The Meg and Jerry Show: Laughs, Smiles and an Empty Debate

The No. 1 election reform I want to see, the one that will really bring voters to the polls, is a box below the candidates names that says: NONE OF THE ABOVE.

If NONE OF THE ABOVE gets the most votes, then the election would be null and void and the candidates who ran would be barred from from the rerun to pick an office holder.

My belief is NONE OF THE ABOVE would win most elections for city, county, state and federal offices in California.meg-jerry-bobbles.jpg

We are in deep trouble and our officials have lost all credibility. We are constantly forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. That means evil always wins and the result is nothing but failure after failure by all levels of government.

The first debate between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman is a case in point.

Here are two intelligent, sophisticated people running for governor and they spent an hour Tuesday night talking nonsense.

There was no engagement in any concrete way of a single problem facing us. It was all symbolic language without substance.

He cracks well-rehearsed jokes. She wears an incessant forced smile.

He hates business. She hates unions.

He’s been there and knows how the system works. She’s made a fortune getting things done in the business world.

He’s a failure, she says. She’s a liar, he says.

They both say the answer is jobs, jobs, jobs. She’s going to create them by giving  billions of dollars in tax breaks to business. He’s going to create in green, so many jobs it will wipe out unemployment and budget deficits.

She’s going to fix the public employee pension system by raising the retirement age from 55 to 65 — except for police and firefighters.– and make them pay a full share of the costs.

He’s going to fix the system because he’s pals with all the union bosses and they’ll make concessions out of friendship.

It’s a certainty that loyal Republicans think Meg did great and loyal Democrats think Jerry did great. But it’s hard to believe the vast numbers alienated voters left, right and center were moved by anything they heard.

What’s so astonishing is that not a single political figure has stepped forward to speak the truth from their heart about just how serious are the problems we face and how difficult it will be to solve them unless we pull together, embrace the real changes that are necessary and share the pain equitably.

But then it’s not entirely the fault of Jerry and Meg and the huge political apparatus that controls their every word and every move.

We are the fools.

We are living in an escapist dream world. We consume the toys of materialism as if they can satisfy the hunger in our souls. We fill our minds devouring the garbage of petty celebrity scandals and spend our time as passive bystanders to the cheap thrills provided by sports and entertainments without connection to the world we live in.

We have no right to expect our leaders to be any better than we are. If we don’t have the courage to face the realities of our time, why would we expect them to, why would we expect them to risk their personal ambitions for the sake of us?

Still, we can only hope that this moment of crisis will produce a true leader who would risk it all by rising above the empty political dialogue and telling it straight to a public too afraid and too selfish to face the dramatic changes that must be made.

Piecemeal Reform Won’t Fix City Hall — Just More Crumbs from the Table of Power

Maybe, the one election reform we need is to make our officials run every year to remind them their jobs are public service, not self service or worse service to special interests.

Just look at what Meg Whitman has done for the economy with her $120 million personal stimulus package. It might even awaken Jerry Brown from sleepwalking all the way to election day.

And consider what running for state Attorney General has done for District Attorney Steve Cooley.

In short order, he’s indicted state Sen. Rod Wright and LA Councilman Richard Alarcon for voter fraud and brought the leadership of the City of Bell into court in handcuffs — charges that could have been brought long ago.

And Eastside Councilman Jose Huizar, not exactly the most energetic representative, is throwing around lots of money for community events in his district and working diligently with Common Cause, League of Women Voters and the Clean Money Campaign on well-intentioned proposals for city election reform.

Could Huizar facing a tough re-election campaign in March against labor mediator Tony Butka and businessman Rudy Martinez has something to do with that?

With nine out of 10 voters now saying the state legislature is doing a lousy job and the LA mayor and City Council widely condemned as failures, there is suddenly great interest among politicians for reform of just about everything — better reform than being thrown out of office by an angry public.

