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Exposed! The Latest Plan to Unleash Digital Billboards in LA

BILLBOARD WATCH-The slow-moving but relentless push for more digital billboards on LA’s commercial streets got a boost last week with the unveiling of a detailed plan for allowing the now-prohibited signs. Presented to the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) committee, the plan would require billboard companies to make payments to the city and remove a certain number of existing billboards in exchange for the right to put up new signs of the highly lucrative digital variety. 

The committee directed city agencies to develop a legal framework to implement the digital billboard plan, even though the City Planning Commission (CPC) last year approved a new citywide sign ordinance that restricts the brightly-lit signs with rapidly changing ads to sign districts in a limited number of high-intensity commercial areas. That action would put those signs off-limits in more than 80 per cent of the city’s commercial zones. 

With certain exceptions, new billboards and alterations to existing billboards have been banned in LA since 2002 and digital billboards have been explicitly prohibited since 2009. However, state law allows cities to enter into relocation agreements with billboard companies, which means that a billboard can be moved from one location to another without running afoul of billboard bans such as LA’s. 

This law, intended to relieve cities from the burden of paying large amounts in compensation if a billboard has to be removed from private property for a street widening or other public works project, has been advocated by billboard giant Clear Channel as a mechanism for not only putting up new digital billboards, but turning on many of the 99 digital billboards that went dark by court order three years ago. 

In the CLA’s plan, the relocation agreements would allow new digital billboards to be put up or the existing digital billboards to be turned on in locations of the companies’ choice without hearings and approvals by zoning officials or local planning commissions. As long as the companies agree to make a specified annual payment to the city, take down a certain number of existing billboards, and meet restrictions regarding location and illumination, permits for the new or re-activated digital billboards would be issued “by right.” 

This, of course, directly contradicts what billboard company representatives and pro-digital billboard politicians have said for several years, which is that communities should be able to choose whether or not they want the signs on their commercial streets. If people in North Hollywood or East LA see the billboards as bringing benefits to their community, the argument went, they should have them; if people in Silverlake or Westwood see them as a detriment, they should be able to say no. 

Be that as it may, here are the details of the CLA’s plan: A billboard company wishing to put up a new digital billboard could choose to remove existing billboards at a ratio ranging from 2:1 to 9:1, based on square footage of sign face. A standard full-sized billboard is 672 sq. ft., so two of those or some other number of signs adding up to 1,300-plus square feet would have to be removed. If a billboard company chose the 2:1 ratio, it would have to pay the city an annual fee of $250,000, but if it took down existing billboards at higher ratios the required fee would incrementally decrease, up to the 9:1 ratio, which would not trigger any fee payment. 

The plan also recommends that companies putting up new digital billboards provide “community benefits” to offset the negative impacts of the new signage. These include streetscape improvements, public art programs, and funding for transit-related services, among others. 

There are some proposed restrictions on where the new digital billboards could be put -- for example, in public parks, along designated scenic highways, in historic preservation zones, and areas zoned neighborhood or limited commercial. The plan also proposes a limit on the light cast by the billboards, although the method of measurement is widely regarded as an inaccurate reflection of the brightness of the signs that employ thousands of LED lights, and many cities, including LA, have begun using a newer, more accurate method that measures the light at its source. 

After listening to these details, along with a related report by the City Administrative Officer (CAO) and comment from members of the public, PLUM committee chairman Jose Huizar closed the discussion by directing the city agencies, with the assistance of the city planning department and City Attorney’s office, to return with additional details needed to implement the plan, which would require ultimate approval by the full City Council. 

Despite the fact that the issue has drawn heated public debate, and the plan represents the first detailed step in the direction of allowing new digital members on most commercial streets, not a single member of the committee other than Huizar had any comment or question for the city officials presenting the reports. 

Before moving on to other items on the committee’s agenda, Huizar also got in a swipe at the City Planning Commission, which he has accused in the past of overstepping its bounds by making changes to the sign ordinance sent to it by the committee. Those changes mean that the City Council will need a supermajority, or 10 votes, to overrule the commission’s approval of an ordinance that restricts new digital signs to sign districts. 

Huizar also raised an issue that has been alluded to but not explicitly discussed by committee members in the past, which is the idea that the less affluent City Council districts have borne the brunt of billboard blight in the past, and are therefore particularly deserving of the relief promised by the takedown provisions of the CLA’s digital billboard plan. 

The councilman, whose district encompasses most of downtown and the majority Latino communities of East LA and Boyle Heights, pointed to statistics in the CAO report showing that his district ranks first among the city’s 15 council districts in number of billboards. The district, along with two South LA districts, have 36% of the total billboards in the city, Huizar said. And while the City Planning Commission’s restriction of new digital billboards to sign districts also includes a requirement that any new signs be offset by the takedown of existing billboards, Huizar said that this would not result in a significant reduction of billboards in those districts. 

But are Huizar’s East LA district and the two predominately Latino and African American districts in South LA he cited really disproportionately blighted by billboards? According to city records, Huizar’s district has 772 billboard faces, which is the highest of any of the 15 council districts. Council districts 8 and 9, represented by council members Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Curren Price, respectively, who also happen to be members of the PLUM committee, each have 719 billboard faces, ranking them second to Huizar’s district. 

However, if those districts are ranked by total square footage of billboard faces, Huizar’s district ranks 7th, and the other two 11th and 13th. In fact, the district ranked first on this scale, councilman Paul Koretz’s predominately Westside district, has 279,000 sq. ft., compared to 165,000 sq. ft. in Huizar’s district and only 97,000 sq. ft. in Price’s district. Which means that Koretz’s more affluent district has fewer billboard structures than those other districts, but the billboards have significantly larger faces and therefore display larger, more prominent advertisements. Thus, the argument over which districts are disproportionately blighted by billboards turns on the question of what is the major source of the blight, the billboard’s structure or the advertising displayed on the face. 

The council districts ranked 2nd, 3rd, and 4th in terms of square footage of billboard space each have more than 200,000 sq. ft. Along with Kortez’s district, those districts represented by Mike Bonin, David Ryu, and Mitch O’Farrell also happen to be the ones in which Clear Channel and Outfront Media put up all but a handful of 101 digital billboards beginning in 2007 and ending with a moratorium at the end of 2008. Those districts not only had more full-sized billboards to convert to digital but are among the most affluent in the city and therefore more attractive to advertisers paying premium rates for the 8-second spots on the signs. 

It’s therefore no mystery why Koretz, Bonin, and Ryu have publicly announced their opposition to allowing digital billboards anywhere outside sign districts, as per the City Planning Commission action. Councilman Paul Krekorian has also publicly opposed plans to allow new digital billboards outside sign districts on private property, although none of the 101 signs went up in his San Fernando Valley district. O’Farrell hasn’t taken as definite a stand as his four colleagues, but has told constituents that he was happy with the planning commission’s action. 

If the plan presented this week to allow digital billboards beyond those limited sign districts is eventually approved, Clear Channel could turn on most of the 84 billboards it put up in 2007-2008. Likewise, Outfront Media. And the city’s third major billboard company, Lamar Advertising, which owns some 3,000 small billboards in mostly lower-income neighborhoods, could erect new digital billboards on commercial thoroughfares in areas with the more affluent consumers valued by advertisers. 

For example, the plan would allow Clear Channel to turn on a now-dark digital billboard on Santa Monica Blvd. in West LA in exchange for removing two or three old, rundown billboards in Council District 8 in south LA and paying the city an annual fee of $250,000. That might seem a great deal for Harris-Dawson, who represents that district and has complained of billboard blight there, but what of people in the residential neighborhood adjacent to that Santa Monica Blvd. billboard who repeatedly complained of constantly changing light cast into their homes and brilliantly lit ads for products and services looming beyond their roofs in the night sky. 

A fourth member of the PLUM committee, Gil Cedillo, whose district west and north of downtown includes some of the city’s poorest areas, could also benefit from the removal of old, blighted billboards, especially since Clear Channel and company are not likely to look at most of the district as fertile ground for new digital billboards. The fifth member, Mitchell Englander, represents a much more affluent district in the northwest San Fernando Valley, but the predominately residential district has by far the fewest number of billboards in the city and probably wouldn’t be a major target for companies wanting to put up new digital signs. 

As mentioned above, the plan would require votes from 10 of the 15 city council members since it conflicts with the ordinance approved by the planning commission. If council members Bonin, Koretz, Ryu, and Krekorian maintain their current stands, and are joined by O’Farrell, they could block that action since one council seat is currently vacant. However, that vacancy will be filled in the upcoming city election and a new council member will be seated on July 1 of next year. 

There are some other hurdles as well. A Clear Channel representative has written a letter to the committee criticizing the takedown ratios as too high, and arguing that instead of a set annual fee the companies and city should negotiate a fee for each relocation agreement. Regency Advertising and Summit Media, two of the city’s small billboard companies, have also argued for lower takedown ratios and fees on the grounds that the proposed plan would shut them out of the process.

And City Attorney Mike Feuer, who unsuccessfully sponsored a statewide moratorium on digital billboards when he was a state assembly member, has not weighed in on the possible legal ramifications of the billboard relocation scheme. Feuer has already poured cold water on one of the PLUM committee’s earlier proposals, which was to grant “amnesty” to all unpermitted and non-compliant billboards in the city. 

To read the CLA and CAO reports in the city’s council files, click here.

 

(Dennis Hathaway is the president of the Ban Billboard Blight Coalition and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: [email protected].) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

California Voters OK with Long Ballot Packed with Initiatives

ANALYSIS--California voters once again proved they cherish their role in direct democracy, running through the entire statewide list of 17 measures with no apparent drop off in voting. With 100% of the precincts ‘partially’ reporting according to the Secretary of State’s site, 8.6 million votes were cast for Proposition 51, the school bond, at the head of the ballot; and 8.6 million votes were cast for the plastic bag referendum, Proposition 67, at the tail end of the ballot. 

The fear that voters would give up as they worked down the long list of state propositions did not come to pass. There were variations in the proposition vote totals as usual with a low count for the fairly meaningless advisory measure to overturn the Citizen’s United decision (Proposition 59) tallying 8.2 million votes to a top total of 8.84 million votes cast for the marijuana legalization measure, Proposition 64. Also attracting attention from voters were the tobacco tax, Proposition 56 totaling 8.82 million votes and the anti-gun Proposition 63 that received 8.7 million votes.

In fact, with Proposition 63 and 64 near the end of the ballot piling up votes, some voters apparently looked for those measures adding to the totals compiled by the many voters who ran the entire 17 measure gauntlet.

Money didn’t guarantee a win with the ballot initiatives either, although it was better to have the most money on your side. Twelve of the 17 measures that had the largest war chest were victorious. Opponents of the tobacco tax outspent supporters but lost. The Proposition 60 condoms measure had the most money on the yes side but lost. The plastic bag industry outspent opponents on two measures, Proposition 65 and the Proposition 67 referendum but lost both.

The death penalty procedural reform issue, Proposition 66 is still close with votes to count but it is currently passing. Money was about even on both sides of that measure, although a large chunk of the yes money went to qualifying the initiative.

While the initiative battles have been decided, there may be little rest for those who follow direct democracy in California. Qualifying an initiative still depends on collecting signatures determined by the low gubernatorial voter turnout of 2014. Interests and individuals who want to ask voters to support their issues will take advantage of the low signature requirement to push their proposals for the 2018 ballot.

Proponents are also aware that waiting to qualify a measure closer to the next ballot could mean competition for signatures with other ballot measure advocates. To avoid paying increased signature costs when there are many measures in circulation, don’t be surprised to see some potential initiatives circulating early next year.

(Joel Fox is Editor of Fox & Hounds … where this piece originated … and President of the Small Business Action Committee.)

-cw

California Takes on Bullies Who are Targeting Muslim and Sikh Kids

CIVIL RIGHTS--In a move hailed by civil rights groups, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) announced Sunday that he’d signed a bill meant to counter the widespread bullying of Muslim and Sikh students in the state. 

The Safe Place To Learn Act requires the California Department of Education to ensure that school districts “provide information on existing school site and community resources to educate teachers, administrators, and other school staff on the support of Muslim, Sikh, and other pupils who may face anti-Muslim bias and bullying.”

According to a November 2015 report from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, 55 percent of Muslim students aged 11 to 18 in California reported being bullied or discriminated against due to their faith. That’s double the national average of kids, including non-Muslims, who report being bullied at school. 

