Perry, James, Garcetti and Greuel Face Grilling by CD5 Homeowners: Mayoral Forum Live on Ustream Saturday 10 a.m.

Video streaming by Ustream

Marcia Selz, president of the Council District 5 Home Owners Association, and I will be asking the tough questions of the leading mayoral candidates on Saturday with a live broadcast starting at 10 a.m. at

This one of the best informed and organized community groups in the city so we are sure to find out a lot about these wannabe mayors — Councilwoman Jan Perry, radio talk show and attorney Kevin James, Councilman Eric Garcetti and Controller Wendy Greuel.

How will they fix L.A.? How will they balance the budget, pave the streets and sidewalks, solve the pension crisis?

Tune in and be informed.

My Thanksgiving Column: Holiday philanthropy is vital in time of cutbacks

Charity begins at home — and for Southern California communities that was never more important than it is today, when government is cutting back sharply on providing services and funding for those in need, while poverty is soaring amid enduring affluence nearby.

That was my take-away from an extraordinary event last week at Valley Presbyterian Hospital where more than 100 nonprofit service providers met with major Los Angeles-area funders, including the Weingart Foundation and California Community Foundation and experts in managing and operating charities.

It was timed for Thanksgiving and the start of the season of giving, to be sure. But more importantly, it marked a critical step, long overdue, to place the San Fernando Valley’s philanthropic identity high on the civic agenda. It serves as a call to action for communities throughout the Los Angeles County region.

Most of all, it was a recognition of the dramatic demographic changes that have transformed the Valley from being America’s quintessential suburb – the nation’s largest overwhelmingly middle class (and white) enclave – into what is now America’s quintessential urban core where the divide between rich and poor is deepening and middle class opportunity shrinking.

The contrast between rich and poor is stark, according to data culled from a 2011 study called “A Portrait of California.”

Residents of communities like Panorama City and Arleta have shorter life expectancies, much lower incomes, and much higher rates of diabetes. One-third to half of adults lack high s chool diplomas, and a third as many have college degrees than communities like Woodland Hills.

On “average,” the Valley remains comparatively affluent, but as Bill Allen, head of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. and former head of the Valley Economic Alliance, noted:

“This valley is made of distinctly different communities. There is significant wealth along the foothills of this community. But there are significant challenges with poverty along the Valley floor, particularly in the Northeast Valley. … Participation in the labor force is critical for both physical and psychological health. Losing a job undermines well-being, erodes self-esteem and can chip away at our very identity.”

That was not news to participants in the conference Hiding in Plain Sight: Engaging Philanthropy With San Fernando Valley Nonprofits, an event organized by Valley Council of Governments head Robert Scott, Valley Economic Alliance leader Ron Wood, Valley Community Foundation head Peter McCarty, and Valley Nonprofit Resources Chairman Thomas Backer, among others.


My Sunday Column: A Question of Legislative Grease — The Truth About Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s Incredible Boast

There are no angels in politics, at least not for long.

Power corrupts, even a little power, even the illusion of a little power can corrupt. That’s why everyone who gets in the political game becomes tainted to one degree or another or they wouldn’t be a player for very long. It’s only a question of time.

Politics is a dirty business, from the big time in Washington to the medium time in Sacramento and Los Angeles, even in the small time in suburbia. Nothing gets done without the grease that dirties the hands of everyone involved, even the ones who try hard to be honest.

I bring this up because of an eye-catching assertion Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) made in a debate last month with Republican challenger Greg Krikorian in the heavily Democratic district that includes Glendale, Burbank and surrounding communities.

Gatto was able to raise $998,069.53 this year, well over five times as much as his challenger and was so sure of victory he gave some 25% of his campaign money to the Democratic Party and other candidates — and still kept $600,000 in the bank for future political uses.

According to official records at Cal Access, Gatto spent only $173,929.92 in the campaign — just $224.97 more than Krikorian was able to raise in total.

Money clearly did not make the difference. That’s why it is so hard to understand the statement that Gatto uttered during the League of Women Voters debate barely a week before the election:

“I am the only legislator out of all 120 who has never taken a sponsored piece of legislation. So I hear all this talk about special interests and with all due respect it’s a bit of, a little bit of a whopper. I have never taken a bill from a special interest. I have never taken a sponsored bill. All of my bills tend to be the, dare I say, wonkish, dare I say a little bit, a little bit, you know, they’re not the necessarily sexy ones that garner the headlines.”


VIDEO REPORT: Sales Tax Hike Is Nothing But a Blank Check to Perpetuate Failure and Corruption

If you took Herb Wesson and Paul Krekorian at their word — which would be foolish given these failed state legislators bald-faced lying and deceit — you would think that giving City Hall $215 million a year more would solve the never-ending budget crisis, pave sidewalks and streets, trim trees, restore full service at our libraries.