Why else would half the Council be jumping aboard the bandwagon for creation of an independent and fully-funded Rate Payer Advocate to protect the public from crimes of the DWP?

At every level of government, our officials are dancing like crazy to deflect responsibility for the messes they have created of our city, our state and our nation..

They blame everyone but themselves and do their best to foment conflict over peripheral issues among the citizenry to keep us divided and conquered.

It is the economy, stupid. We no longer manufacture enough to sustain the growth economy driven by hyper-consumerism since the end of World War II, 65 years ago.

The good old boom days are never come back. What was normal is over and the new normal that is coming requires major structural changes in American society, politically and economically.

That’s what I believe and why piecemeal reform is just a Band-aid to cover up the failure of leadership and not a solution.

The Voters Bill of Rights.doc put forward Monday on the steps of City Hall by Huizar and the well-intentioned political groups seeks to increase turnout at the polls in city elections and to make it possible for grassroots candidates to stand a chance against fortune in dirty money poured into the machine candidates’ campaigns.

It takes a minimum of  $100,000 for even the best known grassroots candidate with a large and well-organized base to be able to run a strong campaign and that’s what the Voters Bill of Rights proposes to provide in city funds if a candidate reaches modest goals in fund-raising.

Every voter would get a mail-in ballot, election day registration would be allowed and instant runoff would be introduced with voters listing their fist and second choices.

There’s something for a lot of different constituencies and the promise none of this will cost more tax dollars.

I’m leery of some of the proposals but believe they would work in a city where power is shared broadly, where every segments of the community has a seat at the table of power, where the public is fully engaged in the civic and political life.

Sadly, none of that is true in LA.

There must be comprehensive reform to devolve power to Neighborhood Council or better creating boroughs that would be the governing body on local issues with the city divided into five or seven largely self-governing regions and sending representatives to a Metro Council to decide citywide policies.

You wouldn’t need public financing at all to win a seat as a part-time member of the Borough Council and special interests would have a hard time prevailing over grassroots candidates deeply involved in making their communities better.

Nothing sparks civic engagement more than putting power and money on the table.

Charter Reform in 1990s started with those ideas in mind when Richard Riordan and David Fleming launched the movement but their effort was derailed by the same special interests that now have the run of City Hall.

The new Charter, now 10 years old, is a disaster.

That will certainly be my position at the forum on the Charter on Thursday Oct. 7, 8 to 10 a.m. in Council Chambers. Huizar is the moderator and other panelists are Julie Butcher, Jackie Dupont-Walker, Fernando Guerra, Xandra Kayden, Greg Nelson and Raphael Sonenshein — all people I respect even when I disagree with them.


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No Sympathy for the Devil: Mayor’s Pal Ari Swiller Snookered DWP But Country Folk Fight Him

Even the best laid plans of heavyweight City Hall insiders like Ira Swiller can sometimes go awry.Thumbnail image for kern-money.JPG

Swiller — a green energy profiteer who parlayed his connections to billionaire Ron Burkle, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and two-time DWP General Manager David Freeman into a personal fortune — has run afoul of a country folk in Kern County.

They are fighting tenaciously to stop him from cashing in on a dirty deal that threatens the quality of their rural lives and the fragile habitat of the Kern River Valley.

In classic City Hall style, Swiller is responding by throwing around money to community groups and political forces to squelch all opposition.

Two years ago, Swiller “outsmarted” the DWP ago to acquire the 68,000-acre Onyx Ranch northeast of Bakersfield in Kern County, prime land for a wind farm.

It was a questionable deal on many levels.
Swiller’s firm Renewable Resources Group partnered with the CIM Group — a well-connected development company that has gotten nearly $60 million in city funds for various projects in recent years and obtained more than $300 million in investments from city and state public employee pensions. Renewable Resources was founded in 2004 when Swiller became the mayor’s lead fund-raiser with Freeman who by the time the deal went down was the Villaraigosa’s top environmental adviser.
The DWP tried to get the property for years and included the Onyx Ranch Wind Farm in its long-range green energy plans but Swiller outmaneuvered the city’s utility and got the land for $48 million, $2 million less than the DWP offered, from the deeply divided Rudnick family.