Twenty-nine percent of California students who wear hijabs said they’d experienced “offensive touching or pulling of their hijab.” Ten percent said they’d been physically harmed or harassed for being Muslim. Almost 20 percent said their fellow students had made offensive comments to them online. And nearly 20 percent of students said they’d experienced discrimination from a school staff member.

“Having school site and community resources available to students experiencing bullying is a big step forward to ensuring a safer environment for our kids,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director at CAIR-Los Angeles, which co-sponsored the bill. “We welcome the support from our governor and legislators in addressing this serious issue.” 

Sikh students, meanwhile, faced similar rates of bullying. A recent study conducted by the Sikh Coalition found that more than half of Sikh children in four states, including California, experience bullying at school. That number jumps to 67 percent for Sikh students who wear turbans. In Fresno, according to the study, over half of the students surveyed said school officials didn’t respond adequately to bullying incidents.

Americans of the Sikh faith ― a religion distinct from Islam ― are often the targets of anti-Muslim violence, harassment and prejudice. 

“Every child has the right to a safe and nurturing learning environment,” said Harjit Kaur, community development manager for the Sikh Coalition, another co-sponsor of the legislation. “This bill provides educators, students and parents with resources to help ensure that right.”

The bullying in California of Muslim students and students perceived to be Muslim came into focus earlier this year when Bayan Zehlif, a senior about to graduate from Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga, discovered that someone had changed her name to “ISIS” in the school’s yearbook. Once a popular girl’s name, “ISIS” these days is more commonly associated with the terror group that calls itself the Islamic State. It’s also become a slur commonly hurled at American Muslims. 

After Zehlif spoke out about against her representation in the yearbook, she says, she was subjected to harassment and bullying. 

“A poster was put up of ‘We Support Bayan,’” she said, “and it was ripped down and students started to cheer.” 

The pervasiveness of anti-Muslim bullying reflects a growing wave of Islamophobic hostility and hate crimes in California and across the nation.  

A report from the California State San Bernardino Center on Hate And Extremism found that anti-Muslim hate crimes increased 122 percent in California between 2014 and 2015. The same report documented at least 260 hate crimes against Muslims nationwide in 2015 ― nearly an 80 percent rise from 2014 and the highest annual number of such crimes since 2001.

The Huffington Post has recorded at least 260 instances this year of anti-Muslim violence, harassment, discrimination and political speech. 

According to CAIR, the Safe Place to Learn Act is the “first and only bill directly addressing the issue of Islamophobia in California. The negative tone in our national politics has enflamed a disturbing trend of scapegoating and fear-mongering targeting American Muslims.”

The bill, which also requires the state superintendent of public instruction to publicly post anti-bullying resources related to Muslim and Sikh students, goes into effect on Jan. 1.  

(Christopher Mathias is National Reporter for Huff Post … where this piece was fist posted.)

-cw

A Distinct Lack of Enthusiasm … and What to Do About It

GELFAND’S WORLD--I had a cute opening line for this piece -- Crow doesn't taste very good -- but I'm not going to use it. By now, a couple of thousand people have published their shock, grief, and fear about the electoral tsunami that hit us on Tuesday. Further revelations will keep us on edge for the next several weeks. For example, an infamous climate change denier is being proposed to run the EPA. As recently as Richard Nixon's presidency, Republicans supported pro-environmental policies at least some of the time. The modern party has moved away from that posture in horrific fashion. It will remain the responsibility of the rest of us to refer to the fact of climate change from now on, the same way that Steven Jay Gould began referring to the fact of evolution

With all the explanations now being published online about why Trump won, we may run short of electrons. There is no need to repeat all that stuff here. Instead, I will limit myself to comments I heard the night of the election, offered to me by a veteran political activist and observer. He said that he had become concerned during his phone calling for Hillary because, as he explained, "I talked to the voters." He was calling people who were listed as committed to a Clinton vote. They hadn't changed their minds, but there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm. 

He also mentioned watching tapes of several speeches that Trump gave in the upper midwest battleground states. He explained further: Trump didn't talk about immigration to those audiences. He talked about foreign trade. This approach allowed Trump to play on widespread frustrations about job insecurity and the loss of manufacturing jobs. 

I'll insert my own small summary to the why discussion. The generation that came back from WWII lived in a world where European and Asian manufacturing had been turned to rubble. Significant parts of that postwar world lived under American and Russian occupation. Our industrial heartland was unblemished and the world was our market. We had our own oil supplies along with coal, iron ore, and that era's version of the technology sector. Add some of the world's top scientists who came here as refugees, and we were all alone, atop the world economy. 

The 1974 oil embargo meant the end of our independence. We were exposed as dependent on foreign petroleum. The fact that Europe and Asia were likewise dependent didn't seem to help the national psyche. We've been struggling over energy ever since. The Asians and Europeans also struggled, and one strategy they employed with success was to continually increase their exports. Somehow, the U.S. didn't get the memo. 

Today's adult generation were raised in a country where dad and granddad could get work at the steel mills or on the assembly line. Pop could make good money and feel secure about his career. Remember when the U.S. built televisions and radios? Remember when we had three major corporations competing to sell passenger jets? There was a time when the term Made in USA was a major positive. The modern economy involves a lot of innovation from right here, but the products (the iphone, for example) are made overseas. 

Our people have gotten tired of being in a perpetually stagnant economy. Modern America is hard on most of the working class. Employers take advantage -- because they can. Whole sectors of the economy have imploded. People have much to be frustrated about. Still, the most recent Democratic presidents have done much better as economic stewards than the Republicans who served before and after them. Just consider the job creation numbers during the past four or five administrations to see that this is true. 

The take home lesson here is that the working class person's real enemy is Republican policy, not a Democratic president. The corollary is that Democratic candidates and lawmakers have utterly failed to make this point clear to the voters. Michael Moore takes a stab at this failure in his prescription that we take over the Democratic Party. People have to understand that the real choice is between the parties, not whether you happen to find the Republican candidate suitable to have a beer with. 

But enough about economics. The people who voted for Trump may have had some reason to believe that they were voting for economic change, but they were not only factually wrong, they were immoral to do so. Their votes are a collective indictment of their gross moral failure. 

Trump took advantage of the question of Obama's birthplace starting half a decade ago. Everything about that attack on a sitting president was repugnant. Was Trump as racist as the attacks suggested? Maybe so. But if not, then Trump was opportunistically appealing to the most racist elements of the American population. Whether it was direct racism or just the equally evil intent to take advantage of other peoples' racism, Trump should have been disqualified on that basis alone. 

There is also Trump's misogyny. He's a guy who didn't bother to keep his feelings to himself. 

In casting nearly half our ballots for Donald Trump, we have failed the moral test as a nation. It is a bitter disappointment that 150 years after the Civil War, the racist appeals of Donald Trump were met with acceptance. It is a disappointment that in a modern world where women do equal work alongside men, this level of misogyny should be tolerated. 

There was a moral duty to disavow Trump in the voting booth, and we have failed that test as a people. 

One issue has already been raised, particularly in the pages of the Daily Kos website. Hillary Clinton will be the second Democratic candidate in 16 years to win the election in terms of total votes, but lose the presidency because we use the electoral college method of selection. There are a couple of ways of looking at this. The first is that both sides understood the rules going into the contest. The other side is that the rules are intentionally rigged to give an advantage to states with smaller populations. As one blogger explained more directly, the electoral college (unique among modern democracies) was designed to give an advantage to white southern men in an age of slavery. 

Trying to replace the electoral college by Constitutional amendment is obviously a lost cause, but there is a work-around. It is possible for states to enter into an agreement that they will cast their electoral votes for the winner of the popular vote. Imagine for example that such a compact existed already, and that Trump had managed to win the popular vote. California -- in spite of its overwhelming vote for Clinton -- would be obligated to cast its electoral votes for Trump. Or consider what really happened in the vote count. The result would be that California would join enough other states to elect Clinton the next president when the electoral college assembles. It's a way to deal with a harmful anachronism. 

Interestingly, 10 states and the District of Columbia have already agreed to enter the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), and that includes California. So far, the compact includes 165 electoral votes, so it's up to us, if we want it, to bring another 105 electoral votes into the group. It would be something for furious Democrats and independents to sink their teeth into over the next few years. 

In a system where the popular vote takes the win, we Californians would see and meet candidates, because we have a lot of votes to give. In a system where the total vote counts, can you imagine the competing campaigns spending so much of their time in North Carolina the week before the election?

 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected]

-cw

What the Hell Just Happened?

PERSPECTIVE--I have been wrong every step of the way in this campaign.

I thought Trump would be defeated in the primaries or taken down at the Republican convention. And certainly there was no way he could win a national election after alienating large segments of the population.

Wrong, wrong, wrong … but so were the pollsters.

Read more ...

The Fight Does NOT End November 8th

ALPERN AT LARGE--Let's summarize this piece in one sentence:  After all the haranguing, polling, mind-abuse, debating, screaming and lecturing, it comes down to your vote (or your decision NOT to vote) … so figure out which battles you need to  fight on November 8, 2016, and figure out which battles need to be fought on November 9, 2016. And there are battles to fight on both days. 

What, you thought that the world ended on November 8, 2016? They've been predicting the end of the world for many millennia. But this election will end. There will be a new elected President, and a host of new decisions in the City and County of LA, and in our state. We will have a "new reality" to contend with, just as we have had new realities for many eras in our history. And there will be new battles to fight on November 9, 2016. 

Some will be rehashes of old battles: spending, budgeting, health and welfare priorities. Some will be new battles--in particular, the City of Los Angeles will have a few City Councilmember races, and the Big One ... the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. It’s a daunting scenario.   

That the fight isn't over? Of course. But has the fight ever been over? And what say we all about spending a moment or two on those in the military who did and arefighting to allow us to have the  privilege of fighting here at home? 

And what say we all about spending a moment or two on those who've fought for efforts that will be addressed long after they are dead and buried? 

And what say we all about spending a moment or two trying to educate our kids (and their kids) about the privilege of voting, debating, fighting for causes that are worth that struggle. 

Through my years of civic involvement, I've only really feared one thing:  APATHY. There is nothing that will destroy a society more than apathy. So perhaps some of us who fought the good fight for the past election cycle will need to "change gears". As in ... form a committee, or end a committee.  Start a movement, or end a movement. Write a book.  Spend more time with family. Run for office, or DON'T run for office. But the sun will rise, and set, on November 8, 2016, just like it has for billions of years. As the old expression goes:  "Man makes plans, and God laughs". 

God might not be laughing right now, what with all the rage going on in the world, but He does have a plan to make  November 9, 2016 a reality.  And maybe your new plan, starting on November 9, 2016, is part of His plan. But for now, let's just make November 8, 2016 the best November 8, 2016 we can. Make your stand to vote (or NOT to vote, if that is your solemn conclusion, and one by which you'll make your stand). But there WILL be a brand new day come November 9, 2016.  And the opportunity to make a brand new YOU. And that is "hope and change" to which we can all look forward to.

 

(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at  [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern.)

-cw

Social Media Shaming: Criminal Charges Filed Against Ex-Playmate

SNAPCHAT SNAFU-When former Playboy playmate Dani Mathers “snapchatted” a photo last July of an unsuspecting 70-year old in the shower area of an LA Fitness center, social media observers set Facebook and other sites abuzz with angry comments. Mathers fired off a lukewarm apology for the “mean girl” act, claiming the photo, which she captioned, “If I can’t unsee this then you can’t either,” was meant as a private message on her Snapchat account. (If a tree falls in the woods and only one person is supposed to see it on social media, does it still make a sound?) 

The LA City Attorney seems to think so. Last Friday, Mike Feuer filed a misdemeanor count of invasion of privacy against the 29-year old, alleging she furtively pointed her smartphone to snap an image of the naked woman. This case could have far-reaching implications as prosecution for “body shaming.” Invasion of privacy charges aren’t at all uncommon for voyeurs and those who hide cameras to take sexually suggestive images of unsuspecting women. However, legal experts note that these charges are rarely used for body shaming, especially on social media, where it has become a hot button issue.

Mather’s attorney, Thomas Mesereau, commented, “I am disappointed that Dani Mathers was charged with any violation. She never tried to invade anyone’s privacy and she never tried to violate any laws.” Unless, of course, we consider snapping nude photos of an unaware stranger to share on social media to be a violation of privacy. 

