When I looked at the piece at Kevin Roderick's prompting (I really can't bear to look at the Weekly anymore without prompting), I had to laugh. Wendy Greuel, number two, behind Zev? OK.
But rather than opine myself, I thought I'd ask Kevin James' consultant John Thomas about the expert poll in which James fared so poorly. Spoke to him yesterday and didn't need to tickle him very much.
"Hey, we were just pleased to be included," Thomas said. "Sure, a lot of them were biased; I mean [Beutner-backer Dick] Riordan is supporting a candidate and you're asking him? Riordan at minimum should have been excluded. We had to fight just to be included in the piece."
"These experts"--I think I heard irony in his voice, not sure--''for the most part are unaware and unfamiliar with Kevin. They don't know the loyalty and depth of the following, or that, like, half his show's listeners are Democrats. They don't know the Neighborhood Council side. I guarantee you Garry South has never been to a Neighborhood Council meeting in his life."
Well, that made me laugh. But Thomas was still tightly wound.
"The people who were surveyed don't value AIDS Project LA work. They don't know about his rape kit backlog advocacy. These people need to be educated and we have plenty of time to do that. We've got time to tell Kevin's story, and frankly I'm not concerned about refuting the Garry Souths of the world. What it did do is that it demonstrated that Kevin James is an outsider."
Now, we all know that a Patrick Range McDonald untethered from Jill Stewart's lust for quotes from any name still willing to talk to her publication could have done a better job than any one of the pack here. What puzzles is that in a city flush with violently bad news, the leading alt pub spends so much space in April 2011 over what might happen in spring 2013.
EARLIER: Dick Riordan and LA's collapsing orgs, Dick and the Daily News.
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.
How is it that within a week after the Mayor's budget plans for 2011-2012 are released, mayoral candidate Kevin James has a detailed analysis of the budget, including recommendations, and multimillionaire venture capitalist Austin Beutner, who presumably as First Deputy Mayor helped structure the budget, has nothing on the board?
We spotted James at the Budget LA rollout two weekends ago and think we understand why: James is listening attentively to the very people who are most involved in the city's political discussion, while Beutner, nowhere to be found most weeks, was last spotted upstaging the Mayor's budget talk as he cozied up to doddering multimillionaire Richard Riordan.
You can bet in any James/Beutner debate this kind of item will be talking point one.
With Laffer-like talk like this--"We can increase our general fund revenues without raising taxes and fees--"James is speaking directly to the libertarian-leaning folks whom Beutner must court as a base.
More nuggets from James's shadow budget:
- An example of a cut in the Mayor’s proposed budget I would not have made is the 10% reduction to the annual appropriations to Neighborhood Councils (“NC”).
- The city is in need of significant improvements in the areas of revenue collections, tax compliance, accounts receivable collections, new revenues, centralized billing, and implementation of prior audits.
- In the spirit of shared sacrifice, I was hoping to see a proposed transfer to the city’s Reserve Fund of some of the discretionary funds of the Mayor and City Council.
- A fair and equitable across-the-board reduction in our business tax burden and simplification of our business tax structure would make operating a business easier for our existing businesses (small, medium and large) and encourage new businesses to come.
&c. James promises more to come. Beutner's budget response: MIA.
We let their comments section to this story answer the nettlesome question: who the hell reads the LA Times these days?
People who like to speculate: "Maybe, it was a skit gone wrong for Jack ASS 4...."
Conspiracy theorists: "I just hope it wasn't another suicide attempt as a result of the struggling economy. "
People with great hearts: "I'm sorry for the loss but this person is an idiot."
Would-be fact-checkers: "Sure, the car fell from the fourth story of the garage, but if the first floor is at ground level, then it only fell three stories."
Utter pessimists: "That could be any of our parents in their old age."
The litigious among us: "The city should be sued for every penny it enjoys because it failed to make allowance for 76 year old drivers whom it "allows" to drive and who are more prone to have accidents, to be in an "unsafe" environment."
