GPW: Self-Tempered Anarchy since 2009

Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
Send us your stories, ideas, and information. Insiders welcome - confidentiality guaranteed.

stories along The Way

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Small brush fire in Griffith Park today

A small brush fire broke out in Powder Canyon this afternoon at approximately 3:20pm. LAFD helicopters, ground crews, and Park Rangers had the blaze under control in approximately 90 minutes. The fire was kept to less than 10 acres and the cause is under investigation. Powder Canyon is on the east side of Griffith Park above the Wilson Harding golf complex and below the south side of water tank 76.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Should the Holiday Light Festival go green? Vote!

Should the 2009 Griffith Park Holiday Light Festival be:

1. a fully walking - bicycling - equestrian event,

2. or remain primarily a driving - vehicle event?

 Click the link to email your response:

Station Fire update, restoration plan in three phases

Remains of the historic Vetter Lookout Tower 
(by Carol Underhill U.S.F.S.)
Link to the new Angeles Forest-Station Fire Recovery blog: Angeles Rising

As for the Station Fire, it  is now 98% contained but continues to burn its way through the San Gabriel wilderness. Here's the latest update from InciWeb:

There are three phases of rehabilitation following wildfires on federal lands:
  1. Fire Suppression Repair;
  2. Burned Area Emergency Response; and 
  3. Long-term Recovery, also known as BAER
Fire Suppression Repair is a series of immediate post-fire actions taken to repair damages and minimize environmental impacts resulting from fire suppression activities and is usually began after the fire is contained and before the demobilization of an Incident Management Team. This work rehabilitates the hand and dozer firelines, roads, trails, staging areas, safety zones, and drop points used during fire suppression efforts.

The BAER assessment team will determine if there are appropriate and effective measures that can be implemented in a timely manner to reduce unacceptable risks from potential flooding, mudslides, and debris flows. If the BAER assessment team determines emergency situations exist, and there are feasible and appropriate mitigation measures that would substantially reduce risks, the Angeles National Forest's short-term goal is to have treatments completed before the first damaging winter rain storm.

A variety of state, local agencies and programs are available to help homeowners. These include FEMA, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. Residents who have not yet met with a flood-control engineer but would like to schedule a visit may call (800) 214-4020 and review the LA County DPW's "Homeowner's Guide for Flood, Debris and Erosion Control".

It has been determined that the cause of the Station Fire is arson and is now a homicide investigation. If you have any information or questions please contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department at 323-890-5500. The Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles has established a reward in the amount of $50,000 for any information leading to the apprehension and/or conviction of the person or persons responsible for the heinous actions that lead to a major disaster known as the "Station Fire" which started off the Angeles Crest Highway (SR 2) about one mile above Angeles Crest Fire Station on August 26, 2009 around 3:30 p.m., and at this time has resulted in the death of two fire fighters and injury of 22 persons.

The Angeles National Forest call center is being staffed 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. for additional information call (626) 574-5200.

Videos of the Station Fire can be seen at Station Fire Videos.

The Station Fire which started on August 26, 2009, is the largest fire in the recorded history of Los Angeles County and the 10th largest fire in California since 1933. On Google Earth, the Station Fire Perimeter and a progression map is available.
Closures: The Angeles National Forest call center is being staffed 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. For additional information, please call 626-334-7582.
Deukmejian Wilderness Park: For the health and safety of our visitors, the park is presently closed until further notice.
Angeles National Forest Closure: An area closure of the southern portion of the Angeles National Forest is in effect until it is determined that it is safe to reopen forest areas. For additional information on the closure, and a map go to or call (626) 574-5200
Road Closures: Closures are in effect throughout the fire area to protect the community. Please call the California Highway Patrol for further information at (323) 982-4900. For Little Rock Reservoir, call (661) 533-2424.

Read the latest LA Times article on the delay in beginning the fire fight and promised changes in its wake. 

View the Station Fire photo essay from the LA Times here.

Push for Completion of the Mulholland Core Trail

Q: How many years does it take for the City to complete a hiking trail?

A: 18 and counting if the trail is the Mulholland Core trail.

This trail when completed will run from Griffith Park to Topanga Cyn Blvd. Wouldn't you like to use this trail? I certainly would!

Wake up people! Time for this community to kick the snot out of our so-called representatives, including "Mr. Griffith Park" himself, until they keep their promise!

By Zach Behrens, from LAist in May 2009:

A curvy portion of Mulholland Drive, as seen from the Hollywood Bowl Scenic Overlook parking lot
Photo by jiparker via Flickr

It was back in 1992 when the Mulholland Scenic Parkway Specific Plan went into effect, setting course for the city of Los Angeles to preserve the historic 1924 drive through a set of land use regulations and improvements. Among those was the Core Trail, some 22 miles in length, roughly from near the Hollywood Bowl to Topanga Canyon Boulevard. Approaching 20 years since it became law, some are wondering why nothing has been done.

Actually, some began wondering back in 2001, nine years after it hit the books. In a letter to the Department of Public Works, Lynette Berg Robe, the chair of the city's Mulholland Scenic Parkway Design Review Board, urged the department to begin work on the trail. "Unlike other parks, the land for the Core Trail does not need to be acquired," she explained. "The City's right of way along Mulholland was established long ago. East of Laurel Canyon Boulevard, the right of way is 100 feet wide. West of Laurel Canyon Boulevard, the right of way is 200 feet wide." A year later, she followed up, this time to City Council members whose districts included the trail. Avid hiker, Tom LaBonge was among those addressed, but when recently pressed by LAist about the trail, he said he was unaware of the plan.

A map marks the Core Trail in red | A gallery of all the maps can be found here 

One government source close to the issue, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, likened the trail's construction to political suicide. Currently, much of the public space is being used by land owners under revocable permits, which allows them to landscape or build security fences within the public right-of-way. What politician wants to revoke those permits and tell the wealthy homeowners and campaign donors of Mulholland Drive that a trail that will bring people, cyclists and equestrians outside their homes, the source hypothetically questioned.

No matter, it's not just citizen board members wanting the trail to come to life, but the state of California, too. In Februrary of 2006, the Board for the Santa Monica Conservancy passed a resolution (.pdf) urging the city to make the Core Trail a reality. In the resolution's supporting documents, Robe's letters to the city were cited. "After ten years, it is time for the Core Trail to become a reality," she wrote. "The public deserves the opportunity to walk safely along Mulholland and to enjoy the spectacular views. The Core Trial has been written into law. Now, we need leadership with the will to make it a reality."

17 years later, maybe a re-write of that letter is needed.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fight to make Griffith Park Holiday Light Festival a shade greener

By Stephen Box at SoapBoxLA
Photo by Militant Angelino    

Holiday Light Festival - NC's Walk!

