Thu, Jun

Memo to Dems: Stop the Fear and Whining…Organize

EASTSIDER-I guess I have a very different view of our recent Presidential election. Truth is, Donald Trump won, Hillary Clinton lost. Period. Donald Trump will be President of the United States come January, and no amount of protests or whining is going to change that outcome. 

For me, the more useful analysis has to do with what in the heck we do with our Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Party here in California. After all, the Republican National Committee and the Republicans have already given us their version of change -- President Trump. 

My point of view is framed by having been a lifetime Democrat, and my dad was one of a handful of dentists in Orange County who was a Democrat. But the Democratic Party I belonged to and fought for back in the day is not the Democratic Party of 2016. 

Nobody wants to admit that both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were responses to two national private clubs, the DNC and the RNC, that are absolutely rigged against ordinary Americans. Trump won, and we will have to see how he copes with the reality that the nation also re-elected most of the same old same old Senators and Congress Critters that he argued against. And they are mostly still charter members of the one dollar one vote brand of politics in America. 

As for the Democrats, I see no real movement to get back in touch with that 90 percent of the electorate that does not represent the 1/2 of 1% of the rich and powerful. Face it, the DNC is a slush fund that sets its own rules to keep its current members in power, and those folk’s skill set is doing whatever it takes to grab as much corporate and billionaire money as they can. I think we all know the price for that trade. 

As long as television networks like MSNBC are a subdivision of the DNC, paying ridiculous sums of money to DNC agents like Donna Brazile and other talking heads, you and I are in a world of hurt if we actually believe they represent us beyond the sound bites heard during the national elections, even as they look for gigs in a new administration. 

Hillary Clinton Did Not Happen In a Vacuum  

I remember when Bill Clinton got elected. He talked so good, and I gave him my hard earned money and thought how grand life would be. Sure. Then we got GATT & NAFTA & Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. 

Bill Clinton was a “better” Republican than most in the Republican Party. I was crushed. And then we got Bush’d. Holy Moly, war without end, amen, and militarization of our police departments. Maybe Clinton wasn’t so bad after all. Except for the fact that most of my friends didn’t have jobs, and none of us had laws protecting us from the financial elites. 

Then came my final disappointment: Barack Obama. Again, he talked so good that I gave him a bunch of money and bought into the “audacity of hope.” Boy did we hope and pray it was true. Maybe we could all get along and remove ourselves from the endless wars that were economically destroying our way of life. More on his legacy in a bit, but first, why don’t we try and put all of these relatively recent happenings and disappointments in historical context? A context I should have remembered. 

A Fine History of Political Corruption 

Most folks don’t realize it, but we in the United States have a fine history of political corruption. For those mildly interested in American history, Mark Wahlgren Summers wrote a couple of great books, The Plundering Generation about the Civil War Period, and the even more revealing, The Era of Good Stealings about the post Civil War Reconstruction period. 

In his Preface to The Era of Good Stealings, Summers wrote, “From the bribery of lawmakers to ballot-box stuffing to administrative officers on the take, corruption had less important consequences than the corruption issue.” 

That issue has never really gone away. We had muckrakers like Lincoln Steffens (The Shame of the Cities) at the Turn of the Century into the progressive era, proving again that political corruption has always gone hand in hand with financial corruption.

When the Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890) was just laying around, President Teddy Roosevelt dusted it off and made it his vehicle for “trust busting” the Wall Street financial class. I find it fascinating that his first target was J. Pierpont Morgan in the early 1900s. Under the heading, “you can’t make this stuff up,” I cannot resist noting that old J.P.’s current incarnation, J.P. Morgan Chase, was at the heart of our 2007/08 financial services industry meltdown.

To jet ahead to now, we had the Great Depression and the establishment of the Glass-Steagall Act, designed to reign in the financial services industry. And then we had President Bill Clinton who repealed it. Good move. 

Now we have been given, in order, the almost great depression of 2007/08, Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Ain’t progress grand? All the same political and financial corruption issues that Summers and Steffens wrote about over a hundred years ago. 

Back to the Obama Presidency 

Presidential candidate Obama did something that hadn’t happened for quite a while: he articulated a vision of hope and working together for a better America, and did it well. A lot of us bought into this vision because we wanted to believe that it was possible, even in the face of the meltdown of our financial services industry and permanent war around the globe. 

I won’t go into the details of his presidency, other than to say “so sad too bad,” and to point out a few things that we now know were actually going on within the campaign even as we all stood in line to attend Obama rallies. 

As a quick popular read, you might check out a book by Ron Suskind, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President. 

The book is not without its critics or faults, but most of the criticisms are inside baseball kind of stuff. Frankly I could care less about Larry Summers or Timothy Geithner or Ben Bernanke. What they and their cronies did and who they took money from is a matter of public record. 

My interest in the book is simple: It shows that while Barrack Obama was running for the White House on a platform of populism and togetherness, he was, in fact, in bed with and subsidized by the very financial services industry he was promising to fix. As for targeting blocks of voters, Suskind’s electoral math at the beginning of the book shows that Obama was targeting the “ten million low to moderately skilled white workers,” under the banner of restoring our infrastructure. Sounds right to me. Of course it didn’t happen, and oh gee, I wonder what current president-elect echoed those refrains? Hint: it wasn’t the Democratic nominee. 

It is a fact that, under the Obama administration, not one of those crooks in the financial services industry has been indicted or gone to jail. Instead, they got private meetings with the Attorney General of the United States and cut deals to have their shareholders pay fines without any admission of personal liability. And their lobbyists in Congress got to turn the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 into a 2300 page giant telephone directory of mishmash. 

Ultimately, as a result of endless litigation, stalling, and an army of lobbyists buying both houses of congress, the bill is still getting (re)written. Further, between the legislative budget manipulation, fiddling with the regulatory agencies, and the Administration’s own lame appointments (read industry shills,) Niccolo Machiavelli would have to update The Prince to be current. 

I was especially amused by Morrison & Forerster’s Cheat Sheet from 2010. If you take a look, it will give you a taste of what I’m referring to in Dodd-Frank. 

As an A-List San Francisco behemoth, I just had to give some credit to MoFo as a relatively “local,” front for corporate America. Not to mention they produce a spiffy pdf. 

So What the Heck Do We Do Now? 

Ok, ok, even if what I say is true, what now? The real question after the 2016 Presidential election is what can we do to change this mess? Trump or no, the fact is that the vast majority of both houses of congress represent politicians totally beholden to the DNC, the RNC, and the billionaire class that owns the financial services industry. Groovy. 

Bernie was right on. You and I have about as much influence with these people as the serfs of Imperial Russia.

Here in California, there are also warning signs that the relative stability and economic success of my generation is now gone forever, for both us and our children. Factor out the uber-rich from Silicon Valley and the Entertainment Industry moguls, mix in the incestuous California Democratic Party, and I think you will find a state that’s not that different from the rest of the nation underneath; just more diverse. And our budget is largely dependent on the “temporary tax” on those rich folks that was just extended by the voters on November 8th. 

When I talk to my neighbors and people who actually live in Northeast LA, it’s about jobs and economic survival. Something like nine million jobs disappeared between 2007 and 2010, and by and large, they haven’t come back. A lot of those jobs were good paying jobs that let people have a home and send their children to school and plan for retirement. 

Don’t They Get that It’s All about Jobs? 

The jobs that have been generated lately have been either at the bottom end of the wage scale or the high-end tech and professional occupations. CityLab’s Laura Bliss has a good article on this reality here 

Notwithstanding all the statistical modifications and revisions, simply disappearing the long-term jobless from the rolls of our state and federal employment statistics doesn’t do a heck of a lot towards getting them work. Just because the Democratic elites joined with the Republican elites in ignoring any pretense of providing full-time decent jobs with benefits, doesn’t say much for either one of them. William Black has a telling article about the phenomenon.  

Further, our younger workers, categorized as “Millennial’s,” are very nervous about their own employment prospects and for cause. The “shared economy,” “gig” employment, student debt and low wages do not make for anything other than anxiety and pessimism about the future. See the recent study results on the Millennial Economy. 

Millennials are leaving LA in droves, and our young people can’t get jobs at all. 

Back to the Roots - Re-Forming the Democrats 

It used to be that the Democratic Party represented working people, their hopes and aspirations. Those days went bye bye with Bill Clinton and have never returned. Bernie Sanders has it 100% right about politicians needing to represent the 99% of people instead of toadying up to the 1%. 

This not about “left” or “right.” Those are simply stupid and divisive labels used by professional political elites to brand their version of two party HORSE PUCKEY. My name is Tony, not “white college educated.” My wife is Paula, not “multi-racial API with PhD.” My friend Edwin is named Ed, not “African-American professional,” and my pal Raul is named Raul, not “high-school educated Latino.” 

I think that we all have an absolute moral imperative to either hang up or lie through our teeth to any political pollster. Let them rot, instead of making money in trying to manipulate us. 

We need to get rid of fear and get the Democrats moving on -- worrying about how to create and maintain decent jobs for Angelenos, jobs where they can get and stay out of poverty. As the Brookings Institute noted, “poverty crosses party lines.”  Duh. 

On the Local Level 

We do not need our essentially all Democrat LA City Council and Mayor to continue to run around and spend money we don’t have on new tax initiatives, even as they sell their souls to big developers. They will not be around when the bill comes due and you and I need a job or help. We need to elect Democrats who will generate decent jobs that are more than a gig or a project. 

We need to elect Democrats who will actually represent the men and women of their political boundaries, not just cater to and manipulate a fraction of the less than 10% of people who even bother to vote in municipal elections. And stop blaming us that only 10% of the City votes. Look instead at our choices of candidates and their performances. 

I know you will not be surprised that I am a great fan of Bernie Sanders and OurRevolution.  

Bernie is joined by other people across the country, like Tim Canova in Florida, who recently lost to Debbie “PayDay Loan” Wasserman Schultz. He also has set up a grass roots movement called Progress For Now. Other real Democrats throughout the country are doing the same. 

It’s time for real people to get together, organize, and elect people who will take care of the 99% for a change. Otherwise, these idiots in both parties are going to take us down in another crash they can’t fix. 

Let’s go for it. As The Donald said, “What have we got to lose?”


(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.

Listen up, ‘Eliterati’ -- Venice Residents Hire Law Firm on Retainer!

IMAGINE VENICE-Well, that hasn’t happened yet -- but it won’t be long before Venice residents really do hire a fully engaged law firm just to represent all their neighborhood concerns and interests. 

Sick and tired of endless meeting hours, organizing and talking, talking, talking with city officials in one city department or another and the California Coastal Commission, residents are organizing. When all that talk falls on the deaf ears of the “deciders”’ and legitimate questions and problems blown off, the noisy annoying resident rabble will rise up -- and they are doing that now. 

Serious misdeeds are ignored and rules regularly broken. Our “deciders” quickly and efficiently serve constituents with “juice.” In case you don’t know what “juice” is… it’s those big landowners, developers, “Silicon Beach” powerful techies and “hot” restaurateurs who have lots of power, real influence, spend plenty of money paying for consultants and who put lots of dollars in politicians’ coffers. Voila! Parking requirements get changed secretly, bar operators get permits to take over public parking spaces for their private moneymaking use and building and safety rules get massaged with private “adjustments.” Public property deed restrictions are ignored and bogus building permits issued. Might makes right in Venice now. There are so many pissed off people around here and so many real problems, they don’t know which war to join. 

