BCK FILE-One year ago, the day following the Inauguration of Donald J. Trump, 750,000 people gathered in Pershing Square as part of a global Women’s March. For many of us who participated in the very first march alongside fellow members of the resistance across the country and even the world, this was one of the first steps to show our solidarity on behalf of not only women, but every group and issue marginalized by the Trump and Republican agenda. 

EXPOSED--In a statement released shortly following the false ballistic missile alarm that sparked panic in Hawaii on Sunday, FCC chair Ajit Pai placed blame for the incident on the state's lack of "reasonable safeguards"—while failing to mention that it was telecom giants, including his former employer Verizon, that played a specific and outsized role in preventing the implementation of several key safeguards.

ALPERN AT LARGE--We live in a nation where one side wants to save us all from the other ... but who shall save us from those trying to save us? 

420 FILE-Although the Los Angeles City Council adopted three ordinances to regulate and zone cannabis businesses in Los Angeles, it’s hard to imagine the impact of legal pot becoming significant enough to shrink the black market. 

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--California is so big that you don’t need to be a mouse to hide here. You can be a giant elephant, and still escape notice.

@THE GUSS REPORT-As President Donald Trump confounds supporters, detractors and the detached alike with his latest daily dose of foot-in-mouth syndrome (late last week he allegedly inarticulately pondered why the U.S. has immigrants from “shithole” countries), some brilliant someone came up with a hash tag that offers some agreeable and much-needed comedic relief:  #AddShitholeToMovieTitles, which quickly went viral. 

JUSTICE--Opening statements are scheduled to take place in Los Angeles this week in the civil trial (Case No. BC621315) of a disabled woman who alleges that in 2015 a Los Angeles police officer repeatedly punched her, including in the face, and pinned her non-functioning arm underneath her body.  (Photo: As they beat the mother of four, LAPD officers repeatedly yelled at her to give them her arm and to “stop resisting” but due to her disability she was unable to unpin her arm voluntarily.)

MASS TRANSIT DEBATE-The war on transit has launched a new salvo with accusations that subways, light rail, and trolleys are financial weapons of destruction out to destroy LA, using poor and working mothers as cannon fodder. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--We used to talk about ethical and structural reform within the city of Los Angeles. We've been distracted for the past year, but someday we will get back to thinking about fixing what ails us at the local level. Hey, we could even take up local reform while we're waiting for the mess in DC to pass. How could reform actually be made to happen at the citywide level? 

DEEGAN ON LA-Chances are it will be a happier year for the homeless in 2018 than it was in 2017, thanks to a couple of proposed ordinances that would expedite housing, an abundance of programs for many types of homeless, and possibly even having a “Homeless Czar” at City Hall. 

OTHER WORDS-This month’s Golden Globes were the first awards ceremony held since #MeToo went viral. To commemorate it, celebrities brought social justice activists along as their plus-ones, and many more wore black to show support with the Time’s Up movement, a new Hollywood initiative to purge the industry of predators. 

CORRUPTION WATCH-Subways and their above-ground siblings, trolleys and light-rail trains, are Weapons of Mass Financial Destruction (WMFDs). Like subprime mortgages and nuclear power, their lethality arises from the way they are used and not from any inherent characteristic. Angelenos need to understand the serious financial threats that fixed-rail mass transit poses for the area’s financial viability. 

ALPERN AT LARGE--This may be one of my most unpleasant columns to write, because I don't like the way this City, County, and State are shredding the rights, quality of life, and even health of their constituents.  But it does become clear that we have to think differently, as our middle class becomes ever-more attacked, and ever-more stripped of its rights. 

BELL VIEW--F. Scott Fitzgerald said about the very rich: “They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand.” Whether or not Donald Trump is a true billionaire, he clearly has “possessed and enjoyed early” a way of living that most of his supporters can barely comprehend. 

INSIDE THE CAPITAL--Patty Lopez came to Sacramento in 2014 as a complete outsider, disconnected from the political machinery that helps most people win election to the California Legislature.

EASTSIDER-As a product of the ‘60s and UC Berkeley (photo above), I am not overly fond of the CIA and the FBI.  Yet I find myself in the odd position of actually defending them. Strange times indeed.

CAL MATTERS-Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and former Republican Congressman Doug Ose are polar opposites politically, but have jointly altered dynamics of this year’s California elections.

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-Los Angeles is heading toward a perfect storm of gentrification, well-camouflaged behind spurious claims of boosting transit ridership and addressing LA’s housing crisis through zoning and environmental deregulation. 

BCK FILE-Exactly one year after BuzzFeed first published what would become known as the Steele Dossier, our own Senator Dianne Feinstein released the Senate Judiciary Committee’s interview with Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn R. Simpson. 

CAL MATTERS--It should be said that California’s resistance began before there was a resistance.

VIEW FROM HERE--Remember the good old days when elections were stolen by political bosses? They followed the time-honored tradition of stuffing ballot boxes with the votes of cemeteries full of people whose political influence extended beyond the grave. In some cases, machine loyalists voted multiplied times. At the end of election day, counting ballots offered opportunities for padding the totals. 

DEEGAN ON LA-The iconic Sunset Strip is irrevocably associated with Los Angeles, even though located in, and stewarded by, the City of West Hollywood. Big (Los Angeles) or small (West Hollywood), our cities share the same growth dilemmas: what gets sacrificed in the name of progress and who are the winners? Is it residents of our communities or the politicos in the city halls who authorize the changes? Join the conversation and take the pop poll at the end of this article. 

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--Barring some wild technological advance, all Californians eventually will die.

@THE GUSS REPORT-The only thing that presently stands between Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti running for president and his actually doing that is his failure to state that he wants to be president and, also, to answer this question: What is it about your past 17 years (during which you were an LA City Councilmember and its president) that shows you capable of winning the job and doing it well? 

ALPERN AT LARGE--Inasmuch as many of us love a good fantasy/science fiction novel or movie, it's also incumbent upon us all to distinguish the humanistic/utopian issues raised from hard fact.  The late Isaac Asimov and others of his genre created wonderful novels but also emphasized the need to learn science, and to embrace both the emotional and the rational aspects of the human brain. 

TRANSIT WATCH-An obvious nature of riding transit in Los Angeles is that riders must walk to bus stops and rail stations, wait, then board the bus or train. After reaching the end of their rides, they depart and walk directly to their destinations or make a transfer to another train or bus.  

EDUCATION WATCH-The mood was festive at the annual Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Dinner in Los Angeles. About 600 Democrats gathered in a hotel ballroom on an October evening to begin wrapping up the year. Community activists and party worker-bees mingled with political luminaries to celebrate top volunteers. Anybody with a (D) after their name and $135 for a ticket was welcome at this event in blue, blue California. 

GELFAND’S WORLD-Last Spring, the city of Los Angeles created a new neighborhood council in the pocket sized area known as Hermon. As numerous people pointed out at the time, the Hermon Neighborhood Council has a resident population of less than 4,000, making it 25 times smaller in population than some neighborhood councils. The problem is that under the city rules, every neighborhood council receives an equal stipend from the city. At the moment, that amounts to $42,000 per year for each of the 97 councils. 

CORRUPTION WATCH-Like other addicts, the City would sooner die than give up its dependence on excessive construction. In fact, it might try to justify its abusive economic behavior by calling upon John Maynard Keynes. 

CAL MATTERS--State legislators are floating some creative schemes to blunt the impact of the new federal tax law on California taxpayers.

PERSPECTIVE--Over the past year or so our legislators in Sacramento have let it be known that they aren't happy with the pace of development in California's cities. As housing prices continue to rise, traffic continues to worsen, and the reality of climate change becomes ever more apparent, the Senate and Assembly have decided that local jurisdictions aren't doing their job and that the State needs to intervene.

EASTSIDER-In a move worthy of Tom Perez’ recent purge of the DNC Unity Committee, Eric Bauman is trying to lean on candidates for the 2018 Elections to forgo their rights to be voted on at the State Convention next month. 

So, let’s see what is truly being proposed. One of the really big deals in being a delegate is that you get to go to the convention and vote to endorse candidates for the various elected offices in California. It is, in fact, a right embedded in the CA Dems Bylaws. 

To circumvent those pesky little Bylaws, Eric Bauman has written a letter to potential candidates for office, asking them to waive their rights to be voted on by the delegates. He portrays his request as some kind of horsepuckey party loyalty gesture, but that doesn’t square with what it’s really all about -- control of endorsements.  

Even Bauman must admit in his letter, “I recognize that the choice is yours to seek the CDP’s endorsement consideration...” Well, thanks a bunch, Eric. You are truly a mensch for pointing out that you can’t legally do anything about it. 

Talk about anti-democratic. As the LA Times pointed out, what this boils down to is Bauman’s recognition that he tore the Party apart with his crooked vote counting decisions so he could beat Kimberly Ellis to be head of the party. Now he’s trying to keep the lid on. 

This kind of mentality is not going to switch a bunch of seats from Red to Blue in the Golden State, and his bush-league rhetoric is only going to make divisions widen. 

There are a couple of other reasons why this is a stupid attempt to control votes. First, the party faithful that cared enough to run for party office and become delegates are mostly viewed as food sources by the CDP: they simply want their money with a dollop of “vote how you are told.” 

Yet the best thing about being a delegate and going through all the arcane, backbiting, boring stuff at a convention is that you actually get to vote on endorsements. And early endorsements are a big deal. Potential candidates seek you out, pay attention to your opinion, and vie for your convention vote. 

Local clubs, like the East Area Progressives, have been doing early endorsements for some time. In their case, a recent early endorsement of Luis Lopez ultimately brought him within 1000 votes of the big bucks party establishment carpetbagger Wendy Carrillo in a runoff for the 51st AD. Clear proof that the early endorsement system works. 

Further, what Bauman is really trying to do -- and I think he underestimates the intelligence of today’s delegates -- is to get to have his people, aka Executive Board of the CDP, decide who gets endorsed.  The fact that this means endorsements wouldn’t be made until after the Primary elections, sometime in the summer of 2018, evidently bothers him not. Let’s be clear. Eric Bauman wants for himself and the Executive Board to decide the endorsements.  

Remember, all these machinations are a desperate attempt to get around the CDP bylaws he is pledged as Chair to honor. The state party bylaws are pretty clear that “This Committee’s endorsement process shall be broadly and fairly representative of the various components of the Party.” (Article 8, Section 1, part d: yes, for democratic!) 

So, we will lose the ability to get people excited about candidates, to have a vigorous primary system that gives the occasional grassroots candidate a shot at getting elected to office; we will also lose the momentum that would make ordinary people kick in a Bernie $27 to help out the outsiders. 

The Takeaway 

It’s time for Bauman to retire on his lobbying dollars and allow a younger, more intellectually honest person to step in and run the CDP. Gee, like maybe Kimberly Ellis? Hmm... 

This attempt stinks so bad that even the Sacramento Bee ran an opinion piece by former state party controller Hilary Crosby called, “Don’t silence Democratic delegates on endorsements.”   

Bauman’s exercise is simply a California version of DNC’s distrust of grassroots small ‘d’ democratic candidates, and an attempt to maintain control of the party at any cost. As I wrote recently on the national DNC, “I just don’t understand how their politically correct and morally bankrupt pandering is supposed to gain them election victories.”    

Makes me wonder if that shoe doesn’t fit on the California Democratic Party as well. 

So, come on down, everyone. Ignore Eric Bauman’s latest suppression technique, have a great convention, and give us a good field of candidates who are grassroots locals and actually stand for something!


