Corrupted Planning Rules and the Downward Spiral of Los Angeles: A Strategy to Turn L.A. Around

EDITOR’S NOTE: Retired LA City Planner Dick Platkin, now consulting to community groups and teaching about sustainable city planning, wrote a version of this article for the Summer 2012 issue of Progressive Planning magazine ( www.plannersnetwork.org ). The article provides a valuable analysis of what has gone wrong in L.A. and what it takes to fix the city. Platkin can be reached at rhplatkin@yahoo.com

“If you cannot predict, how can you plan?  The answer is clear; you cannot; you proceed blindly.” –– Gabriel Kolko, “Why America is Doomed to One Disaster After Another,” CounterPunch, May 14, 2012.

How the Planning Process Contributes to LA’s Malaise

By Dick Platkin

There is a widespread feeling inLos Angelesthat the bloom is off the rose, that a formerly dynamic city has been in the doldrums for several decades and that, at best, its future offers more of the same.  I have no argument with this view. Instead, I would like to explain how the city’s planning process has contributed to this malaise by accommodating a political process molded by economic forces.  Hopefully my account will also offer an alternative model to the governance and planning ofLos Angeles.

Part of the explanation is, of course, that LA has been whipsawed by global and national trends.  In this regard Gabriel Kolko’s article was about this country’s endless, futile, bankrupting foreign wars.  He argues there is no end in sight for these military interventions, and the U.S. government will continue to mindlessly wage them because they are no longer capable of either predicting or planning.

Sadly, the domestic consequences of these wars, combined with local government’s similar inability to predict and plan, have become a curse on American cities.

The bipartisan, neo-conservative foreign policy that Kolko dissected neatly dovetails with the neo-liberal (i.e., austerity, deregulation, heavy policing and surveillance) approach to local government is painfully visible in most large American cities, including Los Angeles.  In both cases the quirks of market forces, whether global or local, subvert the planning process because of our economic system’s regular booms, bubbles, and busts, as well as it periodic breakdowns into crises and conflicts.

CASE STUDY OF LOS ANGELES:  A close look at Los Angeles, the second largest metropolis in the United States, reveals how this downward spiral is unfolding, and how it is abetted by a corrupted planning process.

While the city’s increased emphasis on policing and surveillance parallels the globalized militarism of the United States, so too are City Hall’s selective business subsidies and tax breaks, encouragement of new real estate bubbles, and local austerity programs.   For example, in the past several weeks alone, the local press has reported a $67 million dollar tax break for a new, downtown hotel, unprecedented cutbacks in public education, and a large surge in police murders.

On the 20th anniversary of the 1992 civil disturbance that torched 1000 buildings, murdered 50 people, wounded over 10,000, and arrested another 10,000, Los Angeles is a sad sack of a city.  Despite City Hall and media boosterism, decay and decline are in the air.  While the city’s elected officials, nearly all centrist Democrats tethered to the real estate sector, still portray Los Angeles as a boomtown, the city is tired, aging, with many unattractive neighborhoods.  In reality, it perfectly reflects the broad plight of the United States described by Kolko.  Imperial over-reach is far from over and has already resulted in substantial domestic stagnation, with long-term prospects even worse.

Furthermore, the revival strategies of the Los Angeles’s business elites and their political sidekicks are comedic.  In response to long-term economic decline, accelerated by the bursting of the housing bubble, they have spared policing and spying, while otherwise cutting public payrolls, employee compensation and hours, and public services and infrastructure to the bone.  At the same time they are systematically deregulating private real estate investment and environmental review processes in the pollyannaish, neo-liberal belief that, investors will then rush in for another building boom – a tide that will lift all ships.  The absence of sufficient consumer demand due to the City’s stagnant economic base and the resulting high levels of unemployment, does not, apparently enter into their municipal strategy/business model.

To their credit, a small part of their calculation might be correct.  There certainly are enough dormant piles of capital stashed around this planet to build many new shopping complexes and upscale apartment buildings in the ritzier parts of Los Angeles.  City Hall may even find a few bold investors willing to plunk someone else’s money into the distressed inner-city neighborhoods that revolted 20 years ago in the largest urban unrest since New York City draft “riots” of 1863.  Even today, a drive through these scarred neighborhoods reveals how little they have changed and how much vacant land is ripe for real estate speculation.  In fact, some of the empty lots on major streets, such as Vermont Boulevard, are the remains of fires set in 1992 by local residents when their anger at police violence and decrepit neighborhoods boiled over.

