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Dances with Wolves

Paul Krekorian thrives in LA's toughest council district

I caught up with Councilman Paul Krekorian at the Aroma Cafe in Tujunga Village, the day before tax day, and the first thing I asked him was when he realized that in taking on a City of Los Angeles council district, he was, in effect, presiding over an area the size and population of Pittsburgh.

"I still don't realize that," he laughed. "That big?"

As a long-standing local political figure, humility and frankness have served the nimble Krekorian, now Councilman from one of the City's most cantankerous council districts, very well over the years. His two natural inclinations came in especially handy a little over a year ago, when Krekorian surprised many, including those in the Mayor's office, in his most recent quest for office, when he decided to leave the State Assembly a little early for a chancy run to represent the collar of LA neighborhoods that stretches around Burbank and Glendale from Studio City to Sunland Tujunga.

His team ran a masterful campaign--at one point offering to recycle his better-financed opponent's fliers--and caught would-be heir apparent Chris Essel's well-heeled power pep squad napping. Since then, Krekorian has charmed the District not with rhetoric but most of all with candor, displaying perfect pitch to the citizens and activists of CD 2, who may be the City's most politically in-tune of all, and is easily one of LA's best loved Councilmembers.

"Yes, being a City Councilmember surprised me," Krekorian tells me at last. "Much is expected of our Councilmembers. The people in the City are frustrated and angry and they have reason to be. In the State legislature, what you do has widespread impact. You are vastly more dependent on your policy staff. In the city, you touch everything yourself."

But Krekorian's move from State to City also gives him a policy deftness that inspires confidence in constituents in every corner of his district. Well over 70% voted for him in his freshman election against journeyman candidate Augusto Bisani--a number indicating that many crossed party lines to vote for Democrat Krekorian. Sitting down with the Councilman, you learn how he does it: by mixing honesty and agility in equal measures.

"No, actually, there is a CRA presence in the District," he readily admits when I ask him if not much of a CRA presence in his district has made his new life easier than that of his peers. "We have a few projects and they have gone pretty well--we've had some good discussions..."

Krekorian is great at reversing the field on you. He is almost Germanic in his ability to abstract a too-direct political question and to nail a too-general one. I ask him about a recent affordable housing bond, for instance, and he comes up with the following: "Initiative reform is absolutely essential. It's no longer a tool of grass-roots democracy." His mind naturally goes from your micro issue to his macro issue and vice versa. This is how he was able to easily jujitsu Essel--who was backed by Big Money, John Shallman, &c.--but who was neither much of a policy wonk nor much of a macro thinker.

And this is how he's been able to keep the pitchfork people in his district at bay on a 64-unit 1818 development on Samoa in the City's density-despising ground zero, Sunland Tujunga. Krekorian hasn't overtly endorsed the project, but after suggesting during his campaign that elements of SB 1818 were flawed, he has sent a letter to the City's Housing Department encouraging tax-exempt status and funding. The building "isn't the typical 1818 project Paul railed against," Krekorian's communication director Jeremy Oberstein tells me, reflecting Krekorian's own sotto voce, flip-it style on thorny political matters.

Skipping the thorny development discussion, we talk about the City's coming thorny budget discussion. "I don't expect a budget that will please me," Krekorian tells me. Compared to everything else I've heard on the City's coming budget, this sounds like a Zen koan.

"I have guarded optimism," he admits. "I think we'll do something that works." It's the kind of statement with which you expect a wry smile, but Paul Krekorian doesn't smile wryly. He's always talking in earnest.

So I push on the deficit side--I note that New York City in the 1970's simply borrowed to bail itself out of dire straits, why not LA?

"Some degree of borrowing may be part of the overall solution," Krekorian tells me, "but we can't borrow of course against structural deficits."

"No borrowing against structural deficits?" I jump in. "That's a pretty sophisticated economic talk...Does [City CAO Miguel] Santana think in terms of 'no borrowing against structural deficits?'"

I note that Krekorian looks a little pained. Friendly, still, but pained. He doesn't like to be put on the spot evaluating another civic figure. "You'd have to ask him. Likely he does. I'll just tell you what I think: borrowing will be a part of the solution, I think, but not a large part."

