Crazy Days in LA: The Transportation Gap — Sidewalks and Streets, Subways and Bullet Trains

Several years ago, city workers descended onto my tract and cut ramps for wheelchairs at every corner, which seemed insane since broken and uneven sidewalks posed a safety hazard even to walkers. To this day, wheelchair users prefer to risk life and limb going on the street where it’s easier to scoot around potholes than taking their chances on the sidewalks.

This comes to mind because of the news the city has settled two lawsuits filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act for $85 million — “money will be used over the next two decades to build
thousands of sidewalk access ramps at curbs” — and faces four others while conservatively estimating 42 percent of LA’s 10,750 miles of sidewalks are buckled, cracked or otherwise in disrepair.

More than a decade ago, then Councilman Mike Feuer didn’t help his campaign for City Attorney — a position he is gearing up for again as part of the musical chairs legislators takeover of City Hall — by arguing it was cheaper to do nothing about the sidewalks problem since it was only costing $7 million a year for trip-and-fall cases.


For nearly 40 years now, the city has done absolutely nothing about sidewalks, not even being able to define a policy on who’s responsibility it is to fix them.

Dovetailing with the sidewalk news is a flurry activity on the transportation front or at least the promise of activity some time in the future.

Never shy to boast before the cameras, the mayor came all the way out the West Valley on Monday to announce the four-mile Orange Line Busway extension — also known as the Westfield Mall Busway since it connects the companies Warner Center malls with Chatsworth as well as the East Valley with the original Orange Line — will be operational in June and that the $180 million cost was paid for by state, federal and local money rather than the Measure R sales tax measure. 

Someday out in the future, MTA will spend the $180 million allocated for the project from the sales tax on other Valley transportation needs like more rapid buses or busways, the mayor said.

That brings us to Feuer’s swan song as a legislator: A bill that would allow a public vote on the indefinite extension of the 30-year Measure R sales tax hike so MTA can borrow billions more from our own federal government or even from Chinese capitalists to spend now on subway and rail projects everywhere in the county except, of course, the Valley. A second bill would get rid of the environmental study process or curtail the ability of anyone to do much about things that are wrong with transportation projects just as the CEQA process for Farmers Field has been cut short.

Everyone that matters is aboard these schemes: business, labor, Westsiders who mistakenly think the subway will ease the traffic congestion nightmare when it’s just a lure for massive high-rise developments, bikers who are hoping the mayor’s 35-year plan for bike paths will be speeded up.

A comprehensive and glowing report on the various funding options was pulled together at by Damien Newton, who does note there is “still has a long road to go.”

“The (Feuer) bill has
to be signed into law by the Governor, the same Governor that hopes to have a
statewide tax to balance the state budget on the ballot,” he writes.

“Some tax experts
believe that the more tax initiatives on the ballot, the less the chance that
they will pass.  It’s also possible that funding for High Speed Rail could
be on the ballot.  Will Jerry Brown want to risk one his statewide
projects to allow a local sales tax proposal?  With this governor, it’s
hard to predict.”

It’s incredible if you think about it: 

The reality on the ground is that LA in particular and California in general are bleeding good jobs and good businesses so unemployment and under-employment are high and the middle class fleeing, the infrastructure has deteriorated badly from neglect, governments at all levels are running massive deficits with balloon payments for public employee pensions and benefits coming due in the years ahead.

But in the high places of power and influence, we’re ready to spend $100 billion for a high-speed rail and billions more for subways and trains that will not return benefits if any for years to come except for giant contractors and construction trades. 

Thanks to the Occupiers, there’s a lot of talk these days about the gap between rich and poor and inequality in America but the decisions that are being made are driving these disparities. 

We are not victims of acts of God or of nature. Our problems are of our own making. It’s not the curb cuts that are crazy despite the broken sidewalks. It’s not the gleaming rail cars that are crazy despite the crumbling roads. 

What’s crazy is how business, labor and government have become a single entity pursuing what’s good for them and handing the bill to the 77 percent who aren’t impoverished, to the 88 percent of the work force excluded from unions, to the 99 percent that aren’t rich and to the 100 percent who feel apathetic and helpless and don’t know what to do about it.

