CAL MATTERS--With a declaration that “public servants best serve the citizenry when they can be candid and honest without reservation in conducting the people’s business,” lawmakers passed the California Whistleblower Protection Act in 1999.
NC BUDGET ADVOCATES—LA Neighborood Council Budget Advocates Janet Kim, Carol Newman, Michael Menjivar, and Ricardo Ramirez met with Chief of Staff Leela Ann Kapur and Budget Director Michiko Reyes from the City Attorney’s office to share recommendations, challenges, and successes concerning the city’s liability issue and lawsuits.
EDUCATION POLITICS--Oh, California, you paradise, you far-flung western shoal, you frontier beyond purple mountains and fruited plains, you earth-shaking technological marvel, you never-ending party — California, you’re the land of good news, where the economy booms and the culture is wildly, diversely, supremely cool. You’re the golden realm at the end of our national rainbow.
NEW GEOGRAPHY-Few global companies enjoy as much public good will as the Walt Disney Company. The entertainment giant regularly ranks highly on lists of the most admired or trusted companies, including ones from Forbes and Fortune.
BELL VIEW-I once did a short stint at Gigi Gordon’s Post-Conviction Assistance Center. My first week on the job, Gigi dropped 80 pedophile cases on my desk. The Supreme Court’s decision in Stogner v. California, which held California’s retroactive extension of the statute of limitations for child molestation unconstitutional, invalidated hundreds of convictions under the statute. I wasn’t long for that job. I didn’t have the constitutional grit necessary for criminal defense. But I learned a little something about pedophiles in the process.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Question: Is the dizzy array of new zoning ordinances welling up at LA’s City Hall really intended to address LA’s twin crises of affordable housing and traffic congestion?
ALPERN AT LARGE--Vision Zero (and, to a very large degree, Great Streets) are first-rate, meritorious efforts that have the ability to improve and save lives. There is no reason why every neighborhood council and city council throughout the nation and world shouldn't adopt part or all of those initiatives.
EASTSIDER-I just finished reading Donna Brazille’s book Hacked, and she did not say that the election was “rigged” against Bernie. What she said was much worse!
CAL MATTERS--The camera and lights switched on and Ole Torp, the Charlie Rose of Norway, leaned in, silver hair flashing, and posed his first question to Gov. Jerry Brown.
PREVEN REPORT--During the past few years, according to a federal lawsuit filed last year by the Los Angeles Police Protective League, four separate police captains serving at various times on a disciplinary panel called the Board of Rights have come forward to accuse LAPD Chief Charlie Beck of pressuring them to return guilty verdicts and then punishing them in cases where they refused to tow the line.
AT LENGTH-On Nov. 2, the joint commissions at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach voted unanimously to approve the Clean Air Action Plan 2.0. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called this a visionary action that would affect the lives of millions and those of generations to come. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia mostly agreed. But this document was signed despite vocal criticism from the community advocates who have been pushing for policy changes for decades.
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--Can Californians learn to be as cool as Koreans in the face of nuclear annihilation?
@THE GUSS REPORT- If the lawsuit filed last week by diminutive LAPD Captain Lillian Carranza was a stand-alone story, the title of today’s column might be “Small Cop Stands Tall.” But it isn’t stand-alone at all.
EASTSIDER-Every so often I take a look at the Planning Department’s list of Proposed Ordinances, just to see what the rascals are up to. A couple months ago, I looked, and then, again, this month. The results were startling, to say the least!
CAL MATTERS-You’ve heard the term “all politics is local”? California Republicans had better hope so. The polls told us that this week’s gubernatorial matchup in Virginia would be a nailbiter. Instead, it was an electoral thrashing. Voters handed the governor’s mansion to Democrat Ralph Northam with a decisive 9-point margin while stripping the state GOP of its firm grip on the legislature’s lower chamber, reducing a supermajority to within spitting distance of a tie (and counting).
ALPERN AT LARGE--One of my favorite classes in college at UCSD/Revelle College was Freshman Humanities, a damned-hard writing/history/humanities course that (despite the demanding reading/writing requirements) forced its students to explore the recurring question civilized societies have asked since the dawn of recorded history: What makes us human, and what makes us special?
VOICES--The state Legislature has repeatedly beaten down common-sense attempts to fix the most egregious flaws in the social-engineering experiments known as Prop. 47 and Prop. 57.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Los Angeles’ corruptionism will last until LA real estate crashes and burns. A sociological explanation for this might be that “we grow up to become our parents.” Many of LA Millennials’ parents or grandparents were immigrants from the East Coast or other countries, which means their history has been to leave bad conditions rather than stay and fight for reform.
ADVOCATING FOR YOU-Los Angeles is home to the largest, most diverse system of grassroots governance in the world, the LA Neighborhood Council System. Except, in our city of 4 million people less than 1% of us know what a Neighborhood Council (NC) is or the amount of influence they hold. I've lived in LA for roughly a decade and had never learned any of this until this past spring. So, being brand new to the NC system myself, I was interested in learning more. What better place to make a real difference than in my own neighborhood, right?
ANIMAL WATCH-When Assembly Bill 485, which banned pet shops from selling dogs, cats or rabbits other than “rescued" animals or face a $500 fine, was signed into state law by Governor Jerry Brown on October 13, it also created and legalized an entire new California industry, devoid of regulation and oversight. It seems that the ramifications were also not considered. Sacramento legislators basked in a near-nirvana moment of media attention and glowed in the hype that they were “saving lives” -- as if they had just solved a problem, rather than potentially creating one.
DEEGAN ON LA-The recent news that an as yet gender-unidentified mountain lion has been discovered in the Hollywood Hills reminds us that, while we live in a very dense city, our urban landscape also includes a thriving wilderness. If the mystery cat is a female and if she mates with one of the better-known local mountain lions – such as the iconic P-22 – we could soon have a new family in search of a hillside habitat. It would be, however, a family without a “dad” since male mountain lions leave “mom” within days of mating.
GELFAND’S WORLD--Harlan Ellison, Timothy Snyder, and Ta Nehisi Coates are modern authors who have written with great eloquence that Truth Matters. It may seem strange that someone has to say so, but in this era it becomes a painful necessity. Snyder wrote On Tyranny, Coates has written two well received books and a column for The Atlantic. Ellison has published nearly two thousand stories and columns. And they all keep saying that truth matters. They're not alone, but their outspokenness in response to modern forms of public dishonesty stands out.
CAL MATTERS--California Gov. Jerry Brown and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo shed some alligator tears last week over Republican plans to eliminate the federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes.
CALWATCHDOG--The California chapter of the NAACP is distributing a resolution to California lawmakers that calls for the removal of the “Star Spangled Banner” as the official national anthem of the United States.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-It is easy to understand how street and prescription drugs became a gateway to opioid addiction, which now kills 64,000 people per year in the United States.
CA VOICE GOES UNHEARD IN DC--Despite a growing sense that a Democratic wave could be coming in 2018, House Republicans showed little sign of letting up on their tax proposal Wednesday, with a bill set to move out of committee on a party-line vote Thursday and onto the floor as early as next week. (Photo above: California congressman Darrell Issa.)
EDUCATION POLITICS--The Los Angeles Unified School District and some of the nation’s highest-performing charter schools are engaged in what one report has called a “game of chicken” – with the fate of 14 of these schools and their nearly 4,600 students hanging the balance. But that suggests this is about two parties engaged in dangerous brinksmanship. In fact, it is about charter schools finally standing up to teachers union’s bullying.
ALPERN AT LARGE--Time for us to admit the truth: if we're having to rely on preferred parking districts to access our homes or businesses, then somebody probably screwed up.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING BATTLE-Nobody can argue that LA doesn't need Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). (Photo above: Star Apartments, PSH in Skid Row) The number of homeless people on the streets has skyrocketed and we have to address this crisis. The city's voters approved ballot measures H and HHH to fund the construction of PSH units, and United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (UN4LA) agrees that it's time to take action.
ADVOCATING FOR YOU-I moved to Los Angeles for the little things. The weather, cruising around the city on beautifully kept roads with manicured trees, enjoying the parks and public spaces I can use 365 days a year. Except, I've lived here for a decade now and like most Angelenos, the chances to enjoy those are things have been few and far between. But, you might say, “why should I care? I don't have the time to worry about this.”
RANTZ AND RAVEZ-Another expensive audit recently released by the City Controller informed us all of what most of us already knew. The City of LA is not sweeping most of the streets in Los Angeles. In fact, 66% of the city streets are being ignored and not swept at all. That means that only 34% of the streets are being swept by street sweeper machines operated by city crews on any type of a regular schedule.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Trump sent out the world’s least charismatic person, Secretary of Treasury Stephen Mnuchin, to sell his tax plan and Mnuchin began in Los Angeles. Let’s remember that Mnuchin made a fortune by taking advantage of people’s misery. He is the guy who started a business to target elderly widows and evict them from their Reverse Mortgage homes. One 90-year old widow mistakenly underpaid her mortgage by 27 cents prompting her eviction. These business tactics are what Trump calls “smart”, much like his repeatedly going bankrupt to avoid paying his workers.
BELL VIEW--Last night, my wife drew my attention to a discussion thread on a Facebook group for LA moms. One of the moms, while carpooling several kids to school, made a comment, which one of the kids pronounced “racist.” The comment appeared relatively innocuous, so the mom posted it on Facebook for a reaction. More than 500 comments later, the debate had devolved into a discussion about whether or not white people should just shut the hell up.
GELFAND’S WORLD--We call on the City of Los Angeles to advertise the existence of Neighborhood Councils. They are the best kept secret in the city of Los Angeles.
SUPER-MAJORITY HYPOCRISY-You know who doesn’t look so weird anymore? Vice President Mike Pence. When Pence told the Washington Post that he doesn’t dine alone with women, and never, ever attends an event solo if alcohol will be served, many gasped. He seemed like a too-tightly wrapped antihero from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
DEEGAN ON LA-Hauling empty tobacco barrels around in the back of a truck as a teen who didn’t make it through high school in tiny, rural Maxton (formerly called Shoe Heel), North Carolina during the Depression was the beginning.
GUEST WORDS--A UK study published on October 27, 2017 reported that the majority of politicians do not know where money comes from. According to City A.M. (London):
BCK FILE--Since I last wrote about what seems to be an epidemic of sexual assault and harassment, we’ve watched numerous male actors come forward with accusations against actor Kevin Spacey who responded in social media to the first accuser with an apology for something he did not remember, washed by a coming out statement, which has brought ire from many in the LGBTQ community and others. Spacey has since been booted from Netflix, as well as his publicist and representative.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Land Banking is a term that is new to Angelenos. The concept is simple: Wealthy people buy land rather than buy stocks or putting their money into a savings bank. They “bank” on the idea that the land value will rise faster than the stock market or interest on savings accounts. Land Banking was recently explained in a Canadian estate publication, Better Dwellings.
ALPERN AT LARGE--I've said this so many times I feel like a broken record: I can't stand conspiracy theories and theorists ... but I REALLY can't stand it when those theories and theorists are proven correct. (Photos above: Venice Blvd, left and Wilshire Blvd right.)
@THE GUSS REPORT-Does the star-struck LAPD reserve its resources for celebrities rather than perform its duties evenly and for all?
ANIMAL WATCH-Councilman Paul Koretz and his protégé, Councilman Bob Blumenfield (CD3), quietly introduced a motion on October 27 (CF 17-1237, Kennel / Delete Definition) in an apparent attempt to help Mayor Eric Garcetti, and LA Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette reach their "No Kill" goal. This latest plan would remove authority of Zoning and Code Enforcement over "kennels" in the LA Municipal Code and, along with the exemptions of the "new-model" pet shops, could permit an unlimited number of surplus impounded pets – likely, cats and Pit Bulls -- to be relocated in “rescues” in residential, as well as, commercial zones citywide.
PERSPECTIVE-There is no such thing as tax reform, at least when it is framed within the same Byzantine template that has bedeviled taxpayers for generations.
CAL MATTERS-That sigh you hear is Antonio Villaraigos’s relief that Eric Garcetti won’t be running for governor next year.
EASTSIDER-The much awaited PLUM Committee meeting to finalize whatever they’re going to do with the Airbnb (Short Term Rental) Ordinance has been shrouded in a veil of secrecy and “moving the ball” hearing dates. Was it because they knew they couldn’t take action at the meeting? You tell me.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-It is not easy to remain “king of the hill” on a playground or even in the backrooms of City Hall. But, to hold on to power, we have seen how desperate times require desperate measures. This is why the violent end of Occupy Los Angeles at City Hall’s front door marked the way for the defeat of Measure S, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, several years later.
BELL VIEW--David Brooks took another crack at The Big Picture this week in his New York Times column. According to Mr. Brooks, America suffers from a species of political idolatry, where no one actually thinks about anything anymore, and we all just believe what our “party” tells us to believe. In Mr. Brooks’s America, the Left and the Right have each wrapped the warm blanket of tribal certainty around themselves, secure in the knowledge that “they’re wrong and we’re right.”
GUEST COMMENTARY--Little about political contributions in California is hidden. Information is easily accessible at Cal-Access, a website run by California’s Secretary of State. For example, look here to see contributions to a special interest and then here for unfortunate consequences from political activity by that interest. There’s nothing dark about that money. Still, uninformed or lazy commentators all too often blame the state’s political problems on dark money*. But that’s not true.
WHAT WHITE LOOKS LIKE--On Friday, October 27, Los Angeles Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters spoke out about morning drive radio host Bill Handel of iHeartMedia’s KFI 640 calling Congresswoman Frederica Wilson a “cheap, sleazy Democrat whore” on the radio. Handel–who is scheduled to be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame this week– followed up his comments after social media backlash erupted with a sorry-not-sorry saying that he should have called Wilson a “media whore.”
CORRUPTION WATCH-Periodically some Angelenos become upset with their councilmember and want to recall him (or her). Last year people in the Valley wanted to recall Councilmember Krekorian and many people in Hollywood want to recall Councilmembers O’Farrell and Ryu. But recalls are notoriously unsuccessful.
ALPERN AT LARGE--About 20 angry folks gave up watching the last game of the World Series Wednesday night to attend the Mar Vista Community Council Transportation/Infrastructure Committee meeting. Their only solace appeared to be that it was no fun watching the game, since the Dodgers were losing big time from the get-go.
GUEST WORDS-South LA mothers halted a city hearing on open space Saturday after city planners failed to involve the black community, held it the day of the huge Taste of Soul festival, and wanted half of the attendees to discuss Culture & Community” instead of open space. (Photo above: Near empty meeting after South LA moms had their say.)
GELFAND’S WORLD--What did the Trump campaign say when the elephant walked into their headquarters?
Answer: Nothing. They didn't see it.
