Friday Roundup: Roasting Shorty, Killing Wal-Mart, Acting Regionally, and Chatting about Money, Guns and Pets

City Maven Alice Walton provides more than you would ever want to know about the Herb Wesson roast last night at the Beverly Hilton — unless, she says, you ” love jokes about short men, strippers, the Korean community and redistricting.”

It was sort of a “get shorty” affair with all the city’s big shots cracking jokes at the Council’s “Mr. Big” and all the special interests seeking special favors like Westfield, AEG, garbage haulers and Clear Channel Airports (part of the global digital billboard advertising empire) chipping in half a million bucks for the Diabetes Association.

Don’t you just wish with all your might that you were a somebody in this godforsaken town.

Notably absent from the shindig was Wal-Mart which may explain better than anythiing why Wesson’s second in command, little Ed Reyes, and wannabe mayor Eric Garcetti, want to keep the company from opening a badly needed smallish grocery store in Chinatown.

In a case of whatever labor boss Maria Elena Durazo wants your city officials will give, Reyes and Garcetti have proposed a special ordinance stripping Wal-Mart of its right “to build on property that has been vacant for decades, and in accordance with the site’s intended use,” as the LA Times puts it politely in an editorial calling their action “unfair.”

Joe Hicks and David Lehrer take a tougher stance in the Jewish Journal, expressing their disgust with how the Council shows “obvious contempt” for our intelligence and treats us like “fools.”

“We aren’t Muppets and we aren’t idiots and our electeds ought not treat us as such. If they have a problem with Wal-Mart because their union supporters do—admit it. If those concerns trump new jobs and enlivening a neighborhood that needs retail be honest about it. Don’t hide behind a façade of concern that is transparently dishonest.”

Perhaps, the retailing giant should just give in to City Hall’s extortion, pay off the Councilmen and agree to a project labor agreement like everybody else has to in order to do business in LA. Maybe that has something to do with the city’s massive job losses.

Speaking of LA’s rotten economy, sober minds and deep thinkers were on full display Thursday at Global Cities Initiative at the University of Southern California where the focus was on how LA is “a city primed to take advantage of the global economy,” reports Joel Fox at his website.

“While Los Angeles and California are a dynamic economic areas, no longer an outpost in the Wild West but a gateway to the world, as USC president Max Nikias said, it’s clear the state and Southern California region still have to overcome governance roadblocks and anti-business practices to flex their economic muscle.”

The common thread of the program — speakers included Bob Hertzberg, BNSF Railway CEO Matthew Rose and the Brookings Institution’s Bruce Katz — was think locally, act regionally in the global marketplace.

Katz is interviewed at length in David Abel’s “Planning Report” where he argues convincingly that a “new normal” is evolving in which competition between big cities and their suburbs is as counter-productive as managing the U.S. economy in a changing world from Washington.

What he advocates is the metropolitan regions around big cities working together to develop their assets for everyone’s benefit instead of trying to take jobs from each other as has been so common for so long using redevelopment funds.

“Clearly the rules have changed,” he told Abel. “I would say over the next decade and onwards, being globally fluent and understanding your special position in the world and acting on that position through these sharp networks of trading cities will almost be a prerequisite for city and metropolitan success.

And finally, here’s a clip from NBC’s “The Filter with Fred Roggin” which is being broadcast tonight as usual at 6:30 p.m.Fridays at 6:30 pm on Charter 304, Cox 804, Time Warner 225, Verizon FIOS 460.

The topics that social ethicist Charlotte Laws and I discussed were money, guns and pets.

Ronnie’s Rants on Radio and TV: The NFL, HPV, Hoodies and Dream Act

KRLA-870 radio talk show host Kevin James and I talked

Thursday aboukevinjames1.pngt recent developments in the billionaires’ competition for an NFL stadium in the Los Angeles market with Ed Roski’s City of Industry plan gaining traction over Phil Anschutz’ because the financials provide more profit to the league. Click here to listen.
On NBC’s “The Filter with Fred Roggin” to be broadcast tonight on NBC’s digital channel (225 on Time Warner), commentator Megan Barth and I talked about the new law allowing in-state tuition and scholarships for illegal immigrant college students, the new law allowing children to get the HPV vaccine against STDs without parental permission and knowledge and the no hats, no hoodies anti-crime measure for shoppers in Studio City, Toluca Lake and North Hollywood.


Advertisements for Myself: Radio, TV and Newspapers

Here’s my Sunday column for the Glendale-Burbank News-Press & Leader, followed by links to appearances on NBC’s “The Filter with Fred Roggin” and on Kevin James’ show on KRLA 870:

The Political System Only Serves Itself

Drive down any main
street and it is hard not to notice all the empty shops, the “Going Out Of
Business” and “For Lease” signs, the proliferation of 99-cent and dollar

Book stores and record shops have largely disappeared. Major electronics
retailers like Circuit City are long-gone, Fry’s greets customers with leaflets
declaring they’ll match any Internet price and now Best Buy plans to wall off a
quarter of its giant stores and rent the rest of the space to grocers, beauty
suppliers — anybody with a buck.


Is it any wonder
retailers are struggling?

Competing for precious tax dollars, cities have green-lighted just about every
type of shopping center project for years, over-building — much to the dismay
of small, local shopkeepers — as mammoth national chains take an ever greater
share of the market.

Even the chains now are being hit hard by the impact of the boom in online,
mostly tax-free business. Amazon and eBay may be the giants, but there are
hundreds, thousands of other websites offering free shipping, no sales tax and
low prices because they don’t carry the cost of stores and sales help.