LA's Department of Water & Power has dusted off the Holiday Light Festival decorations and is busy investing the public's money in the event that won the "Eco-Moron" award last year for its ability to drawing idling vehicles in such numbers that Griffith Park, the adjacent communities and the 5 freeway all sit in gridlock for hours each evening of the holiday season. As the Park Rangers and the Department of Transportation grapple with the traffic, the DWP claims the "Going Green" title and then proceeds to go after more of your green.

The Griffith Park Holiday Light Festival is an old tradition, dating back to Councilman John Ferraro who visited San Antonio during the holiday season and came back all enthralled with the idea of a public light festival. In hindsight, it's only too bad that he didn't visit a city with Great Streets, one with holiday lights and people walking and talking and having conversations and singing and enjoying a human-sized people based festival. Of course, it's not too late to make some changes!

The Greater Griffith Park NC, the Atwater Village NC, the Los Feliz Improvement Association, the Oaks Home Owners Association and community members representing hikers, runners, cyclists, equestrians, and folks who simply like to breath clean air when standing in the middle of the America's largest urban wilderness park have joined together to ask the DWP to simply have motorists park their cars in the Zoo parking lot, then get out and walk through the Festival. The simple move to a pedestrian based festival, with ADA accommodations, would relieve the community from the idling queue that approaches the park from the south. It seems so simple!

The DWP's Public Affairs office, very nice folks who have one of the hardest jobs imaginable, putting a shine on the DWP's policies and programs, gave this year's version of "Why you can't have what you want but here is something shiny to distract you!" presentation, again to a full house and again to well-articulated arguments for the same old vehicular based paradigm for enjoying the great outdoors.

The Bike Writers Collective objects to the DWP's Griffith Park Holiday Light Festival for a few reasons, first because it excludes cyclists from the vehicular nights based on the recommendation of the LADOT that it is too dangerous to have motor vehicles and bicycles on the same road. This becomes a principle issue since one of the basic rights cyclists claim is the right to ride on the streets of Los Angeles. The DWP claims that it is exempt from the law and can exclude cyclists which leaves cyclists charging "The DWP is trying too hard to find a legal loophole to do something absurd, prevent cyclists from riding bikes in traffic that moves so slowly, the road resembles a parking lot."

Plans are already underway for a protest ride, The Festival of Rights, which will take place on Friday, December 18. The protest ride, which gathers at the Mulholland Fountain where cyclists decorate themselves with lights, has become an annual tradition and this will be the third year (2007 and 2008) that the absurdity of a vehicular light festival at the expense of the community, the pedestrians and the cyclists will be challenged by the cycling community. Cyclist should be cautioned that the ride is not without risk, participants who elect to breath while riding will be subjected to greenhouse gases, auto emissions and noxious odors.

As for the larger issue of the "Pedestrian Friendly" event that local community leaders have been proposing, endorsing and working to bring to fruition, the DWP Commissioners, the DWP Management and Councilman Tom LaBonge have all been notified that the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council has polled the community and concluded with a resolution calling for the "complete environmental reform of the annual LADWP Light Festival in Griffith Park."

Lawsuit over planned LA Zoo elephant exhibit reinstated

A high profile lawsuit to stop Tom LaBonge's new elephant enclosure at the LA Zoo was reinstated by 2nd District Court of Appeals last week.

Actor Robert Culp ("I Spy") and real estate agent Aaron Leider filed a lawsuit in August 2007 to stop the building of the LA Zoo's $40 million exhibit, the "Pachyderm Forest" which the City Council had originally approved in 2006. Culp's lawsuit in summary states that the expensive project does essentially nothing to improve the living conditions for Billy the Elephant, and is a huge waste of taxpayer money.

A higher court had thrown this lawsuit out, which may have been the impetus behind Councilman Tony Cardenas's attempt to kill the project and take the associated funds from it in 2008. The City Council at that time once again passed the exhibit, citing the cost to the taxpayers of mothballing the project. Mothballing would result in an outright loss of approximately $11 million. Now that the suit has been reinstated, the entire Billy the Elephant drama will likely resurface in City Hall before the end of the year. Expect Cardenas to lead the charge again as LaBonge struggles to keep the project afloat while the City's finances grow ever worse and bankruptcy looms. In other words, more drama to distract us all from the big picture.

No, we're not saying that Billy's plight isn't important. It is terribly important, as is all practice related to animal welfare. Unfortunately, what happens to Billy is a convenient something-else for the City Council and Mayor to use to distract us from the fact that they have still done nothing to handle the City's financial ailments. Rest assured that the fervor over Billy's plight has been and will continue to be used by elected officials to move the their own agendas forward and those of their highest political contributors. So don't fool yourselves on the motives behind Cardenas's or LaBonge's actions. It's all about the money, the power, and the perceived "legacy" of an elected official. It's also about the LA Zoo occupying Griffith Park land without Griffith Park oversight. Finally, it is about the opportunity this issue provides, and how it is used.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Historic Griffith Park miniature train pictures

From the Gorillas Don't Blog blog comes historic pictures of the miniature trains at Travel Town circa 1959.

Our question, is the negative on this picture backwards?

More pictures are available on the blog.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Canned Ham Goes Green

Greetings on a Friday!

For more information on any of the items below or to see photos from Tom's events this week, please visit the Council District 4 website at: 

- Visit TarFest - the weekend art, film and music festival in the Miracle Mile - this weekend. This lively event showcases emerging artists and is quickly becoming a Los Angeles institution. On Sunday morning, Tom will kick off the one-mile and 5K Miracle Mile Grand Prix run, which is part of the TarFest program of events. For more information, click here:

 - Tom and Ed Begley, Jr. will flip the switch to illuminate the first solar-powered lights in a City of Los Angeles park. The public is invited to the dedication ceremony for the new lights on Tuesday, September 29 at 6:30 p.m. in North Hollywood Park, 11455 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601. For more information, please see the attached flier.

- Tom drew big applause in Hollywood on Wednesday for supporting a second subway extension (after the Wilshire Westside extension is completed) along Santa Monica Boulevard through West Hollywood. In his annual address to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Tom also discussed streamlining city government and installing permanent lights on the Hollywood High School football field. The Sheiks of Hollywood High play the Roybal Titans at the homecoming football game under the lights on Friday, October 9 at 6 p.m

- John Marshall High School is looking for community members who'd like to volunteer their time to help seniors apply for college. If you're interested, please contact Susan Philips at, or call 323 660-4799. A meeting for volunteer "mentors" will be held on Thursday, November 5, from 3:30-6:00, where they will be matched with students. 

