Paul Krekorian for CD2: The Best Hope for Change

krekorian1.jpgThey shouldn’t have done it, they shouldn’t have gotten Paul Krekorian mad, so mad he’s started sounding like a guy who will to stand up for his constituents instead of a politician running for a new office.

Their big mistake wasn’t accusing him of almost single-handedly causing the state budget crisis or of being guilty by association with an unpopular state Legislature, Democrats and Republicans alike. After all, he does deserve his full share of criticism in those regards.

It wasn’t calling him a liar or a thief or even raising a million dollars to defeat him or challenging the quarter-century-old law limiting how much dirty money can be poured into a local election.

No, they pushed Paul Krekorian over the edge by sneaking into the Valley Village apartment building where his family lives and snapping pictures to use in their endless stream of false and misleading mailers.

They messed with the guy’s family and only fools do that.

Krekorian now has fire in his belly, the passion to tackle the corruption of City Hall and its crazed drive to elect someone who will do what they are told, not what’s right.

I spent some time with Krekorian last weekend and came away ready to make the leap of faith that he represents not just the lesser of two evils but the best hope for the people in his East San Fernando Valley to have someone at City Hall who will stand up for them and their interests.

He’s smart enough, experienced enough and hard-working enough that he might even make a difference in the sea of go-along to get-along mediocrity that passes for the City Council.

Continue reading Paul Krekorian for CD2: The Best Hope for Change

Shakeup in LAPD Command Staff: Winners and Losers

Losers: McDonnell and Papa….Winners: Jacobs, Moore, Chaleff and more…Go to OurLA.org to read the full story.

Here’e Chief Charlie Beck’s Memo to Staff

FROM:   Chief of Police

SUBJECT:    DEPARTMENT REORGANIZATION

I have taken the first step in reorganizing the
Department to increase efficiency and improve effectiveness.  The new
organization includes six Direct Reports and the renaming of two Offices.  I
have made several selections at the Senior Staff Officer level to complete my
leadership team.  While some of these modifications may be subject to budgetary
review and approval, it is anticipated that the following changes will take
effect as of Deployment Period 1, 2010 (January 3, 2010).

Office of Operations

   Assistant
Chief Earl Paysinger, Director, Office of Operations

  
Deputy Chief Sergio Diaz, Commanding Officer, Operations –

Central Bureau

  
Deputy Chief Pat Gannon, Commanding Officer, Operations – South

Bureau

  
Deputy Chief Debbie McCarthy, Commanding Officer, Operations –

West Bureau

  
Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese, Commanding Officer, Operations –

Valley Bureau

Continue reading Shakeup in LAPD Command Staff: Winners and Losers

Essel’s ‘Lettergate’: Why Is Antonio’s Thank You Note in 2000 a Criminal Matter?

As we head into the final two weeks of the Battle for CD2, the campaign between Paul Krekorian and Christine Essel suddenly has escalated into one of the costliest and nastiest ever for the City Council.

The City Hall political machine has pulled out all stops to get Essel elected, which raises the question of why a pro-development corporate lobbyist is getting the nod from powerful city unions and the liberal Democrat city elected officials over a pro-union, liberal Democrat state Assemblyman.

It doesn’t make sense…unless there’s a lot more at stake than just one seat on a Council that votes unanimously on just about everything no matter how destructive to the public interest and leaves no room for dissenting without punishment.

One clue is the half million dollars or more being poured into Essel’s campaign by unions, most of it by bully boy union boss Brian D’Arcy who has taken his effort to a higher level by suing the city over a 23-year-old law limiting individual contributions to independent expenditures.

D’Arcy, whose members at the DWP have benefited spectacularly from sweetheart contracts for years, especially those approved by good pal Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has never had a problem skirting this ethics law provision in the past.

So why now? Could it be he is fronting for wealthy developers who want to build giant projects from Universal City to Victory Boulevard in the face of massive community resistance in CD2 don’t want any hard questions asked and are willing to help D’Arcy get the huge DWP rate hikes he wants and ownership of rooftop solar projects?
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Even more interesting is how the leak of a “thank you” letter from then Assembly Speaker Villaraigosa to Essel in 2000 has reportedly sent the mayor’s team into a tizzy and prompted Essel herself to call the cops and report the letter was “stolen” (essel-police report.pdf) from her home outside CD2.