Residents have engaged the services of law firms to force enforcement of the rules. Groups not yet in full combat are consulting with lawyers now. Residents want development decisions based on the rules and that’s not happening now in Venice. Lobbyists, consultants of one stripe or another are running the show. Residents don’t have those kinds of warriors on their side. Banding together and hiring lawyers to even up the playing field is mandatory in Venice now. 

Don’t think for a minute that residents want to spend their own dollars, putting in endless frustrating hours of personal time exhausting themselves because they love a good fight. Every one of the “hot” issues here in Venice is all about residents’ unmet expectation that the rules on the books are for everyone and the rule of law is important to the “deciders.” 

There are a half dozen neighborhood associations already formed to level the playing field. It is war.

Lax enforcement allowed a massive amount of our housing stock to be taken over by the Airbnb’s of the new economy, restauranteurs have pages of unenforced citations on the books. Zoning Administrator conditions are ignored. Citations mean nothing. Secret deals at Building and Safety and Planning are a daily occurrence. Right now there is a taking of a Deed restricted public recreation property for a homeless use. Residents’ complaints and suggested alternatives are ignored. It’s not hard to understand why this neighborhood group hired a lawyer to fight the city and protect their neighborhood from predictable future problems. Residents now believe that only a lawyer will get their voices heard. 

Residents “manning the barricades” are not a bunch of crazies. They are from every neighborhood. Each of the recently formed Neighborhood Associations has its own crisis to manage. They want to assure their efforts yield real results -- there is a coalescing of neighborhood groups which never occurred before. Maybe now, the “little people” will finally get some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. 

Residents just want the rules enforced. They want an end to the rules-avoiding secret deals made for the powerful. They are not asking for anything more. 

The New Venice 

We don’t know how many commercial buildings and how many residential apartments were converted and taken over by Snapchat this past year or two, but it is getting easier to recognize a building housing the Snapsters. 

How? Take a look. (photos left) 

The Snapsters now have their own quasi police force. These private security people are all over our town from Abbot Kinney to Ocean Front Walk – reminding us of San Miguel de Allende where every rich person’s villa had an uzi-wearing guard outside on 24 hour patrol. 

It sure looks like our new fabulous people just don’t want to mix with Venice’s un-washed. So much for all that PR: “We love Venice’s culture and we love being here.” These are our new Venetians. We know they just love to hang out on Abbot Kinney and drink at Venice’s pubs and bars -- it won’t be long before we see their security force everywhere they are -- protecting our new elite. 

This is what we have become. First the takeover of our neighborhoods by Airbnb and the rest of the STR Wall Street gold rush tycoons who have turned our neighborhoods into neighborhoods of strangers -- and now, our new “Silicon Beach” eliterati who even have their oven private security protection to keep us away from them

The sharing economy and the social media crowd have brought a tide of money to Venice, got their huge tax breaks from the City, and are filling the coffers of our politicians -- but what have they taken? 

We are concerned, longtime Venice residents who no longer want to watch what we treasure about our community melt away. Our aim is to lead the conversation clarifying, informing, and uniting us in the preservation of our unique community. 

We hope you will find interesting new thoughts here as we ImagineVenice together.


(Marian Crostic and Elaine Spierer are Co-founders of ImagineVenice.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.)

Election Results: Vandalism and Blocked Freeways are Not the Answer

RANTS AND RAVEZ--While California and the Los Angeles region remain a strong Democratic Blue State, Republican President - Elect Donald Trump won the race for president of the United States of America. What a blow to all the pollsters and newspaper editorial boards and so-called political pundits. 

While most Liberal Americans were banking on Hillary Clinton winning the office of President, they were suddenly surprised and shocked when the election returns began rolling in. One by one the states across America were turning Red for the somewhat wild and controversial billionaire Donald Trump to rescue them and set a new course of action for the citizens of America. 

In the final count, Donald Trump received 290 Electoral Votes (60,072,551 Popular Votes) while Hillary Clinton received 228 Electoral Votes (60,467,601 Popular Votes.) Once this sweeping victory for Donald Trump was confirmed, out came those that can’t accept the results. Their course of action was immediate protests and vandalism across many American cities. Breaking windows and blocking freeways and all other types of protesting actions.   

When the Democrats won other elections in the past, I don’t remember any Republicans protesting or carrying on in a hostile manner. While every American has the legal right to protest any and all issues, they don’t have the right to block freeways and break windows and cause damage to public and private property. Like many other issues in our society, this too will pass and there will be another Presidential election in four years to judge if Donald Trump delivers to those who voted for him or fails on his promises like many other politicians in the past. 

Local Elections and increased Taxes

With a $15.00 an hour minimum wage coming to workers in a few years, some of those dollar will be chewed up by new taxes. 

Measure M

… Was passed by the voters and will add a one-half cent tax to all purchases in Los Angeles County. The one-half cent tax will increase to 1% on July 1, 2039. The money will be used for a variety of promised transportation projects. Some will take up to 40 years to complete.  

It is interesting that the move to public transit has become so popular with our elected officials. Those of us who grew up in Los Angeles can remember the rails that ran across Los Angeles in past years. Down Santa Monica Blvd and so many other areas around Los Angeles like the Red Line and all the others that were so popular. It was the car industry that pushed to scrap the rails around Los Angeles and push for the comfort and relaxing ride in a car. 

The General Motors plant was built in Van Nuys and those Chevys rolled off the assembly line and into our driveways. There was Cruise Night along Van Nuys Blvd. Now the homeless occupy many parts of Van Nuys Blvd. There was the Ford plant in Pico Rivera and more jobs for those in the auto industry. That is all a lost memory for many and the congestion and road rage has replaced it all. 

The safety and convenience of your personal car is going to be replaced in future years with more bus lines and rail lines and bicycles as the city sees more congestion and jammed roadways. You can thank our city leaders for the situation we are in and the voters for the increased taxes we will all be paying in future years. 


While reviewing Measure M, you may be seeing LAPD Officers enforcing the transit routes in Los Angeles City next year. The Metro Board has recommended that Transit Security within the Los Angeles City Area be transferred from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to the LAPD. This change is expected to occur in 2017. It will be interesting to see how the LAPD will handle this added responsibility with the current number of LAPD Officers many working 12 hour shifts.  

Measure CC

… is a $3,300,000,000 bond that will cost you in your property tax. This will add $15.00 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. CC is aimed at spending money at the community colleges.

Measure HHH

is a $1,200,000,000 Bond Measure to address the 30 some thousand homeless population in Los Angeles City. The city is preparing to buy, build, or remodel facilities to provide supportive housing for the homeless. These facilities may be coming to your community since the city wants to spread the units throughout the city. The Bond will be paid from an increase in your property taxes

Additionally, the city will need an additional $800 million for various services associated with Measure HHH. When you see the “FREE” HHH Housing coming to your neighborhood for the homeless, don’t complain since the voters of Los Angeles approved this bond measure that was pushed by Los Angeles City Hall. 

Measure RRR

failed to pass. It was a way to take more of your money associated with the DWP and have a PAID expanded DWP Commission. 

Now some RaveZ for you … 

  • I want to Thank Steve Meyers for recognizing that the number of current LAPD Officers listed in my previous column was incorrect. The LAPD is actually 163 officers short of the authorized 10,000 officers.      
  • Thank you … David Gould for his comment on his favorite bumper sticker. “Don’t like cops?   Next time you have a problem call a Hippie.” Do we still have any Hippies left? 
  • Thank you … Sam who is 80 years young for his compliments on my column. I am glad you enjoy reading them. 
  • RaveZ for Councilman Bob Blumenfield … We have all heard stories about the city throwing away good items. Councilman Bob Blumenfield came up with a great idea to save old computers and put them to use for those in need. When city computers are up for salvage, they are collected and refurbished and distributed to low-income individuals or families. This program provides a connection for those less fortunate to the world of the Internet. A great program that keeps the computers in use and provides assistance to many in Los Angeles.                


As we approach Thanksgiving, I want to wish each of you and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving. We need to recognize our many blessings and the opportunities we all share in America. Remember our military personnel that will not be enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner with their families since they are deployed around the world and our police officers, firefighters, ER doctors and nurses and all the others that will be working on Thanksgiving Day to provide services for all of us. 

Thanksgiving 2016 is truly a time to reflect, remember and give thanks for all of our blessings.

(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. Disclosure: Zine was a candidate for City Controller last city election. He writes RantZ & RaveZ for CityWatch. You can contact him at [email protected]. Mr. Zine’s views are his own and do not reflect the views of CityWatch.)


The Way LA Decides What Gets Built is Outdated, Morally Corrupt and Unfair

GUEST WORDS--Multiple donors with ties to one developer contributed more than $600,000 to the election campaigns of the mayor and members of the Los Angeles City Council. Most of those same politicians later approved that developer’s controversial $72-million Harbor Gateway project in spite of recommendations against it by both the Department of City Planning and the Planning Commission. And the public wasn’t the wiser until the Los Angeles Times reported the details about the Sea Breeze apartment development. 

Sea Breeze, according to The Times, is a “case study in the myriad ways money can flow to City Hall when developers seek changes to local planning rules.” The politicians who received donations and spoke to The Times claimed the campaign money played no role in the project’s approval. Now the LA County district attorney’s office is reviewing the situation. Whatever the DA discovers, the Sea Breeze story is an overdue call to change the way Los Angeles makes planning and development decisions. Whether or not charges are filed, the process is morally corrupt; it’s wrong.

(Read the rest.)


Kids and Post Election Observations

VOICES--While doing my Saturday chores today, I ran into a group of young people I know through my children. They went to local school together, graduated college or now attending graduate schools for advance degrees. Really good kids. They all have part time jobs to stay alive and until the dream jobs that they studied for come through. Local gigs as servers, cooks, nanny's etc.

One of these young women, who attends a Catholic University at $45K per year, that I know her parents are struggling to pay for-- as the second daughter gets ready to attend in the Fall, shared an encounter with the group. While taking a lunch order from two middle aged women, one of them told her to "just do your job and take my order" She then told her friend, "I can't wait for these people to be deported." This was in front of this San Diego native whose parents are both citizens; the farther is a Vietnam combat veteran of two tours; both are graduates from local universities; and both families can trace their heritage to a time when California was once Mexico.

Her multi-race collection of friends were stunned at what she shared as was I. I was shocked not because of the overt racism but their reaction to it. Now, my background has been advocacy of poor communities over 40 years and I do have a point of view on such a topic, but man, I need to share something with you. This is not my generation and there is something very different you all need to know.

They are not having any of it. This young woman shared the comment in the kitchen where you have cooks, servers, line staff, managers, and vendors who reflect the diversity of what San Diego now is. They are Latino, Black, White, MIXED race, and Gay. They are also men and women who have served, now serving, or have a loved one now on duty "over there". Being in San Diego, our military is honored, and not just on Veterans Day or before a football game.