- A non-profit organization is helping homeowners restructure their mortgages at free workshops this weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa St. The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, which is certified by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, will be available for consultation 9 a.m.-8 p.m. today through Monday. For more information, click here: 

Have a great weekend and continue to enjoy and love Los Angeles.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Keep Me Wild.... please

Download this poster on proper coyote management from the California Department of Fish and Game.

LA Times article: Keeping Griffith Park Wildlife Wild.

Fate of the Dawn Mine way station

In the wake of the Station Fire, the fate of the Dawn Mine way station, a perennial favorite with hikers enjoying the historic Mt. Lowe hiking complex, is now known. Sadly, it is no more. But our friend Lee Zebold says that it will be rebuilt, and we'll let you know when the opportunity to assist comes up.

A message circulated to the Mt. Lowe volunteers earlier this week went thusly:
The Volunteers NEVER GIVE UP

We will rebuild our rebuilt Dawn Mine Way Station….after losing it in the Station Fire
From John Harrigan to the group send 9/22/09
“I am going to try to put together a detailed parts list to rebuild the Dawn Station Structure. I did the original drawing, but there were several items that we did on the mountain that are now fuzzy in my mind. If any of you have photos of the original construction, I would appreciate a copy of the photo, 500k or better. This may not happen until after the first of the year because I assume we have approvals to obtain for the funding and building, and I have several electrical fire damage problems on Mt. Wilson that I have to take care of first. Thanks, John Harrigan.”
Lee Zebold forwarded these photos of the destruction and from when the Mt. Lowe volunteers rebuilt the replica of the original kiosk back in 1998.

As for the monstrous Station Fire, it is 98% contained as of today but firefighters now say that due to the incredibly rugged wilderness where the fire is still burning, full containment will not be possible and they must give up the fire fight. The Station Fire will basically burn until it rains enough to extinguish it.  No structures are threatened as the fire makes its way into very remote wilderness... Seems eerily fitting for the giant untamed beast this fire has become.

The investigation is still underway as to who started this deadly fire, and the reward of $150,000 is still out there for information leading to an arrest.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tweets from the Station Fire fireline

AngelesNF #Station Fire: Containment now at 94%; Personnel 787; Air resources to continue pretreatment of ridges Mt. Wilson Area.
  from web

AngelesNF #Station Fire A red flag warning will be in effect from midnight tonight through Wednesday evening ..
from twitterfeed

AngelesNF #Station Fire Due to increased temperatures, wind, and a decrease in humidity, aircraft, including ..
  from twitterfeed

AngelesNF #Station Fire: At approximately 3 p.m. fixed wing air tankers will drop retardant and pretreat ridges east of Mt. Wilson
from web

AngelesNF #Station Fire: Heavy helitankers began water drops at noon in Mt. Wilson area to cool hot spots. Containment still 93%.
  from web

AngelesNF #Station Fire FIRE OPERATIONS SUMMARY: Firefighters continue to hold and mop up the 132 miles of con..
from twitterfeed

AngelesNF #Station Fire: Increased temperatures, wind and decreased humidity; Commander Wakoski has ordered 4 heavy helitankers.
  from web

Royce Canyon trail renovation

On September 5th, a boy scout troop refurbished part of Royce Canyon in Griffith Park.

With the assistance of the Park Rangers, they repainted and repaired the information kiosk at the canyon trail head as well as painted the bench that faces the canyon and cleaned the trail.

This was part of an Eagle scout project for Boy Scout Bernie. The same troop has another project planned in the park later this year.

Great job to all involved!

Hand-fed coyotes bite two in Griffith Park, lose their lives for it

It happened again last week - twice. People near Mineral Wells in Griffith Park were bitten by coyotes who were expecting to be hand-fed. State and Federal authorities trapped a number of coyotes, and seven were killed. For the record, this action is state and federal policy and has nothing to do with the Department of Recreation and Parks.  Regardless of whose policy it is, if someone else is bit by a coyote because of people illegally hand feeding them, then more animals will pay the price for their illegal activities.


You - the people doing this - whoever you are, you are costing these animals their lives and people are getting hurt. Stop with the selfish, misguided activity and get a clue.


We can't be any less subtle about this stupidity - when humans feed wildlife, everyone loses. Knock it off.

As we said in our first important article about Coyotes in Griffith Park, the cost is way too high.

Here is link to an SFist article where the same terrible thing happened in Golden Gate Park, with the same deadly result - go figure. (image above is from this article)

Link to the LA Times article on the latest Griffith Park incident.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"Paws and Learn" fundraising hike Oct 10

Fun hike from our friends at the Los Angeles Dog Blog.  Slight correction in the article is that the Charlie Turner Trailhead is the jumping off place for the Mt Hollywood Trail. The confusion is certainly understandable, since no other trail in any City park that we know of has a named "trailhead" different from the trail itself. Correct us if we're wrong, but this seems like only something Mr. Hollywood himself - Tom LaBonge - would do.

Paws and Learn Fund Raiser

By Laura Bourhenne
No GravatarDear Supporters,
We’re excited to announce that Paws and Learn is hosting our first fund raising event on Saturday, October 10th!

Please join us for a fun hike up the Charlie Turner Trail in Griffith Park.  The entire trail (also known as Mount Hollywood Trail) has amazing views of Los Angeles all the way to the beach, including Downtown, the Observatory, and the infamous Hollywood sign.  There are picnic tables at the top where we can rest while snacking on light refreshments that we’ll provide. The elevation climb is moderately challenging (500 feet), broken up by a few relatively flat stretches of trail, and will likely take the average person 30 – 45 minutes to get to the top.  Total distance is 3 miles, and total hiking time will likely be 1.5 hours.

Included in the ticket price is a candid photograph taken by professional photographer Pam Marks of Paw Prince Studios. Pam will have her camera set up along the trail and each ticket holder is entitled to one picture taken featuring the scenic overlook in the background.  Photos can be taken either alone, with your dog, or with your hiking friends, and will be available to download off of Pam’s website the following week.
Tickets can be purchased the day of the hike for $20 per person, and includes the photograph and snacks.  Paws and Learn is still volunteer-run, so 100% of your donation will go towards educational materials and handouts. The new school year has started, and we have lots of students to educate!!  Please help support our young nonprofit by forwarding this email to anyone you think might be interested, and feel free to bring friends.  Of course, dogs (on leash) are most welcome!

