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‘Carter, We've Run Aground’…

LOS ANGELES-"Your honor, you're disrupting the meeting." And this is the highest form of compliment, though we are thinking of adding a position, a paying job for providing important insights about the malfeasants we're both chasing.  

And it is truly a mystery why so many competent, decent people are so poorly organized and literally run the ship aground, while dancing on the poop deck.  

Remember when the Italian cruise ship tipped over? "Sir, you are one of the guys being dropped in by helicopter. The public is buzzing around in zodiaks assessing the damage."   

Mayor Garcetti is still in the piano bar, covering drinks for the fancy people at the taxpayers' expense.  

To bend the analogy until it breaks, each council district has rooms on the bottom of the cruise ship, with Mr. Harris Dawson having the largest section of bottom dwellers or low earners. Deleon and Bonin who have Skid Row and Venice, also have the highest number of rooms up top. . .S.O.S. 

Chumash, and the public right of way. . .  

Many buildings contain several apartments so there are more cars than driveway spaces, but in most cases, streets are publicly owned, meaning anyone is allowed to park in those spots and even if it happens to be in front of your house, it doesn't make it your spot.  

After pigging out with the mayor's treasured partners from Turf Terminators and naming things in the West Valley after himself and his family, Mitchell Englander moved to the fashionable Westside to serve his pre-sentence. 

Apparently, the naming of a park after Englander's mother in the West Valley is being rethought in the tumult over Staffer B's set piece to “unfund” an HHH project to make room more a lucrative affordable housing project that he favors nearby.  

Obviously, now that Englander's had a run-in with the FBI, Santa Monica is a good spot for him, if he can find a place to park. 

Santa Monica is a progressive city by the shore, with preferential parking regulations in place to manage the use of on-street parking. 

Preferential parking permits are issued for residential purposes only, to assist residents and their guests in finding parking near their homes. It's a good deal for the residents, a bad deal for everyone else, as they write a lot of tickets. 

Englander probably does not live in a rent-controlled apartment blocks from the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica with his girlfriend and dogs, but Whitey Bulger did.  

For those who forgot, the notorious gangster had been recruited as an FBI informant, but flipped the model, and it turned out that corrupt FBI agents were actually the ones informing him. Sigh. 

In addition to giving agents secrets, Bulger "gave them gifts and cash as well. . .airline tickets and cases of expensive wine.”   

Whitey did not like being called an informant; he told the bureau, "I will be your strategist.”    

Less than 12 hours after his transfer to a federal prison in West Virginia, James “Whitey” Bulger was found beaten to death in his cell. 

Carmaggedon 

The Chumash were a lovely crowd, but all tribes have room for improvement. And when choosing our leaders, we gravitate toward the legacy of greatness. And so it was, in the third supervisorial district, you have a long tradition of outstanding leadership including the genius behind one of the greatest memes in county history, Carmaggedon.   

What a brilliant label for a widening of the 405 that had zero positive impact and set various records in the category of taxpayer rip-offs.  

Zev Yaroslavsky sits in for Jessica Levinson now on KCAL when she’s tied up sprinkling quotes about everything from earthquake readiness to partisan bickering into the LA Times. She cut her eye teeth under the watchful but lazy eye of Bob Stern, a jack of all ethics who basically wrote the political reform act, but with no enforcement mechanisms.  

I met all of these movers and shakers when Jim Newton noticed a chirpy young articulate delivering what he called a “withering broadside” to his now bunk-desk mate over at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Zev Yaroslavsky.   

During the period when Zev was getting ready to leave office to make room for Sheila Kuehl who was being installed by Eric Bauman (the now defrocked creepo-gonif who ran the county and then state democratic party for years), I enjoyed sparring with Zev Yaroslavsky.  

He was near the end of his time in elected office and was and is a very smart man who has a way with words; he was never afraid to whip out a John Wooden quote or turn a phrase.  

One time, a coherent public comment stung, and he spun around in his chair, and very clearly drew a line in the sand, "We don't need a Vin Scully down here!" 

Everyone seemed to know the truth. . .that's exactly what we needed.    

Private Joel Bellman, a young public affairs officer / periscope operator in Zev's navy at the time immediately recognized an obstacle. If the unusual spark between a TV comedy writer from Studio City and the mighty Zev, and the statelier and more compromised corrupticos. . . We might just have a hit! 