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Race, Ethnicity, Class and Hipness — How (NOT) to Draw City Council Districts

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anger over City Hall’s puppet Redistricting Commission’s draft maps has inflamed long-simmering resentments all over town over how communities of interest have been ignored deliberately as part of the political machine’s divide-and-conquer strategy. On Saturday, about 50 residents of the Foothill communities — Sunland-Tujunga, Shadow Hills,
Lake View Terrace, La Tuna Canyon, and Sun Valley — held an emergency meeting to plan how to fight being pulled from CD 2 (Krekorian) and divided up into CD 6 and CD 7 (Cardenas and Alarcon). These are dangerous people when they come together as they did in defeating corporate giant Home Depot’s scheme to change the small town western feel of their community. Curiously, the LA Times’ story Sunday on the redistricting controversy focused on CD4 (LaBonge) and seems to suggest that voting rights laws protecting race, ethnicity and communities of interest should also recognize keeping cool people together and not put them with “ugh, the Valley” types. You know like people who are Silver Lake hipsters should “have nothing to do with the flats in the Valley.” Or as Tom LaBonge, who would get Studio City, Sherman Oaks and Encino, put it:
“The only common thread here is the Canadian geese that
migrate from the Encino Reservoir to the Silver Lake Reservoir.” No insult intended, you can be sure. The Foothill activists are meeting again Tuesday night at the North Valley City Hall at 7 p.m. T
omi Lyn Bowling offers this account the passions that have been reawakened by City Hall’s redistricting dirty trick:

Sleeper Has Awakened


They came from all kinds of backgrounds
with birthplaces all over the world. They have different religions, different
politics, and are individually different in so many ways.

So who would have ever thought that so much
diversity would melt away to become the common ground of fighting off a
corporate giant in what has become the hometown of so many passionate
individuals in Sunland-Tujunga.

But melt away diversity did.

United in a force unlike anything ever before
in the city of Los Angeles these people fought, and won! Victories had seemed
to come somewhat easy to this small rural mountain draped community as one by
one the land-use victories added up.

But it was the fight with mega corporate
giant Home Depot that the community is most well known for.

Fast forward to seven years later and this
once united community like so many others in LA had gone on with life and each
individual that once stood shoulder to shoulder had all but forgetten their
unity. Or had they?

It was a cold December 2011 day when whispers
began to fill the air that a change was looming. Off in their own individual
worlds barely an eyebrow was raised. Then January came and the change rose it’s
ugly head; the map that proposed to rip this formiddable community apart at the
seams. \

Like a well rehearsed orchestra these soulful
people dropped their individuality, forgot the squabbles, pushed aside their
personal lives and took their place shoulder to shoulder once again in
opposition to the maps proposed by the Redistricting Commission threatening the
last vestage of rural life in Los Angeles.

Vowing to protect that last rural corner of
this big city the awe inspiring community stands tall, strong, and united once
again, unwilling to allow the rules and their community voices to be ignored.

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A community of scale — and how ordinary people changed something for the better

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column started out as a look at Bob Hope Airport’s troubles but I found they were nothing compared to how this important community asset had become a pretty good citizen since ordinary citizens rose up in protest about noise and expansion. One of the people who played a key role in that transformation as a protester and Mayor/Councilman was Dave Golonski who believes change was possible in Burbank because of its size and “people’s pride in the city.”
My Sunday Column in LA Times community newspapers

Discussing American  Airlines pulling out of Bob Hope Airport, Executive Director Dan Feger told airport commissioners how,
in a recent team-building exercise, senior staff had reviewed the book,
“Who Moved My Cheese” — a story about two mice and two mouse-sized
people caught in a maze together.

“It’s a very cute little book,”
Feger said. “It talks about change and sometimes people don’t want to
change, but if you make the change, the change actually yields a much
better result. If you keep doing the same thing, stay on the same path
and hope the world will change around you, it probably won’t happen.”

American’s departure could mean a loss of up to 7.5% of the airport’s
passenger traffic and millions of dollars in revenue, forcing yet
another re-design, yet another scaling back of costs, for the planned
$100-million-plus intermodal transportation center and parking

“The world has changed,” Feger said.

