The Hubris of Tim Leiweke: Shameless Greed, Foolish Pride and Unbearable Arrogance

Don’t mess with Mike Antonovich – he’s the closest thing
to an untouchable politician in these parts since Kenny Hahn.

Nothing sticks to him. Many who tried to set a fire at
his feet can tell you now they ended up badly burned sooner or later.

So what kind of arrogant fool would try to besmirch his
reputation and use his wife to do it,  the beautiful Chinese actress Christina Hu,
the mother of his two children?

Who else but the man who brought all 18 elected LA city
officials to their knees, who spit in the face of the city-county-state
appointees to the Coliseum Commission and now has laid down the law to the entire
Legislature of the great State of California.

The foolish pride of Tim Leiweke knows no bounds these
days. He drools like a starving man at the prospect of feasting on the billions
in profits from owning a football stadium with two pro teams and a college
team, running the nation’s fifth largest convention center, filling thousands
of his hotel rooms with visitors on company credit cards, and packing his
overpriced restaurants and bars.

The hubris of it all, it’s gone to Leiweke’s head. He
dismisses critics as “crazies,” competitors he calls “liars,” everybody else
from ordinary citizens to non-profit do-gooders to elected officials are
nothing but beggars with their hands out willing to sell out to him for a penny
on the dollar.

King Tim’s latest bombshell came Tuesday and got this
headline on the LA Times front page: “Stadium foe backs down in the face of a
blitz.”

“Intensifying its push for an NFL stadium in downtown
L.A., entertainment conglomerate Anschutz Entertainment Group launched an
unusually direct and public attack on one of the most prominent critics of the
proposal,” the story begins.

What Antonovich was proposing to his colleagues on the
County Board of Supervisors where he has served for 31 years was what they
supported two years again when Gloria Molina opposed AEG’s rival and former
partner Ed Roski effort to get the legislature to exempt his stadium project in
the City of Industry from the California Environmental Quality Act.

What Antonovich got was a letter from Leiweke’s lawyer sent
all over town accusing him of a conflict of interest because his wife has a bit
of a dispute with AEG or rather its Chinese spinoff which hired her as a
consultant and she says didn’t pay her something like $200,000 she was owed.

As a famous actress in China and incidentally the wife of
a powerful LA political figure, Christina Hu Antonovich was sought out by AEG’s
people in Shanghai who wanted her to show them the ropes and to introduce them
to the only kind of people they respect, the rich and the powerful

The company, AEG Business Management Consulting, is based
in Shanghai-based and trying to develop sports venues, presumably in the way
Anschutz does such things with bribery, blackmail and influence peddling.

For the moment, Antonovich backed down to the bullying by
AEG, a $10 billion company spawned by the public subsidies that built Staples
Center and LA Live.

“I
was quite surprised at the reaction of the AEG,  interjecting my wife into a situation that has
no relationship to this because her involvement was in a helping to assist in
an effort in China with a city that she was a resident, where she was born but
she is an American citizen as you all know,” Antonovich told his colleagues.

“I
will withdraw this motion at this time but my concerns are still there. But I really
have lost — let’s say faith in people who try to interject a family member into
a policy decision that this board has had previous p
ositions
for and in working to protect the interests of the taxpayers of this county
that any special legislation that’s ever passed ought to also include nonprofit
and those vital projects like schools and libraries. They should not be victimized
and held hostage to that type of action.”

Leiweke has gone too far this time. He’s given greed a
bad name, which is no small accomplishment in an age when greed isn’t just
good, it’s like holy water providing absolution for wickedness.

Anybody who has watched Mike Antonovich over his
four-decade career in politics knows he is a patient man, a shrewd politician
who is both a formidable ally and a dangerous foe, a man who usually gets what
he wants.

What’s important to note in this case is that Antonovich
isn’t a foe of the stadium as much as someone who thinks CEQA is abused to
block or delay important public projects like a hospital in Antelope Valley in
his district and ought to be fixed for everyone, not just AEG.

Leiweke could care less.

As the Times’ article notes AEG “has become increasingly
aggressive in its arguments for the $1.2-billion stadium, putting pressure on
state legislators …  threatened to abandon its
stadium … lashed out at (Roski’s) Majestic Realty.”

“With an extensive retinue of lobbyists and community organizers, AEG sent hundreds of construction workers, high school football players and hospitality industry workers to state and local hearings on the stadium, which has a planned opening date of 2016. The company also has retained Martin Ludlow, a former Los Angeles city councilman convicted five years ago in a felony campaign finance case, to build support among neighborhoods and youth sports teams.”