GUEST WORDS-This week, I joined more than 100 Porter Ranch area residents and their supporters to mark the two-year anniversary of the gas blowout at the SoCalGas Aliso Canyon Storage Facility. The 2015 blowout -- the worst gas disaster in U.S. history -- released 100 thousand metric tons of methane and took four months to cap. For five hours on the October 23 anniversary, we blockaded the entrance to the facility that has gotten so many friends and neighbors sick. After two years of insisting that the dangerous gas facility be closed down, we were fed up with getting the run around from SoCalGas, state regulators and public officials.
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--Want to spook your neighbors this Halloween? Don’t bother with big displays of goblins, ghouls, or ghosts. Instead, just decorate your door with a picture of an eight-story apartment building.
BCK FILE--Sexual harassment has taken over the news and social media feeds. Every day, there’s another high-profile executive or celebrity who has been harassing female colleagues in the office or on set. As I wrote in CityWatch last week, hopefully, this vigilance to suspend, fire, or elicit resignations isn’t a temporary P.R. move but authentic change.
On October 25, 2017, protestors from the Catholic Worker and the LA Community action Network entered Los Angeles City Hall carrying covered toilets protesting lack of hygiene among homeless who have an outbreak of hepatitis A. The protestors tried to deliver the toilets to Mayor Garcetti.
EDUCATION WATCH-Silicon Valley-based Rocketship is a charter school chain with a bevy of star backers that has reported sky-high student achievement and recently landed a $12.6 million grant from Betsy DeVos’ Department of Education. But beyond the hype is a galaxy of problems, including plummeting test scores, litigation and allegations of student mistreatment.
@THE GUSS REPORT-2017 is the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and faced a tidal wave of hatred ranging from being spit upon to receiving death threats. His doing so, and his succeeding at his job, is not just an element of baseball history, but of American history. As such, Robinson’s 42 uniform number has been retired by every team in both MLB leagues.
DEEGAN ON LA-A pioneer in so many ways, he was also an early NIMBY-type that railed against development. He was so angry, so distraught about the constructions that were happening outside his dining room window, the stain on his view, the assault on his senses that Frank Lloyd Wright felt he had no other option than blocking out the offending view by boarding up his window. This nugget of information was provided by docents who lead tours through the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, a leafy, Wright-residence-filled western suburb of Chicago.
GUEST WORDS-The recent release of Ken Burns’ Vietnam documentary transported me back to the politics of my youth and the ugly hypocrisy of Lyndon Johnson, whose story contains a critical lesson for California today.
POLITICS--LA planning commissioners, who wield tremendous power and influence, should obviously have a background in urban planning and land use, right? Not according to Mayor Eric Garcetti. He’s nominated a political consultant for the California Democratic Party to the Central Los Angeles Area Planning Commission. (Photo above: Mayor Garcetti on right with State Senator Kevin de Leon.)
RANTZ AND RAVEZ-In previous columns, I’ve written about numerous critical issues facing the City of Los Angeles and the State of California, and the elected officials who are responsible for the governance of our City of the Angels and the Golden State of California.
GUEST WORDS--Let’s play with a word and an idea. “Hegemony” means the dominance of one political group over all others. That, at this moment, is the Republican brand. President Donald J. Trump, a Republican Senate, a Republican House, and a conservative, if not Republican, court system that will judge the law and Constitution for years to come. Hegemony. (Photo above: Jennifer Yarnal searches for keepsakes in the rubble of her home just a few days ago in Santa Rosa, California. LA Times/Getty image.)
CALMATTERS--From the minute you stepped into the carpeted ballroom foyer that separated the California GOP’s semi-annual convention from the rest of the Anaheim Marriott, you could see that something in the Republican party had changed.
THE SERIES, UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL--Almost a day has gone by and I’m still processing last night’s heartbreaking World Series Game 2 Dodger loss, which I attended with my brother Richard, my niece Grace and my son Vin.
GUN SHOWS VS. GUN LAWS-Firearms-related deaths and injuries increased 70 percent in parts of California in the weeks after gun shows in neighboring Nevada, which has fewer regulations on such events, a University of California, Berkeley study released on Monday found.
WHAT, CITY HALL WORRY?—At a site known simply as Jefferson, 36 oil wells are pumping closely – too closely, residents say — to occupied multi-unit apartment buildings at a drilling site on Jefferson Boulevard, just west of the University of Southern California.
EASTSIDER-Can you be both fiscally responsible and socially progressive? Two very different democratic candidates for governor visited the EAPD on October 24, and the small group of dedicated political activists who chose this meeting over the World Series Game 1 got a real treat.
ALPERN AT LARGE--A judge ... a California judge ... a California AND an Obama-appointed judge ... just rejected a bid by 18 of our United States to revive subsidies to health plan for covering patients as part of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. Should we call that a defeat for health care? Shall we call it a victory over federal government over reach? Or both?
GUEST COMMENTARY-The legislative season is over, and we finally have begun to see our California legislature act on the housing crisis in this state. The Governor signed 15 bills that were intended to smooth the way to more housing being built.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Like jackalopes and unicorns, NIMBY’s (Not in my backyard) are imaginary beings. Nevertheless, real estate “developers” still spread much ill will about them. They are also endlessly pilloried by City Hall lobbyists, campaign consultants, hired pens, mainstream journalists, Internet trolls, and neo-liberal academics – all of whom have joined the welcome wagon for real estate speculation.
BELL VIEW-I started out life as a good kid, a nice guy. As my interest in the opposite sex increased, I began to notice that the bad boys got all the girls. So, I switched. I started smoking, drinking, hanging out with the bad kids, and acting like I didn’t care about anything. Deep down, I like to think I was still basically a nice guy – but I have my regrets.
420 FILE-A new Gallup poll finds the highest level of public support for marijuana legalization since the organization first posed the question almost five decades ago. (Editor’s note: Recreational marijuana becomes legal in California next January 1.)
ALPERN AT LARGE--No need to belabor this point, because we see it every day: LA’s homeless numbers are getting worse. So while I am sure that I will be excoriated as a hater, a monster, a racist, and an unfeeling demon (regardless of the fact that I treat and offer free health care to the homeless and poor every day), let's go back to a language we can all understand: the ABC's.
A as in Hepatitis A: It's become a statewide emergency; While not untreatable, it can put people in the hospital and even be fatal. Mother Nature doesn't give a rip about social justice causes--in fact, she's a real witch. But when any state or nation allows homelessness to rise and run rampant, infectious disease will inevitably follow.
B as in Behavior: Throw more money and resources and love at lawless behavior, and you get more of it. We passed Measure H and HHH after demonstrating years to decades of poor spending habits and lousy records of truly helping the homeless. So what could go wrong? Shocker--we have more, not fewer, homeless amongst us.
C as in Childishness: Children scream to "help the poor" and "help the environment" and "end homelessness", which is how children SHOULD be thinking ... with their hearts. But adults might be motivated with their hearts yet realize they must think with their heads. Not all homeless are the same, and some will need help but most need a combination of help but also RULES to re-establish their place in society.
D as in Denying the Citizenry their rights. Allowing people to live in tents and on the streets not only leads to more disease and crime, but it also denies those in the majority (who are overtaxed, exhausted, and working multiple jobs) of their rights. Ridiculous and out-of-touch judges may make decrees, and Sacramento may disempower the working majority, but cities can fight back and do what's right to really, really, REALLY reduce the homeless amongst us.
E as in Eliminating Roadblocks to Affordable Housing: The truth will set you free. Affordable housing almost always means SENIOR affordable housing, STUDENT affordable housing, and WORKFORCE affordable housing. When we create policies that reward small, appropriately-sized and sustainable affordable housing, and not gobs and gobs of gentrification, we'll get more affordable housing.
F as in Forever demolishing the middle class: By raising utility, taxes and other costs, the City of Los Angeles keeps smashing the middle class and promoting developments that were meant only for the wealthy while claiming it was for the poor. City Hall is run by developers and professional liars. This may infuriate the wealthier of the middle class, but the lower middle class is being run out of town. And that's just not fair nor economically smart.
G as in Good Policy. Policy that demands responsibilities and rights for all of us. Policy that states that if you are homeless with ties to the community, you will have to abide by the rules or leave. Policy that states that those without ties to the community do NOT have to live here. Policy that prevents this City of the Angels from being the homeless magnet from hell.
H as in the road to hell. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, of course, but we need not continue down that road. We can be smart as well as kind, and we can be focused on results as well as on good ideas that don't always turn out.
We're doing this wrong, folks. Some of it right, as with the veterans and the VA Medical Center ... but a lot of it is just wrong. And looking at the proliferation of the homeless after we passed Measures H and HHH, even a child can figure that out.
(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at email@example.com. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)
SPECIAL TO CITYWATCH--Gloria Allred is an institution. She didn't invent, but she did perfect, the art of lawyering in the court of public opinion. She knew how and when to hold a press conference. Allred knew the right cases to pick—sympathetic victims against usually famous and powerful men—Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski, and Rush Limbaugh, to name a few. (Graphic above l-r: Gloria Allred, Harvey Weinstein, Lisa Bloom)
GUEST WORDS--California’s wine country fires delivered a vivid demonstration of the critical importance of governments being able to assemble armies of public safety workers when needed. Citizens expect their governments to provide public safety — but they also expect parks, animal shelters, transportation, road, sidewalk and tree maintenance, housing for the homeless, libraries and much more.
VOICES-Hotel industry groups are misrepresenting the Airbnb community to protect profits. As a 56 year-old Production Designer who has called East Los Angeles home for the past 13 years, I have increasingly experienced ageism and fewer job opportunities and have turned to home-sharing to help pay my bills.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Now that the Dodgers have finally returned to the World Series for the first time since 1988, the next question for those of us who are confident of a 2017 championship is whether the boys in blue will clinch it here in Los Angeles.
NEW GEOGRAPHY-The home-buying struggles of Americans, particularly millennials, have been well documented. Yet a recent study by Hunt.com found that the often-proposed “solution” of renting is not much of a panacea. Rents as a percentage of income, according to Zillow, are now at a historic high of 29.1%, compared with the 25.8% rate that prevailed from 1985 to 2000.
BCK FILE--The weekend after the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault story broke in the New York Times, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted to encourage women to use social media to share their sexual assault stories, using the hashtag #MeToo to show the magnitude of this issue.
ANIMAL WATCH-Marijuana, the shredded leaves, flower buds and stems of the Cannabis sativa plant, has now been legalized for medical use by humans in 29 states, plus D.C. It is said to relieve pain and inflammation and manage side effects of cancer. Some animal experts, including the late Los Angeles veterinarian Dr. Doug Kramer, who lost his own battle with cancer in 2014 at age 36, believe that dogs and cats suffering from chronic pain, inflammation or other end-of-life issues should also be allowed the opportunity for the benefits of “pot therapy.” Others disagree and say, "pot isn't for pets."
DEEGAN ON CALIFORNIA-Kevin de Leon (D-SD24) fascinates with his fast track rise to the top of state government, and his announcement a few days ago that he will challenge Senator Dianne Feinstein who just announced she would seek re-election to the U.S. Senate. Some may see the state Senate president pro tempore as a thundercloud about to burst over the head of Feinstein. There may be lightning bolts from the hard left adding to this brewing political storm. But, who’s he running against? Is he challenging the wrong opponent?
CORRUPTION WATCH-The most compelling words in Ronan Farrow’s article about the predator Harvey Weinstein in the October 23, 2017 issue of The New Yorker magazine are its first three: Abuses of Power. The salacious aspect of the story may initially attract public attention, but the essence of the it revolves around power – the abuse of power. And that is where the focus should remain. A predatory abuse of power permeates our entire society – a society that has made a lying pussy-grabber its Predator-in-Chief.
GELFAND’S WORLD--If preserving those things that merit protection is the core conservative idea, then surely that idea ought also to apply to preservation of the natural environment -- in a word, environmentalism as a conservative concept. Yet the current generation of American conservatives has rejected the idea of environmentalism.
Just look at Donald Trump's appointees to major departments. If ever the word deplorable fits, it's here. What's curious is that the American conservative rejection of environmentalism is based on a line of reasoning that is illogical -- it is essentially an erroneous confession that some sort of radical left wing ideology is ultimately necessary for environmental preservation to succeed. In this, modern American conservatives are wrong -- if only they could see it.
The best example of a critical environmental danger is of course global warming. The scientific arguments are well established, the observational data are compelling, and this year's hurricane season was the icing on the cake.
Yet when asked to comment, members of the American conservative establishment evade and avoid with the de rigueur answer that it isn't the appropriate time to talk about the subject.
Conservatives have used various excuses that probably don't ring true even to themselves -- global warming doesn't exist, or it isn't caused by human CO2 emissions, or it isn't susceptible to anything we humans can do. But when you read their comments to each other, they take a rather different tack.
Their core argument is less based on atmospheric science and more based on socioeconomics.
In a word, they manage to terrify each other with the claim that environmental activists are using global warming to take over the world economy through taking over its governments in some sort of international cabal. Basically, the claim of global warming is treated as some sort of hard-left socialist plot. They don't always use this terminology, but the common thread is apparent. If they give in to the notion of global warming, it follows (they think) that Americans will lose their sovereignty to world government.
In a way, it's possible to imagine a little of what they are thinking. A lot of modern environmentalism (going back to bills signed by Richard Nixon) involves the use of a command economy. Coal fired power plants have been limited in terms of their ability to pollute the air with sulfur dioxide. One way to do this is to pass laws that set absolute limits on the mass of sulfur dioxide that is emitted. Another way is to put absolute limits on the amount of sulfur that coal can contain. Now expand this approach to thousands of other issues ranging from water quality to agricultural pesticides and you have the modern critique of environmental protection.
Each such rule involves the creation of a new bureaucracy (mainly in the federal government), new taxes (call them fees), and new schedules of fines and penalties. The new bureaucracy will demand specific devices be installed in power plants in order to monitor the amount of pollutants that are emitted and will demand shelves full of reports.
And then there is conservative fear over the preservation of natural wonders. In order to preserve some of the more delicate aspects of our western deserts, it is necessary to limit the amount of cattle grazing. In order to preserve scenery in national parks, it is necessary to prohibit mining.
All of these attempts at preservation are viewed by some people as impositions. Of course it is mainly those who have a financial stake in grazing cattle on fragile habitat or opening new oil fields in Alaska.
Over the years, the right wing has built a collection of arguments that don't exactly defend the desecration of the natural environment, but do manage an end-run by calling environmentalists names. Any attempt to limit the use of national lands is treated as left wing socialism or worse. George H.W. Bush famously referred to environmental activists as "the spotted owl crowd."
It's when the subject gets around to global warming that the argument gets really paranoid. The right wing understands deep down that fixing global warming will require a substantial effort, and that this effort requires the commitment of most of the world's countries. Somehow we have to figure out how to reduce net emissions of carbon dioxide and methane. Equally to the point, we don't have forever. I suspect that a lot of industrialists (Exxon for example) understand the basics. On the other hand, they don't want to commit corporate suicide by going out of the oil or coal business, at least until they have substituted some other income stream.
