbled in other drugs as well. But mostly he liked marijuana.

In his first year of college, he was arrested for marijuana possession. He was given two years of probation and kicked out of school. That probably didn’t improve his prospects any.

At age 23, my brother did heroin for the third time in his life. His friends knew, but our family did not. He didn’t answer his phone for five days after that. Then his landlord found his body.

I’ve known people who use marijuana recreationally and medicinally for years. I’ve known cancer patients who rely on it to quell their nausea over the months I’ve watched their bodies waste away.

I had a friend who smoked it daily while double majoring at an elite university and then reduced his habit while pursuing a PhD at Stanford.

I know people who smoke it casually and rarely, just for fun, but with no interruption to their lives.

And I’ve known people who don’t smoke at all, but suffer from alcoholism, slowly killing themselves legally.

The people I’ve observed who had pot habits that harmed their lives all had underlying problems, like my brother’s anxiety. Their drug use was a symptom. They needed treatment, not punishment.

Many others used pot either medicinally, to relieve nausea, anxiety, or pain, or they used it recreationally without much interruption to their daily lives.

One could smoke an entire field of marijuana, as my brother probably did, without dying from an overdose.

The same could not be said of heroin, which killed 13,000 Americans in 2015.

My baby brother, my best friend in the world, a kid who was hurting so bad on the inside he was looking to anything he could find to relieve his pain, died alone in his favorite chair, just the third time he ever tried heroin.

My brother would’ve had a hard road ahead if he’d lived. He needed years of therapy, and recovery would’ve been painful and difficult.

But the same isn’t necessarily true of others. Each person who relieves pain with marijuana instead of opiates takes a path that won’t lead to a debilitating addiction and potentially a deadly overdose.

The attorney general is wrong. Pot is a relatively mild and harmless drug compared to deadly, addictive heroin. Treating users like criminals is a threat to their safety — and so is perpetuating the lie that some drugs are no less harmful than others.

(Jill Richardson is an OtherWords columnist and is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. Distributed by


PERSPECTIVE--A recent poll showed Donald Trump’s approval rating at 37 percent. This compares unfavorably with every president since pollsters started tracking these attitudes. Those on the left are gleefully pointing to these numbers as proof that many who voted for Trump are experiencing buyer’s remorse. Those on the right are dismissing the poll results as fake news. 

That 37 percent is meaningful for another reason. It represents, more or less, the hardcore Trump supporters. Probably about a third of Americans will believe, buy and blindly endorse anything and everything they are told by Fox News, alt-right websites, and anyone working for the White House propaganda machine. 

Last year, at the time of the Republican national convention, I read a lengthy Q & A with operatives from the campaigns of three of Trump’s primary season opponents -- Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush. The major takeaway was that Trump started his campaign with a solid base of about one-quarter of the Republican electorate. 

One of those interviewed talked about daily polling done by his campaign organization which showed that this base never wavered. It didn’t matter what Trump said or did, these voters were with him. The campaign managers all said they expected Trump would finally step over the line and his support would fade. That never happened. 

In January 2016, Trump said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voters, O.K.? It’s, like, incredible.” He was talking about the loyalty of his supporters. He wasn’t kidding. Thanks to that loyalty, Trump always had a head start on his rivals for the Republican nomination. It was an advantage he understood and exploited to maximum advantage. 

It’s an advantage he’s still exploiting. That’s why he’s out on the campaign trail again, giving speeches in places such as Florida and Kentucky, where he can turn out a friendly crowd. Don’t expect to see him in Los Angeles anytime soon. 

Who are these people, the 37 percent? Typically, they are more rural than urban. They are less educated. They tend to be less well off in economic terms. A large number of them are socially conservative and, considering Trump’s life story, surprisingly religious. More than anything else, they are white. 

Much is made of Trump’s popularity in small towns. Most everywhere in America, small town means white. Congressman Steve King of Iowa recently praised Dutch anti-immigrant politician Geert Wilders, tweeting, “Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” 

A lot of commentators condemned King’s statement. King didn’t think it was a big deal and said many of his Congressional colleagues congratulated him on his words. His district in Iowa is 97 percent white. Trump took about 61 percent of the vote there. 

For all the talk about economics and making America great again, it’s hard not to conclude that a large chunk of Trump’s believers are motivated by racism. Go to places like northwestern Iowa and ask people if they are racist. Almost all will say no. Ask them if that means they would accept their child marrying a person of another color and you will be met with stony silence. Or maybe you’ll be run out of town. 

Democrats talk about needing to develop a message about jobs and revitalizing the manufacturing economy as a tool to reach voters in small towns in the heart of America. What these politicos really need to understand is that it will never work. For too many outside the big cities, Democrat is a dirty word. Whether it’s one of three or one of four, there will always be a hard core of the electorate for whom skin color beats all other considerations. 

(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: Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

NO JOKE-There is one area where President Trump is already delivering on his campaign promise to create jobs … on the comic circuit.

Yes, there is now actually a shortage of comedians in America. Never have there been so many jokes waiting, even begging, to be told about a new administration, and such a severe shortage of people clever enough to tell them.

The major TV networks are struggling to meet the demand, with no end in sight. Comedy schools are running classes around the clock to keep up with it. Small blogs are being hit the hardest, being forced to repost clips from late night standup routines in an effort to stay in the game.

Trump says these new jobs will all be red-blooded American jobs. He’s even imposed an outright ban on importing jokes from predominantly Muslim countries, at least those that have a sense of humor and don't declare a fatwa on you if you poke fun at them.

Supporters of Trump are even stepping into the breach themselves, saying as many laughable things as they can think of. In fact, a guy to do ‘rim shots’ has been elevated to a cabinet position.


(Michael N. Cohen is a former board member of the Reseda Neighborhood Council, founding member of the LADWP Neighborhood Council Oversight Committee, founding member of LA Clean Sweep and occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


@THE GUSS REPORT-The axiomatic history of white men hashing out shady political deals in smoke-filled backrooms has come a long way, baby. On Friday, Donna Brazile, the former CNN commentator and interim chair of the Democratic National Committee, finally confessed to that which most already knew and that she spent the past half-year denying: rigging a March 2016 Democratic primary debate on CNN by funneling to the Hillary Clinton campaign at least one pre-screened audience question that she did not also provide to the Bernie Sanders campaign, which she had planned to do again in subsequent debates. 

In a defensive, just-published essay she wrote for Time Magazine, Brazile said she would regret that decision for the rest of her life. But while she deserves credit for finally coming clean, she continues to blame the Russians for her own actions, and fell short of apologizing to Sanders and every registered voter who deserved the opportunity to hear him make his case for the presidency on a level playing field.

But the situation is actually worse than that. 

On the literal eve of the DNC convention last July, Brazile was suddenly appointed to the interim DNC job when President Obama persuaded her predecessor, Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, to step down from the role because Wikileaks had just released scores of internal DNC emails showing significant bias for Clinton and against Sanders -- including snarky comments about whether and how they should use Sanders’ Judaism, or perceived atheism, to sow distrust of him among Southern Baptists who, DNC officials figured, would trust Sanders if they felt he was Jewish, but not if they could be persuaded he was atheist. 

Immediately upon her appointment, Brazile published an apology on behalf of the DNC (that was not signed by Wasserman-Schultz) which read, “On behalf of everyone at the DNC, we want to offer a deep and sincere apology to Senator Sanders, his supporters, and the entire Democratic Party for the inexcusable remarks made over email…. These comments do not reflect the values of the DNC or our steadfast commitment to neutrality during the nominating process. The DNC does not — and will not — tolerate disrespectful language exhibited toward our candidates.”  

But at the same time Brazile was apologizing for DNC misconduct under Wasserman-Schultz, promising neutrality going forward, she knew that just a few months earlier, she committed similarly egregious acts prior to the March 6 CNN debate. The public didn’t find out about it until just a few days before the general election, when in late October Wikileaks dumped proof of it. 

Right up until Election Day on November 8, Brazile refused to verify that the October Wikileaks emails were hers, even playing the victim card in a riveting live interview with then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly, with Brazile claiming that she is a persecuted Christian woman. 

The DNC and Clinton campaign were perplexed and frightened throughout the election cycle by the organic enthusiasm that imbued Sanders’ entire run. It was completely unanticipated by them for a man from the state with the second lowest population, and who was portrayed by Larry David on Saturday Night Live as a lovable, impossibly honest, curmudgeon.