The ship tipped over the following week when Yaroslavsky made a motion to limit comment from the "Inconvenient Public"     [The original Times Editorial landed on Feb 6, 2012.]  

Zev nailed it, “We're just trying to manage decorum, and for that I'm being accused of channeling my czarist ancestors.” 

Pravda 

The district newsletter, created out of whole cloth fabric, popsicle sticks, and Elmer’s glue up in the Supervisor or Councilmember's office, allowed for laser-like accuracy right into any old NIMBY’s inbox. It was an invaluable tool. Just ask Eric Hacopian!  

Yaroslavsky's district eblast newsletter was ingenious. The very good theory was, "Why waste time fending off nosey journalists when we can hire our own and offer them much better wages and conditions than the toxic LA times?"  

Christina Villacorte, while working as a Daily News reporter, as part of her SPJLA duties putting together a 3rd District Supervisorial debate, omitted various candidates. So it was shocking to read a story about the debate in the Daily News, without any reference to the furious candidates who were left out.  

Zev hired Villacorte and eventually Mark Ridley-Thomas pressed her into service flipping press burgers for his Supervisorial office, until he and Karly Katona slid down Grand Park to City Hall--not sure if Villacorte came along. 

LA Times coverage of the county board comes in two main flavors, "wormy fawning" or "biased attack."   

Purchasing a good damn reporter to explain the big projects funded by the county was a very good idea. Now, they all do it.   

CD12, way out west in the Valley and Northridge, including Porter Ranch, where Staffer B is presiding over the un-naming of a park for the man whose name is now forever branded with the letters FBI, ran a virtual publishing empire.  

No matter how much a recipient of his eblast might loathe Englander, the pernicious, pedant, tyrant, crook whose name was atop the masthead, it was simply good journalism.  

Compliant but informative. Like the Los Angeles. . .   

One year Paul Krekorian of CD2 sent a note to his eblast that he was respectfully closing his CD2 newsletter for the three months of his campaign out of an abundance of caution . . . in fairness. . .to be compliant.  

He was an Ethics commissioner a million years ago. That turned out to be a one and done.  

And he got right back to refusing to debate while matching a gazillon donations from Harvard Westlake Trustees and various other Friends of Krekorian, including a slate full of Neighborhood Council leaders barred from endorsing a candidate officially, but check the fine print. They get away with it over and over. . .and The Ethics Commission has never had a budget request denied.  

Rarely are Angelenos exposed to such authentic district detail in the larger papers like the LA Times, though the Times has exceeded expectations on hiking tips and the Ins- and Outs- of anything.   

One more: the NYT updates about running are disproportionately excessive. Suggestion: consider placing running advertisements in a separate magazine, as they clog up the sports section.   

I have seen no coverage from either paper, that "Swimming" has resumed at the YMCA. . .as of May 10!    

Wicked Smaht over at the Third District! 

Zev is an obviously intelligent man. Sheila Kuehl went to Harvard law school!   

The theory is, if an average intelligence person speaks clearly to an intelligent, compassionate woman she will listen carefully, maybe form a thought or question and then engage.   

Sheila Kuehl: "As you well know, the first amendment requires that you be able to speak, not that we are forced to listen." 

Clever. Nobody believes Sheila does not understand the corrupt nature of her comment, but she's right: how can you force someone to listen? 

Being smart can really help a politician be naughty with impunity. 

Zev, Sheila's predecessor similarly had the capacity to understand how devious various items were and how impactful.  

One brilliant proposal from Don and Matt Knabe et al. to steal the eight county golf contracts for American Golf Corporation by giving long term extensions for the concessionaire agreements without competitive bidding, eventually landed in the New York Times.  

Knabe was Chairman of the board when Bill Fujioka, the CEO at the time proposed the mechanism on June 23, 2009... County CEO Bill Fujioka on working out the delivery of golf courses without competitive bidding.  

"For a whole host of reasons, we need to be very diligent on this, okay," he said. 

You can see Sup. Yaroslavsky, one of the smarter Supervisors, reading the plan. Fascinating transcript.   

Zev knew that due diligence on behalf of the taxpayers. . .and judgment by the Supervisors would determine if the board would award a rich extension of the lucrative contracts for Knabe's treasured partners at American Golf or if the county would "take a shot at a bid." 

