Tue, May

Another Bad Idea: A Local Income Tax!

TAXED TO DEATH--Members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have suggested an income tax on millionaires dedicating the money for homelessness relief. Opening the door for local governments to impose income taxes would erode the state’s major fund raising mechanism, burden taxpayers with more paperwork, hit small businesses whose owners pay business taxes through personal income taxes, and subject more government revenue to a highly volatile revenue source. 

All in all -- a bad idea 

Last week, when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill that would have permitted local governments to levy cigarette taxes, he complained that there already are too many taxes on the coming ballot. A push for an income tax would increase the volume of tax measures facing voters. 

Yesterday, the LA Board of Supervisors put off for one week a motion to ask county lobbyists to try and convince legislators to change the law that prohibits local jurisdictions from imposing an income tax. 

Still, Pandora’s Box on local income taxes has been cracked open. If the movement persists, the consequences can be great. 

The proposal to levy local income taxes comes at a time that a statewide effort to extend the Proposition 30 state income tax levies is on-going. California’s top income tax payers already pay the highest income tax rate in the country. 

LA County wants to pile on. 

The LA County supervisors think they have a winning proposal. The press release announcing the effort said a poll showed 76% support. Advocates of the idea will point to 14 states that give permission for some local governments to raise income taxes. Of course, it’s always easy for those polled to say they are willing to raise taxes on someone else. 

But what happens when there is an economic downturn? I dealt with that concern for the state last week considering the possibility of a Shakespearean Tragedy for the State Budget. Looks like the locals want to stage a similar play. 

When I write “locals,” I mean more than Los Angeles. If the legislature decides to change the restrictions on local governments imposing an income tax, does anyone think other jurisdictions will sit idly by? Los Angeles County supervisors say they want the money to help the homeless. There are a lot of other interests in communities around the state that consider the causes they believe in worthy of more economic help. 

But, what about the taxpayers? 

How long before local taxpayers who continue to get hit with increased tax rates throw up their hands and give up on Los Angeles and California? The burden continues to grow. Proposition 30 was sold as a temporary tax for seven years. Perhaps many high-end income taxpayers said they would weather the storm. However, those taxpayers are now looking at an additional twelve years of the highest income tax rate in the country BEFORE local governments jump on that gravy train. 

In the Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed) poll of members issued last week, the number one concern for small business owners was the income tax. 

Before anyone thinks the push for new taxes is only about the rich, consider what likely might occur if government budgets relying on increased income tax revenue are hard hit during a recession or economic slowdown. 

I remember reading about the Midwest congressman who announced on the floor of the House of Representatives in the early years of the 20th Century that he was voting for the amendment to the United States Constitution that would establish an income tax because his constituents wouldn’t pay the new tax. It was aimed at the rich. 

The income tax eventually came after his constituents, too.


(Joel Fox is the editor of Fox and Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee. This column was posted first at FoxandHoundsDaily.comPrepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

One Coming, One Going and One that Got Away

BIZ WATCH--The attention-grabbing tiff between California Governor Jerry Brown and Florida Governor Rick Scott over the latter’s business-snatching safari to the Golden State highlighted a week of the state’s constant struggle to stay on top of business recruitment. The scorecard was mixed with news highlights of one business coming, one leaving and, watching with regret, one that got away.

California can improve the score if it keeps business burdens in mind. More on that later.

But first, the positive.

The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) announced that medical device company Cerebain Biotech was moving headquarters from Dallas, Texas to Costa Mesa. GO-Biz’s announcement crowed about California’s dominance in the biotech field with 2848 companies directly employing 281,000 people. California, home to so many innovative companies, is hosting the annual biotech convention in San Francisco in June.

On the other side of the balance sheet, Jumba Juice announced it was moving its national headquarters from Emeryville to Frisco, Texas outside of Dallas. The company noted that less expensive living and operating costs were major reasons behind the move.

Win one, lose one in the business tug-of-war with Texas.

As far as that rhetorical battle with Florida, pretty much a wash as well. Governor Brown pushed back at Florida. He said job creation success in California is far superior than that in Florida with California creating twice as many jobs as Florida over the past year.

True as far as it goes. But since Florida’s population is about half California’s, Florida actually had a slightly faster jobs growth rate. The fact checking site PolitiFact put the issue in context this way: “Brown’s claim is close on the raw numbers. But it leaves out the important context that California is a much larger state that needs to add more jobs to keep its millions more people employed.”

On the other hand, PolitiFact dismissed Gov. Scott’s argument that California would lose 700,000 jobs because of the new minimum wage increase law.

All the while this activity was going on, across the state line in Nevada, the enormous Tesla battery gigafactory is going up. Bloomberg News had an updated report on the giant factory.

A couple of years ago, there were a number of articles on this site supporting California’s attempt to capture the factory designed to build batteries for the Tesla car company, which is headquartered in California.

Ironically, in this period of prominent discussion of building walls, I began my article about the Golden States’ failure to win the factory this way: “Maybe we should build a fence around California not to keep people out but to keep businesses in now that the Tesla decided that the battery gigafactory would set up shop across the border in Nevada.”

The gigafactory represented the latest technology and possibly 6500 jobs, so it was a big loss to California and its quest for capturing businesses that produce innovative and cutting edge technology.

What to make of all this? That California is in a constant competition with other states over business placements and job creation. To stay competitive, state legislators and regulators have to consider businesses’ bottom line costs, which seem to grow simply because of state imposed mandates, regulations and taxes.

While legislators congratulate themselves for passing bills to improve the human condition, they should remember that successful businesses are the essential element for improving people’s lives. Legislators must consider ways to offset the growing costs they mandate on business so that businesses remain in California, are built in California and create more jobs.

(Joel Fox is the Editor of Fox & Hounds … where this analysis was first posted … and President of the Small Business Action Committee.)


City Hall’s Template for a New LA: More Widespread Displacement for Lower Income and Middleclass

VOX POP--As a mayoral candidate in 2012, Eric Garcetti boasted that Hollywood’s high-end development had “become a template for a new Los Angeles.” With those words, LA Weekly looked into what that template would look like for the rest of the city. The paper’s findings were startling, especially for working- and middle-class folks.

In 2013, with an investigative report titled “Hollywood’s Urban Cleansing,” the Weekly found that between 2000 and 2010, nearly 13,000 Latinos were driven out of Hollywood and East Hollywood. As a longtime City Councilman, Eric Garcetti represented these neighborhoods, and experts and activists blamed the exodus on luxury overdevelopment, which spurred eye-popping gentrification. Residents and experts decried the city’s planning policies, which Garcetti and other City Council members largely shape, that dramatically altered affordable communities forever. The Weekly wrote:

Hollywood-area City Councilman Eric Garcetti, who is running for mayor in the March 5 primary and has for 12 years avidly led the urban renewal in Hollywood, won’t discuss the census data, the outflow of Latinos or the area’s net population loss, none of which were foreseen by his office. But Larry Gross, executive director of the Coalition for Economic Survival, a tenants’ rights advocacy group, says, “It was an economic tsunami that pushed low-income people out. There was massive displacement.”

 Representing more than 8 percent of Hollywood and East Hollywood’s population, the exodus of nearly 13,000 mostly Latinos is believed to be the largest mass departure from an LA neighborhood since “black flight,” between 1980 and 1990. In that demographic upheaval, 50,000 residents fled the violence and shattered neighborhoods of South Central and South Los Angeles.

 Garcetti and other LA politicians have insisted that growth is as inevitable as summer tourists, and that City Hall is merely facilitating Hollywood’s unavoidable, denser future with smart planning. But census data and the stories of those who have fled suggest that city planners and political leaders are facilitating what some criticize as the urban cleansing of Hollywood.

 Father Michael Mandala, who was pastor at the landmark Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church on Sunset Boulevard from 1998 to 2011, repeatedly saw landlords drive out Latino families of three or four in order to rent the same space to one or two white tenants. “I’m wondering if the policymakers are on the mark with fixing Hollywood,” Mandala says, “or are they clearing out what they don’t want?”

What happened in Hollywood is remarkably similar to what’s happening today in other LA neighborhoods, such as Koreatown and Westlake. It begs a simple question: Is this the kind of citywide template that Angelenos want? 

Further, Hollywood activists believed developers, who have given millions to L.A. politicians in campaign contributions, were receiving big favors while citizens were getting screwed over — the same complaint uttered today by residents in the San Fernando Valley and the Westside. The Weekly reported:

Brad Torgan, an attorney at The Silverstein Law Firm, which represents one of the groups, describes the Hollywood Community Plan as Garcetti’s personal “vision for Hollywood — good and bad.” But, Torgan says, “There’s a perception that the plan was created for the development community at the expense of the residents.”

Experts were clearly disturbed by City Hall’s hard push to help out their deep-pocketed developer pals. The paper wrote:

Dowell Myers, a demographer and urban planning professor at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy, says L.A. political leaders and planners have already gone too far to draw a high-end crowd to Hollywood. “We don’t need more condos,” he says. “We need more rentals. Rentals are where you house lower-income and poor people.”

 Dennis Frenchman, a well-regarded professor of urban design and planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has a similar message for Los Angeles’ leaders: “Diversity is the key to long-term sustainability. … Density without diversity makes things worse.”

Former Hollywood resident Mercedes Cortes, who was pushed out of her home, asked a question that still remains relevant today — and one that City Hall leaders have shown no signs of considering when trying to carry out a new template for a denser, more high-end Los Angeles filled with luxury housing mega-projects.

As if talking directly to Garcetti, the grandmother and retired house cleaner [Mercedes Cortes] delivers up one of [her] complaints, still unanswered after all these years: “When they start to build something, why does the middle class have to suffer for that?”

With our community-based movement, however, citizens across L.A. are standing up and speaking out. We are no longer allowing City Hall to easily get away with their secret deals and bad planning policies that dramatically impact millions of hard-working Angelenos. Read more of the Weekly article, and you’ll know why our cause and the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative is so important.

And please join the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative movement by clicking to our Act page right now, and follow and cheer our efforts on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. You can also send us an email at [email protected].

Together, we can create the change that LA needs!

Time to Prepare for 2020! Last Census Missed Too Many Latino Children in LA

LATINO PERSPECTIVE-Carol Emig who is president of Child Trends, a nonpartisan research organization and Arturo Vargas, the executive director of NALEO Educational Fund, have found that the 2010 Census missed some 400,000 young Latino children — the equivalent of more than half a congressional district. The data — a comparison of census records with county birth, death and immigration records — indicate that the 2010 undercount rate for young Latinos was 7.1%, compared to 4.3% for non-Latinos. The shortfall was pronounced in specific counties in five states: California, Texas, Arizona, Florida and New York. 