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


HOMELESS WATCH--1) Cost to build a SINGLE UNIT of “supportive housing” for LA’s homeless: $421,433 (footnote 1)

2) Cost to BUY a 1-bedroom CONDO in Westlake, or a 4-bedroom HOME in Riverside: $421,000 (2)

3) Number of homeless units built under Mayor Garcetti with $1.2 billion in HHH bonds: ZERO (3)

4) Cash spent by developers in 2017 to influence the City Council, mayor & officials to build MORE luxury housing: $4.8 million (4)

5) Skid Row’s average rent after the City Council gentrified the area for urban hipsters: $1,900/mo. (5)

6) Of 20 new residential towers slated for South Park, number that offer affordable units – TWO (6)

7) Affordable units planned for Westfield Promenade’s 1,400-unit mega-project in the Valley:  ZERO (7)

8) Number of households evicted by L.A. landlords so they could jack up rents in 2017: 1,200 (8)

9) Number of affordable bungalows & units razed by L.A. developers in 2017: “City Hall doesn’t keep track.” (9) 

10) Number of toilets Garcetti opened for 1,800 homeless people on Skid Row in 2017:  EIGHT (10)



  1. To view the data click here then scroll to the link "Prop HHH Developments Financial report."   
  1. Inland Empire Homes Between $400,000 and $450,000,” "One of Only of Four Units in This Building" “;
  1. Our LA: Top 10 Best (Open Space!) and Worst (Road Diets!) of 2017,” 
  1. https://ethics.lacity.org/pdf/pressrelease/press_121917_Lobbying_Q3.pdf;  http://2preservela.org/developers-spend-big-bucks-lobbyists-influence-la-politicians;http://2preservela.org/pay-to-play-los-angeles-developers-control-what-la-becomes;
  1. Wholesale District/Skid Row Los Angeles Apartments,” 
  2. South Park: Mapping 27 Projects,” 
  1. Approved by City Hall to create a “new downtown,” 
  1. LA Weekly, “Evictions from Rent-Controlled Apartments in L.A. Double,” 
  1. “LA City Council: ‘City Hall is Clueless about Its Role in Fueling Homelessness,’” 
  2.  Los Angeles Times, “L.A. Adds More Public Toilets as Homeless Crisis Grows,”


(Provided by 2PerserveLA.)


RANTZ AND RAVEZ-As we enter 2018, there are so many items on the table to review, discuss and sort out. First, we should consider the new laws going into effect in 2018. New tax laws will impact most working and retired people in the great land of America. While some will surely benefit from them, namely the rich, corporations and people living in Red states, the rest of us, especially those living in California, will likely not benefit to any great degree. According to tax experts people in California, New York and some of the other more liberal Blue states will suffer. In reviewing these new tax laws with some friends who are CPAs, I have learned that the impact on my income will not be good as I will most likely pay more in taxes than in past years. 

Time will tell so I will let you know the results in the future. I did pay both the first and second installments on my property taxes before the end of the year since the deduction for 2017 is not limited as it will be soon. If you paid your full property tax bill like I did, you followed some good advice from tax experts.  

Then there are the new recreational marijuana laws in California. You no longer need to get a Medical Marijuana card to purchase pot. Anyone over 21 is now eligible to buy it for personal use to get high. While there are restrictions on transportation and locations where you can smoke marijuana, there will be those in our state who will drive loaded and get involved in traffic collisions, causing harm to others. DUI has continued to be a problem in our state and I believe it will only get worse with the ability to legally get high on pot. We know that DUI and injury traffic incidents have increased significantly in Colorado. In time we will know how many of us will be impacted by people driving loaded on pot. The message is clear. If you chose to get high, don’t drive. Save yourself and others the negative impact of a foolish act. 

In addition, remember that certain professions prohibit the use of pot for any purpose -- like airline pilots and other professions that fall under the rules of the Federal Government. Pot is still illegal under Federal Law.  

For regulations, go to the Bureau of Cannabis Control online. 

What ever happened to Due Process? 

We are a land of laws, rules and regulations. Since there is no common law marriage in California, everything needs to be codified. We have criminal laws, civil laws, real estate laws and so forth in California and throughout America. There are sexual harassment laws and consequences for violating them as well as other laws dealing with personal conduct. With the current trend of sexual harassment allegations against various men in politics, the media and the entertainment world, what ever happened to due process and the idea that one is innocent until proven guilty? 

I don’t condone any type of harassment or intimidation toward any woman, man or anyone else, straight, gay or transgender. All people have equal rights and freedoms. But after serving nearly 50 years in law enforcement, I strongly believe in the system that says an individual is innocent until proven guilty. Once facts are given and evidence is presented, hopefully justice will prevail and be served. 

Our system is not always correct or perfect and there are cases of miscarriage of justice. No person should ever be able or be permitted to intimidate, harm or harass any person. But in the current stormy Court of Public Opinion, when it comes to sexual harassment allegations, we need to remember that we are a society of rules and due process. There are statues of limitations and time limitations for different types of crimes. That means you must report an incident in a timely manner. If you are the victim of sexual harassment or any other crime, don’t wait years to report it. Make sure to get the incident on record and let the authorities deal with the investigation.


(Dennis P. Zine is a former and retired LAPD Supervisor, former and retired 12-year Los Angeles City Councilman and current General Manager at Bell Canyon in Ventura County.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

GELFAND’S WORLD--A little more than a year ago, mere weeks after the election of Donald Trump, Timothy Snyder published his best selling book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. It was a sobering look at how other western democracies had failed under the onslaught of totalitarian stress. Would the United States go down the path towards something resembling the Italian or Spanish fascism of the 1930s and '40s? Or, with Trump's obviously deranged personality and lack of personal ethics, was a path resembling that of 1930s Germany a possibility? After all, Trump's campaign was a direct appeal to racism and ultra-nationalism, the fear and hatred of minorities that harkened back to Berlin and 1933. 

A year ago, we had reason to fear proto-fascism, although most of us held to the belief that the United States is better than that. But as a nation, we were tested. 

Over this past year, we have seen enough of the Trump style to understand that he is a petty minded authoritarian who communicates his own essence by presenting a lot of dictatorial bluster: 

--Calling for his political opponents to be imprisoned. 

--Attacking the existence of the news media 

--Attacking the legitimacy of the rule of law as upheld by the courts 

--Presenting falsehood as truth 

--Attacking what is true as being falsehood. 

These are eerily similar to the dangers that Snyder warned about in his book. In this sense, the work was, sadly enough, prophetic. But Snyder's book was also a prescription for resistance to tyranny. He explained that we have to fight immediately, because resistance would become much more difficult if we wait. 

A lot of other people and organizations must have had similar thoughts, because within days of the election, the American streets were filled with protestors. The Women's March and the March for Science not only communicated to other Americans that they had allies, it communicated to those taking part in those marches that we were not alone. 

And other institutions of democracy held on. It was not only the courts. Curiously enough, the resistance began early in a place we might never have expected -- the television networks CBS and NBC. The two late night variety shows hosted by Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers have carried on an unrelenting exposure of the illogic and dishonesty of the Trump administration. In so doing, they have made clear that freedom of speech still exists in the United States. 

Both of them carry out what real dictators won't allow: They tell the truth. And they do it night after night. There is nothing that takes down a man more effectively than being made into a joke, and Colbert and Meyers have done their best to make this happen. That Colbert and Meyers continue to say what they say shows the rest of the country (and the world) that freedom of speech still exists in America. 

Over the past year, we have learned a lot about our democracy. We learned that about two-thirds of us believe in it enough to defend its essential elements -- freedom of speech, the work of the courts, and the separation of powers defined in the Constitution. That is the plus side. 

On the minus side, we have the other one-third of Americans, those who continue to defend the Trump administration. In polls, they support attacks on freedom of the press and fail to support the independence of the court system. 

In the years of the Watergate scandal, a strong two-thirds support for impeachment of Richard Nixon would certainly have been enough. Trump's transgressions seem to be much worse than what Nixon was accused of doing. Trump is using the presidency to enrich himself and his family, and he's not bothering even to put the metaphorical fig leaf on the process. And as Josh Marshall has been pointing out, there isn't any question that the Trump campaign colluded with a foreign power over the election. 

With all that in mind, I might have titled this column Will this be the last year for Trump? It could have been a debate over the danger that Trump will somehow try to create a dictatorship rather than be pulled down. After all, that was the warning from a year ago. 

But a couple of things have happened in the interim. One is the fact of the resistance. Dozens of millions of Americans have made clear that the crazier aspects of Trumpism can't be allowed to go into effect. 

All that resistance and Trump's personal unpopularity are leading to instability in the Republican hold on the congress. You can see it in the surprising number of senior congressional Republicans who have already announced their intent to retire at the end of 2018. National polls in which people are asked whether they support a generic Republican or a generic Democrat in the next congressional election are, at this moment, distinctly negative for the Republicans. In a world in which the prospects for the next election are what motivates politicians, the Republican brand has suffered a serious hit. 

So that's the first major finding -- the American people have managed to hold back the deluge by making use of that maligned tool called freedom of speech. In so doing, they have reminded a lot of politicians and a lot of ordinary folk that this is not really like the week after the Reichstag fire. 

But there is one other insight that has been less noticed. It's Trump's essential neediness. Everything we've learned about him over these past twelve months points to a man who needs (not just wants) to be recognized. It's also true that he can't stand criticism, and desperately craves adulation. At this level, he is like a four year old who needs to be held and soothed. The underlying cause might not really matter -- some health professionals use the term narcissistic personality disorder to characterize the president -- but the result is a man who can dish it out but can't take it. 

This is a guy who is more likely to be dangerous because he overreacts to small provocations. Trump has also been damaging to a lot of American values because he appoints people (take the Secretary of the Interior for example) who undo the protections we have worked so hard to gain over the years. 

The Cult of Personality that Failed 

But so far, Trump has shown that he lacks the guts (or the imagination) to be a real dictator. Sending late night Tweets about imprisoning your opponents is not the same as actually imprisoning them. Mr Trump, you are no Vladimir Putin. As much as Trump and his acolytes try to build up a cult of personality around him, it fails. Trump doesn't add up to that scary 1930s dictator we worried about a year ago. 

He just doesn't seem to have the lust for power that it takes. He likes to get his way, but doesn't do the work that it takes to be really effective. In fact, Trump seems to understand less about how government functions than any previous president or even the most garden variety congressman. 

Recent evidence for these views might come from the book by Michael Wolff that is due to be released in a few days. An excerpt is now running in New York Magazine. What comes out (in addition to the assertion that Trump neither wanted nor expected to be elected) is Trump's need to feel respected. The fact that he can't get that feeling just from holding the office of the presidency is telling. This is a guy who is more the whiney toddler than the iron chancellor. He is not a guy who inspires others to follow in slavish obedience to a commanding personality. 

Perhaps the best example of Trump's essential neediness and his lack of a charismatic dictatorial personality is the behavior of his cabinet in their first meeting. As the news media reported in amazement, newly created cabinet members began their comments with florid praise of Trump and how honored they were to work for him. As most of us recognized instinctively, a president with a sense of self-worth would never need nor want such praise spoken aloud in a cabinet meeting, and would most likely find the experience uncomfortable. But these cabinet members must have been quietly informed by staff that Trump needs to hear such comments in order to function. This is not a leader that people swear to follow through the gates of Hell. 

There is no Trump personality cult. There are those who support Trump because they share political goals (lower taxes for the super-rich) or because he mouths the sorts of prejudices that they secretly want to hear. But that's a lot different than believing in a leader because he exemplifies leadership in a time when times are desperate. 

That last point is important. Dictators arose in the 1930s in a time when the world had suffered a horrible war (perhaps the worst war in history in terms of human suffering), had endured a cruel economic depression, and had lived through famines in several countries. Desperation in a large fraction of the population makes it easier for dictators to flourish. Trump did not come into office at a similar time. There are certain parallels, the most important being substantial unemployment and underemployment, but that's a long ways from Europe in 1930. 