The cynical, dishonest side of the conservative wing have made use of the anti-government phobia of a lot of Americans. They have tried to sell the argument that global warming is just a ploy to allow the lefties to take over the country and ultimately the world. It's a bit ironic, but the right wing noise machine has been raising the specter of a dictatorship that would arise if we as a people (and as a world) were to take global warming seriously.
In a way, they are confessing that they lack the ability to imagine any other way to do things on an international level than imposing a socialist dictatorship. They seem to be missing the point that western nations managed to join military alliances without giving up their national sovereignty. And at the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union (were there ever two more different governments?) managed to find mutual benefit in reducing our numbers of nuclear warheads.
Yet American conservatives are caught up in the paranoid notion that even to admit the existence of global warming is to consign the world to some sort of malign world government, most likely taken out of the pages of nineteenth century Marxism.
What's absurd about this argument is that we don't necessarily have to agree on any particular economic approach to global warming. We merely have to agree that it exists and that humans burning fossil fuels are the prime cause. In short, Americans should agree that there is a real problem that has been identified by careful (and robust) science, and that this problem exists independently of our various economies and governments.
That, you would think, is a simple enough requirement. Americans don't have to join the revolutionary socialist brotherhood or the moderate wing of the Republican Party. They just have to understand that global warming is real and is hugely dangerous to our children and grandchildren.
Once we gain that level of understanding, it is then possible to carry on a rational discussion of what we are to do about it. Conservatives like to talk about market based solutions. I say go for it. Let's hear what you can come up with.
But let's be real about the danger and let's consider possible remedies with a critical eye. Your grandchildren's lives and health may depend on it. What could be more conservative than doing something about the problem?
The eight hundred pound gorilla (or is it the elephant? -- I never can keep these metaphors straight) is our growing human population. We humans have taken over the majority of the planet's surface in order to develop our own life style, in spite of the fact that we are responsible for an ongoing extinction event that rivals previous extinctions. We should think about controlling our numbers in order to preserve the world that humans developed in. And what could be more conservative than that?
Let's recognize that there are conservatives who are also environmentalists. They have written numerous books including Peter Huber's Hard Green. One recent essay by Paul Foote was published in The Guardian. I'd like to close by quoting a short excerpt from Foote's essay:
"Whilst recognizing the need for political and policy leadership, policy-making must reject statist penalties and punishments which will not bring about the changes we need and will only put people off. We must go with the grain of human nature.
"Preserving our natural heritage, the beauty of the landscape, the farmed environment; promoting social justice by beautifying urban spaces and greening energy supply; enhancing public health, national security, economic competitiveness – these are all challenges that require action both in the UK and the US.
"But until they can be put into the natural language of conservatives, progress on these issues will suffer. And if the Tea Party were willing to think about the environment from a true conservative perspective, who knows, it just might suit them."
Foote has included conservative terms such as statist in his remarks, but the overall idea that conservatives can and should become environmentalists has merit.
(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--The deaths and damage of this year’s Wine Country wildfires are a historic disaster. They are also the product of an epic California success.
@THE GUSS REPORT-What is the coolest Dodger thing you own? Long before Pawn Stars and Antiques Roadshow made hit television viewing of gems people find, buy or inherit, I stumbled upon a Dodger treasure while shopping one day in the 1970s on an outing with my mom and grandmother.
CALBUZZ--Kevin de Leon, the Democratic state Senate leader who wants to be a United States senator has a problem: Before he can make a compelling case for himself, he’s got to convince voters that after 24 years, they should fire U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
#ME TOO AT THE CAPITOL BUILDING-A letter signed by more than 140 women who work in the California Capitol, including six lawmakers, reveals that many women in the legislature have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. The letter has shed light this week on the widespread nature of sexual harassment in many kinds of workplaces, in the wake of mounting allegations of sexual misconduct in the film industry and the #MeToo demonstration that garnered attention on social media this week.
CIVIL LIBERTIES--President Donald Trump's revised travel ban was halted in the 11th hour by a federal judge just before it was expected to go into effect Wednesday. But almost since Trump's election, Californians—those both directly and indirectly affected—have been busy scrambling to fight not just the ban but also broader White House policies seen by many as targeting Muslims at home and abroad. Finally, they're seeing some legislative results.
CAL MATTERS--Last year, California’s Legislature and voters enacted a veritable blizzard of legislation making private gun ownership more difficult and expensive, including new restrictions on magazine capacity and ammunition sales.
420 FILE--It’s no secret that Jeff Sessions has vowed to take American drug policy back 30 years with his desire to bring back the War on Drugs. The disastrous policy of the 80s and 90s has been called the New Jim Crow, as it oversaw a disproportionate amount of minorities incarcerated on inflated drug charges. This resulted in the US becoming the world’s leading jailer, with about 5 percent of the world’s population but over a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Moreover, there is hardly any evidence that it reduced crime or drug use in the US.
BELL VIEW--My dad died a couple years ago. Something about the South Side of Chicago – where he grew up and spent his entire life – breeds a certain toughness into you. He had stamina. I’ll give him that. On Wednesday of the week he died, he was out mowing the lawn; on Thursday, he collapsed in the bathroom; on Friday, he died from stage four cancer of the lungs, liver, pancreas, and bones. The only complaint he ever had was a little back pain.
CORRUPTION WATCH-I’ve got a cracker jack idea – let’s freshen up our children’s classrooms with lead paint. Better yet, let’s protect the children from fire by using a lot of asbestos.
Dear Senator de León-We are writing to you to express our deep disappointment regarding comments you made recently on News Conference hosted by Conan Nolan. In talking about the California Legislature’s recent attempts to deal with the housing crisis, Nolan made the claim that Neighborhood Councils (NCs) are somehow obstructing the construction of affordable housing. Allow us to quote your response …
ALPERN AT LARGE--No need to mince words here--it's been tough being a transportation advocate. Political agendas, feel-good laws, ridiculous policies that send the wrong messages, and divisive paradigms have really distracted all of us from a unified approach to the planning, consensus and funding (and building) of a modern, 21st-Century LA City/County system.
PREVEN REPORT-For months last year, every other word out of LA City Attorney Mike Feuer's mouth was a condemnation of Wells Fargo Bank, but at the Taste of Soul street fair this coming Saturday Wells Fargo's giant logo will appear right beside the seals of the Los Angeles City and County.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-As our illustrious President tries to bamboozle the American public into believing that his back-of-the-envelope tax and health plans -- that allow the rich to get even richer – will actually lift the income of working people, it is hard not to think about ever growing economic inequality in the United States.
EASTSIDER-I’ve always been amazed at bureaucracies’ ability to mask their programs for the poor, the disabled, people of color and other under-represented/underserved groups, with opaque titles. Here, what is truly at the heart of the Equity Metrics Initiative is inequality.
PERSPECTIVE—(Editor’s note: Amazon is looking for a second headquarters city. Los Angeles is preparing to make the case for Los Angeles. Rick Paulas thinks that may be a bad idea. Read on.) In early 2010, the city of Topeka, Kansas, was in trouble. The city's unemployment rate had risen to unprecedented levels. Some in the mayor's office thought that a lack of affordable broadband Internet access wasn't helping. Mayor Bill Bunten tried to remedy the situation by changing the city's name to Google.
CAL BUZZ--Ambitious but termed-out, Kevin de Leon, the 50-year-old state Senate President, on Sunday presented himself as a tougher progressive alternative as he announced a primary challenge to U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, 84, one of the nation’s most venerable, influential and well-positioned liberal Democrats.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Earlier this year, this column was first to report that LA City Councilmember Curren D. Price, Jr. is presently – and has for a long while – been married to two women simultaneously, first wife Lynn Suzette Green and second wife Del Richardson.
DEEGAN ON LA-What would you do with millions of dollars, handed to you from various City revenue sharing schemes with very little restriction or strings attached for how to spend it? All City Councilmembers face the challenge of how to manage their “discretionary funds” budgets. If you are Councilmember David Ryu (CD4), you would ask your constituents how they feel the funds should be spent, thereby mixing community empowerment with a campaign promise to get rid of what he called “slush fund” politics. He’s just published a report on how that’s been going.
CAL MATTERS-Many of the 7 million Californians with a prior arrest or conviction can likely relate to Sandra Johnson’s job hunting experience nearly a decade ago. On every employment application, she checked a box that inquired about criminal history.
THE BCK FILE--On Thursday, October 5, Hollywood was buzzing with the fallout from the New York Times story by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein had been paying off sexual harassment accusers for decades. As with Bill Cosby, Weinstein’s reputation had followed him for about as long as he’d been in the business. To date, over two dozen women have come forward with allegations including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie. Actress Rose McGowan took her rape accusations against Weinstein to Twitter, despite a no disclosure agreement.
FUTURE WATCH-The potassium is about to hit the water in urban planning. In other words, the waste material shall soon collide with the wind-making machine. I refer to the mixing of self-driving electric cars with Virtual Presence.
TRUTHDIG-“Refugee Roulette” is the name of the game, and it’s a sure loser for most of the increasing number of unauthorized immigrants being arrested and hauled into court by the Trump administration. They face judges whose decisions amount to a denial of equal justice.
ALPERN AT LARGE--Call it "just desserts". Call it an avoidable tragedy. Call it just part of life and/or human nature. But there was a real nightmare last Friday the 13th in the Westside, and much of it was entirely avoidable.
ANIMAL WATCH-LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette is struggling so desperately to reach the Best Friends' "no kill" goal in 2017 that she now wants increased access to donated money in two prudently restricted City Trust Funds: (1) the Animal Sterilization Fund (aka 'Spay/Neuter Fund' or 'Pet Sterilization Fund'), a special trust established to assure continuity of financial assistance for spaying/neutering pet dogs and cats owned by City residents; and (2) the Animal Welfare Trust Fund, designated to support established shelter programs and capital improvements to maintain safe and healthy conditions for LA's impounded stray, abandoned and unwanted animals.
GELFAND’S WORLD--I was standing on the bow of a sunken tug boat, looking up towards the surface about 100 feet above me, with manta rays swimming near the surface but sometimes coming closer. It seemed real, with the sort of detached feeling you get from being under the ocean. Mind you, that aura is something you get for real on scuba, but this time it was in virtual reality (VR) as demonstrated to me by Steven Xu of Vive.com.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-It’s been over a week since the Las Vegas Massacre that ended the lives of 58 people, as well as injuring almost 500 others. Since Columbine, we’ve watched coverage for far too many of these mass shootings. There are different faces attached to victims and the perpetrators. Typically, we hear about red flags. But each and every time, the display of violence sparks another gun control debate.
TALE OF TWO LA’S--Three doors from my house in Venice, a builder tore down a 1940’s bungalow and put up a two-story spec house that fills every square foot of allowable space on the lot. But when the house didn’t sell at the $4 million asking price, the builder listed it on Airbnb at $1400 a night, and now it’s the functional equivalent of a hotel, with guests coming and going and partying at all hours on the roof deck and around the pool and spa.
RANTZ AND RAVEZ-We have all heard, read and seen countless media reports about 64-year old Steven Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada and the terror, injury and death he inflicted upon thousands of people who attended the Route 91 Country Music Festival adjacent to the Mandalay Bay resort-hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
SPECIAL REPORT--In 2013, I was organizing for the startup Nextdoor, the social networking app for neighborhoods whose logo is a cute ’n chunky house. Nobody had heard of Nextdoor, and Los Angeles had only a handful of users. Four years later, Nextdoor has 10 million registered users in 160,000 neighborhoods in the U.S., Netherlands, U.K., and Germany.
ALPERN AT LARGE--I can't say "no" to gallows humor, but I can say "no" to bigots and bullies.
VOICE OF THE STATUS QUO--Progressives are gearing up to challenge Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) after the long-time senator announced this week that she will run for re-election next year.
CAL MATTERS--So California has declared itself to be a sanctuary for those who have entered the nation illegally.
JUST SAYIN’-Last week I wrote about the proposed "Drunk Tank" that was uncovered by West LA/ Sawtelle Neighborhood Council and the secrets and lies perpetrated on this community by the LA County Board of Supervisors.
THE COHEN COLUMN-- “When comparing criminal indictments of those serving in the executive branch of presidential administrations it's so lopsided as to be ridiculous. Yet all I ever hear is how corrupt the Democrats are. So why don't we break it down by president and the numbers.
THE KRAMER FILE--The Trump administration is continuing its mission to unravel President Obama’s legacy, this time, rolling back the ACA mandate that employer-provided health insurance policies cover birth control at no cost to women. (President Trump shakes hands with a nun from Little Sisters of the Poor.)
CAL MATTERS-It seems like a simple solution. Raise what you pay doctors for treating low-income patients, and they’ll treat more of them.
VIEW FROM THE CENTER-Platitudes, platitudes everywhere abound on guns. They're becoming as "Americlique" as apple pie. Here's a quick couple from the Right: "All they want to do is take away our guns!"
DEEGAN ON LA-One man’s lawn may be another man’s landmark. That seems to be the proposition being advanced concerning Koreatown’s Liberty Park, a large 2.5-acre swath of green separating Wilshire Boulevard from the 1967-built Beneficial Plaza building, an 11-story Late Modern office building that was set back 315 feet from the roadway to create the green open space.
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--I’m so disappointed in myself.
I really should be 100 percent supportive of the effort to establish a single-payer health system in California. Because all the best Californians are for it.
ANIMAL WATCH-PETA supporters dressed as a cat and a dog demonstrated their dismay on Oct. 3 over the failure of Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles Animal Services' General Manager Brenda Barnette to fix a phone system that continuously fails LA callers needing help for animals.
EDUCATION POLITICS--In the never-ending saga of LAUSD absurdity, last week, my wife and I received a robo- call from Superintendent Michelle King informing us that a music teacher who was not a District employee may have contaminated recorders with semen and given them to students. Any parent concerned that their child might have been affected was instructed to call their office.
NEW GEOGRAPHY--America’s seemingly unceasing culture wars are not good for business, particularly for a region like Southern California. As we see Hollywood movie stars, professional athletes and the mainstream media types line up along uniform ideological lines, a substantial portion of the American ticket and TV watching population are turning them off, sometimes taking hundreds of millions of dollars from the bottom line.
When white women are violated, America responds and the response is immediate.
GELFAND’S WORLD--We've now completed the first weekend of the San Pedro International Film Festival, aka Spiff. The fun part of a film festival, certainly this one, is the chance to see a lot of short films -- both documentaries and fictions -- by young and unknown artists. The abundance of decent quality short films raises an interesting question: In the absence of a movie theater circuit that shows these films, how does a mass audience experience them? It turns out that there are a couple of answers to this question, neither of them being entirely satisfying. There are a lot of well-made stories that deserve to be seen on the big screen by a live audience.