This predisposition to be conciliatory to all in the middle of a crisis has helped him win favor with both the Mayor's office and Valley malcontents, a handsome balancing act.

"He's witty, he's charming, he comes into Council prepared," longtime Mayoral consultant Mike Trujillo tells me later. "What's not to like?"

Krekorian is getting phone calls, and Oberstein keeps him on track this afternoon.

"It's been good to have a substantive talk about City politics," he concludes. Looking at my notes, I'm left wondering if Paul Krekorian can't help but ever have substantive talks about City politics.

LA grew less than 1% per year through the decade




The US Census of 2010 found that Los Angeles had 3,792,621 residents.

In 2000, the City had 3,694,820.

Los Angeles through this time "grew" 97,801--or 9,780 souls a year.

Or about 00.25% a year. 1% of 3,694,820 is 36,948, &c.

Three years ago, I asked Gail Goldberg why she was continuing to plan as though the city were growing in population. Her answer was a lie: she said the city was growing three ways, by immigration, natural increase, and by American relocation ("immigration, copulation, relocation").

In truth, no statistics were insisting that LA was growing. The San Diegan city planner, who took up planning as a dabbler in midlife only had it on the authority of the Mayor who appointed her that LA was growing.

When it wasn't.

Yes, all through the transit hub projects that have hopelessly skewed the city's renter ratio, all through the densifications, the City of Los Angeles was growing at a rate of about 00.25% percent a year. Not even a third of one percent.

The City is vastly rearranged. Though some of us have known it for a long time, last week's Dodger debacle especially has now left many ordinary citizens wondering: what happened?

A second staggering what happened blow arrived Friday, on the strength of a good piece by Ryan Vaillancourt in the Downtown News, that downtown's biggest landlord is also at the brink.

The last time so many people wondered what happened so fresh after an event, it was May 1992.

What has happened was this: our City's planning policies over the past five years were, and still continue to be, based on a baldfaced lie. There was never any evidence that LA was "growing." But we continued to pretend we were. And we continue to pretend we are growing today.

The City itself should probably be in Federal receivership. There was no riot, no earthquake, no Katrina that swept into Los Angeles; there was no Gulf spill. But now we have a $400 million deficit, and we're now using that deficit to shake down the City's own workers.

No, there was no civil disturbance nor natural disaster during this time. There has only been a Mayor who answers to billionaires and a kleptocratic City Council continuing to densify even when people weren't really coming, creating dozens of boarded up commercial strips, uncertain commercial occupancies, and a population at considerable risk with a declining industrial base.

Through this time, the City wasn't even appreciably growing at all. In fact, it was decreasing in population.

Yes, decreasing. There was no special push to "make everyone count" in 2000. There was an enormous push to do so--led by the Mayor's office--in 2010. We sought to count many more people in 2010 than we did in 2000.

Our school district has been losing students since 2004.

Who/what made Gail Goldberg lie to the public, and other politicians to lie to the public, about inevitable growth, inevitable increase?

Mimosas on the Terrace

We can't remember if the Parkies like the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk project--Phase I now set to go--or not. As for me, I think it's a step in the right direction, but merely a step. To me, the River will never be worth a dime more than a birdbath until the concrete embankment is removed and some actual natural segments are restored to it.

Never having heeded the bitter lesson of Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?, construction jobs are the way we legitimize nearly every significant government expenditure in California. In public school construction projects, where the expenditures are at their most costly to the public, it turns out that the seismic standard setters are mostly part of the State's construction lobby. Public schools, including financial catastrophes like Belmont and RKF and community college boondoggles are the State's Big Dig times about ten, but the voters did this to themselves.

The Daily News's Dennis McCarthy and I have something in common: we both had our first newspaper pieces published 30 years ago this month. Since then, he's written about 4,900 plus fishwrap pieces more than I have. Here he promotes his book Here's to the Winners which is a compilation of 62 of his personal favorites. McCarthy's fans can find the book here.

FWIW, I celebrated my own 30-year milestone elsewhere last week, with a remembrance of the first piece, and who I most owed it to--the generosity of a box of old New Yorkers from Sr. Mary Wilfrid at Mayfield Senior School, for whom the school's gym is now named.