Well, they all came out of the kitchen at some point to "check out" who was sitting at Table 26. This included Susan, a young white woman from back east who met and married the love of her life (his name is Juan), with two young children, and he is "over there" on duty and will be gone over the holidays again. She came out to see who the stupid, ignorant, racist, bitches were that just offended her Latina sister. She is the cook.

Just a heads up to those out there that feel empowered to now "share" your feelings out loud with the rest of us. Now I know you had your "reasons" to elect a racist fool as our president and that does not mean you yourself are racist. However, you might want to re-consider your "privilege" when speaking to those around you, who fight your battles, take care of your children while you luncheon, and cook and serve the plate of food that she just put in front of you. Just saying …

(Mariano Diaz lives in San Diego. This reflection was provided by Paul Vandeventer.)


It's Over !

PS CONNECTION--Well, it’s over.

I mean OVER.


“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.” --André Gide

I posted some analysis of the election at the bottom of this post. But let’s move onto public education.

There was plenty of local coverage of the education propositions that passed in California: 51, 55, 58, 59.

Georgia and Massachusetts both refused to open the floodgates to charter schools. Perhaps after all the national coverage from the Network for Public Education’s Carol Burris, they saw California as a cautionary tale.

Myra Blackmon explains what’s next for Georgia here. 

Edushyster tells us why the statewide ban on the charter cap went down in flames in Massachusetts. 

Since the presidential campaigns included almost no talk about federal education policy, we can look to Indiana to see what is coming our way. We have good reason to believe that Mike Pence will play an active role in the administration. He already booted Chris Christie from Trump’s transition team. He’s a grown-up Republican, rather than a pre-verbal toddler. Pence speaks the language of the Republicans who still hold a sweeping majority in the House and a narrower majority in the Senate.

So let’s call Indiana the Trump/Pence pilot program.

Hoosier buddy in education? Not Mike Pence  
Stop feeling reassured by checks and balances on federal executive powers. Pence is not a Republican in the traditional “local control” sense. This is the governor who signed a law that allowed businesses to discriminate based on their religious beliefs. The NCAA (that’s not a typo) pressured him to moderate it, saying they’d pull their lucrative Final Four tournament from the state otherwise.

He also signed a law preventing Indiana municipalities from passing any laws restricting the use of plastic bags.

Pence stripped the independent State Superintendent of Schools, Glenda Ritz, of most powers and created a second Department of Ed that he could control. She received more votes than he did and their terms were rife with conflict. Read about their war here. 

If advocates for public education across the country fought against charters and testing with Bush/Obama, think now about a fight for local control, more testing than you can possibly imagine, school letter grades, merit pay, and federal incentive programs for vouchers in addition to charters.

Don’t tell yourself, “At least he’ll get rid of CCSS.” Out of political expedience, Pence essentially renamed Common Core for Indiana and required a new battery of standardized tests.

Vouchers are hardly ever discussed in California, but in Indiana, they’re a mainstay of “school choice.” My high school US History teacher, who now works for the Indiana State Department of Education (you can blame him and a couple others for my interest in public policy), sent me this article a couple of weeks ago to explain what vouchers have done in my home state: 

The report by the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy at Indiana University called Indiana’s voucher program one of the most expansive in the country. No annual audits are required and there is no cap on the number of vouchers that are distributed. Sounds like California charter law. Poking a hole in the phony argument that vouchers are an escape ticket for poor children from their failing public school, in Indiana, most vouchers pay for private and parochial school for children who never attended public school in the first place. Rather, vouchers have proven to be an expeditious way to get the state to pay the private school tuition parents were already paying. This has reduced funding to public schools.


Remember how Race to the Top based funding to states on adherence to federal policies? Now think of Pence controlling such a fund.

Two candidates may change the entire race to try to unseat incumbents in the March LAUSD board elections, according to a City Ethics report.   

Running against Board President Steve Zimmer, Allison Holdorff Polhill is an attorney, a Palisades Charter High School board member and a parent. Pacific Palisades is one of the most affluent areas in LAUSD. 

Until November 2, 2016, she was also listed in the staff directory of the California Charter Schools Association as a Parent Organizer, according to my computer’s cache.

Across town, teacher Lisa Alva has rocked the “Cradle of Reform,” as board incumbent Monica Garcia calls her district, by joining the race to unseat the corporate reform queen.

Alva’s entry into the race is sure to rock the reformers' world, who will now have to divide their resources and energies. She became nationally known when she very publicly quit the reform movement. She had given Educators 4 Excellence, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, and Teachers for a New Unionism a try.

Things are about to get very interesting.

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


Silence is Violence … I Walk for Many

TRUMP BACKLASH IN LA-There is street poetry everywhere; angry and articulate, rude and respectful: “Respect existence or Expect resistance,” “Dear Climate: We’re sorry,” “Say it loud, say it clear: Immigrants are welcome here,” “We Shall Over-Comb,” “Pussy Grabs Back,” “Read a fucking book”, “Reject the fascist-elect.” 

I stand for more than a dozen first-degree relatives, people who are too young or too old or too busy or too oversubscribed to turn out today, but whose dismay wants even so to be counted. I stand for several dozen second-degree relatives, for more, and beyond, from whom I read and hear their distress, who by walking for I may caress. I stand for dozens upon hundreds of friends and neighbors, workers and acquaintances who stand with me in spirit yet who cannot turn out in person. 

We cannot all turn out but this is in my job description and so I do.

I raise children, I hold them and instruct them and walk with them hand-in-hand as they gain their own foothold on the path of life. 

This is my bailiwick so I turn out today and walk for those who mayn’t, not now, not today but tomorrow. We will grow larger in numbers, every week I hope, ever larger until the shop-owners, and their managers must shutter their businesses. And follow us all into the streets. 

We will stand for those threatened. Which is all of us. 

This is not my country but these are my people. “We are better than this.” 

Signs on parade:

  • Not my vice-president either
  • Can’t build wall, hands too small
  • Dear Climate: I’m sorry
  • Apologies to science
  • No hate no fear, Donald Trump’s not welcome here
  • No one is illegal
  • Deport racism
  • Respect existence or expect resistance
  • Sluts for open borders
  • You cannot unify with hate
  • Say it loud, say it clear: Immigrants are welcome here
  • Protect Our Children
  • Donald ¡Vete!
  • La lucha segue
  • Minority rights are human rights
  • You can’t make me
  • We will not go quietly
  • Your silence will not protect you
  • Silence is violence
  • Compassion not oppression
  • Power in peace
  • Injustice anywhere is a thread to justice everywhere
  • No to hate
  • Don’t Get cynical, don’t ever think you cannot make a difference
  • No Trump, no Guëy
  • Love is the final word
  • La Union have la fuerza
  • Trump can huff my fart jar
  • Putin puppet
  • For cafe frontera. Existe tambien un puente
  • Banish bigotry with love + logic
  • If you Stand for nothing what will you fall for?
  • Fight 4 Mother Nature
  • No to the AmeriKKKan
  • Spread love not hate
  • A riot is the language of the unheard
  • The duty of youth is to challenge corruption
  • Electoral college system is NOT democracy
  • Trump=KKK=ISIS
  • Inclusion = democracy
  • Pussy Grabs Back
  • Protests are not disturbances of the peace, injustice is the disturbance of peace
  • It’s the climate, stupid
  • Resisting white supremacy isn’t “identity politics”
  • No place 4 hate
  • Hate is not a political discussion
  • Don’t deport my friends
  • United against hate
  • I believe in the golden rule; Trump believes in gold
  • End white male terror
  • Resist to exist
  • We don’t demean women in my locker room
  • Reject the fascist-elect
  • Read a fucking book
  • Love is stronger
  • Let’s get nasty
  • Hate ≠ Great
  • We’ve seen it before
  • Fighting for change
  • Compton for Bernie
  • Bad hombre for Trump
  • Racism bites, people have rights
  • Obstruct Trump and his corporate clowns
  • Jewish voice for peace
  • Mein Trümpf: a thoroughly American fascist pig
  • I’m here for Mother Earth
  • We shouldn’t be this scared
  • Fight 4 our future
  • Mi tierra es tu tierra
  • Let’s talk, not fight
  • We will not be marginalized
  • Stop corporate tyranny
  • Keep your laws off my body
  • Tolerance is patriotic
  • Our resilience will continue to jump walls
  • LA United Against Hate
  • No A-holes in the White House
  • White people clean up your mess
  • We voted for her and all we got is a stupid despot
  • Not Meín Führer
  • I matter too
  • You are my family
  • Stand 4 something more
  • Against white supremacy
  • This is very bad
  • Never my president
  • He’s a racist/rapist
  • Pantsuit nation
  • Nasty women unite
  • America was never great
  • Down with Trump, down with capitalism: Solidarity Forever
  • We are better than this
  • NastierTogether
  • Denounce racist and homophobic policies
  • Deport Trump
  • Deport Ivanka
  • We got stamina
  • Donald, can I grab Ivana’s pussy?
  • Last stand for patriarchy
  • Keep your tiny hands off my cunt-ry
  • We Shall Over-Comb
  • Corrupters don’t end corruption
  • We will find a way
  • They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds
  • Protect reproductive freedom
  • Your vote was a hate crime
  • Her body-her choice; my body-my choice
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Until everyone is free no one is free
  • Nasty women fight back
  • We want equal pay & not to be raped
  • Say it loud, say it clear
  • Babies against Bigots
  • Donald eres un pendejo
  • This bad hombre is a therapist
  • I’m white and I’m sick of white people’s racist bullshit
  • Anger is healthy, hate is toxic
  • Undocumented and unafraid
  • Still we rise
  • Nope
  • Humans we have work to do
  • They go low, we go high
  • Rompe las fronteras
  • I reject Ivanka as first lady
  • Brown faggots against fascism
  • I’m with her: Rosa, Dolores, Susan, Ruth, Michelle, Elizabeth, Hillary, Kamala
  • You can’t comb over fascism
  • No hate in the White House
  • Kleptokrat
  • At least Voldemort never sexually Assaulted anybody
  • Climate change imposes carbon tax
  • It’s not OK to be an asshole
  • Make racists afraid again
  • Trump cancelled firefly
  • Defend the earth
  • Not welcome in USA
  • Let’s fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice. The world is laughing at us
  • Don’t normalize hate
  • But we are his worst nightmare
  • Stand against hate
  • If you’ve been targeted by trump you’re safe with me
  • U-nity; S-upport; A-cceptance
  • Stand against anti-Muslim bigotry
  • Turn Fear into revolution
  • Denounce racist homophobic policies
  • Mom, Dad, I’m here for you
  • Wrong
  • Here to keep you accountable in the next four years

Eight thousand Angelenos walked from MacArthur Park downtown. I am not as young as I was, and those eight miles hurt just as we were warned: This Will Be Painful.  

Shop workers asked: “Will this matter?” I do not know; how can I know? But I know it matters not to walk out. I assure them this is my work for today; I will walk for them, so that as we grow in numbers we will grow strong enough for it to become their work to shutter the shop and see their business shudder to a stop. This is how we can express our discontent: Just Say No. 