She even sent a letter to District Attorney Steve Cooley (CooleyEsselLetter.pdf), who unlike his pal, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, wasn’t foolish enough to endorse Essel, demanding he “immediately open up a criminal investigation of Mr. Krekorian and his campaign. It is critical and time sensitive to get to the bottom of this scandal to help preserve and protect the integrity of our electoral process.”

The source of her outrage is a campaign mailer from Krekorian over the letter then the Assembly Speaker sent Essel on Feb. 8, 2000 expressing how her “support and friendship has always been important to me,” especially for the “salon” dinner she provided at Laurel Canyon home for what I assume are Hollywood types happy to fund his 2001 mayoral campaign.

Essel does have a point. The event was a “meet and greet,” not a fund-raiser, althoughantonio-essel.jpg  Villaraigosa already was in full mayoral campaign mode so it’s a small point of political hyperbole.

Essel’s own hyperbole in her letter to Cooley is considerably grander, suggesting the “theft” of the letter is a “chilling development (that) eerily conjures up images of the Watergate break-in scandal.”

On the police report, Essel admits the letter has no value but actually believe LAPD detectives are going to investigate the matter. Maybe she knows something but if they do former Chief of Detectives and now Chief of Police Charlie Beck ought to be fired.

The Villaraigosa letter is innocuous on its face, except for showing Essel is a long-time friend and supporter of the mayor and has his support, something she denied when I talked to her.

The significance of the Krekorian mailer is clearer: Republicans could be expected to be knee-jerk backers of Essel since she’s not a liberal Democrat legislator.

But if she is in fact a devoted and obedient servant of the mayor it poses a difficult choice for Republican voters: Who do they dislike more, a Democratic legislator or a Villaraigosa follower who will sell out their neighborhoods and quality of life to the developers who want to turn the area from Universal City to Victory Boulevard into Manhattan?

Without most of the Republican votes, Essel can’t win, which helps explain why Krekorian dragged up this letter from Villaraigosa and why Essel has called the cops as if it was stolen from her house rather than pulled out of the files of the Legislature.

Surprisingly, at least to me, this race has become important and the City Hall political machine is prepared to go to any length to elect Essel, which ought to tell voters to think twice before casting their ballot for her.

D’Arcy’s Kiss of Death for Chris Essel

The Dec. 8 runoff in Council District 2 between Paul Krekorian and Chris Essel shaped up as a choice between the lesser of two evils, both beholden the same City Hall political machine that for so long has betrayed the public trust and jeopardized the city’s future.

Krekorian: Liberal Democrat owned by Hollywood, the Democrats and the SEIU
vs.
Essel: Business advocate owned by Hollywood, downtown developers and DWP’s union, the IBEW.

With nearly 90 percent of the money spent in the primary to succeed Wendy Greuel in the East San Fernando Valley, they easily knocked off eight other candidates — who unlike them actually lived in the district prior to the seat opening up.

It was a tossup, as far as I was concerned, between two decent, intelligent people who would do nothing to change the political dynamic at City Hall.

Then, on Wednesday, the election calculus changed.
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IBEW union boss Brian D’Arcy escalated what was already a vicious and expensive campaign against Krekorian by suing the people who, against their will, have made his union members the wealthiest utility workers in California, if not the nation and the world.

D’Arcy isn’t just greedy and selfish like most of the special interests who feed at the trough of City Hall. He’s the closest thing to a truly evil force in city politics. He’s someone who has shown utter contempt for the public interest for years, someone who has sabotaged every effort to replace the DWP’s coal-burning power plants with renewable resources, someone who has blackmailed city officials into putting ratepayers money into staggering increases in wages and benefits while the water and power systems rotted.

Using the IBEW front group Working Californians — the one that spent $800,000 in a failed attempt to pass Measure B in March so the union get rip off the billions of dollars that was supposed to buy solar energy — D’Arcy went to court Wednesday to challenge the city’s campaign financing law.