The event will be held from 9 – 12pm, with registration starting at 8:30am.  An RSVP sent to is not mandatory, but would be very helpful for our planning.
We appreciate your support!!
Meredith & Jenn

2800 East Observatory Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027
- 5 South to Los Feliz Blvd (heading west)
- Right on Hillhurst Ave. (which becomes Vermont Canyon Rd.)
- Follow all signs to the Observatory (you’ll pass the Greek Theatre)
- after the tunnel, go left up the hill to the Observatory parking lot
The trailhead is across from the Observatory parking lot, and you’ll see a Paws and Learn table set up

GGPNC election results announced

Punctuating the fact that democracy is often messy, it took almost six hours for the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council to select its ten "representative" seats on Saturday. By the end of the day, the new seated board members were Sara Napier (education), Jeff Gardner (recreation), Rosemary Demonte (business), Reverend Dan Hooper (religion), Nyla Arslanian (non-profit), Charlie Mims (at-large 1), Tom Wilson (at-large 2), Tor Hyams (at-large 3), Luisa Nubaravacharyan (at-large 4).

Congratulations to all winners!

The Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council includes Griffith Park in its boundaries. This makes the neighborhood council the main stewards of the entire park among community organizations. The GGPNC has a very active parks committee, the GGPNC Parks River and Open Space Committee, aka "PROS".  When you have park issues, please bring them to the PROS committee. Their next meeting is October 5th. Please see the GGPNC web site for more information:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

City moves forward on cut jobs, furloughs

Just in: LA City Council votes to begin the process of 926 layoffs and furlough days for all employees while negotiations with the unions continue for another 48 hours. It will take up to six months to organize and implement these layoffs. Furloughs, however, will begin September 28th.

Meanwhile, the Mayor's E-RIP/Golden Handshake plan goes back to the LACERS (City pension) committee which is loaded with mayoral appointees. In other words, it sounds like the City Council did nothing... except perhaps improve their bargaining position by getting closer to being able to implement layoffs immediately -- something they should have done on January 1st so the trigger could have been pulled on this bargaining chip before the July 1 start of the new 09-10 fiscal year, not six months from today's date.

(...and these conflicted impartial city council gutless wonders representatives are paid almost $200,000 per year by us taxpayers to make the big decisions for us taxpayers when the going gets tough... wow. Doesn't anyone have any actual balls leadership ability?)

More details via the latest LA Times article.

High profile coyote-napping

Actual flyer. Please print, copy, and post wherever coyotes may see it!
Actual flyer. Please print, copy, and post wherever coyotes may see it!
OK so this is kind of sick and funny and horrifying all at the same time, but totally germane since we've been talking about the coyote situation in Griffith Park here. 

The moral of the story? Keep your dogs on a leash!

From LAMetBlogs:

An appeal to @wileecoyote from @jessicasimpson

by David Markland
@jessicasimpson: – My heart is broken because a coyote took my precious Daisy right in front of our eyes. HORROR! We are searching. Hoping. Please help!
Clearly, this is incredibly urgent. Coyotes aren’t known to keep malti-poos as pets for very long, and according to urban legend, will often sell these dogs to NFL players to be used as “playthings” for their rottweillers and pitbulls. “Mommy” Jessica Simpson is offering a reward for Daisy’s safe return, NO QUESTIONS ASKED.

In case this turns out badly, I’m asking all Metblog readers to chip in with me for a gift that will help protect any of Jessica’s future canine pals: a leash.

Curb your roosters!

Next Tuesday while Council District 2 selects its new council representative in a special election, the Los Angeles City Council will be voting on an ordinance that would allow only one rooster per property. People in more rural areas that often surround our regional parks sometimes keep roosters as pets. My neighbor across the street has six of the damn things! They're all terribly pretty, but dear-lord-are-they-obnoxious. Right up there with the other neighbor's dog who barks 24-7.

The Public Safety Committee led by Greig Smith nowadays approved the ordinance Monday citing noise, odor, health and cleanliness issues supposedly posed by keeping multiple roosters. My neighbor is pretty much a clean-freak with her roosters, which kind of defies the cleanliness assertion. The better guess is that what they are really after is a way to give probable cause for peace officers to investigate "suspicious crowing" in search of illegal cock-fighting operations. Cock fighting is abhorrent, and so are the conditions that drive people to engage in this cruel activity.

People who already own several roosters would be allowed to keep up to three of them as pets if they are microchipped or fitted with a city-approved I.D. leg band and they must be housed at least 100 feet from neighboring homes. No word on the cost of these leg bands, but microchipping runs $20-$30 usually with an annual fee to keep the database up with current information.  As for the housing thing, my neighbor doesn't even bother to house her roosters - they sleep in the trees about 25' from my house and they think sunrise is 3am.

Licensed roosters would be allowed to live out their natural lives, but no "replacement roosters" would be allowed. (Yay!) Violations would result in a $50 fine for the first offense, $100 for the second and $250 for the third.

Anyone know the PC for "suspicious crowing"? 

(PC - penal code)

Image from

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Volunteering for San Gabriels trail restoration

With 250 square miles of some of the country's most beautiful trails destroyed and an El Nino wet winter rumored on the way, there's an awful lot of work to do to begin restoring the trails of the San Gabriels. The Los Angeles River Ranger District is in theory the lead division for trail restoration.

After reviewing the available information, in all honestly it appears that the Mt Lowe volunteers organize a great deal of the volunteering effort for the Angeles district. Blog friend and Griffith hiker Lee Zebold is a part of this group.

The lack of serious direct leadership on the part of the US Forest Service isn't surprising given the US Forest Service's dearth of resources. Sad that the United States government puts so little effort and funding into our national forests.  

Read the Mt. Lowe volunteers' September newsletter here.   The photo we used above comes from this information-packed newsletter.  (The Mt. Lowe web site linked in the article has been down for a day or so, but the folks who run it say it'll be back up shortly - or at least that is what their ISP is saying...  -GPW)

There is also the Angeles Volunteers Association web site for related volunteer information. The Modern Hiker blog also has a good summary of information on how to get started.

In a related story, LAist has an excellent photo essay on the crime scene where the Station Fire started.

Finally - a reminder. Right now the Angeles forest is CLOSED. They're dead-serious about this. If you are caught in a closed area, the fine is $5,000... yikes!

FlipflopRaigosa backing down on Golden Handshakes

Update 9-16-09: Discussions on E-RIP went until midnight at City Hall last night with no decisions. Interestingly, a City Hall insider made the following observation via anonymous comment on another blog:  "Seen having lunch today:   (Ari) Swiller, AV(illaraigosa), Parke (Skelton), (Eric) Hacopian, (Julie) Butcher (of SEIU), (Brian) D'Arcy (of IBEW). You know some bad sh-t is going down if this bunch is all together." Indeed! Swiller, Hacopian, and Skelton advise everyone in town and run every election in town. You also might recognize Swiller from another interesting Zahniser investigative report published yesterday about the DWP being trumped on buying land in Kern County by Swiller using insider information from the Mayor.  Word is that negotiations/discussions on E-RIP resumed at 9am this morning and City Council will resume session at noon today.  -Green Stealth

UPDATE: it's almost 4:30pm and after two hours of public comment, City Council has been in closed session on the E-RIP issue for almost five hours. Before Council went behind closed doors, Zahniser reports that Mayor Villaraigosa threatened to veto any Golden Handshakes passed by the council, punctuating the completion of his flip-flop.  A ton of people are probably very frustrated with the City's limited access to viewing and listening in on this meeting. Councilphone has been busy since before 10 am , and the City's web broadcast has been very effectively trashed by all the hits. Meanwhile, for those who did manage to get a line on Councilphone, we're listening to the Board of Public Works welcome new appointee Andrea Alarcon to the money trough. Andrea is Councilman Richard Alarcon's daughter, and she takes the place of Councilman Tony Cardenas's brother on the board. Unlike almost all other City boards which are populated by volunteers, board members on the Board of Public Works are paid six figures per year.