@THE GUSS REPORT-How soon Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu forgets about a rash of burglaries and mail thefts that he and the LAPD ignored this year, all caught on video, in the Sherman Oaks area he represents.
THE EPPERHART EXPRESS-The cover of Life magazine on August 12, 1966 featured a bullet hole in a store window caused by Charles Whitman, whom they dubbed, “The Texas Sniper.” The 25-year-old Whitman was an All-American boy who was an Eagle Scout and Marine Corps veteran. On August 1, 51 years ago, he carried a footlocker containing a shotgun, three rifles and two pistols up to the 29th floor observation deck of the University of Texas administration building in Austin and started shooting.
EASTSIDER-Back in June, I wrote an article in CityWatch about the PLUM Committee’s hearings on Airbnb called, “Airbnb and the PLUM Committee - Houston We Have a Problem.”
ALIENATING THE LEFT AND RIGHT-Our nation’s ruling tech oligarchs may be geniuses in making money through software, but they are showing themselves to be not so adept in the less quantifiable world of politics. Once the toast of the political world, the ever more economically dominant tech elite now face growing political opposition, both domestically and around the world.
EDUCATION POLITICS--When Bernie Sanders, and then Hillary Clinton, made debt-free higher education a byword of the 2016 presidential race, University of California graduates like retired Los Angeles anesthesiologist Steve Auer unexpectedly found themselves the poster children for a time when free college tuition was the norm in California, rather than the radical proposition it seems today.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-By state law every city in California must have a timely, internally consistent, regularly updated, and annually monitored General Plan. This plan must address the entire land area of a city and must include all infrastructure and services categories. It is far more comprehensive than zoning waivers for privately owned parcels, which pretty much sums up planning in Los Angeles.
ALPERN AT LARGE--In my last CityWatch article, I expressed concerns of why our city or school district wants "input" when the political leadership and bureaucracy have NO interest in actually listening or taking that "input" seriously.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Someday, I expect medical science will vindicate my belief that “thinking can physically hurt.” I arrived at this conclusion a few decades ago after I had an auto accident in which a gigantic moving van tried to plow down my little Buick on the Harbor Freeway.
CALMATTERS--There’s sometimes a fine line between good governance and trolling.
HOW MANY MORE MUST DIE-Our thoughts and prayers go out to the nearly 600 victims and their families of the largest mass shooting in U.S. history last Sunday night in Las Vegas. The mass carnage made that city into what can only be described as a war zone. But our response needs to include more than prayers and moments of silence. We need to act to prevent more mass shootings, which are now occurring at an average of more than one per day.
BELL VIEW-I have a few friends from my old neighborhood who qualify as legitimate “gun nuts.” Am I afraid these guys are going to snap and start picking people off from the roof of the Motel 6? No. But I remember being about 15-years-old at a friend of mine’s house for one of those parents-are-out-for-the-night parties. We were drinking beer, shooting pool in the basement, and – eventually – we wandered up into my friend’s parents’ bedroom and took out his dad’s 30-ought-6 hunting rifle.
BUILDING CLEAN-With California doubling and tripling down on climate change as a reality in 2017, a new bill awaiting Governor Jerry Brown’s signature could use the state’s massive purchasing power as the world’s sixth largest economy to address greenhouse gas emissions far beyond its borders.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into legislation a bill that would move the 2020 presidential primary to March 3, the change likely to become law. The most populous state with the most delegates at stake has held early June primaries from 1946 to 1994.
CALIFORNIA--On Friday, the Governor signed a package of housing bills intended to help address the soaring costs of housing in many metro areas in California. Follow-up coverage of that package has (rightly) indicated that those bills are a drop in the bucket in terms of addressing California’s housing crisis.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Why Is Los Angeles designing a Traffic System for 1895 New York City? Hardly anyone in Los Angeles is paying any attention Mayor Garcetti’s Mobility Plan 2035, and as a result, Angelenos do not realize that he is planning a transportation infrastructure appropriate for 1895 Manhattan.
DEEGAN ON LA-Several times daily you feel the splash of hot water and inhale the scent of soap as you routinely wash your hands after any number of tasks. The homeless do not have this experience, but they should, for all the usual reasons, and now with more urgency than ever since the County Department of Public Health has announced an outbreak of Hepatitis A, a potentially serious liver disease nurtured and transmitted by poor hygiene. The homeless are especially vulnerable because they do not have a ready supply of hot water and soap, something most of us take for granted but which is an unreachable luxury for them.
THE PREVEN REPORT--By now it's common knowledge in Los Angeles that Harvard-Westlake, an elite private middle and high school, is trying to erect a 750-car parking structure in the hillside residential neighborhood abutting its campus in Coldwater Canyon.
TRANSIT TALK-Call it an obsession with mobility. Chicago, Montreal, New York, Los Angeles and a drive across Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York State and Massachusetts. This month, “I’ve Been Everywhere” is the song I have been singing in my best imitation of Johnny Cash.
ALPERN AT LARGE--Whether it's taxpayer sentiment, parental sentiment, or City/State laws, the tyranny of the minority is just that--tyranny--if the voters and stakeholders are "heard" and then ignored. To paraphrase Orwell, we're all created equal, but some are more equal than others.
GENTRIFICATION FALLOUT-On a pleasantly warm afternoon, Aaron Flournoy is busy tightening the wheel on a young woman’s bicycle while three other cyclists wait nearby for his services. His mobile bike repair business, called Lil Bill’s Bike Shop, operates curbside at the busy intersection of Hoover Street and Jefferson Boulevard, directly across from an entrance to the University of Southern California campus.
ANIMAL WATCH-Two Los Angeles animal rescuers were sentenced on Friday by Superior Court Judge Shellie Samuels after each was found guilty on one count of animal abuse and two counts of negligence. LA Animal Services General Manager Brenda Barnette issued a media release on August 23, 2017, announcing, “LA Animal Services investigation leads to animal cruelty conviction for Lucky Puppy Rescue owners." However, the two-week jury trial for Rachel Kennedy and Sandra Vasquez actually ended on August 16.
CAL MATTERS--Just because you're paranoid, the old saying goes, doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has a big problem. The “gelatinous one,” so named because he will never give a straight answer (e.g. is LA a sanctuary city or not?) wants to run for president, but both history and his resume say it will never happen.
JUST SAYIN’-Who would disagree that politics is defined by secrets, lies and deception? Not me. At our recent West LA Neighborhood Council Meeting, County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl sent her team of damage control folks to try to justify why they never told the community they were building a drunk tank in the heart of our revitalizing commercial district.
GELFAND’S WORLD--Over the past week, numerous angry comments have appeared regarding remarks by Kevin de Leon, the state Senate President Pro Tem. Basically, de Leon insulted neighborhood council members and what we try to accomplish. In a televised interview, he said that City Council members (who he left unnamed) were secretly asking him to pass a pro-development bill that they felt they had to oppose publicly.
OBSERVER--As law enforcement officials release more information about Stephen Paddock, the suspect in the Las Vegas shooting that killed nearly 60 people and injured more than 500 Sunday night, much of the reporting on his identity has focused on the fact that he is a "local individual" and a "lone wolf"—terminology that critics say has been used to signify that Paddock was a white male, and therefore not a terrorist.
RANTZ AND RAVEZ-Respect in and for America has continued to melt away along with patriotic support for our country and flag. Did this happen suddenly? No. It has been a growing trend for many years. Attacks on the system are nothing new. They’ve just gotten worse year after year thanks to our instant media and internet communications. Is there more to come? I am sure there will be. And it will take a major incident like the tragic 911 attack to wake up the people in our country who are concerned, as well as the many lazy, disconnected others in America.
EDUCATION POLITICS--California legislators had a rare opportunity this year to make a significant improvement in the lives of millions of children at little or no cost – and they muffed it.
THE PREVEN REPORT-There's no better way to describe it: the vehemence with which Mr. Bonin reacted upon learning that our August 17 CityWatch article about his "road diet" policies ("But Councilman Bonin, You Promised!") had been posted on the Facebook page of the Palisades News, which is the Pacific Palisades' hometown newspaper.
CALBUZZ REPORT—We interrupt our hiatus to file this breaking news report:
MY TURN--Two diametrically opposite events caught my attention recently and yet they shared an underlining theme: Freedom of speech. What does the first amendment to the Constitution really mean? I'm sure the Founding Fathers (FF) saw it differently than we do today. Just like many other issues in our contemporary life we interpret differently.
BELL VIEW-So, taking a knee disrespects the flag, the anthem, the troops and the Country? But waiving the Confederate Battle flag is your heritage? The essence of taking a knee, of silent protest, is respect. Respect for yourself and respect for the object of your protest. The players taking a knee are not burning the flag; they’re not spitting on the flag. They are engaged in silent, respectful protest. Just listen to Eric Reid, the 49’ers player who took a knee with Colin Kaepernick explain why he did it:
“BEHIND THE SCENES, WINK WINK”--A firestorm erupted in LA neighborhoods this week after State Sen. Kevin de Leon (photo above an NBC press conference), the second-most powerful man in Sacramento, told KNBC that elected volunteers on LA’s Neighborhood Councils have “strangled” and “handcuffed” and issued “threats” against the Los Angeles City Council over housing development.
ENVIRONMENT POLITICS--Union members, environmental justice advocates and green transportation activists packed a meeting room Tuesday evening in Downtown Los Angeles to send a loud and clear message to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC): the city and state should make electric transportation in the city and at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports a priority.
EASTSIDER-Outside of being the former Mayor of San Francisco, and (also) formerly being married to Fox News Contributor Kimberly Guilfoyle, what do most of Southern Californians know about Gavin Newsom, who is running hard to be the next Governor of California? Not much.
GUEST COMMENTARY-Imagine the following: A candidate for elected office in California says to donors and voters that, if elected, he will innovate state services so they are as consumer-friendly and digitally-available as, say, Apple’s services. But the candidate also seeks the political support of government employees (e.g. school district and DMV employees) for whom such innovation would likely mean fewer jobs and stricter performance measures. Given that government employees are the largest contributors to political campaigns in California, what do you think the candidate, if elected, will actually do? The answer: Not innovate.
DEEGAN ON LA-Now that we’ve had two years of announcements, promises, photo-ops, budget proposals, ballot measures and votes all aimed at improving the plight of people with homelessness, have you noticed less homeless people on the streets? Or does it look like more of the same…or worse? The answer may be a little bit of both: there’s been some looks-good-on-paper progress, but not much visual progress. And since visuals track more closely with the truth, this is not very encouraging.
Let’s start with the sobering statistic that the city’s homeless count of just over 34,000 was up 20% from 2016, according to a May 30, 2017 Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Report.
If you add in the county’s numbers, the homeless population rose 23% in the year. Once a cheerleader for progress on the homeless issue, Mayor Eric Garcetti could only say, “There's no sugarcoating the bad news.” That’s a huge turnaround for a civic leader who promised from the steps of City Hall two years ago that there would be $100 million dedicated to solving the homeless crisis.
As things turned out, that was a press release, not a fact. Garcetti’s next announcement was a $138 million allocation for the homeless in his recent budget, but that also under-delivered with lots of finger-pointing as to why.
So, what are the facts? Ultimately, Bond Measure HHH providing $1.2 billion for housing the homeless was placed on the November 2016 ballot and was approved by 77% of the voters, a strong indication that people want a solution and are willing to pay for it. Property owners will pay an annual tax of around $33 per year for ten years. This will help finance the construction of 10,000 units of affordable permanent-supportive housing over the next ten years.
That’s where the paperwork part of the problem looks good -- which is a great start -- but the upstream to completion will take years. Who knows how many more homeless will appear on our streets in the meantime? Will that negate the effects of a billion-dollar housing program designed to house only 10,000 homeless people? It’s possible that this effort will become part of Los Angeles’ mythology: our version of the Greek myth of Sisyphus who was forced by the gods to roll a huge boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down over and over again each time he neared completing his never-ending task. Like him, we may be pushing the homeless rock up the hill forever. Our enviable climate and easygoing lifestyle make Los Angeles a magnet for many, including the homeless.
It’s not only about the City of Los Angeles: the homeless problem is evident in other cities like West Hollywood where plans are driven less by economics -- they show no signs of throwing lots of money at the problem -- and more by solutions provided by city government, particularly the public safety component.
Their strategies are reminiscent of how the British defeated the Spanish Armada which sent its wind-driven warships into the English Channel in 1588 to invade Britain. The British responded with smaller craft, often oar-powered for mobility, so they could maneuver around the bigger ships without relying on wind strength and direction, eventually defeating the Spanish. The moral of that war story was “be nimble.” Perhaps our WEHO neighbors have something to offer for helping the homeless. Online news source WEHOville.com had a four-part series on the homeless last week about how they are tackling the homeless problem.
The WeHo plan includes contracted-out substance abuse treatment, information sharing on outreach efforts and homeless services by the Sheriffs who attend homeless-related meetings with everyone from the Chamber of Commerce to Neighborhood Watch meetings. In addition, there are public speaking appearances by City staff members, the Mayor and Sheriff’s Captain; block captain training, including how to deal with the homeless, is provided by the Sheriff’s department. None of this required a bond issue.
Is LA “too big” to succeed at solving its homeless problem? Are we the “Spanish Armada” versus the “British Small Boats” of West Hollywood?
Adding some urgency to the problem is the announcement a few days ago by Dr. Barbara Ferrer, LA County Public Health Director, at the weekly meeting of the LA County Board of Supervisors that LA is experiencing an outbreak of Hepatitis A. Recently the same outbreak occurred in San Diego, hitting the homeless population hard; a similar outbreak was also reported in Santa Cruz.
Michael Weinstein, president of AHF (Aids Healthcare Foundation), responded, “This declaration must be followed with immediate and forceful actions: portable toilets and hand-washing stations should be deployed immediately and the City of Los Angeles should put an immediate halt to rousting homeless encampments and concentrate instead on improving overall sanitary conditions…This outbreak is a result of, and is likely to be further fueled by the deplorable living conditions of homeless populations in Los Angeles.”
So, now a potential public health hazard has been added into the mix of the overall homelessness issue. Something more tangible and immediate than the prospect of a billion-dollar housing plan over ten years reminds us that microbes, not money, may be where the attention should go. Will bleaching the sidewalks of homeless tent encampments be next? The homeless do not even have the dignity of public restrooms yet, but the looming Hepatitis A problem -- a hazard for everyone -- may accelerate the decision to provide them.
What do you think: are we on the right track for finding solutions for people with homelessness?
Please take a moment and share your opinion about these issues by taking the brief poll below and press “view” to see how your responses compare with others.
