And the Antonio sells L.A. contest winner is…

I promised five double-doubles to the person who comes closest to guessing how much money the mayor raised at the end of the June 30 reporting period and if my info is correct Ethel B. gets the In-N-Out prize — regular, with onions or animal style.

The tip I’ve heard is Villaraigosa hauled in somewhere between $1.6 million and $!.7 million to scare off as many challengers as possible. God knows what that will cost taxpayers although my rule of thumb is L.A. politicians come cheap so the bill for making special interests happy could be spectacular.

If I’m right, Ethel B. gets the prize with a guess of $1.65 million…though we’ll have to test her crystal ball for possible doping. Congratulations Ethel, bon appetit!

Home Depot Update: City treats activists like criminals

I don’t make this stuff up: No Home Depot activists finally got their chance Monday to examine 1,000 pages of city documents in the long-running controversy but the city’s Dispute Resolution Program facilitator had them searched when they arrived and kept cops around in case they turned violent.

“You just can’t be too careful these days,” the facilitator told the two activists.
 
“And will Home Depot be searched and guarded when they show up for their appointment?”

“Absolutely,” he assured us.

You can read the full story for yourself at the  No Home Depot website.

All I know is that it’s no way to treat the people of this city for standing up for their basic civil rights.
 

Media, politics and the conspiracy of consciousness

You got to feel for Walter Moore. Maybe he should just call himself “Wally” and dress up and act like Rodney Dangerfield who plays an obnoxious talk show host in a 1997 movie that at least got some reviews.
Thumbnail image for walter.png
wally.jpgWhatever your politics, you ought to support Moore at least getting looked at by the local media, having his public fund-raising events at least get a brief notice and at least have examined why his constituency  is so aroused by Jamiel’s Law which would crack down on illegal immigrants in gangs.

But poor Walter gets totally ignored in the media — except for radio talk show hosts like Doug McIntyre on KABC and blogs like Mayor Sam.

Moore held a fund-raiser at Cal State Northridge on Saturday and 300 people showed up so he can get a crowd. He raised about 10 bucks a piece from them to put his campaign warchest at $107,000 so he’ll qualify for city matching funds. But he got no press coverage. Stories written about the upcoming mayoral election.state Antonio Villaraigosa as the only announced candidate and refer to the fortune he’s raising for his campaign and the possibility that billionaire developer Rick Caruso who’s vacationing in Italy is the only possible serious candidate who might challenge him.

In the eyes of the media, it’s a coronation, not an election.

This isn’t new. Across the country, the corporate media are complicit with the vast machinery of big government, big money and big politics. It’s been that way a long time, ever since half the papers in the country went out of business in the 1950s  and 1960s because of  their inability to compete with television.

All that was left of a once free and vibrant press was corporate ownership of mostly monopoly newspapers. Gone were the 12 papers in New York, the eight in L.A. with a variety of owners and a variety of politics, styles and points of view. Instead, what we got was journalism that reduced politics to on the one hand this and the other hand that as if there were only two ways to see any issue. The result was apathy, alienation, the loss of freedom of expression and the vital public conversations that lead to compromise and progress.

Some think it’s all an overt conspiracy but that wasn’t my experience in my 44 years in newspapers and publications of various types in many parts of the country.

What there was and is today is a conspiracy of consciousness, a shared belief of journalists that what they’re told by the vast army of political operatives and politicians — and what they tell each other — is the American political reality, that the political reality inside the world they operate in is the political reality of  Americans.

That is the big lie.

Continue reading Media, politics and the conspiracy of consciousness

Join the Saving L.A. Protest on Bastille Day

(This article was written for Nina Royal’s North Valley Reporter and published in the current issue distributed this weekend.)

All across Los Angeles, thousands of people — many of whom I’ve gotten
to know over the years — have been fighting City Hall to preserve,
protect or improve their neighborhoods.

These are often long,
drawn-out struggles that test their endurance, their ability to
organize and mobilize their neighbors whether it’s to get a streetlight
or crosswalk, stop or modify a development, crack down on criminals and
nuisances or the hundreds of other issues that come up from time to
time.