Holding people accountable for social media bullying and invasion of privacy is a move in the right direction. Ms. Mathers attempted to shame a woman who should have an expectation that she would not be photographed naked in a gym locker room, whether there’s a lascivious motive or not.

 

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

Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates Meet LA Housing, Push for Affordable Housing

On Thursday, October 26, Budget Advocate Barbara Ringuette from Silver Lake Neighborhood Council (NC) with members of her Housing Committee met with the Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department (HCIDLA) to inquire about the outlook on revenue for affordable housing for fiscal year 2017-18. The following is an excerpt of the meeting: 

“Nationally, Los Angeles is the most rent-burdened place to live in the country,” commented HCIDLA Executive Officer, Laura K. Guglielmo. “There’s a mismatch between what people earn and what they spend for rent in this city; they’re paying more than 50% of their earnings for rent. At some time, it will restrict the workforce. We have to make a choice to improve the problem.” 

Housing Development Bureau
Assistant General Manager Helmi Hisserich said that she doesn’t want to view development as a “piggy bank.” On the other hand, Ms. Hisserich finds that when development creates an impact causing the need of affordable housing, “it’s only appropriate for it to help support that need.” 

“We want to be mindful that every time the city puts a fee on development, it affects the cost of development,” said Hisserich. 

Linkage Fee 

The linkage fee will contribute about $30 million or less to affordable housing, and the benefit of that will vary upon the amount of development since it’s tied to the market trend, said Hisserich. “It’s a revenue stream that has the potential of growing through time.” 

Guglielmo elaborated that large development that has a housing impact will pay a Linkage Fee. Say, in the case of a developer building a skyscraper or stadium and employing many workers at minimum wage who cannot afford to live in Los Angeles. Then that developer is creating a demand for affordable housing, and development now has to create a resource, even though, normally, the people [taxpayers] would be paying for it [through public subsidies]. 

Guglielmo re-stated that it's a link between development and affordable housing. If a developer is employing workers who are earning at or below the area’s median income, such as a household of four earning $50,000 or less, the developer is contributing to the need for affordable housing. 

“With a linkage fee we create affordable housing,” she said. 

Assistant general manager Luz Santiago said that HCIDLA is presently working on a study with the Department of City Planning. “The team is looking at the various types of developments, their relative contributions to affordable housing and trying to find a balance. Perhaps they’ll consider the square footage of a development to calculate the fee.” Soon the team will present a proposal to the Mayor regarding the Linkage Fee, she said. 

Cap-and-Trade Program 

The Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Program is statewide under the cap-and-trade spending plan which provides revenue generated from the permits sold to industrial polluters in California. Proposals for funding must be used solely for projects that reduce carbon emissions. 

HCIDLA, with a group of developers, submitted a funding proposal for the competitive grant, requesting about $75 million to be used for affordable housing linked to transportation. “We were awarded $64 million. We’ll continue to apply for affordable housing grants though the total cap-and-trade fund seems to be declining,” said Guglielmo. 

“Affordable housing is linked to transportation. Getting people out of their cars, reducing vehicle-miles traveled is the single biggest way to decrease carbon emissions,” said Guglielmo. “Lower income families tend to eliminate cars when living near public transit, resulting in a higher reduction of carbon emissions.” 

Ms. Santiago said that HCIDLA is getting ready to submit a proposal requesting a position for fiscal year 2017-2018 to coordinate the application of the cap-and-trade grant with multiple city departments -- Department of Transportation, Department of City Planning, LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), and Bureau of Street Services. 

Preserving Affordable Housing 

“The objective of the HCIDLA Recapitalization policy is to preserve affordable housing through the extension of the time period of affordability covenants,” as per CF 16-0085 adopted 2/03/16. 

Affordable housing is linked to a covenant “where the occupancy is restricted to households with income equal to or less than a specific income level,” said Hisserich. A covenant may fall into one of two categories. The first category “is a big concern to us,” she said. “There are 13,000 existing affordable units with covenants that will be expiring in the next five years. A lot of these units we inherited from the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles (CRA) that closed down. HCID has a proactive team of two who are doing outreach to owners to extend the affordability. When the covenants on the units expire they could be rented at market rate.” HCID offers assistance with refinancing or rehabilitation of the physical building. Covenants are legal bindings that are tied to the property for 50 years. 

The second category of affordable housing is less of a focus for HCID. Presently the department has 20-Recaps (affordable housing projects with loans for capital improvements) in the queue, explained Hisserich. “These are not at risk of converting into market rate anytime soon. Through a needs assessment, review, and evaluation of certain affordable housing developments, we offer financial assistance with city funds and tax exempt bonds. It varies from project to project.” Then if a property owner needs funding to renovate or repair units, we provide them with the capital to renovate resulting in a capital cost, she said. “Every time we do substantial capital improvements we extend the covenant another 50 years to provide affordable housing. We become financial partners, using public funds and bonds.” 

Guglielmo explained that housing under the Rent Stabilized Ordinance (RSO) is rent stabilized housing and not necessarily affordable because an RSO property might not be under the restrictions of a covenant. RSO units could be renting at market rate. 

LAUSD Partnership 

HCIDLA manages 13 Family Source Centers in the city. It’s a 50/50 dollar-partnership with LAUSD where $1 million comes out of the city’s general fund. Through LAUSD-PSA, teachers work with students whose families are at risk. “We address the family side,” said Guglielmo. She added that HCID is broadening their relationship with LA County to increase the funding for the Family Source Centers with social workers and mental health services, including domestic violence. In summary, she said our Family Resource Centers are “a one stop shop.” 

Health Department Vouchers 

According to Guglielmo, the County Health Department has recently put millions of dollars into a new voucher program to assist the homeless that are in county hospitals or facilities, stating, “It’s been very valuable.” The vouchers are worth a $1,000 a month in rental subsidy as long as the rental unit is in an area with access to a healthcare facility. 

This reduces the cost of “keeping them [the homeless] in a county hospital costing a $1,000 per day,” said Hisserich. “There have been a lot of people who are benefiting from this program. We’re coordinating with the use of these vouchers … Vouchers alone aren’t the solution. They are only part of the solution because a person may have a voucher but have no place to go.” 

Budget Advocate Barbara Ringuette commented that she is hopeful substantial additional affordable housing will be built in Los Angeles and that existing resources will be maintained. 

Ms. Ringuette added, “My concerns are the enforceability of existing and new housing covenants and mitigating the impacts that increased density, height, and parking can bring to our neighborhoods.”

 

(Connie Acosta is a member of the Budget Advocates Housing Committee and often reports on the neighborhood council system and other topics.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Latinos will Decide the Election on Tuesday

LATINO PERSPECTIVE-For the past 16 years pundits have been saying that Latinos will decide the Presidential election. But I think that, for the first time, and for real, Latinos will decide the 2016 election. 

Not only are Latino voters set for record turnout this year, but a new poll on Sunday shows Latino support for Donald Trump may be lower than for any Republican presidential candidate in more than 30 years. 

According to the latest Noticias Telemundo/Latino Decisions /NALEO Educational Fund poll, Hillary Clinton has support from 76% of the Latino electorate. 

That's a higher level of support than President Obama won in both of his elections. Latino Decisions' survey showed 75% of Latinos backed Obama in 2012. Exit polling put his support at 71%. 

Just 14% of Latino voters backed Trump, the survey found, That's about half of Mitt Romney's 27% showing with Latinos and fewer than the GOP's low-point when Bob Dole won 21% of the Latino vote in 1996. 

Polling in California found similar results, according to the final statewide USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times survey. Clinton was winning 73% of Latino registered voters compared with 17% for Trump in a two-way match up, the poll found.  

Exit data compiled by the Pew Hispanic Center shows no Republican candidate faring worse with Latinos in presidential elections dating to 1980. 

This past year there has been a surge in Latinos with permanent residency applying for citizenship, and a surge in voter registration as well. Almost 15 million Latinos could vote this year and many of them so worry that Donald Trump could become President that these new citizens are already voting early in Nevada, Florida, California, Texas, and other states. 

Our country is going through a transformation; according to the U.S. census the white majority will be gone by 2043. It’s the latest in a series of reports that have signaled a major, long-term shift in the demographics of the United States, as non-Hispanic white Americans are expected to become a minority group over the next three decades. 

For years, Americans of Asian, black and Hispanic descent have stood poised to topple the demographic hegemony historically held by whites. 

I think this is a good thing for our country, but adaptation will not be easy as we have already seen with all the turmoil surrounding this 2016 election. The Republican Party’s future will greatly depend on what it does when the voting is over on Tuesday. 

The United States is better and stronger when it has two great parties shaping our country. For the Democrats, they have to make sure they don’t take Latinos and other minorities for granted. Hopefully for the GOP, it will adapt, learn and become once again the party of Lincoln.

 

(Fred Mariscal came to Los Angeles from Mexico City in 1992 to study at the University of Southern California and has been in LA ever since. He is a community leader and was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LA District Attorney’s Collusion with LA City Hall

CORRUPTION WATCH-While Eric Garcetti is largely responsible for the criminogenic nature of Los Angeles City Hall, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office has also been complicit by ignoring City Hall crimes. 

At the outset, one needs to distinguish between the City Attorney’s Office and the County District Attorney’s Office. The City Attorney’s Office is forbidden to investigate criminal charges against the mayor or any City Councilmember no matter how criminal their behavior may be. The City Attorney is just that, the City’s attorney, and thus, owes confidentiality to the Mayor and City Councilmembers.   

The Los Angeles County’s District Attorney’s Office is an entirely different animal. The District Attorney is under an affirmative duty to investigate possible criminal behavior and then to prosecute people if and when he or she finds probable cause that criminal behavior has occurred. The D.A.’s duty to prosecute extends to the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles and to all City Councilmembers.   

For years, the Los Angeles County’s District Office has failed to prosecute any of the criminal behavior in the Mayor’s office or that of any City Councilmember, with the exception of City Councilmember Alarcon who allegedly had his residence in the wrong part of the San Fernando Valley. It is interesting to note in passing that after Councilmember’s Alarcon’s conviction was set aside, the District Attorney has decided to re-try him rather than use her leverage over his dubious residency record, in order to obtain his cooperation regarding the various criminal behaviors of the mayor and other councilmembers when Alarcon was councilmember for District 7. It is also interesting that the D.A. has been silent about Council President Herb Wesson’s decision to declare himself temporary councilmember for District 7 due to the resignation of former CD7 Councilman Felipe Fuentes – even though Wesson owns no home anywhere in the Valley. 

Long Standing Public Complaints about the Criminogenic Nature of City Hall 

On June 26, 2012, CityWatch published an article on the criminogenic nature of Los Angeles City Hall, especially in Garcetti’s Council District 13. CityWatch also ran a series of articles on the criminogenic nature of Garcetti’s “Cesspool” on Vine. 

What did the LA County District Attorney know or should have known since 2001, when Eric Garcetti first took office? Any law enforcement agency has powers far greater than any citizen or any news organization. The D.A. can convene a grand jury to question possible witnesses. If they lie during an investigation, witnesses can be criminally charged. I call this the Martha Stewart Rule. Her prison term was for lying to the SEC, not for insider trading. 

Also, anyone who watches Law and Order or any other TV crime show knows that law enforcement “flips” underlings to testify against the bigwigs. There are hundreds of staffers for Garcetti and for the various councilmembers over the last decade who have enough information to criminally prosecute virtually every single one of them. 

We will only focus on a few of many instances in which enough information has seeped out to the public and the various District Attorneys looked the other way, to show that the inaction by the LA County District Attorney’s Office is a major reason that Los Angeles City Hall is a Temple to Criminogenics. 

  1. Garcetti’s Appraisal Fraud at Cesspool on Vine 

CityWatch and other news sources covered much of this story. Due to his use of developer appraisals, Steve Ullman, friend of CM Eric Garcetti, was not a favored person at the Community Redevelopment Agency [CRA/LA]. When he wanted to sell his property at 1601 N. Vine to the CRA/LA, which is part of the City of Los Angeles, it was decided that Hal Katersky would front as the property’s owner. (When later questioned about who actually owned 1601 N. Vine, CRA/LA said, “Steve Ullman” and not Hal Katersky or his business Pacifica Ventures.) 