The Bob
Hope Airport world has changed a lot over the last 20 years, but it took
a bruising and costly political and legal war to bring it about — a war
sparked by a grassroots movement that is a model for how ordinary
citizens can stymie rich and powerful interests and change the political
culture of their communities by fighting for what they believe in.

had been a push for a massive expansion with a new 27-gate terminal —
even talk of making it an international airport — has given way to a
voluntary curfew by the airlines, the sound-proofing of nearby homes, an
agreement with the city to put off the terminal issue until 2015, and
the completion of a study that officials said justified a permanent

Expansion has given way to fixing traffic flow and
parking problems around the airport, and to plans to connect Metrolink
and the Orange Line Busway to the airport. The airport has tried to mend
its relationship with City Hall and with the community through
outreach. A survey of residents is now under way to help guide future

“What you’ve seen over time is that it finally dawned
on the airport that it really is the Burbank community that will make
those decisions, the community who is in control of whether or not they
will get a new terminal,” said long-time Burbank City Councilman Dave
Golonski, who played a key role over the last 18 years in helping to
bring about the changes.

“Once they realized that, I think they
really made a good-faith effort to mitigate the traffic and other
problems, to get the curfew. They have become much more cooperative and
tried to understand what the impacts are on Burbank, which is a long way
from where it once was.”

Golonski’s journey from ordinary
citizen to city leader started, as it does for so many, with a problem
in his neighborhood — a row of houses behind his house became abandoned,
graffiti-covered eyesores after a developer bought them to tear down
and build in their place a large three-story apartment complex.

organized “Enough is Enough” to fight the project and got his neighbors
to string their Christmas lights in April to get visibility for their
protest — efforts which got the project killed.

Emboldened, he
championed a tough “smart growth” ballot initiative to cap the number of
housing units and commercial space that could be built one year.

“It was the most highly outspent ballot initiative in the history of California,” he recalled, making its defeat inevitable.

he was learning about City Hall disturbed him so much that he ran for
the City Council, losing in his first try, but winning election in 1993.

A Grassroots Call for Honest City Council Districts

Editor’s Note: Is it any wonder that residents of Lake View Terrace, Sunland-Tujunga and other areas of the far Northeast San Fernando Valley are up in arms over the draft redistricting maps? Would you want to be represented by Richard Alarcon, the indicted felon who has been able to put off his trial indefinitely because of a gutless District Attorney, a career politician already is running to get back into the state Legislature and has used his clout to get his daughter a six-figure job on the Public Works Commission doling out massive construction contracts as a prelude to running for the City Council herself? Some residents of those communities are fighting mad and ready to do something about. 

My fellow Lake View Terrace residents,

The “new” draft redistricting map put most of LVT and Sunland-Tujunga in CD7
with Richard Alarcon  as our councilman.

Shadow Hills, La Tuna Cyn and LVT south of Foothill has been moved to CD 6 –
Tony Cardenas’s district.  We voted for Wendy Greuel over Tony Cardenas in
CD 2 eight years ago!

WE ARE CD 2. There is strength in numbers. Sunland-Tujunga isn’t going to take
this quietly. Neither will we!

See you Saturday at noon at 7747 Foothill Blvd in Sunland for this major
community meeting. See the attached flyer for more information and maps.

If you
care about what the next ten years will bring to our community, you need to be
at this meeting.

Bring your neighbors.


Kristin Sabo – Lake View Terrace!


Dear Neighbors,

Our city council district
has been proposed to be split apart in a very disruptive way.

The proposed boundary is
now the 210 fwy splitting us off from the equine community
we have in common like Shadow Hills, La Tuna Canyon and sending us instead with

communities in the San Fernando Valley whom we have nothing in common.

Here is the new council
district proposed for us which puts us in Council District 7 under
Richard Alarcon. Part of Lake View Terrace
, Shadow
Hills, La Tuna Canyon and Sun

 Valley, which includes
the Stonehurst Area gets put into CD6 presently represented by 

Tony Cardenas. This effectively disengages our rural communities who work
together to
protect our rural environment, water shed, quality of life
, equine importance and also
puts us in districts whose representatives were not elected by us.

