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The Real Raul

[UPDATE: The LA County Clerk reports that as of 2:58 p.m. to-day, Patty Lopez now leads Raul Bocanegra by 419 votes — putting her within 28 votes of a full one percent lead in Assembly District 39.]

Whatever to-day's outcome of the race in Assembly District 39, I am told it's a sad day in the Patty Lopez household as her brother-in-law Raphael unexpectedly passed away yesterday.

A small but hopeful debate is going on in and out of Sacramento regarding why Raul Bocanegra with all his money and power is losing to upstart housewife Patty Lopez without even a single substantive endorsement, let alone money or power — and in danger of losing his seat this very day.

Raul Bocanegra sponsored homeless "fairs"
in many parts of the Northeast Valley, fairs
that some voters believe helped make the
NE Valley a new homeless destination.
More than a few people in Sacramento have been of course perturbed by the mere possibility of this outcome. Some are even perturbed by my own analysis of what has happened; to wit, that Raul Bocanegra has in two short years made an indigent dumping ground of a couple of non-Latino corners of his own Latino-dominant district, trading off his citizens' own interest for the fundraising opps afforded by our local homeless industrial complex. Also, the somewhat local Burbank blog, an anonymous political insider blog, to-day said of my own analysis "although quite biased is the closest to accurate we've seen" — and later added "We write 'biased' because Mailander was an open Alarcon supporter."

While I do indeed write opinion pieces and always have, I don't remember that about myself: that I supported Alarcon in that race. I almost never make endorsements, and it's fairly pointless for me to do so anyway, because candidates surely don't solicit them from me. Regarding this Assembly race, I don't remember supporting either candidate in 2012. And even this year, I only remember thinking Bocanegra was an absolute hypocrite and a cad only after he testified against his former vanquished foe Alarcon.

What I in fact remember about the 2012 race, other than the fact that Richard Alarcon granted all my interview requests, every one of them, and Bocanegra granted none of them, was that I was dissatisfied with both, especially Alarcon because of his quixotic harassing of local banks.

In fact, I used the example of AD39 to show how these Assembly races unfolded more in Sacramento than in our local districts--something just as fitting to-day as two years ago. For the record, here is what I wrote about Bocanegra/Alarcon in a column entitled "No Peaceful Assembly" in June 2012:
While the Johnson/Nazarian duel is a prospective Sacto-driven tossup, the race next door in the 39th between Councilman Richard Alarcon and Raul Bocanegra has not embraced many local issues at its highest reaches, either.  There are indeed local issues aplenty to embrace: Bocanegra's new ties to longstanding Valley Latino power broker James Acevedo are an expression of extending the reach of Latino power in the Valley, a movement that Alarcon himself once was presented as the vanguard of. 
But some of Alarcon's old buddies have turned to Bocanegra, while Alarcon has been barking at big banks for some time now in office and is also friendlier to labor than ever, receiving solid union backing in the race.

Ethics charges and counter-charges have volleyed back and forth between the two.  What's happening at street-level in the 39th, and what their Sacramento Assembly rep can truly do for the district, remains as much a mystery to most voters as how the district itself has been redrawn.
Which seems my whole point not only then but also now. Bocanegra wasn't listening then, and he obviously didn't listen in 2014 either.

I also wrote a piece on the Alarcon/Bocanegra race in September 2012 that indeed makes Bocanegra look more in tune with Sacramento than Sunland-Tujunga and Lake View Terrace.  But I also wrote a column about Alarcon ten months earlier, in which I was very critical of his "Responsible Banking Act" — in fact, I have written quite a few pieces hammering Alarcon in my time.

Whatever the outcome to-day, this much is certain: Bocanegra is where he is because his head was far more engaged in Sacramento than in his own communities. Which was my top point in June of 2012, and remains my top point in November of 2014.

A Publishing Melee

I might as well at least pose the questions. I don't really have any of my own I've been too busy giggling at the thought of people posing me of all people questions. But some folks have questions...