Ryan Vaillancourt notes in the Downtown News that the CRA last had its eyes on $574.45 million worth of downtown projects. That pencils out to spending over $10,000 per resident if and when downtown's population reaches 50,000--or about what the average downtown condo owner pays in property taxes to the State in aggregate over three years' time. Of course Councilwoman Jan Perry, following the same Villaraigosa-Garcetti political fundraising formula that has brought the City to the brink of unlovable and irretrievable ruin, wants even more unaffordable transit-hub developments with more token affordable housing units sprinkled inside of them.

The City and County whiff on public safety at sports venues

I presume you've already read stories about how the Mayor, Frank McCourt and Chief Beck all got together to say "never again" regarding the beating of a Giant fan at Dodger Stadium. As for me, I don't know how any of them can be so insistent all of a sudden, as the Stadium's parking lot has been a violent and unsettling place for a few years now.

Where were these people for last year's opener, which was equally rowdy?

It's a tragedy that something so extreme had to happen before anyone in a leadership position dared to make some changes. But the issue speaks more broadly to another: how far should the City go with regards to in assuring public safety for a sports team?

I find it very disturbing simply to see the Mayor and the City's police chief standing there with as capricious and insouciant an owner as Frank McCourt. This is McCourt's franchise, and it's not up to the City to make it safe for him, any more than it's up to the City to make a McDonald's parking lot safe. It's up to him to make it safe for his customers.

All it's up to the City to do is to make sure he runs his business safely, in a way that does not threaten public safety.

Wherever large crowds gather, the City's--and in this case, the County's--duty is to assure the public's safety. As the public perceives a sports venue in a similar way that it does a public park or beach, the safety standards should be similar. In this case, the City's top public safety officials should not have offered their acquiescent support to McCourt. No, they should have kept their distance from him, and dared to red-tag Dodger Stadium until it demonstrated to City and County that it is in compliance with the same kinds of public safety standards our beaches and parks are.

Marathon Man

I met Kevin James for coffee at Say Cheese last Saturday. The Mayoral candidate ordered a bagel and barely had time in two hours to finish it.

James is an Asst. US Attorney turned talk radio host and community activist, especially noted for his work with AIDS Project LA, and he does like to talk. You can see he much enjoys doing what he's doing. He can talk about the city from morning--which for James is often around 1 p.m., as he sleeps after wrapping his early-morning talk show--until night when he's earning his livelihood doing so, on KRLA.

My wife showed up over an hour into the talk. Nearing home herself, she thought she might pick me up. She left an hour later, still tapping her foot waiting. She first caught James in mid-sentence and she left him in mid-sentence.

What gave a man who's been out of government for a decade the idea to run for Mayor? Was there a transformational moment?

"I hit it in a lot of moments," James says. "I like going to Larchmont Village. Larchmont has a lot of empty storefronts now. It's looking at those places around the city, that kind of moment, that made me decide to go this route. There's been a lot of them."

Fiscally conservative yet a champion of neighborhood councils--"I don't like them being cut--look at what they're doing for the city in so many places"--James is staking his candidacy on his natural intimacy with voters. "Entrenched officeholders have an extra screen," he says. "They're thinking about the next office. I'm thinking about the city. When I say I want to bring some changes, I mean it. My listeners know I'm willing to do it."

There are a couple of natural adversaries for James; listen to his late night radio show and you'll find out who they are soon enough. Would he say these things at a candidate forum on KCET?

"I would point out--politely..." James grins, of a would-be exchange with Councilwoman Jan Perry. I bring up Controller Wendy Greuel and he uses the same lead-in. "I would point out--again, politely..." He's talking about "the media acting as controller"--and he is also quick to point out that the media do have a valid role (he is quick to credit previous Controller Laura Chick for hastening action on the City's notorious rape kit backlog, for instance).

There's a little joking about how being an Assistant US Attorney, working money laundering, forensic accounting and RICO cases, might have prepared him for the Mayor's office. But in idle moments and spare time, James does enthuse to ponder the dark side of state. He's reading Andrew Bridge's Hope's Boy, for instance, the bestselling harrowing narrative of an orphan's institutional fostering in Los Angeles. The last book he finished was Fox News reporter's Chris Blatchford's Black Hand, about the workings of the contemporary Mexican Mafia.