California accounted for more than a quarter of young Latino children who were not counted. An estimated 47,000 Latino children under age 5 were missed in Los Angeles County alone, by far the biggest undercount of any county in the United States. 

According to an Op-Ed that Emig and Vargas wrote in the Los Angeles Times this past Sunday, U.S. Census Bureau data are used to allocate more than $400 billion in federal funds to states and counties for transportation, public health, early childhood programs and other essential services. And young Latino children — who represent one-quarter of all U.S. children under 5, and whose numbers are growing — need these services most of all, since nearly two-thirds of them live in or near poverty. The census count also determines each state's congressional representation. An accurate census is essential to the fair distribution of national resources and to the very life of our democracy. 

They explained that many California families struggle to afford child care in a state where the average annual cost of center-based infant care was $11,600 in 2013 (the latest year available.) That's more than 40% of the median income for single-parent families. 

The federal Child Care and Development Block Grant allocates funds to help states subsidize child care for low-income families. How is the amount of the block grant determined? By the census count of children under age 5. 

In California's case, the thousands of missing Latino children means that every year, California received less than its fair share of Child Care and Development Block Grant funds. This is why it’s so important to have an accurate count. 

The Census Bureau does an important job of counting the country's residents every 10 years and paints a generally accurate picture of the total population. The next census, in 2020, will be the first to count people online, but technology alone can't fix the particular undercount of Latino children.

I think we can all agree with Emig and Vargas when they argue that undoing the Census' Latino undercount requires quick action — the 2020 census is around the corner — as well as adequate funding for research and education from Congress and private groups. It isn't only a matter of helping one group of children and their families. 

When Latino children are undercounted, they are shortchanged, but so is every other U.S. resident. The undercount can be remedied in time for the next census, if we act now. Hopefully by the next five Cinqo de Mayos everyone will be in the books.


(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 who serves as Vice Chair of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition and sits on the board of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council representing Larchmont Village. He was a candidate for Los Angeles City Council in District 4. Fred writes Latino Perspective for CityWatch and can be reached at: [email protected].) Photo: LA Times. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

The People Speak: ‘AngelFest’ Put on Hold ‘til 2017

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' request by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, the lessee of the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area, for a special event called AngelFest scheduled for October 7-9, 2016 has been delayed until 2017. The event will be “a three-day commercial family-friendly music, food, and cultural event with maximum attendance of 65,000 people per day (including approximately 1,200 workers). 

The event is developed and managed by the Make Good Group and designed to have a cross-generational and multicultural feel highlighting the unique contributions the City of Los Angeles makes to the world.” Tickets for the event are proposed to cost approximately $295 for the three days, with a portion of every ticket sold donated to the Los Angeles Parks Foundation to improve the recreational amenities within the Basin. 

During the event, five performance stages and other additional festival areas, including concessions, would be open to ticketholders at the northeast portion of the Basin including Woodley Park (I and II), the cricket fields, the archery range, the Japanese Garden, and the northern developed part of the Wildlife Area (known as Woodley III). The AngelFest is planned to end at each day by 9:45 p.m. 

After the Environmental Assessment (EA) was prepared, the Corps concluded that the project was in “compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, and all applicable environmental laws and regulations. The Corps determined that the impacts resulting from the implementation of the two action alternatives evaluated in this EA would not have a significant impact upon the existing environment or the quality of the human environment; therefore, preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement is not required. This finding generated an immediate, and negative response from environmental groups. The Festival has now been rescheduled until 2017, but still remains a major source of concern to Valley residents. 

The primary purpose of the Basin “is to provide flood risk management for the residents of Los Angeles County residing downstream of Sepulveda Dam.” The Basin venue is ill equipped to handle large City-wide “entertainment” functions, concerts, outdoor spectaculars, etc. These activities interfere with the Basin’s natural habitat and negatively impact its ecosystem and environmental sustainability. The Basin is unique in that it is a flood basin, not an ordinary park. Musical festivals are incompatible with the intended purpose of the Basin.  

The San Fernando Valley Audubon Society is opposed to this event. It has expressed concerns that “Woodley commons is a deceptively complex, mostly self-contained ecosystem. Erecting a security barrier around its Wildlife Reserve during a huge event with loud music, bright lights and pyrotechnic displays does next to nothing to protect that ecosystem. From the pocket gophers that feed raptors, herons and owls to the insects and plants that feed resident and migrant bird populations, the entire park weaves a web of support that is robust yet fragile. Birds and other wildlife in the park have taken decades to acclimatize to freeway noise and airplane overflights — but five music stages blaring …, 65,000 people tramping around daily, plus all the trucks, structures, cables, generators, porta-potties and untold other hardware needed for this project, will tear the fabric of that web in ways that will in some cases be felt for years, or forever.”           

The obvious environmental destruction clearly offsets the economic benefits gained. The Basin should be restricted to low density recreational uses that do not impact the natural ecosystem of the Basin. The comment period still remains open from April 12, 2016 to May 27, 2016. Comments must be received by 5 p.m. on May 27th. Direct comments to: [email protected]. Contact Deborah Lamb, [email protected] or at (213) 452-3798 for information. Documents may be viewed at this Army Corps of Engineers website.      


(Gerald A. Silver is President of Homeowners of Encino. He served on the Citizens Advisory Committee that helped craft the Ventura Blvd. Specific Plan. He can be reached at l[email protected].) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Silverlake Artist’s ‘UpHouse Balloon Project’ Fights Back Against Developers

THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-All over the city, developers are using pretty unscrupulous measures to remove residents from their homes under the pretext of building affordable housing. Throughout Los Angeles, disgruntled activists have been organizing to fight back, collecting signatures for recall petitions and to add initiatives to the ballot. If developers want to change the face of the city, they’ll face some angry voices. 

Perhaps one of the most creative approaches come from Silverlake artist Anne Hars. Through her “UpHouse Balloon Project,” she places bouquets of balloons to mark homes slated for demolition to make way for new luxury housing. 

Anne has launched a Go Fund Me page last month to finance even more balloon bouquets. “The balloon project seeks to ask people to consider the meaning of home and community, the value of our labors, and if we are going to be a caring city – a city of angels, or a city that rewards developers profiteering off homelessness and the housing crisis,” she says. “With your help, I can balloon more threatened rent stabilized homes across Los Angeles and help draw attention to the loss of affordable homes in L.A.” 

Inspired by the Pixar film “Up,” Hars has been installing balloon bouquets on “small-lot plots throughout the areas west of downtown, which are prime for gentrification by over-zealous developers. Many of the small lot plots where Hars places her balloon installations often contain rent-stablized cottages, typically occupied by low income households. 

Developers evict tenants to make way for larger, high density luxury housing developments, which has motivated Anne to do something. She says evicting as many as 64 or more tenants adds to the growing population of Los Angeles homeless, as the tenants aren’t able to afford most of the rents in LA. 

So far, local neighborhood groups have been helping the artist affix balloon bouquets to dozens of homes slated for demolition. 

The areas hit by this new wave of gentrification include Chinatown, Silverlake and Echo Park, where housing values are on the rise while median household wages are stagnant, well below the national average. Many lower-income families can’t afford to pay market value rents; they depend on rent control. Cities with separate municipal governments like Santa Monica or Long Beach have strict rules limiting evictions and new developments but Los Angeles does not. 

The latest area hit by development fever is an original 1934 property in Valley Village and the fate of the property is in the hands of The Cultural Heritage Commission. If the property is not designated as historic, it will be demolished to build a three-story condo, resulting in the destruction of 80-year old trees, as well as the last piece of history on the block. 

The 1934 property is a hub of community education and urban farming. On the other side of the equation sits Urban-Blox, a boutique firm that “works with a select roster of notable architects to develop urban infill properties…dedicated to seeing value where others do not, which often involves re-imagining and redeveloping properties towards new uses, density, or end users,” per the firm’s website. 

If the historical designation is denied, more than 28 small lot houses will be demolished, along with three dozen mature trees -- every square inch of open space. A public street will be vacated and tenants will be evicted from rent-control buildings. The property is across the street from the Dougherty House, which was razed just three days before the property was to be considered as a city Historical Cultural monument. The pair of single story houses that were demolished included a front home built during World War II and the back home believed to have been an early-century gabled farm house and the former home of a young Norma Jean Dougherty aka Marilyn Monroe. 

Like the Dougherty House, the 1934 lot has already been approved for demolition by, yes, you guessed it, Councilmember Paul Krekorian. Currently, residents are in litigation with the property owners over title. Although the property hasn’t yet been sold, plans to develop it are already underway. 

The cozy relationships council members have with developers seems to be behind the wave of gentrification. While the buzzword “affordable housing” is tossed around, tenants are evicted from what was affordable housing to pave the way for McMansions and costly condos. As land values continue to rise in certain neighborhoods, long time tenants are being forced out, hardly helping LA’s affordable housing crisis. 

In the meantime, Anne Hars continues to do her part to make Angelenos aware. Local groups throughout the city contact her with new sites. There are 25 sites on her ever-growing list. She believes developers are “war profiteers.” 

Hars is raising funds through Go Fund Me. For donations ranging from $10 for a Little Bag of Balloons to $65 for a Big Bouquet, Anne will be able to balloon off threatened properties. 

For more information, visit her Go Fund Me site


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

Maximum Distortion about Hotel Minimum Wages

WORKERS RIGHTS-After the triumphant 2014 passage of Los Angeles’ $15.37 hourly minimum wage ordinance for city hotel workers, there came a moment of puzzlement for many at City Hall and elsewhere. Why was LA’s large hospitality union asking that some of its members be paid less than the promised wage? 

Was this, as some suggested, a cynical deal to make a union shop more attractive to employers by making sure union workers got paid less than non-union employees? 

This issue, as one person close to the situation said on condition of anonymity, “is a complex and challenging one.” The basic problem, however, seems to be the inability of many to understand the diverse needs and desires of working people, and the fact that some benefits may mean more to them than a fatter pay envelope would, if it excluded those benefits. 

A recent Los Angeles Times article just about editorialized on the subject, referring to “a series of loopholes that cut union workers out of the very pay increases their leaders have championed.”

The article quoted two bellmen and a waitress at the Sheraton Universal, a hotel represented by UNITE HERE Local 11, complaining that it was unfair they only collected the current state minimum of $10 an hour in salary, while a nearby non-union hotel would pay $15.37 an hour. Both these positions garner very substantial tips or service charges in addition to the hourly wage, however, making them some of the best compensated of all hotel workers, although the base pay rate for tipped employees is $10 an hour. As it happens, UNITE HERE has compelled management to agree to return all tips to workers, instead of holding on to some of them, as hotels once did. 