Unlike the previous Watts civil disturbance of 1965, which was a catalyst for public investment, much of it from the Federal government, in the two decades since 1992 public investment has dwindled.  Furthermore, the disbanding of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) has reinforced these cutbacks since the CRA was one of the few remaining sources of public investment.

In response to these developments, local officials have never mentioned the obvious: military spending, coupled with tax breaks and bailouts for the well off, the national recession, and Prop. 13’s two-thirds requirement to raise taxes in California, have totally undermined state and local government.   Furthermore, deindustrialization due to the outsourcing of factory jobs to low wage foreign countries, has undermined the economic base of Los Angeles and many other American cities.

NEO-LIBERAL NOSTRUMS:  Instead, city officials have resorted to the same neo-liberal nostrums associated with Presidents Reagan and Clinton: deregulation of private investment to spur the economy.  Their municipal cure-all is the flush real estate sector that is supposed to ensue.  While there has been a minor boom in illegal garage conversions, McMansions, billboards and supergraphics, and marijuana dispensaries, there is little evidence that their arsenal of local give-aways has “unleashed” the private sector.

Continue reading Corrupted Planning Rules and the Downward Spiral of Los Angeles: A Strategy to Turn L.A. Around

Obamacare and the Supreme Court: A Chance to End — or Escalate — America’s Uncivil War

For my money, Chief Justice John Roberts’ Solomon-like splitting of the Obamacare baby gave us a place to stand so we can finally get to work solving the long list of worsening problems that have been neglected while we engage in a decades-long uncivil ideological war.

Less than an hour after CNN broke the news the nation’s high court had struck down the individual mandate — oops! — less than an hour after Roberts found a way to preserve Obamacare without setting a precedent or expanding the federal government’s power, it became clear this is really all about money.

Not money for health care, to be sure, but money to keep the fires of our national discontent burning hot so we can continue down the suicidal road of political gridlock and stalemate.

Shortly after 11 a.m., my email basket started filling up with demands for money to perpetuate the destructive war of words.

The Tea Party Express showed up at 11:04 a.m. Thursday with an appeal for contributions for its “immediate $100,000 REPEAL OBAMACARE MONEY BOMB.”

“We are at a pivotal time in our nation’s history and we cannot afford to sit back. We must not only focus on electing fiscal conservatives committed to repealing Obamacare in our own communities, but we must work together to elect them across the nation! Our children’s generation and the generations yet to come will judge us by how we respond to this ruling.”

It took my good friend Barack Obama two hours longer to put the touch on me with his usual personal email like all those inviting me dine with him and Michelle.

Ron —

This is a good day for millions of Americans who can continue to benefit from the protections and economic security provided by the Affordable Care Act.

While the Supreme Court’s decision should put to rest the debate over health care, Mitt Romney and the Republicans in Congress just can’t take yes for an answer.

My opponent said a short while ago that the first thing he would try to do as president is repeal the health care law. We can’t allow that to happen. So we have to win this election.

Please step up now and take ownership of this campaign by making a donation today:

Thank you for all that you do.

Barack

I had no idea the President of the Dis-United States had any idea I existed except as an email address but it turns out he knows all that I do.

Requests for money continuing pouring in all day, mostly from the newly re-energized right

“Today, our Country changed. Plain and simple,” wrote California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro.

“Our most prominent Chief Justice in history, John Marshall, famously said that the ‘power to tax involves the power to destroy.’ Now we have a Supreme Court Justice, John Roberts, who believes  ‘the power to tax involves the power to mandate … Simply stated, that means freedom has been lost …  Take the passion you feel right now and support our cause by donating $25, $50, or $100 today.”

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation wanted donations to fight a provision in the law that is “just a trick to force independent home health care providers into forced unionism. You see, these schemes corrupt the political process by enabling Big Labor’s political puppets to handpick unions as the sole representatives for thousands of care providers — including independent contractors and parents or grandparents who take care of sick or disabled children.”