Often, they are treated with arrogance bordering on
contempt, drowned in meaningless lip service, beset with bureaucratic
obstacles or overwhelmed by the clout of insiders — the developers,
contractors or the influence peddlers who posture as lobbyists,
lawyers, p.r. types or consultants of one type of another. And, of
course, there’s the unions.

I don’t honestly know how so many never savla.JPGgive up and stay true to their cause.

I’ve
been fighting City Hall too out of my own sense of right and wrong but
I was also paid for it as an editor at the Daily News. Now that I’m
retired from that role and blogging and involved as a community
activist I can speak openly about my motivation and personal beliefs.

Like
most of the people who don’t get involved, I could go on just fine and
look the other way and pretend not to see the giant flashing billboard
around the corner, the megastore down the street, the McMansion at the
corner or the failure of my neighborhood schools.

In fact, I
do that in a lot of ways but what I can’t stomach is what has happened
to L.A. during the last 30 years, an era in which city government has
become owned and paid for by special interests who have no sense of
purpose beyond their own greed.

The result is L.A. is at the tipping point.

Continue reading Join the Saving L.A. Protest on Bastille Day

Beating DWP’s dead horse: New report again claims “all” water met “all” safety standards

The recent DWP public relations stunt to drop 400,000 black plastic balls on a reservoir in Silver Lake led me to take a closer look at the utility’s 2006 annual water quality report which claimed “all’ water everyone in L.A. drank that year met “all” state and federal health safety standards.

But hidden in plain sight in the fine print in language that obscured the truth was the fact that much of the water contained contaminants above those standards. The DWP, following inadequate environmental laws, claimed the opposite by taking an average of all its water tests — not specifying how long and in what areas people got tainted water that far exceeded the average for the year.

Well the 2007 DWP water quality report came out this week and probably showed up in your mail in the last day or two.

Again, DWP General Manager David Nahai — the conservationist whose personal use of water far exceeds the average L.A. residents — again hides the truth behind a lump sum annual average.

“Last year, all 200 billion gallons of water supplied to the 4 million residents of Los Angeles met or surpassed all health-based drinking water standards,” Nahai wrote.

Again, the DWP acknowledges that chlorine used to disinfect water sometimes results in creation of carcinogens that studies suggest could be harmful to health, especially to pregnant women and unborn fetuses. The department continues to promise to use chloramines instead of chlorine soon, something that has been an issue for years.

In the tables we find that the disinfection process in 2007 led to levels of trihalomethanes (TTHM) that average 68 units, which is slightly below the standard of 80. However, the range was 18 to 132 units, meaning a lot of water exceeded the standard.

The same was true for haleoacetic acids, another by product of disinfection, which averaged 42 units compared to a standard of 60. However, the range was 7 to 173 units.

Not to worry though, if you want to take DWP’s word for it
.

Bastille Day protest leader finds the bottleneck of the week

Hooray for urban cyclist Stephen Box who’s the lead organizer for the July 14 Bastille Day protest at City Hall. He won this week’s L.A. Times’ Bottleneck Blog contest by submitting this photo and report on a Hollywood traffic hazard you wouldn’t believe.

Western1 “This patch of roadway abomination is found on Western Avenue, northbound approaching Lexington. It is part of a much larger network
of roadway cracks, gaps and holes that keep Western Avenue cyclists
alert…

“It wasn’t until a bus rolled by that I realized that the pothole was
actually a series of asphalt islands that “floated” or moved
independently of each other, offering a sophisticated “suspension”
quality to the roadway, evidence that perhaps this was not simply
another pothole network but perhaps an experimental LADOT roadway
innovation! The “comfort lane!”

 “The roadway is so broken that the safest place to ride is out to the left edge of the curb lane, 
maintaining a straight line and controlling the lane. The cyclist above
demonstrates the correct lane positioning for Western Avenue. This is
true for many of the larger boulevards in the area, from Vermont and Western to Hollywood and Sunset.

“To those who might argue that the cyclist should give up the lane
to motor vehicle traffic and ride the gutter pan, another obstacle
awaits! Granted, the city of Los Angeles has a grate replacement
program under way, but it only covers an average of  5 grates per
Council District. Grate! Great!