The top question I have received regarding Nicco Mele's installation as deputy publisher (?) of the LA Times is whether or not he might be too close to various Garcetti Deaniacs (especially Rick Jacobs) for anyone to expect much improvement in the Times' slovenly docile City Hall coverage. I don't have any special knowledge of that but I can't imagine Mr. Mele had any significant exchange at all with Mr. Jacobs (or even our local Deaniac mascot, Mr. Atkins) from the time starting a decade ago.

But I also do also feel the question is at least worth posing, as you now have a kind of content-creator webmaster at the Times with no direct journalism experience, but both political and coding supervisor experience, and who knew a handful of LA people back in the day when they were building what some have misidentified as the future.

To me, the defining moment of such folks has passed: the future we live in was enabled by social media a code of interactive malice and uneven promise, controlled from Sunnyvale and not too terribly much by Deaniacs. So basically you can forget Mr. Mele's previous political history when fitting him for this assignment. It certainly won't help his mission or the Times' to have merely known a decade ago the names of such people who are now somewhat important to Los Angeles and to have lived a kind of general and distant if contented fellowship with a handful of them.

When Mele briefly toiled for Beutner before, three years ago I did note his peculiar techno-political pedigree and thought the two along with Ace Smith a "rough mix." Beutner had trouble cracking two percent in polls (which didn't surprise me at the time, as I found him both brilliant and politically naive) despite his many apparent obvious advantages but these were the kind of advantages that do not gain traction in LA. And so, Mr. Mele himself may encounter those kinds of tractionless "advantages" as a deputy corporate publisher too, whatever that may be; the position presently sounds like a grab bag.

I think Mr. Mele is a little too ambitiously theoretical, too Cluetrain Manifesto, to be great at shaping whizbang corporate journalistic content-gobbling gizmos. And I also think him too theoretical especially to have any impact on City Hall reporting at all, although he may get a few "Contratulations! Remember me, old friend?" calls from the Democratic Wing of Team Garcetti. Mostly I expect that the revanchist agitprop Culver City studio Brave New Films may find a little more esteem at the Times; and when I see that happen, I will scold accordingly. But he is now indeed at an age where he should be interested to file something corporate onto his cv, so have at it.

So I'm not expecting even softer City Hall coverage in particular. But I am expecting softer everything coverage in general; and mostly because real robust journalism is not how either Beutner nor Mele are hardwired.

Why Bocanegra Is Losing

Analysis: Lopez's great showing on a shoestring budget and without even media support is in the end the consequence of not only our political class but also our media treating the Northeast Valley as a dumping ground for the Valley's indigent populations.

Humble housewife Patty Lopez in on the very verge of beating powerful and well-connected incumbent Raul Bocanegra for his State Assembly seat. And yesterday, with some of the puzzlement we associate with our local ruling class encountering an actual outbreak of democracy, someone said this:

"...the need seems to be coming for an analysis of the situation in that northeast San Fernando Valley district that allowed an incumbent Democrat to get knocked off by a newcomer."

As a lot of people who read this site know, I've been following politics in the Northeast Valley closely for over three years now. So here's my analysis, and it has two prongs; one involves why Latinos didn't vote one way or another, the other why Anglos in the district did vote, and mostly for Lopez.

Raul Bocanegra sponsored homeless "fairs"
in many parts of the Northeast Valley, fairs
that some voters believe helped make the
NE Valley a new homeless destination.
One: with two Latinos running, and not a lot else on the ballot for them, Latino citizens, who form over 60% of the district, did not have adequate incentive to vote for either Bocanegra or Lopez on election day. Indeed, only about a third as many people voted in the 2014 election as in the 2012 election. With no Romney to vote against, and not many other high profile Latinos to vote for, many Latinos simply stayed home, content enough that a Latino or Latina was going to represent their Assembly district, one way or another.