A black Republican Congressman from Florida named Allen West appealed on behalf of a group called Gun Alerts for 1,000 contributors in the next 72 hours to “send a message to President Obama and the liberals in Congress that we’re committed to defeating Obamacare” because it “violates our individual rights … attacks religious freedom … is full of massive tax increases that will devastate our economy.”

For its part, the Heritage Foundation launched a fund-raising campaign called the “Repeal Obamacare Project.”

“The Supreme Court ruled to uphold Obamacare, an unconstitutional violation of personal liberty that strikes at the heart of American federalism,” the foundation’s email asserted in its opening sentence which I found curiously oxymoronic since the Supreme Court is the body that decides what’s constitutional as it did on Thursday

“By upholding Obamacare—including its mandate requiring people to buy a product or service at the federal government’s direction—the Court has done serious damage to the principle of limited government … And it brings to light a tragic misreading of the Constitution—the document our elected officials and appointed judges are sworn to defend and protect.”

There were other requests for money like the one this morning from Obama’s political adviser David Axelrod sharing a touching personal story with his friend “Ron” as he began his appeal:

“Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling was very personal to me. Thirty years ago, my daughter Lauren, then just seven months old, began having grand mal seizures. They wouldn’t stop for 18 years. Lauren’s epilepsy robbed her of her childhood, some of her capacities and, very nearly, her life. We were young parents then, just starting out, with lousy insurance I got from my job. And we very nearly went broke paying for Lauren’s uncovered care and medication.

“I was moved to tears when the Supreme Court affirmed the Affordable Care Act, because I know that other families won’t have to face the terror and heartache we knew. And that’s because of a president who had the courage to defy the politics and all the obstacles in order to fight for people like my Lauren.”

Dave, I assume I can call him that since he called me Ron, concluded by asking me to say I’m “standing with President Obama” by donating to his campaign.

The point is clear: Left, right and center — all they want is our money to continue to fight to the death like blood enemies as if we are not all Americans whose fates are bound together, as if nothing can ever be resolved even when the Supreme Court says so as in this case and the Citizens United corporate campaign funding ruling and everything else it decides.

Painful as it might be for people to understand, baseball games end after nine innings, football games after four quarters or they continue in extra innings or overtime until there is a final result.

The Supreme Court of the United States is the court of last resort whether any of us like what is decides or not.

This game is over. It’s time to move on and figure out how to make Obamacare work to improve the health of the nation or find a better way to do it.

It’s time to face the reality that we are undergoing a fundamental economic restructuring that requires dramatic changes in our society and culture. We no longer create wealth; we consume it.

So we cannot drive our economy on hyper-consumerism where everyone thinks they have to be a millionaire or live like one whether or not they can afford it. We need to create a happier and more sustainable and equitable nation like the Declaration of Independence said in defining our unalienable rights “to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

There is so much work to do that all those with their hands out trying to get money from us are not doing.

Ask yourself this: Are trying to bring us together to fix things or they driving conflict and confusion to benefit themselves?

Chief Justice John Roberts, in his wisdom, gave us the chance to end our uncivil war by reducing the Obamacare controversy to a simple matter of Congress’ right to impose a tax on those who don’t want health insurance while protecting the rights of the states from punishment by the federal government.

It Takes a Revolution to Save This Village — Citizen Activist Joyce Dillard Stands Up to AEG and the City

Joyce Dillard may never get her day in court to fight against the injustices and corruption she sees but she got two hours last night in formal mediation with AEG and the City of Los Angeles to make her case that the Farmers Field/Convention Center deal is a threat to the public health and safety.

For years now, Joyce has spent endless hours day after day going through ancient city archives to dig out vital information about how we have gotten to where we are and attending meetings of agencies that affect the health of our city and county that few go to. She is a researching dynamo.

She filed a protest comment challenging the 10,000-page environmental impact report that AEG spent millions of dollars on and millions more buying the state legislature to cripple the environmental review and legal processes through SB 292.

And then Joyce Dillard did what no other ordinary citizen among the four million residents of Los Angeles did: She demanded formal mediation under the CEQA-weakening SB 292.

Unlike the various non-profits with their hands out or the Dodgers new ownership looking for its own advantages, Joyce Dillard wanted nothing more than to see all laws upheld and the public protected.