Leiweke said Tuesday that his company’s recent
assertions, coming just days before the Legislature goes into recess, were an
effort to respond to critics. “Everyone is taking free shots,” he
said in a statement. “Are we trying to set the record straight so that
those that are questioning our intentions … are called out? Yes.”

Shameless and unrepentant, here’s Leiweke’s defense for
his behavior:

Ask yourselves why would anyone do business with someone
like him, with a company life AEG that buys its “friends,” bullies its
opponents and fears anything resembling an honest public debate.

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Jobs, Jobs, Jobs — AEG’s Jobs Myth and the Environmental Impact Report Exemption

One of the most amazing
things about the depths of corruption of our politicians is how cheaply they
sell out the public interest.

Take the case of anti-gay,
anti-immigrant, anti-tax Denver billionaire Phil Anschutz – the wildcatting oil
and gas man, media entrepreneur and sports/entertainment mogul.

He has showered $1 million
so far this year on lobbyists to buy “access” at LA City Hall and in Sacramento
to get special favors for his plan to build a $1.2 billion NFL stadium downtown
on city land leased at below market value while getting to keep all of the
multiple revenue streams not committed directly to pay off city borrowing.

Now he wants exemption
from CEQA, the state’s environmental law blamed by some for stifling business
activity in California, beloved by others for protecting us from disaster.

The exemption is being
sought even before AEG has delivered anything to city planners except a letter
in March saying they were preparing an EIR.

“City officials filed the
AEG letter and began waiting for the documents and data required for a report
that could exceed 10,000 pages,” the Orange County Register reported
today
. More than five months later, planning department officials
are still waiting.
“We’re waiting for anything,” said Hadar Plafkin, the Los Angeles Planning
Department’s environmental review coordinator.

This is no small
matter. 

AEG wants to be legally
freed of anyone suing over the damage the stadium would cause to the quality of
life in Los Angeles no matter how inadequate or deceitful the study of traffic
congestion, visual blight or other issues the EIR is.

Without the right to sue,
nothing stands in AEG’s way since Anschutz’s super-salesman Tim Leiweke long
ago bought the docile obedience of the mayor and City Council with millions of
dollars in contributions to various funds they control and generous freebies to
events at Staples Center.

This year alone, Leiweke
has spent $1 million enriching lobbyists to buy “access” to elected officials
in Sacramento and City Hall as well as hundreds of thousands more for lawyers
and public relations experts engaged in the process of manipulating the public
debate and the politicians.

AEG and its affiliates and
representative have been contributing heavily to state legislators as well with
a recent tabulation at Maplight.com finding nearly $100,000 was
given to 30 current Assembly and Senate members. 

The No. 1 recipient with
$10,500 in Anschutz money from 2003 to 2009 was Moorpark Republican Tony
Strickland. His wife Audra was fifth on the list with $7,300. They are among
the few Republicans on the list, showing this isn’t about supporting Anschutz’s
ideological nonsense; it’s about adding to his vast fortune.

Also among the top
recipients of Anschutz money are Assembly Speaker John Perez ($3,600); Senate
Leader Darrell Steinberg ($8,100); Kevin DeLeon, chair of the Senate
Select Committee on Sports and Entertainment that held a hearing Friday on the
CEQA exemption ($5,300) and committee members Alex Padilla ($10,100), Gil
Cedillo ($8,100), and, of course, Tony Strickland.

Strickland makes no bones
about where he stands, saying last February as AEG lobbyists and pitchmen
roamed the Capitol: “I told them they can
call on me. I’m going to do whatever I can.”
 

At the hearing
last Friday, he was so effusive he talked about how the stadium deal will
create 20,000 to 30,000 new jobs He even sent out an email blast afterwards
linking to an article on the hearing and adding this comment: 
“It’s a no-brainer … We’re in a crisis
situation when it comes to jobs.”

Strickland took the same position more than two years ago when he backed an effort to exempt the Club Nokia nightclub
at AEG’s LA Live from a state law that prohibits onsite advertising of alcohol
brands being sold at the club.

“At a
time when we have the highest unemployment since the Great Depression, this
bill will help bring more jobs, more people back to work in the city of Los
Angeles,” Strickland said in support of the bill by John Perez.

Jobs, jobs,
jobs – it’s all about jobs these days in the political lexicon because they
know we’re worried about losing ours and actually care about those who already
are out of work.

But how real
are the jobs AEG is generating?

Here’s what
they said in April LA Live has done for people looking for work: 2,436 “living
wage” jobs, 1,077 “tipped” employees and 183 non-living wage jobs for a total
of 4,064.

The 6,500 new
jobs claimed for the Farmers Field project are much the same — a point made Friday at the Senate hearing by the state Legislative Analyst Office which pointed out that the revenue generated by the football stadium will simply take money away from other entertainment venues, restaurants and bars with very little new money or real jobs.