But two: Anglos in the Northeast Valley, who are more conservative than Anglos in other parts of the City, had lots of incentive to vote. They have been told too many obvious lies of late, and not only by its incumbent politicians but also by a media that they see not representing their interests either. This media, they feel, is selling their interests out right in step with their local Latino politicians. So for Anglo voters, it was time for a change.

As a recent case in point, take a peek at this recent article by Susan Abram in the LA Daily News, suggesting that the Northeast Valley was very happy to receive another homeless housing center. The piece appeared just three days before the recent election. You can find very few Anglos in the Northeast Valley now who find such articles credible; they see such "journalism" too as part of the problem.

Many in the Northeast Valley now believe it's no coincidence that the West Valley-based Daily News enjoys promoting homeless housing projects and programs in the far away Northeast Valley. They read a piece like Abram's and wonder how it can possibly contend that the community uniformly feels good about the project.

Many also know that City has set up a Homeless Working Group, co-chaired by the City and LA Family Housing, right in the middle of Bocanegra's district — a secretive group that doesn't answer to the public but works to set homeless housing policy for the region, and even sponsors homeless "fairs" in local parks and other City facilities.

The Day Street homeless housing project's
 loan application to the City of LA's  HACLA
indicated a projected development cost of nearly
$15 million, and the City of LA's portion of loan
was awarded (LA Contract C-121727) along with
State money, but now the agency claims
a cost of $8.5 million to build (after claiming
$10 million to build last May), leaving
NE Valley voters very confused about this project.
Many even know the history of the various cost claims by LA Family Housing for their top Northeast Valley homeless housing project, the newly opened Day Street: first to the City when seeking funding, that the project would cost nearly $15 million (right; City of LA Contract C-121727), then the claim last May that the finished project cost $10 million (Vimeo: minute 20), and ultimately, a scant month ago, that it cost $8.5 million (The Foothill Record, November ed., page 4). Many are baffled by the various claims, especially as the claims have been promoted not by journalists, but by the agency itself. And many wonder why the opening of such highly expensive complexes doesn't seem to abate the homelessness that they see on the streets.

Many voters also believe nobody is paying attention to them when they see the local political leaders and newspapers sweeping their concerns about the Northeast Valley becoming the City's "homeless magnet" under the rug, and even pretending their opinions don't exist among anything beyond a small scatter.

And so ultimately, when some Northeast Valley voters saw the LA Daily News endorsing Bocanegra and calling him "an increasingly polished leader," they didn't believe that either.

The Day Street article that appeared three days before election day was the fourth feature article over the past seven years that Abram has written about LA Family Housing, the para-government homeless housing developer that builds extremely pricey homeless housing. Longtime readers, including those who have tried to complain to her about not only the Day Street project but also about the way homelessness is managed in the Northeast Valley in general, could easily call all of that work "promotional."

Lopez's great showing on a shoestring budget and without even media support, I believe, is in the end the consequence of not only our political class but also our media treating the Northeast Valley as a dumping ground for the Valley's indigent populations. Lopez is now set to win, and and Bocanegra will pay the price — a price LA City Councilman Felipe Fuentes must heed if he is to fare better against a strong moderate Latino in his district in 2017.

Eight Things I Wonder about Hiring More Exempt Staffers

Commissioner Grant and a CD6 maybe-candidate

Here are the eight things I wonder about the way Mayor Eric Garcetti wants to increase the number of exempt employees in the City of Los Angeles by a whopping 33%.

I wonder what is so wrong with ordinary civil service procedures that our City Departments can't be careful to add them via ordinary means.

I wonder if the Mayor's team thinks the recent sterling example of Francine Godoy expresses the loyalty of exempt employees.

I wonder how correct John Walsh is when he speculates that Garcetti wants to do this to be able to hire more people with criminal backgrounds, such as he has already done with his Poet Laureate, who's son is in jail too, for shooting at cops, and such as he has already done with one of his top staffers, who was jailed for 200 days in a domestic abuse "flareup."

I wonder why our City Council voted for more exempt employees unanimously, with one absent.