There were hundreds of police, a receiving line of men in blue. Only here their uniforms are black. They stand with palms out-stretched as we pass, slapping each one, thanking them. They keep us peaceful, they cheer us on for them. We are angry; we are not hate-filled. “You can’t make me.” 

Our numbers strand motorists traveling the wrong way against this pedestrian’s prerogative. 

There are airplane shuttle-buses, limousines, infant-less car seats with families snuggled in arms, waiting. One driver’s hand-scrawled sign proclaims: “You Are All My Family.” Everywhere fingers counter with peace signed as a “V”. 

What now? 3.8 million signers are asking electoral college delegates to spurn the traditional state-by-state vote in favor of the country’s overall popular count. The imperative turns on fitness: “U-nity; S-upport; A-cceptance.” 

This is not my president. 

Video here. 


(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) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

‘Phantom’ Fire Inspections: Garcetti Grins, Trips Up Denying Dirty Money on KCBS

@THE GUSS REPORT-Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s poker “tell,” an unintended physical tendency that hints at what lies beneath, is a slight nervous grin when speaking dishonestly in close proximity to others. 

It was on display last Thursday when KCBS’s David Goldstein reported on fraudulent fire inspections at the Los Angeles Fire Department, and asked him whether he ordered the removal of LAFD corruption whistleblower Deputy Chief John Vidovich. “I have never had that conversation. Never will. Never have…Categorically false. Never had a conversation,” Garcetti doth protest. For those keeping score, that’s four nevers and a categorically false. 

But the reason Garcetti may have repeatedly said conversation is because, according to a well-placed insider, the dirty work may have been conveyed by Garcetti to LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas via Garcetti’s Chief-of-Staff Ana Guerrero. 

Garcetti went on to say, “I love John Vidovich. I love my chief. And I let him (Terrazas) manage the department.” That’s two professings of love and a punt, sports fans. 

The problem is, if Garcetti allows Terrazas to manage the LAFD, why then did Garcetti – in almost perfect proximity to massive union donations to Garcetti’s re-election campaign – create a post for Vidovich to serve in his office for the remaining few months of his career prior to Vidovich’s upcoming retirement? What would putting Vidovich there accomplish in such a short time…other than to get him out of the union’s way? Does Terrazas create positions for people in the Mayor’s office?

Asked by Goldstein what role money played in his decision to move Vidovich, Garcetti said “zero percent.” 


Garcetti has yet to explain whether the fraud allegations, each instance of which would be a felony given the dollar value of each inspection, have been referred to District Attorney Jackie Lacey, or why, specifically, Vidovich was removed if he was doing such a great job exposing the fraud and inefficiency. 

Returning those funds to the union or, better, donating them to charitable causes like fighting veteran homelessness or my personal favorite, free spay/neuter in the city’s poorest communities, would be a win-win for all except Vidovich, whose reputation was permanently damaged. 

Goldstein’s report was a matter of personal pride for me. CityWatch publisher Ken Draper asked me to look into the story this past summer after the LA Times published what appears to be a now discredited, unbalanced storyline driven by Garcetti’s office. 

My original CityWatch story on the subject, which was the first to challenge Garcetti’s claims, led to one by Hillel Aron at the LA Weekly

And my second article on the subject led to Goldstein’s story.

The Times does not appear to be ready to clearly and directly correct its original story. But that might change sometime next year if the City of Los Angeles writes Vidovich a check with six, perhaps seven, figures on it. But doing so will only compensate Vidovich. It will never make the original public narrative disappear. 

If and when that check is cut, Garcetti will say, as politicians always do, “The city denies all wrongdoing, and makes this payment because settling is cheaper than litigating.” 

And when he does, Garcetti will grin.


(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a contributor to CityWatchLA, KFI AM-640 and Huffington Post. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Mind of Its Own: California Jumps the Shark

POLITICS--America may have trended toward the GOP, but California seems determined to find its own direction. The only question is, simply, how much more progressive the Golden State will become, even in the face of a far more conservative country beyond the Sierras.

This election confirmed, if it was needed, the death spiral of the state’s Republican Party. Thanks, in part, to Donald Trump — and his magnetic anti-appeal among Latinos, women and the educated — the GOP did even worse here in the presidential race than in 2012, when it couldn’t muster 40 percent support, and has lost several legislative seats, allowing the Democrats to re-establish their coveted two-thirds supermajority in the Assembly — and possibly in the Senate as well.

The progressives also won most of the major propositions — most critically, the extension of a high income tax rate on the state’s affluent population through 2030. We may have more freedom to smoke pot, but it won’t be so easy to start a business, buy a house or build a personal nest egg, if you are anything other than a trustifarian or a Silicon Valley mogul, or are related to one.

Go any direction you want, as long as it’s to the left

Since the late 1990s, California has been moving leftward, with a bit of a bump from the Schwarzenegger recall election. By morphing into a liberal Democrat, the Terminator helped terminate the GOP as a serious force. Add to that the damage done by the residue of Pete Wilson’s Proposition 187, which permanently alienated the rising Latino electorate, and the GOP seems destined to further decline.

The only hope for sanity has been an alliance of the Republican rump with moderate Democrats, many of them backed by what’s left of traditional California business. But, increasingly, inside the party, it’s been the furthest Left candidates that win. In the Democrat-only Sanchez vs. Harris race for the U.S. Senate, the more progressive candidate triumphed easily, with a more moderate Latina from Southern California decimated by the better funded lock-step, glamorous tool of the San Francisco gentry Left.

Gradually, the key swing group — the “business Democrats” — are being decimated, hounded by ultra-green San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer and his minions. No restraint is being imposed on Gov. Brown’s increasingly obsessive climate change agenda, or on the public employee unions, whose pensions could sink the state’s finances, particularly in a downturn.

Interior California votes to slit its own throat

The interior parts of California already rank near the bottom, along with Los Angeles, in terms of standard of living — by incomes, as opposed to costs — in the nation. Compared to the Bay Area, which now rules the state, the more blue-collar, Latino and African American interior, as well as much of Los Angeles, account for six of the 15 worst areas in terms of living standard out of 106 metropolitan areas, according to a recent report by Center for Opportunity Urbanism demographer Wendell Cox.

Given the political trends here, it’s hard to see how things could get much better. The fact that most new jobs in Southern California are in lower-paying occupations is hardly promising. In contrast, generally better-paying jobs in manufacturing, home-building and warehousing face ever-growing regulatory strangulation.

Sadly, the ascendant Latino political leadership seems determined to accelerate this process. In both Riverside and San Bernardino, pro-business candidates, including San Bernardino Democrat Cheryl Brown, lost to green-backed Latino progressives.

For whatever reason, Latino voters and their elected officials fail to recognize that the increasingly harsh climate change agenda represents a mortal threat to their own prospects for upward mobility. Before this week’s election, California policy makers could look forward to Washington imposing such policies on the rest of the country; now our competitor regions — including Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Texas — can double down on growth. Expect to see more migration of ambitious Californians, particularly Latinos, to these areas.

California’s increasingly bifurcated future

California is on the road to a bifurcated, almost feudal, society, divided by geography, race and class. As is clear from the most recent Internal Revenue Service data, it’s not just the poor and ill-educated, as Brown apologists suggest, but, rather, primarily young families and the middle-aged, who are leaving. What will be left is a state dominated by a growing, but relatively small, upper class, many of them boomers; young singles and a massive, growing, increasingly marginalized “precariat” of low wage, often occasional, workers.

The interior, starting in eastern Los Angeles and Orange County, will increasingly resemble the East L.A. district of Tom Steyer’s sock puppet, state Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León: deindustrialized, impoverished and generally falling apart. Rather than move up into the middle class, interior Democrats are consigning their own people to dependence on government largesse — for jobs, for housing, for relief from artificially inflated energy costs and, if some of the tech barons like Elon Musk get their way, for their basic sustenance.

This social structure can only work as long as stock and asset prices continue to stay high, allowing the ultra-rich to remain beneficent. Once the inevitable corrections take place, the whole game will be exposed for what it is: a gigantic, phony system that benefits primarily the ruling oligarchs, along with their union and green allies. Only when this becomes clear to the voters, particularly the emerging Latino electorate, can things change. Only a dose of realism can restore competition, both between the parties and within them.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. … where this piece was most recently 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. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate.)


LA’s Homeless Find a Friend at the Ballot Box

DEEGAN ON LA —The “invisibles”--those that cannot be missed but are easily ignored--are everywhere as they shelter in place on the streets throughout the city. They are the homeless, who learned they were not friendless after they won a victory at the ballot box on election day. 

When the votes were counted, the good news for the city’s huge homeless population, and people that care about them, was that housing is on the way. While it will not materialize overnight--some estimates are that a two year wait may be realistic--this is still good news for anyone that has been urging the city to come to grips with the growing social and civic problem of how to house the homeless. 

The politicos’ plight of finding some success with what seems an intractable problem has been met with a resounding call to action by selfless voters that had nothing material to gain or future benefit, but simply compassion for people less fortunate than them. The size of the city’s heart can be measured by the 76% vote margin for approval of Prop HHH, that was significantly higher than the two-thirds needed to pass the measure. 

What to do to resolve homelessness has been an embarrassment to city leaders that have issued statement after statement for the past eighteen months suggesting how they may help resolve the issue. Finally, they have found a start to a solution. Let’s hope they keep on this path. 

Tuesday’s voter approval of Prop HHH, the Homeless Reduction and Prevention, Housing, and Facilities Bond Measure 

Those with real property will be financing housing for those with nothing to their name, in a neat act of symmetry between the haves and the have-nots. A tax base will be created by an average annual assessment of $32.87 on property owners for the next 29 years. 

But, this is just step one. What must come next is financing for social services that includes mental health treatment, health care, drug and alcohol treatment, education and job training. Some of this may already be provided by non-profits or private entities and the city, but lots more social services financing is required. Experts, like the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, and the city’s Homeless Services Authority, claim that housing the homeless first, and then providing services, is the most effective model. 

Exactly who is affected by the implementation of Prop HHH? Four groups stand out: the homeless themselves, who will benefit from the new housing, property owners who will finance the housing through a tax assessment, the residents of the city who demonstrated the civic lesson that, in a collective society, we really are our brother’s keepers, and our political leaders who finally have something solid to point to in their quest for helping the homeless in a meaningful way. 

But, that's only half of it. A second financing mechanism, likely some form of an additional tax, will be needed to provide for services for the newly-to-be-housed homeless. That measure may wind up on the March 2017 ballot. That’s the catch—Prop HHH is just the beginning. 

What’s next? Understanding that housing is not the full solution, but that support systems through social services must be tied in, the county supervisors have an opportunity, in the March 2017 elections, to put a measure on the ballot for this purpose, and most likely will. Said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a relentless advocate of finding solutions to the homeless issue, “With the passage of HHH, it's now time for the County to step up to provide critical supportive services for the homeless."


(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at [email protected].)


I Want to Say ‘I’m Sorry’ … to All Women Who Face Sexual Harassment

‘HARMLESS GROPINGS’--An open letter of apology to my daughters and all the women coming up after me:

I want to start by saying I’m sorry. I have failed you in a way that only now do I shamefully and truly understand.