We are meeting Saturday
at noon at 7747 Foothill Blvd to outline how we are going to
get this mess cleaned up! We are CD2! The redistricting process has rules that
protect us from this kind of ripping up of the district, the same rules that
protect us from
being thrown out of our element, we need to do what we do best, UNITE and stand
and FIGHT!


818-353-9143 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            818-353-9143      end_of_the_skype_highlighting Tomi Bowling

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The Shame of Sham Redistricting and the Perpetuation of City Hall’s Failure

Not one to pull her punches or knees to the groin, LA Weekly’s Simone Wilson calls LA’s Redistricting Commission “an embarrassing who’s-who of career City Hall
puppets … To say the 2012 redistricting commissioners are
cloaked in this culture of self-preservation and nepotism is an
understatement; they are the fibers that give it form.”

‘Take Michael Trujillo, the mouthpiece selected by City Councilman
Richard Alarcon to represent City Council District 7 .. How appropriate, now, that this incurable negative-campaigner should be
hand-picked (sloppy seconds!) by Councilman Alarcon, the most nepotistic of the bunch” who is charged with felony voter fraud/perjury over moving outside his own district. 

The LA Times was far less forthright but did acknowledge that the draft maps released Wednesday set “the stage for a series of pitched battles over neighborhood identity, ethnic clout and raw political power” — a point made in the Daily News as well which said they kick “off a fierce battle over the political, cultural and ethnic lines of the city,”

In fact, the only voice that any reporter could find who praised this outrageous insult to the people of Los Angeles that is being foisted on them by a failing political machine engaged in a feeding frenzy as if there is no tomorrow (and there will be no tomorrow if anything like these maps is approved) was the Valley Industry and Commerce Association’s Stuart Waldman, which was predictable if you followed the group’s activities.

“You listened to me. You listened to the neighborhood councils. You
listened to the people of the San Fernando Valley,” Waldman told the panel at its Van Nuys Civic Center meeting Wednesday — a position that was clearly out of step with the howls of protest from community activists and neighborhood leaders Sunland-Tujunga to Sherman Oaks to West Hills and throughout the city from Koreatown to East, South and West LA.

Some commissioners were appalled. “Quite frankly, I am embarrassed to be associated with this product,” said former state Sen. David Roberti.

And even some the politicians who appointed this commissioners with the intent of enhancing their power, securing their political futures and expanding opportunity to raise campaign cash were shocked and dismayed at what they had wrought.

Bill Rosendahl called the maps an “outrageous case of gerrymandering,” which was always the intent but not if it cost him Westchester or inflicted Tom LaBonge on Sherman Oaks and Encino or robbed Jan Perry of the big bucks from downtown developers to provide Jose Huizar with that plum even as rumors of his legal problems with the feds are heating up.

Not to worry says Commission Chairman Arturo Vargas, the mayor’s appointee, the maps are “a work in progress” and “the final product won’t be the same product” as the ones that were released.

That, of course, is the scam. They released maps deliberately intended to infuriate almost everybody so that people will be begging for mercy and be willing to accept crumbs from the table of power as usual and settle for districts that are only half as gerrymandered as these.

I’d like to believe that this insult to our intelligence would spark a level of community outrage that would lead to real change and spark a voter rebellion that threw the scoundrels out and put into office citizen candidates committed to serving the public, not screwing the public. But I’ll have to see that start to happen to believe it.

Here are the current district and draft maps (you can see details in the LA Times’ Interactive Map):

Draft Map

la city redistricting new.jpg


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Google Gobbledygook: Living in a Fishbowl and Knowing the Price of Liberty Is Eternal Vigilance

Search the Internet for Google Privacy Policy and you will get 980,000,000 million hits in 0.11 seconds, roughly one billion in one-tenth of a second — the number will balloon faster than Google revenue in the coming month as the rebellion of the web giant’s new “privacy policy” builds.