Led on a little bit about whether City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has been a disappointment, James is unwilling to distance himself from his favored City Attorney candidate. He notes that Trutanich has given lots of power to "line" attorneys--career city attorneys who may not have had as much leeway to prosecute under Hahn and Delgadillo.

A marathon runner with an easy laugh, James is actually quite fit and has taken the barbs this blog has sent him about being a "pasty white guy" in complete good-natured stride. He already has a few stock phrases of his own that are meant to perk up voters' ears. He calls the middle class "the silent backbone" of Los Angeles; he talks of "patchwork planning." A couple of times, he notes that the city did not get "a thoughtful process" in various Council debates. His public often "deserves honesty" more than he thinks it's receiving it.

James has been quick to observe the social impact of three strikes on crime rates, and would like to shape a public school policy around removing delinquent children from "ordinary" schools after infractions, and giving them "specialized" schooling. Whether James has in mind modified detention or a public school gulag does not seem fleshed out yet.

An episcopalian, when James attends church he does so at St. Thomas the Apostle. He lives on Paul Koretz's side of Laurel Canyon with a rescued dog. He was raised in Oklahoma. My wife liked him a lot more than she thought she might.

The Way Wrong Weekly

I made the mistake of picking up a Weekly on the way home today. S-word on the cover, and called out too, on the contents page. If you can't be witty, be vulgar, I guess. Cover story on Kevin Smith, who is not interesting to anyone mature, not even to mature teenagers.

But anyway, the worst section again--by far--is the news.

Here's Gene Maddaus, on City Council: "The Council wasted $2 million on consultants and lawyers without finding out if the deal would flay with constituents. When opposition emerged, $2 million of work was tossed out." This on Council ultimately killing a deal to lease out nine City parking garages.

No, the Council didn't waste this money; the Council bought time with it. Necessary time. The problem is here that the Mayor's office has too much power.

The Council doesn't have adequate time to study complicated problems like this. Their instinct is to sink such ideas, but they can't sink things too openly against the Mayor. Here they not only found a way to buy some time for study, they also found a way to buy some time to let opposition outside of Council grow too.

Could hiring consultants ever save the City money that it might have otherwise burned? It turns out that the people of the City don't want to privatize these kinds of things. It turns out certain general managers are talented behind-the-scenesters. This is simply muscular democracy at work, letting grass roots take ownership of marginal issues while Council itself tries to get a grip on larger ones more speedily. The fact that it cost the City $2 million to give the will of the people time to "grow" is a mere bagatelle considering how much the City was prepared to lose after an initial bad brief and executive order attempt by its troubled Mayoral budget team.

Ultimately the article concludes:
"This is a terrible idea," Councilman Tony Cardenas said. "We should just kill it once and for all."

That's a defensible position. But the time to take such a stand would have been before Cardenas and the other council members voted to hire consultants and lawyers to investigate the concept.
Hooray--Council reached the right position, and the Mayor was outflanked at long last. But rarely does scapegoating, even at the Weekly, go to this extreme: insisting that the right judgment indeed came, but came at the wrong time; insisting that the right judgment should have come before study was conducted and forces were effectively mobilized, not after.

Years ago, the Weekly's beloved Republican Mayor, Riordan, gave the Mayor's office the ability to do far too much. That's fine when there's a sharp Mayor with a strong sense of what civic government is at the helm (Hahn) but awful when there's a stupid one beholden to billionaires (Villaraigosa). That's where the blame for this fiasco truly resides. But lots of people on Council don't much like talking to the Weekly, so the Weekly, feeling slighted, bludgeons Council for doing the right thing, rather than the Mayor's office for doing the wrong one.

Combine the fiscal insouciance of the present Mayor and his overwrought power with an anti-democratic, pro-Republican First Deputy Mayor, who on first glance wants to privatize nearly anything under his enormous aegis, and you have a beleaguered City Council, occasionally dog-paddling furiously while it is obliged to hunt for coalitions that prevent the utter surrendering of even longstanding City revenue-enhancers to corporate interests.

