Great Minds: Hiltzik and Modesti Question AEG’s One-Sided Stadium Deal, McIntyre Finds the Citizen Hero Who Stopped Red-Light Cameras

By Kevin Modesti in the Daily News

The debate over whether to build a $1.2 billion
superstadium in downtown Los Angeles has a lot of moving parts. But they
spin around one fixed assumption: That the city and one of its most
powerful companies should find a way to hitch their futures to football.

If it’s me, and I happened to find $1.2 billion under a cushion, I would not invest it in America’s (current) favorite sport.

Before last year’s Super Bowl, I wrote a news feature in which
parents, youth coaches and sociology-of-sports observers said
football’s long-term popularity is threatened by rising awareness of its
health hazards. They envisioned a tad fewer great athletes going into
football in generations ahead. Which could mean a perceptible slide in
quality – and watchability.

The article didn’t cause great trembling among football
promoters, who imagine themselves as tough and as indestructible as they
imagine middle linebackers to be.

But since then, when statistics showed ex-pro football players
to be 19 times more likely to suffer memory-related disease, headlines
have raised the issue’s profile.

In February, Pro Bowl safety Dave Duerson committed suicide at
age 50 after years of mental and physical problems linked to brain
injuries. In early July, Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey died at 69
after a long battle with dementia. Two weeks ago, All-Pro center Forrest
Blue died at 65 after a 15-year fight with dementia.

(READ FULL STORY)       

By Michael Hiltzik in the LA Times

Take it from me: If you attend a City Hall hearing on the proposed
downtown pro football stadium/convention center project, you better be
spry enough to keep out of the way of the stampede.

I refer to the stampede by downtown politicians, business groups and
construction unions to drape the proposal with the label of that elusive
municipal quarry, the “win-win.” That was the case at a hearing last
week of the Los Angeles City Council’s ad hoc committee on the downtown
project, which convened to consider the tentative memorandum of understanding, or MOU, negotiated by city officials with AEG, the operator of Staples Center and the L.A. Live entertainment complex.

AEG, which is owned by Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz, is the promoter
of the project, which would be wedged next to Staples Center, L.A. Live
and the existing convention center. AEG’s president, Tim Leiweke, has
displayed a deft touch for making urban commercial developments work.
He’s also a master salesman. Under his leadership, AEG has built up a
reservoir of good will in the city, not least by spreading around
millions in political contributions. At the public event where AEG
unveiled its proposal in February, the slobbering by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosahttp://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hiltzik-20110731,0,1425488.column and other politicos was so copious you needed scuba gear to breathe.

So it’s perhaps encouraging to see that the city has refashioned AEG’s
original proposal to shift more financial risk off the taxpayers’
shoulders and onto the company. The council even refused Leiweke’s
demand that it meet a spurious deadline of Monday to approve the
tentative MOU, which in any case would still be subject to final
revisions. The ad hoc committee will meet again this week, followed by
another session of the full council a few days later, presumably for a
vote.

AEG has put the council under the gun to approve the tentative MOU
before it takes its summer recess in the next few weeks. The implicit
threat is that any greater delay could put the deal in jeopardy. Yet
nothing good can come of haste, and that sounds like a bluff. More to
the point, there are still lots of questions about whether the taxpayers
are as protected, and whether the project pencils out as neatly, as the
promoters claim.

(READ FULL STORY)


By Doug McIntyre in the Daily News

The City Council followed the unanimous recommendation of the Police Commission and also voted unanimously to end American Traffic Solutions’ abusive and extortive red-light camera rip-off.

We needed this.

With 180,000 tickets mailed to registered car owners since cameras first went up in 2004, a staggering $86 million has been sucked out of the economy by this blatant revenue scheme that produced zero public safety benefit – in fact increased accidents at some intersections – and cost the city over $1million a year to boot!

We can thank Jay Beeber for ending this madness.

Jay may not be famous like his singing almost-namesake, but anyone who cares about honest government should have “Beeber Fever.”

Beeber of Sherman Oaks formed Safer Streets L.A., which challenged the cameras and argued that measures like longer yellow lights could make intersections safer.

Jay Beeber proved we can fight City Hall and win, even against big money.

And American Traffic Solutions is huge money, with a $15 million contract on the line and possibly more considering the powerful client list represented by ATS’ lobbyist, Sage Advisors Inc.