Clinton, for her part, also has yet to apologize for the misconduct of those on her campaign staff. Wasn’t the buck supposed to stop with her? What heroes they would all have been if they made it known to the public prior to the debates that they were given an unfair advantage!

About the same time as Brazile’s confession this past Friday, Clinton delivered a speech in Pennsylvania, hinting about returning to public life, jokingly saying, “it’s time to come out of the woods,” a reference to the numerous selfies taken by people encountering her on trail walks near her home in Chappaqua, N.Y. With the 2018 mid-terms not looking too rosy for the DNC, it will need all the help it can get gearing up for 2020. Clinton, Wasserman-Schultz and Brazile, women who didn’t just occupy, but owned, the smoke-filled backroom in 2016, would be wise to each offer a clear, concise and unequivocal two words to Sanders and every registered 2016 voter across all party lines: I apologize.


(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal 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.

TRUMP WATCH--Responses were varied as to what made Trump's presidency seem illegitimate. Some said it was his nationalist rhetoric and policies; others said they doubted whether he was fairly elected. (Most young Americans see President Donald Trump as illegitimate, according to a new poll out Friday.

The survey by GenForward, conducted by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, found that 57 percent of adults between 18-30 years old—including three-quarters of black Americans and a large portion of Latinos and Asians—see Trump's presidency as illegitimate.

A slim majority of white young adults, 53 percent, consider him a legitimate president, but even among that group, 55 percent disapprove of the job he's doing.

Responses were varied as to what made Trump's presidency seem illegitimate. Some said it was his nationalist rhetoric and policies; others said they doubted whether he was fairly elected.

One respondent said he keeps remembering Trump giving a speech in which he referred to Mexicans as criminals and rapists. "You can't be saying that [if] you're the president," said the respondent, 21-year-old Jermaine Anderson, a student from Florida.

"I'm thinking, he's saying that most of the people in the world who are raping and killing people are the immigrants. That's not true," Anderson said.

Megan Desrochers, a 21-year-old student from Michigan, said, "I just think it was kind of a situation where he was voted in based on his celebrity status verses his ethics."

The poll of 1,833 adults age 18-30 was conducted February 16 through March 6. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

(Nadia Prupis writes for Common Dreams ... where this report was most recently posted.)


LA WATCHDOG--The City Administrative Officer’s Third Financial Status Report dated March 16 paints a bleak picture of the City’s finances, including the previous sacrosanct Reserve Fund.  

For the current year, the City is looking at a $57 million deficit.  But this does not take into consideration the strong probability of lower revenues from property and sales taxes, taxes on DWP Ratepayers (the 10% Utility Users’ Tax and the illegal 8% Transfer Tax), departmental fees from the City’s proprietary departments and special funds, parking fines, and franchise fees.  These dings more than offset the growth in the hotel tax and the documentary transfer tax. 

The Report also indicates that next year’s budget gap is anticipated to be $224 million.  But even this projection for the fiscal year beginning on July 1 may be understated because of lower than anticipated revenues and the demand for increased services.  

One of the culprits in this year’s deficit is the explosion in legal liabilities as the City is anticipating spending $147 million in settlements and judgments, almost $80 million more than the budgeted liability of $68 million.  To cover these higher than anticipated losses, the City is hitting up the Reserve Fund for over $60 million. 

Unfortunately, the Reserve Fund no longer has a surplus that can be tapped unless it is a true emergency.  As of January 31, the Reserve Fund had dipped slightly below the minimum threshold of $279 million, an amount equal to 5% of General Fund revenues of $5.576 billion. 

To replenish the Reserve Fund, the City is pursuing the issuance of $70 million of Judgment Obligation Bonds.  But ev en with this infusion, the Reserve Fund may not be able to absorb this year’s losses, especially if revenues are lower than budgeted.  

This will also preclude the Mayor and the City Council from raiding the Reserve Fund.  

Over the last three years, the Mayor and the City Council have siphoned off $213 million from the Reserve Fund without blinking an eye.  

But were these financial transactions necessary given that City revenues have increased by $900 million over the last four years? 

Why did the Budget and Finance Committee chaired by Paul Krekorian permit this transfer from the Reserve Fund?  

Why did the Budget and Finance Committee allocate only $68 million for legal liabilities when the City Administrative Officer recommended a significantly higher amount? 

If the Reserve Fund had the $213 million that was drained from its accounts, the balance of our rainy-day fund would be almost $500 million, or 8.8% of the General Fund revenues. 

And if you toss in the Budget Stabilization Fund of $94 million, total reserves increase to $585 million, or a very healthy 10.5% of General Fund revenues, exceeding the 10% level recommended by Miguel Santana, our previous CAO.  

This is another case where the politically motivated spending policies of our Elected Elite trumped the long-term interests of the City.  This is reminiscent of their failure to fund the repair and maintenance of our lunar cratered streets, our broken sidewalks, and the rest of our deteriorating infrastructure; their unwillingness to engage in real pension reform; and their approval of budget busting labor contracts. 

We cannot trust Mayor Garcetti, the City Council, and the Budget and Finance Committee with our money.  

We need an independent Office of Transparency and Accountability to oversee the City’s finances and protect us from the Mayor and the City Council pursuing short term political goals that are not in the best long-term interests of the City and all Angelenos.

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


LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti is proposing to close part of the City’s $250 million budget gap for next year by using an estimated $50 million of Local Return money from Measure M, the permanent half cent increase in our sales tax that was approved by 71% of voters in November

While the bulk of the proceeds of this new tax are to be used to finance Metro’s ambitious capital expenditure program and its money losing operations, 17% of the proceeds are designated for “Local Return.” Under this program, funds are returned to the cities based on their population for the communities’ “eligible transportation related uses.”  These transportation needs include “transit, streets and roads, storm drains, Green Streets, Active Transportation Projects, Complete Streets, public transit access to recreational facilities, Transit Oriented Community Investments, and other unmet transit needs.” 

Importantly, these Local Return funds are meant to supplement existing programs and not to free up money for the General Fund and other programs. In other words, they are not to be used for deficit reduction. 

In recent interviews and during the campaign to pass Measure M, Garcetti said that these Measure M Local Return funds were to be used to fix, pave, or repair our streets.  

In the upcoming year, the Local Return from Measure M is expected to be about $50 million.  And over the next 40 years, the total haul is projected to be in the range of $5 billion based on Metro’s projections. 

The infusion of these Local Return funds represents an excellent opportunity to jump start the development and implementation of a comprehensive plan to repair and maintain our 28,000 lane miles of streets, considered to some of the worst in the country, and 900 miles of alleys.  A well-conceived long term plan will also go a long way in relieving congestion, the worst in the developed world per a recent article in The New York Times. 

The City’s current street repair program, dubbed the pothole patrol plan, is not working.  While City Hall tells us that the status of our streets has improved slightly because Street Services is budgeted to pave or repair 2,400 miles of roads this year, most Angelenos believe, based on experience, especially after the rains, that our streets have continued to deteriorate.  Furthermore, the pothole patrol plan neglects the more than one third of our streets that are rated D and F, meaning that they need to be either resurfaced or reconstructed, all at great expense. 

If the City combines the resources of the Local Return funds with the current expenditures of the Street Services and Transportation devoted to our roads, it can develop and implement a street repair program that over the next twenty years will make our streets some of the best in the nation.  

Now that is Back to Basics. Forget the photo-ops. Keep your promises. Fix LA’s streets!

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


LA WATCHDOG--The City of Los Angeles is confronting a budget gap next year of “at least $250 million” based on Mayor Eric Garcetti’s comment to Larry Mantle, the host of KPCC’s (89.3) AirTalk.  

But this not very well publicized shortfall of at least $250 million may be optimistic. The City believes that the $245 million Power Revenue Transfer Tax (previously known as the 8% Transfer Fee) from the Department of Water and Power, which is the subject of a class action lawsuit, is legal and does not require voter approval pursuant to Proposition 26 (the Supermajority Vote to Pass New Fees and Taxes) that was approved by California voters in 2010.    

Garcetti did not offer any reasons for this staggering $250 million shortfall that exceeds the previously projected budget gap of $85 million.  Nor did he discuss any specific plans to reduce this gap other than to say that the City will rely on several new sources of revenue. 

But these new revenues are not for deficit reduction.  Rather, they are intended to augment existing programs.  This is certainly true for the $50 million of new “Local Return” money from Metro that is designated for the repair and maintenance of our lunar cratered streets. These kickback funds are the result of the passage of Measure M, the permanent half cent increase in our sales tax to fund Metro’s ambitious expansion plans and its ever-increasing operating deficits. 