So we may have dodged a bullet in that Trump doesn't have the "fire in the belly" to push for more dictatorial powers. He might like the idea, but he doesn't have what it takes to fight for it. He is more President Crybaby than Il Duce. 

The Real Danger 

There is still danger in that Trump is showing signs of cognitive deficit and irrationality. As numerous reports show, he doesn't read much, understands little, and mainly reacts to what he hears on television. The clear danger is that he may continue to deteriorate, becoming even more irrational and emotional than he is now. With an even more deluded and impaired Donald Trump still in office, it would be hard to predict what he might do because of the immense power the office provides. 


So we may still wish to consider the legal ways that the nation might provide for a presidential succession prior to 2021. Impeachment might have already occurred in a saner era. But for the past couple of decades, the right wing has had its own propaganda arm on radio and television, and the right wing is enjoying having Trump in office. 

If the United States did not have its own semi-official Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda (or as we like to call it now, Fox News and talk radio), the impressive magnitude of evidence linking Donald Trump to unsavory activity would lead to his impeachment or forced resignation. As it is, Donald Trump will probably hang on for another year and, depending on the outcome of the 2018 congressional elections, we might see a timely resignation. If Trump is frustrated about not getting his way in congress right now, imagine how he will feel when Democrats control the body. In the meanwhile, we can hope to be spared from any worse forms of authoritarianism than we have already endured. And that's what the continuing resistance is about. 


Trump got his tax cut, so he has something to brag about. If he really wants out of the presidency, he has an excuse. He has agreed to a physical exam next week. If he wants to quit, he has merely to claim any of a number of conditions and he can leave honorably without the embarrassment of impeachment by the House and trial by the Senate. This isn't all that likely though, not because he is a new Mussolini but because of his essential neediness. He needs to be the center of attention, and that's precisely where he is right now.


(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net)  


PLATKIN ON PLANNING-If a public agency is going to spend $8 billion dollars on many miles of new subway, it makes sense to prepare station area plans that boost ridership. Yet, in Los Angeles the Purple Line Extension, pictured above, is falling through the cracks. Both METRO and the City of Los Angeles continue to make choices that will eventually reduce ridership at the new subway stations. Why? As far as I can determine, their goal is to maximize real estate development at and near subway stations, not to maximize ridership. 

To understand what is really going on, lets take a deep a dive into the planning history of subway construction Los Angeles. At CityWatch I recently described excellent – but ultimately rejected -- planning studies and zoning ordinances for the original 13 MetroRail stations. In the 1980s the Southern California Rapid Transit District (SCRTD), now called METRO, commissioned the Los Angeles Department of City Planning to prepare these 13-station area specific plans. Long moth-balled at the City of LA’s Piper Tech archives, these plans could easily be pulled out of a file cabinet and become the model for new Purple Line station area plans. Los Angeles would than have station area plans that prioritized ridership, not real estate development. 

Political Barriers to Transit Oriented Communities:  But now, over 30 years later, this simple process won’t be easy for several political reasons. In addition to METRO’s and City Hall’s developer-driven fixation to use mass transit as a pretext for zoning deregulation, there is little public pressure for passenger amenities at the three Purple Line stations. Called Transit Oriented Districts or Transit Oriented Communities (TOCs), this passenger-oriented approach is straightforward. In METRO’s own words, “TOCs represent an approach to development focused on compact, walkable and bikeable places in a community context (rather than focusing on a single development parcel), integrated with transit.” 

I would also add that METRO’s term “development” (i.e., private real estate investment) should be replaced with “affordable housing.” This is because these residences would house those future transit-adjacent residents most likely to become bus and subway passengers. 

But this great theory has no connection to METRO’s practice on the Purple Line Extension.  Furthermore, there are two very different groups in Los Angeles that are at odds with this crucial approach to transit planning. In their own way they create extra barriers to true passenger-oriented planning on Wilshire Boulevard and adjacent neighborhoods. 

On one hand, the cynics ignore real Transit Oriented Districts/Communities. They look at Los Angeles and see a metropolitan area where driving is the favored transportation mode, where bicycling is scary, and where busses and subways are a hassle to use. To their credit, the cynics know that most mass transit use in Los Angeles is involuntary. Most of those on busses and subways are the poor, the disabled, the young, and the elderly. The cynics conclude, therefore, that it is nearly impossible to get other Angelenos out of their cars and onto busses or subways. Their cynicism is easy to understand, but there are planning options that that would help many of them overcome their cynicism about strategically increasing transit ridership. 

On the other hand, Transit Oriented Communities are blocked by the market fundamentalists, who some people now call WIMBYs (Wall Street in My Backyard). These groups have a one-size-fits-all program to increase transit ridership without spending a public or private dime on neighborhood amenities. Their simple solution is to jettison any zoning and environmental laws that impede real estate investors from building market housing to their pocketbook’s content. I used to think that these “build-more-housing” crusaders were recently graduated Young Republican types on the lookout for business ventures, but several readers recently brought me up to speed about them. 

They linked me to well researched articles documenting how YIMBY’s and similar free-market housing backers are directly tied to major private sector investors, such as the Central City Association, to real estate developers, and to other commercial interests, especially high-tech investors and Silicon Valley. 

Not surprisingly, these local market fundamentalists gladly became a public voice for the major real estate companies who funded the no on S campaign in Los Angeles. On the stump, they faithfully parroted SG&A Campaign’s deceptive no on S talking points. They repeatedly smeared a voter initiative whose adoption would have quickly updated the Los Angeles General Plan and mandated a more careful review of discretionary zoning waivers as a spurious “housing ban.” 

A year later their approach to the Purple Line is cut from the same no on S cloth. They want to up-plan station areas above forecast population levels, rezone local parcels for bigger buildings, up-zone nearby single-family home neighborhoods for apartments, and eliminate any parking requirements.  What they do not call for is new station area housing to be affordable or for transit-oriented public improvements, such as bicycle and automobile parking, pedestrian enhancements, and bus and car interfaces at the new subway stations. 

Building Transit with Passengers in Mind:  Sandwiched in between the cynics and the WIMBY’s, however, are advocates like mewho call for transit to be thoughtfully planned.  Station areas should be designed to transparently guide Angelenos out of their cars and onto busses and subways. According to David Owen, in his masterful Green Metropolis, the trick is to make mass transit convenient. He argues that it is a waste of time to harangue people about the benefits of mass transit. Instead, cities and transit agencies must comprehensively upgrade their built environment to make busses, light rail, and heavy rail simple, safe, affordable, and comfortable to use. In a word, he calls for enhanced Transit Oriented Districts/Communities. In Los Angeles that means translating METRO’s wonderful words into actual public improvements at the Wilshire/LaBrea, Wilshire/Fairfax, and Wilshire/LaCienega Purple Line subway stations. 

Unfortunately, David Owen’s approach has few takers at either METRO or LA’s City Hall. The new subway will be hard to access because neither METRO nor LADOT is building any interface or facilities for pedestrians, cars (Park 'n Ride, Kiss 'n Ride), busses, taxis and ubers, and bicycles at the three Purple Line stations. Meanwhile Wilshire Boulevard already has zoning that allows unlimited height, which means high-density by-right commercial and residential buildings, not affordable housing. The future transit-adjacent tenants will own cars and continue to drive them most of the time. 

Unless subject to major revisions in the next few years, when the Purple Line opens for passengers in 2023 I fail to see how the market-based approach of METRO, LA’s City Hall, and the WIMBYs will work. As for the cynics, the jury is still out. Based on the template of the land use ordinance for the Exposition Line, increasing by-right building densities will remain the core principle.   Off-site improvements, especially affordable housing, improved sidewalks, and bicycle infrastructure will remain unfunded. Ditto for such on-site improvements as kiosks, bathrooms, and Kiss ‘n Ride and Park ‘n Ride. 

Doing Transit Right:  This is why I argue that the barely hidden agenda of rail projects in Los Angeles is to revive real estate in older parts of the city, not to move people. In fact, urban sociologist, Alan Whitt, did a classic study of BART and MetroRail, “Elites and Mass Transportation: The Dialectics of Power,” to prove this hypothesis. His research has withstood the test of time, and it indicates that when completed, the Purple Line extension will also become a predictable disappointment. It will usher in more market housing on Wilshire Boulevard, but much of this new housing will go begging for tenants.  In fact, this is already the case in the Miracle Mile, even with its exemplary express METRO bus service. When you drive by the Miracle Mile’s many new apartment buildings at night, most units are still dark. 

Despite METRO, City Hall, and both the cynics and free-marketeers, there are nevertheless many ways that Los Angeles could and should become a transit-oriented city. But this will take more than the camp followers of real estate speculators clamoring for more transit-adjacent market housing near bus and subway stops. 

To truly get people out of their cars, we absolutely need Transit Oriented Districts/Communities. This requires dedicated public funds for facilities at and near station sites to serve people in busses, uber, cars, vans, and on foot. It also should include special station vehicle entrance lanes and a full range of pedestrian access improvements, such as streetlights, wider sidewalks, and ADA curb cuts. It also means reliable bus and rail schedules, shorter headways, safe and comfortable buses and subway cars, and heavily subsidized fares. Next, it should include expanded public services and infrastructure to accommodate more people living in and traveling through neighborhoods near mass transit. 

As for the housing component, if we want the new tenants to become transit users, then the new station area apartments should be highly affordable and the new tenants should be transit dependent, drawn from the pool of 600,000 eligible people on the Section 8 housing list in Los Angeles. 

The time is short to avoid another expensive boondoggle.


(Dick Platkin is a former Los Angele city planner who reports on planning controversies in Los Angeles.  Please send any comments or corrections to rhplatkin@gmail.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ACLU CALLS THREAT ‘OUTRAGEOUS’--Immigrant rights advocates are denouncing an "appalling and disqualifying" proposal by the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to charge with federal crimes local officials who lead sanctuary cities, which often refuse to turn over or identify undocumented residents to the government's immigration agents.

The ACLU said Wednesday that acting director Thomas Homan's "outrageous threat" to bring charges against politicians who enact and carry out sanctuary city policies "should disqualify [him] from consideration for the permanent ICE director post."

After California made history earlier this week when it became the nation's first-ever sanctuary state, Homan responded in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday by warning that "California better hold on tight" and vowing to "vastly increase our enforcement footprint" by upping the number of ICE officers in the state.

"There's no sanctuary from federal law enforcement," he said. "For these sanctuary cities that knowingly shield and harbor an illegal alien in their jail and don't allow us access, that is, in my opinion, a violation of 8 U.S. Code § 1324."   

Homan revealed that he is currently working with the Department of Justice to look into whether the federal government can "charge some of these sanctuary cities with violating federal law" and "hold these politicians personally accountable."


California's newly enacted state-wide law "bars law enforcement officers in the state from arresting individuals based on civil immigration warrants, asking about a person's immigration status, or participating in any joint task force with federal officials for the purpose of enforcing immigration laws," according to SF Gate.

Although Homan—who has worked at ICE for three decades and is known for supporting anti-immigration policies—touted the Trump administration's favored narrative that sanctuary city policies endanger the public as well as federal officers, the Los Angeles Times notes that "research has shown sanctuary cities have lower crime rates and that immigrants generally commit fewer crimes than U.S. citizens."

President Donald Trump appointed Homan to serve as acting director shortly after entering office last January. Though Trump announced in November that the acting director was his official pick to permanently lead ICE, Homan is still awaiting final approval by the Senate. 

Immigrant rights advocates denounced Homan's comments as "illegal intimidation" and further evidence that he should not be allowed to stay on as ICE's permanent director:

(Jessica Corbett writes for Common Dreams … where this report was first posted.)



CORRUPTION WATCH-Los Angeles has economic professionals like Christopher Thornberg of Beacon Economics, who should know better, supporting the vast corruption in Los Angeles’ housing policy by claiming that constructing high-end luxury apartments and condos creates homes for poor people. His mythical justification, as set forth in Conan Nolan’s NBC News Conference on Sunday, December 31, 2017, is that wealthy people will move out of older homes into the new places, freeing up those older places for poor people. 