Sage Advisors grabbed $150,000 representing ATS in City Hall. They also lobby for AEG, owners of Staples Center and the proposed downtown NFL stadium.

They also represent Local 11 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – the Department of Water and Power’s union –– whose head, Brian D’Arcy, is a kingmaker in L.A. politics.

Beeber wasn’t messing with lightweights when he entered this fight. And he won!

“You have to be relentless,” says Beeber. “And you have to know your stuff.”

(READ FULL STORY)

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The Man Who Saved the Rose Bowl Float — My Sunday Column for News-Press & Leader

Some people might see the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day
as so 20th century — early 20th century — but not Dave Weaver.

The
longtime Glendale city councilman has volunteered for 18 years to work
long hours with hundreds of others to help keep the city’s 98-year Rose
Parade tradition alive.

That was no easy task this year, with the city struggling financially
and finding public contributions to the cost of the float amounting to
less than $600 of the $50,000 needed. Then, an email popped up in
Weaver’s inbox from a guy he didn’t know named Sam Solakyan offering to
cover the full amount.

“I nearly fell out of my chair,” Weaver recalled. “It was unreal.”

Hours
later, Caruso Affiliated executive and past president of the Glendale
Chamber of Commerce Rick Lemmo told the City Council that billionaire
developer Rick Caruso was putting up a $25,000 challenge grant to save
the Rose Parade Float.

Sam Solakyan isn’t in Caruso’s league
financially — yet. But give him time. He’s only 30, an entrepreneurial
wizard who has put together Global Holdings Inc., which owns and
operates 14 companies mainly in the medical technology field, including a
leading edge radiology firm.

Not bad for a guy whose family
emigrated from Armenia when he was 6, grew up in North Hollywood, went
to L.A. Valley College and got his degree from the University of
Phoenix.

(READ FULL STORY)

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Magic Johnson for Mayor: Let’s Stop Pretending

Calling the charade that passed for the City Council’s debate on AEG’s stadium deal a dog and pony show does a disservice to both canines and equines.
Dogs and ponies would have howled and snorted if they found themselves part of such event where the house was packed with union and business types with their hands out hoping to catch some of the cash being bestowed by Tim Leiweke in his divine benevolence on the peasants of the realm.
The Queen of Downtown Development, wannabe mayorJan Perry, set the tone at the outset of the Council’s long-awaited former unveiling of the deal by asking all those who support the AEG’s stadium/Convention Center plan to stand up and cheer. Her rival for such office and occupancy rights to Getty House, Eric Garcetti, made the same point at the start of Public Comment by counting the speaker cards: 42 for, 7 neutral, 2 against.
Then, he agreed with babbling Tom LaBonge’s suggestion and limited comment to one-minute per person, maybe two minutes at most. 
At that very moment, Earvin “Magic” Johnson miraculously, or magically at least, materialized out of nowhere and was given the podium. The one-minute clock never started as Magic offered God’s blessing to one and all, offered praise for how well the Council is doing God’s work and assured believers and non-believers that what AEG plans for the city is proof positive of God’s love us, and this City of Angels.
With that, he offered a final blessing and revealed that it is his business partner, Tim Leiweke, is the one chosen to lead us to this promised land where our great love for football will again find voice in the roar of the crowds at Farmers Field.
Poor Vince Ferragamo was assigned to follow Magic’ opening act. But it didn’t matter. AEG already has won the day. 
Mitch Englander embarassed himself by wishing out loud that he good vote to approve the deal right then instead of waiting a week. 
Only Paul Krekorian asked tough questions but seemed content with the same kind of non-answers that Bill Rosendahl has gotten.
To their credit, the city’s negotiators, Miguel Santana and Gerry Miller, have moved the terms of the deal with AEG from a complete giveaway of the public’s wealth to ultra-conservative Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz to the point where it’s only a substantial giveaway.
With the ball teed up for elected officials to squeeze out a real share of the profits from this deal. it would impossible not to think what County Supervisors like Zev Yaroslavsky, Mike Antonovich or Gloria Molina would have done under the same circumstances. 
Quite simply, the mayor and City Council are leaving a fortune on the table.if Leiweke’s boasts about how much this will mean to the city’s economy, the tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, the millions of tourists, the new luxury hotels, the booming Convention Center.
Officially, right there in the negotiating documents, the deal is barely profitable, returning just 6.9 percent in profits on its investment to AEG.
Why the fracking gas driller and oil wildcatter could make nearly that much taking his entire $7 billion kitty and putting it in the Bank of China down the street from Staples Center.
That is the big lie at the heart of the deal. Anschutz might give away millions to charities and right-wing causes but he doesn’t invest his money in projects with prospects for paltry rates of return.
What was obscured by the AEG-paid city consultant CSL — a company that has been involved in 15 stadium deals on side of owners as well as governments — is that Anschutz’s actual investment will turn out to a fraction of the $1.2 billion thanks to the NFL and the two teams he will bring to L.A. and the profits will be enormously higher with the 40 or digital billboards that will adorn the stadium and rebuilt Convention Center.
For all their experience, the CSL consultants have a long history of under-estimating the actual cost of stadiums to local governments. In this case, the issue of costs to the public for freeway, street, transit and other infrastructure improvements were not even looked at so the cost-benefit analysis is meaningless, just numbers on a sheet of paper.
This was a done deal a long time ago and nothing will stop it or redefine the terms to provide the greatest good for the greatest number. Maybe it’s time we stop kidding ourselves. Big business, big labor and big government have become inseparably united, an irresistible force.
Let’s just turn over the whole city to AEG and Tim Leiweke and the man of the hour, his business partner Magic Johnson.
Who better than Magic to be our next mayor? He’s rich and famous and has God on his side.