Her hand was not out seeking something for herself any more than it has been in the hundreds, thousands, of protests she has filed demanding that city and county follow the law and put the public safety first ahead of all other considerations.

As a friend I went with her to a pre-interview with the professional mediators Denise Madigan and Peter Robinson who drew out and organized Joyce’s concerns from the impact on the fragile watershed, to the project’s cumulative impact on dwindling water and energy resources, deteriorating waste management systems, methane and earthquake dangers and ultimately serious questions about ownership of the property involved and the city’s right to serve as the legal agent to authorize and oversee this mammoth project.

It was a helpful and positive session that led to her getting a two-hour mediation session last week with representatives of the city and AEG.

But then Joyce submitted the list of people who would be joining her, ordinary citizens like her who are very smart and very concerned about the environment and the direction the city is heading. I was on her list as well.

AEG said, “No! No, because you were the only one who signed your protest comment and the law SB 292 only allows the person who signed the comment to participate in mediation.”

In plain language, the only citizen to protest was going to be denied her basic right to be heard while the Dodgers were allowed to change their lobbyist from Allen Madkins to Latham Watkins and the poverty and environmental non-profits could bring anyone they wanted to the table. But not citizen Joyce Dillard.

All I did was to tell people who mattered, people who I respected as people despite what some of the things they did for a living. that what they were party to was wrong.

“No Way to Treat a Lady” – that was my headline, that was the story I was ready to tell.

Much as I wanted to wash my hands of this and write a brutal indictment of this process and the contempt AEG – and the city – were showing a honorable and decent private person, I reached out to the only person I thought might help, Special Assistant City Attorney Jane Usher, who is working from dawn until late at night to humanely disinfect Skid Row of its rats, hypodermic needles and filth and to Bill Delvac, the lobbyist for AEG’s outrageous Farmers Field stadium deal.

Somehow they came together and overcame all the obstacles to give Joyce Dillard her chance to make her case, her chance to be heard.

I can’t talk about what was said last night because it was a confidential mediation seeking to find solutions in a free and open discussion. But I can tell you that Joyce Dillard did a remarkable presentation of what is wrong with this deal, what is wrong with every deal the cynical politicians and gutless politicians cut with developers, unions and all the other greedy interests that are the cancer of our collective lives.

I’m not sure anything that matters came out of our session other than Joyce Dillard got two hours to present her research and that AEG’s representative Bill Delvac took her seriously and left the door open for Joyce and her activist cohorts to present concrete solutions to the issues that concern them.

Joyce Dillard for this moment was the voice of the people of Los Angeles and that Delvac and Assistant City Attorney Tim McWilliams took seriously what she had to say and respected her as we all deserve to be respected.

For me, Joyce Dillard is a citizen hero. She works hard day after day, digging into records and attending meetings, and providing hard facts to help us make sense of the failure of our officials to serve us – we ought to build a statue to her on the new front lawn of City Hall, or better come in the thousands and occupy that space until we bring our officials to their knees.

If more of us had the courage and tenacity of Joyce Dillard and the hundreds of others citizen activists in all parts of the city to stand up for what we believe in, to come to a meeting room at City Hall late at night on a Tuesday in late June to make them listen to us, we would have a better city..

It doesn’t take a village. It takes a revolution to save the village.

Mysterious Goings-on in the Hollywood Community Plan Debate

Help solve the mystery: Who Killed Hollywood? Or is there another explanation to the strange events that occurred during debate on the disastrous Hollywood Community Plan.

The date was June 19, last Tuesday in the City Council. Supporters and opponents of the HCP — otherwise known as Garcetti’s Folly or the “Skyscraper City Plan” — got time to speak and then what passes for City Council debate began with everyone in the room knowing the vote as usual would be unanimous.

Hollywood activist Ziggy Kruse was filming the debate in the Council Chamber when she saw something strange occur.

It was 3 minutes, 10 seconds into Richard Alarcon’s raising the issue of the City Attorney’s office having suggested environmental protections in the HCP should be stronger — a proposal that apparently was off limits for public discussion as the stonewalling by top city planners indicates.

At that moment, the Council camera captures Paul Krekorian getting up out of his seat at the far end of the horseshoe and making a beeline to the dais as caught in this brief clip from the broadcast:

Ziggy spots the intensity of the conversation between Krekorian and Assistant City Attorney Dion Connell and keeps her camera following a visibly concerned Connell as he confers with other city officials over a few minutes while another city official whispers in Alarcon’s ear. The drama ends with Connell and Alarcon having a good laugh.