David Zahniser, probably the last real reporter at the LA Times actively reporting City Hall, is reporting that Villaraigosa is flip-flopping on the Golden Handshakes deal.... finally.... after a near all-out revolt by the CAO and Bernard Parks' Budget and Finance committee. The City Council vote is to take place sometime today on the package, and it looks like the Mayor can't win this one, so Antonio's chickening-out. Great news for LA taxpayers!

What does this mean for LA City parks?  Potentially a great deal. As a direct result, the huge loss of experienced workers will probably not take place. This is obviously a good thing. If the Mayor's expensive kowtowing to SEIU was passed, that coupled with a completely loony management would have meant that Recreation and Parks could have suffered the single greatest loss of accumulated job experience in its history. Yay for the parks!

But not so fast. The questionable managerial style of Assistant General Manager Kevin Regan is still firmly entrenched at the DRP, while looming is possible City bankruptcy. Less employees will be eligible for full retirement, but most of the competent veterans will still want to get away from Regan if they have any self-respect remaining. Complicating their decisions is the potential bankruptcy. If Los Angeles declares BK, then employees become creditors in a long line of creditors that the City owes, essentially. Their packages are going to be renegotiated, to their probable detriment. The question becomes whether the renegotiation is more detrimental if one is already retired, or soon to retire. Such is the nature of what experienced DRP employees may be facing. Bad news for employees.

Regardless, Tony and his 15 fiefs will need to lay off workers and furlough everyone else now. Unless SEIU and the Mayor opt for yet another misdirection to delay dealing with the debt for a few more months. Furloughs and layoffs will impact what parks services we still have left. So bad for the parks!

Where this all shakes out remains to be seen.  Meanwhile, keep lobbying the people who are supposed to be representing the public to support our parks!

Reminder: Park[ing] Day LA is this Friday

Just a quick reminder that Park[ing] Day LA - the day to draw attention to the fact that LA is one of the most park-poor major cities in the United States - is coming to an urban area near you this Friday.

In previous articles here on the subject, GPW discussed both the need and the reasons that every time a budget cut comes down the line, parks are always cut first in this town.

From the Park[ing] Day LA people:  

The third annual Park[ing] Day LA, which will be on Friday, September 18th, will bring together a diverse constituency of community groups, neighborhood councils, design & architecture firms, professional organizations, non-profits, cyclists & pedestrian advocates as they work together to transform numerous parking spaces & parking lots located throughout LA into ephemeral parks for the day. By occupying a parking spot and feeding the meter, volunteers will enhance the street with a sustainably designed pocket-park.

People need healthy parks! Start by making a statement and enjoying Park[ing] Day LA!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Song: "Griffith Park Fire"

Local band pizza! and their take on the GP fire. We're guessing that they know just enough about the park to be dangerous. Enjoy!

Lyrics to Griffith Park Fire (pizza!)

News at five!
Fire at the arboretum
But it wouldn’t be the first time
Fire in Griffith Park!
Two bucks a day
Said it was a good solution
Clear brush, Uncle Sam
Poor zoo-keeper

Critical mass
Professional fire-fighters
Say “there’s too many workers”
Things got out of hand
Scurry up the hill
Going 20 miles an hour
Thought that they could get away….

Smoke on Alvarado
But we couldn’t see the sight
Smoke only covers
The sky
Went to Coronado
When the sun went down at night
Had to get a better view
And Steve said “it’s cool on the roof!”

Shut it!
Fire at the observation
Said “goats are to blame!”

Oh my garden’s safe, but…

Smoke on Alvarado
But we couldn’t see the sight
Smoke only covers
The sky
Went to Coronado
When the sun went down at night
Had to get a better view
And Steve said “it’s cool on the roof!”

But oh what fun!
To meet the neighbors!
It was so much fun!

Station Fire by the numbers

STATION FIRE as of 9-14-09

Largest fire in LA County history.
10th largest fire in CA history since 1933.

Image by way of
  • Lives lost:    2 Los Angeles County firefighters
  • Homes lost:      more than 85
  • Homes threatened:      15,000
  • Vehicles lost:      132, 14 damaged
  • Cost of fighting to date:      $90 million and growing
  • Acres burned:      166,557 (approx 250 sq mi) and growing
  • Percent contained:      87%
  • Estimated date of containment:      9-19-09
  • Cause:       Arson - Mile Marker 29 of SR2, 8-26-09 3:30pm
  • Reward:      $150,000 call 323 890 5500 with any information

Friday, September 11, 2009

Camp Valcrest survives Station Fire

Word from a source exclusive to this forum is that Camp Valcrest, owned by the Department of Recreation and Parks, has somehow survived the Station Fire.  The camp was closed for renovation, so evacuations were thankfully not needed.

This is great news for everyone who has enjoyed or will enjoy the outdoor experience at Camp Valcrest in the San Gabriels. Meanwhile the cost of fighting the Station Fire is now more than $80 million, and the fire is a little over 70% contained as of today. Authorities are still looking for the parties responsible for this heinous act and the reward for information leading to their arrest stands at $150,000.

Photo by Griffith Park historian Mike Eberts.

Tour de Canned Ham

Greetings on a Friday!

For more information on these items, please visit the Council District 4 website:

- Tom invites you to a September 11th Candlelight Vigil tonight in North Hollywood Park. People will gather at 6 p.m. for this powerful annual community event, which is co-sponsored by the Hollywood Beautification Team. The ceremony begins at 6:30. For more information, please see the attached flier.

- The Councilman will continue his monthly Griffith Park clean-ups with an early bird event tomorrow. Please meet Tom at 6:30 a.m. at the north end of the Griffith Observatory parking lot to participate.

- After the clean-up, Tom encourages folks to attend the 10 a.m. memorial honoring the two Los Angeles County firefighters - Capt. Ted Hall and Firefighter Specialist Arnie Quinones - who were killed while battling the Station Fire. The ceremony will be held at Dodger Stadium and is open to the public.