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(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at email@example.com.) Photo credit: WEHOville.com
Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
PROPUBLICA REPORT-California regulators said they have required Nationwide and USAA to adjust their auto insurance rates as a result of a report by ProPublica and Consumer Reports that many minority neighborhoods were paying more than white areas with the same risk.
GELFAND’S WORLD--It will be a fine spring day in the year 2023 when Los Angeles achieves earthquake survivability. That's because the owners of approximately 13,500 properties were given 7 years (starting March 3, 2016) to upgrade buildings that are the most dangerous in earthquakes. We're talking mostly about those apartment buildings in which the first level of apartments are built above garage spaces which are only held up by thin poles or other inadequate support.
THE PREVEN REPORT--It's against the law not to pay fuel excise taxes, but that’s exactly what the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office did for years, according to the LA County Auditor-Controller's January 2016 report on the "Voyager" Charge Card program. To date there’s been not a single disciplinary action taken over the matter, even though everyday residents of Los Angeles are prosecuted all the time for less serious violations of the law. The Auditor-Controller writes:
JUST ASKIN’-County Supervisor Kuehl has decided unilaterally that an alcohol center should be opened in West LA – something that both Culver City and Venice rejected for their communities.
EASTSIDER-Whatever happened to staid old CalPERS and its ho-hum “under the radar” elections? Evidently a lot. The contested election currently underway is exposing some serious fracture lines in the way they run those elections!
ALPERN AT LARGE--Whether you're Jewish or not, I wish you all a Happy, Healthy New Year. Always a time to reflect, review and restore our goals and outlook with respect our lives, our community, our nation, and our world. So much has changed, and so much remains the same...so why do I get the idea that things are about to undergo some serious Change?
VOICES--Okay, maybe it’s not so surprising that half of us drink alcohol, and the half of us that do, drink excessively.
GETTING THE NUMBERS RIGHT-How many times can a city reach four million population for the first time? I submit that Los Angeles (my birthplace), now near its fourth such celebration, is the undisputed champion, with each of the first three having not actually been reached.
THE ISENBERG FILE--"When you see something that's wrong, eventually you have to do something about it." -- Rosa Parks, quoted from Reverend Barber's book, “The Third Reconstruction.”
BELL VIEW--Yesterday, a memory popped up on my Facebook feed from eight years ago. In 2009, the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council took part in a citywide event known as "Parking Day LA." The event began in 2005 in San Francisco as an effort to draw attention to the lack of public space in major cities. Admittedly, the event is a bit precious. A bunch of hipsters get together and make a temporary “park” out of a metered parking space.
UNDERFUNDED LIABILITY-A recently completed actuarial report shows that Los Angeles County has over $25 billion in unfunded retiree healthcare liabilities — and this constitutes the greatest threat to the county’s long term fiscal sustainability. LA County’s Other Postemployment Benefit (OPEB) unfunded liability turns out to be greater than its unfunded pension liability.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Unlike many taxes, the Wall Street tax gets us taxpayers nothing in return. We do not get sewers or streets or parks or police or paramedics. Each month, millions of Angelenos cough up anywhere from $500 to $4,000 for the Wall Street tax. No one has taken the time to calculate the exact amount of it, but we know that newcomers pay a higher tax than Angelenos who are long-time residents. The Wall Street tax is the extra rent or mortgage Angelenos pay each month for housing costs over and above the fair market value. One way or another, our rent and mortgage payments end up on Wall Street.
SPECIAL REPORT—(Editor’s Note: Legal Marijuana is the fastest growing industry in the U.S. As you are aware, medical marijuana is legal in California and beginning next January, recreational marijuana will be legal in the Golden State as well. This the first of a number of CityWatch reports on the politics and business of this industry.) When Mona Zhang told her parents she wanted to leave her job to report full-time on cannabis and build up her newsletter, Word on the Tree, they were skeptical to say the least.
DEEGAN ON LA-(Editor’s note: there is a link in this article for a pop-up poll asking you to interact with this article and express your opinion. Please take a moment and join the poll after reading.) There may be some debate about new housing coming onto the market. Some say it’s not as “affordable” as they want it to be; others are disturbed that it’s compacted into higher density than we’re used to; still others -- depending on personal preferences – find some of it tasteless. But, there’s no question about this: much of it is being built as a result of tearing down the old to make way for the new.
GELFAND’S WORLD--This is intended to be an update on the status of our volunteer efforts in disaster preparedness in Los Angeles. The conclusion: We're not there. We need to get started on a public effort that will bring hundreds of thousands of people up to speed. What I find is that government professionals are concentrating on their own issues but largely ignoring the idea of a public-governmental partnership.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Did Leah Tamu Wilson (photo above), the new Executive Director of the State Bar of California, spend the first 15 years of her career dodging the Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) requirements she is now paid $267,500 to enforce against all Active status California attorneys?
VOICES--Voters in Eastside and Northeast LA are now casting ballots in a special election for the state legislature. The neighborhoods covered by California's 51st Assembly District are overwhelmingly Democratic and progressive. Support for clean energy and opposition to fracking run high. So when the foul smell of money from Big Oil came oozing into the district's contest last week, it set off some alarms.
LEANING RIGHT--As the headlines scream "Sanctuary State!" and "California Economy Booming!", while the Emmy Awards in Los Angeles bash President Donald Trump and (admit it, Reader Friend) we're relieved to NOT live in the Hurricane Zone or Tornado Land, things may not be so Golden in the Golden State.
NEW GEOGRAPHY--When Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, followed by a strong hurricane in Florida, much of the media response indicated that the severe weather was a sign of catastrophic climate change, payback for mass suburbanization — and even a backlash by Mother Nature against the election of President Donald Trump.
LA SCHOOL REPORT--The day after a seemingly uneventful and smooth-running school board meeting that newly elected LA Unified School Board President Ref Rodriguez proudly ended at an earlier-than-usual 5 p.m., the district seemed to be shaken to its core.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Last time we discussed how Mayor Garcetti and Los Angeles City Council have imposed the horrendous Wall Street tax on Angelenos.
‘GOTTA PULL SOME LEVERS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE’--Following the Planning and Land Use workshop at the Congress of Neighborhoods led by Cindy Cleghorn, Chair of PlanCheckNC, neighborhood council members and stakeholders spoke further about development taking place in their communities. They painted similar pictures as they shared personal experiences and perspectives.
THIS MUCH I KNOW--On September 16, the California Legislature approved a bill that would create a tiered system for the state’s sex offender registry. The bill, SB-384, is expected to be signed by Governor Brown.
TURF BATTLES AND UNION AGENDAS--Senate Bill 769 was just one of dozens of measures that were effectively killed by legislative appropriations committees this month without formal votes or explanations why.
CA CLOSING IN ON SINGLE PAYER HEALTH CARE--While anticipating inevitable resistance from monied interests, it can nevertheless be accurately demonstrated that three Americans—or, rather, groups of Americans—have received the most benefits from years of national productivity, and should provide most of the initial funding.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-When it comes to justifications for big, speculative real estate projects, the big bamboozlers have no limit. But, the bigger their lies, the harder they fall. In this case their lie is the “conventional wisdom” that suburban sprawl leads to extensive driving, so therefore in-fill development reduces driving and is an important step to halt climate change.
EASTSIDER-A while ago I wrote an article on the Skid Row election, among other happenings, and promised a fuller look at their election. Well, here’s the follow up, and it isn’t pretty.
RANTZ AND RAVEZ-The donkey pulls the cart up the steep hill and over the many challenging fields carrying all sorts of items for the owner who is collecting materials for the home he is building in the mountains. Day in and day out, the loyal donkey continues to perform challenging tasks until one day he collapses and dies from exhaustion. The donkey was a loyal and obedient animal that followed the directions of his master until his untimely death.
ALPERN AT LARGE--After having just gone through a nightmarish post Labor Day two weeks with the fight over the Venice Blvd reconfiguration (loss of one car lane, and creating a protected bicycle lane, in Downtown Mar Vista, among other changes) as part of Mayor Garcetti's Great Streets Program, the good news is that the City still values Transparency. Ditto with Sincerity and Efficiency.
KILLING A CULTURE-In cities around the world, gentrification has long been a threat to culture — and Los Angeles is no exception. Just take the recent L.A. Times article on the plight of mariachis in Boyle Heights. Yet in a piece that’s clearly about gentrification, the Times doesn’t once use the word. What’s going on?
BELL VIEW--I have outrage overload. I know I’m supposed to write about issues facing the City here – but I can’t keep up with the president. From Nazis to Sherriff Joe to DACA, the outrage just keeps coming. The march in Charlottesville – which seems like a strange interlude from a distant past, for example – took place in August.
FOCUS ON THE FOOTNOTES-California pension worries most often focus on CalPERS and CalSTRS, the state’s two multi-employer behemoths. But the state has many other underfunded plans, and these city and county systems pose significant challenges for governments that contribute to them.
NEW GEOGRAPHY--California’s political leaders having ignored and even abetted our housing shortage now pretend that they will “solve it.” Don’t bet on it.
MY TURN-Last month the City of Los Angeles celebrated "Women's Equality Day" and I wondered what century I was living in? I had seen this movie before and I didn't like it the first time! The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was proposed as a means to adjust the U.S. Constitution and make gender equality a Constitutional right. It was first introduced to Congress in 1923, although it did not pass. In 1972, it passed both houses in Congress and was submitted to the states for ratification. By 1979, the deadline for ratification, it had been approved by 35 states – but that was three short of the 38 required.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Who should make the important decisions for society? Should we allow those folks who support themselves by robbing 7/11 stores to make the laws concerning armed robbery?
GELFAND’S WORLD--The twin hurricane disasters have shed light on the inadequate level of our Local disaster preparedness here in LA. Bluntly speaking, we are not ready for a major earthquake. I would like to present here an approach that could lead to public awareness and survival skills. It involves setting up a citywide volunteer communication system first, and then filling in the details which will involve offering a small amount of training to the public.
CAL MATTERS--If we – the California public – are to hold politicians and other government officials accountable, we must first know what they are doing or not doing.
DEEGAN ON CALIFORNIA- (Editor’s note: there is a link in this article for a pop up poll asking you to interact with this article and express your opinion. Please take a moment and join the poll after reading). For twenty-five years, Californians have relied on the dependability of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to fight for our state's interests and to be a significant voice in the U.S. Senate on national and international issues.
COMMON SENSE CONTINUED--In a previous article, writing about the fear of riding buses and trains in LA, I shared with readers how, in 1992, I began to ride transit in the Los Angeles region. My main concerns have been to reduce my carbon footprint locally, to reduce Los Angeles’ notorious and harmful air pollution, and globally, to help reduce the looming threats of global warming and climate change.
CONTINUING FOLLY-On September 25, 2017, Target’s opening brief is due in the Second District Court of Appeals. Sometime after that, the court will have a hearing and then several months later the court will issue another opinion. Since Judge Fruin ruled 100% against the City and Target in his April 2017 decision, the injunction on construction will not be lifted during this phase of litigation.
GUEST COMMENTARY-For the second time in two years, a state parole board panel has ruled that cold-blooded killer Leslie Van Houten should be freed.
MEMO TO: Acting U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. From: The Golden (and Still Sovereign!) State
This is a legal proposal, but I must start with the following stipulation.
You are monsters.
ANIMAL WATCH-Finally, someone 'got it!' "It" being the shameful exploitation of LA shelter animals by Mayor Eric Garcetti and Animal Services' GM Brenda Barnette in recurring announcements that LA is near an elusive "no-kill" nirvana (the date has changed several times.)
ALPERN AT LARGE--In my last CityWatch piece, I raised the questions surrounding whether we have the Courage to truly, really, meaningfully help Labor. That means the courage to protect Dreamers, and to protect native-born Americans, and to protect the Rules, Laws, and Constitution of the United States.
FANS DESERVE BETTER THAN SPINMIESTERS--Much has been written, much of it in frustration, about the Dodgers’ recent and historic meltdown. It’s gotten to the point where some people are prepared to believe it’s a curse. It’s hard to fathom that a team which was so good this year has suddenly, inexplicably, changed course and is now “the worst team in baseball,” as Dodger third baseman Justin Turner recently said in a moment of frustration -- and refreshing honesty.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Kevin B. Taylor’s job as Senior Trial Counsel for the State Bar of California is to mete out punishment for misbehaving attorneys. He may soon find himself in a world of hurt for his own misconduct.
THE PREVEN REPORT--Just last year Herbalife was fined $200 million by the Federal Trade Commission for being a pyramid scheme—and yet this coming Saturday, September 16th, at Malibu’s Zuma Beach, thousands of participants and spectators will gather for the “Herbalife International Distance Race Triathlon.” (Photo above: 2016 Malibu Triathlon.)
CAL MATTERS--The cultural firestorm over statues, flags and other symbols of the Confederacy, ignited by a violent clash of white supremacists and their opponents in Charlottesville, Virginia, would seem far removed from California.
A LITTLE COMMON SENSE-(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series on Fear of Riding in LA.) It seems some, or maybe many, men and women are fearful of riding buses and trains. I find this quizzical and disturbing. I became a regular rider of Los Angeles mass transit in 1992, to do my part to reduce air pollution in the LA Region, the major environmental issue at the time. While I am always cautious, but I do not believe I am fearful.
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--No one can know for sure whether any of California’s four National Football League teams—the 49ers, Raiders, Rams, and Chargers—will emerge as big winners in the new season.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-In city planning circles Houston is (in)famous for its lack of zoning laws. Furthermore, Houston only adopted its first General Plan in January 2017, which means blind market forces continue to determine all of its local land use decisions. The result is that developers can and do build anything they want anywhere, and that includes areas with a long history of flooding.
GELFAND’S WORLD--The simple equation is that a garden variety hurricane passing above overly-hot seawater is what is required to create a monster storm. The transition from category 1 to category 4 or 5 can happen within hours, as we've seen twice just within the past weeks. As the average seawater temperature in the gulf rises year by year -- this is where global warming comes in -- the total number of hurricanes may not rise, but from that total, the number of hurricanes that become monsters appears to be going up.
BELL VIEW—‘When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, `I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.’-Matthew 27:24
EASTSIDER-It seems clear by now that the phrase “climate change” means that we can look forward to erratic and wide fluctuations in our weather for the foreseeable future. Witness sudden years of drought followed by equally sudden massive rain and flooding. Like we experienced recently. It’s a prescription fraught with dangers to our water supply.
STREET LEVEL REALITY-Los Angeles politicians and developers dread saying the words “gentrification” and “displacement.” In fact, Mayor Eric Garcetti rarely utters the g-word in public. It causes all kinds of political headaches, so they resort to using code words that are more palatable for public consumption.
CORRUPTION WATCH-The City of Los Angeles is losing population, but no one wants to admit it. When the City bases planning for the future on the falsehood of a rapidly increasing population, the observation that it is really losing population is unwelcome at City Hall.