Hollywood community activists are looking to sue to block the HCP. arguing it is based on faulty data and needs a full EIR which the city avoided by claiming it’s just an update to the 1988 HCP.

A lip reader could have fun and maybe learn a lot studying the video of the conversations that Ziggy Kruse caught while Alarcon was hesitantly raising a curious question about the City Attorney wanting greater environmental protections.

“Honestly, I see both options as being legal,” Alarcon began without spelling out what options he meant. He then headed circuitously toward his question: “How far behind are we on our community plans?”

Planning Director Michael LoGrande gave him a long-winded response that never came close to answering the question so Alarcon pushed on asking, “So we are taking longer and longer to complete these community plans?”

LoGrande showed just how obtuse he is by double-talking without answering so Alarcon tried again by referring to “with the City Attorney’s proposal would that expedite our process or slow it down even further?”

LoGrande: “I’m not exactly sure of your question, what proposal is that?”

Stammering and clearly reluctant to explain, Alarcon said: “The proposal to uh increase the  uh environmental impact aspects … ”

Unable to answer, LoGrande turns it over to planner Kevin Keller who is even smoother at double-talking than LoGrande, blathering about nothing.

“That wasn’t my question,” said Alarcon, giving up on making his point that actually requiring full environmental protections in writing community plans would slow down the process, already years behind schedule, so why bother worrying about the impact of the quality of life and health and safety of the citizenry.

At precisely the moment that Keller starts speaking the Council camera panned to the horseshoe showing Councilman Paul Krekorian marching to the dais where he would engage in the whispered conversation with Assistant City Attorney Dion Connell.

Here is the full Channel 35 broadcast of the scene and the full Ziggy Kruse video. Sync them up with the sound from the broadcast and Ziggy’s without sound and watch the two realities: The feigned stupidity of city planners that was broadcast and the background mystery Ziggy captured:

 

Wesson to LaBonge: ‘We Could Have Saved Three Minutes of Our Lives if You Just Shut Up for Once’

Herb Wesson is a good man and in a great world I would salute him for his kind heart and good humor.

His appointment of Tom LaBonge and Ed Reyes as his left and left-er hand men is a testament to his willingness to settle for safe and shallow and his inability to reach inside for something greater than himself.

At the time he took over from Reverend/Rabbi/Priest Eric Garcetti, I referred to the Wesson team as “dumb and dumber and dumbest.” I had a deliberate order in mind with Herb as the dumb. But I was wrong. He is smart and cunning and his appointment of these two empty vessels to protect his position from rivals shows he isn’t so dumb after all.

Because if you watch Herb as often as I have, you have seen the innate intelligence and sensitivity of the man, the wit and spontaneity, the kindness and tolerance he affords those annoying gadflies stinging the Council’s backsides even as they are ignored or go too far.

Herb Wesson is a good man. That’s what makes his failures as Speaker of the Assembly under Gov. Gray Davis and as President of the LA City Council today so unforgivable. He knows the difference between right and wrong even if he has forgotten it.

LaBonge may protect his indifference to the needs of the people he serves by pretending to be a blathering idiot with a good heart. I’m not so sure on either point.

Reyes isn’t stupid. He just has the intellectual dexterity of a quadriplegic.

The video I am presenting to you comes from the Council’s June 19 non-debate of the Hollywood Community Plan that sets the laws and the rules for developers to do anything they want no matter how destructive and unsustainable in Hollywood with the only conditions being approval of the Planning Commission and Council.

The same kind of open slather development plan will soon be coming to a neighborhood near you if the community still has the appearance of being viable despite the broken roads and sidewalks, failing schools and demoralization of long-time residents.

In other words, nothing you do as a citizen, resident or business owner matters. Every single development is discretionary to the power structure which is nothing but a political machine without any effective opposition.

The Hollywood Community Plan was adopted unanimously despite broad community opposition — dismissed by Garcetti as an agreement on all but minor points because the perfect should not be the enemy of the good. Nonetheless, lawsuits will be filed over the flagrant contempt for public process and public process.