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NBC’s “The Filter with Fred Roggin is back on the air at 6:30 p.m. on Friday nights on Time Warner Channel 225 as part of the network’s experimental statewide news programming. 
Last Friday, the topics for discussion at the opening of the show were the death penalty, drunk driving and public employee salaries with Burbank Internet talk show host Jose Hernandez and me as the debaters.


KRLA 870 talk show host Kevin James and I held our weekly chat, 

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about city politics, touching on a variety of issues and people including Janice Hahn, Herb Wesson and Assemblyman Mike Gatto.

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Check Out NBC’s “The Filter with Fred Roggin”

It’s my pleasure to be a weekly commentator with actress Debra Skelton on “The Filter with Fred Roggin,” an experiment in reinventing local TV news. It’s broadcast Monday-Thursday on NBC’s digital station  Channel 225 at 7:30 p.m. Starting soon, the best segments from the week’s shows will be aired on Channel 4 at 11:30 p.m. Sundays. You can see other past shows at NBCFilter on YouTube.

Here’s the segment from Tuesday night on the DWP story.

What I Believe, Right or Wrong…

I spent all my life struggling to put into words what I believe, what I feel, the truth as I see it. I thought somehow that is what it meant to be an American.

I wrote and edited tens of thousands of stories but it’s only been in the last two years working for love and not money that I began to find my voice as me.

On Monday, I came close during my two minutes in front of the Council Budget Committee and later during a two-minute segment on the NBC news show “The Filter with Fred Roggin” (re-broadcast Tuesday at 11:30 a.m.).

You can believe anything you want but this is what I believe.

Jack Weiss vs. Ron Kaye on Channel 4

“The Filter with Fred Roggin” is being broadcast for the first time on Channel 4 today at 11:30 a.m. (after a six-month test on digital cable) and as luck would have it Jack Weiss and I wound up as facing off as competing commentators in the opening segment.

The fast-paced, innovative news show is broadcast live at 7:30 p.m. on NBC’s digital Channel 225 Monday-Thursday and for now is being re-broadcast the following morning on Channel 4.

I thought you might be amused to how the man I called “Public Enemy No. 1” during the City Attorney’s race (imagine what he’s called me) and I performed.

Reinventing Journalism: The Emerging New World Order of News

A few months after I happily, if involuntarily, left the newspaper business, TV sportscaster Fred Roggin pitched a wacky idea to me for a new type of fast-paced news commentary show he was trying to develop called “The Filter.”
Roggin wanted to engage hot topics of the day with available video footage and have a variety of informed and opinionated people offer their takes on what it all meant, to provide a context to stimulate conversation..
His bosses at NBC were no more supportive of the idea than my bosses as the Daily News were when pitched with innovative ways to reinvent journalism at a time when the form and structure of the “news” has become obsolete to the point that there are now more empty desks than working editors and reporters in newsrooms everywhere.
But Roggin persevered with help from producer Jared Kiemeney and a few technical and support staff willing to do for love what they weren’t allowed to do for money.
It took a year to finally get green-lighted to experiment in the obscure world of digital cable Channel 225 where NBC, to its credit, is trying out new ideas to salvage its news operations at a time when afternoon ratings have fallen so precipitously it’s likely some stations will give up entirely.
Over the last six months, “The Filter with Fred Roggin” has been refined and a team of commentators put together: Actress and social activist Debra Skelton, columnist and author Amy Alkon, lawyer and radio talk show host Leo Terrell, Witness LA editor Celeste Fremon, LA Metblogs editor Ruth Waytz, social ethicist Charlotte Laws, even former City Councilman Jack Weiss, among others.
Next Tuesday, “The Filter” will begin to be shown on Channel 4 itself at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday-Friday, re-broadcasts of the previous night’s 7:30 p.m. live broadcast on digital cable 225.  The intention is to go live on Channel 4 in a few months.
If you’re reading this, you know what a revolution is taking place in how we get our news and information because of the Internet. It’s energizing and liberating to play a small part in it on TV, on my blog and on my community-based news site which brings together citizen and professional journalism to tell the story of LA’s political and civic culture.
I spent 40 years developing the skills of a corporate journalist and trying to beat them and their pseudo-objectivity that sucks the life and the truth out of what is really going on. 
Just the “facts” don’t tell the story. It takes a trained detective to create a narrative of the facts of a case so a suspect can be identified and prosecuted. So why would we think ordinary can make sense of what’s happening without a storyline, a context, without insights from knowledgeable and experienced professionals?
Corporate journalism as we know it with its spectacular profits and virtual monopolies is finished, as doomed as dinosaurs in the ice age or carriage makers in the auto age.
For all the talk in the news industry about re-invention, TV news still trivializes us and newspapers bore us.
Afternoon TV news ratings are a fraction of what they were a few years ago, one all-news radio station has closed down, newspaper circulation has tumbled by as much as half and employment in newspaper publishing has fallen to what it was 50 years ago.
We are getting our news in bits and bytes on blogs and websites, emails, Facebook, Twitter. Ordinary people are becoming reporters and interpreters of the news on personal or group blogs. All across the country, trained journalists and ordinary citizens are becoming active participants in a revolution that is making us better informed and more empowered to affect the course of our public lives.
That’s what makes experiments in the corporate journalism world like “The Filter” exciting. Mainstream media has the resources and reach to make a big contribution to this new world order.
The media, like the activist community, has been talking about change for years without actually changing anything. The optimist in me is seeing action replacing talk and, as we all know, actions speak louder than words.
You can watch excerpts of “The Filter” on, including my latest contribution with my partner in commentary Debra Skelton or watch tonight on Channel 225 or next week on Channel 4. Your feedback is welcome.