Wesson and Krekorian led the hard sell campaign for a one-half percent sales tax hike as if it were solely for “public safety,” to avoid the 500 layoffs Chief Charlie Beck threatens to carry out on cops without the money.

It’s all a fiction, a phony narrative scripted in the back rooms to claim it is a “general tax” increase requiring a simple majority to pass on the March ballot instead of the “specific tax” for public safety that they are promising to use the money for.

It’s all a lie, a big lie. The revenue will merely cover the next round of scheduled employee pay hikes that are coming due.

Watch these videos and see through the lies yourselves, and be sure to note that the normally loquacious Dennis Zine who wants to be Controller and the always pious Eric Garcetti who wants to be mayor voted against the tax hike without having the courage to speak during the debate.

They were joined by the mealy-mouthed Mitch Englander who represents the city’s only Republican district and Jan Perry who strengthened her mayoral campaign by speaking out sharply against this fraud on the public.

My Sunday Column: Measure J loss is a victory for the people — a chance to demand a real public transit system

We can’t keep on destroying the public transit system in order to save it — that surely is the lesson we need to learn from the defeat of Measure J on Tuesday.

We all want a real public transit system. We want to park our cars and ride comfortably to where we want to go. But Measure J was phony, a taxpayer rip-off that was brought down by an extraordinary coalition of the rich and poor and so many from virtually every corner of the region. It was historic and offers a blueprint of what people can do in defense of their own interests if they respect the interests of others.

For more than a century, the rich got richer profiting from sprawling development of this giant county. The demographics may have changed, but greed knows no racial or other boundaries, and so they are seeking to profit from vertical — rather than horizontal — development without building the kind of public transit system that is needed.

The King of Greed in L.A. today, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — in a desperate effort to salvage his own political legacy — drove support for Measure R four years ago knowing full well the $30 billion from a one-half-percent sales tax hike over 30 years was a fraction of the cost of building the subways, light rails, freeways and bridges he sought.

The transportation lobby — with generous aid from contractors, consultants, construction trades and naifs, like cyclists — managed to fool two-thirds of voters.

Needing a lot more money, they lobbied Congress — Republicans and Democrats alike — for billions as if the largest city in the largest state that always votes Democratic has any real leverage. The result was they got far less than needed, so they came up with Measure J to borrow against another 30 years of sales tax revenue — as much as $90 billion — to have a chance to deliver what they had promised.

But there were issues.

Since 2008, bus service was gutted by 1 million hours, persecuting the transit-dependent and making their lives so much harder with fewer routes and longer waits for service when everybody everywhere knows it isn’t a “transit system” without high connectivity and high frequency of service.


2JobBob: A Parting Shot at Shameless Assemblyman Blumenfield Who Doesn’t Want the Job He’s Seeking

Before you mindlessly cast your ballot Tuesday and re-elect Bob Blumenfield in the heavily   Democratic Southwest San Fernando Valley, consider that he’s also running for the City Council to double his pay and double his destructive ways.

With access to unlimited dirty special interest money, 2JobBob — who as Budget Chair is the legislator responsible as much as anyone for California’s endless cycle of phony budgets and massive deficits –plans to resign by June, leaving you without representation for six months and costing you $3 million for a special election.

That is totally public service, not self-service.

Here’s a guy who can’t even tell the simplest truth about why he is supporting Howard Berman in what now appears to be his hopeless challenge of Brad Sherman in what has become the ugliest and costliest general election for Congress between two members of the same party with virtually identical voting records.

Talk about self-destruction, here is absolute proof that professional politicians and the special interests who buy them do not give a damn about you or your interests. It’s all lip service and manipulation.

That’s where 2JobBob couldn’t help but put his two cents in during the campaign’s closing weeks since he faces only a token challenge from Republican Chris Kolski, a political novice with little money and no hope beyond his own optimistic and cheerful nature.

Using lawn signs that double up as ads for Berman, Blumenfield has gone so far in the closing days of the veteran Congressman to send out email blasts touting the tepid support his man got from President Obama (to match Sherman’s tepid support from Bill Clinton) and what he calls, beneath the American flag and the log Election 2012:

Top ten reasons why I am supporting Howard Berman

And so Blumentfield’s missive to thousands of constituents — who don’t have a clue who 2JobBob is despite his two terms of serving his party, labor unions, Indian gaming syndicates, and various medical organizations that rip you off — begins with a deceit:

“I am writing to ask you to do something I believe is extremely important for our community and our Nation:   If you live in the San Fernando Valley’s 30th Congressional District – please vote for Congressman Howard L. Berman.