Just like that, he spun off half the property to the notoriously corrupt City of Vernon for $42 million after the DWP refused to meet his demand for $65 million for the same deal.

When David Zahniser broke the story in the LA Times last September, Swiller through his lawyer denied knowing of DWP’s interest until early 2008 although the carefully-documented article cast considerable doubt about the truth of that and whether this was an inside deal.

For his part, the mayor — well-known for his contempt for ethical rules and laws — insisted through his spokesman that “does not
discuss his friends’ private business matters with them…It’s not part of the mayor’s agenda to worry about people’s private
business dealings.”
kern-solar.jpg


Proving there may still be some justice in this world (if not in LA), Swiller, the city slicker with all his clout at CIty Hall, has run into stiff resistance from the country folk of Wendon, near Lake Isabella.

The 2,300 residents, many of the pensioners and people of modest means have banded together to form Preserve Kern River Valley — home to the largest river-bank forest in the West and more than 300 species of birds which helps bring thousands of tourists to the area every year.

It isn’t the wind Swiller is trying to harness for millions — at least not yet — but the sun, which is part of the problem.

He has set aside 500 acres for a 60 megawatt solar project, big enough to provide power to 20,000 homes when the sun is shining brightly and not obscured by the frequent dust storms from winds blowing hard off the Tehachapi Mountains.

Preserve Kern River Valley has gathered 2,300 signatures on a petition to block Swiller — that’s one for every person in the region where the average home costs $70,000 and many residents are living on modest fixed incomes.
kern-birds.jpg
The group has stopped Swiller’s bulldozers from grading the land without permits, forced him to revise his draft environmental impact report, gotten state Fish and Game to take a hard look on the impact on wildlife while the Army Corps of Engineers have issued a cease and desist order and SoCal Edison has made him move electrical equipment above the flood plain where the solar panels are supposed to be installed.
 
“PKRV wants to be accurate and fair, but to me the whole deal stinks to
high heavenj,” said Jody Steel, president of the group in reaching out for support for her community.

“I never heard of a city like Vernon, and to be honest, I
feel we are up against forces we don’t understand.”

She notes PKRV needs to pass the hat for the money to rent buses to take people to Bakersfield for hearings and to appeal to the County Board of Supervisors that will ultimately make the decision on the project.

“We are not wealthy. We are average citizens, we sense subterranean powers at work, but don’t know how to find out about them.” Steel said.

Subterranean is a nice way to put it when it comes to players who exploit our environmental concerns while doing more harm than good.

Mojave Desert residents banded together and successfully made DWP’s life so miserable that plans to build the Green Path North power transmission line was abandoned.

Kern River Valley residents are trying to do the same and need — and deserve — all the help they can get.

We saw green fraud stopped in Measure B. We saw it stopped in the desert, We see Northeast LA fighting the Arroyo Seco solar project.

How can we throw out the impact on people, the land, water and wildlife of green energy projects without a holistic analysis?

The state law giving green energy exemption from environmental laws is nonsense — nothing but a license to profiteers like Ira Swiller to rape the land.


Downtown Art Walk Cancelled — Cops Doing Their Jobs Cost Extra

You gotta love LA — even when you hate it.artwalk-cancel.jpg

Where else on the face of the Earth do you have to pay extra just to have a few cops walking around with people having a good time like they do at the monthly Art Walk, one of the few events that actually brings people from all over the city to downtown without charging them a fortune like the hustlers at Staples and LA Live do.

The LA Weekly’s Dennis Romero has the story today, noting “the event made that it safe for people with iPhones and designer dogs to walk down Main Street.”artwa;k.jpg

“The Weekly learned late Friday that police — who a source stressed had been very supportive of the event, with some cops offering their own time — were asking organizers to pony up some of the costs of patrolling the people-filled streets during the monthly walk,” Romero reports..

