DEEGAN ON LA-Lost in the landscape of the homeless people we see across the city are youth experiencing homelessness, struggling to survive. 

They are out there, just like homeless adults, but they have a different sort of pedigree: many are “survivors” of the juvenile justice system or have been aged out of the foster care system. Parental neglect and abuse have also driven many young people into homelessness. 

Nearly 4,000 homeless youth are on the streets of Los Angeles, according to the most recent Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) homeless count. 

They come into their new world of “independence” still dependent on others to help them with the basics that most non-homeless young people have already received from their families and their progression through school: food and shelter, socialization skills, job training and placement, as well as an education.

Many of these wanderers who are educated in the “school of life” find resources tailored just for them at My Friend’s Place in Hollywood. Here, dozens of youth experiencing homelessness drop in every day to access the core free offerings that include the social services triumvirate of Health and Wellbeing, Safe Haven, and Transformative Education programs. For these clients, that translates into case management, legal, medical and mental health referrals, meals and showers, creative arts workshops, educational assistance and help with employment. 

My Friend’s Place serves 1,400 individuals a year and is a member agency of Hollywood Homeless Youth Partnership that calls itself “a collection of preeminent experts on the issues of youth homelessness in Los Angeles, the current homeless capital of America.” As service providers, the Partnership agencies “work to achieve best practices in service delivery with the goal of strengthening interventions to help homeless youth exit the streets, overcoming the traumatic experiences at the core of their homelessness.” 

How does this work? According to Heather Carmichael, Executive Director of My Friend’s Place, (photo, left) “Working with the leading social services providers and educational institutions in the region as well as over 400 volunteers, My Friend’s Place offers a free and comprehensive continuum of care that combines emergency necessities with therapeutic, health, employment and education assistance, and creative arts services through three programmatic areas.” 

The professionally staffed drop-in Resource Center has in its mission statement the goal of “lowering the traditional barriers to service and providing homeless youth with the opportunity to improve their psychological, intellectual and physical capacity to reach their potential.” 

Carmichael has been doing this type of work for over 23 years as a Licensed Clinical Social worker helping at-risk and high-risk youth, and working at My Friend’s Place for 17 years where she has helped grow the organization to be one of the largest comprehensive service centers in Los Angeles for youth experiencing homelessness. 

The composition of this mostly invisible homeless youth population can be eye-opening: My Friend’s Place serves homeless youth ages 12 to 25 and their children. That’s right -- their children -- a mostly under-acknowledged population that is homeless, just like the more familiar populations that are segmented into homeless male adults, homeless women with children, and homeless veterans. 

Any entry barrier that could be created by the cost of services is kept deliberately low for the young people who flock to the safe haven of My Friend’s Place in Hollywood. Carmichael, her staff and dozens of volunteers all work to “create positive attachment” with them, as she describes their process. 

Along with traditional social services, My Friend’s Place has become a beacon for youth with a level of distress above the norm, as described in a recent snapshot by Children's Hospital Los Angeles. In side-by-side categories, these homeless young people were shown to be more vulnerable than homeless youth accessing services at other agencies. The needs assessment conducted by CHLA, with support from the California Endowment, was overlaid with data from My Friend’s Place, revealing that the homeless youth who access services at My Friend’s Place exhibit significantly higher rates of substance abuse, past trauma, and mental health challenges. 

Carmichael explains, “As for the level of distress of the youth receiving support here at MFP, many of the youth we serve have not been able to thrive in other structured environments and have lost housing, been banned from other community resources leaving them with fewer options and leading them to more intense survival behaviors, greater exposure to victimization and the further delaying of healing of childhood abuse and neglect. We operate as a kind of ‘urgent care’ center for youth who are super distrusting of adults and social services. We meet youth ‘where they are at’ in the ultimate intention to engage them on a path toward wellness and stability.” 

A good example of someone helped by their program is 23 year old "Alicia" (she asked that a pseudonym be used to protect her privacy) who offers that "being homeless, you quickly become used to people not caring. But there was never a day I felt like I couldn’t come to My Friend’s Place and find support. Eventually, with the help of My Friend’s Place and other organizations, I got into shelter, I got a job and I began to really work on myself." 

Being a homeless youth in Hollywood does not mean being without friends or a place to get help, as My Friend’s Place now demonstrates five days a week, operating for the past 29 years since 1988 when a small staff started it all by packing 50 sack lunches and heading out for their first Friday night meal drive. They were greeted by over 100 young people in need of food. It was the first of thousands of “moments” in Hollywood that have made My Friend’s Place “home” to homeless youth, and such a significant contributor to the community.

 

(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.

EDUCATION POLITICS-The pro-privatization LA School Report (LASR) spun a school board committee meeting report last month to say that just about everybody in LAUSD wants charter schools to be included in a universal enrollment system. This was alarming since universal enrollment is an urgent priority of the charter lobby. 

“Common enrollment is a big Walton idea to put charters on the same footing as public schools,” education historian and national treasure Diane Ravitch told me in an email.

Whether they call it universal enrollment, common enrollment, unified enrollment, or OneApp, charters want to piggyback on the establishment. Always insisting that they are “public schools,” they want to be viewed that way by every parent, “regardless of zip code.” Similar enrollment systems in New Orleans and Denver were funded by the pro-charter Walton Family Foundation

Yet the headline to the meeting recap cheered, “All sides push for earlier inclusion of charters as LAUSD readies its Universal Enrollment site.” 

This caused a bit of a stir because the article said that even the privatizers’ nemesis, UTLA, was on board. 

“One of the committee members, Robin Potash, a teacher representing UTLA, said it was important for the district to include charter schools in the list of options and to do it faster than their present timeline….“We all know there are many new charters opening in the district and they should be included as soon as possible,” Potash said. “These are all our students and they should be listed as options.” 

Given that universal enrollment is such a boon for charters, could it be true that there is consensus among the California charter lobby, the UTLA representative and all three LAUSD board members on that committee? 

I called UTLA’s Robin Potash to find out if LASR quoted her accurately. 

She explained that her comments at the meeting came after a rosy presentation by the LAUSD School Choice department. (You can watch here.) 

One LAUSD staffer said it was like a shopping cart. “What this will allow parents to do now is a one stop shop.” 

We’re “hoping to increase the equity and access,” said another. 

That resonated with Potash. She said her school, located in South Central LA, has four co-located charters impacting it. She was hopeful that the inclusion of charters in LAUSD’s enrollment application would also bring some much needed oversight of them. 

Potash was looking for solutions to a problem that is so common that the ACLU issued a report last year admonishing the one in five California charter schools that were found using discriminatory enrollment practices, according to the report. The NAACP found discriminatory enrollment by charters to be such a significant problem that it called for a national moratorium on charter expansion until that and other issues were corrected. 

Maybe including charters in LAUSD’s enrollment process would be a way of making them more accountable for using the standard enrollment methods employed by district schools. At least that’s what Potash hoped. 

She’s not alone. 

Last year, California’s State Senate Education Committee held a hearing about charter oversight. The committee was asked to push school districts for common enrollment for the same reasons Potash thought it might help. 

In testimony to the committee, Silke Bradford, the Director of Quality Diverse Providers for Oakland Unified School District, suggested that a common enrollment system like New Orleans uses, would go a long way toward providing the oversight and accountability that charters need. You can watch her testimony here.  

She said for charter schools to be “pure public schools,” a term she coined to distinguish charter schools that are using public funds transparently from those that are not, they have to do better about including all students. Specifically, she asserted that the increased oversight of a common enrollment system would prevent exclusionary enrollment because all parents would get applications rather than just the parents handpicked by a particular charter or those savvy enough to navigate a complex system. She said charters would no longer counsel out students who proved challenging or expensive to educate. She also thought it would give foster students a better shot at enrolling. Left on their own, charters set application deadlines before foster youth are placed in homes. 

To be clear, Bradford is a charter oversight authority -- a former Green Dot Charter School administrator -- who was asking the State Legislature to push districts to enact common enrollment in order to help hold charters accountable for their failure to provide equitable access.

It should not be surprising, then, that someone would sit through a presentation about the wonders of universal enrollment and conclude that it could help provide some oversight that charters are currently lacking. 

Plus, LAUSD’s School Choice department was so convincing. You can watch their presentation here.

So it seems the policy makers are all in. What does the research say? 

Let’s visit the petri dish -- or swamp -- of charter takeover, New Orleans. Researcher and author, Mercedes Schneider previously examined the New Orleans’ unified enrollment experiment, “OneApp”, in July 2013. That post might have been the most in-depth review of the topic at the time. She said the selective enrollment has continued under OneApp. 

In fact, four years later, we now know that inequity is worse in New Orleans than it was before implementation of the common enrollment system, according to a Stanford University study.  

Education researchers Frank Adamson, Channa Cook-Harvey, and Linda Darling-Hammond have issued a report called, “Whose Choice? Student Experiences and Outcomes in the New Orleans School Marketplace.” 

In an email, Dr. Adamson told me, “The common enrollment approach is a major cornerstone of how schools end up selecting students (instead of the other way around). This usually occurs through a variety of loopholes (some schools maintaining neighborhood, sibling, or other preferential treatment), lack of equal access in the stratification by race and class in terms of access to higher performing schools.” 

You can read the full report here.   

Even a Walton funded report conceded problems. It quoted a parent as saying, “They make us believe that we actually have a choice and we’re involved in the process of picking our children’s school, but ultimately, if the computer didn’t pick your [lottery number], it doesn’t matter.” 

Last year, when Oakland Unified School District was considering common enrollment, Dr. Adamson was joined in a panel discussion by Julian Vasquez Heilig, the head of Cal-State Sacramento’s education leadership PhD program. He also chairs the education committee of the NAACP of California and is a board member of the pro-public school Network for Public Education co-founded by Diane Ravitch. His blog is called Cloaking Inequity

Dr. Vasquez Heilig said, “We know a lot about what happens with common enrollment from New Orleans.”  

He explained that the higher performing schools fill up and many kids get stuck in lower performing schools. The more elite or higher performing schools create additional hoops that some parents don’t have access to, such as attending seminars or filing extra applications.

“OneApp is disingenuous because there are alternative pathways,” into the higher performing schools, he said. 

He summed up the lessons learned in New Orleans this way: “They’re last or nearly last in every single education indicator.” 

The research on New Orleans provides extensive evidence about the consequences of unified enrollment. LAUSD officials should do their homework before implementing such a system in the second largest school district in the country.

Concerned about LAUSD's Universal Enrollment? E-mail, call or write your school board member:

  213-241-6387Steve.Zimmer@lausd.net
  213-241-6385
Richard.Vladovic@lausd.net
  213-241-6388
Monica.Ratliff@lausd.net
  213-241-6382
George.McKenna@lausd.net
  213-241-5555
Ref.Rodriguez@lausd.net
  213-241-6180
Monica.Garcia@lausd.net
  213-241-8333
Scott.Schmerelson@lausd.net

And the Superintendent:
superintendent@lausd.net 
213-241-7000

 

(Karen Wolfe is a public school parent, the Executive Director of PS Connect and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

CITYWATCH RESISTANCE WATCH--My day began bright and early yesterday at 5:00 a.m. I and two friends loaded up the car with our DJ equipment and headed off to the March for Science at Pershing Square. As official DJs for the march, we had permission to set up our gear at the corner of 6th and Hill. After setting up and securing our official t-shirts, I headed off to the press booth to pick up my press badge. 

The day was a scorcher but the mood was buoyant as some 50,000 people gathered to send a message to public servants from local and state officials to the Trump administration: BELIEVE IT OR NOT, SCIENCE IS REAL. 

I was doing double duty at the event which marked the 47th anniversary of Earth Day. I spoke to dozens of people of all ages and nationalities about why they came down to Pershing Square. Here is some of what they said: 

Earth Day 2017 at the March for Science LA    

The event was a great way to get first hand information from all manner of scientists, researchers, activists, educators and enthusiasts. The speakers list was filled with brainiacs like organizers Jennifer and Philip Wheeler, CSUN astrophysicist Farisa Morales, seismologist Lucy Jones, US congressman Brad Sherman, high school student Joanne Boadi, Children’s Hospital LA pediatrician Diane Tanaka, NextGen Climate founder Tom Steyer, Hidden Figures screenwriter Allison Schroeder, and CSUN plant biologist Maria Elena Zavala. 

The Square was lined with booths from scientific and environmental organizations such as NASA, Cal Tech and the Sierra Club with scientists and activists holding impromptu educational sessions right then and there. 

As for my time over at the DJ booth, we had people getting into the groove to the sound of cumbia, salsa, tribal, jazz and African beats with a dash of classic oldies from the 60s through 90s and a pinch of today’s top hits. We’ve also added a new addition to our collective – DJ Rockin’ Riot. His infectious brand of Record Hop with Wild Boppers, Hot Jivers & Cool Strollers had dreaming of lindy hop magic as they waited in line for the various offerings from the food trucks lining Hill Street near our booth. 

It was a beautiful day on Earth Day 2017 and I am filled with hope at the fact that 45 is making resisters out of people who never thought they would be protestors. #KeepResisting !!

(Jennifer Caldwell is a an actress and an active member of SAG-AFTRA, serving on several committees. She is a published author of short stories and news articles and is a featured contributor to CityWatch. Her column at www.RecessionCafe.wordpress.com is dishing up good deals, recipes and food for thought. Jennifer can be reached at recessioncafe@yahoo.com.  Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jennifercald - Twitter: @checkingthegate ... And her website: Jenniferhcaldwell.com) 

-cw

CORRUPTION WATCH-Secrecy is power. Power tends to corrupt. Corruption destroys. The courts are the most secretive branch of government. The secrecy which the California courts enjoy has resulted in serious constitutional violations. 

While anyone may bring a video camera to record other public meetings, the law forbids the recording any judicial proceeding without the express, prior permission of the court. California Rule of Court 1.150: 

1.150 (c) Photographing, recording, and broadcasting prohibited 

Except as provided in this rule, court proceedings may not be photographed, recorded, or broadcast… 

1.150 (d) Personal recording devices 

The judge may permit inconspicuous personal recording devices to be used by persons in a courtroom to make sound recordings as personal notes of the proceedings. A person proposing to use a recording device must obtain advance permission from the judge. The recordings must not be used for any purpose other than as personal notes.

In contrast, California law mandates that all other public meetings may be recorded by the public. 

Government Code, § 54953.5. (a) Any person attending an open and public meeting of a legislative body of a local agency shall have the right to record the proceedings with an audio or video recorder or a still or motion picture camera in the absence of a reasonable finding by the legislative body of the local agency that the recording cannot continue without noise, illumination, or obstruction of view that constitutes, or would constitute, a persistent disruption of the proceedings. 

Trials are not secret proceedings closed to the public and the Brown Act recognizes that the recording of a public meeting is no different from a person’s watching and listening to a public meeting. Is there any reason that people, including parties to litigation and the news media, must obtain the express permission of the judge in order to record a trial? Even if the judge permitted a record, under Rule 1.150(d) the recorder’s use is limited “personal notes.” “The recordings must not be used for any purpose other than as personal notes. Rule 1.150(d) 

Since we have all seen trial excerpts actually televised, the courts are ignoring the law when it suits the court’s interests. If a judge wants a recording made public, he ignores the law that limits the use to “personal notes.” In a nation based on the rule of law rather than the whim of men, judges should follow the law, but they do not. Rather, in California the judges and justices do whatever personally pleases them. That is tyranny. 

In the last several years, judicial abuse has become worse since the courts have ceased to have official court reporters. As a result, only the wealthy can afford to pay for court reporters and those court reporters are beholden to the law firm which retains them. The number of missing words and “inaudibles” which appear favorable to the party who hired the court reporter is suspiciously high. Others who were present in court not only do not have permission to use a tape recorder, but if they obtained permission, they are forbidden to use their recording to augment or correct an inaccurate transcription. “The recordings must not be used for any purpose other than as personal notes. Rule 1.150(d) 

It is worse than ironic that public court hearings during which someone’s life may be destroyed -- where he may be judicially robbed of all he owns or placed on death row -- may not be recorded, yet the Brown Act mandates that anyone may record a public meeting which discusses which sidewalks need repair. 

Sunshine Is the Disinfectant that Rids Government of Corruption 

Over a century ago in his book, Other People’s Money (1914), soon to be Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis wrote: 

“Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman. And publicity has already played an important part in the struggle against the Money Trust.” 

More than 100 years later, the disinfectant of sunlight is shut out of California courts. The power of secrecy keeps the public from knowing what is being done to them. The federal court system, however, is one institution with many opportunities to witness the persistent constitutional violations of the California judiciary. 

The nation has two court systems. While each state has its own courts, the federal government has its own system organized into districts. California State Courts fall in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which covers the entire western United States. When it comes to the U.S. Constitution, the federal system has the final say. 

California’s Epidemic of Misconduct 

The Federal courts have been trying for decades to force the California courts to rectify their unconstitutional behavior. In January 2015, three federal judges complained that the California courts display an “epidemic of misconduct” and placed the blame on state court judges and, in particular, on California Supreme Court Chief Justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye (albeit the problem predates her tenure.)

The January 2015 case involved both a lying jailhouse informant and the prosecutor who committed perjury in order to convict the defendant. When the State Court of Appeals learned about the lying jailhouse informant and the prosecutor’s perjury, they said it was “harmless error.” A prosecutor solicits perjured testimony and then himself falsely testifies in the front of the jury that the lying jailhouse informant is credible. Yet, the California judges find committing two felonies to be harmless error. As the three federal judges knew from their experience, this type of misconduct was not rare, but rather California was suffering from an epidemic. 

Federal Judges Acknowledge that the California Courts Will Persist in their Constitutional Violations 

As federal Judge Kozinski noted, prosecutors "got caught this time but they are going to keep doing it because they have state judges who are willing to look the other way." 

As Judge Kozinski predicted, a year later the federal courts were faced with the unconstitutional behavior of the California justices themselves. This time, the justices were not merely turning a blind eye, but they were, in fact, the perpetrators. The case was Curiel v Miller (9th Cir. # 11-56949, March 23, 2016.) 

Writs of Habeas Corpus, Briefly Explained 

The Curiel Case presents an esoteric issue for the layman, i.e. when may the federal court review the state court’s denial of a writ of habeas corpus? Simply speaking, when someone believes that he is wrongfully imprisoned, he may ask the court to be released. He seeks a writ of habeas corpus. If granted, the court then tells the jail to release imprisoned person. 

The writ process is slow since the wrongfully incarcerated person has to start with the trial court, work his way through the state court system, and if denied by the California Supreme Court, he has to petition the federal courts. Thus, a wrongfully imprisoned person can spend several months or years in jail without a just basis for being locked up. (Curiel was convicted in March 2006, and the Ninth Circuit issued its opinion a decade later in March 2016.) 

The California state courts have a history of locking up people who have done nothing wrong. Former U.S. Attorney Richard I. Fine, for example, was thrown in jail for fourteen months because he had brought to light the fact that all the judges in Los Angeles County were receiving millions of dollars in extra salary from the County. In retaliation, Attorney Fine was disbarred, ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars and thrown in jail. Thus, readers should realize that we are discussing being soft on crime. People who have done nothing wrong except anger California judges can find themselves incarcerated. 

In his concurring opinion in the Curiel case, Judge Jay S. Bybee, who is a recent George Bush appointee to the Federal Court, related the extensive history of the Federal courts’ attempts to have the California Supreme Court provide an accurate explanation why a writ for habeas corpus has been denied. If a prisoner has filed his writ late, then the federal court may not review the propriety of his incarceration, but if his writ is defective, then the federal court may review and reverse the denial. Then, the prisoner may be released or he may have a new trial. 

California Supreme Court Intentionally Interferes with the Functioning of the Federal Judiciary 

In order to thwart the federal court’s review of its denial of habeas corpus petitions, the California Supreme Court often refuses to say whether the habeas corpus petition was late or defective. The California Supreme Court’s intentional perpetuation of this ambiguity prevents defective denials from being reviewed. As stated, a late habeas corpus petition is not subject to federal review. In order to take a case for review, the federal court needs to show that the case involved a defective writ. When the Supreme Court obfuscates the basis for denying the writ, the federal court cannot show that the writ was denied because it was defective. Can one imagine a more gross violation of constitutional rights than locking someone up and then refusing to tell the reviewing court why? (This conundrum has its origin with the U.S. Supreme Court which has established a habeas corpus writ review procedure that makes it easy for the state courts to violate the U.S. Constitution and evade review by the federal courts.) 

Thousands of Californians are subjected to these Constitutional Abuses 

Since there about 3,400 denials of writs of habeas corpus each year, a significant number of people are affected by the California Supreme Court’s intentional interference with the federal court’s work. Federal Judge Stephen Reinhardt stated that the California Supreme Court’s behavior leaves “even clearly erroneous constitutional decisions of the state courts...uncorrected and leave[s] defendants without the check on constitutional error…” 

The Constitutional Crisis that Arises from the Recalcitrant Nature of California Supreme Court Justices 

Federal Judge Jay S. Bybee went so far as to suggest that the California Supreme Court needs new justices. When the degree of intransigence in denying people their constitutional rights has become so serious that a federal judge recommends a change of the composition of the California Supreme Court, we have an extraordinarily grave constitutional crisis.

“I recognize that I am writing against a long history of conversations between our court and the California Supreme Court over precisely these kinds of concerns. Perhaps changes in the composition of that court will give it the opportunity to rethink how it disposes of its summary habeas docket.” Judge Bybee, concurrent opinion, page 25, fn 1. 

Federal Judge Bybee recognizes that the problem with the California judiciary rests with the character, or lack of character, of the people who serve on the court. Because a fish rots from the head down, his suggestion that the composition of the Supreme Court be changed focuses attention where it belongs – on the moral failures of the California judiciary.

 

(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.

MY TURN--Personally, it seems to be a combination of schizophrenia, paranoia, disillusionment, idealism, optimistic, and activism. It is difficult to be apathetic living in these times. Events and rhetoric   coming out of Washington DC ranges from the "Gang that couldn't shoot Straight" to "Wow maybe that was a smart move to get China to help with North Korea." 

This almost first 100 days of a new administration has not been boring. It would be good to have a little boredom right now. If I were a betting woman, I would bet that we will not have a "great" tax cut plan; a new "health care" plan; and a government funding continuation this week.   Congress and the White House will probably do what has been done in the past and kick the funding of the government on a temporary basis till September. 

At this stage neither the two political parties or the President can afford to shut the government down!

+++++++++

Mayor Garcetti did his dog and pony act on budget matters last Thursday and again proved his position as LA's chief cheerleader. My CW colleague Jack Humphreville again jumped in with his "Sky is Falling" commentary on how the Mayor is not being realistic and gave his readers something more to worry about. Both of them are right.   So how do we get to a compromise? 

Unemployment fell in California and our GDP led the federal average. However if the Writers Strike occurs a lot of that good news will quickly disappear. We have the City run-off election on May 16th with two City Council seats, District 1 and District 7. I haven't received a ballot in the mail so I assume I am not involved in any of the runoffs.

I have mentioned in other articles how it seems we in Southern California lives in a bubble. Even Mother Nature looked favorably and ended our drought. Our Governor has done a good job in trying to insulate us from the misguided environmental rollbacks emanating from DC.   Whether they will result in punitive action from the President remains uncertain. 

I was happy to see the CALEXIT group eliminated their ballot initiative for now. California is an important part of this country and when things get tough you don't run away but marshal forces and make changes. 

Lots of hue and cry about California … in particular Los Angeles … being a Sanctuary State or City. I do think that we should deport felonious illegal immigrants. Why do it after their incarceration is beyond me. It is expensive housing prisoners. If they are convicted send them back to serve their prison term in their country of birth.

+++++++++++

Unless you are wealthy the prisons in the US are far nicer than those in other countries. To those who say the criminals will just come back ... we can take part of the ‘wall’ money and put in more technology and personnel to try and keep that from happening. 

Rather than building a "beautiful" wall on our Southern Border it would make more sense and certainly be a more efficient way of saving money and getting rid of undesirable elements. 

Driving without a license is not a felony. Driving without a license and DUI twice is cause for deportation and driving with or without a license and causing an accident is cause for deportation. Maybe we can accomplish two goals ... cut pedestrian deaths which have risen dramatically this last year... and get rid of those who put us in danger every time they get in a car. I wonder what the statistics are on those who commit more than one DUI?

+++++++++++

The two items I am most concerned about in the President's tentative budget are the 20% cut to the National Health Institute and the 30% cut in funding to the EPA. I lived in LA before we had strict regulations. I worked downtown and one couldn't see the next building because of the yellow/brown smog hanging there. 

Now we have more beautiful days than "smog" days. We will never get rid of smog permanently as long as we are a big city. Our geography and love of cars not horses or bicycles will not allow it. But to tell automakers they don't have to adhere to the standards Obama proposed is suicide for the coming generations.

+++++++++++

I can talk about the NIH (National Institutes of Health) from personal experience. Last month a young close family member was diagnosed with Leukemia. If it were eleven years ago her outlook would have been dismal. Fortunately, ten years ago a "miracle" drug was introduced that made this dreaded disease treatable and in many cases full remission was the outcome without the terrible side effects. 

The NIH gives grants to qualifying medical related individuals, pharmaceutical companies, scientists of every ilk to try and eradicate disease.   Again on a personal note, my Brother and Sister-in-law, (Lonnie and Paul Zeltzer) are academic medical Doctors.   As Director of the UCLA Pediatric Pain and Palliative Care Program, my sister-in-law was at the forefront in helping children and adolescents to manage pain. She is invited all over the world to teach some of the techniques she has been instrumental in discovering. 

I was a guest at a recent fundraising event for the UCLA Pediatric and Palliative Pain Program at UCLA. It was organized primarily for and by parents of children who had gone through the Pain Program. I sat there almost in tears and with great pride in hearing these parents talk about how their children not only survived but thrived. Several talked about having a child in a wheel chair and now several years later is a freshman at an away college, or back at a regular High School.   

There is nothing more precious to a parent than the well being of their children. My sister-in-law sits on one of the NIH advisory committees and attends meetings at the Washington DC facility. She has an NIH grant. My Brother is also a Professor and was part of several groups studying immunology for brain tumors. He also is called upon internationally to discuss his work and has been able to work on these life saving measures... and feed his family because of grants. 

If enough people raise their voices about these and other issues it will have an effect. The "March for Science" was awesome. Yes we need to balance our budget. What good is it to be able to shoot down a missile if more people die of heart disease and cancer because of funding? We need a balance! 

As always, comments welcome.

 

(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.com)

-cw

LEANING RIGHT--The problem with fascists is that they can't be disabused of the fact that they're not always right.  And the problem with those who take a few factoids and call it "science" is that they ignore the reality that science, medicine, economics, and the scientific method takes us to really, really complicated (and often painful) conclusions. 

Which means those marching in the crowds are often wrong, while those being decried and demonized will later be proven right.  Galileo suffered a lot of grief for suggesting that the sun was the center of the solar system, not earth, because he defied those who mixed religion with politics. 

And now, the new "religion as science" paints Orwellian imagery of "climate change" as everything that should lead to statism, socialism, and those painting themselves as "know it all" types telling us how to live our lives while doing everything they can to get power confined to a small elite few. 

You like science?  I like science!  And so did most of my fellow nerds in high school and science, most of who have fled the state of California because that state does everything BUT do politics, economics and policy based on real science. 

We just had a big rally "for science" and "for the facts" that was filled with self-righteous individuals who are completely ignorant of how our city and county of LA, and the entire state of California is being driven into mathematical and scientific ruin. 

You hate climate change?  I hate climate change?  And without hesitation there's man-made climate change going on. 

But, what the hell are we supposed to do when those screaming about man-made climate change are those actually causing and worsening climate change? 

I graduated in 1985 from Roger Revelle College at UC San Diego, being its first graduate to do so in 9 quarters (thank you, high school AP classes, although I wish I could have spent another year learning and growing).  Despite graduating summa cum laude, I always felt that DOING well in school wasn't the same as LEARNING the subject or KNOWING the truth. 

Still do. And much of it has to do with my time spent with Roger Revelle, the man who championed the concept of liberal arts for scientists, and who first came up with the man-made climate change. 

He's the one who inspired Al Gore in the latter's political and economic crusades, but there's a key difference: Roger Revelle was a sincere scientist and student of both scientific and human nature, while Al Gore is a self-absorbed idiot who really only cares about ... Al Gore.   

Revelle inspired scientists and "Renaissance Man" types, while Al Gore inspires zealots and politicians who probably aren't that much into debate and thinking outside the political box. 

Anyone who's ever visited Glacier National Park knows that the glacier which inspired that name is rapidly disappearing over the last few decades.  Man-made climate change and other environmental impacts are very, very real.   

But Roger Revelle made it clear to me that what to OBSERVE and what to DO about man-made climate change, and what to DO about man-made and even natural impacts, requires pragmatic and scientific thought. 

When I raised concerns about how the United Nations was going astray in its mission for world diplomacy, governance and scientific policy, he made it clear to me that the answer was for the United Nations to be restored back to Western control (from whence it started) and not to let the crazies run the U.N. into the ground. 

In other words, the U.S. and Britain and France needed to bring the Third World to bear when it came to human rights, and to let science and population control be the right approach to how best to lead Planet Earth and Humanity to a better future. 

So let's review a few key issues about what REALLY is science: 

1) You like science?  I like science!  So why the hell are we destroying our middle class and our economy in this state, and its cities, and counties by taxation, anti-business policies, and one-party politics? Environmentalism and pollution cleanup requires MONEY, so thrashing our tax base by driving business to Texas and other states is ... well ... very UN-scientific. 

2) You like science?  I like science!  So why the hell did we, and are we, encouraging so many poorly-educated and poorly-skilled "migrants" when we should be focused on population control and importing well-educated, high-skilled immigrants who we can build a middle-class economy around. 

3) You like science?  I like science! Why, then, are we budgeting more for retired civil servants than for current civil servants and ignoring the pension problem?  Based on our population growth, we are about 3-5 UC colleges short and about 5-10 Cal State colleges short...while giving raises to a privileged, connected few that prevents poor and middle-class families from having a chance to succeed (without moving to another state, of course). 

4) You like science?  I like science! So why are we turning the other way when women's quality of life and empowerment are actually getting WORSE because they HAVE TO work while raising children, and/or have to CHOOSE between having a career and having children.  It's too damned expensive to raise a child in this state, unless you're filthy rich or don't work at all. (And how about raising a call against ANY Third World, anti-woman culture pervading our society and world, even if it's politically incorrect) 

5) You like science?  I like science! So where are all the tear-downs of some of the more blighted neighborhoods to create parks and open space? 

6) You like science?  I like science! So why have we no water or electrical infrastructure after years of ripping a new one into those decrying that lack of infrastructure?  Why are we mega-developing when we have insufficient water and infrastructure to support our current population? 

7) You like science?  I like science!  So why is debate being squelched?  You hate Trump ... fine. Lots of legitimate complaints about him abound.  But what got him elected?  Are the Democratic and Republican Party establishments he thrashed responding in a way that shows they "get it" with respect to the plight of the vanishing middle class? 

In short, Roger Revelle was a scientist.  We need scientists, not "social justice warriors" or "anti-fascists" who probably flunked out of any science class they ever took.  Scientists are nerds who report and say things people don't want to hear...but have to hear. 

In short, socialism, a lack of women's rights, a smashing of the middle class, not prioritizing education and higher learning, and true free speech helps science. 

In short, those "marching for science" may not be so much pro-science as they are marching for the status quo.  They're being played at best, and they're trying to get a "piece of the action" as this state, and its cities and counties, are devolving into a secular theocracy that is anything BUT what a scientist would want.

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He 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.)

-cw

@THE GUSS REPORT-Thomas Sowell nailed it when it comes to politicians: 

VOICES--The South Los Angeles Area Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (SLAAANC) voted to join the Westside Regional Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (WRAC) and dozens of other neighborhood councils and public health and safety organizations in supporting a motion to the Los Angeles City Council to reassert local community control over how alcohol is sold and served at new bars, nightclubs, liquor stores and other prospective alcohol retailers.

The motion calls for the reinstitution of “alcohol-specific conditions” on permits issued by the City, which enable community members to negotiate reasonable standards around how alcohol is sold and served, including hours of alcohol sales, types of products sold, drink specials, marketing to youth and other practices. Utilizing local conditions is the means by which local residents and other stakeholders, including LAPD, neighborhood councils and city council members, can mitigate problems that stem from retail alcohol establishments.

For decades, the City allowed community members to negotiate alcohol-specific conditions with new alcohol businesses, but in recent years reversed this practice, not only disallowing such conditions, but also systematically removing them from all existing alcohol licenses.

“The recent position by the City severely disempowers local communities and undermines public health, safety and quality of life for residents across LA,” stated Jean Frost, West Adams Neighborhood Council and SLAANC board member. “On principle alone, the current practice must be reversed, and the groundswell of votes in favor of this conditions motion is a call to the City Council to step up for neighborhood quality of life by doing just that.”

Cities and counties throughout the state allow and routinely utilize alcohol-specific conditions on local permits to help minimize alcohol-related problems associated with the rapidly growing number of restaurants, bars and other alcohol retailers. Without the ability to negotiate how new businesses sell and serve alcohol at a local level, through the planning and zoning process, community members are forced to do so at the state level through the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which takes longer and places more burden on community members.  

“For decades, the City of Los Angeles allowed conditions to be placed on the sale of alcohol under its land use and planning authority,” said Sarah Blanch, Venice resident with Westside Impact Project. “There is absolute legal precedent for local control. Asking us to negotiate at the state level is an undue burden and really suppresses community voices.”

 The motion approved last night by SLAANC also calls on the City Council to cease the City’s new practice of removing existing alcohol-specific conditions from local permits. According to the motion’s organizers, these conditions are arrived at by a substantial consensus process between the new business owners and neighboring residents.

“These hard-fought agreements are being actively disregarded and stripped from the permit without any notification from the City whatsoever,” observed Frost. 

Organizers also say that the ability to negotiate conditions at the local level is good for businesses by streamlining the process for developers and allowing community members to say yes to projects they would otherwise oppose. 

“Alcohol-specific conditions negotiated through local planning and zoning departments are a ‘path to yes’ for businesses,” said Dana Sherrod of the Institute for Public Strategies, one of the public health agencies championing the initiative. “Through local conditions, LAPD, Council Offices and community members can negotiate with businesses to reach agreements that allow projects to move forward.”  

So far, a total of 16 neighborhood and community councils have approved the measure. More than a dozen community organizations have also publically endorsed the conditions motion, including Children’s Hospital, Alcohol Justice and Behavioral Health Services.

Advocates for the motion say its recent successes underscore the high level of concern residents across the City have about maintaining quality of life in Los Angeles neighborhoods in the face of the proliferation of bars, restaurants and liquor stores.

A 2016 Los Angeles County Department of Public Health report, “Alcohol Outlet Density & Alcohol-Related Consequences by City and Community in Los Angeles County,” demonstrated a strong link between many public health and safety problems — including violent crime, emergency room admissions and hospitalizations — and alcohol retailers. According to the study, 12 of 15 Los Angeles City Council districts rank in the highest tier for their incidence of three or more different alcohol-related problems: violent crimes, vehicle crashes, deaths, emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

Organizers are confident the support for the initiative from community groups and neighborhood councils, public health agencies and social service agencies citywide will speed the motion’s path to consideration by the City Council.

(Sarah Blanch speaks for The Westside Impact Project. The WIP aims to reduce alcohol problems in Santa Monica, Venice and Westwood at the community level. The Project is funded by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and directed by the Institute for Public Strategies, a nonprofit organization utilizing evidence-based strategies to help communities make lasting improvements in health, safety and quality of life. Project implementation assistance is provided by CLARE Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services. To learn more, please contact the Westside Impact Coalition at 310-215-9924 or by email at impact@publicstrategies.org.) 

-cw

URBAN PERSPECTIVE--It has become a ritual with me. On the 10th, 20th, and now 25th anniversary of the LA riots, I do a press tour of several of the same burned out empty lots in South LA. I preface the tour with a finger point at the empty lots, and ask, no challenge, with the question: “Why years after the riots are these empty lots where thriving businesses once stood still empty today?” (See photo above)

I quickly point out that in the years, no decades, since many parts of Los Angeles from the Westside to downtown have been virtually remade and billions have been poured into the construction of glitzy, pricey, showy, and functional office buildings, retail stores, boutiques, restaurants, hi-tech centers, and light industry and manufacturing enterprises.

The building bonanza has resulted in thousands of new construction and entry level and professional jobs. In the process, it’s enriched the tax coffers of the city and surrounding cities. The lame excuse that there’s no economic incentive to build in South L.A won’t fly. Residents spend millions on consumer goods and services, tens of thousands are well-to-do business and professional and trades persons, and they repeatedly clamor for quality retail, restaurant and service business in South LA. But the lots remain empty.

While speaking with the press at the burned-out lots, my mind continually goes back to those two fateful days at the end of April and the first day of May 1992, I ducked around police cordons and barricades, and cringed in fear and anxiety at the cackle of police gunfire and the non-stop roar of police fire engines and siren all around my house in South LA.

I choked, and gagged on and was blinded by the thick, acrid smoke that at times blotted out the sun and gave an eerie surreal Dante’s Hell feel to Los Angeles.

I watched many Los Angeles Police Department officers stand by virtually helpless and disoriented as looters gleefully made mad dashes into countless stores. Their arms bulged with everything from clothes to furniture.

I watched an armada of police from every district throughout California and the nation, National Guard units and federal troops drive past my house with stony, even scared looks on their faces, but their guns at ready.

I watched buildings, stores and malls that I shopped at and frequented, instantly disappear from the landscape in a wall of flames.

Several friends that lived outside LA and were concerned about my safety implored me to leave my home in the middle of the riot area and stay with them until things blew over. I thanked them but I decided to stay put. As a journalist, I felt bound to observe and report first-hand the mass orgy of death and destruction that engulfed my South Los Angeles neighborhood during the two fateful days of the most destructive riot in U.S. history. 

The warning signs that LA was a powder keg were there long before the Simi Valley jury with no blacks acquitted the four LAPD cops that beat Rodney King. There was the crushingly high poverty rate in South LA, a spiraling crime and drug epidemic, neighborhoods that were among the most racially balkanized in the nation, anger over the hand slap sentence for a Korean grocer that murdered a black teenage girl, Latasha Harlins, in an altercation.

Black-Korean tensions that had reached a boiling point.

And above all, there was the bitter feeling toward an LAPD widely branded as the nation’s perennial poster police agency for brutality and racism.

This year, on the 25th anniversary of the King verdict and the LA riots, many still ask the incessant question: Can it happen again? The prophets, astrologers and psychics couldn’t answer a question like that with absolute certainty. But there are two hints that give both a “yes” and “no” answer to the question.

The yes is the repeated questionable killings of young unarmed African Americans by police, such as Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, and Philando Castile, nationally and in LA County. This continues to toss the ugly glare on the always fragile, tenuous, and at times openly hostile relations between African Americans and the police. The other cause for wariness is conditions in South LA and other urban communities.

On the fortieth anniversary in 2005 of the other LA riot that ripped the nation, namely the Watts riots in 1965, the LA chapter of the National Urban League and the United Way issued an unprecedented report on the State of Black LA. 

The report called the conditions in South LA dismal, stating that Blacks still had higher school drop-out rates, greater homelessness, died younger and in greater numbers, were more likely to be jailed and serve longer sentences, and were far and away more likely to be victims of racial hate crimes than any other group in LA County. The most cursory drive through the old riot areas still shows that for many residents little has changed.

The LA riots are no longer the national and world symbol of American urban racial destruction, neglect and despair. But it’s is still a cautionary tale; a warning that in the Trump era, the poverty, violence and neglect that made the LA riots symbolic may not have totally evaporated twenty-five years after the flames. And, so it will remain … as long as the lots, and what they symbolize, remain empty. 

 

(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author, political analyst and a CityWatch contributor. He is the author of In Scalia’s Shadow: The Trump Supreme Court (Amazon Kindle). He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One.)

-cw

GELFAND’S WORLD--The April 22 March for Science brought out at least a hundred thousand people on the west coast alone. If we count the demonstrations in other American cities including Washington D.C. -- and the marches in dozens of other countries around the world -- the world wide attendance was likely in the millions. 

The importance of the event is summarized in the speech by noted seismologist Lucy Jones, which communicated the theme that reality matters. More of that below. 

Unfortunately, what I saw of local television news ignored the Jones speech. The few seconds of coverage available on the 11 o'clock news involved brief comments from marchers, shown as if this were the Rose Parade. The efforts of tens of thousands of serious minded people can't compete with car chases. So much for the myth of liberal media bias. 

Luckily, the Los Angeles Times ran Lucy Jones' speech (linked above). Please read it if you haven't done so already. 

Reality matters. The idea seems obvious. Why must we have to recite it out loud? And why is doing this so urgent? The answer is sadly obvious: It is the underlying political environment that made this speech and the march necessary. 

Reality matters in the sense that we can't continue to ignore global warming without enduring serious consequences not only on a global level, but also in our own communities. To borrow from an earlier Zocalo discussion, if the San Fernando valley were to suffer a heat wave that went to 127 degrees for several days in a row, how would our people deal with it? What would the death toll be? What would happen if this were to become the normal state of affairs in most summers yet to come? 

That would obviously be a reality that matters. The only question is whether it will happen, and how soon. 

Jones (photo) pointed out, "No one who understands how climate works thinks we can continue to pollute our atmosphere without catastrophic cost." 

That message, repeated by other speakers and by many scientists over the past few years, leads us to the central point that television avoided and public radio kind of dodged. The March for Science was in fact totally political, but not because science itself either is or is not political. Science has tried to be science rather than politics for most of its existence. But the march was necessary and it was necessarily political because a war against science has emerged out of the political right wing as a cynical and utterly dishonest political technique. 

The motives for this attack on science are presumably economic rather than philosophical, but whatever the ultimate origin, the result has been an assault on facts, reason, and rationality. It started as a political attack against governmental regulations, and has gradually expanded, by now including direct attacks on the actions and budgets of the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, and other critical departments. The situation has now become so serious that rational people feel that they have to respond. To put it a little more bluntly, the new administration has ramped up the war on science so aggressively that a determined response became necessary. 

Public radio did get one thing right. The Republican war on science is a war on environmental protection. Attacks on the functioning of the Environmental Protection Agency serve a remarkably cynical economic purpose. But in order to rationalize those attacks, the congress relies on two strategies -- (1) attack the science that has already become publicly known, and (2) forbid the agency to fund new science. 

The careful observer might notice one little subtlety in all of this. If climate change brought on by human action is a myth, then further research will eventually reveal that as a fact. On the other hand, if climate change is ongoing and is the result of human actions, then continued research will continue to be consistent with that result. Working theories that are based on solid natural events continue to give positive results no matter how you study them -- we will continue to find that DNA determines heredity using whatever methods happen to be at hand, because DNA is the hereditary chemical. Such theories are robust in the sense that experiments based on them continue to give positive results. So far, anthropogenic global warming is looking to be a robust theory. 

In championing the denial of climate change as the result of human economic activity, the Republicans have profoundly endangered the future not only of countless species but also of the human race. 

Consider the sum total of the following: the scientific method, the results of using that method, and the sum total of scientific findings (ranging over climate science, medical science, geology, biology, and more). For this collection of techniques and results, we used the word science as the defining symbol on April 22. In a sense, the word science is being used here to represent both reality and our best methods for discovering what that reality is. Reality matters. 

It's relevant to insert a few words from the famous Richard Feynman speech titled Cargo Cult Science, talking about the scientific method:

 

That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school—we never explicitly say what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation.  It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly.  It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty—a kind of leaning over backwards.

 

Feynman was a strong exponent of another principle which I will paraphrase as follows: The one test for whether a scientific idea is valid is experiment.

 

Suffice it to say that in science, it's the facts and the theoretical analysis of the facts that matter. Unfortunately, some politicians and corporate hacks have adopted a different approach, in which attacks on the scientists themselves have become the norm. For years now, the core right wing attack on climate scientists is that they tailor their work to what funding sources demand. When you look at the attacks on climate science by the politically motivated, you come to realize that the attackers are simply projecting their own worst quality -- slavish obedience to dogma -- onto scientists. Instead, those who attack climate science should be looking in the mirror.

 

Perhaps some of the more thoughtful conservatives should reconsider being anti-science

 

It's curious that the leaders of a couple of coal companies have recently asked the Trump administration to hold off on pulling out of the Paris agreement to limit global warming. It's not so much that they've suddenly gotten religion over scientific facts. It's that they would like to be included in international negotiations over the use of coal because they want to be able to export their coal overseas. This is the utilitarian motive for being part of the discussion. You can't go into an international discussion babbling like a fool and expect to be taken seriously.

 

There is another reason. As the facts accumulate and as global warming becomes more and more apparent, the denial group looks more and more irrational. At some point, those who deny the reality of scientific findings will be seen to be idiotic. It's not a happy position for those who want votes from the more thoughtful members of the electorate.

 

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

-cw

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Signatures of the post-Inaugural Women’s Marches in Los Angeles and around the globe were the peacefulness and inclusion, features Women’s March LA Foundation aims to bring to LA’s annual May Day March. This year, Los Angeles March organizers are lending their muscle to May Day 5.1.17 My Voice, My Vote. I sat down with Emiliana Guereca, Co-Executive Founder of Women’s March LA Foundation to talk about the organization’s role in the upcoming event. 

The organization will lend support to the May 1 California-based SEIU USWW-sponsored General Workers’ Strike. The SEIU, the country’s largest service union, has called for a general workers’ strike on the historically important May 1. Women’s March LA Foundation was created to focus on the struggles faced by marginalized communities, as well as assaults on human rights and civil liberties. 

Emiliana Guereca says, “In the past, May Day has not been very peaceful and the Women’s March was peaceful. When they asked us to participate, we said ‘Yes.’”

The Women’s March LA Foundation brings a new, crucial angle to the annual protest -- getting out the vote. “Our big thing was voter education and registration. We can have as many marches as we want but if we don’t turn out to vote, we won’t turn the needle,” says Guereca. The Foundation has partnered with Rock the Vote for the roll-out of a Voter Registration Initiative in Los Angeles and throughout California. 

“We want to empower people to let their legislators know what is important to them on Election Day. Voter registration and education are key to social change and we are excited to partner with Rock the Vote in Los Angeles, across the state of California, and we hope nationally as well,” adds Guereca. 

“We have a few schools in LAUSD and some private schools, different charter schools, two groups coming from UTLA and USC, as well,” says Guereca. “We have lots of volunteers from USC to help with voter registration. Across the board, our pledge is voter turnout. Those already registered can check where they are registered, which has been an issue.” 

Guereca adds that an additional goal is to educate about the power in voting. She says many Millennials and Latinos say their votes don’t count. “If your vote doesn’t count, I tell them, why are so many trying to switch things around or take it away? It’s obvious it counts,” she explains. “By reaching parents, we can get to kids at a young age. We cannot walk into the space at voting age when they might not be going to vote if they believe it won’t matter if they are active.” 

Aware of recent events in Berkeley, Guereca notes that there’s a possibility of resistance on the other side. “Our core is to be peaceful and our core messaging is not to engage in the negative,” she notes. “We have different opinions but we must be respectful of the space and the city around us. We aren’t going to get anywhere unless we respect each other.” As numerous fights seem to pop up almost daily, Guereca says we need to focus on Flipping the House in 2018. 

Guereca encourages anyone interested in participating in the day’s events to pre-register in advance for logistical purposes through Event Brite or at the foundation website.  Organizers have been coordinating with Metro and LAPD, as well as the Fire Department and have partnered with groups to bus people in. “We’ve been working with city officials. We will have music all day at Pershing Square, as well as speakers and interactive booths. The City has definitely been very helpful with resistance,” she says. 

About May Day: May 1 has been recognized as International Workers Day since 1886 when on that day, 35,000 workers went on strike for an 8-hour workday. California-based SEIU-USWW, whose members include janitors, bank security officers, baggage handlers, hospital staff, hotel workers, and stadium and amusement park workers is calling for a General Strike on Monday, May 1. 

About Rock the Vote: The largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization in the country has a mission of driving the youth vote to the polls. Since 1990, Rock the Vote has fused pop culture, music, art and technology to build long-term youth political power and in the past six Presidential elections, the organization ran the largest voter registration drives for young people, working with over 25,000 partners through its online multilingual voter registration tool. Rock The Vote is committed to mobilizing the vote, protecting voting rights and advocating for an electoral process, as well as a voting system that works for the Millennial generation.

 

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

CAPITAL & MAIN-A nationwide movement that began 53 years ago to reform the pretrial incarceration and money bail process has finally reached the legislative committees and political bargaining tables in Washington and Sacramento. Reform advocates – including legislators, prosecutors, attorneys, judges and grassroots organizations – contend that the use of a money bail system for pretrial release is unfair to the poor and unsafe for the public. 

In 1964, then-U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy told the Senate: “Every year in this country, thousands of persons are kept in jail for weeks and even months following arrest. They are not yet proven guilty. They may be no more likely to flee than you or I. But nonetheless, most of them must stay in jail because to be blunt, they cannot afford to pay for their freedom.” 

Kennedy’s efforts helped pass the Criminal Justice Act of 1964 and the Bail Reform Act of 1966, which created a presumption of release before trial for most federal defendants, and mostly did away with the money bail system in federal proceedings. But not for local and state jurisdictions, which account for most of the country’s jail population and in which the money-bail system still controls the release of defendants, dangerous or not. Only two countries, the U.S. and the Philippines, currently use the money bail system, according to California legislators. 

Four months ago California State Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) and Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced the California Money Bail Reform Act of 2017 — identical pieces of legislation (Senate Bill 10 and Assembly Bill 42) that would phase out excessive money bail systems statewide for most misdemeanors and some nonviolent felonies. And this past March, Los Angeles-area Congressman Ted Lieu introduced the No Money Bail Act of 2017 in Washington. 

Median bail in California is $50,000. If an arrestee uses a bail bond agent, he or she has to pay the agent a nonrefundable 10 percent for release – in the case of the median bond, that’s $5,000. Even bail for many misdemeanors can run over $1,000 – still beyond the reach of many indigent defendants. This results in poor defendants spending weeks or months in jail awaiting trial, causing the loss of jobs, homes, cars and in many cases, the family’s primary breadwinner. 

According to a report issued by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), more than 62 percent of county jail inmates are awaiting trials or sentencing, translating into about 46,000 Californians on a daily basis, say Hertzberg and Bonta. Most remain in jail because they can’t afford bail. 

“The current cash bail system is the modern equivalent of a debtor’s prison — it criminalizes poverty, pure and simple,” Hertzberg told a December news conference when he and Bonta introduced their legislation.

“In many cases,” added Bonta, “if you have enough money to pay your bail, you can get out of jail regardless of whether you are a danger to the public or a flight risk. But if you’re poor and not a flight risk or a danger to the public, you are forced to stay in jail, even when the charge is a misdemeanor. That’s not justice.” 

Ato Walker of San Jose shared his own story at that same press conference. 

“I was falsely accused of something and went to jail for five days,” Walker told reporters. 

“My bail was $165,000 initially and through the arraignment my bail got to be down to $85,000,” he said. “And that’s after I had hundreds of letters of support from people in my community saying I was a decent human being…but still inside the courtroom the district attorney said it seems like he’s a threat to society and the judge went with that.” 

Walker was released, he said, when his mother, a retired U.S. Postal Service worker, came up with the 10 percent he needed to pay a bail agent. 

A choked-up Walker, who was there with his young son, said he recognized he would have had to stay in jail. “If my mother had not stepped up and taken money out of her retirement account … [she did] that so I could be there to support my family.” 

When Walker eventually went to his pretrial proceeding, he said, the charges against him were dropped. But his mother lost the money she had to give a bail agent to get him out of lockup.

Walker said he appreciated the support that he got from his family and the community, but that he knew that many poor detainees don’t have that support and he wanted to publicly thank the politicians who are trying to change the current bail system. 

Bonta and Hertzberg are heading a coalition of support that includes Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, the American Civil Liberties Union, Californians for Safety and Justice, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, the Essie Justice Group, Western Center on Law and Poverty, Service Employees Union International, California, and others. 

Instead of relying exclusively on a money bail system that forces people to pay nonrefundable deposits to private companies, Bonta and Hertzberg are seeking a system that follows the lead of the federal government, the District of Columbia’s local courts and a number of other states that have already reformed their systems. 

Those systems rely mainly on pretrial services and assessment examinations to cut down on the pretrial jail population, thereby saving tax money, increasing rates of court appearances by detainees who have been bailed out and protecting the public by refusing bail to inmates deemed a danger to society or a flight risk, no matter how much money they have. 

Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) a coauthor of AB 42, said at the December news conference that research has shown that “prisoners held two or three days are 22 percent more likely to fail to come to court.” 

The proposed legislation, as currently written, will require counties to set up a “pretrial services agency that would be responsible for gathering information about newly arrested persons, conducting pretrial risk assessments, preparing individually tailored recommendations to the court and providing pretrial services and supervision to persons on pretrial release.” It also: 

  • Provides for the use of “unsecured appearance bonds,” by which defendants agree to pay a specific amount if he or she fails to appear in court. 
  • Gives reminders to defendants about upcoming court dates, and helps with transportation, if needed. Money bail options are included in these bills, provided the bail is the “least restrictive necessary to assure the appearance” in court, and the court must conduct an inquiry to determine the defendant’s ability to pay the bail. 
  • Enables prosecutors to file a motion for pretrial detention and precludes people from being eligible for pretrial release if they are charged with a capital crime, a felony involving violence or sexual assault, or if the person’s release would likely result in harm to others, or if the person had threatened harm to others. 

Hertzberg’s bill passed through the Senate Public Safety Committee by a 5 to 1 vote in early April and is headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Bonta’s version of the bill receives a hearing Tuesday in the State Assembly’s Committee on Public Safety. 

The cost to house California inmates averages about $114 per day, according to the PPIC. In Los Angeles the average cost for Fiscal Year 2015-2016 was slightly more than $178 per day, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which reports that about $797 million – or 24 percent of the department’s total budget – goes to operate the county’s jail system. 

There’s been no study done in LA County regarding how many inmates remain in its jail system because they are too poor to post a money bail, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida.

Based on the experience of other locales, Bonta said, he’s learned that most nonviolent offenders will show up for their court appearances and not commit additional crimes after they’ve been released from jail without posting a money bond. “I also learned that over 50 percent of the jail cells were being taken up by people who couldn’t pay bail,” Bonta said, noting that the current money bail system is “clearly discriminatory against the poor and people of color.” 

In addition to a mandatory pretrial risk assessment examination, Bonta told Capital & Main, he’s also open to using ankle monitoring systems and even small bail amounts — for example, $100 — as a very last resort. 

Beth Chapman, (photo left) the wife and business partner of the reality TV bounty hunter, Duane “Dog” Chapman, has testified before a federal Court of Appeals panel that “people are not in jail because they’re poor. They are trying to paint a picture that all poor people are languishing in jail, and it just isn’t true.” She has also appeared in Breitbart News interviews on the subject of bail reform, which the right-wing site has connected to plots allegedly hatched by billionaire George Soros and others.  

Capital & Main’s repeated phone calls for comment to the Professional Bail Agents of the United States, a trade group Beth Chapman heads, were not returned. The organization’s website, though, warns in red letters that “the bail industry is under attack!” Capital & Main’s calls to another bail-bonds trade organization, the California Bail Agents Association, were also not returned. 

Jeff Clayton is the executive director of the Lakewood, Colorado-based American Bail Coalition, a 10-year-old trade association representing insurance underwriters of bail bonds across the country. In California, he said, all bail bonds must be underwritten by an insurance company. 

Clayton told Capital & Main that nationwide, the bail bond industry is a multibillion dollar business and that lobbying efforts against the California and House versions of bail reform are in full swing. He insisted the vast majority of bonds issued help guarantee that defendants would show up for court. 

Clayton acknowledged that there were problems related to the top 10 percent of bonds issued to defendants who could be dangerous or flight risks, and to the bottom 10 percent of indigent defendants. 

He said that the industry would be open to working with legislatures to fix those problems, especially regarding misdemeanor defendants. 

Clayton also said there were discussions underway with Hertzberg and Bonta’s offices on their proposed bills and that he felt confident that a “viable compromise,” which would maintain the money bail process in California, could be worked out. 

Ted Lieu’s previous No Money Bail Act died in the House last year. His 2017 version is short and straightforward. It would prohibit the payment of money as a condition of pretrial release in any federal case. (Federal judges can still order property bonds as a condition of release.) It would also amend the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 to make any state that did not reform its bail system within three years of passage and signing of this law, ineligible for funding under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program. 

In Fiscal Year 2016 California received more than $28.9 million in JAG awards, with more than $10.7 million going to counties and cities, and more than $18.2 million going to the California Board of State and Community Corrections, according to Lieu’s office. 

“Some conservatives and libertarians have shown interest because reform will save tax money and the bill is flexible on how states can handle the reform process,” Lieu said. “Kentucky is a very red state and yet they have instituted reform measures in their bail system.” 

The U.S. Justice Department, under former President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, also weighed into the debate over bail reform, filing friend-of-the-court briefs in several cases in Georgia and Alabama in 2015 and 2016 — calling money bail systems that continue to jail defendants because they are poor unconstitutional. Civil rights division attorneys filed court papers stating categorically that “bail practices that incarcerate indigent individuals before trial solely because of their inability to pay for their release violate the Fourteenth Amendment.” Justice Department attorneys also stated, “Fixed bail schedules that allow for the pretrial release of only those who can pay, without accounting for the ability to pay unlawfully discriminate based on indigence.” 

Washington, DC’s local courts have the most experience using a pretrial release system that is based on inmate assessments rather than money bail. Cliff Keenan is the director of DC’s Pretrial Services Agency, a federally funded, independent entity within the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency charged with formulating release recommendations and providing supervision and services to defendants awaiting trial. His office handles some 22,000 cases a year, including 4,000 felonies and 17,000 misdemeanors. 

Keenan told Capital & Main that the District stopped using any money as a condition of pretrial release in 1992, when a new Bail Reform Act mandated that defendants would receive a hearing with 24 hours of their detention to determine their release status. The act’s reforms have also enabled judges to hold defendants without bail, Keenan said, “if they were determined to be a flight risk or a danger to the community or to witnesses in their case.” 

While there have been failures, Keenan pointed to his office’s latest published figures showing that “91 percent of released defendants remained arrest-free while their cases were adjudicated; 98 percent of released defendants were not rearrested for a crime of violence while in the community pending trial; 90 percent of released defendants made all scheduled court appearances and 88 percent of released defendants remained on release at the conclusion of their pretrial status.” 

New Jersey, the most recent state to reform its former money bail release system, began its new system in January. Elie Honig, New Jersey’s Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, told Capital & Main the bail reform process began in 2014 and first required a vote to change the state’s constitution so that dangerous criminals charged with non-capital crimes could be held without bail after their arrest. 

“The reforms have focused more of our attention on dangerous cases – and in those cases prosecutors are fighting hard for detention without bail,” Honig said. The first report on the impact of the state’s reforms is due by the end of June. 

New Jersey’s new system uses a computerized Public Safety Assessment (PSA), six-point tool to quickly issue a score for each defendant based on various risk factors, including the seriousness of the alleged crime, and the defendant’s criminal and court history. The PSA tool, Honig said, was not the endpoint but a starting line for determining whether a defendant could be safely released. The state’s pretrial services agency is then charged with providing a full assessment of a defendant’s risk forrelease before a judge determines the final outcome. 

The new law also mandates a speedy trial system for defendants, Honig continued, requiring that a detained defendant must be arraigned within 90 days of his or her arrest and the case brought to trial within 180 days. 

Neither LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey nor the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles would comment on any of the pending bail reform legislation offered by Lieu, Hertzberg or Bonta. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Nicole Nishida told Capital & Main it was “too early [for the sheriff] to comment on this [California legislation] since the language is still being finalized by Senator Hertzberg and Assemblyman Bonta.” 

So far, law enforcement opposition includes the Association for Deputy District Attorneys, the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association several uniformed-officer unions. 

“I don’t expect Lieu’s legislation to go anywhere,” said the American Bail Coalition’s Jeff Clayton. “States make more money off [taxing] the bail bond industry than they would lose in JAG grants, so I don’t think you can coerce them into making reforms.” Besides, he said, “Cash bonds are tools that judges can use to insure that justice is done. You want to give judges more tools, not take them away.” 

Despite a Republican-controlled House and Senate, and the election of Donald Trump as president and a Justice Department now overseen by a hardline conservative, former Alabama U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, Congressman Lieu remains optimistic about his bill’s prospects.t a money bail system was patently discriminatory against the poor and people of color, Lieu noted that there are more than 450,000 people nationwide now sitting in jail — many if not most of whom are there just because they can’t afford to post bail. “America’s criminal justice system isn’t just broken,” Lieu said, “it violates our nation’s core values.”