On May 25, 2006, the developer got an appraisal for 1601 N. Vine at $5.4 million, but on May 23, 2016, the CRA/LA itself had obtained an appraisal for only $4 million. Eric Garcetti presented the $5.4 million developer appraisal to the City Council as the only appraisal and then duped the City Council into unanimously agreeing to purchase the property for $1.4 million more than the CRA/LA’s own appraisal. Of course, Garcetti was under an affirmative legal duty to disclose that the City’s own $4 million appraisal was $1.4 million lower that of the developer’s appraisal. 

This appraisal fraud was brought to the attention of the District Attorney and was the subject of hearings at City Hall in 2010 and 2011 when Garcetti wanted the City to re-sell the property to the developer for only $825,000. People had made a Government Code § 6250 Request for Public documents to the CRA/LA, which did not disclose the lower $4 million appraisal. One day, however, while a person was at the CRA/LA building, someone from CRA/LA came to this person and said, “Here, you want this. Leave now.” Once outside, this person opened the envelope that contained an unknown appraisal for 1601 N. Vine for only $4 million. 

The public widely publicized the fraud, but the DA did nothing. On October 21, 2010, Ron Kay LA published “UPDATED: Demand for a Criminal Investigation of the CRA Deal for 1601 N. Vine St. It was also mentioned in CityWatch on June 25, 2010, CRA Has LA’s Council in a Mind Wrap.” 

In 2010, the City said that no one who knew anything about the transactions back in 2006 was still around. That was a bold lie. There was Eric Garcetti, CRA/LA’s Tom Breezy (who seemed to have gone into hiding,) CRA/LA’s John Prefitt (who was then working for the City of Downey,) the owner Steve Ullman, Garcetti’s aid and then CRA/LA employee Allison Becker, and project front man Hal Katersky. Since other workers at the CRA/LA knew enough to slip the hidden $4 million appraisal to the public, there had to be a host of other CRA/LA employees as well as other members of Garcetti’s council staff who knew. Did the District Attorney bother to question a single person? There was far more than probable cause to indict those people who committed appraisal fraud on the City of LA. Yet, nothing was done. 

  1. Garcetti-La Bonge, Hollywood Sign Bait and Switch Scam 

From all evidence, this $12 million “Bait and Switch Scam” over the Hollywood Sign’s imminent destruction was run out of Tom LaBonge’s Office (CD 4), while Garcetti was CD 13’s councilmember and City Council President. 

One could say that this scheme exemplified how the road to hell is paved with good intentions. On the flip side, LaBonge involved Hollywood school children. Is it wise to teach children that a criminal Bait and Switch scam is an OK way to make money? 

LaBonge wanted to purchase the 140 acres of Cahuenga Peak, a barren peak to the west of Mt. Lee. As Hollywoodians know, Mt. Lee’s south slope is the home of the Hollywood Sign. For reasons which are not pertinent for this story, in 2001, shortly after 9/11, LaBonge had allowed Fox River Financial from Chicago to purchase Cahuenga Peak for $1.67 million despite the fact it overlooked the LAPD communications installation on top of Mt. Lee.   

In 2010, LaBonge decided that it would be nice to spend $12 million to buy Cahuenga Peak as an addition to Griffith Park. The Peak still overlooked Mt. Lee’s telecommunications center and for Home Land Security reasons, it was non-buildable. No one has explained why property worth $1.67 million in 2001 was worth almost ten times as much in 2010, when we were in the depths of the real estate crash. 

When LaBonge could not raise the $12 million to buy the property, the Save the Peak Campaign was born. The H Sign was draped with huge letters saying SAVE THE PEAK. The worldwide news story was that developers were about to destroy the famed Hollywood Sign and people had to donate money to Save The Peak as the only way to save the H Sign. 

Even the Hollywood school children whom La Bonge enlisted in his Save the Peak campaign knew that the H Sign is not on Cahuenga Peak and that it was in no type of danger. People living in South Africa, Europe and Australia, however, did not know that this was a Bait and Switch fraud. The District Attorney knew about the fraud since it was well publicized and members of the public expressly complained to the DA about this scam. 

La Bonge had photo-ops in front of the H Sign and Governor Schwarzenegger came and gave a speech about how much the Hollywood Sign meant to him and what an honor it was to help save it. 

  1. Garcetti’s Millennium Earthquake Towers and Raymond Chan’s Money Laundering 

During the fiasco of Garcetti’s attempting to construct the Millennium Towers over the Hollywood Earthquake Fault Line, the key person at Los Angeles’ Department of Building and Safety was Raymond Chan. During this time, The Millennium’s law firm hired Raymond Chan’s son, who was a law student, to work as a “law clerk.” Hiring the son of the mucky-muck in charge of the Millennium’s earthquake assessment seemed a tad shady. Of course, the City found no earthquake threat. But, wait, it gets worse. 

When the LA Times found that the law student son had made thousands of dollars of contributions to Garcetti’s campaign, people started asking where the kid got all that money. People suspected that since the law student son worked for the law firm, he was an illegal conduit from Millennium to its lawyers to the son to Garcetti. 

At that point, Raymond Chan announced that he had given his son the money to make the campaign contributions to Garcetti. That diverted suspicion away from The Millennium. As we learned in the LA Times Sea Breeze article, relatives funneling money to politicos is as illegal as developers funneling money. Raymond Chan was later promoted by Garcetti. All the District Attorney had to do was walk into the Grand Jury room, slap down the LA Times and the other news article and say, “Indict this ham sandwich.” But oh no, nothing that might tarnish golden boy Garcetti. 

  1. The Missing Half Billion Loss at the Hollywood-Highland Project 

It cost $625 million to construct the Hollywood-Highland Project and in 2004, the project was sold to CIM Group for only $201 million. That was a loss of $424 million; then the City made some sort of $30 million deal with CIM to subsidize the transformation of the new Kodak Theater, which had been expressly designed for the Academy Awards, so that it would be appropriate of Cirque du Soleil. Thus, the overall loss on the Project approached $500 million. 

From the District Attorney’s perspective, the important element was not whether the original developer lost close to half a billion dollars, but how much money did the City of Los Angeles (including its Community Redevelopment Agency, CRA/LA) lose in the transfer of Hollywood-Highland to one of Garcetti’s most favored developers? There is good reason to believe that this deal cost the City $100 million. Who really knows, when the public is left to reading the tea leaves? 

(5) Corruption Kills, LA County D.A.’s Own June 2013 Findings 

In June 2013, the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury found that when the LA City Council under the leadership of council President Eric Garcetti took millions of dollars away from the Los Angeles Paramedics, they knew that people would die and that people did in fact dies as a result of those budget cuts. As others proved, Garcetti based the under-funding of the paramedics on a false deployment report. Taking money away from paramedics with knowledge that people will die as a result is criminal fraud. It is no different than hiding peanut butter in food in a school cafeteria knowing that some kids have lethal peanut allergies. At the same time, the City was giving hundreds of millions of dollars to developers. 

Has Garcetti fixed the situation? On November 3, 2016 a toddler choked on a grape at the LA Zoo and it took the paramedics 14 minutes to arrive. Six minutes of the delay seems due to the LA Zoo’s unwillingness to call 911, but it took the paramedics eight minutes to reach the zoo after the 911 call was made. Why doesn’t LA have paramedics stationed at the zoo like other cities? Although Garcetti and others know that the downsized paramedic workforce is causing needless death and this child has been turned into a “vegetable,” giving money to developers like the $17 million Garcetti gave to CIM Group for its project at 5929 Sunset is more important. 

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office has likewise shown a conscious disregard for the life and safety of Angelenos. The District Attorney’s own June 2013 Grand Jury report shows that it knew that the “corruptionism” at LA City Hall was killing people and it did nothing.

 

(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.

Hate Crime Rears Its Ugly Head in Boyle Heights Anti-Gentrification Battle

DIVIDED LA--The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating three incidents of vandalism at art galleries in Boyle Heights as possible hate crimes. In at least one instance, "187" and "Fuck White Art" were painted on a building in Boyle Heights, according to police. The number 187 is the California penal code for murder.

The heavily Mexican-American Eastside community has been a cauldron of tension between locals and a handful of mostly newer art galleries, which are seen by critics as the leading flank of a wave of white gentrification. In September protesters gathered outside the opening of a new gallery, Artist Space, created by Beverly Hills–based United Talent Agency, which represents A-list actors and, now, up-and-coming artists.

And earlier in the summer the group Defend Boyle Heights demanded that "all art galleries in Boyle Heights ... leave immediately." Anti-gentrification activists say the galleries, new restaurants and new housing serve as tools to displace Boyle Heights residents who, in a market where median rents exceed median income, will have nowhere else to go. 

The vandalism took place between Oct. 8 and 11 and again on Oct. 15, according to LAPD Capt. Rick Stabile. Seeing the "187" marking as a threat, and noting that the graffiti targets white people, police started a hate-crime investigation, he says.

"We are so neutral on the gentrification part of this stuff," he says. "But to me there's a way to protest legally, especially in LA, and that doesn't mean you can vandalize people's property."

City Councilman José Huizar, who represents the community, described the graffiti as particularly out of order given the history of Boyle Heights as a kind of Ellis Island of L.A. — where generations of immigrants of Jewish, Japanese and Mexican backgrounds have found a landing place.

"As Americans, we all have the right to peacefully assemble and express our opinions," Huizar said in a statement. "However, hate speech graffiti, property damage or other illegal acts are crimes and cannot be tolerated.

"I think the issue of gentrification is something that the Boyle Heights community should address, given what’s happening throughout the city of LA. But at the same time, there’s a way of doing that. I really don’t support the tactics that some of the anti-gentrification groups have used in Boyle Heights. To have this kind of racially based exclusion of people is not right, given the history of Boyle Heights. It’s not right on its own, but it’s even worse when you think about the history of Boyle Heights."

Defend Boyle Heights denied responsibility for the vandalism — but it didn't condemn it. "We don’t know who tagged up these galleries, but we certainly don’t condemn it," according to a statement from the group. "It is right to rebel! We are glad to see the community rise up to resist displacement, art washing and gentrification — however they see fit! Your anger is justified."

The statement described the possible hate-crime designation as ironic because police have fatally shot "men, women, boys and girls in our community."

LAPD's Stabile says he wants gallery owners and critics to talk it out, and he's asked the city Human Relations Commission to set up community meetings where both sides can air their issues. 

  • READ ALSO: Gentrification Protesters in Los Angeles Target Art Galleries (NY Times) 

(Dennis Romero writes for LA Weekly … where this piece was first posted.) Photo credit: LA Weekly-Timo Saarelma

-cw

Former LA Councilman Alarcon: Like Trying to Get Rid of Flypaper, Voter Fraud Charges won’t Go Away

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Voter Fraud. Talk about two words we never again want to hear mentioned in the same breath. However, an LA County Superior Court Judge, George Lomeli, ruled last week that the former LA City Councilman Richard Alarcon and his wife could still face voter fraud and perjury charges – this, while encouraging both sides to resolve the case, perhaps moving to a misdemeanor conviction. Judge Lomeli’s ruling comes months after their felony convictions were thrown out by an appeals court panel. 

The heat was turned up a bit as Alarcon announced he was challenging Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles) in the 29th Congressional District within weeks after his conviction was overturned. The caveat is, if he is convicted of a felony in a retrial, he’ll be barred from holding elected office under California law. It seems Alarcon is putting the whole thing on hold, as he hasn’t been actively campaigning. A misdemeanor conviction, however, would still allow Alarcon to hold elected office. 

A bit of backstory: Most of this hinges on residency claims. Prosecutors charge that Alarcon and his wife, Flora Montes de Oca Alarcon, lied about their residence to allow Alarcon to run for LA City Council. Per California Elections Code, candidates must actually reside in the district they aim to represent. Alarcon was termed out as a councilman in 2013. 

Alarcon ran to represent Panorama City while living in Sun Valley, which is in a different district. The defense attorneys for the Alarcons stated the couple had been staying temporarily in the Sun Valley residence during renovations of their Panorama City home and had planned to return once construction was finished. That excuse might have seemed plausible if Deputy Dist. Atty. Michele Gilmer hadn’t presented blueprints for turning the single family residence into a multi-unit complex. To top things off, a police officer testified about a squatter who moved in and even changed the locks. 