The King of Internet Imperialism got hit on Gizmodo with the headline “Google’s Broken Promise: The End of ‘Don’t Be Evil,” and was the hottest topic Wednesday on radio talk, news reports, blogs and the MSM mainstream media. 


this means for you is that data from the things you search for, the emails you
send, the places you look up on Google Maps, the videos you watch in YouTube,
the discussions you have on Google+ will all be collected in one place,” according to Gizmodo which boasts 346,707 Facebook users “like this.” 

seems like it will particularly affect Android users, whose real-time location
(if they are Latitude users), Google Wallet data and much more will be up for
grabs. And if you have signed up for Google+, odds are the company even knows
your real name… 

Thumbnail image for google-evil.jpg

“So why are we calling this evil? Because Google changed the
rules that it defined itself. Google built its reputation, and its
multi-billion dollar business, on the promise of its “don’t be evil”
philosophy. That’s been largely interpreted as meaning that Google will always
put its users first, an interpretation that Google has cultivated and
encouraged. Google has built a very lucrative company on the reputation of user
respect. It has made billions of dollars in that effort to get us all under its
feel-good tent. And now it’s pulling the stakes out, collapsing it. It gives
you a few weeks to pull your data out, using its data-liberation service, but
if you want to use Google services, you have to agree to these rules.”

From the sound of that and the uproar in so many circles you would expect an assault on Google that would even far greater intensity than the public reaction that stopped Netflix in its goofball idea of splitting its services of mailing discs and streaming video online into different businesses to jack up revenue or Bank of America’s despicable effort to charge five bucks a month to use your debit card to spend your own money.

But the Google farce is a totally different story over at the most of the MSM where’s Kashmir Hill for instance scoffs at the “Internet Freak-out over Google’s New Private Policy” and asserts it’s “actually it’s not” a policy shift at all but merely a consolidation of its more than 70 privacy policies into one to better mine all the data we give them from all the platforms we use of Google’s to enhance our Internet experience.

“When Google starts bundling everything it knows about
its users and selling that to insurance companies, background check companies,
and the Department of Homeland Security, that’s when I’ll trot out the “evil
label,” she writes. “But using information from Gmail to suggest more appropriate YouTube
videos or reminding an Android smartphone user that they have a Google calendar
appointment in a half hour on the other side of town doesn’t strike me as the
work of Lucifer.”

All this over a blog post from emanating from uber-billionaires Larry Page’s and Sergey Brin’s company saying, “ur new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if
you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service
with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single
user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google

In this case, both sides of the discussion are probably right. 

Google isn’t the most spectacular success in human history for an oddball idea of two strange guys; it’s a giant corporation. It pleases shareholders, and makes its executives fabulously rich. It much grow and grow and grow until it rules the world so it has to do what successful businesses do: It has to please you and me the customer by using everything it knows about us to provide the produce we want — or what it’s algorithms say we want.

And over time, there will be situations where in the need for increased revenue it sells us out to the highest bidder without having to ask our permission for how our the information in our email, our contacts, our phones, our Youtube and Picasa accounts and everything that can be extrapolated about us is used — because they announced their consolidated one-stop invasion of our privacy.

It’s the same with President Obama and Congress enacting the National Defense Authorization Act allowing for the indefinite detention without charge of American citizens as if if they were the enemy combatants locked up at Guantanamo for the last 10 years.

Wake up, all you people out there. You live in a fishbowl. There is no privacy. There are no privacy rights. Read the Constitution, privacy isn’t mentioned because it was not a question before and exists as nothing but a fragile and vague common law protection.

Everything you do can online, on your cell phone, on cameras captured on every corner and every shop can be stored and retrieved for next to nothing.

“It is now,
for example, possible to store everything that someone says on a telephone for
a year for about 17 cents,” the Brookings Institution’s John Villasenor told NPR’s Rachel Martin on Weekend Edition Sunday .”So, as these storage costs plummet, it all of the
sudden becomes possible to actually archive it all. And that’s what’s changing.
We’re crossing these thresholds now and in the coming couple of years.”

Dictatorial nation’s like Syria can store everything about everyone in the country for a year for the deflated cost of a house on the San Fernando Valley. 

Local police agencies are installing powerful computers with access to top secret databases in every cop car which soon will be equipped fingerprinting scanners and with video cameras pointing in all directions and the ability to conduct surveillance on anyone from afar by watching the ubiquitous spy-cams everywhere.

HD cameras on police planes and helicopters has take crystal clear pictures of you from 1,000 feet and detect a warm gun in the trunk of your car.