- The Councilman introduced a motion this week that directs the Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to report on the rash of water lines breaking throughout the City and the efforts they are making to address this urgent problem. Besides the major eruptions that occurred over the past 10 days in the San Fernando Valley, several smaller leaks have occurred in the 4th Council District over the past several months. The LADWP is in the process of installing major water lines in the Wilshire and Griffith Park areas to replace the aging infrastructure. For more information on these projects, please click here:

- The California Department of Food and Agriculture has instituted an emergency program against the Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP) after the insect was detected during a survey of the Echo Park area. This insect poses a serious threat to California citrus trees because it transmits a bacteria, Huanglongbing (HLB) that causes one of the most devastating diseases for citrus crops. There is no cure for this malady, which has caused billions of dollars in damage to Florida citrus trees. No HLB has been found in California. Click here for pictures of the insects and information about what the state is doing to detect and control these pests:

- Visit the Los Angeles Zoo to welcome a pair of playful twins from the endangered species list. Two rare snow leopard cubs were born at the zoo on May 26th and introduced to the public on Thursday. There are fewer than 7,000 snow leopards left in the wild.

Have a great weekend and continue to enjoy and love Los Angeles.

Events: Trail Cleanup @ Elysian P, FOLAR River Talk @ GP

From GEPENC board member and Elysian Park volunteer Christine Peters:

September 19 "Day of Service" Trail Cleanup/Elysian Park

Hello All-

Looking for reliable volunteers to help lead the charge of cleaning up our much used loop of Elysian Park! Set up 8am, cleanup starts at 8:30. Have a favorite (or dreaded section of the trail?). Please volunteer your time and which part of the trail you would like to co-ordinate clean up efforts.

Meeting place: Marion Harlow Grove, "The Oasis", watering hole for people and dogs, just inside the trail entrance off of Park Drive near the Water Tank. 9/19/09, 8:30A. Refreshments will be provided.

We will have a Clean and Green Crew, Park Rangers, CD 1 support and the Neighborhood Council, Citizens Committee to Save Elysian Park and EP Animal Alliance.  We will be repainting faded fire hydrant ID numbers, chipped and shabby gates,trash cans and bag dispensers. Also collecting any and all trash and waste along the trails!

You use it, now renew it! Come on Echo Park, Let's keep it beautiful! Please RSVP to the email in the flyer!

The Los Angeles River: Past, Present and Future will be the topic of Alicia Katamo, director of programming for Friends of the Los Angeles River, at a meeting of the Los Angeles Garden Club, 9:30 a.m. Sept. 14. Griffith Park Visitors Center, auditorium, 4730 Crystal Springs Drive, Los Angeles. 818-357-4485.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Venue-fication of the Old Zoo increases

Once a testament to archaic and cruel animal captivity, the Old Zoo area of Griffith Park is nowadays a very popular picnic area with a unique ambiance... for those of you who can ignore the ghosts that seem to haunt some of the remaining cages, that is. Spooks us, but we digress.

Occasionally happy picnicers are displaced when someone decides to use the Old Zoo as a venue. It now appears that Rec and Parks is stepping up use of the site as a venue with the installment of the Vesper Theatre's production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, running through October 11th.  So now we have Symphony in the park and Shakespeare in the park at the Old Zoo.  We're not complaining exactly, but are wondering how far this venue-fication of the Old Zoo will go.

Here's the LA Times review of the production which looks pretty good. We're wondering if the photo credited to Chris Collins is the same Chris Collins who has finally and thankfully been permanently banned from the Wilson Harding Golf Course for illegal, abusive, and extremely disruptive behavior. Probably a coincidence.

Theater review: 'Much Ado About Nothing' at Old L.A. Zoo
Much Ado Cast 3The resourceful folks at the newly formed Vesper Theater Company could have second careers as location scouts.  The most captivating aspect of “Much Ado About Nothing,” the group’s first outdoor Shakespeare production, intended as a yearly event, is the locale – just outside the abandoned bear caves at the old L.A. Zoo in Griffith Park. Aptly and wittily dubbed “Shakespeare on the Rocks”  -- a reference to the cascading man-made boulders that surround the caves – this initial offering, directed by Tim Landfield, is rough-edged but nonetheless charming, a propitious launch that bodes well for future endeavors.

Of course, Shakespeare’s dark comedy about a young Italian gentlewoman falsely accused of fornication at her own wedding is most famous for the delightfully acid repartee between the bride’s sharp-witted kinswoman, Beatrice (appealingly feisty Courtnie Sauls), and her equally caustic admirer, Benedick (authoritative Corey MacIntosh), who circle around each another like angry cranes in a mating ritual. As is the problem with many local Shakespearean productions, certain actors are somewhat overwhelmed by the language, which suffers from occasional mush-mouthiness.  However, there are excellent performances to be found, particularly Patrick Blakely’s suave Don Pedro, a well-meaning nobleman misled by his scheming bastard brother, Don John (effectively brooding John Dimitri) and Ben Stranahan’s Leonato, an outraged father whose emotions, upon hearing his daughter decried as a “stale,” run the gamut from confusion to dismay to righteous wrath.  --F. Kathleen Foley

Much Ado About Nothing,” Old L.A. Zoo on Griffith Park Drive.  3:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.  Ends Oct. 11.  Suggested donation $10.  (323) 207-6365.  Running time:  2 hours, 20 minutes.  Photo: Corey MacIntosh, left, and Courtnie Sauls in "Much Ado About Nothing." Credit: Chris Collins

Lance Armstrong's Tour de Griffith

All Lance Armstrong had to do was tweet that he was going for a little bike ride in Griffith Park this morning, and 500 people showed up to go with him.

No sign of Mr. "Tour LaBonge", either.  About time Tom's staff gets up to date with that Twitter thang.

Notice the, ....over-bearing Office of Public Safety officer trying to act tough in this video. OPS's instinct consistently seems to be obstructive rather than proactive - completely against how the energy of a parks department should feel to the people it serves.

Hey! Armstrong taking a little ride in Griffith is FUN, Officer Whateveryournameis.  Lighten up! And go do some real damn work for a change!

Meanwhile, this afterthought from Lance's Twitter page:
Great ride in Griffith Park. Thanks, LA! And thanks to the LAPD for the help. Off to Montreal. . .                                                from UberTwitter
Lance Armstrong thinks he was talking to LAPD!

LAPD probably doesn't mind the vicarious publicity, but we know for damn sure they don't want to be mistaken for an agency that is commanded by people who LAPD would never hire for a variety of reasons. (we'll elaborate on that another time.)