I am a 48-year-old woman. A mother. A boss. But because of actions I didn’t take, you’re still getting sexually harassed. You’re still getting belittled. You still have to wrestle away from body-hugs that no male colleague would tolerate. You still have to endure comments about your appearance that make you cringe inside. You still are fending off dinner meetings that end up feeling like first dates. You still are expected to put up with someone’s version of a joke about your sexuality in front of others because you don’t want to damage your standing in your career.

You see, I had to do all those things too. It starts young, when you’re walking down the street at 14, with catcalls from passing cars. This is when you realize that your body is “fair game” for any man who feels like taking aim. You face dress codes at school that presume men can’t be controlled if they see you in spaghetti straps or shorts.

Then there’s the workplace, where anyone from the delivery guy to the mucky-mucks you’re meeting with size you up. I will never forget an opportunity I had to meet one-on-one with the politically-connected director of the organization where I volunteered during my ambitious early 20s. What started as a late afternoon meeting was switched to dinner at a location that I didn’t realize was his penthouse. When he pushed me against the wall to be groped and kissed, I felt stupid and naïve. I ran out with an excuse of having somewhere else to be.

A couple more from a list far too long to recount in its entirety here: As an assistant being told I had nice breasts by a well-respected person in the media I worked with. On another occasion in an entirely different setting, being asked by a board member—jokingly of course—if I’d like to stroke his gun to see if he was happy to see me.

All of those instances had the same effect. They were belittling. They made me feel self-conscious, embarrassed, ashamed. They led me to see—in that moment—that no matter how smart or capable I was, I was still to these men just a piece of ass.

I’m not blaming myself or any woman for being the victim of sexual harassment. But I am blaming myself for not finding the courage to stand up for myself.

This is where I failed you. I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t stand up for myself. I colluded with all of this by letting it slide. I smiled, evaded the hugs, endured the humiliating comments, rolled my eyes at the sexual jokes, and believed that eventually my intelligence and skills would be regarded first and foremost, not my physical appearance.

Let me be clear. I’m not blaming myself or any woman for being the victim of sexual harassment. But I am blaming myself for not finding the courage to stand up for myself. I know it’s not just young women who deserve my apology. All of us, regardless of age, are vulnerable to this kind of debasement.

So even though we watched a woman make a serious run for the presidency, we see who won and what did and didn’t matter in people’s choice for leadership. All around us women face daily humiliations that aren’t enough to make news or merit a call to the police. But, over time, the damage done by “minor” verbal offenses and by seemingly “harmless” gropings is sinister. It chips away at women’s confidence. It causes us to second-guess ourselves, to keep our voices soft, our hands down, to lean back.

I have two teenage daughters and I worry for them. Not just for the comments and the insults they may face, but because I so greatly fear they will lose their voices, just as I lost mine. I want to show them how to speak up for their dignity and how to have self-respect. I want to show them that speaking up for yourself takes practice. Calling attention to yourself takes courage. Just accepting things when you’ve been wronged or made to feel insignificant is simply not okay.

Today, I’m taking responsibility for my role in all of this. For all the times I lied to escape boorish behavior. For all the times I nervously laughed off inappropriate comments that I am certain the perpetrator would never have uttered in front of his own wife or daughter. For the times I didn’t “educate” my offender by standing up for my own dignity, and for yours.

I am sorry.

The results of this election left many women feeling like they don’t matter. Today I’m making a change. Starting now, I pledge to do what I should have been doing for the past two decades. When someone says to me, “Turn around so I can get a good look at you,” I’ll say “No thanks. You can hear what I have to say better when you’re looking at my face.” And then I’ll tell them what I should have been saying all along.

(Jennifer Ferro is president of Southern California public radio station KCRW and a member of the Zócalo Public Square board of directors. This column was posted originally at Zocalo Public Square.


Female Candidates Put Some Cracks in the Glass Ceiling

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW--On many accounts, this was supposed to be the election where we broke the ultimate glass ceiling, the office of the presidency of the United States, the leader of the free world. I had written a column here late last month on this election as a Referendum on Feminism

Many of us, women and men, were terribly disappointed, starting around the time when we realized we might be losing the Swing States. I’ve been actively engaged in elections since I was 13 years old – and consider myself to be a political junkie. I’ve won some, lost some but I don’t remember ever feeling as despondent as I have been since Tuesday. Many of us feel we have lost much more than the electoral vote, including the chance for the first woman president.

Still, California did see some offices captured by women. On the national front, State Attorney General Kamala Harris will replace Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in the Capitol. The Howard University and University of California, Hastings College of the Law alumna worked as a Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County from 1990-1998 before serving as Managing Attorney of the Career Criminal Unit in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office (1998-2000.) She was defeated incumbent Terence Hallinan to be elected District Attorney of San Francisco in 2003 and was re-elected in 2007, serving from 2004 to 2011 before winning the CA Attorney General office in 2010, the first female, African-American, Indian-American and Asian-American Attorney General in the state. She was reelected to that seat in 2014. Harris defeated Loretta Sanchez on Election Day to become the first Indian-American and second African-American woman elected to serve in the U.S. Senate. Harris’s name is being mentioned in the media as a possible presidential candidate in 2020.

Closer to home, voters elected two women to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, Janice Hahn and Kathyrn Barger who will join current supervisors Sheila Kuehl, Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas. Women will form the majority in the country’s largest local government agency. However, the 15-member LA City Council will only have one woman. A 2014 report concluded women held fewer than one-third of elected city, county and state posts.

The addition of Hahn and Barger to the Board is an exception to an election year that actually brought fewer female elected officials in the state Legislature. According to California Women Lead  (November 8), the State Senate and Assembly lost two seats each that were occupied by women, bringing the total of female-occupied seats to 27 of 120. The Congressional Delegation also lost two seats occupied by women, bringing the total to seventeen.

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


Don’t Overcomplicate the Election Analysis: As Bill Clinton said, ‘It’s the Economy, Stupid’

ABRAMS ANALYSIS—1. “It’s the economy, stupid.” Although Hillary ignored Bill’s central truth in American politics, “It’s the economy, Stupid,” Trump made it his raison d'être. Meanwhile, the economic follies of Obama-Geithner, which cost Hillary the White House, were wildly successful in Los Angeles. What are the implications of our overwhelmingly embracing Measures JJJ, HHH, and M?

  • The Politics of Revenge. 

The Politics of Revenge arose because the American people had already suffered the economic follies of Obama-Geithner. While the “deplorables” lacked the sophistication to understand what had happened, they had a predatory buffoon to supply a host of bogus answers. “It’s the illegals. It’s ObamaCare. It’s crooked Hillary.” 

As a demagogue, Trump was brilliant since he took Obama’s Hope Campaign from 2008, dusted it off, proclaiming that he’d make America Great Again. “Hope” and “Make America Great” are Tweedledum and Tweedledee. In brief, Trump ran on the concept, “It’s the economy, Stupid,” while Hillary ran on, “Keep the status quo.” 

  • Measures JJJ, HHH, Measure M Are More Obama-Geithner Economic Foolishness. 

The essence of Obama-Geithner’s economy policy was to let the working class go bankrupt while giving trillions of dollars to Wall Street. With Measures JJJ, HHH and M, Garcetti adopted the same destructive policies. He will continue the eradication of rent-controlled housing which continues to swell the ranks of the homeless, while diverting hundreds of billions of tax dollars to a handful of wealthy land owners and international construction companies. In other words, in Los Angeles the systematic transfer of wealth from the 99% to the 1% will continue unabated. 

  • Measures JJJ, HHH and M Are Based Ignorance and Hubris. 

When any business or any society spends money, those expenses need to increase the overall wealth of that society or business. A major consideration is whether that business or city is incurring significant future liabilities that will gobble up all the benefits. Let’s look at the subway beneath the Sepulveda Pass. 

Leaving aside its construction costs, inherent in any subway or light rail system are never ending maintenance and operational (personnel) costs. When a business sells a product, it does not want to have to spend more money 5, 10, 20, 20 or 50 years from now as a result of that product. Once the bottle of ketchup is sold, Heinz wants to pocket the profit and never, ever spend another penny on that bottle. 

As of this writing, Takata, the manufacturer of the lethal air bags, is preparing to file for bankruptcy. Defective air bags, like defective mass transit, contain the poison pill of economic disaster. Subways and fixed rail systems, unlike products such as ketchup and air bags, are guaranteed to have horrendously huge ongoing liabilities which will mount as time passes. Thus, we could have averted the evil decree had we voted down JJJ, HHH and Measure M. 

  • The Forces are Set in Motion and the Clock is Ticking. 

NYC runs an $8 billion deficit each year for its subway-light rail system despite its being the best run system in the nation. In addition, the NYC system grew logically from the nature of NYC’s century old housing pattern and immutable geography. Extraordinarily dense Manhattan, which is the only reason that the system functions, is only 2.5 miles wide with the Hudson River on one side and the East River on the other. That’s the width of Franklin Avenue to Santa Monica Boulevard. Density along the Hollywood-Sunset corridor, in order to reduce the subway deficit, will create a congestion barrier the length of Hollywood. As the nation’s largest circular urban area, it is mathematically impossible for LA to ever have a functional fixed-rail system. 

The bottom line is that a subway-fixed rail system will provide no long-term benefit to the Los Angeles economy, and its future deficits will swallow future city budgets, leaving Los Angeles broke. 

We could try Washington D.C.’s approach and not spend money on maintenance, which will result in the closure of the system. By the time that Angelenos realize that the maintenance and personnel costs exceed the City’s capacity to pay, it will not only have to close significant portions of the system, but it will still have to pay the overbearing Union pensions. While Angelenos are currently screaming that the City’s pension deficit is too high, they have just voted to increase the future deficit by tens of billions of dollars. 

We have not scratched the surface of the economic disaster that Angelenos have brought upon themselves with Measures JJJ, HHH and M. 

  • Suppliers Do Not Set Demand. 

Garcetti’s own economic adviser, Christopher Thornberg of Beacon Economics, told Garcetti back in 2013 that he should stop trying to pick winners and looser in business. Garcetti ignored this sound advice. He is completely wedded to the notion that a centralized, politburo style planning agency can make better decisions than a regulated Supply and Demand economy. Garcetti is dedicated to eradicating rent-controlled housing and to dictating to poor people where they shall live. 

We saw this folly in the 1950s and 1960s with Cabrini-Green in Chicago and Pruit-Igoe and Joseph Darst Apartments in St. Louis. (Disclosure: the author lived in Joseph Darst Apartments in the 1960s.) While the great welfare state can shove around poor people as if they had no minds of their own, such hubris results in social degradation, more poverty and high crime. Poor families want to live in nice homes in safe neighborhoods with decent schools. Garcetti, like Chicago and St. Louis, mandates Black Lung Projects near freeways with terrible schools and high crime. 

We know that many poor people accept their fate, but we also know that the smarter and the more enterprising move away. Los Angeles is already experiencing the exodus of the educated, middle class Family Millennials. We also know that significant portions of the poorer Black and Mexican communities have already moved to the Inland Empire. 