Maeve Reston in the LA Times reported that the legal challenge is to the 1985 city law that “bars political
committees from accepting contributions of more than $500 if the group
plans to use that money to make an independent expenditure for a city
candidate.
 
“In practice, the law prevents outside groups or
individuals from contributing to each other to pay for independent
expenditures that support city candidates. Contributions that are not
earmarked for a specific city campaign are not subject to that $500
limit. (If violations are suspected, the City Ethics Commission’s
enforcement division determines whether a contribution was for an
independent expenditure).”

In other words, D’Arcy who has already spent nearly $100,000 in the runoff to elect Essel wants to lift all limits on what he can spend to buy the election outright. It’s an indication that he has polls showing the race is close and winnable, which ought to wake up voters if anything will.

Continue reading D’Arcy’s Kiss of Death for Chris Essel

Nuch and the Lemmings: Marijuana and the Selective Enforcement of Laws

UPDATE: The City Council delayed a vote for a week and probably longer on a new ordinance implementing the 13-year-old state medical marijuana law. Councilman Ed Reyes and others proposed a long series of amendments intended to gut the City Attorney’s proposal to bring LA — poster child for out-of-control marijuana dispensaries — into compliance with the letter of the state law. No matter what the Council does, District Attorney Steve Cooley has vowed to prosecutie operators of dispensaries on felony drug sales charges.  

Day by day, Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich is showing how much of a difference one person can make, one person who stands apart from the lemmings who populate City Hall.

Lemmings are little rats who breed like flies to the point they overwhelm their environment and scamper en masse to the edge of cliffs and jump off together to their doom — a delightful scene immortalized by Disney in “White Wilderness” 50 years ago when LA was in its heyday as long as you didn’t need to breathe.

Our city officials are a lot like Disney’s lemmings.

Admittedly, their breeding habits aren’t the cause of LA’s overpopulation as far as I know but the end result is the same: They are overwhelming our environment with more people than there is water, power, space, jobs or schools.

Not a one of them gets out of step with the others — at least that’s been the case until Nuch arrived in town and refused to join the pack.

Continue reading Nuch and the Lemmings: Marijuana and the Selective Enforcement of Laws

Coming Soon to Your Neighborhood: Granny Flats, Converted Garages, Houses Turned into Tenements

This may be the most desperate and despicable act yet by City Hall in its long war to eradicate the middle class from Los Angeles.

They call it a proposed Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance. That’s a phrase intended to obscure its intent which is to give every owner of a single-family home property the “right by law” to turn their house into apartments, to convert garages into living units and to even put second houses, granny flats, on their property the size of the average bungalow.

It ought to be called the Tenement Law.

Every property owner is an overstatement. It’s every property owner except those on hillsides, horse-keeping areas, scenic highways or live on narrow lanes.

In other words, the rich are exempt from seeing the quality of life in their neighborhoods ruined by families living in a 1,200 square foot house in your neighbor’s back yard, of having hordes of renters living next door, of cars parks all over the place — exempt from the policies of densification that are turning LA into Manhattan, subway to come.

And if that weren’t bad enough, no less than Council President Eric Garcetti with support from Bill Rosendahl, Paul Koretz, Tom LaBonge and Richard Alarcon introduced a motion Oct. 20  to take the Tenement Law a step further.

They want to legalize thousands of illegal “ADUs” showing as much contempt for the law and the public interest as the owners of those properties showed when they turned garages into death traps, houses into tenements and ignored every Building and Safety code in the books.

They want the Council to order the Planning Department. which is now “conducting a study which will lead to a recommendation for permanent Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) regulations,” to “study and report back in regard to the legalization of previously unpermitted
converted units ”

Their logic goes like this:

“The current housing crisis is exacerbated by the turmoil in the mortgage lending industry where foreclosures have increased and many other homeowners are on the brink. This situation impacts all segments of the housing market, but is particularly dire for those with low incomes, those with special needs and the homeless.

“The number of low income households and the pervasiveness of poverty in Los Angeles are markedly higher than in other urban areas. These factors further speak to the need for more affordable housing in Los Angeles, but creating this housing will require greater subsidies than in other areas as well.”