Here's a link to the LA Times article with a much nicer picture...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

City's Pension Commission approves 15 yr payback schedule; Massive parks retirements loom

Today the City's Pension Commission ("LACERS") went against their staff's recommendation and approved a 15 year payback schedule for the Mayor's "Golden Handshakes", aka E-RIP. If you've been following the issue at all, this not only deeply affects the pockets of us taxpayers being that this the most expensive option possible, but it opens the door another inch toward what may be the largest loss of irreplaceable parks experience in the history of the City. The recommendation goes to the City Council next where ball-busting by the mayor coupled with lobbying by every union in town except the Engineers and Architects' union, who was illegally excluded from the deal, will likely guarantee its passage.

With this kind of fiscal responsibility in control of Los Angeles, can City bankruptcy be far behind?  Here's what Ron Kaye has to say on

LACERS Pension Board Approves 15-year Payback for Early Retirement Deal

Setting the stage for a showdown over cutting city spending, the LACERS Board approved the Early Retirement Incentive Program (ERIP) that will cost up to $150,000 each for an estimated 2,400 workers.
The board which oversees funding of pensions and lifetime health benefirts for retirees and more than 22,000 current city workers voted 4-3 Tuesday to overrule its staff recommendation for a 5-year payback period -- the timeframe that the city will realize payroll saviings from the plan. Eric L. Holoman, Moctesuma Esparza, Elizabeth L. Greenwood and Steven Uranga voted for the 15-year payback while Barbara Conroy, Richard Rogers and Ken Spiker voted against it. Holomon, Esparza, Uranga and Conroy were appointed by the mayor while the others were appointed by LACERS members.

The issue now goes to the City Council which faces numerous problems with the ERIP plan offered the Coalition of City Unions. It is likely to face a legal challenge that will delay implementation, will take up to seven months to complete the process if it can be implemented, add to the city deficit and increase what the city owes to LACERS to keep the pension plan financially sound. A joint report from the City Administrative Officer and Chief Legislative Analyst said the .75 percent increase in employee contributions would still leave the city making up the $252 to $475 million the gap in the cost of the ERIP. Spreading the cost over 15 years instead of five will reduce the city's annual payment but extend its impact on city finances and add the the cost of interest payments.

Here's the analysis of the 15-year payback plan by LACERS General Manager Sally Choi and her staff:

San Gabriels lie bleeding

A forest wounded, the perpetrator still at large. This terrible attack on the very heart and lungs of the southland took place Wednesday August 26th at approximately 3:30pm near mile marker 29 on SR2. 
The reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of this criminal has reached $150,000 and growing. Please call 323 890 5500 with any information you may have, however insignificant you might think it is.
Image date is Sept 6, 2009 from NASA's most excellent Earth Observatory. (click image to enlarge) Tip to Chance of Rain by way of LA Observed.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Win some, lose some

According to a source close to the Disney family,  Tom LaBonge came very close to achieving his ultimate fantasy with a Disneyfication of Griffith Park. The park lucked out this time, and the Presidio lost out big time.

Poor Presidio.
Walt Disney Family Museum opens San Fran Oct. 1

SAN FRANCISCO — Starting Oct. 1, you’ll be able to get a taste of Disney in San Francisco. That’s when The Walt Disney Family Museum opens, with 10 galleries focusing on different chapters in the life of Walt Disney himself, from his early years in Kansas City to his arrival in Hollywood in the 1920s to his technological innovations, like synchronizing sound to a cartoon.

Displays will include the Oscar statuettes awarded to “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” — one full size and seven little ones — along with the earliest known drawings of Mickey Mouse and concept art and animation cels showing Bambi and Pinocchio. Other exhibits include listening stations, interactive displays and more than 200 video monitors.

The museum consists of three historic buildings set in the Presidio, a former Army base with sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The museum is located at 104 Montgomery St. It will be open every day except Tuesdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is $20 for adults, $12.50 for kids 6-17, and will be by timed-entry ticket, available online at up to 60 days in advance.

Station Fire wildland restoration discussion begins

With the Station Fire now being the largest and costliest in the history of Los Angeles County, one can imagine that mitigating the damage done will be on a similar scale. The fire isn't yet contained, but the "restoration" efforts are already starting.

When we read things like the below, it makes us enviro-types a little nervous, although the inclusion of the Theodore Payne Foundation in the discussion helps. TreePeople and the Mayor's Million Tree program aren't exactly rigorous in their methodology (or their accounting). Maybe someone from the Foothills communities ought to start by reading Rec and Park's excellent Griffith Park Fire Recovery Plan (Powerpoint summary here). Many outstanding authorities in a number of fields contributed to the actual document. It doesn't seem to be available online, so a request to Rec and Parks may be needed to get a copy.

We welcome your thoughts and comments on this complex issue. Also, if you have any info on who may have started this monster on Wednesday August 26th at approximately 3:30pm near mile marker 29 on SR2, the reward has reached $150,000 and growing. Call 323 890 5500 with any info.
Reforesting Our Land
Beginning efforts to coordinate
Monday, Sept 14th at Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council's Land Use Committee,
7pm, 7747 Foothill Blvd, Tujunga - North Valley City Hall

Special Guests:  US Dept of Forestry,  Theodore Payne Foundation and, Million Tree Project, along with our usual staff from City Council District 2

Please join us for the early planning.  The project includes planning for how to deal with several inches of acidic ash in these areas, photographing and assessment of specific areas, sandbagging and preparing for run off from the rains (to protect human life and specific areas of natural seeding) and the manual seeding where needed, the protection of natural seeding processes as well as the planting of native shrubs and trees. All that plant life helps give us clean air, and has for eons, we now need to give back and nurture it back to life. Its a huge undertaking and many hands will need to be mobilized.  If you can be a mobilizing person in your area, please come! LA thanks you!

"Golden Handshakes" enable poor parks management decisions, policies, personnel losses

Besides possible City bankruptcy and other serious citywide issues, the implementation of Mayor Villaraigosa's expensive planned retirement package, aka "golden handshakes", will have a serious detrimental effect on the Department of Recreation and Parks, and Griffith Park in particular. Along with enticing the most skilled senior employees to retire, when coupled with the abusive management of Assistant General Manager Kevin Regan, the pricey retirement packages will encourage frustrated experienced employees and employees sick of the abuse to bail out. Regan's favorite targets appear to be the most productive employees - after all, if you don't do anything, then you don't draw attention to yourself - and the divisions most likely to be impacted are the ones Regan is rumored to ply his managerial skills upon the most: Forestry, Golf, Park Rangers, and Personnel, although reports of Regan's managerial abuse come from almost every part of the department.