In late December 2009, Matt Knabe became a named partner in the newly renamed firm of Englander, Knabe and Allen (EK&A). On July 27, 2010, the board approved parameters to allow for extension of concession contracts in exchange for increased fees and/or capital improvements to county facilities without competitive bidding.   

Contract amendments were recommended on December 13, 2011 for Diamond Bar, Knollwood, La Mirada, Los Verdes and Mountain Meadows and approved January 10, 2012.    

Matt became THE lobbyist for American Golf Corporation. The AGC firm had been pouring $22,500 a quarter into Matt's lobbying pocket since 2008 and in 2012, after the above-described extension, they started pouring an additional $22,500 into Knabe's pocket, concurrently to lobby the City. That's $45,000 per quarter.  

One way to shock your own conscience is to imagine Matt popping over in a Porsche to each of the eight municipal golf courses managed by his Wall Street clients and pulling $5,625 from each register for a quarterly total of $45,000. Every quarter. 

When I stopped looking, he'd snagged $1,170,000 in lobbyist fees from AGC through Q2 2016.  

Kudos to the New York Times for running the story, and Karen Foshay for running Family Ties, but the Los Angeles Times. . . 

Deep truthfulness. . .today, a decade later, "comments are disabled." 

Westside political circuit: Trick or Treat? 

Another Westside Liberal smarty pants who has emerged as the “real” progressive voice is Mike Bonin of the 11th district.  

He caught my attention with his "sharpened pencil approach" to "greeking up" his unofficial campaign newsletter with clever "similar but different" reminders of his official city newsletter.   

As a chip off the old Bill Rosendahl, Bonin inherited the DNA of a Westside politician capable of getting things done and raising money.  

He knows how to package up and sell plus/minus items to the people who are not as smart as he is, which is a lot of people.   

Bonin went to Harvard.    

You can almost hear the little ladies in the Palisades chirping, "He's so smart. . ." until you meet Sue Pascoe, who went to University of South Dakota. She's pretty smart, too.   

In her newsletter circlingthenews.com she wrote about a recent Bonin fundraiser which reminded me of the fundraising circuit that runs along the Westside.   

Paul Krekorian and other councilmembers from less affluent districts, pass through the upmarket Westside neighborhoods like trick or treaters on Halloween.   

The levels to participate include: $800 Host; $500 Co-Host; $250 Champion; $114 Sustainer; $50 Supporter and $20.22 Friend.    

But there is a lovely legal loophole. Residents, nonprofits, developers, and lobbyists can contribute unlimited amounts to the Mayor’s fund or Councilmember’s nonprofit fund. (Hold your nose here.) 

Bonin’s nonprofit is Los Angeles Forward and the donations to that nonprofit can be found on the LA City Ethics website (ethics.lacity.org).    

Unless they are multi-millionaires, most newcomers running for political office against a well-funded incumbent are severely handicapped because of the incumbent’s fundraising capacity and extensive mailing lists.  

Bonin is constantly talking up the virtues of public financing, while accepting big money and using the horrible matching fund program that benefits exclusively the incumbents and other fundraisers it seeks to curb the influence of. Preven Finance Chart 01 25 19  Funny video.  

Yet, still the public sees Bonin as a real champion for the little guy or the subject of a recall!  

Observe the brilliant Boninization (origin: colloquial meaning: cleansing of ugly truths) wherein he makes you feel like you are getting less, when you are really getting more, or he'll make you feel you're getting more when in fact you are getting less.    

Similar to George Orwell's "1984" where the citizens are given the "good news that each citizen's weekly chocolate ration would be increased from 30 grams to 20 grams!"    

Bonin's flyer said, “LA Residents: As part of an effort to reduce the influence of special interests, the Los Angeles Public Matching Funds Program will match your first $114 in contributions at a rate of 6 to 1.”   

Bonin forgot to mention that the 6 to 1 matching rate is a huge increase from 2 to 1. This resulted in a story by SPJLA President, David Zahniser for the Los  Angeles Times, drawing no conclusion, but reporting a precipitous decline in non-incumbents making the ballot.  

Bonin is a master at repeatedly stating an untruth, the government made an untrue statement true – “to the detriment of the citizenry."   