 

(Jim Crogan is a writer for Capital & Main, where this piece was first posted.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

EDUCATION POLITICS--Elections have a way of setting up false choices. In the runoff for the LA School Board’s 4th District seat, voters are told to line up behind either pro-union or pro-charter candidates.

Progress for our schools, however, lies beyond the campaigns of these two firmly entrenched camps.

Especially now, when the Betsy DeVos agenda makes such a stark (and easy) enemy, public education advocates need to do more to further our cause than follow campaign narratives. It simply cannot be that the only stakeholders who matter are school district employees and those who want to privatize our schools.

The situation cries for an independent voice, a radical middle.

Individual school communities understand this. Parents, teachers, students and principals have been working together to strengthen and improve our schools outside the terms of the political debate. Yet, there has been little opportunity for us to be heard above the powerful interests during this critical election.

There is little talk about how schools will be supported, about policies that will improve our schools, about fighting legislation that causes schools to struggle. As we have seen in the last four years, a board majority “on our side” does not guarantee support for our schools in the fight against privatization.

After recent meetings with Steve Zimmer, I am now confident that he understands this and that he will welcome the independent voices. 

So I am endorsing Steve Zimmer for school board and I'm endorsing a process to help advocates for public schools hold him more accountable for seeing his rhetorical goals through.

Zimmer still differs from public education activists on some fundamental issues. His unequivocal support for school choice as a right should cause alarm to anyone fighting against privatization. Put another way, school choice is a way for our government officials to tell schools they’re on their own. And Zimmer’s unapologetic support of the temporary teaching corps, TFA, undermines the stability of our schools and the teaching profession.

Nick Melvoin supports these things, too. But he has tapped into the demands of parents and community members frustrated with an unresponsive school district. While I believe Melvoin would support efforts to improve schools regardless of which camp they come from, his reform agenda goes too far. His refusal to support legislation that would make charter schools as accountable with public money as public schools are seems to show that he is carrying the water of corporate privatizers more than being the independent voice he could be.

Moreover, the stakes of Zimmer’s re-election are higher than they were in the March primary because UTLA sat out of the race to unseat corporate reformer Monica Garcia who coasted to re-election in District 2.

LAUSD has a long way to go toward the right side of some key issues. Steve Zimmer gives us the best chance, but only if those in the movement to save and support public education push him and the rest of the school board long after the election.

Think of it as the radical resistance.

(Karen Wolfe is a public school parent, the Executive Director of PS Connect and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)

-cw

GELFAND’S WORLD--Earlier this week, Writers Bloc presented a panel discussion aptly titled, Is Freedom of the Press Under Siege? It was chaired by Kevin Roderick, [www.LAobserved.com] founder of LAobserved. The panelists included Dylan Byers of CNN, Cathleen Decker, senior political journalist for the LA Times, and Karlene Goller, an attorney who was formerly with the LA Times. 

You might recall that back in February, Trump referred to the media as "the enemy of the American people."  He had made comments during the campaign about making life more difficult for the New York Times, particularly when it came to their right to print negative comments about him. When a person with the power of the presidency makes such threats, it's not surprising that his targets become concerned. 

As Cathleen Decker recounted, Trump's campaign rallies included nasty remarks about the press that were picked up by his audience. As the campaign wore on, members of those audiences came to rallies prepared in advance to shout nasty epithets at reporters. Since the Trump campaign segregated reporters within a bullpen, they were an easily identifiable target. 

The American press found itself in a bind. The news media found themselves reporting on a pathological liar, but Trump was a liar who retaliated against those who were trying to expose him. Trump, it must be said, has a certain talent for retaliation. He talked about the "failing" New York Times, and refers to truthful stories about himself as fake news. 

A generation of journalists who had grown up on Orwell's 1984 and The Manchurian Candidate found themselves looking at the same sorts of ugly propaganda that were made famous not only in those works of fiction, but also in the propaganda efforts of communist and fascist governments.

Calling the media the enemy of the American people was something of a last straw, raising some very real concerns among those who began to view Trump's election as "regime change" that went beyond normal boundaries. We've had some pretty conservative presidents over the past couple of decades, but neither Reagan nor either Bush tried to turn the American people against the press as a legitimate element of American governance. 

Now all of a sudden, we are experiencing that very thing. It's not surprising that serious thinkers became concerned, or that people would be asking whether freedom of the press is under siege. 

What's interesting here in April is that the members of this panel didn't seem as concerned about impending loss of freedoms as people were as recently as February. It's not so much that people feel secure with Trump and Ryan in charge of things, but that the immediate, direct threat to freedom of the press doesn't seem as serious all of a sudden. 

What's going on? 

I would guess that members of the mainstream press have found out that they can give as good as they are getting. They have stayed on the story of Russian influence in spite of Trump's protestations. And while all this has been going on, there has been a distinct absence of jackbooted thugs breaking down the doors of newsrooms and rounding up editors. Trump gets to continue to complain, but he's beginning to discover that he can't forbid fact checking. Moreover, there is a longstanding tradition both here and abroad: When the president of the United States says something -- anything at all -- it is supposed to be taken seriously. Members of the press and of the opposite political party listen carefully, parsing each comment. It is expected that the president considers carefully what to say in public. 

Until The Donald, that is. And by shooting from the hip, Trump makes a fool of himself, and lessens his ability to play the dictator. It's hard to do that when people don't take you seriously. 

Trump is only now learning (if he is learning) that when the government says we are sending an Armada to Korean waters to send a message to North Korea, it is going to look pretty stupid if that carrier task force is actually traveling in the opposite direction. In the early going of this presidency, those who tell the truth about Trump's lies are holding a modest lead, in that public acceptance of Trump as president continues to fall. 

In other words, there is still room in our journalistic universe for the truth to be told. Even the president's powers are limited. Panelists pointed out that the Los Angeles Times just published a series on Trump's propensity to lie. As Dylan Byers politely pointed out, this was pretty much preaching to the choir. That is likely correct, but the ability to preach to the choir is an important part of press freedom. 

There was also some legal and technical discussion. The panelists agreed that getting sources within the administration is important. It follows that protecting sources is equally important. 

Attorney Goller provided a fairly involved explanation for the current state of the law. As of now, the view of the courts is that as long as a reporter does not do anything directly illegal, that reporter can make use of sources that innocently fall into his or her hands. That doesn't mean that a government staffer who works in the White House can't be prosecuted for taking a document and providing it to a reporter. But if the reporter receives a comment (with or without a document) from a White House source, the reporter is legally safe. The reporter's task is therefore to learn to protect human sources and to hide the origins of documents. 

The punch line to all this legalistic stress is that newsrooms and reporters are learning to use electronic masking tools to protect the origins and content of emails. Encryption is becoming a journalistic skill that is just as important to the new generation as the Associated Press Style Manual. 

This has been a necessarily incomplete rendition of a complex discussion carried out among a learned panel. There are a couple of issues that I would like to raise based on some of that discussion. 

As reporter Decker pointed out, modern newspapers keep separation between the editorial and reporting sides. Editorial positions are determined by separate groups of people and written by editorial writers. In theory, this protects the integrity -- and therefore the reputation -- of the news-gathering side. 

I question the usefulness of this separation in one regard. When it comes to arguments involving fact -- let's take as an example the credibility of anti-vaccination vs. pro-vaccination views -- there is a legitimate and overwhelming balance in favor of the safety and efficacy of vaccination. It's taken years for the news media to begin to report that one side is right and the other is wrong. 

Through long tradition, the journalistic, reporting side of the news doesn't like to use the word liar or the word lie when it comes to obvious untruths. There are a couple of problems with this approach. The first is that it fails to complete the story. When one side is clearly lying, it fails to make clear to the reader that this is the case. The other problem with this is a little more nuanced. In a battle between legitimate reporters and liars, the legitimate side is fighting with one arm tied behind its back. Infowars makes some story up out of whole cloth, Brietbart repeats it, and legitimate newspapers are stuck in a very old rut, reporting the allegation and filling in a little "balance" by explaining that there is no evidence that Obama ever apologized to Japan for the American use of the atomic bomb, nor did he wiretap Trump. 

Meanwhile, gullible people read such stories on the internet and on their Facebook feeds, and become poisoned in their attitudes toward voting for non-Republican candidates. 

There is a bigger question that I raised briefly with a couple of the panelists at the end. Back in the early 1990s, Rush Limbaugh started to push the idea that the mainstream media have a liberal bias. It's an entirely nonsensical assertion, unless you interpret liberal bias to mean anything and everything that is not in agreement with what Limbaugh says on any given day. But an entire generation of American voters was exposed to this, in spite of the fact that most major newspapers and television networks are owned by fabulously wealthy individuals and corporations. Meanwhile, Fox News does the Limbaugh approach as an entire television news network. 

So the basic question, yet to be answered effectively, is how to combat wholesale lying by wealthy interests. It may be impossible to convince a whole generation of conservatives that there could be at least some validity to the idea of providing health care in spite of preexisting conditions, but it is important to communicate to those people that there is a debate. In short, has freedom of the press been downgraded by the big lie, but remains one means in the pursuit of telling the truth to gullible people?

 

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

-cw

TRANSIT WATCH--For years, I've been among those who've been told that this or that project "will neeeeeever happen" and then it does happen.  Sometimes, it's a win:  the Expo Line, or a Metro Rail/LAX Connection. Sometimes, it's a loss: Measure S, and the hope that LA will embrace legally-, scientifically- and environmentally-coherent Planning policy. 

But then there's the issue of not repeating the mistake of throwing away a perfectly good rail right-of-way, owned by all taxpaying citizens, which could provide a cost-effective "Second Downtown Light Rail Connector" to link LAX to South and Southeast LA, the Blue Line, the Gold Line, and Union Station. 

The idea of relegating a rail right of way (the Harbor Subdivision Right of Way) between the Crenshaw and Blue Lines, or the Crenshaw Line and the LA River, to a walkway/bikeway instead of a full light rail line WITH a walk/bikeway makes as much sense as ... 

... when the Expo Line rail right of way was to be relegated to a walk/bikeway instead of the light rail line (with a walk/bikeway) like we now have.  That was a stupid idea which we avoided in 2001, when the Expo Light Rail Line was decided by the Metro Board, and this "Rail to Rail" idea pushed by the Metro Board now is just as stupid. 

And short-sighted. And insulting to the taxpayers and to commuters and to tourists ... and to just about anyone with common sense. 

Heck, I'll go out on a limb and guess that even the Metro planners got stuck with this "Rail to River" idea against their will.  Virtually all of the Metro planners/staff I've ever met are sincere, receptive, and visionary engineers and professionals who have made me PROUD to pay my sales taxes in L.A. County. 

There is a growing interest in having an urban renewal and redevelopment, coupled with a Metro station or in the Arts District and the industrialized portion of southeast Downtown. 

There is also a growing interest as to which route the proposed light rail line from southeast L.A. County to Downtown should take.  

There is also a growing interest as to ensuring that BOTH the proposed routes of the Eastside Gold Line (SR-60 freeway route, and Montebello/Whittier route) are built out. 

Put this all together, as well as the knowledge that the Blue Line is virtually at full capacity, and the Expo Line is racing to full capacity decades faster than planned ... 

... and the idea of a SECOND DOWNTOWN LIGHT RAIL CONNECTOR using the Harbor Subdivision to connect LAX to Inglewood, the Blue Line, the Southeast Cities Light Rail Line, the Arts District, the Gold Lines, and Union Station virtually writes itself. 

Yes, portions of that right-of-way need repair because the Alameda Freight Corridor ripped through it (and appropriately so, based on our priorities twenty years ago), but a bridge or two could fix that. 

And Yes, we need an accompanying walkway/bikeway just like we need an Expo Bikeway to accompany the Expo Light Rail Line. 

And YES, this will help create affordable housing for the middle class to access their jobs and revitalize an area of Los Angeles that has been ignored for too long. 

So let's throw out that Major Investment Study to do Rail to River/Rail the right way, and not make the same mistake that we almost made with the Expo Line. 

And while we're at it, could we throw out another Major Investment Study to extend the Green Line to Torrance and the Blue Line? 

Clearly, a rail system, as with a freeway system, makes sense when we create a full network. 

Not rocket science here, folks ... just rail science and good, healthy dose of common sense and respect for the taxpayers.

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He 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.)

-cw

EASTSIDER-Since this is the last article before vote-by-mail runoff balloting begins this week, I am going to get a little lengthy and cover two different events. First was the Monday night knock down drag-out debate between Gil Cedillo and Joe Bray-Ali held in the Pico/Union area of the district. Second is the allegation that Joe Bray-Ali was a Republican who switched to Democrat simply in order to take on Cedillo

The Pico Union Debate 

If the Highland Park “bike wars” scene was Joe Bray-Ali’s home turf, the Pico/Union District is Gil Cedillo’s. The differences between the Glassell Park primary debate held at Sotomayor Learning Academies, and this one, are huge. At the Glassell Park debate, Joe had the bulk of the crowd on his side. Here at Pico/Union, both sides had a large, rowdy contingent unafraid to express themselves vigorously, but Gil clearly had the majority. And it was another very large crowd. The Monsenor Romero Hall is listed as holding 250, but my best guess is that there were more like 300 packed in. 

For those unfamiliar with the area, it is home to some of the poorest in Los Angeles -- homeless, undocumented, dreamers, with everyone mostly squished into a ton of old rental units. It is also a recent victim of the relentless gentrification we Angelenos are getting used to, in this case aided and abetted by clever owner/landlords who know how to threaten and manipulate people without power or resources to fight back. 

With a very high density, the area is over 80% Latino, home for a lot of folks from El Salvador and Mexico. It also has pockets of old Victorian houses on big lots, locations that have the non-affordable “affordable housing” developers salivating. 

Anyhow, with all the chips on the line, this event was only marginally civil. While Joe Bray-Ali didn’t actually call Gil Cedillo “Road Kill Gil,” that subtext was there loud and clear. And basically, Gil Cedillo did call Joe Bray-Ali a “liar who will say anything to get elected.” Ya gotta love it. 

More important to me were the questions asked by the moderator, La Opinion’s Pilar Marrero, who did a good job (under trying circumstances) to maintain some semblance of order and get the questions answered. 

Let me give a shout out to the sponsors, including Inquilinos Unidos, Eviction Defense Network, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), Inner City Law Center, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, Hunger Action LA, WORKS, the Los Angeles Human Right to Housing Collective, and the National Lawyers Guild’s Housing Committee. 

The Eleven Questions 

I counted eleven questions. From my hastily written notes, here’s the issues they covered: 

  1. Development, particularly density, affordability, increased mixed use, and displacement issues. 
  1. How to promote real affordable housing, and also answer if affordable housing is really a bait and switch. 
  1. Top three priorities in dealing with gentrification and resulting displacement. 
  1. Handling eviction attempts. 
  1. Housing Authority waiting lists have been closed since 2012, while only homeless are currently getting any vouchers. What’s to be done? 
  1. Renters are often harassed in Pico/Union. Why not adopt an Anti-harassment Ordinance in Los Angeles, like other cities have done? 
  1. What provisions would you make for affordable services for LGBT youth in the area? 
  1. In the Pico/Union area, not to mention McArthur Park/Westlake areas, how will you protect the poor and undocumented as the developers move in and try to displace them? 
  1. How will you ensure affordable housing and at the same time protect the natural environment? 
  1. For renters, how can you help ensure that landlords provide timely and quality repairs for tenants? 
  1. How will you handle the privatization of remaining public spaces? 

You can see how closely these questions match up to the demographic realities of the area, along with the fears and vulnerability of many who live there. Clearly these questions played to Gil Cedillo’s strengths and legislative history. 

I won’t go into a detailed discussion of each question, since some answers strayed pretty far from the questions and there were often interruptions by one group or another; occasionally, a candidate did not really answer the question. Suffice it to say that these are people and issues that Gil Cedillo is very familiar with, and while Joe Bray-Ali gave it a decent try, this was a far cry from his home base of Highland Park and Glassell Park. 

On the substance of the answers, and factoring out personal attacks, Cedillo clearly had the best of it, recognizing that some of these important questions really have no simple answers that can be addressed in a debate setting. 

Is Joe Bray-Ali Really a Closet Republican? 

Last Saturday a flyer made the rounds from Eric Bauman, head of the LA County Democratic Party. It essentially said that Joe Bray-Ali was registered as a Republican back in 2012, and has only changed his affiliation to Democrat in order to run against Gil Cedillo in an overwhelmingly Democratic Council District. 

I understand why Joe would change his affiliation to run in CD 1 -- a Republican might just as well commit suicide as run under that banner in this district. And I don’t question his right to do so, for whatever reasons. But it seemed pretty weird that this issue did not surface until now. 

Actually, it all makes me wonder if the EAPD (East Area Progressive Democrats) knew about it when they endorsed Joe as a Dmocrat, and you can be sure it will be a hot topic at the NEDC (Northeast Dems) endorsement meeting on April 19. While I am unaware of any particular rule that the Democratic Party or, for that matter, either of the clubs have regarding how long you have to be a Dmocrat to be eligible for an endorsement, you would think that it would be a proper subject for discussion. 

So I sent an email to Ari Bessendorf, Joe Bray-Ali’s Campaign Manager, asking for a response to the hit piece. I have never heard back from him. Due to this non-response, and based on the fact that during the Pico/Union Debate Joe never denied that he had been a Republican, I conclude that the allegations are true. 

Maybe I’m just old school, and it may be that the younger generation moving into CD 1 are a lot more cynical and apolitical than my generation and don’t care too much about party affiliation. Goodness knows, they have enough on their plate with huge student loans, no guaranteed jobs, and outrageous housing costs. Besides, as readers of CityWatch know, the Mayor and City Council are pretty non-partisan as they march to the tune of the developers, 15-0 no matter what. 

In the end, for me, the issue of being a Democrat over time is a big deal. My dad was a progressive Democrat and dentist in Orange County, and paid a pretty big price for his views in the heyday of the John Birch Society. Personally, I’ve always been part of the ground-up progressive wing of the Democratic Party, demanding that they listen to the troops instead of acting like a top down club for lifer politicians and the big money that co-opts them all too often. And that was before I went to Berkeley in the 60s. 

The Takeaway 

Over the years, I’ve pretty much lived all over LA, from Beachwood Dr. and Laurel Canyon, to Park LaBrea and The Brewery in Lincoln Heights. Even spent some time over in the soft underbelly of East Hollywood by LA City College; and now I live in Glassell Park. It’s a glorious, crazy and very unforgiving town unless you have money.

For all that, throughout my journey I have come love this patchwork that we call Los Angeles, even with all its constant upheavals.

In terms of the runoff, I actually like both candidates. Even though he acted like an out-of-control you-know-what during the “bike wars”in Highland Park, Joe is not afraid to call out the establishment and put pedal to the metal. He’s willing to give his all to try and change the system -- running for office without serious money is not for the faint of heart. He has a passionate following and it is only likely to grow as CD 1 continues to morph into whatever gentrified entity we are going to become, increasing inequality and all. 

I also like Gil. He’s a hard guy to get to know, and he does not have that “hi, how are ya’” plastic veneer of the true professional politician -- like Eric Garcetti or Herb Wesson, who smile at you even though they’d do you in without even a flicker of emotion. At the same time, I know that Gil has always had a real passion for the under-represented like the undocumented and dreamers, even though those people mostly don’t vote and have a very healthy distrust of government. He’s demonstrated these qualities going all the way back to when he ran SEIU Local 660 (now SEIU Local 721) in LA County. And that was at a time when these opinions were not without controversy. Same for the California state legislature. 

And yes, Gil plays the game and takes the developer/Chevron money. But of course, so does the entire rest of the LA City Council, the Mayor, and the City Attorney -- including, by the way, CD 13’s Mitch O’Farrell, a Democrat who recently endorsed Joe Bray-Ali. 

At the end of the day, I’m voting for Gil Cedillo and would urge you to do so as well.

 

(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.

PREVEN REPORT-A message from the City of Los Angeles to Taser International CEO Rick Smith: “Rick, it has been a pleasure doing business with you and now, without further ado, we are going to kick your ass.” Why? It’s hard to explain with our hands trembling in rage. 

Rick Smith announced two weeks ago that Taser International will offer body cameras and cloud storage free of charge for a year to any eligible police department in America. “We’re taking a pretty big financial risk,” he said to Fast Company magazine, “but we looked at this and we frankly feel that the benefits are so overwhelming. If we can get cameras in the hands of police officers, they will immediately pay for themselves.” 

To avoid conflicts of interest, Taser will not offer the eye-popping promotion to agencies with whom it’s already pursuing business. 

Let’s see. One year of free cameras and cloud storage for every police department in the country. But wasn’t it just ten months ago, on June 22, that you charged LA $8 million for “one year of body cameras and cloud storage?” And didn’t you tell us that this was a great deal -- the best possible, as required by your “most favored” pricing policy? Is the remainder of the $31 million contract – years 2 through 5 -- also a great deal? 

“If we can get cameras in the hands of police officers, they will immediately pay for themselves,” we’re told. If that’s true, then why did LA get charged the $8 million? It would have been a rip-off, apparently, even if we hadn’t paid a nickel for year one. But we paid $8 million. 

No worries. Taser can just refund us for year one -- extend the deal to LA. 

But Rick Smith fears not because, he says, we’re already in his fleecing machine and so it would be a conflict of interest to give us the promotion. 

All this and then in return we receive a defective product -- a camera which endangers civilians and officers by failing to produce an accurate account of an encounter. The cameras can’t see what the officer looks at since they “chop” the heads off of those being spoken to and they get blocked when the officer assumes the shooting stance. 

Ahem … Mr. Mayor?


(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer and Joshua is a teacher.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

STREET TALK--Of course! I am sure that you have most probably and most definitely heard by now that Skid Row has lost its bid; it's election for recognition by the city as an official subdivision of the downtown neighborhood council! Skid row lost by 62 votes!   

General Jeff Page is bound and determined to be recognized by the city! He has filed a number of grievances and challenges! Nine challenges to be exact! Other actions are most definitely on the horizon in retaliation and in response to the city's denial of recognition of a SRNC! 

Last I heard; one of his challenges has already been successfully received, found valid! He is most definitely moving forward! He is moving onward and upward, towards victory for the Skid Row community!  

However!  

There is mutiny in the midst! Members of the community who doubt that the city will adequately, efficiently and effectively represent, recognize, minister to and meet the needs of Skid Row have organized and separated from Jeff Page and the original Skid Row formation committee; forming their very own 'new Skid Row neighborhood council'!  

DLANC has a long history of denying support and funding to various entities and organizations on Skid Row; especially those who fight for increased accessible affordable housing and those who expose civil/human rights violations, police brutality etc! 

Undoubtedly, DLANC does not want the primarily black residents  on Skid Row to get any money! Neither do they want the people of Skid Row to have a voice in exposing and preventing police brutality, in determinng, selecting, ensuring adequate, increased, accessible affordable housing, or in determining just what new businesses are in Skid Row etc! Thereby raising the standard of living; upsetting the status quo in favor of the poor and colored people who live in Skid Row! Lovingly and fondly referred to as 'Skid Rowdians'! That would be 3rd street to the north! 7th street to the south! Alameda to the east! Main street to the west!   


(Yvonne Michelle Autry is a Skid Row activist and a voice for the homeless.)

-cw

MCDONALD REPORT--New York Times reporters often cover Los Angeles as if they are newly arrived missionaries encountering a lost Amazonian tribe for first time  — and the “unsophisticated” natives don’t know what’s best for them. It would be funny if it wasn’t so wrong. 

That mentality was on display on April 11 when the paper published, “‘A Different Los Angeles’: The City Moves to Alter Its Sprawling Image.”  The piece essentially told the world that the natives in LA have finally gotten their acts together and will build a dense city like any proper metropolis should. But as is also too often the case, the newbie missionary ignores, or has little idea of, the street-level impacts of what he or she is championing. 

Before we keep going, we believe the Times is an important newspaper that contributes mightily to American society and helps us maintain (and gain) our rights and freedoms. It provides similar, and invaluable, services on the international stage. People should read the New York Times

Let’s go back to LA. 

From the get-go, the informed reader sees trouble coming just by looking at who’s quoted in the article. No social justice activists, no homeowner groups, no good government watchdogs. In sum, no citizen, activist, or grassroots organization that knows what’s happening on the street. That’s not good. 

Instead, the New York Times talks with Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, and wealthy developer Nelson Rising. That’s it. All are members in good standing of LA’s political and civic establishment, and that establishment wants to build tall and dense — billions of dollars in profits and millions of dollars in campaign contributions can be made.  

For Hawthorne, he’s been pushing a theory called the “Third LA,” which proposes a denser Los Angeles with a more pedestrian culture. He helps to promote the politicians and developers’ agenda. 

Since only the LA Establishment gets to have its say, readers never learn why so many activists and residents are up in arms over new development.  

Right now, lower- and middle-class Angelenos from the San Fernando Valley to the Westside to the Eastside to South LA are dealing with displacement and gentrification caused by all forms of dense, luxury housing. Over the past several years, City Hall politicians have been rubber-stamping such high-end projects for deep-pocketed developers who hand over campaign contributions and other political money. 

It makes perfect sense that residents are resistant to change, also called “progress” by the L.A. establishment that kicks them out of their homes. The Times makes no mention of all that.

The establishment wants to build transit-oriented development. By only talking with the establishment, the New York Times essentially approves of that desire. But a recent UCLA study found that transit-oriented development in L.A. creates gentrification

The Times shows no knowledge of the study, but the self-righteous missionary is unconcerned about learning such details. He or she knows best no matter what, even if the tribe will suffer.

Such a missionary is also not troubled by some chicanery in order to “civilize” the natives.

In one shocking passage, which undoubtedly made LA activists do a spit take in disbelief while drinking their morning coffee, the Times noted: 

Mr. Garcetti said he planned to eliminate regulations that stymie innovation, “whether it’s the size of units, or the connectivity of transportation modes.” 

“We’re writing the rules as we go,” the mayor said, acknowledging “that can be very disruptive to people.” But, he added, “We need to get with it.” 

All of this signals a move toward building that Third LA. 

Read that again. 

In Los Angeles, the second largest city in the nation, the mayor just told the New York Times that laws and regulations that protect residents do not matter. In fact, he’s going to deregulate and make things up as he goes.

If the current president of the United States said that, the Times would have a conniption. But Garcetti, a liberal establishment figure with an Ivy League education and the son of a former Los Angeles County District Attorney, gets a pass. 

In fact, the Times appears to think that Garcetti’s by-any-means-necessary method for building a denser city is laudable. But neighborhood and social justice activists know it spells trouble.

Garcetti and the City Council have already shown they won’t adhere to city rules and ordinances that protect residents and neighborhoods from numerous quality-of-life problems, and they’ll give developers anything they want to build a luxury city that only the affluent can afford. There’s a long track record of LA politicians performing such shenanigans, which judges often find illegal. 

Again, the New York Times shows no knowledge of that. It’s what happens when you don’t talk with the neighborhood activist or good government watchdog. 

The Times’ approach in covering LA is actually humorous in a screwball kind of way — there goes that poor, nutty missionary again. But such a person can cause serious pain for the natives. 

By uncritically pushing the establishment’s vision for LA, the New York Times is actively helping Garcetti, the City Council, and developers ignore the rules, dismantle protections for residents and neighborhoods, and usher in a gentrified Third LA For Angelenos, getting forced out their homes is not progress, and it’s no laughing matter.

 

(Patrick Range McDonald, an award-winning investigative journalist, worked on the Measure S campaign as senior researcher and website editor. This perspective was posted most recently at washataw.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

BELL VIEW-Years of banging the podium at City Hall for my allotted sixty seconds of screaming into the abyss have taught me one basic truth: Whenever a problem -- or a "crisis," as most problems are referred to these days – needs fixing, the people trying to fix the problem have to answer one question before anything can happen. Not "How do we fix this problem?" or "How do we solve this crisis?" Not "Where do we get the money?" or even "Can this problem be solved?" The first question that must be answered before absolutely anything can happen in 21st Century America is "How will the rich get richer?" 

Before we decide what we're going to do to, say, cure cancer, or save an endangered species, or stop the planet from killing us off, we, first, need to figure out how the solution is going to make the rich much richer. 

Luckily for us, our elected officials have been working hard at coming up with an answer to this central question of our time. 

War, for example, is a no-brainer. The rich always get richer off of war. War makes money coming and going. The rich get richer blowing things up. Then get richer again putting things back together. The rich have even figured out how to get rich on things like addiction, disease, and poverty: just declare war on them and the cash starts rolling in. 

And say what you will about the qualifications of our current Secretary of Education, at least she has solved the basic conundrum of how the rich get richer off of public education. 

Unfortunately, once the rich have taken their share – there is almost never much left to solve the problem we wanted to solve.

On the local level, the rich have a juicy housing crisis to feast upon. You don’t need a degree in economics to figure out how the rich get richer off of a housing crisis. But homelessness – ah, that’s been a tough nut for the rich to crack. How, exactly, do the rich get rich off of the homeless? For the longest time, I struggled with this question. 

Now, it looks as if Mayor Garcetti and the City Council have found a solution. Remember the $1.2 billion we decided to raise for the homeless in Measure HHH? Remember how the bulk of the funds were earmarked for “Supportive Housing” – the kind of housing the chronically homeless need? The drug addicted, the mentally-ill, the elderly. Remember being told that no more than 20% of the funds raised would go to “affordable housing” – designed to help people who had not quite ended up on the streets, but were headed in that direction? 

Well … that’s no fun at all. And, since it doesn’t make the rich richer, it was basically a non-starter. Now, it turns out, only 50% of the “supportive housing” needs to be supportive housing – and only 50% of that needs to be reserved for the chronically-homeless. Get it? So the 80% of the $1.2 billion that was supposed to be used to help the most desperate of LA’s massive homeless population will now be sliced up into smaller and smaller chunks with only about 25% of it going to the people it was meant to help. 

When I lived in East Hollywood, a real do-gooder rehabbed an old apartment building and put a dozen formerly-homeless families into real homes. These are families with kids that were living in their cars before they got a hand up. No one in the neighborhood even knows the place is "homeless" housing. It's a model that could succeed all over the city. 

But the threesome cooking crack in a tent in the alley behind this place? They're not exactly candidates for this type of solution. 

So, when someone tells me that "studies show" the homeless do better when they're integrated into the community -- I don't disagree. I just need to point out that not all the homeless are the same. Anyone who thinks people are going to pay market rent to live down the hall from a crackhead are smoking something.  

No. Something tells me this new market-based solution to chronic homelessness will peter out just after Job One is accomplished. The rich will get richer and the truly desperate homeless will still be looking for a place to land.

 

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

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-It goes by many names – the free market, trickle-down economics, supply side economics, market magic, market fundamentalism, and neo-liberalism – but its content is the same. Let the private sector maximize its profits through deregulation, bailouts, tax breaks, and financial incentives. Then the ensuing rising tide of investment will lift all ships. It will create jobs aplenty, while also building affordable housing. The resulting glut in pricey housing will not only drive down all housing prices, but grants to non-profit affordable housing corporations and inclusionary housing programs, such as LA’s density bonus program, will fill LA’s affordable housing vacuum. Just sit back, and market magic will fix what ails us, like a vibrating waistband that peels off extra pounds at the flip of a switch. 

The basic supply-side argument, whether articulated by the Mayor, the City Council, academics, realtors, LA Times editorial writers, dependent non-profit organizations, Chamber of Commerce boosters, or anonymous Internet trolls, is as straightforward as could be. Planning and zoning laws restrict housing production, and this is the main cause of expensive housing in Los Angeles. 

Therefore, if City Hall loosens up land use regulations, developers will march into LA, build oodles of housing, which increases supply and supposedly reduces prices to the point that housing again becomes affordable. 

What trickle-down got right and got wrong. 

Whatever the name, it is a superficially convincing theory, and one part of it is even correct. The deregulation of zoning and environmental laws has allowed real estate profits to soar in Los Angeles. Trickle-down has really been trickle-up, and the market fundamentalists at least got that part of the equation correct. 

But, as for the other part of the equation – fixing LA’s housing crisis – their theory has been a bust. Despite years of granting real estate developers every zoning request they request, as well as notoriously lax enforcement of the City’s building and zoning codes, LA’s housing crisis has continued to worsen, especially since the 2008-9 Great Recession. Gentrification, housing prices, and income inequality have all soared, pricing out many residents and newcomers. 

To begin, there is no evidence that trickle-down generates jobs. Real estate projects built through zoning deregulation -- such as pay-to-play spot-zones and spot-plan amendments, wide-scale up-zoning through Community Plan Updates, Community Plan Implementation Ordinances, re-code LA, or indirectly through slipshod code enforcement -- have not resulted in net gains of short-term construction jobs or long-term building management and maintenance jobs. 

In fact, this often repeated jobs claim has only served two other purposes. The first purpose is to justify City Council votes to deflect dangerous Environmental Impact Report findings with the untested claim that a project is really a major job-generator. The second purpose was to lasso trade unions and non-profit groups to oppose Measure S in LA’s recent March 7 election. 

But, that still leaves the second claim: an uptick in housing construction leads to greater housing affordability. Even if the new units are expensive apartments, condos, and houses, they supposedly pull down all housing prices. The result is alleged to be more affordable housing. In fact, according to this theory, some of LA’s 50,000 homeless  should finally be able to get a real roof over their head. 

Like other missing benefits of deregulation, there is still no evidence that increasing the supply of expensive apartments somehow increases the supply of affordable housing. One of the reasons should be obvious; the widespread gentrification of many LA neighborhoods has not missed a beat. In fact, since 2001 the LA Times reports a loss of 20,000 official affordable units. What took their place? More expensive housing, of course, for the new urban gentry. 

Gentrification: This gentrification process is now painfully obvious in Los Angeles neighborhoods experiencing mansionization, small lot subdivisions, and Ellis Act evictions. In all these cases, older housing, some of which is subject to LA’s rent stabilization ordinance, and all of which is less expensive than the new housing that replaces it, is sacrificed for new, expensive houses, apartments, condos, and townhouses. The evicted residents must then scramble for replacement housing, spending a higher percentage of their income to find a place to live. In fact, in Los Angeles, over 59 percent of renters are now officially cost-burdened because they spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. 

The other reason why trickle-down economics has led to a housing market crisis should also be obvious. Luxury housing and affordable housing are separate housing markets. Developers rake in sizable profits by building, selling, and renting expensive housing. But, they would commit financial suicide if they went into the affordable housing business. This is why they don’t do it. Even when they overbuild at the expensive end, such as in DTLA, they never drop selling prices or rents to the point that their new units become affordable. Instead, they hold on to the vacant units until the market changes, turn to Airbnb short-term rentals, or offer modest incentives such as free parking. But, they never rent out expensive units at a financial loss. Never. 

This is why supply-side economics trickles down to a dry stream bed when it comes to affordable housing. The real process should be called trickle-up, which explains why the supply-side beneficiaries spent $11 million in LA’s recent Measure S election to perpetuate their trickle-up business model. 

Now, with memories of the March 7 fading away, the free market campaign slogans are not faring well. Campaign bluster can go a long way, but ultimately reality asserts itself; Los Angeles has had a continuous affordable housing crisis since the end of most Federal housing programs over 40 years ago. 

More empty claims about beneficial market forces: 

In case there are still a few true believers clinging to their faith in market magic, here are several more realities they should consider when the supply-siders resurrect their empty claims. 

1) They don’t work. Since the elimination of most HUD public housing programs in the 1970s and 80s, every county in the entire United States has a demonstrable shortage of affordable housing. Regardless of supply, demand, local land use regulations, local wealth or poverty, the private housing market is simply not capable of providing affordable housing. It never has and never will. 

2) Measure HHH is trickling-up. Until a few years ago, the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) filled some of this funding gap by devoting 20 percent of its budget to quasi-public housing. But the California State legislature dissolved all CRA’s several years ago. Since then, the closest the trickle-downers have come to replacing the CRA is Measure HHH. But as Patrick McDonald reported in the April 18, 2017, CityWatch, HHH funding is quickly moving into the “croneysphere.” City Hall now wants to use the affordable housing bond issue to bankroll mixed-use buildings and mixed-income housing. The trickle-down from this bond issue is, as expected by critics such as myself, already trickling up to real estate speculators. 

3) Un-tapped zoning potential. The free marketeers also claim that LA's housing crisis results from wide-scale downzoning since the 1980s, but this is bunk. According to detailed City Planning studies from the early 1990's, which are still the most recent official data, Los Angeles could reach a population of 8,000,000 people based on existing zoning. But, led by UCLA's Prof. Greg Morrow, these trickle-downers declare that Los Angeles has virtually no more un-used zoning potential for housing. But, this is simply not true. In addition to lots zoned R-3 and R-4, Los Angeles is filled with long, low-rise transportation corridors (e.g., Pico, Olympic, Washington, Vermont, Hoover) featuring commercial zoning. 

Since all of these commercial zones can be used for by-right R-4 apartments, Los Angeles still has an enormous untapped potential for housing construction. Furthermore, these future apartments could be built up to 35 percent over the zoning code's requirements. Based on SB 1818, developers could set aside 20 percent of their units to become affordable. They then obtain incentives that raise the overall number of market and affordable units. 

4) Developers’ Business model is the real culprit. The basic problem is, therefore, not LA's zoning build-out potential, but the private developers’ business model. They must make a serious profit, and this is only possible through pricey housing. We could totally eliminate planning and zoning laws in Los Angeles, like Houston has, and these real estate investors would still build expensive housing. They would simply build it in more locations.   

5) Short-term fixes. In the meantime, though, there are several things we can do in Los Angeles until the real fix appears, the restoration of Federal and local public housing programs: 

  • Eliminate vacancy de-control from LA's Rent Stabilization Ordinance.  
  • Apply the Rent Stabilization Ordinance to all rental units, not just those built before 1979. 
  • Prosecute the speculators who illegally evict people from small apartment houses in order to demolish the buildings and replace them with expensive housing. 
  • Demolish all speculative structures built through code violations. 
  • Properly fund and monitor LA’s Department of Building and Safety, LA’s Housing and Community Investment Department, the South Coast Air Quality Management District, and LA County Public Housing to ensure that zoning, building, and health codes are enforced.

 

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

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--Since Campaign 2016, a chasm has erupted and the fault lines continue to crack. As protesters gathered on April 15 from Fifth Avenue to Pershing Square to demand President Trump release his tax returns, heated -- and violent -- exchanges ensued between pro- and anti-Trump camps at a Berkeley park that was the scene of a stabbing, as well as at least 20 arrests for assault with a deadly weapon and several felony assaults. 

Police say seven protesters had to be taken to the hospital and at least eleven were injured. Between 500 and 1,000 were gathered in the park at the height of the protests with about 100 moving the fights to a nearby intersection. 

This melee was a three-peat -- following earlier episodes of violence and vandalism in February after UC Berkeley cancelled a scheduled talk by Milo Yiannopoulos, former editor of Breitbart. Last month, a mix of about 500 pro- and anti-Trump demonstrators resulted in punching, spraying and clubbing.

This Saturday, a pro-Trump group had scheduled a “Patriots Day free-speech rally and picnic” in Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley. Anti-Trump protesters responded with a counter-rally. Police banned any potential weapons, including pepper spray, mace, baseball bats, and glass bottles. A Farmers Market held next to the park was cancelled.

Fights broke out despite the precautions as police in riot gear worked to keep sides apart and members of a citizen militia protected Trump supporters. The two sides were separated by a barricade, which did not stop people from throwing cans and bottles.

While our First Amendment Rights of Speech and Assembly are essential to democracy, the disturbing trend that appears to be happening in Berkeley is hopefully not the harbinger of violent exchanges across the country.

Many of us have experienced divides and rifts between family members and friends over politics and more deeply, over the values that are represented by those politics, whether protection of human and environmental rights or globalism vs. isolationism. The violent protests are symptomatic of these deep divides -- and the divisiveness in our country is profoundly troubling.

With hope, we can heal as a nation and we can put these days of hostility and violence behind us. The 1st Amendment promises the right to speak freely, not the right to fight. Reminder: Democracy is not a bystander sport. Closing the divide begins with me … and you.

(Beth Cone Kramer is a Los Angeles writer and a columnist for CityWatch.)

-cw

BUDGET ADVOCATES--On Thursday April 20, at 10 a.m., Mayor Garcetti will present the 2017-18 budget at City Hall. Whether you live in East Los Angeles, South Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley or West Los Angeles, we can no longer afford to live in a bubble. The budget will change how the city operates and you should be there to hear the specifics. 

The city budget matters if; 

  • You work. Some city services may have to be trimmed to balance the budget and your organization may be impacted and have to lay people off. 
  • Neighborhood safety is a concern. Your neighborhood has had an increase in crime because of lack police patrol and you were placed on hold when you called 911. There are officers, but they are on desk duty. 
  • You own property or rent. Property taxes will increase and rental rates now consume more than 40% of a person’s paycheck in most cities.   
  • You feel nothing will change: Things always change. For some neighborhoods the change is positive and for others the change can have a negative impact. 
  • You don’t trust the system. Some city relationships have been an obvious conflict of interest, while others were cemented before the public was made aware of them. Attend and ask for the transparency needed that will help you support the mayor’s city initiatives and budget. 
  • Math isn’t your thing. If you have ever purchased something, prepared a cooked meal, received a paycheck, paid bills or voted, you are better at math than you give yourself credit for. In most cases we can all recognize when a number is too big or too small. 

By law the mayor has to balance the budget. There is a $224-million deficit, which includes

50-million in lawsuit settlements. Mayor Garcetti’s budget is said to account for critical services, street repair, and homelessness. Attend and hear for yourself how the budget will be balanced. 

The great thing about our government is that you can participate in various ways. Remember you can write or email your local council person about neighborhood concerns and join your neighborhood council as a budget representative or budget advocate this coming June. 

On Thursday, April 20 the 2017-18 proposed city budget will be posted at http://cao.lacity.org/budget/index.htm, but you can view past budgets now. 

To learn more about the roles of budget representative and budget advocate visit http://ncbala.com/responsibilities/.   

(Brigette Kidd is a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate from Region 9.)

-cw

TAX DAY: THE NUCLEAR OPTION-"Don't tell me what you value. Show me your budget and I'll tell you what you value," said former Vice President Joe Biden, quoting his father. He knew that a budget reflected the values and priorities of our nation. Each April our country funds its priorities. Ultimately, as the Rev. Jim Wallis has said, "Budgets are moral documents." 

Each year Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles calculates how much money the United States spends on nuclear weapons programs for the current tax year. The Nuclear Weapons Community Costs Project has identified that for tax year 2016 the United States spent $57.6 billion on nuclear weapons programs. California contributed more than $7 billion to this amount while Los Angeles County sent approximately $1.8 billion to the federal coffers to fund weapons that can never be used. In Flint, Michigan, where we have allowed our children to be poisoned by lead in their drinking water, $9 million was spent. In the nation’s poorest county, Buffalo County, South Dakota, they spent more than $142,000 on nuclear weapons. 

Every dollar spent on nuclear weapons is a dollar taken from programs that support the health and well being of our country, our communities, and our loved ones. These are critical funds that we can never get back. 

The Trump administration is proposing a dramatic increase in the budget for nuclear weapons while simultaneously proposing a dramatic decrease for social and environmental programs. This is in addition to the nuclear grand bargain of the Obama administration's proposed buildup of our nuclear arsenal to the tune of $1 trillion over the next three decades. This is the opening salvo as other countries follow suit in this new nuclear arms race.  

Having grown weary of our actions and failure to meet our legally binding commitment to work in good faith toward the abolition of nuclear weapons, the non-nuclear nations are refusing to be held hostage by the nuclear states any longer. Taking their future into their own hands the vast majority of the non-nuclear nations will complete negotiations at the United Nations this July on an international nuclear ban treaty that will outlaw nuclear weapons just as all other weapons of mass destruction have been banned. This will leave the United States and other nuclear nations once again in breach of international law.  

Fortunately, a world under constant threat of nuclear apocalypse either by intent or accident is not the future that has to be. But change will not happen on its own. Each of us has a role to play. Ultimately it will take the people of the United States to awaken from our trance and join the rest of the world in demanding that our leaders work to abolish nuclear weapons and to redirect these expenditures to secure a future for our children and address the real needs of our country. 

The time for action is now.   

Contact your representatives at: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

 

(Robert Dodge is a family physician practicing full time in Ventura, California. He serves on the board of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles serving as a Peace and Security Ambassador and at the national level where he sits on the security committee. He also serves on the board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions. He writes for PeaceVoice. This piece appeared most recently in CommonDreams.org.)  Prepped for City Watch by Linda Abrams.

@THE GUSS REPORT-Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren D. Price Jr. has been implicated for fraud and perjury, perhaps unwittingly, by his own attorney Stephen J. Kaufman. 

And that’s the least of Price’s problems. 

The backstory is this: In a misdated 2012 affidavit, Price and his then-divorce attorney Albert Robles (who is the current Mayor of Carson, CA) claimed that Price’s first wife Lynn could not be located for the purpose of serving her divorce papers, although they repeatedly tried to serve her at her residence at 4519 Don Arturo Place in Los Angeles. 

The problem is, Lynn Price never lived there.  

A bigger problem is that Curren Price knew that Lynn Price never lived there. 

That’s because the property was and remains owned by Price’s second wife, Del Richardson-Price, since June 21, 2001. 

Yet, as documented in Mr. Price’s and Mr. Robles’ affidavit, they repeatedly sent his process server, Antonio D. Inocentes, to that address on January 18, 19 and 21, 2012 to document multiple attempts to serve her – to a location at which Mr. Price, and perhaps Mr. Robles, knew she never lived. 

A few days ago, I got an email from Mr. Price’s current attorney, Stephen J. Kaufman, in which he echoed a call he made to me a few days earlier, perhaps without understanding the implication of his words. “Lynn Suzette Price never lived at 4519 Don Arturo Place,” he reiterated to me. 

Was it Mr. Price’s goal in misleading the court his desire to obtain a divorce from his first wife Lynn without serving her notice of it? His reason for doing that may have been to shield the assets of his second wife, Del Richardson-Price, and his own assets (worth millions of dollars combined) from being split as community property.

Why would the assets of Price’s second wife, Del, be subject to community property splitting with his first wife, Lynn? 

Because records suggest that Curren D. Price, Jr., a Los Angeles City Councilmember, is concurrently married to both women.

While Mr. Price has denied being a bigamist in media reports, he refuses to state when he married his second wife, Del. According to some of their sworn documents, he and Del wed between August 8, 2008 and April 1, 2014, without his first divorcing his first wife Lynn. The big “if” is whether their sworn statements on real estate and other documents are truthful. 

According to Mr. Price’s LA City Ethics forms, at the time he claimed his first wife Lynn resided at the Don Arturo house, he simultaneously received more than $10,000 in annual rental income (possibly a great deal more) for its occupancy from Dr. Josephine B. Isabel-Jones, a pediatric cardiologist at UCLA, and her family, whose residency at the hillside home-with-a-view has been confirmed. 

So sit with that for a moment.  

Knowing that his first wife Lynn never resided at the house on Don Arturo Place, Mr. Price still had his process server repeatedly go to that address, disrupting his paying tenants, the Jones family, in order to willfully mislead the divorce court that he was making an attempt to serve Lynn there. 

A few months later in 2012, the Los Angeles Superior Court didn’t buy Price’s and Robles’ claim that they could not locate Lynn Price and denied their request to instead serve notice with a paid newspaper advertisement. Lynn Price’s address was readily available on the website of her Trenton, N.J., law firm, on the California and New Jersey Bar Association websites and through other sources. The divorce file has been in limbo ever since, and is overdue for a housecleaning update, or an “Order to Show Cause,” by the court. 

While District Attorney Jackie Lacey and apparently the FBI investigate Price’s activity in this mess, what those agencies may not yet know is this: 

According to Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder records, the voter registration of Mr. Price’s first wife Lynn has been dormant for all elections from 2002 to the present. But in August 2010, in the midst of Mr. Price’s unsuccessful and dubious attempt to get a divorce from her, someone changed Lynn’s address on her voter registration to – you guessed it – 4519 Don Arturo Place, without her ever living there, and without her using that address to vote in that year or in any year since. (Lynn Price has for years been registered to vote in New Jersey.) 

Mr. Price’s current attorney Stephen J. Kaufman denies that his client or anyone close to him had anything to do with changing Lynn Price’s voter registration, claiming that it was automatically changed through the United States Postal Service’s National Change of Address System.

But that’s not possible, according to both the USPS and the LA County Registrar-Recorder’s office.

“The Postal Service’s National Change-of-Address system does not reach out and ‘change’ a customer’s address” without explicit direction from the person or someone pretending to be her, said Evelina Ramirez, a USPS spokesperson. And the USPS doesn’t change someone’s voter registration, at all. The LA County Registrar-Recorder’s office in Norwalk echoed that sentiment. A voter registration is only changed when they receive a mail-in affidavit or DMV change, which is scanned and saved, or via correspondence, which is not. 

Because Lynn Price’s change of voter registration address has no stored affidavit or DMV transaction, it is believed to have been changed through correspondence. 

Attorney Kaufman, when told that his client Mr. Price claimed on his 2012 affidavit that Lynn Price did reside at the Don Arturo address, stopped talking altogether and did not respond to the following questions:

  1. Could he identify anyone other than Curren Price or Del Richardson-Price who stood to benefit from that change of Lynn Price’s voter registration address? 
  1. Why, if Lynn Price never lived at the Don Arturo Place house, did the National Change of Address system just happen to choose his client’s second wife’s house as the new address for her voter registration? 
  1. Why does he believe that the National Change of Address system changed Lynn Price’s long-dormant Los Angeles voter registration, but not her active one in New Jersey? 
  1. Why, if Lynn Price never lived at Don Arturo, did his client have his process server attempt to serve her there three times in January 2012? 

Kaufman’s deflections are not only ludicrous on their surface, but also statistically questionable. 

There are 3.267 million residential housing units in Los Angeles County. The odds of Lynn Price’s voter registration being randomly and illegally transferred to an address owned by her husband and his second wife are significantly worse than her odds of winning a high-end grand prize in a California Lottery scratcher game, which is about 1 in 3,000,000. And this just happened to occur at a time when Mr. Price and Mr. Robles tried to convince the court that they could not locate her at that exact address. 

Further, throughout a five-year correspondence that Del Richardson-Price had with the IRS from at least June 2010 to July 2015, Del used Don Arturo as her address at the time Lynn Price’s voter registration was changed to the same address in August 2010

Mr. Price refuses to state where he lived during this time. 

The can of worms that that opens is this: if Del Richardson-Price told the truth about her residence address on her years-long communications with the IRS, why was she registered to vote, and still is, at a different address, in a different LA City Council District, far below her admirable, affluent economic status? 

The Don Arturo house is located on a nicely manicured cul-de-sac in a hillside community with a sweeping view befitting someone of a doctor’s, or Curren Price’s and Del Richardson-Price’s, professional success. But it is located in LA City Council District 8. 

Los Angeles City Councilmember Curren D. Price, Jr., represents Council District 9, aka, “The New 9th,” and it is illegal for him to reside outside of the community he represents. Just ask former LA City Councilmember Richard Alarcon what happened when he did that

According to Curren Price’s and Del Richardson-Price’s current voter registrations, in stark contradiction to their address on IRS correspondence as late as 2015, they reside in a downscale, multi-family rental property in a working class community with a flock of roosters cock-a-doodle-doo’ing across the street and an inexpensive, conspicuously license-plated car, parked where millionaires with two six-figure incomes generally do not live.

Is something that started out as a simple inquiry of whether Mr. Price is a bigamist about to morph into something with far bigger consequences? 

The evolution of this story can be found in my earlier CW articles: 

February 27: “LA’s Own Bigamist-ery.”  

March 2: LA Sentinel Throws Up a Smoke Screen for Councilman Price on the Bigamy Mystery.”  

March 6: LA Times Tiptoeing Around the Price Bigamy Allegations.”  

March 27: Curren Price Plot Thickens: Councilman’s Problems are Bigger than Bigamy.”  

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport.  Verifiable tips and story ideas can be sent to him at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

DEATH PENALTY WATCH-Ghoulishness envelops Arkansas’ decision to pump deadly drugs into eight men over the next fortnight. Although two of the eight scheduled executions have definitively been stayed and a temporary restraining order has been issued as to the remaining six, the state plans an emergency appeal. 

Articles about “midazolam,” the drug whose expiration date prompted Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to schedule this unprecedented mass execution are abuzz on the internet and social media. By this point many Americans have heard or are generally aware that while midazolam is supposed to render the condemned unconscious and insensate, it has been linked to a number of gruesome and botched executions in the United States. 

These are lethal injections where instead of drifting into a sterile, serene, slumber-like death, the condemned have for minutes and even hours, convulsed, coughed, clenched their fists, writhed and thrashed their bodies, murmured, spoken, or cried out in obvious distress; some have gasped for interminably long periods of time mimicking the discomfiting death-throes of still-live fish thrown flat on a sunbaked pier, to suffocate and to burn. 

Importantly, torturous executions linked to midazolam have occurred when just one or at most two executions have been scheduled at one time. This is why a chorus of lawyers, law professors, medical experts, ethicists, and former correctional officials, have all raised their voices in the last few days against Hutchinson’s mass-killing decree. 

“Multiple executions create rushed circumstances. Rushed circumstances risk error,” said Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center. In other words, the assembly-line nature of Hutchinson’s expediency-centric execution schedule exacerbates the risk that one or more of the men to be executed next week will suffer an excruciatingly painful execution; an execution plainly in violation of the Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. 

In January 2016, I wrote about the then-impending execution of Christopher Brooks in Alabama – an execution likely botched by the controversial use of midazolam – a drug that according to competent medical experts, is inappropriate for use in executions. 

Specifically, I wrote: “In the United States, we rightly condemn barbaric executions in other countries, like in North Korea, where, in front of an audience, Kim Jon-Un executed his defense minister with an anti-aircraft gun, or, in Saudi Arabia, where beheading remains a common practice. We have especially condemned ISIS executions, executions that have included burning and burying people alive.” 

Highlighting Brooks’ federal defenders’ arguments that, because of the documented problems with midazolam, Brooks would feel like “he is [both] being buried alive” and “burn[ed] alive from the inside”, I plaintively demanded: “How can we countenance the fact that we, as Americans, may also be subjecting human beings – irrespective of their crimes, even heinous ones – to that same end? Can the fact that US executions are not broadcast to the masses from some windswept desert in the Middle East, and occur, instead, in sterile prisons, under the color of law, really make such a difference? Isn’t it morally wrong to execute someone by reproducing the sensation of being buried alive followed by burning them from the inside out?” I lamented, “Aren’t we, as a nation, and as people, better than that?”   

Next week, if Arkansas’ state-sanctioned killing spree goes forward, the answer to that question will resoundingly be “no.” It’ll be no, no, no, no, no, no. 

And as far as the title of my one-year-old Huffington Post blog, When Will the United States Stop ‘Tinkering With The Machinery of Death?’”, based on the monumentally-high level of depravity promising to be on display next week in Arkansas, not soon enough.    

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Saturday morning federal Judge Kristine G. Baker of the Federal District Court in Little Rock, AR, halted the state’s plan to execute the eight prisoners. The Arkansas Attorney General has vowed to appeal the decision.)

 

(Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015. He has contributed to numerous magazines and newspapers in the United States and overseas. He writes full-time and lives in Woodland Hills, California. Follow him on Twitter #SteveCooperEsq.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

CORRUPTION WATCH-When medicine bottles are filled with poison, people die. The most famous incident was in October 1982, when someone laced Tylenol capsules in the Chicago area with cyanide, resulting in seven deaths. While the nation moved quickly to guarantee the safety of over-the-counter medicines, the adulteration of our judicial system has been pandemic for generations. 

From civilization’s beginning, mankind has striven to develop institutions that ensure an honest and just society. In the beginning of Genesis, we learn about the corrupt judges in Sodom. Their abuse was so destructive that they were named Liar, Habitual Liar, Deceiver and Perverter of the Law. According to Jewish tradition, these judges so adulterated Sodom, that God destroyed the city and all its inhabitants. From a moral stand point, filling political institutions with poisonous men is as lethal to society as putting cyanide in medicine. 

One difference between lacing Tylenol capsules with cyanide and allowing corrupt people to have positions of importance is that corruption is slow acting and spreads insidiously until the entire society becomes morally bankrupt. The first injustice by a Sodomite judge did not cause fire and brimstone to hail down on Sodom. Cruelty and injustice enriched some Sodomites, causing extreme harm to their victims. As the corruption spread, evil dominated without any thought that a day of reckoning would arrive. 

During the 1770s, people in the American British Colonies became displeased that the Crown was contaminating British institutions. The colonists believed there should be no taxation without representation. They believed they were entitled to impartial courts when they had just grievances against the Crown. But King George and Parliament believed otherwise and saw no reason that their “Tylenol” bottles should not also contain tyranny. The King’s courts were a farce. Like in Sodom, truth, honesty, and justice had been supplanted by power. The colonists expressed their displeasure with this adulteration of the judicial system in the Declaration of Independence, stating: “He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.”   

Our Declaration of Independence posited that all individuals have certain inalienable rights and among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. We drafted the U.S. Constitution to secure the Blessings of Liberty, not to continue the rule of tyrants. The foremost objective of the judiciary is to protect an individual’s fundamental rights. The legal system is not to be manipulated for the benefit of the rich and powerful.   

For decades, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) was an abusive occupying force in South Central Los Angeles (aka Watts) where, in 1965, police brutality after the stopping of a black motorist triggered six days of violence and civil unrest. There was $40 million ($308 million in 2017 dollars) in property damage and 34 deaths. The unrest was fueled not only by the racist nature of the former LAPD, but also by the courts when they backed up a police department that engaged in the brutalization and criminalization of the Black community. 

Twenty-six years later, in 1992, Los Angeles again erupted in violence with the worst civil unrest since the Civil War – with 54 dead and $1.5 billion (in 2017 dollars) in property damage. Again, a poisonous judiciary had been crucial in the breakdown of civil society. 

While the acquittal of the police officers was what sparked that violence, the foundation for the death and destruction was laid months before by the appellate court’s manipulation of the location of the police officers’ trial to Simi Valley, a bedroom community for police officers. The appellate court claimed that due to publicity, a fair trial could not be had in LA County. Thus, the trial was moved to Ventura County, where the media coverage was as extensive as in Los Angeles County but the jury pool was extremely pro-police. In brief, the appellate court concocted a ruse to place the police officers’ trial in a place where the jury would be overwhelming sympathetic to white police officers and hostile to their Black victim. 

After decades of police brutality and a corrupt court system, the Black Community believed that with the video of the beating of Rodney King, there would finally be justice in at least one case. The appellate court knew better. The Simi Valley jury consisting of 10 whites, one Hispanic and one Filipino acquitted all the officers. 

As the violence mounted in South Central Los Angeles in response to the acquittals, the police pulled back, leaving citizens and businesses defenseless to marauding thugs. When a white truck driver, Reginald Denny, was yanked from his truck at the intersection of Normandie and Florence, no police or National Guard responded. Instead, local people (Bobby Green, Lei Yuille, Titus Murphy and Terri Barnett) who saw the brutal attack on TV, rushed from their homes and saved Reginald Denny’s life. Many people do not want to acknowledge the social disintegration unleashed on Los Angeles that was caused by the appellate court’s moving the trial to Simi Valley. 

Decades later, in 2015, when three federal judges told us our State Court system has suffered from an epidemic of misconduct, we shut our ears and allowed the sadistic abuse to continue. In January 2015, the Federal courts complained about state court prosecutors’ committing perjury in order to obtain convictions, but their real target was the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye. 

The three judge federal panel identified the cause of the epidemic of misconduct as the California court system itself which turned a blind eye to lying jailhouse informants, prosecutors who took the stand and committed perjury and a host of other misdeeds. If Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, who has held her position since July 22, 2010, had taken remedial steps in the intervening four years, one of the three federal judge would have taken note. 

However, since January 2015, the Chief Justice seems to have done nothing to remove the poison from our judicial system. According to The Orange County Register, “The U.S. Department of Justice launched a civil rights investigation of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff’s Department on Thursday (December 15, 2016) over allegations that prosecutors and deputies withhold evidence and use jailhouse informants to illegally obtain confessions.” 

A significant number of judges are former prosecutors, so they are very familiar with these illegal tactics and recognize when they are deployed in their courtrooms. The complaints of the cyanide in the Orange County courts pre-date the complaints by Judge Kozinski in January 2015. Nonetheless, it takes another federal agency to investigate the same type of vile betrayal of public trust which we saw 4,000 years ago in Sodom and Gomorrah. 

