New From CityWatch
GELFAND’S WORLD--We used to talk about ethical and structural reform within the city of Los Angeles. We've been distracted for the past year, but someday we will get back to thinking about fixing what ails us at the local level. Hey, we could even take up local reform while we're waiting for the mess in DC to pass. How could reform actually be made to happen at the citywide level?
BCK FILE-One year ago, the day following the Inauguration of Donald J. Trump, 750,000 people gathered in Pershing Square as part of a global Women’s March. For many of us who participated in the very first march alongside fellow members of the resistance across the country and even the world, this was one of the first steps to show our solidarity on behalf of not only women, but every group and issue marginalized by the Trump and Republican agenda.
LA WATCHDOG--The City of Los Angeles is proposing a $103 million tax break to subsidize the development of a $454 million, 1,130 room hotel complex at the corner of Figueroa and Pico, strategically located in the booming South Park area of DTLA, directly across the street from Gilbert Lindsey Plaza and the Los Angeles Convention Center.
DEEGAN ON LA-Chances are it will be a happier year for the homeless in 2018 than it was in 2017, thanks to a couple of proposed ordinances that would expedite housing, an abundance of programs for many types of homeless, and possibly even having a “Homeless Czar” at City Hall.
JUSTICE--Opening statements are scheduled to take place in Los Angeles this week in the civil trial (Case No. BC621315) of a disabled woman who alleges that in 2015 a Los Angeles police officer repeatedly punched her, including in the face, and pinned her non-functioning arm underneath her body. (Photo: As they beat the mother of four, LAPD officers repeatedly yelled at her to give them her arm and to “stop resisting” but due to her disability she was unable to unpin her arm voluntarily.)
EXPOSED--In a statement released shortly following the false ballistic missile alarm that sparked panic in Hawaii on Sunday, FCC chair Ajit Pai placed blame for the incident on the state's lack of "reasonable safeguards"—while failing to mention that it was telecom giants, including his former employer Verizon, that played a specific and outsized role in preventing the implementation of several key safeguards.
ANIMAL WATCH-Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA Animal Services' GM Brenda Barnette and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and City Attorney Mike Feuer may find it an unnerving surprise that the vegan dog-food proposal to feed only meatless meals to Los Angeles city shelter dogs -- propounded by Commissioner Roger Wolfson and eagerly supported by Best Friends enthusiast Layne Dicker -- has found fervent support and visual prominence on the Liberation/blog page of DirectActionEverywhere.com, the new site connected to the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).
MASS TRANSIT DEBATE-The war on transit has launched a new salvo with accusations that subways, light rail, and trolleys are financial weapons of destruction out to destroy LA, using poor and working mothers as cannon fodder.
ALPERN AT LARGE--We live in a nation where one side wants to save us all from the other ... but who shall save us from those trying to save us?
NON VIOLENCE--About a year ago, sometime between the feelings of depression that followed Trump’s election and his inauguration, an old activist friend – and occasional Capital & Main contributor – contacted me. Vivian Rothstein had traveled to the South to register voters during the civil rights movement, and she thought it was time again to focus on non-violence as a way of resisting what was floating to the surface in America. She meant not only white supremacy, but what many activists recognize in Trump’s authoritarian tendencies: a threat to democracy itself. Would I join a small group of people to offer trainings in nonviolent resistance, including civil disobedience?
CORRUPTION WATCH-When the federal Ninth Circuit Court issued its decision In re Sunnyslope on May 26, 2017 (WL 2294746), it may have saved Los Angeles from disaster.
420 FILE-Although the Los Angeles City Council adopted three ordinances to regulate and zone cannabis businesses in Los Angeles, it’s hard to imagine the impact of legal pot becoming significant enough to shrink the black market.
@THE GUSS REPORT-As President Donald Trump confounds supporters, detractors and the detached alike with his latest daily dose of foot-in-mouth syndrome (late last week he allegedly inarticulately pondered why the U.S. has immigrants from “shithole” countries), some brilliant someone came up with a hash tag that offers some agreeable and much-needed comedic relief: #AddShitholeToMovieTitles, which quickly went viral.
PACIFIC STANDARD-Many labels come with stereotypes attached, and applying them can influence how a specific individual is viewed, and treated. While these harmful labels are often based on race or religion, new research identifies a different large group of Americans who are surprisingly subject to being stigmatized: Baby Boomers.