ANIMAL WATCH--As firefighters continue battling largest fire in the City of Los Angeles history, hundreds of horses, dogs, cats, goats, chickens and more have been evacuated and are filling our already filled to the brim City shelters and being temporarily housed at evacuation sites such as Hanson Dam and Pierce College.
AT LENGTH-Two years ago, the City of Los Angeles woke up to the shocking realization that it had a homeless crisis after a young activist by the name of Elvis Summers started building tiny homes and giving them to homeless people. (Photo above left: LA City Councilmember Joe Buscaino with Mayor Garcetti.)
ALPERN ON LABOR--There are those of us who "Resist". There are those of us who want to "Make America Great Again". And then there are those who point to Neo-Nazis, ANTIFA, RINO's, DINO's, Globalists, and Social Justice Warriors (or a combination thereof) as the forces destroying the American Dream. But that Dream is ... what, now? And Labor's role is ... what, now?
BACKTALK---Denyse Selesnick recently authored in CityWatch an article entitled, “Fake News: My Very Own Focus Group.” In that article, she alleges that the statistics regarding the registration overages in the California voter rolls exposed by Election Integrity Project California are “fake news.” As she proceeds to explain herself, it becomes clear wherein her error lies.
LAST STRAW BETRAYAL-The Los Angeles City Council should reject a recommendation by Fred Pickel, Director of the Office of Public Accountability at the LADWP, that the city back tunnels altering water diversions South from the San Francisco Bay Delta, and should fire him for once again favoring utility over ratepayer interests, Consumer Watchdog said today.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Race and racism come with an asterisk at LA City Council, where last week it discussed whether to locally change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.
LABOR DAY 2017--To many of us, September’s’ first Monday is a three-day weekend to close out the summer season with burger and hot dogs on the grill, pool parties, a last wearing of white pants. But, historically, Labor Day was created by the Labor Movement to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers.
RANTZ AND RAVEZ-It was a Saturday night in August when I went to the Westfield Topanga Mall to eat at CPK with a friend. After dinner, we strolled around and ran into a mutual friend. I love to shop and shopping for a deal is very special for my two friends and me. The three of us checked around for sales at the various stores and noticed a number of vacant storefronts. The most common sign on blacked out windows included the words, “New Retailer Coming Soon” or “We love change.... exciting partner coming soon.”
ARE YOU GOOD WITH THIS?--A new city Ethics Commission report reveals that developers continue to shell out eye-popping cash for lobbyists to influence L.A. politicians and bureaucrats. In the first quarter of 2017, seven developers landed on the city’s Top 10 list for highest paying clients of lobbyists.
EASTSIDER-I have no idea why Assembly member Raul Bocanegra (photo above) (D-AD39) continues to want to run Los Angeles from his Sacramento vantage point. Maybe he drank too much untreated water out there in the San Fernando Valley. Anyhow, now he wants the State of California to set up and run a school district right here in Los Angeles.
ALPERN AT LARGE--It bears repeating--as stated in a previous CityWatch article, the problems facing Angelenos and other Californians are mainly local/state-induced, and have nothing to do with President Donald J. Trump. Lots of Angelenos are fed up with Trump, and for good reasons, but he ain't the one telling you to shut the hell up and take it.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-My roots as a city planner go back to Seattle, where I studied city planning at the University of Washington and worked for the City of Seattle, before heading south to Los Angeles.
GAMING GRIDLOCK-Usually they work individually, but in the August 27, 2017 edition of The Daily Breeze, Joel Koktin and Wendell Cox formed a tag-team for their latest article, “The Great Transit Rip-Off.”
MIS-DIRECTION MISERY-This famous experiment helps explain why Angelenos cannot see the mass transit disaster that already is afflicting them. For those who do not already grasp my cryptic reference, click this link before reading more.
BELL VIEW-When I was just a kid, I liked Ronald Reagan. He seemed upbeat, competent, presidential. He had a sense of humor. Then, during the 1988 presidential campaign, I saw the Willie Horton Ad. It hit me like a freight train. “My god!” I thought. “These guys are racists!”
MY TURN-Continuing my quest to identify and combat fake news has become almost an obsession. I have spent hours tracking down a ton of fake news sites. Some of them are so disgusting that when I finished, I needed to take a shower!
THE PREVEN REPORT--In a July 17 CityWatch piece, we cited the following response given by Mayor Eric Garcetti to a question about how he manages to balance career planning with fulfilling his current role as Mayor of Los Angeles:
@THE GUSS REPORT-My neighbors took in four tiny foster kittens last week because the LA Animal Services shelter nearest us said that they were going to be killed by 5 p.m. if they didn’t, and that there were many other animals who weren’t going to make it.
CAL MATTERS--The California Public Utilities Commission must, by its nature, straddle the fine line between providing consumers with dependable electric power, natural gas and other utility services at fair prices and protecting the financial health of the huge corporations that supply those services.
ANIMAL WATCH-On August 23, General Manager Brenda Barnette issued a media release announcing, “LA Animal Services investigation leads to animal cruelty conviction for Lucky Puppy Rescue owners.” Undoubtedly, news outlets did not rush to break this story, because the "guilty verdict" for one count of animal abuse and two counts of negligence against Rachel Kennedy and Sandra Vasquez was rendered almost a week earlier, on August 16.
DEEGAN ON LA-What do we remember…and why? That’s an intriguing question. How important are concepts like legacy and heritage? Why is #TBT (“throwback Thursdays”) embedded in our current culture? How about the term “Back in the Day?” These memes can connect us with times and places.
California's budding YIMBY movement is up for a real test. Under a new pilot program approved last week, Los Angeles County homeowners are being asked to literally open up their backyards to the homeless.
REVEALED--The silence from LA’s Democratic community on the recent death of a 26-year-old Black gay male escort in the West Hollywood apartment of 63-year-old prominent Democratic political donor Ed Buck has been astounding.
GETTING THERE FROM HERE--As outlined in my last CityWatch article, the problems facing Angelenos and other Californians are mainly local/state-induced, and have nothing to do with President Donald J. Trump.
CAPITAL & MAIN REPORT--For Mayor Eric Garcetti and the rest of the bid committee working to bring the Summer Olympics back to Southern California, the 1984 Los Angeles games are not just a beloved chapter of local history, but one to be emulated as closely as possible. With its storybook marriage of private investment and civic management, the myth of the glorious LA Olympics is alive and well at City Hall. But not everyone’s memories of the Summer of ’84 are quite so golden.
JUST ASKIN’-Once a year, volunteers from LA’s neighborhood council system get together and orchestrate an NC "Congress."
CAL MATTERS-In the main, issues that dominate any session of the California Legislature reflect what the public and news media consider at the time to be the most burning. That’s why, for instance, the state’s acute housing shortage will receive much attention during the final month of this year’s session.
EASTSIDER-Coming out of the free speech/anti-war movement of Berkeley in the 60’s, I hoped that we, as a society, had already tested the boundaries of free speech and found common ground. The deal was that you could say virtually anything you want with your mouth. Notwithstanding the fact that government and most people really don’t like free speech at all.
BELL VIEW-What is a troll? I’ve been accused of being one myself – although I never thought I fit the profile. In fact, it took me forever to admit trolls even existed. “Don’t feed the trolls,” I am often cautioned when I engage with people who disagree with me. I didn’t believe trolls were real because I was brought up in a tradition of vigorous debate. My grandfather was a lawyer and dinners at his table often erupted into shouting matches. I loved it. I couldn’t understand why anyone would have wanted dinner to be anything other than a raucous debate over the most difficult issues of the time.
GETTING THE FACTS-Recently there was a story on local NPR affiliate KPCC about how the homeless population, which disproportionately suffers from untreated mental illness, has exploded in recent years. This story was presented without ever mentioning that, during the 1960s and 1970s, the State of California consciously emptied out most of the state mental institutions of patients who knew their own names and what day of the week it was, irrespective of whether they were profoundly mentally ill and in dire need of treatment.
KPCC SPECIAL REPORT--Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — a longtime critic of big money in local politics — has set a surprising city record requesting large contributions, using a little-known and largely unregulated process called “behested payments,” KPCC has found.
GUEST WORDS—In 1950 my parents and grandmother were able to afford to buy a duplex for us to live in for $11,000 a mile north of the LaBrea tar pits here in Los Angeles. For two years I have watched the destruction of house after house in my neighborhood to build ugly McMansions selling for $4 million, and my block is a noisy construction pit to make developers rich.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS-There is a war going on in Long Beach, a war fought in the most unlikely of places: the dog park. It can be seen in the nervous sizing up of new dogs when they enter the metal gates, as their owners unlatch harnesses from bellies. It is a war often fought only with stickers, flyers and sharpened glares as pets are corralled into opposing corners of a dust-covered park. But on occasion, these hostilities bubble up into angry words that boil in the unrelenting sunlight: “Fix your dog!”
TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE--In my last CityWatch article, I reminded everyone that the need to create transportation/infrastructure for mobility, water, electricity, sewage, etc. is greater than ever … but our political polarization is getting in the way.
STAND UP AND BE COUNTED-What has regrettably become the sole motivation behind using technology to communicate with customers, is not what it should be – providing better service -- but rather to increase profit by reducing costs, which further degrades service. Corporations have as their sole raison d'etre the yearly increasing of profit (growth), no matter what the effect on their ability to fairly and morally supply goods and services to the customer.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Yesterday, I joined the ‘Alt Right is Not Alright’ March in Venice -- and knew I’d write an article about my experience. What I could not foretell was that the column I’d write would end up being quite different from what I had intended.
ANIMAL WATCH-Two LA Animal Services' Commissioners appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti propose that potential adopters should not be informed of the breed -- or apparent breed -- of dogs they consider taking home from Los Angeles city shelters.
PC POLITICS--Without going through another weedy analysis of James Damore’s firing from Google – Holman Jenkins, George Leef and Nick Gillespie have done a fine job of that – let’s just say the Silicon Valley engineer was canned for stating what most scientists and sensible people have known ever since Adam and Eve frolicked in Eden – that there are biological differences between men and women and also for suggesting that the tech giant has become an “ideological echo chamber.” So the politically correct, party line zealots at Google decided, 1984-like, to shove the thought-criminal out the door.
LOS ANGELES--Though the beating of Rodney King that sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots occurred in the Northwest Valley, the epicenter of the civil unrest that followed was South Central, a region southwest of downtown LA. In the 25 years since, South Central has proven to be a popular backdrop for movies that look at the implications of the riots: Straight Outta Compton and Menace II Society are both set in a tense post-Rodney King South Central, while documentaries including Rize and Burn Motherf*cker, Burn! focus, to some degree, on civil unrest in the area's neighborhoods. (Photo above: Gook star, writer, and director Justin Chon.)
DEEGAN ON LA-Move over Magic. Step aside CT3. Bono, go to the back of the room. All you one-name celebrities -- meet your match and more: P-22, LA's iconic Puma (also known as a Mountain Lion or Cougar), a popular “extreme survivor” who lives in the Griffith Park hills. He’s even been honored with his own official day by a Mayoral and City Council Decree -- October 22 is P-22 Day in LA.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Or is it malling? It’s both. And it’s bad.
GELFAND’S WORLD--The 2020 presidential campaign has started and the stakes couldn't be higher. How do we know that we are officially in campaign season already? One clue is that Los Angeles will be without its mayor for the next two weeks. Eric Garcetti is leaving home to campaign in New Hampshire. Ostensibly, he will be campaigning for someone else, a person who is running to be the mayor of Manchester, a town that is 2568 miles from here and has a population of 110,000 people. I guess we're supposed to believe that the choice of who gets elected mayor of Manchester is a question of major importance to the people of Los Angeles. To dust off the phrase made popular by Jim Bouton, Yeah, Sure.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Trump and Nazis and Kaepernick, oh my! As deeply flawed and forever tarnished as Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson and many of their contemporaries were on the subject of slavery (Adams didn’t own slaves and was opposed to slavery, but worked to slow Abolition) they were brilliant on the five freedoms afforded us by the 1st Amendment, which are freedom of religion, speech, press, peaceful assembly and to petition the government without fear of punishment.
GETTING THERE FROM HERE--For those of us who remember the movie "The Running Man" with Dustin Hoffman, the question of "Is it safe?" still has meaning. Now it's time to ask that question about water, power, transportation, etc. There are those who want division, who are outraged, or are both ... but for the issues that USUALLY unite us (transportation/infrastructure), is it safe to raise those issues again.
MY TURN-It’s the question many of us are asking these days: what exactly is fake news? Is it news you disagree with? Or is it advertising that looks like news but isn’t -- as is the case with an “advertorial” in which an advertiser who wants to hype a new product pays for it to be written about as if it were a news story. (These types of articles should be identified as such and the Internet tries to make that distinction by calling them "sponsored.")
THE PREVEN REPORT--Just hours before releasing a YouTube video promising his constituents that he would “bring all perspectives to the table” before moving forward with any further “road diet” projects, LA City Council member Mike Bonin moved forward with another “road diet” project. Bonin introduced and got passed a motion appropriating $490,594 to expand environmental clearance work for the “Lincoln Boulevard Bridge Widening Project.”
NEW GEOGRAPHY-Images of California, particularly the southern coast, are embedded with those associated with youthfulness — surfers, actors, models, glamorous entrepreneurs. Yet, in reality, the state — and the region — are falling well behind in the growth of their youthful population, which carries significant implications for our future economic trajectory and the nature of our society.
RANTZ AND RAVEZ-I recently discussed the current living conditions in the City of Los Angeles with a 30-ish, married resident of the San Fernando Valley who works for the City of LA. He is quite upset with the current state-of-affairs here: traffic congestion, increasing crime, lack of affordable housing, the economy, the constantly expanding homeless population and a host of related topics. In addition to the direction in which the city is headed, we discussed the Mayor’s plan and vision for LA.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Driving through Skid Row, witnessing homeless encampments near luxury apartment complexes, encountering people living in their cars, hearing stories about long commutes to the Antelope Valley for cheaper housing, or reading the latest data of soaring housing prices and rents lets you know that LA is in the midst of a severe housing crisis.
EASTSIDER-As I attended the community meeting/development proposal meeting at the old Goodwill Auditorium in Lincoln Heights, it was clear that Councilmember Gil Cedillo has “learned a thing or two” from his recent, bruising, re-election Campaign for Council District 1.
BELL VIEW-The outrage comes so quickly these days. From North Korea to Nazis, all in the course of a weekend. Trump takes credit -- through the sheer audacity of his “tough talk” -- for backing Kim Jong Un off his threat to annihilate the US -- as if all the other presidents in history have just let North Korea bomb us back into the Stone Age.
PRECEDENT SETTING--A U.S. District Court this week blocked federal prosecutors from moving forward with their conspiracy case against a pair of Northern California cultivators because the duo was determined to be in compliance with Golden State medical marijuana laws.