Numbers Don’t Lie People Do — The Truth About Who Profits from AEG’s NFL Stadium Deal

EDITOR’S NOTE: Quentin Fleming, author, management consultant and adjunct professor of managerial decision-making and strategic planning at USC’s Marshall School of Business, has brought his expertise to provide the first independent professional analysis of the proposed MOU and supporting documents for AEG’s NFL stadium/Convention Center deal with the city. In this letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa with copies to City Council members who will discuss the MOU today, Fleming raises serious questions about the economics of the proposal and whether it will generate the positive impact that is claimed by the city’s AEG-paid consultants CSL (Stadium07252011PartD.pdf) — a firm that has consistently under-estimated the public funding components of stadium deals (PublicFunding.pdf).

Dear Mr. Mayor:

As a citizen, homeowner and taxpayer of Los Angeles, I am submitting this letter with the sincere intent to help benefit the City of Los Angeles.

There is serious misinformation resulting in a critical problem surrounding the current negotiations for constructing Farmers Field in downtown Los Angeles. The misinformation is the mistaken belief among many members of the City Council and the public that building Farmers Field will produce significant economic benefits to the citizens and to City of Los Angeles finances. The resulting problem is that the City is operating under the
e
rroneous belief that it
i
s in a weak negotiating position that will produce an undesirable financial
situation.

The reality is this: building Farmers Field will generate significant profits for AEG, the City will not extract
the full and pr
oper revenues because of the mistaken belief of economic benefits that do not exist, and that the City
will leave untold millions of dollars on the table that it otherwise should have obtained.

AEG has undertaken its own studies that claim significant economic benefits will result from
buildin
g Farmers Field and there are significant errors/untruths with these assertions.
Unfortunately, the draft MOU recently
released by the City also contains errors that
over
state these same purported benefits to the City.

I will frame the following key facts by quoting the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan:”Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

•     Fact: New stadiums do not provide a net economic benefit to
the local
economy.

·         Fact: Megaevents (e.g., Superbowl, Final Four) do notprovide appreciable economic
ben
efits to the host city and economy.

·        
Fact:
Using professional sports franchises as an economic development tool is a
failed economic policy.

I have conducted a review of scientifically valid economic research that conclusively demonstrates the above three facts. What is significant is that all the research consistently



comes to the same
conclusions despite taking differing approaches to analyze the subject
. A brief list of research is presented as Appendix A, and information about the
researchers and  their institutions is presented as Appendix B. It is imperative that representatives
for the City understand and utilize this research in their negotiations with AEG.