Three Business Improvement Districts aalready have to pay for their own trash pick-up and clean-up, and now are being hit for police. Organizers say they hope to revive Art Walk come January as a quarterly event if they can find the  money.

It’s all the doing of the mayor and City Council who embraced the insane notion that the people who pay dearly for public services in taxes, rates and fees also have to “pay full cost recovery” for any services they actually use.

In other words, you get nothing for the $4 billion you put into the general fund except thousands of disgruntled workers whose salaries, benefits and pensions are so expensive there’s no money left to serve you.

It’s so bad they’re about to start charging you to park at City Hall when you drive down to City Hall to waste two minutes pleading for mercy from the Council.

Not to worry, just sit back in your apathy, defeatism, myopia and global political views and watch it all go to Hell.


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First Interview: How Faith Sustained Richard Fine in Jail

Two days after crusading attorney Richard I. Fine’s 18-month ordeal in LA County Jail ended, Leslie Dutton and T.J. Johnson of the Full Disclosure Network sat down with him for three hours in the living room of his Tarzana home and interviewed him on camera.

Unbroken by his unprecedented confinement, Fine talked about why he refused to yield to Superior Court Judge David Yaffe’s attempt to coerce him to comply with an illegal H order holding him in contempt of court.

Here’s a preview excerpt of the interview from the Full Disclosure Network where more information is available:

Clean Sweep Presents LA’s First All-City Council Candidate Forum: Sat. 1 to 4 p.m.

New Leadership and a New Vision for a Greater Los Angeles

forum.jpg
September 23, 2010

Friends and fellow Angelenos,

This
is a reminder that this weekend the L.A. Clean Sweep Committee and
local activists will sponsor the first ever citywide 2011 City Council
Race Candidate Forum.  

The candidate forum will take place on Saturday, September 25, 2010 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the American Legion Hall located at 227 North Avenue 55, Los Angeles, CA 90042.

Event registration will begin at noon. Please RSVP beforehand as seating is limited. The event is open to the public at no cost – however donations are welcome.

You can also RSVP and reserve seats online.

All
grassroots community candidates and incumbents up for reelection in
March 2011 have been invited. All candidates will be asked to discuss
their campaigns, political goals, and their visions for the city of Los
Angeles.

Confirmed Candidates Include:

CD4
Stephen M. Box
Phil Jennerjahn

CD6
David J. Barron

CD8
Daniel Klinton Barnett
Mervin L. Evans
Forescee Hogan-Rowels
Amberly McDowell
Bernard Parks

CD10
Austin Dragon

CD12
Armineh Safarian Chelebian
Dinesh Lakhanpal

CD14
Anthony Butka
Arnulfo Yanez

The forum will use a town hall format allowing for some audience questions. Local journalists, Michael Linder from KABC Talk Radio and John Schwada from Fox 11 News will act as moderators.

For more information or to RSVP for this event please contact:
Heinrich Keifer at HKeifer101@sbcglobal.net or
(323)385-4935
Michael
N. Cohen mncohen@earthlink.net or (818)929-9088

Download and share the Candidate Forum flyer.

Visit www.lacleansweep.com
for more information and to share your ideas for making Los Angeles a
better city in the upcoming City Council election in March 2011.

Beutner’s Folly: The CRA’s Unlimited Authority to Squander Tax Money Anywhere in LA on Anything

TAKE ACTION: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, State Capitol Building, Sacramento CA 95814 Phone: 916-445-2841 Fax: 916-558-3160 http://gov.ca.gov/interact#contact

Please Arnold, veto Felipe Fuentes’ audacious bill AB 2531.

Don’t join the conspiracy to destroy LA in order to save it.

Don’t allow the scandal-plagued Community Redevelopment Agency to take tax money for schools, libraries, parks and other basic services and give it to just about anyone, for any purpose, projects or programs, anywhere in the city, even outside CRA project areas.