  1. Reality: The city is tearing down rent-controlled housing so fast that the supply of homes for poor people is not increasing. 
  1. Reality: Los Angeles’s rent control [Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO)] only applies to units constructed before 1979. Thus, destroying all those old buildings forever removes rent control units and hence removes the most affordable housing, which can never be replaced. 
  1. Reality: Under LA’s RSO, rent control ends when a tenant moves out and the next tenant must pay the market rate. Thornberg acted as if rent control keeps the rent at original rent control levels even as tenants come and go. He probably knows that is not true; perhaps he was careless. 
  1. Reality: Rent control re-attaches to a pre-1979 building when the new tenant moves in at the market rate rent. Thus, tenants who remain several years can stabilize their rent to reasonable increases based upon the CPI and not based upon the fraudulently hyped housing prices. 

However, the City is having rent-controlled housing destroyed at break-neck speed. Economist Thornberg says that unless we build high-end luxury apartments, people will gentrify the poorer neighborhoods which still have single family homes. 

  1. Reality: Apartments/condos are not fungible with detached homes which have their own yards. Family Millennials do not want apartments. Thus, constructing more apartments will not lessen gentrification of single family areas in South LA and Boyle Heights. 
  1. Reality: Family Millennials do not want apartments and condos, but crooked developers can

skim off the most money from large projects. For example, HUD gave hundreds of millions of dollars to make CRA housing accessible to the disabled, but the developers pocketed all the money. Thus, developers build where they can steal the most and not where the actual demand exists. 

  1. Reality: Wall Street and its friends at City Hall restrict the supply of detached homes on the market to create an artificial shortage in that segment so that they can rent out their detached homes at above-market-rate rents. Also, the detached homes which do sell will carry disproportionately large mortgages. 

Los Angeles’ Inflation Problem 

As Thornberg mentioned, inflation can be a problem for any economy; yet, he refused to admit that the increase in LA housing prices represents artificially induced inflation. “Inflation” exists when the buyer pays more but gets nothing more. A house which would have sold for $750,000 two years ago but sells for $1 million today has 25% inflation. Of course, the seller loves it, but for someone like Thornberg who is supposed to be concerned for the over-all economy, it is reckless to conceal the massive inflation in LA housing. People are paying more but receiving nothing more. 

The prime beneficiary is Wall Street due to the extra high mortgages the buyers take out when they pay an extra $25,000 for a home. 

Corruptionism Is Not a Form of Capitalism 

Under a regular capitalist system -- be it Adam Smith, a Mixed-Economy or Keynes -- this type of long-term scam would be over already. However, when corruption has turns into Corruptionism, different factors come into play. Basically, Los Angeles is in the throes of another round of Accounting Control Fraud. (Google: William K. Black) 

The basic difference between a capitalist system with corruption and Corruptionism is that with regular corruption, a few thieves are stealing public funds, but with Corruptionism, the thieves own the government and they use their control to divert public funds into their own pockets. That is why the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approves every construction project no matter how many laws it violates. 

Angelenos’ incomes did not increase to pay for the higher housing prices, e.g. mortgages and rents, but instead Angelenos have devoted a higher percentage of their income to housing. Also, Young Millennials who still had the Dorm Style mode of living doubled and tripled up in apartments in DTLA and Hollywood. Often parents would subsidize the kids' rent. The fact that the Young Millennials were a temporary phenomenon was no secret. Who was surprised that, as young people age, they start families and leave behind their childish ways. “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” -- 1 Corinthians 13. 

Family Millennials want detached houses and this requires them to come up with down payments; they want to build equity and that requires a reasonable mortgage. Thus, the demand for the small apartments in Transit Oriented Districts is disappearing. Instead, the Family Millennials’ new life style

causes them to leave Los Angeles for places where they can afford a detached home. 

The City Hall Crooks Are Not Fools 

Since developers and economists like Christopher Thornberg understand demographic trends, they knew that as the Young Millennials would turn into Family Millennials, and would abandon Dorm Room style of living, making it necessary to create a new pool of money for the City to give to the developers. They used the ruse of Affordable Housing. 

The Garcetti Administration conned the voters to approve $1.2 billion in bonds for affordable housing. As we predicted before the election, most of those funds for Affordable Housing goes to developers of market rate housing on the pretext that they will add Affordable Units to their market rate complexes. 

As we shall see, the developers will bankrupt their LLCs and LLPs, then the courts will remove the affordable requirements, leaving only market rate apartments/condos. 

Eventually, Systemic Fraud Crashes Any Economy 

Because the LA housing market is an exercise in Accounting Control Fraud, constructing more density will not satisfy the Family Millennials’ demand for detached housing. We are driving out our next middle class and along with them, employers are leaving Los Angeles. The new tech employers are opening shop in other states; soon, Texas will be hosting more tech start-ups than California. 

Accounting Control Fraud always results in economic collapse: Equity Funding in 1970, The Savings and Loan Scandals in 1980's, Enron’s Double Entry Accounting during the 1990's, the Subprime Mortgage, Crash of 2008…and so on.


(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Rickleeabrams@Gmail.com. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

BCK FILE-Following a bruising political year, the midterm elections of 2018 are crucial, especially to states like California. With the executive and legislative branches controlled by the GOP majority, any judicial appointments are likely to follow the suit. 

The GOP and Trump Administration policies have the potential to hurt California on numerous levels, from immigration and health care to the tax bill. Californians, along with residents and homeowners in states like New York, New Jersey, and Illinois that have high state income tax and higher home values and/or real estate taxes, will be impacted by the ceiling on property tax and state income tax deductions that may end up hurting the real estate market, as well. 

It’s no coincidence that Donald Trump is the first president since Eisenhower to have not touched down in the Golden State during his first year in office. He barely tweeted recognition of the acres of wildfires throughout the state. For California, flipping the seats in the midterms is crucial on many levels.

For the Dems to flip the House in November, the party will need to defend eight seats and turn over an additional 24 to gain a majority. There are 468 seats in the U.S. Congress -- 33 in the Senate and all 435 in the House – up for grabs next fall. The GOP comes in with a 51-seat majority in the Senate to 49 Democrats (following Doug Jones’ win in Alabama) including two Independents. 

Going into the November 6 elections, the GOP holds 241 seats in the House; the Democrats hold 194 seats. If we follow the historical trajectory, the Democratic party should gain seats in the House, because ever since 1934, the party of a newly elected president traditionally loses seats in the next midterms. Only twice since then has the president’s party gained seats -- in 1934, following Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election and in 2002 following the election of George W. Bush. President Trump’s significantly low approval rating could further impact this trend. 

Incumbents tend to have an advantage in terms of larger campaign war chests and recognition. Most political pundits see 40 competitive races, of which 32 are held by the GOP and eight by Democrats. The Democrats will need to capture at least 24 of these seats to flip the House. 

However, a stream of office holders has resigned or announced they will not be seeking reelection in 2018, including GOP senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), as well as others in competitive districts. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has said he might retire following the midterms. Sexual harassment allegations have caused several lawmakers to leave Congress early, including Al Franken (D-WI), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Blake Fahrenthold (R-TX), and Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) who announced he will not seek reelection in 2018.

The Democrat strategy is to concentrate on the 23 districts in which voters elected Republicans in the Congressional races but where Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump. Seven of those seats are here in California, in and around traditionally conservative Orange County where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has opened a satellite office. 

If you remember, in 2016, Orange County voted for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in 80 years. Flipping those seats is reliant on getting out the vote and unifying the party’s liberal and centrist interests. 

The 7 races in California to keep an eye on are: 

Ed Royce, 39th Congressional District 

Dana Rohrabacher, 48th Congressional District 

Mimi Walters, 45th Congressional District 

(Royce, Rohrabacher, and Walters represent Orange County.) 

Darrell Issa, 49th Congressional District (south toward San Diego) 

Steve Knight, 25th Congressional District (Santa Clarita Valley) 

David Valadao, 21st Congressional District (Central Valley) 

Jeff Denham, 10th Congressional District (Central Valley) 

We’ll be looking at important races throughout the country needed to Flip the House and at a Southern California mother/daughter team traveling to cover women running for Congressional seats throughout the country in Women2018. 

Stay tuned.


(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a CityWatch columnist.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


CAL MATTERS-One way or another, two words are likely to dominate the complicated politics of California’s housing crisis in 2018: rent control. 

Next week state lawmakers will hear a proposal from Assemblyman Richard Bloom, Democrat from Santa Monica, that would allow cities to dramatically restrict what landlords can charge tenants year-over-year. The bill couldn’t even get a hearing last year amid intense opposition from landlords. 

But looming over legislators’ heads this time around is a potential ballot initiative supported by tenants’ rights groups that would do much of the same. If the bill stalls, experts say there’s a good chance you’ll see rent control on your November ballot. 

What should your average Californian know about a rent control debate poised to gobble up so much political oxygen? Here are five key points: 

  1. Under current state law, a wide swath of California’s housing stock can’t be placed under rent control. 

Rent control or rent stabilization policies come in different shapes and sizes depending on the city you may find them in. Some place a hard cap on how much a landlord can raise rents year over year, others may be indexed to inflation. Currently 15 California cities have some form of rent control on the books, including major population centers like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland. 

But current state law prohibits any locality in California from imposing rent control on properties built after 1995. That’s the year the state passed the Costa-Hawkins Act, which also prohibited cities that already had rent control laws on their books from updating them for new properties. Thus, in Los Angeles. rent control only applies to buildings constructed before 1978, and in San Francisco, rent control only applies to buildings built before 1980. 

A bit of background: After some cities responded to tenants’ concerns about rising rents in the 1970s and 80s by adopting rent control ordinances, real estate interests first tried to stop them in the courts. Unsuccessful there, they focused on the Legislature. Bills to preempt local rent control would routinely pass the Assembly and then die in the Senate, held up by then-Senate President Pro Tem David Roberti, a West Hollywood Democrat. The year after he was termed out of office, Costa-Hawkins passed by a one-vote margin. 

Both Bloom’s bill (as it is currently written) and the initiative would fully repeal Costa Hawkins, massively expanding the number of properties on which cities could impose rent control. That includes single-family homes, which Costa-Hawkins also excluded from rent control protections. 

  1. Most economists—left or right—think rent control is bad. 

Economists have a hard time agreeing on most things. But regardless of partisan leaning, most economists would say rent control is not great policy. Even prominent progressives like Paul Krugman have expressed opposition to it. 

Rent control is quite literally the textbook example of a “price ceiling”– undergrad economics textbooks will often feature problem sets with questions about what’s wrong with rent control. The classic microeconomic downsides include killing the incentive to build more housing, causing landlords to neglect maintenance and repair, and inflated prices for non-rent-controlled units. A poll of ideologically diverse economists found that only 2 percent agreed with the statement that rent control had had a positive impact on housing affordability in cities like New York and San Francisco. 

  1. Scholars in other fields are generally bigger fans. And if you took away rent control, the results could be disastrous for affordability. 

Many urban planners and other scholars studying gentrification and displacement cite rent control as an effective policy to keep long-time residents in the communities in which they live and work. And because rent control has become so deeply embedded in the housing markets of some cities, taking it away—no matter how economically inefficient it may be–could spell disaster for current residents. 

The Bay Area Council Economic Institute–a business-aligned policy think tank–ran a simulation of 20 policy changes that could improve or worsen housing affordability in San Francisco. The policy that would make things worse? Getting rid of rent control, which they found would plunge 16,000 households into an unaffordable housing situation. 

  1. One of the best studies of rent control shows that it primarily benefits older households at the expense of households without rent control. 

There actually aren’t a ton of empirical studies looking at how rent control plays out in practice.