I have spent time
studying the recently released draft MOU between the City and AEG and have identified a series of either data or methodological errors. A critical
error occurs in the Jul
y 25, 2011 memo from Messrs. Miller,
Santana and Abbassi titled “Los Ang
eles Convention Center and Event Center Memorandum of Understanding.” Page 8 of
the memo specifically states: “Table 1 shows the expected fmancing structure
for the Event Center. The estimated Internal Rate of Return (IRR) for AEG is 6.7
% …. This IRR is significantly below the traditional IRR sought by AEG or
other developers of 15-20%. This low IRR indicates that it is not possible to allocate any
additional Event Center revenue to the City
.” (Emphasis mine.) 

This conclusion is based upon
flawed methodology contained within the CSL report
. My
calculations suggest a true IRR to AEG that is significantly greater and conforming to traditional IRR sought by
developers. I will lay out my reasoning when discussing page 22 of the CSL report at the end of this
letter.

The remainder of this
letter will proceed thorough the CSL report, identified in the MOD as “Attachment D: ‘Fiscal Anal
ysis of
Proposed Downtown Stadium And Convention Center Project’.”

CSL
Report, Page 2. The report states: “Significant economic and fiscal
impacts could be generated within the City of Los Angeles … and the ongoing operations of the
stadium and new NFL team …. ” This assertion in the Executive Summary has been
clearly and consistently proven wrong by the research in Appendix A.

CSL
Report, Page 3. The report states: “New taxes paid to the City of Los
Angeles … will total more than $146 million (NPV) …. ” Again, this assertion has been
clearly and consistently proven wrong due larg
ely to what
is known as the “substitution effect” in the research in Appendix A.

CSL
Report, Page 3. The report states that costs used b
y CSL in its analysis of the stadium relies on data provided by AEG. There is no mention of independent research or analysis undertaken by CSL to validate the data provided by AEG which raises
serious methodological concerns
. It must be assumed that AEG presented
data that is most favorable to its position, calling CSL’s economic analysis into question. This
reliance upon AEG-provided data is further discussed in the Financial Analysis section
on page 20: ”Basic assumptions have been made regarding the distribution of stadium
operating revenues between the NFL team that would be the primary tenant at the facility
and AEG, which would operate the stadium. These assumptions have been determined based on discussions with AEG
.

CSL Report, Page 4. The
report states
: “The proposed operating structure
at the new 
stadium will be unique in the NFL ….
The situation at the new
stadium
will require the sharing of revenues between AEG and the team, . ” This
issue of “revenue sharing” is essentially irrelevant as AEG is a privately-held business wholly owned by Philip Anschutz, and the NFL team will be either wholly or substantially owned by
Philip A
nschutz. Revenues will be shared between
Philip Anschutz and wholly or substantially P
hilip Anschutz.

C\SL
Report, Pa
ge 5. The report states: “During the first year of
operations, the total new 
economic activity for the NFL team and new stadium could
appro
ximate $456
million on a
n annual basis, with 6,320 jobs created. Over the
initial 30
years of operations
the s
tadium should generate nearly $8.7 billion in total output, with $5.3 billion in direct new spending.” (This information is also reiterated on pages 43-44.). This conclusion is a
serious error bec
ause it gives the false illusion that the
Cit
y and economy of Los Angeles will benefit from the presence of an
NFL team. From a m
ethodological standpoint, CSL is
committing the classic error of onl
y using economic activity focused solely on
the stadium
/team. This error is amplified by “using multipliers supplied by the IMPLAN Group” (page 43). The research presented in Appendix A conclusively demonstrates that the net economic impact to Los Angeles will be negligible, largely due to the combination of what economists refer to as
the s
ubstitution effect, the crowding-out effect, and the leakage effect.

CSL
Report
, Page 12. There are a series of data errors contained in the table titled “Summary of Public-Private Contributions to NFL
Stadium Development.” I have not yet been able to corroborate the data presented for stadiums constructed since
2002, but the percentages for Public Finding are significantl
y understated for the twelve stadiums opened between 1992-2001. CSL looks strictly at the cost to construct the stadium,
ignoring the public contribution requir
ed for the
stadium to operate. The result of this irror is to significantly understate the true public funding required of NFL
stadiums, and calls into question whether CSL has similarly failed to identify the true
public funding that will be required for Farmers Fi
eld. This is
in contrast to CSL’s methodology for calculating economic benefits which projects forward for a 30
year period from Farmers Field opening. The
correct numbers
are presented in Appendix C.