And especially these days, the LA Times is read by: people who don't even blink when the former fishwrap of record calls the deceased driver of a car an "occupant."
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?
Why has BH escaped the missionary efforts of the LA Conservancy? The problem in the tony town would appear to be more pressing than that of HPOZs in Los Angeles.
Once upon a time, the Dodgers had a fairly enlightened owner in Peter O'Malley. O'Malley saw the future and wanted to put football into Dodger Stadium. He knew player salaries were unsustainable. He wanted to do all this with private funds.
No, Dick told him, after O'Malley had already invested a ton of money, that Dick's City would never permit football in Dodger Stadium. That's when Peter O'Malley gave up on the team.
Now it's fifteen years later, the Dodgers are broke, the City has no football team, Dick's lackey Mayor has driven LA into the ground--and on the very same day that the Dodgers are seized by MLB, Dick is still around, to pat his new lackey on the back with hopes of promoting him to his old job.
Way to go, Dick.
EARLIER: Dick and the Daily News.
That means that the Fox bridge loan didn't work.
I think this blog was alone in analyzing the financial ramifications of Sunday's news: "An organization that can't make payroll is in extreme crisis."
Blumenfield wants to fine banks $20,000 for every foreclosure.
In other words, he wants the government to get a pricey piece of any foreclosure action.
Regardless of the size of the home. Regardless of the size of the mortgage.
That's such a heartbreaking work of staggering idiocy that it almost doesn't bear repeating or reporting. But if it were to happen, here's how banks would handle it:
Of course, banks would amortize the cost of potential fine over the new loans they make, making loans even more pricey, especially to first-time owners.
More neighborhoods would be necessarily redlined. Fewer people than ever qualifying. People buying $100,000 homes in Palmcaster and Landale forced to pay the same kind of markup as people in million dollar homes.
It would be a hidden flat tax that made small home loans even pricier than they are now, and more exclusive of even more struggling would-be homeowners than they are now.
Banks need to be regulated better, of course--Bush made this collapse possible by deregulating, and Clinton helped. But here's what will happen with this particular legislation: the foreclosure fail rate will suddenly go down, dwindling the pool of potential homeowners still further.
We already have ever-dwindling amounts of first-time homeowners. This kind of legislation would shrink the amount of first-time homeowners to next-to-nothing. Absolutely a disaster.
Economic thinking like this is already why we have such a bad owner-occupied to renter ratio in Los Angeles and San Francisco, where we have enough missing rungs on the housing ladder already.
Blumenfield knows what he's doing: his district includes heavy presences of IndyMac and CountryWide, the two big foreclosure hoodlums. But people who went to real banks like Wells, BofA and Union for their first-time loans--fairly responsible actors--would have to pay fines that were earned by the phony banks in Blumenfield's own district, who promised too much. If this bill were to become law, banks wouldn't pay the fine, consumers would, and the consumers who are borrowing the least--first time homeowners in the stix--will be obliged to pay most of all, as $20,000 represents far more to a $100,000 loan to a $400,000 one.
If would make far more sense to fine a bank if their failure rate were too high--say above 18%. But one-fine-fits-all also impacts all, and quite unfairly.
There's a saying in banking: if you don't make a bad loan every now and then, you're not in business. But make too many, and you probably should be punished. Not if you mostly make good loans, though.
The City's Budget is not nearly as sexy a story to the obsequious eds at the Los Angeles Times as a Doddering Dick Riordan news conference touting Beutner's would-be candidacy for Mayor.
"You're informing me of something I did not have any clue about," Matt Szabo says. How art the mighty fallen from the loop.
If you feel like asking anyone in City Hall "How did that work out for you?" in reference to Beutner, please be my guest.
But it also calls to mind something I once observed while sitting at a table that happened to be next to Sheriff Baca's at the Echo Park restaurant Les Freres Taix a few years ago.