If you got a bank account or credit cards, a cell phone or use the interest, a driver’s license or pay taxes — they can know anything and everything about you if they want to or soon will be able to — unless you are an illegal immigrant who doesn’t exist anywhere in the system. No identity. No photo. No fingerprint, Nothing.

Personally, I’ve lived without fear about the totalitarian controls on us since 1965 when the head of the police intelligence unit in Cleveland where I got my start as a police reporter told me I’d been under surveillance for months and showed me photos the FBI had given him of a violent anti-war protester who looked like me.

They had finally determined it wasn’t me. When I asked if he had photos of the civil rights marches I participated in as a college students a couple of years earlier, he pulled out the photos of this bearded youth with a placard saying, “Stop the Violence.” 

“That is you,” he said, with a laugh. “Big Brother is watching.” 

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The State of the Union Speech You’ll Never Hear

My Fellow Americans:

It is time we come clean about where we are and where we are
going.  I can no longer keep up the
pretense that everything is going to be alright just like that by snapping our
fingers. The world is changing and we have to change with it.

Early on in my term as President, I started a process to end
the era of American imperialism but I was timid about just coming out and
saying that we no longer can impose our will on other nations through the use
of our military and economic might as we have tried to so for so long.

I say to you tonight, we are a great nation among the league
of nations, committed to working together with other with respect to bring
about peace and prosperity around the world. If there were any doubt about
this, the globalization of technology and trade and the ability of even a small
cadre of terrorists to inflict great horror should make it clear to one and


The lowered expectations we must embrace globally are
reflected in the lowered expectations we must embrace domestically. We no
longer create wealth, we consume it, and so we must be better managers of what
we have.  We must go back to the roots of
what are forefathers saw as the birthright of all, the rights to life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness.

We need to work less and have more fun. We need to be happy
earning less and having fewer things and more connect with friends and family
and the people in our neighborhoods. Our lives for too long have been measured
by the size of our houses, the speed of our cars, by how much we can
conspicuously consume of the material world.

The great opportunity of our time is to end the civil war
that is tearing us apart and to nurture the ties that bind us together as a
nation. Toward that end I am inviting the leading Republican candidates to the White
House and offering them the chance to join a coalition government with me so
that we can together tackle the complex array of problems we face.

Our challenges will not be met by people in high places. It
will depend on every one of us to reach out and find the common ground where we
can begin to world a new America, an America where each one of feels ownership
stake, feels hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

So let’s get to work rebuilding America with less greed and
more loving kindness for each other.

God Bless America.

Addendum Email:

Before I speak tonight 

Barack Obama to me
show details 4:21 PM (28 minutes ago)

Ron —

I’m heading to Capitol Hill soon to deliver my third State of the Union address.

Before I go, I want to say thanks for everything you’re doing.

Tonight, we set the tone for the year ahead. I’m going to lay out in
concrete terms the path we need to take as a country if we want an
economy that works for everyone and rewards hard work and

I’m glad to know you’ll be standing with me up there.


Support President Obama. Make a donation today.

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Barnyard Politics, Musical Chairs and Apathy

Chatting with the Downtown News’ Jon Regardie before his Town Hall L.A. speech last week, mayoral candidate Austin Beutner blamed the failure of City Hall on “incumbency and not the incumbent,” observing that politics had become a lifestyle, a career for them, rather than a life choice to serve the public.

“I have a different
view than most people at City Hall,” Beutner says. “They’re all
bright, well-intentioned, high-minded folks, but I think we need to do things
very differently.”