He issued a comprehensive refusal alongside Paul Koretz and David Ryu to even discuss the matching fund amendments with our neighborhood council government affairs committee.   

So we called him Mr. Clean. Koretz finked out and will forever have ringing in his ears that "It is easy to raise $25,000" when you are friends with Zev Yaroslavsky and live in a district with high earners.  

Ryu, who also made a faux effort to clean up City Hall while "mishandling" for Herb Wesson the impossibly corrupt Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, was eventually fired for cause by the people of CD4.  

I graduated from the University of Michigan in 1985.  Go Blue!    

Safe Parking (at Will Rogers) 

As discussed, parking and being in the public right of way can quickly become a hot button issue.  

Where Whitey Bulger was the FBI's "strategist," Mike Bonin has emerged as the pointy tip of the Westside progressives' spear. 

As his tenure as head of the Department of Transportation comes full circle, it's nice to reflect on his accomplishments.   

He gets credit for mounting on vehicles multiple SharpX automated license plate recognition cameras -- each capable of reading and capturing “thousands of license plates per shift” -- day or night -- then checking the plates against a database in real time, with vehicle occupancy counts also being an option as well as ‘silent’ notifications of law enforcement when warrants are detected." 

At the time he was putting bodies in the budget hearings as needed and brought out a huge crowd of "She says" advocates. It's very moving. Democracy with a fixed call time. Organized and ready to influence when asked, but then at night. . .  

Bonin slips into his DOT laboratory with Seleta Reynolds and Mayor Garcetti and releases drones out to write tickets.  

Studies through slicing and dicing how his treasured partners, the bicyclists, can get a very good deal. Hard to argue that Biker lives matter but what about pedestrians? Ah the memories.  

Nobody has done more to restricted parking in Los Angeles than Mike Bonin. Though a dishonorable mention goes to Mitchell O'Farrell of CD13 for his order to pull out all the pom poms for his virtual commercial for Preferential Parking Districts.  

O'Farrell: Preferential Parking districts are an option to explore. And you can work directly with your council office. They can do an evaluation and move forward. You can organize in your building and the direct vicinity with your neighbors especially if there are IMPACTS. . .wherein street availability is taken up by folks who don't live on the street. . .so a preferential parking district is something worth exploring. Believe me we are doing them all the time in the thirteenth district and you know it’s a mixed bag but by and large they serve the needs of the residents, as a priority. So that is something worth exploring, if you haven't done so already.  

The Berlin Airlift and the Bonin Carlift! 

Bonin starts every meeting with Seleta Reynolds, the General Manager of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), by presenting a verbal report relative to the Department's on-going activities. 

And he goes out of his way to offer recognition for Department employees for outstanding service ticketing the public.   

The use of parking permit districts by municipalities have been upheld through the Supreme Court since 1977: Arlington County Board v. Richards.    

Ripe for a challenge or settled law is always a tough call. One thing was very clear, Mike Bonin was a believer.  

Despite no coherent strategy -- because if you push every car out of one neighborhood, it will obviously land in an adjacent one -- Bonin will be remembered as Field Marshal committed to bringing the relief.  

Like a modern-day General Lucius Dubignon Clay, The Great Uncompromiser -- a decedent of Henry Clay, the U.S. senator from Kentucky -- Bonin was beyond dedicated.  

Clay orchestrated the Berlin Airlift (1948–1949) when the USSR blockaded West Berlin. Aircrews from the American, British, French, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and South African air forces flew over 200,000 sorties in one year, providing necessities such as fuel and an astonishingly high carbohydrate-loaded menu of relief food:  

646 tons of flour and wheat, 3 tons of fresh yeast for baking, 180 tons of dehydrated potatoes,125 tons of cereal, with limited protein representing 109 tons of meat and fish, 64 tons of fat,10 tons of cheese.  

A mere 11 tons of coffee, but airlifts can be really exhausting. It was a miraculous and filling accomplishment.  

Bonin was bringing a different kind of relief.  

He was bringing the diligent wiring up of every neighborhood in the city to prevent  even the possibility of outsiders, no matter how need, from parking on the public roadway.   

At City Council, Mike Bonin was advocating #DoNoHarm. But up in Transportation and Public Safety, they were banging out 50 to 55 smart boots a day and on one day applied 81 smart boots.   