But a groundbreaking Stanford University study released last year on San Francisco’s rent control experience has shed new light on who wins and who loses from the policy. 

Looking at a roughly 20-year span of proprietary rental and migration data, the study authors found that rent-controlled tenants age 40 or over saw average savings of nearly $120,000 from rent control; by contrast, younger rent-controlled tenants only saved an average of $40,000. 

That’s because younger households were more likely to move out of rent-controlled apartments because of various life milestones—a new job, a new family, buying a house in the suburbs, etc. 

  1. The study also found that rent control paradoxically fueled gentrification, as landlords converted units to condos. 

The Stanford study also found that rent-controlled buildings were 10 percent more likely to be converted to a condominium or some other type of non-rental property, as landlords searched for ways to evade the law. Those units being drawn off the market partly drove up rental prices for tenants searching for apartments in San Francisco. In this sense, the study authors argue, rent control paradoxically contributed to the well-publicized gentrification the city has experienced over the past few decades.

While the study also found that rent-controlled tenants were more likely to stay in the city than tenants without rent control, the gap may not be as wide as you think. After 10 years, about 11 percent of tenants without rent control were living at the same San Francisco address. Tenants with rent control? Thirteen percent stayed put. 

How to participate in the debate: The rent control bill will be heard by the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee on Thursday, Jan. 11 at 9 a.m., and will include a public comment period. You can watch the hearing—which should be pretty lively as far as legislative hearings go—here.


(Matt Levin is the data reporter for CALmatters where this piece was first published.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


GUEST COLUMN--Ahed Tamimi, the fierce 16-year-old Palestinian girl arrested last month for daring to confront an Israeli soldier who'd allegedly shot her cousin in the head, has been indicted on 12 vengeful charges, from assault to incitement.  

GUEST WORDS-Recently, while visiting several different coffee shops in San Francisco, I noticed many of their restrooms have signs on the doors saying, “Closed Until Further Notice.” Upon questioning the employees, they immediately tried to re-direct me to other establishments in the neighborhood that offer public restrooms. 

When I asked if their restrooms would be repaired soon, the clerks explained they cannot keep them open because the homeless take baths in them, flooding the floors as well as shooting up drugs and throwing their dirty needles on the ground. 

The clerks are quickly learning that a homeless person has no choice but to remain dirty because of no access to baths, are compelled to sometimes steal food because of hunger, and are forced to sleep when and where they can because they have no beds like most people do. 

But the employees still must remember that their job is to take care of the paying customers who are entitled to a clean establishment with restrooms available. 

Employees told me that they often find homeless people asleep in their restrooms and to get them to leave, they sometimes need to call the police for help. 

One young clerk told me that since the homeless don’t get to bathe regularly, customers in the store complain that restrooms sometimes smell badly. He said it is easier to place an “Out of Order” sign on the door than to try and explain the situation to the paying customers who are out of luck in their need for a restroom, and frequently take out their frustrations on the employees. 

Often, he continued, homeless people fall asleep with their heads on the tables, surrounded by large garbage bags filled with their belongings; customers will not sit near them. 

In areas of cities with a large homeless population, employees not only put “Out of Order” signs on restroom doors, they remove chairs and tables, forcing customers to stand to drink their coffee, hoping to deter the poor from coming in to bathe and sleep. 

In the coffee houses that do provide chairs, employees explain that they feel sorry for the homeless who are often young people close to their own age. Sometimes they let them sleep for several hours before asking them to leave. 

Since customers will not sit near them while they sleep and often choose to leave the establishment, business in some areas is declining. I wonder if the employees’ training prepares them to gently yet firmly deal with the poor in their neighborhoods as well as serve the paying customers. 

The need for shelters for the poor is extremely critical and I applaud employees at coffee houses for trying to sensitively deal with the homeless situation, though I am certain they are not paid to both serve paying customers and interact with homeless people. 

A young woman working at one coffee shop in San Francisco shared with me that telling someone who obviously hadn’t had a bath for days to leave the establishment seemed intensely cruel to her. She is in college and this is her first job, as well as her first experience in dealing with the poor. 

At her shop, she added, they have to remove the cream after each customer uses it instead of leaving it out, because homeless people will drink it all. The clerk said there have been times she was not certain if some people were homeless or not, and found it awkward to be the judge of that. 

While many shops throw homeless people out of their stores, some teach their employees that treating all people with dignity and respect is the number one requirement of all jobs. 

Theft in some coffee shops continues to take its toll. Employees are expected to police the products on the shelves as well as keep homeless people out of their restrooms and prevent them from falling asleep in their chairs. 

All this, on top of doing normal customer service work, seems over and above the line of duty for young adults who are often trying to pay their way through college with their part-time coffee shop jobs. 

As the population of homeless people grows, we cannot simply say, “build houses for everyone” while not offering, in the meantime, ways for the poor to bathe, sleep, eat, store their belongings, as well as take care of their bodily needs, which we all have to do to survive. 

Perhaps the clerks in these coffee shops who encounter the homeless population everyday are the very ones who will lead us to much-needed solutions!


(Judy Joy Jones blogs on Street Spirit where is piece originated.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


CONNECTING CALIFORNIA-Who is the most powerful governor in California history? The next one. Over the past four decades, our state’s governorship has grown so great in reach and power that it now constitutes a second American presidency. 

California governors sign international treaties and agreements, and are treated like national leaders at the biggest global gatherings. They head a state government so powerful and sophisticated that it sometimes operates as a fourth branch of American government—employing regulations, lawsuits, and the size of the California market to check the president, Congress, and even the courts. 

Here at home, our governors dominate not only politics and policy but also California’s civic conversation itself. Since trends in the electorate, the legislature, and the media all enhance the governor’s power, the next governor is likely to be even more powerful than Jerry Brown. Which is why there should be far more attention paid to the 2018 governor’s race—and to the question of whether the governorship itself has become too powerful. 

California’s centralized power contrasts with the state’s image as open and diverse, with a progressive culture and innovative technology bent on disrupting existing structures. And California has long been considered almost ungovernable—with its many different competing regions, interest groups, and local governments. 

But this diversity and complexity—and the resulting frustration about getting anything done—is at the heart of the governor’s power. Precisely because it’s so hard to get attention and to orchestrate policy among so many unruly constituencies, Californians are often desperate to find someone—or anyone—with the power and agency to make a decision and accomplish what they want. And that person has been, more and more often, the governor. 

For the past 40 years, voters, special interests, other governments, and even the legislature have been ceding powers to what was already a very strong executive position. California governors can issue executive orders, veto bills, veto particular line items in an appropriations bill, vote as a member of the Board of Regents, set special elections, and declare emergencies. Of course, they can grant pardons, commute sentences, and call up the National Guard, too. 

Most formidably, the governor has the power to appoint more than 4,000 positions, including all judges, giving him power to control policy in areas from school curriculum to coastal protection. The governor also can fill vacancies in any statewide office, including the attorney general or controller. The only politician in this country with more appointment power is the mayor of Chicago. 

In the 1970s, the governor’s authority grew as power was transferred from local governments to Sacramento in two big shifts. First, state courts, in the name of making school funding equal, took funding power away from local governments. Then voters, in the name of protecting homeowners and taxpayers, passed Proposition 13, which effectively took power over taxation away from local governments. 

As Sacramento made more decisions for Californians, governors made more use of the full power of their offices to get the upper hand. Pete Wilson pioneered the use of executive orders for a host of vital policy changes. Gray Davis devised new ways to intervene in the legislative process, dismissing protests from lawmakers about his imperiousness by declaring: “Their job is to implement my vision.” 

Arnold Schwarzenegger combined his celebrity, his wealth, and his office’s power to devise ballot initiative campaigns that gave him greater leverage with the legislature. Schwarzenegger also pushed through climate change legislation that empowers the state’s muscular regulatory agencies to act as both money collectors and enforcers of one of the most complicated environmental regimes on earth. 

The state’s regular budget crises also enhanced gubernatorial power; governors often demanded wider room to manage the budget and the state’s cash flow, as the price of compromise with the legislature. Governor Brown also has bargained more authority; the state’s new law to establish a $15 minimum wage by 2022 gives the governor the power to delay the hike for different reasons. 

Then there are the voters who, disgusted by gridlock that was easily blamed on the legislature, have often granted more authority to governors without even thinking about it. The most dramatic example was when voters installed legislative term limits in 1990. With that change, lawmakers and staffs could stay for only a few years at a time, whereas in the executive branch the governor could rely on department heads and powerful regulators who had long careers and inside knowledge. 

The legislature has failed to counter such executive power—its relatively small number of lawmakers (California has the country’s smallest legislature on a per-voter basis) is stretched thin, and has little time for detailed hearings, investigation, or oversight of the governor and his administration. The legislature also doesn’t have the same institutional infrastructure to produce data and reports to guide policymaking; when legislators make laws and budgets, they often rely on the executive branch’s numbers. 

As Sacramento made more decisions for Californians, governors made more use of the full power of their offices to get the upper hand. 

More recent good government reforms also have weakened the legislature and thus strengthened the governor. In 2008, voters stripped the legislature of perhaps its greatest power—the power to draw legislative districts—and gave it to an independent commission. And in 2010, voters got rid of the requirement of a two-thirds vote to pass a budget, which had given the minority party in the legislature considerable power to challenge the governor. 

These days, the opposition has little juice. All the governor needs is the support of the two leaders of the majority party in the legislature. In this era of one-party Democratic control, that majority party is the governor’s own party, further enhancing his power. 

California’s diminished media also reinforces the notion that the governor is the only game in town. With fewer reporters covering Sacramento, the governor has become the only politician who is covered regularly. Even State Senator Kevin de León, who has been the most influential legislator of this decade and is now running for U.S. Senate, remains little known across the state. 

In much of Sacramento, the power of the governor is considered a natural and even good thing. In a state so big, goes the argument, it’s good to have one elected official—the governor—who can focus attention and accountability. 

Of course, that’s only true if Californians pick a governor who can use that power responsibly. And right now, few of us are paying much attention to the gubernatorial contest. Instead, Californians are deeply worried about all the power in the American presidency, and how it might be misused by the current occupant of the White House. 

But the perils of runaway executive power aren’t limited to Washington D.C. Pay attention, California, because it could happen here.


(Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.

Primary Editor: Lisa Margonelli. Secondary Editor: Reed Johnson.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


ALPERN AT LARGE--There are many things for Los Angeles (and, of course, its citizens) to be proud of as we enter this Brave New World of 2018.  But the unhappiness of those who live in our ever-more-risky, ever-more-complicated reality is contrary to any suggestions that we are doing just fine in the City of the Angels.  So in no particular order, here are a few hopeful resolutions to consider: 

1) Mayor Garcetti and the City Council SHOULD crow about the 2028 Olympics, but will it be a financial and political boon, or a bane, to current and future Angelenos?  We ARE one of the few cities best-equipped to have an Olympics, but will the preparations and operations leave us in the financial dust, or more ready than ever to be a vibrant and ongoing tourist/business destination that ranks high among our national and global peers? 

2) One can be kind, liberal, and smart ... and tough (!) in addressing homelessness!  We passed Measure H, and HHH, to combat homelessness, but what is our goal...to make it worse?  To become a homeless magnet for the nation?  Do we have the ability and moral fortitude to reach out to those with ties to our communities...while demanding that others not be drawn here for "free stuff"?  What about the rights and responsibilities of ALL of us? 

3) Will we provide that magic path to solving the illegal immigration problem, or just do the political and economic dance that rewards lawbreaking while ignoring the very human needs of those here legally and illegally?  Shall we reward employers who knowingly break the law?  Can we provide a tough list of demands for those here illegally to show they're willing to fight and earn their way to true American citizenship, and unite us all? 