CSL
Report, Pa
ge 22. The report
stat
es: The
projected IRR for the stadium operations would be approximatel
y 6.7% based on a total investment of $900 million
b
y AEG.” An examination of the data and methodology outlined in pages 19-23 enables me to arrive at an IRR of 6.71 %, consistent with CSL’s calculations. However, close examination of the data and methodology in pages 19-23 makes no mention of revenues to AEG
from th
e Farmers Field naming rights. This amount has been publicly stated by Tim Leiweke to be
in the nei
ghborhood of $700+ million.
A
ssuming an inflation/ discount
rate of 4.5
% beginning in 2012 (the likely year any formal contract
would be signed
), with 30 equal payments of $23,333,333 beginning in 2016 (the first year
of stadium operation
), there
is a Net Present Value of $333,057,613 that will be realized by AEG and that has
not 
been factored in. The result is a project that delivers a substantially
higher IRR
than the 6
.7% presented in the report.

Please accept this letter
in the spirit of a sincere desire to help the Cit
y of
Los Angeles.

Respectfully,Quentin Fleming 

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How Los Angeles Lost Its Mojo

Editor’s Note: This article by social critic Joel Kotkin, professor of urban development at Chapman University and a frequent writer on Los Angeles, was published in Friday’s Wall Street Journal. It is adapted from a longer article being published in the City Journal’s Summeri Edition.  


The
city’s misguided political leaders 

could turn this economic dynamo 

into an
Athens by the Pacific
.

By JOEL KOTKIN

Los Angeles today is a city in
secular decline. Its current political leadership seems determined to turn the
sprawling capitalist dynamo into a faux New York. But they are more likely to
leave behind a dense, government-dominated, bankrupt, dysfunctional, Athens by
the Pacific.

The
greatness of Los Angeles stemmed from its willingness to be different. Unlike
Chicago or Denver or New York, the Los Angeles metro area was designed not
around a central core but on a series of centers, connected first by railcars
and later by the freeways. The result was a dispersed metropolis where most
people occupied single-family houses in middle-class neighborhoods.

Lured
by the pleasant climate and a business-dominated political economy, industries
and entrepreneurs flocked to the region. Initially, the growth came largely
from oil and agriculture, followed by the movie industry. Defense and aerospace
during World War II and the postwar era fostered a vast industrial base, and by
the 1980s Los Angeles had surpassed New York as the nation’s largest port, and
Chicago as the nation’s leading industrial center.

The region hit a rough spot as the
end of the Cold War led to massive federal cutbacks in aerospace. Los Angeles
County lost nearly 500,000 jobs between 1990 and 1993. But it bounced back,
adding nearly 400,000 jobs between 1993 and 1999. Aerospace never fully
recovered, but other parts of the industrial belt–including the port and the
apparel and entertainment industries–grew. An entrepreneurial class of
immigrants–Middle Eastern, Korean, Chinese, Latino–launched new businesses in
everything from textiles and ethnic food to computers. The pro-business
mayoralty of Richard Riordan and the governorship of Pete Wilson restored
confidence among the city’s beleaguered companies.

OB-OY674_kotkin_D_20110728192020.jpg

Then progress stalled. Employment
stayed relatively flat from 2001 until 2005, when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
was elected, and then started to drop. As of this March, over the entire L.A.
metropolitan area, which includes adjacent Orange County, unemployment was
11.4%–the third-highest unemployment rate of the nation’s 20 largest metro
areas.

Why has Los
Angeles lost its mojo? A big reason is a decline in the power and mettle of the
city’s once-vibrant business community. Between the late 1980s and the end of
the millennium, many of L.A.’s largest and most influential firms–ARCO,
Security Pacific, First Interstate, Union Oil, Sun America–disappeared in a
host of mergers that saw their management shift to cities like London, New York
and San Francisco. Meanwhile, says David Abel, a Democratic Party activist and
publisher of the influential Planning Report, once-powerful groups like the Los
Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles County Economic Development
Corporation lost influence.

The machine
that now controls Los Angeles by default consists of an alliance between labor
and the political leadership of the Latino community, the area’s largest ethnic
population. But since politicians serve at the whim of labor interests, they
seldom speak up for homeowners and small businesses.