Working for
tips and the living wage or less serving beer and sweeping floors do not solve
the real crisis in LA, the crisis of soaring poverty rates and the lack of
opportunity for hard-working people to have better lives.

Leiweke has orchestrated a
textbook campaign in political and media manipulation over the last year
complete with ultimatums that brought the entire City Council to its knees and now has the California Legislature under a Sept. 9 deadline to
give him what he wants – or else.

He dismisses as “crazies”
those who question why it’s a good to have a stadium adding to downtown’s
congestion and 46 digital billboards flashing off the stadium and the rebuilt
Convention Center that he will soon be running for his profit while the public
pays of $750 million on it.

He refuses to even talk to
the city-county-state Coliseum Commission about locating his football team
there until his stadium gets built in 2016, preferring to do business with the
University of Southern California – an institution that gets whatever it wants
from City Hall and is about to launch a $5 billion fund-raising drive that
Anschutz surely will be called on for help.

This isn’t about jobs, jobs, jobs. It’s about enriching a Denver billionaire and his pals.

The issue that matters is whether this stadium is good for LA, its people and its neighborhoods — and that takes a thorough and complete EIR and the chance for people to challenge it in court when the City Council rubber-stamps it without even asking a single hard question or getting a single honest answer.

Down the path to mutual destruction — Sunday Column for News-Press & Leader

When the queen of upbeat soulful talk and self-empowerment gets the
blues about the state of the world, you know something is wrong, really
wrong.

“The world is a mess. We all know it and talk about in our
private lives,” Oprah Winfrey posted on her Facebook page last week as
part of her promotion for her new “Lifeclass” show on her OWN cable
network.

“It’s depressing and overwhelming at times to look at how much potential
we have and yet we’re constantly bombarded by images and information
that speaks to the lowest common denominator. We can do better. We can
be better. I know it’s true.”

So do I.

The challenge is to figure out how we get from where we are to where have to be.

Think
about this: Oprah was unseated from her No. 1 ranking this year on
Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful celebrities by Lady Gaga.
Justin Bieber ranked third.

Talk about LCD, lowest common
denominator — it is pretty sad when you think about it, when you think
about how we have allowed ourselves to be trivialized for commercial
exploitation and reduced ourselves to being party to a culture that
celebrates outrageous misconduct and demeans age-old virtues.

This
weekend at the L.A. Convention Center — the white elephant loser that
is going to be rebuilt to justify putting in a football stadium to
enrich a billionaire and add to the circus atmosphere of downtown — is
hosting two events: A medical marijuana expo and a star-studded
porn-queen convention.

“The combination of Hempcon and EXXXOTICA
is a virtual playground for inquisitive adults,” an organizer declared.
“We are getting an amazing reaction from the people of Los Angeles. Our
show always does well in L.A., but we are expecting even greater results
with EXXXOTICA next door.”

Potheads meet Sex Freaks — what could better symbolize the decline and fall of Los Angeles?

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One More Lie from AEG, One Less LA Convention

AEG’s TIm Leiweke has good reason for pulling out all stops to block anyone from suing over his NFL stadium plan in downtown LA — lies aren’t perjury if you didn’t swear on a stack of Bibles in court to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

No sooner did Leiweke bamboozle the City Attorney’s office and the City Council into signing off on a Memorandum of Understanding that gives away the farm to AEG for next to nothing, then we learn a key element wasn’t the way AEG said it was.

aegnfl.jpg

It took the Society of Critical Care Medicine to figure out that the framework stadium plan just approved is not what it was supposed o be with regards to the promise that the new wing of the LA Convention Center — a $2 billion white elephant heading towards its fourth disastrous incarnation — will be completed and operational before the old wing is demolished.

The medical association on Thursday canceled plans to hold a gathering of 5,000 members at the Convention Center in February 2014 after the group’s CEO David Martin was “told by officials with the Los Angeles’ convention and visitors bureau, known as LA Inc., that part of the new building would overlap with the existing one, so the latter would have to be removed before the former is built,” according to Associated Press reporter Jacob Adelman..

“We really can’t risk our largest event of the year on construction,” said Martin, who added that the group had not changed an existing plan to hold its 2021 convention at the Los Angeles venue. 

LA Inc. spokeswoman Carol Martinez could not immediately account for the discrepancy between the construction schedule related to Martin and the plan that was approved by city officials, AP reported. She said she regretted the medical group’s cancellation, but saw it as an acceptable loss in light of what would be an improved convention center campus that can attract bigger events once work is complete.

“In the long run, this will be extremely beneficial,” she said.  