What gets left out of the complaint here, however, is how the wage and benefits package is determined. It isn’t, in fact, imposed by “union bosses” on the workers; as UNITE HERE spokeswoman Daria Ovide points out, the wage agreements are negotiated by the workers themselves, through their representatives. “I don’t think any union workers get paid less overall than a non-union worker does,” said Ovide. “There is a mosaic of benefits that non-union workers simply do not get. For instance, $7.50 an hour for full-family medical benefits alone. Pension benefits, legal benefits, training benefits for people who are laid off when hotels close to renovate. Add these up to the [$10 minimum] hourly wage and you just get more [than $15.37 an hour.]” 

Ana Hernandez, a UNITE HERE shop steward who works as a telephone operator at the Sheraton Universal, pointed out that the union contract also brings work condition benefits, unavailable to non-union workers, something that is hard to put a dollar value on. She said: “We deal with a lot of hotel issues.” For instance, “union housekeepers do about 14 rooms a shift. Non-union housekeepers do as many as 30.” (A hotel employer spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment for this article.) 

Union officials agree that, because of the nature of their earnings, union workers who get tipped don’t always get paid as much per hour as union workers who work in areas where there is no tipping. This results from the negotiation process between the workers and management, that also tries to make union workers’ “total compensation” equitable. The agreed-upon contract, of course, is then voted on by the union rank and file. 

“It’s called majority rule,” said Local 11 President Tom Walsh. He observed that it doesn’t always satisfy everyone. He contended the idea that his union would take a lower salary simply to make unionization more appealing to management is absurd. There certainly hasn’t been a rush of invitations from management inviting UNITE HERE to organize non-union hotels, because their managers understand that even with a lower starting wage, union agreements cost them more. 

Another union official, who asked not to be identified, noted: “Employers don’t pick unions, workers do. Not everyone needs the same benefits package. Undocumented people may need health care the most. Others need more sick days. People in sight of retirement want pension benefits. They don’t always care what form their earnings come in.” 

He added, “They’re calling this a sweetheart deal. But unions couldn’t go on representing workers if they got them a $13 wage with no benefits when there was a $15 wage on the books.” 

Walsh noted that the lower starting salary is not set in stone. “We’re going to fight harder for more money the next time we negotiate.”


(Marc Haefele is a commentator on KPCC’s Off Ramp program and has written for the New York Times and Los Angeles Times.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Los Angeles: What’s Next for Mass Transit? Depends on Who Metro’s Listening to!

GETTING THERE FROM HERE--On May 20th, history will be made in Los Angeles with the opening of the second phase of the Expo Line from Culver City to Santa Monica.  In theory, this line, dubbed the "Aqua Line" by those who advocated for it, is one of the greatest victories of grassroots activism in our modern era ... but while Metro deserves kudos for keeping close to the grassroots, it has the potential to be undermined by the same forces that made LA County such a traffic-laden hellhole in the first place. 

First things first: I am truly honored to have been part of the Friends4Expo Transit (F4ET) team, and in its innermost circle, for the decade or so (2000-2012) I fought for it.  Yes, there were battles beyond that, but the big decisions were in our collective rear-view mirror but that time, and the Expo Line was a fait accompli.  Being part of grassroots activism like F4ET will be one of my life's most cherished efforts. 

And to people like Darrell Clarke, Russ Davies, Kathy and Jim Seal, Julia Maher, Faith and Pressley Burroughs, Bart Reed, Jonathan Weiss, Karen Leonard, Sarah Hayes, Annette Mercer, and a host of others who "jumped on board" that train to connecting Downtown to the Mid-City to the Westside, it really WAS a "Friends" movement--it's doubtful they'll ever get the credit for the sacrifices and slander they encountered along the way. 

We all meant well, and wanted an extra option to the I-10 freeway traffic and wanted to bring the different geographic, socioeconomic, and ethnic regions between the Downtown and the beach together.  I'll go out on a limb and suggest that we either played a role, and/or were the result of, improving racial and socioeconomic relations after the LA riots of 1992 which was a huge factor in shutting down the Wilshire Subway effort. 

What we did NOT expect (well, maybe we should have expected it), was the stubborn and entrenched (but very empowered ... WAY too empowered) minority of individuals who had a lot to gain with respect to their egos and political status by fighting the line for racial reasons ... and speaking ONLY for myself, I was appalled to see both black and white "community leaders" use the race card to fight this line. 

By and large, most everyone--black, white, Latino, and Asian--saw this line as a no-brainer.  The I-10 freeway is horrible, and people need another option.  End of story. 

Unfortunately, and in part thanks to the host of legal and community efforts to stop this line, and in particular to place this line underground everywhere from USC to Dorsey High School to Cheviot Hills/Rancho Park, it's now a lot slower than it could have been had those fighting (and really misleading their neighbors!) the line figured out that: 

1) This is a line that has a cap on ridership because it shares the tracks with the Blue Line in the Downtown area, so only so many trains each day could run on it. 

2) If a grade separation was needed, and the choice was between a $30-$40 million bridge, a $300 million underground tunnel, or at street level, then DEMANDING the tunnel would inevitably lead to a street level solution. 

Oh well, so it'll be 50 minutes from one end to the other, but not everyone goes that far, and it's almost certain that there will be signal modifications and operational modifications along the way to make it faster--and during rush hour, it's by far better than the I-10 ... at least with respect to traffic.

Other issues to be fixed include insufficient parking and an imbalance to bikes and "alternative transportation" that really hurts car commuters (who want to access the line, and/or access the pedestrian venues nearby), as well as an overdevelopment craze that treats this limited light rail line as if it were the Wilshire Subway. 

The Expo Line is a light rail line that will carry 80,000-100,000 riders a day, while the Wilshire Subway is meant to carry 300,00 or more riders a day.  For the City of LA to re-zone Pico Blvd. on the Westside, or anywhere else along the line, the way it is trying very very hard to do, and in a manner against the wishes of the grassroots activists who fought the line, truly undoes the good will that Metro and the grassroots have worked so hard to fight. 

So whither Los Angeles mass transit?  Will the Crenshaw/LAX Line be a success story about redeveloping Crenshaw Blvd. and allowing a Mid-City to Westside to South Bay line to develop?  Will the political leaders highlight this line as the first step to both a LAX link as well as a "Phase 1" that cries out for both a "Phase 2" to the north and a "Phase 3" to Downtown as we see with the Expo Line. 

Mass transit is, indeed, in transit in the City and County of Los Angeles, and for it to succeed in the 21st Century it will ... as with the Expo Line ... need to listen to the grassroots. 

After all, it is the grassroots and taxpayers that are being asked to pay for it, right?


(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.)


Let’s Get Local! How LA Should Spend $4B in Potential New Transpo Funds

 GUEST COMMENTARY--As Metro considers a potential transportation sales tax for the ballot in November 2016,  jurisdictions such as the City of Los Angeles will see what’s called “local return” funds with this new possible revenue.  Right now the draft plan proposes 16% of the potential Metro Measure go back to cities and unincorporated areas of the County.  So far, there are no policy requirements how jurisdictions spend this local return, so each city and the unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County will make these policy decisions.

What is local return? They are funds allocated and distributed monthly to jurisdictions on a “per capita” basis by Metro. The City of Los Angeles, given its size, receives the biggest local return in the County, many estimate that this has the potential to be $4 billion in transportation funds for the City of Los Angeles if the Metro sales tax is successful.

City of Los Angeles: LA is beginning discussions on how to use these new transportation dollars if Metro’s transportation sales tax is successful. There are already two motions introduced by Councilmembers on how to potentially use these funds (Motion 1, It is likely that these will begin to be discussed on Wednesday May 25th at the City of LA’s  Transportation Committee.

Join us on Thursday 5/12 at 2pm for a conference call/webinar to discuss this opportunity in the City of Los Angeles. Kindly email John Guevarra at [email protected] for registration and a calendar invite. 

Investing in Place was dismayed to see the Los Angeles Times op-ed from Council Member Joe Buscaino advocating that we focus only on potholes with these funds. So far there is no mention of a strategic vision for these funds, as well as an issue important to us — of funding/accelerating the fixing of the City’s over 11,000 miles of broken sidewalks with these public dollars. Let’s change this.

Investing in Place supports fixing potholes, but we’d like to see a more strategic, data informed approach base on needs/outcomes and community input. 

Investing in Place supports prioritizing fixing broken sidewalks, improving the safety of crosswalks, addressing the backlog of bus stops in need of investments, and the implementation of existing plans (Mobility 2035, Vision Zero, Safe Routes to School Strategic Plan and more) brought into this important policy and funding conversation.

It is critical that the City of Los Angeles take a thoughtful and inclusive approach with the potential $4 billion in new transportation funds to address improving our communities and all the ways we travel on our streets and sidewalks.  After all, do we want $120 billion in transportation taxes and still have broken #lasidewalks and crosswalks?  We sure don’t.

(Jessica blogs at Investing In Place … where this perspective was first posted.)



Judge Sides with Mid City Activists, Says LA Planning Commission and City Council Screwed Over Neighborhood Coalition

PEOPLE POWER--The Los Angeles Superior Court ruled the City of Los Angeles violated the rights of LA residents by denying their right to due process in a dispute over the City's Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance. The court also ruled the City ordinance governing appeals of subdivision tract maps is preempted by state law, which guarantees an aggrieved third-party’s right to be heard by the City Council. The case, Saunders et al., v. City of Los Angeles, et al., (L.A.S.C., Case No. BS154147), Notice of Entry of Judgment is attached.  

The lawsuit against the city was brought by the La Brea-Willoughby Coalition (“Coalition”), a group of community activists who reside in the Hollywood enclave referred to as La Brea-Willoughby. The court ruled the Coalition was denied the right to due process when the City twice refused to allow an appeal of an approved small lot subdivision project. 

The case arose from the Coalition's appeal of a small lot subdivision that had been approved by the City's Planning Department in the La Brea-Willoughby neighborhood – an area that consists of historical one and two-story affordable single family homes and garden apartments on regular sized lots. The developer of the subdivision, Jacob Cohen, purchased one of these garden apartment buildings regulated under Los Angeles' rent stabilization ordinance. He then proceeded to evict all the tenants. Cohen applied to the City Planning Department to subdivide the parcel into five separate small lots, pursuant to the City's Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance. The City's Planning Department approved the developer's application in violation of zoning and planning laws. 