With the vigor of Dr. Fauci promoting vaccination, Mike Bonin pushed through 247 roadway closures often consisting of hundreds of spaces during 2017, 2018, and six months of 2019. . .that's 247 in 30 months = 8 per month or 2 per week.   

As an example, the Preferential Parking District (PPD) No. 276 in the Studio City Area in Council District Two is comprised of about 30 blocks. A block is defined as a street segment between two intersecting streets. Between 300 and 600 spaces.   

So if we take an average of 500 spaces x 247 restrictions* = 123,500 spaces!  

The Bonin Carlift was a breathtaking nose to the grindstone campaign to rescue NIMBY residents from Angelenos desperate to park.  

And why? "The increase goes from $78 to $250 for the first violation, $500 for a second violation within 12 months, and $1,000 for the third violation within 12 months, and increased late penalties." 

Bonin was committed to bringing parking restrictions citywide, of every conceivable variety. . .along with Avak he would agendize dozens and dozens and dozens. . .relative to prohibiting the parking of vehicle, prohibit the stopping, standing, or parking vehicles that are in excess of 22 feet in length or over 7 feet in height, parking of vehicles advertising the private sale of those vehicles.  

The people had never seen anything like it because they were mostly squirrelled away in committee.   

During all of his relief work, Bonin still found time to falsely tag a civil rights advocate as a racist. . . offering ear plugs for public comments.  

Check embarrassing video of Lady Gaga's "A Million Reasons" playing over the life in pictures that he tagged a racist, while his BFF from the StreetsBlogLA was reduced to tears.   

The Mayor said and you can be sure that Mike Bonin concurs, "I didn’t declare wars that brought people back with PTSD; I haven’t been putting people into prisons for years; I didn’t declare the drug war; I haven’t been in charge of the foster care system.”   

No, but you both made it harder for the folks who have it hardest.  

Not everyone agrees, if one person is hurting. . .we are all hurting. Standing in solidarity, when one person is grieving, we're all grieving.   

Bonin is "closing and fencing" but he's still way better than Buscaino! 

Studio City Season 

An associate over to the house for a meeting said, "I am pretty sure I saw a man with a rifle walking up there." She pointed to the hill behind my home. 

I onboarded the information and told her I'd check in with the neighbor who later left me a message saying it was him and he had been using a pellet gun.   

It suddenly occurred to me that two separate times I had discovered a dead squirrel with a small pool of blood near its head. Bingo. Michael has been shooting squirrels. Not really OK with that but no enforcement needed, the casualties have stopped. 

Reminded me of the legendary Rick T. Bennewitz, a crusty old DGA TV director who led "Santa Barbara" out of the studio when the NBC soap opera would bust a move and visit France or rugged Northern California or Orlando Disney World or New York City. 

He was a real conservative tough guy with a heart of gold. As a wise guy liberal with a sharp sense of humor, we enjoyed sparring at hotels and on location surveys and in fancy restaurants around the globe.  

We would not have chosen one another outside of work, but the work drew us closer together. This was back when it was OK to be friendly with people on the different side of things.  

Rick's problem was that his gorgeous house in the hills with a magnificent patch of tomatoes that he and Tina, his wife who worked at KCET, were growing, was under siege by a tenacious squirrel or set of squirrels that like me enjoyed abundant fresh off the vine tomatoes. 

They'd installed and fussed over a very impressive cage made of orange plastic. Nothing worked. 

I sensed a vulnerability and posited. . . "Ah, is the tough guy unwilling or unable to do what needs to be done here, as is customary out on the trail in the wild, wild, west?"    

Rick was cut from the same cloth as Clint Eastwood, so I squinted real tight and did my best Clint impersonation: "Ah, the only way to. . .end this saga is to finish off the squirrel." 

He was a lovely man, in a mean Arizona guy suit. . .and he couldn't bring himself to kill the squirrel. 

So, Rick built a trap out of a recycling bin, a stick, and some string, and he waited. And while Tina was back in West "by God" Virginia, he caught that damn squirrel.   

I got the call, and we drove it, me filming. . .up to Lake Hollywood, where he set it free.  

It was back the next day with reinforcements.

 

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Illustration by Getty Imges/Observer Design. Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.