It was Kentucky Derby day, and Baca was watching the horses load into the gate. Then he asked his waiter the following question:
"How many times do the horses go around the track?"
This kind of distance from American culture, when laid against his interest in immigrants, might explain how the Sheriff seems so indifferent to everything but minority cultures. No, nobody can accuse Baca of bias against ethnicities. But he has taken it so far you also wonder if this kind of willful distancing from mainstream American culture explains his indifference to concerns for civil liberties.
This kind of advocacy of civil rights but nonchalance towards civil liberties is consistent with Baca backing undeclared candidacy of Carmen Trutanich for District Attorney. For it is only through indifference to what the overriding culture thinks that anyone would endorse such a thorough boor with such an awful civil liberties track record.
A Frenchman told me at a wedding party two years ago that France has but one aircraft carrier. Sure enough, it's true. And it's not an over-large one at that.
So when France makes the request of Washington to go to war, it should be obvious it's not offering so very much more than, say, Poland did during the war in Iraq. Poland, whom we almost forgot.
My friend Doug Bandow examines the war in Libya in the American Spectator and finds that the unilateral effort of NATO is not much more than a tired old American suit with some blingy accessories.
Indeed, President Sarkozy appears to fancy himself as Nicolas Bonaparte, threatening "every Arab leader" who uses violence to stay in power. Yet Paris is unable to deal with Libya. We all know whose military the little Napoleon expects to borrow for any additional Arabian adventures.How many Americans are aware that Germany abstained on the UN authorization for the war? But don't worry, Luxembourg, with its army of 900--an army less than one-tenth the size of the LAPD--is cheering us on too.
And a story with long legs implicitly about wanton ethnic-on-Anglo violence is not helping the team or the city either.
At a conference in Anaheim on Friday I had a chance to talk to some people around the State about the story of the beaten Giants fan at Dodger Stadium, which continues to make news too. Of course the story confirms for the NoCals what a lot of them want to believe about Los Angeles: the place is a teeming hellhole best avoided.
So editors in the state should put this story in some perspective, even if their politicians cannot. Of course, it's a maddening tragedy that needs to be covered. But not to the same extent as, say, the Rep. Gabrielle Giffords shooting and attendant multiple homicide.
In fact, local editors might rather want to ponder why there were an estimated 100 witnesses to this high profile crime, and yet still no arrests, two weeks later. Rather than servicing the LAPD as an obsequious glad-handler, the LA Times especially should increase pressure on the agency to solve this city-damaging crime.
In-town attendance at home games is down too. "The Dodgers announced they had sold 36,282 tickets to Friday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals, the smallest total for a Friday night home game in eight years."
What's the Mayor working on these days? Education, and a football field.
Ron Kaye tells me that nobody wants to get too close to him right now. The senior scribe has lost three good friends all in one week.
At today's Budget LA meeting, Kaye, one of a crowd of fifty scattered souls from throughout the City interested enough in the City's budget to sacrifice a beautiful Saturday morning to hear about it, also told me that he's taking things a little easier of late himself.
But his bereavement didn't stop him from teeing off on Deputy Mayor Larry Frank later in the morning, after Frank gave the basement at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood a glimpse of the coming budget that the Mayor will present to Council this week.
The basement tapes: Galperin and Frank smile through the pain. Photo by Alex Thompson.
Oddities in the coming budget included surrendering a part of Street Services to Sanitation (alley cleaning) (?) so that they can pay for the service out of a proprietary budget; a one time elimination of the City's one-percent fund for construction maintenance--first time in history they'll do that; and furloughs, furloughs, furloughs.
The crowd in attendance remains cynical about the budget, sensing that something is wrong. And something may be. While Kaye remains the cantankerous skeptic, the Neighborhood Council movement has indeed, after a decade, brought more transparency to the budget process. But it also has brought with this more capitulation among many of its top leaders. These leaders, now closer to the City than ever, are still being told how things will be, but seem happy to have acquired a modest amount of access.