“Ultimately, I’d gladly trade all the promises of a network of
bikeways in the sweet by-and-by for a simple roadway maintenance
program that puts a priority on keeping the curb lanes ridable. The big
streets really can work for many, they actually get across town,
there’s space, when traffic is flowing it’s a great place to ride…but
the potholes!

“Clean up the curb lane, it’s good for cyclists and that is good for all of us!”

This is one of the many reasons Stephen has gotten involved in trying to make L.A. a great city instead of a pothole hell without anywhere near the number of bike lanes a great city of the 21st century should have.

What do you think is wrong with L.A.? What do you want to see happen that would make it the city you think is great? When will you get mad enough to do something about it?

People from all over L.A. are committed to coming to City Hall to air their gripes at noon July 14 and help launch the Saving L.A. Project — S.L.A.P. — a citywide coalition of concerned citizens who are ready to work together to Take Back L.A. and Demand A Great City.

Take Back L.A. — Demand A Great City

That’s the slogan we’ve come up with for the Bastille Day rally at City Hall at noon July 14.

It is meant to launch a new era in L.A., to give birth to a democratic movement that empowers the people and the communities to solve the growing problems caused by a failing educational system and a failing government.

The battle for a greater Los Angeles will not be won through pleading for our leaders to solve the city’s problems or through a series of reforms or at the ballot box.

It can only be won through people power. Thousands of people across the city have worked hard to make their communities better and become angry and frustrated by the lip service, the indifference, the arrogance, of a system taken hostage by special interests.

The Saving L.A. Project — S.L.A.P. — is organizing a rally for July 14, Bastille Day, the moment the French Revolution began, to launch a movement that will bring together people who love L.A. and want to see change. The protest will start at noon at the South Lawn of City Hall.

Already, people from San Pedro to Sunland-Tujunga and many neighborhoods between them have committed to come to the rally and dump their grievances at City Hall and demand redress.

It is the start of something big. In numbers there is strength and by forming a coalition of concerned citizens we can make a difference, something dozens of local community groups have been unable to achieve over decades of struggling.

Take Back L.A. — Demand A Great City. That’s the theme of the protest. And greatness is our goal.

Great schools where every child is given the opportunity to learn and realize their full potential.

Great neighborhoods, free of gangs and the constant menace of violence, where families can live in safety.

Great businesses that add to the quality of life and provide great jobs.

We must confront the traffic congestion now by finding solutions that give people the choice between walking, biking, busing or driving from place to place.

We must become partners in every development to make sure that every project enhances the quality of our lives.

L.A. is a great place and now it must become a great city before it is too late.

The path we are being led down is the road to ruin, a city of rich and poor. A great city is built around the middle class and offers opportunity to all to achieve that It is not built out of mansions in guarded enclaves and slums under the control of hoodlums.

The people of the city must become full partners with the government in deciding how L.A. moves forward and that can only be achieved by having the power to help or hurt our political leaders. For too long, developers, contractors and public employee unions have held all the power and the residents of L.A. are left begging for what they believe will protect or improve their lives.

The Saving L.A. Project will change that  by forming a united front. We don’t have to agree on everything. We just need to support each other in our efforts to make our communities better and our city greater.

Come to the Bastille Day rally. Join hands with your neighbors. This is the birth of real democracy in L.A. where the people are the bosses and the politicians and bureaucrats are the public servants.

Why rats — vermin and human — are so happy in L.A.

Think about this: The city has $8 billion to spend every year but it somehow can’t provide even basic services.

That’s more money than City Hall has had in history, yet there is a $400 million deficit that has been papered over and there aren’t enough cops, housing inspectors, planners, traffic engineers or — now we learn — cleanup crews.

The Times today exposes  the travesty of neighborhoods waiting up to two months for Public Works crews to clean up unhealthy filth left by illegal dumpers, ignoring visible evidence that might lead to those responsible and blaming the lack of staff for its failure.

“We can only run so fast, and right now we’re running as fast as we can,” said
Bruce Howell, the Public Works bureaucrat who oversees alley-cleaning. He’s paid $107,824.32, according to the Daily News city salary database, presumably to make excuses and avoid accountability.