4) If Metro gives us a slow ride to nowhere, as opines Susan Shelley of the Daily News? then it's up to our civic and elected leaders to show the way.  Expedite the rail lines through Downtown and to LAX so that there is the critical backbone and logic to our countywide mass transit system. 

5) When we will grow up and recognize that neither cars nor trains nor buses are "bad", and that they work best in tandem?  All worldwide cities have and employ all forms of transportation to provide options...so neither parking, bus stops, sidewalks, nor bicycle amenities are "bad".  All must be first-rate, and all must be respectful to those who use those forms of transportation. 

6) Developers and enabling political and bureaucratic leaders, when they build without necessary supportive infrastructure, aren't being "woke" or "progressive"... they're just being irresponsible and environmentally-horrible. 

7) "Affordable housing" requires common-sense and better definition to the average Angeleno:  there's student affordable housing, there's senior affordable housing, and there's workforce affordable housing.  Otherwise, it's just MORE housing, and if we're overbuilding near the ocean to make more money, then call it what it is: gentrification. 

8) We have a City Attorney whose job it is to represent the City Council and the Mayor (and their staffs), and we have NO city position to allow ordinary Angelenos of lower to middle-class status the financial means to defend themselves against the City and developers when the latter breaks the law.  We don't need an ACLU ... we need an agency or legitimate lawyers and paralegals to represent the Citizenry. 

9) We have a pathetic, underfunded, and unempowered City entity called DONE, aka Empower LA.  Many heroes work within that entity, but the understaffing and overreliance on volunteer efforts taxes and prevents these individuals from allowing the representation for which this entity was originally intended.  Shall we continue this unsustainable pattern, or truly empower our civic leaders? 

10) Both the private and public sector need the tools, guidance, and opportunities to achieve and sustain middle class status ... including retirement benefits that should be available to ALL Angelenos.  How long can our City leaders defend and sustain the public sector on the backs of the taxpaying majority ... and will we NEVER see an incentivized system to allow private-sector individuals and businesses a better system than, and supplemental to, Social Security, the way we see with our public sector employees? 

Here's to a vibrant and innovative, and to a happy and healthy, 2018!!!


(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 alpern@marvista.org. 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.)


GUEST COMMENTARY--Sexual harassment by elected officials in California is all over the news but less visible forms of political immorality are just as prevalent. One example is that of state legislators who sell students, families and vulnerable citizens down the river to boost prison guard compensation.

CORRUPTION WATCH--The great advantage of Lies and Myths is that they dispense with reality which can be so unpleasant.  In the realm of make-belief, where Americans prefer to live, everything they believe is true and there is no need for introspection.  Trying to think can give a brain freeze faster than a Slurpee at 7/11. 

CAL MATTERS--The Capitol awakens from its autumnal hibernation this week with a much-changed institutional ambience.

ALPERN AT LARGE--It's safe to say that 2017 wasn't much less of an emotional roller-coaster than 2016, and perhaps that was by intent.  Americans appear, perhaps more for the better than the worse, focused more on politics and the "soap opera" in D.C. than their previous devotion to "reality T.V.”, and all political forces (along with their media allies/patrons) are milking that focus for ratings and dollars. (Photo above: Assembled dignitaries break ceremonial ground on the 4-mile Purple Line subway extension in front of LA County Museum in the Miracle Mile.) 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING--Several times a year my wife and I bike from the Miracle Mile area to Venice Beach.  Moving through Los Angeles on a bicycle reveals much more that than barely seeing a blurred cityscape from an enclosed, faster-moving car. 

CA LABOR POLITICS-In the waning hours of the legislative session, Democrats pushed through new labor requirements widely viewed as retaliation against Tesla, the electric car maker embroiled in a union-organizing campaign at its Fremont plant. 

EASTSIDER--Watching the Republican establishment surrounding President Trump, falling all over themselves in a sickening fawning fest,  I was reminded of a group of terrified generals doing the same to Idi Amin Dada or Muammar Gaddafi. 

GUEST COMMENTARY--In an article in the LA Times Saturday, it was revealed that the legal adult use of Marijuana is on hold due to the inability of the City to get its act together and license existing Prop D compliant shops. 

STACK AND PACK HOUSING--2017 was a banner year for the top down crowd. California Senate Bill SB35 was especially fruitful in negating local control and zoning requirements. The City of Los Angeles acquiesced like a speculator being offered a hot Internet Coin and added its own legislation to make sure Communities could only opt in. Uncle Joe (Stalin) is smiling somewhere knowing that citizens must endure these new outrages to common sense and civic pride for the sake of collectivist housing that is unnecessary, unaffordable and mostly ugly. 

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ RIGHTS-The California Dream is a myth for many California Indian peoples and tribes. Since settlers arrived, California Indians' reality has largely been one of land dispossession, cultural assimilation, and even genocide.   

BELL VIEW--My grandfather, Larry Fogarty, fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He didn't volunteer -- he had a baby at home -- he was drafted and he did his time. I doubt he ever thought of himself as a patriot, and he never gave any indication that he felt he was part of some special generation of Americans. He just did his job and never talked about it. When he came home, he joined the Chicago Police Force and never exhibited much desire to do anything more than cash his paycheck and watch the ballgame. The War took all the fight out of him and quenched any thirst he may have once had for adventure. 

PERSPECTIVE--Whatever Kim Jong-un does in 2018, it will likely not impact Americans as much as the new tax reform bill, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. That’s not to understate the potential for disorder the Rocket Man might be capable of unleashing, but most experts would agree he has not reached the point where he can blackmail the United States and his neighbors in Asia.

CAL MATTERS COMMENTARY-With 2018 just days away, we pretty much know who will be running for which major California offices next year – except for the intentions of billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, who’s making all the moves, but remains coy about what, if anything, he’ll do. 

BCK FILE--2017 was a Year of Resistance and Los Angeles was certainly among the epicenters. The election of Donald J. Trump, who uses Twitter to fire off missives against anyone who questions his policies or role in Russiagate, has produced an administration and party aimed at destroying all protections, so Angelenos have been gathering in Pershing Square and other locations throughout Southern California to express our opinions.

GELFAND’S WORLD-The end of the year column is something of a CityWatch tradition. I'd like to contribute a few paragraphs on what is to come in 2018 and a few paragraphs summarizing some themes I've tried to develop this year. 

AT LENGTH--I would bet that the vast majority of the readers of Random Lengths News, if not the people in the communities we serve, are shaking their heads wondering, “How in the hell did Congress pass such a convoluted tax bill?” 

CRIME POLITICS--Oscar “Scar” Moriel has testified to murdering five or six people ― he can’t remember exactly.

NEW GEOGRAPHY--Even at this season that should be about spiritual re-awakening, it is hard to deny that we live in an increasingly post-religious civilization.

PLATKIN ON PLANNING:  Since recent newspaper reports broke about the likely sale of CBS studios, located at the intersection of Beverly and Fairfax since 1950, words have been flying fast and furiously about the future of this site. 

RANTZ & RAVEZ--I recently met some friends for coffee at a shopping center in Woodland Hills.  When I arrived, they informed me that a man had approached them and attempted to sell them some drugs including marijuana. 

ALPERN AT LARGE--As with the Affordable Care Act, the GOP-drafted Tax Reform Bill of 2017 will have dramatic economic, political, and potentially cultural changes for all of us.  Presuming that the president will sign this bill, and it will become law, the big question so many of us are asking ourselves is ... will our taxes go up or down? 

HOLLYWOOD BRIGHT LIGHTS-As the year winds down, it is nice to be able to share some very positive news. Hollywood will soon be the home of two very innovative Japanese concepts, Japan House and Miniso, that are both scheduled to open within the next couple of weeks. 

EASTSIDER--If ever there was a system that is broken beyond repair, it is DONE.  As I have reported before, their election systems and Election Grievance Panels make a mockery of due process of law, and Ryu’s Committee knows it! 

BELL VIEW--If I had to come up with one word to describe this past year it would have to be “ugly.” I think that’s what gets to me the most, the unfathomable ugliness of this American moment. If beauty is truth, truth beauty – then surely we live in a false time. Ugliness has wrapped its greasy fingers around – not just Christmas – but even Thanksgiving, that most perfect holiday. 

BUDGET ADVOCATES---The Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates have been reaching out to the executive office of the LAPd for more than two months … attempting to set up our annual Charter-authorized meeting to discuss their 2018-19 budget. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--It came out this week that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has been instructed not to use certain words in its budget documents. According to the press reports, this instruction came down from the Trump administration. At least one of the terms is "science-based." Another forbidden term is "evidence-based." 

GUEST COMMENTARY--ON January 1, the new State and City Marijuana laws kick in. 

ALPERN AT LARGE--Yes, my family is Jewish, but we love our annual holiday retreats to the Mission Inn in Riverside.  The staff is friendly, the rooms are delightful and classic, and the beds are oh-so-comfortable.  And the adjacent pedestrian-friendly walkway combined with the hotel itself makes for a daytime visit for tens of thousands of visitors every year who delight in the Christmas/Holiday lights, the fun events, and the sinful-but-delicious food that is so emblematic of the Festival of Lights. 

CORRUPTION WATCH-The handwriting has been scribbled all over the walls for more than a decade – densification is killing Los Angeles. In fact, logic tells us that we have passed the point of no return, but who doesn’t hold out hope for the Hail Mary Pass for the winning touchdown? 

LA CARES--The devastating impact of wildfires exploding across swaths of California is captured nightly in dramatic television footage. Largely unseen, though, is how those same fires affect Los Angeles’ growing homeless population, many of whom have abandoned menacing urban streets for the relative safety of woodland encampments. 

SLICING AWAY AT THE SAFETY NET-The Senate’s version of tax reform, 479 pages with last-minute, handwritten changes in the margins, passed shortly before 2 a.m. on December 2, with only one Republican voting against it. The GOP plan is a windfall for the wealthiest Americans, slashing the top corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, and while a final version won’t be unveiled until later this week, the gains for the rich appear to come at the expense of the elderly. 

@THE GUSS REPORT-It is the proverbial loose thread on the free speech sweater. It should not have been pulled, but now that it has, it will undoubtedly cause endless additional aggravation for the Los Angeles City Council (and its committees and commissions) in 2018 and beyond. 

TENANTS’ RIGHTS-That's what City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell and United Way board member Jerry Neuman are permitting as they look the other way while residents are being ordered from their homes in a 1980s apartment tower, seen by thousands of commuters on the 101 freeway. 

CAL MATTERS-When the Legislature reconvenes and the campaigns for governor heat up next year, Californians will be hearing a lot – and a lot of hot air – about universal health care. 

CORRUPTION WATCH- People love lies, myths and feel-good beliefs, but we shun facts. The sooner we recognize that our lives are founded on our emotional attachment to lies and myths, the sooner we can combat their deleterious effects.  

DTLA SKID ROW- Last week, Philip Alston, a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, visited Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles as part of a national tour investigating human rights conditions for the poorest U.S. citizens. 

RACISM CUTTING BOTH WAYS-Overall, perceptions of worsening racial relations have been building since the Obama years. And now, with everything from the Kate Steinle murder verdict to President Trump’s dog-whistling Muslim tweets, they seem destined to worsen further. 

CAL MATTERS--California, which had led the nation in cracking down on crime in the 1980s and 1990s by locking up tens of thousands of felons, has dramatically reversed course in the last half-decade, to wit:

PREVEN REPORT--In California, public agencies are required to put major contracts out to bid, so why did the Mayor and City Council of Los Angeles just award a seven-year, sixty-four million dollar contract to Motorola Solutions, Inc. with no request for proposal (RFP)? 

EASTSIDER-Just when I was going to do a column on Neighborhood Councils, the National Democratic Party struck again! I just don’t understand how their politically correct and morally bankrupt pandering is supposed to gain them election victories. 