The Coalition challenged the developer's proposed project, but the Planning Department approved it anyway. The Coalition then complied with all filing requirements, filing an appeal to the Central Area Planning Commission (CPC). As the matter was not scheduled with the CPC, that appeal was summarily denied without a hearing or decision by the Commission itself. The City’s reason for denying the Coalition's appeal? A provision of the Los Angeles Municipal Code which allows the Planning Commission to deny the Coalition's appeal outright if the  Commission did not hold a hearing on the matter within thirty days.

The Coalition then appealed to the City Council. Again, the Coalition complied with the City’s appeal requirements. And again, the City summarily denied the appeal without the City Council ever hearing or considering it. The reasoning: the City Planning Department staff failed to transmit the appeal to the City Council for a hearing within thirty days

Frustrated and dismayed, the Coalition retained Venskus and Associates, an environmental advocacy law firm, to file an action in Los Angeles Superior Court to challenge the City's denials of the appeals. 

After considerable briefing and a bench trial, the Los Angeles Superior Court ruled that the City of Los Angeles violated the members’ right to due process because the City's Planning Commission and then the City Council failed to consider the appeals and instead, summarily denied them without a hearing. The Court also held that Los Angeles Municipal Code sections 17.06(A)(4) and (A)(5), which the City used to justify the denial of appeals, unlawfully conflicted with the California state Subdivision Map Act. 

Under the Court's ruling, the Planning Commission and City Council must now hear and consider community members’ timely appeals of subdivision development approvals. 

We heard of other community advocates' appeals being denied by the City for similar reasons, so we knew we had to take this opportunity to challenge this despicable behavior by the City in court. Attorney Venskus explained, "We are very pleased that because of this judgment, the City is now stopped from violating others' due process rights to have their subdivision approval appeals heard by the Planning Commission and City Council."


(Lucille Saunders is President of the LaBrea-Willoughby Coalition community advocacy association and a longtime activist involved in neighborhood and city issues. She welcomes questions and comments at [email protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.


Duped Councilman Rationalizes Mayor’s Animal Bamboozle

CITY HALL--“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth.” Carl Sagan … meet LA City Councilman Paul Koretz. 

My last CityWatch article, “No Kill: LA’s Big Lie,” discussed Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recent charade that LA Animal Services, the city’s shelter system, is approaching “No Kill” status. By any standard, including its own, the City kills thousands of healthy, happy and highly adoptable animals, thousands more that just need a little TLC, and doesn’t know what has become of scores of animals it dumped on other high kill cities. 

Garcetti and his minions deny the killing by attempting to redefine death. Measured as ever, he responded with telling silence. 

So I struck up an email conversation with Councilman Paul Koretz, whose decades-long career promising help for animals has delivered none.

His ban on elephant torture devices known as bull hooks started as a promise to ban circuses which exploit animals, then just those that exploit elephants, then all elephant torture devices, then just bull hooks. What we got – a ban on bull hooks that still doesn’t take effect until next year – was an impotent piece of nothingness, since the circus beat Koretz to the punch by stopping its elephant exploitation altogether by retiring them to a sanctuary last week.

When you are slower to help animals than the circus itself, you have failed. Even severely abused Peruvian circus lions were sent to a sanctuary in South Africa last month, but are still exploited at Staples Center, down the street from Koretz’s and Garcetti’s offices in LA City Hall. 

Koretz, whose committee oversees LA Animal Services, has turned a deaf ear to LA’s irrelevant spay/neuter law, and misuses public meeting rules to prevent issues from being heard before a large, televised audience watching City Council meetings. Case in point: a filthy tire repair business in Van Nuys has the city’s blessing to breed pit bulls and Chihuahuas … the two types of dogs LAAS kills the most. Years after it was brought to his and Councilwoman Nury Martinez’s attention, the problem festers and cannot be discussed during scheduled agenda items. 

Koretz agreed to field my questions but ultimately addressed only one of them. Here’s question #9: 

“A recent CityWatchLA article explained LAAS unwillingness to pick up stray and injured animals due to its negative impact on the city's "live release" rate, a statistic that is widely rejected by humane advocates because it doesn't take into consideration an array of qualitative factors. Is it actually LA's policy to no longer pick up strays or injured animals?” 

And here is the discussion that followed: 

Paul Koretz: “I have asked and have been told that is not true. When I have spoken to [LAAS GM] Brenda Barnette, (photo above with Koretz) I have not been told that we are leaving strays on the street to improve our live save rate.” 

In a separate email, I sent Koretz Barnette’s own published statement: 

Daniel Guss: “Please see Page 4 at the top. "Also, everyone needs to remember that if we’re successful at rounding up all the strays, it will place more crowding pressure on our shelters, rescuers and everyone else working to increase the live save rate." How do you compare this to what you say Brenda said to you in response to your question?” 

PK: “Did she really say that? When and in what context?” 

DG: “It is her document. It is dated (6/25/15).  In response to the protests. Her chosen words.” 

A day later, Koretz responded: 

PK: “Despite Brenda's quote, which she acknowledges but says it is out of context, LAAS is not avoiding picking up strays to artificially keep down the live save rate. They are picked up when seen, they respond to complaints, they patrol for them in problem areas, but we just don't have the resources to find and pick up every stray. And no other city anywhere picks up all their strays. 

So that is the response, and I have no reason to believe it is not credible. Although I wouldn't mind adding resources to find more strays in areas where stray dogs are still running in packs.” 

DG: “She took HERSELF out of context? I asked you about that exact verbatim quote. You indicated you asked her about it and denied it was happening. Where was the context lost and by whom?”

Over the weekend, Koretz responded with (depending on your level of cynicism) a semi-non-sequitur that either hedges, is a red herring or simply demonstrates his detachment from issues related to life, death and suffering. Question #9, like all the others, remained unanswered. 

PK: “Not defending. Just paraphrasing her response as I recall it.” 

And that was that -- with no further explanation from Koretz on this or any other question. He was duped again but chooses to rationalize and embrace the bamboozle.

Again, I refer you to Carl Sagan … “If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle.”


(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a writer who lives in Los Angeles, and blogs on humane issues at www.ericgarcetti.blogspot.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

California: Environmental Leader or Liar?

ENVIRONMENTAL POLITICS-California is supposedly the nation’s green trailblazer, but it’s also the third largest oil-drilling state, with Los Angeles having more urban wells (over a thousand) than of any other U.S. city. (Photo above: Warren E & P drill site, smack in the middle of homes in Wilmington, South Los Angeles.) 

Five-million-plus Californians - the rich and not so rich - live within a mile of a well. It’s our dirty little backyard drilling secret. Only it’s not so secret anymore. 

The easy oil is long gone. What’s left gets extracted by highly-toxic and water-intensive well stimulation treatments (WST) - hydraulic fracturing or acidization.  An oil derrick in the backyard is one thing, but when hazmat-suited workers use large amounts of hydrofluoric acid to access out-of-reach oil deposits alongside homes, schools and hospitals, it’s time to worry. 

Residents living cheek-by-jowl with WST operations complain of nosebleeds, nausea, headaches, skin rashes and high rates of asthma. 

Last July the independent California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) concluded the chemicals used in WST are hazardous and poorly understood. The council recommended establishing “science-based setbacks, or human health buffer zones to protect residents.” 

However, eight days before the CCST published its government-commissioned fourteen-hundred-page report, California state officials jumped the gun by proudly announcing the nation’s toughest (and first) fracking regulations (based solely on their own less exhaustive in-house impact assessment). 

Americans Against Fracking co-founder David Braun claims this timing overlap (and the fact the CCST disclosed other facts, such as serious water contamination risks from fracking because of California’s shallow aquifers) meant CCST’s report was intentionally buried by the special interest of Big Oil. 

For Braun and many environmentalists, the oil industry wields way too much political clout in the Golden State, spending an estimated $22 million annually lobbying legislators, including our illustrious green leader -- Governor Brown. 

As it turns out, while first-time-round 1970’s Governor Brown may have been the greenest Governor of them all, millennial Brown walks both sides of the fossil fuel divide. 

Yes, though our Governor can claim his “zeal has been intensified to a maximum degree” when it comes to reducing the state’s petroleum use, he’s extremely friendly to oil extraction and production.

It’s as if 77-year-old Brown operates in simultaneous parallel universes. This past December at the UN Paris Climate Change Conference COP21, there was eco-warrior Brown, describing in biblical proportions the catastrophes that will/are accompanying climate change -- plagues of beetles, powerful wildfires, mass exoduses of climate refugees. That Governor Brown exhorts other nations to leave fossil fuel reserves in the ground.  

While back home the other Brown promotes fracking as the most efficient way to retrieve the states remaining oil. He’s also been loathe to regulate WST -- even when addressing the vital importance of water conservation in our drought-plagued state. 

For Braun, it boils down to the revenue stream big oil generates that helps balance California’s unwieldy budget, and pay for Governor Brown’s pet projects: The Delta twin-tunnels, and the state’s high-speed rail. 

But as Braun calls it, “If you’re a climate leader you don’t enable the worst climate polluters, that’s the bottom line.” 

A sentiment shared by fellow anti-fracking activist and actor, Mark Ruffalo. One of Ruffalo’s suggestions to deter oil production is “taxing oil extraction in California and using the money to transition to all-electric vehicles.” 

Such a tax would’ve worked nicely with the part of SB 350 that aimed to halve California’s gasoline use by 2030. It was the most ambitious renewable energy increase for the state so far. However heavy resistance from oil companies meant Brown lacked enough support even inside his own party, and the gasoline reduction part of the bill was defeated last October. 

Speaking at Pepperdine University in Malibu last month, leading U.S climate change activist, Bill McKibben, says when it comes to getting the world off fossil fuels “the resource that matters most is political will.” 

It’s the lack of a consolidated political movement that allows fracking and acidizing to continue unabated in California, according to Ruffalo. He believes when Californians rise up and declare enough is enough, it will embolden our Governor to say no to the oil industry. 

And any day now would not be a moment too soon. 

McKibben warns while human beings cope best with the kind of incremental change California is using to adapt to climate change, at the rate our planet is warming there’s no time for anything but a rapid and drastic shift from fossil fuels. 

Spelling it out, McKibben says it would take 400 Hiroshima bombs dropping daily to melt the Arctic ice-sheet as fast as it’s currently melting. 

Brown and McKibben talk the same big-apocalyptic-climate-change talk, we just need to push our Governor to start urgently walking the walk.


(Belinda Waymouth Environmental journalist and advocate, UCLA geography/environmental studies graduate, mother and surfer. This perspective was first posted at HuffingtonPost.com. )

Alert! Heartworm Disease Increasing in Dogs and Cats in LA ... Wildlife and Humans Also at Risk  

ANIMAL WATCH-Heartworm disease is a serious infection that results in severe lung disease, heart failure, other organ damage, and death in pets--mainly dogs--but also cats, coyotes, ferrets, wolves, sea lions, seals and other animals. And, occasionally it infects humans. The worms mature into adults, mate, and produce offspring while living inside the heart, lungs, and associated blood vessels of an infected animal.  