He also said that he would not institute any new spending polices other than for the homeless, public safety, and the restoration of services.  But these new initiatives will cost north of $100 million.  So much for austerity.  

Underlying the $250 million budget gap is a significant increase in City’s legal liabilities and even greater shortfall in revenues.  Property and sales taxes are anticipated to be $50 million lower than expected while revenue from taxes on the DWP Ratepayers are off by approximately $75 million. 

There is something very fishy going on with the Power Revenue Transfer Tax because of the class action lawsuits that were filed in 2015. 

This year, the Power Revenue Transfer Tax was budgeted to be $291 million.  However, because DWP overestimated the Power System revenue by 10%, or $300 million, the Transfer Tax was only $264 million, a $27 million shortfall.  

For the upcoming year, the Transfer is projected to be $245 million (6.5% of Power System revenues), down from the previous projection of $300 million (8% of revenues).  This dip, despite DWP’s increase in revenues, gives credence to the scuttlebutt that City Hall has cut itself a sweet deal with the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit (Patrick Eck v. City of Los Angeles).    

Of course, the lawyers will make out like bandits. 

And the Ratepayers, rather than being reimbursed for over $1.5 billion in illegally collected taxes (not including interest) and abolishing the illegal Power Revenue Transfer Tax, will once again get the shaft as we will end up paying $245 million a year to the pay-to-play politicians who occupy City Hall. 

But this backroom settlement that was cut over two months ago may not pass legal muster.  Under Proposition 26, this so-called fee that is really a tax must be approved by the voters, a rumble that City Hall wants to avoid.  This may be the reason why the City has not announced this deal because they cannot figure out how to disenfranchise us by not placing this tax on the ballot for our rejection or approval. 

If this crooked deal does not pass the smell test, our friends that occupy City Hall will go ballistic as the projected budget deficit will balloon to $500 million.  

But this sea of red ink is not our fault as the Mayor and the City Council have racked up a $250 million budget gap despite an increase in General Fund revenues of $1 billion.  City Hall has also been on notice for years that the Power Revenue Transfer Tax is illegal, but failed to address the issue in a rational manner. 

City Hall will no doubt ask us to approve this tax.  But what do we get in return?  Maybe it is our turn to ask that in return for approving this new tax, the City will agree to place on the ballot a charter amendment that will finally require our City to go Back to Basics and Live Within Its Means. 

Hold on as we are in for a wild ride.  Budget Madness begins on April 20 when the Mayor presents his new budget to Angelenos. 

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


LA WATCHDOG--One of the Priority Outcomes of Mayor Eric Garcetti s Back to Basics agenda was that the City of Los Angeles would “live within its financial means.” 

But this is not the case. 

The City is grappling with a potential deficit of $245 million for this fiscal year that ends on June 30 and a budget gap of at least $250 million for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.  This is despite revenues being up over $1 billion since Garcetti became Mayor. 

These deficits are understated.  They do not include adequate funds to repair and maintain our streets, sidewalks, parks, and the rest of our deteriorating infrastructure.  They lowball the pension contributions that are determined using an overly optimistic investment rate assumption that “save” the City an estimated $500 million a year.  

The impact of these deferrals is to dump an even larger financial burden on the next generation of Angelenos.  

Projections for the next four years do take into consideration future salary increases for the police, civilian employees, and the firefighters. 

It is not a pretty picture.  

On March 8, the Budget Advocates, a volunteer group of citizens representing the charter authorized Neighborhood Councils, met with Mayor Garcetti and members of his budget team to discuss their annual White Paper and their “Back to Basics” Plan which includes the following recommendations. 

  • Develop and implement a seven-year operating and financial plan for the City.  This is standard operating procedure for an enterprise with revenues of over $8 billion a year and 32,000 civilian and sworn employees. 
  • Address the Structural Deficit (where expenditures increase faster than revenues) by refraining from entering into any labor agreement or approving any new programs or initiatives that will result in future budget deficits. 
  • Require that ALL projects take into account the costs and savings over the entire life of the project, including ancillary costs and savings incurred by other City entities and stakeholders. 
  • Develop and implement a long-term plan to fix our streets along the lines of the Save Our Streets LA Measure that was proposed in April 2014. 
  • Implement a long-range plan to grow the City’s economy by developing new business friendly policies that encourage employers to move to LA or to remain and invest in LA. 
  • Benchmark the efficiency of the City’s departments and services and consider outsourcing projects to independent contractors. 
  • Appoint an experienced Chief Operating Officer/City Manager to oversee and coordinate the management of the City’s many departments and to improve their operating efficiency.    

In addition, the Budget Advocates once again urged the Mayor and the City Council to implement the following excellent budget recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission that were endorsed by City Council President Herb Wesson at a well-attended press conference on April 9, 2014 at the California Endowment. 

  • Create an independent “Office of Transparency and Accountability” to analyze and report on the City’s budget, evaluate new legislation, examine existing issues and service standards, and increase accountability. 
  • Adopt a “Truth in Budgeting” ordinance that requires the City to develop a three-year budget and a three-year baseline budget with the goal of understanding the longer-term consequences of its policies and legislation.  
  • Establish a “Commission for Retirement Security” to review the City's retirement obligations to promote an accurate understanding of the facts and develop concrete recommendations on how to achieve equilibrium on retirement costs within five years.  This Commission will also address the Buffett Rule and the investment rate assumptions of the pension plans. 

Unfortunately, these recommendations that were designed to shine the sun on the City’s finances and operations have never seen the light of day. 

In addition, the Budget Advocates have developed a list of revenue producing ideas for the General Fund.  This resulted in a discussion about the specific suggestions and the City’s need for additional revenue to address our infrastructure, service levels, affordable housing, and services to the homeless.  

The Budget Advocates also submitted reports on 26 of the City’s departments.  They were based on numerous in person meetings with department heads that allowed the Budget Advocates to gain a better understanding of the departments and the overall operations of the City.  These reports also contain recommendations specific to the departments. 

The Mayor, recognizing the time, effort, and dedication of the Budget Advocates, will ask the City Administrative Officer and his budget team to report back on the White Paper and its findings and recommendations.  Hopefully, this response will be shortly after the release of next year’s budget on April 20 so that Budget Advocates have ample time to prepare for the Budget and Finance Committee hearings on the budget.  

The development of and the adherence to a long term operating and financial plan, the implementation of a Back to Basics Plan, the adoption of the recommendations of the LA 2020 Commission, the develop of new sources of revenue, and an improved business and investment environment will result in increased revenues for the City that will allow it to eliminate the Structural Deficit, to address its infrastructure needs, and to begin the proper funding of its pensions. 

By increasing the transparency onto the City’s complex operations and finances and by implementing policies that require the City to “live within its means,” City Hall will begin the process of restoring Angelenos’ trust and confidence in its elected officials.

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


LA WATCHDOG--Money is the life blood of politics, especially for the politicians that occupy Los Angeles City Hall and the County Hall of Administration. 

So when our Elected Elite support or oppose a ballot measure, we need to follow the cash to determine their true motivations. This is especially true for Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, and Measure H, the quarter of a cent increase in our sales tax that will fund services to the homeless. 

Measure S requires that the City update the General Plan and its 35 Community Plans and assume the responsibility to oversee the development of Environmental Impact Reports and Traffic Studies.  Measure S also eliminates “spot zoning” and places a 24 month moratorium ONLY on “up zoned” projects that would have received lucrative zoning changes, courtesy of the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti. 

The delusional opponents claim that Measure S will make it impossible to build the affordable housing that LA desperately needs.  But the truth is that City Hall does not have a plan to build affordable housing or the necessary billions to fund such a plan.  

And now that the voters have approved JJJ, the Build Better LA ballot initiative, the cost of affordable units will increase by 46% according to Beacon Economics, the firm retained by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, an ardent foe of Measure S. This massive cost increase will kill all residential development that needs a zoning change, whether it is luxury, market rate, or affordable.  

The real reason for the opposition of Garcetti and the City Council is that if Measure S passes, the gravy train that has resulted in more than $10 million in campaign contributions from real estate developers will come to a stretching halt as City Hall will no longer be able to grant lucrative zoning changes to billionaire developers who have no respect for our neighborhoods and our quality of life. 

With the passage of Measure S, the days where the real estate developers make billions, the City Hall politicians collect millions, and we get the shaft are over. 