Nationally, removing any significant numbers of the undocumented families will further harm the economy. In their haze of racist ignorance, the anti-immigrant yahoos fail to understand that if we could remove even 5% of the population as “illegal,” we will have removed 5% of the consumers. No matter why a consumer base falls, the economic impact is the same. A store that operates on a 5% or less profit margin becomes economically imperiled. It has to cut back its purchases by 5%, but a 5% cut back by retailers can devastate the wholesalers. That touches off a downward spiral, affecting everyone. 

  • Population Decrease Results in The Reverse Multiplier Effect. 

Since the City of LA is experiencing the flight of the middle class with its small population increase coming only from the birth rate, LA will suffer from the harmful impacts of the Reverse Multiplier Effect. This threat will be temporarily disguised by increased spending on high rises and subways. However, the mass transit and high rises which will be built are the main factors causing the exodus from Los Angeles. Within a few years, Los Angeles will find that the temporary spending that buoyed the economy also created the conditions which trash our tax base – at the very time we will need a stronger tax base to pay all of our debts. Some people may feel good while incurring heavy debt to live lavishly in Las Vegas for a few weeks, but when they return to Woodland Hills and have no money to pay the mortgage or to keep their SUVs, they won’t be so happy. 

The short-term spending will benefit union workers, but at the same time, the added density will continue to drive the educated middle class away from the Los Angeles. Other workers who do not indirectly benefit from the construction will similarly look for parts of the nation which have more diversified economic bases. Garcetti seems to have selected high rise and mass transit construction to be Los Angeles’ salvation businesses. As shown above, a few years of this type of construction comes with unbearable taxes for maintenance and operations (union payments) in addition to our having to repay the hundreds of dollars we just spent passing JJJ, HHH and M. 

  • Why Subways Benefit NYC but Harm LA. 

People ignore why the subway and light rail systems in NYC, Boston and Chicago reduce commute times. When the subways first came to NYC, walking or riding in a carriage were the main means of locomotion. Even today, the subways can be efficient compared to alternatives. No one may walk in LA, but no one drives themselves in Manhattan.

In Los Angeles, the subway or light rail are far slower for the citizens. The subway-light-rail stations are few and far between which means using them requires a significant walk. They are slow, especially the above ground light rail systems, which have to slow for so many street crossings. Generally, taking LA mass transit requires 170% more time than driving. 

Thus, the NYC subway makes people more productive than alternative modes of transportation, while using LA’s subway-light rail system makes people far less productive. In fact, the Urban Institute found that subways and buses do not reduce the poverty rate, but on the contrary, giving the poor cars does reduce the poverty rate. Cars are far superior due to their flexibility, and hence, poor people with cars can actually get to the exact places where the jobs are located. 

As noted in “Driving to Opportunity: Understanding the Links among Transportation Access, Residential Outcome,” published in March 2014 by Urban Institute (p ii), “Over time, households with automobiles experience less exposure to poverty and are less likely to return to high-poverty neighborhoods than those without car access.”

In other words, reliance on subways, fixed rail and buses in Los Angeles traps people into poverty, while owning a car allows them to drive away to better neighborhoods and jobs. A massive system of subways-and fixed-rail light lines will make Angelenos less productive and poorer, but in the meantime it will continue to shift the wealth from the 99% to the 1%.


(Part II will focus on the interplay between “corruptionism” and economic folly.)


(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Another Chance to Contain Mansionization in LA: We Cannot Make the Same Mistakes Again

PLATKIN ON PLANNING- The last time Los Angeles tackled mansionization, speculators called the shots. Now amendments to the citywide mansionization ordinances are about to go before the City Council’s PLUM (Planning & Land Use Management) Committee, tentatively on November 22, 2016, and we cannot make the same mistakes again. 

By a very wide margin, Los Angeles residents and homeowners have called for amendments to the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance that reflect the original City Council Motion, not the watered down version drafted and circulated by the Department of City Planning and recently supported by the City Planning Commission.  Councilmembers Paul Koretz and David Ryu, the Los Angeles Conservancy, and dozens of neighborhood councils and homeowner and resident associations have also stressed the need for strong, simple, easily enforceable ordinances. They know that complexity leads to mansionizers dodging the City’s laws and gaming the Department of Building and Safety to flout the law. 

The most recent draft amendments make big improvements from an earlier version, especially in the R1 zones that regulate most of the city’s single-family homes. But the draft amendments that the PLUM Committee will consider have three major flaws:

  • Attached garages. The City Planning Commission’s compromises go too far, counting none of the square footage of garages attached at the back of a house and only half of the square footage of garages attached at the front. All attached garages add bulk to a house. But garages attached to the front of a house also clash with the look and feel of many Los Angeles neighborhoods, and they eliminate the buffer that driveway provide between houses. Square footage is square footage, and it should all count when it is part of a house. At an absolute minimum, the final amendments should fully count all front-facing attached garage space. 
  • Grading and hauling. Proposed allowances are excessive. The Canyon and Hillside Federation recommendations would cut them down to a tolerable size. 
  • Bonuses. In RA, RS, and RE residential zones, The Department of City Planning caved to real estate lobbyists and retained bonuses that add 20% more bulk to house. The City Council should follow the example of the R-1 zone and get rid of these bonuses, as called for in the original Council motion. At best, these bonuses are a flawed architectural gimmick to camouflage extra mass in a house. At worst, they are just another lobbying scam to cram more house onto a lot. 

Above all, do not try to split the difference between reasonable and ridiculous. 

The original Council Motion was fair and reasonable to start with, but the current draft amendments make unwarranted concessions to the lobbyists. It’s time to hold the line and stick to the City Council’s original intent.

You will hear that “one size does not fit all.” True. That is why the City Planning Department is developing detailed zoning options for individual neighborhoods to soon replace Interim Control Ordinances and to later be implemented through Community Plan Updates.

This process should proceed, and the City Council’s PLUM Committee should not undermine it by giving veto power to a vocal minority. Objections to the original Council Motion are concentrated in a few pockets of resistance, where those objecting to the amendments can get the more permissive zoning they want through re:code LA. 

The new baseline must set meaningful limits on mansionization, not find the lowest common denominator to appease a small minority. Houses, after all, should not just be another form of real speculation. They are homes where people raise their families, and they form the fabric of irreplaceable neighborhoods. 

We also need to remember that mansionization decreases the supply of affordable housing, and it reduces the long-term sustainability of Los Angeles.

  • McMansions replace affordable homes with pricey showplaces, and they put short-term speculation ahead of stable long-term property values.
  • McMansions destroy mature street trees, increase runoff, and turn houses into rubble for landfills.
  • McMansions guzzle energy and overload local utilities.
  • McMansions degrade livability and violate neighborhood character.
  • McMansions increase house cost and size without increasing supply or housing affordability. 
  • Through one phony ordinance after another, mansionization has gone on far too long.

It’s time to serve the needs of LA’s communities, not the interests of real estate speculators. 

Angelenos who want to finally stop McMansions need to share their views with the Department of City Planning, the PLUM Committee, and their Councilmembers. When you do, please reference BMO/BHO Amendments, Council File 14-0656. Ideally, your comments should be submitted. 

(Addresses and model letters can be found at www.nomoremcmansionsinlosangeles.org)


(Dick Platkin reports on local planning issues in Los Angeles for City Watch. He welcomes comments and corrections at [email protected]. Shelley Wagers lives in the Beverly Grove neighborhood and has been involved in anti-mansionization campaigns in Los Angeles for over a decade.)

Another Billionaire Break at City Hall: LA Planning Commission OKs Caruso’s 20-Story Luxury Skyscraper

VOX POP--On Thursday, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission gave billionaire Rick Caruso special spot-zoning approvals for his 20-story luxury high-rise known as “333 La Cienega.”  Proposed for the gridlocked intersection of La Cienega and San Vicente boulevards, the residential skyscraper will loom over its neighbors and open the door to more tall development in the area. 

Caruso, a longtime City Hall insider, is the super wealthy developer of high-end shopping malls The Grove and Americana. Between 2000 and 2016, according to the city’s Ethics Commission, Caruso and his associates at Caruso Affiliated Holdings have shelled out $123,600 in campaign contributions to 42 LA political candidates. 

Caruso (at City Hall, photo left) has personally written checks totaling $65,750 to LA. elected officials such as ex-City Council member Tom LaBonge ($4,500), Mayor Eric Garcetti ($2,900) and Council members Jose Huizar ($2,200) and Paul Koretz ($2,200). The developer also gave $100,000 to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles,” a non-profit that helps Garcetti finance his pet projects. 

Such generous giving from deep-pocketed developers seeking favors from LA elected officials is all too common. 

In October, LA City Hall was rocked by the infamous “Sea Breeze Scandal,” in which the Los Angeles Times revealed that a developer and his associates spent hundreds of thousands in campaign donations that benefitted City Council members and Mayor Eric Garcetti, who ultimately approved a residential mega-project that the City Planning Commission had rejected. 

With 333 La Cienega, Caruso seeks profitable spot-zoning favors to build a 20-story luxury high-rise in a neighborhood that’s not zoned for a tall, dense mega-project -- the billionaire wants a zone change, a General Plan amendment and a height district change. 

At City Hall on Thursday, Caruso appeared before the City Planning Commission, whose members are appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti. The billionaire described his mega-project as “iconic,” a “palace” and “luxurious.” The developer, who lives far from San Vicente and La Cienega boulevards, also said with an odd sense of entitlement, “We have been tolerant of the community, and inclusive.”  City Council member Paul Koretz of District 5 stated in a letter that he supports the mega-project. Many neighborhood activists, however, testified in opposition. 

Robert Sherman noted that the height of the luxury project will “set a precedent” in which other developers will seek to build even more skyscrapers in the residential and commercial area.

“We don’t want that to happen,” Sherman told the planning commissioners. 

Dick Platkin, a member of the Beverly Wilshire Homes Association and a supporter of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, said his group has “strong objections” to the “enormity” of Caruso’s skyscraper. He added that Caruso and his supporters also misrepresented 333 La Cienega as a “transit-oriented” project, a selling point that developers often use to win favor with the public and City Hall officials. 

“It is a transit-adjacent development,” Platkin said. 

Toby Horn, another member of Beverly Wilshire Homes Association, said 333 La Cienega was one more example of developer greed in LA. 

“How much more money does a billionaire need?” she asked emphatically. 

Several planning commissioners breezily dismissed the community’s concerns about the height and size of Caruso’s luxury high-rise. 

“The height doesn’t bother me, quick frankly,” said Commissioner John Mack. 

“I don’t have an issue with the height,” added Commissioner Veronica Padilla-Campos. 

“I’m not bothered by the height,” said Planning Commission President David Ambroz, who’s widely known for his patronizing comments to the public. 

Although the mega-project will dramatically alter neighborhood character, impact an already congested intersection and open the door to more tall development, the City Planning Commission took less than 20 minutes to deliberate and then unanimously approve the profitable spot-zoning favors Caruso sought. It now moves to our City Council’s powerful Planning and Land-Use Management Committee. 