(THE FULL STORY IS BEHIND A FIREWALL WITH A FREE TWO-WEEK SUBSCRIPTION) 

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Continue reading How Los Angeles Lost Its Mojo

They Corrupted Reform, Beat Secession, Rejected Fair Elections — Maybe Boroughs Could Save L.A.

The one idea that keeps coming back through all the efforts to solve the fundamental political disconnect preventing L.A. from realizing its greatness is Boroughs — the diffusion of power from City Hall to the communities in a way that protects the rights of all, enhances the enormous diversity of the city and pushes us progressively forward into the 21st century.

Boroughs just might be an idea whose time has come.

A grassroots movement among Neighborhood Council activists has put together a motion for City Council consideration to explore the possibility of turning the city into a network of larger Boroughs each with its own government on local issues, each with a delegate to the citywide government. It would be a part-time government that would let ordinary citizens compete fairly without big money from special interests dominating elections and corrupting public policy.

The activists have done their research on how proposals for a Borough system of government came up as part of Charter reform and again during the San Fernando Valley secession era and again since, generating support from prominent political figures on the left, right and center: Wendy Greuel, Bob Hertzberg, David Fleming, Harold Meyerson, Raphael Sonenshein, Shirley Svorny, Janice Hahn and Tom LaBonge to name a few, .

Contrary to what many believe, I always saw Valley secession as a club to force City Hall to accept reforms. Needing to win a majority in the Valley and citywide, secession never stood a chance but repealing the law barring secession and forcing a public debate on the state of the city did create the impetus for Charter reform.

The City Council, in its parochial attack on City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, has opened the door to a discussion of what’s wrong with the current City Charter. 

Neighborhood Council activists have seized on that opening to broaden the discussion. Here’s some of the published material they dug up to get you up to speed on the Borough form of government: (KevinStarr.pdf)(hertzbergplan.pdf)(HaroldMeyerson.pdf)(Oakerson-Svorny.pdf)(Sonenshein.pdf)(DailyNews.pdf)(LATimes.pdf).

Here’s the proposed motion and the discussion under consideration by Neighborhood Councils throughout the city:

Motion: 

To
formally ask the City Attorney and Chief Legislative Analyst to study the steps
necessary to replace the current City Council system with a Borough
system in Los Angeles.

Discussion:

We
have all seen the pitfalls of the City Council approach to running this
city.  Decisions about local issues are made by Cuncil members who are
far away, have no connection to the voters and needs of the local area,
and often make their decisions based on politics rather than policy.

Recently
the Council asked that the CLA study separating the charter-mandated
duties of the elected city attorney. They asked for the CLA to study
allowing the City Attorney to continue to prosecute misdemeanors while allowing a  Council-appointed person to provide all other duties, including
land-use opinions and other legislative opinions.

The
council argues they needed this to streamline the legislative process. Perhaps the best way to streamline the legislative process is to
restructure the legislative branch of the city instead of eliminating an
independent city attorney.

Given
the clear mandate of the Charter with regard to the duties of the city
attorney, a Charter Amendment will almost certainly be required to
accomplish the council’s effort to consolidate even more power.

There is an entirely different Charter amendment that we wish to be studied.                                                                                        

As
the city was facing a viable secession threat in 2002, several people
including Wendy Greuel, Tom LaBonge, Janice Hahn, Bob Hertzberg and
David Fleming advocated that the City Council be replaced with a borough
system.

I’m hopeful that it will lead to a system that creates local control and brings government closer to the people,” Hertzberg said.

Under
the borough system, the current City Council would be eliminated. In
its place, a borough system would divide each existing council district
into 5 pieces representing roughly 50,000 to 60,000 people (roughly the
size of a typical NC).  Each borough would vote on its own local issues —  including land use issues.  Citywide issues would be decided by a vote
of all of the borough presidents.

A
borough member position would be part-time, would not come with a
pension or a massive salary. In addition, because of the small size of
each borough, local candidates would be able to get their message out
even in the face of special interest spending.

This would truly bring government closer to the people and further from special interests.

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Lots of big questions remain about proposed AEG stadium project

EDITOR”S NOTE: Here’s the Op-Ed piece I wrote for Monday’s edition of the Daily News. Councilwoman Jan Perry — leading advocate for the stadium — is holding public hearings at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall and 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Van Nuys City Hall. On Friday, the full Council will take up the issue for the first time with approval expected by mid-August.