We will finally get a say in the destiny and density of our City and our neighborhoods as Measure S will require the City Planning Department to hold hearings on weeknights and weekends in our neighborhoods.  No more schlepping downtown to City Hall during the day and only getting a minute to speak. 

Measure H, the County ballot initiative to increase our sales tax by one quarter of cent, will raise $350 million to fund services for the homeless.  While nobody denies that there is a homeless crisis, the County Supervisors have not made homelessness a budget priority, even after billions in new revenues swelled its total budget to $30 billion.  Instead, the Supervisors approved new budget busting labor contracts and funneled money to their pet projects. 

Homelessness only became a budget priority when they decided to pick our pockets for $4 billion over the next ten years. 

The Supervisors and Mayor Eric Garcetti have been telling us that without this $4 billion tax increase, the County will not be able to provide the necessary services to the homeless population.  But this sounds like the threats made in 2013 when Mayor Villaraigosa and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told us that LA would be overrun by the Huns and Visigoths if we did not approve Proposition A, the half cent increase in our sales tax that was to be used to hire and retain more cops.    

But shortly after Proposition A was rejected by 55% of the voters, Mayor Villaraigosa miraculously discovered the necessary money to fund the Police Department. 

There is also the issue of trust.  

In November, voters approved Measure M, a permanent half cent increase in our sales tax to fund Metro’s ambitious expansion program and its money losing operations.  But the Supervisors and Mayor Garcetti were less than honest with us.  They waited until after the election to disclose the massive cost overruns involving the widening of the 405 through the Sepulveda Pass, the Downtown Regional Connector, and the Gold Line Foothill Extension.  And they failed to tell us about the decline in ridership. 

The City, County, and State are also hatching more schemes to increase our taxes.  In addition to Measure H, the County is preparing another Rain Tax to fund its storm water capture plan.  The City is considering a multibillion street repair bond and a linkage fee on new developments.  The South Coast AQMD is talking about a Vehicle License Fee.  The State is considering a substantial bump in the gas tax and expanding the sales tax to cover services.  And billions in bonds are being contemplated for the UC system and the State’s deteriorating parks. 

The 2016 tax increases and the above contemplated taxes will cost the residents of the City of Los Angeles over $3 billion, the equivalent of raising our real estate taxes by over 60% or our sales tax by over 5%. 

Enough is enough.  

By voting YES on Measure S, the City will be required to update its General Plan and its 35 Community Plans in an open and transparent manner where we have a say in the future of our City.  And at the same time, put a stop to the corrupt pay-to-play culture that permeates City Hall. 

And by voting NO on Measure H, we can send to message to the pols that we are not their ATM. 

It is time for us to take control of our City and our County.

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







LA WATCHDOG--We have numerous reasons to vote against all the fat cat incumbents running for reelection to the Los Angeles City Council.  And they all add up to a City that does not work for us Angelenos, the folks footing the bill so that the 1% who occupies City Hall and their cronies can feast at our expense. 

Our City’s finances are a mess.  

The City is projecting a budget deficit next year of at least $250 million.  Union leaders want more money that will only add to the deficit.  The City’s two pension plans are a train wreck, underfunded by $22 billion and threaten the City’s ability to deliver services.  And our lunar cratered streets, our broken sidewalks, and the rest of deteriorating infrastructure are in need of at least $10 billion of repairs. 

But the City’s viability is not an issue for six members of our City Council who are seeking reelection.  After all, they have raised over $5.5 million from their cronies and special interests to buy their reelection. 

But hopefully Angelenos will wake up and send these politicians packing. 

At the top of the list is Paul Koretz, a professional politician who has never met a tax hike, a rate increase, a union contract, or campaign contribution from a real estate developer he didn’t like.   

Koretz is a member of the Executive Employee Relations Committee that negotiates the City’s labor agreements.  This includes the budget busting contract with the City’s civilian unions that took a $68 million surplus to a $101 million deficit in 2020.  That may explain why the unions have contributed $217,000 to an “independent” expenditure committee to support his reelection to augment the $440,000 war chest that he raised from the usual favor seeking suspects.  

His key opponent is Jesse Creed, a young talented lawyer who received excellent reviews for his work on behalf of veterans involving the West LA property.  While Creed lacks experience, he is independent, his own person who is not owned by the unions and real estate developers.    

Mitch O’Farrell should also be shown the door as he betrayed his constituents by selling out to real estate developers who view Hollywood, Silver Lake, Atwater Village, Echo Park, and Elysian Valley as areas primed for highly profitable development, the neighborhoods be damned.  

O’Farrell has raised over $400,000, where almost half of the usual favor seeking suspects maxed out.  He is also the beneficiary of a $102,000 “independent” expenditure committee funded by real estate interests, unions, and Chevron Corporation, one of the world’s largest oil companies. 

In the effort to Ditch Mitch, the goal is to force a runoff with one of the other viable candidates.  This includes Doug Haines who has been endorsed by Mayor Richard Riordan because of his real estate expertise and his efforts in overturning the Hollywood Community Plan that was based on flawed assumptions.  He also was instrumental in halting other illegal developments that had the support of developer owned O’Farrell. 

Gil Cedillo should also be sent packing as he has supported the development of luxury housing that is inappropriate for many of the District’s neighborhoods.  This has accelerated residential and commercial gentrification and dislocated long-time residents.  He has also reneged on several campaign promises. 

Cedillo was expecting to steamroll his opponents as he has raised $375,000 from the usual favor seeking suspects, 75% of which maxed out, and has the support of an “independent” expenditure committee that has also been funded primarily by Chevron. 

However, much to Cedillo’s surprise and chagrin, the Los Angeles Times endorsed Joe Ali-Bray, a small businessman and bike enthusiast who, according to The Times, has an impressive understanding of land use policies.  

Curren Price was also surprised by The Times endorsement of Jorge Nuno.  Yet Price has the benefit of a $422,000 war chest and an “independent” expenditure committee that is ready to drop almost $150,000 to support his reelection. But will Price, an African-American, be able to buy the election in a district that is almost 80% Latino? 

Joe Buscaino has raised $369,000 and faces limited competition.  But he does not deserve to be reelected given the scandal where he took $94,500 of laundered campaign contributions and then approved the up zoning of the Sea Breeze residential development despite its rejection by the both the Area and City Planning Commissions. 

Mike Bonin appears to be headed towards reelection and is supported by a war chest of $432,000 raised from the usual favor seeking suspects and a $61,000 “independent’ expenditure committee funded by primarily by the unions representing the police and firefighters. But Bonin has been weak on fiscal responsibility and has approved mega real estate developments that will further clog the Westside. 

It is too much to expect all of the incumbents to lose, but success will be measured by ousting incumbents or forcing Council members into runoff elections on May 16, 2017.  If so, this will send a message to City Hall that we are not happy campers and it is time to address the serious economic problems facing our City. 

It is time for a change.


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Woman undergoes surgery after attack by 2 pit bulls 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

    (See more at U.S. Pit Bull Fatalities) provides Google State Map:  “California Fatal Pit Bull Attacks” 


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

THE DOG BLOG-- Dogs do not understand the connection between the tightening of a collar around their neck and you at the end of the leash.  All they know is that something is digging into their neck and since dogs can tolerate a lot of pain, they just pull harder. 

I can't tell you how frustrating it is to see dogs on regular or choke or spiked collars pulling forward as I watch the collar dig into their neck while their owners pull back. For some reason the pet parent thinks the dog will stop pulling because he is choking and then gets frustrated when they see it isn’t working. Most will feel guilty because they know the dog is hurting while others think the dog deserves it because he won't stop pulling. Either way the dog continues to pull. 

Vets don’t like choke collars and tell us the trachea can be damaged or eventually tighten making it difficult for the dog to breathe so choke collars should never be used on breeds with short snouts. And importantly, choke collars should never be left on at home. If the collar gets stuck on something the dog can literally choke himself to death as he gets into a panic trying to pull himself away. 

Frankly, I don't think they should be used at all, unless you have an exceedingly aggressive dog (not just the typical excitement a dog exhibits when it sees other dogs) and even then you should have an experienced trainer who has worked with aggressive dogs, show you how to properly use it. 