Angelenos should not become complacent by thinking that these abuses are relics of bygone eras. Facts and fiction are still fungible commodities in courtrooms. No fact can be too firmly rooted in reality for a judge to proclaim that its opposite is an Undisputed Fact; perjury which favors a judge’s position is preferable over truth. Just as no one knows when the weight of economic frauds will again crash the economy, no one knows when judicial corruption will cause another outbreak of violence.

 

(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.

TNN REPORT--Five years ago when the City of Los Angeles Redistricting was finalized, residents of  Koreatown launched a lawsuit, Lee v. City Of Los Angeles (15-55478). It challenged the redrawing of district boundaries with the primary intent of increasing the African American vote within Council District 10. (Photo above: LA Councilman Ryu, standing.)

Redistricting happens every 10 years after the US Census identifies population numbers within particular districts. In order to have fair elections district borders have to be redrawn to ensure that each district has the same number of residents.  In the last census the boundaries had to be redrawn to contain 252,000 residents per district. 

The Redistricting Commission of 2011-12 requested input from residents. The Koreatown community organized and mobilized in an unprecedented manner, bringing out  thousands in total to more than three dozen Redistricting Commission board meetings and town hallsThey were adamant and clear over their displeasure of their historic use as a donation funding bank for CD 10 Council members including Councilman Wesson -while their issues and concerns remained minimized or ignored.  They introduced a letter allegedly from a local business begging to be released from the constant need to donate. 

Research by TNN showed that over a third of the donations to Councilman Wesson came from Korean residents while they represent only 10% of the district. (Redistricting Awakens Koreatown). They were requesting to be released from CD 10 and included in CD 13 the next district over. This would also solve the problem of their Neighborhood Council being divided into multiple council districts. 

But by granting this reasonable Koreatown request, a ready source of funding to Councilman Wesson through allegedly pressured donations, would end. 

The final result approved by the Redistricting Commission (which was headed by a man who quit his job with Councilman Wesson to head the commission) ignored their request and instead redrew boundaries to not only keep Koreatown and its donations in place but to increase African American voter numbers. The lawsuit contends that using the criteria to increase African American votes is illegal while the City argues it was not used as a criteria.  But evidence might prove their undoing.

From TNN report Aug 2, 2013 -  “A secretly taped video at a Los Angeles Baptist Ministers conference is not going to help Wesson's cause. Despite claims he had nothing to do with redistricting, when Councilman Wesson was asked to come and explain his rumored influence on the breakup of their district, he admitted he had a hand in it. ‘I did the best I could to retain ‘assets’ for all of the districts. One person. Alone. Every member came to me to discuss what they wanted ...’ He went on to claim he had secured assurance that three of the districts would have African-American representation for the next 30 years.”  Article can also be found here.

In addition, in a smoking gun email, a Herb Wesson redistricting appointee said:

“We attempted to protect the historical African American incumbents in this district by increasing the black voter registration percentage and CVAP #s accordingly. As you can discern on the attachment, we were able to increase the numbers to 50.12% and 42.8%, respectively.  This was a significant increase in the black voters in CD 10 which would protect and assist in keeping CD 10 a predominately African-American opportunity district.  ... This move would allow CD 10 to divest itself of this diverse populated area, and increase the AA population to the South.”

Because the Redistricting Commission claimed they were going to give priority to keeping the 95 Neighborhood Councils whole, the Koreatown community used the boundary of the Wilshire Center Koreatown Neighborhood Council (“WCKNC”) district and sought, along with other Asian American communities, including Historic Filipinotown and Thai Town, to be kept together in a single council district in order to keep similar immigrant populations with similar language needs.  

The Koreatown community provided the Commission with abundant and compelling testimony for the unification of WCKNC in Council District 13. But, as the final map shows, the Koreatown community’s unprecedented efforts were ignored while the map that was selected focused on increasing the number of African American residents in Council District 10. 

In 2012 Koreatown residents filed a lawsuit accusing the city of redrawing the boundaries for a predominantly racial intent. It was denied but Lee v. City Of Los Angeles (15-55478) is still ongoing and awaiting a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The three judge panel led by the Honorable Alex Kozinski heard oral arguments at the stately Pasadena Courthouse in January 2017But the appellants’ attorneys requested that the judges wait until the United States Supreme Court ruled on Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections before ruling on the Lee v. City Of Los Angeles matter.  

The Virginia Legislature had redrawn district lines packing more than 55% African American voters into various districts in order to minimize the African American presence in other districts.  This would dilute the vote of neighboring districts with less African Americans allowing the voter numbers to skew Republican. The legislature argued that they used traditional criteria such as keeping equal numbers of people within the districts and that boundary lines were continuous avoiding strangely shaped districts, often a sign that gerrymandering had occurred. 

On March 1, the United States Supreme Court ruled and it doesn’t look good for the City of Los Angeles. It was unanimous in its decision held in Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections that even if traditional criteria were met it didn’t mean that racial criteria wasn’t a predominating factor – which isn’t allowed. 

The United States Supreme Court decision bolsters the Lee appellants’ arguments that the City’s boundary lines for City Council District 10 were drawn for unconstitutional racial purposes and therefore should be void.  The City’s argument- that since traditional redistricting criteria were met, the racial intent claims have no merit - is no longer a winnable argument after the Bethune-Hill decision.

No amount of rationalization of traditional redistricting criteria explanations will be able to obfuscate what was plainly and openly done during redistricting.  The LA Times Editorial Board called it “an exercise in power politics, not democracy.” LA’s flawed redistricting process, Los Angeles Times Editorial, February 17, 2012

and

“...Angelenos should by now recognize the gap between the official story -- that the process was transparent and decisions were made publicly -- and the all-too- obvious reality: Line-drawing was the result of backroom deals, using private criteria, and Wesson and the other officials who drew the maps protected themselves from accountability for their decisions by cynically hiding behind their redistricting commission appointees. Some of those appointees no doubt intended to be independent; others no doubt knew full well they were on the panel to do the bidding of the elected officials who appointed them.”

From LA, redistricting done wrong, Los Angeles Times Editorial, August 12, 2012

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling should come out soon and will certainly be worth reading.  Hopefully, the Lee v. City of Los Angeles matter will be remanded allowing a trial to go forward.  

Justice is not easy nor quick, but worth the fight.  Justice comes at the cost of perseverance and tenacity.

As of this date, a judgment had not been reached.    

(Dianne Lawrence is the editor and publisher of The Neighborhood News.   Grace Yoo is an estate planning attorney, who attended more than 90% of all the 2011-2012 Redistricting Commission meetings, and was a 2015 candidate for city LA Council District 10.)

-cw

ANIMAL WATCH-On April 6, 2017, the U.S. Postal Service announced that dog bites to mail carriers in Los Angeles soared to #1 in the country in 2016, with a total of 80 attacks.

This was a 43% increase from 2015, when Postal workers in LA incurred only 56 total bites.

Houston, TX, was #2 with 62 bites in 2016. The number of Postal Service employees attacked by dogs last year nationwide reached 6,755 — more than 200 higher than in 2015, USPS reported, with LA at the top of the list. 

Looking back to 2011, GM Brenda Barnette’s first year at LA Animal Services, there were only 44 bites for the entire year, almost one-half of the current rate. Los Angeles is definitely catapulting in the wrong direction. 

This is not only a danger to the public, but also to LAAS Animal Control Officers who suffer serious bites and risk other injuries attempting to avoid attacks. In 2015, Director of Field Operations Mark Salazar announced at a Harbor Neighborhood Council meeting that workers' compensation claims for LAAS had risen 350%. 

Reports of loose dogs (categorized as "dogs-at-large") -- owned or strays -- need to be addressed when complaints are received by the department and before the first bite occurs, in order to keep residents and service employees (including mail and package delivery) safe. The primary function for which municipal animal control agencies were established under State law was to insure the impounding of stray (loose) dogs for public health and safety. This was prompted by rabies epidemics. 

Dogs are territorial and, when allowed to roam streets and neighborhoods, their "territory" is expanded. If the dog is aggressive by nature and, especially if it is also an unaltered male, it is statistically far more likely to pose a serious threat to the community. 

However, "Dogs-at-large" (running loose or escaped from yards) are No. 18 on the priority list authorized by Brenda Barnette for her field officers.

Although animal attacks are a #2 priority, officers state that they are so busy that they rarely arrive at a dog-bite scene before the victim has been assisted by LA Fire Department and/or transported for medical care. They also confirm that attacks happen almost daily in Los Angeles, including the maiming or killing of someone's beloved pet.

According to Assistant GM Dana Brown, there are still only 50 Animal Control Officers working 24/7 from six shelters to serve 469 square miles with almost 4 million residents and their pets. Eight officers are on long-term leave or restrictions and 25 positions are vacant. She explained at the April 11 Commission meeting, that they had only been able to start four new ACO's during the past two years because of a “glitch” in the hiring process.

Adding to this is the failure to replace the 2001-2003 fleet of dangerously malfunctioning animal control trucks that the city's fleet manager told Councilman Paul Koretz publicly in 2015 were already "falling apart." Assistant GM Brown admitted at the meeting that there had been "miscommunication" in the ordering of the 17 new trucks authorized. She added that now the department is facing budget cuts and the extra funding to correct the errors in the functional design might not be available. 

DOG BITE STATISTICS NOT KEPT BY LA ANIMAL SERVICES 

GM Brenda Barnette admits she does not keep stats on dog bites/attacks in the city. There is widespread speculation that this is to evade revealing the actual frequency and severity. It could also be a tactic to avoid filling LA’s shelters with aggressive dogs that might need to be euthanized and, thus, destroy the myth of the “No Kill” city.

This is very disturbing not only because LA stakeholders paid over $44 million in taxes, and $230,000 for the GM's salary in 2016, but also because victims of attacks or those who are threatened by menacing dogs have nowhere else to turn for help except LAAS. 

Equally if not more alarming is that no one in City government seems to care.

CITY OFFICIALS IGNORE THE USPS REPORT -- DISCUSS FERAL CATS 

On April 11, five days after the widely publicized USPS report, the Board of Animal Services Commissioners met. This is a Board of five volunteer residents appointed by the Mayor and designated by the City Charter as head of the Los Angeles Animal Services Department, with the General Manager setting policy. 

Not one of the Mayor's appointees mentioned the upsurge or dangers of increased dog bites -- not even to request it as a future agenda item.

The Commission, GM Barnette and a room populated with representatives from various city departments, including the offices of the Mayor and City Attorney, were there to discuss feral cats and a proposed city-funded TNR (Trap/Neuter/Release) program to allow free-roaming, unowned, unsocialized cats to be released into neighborhoods citywide.

This plan hinges on the successful results of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s tax-funded $800,000 Environmental Impact Report (EIR) by the City’s Bureau of Engineering, which they hope will show that a Trap/Neuter/Release (TNR) program that results in tons of cat feces and urine excreted on streets and yards of residential areas; the spread of parasites and diseases such as toxoplasmosis; and rampant destruction of birds and other small mammals by colonized cats all over the city will not have a negative impact on communities.

WHY USPS “DOG-BITE” STATS ARE IMPORTANT 

The USPS annual dog-bite statistics during “Dog Bite Prevention Week" are headlined in media reports and TV news across the country as a significant indicator of neighborhood safety.

Any increase should be regarded as warning of a deficit in enforcement and/or effectiveness of the officials in charge of animal control, along with the elected or appointed representatives who seek positions with the responsibility for guarding the public’s interest and welfare.

Expecting government officials and agencies to be concerned about injuries inflicted by dogs, which can be as damaging as those incurred during robberies or gunshots or car accidents, is not asking for a special favor.

The lack of reaction by GM Brenda Barnette and the entire political hierarchy of Los Angeles to the USPS alarming report of increasing dog-bites -- while they focus on releasing feral cats into communities with no regard for homeowners' opinions, or impact on quality of life, or public health and safety -- is just another indicator of Los Angeles' lack of leadership and systemic disconnect with reality. 

The feral cat issue was fast-tracked to the Personnel and Animal Welfare Committee for discussion and further approval on Tuesday, April 19, with no discussion of the USPS dog-bite report on the agenda.

                                                           

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

MCDONALD REPORT--In the nation’s second largest city, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council have quietly perverted a much-needed housing program for homeless men, women, and children. And affordable housing advocates and the Los Angeles Times are not sounding the alarm. (Photo above: Mayor photo-oping with the homeless.) 

Los Angeles is currently facing one of its worst homeless crises in recent memory. It’s so bad, the Times reported, that LA has the highest number of unsheltered homeless people in the entire United States. 

As a 2013 mayoral candidate, Garcetti told an audience of affordable housing advocates that he would end homelessness. Now, in 2017, he essentially backed off that campaign promise, saying that homelessness was a “long-term crisis” that needed “long-term solutions.” 

One of those solutions was a $1.2 billion bond initiative to build homeless housing, known as Measure HHH. Voters overwhelming approved it in November 2016. 

Another was a kind of pilot project for Measure HHH, known as the Affordable Housing Opportunity Sites (AHOS) program. It will utilize several city-owned properties on the Westside and in Lincoln Heights and South L.A., among other locations, to build more housing. 

The LA Times has described AHOS as a program that will build “permanent supportive housing,” which specifically caters to the homeless and provides important services. 

The paper also reported that Garcetti and the City Council “spent months developing plans for converting as many as 12 city-owned sites [through the AHOS program] into housing for the city’s homeless residents.” 

Garcetti, City Council President Herb Wesson, and other council members also used their time to campaign against a development reform initiative called Measure S. It sought to fix LA’s severely broken planning and land-use system, which numerous critics say has fueled the city’s homeless crisis. 

To get LA’s liberal voters to vote down Measure S, Garcetti and council members repeatedly said the initiative would stop the city from building homeless housing through the AHOS program. 

In a January interview on the local ABC TV affiliate, for example, Garcetti said that “nine out of the 10 (AHOS) properties, the city’s going to build housing for the homeless on, couldn’t be built if Measure S gets passed.”  

City Hall politicians regularly linked the AHOS program to homeless housing — and to Measure HHH, which voters expect Garcetti and the City Council to use for homeless housing, not something else.

But only weeks after Measure HHH was approved on November 8, the betrayal of the homeless — and LA voters — was well underway at the hands of Garcetti, the City Council, and the City Administrative Officer. 

In December 2016, the City Council approved the final details of the AHOS program, which was organized by the City Administrative Officer with much input from the City Council and mayor. It had turned into something startlingly different from what City Hall politicians had been promising — and what the LA Times had been describing. 

The City Administrative Officer recommended, and the City Council approved, an AHOS program that now offered “affordable multifamily housing,” “mixed-income housing,” “affordable homeownership,” “innovative methods of housing,” and, finally, “permanent supportive housing” for the homeless.  

The City Administrative Officer also recommended that it enter into negotiations with developers who have proposed a “mix of supportive, affordable, and market-rate units.” Again, the City Council approved. 

On December 7, 2016, at the City Council’s Homeless and Poverty Committee, Yolanda Chavez, a top official with the City Administrative Officer, revealed another disturbing fact. 

An AHOS project that’s officially deemed “permanent supportive housing” only needs to earmark half of its units for the homeless. In other words, not even the homeless housing will truly be homeless housing. 

“You can have a project that has 50 percent affordable units and 50 percent supportive,” said Chavez. “They have to be 50 percent supportive, and 50 percent of those have to be reserved for the chronically homeless. So that’s the definition of permanent supportive housing.” 

Chavez talked as if everything was perfectly okay. Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, chair of the homeless and poverty committee, said nothing. Affordable housing advocates, who were present, also kept mum. 

Instead, advocates had only good things to say about the AHOS program — perhaps because they wanted city contracts to build AHOS projects. 

The LA Times was unconcerned, casually reporting that the “city initially planned to offer the [AHOS] sites for supportive housing, which would include on-site services. But the recommendation released Thursday said proposals could include affordable housing, mixed-income housing, market-rate housing and occupant-owned housing as well.”  

The fact that a homeless housing program, which Garcetti and City Council members touted as a vital first step to address LA’s homeless crisis, could now build market-rate housing did not alarm the LA Times in the least. 

All this is happening in a city run by liberal Democrats (Garcetti and Wesson included) in what’s considered to be one of the top progressive bastions in the U.S. — with the left-leaning LA Times supervising. 

Today, Angelenos remain largely uninformed about the specifics of the AHOS program. LA politicians quietly, and hurriedly, pushed it through; the LA Times never raised an eyebrow; and affordable housing advocates took a powder.  

City officials are currently sorting through the proposals for projects that will make up the AHOS program. With complete certainty, permanent supportive housing will not be built at every city-owned property — five sites in Lincoln Heights, which is represented by Councilman Gil Cedillo, have already been designated for “mixed-income” housing. 

As a result, the city’s use of Measure HHH money for the AHOS program will not go entirely to homeless housing, and homeless men, women, and children will not receive the full amount of housing and services that Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council had promised. 

Instead, an affluent professional, the only person who can afford market-rate housing in L.A., may land a nice pad on city-owned property in increasingly gentrified Lincoln Heights or near the beach on the Westside. It’s the very definition of a scandal. 

(Patrick Range McDonald, an award-winning investigative journalist, worked on the Measure S campaign as senior researcher and website editor. This perspective was posted most recently at washataw.com.) 

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For the first time, on the day of March 23, 40 percent of Californian grid power between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. was generated by utility-scale solar plants. 

This proportion was a seasonal effect but not a fluke, and it certainly points to what will be routine in the very near future.

California has so much solar power now that sometimes the price of electricity turns negative. Natural gas plant owners actually have to pay the state to take their electricity when that happens. But they make up for it during high-demand periods.

The negative prices were not passed on to consumers because they get charged for the whole mix, and California electricity rates are among the highest in the country.

If you count in the electricity generated by r ooftop solar panels, then on that day at that time, California was actually getting 50 percent of its electricity from solar.

This level of solar electricity generation is new in California. During the past year, there has been a 50 percent increase in utility-scale solar generation.

California now has nearly 10 gigawatts of solar power. That is more than all of Britain. It is more than the entire country of France. Even more than the entire country of India. 

If you looked at all the electricity generated in California on the day of March 23, you’d find that 56.7 percent of it was generated by renewables—in addition to solar there are wind turbines, hydroelectric from dams, geothermal and biomass.

Jobs in solar energy in California expanded by 67 percent year on year. 

California wants a third of its grid energy to come from renewables in only 3 years, in 2020. It wants the proportion to rise to 50 percent by 2030.

(Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan and an occasional contributor to CityWatch. He has written extensively on modern Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia. This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s website.)

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EDUCATION POLITICS--A state audit gave Alliance College-Ready Public Schools a mixed review last week, following an 11-month examination of spending and privacy issues related to Alliance’s two-year battle against teachers organizing a union at the charter network’s 28 schools. 

Though Alliance has been cleared of suspicions that it might have used public tax dollars in its heated anti-union campaign, the report did criticize the charter management organization’s compliance level with federal student privacy rules when it released protected student data to third parties.

The conflict dates to March of 2015, when a group of Alliance teachers and counselors announced its decision to organize a union and join the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). In that same month, according to auditors, the Alliance Home Office, which is Alliance’s nonprofit charter management organization (CMO), created a special account and spent nearly $1 million of a $1.7 million war chest raised from private donors.

Other findings include:

  • In fiscal year 2015–16, philanthropy accounted for 63 percent of total spending by Alliance Home Office. The CMO took in $29.4 million in private giving against $46.5 million in expenses.
  • The Alliance CMO donated more funds to its charter schools in fiscal years 2014–15 and 2015–16 than it had in fiscal year 2013–14, before the unionization efforts began.
  • Classroom expenditures did not decline because of Alliance’s anti-union campaign.
  • Alliance Home Office used private funds to reimburse its schools for staff time spent on anti-union activities.
  • Alliance’s policies and procedures did not establish adequate segregation of duties over the Alliance charter schools’ procurement process to mitigate the chance of fraud and abuse.

Both sides were quick to claim wins in the findings. An Alliance spokesperson was quoted as saying the audit represented a vindication for the franchisor. For its part, California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), whose own role in using Alliance parent-student data was examined by auditors, released a statement commending Alliance but downplaying the audit’s privacy criticisms.

“The audit confirmed that all public funds received by the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools were directed to the classroom,” it stated, “and that per-pupil classroom spending at three Alliance charter schools reviewed for the audit had in fact increased during the period of 2013 to 2016.”

But Alliance teachers claimed a victory in what they said amounted to the first official acknowledgment by the charter that it was actively fighting unionization.

“The Alliance has been claiming over and over again that they’re not running an anti-union campaign,” said Alisha Mernick, an art teacher at Alliance Gertz-Ressler High School. “They’re really still sticking to this narrative that this is an illusion that we’ve painted as some kind of tactic. In this report, it says this is the anti-union campaign. This is dollars spent, documented carefully.”

Charter schools are publicly financed but privately operated, and fears by the state legislature’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee that the 12,500-student, 28-school Alliance network, which is the largest charter chain in Los Angeles, might be misspending tax dollars, became one of the audit’s objectives. But the committee also tasked the auditor to look at whether Alliance’s use of the confidential information about parents, students and alumni had violated the protections of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Those concerns were prompted by reports that part of the anti-union effort was led by CCSA, the state charter industry’s trade and lobbying organization. CCSA had recruited former Alliance students and paid them to work at a phone bank in an outreach program that asked Alliance parents to oppose the union drive. Parent and student phone numbers and addresses are considered protected data under FERPA, and parents have the right to opt out of allowing a school to share the information with third parties.

On the first allegation, the auditor found that although the school’s charter management organization, Alliance Home Office, had spent $917,759 as of June, 2016 on the union fight out of a total of $1.7 million in private philanthropy raised to block the union, that money was segregated in a separate account from tax revenues. Auditors also said that Alliance had used an additional $2 million in pro bono legal work in the campaign.

That grand total drew a sharp rebuke from UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. In a statement, Caputo-Pearl blasted Alliance’s spending priorities, charging that “Raising funds for a war chest to fight your own employees is just plain wrong. Operators of publicly funded schools should be working to see that every available dollar is spent to further quality education for students.”

But giving student directory information to CCSA was another matter, according to auditors. The report rejected Alliance’s claim that under FERPA’s broad exception of “legitimate educational interest” it was free to share confidential student information without undergoing the cumbersome process that requires parents to annually opt out of waiving their privacy rights. The catch, auditors insisted, was that Alliance would have had to define the terms of the exception in annual notifications to parents, which it had failed to do.

But even had the charter sent out the notifications, the audit had no way to verify Alliance claims that it removed student data based on required parent opt-outs for the simple reason that the school hadn’t bothered to save any of the parent letters. Though that lapse effectively allowed the CMO to narrowly dodge a FERPA violation, auditors felt compelled to warn the operator in an addendum that its carelessness did not equate to following the law.

“Alliance is putting undue emphasis on the fact that the deficiencies we found related to its management processes do not violate specific provisions of law,” auditors reprimanded. “Strong management processes, sometimes referred to as internal controls, help ensure that entities do not misuse public funds or otherwise violate the law.”

Teacher Alisha Mernick remains skeptical that Alliance followed the opt-out process at all before the audit, insisting that in her six years at Alliance, she has only one memory of ever passing out the letters.

“I remember handing out those letters,” she asserted. “You know, ‘These are your privacy rights. This is the law. If you wish to opt out from this policy, you need to write a letter, asking to opt out and deliver it to the office.’ The one and only time I’ve handed out that letter was after we learned about CCSA phone-banking parents.”

Rosalba Naranjo, who has a seventh grade daughter at Alliance Richard Merkin Middle School, and was an early supporter of the unionization effort, told Capital & Main that she knew nothing about an opt-out letter or any other notification from Alliance informing her that the school reserved the right to share her child’s information with outside vendors unless she objected in writing.

“I never received a letter saying I had that option,” said Naranjo. “But I think it’s wrong that parents are receiving mailer after mailer, telling us that teachers forming their union is going to be bad for kids. What’s bad is kids being exposed to all that negative propaganda.”

UTLA currently represents over 1,000 educators in independent charter schools within LAUSD’s boundaries. Forming a bargaining unit at Alliance would require a majority vote by Alliance teachers and other certificated staff.

Mernick thinks that both momentum and the support of parents are on the teachers’ side.

“When parents are able to connect that teachers are going to be advocating on behalf of our students,” said Mernick, “and [that] teachers having a more equal say in how our [school] works is ultimately going to be good for the students as well, parents have been supportive. I’ve yet to meet a parent who reacts negatively.”

(Bill Raden is a freelance Los Angeles writer. This article was first posted first at Capital & Main.)

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RANTZ AND RAVEZ-If you check past California records, you will find that our voters have passed a number of measures to repair the roads, strengthen and repair bridges around the state and complete a variety of other transportation related projects in our so-called Golden State. While Governor Brown has dedicated billions of dollars to build the Bullet Train from nowhere to nowhere, we all manage our finances and tighten our belts to make ends meet.

EDUCATION POLITICS-A new study of public charter school funding has found that California’s explosive charter growth of the past 15 years has left school districts straining under a glut of new charter classrooms that are no better at educating California children than traditional public schools. Released Monday by the research and public advocacy group In the Public Interest (ITPI), Spending Blind reveals the extent to which tax dollars have been used to create privately held real estate empires — charter properties that, because they aren’t owned by the public, could, theoretically, one day be converted into luxury condominiums or shopping complexes. 

Subtitled, The Failure of Policy Planning in California Charter School Funding, the report zeroes in on the costs and impacts of the $2.5 billion in charter school construction and rent subsidies that has been made available to prospective charter operators in a taxpayer-subsidized system of 10 state and federal public funding programs mostly administered by the California School Finance Authority (CSFA). 

The report found that the facilities-funding programs had unintended effects, particularly that they 

  • Incentivized adding classroom space to districts that didn’t need it. 
  • Created charter schools that underperformed in comparison to their traditional public school neighbors. 
  • Funded charters that in hundreds of cases were later found to have discriminatory enrollment policies. 
  • Paid for privately owned real estate enterprises. 
  • Enabled some of the state’s charter school scandals of last year. 

The charter school industry relies upon a system of state and federal grants, loans, tax credits, and state and district bonds to pay for classroom space. Spending Blind represents the first time, its author, political economist Gordon Lafer, told Capital & Main, that this system has been subjected to the kind of cost-benefit questions that the public school side of the equation is typically required to answer. 

“The most surprising discovery was just the total disconnect between the education policy goals of creating charter schools – [that] I think are still pretty much what people think is the point of charter schools – and how that money is spent,” said Lafer, who is also an associate professor at the University of Oregon’s Labor Education and Research Center. “I expected that it would be like, you know, ‘We have these goals, we write the goals into funding.’ Instead, it was a total disconnect.” 

Charter schools are financed with the same taxpayer dollars that pay for public schools, but are managed by private companies. Passed in the early 1990s, the state’s original charter law created the charter school of the popular imagination -- a statutory zone of deregulation that allows boutique schools to develop superior curricula geared to persistently low-performing students. 

But beginning in the late ’90s, a flurry of changes to the law included generous facilities subsidies that effectively opened the door to charter management organizations (CMOs) — scaled-up corporate franchises whose overall performance has roughly mirrored that of existing public schools. From having fewer than 200 charters in 1998, California now boasts 1,230 schools with 581,100 students, giving it the largest charter enrollment in the nation. The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) has vowed to nearly double that number by 2022. 

In a prepared statement, CCSA brushed aside the report’s findings as an attempt to generate support for Senate Bill 808, a charter school reform measure authored by State Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia). It also accused ITPI of a “well-documented and biased point of view on the role charter schools play in the public education system.” 

Nevertheless, Lafer found that public facilities funding has been disproportionately concentrated among the fewer than one-third of schools that are owned by CMOs of between three and 30 schools. And it pointed to the state’s four largest California CMOs — Aspire, KIPP, Alliance and Animo/Green Dot — as claiming an even more disproportionate share. 

Lafer also alleged that Los Angeles’ Alliance College-Ready Public Schools network of charter schools also led the big CMOs in using public facilities financing to build up subsidized inventories of private real estate. Lafer’s study reports that Alliance alone has translated $110 million in federal and state taxpayer support into a portfolio of privately owned property “now worth in excess of $200 million.” 

“I don’t think anybody in the legislature ever intended — and I wouldn’t think most citizens or taxpayers intended or would approve of the idea —that public tax dollars are going to be used to buy somebody private property,” Lafer said. 

Yet California charter schools can become the private property of a charter operator when they are paid for with proceeds from the state’s three public conduit bond programs offered by the CSFA, the California Municipal Finance Authority (CMFA) and the California Statewide Communities Development Authority (CSCDA). An operator could also get the same result using private funding subsidized by California’s New Market Tax Credits program, or by getting the school’s mortgage payments reimbursed through CSFA’s Charter School Facilities Grant Program, more commonly known as SB 740. 

Should the authorizer revoke the charter, the state and the local school district would be left scrambling to house displaced students. The now-unencumbered former charter operator, however, would be free to turn the buildings into luxury condominiums or sell them at a profit. 

The danger, Lafer explained, is that because there is no meaningful cap written into California’s education code, any CMO bent on aggressive expansion could effectively become too big to fail. If a privately owned chain expands into a General Motors-like behemoth, then one day goes irredeemably bad, the district would be faced with the staggering cost of replacing those privately owned classrooms. 

“You potentially lose those choices if the price of making those choices is prohibitively high,” Lafer explained. “And the more of this [facilities financing] that happens, the closer to that situation we get.”

That scenario is more than theoretical. Tri-Valley Learning Corporation (TVLC) might be the poster child for California’s taxpayer subsidy program. It is one of three California case studies that Lafer features from last year’s charter scandals. The school, which operates two charters in Livermore and two in Stockton, collapsed last November after a run of poor managerial and financial decisions that included taking on $70 million in charter facilities bond debt. Though its schools are still technically open for business, the company’s death rattle continues to echo in Stockton, where both TVLC charters, Acacia Elementary school and Acacia Middle school, will be shuttered in May.

 

(Bill Raden is a freelance Los Angeles writer. This article was first posted at Capital & Main.)  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

TONE DEAFNESS AT CITY COUNCIL- The vast majority of Angelenos who show up at LA City Council meetings to address their representatives have never been there before. They come from every corner of the city, from every age group, and for different purposes, but there’s one thing they all have in common -- genuine, heart-felt passion about their reason for coming. Without such feeling, these Angelenos would never find the impetus to take time off from or risk losing their jobs, might not find a caretaker for their young kids, or, as senior citizens, might never venture out into the unfamiliar and frightening web of buses and subways. 

The expectations these people have when they attend a City Council meeting vary as much as their reasons for coming. Many have no idea what will happen when they take those fateful few steps up to the public comment podium once the agenda item for which they’ve travelled all this way to speak with their representatives is called by the Council President. What none of them expect (but which happens at least half of the time) is that they won’t be allowed to address the Council at all.  

Sometimes the bad news is delivered politely by the Sergeant-at-Arms, sometimes curtly, but the effect is devastating nonetheless.  

And the reasons they are turned away? Most frequently, the cause is that the agenda item was already “taken up in committee”-- and the Brown Act says that if an opportunity for public comment is given at a committee meeting, then the Council doesn’t have to hear public comment at the regular meeting.  

Sometimes the reason for the bad news is that the Council has decided -- during the meeting -- to “continue” the agenda item to another date. That means they’ve decided not to address the issue that day but rather at a future meeting.  

Other times the reason for denial of public comment is that the item was “already approved,” as a result of Council President Wesson taking up the issue in the first few seconds of the meeting, even if the item appears near the end of the published agenda.  

In every one of these cases, Council President Wesson can easily make it possible for these Angelenos to make their comments. Yet he rarely does that.  

Even for the lucky ones who make it up to the podium to say their piece there is disappointment. They will find many of the Councilmembers -- often as many as half or more -- are missing or engaged in side conversations, or, as happened recently, holding a press conference.

It’s heartbreaking. It’s wrong.  

In October, on a motion by Paul Krekorian, the amount of time afforded to those who have journeyed down to City Hall to address their representatives was cut in half. How much time does that mean? Five minutes? Three? No, the answer is: one. A single minute. 

It’s no wonder that the respect level for politicians is at an all time low. It’s no wonder that voter turnout for Los Angeles elections is embarrassingly miniscule. It’s no wonder that more citizens than ever are going to court to get the attention of their representatives. As former LA Councilman Joel Wachs said in his run for mayor as far back as 1992, the people have become cynical about government and no longer believe anyone is listening or capable of understanding them. 

It’s interesting to imagine how successful politicians might be in today’s cynical climate if they were to include a promise of human compassion as a high priority in their political campaigns. Of course that would require that they possess that quality in the first place. And, based on the treatment of constituents in the Los Angeles City Council chambers, human compassion is running in short supply.

 

(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer and Joshua is a teacher.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LOS ANGELES … ONLY THE RICH NEED APPLY--From Los Angeles to Berlin, developers and politicians, not to mention the “new urbanists,” are creating a global gentrification crisis – and it’s not just the poor who are getting hurt. We first came to understand the ugliness of gentrification in Los Angeles.

In LA, gentrification has been fueled by the City Council and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s willingness to grant “spot-zoning” approvals to deep-pocketed developers who want to build luxury-housing high-rises. 

For example, the city’s General Plan and community plans lay out zoning rules for what can and cannot be built in neighborhoods. So a 20-story luxury-housing tower cannot go up in a community that’s only zoned for four-story buildings.

Over the past few years, however, developers have gone to the L.A. City Council and Garcetti, with checkbooks in hand, asking for zoning exemptions – or “spot-zoning” approvals. After taking thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and other political cash, such as money for a council member’s “officeholder” account, the City Council and Garcetti almost always deliver the favors.

Developers then demolish an older building with affordable housing units to construct a luxury high-rise with over-priced apartments or condos. Or, developers throw up a luxury tower on a piece of land that’s not normally zoned for that kind of project.

Developers make tens of millions, if not more, in profits from spot-zoning approvals. But residents and neighborhoods, especially if a luxury high-rise goes up in a working- or middle-class community, feel the pain.

Residents in an affordable apartment building that’s slated for demolition lose their homes from the get-go. And more times than not, there’s no way they can afford the exorbitant rent at a new luxury-housing tower that offers such fancy amenities as concierge service, a gym, and, believe it or not, a dog park. A senior citizen or housekeeper or struggling artist is out of luck while a happy dachshund gets world-class treatment

Adding to the displacement, the luxury tower jacks up rents for residents in other buildings in the neighborhood—and a once affordable community becomes less affordable. Not only are those residents forced out, but lower- to middle-income people can no longer move in.

We saw this disturbing trend take place across LA – from the lower-income, Latino Eastside to the middle-income, white San Fernando Valley to working- and middle-class neighborhoods on the Westside to lower-income, African American South LA More than 20,000 affordable units have been taken off the market in LA since 2001 to make way for some form of luxury housing.

It didn’t matter what color you were, although people of color often got screwed the worst. If you weren’t making an annual salary of $100,000 or more to pay for higher rents, you were displaced – and a one-time worki ng- or middle-class neighborhood became gentrified.

Similar scenarios are unfolding in London, Portland, Berlin, (photo left) and numerous other cities across the United States and the world.

It’s particularly pervasive today. Deep-pocketed developers are on a spending spree around the world, buying up properties in major cities and building luxury projects or converting affordable housing into luxury housing.

In the United States, according to Zillow, developers are building all kinds of high-end apartments and condos, but are not construct enough housing for lower-income people. Politicians allow this to happen by either failing to come up with land-use policies that prevent widespread gentrification or they approve luxury projects that are not normally allowed under a city’s zoning rules.

More and more, community activists are fighting back, which is happening in Berlin, London, New York, and Los Angeles, where numerous neighborhood groups supported a development reform initiative known as Measure S.   LA’s political establishment hated it, and developers spent millions to kill reform. After all, they didn’t want a broken system that helped them make billions in profits and millions in campaign contributions to be fixed. Measure S ultimately failed at the ballot box this past March.

But the initiative did jump-start a much-needed, citywide discussion about troubling land-use policy, gentrification, corruption at LA City Hall, and a severely broken development approval process. That discussion, and neighborhood activism, will only continue in LA.

Luxury-housing developers and politicians either ignore or refuse to acknowledge the serious, street-level problems they are creating. The same goes for the “new urbanists,” as they call themselves. They push for more dense cities regardless of what kind of housing is built. They just want density, density, density.

Many urban planning academics are just as bad. They say the best way to lower rents and to cure housing shortages is to simply build more housing—the supply-and-demand theory. Developers then cite the academics and new urbanists to justify their luxury towers to the public and politicians. With that political cover provided by the “experts,” the developers build more high-end housing.

Yet the academics, developers, new urbanists, and politicians often ignore specifics. Cities such as L.A., which is dealing with a shocking homeless problem, are not facing a “luxury” housing crisis, but an “affordable” housing crisis. It makes perfect sense to build more “affordable” housing, not any kind of housing—fix the problem at its root.

That’s what Zillow recommended — developers must construct more housing for lower-income people, which includes the middle-class.

Developers, academics, new urbanists, and politicians don’t want to discuss that. It messes with their economic, political, and/or ideological agendas. (Yes, “new urbanism” is an ideology.)  The affordable housing crisis then worsens, luxury-housing prices are sky high, rents in the neighborhood keep going up, and working- and middle-class folks keep getting pushed out.

If gentrification continues to go unchecked, it will have devastating, long-lasting, multi-pronged impacts, and the world’s metropolises will become luxury cities that only the affluent can afford. Everyone else will struggle to make ends meet – or get the boot. 

(Patrick Range McDonald, an award-winning investigative journalist, worked on the Measure S campaign as senior researcher and website editor. This perspective was posted first at LA Weekly and most recently at washataw.com.) 

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TOMORROW’S MOVERS AND SHAKERS TODAY--Crespi Carmelite High School senior Justin Miller (photo above) says, “A year ago, I watched The Hunting Ground, the award-winning documentary by Kirby Dick about sexual assault on college campuses. Then, I watched it again. And again. It hit me hard. I could not shake it.” 

The 2015 documentary produced by Amy Ziering follows the experiences of college students raped on campus who face retaliation and harassment as they fight for justice. One in five women will be the victim of sexual assault during their college experience – and that’s a statistic Justin would like to see turned around. Eleven million women are currently enrolled in higher education nationally and of that number, 2.5 million will be assaulted. 

Inspired by the documentary, Justin founded Seniors With A Mission (S.W.A.M.), with the initial goal of producing Raise the Volume, a one-night event at the Saban Theater on April 27. The teen started a GoFundMe and raised over $6,000 to underwrite the event but due to some logistical issues, has decided to donate money raised to The Rape Treatment Center. To expose Los Angeles-area high school seniors to this crucial issue before they leave for college, Justin has appealed to Kirby Dick and the team at The Hunting Ground to allow the film to be screened for free at participating high schools, including Crespi Carmelite, Louisville, Marlborough School and other schools in Los Angeles. 

“I am going to ask each high school to screen the film for their seniors,” the teen says. “If we can make this happen, we will ultimately reach more high school seniors and be left with more money to donate to The Rape Treatment Center. Although I am disappointed that we had to rethink the Raise the Volume event, it might yield the most benefit for the overall cause, which is awesome.” 

Justin, a writer/director who will be studying at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts next fall, explains most assaults happen during the first weeks of freshman year, as students begin their college experience, forever changing their lives. The mission of the S.W.A.M. is to “change the College Campus Culture to one of Compassion and Respect.” A painful and difficult subject will be embraced by an entire generation and revolutionized into a message of dignity, hope, and transformation.” -- Raise the Volume 

The Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center was established in 1974 and is nationally recognized for its pioneering work in the treatment, prevention and education arenas. The RTC provides free comprehensive and compassionate care for adult and minor victims of sexual assault and operates 24 hours a day. 

Services include emergency medical treatment, forensic services, crisis counseling, and longer-term psychotherapy, advocacy that includes accompanying victims during legal and court proceedings, as well as during medical appointments. The Center provides information about rights and options so that victims can make informed choices. Over 50,000 victims and their families have received this support services. 

In addition, The RTC prevention education serves thousands of Los Angeles middle school, high school and college students. Students learn about rape, sexual assault, peer sexual harassment and other forms of abuse. The students are also exposed to prevention strategies, including options in high-risk situations, safe intervention strategies when they witness a peer being sexually abused, assaulted, harassed or bullied, as well as how to get help. The center works with educators and administrators to best address sexual abuse, bullying, sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence on campuses, as well as to develop effective prevention policies and strategies. 

The center provides professional training and education programs that reach thousands of victim services providers each year, including police, paramedics, prosecutors, medical and mental health practitioners, and school personnel. An additional area of impact is Public Education and Policy Reforms.

To donate to S.W.A.M.: Raise the Volume, visit the Go Fund Me page.

 

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

SKID ROW- (Editor’s Note: The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment did not respond to attempts by CityWatch to authenticate the charges made by the author of this article. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CityWatch.) Last week, there was an historic election of sorts in Downtown Los Angeles. The many historic moments start with the first-ever subdivision election in the history of the city. 

The Skid Row Neighborhood Council- Formation Committee, which began their formation effort in June of 2014, squeaked by the community of Hermon, who started their effort in 2011 and held their subdivision election two days later. 

While Hermon’s election was successful and went off without any hitches (beyond opposition from the larger Arroyo-Seco NC), Skid Row’s history books will forever overlook their election which was held in a physical polling place in Skid Row (with online voting becoming a last-minute additional option less than two weeks prior to the election day) and also had an energetic and well-attended “Uplift Skid Row Pep Rally” directly across the street, and instead will focus on the “Scandal in the Skid” which was originally leaked by an anonymous source connected to the Downtown LA Neighborhood Council (DLANC) who forwarded damaging e-mails to the Skid Row NC- Formation Committee, who initiated Skid Row’s bid to create a new NC that would’ve broken away from the DLANC and addressed it’s myriad issues directly with City Hall’s resources. 

The irrefutable evidence pointed out that DLANC created a front organization called “Unite DTLA” which then forwarded “Vote NO on Skid Row Separation” campaign materials to DLANC’s entire database via e-mails that connected directly to a DLANC-controlled URL, which is illegal by City regulations. It was also discovered that Unite DTLA also used DLANC’s mailing address- which is paid for by the City’s NC Funding System (taxpayer funding), and thus also a violation. 

The Skid Row subdivision election’s preliminary results saw Skid Row NC losing by a slim 62-vote margin. DLANC’s database registered at least 700 potential voters from their 2016 NC elections. This entire database was automatically registered in Skid Row’s 2017 subdivision election. Easily, the “NO” position e-mails (publicly stated by a current DLANC Board member on social media to have been sent “four times a day”) may have influenced 62 of their 700 voters, and possibly more. 

This week, the Skid Row NC-FC officially filed multiple actions, which include a recount (there are provisional ballots that have yet to be counted), a grievance against the DLANC and 5 separate challenges all filed with the City’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE). 

If DONE accepts any of the challenges, an independent grievance panel will be formed with a possible decision coming no more than 14 days from it’s convening. 

If each of the challenges are dismissed, the Skid Row NC-FC has indicated that they will explore all possible options, including “legal options” which imply the possibility of at least one lawsuit, possibly naming both DLANC and the City of Los Angeles. 

This unfortunate turn of events takes away from a tremendous and unexpected turnout in which over 760 voters voted in favor of creating a Skid Row NC and over 1600 overall. Even rap superstar Ice Cube and dozens of Hip-Hop artists recorded cell phone videos urging qualified voters to “Vote YES for the Skid Row NC” which formulated from a #HipHop4SkidRow social media campaign. 

With all this momentum, Skid Row was able to organize and activate a newly-established voter base that could have been much larger, but there are also claims of voter suppression, which may be addressed after the pending challenges through DONE. The oldest voter in support of Skid Row’s effort was a 96-year old Skid Row man who beamed with pride for his community. 

Still, DLANC’s devious acts overshadow Skid Row’s glory and a revealing video released on social media exposes an even greater concern of how people outside of Los Angeles will view this controversial election. 

Will the City of Los Angeles’ image, which prides itself on being diverse, inclusive, progressive and a “sanctuary city” be tarnished? 

Will international tourists see Los Angeles in an unattractive light because of it’s inhumane actions towards it’s homeless residents? 

Will the City’s 2024 Summer Olympic bid be negatively affected? Or the City’s effort to land the 2026 World Cup frowned upon? 

Or will this simply be just a local community tussle over the control of Skid Row? 

If the DLANC is to be punished, will it’s close ties to the powerful Downtown business sector be a factor in a soft “slap on the wrist”-type punishment? Or will the hammer be dropped to set an example of what will not be tolerated in any NC elections across the city? 

There is a lot at stake and the pressure is already mounting. 

It was reported that DLANC’s Executive Secretary stepped down this week. It is not yet known whether this move is related to the voting scandal, but surely the timing seems to come at a bad time. 

Can DLANC, which is considered one of the better NC’s of the 96 NC’s citywide, overcome this still-unfolding drama where things will simply return to normal or will major changes be inevitable? 

The Skid Row community is stunned and there is talk of the concerns regarding the possibility of long-term trauma, which would add to the many complexities associated with the area commonly known as “the homeless capitol of America”. 

Will Skid Row residents cower behind the results of this election and collectively decide never to get involved in politics again? Or stand up to the powerful land-use developers who aim to gentrify the area where they live? 

The results of DONE’s challenge review has great implications that will undoubtedly and instantly affect tens of thousands of Angelenos. 

A Skid Row NC could be the missing piece in all the new Measure HHH and Measure H discussions involving billions of taxpayer dollars, which could give the necessary credibility to subsequent decisions on homelessness that the DLANC just doesn’t have. 

Either way, history will again be made. 

Skid Row NC-FC members strongly believe they are on the right side of history. 

This will undoubtedly be a significant turning point in Los Angeles’ well-documented struggles to sufficiently handle it’s expanding homeless problems which include a lack of significant low-income housing, adequate storage facilities for homeless citizens and ineffective healthcare services for the ever-growing mental illness population and even help for those suffering in various states of addition. 

The new Homeless Count numbers will be released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) at the end of next month. 

The fight to create a Skid Row NC may still continue well past that. 

It is unknown what solutions the “NO” voters have planned to address homelessness in Skid Row, if any. 

Maybe they just got caught up in the moment of wanting to simply win an election. 

History books now await DLANC’s entry.

EASTSIDER-Let’s be honest. Since the late 1980’s, Council District 1 has been a district deliberately created to be a majority-Hispanic council district. You can check out the history at Wikipedia 

The latest revisions to the District are the product of a particularly slimy body-swap political exercise presided over by the 2012 LA Redistricting Commission. It was so toxic that it only ended in 2015 with a federal judge’s ruling long after the 2013 election was over. 

Here in Glassell Park, I guess we should be used to being treated like serfs, since we have at various times been under Council District 13 with Eric Garcetti, Council District 14 with Jose Huizar, and Council District 1, initially with Reyes and now with Cedillo. 

The 2013 race to replace termed-out Ed Reyes was particularly nasty, with Cedillo, termed-out himself from the CA Legislature, running against Reyes’ Chief of Staff, Jose Gardea. You can get a taste of that debate in this LA Weekly article.  

Anyhow, the 2012 redistricting did not change the 70% plus Latino nature of the District. What it did do was provide a body swap between Huizar and Reyes so that CD 14 swapped its chunk of Glassell Park and environs out for Downtown LA where Huizar could make more money with the CRA and the business/developer community. It also let Council President Herb Wesson split Koreatown into four districts for his own purposes…including a piece landing in CD 1. 

With that background, it seems to me that the 800 pound gorilla in the room for the Council District 1 runoff, is whether gentrification, missteps by the incumbent, and voter turnout will flip this district to non-Latino. 

How We Got to a Runoff 

Between 2013 and now, many of our communities have been the beneficiaries of a gentrification tsunami in the Echo Park, Highland Park, Glassell Park and Cypress Park areas. Mt. Washington doesn’t count, since it had already been gentrified. 

As Silverlake became outrageously expensive, our hillsides from Highland Park to Glassell Park became the next “new wave” of gentrification, with single family homes suddenly going for $700,000 and up. Also, condos and small lot homes are popping up like mushrooms with exorbitant prices. All this is driving out a lot of longtime residents who can’t even afford their apartments. 

Regarding Gil Cedillo and Joe Bray-Ali, there is an irony in this race. When he ran in 2013, Cedillo talked to everyone; on the other hand, City Hall Insider Gardea was locked in to Ed Reyes “never met a development he didn’t like” (unless it was a single family home) remote style of governance. 

This time around, Cedillo is characterized as the incumbent who loves development and doesn’t talk to the troops, while Joe Bray-Ali is the young, fresh candidate who talks to everyone. As I wrote in an earlier CW column, “Joe Bray-Ali Cleans Up Nice!” 

Further, it was clear at the Sotomayor School debate that Joe had a shot -- the takeaway quote being, “of all the other candidates Joe Bray-Ali stands the best chance of getting in a runoff.” 

And the results -- although initially in favor of Cedillo -- were ultimately:

Name

Votes

Percentage

Gil Cedillo

10,396

49.34

Joe Bray-Ali

8,000

37.97

Giovanni Hernandez

1,798

8.53

Jesse Rosas

875

4.15

 

While it’s nice to guess right, the margins in this race were very tight, and the number of total votes cast in a district with some quarter of a million people in it, was not so good. 

The Runoff Its Own Self 

Clearly Joe Bray-Ali has momentum going for him, and is garnering unusual endorsements, such as CD 13’s Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, in addition to the Los Angeles Times and a number of environmental groups like the League of Conservation Voters. And there is no question that the issue which brought Joe to everyone’s attention -- safe streets and the Bicycle Plan -- has galvanized supporters. 

Gil Cedillo also has a number of endorsements, from Jerry Brown and Xavier Becerra to Mayor Garcetti and Gloria Molina. Perhaps of more use in this race are the ones from the Police Protective League, the Firefighters, and UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles.) 

Joe’s difficulty will likely be in the area of Latino voters, inasmuch as his campaign has not achieved too much success in wooing this segment of the District to his cause. Of course Gil Cedillo’s problem is that, while the District is about 72% Latino, so far, that hasn’t translated into a huge Latino voter turnout. The trick may be how many of the Giovanni Hernandez and Jesse Rosas voters will come out and vote for Joe in the runoff. 

On the other side, it seems to me that a big difficulty Gil Cedillo has is that he actually likes to govern, as in introducing City Council initiatives and motions. This probably stems from his years in the California legislature, where they make decisions on statewide issues. Trouble is, most Angelenos I know could care less about what the City Council does -- unless and until their taxes go up, a monster development invades the neighborhood, or they actually need something from their Councilmember. 

The real name of the game in winning City Council Districts is going out and pressing flesh, having as many one-on-one contracts with each neighborhood as possible, and demonstrating that the Councilmember cares. Take Mitch O’Farrell as an example. He’s never met a development or developer he doesn’t love (even if the project is on a fault line) but has great constituent services staffing, and is out everywhere pressing the flesh all the time. And guess who won re-election in a walk? Mitch. 

Joe Bray-Ali is out and about everywhere, while Gil Cedillo labors under the handicap of being an incumbent with a track record. The rap on him is that once elected, his team slacked off on daily outreach to the various community groups and neighborhood councils, and it was difficult to get him to go out and press the flesh of constituents. It is difficult to turn around these perceptions at election time; on the other hand, the challenger can make any promise he wants before getting elected and having to deliver. 

Upcoming Events 

As we speak, the East Area Progressive Democrats (EAPD), now up to about 750 members, have endorsed Joe Bray-Ali, but many of them are not in CD 1. The Northeast Democrats (NEDC) have not endorsed; however, they have scheduled a meeting for April 19 to vote on an endorsement. Of course, they are a much smaller group, but at this point everything counts. 

There will also be an important candidates’ forum in the critical Westlake/Pico-Union area on April 17 at the Monsenor Romero Hall (2845 W. 7th Street, starting at 7p.m.) It should prove interesting. 

Hopefully, there will be more candidate forums and events before the election, and I may write another column before the actual May 16 election date. 

The Takeaway 

Not only does Joe Bray-Ali clean up nice, but my initial observation stands: “…if Joe Bray-Ali can force Cedillo into a runoff, all the electoral math changes in a hurry. If an incumbent with all the advantages can’t put the election away in the primary, he’s viewed as wounded meat and all bets are off.” 

At the same time, never underestimate the value of incumbency. Mr. Cedillo did, after all, come within a hair’s breadth of winning the election outright, and I suspect that in a two-candidate race he would have won. At this point, his political back is up against the wall, and you can be sure that all stops are out. 

The real question has to do with voter turnout…and the Latino vote. 

Shortly after you read this article, vote-by-mail will start on April 18, and the actual runoff election date is May 16. Remember, as the primary election proved, EVERY VOTE COUNTS! If we don’t vote, complaints about the results won’t mean much.

PLEASE VOTE! We will be living with the results of this election for 5 1/2 years.

 

(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.

GELFAND’S WORLD--For sixteen years, Los Angeles officials have been telling us that the system of neighborhood councils exists to improve citizen participation in government. In fact, the City Charter leads off its section nine with the following purpose statement: 

To promote more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs, a citywide system of neighborhood councils, and a Department of Neighborhood Empowerment is created.  Neighborhood councils shall include representatives of the many diverse interests in communities and shall have an advisory role on issues of concern to the neighborhood. 

That seems pretty self-explanatory. In my home-council, we've been encouraging participation by our neighbors since February 2002, back when we held the first neighborhood council board meeting in the city. Over the ensuing years, public officials and LAPD Senior Lead Officers have added their own contributions. In fact, our public treats the chance to ask questions of the LAPD and of civic officials (or their representatives) as an important part of the meeting. In reality, this is their part of the meeting, because it provides members of the public a chance to engage with officials who have the power and authority to change things. Even when the visitor is an appointed representative (usually a staffer) rather than the City Councilman, it is a chance to provide feedback to the elected official. 

That's why I was so surprised when an old friend told me the following story. He was at his neighborhood council meeting (it's the council immediately adjacent to my home council) and he got up to ask the City Councilman's representative a question. This was nothing new actually -- it happens routinely at most neighborhood councils around the city. But this time, he was told that he could not ask his question. The rules had changed. 

He explained to me that he was told the following -- that only members of the elected board could ask questions of the City Councilman's representative during the public part of the meeting. If he wanted to have a private conversation with the rep away from the meeting, he was welcome to try. 

It's apparently the new rule. If this is an accurate description of a new policy, it certainly represents a terrible way of doing business. 

I called the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE), the city agency that oversees neighborhood councils. The DONE representative I spoke with explained the situation my friend had experienced. The Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council had a rather busy agenda that evening, so to save time, the board decided to abolish the public's right to ask questions of the visiting dignitaries. Thus my friend Bill was forbidden to ask Councilman Joe Buscaino's representative Ryan Ferguson a question in public. 

That this is a bad policy is easy enough to see. An essential element of public participation is providing members of the public a chance to cross swords with elected officials. This is what we have seen in town halls held by congressmen over the past couple of months. The reception that members of congress had at their town halls may be the reason that we still have the Affordable Care Act. 

The public Q/A session is the public's opportunity to communicate not only with the elected official, but also with each other. This is particularly important when the inquiry concerns a City Councilman's performance in office, analogous to the way it concerns a congressman's voting record. What is the councilman going to do about traffic or homelessness or home burglaries? Will he support the proposed sales tax increase? What does he think about the current trend to treat home burglaries as misdemeanors? 

It's not obvious that elected board members will think of the same set of questions as you or I would, and it's rather unlikely that board members will press their questions to the same extent that we might. In fact, there is a reasonable argument to be made that neighborhood council governing board members have different incentives than the public when it comes to discussions with elected officials. The board members are trying to maintain a cordial relationship with the elected official, something which is not conducive to aggressive public questioning over matters of performance or ethics or legislation 

The question of purpose 

In considering the radically different approaches taken by my home council (Coastal San Pedro) and the council in question (Central San Pedro), it's appropriate to ask what the whole system is supposed to be about. Which way is more likely to result in improved government as described in the City Charter's quaint wording? My rather partisan point of view is that shutting the public out of the process is less than optimal. Actually, it's the way to communicate to the public that they are second class participants. What's so outrageous is that the neighborhood council is the organization that is supposed to be the closest to the public in all of city government. How hard is it to point out that citizen participation means exactly what it says? 

But this point having been made, it is also necessary to admit that the night's agenda (see the link above) was in fact pretty busy. How do you rationalize the need to get through a long agenda with the public's right to participate in questioning of officials? 

I think that the honest answer is that for some agendas and some neighborhood councils, it's not always possible. It's necessary to make a choice. 

In order to make a choice rationally, it's necessary to consider the opposing needs. 

My view is that an essential function of the neighborhood council is giving the public the maximum opportunity to make its own views known. It's not unreasonable to dedicate a significant fraction of council meetings mainly to public participation. For example, my council held a couple of meetings dedicated to discussion of the homelessness problem, leading off with speeches by homeless advocates and devoting the bulk of each meeting to public comments. 

In addition, it's necessary to devote a sufficient amount of time for public participation at every other council meeting. Hearing from the public is a prime function of the neighborhood councils, and all of them should live up to this expectation. 

But what about all the other agenda items -- the items that require such a large amount of time? There are three possible answers to this question. The first is simple: Just don't put so much on your agenda. A lot of routine matters are sufficiently handled every two months, or even every three months. 

Another method is to learn how to use time management. In practice, this involves putting a time limit on each agenda item in advance. The board can extend the length of any item, knowing full well that this adds to the length of the meeting. It is between the board and the public as to whether this is acceptable. But absent an affirmative board vote to extend the length of any given item, it is over when it has used up its allotted time. 

I understand that most boards would feel strange about having an item die without taking a vote, but there again, there are methods for dealing with the situation. In brief, go directly to the vote at the end of allotted time, or put further consideration of the matter over until the next meeting, or quickly pass a motion to extend the item by five minutes. 

It's possible to handle your time effectively such that the rights of the public to participate are not hindered. That this requires of the presiding officer a certain skill set is not in question, and training in these matters is one of those obligations that should have been taken up by DONE years ago but never was. 

I should also like to add that lengthened board agendas are a symptom of a long term trend in neighborhood councils, the idea that every question should be sent to a committee, and there should be a committee for every question. It sounds reasonable at the superficial level, but a deeper look leads to some concerns. For one thing, committee work is usually carried out by a smaller number of participants, and committee meetings often happen at times and places that are difficult for many members of the public to attend. The result is that those few people who are most invested in any particular subject are the ones who become the committee members. The result is, often enough, a skewed recommendation from the committee to the board. Now add in a board meeting which limits public participation (one comment not to exceed two minutes is certainly to be limited) and the recipe is for an overall skewed result. 

It is of course possible for a committee to be made up almost entirely of people with a specific interest and still see a fair result. This happens when, for example, the downtown business owners can ask for certain changes that would benefit the community as a whole without damaging any other part of the community. 

But the primary functioning of a neighborhood council still has to include a maximum of public participation, and this remains the case whenever the choice is between hearing public comment and hearing the reports of committees. Or to be specific, Bill should have been allowed to ask Ryan his question.

 

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

-cw

LEAVING LA-We have spent considerable time exploring the factors driving Family Millennials away from Los Angeles. Today we show the lure of other places. 

NewGeography has a number of articles describing the areas which are competing for middle class Angelenos. They all share the common element of Affordable Opportunity. Four articles are: 

September 20, 2016, NewGeography, “Lone Star Quartet,”  by Aaron Renn. 

This article gives an over view of Texas and shows the breadth of opportunity which Texas offers. 

December 3, 2016, NewGeography, Opportunity Urbanism: The Tech Edition,” by Ryan Streeter. 

This article describes the tech job market in Austin, one of Texas’ most desirable areas. Austin not only has a university but it is the state capital with an established music scene. As such, it has a decent chance of attracting young Millennials who can later effortlessly transition into Family Millennials without moving thousands of miles away.

April 8, 2017, NewGeography, The Ghost of Mamie Eisenhower,”  by John Sanphillippo. 

Good picture essays are fantastic. This article documents small towns that abound in other parts of the nation and have decent weather. Their decline has become ancient history, and their renaissance has already begun. The best place to enter opportunity is on the ground floor. 

April 6, 2017, NewGeography, “Seven Ways Life Has Gotten Better in Rural America,” by Aaron M. Renn. 

For people who love open space, convenience, and who can telecommute, the rural areas probably provide the most opportunity. People have not yet begun to talk and write about the coming impact of Virtual Presence. Soon wall size monitors, directional mics, and cameras which can track you as you walk about the room will be common. When people are liberated from the small monitor, we will enter a telecommunications era more revolutionary than what the smart phone has brought.   

These and other NewGeography articles give us a sense of the advantages of moving to smaller cities, smaller towns and even to rural areas sooner rather than later. When one adds together Virtual Presence, long range electric, self-driving cars and the economics of our times, we see that the future of the American family lies in low density communities. 