Never have I seen the naked truth so clear in a city document.

We have more people than other cities because we have followed policies that encourage poverty by chasing away good-paying jobs, destroyed our schools, tolerated sweatshops, allowed slum conditions to flourish.

And now we have a moral and soon-to-be-legal obligation to provide every poor person a place to call home with subsidized rents, wages, utilities and other public services — subsidies paid for by the shrinking numbers of middle class residents who still think there’s a chance in hell of changing the direction of City Hall or are too set in their ways to admit the game is up.

Imagine what this city will be like when every inch of it is paved over and twice as many people are living on your street.

That’s the vision and time is running short.

City Hall, exposed now for its failure in everything from financial management to the proliferations of digital billboards and marijuana dealing, will do anything to protects its perks, privileges and paychecks.

That’s where the Planning Department they have totally politicized comes in.

The planners have been assigned the task of escalating the war against homeowners — 2,000 percent increases in fees, failure to measure cumulative impacts of development, out-of-date or meaningless planning documents, approval of every project where the influence peddlers have spread around enough money.

And now granny flats and tenements — a campaign they are running in hopes nobody would notice with a backup plane to lie, mislead and obfuscate whenever necessary.

Citizen journalist Karen Kanter reported at OurLA.org about Saturday’s meeting the Neighborhood Council’s Plan Check Group with City Attorney Carmen Trutanich on the ADU proposal.

Contrary the claims of city officials that this ordinance is “mandated” by a six-year-old state law, AB 1866, Trutanich said there is nothing that require the city “to adopt or amend an
ordinance for the creation of these units. As for the criteria that
was adopted by state law, there was no mention of minimum lot size or
parking requirements or anything related to restrictions on residential
density.

“In
fact, room was left for cities to narrow the state requirements.
Pasadena, for example, adopted an ordinance that required that these
units could only appear on lots with a size of 15,000 square feet or
more.”

City planners in LA want have issued interim guidelines that would reduce the minimum lot size to half or a third of Pasadena’s and to all but eliminate parking restrictions.

I just spent 18 months and wrote 16 articles tracking an illegal conversion of a house in my Valley floor tract into three apartments I saw the impact this one ADU had on my neighbors and neighbhorhood and can imagine if there were a lot more.

We would have no choice except to sell our house or cash in on two or three tenants each paying more in rent then our mortgage.

So maybe, if you all out there aren’t going to get mad enough to stop this madness, I need to change my mind and consider this a city pension for an old newspaperman living on Social Security.

By God, I could live on a beach in Mexico like a king with the proceeds of my tenement in the Valley.

 

Some Things Just Don’t Add Up About Selecting the New LAPD Chief

There’s something about cops that’s always intriguing: They think that 2 plus 2 always equals 4, well almost always. It’s that just the facts, M’am, literal-mindedness they need to turn hard evidence into theories of crimes and nail suspects.

A case in point is the appointment of Charlie Beck as Chief of Police.

Now Beck is a street cop, popular with the troops, immensely likeable and off to a great start in wooing the concerned citizens who are showing up at meetings all around the city for meet-and-greets accompanied by the mayor himself who continues to wear his imaginary LAPD badge as a fig leaf over his administration’s many failings.
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But for some in the upper ranks of the LAPD and others with insider’s knowledge of how the process worked, the selection of Beck as Chief doesn’t add up

Even by the standards of how Bratton (with leverage from insiders) and Willie Williams (with grade inflation on oral interviews to boost his low scores) got to be in charge of the LAPD, the selection of Beck seemed like a “screwball” process.

Some facts stand out immediately.

There was no nationwide search by a headhunting firm as has been the practice (and is being done to find someone to run the DWP) and it only took a month or so to pick the next chief based on a couple of interviews each with the mayor.

Bratton indicated for months that Beck was his favorite and made it perfectly clear in the end that the Chief of Detectives was his first and only choice for a successor.

His top cronies from the Police Executive Research Forum, Chuck Wexler and Miami Chief John Timoney, formerly chief in Philadelphia, also apparently weighed in with their own advice to help Beck move up the list where he ranked well below a host of other candidates based on overall command experience.