Don’t rob four million people to enrich the few.

Don’t destroy the intent of redevelopment law and put billions of dollars in public money into the hands of one man — First Deputy Mayor and Interim DWP General Manager Austin Beutner — without adequate safeguards to protect the public interest.

AB 2531 is now sitting on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk awaiting his signature or veto. Here’s what it does:   

        “This bill would, until January 1, 2018, authorize the Community Redevelopment
        Agency of the City of Los Angeles, at the request of the legislative body, to
       prepare applications for, and execute, economic development programs, to
       accept public or private assistance, and to expend those funds for any
       economic development activities inside or outside a project area within the
       territorial jurisdiction of the agency”

       This bill would, until January 1, 2018, expand the agency’s programmatic
       authority  by authorizing it to provide direct assistance including, but not limited
       to, loans, financial guarantees, or other financial assistance, to business within
       project areas in connection with new or existing facilities for retaining or
       expanding employment in the project area, increasing energy efficiency of
       buildings in the project area, or for other specified redevelopment purposes. This
       bill would specify that these programs constitute redevelopment, as defined.

The legislative history of AB 2531 shows it was written solely for Los Angeles, and nowhere else in California,  specifically to empower Beutner as the city’s economic
czar controlling the harbor, airport, DWP, planning, building and safety and among other departments to get his hands on local, state and federal money and channel it through his hand-picked leadership at CRA to whomever he wants.

It’s all being done in the name of “jobs, jobs, jobs” no matter what they cost the public and is backed by city and San Fernando Valley business groups, enviornmentalists and, of course, City Hall’s favorite union, the  IBEW, which stands to benefit greatly since the key justification for AB 2531 is that there be some small environmental connection, as small as any increase in water or power efficiency or use of recycled materials.

The sole purpose of existing state redevelopment law is to “expand the supply of affordable housing, expand  job opportunities, provide and environment for social, economic, and psychological growth and well-being.”

In other words, it’s supposed to help the poor segments of society. But in LA, the vague language has been used almost entirely used to subsidize skyscrapers and luxury hotels and shopping centers and entertainment centers for the rich — projects that made the wealthy even wealthier while providing damn little affordable housing or good-paying jobs.

Under AB 2531, CRA money can be used for almost any purpose: Job training, small business incubators, funding non-profits, construction loans and for funding capital and equipment purchases without the restriction of being for a new CRA building project.

“AB 2531 allows  redevelopment officials to move away from paying for physical projects to paying for programs and services,” according to the Senate analysis. “The bill marks a significant departure from redevelopment’s traditional purposes.”

The bill analysis takes note of Beutner’s extraordinary role and the radical changes he wants to make.

“The City of Los Angeles has a First Deputy Mayor who serves  as the Chief Executive for Economic and Business Policy, advocating for investment and jobs by working with the  City’s Department of Water and Power, the Port of Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles World Airports.  However, Los  Angeles doesn’t have an economic or community development  department that coordinates municipal efforts to attract  and retain private investment and jobs. City officials  want their Redevelopment Agency to take on economic development duties in addition to its existing  redevelopment efforts.”

The analysis then raises concerns about Beutner’s broad role and authority, asking “why an agency committed to redeveloping blighted areas should tackle a broader, citywide mission. Will the CRA-LA lose its focus during a  seven-year experiment as an economic development agency?”

Noting this is a “foray into paying for programs, not just projects,” the question was asked: “Where does this mission creep lead?”

The bill passed both houses along party lines and in the end was scaled back in the Senate to only impact LA after a wide array of concerns were raised under headings that included “Mission creep,” “Duplication and overlap,” “Good ideas for good actors, bad ideas for bad actors,” “Protecting the public’s investment,” “Missing: Oversight and Accountability,” and “Only in LA?”