They will tell you to make sure the leash is always loose and when it tightens you simply give a “correction” which is a sharp and quick (not harsh) snap of the leash while using your voice to tell the dog what you want him to do. I like “no pulling!”. The tightening of the collar should last less than a second. Do Not Ever jerk the dog back or yank it hard!. The tone of your command should be firm not angry. This way the dog can connect the pressure on her neck, to you and your voice, calmly, firmly telling her what to do. The leash is not just something we use to keep the dog from running away. It is a tool to get the dogs attention focused on you and your commands. 

But if you are using a choke collar simply for a pulling issue then throw it out and listen up… 

The absolute best way I have discovered in getting dogs to walk at our pace is a no pull front harness. It is a harness that attaches the leash to the front of the chest and doesn’t involve choking or pain of any sort. I love this harness and have never put it on a dog without instant results. I have seen dogs go from pulling their pet parent’s arm off, to instantly becoming docile and relaxed while walking alongside them. If they do pull forward a bit a slight tug and command and they slow right down. 

There are two main companies that sell it, Halti and EasyWalk. I like Halti because it has a clip that attaches to the collar for added protection but Easy Walk has a wider variety of sizes.  Don’t be intimidated by the design. They are actually very easy to adjust and put on. You can order it online (cheaper) and bring it to a pet store for help putting it on if you need it. 

If I hear an owner complain the harness isn't working it is usually because they are so used to the dog pulling and the leash being tight, they continue to tighten the leash out of habit. I instruct them to let the leash be loose while they're walking and watch what happens.  To their delight and surprise the dog just walks along with them. I can't tell you how often I've heard “WOW! I can't believe this!” If the dog starts to speed up just a slight tug and “no pulling” and they instantly slow down. 

So if you have a dog that takes you out for a drag I can’t recommend this enough. Email us with your success story. I love hearing dogs and owners get over an obstacle to greater love and appreciation of each other. Never thought you’d hear yourself saying “I love walking my dog” did you?



Have a topic you’d like to see addressed or a question you’d like answered?

Email us at


Check out our website for information about our training program and rates. 

For a free phone consultation call 323-734-9119




(Dianne Lawrence is the dog whisperer at What a Good Dog LA. She can be reached at 323-734-9119.)

ANIMAL WATCH-On Thursday, February 2, Valentin Herrera, 75, was walking with his small, 5-year-old Pomeranian, Radar, about a block from his home in Lincoln Heights -- a community officially designated as "Happy Valley." Suddenly two Pit Bulls from a nearby home escaped their yard and attacked his tiny pet, tearing it "like a piece of cloth," according to a neighbor. 

Eyewitnesses report that Radar was off-leash, walking a distance ahead of Mr. Herrera, who rushed to try to save his dog and himself became a victim of the Pit Bulls. They knocked or pulled him to the ground and were dragging him by his arm, according to KTLA-TV News. 

One neighbor stated that the owner of the dogs merely stood and watched, without trying to stop the attack. Finally someone came out and struggled with the animals to get them back into the yard. Neither dog was licensed, according to KABC-7. The Pit Bulls were transported to the North Central animal shelter by Los Angeles Animal Services' officer Angela Llerenas. They are being held under quarantine for ten days. 

A family member told me they were advised by Animal Services that a woman later claimed the dogs, but they have not been released. A hearing by Animal Services is set for early March. 

Mr. Herrera was placed in a medically induced coma in an attempt to reduce swelling of his brain, and he has not yet regained consciousness, his family says. 

His son, Luis, said his father had three surgeries, one to his head and one on each of his arms which were mauled by the dogs. He added that his father suffered from diabetes and two months ago had actually died from a heart attack; however, doctors were able to revive him. He described how painful it is for the family, after losing him once, to now be facing the possibility of repeating that same grief again so soon. 

Valentin Herrera came to Los Angeles from Jalisco, Mexico. He and his wife, Anita, have been married for 50 years. He was a steel worker and they have lived in their current home in Northeast Los Angeles since 1996. Luis described his father as a strong, loving man and said it is very difficult to see him struggling again for his life. 

A neighbor who has lived on the street since 2003 and frequently talked with Mr. Herrera when he was walking said he had not seen the Pit Bulls out before. However, he resolutely affirmed that he keeps his own dogs in his house for safety. He expressed concern because the house where the attack occurred is less than a block from the high school on the corner at North Broadway. 

Another Lincoln Heights resident, Stefanie Grizzelle, told CBS News  on February 4 that she recognized the two Pit Bulls that attacked Mr. Herrera as the same dogs that killed her small white Poodle-mix as her young children watched. She said they are starting therapy this week for the trauma. 

Pit Bull Attacks are Not Limited to Lincoln Heights: 

LA Animal Services' Employee Mauled by Pit Bull ...  

Last month we reported the savage attack on Priscilla Romero, an Animal Care Technician, by a Pit Bull in the same Los Angeles Animal Services' shelter where the dogs in the Lincoln Heights attack are being held. 

GM Barnette and City Officials Stay 'Notably Silent' as LAAS Pit Bull Attack.Victim Begins Long Road to Recovery

Approximately a total of 50 other dogs of this breed have completed their quarantine period after attacks and are being held at in Los Angeles Animal Services shelter. Ten had just completed this "hold" and are available for "rescuers" to remove them and place them in "forever" homes throughout Los Angeles or elsewhere. 

LA Animal Services: Pit Bull with a Violent History Attacks Potential Adopter  

On April 28, 2016, GM Brenda Barnette personally released a dangerous Pit Bull to a "rescue," which fostered it in a home just north of downtown LA. The dog attacked a potential adopter and was killed by a neighbor who stabbed it 19 times. 

Pit Bull Kills Puppy, Attacks Two Men on Ventura Boulevard; L.A. City…  

On February 16, 2014, in Studio City, Stephen Elliott and Howard Fox were walking with their six-month-old Yorkshire Terrier, Vargas, who was on leash and close to Stephen's feet, when a large Pit Bull bolted from a nearby shop, grabbed Vargas and killed him. As they struggled to save the pup, Howard, who was recovering from back surgery, was knocked to the ground and Stephen's finger was bitten off. The Pit Bull was released back to the owner. 

They called Councilman Paul Koretz, who heads the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee. Stephen said Koretz’ senior deputy, David Hersch, said his injury was his own fault for putting his hand down to save his dog and he would not spend more time on this because he had "an event to plan." 

Shortly after that a 29-year-old victim from the Ukraine, appeared before the LA Animal Services Commission to describe a horrible attack by an owned pit bull in the Hollywood area while he was jogging. Among other serious wounds, one of his testicles was bitten off by the dog. He said the dog could have killed him if he were not young and athletic. He described with gut-wrenching emotion the suffering and the emotional trauma that causes him to now be reclusive and fearful and the fact that he may never be able to have children. 

LA Animal Services Officer Injured by Dog Attack ...How Safe Are Residents?   

On August 29, 2014, Animal Control Officer Angela Llerenas (the officer who responded to the attack that injured Valentin Herrera and killed Radar), was seriously injured when she responded to a call that two very aggressive Pit Bulls had entered a backyard in Eagle Rock and attacked a Husky. Both dogs charged the officer as she arrived and found them entering another yard. She later identified them as American Bulldogs -- originally bred to catch and hold wild boars and described by Wikipedia as “capable of jumping in excess of seven feet vertical due to the dense muscle build of the breed.” 

Man Attacked by Pit Bull Mix in Eagle Rock, Hospitalized with Multiple Injuries

On October 13, 2016, a 20-year-old man soliciting donations for D.A.R.E. in front of a sandwich shop in the 2600 block of Colorado Blvd. in Eagle Rock was hospitalized with multiple facial injuries after being bitten by a pit bull mix. 

Two women in their mid-20s with the dog on a leash allegedly made a donation and indicated the dog was friendly and he could pet it. The woman "brought the dog over to my hand, she rubbed my hand twice and then the dog lunged at me," he said, adding that it bit him on his face, mouth and nose, the report said. 

Pit Bull Rehomed by Humane Society Kills Newborn Baby  

Sebastian Caban, 3-days old, was fatally bitten on the head by a family pit bull-mix while he laid in bed with his parents and the dog. The dog was a rescue. The San Diego Humane Society -- a private organization that has a partnership with San Diego Animal Services -- adopted the dog to the baby's parents 5-months  before. 

Who's Responsible for Dangerous Dog Attacks?

How sad it is that in less than one week two families in Lincoln Heights were robbed of their pets, their peace of mind and their happiness. Both heard the screams and saw their small canine family members drenched in blood -- senselessly killed by two large Pit Bulls to which neither of these tiny creatures was a threat. 