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--California is so big that you don’t need to be a mouse to hide here. You can be a giant elephant, and still escape notice.
GUEST COMMENTARY--In a New Year’s Eve display of liberal newspaper death penalty abolition harmony – buoyed by the release of the Death Penalty Information Center’s (DPIC) annual report evidencing another year in the long-observable trend of capital punishment’s disuse and disfavor in America – both the Washington Post and New York Times’s editorial boards published opinion pieces arguing for an end to what the Times called a “cruel and pointless” practice; one that is “savage, racially biased, arbitrary,” and which “the developed world agreed to reject...long ago.”
EASTSIDER-After writing about the recent Skid Row election, and discovering that DONE’s grievance panel system was a fraud, I was surprised to discover another 2016 Election which is turning out to make Skid Row’s debacle look like child’s play!
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--The new owners wasted little time. Soon after completing their purchase of a dilapidated set of apartment buildings in South Los Angeles, they greeted their 70-some tenants with a message: Get out, and do it two weeks before Christmas.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--In reading the article about the Venice NC and the issues with DONE, I remind the public that the bigger issue is the cost to taxpayers when a department acts recklessly violating ordinances, commission policy and more.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS-In a city of smaller communities, it’s the Neighborhood Councils that connect the Mayor’s Office and the Council with the issues facing each neighborhood. The job of EmpowerLA and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE) is to support the Neighborhood Councils. But what happens when Empower LA drops the ball?
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Television City, the large studio complex at the corner of Beverly and Fairfax, was the West Coast headquarters of the CBS network for more than five decades. Some of the most iconic television shows originated there, from “The Jack Benny Program” to “The Price Is Right.” The sight of its signature red awning is etched on the minds of many viewers of a certain age, as is the voice-over that began so many of the shows once filmed there: “From Television City in Hollywood.…”
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS—Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilmembers José Huizar, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and Curren Price today officially opened the Skid Row Community ReFresh Spot, a personal care center that will provide new access to showers and toilet facilities for Angelenos experiencing homelessness.
VIEW FROM HERE--Remember the good old days when elections were stolen by political bosses? They followed the time-honored tradition of stuffing ballot boxes with the votes of cemeteries full of people whose political influence extended beyond the grave. In some cases, machine loyalists voted multiplied times. At the end of election day, counting ballots offered opportunities for padding the totals.
CAL MATTERS--It should be said that California’s resistance began before there was a resistance.
BCK FILE-Exactly one year after BuzzFeed first published what would become known as the Steele Dossier, our own Senator Dianne Feinstein released the Senate Judiciary Committee’s interview with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn R. Simpson.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Los Angeles is heading toward a perfect storm of gentrification, well-camouflaged behind spurious claims of boosting transit ridership and addressing LA’s housing crisis through zoning and environmental deregulation.
CAL MATTERS-Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and former Republican Congressman Doug Ose are polar opposites politically, but have jointly altered dynamics of this year’s California elections.
EASTSIDER-As a product of the ‘60s and UC Berkeley (photo above), I am not overly fond of the CIA and the FBI. Yet I find myself in the odd position of actually defending them. Strange times indeed.
PERSPECTIVE--Long before he started running for president, Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that he’s both brainy and well-educated. It is one of his most persistent lies.
JUSTICE-Because it seems that, some 20 years after its creation, the so-called “Baron & Budd witness coaching memo” has gone missing–well, at least from Wikipedia, where it resided for years.
VOICES--In 1986, CBS reporter Lesley Stahl went with her husband and daughter for a valedictory meeting with President Ronald Reagan before ending her stint as a White House correspondent. (She would later return to cover George H.W. Bush as well.) Before she went in, Stahl was told to ask no questions. When Reagan appeared, Stahl was faced with a befuddled man who did not seem to know where he was.
RELIGION RIGHTS-An Oregon state appeals court on Thursday let stand $135,000 in damages levied against the owners of a Portland-area bakery for discrimination after they refused on religious grounds to prepare a wedding cake for a local lesbian couple.
A three-judge panel of the Oregon Court of Appeals rejected a petition by Melissa and Aaron Klein, former owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, to overturn the ruling by the state’s labor commissioner as a violation of their rights under the U.S. Constitution to freedom of religion and expression.