Like he usual does, LaBonge could not resist putting his three minutes of stupid nonsense into the record – something that Wesson could not resist pointing out publicly was an embarrassment to the Council and the city and most of all an act of utter contempt to the people who feel the quality of their lives are threatened by what the Council unanimously approved as the first step in a long process of doing exactly the same thing to every community in the city.

You elected LaBonge three times after he served in top city jobs for Council President John Ferraro, Mayor Richard Riordan, the Department of Water and Power. He is paid a lot of money and will get 75 percent of it for the rest of his life plus health insurance and protection for his widow if she should outlive him.

You tell me: Who should be held accountable?

Sign of the Times: City Set to Authorize $40 Million in Tax-Free Bonds for Exclusive Buckley School in Sherman Oaks

Leave it to Tom LaBonge and Paul Koretz to step up to the plate on behalf of the exclusive Buckley School in Sherman Oaks to provide the city’s authority so it can borrow $40 million in tax exempt bonds to carry out a campus expansion that the community blocked a dozen years ago.

We’re talking about a school that boasts among its graduates Kim and Rob Kardashian, Paris and Nicky Hilton, Christian Brando and so many others from privileged backgrounds whose families can afford the tuition shown on Buckley’s website:

What LaBonge and Koretz have rushed on to Tuesday’s agenda is a motion to hold a quickie hearing on Wednesday to approve the California Municipal Finance Authority issuing tax exempt bonds for Buckley as it has done for so many other private educational and medical facilities, even corporations like Chevron which was able to get $250 million in bonds.

The roster of recipients of CMFA’s largess includes such religious-bases private schools as the Christian universities Azusa Pacific and Biola — more than $100 million each — and Westmont College $65 million, Catholic Mater Dei High School $25.5 million and non-sectarian Lycee International de Los Angeles $12 million (Tuition $10,000 to $15,000).

Talk about separation of state and religion, private and public — not when it comes to issuing tax-free bonds.

Clearly, I’m the last one to catch on to this scam that is being used to deprive government treasuries of a share of the profits earned by bondholders and to reduce the cost of borrowing while increasing their access to money of private institutions — effectively reducing their costs and improving their facilities.

In contrast, public school teachers are being fired, class sized increased, the school year shortened and adult education programs for people struggling to improve their lot in life gutted.

Not to worry, CMFA proudly boasts it “has donated over $3.50 million to California charities through our giveback program,” including three grants of $25,000 each just this month to three nonprofits dealing with mentally disabled children, foster parents and child care for low income families.

Here’s the CMFA’s mission statement:

The California Municipal Finance Authority (“CMFA”) is a Joint Powers Authority created to strengthen local communities by assisting with the financing of economic development and charitable activities throughout the State of California. With the goal of giving back to California communities, the CMFA assists local governments, non-profits and businesses with the issuance of taxable and tax-exempt financing aimed at improving the quality of life in California. To date, over 150 municipalities have become members of CMFA.

Imagine that 150 cities have jumped aboard this conduit for tax breaks for the rich and better educations for their children — and it’s all done in the name of charity.

You take LaBonge and Koretz at their word: No risk, no cost to the the public in this deal.

The Curious Case of Greg Krikorian: Does an Underdog, Under-funded Candidate Stand a Chance Against an Incumbent?

It’s not a state secret — just about everybody knows California is broke and the Legislature is broken, and has been ever since voters took the law into their own hands and passed Proposition 13, stopping the government from jacking up taxes every time they wanted a buck.

Essentially, our Assembly and Senate representatives have been on strike for more than 30 years no matter whether the governor was a Democrat or Republican — mostly Republican — or which party was calling the shots in the Legislature, mostly Democrats.

Voters have tried everything to break the stalemate in Sacramento, from term limits to locking up money for schools in Proposition 98. A lot of people thought things would change with an open-primary system and creation of an independent citizens commission to draw districts that were fair instead of gerrymandered in a way that made almost every seat safe for far-right Republicans or far-left Democrats.

On June 5, those reforms were tested and found wanting. Every indication from the primary elections is that the same old ideologues on the fringes of the political spectrum will rant and rave at each other and none of the people’s problems will be solved.

That’s why the curious case of Greg Krikorian is worth taking a look at.