Way wrong here, Weekly. The fact that Council wasn't able to sink this notion at the start was not the fault of Council. The fact that it got out into open water at all was the fault of Austin Beutner, the usual crony capitalism, and the Mayor's office--entirely.

Another Terrace Morning



Masters coverage begins at noon today.

A budget only a hillbilly could love



I'm not sure yet what the single most disingenuous portion of Paul Ryan's House Budget executive summary (pdf) is, but certainly this chart in the middle of it must get the prize for creative graphics.

Ryan's budget takes a short-term trend-line and extends it out to...2080...a scant 69 years away.

Whoever is president in 2080 most likely hasn't been born yet--for sure she can't vote.

Whoever is in Congress in 2080 won't even have entered Congress until 2050 at earliest, with a few stentorian exceptions.

Imagine the change in American industry between now and 2080. Over the past 69 years, we've seen the emergence of not only the Internet, but television too. There was no space exploration, let alone satellites, 69 years ago. There were no cellphones 69 years ago, no hybrids, not even pocket calculators.

There was no 818 or 310, never mind a 323 or a 626 area code.

Coffee in America went by a couple of names 69 years ago: "Folger's," "Yuban," and "Maxwell House."

On the Dow 30, there was no MicroSoft 69 years ago. There was no Intel. There was no McDonald's. There was no Wal-Mart. There was a Disney company but it wasn't selling shares. In fact, about a third of the current Down 30 wasn't even formed 69 years ago, and another third has morphed beyond recognition from their infant pasts.

But Paul Ryan wants to make Americans fear and tremble by drawing a trending line out to the year 2080, and presuming nothing changes between now and that time.

Well, it might not. In 2080, on August 30, Warren Buffett will only be 150 years old.

The more honest chart is to show debt as a percentage of gross domestic product over the past 69 years.

And--wait--what's that?



It turns out that the national debt as a percentage of gdp was even higher 69 years ago than it is today!

Another Terrace Morning


Elementary, my dear Watson.

Gold as an industrial material is not worth even $1,000 an ounce, but enough speculators think it is worth over $1,400, so that's its price today. If you're buying...good luck.

Why is Brian D'Arcy suddenly talking after giving most media a cold shoulder over the past year? Maybe he is starting to say hello even as it's time to say goodbye.

We don't really know why voters kept giving education construction budgets money while strangling the teachers and profs. But they did, and now we are actually beginning to watch how that money is spent at community colleges. There's still inadequate oversight, but there is some.

There are unicorns in the Ryan House budget.

So Ryan is claiming that unemployment will plunge right away; that by 2015 it will be down to the levels at the peak of the 1990s boom (and far below anything achieved under the sainted Ronald Reagan); and that by 2021 it will be below 3 percent, a level we haven’t seen in more than half a century. Right.

Then there’s the Medicare business. According to the CBO analysis, a typical senior would end up spending more than twice as much of his or her own income on health care as under current law. As Dean Baker points out, this means that seniors would end up paying most of their income for health care. Again, right.

But Tea Party Americans will believe anything their corporate overlords tell them, so we're stuck arguing this plan anyway, and not a real one.

We are heading into The Masters weekend, which means that street-hassle will be vibrant but distracted. This also means a kind of spring cleaning on the desktop, clearing away the past year's detritus so that Flash 10 will operate adequately during those moments watching the feed from the site.

Council jawbones Dodgers

The City Maven reports that City Council today wagged a collective finger at the Los Angeles Dodgers for the Opening Day incident that left a Giants fan battling for his life. Councilman Jose Huizar led the charge, calling on the team to review their security procedures. The reward for information leading to arrest of the assailants is up to $100,000.

Another Terrace Morning


Skating along.


Janice Hahn claimed a "clear majority" of California Democratic Party voters in a party endorsement battle with Debra Bowen for the runoff in Congressional District 36. Her 57% wasn't enough to fetch endorsement, though. I also recently saw a leaked campaign work product, as I'm sure did many others, that claimed progressive darling Bowen had once registered as a Republican. To which we thought, bfd, &c. Neither Hahn nor Bowen seem overanxious to debate each other.