The biggest budget gasp from the crowd, in fact, was elicited by former budget reformer turned budget capitulator Ron Galperin, whose efforts at improving City bill collection thus far have only improved Galperin's visibility as a dependable cog in the budget works but not democratized the process (who really wants improved bill collection from a City already widely viewed as overly-kleptocratic?) Galperin made most of the room wince when he said that he couldn't understand why the City needed to fund art curator positions in the present budget, given the City's financial strains.
In the middle of Hollywood, an arts capital of America, he said this.
The Mayor has been, through proxy cultural GM Olga Garay, trying to eliminate such positions in the City for some time. (I wrote about this in the LA Weekly last year). These positions have been saved by grassroots opposition alone, supported by the organizing efforts of Council candidate Tomas O'Grady.
The fight to save Barnsdall and LA MAG has truly been a grassroots one to-date, as not even the City's two top arts advocates, Nyla Arslanian and Danielle Brazell--both of whose organizations, Arts for LA and Hollywood Arts Council, routinely receive Cultural Affairs funding--have been willing to go to bat for LA Municipal Arts Gallery. (In most cities, the advocates and lobbyists are obliged to pay off the politicians, but in ever upside-down LA, the politicians are more than happy to pay off the advocates and lobbyists if the latter can keep the natives from growing too restless). Of course, Arslanian and Brazell manage to fly well below the radar as bona fide lobbyists, careful to devote under 10% of their time at their organizations to advocacy activities--the maximum the City law permits--but they are indeed de facto advocates whose silence on the issue of privatizing LA MAG works in the favor of privatization.
Though Arts for LA and Hollywood Arts Council are advocates for the arts, neither has demonstrably opposed the Mayor's plan to privatize LA Municipal Arts Gallery. Both organizations receive grants from Cultural Affairs, which also runs LAMAG.
And wouldn't the billionaire-servicing boards at LACMA and MoCA love to get their hands on that space too?
Galperin's ill-timed capitulation to Villaraigosa and his out-of-town crone Garay, coming at a time when he is obviously expressing broader political ambitions, threatens to set him up as the City's next, er, Boxed-in candidate should this go too badly. Even at the meeting, the natives indeed grew restless when they heard this one.
About fifty people, including Mayoral candidate Kevin James, attended the three hour City budget rollout/wake, and plenty of questions were fielded, but not one inquired why the City simply doesn't borrow money to keep important civil service workers working. We already know the answer--the City wants to pretend it can't borrow money, in order to shake the City's union's down as far as they can be shaken--but we're obliged to watch the charade continue to unfold until someone recognizes that there's political capital to be had in calling out the Mayor and his budget team for what they are: witting shills for job-destroying, privatization-hopeful billionaires--in many cases, the same billionaires who so strongly influence the boards of our top museums.
The most child-unfriendly LAUSD idea of the past decade--a derby that includes hundreds of horses--will likely be remedied on Monday as law enforcement will be directed to no longer issue truancy tickets.
Councilman Tom LaBonge gave a little impromptu talk on film location photography at a downtown exhibit featuring the same at Terrell Moore Gallery last night.
About a decade ago, as the job became more complex and the pay more of an incentive, a second way availed itself: through the State Assembly.
When LA's Neighborhood Councils were still in formation a decade ago, some wondered if the NC movement might avail a third path to the horseshoe. In the early days of the Villaraigosa administration, the third path seemed unlikely. But surprisingly strong showings in the past election by NC figures Tomas O'Grady and Brad Smith in the past election indicate that the path is possible.
In the past week, Councilman Paul Krekorian's office has released the results of a Neighborhood Council survey entitled "Perspectives in Neighborhood Empowerment." Krekorian believes the use of the survey will ultimately be to shape policy on NC formation and function. But in it may also reside suggestions that the NC movement is unimaginative, no longer growing, and lacking vision.