One attack involves young children, who should be laughing and playing, rather than dealing with a senseless, brutal tragedy and this abrupt loss of innocence. Will they ever again trust that they and their loved ones are safe? 

It is time for specific protection for people -- the adults and children who are innocent victims -- as well as for this breed of dog that is being exploited by those it should be able to trust. If it is true this aggression is the result of "training or abuse by bad owners," then adopters/purchasers must be required to be screened and obtain a permit before taking possession of a dog with this strength and drive. 

What benefit, financial or otherwise, is there to the leading humane groups -- including Best Friends Animal Society which occupies the LA City Mission Hills animal shelter cost-free -- for lobbying in opposition to any breed-specific-legislation to protect (not ban) Pit Bulls and the public? 

The compassionate who wail and moan over the possibility that dangerous and vicious dogs will be humanely euthanized need to accept that Pit Bulls are being inordinately abused, neglected, abandoned, tortured and brutally killed and are endangered by the blind disregard for the unpredictable reality of what can happen after they are "saved." But, even more endangered are the helpless, innocent pets, children and adults who become victims of attacks, including our own Valentin Herrera. 

Here are some websites with important statistics:


On April 11, 2016, we reported that LAAS General Manager Brenda Barnette was conducting a survey of animal concerns in Los Angeles. You can send GM Barnette an e-mail at


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

ANIMAL WATCH-Priscilla Romero, Animal Care Technician for LA Animal Services, who was viciously mauled by a Pit Bull on January 14, is healing but the road to physical and emotional recovery will be long and painful, as she realistically acknowledges. She said she can't begin to estimate the future trauma this incident will have on her because she has never been seriously injured before.

Many things in Priscilla's life changed the instant Cielo, a gray-and-white female Pit Bull, lunged at her without warning, ripping the flesh on both her arms, tearing and tossing huge chunks of muscle from her left arm onto the floor of the kennel. She may never be able to return to work with shelter animals, a job she has loved for ten years. And it cannot yet be predicted what permanent physical restrictions will result. 

What will not change for Priscilla is the devotion and support of her coworkers at all LA animal shelters, and especially those at North Central, many of whom were involved in saving her life.

So, where does management of LA Animal Services and other City officials stand regarding this tragic event -- other than to remain notably silent? General Manager Brenda Barnette admitted to the Board of Animal Services Commissioners at their January 24 meeting that she had neither visited nor talked with Priscilla, leaving that to the kennel supervisor.   

There was little concern shown by the five Commissioners who legally head the Department as they continued their "no-kill" pursuit in the name of the Mayor. President David Zaft asked a few generic questions about the incident and alluded to the determination of where responsibility could be placed. Barnette did not announce any investigation of facts. 

She casually discussed providing refresher training for Animal Care Technicians -- rather than addressing the shelter's faulty equipment which failed to keep the dog separated; the absence of a "distress" button to signal an emergency; and the lack of available safety devices throughout the shelter. She also avoided mentioning any causal factors from the practice of keeping dogs that have bitten and are unsuitable for adoption. 

Commissioner Larry Gross tentatively inquired what previous training ACT had. Barnette was hard pressed to describe anything except that she thought they had training in the use of "barrier boards," which they can use to fend off an attacking dog. The Commissioners -- none of whom have any animal sheltering experience -- did not ask how the non-existent boards are supposed to be held while an employee is scooping poop or feeding an animal. 

When I asked several ACT at different shelters about this training later, they seemed surprised and said they can't remember having any formal training after they were hired. Only a few long-timers recalled years ago being taken by now-Assistant General Manager Louis Dedeaux to a protection-dog facility to familiarize them with avoidance techniques using trained attack dogs. The consensus was that they had learned shelter-safety practices by on-the-job experience and the guidance of their supervisors. 

Barnette was asked by the Commission whether the employees had been given any counseling after the incident. She said she believed someone was sent in to hold a session at the shelter. She didn't explain that it was the city's basic EAP service, rather than critical-incident counseling and debriefing. 

Barnette also assured the Commission that Pit Bulls with a bite history are sent to "rescues," rather than adopted out to the public. Apparently she didn't look at the records of the dog that attacked Priscilla Romero, or "Albert," the Pit Bull cited in last week's article, which attacked a young girl as her father contemplated taking him home as a family pet. Is it possible Brenda has not reviewed the numerous documented attacks by animals recently adopted from shelters? 

A standard "no kill," shell-game practice is that Pit Bulls deemed dangerous are released to "rescues," (whose only prerequisite is a 50l(c)3 tax status but no animal-handling experience.) The "rescues" may then place them with "fosters" (members of the public) with the intention of finding a "forever home," also with members of the public. The dogs are often transported to several states or counties to accomplish this. That was the case when Sammy, aka "Sodam," was personally released by GM Barnette in April to an out-of-state rescue. But, prior to transport, he viciously attacked a potential female adopter. 

According to current shelter records, approximately 50 Pit Bulls who have bitten or injured a human have been removed from quarantine at the shelter and are waiting in the back kennels of LA city shelters for Dangerous Dog hearings or "rescue." At least one has been there since April 2016. It is estimated that at least a dozen more are still completing the ten-day rabies-hold period required by County Health Dept. so they can add to the stockpile. 

These are dangerous animals into whose kennels unprotected LAAS shelter workers and volunteers will go daily to clean, comfort and provide food and water. Attacks on shelter employees and volunteers do not usually become known to the public, but lawsuits, settlements and the prolonged housing of these dogs are real costs borne by taxpayers. There is also the consideration of the inhumaneness of locking these high-drive animals in isolated cages for months or years, which is as unfair to the dogs as it is to staff and public. 

It doesn't appear that even this close call with death by a shelter worker will cause the Mayor, Councilman Paul Koretz (who chairs the Committee which makes LA's animal-related decisions,) or the Commission, to acknowledge that LA Animal Services’ staff, the public -- as well as the animals themselves -- are being deliberately placed in danger by the mythical, lucrative fund-raising illusion of GM Brenda Barnette and Best Friends Animal Society that the above methods (and others equally dubious, dangerous and inhumane) are achieving "no kill." 

A recent informal poll of LA Animal Services Commissioners showed that none of them owns or has owned a Pit Bull. If, after this highly predictable tragedy in the agency they head, they still want all animals -- regardless of history -- to be released from the shelters and "saved," I suggest they, Mayor Garcetti, Councilman Koretz, and GM Barnette, set the example by each taking home several of the Pit Bulls which just finished the required confinement after biting and are now, according to Brenda Barnette, ready to rejoin society.

(Here is the full story )


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

ANIMAL WATCH-LA Animal Services’ GM Brenda Barnette announced on the Department’s intranet messaging board on September 15 at 5:00 p.m., that new Assistant General Manager Derek Brown—hired in June--had resigned. Barnette stated that the job was “not a good fit” for him.

The job description clearly stated that the decision on hiring would be made by Brenda Barnette, and the person selected would serve entirely at the pleasure of the GM. 

Derek Brown (not to be confused with Animal Services Asst. GM Dana Brown) is the fourth highly qualified and experienced AGM to leave abruptly during Barnette’s six-year tenure (plus the sudden recent resignation of impeccable Commission Secretary/Management Analyst II Rita Moreno, whose loss prompted a Commissioner to comment that he proposed a motion to not let her leave).

That’s a lot of high-level professionals who apparently were “not a good fit” at LAAS! 

Derek Brown is a former 20-year LAAS employee who began as an animal control officer. He left in 2007, at the rank of Captain, to take on the responsibilities of Deputy Director at L.A. County Animal Care and Control. He remained in that position until, after a lengthy recruitment process, Barnette hired him as AGM to oversee field operations. He also appeared representing the GM at several Commission meetings. So, if, after three months on the job, he was “not a good fit,” it wasn’t because Derek Brown lacked experience or industry expertise. 

Although he is a very private person, close friends and colleagues say that, soon after Derek’s appointment, he became concerned about---what I will call—a difference between his “management style” and that of Barnette and Director of Field Operations Mark Salazar. 

Salazar was hand-selected by Barnette two months after her appointment in 2010. His experience as an animal control officer was very limited. Media reports (below) document his challenges as a manager after that and, according to L.A. City Personnel Dept., were known to Barnette. 

Let’s take a look at the public management histories of both Brenda Barnette and Mark Salazar--whom Barnette frequently praises publicly--before and after they took over LAAS.