As this digest has described before, the antics of Mr. Regan coupled with the passage of this package may result in the largest loss of experienced talent in the history of the Department of Recreation and Parks.  Since we first publicized this "hush-hush" internal issue, no significant management changes in either personnel or policies have been implemented by General Manager Jon Kirk Mukri, pretty much implying his support of both Regan and the impending catastrophic loss to his own department. Whether the support stems from a similar misdirected-punitive managerial philosophy, or simply from inability to act is unclear. We'd like to hear from those who know Mukri as to which they think is the case.

More on the ramifications from a passage of the "golden handshake" package comes from two articles in today's edition of CityWatch:

Pension Mischief and the Golden Handshake
LA Watchdog
By Jack Humphreville

Active Image$130,000 + is the value of the Golden Handshake that each city employee will receive if they sign up for the Early Retirement Incentive Program (the “E-RIP”). The City intends to finance this $293 million program by burdening the already seriously underfunded Los Angeles City Employee Retirement System (“LACERS”) with an additional $250 million in Unfunded Accrued Actuarial Liability. The City will also lay out $43 million in cash to finance the $15,000 cash incentive to each participating employee. The City … and the unions they count on to fund their election campaigns … propose to finance the $250 million liability over a 15 year period beginning in two years. 
On July 1, 2011, the plan calls for increasing the retirement contribution for each remaining city employee by 0.75%, not the 1.07% determined by the experts.  As a result, LACERS is short changed by about $100 million according to the Report to the Ad Hoc Committee dated September 1, 2009 (the “Report”). The Report, in a major concession to the City, since prudence would dictate no amortization period, recommended a “reasonable” amortization period of five years.  However, this would require a contribution rate of 2.86% of payroll as compared to the 0.75% rate contemplated by the Early Retirement Plan. The 15 year amortization … or pay back … was not considered “reasonable” by the Report, but was only “acceptable.”

This 15 year amortization schedule results is a negative cash flow to the retirement system for the first seven years, is not consistent with the recommendations of the Government Accounting Standards Board, and would result in significantly higher interest payments ($180 million) by the City.  The Report also questioned, with good reason, the City’s ability to successfully manage the “backfilling” of positions vacated due to the E-RIP.  In classifying the long period as not desirable, the Report said, “The backfill rates are difficult to monitor, difficult to enforce, prone to circumvention, and can be negated by higher than expected salary increases or superseded by new ordinances during the long 15 year period."

Another major consideration is that the City’s contribution to the employee retirement program is going to increase by about $450 million next year, contributing to the projected budget deficit … your city budget … of over $1 billion. This in itself raises significant questions about the City’s credit worthiness and whether LACERS should even consider participating in the E-RIP at all. Given all the questions surrounding the E-RIP, it is amazing that a committee of LACERS Board of Administration voted not only to participate in the E-RIP scheme, but to do so with a 15 year amortization schedule, contrary to the five year recommendation of the Report. This appears to be a blatant violation of their fiduciary duty to LACERS participants and their beneficiaries and may expose the Board Members to liability for negligence.  Put another way, Mr. Holoman, would Magic Johnson Enterprises engage in such a scheme? 

The E-RIP is an ill conceived, self serving, overly complicated, Enron like scheme that the City cannot afford given its dire financial condition.  The LACERS Board of Administration should not approve the E-RIP in any form, but if it does so, with the recommended five year amortization term. Likewise, the City Council should not approve the E-RIP, but inform the mayor, his financial wizards, and the unions that the City cannot afford to pay departing employees $130,000 each, no matter how such payments are financed.  The City has some very tough financial decisions.  But raiding LACERS and delaying only makes the financial situation worse.  The delay alone costs the city about $12,000 a month. That’s your money folks! 

(Jack Humphreville is a publisher and the Rate-Payer Advocate for the greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council. Humphreville writes LAWatchdog for CityWatch.)

Weight of Unions Sinking LA Budget Ship

By Michael N Cohen

Active Image
Bernard Parks, L.A. City Councilmember from District 8, Chairman of the Budget & Finance Committee on Saturday spoke candidly with the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition in a nearly two hour Q & A session at their monthly meeting. Even Ron Kaye (Link to Kaye commentary and video clips), former editor of the L.A. Daily News, and sharp critic of city hall, complemented Parks on his understanding of the financial problems facing the city and appreciated his concern. According to Parks the city employee unions have crafted work rules and influence to stymie any rational chances to bring the budget under control. Here we are in September, he said,  and the unions have not allowed one dollar of the Mayor’s budget of shared sacrifice to be implemented. The city’s finances are rapidly becoming a dark comedy like the 1989 movie “Weekend at Bernie’s”.

Except the dead guy in our case is not Bernie but our City of Angels. City employee unions pretend that LA is still alive and well because they are determined to continue to have their really good pay and perks uninterrupted even though they are dragging around a corpse just like in the movie. The need to confer with individual unions and even individual employees with arcane civil service work rules regarding job protection and layoff essentially has taken the fine tuning of staffing and firing decisions out of elected official’s hands.

Enter the “bumping rule”. Parks said that even after several decades of being a city employee he was surprised at this one. When the Mayor and Council have determined that the layoff of several thousand employees … the least essential to running the city … is necessary, and those employees are so informed, they not necessarily laid off? Apparently an employee can go back to the department where they initially entered city employment and, depending on job class and seniority, “bump” another employee who would then be laid off.

When the smoke clears it is possible that none of the original employees have been removed from the city payroll.  So, for example,  mechanics and collections personal necessary to keep vehicles maintained or to collect fees owed the city could be out of work while less necessary workers stay on board. Parks said that this has happened in the past. The Councilman’s economic portrait clearly painted a city that is almost certainly near or at insolvency. Still it is unclear whether LA will be able to file for Chapter 9, the bankruptcy section for municipalities.

In Sacramento there is a bill supported by unions, AB 155, that would require a municipality to get approval of the California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission before filing.  Unions hope to prevent municipalities from filing for bankruptcy altogether or at least delay the process long enough to give them more leverage. The DWP employee union, IBEW, represents 95% of the employees and their pay, Parks said, is 40% higher than the rest of city workers, even though only a small fraction of DWP workers actually work with high voltage.

If you try to bring their pay in line with other city departments, he said, we could find ourselves without water and power.  So the rate increases will continue. All of this, according to Parks, because the Democratic Party in seeking to gain more control of State and Municipal government made this pact with public employee unions. They are legal monopolies.  To get elected and receive their funding and support in LA and many parts of the State you need a 100% pro-labor voting record. Parks knows what he’s talking about. During his recent run for LA County Supervisor the unions turned on the money spigot with independent expenditures and drowned  him. Parks offered a partial solution to undo the influence of employees by appealing to the business community to get more involved in changing the downtown culture.

(Michael N Cohen is a member of the Reseda Neighborhood Council and is a long time community activist in the San Fernando Valley. Views expressed are entirely his own.)