The jury wasn’t buying and Alarcon was convicted of three voter-fraud charges and one perjury charge while his wife was convicted of two voting charges and one perjury count. The couple was acquitted on other charges. Alarcon did his time under house arrest and his wife did community service, but the couple appealed. The conviction was overturned by an appellate panel that concluded there were improper jury instructions concerning residence requirements by Lomeli. A new hearing date is set for January 27. 

We’ll keep you posted.

 

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

Charter School Movement: ‘Insidious Plan’ to Take Over Public Education

GUEST COMMENTARY--David Leonhardt says: “Charter schools -- public schools that operate outside the normal system -- have become a quarrelsome subject, alternately hailed as saviors and criticized as an overrated fad.” There is no such thing as public charter school. Period. And, they are certainly no “fad,” but rather, a ploy to end our public school system. 

It is propaganda about “public” charter schools that confuses the public. Our citizens are unaware of the plan and the ploy by the Educational Industrial Complex to end public schools by starving their budgets, using bogus tests to label them failing and then hand them over to those who want to do so much more than just make a fortune. 

I read and admire the writing of David Leonhardt, but it is outrageous, that once again, the New York Times perpetuates the absolute false notion that there are Public Charter Schools.  

Giving taxpayer’s money to charter schools that lack transparency and regulations does NOT make them PUBLIC SCHOOLS, and yet, this ploy is on the ballots in Massachusetts, Georgia, Pennsylvania and many states. 

Do not pretend that your paper is printing all the “news that is fit to print,” when you consistently promote the end of public education instead of printing the stories that could make our schools strong again. Make America great again by bringing back our schools so an ignoramus like Trump will face a nation of educated, skilled, working people who love democracy! 

 I have been an educator for four decades and I now write at Oped News and on the Diane Ravitch blog about the takeover of the institution of Public Education.  

Dr. Ravitch wrote, How Not to Fix Our Public Schools-Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” and you [LA Times] have  published her editorial, but you have learned nothing about the plan to takeover our democracy by  doing what every  dictator (and even the Saudi’s know)  get the children when they are young -- because they are not kids for long; soon they will be citizens who vote. 

The insidious plan is to let people like these guys rewrite history. “Get ’em young”… as they are doing in North Carolina, where the Koch Bros want to write social studies curricula.  

Read the Ravitch blog: Civics Lessons Financed by the Koch Brothers” | Diane Ravitch’s blog and you will see the end of public education.  

They also know that Democracy depends on shared knowledge, and they know how to end real knowledge by simply taking over the 15,880 school systems, and make sure the newspapers and media spit out lies.   

Fifty-two states and almost sixteen thousand separate school systems make it so easy for the puppet-masters who own all the media in this nation to hide this assault on American democracy, and the only road to income equality. 

We saw how privatizing heath care affected our people while enriching the corporate big pharma! 

There is a ton of money to be made when the salaries and benefits of experienced professionals are removed from the budget. Take the experienced professional out of a hospital and watch it fail, too. 

Yes, the hedge funds love charter $chools. Look at what the California Billionaires are doing to privatize education and be aware that this is a worldwide takeover of education by the oligarchs who know that taking over the education system wins the battle to take over any nation. This article by Justin Miller in the American Prospect seeks to demystify the strange confluence between hedge fund managers and the charter school movement. 

This is a great discussion, in which Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now” interviews Juan Gonzalez of the NY Daily News about the big money pushing charter schools. The discussion is based on this article.  

Look at the scam of “virtual” charter schools. Ariana Prothero writes in Education Week about the “Outsized Influence” of lobbyists for the virtual charter industry. 

Or, go to my series on privatization, using information that Diane Ravitch provides about the state legislatures which are taking over the local schools, with nary an educator on board, and giving them to charters, with not a shred of oversight! Here is a link to Diane’s posts on charter school corruption.  

(Susan Lee Schwartz has been an award winning public school teacher for decades. She is currently a freelance travel writer and photographer, but I also write widely, about real education reform in order to change the national conversation to where it needs to be. This was originally published as a letter to the Los Angeles Times.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

 

Why the Hefty Credit Card Fees on LA County Property Taxpayers?

DUNNING THE PROPERTY OWNERS-Those who didn’t pay their LA County property taxes on time -- the deadline was Tuesday -- have until 11:59 p.m. on December 10, when at the stroke of midnight, a 10% late fee will snap shut on them like a trap. 

In LA County, property taxes can be paid with a credit card, and many Angelenos struggling to make ends meet make use of that option, however fraught with costs and hidden risks it may be. 

LA County is not to blame for those risks and costs. But it is to blame for the fact that Angelenos who pay their property taxes with a credit card get charged a fee equal to 2.1% of their tax bill by the company which processes those payments. On a $5,000 tax bill that comes out to $105, not including the $5.95 fee.  

On what grounds can such an exorbitant fee be justified? It’s not the contractor who bears financial risk by processing tax payments. It’s the credit card companies.  

Why should the dollar amount of a tax payment affect the cost to process that payment? It obviously doesn’t, which is why the County’s arrangement with Fidelity Information Services, LLC, the company which charges -- and keeps 100% of the high fees -- needs rethinking.  

It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that Fidelity Information Services, LLC is making a fortune off its “nice work if you can get it” arrangement with the County.  

Time to renegotiate

 

(Eric Preven is a CityWatch contributor and a Studio City based writer-producer and public advocate for better transparency in local government. He was a candidate in the 2015 election for Los Angeles City Council, 2nd District. Joshua Preven is a CityWatch contributor and teacher who lives in Los Angeles.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

The Z-Man’s Election Special: Campaign 2016

RANTZ & RAVEZ--While you are considering the Presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, don’t forget the many important issues that will impact your wallet on a local level here in Los Angeles City and County.   

The time has come to end the discussions and torrent of TV Ads and piles of campaign literature and all political mail and select the people we want to be our next President and Vice President; Members of the United States Senate and Congress as well as our California State Senators and Assembly members. Then there are the other items on the ballot. Like the Four Judicial Offices (who knows anything about any of them) and 17 State Measures, 2 County Measures, 1 Community College Measure and finally the 4 Los Angeles City Measures. 

I have reviewed all the items including the 223 page Official Voter Information Guide from my friend Alex Padilla, the California Secretary of State. I have my selection of endorsements. Since I am concerned with electing people that will work for all Republicans and Democrats and Independents, my endorsements cross-traditional Red and Blue party lines. In the end, we are all American and deserve to have elected officials that represent and care for all of us. I have not received any consideration or compensation for any of the selections. I truly believe that our votes should be for the betterment of our city, county, state and America. 

President and Vice President……Your Choice of Hilary Clinton / Tim Kaine or Donald Trump / Michael Pence. Since there has been so much controversy and discussion about the Presidential Office, I leave that one up to you to select. I know who I am voting for and believe that after all the research I have done I am selecting the person I believe can bring America to a new arena of Progress and Hope. I am reluctant to use the terms Hope and Change since I don’t believe that has really worked for America during the past 8 years. Is America Great or not so Great? I believe that America is the land of opportunity and promise for those that work hard and pursue their dreams. I pray that all parties in America can unite for the good of ALL people.    

Now for the United States Senator from California.    This is a critical position for many reasons. While President Obama is doing TV Commercials for California Attorney General Kamala Harris, that tells me something about her connections with Washington D.C. On the other hand, the other candidate is current Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. Both of these candidates are Democrats and my bet is on Harris. In examining the track record of both candidates, Harris has accomplished a number of significant programs while Sanchez does not have any real claim to fame for all her years in Congress. 

As for your State Senator and Member of the State Assembly, each district has different candidates. In my district I am supporting former Reserve LAPD Officer and business owner Steve Fazio. My selection for Assemblyman is Matt Dababneh. I know both of these candidates on a personal level and can attest to their dedication to the people of their respective districts and the people of California. 

The Judicial candidates are usually very confusing to most voters. Since voters are not generally involved in court matters, your knowledge of the Judicial candidates is very limited. With the Slates of Candidates that are mailed to your homes, you can read a few words and not know the true story about the candidate. I have done my homework on the Judicial candidates running for offices 11, 42, 84 and 158. I know two of the candidates personally and have done research on the other two. I can attest to their qualifications and ability to be honorable Judges of the Superior Court.   

Office 11. I am voting for Debra R. Archuleta. Debra is currently a Deputy District Attorney and well qualified for the position of Judge. 

Office 42. Efrain Matthew Aceves is my selection for this office.     

Office 84. I am going with Susan Jung Townsend. Susan is also a Deputy District Attorney. She is most qualified for the position of Judge. 

Office 158. Kim L. Nguyen. Kim is a Deputy Attorney General and my pick for this Judicial office. 

Now we have the State Measures ...

 

  1. NO. School Bonds. Funding for K-12 and Community College Facilities.  This measure will last for 35 years and cost us approximately $17.6 Billion Dollars.     
  1. NO. Medi-Cal Hospital Fee Program. Uncertain Fiscal Impact. 
  1. YES. Revenue Bonds. Requires approval from voters if Bond exceeds $2 Billion. 
  1. NO. Prohibits Legislature from passing any bill unless published on the Internet for 72 hours before the vote. Note…We elect our state representatives to do a job for us. This measure will cost millions to maintain and is not necessary.   
  1. NO. Extends by another 12 Years a former temporary Tax extension to fund Education and Healthcare initiative. This temporary tax was enacted in 2012 and set to expire in 2019. This measure will extend the tax until 2030. This is all about truth in government. TEMPORARY means TEMPORARY!     
  1. YES. Cigarette Tax. If you smoke, I am sure you are opposed to this additional tax. If you are a non-smoker like me, you most likely will vote YES.   
  1. NO. Criminal Sentences, Parole and Juvenile Criminal Proceedings and Sentencing. This measure will continue the release of Criminals in our Penal System. This will lead to more crime and a negative impact on society.     
  1. Yes. English Language Proficiency will be a requirement in schools. 
  1. NO. Corporations and political spending and Federal Constitutional Protections. 
  1. Yes. Adult Films, Condoms and Health Requirements. 
  1. NO. State Prescription Drug Purchases. Pricing Standards.   
  1. NO. Death Penalty. Repeals the Death Penalty. With all the murders of civilians and police officers, we need to continue the enforcement of the Death Penalty. 
  1. Yes. Firearms and Ammo Sales. This measure will require a background check to purchase ammo. Additional Firearms restrictions are contained in this measure. 
  1. Up to youMarijuana for recreational use. If you like to get high, you will vote yes. There are some serious consequences with the legalization of Marijuana. DUI Marijuana and related public safety matters.      
  1. Yes. Carryout Bags and Charges. When bags are sold in stores, the money will be required to be used for environmental projects. 
  1. Yes. Death Penalty Procedures. Streamlines the Death Penalty procedures to avoid the current years long delays. Prison savings will amount to tens of millions of dollars annually. 
  1. NO. Unless there is a local ordinance, Plastic Bags will be provided free of charge to consumers.    

County Measures 

A.  NO. This measure will provide another tax increase on your home and business property. The measure calls for a 1.5 cents to be levied annually per square foot of improved property in all of Los Angeles County.  

M.  NO. This measure will increase the sales tax in all of Los Angeles County to at least 9.5 cents on all your purchases forever. There is no sunset clause in this measure. Some cities will be over 10 cents on all purchases. This measure is also being pushed to create over 465,000 jobs. How many of those jobs will be administrative? 

While we have massive traffic congestion in Los Angeles County, this is not the answer. Near $10 BILLION DOLLARS was sent on the 405-freeway improvement. Not much improvement to date. Combine this tax increase with the other ones being pushed for the November 8 election and your spendable cash will all be gone soon. 

Many of the proposed projects will not be completed until 40 years from now! While driverless cars are being developed along with battery operation vehicles, there is no vision in the future for this proposal.      

School 

CC.   NO. Los Angeles Community College District

The Community College District received increased funding a few years ago. Major improvements were completed and continue to be made at Community College Campuses. Valley College is still experiencing major construction along with many of the other campuses. This bond measure of $3,300,000,000 is not necessary.      

Los Angeles City 

HHH.   NO. This is another tax increase for Los Angeles residents. It calls for a $1.2 BILLION Dollar bond measure that will result in an increase in your property taxes. The funds are expected to be used for the Homeless population. Many homeless don’t want to reside in apartments or other structures. 