Work Book for LA Family Millennials 

In planning for a family, Millennials will do some basic calculations. The housing costs in Austin or the exurbs in the South or in rural areas will be one third to one half of a detached home in LA. While everyone’s financial position is different, the extra housing cost to live in LA is about $36,000 per year. If one includes two children in private school, the extra cost will increase by about $40,000 more per year. (Private LA schools range from $11K to $32K per year per student.) That means it costs about $75,000 extra per year to live in LA. 

Away from Los Angeles, that $75,000 can be divided three ways: (1) $25K/yr. for normal living expenses like vacations, clothes, cars, restaurants, (2) $25K/yr. for retirement, and (3) $25K/yr. to up-grade housing, e.g. six bedrooms, home offices and an acre of land. 

For an LA family who is not earning enough to save $75K per year by moving, relocation to a low density, growth community means the difference between paying exorbitant rent for a small apartment and owning a home of their own with a yard in a decent school district.

 

(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.

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--Dearest Nevada … Marry me.

GOLDEN STATE’S NEW INDUSTRY--If you’ve got more than a few questions about California’s new recreational cannabis policy, you’re certainly not the only one. Millions somewhat naively expected to wake up January 1 with a booming recreational cannabis industry blossoming all around them. In reality, things aren’t nearly as simple.

Quite to the contrary, Proposition 64 is a 62-page-long document that goes into immense detail as to how, when and by whom the new commercial cannabis industry will be controlled. It’s a pretty complex document to say the least, but for the most part, it doesn’t have a great deal of relevance to the average citizen. Or cannabis tourist, for that matter.

While things are never quite as black and white as they seem, it’s nonetheless possible to condense the most important elements of Proposition 64 to a much smaller, more digestible guide. Which will undoubtedly emerge at some point in an official form at, but in the meantime we figured we’d lend a helping hand. Whether you live in California or are planning to pay The Golden State a visit in the near future, there are certain things you really need to know about the new cannabis policy.

All of which counts double if you have any intention of selling the stuff, which for the time being at least simply isn’t going to happen. At least, not if you plan to do so legally, anyway.

The new law only applies to adults aged 21 and over

First up, not to mention most obviously of all, the newly implemented cannabis legislation in California applies exclusively to adults. Specifically, the possession and use of cannabis is only legal for those aged 21 and over. If you meet the minimum age requirements, you are now legally permitted to buy and carry on your person up to 28.5g of cannabis for recreational purposes. If you are caught carrying more, you could be hit with an on-the-spot fine of up to $100. Anyone under the age of 21 is not permitted to purchase or carry any amount of cannabis for any reason, including transportation purposes.

Home growing is semi-legal

For the first time, those preferring not to hand over their hard-earned cash for recreational cannabis now have the freedom to grow their own. Specifically, anyone residing within California is legally permitted to grow up to six cannabis plants, for their own personal consumption. . So there’s never been a better time to head over to Seed Supreme and stock up. While it is only legal to carry 28.5g of cannabis on your person when leaving your property, you can nonetheless hold onto your entire harvest at home, regardless of how much your six plants produce.That said, landlords still have every right to prohibit cannabis cultivation – thousands of whom are already doing exactly that.

You can’t legally smoke cannabis everywhere

For the most part, the rules with regard to smoking cannabis in public places are now exactly the same as those involving tobacco. Which generally means as a rule of thumb that you cannot smoke cannabis in the vast majority of public places, shy of a specific public ordinance and clear permission to do so. It is also illegal for cannabis to be smoked within 1,000 feet of any school, youth centre, day care centre or similar establishment.

Vehicular rules still apply

Of course, getting baked before driving or smoking cannabis behind the wheel remains 100% illegal and is being clamped down on state-wide. However, it’s important to note that even if you yourself aren’t touching the stuff, it is still illegal to allow anyone else in your car to light up. Which also applies to vehicles that are stationary, along with boats, aircraft, motorcycles and so on.

If you break the rules, you’ll get a fine

Generally speaking, anyone found to be flouting the rules when it comes to prohibition of cannabis consumption in public places will be liable for a fine up to a maximum of $100. Should the offence take place anywhere tobacco is prohibited, the fine can go as high as $250. In both instances however, the incident will not be noted on the individual’s criminal record. As a means by which to demonstrate that they are taking new cannabis legislation seriously, it is widely expected that lawmakers will be particularly heavy-handed when it comes to doling out punishments during the initial months following legalization.

Commercial cannabis will be kept away from kids

One of the most important focus points of Proposition 64 is that of outlining exactly how cannabis and cannabis products will be kept away from teenagers and children. Various measures have been outlined, which include the requirement for cannabis products to be packaged in a manner that does not appeal to children, all marijuana products being supplied in child-resistant packaging and the prohibition of supplying cannabis products of any kind to anyone under the age of 21 under any circumstances.

There won’t be any TV commercials for weed

Falling largely under the same legislation as tobacco, there will not be any televised commercials of any kind for cannabis or cannabis products. In addition, any kind of marketing that is permitted for cannabis will be highly scrutinized and must be able to demonstrate that it will not appeal to anyone under the age of 21. Advertisers and marketers will also be unable to betray the use of marijuana as positive or a glamorous in front of influential audiences.

You can’t just grow your own and sell it on

One of the key arguments behind Proposition 64 and the cannabis legalization movement in general is the way in which regulated distribution can drive drug dealers off the streets. As such, Proposition 64 clearly states that while growing, using and purchasing cannabis from licensed vendors is legal, selling the stuff yourself most certainly isn’t. If you have any intention of selling cannabis at any level, you will first be required to obtain the required licensing, pay the necessary fees and ensure you are satisfying applicable taxation requirements. Which is, of course, where things become extremely complicated.

Gifting is legit

However, if you’re feeling generous or simply have too much stockpiled away at home, actually giving cannabis away as gifts in reasonable quantities is legal.

If you don’t get a license, you’re in trouble

Choose to sell cannabis at any level without the required licensing and you could be in for a fine of around $500, or perhaps even six months behind bars. Proposition 64 states clearly that anyone involved in any kind of commercial cannabis activity at any level that is not fully authorized will find themselves in serious bother. Along with potential jail-time and steep financial penalties, those busted breaking sales and distribution laws will also have to watch their entire crop being destroyed and disposed of.

It’s going to take some time

 

Last up, anyone with the intention of visiting California over the coming months to dive into dispensaries on every street corner might want to consider delaying their vacation. The reason being that while Proposition 64 passed and the new laws are now in effect, actually setting up the commercial licensing and distribution system is going to take some time. Probably January next year, at the earliest. Which is something that’ll likely prove even more frustrating for those looking to get into business than members of the cannabis community out to indulge.

(Pausali Das is a writer whose work appears occasionally at Huff Post)  … where this analysis was first posted.)

-cw

(Editor’s Note: As regular readers know, CityWatch was founded 15 years ago to promote civic engagement. And, it is our belief that the best engagement is the result of information and education. We also believe that for this divided country to ever come together it will be necessary for all sides on these divisive issues to be heard … and listened to. No progress comes from ‘preaching to the choir.’ That is why we post perspectives and positions from all sides of the political spectrum. We believe your voice should be heard … even if we disagree with what you have to say. It is with that belief in mind that we make this Heather MacDonald speech available to you.)

TRANSPORTATION WATCH--Most of us like paying for a given thing only once.  But hey, maybe some of us like paying for transportation and infrastructure so much that we'll pay not once, but three, four, five times for the exact same thing until finally, sort of, maybe, it gets paid for. 

As for little old me? I like paying for something once ... although I realize that budgets and disasters require some significant flexibility when reality makes yesterday's predictions null, void, and moot. And I've recommended sales taxes and higher gas taxes for decades to pay for transportation and infrastructure. 

I'm all for appropriate taxation...but I'm also for "Alpern's Law of Taxes" which states that the one thing taxpayers are more concerned about than the amount of taxes they pay is the perception about how well those taxes are spent. 

Let me repeat that again, more slowly … 

 ... the ... perception ... about ... how ... well ... those ... taxes ... are ... spent! 

But a funny thing happened over the past few decades.  The education unions needed to be FED. The public sector employee unions decided that early retirement in the mid-fifties, and getting paid big time in retirement at a salary similar to those still working, took precedence over that little thing called financial sustainability. 

And even former Governor Schwarzenegger showed he had no spine or willingness to explain that one could be PRO-teacher, PRO-education, PRO-roads, PRO-rail, PRO-business, PRO-health care, and PRO-taxpayer all at once. 

So, here’s the drill: We scream about the roads, gather more taxes, bonds, fees, whatever and then when we get more money for infrastructure we yank money from the general fund for “other” things to placate the unions. 

And whadaya know?  We don't have enough money for roads, rail, sewage, water, and other infrastructure all over again!  But the percentage of our budget going to pensions and inefficient/inappropriate spending continues to rise. 

Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Seen any new universities get built lately?  The cost of education go down?  The ability of the middle class to thrive?  Businesses with lots of middle or upper class jobs go up, with either an industrial or intellectual economic base go up to pay for everything? 

I didn't see any of that, either. 

And here's the kicker, fellow taxpayers, and fellow Californians: 

You already paid for universities, and roads, and everything nice, several times over and got that tax/bond/fee money indirectly yanked towards ‘something else’ … and you will now pay for all of that yet again. 

I'm not for ANY one-party state, either Republican or Democrat.  Boondoggles and sweetheart deals that favor a few and thrash the majority is not OK. 

We now have an upper economic class of technological and other professionals who are in nice and/or gated communities.  They may grumble and get angry about taxes, but they're moving forward and living nice lives. 

Then there's the middle class, comprised primarily of suffering but hanging-in-there small businesses and public sector workers.  And if you're too stupid to become one of them, then woe be unto you. And after you retire, you'd be well advised to flee California to keep (gasp!) your hard-earned money. 

And then there's the former industrial/manufacturing middle class, who are now working fast food jobs in a service industry that's anything but helpful for those who want to live sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyles...and a minimum wage increase will too often lead to automation replacing their jobs, not more money. 

But those who stayed awake in economics class, or who lived long enough in California to remember how economics works in different venues and climates, either have been shut down, died, or fled the state. 

And now we have a new gas tax that ... perhaps after the last 4-5 failures ... will actually go to transportation. 

There ARE answers: 

1) Require a minimum of the state general fund, and safeguard all transportation taxes/fees/bonds, to remain invested in transportation/infrastructure.  10% of the general fund ought to do it. 

2) Change the education portion of the state general fund to alter inefficient K-12 funding (the K-12 population is going DOWN...did you know that?) to be diverted and establish 5-10 new UC and Cal State universities over the next ten years.  And pay education employees in a responsible and sustainable manner! 

3) Increase the costs of transportation/infrastructure for Silicon Valley/Beach businesses and developers who are impacting, but NOT paying their fair share, of the costs needed for them to be among those few who are profiting handsomely off the sweat and toil of the rest of our state. 

Until then, we've got the gas tax from those we elected to "lead".  Shut up and pay, right? 

Let's just make sure that our money actually goes to where it's supposed to, with transportation money actually having a net INCREASE as a result of this gas tax. 

Otherwise, we can look forward to our next tax/bond/fee increase because--you know--there's just not enough money for our crumbling roads and infrastructure because we spent our recent gas tax money ... directly or indirectly ... on SOMETHING ELSE. 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He 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.)

-cw

ANIMAL WATCH-If anything will get viewers for TV news, it is reporting that animals are going to be killed at a shelter. Activists know this well. Occasionally, frantic calls to reporters come from well-meaning--but misinformed--visitors or volunteers, because there is little time for quiet, detailed communication while managing facilities with hundreds of animals leaving and entering daily.  

Most stations know this and confirm the full facts with the agency's management so the broadcast can, hopefully, provide a positive way the public can be part of the solution--if there is a problem. 

But, on Thursday, KTLA News completely caught LA County Animal Care & Control by surprise when it broadcast and posted, “Some local rescue pet organizations are upset over a new policy at LA County Animal Services. They say the policy allows shelters to euthanize animals that are deemed 'unsafe,' instead of being made available for adoption by rescue organization." 

Sayalan Orng, identified by the station as a shelter volunteer, said ominously, "My concern is that, if this continues and we can't save dogs that are deemed aggressive, this will be a “mass murder.”" 

Although reporter Kareen Wynter announced that shelter volunteers had started a petition opposing the change, the on-line document which KTLA posted for the convenience of critics indicates it was actually started by a woman in Littleton, CO, who does not appear to have affiliation with L.A. County shelters or any other animal organization. 

A spokesperson for LACAC&C said they were not aware of the broadcast. When they were notified that an e-mail to one of their Carson rescue partners had been misinterpreted, the Department promptly posted a media release on the LA County Animal Care and Control website to clarify:

As an animal care organization DACC is committed to finding homes for all adoptable pets sheltered that are not reclaimed by their owners. While we strive for adoption outcomes for all dogs, we also have a responsibility to public safety. In some cases, dogs that find their way to our animal care centers have a documented history of such aggressive tendencies that they pose a threat to public safety. 

Eighty-four percent (84%) of the dogs that come into our Los Angeles County Animal Care are adopted to families or placed with our very valued adoption partners (rescues). However, because of our commitment to public safety, DACC will not place dogs—even with our adoption partners—when the dog has a documented history of aggressive behavior, or has exhibited a pattern of threatening or aggressive behavior while in our care. 

The reality is that very few dogs in our animal care centers will be deemed to pose a risk to public safety. We want to reassure concerned animal advocates that fears that have recently been conveyed to us -- that any dog that shows fear in the stressful kennel environment will be euthanized -- is simply not correct. Our policy is limited to dogs whose documented history demonstrates a high likelihood that they will injure or kill another animal or attack a human. 

We do not take lightly the decision to euthanize a dog for behavioral reasons and are committed to taking that action only when the dog poses a very strong propensity to do harm if placed in a new home. We will continue to evaluate each dog as an individual, taking into consideration all available information including temperament test, documented history and behavior while in our care. 

We continue to collaborate with our adoption partners to place dogs with less serious behavior issues, such as those whose evaluation would suggest special placement that our adoption partners may have the resources to address. 

The release also cites State law supporting the department’s policy. 

It is hard to believe that most County residents and rescuers would not support a decision to reduce the risk of harm to people, their pets and other animals by dogs which have a documented history or pattern of aggressive behaviorespecially with attack reports on shelter employees, volunteers and the public by impounded or adopted animals increasing at an alarming rate. 

Here are just a few: 

RECENT DOG ATTACKS IN SHELTERS 

On January 23, 2017, CityWatchLA told the story of Priscilla Romero, Animal Care Technician for L.A. Animal Services, who was savagely mauled by a dog that had bitten before while in the shelter and had other notations by employees that the dog was not safe. 

On February 24, 2017, according to the Orlando Sentinel, “Lake man is recovering from attack by pit bull at animal shelter, -- “The victim of a pit bull bite in the Lake County Animal Shelter talks ... A worker came running with a mop and used it to beat the dog off.” 

On March 18, 2017, the Daily World, wrote, Pit bull attacks worker; animal shelter shut down – Stacey McKnight was alone in the back of the St. Landry Parish Animal Control shelter Thursday when the unthinkable happened. ... ‘The dog's aim was to attack me,’ she said.” 

WHO ARE ‘ANIMAL RESCUERS’? 

Responsible animal rescuers perform a valuable service for the shelters and homeless animals by keeping them in a quiet, safe environment while they seek adopters that are a good match for each dog's personality, energy level and potential needs for the rest of its life. 

Some rescuers believe they are able to change the behavior of even a very aggressive dog or that behavior assessment tests do not show the dog’s true nature. Because of the increase in breeding and ownership of certain breeds of dogs for property protection (or to guard criminal enterprises), often those impounded in shelters have serious anti-social behavior or genetic propensities which have caused them to threaten or to have already attacked a person or kill other animals. 

There is no clear legal definition of a “rescuer” or a “rescue organization” in California or most states. Anyone -- including those without dog-handling, training, or other animal-management education or experience -- can become a “rescue” and solicit donations merely by obtaining or being remotely covered under a federal 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt umbrella. 

There are no other federal laws, nor is there a state or local agency in California that maintains jurisdiction, monitors or reviews "rescue" activities for compliance with laws or ordinances. Nor are there prescribed background checks to start a "rescue" or determine qualifications for employees or volunteers. 

Hoarding, noise or animal cruelty complaints may be made to the local animal-control department -- which is often where the rescue has “pulled” many of its animals to help reduce shelter population. 

There is also no statewide agency (such as Department of Consumer Affairs) for anyone dissatisfied with the health or temperament of an animal adopted from a rescue to make a report and have its license or permit revoked, because none is required. 

ANIMAL RESCUERS ARE NOT IMMUNE TO DOG ATTACKS 

April 5, 2017, Rescue Group Volunteer, Son Injured in Dog Attack A volunteer and her young son were hospitalized after two large-breed dogs attacked and bit them at “For the Love of Dogs” private animal shelter. "The Rottweilers went up to the children and they started to pet one of the dogs … the dog suddenly grabbed one of the children off the picnic table and took him to the ground, and the second dog started to attack the child as well.” Samuel said, “the volunteer rushed to her son’s aid and was bitten when she tried to shoo the dogs.” 

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

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

August 12, 2013, Darla Napora, Pregnant, Killed by Her Pit Bull . .. . 

Two Years Ago Father Writes ... "Darla's husband wanted a male pit bull and one was rescued Darla was described as being "...an avid, long-time supporter and member of Bay Area Dog Lovers Responsible About Pit Bulls [BAD RAP], a Pit bull advocacy group.” 

On August 20, 2012, Dog Rescuer Rebecca Carey Killed at Georgia Home by Dogs She Saved ...One or more of the rescued dogs in her home attacked Carey and killed her. ...at the time of her death—two Pit Bulls, a Boxer mix, and two Presa Canarios 

ANIMAL CONTROL, HUMANE SOCIETIES CAN BE SUED 

Aug 5, 2016 -- Animal control director can be sued for dog attack death, court rules ... Court rejects animal control chief Mark Kumpf’s defenses. ... Two complaints specifically alleged that the dogs’ owners, Andrew Nason and Julie Custer, had directly threatened her with attack. Andrew Nason and Julie Custer, above, were convicted of offenses pertaining to. . ."..

April 3, 2017 -- Adopted Pit Bull Attacks Toddler - Animal Shelter Sued for ‘Product Liability "Although the dog in Clinton, Iowa, had been listed as a 'Boxer-Labrador-mix,' it was determined to be a Pit Bull  that had been transported from a Louisiana shelter. The dog was subsequently declared a dangerous dog by Clinton authorities..." 

INCREASE IN FATAL ATTACKS BY RESCUE OR SHELTER DOGS

Colleen Lynn, of Dogsbite.org, compiled the following stats:

In the 7-year period of 2005 through 2011, dogs inflicted 214 deadly attacks in the United States. Only 2% (4) of those deaths involved rescue or adopted dogs. Of these 4 cases, 75% (3) of the dogs were vetted by rescues or shelters.[Vetted indicates a certified rescue or shelter.] All of the victims were children ages 4 and younger. 

In the 5-year period of 2012 through 2016, dogs inflicted 178 deadly attacks in the United States. A stunning 9% (16) of these deaths involved a rescue or adopted dog, making it the fastest growing category of the 47 measurable parameters that DogsBite.org tracks per death between the two time periods. 

Of the rescue or adopted dogs that killed during the 5-year period, 63% (10) were vetted. 50% (8) of these deaths involved children 7 years and younger and the other half involved adults 23 to 93 years old. 

Between the two periods, there has been a 350% increase in rescue or adopted dogs inflicting fatal attacks in the U.S. Combining both periods, 2005 through 2016, pit bulls and American bulldogs accounted for 70% of all rescue or adopted dogs that killed a person in the United States. 

PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM MARCIA MAYEDA, DIRECTOR, L.A. COUNTY ANIMAL CARE & CONTROL 

The Department of Animal Care and Control is committed to protecting human and animal safety, while placing as many unwanted animals as possible into new homes. Unfortunately, some dogs that arrive at our care centers have documented histories of aggression, or exhibit behavior so dangerous that they cannot be safely placed back into the community. Doing so places other animals, as well as people, at risk for serious  injury or death. While, sadly, these aggressive dogs cannot be safely rehomed, this decision is essential to public safety. 

To be clear, this policy relates to relatively few dogs. Other dogs may not pass a temperament assessment, but we feel are able to be further assessed and rehabilitated by experienced animal adoption partners (rescue groups). We work closely with many such organizations to provide these dogs with the opportunity for behavior modification and placement into new homes. 

It is disheartening that a venomous attack on LA County Animal Care & Control was promoted by KTLA -- which has been a strong supporter of animal shelters -- before the station had determined all the facts. As conveyed by Director Mayeda, a discussion with management could have diffused the angst of those making these claims and this damaging controversy would not have occurred.

 

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

DEEGAN ON LA-In today’s uneasy political climate, threatened by storm clouds of unwanted change, many are expressing their grievances by either complaining about, arguing against, or resisting something political. 

Education, and how it’s delivered, has become one of the flash points for collective dissatisfaction -- all the way from the Federal government, where we have a Cabinet level Education Secretary (who many claim lacks the understanding and experience to do the job) to the local neighborhood level here in LA, where Charter school “co-locations” on LAUSD campuses are an issue. 

A “co-location” (which became state law seventeen years ago) means having a charter school share a campus that has extra classrooms not used full time by the school district -- although those rooms may sometimes be in use for special-ed needs, art, drama and other extra-curricular after-class programs. 

The co-location process has received pushback from parents who don’t want their campuses hosting charter schools, bringing a minimum of eighty additional students from a different school and culture (private school versus public school) into their LAUSD schools. Is the politically expedient anti-globalism movement now going local, where students are becoming the spoils of the education wars? 

For the first ten years of the state law authorizing co-locations, LAUSD mounted legal challenges that they eventually lost. Yet, school district educators, administrators and parents still try to deny implementation of this law that reflected the will of the people in a public vote. Aligning this to the will of the LAUSD has not been easy. 

Expansion of charter schools by “co-locating” onto LAUSD campuses is at a crossroads now, with the May 16 run-off for seats in Districts 4 and 6 crucial to both pro and anti-charter school forces. The people on both sides of the issue have a chance to speak by casting their votes in this election. 

It doesn't take many votes to make a difference; change is lurking in this current school board race. The biggest vote getter in the municipal election -- the Mayor -- was given a second term with the votes of just 15% of the city’s registered voters. Not so lucky was the incumbent and anti-charter-school school board president Steve Zimmer, who is now fighting to hold onto his seat in District 4, jeopardized when he captured slightly under half of the votes cast in his district. This gave him just short of a majority in the close race, forcing a run-off. That slight margin is how little it takes to get elected to a position that could help freeze charter school growth. The flip side is that charter school supporters, seeing this vulnerability, can mobilize and achieve the required votes to win.

A mostly boring, poorly attended municipal election a few weeks ago had a historically low 16% voter turnout that would make anyone’s claim of having a “mandate” sound like something Trump would tweet. This resulted in a run-off for the LAUSD school board seats in District 4, which includes the Westside and part of the west Valley where pro-charter Nick Melvoin faces anti-charter Steve Zimmer; and District 6, the east San Fernando Valley, where charter-backer Kelly Gonez faces union-supported Imelda Padilla. Results in Districts 4 and 6 could tip the school board to a “pro-charter” or an “anti-charter” majority, so lots is at stake. This run-off could tilt the scales in the charter versus traditional school controversy as well as reveal the union versus non-union biases that exist in this, the second largest school district in the country. 

After voters passed Prop 39 in the year 2000, adding to the State Education Code "that public school facilities should be shared fairly among all public school pupils, including those in charter schools....that school districts to make ‘reasonably equivalent’ facilities available to charter schools upon request,” the LAUSD fought back, delaying implementation for ten years until forced to comply. In 2010 they lost a lawsuit brought by the California Charter School Association to compel LAUSD compliance with Prop 39. 

Now, seven years later, the power ratio at the LAUSD school board is vulnerable to a major shake-up. All it will take is two more pro-charter board members to be elected on May 16 and the pro-charter forces will have a majority on the board. It has been seventeen years since Prop 39 was passed -- enough time for a kid to matriculate from kindergarten to the doorsteps of college. 

Across the city, on the neighborhood level (such as in Hancock Park) there are charter schools wanting to use Prop 39 to co-locate onto LAUSD campuses. But many face resistance. Is this a state law versus neighborhood preference conflict? Or is it something more -- possibly a form of NIMBYism? 

“To Be, or Not To Be? That is the question” is what many students learn when they are exposed to Shakespeare’s Hamlet” for the first time. It’s a question many of their parents are asking now with the increasing number of charter schools taking up space on LAUSD campuses. In Hancock Park, they are asking if the LAUSD Third Street School campus will also be home for a charter school. That would swap out a few rooms that are now used for extracurricular activities for a charter school co-location by Citizens of the World Charter Schools which already operates charters in Hollywood, Silverlake and Mar Vista. 

A recent LAUSD presentation about a possible charter school co-location at Third Street School was shouted down by mostly moms who are against co-location. It was as if parents were using another Hamlet quote: “There’s something rotten in Denmark”, although the laws are pretty specific: it’s the adjustment to them that’s causing the emotional turmoil. 

The boiling point will come with the May 16 run-off election. Charter-advocate and Zimmer opponent Nick Melvoin (District 4) and charter-backer Kelly Gonez (District 6) will have to win seats if it’s going to be “goodnight sweet prince” for school board president Zimmer. We may see a school board that says hello to charter school expansion.

 

(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.

EDUCATION POLITICS-On Sunday April 2, the Committee for Racial Justice in Santa Monica had as their guest speaker Dr. Ben Drati, the relatively new African American superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD). What Dr. Drati discussed in his presentation was SMMUSD's decision to once and for all effectively deal with the unacceptable realities behind why African American and Latino students continue to do poorly at SMMUSD -- and what can be done to close this achievement gap with verifiable results. 

While I had some problems with Dr. Drati's approach to achieving minority student parity with their generally more affluent and academically successful non-minority peers, what I nonetheless found refreshing in his approach was a his willingness to incorporate ideas that might enable him and SMMUSD to help minority students to achieve their potential. 

The "coherent and cohesive focus" that Dr. Drati seeks to implement at SMMUSD to improve minority achievement, will require that he not underestimate the entrenched "culture of opposition" he will surely encounter when his reforms challenge the profitable vested interests of those who are doing just fine financially under the present system. 

Dr. Drati believes the "people leading schools have best intentions in mind." The reality is that we have 2.3 million people presently incarcerated in our prisons, one million of whom are African American. Fixing our schools so that minority students come out highly educated, socialized and employable, could not help but cut into these rates of incarceration and the obscene corporate profits that have been generated by them for so long.

There is also a tendency to minimize or not really understand the profoundly positive effect a good pragmatically driven public education system can have when it does more than mouth platitudes that most of those running the system don't even really believe. For example, Dr. Drati presented a list of several factors that schools could not control in dealing with minority underachievement. The reality is that a well functioning school is the actual mechanism that eliminates these negative factors. 

According to Dr. Drati, schools "don't control the level of poverty and living conditions" of its student population. But in American history, functioning public schools have always been the social integration mechanism that has assured students will more often than not do better socio-economically than their parents, who often had inferior educations. So far, this has eluded Black and Latino students. Why is that? 

If the "parents’ education level" continues to function as a continuing negative indicator of their children's achievement, because they are incapable of helping their children with homework, there are certain measures to try. Something as easy and relatively inexpensive as keeping the schools open after regular school hours and into the evening, so that students can get supplemental help with homework, can not only give underachieving students a place to get help but it might also serve as a forum for drawing back to school some of the students -- and parents -- who may have become frustrated and dropped out. It would be a lot cheaper than incarceration in the juvenile justice system that costs $78,000 a year per youth. 

Most importantly, Dr. Drati needs to know that any K-12 education system cannot assume that students arriving into a school at a given grade-level are objectively at that grade-level as measured by mastery of all prior grade-level standards. The existing system that now socially promotes students irrespective of their true grade-levels, has been and continues to be the greatest factor in creating student apathy, classroom disruption, and the lack of self-worth these students continue to suffer from unnecessarily. Could this have something to do with explaining why 70% of students who ultimately make it into the community college system in California wind up taking remedial courses in subjects that should have been remediated while in K-12? And how was it their K-12 schools awarded them high school diplomas? 

In dealing with the present de facto segregated public education system that still exists throughout the vast majority of inner city schools, there are some very difficult truths that cannot be avoided or ignored. For the past 400 years, there has been a systematic decimation a people based on race. It cannot be overcome without addressing the quantifiable, predictable damage this system has had and would have on any people unwillingly subjugated to it. A belated "equal education" for people who have been assured that they are not equal will not work to turn this travesty around – to the benefit of all Americans -- unless a pragmatic, subjective assessment of each student’s academic standing is done to ensure a relevant education the students can benefit from. 

One of the hardest issues to address and get the public to accept in order to turn around our failed public education system is to recognize that we as a society have perpetrated immutable damage that has limited the future of what were once the unlimited possibilities of the poor and minority students subjected to it. It now behooves us to transition from this "inherently unequal" low expectation school system to one "with liberty and justice for all." We must not ignore the damage we have done, which if left unaddressed, would continue to preclude these students from attaining any possible remaining success in the future. 

As we move to lessen the negative impact of this necessary transition period, it might be advisable to stop using empty, disingenuous rhetoric. More specifically, with a total college and university capacity in this country of 40% of high school graduates, why have public schools all but eliminated industrial arts and career training programs that students could use to achieve gainful employment after leaving school or to enable them to defray the ever increasing costs of post-secondary education? 

Another temptation that reformers like Dr. Drati need to avoid if they are to assure that minority students get the timely education they are entitled to, is not to adapt the system to the current low, negative achievement results of a racist system. In successfully educating any student, their age and grade levels need to be ignored and replaced with an assessment of where the individual student is subjectively – while at the same time assessing what each one is capable of learning. Such an approach might result in a pleasant surprise, a system in which minority students finally feel safe and respected and able to let down their guard, becoming "school boys or girls" without suffering the slings and arrows of their peers. 

In his talk, Dr. Drati posed the question: "What is going on in the mind of somebody who thinks it's okay to kill" without understanding that such a person has neither Drati's education nor vocabulary to understand the ramifications of such an action. With an average 500 word vocabulary, these young people engaging in violence on the streets of Los Angeles or Chicago are the logical result of failing to educate too many of this country's most important asset: its kids. This is important for all of our futures...if we want to have one. 

Although a product of the Los Angeles public school system who had the atypical ability to go on to college and get degrees in both biochemistry and a doctorate in education, I must confess I was not surprised to find out that Dr. Drati's family had immigrated to the United States. To me, this means that his family was probably not subjected to the systematic siege that most Black American families have suffered for far too long. Imagine what African American and Latinos students might achieve in school if they were given a level playing field like Dr. Drati had. 

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

DITHERING DYSTOPIA-As the Mayor was winging around the world touting Los Angeles as a venue ready for the World Stage, his bumbling surrogates -- Councilmembers Herb Wesson (photo above) and Mitch Englander (literally unable to keep their lies straight) -- rolled out a motion last Wednesday to make the violation of City Hall rules become a “trespass,” a misdemeanor which can carry with it a six-month prison sentence.  

It’s the “if-you-dare-break-one-of-our-rules-we-will-send-you-to-jail” ordinance, and it will render City Hall a dystopian haunted house, where members of the public will actually be stripped of civil liberties as they pass through the metal detector.  

A necessary evil? Absolutely, they contend, given the deadly and/or noisy nature of the City’s murderous and/or blabber-mouthed gadflies. All this is in addition to the prospect of the transient who hopped over Councilmember Bonin’s desk in 2014 coming back for another bite of the apple. 

Cops in City Hall take orders directly from whomever happens to be sitting in Council President’s seat. It could be a psychopathic drug addict, but if that person’s in the chair, he has at his disposal a private army of Taser-toting cops.  

So watch your back. Herb Wesson and the frequently defensive and irritable Mitch Englander are taking the civic out of civic engagement. 

It’s the watchdogs that are to blame. If they weren’t so nosy and abrasive and fault-finding, then the Council wouldn’t need to crackdown.  

Where’s the press? Most of the major outlets swallowed Wesson’s barely coherent talking points and then dutifully circulated them to the public, but it’s not too late to set things straight. 

We should be storming City Hall, kicking down doors and taking names. If not now, then when? 

 

(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer and Joshua is a teacher.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

NEW GEOGRAPHY--California may never secede, or divide into different states, but it has effectively split into entities that could not be more different. On one side is the much-celebrated, post-industrial, coastal California, beneficiary of both the Tech Boom 2.0 and a relentlessly inflating property market. The other California, located in the state’s interior, is still tied to basic industries like homebuilding, manufacturing, energy and agriculture. It is populated largely by working- and middle-class people who, overall, earn roughly half that of those on the coast.

Over the past decade or two, interior California has lost virtually all influence, as Silicon Valley and Bay Area progressives have come to dominate both state politics and state policy. “We don’t have seats at the table,” laments Richard Chapman, president and CEO of the Kern Economic Development Corporation. “We are a flyover state within a state.”

Virtually all the polices now embraced by Sacramento — from water and energy regulations to the embrace of sanctuary status and a $15-an-hour minimum wage — come right out of San Francisco central casting. Little consideration is given to the needs of the interior, and little respect is given to their economies.

San Francisco, for example, recently decided to not pump oil from land owned by the city in Kern County, although one wonders what the new rich in that region use to fill the tanks of their BMWs. California’s “enlightened” green policies help boost energy prices 50 percent above those of neighboring states, which makes a bigger difference in the less temperate interior, where many face longer commutes than workers in more compact coastal areas.

The new Bantustans

Fresno, Bakersfield, Ontario and San Bernardino are rapidly becoming the Bantustans — the impoverished areas designed for Africans under the racist South African regime — in California’s geographic apartheid. Poverty rates in the Central Valley and Inland Empire reach over a third of the population, well above the share in the Bay Area. By some estimates, rural California counties suffer the highest unemployment rate in the country; six of the 10 metropolitan areas in the country with the highest percentage of jobless are located in the central and eastern parts of the state. The interior counties — from San Bernardino to Merced — also suffer the worst health conditions in the state.

This disparity has worsened in recent years. Until the 2008 housing crash, the interior counties served, as the Kern EDC’s Chapman puts it, as “an incubator for mobility.” These areas were places that Californians of modest means, and companies no longer able to afford coastal prices, could get a second shot.

But state policies, notably those tied to Gov. Jerry Brown’s climate jihad, suggests Inland Empire economist John Husing, have placed California  “at war” with blue-collar industries like homebuilding, energy, agriculture and manufacturing. These kinds of jobs are critical for regions where almost half the workforce has a high school education or less.

Why the interior matters

In legislating against the interior, the state is trying to counter the national trend — evident in the most recent census numbers — that shows people seeking less dense, more affordable areas. Both millennial and immigrant populations are growing rapidly in these regions. Between 2000 and 2013, the Inland region experienced a 91 percent jump in its population with bachelor’s degrees or higher, a far more rapid increase than either Orange or Los Angeles counties.

By curtailing new housing supply, California is systematically shutting off this aspirational migration. Chapman University forecaster James Doti notes that, in large part due to regulation, Inland Empire housing prices have jumped 80 percent since 2009 — almost twice the rate for Orange County. Doti links this rapid rise to helping slow the area’s once buoyant job growth in half over the past two years. Population growth has also slowed, particularly in comparison to a decade ago.

Weighed down by coastal-imposed regulations, the interior is losing its allure for relocating firms. Many firms fleeing regulation, high taxes and housing costs used to head inland. Now, many are migrating to Nevada, Texas, Arizona and other states. “Many of the projects we saw years ago have surfaced in Phoenix,” lamented Mary Jane Ohlasso, assistant executive officer for San Bernardino County, in an interview. “The whole way California has grown has been hopelessly terminated,” she told me.

Over time, however, constraining the interior will backfire on the coastal enclaves. In recent weeks, coastal technology and professional service providers have raised a growing alarm about attracting and retaining thirtysomething skilled workers. Some have even suggested that new transportation infrastructure — for example, a tunnel between Corona and south Orange County — could provide an alternative for family-aged workers who cannot afford a residence closer to the coast. Others, to keep key employees, are purposely setting up offices in places like San Antonio for workers entering their thirties.

If this crisis of the interior is not addressed, the prognosis for California will be ever-growing class and race bifurcation and an ever-rising demand for welfare and other subsidies for those unable to pay for housing. California needs, in reasonable and sustainable ways, to keep open its regions of opportunity, not to seek to close them off to future generations.

(Joel Kotkin is the editor of New Geography  … where this piece was most recently posted … and is R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, a St. Louis-based public policy firm, and was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission.)

-cw

@THE GUSS REPORT-Aloof and incompetent government has been mocked by the masses since time immemorial. Outside of elections, it is sometimes the only way to have your dissent heard.

The increasingly antagonistic mockery of LA City Councilmembers at their thrice weekly gatherings has become a slapstick art form which has intensified during the five years that its president Herb Wesson has run the meetings, yet Wesson seems oblivious as ever to what he has done to increase the hostility in his quest to reduce civic participation. Specifically, he has: 

  • Reduced public speaking time from a total five minutes to three for items on the agenda. 
  • Reduced public speaking time from two minutes to one on any single agenda item. 
  • Reduced general public comment (for items not on the agenda) from two minutes to one minute. 
  • Moved general public comment from the beginning of the meeting, to the end of the meeting, back to the beginning and, now, in dribs and drabs, as filler throughout the meeting. 
  • Consistently called for peoples’ speaker cards the moment they step outside of City Council chambers to go to the restroom, declaring their time forfeited. 
  • Interrupted speakers, calling them “off-topic” without giving them a chance to make their point in their own way, including doing this to some whose primary language is not English and some who may be disabled or homeless and do not speak as swiftly as Wesson. 
  • Repeatedly interrupted speakers while their already reduced speaking time ticks off the clock. 
  • Called people to speak on a topic even though the agenda item is not yet ready to be voted on. 
  • Allowed Councilmembers to mill around or even stray away from Council chambers during public debate, and set Council’s voting software default to an “aye” yes vote without paying attention to speakers’ concerns. 
  • Squandered hours at the start of most City Council meetings with breathless, repetitious, fawning ceremony and celebration (which should be moved to a once-per-month weekend event) rather than put the peoples’ business first. 
  • Misplaced speaker cards so that, when the person gets in line to speak, he or she is declared “disruptive” and thrown out of the meeting under threat of arrest. (Then he suddenly locates the cards once speakers have been ejected from the room. 

Just last week, on a day when City Council squandered hours on fluff before getting down to business, Wesson’s sarcastic, Napoleonic back-up, Councilmember Mitch Englander, told a disabled speaker who had an opinion with which he disagreed, “your prescription is now ready.” 

Where was Wesson’s reprimand for that? While Wesson and Englander whine, they give as good as they get. 

The situation is far worse now than during the years Mayor Eric Garcetti served as City Council president, although his interference with free speech resulted in a losing, costly-to-the-taxpayers federal 1st Amendment lawsuit won by David “Zuma Dogg” Saltsburg. As a result, all new elected officials and commissioners who run public meetings are now warned about “The Zuma Dogg Ruling” before they enter the City Hall fray. And Mr. Saltsburg wasn’t the only critic to win a free speech battle in court against City Hall. 

Wesson’s restrictiveness and inability to find common ground is not only arbitrary and retaliatory against the City Hall regulars, it also hurts other people who may come to City Hall only one time in their lives to fight something like an unfair property lien, forcing them to wait hours for a paltry 60-seconds to speak, often without even being heard. 

Last week, Wesson dealt what will eventually become another losing hand for City Hall when he and the other Councilmembers instructed City Attorney Mike Feuer, who has cultivated his own retaliatory reputation, to figure out a way to (mis-)use trespass laws to silence critics.  

In typical Wesson-Englander fashion, they didn’t first hash out the specifics of how and where the legislation will be applied. From City News Service

“Vanessa Rodriguez, spokeswoman for Council President Herb Wesson, said that despite Englander's interpretation, the ordinance would not apply to public meetings.” 

According to Englander, the law will be applied to any city meeting or building where someone is deemed disruptive. He is the last person whose judgement should determine that. A year ago last week, Englander was swatted-down by a judge in his recent campaign for County Supervisor in an attempt to list on the ballot his profession as “police officer” even though he isn’t and never was one. 

Regardless, City Council unanimously approved its motion to suffocate criticism in Nancy Pelosi-fashion -- i.e., voting on it without knowing what’s in it.

While the gadflies love goading Englander into calling phony speaker names such as Mohammed Atta and this gem, to derisive laughter, things weren’t always this bad for Wesson. 

When Wesson first came to the City Council presidency as a skilled career politician who is fairly likable in one-on-one settings, he not only knew virtually everyone in the room, but in many instances, knew where they were headed once they left it. If he saw regulars in Council chambers on a given day, he instinctively knew that they probably wanted to get to another meeting up in the City Hall Tower, so he would reliably call on them early to make their points at City Council and send them on their way. It also helped Wesson get critics away from the Channel 35 cameras broadcasting the meetings sooner.

Now that is good political instinct! 

But over the course of time, Wesson has lost that sense of fairness -- to the detriment of the public and his ever-growling stomach -- whose churning can often be heard over his open City Council microphone. 

If Wesson returned to that more reasonable mindset and started running meetings in a more efficient and fair way, it might not halt the disruptions, but it would be a wise step in a better direction because where it’s headed now, the taxpayers and Wesson are going to lose in the end. And another 1st Amendment win for the gadflies is fuel for the fire.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a CityWatch contributor, a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

CALWATCHDOG--An immigration-enforcement headache anticipated by President Trump’s sister — federal appellate court Judge Maryanne Trump Barry — is roiling law enforcement authorities in California. 

They say federal court rulings impede their ability to cooperate with demands from Attorney General Jeff Sessions that they cooperate more fully with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in turning over undocumented immigrants with criminal records.

At issue is how long jails and prisons can hold undocumented immigrants for pickup by ICE agents after their sentences are completed. The present practice in California is to give agents up to 48 hours. But especially in heavily populated areas with many jails — such as the Los Angeles region — ICE agents struggle to meet this deadline in picking up criminals set to be released.

Last month, Sessions blasted local authorities for being unwilling to hold these inmates up to 96 hours — four days — after their scheduled release and said failing to do so amounted to defiance of the federal government. A list released by the Justice Department cited eight California law enforcement agencies that it said had “refused” detainer requests: the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and local jailers in Alameda County, Madera County, Santa Clara County, Sacramento County, Santa Barbara County and the city of Anaheim.

Sheriffs say federal court ruling blocks longer jail detentions

But the California State Sheriffs’ Association says that only giving ICE 48 hours to get released criminals is not a matter of defiance. It’s to avoid costly lawsuits.

Association officials cited U.S. Magistrate Judge Janice M. Stewart’s 2014 ruling in a case from Clackamas County, Oregon, in which an undocumented immigrant accused of domestic violence, Maria Miranda-Olivares, was detained beyond the normal release time at ICE’s request. Stewart cited a federal appellate court ruling from earlier in 2014 that said ICE requests were just that — requests — and were not legally binding. She ruled that Miranda-Olivares could sue Clackamas County for unlawful detention.

The circumstances of the appeals case — Galarza v. Szalczyk — were somewhat different than the Oregon case. It dealt with a U.S. citizen who was detained at length by local authorities in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, then released by ICE agents after they determined he was a citizen, as claimed. 

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling that threw out Ernesto Galarza’s lawsuit alleging illegal detention by Lehigh County. (Galarza had previously settled his lawsuit against ICE and its agents.) The opinion, written by Judge Julio M. Fuentes, cited a long list of precedents in which requests from ICE and its predecessor agency, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, were treated by courts and the federal agency itself as nonbinding. Fuentes’ key finding:

“Under the Tenth Amendment, immigration officials may not order state and local officials to imprison suspected aliens subject to removal at the request of the federal government. Essentially, the federal government cannot command the government agencies of the states to imprison persons of interest to federal officials.”

Trump’s sister warned of ‘enormous ramifications’

But one of the three appellate judges who heard the Galarza appeal — Trump’s sister — dissented from Fuentes’ ruling and lamented the fact that the Obama administration had not filed an amicus brief:

“I am deeply concerned that the United States has not been heard on the seminal issue in this appeal, an issue that goes to the heart of the enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws. And make no mistake about it. The conclusion reached by my friends in the Majority that immigration detainers issued pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 287.7 do not impose any obligation on state and local law enforcement agencies to detain suspected aliens subject to removal, but are merely requests that they do so, has enormous implications and will have, I predict, enormous ramifications,” Barry wrote.

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones told the Los Angeles Times that state sheriffs had urged the Obama administration without success to appeal the Oregon ruling. Jones and other sheriffs interviewed by the Times said they had explained the bind they were in to Trump administration officials. But that didn’t deter Sessions from his criticism.

(Chris Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. This piece was posted originally at CalWatchDog.) 

-cw

 

NOISE POLLUTION NIGHTMARE-Nextdoor is lit up as neighbors in the West Adams community weigh in on the onslaught of air traffic noise over their community. Indeed, on the second day after relocating from one street north of the 10 freeway to 3 blocks south of it I recall thinking, "Oh no. I live under a flight path.” Jeff Camp, a West Adams resident spearheading local response, reported over 300 flights in one day, while neighbor Linda Marais stayed up and counted nine flights in the early morning, between 3 and 6 a.m., a practice that apparently is prohibited.   

According to the LAX website, it “is the fourth busiest passenger airport in the world, second in the United States. It served more than 80.9 million passengers in 2016 an increase of almost 8 percent from the previous year. As of March 2017, LAX offers 692 daily nonstop flights to 91 U.S. cities and 1,220 weekly nonstop flights to 78 international destinations in 41 countries on 66 commercial air carriers.  LAX ranks 14th in the world and fifth in the U.S. in air cargo tonnage processed, with more than 2.2 million tons of air cargo valued at over $101.4 billion.  LAX handled 697,138 operations (landings and takeoffs) in 2016.”

Technology is changing everything and the National Airspace System is not exempt. According to Wikipedia - “Between 2015 and 2025 they are transforming the air traffic control system in an effort to reduce gridlock in the sky and the airport. The project is dubbed NextGen [referred to as Metroplex in Southern California] and 'proposes to transform America’s air traffic control system from a radar-based system with radio communication to a satellite-based one.' GPS technology will be used to shorten routes, save time and fuel, reduce traffic delays, increase capacity, and permit controllers to monitor and manage aircraft with greater safety margins. Radio communications will be increasingly replaced by data exchange and automation will reduce the amount of information the air crew must process at one time.

As a result of these changes, planes will be able to fly closer together, take more direct routes and avoid delays caused by airport 'stacking' as planes wait for an open runway.” 

Aye. And there’s the rub.  

As the campaign is implemented throughout the country, the direct routes of airplanes following each other more closely have created noisy highways in the sky, a shower of pollution raining down onto communities below and a spike in complaints from 904 in February of 2016 to 3,247 in February of 2017. Boston, Baltimore, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Cruz, New York, Phoenix, Culver City along with our adjacent community, and San Diego are primarily impacted and lawsuits have ensued. 

A local pilot weighing in on Nextdoor disputed that the Nexgen project has redirected flights over our community; rather, he said, it was the result of airport construction. It is both. So in October of 2016, Culver City decided to challenge the environmental review by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Southern California Metroplex Project. The FAA review conveniently found that there was no significant impact to the environment. Culver City filed a Petition for Review with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit claiming that the FAA did not adequately consider the affect of noise and pollution on affected communities and did not do an adequate technical analysis before redesigning the airspace. 

“Our residents have already experienced a significant impact on their quality of life from current flight path changes. The citizens and businesses of Culver City deserve a full analysis and discussion of the location, altitude, and impacts of these new approach and departure procedures created by the Project, which are absent from the FAA’s Environmental Assessment,” said Culver City Mayor Jim B. Clarke.”

Numerous calls to Representative Karen Bass from the rising tide of Nextdoor activists, have resulted in an upcoming sit down and this statement from Representative Bass: “The continual barrage of airplane noise and pollution at all hours is absolutely unacceptable. My office has received numerous complaints over the past years about both daytime noise from frequent, lower flights, and about nighttime noise from planes landing over homes instead of over the ocean.  I encourage constituents to actively report the noise events to LAX noise management in order to build an official record of the problems. 

In the meantime, I have directed my staff to set up a meeting between the relevant agencies and affected constituents as soon as it can be arranged. I have also been working with my colleagues in the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus to direct funds to address the airplane noise issues being felt across the country.  Please stay in touch with my office so I can continue to track how this is affecting our district.”


To file a complaint CLICK HERE. Complaints influence outcomes. 

(Dianne Lawrence is the editor and publisher of The Neighborhood News and an occasional contributor to CityWatch) Photo credit: Michael Kelly. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-The jury is no longer out. Our new President, Donald Trump, is the climate change denier-in-chief. He has called climate change a Chinese plot. He has appointed another unabashed climate change denier, Scott Pruitt, to run the Environmental Protection Agency, a Federal agency established by Republican “moderate,” Richard Nixon. Trump has also withdrawn many Obama era climate-change regulations, such as restrictions on power plant emissions. Last, but hardly least, Trump nominated retiring Exxon CEO, Rex Tillerson, to become Secretary of State. On his way out the door, Exxon gave Tillerson a $180 million severance package, about six times what Exxon spent under his leadership to foster doubt about climate change.

If this situation strikes you as grim, you are correct, and given the upward trend of all climate change indicators, such as CO2 levels, extreme weather events, sea level rises, and the loss of polar ice caps, the world’s climate situation will only get worse. In fact, even before Trump, these trends were already quickly unfolding, which means his historical role is to make an already bad situation much worse.  

In light of these harsh realities, some Angelinos might become smug about climate change. After all, we live in a state, California, and a city, Los Angeles, where prominent elected officials, especially Governor Jerry Brown and Mayor Eric Garcetti, have assumed a major leadership role in opposing the Trump administration’s dangerous pushback against modest Obama era climate change programs. 

But, this smugness is premature. A closer look at LA’s actual climate change policies and practices issues reveals that our glass, too, is mostly empty. The following information should wipe the smile off anyone gloating about how forward thinking their city and state really are when it comes to climate change. 

Basic Environmental Programs where the City of LA falls short

CEQA: As I have previously written, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is a potentially powerful tool to stop climate change. It provides appointed and elected decision makers detailed information on a specific project’s climate impacts, especially its likely generation of Green House Gases. Through CEQA, Environmental Impact Reports (EIR’s) also provide these decision makers with specific data on at least four project alternatives, including those identified as environmentally superior. Given the extraordinary dangers from climate change, some of which are already appearing, like mounting forest fires, most of us would assume that elected officials obviously opt for the environmentally superior alternatives. 

Wrong. In Los Angeles this does not happen. Instead, our elected officials reflexively select the most environmentally destructive alternative. This action, which sweeps hard evidence of unmitigatable climate change impacts under the carpet, requires the decision makers to adopt a Statement of Overriding Considerations. These statements sideline an EIR’s environmental findings through a text that routinely echoes a project’s claims about job and transit ridership generation. While these promises could conceivably be true, we will never know for sure because the approval process stops with the decision maker’s vote to adopt their Statement of Overriding Considerations. After that no approvals are contingent on evidence that a project actually boosts transit ridership or jobs, much less that these supposed outcomes offset the project’s actual generation of unmitigatable Green House Gases. 

Trees: The lowest hanging fruit in fighting climate is quite literally growing on trees, a basic infrastructure component that is, year-after-year, one of City Hall’s lowest budget priorities. As a result, most LA streets and parkways are either barren or haphazardly planted with inappropriate trees that are seldom pruned or watered. 

Nevertheless, when it comes to addressing climate change, trees are the closest things we have to a miracle cure. As we learned in high school biology classes, trees absorb CO2, sequester carbon in wood and leaves, and then exhale oxygen through photosynthesis. In addition, some trees, like Ficus, filter out other air pollutants, such as particulate matter. But, these benefits are just the beginning since trees also create beauty and a shade canopy. Both features promote walking in a city whose built environment remains auto-centric and whose natural environment is getting hotter.

Furthermore, trees also buffer another feature of climate change, heavier rains. Without trees these rains cause soil erosion and runoff. With trees, most of this damage is prevented because the rain hits the leave and then slowly percolates into the ground. 

Pedestrianization: Any successful climate mitigation program attempts to reduce automobile driving, the largest source of Green House Gases in California. This means that all alternative transportation modes, whether walking, bicycling, busses, light rail, heavy rails, commuter rail, and high speed interurban rail deserve more political and financial support. Among these, walking and bicycling are the low-cost alternatives. Furthermore, three other West Coast cities, notably Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco have already demonstrated that walking and bicycling can become significant alternatives to automobiles. But, in Los Angeles the sidewalks are crumbling, and most do not have a proper tree canopy or ADA curb cuts. As for bicycling, even though Los Angeles has perfect weather, many wide corridors, and broad bicycle-friendly flat areas, LA ranks 24th in the United States when it comes to bicycling. 

Planning Documents: The City of Los Angeles has a Mayoral climate change document, pLAn, which markets itself as LA’s first climate action plan. This is an odd boast since Mayor Villaraigosa’s even more detailed climate action plan, Green LA, is still easily found on the City of LA’s website. But, such piddling details aside, the real problem with the City of LA’s overall approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation is that there is no there there. Other than another short-lived executive document, there are no legally adopted policy documents, implementing ordinances, or independent monitoring. 

Furthermore, the official city planning process, the General Plan, does not yet directly address the environment. While climate change related goals and programs are coincidentally scattered through many General Plan elements, especially Air Quality, Mobility, and the General Plan Framework, nothing links them together and nothing measures their effectiveness. 

While City Planning has resumed preparing its required annual General Plan monitoring report, the current document makes no mention to either the Villaraigosa or Garcetti climate action plans. For that matter, it makes no direct references to many existing City department climate-related programs, especially those at the Bureau of Sanitation. In theory, they all have a bearing on climate change adaptation (securing water) and mitigation (transit), but this is only implicit. They are never identified per se, and the monitoring report does not draw any climate connections from these programs to any executive climate initiatives or to multiple State of California climate mandates, such as AB 32 and SB 375. 

As for the preparation and adoption of a new General Plan Climate Change element that could build on executive documents and a vast array of city programs, we can always make a wish. After all, some California cities, like San Francisco, already have a General Plan environmental element, and the Governors Office of Research and Climate, has posted detailed policy guidelines and data bases for new General Plan environmental/climate change elements. 

Theoretical issues: The most common form of climate change denialism, exhibited by Donald Trump and his cronies, is rejection of the natural science climate consensus. The planet is now experiencing relentless climate change resulting from human activity. It has been observable for at least a century, and is now accelerating because of the increased generation of Green House Gases through industrial production, power generation, and transportation. 

But, one of the most astute climate change analysts, University of Oregon environmental sociologist, John Bellamy Foster, convincingly argues that there are two additional types of climate change denialism. They equally apply to the President, the Governor, and the Mayor. 

Foster’s second type of climate change denial is the belief that climate change is disconnected from the economy. Foster argues that “growth,” or what he terms capital accumulation, inevitably leads to climate change. By extension, he also argues that capitalism cannot be tweaked to allow perpetual expansion (i.e., growth), whether slow, like the United States, or fast, such as China, without adverse climate impacts. This is what he considers to be third level of climate change denialism, the belief that climate change can be controlled or even reversed without changing the economic system. 

Needless to say, California, including Los Angeles, does not yet have elected officials who link climate change to the country’s economic system. As demonstrated by their repeated efforts to undermine the California Environmental Quality Act in order to promote real estate speculation, it is clear that their pronouncements and their actions reject Foster’s contention that economic “growth” stands in the way of environmental protection. 

Final thoughts: This list of deficient programs, plans, and approaches to address climate change is hardly definitive. A closer look at Los Angeles reveals many more efforts to undercut policies and programs to reduce Green House Gases, such as exempting more real estate categories from CEQA. 

If smugness is creeping up on you, please stay tuned for a review of these programs.

 

(Dick Platkin is a former LA city planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatchLA. He has also taught courses of Sustainable City Planning at USC’s Price School of Social Policy. Comments and corrections welcomed at rhplatkin@gmail.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EASTSIDER-Don’t misunderstand. I like Ron Galperin, and as both a lawyer and a budget guy, he is the real deal. Of course it is important to remember that auditors are numbers and data freaks, living in their own closed universe. On the plus side, their work product, within their “scope of work” parameters, will always add up. Which doesn’t mean the real world works like that. 

Case in point is the recent Audit by City Controller Galperin, which you can find here.  

The major finding of the audit, that made headlines in the LA Times, was the one about DWP training program has high costs and low graduation rates, audit finds. 

The other major finding tied in with this, was that many trainees leave the DWP after completing the program, lured by better deals from other Utilities. 

I have no doubt that the data supports these findings. What this actually means in the real world, however, is another thing entirely. I believe that the training costs are well spent to train employees in a very hazardous business -- the reliable delivery of power to us under any and all adverse circumstances. 

Training and the Power Employees 

Some 80% of the DWP training money goes to the Power System. That’s the folks who used to be called ‘linemen’ and are now called EDMT -- Line Worker, Cable Splicer -- the people who climb up to those humungous power lines stretching into three states (California, Utah, and Arizona), and the people who work the power generation plants, stations and substations, as well as on the telephone poles to our houses. 

This is seriously hazardous business, often performed 24/7 without respite, in the worst weather conditions. You and I can be without power for hours or days if these people do not perform their jobs efficiently. 

They are also being trained to perform their jobs in an era of rapid technological change, as we switch from traditional energy sources like coal and nuclear to wind and solar. 

The three major complaints in the Audit relate to the length of time that it takes to train these power system employees (up to 42 months), the dropout rate (about 67% for Line Worker/Cable Splicer), and the fact that a lot of successful employees are hired away from DWP by other Utilities such as Southern California Edison. 

The Safety Employee Analogy 

I use the comparison of training a power line worker to that of a police officer. Without stretching the comparison too much, in each case we have a system designed to take unskilled candidates, and through a rigorous, expensive and lengthy process, turn them into safe, skilled workers who can reliably function under sometimes dangerous or hazardous conditions, all while avoiding mistakes. In each of these systems, the goal is to perform under unpredictable conditions without errors that could result in injury or even death. Not to mention litigation. 

In the case of police officers, POST training is rigorous and expensive, just as apprenticeship training is rigorous and expensive tor the DWP. The goal is to wind up with highly trained employees who want to have a long, successful career, and to assure safety to these employees and to the public. 

Although it is rarely talked about, in each of these systems, one of the primary purposes of the training is to weed out potential employees who are unsuitable for a career in that field. We don’t want an employee who discovers that the job isn’t for him or her after completing the period of instruction. The potential risks are simply too high, and might not be exposed until the candidate is faced with a lot of pressure under really crummy, dangerous conditions. Thus the rigorous training. 

Please understand that I’m not making a case for equality of between police and Line Workers (sorry, IBEW) when it comes to their importance, their pay, or the two retirement systems. It is simply that long, expensive and rigorous training systems are critical for success in each field. 

Dropout Is Important 

Back when I was living in Lincoln Heights, I knew a number of young high school students who would not blink an eye at the thought of joining a gang, which always seemed to me to be a relatively hazardous life choice. But talk to those same young people about making a lot of money and have a good paying job climbing up one of those big power poles for DWP, and most of them would look at me like I was crazy and say, “No Way!” 

The point is that in any training program, you want to make sure that the candidate is a good fit for the job as early in the program as possible. While I did not see any statistics on point, dropouts are a normal part of doing business. The best programs will have the highest dropout rates early on -- before that huge amount of time and money is spent making candidates highly trained. 

In the case of DWP, with the high winds, rainstorms and crazy weather we have enjoyed over the last year, one major error can cause or extend a power outage to thousands of customers, not to mention cause injury or death. 

Wages and Benefits 

I know that all my friends on the DWP Committee will cringe at this one, but there is a certain poetic justice in the Audit Report. It (correctly) notes that DWP is being successfully poached by other utilities that grab successful employees who graduate from the apprenticeship program. 

Well, gee, that would have to do with wages and benefits, wouldn’t it? So it may be all well and good that, relative to certain benchmark positions, DWP employees are paid significantly more than other City employees. However, looking at the utility industry as a whole, that simply isn’t the case. Thus the poaching. I suspect that on the Power side, Galperin’s Audit Report is going to become Exhibit A in the ongoing negotiations between the IBEW and the DWP over a successor contract. 