(Patrick Range McDonald writes for 2PreserveLA. Check it out. See if you don’t agree it will help end buying favors at City Hall.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Why Trump Will Never Be President of California

CALIFORNIA VALUES VOTE-Donald John Trump, a racist and sexist obsessive liar, pathological narcissist and vicious bully, early Wednesday was elected the 45th President of the United States. 

But he struggled to win barely one-third of the vote in California. 

Although Trump won an astonishing and appalling victory that confounded every pollster, pro and political journalist in America, California triumphed by earning anew its iconic designation as the Great Exception. 

While the ferret-headed, orange-stained demon rallied millions of resentful whites railing about “taking our country back,” Californians voted in huge numbers for policies and values that challenge and reject the fear and hatred mouthed by Trump – and that embrace and embody the diversity of what America is becoming. 

He vs. We 

Trump blood libeled minorities and immigrants while espousing disgusting attitudes about women; California for the first time elected an African-American woman to represent us in the U.S. Senate – in a campaign that matched her against a Latina congresswoman who is the daughter of Mexican immigrants — in a state where citizens strongly favor a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. 

Trump licked the boots of NRA leaders, called for more and more guns, and even suggested Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton should be shot; California voters with Proposition 63 overwhelmingly approved some of the toughest gun control measures in the country, determined to stop the insanity of violence abetted by the easy availability of weapons and ammunition made for war. 

Trump called for massive tax cuts for the wealthy, most of all for himself, so that the huge and relentlessly growing gap between the richest and the rest of us can increase further; Californians in a landslide vote passed Proposition 55, imposing higher taxes on those best able to pay them, in the name of funding public schools and health care for the poor, the sick and the elderly. 

Trump said women should be “punished” for having an abortion; California long has had the strongest pro-choice constitutional and legal guarantees in the nation, going back to 1967, when Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act. 

Trump personifies a brutish, all-against-all view of a rapaciously capitalistic society; Californian voters across the state looked favorably on hundreds of fiscal measures for education, communitarian expressions that acknowledge we’re all in this together. 

Boy did we blow it 

We were wrong, completely wrong, about this election, for one basic reason: we simply did not believe so many white, non-urban Americans were capable of electing someone who a large majority of voters described as unfit to be president. 

Trump will take office with fellow Republicans in control of both houses of Congress and, potentially, the U.S. Supreme Court, as Democrats find themselves in the weakest political position in memory.

World markets already are plunging and roiling with panic that a New York real estate thug and reality TV charlatan, who exhibits not a whit of awareness that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, has been elected. 

That’s not to mention his authoritarianism, his virulent nationalism, his ignorance of the Constitution, his climate change denial, his hatred of a free press, his “bromance” with Vladimir Putin, disdain for U.S. military alliances, and the unhinged personal volatility he brings to his authority over the world’s largest nuclear arsenal. 

His presidency is a nightmarish prospect that fills us with dread, regardless of our good fortune of living in California.


(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 in CalBuzz.  Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.)

What Do Obama and Trump have In Common? Ran as ‘Change’ Agents!

ELECTION REFLECTIONS-I promised myself I was not going to write about the presidential election -- and then Donald Trump won. That result has been characterized as the most stunning in American political history. Truman beating Dewey in 1948 was surprising. There’s no word strong enough to describe this outcome. 

One wonders what the great columnist of his time, H. L. Mencken, would have to say. Among other things, he wrote, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” He’s also credited with claiming you can never underestimate the intelligence of the American people. 

It’s beyond belief how wrong the pollsters and pundits were. In an era ruled by algorithms, the whiz kids blew it big time. The operator of one (until now) fairly accurate site that aggregated polls admitted that everyone in his field got it wrong from the very beginning. He also pointed out that in this election nothing (Trump’s outrageous statements, poor debate performance, lack of support from his own party) mattered. Nor did Clinton’s status as perhaps the most qualified candidate in history or the potential for making history as America’s first female president. 

The question for historians is whether this election was the last gasp of the white, male power structure or herald of a new era of “America first” and walls -- physical and economic. I grew up among the people in the upper Midwest and understand why they would choose to accept Trump’s sales pitch to “Make America Great Again.”

In my youth in a mid-sized city dominated by manufacturing, it was a given that anyone with the ability to get a high school diploma could go into a factory for the next 40 years and retire with a secure pension. Along the way, there would be a family and a house and nice cars. Much of that good middle-class life was due to the unions to which these workers belonged. 

The jobs left for the southern states, where they don’t have unions, and then overseas, where they don’t have labor laws. The decline of the neighborhood where I grew up was dramatic. Houses were abandoned as factories closed. Eventually they were demolished and the street seems to slowly be returning to the state of nature it was in 150 years ago. Jobs left. Businesses left. Families left. 

But, not all of them. Those who weathered the economic storms of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and the other states of the Rust Belt voted for Trump as their last, best hope to bring back the past. He won’t, of course.

Building walls, turning our backs on America’s history of opening its doors to immigrants, and engaging in economic warfare with our trading partners isn’t going to alter reality. Nor is wrecking the social safety net, spending billions more on the military, and giving the biggest tax cuts ever to millionaires and billionaires. 

That reality doesn’t matter. In 2008, half the electorate voted for Obama’s “hope and change.” Eight years later, the other half voted for Trump’s.


(Doug Epperhart is a publisher, a long-time neighborhood council activist and former Board of Neighborhood Commissioners commissioner. He is a contributor to CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected]) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

The Passage of Measures M, JJJ, and HHH will Hasten the LA Exodus

CORRUPTION WATCH-As the Sol Price School of Public Policy noted a few years ago, Los Angeles has ceased to be a growth city and the little population increase will be from the number of births exceeding deaths and number of people who leave. The City is also experiencing a net exodus of more people leaving LA than are coming to Los Angeles. The City has lost more employers than any other urban area and the most affluent portion of the middle class, the professionals and business service workers, have ranked Los Angeles as #60 on the list of desirable places to live. Foreign investment from Russia is shrinking since Putin clamped down on money leaving the country, and China and Brazil are similarly experiencing an economic slow-downs. As a result, less foreign money is looking for Los Angeles real estate in order to launder the money which they have liberated from their homelands. 

The worse news for Los Angeles is that Family Millennials are like prior generations. When they age out of the “dorm style” of living, they want detached single family homes with yards and fruit trees. Overwhelmingly, they are done with the high rise in Transit Oriented Districts [TODs], especially in cities with atrocious school systems like LAUSD which ranks near the bottom of the industrialized world. Since the peak millennial birth year was 25 years ago, they are increasingly entering into the family-rearing phase of their generation, while there are substantially fewer young Millennials in Los Angeles. 

Los Angeles, however, has followed a housing pattern where we have fewer single family homes just as the number of Family Millennials is increasing, but the city insists on constructing more dorm room style high rises. On paper, these small units look financially beneficial to the developer – until he finds out that he cannot rent the apartments or sell the condos. Garcetti’s perennial subsidizing of his developer buddies with billions of tax dollars has resulted in a glut of these higher end, highly dense apartments and condos. 

As a result, Los Angeles has hit upon a brilliant plan. They will tear down the homes of poor people in order to manufacture a homeless crisis and then tell people that they can rid their neighborhoods of the homeless by passing a $1.2 billion bond measure to construct homes for the homeless. (For some reason, homeowners do not understand that a bond is actually a tax on their property – they are not getting a free ride on someone else’s back.) 

But where do we put the homes for the homeless? Under JJJ developers can be given the $1.2 billion to sprinkle affordable units among their luxury units. In this way, the money homeowners will be paying to help the homeless will go to subsidize the dense projects that are making Los Angeles unliveable. 

The money from Measure M promises to construct subways and fixed rail systems. Thus, when it is pointed out that we cannot increase the number of bedrooms in the Valley, they respond that people from the Valley can take the subway beneath Sepulveda Pass to the Westside office towers in the Century City-Westwood-Santa Monica triangle. 

Since Valley people have to live within ½ mile of a subway station before they will use it, the Valley will be filled with extra-high density apartment complexes near the subway stations. However, the Family Millennials are abandoning DTLA and Hollywood due to traffic and residential congestion. So why would they move to the Valley to replicate the same unpleasant conditions, only in a place that is hotter, with considerable longer commute time? 

As mentioned in previous articles, NYC runs an $8 billion annual deficit for its subways and fixed-rail lines over and above the cost to construct them. Thus, Measure M promises to increase the City’s annual operating deficit by billions of dollars per year. If we try Washington D.C.’s ploy and do not maintain the subways, then we too will end up having to close the system until repairs are made. Meanwhile, the pension costs due to the additional public employees hired by Metro will make today’s pension woes look like the good old days. 

So, what is likely to happen as the City continues to deteriorate due to our increasing density which drives away the middle class tax base? It is likely that when many homeowners see the handwriting on the wall, they will realize that it is smart to sell their Los Angeles home for $900,000 and purchase a better one in Texas for only $325,000. There is also Tennessee, and Colorado, Utah, and Arizona and much of the South where the living favors the middle class family. 

How long will Angelenos hold on to their high priced homes in a declining market while knowing the costs in the Austin-Antonio corridor, for example, will be only be increasing. We know where the good jobs will be: the places where the middle class can find the best quality of life. Los Angeles ranks in the bottom 10 of areas which offer the best quality of life for the middle class [Chapman University, 2015, Building Cities for People). That is the reason Los Angeles has become an exodus city. 

How Long Will Lies and Myths Deceive Angelenos? 

The capacity of Angelenos to believe what they are told rather than what they can see is prodigious. Angelenos have known for decades that spending billions on subways and fixed rail transit has coincided with longer commute times and not “15% less freeway time” which Garcetti promised in this deceptive and misleading TV ads. 

Judge Goodman and Judge Chalfant told Angelenos in 2014 and 2015 that the city uses false data to justify its decisions. Judge Goodman called this “fatally flawed data” and “wishful thinking,” i.e. Lies and Myths. The Mayor has no shame in his Lies and Myths. The April 2016 Notice of Preparation for the new Hollywood Community Plan said that Hollywood’s population was 206,000 people in 2015, based on SCAG data. SCAG data, however, placed the population at only 204,700 people and that high figure was at odds with a proven annual loss of 12,000 people between 2000 and 2010. Then in November 2016, Garcetti announced that the Hollywood 2015 population was estimated at 210,511 people. Really? Hollywood’s population increased by 4,500 people between April and November 2016? Angelenos are excessively gullible. 

Trying to make sense of data which is actually “Lies and Myths” is a fool’s chore. Until Garcetti can lock Angelenos behind the city gates at night to prevent them from leaving, the exodus will accelerate. Tuesday’s election successes of Measures JJJ, HHH and M have hastened the day when the middle class exodus from LA may rival Cecil B. DeMille’s exodus of Jews from Pharaoh’s Egypt.


(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

So, Uh, Was It As Good For You As It Was For Me?

ALPERN AT LARGE--The people have spoken, but some of us might not like to hear what the people spoke to, and what their decision was.  Four years ago, and eight years ago, the people also spoke. And I was one of them.  Simply put, the "hope and change" of eight years ago will have to be channeled in a new direction, because this nation lacks too much hope, and has endured the wrong type of change. 