Timoney slipped into LA late in the process and met with commissioners with the story being put out that he was applying for the job. Yet, he didn’t make the cut despite credentials far more impressive than any of the LAPD candidates, raising suspicions he wasn’t there as a candidate but as an adviser.

What supposedly happened in this curtailed process without clear requirements set down in advance for the job, itself extraordinary for such an important post, was that dark horse Michel Moore, who wasn’t on anybody’s short list, came out at the top of the finalists’ list Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, Bratton’s well-liked No. 2, coming in second.

With two white guys at the top of the list and a couple of women deputy chiefs and Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger, who is black, in the running, Beck still jumped over all of them to reportedly complete the list of three submitted to the mayor.

In the minds of some in the know, with no offense to Beck, it just doesn’t add up.
The whispers among insiders is that Beck really didn’t make the list of three but was inserted into the third spot when the commission was confronted with the knowledge that the situation could turn into a controversy instead of a coronation because the mayor already had agreed to follow Bratton’s advice.

Continue reading Some Things Just Don’t Add Up About Selecting the New LAPD Chief

Freeman Report: Cooking (the books) with Hot Air

Back on Aug. 11, David Zahniser in the LATimes reported that the DWP was trying to hire former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez as a lobbyist in Sacramento because officials were worried AB 32 — the 2006 bill he wrote — would result in a “cap and trade” program forcing utilities to buy expensive pollution credits to offset their coal-burning plants.

Spokesman Joe Ramallo said “cap and trade” could result in a “massive transfer of ratepayer money” away from the DWP, which has the most coal-burning plants in the state, generating more than 45 percent of the city’s power from those pollution-causing facilities.

What was proposed was for the DWP to spend $2.4 million over four years to hire lobbyists with the Conservation Strategy Group– including $120,000 a year for Nunez through his firm Mercury Public Affairs — to gut enforcement of Assembly Bill 32, the 2006 law that requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

It’s no coincidence the hit on the DWP would come the same year the mayor promised in his inaugural address in July to “eliminate the use of coal by 2020.”

DWP Commission President Lee Alpert balked at the proposal, partly because of Nunez’s role and partly because the DWP already has former Assemblyman Cindy Montanez as a $180,000 per year lobbyist, plus the largest legislative delegation in the state who presumably would do all the can to help the local utility.

That’s what makes what happened at the DWP Commission meeting last week so interesting.

The Commission unanimously approved a six-month contract with Conservation Strategy Group for $267,500 with several conditions No subcontracting, meaning nothing for Nunez, and it will only be used to influence the water bond and infrastructure proposals that won legislative approval on the day the lobbying contract was approved.

In other words, Conservation Strategy Group was in line to get $300,000 every six months, less the $60,000 for Nunez. Now they’re getting $27,500 more than they would have under the  original proposal.

If you think the six-months term of the contract means anything, listen to General Manager David Freeman in this video dodge straight answers to questions while stating the the lobbying firm’s previous contract “expired” but it was still working for DWP without a contract at its own “risk.”

Freeman glibly offers no reason for the contract other than the water legislation and the $11 billion water bond issue — LA County gets $1 billion of it under a last-minute deal. Since those measures already were on their way to the governor, what was exactly is Conservation Strategy Group doing isn’t clear — and the commissioners didn’t ask.

Maybe they all know but it’s a secret they didn’t want to share.

The fact is Freeman admits to serial contracts with this lobbying firm and indicates they will be extended further in six months unless the newly-hired $200,000-a-year director of external affairs, Wally Knox — the former Assemblyman, DWP commissioner and recent Harbor Department consultant — is able to handle the job himself, with Montanez’s help, of course.

Who are they kidding? This is nothing but the same old DWP story: Ratepayers’ money means nothing as long as they can keep getting more of it to hand out to Brian D’Arcy’s union and contractors and consultants of one sort or another without regard to the value of services provided.

Long Lines for City Hall’s Sweet ERIP Deal . . .