It is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis, which is spread through the bite of a mosquito. Heartworm cases are increasing in Los Angeles, according to a report updated on April 26, 2016, by Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. 

This disease is NOT spread directly from animal-to-animal (or animal to human). Rather, infected animals are reservoirs for the disease but may not display symptoms. The transmission of the disease occurs when a mosquito bites and sucks the blood from an infected animal and then carries it to the next victim. 

Areas like California and Arizona, where heartworms have not been a problem, are now finding that building development and improved irrigation systems have also enabled mosquitoes to survive. Where there are mosquitoes, there are heartworms, experts advise. 

Three new species of drought-resistant mosquitoes are spreading throughout LA. County: the Australian backyard mosquito, the Yellow Fever mosquito and the Asian Tiger mosquito -- the latter two are also capable vectors for human viruses, such as West Nile and Zika, according to LA County officials. 

All three have transmitted heartworm in other countries, and therefore may spread heartworm here. They are black with white stripes, are “efficient” virus transmitters, biting multiple hosts, and are aggressive daytime biters.  They have a short flight range, averaging about one-quarter mile; however, strong winds can blow mosquitos a long way. 

Here are some tips to protect your pets, family and community. 

Mosquito Control.  Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so empty any outdoor containers in which water collects every two days and clean them thoroughly. This includes pet drinking bowls and birdbaths. Also, remove any uncovered bottles and jars or unused toys and planters in your yard. Throw away old tires lying in the backyard and clean gutters so rain will not be trapped. 

Mosquitoes lay their eggs on the inside of the container, just above the water level. The eggs can then lay dormant for up to several years while waiting for the right conditions to produce larvae. According to sgvmosquito.org, these mosquitoes can breed in a bottle cap of water. 

Unfortunately, Aedes have evolved in well-populated areas and like living in close contact with humans and in urban environments. So, the best prevention is to not make them welcome on your property or in your community. 

Keep Pets Inside your Home at Night.  Mosquitoes feed the most at dawn, dusk and at night, so keep your pet indoors. 

Coyote Control.  Infected coyotes can be reservoirs for the disease. Do NOT leave food or water for coyotes or any animal outside. This attracts rodents, other wildlife and feral cats, which attract coyotes. 

Have Your Pets Checked for Heartworm. In 15% of the heartworm cases confirmed in Los Angeles County, the animal was not treated. Untreated pets may become ‘reservoirs’ and infect mosquitoes, and then the mosquitoes can infect more pets and/or people. 

A human can be infected by a mosquito that has fed on an infected dog but human infections are rare, with the greatest danger being that it can create a small mass in the lungs. “The mass itself isn’t usually a problem, but if it gets seen on an x-ray, it may appear very similar to a lung tumor, potentially leading to the use of more invasive diagnostic techniques (e.g. lung biopsy) to rule out cancer,” warns WormsandGermsBlog.com.  

However, lest we take human infection too lightly, a paper published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in May 2001 reports the fourth case of heartworm infection confirmed in a California resident--all of which were males.  A 28-year-old man had become lost in a an Ohio state park for 18 hours, wearing only shorts and sandals and claimed to have been bitten numerous times by mosquitoes.  

Doctors eventually determined that an orchiectomy (removing a testicle) was necessary. “Histopathology revealed a well-preserved immature male D. immitis, the canine heartworm, in a branch of the spermatic artery,” the report states. (J. H. Theis, A. Gilson, G. E. Simon, B. Bradshaw, & D. Clark; Am J Trop Med Hyg May 2001vol. 64 no. 5 317-322).  

Getting back to more common dangers and the prevalence of heartworm disease in Los Angeles, of the 187 cases reported between 2005-2014, 53% were “Confirmed,” 41% were Probable, and 6% were “Suspected.” However, the 2005- 2015 total shows that veterinarians had reported 258 cases, in 18 cats and 240 dogs—an increase of 71 cases. The majority of the cases (75%) had no symptoms at the time they were diagnosed. 

The graph on the L. A. County Public Health site shows these cases by year and the alarming increase in 2014, when laboratories were required to begin reporting cases. 

Approximately 60 percent of dogs travel with their owners, thus increasing the potential for heartworm exposure,” says Robert Stannard, DVM, with the American Heartworm Society. [

 But, in 29% of the cases in L.A. County, owners indicated the pet had not traveled outside of Southern California, so they had acquired the infection locally. 

Sadly, sick dogs are being brought to Los Angeles—often surreptitiously-- by “rescuers” or brokers for foreign puppy mills.  They are transported from countries or states which are heartworm-endemic to California, where there is no requirement for heartworm testing and they can become reservoirs for mosquitoes.  

Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs: 

The disease is rare in dogs less than one year of age because the microfilariae take five to seven months to mature into adult heartworms after infection. 

Unfortunately, by the time clinical signs are seen, the disease is usually well advanced,” according to VCA Hospitals.  

“The most obvious clinical signs of heartworm disease are a soft, dry cough, shortness of breath, weakness, nervousness, listlessness and loss of stamina. All of these signs are most noticeable following exercise, when some dogs may even faint or become disoriented. …In advanced cases, congestive heart failure may be apparent and the abdomen and legs will swell from fluid accumulation. There may also be evidence of weight loss, poor condition and anemia. Severely infected dogs may die suddenly during exercise or excitement.” 

Heartworm Symptoms in Cats: 

"It is necessary for a cat to be bitten by an infected mosquito in order to become infected with heartworms," VCA Hospitals remind us that it is a wise to keep cats inside at all times. 

The most common signs are a sudden onset of coughing and rapid breathing, signs that can also be caused by several other diseases. Other common non-specific clinical signs include weight loss and vomiting. On occasion, an apparently normal cat may be found dead, or may develop sudden overwhelming respiratory failure and heartworm disease is diagnosed on a post-mortem examination.” 

Treating and Preventing Heartworms in Your Pet: 

“Your veterinarian will select the correct drug and administration time based on your pet's condition,” says Ernest Ward, DVM. 

You can prevent your dog from getting heartworms by using a heartworm preventive. When a dog has been successfully treated for heartworms, it is essential to begin a heartworm prevention program to prevent future recurrence. With the safe and affordable heartworm preventives available today, no pet should ever have to endure this dreaded disease.” 

(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com. She lives in Los Angeles.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams. 

Across Los Angeles, Hope Remains for a Big Sanders Upset in the California Primary

TRUTHDIG--The day Bernie Sanders upset Hillary Clinton in the Indiana primary, I stopped by his Los Angeles headquarters, a rundown storefront in the Latino neighborhood of East Hollywood, and I talked with campaign volunteers preparing to register voters.

Ismael Parra, one of the volunteers, was hoping for a Sanders win in Indiana that night and, of course, wants one in the California Democratic primary on June 7. Such victories, Parra said, would give the campaign the momentum to stop Hillary Clinton on the first ballot of the Democratic National Convention, throwing it into pandemonium. 

“If we get through the first ballot, it will be crazy,” Parra told me on Tuesday. 

Parra and I spoke at an important time. The national media is all but awarding the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton, and Sanders needs California to stay alive. 

Parra, a writer and member of the National Writers Union, is just one in a diverse group of volunteers I’ve met while following the Sanders campaign since early last fall. Their challenge is to propel Sanders to victory in California and win more of the state’s 548 delegates than Clinton does. 

Nasim Thompson, a volunteer in another Sanders storefront in a largely African-American neighborhood in South Los Angeles, has the same goal as she canvasses door to door and trains new volunteers. 

“We have energized volunteers and community members,” she said. 

From the beginning, activists like Parra and Thompson have made the Sanders campaign as much a social and economic movement as a political campaign. Led by its unusual and compelling candidate, the Sanders campaign has given voice to discontent among liberals about the Democratic Party elite. For the two terms of Bill Clinton and two more of Barack Obama, the rich businesspeople and the politicians and technocrats who served them have been the shot callers. They ignored those who felt left out of the ’90s prosperity and the mild recovery from the Great Recession. 

Resentment simmered, surfacing only in the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter, both generally ignored by the mass media. Along came Sanders to give it a voice, a sense of direction and an energy that make Hillary Clinton and her campaign look pallid by comparison. The Sanders team is now the Democratic Party’s activist base, and without its enthusiastic participation, Donald Trump may be elected president in November. 

On the afternoon of April 30, I tagged along while Sanders supporters marched through a down-at-the-heels portion of Downtown Los Angeles on their way to a rally at City Hall several blocks away. Drummers in the garb of Aztec Mexico led the march. Organizers were among the crowd, spurring the men and women on. “Are you ready to fight?” a couple of them shouted. I counted about 500 when the march started, but it soon doubled in size, the result, I bet, of days of campaigning on social media. 

I was impressed with the enthusiasm and organization required to bring out such a crowd. 

Organization was also evident the following day at an entirely different venue, the big Beverly Hills home of Lauren Steiner, high above the city in Benedict Canyon. Steiner is a hardworking and effective volunteer leader. Tirelessly pounding away on Facebook, she persuaded about 25 to 30 people to come her house for bagels before they headed to their congressional district caucus to vote for her and others for national convention delegate. 

As I watched them sign up for tasks and discuss the campaign, I saw some of the political currents that are shaping the campaign. 

One was how to treat Clinton. Some in the room reviled her. A woman objected to what they said. “What I don’t like is the negativity,” a woman said. “We are still Democrats.” A man replied, “I don’t have any loyalty to the party especially when it is headed by crooked Hillary.” 

Volunteer Julie Tyler said, “I’ve called people out on Facebook when they talk that way.” And Steiner said, “There is a way of talking about policies that isn’t hateful.” Looking ahead, Steiner and Tyler probably saw the danger, a Trump victory over disunited Democrats. 

Steiner brought up a more immediate problem -- connecting with the area’s African-American voters and growing Latino population. That’s been a Sanders weakness from the beginning and a possible roadblock to his final, all-out push in California. Clinton is leading Sanders 51 percent to 41.3 percent in the RealClearPolitics average of California polling. She polls well among African-Americans. Latino polling and results from earlier contests are mixed. With the primary election just over a month away, the campaign is setting up low-income outreach teams, but it may be too late. 

The future of the Sanders movement -- before and after the Democratic National Convention -- depends on these disparate volunteers. 