Read more ...

Reform Measure Loses: What Now for the DWP?

EASTSIDER-Hats off to my friends in the labor movement, particularly AFSCME and SEIU -- they managed to block DWP Reform Measure RRR, even though most everything else passed in the LA City Special Municipal Election. Life should get interesting, now that RRR is gone. As a result, the LA City Council and the Mayor own the DWP, no change, and nowhere to hide. 

I think this is big news, especially when you look at the line up for the LA City primary election arriving around the corner on March 7, 2017. The Mayor, the City Controller, the City Attorney, as well as a majority of the City Council Districts: 1,3,5,7,9,11,13, and 15. Too bad it doesn’t look like Mayor Eric Garcetti has any serious competition. 

And in Other DWP News. 

Last Saturday, November 5, there was an information packed meeting of the DWP Committee held at DWP Headquarters. The issues covered were somewhere between opaque and mind-numbing, but you have to remember that these innocent sounding initiatives are going to determine what our rates are going to be and how we get there from here. So it’s time for us to start paying attention to two different “I have no idea what they mean” concepts: Equity Metrics and the Integrated Resources Plan. 

The other discussion item, questionable leases of office space for the DWP in City owned properties, we can figure out all too well. 

Equity Metrics. 

This initiative is a fancy way of saying that the DWP will be setting up a big database to track how all the neighborhoods are currently treated by DWP and how they can or should all be treated equally. Or not. 

Board of DWP Commissioners Vice-President William W. Funderburk, Jr. gave the presentation and answered questions. I will have to admit to being remiss in never paying much attention to the DWP Board, since they are all appointed by the Mayor and dare not bite the hand that feeds them. So this was all new to me. And useful. 

Mr. Funderburk is an interesting guy in that he is both an engineer and an environmental lawyer. He was even on a Neighborhood Council (Greater Wilshire), and as you can imagine with this background, his appointment letter (CF 13-1074) indicates that there are numerous opportunities for him to have a statutory conflict of interest in matters before the Commissioners. 

For right now, the Equity Metrics Initiative consists largely of a power point presentation, although it seems that the blanks are going to be filled in quite soon. Here’s what the language in DWP’s press release describing the Initiative talks about -- performance metrics over “reliable delivery of water and power service, equal access to energy efficiency, conservation and assistance programs, small business economic development for competition in LADWP contracts of goods and services, and equal access to LADWP employment opportunities.” 

We’ll see how it all plays out. On its face, this is one of those soft and fuzzy concepts that imply equal treatment of all ratepayers. My personal observation is that, given enough data, you can prove darn near anything you want to and we all know who appoints the DWP Board of Commissioners. 

Like, who has the least reliable power in town? Pacific Palisades. And that means? 

Stay tuned, because the politics of this one are going to be fascinating. 

Figueroa Street Plaza’s DWP Lease.

And speaking of the DWP Board of Commissioners, here is fuel for my concerns over how things really work. According to my pal Jack Humphreville, this deal has stunk from the beginning and he has written a number of fairly incendiary articles on the self dealing, double dealing of our Mayor and City Council, as they use the DWP to shift LA City costs onto the DWP ratepayers. 

Jack’s latest article is a doozy, with the spiffy headline, “DWP Fig Plaza Deal: DWP Board Caves, Mayor Goes Back to Basics, Ratepayers Screwed ... Again.” The title says it all, and chronicles the 4-1 vote of the Commissioners to ok a 10-year, $41 million deal for office space at Figueroa Plaza, which just happens to be owned by -- you guessed it -- the City of Los Angeles.

I only hope that Commissioner Christina Noonan has made enough money as a real estate professional that she doesn’t need the gig. If history is a guide, our notoriously thin-skinned Mayor Eric Garcetti does tend to micro-manage how “his” appointees vote. And the Equity Metrics and Integrated Resources Plan involve literally billions of dollars. 

Integrated Resources Plan.

Speaking of opaque, how many of us have a clue what the Integrated Resources Plan actually is? That is, aside from our own DWP guru, Tony Wilkinson, Chair of the DWP MOU Committee. 

So ok. An Integrated Resources Plan is really a fancy way of saying how DWP plans to handle long term power management, and get from its current mix of non-renewable and renewable energy resources to some public policy driven goal within the next 20 years. Whew! 

While the plan may sound innocuous or mushy to you and me, it is a very big deal and has far reaching impacts on how much ratepayers will be paying to achieve these goals. 

Speaking of Tony Wilkinson, he has a very nice article at EmpowerLA, about all of these matters, and you can find it here.  

Essentially, the plan is a constantly moving target, and gets revised every two years. The current 2015 Plan has us going from 20% renewable energy to 50% renewable energy by the year 2030 -- mostly by eliminating coal and substituting renewable such as solar, wind and geothermal. As we speak, the Department is in the process of developing its 2017 Plan with even more ambitious goals. You can find the DWP website on the IRP here

While the title of IRP seems innocuous, the downside of all these grandiose plans is that they are expensive! Coal and nuclear may be “dirty,” but they are 24/7 reliable and relatively cheap. Further, most of the renewables like wind and solar can’t provide power on a 24/7 basis, which is what we need. And the reason that these 20-year plans are important is that the Department has to expend billions and billions of dollars on capital projects in order to get there from here. 

Those projects take decades to implement, and simply can’t be changed at will to suit the whim of elected officials. I mention this because our sound bite City Council has grandly “requested” that the DWP look into what investments they would have to make in order to get to 100% Renewable energy. Really. They fail to realize that their political posturing doesn’t simply happen by a stroke of the pen. Remember this next March. 

Just as a mini-example of what we’re talking about, the Ratepayers Advocate has recently released an analysis of the DWP’s proposal for a rooftop utility-built and owned solar Pilot Program. 

While this is a relatively minor project, it reveals oodles about the renewable energy game. Reading between the lines, this project would probably cost something like two to four times what it would cost to simply go out and purchase solar. Multiply this by a 20-year plan. 

The Takeaway. 

My point is simply this -- feel good green energy plans can break the bank in a heartbeat if we are not very, very careful. All of these technical initiatives make sense from a planning standpoint, but the devil is in the details, and politicians are absolute masters at twisting data to support whatever half-baked scheme they are interested in at the moment. Witness the recent 4-1 giveaway over Figueroa Street office space.


(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.)

After Shock: ‘Hi Gram. Bit Scared for Our Country, Honestly!’

MY TURN-I woke up in the middle of the night and thought I was having a bad dream. It took me a few seconds to realize that Donald Trump had been elected the next President of the United States.

So, I pulled the covers over my head and decided to stay in bed for the next four years. 

That lasted till about 8:00 a.m. when I gingerly checked my cell phone, not knowing what other news I was going to receive. My youngest granddaughter, who just turned eleven, had sent me a text (that is how we communicate with this generation) which said, "How are you doing? I am in shock because he has not only been so mean to so many girls that he has already hurt this country. Let's talk more after school?” 

Before I got the chance to call she sent another text later saying, “He is not only rude to women but took away a chance from someone else who actually cares about this country. Best of luck America!" 

I will explain to her that he didn't take away the chance from Hillary Clinton ... the American people voted to have him as our next President. Later on, I received a text from my eldest granddaughter who is a freshman at University in Arizona. It said, "Hi Gram! A bit scared for our country honestly!!! How are you feeling?” 

As the resident politico in the family I am the source of all political information. (At least I have managed to make them believe it.) I was delighted they asked me how I was feeling! This situation occurred all over the country. Many parents and grandparents were in the difficult position of trying to calm fears. 

Wednesday morning I went to my class on Current Events. I find it helpful to see how other people think about issues of the day. If there were any Trump supporters in the room, they were very quiet.   The hundred or more sitting there reminded me of attending a wake without the refreshments. 

I learned that the President and Vice President can't be sued while in office. That means Trump's two trials scheduled for November and December can't be continued. If they are, they will have to wait four years...or maybe eight.

I also learned that if the Republicans and Trump keep their promise about seeking a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton, President Obama can issue a certain kind of pardon before he leaves office. It doesn't mean she has to admit guilt. It will stop those congressional witch hunters from continuing their thirty-year battle with the former Secretary. 

After watching the analysis practically all day, I'm not going to talk about the mechanics of the election. You all must be saturated by it as well. I would like to discuss some of the ramifications of the "First 100 days of the Donald Trump Presidency," especially the international trade part.

We cannot manufacture products for all of our needs. That is the reason we have a global economy. As an example, making a men’s white shirt in the United States would probably cost $40. This means the people making the shirts couldn't afford to buy them. By the time the apparel manufacturer buys American textiles and trim, equipment, and pays a decent wage and benefits, it becomes too expensive. 

That is why thousands of men’s shirts are available for $12.99. We are able to buy something in our budget and we have enabled people in another country to be able to buy necessities. 

How many of you buy clothes because of where they are made? Other than certain items which can be almost completely automated or hand made for the couture fashion labels, we need to manufacture our clothing in another country. 

On the other hand, the United States is a huge exporter of all kinds of products. We are the largest or almost largest agricultural exporters in the world. Our exports provide millions of jobs for Americans. Here’s just a few statistics on our Import/export trade in 2015: 

Overall imports to the U.S. in 2015:     2.307 Trillion Dollars 

Overall exports from the U.S. 2015:     1.504 Trillion Dollars 

U.S. exports to Mexico in 2015:            236.4 Billion dollars or 15.7% of all our exports 

Mexican Exports to U.S 2015:               297.5 Billion dollars or 12.9% of all our imports 

U.S. Exports to China 2015:                  116.2 Billion or 7.7% of total exports 

Chinese Exports to U.S 2015:                02.7 Billion dollars or 21.8 of U.S total imports 

This is apart from the billions of dollars invested in American Real Estate and Manufactured Products from both countries. 

There is no way that Trump can bring the manufacturing industries back to the rust belt. We have to make the things we do best at a price both American consumers and those in other countries can afford. 

We benefitted from the products made in the Industrial Revolution, but progressed to other industries. We developed some of the finest technology in the world. Manufacturing jobs now and in the future will be so automated that they will need one or two people as opposed to fifty. Why do we no longer manufacture "buggy whips"? Maybe because horse and buggies are not our main mode of transportation. Then again, they may be quicker on the 405 in the morning. 

Last night, as the election returns were coming in, my daughter was at an international meeting of CEO's and top executives taking place in Shanghai. There were around fifty different countries represented, all in the trade exposition industry. They were, as she said, "freaking out.” Since the U.S. election was not a big priority on Chinese TV, I was texting the results as they came in. These fifty countries were afraid of trade wars. 

The only comments from Chinese TV were that Trump was an unknown but they didn't expect any affect on their money, the yuan. 

It is rather ironic that so many other countries are so much more knowledgeable and interested in the United States than we are in the outside world. 

Maybe he can accomplish some good things with a Republican Congress. Infrastructure has been on the table but inactive for the last four years. 

We are waiting nervously, along with the rest of the world, to see what he does. 

As always, comments welcome.


(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist. She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: [email protected]) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

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