I wonder why the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment's talentless and order-taking general manager Grayce Liu dispatched, of all people, Kevin James' former jobless factotum Lydia Grant to City Council last week, to read a pitch letter regarding the matter a letter that Grant didn't write but claimed to Council she did.

I wonder why the City's two worst-managed Departments Animal Services and EmpowermentLA are precisely the ones pushing hardest for the exempt employee expansion.

I wonder why Budget and Finance guy Paul Krekorian, who is so bad at math he couldn't tell that Kinde Durkee was ripping him off, is so sympathetic to the cause.

I wonder why media haven't caught on about any of this, and don't consider a bump from 150 to 200 such employees a big deal, when they gave, for instance, slavishly devoted coverage to the Alarcon trial — the kind of devoted coverage that probably has helped to cost Raul Bocanegra his seat in the Assembly, if only someone would stop for two minutes to think about how that possibly could have happened.


Honoring dad, lower left with all the hair, his mates on board the HMCS Cowichan (J146) mine sweeper, and all Canadian service who saw action in the Battle of the Atlantic throughout WWII including the invasion of Normandy, on Veteran's Day.

He was always his ship's photographer — he was often the only guy on board with a camera — so I have dozens of photographs.

Though I was involved with both politics and law early on, and studied art too, he liked me being a writer best of all.

Wish upon a Starbucks

I never did trust that those lawn chairs in Times Sq. were up to any good.

Yesterday was the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, and yesterday a piece I did on how NYC's IT infrastructure survived the storm appeared at Forbes/Sungard. It's here: "Marking The Hurricane Sandy Anniversary: Workplace Disaster Recovery Goes Beyond 'Making a Wish Upon a Starbucks.'" When it came to IT anyways, NYC was well prepared.

In other areas, of course, NYC fared not so well. The piece follows a long civic concern of mine: infrastructure money that chases realtor fluff instead of real hardware. A few days after Sandy hit NYC, I admonished the City of LA that it would be better to spend money on real infrastructure than "speculator-related fluff" like bike lanes and megastructure condos — and now, I guess, fluffy fun #droughthacks.

A Sense of Placelessness

I have to laugh when I read about people in the North Valley (Chatswizzle, Porter Ranch, Granada Hills) wanting commercial squares and triangles to be more like Silver Lake. Why are you aiming so low? If you're really interested in simulating another place for the sake of establishing your own, why not knock off Italy?

Of course, what you should be doing to establish a sense of place is to attune design to who you are: neither Silver Lake nor Italy, but the North Valley...whatever that may mean. And reminding you that just five years ago, you were food trucks.

Vandals, Reformed and Otherwise

I have reason to believe that the choice for LA's recently tapped Poet Laureate came down to Luis Rodriguez and Suzanne Lummis, and that Garcetti's wife Amy Wakeland urged the Mayor to select Rodriguez, apparently on the strength of the fact that Rodriguez is no longer in jail, though his son is, for shooting at cops.

To-day Lummis hits The New Yorker with a nice poem showing her stuff, which most of us in LA's poetry community have been watching with appreciation for 30 years.

Last line: "By land or water, girl, get outta town." That's the way a lot of us who have lived in LA for the long haul feel these days, with Garcetti-Guerrero-Jacobs handing the city's "economy" over to Berkeley labor economists and Federal custodians, and its culture to hoodlums and vandals, reformed and otherwise.

I was worried when we picked our first poet laureate that because of LA's insecure, coalition-seeking political culture, we would only pick poets for this office that were mostly affronts to other poets. And I stated that worry pretty clearly. So far, my prediction is two for two. We shouldn't have gone down this nonsensical road at all; we're actually hurting poetry in this city by investing so much in such a meretricious political process.


Far from Laudable
LA's Second Poet Laureate
Non Disputandum
Nine Hundred and 99 Problems
E Pluribus
Poet Envy: Los Angeles Picks a Poet Laureate

Some Pumpkins

San Marcos Pass, somewhere near Santa Ynez, October 2012.