Under “Not Fiscal,” the point is made that half the property tax revenue that feeds the CRA comes from schools so the state is required to backfill that lost revenue. At the height of the boom in 2007-8, that cost the state general fund $5.3 billion, and this year it’s half that amount.

The analysis shows the ingenuity of this whole maneuver of getting the Legislature to add to the $20 billion-plus deficit to fund Beutner’s Folly:

“This expansion of  redevelopment’s definition and purposes means that local         officials can divert funding away from physical redevelopment projects to economic development programs. Because about half of statewide property tax revenues go to
schools, it’s fair to say that half of redevelopment agencies’ tax increment revenues come from schools.

The State General Fund must automatically backfill the difference between what a school district receives in property tax revenues and what the district needs to meet  its revenue allocation limit. In other words, these  payments to the schools are an indirect state subsidy to redevelopment agencies.”

If the governor signs this bill, the only protection the public has an unethical mayor who has checked out of his job and a City Council made up of toadies who go along for the ride 99.93 percent of the time unanimously.

Arnold, please don’t sign AB 2531. LA is your city as well as ours. Save us from a government run amok, a government so desperate and panicked by the extent of its failure, it will sell out the city’s future for 30 pieces of campaign gold. 


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CRA UPDATE: How Sweet It Is for Chris Essel — A Real “Bell” Ringer

In the wonderful world of City Hall’s corruption, the insiders win even when they lose.

Take the case of Chris Essel, the secretary at Paramount Pictures who became the company’s lobbyist and head of the Central City Association which qualified her to be the City Hall political machine’s candidate last year of Council District 2 even though she didn’t actually live there.

IBEW union bully boy Brian D’Arcy and other pigs who feed at the trough of City Hall poured a fortune into her campaign only to see her lose to Paul Krekorian who successfully wooed CD2’s activist community and remains popular after nearly a year in office.

It was a triumph of the people over the machine but Essel came out a winner.

Instead of a measly $180,000 a year as one of the nation’s highest paid big city elected officials, Essel was named to head the Community Redevelopment Agency — the fountain of taxpayer dollars that flows so generously into the hands of wealthy and well-connected developers, insures all construction is done by union labor and facilitates the densifying or our neighborhoods.

That she lacked real qualifications for the job didn’t matter since interim CRA chief executive officer Calvin Hollis was retained and rewarded for his expertise while Essel’s personal charm was useful to First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner in his obsession with creating jobs no matter what they cost the public and speeding developments no matter how much the damages the quality of our lives.

So what is Essel’s deal for her commitment to public service?

She draws an annual salary of $223,256 plus a monthly subsidy for health insurance of $1,110.38 her.CalPERS pension contribution is entirely paid by the Agency,
including 7% of which is the “employee share,.” according to the official city file.

Then, there’s life insurance up to her salary plus $100 monthly to buy more, disability insurance, 12 days of sick leave, three weeks vacation, 12 holidays plus 20 hours of floating holidays, 8 days leave, a free insured car or $500 a month if she uses her own car and several tax avoidance benefits.

Not bad for a loser.

Of course, Essel is just one among thousands, which should help explain why libraries and parks are closed, other core public services be gutted and the city teetering on bankruptcy.


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The CRA Scandal: A Worst-Case Scenario That Demands an Investigation

For the seventh time in two months, the City Council on Tuesday put of public debate on an outrageous giveaway of $4.6 million in public money to developer Hal Katersky, best known for lawsuits, bankruptcies and profiteering from runaway film and TV production.

The deal on a property at 1601 N. Vine St. in Hollywood is so bad and has become so visible that the Council has put it off until Oct. 22. It should be killed outright as Jack Humphreville writes today at City Watch LA.

It’s just one of hundreds of dirty deals put together by the Community Redevelopment Agency that takes fortunes in tax dollars that could be used for libraries, parks, police officers, even to turn tenants into home owners, and gives them to wealthy and well-connected developers whose projects destroy neighborhoods and overwhelm the city’s aging infrastructure.