Also, having opened that particular can of worms, someone is going to have to take a serious look at the Office of Public Accountability/Ratepayer Advocate’s (OPA) recent Joint Compensation Study, which you can find here 

Generally, the DWP Pension plan for newer employees (Tier 2) makes no sense as compared to mainstream defined benefit plans, such as CalPERS -- even as most public sector pension plans are the reason employees stay until retirement. 

Regarding administrative types, their IT infrastructure might as well be written in Cobol or RPG (and some probably is), and like most of the City, needs major upgrades and integration. So while the Auditor correctly wants better data, the existing system is not going to be of much use. 

The DWP employment pyramid is upside down compared to everyone else. That is, there are serious compression issues that literally create dis-incentives for mid-managers and up to hire on or stay. In plain English, for most employers, wages and benefits go up geometrically the higher up in the food chain you are. Witness the executives making hundreds of times what a base worker gets. In the DWP, it is almost the reverse. 

The Takaway 

Truth is, large municipalities are the training grounds for everyone in the State. In LA City and County, the LAPD and the Sheriff spend huge sums of money in providing POST training, and in the end many of those officers leave for other agencies that simply can’t afford to provide the training. They’re poached. 

Same deal for DWP and its apprenticeship program. If utilities like SCE can swoop in at the end and lure a trained DWP employee away with sugarplum dreams and bags of cash, they will do so. It’s an economic fact of life, and it’s cheaper for them. 

Such is the cost of doing business in the public sector. On the plus side, it is also a tribute to the quality and value of the training programs, and that’s a good thing for all of us. 

For a real solution, maybe, someday, the Mayor and the City Council will let the DWP have its very own satellite Personnel Division, and fix some of this goofy stuff. Maybe Controller Ron Galperin will even support such a concept.

 

(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.

PERSPECTIVE--The first thought that popped into my mind when Governor Brown proposed his gas tax hike was former mayor Villaraigosa’s infamous trash collection fee increase.

You may recall, the fee was hyped as a means to hire 1,000 new LAPD officers.

Less than half that number were hired; the rest of the funds went to overhead,

As I told NPR’s Patt Morrison and the LA Weekly in interviews back in 2008, controls and reporting are insufficient  to assure the proper allocation of taxes and fees. 

This is especially true with state tax revenues, which are allocated to various funds, including those at the local level.  At every layer, allocations are made for multiple purposes. Such is the case with gasoline taxes. They are also used to fund mass transit and other transportation projects unrelated to automobiles. Gasoline excise tax revenue is also used to pay the debt service on highway bonds (Brown’s proposal is an excise tax), effectively relieving the general fund of the obligation.

This all makes for quite a trail to follow. Few individuals have the time or wherewithal to do so.

Determining how much of gas taxes actually improve roads is almost a fool’s errand. Politicians know this and use it to their advantage.  Lack of accountability gives them all the cover they need to divert funds.

This much is known: Brown’s plan would increase taxes by $52 billion; $7.5 billion would go to public transportation and another $1 billion for bike lanes and walkways, not exactly what you would call road and bridge improvements. 

It also includes a constitutional amendment requiring spending to be limited to transportation projects.  And Villaraigosa’s trash fee was supposed to cover hiring officers.

You can be assured that new definitions of transportation will abound if the proposal is passed. If it fails – and it could – don’t be surprised if it is resurrected.

Here’s an idea: instead of the tax increase, let’s just pass a constitutional amendment requiring all existing gas tax revenue be spent on roads and bridges.  We might then see a major decrease in the maintenance backlog.

(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and serves as President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. The views presented are those of Mr. Hatfield and his alone and do not represent the opinions of Valley Village Homeowners Association or CityWatch. He can be reached at: phinnoho@aol.com.)

-cw

EDUCATION POLITICS-Not at the moment. All of the recent years for which final (“actual”) budget data are published show every single annual budget has finished in the black. While the entirety of the LAUSD budget includes various capital and internal funds, for the purposes of tracking the actual operating budget, the General Fund revenues and expenditures are of most importance.

Recent school board candidate’s statements casting shade on LAUSD’s current solvency are just wrong. But what about the future? Is the District simply swirling that bankruptcy toilet, circling inevitably toward the abyss? Even if currently flush, how well can past financial performance predict the future? 

The District’s Chief Financial Officer (who just resigned after 10 years of constitutional, if not justifiable, worry), publishes a projected budget for one and two years beyond the current operating year. That current operating year’s budget is finalized in June prior to the start of the upcoming schoolyear. And there’s a big accounting midyear to check up on things. 

So this means there are four forecasts for any given year -- snapshots of how budget forecasts stack up against the facts of what actually come to pass: (i) at mid-year, (ii) right before the start of a new fiscal/school year, (iii) one year out from that year and (iv) two years out from that year. 

Each one of these sets of guesses is expected to have different tendencies. They will vary by how far in the future the forecast projects, by what sorts of monies are considered, revenue or expenditure. And each can be assessed for accuracy, what direction these forecasts trend for any given point, etc.

The forecasts are key in assessing whether the “sky is falling” – the origin of the claim that LAUSD is sinking financially, whether it’s accurate, what has been and what should be done about it. 

Revenue projections, especially with increasing time in the future (by two years out,) have been conservative, or favorable to the bottom line; less has been anticipated and planned for coming in, than wound up coming in when all was said and done. That’s responsible and it makes for good planning. The relatively small percentages of unfavorable, negative variance for the upcoming year’s final budgets was always offset by underspending. Every successive year has maintained a positive carryover. 

It is in the expenditures that the district has carefully offset the volatility of state and federal monies so vulnerable to political caprice. LAUSD has consistently, favorably, underspent its budget in every year. What is clear is that the pessimistic, Henny-Penny terror of projecting a future so influenced by vagaries, is hedged through persistent projections of underfunding and overspending…which don’t then come to pass in reality. 

That’s OK, sort of. Life happens.

But what isn’t OK is insisting that forecasts – particularly the sort that are inherently conservative – are blueprints of tomorrow’s future. Because that’s the partisan agenda furthered by the voice of corporate Democrats and school privatizers in the guise of “Charter Reform.” 

That voice is prophesied by LA School Report and The 74 (“partners” of: Broad, CA Community, DeVos, Gates, Gen Next, Karsh, Simon, Triad and Walton Foundations; Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carnegie Corp., Fisher Fund, Park Ave Charitable Trust, Sackler and Strauch,) and by the California Charter School Association-sponsored school board candidates Gonez (LAUSD6) and Melvoin (LAUSD4). And it’s asserted religiously, without ever cross-checking how past projections compare with future reality once it actually comes to pass. 

The data actually show two things: First, careful projections and husbandry of its funds has actually served LAUSD well fiscally. Despite tumultuous financial circumstances in our city, state and at the federal level, LAUSD has managed to keep a laudably steady keel. Its administrators have done themselves proud. 

Secondly, however, this fiscal responsibility in the face of predictive doom-saying has come at the expense of the District’s very own Commons. LAUSD’s students and staff cinch their belts every year on cue to defend the institution from the fallout of the partisan fake outrage at the risk of deficit. LAUSD has balanced the books every year despite tumultuous swings in funding, because the institution extracts an enormous carryover buffer from every year’s operations. 

During each of the five years in question, LAUSD’s carryover has been on average 12.5% of that year’s eventual actual revenue intake. In three of these five years, the carryover was never broached because revenues wound up larger than expenditures. In the two years when the carryover was tapped, 9% was used in 2011-12 and 17% was used in 2012-13. 

But that translates to hundreds of millions of dollars due for our students and teachers, money that, year after year, is never realized. Far from overspending our way to insolvency, there’s an important case to be made that LAUSD underspends each year. 

For example, for want of less than $2.5 million in 2012, then-Superintendent Deasy summarily cut all Title I funds to schools of middling diversity overnight, causing enormous financial hardship to schools of poverty percentage between 40%-49% (the burden was partially mitigated through a one year “hold-harmless” fund that has since been discontinued.) Twenty-three of these high-functioning schools weathered the unforeseen shortfall via privatization, converting their schools to “fiscally dependent” charters. 

And yet $687 million remained that year to rollover into the following year’s budget. That amounts to 12% of 2012-13’s eventual $5.7 billion revenue. That carryover could address so many worthy needs; it could lower LAUSD’s vital teacher:student ratio, for example – certainly more effectively than eventually came to pass.  There is no shortage of important needs to address, but one of these should be the size of the accounting cushion itself, because every dollar spent politically mollifying appearances, is a dollar not spend substantively at the school-site. 

It’s not clear what amount of carryover is optimal for a large government agency, or even whether there is any.  Certainly every budget is a political document and collateral choices are forced by the way it is designed. But those choices are also implied in the way the budget is interpreted. 

LAUSD isn’t going broke and the institution should have the courage to stand up to those who would wish to paint it so in order to further the narrative of “churn and disaster” that only leaves us poorer than when we started. Our public funds are to be spent on us the public, by us the public. And while we could use more of these funds, what we have is precious.

 

(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor, who blogs at redqueeninla.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

BELL VIEW-In 2009, I got involved in my first unsuccessful attempt to put an independent voice on the LA City Council. I didn’t run. A guy I’d met on the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council – a Harvard lawyer, a treasurer for two neighborhood councils, a community activist, and an all-around good guy – decided to challenge the incumbent councilmember. 

We lost in a landslide. At the election night get together in a small booth in a Thai Restaurant in East Hollywood, someone said “you just can’t beat the machine.” 

I thought – “machine?” I grew up in Chicago, where the Democratic Party built by the first Mayor Daley created a machine like no other. Daley would start the election with a million votes in his pocket. That’s a machine. In that 2009 LA City Council election, the incumbent won with a little more than 8,000 votes.

After that, I was snake bit. Eight thousand votes! This is doable, I thought. So, two years later, I worked my heart out for another candidate against an incumbent in another district.

Yeah – we lost. 

In that race, two supremely-qualified candidates went up against an incumbent that could barely put two words together. Between the two candidates, we couldn’t force a runoff.

This year, I supported an old friend of mine from my neighborhood council days who decided to make a run for it. The truth is: I liked three candidates in that race. On Election Day, I stood outside a polling place (beyond the 100-foot barrier) and passed out fliers for my friend. The cordiality of the voters heading in to vote that day really surprised me. I know how it is: I never want to talk to strangers on the street about anything. But the voters I met – with a few exceptions – were overwhelmingly polite, and a large proportion of them actually stopped to talk with me.

The conversation usually went something like this: I would talk about my friend, what he’d done for the community, and why I thought he would make a great City Councilmember. If I sensed I’d gotten through to them, I’d hand them a flier and they would be on their way. But, if I didn’t feel like I’d closed the deal on my friend, I had one last pitch. 

“You know,” I’d say as they were walking away from me, “there’s only one woman on the LA City Council.” Invariably, they would turn around. “That’s right,” I’d say, “one woman. And there are two women running today. I like them both, but I like one better than the other, and here’s why.”

I can’t tell you how many people I turned that day. I just don’t know. But, among the small percentage of Angelenos who actually go to the polling place on Election Day to cast their votes – the issue of women in government is on their minds.

That’s why Tuesday’s special congressional election in the 34th district is so disappointing. I don’t live in the district, so I couldn’t vote. But of the 300,000 registered voters who do, less than 30,000 of them bothered to vote at all. Of the 24 candidates, 12 of them were women. In the end, the two top fundraisers – both men – made it into the runoff. 

Without commenting on the merits of the two contenders, it’s a shame that in a year when the country elected a misogynist president; when we have a vice president who will not sit down with another woman outside the presence of his wife; when the fate of women’s healthcare is decided by a roomful of men – that barely 10% of the electorate could even bother to vote in an election that presented a dozen opportunities to put a woman in the U.S. Congress.

Seven hundred and fifty thousand people marched in the streets of Los Angeles for The Women’s March following the presidential election. Where did everyone go?

 

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

MY TURN-How about a change of topic today? I don't know about you, but the constant stream of nefarious political accusations is giving me heart burn ... literally. 

Looking back over the last few Presidents and their visions, I keep coming back to John F. Kennedy and the famous line from his Inaugural Address: "Don't ask what your country can do for you...ask what you can do for your country.” 

What if we bring it down to, "What can you do for your City?" Fortunately, there are Angelenos who are doing their part to improve living conditions here. But just as it is not enough to just feed and house your children, it is not enough to say, "I pay my taxes, so let the government make sure I have a good life.” 

We both -- private citizens and businesses large and small -- have a moral responsibility to participate in this effort. Usually we spotlight individuals or not-for-profit organizations that are engaged in making Los Angeles a more livable city. Recently, though, I came across a for profit company in South Los Angeles that is engaged in literally helping to "clean up" its community. 

Errol Segal, the Senior Recycling Consultant for Active Recycling and his program, is a good example of what companies can do to help the communities from which they benefit. He’s LA’s ‘Trashsamaritan’. 

He told me, "My business has been in South Los Angeles for over 40 years. We are a Trash and Recycling Center on Slauson Avenue. We have tried to be a good community partner and over the years have given away free Christmas trees, gasoline and other items to those in need within our community. 

"I reside in the San Fernando Valley and one day as I was leaving for work, I noticed a couch, a mattress and table along the street near my home. My first thought was that they were dumped illegally or had been put out for Bulky Item Pick-up day. These items were gone within three days. 

"As I drove to work along Slauson Ave, I began to notice the amount of illegally dumped items on the streets and in the alleyways. If caught it could result in a substantial fine, which wouldn't solve the root problem. I asked myself, what could I do to address the issue in South Los Angeles? 

"About one week later, I read an article in the LA Times about illegally dumped trash in the Black and Latino Neighborhoods of South LA. It was an investigative report that said bulky items and illegally dumped trash took weeks to be picked up... if they were picked up at all. It was very critical of the services being provided to the communities in South LA. In comparison it took three days in the more affluent parts of LA." 

Twenty-three months ago, Active Recycling started its Clean Up LA Campaign, allowing people to bring in trash for free rather than dump it on the street illegally or being forced to pay a fee to a recycling center. The community has responded and so far this company has processed over three million pounds of trash. (Photo above: Resident Charletta Butler poses with community trash that has been brought to Segal’s Active Recycling.) 

Since the study by the LA Times was done more than two years ago, some changes have taken place. The Mayor introduced a new program which will go into effect this summer to revamp and improve trash recycling throughout the City of Los Angeles. 

According to Enrique C. Zaldivar, P.E. Director of LA Sanitation, Zero Waste LA is a new public private partnership. It establishes an exclusive, zone-based franchise system that will offer regulated and customer friendly waste and recycling services to all commercial and industrial businesses, institutions and large multi-family buildings. 

He said, "Zero Waste LA” 

will be transformative for residents, customers, and businesses who have long sought to participate in and have more access to the City’s sustainability efforts. It will move the City closer to achieving zero waste through innovative waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and recovery programs. Through coordination, collaboration, and communication, I am confident that we will meet the partnership’s goals: 

  • Reduce city landfill disposal by 1,000,000 tons per year by 2025. 
  • Set transparent and predictable waste and recycling service rates. 
  • Offer accountability and quality customer services. 
  • Enforce compliance with environmental mandates. 
  • Reduce greenhouse gas and air pollution emissions. 
  • Decrease food waste and increase food rescue and donations. 

"In April 2014, the Mayor and City Council approved the ordinance establishing the new franchise system and delineated 11 zones. The franchisees for each of these specific areas were subsequently selected to partner with the City through an open and competitive bidding process that included extensive evaluation and negotiations over a two year period." 

LA Sanitation will continue to provide solid waste and recycling services to single family homes and small multi-family residences, and specific waste streams such as construction and demolition, medical, hazardous, and radioactive waste will continue to be serviced by permitted private waste haulers. 

Errol Segal will still be helping his community as all costs for the Free Trash Dumping project are being shouldered by Active Recycling; single and small multi-family residences are not covered under the new initiative. 

I know the topic of trash isn't exciting, but when we manage it efficiently it helps improve our quality of life. Come to think of it, maybe we could find a way to alleviate some of the political "Trash Talk" under a new initiative! 

As always...comments welcome.

 

(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: Denyse@CityWatchLA.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

MEMO TO LAUSD--My grade school summer vacations seemed to last forever, pairing well with the Beach Boys’ Endless Summer double album I wore out on the record changer. During those hot and humid Northern Virginia summers, I headed each weekday to the summer camp held in my elementary school’s nearly-abandoned cafeteria. It was a low-key affair -- ping pong and table hockey on the cafeteria lunch tables, kickball and football on the playground, key chains and macramé in arts and crafts -- while mix tapes with Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” in heavy rotation played over the school’s PA system. 

And in what must have been one of the greatest bargains of the 1970s, camp tuition was $20 for the entire summer

Today, such an easy-going camp would be trashed on Yelp! despite its unbeatable price, for failing to deliver any quasi-academic or super-creative purpose. Imagine my camp competing with today’s Computer Camp, Robotics Camp, Animation camp, and (my personal favorite) New York Film Academy Camp, which is in, of all places, Burbank. 

Kids’ summer camps in Los Angeles enter parents’ collective consciousness around January 15, just after the three-week-long Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) winter break, which was the dream of the teachers’ union (which also negotiated an entire week off for Thanksgiving) and the owners of, yes, winter camps. The most popular summer camps are said to fill up by mid-February, so the camp arms race begins before one even has a chance to plan a basic family vacation. 

Our daughter, now eight, is already enrolled in four camps (with a fifth still possible) so that we, her two professional working parents, can earn a living and thus afford said camps. We’re signed up for a week-long, overnight, all-girls sleepaway camp at Griffith Park, an arts camp at a synagogue three blocks away, a swimming/all-around recreation camp at Valley College, and Beach Camp, which, for our fair-skinned daughter, requires bulk purchases of SPF 50 sunscreen.  

There’s also the matter that plenty of LAUSD families simply can’t afford private summer camp at all, since absolutely none of them can be found at the bargain, 1970s price of $20. Half of all LAUSD families qualify for free lunch programs, meaning their household income is just over or below the federal poverty line. Some summer camps offer scholarships on a very limited basis, but that just means families in need must compete for these coveted slots and complete additional administrative paperwork. 

Mind you, this is on top of the dizzying registration process that often involves websites crashing after anxious parents overwhelm the system immediately after the online enrollment period opens. 

For lower-income families, the availability of formal and informal municipal resources -- public swimming pools, kids’ day camps at city parks, and air-conditioned public libraries -- is critical. For tens of thousands of Los Angeles-area kids, poverty doesn’t take a summer vacation. 

The LAUSD academic calendar also plays a role in making summer a tough sprint for families. The long winter break is offset by making the summer break short, just over two months long, with school ending June 9 and starting up again August 15. So while the fabled and possibly archaic family summer vacation is possible for those with means, it’s the hottest, priciest, and most crowded time of year for travelling. 

It’s taken our family three years of practice to finally figure out how to make this unconventional school schedule work for us. We did this by giving up on a conventional week of summer vacation; we might get a long weekend or two if we’re lucky. Instead, we opt for vacation during the tail end of winter break, after the holidays, when most other school districts are back in session and airfares and hotel prices drop significantly. 

But our coping strategy is under fire. The LAUSD Board, in their infinite wisdom, has considered changing the academic calendar as the solution to several of their administrative woes. You see, other school districts start at a far more conventional time: after Labor Day. Not only do some board members observe other school districts with a jealous eye, but they are also under the impression that a later start will result in lower air conditioning usage and, hence, lower energy costs district-wide. This past fall, it looked like a move towards a more traditional start, one week later in 2017 and an additional week later in 2018, was going to pass. 

In December, however, forces far greater than Computer Camp took hold, shocking the school board into reversing their position -- and reverting (for now) to the calendar with the two-month summer break and the three-week winter break. Why? For two big reasons. First, the teacher’s union likes the status quo. Second, changing to a calendar with a shorter winter break would result in more student absences, since a considerable number of parents would still yank their kids out of school for a few days for holiday-time visits to relatives and winter vacation destinations. These additional absences would result in LAUSD losing some of its funding from the State of California, which allocates resources based on average daily attendance. 

But the scheduling issue remains white-hot. The board’s decision on the calendar was so divisive that the board President abstained -- yes, abstained -- when the academic calendar issue came before them. So while the calendar is set for the school year beginning this coming August, the board has yet to decide on the calendars for the 2018-19 school year and beyond. 

I wonder if this lack of leadership, leading to unnecessary uncertainty for parents, would even matter if we had the informal, cheap, carefree, drop-in nature of the summer camp I remember. But I recognize that in our current era of instant access and gratification, kids like our daughter might not know what to do with the unstructured fun I had when I was a kid. None of today’s summer camp options offer any time for being lazy or hazy -- there’s only a short break before your next camp activity starts at 10:10 a.m. 

What memories will she have? What sport will she remember playing that didn’t come with rules or equipment? And with her day’s activities lined up on a scheduling grid, will she even have the time to reflect on her summer music soundtrack?  

As for me, Gerry Rafferty’s sax solo will always remind me of those slow and easy summers, with the click-clack of a table hockey puck adding some percussion. Just don’t tell the Beach Boys.

 

(David Gershwin is a Los Angeles-based public affairs consultant, Zócalo Public Square board member, and teaching fellow at UCLA Anderson School of Management.) Primary Editor: Joe Mathews. Secondary Editor: Sara Catania. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ALPERN AT LARGE--Seriously?  No foolin'?  Is "California Dreamin’" really doomed to devolve into one big marijuana-hazed April Fools Day joke, with those still sober stuck with the choice of living in, or fleeing from, the California Twilight Zone? 

As exemplified by the many former and current patients I see who have fled, are fleeing, or will flee the once-Golden State, those who are tired of being overtaxed are running for their lives (their economic lives, at least) to the World of the Sane.   

The World of Math and Economics.  You know ... Texas. Or Arizona.  Or Someplace Other Than California. 

Remember when Jerry Brown was elected and re-elected to be the sane voice of fiscal reason? To be the voice of the "guy who grew up and was no longer Moonbeam Brown"? Who understood the need to keep crime low and the economy high? 

Gone. 

The temporary tax on the rich?   

Not temporary at all--and the money went off to the Never-Satiated Maw of the education unions and their lobbyists (with barely a dime going to the benefit of the students).  Oh yes, and the definition of "rich" is rather peculiar in a high-cost-of-living state such as ours.   

The pension crisis that's the "Inconvenient Truth" that we are happy to ignore while focusing on environmental issues to a state that's gotten overpopulated, with insufficient water and woeful infrastructure? 

To hell with that! Pension, shmension.  Nerd talk, and just don't bother me.

Well, along comes the gas/transportation tax that probably would have been fine if we hadn't already spent that money, and would be fine if we knew it would be spent well. 

But it appears that "the rich" (whoever they are, considering they're bailing from the state and/or doing anything they can to hire foreign workers to reduce Californians' wages) won't tolerate any more taxes. 

So now Governor Brown, and the Democratic majority leaders who run Sacramento, want to throw a gas tax so that EVERYONE will pay for the mess in our state capitol, and for the fact that we now pay former state workers as much or greater a percentage of our state budget than our current, tax-supported state public sector workforce. 

What do they think we ARE, stupid? 

Oh yeah, that's right.  We are, because we elected them.  And said yes to tax after misspent tax.  Or fee. Or bond measure. 

LA County did tax itself with a couple of carefully-designed transportation measures (Measure R in 2008, and Measure M in 2016) to make sure transportation money went to...transportation! That was good policy, and transparent taxation, in action, and I'm proud to have played a very small part in promoting those measures. 

But any new "transportation money" to Sacramento will just be made moot by taking that same amount for something else.  And something else is anything but building new universities, fixing our infrastructure, etc. 

So if you want the gas tax, then fine.  At least you're putting your money where your mouth is.

Yet there is a GOP alternative to the Democratic transportation plan, and its backers claim it involves no taxes, allows for transportation-related revenue to fund only transportation, and allows more road repair projects Caltrans can bid out to private contractors to get more out of each dollar, and even provides more money for transportation than the Governor's proposal. 

But hey, it's proposed by the GOP, and we all know that to become a Republican you have to swear fealty to Satan, Hitler, Bashar Assad, and ISIS, right?  So it's gotta be bad. 

Yet either way, the concept of responsible taxation in Sacramento, with THIS governor and with THIS group of legislative leaders, has devolved into a big joke. 

And therefore we can all choose whether or not we should laugh our way to higher gas prices than any other state in the nation ... and let out a big guffaw of laughter knowing that at least those higher gas prices are going to a great cause! 

That cause being the favored and higher life forms in Sacramento.

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at 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.)

-cw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GELFAND’S WORLD--I have a scar running through my right eyebrow, and it symbolizes why I don't give a damn whether the NFL comes back to Los Angeles or not. I intend this column to be a polite response to the piece by Daniel Guss in which he faults the elected leadership of Los Angeles for losing the Raiders to Las Vegas. 

The unstated implication in that column is that it is a great achievement to get a professional football team for your city. And the further unstated assumption is that it makes a difference whether that football team is located within your city limits or just outside of them. Otherwise, the writer would presumably be jumping with joy over the return of two professional football teams to the L.A. adjacent city of Inglewood. There may be a further unstated assumption with regard to the relative merits of the Raiders vs. the Rams and/or Chargers, but I'm unable to identify whether that specific view exists. 

I disagree with the basic assumption. I don't think that having one professional football team (among so many others, all over the country) compares in any way with being the foremost town for movie making, being the nation's prime seaport, or being a world capitol of theoretical physics. Furthermore, my view is that the city of Los Angeles won this round with the NFL, just as it has won numerous rounds previously. 

Winning vs losing depends on what you are trying to achieve, and whether or not you achieved it. 

The payoff from watching sports, I would suggest, comes from our ability to identify with the athlete and the team. For one magical Saturday afternoon, we get to be the guy carrying the ball against Notre Dame, or the base runner on first against the Giants. I can still remember Craig Fertig throwing the winning touchdown pass against a previously undefeated Notre Dame team, and who can forget Gibson's home run? 

Magic moments, yes. We all get to be David battling Goliath for a few seconds. But there is a difference between fandom and city governance, because there is a difference between identifying with the team vs really being on the team or owning the team. One is make believe. The other isn't. 

There is also a difference between college sports and professional sports. I would argue that our ability to identify with the local college comes a lot easier than our ability to identify with the professional sports team that has just announced that it is leaving town. UCLA isn't going to pack up its buildings and move to a different town that makes a better offer. It's always going to be UCLA in terms of film studies, chemistry, and ancient history. 

So back to that scar and how it relates to the comments by Mr Guss about Las Vegas winning the battle for the Oakland etc Raiders. When I started college, one of my classmates mentioned that I might be interested in something called Rugby (technically it's Rugby Football) because that's what my college had, and it was something like American football. That last statement turned out to be only partly right. Rugby is something like American football if you leave in the tackling and leave out the blocking. Oh, and you also leave out the helmet and the pads, although being an American, I used a mouth guard. 

So over the years, Rugby was my game. After 17 years of playing rugby, first at the intercollegiate level and then at the club level, I no longer feel any urge to identify with professional football players. I just don't need to have a professional team at hand to provide me with self esteem. It's true that the pros are at a completely different level as athletes and hitters, but it also became true that I no longer had to prove something to myself along the lines of athletics and physicality. I had knocked heads with the Big Ten and with Cal, had been knocked cold a few times, and somehow avoided the big knee injury. I enjoyed sports a lot in my day, but at this point, having another team win for me (and for the strength of my ego) has lessened. 

And then there is that scar through the eyebrow. Why it is germane in this discussion is that it was inflicted on me by one of my teammates in a practice, and it was this same teammate who went on to become a famous professor who studied the impact of professional sports on local economies. Along with other careful observers, he found that adding a professional football stadium (and team) to the local economy may not do a lot of harm, money-wise, but it doesn't do much good, either. All those ticket sales? That money is taken away from other expenditures. People with enough discretionary income to go to professional football games could spend the same amount of money in lots of other ways. People who live in cities lacking a pro football team find ways to entertain themselves. Local boosters seeking a team always promote the economic benefits in terms of hotel occupancy and local sales taxes, but in the net, the results have been unimpressive over a large number of decades and over a lot of teams. 

In bidding on the services of a professional football team, we are trying to buy two things -- the entertainment value of the sporting events, and the emotional value of having the team to identify with. In the case of professional sports, that identification is at best a stretch, because the team is only committed to you as long as the money doesn't run out. Some leagues fold and some teams leave Baltimore in the middle of the night and drive to Indianapolis. How can we view Los Angeles as anything but a way station for NFL teams? 

It's up to the sports fan to decide whether the price of a pair of tickets and a couple of beers is worth the hefty price. That's a personal decision for you to make. But things get beyond the personal when a sports team wants the tax payers to subsidize the construction. Half a billion or a billion dollars is a substantial amount of money, even for a big city like Los Angeles. Whether the mayor should chase after a professional sports team by chasing after the City Council to invest tax dollars is a collective decision that belongs to the voters as a group. 

The history of the past several decades is that Los Angeles tax payers don't want to cover the costs of a new stadium just to service billionaire owners. We've got a couple of perfectly good fields if the intent is to watch a football game. The stadium boxes would only be there to serve the interests of the few. Our elected officials have held the line against such public expenditures. 

This is not to say that a lot of our elected City Council members didn't want to bring back the Rams (or some team, any team). They begged and pleaded, negotiated, got down on their hands and knees, and then begged some more. The one thing they wouldn't do was to shovel public dollars into a new billion-dollar stadium designed to service the wealthy. 

Even the die-hard fans who still were carrying a torch for the old L.A. Rams admitted that for the NFL, the function of Los Angeles was to be a threat to other cities. If those Minneapolis (et al) tax payers didn't come up with the big bucks, their teams -- the Vikings, Ravens, Rams, or Raiders -- would move to Los Angeles. The extortion racket worked pretty well. You had St Louis and San Diego begging like jilted lovers for One More Try. We'll try to find maybe three hundred million, and get some local billionaire to pony up another half billion. 

During the long winter of no professional football, Los Angeles mayors have been asked how much money they will support for the construction of that new stadium. Eric Garcetti was succinct: "Zero." Other L.A. mayors were equally straightforward. "Bring us back a team," they would say, "But don't expect the taxpayers to cover your team's costs." By refusing to get rolled by the NFL owners, the mayors and City Council of Los Angeles have won their end of the battle. The city didn't get a team, but the taxpayers didn't get fleeced, either. I think we can take pride in the fact that we have a greater sense of self worth than the cities which caved. Extortion victims like Minneapolis can't say the same thing. 

Every city which is in the running for a sports franchise has the same choice. It's a question of funding the existence of a sports team that we (as individuals) can learn to love, or saving our money. It's a balance between spending real money and expecting the taxpayers as a whole to engage in mass psychological identification vs. spending the money on something else. 

Like I was saying, the scar tells me that I don't have a need to identify with some other set of athletes anymore. Sure I will root for the U.S. soccer team in the World Cup and for the Dodgers if they ever get out of the first round of the playoffs. But I don't need to. If it happens it will be fun, and if it doesn't, so be it. 

Interestingly, I was chatting with a former professional athlete a few weeks ago. When I asked him whether he felt any need to identify with professional sports teams, he responded No. He only watches college football. It was obvious that he had proved himself to himself and didn't feel the same way that a frustrated adolescent fan would feel. 

I have to give Mr Guss credit for one observation. I think that there is at least a possibility that Las Vegas will break the odds and actually develop some financial gain from bringing in a professional football team. This would of course depend on Las Vegas merchandising football tickets to the tourist trade. Football would be one more entertainment option along with magic, lounge singers, and burlesque. It probably wouldn't add any money to city government revenues, but it would go well in the usual Vegas advertising blitzes. The point for Vegas is to bring in elbows to pull the slots and finger tips to add chips to the roulette tables. The taxpayers of Nevada can cover a little bit of football as part of that giant advertising machine that is the Vegas strip. 

But things are different here in greater Los Angeles. However you slice it, the existence of the Rams in Inglewood is unlikely to affect the local economy very much, one way or the other. The economists who have studied this question over multiple decades and dozens of cities have made this clear, and that includes the one who split my eyebrow with his forehead. If there is to be any contribution to the local economy, it will be to the region as a whole. A few tens of thousands of people who travel to Los Angeles will stay in hotels all over the area, not just in Inglewood. Yes, a Super Bowl is a big deal nowadays (the first one wasn't so big, even if it was held right here in L.A.), but LAX moves seventy million people a year, with or without a Roman Numeraled football game. 

And notice something else. New York nominally hosts a couple of pro football teams, but they play in a place called East Rutherford, New Jersey. That distancing doesn't seem to have depressed the price of tickets to Hamilton. San Francisco nominally hosts a pro football team, but it plays forty miles down the coast. This doesn't seem to have made the city any less desirable to Silicon Valley millionaires or to tourists. 

One interesting point raised by The Economist: Pro football teams not only cost the locals a lot of money, they result in increased crime. 

Just Breaking 

The next one to fall is Devin Nunes, who will step down from chairing the House investigation of Trump's Russian ties. At what point will the elected politicians start to realize that there is real danger in becoming associated with Trump's criminality?

 

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

-cw

THAT CEREMONIAL SPIRIT-In the Olympic spirit, the LA County Board of Supervisors and LA City Council have been vying to see which highly-compensated municipal body can more thoroughly cram its meetings full of vacuous ceremonial presentations. 

Vegas has all but written off the County -- for which tomorrow’s meeting is do or die. The City’s final “at bat” was Friday, when it shattered its own world record set on June 26, 2015.  If you subtract from the City’s past two Friday meetings the collective four hours of ceremonial commendations which took place, you are left with barely an hour’s worth of public business being done -- though that depends to some extent on whether you include as public business Councilmember Blumenfield speaking Farsi and/or Controller Galperin texting incessantly during the Nowruz celebration (Persian New Year.)  

Regardless, as he stated proudly at the second meeting, the Mayor hopes we can “incorporate a gender lens through everything we do now.” 

Meanwhile, those who would write off the County in this race should know that its agenda for tomorrow bristles with thirteen presentations plus a televised pet adoption appeal. To be sure, most of those commendation recipients -- ArtsforLA, Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13 President, LA County Occupational Therapists -- won’t burn up much time, but one of the honorees -- SafetyBeltSafe U.S.A. (to be honored for their great work in reducing the number of children who suffer from tragic injuries in car collisions) -- could turn out to be a real doozy, if they bring some kids downtown. 

Moreover, if all else fails, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas can go thermonuclear with an “adjournment for the fallen,” which entails each Supervisor lecturing in remembrance of someone recently deceased. Not even half of a typical Janice Hahn encomium could tip the balance in favor of the County. 

In other words, this race is far from a sealed deal; and the fat lady, though slated for one-hour performances at both the City and County next week, has yet to sing.

 

(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer and Joshua is a teacher.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

ANIMAL WATCH-On March 15, after adopting a dog named “Emmet” from the Clinton Humane Society, Kris and Ashley Greene took their new pet to the home of Tyler and Holly Harrison, where the dog bit the Harrison’s 15-month-old son, Lucas, in the face, leaving massive facial wounds, the Clinton Herald reported.

With the increasing number of reports of aggressive dog attacks in Los Angeles and nationwide, there may be some important lessons to be learned. 

Although the dog in Clinton, Iowa, had been listed as a "Boxer-Labrador-mix," it was determined to be a Pit Bull  that had been transported from a Louisiana shelter. 

The dog was subsequently declared a dangerous dog by Clinton authorities, and Ashley Greene was cited for owning a dangerous dog. She pleaded not guilty on March 28, according to the Herald

The photos of the horrific disfigurement of this beautiful child are chilling. Lucas’ injuries are described and photos shown before and after surgery on the family’s GoFundMe page: 

He was airlifted to the University of Iowa Childrens' Hospital where he had a 6- hour surgery involving at least 3 surgeons. A large part of his gum/bone including permanent teeth were ripped out, most of his nose cartilage was destroyed, and he will have lifelong damage. He will not have any upper front teeth, will need dental reconstruction to hopefully support false teeth when he is an adult, and have more facial surgeries in the future. 

Colleen Lynn of Dogsbite.org did a thorough investigation of the background of the Pit Bull, Emmet, and describes the mechanisms by which dogs with a propensity for aggression are transported nationwide for adoption to an unsuspecting public. 

She writes, "Animals of IPAC advertised Emmet as a 'great dog with a great temperament.'" 

“Three weeks before the attack, a pit bull-mix named Emmet, was on death row at the New Iberia Parish Animal Shelter in Louisiana. On February 22, after social media rallied to "save Emmet," by raising over $300, the dog was "approved for transport."  (Read more)  

HUMANE SOCIETY SUED 

On Thursday, March 29, 2017, the Herald announced that a civil lawsuit against the Clinton Humane Society and the owners of the dog that attacked Lucas had been filed on Tuesday by Attorney John Frey, on behalf of the parents of Lucas Harrison. 

The following items are excerpted and summarized from the Herald report: 

The petition alleges one count against Kris and Ashley Greene for dog owners’ strict liability, and two counts against the Clinton Humane Society for product liability, negligence and breach of express warranty.” 

It states the “foreseeable risks of harm” posed by the dog could have been reduced or avoided by the provision of reasonable instructions or warnings.

Among these instructions should have been the precautions for bringing the dog into a home “where another dog, an infant and small children are present.”  

The petition asserts that the Greenes should have been warned that the Humane Society’s ability to determine whether a dog is child friendly is extremely limited, rather than “expressly warranting” that the dog was “child friendly.” 

The new owners should have been warned that the dog had been moved from a shelter in Louisiana to Clinton Humane Society after being impounded for over five months and was scheduled for euthanasia.  

The Greenes should have been warned that the dog in question could be a pit bull mix, even though it was allegedly advertised by the Clinton Humane Society as a Boxer-mix. 

The petition states "the omission of the instructions or warnings renders the dog not reasonably safe." 

The petition lists one count against the Greenes for strictly liability for all damages done by their dog, citing Iowa code section 351.28. 

WHY THIS LAWSUIT IS IMPORTANT 

Traditionally those who rehome unwanted pets -- mainly animal shelters and humane society -- have been held harmless from prosecution and/or liability for the future misconduct of the animal. Courts have taken a Caveat emptor approach, meaning, "let the buyer beware."

Findlaw advises this means "sold as is,” and the buyer assumes the risk that a product may fail to meet expectations or may have defects. However, implicit in this concept is the presumption that buyers will be able to inspect or otherwise ensure the integrity of the product before they decide to complete the transaction. 

Of course, with a shelter animal that is almost impossible. There is no way, based upon looking through the bars of a cage or kennel or taking a pet into an introduction area, that health or temperament can be accurately assessed.

Although some dogs adapt to a new home immediately, it can take several weeks, or longer, before a new pet has "settled in" and relaxes enough to express its true character and personality and/or begins to show territorial dominance. Therefore, in the past, shelters have been cautious about absolute, positive statements and have made notes on all observed behavior by employees visible on posted kennel cards or otherwise easily available, so that potential adopters could make a more-informed decision. 

But, the “No Kill” movement has changed that. The industry-wide competition to have the highest “live-save” rate and specific pressure from leading humane groups to not interfere with the right to breed and own combat Pit Bulls (“No BSL”), has resulted in withholding negative behavioral information and sometimes making misleading statements to get these animals adopted and so they don't inflate the shelter’s euthanasia rate.

To further this effort, Pit Bulls are commonly misidentified as Boxer-mix or listed as American Staffordshire Terriers, and referred to as “Nanny Dogs” that are “great with kids.” San Francisco SPCA tried calling them “St. Francis Terriers” and New York introduced “New Yorkies” -- a program which reportedly lasted three days. 

At first, “no kill” applied to humane societies, many of which are “limited entry” and have the option to only accept adoptable dogs. This gave them a heads up on receiving donations, because no one wants to support a "kill shelter." 

But the pressure to be "no kill" then shifted to the “open-admission” tax-funded municipal shelters, which must accept all strays and animals in need, regardless of temperament or condition. This has forced governmental agencies -- which have direct responsibility to protect the public -- into keeping alive animals that have serious aggression or behavior concerns and applying any remotely plausible description to them, except “dogs bred to kill each other.” 

Of course, not every Pit Bull unpredictably attacks and some can be loyal, loving pets; but the genetics and recent history of this breed requires an acceptance that, increasingly, the desire for winning fighting dogs has led to producing Pit Bulls that may react with unpredictable violence to almost any stimulation that "challenges" them.

This often includes pets, children, or even the hand that feeds them. On March 30, the NY Post reports, Man Fatally Mauled by his Dog during Interview with Film Crew. The article describes that this was not the first attack by this Pit Bull on his owner, but a neighbor said that Mario Perivoitos, 41, “loved the dog more than himself.” The Pit Bull was also described as generally quiet and never seen to be vicious. 

Thus, shelters are packed with Pit Bulls whose true natures begin to show usually between eight months to two years and often become such a problem or potential liability that they are just dumped in the streets or relinquished; in either case, these animals proliferate in animal shelters nationwide. 

The Michael Vick case created two new industries -- (1) “rescues” that thrive on donations for saving the “misunderstood" underdogs and which “pull” known aggressive dogs from shelters to save them; and (2) transport businesses that charge per animal to move these often-unadoptable animals to a shelter in another city or state. Thousands of dangerous animals that have already shown vicious or anti-social behavior are packed into trucks or airplanes and shipped to known or unknown destinations, rather than being humanely euthanized. 

This deceptive shell game allows shelters, humane societies and the rescuers bragging rights to a higher “live-save” rate (after all, the animals left alive) and the historical “caveat emptor” and governmental-immunity laws have allowed them to avoid responsibility for damages to a future adopter or harm to animals or humans. 

This could soon change, based on a lawsuit filed after the tragic event that occurred on March 15.

(Note: The above does not include the many responsible "rescues" nationwide who carefully screen both the animals and every potential adoptive home.) 

HOW "PRODUCT LIABILITY" IS ASSESSED 

I asked a local attorney who works for a government agency to explain “Product Liability" and also asked, if it is granted in the lawsuit filed on behalf of a 15-week-old Iowa boy, could all agencies or parties involved in impounding/rescuing or transporting homeless animals potentially find themselves liable for any future damages caused by these animals?

Here is his informal response: 

Strict product liability "applies to everyone in the “stream of commerce." Everyone along the stream is jointly and severally liable for any resulting harm. Manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer -- in this case, each shelter that made the animal available for adoption, transported it or had any part in placing it in the stream of commerce -- could be liable even if it was unknown to any of those parities that there was a defect in the product or the product posed a hazard.  That is the nature of strict liability. 

“Additionally, any party who had knowledge of the propensity of a defect but did not warn or disclose that knowledge could also face liability for negligence. Liability for negligence may apply to anyone of those who moved the animal through the steam of commerce.   

“Anybody who  has knowledge of a potential defect or danger has a duty to warn or inform consumers (adopters) and failure to do so is breach of that duty, resulting in liability for harm that results from that omission.” 

For those seriously interested, the following comment is presented by Animal Law:

EVERY DOG CAN HAVE ITS DAY: EXTENDING LIABILITY BEYOND THE SELLER BY DEFINING PETS AS “PRODUCTS” UNDER PRODUCTS LIABILITY THEORY  

ARE ATTACKS BY SHELTER DOGS INCREASING? 

In a July 11, 2015 article, Pit bull from Asheville Humane Society kills six-year-old, Merritt Clifton of Animals 24-7, describes the tragic death of John Phillip Strother, 6, in NC, brutally killed by a Pit Bull adopted three weeks earlier. 

He describes the Asheville Humane Society as, "An adoption program promotion partner of both the Best Friends Animal Society and the American SPCA, both of which have long fought legislation meant to stop pit bull proliferation." 

He also provides some valuable statistics to that date, citing that Joshua Strother was, "...the 38th fatality involving U.S. shelter dogs from 2010 to present, in attacks involving 30 pit bulls, seven bull mastiffs, two Rottweilers, a Lab who may have been part pit bull, and a husky." 

"By contrast, there were no fatalities involving shelter dogs from 1858 through 1987. Two fatalities occurred, both involving wolf hybrids, in 1988 and 1989." 

He noted that, ". . .there were only 32 disfiguring maulings by shelter dogs from 1858 through 2009, 19 of them involving pit bulls." 

"From 2010 to present [July 11, 2015], there have been at least 138 disfiguring maulings by shelter dogs, 99 of them involving pit bulls. Nineteen shelter dogs have killed or disfigured people thus far in 2015, all of them pit bulls." 

On August 6, 2015, Buncombe County officials completed its review of the screening and transferring procedures by the Asheville Humane Society (AHS). Among other revisions, both parties "agreed to enhance current standards."

One of the revisions was, "Assuring that all adoption agencies provide complete information gathered on the adoptive animal through the sheltering process to all adoptive owners."

                                                           

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

My April Fool’s column, Garcetti Says No to Higher Office, was based on the reasonable speculation that Mayor Eric Garcetti was not going to run for Governor or Senator in 2018. 

If Garcetti entered the race for Governor, he would risk a career-ending loss in a primary brawl with three well-funded candidates, Lt. Governor Gavin Newson, State Treasurer John Chiang, and former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.  And he is certainly not going to mess with Senator Dianne Feinstein, one of the State’s most popular and respected politicians. 

As for Garcetti’s side deals with Newsom, Chiang, and Feinstein, they were inspired by my love for April Fool’s Day, especially when it comes to poking fun at the political establishment and their self-serving side deals.  

But I should have continued the ruse by developing a scenario so preposterous that anybody in their right mind, including members of the media, would know that there was no way it could be true.  

If I wrote that Mayor Garcetti was going to focus on balancing the budget, eliminating the Structural Deficit (where personnel costs increase faster than revenues), developing a comprehensive plan for the repair and maintenance of our streets, reforming the City’s two underfunded pension plans, and establishing an Office of Transparency and Accountability to oversee the City’s precarious finances, everybody would know that our fiscally irresponsible Elected Elite and the leaders of the public sector unions would never allow this to occur. 

But this is exactly what needs to happen if LA is to be a world class city.  Otherwise, the next generations of Angelenos will be paying for today’s sins.  And that is not a joking matter. 

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

-cw 

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Last December, I first covered the social media-motivated attack on a West Hills teen. Jordan Peisner was on an after-school Wendy’s run when he was jumped by another teen he had never met while the attacker’s friend snapped images on her smartphone. The attack left Jordan with a fractured skull, a blot clot in his brain and ruptured eardrum. In a flash, Jordan’s and his family’s lives were changed forever. 

Jordan’s father Ed Peisner says his son is slowly recovering. “As for the hematoma, as of the last MRI, it was 19mm but we will have another this month to check the size. Hopefully, it has shrunk. His hearing loss is permanent and that is very hard to accept.” 

What happened to the alleged assailants? 

The girl arrested and charged with conspiracy to incite a violent act was moved to LA Teen Court, says Peisner, “because the probation department felt there wasn’t enough evidence to make her charge stick so a jury of her peers -- 14- and 15-year olds -- found her not guilty. We didn’t have a voice in the matter at all. We weren’t even allowed to be there.” 

The arraignment for the teen who physically attacked Jordan will be held on April 7, shares Peisner, “but from what the D.A. told me last week at the pre-plea arraignment, he will most likely receive probation for a certain amount of time. So, my son has permanent physical damages and emotional issues while the assailant gets to pick up trash.” 

The girl who filmed the attack to post on social media wasn’t arrested, says Peisner, because “that isn’t a crime.” 

An Interview with Rep. Matt Dababneh and Sen. Henry Stern: 

Rep. Matt Dababneh (D-Encino) has introduced a bill to change that. Assembly Bill 1542 would criminalize the act of conspiring with an attacker to take video of a crime and would also add a year to the court’s sentence for a criminal felony when the attacker conspires to have that assault recorded. 

I sat down with Dababneh and Sen. Henry Stern (D-SD 27) to talk about the assembly bill, how Jordan’s attack inspired the proposed law, and the importance of addressing social media-motivated attacks. 

BCK: What were your first thoughts when hearing about Jordan Peisner’s attack? 

Dababneh: When I saw the video on Facebook, it was heartbreaking. I was sick to my stomach. This could have been a neighbor or my nephew, one of my interns. I got the sense that this was mostly younger teenagers with a desire or need to be infamous, how many “likes” they have on their profiles. They’re willing to create violence to leave their mark. 

Stern: I was outraged when this all occurred and earlier than that, this ugly knockout club trend on the web. The internet can be used as a tool for incredible good and change but also the basest tendencies and ugliness. This is an evolution of that. 

BCK: What inspired you to introduce this bill? 

Dababneh: Right away, during Jordan’s recovery, Ed took the opportunity to be an advocate. I admire that.  Instead of what could have turned into vengeance, he has been tireless. 

Stern: As the resident millennial in the senate, I feel it’s my duty to stop the abuse of these kind of tools. I think young people say more social media is better -- don’t put any impediment to its use for filming for the purpose of social media. I disagree that it’s universally good. Watching Jordan go through this and getting to know him and Ed a bit, I think they are onto something, the way the community has stood up to bullying. We all think we have bright ideas in the Capitol but the ideas really come from the community. 

BCK: Can you explain the significance of the bill? 

Dababneh: We wanted this bill to be narrow and specific. Social Media is paramount to the issue and the bigger reality. We want to make sure our streets are safe against attacks, rapes of co-eds, attacks on transgenders. We want to send a strong message that the attacker will face legal consequences. When an accomplice helped plan and was a motivator, that’s no different from being the getaway driver. 

Stern: The perpetrator (who filmed Jordan’s attack) is not currently in violation of any law. That is inexcusable and needs to be remedied. We’ve narrowly tailored the bill to exclude Good Samaritan acts but to focus on those conspiring to do acts of violence with their phones. Technology has been evolving faster than our mores and laws. We’re playing catch-up. That’s the job of government. 

BCK: What are some concerns with getting the bill passed and how have you addressed those concerns? 

Dababneh: I’ve worked with law enforcement and education leaders, the ACLU so that free speech is addressed. 

Stern: I’m trying to be Matt’s lawyer in the Senate when it gets down to legal questions. I hope to be able to be a good second man. We want bystanders and citizen activists to use camera phone for recording protests or whatever incidents they see that need to be reported to the police. The computer is a powerful tool for good. I care about civil liberties and the First Amendment -- that we not chill any of those freedoms but address premeditated and actual acts of violence. 

BCK: What’s the next step for the bill? 

Dababneh: The Bill will first go through the committee and the Assembly before going before the state Senate, hopefully by the spring. If passed, we hope the bill will be on the Governor’s desk by late spring. 

Stern: Matt is doing the heavy lifting. I don’t believe there is any major fiscal impact but we have got to get it through the Assembly and through the Senate to the Governor’s desk. 

BCK: Is there a plan to raise awareness of Jordan’s Law? 

Dababneh: We’ve been working through the media, through Op-Ed pages, as well as introducing at town hall meetings. Jordan’s attack is well-known. Educators and parents will hopefully teach accountability and responsibility. 

BCK: Any other thoughts on Jordan’s Law? 

Dababneh: We want to send a very strong message. If you think about engaging in an action like this, think twice. Think of the consequences. Life is filled with choices. In ten seconds, a young life was compromised. Consequently, for many years, Jordan faces challenges. He’s resilient but he has a blood clot, hearing loss. This has been disruptive to Jordan’s parents and his family, his friends. We are committed to this position so that anyone considering these attacks is aware of the consequences. 

Stern: Matt’s done a great job at holding off opposition and is working closely with the ACLU and other folks who care about issues. This is about showing Jordan that he is not alone and this is not just a West Hills or San Fernando Valley issue but about building a campaign on this. There are victims of these crimes all over the state. It’s a universal issue. I applaud Dababneh for having real focus. It was his idea to work with Ed and Jordan. I hope to be a good lawyer and to help him. We’ve been leaning on Cool to be Kind clubs and young people are leading here, as well as parents. Kids on the El Camino campus, at Cleveland and Reseda, there’s a ripple out from El Camino to high schools all over the Valley. Kids are talking about this. It will be interesting to see if we can translate chatter into political progress.

 

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

 

NEW GEOGRAPHY-- To some progressives, California’s huge endorsement for the losing side for president reflects our state’s moral superiority. Some even embrace the notion that California should secede so that we don’t have to associate with the “deplorables” who tilted less enlightened places to President-elect Donald Trump. One can imagine our political leaders even inviting President Barack Obama, who reportedly now plans to move to our state, to serve as the California Republic’s first chief executive.

As a standalone country, California could accelerate its ongoing emergence as what could be called “the Republic of Climate.” This would be true in two ways. Dominated by climate concerns, California’s political leaders will produce policies that discourage blue-collar growth and keep energy and housing prices high. This is ideal for the state’s wealthier, mostly white, coastal ruling classes. Yet, at the same time, the California gentry can enjoy what, for the most part, remains a temperate climate. Due to our open borders policies, they can also enjoy an inexhaustible supply of cheap service workers.

Of course, most Californians, particularly in the interior, will not do so well. They will continue to experience a climate of declining social mobility due to rising costs, and businesses, particularly those employing blue-collar and middle-income workers, will continue to flee to more hospitable, if less idyllic, climes.

California in the Trump era

Barring a rush to independence, Californians now must adapt to a new regime in Washington that does not owe anything to the state, much less its policy agenda. Under the new regime, our high tax rates and ever-intensifying regulatory regime will become even more distinct from national norms.

President Obama saw California’s regulatory program, particularly its obsession with climate change, as a role model leading the rest of the nation — and even the world. Trump’s victory turns this amicable situation on its head. California now must compete with other states, which can only salivate at the growing gap in costs.

At the same time, foreign competitors, such as the Chinese, courted by Gov. Jerry Brown and others to follow its climate agenda, will be more than happy to take energy-dependent business off our hands. They will make gestures to impress what Vladimir Lenin labeled “useful idiots” in our ruling circles, but will continue to add coal-fired plants to power their job-sapping export industries.

Our housing crisis could get worse

For a generation, California housing prices have been escalating, particularly along the coast, at rates two to three times faster, relative to income, than its rivals. Regulatory policies aimed at reducing the single-family units that most Americans prefer will continue to drive people, notably younger families, to what liberals dismiss as “Trumpland.”

Before the election, developers in Texas and elsewhere fretted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Housing and Urban Development would impose a California-style regulatory regime across the country. They recognized that if prices were driven higher in Dallas, fewer would opt to live in a physically less attractive, and less temperate, place.

Now the gap between Trumpland and California will likely grow even more. New “zero emissions” housing policies alone are likely to boost the cost of new construction by tens of thousands of dollars.

California’s alternate reality

Already the most unequal state in terms of incomes, education levels and standards of living, according to a Social Science Research Council report, California seems destined to become even more so. Our ultrahigh taxes do not seem to be driving the really rich away. Like the rising population of the dependent poor, the rich likely will always be with us.

Billionaires, of course, can afford to choose the most attractive places on the planet in which to live. Our state now has more billionaires, notes Forbes, than all other countries, excluding the rest of the United States and China. Nearly half of the 16 counties with the highest percentages of people earning over $190,000 annually are in the Golden State.

Our emerging Republic of Climate, of course, is not so amenable to those who live outside the upper reaches. Elite firms in the tech, entertainment or media industries may keep their headquarters and key operations here, but when companies like Apple employ middle-wage earners, they tend to do it in Texas, not Tulare.

For most inhabiting the Climate Republic, the future could well be low-end jobs. People from around the nation and the world, who could not afford to live here full-time, increasingly come to California as tourists so they can live like Mediterranean grandees for a week or two. In this sense, California, once the heartland of the American dream, increasingly will resemble Hawaii, a state largely dependent on serving the luxury lifestyles of retirees and out-of-state visitors.

For the state’s middle class, of course, working at a hotel or feeding tourists generally does not pay enough to rent, much less buy, a decent place to live. They will continue to leave, as they have for 22 of the past 25 years.

Whether as a new or a virtual republic, California seems destined to remain a paradise for the wealthy and well-established, while offering increasingly little for those who aspire to the American dream. Many, particularly in the younger generation, may be forced to sacrifice a perfect climate and glorious topography for the chance of a decent standard of living.

(Joel Kotkin is the editor of New Geography … where this piece was most recently posted … and is R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, a St. Louis-based public policy firm, and was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission.)

-cw

GUEST WORDS--A belated 98th birthday to California’s Lawrence Ferlinghetti, indefatigable poet, bookseller, anti-Fascist, First Amendment activist, environmentalist, publisher, painter, creator of community, patron saint of the Beat artists, Poet Laureate of San Francisco, living monument to the arts, "old-ass anarchist" and dazzlingly prescient speaker of truth whose City Lights bookstore has served as a beacon of enlightenment, creativity and resistance since the 1950s.

Ferlinghetti inspired the 2009 documentary "A Rebirth of Wonder," he titled his 2013 collection of poems "Time of Useful Consciousness" for the vital moment a pilot is aware of coming disaster and can still act, and he is working on a stream-of-consciousness memoir he likes to call "Portrait of the Artist As An Old Red."

In a riff on Gahlil Kibran's "Pity the Nation," Ferlinghetti wrote his own searing version ten years ago; it could be today. Likewise prophetically, he began his 2007 prose book, "Poetry as Insurgent Art," with, "I am signaling you through the flames." They continue to rise. May he, too.

Pity the Nation

“Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation — oh, pity the people who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.”

― Lawrence Ferlinghetti

(Abby Zimet has edited CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, thinning the carrots, hauling too much water, experiencing true if ragged community, and writing. This perspective was posted originally at Common Dreams.

-cw

EDUCATION POLITICS-A recent 60 Minutes program reported on how the H1B visa is being used to get rid of an older, more expensive professional American work force in favor of imported workers whose best "skill" is that they will work for a fraction of the salary and benefits. 

The link between this phenomenon and higher profits at any cost should not be missed merely because it is not reported by the mainstream corporate-owned media that is not so coincidentally behind this phenomenon designed to increase corporate profit at any cost. Even foundation-dependent NPR is loathe to go against the interests of its equally compromised corporate owned and controlled foundation supporters, who believe that NPR will never "bite the hand that feeds them." 

This financial reality within the media is emblematic of how much worse things will be in the American workplace and economy for older, more expensive high seniority employees now that we have a Trump administration that is hell-bent on reinstituting a 19th century government-free laissez faire work environment that supports corporate profit and the elimination of hard earned seniority and vested salary rights above all other legal rights and considerations. 

The rights of expensive high seniority employees were already under assault under the Obama administration when regulatory agencies like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) were defunded to the point of being unable to stop blatant age, gender, and racial discrimination in the marketplace. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. 

Even more sinister is what amounts to the complete elimination of the hard-earned ability of unions to stand against this well-planned assault on American workers across the employment spectrum. As I have already pointed out in many articles about the privatization of public education, unions like American Federation of Teachers (AFT) under Randi Weingarten or United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) under Alex Caputo-Pearl and company were put into office by the very players in management that are so intent on eliminating any vested rights teachers might have. 

Just one example of how this is accomplished can be seen at UTLA in its position when called upon to defend expensive high-seniority teachers that are disproportionately targeted and removed from their careers using completely fabricated "evidence." Once the school district has fired the teacher, they are no longer considered to be a member of the union so the union has no obligation to legally defend that person -- even though the LAUSD/UTLA Collective Bargaining Agreement clearly gives the union this right. 

Doesn't allowing management in any unionized industry the ability and power to determine union membership completely undermine the fundamental power and purpose of a union? According to UTLA and other ersatz unions like it around the country, you can be a good dues paying member of the union for years, but once the employer removes you, there go your union rights. 

What exacerbates this irrational phenomenon is that employees are being targeted and removed by management with no respect for their basic rights to presumptions of innocence and due process of law. 

To put it bluntly, unions like UTLA and others around the country now represent management and their own administrative interests -- not the interests and hard fought legal rights of their rank and file. 

Putting aside the blatant illegality and inequity of this collusion between union leadership and corporate management, one might also ask what avoidable economic catastrophes might occur if the institutional memory offered by older workers continues to be eradicated. 

If the laissez-faire policies of the Trump administration make 2017 the functional equivalent of 1928 (on the eve of the Great Depression of 1929) by eliminating a seasoned older work force, who will be left to keep this country from going over a cliff? 

While racial and ethnic discrimination are often in the news, do you think the majority of people in this country are aware that in the aggregate, age discrimination could be the most dominant and pernicious form of discrimination in our society?

 

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

@THE GUSS REPORT-Kudos to Las Vegas, with a population of about 600,000. It is the little city that could, and did, land what the City of Los Angeles could not: an NFL franchise – in fact, one with a phenomenal brand – and what is going to be the baddest domed stadium in the world when it opens in a few years.

Then there are the tens of thousands of jobs and a bazillion tax dollars from the concerts, conventions and Super Bowls it will host. Wonders, it shall also do, for the occupancy rate of its hotels, its infrastructure, home property values and the needs of its neediest. 

Vegas, baby ... Vegas

Why can’t we get government leadership like that? 