Clearly, he was being far more generous in his choice of words than he really means, given how he introduced the phrase “barnyard politics” into the vocabulary of city politics and promised to talk more during the next 14 months about the order coming from the City Hall barnyard.
My own view of our elected officials isn’t all that different than Beutner’s. 
For all that I vilify and villainize Villain-raigosa and most of the rest of them, they aren’t really bad people as much they are self-servers who are too weak to stand up to a monolithic system controlled by the millions of dollars from corporations, developers, influence peddlers and unions that put them into office and keep them there. They do bad things because they either have no convictions or lack the courage of their convictions 
The only elected officials who actually had successful careers outside of politics and city government are City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and Councilman Bill Rosendahl whose cable TV position largely involved politics.  
Parks and Zine are retired cops and soon to be joined by another cop, Joe Buscaino. Englander, an auxiliary cop, Reyes, LaBonge, Garcetti, Perry, Greuel and Huizar have spent most of their adult lives in political jobs as staffers or electeds. Krekorian, Cardenas, Alarcon, Koretz and Wesson come to City Hall from the state Legislature.
Next year with as many as eight Council seats and the three citywide offices all open could be just as bad, maybe worse. Legislators or staffers intend to run for all the open Council seats and City Attorney. Zine, Greuel, Garcetti and Perry all hope to move up to higher city offices while Cardenas wants to join Janice Hahn in Congress and Alarcon hopes to return to the Legislature if he can avoid jail. .
It’s all just a game of musical chairs that offers no hope for a better future for the city — or the state or nation for that matter.
They all will promise the sun, the moon and the stars to voters to get elected yet again and, in truth, most if not all of them, could do a far better job of serving the public than they have ever done before.
But that isn’t going to happen unless the political culture of City Hall undergoes the kind of historic upheaval that occurred in 1973 with the election of Tom Bradley as mayor. 
A black liberal leading a city that for so long was run by a racist and narrow-minded elite transformed Los Angeles but the system has ossified in the 40 years since and race in what is now America’s most diverse city is no longer the issue it once was except in the pages of the LA Times where columnist Jim Newton wrote today that Herb Wesson is the first African-American to serve as Council President “so it’s tempting to see him in historic terms.”
No, it’s not, as Newton notes not even his black colleagues Parks and Perry support him. Wesson was Speaker of the Assembly long after Willie Brown became the longest serving Speaker, after Villaraigosa became the first Latino Speaker, after Cruz Bustamnate became lieutenant governor, after LA elected its first Latino mayor. He didn’t get his post because of his race or talent. He was put in his position by labor and the mayor to make sure that the Council remains as obedient as it has been for so long.
For far too long, the business and civic elite have stood on the sidelines or if they got involved in the political life of the city, settled for flattery of a commission appointment or crumbs from the table of power like tiny business tax cuts.
It’s time they paid attention and started to help reinvent our city government and our city by demonstrating respect for those less well off and helping to create a balance between the competing needs, values and interests of the city’s different communities.
We need a civic and political leadership that shares the risks and opportunities, the resources and benefits — not one that is looking for personal advantages.  

We need community activists to look beyond what they think is good for their own neighborhood or class and to join a conversation about how we rebuild LA for everyone’s benefit.
This isn’t about ideology. It’s about the quality of the lives of the people who live and work here and the future of what should be the greatest city in the world — not the first city in the West to resemble the Rust Belt with aging infrastructure and soaring poverty rates.
This election season with open primaries in June, a presidential election in November and wide-open city elections in March 2013 affords us the chance to change the conversation, to shake up the political system and to start working together for the common good.
It will take more than lip service from the politicians and apathetic indifference of the public. 
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Unraveling the redevelopment mess — My Sunday Column for Glendale, Burbank & Pasadena

Sooner or later, the bills come due in all our lives —
even in the lives of government agencies.

Just ask the people who bought a house they couldn’t afford or city officials
who got addicted over the years to draining vast amounts of tax dollars from the
state, from schools, from their own funds for general services to put them in a
kitty called community redevelopment.

What began after World War II as a modest way to
rehabilitate blighted neighborhoods became, after passage of Proposition 13
three decades later, a way for cities and counties to build parks, libraries,
affordable housing, shopping malls, entertainment complexes, luxury condos and
apartments, and a $52-million parking lot for a billionaire’s art museum in
downtown Los Angeles without the annoying problem of having to get two-thirds
of the people to support higher taxes.

All too often, blight came to mean anything officials wanted, an entitlement of
government to do whatever it wanted for whatever reason. Abuses by government
agencies — like seizing one person’s private property to give to another or
massive public subsidies that mainly enriched the rich — became as common as
successes that benefited communities by creating jobs, generating new revenues
or improving the quality of life.  
A year ago, Gov. Jerry Brown sought to put an end to all that by abolishing the
state’s 400 Community Redevelopment Agencies. No sooner did he win the fight to
kill them than the Legislature provided a loophole to allow their resurrection
if they turned over a combined $1.8 billion of their $5 billion in annual tax
revenue to the state this year and a modest $400 million in future years.