You can take super-salesman Tim Leiweke’s word for
what the deal is for AEG’s proposed downtown football stadium — it just
depends which day of the week he’s talking and which side of his mouth
he’s talking from.

The proposal has shifted more times than the earthquake-prone ground beneath Los Angeles.

Back in December, Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG, gave the
city 90 days to sign off on a deal. When that didn’t work, he issued an
ultimatum that he needed a done deal by July 31 or it is dead.

Now, the deadline is Aug. 20, unless there’s still 100
unanswered questions and enough public concern to allow for a full and
complete examination of what half a dozen City Council members have
called the most important decision they will make during their years of
public service.

The $1 billion stadium with a retractable roof will seat
64,000 – or maybe it’s 75,000 and really will only cost $850 million.
That’s barely half the cost of the roof-less Meadowlands Stadium in New
Jersey, and a third less than the domed Dallas Cowboys new stadium – if
you believe Leiweke.

AEG will operate the torndown and rebuilt white elephant
Convention Center – or maybe it won’t. It will guarantee the payments
for the $350 million the city has to borrow for the Convention Center
(or is it only $285 million?) – or maybe it won’t.

AEG will get the land for a dollar a year – or maybe it will pay fair-market rent. It will split the tax revenue with the  city — or maybe not. It will keep all the money
from numerous digital billboards and the $700 million in naming rights
from Farmers Insurance — a company with a history of anti-unionism and
employee and customer lawsuits — or maybe it will share some with the
city.

The one consistency in his story is that L.A. will be mobbed by
millions of tourists and conventioneers, tens of thousands of jobless
people will be put to work, luxury hotels will spring up all over town
and 100,000 people who actually live inside buildings will populate
downtown.

We’ve only got Leiweke’s word for it.

(READ FULL STORY)

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Taking on the narrow view of business and labor — My Sunday Column in News-Press & Leader

Business and labor, so often posturing as antagonists in a life and death struggle for power, have come solidly together in their nostalgia for the good old days when politicians were bought once and stayed bought.

Ah, the good old days before term limits, how sweet it was — and cheap for special interests.


Back then, political hacks held their Assembly, Senate or other public offices more or less for life unless they got caught up in a bribery or sex scandal. Even then, it was 50-50 whether they would get re-elected as long as they stayed out of prison.

Term limits grew out of the failure of our political leaders to do their jobs as public servants for the best interests of their constituents, an effort to try to break the political gridlock that was running California downhill. Sadly, the slide of the state has continued unabated to the point that we are in endless crisis.

So business and labor have found common ground: Let’s get rid of term limits and go back to the way things were.

“They’re running all the time, for one office or another,” Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, complained last week to L.A. Times political columnist George Skelton. “We raise money over and over again, one after another after another…. “


You can sympathize with her lament that this game of political musical chairs is so costly when all she wants is for them to do the bidding of organized labor.

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Sympathy for the Devil: LAPD Always Gets Its Man — Whether It’s the “Right Guy” or Wrong Guy

After what he called a thorough seven-week investigation, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck announced the arrest of “documented gang member” and ex-convict Giovanni Ramirez in the brutal beating at Dodger Stadium of Giants fan Bryan Stow.

“I
believe we have the right guy,” Beck told reporters at press conference on Sunday May 22 with the mayor at his side. “I  
wouldn’t be standing here in front of you. I certainly
wouldn’t be booking the guy.”