JJJ.   NO. This is the Affordable Housing and Labor Standards related to city planning. 

While this initiative may sound good, it will not bring about any significant affordable housing to Los Angeles. It will increase the cost of any housing that is done in Los Angeles.   

RRR.  NO. This is just another scam on those of us that pay for water and electricity with the DWP. The number of commissioners will increase to 7 members that will be PAID for their services. When the Rate Payer Advocate was established a few years ago, that was designed to improve the services and operations at the DWP. In the end, the Rate Payer Advocate cost us all more money with little positive results.   There is also a discussion about moving from a two-month bill to a monthly bill for DWP services. That is expected to cost $19,000,000 to begin the change and a recurring cost of $4,000,000 annually. RRR is a bad idea and should be defeated.  

SSS. Yes. This measure will permit newly hired Los Angeles International Airport Police Officers to join the City of Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension System. It will also permit current LAX Police Officers to join the Fire and Police Pension at their own expense. 

There you have it. I hope this assists you in understanding of the many items on the November 8, 2016 Ballot.

(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.)

-cw

‘The World as We Know It has Ended’

GELFAND’S WORLD--The world as we know it has ended. The Cubs won the World Series. So said one Facebook commenter known to me only as Joel's cousin, and I don't even know Joel. But the night of November 2, 2016 links people across the states, the continents even, in our celebration of the assertion that the impossible can happen. I mean, Halley's comet had already appeared twice since the last time the Cubs won the Series. 

Was this victory unlikely? Well, as one of the most famous statisticians in the world pointed out a couple of days ago (back when the Cubs were down in games by 3-1), the likelihood of the Cubs winning the Series was less than that of Trump winning the presidency. Perhaps this comparison ought to make us a little nervous. 

Then again, we could look at it another way: What was the statistical likelihood of both the Cubs winning the Series and Trump winning the presidency? The odds of both things happening in the same year (or at all) must be incredibly low. So now, with the Cubs winning, it must be practically impossible for Trump to win. It's like Garp's comment in The World According to Garp: "We'll take the house. Honey, the chances of another plane hitting this house are astronomical. It's been pre-disastered." 

This victory undermines the basis of our civilization. As another pundit argued (also when the Cubs were down 3-1), it was a big relief that the Cubs were losing, because in threatening to win the Series, they were endangering something precious. After all, there is the Chicago spirit to conserve -- that is to say, the morbidly depressed view that whenever hope arises, it is destined to be dashed on the rocks below. It must be useful to have some fractional part of each civilization holding that point of view, lest the rest of us become reckless. The Cubs were endangering this foundational principle of our society. 

The 7th game: At first (or in the 8th inning, anyway), the Cubs looked like they were going to respect that 108 year old tradition. They built up a 6-3 lead and then squandered it by giving up 3 quick runs. 

Hope. Rocks below. Morbid depression. 

It was game tied at the other team's ball park on a cold, rainy night with your best pitchers looking worn out and ragged. 

It looked like the Cubs of old had returned. And then they had to go and destroy a tradition older than the 20th century (which, after all, was only given 100 years), a tradition that went back to monarchial rule over Europe and Asia, wooden airplanes, Giacomo Puccini, and Billy Goat's curse. All lost to history now. About all we've got left is Halley's Comet, and it's not due till the 2060s. 

Here's another odd item. The winning pitcher in the championship game of the 2016 World Series will go down in history as Aroldis Chapman. He came into the game with a solid lead and a runner on base, which means the victory would have gone to another pitcher if Chapman could have held. But he gave up the run (charged to the previous pitcher) and then a couple of his own to leave the game tied after the regulation 9 innings. Because the Cubs scored a couple of runs in the top of the 10th, Chapman gets credit for the win. Vin Scully used to dwell on the pitcher's status. Think of how many times we heard him say about a departing pitcher, "He could win it, could lose, or could have nothing to do with it." All of those were possibilities for Chapman when he entered the game, but who would have predicted the W? 

Addenda 

1) As I've mentioned here before, I started internet writing by doing analysis of the media, including newspapers and talk radio. At the time, Rush Limbaugh had made a name for himself by claiming that the mainstream media were biased against conservatism and in favor of liberalism. The term media bias became part of the language, and is repeated by right wing bloggers as if it is obviously true. In retrospect, mainstream media bias was no more nor less than an instinct to tell the truth once in a while about racial bias in our broader culture. Apparently it was also considered media bias when newspapers and television stations mentioned, however fleetingly, the argument that church and state are separate in our republic. 

I think it's obvious that whatever existed back then, media bias has swung badly in the opposite direction the past few election cycles. The mainstream media have failed to expose the nonsense behind supply side economics, no matter how many times politicians claim that a tax cut on the rich will stimulate the economy. The media also should have been pounding on Trump's penchant for lying from the beginning. Of equal importance, Trump's propensity for respecting and hanging out with bad guys, whether foreign tyrants or local mafiosi, was slow to emerge and even now is undercovered. The one thing we can credit the media for, Trump's sexual predation, was originally brought up by a Fox News personality during a presidential debate. Apparently you can get to the media by talking about sex, no matter which side the candidate. 

There is one exception to this story. The late night comedy shows are taking every chance to drill Donald Trump. Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers are doing their best to make him into a laughingstock. They are two of the more visible faces of two of the biggest on-air networks. 

The biggest difference between then and now is the development of the internet as a major source for public opinion. It's become the office water cooler of the modern age. 

2) Here's to Jessica Rosner, film history expert and long-time Cub's fan. I can remember you wearing that Cubs hat at film festivals over these many years. Congratulations. You finally did it. 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for City Watch. He can be reached at [email protected]

-cw

More Election Thoughts and a Little Re-Thinking: Props, Initiatives and Some Great Candidates

WORDS FROM THE BUTCHER SHOP-Recently I wrote in support of Proposition 62 to repeal California’s death penalty in the name and memory of my murdered son, Matthew Benjamin Butcher (March 17, 1983 – June 24, 2010). The support and love I have received as a result of this expression of opinion, This Mother of a Murdered Son Says: ‘Repeal the California Death Penalty’ by Voting YES on Prop 62  is surprising, humbling, and overwhelming. 

Within the Butcher family, there is deep division of opinion on the topic of the death penalty. I love that! Don and I are both originally from New York and New Jersey and we raised our kids to argue as a way of life. 

Since publishing my recommendations for the state initiatives, my son Steven Butcher has changed my voting recommendations on two of the props. I should have asked him about Prop 54 to begin with -- he's more knowledgeable than I about these things these days. His winning argument? I said “gut and amend.” Really? When he said, “Yeah, but good stuff sometimes happens at end of session that otherwise might not if it had to wait 72 hours.” He raised several other points that made good sense, closing with, “Plus, Jackie Goldberg's against it.” The kid still knows how to win an argument with me! 

No on 60, he says, as well. The industry is already closely regulated, and the San Fernando Valley is in danger of losing jobs to New Hampshire. Good points. I’ve changed my recommendation on that one as well. 

On Prop 51, I easily convinced him that while $9 billion in school bonds would be a great thing, it’d be better if they pass locality by locality rather than statewide (like Measure CC in LA and Measure O in Riverside, for instance.) That way the wealthier districts don’t get funding ahead of more needy school districts likely disadvantaged by a seemingly fair “first come, first served” schema. 

We have joyfully survived “the Move.” Note that I’m writing now from La Crescenta, 10.7 miles from “the kids” and “the baby.” Fifteen minutes up the 2. That’s us, here in Grandparent Heaven. 

Who knew there’d be ancillary political benefits fun enough to make me smile when I our absentee ballots arrived just as we did? 

First, I know Ardy! Ardy Kassakhian is a sincere, good man and I couldn’t be happier to cast a vote for him for Assembly. Ardy and I got to know each other as cohorts in Coro’s 2011 Executive Fellows program. He is driven by love, by service, and by the love of service and I know him to be thoughtful, visionary, and genuine. Plus I always love those candidates originally from the localest of government. 

I’ve known Anthony Portantino for a long, long time and he’s gonna be a phenomenal State Senator. The union formerly known as Local 347 vetted, tested, and supported Portantino like a Brother, and he worked hard for workers in local government and in the Assembly. Anthony Portantino is one of those few rare birds – an honorable, decent, and wise elected official. We’re happy to cast two Butcher votes for him here in our new home. (Never moving again, not ever!) 

Casting a gleeful YES vote for LA County Measure M, hoping LA can begin to fix its past transportation snafus. The word “infrastructure” is my own personal drinking game word. Imagine tons of infrastructure and transportation spending? Cool, huh? 

And finally, I was delighted to vote for Kathryn Barger for LA County Supervisor.  (Photo above.) When I was briefly assigned to the County part of the Union, Kathryn, personally and formally, welcomed and helped me. She’s smart – a badass who knows how to get things done. She will be an amazing part of Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors!

 

(Julie Butcher writes for CityWatch, is a retired union leader and is now enjoying her new La Crescenta home and her first grandchild. She can be reached at [email protected] or on her new blog ‘The Butcher Shop- No Bones about It’ Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Jaw, Jaw, Jaw about Los Angeles Initiative JJJ

PLATKIN ON PLANNING--In response to a recent email for my take on Los Angeles Initiative JJJ, I explained why I continue to oppose it. (For those overwhelmed by this election’s ballot, JJJ calls for a small percentage affordable units in market projects, which would be constructed through local and union labor.) 

My reply: 

Dear T., the JJJ Initiative for inclusionary housing appears to be a remarkable advance in a backward city like Los Angeles. But first impressions can be highly misleading. This is because JJJ is so tainted by loopholes that it will only result in a tiny fraction of the affordable housing units it supporters envisage. In fact, I fully expect that if LA voters adopt JJJ, some new apartment buildings will not contain any affordable units or employ more than a token number of unionized or local construction workers. 

These are JJJ’s unfortunate loopholes, as Jill Stewart previously exposed in City Watch

1) The “We don't think this developer is making enough profit” loophole.

Under JJJ, developers’ projects can be spot-zoned and spot-planned as long as they include some affordable housing. But, the City Council can declare the developer is not making “a reasonable return on investment” and then undo the affordable housing requirement. (JJJ Section 5, A, g) 

2) The “Forget about building affordable housing; just pay City Hall an in-lieu 'fee'” loophole.   Under JJJ, no affordable units need to be built inside these new towers, as long as the developer pays an “in lieu” fee. This in-lieu amount is unknown to voters since it will be determined after the election  by the developer-friendly City Council. (JJJ Section 5, A, b3.) 

3) The “Forget the affordable housing, forget the fee, just pay a 'surcharge'” loophole. Under JJJ, developers can refuse to pay the in-lieu fee, and opt for a Deferral Surcharge whose price will also to be later set by the City. This Deferral fee amount, unknown to voters, does not have to be spent on affordable housing. The City Council could divert this revenue to pay city employees for running any housing-linked program. (JJJ Section 5, A, c2) 

4) The “L.A.'s Affordable Housing Trust Fund is a piggy bank” loophole. Under JJJ, the city's Affordable Housing Trust Fund does not have to be spent on affordable housing. The fund could be diverted into: “such other housing activities as that term shall be defined.” (JJJ Section 5, B, c) 

5) The “We say we'll create local jobs, but not a single local hire is required” loophole. Under JJJ, contractors need only “make a good-faith effort” to hire people living within five miles of a proposed massive luxury complex, a toothless and meaningless standard that will never be met. (JJJ Section 5, A, g). 

What then can be done? 

As you might know, I am an active supporter of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative (NII), which has a totally different take on planning issues than JJJ.  If LA’s voters adopt the NII on March 2017, unlike JJJ it would bar the City Council from spot-zoning and spot-planning individual parcels unless they contained 100 percent affordable units. This would, therefore, stop all plush housing ventures in Los Angeles because they would remain illegal high-rise luxury proposals until the City Council legalized them through parcel-specific spot-zones and occasional General Plan Amendments. Even if these high-rise luxury projects contained a small percentage of affordable units as a deal sweetener, the City Council could no longer wave its magic wand to permit them. 