If Sanders wins California, it would be a big upset. Yet even if he does, he probably wouldn’t get enough delegates to force the convention into a second ballot and to stop a Clinton nomination. But what happens after the convention is important, too. Will the Sanders movement remain intact? Will Lauren Steiner, Julie Tyler, Nasim Thompson and Ismael Parra get behind Clinton for the fall campaign against Donald Trump? 

Their names don’t typically make it into the coverage of the presidential campaign by the national media, but these volunteers are the future of the Democratic Party and of progressives who believe in the electoral process. 

If Clinton is to have a chance of defeating Trump, she’ll need them at her side. She’s not going to do it by herself or with her elite backers and veteran political advisers. The Sanders movement is the Democratic Party’s activist base. Without them, Clinton could very well lose. 

Lose to Trump? Is that crazy? No.  

I wouldn’t put all of my money on Clinton’s plodding, cautious approach to our serious national problems. Nor would I bet on her annoying, condescending smiles when asked questions about tough issues like her Wall Street speaking fees. That won’t work against killer Trump.  

After the national convention and the November election, whether Clinton wins or loses, the Sanders volunteers shouldn’t drop out. They’ll have to translate the excitement for the Sanders campaign into enthusiasm for continuing to build a movement: the Sanders revolution. Hopefully, he’ll be leading it, as he promised.


(Bill Boyarsky is a columnist for Truthdig, the Jewish Journal, and LA Observed. This piece was posted first at Truthdig.com.)  Photo: YouTube. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

LA Works … Here’s Why

BUTCHER ON LA-“Instead of sleeping on the sidewalks, they’ll help us to build the sidewalks.”

— Paul Krekorian, Los Angeles City Councilmember, Chair, Budget & Finance Committee, commenting at 2016-17 budget hearings. 

Last Friday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti “signed a landmark Executive Directive to restore core city services and create long-awaited job opportunities for LA’s most under-served communities, as his administration prepares to hire thousands of new employees. 

Executive Directive #15 was developed with a Back to Basics approach to strategically restore critical City services. The directive builds upon a historic labor agreement the Mayor signed in partnership with the City Council and the Coalition of Los Angeles City Unions this past March, which included long-term savings of more than $16 million for the City's budget, and a goal of hiring more than 5,000 new civilian employees over the next three years. The directive will also ensure that all Angelenos have equitable access to good paying city jobs. 

“With 46 percent of our City workers eligible to retire by 2018, LA has an unprecedented opportunity to rethink the way we deliver services to meet the 21st century demands of our residents…Today we start that transformation. As the third-largest employer in our County, we are prioritizing local hiring -- to ensure that every qualified Angeleno has an equal opportunity to apply for full-time city jobs. Everyone deserves a chance at success.”  

The Mayor’s Executive Directive implements part of the 4-year collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the City and the Coalition of City Unions, ratified in March 2015, covering 20,000 city workers in six international unions.

Reverend William Smart, Jr., president and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California, and Alice Goff, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3090 and AFSCME District Council 36, explain the significance of the deal in the October 6, 2015 edition of Capital & Main:

“In an effort to stabilize the City budget, LA officials turned first and foremost to its workforce for cost-saving solutions. City workers stepped forward and made very real sacrifices, such as increasing worker pension contributions to the highest in the state; accepting more costly healthcare co-pays in order to lower healthcare costs; and taking voluntary early retirement. Five thousand jobs were cut, leading to severe cuts to City programs and services. 

“The ramifications of these cutbacks extended into our neighborhoods. Trees went untrimmed, alleyways were strewn with uncollected trash, cracked sidewalks were neglected and school intersections went unguarded, compromising quality of life and public safety. Middle-class City jobs, which for decades provided a higher standard of living for tens of thousands of people and brought new opportunity to communities of color, were put at risk. 

“Thus was born Fix LA,’  a movement that calls attention to the causes of LA’s economic hardship and puts a face on the serious impacts to communities. Over the course of a year, faith and community leaders, City workers and neighborhood groups united to create public awareness of the toll of the crash brought on by Wall Street’s abusive practices. We demonstrated at big banks to highlight their culpability in the crash of Wall Street and to their bad faith dealings with the City of Los Angeles. We held media events across Los Angeles to shine a spotlight on the unmet needs of neighborhoods. Our message has been simple: It’s time to fix LA. 

“City workers took those issues and concerns to heart and to the bargaining table. As part of its proposals, the Coalition of City Unions raised items that affected workers and residents alike. The Coalition platform included ideas aimed at improving services to residents, holding big banks accountable, creating jobs and job-training programs for residents and devising cost-saving and revenue-enhancing opportunities for the City. 

“The agreement between the City of Los Angeles and the Coalition of LA City workers is a true win-win. The newly ratified contract calls for the City to hire an additional 5,000 civilian workers by Fiscal Year 2017-18 and create a Strategic Workforce Development Task Force to oversee the process. The ripple effect of this provision is immeasurable. It represents true outreach to a local workforce, providing job training and access to quality civil service jobs. In turn, communities will begin to see a restoration of services. 

“The agreement also improves transparency of the City’s outsourcing contracts by establishing a public online database of City contracts and adding good government practices. Under the agreement, the City Council will establish a Commission on Revenue Generation, which will develop recommendations for raising City revenue through means such as enforcement of blight ordinances, commercial property reassessments and tax loopholes and other mechanisms. In addition the agreement protects quality, middle-class jobs by ending overuse of part-time workers, safeguarding health care and preserving retirement security, all in a fiscally responsible manner.

“With the economy recovering, and the City possessing the greatest reserve fund in its history, it’s time to rebuild and restore the essential jobs and services that have been decimated over the last eight years. Our communities deserve no less.” 

As reported in MyNewsLA.com Hope for homeless, ex-criminals: 5,000 new LA city jobs on April 29, 2016: “Mayor Eric Garcetti ordered city departments Friday to hire thousands of new employees over the next three years, with a focus on recruiting people who have been homeless, possess criminal records or face other challenges to finding jobs. 

“Under an agreement with municipal employee unions, the city has set a goal of hiring 5,000 people to fill thousands of jobs frozen as a result of an unsettled economy and to account for the fact that about 46 percent of the city workforce will reach retirement age in the next two years. 

“An executive order signed by the mayor Friday officially sets that hiring effort in motion and creates guidelines for city officials to follow when recruiting. 

“Garcetti said the city has ‘an unprecedented opportunity to rethink the way we deliver services to meet the 21st century demands of our residents.’” 

According to Councilmember and member of the Budget & Finance Committee, Paul Koretz, “Mayor Garcetti’s Executive Directive is a fine mix of the practical and the visionary.” 

He’s right! From the Directive: “[t]he recently adopted agreement with our labor partners in the Coalition of Los Angeles City Unions represents the ground breaking start to transforming how Los Angeles recruits, hires, and retains its employees so as to strengthen the delivery of City services with innovative workforce development strategies. The agreement sets a goal of hiring 5,000 civilian employees over the coming years. As the third largest employer in Los Angeles County-with a broad range of positions at all skill levels-the City has an obligation to ensure that every Angeleno has the opportunity to apply for good City jobs that put them to work now and set them on track for careers in the years ahead.

“Unfortunately, those opportunities are often not realized in the lives of people in our City who face the biggest barriers to full-time employment: the unsheltered; people with criminal records including those with a history of incarceration; veterans; and disconnected youth at risk of unfortunate outcomes. 

“Understanding that not all Angelenos currently have equal access to opportunity, it is essential that the City consider a wide range of populations while marketing, conducting outreach, and ultimately hiring for City jobs. The recently established Targeted Local Hire Task Force is working to create alternative pathways into the City workforce through trainee and vocational worker programs while reaching out to these communities. 

“Our future as a City depends on taking meaningful steps to lead on employment equity. It is our responsibility to ensure that all of our residents have a fair chance at success, and that begins with real prospects for gaining employment. This is not only the right moral course of action, but it is fundamental to Los Angeles's long-term economic development and the safety of our communities.” 

LA’s future just got a little brighter, thanks to is workers and its unions. Against all trends, Los Angeles is hiring!

As reported in an important recent read in the New York Times MagazineWhere Did the Government Jobs Go?”, “since the recession hit, private employers have added five million jobs and the government has lost 323,000. The country has recovered from the recession. But public employment has not.  

“The public sector has long been home to the sorts of jobs that lift people into the middle class and keep them there. These are jobs that have predictable hours, stable pay and protection from arbitrary layoffs, particularly for those without college or graduate degrees. They’re also more likely to be unionized; less than 7 percent of private-sector workers are represented by a union, while more than a third of those in the public sector are. In other words, they look like the blue-collar jobs our middle class was built on during the postwar years. 

“The public sector’s slow decimation is one of the unheralded reasons that the middle class has shrunk as the ranks of the poor and the rich have swollen in the post-recession years.”

And as reported in the New York Times, “Public-Sector Jobs Vanish, Hitting Blacks Hard: The Labor Department counts half a million fewer public sector jobs than before the start of the recession in 2007. That figure, however, understates just how much the government’s work force has shrunk, said Elise Gould, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research organization in Washington. That is because it fails to account for the normal growth in the country’s population: Factor that in, she said, and there are 1.8 million fewer jobs in the public sector for people to fill.” 

But in LA, last Friday city workers stood behind Mayor Garcetti’s big prop desk as he signed this monumental order, a strong nod toward the future of the City, affirming labor solidarity and a mutual commitment to cooperation and collaboration, a unique and genuine willingness on the part of the workers to stand up for services and for the communities and neighborhoods of Los Angeles. 

On May 2, 2016 the unions of the coalition presented their analyses and recommendations to the Budget Committee. 

Chair Paul Krekorian set the tone: “As I said at the outset of these bearings, just a few short years ago this City was facing financial ruin. There was a former mayor predicting that bankruptcy was inevitable. We were looking at a $1 billion budget deficit. Over the course of the last four to five years, we’ve whittled down that deficit, gotten to a place of relative stability, avoided the parade of horribles. We did that in close partnership with city workers, in many respects, at their sacrifice -- in positions not filled, through furloughs, the rest, which also resulted in the sacrifice of city residents with correspondingly fewer services.” 

“We’ve gotten through the challenges that we’ve gotten through so far by making sure that we were partners with labor and not at war with labor,” Krekorian said, inviting the union and community representatives to “sit at this table, as full and equal partners, not just for two minutes of public comment.” 

Coalition Chair Cheryl Parisi led the presentation summarizing the historic and unprecedented agreement with LA labor to address the City’s crises of jobs and services. 