How to enter Deervale-Stone Canyon Park in Sherman Oaks is the question. Rec and Parks thinks it has an answer; the former fishwrap of record nonetheless finds someone who doesn't like the nuisance of driving to the new entrance. Yes, the park user's displeasure with his two mile drive is considered "news."

This was a nice and also appropriate gesture by the Mayor, assuring the victim's mother on behalf of the City that the City will do what it can to bring the inhuman perpetrators--who attacked her son for supporting the visiting baseball team--to justice.

Supervisor Antonovich also has an appropriate take: "The Dodgers organization has an obligation to make security a top priority now," he said. "Denying that lack of security played a role in this attack is simply sticking their head in the sand."

I finally spoke to Allison Ferraro yesterday about her publisher's note in the Los Feliz Ledger on Griffith Park Wayist. The blog has definitely toned down its rhetoric in recent weeks. Wayist also took its comments offline recently, which would be a good policy for some other bloggers who routinely use their comments sections to say what they don't have the backbone to say in signed posts, and thereby inevitably diminish their credibility. Another effective practice: I switched the setting here about two months ago to comment authentication, and it's worked very well here in discouraging harassing and irresponsible commenters.

"Every single day since this website launched, I have been asked how it makes money," Alice at The City Maven says. The blog is soliciting a benefactor for a story on trash collection, so know that and consider donating.

Now even skeptical scientists commissioned by skeptical Republican oil men, are finding that global warming is real.

Rick Orlov seemed amused on Facebook to note that the Downtown News listed him as number 21 on the downtown power list. But he'd be higher if the Daily News's site didn't load so slowly and didn't have all those browser-beating pop-ups coming out of it. The paper should join real life and archive old articles too.

Factoid: learned from Ben Boychuk today that Milton Friedman had a hand in establishing federal withholding, in WWII.

Why can we develop ballplayers so well and not writers?
That question is posed by baseball stat guru Bill James. "It is simply because we don't need them," is his unconvincing answer. Maybe the answer has something to do with the fact that the impact of writers is not quantifiable.

Mitch Englander's first kerfluffle*

UPDATED

The people of Granada Hills generally like their food trucks. The bricks and mortar restaurateurs of Granada Hills like their new Councilman.

Recently Numero Uno Granada Hills, a little east of the shopping center, decided that food trucks presented unfair competition.

No links here, but in response, the Facebook presence known as Valley Hills says:
The food trucks have been able to do what the local businesses haven't been able to do for the past 20+ years in Old Granada Hills. For the first time in many, many years people are using words like booming and hopping for the area. Plus, t...he food trucks have helped people discover the businesses there. For example, we know of people that discovered Numero Uno because of the trucks and have now gotten pizza from there. The food trucks present a great marketing opportunity. The local businesses should be passing out coupons or flyers to the food truck patrons. You may not get the business that night, but make sure that you get future business. For example, Saturday and Monday this week is the NCAA Mens Basketball finals...sounds like pizza time to me. Numero Uno should have created a coupon that was good just for April 2-4 and passed it out when the trucks were there on Friday night. Jersey Mikes can do the same. Make a coupon that is only good for the next week to get people to act quickly. The trucks provide a great win-win opportunity. I say this as someone with a marketing degree and is a marketing professional.
One of the problems with Valley bloggers, even Giga Granada Hills, is that they are paranoid of downtown enough to remain anonymous, and therefore hard to quote (UPDATE: Not true, see note below). But the paranoia is only redoubled when they observe how incoming Councilman Mitch Englander once broke into the Mayor's office and how he flaunts his reserve officer status. The early days of Councilman Mitch are likely to see him running roughshod over his constituency, and that may spell bad news for food trucks.

UPDATE: LJ Williamson of Giga Granada Hills protests in comment that she is not anonymous, &c. Her name appears on her posts.

Box's Budget LA blunder

Stephen Box may be a bright guy, but he has absolutely awful political instincts. Unfortunately, his latest direction sees him drifting off even more in the direction of the Valley pitchfork people, and further away from downtown political reality.

Box is now heading up Budget LA, an organization devoted to "fighting to develop a sustainable budget for the city of Los Angeles." In other words, he now heads up an organization devoted to fighting to develop something for which not a single notable political figure in City believes there is a legitimate political need.