For instance, respondents don't like the idea of using social media to disburse information. They're completely torn on an easy one: who should administrate NC elections. Most are convinced that DONE can be run with under twenty staffers.
While all of these results work to fence in rather than expand the power of neighborhood councils, the report is especially banal in one section: the functions section. It is found that Neighborhood Councils that the more banal the function, the more critical it becomes--in fact, in nearly everything function of an NC you can think of, that function is found to be a critical one in the minds of a majority of respondents. This banal outcome is partly the result of the survey instrument's failure to compare the importance of functions against other functions.
Rick Orlov says of Beutner today, "Although he has substantial wealth believed to be in the millions of dollars, he would only say he has been fortunate and he does not plan to use his own money to finance a campaign."
Beutner says he wants to "go out and listen and learn."
The eponymous op-ed disease named for a former news schlub, Jim Newton Disorder, spread today from the op-ed page of the paper to the newsroom, as evidenced by the post on Austin Beutner's shocking, half-baked announcement that he's ready to do the Rotary Club circuit and explore running for Mayor in 2013. The Times item on this, by afflicted Newton Disorder patients only known to the public as Maeve R and David Z, mentions candidates not yet in the race, but not Kevin James, already declared and with $500K in pledges under his belt.
Well known to be in awe of people who make money, Newton and the kids are likely withholding James' name from the paper because they know that it's James who poses the biggest threat to the little-r republican candidacy of whitebread corporate raider and explorer Beutner.
While Team James ponders their next move--as Walter Moore's candidacy has demonstrated, the paper not mentioning you at all can be equally as effective as the paper endorsing you, if marketed the right way--it will also be fun to watch Beutner distance himself from Mayor Villaraigosa in upcoming months. What the James faithful, who include many of an erstwhile Moore base, say about the former fishwrap of record, will certainly lessen the impact of the newspaper as a whole even further, as it now indeed threatens to become, like the LA Weekly, a political liability to a favored candidate rather than an asset.
UPDATE: A mention of James ducks into the late edition.
EARLIER: Marathon Man, Why Jim Newton must go.
The City's perpetually education-tinkering Mayor devotes his sixth State of the City address to...school reform. School reform! We already have a school board to deal with school reform, but...
But we find it abominable that the Mayor is continuing down this line for not one but two reasons.
One, because we identified school reform as a key 2011 issue late last year, we thought some politicians might try to co-opt the issue, but we never dreamed that the Mayor himself would devote such rapt focus on it even while the City faces its toughest economic patch since 1992. Watching the Mayor speak of education at this moment is like watching Nero tuning his violin while Roma is ablaze.
And two, this an abomination because while the Mayor is dealing with a house afire, his job description does not at all call for him to be involved with education.
What have was to show for eighteen years of executive tinkering with the LAUSD? Riordan's greatest blunder was trying to tinker with the LAUSD...and Villaraigosa has redoubled the blunder and blown it out exponentially. And here's what happens: Belmont...half-a-billion dollar schools...teacher suicides...parents wagging fingers at lifelong educational administrators...beleaguered teachers finding themselves scapegoated by politically-fawning media...unions working double-time against a purportedly pro-union Mayor...political machine politics grafted onto school board races...millions spent on $60K-a-year jobs...perpetual pink-slip cycles...developers and contractors making off with tens of millions, while schools can't even afford the janitors to keep their grounds up...
What gives Mayor Villaraigosa the arrogance to presume he knows what's better for the LAUSD than career educators? Even under the best of circumstances, big city mayors know precious little about public education, and rarely do they have any real mandate whatsoever to do anything, other than from the billionaires they serve.
Big city mayors would perform a better service to the City by fencing off education from political tinkering and letting people who actually know education issues deal with it. But the billionaires who script our top public official bank on the public's ignorance; he will tinker with education, with which he has nothing to do, as Los Angeles slouches towards deep budget cuts.