SEIU 721 researcher Dr. Molly Rhodes described the unique nature of the bargaining, “partnering with community organizations who are also fighting for services and good jobs.” Three specific examples of dramatic cuts in service to the public show up in the coalition’s PowerPoint. In FY2007-08 City traffic officers chalked up 90,478 hours of intersection control (traffic directing). In 2014-15 that was down to 27,622 hours. Similarly, the City cleaned and cleared 112,300 flood control catch basins in 2007-08, down to 73,772 in 2014-15. In 2007-08, when the City still had a division of “Urban Forestry,” it trimmed 97,341 trees. In 2014-15, only 13,351 LA trees were trimmed. 

Tree contractors have produced inflated bids, understanding that the City is desperate, and the Board of Public Works has been required to slow the processing of these contracts. There’s barely one operational emergency tree crew functioning and there’s no tree division like there was before the recession. 

Community member Tim McDaniel addressed the committee for ACE and as a member of the Watts Neighborhood Council: “Our recession started over 50 years ago. Certain areas of the City have been left to fend for ourselves. This is a good step in the right direction,” McDaniel said. “I’m glad to hear about the agreement to restore services and to do it by creating jobs people in South LA can fill.” 

Continuing, however, we have concerns about the $5 million contracted for trees and catch basin cleaning while unemployment is so high. The City is one of the largest employers in the region and it should set the standard when so many are living in poverty. “My grandmother has lived in the Watts area for 50 years and she deserves a lot better.” 

“Five thousand new jobs, targeted local hiring sounds good. I urge you to commit to funding one-third of these jobs this year. That’d be 1600 jobs.” 

AFSCME representative Teresa Sánchez summarized the opportunities: The Mayor’s Directive instructs all the City’s General Managers to fill service gaps by hiring city workers. Targeting the areas with the highest unemployment and the highest poverty, leveraging all the existing resources and making them available to all Angelenos at any one of 17 Workforce Centers, integrating these efforts with the nine campuses of the Los Angeles Community College District as well as the LAUSD, we’ve modernized the civil service process, hope to potentially touch every person in Los Angeles. Through the Strategic Workforce Development Taskforce and the Targeted Local Hire Workgroup – public bodies convened by the Mayor’s representative Jackie Goldberg, “universally loved and accepted,” linking together systems and infrastructure, proper mentoring and training, experience gained through years of welfare-to-work programs -- the biggest question is when do we start? 

AFSCME Local 3090 president Alice Goff focused her testimony on the need to fill vacancies and to best utilize civilians in the Los Angeles Police Department: The budget includes plans to hire 656 new police officers to net 525 – that’d put the LAPD at 10,500 sworn officers. The budget shows a current civilian vacancy rate of 15% -- 2800 positions – which was significantly lower at 11% at the height of the recession. 

The recent audit by the Controller Maximizing Use of Civilians in LAPD to Increase Deployment includes numbers which should cause alarm. In 2008 a similar audit identified a large number of civilian jobs being done by sworn officers. Now the numbers are the same and the recommendations are the same: hire civilians. Following the 2008 audit, the Department civilianized one position. 

Our recommendations for initial steps towards efficient civilianization would save $21 million this budget year, moving 458 police officers who are doing civilian work. Right now, we’re down 62 PSR positions (911 dispatchers) with forced overtime at an all-time high. One of two classes of new hires (maximum 30 in each class) has already been cancelled. This hiring doesn’t address vacancies or natural attrition. Same thing with divisional records clerks, records and identification staff, crime and forensic professionals. 

We urge you to immediately hire 250 civilians, freeing up police officers to move back out into the field. 

David Sanders, SEIU 721, thanked the committee “for having us back again.” He shared a bit of negotiations history: They told us these were permissive, not mandatory subjects of bargaining, “that there was no place at the table for the concerns of the communities we serve.” And yet we came together to achieve this aspirational initiative. “This is do-able,” Sanders averred. “For example, the City has committed to $31 million a year in sidewalk repair. We are prepared to do the work and propose a detailed program of Insourcing starting with this critical sidewalk work.” 

Cheryl Parisi connected the loss of jobs to the diminution of services. The coalition agreement aims to stop the massive increase in the City’s use of part-time workers. “Just between 2012 and 2014 there’s been a 58% increase in as-needed hours,” Parisi testified. “This devolution from good jobs with job security and benefits to sustain a family have been replaced by jobs characterized as unbenefited, precarious scheduling, and a deliberate policy edict to churn workers, that is to schedule full-time jobs with part-time workers at 40 hours a week until 900 hours and then work furlough the employee. This has made good jobs poor jobs….In policy, this was solved on Friday with the Mayor’s Directive. 

“Departments have been told to move from part-time, intermittent workers to regular half-time status; the agreement provides benefits after one year of 1000 hours worked and prohibits intentionally scheduling to avoid the payment of benefits. 

“Now the budget needs to align with these policies. For instance, DOT’s budget includes an increase in as-needed hours, proposes an additional 100 part-time traffic officers who are not full service and are not transitioning into full-time jobs. In the Bureau of Sanitation’s Call Center the practice has been quite egregious, particularly as the bureau is special-funded, not reliant on the City’s general fund. The call center has added a second location, moved to 24 hour operations, without adding staff, and is actively working to “churn” qualified, trained employees. 

“The budget for Recreation & Parks shows an additional $1 million in part-time hours. Ironically, as the City seeks to fight homelessness, these policies have, in some cases, caused homelessness.

“The Coalition seeks greater budget transparency and asks that the City make clear jobs that are budgeted, filled, or vacant. Additionally, the unions expect funding for a Revenue Commission codified in the labor agreements aimed at exploring new and innovative streams of revenue.” 

Against all odds, in stark light of an Eeyore-ish CAO hell-bent on remaking the City in the image of the County (services provided by contractors, part-time, intermittent, seasonal, non-full time, unbenefited workers), optimism, hope, and investment win. As the Mayor says: “Each one of our workers embodies our City’s commitment to a life-affirming principle at the heart of the American Dream: everyone deserves a fair chance to be employed, earn an honest living, and achieve self-reliance. This aspiration will become a new reality for many of our fellow Angelenos with this Executive Directive.” 

LA is hiring! Start the application here or attend an event at Trade-Tech this week!


(Julie Butcher writes for CityWatch, is a retired union leader and is now enjoying Riverside and her first grandchild. She can be reached at [email protected]) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Don’t Believe the Fawning Press and Their Pitiful Icons

CITY WATCH EASTSIDER-I hear you asking, what do icons have to do with the press? Well, the normal meaning of “icon” may have to do with religious objects or graphic representations. But a secondary meaning of the word has to do with “a person or thing that is idolized.” That’s the Icon of this piece. 

Hillary Clinton is “Madame Secretary”, Dick Cheney is “Mr. Vice President”, Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee are “Governor.” Heck, even Antonio Villaraigosa is “Mr. Mayor.” These “honorific” titles used by the media are being horribly misused. There is a vast difference between a former job title that has specific meaning, and the use of those job titles as misplaced gestures of respect toward people who no longer hold the actual offices. 

What the heck happened to a free press in what used to be a democracy? These titles are being used just like the titles of royalty were in the old days. Do it long enough and we will have a new class of termed-out or voted-out political royalty. Royalty? I think not. 

The television millionaire talking heads who “report” this drivel have to spend around an hour in makeup before they read prepared scripts from their teleprompters -- as if it were truth. Their print counterparts should take a big time editing class because any real reporting they do is doomed to get killed on the spike of “editorial review.” In either case, if they persist in honest reporting, the billionaires who own the media outlets have them fired. 

My god, Ida Tarbell, author of “The History of the Standard Oil Company,” and Frank Norris, author of “The Octopus,” would be rolling over in their muckraking graves. Upton Sinclair of “The Brass Check,” and I.F. “Izzy” Stone would be throwing up. Hard core gonzo reporters like John Ross and even Hunter Thompson would be shaking their heads over the end of honest reporting as we know it. They might just retreat to do some serious drugs. 

Take my current pet peeve: meaningless fawning. In our system of electoral musical chairs, a person runs for office, holds that office then leaves that office. The office itself, Mayor, Governor, President, Assembly/Senator, etc., is the title. The office remains the office before, during, and after all the frail human beings assume and leave their positions. The office is permanent, the occupants of the office change all the time. So when did these statutory positions suddenly become permanent honorifics for every person who has ever inhabited them?

These politicians are not royalty. They are a bunch of folks who got in bed with whomever was willing to buy them their public office; afterwards they revert to who they really were all the time – plain Hillary Clinton, Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, and Mike Huckabee…even Antonio Villaraigosa. Not Madam Secretary, Mr. Vice-President, Governor or Mayor. 

Why does the media act like a bunch of genuflecting lick spittles towards these folks? And why do we let them get away with it? On the media side, of course, it’s simple. The people who own the media want us to think of these people as true blue authority figures so we will believe whatever horse puckey they spout. It’s a fraud, pure and simple. And it’s bought and paid for Citizens United capitalism -- foisted on all the suckers who will unthinkingly assume we should believe ex-elected officials -- even when their words and deeds are blatantly unbelievable

If you and I can separate ourselves from our iPhones and Android devices for a few seconds, we can all see what I’m saying is true. These politicians are not authority figures. Increasingly, they are not even, by and large, very honest. Generally, they are simply folks who have some kind of weird narcissistic need to tell other people what to do in exchange for a bunch of money and a great pension plan. They are absolutely not role models. No mas. 

Remember the four phases of a politician who gets caught: (1) I didn’t do it, (2) I’m in rehab, (3) you can’t prove it, and (4) my plea deal was to spare my spouse and friends. Some role models, right? 

Now, I am not silly enough to argue that journalism used to be all about the truth. As Upton Sinclair proved beyond any doubt in his really cool book, “The Brass Check,”  all too many journalists have always been for sale. 

I should note the title of his book refers to an old custom in which the customers of a brothel were issued a chit (the brass check.) Written way back in 1919, it’s a must read to provide context for our contemporary media. Really. No one these days has ever heard of the book and I suspect that it’s not on the reading list for journalism/communications majors. However, it should be. 

Also, take a look at Izzy Stone’s attempts to make a living as an honest muckraking reporter, and how he was hounded, vilified, and trivialized for his entire career. Check out his great biography, All Governments Lie!   

Let these real reporters wake us up to do our own research. It’s easy these days. All we need is to spend a little time on the internet and our view of politicians will never be the same. Do a Google search on almost any of these folks (remembering to skip the first couple of pages that pop up since they’re mostly ads) and incredible bags of details will emerge. In fact, I can do better research online in an hour than I used to be able to do in a whole day spent in the stacks of a really well stocked library. Read and you will no longer believe the 15 second “sound bytes” that the mass media is trying to sell you! 