BILLBOARD BLIGHT-There will be hundreds of new digital billboards all across the city, flashing ad messages that change every eight seconds all day and into the night, if the City Council Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee gets its way. The new draft legislation they unveiled at a Dec. 12 City Hall hearing basically capitulates to the sign companies, generally ignoring traffic safety, aesthetics and environmental concerns. 

BELL VIEW--This morning we woke to news of a miracle in Alabama: a tough-on-crime prosecutor who brought justice to unrepentant terrorists for murdering little girls in a church upset a child molester who was banned from the local mall for hitting on high school girls during his 30’s. Miraculous, eh? Well, for times like these, we’ll take our miracles wherever we can get them.

VOICES--One year has passed since LA voters approved $1.2 billion in Measure HHH to end LA’s homeless crisis — and the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti have failed to erect a single unit of homeless housing.

‘I DON’T WANT TO DIE’-As a veteran teacher of 25 years, I‘ve heard children say a lot of things. But, in 2010 one of my second-grade students said something no teacher should ever hear: “Ms. Lappin, I don’t want to die.” He wasn’t sick. But he was scared. The child’s haunting words impelled me to start asking questions. Specifically, why were so many children, teachers, and residents contracting cancer in the small city of Paramount? 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-In the fanciful world of high school and college “civics” and political science classes, government is portrayed as a neutral force blindly balancing many competing interest groups. While a few gullible students might fall for this claim, a quick look at the City of Los Angeles puts this notion to rest. 

POLITICS-Does Tuesday’s election of Doug Jones as Alabama’s first Democratic U.S. Senator in more than two decades signal the beginning of the end for Donald Trump? Have enough voters who embraced Trump’s anti-Washington rhetoric finally awakened from the fevered dream of draining the swamp? Or was the defeat of Roy Moore an electoral aberration? 

CORRUPTION WATCH-All educated people have heard Lord Acton’s quote from 1887, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” One interesting aspect of Lord Acton’s statement is that it took thousands of years for someone to concisely state what everyone knew. It’s the lesson behind Sodom and Gomorrah where the judges were named Liar, Deceiver, and Perverter of the law. Socrates’, Plato’s and Aristotle’s discussions on how to bring together wisdom and power yielded no solution. As the Arab political philosopher al-Farabi noted in his parable of the pious ascetic, the corruption power brings taints even the righteous. (The ascetic had to lie by acts of deception to save his life.) 

SMALL BIZ WATCH--As sexual harassment allegations spread to more individuals and industries, the sad facts are coming out regarding treatment of women at work that many have known about for decades. It’s easy to point to more “glamorous” enterprises like entertainment, investment, culinary, tech, politics, fashion, and think that these “ego-head” movers and shakers are getting their due. In the days to come #MeToo will certainly spread to less glamorous industries and less prominent transgressors, and many industries and localities will have unfortunate and distressing sexual harassment accounts to deal with. 

PREVEN REPORT-How is charging admission to a public museum not the same thing as charging admission to a public library? 

PERSPECTIVE--Remember being taught about the Boston Tea Party? The patriots of Boston finally had enough taxation without representation. Well folks, get your tea bags out and ready. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--The pharmaceutical industry sued the state of California on Friday. You see, California recently passed a law that would require the drug companies to give advance warning before they raise prices substantially. Under California's new law, drug companies are at least supposed to provide some advance notice and to explain their reasons. So as night follows day, the pharmaceutical industry filed suit, wrapping themselves in the Constitution and various other sacred obligations

CLIMATE POLITICS--At a moment when firefighters—and anyone who lives and breathes in Southern California—could use a break, the atmosphere is about to double down.

CAL MATTERS--With sexual harassment and assault allegations ricocheting through the state Capitol, two female lobbyists say they soon faced the consequences of speaking out—a state senator who suddenly wanted to avoid meeting with them.

ALPERN AT LARGE--As stated in my last CityWatch article, Los Angeles City and County is using its successful 2028 Olympic bid to accelerate the many Metro projects that have been delayed to 2035 or beyond.

DEEGAN ON LA-Are protections to control alcohol permits that had been approved and put in place by neighborhood councils with community input and city approval being diluted? This is what community activists are saying: City Attorney Mike Feuer has been allowing City Planning to remove, reduce or modify conditions without notifying the neighborhood councils and the original stakeholders involved in the creation of these conditions in the first place, leading to the very negative impacts those communities have been trying to avoid. 

At issue are Conditional Use Permits for Beverage (CUBs) that set the conditions for establishments selling alcohol in communities. 

Has this been happening because the City Planning Department does not loop in the relevant stakeholders about proposed changes? Or, is it because the City Attorney has advised that City Planning can let these agreements be reduced or lapse without further discussion and approval? 

A group of Westside activists feels this erosion stems from unilateral actions taken by the City Attorney. 

They take serious issue with City Attorney Mike Feuer who they have met with at least three times, but say they have gotten nowhere. The activists allege that the City Attorney is unilaterally approving these rollbacks which, in their view, should only be able to be approved by the City Council, after review by the community. 

When asked about this, a spokesperson for the City Attorney told CityWatch, “We cannot discuss any confidential advice we may have given a client.” 

Activist Wendy-Sue Rosen of the Brentwood Residents Coalition provided CityWatch with the context of the issue: “For decades, applicants for Conditional Use Permits for Beverage (CUBs) routinely engaged with community organizations and stakeholders to gain support for their CUB applications by agreeing upon land-use conditions designed to mitigate adverse impacts on the surrounding neighborhoods. The cooperative process worked—CUBs were granted and neighborhoods were protected. Then, in 2012 the City Attorney’s office reversed that process with no notice to the community, no instruction from the City Council, no opportunity for public input.” 

“The Coalition,” Rosen continues, “had three in-person meetings with City Attorney Mike Feuer. We came away very concerned and surprised that the City Attorney seemed unwilling to exercise the City’s police powers to protect neighborhoods. It was alarming that the City Attorney was allowing CUB holders to break the promises they made to obtain their permits.” 

Zeroing in on the role of the City Attorney, Rosen said, “In Westwood, an applicant for a CUB negotiated with the Westwood Community Council and local stakeholders to gain their support, agreed to a set of land use and public safety conditions, and obtained the benefit of the permit. Then they came back later, not to the Community Council, but to the West LA Area Planning Commission to ask for the removal of the conditions they had previously agreed to. At the hearing the City Attorney instructed the Commission they were required to remove the conditions.”  “The City Attorney is clearly setting public policy. That is the job of the City Council. This supposed “policy change” came with no notice to the community, no opportunity for public input, and no consideration by City Council. We were just told this is how it is,” concluded Rosen. 

Stepping into the dispute is Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD5) who represents significant parts of the westside, including Westwood. On November 28, he introduced a motion addressing complaints from neighbors reporting that too often the Planning Department was removing neighborhood protections from the establishments that sell alcohol that had been initially been put in place as part of agreements to issue the license in the first place – resulting in problems in their neighborhood. 

“It has been brought to our attention," said Koretz, "that the Planning Department has been removing conditions without notifying the original stakeholders involved in their permit approvals leading to the very negative impacts that we've been trying to avoid. I believe that it is the local community's right to be involved in the decision-making process of how the sale and service of alcohol impacts their communities. They have intimate knowledge of the issues specific to their neighborhoods and, therefore, their volunteer hours of effort and input should not be erased with the stroke of a pen.” 

A spokesperson for Councilmember Koretz told CityWatch that “the Councilmember wants to make sure a balance is being maintained, and that we want our small businesses to thrive within the communities they serve but not unduly impacting neighborhoods by reversing previously agreed upon traffic, noise, hours of operations and parking mitigations to name a few.” 

The matter is currently with the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) committee for deliberation.   No hearing date has been set.


(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 timdeegan2015@gmail.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


VOICES--Los Angeles is in the throes of an unprecedented housing affordability crisis, with homelessness at historic highs.  So why does our planning department see fit to allow developers to buy up affordable, rent-stabilized buildings and convert them to luxury, million-dollar condominiums? 

BE GREEN--Just two months after a 14-blaze firestorm ravaged Northern California, at least five fires are burning across more than 83,000 acres in Southern California, destroying dozens of structures and forcing tens of thousands of residents to flee their homes.

PREVEN REPORT-Today the LA City Council moved forward with its confusing and dumb plan to allow for the opening on January 1, 2018 of legal recreational pot shops. 

ALPERN AT LARGE--While not giving anyone a "pass", it's safe to say that Metro still enjoys the reputation of a reformed agency that is trying to do its best by the taxpayers and commuters of LA County.  Compared to other public agencies, it's responsive and responsible and tries to do what it's told ... including the construction of infrastructure projects that should have been built decades ago.

WHY THE RESISTANCE GROWS--“It was so pitiful — city planners asked us for our 'feelings.' They rushed past open space so fast I was embarrassed,” observed Patricia Bell Hearst, chair emeritus of Hillside Federation. 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-At the height of the previous anti-Russian cold war, roughhewn anti-Communists, like J. Edgar Hoover, wrote long forgotten tracts, like his masterpiece, Masters of Deceit. He told “real Americans” about telltale signs that slick-talking liberals sneaking into their circle of friends might really be clandestine Reds. Picking up his theme, in 1949 RKO Studios produced I Married a Communist, but it was such a dud that the studio renamed the film, The Woman on Pier 13.   A half-century later, acclaimed writer Phillip Roth wrote a sarcastic novel with the same name, “I Married a Communist.”  

RANTZ AND RAVEZ-Without Justice in our society – and particularly in the Criminal Judicial System -- there is a strong tendency by some members of society to resort to misguided vigilante justice or, as it states in Exodus 21:24, to demand an eye for eye, a tooth for tooth, a hand for hand, a foot for a foot. 

YES IN MY BACK YARDERS ON THE MOVE-Of the fifteen bills in the “housing package” signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown on September 29, the one that got the most attention in the media was State Senator Scott Wiener’s SB 35—and for good reason: SB 35 goes a long way toward “putting teeth” in California’s Regional Housing Needs Allocations, the number of housing units that each city’s and county’s zoning must accommodate. Moreover, the bill’s provisions for “by-right” approval of certain multi-family, infill developments both circumvent the California Environmental Quality Act and eliminate negotiations with developers over community benefits.

BELL VIEW-This one goes way back. When I was about 8 years old, I got together with my friend up the street, Davy Dexheimer, to play Hot Wheels. We set up a track down Davy’s long driveway and raced our cars against each other. Davy had quite the collection, and one in particular caught my eye. So, when we were packing up our things at the end of the day, I pocketed one small car and headed home. 

EASTSIDER-Everyone knows about the plight of the folks living around Porter Ranch, and how well SoCalGas has treated them. Now it appears that all DWP customers will be receiving a “gift” from the Gas company that we really, really are not going to like! 

REMEMBER ENRON?--Los Angeles’ escalating housing costs are not due to impartial market forces, but rather, the product of judicially sanctioned corruptionism. Hillel Aron and Jason McGahan, in their November 29, 2017 article, What Happens When Wall Street Is Your Landlord?   describe the personal pain and suffering that is increasingly befalling Angelenos. 

DEEGAN ON LA-Iconic skyscrapers, a symbol of modernism, dominate New York’s Manhattan skyline and define its signature style. This came to be called the “International Style,” one that used a formal arrangement of glass and steel -- the newest building materials that came into use mid-century -- when Manhattan experienced a post-World War II building boom. Here in Los Angeles, though, the predominant architectural signature style is Spanish stucco with red tiled roofs. 

BCK FILE--As most of the country slept the US Senate passed a tax bill that included scribbled give-aways on the margins and will pack a punch to Californians, especially vis a vis the elimination of the state and local tax deductions and change to mortgage interest deductions. (Photo above: CA Congressmember Nancy Pelosi.) 