As I said eighteen months ago, quite simply: The Mayor should resign. He was awful then, and he's even worse now. Six years into the job, LA has declined every single year, and so has education in LA, which is the Mayor's pet project. No more, please. No more.
ELSEWHERE: Ron Kaye can't believe the Mayor's BizarroLA. Councilman Krekorian tries to wrestle the speech back to economic reality. And Jill Stewart, torn between two childish contempts, actually snuggles up to the Mayor in the hopes of more wanton civic teacher-bashing to come.
Or, why people should take a month off after they lose elections.
I'll admit, Budget LA has always annoyed me. But now it's running to farce.
And comes now none other than Stephen Box as LA Budget Guy, and he appears surprised that Councilmembers aren't cottoning to many of the neighbors' recommendations for saving money.
Let's not kid ourselves--those Councilmembers are only being polite. The whole Budget LA concept in fact is screwloose and a waste of time. It's only because budgets are political as well as economic events that anyone indulges the pitchfork people at all when they start talking about the City of LA's budget. But it's not real dialog, and every politician knows that. Hell, the politicians barely understand the City budget better than the pitchfork people do.
Above all the other stuff the Budget LA people have come up with, the term "sustainable budget" is the one that most annoys the hell out of me. It doesn't dovetail at all with anything I know about economics. In fact, it's an economic oxymoron. A budget is a one-time event. It may be complicated but it is micro-economic; this budget is not related to the next one. The concept of sustainability is macro--that is, it is something beholden to the big picture and all the stuff that continues to happen over time, dependent on all the macroeconomic factors: unemployment, gross domestic product, &c. To imagine that a series of budgets can be dependably "sustainable" beats out even the former Soviet Union for central planning ambitions.
I don't think a single person who's ever been exposed to economic studies in the non-communist world would ever even think of using such a term as "sustainable budget." A series of government budgets, in fact, can never sustainable in any true economic sense. In economics, budgets are micro-economic events subject to macro-economic forces that control the income sources of the budget. To make one "sustainable" would mean being able to tinker with the macroeconomic forces to which the budget is beholden.
Income is predictable in the short term, but not in the long term--income is in perpetual flux over the long term, hopefully growing but sometimes maybe not, and completely beholden to macroeconomic forces.
So when someone says "sustainable budget" they are simply kidding themselves. They are taking the micro and making it macro. But don't take my word for it--ask any economist.
And that brings me to another point. Who is Budget LA's economist, anyway? Who is the adult in the room? You don't see any economists on this page. Closest is Paul Hatfield, who has a BA in economics; but that's not even nine miles close to being an economist.
If you want to impact public health in a city, you should get a doctor on board your organization. If you want to impact public budgets in a city, you should get an economist on board. Not an accountant--an economist. That way, at least you remove the snicker factor. And you might actually learn what the issues with a government budget truly are.
Also, here's something that's painfully unacknowledged by the Budget LA pugilists: all government budgets are executive in nature. Government budgets are highly specialized microeconomic events, put together by academic-level economists, and later gamed to a degree by executive politicians. Government budgets cobbled together by ordinary tinkerers simply do not exist. And there is good reason for that: budgets by people who don't know economic theory would be as doomed to fail as airplanes designed by people who don't know aerodynamics.
Box also notes that opposite ends Julie Butcher and Paul Hatfield will be speaking about the City's budget this weekend at a Budget LA powwow. This I simply have to see. But really; let's not kid ourselves. Budget LA is a farce.
This post on NYNY, Robert Moses, Robert Caro, powerful unions, pension plans, and other economic powerhouses, originally appeared here, a month ago Saturday. I subsequently put it in the sidebar, because it's what I'm bringing to the table--and I don't care who steals it, or even if it falls right off that table's edge.