Brenda Barnette was appointed GM in September 2010; however, the hiring announcement was first made at a media conference on June 17, by former-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Councilman Paul Koretz (who was involved in selecting her.)

Villaraigosa stated that, after a year-long, nationwide search, which he called “the most intensive he’s ever seen,” Brenda Barnette, CEO of the (very small) Seattle Humane Society, was most qualified out of a reported 120 candidates. Barnette, a WA resident, did not have the one mandatory prerequisite for the job--a CA driver’s license. She also had no prior animal-control experience. 

Barnette, a self-described former dog breeder, had another position in Seattle. She was Legislative Representative for the American Kennel Club (AKC), which, she told the press, meant merely hitting the “forward key” when the world’s largest purebred dog-breeding registry sent her issues to oppose or support. 

Brenda Barnette was beleaguered by labor issues at Seattle HS, according to an Oct. 20, 2009, media release by the Animal Control Officers’ Guild (ACOG), “The SHS with around 70 staff has had over 60 employees turnover in the last 18 months, this is over 75%! Staff fears this is not just the nature of the job but from a complete lack of attention to training, employee retention and morale by management leading to a lack of continuity in care of animals.” 

On Oct. 10, 2010, GM Barnette announced to her employees (via the internal message board) that after an extensive interview process that included answering three essay questions in advance, answering two question at the interview, and an in-person interview, she had decided to hire outsider Mark Salazar as the Director of Field Operations (DFO) in charge of law-enforcement and field services. Barnette explained in the post, “My job, as your General Manager, is to lead and leaders do not always get to make popular choices….” 

So, what was so special about Mark Salazar that would cause new GM Barnette to emphasize her “leadership” in hiring him, and bypass many experienced, fully qualified officers already managing field operations? (Although he is called “Commander,” for some undisclosed reason, Salazar has reportedly never worn a badge at LAAS.)   

Here’s Mark Salazar’s public management record before joining LAAS: 

A January 7, 2016, article in the Press Enterprise reports a new lawsuit: RIVERSIDE: City Workers Allege Harassment.  This article reviews a similar suit filed against Mark Salazar in 2008 in great detail, stating: 

It’s not the first lawsuit to allege harassment and other impropriety in the city’s code enforcement department. In 2008, five former employees sued the city and former code enforcement manager Mark Salazar, who they said harassed and discriminated against them based on age, sex and disabilities. (Emph. added) 

“In those cases, workers alleged Salazar inappropriately touched them, made sexual and insulting comments to employees and retaliated when they complained, including sending three of them to work out of a dirty, dangerous metal shed in the city yard. 

A suit filed in March 2008 by Mary Furfaro, Todd Solomon and Steve Livings was settled in 2010. Livings, who had been fired, was reinstated to his job with back pay.” 

Now, let’s look back at what was published about Mark Salazar in 2008. 

Mark Salazar was verified as the code enforcement supervisor named in the following lawsuit: 

Former Riverside code enforcement officers cite discrimination in suit – The article describes allegations against Mark Salazar of inappropriate touching, discrimination, harassment and retaliation, including having them work from a metal storage shed, with stored hazardous materials, no air-conditioning, no heating or drinking water. (These incidents allegedly occurred in 2005/2007.)  (The Press Enterprise, 3/19/08)    

2 more former Riverside code enforcement officers sue city” – Two more former Riverside code enforcement officers sued the city claiming age and sex discrimination. “The main accusations in both suits are against Mark Salazar, the city’s former code enforcement manager.” 

According to the City of Riverside, Mark Salazar “stopped working as a city employee in February and was given a contract as an advisor on code, which ended in August,” the article states. 

Mark Salazar made headlines again as the Executive Director of the Northeast Texas Humane Society in Longview, TX, in 2010, where he had reportedly worked for only nine months, and where he stated in his own report, with his photo, The Northeast Texas Humane Society has a euthanasia rate of 80%. 

Dispute grows over contract with Humane Society - Mark Salazar refused the request of the city which funds the Humane Society to perform an audit of finances in Oct. 2010... (, 10/14/10) 

Open the Books: Humane Society’s unwillingness to open records raises questions (Longview 10/17/10) 

Humane Society director resigns - “Mark Salazar, executive director of the Humane Society of Northeast Texas, has resigned and will be returning to Los Angeles to work in that city’s animal services department.” (Longview, 11/24/2010)  

Following is the short list of the Barnette/Salazar management-team decisions (and City embarrassments) since 2010: 

8/5/2011 - LAPD, City Seize Guns at 6 L.A. Animal Shelters  Plainclothes LAPD officers are reported to have taken about 120 weapons, including shotguns, rifles and .38-caliber handguns from the six animals shelters, the LA Times explained, “The city's 75 animal control officers are issued firearms to kill wild animals that are too injured to transport to shelters.” 

An audit was requested by Animal Services head Brenda Barnette, according to the Daily News.  Lt. Troy Boswell said they were unaware of any concerns. The police handed workers at the East Valley Shelter a note from Barnette and then took .38-caliber handguns from the premises. "We were given no explanation," he said.

10/21/2011 Phew! All of L.A. Animal Services Guns Are Accounted For, Audit Finds   “Thursday, officials announced the audit determined that all of the department's weapons were accounted for…”, the LAist reported. 

2/14/2012 – Six Animal Shelter Captains Benched Pending Vending Machine Contract Probe

“The city has sent home six animal shelter commanders pending a police probe into shelter vending machine contracts,” the Daily News has learned. “The six captains were placed on paid administrative leave Sunday by Brenda Barnette, general manager for Los Angeles Animal Services.” 

“Each captain earns up to $75,000 a year. Each has been ordered not to speak with each other or the media.” 

“The vending machines had been employed by the commanders since the 1950's to provide petty cash ($20-30/mo.) for shelter decorations, prizes and pizza for workers and volunteers. The practice was codified by the department in 2008. Barnette signed another amendment early last year granting captains permission to earn shelter money through recycling or machine vending, as long as they kept records,” the Daily News reported. 

The captains were being investigated by the LAPD's Burglary Crimes Division, “their crime, explained to them by a police detective: They had eaten shelter pizza they'd helped buy by contracting for the vending machines.” 

"We have a plan of action," Brenda Barnette told Daily News reporter Dana Bartholomew. "We have been working with the city psychologist on how to manage change."

6/13/2012 Los Angeles Animal Services Captains Cleared 

Six Los Angeles Animal Services captains returned to work this week after being cleared of any wrongdoing for improper vending machine contracts during "Pizzagate”…. The cost of their combined paid leave: $426,000…,” the Daily News announced, adding, “Barnette did not return calls for comment.”

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

“The on-going tragic implosion of Los Angeles Animal Services continues in an undated communication from General Manager Brenda Barnette, entitled, “Graveyard Shift Change for Animal Services,” … She states, “At the end of this month, Animal Services will not have Animal Care Technicians (ACTs) in the shelters from midnight until 6 AM…” 

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

After supporting an ordinance to prohibit pet stores from selling puppies, kittens, dogs or cats from puppy mills or local breeders, former dog breeder Brenda Barnette, issued a report…recommending that the Department stop spaying late-term pregnant dogs and foster them with rescuers or fosters until the puppies are eight weeks old, when they would be returned to LAAS to be adopted out for additional revenue. 

Oct 26, 2013
- Brenda Barnette's Daughter is a 'Responsible' Dog Breeder, Says Best Friends-L.A.’s Director   

Brenda Barnette’s daughter--Mary Alice Davis--was hired by Best Friends Animal Society in Los Angeles after Barnette arranged the $1-per-year giveaway of the new $19 million Northeast Valley Animal Shelter to Best Friends. (Plus, the City provides $200,000 a year in maintenance while Best Friends occupies the shelter.) A dog show roster dated May 23, 2013, shows Brenda Barnette and her daughter Mary Alice Davis listed as co-owners of a “Puppy Bitch” in competitions at the Southern California Portuguese Water Dog Club.                                        

When questioned about this, Marc Peralta, Director of Best Friends-LA, wrote back to advocate Daniel Guss: “Mary Alice Davis is not an adoption coordinator, rather she is the foster care coordinator at our pet adoption center in Mission Hills….While Best Friends always advocates adoptions from shelters or rescues for those looking for a pet, we do acknowledge that there are responsible and caring breeders (with definitions attached). Mary Alice falls into the category of responsible breeders. (October 8, 2013 e-mail from Marc Peralta, Director of Best Friends-LA)

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

On September 16 the City Council’s Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee heard a dismal report on the condition of LA Animal Services’ fleet of Animal Rescue Vehicles (ARV’s.) None of these animal-collection trucks have been replaced since 2000-2003, according to General Services Asst. GM Angela Sherick-Bright and Fleet Services Manager Richard Coulson. 