Of course, when the mayor and Councilwoman Janice Hahn were about the hold a self-promoting publicity event in Watts a few months ago, trash littering three alleys nearby suddenly got cleaned up — three weeks after being reported.

The rats must have loved  the delay.

What really ought to concern people who want a great city instead of what we got is that the mayor, the Board of Public Works and the council are so out of touch with their responsibilities as the nation’s highest paid municipal officials that they didn’t know about this breakdown in basic services.

With the Times asking questions, the mayor’s office went into high gear. Emergency meetings were held at the highest levels, urgent reports were being prepared and threats of crackdowns were being made.

“The department’s response time for this cleanup work is totally unacceptable by
any measure,” said Villaraigosa spokesman Matt Szabo. “The mayor is not
interested in explanations or excuses . . . [and] believes that the bureau is in
need of structural change. And he will hold his managers accountable for
implementing this change.”

Take him at his word. Heads will roll and private firms will be hired in place of city workers to clean up litter faster and cheaper. The revolution at City Hall is under way.

Oh no, that will only happen when the community — neighborhood councils, resident groups, service clubs, Chambers of Commerce — join together and take back L.A. and go to work to create the kind of city that’s good for people and good for business, a city where the politicians and bureaucrats know it’s the people who are the bosses — not the fatcats, union bosses, developers, contractors and lobbyist machine.

So come all ye faithful to City Hall at noon on Bastille Day July 14 and let City Hall know that a coalition of concerned citizens is forming and the revolution to save L.A. has begun.

Oops, there goes the rest of your income tax rebate — Antonio joins the orchestrated chorus for transportation tax hike

Buoyed by polling data that shows just how gullible the public is, the mayor has jumped into the well-orchestrated campaign to build momentum for a third half-cent sales tax to support public transit projects.

We’ve seen what a great job they’ve done with the previous two half-cent taxes: Congestion gets worse and worse. And the middle of a recession when people are losing their homes and their jobs and can’t afford $5 a gallon for gas or the soaring cost of food staples is a pretty poor time to add yet another tax on top of all the other fee and rate hikes already in place.

Of course, contractors and their agents will donate millions to the campaign — a small price to pay for billions in return.

That the mayor chose the subway to reveal he’s aboard this gravy train is interesting. My understanding has been they’ve come up with relatively small projects in every part of L.A. County to sucker the public in and then plan to use the money freed up elsewhere in the Metro budget to fund the “subway to the sea” — which is the real goal.

And that’s the problem. Subways are great but we can’t afford that now when there’s so many other needs to make this a great city. The Orange Line Busway in the Valley was
cheaper and faster to get running and ridership wildly exceeds all expectations.

Combining affordable solutions with tougher regulations on rush-hour truck traffic and requirements that large employers stagger working hours would get relief now and cost a lot less.

But solving the problem of congestion isn’t the goal; making the insiders richer is. 

WATER WASTERS UPDATE: Nahai is the king

Thanks to David Coffin of the Westchesterparents.org blog here’s
some facts about your city leaders — the people who blithely jackup your DWP
rates and want you to drink recycled toilet water — you don’t want to
miss:

Coffin reports: The annual average per person water consumption of LADWP customers is 56,576 gallons
per year or 163,000 gallons for the average 3 person household.

  • H. David Nahai (DWP General Manager) –
    434,220
    (a staggering 310% times more
    than my household!!)
  • Rocky Delgadillo (City attorney) – 423,368 gallons 
  • Mayor Villaraigosa – 386,716 gallons 
  • Jack Weiss – 254,320 gallons  
  • Bill Rosendahl – 230,384 gallons
  • Tony Cardenas – 219,912 gallons
  • Greig Smith – 219,164 gallons 
  • Dennis Zine – 194,480 gallons 
  • Wendy Gruel – 190,740 gallons
  • Jose Huizar – 142,120 gallons 
  • Eric Garcetti – 88,264 gallons
  • Janice Hahn – 83,776 gallons
  • Bernard Parks – 35,156 gallons

Thanks David, you’ve put their hypocrisy into perspective