I know these ideas are good, indeed excellent...because I stole from the very best. This idea is taken from the financial formula that saved New York City during its own financial crisis--which I lived through too, quite a while back.
Draper, a longtime local radio fixture, is one of the best around at sidestepping our too typical partisan bickerings and honoring ideas rather than influence peddling in attempting to maintain a real civic discourse in Los Angeles. While the LA Times and Daily News publish mostly agenda-driven, partisan politicians and their pr flacks on their op-ed pages, Draper, erring neither left nor right, publishes disparate but legit City voices, people like Jack Humphreville, Stephen Box, Paul Hatfield, &c. and often me too. Who's next?
And sure enough he opened it up today:
So get back over there to Twitter, follow the RC, and tweet your preference!
He loves gun metaphors like "we've got a .50 caliber with crosshairs" and we're going to "pick off a couple" of "job-killing" Democrats.
He keeps a rifle on his State Assembly office wall.
He's asked a hospital what it costs to treat the undocumented.
He accepted a car from the State and drives one of the most expensive cars in the State fleet.
He is Tim Donnelley, Republican from San Bernardino. The Times profiles him here.
The Apple Valley Gun Club recently FBed: "AVGC welcomed Assemblyman Tim Donnely to the club for a meet and greet today. We spent time shooting on the pistol range with Tim and his family, his field rep Chad and his family. It's great to have someone in Sacramento who shares our beliefs and hobbies. Look for Tim to join with us at upcoming CMP shoots and helping at the WOT."
CalBuzz broke the sad news, calling Kuwata "a gentle bear of a man. Politically, he was relentlessly determined, intense and fierce on behalf his clients and causes, but always did his work with a civility and kindness that reflected the compassionate and humanistic perspective he brought to the business."
Well, he also had a very edgy side too, as Gray Davis may recall.
Though Kuwata, a graduate of Pasadena High and USC, worked with heavyweights like Senators Diane Feinstein and Alan Crandsen, Rep. Jane Harman, and Mayor James Hahn, and also was the stagecraft director of the Democrats' 2008 National Convention in Denver, his greatest legacy may yet be leading the successful campaign to keep the City of Los Angeles together during the Valley succession movement.
Jim Newton pens another tepid op-ed, this one on the public's right to know the names of police officers involved in shootings. He does not specifically extend his insistence on the public's right to know to the names of Sheriff deputies involved in shootings.
The Times could and should not lead by empty rhetoric, but by example. It still has yet to disclose the names of the Sheriff deputies or the Federal agent who shot and killed Granada High honor student Zac Champommier last June, even though the names have now long been in the public record.
A police officer on duty performs a consummately public responsibility. Officers are identifiable to the public — they wear their names on their uniforms — because it's crucial that people in the community know their identities. Police are armed and allowed to use force, but they must do so in the service of the public, and under its scrutiny.All of these are true also of Sheriff deputies.
The fishwrap has also extensively covered all protests and named officers involved in the shooting of an apparently drunken, knife-wielding Guatamalan day-laborer, but has covered none of the Friday evening vigils that have tried to draw greater public awareness to Champommier's killing, nor named anyone involved in the shooting.
Absent public scrutiny of such investigations, the public may be left with another fiasco similar to the death of Ruben Salazar, with details of the killing coming out long after the careers of those involved in the incident, and long after real redress is possible.
EARLIER: Champommier inquiry barely underway, Carol Champommier RIFed, In Memoriam Zac Champommier, Kids Disclose Name of Man Deputies Shot and Killed, More Questions in Killing of Recent Granada High Grad
So far, Rick Caruso, whom fishwraps swoon to follow, is himself following eight people on Twitter, and one is...not someone or something he owns.
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.
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.
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.
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."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.
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.
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.
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.
It turns out that the national debt as a percentage of gdp was even higher 69 years ago than it is today!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
UPDATE: LJ Williamson of Giga Granada Hills protests in comment that she is not anonymous, &c. Her name appears on her posts.