An attorney for the Kleins, who closed their bakery not long after being ordered to pay the heavy fine, could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.
“Today’s ruling sends a strong signal that Oregon remains open to all,” Brad Avakian, the state’s labor commissioner, said in a written statement.
“Within Oregon’s public accommodations law is the basic principle of human decency that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, has the freedom to fully participate in society,” Avakian said.
The case stems from Aaron Klein’s refusal to bake a wedding cake for Rachel Bowman-Cryer in January 2013 because she was planning a same-sex wedding to her partner Laurel, which he said violated his religious convictions.
Rachel and Laurel Bowman-Cryer filed a formal complaint with the state labor bureau, which found the Kleins had violated anti-discrimination laws and awarded the damages.
The Bowman-Cryers were married in 2014 after a federal judge struck down Oregon’s same-sex marriage ban.
The bakery case is one of many disputes nationwide since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June 2015 to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
FREE SPEECH RIGHTS--Civil liberties and digital rights groups are raising concerns over the possible behind-the-scenes influence by the U.S. government in Facebook's decision to selectively block some sanctioned world leaders from using the social media platform, while allowing others to maintain accounts.
Facebook deleted the account of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov last week, explaining that the head of the Russian republic had been added to the government's sanctions list, which bars U.S. companies from providing services to him. Kadyrov has been accused of committing numerous human rights abuses against the LGBT community and his opponents.
Other sanctioned leaders, however, have not been banned from the website. While both Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been slapped by the U.S. with economic sanctions, neither have yet had their accounts suspended.
"It really does seem as though Facebook is picking and choosing compliance, which suggests there is government involvement," Jillian York, director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the Guardian.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has raised concerns that the government could be indirectly censoring political speech via its economic sanctions.
"It really does seem as though Facebook is picking and choosing compliance, which suggests there is government involvement."—Jillian York, Electronic Frontier Foundation
"This sanctions law is being used to suppress speech with little consideration of the free expression values and the special risks of blocking speech, as opposed to blocking commerce or funds as the sanctions were designed to do. That's really problematic," ACLU attorney Jennifer Granick told the New York Times when the newspaper reported on Facebook's deletion of Kadyrov's account.
According to the Intercept, the possibility of Facebook's cooperation with the government to determine which leaders should be banned is deeply troubling—and not far-fetched. The company has met with Israeli officials to discuss the deletion of Palestinian activists' accounts on the grounds of "incitement," as Glenn Greenwald reported:
The meetings—called for and presided over by one of the most extremist and authoritarian Israeli officials, pro-settlement Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked—came after Israel threatened Facebook that its failure to voluntarily comply with Israeli deletion orders would result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country.
The predictable results of those meetings are now clear and well-documented. Ever since, Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation, all directed and determined by Israeli officials. Indeed, Israeli officials have been publicly boasting about how obedient Facebook is when it comes to Israeli censorship orders.
Greenwald noted that "Israelis have virtually free rein to post whatever they want about Palestinians. Calls by Israelis for the killing of Palestinians are commonplace on Facebook, and largely remain undisturbed."
He also stressed that the Trump administration's ability to "pick and choose" who is barred from social media networks—which two-thirds of Americans use as news sources, according to Pew Research—could have dangerous implications for anyone the president considers an opponent.
"The Trump administration has the unilateral and unchecked power to force the removal of anyone it wants from Facebook and Instagram by simply including them on a sanctions list," he wrote. "Does anyone think this is a good outcome? Does anyone trust the Trump administration—or any other government—to compel social media platforms to delete and block anyone it wants to be silenced?"
(Julia Conley writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)
LA WATCHDOG--Alexander Nazaryan’s Op-Ed column in the Los Angeles Times, Let’s Compare Eric Garcetti and Bill de Blasio, paints a positive image of Mayor Eric Garcetti, an “embodiment of pragmatic politics,” compared to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, an “ideologue driven by a self-serving fervor who easts his pizza with a knife and fork.”