On the Council agenda for closed session on Wednesday is another CRA deal that is so dark and dishonest the Council had to break the law more than once to sneak its approval through — actions that will add to the cost to taxpayers and have led to a formal complaint being filed with District Attorney Steve Cooley.

The issue at hand is possible settlement of court costs and attorney fees for the South Central Farmers lawsuit over violations of the state’s open meeting law, the Brown Act, that occurred in originally approving a shopping center at Slauson and Central avenues in South LA.

Beyond that issue lies the tortured history of the project symptomatic of how the 
Council and the CRA connive to enrich insiders and political supporters while abusing the power of eminent domain and fail to deliver on its promises to a community badly in need of a grocery story and other retail shops.

Slauson and Central is case study on why the CRA should be abolished and the billions of dollars in property tax revenue it has gotten restored to the city treasury where it can be used for core public services and specific programs that improve the quality of life for residents and a healthy climate for business.

In their request for a DA investigation (Slauson-Central Complaint.pdf), attorneys Robert Silverstein and Dan Wright lay out the convoluted story of Slauson and Central.

They tell how a local community group and a major out-of-state developer in collusion with the CRA put together this deal and despite all that’s wrong with it. The project got Council approval unanimously on Sept. 8 after two previous approvals had to be rescinded because they were done illegally.

Efforts to build the retail project date back to the mid 1990s when the City got a multi-million dollar federal Housing and Urban Development grant and
subsidized loans for the Slauson Central Project.

The city’s grant application said the
project developer would be a partnership between Pacific Retail Trust (later
merged with Regency Realty Inc.of Jacksonville, Fla.
and Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles, a community group founded by Juanita
Tate and run by her daughter, Noreen McClendon, since her death.  

There was just one small problem: The city didn’t own the land for the project, nor did the developer or Concerned Citizens..

The long-time owner of part of the property was Stanley Kramer who ran a scrap metal business there and tried unsuccessfully to work with Concerned Citizens so he turned to a local
shopping center developer who bought the adjacent corner property and nearly a decade ago put a project together a privately-financed deal without public subsidies.

Efforts to work with the CRA went nowhere so in June 2003, when the CRA project  was still stalled, Kramer obtained Planning Department approval
of entitlements to build the shopping center.

With Councilwoman Jan Perry backing Regency/Concerned Citizens, the CRA Board authorized the filing of eminent domain lawsuits against the landowners
to seize the property and invalidate the city entitlements.

CRA won and seized the property but the Kramer team began digging into the public records reviewing public records and its 2008 lawsuit challenging the CRA’s environmental review is pending.

Kramer also sued over the
CRA’s refusal to produce public records, and obtained the right to use a forensic
computer expert to extract thousands of documents that had been withheld.

In August
2008, the Council at Perry’s request approved doubling Regency’s authorized profit to
18 percent — a ridiculous profit margin given the public funding..

Still, nothing moved forward. The Brown Act lawsuit revealed the Council had violated
the law when it “pulled” special meeting agenda items into a regular meeting
without proper notice to the public. It also showed showed the City Cllerk was counting as “present for a
vote” any Councilmember in the back rooms — a practice that now been changed to require counting only members as present who are actually in the Council Chambers.

More importantly in terms of the future of this project was the Silverstein law firm’s discovery that in June 2003
Concerned Citizens, Infinity Redevelopment and a previously unknown non-profit, “Slauson Central Community Center,” formed a new partnership called Slauson Redevelopment LP.

Juanita Tate signed for Concerned Citizens and Curtis Fralin signed for Infinity. At the same time, Tate and
Fralin signed a “Purchase and Sale Agreement” promising to buy the Slauson
Central Retail Project within one year after the center was built but they did so as partners of
something else called “Slauson Central Partners LP.”.

The mystery of what was really going on was growing deeper with Slauson Redevelopment LP stating it intended to own and operate the shopping center, but other documents stating Slauson Central Partners LP was in fact the buyer. The lawyers found Slauson Central Partners LP was not registered with
the Secretary of State.