But Who Will Staff Libraries and Parks and Drive the Garbage Trucks

ERIP Season has finally arrived and more than 1,600 city workers (ERIP List.pdf) lined up on the first two days to take advantage of City Hall’s generous offer to allow them to retire five years early with sweetened retirement benefits.

It’s an offer they couldn’t refuse. Would you?

Even SEIU Local 721 president Bob Schoonover, the heavy duty equipment mechanic in General Services who helped negotiate the deal, couldn’t fight off the temptation to call it a day.

Nor could 130 other employees in his department or rnearly 400 in Public Works, including 30 garbage truck drivers or or 160 LAPD civilians, 120 at the Airports, 110 in Rec & Parks, 90 in the Libraries, 80 in Building and Safety, even 60 in the much smaller City Administrative Office and 50 in Information and Technology.

Undoubtedly, the number of volunteers for the Early Retirement Incentive Package will swell well beyond the 2,400 slots allotted for the costly program  — costly because of the 12 percent in enhanced pensions, $15,000 each in cash, and all the unused vacation time, sick time, comp time and other payouts due workers who retire.

None of the promised  payroll savings will even start to occur until after the first of the year and even then, the savings will be diminished by all the people who get promoted into the senior positions held by the retirees and all the backfilling of “mission critical” jobs that managers will plead for.

The only certainties are that libraries will open late on Fridays and there won’t be many librarians to help the public, that parks programs will be reduced, housing violations will go uncited, planning documents go unwritten, a vast array of public services undelivered

I can only wonder if the tripled trash fee imposed on home owners in the name of “full cost recovery” (the one that wasn’t used solely to hire more cops as promised) will be reduced now that 150 Sanitation workers have asked for early retirement and other might soon join them.

Understand that we are now five months into the fiscal year and still have a $400 million deficit, nearly 10 percent of the operating budget. Almost no money has been saved, spending still exceeds revenue by at least a million dollars a day, and even with the theoretical savings from ERIP and new contracts with police and civilian workers, there is still a paper deficit of more than $100 million.

Continue reading Long Lines for City Hall’s Sweet ERIP Deal . . .

Why Is Everybody Always Picking on the Mayor?

His policies may be bankrupting the city, driving away the middle class, enriching special interests and leaving us all with nothing but poverty-level “living wage” jobs, but this is one time I’m on the mayor’s side.

The LA Weekly’s Patrick Range McDonald raises this issue today:

“Was Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa napping at a Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board meeting in late October? Could all of that travel and nightlife be catching up to the 56-year-old mayor?”

McDonald throws in a paparazzi video of the mayorantoniomike.jpg out on the town with Ryan Seacrest from a while back and quotes gadfly and blogger John Walsh as evidence the mayor fell asleep at the last MTA board meeting where his grand plan for the subway-to-the-sea was getting the green light. He even throws in a picture that at first glance makes it look like the mayor is asleep.

“Walsh writes that Villaraigosa ‘was out like a light for a few minutes’
during the MTA board meeting, which prompted the activist to tell the
mayor to wake up,” McDonald writes.

“Walsh says “300 eyewitnesses” can back up this
bizarre scene — meaning all of the people who attended the meeting
that day — and he’s now requesting MTA video and audio tapes of the
incident through a California Public Records Act request.”

For his part, Walsh blogged: “I POINTED AT THE SLEEPING MAYOR AND SHOUTED TO WAKE HIM UP. ANTONIO
SLOWLY CAME TO HIS SENSES. HE WAS GROGGY AND SAID NOTHING. TOM LABONGE
WHO WAS SITTING NEXT TO HIM ASKED THE MAYOR IF HE WAS ALRIGHT. THAT’S
WHEN I CALLED THE MAYOR ‘A JUNKIE’ AND ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE.”

This is all terribly unfair to the mayor. And not just because there’s dozens of serious issues he deserves to be criticized over.

Nodding off in boring meetings is a God-given right of a busy executive. God knows I’ve done it dozens, no hundreds, of times in news meetings. You know exactly what’s going to happen, what everybody is going to say, and you catch 40 winks.

It’s just good use of your time — at least that’s what I’ve always told people like John Walsh who upbraided me for a few moments of inner peace and quiet.