LA WATCHDOG—(Editor’s note: Jack Humphreville is currently snowed in on the east coast. LA’s Watchdog will return on Thursday. In the interim, here’s a replay of Jack’s most read column of 2017.) Why are Councilmembers Paul Krekorian, the Chair of the Budget & Finance Committee, and Paul Koretz, the Chair of the Personnel Committee, and Mayor Eric Garcetti unwilling to be transparent about the City’s pension crisis that contributes to its never ending Structural Deficit and is crowding out basic services to Angelenos?
LA WATCHDOG--It has been over a year since Miguel Santana announced that he was resigning as the City Administrative Officer to become the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles County Fair Association. And despite the call for a nationwide search for the most important job in the City of Los Angeles, we still do not have a permanent City Administrative Officer which makes you wonder why.
LA WATCHDOG--Hollywood is for sale!
LA WATCHDOG--As a result of Raul Bocanegra’s resignation from the State Assembly, taxpayers will have to foot the bill for a special election to fill his seat. This will more than likely include two trips to the polls, a primary and then a runoff, costing taxpayers an estimated $2 million, if not more. And this does not take into consideration the distraction caused by this special election or the campaign dollars spent by the aspiring candidates. (Photos above: State Senators Kevin de Leon, left and Ricardo Lara)
LA WATCHDOG--The unfunded liability for the Department of Water and Power’s retirement liabilities improved as a result of the 12.7% return on invested assets for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016. As a result, the shortfall decreased from $2.8 billion (81% funded) to $1.8 billion (88% funded).
RESISTANCE WATCH--The #MeToo phenomenon was one of the most important social and political moments of 2017. While the floodgates have opened, it is still too early to label these mass revelations of men’s sexual assaults on women as a social mobilization with a political plan for gender justice.
RESISTANCE WATCH--The term "burnout" is all too familiar among students and workers: a mental and emotional exhaustion where you feel like you've used up the last of your inner resources.
RESISTANCE WATCH--Billionaire Democratic mega-donor and environmentalist Tom Steyer's "Impeach Trump" petition began as a marginal political operation that was greeted with contempt by Democratic leaders.
RESISTANCE WATCH -- Bill Moyers has threatened to retire several times. Each time, the many fans and friends have urged the legendary PBS journalist to reconsider, and each time he did. But today, at age 83, Moyers announced his farewell, and this time it is real.
ANIMAL WATCH-At the December 12, 2017, evening meeting of the LA Animal Services Commission to discuss approval of performing a feasibility study on feeding vegan food to the impounded dogs in all city shelters, GM Brenda Barnette, Commission President Larry Gross, and Assistant City Attorney Dov Lesel acquiesced to the persistence of two of Mayor Eric Garcetti's appointees, Roger Wolfson and Layne Dicker (photos above) -- turning an official hearing into a bully pulpit opportunity for their egocentric rants and grandstanding.
ANIMAL WATCH-If you live, work, own a home or business in the city of Los Angeles, Councilman Paul Koretz has a holiday surprise for you! Soon, you could find that an unlimited number of Pit Bulls or cats "rescued" from city animal shelters are relocated to a “pet shop” next to your business or less than 500 feet from your home. (Most other impounded dogs are adopted.)
@THE GUSS REPORT-Does one need to sue Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in order to get the truth? That might be the case when it comes to un-licensed, un-permitted dog and cat breeders operating in the city.
ANIMAL WATCH-In a shocking and embarrassing display of arrogance and disrespect at the Los Angeles Animal Services' Commission meeting on November 28, Commissioner Roger Wolfson – an appointee of Mayor Eric Garcetti -- included insults and bullying to attempt to overrule the decision of General Manager Brenda Barnette and Chief Veterinarian Jeremy Prupas and gain approval to switch impounded dogs in city shelters to vegan food.
ANIMAL WATCH-Two Pit Bulls owned Ace of Hearts Dog Rescue, a West Hollywood group, recently attacked innocent victims in separate incidents while in the care of fosters in the city of Los Angeles. Both were declared Dangerous Dogs by LA Animal Services' GM Brenda Barnette. This means the dogs must be removed from the city or euthanized and that the owner cannot license or keep another dog within the city limits for three years.
ANIMAL WATCH-“We are opposed to puppy mills," stated Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman on Wednesday, as the City Council discussed repealing a ban which would have restricted local pet shops from selling dogs, cats and potbellied pigs not obtained from an animal-care facility or rescue organization. "This will not affect puppy mills,” she said, “They’re going to continue to be there.”