While our budget problems are indeed pressing, facing a five percent deficit for the next few years means that they are already far from unsustainable. It happens that every now and then that a Paul Krekorian or a Wendy Greuel grandstands about the City's budget, to appease and allay their pitchfork-ready constituents; but they rarely freight the same message to downtown or westside audiences. More perilously, an irresponsible union-busting former Mayor has screamed the b-word to Wall Street, to the City's peril, and all Councilmembers are indeed emphasizing "$350 million" while the Mayor emphasizes even more, and nobody is really telling the public the truth, that this is actually a much smaller deficit than the number makes it sounds (for instance, the City tries to float bonds between $100 million and a billion all the time, and sometimes succeeds).

It could be that Box is budget-savvy enough to know already that the City will emerge from its budget difficulties in a few years relatively unscathed, and that he hopes to cajole and acquiesce the role of city savior at that time. But I really doubt, given Box's own personal budgetary fiascos, that this is very likely to happen in 2015 or whenever it happens that Box takes the next step, whatever the next step may be. It would be far better to see Box working bike lanes than Box working budget messes. This is make-work, and make-work rarely works to enhance political profile.

Why Jim Newton must go

Or, here we go again, round three. The former news schlub, now some kind of quasi-analyst at the former fishwrap of record, shuts Mayoral candidate Kevin James out of a piece on the Mayor's race 2013.

In the last City Council campaign cycle, the Times' selective coverage extended extensively to Rudy Martinez, a hapless, bumbling restaurateur with a police record who had no chance of winning at any point in the campaign, but not to Brad Smith, a policy wonk at Parsons Corp. who finished with as many votes as two of the Times' endorsed opposition candidates--within 35 votes of Martinez and 165 votes of Tomas O'Grady. In the preceding Mayoral cycle, the Times dropped a cone of silence on all rival candidates to Mayor Villaraigosa.

Why would you extend coverage to a bumbling restaurateur with a police record but not a former Assistant US Attorney with substantial backing? We hear James will announce that he has half a million in campaign donations pledged this week.

EARLIER: Times tips its hand re candidate coverage, In LA Mayor's race, democracy lost.

Mimosas on the Terrace




Diablo Canyon Nuke Plant is very close to a fault line. The former fishwrap of record tepidly suggests that "new studies should be subject to independent oversight and peer review." Which is a purely polite position, fairly consistent with what nearly everyone, even the utilities themselves, already want. We expected something more from the less-than-ferocious local editorial board, which now seems afraid to offend anybody.

Slowly but surely, it is starting to sink in with even the inexpert that teacher-bashing is a white-flight, suburban, conservative tactic to pry loose public schools from the public's hands. An inexpert, anecdotal novelist tries her hand at an op-ed on the subject today.

Mayoral candidate and radio personality Kevin James told me yesterday that controversy surrounding County management of childcare is likely to be one of the most unsettling and also important stories of the coming year in LA, and sure enough the Daily News on Friday went with a story that follows up on the County's Ridley-Thomas report. James recommends a book he's currently reading: Andrew Bridge's Hope's Boy, Bridge's personal narrative describing a tortured path through 11 years of LA County foster care. We'll have more on our sit-down with James, which was full of surprises, early this week.

Jon Regardie picked "the forty-two most powerful people in downtown." Bloggers and even some print scribes make the list; so do developers; but the publicity-shy bankers who greenlight the big projects do not. Which tells us that downtown's super-secretive lending side managers are still doing an insanely great job flying below the radar.

Speaking of flying below radar, it turns out that fuselage tears and bad maintenance is nothing new to Southwest.

Another Terrace Morning




There are now composite drawings available of the two subhumans who disgraced the city once again on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium by beating a Santa Cruz man for being a Giants fan. There is videotape of the incident too. The victim was attacked from behind. The victim may be obliged to have one of his frontal lobes removed. So should the perpetrators.

City Attorney Carmen the Clown Trutanich has gone national again. His hitting of ten commercial graffiti artists with unfair competition charges is now a national embarrassment thanks to an AP story. Again, the Clown faces stiff civil liberties opposition. "The government cannot say who can be an artist," Smear's attorney notes.