In the 43rd Assembly District that runs from La Cañada through Glendale and Burbank into the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village and Silver Lake, voters have elected Democrats by 2-to-1 margins in recent years.

Yet, Krikorian, a longtime Glendale school board member who only jumped into the race against incumbent Democrat Mike Gatto at the last minute in March when no other challenger emerged, came within 12 percentage points in the primary.

He was outspent 15 to 1 — more than $4 a vote for Gatto to 35 cents a vote for Krikorian, who faces a voter registration gap of 44% to 26% and a Gatto campaign war chest of more than $700,000 versus the barely $50,000 he has.

Owner with his father, John, of a magazine publishing business that produces “Senior Living” and “Business Life,” Krikorian conceded he only has “a chance” to upset Gatto.

“The New York Giants with Eli Manning came in from nowhere and won the Super Bowl. No one thought the L.A. Kings were going to do it. No one thinks Krikorian is going to do it. But we are. I know I got a chance. We can do it.”

(READ FULL STORY)

The State of Apartment Living in LA: Housing Code Violations Found in 90 Percent of All Units

Digging around this week in videos of Paul Krekorian’s Budget Committee hearings last month, I stumbled across this discussion with Housing Department officials about code violations in the city’s nearly 800,000 apartment units.

The committee’s interest spurred by Mitch Englander appeared to be whether there was more money to be squeezed out of the four-year cycle of all the units, inspections that the city charges landlords a modest $43.32 to inspect.

What Krekorian found sobering, you might find shocking:

  • Some 300,000 citations are issued each year.
  • About 90 percent of the nearly 200,000 units inspected each year are cited for violations.
  • Only 10 percent are violation free.
  • Less than 1 percent of landlords face any form of prosecution.

You have to wonder why this has never come up before.

Wannabe Mayor Garcetti: ‘People Are Free to Move Out of Hollywood Because It Is Overly Dense’

People always tell the truth even when they are lying through their teeth because as Freud showed a long time ago, the unconscious is very powerful and given to eruptions like the earthquake faults beneath us.

Eric Garcetti is a prime example, proof of what I say, because he is so self-conscious, so contrived, rehearsed and scripted, in almost everything he says that the truth slips out under his breath or in a throwaway line as it did when he was blowing smoke Tuesday to obscure what the controversial Hollywood Community Plan Update was really about.

It’s about high-density skyscrapers subsidized by taxpayers for the benefit of developers cashing in on the billions of dollars in previous taxpayer investment to restore Hollywood to a measure of its former glory.

Hollywood is just the beginning. Six more community plan updates — a cynical device to get around environmental laws — will be rolling out soon to revamp land use and zoning rules to allow high-density development in your neighborhood.

The excuse for increasing density is proximity to a transit corridor which includes just about anything from rapid buses, light rail or subway stops.

So when they ask you to make permanent in November the half-cent sales tax increase for the subway-not-quite-to -the-sea, you should understand it’s not to build an efficient public transit system. It’s to build skyscrapers in your neighborhood.

Pulling the Plug on Public Access to Save $20,967 — What Are You Going to Do About It?

Back in 2003 when Mitch Englander was his chief of staff, Councilman Greig Smith, with support from Janice Hahn, proposed creating a network of video conferencing stations with fax machines and computers available for ordinary citizens to communicate with City Hall and speak at Public Comment during City Council meetings.

The motion began:

The City of Los Angeles is one of the largest, most culturally diverse and geographically dispersed cities in the country. Nearly 4 million Los Angeles residents speaking 92 languages live and work in 97 neighborhoods located across 472 square miles of hills and valleys. Travel during peak times is often slowed by freeway congestion, mass transit difficulties, and other transportation-related issues. These challenges often make it difficult for City residents to visit City Hall and communicate with the City Councilmembers regarding issues pending before the City Council. Widely used, low-cost technology at key locations could help bridge this communication gap … If implemented properly, a video conference based system will complement ongoing efforts to bring City government closer to City residents using modern technology.

Nine years later, LA is still a vast, sprawling city with amazing cultural diversity among its four million people who are dispersed over 472 square miles. They still find it difficult to move about because of a wretched public transit system, the nation’s most congested and potholed roads.