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Beck displayed the political sensitivities that got him this job by praising Lamar Advertising and AEG’s Staples Center for putting up sketches of the possible suspects on their billboards — sketches that could have led to the arrest of any one of  tens of thousands of head-shaven Latino men, including Councilman Ed Reyes who attended the press conference and urged other suspects to surrender.  
Beck repeated over and over in the following weeks that Ramirez was the violent felon who assaulted Stow — and he did so solely on the basis of an Orange County couple’s identification of him in a lineup and in the face of mounting evidence of his innocence presented by prominent defense attorney Anthony Brooklier.
The chief talked when Ramirez was arrested about 630 leads, hundreds of tips — including a key one from a probation officer — 20 detectives workin full-time and putting in 6,000 hours on the case with 1,000 hours in overtime. 
Yet, three weeks later, Beck’s case was so pathetic that D.A. Steve Cooley wouldn’t file charges so they arranged to send Ramirez to prison for 10 months on a parole violation — presumably pleasing the probation officer who presumably fingered him — and to call in for the first time the LAPD’s top investigators from Robbery-Homicide..
This is what passes for Beck’s justice who only admitted Ramirez was innocent on Thursday after two suspects the chief swears were the real assailants, the “right guys.”
This is the kind police behavior we saw on his worst day from Daryl Gates, the chief-for-life who nobody ever suspected to any orders from two-bit politicians.
Not so with Beck. His appointment as chief was widely seen as purely political, leapfrogging over far more qualified and experienced candidates because he would play ball with the mayor and other City Hall politicians.
Nothing has happened since to suggest that Beck is anything but the politicians’ tool and thus is politicizing the LAPD in a way that could set it back to where it was before we spent hundreds of millions of dollars to clean it up.
Nothing will clear up the questions that arise from the false arrest of Giovanni Ramirez except a full and independent investigation of exactly why Beck acted the way he did.
What pressure was he under from the mayor — who stood next to Beck back in May and again Thursday night basking in glory — or others to make an arrest no matter who it was, no matter what evidence justified the arrest?
What discussions went on with his command staff and the District Attorney’s office about the validity of arresting Ramirez?
What will seizure of emails, telephone logs and other communications reveal about what really happened?
What pressure and influence was used by the Dodgers to get an arrest so the fear of being beaten at a ball game would abate?
The LAPD has made a sympathetic figure of a thug like Ramirez and will have to pay him a million dollars or more in hush money to keep the truth from coming out in a court of law.

Karma-geddon for Rupert: Sunset on the Murdoch Empire

Rupert Murdoch fled London today with egg — or at least shaving
cream — on his face after his dismal appearance before Parliament did little
to stop the outcry over the phone hacking and police bribery scandal in Britain
or ease shareholder pressure back in the United States for him to step aside
and dramatically change the governance structure of News Corp.
“Calpers sees the voting structure in a company as
critical.


CalPers, which owns 6.4 million shares, denounced News Corp. rules as “corrupt” because most investors don’t have voting rights, leaving control of the company in the hands of Murdoch and his family.

jonniemarbles.jpg“News Corp does not have one share one vote,” Anne Simpson,who is in charge of corporate governance at CalPers, told British media, noting the Murdochs own 12% of the company but their special B shares give them voting rights over 40% of the company.


“This is a corruption of the governance system. Power should reflect capital at risk. Calpers sees the voting structure in a company as critical. The situation is very serious and we’re considering our options. We don’t intend to be spectators – we’re owners.”


The comedian arrested for shoving the shaving cream pie in Murdoch’s face when he was testifying to a parliamentary committee wrote an article for The Guardian, which has spearheaded the investigation of the scandal, explaining why his actione 


“It’s not difficult to find reasons to dislike Rupert Murdoch. His reach is one of the most insidious and toxic forces in global politics today,” wrote Jonnie Marbles, whose real name is Jonathan May-Bowles.


“The phone-hacking scandal, despicable though it is, barely scratches the surface of the damage done by News International. It is a media empire built on deceit and bile, that trades vitriol for debate and thinks nothing of greasing the wheels of power until they turn in its favour. What’s more, no matter what the grievances he wreaks on those he has never met, his power and money keep him forever safely out of their reach … 


“Believe it or not, I even worried about Rupert Murdoch’s feelings. You see, I really don’t hate 80-year-olds and, at the end of the day, Rupert Murdoch is just an old man. Maybe what I was trying to do was remind everyone of that – that he is not all powerful, he’s not Sauron or Beelzebub, just a human being, like the rest of us, but one who has got far too big for his boots.”


Murdoch was backtracking dramatically today in the face of the criticisms.


The Guardian’s real-time Politics Blog which tracks minute-by-minute developments reported the media mogul suddenly cut off payments today for legal fees for private investigator Glenn Mulcaire who is at the center of the phone hacking scandal.

Murdoch also reversed himself on refusing to allow the law firm Harbottle & Lewis to speak to Parliament or Scotland Yard about how it came to the conclusion that the problems at the now closed News of the World were entirely the work of a single rogue reporter — a conclusion that is now totally discredited.
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You can see the sun setting on the Murdoch Empire.

Continue reading Karma-geddon for Rupert: Sunset on the Murdoch Empire