Try a little internet surfing and you will never view the news media and their products the same way again. C’mon, take a walk on the dark side and do a reality check on what you’re being fed as truth. Who knows, you might just turn into the next gonzo journalist or muckraker!


(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.

Who Will Redesign Pershing Square?

WESTWATER DOWNTOWN--Nearly three years after Councilman Jose Huizar announced his plan to re-imagine Pershing Square, the project’s leadership met to discuss the proposals, review all the public’s comments – and decide who will re-design the new Pershing Square; a decision which will be publicly announced on May 12. And, so, here is one brief story and two questions which they may wish to consider in their deliberations.

The brief story is how one of the teams arrived in DTLA via the world famous New York City High Line. Two community activists, Josh & Robert (as they refer to themselves in their book on the project) decided to save the High Line and soon unexpected found themselves running a non-profit and then, after Bloomberg was elected Mayor and the money started to come, they began to interview the perfect team to hire to realize their vision.

And among them was James Corner (proposal above photo) with his new firm and they were soon to discovered Corner had a unique way of seeing how all the parts of the project could both fit together and work together and they began to wonder if he might be the one to execute a design that would get the project built. And the projected starting heating up and soon even Zaha Zadid – right after she won the Pritzker Architecture Prize – entered the competition to design the High Line

But everyone they were to meet – including Zadid - convinced them more and more that Corner and his team had what it would take to make this project work. Their problem was - they were uncertain how city would react to someone who wasn’t a big name.   So, Josh wrote in their book – he went to ask the director of Planning for Manhattan - what they should do. And his answer was to ask Josh one question. “Do you want something that you know will be good, or do you want to take a risk for something great?” And as Josh writes, “When he put it that way, it was an easy question to answer.

That left just one more hurdle. The Mayor’s office. And here is Robert’s description of what happened at the big meeting. “It took says a lot about the Bloomberg administration that they were willing to take a risk and pick a team that would bring us such innovative and untested design to a public space in New York.”

And that’s how two neighborhood activists and James Corner and his team turned a decaying rail line that was scheduled to be torn down into one of the biggest tourist attractions in New York with over 7 billion dollars with of new construction surrounding it.

And now for our two really big questions which the Perishing Square decision should be asking themselves ask themselves, if they haven’t already; a question that has not been publicly asked – or debated.

With none of the construction money yet raised – and with no one knowing when current boom times will end (other than every day, we are a day closer to that day) – which of the four teams will be more likely to help the committee generate donations to help build the park – and which team would best be able to help solicit donations themselves for the project -even if the economy slows down?

And ever since the first Phase of the High Line – they have had one of the best track records in helping getting projects funded.

And, the second question is – which team has the best track record over the years in bringing in their projects – both on time – and on budget? Two statistics any major donor is going to research.

And, again, starting with all three phases of the High Line, the projects designed and built by - have consistently been on time and on budget – with one major exception; the project in Santa Monica came in under budget.

Now these two factors cannot - and should not – be a major factor in selecting the winner in a competition such as this.   But if two projects are very close in every other way and it becomes hard to choose between them, these are two questions which will need to be asked.

(Brady Westwater is a writer and a longtime contributor to CityWatch. He is president of Westwater Films and Media.)


So You THINK You’re Registered to Vote?

HELPLINE--In hopefully learning from the suspicious disqualification of approximately 125,000 voters in Bernie Sanders home town of Brooklyn during the New York primary on April 19th of this year, I would suggest that Californians who want to be absolutely sure they can vote and be counted in California's primary on June 7th take the preemptive precaution of avoiding any potential unpleasant surprises on election day by now checking their own voter registration status well before the May 23rd voter registration deadline.

All you need to do is go to the County Registrar of Voters office for the county you live in and click on the link "Online Voter Registration Status." If you find that for some reason you are not deemed registered, you can immediately rectify this situation by clicking on the link "Online Voter Registration" to immediately remedy the problem. So, for example, if you live in Los Angeles County, you would go to the Los Angeles Country Registrar of Voters cite and then click on either the link "Check if your registered" or "Register Now."

It is worth pointing out that unlike the restrictive voting eligibility rules in New York and elsewhere that played no small part in Bernie Sanders' losses in these states, California's somewhat open primary rules allow registered voters with "no party preference, unaffiliated, or declines to state" to vote in either the Democrat or Republican primaries.

However, this does not include people registered to the American Independent or other recognized political parties who would not be able to cross their own party line to vote for either a Democrat or Republican in the June 7th primary. Might this not be a good motivation for a Green Party member to at the very least change their registration to "declines to state" for at least the upcoming primary?

One cannot emphasize enough the marked difference between the relatively open primary process in California with the restrictive primary processes of New York and many other states where younger and first time voters, who are at the core of Bernie Sanders supporters, were blocked from voting by unnecessarily restrictive primary voting qualifications designed to purposefully limit the number of new and younger voters, who have clearly shown their disproportionate support for Sanders in the states he has carried.

It is my firm belief that the only way the corporate-donation-subsidized-politics-as-usual policies of a Hilary Clinton or her predecessors- be they Democrat or Republican- can continue to win in California and beyond from the likes of a Bernie Sanders and the revolution he has started is with a relatively small voter turnout.

Sharing the ideas expressed in this post with your own online networks can go a long way in dismantling and circumventing what up until now has been the continued corporate media success in marginalizing, devaluing and demoralizing what I believe to be the clear majority of voters, who want something more than just more political smoke and mirrors.

In a democracy- at least in theory- the majority is supposed to win isn't it?

(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at [email protected])


Skyrocketing Taxes and Fees and No End in Sight! Can Anything be Done?

JUST THE FACTS-The Mayor, City Council and Department of Water and Power Commission have all approved recent increases in both the water and power rates for all Los Angeles City consumers. As we read about broken water pipes and aging power poles on a regular basis, we can understand the necessity to raise revenues to upgrade deteriorating systems. Yet this is just a preview of what to expect in the near future for Los Angeles residential and commercial consumers.   

The next rate increases will involve a vote of the public. That means that you have option of approving or rejecting the measures. But this can only happen if you are registered and take the time to vote. Currently, we are saddled with a 9% sales tax in Los Angeles and a portion of that is for our public transit system. 

Here’s a question about our public transit system: How many of you ever ride it in Los Angeles? I would guess that most of you never have. On infrequent occasions, I have ridden on both buses and trains. The stench of marijuana has been present nearly every time, along with the combative and hostile attitude displayed by some riders. This has turned many people off from riding public transit in our region. Many potential riders just don’t feel safe due to the lack of law enforcement presence on the transit lines, other than the ones who check for fare violators at transit stops. 

Politicians are moving forward with a proposed extension and increase in our region’s sales tax to fund an expanded public transit system as well as money to deal with the estimated 40,000 homeless people in Los Angeles County. This will push our sales tax to 9.5% for the next 40 years. Yes, forty years. In addition, there is a proposal to extend the current transit tax for another 40 years. I thought it was interesting that City Hall described the increase as four decades. Maybe this softens the hit by saying four decades, instead of forty years, but the math is the same. 

This is a lot money, and for what? Many of us won’t even be here in forty years, but I know we have to plan for future generations. With that in mind, we should recognize that we have over-populated the city, pushing housing costs and rents out of reach of most young families. Can they afford to pay more taxes? 

Although the Mayor declared a homeless emergency months ago, there is a major lack of funds to help deal with the situation. One proposal is to link a fee to all new developments. This fee, to the tune of thousands of dollars, will just force up the cost of new development. As you can see, there seems to be no easy answer other than more and higher taxes and fees. But I say enough with that! 

I am opposed to any new tax increases to fund the transit tunnel under the 405 freeway or any other pie in the sky solution to traffic gridlock. The solution is more controls on over-development. Our city and county have seen an increase in population in all categories, including 40,000 homeless. Los Angeles County population is currently at 10,241,335, up 0.8% from 2015. Los Angeles City is currently at 4,030,904 people, an increase of 50,000 people since January 1, 2015. California’s growing population is now 39,256,000. 

There is no end in sight to the multiple and weighty matters facing our region. If you want to make a difference, you must get involved and voice your concerns to your elected officials. We are blessed here that most of our elected officials do listen -- to some extent -- to our concerns and issues. While Rome was not built in one day, we need to continue working to remedy the many issues facing all of us in the City of the Angels…… 

Clinton or Trump? We will soon know who will lead this country forward into the future.      


(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. He writes Just the Facts for CityWatch. You can contact him at [email protected].) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

New LA Homeless Numbers: ‘Stark Condemnation of City Council Policies’

GUEST WORDS-The Coalition to Preserve LA said today that a sharp jump in homelessness in Los Angeles, as reported today, vividly points up the devastating effects of LA City Council practices that are driving tragic levels of human displacement and the demolition of 20,000 rent-stabilized apartments that can never be fully replaced. 

A map published this morning by the Los Angeles Times shows in vivid color the city’s heavy new concentrations of severe homelessness -- particularly in Downtown Los Angeles, Venice and Hollywood, areas targeted by multimillionaire developers for frenzied levels of demolition and luxury housing construction. 

Jill Stewart, campaign director for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative sponsored by the Coalition to Preserve LA, called the new data “a stark condemnation of the Los Angeles City Council’s policies to destroy working-class communities and replace them with half-empty luxury towers built by developers who give the City Council a lot of campaign cash.” 

A City of Los Angeles housing report from late 2015 shows that even as homelessness surges citywide, the Los Angeles City Council clings to policies that exacerbate the problem. The city itself admits that housing projects it approved during the past 10 years suffer from a huge vacancy rate of 12%, and that this empty “market rate” housing is aimed at households earning more than $100,000. 

Meanwhile, average people and the poor cannot find a place to rent. 

Older apartments are being destroyed at a fast pace instead of being preserved, and the City Council has no plan for preserving the older and inexpensive rental housing that acts as the safety net for LA’s working class and middle class. 

“The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative on the March ballot will force the City Council to end its behavior of fanning this frenzy of luxury development,” Stewart said. “We are talking about a group of Los Angeles politicians who take huge sums of money from developers, encourage them to build massive luxury complexes that rent for $3,000 or worse, and then they ignore the displacement of longtime residents due to runaway gentrification they create.” 

In a City Hall affordable housing report released earlier in 2016, Stewart notes, the City does not mention its key role in driving up homelessness. 

Instead, the city report blamed this traffic trend on numerous factors that don’t lead back to City Hall.  

(John Schwada is a former investigative reporter for Fox 11 in Los Angeles, the LA Times and the late Herald Examiner and is the Communications Director for the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. He is a contributor to CityWatch. His consulting firm is MediaFix Associates.) Photo credits: Top-LA Times, above right-LACurbed.



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