Vegas landed the Raiders because it was ready to deal. It wasn’t a fluke. The NFL thrives on money and television, yet Vegas is just the 42nd largest TV market in the U.S., while Los Angeles is second only to New York. They won because of leadership. The City of Los Angeles lost its NFL chances because of a lack of it. 

That theory holds true because a far smaller and poorer LA County city, Inglewood, with an estimated population of just 120,000, landed not one, but two, NFL franchises and what is going to be an insanely cool multi-billion dollar stadium and shopping and hotel complex that will host Super Bowl LV in 2021 and countless events in the decades to come. 

Oh, the tax revenue that will bring…to Inglewood. 

The Rams, Chargers and now the Raiders have something else in common: they all at one time or other played in the City of Los Angeles, left it, and are coming back to cities nearby but which are not named the City of Los Angeles. 

For years, the past and present 18 elected officials of the City of Los Angeles gassed-on about landing an NFL team and a world-class stadium in which it would play. It could be a refurbished Coliseum, Dodger Stadium or the never-to-be-built Farmer’s Field in downtown.

They, the political set, thought they would be our conquering heroes and land a pile of tax revenue that would save us from their profligate spending, bloated pension burdens and launch them all to higher office. 

But as we found out after the Rams, Chargers and Raiders chose other nearby cities in which to land, the City of LA only has great weather, and not the leadership to make a great deal. 

Another reason why Las Vegas landed the Raiders, as well as recently getting a National Hockey League team, is because it and Atlantic City no longer have pariah status with professional sports leagues as the exclusive homes of gambling in the United States. As the New York Times recently pointed out, “according to the American Gaming Association, 19 N.F.L. stadiums are less than 20 miles from a casino, and daily fantasy companies allow fans to bet on a lineup of players of their design using a computer or smartphone.” 

In other words, as times changed and circumstances evolved, the leaders in Las Vegas and in Inglewood were ready to deal. They did, and won. 

Meanwhile, City of Los Angeles officials continue their pursuit of sparkly things that LA does not need, like million dollar condo developments, luxury hotels and the 2024 Olympics, with few buying Mayor Eric Garcetti’s line that since Peter Ueberroth made the 1984 LA Olympics profitable, it is inevitable that he, Garcetti, who can’t house the homeless, ease the traffic or honor a budget (presently $250,000,000 under water) can do the same. 

Garcetti has held the reins of power in City Hall as either City Council president or Mayor since 2006 but is still seeking his first big “get.” 

In 2024, the LA Coliseum will be 101 years old, the Rose Bowl will be 102 and the Staples Center will be one of the older of the “newer” American arenas at 25. They, and lesser known venues in the area, will never suffice for an Olympics. 

The recently re-elected Garcetti should stop reaching for the glittery things in his field of vision, be they sporting events or higher office, and start governing to the benefit of the hoi polloi who live and work here now and in the coming years. When there are new and exciting things to go for, he and his successors should study the winning formulas of the little cities that could … and did.

  

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

Tags: Daniel Guss, The Guss Report, NFL teams, Raiders, Las Vegas, Ingelwood, Eric Garcetti

VIEW FROM INSIDE--A recent Los Angeles Times story explored the recent drop in arrest rates, both in Los Angeles and across the state, stating it was "unclear" why arrest rates have dropped as crime has risen. While we can't speak for other agencies, we can inform the public about some reasons for the arrest rate decline in jurisdictions patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. 

One key factor is the lack of unobligated patrol time due to short staffing in our patrol functions. As detailed in a National Institute of Justice report, "Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn't, What's Promising" proactive policing, where deputies interact with the public and investigate suspicious activity and persons, produces arrests and deters crime.  However, instead of engaging in those functions, deputies now spend time racing from call to call, leaving little time for proactive patrol.  

In addition, short staffing of the Department leads to patrol deputies being forced to work multiple overtime shifts in a week, which often lengthens a shift to 16 hours.  Additionally, deputies are being ordered to work on regularly scheduled days off. The fatigue factor of long shifts and the realization that an arrest towards the end of a shift will lead to multiple hours in paperwork and additional hours in processing if a booking takes place, combined with compression of work weeks, is certainly a discouragement to making an arrest. In addition, making an arrest often requires backup, the availability of which many times is in question due to short staffing. 

It is not, however, just a lack of resources which have led to a drop in arrest rates. While the article implies a decrease in conjunction with a rising crime rate means crimes are not being solved and suspects identified, that is overstated. Since arrests are most often discretionary acts, a deputy may simply write a report documenting the crime, leaving it to prosecutors to file charges and send a notification letter to the defendant with an appearance date for arraignment. An arrest simply jump starts this process. This then raises the question: Why would a deputy forego an arrest and instead only write a report?  Simple.  Making an arrest presents an opportunity for second guessing by the Department, politicians, and the public. 

The Department has instituted a culture that emphasizes discipline not praise for hard working patrol deputies, with a singular focus on looking for the "bad" in every arrest or public contact. The default response of line supervisors and higher-ups is to second guess deputies and look for "bad tactics" or outcomes, instead of supporting proactive deputies, or praising them as examples to be followed. Since discretion allows a deputy to solve a crime and document it with a report, the understandable human behavior is to avoid making an arrest if that will simply invite second guessing and undue scrutiny. 

Then, of course, there is the politics of law enforcement; that is, politicians. The lack of support for deputies doesn't just exist within the Department but is amplified by politicians eager to grab the limelight and slam rank-and-file law enforcement whenever an incident does not end in textbook fashion. Former NYPD Commissioner and LAPD Police Chief Bill Bratton once observed, "Police work is not always pretty. In my years in law enforcement, I've learned not to make a judgment until I have all the facts."  Sadly, that is not the case with many politicians. Far beyond just a lack of support, the willingness of elected and self-appointed experts to rush to the cameras and pass judgment on rank-and-file law enforcement officers for incidents where they scarcely know the details--and what "details" they often know later prove to be false--certainly causes pause in engaging in arrests or proactive law enforcement.  

Further, whether it is simply a vocal minority receiving outsized attention on their views of law enforcement, or in fact a larger segment of society, it is unquestionable that as a whole there is less civility towards law enforcement by the general public. Society has become impatient, rude, judgmental and sanctimonious towards law enforcement, and it should be no wonder why deputies are hesitant to engage in actions such as arrest which leads to second guessing. 

A recent survey in a leading law enforcement publication found the major decrease in proactive policing across the nation was in large part because of  "significant correlations between leadership, media, community relations, and training to their individual effects upon decreased proactivity." As mentioned above, the decrease in arrests and a rising crime rate does not mean that crimes are not being solved and suspects identified.  However, if one wants to start searching for the reasons for a decrease in arrests while there has been an increase in crime, the responses of nearly 500 officers and deputies in this survey and the issues detailed in this blog provide a solid starting point.

 

(The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) is the collective bargaining agent representing more than 7,900 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County.)

-cw  

TRANSIT WATCH--Everyone loves a good April Fools story, and the Expo Line to Catalina Island "Chunnel" was as cute a ditty as any.  For years, those of us interested in transit joked about the westward expansion of Expo to Catalina (or even Hawaii!). But there are some truly interesting developments: 

1) It's not as sexy to talk about "the center" or "the hub" as it is to talk about expanded train service to far-flung regions of the county, but it's that center/hub that makes train/transit riding make sense. We've got a Downtown Light Rail Connector to bring our light rails from all over the county together, but what about Metrolink and Amtrak?  And, for that matter, high-speed rail? 

Many reading this either support, oppose, or are ambivalent about high-speed rail.  I admit to being in the "ambivalent" camp because the taxpayers are owed an apology for those who lied their tails off about the original CA High-Speed Rail (CAHSR) Initiative, but one of the good things about that initiative is that it helps to pay for the Union Station Run-Through Tracks. 

As with the Downtown Light Rail Connector, the Union Station Run-Through Tracks won't catch the eye of many taxpayers, but it's about as important as any project one can think of at Union Station. 

The stub-end tracks will be added to create loop tracks to decrease delays and increase station capacity, and both enhance Metrolink and Amtrak usage as well as establish compatibility of high-speed rail trains for the future.  No more backing in, pulling out for trains picking up passengers at Union Station...just a fix for a problem that decades-overdue for a correction. 

2) Busways often lead to rail lines, and the link of the San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel Valley has been anticipated for years to decades. 

We've got a Red Line to North Hollywood, an Orange Line that needs conversion from a Busway to a rail line, and a Gold Line station at Pasadena that needs to be opened to points west as well as points east. 

The dedicated Busway between Pasadena and North Hollywood therefore bodes well for regional connectivity, and particularly for those in the Burbank/Glendale region who feel forgotten by Metro. 

A street-focused, and a freeway-focused, pair of alternatives will be considered by Metro, and it's hoped that the busway will be a hit. 

After all, once the Gold Line Construction Authority finishes its work with the Foothill Gold Line, it's not hard to wonder if it shouldn't focus its efforts on a new light rail line/initiative from Pasadena all the way to Warner Center. 

3) Meanwhile, bus ridership is down while the Gold and Expo Lines have gone up in ridership...which isn't so bad a thing.

The bus companies have done a great job trying to work with Metro Rail projects, but as Uber and Lyft have gone up in popularity, those who can take more efficient, speedy, and high-capacity trains will certain eschew buses and use a combination of rail/car or rail/bicycle to get where they want to go on their own, individual schedules. 

And individual scheduling and commuting is what drove the popularity of the automobile.  Still does. 

4) Finally, that portion of "Downtown", that eastern/southeastern region, is getting the love that former supervisor Gloria Molina could have only dreamed of.  The concept of a heavy rail Red Line extended south beneath Vermont Avenue all the way to 125th Street in West Athens is raising a few eyebrows. 

Want to enhance the economic activity, the housing/construction, and the neighborhood development of south and east LA?  Build more infrastructure and access to that region! 

While we're at it, the proposed Vermont Subway project needs more attention ... 

... and the Harbor Subdivision Right Of Way from Inglewood to the Blue Line to Union Station would provide the direct LAX-to-Union Station line that commuters will be screaming for once the LAX/Metro Rail connection is finished 2022-24.  Please...no bike/pedestrian walk way needs to preclude a fully-modern and high-capacity rail line. 

With the passage of Measure M, and a willingness of developers and city/county leaders to demand that developer money get siphoned for these major infrastructure projects, the forgotten and disconnected regions of the county (I haven't included the South Bay and Southeast/Gateway Cities, have I?) need no longer have to wait decades for "their turn". 

Seriously.  No foolin'!

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at 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.)

-cw 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GUEST COMMENTARY--The LA Times editorial board is as edgy as a scruffy blogger these days: 

It was no secret during the campaign that Donald Trump was a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters. The Times called him unprepared and unsuited for the job he was seeking, and said his election would be a “catastrophe.” 

Still, nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck. Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office.

Instead, seventy-some days in — and with about 1,400 to go before his term is completed — it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.

In a matter of weeks, President Trump has taken dozens of real-life steps that, if they are not reversed, will rip families apart, foul rivers and pollute the air, intensify the calamitous effects of climate change and profoundly weaken the system of American public education for all.

His attempt to de-insure millions of people who had finally received healthcare coverage and, along the way, enact a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has been put on hold for the moment. But he is proceeding with his efforts to defang the government’s regulatory agencies and bloat the Pentagon’s budget even as he supposedly retreats from the global stage.

These are immensely dangerous developments which threaten to weaken this country’s moral standing in the world, imperil the planet and reverse years of slow but steady gains by marginalized or impoverished Americans. But, chilling as they are, these radically wrongheaded policy choices are not, in fact, the most frightening aspect of the Trump presidency.

What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.

Although his policies are, for the most part, variations on classic Republican positions (many of which would have been undertaken by a President Ted Cruz or a President Marco Rubio), they become far more dangerous in the hands of this imprudent and erratic man. Many Republicans, for instance, support tighter border security and a tougher response to illegal immigration, but Trump’s cockamamie border wall, his impracticable campaign promise to deport all 11 million people living in the country illegally and his blithe disregard for the effect of such proposals on the U.S. relationship with Mexico turn a very bad policy into an appalling one.

In the days ahead, The Times editorial board will look more closely at the new president, with a special attention to three troubling traits: 

1) Trump’s shocking lack of respect for those fundamental rules and institutions on which our government is based. Since Jan. 20, he has repeatedly disparaged and challenged those entities that have threatened his agenda, stoking public distrust of essential institutions in a way that undermines faith in American democracy. He has questioned the qualifications of judges and the integrity of their decisions, rather than acknowledging that even the president must submit to the rule of law. He has clashed with his own intelligence agencies, demeaned government workers and questioned the credibility of the electoral system and the Federal Reserve. He has lashed out at journalists, declaring them “enemies of the people,” rather than defending the importance of a critical, independent free press. His contempt for the rule of law and the norms of government are palpable.

2) His utter lack of regard for truth. Whether it is the easily disprovable boasts about the size of his inauguration crowd or his unsubstantiated assertion that Barack Obama bugged Trump Tower, the new president regularly muddies the waters of fact and fiction. It’s difficult to know whether he actually can’t distinguish the real from the unreal — or whether he intentionally conflates the two to befuddle voters, deflect criticism and undermine the very idea of objective truth. Whatever the explanation, he is encouraging Americans to reject facts, to disrespect science, documents, nonpartisanship and the mainstream media — and instead to simply take positions on the basis of ideology and preconceived notions. This is a recipe for a divided country in which differences grow deeper and rational compromise becomes impossible.

3) His scary willingness to repeat alt-right conspiracy theories, racist memes and crackpot, out-of-the-mainstream ideas. Again, it is not clear whether he believes them or merely uses them. But to cling to disproven “alternative” facts; to retweet racists; to make unverifiable or false statements about rigged elections and fraudulent voters; to buy into discredited conspiracy theories first floated on fringe websites and in supermarket tabloids — these are all of a piece with the Barack Obama birther claptrap that Trump was peddling years ago and which brought him to political prominence. It is deeply alarming that a president would lend the credibility of his office to ideas that have been rightly rejected by politicians from both major political parties.

Where will this end? Will Trump moderate his crazier campaign positions as time passes? Or will he provoke confrontation with Iran, North Korea or China, or disobey a judge’s order or order a soldier to violate the Constitution? Or, alternately, will the system itself — the Constitution, the courts, the permanent bureaucracy, the Congress, the Democrats, the marchers in the streets — protect us from him as he alienates more and more allies at home and abroad, steps on his own message and creates chaos at the expense of his ability to accomplish his goals? Already, Trump’s job approval rating has been hovering in the mid-30s, according to Gallup, a shockingly low level of support for a new president. And that was before his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, offered to cooperate last week with congressional investigators looking into the connection between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. 
 

On Inauguration Day, we wrote on this page that it was not yet time to declare a state of “wholesale panic” or to call for blanket “non-cooperation” with the Trump administration. Despite plenty of dispiriting signals, that is still our view. The role of the rational opposition is to stand up for the rule of law, the electoral process, the peaceful transfer of power and the role of institutions; we should not underestimate the resiliency of a system in which laws are greater than individuals and voters are as powerful as presidents. This nation survived Andrew Jackson and Richard Nixon. It survived slavery. It survived devastating wars. Most likely, it will survive again.

But if it is to do so, those who oppose the new president’s reckless and heartless agenda must make their voices heard. Protesters must raise their banners. Voters must turn out for elections. Members of Congress — including and especially Republicans — must find the political courage to stand up to Trump. Courts must safeguard the Constitution. State legislators must pass laws to protect their citizens and their policies from federal meddling. All of us who are in the business of holding leaders accountable must redouble our efforts to defend the truth from his cynical assaults.

The United States is not a perfect country, and it has a great distance to go before it fully achieves its goals of liberty and equality. But preserving what works and defending the rules and values on which democracy depends are a shared responsibility. Everybody has a role to play in this drama.

Yeah. What they said.

(Heather Parton blogs under the pseudonym Digby at the blog site she created: Hullabaloo and also writes for ourfuture.org

-cw

@THE GUSS REPORT-The City of Los Angeles has a history of losing anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) lawsuits when it has illegally tried to silence critics with threats of unjust criminal charges and physical intimidation. It appears that it may be hit with another anti-SLAPP suit in the coming days for its actions last week, and it could cost the taxpayers millions of dollars in civil damages and LA City Attorney Mike Feuer a headache with the California Bar Association. 

Outside a Canoga Park town hall meeting last Thursday where speakers included Feuer and California State Assemblyman Matt Dababneh, a pack of nearly 20 LAPD and California Highway Patrol officers descended upon the parking lot and allegedly drew and aimed high-powered semi-automatic guns at a man sitting in his vehicle talking calmly on his phone.

(Note: I was on the other end of that phone call, interviewing the man for what was supposed to be today’s article, and heard the encounter from its first moment.) 

Law enforcement’s guns were allegedly trained on Wayne Spindler, the controversial attorney embroiled in a year-long, two-way legal battle with the City of Los Angeles. He was at the meeting a half hour earlier complaining about difficulty registering guns on a state website which is not presently functional. 

After ordering Spindler from his parked vehicle, law enforcement officers instructed him to lie on the pavement where he was cuffed, patted down, and had his vehicle searched while he was interrogated. 

Then Spindler was let go. 

“They eventually admitted it was a false alarm,” Spindler told me by phone after the incident, “but they didn’t apologize. This was an unprovoked threat against my life that I had better drop my civil rights lawsuits against the city … or else.” 

The story started 24 hours earlier when Feuer’s primary spokesman, Mike Wilcox, planted a story in the LA Times that reporter Emily Alpert Reyes apparently failed to confirm with the court website. 

Reyes’ article entitled, LA City Hall Critic Faces Charge of Possessing an Assault Weapon, says, “Spindler was charged with a misdemeanor and is scheduled to be arraigned in April, Wilcox said.”

Note the words: “was charged” and “is scheduled,” both untrue according to the LA courts website at the time of the article’s publishing. This is a snapshot from its website taken on Sunday morning, showing no such charge in the system five days after Reyes’ article was published. If the case isn’t in the system, it has not been filed, a court employee confirmed for me. 

Wilcox made the same claim in written form to other members of the media, which was eventually shared and wound up on the websites of KTLA, LA Daily News, City News Service and others who didn’t check its accuracy against the court website. 

I reached out multiple times to no avail to Wilcox, who has been incommunicado with me since last year when I exposed Deputy City Attorney Hugo Rossitter as running two side businesses in conflict with his city employment, and for his failure to pay business taxes to the cities of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills. I also got no response from Feuer’s executive assistant or his chief of staff.

I then emailed Reyes to determine whether Wilcox tipped her off on a case that was not on the court website and that the defendant knew nothing about, and what is the Times’ policy for verifying what anyone, including a government official, claims? 

Reyes refused to answer, deferring my inquiry (at the direction of her editors Shelby Grad and Steve Clow) to Hillary Manning, the Times’ Communications Director, who repeatedly deflected.

“We do not have a comment on this, as it relates to the details of our newsgathering,” Manning wrote.

When advised that Reyes’ story was factually wrong, Manning asked what about it was incorrect and I told her that my position, too, then, is to not disclose the details of my newsgathering, but that they may wish to confirm its accuracy, which was also suggested to Reyes.

Neither the Times nor Reyes apparently did that though. Her article remains published in its original form on the Times’ website in direct conflict with the LA court website, five days after it was published.

This turmoil all started nearly a year ago when Spindler submitted an LA City Council speaker card with racially antagonistic words and imagery to City Council president Herb Wesson, who is black, and who felt Spindler’s content was threatening. While the city obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) against Spindler, which he is appealing, the California Bar Association refused to take action against him, citing his content as free speech and that it did not constitute a threat. 

The TRO against Spindler required him to turn in all firearms he owned, which he did in May 2016. His AK-47 was unregistered but, he says, it was grandfathered because it was purchased prior to the 1991 law requiring registration. “As an officer of the court, even though the gun was legally not in the state’s registry, I turned it in for voluntary destruction along with my other guns because that is what I was ordered to do.”

Spindler provided me with a dated copy of the receipt for the gun’s purchase which, he says, was provided to the LAPD when he turned it in. The date of purchase was January 25, 1989, long before the 1991 law. (I cropped the receipt to not expose Spindler’s personal information on it.) 

That raises the question, if possession of the gun is a misdemeanor, as Feuer now claims, why was Spindler not arrested on the spot and charged with a crime when he turned it in in May 2016?

What has transpired between then and now, since the possession was not illegal? 

The answer is Spindler’s civil lawsuits against the city, and his appeal of the TRO, that’s what. 

And why would anyone be charged with a misdemeanor when the state recently launched a program allowing people to register guns without repercussions for not doing so earlier? 

In our phone interview right before the LAPD and CHP surrounded his vehicle with guns drawn, Spindler told me, “If they’re going to try to prosecute me for that, which I am confident I will win, they had better be prepared to charge everyone else in LA in the same predicament.”

At a recent settlement meeting with attorneys representing the city, Spindler says they encouraged him to hold off serving the city with his second civil suit (against Wesson,) allegedly and ominously telling him they “would see what we can do about this.” 

Spindler claims that Feuer’s office planted the fake LA Times story on Wednesday and ‘threatened his life’ on Thursday to induce a quid pro quo to drop his civil lawsuits and his TRO appeal in exchange for their dropping what he says is a baseless misdemeanor charge. 

He adds that Feuer violated the State Bar’s Ethics Rule 5-100, which states that a prosecutor can’t threaten criminal charges in order to get an advantage in a civil lawsuit; Rule 5-110, that they can’t threaten charges that don’t stand up to probable cause standards; and 5-120, that Wilcox’s extrajudicial statements to the media were done to bias a potential jury pool. 

Spindler says he will sue to get the recorded 911 call, if one was actually made, and phone records of everyone who accompanied Feuer and Dababneh to the town hall to establish what threat they claim he posed, and whether, if they felt he did pose a threat, the meeting hall doors were locked and the building evacuated from the other side.

That is what you would do … if you feel someone posed a threat requiring such a heavy-handed law enforcement response.

 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

 

 

GELFAND’S WORLD--Everyone remembers how Romeo and Juliet ends. But suppose that by the final scene you know Juliet well enough to really care so that you are deeply bothered by her death. That's what the Elysium Conservatory Theatre is trying to accomplish in its new production of Romeo and Juliet. To a considerable extent, they succeed. Director Aaron Ganz and leading lady Ria Gaudioso have developed a Juliet who is a lot more than the traditional rendering of a sweet but rather passive girl who falls (note the verb) in love with her Romeo. The ECT takes another tack. 

This Juliet is young and, as we know, subject to a stifling family system. But when she sees Romeo, she knows what she wants. She explains to Romeo that he is to take her seriously or not at all. 

This stronger version of Juliet is present -- has always been present -- in Shakespeare's lines, particularly in the famous balcony scene. It's merely a matter of diction and intonation whether Juliet is personified as the more medieval lady or the vigorous spirit of a more modern age. The personality of the character is communicated through how the lines are spoken, and this Juliet speaks to Romeo as one equal to another. She understands that he will officially be her lord and master when they are wed, but there is a strong tone of emotional equality on her part. 

It's not uncommon for theatre companies to try to be novel by staging an old play in a modern setting, say Peleus et Melisande on the Malibu beachfront. Audiences don't generally care much, one way or the other, as long as the director doesn't mess with the music or the words. But ECT goes the other way 'round, staging Romeo and Juliet in traditional costume and devoid of extraneous settings, but letting the characters explore more modern themes even as they go through the old sturm und drang

It's a matter of how the lines are spoken. To the more modern Juliet, the following is less dreamy-eyed singsong than serious warning and serious offer: 

If that thy bent of love be honorable,

Thy purpose marriage, send me word to-morrow,

By one that I'll procure to come to thee,

Where and what time thou wilt perform the rite;

And all my fortunes at thy foot I'll lay,

And follow thee -- my Lord -- throughout the World -- 

"I mean it," she is saying. "If you don't mean it, don't come back." 

Romeo is played athletically and engagingly by Gerard Alvarez, who hails from Gloucestershire in England and studied in Bristol and London. Interestingly, he alone among the cast members speaks with any kind of noticeable British accent. After a while, the audience fails to notice. 

This performance carries on an ECT tradition of mixing operatic and balletic elements with the more traditional spoken theatre. The cast functions as characters and chorus alternatively. Melissa Ortiz does Shakespeare's narrative recitations and, in addition, musical numbers which support the dramatic intention, although these modern songs are not present in the original Shakespearean text. As to her performance, If writers still used the term dulcet tones, that's the description I would use. 

Another point: As director Ganz explained, there are a couple of characters who are usually left dangling in typical productions. You might say that they are present merely to be disliked and to provide plot points. Tybalt usually functions mainly to be killed by Romeo, thereby causing Romeo to be exiled by the authorities. Paris usually functions merely as the parentally chosen suitor that Juliet abhors, and as such is the instrumentality by which Juliet is rejected by her own parents. 

This production gives Paris (played by Christopher Lyons) a little scene of his own. In the moment of Juliet's agony -- when she has to deal with the fact that her secret husband Romeo has been exiled from Verona -- Paris is brought in to woo her. The ECT production gives Paris a musical number at this point. He breaks into "Wise men say, only fools rush in" but not as Elvis, just as a man in love, singing a song. Paris goes on with, "But I can't help, falling in love with you" and so on. The actress playing Juliet has to play the part of a young girl who is repulsed, but is trying to camouflage her true feelings. This scene, for all its oddity, actually works as intended. It is a different, deeper Juliet who emerges -- Paris finishes his number with a flourish, and Juliet is left to be talked into the subplot that leads accidentally to Romeo's death and her own suicide. 

Charlotte Spangler ably stays in character as Juliet's nurse, being at times a devoted nag and at other times the personification of sorrow, all in all a compelling performance. Neyssan Falahi is originally French-Swiss, and has the sort of tall, muscular looks that should be worth tv parts, combined with the ability to put on a swaggering air. As Mercutio, he gets one of the best known lines in the history of theatre, "A plague on both your houses," as he realizes that he is dying from a sword wound after one of the senseless street battles that the Montagues and Capulets love to start. This being Shakespeare, that curse becomes prophecy, as audiences have learned for the past four hundred years. 

Newcomers include Rob Miller as Friar Laurence, Giulia Blandino as Gregory, and Christina Gardner as Lady Capulet. ECT has rewritten the Tybalt character as female, played with aggression and speed of foot by Kate Slinger. She seems to get a kick out of playing the role, but transposing a Shakespearean swordsman who picks street fights into a female role seems to conflict with the theme of patriarchy as it ensnares Juliet. Other newcomers include Francesca Gomez, Will August, Justin Powell, Brian Raetz, and Tim Roberts as Sampson, Montague, Capulet, Benvolio, and Peter respectively. 

This production is the opening of ECT's new playhouse on South Palos Verdes Street in San Pedro. As you might expect for such a new theatre, there are some growing pains. The new playing surface is a cavernous rectangular space that still sports unadorned concrete floors and extended walls. As such, it suffers from a bit of reverberation that at some points obscured the dialog. I suspect that something as simple as positioning a few sound-absorbent flats during performances will get things under control. 

At the same time, having a big room allows for big room performances. When Juliet's father bellowed his anger, you could feel it in a way that wouldn't have been possible in the previous space. ECT continues to carry on the immersive theater approach (as it did before) to some extent. 

The new space seems less appropriate to that approach, and for whatever reason, there was less direct interaction with the audience compared to previous productions. At one point, however, cast members pulled audience members from their seats to join in a dance number. There's always something unexpected with this group.

 

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

-cw

WHERE’S THE LOGIC-Back in 2015, people started telling Mayor Eric Garcetti that toxic vehicle emissions where harmful to people and especially for children, but he rejected the idea repeatedly. Instead, he insisted that the best place for bike lanes in LA was in major thoroughfares; thus, his Mobility Plan 2035 called for Bike Lanes. 

In Eric Garcetti’s defense, only recently did anyone realize that auto emissions where harmful to children’s health. In 1961, the State of California required cars to have positive crankcase ventilation systems.  

In 1966, California did legislate to control auto emissions, but Garcetti, who was born in 1971, was not even a fetus yet, so I guess we can forgive him for not knowing about LA’s poor air quality then. In 1967, California created the California Air Resources Board, but we cannot expect Garcetti to know about this agency -- it was formed four years before his birth. By 1975, cars that ran on leaded fuels were no longer allowed to be manufactured for California, but Garcetti was only 4 years old at that time, so we cannot blame him for not knowing about this fact as well. 

After Garcetti’s most wonderful and compassionate Mobility Plan 2035 was released in 2015, he was still unaware that auto emissions were harmful. So he pressed forward with bike lines in heavily trafficked thoroughfares like Westwood Boulevard and Reseda Boulevard. 

Bike lanes have allegedly been removed from segments of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards that pass through Hollywood, but not due to any concern that we are giving our children cancer. Rather it’s because the streets were already way too narrow and the intersections were rated F for Fail. Ironically, CD 13 councilmember O’Farrell thought bike lanes in heavily trafficked streets were are a great idea, so he voted “Yes.” Yes, for lung cancer. 

Due to the city’s love affair with giving children and other bike riders cancer by placing bike lanes in LA’s most congested boulevards and avenues, Garcetti’s Mobile Plan 2035 I and II both provide for toxic bike lanes. 

On September 20, 2015, Garcetti, along with the other cancer lovers at City Hall, was sued for concealing the health studies from the EIR for MP 2035 -- research that showed that placing bike lanes in heavily congested areas was adverse to people’s health. Bike riders, as everyone other than Eric knows, are exercising. As they peddle they breathe more deeply and when they come to upward inclines, they peddle even harder and inhale more deeply. At this point trucks, especially diesel trucks, emit more toxins.  

Since September 10, 2016, two community groups, HELP and CCLA, having been fighting in court for the city to take the time to study the health impacts of toxic air emissions in bike lanes. Garcetti has stood firm: no studies. While we know that City government has many sane people who do not think that children should be exposed to heavy concentration of toxic fumes, the orders have come down from the top. No studies that show that toxic auto emissions have adverse health impacts will be allowed! 

This absolute denial, even in face of on-going litigation and the attempt of others in the city to get the bike lanes moved, is business-as-usual for City Hall. The first modest step would be to study the situation, but even that is verboten. Because the rest of the world is not as regressive as Los Angeles, we have the data and almost everyone else is trying to move bike lanes away from vehicle traffic. 

Then out of left field, we have the most curious resolution at City Council. On March 22, 2017, Councilmembers Huizar and Koretz presented a motion that the City needs to study the adverse health impacts of housing constructed next to freeways. The motion says: 

“This revelation is consistent with long-standing concerns of people who live near traffic pollution zones suffering from higher rates of asthma, heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer and pre-term births. The California Air Resources Board provides guidance in its 2005 Air Quality and Land Use Handbook that recommends against "siting new sensitive land uses within 500 feet" of a freeway and certain high-traffic roadways.”  

Wow, is our City Council up-to-date! It has a report from 2005! What’s next? “Lindbergh Baby Kidnapped!” 

Garcetti was not only alive in 2005, but he had already been elected CD 13 Councilmember by the time the California Air Resources Board issued its Air Quality and Land Use Handbook. While we may forgive little Eric for not knowing about the adverse health impacts of vehicle emissions which were published before he was born, what are we to make of his not knowing about them in 2005 or later in 2015 when he issued his Mobility Plan 2035 [MP 2035] which featured bike lanes where the toxins were most lethal? One person has allegedly said that it is unfair to expect Garcetti to read anything that is not attached to a check from a real estate developer. 

It seems that if placing an apartment house or school within 500 feet of a freeway or a heavily trafficked street is a health hazard, then placing a bike lane on Reseda Boulevard, Venice Boulevard, etc. would be a dangerous land use. But not to Mayor Garcetti. He still thinks that our kids should peddle their hardest right there next to the diesel trucks. 

What does Garcetti have to say -- in 2017 – about housing within 500 feet of a freeway or high traffic roadways? 

According to David Zahniser’s LA Times article on March 24, 2017, “L.A. Officials Push for New Steps to Address Health Risks from Homebuilding near Freeways,” Garcetti said, “We should look at both zoning requirements and technology to ensure that people who live in housing always live healthy,” Garcetti said. “I grew up next to two freeways during leaded gasoline days. My family’s experienced cancer. We had a cancer cluster on our street, so I’m very personally sensitive to this. So absolutely. Whether it’s through spacing, or through technology and ventilation, we should be looking at ways of protecting Angelenos.” 

Really? Garcetti is “personally sensitive”? Cue the crocodile tears. Is it his personal sensitivity to cancer deaths that makes him such a vigorous supporter of children peddling the hardest where the air pollution is the greatest? Garcetti knows that he won’t be politically liable 20 to 30 years from now when today’s kids are dying prematurely of lung cancer. So there will be no political blow back on him. 

The multitude of studies from around the world establishing the extreme health hazard to cyclists and especially to children have been presented to Garcetti, but he closes his eyes. Hyperlinks for many of these studies were listed for Garcetti in the petition that HELP and CCLA filed with the Court. It would have been easy for Garcetti to click and learn about the “brand new, never before known” fact that auto emissions have adverse health impacts on children. Maybe Garcetti was too busy counting his loot from the Sea Breeze project ($60,000) and from Rick Caruso ($125,000) to be bothered to look at the data.

Expect three things to happen: 

1) The apartments will continue to be constructed contiguous to freeways. 

2) Kids’ bike lanes will remain in major thoroughfares. 

3) Garcetti will continue to express his personal sensitivity.

 

(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.

'As the Impeach Donald Trump Now campaign’s website documents in detail,' writes Norman Solomon, 'Trump's personal riches are entangled with countless policy options for his administration. That precedent must be resisted and defeated.' (Image: Common Dreams / CC BY 3.0)

The Massachusetts city of Cambridge will be weighing in Monday on whether the city should call for an impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump.

If the resolution passes, Cambridge would become the first city in Massachusetts and the fifth in the nation to call for Trump’s removal. Town and city councils have no actual legal authority to call for an impeachment, but they can send a powerful message.

The proposed order calls on the U.S. House to back a resolution directing the Judiciary Committee to investigate whether there are grounds to impeach Trump.

The resolution states, "That the City Council call upon the United States House of Representatives to support a resolution authorizing and directing the House Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether sufficient grounds exist for the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, including but not limited to the violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause and the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution."

It continues, "On January 11, 2017, nine days before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump announced a plan that would, if carried out, remove him from day-to-day operations of his businesses, but not eliminate any of the ongoing flow of emoluments from foreign governments, state governments, or the United States government; and on January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump took the oath of office and became President of the United States."

The resolution further argues, "From the moment he took office, President Trump was in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause and the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution."

Last Tuesday, Berkeley (photo left) became the third California city to call for Trump's impeachment. The Bekeleyside reported:  

“Every day there’s a new ethical problem that warrants impeachment,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who co-sponsored the resolution, with Councilwoman Sophie Hahn, calling for the federal investigation into Trump. Council members Ben Bartlett and Cheryl Davila asked to be added as co-sponsors during Tuesday night’s meeting.“Every day there’s a new ethical problem that warrants impeachment,” said Mayor Jesse Arreguín, who co-sponsored the resolution, with Councilwoman Sophie Hahn, calling for the federal investigation into Trump. Council members Ben Bartlett and Cheryl Davila asked to be added as co-sponsors during Tuesday night’s meeting.

The mayor’s office cited concerns about how the president has undermined freedom of the press, and had “conspicuous connections with Russian officials,” as some of the reasons the House of Representatives should launch an investigation into the possible impeachment of the president.

The resolution was approved unanimously.

On February 21, Richmond, California became the first US city to pass a resolution calling for Trump's impeachment. And on Tuesday, March 7, the nearby City of Alameda unanimously passed a similar resolution.

Also on March 7,  the small Vermont town of Charlotte passed an advisory resolution calling on Congress to look into whether sufficient grounds exist to pursue an impeachment of President Donald Trump. “It's the first time I ever made a motion,” said Susan Ohanian, a retired teacher who introduced the advisory resolution at the Town Meeting Day gathering in Charlotte.

Here is the text of the Charlotte, VT resolution:

Town Meeting offers an opportunity for Vermonters to bring the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution to the attention of members of the House of Representatives, urging them to investigate whether sufficient grounds exist for the impeachment of Donald J. Trump because of his violations of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the US Constitution.  Here is a shortened version of the resolution prepared by the legal counsel at Free Speech For People and passed unanimously by the City Council in Richmond, California.

WHEREAS, The Foreign Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution provides that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States] shall, without the Consent of Congress, accept any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or Foreign State,”

WHEREAS, The Domestic Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution provides that, besides the fixed salary for his four-year term, the President “shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them,”

WHEREAS, Donald J. Trump, the President of the United States, owns various business interests by means of which he receives emoluments from foreign governments, states in the United States, and the United States itself, in violation of the Foreign and the Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the United States Constitution,

NOW, THEREFORE, THE TOWN OF CHARLOTTE RESOLVES to call upon the United States House of Representatives to authorize and direct the House Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether sufficient grounds exist for the impeachment of Donald J. Trump for the violations listed herein, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be transmitted officially by the Town Clerk to the Member of the United States House of Representatives that represents the Town of Charlotte, namely, the Honorable Peter Welch.

 (This report by the staff at Common Dreams  … where this piece was first posted.)

-cw

 

LEANING RIGHT--It’s always impossible to repeal laws that require Ann to pay for greedy people, because the greedy run out on the streets wailing that the Republicans are murdering them.

Obamacare is uniquely awful because the free stuff isn’t paid for through income taxes: It’s paid for through MY health insurance premiums. This is unfortunate because I wanted to buy health insurance.

Perhaps you’re not aware — SINCE YOU EXEMPTED YOURSELVES FROM OBAMACARE, CONGRESS — but buying or selling health insurance is illegal in America.

Right now, there’s no free market because insurance is insanely regulated not only by Obamacare, but also by the most corrupt organizations in America: state insurance commissions. (I’m talking to you, New York!)

Federal and state laws make it illegal to sell health insurance that doesn’t cover a laughable array of supposedly vital services based on bureaucrats’ medical opinions of which providers have the best lobbyists.

As a result, it’s illegal to sell health insurance that covers any of the medical problems I’d like to insure against. Why can’t the GOP keep Obamacare for the greedy — but make it legal for Ann to buy health insurance?

This is how it works today:

ME: I’m perfectly healthy, but I’d like to buy health insurance for heart disease, broken bones, cancer, and everything else that a normal person would ever need, but no more.

INSURANCE COMPANY: That will be $700 a month, the deductible is $35,000, no decent hospital will take it, and you have to pay for doctor’s visits yourself. But your plan covers shrinks, infertility treatments, sex change operations, autism spectrum disorder treatment,drug rehab and 67 other things you will never need.

INSURANCE COMPANY UNDER ANN’S PLAN: That will be $50 a month, the deductible is $1,000, you can see any doctor you’d like, and you have full coverage for any important medical problems you could conceivably have in a million years.

Mine is a two-step plan (and you don’t have to do the second step, so it’s really a one-step plan).

STEP 1: Congress doesn’t repeal Obamacare! Instead, Congress passes a law, pursuant to its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce, that says: “In America, it shall be legal to sell health insurance on the free market. This law supersedes all other laws, taxes, mandates, coverage requirements, regulations or prohibitions, state or federal.”

The end. Love, Ann.

There will be no whining single mothers storming Congress with their pre-printed placards. People who want to stay on Obamacare can. No one is taking away anything. They can still have health insurance with free pony rides. It just won’t be paid for with Ann’s premiums anymore, because Ann will now be allowed to buy health insurance on the free market.

Americans will be free to choose among a variety of health insurance plans offered by willing sellers, competing with one another to provide the best plans at the lowest price. A nationwide market in health insurance will drive down costs and improve access — just like everything else we buy here in America!

Within a year, most Americans will be buying health insurance on the free market (and half of the rest will be illegal aliens). We’ll have TV ads with cute little geckos hawking amazing plans and young couples bragging about their broad coverage and great prices from this or that insurance company.

The Obamacare plans will still have the “essential benefits” (free pony rides) that are so important to NPR’s Mara Liasson, but the free market plans will have whatever plans consumers agree to buy and insurance companies agree to sell — again, just like every other product we buy here in America.

Some free market plans will offer all the “essential benefits” mandated by Obamacare, but the difference will be: Instead of forcing me to pay a premium that covers Mara Liasson’s special needs, she’ll have to pay for that coverage herself.

I won’t be compelled to buy health insurance that covers everyone else’s gambling addiction, drug rehab, pregnancies, marital counseling, social workers, contact lenses and rotten kids — simply to have insurance for what doctors call “serious medical problems.”

Then, we’ll see how many people really need free health care.

Until the welfare program is decoupled from the insurance market, nothing will work.Otherwise, it’s like forcing grocery stores to pay for everyone to have a house. A carton of milk would suddenly cost $10,000.

That’s what Obamacare did to health insurance. Paul Ryan’s solution was to cut taxes on businesses — and make the milk watery. But he still wouldn’t allow milk to be sold on the free market.

Democrats will be in the position of blocking American companies from selling a product that people want to buy. How will they explain that to voters?

Perhaps Democrats will come out and admit that they need to fund health insurance for the poor by forcing middle-class Americans to pay for it through their insurance premiums — because otherwise, they’d have to raise taxes, and they want to keep their Wall Street buddies’ income taxes low.

Good luck with that!

STEP 2: Next year, Congress formulates a better way of delivering health care to the welfare cases, which will be much easier since there will be a LOT fewer of them.

No actual money-making business is going to survive by taking the welfare cases — the ones that will cover illegal aliens and Mara Liasson’s talk therapy — so the greedy will get government plans.

But by then, only a minority of Americans will be on the “free” plans. (Incidentally, this will be a huge money-saver — if anyone cares about the federal budget.) Eighty percent of Americans will already have good health plans sold to them by insurance companies competing for their business.

With cheap plans available, a lot of the greedy will go ahead and buy a free market plan. Who wants to stand in line at the DMV to see a doctor when your neighbors have great health care plans for $50 a month?

We will have separated the truly unfortunate from the loudmouthed bullies who simply enjoy forcing other people to pay for their shrinks and aromatherapy.

And if the Democrats vote against a sane method of delivering health care to the welfare cases, who cares? We have lots of wasteful government programs — take it out of Lockheed Martin’s contract. But at least the government won’t be depriving the rest of us of a crucial product just because we are middle class and the Democrats hate us.

There’s your health care bill, GOP!

(Ann Coulter is an American conservative social and political commentator, writer, syndicated columnist, and lawyer. She frequently appears on television, radio, and as a speaker at public and private events.)

-cw

DEEGAN ON LA-Proving that she still packs a punch, former City Councilmember and Miracle Mile resident Rita Walters told the City Council’s Planning and Land Use committee what many (but not all) of the Miracle Mile residents present in City Council chambers wanted to hear: her ringing declaration that “the Miracle Mile is a jewel within the city” that deserves Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) protection. 

Walters and the HPOZ supporters got just that, but not without a bruising neighborhood battle about land use and development over the past few months – ever since the City Planning Commission, led by Garcetti appointee David Ambroz, turned the tables on the HPOZ organizers in December by excluding prime strips of the map in order to satisfy developers. These strips had already been certified as part of the HPOZ by the Cultural Heritage Commission. That remapping was, for the most part, undone by PLUM to the cheers of the pro-HPOZ group. 

It was like being at a wedding: with the anti-HPOZ audience sitting on the left side of the council chamber and the pro-HPOZ attendees seated on the right. There were row and rows of supporters for each position. Up front, at the public comment microphone, committee chair Jose Huizar limited comment to fifteen minutes for each side. That was plenty of time to experience the passion and the anger that had turned a quiet, peaceful, charming neighborhood into a mini-civil war battlefield. 

How the neighbors will reconcile remains to be seen. As Councilmember David Ryu (CD4) has said about prior community conflicts in his district: “you’re all going to be seeing each other as neighbors every day, even after you get, or don’t get, what you want.” He was a matchmaker in this one, weighing feedback from both sides. Along with his support for reinstating the excised boundaries, his colleague and City Council President Herb Wesson (CD10) agreed to reinstate the strips excluded by the CPC along Olympic Boulevard in his slice of the Miracle Mile. 

Reconciliation may be slow to come because the stakes were so high in this dispute; it was seen, perhaps simplistically, as property preservation versus property rights. 

Along the way, the organizer of the HPOZ, the Miracle Mile Residential Association, was challenged by leaders of the start-up group Say No HPOZ in what may have been a prelude to an attempt to try and take over the residential association. That got nowhere, except for the eventual formation by the “no” group of “Miracle Mile Forward,” which could be seen as a pro-development, anti-HPOZ organization seeking to institutionalize their voice in the community. They could continue to build support and become another community megaphone as the adjacent museum construction projects at LACMA, the Academy’s Movie Museum, and Metro’s new subway station help change the character of the Miracle Mile. With the major new museum buildings, and the addition of a Purple Line Extension subway stop at Wilshire and Fairfax, the very territory that the HPOZ is protecting will be subject to demand for redevelopment -- if owners are willing to sell their properties. 

This land use and development fight is hardly over, despite the win for the HPOZ side. Ryu has characterized the situation as a combination of preservation of a neighborhood’s identity “while still providing for new housing opportunities along a major transit corridor.” He describes what he has wrought as “a flexible HPOZ for the area.” 

Henry Van Moyland, Co-Founder of Miracle Mile Forward, has revealed to CityWatch that “The next step for Say No HPOZ is its successor organization Miracle Mile Forward, which will advocate from a much broader perspective looking into the future of Los Angeles and, more specifically, Miracle Mile.” 

Miracle Mile Forward will become one of a dozen Miracle Mile stakeholder organizations that include the Miracle Mile Residential Association, the Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce and the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition (groups that often advocate in lockstep,) Metro (who will likely add a tower development at the footprint of its subway portal, as it has at other subway stops,) LACMA, the Academy's Movie Museum, the Petersen Car Museum, the Page Museum, the Craft and Folk Art Museum, the Mid City West Community Council and Councilmember David Ryu (CD4). 

The next opportunity for the new group to weigh in on what’s happening in the community may be when LACMA’s Draft Environmental Impact Report for their campus makeover is released. The Miracle Mile Residential Association has already submitted a lengthy letter full of questions and concerns to the County, following the public scoping meeting held at LACMA last August. 

In the end, PLUM agreed to reinstate most of the excised boundaries and also to approve HPOZ status: a double win for the pro-HPOZ group and a disappointment for the anti-HPOZ group. PLUM sent a motion to the full city council that was unanimously approved on Tuesday, March 28. An ebullient HPOZ Chairman Mark Zecca said, “We do this not just for ourselves, but for generations to come who will hold dear that this very important part of Los Angeles was saved for them.” 

As for Rita Walters (photo left), a catalyst and activator for the winning side, MMRA President James O’Sullivan simply says, “From our first meeting with her in her home I knew we had found a valuable ally and a new friend. Her quiet counsel and her willingness to dig in and get involved was the shot in the arm we needed. Aside from that, it is always a pleasure to talk to someone who has walked the walk and has the kind of history on her side as Rita does.” It didn’t hurt that Ms. Walters also has the sharp eye of a connoisseur who knows a “jewel” when she sees one.

 

(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.

APRIL 1, LA WATCHDOG--Mayor Eric Garcetti has decided not to run for Governor of California or the United States Senate in November of 2018. 

According to insiders familiar with his thinking regarding his political future, Garcetti is unwilling to risk a career-ending loss in a primary brawl with three other Democratic hopefuls (Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, State Treasurer John Chiang, and former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa) who have already raised more than $15 million.  Contributing to this decision is Governor Jerry Brown’s unwillingness to endorse Garcetti or the other three front runners.  

After a meeting this week in Washington with Senator Dianne Feinstein, Garcetti agreed to support her fifth reelection campaign, not that she has any real competition.  As part of the conversation, Feinstein indicated that Garcetti has the potential to be an excellent Senator and is prepared to support his candidacy after she retires in 2024 at the age of 91. 

As is always the case with Garcetti, there is a back story. 

As part of his agreement not to run for Governor, both Newsom and Chiang agreed to support his candidacy for the Senate.  This includes appointing him Senator if Feinstein should resign or leave office before 2024.

Villaraigosa, on the other hand, was unwilling to make this commitment because of his strained relationship with Garcetti.  Villaraigosa is still harboring a grudge because he believes that Garcetti leaked a damning report on his 2009 Solar Initiative to the Los Angeles Times that was responsible for the voters rejecting Measure B, his payback for IBEW Union Bo$$ d’Arcy’s financial support of his 2005 race for Mayor. This also hurt Villaraigosa’s reelection campaign as he received only 55% of the vote, effectively trashing his run for Governor in 2010.  

But Garcetti is not twiddling his thumbs as he is working the crowd, quietly sounding out friends, party officials, and wealthy donors about their willingness to support and fund his campaign for the Senate. 

Over the next five years, sources say Garcetti intends to strengthen his credentials by making LA the “best run big city in America.” He will stress his “Back to Basics” Priority Outcomes which include a focus on the environment and sustainability, public safety, the economy and the creation of good jobs, the repair and maintenance of our streets, sidewalks and parks, more efficient operations, and the elimination of the Structural Deficit by controlling personnel costs.  

And hopefully LA and Garcetti will host the Summer Olympics in 2024, the year that Feinstein will retire after 32 years in the Senate.  

Garcetti will use his popularity to sponsor ballot measures to authorize the issuance of over $15 billion in bonds to finance the repair of our streets, the revitalization of the LA River, and the $8 billion storm water capture plan. 

After receiving over 80% of the vote, Garcetti has a mandate to create a world class City which, if he is successful, will catapult him into the United States Senate. And beyond?

 

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

-cw

EDUCATION POLITICS-Right up there with motherhood and apple pie is the notion of a vibrant, functional public education system in which everything is done to find and keep the best teachers. But nothing could be further from the truth in the current public education environment that, over the last 7 years, has been openly hostile to teachers -- especially the more expensive high seniority teachers.

Senate Bill 807, “The Recruitment and Retention Act of 2017,” proposed by Senators Henry Stern and Cathleen Galgiani as "a first step to support teachers in a meaningful way," seems to be living in a universe of alternative facts that bears no resemblance to present reality, namely that the public education system has been targeting high seniority teachers at the top of the salary scale for the sole "crime" of being too expensive.

"SB 807 would recruit novice teachers to the profession by providing a tax credit for graduate school and credentialing exam costs. Plus, it [purports to] honor experienced teachers in the classroom for more than five years by eliminating their state income taxes from 2017-2027 -- the equivalent of a 4-6 percent raise."

The question that suspiciously goes unaddressed is why is there a chronic shortage of public education teachers in the first place? To address this question one need only look at a school district like LAUSD or any one of the hundreds around the state and the country that have systematically targeted expensive high seniority teachers. This has caused these districts to hemorrhage thousands of teachers, creating the problem SB 807 now purports to deal with.

Looking carefully at the facts, one can see that the war on these teachers coincides with the hemorrhaging of students to equally abysmal charter schools, taking with them their state-funded Average Daily Attendance and other state and federal payments. This has put districts like LAUSD on the verge of bankruptcy. Their solution? Target and get rid of the best seasoned teachers to balance the budget and continue to collude with corporate charter operators. Remember, Betsy DeVos didn’t come from nowhere. 

SB 807 proposes a tax credit for all money spent toward acquiring a credential or certificate or for offering senior teachers with more than 5 years teaching experience exemption from state taxes. This is similar to treating the self-inflicted disease of public school privatization with charters, instead of addressing the underlying disease, which is charter schools that by every objective standard not only don't do better than traditional public schools, but more often than not do worse.  

The politicians dealing with SB 807 in Sacramento don't seem to have a clue about this reality. If you would like to take a more participatory role in our democracy, might I suggest you give them a call? 

State Senator Cathleen Calgiani (916) 651-4005 

State Senatior Henry Stern (916) 651-4027 

Mike McGuire (Chair) (D-Healdsburg) - Phone: (916) 651-4002 

Janet Nguyen (Vice Chair) (R-Garden Grove) - Phone: (916) 651-4034

Jim Beall (D-San Jose) - Phone: (916) 651-4015

Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) - Phone: (916) 651-4022

Robert M. Hertzberg (D - Van Nuys) - Phone: (916) 651-4018

Ricardo Lara (D - Bell Gardens) - Phone: (916) 651-4033

John M. W. Moorlach (R - Costa Mesa) - Phone: (916) 651-4037 

If you are in California, please join us in Sacramento at the State Capitol on April 5 at 9:30 a.m. to attend the CA State Senate Governance and Finance committee hearing on SB 807.

 

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

RANTZ AND RAVEZ-There is so much to review with you that I don’t know where to begin. Should I start with the RaveZ or the RantZ? Remember that RaveZ are the good things while RantZ are the bad or not so good things I come across in my daily dealings as a life-long resident of Los Angeles. 

My connection with Los Angeles includes a 33-year career with the LAPD, an election to the Charter Reform Commission and twelve years as a Los Angeles City Councilman.    

Following the March 7 election, I reported on a number of RaveZ and congratulated the winners of the various offices. Some readers I have subsequently met in the community have reminded me that they truly enjoy my RantZ and the criticism of the out-of-touch politicians that blunder with their votes, squander tax dollars and forsake representation of you, the hard-working, frustrated taxpayers of this region of Southern California. With that in mind, here we go. 

On the state level, there is the Governor, State Senators and Assembly members. They are currently working on programs to increase the gas tax, adding to all the other taxes we all pay. Some are also working on establishing California as a Sanctuary State. 

Then there are the five members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors who have one public meeting a week. This is in comparison to the three public meetings the LA City Council has weekly. Not many people know exactly what the County Supervisors actually do since we seldom hear from them. It is like a secret operation of government. Think about it. What exactly do they do with the billions of dollars they collect in taxes? 

Last, but not least, we have the Mayor of Los Angeles and the 14 out of 15 Los Angeles City Council members. One council seat remains vacant due to the fact that one elected official left office for a lobbying opportunity in Sacramento. It must be a well-paying job up there, considering that LA City Councilmembers receive an annual salary of nearly $190,000 a year, plus a car and a pension and many other perks that come along with the job. No wonder so many former California state elected officials serving in Sacramento run for LA City Council seats. 

Let’s do the count of former Sacramento elected officials who are now Los Angeles City Councilmembers: Districts 1, 2, 3 ,5, 9 and 10. Hopefully they will get together and pave the streets, fix the broken sidewalks and use the money you voted for in recent elections to address the homeless crisis that has continued to grow by leaps and bounds throughout Los Angeles, negatively impacting the quality of life in nearly every neighborhood. This includes people living in freeway underpasses, local parks, on sidewalks and in motorhomes parked along so many local streets throughout Los Angeles. It is like a fire that continues to burn and grow with no end in sight. 

You have done your job by voting for more taxes to address the matter. We can only hope and pray that the elected powers-that-be can finally address and reduce or eliminate the situation in the City of the Angels.      

I told you so…and I was right in the end!            

While I was serving as the LA City Councilman for the 3rd Council District in the South West San Fernando Valley, I was approached by a developer who wanted to purchase an old abandoned school on Fallbrook south of Victory Blvd to build an elder care facility. Knowing the need for quality facilities for our aging population, I reviewed the proposal and gave my full and complete approval for the development. Knowing Fallbrook as a major roadway with a 45 mph speed limit with multiple lanes and a variety of businesses, both commercial and residential, I did not hesitate in my approval of the facility. 

Serving on the Board of the Jewish Home for the Aging “Executives” committee for over 20 years, I clearly know the need and concerns of our aging population. All was going well until some members of the community decided to file a lawsuit and forced the developer to modify the facility and put a fortune of money into an account to compensate those that joined the suit. This amount was over $400,000! After an agreement was made with the group, another group of residents decided to protest the facility and pressured the local city councilmen to pull his support for the facility. After all the dealings for a number of years and a court review, the matter was heard before the South Valley Los Angeles Area Planning Commission on March 23. The commission ruled in favor of the developer. 

Finally, after years of review and debate and argument and court cases, senior residents of our community will have another safe and comfortable place to reside in peace and happiness. I want to congratulate Councilman Bob Blumenfield for standing up for seniors and fighting the good fight against a few NIMBYs from the “Preserve Walnut Acres” group that went down in flames.

There you have it. Another edition of RantZ and RaveZ for your reading entertainment. I welcome your comments at Zman8910@aol.com.

 

(Dennis P. Zine is a 33-year member of the Los Angeles Police Department and former Vice-Chairman of the Elected Los Angeles City Charter Reform Commission, a 12-year member of the Los Angeles City Council and a current LAPD Reserve Officer who serves as a member of the Fugitive Warrant Detail assigned out of Gang and Narcotics Division. Zine was a candidate for City Controller last city election. He writes RantZ & RaveZ for CityWatch. You can contact him at Zman8910@aol.com. Mr. Zine’s views are his own and do not reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EASTSIDER-We knew that after all the usual rascals were reelected (except for a runoff in CD 1,) the next step is for our City leaders to wrap up the short-term-rental Ordinance with Airbnb and their progeny. What we have not known about, is the mysterious contract that the City entered into with Airbnb to collect taxes, even though there is still no Ordinance. Just as a reminder, under current law, short-term rentals are illegal in LA City. 

So, a couple of weeks ago I fired up my trusty computer and sent a Public Records Act request to Council President Wesson’s office. In a pleasant surprise, they were very responsive, and it turns out that the keeper of these particular records lies within the purview of the Finance Records Center. They supplied me with the actual contract, and you can find it here. 

Remember, the directive to make a deal for the City to get Transient Occupant Tax (TOT) from Airbnb goes all the way back to May of 2015, when then CAO Miguel Santana was directed to negotiate such an agreement. You can find that document here.  

Most interesting to me in the paperwork was the bald assertion that “the City is legally entitled to collect TOT from short-term rental hosts, directly or via agreements with hosting platforms, while continuing to develop overall short-term rental policy.” Nowhere, of course, was there a shred of statutory authority cited for such a proposition. Thank you, City Attorney Feuer, for your due diligence. 

The Agreement 

The major elements of the contract are clear. First, the City and Airbnb agree that in its collection function, “Airbnb is not a party” to the transactions. To protect Airbnb in this legal fiction, they are awarded the special “get out of jail” status of becoming an independent contractor to the City. 

The way the deal works is that Airbnb agrees to collect the TOT dollars and report aggregate (as opposed to the individual transaction) information to the City along with the bucks. 

They munificently agree to “contractually assume liability” in their role of independent contractor, but the method of keeping track of the TOT fees is fixed so that no one will ever know if they are cheating or not. Here’s how. The City will only have access to “anonymous accounts” for audit purposes. 

Let’s parse this. As the document states, “Airbnb shall not be required to produce any personally identifiable information relating to any Host or Guest or relating to any Booking Transaction without binding legal process served by the Office of Finance on Airbnb with respect to such users.” 

In exchange for this deal, Airbnb is expressly granted immunity from just about anything. Period. Just to make sure, there is even a clause which basically says that if push comes to shove, the Guests and Hosts themselves are personally on the hook for any bad things that happen. 

And oh yes, it’s a three year deal. What a deal indeed. 

The Loot and the Kicker 

Between August 2016 and January 2017, Airbnb revenue under the agreement averaged between somewhere between $2.5 and $3 million dollars per month. Next fiscal year, the City is assuming about $36 million from the Airbnb agreement. For a City Council and a Mayor who can’t balance a budget, you and I know that this is mana from heaven. 

If we had any belief that the City would actually engage in a fair process to consider amendments to the draft Ordinance -- since the City is already getting the TOT money, and the Ordinance is still not a done deal -- is there anything in this contract to prevent LA City from amending it to provide better terms for you and I? You bet. 

Buried in the language is a kicker that states, “This agreement may be terminated by Airbnb or the Office of Finance for convenience on 30 days written notification to the other Party.” English translation -- if the City does anything regarding the final Ordinance that they don’t like, Airbnb can simply bail out of the TOT contract with 30 days notice. 

It seems to me that there is little likelihood the current draft Ordinance is going to get any better for us than it is right now. On that note, the most organized counter to the pro-Airbnb folks is the Keep Neighborhoods First group. You can find their website here, and it includes a copy of the current draft Ordinance. 

Their two main concerns are (1) reducing the number of hosting days allowed by the Ordinance from 180 to 90, and (2) preserving the Rent Stabilization Ordinance (RSO) exclusion. As discussed below, I think they have good reason to be concerned. 

The Takeaway 

First, in their January 25, 2017 cover letter to the PLUM Committee, the Planning Department proudly declaimed that “The amendment removed all references that permitted Home-Sharing in non-primary residences, and clarified that the prohibition on Home-Sharing in units subject to the Rent Stabilization Ordinance applies to all units, not just those that are renter-occupied.” 

As with the actual Airbnb contract, the statement is all well and good on its face, but my question is simple. If all the underlying data is anonymous -- like in a Swiss bank vault or a Cayman Island bank account -- how on earth are we ever going to know if any of these statements are true? The answer is, we are not. 