Don’t expect anyone involved in this sham to lose much sleep over the exposure of this deceit, certainly not ambitious state Sen. Kevin DeLeon who is holding a dog-and-pony show Friday for Leiweke’s stadium plan to drum up support for the legislation needed to exempt the deal from legal challenge under the state’s tough environmental laws.

The event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ronald Reagan State Building’s auditorium (AEG-DeLeon.docx) is headlined “Community Impacts of Proposed Stadium Weighed by State Senate Select Committee on Sports and Entertainment.


Since the departure of the Raiders
for Oakland in 1995, Los Angeles has not had an National Football League team.
Friday’s hearing will examine the latest plan to bring football back to Los
Angeles,” the press release says. “This proposal must be fully scrutinized to expose any financial risk
to taxpayers and to reveal potential environmental impacts. This project
will be thoroughly vetted to ensure that any action improves the local
residents’ quality of life.”

To fulfill his commitment for scrutiny and vetting, DeLeon who surely must be headed to the City Council has set up six “panels” starting with NFL defensive great Michael Strahan as a solo act on Panel 1 called “The Need for Football Downtown” and Leiweke as a solo on Panel 3.called “Minimizing Taxpayer Risk, Stadium Financing and the Return of Football.”

In between them, CLA Gerry Miller and his assistant Mark Whitaker who negotiated the MOU with AEG will defend what they have wrought. Panel No.4 features four union leaders answering the topic question “Will Farmers Field Create Jobs?” in the affirmative based on Leiweke’s claims.

There might be some concerns expressed in the last two panels but I doubt if they will be very loud. They bring together experts for “Examining Land Use and Environmental Concerns” and community people for “Balancing the Event Center and Community Needs.”

It’s probably worth noting that immediately after shilling for Leiweke, DeLeon is rushing to Vernon where the Chamber of Commerce of the notoriously corrupt town is staging a rally in support of his plan for “reform” instead of Assembly Speaker John Perez’s nuclear option of dissolving Vernon and making it an unincorporated part of the LA County governed by the Board of Supervisors.

LA’s Perpetual Gerrymander and the Preservation of Political Failure

Gerrymander: 1812, Gerry + (sala)mander. Elbridge Gerry, governor of Massachusetts, was lampooned when his party redistricted the
state in a blatant bid to preserve an Anti-federalist majority. One Essex County
district resembled a salamander, and a newspaper editor dubbed it Gerrymander. 

It was
1992 and the political, business and civic leadership of the San Fernando
Valley put forward a  plan for redistricting the school board that City
Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky warned violated Latinos civil rights and would be
thrown out in court.

 

The
so-called”Valley friendly” plan was backed by the PTA, Council
members Joel Wachs and Joy Picus, and would have preserved two school board
seats wholly in the Valley. The plan approved 11 to 2 by the Council carved the
Valley into four districts, only one wholly within it.

 

“It’s
clear cut we made the right call,” said Yaroslavsky, a possible mayoral candidate at the time, after new details
from the 1990 Census supported his stand. 


There
was so much heat, so much politics on this, that it was hard to get out the
facts. Now, the facts are here and they
ought to be disseminated. (The remap plan) may not be pretty, but it’s legal and that’s what counts.”


Flash forward two decades to
today when Yaroslavsky is again considering a run for mayor, redistricting
is again on the table, and the long-time Councilman and County Supervisor is
singing a very different tune about two plans that would redraw the Board of
Supervisors lines to create two majority Latino districts and carve the Valley
into three districts, weakening its voting power and undermining its efforts to
maintain its identity.


Yaroslavsky calls the plans “a bald-faced
gerrymander that is completely unnecessary” under the federal Voting
Rights Act since Latinos like Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Sheriff Lee Baca an
County Assessor John Noguez have been elected with broad support from white
voters.


“Frankly,
the notion that non-minorities won’t vote for a minority candidate in L.A.
County is antiquated. Los Angeles in 2011 is not the same as the Los Angeles of
forty, thirty or even twenty years ago,” Yaroslavsky wrote on his blog. 
“Our
county is politically and socially far more mature and broad-minded.”


“I
strongly believe it’s possible to redistrict this county in a manner that
protects the voting rights of minorities without dismembering established
communities of interest, without shifting nearly 40% of our population from one
district to another and without relying on antiquated assumptions about the
voting behavior of different segments of the electorate
  The federal courts have given us the roadmap to get this done, and
have consistently rejected efforts to use the Voting Rights Act in the way the
backers of these new plans propose.


Yaroslavsky is no doubt right about the changes that have taken place since court-ordered busing to integrate LA schools triggered the “Stop Bus” movement and white flight in the 1980s — an exodus from the schools and the city that became middle-class flight in the 1990s and has left LA today with unemployment and poverty rates far higher than the county as a whole.