“I’ve personally known and worked with both Howard Berman and his opponent (Brad Sherman) for many years and the choice couldn’t be more clear.”

Notice how 2JobBob “worked with” Berman and Sherman but no mention that he “worked for” only Berman and found in the Valley’s long-lost Congressman a mentor who launched his disciple’s political career.

He then lists three reasons to choose Berman over Sherman — all of them are praise for Howard from obscure magazines none of you have ever read and probably only heard of one, Foreign Policy Magazine.

From there, the brains of the state budget gets lost in six-lettered reasons and five bullet points before concluding with reason No. 10: “Howard Berman is one of the most ethical and good hearted people I know … ‘

If it’s good enough for 2JobBob, it ought to be good enough for you — isn’t that the way Democracy in America works?

My Sunday Daily News Column: 10 years later: How secession (almost) change the Valley

On the wall of my home office hangs a framed picture that I treasure as a symbol of the million or more stories I wrote or edited in my four decades as a newspaperman, a single front page dated May 26, 1996.

“What if the Valley were . . . THE CITY,” reads the headline above an artist’s map of the San Fernando Valley, the place I’ve called home for so long I can hardly remember all the other places I lived.

“America’s safest, richest city,” declares the headline beneath the picture. The story adds that the Valley would be America’s sixth largest and most integrated big city, pushing the remaining portion of L.A. into third place behind Chicago.

It’s the article that launched the San Fernando Valley secession movement, along with showing the Valley did not get – and still does not get – a “fair share” of city services while paying an inordinate share of city taxes.

In the late 1970s, the power elite of L.A. had made secession impossible. But the grass-roots yearning for independence and the Daily News’ articulation of the issues forced the state Legislature – with bipartisan support from our own Assembly members Bob Hertzberg and Tom McClintock – to make secession at least theoretically possible.

Theoretically is the right word, since Valley cityhood never stood a chance because the law that was approved required a dual vote in support: the Valley and Los Angeles as a whole.

It was a brutal and unfair fight: A 10-1 inancing advantage against secession and the rigid opposition of all those with power – the unions and special interests that feed off of City Hall and what passes for a civic elite. They all looked down their noses at the Valley, but they couldn’t bear the thought of losing L.A.’s middle-class cash cow.

Monday marks the 10th anniversary of the secession vote. Despite intense campaign against it, 50.7 percent of Valley voters supported cityhood. However, it lost citywide by a 2-1 margin.

As managing editor of the Daily News at the time, I believed the Valley had to stand up for itself and demand respect from City Hall. Secession was the best available tool to achieve that whether it succeeded or failed.

In recent years, as a blogger, columnist and citizen activist I have encountered hundreds of people in every part of the city who yearn to escape the clutches of the failed political machine that rules City Hall and ignores their values and needs.

My answer is always the same: It was a fixed game back then, and it still is today. If you want City Hall’s respect, you are going to have to organize and seize power for yourselves. They will not give it to you.

Still, I wonder often about what might have happened – what if the Valley really was the city? What would be different?


My Sunday Column: Unraveling Measure J — Will It Actually Build the Transit System We Want?

Even if the outcome of nearly every race in California from president on down is certain, your vote still matters when it comes to ballot measures, most of which can go either way: death penalty, three-strikes law, competing soak-the-rich tax-increase schemes and L.A. County Measure J, which more than any other actually has a direct impact on the quality of all our lives.

My own view is that extending the one-half percent sales tax through 2069 just four years after we agreed to pay the Measure R transit tax for 30 years without knowing they would burn our money in just 10 years by borrowing against future revenue is premature and unnecessary.

Worst of all, it’s just lines on a map — not a transit system, which requires high frequency of service and good connectivity to get you from where you are to where you want to go. That isn’t happening now with a million hours of bus services being cut and fares rising, making life even harder for the transit-dependent and the working poor.

Yet a lot of people I respect, like Ara Najarian — a Glendale city councilman and member of the Los Angeles County Transportation Authority — tell me I’m dead wrong.

“I was on the ballot pamphlet as an opponent of Measure R,” Najarian told me last week. “But in the last three years I’ve seen how that money is being put to good use, scrutinized. There’s no graft, no payoffs, no bribery.

“What I’ve seen at the board level, I’ve seen a lot of rancor, and a lot of argument and discussion. Everyone is watching their neighbors’ projects to make sure that no one takes advantage of the funding they’ve been allocated. That’s what the fights are about.”

Say it ain’t so, amigo, I said, putting Najarian on the defensive on his beliefs as a moderate Republican in smaller government and lower taxes.