Just before Christmas, the state Supreme Court ruled the loophole
unconstitutional and set a Feb. 1 date for the death of the agencies.

Now, Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena and cities across the state want another
replay through legislation that would extend the drop-dead date to April 15 or
maybe next year or maybe never.

The irony of another resurrection of redevelopment agencies on Feb. 2,
Groundhog Day, and the movie of that name in which events replay and replay
over and over with changing scenarios was not lost last week on Glendale’s new
City Manager Scott Ochoa at a teleconference meeting of the San Fernando Valley
Council of Governments.

“Some folks would say good riddance, now we can start all over,” Ochoa told
staff and business leaders in a City Hall conference room last week and city
officials in Los Angeles, Burbank and Santa Clarita listening on phone lines.

“The problem is the dysfunctionality of the state hasn’t been rectified. We are
going to continue to have this problem. It will be like Groundhog Day until all
the money is gone.”

Cities are pulling out all stops to get the Legislature to give them a 10-week
reprieve despite the governor’s adamant opposition and the knowledge that they
will need one reprieve after another to actually work out the complexities of
how redevelopment will work in the future.





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Beutner Thumbs His Nose at Stench from City Hall

Smart, experienced, rich but self-effacing and very humorous — poor Austin Beutner still can’t get no respect from the MSM, the MainStreamMedia. 
His speech Thursday launching Town Hall L.A.’s program for mayoral candidates outlined how he would get “Los Angeles back to work” — trade, education/technology, tourism, manufacturing, transportation and small business — six ideas that earned him no more than a short story at the bottom of page three of the second section of the LA Times, a sarcastic put people “to sleep” angle in the LA Weekly and a predictable “talks jobs” headline at LA Observed. (Read the test here, listen to the whole speech here austin-1.mp3   Austin-2.mp3   austin-3.mp3)
The MSM disses Beutner, a $1-a-year jobs czar and deputy mayor brought in by Villaraigosa when his stock hit bottom, as lacking in charisma as if any of the other candidates were any more exciting, as if we aren’t all disappointed and angry over what happened to the city and our neighbohoods and our economy because we let Antonio sweep us off our feet and take us partying seven years ago.
Beutner dealt with the charisma question at the start of his 45-minute speech by saying how happy he was to see the Golden Globes honor “The Artist,” a silent film.
“I’m often not the loudest in the room so it’s encouraging for a guy like me,” he quipped to laughter from the audience. 
“But more importantly in the context of Los Angeles, it stands in stark contrast to a city where we hear a lot, we hear about the problems but we don’t see them getting fixed. We hear about failing schools, broken streets, budget deficits, and people out of work. It’s time we started hearing about solutions. It’s time for our government to start solving these problems.”
Beutner offered a lot examples of how to fix a lot of the problems and others showing how lack of leadership at City Hall, lack of urgency, lack of imagination, lack of respect for the public, lack of a commitment to public service have left the city far behind others and chased away the middle class.
In his speech and afterwards fielding questions from the audience and at a press conference, he ducked questions about a lot of specifics on how he would deal with some of the thorniest and most controversial issues like reducing the cost of city pensions and eliminating the budget deficit.
The election is still 14 months away and the City Hall insider candidates revered so highly in the MSM — Garcetti, Greuel and Perry — have had years in office to deal with those issue and failed miserably.
Personally, I’ve got an open mind about Beutner as mayor just as I do my friend talk show host Kevin James, who also is dissed by the MSM as if it is unthinkable that an outsider could win the election against the political hacks.
I didn’t believe it. In the summer of  2008 when Controller Laura Chick thought it impossible to beat Villaraigosa but he wound up getting only 54 percent of the vote nine months later against Walter Moore and Zuma Dogg
Things are changing quickly and these are volatile times that demand real leaders and a citizenry that pays attention and insists on a government that works and works for them. 
Getting Los Angeles back to work starts with getting City Hall back to work and anyone who thinks any of the insiders can do that is clearly uninformed or part of the 1 percent who is reaping the benefits of a weak and failing political machine.  
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