Race and ethnicity are not the issues they were although no one would argue there aren’t still tensions or that we are totally color-blind and beyond bias even in a region as diverse as this.

What hasn’t changed is that redistricting remains in the hands of politicians looking after themselves and more than willing to gerrymander districts to their own advantages.

Voters took redistricting power away from the state Legislature because of its outrageous abuses that led to such extensive gerrymandering that less than a handful of seats were competitive so only very liberal or very conservative candidates stood much of a chance. The result was a polarized and gridlocked Legislature. 

Despite complaints from some Republicans and some minorities, the Citizen Redistricting Commission has clearly done a much fairer job of drawing district lines for the Legislature and Congress and given hope that combined with open primaries next year, more centrist candidates will get elected.

At the city and county level, redistricting is still in the hands of the politicians and they are stacking the deck for themselves and their narrow interests.


LA’s elected officials have appointed 21 people to their redistricting committee, each like most commissioners more than willing to do the bidding of the politicians. 


In some cases, like political operative Mike Trujillo and Jose Cornejo,
recently retired chief of staff to Tony Cardenas and a likely Council
candidate, the appointments don’t even have a remote appearance of credibility.

 

Similarly,
county supervisors appointed their own Boundary Review Committee that suffers
from the same lack of independence both in appearance and reality.

 

“LA
County is redoing its district lines the old-fashioned way: The five
supervisors are proposing and voting on maps themselves
,” the Daily News said in
a recent editorial, noting the city system is laden with “conflicts of
interest” and “only the appearance of independence.”


“When the state electorate
created the independent redistricting commission in 2008, it was guided by a
sound principle: Voters should choose their representatives, not the other way
around. That’s vital if citizens are to believe their leaders are looking out
for them instead of for themselves. That’s not going to happen in L.A. this
decade.”


With all the advantages of money from special interests, one would hope that our politicians would not feel the need to gerrymander the districts as well to pre-determine the outcome of elections. But then this is LA and ordinary folks — whatever their race — don’t stand a chance.

The Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing on
the proposed redistricting plans on Tuesday, September 6, at 1:00 pm in Room
381 of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, 500 W. Temple St. 

EXCLUSIVE: Twice Fired DWP Exec Raman Raj Claims Disability, Getting Full $264,000 Salary Six Months Later

It started a little over a
month ago with a tip that came from inside the Department of Water and Power:
Raman Raj is still on DWP payroll.

It was hard to believe.
Raj was summarily fired as chief operating officer in February by the new
General Manager Ron Nichols and escorted from the DWP headquarters. How could they still be paying him $22,075.38 a
month, already amounting to nearly half his $264.904.56 annual salary?  

It was unthinkable.

After all, here was a guy
who had been fired once before by the DWP. That was a decade ago after he was
blamed for a costly series of lawsuits involving harassment, discrimination and
retaliation. An investigation into what had gone wrong found Raj had given Brian D’Arcy, the powerful IBEW union boss “too
much influence in the management” of the utility and shielded union
employees from disciplinary action. Raj could not be trusted to “act in
the department’s interest,” if it conflicted with his own…

Yet, Mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa ordered Raj rehired in 2007 in the No. 2 job and put him in charge
of day-to-day operations under inexperienced General Manager David Nahai, a
lawyer with expertise in environmental issues who had been DWP Commission
President.

Much despised
by those who worked for him, Raj – backed by D’Arcy who for years has virtually
run the DWP – clashed with Nahai to the point the mayor hired a management
psychologist to intervene and make an oral report to him. A short time later,
Nahai was forced out and David Freeman, who as DWP GM in 1999 had originally
hired Raj, was put in charge of the utility once again.

In the tortured history of
the DWP over the last 13 years, these three conspiratorial figures – D’Arcy,
Freeman and Raj – stand out for the failure of their leadership, their failure
to achieve the goals of cleaner energy and water and for the waste of the
public’s money.

It has taken a while to
find out what Raj’s status is but late Friday afternoon, chief spokesman Joseph
Ramallo emailed:

“In response to your
question regarding whether Raman Raj is on disability, please be advised that
he is.”

How is it possible that a
guy earning roughly $1,000 a day going to work in a powerful position could
suddenly develop a disability that could be paying his full salary even six
months after he was fired, even two years from now?

“Raj’s
situation is a widespread practice of waste and abuse of taxpayers
money,” said Nick Patsaouras, who served as president of the DWP
Commission until quitting in October 2008 in protest over what was going on.

“I have
witnessed settlements paid to dishonest, incompetent, fired employees because
of carelessness, incompetence, lack of documentation and fortitude on the
part of management. Unfortunately all this waste and abuse occurs in ‘closed
door sessions’ out of the reach of the press and the public. 