By the way, I’m not the only one to notice a pattern of secrecy in these municipal tax deals that Airbnb is negotiating. Fortune, in a recent article called “Airbnb Faces Scrutiny over Secret Tax Deals with Cities,” also reports this as an emerging pattern of Airbnb in their run up to an IPO. 

Let’s face it. Airbnb has learned from their expensive and contentious attempts to fight City Halls across the nation. It’s a lot cheaper to simply buy the elected officials off through local fees like LA City’s TOT. 

I have to admit, Airbnb has come a long way from a couple of guys renting an air mattress in their loft and providing breakfast to help them make ends meet. This is now a big business that recently did another $1 billion dollar offering, and is estimated at being worth around $31 billion if and when they do an IPO. 

Based on all the above, I’m doubting that the final version of the Ordinance will be improved over the draft, and it could get worse. At 180 days/year of rental, it is assured that the character of our neighborhoods will change, and I see no provision that will improve infrastructure to accommodate the increased load on our utilities, streets or sanitation. 

Of course, if you are a supporter of Airbnb, or thinking about it making some money for you, then you’re going to be able to rock ‘n roll with it…all the way to the bank!

 

(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.

REMEMBERING MIKE GARCIA—One of labor’s great organizers has died. Mike Garcia. These words by SEIU/USWW Local 1877 president David Huerta speak for thousands.

It is with a sad heart today and with Gloria's blessing that I have to deliver the tragic news of the passing of my mentor, my friend, my leader Mike Garcia. After a long fight with diabetes and kidney
failure, Mike is finally at peace.

Mike, to the many he was able to touch through his leadership, was someone who could move mountains through his fight for working people. I will remember him for the lessons he taught me in humility and strength; the heart that it takes to lead and always the need to know what you don't know.

His love for our membership, his community and his family was a driving force in his ability to build one of the most powerful unions in labor. A union built from the blood sweat and tears of immigrant
workers, Black workers and the working poor.

It was his sense of family, community and justice that gave him the clarity by which to lead. There were no gray areas in Mike's fight for justice. His mission was to fight for the least amongst us.
And it was that compassion for working people that made him the man he was.

I will forever be in his debt for giving me the opportunity to be a leader. He opened doors for me and others that had once been closed to him and his generation.

On behalf of the men and women of SEIU/USWW, I want thank Mike Garcia and his family for all that he did and giving us the privilege of having him as our leader. God speed Mike, my brother, my mentor, my president, you will be missed. Be sure to organize a space for all of us in heaven when we get there.

Rest in peace,

Thank you.

Es con un corazón triste hoy y con la bendición de Gloria que tengo que dar la trágica noticia del fallecimiento de mi mentor, mi amigo, mi líder Mike García. Después de una larga lucha con diabetes e insuficiencia renal, Mike finalmente está en paz.

Mike, a los muchos que fue capaz de tocar a través de su liderazgo, era alguien que podía mover las montañas a través de su lucha por los trabajadores. Lo recordaré por las lecciones que me enseñó con humildad y fuerza; El corazón que sabe dirigir y siempre con la necesidad de saber lo que no sabes.

Su amor por nuestra membresía, su comunidad y su familia fue una fuerza impulsora en su capacidad para construir uno de los sindicatos más poderosos del trabajo. Un sindicato construido con el sudor, la sangre y las lágrimas de los trabajadores inmigrantes, los trabajadores de color y los trabajadores pobres.

Fue su sentido de la familia, la comunidad y la justicia lo que le dio la claridad para dirigir. No había áreas grises en la lucha de Mike por la justicia. Su misión era luchar por lo menos entre nosotros. Y fue esa compasión por la gente trabajadora lo que lo convirtió en el hombre que era.

Siempre estaré en deuda con él por darme la oportunidad de ser un líder. Él abrió las puertas para otros y para mí que una vez se habían cerrado a él ya su generación.

En nombre de los hombres y mujeres de SEIU USWW, quiero agradecer a Mike García y su familia por todo lo que hizo y darnos el privilegio de tenerlo como nuestro líder. Dios guardo a Mike, mi hermano, mi mentor, mi presidente, te vamos a extrañar. Asegúrese de organizar un espacio para todos nosotros en el cielo cuando lleguemos allí.

Que descansa en paz

Gracias”

+++

And from another long-time SEIU organizer and political strategist, James Johnson, now the California League of Conservation Voters’ Political Director:

I was so sad to hear of Mike Garcia’s passing.

I had the good fortune to meet this amazing leader 30 years ago when I was a young 22 year old organizer, just starting out on one of my first union assignments in San Diego. One of the first people I met in the labor movement, Garcia was working in San Diego to help organize janitors at the very beginning of the Justice for Janitor movement in California. San Diego in 1985 was a tough and far different place than it is now! Folks were downright anti-union. I was feeling a little homesick but not trying to let on and out of the blue Mike Garcia invited me -- a 22-year old African-American kid from South Los Angeles -- to join him and a couple of veteran organizers for a beer. That extending of a hand meant the world to me. It still does! That was Mike Garcia.

Fifteen years later, and after a number of efforts, Garcia’s union finally succeeded in organizing the janitors at USC where my dad worked for 34 years. My dad’s retired now, having served as a member of the union’s negotiating team. Due to the hard work of members, staff, and leadership of SEIU 1877 and USWW, my dad earned the dignity and respect on the job that our family cherishes.

Mike Garcia was a smart and humble person. I sometimes wished he would run for elective office, but he was first and foremost a union organizer. Like so many of his members I’ve had the honor to work with over the years, he was somebody who thought and spoke passionately about how we make LA work for all of us. I wish everyone had the opportunity to have met Mike Garcia. I know that their lives would have been forever changed. I will miss him.

+++

Finally, a video about Brother Garcia. 

(Julie Butcher writes for CityWatch and is a retired union leader now enjoying her new La Crescenta home and her first grandchild. She can be reached at juliejbutcher@gmail.com or on her new blog ‘The Butcher Shop - No Bones about It.’)

-cw

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--Is California to blame for Donald Trump?

That may seem a preposterous question to ask of a state that voted so decisively against the new American president that it was responsible, all by itself, for his loss of the popular vote. It seems even stranger given California’s near-total resistance to Trump’s presidency, and the way our state embodies so many of the good things—diversity, immigration, international cooperation, and science-based policy—that Trump and his acolytes rage against.

GELFAND’S WORLD--There will be a March for Science  on Saturday, April 22. What's it about? In my view, this event is meant to caution people that we should not get dragged into a modern day Dark Ages. The organizers are using different words, but that's the gist of it. 

Bringing back a real version of Medieval Times does not imply that we will all go back to trudging behind a plow pulled by an ox. It does refer to the danger of becoming a culture in which leaders demand of us that we follow dogma rather t han think things through based on observed facts and logic. When the dogma is wrong in fact and theory and when it controls the actions of government agencies, we've got a problem. 

If we are willing to be blunt, we can simply refer to the President's Cabinet. We've got global warming deniers, environmental protection enemies, and those who would deny a large fraction of the people the benefits of modern medicine. The president's proposed budget slashes funding for scientific research, even as the official agencies of the United States are being cautioned against telling the truth. 

And that refusal by the new administration to admit to the truth, whether it be the facts of climate change or the size of the inaugural crowd, is a truly scary thing. The argument over the size of the inaugural crowd is merely a clue as to the personality of the chief executive, but the refusal to admit to global warming could potentially lead to catastrophe. 

There are of course other catastrophes to consider. Some of them are less dire than the return of the glaciers, but slow death due to lung disease is a catastrophe at the personal level. 

There is more than just global extinction and ill health to think about. When the government lies to us habitually, it has a mass-cultural effect. We're not talking about the petty sins of the ruling class -- the fund raising game and the pocketing of small bribes -- we're talking about a real life version of a George Orwell fiction. Being bombarded with big lies about serious issues has an effect on thinking patterns and on the psyche. 

What we're talking about is an attempt to prevent this from happening. 

It's really an attempt on the part of alarmed people to preserve civilization. The organizers might have called it the March for Civilization and stated the case just as well, but the March for Science is catchy and will draw attention. Let's hope that this isn't confined to big cities on the coasts, and that small town sites of land grant colleges all over the country draw their own crowds. 

So join the concerned people of Los Angeles three weeks from now and make a statement that we need to respect the truth. You will be merging your voices with people at lots of gatherings all over the country. 

The one here in Los Angeles begins at Pershing Square Saturday, April 22 at 9 am and goes on for the rest of the day. 

Allison Schroeder, the screenwriter for Hidden Figures, will be one of the speakers along with scientists, business leaders, and at least one congressman. Under other circumstances this would look like a celebration of American accomplishment. But as you have already figured out, that's not what it's about.

 

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

-cw

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-A hint: it is not to bestow financial gifts to major real estate investors and contractors, even if they pay-to-play and expect General Plan updates to be their Rx for even fatter profits. 

Here are some real reasons why LA urgently needs to properly update its entire General Plan: 

First, the City has a legal obligation to comply with the State of California’s laws and regulations regarding planning. The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research now offers a major draft update to its General Plan guidelines. They not only carefully lay out these legal requirements, but also offer extraordinary online resources to cities and the public, especially regarding infrastructure and climate change. 

Second, the basic approach of most existing General Plan elements is sound, especially its central document, the General Plan Framework Element. It calls for planned growth, sometimes called controlled growth, in Los Angeles. In fact, this has been the City’s basic approach to city planning for nearly 50 years. The era of deliberate suburbanization and urban sprawl is long over. But, this carefully crafted plan for controlled growth has unfortunately been sabotaged by the City Council in many different ways, all of which need to be offset by a properly updated General Plan. 

  • During this entire period, from 1970 to date, the City Council has consistently departed from its own adopted General Plan elements and their implementing zoning through spot-zoning and spot-General Plan ordinances for major donors. 
  • Claiming a staff shortage, the City Planning units charged with maintaining and updating the General Plan have been on a starvation diet. 
  • In a daring effort, after 22 years of false starts, the Planning Department prepared -- and the City Council unanimously adopted -- a deficient update to the Hollywood Community Plan. This developer-driven update used inflated population figures from SCAG, while neglecting to calculate the zoning build-out potential of private parcels in Hollywood. Instead, the completed plan up-zoned and up-planned whole corridors and entire Hollywood neighborhoods without a convincing rationale. 

Of course, the real agenda was to turn the update process into a speculators’ dream palace. Not long afterward, in response to three totally predictable lawsuits, Superior Court Judge Alan Goodman rescinded the policy sections of the plan, the update’s Environmental Impact Report, and most importantly, its voluminous appended ordinances to up-zone and up-plan Hollywood. 

  • The planning Department has also failed to properly monitor the General Plan, even though the Framework required this in exacting detail through a special Monitoring Unit. Not only has the City failed to adequately monitor any of the General Plan’s elements, but it has also never properly re-calculated LA’s zoning buildout potential in light of SB 1818, the affordable housing density bonus. Similarly, it has not monitored user demand and projected capacity for the City’s infrastructure and public services.  
  • Likewise, City Hall has never managed to update any General Plan elements – with the possible exception of Mobility and Health – to reflect accurate population and employment changes, as well as startling new data on increased earthquake, freeway, and climate dangers. 

Third, if/when City Planning fully undertakes the update of the General Plan, it must carefully repair this sabotage and implement obvious conclusions from the following information. 

  • The latest data on climate change in Los Angeles, especially several recent UCLA studies that forecast neighborhood-level changes in temperature, precipitation, sea-level rises, and water supplies. 
  • The latest data on the City’s infrastructure, especially long term maintenance compared to the destruction and devastation resulting from a major earthquake. 
  • The latest data on the residential zoning build out potential of local areas, such as the 35 Community Plans. The City’s existing data is about 25 years old, and City Hall urgently needs to update it to reflect zoning laws that allow by-right apartment houses on all commercial and M-1 industrial lots. Furthermore, this zoning build out potential should be expanded by up to 35 percent through the City’s density bonus ordinance, implementing the State of California’s Senate Bill 1818. 

Fourth, if the City properly updates the General Plan, I expect City Hall will reach an uncomfortable conclusion, at least for the pols and their patrons. Despite their frequent claims, there is no demonstrable need to up-zone and up-plan Los Angeles. In fact, in light of the data I have outlined above, they should conclude that many neighborhoods warrant down-zoning because of climate change adaptation and mitigation, earthquake dangers, freeway proximity, inadequate infrastructure, scarce resources, and insufficient public services. 

This is exactly what future fights over the General Pan will turn on. Will City Hall accede to big real estate developers and rampantly up-zone and up-plan for them, like they attempted in Hollywood? Or will they follow the data, as well as community input over these issues, and make sure that public infrastructure and public services – not real estate speculation -- are their first priority? And, will they make sure no area of the city will be over-developed where there is not sufficient infrastructure, sufficient public services, or where the dangers of climate change, earthquakes, and freeway proximity warrant careful regulation of real estate projects?

 

(Dick Platkin is a former LA City Planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatch LA. Please send any comments or corrections to rhplatkin@gmail.com.) Graphic credit: LA Daily News. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

BELL VIEW-Last week I wrote an article about what gets lost when a city changes. My comment about “the kids these days” drew a flood of attacks from a couple of anonymous trolls. They called me a loser, a cranky old man, a selfish piece of sh*t, an emotional child, and a bad lawyer. 

And worse, they called me a “Boomer.” And that ain’t right. I belong to the Blank Generation. I can take it or leave it each time. 

One of these trolls, I suspect, is a lawyer for developers. Or maybe the Koch Brothers or the Keystone XL Pipeline. The other I’m pretty sure is a “realtor,” who thinks the homeless should be hosed off the streets of downtown LA. I don’t know for sure, though, because these guys prefer to attack people’s character from under a sheet. It’s an honorable tradition that goes back to the KKK.

But mostly, they called me a NIMBY – that all-purpose insult of today’s young urbanist. 

Most of my political battles in this town started during my time in East Hollywood. Every time I pushed back against some developer’s stucco-encrusted knock-off dormitory, some hack would call me a NIMBY. It’s an easy attack whenever anyone opposes our society’s collective drive to make the rich richer. But after a while I started to think: “Damn – for a NIMBY, I sure do have a lot going on in my backyard!” Up-zoning along freeways, homeless housing, Ellis Act evictions, small-lot subdivisions – you name it. Just about every battleground issue playing itself out in Los Angeles was taking place fairly regularly on the streets of East Hollywood. 

Then I moved a little uphill and started getting involved in some community Facebook groups and blogs for Los Feliz and Silver Lake and … what do you know … these fairly static upscale communities are just chock full of “urbanists.” An urbanist, apparently, is someone who never met a development she couldn’t get behind.

In contrast to the hated NIMBY, these urban elites like to think of themselves as “YIMBYs” – or “Yes in my backyard!” (Exclamation point mandatory.) “Yes,” they cheer, “yes – in my backyard – build that skyscraper, eviscerate the old Los Angeles, bring us more steel and glass, up-zone next to freeways, create more spaces for people and fewer spaces for cars, and for chrissake bring us a Target store already …. And do it now!” The YIMBY cares not for planning, and generally believes zoning codes are racist, twentieth-century holdovers like blue laws or the Taft Hartley Act. They just get in the way of the marketplace working its magic to bring us all together.

But a lot of what these YIMBYs are screaming for doesn’t really happen in their backyards. Sure, Silver Lake and Echo Park are looking at a few massive developments – but nothing compared to Hollywood, East Hollywood, or Boyle Heights. Low wage and immigrant families can feel themselves being pushed out of their neighborhoods to make room for “affordable housing.” But while Los Feliz and Echo Park might get more crowded in the years to come, no one’s looking to push the well-heeled residents of these communities out of the way of progress. “We want cheaper rents!” they say. 

They point to Denver, where the gods of supply and demand brought the average rental price down from $1,367 to $1,347 – or, as I like to call it, “The Denver Miracle.” But pushing rents down from $1,950 to $1,925 isn’t going to do much for the thousands of our neighbors losing their rent-controlled homes to make way for new development. 

Most of the YIMBYs I know don’t have to worry about that kind of thing happening to them. In fact, some of my favorite YIMBYs actually live in the hills – where nothing will ever get in the way of their quiet enjoyment of the life they’ve become accustomed to. No – whenever a YIMBY starts screaming about “Yes in my backyard!” – more often than not he means, “Yes in their backyard!” Because nothing really Earth-shattering is likely to happen where they live.

So I propose a new acronym: the “YITBY” – “Yes in their backyard!” – for the urbanist who’s got nothing to lose. And I mean that: nothing.

 

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

EDUCATION POLITICS--Dr. Chris Emdin, associate professor at Columbia University's Teachers College in his new book "For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood...and the Rest of Y'all Too," completely misunderstands why poor minority students continue to fail in public school and in the process he comes up with bogus "white hero teacher" alternative facts to explain why these poor minority children continue to fail. 

Somehow Professor Emdin ignores the predictable negative educational deficiencies in our still segregated, racist public schools even though 63 years ago Brown vs. Board of Education declared, "Separate but equal...is inherently unequal." But what else should we expect when that is still the reality for the vast majority of minority children who attend inner-city schools? 

There is complicity among not only White but minority administrators when they continue to enforce failed education policies like social promotion in which students are promoted year after year, whether or not they have mastered prior grade-level standards. This has created a massive population of Black and poor minority students that never had a chance from “Jump Street” in the segregated system that they -- and probably their parents -- have been subjected to unnecessarily. 

It is patently offensive and self-deceiving to falsely romanticize minority student failure (failure that would occur within any ethnicity under in the same failing circumstances) as proof that Black children “learn differently.” They just may learn differently -- or not at all -- not because of their ethnicity, but because of what they have endured in a public education system that "graduates" them -- one way or another -- without the basic literacy and skills they need to develop a profound understanding of their own and other cultures. 

When Professor Emdin seeks to "value the unique realities of minority children, incorporating their culture into classroom instruction," he and others presuppose a level of literacy that is for the most part nonexistent. Why? Because it has never been taught in a public education system that is still purposefully failing these students, families, communities and cultures. 

Education administration, being one of the few upwardly mobile professions open to people of color, finds minority leaders enforcing archaic, racist inner city public school policies that are continuing to assure the ultimate failure of the vast majority of their students. There is a certain sick irony of this negation of racism; when push comes to shove, a public school administrator of whatever ethnicity will turn momma's picture to the wall, protected his or her ability to collect a six-figure salary, no matter what the cost to the kids. 

Don't expect things to change in the near future if educators keep citing the failure to respect Black culture as the alternative fact for why Black students aren't learning. This ignores the real reason for student failure which is a clearly racist public education system that does not implement a timely, age sensitive, subjective student level education.

There is literally no attempt to educate predominantly poor students of color in any manner that remotely resembles the way White students who attend private schools are educated. So expect the prison population to rise in the future, above its present obscene level of 2.3 million. 

"Black culture" has nothing to do with a system of rote public education where the Socratic Method and critical thinking are nowhere to be found in any form. To sanctify this patently inferior and generationally perpetuated system of non-education as a failure because it didn't respect "black culture" ignores the glaring reality that all other non-colored cultures in America have somehow gotten educated without losing their culture of origin. 

All Americans of any ethnicity can hardly deny the significance Black culture has had on our collective national identity. But explaining the premeditated failure of Black and other poor children of color in public schools by saying that their culture is not respected in public schools is patently ludicrous. Having more than a 500 word vocabulary and knowing your times tables is a better measure of whether you will maintain your culture of origin. And throwing in some real estate finance or credit card literacy into the mix might be more likely to promote my kind of Black culture without exploitation. 

The generational failure and objective inferiority created by what remains a segregated public education system is and remains a burden -- not a culture -- that could have been and can still be avoided. One merely needs to recognize that inner city "public education" as presently constituted is no place for students of any ethnicity to recognize their potential. 

It’s wrong to justify this failure with falsehoods like ‘Black students learn differently’ or that it's the fault of White teachers -- themselves many times the victims of the system since they are stymied at every turn and often fired if they embarrass the power structure by actually trying against all odds to educate Black and other children of color to their potential. The excellent public education of our past is the best antidote to racism…but only if, once and for all, it is offered to all our people.

 

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

@THE GUSS REPORT-The Los Angeles Times reported last week that the LA District Attorney’s office is investigating whether LA City Councilmember Curren D. Price Jr. is simultaneously married to two women, a story I broke on CityWatch on February 27, with follow-ups on March 2 and March 6.  

The DA’s office subsequently confirmed for me they are also investigating allegations of other misconduct by Price, some of which were outlined in my March 6 article. A forensic dig may reveal a lot.

To review: 

The last time Price attempted to divorce his first wife, Lynn Suzette Green-Price, was 2012. But news sources indicate that he was already remarried at that time to his second (and current) wife, Del Richardson-Price.

At that time, Price and his divorce attorney Albert Robles claimed in a misdated document that they could not locate Lynn Price for the purpose of serving her with divorce papers. They asked that the court instead allow them to serve notice by buying a public notice ad in a local newspaper. 

Price and Robles claimed that Lynn Price’s most recent address was 4519 Don Arturo Place in Los Angeles. But according to Price’s 2013 financial disclosure forms, the occupant of that address was not Lynn Price, but a Dr. and Mr. Earl Jones. Price knew who the tenant was because – bizarre as it sounds – the property belongs to his second wife, Del Richardson-Price, who has owned it since June 21, 2001 to the present. 

If Lynn Price had lived there, as Price and Robles claimed, the address to which they mailed her refunded security deposit would be a more logical address at which to serve her. 

At any rate, locating Lynn Price would not have been a difficult task had Price and Robles endeavored to actually find her. Her address is listed on the website of her law firm in Trenton, New Jersey, as well as on the California and New Jersey Bar Association websites. 

Accordingly, the court rejected Price’s and Robles’ request to publish a divorce announcement in the newspaper and, instead, directed them to ascertain Lynn Price’s address via the forwarding address at the local post office. While it is unclear whether Price and Robles did that, the case has been dormant ever since.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marc D. Gross, who would oversee the case were it re-opened, is aware of the Price divorce controversy, but has yet to schedule a hearing for an Order to Show Cause (OSC), which is the legal equivalent of asking WTH is going on here

Subsequent to my breaking this story a month ago, Robles declared in one interview, “Curren Price is divorced. End of story.”

But since there is zero public evidence that Price and his first wife are divorced, the California Bar Association may take note of the discrepancy and determine why, since Robles insists that they are divorced, there is no record of division of shared assets or spousal support, the basic elements of divorce law, let alone a final determination. 

So back in 2012, Councilmember Price knew he was still married to Green because he was still trying to divorce her. Yet simultaneously, he failed to list her assets and income on his 2012 California Fair Political Practices Commission financial disclosure forms, also known as Form 700. It requires that candidates, officeholders and their spouse (or spouses in Price’s case) list their income and assets. 

But let’s give Councilmember Price the full benefit of the doubt and assume that his failure to disclose Lynn Price’s assets and income was either an honest error, or he was too embarrassed to disclose his divorce chaos. Both would be understandable, although not excusable, since the disclosures are signed under penalty of perjury. 

So why, then, did Price (according to Los Angeles City Ethics Commission records) in 2012 also fail to disclose any of the assets and income of his second wife, Del Richardson-Price? 

It is implausible that Price didn’t know this was required because he previously held elected offices on the Inglewood City Council, California State Assembly, California State Senate (holding various leadership roles while there) before being elected to the LA City Council. 

Real estate holdings Price failed to disclose include:

4519 Don Arturo Place

4171, 4171 ½, 4173, 4173 ½ Brighton

372, 374, 376 W. 12th Street

506 – 510 S. La Brea Avenue 

Since some of Price’s properties are located in the City of Los Angeles, he was supposed to disclose ownership in the event they were impacted by City Council votes on issues such as sidewalk repair, street lighting, street furniture, advertising and redistricting, among others. 

Price also failed to disclose the businesses owned by second wife Del Richardson-Price including DRA Associates, Just Work Inc. and Cuba Travel Service. If they, or their affiliates, applied for contracts from the LA City Council, Price would have had to recuse himself from those discussions and votes. 

Councilmember Price also neglected in 2012 to list any of Del Richardson-Price’s clients who paid her more than $10,000 each. A year later, in 2013, at least 20 businesses and government agencies fit that description:

LACMTA, City of LA HCID, Retirement Housing Foundation, Reiner Comm, HCHC, Harris & Associates, Inc., Turner Construction Company, Beacon Integrated Professional Resources, City of Hawthorne, City of LA Department of Public Works, Deep Gree (sic), Hollywood Park Tomorrow, LADWP, Mark Thomas & Company, Old Timer Foundation, OPC-Westside, Serrano, Vistas, West Hollywood Manzanita, West Valley. 

Councilmember Price either failed to detail his wife’s client-based income in 2012, or she went from zero-to-20 clients as soon as he was elected to LA City Council.

A comparison of Mr. Price’s participation in LA City Council discussions and votes to Del Richardson-Price’s client list will show that he at times failed to recuse himself on issues that benefitted his wife, her clients and, therefore, himself. 

With a Rose Mary Woods twist … 

Mr. Price has refused multiple requests to field live questions. At a time when truth from politicians is in such short supply, you would think Councilman Price would be looking for any opportunity to set the record straight. 

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

PLATKIN ON PLANNING--From the days of Not Yet New York in the 1980s to the present, some Angelenos consider New York City to be the opposite of their vision for Los Angeles. This is understandable because New York City, especially Manhattan, has much higher density (people) and intensity (buildings) than Los Angeles. 

New York City: But, appearances can be deceiving because New York City has the lowest per capita carbon footprint of any major city in the United States. The reasons are no mystery since most people in NYC use mass transit and live in apartments, not houses. But, there is more, and this is the real lesson for Los Angeles, a city whose residents generate nearly twice the amount of Green House Gases per capita as New Yorkers.   

As carefully explained by David Owen in Green Metropolis, New York City combines high residential density with high-density commercial, public transit, and other categories of public infrastructure and services, such as parks, schools, and libraries. Unlike Los Angeles, NYC clearly demonstrates how density can (but not necessarily will) address the Green House Gases responsible for global warming and climate change. In contrast, LA's approach: frequent City Council approvals of large and tall buildings where they can only be built through pay-to-play spot zones, is hardly the same. 

Even though LA has no shortage of apologists and boosters for poorly located but highly profitable high-rise buildings, such as 8150 Sunset, there is nothing sustainable about this land use decision-making model. In fact, the City Council’s approvals actually make the environment worse. If we look closely at these special ordinances and approvals, they should be accompanied by a sound track of ringing cash registers and wheezing Angelinos. This is because the Council’s spot-zones and spot-plan ordinances are worth many millions to developers, despite the ensuing air pollution. 

To truly address climate change, Los Angeles needs to make sure that its updated General Plan stipulates dense public services and infrastructure for all areas where greater density is planned. Furthermore, these dense public services and infrastructure components must be available when new projects are completed. After completion, the projects must then be carefully monitored to confirm that that their Green House Gas mitigation programs actually work.  If not, then the City Council ought to lower the boom on them. 

This is why the Los Angeles City Hall status quo model, still soundly championed by many commentators, is and will remain a list of empty environmental promises. All the ballyhoo about randomly located, un-planned high-rise buildings wondrously transforming Los Angeles into a more urban, sustainable, and environmentally friendly city remains hot air. Just as a poorly planned city like Los Angeles spawns dangerous urban heat islands, the hot air from the mega-structures’ boosters and apologists will compound the projects’ adverse environmental impacts. 

CEQA: Luckily, we now have the tools and the hard science to confirm these claims. It is the updated California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Senate Bill 97 now requires Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) to measure Green House Gases (largely CO2, water vapor, and methane) in their air quality section. Big surprise, so far the EIRs for LA’s illegal mega-projects, as well as for official plans to facilitate these mega-structures, like the overruled Hollywood Community Plan Update, confirm the obvious. Unlike NYC, LA’s mega-projects will generate unmitigatable levels of Green House Gases. That’s right, the claims that these projects promote a sustainable Los Angeles are demonstrably false. 

This is why the Los Angeles City Council always adopts a Statement of Overriding Considerations for these cases. The Council sweeps the projects’ toxic environmentally impacts under a bureaucratic carpet. Then, to make sure the carpet stays put, the Council never requires any subsequent monitoring of individual projects, community plan areas, or the entire city. 

If they did proceed with this monitoring, which the General Plan Framework specifies in exacting detail, the thin justifications for their approvals of these otherwise illegal mega-projects would quickly waft into LA’s polluted air. 

This monitoring would also blow the cover story from both the Council’s Statements of Overriding Considerations and the endless hot air spewing from tail pipes, 24/7 HVAC, developers, and the mega-project groupies. 

This, among many reasons, is why Los Angeles urgently needs to properly update its General Plan, then implement and carefully monitor it. 

(Dick Platkin is a former LA city planner who reports on local planning issues in Los Angeles for CityWatch LA. Please send your comments and corrections to rhplatkin@gmail.com.)

-cw

GUEST COMMENTARY--“Welcome to the Hollywood Ivar Gardens Hotel. We don’t like gays and lesbians or same-sex couples. We oppose a women’s right to choose. We think transgender people are dangerous.” 

Any hotel that posted a sign like that outside its entrance, especially in Los Angeles, might have a hard time filling its rooms or attracting customers to its restaurant. No hotel would risk undermining its business with such bigoted marketing. But a proposed hotel project in Hollywood, currently awaiting approval from the Los Angeles City Council, is led by a company whose president is closely tied to one of the nation’s most extremist anti-gay and anti-choice advocacy groups. 

TIPPING THE ODDS FOR LA--Remember the fiscal crisis which caused the City Council to change the law so that it could issue a kind of judgement obligation bond not used since 2010? Recently we were headed toward violating the 5% Reserve Fund and instituting a plan to issue Judgment Obligation Bonds; this would have cost city taxpayers $20 million in interest over the next 10 years. 

Well, good news. We’re in the clear. At least that’s what our Controller Ron Galperin said in a recent letter to the City Council. The only proviso is that all the city departments must have extra funds on hand at the end of the year, that no need arises for the reserve fund, and also, that we're ok with a 0.66% margin of error. 

What’s baffling is that his rosy prediction isn’t coupled with hard and fast demands for immediate cost cutting. Why not tip the odds a little more in our favor and make some immediate cuts? Here are a few suggestions: 

  • Have a contract panel rate for outside law firms, as the County does. 
  • Rethink the $22,500,000 redo of the Channel 35 studio. 
  • Reign in the chief of police and thereby stop the hemorrhaging of liability payments. 
  • Ask Xerox to lower their special collection parking ticket fee from $35 down to $24. 
  • Ask for 5% back from developers who’ve received tax breaks.  
  • Avoid future liability by ditching the all-overtime LAPD Metro security contract. 
  • Curb even just 5% of the Pay-to-Play that’s going on.  
  • Last but certainly not least, why not have the City Council and the Mayor take 10 percent haircuts, since collectively they’re the highest paid in the country?   

And if Ron Galperin is up for a little self-sacrifice … he's welcome to chip in too.

 

(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer and Joshua is a teacher.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

 

TRUTHDIG--As the Trump police state tightens its anti-immigrant grip on urban America, resistance is forming in city halls and in police departments charged with enforcing the law.

There is, of course, resistance on other issues, such as President Trump’s senseless proposed budget cuts and his determination to all but wipe out health care assistance for the poor, middle class and elderly. (Photo above: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.)

But it is immigration—the lifeblood of the United States—that most clearly reveals the essential cruelty of the Trump regime and its eagerness to embrace the practices and philosophy of a police state, an attitude shaped by the president’s hostility toward Latino and Muslim immigrants.

Attorneys and prosecutors in California, Arizona, Texas and Colorado have reported that teams of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have swept into courtrooms or are waiting outside to arrest undocumented immigrants, according to the Los Angeles Times. Tani Cantil-Sakauye, chief justice of California’s Supreme Court, asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to stop immigration agents from “stalking” the state’s courthouses to make arrests. “Courthouses should not be used as bait in the necessary enforcement of our country’s immigration laws,” Cantil-Sakauye wrote in a letter.

There are reports of great fear in mosques and throughout the Muslim community. Parents have painful talks with children on what to do if mom or dad is picked up by the immigration cops. They also must explain why grandparents or other relatives can’t join them in the United States.

Fear is taking hold of immigrant communities as they face immigration officers now freed from even the small limitations of the Obama administration. These immigration cops feel empowered, as if their time arrived with Trump’s election.

But there is powerful resistance from mayors—often tough, canny politicians—usually ignored by the national media.

Last week, mayors from New York to Los Angeles joined in a Day of Immigration Action to protest ICE enforcement of immigration laws. 

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, grandson of immigrants, said, “We have grown into the most diverse city on the face of the earth—a city that champions inclusiveness and tolerance, and welcomes everyone who seeks to realize their dreams and build their families here regardless of national origin or immigration status.

“Today, more than 1.5 million residents of our city are foreign born, and nearly two of every three Angelenos are either immigrants or children of immigrants. Our immigrants are the engine of the Los Angeles economy. … Even more so, our immigrants have woven the social, cultural, and civic fabric of Los Angeles, from our educational institutions to our artistic stages, from the halls of government to community activism, from our vibrant culinary scene to our fields of play.”

The depth of feeling on the issue—and evidence of how it cuts across immigrants’ ethnic lines—was apparent at the nation’s major airports on the last weekend in January, when thousands gathered to protest Trump’s ban on refugees from the Muslim-majority countries of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan. Demonstrators showed up to protest in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Dallas, New York, Raleigh, N.C., Houston, Seattle and other cities. 

Other demonstrations have been smaller. I watched a relatively small group gather in downtown Los Angeles on a weekday afternoon to protest the arrest of Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez, an undocumented worker. The protesters met in a corner of Pershing Square and then walked across the street to the high-rise building that houses the federal immigration courts.

Beyond aiming for Avelica-Gonzalez’s release, the rally’s sponsor—the National Day Laborer Organizing Network —is trying to build support for Senate Bill 54, introduced by California Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León and now pending in the Legislature. The bill would sharply limit the amount of information jailers can give to ICE agents when undocumented immigrants are released from jail. It would require counties around the state to become sanctuaries, where undocumented immigrants would be given much more protection from ICE.

De León’s bill gets to the heart of one of the many things Trump hates—the “sanctuary city” movement.

Trump issued an executive order threatening local governments with reduction in federal funding if they embrace sanctuary city status and don’t support federal immigration enforcement, refusing to hand over prisoners to ICE. His Department of Homeland Security recently began posting weekly online reports identifying local law enforcement agencies that won’t hold undocumented immigrants in jail until federal officers can pick them up.

The way it works in most cases is that local jailers flag the undocumented when they are freed, permitting immigration agents to seize them and begin deportation proceedings. That’s permitted in Los Angeles County and other counties where the sheriff’s department run the jails. De León’s bill would sharply limit sheriff’s officers’ cooperation with ICE.

It’s different with police in Los Angeles under Garcetti. There, police cooperation with ICE is limited. Officers don’t approach people solely to inquire about their immigration status. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, like his predecessors, says that turning Los Angeles cops into immigration agents will make it difficult to learn about crimes and recruit informants. Police say that undocumented immigrants already hesitate to report domestic abuse for fear of being deported.

Rather than knuckle under to Trump, Garcetti has intensified his opposition to the administration’s anti-immigrant moves.

Garcetti told the police department to continue to refuse to question people about their immigration status. He told the fire chief, the chiefs of the airport and harbor police and other department heads to do the same. He said they must tell his office or Chief Beck if federal immigration cops ask them to help enforce federal immigration laws. The city, the mayor said, must “ensure equal access to facilities, services and programs without regard to any person’s citizenship or immigration status to the maximum extent that the law permits.”

Los Angeles, Garcetti said, must “foster a welcoming atmosphere for all regardless of immigration status.”

As should the United States.

(Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for Truthdig, the Jewish Journal, and LA Observed. This piece was posted first at Truthdig.com.)

-cw

During this month’s meeting of the Metro Board of Directors, there was a protracted discussion about how Measure M’s local return fund would be apportioned to the 88 cities and unincorporated Los Angeles County.

While in the past return dollars have been doled out on a strictly per capita basis, the new sales tax might work a little differently. The local return working group for Measure M (h/t Henry Fung) came up with a plan that would set an annual minimum amount that all jurisdictions would be guaranteed regardless of their population. The money to push these very small cities up to the floor amount would be carved out of the overall local return pot for the year, the remainder of which would then be distributed to the larger cities.

The idea of the floor is to protect very small cities, according to the directors who spoke on its behalf, since these cities are unlikely to benefit in meaningful ways from the megaprojects that will be funded in the coming decades. Due to their size, some of these cities are so small that they will receive on the order of $10,000 annually in return funding, which is not enough to make headway in local transportation spending, the argument continues.

Metro’s board instructed staff to look at the impacts of a floor on local return allotment, but we don’t need to wait for their report to get a sense of what this policy would do. In its first year, Metro’s new sales tax is projected to draw $860 million in new revenue. The local return funding, 16% of the total, will therefore start at $137.6 million annually. With the county’s population over 10 million, each jurisdiction will get approximately $13.44 per resident this year, with future amounts subject to change based on relative population and overall economic activity.

Metro CEO Phil Washington stressed during the board meeting that there has been no decision yet on the exact level that a floor might be set at, but $100,000 was mentioned as potentially acceptable level. Which cities, based on their population, would receive less than $100,000 in local return funding? The list is short. Avalon, Bradbury, Hidden Hills, Industry, Irwindale, La Habra Heights, Rolling Hills, and Vernon are the only eight cities below that mark.

With 16,000 residents combined, the cities have some notable similarities. They belong to one of two groups: wealthy residential communities, and industrial tax havens. Each has a reason for artificially keeping its residential population low. More residents would cut into the geographic remove of the former’s palatial estates, and, for the latter, residents are also a nuisance. After all, they demand tax-funded services and diverse land uses that might not be compatible with concrete plants, Sriracha factories, superfunds, and so forth. Of the eight cities, only one (Irwindale) even voted to pass Measure M.

This group makes a questionable set of targets for a handout like this. The poor cities in Los Angeles County are characterized by their density and crowding. Even small poor cities have far too many residents to hope to benefit from this proposed policy. And, though, as Director Garcia pointed out, $100,000 might not buy a single curb cut, it strikes me that the county has greater equity issues than Hidden Hills having to pick between a curb cut for Drake and one for Kanye. There are undoubtedly real ADA concerns that could be addressed in any of these cities, but, nonetheless, it is difficult to stomach compounding a regressive sales tax with an active redistribution from poorer cities to wealthier ones.

The carve-outs required to fund the local return floor vary in size depending on how many cities receive the subsidy, and the size of the subsidy. As the floor rises, the per capita amount available for the unsubsidized cities falls.

In the scenarios shown above, using a minimum annual allocation for local return funding can play a few different ways. With the $100,000 floor, a small amount of overall funding is redirected, so this scenario is minimally disruptive to the county’s more populous jurisdictions. 

On the other hand, what have we accomplished here? The eight cities subsidized here are not just below the floor, they’re far below it, requiring an average subsidy of 73% to reach the minimum. That minimum, as indicated by the comments of several directors, is seen as insufficient to accomplish the road paving and sidewalk maintenance for which it’s needed. In this scenario, we’re moving money around aimlessly, but without major consequences.

If a $250,000 annual minimum were selected, we would add to the ranks of the aggrieved the likes of Malibu, Westlake Village, and San Marino, where commercial zoning is intentionally suppressed and multi-family housing is forbidden outright. The $500,000 annual minimum level, which seems just comically high, would siphon 7% of the total local return pot.

Even though we are by now capturing nearly half of the jurisdictions in the county, we are still only giving benefits to 7% of county residents, effectively doubling their share of local return funding per capita. In this scenario, these small cities would certainly be able to afford more than a curb cut, but the largest part (about 38%) of the redistributions from the local return floor would go to those original 8 cities with the county’s lowest populations. If these cities lack the necessary funds to pave their roads, or paint bike lanes, it is wholly a concern of their internal political priorities. The higher the floor is set, the more spurious claims to equity appear.

These cities have tailored the public goods they provide so as to ingratiate themselves to wealthy residents or wealthy business interests in a form of aggressive Tiebout sorting, a process in which fragmented municipalities operate as a “market” for public goods that allows citizens to determine the optimal level of local taxation. In reality, the purported positive effects of such sorting are all but negated by, just for example, the use of exclusionary zoning in San Marino to preempt migration into the city, or the rampant externalities of a Vernon, which has repeatedly poisoned the poor residential communities that surround it

If cities such as these are failing to generate the necessary taxes to provide services to their few residents, the reason is that their model is failing. Solutions could be to diversify their land use, expand their tax base, and increase their population. However, the solution should not be for large and small poor cities to donate their tax dollars to small, wealthy cities to bail out a system that, it could be argued, plays an outsize role in stabilizing intraregional inequality. Metro should reject the proposal of a floor amount for local return, and continue to issue funding on a per capita basis.

(Scott Frazier is a graduate student at Cal State University Los Angeles in Public Administration.  This analysis was posted originally at urbanize.la

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NEW GEOGRAPHY--Generation X, the group between the boomers and the millennials, has been largely cast aside in the media and marketing world, victims of their generation’s small size and lack of identity. In contrast to the much-discussed boomers and millennials, few have recognized the critical importance of this group to the future of politics, economics, technology and business.

Gen Xers — defined as aged between 35 and 49 in 2015 — matter because they will be the generation that will run our companies and governments as the boomers, albeit slowly, fade from their long-standing dominance. As millennials struggle to “launch,” the Xers are the group that will be critical to local housing markets, tech development and, perhaps most important, the creation of the next generation of children.

Far more entrepreneurial than their millennial successors, they also will have the money to shape the economy. An analysis by the Deloitte Center for Financial Services finds that they hold 14 percent of the nation’s wealth, compared to just 4 percent for millennials and 50 percent for the boomers. But by 2030, as the boomers finally start to fade from the picture, Xers increasingly will vie with boomers, accounting for 31 percent of the nation’s wealth, twice the percentage for the millennials.

Southern California’s Xer challenge

Southern California needs to focus more on Xers. Unlike the millennials, whose share has been dropping below national norms, our region still retains a higher percentage of Xers than the rest of the country. Yet, their population is being eroded by factors such as high housing prices and weak high-end job creation.

As housing prices move to ever more unsustainable levels, the Xers now are leaving California at a rate faster than any generation, according to the most recent Internal Revenue Service numbers. After all, with households having children and buying houses later, many Xers may be going to more kid-friendly areas with yards like they grew up in. Losing Xers, at least in the short run, may be more dangerous to the state and regional trajectory than millennial migration.

In their preferences, Xers nationally tend to be somewhat like their boomer forebears. An analysis of Xer residences in major metropolitan areas showed that more than 85 percent live in suburban and exurban areas, no doubt driven by such concerns as prices, house size, yards for the kids and recreation, safety and schools. This aspiration does not match with ultrahigh housing prices.

Indeed, in a recent analysis we did for Forbes.com, using U.S. Census Bureau age data of 35-49 as our measurement, Xer shares grew most dramatically in more affordable Sun Belt cities like Austin, Texas; Raleigh, N.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; Las Vegas; Phoenix; Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, which have enjoyed the widest growth in Xer share in the country. Since 2010, emerging tech hubs, notably Denver and Portland, Ore., also did well. In contrast, the Bay Area, despite its torrid economy, has seen its Xer share stagnate, while Los Angeles’ share actually dropped.

Gov. Brown’s war on Xer expectations

Over the past decade, California regulators — citing climate change concerns — have waged a war on the state’s “sprawl,” including recent moves to all but eliminate greenfield development. This policy hits Xers the hardest since they are demonstrably less attracted to living in dense, inner-core neighborhoods and far more likely to prefer suburban locations.

Here in Southern California, Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties all suffered losses in their Xer population share, while the more suburban — and affordable — Inland Empire expanded its proportion significantly, with Riverside up by over 30 percent and San Bernardino up by over 10 percent. Communities that have become more Xer-oriented since 2000 include places like Perris, Indio, Murrieta, Hemet, Victorville, Temecula, Corona and Moreno Valley. The only coastal community to rank among the top 10 for Xer growth was Irvine, with Lake Forest ranked 11th.

In contrast, most coastal cities — from Ventura down to Santa Monica to Newport Beach and San Clemente — did poorly. Similarly, many of the more affluent, high-cost cities in the region also saw large drops in their Xer shares, including Yorba Linda, Alhambra, Mission Viejo and Thousand Oaks.

California’s increasingly rigid approach to peripheral development seems destined to not only reduce the Xer footprint in the region, but also to contribute to an already rapid decrease in the number of children. For example, since 2010, Los Angeles has suffered one of the largest declines in the percentage of people aged 5 to 14 — ranking 45th out of 52 major metropolitan areas, ahead of only five Rust Belt cities, Chicago and Hartford, Conn.

What is happening with Xers could soon also occur among millennials as they enter their 30s. As the growth among twentysomethings slows precipitously, and then starts to decline by 2020, the market for the high-density urban lifestyle so beloved by our planning overloads, already a smallish minority among millennials, seems destined to decline.

Rather than shut off the prospects of young people, sparking continued outmigration and a diminution of our middle-class workforce, California needs to reconsider its current housing and land-use policies. The green-speculator-regulator triad may celebrate the end of “sprawl,” but in doing so they are creating a California that, from a societal perspective, will be fundamentally unsustainable.

Joel Kotkin is the editor of New Geography … where this piece was most recently posted … and is R.C. Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, a St. Louis-based public policy firm, and was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission.)

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ANALYSIS--Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch emerged confirmation hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee relatively unbloodied by relentless grilling from Democrats attempting to probe what they consider his extremist judicial philosophy.

The nominee came to the hearings with an ideological judicial rating well to the right of Antonin Scalia, the late conservative justice whose seat he would be filling, as well as with the blessings of the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. Both organizations have been key in the efforts by libertarian Republican mega-donors such as hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer and the Koch Brothers to politically reshape the country along more corporate-friendly, neoliberal and socially conservative lines.

Republicans are determined to seat Gorsuch by April 16, in time to hear arguments during the Supreme Court’s final session of the current term. For their part, Democrats remain outraged over last year’s unprecedented, 10-month refusal by the Senate to grant the same hearings to Obama nominee Merrick Garland, while progressives continue to express alarm over Gorsuch’s 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals track record.

Time and again the nominee has sided with large corporations at the expense of individual rights. Cases have included his concurrence on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores — later affirmed by the Supreme Court — in which he found that businesses could deny their employees contraceptive coverage that conflicts with the owner’s religious beliefs. And in the midst of Wednesday’s hearings, Gorsuch’s ruling in a case involving the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, in which he sided against a public school student with autism, was overturned by the Supreme Court 8-0.

If confirmed, Gorsuch is widely expected to deliver the coup de grace to the high court’s 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision, and the right of public-sector unions to collect fair-share agency fees. That landmark labor law narrowly survived last year’s Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case when the court deadlocked following Scalia’s death in February of 2016.

To understand Gorsuch’s potential impact on California, Capital & Main spoke by phone to constitutional law professor Melissa Murray. She is Interim Dean at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and the Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of Law Faculty Director at the Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice.

The Golden State, Murray said, should above all be worried by what she and other legal scholars believe is Gorsuch’s most radical and far-reaching judicial prejudice — his extreme skepticism and hostility to the agency authority enshrined in a doctrine called “Chevron deference,” after the 1984 Supreme Court case Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council.

Agency deference is the foundation of the modern administrative state, she explained. It grants policymaking flexibility to agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Communication Commission by giving them the flexibility to adapt often vague and obsolete laws to the changes of a rapidly evolving, technology-based economy. But it has also provided regulatory sinew to fundamental worker protections offered by laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

“That’s a big deal, that’s huge” Murray emphasized. “Honestly, if there was anything that I would be most concerned about, it would be deference, because administrative agencies touch every aspect of everyone’s life.”

Though Gorsuch has been tight-lipped during his confirmations hearings, Murray outlined what Californians can expect from the nominee in different areas of the law based on his opinions and other writings.

Labor:

“Everything we’ve heard on the campaign trail would suggest that this administration is more hostile to labor and, as some of Judge Gorsuch’s critics have noted, he has often been more amenable to corporate interests as opposed to the interests of individuals.

Reproductive Rights:

In his book on euthanasia [The Future of Assisted Suicide], he expressed incredible admiration for what he might call a “culture of life.” And his discussion of euthanasia and assisted suicide would lead many to believe that he would be hostile to the idea of abortion rights or he would actually be quite favorable of broad attempts by the state to regulate access to abortion.

Civil Rights:

I don’t know that [he has] a deep hostility to civil rights; rather, it’s perhaps a broader deference to legislative and executive attempts to curtail [civil rights]. Or, as Chief Justice Roberts said in the voting rights case Shelby County v. Holder, maybe we are past the point where we need the kinds of interventions that the Voting Rights Act provided. I think it’s probably more likely that Gorsuch is one of these people who seems to think that we’re in a kind of post-racial society and these kinds of interventions are no longer needed.

Education:

The [neoliberal] rhetoric of school choice has . . . had very deleterious effects on public schools. By the same token, the idea of choice in other contexts — reproductive rights, contraception apropos abortion — has been pretty much overlooked, and there’s a kind of unevenness in that. So while I could certainly see a Judge Gorsuch being quite favorable in his approach to school vouchers as an expression of personal choice, … I imagine that the same kinds of neoliberal principles would not extend [by Gorsuch] to the right to choose in some other expression of individual liberty.

Immigration/Muslim Travel Ban:

He has made some statements in his confirmation hearings about being independent and the importance of an independent judiciary, especially in standing up to the executive, and I think those are exactly the right things to say in a moment like this one. But he has a very long record of being a government lawyer, and he was a high-ranking official in the Department of Justice under George W. Bush. In that capacity he had a very deferential posture to exercises of executive authority, and I can’t imagine that philosophy will be jettisoned now.

The Environment:

Deference is a big one. The idea that Judge Gorsuch has expressed is that agencies are not equipped to interpret the laws that govern their particular doctrinal areas. He would not be in favor of allowing the EPA to administer and to interpret the Clean Air Act. Instead he would say that was a legislative decision, or rather an executive function.

Gun Control:

He is a purported originalist, so I think he would be very protective of Second Amendment rights.

Should Democrats Filibuster Gorsuch’s Nomination?

Elections have consequences, and one is that the President has the authority to nominate someone to the Supreme Court, and the Senate has the duty to, through their advise and consent function, to appoint that person to the court. Judge Gorsuch is eminently qualified and is, I think, quite an appropriate pick for a more conservative-leaning president. That said, I would have to say that in March, 2016 when Merrick Garland’s name was put before the Senate, President Obama was the president, and it was his right to nominate someone and it was the Senate’s right to use their advise and consent function to give Judge Garland a hearing, and because Judge Garland was an unobjectionable candidate, he should have been appointed.

(Bill Raden is a freelance Los Angeles writer. This analysis was posted first at Capital and Main)

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EMOTION PICTURE CAPITAL--Pema Gyaltsen, a 24-year-old Tibetan man, reportedly set himself alight late last week — one of many such protests in recent years against what rights activists call brutal and repressive policies in China’s far West. Gyaltsen, who lived through his self-immolation, was promptly arrested by authorities; his whereabouts remain unknown.

The international advocacy group Free Tibet first reported Gyaltsen’s self-immolation Sunday on its website, basing the news on information obtained by research partners in northern India, says John Jones, an organizer with Free Tibet.

“The reasons for the self-immolation protests are the occupation and the accompanying human rights abuses,” Jones says. “Tibetans often leave notes or shout slogans during their self-immolation protests, calling for Tibet to be free, for an end to China’s repressive policies, for an end to the attacks on their culture and religion.” The incident was not widely reported in most Western outlets.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Chinese officials expressed outrage to their counterparts in India, after the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso — the Tibetan religious leader living in exile in Dharamsala, India — participated in an Indian state-sponsored Buddhism conference there.

New Delhi typically refrains from indicating any official support for the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing accuses of inciting Tibetan separatism from China. But it appeared this week the Dalai Lama was becoming involved in a long-standing deadlock between the two competing regional and world superpowers, entrenched in territorial disputes more than a half-century after the Sino-Indian War. Like Gyaltsen’s self-immolation, the news development received little attention in the Western media.

This trend is nothing new: With the exception of United States government-funded outlet Voice of America — which routinely reports on human rights violations in hard-to-reach parts of China and other deeply censored media environments — Americans and the international community have largely turned their attention away from Tibet. 

And that worries some ethnic Tibetans.

“Not only does the New York Times mention Tibet less, and not only does the American public … not talk about the issue, and not only is it Hollywood sidestepping this issue,” says a Tibetan activist who asked not to be named out of fear of reprisal from authorities. “The whole world is doing this. It’s because the Chinese government’s influence is growing.”

“But I also believe that as in everything in this life, there is karma,” the activist adds. “So I don’t believe that the Chinese government can always have good luck.”

It wasn’t always this way. In the 1990s, Tibet was Hollywood’s cause célèbre. As a result, for about a decade, Americans often heard of human rights violations in Tibet.

“Tibet has to compete for news coverage with the frequently shocking news from Syria, Ukraine, Sub-Saharan Africa, and other areas where there are wars and natural disasters.”

In 1993, the Academy Awards imposed a ban on actor Richard Gere (he’s since been rehabilitated) in response to a speech he gave advocating for Tibetan rights while presenting the Oscar for Art Direction. In his speech, Gere expressed his wishes that “we could all kind of send love and truth and a kind of sanity to Deng Xiaoping right now in Beijing, that he will take his troops and take the Chinese away from Tibet and allow people to live as free independent people again.”

Four years after Gere’s controversy, two big-budget films set in Tibet were released: In October, there was Seven Years in Tibet, starring Brad Pitt, and, in December, there was Martin Scorsese’s Kundun. Both films featured appearances by the Dalai Lama. One year later, the Dalai Lama himself released his book of philosophy, The Art of Happiness. A favorite at the time, it has sold well over a million copies.

Taking Hollywood’s lead, Free Tibet student groups proliferated in high schools and colleges across the nation.

But these days, the website for the Gere Foundation, dedicated to Tibet and the fight against HIV/AIDS, appears not to have been updated in years. An attempt to reach the organization was not successful, and Gere’s agent did not respond to a request for comment on his recent work for Tibetan rights. 

Gere is, however, still sticking up for Tibetans, even if his activism isn’t as loud or widely publicized as it once was. In February, he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel amid the Berlin release of his forthcoming film The Dinner. At the meeting, the two reportedly discussed Tibet, among other international affairs. 

“For several years recently [Gere] was more engaged with his work on HIV/AIDS than on Tibet, so his return to the Tibet issue, let alone as a strategic player, is a new development,” says Robert Barnett, a Columbia University professor and preeminent scholar on Tibet. “Perhaps media coverage has finally become seen as of secondary importance?”

“As for the Dalai Lama’s popularity, there is a slight shift in his role in the West from being an advocate on the Tibet-China issues to being a leading figure on ethics and religious tolerance in general,” Barnett adds. “The latter position continues to give him a huge audience in universities and other sectors around the world. That’s a shift in the type of media focus he’s interested in, rather than a decline in his profile.”

“It is up to Tibet groups and Tibet’s supporters, both celebrities and regular people, to keep reporting on Tibet.”

Some activists for the Tibetan cause blame a more turbulent world for the decline in international awareness of Tibetan affairs.

“There are many conflicts taking place around the world and Tibet has to compete for news coverage with the frequently shocking news from Syria, Ukraine, Sub-Saharan Africa, and other areas where there are wars and natural disasters,” Jones says. “Tibet retains many of its supporters from the 1990s, but, given the suffocating level of control that China is imposing, it is hard for news to get out of Tibet and for people around the world to get a true sense of how repressive China’s rule there is.”

Many advocates for human rights in China have observed that, with the country’s rise in political and economic power, Washington has been less willing to comment on Beijing’s repression of civil liberties.

Moving forward, Jones says, “it is up to Tibetan groups and Tibet’s supporters, both celebrities and regular people, to keep reporting on Tibet, so that it remains in the public consciousness.”

As for China’s comments to India: Last week, the Dalai Lama was present at an Indian-government sponsored Buddhism conference in India’s eastern district of Nalanda.

“It does look as if Delhi is signaling a somewhat tougher stance to Beijing for the moment, and that’s something the Dalai Lama has long called for,” says Barnett, the Columbia professor.

But don’t expect to find the Dalai Lama at the center of any major conflagrations between New Delhi and Beijing in the near future, Barnett predicts. “Neither [the Dalai Lama] nor Delhi will want to push this too aggressively,” he says. “For both of them, it is an element within their larger negotiating strategies rather than a prelude to confrontation.”

(Massoud Hayoun is an multilingual, investigative, award-winning journalist currently based in Los Angeles. He was most recently a reporter and part-time editor for Al Jazeera America’s website. This perspective was posted originally at Pacific Standard Magazine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

The everyman era 

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

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

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

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

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

New closets and old 

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

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

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

A critical economic issue 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

... and not a faith-based theology.

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at 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.)

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

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

To say California is another country is an understatement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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EASTSIDER-The resignation of Xavier Becerra (photo above) to become California’s Attorney General has opened up a rare opportunity for some lucky Democrat. The prize is a lifetime sinecure as the Congress member for Congressional District 34. I say Democrat because the 34th district is overwhelmingly a Democratic, carved out district. 

As proof, of the 23 -- that’s right -- 23 candidates for the Special Election on April 4, 19 of them are Democrats, with one Libertarian, one No Party Preference, and one Green Party hopeful. Just a single Republican. Need I say more? 

And speaking of opportunities, here in Northeast LA we now have two Democratic clubs -- the been- around-forever NEDC (Northeast Democratic Club), and the new EAPD (East Area Progressive Democrats.) The NEDC has something like 100 members, while the new group advertises around 600 members. Quite a feat for a new Democratic club. You can probably guess where the Bernie people tend to hang out.

What makes political life interesting here in Northeast LA, is that the Eastside Progressives have recently turned the Party on its head. They did it with a huge turnout for the January Delegate race (for the State Democratic Party Central Committee) in the 51st AD. Something like 900 votes, a number more than triple the usual turnout for this event, and the EAPD candidates won all 14 seats!  

Anyhow, this special election offers up an amazing prize in a race where only a handful of voters are likely to pay attention and vote. Special elections tend to have even lower turnouts than City Council elections, if you can believe that. And a congressional seat has no term limits! 

It is also a wonderful opportunity to introduce the next group of Democratic politicians, that next generation of leaders that are looking for a way into the political system outside of the same old same ‘kiss the ring’ old party process. 

So What Did We Get? 

At the end of the day what we saw at the few candidate forums was mostly the same small group of insiders. Since the East Area Progressive Democrats did not endorse anyone, let me concentrate on the Northeast Democrats, who did. 

Three insiders (folks with a track record and some money) and a couple of unknowns were invited, ignoring the other 13 democratic hopefuls. The three I would characterize as insider favorites were Jimmy Gomez, Sara Hernandez, and Yolie Flores. We were at least spared former Assembly Speaker John Perez, who had announced that he was running early on, only to magically withdraw based on “health issues.”

For those who don’t follow politics, Jimmy Gomez is currently the Assembly Member from our 51st AD in Northeast LA, and just won re-election in last November’s General Election with over 86% of the vote. He is also one of those carefully nurtured soon-to-be lifetime professional Democratic politicians the party loves so much. 

UCLA, Harvard MA, worked for Hilda Solis in D.C., came out of AFSCME, and then returned to California as the political director for UNAC (United Nurses of California) while awaiting his opportunity to run for office. Jimmy Gomez is personable and smooth. He also won the NEDC endorsement with 84% of the 58 ballots cast. 

Our other well nurtured Dem insider, “God’s Gift to the Eastside” Jose Huizar, evidently decided that he likes the City Council better than taking a chance on losing to Jimmy Gomez, so he dithered around, finally deciding not to run for Congress. He is another of the carefully created professional Democratic Party lifers. Backed by the establishment, he was handed a seat in the LAUSD before coming to City Hall. The LAUSD gig let him spend our school bond money as head of the District’s Public Works Committee, and even become President of the Board, all while getting tight with developers. 

Huizar’s presence is still on the ballot, however, in the person of a surrogate -- Sara Hernandez. She was Huizar’s Area Director for Downtown Los Angeles, getting to know the rich and powerful just as Huizar did with the LAUSD. She quietly rebranded herself with a little distance from Huizar, by leaving the Council office to become Executive Director of Southern California Coro in mid-2016, prior to announcing her run to replace Becerra this year. Less advertised is her stint with the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). 

Sara Hernandez must have known that the Northeast Dems are death on Charter Schools, because she was a no show at their Endorsement meeting. On the other hand, she is well-funded and has hit the campaign trail with a whole series of TV ads, mailbox stuffers and phone banking. 