The discrepancy about who actually was the buyer of this project escaped the notice of CRA staff or was ignored and never was brought to the Council’s attention, leaving serious questions about whether any of the safeguards to protect the $7 million in HUD and CRA subsidies are enforceable.

Not to worry, the CRA says. “What
the community is going to get here is a wonderful reuse of an
industrial site,” said Jenny Scanlin, project manager for the Community
Redevelopment Agency.

It’s almost funny to read that quote since this project has been in the works for 15 years and is still nowhere near to being built and the principal partner, the flimsy excuse used to justify the use of eminent domain, is Concerned Citizens which has been hit with a $5 million judgment by the city and is being sued by the state for breaching an agreement to build a soccer field and youth center at Slauson and Main.  

An investigation by District Attorney Steve Cooley would go a long way to clearing up the mystery of this deal but the real problem is that it isn’t an isolated case, just an extreme one.          

The CRA is as big a problem as the DWP. Both operate in the darkness and do their best to avoid public scrutiny.

They are now key instruments of First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner’s “jobs creation” schemes to use the public money to subsidize more projects faster and with even less public scrutiny.

It will take dramatic changes at City Hall to bring out in the open what they are up and that’s not going to happen without a change in leadership.        

Judge Yaffe Explains Why He Freed Richard Fine after 18 Months of Coercive Confinement

It was a bizarre and unexpected end to a bizarre story — the Yom Kippur release of anti-tax crusader Richard Fine from County Jail where he was locked up pointlessly for coercive confinement for 18 months.

Judge David Yaffe backed down Friday afternoon and without a hearing or attorneys present issued a court order that basically says Fine must be crazy to have endured the pain and horror of jail for so long and to have fought so hard and at so much personal cost to expose the scandal of tens of millions of dollars in illegal payments to judges by LA County.

Yaffe’s order (Yaffe-Release-Order.rtf), obtained by Leslie Dutton whose Full Disclosure Network has championed Fine’s cause, represents both an attempt to quarrel intellectually with Fine and to dismiss him a nut case whose conduct is “bizarre…irrational…makes no sense.”

“It is becoming increasingly clear that Fine’s conduct is irrational. Fine has always had the key to his own jail cell. He has elected to give up his freedom for 18 months in order to keep a judgment creditor from collecting a $50,000.00 judgment.

“He refuses to even discuss his obligations to the judgment creditor but portrays himself as a lone hero who is being incarcerated because he has exposed a vast conspiracy of over 400 judges of this court who are dishonestly collecting money to
which they are not entitled.”

Yaffe finally concludes:”Fine’s continued incarceration is a detriment to the public because Fine is using up jail space in an overcrowded jail, and may cause the release of persons who constitute a greater threat to the public than Fine does.”

Why it took Yaffe 18 months to determine Fine’s confinement does not serve “any useful purpose” is hard to understand unless you know the judge is regarded by attorneys who have appeared before him as erratic and often irrational in his decisions.

So I guess if Yaffe resorted in the end to self-justification by calling FIne crazy, it’s something he knows about — if only a juvenile name-calling excuse.

Maybe Fine is crazy, maybe everybody who fights for what they believe in is crazy.

That’s certainly the viewpoint of every repressive regime and of every oppressor in modern history. That’s why they use gulags, and prisons for the politically incorrect.

The legal standard for coercive confinement in a contempt of court case is five days in jail after which it is presumed the incarcerated will not back down. Yaffe exceeded that by 180 days.

There was never any question Fine would break. His whole life is marked by an obsessive passion for doing what he believe is right, fighting against illegal taxation and official abuses.

As Yaffe knows, the legal standard for insanity is knowing the difference between right and wrong. The question which deserves a proper judicial inquiry is whether Yaffe — not Fine — can tell the difference.Enhanced by Zemanta