“I hope
the Rate Payer Advocate’s office in evaluating rate increases will shine the
light on this malpractice among others.”

Nichols, who declined
comment citing this as a personnel matter, sent employees this terse
announcement: about Raj’s being fired back on Feb. 4.

“Raman Raj, our Chief Operating Officer, is
moving on f
rom the Department to the privatsector.

“Pleasjoime in wishing Raman
well in the next stagof
his career. Effective
today, any pending
matters that would have required his attention should be forwarded to thofficof the GeneraManager.”

Just as he did a
decade ago, Raj – an “at will” employee who could have been fired
without cause and without severance – threatened to sue. It worked then and got
him a settlement through a separation agreement. And it worked again this time.

On March 24, fully seven weeks being relieving Raj of duty and dismissing him, Nichols signed off on a “Separation Agreement and Release of Claims” (Raj Separation-1.pdf) that was reached
solelin order to clarify‘ and resolve any issues or disputes– that may exist between them arising out ofthe employment rel
ationship and/or its
termination.”


It allowed Raj to continue on the payroll using his
accrued vacation time for another seven weeks.

And it gave Raj until his
termination date of May 13 to apply for disability under the Employee
Retirement Plan.

He did and he got it –
though the plan administrator Sangeeta Bhatia has yet to make it clear what the
nature of his post-dismissal disability is, how much Raj is being paid or for
how long. In a letter – the DWP refuses normally to respond to California
Public Records Act inquiries by email – she said details will be delayed
because unspecified “unusual circumstances” exist.

Ramallo in an email had
the courtesy to explain the disability options available to Raj.

“Disability benefits
are provided for in Section V of the Plan.  The basic benefits provided
are Temporary Disability (TD), Extended TD, and Permanent Total Disability
(PTD).  To be eligible for these benefits, an employee must be a “Full”
member of the Plan which means he/she completed 26 weeks of continuous service.
 At that time, the member begins to contribute to the Disability Fund and
becomes eligible to receive them one day later.

“In addition to being
a Full member of the Plan, the member must also demonstrate that the disability
itself began while the member was still contributing to the Plan.

Generally, the percentage of salary received for Temporary Disability
benefits is defined in the Plan document and depends on the length of
continuous service at the time the disability began.  For example, the
first two weeks at 100%. next 4 weeks at, 85%, next 2 weeks at 60% next 26
weeks at 50%, next 18 weeks at 40% etc.

“However, salaried managers who are on disability and whose disability
status are reviewed and continuously verified are eligible to receive, for up
to two years, payments equal to their regular salary.”

“When a claim for
Disability benefits is received by the Disability Plan, staff verifies
employment status.  Subsequently, in accordance with Plan provisions, the
disability claim is submitted to the Medical Director for review.  The
Medical Director makes a determination as to whether there is sufficient
documentation to qualify for Temporary Disability benefits.  The Medical
Director continues to review medical records as necessary to determine
qualification for benefits.

Clearly as a salaried
manager, Raj is eligible for two years of salary worth nearly $530,000 over the
next two years if his disability status continues to be verified.

He would have been in an
even more enviable situation if the deal the DWP Board approved after he
rejoined the utility had been finalized in August 2008 – a time when rate hikes
of up to 25 percent were being approved and the mayor was increasing payments from
the power fund to the city general fund from 5 to 8 percent, pushing it past
the $250 million mark on top of the 10 percent utility tax.

Raj
was given an extra $152,000 toward his pension which would have allowed him to
buy significantly more credit towards his retirement payment than he has earned
with his five years of service. Then City Controller Laura Chick challenged the
board decision and the next day Raj backed down on the pension payment demand

Three months before the
pension flap, Raj had become the target of serious conflict of interest charges
over possible steering $5 million in contracts to firms that had retained him
prior to his return to the DWP.

Within the DWP, rumors about Raj’s status have been percolating ever since his farewell email (Raj-Farewell.pdfwas sent
to employees in June, months after he was out of the building.


The farewell message was undated, part of
his settlement agreement — and it was unctuous, claiming credit for others
achievements and warmly thanking the staff that largely disliked him. He referred to his “mixed emotions” about
leaving the DWP and his pride in the achievements they made
“together.”

“Althis we accomplished in times of
unprecedented change and undue external pressures. The underlying elements that
made all this happen was strong teamwork cutting across s
ilos and a focus omanaging change effectively,” he said.Inside the DWP, it
was seen as leaving the door open to come back for a third try.

It was an inside joke within DWP that Raj was actually
running the DWP while David Nahai, David Freeman, and Austin Beutner were
General Manager/figureheads,” said one manager who has tracked what is going
on.