And now more than ever, LA is in desperate need to bridge the gap, facilitate communication with Council members and bring city government closer to residents using modern video-conferencing technology that has gotten so cheap and available using Skype and other services, even Facetime on I-pad.

What took Smith two years of begging and dealing to achieve — videoconferencing from Van Nuys and San Pedro that allows citizens to comment publicly to the Council during meetings –took his successor Englander just two minutes to kill effective July 1.

The excuse Englander and his Valley Council colleagues Paul Krekorian, Paul Koretz and Tony Cardenas plus public access “champion” Bill Rosendahl used in the May 7 committee hearings on the budget was to save money — exactly $20,976, for part-time contract workers paid $19 an hour four hours to operate the system at the 138 Council meetings a year.

That’s right cutting off the 1.5 million people in the Valley and 80,000 more in San Pedro from the ability to exercise their constitutional right to be heard by their government and to seek redress for their grievances saves $20,976 — out of $7.2 billion in the city budget.

In an effort to please the Budget Committee which demanded a report to justify this anti-democratic action (CAO-memo-videoconferencing), the City Administrative Office came up with an additional cost of $24,821 in direct and indirect costs to have a General Services police officer standing guard — an officer who will soon be getting a healthy raise by making him an LAPD cop and probably still be assigned to protect Van Nuys City Hall from Al Qaeda terrorists.

The video of the May 7 Budget Committee meeting shows the dangerously ambitious Krekorian honing in on how many people used the service in the last year: 20 in San Pedro, 419 in Van Nuys.

“Was any effort made to distinguish how many distinct people that made up?”

“That is not the number of unique visitors but the number of times the service was used,” responded Mark Wolf of Internet Technology. “I would say in general just from my observing the meetings that maybe there is a core of 12 people who utilize it.”

The same is true, of course, most days at the City Council Chamber itself so why not be honest and tell the truth: The public is so alienated from the farce of government at City Hall that only those with a special interest and gadflies ever participate.

Honesty is beyond their ability as Englander shows with his praise for those who used the service, like Miriam Fogler and Rich Nightingale and the other regulars, because of the high cost and waste of time of going downtown to comment to public officials who don’t listen to what they have to say anyway.

Then, he pulled the plug — not just on the gadflies but on the right of all of us to speak out without losing a whole day and wasting a lot of money.

He called for ending the program “not for lack of participation . . . but right now when every dollar counts right now when we’re looking to staff and fund critical services, and we’re talking about eliminating jobs, critical jobs, mechanics that work on fire trucks . . . this is not the time to continue funding” remote access.

How dumb does he think we are? Does he even know what he’s saying?

Last week, they gave $67 million in tax dollars to the nation’s second biggest hotel chain and agreed to pay $300,000 to an out-of-town law firm in case somebody sues to block how they gerrymandered Council districts

This is chump change and they know it. They are liars and they know it  although sometimes I think they get so used to lying as a way of life they may actually believe their own nonsense.

Englander even keeps referring to $45,000 being available when he knows full well the cop’s salary isn’t available for other uses.

Then, he refers to using the money for 311 services which have been cut back sharply because as Krekorian pipes in that serves everybody and not just the few. But then somebody whispers in Englander’s ear that it should go to ITA and Krekorian applauds  Rosendahl is ecstatic as if $20,976 is going to restore public access TV when the Council has stolen the $5 million a year cable subscribers pay specifically to fund that.

Not to be left out, Koretz offered his analysis: “When people want to be heard about something important, they come here . . . even though it seems like a great idea, I don’t think the actualization of it is worth the present cost.”

Oblivious to what he was saying, Koretz hit on a truth: The actualization of what City Hall is doing is not worth the cost.

That is exactly the reason so many people are angry, why only gadflies bother to speak up at meetings, why so few people vote.

No, this isn’t about public access. It’s about cutting off public access.

Not to worry, Krekorian reassures: “If people do feel the need to come to Van Nuys City Hall and address the Council directly, they have that opportunity on a monthly basis.”

Not exactly monthly but from time to time.

Maybe the time has come for all you Neighborhood Council and homeowner and community group members who have left it to gadflies to speak for the city to do something constructive and fight for the rights of all.

Will you organize a massive turnout at Van Nuys City Hall on Friday to protest or will you sit back and worry about what Englander characterized as your real concerns like “potholes and tree trimming.”