In contrast to JJJ, the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative also forces the City of Los Angeles to expeditiously update its entire General Plan, including the 35 Community Plans that comprise its Land Use Element. This Update process would then be based on mandatory evening and weekend meetings held in every part of Los Angeles.  This consultative approach will ensure that the new General Plan answers three parts of the affordable housing quandary: 

  • Which Los Angeles neighborhoods have the greatest need for affordable housing?
  • Where in Los Angeles is the greatest amount of parcels that could support by-right or density bonus affordable and low-income apartment projects?
  • Where is the existing network of public infrastructure and services sufficient to support greater population density? 

Once this General Plan update process takes off, I then expect the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative team to become a permanent watchdog body. Through careful monitoring of this voter-approved ordinance – and legal action when necessary -- the watchdogs will ensure to that the new General Plan’s elements are properly updated, implemented, monitored, and fine-tuned. 

But, some housing activists support JJJ
This is what I also replied to someone else who wrote me about JJJ. She pushed back hard against my critique and argued that since many affordable housing corporations and activists support JJJ, it deserves our votes. 

These supporters are, in my view, extremely well intentioned people. But, I nevertheless think they are mistaken. They have reached a point of total desperation because the government programs they once relied upon to build affordable housing ended up on the public policy scrap heap. So, without any other obvious alternatives, they are hoping against hope that JJJ, despite its crippling loopholes, will miraculously work. It will overcome the odds to build a modicum of affordable units by piggy-backing them on spot-zoned luxury projects, or it will recharge LA’s empty Affordable Housing Trust Fund through in-lieu payments. 

In effect, they have thrown in the towel on the public sector housing programs that once sustained affordable housing and that are the only real solution to the housing crisis now gripping every county in the entire United States.

As I have repeatedly written in CityWatch, the affordable housing crisis hammering Los Angeles since the Bradley Administration stems from the gutting of Federal housing programs. These cutbacks began during the second Nixon administration and culminated in the 1980s. Since then, one administration after another has never wavered. When faced with massive problems of homelessness, overcrowding, and affordable housing, from the White House to City Hall, they have resorted to the same old unsuccessful market-based housing programs. Their marketing campaigns succeeded, even though their products consistently failed. 

Unfortunately, these market incentive approaches, such as JJJ, are urban myths. As much as we might wish upon a star that they would work, they have not, cannot, and will not ever provide more than a small fraction of the affordable housing needed in this country. The reason is simple; the private market is governed by profit maximization, and the profits exist in market housing, especially luxury housing, not in affordable housing.

My conclusion: if the government does not build or heavily subsidize affordable housing, it does not get built. This point needs to be made again and again, especially when our developer-friendly elected officials foist real estate speculation as the secret sauce of affordable housing. 

Luckily, in this election there is an interim solution, Initiative HHH. It would directly involve the City of Los Angeles in the construction of supportive housing for the homeless, until the only real solution emerges, the restoration of publicly funded and operated affordable housing programs.

 

(Dick Platkin is a former Los Angeles city planner who reports on local planning issues for CityWatch LA. He welcomes comments and corrections at [email protected]

-cw

Handy Dandy Election Brief: Read What You Need … In 4 ½ Minutes

EASTSIDER-This weekend, I finally took a look at the General Election Voter Information Guide (222 pages), and the Special Municipal Election Voter Information Pamphlet (96 pages). It immediately occurred to me that unless you are a very heavy political junkie, the odds of any voter actually reading the combined 318 pages of information before making a decision as to how to vote is about as likely as Jose Huizar voluntarily resigning his job as Chair of the PLUM Committee. 

So I decided to take on the task and report my findings prior to the actual November 8 physical election date. I will give you my analysis of each measure, what it really says, and how I am personally voting and why. Hopefully this will help some voters who go to the polls on Election Day make up their minds as to how they will choose to vote. 

Feel free to check this article against your sample ballot, or print and take to the polls. A lot of these issues are literally life and death. Of course, some are horse puckey. 

Without further ado, here goes. 

LA MUNICIPAL MEASURES 

1) HHH - Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing, and Facilities Bond 

This one is what it says, sort of. Buried in the seven pages of fine print, the $1.2 billion in bonds are to be funded by an increase in property tax on residents of the City. The funds are to build housing for the homeless. 

I have Neighborhood Council friends on both sides of this issue, and it is a passionate debate indeed. My personal take is that, first, the City let the developers throw people out of affordable housing, and now that many of them are on the street, they want us to pay the same developers to build housing for the homeless. Seems nuts, so I’m voting NO. 

On the other side, there is no question that homelessness is a serious and growing problem. Whether these bonds would actually have a significant impact on it seems to depend on who you talk to. Your call. This one requires a 2/3 vote to pass. 

2) JJJ - Affordable Housing and Labor Standards Related to City Planning, Initiative Ordinance JJJ 

This is an Initiative matter, which means that it was put on the ballot by getting enough signatures and bypassing the legislative system. It consists of some 24 pages of very dense language dealing with the building of projects with 10 or more units, and guaranteeing General Plan amendments/zoning changes for projects that meet the detailed criteria of the initiative. 

Although its name does not appear on the FOR argument, the initiative was largely sponsored by the LA County Federation of Labor and the Building Trades. You will not be surprised that the Chamber of Commerce is on the NO side. 

The good news is that the initiative would restrict the City’s ability to sell us out on General Plan amendments and zoning changes. The flip side is that the cost of building these projects would go up, as they would have to pay “prevailing wage.” It also creates an “Affordable Housing Trust Fund,” and has a lot of details in the text too complicated for my summary. 

Again, I have friends on both sides of the issue. Personally, I am going to wait until March of next year for Jill Stewart’s Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, which is a comprehensive and cleaner fix for the City’s planning process. I also find the City CAO’s representation on Fiscal Impact that “this initiative is not expected to result in any additional cost to the City or taxpayers” to be disingenuous puffery. 

This measure requires a simple majority vote. 

3) Charter Amendment RRR – DWP 

This amendment to the LA City Charter would modify the composition and authority of the Department of Water and Power in relationship to the City Council and the Mayor in a whole variety of ways. While the language of the amendment is “only” 11 pages in length, the references and list of ordinances which are mentioned in the ballot language are so indeterminate and unforeseeable as to make a rational judgment impossible. 

It is also the one municipal ballot measure that I unhesitatingly recommend a NO vote on. In a recent post to CityWatch indicating “Don’t Even Bother To Read The Ballot Arguments,”  the basis for my claim is that I can’t find a single compelling goodie for us the ratepayers in the entire proposal. It does require monthly billing instead of the current bi-monthly system, but that doesn’t change what we pay at all. And I’m a “when in doubt, vote no” kind of guy. This measure requires a simple majority vote. 

4) SSS - City of Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions, Airport Peace Officers 

This one is relatively simple. Currently, the Airport police are in the same City pension plan as are most City employees. They want to get into the very sweet (and expensive) Safety Retirement System that the City has for police (LAPD) and Firefighters. 

The proposal is that all new hires would automatically go into the LA City Fire and Police Pension fund, and also allows all current LA Airport police to “buy into” the fund. Finally, it would allow “new Airport Police Chiefs who are not already members” to enroll in the LAPD/Firefighter pension plan. 

Unlike tax measures, this one can pass by a simple majority vote. However, the fiscal impact to the City is estimated at 14% to 19% more than if the employees were to stay in their current retirement system. 

While your mileage may vary, I’m voting NO on SSS. The basis for my vote is that if we the voters want “real” LAPD cops at the Airport, then we should hire LAPD police officers, not allow a pension goodie to folks who, as far as I know, never were, or are, people who have gone through the LAPD’s rigorous hiring and training process. 

STATEWIDE GENERAL ELECTION PROPOSITIONS 

Wow! Seventeen Propositions in a staggering 222 pages. Are you going to read all of this stuff? I thought not. So here’s my quick and dirty analysis, together with how I’m voting and why. 

A lot of these issues are very fundamental and contentious, and the TV ads and printed materials clogging our mailboxes are so deliberately misleading as to give a normal person a migraine -- unless you’ve simply tuned out and thrown the stuff into the wastebasket. 

For those who want to ignore my thoughts on these measures, at least be sure to read pages 8 through 16 of the Official Voter Information Guide, which contains simple summaries of each proposition and what a YES or NO vote means. 

Proposition 51 - School Bonds 

This would authorize the State to issue some $9 billion in bonds for construction and “modernization” of K-12 schools and Community Colleges, including charter schools and vacation education facilities. The total cost over the life of the bonds would be about $17.6 billion dollars. 

For me, this one’s simple, at least in Los Angeles. The last time we did this in LA, the LAUSD ran around and built schools that they couldn’t even staff after they were built, because they didn’t have the ongoing budget to staff them. Witness the Sotamayor Learning Academies in Northeast LA. The only thing I know that it did do was launch the career of one Jose Huizar, who was in charge of the building programs for the LAUSD expending the money. Launched his City Council career, it did. 

As for the Community College District, don’t get me started. The LACCD Board promised a satellite campus at the Van de Kamps location on Fletcher and San Fernando, and then double-crossed the taxpayers by constructing the facility and then basically giving it away to a Charter school. I think they’re still in litigation on the misappropriation of public funds. I wouldn’t trust them with a dime. 

Depending on where you live and what schools your children attend, you mileage may vary. 

Proposition 52 - MediCal Hospital Fee Program 

This one’s technical. Since 2009, California has imposed a special charge on most private hospitals to (1) cover the state share of increased Medi-Cal payments for hospitals and grants for public hospitals, and (2) generate some state general fund savings. In turn these fees generate a federal Medi-Cal funding match. 

Those fees periodically expire, and are set to do so again in January 2018. This measure makes the fees permanent, and has an unknown impact since the federal government must approve any extension of the existing fees. The ringer in this measure is that it excludes hospital fee money from calculating the K-12 education funding level, and puts this exclusion in an amendment to the State Constitution. 

My take is that I get nervous when virtually everyone seems to support a proposition, taking into consideration the fact that the legislature has never failed to support these extensions since 2009. And I am simply leery of anything that permanently amends the State Constitution. 

While most of my friends are voting in favor of the proposition, I’m voting NO for that reason. 

Proposition 53 - Revenue Bonds, Statewide Voter Approval 

This proposition is a measure with a specific target -- the Delta Tunnel Project called “WaterFix,” and the High Speed Rail Project. It gets there from here by requiring statewide voter approval before the selling of revenue bonds for any project where (1) the bonds are sold by the state, (2) the bonds are sold for a project that is owned, operated or managed by the state where the bonds exceed more than $2 billion, adjusted annually for inflation. 

Of course no one can really say what the impact would be if passed, since no one knows if there will be other projects in the future which would meet these criteria. 

The lines are sharply drawn on this one. It’s really an initiative by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. The opponents are the California League of Water Agencies, the California League of Cities, the Chamber of Commerce, the California Hospital Association and, interestingly, the California Office of Emergency Services. 

The main thrust of the opponents is that there is no exemption for emergencies or natural disasters in the measure. They also note that groups of public agencies in different parts of the state often group together into a joint powers entity to fund projects that no one of them could afford alone, and that this proposition would give veto power to voters in different regions to block needed projects for other regions. I’m reading between the lines here that this really means that the rest of the state could veto big joint powers projects for Southern California, for example. 

I’m wobbling on this one. I would do almost anything to drive a stake through the heart of the bullet train boondoggle, and the Delta Tunnel project which is designed to bring water to us in Southern California has a lot of legitimate critics. At the same time, it is a historic fact that folks from Northern California have no fondness for Southern California, and I don’t think folks in the San Joaquin valley are exactly fans either.

Proposition 54 - Legislature, Legislation and Proceedings 

At last, a simple one. This would expand open meeting requirements to add a requirement that all state bills be posted online and distributed 72 hours before they can be voted on, require audiovisual recordings of all public legislative meetings (to be retained for 20 years,) allow any member of the public to record and distribute recordings of meetings, and make the legislature itself pay for any costs. 

The only real argument against the proposition is that it would give special interests more time to lobby. C’mon. Special interests already own Sacramento. I just love this one because it should make the tiny little hearts of our City Council tremble at what might overtake them in the future. I’m voting YES. 

Proposition 55 - Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare 

This is the extension on what’s commonly referred to as the special tax on high income people, for a period of 12 more years. High income earners are defined as $250,000 for single, $500,000 for joint, $340,000 for heads of household. 

Normally this would be a no brainer for most of us, in the spirit of getting back at the 1%, and I’m leaning towards a YES vote. The drawback is this: Governor Brown promised that this was going to be a one-time deal back in 2012 and would expire in 2018. Just a temporary fix. 