“It seems extremely
dubious from my point of view that in our new environment of ‘transparency’ we
are still paying Raman Raj disability.  It seems like his influence is
still looming.  It seems like in light of his LATE, undated farewell letter
he is leaving the option to return, AGAIN. 

“It seems like if Ron
Nichols gets terminated for not getting another rate increase, Raj may return
to fill the vacuum.  We are all rooting for Nichols, he is a decent
guy.”

 

Zine’s Artless and Shameless Self-Promotion

For a dumb traffic cop Dennis Zine has proven himself to be one smart politician.

Totally amoral and without a conscience, Zine will say and do just about anything to attract attention to himself and posture as a noble public servant when he’s all about self-service.
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It is a tribute to his raw ambition that he conned his way into being a police union official, and then a Charter Reform Commission member elected with union backing, then a City Council member fronting for the unions. Now he wants to be City Controller so he can continue double-dipping with a $200,000 salary on top of his $100,000 police pension.
He’s a guy who went around town weeping before the TV cameras, local and national, after the LA riots defending Chief Daryl Gates and the LAPD’s long history of excessive force against minorities. 
He’s a guy who one day talks about purging every illegal immigrant from the city and the next backs the entire liberal agenda of his colleagues at City Hall while routinely voting for every giveaway of public money to everyone from the unions to billionaires even as he passionately mouths the words of fiscal conservatism.
Last week, he used his bully pulpit — a literal phrase in his case — to denounce the Aaron Brothers art supplies chain founded in Hollywood 60 years ago but long since chased away to Texas for its popular “Artrageous” back-to-school promotion that involves giving away “graffiti kits” to school children.
The kits include markers and paper — not spray cans — and are handed out at store events where artists offer instruction. It’s not like kids are getting that kind of help at school where art education has become obsolete.

“I am appalled at this gimmick,” Zine said, after introducing a Council motion denouncing Aaron Brothers and calling for legal action against it. “In my role as a city councilman and a LAPD Reserve Officer, I spend
a lot of time and energy eradicating graffiti from the streets of Los Angeles.
This promotion is an assault on our community and sends a devastating message
to our youth.”

Not to be outdone, his pal, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, the wannabe District Attorney, endorsed Zine’s gimmick: “The Aaron Brothers Art store promotion appears to celebrate activity that
threatens the quality of life for our city’s residents simply for commercial
gain.”
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Where were these two pompous self-promoters when the Geffen Contemporary staged its recently concluded “Art in the Streets” exhibition celebrating the genius of graffiti artists? Didn’t they notice the long lines of people waiting to get into the Little Tokyo museum down the street from City Hall?

Yes, graffiti is a problem — one that costs the city about the same amount of money every year as trip-and-fall lawsuits do because LA hasn’t fixed sidewalks for 25 years.

Now, there’s a problem Zine could have done something about instead of worrying about whether a promotion to get kids interested in art leads them to become vandals and down the road to pot smoking and heroin addiction.


 

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Anthony Portantino: From Obscurity to the Spotlight, a Politician Doing What’s Right

It was
like watching a remake “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” rewritten as “Mr.
Portantino Goes to Sacramento” — the accidental politician becomes the
reluctant revolutionary.
In barely two months, Portantino has gone from the relative
obscurity of serving quietly and industriously as one of California’s
120 lawmakers to stumbling into the political spotlight as a lone voice
challenging the leadership and record of failure of a hopelessly
gridlocked Legislature.

He has made headlines in newspapers
across the state, inspired editorials sharply critical of Assembly
Speaker John Perez’s abuses of his power, prompted two major newspapers
to sue the Legislature for refusing to release how much it spends on
itself and its staff — that’s taxpayer money, not the special-interest
money that puts them into office and provides costly favors to them.

For
daring to break ranks from his fellow Democrats and voting against a
state budget based on phony revenue estimates while putting dangerous
criminals onto our streets early, doing nothing to provide jobs or hold
government agencies accountable, Portantino is being treated like a
political leper by his own party leadership.

They have issued
notices to his staff that they will be furloughed on Oct. 21 for 40
days, claiming that he overspent his budget — the same budget they
refuse to release for all legislators. On Thursday, they tried to
squelch Portantino’s right to speak on the Assembly floor when he tried
to praise three Republicans who joined him in defying the speaker by
releasing their budgets themselves.

“I can’t concern myself with
retribution,” Portantino said near the end of our 90-minute
conversation. “I just have to be who I am and connect to the people I
represent. You can’t do anything else.”

This isn’t a personality
squabble. It’s about honesty in government. Transparency.
Accountability. Solving the people’s problems. Fixing what’s broken.
Spending tax money wisely. Looking after the public interest, selling
out to special interests.