GUEST WORDS-We are living in a state of constant and overt racism under this administration. Still reeling from the decision to rescind DACA, upending the futures of over 800,000 Dreamers, it is our obligation as a society to look toward other ways to provide sanctuary for our undocumented brothers and sisters. There are two key areas we need to focus on — creating sanctuary workplaces, and passing sanctuary policies at the statewide and city level. 

ALPERN AT LARGE--After hundreds of thousands of Westsiders from the Santa Monica Mountains to Playa Del Rey were terrified by what appeared to be a toxic natural gas leak (is it OUR home, or the neighbor's home?!), the answer appears to be … a leaking barrel of Mercaptan odorant near the Rancho Park golf course. 

PREVEN REPORT--The LA City Ethics Commission audits the campaign finances of any candidate for city office who raises or spends more than $100,000 … why do the audits take so long? 

CORRUPTION WATCH-Los Angeles, the nation’s greatest city, is being poisoned by an amalgam of corrupt politicos, Wall Street, and a corrupt judiciary. 

ANIMAL WATCH-Steve Cooley, former three-term LA County District Attorney and co-author of just-released Blue Lives Matter: In the Line of Duty, is not commonly known as a former LAPD Reserve Officer.

A GUSS REPORT EXCLUSIVE--For the second consecutive time, notorious Los Angeles City Hall gadfly Wayne Spindler has defeated LA City Attorney Mike Feuer, as a federal judge ruled that Spindler did not threaten Herb Wesson, the LA City Council president, in an incident back on May 11, 2016. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--Sometimes I overreact. At least that's what various relatives have told me over the years. But on Saturday, I found that a room full of people agreed with me in being exasperated with our government representatives. The occasion was the monthly meeting of the LA Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC). The context was a preliminary report from the LA Department of Transportation (LADOT) and the city's planning department about an expected update to something called the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Ordinance. 

HOW GOLD IS THE GOLDEN STATE? --Twice each year, once in January and again in May, Gov. Jerry Brown warns Californians that the economic prosperity their state has enjoyed in recent years won’t last forever.

GELFAND’S WORLD--He sure knew how to deal with parking meters. The irritation of the parking control system here in Los Angeles is one issue that is worth talking about in a broader context. It provides a clear example of why obvious reforms are nearly impossible to execute if we leave them to the City Council and the mayor. However, there may be a way to fix things. 

CAL MATTERS--Let’s say you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company that’s under scrutiny by the Securities and Exchange Commission for accounting irregularities.

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-On Saturday, December 2, City Watch readers are invited to attend the Resist Gentrification Action Summit. The conference, sponsored by Housing is a Human Right.org,  takes place at Audubon Junior High School, 4120-11th Avenue, Los Angeles, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

CALIFORNIA-Why is housing in booming U.S. cities increasingly unaffordable to everyone but the wealthiest? In early September The New York Times published a provocative op-ed that answered this question from a market-oriented perspective. 

CAPITAL & MAIN REPORT--No crowds of outraged demonstrators descended on Capitol Hill chanting, “Cut Corporate Taxes! Cut Corporate Taxes!” And scathing nonpartisan analyses uniformly showed that the biggest cuts in the GOP tax plan go to the wealthy and to corporations, while many middle- and lower-income families will face increases.

BELL VIEW-I’m confused. I don’t know what to do anymore. I can’t keep up. For years, I’ve been advocating strategic thinking when it comes to elections. Hillary Clinton is better than Donald Trump – yes? Sure, she voted for the Iraq War. And sure, she was smart enough to know better. But she had a political future to think of. And – yeah – Bill Clinton had sex with an intern (an intern) when he was President of the United States – but he was so good at getting under the skin of Republicans, and, you know, winning elections. 

ALPERN AT LARGE--Today's a special day for me and my family:  after years of fighting for the Expo Line, I get to see my Overland Avenue Elementary School daughter and her whole grade walk to the local station at Westwood/Exposition to access the LA Museum of Natural History.  Ironically, those who fought the line (and prevented a rail bridge by demanding an underground line) are nowhere to be found. 

BCK FILE--I’ve written my past few columns about what seems to be a floodgate of sexual harassment victims and each week, a few more men seem to be added to the list that is already bursting at the seams. Although pundits and social media commenters try to paint this as a partisan or “Hollywood” issue, harassment occurs in every industry and town. 

PERSPECTIVE-As much as the California High Speed Rail Authority would like to hold its own version of the Golden Spike ceremony that marked the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, it is more likely to experience rusty nails driven into its already beleaguered and overly-optimistic business plan. 

CORRUPTION WATCH-What exactly is the “role of government?” Answer: to provide the context within which people can live their individual lives. Our government was established back when colonialists were victimized by the abuse of power exercised by England’s King George who was mentally unstable. As educated and wealthy men, American Revolutionary leaders recognized this fact and, accordingly, espoused some basic principles: 

POLITICS--Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, announced Monday that he would not seek re-election and immediately resign from his leadership position of Assembly Whip.

FROM A TRANSIT WAR CORRESPONDENT--It was the simple act of trying to watch on television the Division Playoffs and World Series games of the Los Angeles Dodgers. From a commercial during the games I was not expecting the assault on transit which was personal because I ride transit. 

@THE GUSS REPORT-With Governor Jerry Brown recently signing a law which will soon allow some California sex offenders to be free of the requirement of having to register for rest of their lives (an idea which may have some merit depending on circumstances) Angelenos are already at greater inherent risk if today’s column is any indication. 

TRUTHDIG--“If there is a silver lining to what is happening today, it’s that people really feel and see the urgency,” said Martha Arévalo, describing the grass-roots workers at the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles who are trying to stop President Donald Trump’s assault on immigrants. “People who haven’t been involved say, ‘Wait a minute, we are fighting for our lives.’ “ (Photo above: United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez in 1975.)

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--This is a tale of two new skyscrapers—and of two cities that have more in common than they care to admit.(Photo above: Wilshire Grand tower in Downtown LA.)

ADVOCATING FOR YOU-I am often asked why people are so disengaged when it comes to their local government. And I always have a simple answer: "They hate spinning their wheels." People get involved, put their time, effort and heart into something and then feel like they’ve accomplished nothing when it’s over. In my short time within the Neighborhood Council System, I’ve seen this over and over. 

GELFAND’S WORLD--Perhaps it's coincidence that the Elysium Conservatory Theatre is opening its production of Anton Chekhov's 1901 masterpiece Three Sisters over this Thanksgiving holiday period, but of such coincidences are insights (and reviews) made. 

EASTSIDER--Did you ever start a project to find that it takes on a life of its own?  The tenants at 3212 Verdugo Road in Glassell Park (photo below right), and the owners desire to bulldoze them over into 10 small lot subdivision homes, has turned into one of those issues for me. 

RANTZ & RAVEZ---I begin this Thanksgiving edition of RantZ and RaveZ with a few RaveZ’s.

EPPERHART EXPRESS--At the final White House briefing before Thanksgiving, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders asked reporters to say what they’re grateful for prior to asking their questions. One, at least, remembered to be thankful for the First Amendment. For the most part, the reporters were good natured about Sanders’ question, responding with the usual family, friends, and so on. I don’t think anyone mentioned Donald Trump as a source of gratitude. 

CORRUPTION WATCH-The hypocrisy about sexual predators must stop -- at least in Los Angeles where it all began anew with Harvey Weinstein. For decades the Los Angeles District Attorney Office has viciously attacked the most famous victims of child rape -- Lyle and Erik Menendez. Even with the current documentaries and TV dramas, the viciously corrupt DA’s Office denies that Lyle and Erik were raped. 

ALPERN AT LARGE--Forever we'll debate the differences and similarities of men and women, and forever we'll debate whether treating women differently than men is empowering or demeaning to either gender.  But at least we're on our way as a society to one common conclusion: that treating other human beings like chattel or sexual objects is in no way acceptable or appropriate in a civilized society. 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING--For those who care about the planet’s future, it has not been a good week.  There are no shortages of public officials who have dropped the ball, despite their power and bully pulpit to do good. (Graphic above: Maps of planet earth documenting observed global warming.) 

TOMORROWLAND--If Eric Garcetti runs for president, what will it mean for Hispanics not only in his hometown but beyond? 

PREVEN REPORT--The County of Los Angeles owns twenty golf courses—why not turn one or more of them into a park? 

EDUCATION WATCH-What is most personal is most universal. These words from Carl Rogers came to mind when I read this letter from the parents of Los Angeles public school students in response to an annual survey. The letter serves to be a report on the state of public education. It is posted here with their permission and with identifying names partially redacted.

PREVEN REPORT--Why not use one or more docked decommissioned cruise ships as a stop-gap measure to provide temporary housing to homeless people in Los Angeles County?

IF ONLY THE BOX OFFICE WERE DOING THIS WELL--The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating nearly two dozen cases of possible sexual misconduct after a wave of complaints about sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood, sources tell NBC News

POLITICS--Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, announced Monday that he would not seek re-election and immediately resign from his leadership position of Assembly Whip.

@THE GUSS REPORT-LA journalists will soon blindly trumpet that Mayor Garcetti’s animal shelters are “No Kill” when there is no such thing as a genuine no kill big city anywhere in the country. When they do this, those journalists own that lie. 

JUSTICE WATCH--A wealthy, white Southern California teen, accused of murder and premeditated murder in an Oct. 1 gang-related killing in South LA was released from jail after his parents posted the $5 million in bail. (Exclusive Jasmyne Cannick video here.

REVEALED—(Editor’s Note: The Los Angeles Times reported this weekend that Democratic Donor Ed Buck’s home was found littered with drug paraphernalia when the sheriffs answered a call to check on a dead body found there the night of July 27. Here’s what the Times reported on Saturday. Here’s what CityWatch and Jasmyne Cannick exposed way back on August 28.)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. 

ALPERN AT LARGE--Some of us are too quick to accuse others as evil, and both sides of the political spectrum are too quick to decry the other as "Nazis" or "fascists" or "racists".  And then there's the real deal:  Charles Manson, a man who lived by far too long, is dead at 83. 

BCK FILE--Another week has passed with yet more women coming forward with sexual harassment allegations against a who’s who of Hollywood and politics, including Sen. Al Franken, former SNL cast member, Roy Moore, the candidate to replace Attorney Jeff Sessions senate seat, Roy Moore, actor Jeffrey Tambor, and Russell Simmons, among others. 

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.

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.   

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. 

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 alpern@marvista.org. 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? 

Conservative Environmentalists 

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 amrep535@sbcglobal.net)  


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.

VOICES-The California Supreme Court has decided to hear the appeal requested by Sheriff Jim McDonnell (center, photo above) regarding the well-reasoned Appellate Court decision which found the department's proposed release of its self-created Brady list to be illegal. 

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 ​L​egislature’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 MATTERS-When Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Assembly Bill 715 last week, he closed the book on even token legislative efforts to confront California’s epidemic of opioid abuse. 

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. 

THE PREVEN REPORT--The LA City Charter requires that when the Mayor of Los Angeles departs the state of California, he or she stops being Mayor … with the role passing to the City Council President. 

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. 

NEW GEOGRAPHY--For a generation, the car has been reviled by city planners, greens and not too few commuters. In the past decade, some boldly predicted the onset of “peak car” and an auto-free future which would be dominated by new developments built around transit.  

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. 

EASTSIDER-When Wendy Carrillo ran against Jimmy Gomez to replace Xavier Becerra in 34th Congressional District primary, she ran a distant sixth, with something like 5% of the votes. In the Assembly District 51 primary last week, she came in first with over 22%. Wanna know why?

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:

POLITICS--A funny thing happened after State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon shot off his mouth and attacked neighborhood councils, and all those volunteers strangling and handcuffing the Los Angeles City Council by their "NIMBYism"

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 timdeegan2015@gmail.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.