The Mayor will face fines for accepting free tickets to sporting and entertainment events.

The HuffPo Comedy

People are generally out to get you, and Arianna Huffington is no exception. She's especially out to get you if you're a property-rich but underemployed scribe, as so many of her bloggers at HuffPo are.

One of the reasons I never was too thrilled to sign onto HuffPo, even while many friends were, was that the terms were pretty bad. In fact, there weren't any. But that's every blog's right: to tender the terms they like.

Today comes an op-ed by one Michael Walker in which Walker suggests that the writer situation at HuffPo is analogous to the comedy club scene in LA in the 1970's. Walker says that comics started picketing the key comedy clubs and that brought the change, and we lived happily ever after.

I'd like to submit that today's HuffPo situation is nothing like that.

The primary difference is that in the 1970's, not every comic could open up his or her own club on Sunset Boulevard if they didn't like the pay at the Comedy Club. But every property-rich unemployed scribe can start a website and compete for the very same eyeballs the HuffPo competes for, and via the very same way: letting their friends know they're there.

Someday somebody in marketing will do the math and discover that eyeballs at HuffPo are no more or less valuable than eyeballs at the right low-trafficked blog at which you can pay $100 a month for 5,000 impressions. In fact, someone who's paying for ads might also do some math someday and discover that if HuffPo has 6,000 bloggers, the pageviews it gets on any individual page are in fact lower than that on the homepage of most standalone blogs.

But nobody really likes to do Internet math at ad agencies, and there's a reason for that too. Ad agencies don't like Internet advertising at all because 1) it's measurable, and no marketer really wants to be measured, and 2) the agencies can't charge nearly as much for producing a banner Internet ad as they can for producing a print ad or broadcast commercial.

So when a big account comes into an ad agency and says, "How much should we advertise on the Internet?" the agency generally responds, "Oh, no more than 5% of your total budget." Because the more Internet ads occupy the total ad budget, the less the agency can markup in art and editorial costs.

I suspect what will happen at the HuffPo (as with Daily Beast/Newsweek) is it has reached peak and now we can watch a long gradual and very very dull decline in which the center fails to hold. Like AOL Time Warner but without the attendant economic impact. It never really works to merge two sets of investors who both have unreal, money-for-money's sake business plans in pocket. Even in the beginning there wasn't much of a purpose to the HuffPo other than to make the investors money, and that mission has already been met.

Another Terrace Morning


Don't...stop...be-leeeving....

I get a report from the Valley suggesting to me that parents are drawing more from Glee than from actual educators when visualizing baubles for new high schools. There may be a danger in handing over too much "empowerment" to parents. But on the other hand spending Prop K money on theaters rather than athletic fields sounds like a good idea to me.

Prepared for The Masters yesterday: watched two HS teams play a hole at Wilson Harding. Walked three miles from home to this outstanding local course built as a WPA project in 1937. The greatness of the WPA and its fabulous legacy makes me wonder if USA is blowing an opportunity to invest in building keys to the happiness of future American generations. Ride back over Hyperion Bridge, another stunning project from the early 20th century.

Mark Mauceri responded to our post on the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council yesterday and notes:
"One GGPNC board member made it clear to me his video tapes of our marathon meeting were going straight to the 'Griffith Park Wayist!' Ostensibly where I would be publicly flayed. The irony: An hour or so prior the same gentleman had openly declared he had absolutely no association with that entity whatsoever."
Meanwhile, I hope to talk to Los Feliz Ledger publisher Allison Ferraro today to find out if maybe she went a little too far in print in denouncing the Griffith Park Wayist blog wholesale, and in suggesting that Kristin Sabo has ever hid her identity as a key author at the site. It is largely Councilman Tom LaBonge's awe-inspiring ability to tune out public criticism that enabled the jaycee side of the community to wonder for months about what was already obvious to everyone else. The site isn't even actively competing for Ferraro's ad revenue...not yet, anyway...

By the way, we see that Stephen Box has emerged from hibernation with a couple of FB posts. Several people are trying to get in touch with him, including Ferraro, whose paper reports that Box "did not return calls and emails seeking an interview for this edition."