(READ FULL STORY)

Why We Fight: Join the Coast to Coast Movement to Restore Democracy to Our Cities, State, Nation

The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going
to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until
someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an
important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be
willing – for the sheer fun and joy of it – to go right ahead and fight,
knowing you’re going to lose. You mustn’t feel like a martyr. You’ve got to
enjoy it.” — I.F. Stone.


That quote from the famed investigative journalist.who used his weekly publication to expose the foibles of power in Washington and inspired so many of my generation of journalists was recalled for me this week by Daniel Goldstein, the central figure of the citizen rebellion that is the subject of the documentary “Battle for Brooklyn” premiering tonight for a weeklong run at Laemmle’s Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills ().

Goldstein and his army lost the battle to stop demolition of their neighborhood for a sports arena now under construction but they derailed at least for now a massive high-rise mixed-use project — outcomes that are similar to so many community struggles in LA, losing battles that may lay the basis for winning the war someday.

At tonight’s 7:20 p.;m. screening, there will be a panel discussion with Goldstein, filmmakers Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, LA Neighbors United founder Cary Brazeman, South Central Farmers leader Tezozomoc and me.

In reviewing the film, the LA Times said: “The well-assembled documentary “Battle for Brooklyn” follows one man’s tenacious and complicated fight
to preserve his neighborhood from a questionable invoking of eminent
domain…Although not exactly even-handed, the movie proves a deft look at a
reluctant crusader and how financial sway and political override can so
effectively trump the power of the average citizen.”

Here’s what other critics have said:



New York Times
Critic’s Pick       NY Daily News–4
Stars       Time Out NY–4 Stars

“…the film’s basic situation — local
residents and community activists vs. the development schemes of major
politicians and big business — is an archetypal element of urban life, one
that can be found in almost any city, large or small, from Maine to
California.”

— Andrew O’Hehir, Salon


The movie…has heart, soul and chutzpah…Feisty but fairly reported…The time
line that drives ‘Battle for Brooklyn’ makes it as urgent as any Hollywood thriller
.”
— Joe Neumaier, The New York Daily News

Battle for Brooklyn is at its best showing
how Atlantic Yards used the pretense of democracy to enrich the powerful, but
how it also energized actual citizens to fight the good fight.”
— Chris Smith, New York Magazine

 

“The Empire State’s eminent
domain laws are unusually loose, but most of the rest of this story is
pertinent far beyond New York. Change a few names and add the next credit
bubble, and a Brooklyn-style Battle could be headed to a neighborhood near you.”

— Mark Jenkins, NPR

 

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If Firefighter Boss Pat McOsker Can Buy a City Council Seat, Why Not AEG’s Tim Leiweke?

It’s not just the Mayor, City Attorney, Controller and City Council that are the nation’s highest elected city officials — count LA’s firefighters as America’s richest averaging $126,258 a year each.

That’s what Bloomberg News’ Christopher Palmeri and Rodney Yap discovered in taking a hard look at firefighter union president Pat McOsker’s campaign in the crowded field of 18 seeking to succeed Congresswoman Janice Hahn for the San Pedro/Watts City Council seat in the Nov. 8 election.
“The mean wage for the nation’s 302,000 salaried
firefighters was $47,730 in 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau
of Labor Statistics
. In the Los Angeles metropolitan area, which
includes other cities as well as county employees, the figure
was $95,000. That compared with $57,360 in the Chicago area,
$51,710 in Boston and $66,800 in metropolitan New York,” they reported.
There is a good reason — actually a bad one — for the disparity.
LA firefighters pick up a fortune in overtime staffing rules negotiated by McOsker’s union require replacements for those who are sick or on vacation so many are putting as much as 75 hours a week on the clock even as many fire stations have been shuttered because of budget cuts.
“This has been going on for years,” said Kris Vosburgh,
executive director of the Los Angeles-based Howard Jarvis
Taxpayers Association, which advocates for lower taxes. “The
public-employee unions are the most powerful force in state and
local politics. No politician wants to stand up to them, so they
continue this gravy train.” 
City unions, other than McOsker’s own United Firefighters LA, are lining up behind his candidacy and prepared to pour big money into the race.
In a funny way, it makes sense to have a union leader actually sitting on the Council since the unions have bought or intimidated all of them to giving them what they want. 
Maybe it will start a trend where all the special interests who buy city elections put their people into Council seats so they don’t have to hire lobbyists to twist arms in back rooms — their Council members will do it right in public. 
Why not AEG’s Tim Leiweke succeeding Jan Perry as the best friend of downtown developers and land speculators? After all Leiweke could qualify as a downtown resident since he had to buy one of those 244 multi-million dollar condos at LA Live so AEG wasn’t embarrassed that none of them were selling.
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