CALIFORNIA POLITICS--When two New York baseball teams, the Dodgers and the Giants, moved west six decades ago, their ancient cross-town rivalry merged into the equally intense – and equally long – competition between Los Angeles and San Francisco for economic, cultural and, of course, political dominance of California.
EDUCATION WATCH-The Cal State system's recent decision to get rid of the requirement that as many as 25,000 incoming freshman take non-credited remedial courses in Entry Level Math (ELM) and the English Placement Test (EPT) before taking college level coursework is irrational. It defies common sense to think that students who have not mastered prerequisite grade-level standards in Math and English are able to understand college level coursework – coursework that relies on basic foundational knowledge to understand the college level classes they are now allowed to take.
GELFAND’S WORLD--I'll start with the more serious side of this story, but then we'll get into a little MTA bashing which, I assure you, they well deserve. Let's start by imagining that there is an emergency in the harbor (maybe a fire on a ship is creating toxic fumes) that would require an evacuation. There are basically three northbound streets connecting San Pedro to the rest of the city -- Pacific Ave, Gaffey, and Western. There are a couple of roads leading across the Palos Verdes peninsula to the west, but they are minor elements in the transportation network. The bulk of traffic into and out of the area is along the north-south axis.
DEEGAN ON LA-Movie mogul and studio owner Jack Warner helped to build Hollywood, a town that is now slowly being broken down like the set on one of his many movies. But it’s not movie crews who are doing post-production tear-down. It’s developers and politicos who are striking the set every time they collaborate to replace a successful expression of Hollywood architecture with their version of the sequel. Each demolition tears away at Hollywood’s history and destroys the character and fabric of Hollywood neighborhoods.
EMBRACING THE OTHER-At 3 p.m. on January 28, 2017 -- the day after Donald Trump signed an executive order banning travel to the United States by citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries -- I frantically tried to stop the departure of a plane carrying Ali Vayeghan.
@THE GUSS REPORT-Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo played a Joseph McCarthy-esque Pied Piper with his 14 law-making colleagues last week in which they pondered “taking names,” as it were, of all businesses that profit from President Donald J. Trump’s proposed border wall.
SHOW UP AND SPEAK UP (AGAIN)-Mayor Garcetti's Interim CAO, Richard Llewellyn, is trying to raise land use appeal fees to discourage the average Joe from filing an appeal. This may happen at the City’s PLUM Committee meeting this coming Tuesday, August 15, 2017 at 2:30 p.m. Under our Constitution, the people have a basic right to make a complaint to, or seek the assistance of, their government, without fear of punishment or reprisals.
GUEST WORDS--As we all now know, this weekend in Charlottesville, hundreds of white supremacists gathered with torches, shouting racial, ethnic and religious epithets about Black and Jewish people, chanting Nazi slurs, waving the Confederate flag and banners emblazoned with giant swastikas. A peaceful protester was murdered. Two brave police officers lost their lives.
PERSPECTIVE-In several of my articles, I’ve characterized the City of Los Angeles’ finances as being in a state of virtual bankruptcy. Pension costs are the key drivers of the city’s unsustainable model. Growing pension costs are plugged by reducing service levels or holding them flat in the face of higher demand.
THE PREVEN REPORT--To the casual observer there was nothing remarkable about the Studio City Neighborhood Council’s (SCNC) vote last Monday to oppose Harvard-Westlake School’s “Parking, and Athletic Improvement Plan,” which involves building in the hillside abutting the school’s campus a 750-space parking structure topped with a lighted athletic field that is connected to the school by a covered pedestrian bridge arching over Coldwater Canyon Boulevard.
INFLATED EXPECTATIONS-It will soon be nine years since high-speed rail was passed in California. But Californians haven’t gotten the high-speed rail system they were promised. Instead, high-speed rail has taken a new form: something more expensive and smaller in scope that will substantially increase traffic congestion in urban areas.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-The announcement that Los Angeles will host the 2028 Olympics has lead to a highly contagious disease: Olympic Fever. It is particularly virulent among the same well-off crowd that imagines a few iconic buildings designed by celebrity architects, such as the Disney Concert Hall, the Getty Center, or yet another remodel of LACMA, will finally turn Los Angeles into a truly global city.
THE EPPERHART EXPRESS--I know a lot of people who are proud hyphenates—Italian-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans, and so on. Many are the children and grandchildren of immigrants. Interestingly, those of my friends who are immigrants themselves tend to self identify simply as Americans once they gain citizenship. Plain American is how I’ve always thought of myself.
EASTSIDER-CalPERS is having an election which will directly affect more than 1.5 million Californians who are part of the CalPERS system, have huge tax implications for the rest of us, and probably affect the fate of a $300 billion dollar plus institution. I am urging everyone to vote for Michael Flaherman and Margaret Brown for the Board. They are serious about addressing CalPERS’ problems, and have the right background to truly make a difference.
MY TURN-The most overused "buzz phrase" in today's communication is Fake News. We could even call it trendy or fashionable. Late Night TV uses it as a source to increase its ratings. John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, Shawn Hannity and Alex Jones and most of the others are creating their own style of fake news. No one who stays up that late would possibly think this is anything but satire.
BELL VIEW--I’ve been struggling with an issue lately. My first taste of local politics came via the Neighborhood Council system. I lived up the street from the City’s light pole storage facility. Directly across from a Carnegie Library, in the middle of one of the denser neighborhoods in Los Angeles, filled with school-age kids and renters without backyards, the East Hollywood Light Yard, as it came to be known, represented for me a lost opportunity to make the lives of the people in East Hollywood just a little better.
CORRUPTION WATCH-The normal pattern for the mafiazation of a business is that the thugs move in on an established business and by using threats, physical intimidation and murder, they force honest businessmen out of the field. The objective of organized crime is to create a situation in which it has a geographic monopoly. When you own the only trash hauling company in your part of town, people pay what you demand or your trash piles up, and up, and up.
NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS--Renting in LA is about as enjoyable as having a third job -- which many renters have, spending nearly half their monthly income on rent.
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA-President Trump claims that California allowed millions of non-citizens to cast ballots in the 2016 elections. This allegation, while totally bogus, has put California and its political leaders on the defensive. They are forced to respond as Trump and his allies use the lie to justify a new federal commission devoted to making it harder for all Americans to vote.
THE PREVEN REPORT--At 6:30pm Monday evening, the Studio City Neighborhood Council, in a unanimous vote, adopted a Resolution strongly opposing the Harvard-Westlake School’s “Parking, and Athletic Improvement Plan.” The vote comes on the eve of a Public Hearing regarding the project, which has been controversial and is anticipated to draw a large number of speakers on both sides of the issue. The hearing will take place at 9am on Tuesday, August 8th at Van Nuys City Hall, 14410 Sylvan Street, Room 201 Van Nuys, CA 91401.
SO-CALLED ‘CHANGE’ AND ‘DISPLACEMENT’-For too long, whenever City Hall politicians and developers want to approve and build another luxury-housing project, they conveniently use the excuse that Los Angeles is experiencing a “housing crisis” — it gives them political cover. But the facts point to a more specific and troubling problem, which they’d rather ignore. To borrow a phrase, LA is facing an affordable housing crisis, stupid.
ANIMAL WATCH-It appears from the lack of statistical support, that Councilman Paul Koretz and LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette were duped into believing a pet shop/puppy mill ban -- prohibiting 11 pet shops in Los Angeles from selling puppies, kittens and bunnies -- would notably impact Midwestern puppy mills (which breed an estimated 2.5 million puppies annually) and would empty City shelters.
AT LENGTH-Not much crosses the waterfront in Southern California’s twin ports that isn’t in the jurisdiction of the International Longshore Workers Union. Every kind of commodity and product, legal or not, comes here from around the world — 42 percent of all imports into the United States, to be exact. What could possibly go wrong?
@THE GUSS REPORT-As the City of Los Angeles prepares to issue costly citations for anyone whose dog is unlicensed, providing no amnesty for unpaid licenses from the past, it should issue its first citation to LA Police Commission Vice President Steve Soboroff, who pledged last year (after being shown that he was decades behind in licensing) that he paid for all dog licenses he owed – he has had 10 dogs over the past 20 years – while refusing to provide the receipts showing exactly how much he paid and for what.
CORRUPTION WATCH-We complain when we’re dissatisfied but we insist on ignoring Pogo who identified the origin of our problems: ourselves. More specifically, our refusal to think about the future allows others to plan our lives for us. Surprise! They’re choosing what is best for their pocketbooks and not what enhances our lives. Here are some things we should be discussing while the Davos Set makes their own plans for our lives.
OLYMPICS POLITICS--By the time you read this, the Los Angeles City Council may have already voted to accept the invitation to host the 2028 Summer Olympics Games.
PERSPECTIVE--The town of Loyalton, CA is a short scenic drive north of Truckee and, seemingly, a world away from the financial strain facing CalPERS. It is the equivalent of a gnat on an elephant’s back. (Photo above: Loyalton Mayor Mark Marin.)
POLITICS--As stated in my last CityWatch article, we've got a lot to do with respect to transportation, not the least which includes a rapid transit system that has both east-west and north-south lines...and a DIRECT LAX-DOWNTOWN line that is being avoided because of political correctness and downright stupidity.
THE PREVEN REPORT--What to make of George Lucas' forthcoming museum of narrative art? Recently approved by the Mayor and City Council of Los Angeles, and blessed by the County Board of Supervisors, the museum will be erected adjacent to the California Science Center, the California African American Museum and the Museum of Natural History.
EASTSIDER-When last we visited Walnut Canyon in February, the question was whether there could be a deal with Abode at Glassell Park. As we shall see in this update, so much for rationality.
DEEGAN ON LA---Predating by centuries, the existence of the Harvard-Westlake School, an institution that itself is over 100 years old, is the adjacent Coldwater Canyon mountainside they intend to invade with a new development project. It is a home and habitat for a variety of wildlife as part of the known wildlife corridor running East of the 405 through the Santa Monica Mountains. It’s also the home of a rare Oak/Walnut habitat.
The City Council’s powerful Planning and Land Use Management Committee quietly approved a 34-story luxury housing tower for the Westside on Tuesday — and City Hall politicians are again giving a developer the kind of sweetheart deal that doesn’t seriously address LA’s affordable housing crisis.
IT’S ALL ABOUT TRANSPO--Congrats, LA! We're getting the Olympics in 2028! Now ... get to work! We've got a City and County of Los Angeles to prepare for the big event!
THE BUTCHER SHOP … NO BONES ABOUT IT--I love Greg Nelson’s meanderings through the stories of the origins of Los Angeles’ neighborhood councils. He was a real champion for genuine participation going way back. But he was far from alone.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Some Angelenos are upset over the pay-to-play nature of Los Angeles City Hall, according to a recent article in the LA Times. They have labored under the misapprehension that if reformers spend all their time and energy limiting the money developers may give to the mayor and councilmembers, this will somehow magically fix what’s wrong at City Hall. Wrong!
THE COST OF UNION POWER-America’s public school systems are notorious for their rubber rooms. That’s where teachers deemed unfit to work in a classroom pass the time as their disciplinary actions or terminations move through the convoluted system. This can take years, and while it does, the teachers collect their full paychecks as they twiddle their thumbs. It’s a vestige of our union-dominated school system, which has so many protections (for teachers, not kids) that it’s nearly impossible to fire bad actors.
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Although I have taken the Los Angeles Times to task for its coverage of local planning issues, especially when it became a mouthpiece for the no on S campaign, on Sunday, July 30, 2017, the paper got it right. So, hats off to investigative reporters Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahnizer.
AS CALIFORNIA GOES--With control of the House of Representatives up for grabs, and as many as six Republican Congressional seats in the state deemed competitive, California will once again be in the national political spotlight next fall.
PREVEN PAPERS--Here’s the message Darren Martinez, the City Attorney in charge of matters relating to the Neighborhood Council system, sent on August 1st to every Board Member of the Studio City Neighborhood Council (SCNC) in connection with what has turned out to be a postponed vote on the Harvard-Westlake School’s plans to build a multi-story parking structure across the street from their campus in Coldwater Canyon:
PREVEN PAPERS--Here’s the message Darren Martinez, the City Attorney in charge of matters relating to the Neighborhood Council system, sent this afternoon to every Board Member of the Studio City Neighborhood Council (SCNC) in connection with a vote tomorrow night on the Harvard-Westlake School’s plans to build a multi-story parking structure across the street from their campus in Coldwater Canyon:
CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--Sorry, Utah.
And apologies to the rest of the West. California’s epidemic shortage of housing hasn’t just sickened our own state—by driving up prices, forcing residents into rentals and onto the street, and putting a $140 billion annual drag on the Golden State’s economy. The disease is spreading to our neighbors, too.
PERSPECTIVE--Recently I read Richard Florida's book, The New Urban Crisis. Among the critical issues he identifies is the decline of the middle class in our urban centers. What his research found was that the middle class is the smallest in the most economically vibrant places, in particular, what he defines as "superstar cities" and tech hubs. Los Angeles was identified as one of these urban areas where the middle class is the smallest.
CAP & MAIN REPORT--When I read that some right-wing agitators had gone to Cudahy to disrupt a city council meeting, I thought, “Why?” What’s the point of going to a public meeting in the second smallest city in Los Angeles County to create a nasty scene? But after reading a June Capital & Main piece by Robin Urevich, I realized these people chose Cudahy precisely because the town is small, Latino and a self-proclaimed “sanctuary city.” The hecklers have also attended other council meetings in the area.
@THE GUSS REPORT-On Wednesday, the City of Los Angeles is going to try to improve its efforts to collect dog licensing revenue by issuing citations for unlicensed dogs, a problem which would not exist if only it had a quality spay/neuter law, and enforcement of it was the #1 priority. Revenue would skyrocket and expenses would, over the course of time, plummet. But don’t hold your breath expecting logic and efficiency from government.
PROMISED TRANSPARENCY-Mayor Eric Garcetti must end the disarray and secrecy surrounding his Open Space plans for Los Angeles in light of new earthquake zone maps released last week that show areas of Palms, Brentwood, Westwood, West LA and Pacific Palisades where no new buildings can be constructed, under state law.
ANIMAL WATCH-At the LA Animal Services Commission meeting on July 25, long-time Best Friends' Animal Society volunteer Layne Dicker, new Board appointee of Mayor Eric Garcetti, submitted 17 items he wants considered for revisions to LAAS policies or practices. Sadly, not one was related to public safety or enforcement of humane laws. Most sounded like they were copied from the Best Friends' website, where Mr. Dicker has his own page, Dog Volunteer Work Leads Los Angeles Couple to Utah.
UNIONS AND CHOICE-When some people become frightened, they’ll say and do some amazingly asinine things. Utilizing that as a guide, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten (photo above) is apparently scared spitless. With Supreme Court decisions on the horizon that could eradicate forced unionism and eliminate laws that states have been using to thwart school choice, the union leader could be in for a considerable loss of money and power.