These high-mileage trucks are driven by solitary Animal Control Officers to animal-related emergencies and humane investigations, 24/7, throughout the 469 square miles of urban and rural Los Angeles. Following are a few of the alarming ARV mechanical/equipment failures that have been reported by officers...(read more) 

May 23, 2016 - LA Animal Services: Pit Bull with a Violent History Attacks Potential Adopter...  

A Pit Bull named Sammy with a prior record of repeated aggression, and who had just bitten a Los Angeles Animal Services kennel worker in the abdomen, was released on April 28, 2016, to NovaStar Rescue, at the personal instruction of LA Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette. 

On May 15, Los Angeles Fire Department and LAPD responded to a house near downtown LA at approximately 9 p.m., where a pit bull was attacking a woman who “was visiting the dog to determine if she wants to adopt from the rescue who had been fostering the dog.” That dog was later identified by LA Animal Services as Impound #1608123, “Sammy.” “Sammy” was alive but had been stabbed 19 times by a neighbor who heard the victim screaming. 

Also: LA Animal Services Removes Animal Control Officers from Harbor Shelter: Staffing Shortages or Poor Management?   

Mayor Garcetti OK’s $800,000 for Feral Cat Report While the City’s Homeless Struggle

LA Animal Services Brenda Barnette Hiding theTruth about Coyote Attacks and Rabies or Clueless 

Unfortunately, these are just a few of the alarming and embarrassing public 'errors' made by Brenda Barnette and Mark Salazar. It is unforgivable for taxpayers to pay for this gross mismanagement and for LA’s homeless animals to be victimized by the waste of LA Animal Services $46-million budget designated for their care.

Maybe “not being a good fit” with the current upper-management status quo at LAAS is a good thing!  

But this begs greater questions: Is anyone managing the City of LA? And, why is this undisputable history of incompetence being allowed to continue?

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

ANIMAL WATCH-California is one of the states with the highest percentage of surplus wild horses and burros; yet, little public or political attention has focused on this. Because of the projected wild-equine population increase, it is a humane issue that is becoming critical from both an ethical and financial standpoint and has gained heightened importance after a recent recommendation by the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board for disposing of these animals. 

An estimated 67,027 wild horses and burros roam 31 million acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management in the Western U.S. The agency’s recommended total sustainable population for this space is 26,715. This means the number of animals now exceeds the maximum appropriate level by more than 40,000; and, it is increasing at a rate of 15 to 18 percent annually. The BLM's historical finding is that both wild horse and burro herds double in size about every four years.

Additionally, in August 2016 the BLM reports that the number of off-range -- unadopted or unsold -- wild horses and burros maintained in holding facilities called Herd Management Areas (MHA's) from California to Illinois was over 45,000.

The federal Bureau of Land Management is mandated to manage, protect and control wild horses and burros under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. This law also authorizes the BLM to remove excess wild horses and burros, which have no significant natural predators, from the range to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for multiple uses, in accordance with the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act. 

Each year, an inventory is required of the number of wild horses and burros roaming BLM-managed lands. From this, the Appropriate Management Level (AML) is determined. This is the number of animals that can thrive in balance with other public land resources and uses. The AML for California is estimated at 2,200. However, the Golden State's wild equine population is now at 4,925 horses, plus an additional 3,391 burros, for a total of 8,316. 

In neighboring Nevada, an epic number of 34,531 wild horses and burros inhabit the federal rangelands -- nearly three times the AML 12,811 figure the BLM says the state can support. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) announced in April he will take legal action to force the federal government to fund the management of Nevada’s wild horse population at appropriate levels because of the impact on the state's economy.

The BLM has been rounding up and relocating wild horses and burros to its holding facilities so that privately owned cattle could graze on the land, critics contend. The cost of maintaining almost 46,000 horses in these overcrowded facilities reached $49 million in 2015. 

Director Neil Kornze says it can cost about $50,000 per animal to feed and care for wild horses sitting in corrals and pastures over their lifetime and that cost has doubled over the last seven years. He predicts that if the BLM cannot adopt out and/or transfer a significant number of the wild horses and burros being held to other government agencies upon request (such as, the Border Patrol), the cost of feeding and caring for them during their lifetime could rise to $1 billion. 

On September 9, in an effort to curb the increasing overpopulation West-wide, the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board, which suggests policy for the Bureau of Land Management, proposed a program that would either euthanize (which means shoot) or sell without limitation “all suitable animals in long and short term holding deemed unadoptable.” 

Cries of outrage by animal activists accused the government of squandering its very limited resources in rounding up and holding the animals instead of launching a wide-scale birth-control effort. 

A petition to the United States Congress claiming that not enough had been done to have the horses adopted was posted by Protect Mustangs  on September 12, declaring, “The public is outraged. Wild horses and burros are living symbols of freedom and the pioneering spirit of the American West.”

Ginger Kathrens, executive director of The Cloud Foundation, a wild horse advocacy group based in Colorado, stated the BLM should advance the use of fertility control vaccines that keep populations in check but allow horses and burros to remain free on the range. 

In a chart titled, Population Growth-Suppression Treatments, the BLM explains that the currently available fertility control vaccine (PZP) is limited to a one-year period of effectiveness (initially assumed to be 22 months) and must be hand-injected into a captured wild horse." If deployed via ground-darting, PZP has the same duration but is very difficult to deliver to an animal which avoids human contact and the sizes of the herds makes it difficult to locate or track individual animals. 

Kathrens told the House Subcommittee on Federal Lands earlier this year that. “Current management practices of round-up, removal and warehousing … cause compensatory reproduction – an increase in populations as a result of decreased competition for forage.” 

"In other words, there would not be a surge in wild horses if the BLM hadn’t removed most of them from their land in the first place," summarizes Inhabitat. 

Director Neil Kornze advised Congress in his 2017 budget request that the BLM is "overwhelmed" and sees no slowdown in population of these animals. BLM is requesting the establishment of a congressionally chartered foundation that would help fund and support efforts to adopt horses that have been rounded up.

Kornze told a House Appropriations subcommittee in March that the growing herds are causing environmental harm to vast swaths of rangeland. Among other things, he asked Congress to help by authorizing tax credits to "incentivize adoption" of wild horses (E&E Daily, March 4.) 

Skeptics pointed to the Washington Times article on October 24, 2015, confirming a report by the Interior Department's Office of Inspector General that between 2009 and 2012, the BLM sold 1,794 federally protected wild horses to a Colorado rancher who admitted that most of the horses that he purchased through the BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program went to slaughter. The Times also reports that taxpayers footed the $140,000 cost of delivery of the animals. 

On September 15, BLM spokesman Jason Lutterman issued a rapid response that the agency will NOT institute the controversial proposal by the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. “The BLM will not euthanize or sell without limitation any healthy animals. We’re going to continue caring for and seeking good homes for the un-adopted animals in our off-range corrals and pastures.” 

To sell the animals “without limitation" essentially removes protocols established in a BLM 2013 policy aimed at ensuring they won’t be slaughtered and includes other provisions to assure that these protected animals are not resold or do not fall into the hands of abusers. 

BLM Director Kornze also asked Congress to help by authorizing tax credits to "incentivize adoption" of wild horses (E&E Daily, March 4.) 

However, The Verge points out, adoptions are only $125 apiece, and even purchasing all 45,000 equines for $5,625,000 would do little to offset the $49 million that the BLM spent on them just last year.

Now we have more facts, but resolution still seems to be at an impasse. How would Californians react to the possibility that -- without progress in management -- thousands of the Golden State's wild horses and burros could face euthanasia?


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

Dogs with Tags and Chips Come Home


THE DOG BLOG--"My dog never gets out." Famous last words.  

Recently Los Angeles experienced an exciting thunder and lightning storm.  When I went to my front window to enjoy the light show, I saw a dog, soaking wet, running down the street in an utter panic. Over the next few days, neighborhood websites lit up with “Found Dog” and “Do you know who this dog belongs to?” A day after the rains, I saw an unaltered brown male pit bull, dazed, lethargic, shuffling slowly in front of my place.  He had probably been running for most of the night. He seemed exhausted. I went out and gave him water.  He wouldn't eat the food.  

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