Such an extension has a significant downside in that state revenues are already very robust – it’s starting to look like a permanent tax increase. The danger is that the state will become addicted to these additional revenues, and the second that there is a downturn in the economy, all the happy feel-good projects that this funds will come to a crashing halt. It is not good budgetary practice to construct budgets on temporary revenues, period. Your mileage may vary. 

Proposition 56 -Cigarette Tax to Fund Tobacco User Prevention, Research, and Law Enforcement 

This measure would increase the tax on cigarettes by $2 a pack, the tax on other tobacco products by $2 per pack equivalent, and add a new tax on e-cigarettes of $3.37 per pack equivalent. The proposition also amends the State Constitution to exempt these taxes from the state’s constitutional spending limits, and further exempts these revenues from school funding requirements. 

The devil, as it were, is in the details of who gets the money. From the Legislative Analyst, here are the entities: the State Board of Equalization, various state agencies for enforcement, University of California (physician training), Department of Public Health (State Dental Program), California State Auditor, Medi-Cal, Tobacco Control Program, University of California (tobacco related disease program), and school programs. The slicing and dicing is built into the legislation. 

For me, what tips the scales is the new inclusion of e-cigarettes being taxed as a tobacco product. I’m voting YES, although I can understand the opposition’s argument that little of the money goes to actually stopping people from smoking. 

Proposition 57 - Criminal Sentences, Parole, Juvenile Criminal Proceedings and Sentencing 

This is another contentious proposition. Clearly the proposal is designed to amend the State Constitution to decrease our prison population by increasing the number of inmates eligible for parole and adding a set of sentencing credits. It also would require that juvenile offenders first have a juvenile court hearing before their case can be transferred to adult court. 

The crux of the dispute is in what qualifies as a “nonviolent felony” offense. Readers will remember the aftershocks of 2014’s Proposition 47 which made changes to allow “nonviolent, non-serious property and drug crime” offenders to have their felonies reduced to misdemeanor, and get released from prison. That proposition, and its fallout, are still the subject of a very divisive debate among Angelenos, who saw a significant increase in released offenders in our neighborhoods. 

The law enforcement community is unanimous in their opposition to Proposition 57, as they were to Proposition 47. My friend Caroline Aguirre in Northeast LA, a retired state parole officer, is relentless in discussing her exposure to the atrocities committed by a number of people released under Prop 47. She has a point, and her articles are always factually accurate as to crimes committed by Prop 47 released offenders. 

The flip side of the question has to do with too many people in jail and increasing judicial intervention because of prison overcrowding. The short answer is that we can’t have it both ways with huge prison populations that are not adequately housed and cared for (read big bucks), versus crimes that may be committed by those who are released. 

Most of my friends will vote NO on this proposition. I’m voting YES because the increased number of people released into our communities will hopefully force us as a society to bite the bullet and either pay a bunch more money to fund the criminal justice and prison system, or deal with the aftermath of people released who have a snowball’s chance of ever getting a job with their record and skills. 

Proposition 58 - English Proficiency, Multilingual Education 

We used to call this one bilingual education and it seemed to work okay until proposition 227 (1998) came along and said that education had to be done in English. This measure would basically allow schools to go back to the old system. Schools would also have to talk with their communities about developing “language acquisition” programs and preserve the right of parents to have their children learn English by being taught in nearly all English. 

I could be wrong, but my educator friends seemed to like the old system and thought it worked well for Los Angeles. Don’t know about the rest of the world. Having said that, I do remember that this was a serious hot button issue for the body politic and the rhetoric was hot and heavy. Particularly outside of Los Angeles. We’ll see if 18 years has made a difference in attitudes. I’m voting YES. 

Proposition 59 - Corporations, Political Spending, Federal Constitutional Protections 

This proposition is specifically designed to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United by way of a constitutional amendment. That decision said that “independent expenditures” of money in politics was “free speech.” I call it the “one dollar one vote” decision. 

The measure urges congress to initiate an amendment to the US Constitution clearly stating that corporations do not have the same constitutional rights as human beings. 

The measure is essentially “snow in the wintertime,” since it doesn’t here, and California cannot pass an amendment to the U.S. Constitution or force Congress to do so. It’s a feel good free vote, so whatever floats your boat. 

Proposition 60 - Adult Films, Condoms, Health Requirements 

This is a weird one. CAL/OSHA already regulates condom use in the adult film industry, and in Los Angeles County, we have Measure B (2012) that requires condom use in the adult film industry. This measure would set up an entire regulatory and enforcement bureaucracy to license, regulate, and enforce use of condoms in the industry. 

Since I don’t know anyone in the industry, I’m not sure to what extent there’s a pressing necessity for the proposition, and I am extremely leery of setting up any additional state bureaucracies. Even though the proponents finesse the issue, the Legislative Analysts’ Office estimates it would result in lost revenues and costs of around $1 million a year to implement. I’m voting NO, but without enthusiasm. 

Proposition 61 - State Prescription Drug Purchases, Pricing Standards 

Prohibits state agencies from buying any prescription drug from a drug manufacturer at any price over the lowest price paid for the same drug by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Medi-Cal managed care programs are exempted. 

That’s it. And the measure has generated zillions of dollars in print and TV ads, to the point where I got a headache from just watching the ads. Underneath, however, the stakes are clear. If you look at the fine print in all the TV ads by some veterans groups and others, the fine print says, “major funding by Merck & Pfizer.” That should tell you everything -- and they are spending millions of dollars. Big Pharma does not do that unless they have something to fear. 

Between this fact and Bernie Sanders’ ad publically endorsing the proposition, for me it’s a no-brainer. YES on 61. We won’t know how much money we can save unless we give it a whirl, and the VA in general keeps pretty tight controls on drug costs. 

Proposition 62 - Death Penalty 

The title says it all. The proposition does three things: (1) repeals the death penalty in California in favor of life without parole, (2) applies retroactively to everyone already sentenced to death, and (3) states that murderers sentenced to life without parole must work while in prison, with a portion of their wages going to victim restitution. 

I should state that I’m a cost/benefit kind of guy, and the issue to me seems one of cost and chances of actually killing these folks vs. the “benefit” of executing them. There are about 750 death sentence prisoners in California at the moment with their legal appeals somewhere in the labyrinth appeals process. Further, since 2006, no one has been executed because of legal issues over our state’s lethal injection procedures. 

The most vocal proponents of keeping the death penalty are prosecutors, law enforcement, and corrections officers. Honestly, as ghoulish as it may sound, I think that for them it’s about jobs and budget. At least, I am unaware of any validated study that demonstrates that the death penalty is in fact a deterrent. 

If vengeance and retribution are more important than money, and I know that this is true for a lot of people, vote YES. I think we have better uses for our economic resources within the criminal justice system and am therefore voting NO. 

Proposition 63 - Firearms, Ammunition Sales 

This measure has some common sense stuff in it like prohibiting certain individuals from possessing firearms. 

Most of Prop 63, however, was already addressed by the legislature this year. For example, folks who sell ammo will have to obtain a license from the Department of Justice, and anyone who messes up three times will have their license permanently revoked. Also, ammo dealers already have to check with the Department of Justice and give personal information on the individual wanting to purchase ammunition. That information goes into a DOJ database, and there is a fine to the individual and/or imprisonment for failure to comply with the regulations. 

The proposition would add to these existing laws by requiring you and I to undergo a background check to even buy ammunition and pass a DOJ authorization in advance. 

You also would not be able to bring any ammunition in from out of state. Further, you and I would have to pay $50 to the DOJ to even get a 4-year permit to buy ammunition at all. 

At some point, this government intervention in our lives gets scary. I’m fine with ensuring that people who should not be able to buy weapons can’t do so. Ditto for background checks. But when you start going so far to hobble citizens from even being able to buy ammunition for their firearms, I’m out. All these regulations that you and I will have to go through to even buy a .22 caliber bullet are over the top. All these licenses, all these permits, all these checks, are going directly into databases that will be linked to all law enforcement, homeland security, the NSA, and big brother in the sky. I’m doubling up on my contributions to the EFF (Electronic Freedom Foundation). 

This is just bogus. I’m voting no, and if you value your privacy, you should too. 

Proposition 64 - Marijuana Legalization 

Pretty much as the title indicates, Prop 64 legalizes the use of marijuana by adults over 21 years of age, and provides for licensing, sale and taxation thereof. 

Most of the pushback against the measure comes, unsurprisingly, from the vested interests who have a stake in keeping pot illegal -- law enforcement, and the federal government. For them, it’s about jobs and budget, just like the death penalty. 

Last I checked, people are going to buy and imbibe pot whether or not it’s legal, and if I remember right, marijuana is the largest chunk of the economy of Humboldt County and a host of other places in California. 

I personally believe that limited law enforcement resources are better deployed dealing with their core functions. I’m voting YES, even though I do not personally drink or use at all. 

Proposition 65 - Carryout Bags, Charges

Proposition 67 - Ban on Single Use Plastic Bags 

Prop 65 ties directly in with Prop 67, so I will treat them together, even though they are out of order. Prop 67 flatly bans the use of single use plastic or paper bags. Those are the ones that are only sturdy enough to be used once, unlike the thick SuperA bags and sturdy paper bags with handles. 

As near as I can figure, the idea is that if both measures pass, we will have to pay for the thicker bags and the money will for “environmental programs.” What happens is, if Prop 65 passes, and so does Prop 67 (with more votes than Prop 65,) the stores get to keep the revenue. Otherwise the money goes to the state for environmental programs. 

There’s an alternate scenario for what happens if Prop 65 fails, but my eyes glazed over. Only lawyers could write this stuff. I’m voting NO on all of it. 

Proposition 66 - Death Penalty, Procedures 

Finally, we come to the second death penalty proposition. It is relatively straightforward in that it is specifically designed to “fast-track” death penalty cases. The less straightforward part has to do with dancing around what method of execution the state can use, and it indemnifies health care professionals from participating in an execution. 

Even the law enforcement community is split on this one. My take is that lovers of the show Law and Order will like it as a great threat to use in interrogation. For the rest of us, your mileage will vary. There are enough innocent people who have been executed under our current legal system that I am loath to do anything that will speed up the appeals process and produce more innocent inmates who get executed. We can’t fix it when someone is dead. Voting NO. 

(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.)

Hacked Clinton Campaign Emails Expose Iffy Relationship with Sensitive LA Mayor

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Regardless where you stand on the WikiLeaks issue, perhaps we can be proud that our own mayor got a mention. Carla Marinucci hooked us up with a link in Politico’s California Playback column on October 27, 2016. 

Apparently, some players in the Clinton camp believe that “He (Garcetti) has this reputation. Wants to be really courted. By the candidate. No one else. When you get him on the phone, he is nice, but then his staff comes back with this…” 

A June 2015 email thread details the mayor’s holdout for a longer meeting with the Democratic presidential candidate. When the mayor’s “Executive Vice-Mayor”/Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Jacobs called to say Garcetti “really doesn’t want to do this brief meeting at a fundraiser,” Podesta detailed his reply: “I was pretty cold and said we would consider a meeting sometime in the future. Maybe he can hold out to be MOM’s (Martin O’Malley’s) VP.” Even Huma Abedin weighed in. “He’s a tough one for us. Never really had a relationship.” 

For a bit of backstory, last November, Garcetti had endorsed Clinton in a written statement sent from the mayor’s office, a distinct no-no in election law. Thou shalt not use government resources to send campaign-related announcements or to electioneer. A second email fired off an hour later stated, “Today’s statement on Hillary Clinton was sent in error,” and a spokesperson for the mayor explained the statement should not have been sent from the mayor’s office. 

Back in June, the Wall Street Journal  had reported Garcetti was being floated as a possible HRC running mate but he told WKNX News Radio that he was staying where he is. “I’m not looking for a new job. I have a great one right now, and that’s being mayor of the city.” It’s hard to say whether the mayor’s prima donna reputation might have precluded that possibility. Garcetti is planning a re-election bid next year and word on the street is he may be considering a gubernatorial bid in 2018. 

Garcetti’s cozy relationship with developers has earned him detractors, especially among neighborhood integrity activists, as detailed in Patrick Range McDonald’s CityWatch column earlier this week.

 

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

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