MASS TRANSIT TALK-A disturbing phrase has taken hold in the American vernacular. It needs to stop. “Thrown under the bus,” is used to describe a dishonorable act when someone has been unfairly treated, deceived, wrongly accused, sacrificed for the unjust or unethical benefit of others, rejected, denied due process, or other acts of harm and betrayal.
JUSTICE--Immigrants across the country are facing what appears to be a swelling tide of xenophobia and anti-immigration sentiment in spite of the fact that we are a nation of immigrants. Thousands risk life and limb to come to this country to seek economic stability, or in fear of their lives from gangs, cartels and/or shady government agencies. The recent tragedy in San Antonio Texas illustrates all too clearly the callous way these human beings are often treated.
GELFAND’S WORLD--As a Californian, I take it for granted that I can show up at my precinct on election day and pick up a ballot without first presenting a drop of blood, my birth certificate, or a retinal scan. It's part of that sense of freedom that politicians talk about on Memorial Day.
A HYPER-FUTURE-Since Elon Musk introduced hyperloop in 2012, several startups have been formed to commercialize the technology. Hyperloop is a 21st century approach to intercity travel in which pods fly through sealed, low pressure tubes at speeds of up to 760 mph. Although a large amount of hyperloop research is occurring in California, our state government is ignoring it while pressing ahead with a costly high-speed rail project that is based on mid-20th century technology.
MY TURN-This is kind of a segue from my last article "Not in My Back Yard" for which we received many comments. One of my more constant critics thinks I live in an alternative universe. That can be taken as a compliment because there is at least light at the end of my tunnel. His must be really gloomy!
GETTING THERE FROM HERE--Maybe some of us are so scared of lawsuits that we've forgotten how to defend the rule of law itself. Maybe some of us are so politically correct that common sense has been tossed into the dustbin of history. And maybe some of us are just friggin' morons. Yet the efforts to make LA (and, by extension, California) safe and convenient to use mass transit merit some respect for those who use it.
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES-Politics will never exist without spin doctors. Yet, as cynical as our political system has become, recent ballot measures sold to the public as "public safety" measures have gone beyond the pale. Nearly every soft on crime law enacted in the last half decade included the words "safe" or "safety" in the description. No two better examples exist than Propositions 47 and 57.
BELL VIEW--Hate. It’s everywhere these days. When Carlos Hakas overturned an immigrant street vendor’s food cart in a fit of rage over a slight inconvenience, the inevitable video went viral and the tsunami of hatred started flowing in both directions. Don’t get me wrong – Carlos is easy to hate. I’ve just burned through so much hate since November, I’m having trouble keeping the flame going. (Photo above: Hakas overturns vendor cart.)
PLATKIN ON PLANNING--In an editorial critical of the pushback against gentrification in Boyle Heights, the Los Angeles Times portrays gentrification as a result of blind economic forces that also uplift local communities.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Which is more important, data or propaganda? Answer: data…because it provides a map of reality. Then again, propaganda is important since it lets you do what you want.
EDUCATION POLITICS--While it remains politically correct to say Black and Latino students can learn, there's a little problem. Those running our still de facto segregated public education system for their own short-term personal interest and financial profit don't share this belief. Oh, they'll continue talking in platitudes about students being "life-long learners," the “100% graduation rate" and "everybody’s going to college," but the reality is drastically different. In fact, these goals represent disingenuous educational expectations for the overwhelming majority of Black and Latino students.
PERSPECTIVE--If you take Interstate 15 about two hours north from Los Angeles, heading into the high desert of San Bernardino County, you’ll reach a for-profit federal detention facility called the Adelanto Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Processing Center. The center’s named for the neighboring town of Adelanto, which means “advancement” or “progress” in Spanish, and it’s not an inappropriate title for a town founded a century ago by the inventor of the Hotpoint Electric Iron. But the name now carries a rather different set of associations due to the ICE facility’s presence there.
EASTSIDER-CalPERS recently trumpeted that they got an 11.2% return on investments this year, which should make everyone feel good about their investment portfolio, even though it was less than 1% last year, and far from hitting the 7% average rate per year that they assume.
PROPUBLICA REPORT--Last Wednesday, July 19, was something of a busy news day. There was word North Korea was making preparations for yet another provocative missile test. The Supreme Court, in its latest ruling in the controversial travel ban case, said that people from the six largely Muslim countries covered by the immigration enforcement action could enter the U.S. if they had a grandparent here, refusing to overturn a ruling that grandparents qualified as “bona fide relatives.”
REFORM ROUND ROBIN-California’s previous attempts at pension reform have had a negligible impact. We should look to solutions from other states to tackle our growing pension problem. Last week, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a landmark school pension reform bill that will cap the growth of pension liabilities. California legislators need to follow Michigan’s lead to save its pension funds from insolvency.
GELFAND’S WORLD--People often divide themselves into two broadly defined camps, the first of which insists on obedience to all rules, while the other defines itself by its anti-authoritarianism. May I suggest that each faction is asking the wrong question.
@THE GUSS REPORT-This article is a bell that the California Department of Consumer Affairs doesn’t want to be rung about one of its 42 Boards that license and regulate an array of industries in the state, including the California Veterinary Medical Board.
AT RANDOM-Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council’s July 10 agenda-setting meeting turned out to be a rowdy affair. Some 20 stakeholders got riled up over the proposed standing rules change that removed the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the meetings and voted against every item proposed until a resolution keeping the Pledge was placed on the agenda for the next meeting. This rule was passed by the previous council and, as it turns out, was not always adhered to.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Should politics invalidate medical science? Politicos readily allow interests of a tiny segment of society to dictate medical decisions for our children. For years local politicians allowed toxic-spewing industrial plant Exide to poison children who lived nearby. While the plant was physically located in Vernon, many of the 10,000 affected families lived in the city of Los Angeles.
POLICY--Last week, my friend Ethan announced that he is moving to Ohio. Ethan is an extremely bright entrepreneur in his mid-thirties, who grew up in Southern California. He’s civic minded – joined non-profit boards, gave to charities what he could afford, and was even been elected to his local water board.
ANIMAL WATCH-A surge in attacks on humans and pets by bobcats testing positive for rabies across the U.S. in 2017 is getting the attention of public health officials who say it is unusual for bobcats to contract this disease and also abnormal for this elusive wild feline to attack humans. Officials warn that in any case where a bobcat attacks a human, rabies should be suspected.
CONNECTION CALIFORNIA--California, do you want to be an incubator for great ideas—or a bubble that shuts out the world?
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Back in October of 2015, SoCal Gas employees discovered a massive natural gas leak from a well within the Aliso Canyon underground storage facility in the Santa Susanna Foothills near Porter Ranch in the San Fernando Valley. Owned by Southern California Gas, a division of Sempra Energy, the gas field covers 3,600 acres.
BELL VIEW-One of the many privileges of my middle class life is health insurance. As far as I can tell, it’s decent coverage. At least I think it’s decent – I can’t pretend to understand it, but I don’t feel like I’m one accident away from total ruin. In the midst of the current debate over the fate of the American healthcare system, it’s hard to overstate the level of peace of mind having basic coverage provides to a person. And despite the high price I pay for this coverage and the amount of work I have to do to maintain it, I recognize that – in 21st Century America – I’m privileged to have healthcare coverage.
CORRUPTION WATCH-Starting in 2014, Judge Alan Goodman and Judge James Chalfant warned us that Super Gridlock was being planned for Los Angeles, but we weren’t listening. Perhaps, we missed them sound the alarm. They used polite legalese.
RANTZ & RAVEZ-First of all, a Big RaveZ for LA City Councilman Bob Blumenfield and the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. The Woodland Hills Recreation Center located at 5858 Shoup Avenue in the West Valley has a sparkling new pool and recreation center after a long four years of meetings, delays and construction-related problems. It was one thing after another that held up construction of the facility, including contaminated soil that had to be removed and heavy rains that hit the community.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Hiking Runyon Canyon is one of LA’s most popular outdoor workouts – in a city where Angelenos drive to Flywheel or hot yoga. Getting close enough to the Hollywood Sign for that vacation Instagram post is on the to-do lists of many tourists.
LIVING THE DREAM-When one thinks about the visionaries who made Hollywood what it is today, there are a lot of candidates to consider: Sid Grauman who dreamed up the picture palaces and movie premieres; C.E. Toberman, who built most of the grand buildings on Hollywood Blvd. and made the Hollywood Bowl a reality; the Chandler family and their associates who put the huge Hollywood Sign on Mt. Lee; Johnny Grant, who built the Hollywood Walk of Fame into an international icon. The list could go on and on.
DEEGAN ON LA-Movie producer Michael Costigan (“Brokeback Mountain,” “A Bigger Splash”) and his wife Linda are about to give Los Angeles County $98,241 -- but for what? The County’s Notice of Public Hearing says it’s for 3,275 square feet of mostly unusable, steep mountainside land adjacent to the Costigan’s Outpost Canyon home. The County operates on a $30 billion annual budget and doesn’t really need the money.
CAPITAL & MAIN--At 6 p.m. on any weekday evening, Interstate 10 from Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles is the fifth most crowded stretch of road in the United States. A light rail line paralleling the freeway has done little to help, despite exceeding rider estimates. A carpool lane or road expansion would likely fail as well, due to a phenomenon known as “triple convergence”: When you make more room on a roadway, peak-hour drivers who would otherwise have detoured, taken the bus or left earlier, show up to fill it. (This may be the only application of Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s novel interpretation of supply and demand.)
TRANSPO WATCH--To most of us, building a new highway, a new rail line, or a new bikeway (or any other mobility-oriented project) involves something that combines benefits to our Economy, Environment, and Quality of Life. Such a project should allow for greater mobility/freedom, and perhaps enhance the ability of ALL of us to financially benefit … hence the need for public funding.
EDUCATION POLITICS--How do you look parents in the eye and say you’ve taken a 174% pay raise right after you’ve closed the library at their child’s school?
EASTSIDER-A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the upcoming Special Election to replace Jimmy Gomez in California’s 51st Assembly District. In that column I characterized an internal fight over the process followed to endorse a candidate as a “kerfuffle.”
15 CANDLES—(Editor’s Note: Have LA’s Neighborhood Councils accomplished what they promised 15 years ago? What have we learned? What would we change? I’m sure you’ve heard myriad answers to these questions. Most often from folks whose claims and participation were marginal. Greg Nelson created LA’s Neighborhood Councils. He was, at the time, Chief of Staff for LA City Councilman Joel Wachs who became the engine for Greg’s idea. For the first time, in this CityWatch retrospective, the person responsible for Los Angeles’ Neighborhood Councils looks back … and ahead … talks about how it happened and if he had it all to do over again, what he would change.)
PLATKIN ON PLANNING-By now most of us know what ails Los Angeles. To cite some of the city’s most imminent emergencies:
URBAN PERSPECTIVE-O.J. Simpson won’t go away. I posed the question on my Facebook page “Should O.J. be paroled?” It drew an avalanche of responses. Even while respondents hotly protested they didn’t care, they still debated, raged, and fumed on the page about him. He still touches a sore nerve.
ANIMAL WATCH-Best Friends' Animal Society, Los Angeles, is offering discounted pets as a 2-for- $10 pair during July. Their posted "Current Special" features two adult dogs. Is the former religious group -- which started as the Church of the Process of the Final Judgment -- -becoming desperate to achieve its (registered) mission to "save them all" and reach a "no kill" metric by the end of 2017?
GELFAND’S WORLD--This is an exercise in thinking about a political left-center that is coherent enough to act effectively. Today's issue is the loss of health insurance for tens of millions of Americans at the hands of Mitch McConnell. Tomorrow's could be the phase out of Medicare under Speaker Ryan. How do we bring organized power to bear against their actions?
THE VIEW FROM HERE--Can the One L.A. Organization "make democracy work" again in Los Angeles? Not without addressing a still segregated and purposefully dumbed-down LAUSD that is exclusively run for the benefit of its entrenched bureaucracy and the obscene profits of their corporate vendors' interests that keep them in power.
THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Earlier this year, Airbnb host Tami Barker refused to honor Dyne Suh’s reservation, tweeting, “I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners. It’s why we have Trump.”
AFFORDABLE HOUSING BATTLE--The California State Assembly will soon be voting on SB 35, and United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (UN4LA) urges local representatives to reject it. While it's being sold as a way to cut through red tape and accelerate the creation of housing, this bill is poorly conceived and will do more harm than good. SB 35 would create a streamlined approval process for multi-family projects that include a certain number of affordable units. We need to build more housing, but we can't abandon planning in the process.
NEW GEOGRAPHY-As its economy bounced back from the Great Recession, California emerged as a progressive role model, with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman arguing that the state’s “success” was proof of the superiority of a high tax, high regulation economy. Some have even embraced the notion that California should secede to form its own more perfect union.
CORRUPTION WATCH-The benefits of living in Los Angeles are god-given, while the liabilities are man-made. There was a time in the first part of the 1900s, when Angelenos more or less tried to preserve the good. Those days are gone.
PERSPECTIVE-I am a member of LA Fitness. I most often use the facility at Universal City because it has a hardwood basketball court.
UNAFFORDABLE HOUSING-Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission ignored South LA residents’ concerns about displacement and gentrification, swiftly approving a luxury mixed-use redevelopment of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. The City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) will now consider the mega-project.
THE PREVEN REPORT--Here’s what Mayor Eric Garcetti had to say when asked in a recent KPCC radio interview how he manages to balance career planning with fulfilling his current role as Mayor of Los Angeles:
MY TURN-Full disclosure: I am not an expert in City Planning. Having attended a few Planning Commission meetings and Neighborhood Council rallies "against" new developments, I have seen people display the most discourteous behavior. Sometimes I have mentally checked out when faced with myriad of statistics presented by engineers and architects.
FIRST TIME AVAILABLE--Monday, TransparentCalifornia.com released 2016 pension payout data from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) — the nation’s largest municipal utility district.
VOICES--Many Californians have fond memories of landing their first decent-paying job, working long hours to save enough for a down payment, and finally buying a family home. Many of us poured our weekends and hearts into repairing beautiful old houses.
FINANCE POLITICS--Inadequate roads are leaving Californians stuck in traffic. According to a 2016 study by Inrix, a data company that specializes in traffic-related analytics, Los Angeles, California has the worst traffic in the United States. San Francisco takes the number three spot, and San Diego comes in number 14. In all, 17 California cities rank among the 100 most congested cities in America.
A disturbing new LA Times investigation of Mayor Garcetti's embrace of Black Lung Lofts has laid open a system of buck-passing and internal disarray, with the Mayor defending freeway-adjacent housing as legally untouchable because it's "in the pipeline."