Speaking of Charter Schools, the third mainstream candidate was Yolie Flores, registered as a Democrat but really IMHO Monica Garcia “lite” when she was on the LAUSD School Board. She and Monica are deep pocket CCSA backed Charter School advocates, and for my money, they are Democrats in name only. The reason I know she has money behind her this time out is because I’ve had four calls from her campaign people, as well as a number of mailbox pitches. 

All top-down Democrats. 

And What Did We Miss? 

When I asked the President of the NELA Dems who decided who was going to be showcased at the Endorsement meeting, I was informed that the Executive Committee had met, looked at candidate resumes, and then determined a cut off for applying. Cut off indeed. How about a deliberate curtailment of small “d” democracy. 

Personally, I wanted to hear from at least two other candidates that could well be in that top tier for a runoff -- Arturo Carmona and Wendy Carrillo. It seemed to me that these two in particular represent the next generation of grassroots Democrats as opposed to top-down Democrats. 

Arturo Carmona represents the best of Bernie Sanders’ campaign, working tirelessly for the Senator’s vision of a small “d” Democratic Party. My kind of real deal working from the ground up small donor kind of leader we need in the party. You can read more about him here.  

Wendy is young, hails from the Boyle Heights/El Sereno chunk of Northeast Los Angeles, became a citizen by age 21, and went on to get a Masters at USC. Not too shabby. She is another real deal small “d” Democrat. You can check out the LA Times article about her here. 

The Takeaway 

Out of the 19 Democratic candidates for Congress in the 34th CD, only a handful really got heard by anyone in this election. I think that potential voters were cheated by not being able to widely hear from Arturo Carmona and Wendy Carrillo, and that’s sad. It also raises a broader question. 

What about the other 13 candidates? Buried in there somewhere could be the next Xavier Becerra, but we’ll never know. I think a disservice was done to all of these candidates who did not get a chance to appear before a broader audience. They had the guts to go out and run for office, expose themselves to public scrutiny, and devote a huge amount of their time (and probably finances) to actually run for political office. 

If we are going to rebuild and rebrand our Democratic party into something more than a top down vehicle for the limousine liberals like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, we need to get going on actually building a grassroots party. Otherwise, it will be back to the ho-hum maybe 15% voter turnout that allows lobbyists, big developers, and other special interests to own our City, not to mention the Federal government. 

Bottom line, no matter what your political persuasion, get out and vote in the April 4 Special Election! Turnout is likely to be small, and your vote could make the difference in who gets to a runoff, if there is even going to be one. A large turnout could send a message to the Democratic establishment and our politically turned off Angelenos. 

Indifference has a cost. Just look at our current Council, Congress and President.

 

(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.

CONNECTING CALIFORNIA--The Ralph M. Brown Act, first approved in 1953, is celebrated for its supposed guarantees that we citizens have a voice in the decisions of all our local governments. (Photo above: Carmen Bella, 76, a resident of Bell, Calif. yells at city council members.)

But today, it is little more than a gag rule.

Over the past six decades, the Brown Act—famous for its guarantee of a 72-hour notice for public meetings—has become a civic Frankenstein, threatening the very public participation it was intended to protect.

The act’s requirements of advance notice before local officials hold a meeting has mutated into strict limitations on the ability of local officials to have any kind of frank conversation with one another, even over email. Brown Act requirements that we, the public, be allowed to weigh in at meetings have been turned against us, by way of a standardized three-minute-per-speaker limit at the microphone that encourages rapid rants and discourages real conversation between local officials and the citizens they represent.

And by effectively prohibiting deeper exchanges among officials and citizens, the Brown Act has empowered professionals outside the civic space—lawyers, labor unions, and especially developers—to fill the conversation void.

At a recent UC Irvine conference on the Brown Act in which I participated, speakers discussed how local elected officials and their staff members, wary of talking to or even emailing each other and violating the Brown Act rules against unannounced meetings, often communicate with each other through developers, who are much freer to meet and talk.

This is one reason why allegations that developers have too much power are routine in California communities. But it is also why proposed reforms to limit the influence of developers—Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti just announced a ban on meetings between city planning commissioners and developers—never last. Under California’s Brown Act, developers are often the most practical conduit for local officials to get information to their colleagues.

“The Brown Act gives developers superior access, because it cuts [local government] staff off from talking to the decision makers in the same way,” said one California local official, quoted in a conference paper.

The problem with the Brown Act is not that the law has changed. It’s that the law has stayed too much the same, while California governance has changed radically.

Back in the 1950s, when the Brown Act was passed, local governments largely ruled via broadly applied laws, policies, and plans. But in subsequent decades, a combination of court decisions, state laws, and ballot initiatives like Prop 13 have limited the power of governments to control their own revenues, and to make and enforce laws.

So to retain some self-determination, local governments have worked around the law, ignoring plans and policies they once followed, and instead embracing ad-hoc decision-making, considering proposals on a case-by-case basis. The most important tool for today’s local governments is not the ordinance or the general plan but rather the closed-door negotiations that produce labor contracts and developer agreements. In the latter, developers typically receive exemptions from present and future rules in exchange for benefits they give to the city.

The problem with the Brown Act is not that the law has changed. It’s that the law has stayed too much the same, while California governance has changed radically.

In this era of government by negotiation, the Brown Act is unhelpful when it’s not beside the point. First, the act’s limits on meetings end up restricting the ability of elected officials to participate fully in such negotiations; such talks end up being conducted by staff or outsider lawyers.

Second, the Brown Act covers public meetings, and doesn’t get the public into closed negotiations. All too often the public hears about negotiations only once deals are done, and brought to a council or a board for approval.

At those late stages, public comments—especially public comments that are limited to just a few minutes—don’t matter very much. And the elected officials to whom they are complaining may have been left out of the talks. So California citizens typically and understandably respond either by checking out of the process entirely or by opposing their local politicians fervently and uncompromisingly. In this way, the Brown Act encourages the worst sort of NIMBYism.

The good news: There are many methods for encouraging earlier and deeper public participation in the deal-making that governs our local communities. Proven approaches to dialogue and idea-gathering should be tried. I personally like participatory budgeting—by which residents of some California cities decide directly how some municipal money is spent—and believe the same model could be applied to planning decisions. Regular citizens could be brought into negotiations and allowed to help decide the particulars of exemptions and community benefits in developer agreements.

The bad news is that such ideas require conversation between elected officials and citizens that would run afoul of the inflexible Brown Act. Indeed, some of the more innovative local government experiments in California—notably the neighborhood councils in the city of Los Angeles—have found their influence and ability to communicate limited by the meetings restrictions of the Brown Act

At the UC Irvine conference, many ideas were raised for amending the Brown Act. The state’s Little Hoover Commission has also suggested several changes in the law.  But the act has created a regime so antithetical to the goal of public participation that it might be better to scrap it and start over—with a new framework providing local governments with more flexibility as long as they pursue policies that enhance public participation in decisions.

The National Civic League has a model participation ordinance that suggests what such a law could look like. Such an ordinance might work even without repealing the Brown Act. Instead, the ordinance could be allowed to supersede the Brown Act rules, exempting from the act’s edicts any process that enhances public participation and civic conversation.

Who could oppose such sensible changes? Answer: Some civic and media organizations are suspicious that reform would limit access. And they claim local officials and lawyers are being overly cautious in limiting conversations because of fear of Brown Act violations. But local governments maintain the caution is well-advised, given how easy it is to sue for violations of the act, and thus block important projects.

While the debate over the Brown Act continues, the everyday reality of California public meetings grows ever more absurd. On a recent Saturday at my local school board, our city’s mayor—one of only a handful of people in attendance—rose to ask questions about the board’s management of a newly passed school bond, the largest in our small district’s history.

The mayor is a public works lawyer with long experience with bonds, and her questions were fair and straightforward. But the board members wouldn’t answer them. Instead, they tried to cut her off after just three minutes, noting that’s the limit on public comment. When one board member sought to answer the mayor’s questions, the school superintendent interrupted to say that any exchange could be a violation of the Brown Act.

Any law that won’t let a mayor and a school board talk about their city’s most important construction project—and at a public meeting—is a bad law. Until our local governments move past the Brown Act, Californians will find it hard to have the kinds of conversations that local democracy requires.

(Joe Mathews is Connecting California Columnist and Editor at Zócalo Public Square … where this column first appeared. Mathews is a Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010). Photo credit: Chris Pizzello/Associated Press.

-cw

PLATKIN ON PLANNING-It is distressing, but hardly surprising, that the Los Angeles Times would use a lead editorial to preach about planning the future of Los Angeles without cracking open the city’s adopted General Plan or mentioning climate change and its own articles on City Hall corruption and new earthquake threats. Apparently, their view of Los Angeles is not 600 amazing complex and vulnerable square miles, but a checkerboard of private lots waiting for real estate investors to swoop in from around the world for short-term profits. 

I will post my full critique of this lead editorial on my blog, Plan-it Los Angeles, but here are some of the paper’s more far-fetched claims, followed by my debunking: 

LAT: For what may be a brief moment in Los Angeles, planning is hot. Measure S, the slow-growth, anti-development initiative, failed at the ballot box but succeeded in one very big way: It drew attention to the city’s broken land-use process and the need for a new comprehensive vision for how Los Angeles should grow.”  

LAT: “Every new project is a political negotiation and a fight over height, density and community impact, making housing construction a high-stakes gamble and turning residents reflexively into NIMBYs.” 

Debunking: Less than one percent of real estate projects in Los Angeles involve the City Council legislative actions that Measure S addressed. And only a small percentage of these cases involve any negotiations, appeals, or legal challenges. In these cases local communities want the City to follow its own planning laws and regulations, as well as the California Environmental Quality Act. 

This means local communities are in no way reflexive in challenging projects. To the contrary, they are highly selective in opposing illegal projects that adversely impact their neighborhoods and depend on City Council spot-zoning to become legal. 

LAT: “Can Los Angeles finally fix this broken system that doesn’t produce enough housing, erodes public trust in government and doesn’t result in well-planned communities?” 

Debunking: Public distrust in local government results from City Hall’s rampant pay-to-play land use decisions. The LAT’s own reporters carefully exposed these practices until several months ago. This is when the newspaper’s editorial page became LA’s highest profile voice championing the city planning status quo -- by leading the charge against Measure S. Furthermore, LA’s plans and zones are not the cause of insufficient housing production and poorly planned communities. The cause is the business model of real estate developers. They do not build affordable housing because it is unprofitable, and they do not follow adopted plans and zones to create well-planned communities because these laws interfere with their bottom line. 

LAT: “Los Angeles runs the very real risk of repeating what it has done time and again: The city develops a plan for growth, homeowner groups oppose it, and then elected officials ignore it.”  

LAT: “Los Angeles as a whole needs to be far more walkable, bikeable and transit-oriented, with most communities within easy reach of frequent bus or rail service and amenities such as parks, libraries and grocery stores.” 

Debunking: The Framework and all other General Plan elements, such as the new Mobility Element, are fully consistent with all alternative transportation modes, including walking, biking, and transit. The adopted plans already address these issues in great detail. Likewise, even though the City Council adopted the General Plan Framework in the 1990s, it is still a visionary document that addresses parks, libraries, and the location of retail stores. Furthermore, the Framework mandated (but never pursued) careful monitoring of its goals and policies to ensure the adequate construction of transportation facilities and other infrastructure categories, such as parks and libraries. 

To cite one of many examples that the Los Angeles Times is apparently unaware of, this is what the Framework proposed regarding parks: 

P14: Formulate/update a Recreation Master Plan (a Recreation and Parks Department document) to provide sufficient capacity to correct existing deficiencies as well as meet the needs of future population. Consider the following actions when developing/updating this Element: 

a.  Identify improvements to the recreation and park system including additional parklands and recreational programs. Priority should be placed on the identification of improvements for the underserved areas of the City. Both traditional and non-traditional solutions to the expansion of facilities should be considered, including the following: 

(1) Revise standards that permit the acquisition of parks smaller than five acres, particularly in those communities with the most severe neighborhood park deficiencies; 

(2) Acquire use, and maintain of properties for recreation and public open space, that are as small as 5,000 square feet in area; 

(3) Develop community gardens on small lots in residential neighborhoods and commercial areas; 

(4) Develop active and passive greenways along fixed rail transit lines and utility corridors, as well as for the development of open space along rivers and principal drainages (as depicted on the Citywide Greenways Network Map); 

(5) Adopt joint use strategies for recreational facilities, wherever appropriate; 

(6) Require for the inclusion of recreational facilities in multi-family residential and mixed-use development projects. 

Will the Los Angeles Times accept this scolding about its need to undertake basic research about LA’s plans and planning process before blathering on about a new planning vision? 

There is always hope, but there is no reason to think that the paper has or will ever give up its fundamental role in what I previously dubbed the Urban Infill Growth Machine. For over a century, even with its founding families departed, the paper has considered real estate speculation to be LA’s economic development machine. Even though conditions have dramatically changed since the 1970s, the paper’s unwavering support for real estate speculation has never faltered. But, the paper will eventually have its come-uppance when thoughtful planning cannot be reconciled with a welcome wagon for every global speculator targeting Los Angeles for its sand castles and Lego buildings.

(Dick Platkin is a former LA city planner who reports on local planning issues in Los Angeles for CityWatch LA. Please send your comments and corrections to rhplatkin@gmail.com.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

GUEST WORDS--Let’s face it. Los Angelenos love marijuana. In 2009, there were reportedly more unlicensed dispensaries in the city than Starbucks (over 1,000). By some estimates, medical marijuana is currently a $1 billion market in the city, surpassing Colorado’s entire market. And New Year’s Day 2017 will perhaps be most remembered for the infamous “Hollyweed” sign stunt that garnered international attention. Clearly, Los Angeles is a 420-friendly city. Now, with the passage of Measure M, the City Council will be able get a handle on this popular local industry. 

The City of Los Angeles has had a checkered past with marijuana businesses. In 2003, when the state enacted the Medical Marijuana Program Act it created a legal basis for nonprofit medical marijuana “collectives” to buy and sell marijuana from retail locations. As a result, hundreds of unpermitted shops began popping up around the city. 

Supported by local marijuana consumers, these businesses quickly became very large enterprises. By the time the City began clamping down on this unregulated activity, Los Angelenos were already accustomed to buying cannabis from these shops and supported the dispensaries’ efforts to remain open at the ballot box. 

In 2013, citizens passed Proposition D that essentially immunized 135 of these businesses from prosecution by the City for what would otherwise be criminal activity. Although those dispensaries that were grandfathered in were pleased with this success, this reactive citizen initiative did not foster a productive relationship between City officials and the local cannabis industry. 

In 2016, Proposition D created a direct regulatory conflict between the state and the city when state legislators passed the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. Under MCRSA, the state will begin licensing cannabis businesses in 2018 and will ultimately regulate the entire industry throughout California. In order to obtain a state license, marijuana businesses must possess a license from their local jurisdiction. Since Proposition D only immunized Los Angeles dispensaries from prosecution rather than issue local permits for the activity, those businesses would not have been eligible for state licensure. As a result, Prop. D dispensaries would have been precluded from participating in the state regulatory framework and ultimately would have been deemed illegal despite local protection. 

Facing this harsh reality, a group of Los Angeles dispensaries organized to place a licensing ordinance on the March election. The City Council then drafted Measure M which was similar to the industry initiative but granted authority to City officials to regulate the industry with input from the public. Perhaps as a sign of a new working relationship between the City and the local cannabis industry, the dispensary group ultimately backed the City’s proposal which then easily passed with an overwhelming 79% of the vote. 

Measure M repeals Proposition D thereby allowing the new locally licensed cannabis businesses to be regulated by the state and to participate in the new regulated medical marijuana system. The initiative also enacted local excise taxes for both medical and recreational cannabis businesses creating additional tax revenue to the City. Lastly, the ordinance provides additional law enforcement authority to the City to allow for the speedy prosecution of unlicensed marijuana businesses operating in the City. For example, in addition to civil and criminal penalties, city officials are now authorized to disconnect water and power utilities for those businesses conducting unauthorized cannabis activities. 

Many wonder how these new state and local regulations will affect the local cannabis industry and impact communities. Will the local regulated cannabis market flourish or will the unregulated cannabis market continue to be a major presence in Los Angeles? Although it is impossible to predict the success of the new regulated cannabis industry it will be influenced by several factors. 

First, the federal, state, and local government agencies will continue to influence the black and regulated markets. Despite state and local legalization laws, marijuana remains a Schedule I illegal substance under federal law. If the federal government continues to prosecute individuals engaged in marijuana activity outside of the regulated state system and leaves alone those businesses that comply with state and local laws, then we may see a decrease in the number of unpermitted marijuana businesses operating in the City. Illegal marijuana operators may decide that the risk of federal prosecution does not outweigh any short-term financial benefit. 

Second, the quality and price of products in the legal marijuana industry will likely impact the success of the new regulated industry in Los Angeles. If dispensaries offer unique, safe products and services to cannabis consumers at a competitive price then these businesses should be able to compete with the unregulated, black market. Recent media reports and litigation surrounding the health risks caused by mold and pesticide in cannabis have highlighted some of the dangers of purchasing cannabis from the unregulated market. 

And lastly, consumers will have to support the legal industry over the black market with their pocketbooks. Some compare the purchasing of unregulated cannabis to buying pirated music or DVDs. In order to support those businesses that pay taxes on cannabis, pay their employees a decent living wage, and pay farmers a fair price for their products, consumers should only buy cannabis from properly licensed and regulated businesses. For comparison, the City of San Diego recently supported efforts of a local marijuana trade association with PSA-type magazine advertisements encouraging medical marijuana consumers to only purchase products from licensed dispensaries. 

Assuming all of these factors fall into place and the Los Angeles cannabis industry becomes a fully regulated system, the economic opportunities are endless. Within the same statewide regulatory system, consumers in the city will have access to the world-renowned strains of the famous Emerald Triangle growers. The production regions of Humboldt, Trinity, and Mendocino Counties are already well on their way to create region-specific or “appellation” zones of high quality cannabis products. 

Capital investment is already pouring into the cannabis industry from institutional investors and private equity funds alike. As the center of the international entertainment industry, Los Angeles is poised to become the “Silicon Valley” of cannabis with the creation of new world class cannabis brands and potential celebrity endorsements of those brands. 

As the new state laws begin to allow for advertising for the cannabis industry, it is not too difficult to imagine a magazine ad in the future featuring Brad Pitt but rather than sipping a martini he is puffing a branded cannabis joint or vape pen. If art imitates life, Hollywood may very well become “Hollyweed” someday.

 

(Lance Rogers manages Greenspoon Marder’s Cannabis Law practice in California and handles a wide array of matters related to cannabis including criminal defense, civil rights, asset forfeiture, land use, business disputes, unlawful detainer, and municipal zoning challenges.)

-cw

TRANSIT WATCH--So here we are in spring of 2017--we've just had two elections that were both bruising and decisive, either in victory or in failure. The city and county of Los Angeles has a new president they overall do NOT like, but can legally drown their disappointment in a haze of legalized marijuana. Public spending on transportation and the homeless is up, and developers are encouraged to build affordable housing ASAP. 

Among other issues on voters/taxpayers minds: trains and mobility, and overall ridership.  We want to get from here to there.  Despite the knee-jerk tendency to complain about everything, Metro has a lot to crow about, and so do we--but we've got a lot to focus on with respect to improving and preventing operations at Metro and other transportation-related services. 

First, THE GOOD: 

1) Ridership is up on the Expo, Gold, and other light rail lines, in ways we kind of predicted but did so a decade ago with our fingers crossed. Ridership on the buses is NOT what we expected, but there's a confounding variable that NOBODY saw coming a decade ago: Uber/Lyft. 

Those who are transit-dependent and find it convenient will use the buses, but for all of us who were fearing doom and gloom because our buses weren't connecting to our trains (myself included!) there is an individual freedom and mobility with Uber/Lyft/Metro Rail that is being achieved by more than we realize... and probably isn't too easily measured. 

2) My teenage son, who I once brought to Friends4Expo Transit meetings in a baby carrier, is now big enough to carry me, and attended a Railroading Merit Badge event with his and other Boy Scout troops.  Interest was high, our trip on the Pasadena Gold Line was standing-room only, and a huge choice of restaurants now exist at Union Station where virtually none existed a decade ago. 

3) Downtown is rapidly becoming a place to go to, rather than a place to avoid.  Interest is almost as high in the Downtown Light Rail Connector as it is the future LAX/Metro Rail Connector. However, the southeast portion of Downtown remains ignored and unloved (more on that later). 

4) As awful as it is that the I-10 and I-110 freeways are, even on the weekend, for those who use them it DOES portend that our economy is coming back big time, in one way, shape or form. Whether it's with decent jobs and/or whether it's due to an underground, cash-only economy are two other questions not to be answered here. 

Next, THE BAD: 

1) It was such a struggle to build the Expo Line that it now goes too slow, and its impacts on traffic actually ARE as horrible--perhaps worse--than many of us had feared. 

Although thoughtful author Ethan Elkind has a lot of good ideas on how to improve our transportation investment after passing Measure M, he too often supports the point of view that gives the "thumbs up" to transit riders to an extreme that throws another, more hostile finger at those who must use their cars to get to work, errands, etc. 

2) Transit advocate Matthew Hetz also opines the need for single-family housing to use mass transit for environmental purposes, and it is hoped that greater awareness of our expanding mass transit system will encourage more to use mass transit. 

And our young Millennials and teenagers, as evidenced by demographic trends, are avoiding the stress of cars and using transit ... and Uber/Lyft ... and walking ... to the benefit of all. 

3) But the lack of elevated grade separations--pursued by too many at Metro, and opposed by too many next-to-the-track neighbors being of visual concerns--is hurting us all.  The trains are too darned slow, and the cars trying to cross the tracks are forced to wait 10-15 minutes or longer during rush hour.  

And ditto for pedestrian grade-separations with our need for pedestrian bridges over major thoroughfares! 

So the next time someone complains of a rail line, or the need for a visually-impacting bridge, either the majority of us (who, when polled, probably do NOT care about the looks of a bridge) and/or Metro should tell the immediate neighbors to "deal with it" or move.   

I'll wager that a bunch of us on the Westside and in Mid-City find the Sepulveda Blvd. bridge to be just beautiful and wish we had a lot more of them to allow our trains and our car traffic to achieve quicker and safer speeds to enhance our mobility, environment, and quality of life. 

Finally, THE STUPID

Simply put, using the underutilized Harbor Subdivision rail right of way for walking and bicycle paths instead of completing a direct LAX to Inglewood to the Blue and Silver Lines to southeast Downtown Los Angeles to Union Station is about as stupid an idea as ... 

... not connecting LAX to Metro Rail, or 

... not connecting the Blue, Expo and Gold Lines with an underground Downtown Light Rail Connector. 

Over the next few years, we will realize that our need for a second "light rail connector" is paramount and hideously overdue to serve the southern and eastern portions of LA County with LAX and Union Station. 

And we're blowing it. Big time. 

So there really IS a lot to crow about in the world of transportation.  And then there's a lot we'll be EATING crow about in that same world of transportation.  

Yet the hope for improving mobility in our future is always there ... as the crow flies.

 

(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at 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.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOO LITTLE DEMOCRACY-Los Angeles is solidly Democratic and has voted so twice in the past five months to prove it. However, it is a sad commentary on both the democratic leadership and our city that an overwhelming majority of voters reelected the mayor and six city councilmen, as well as stopped Measure S in its tracks -- and they did so with one of the lowest voter turnouts in history. It was a landslide, but from a very small hill. 

So what can be taken away from this kind of municipal triumph? Clearly the Berniecrats who were inspired to vote for a social democrat last June were not similarly inspired to vote out the Democratic leadership in a sanctuary city opposing #45notmypresident. This is a dilemma for party leadership here in the desert-city-by-the-sea, a city that likes to see its reflection as Hollywood and LA LA Land, but not Watts or Wilmington. 

The challenge for Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Joe Buscaino, who seem to be connected at the hip, is how to play their roles on the national stage while remaining relevant to the multitude of neighborhoods they represent. After all, Los Angeles is a collection of towns looking to find a city. Every mayor since Tom Bradley has tried to create a Los Angeles epicenter, but this hasn’t made those on the periphery very happy. Just look at the backlash to gentrification in Venice or East Los Angeles or the reactions to continued industrialization at the Port of Los Angeles and the expansion of LAX. There is deep dissatisfaction in the hoods that are distant from City Hall and that harbors an even deeper distrust of the “city family” — a distrust that this election has not resolved. 

However, grassroots democracy is not dead in this city. It’s just waiting for a vacant seat in which to run without the weight of an incumbent blocking the path. Council District 7 is a prime example in which 22 candidates ran for office. All of them learned the hard way about the impediments the city places in the path to running for elected office — not the least of which are the 500 qualified signatures of registered voters needed to get on the ballot. It only takes 50 signatures to qualify for elected offices at the county or state level. But the Los Angeles city clerk’s office can’t even get the petition forms right! 

With the city bureaucracy protecting the superstructure of incumbency and money-in-politics, those who vote with campaign donations often don’t actually reside in the city, but lean heavily on those in power. This was the issue proponents of Measure S made in this past election over spot zoning. While losing 66.72 to 31.28 percent in this election, Garcetti had to realize that nearly 250,000 Angelinos were not happy and he immediately issued an executive order banning ex parte meetings with developers by commissioners. Does that also apply to city councilmembers? 

I seriously doubt that we will ever really eradicate the influence of money in politics, but what we can do is vote for those who are highly resistant to legal bribery. Give us candidates who actually work for the greater good of the city’s citizens, rather than those who aspire to higher office. I sometimes wonder, if Jesus was elected mayor, just how long it would take for the Pharisees of this city to tempt him. All we can hope for is that the people we elect prioritize the greater good over pocketing the money that’s there before them. It’s not inconceivable. It’s just improbable considering that Los Angeles’ current power structure perceives criticism as a threat. 

Just one week after Measure S went down in defeat, Vincent Bertoni, Garcetti’s latest hero in the Department of City Planning came to San Pedro for an early morning chat with the local Chamber of Commerce. He has a great grasp on the challenges of city planning. He even has some profoundly good ideas on how to fix them. Yet, he said something quite peculiar. He said, “LA is a place.” 

Now, the only time that I, as a lifetime citizen of Los Angeles, have self-identified as an Angeleno is when I travel to some place abroad. If you go to Paris, France or Mexico City and someone asks, “Where are you from?” it’s easier to say LA because everyone knows where that is. But it’s relatively meaningless because LA is not A PLACE -- it’s a collection of places each with their own identities, cultural references, landmarks and history. And that is the challenge to citywide planning: one size doesn’t fit all. 

The problem in city planning is the same problem all the other departments have, which is how to have consistent rules and ordinances across the city when there are some reasons, possibly 35 (read community plans) or more, to have exceptions to these rules. This is the raison d’etre for the 95 neighborhood councils; this is among the many reasons for the growing dissatisfaction with City Hall -- too much government and too little democracy. And perhaps this is also the explanation for Donald Trump and the Democrat’s inability to effectively resolve his curious rise to power with their own inadequacies. 

Los Angeles just may be the testing ground for a new form of democratic politics called “Version 20.18.” Clearly, this will not happen if only 10 percent of the citizens continue to turn out to vote in city elections. For, as is said, all politics are local. If you want City Hall to pay attention to your part of this metropolis, you gotta turn up the heat at the ballot box!

 

(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy - Don't listen to that man with the white cap - he might say something that you agree with!" He has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. More of Allen…and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com.)

URBAN PERSPECTIVE-The day the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, Appeals Court Judge and Scalia’s nominated replacement, Neil Gorsuch, said he could barely get down a ski run in Colorado because he was so blinded by tears at his death. This was not a private utterance or personal feeling of deep emotion that he shared with friends and family. He told of his profound sorrow in a speech in April 2016 at Case Western University. Gorsuch wanted the world to know that Scalia was more than just a heartfelt friend. He was a man and a judge whose legal and judicial mindset he was in total lockstep with. 

Scalia represented judicially everything that liberal Democrats, civil rights, civil liberties, women rights, and public interest groups regard as wrong with the Supreme Court. His opinions and votes on crucial cases read like a “what’s what” of legal horror stories. Scalia tipped the White House to Bush in Bush versus Gore in 2000, voted to gut voting rights, oppose same sex marriage and gay rights protections, scrap the checks on corporate spending on elections, whittle away at abortion rights and to give free rein to corporations to discriminate by narrowing down who could file class action lawsuits. 

The only reason that Gorsuch hasn’t matched his mentor and idol, Scalia’s, 19th Century grounded voting record on key cases is because he hasn’t been on the court for the number of decades as Scalia was on the high court. But there’s enough in his thin resume on some cases that pertain to abortion rights, planned parenthood funding, a powerhouse federal judiciary, and most menacingly, the strictest of strict reading of the constitutionalism (branded “originalism”) to serve as fair warning of what’s to come if he gets on the SCOTUS. And, as with Scalia, it won’t be pretty. 

This is one of the few times that Senate Democrats can do exactly what Senate Republicans did with Obama’s pick to replace Scalia, Merrick Garland: use the filibuster to say no. The GOP concocted the blatant lie to justify their obstructionism that Obama was a lame duck president, and lame duck presidents don’t and shouldn’t have the right to put someone on the high court on their way out. They pooh-poohed the fact that the Senate has approved other lame duck president’s nominations to the courts, including Reagan’s pick of Anthony Kennedy in 1988, Reagan’s last year in office. 

They blocked Garland not because of protocol, propriety, or tradition, but because of raw, naked and brutal partisan politics. The GOP understands that the Supreme Court is not just a neutral arbiter to settle legal disputes. It is a lethal weapon to skirt congressional gridlock and serve a dual role as a judicial and legislative body. This has meant scrapping the long-standing tradition on the court in which justices based their legal decisions solely on the merits of the law, constitutional principles and the public good, and not on ideology. Trump and his hard-right conservative backers are fully aware that the court’s power to be de facto legislators could last for decades. After all, presidents and congresspersons come and go, but justices can sit there until death if they choose. Scalia was proof of that. He sat on the bench for 30 plus years. 

Gorsuch is young, fit, and conceivably could duplicate Scalia’s tenure on the high court. He would sit there long after Trump is gone, and long after other future Democratic presidents that might sit in the Oval Office depart. During those years, he will be a key vote, if not the key vote, on many cases involving labor protections, civil rights, civil liberties, gay and abortion rights, corporate power, environmental issues, education, the death penalty, criminal justice system reforms, voting rights, and many other issues that will alter and shape law and public policy for years, perhaps decades to come. 

Gorsuch was carefully vetted by the Heritage Foundation when it submitted its list to Trump of reliable ultra-conservative judges who would rigidly toe the ultra-conservative line. They took no chance of recommending any judge who might in any way be a high court turncoat, and experience a judicial conversion in philosophy as a few judges thought to be reliably conservative have done in the past. The stakes are simply too high to risk that in the relentless drive by ultra-conservatives to roll back the gains in civil, women’s and labor rights of the past half century. 

The pressure will be enormous on conservative Democratic senators in the Red states to cave quickly and support Gorsuch, by rejecting a filibuster. They’ll be hit with everything from the stock argument that presidents have the right to pick their SCOTUS justices to outright threats that they’ll be top targets when election time rolls around. It will take much for them to do what the GOP did with Garland, and that is to say no and back a filibuster. If they cave, they’ll be terribly sorry.

 

(Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author, political analyst and a CityWatch contributor. He is the author of In Scalia’s Shadow: The Trump Supreme Court (Amazon Kindle). He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

NEW GEOGRAPHY--With the first billionaire in the White House, Wall Street booming and, for the first time in almost a decade, very solid and broad based job growth, one would think America’s business elite would be beaming. But that’s not so because the country’s moguls are more divided than at any time in recent history.

This conflict stems largely from divergent interests among rival factions of the putative ruling class. Trump’s backers tend to have links with the “real” economy, that is, those people who make things, such as energy producers, domestic manufacturers, agribusiness, suburban home-builders, and aerospace firms. These interests are increasingly concentrated in parts of America Trump painted “red”—the South, the Midwest, the Great Plains, and Appalachia.

On the other side lies the “ascendant” ephemeral economy, based in such industries as media, entertainment, software, and social media, as well as their financial backers. These industries are less affected by environmental regulations than those in more tangible lines of business. They are also concentrated in the deep blue slivers along the coasts and in college towns, the very places where the progressive social and environmental agenda is most deeply entrenched.

Obama’s Legacy: A New Post-industrial ruling class

Barack Obama’s most “transformative” achievement was the consolidation of this potentially hegemonic, post-industrial ruling class. They reaped high returns from the Obama era embrace of ultra-low interest rates, nudging billions into risky tech ventures and speculative urban real estate. These increasingly oligopolistic interests  also benefited  from a Justice Department that eschewed anti-trust inquiries in such areas as smartphone operating systems, search, and social media, where the main players often control  80 and even 90 percent share globally. IT, telecommunications, and media now compose America’s most concentrated sector and is consolidating somewhat faster than older industries, such as manufacturing, property. and wholesale trade.

In the past, Democrats received some support from business, but the GOP ruled the corporate mainstream. As William Domhoff  illustrated in his classic study Fat Cats and Democrats, Democrats drew support from outsiders, some of them less than savory, in industries from energy,  real estate, and gambling (Trump himself was a long-time Democrat). They also drew on diverse industries. As recently as the Bill Clinton years, Bill White, a savvy oil and gas attorney from Houston, served as chairman of the Democratic Party. It is doubtful now that someone with that background, even with White’s prodigious skills, will again be allowed into the party’s inner sanctum.

Obama’s post-industrial corporate elite emerged in his first 2008 election, with Google, Microsoft, Time Warner, IBM, and General Electric (NBC) ranking among the largest business donors. During his time in office, companies like Google enjoyed unprecedented access to the White House: More than 250 people moved between jobs at Google or related firms, the federal government, and Democratic political campaigns.

In the process,  the technology and media oligarchies became core funders of the  Democratic Party. This could prove more important in the future, as six of the ten and eight of the top 15 richest people on the planet, according to Forbes, derive their fortunes from these businesses. And this could just be the beginning: All of the 12 richest entrepreneurs under 40 come from the tech industry.

Even Hillary Clinton, a far less appealing figure than Obama, garnered most of the big money from tech oligarchs and their employees. Open Secrets notes that among private firms the largest business donors to her campaign included tech media establishments, including Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Microsoft, Apple, Time Warner, and Comcast.

Trump’s victory shocked this cozy alliance, and placed them in opposition. Silicon Valley, along with its idiot aunt, Hollywood, are now the most likely business constituencies to go into hysterics over the most recent inane Trump tweet, with some CEOs active participants in the anti-Trump “resistance.” Those few in Silicon Valley who backed Trump, like Peter Thiel, are now subject to campaigns to drive them from prominent boards. Uber’s Travis Kalanick, himself a rather unpleasant character, has been forced by such pressure to remove himself from any association with the current White House.

Ideology here mixes with self-interest. Mark Zuckerberg, whose $50 billion net worth makes him easily the wealthiest American under 40, recently issued a pronunciamiento that places his company’s objective as far from Trumpian nationalism as possible. He wants to create “a global community” even though his industry has helped foster the most social isolation since people discovered caves. His vision of the future, notes Bloomberg’s Leonid Bershidsky, offers something of a “social dystopia” run by Facebook’s management, with terms of discussion powered by computer algorithms.  

It’s clear what won’t make the cut in Zuckerberg’s “community”: Facebook is  increasingly hostile to any dissenting opinions from the right. The traditional media now wholly or partially  owned by the “ephemeral” economy oligarchs—Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post, Microsoft’s MSNBC and Carlos Slim’s New York Times—have also joined the anti-Trump “resistance,” having just previously served as claques for Obama and Hillary Clinton. Newsrooms may always have tilted somewhat to the left, but today they seem about as objective as those in Putin’s Russia or, for that matter, Fox News.

Immigration may be the biggest hot button issue separating the oligarchs from a   White House that has fanned nativist flames. But for them, embracing immigration—most notably the odious HIB visa program—does not mean adhering to legal norms or American traditions. Instead, their immigration vision fits that of companies seeking indentured tech servants as well as a cheap and inexhaustible supply of undocumented cheap dog-walkers, toenail painters, and nannies.

For this constituency, neither Trump’s proposed infrastructure program nor his moves to deregulate the economy have much appeal. After all, the Bay Area oligarchs seem perfectly fine with California’s regulatory insanity, and the piteously poor condition of the state’s infrastructure. Who needs roads and bridges when you have the cloud?

Of course, not all the new ruling class can dismiss Trump so haughtily. Elon Musk, a Hillary supporter who still sits on the new president’s economic council, needs skilled tradespeople and reasonable regulation to build electric cars and rockets. He yearns to play a role in Trump’s “lunar gold rush.” Caught in the middle, Musk is trying to make nice even in the face of assaults sent to him from the “resistance.”

Trump’s Oligarchs: Old School and Middle Class Friendly

The Obama oligarchs, like establishmentarians everywhere, clearly missed what the Chicago sociologist Richard Longworth predicted two decades ago: that rapid globalization,   now known as Davos capitalism,  would cause a full scale “social crisis.” The middle and working classes, as the Guardian has correctly noted, have little reason to love “superstar” oligarchs who employ few of them and, according to a recent paper by the Bureau of Economic Research, are a primary reason for the growth of inequality.

Trump’s oligarchs, for their part, reflect interests that jibe more closely with those of many middle and working class families. Trump’s so called  “cabinet of billionaires”—their  net worth is estimated at $14 billion—rightly has elicited criticism from   the Guardian and Mother Jones, which predictably also labeled them a bit too pro-Russian. And to be sure, Wall Street’s hoary hand, notably the ubiquitous Goldman Sachs, has secured  top posts at both the Treasury and the head of the National Economic Council.

Nonetheless, these billionaires have embraced a president who trolls corporations sending jobs overseas and bullies foreign firms, like Softbank, into committing themselves to major employment in the states. Obama and his academic coterie might dismiss such behavior as unseemly, darkly nationalistic and even ahistorical, but there may well be political gold there.

Of course, self-interest is a guiding factor, something particularly evident in the energy industry. The Trump cabinet features Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil, as its secretary of State,   Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, as Energy secretary, and Oklahoma’s former attorney general, Scott Pruitt, as director of the EPA. David Wolff, one of the Houston’s largest land owners, notes  the change of administration has sparked renewed optimism across the energy belt. “It is nice to have a president who doesn’t hate your major industry,” Wolff quips.    

Many manufacturers—at least those who build products  here—also have reason to celebrate the Trump ascension. A lot of firms felt threatened by the Democrats’ regulatory regime, which threatened to boost their energy and other costs. They also were the primary victims of globalist trading polices embraced by the grandees of both parties. The 79-year-old billionaire Wilbur Ross, the new Commerce secretary, made his fortune by buying and selling companies in such trade-impacted sectors as steel, textiles, and coal. Trade advisor Peter Navarro is well-known for pushing neo-protectionist and nationalist policies abhorred by the new oligarchs but popular in large parts of the country.

Interregnum or Change of Direction?

To the increasingly disconnected and increasingly concentrated blue state media, Ross and his ilk may epitomize an unhealthy attraction to “backward” sectors that need to be “disrupted” by the geniuses of Silicon Valley. Given their sense of historical inevitably, the tech oligarchs may feel that this shift is just a temporary halt in their drive, as notes Newsweek’s Michael Wolff,  to create “a more careful, regulated, and corrected world.”

Yet many more Americans—particularly blue collar Americans—may prefer the Trump approach. Manufacturing employs some 11 million workers compared to 2.7 million in information. Both have seen their share of jobs go down since 2004, but, suggests the Bureau of Labor Statistics, industrial jobs are likely to remain six times as numerous by 2024. Throw in the mining sector, which includes energy, and the difference is expected to be roughly 9.4 million jobs compared to 2.4 million in the information sector.

Ironically, the workforce in these industries is far more diverse than in those businesses run by the Obama oligarchs, who loudly champion the rainbow ideal but rarely in practice.   Silicon Valley  employs very few African-Americans or Hispanics; they make up barely 6 percent, for example, of Facebook’s workforce while overall leading tech firms employ barely 5 percent. In contrast,  according to 2015 data, 16.2 percent of manufacturing workers are Latinos and 9.7 percent are African-Americans. In mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction, Latinos make up 16.9 percent of the workforce and African-Americans 4.8 percent, while in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting, nearly a quarter of the workforce—23.0 percent—is Latino and 2.7 percent African-American.

If Trump policies can unleash a boom in these industries, he may have more staying power than many in the chattering classes admit. At least the Trumpians offer the prospect of upward mobility, greater independence, and the pride of work. In contrast, Silicon Valley’s vision, notes Greg Ferenstein, who has researched the views of the post-industrial elite, suggests a world where a “greater share of economic wealth will be generated by a smaller slice of very talented or original people”—that is, the denizens of Silicon Valley. “Everyone else,” he continues, “will increasingly subsist on some combination of part-time entrepreneurial ‘gig work’ and government aid. “

One has to wonder whether the prospect of widespread downward mobility for all but the “best and brightest” will prove very attractive to the majority of Americans. In contrast, Trump’s outsized promises, however unrealistic, may retain surprisingly long-term appeal. 

Trump’s business cronies may be grizzled, and even reactionary. They still may well end up as anachronisms, the last devotes of a dying industrial, largely white, America. But the Trump interregnum could become a new dominant paradigm if the Obama oligarchs fail to develop a vision that allows a better future than the jobless, socially stagnant and politically correct one now on offer.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of New Geography … where this analysis was first posted. He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. He lives in Orange County, CA.)

-cw

EDUCATION POLITICS--If you know Shakespeare's play “Julius Caesar, the Ides of March -- or March 15 – it is the date in 44 BC when Julius Caesar was assassinated. In California, the Ides of March in 2017 might in the future be looked upon as the date the new California School Dashboard (CSD) student performance evaluation system signaled the purposeful assassination of anything remotely resembling real accountability for the public education system. 

On that date state officials unveiled the CSD public education accountability system that, in reality, is the most comprehensive way yet devised to further obfuscate how students are actually not doing well in public schools. Under CSD it is virtually impossible to address the subjective needs of students, since the CSD assessment never allows for an objective standard to measure even minimally their actual education levels. 

Anything that remotely approximates an objective standard for measuring how students and specific schools are doing -- in comparison to all other students and schools in the state -- has been eliminated in favor of a new color-coded system offering feel good assessments that give contrived acceptable rankings based on “improvement” without any notion of holding students to the mastery of grade-level standards they will ultimately be required to have when they leave school and try (unsuccessfully) to be gainfully employed. 

In a March 16 article, the LA Times acknowledged that this new CSD assessment framework replacing the prior objective standard of the Academic Performance Index (API), "paints a far rosier picture of academic achievement than past measurements." If the patient/student is running a high fever and is very sick, you can either treat the patient/student or break the thermometer. CSD breaks the thermometer. 

So now, under CSD "80% of schools serving grades three through eight are ranked medium to high performing...when last year the majority of the [same] students failed to reach English and math standards." The fact that "those schools whose average math scores fell below proficiency [now] receive the dashboard's highest rating for math" is never addressed. 

There is clearly an effort by the CSD to obfuscate the continuing failure of too many schools and students. The API objective standard let you know that, if you were in an 800 or 900 API school, things were okay; but if you were in a 400 or 500 API school, you couldn't learn even if you wanted to. The CSD makes this kind of assessment or accountability impossible. 

Given the pressure on teachers to pass students whether or not they have been able to do the work, how can passing or rates of graduation be used in CSD assessment when they do not reflect an objective, independently verifiable level of academic achievement? 

CSD even takes into account suspension rates at a school without ever asking the threshold question as to whether teachers still have the power to suspend students from a class where they are making it impossible for their fellow students to learn. 

As reported in the LA Times, Carrie Hahnel of Education Trust West in Oakland said: [the CSD is] "terribly misleading -- communicating things are just fine even if they're not." More telling is what Jenny Singh of the California Department of Education said in opting for having blue or green positive ranked schools: “You don’t want to have an accountability system come out and say there’s not going to be any blue or green schools.” Does she believe this is true, even if you have to engage in hiding the true level of too many schools in order to do so? 

It is not surprising that LAUSD officials have called the new CSD system "useful," since its lack of clear objectively verifiable standards of academic excellence will now allow them to continue putting their careers ahead of the needs of their failing students. For them, it’s a "fairer way of looking at schools," because it continues to not hold them accountable for predictable student failure that could be easily addressed -- if these students were assessed and educated in a timely manner.

 

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

EDUCATION POLITICS--California’s school districts expect to issue close to 1,750 teacher layoff notices despite a statewide teacher shortage.

Wednesday was the deadline for districts statewide to issue pink slips, or reduction in force notices, to teachers, counselors, administrators and other credentialed employees who could be laid off at the end of the school year because of potential budget shortfalls.

The 1750-layoff figure is an estimate issued by the California Teachers Association, the state’s largest teachers union, based on a survey of key districts.

Educators and union leaders estimate that few if any of the pink-slipped teachers come from the most in-demand jobs, including special education, math, science and bilingual education. (State law requires layoffs be based on seniority, but also allows for districts to protect teachers with limited experience if they’re credentialed in jobs that would be difficult to fill otherwise.)

The teacher layoffs are part of an annual ritual as districts “prepare for the worst” when they start crafting spending plans for next school year that are based on conservative early state budget estimates.

Typically, many of these notices are rescinded before the end of the school year as districts receive better funding estimates from lawmakers before the final budget is approved in June.

But these notices also come during a time when many education leaders, lawmakers, and researchers say California is experiencing the worst teacher shortage  in more than a decade. So it raises the question as to why these teachers face the threat of job loss when so many districts are desperate to hire and retain them.

The answer lies with the set of conflicting state laws for state budget projections and requirements for giving teachers advance warning regarding possible job loss.

By law, public school districts in California had until March 15 to send notices to teachers and other credentialed staff who might be laid off at the end of the school year. This amounts to about a 90-day notice.

Districts make these projections based on the governor’s preliminary budget proposal released two months prior, in January.

This year, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed a minimal 2.1 percent increase for K-12 education in January, which educators said would not be enough to cover districts’ increasing salaries, benefits and costs.

“It’s already a struggle to find qualified teachers, especially in hard to fill jobs,” said Eric Heins, president of the California Teachers Association. “Districts and the state should instead be working on finding better incentives to keep their teachers.”

The California Teachers Association says that has led to about three dozen districts sending a combined 1,750 pink slips. These figures represent a small fraction of the more than 325,000 teachers statewide. And the number of notices is far below the 25,000 that were sent out in the peak of the recession in 2010.

San Diego Unified, the state’s second-largest district, sent out 850 notices, the most of any district. Santa Ana Unified sent out 287 notices. Montebello Unified sent out 333 notices. About 30 other districts sent out 50 or fewer, according to the teachers union.

Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest district, sent out 1,300 notices to administrators, but none to classroom teachers. So these figures were not included in the union estimate despite the fact that many of those administrators could bump back to a teaching position if they have a credential.

Los Angeles Unified spokeswoman Barbara Jones said the district hopes to rescind most, if not all of these notices. And even if some administrators return to the classroom, no current teachers would lose their job, she said.

Analysts and educators expect the governor’s updated version of the budget released in May to be more generous to K-12 education, especially as the state’s economy has continued to grow, meaning most of these jobs will be saved.

Teri Burns, legislative analyst for the California School Boards Association, said that even if most of the teachers receiving notices end up keeping their jobs, this yearly cycle exacerbates the state’s teacher shortage.

“These notices disrupt peoples’ lives unnecessarily,” she said. “If you’re a teacher and you receive one of these notices, then you start looking or another job, or even look to leave the profession.”

Burns said for students considering careers as teachers, reading reports of pink slips given each spring to teachers might signal that it’s a very volatile career.

The California School Boards Association has recommended that the state eliminate the March 15 warning deadline, and instead use the June 15 date for informing teachers that they’re actually being laid off.

Other groups have also proposed that move, but it’s been opposed by the California Teachers Association, with union leaders saying teachers need as much warning as possible to look for other jobs or make other preparations just in case they face unemployment.

Joshua Pechthalt, president of the California Federation of Teachers, the state’s second-largest teachers union, said the number of spring layoff notices is also not a valid measurement of how the state is being affected by the teacher shortage.

“You have to look at whether a district giving out layoff notices is experiencing declining enrollment, or if they have their own unique budget problems. Not every district is the same,” he said.

Districts facing the most severe teacher shortages are reporting no layoff notices including San Francisco Unified, San Jose Unified, Oakland Unified, and Fresno Unified.

This story originally appeared on EdSource

 

(Fermin Leal is EdSource’s career and college readiness reporter, based in Southern California. Fermin previously worked for 13 years as an education reporter at The Orange County Register. He covered k-12 education and the California State and University of California systems. This piece originated at EdSource and was posted most recently at Huff Post.) 

-cw

EDITING INFORMATION-Only a fool would accuse the mainstream LA press of dabbling in fake news. But what to call a political endorsement, then, that omits mention of a raging and worsening fiscal crisis caused in large part by the endorsee? 

In their endorsements of Mayor Garcetti, every one of the mainstream news outlets, while chastising him for seemingly serious failings, omitted any mention of a fact which was well-known at the time --and in many cases even reported by those outlets on January 9, 2017 -- that since November 2016, the reserve fund has stood at about $295 million, a number the CAO reported was “only precariously above” the minimum amount required under city policy -- 5% of the General Fund budget. They also neglected to report that the LA City Council had just been forced to change the law in order to borrow up to $70 million through judgement obligation bonds, a form of borrowing not used since 2010.  

Why does this matter? Why omit a fact that readers would no doubt consider important in choosing how to vote, or just as important, in choosing whether to vote? 

Maybe readers wouldn’t have changed their vote. And it’s unlikely that the outcome would have been changed. But discussion of the issue might have produced pressure to expand coverage of the race, and in any case would have given the public a chance to ask tougher questions of the Mayor -- to make him earn his reelection – and to commit to meaningful reforms. Maybe even hold his feet to the fire.  

By offering seemingly “tough” criticisms of the Mayor yet excluding genuinely tough topics, the media misrepresents "by omission" and so denies readers their right to think for themselves.  

The motive for engaging in such whitewashing? You’ll have to ask the press outlets. Incumbents often set up “velvet rope” systems whereby reporters who criticize them too harshly are denied access. This can hurt business, and so they avoid stories that are too hard-hitting, especially in an election where the outcome seems certain. Why stick out their necks by reporting things unfavorable to the incumbent when they know it will be he who has the power after the election?  

The problem with this attitude is that it misleads the audience, and we believe it hurts the bottom line. Readers want hard-hitting truth. And incumbents respect organizations that don’t kowtow because they think they have to. The best way to deal with the velvet rope is to blow right past it.

 

(Eric Preven and Joshua Preven are public advocates for better transparency in local government. Eric is a Studio City based writer-producer and Joshua is a teacher.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

CORRUPTION WATCH--People do not operate on the basis of reality. Rather, they function on their beliefs. If their beliefs are close to reality, then their actions are more likely to be beneficial to them. Thus, logic tells us that people want information which reflects reality as much as possible. Then, their actions would benefit them as much as possible. 

Logic is incorrect because the belief that people operate on logic is false. Experience shows that people accept as true information which pleases them. The more the news pleases them, the more likely that they will believe it. 

We should point out that many people love to feel outraged. People who feel cheated, want their abusers to be trounced. Some people love to feel angry and news which allows them to vent rage is a narcotic for them. 

When the Politics of Revenge hooked up with Alt-Right news, a powerful force was created. The Politics of Revenge, as the name implied, was not based on positive affirmations of becoming better in every way every day, but instead it zeroed in on making the SOBs pay. 

The path for Alt-Right news had been paved by the mainstream media which had perfected Alt-News to an art form. While some newspapers followed the Who, What, When, Where, Why, How format, many newspapers such as the Hearst Publications and Los Angeles Times did not. From its start, a main purpose of the LA Times was to promote the agenda of whoever was in power – be it the railroads, oil tycoons, or real estate developers. 

Objectivity did not rate high in the LA Times’ pantheon of values. Today’s historians know that during the so-called Zoot Suit Riots in 1943, the Mexican-American youth were primarily the target of the violence by the servicemen whose anger was fueled by LA Times Alt-News machine. 

“The mobs may have operated with the tacit support of local law enforcement, but they earned the explicit praise of the Los Angeles press. On June 7, the Los Angeles Times ran a story with a lead paragraph that read: "Those gamin dandies, the zoot suiters, having learned a great moral lesson from servicemen, mostly sailors, who took over their instruction three days ago, are staying home nights." August 29, 2012, KCET, Los Angeles' 1943 War on the Zoot Suit by Nathan Masters, http://bit.ly/2mK7sjI In reality, the Zoot Suiters were primarily the victims and not the perps, but that news would not make Anglos feel good. 

Because the LA Times is one of the Rembrandts of Alt-News, it realized that many stories had to be factual. Thus, any item which did not impact the financial interests of the rich and powerful could be faithfully reported. When time for dissembling arrives, the art of omission is employed. Since Garcetti’s election in 2001 as councilmember for Hollywood’s council district 13, the LA Times has accepted almost every piece of BS in support of his Manhattanization of Los Angeles. People are lead to believe that the increase in housing prices is due to a high demand for housing despite facts to the contrary. It was only in 2004-2007 that the LA Times attributed the nationwide increase in housing prices to high demand and ignored the trillion dollar mortgage frauds which were deceiving people into believing that there were millions of home buyers all across the nation. 

Since LA is owned by real estate developers, the LA Times comes out with the same Alt-News now that it pushed upon people before the Crash of 2008.   According to the LA Time’s Alt-Fact, LA’s housing problem is lack of supply. In a rather typical Alt-News article in July 2016, the LA Times wrote: 

“Yes. Like most things, it’s a supply/demand situation. The number of [housing] starts hasn’t been able to take care of that pent-up demand. The pricing has gone up accordingly, and that has been accommodated by low [mortgage] interest rates. Continued low interest rates have in essence subsidized a rapid ascent in pricing.” 

In reality, the cause of Los Angeles’ escalating housing prices is not supply and demand. As the LA Times knew or certainly should have known, LA had glut of higher end apartments constructed in the last decade. 

Here’s an HCIDLA Report from Nov, 2015: “The average rent in Los Angeles is $2,031 while new apartments built in the preceding ten years rent for $2,609 and have a 12 percent vacancy rate; a 5 percent vacancy rate indicates that supply and demand are in balance. At these rental rates, families must earn $81,240 to afford the average rent and $104,360 to afford a newly built apartment. In reality, the Los Angeles median income is only $50,543 and the current living wage of $15 per hour translates to $26,254 in annual wages; both wages leave a tremendous wage gap for workers seeking to rent in Los Angeles. The high vacancy rate for newer, more expensive housing exemplifies the disparity in the type of housing being built demonstrating that new, higher cost housing, is out of reach for many Angelenos.” 

Thus, the LA Times would appear to have been intentionally publishing Alt-Facts that there was a shortage of housing and that shortage was pushing up housing prices. Omitted from the LA Times article was the fact that the City had demolished over 21,000 rent controlled houses since 2001 and that in 2013, the City was constructing only 37% of the housing needed for low income people. Those figures were verboten because people would be able to see that the only housing shortage was for the very poor and that was due to the City’s destroying their homes: 

Then, we see the entrance of Donald Trump, who is his own 24 hr Alt-News Service via Twitter. I suspect that during his stay in LA as editor of Breitbart, Steve Bannon saw the extreme gullibility of readers of the LA Times. Although I’ve never spoken with Bannon, I fantasize that he was green with envy that the LA Times could publish Alt-Facts with impunity. 

Under Trump-Bannon, however, Alt-News is no longer like your Grandfather’s Buick. His variant of Alt-News is more aggressive -- like a souped up Dodger Challenger without a muffler. His Alt-News is obviously fake. Maybe it was part the Revenge of the Nerds Syndrome. Sick and tired of the Alt-News of BS publications like the LA Times, he was going to use Right Wing Alt-News to destroy “News” itself. 

This is a dramatic change. Bannon is not old man Hannity ranting stuff like the senile uncle one has to invite to Thanksgiving. Trump is not only Twittering Alt-Facts at us, but Bannon even has Missy Kellyanne Conway tell the entire world that they are Alternative Facts. Then, he sends out Herman Goebbles look-a-like Herr Stephen Miller commanding us not to question. Did Herr Miller start with “Actung, ich befehle Sie” or is that just my imagination? 

Bannon has launched a war on Americans’ consensus of reality. Building upon over a 100 years of sophisticated Alt-News distorting reality so that the public would vote for it own demise, Bannon-Trump have made America unsafe for reality. Herr Miller is correct – Truth is what Trump says it is – do not question. 

In what may be the most brilliant display of the destruction of reality came with Rachel Maddow’s March 14, 2017 release of Donald Trump’s 2005 Tax Returns. Had Maddow adhered to Honest Journalism 101, she would never have mentioned these phony documents. When one thinks of Ben Bradley, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein and their extreme efforts for confirmation, the rash stupidity with which Maddow hyped her having “Trump’s Tax Returns,” one feels sick. One never brings forth a document unless one has proof that the document is what it purports to be? There are accepted modes of confirmation. Step number one is to read, step number two is think. Standing alone, these two pages reeked of “set up.” 

To aggravate this deplorable breach in journalism, David Cay Johnson tells Rachel that he has no way to authentic the documents since they “came over the transom.” In journalism, that ends the matter. Woodward and Bernstein did not print what Deep Throat said without confirmation. 

One needs to emphasize the enormity of Maddow’s malfeasance. Even if it should later turn out that these two pages are genuine, that is not the real point which is: Maddow did not abide by the tiniest bit of journalistic ethics before standing before the entire world proclaiming these two pages to be genuine copies of Trump’s 2005 federal income taxes. In light of the favorable light in which the 2005 tax returns cast Trump, they are more likely Alt-Tax Return leaked by Donald Trump.   

This sad episode shows how little regard people have for truth. We live in a world of Alt-Facts where honesty plays no significant role. 

The use of Alt-Facts is ingrained in American life. The Trump-Bannon regime is forcing us to confront reality by its incessant and unrepentant use of falsehoods.

 

(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)

PERSPECTIVE-Deportations of illegal immigrants has been in the news quite a bit since Donald Trump took office. Possession of stolen Social Security numbers by those detained or deported have played a role in some of the cases. A recent, well-publicized, deportation involved Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos. She was arrested in Arizona and returned to Mexico for a 2009 felony conviction stemming from a stolen SSA number she used. Her case was reviewed by ICE seven times after the conviction. A removal order was issued in 2013. 

One source reported the actual owner of the number was a young man in Tucson. While I cannot confirm that, even if Garcia de Rayos had created one from randomly selected digits there would have been at least a 50% chance of it belonging to a citizen, living or deceased. As of 2014, approximately 450 million numbers had been issued out of one billion possible numeric combinations. 

The remaining 50% will be issued over the next several decades. The current rate is 5.5 million per year (there are blocks of numbers which are unavailable.) Eventually, all illicitly used random numbers will, in effect, be stolen. 

That begs the question: if you are aware that an action you have taken has a 50% chance of amounting to theft, are you guilty of a felony? There is no easy answer, but it at least can be considered some form of fraud or misrepresentation. It would be enough for me to lose my CPA license (or worse) if I filed a tax return for a client who I knew was using a W2 with an unauthorized SSA number. 

SSA numbers are stolen for two purposes: financial gain, as in taking out a fraudulent loan in the name of the person to whom it is legally assigned, or for purposes of obtaining employment. The former can create significant harm to a person’s credit and reputation; the latter can create other problems, such as impeding a background check or delaying the payment of a federal entitlement. The most vulnerable victims in either case are children. Until they are old enough to enter the job market or apply for certain federal benefits, they will not be aware of the theft. 

Thefts for financial gains will always be a problem. Nothing short of persistent, proactive measures by the government and other institutions who possess SSA numbers will make a dent in this form of criminal activity. Even then, sophisticated hacking will occasionally breach any firewall. It is ultimately up to individuals to prevent or limit damage by practicing relentless vigilance. Take any seemingly legitimate communication you receive from a financial institution with a grain of salt. Carefully scrutinize all requests for information appearing to originate from a government body. 

Preventing the use of SSA numbers for employment purposes is difficult to stop, too, maybe even more so because theft can be accomplished using low tech resources. Illegal immigrants normally use their own names for the stolen numbers. Creating authentic-looking documents is fairly easy. However, they will not accrue benefits if the number is fictitious or has already been assigned. The Social Security Administration screens employer W2 filings for mismatches or no evidence of issuance. Employee contributions will be held in the Earnings Suspense File.  

In 2010, it was estimated that these suspense dollars provided around $12 billion to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds.  While that is a windfall, it is a pittance compared to the funding needs of the two programs. The contributions are likely more than offset by the uncompensated services provided