GPW: Self-Tempered Anarchy since 2009

Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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stories along The Way

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

As the Golf Cart Turns... and turns... and turns

Just to remind you where the golf cart soap opera last left off, the City Council earlier this year had overturned the regular RFP process for awarding contracts, insisting that the contract be given to JH Kishi Co instead of the actual RFP process winner, Ready Golf.

Kishi had had the golf cart contract for City courses for decades, and their alleged mismanagement of said contract was the subject of a recent audit by the City Controller. The audit found a $32k mistake from 2006-08, but the real number is likely far larger because no one at Kishi or Rec and Parks kept good records. (feigning shock)  And what happened before 2006? Rumored numbers for the alleged underpayment run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

On that ugly day in City Council, JH Kishi had lobbyists and lawyers pounding on City Council members to overturn the normal process. During the City Council debate, Dennis Zine admitted that he had never been lobbied harder by anyone in his life, and then shamelessly turned around and voted to overturn the RFP process recommendation anyway. It was a truly sordid display of what relationships and lobbyists can buy you in City Hall.

If you have the opportunity to go back and watch a recording of that session of City Council, you should really do it. It's utterly shocking to listen to the City Council bash Recreation and Parks for correctly following City process, and then shaming them for not simply giving Kishi back the contract. Richard Alarcon's pathetic act of shock and dismay is particularly disgusting and goes on way too long.

And now, today's episode of As the Golf Cart Turns from DZahn at the LA Times:

[LA Times] Parks officials want to take over golf cart rentals

It's the latest twist in a yearslong bidding process that has hop-scotched among the incumbent concessionaire, another company and labor interests that want union employees to run the operation.

Patrons traverse the Griffith Park golf course in rented golf carts. The city has been trying for seven years to award a new golf cart concession contract, and now parks officials are proposing to run the operation themselves. (Mel Melcon, Los Angeles Times / August 29, 2010)

By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times

August 31, 2010 Squeezed by a continuing budget crisis, Los Angeles officials scaled back city services over the past year, reducing library hours, laying off child-care workers and taking steps to turn over several public parking garages to private companies. Yet there's one area where the city suddenly appears determined to branch out, even in a grim economy: golf carts. After trying for seven years to award a new contract for a golf cart concession at the city's seven 18-hole courses, officials with the Department of Recreation and Parks have decided they are capable of renting out the electric vehicles themselves.

The proposal came as a surprise, even for a city whose bidding processes are known for being politically charged and glacial in pace. Parks officials have recommended that the five-member Recreation and Parks Commission vote Wednesday to terminate a contract with a company that has performed the work for at least 35 years and drop plans — two years in the making — to award the concession to Encino-based Ready Golf. "I would recommend that someone put a bullet in their head before they try to get a contract with the city," Ready Golf President Michael Bernback said after learning of the new proposal. "Nothing moves forward. Nothing gets accomplished."

The parks commission first went out to bid for a golf cart contract in 2003 but repeatedly found itself incapable of picking a winner. On its third try, the panel, whose members are appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, recommended Ready Golf after consulting with Southern California municipal golf officials. The proposed contract was bottled up in Villaraigosa's office for more than a year as the mayor's top lawyer fielded complaints from labor leaders who wanted city workers to do the job. When it finally came up for a vote, the City Council rejected the deal and recommended that the incumbent concessionaire, J.H. Kishi Co., receive a five-year contract.

Read the rest at the LA Times

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Back draft

Today is the first anniversary of the start of the Station Fire.

It was one year ago at approximately 3:30pm when someone spread an accelerant near mile marker 29 on the Angeles Crest highway, changing an awful lot of lives permanently. 250 square miles were scorched. More than 200 homes were seriously damaged or destroyed. Two human lives were lost, and thousands of non-humans were killed or permanently displaced.

The arsonist who started this monster remains at large and the reward for their apprehension still stands at $50,000 - call the LA County Sheriffs Dept at 323 890 5500 with any information you may have.

CBS 2 has an excellent news piece here on the incident that cost LACoFD firefighters Ted Hall and Arnie Quinones their lives, while a ceremony to unveil a marker honoring all Station Fire first responders took place last week.

Meanwhile, recovery from the fire is painfully slow,  the investigation into how the Station Fire firefight was initially managed or mismanaged continues, and some insurance companies still aren't paying out on claims.

Only time can fully remove the graphic scar left on the land itself, seen vividly from space through NASA's eyes. (click images to enlarge)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cooling Centers available as heat wave hits S CA

As temps soar above 100 degrees in much of Los Angeles over the next few days, when your power fails, remember that many City of Los Angeles facilities are available as cooling centers.

Those facilities include your local Senior Citizen Centers, Recreation and Parks facilities, and Libraries.

· Senior Centers: (213) 202-2700
· Recreation Centers: (213) 202-2700
· Libraries: (213) 228-7000

Monday, August 23, 2010

Summer Nights in Atwater kick off this Thursday

Guys and dolls, Summer Nights on the Boulevard get rolling this Thursday!

From 6-10 PM, stores and restaurants along Glendale Blvd. will stay open late for a community wingding. There will be a  DJ spinning, an artist creating, and community group booths at many of the local stores including 55 Degree Wine, kids' activities at Revo Cafe, live music at Kaldi and Lenore Solis's office, along with a dog-appropriate bake sale and pet adoption info at WOOF Dog Boutique, an ice cream social at Hugo's Tacos, and much, much more.

Sponsors are hoping to get the community out and walking the boulevard, meeting each other, and perhaps discovering a shop or a restaurant they hadn't noticed before. Sounds like a great way to spend a sultry Thursday night.

Hosted by the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council.

Summer Nights on the Boulevard
Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village
August 26th and September 23rd, 6-10pm

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lawsuit filed against Farmers Insurance for unpaid Station Fire claims

An insurance company refusing to pay claims? Nah. Never happens.

Via the wretched Daily News web site:

Suit: Farmers hasn't paid Station Fire claims

By Greg Risling, Associated Press Writer

A lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses Farmers Group Inc. of refusing to pay claims to policyholders whose homes were damaged by last summer's massive Station Fire near Los Angeles. The suit, which claims breach of contract and unfair business practices, seeks unspecified damages for more than 1,000 homeowners who reported smoke, ash and other damages from the blaze that killed two firefighters, destroyed 89 homes and scorched 250 square miles of Angeles National Forest.

Farmers denied or minimized claims to boost its bottom line, said Brian Kabateck, an attorney for the plaintiffs, adding the average loss among homeowners named in the lawsuit was $25,000 to $50,000. "Once again, it appears Farmers has engaged in the egregious practice of denying or underpaying claims, simply to frustrate policyholders and discourage them from seeking the compensation they deserve," Kabateck said. Farmers spokesman Jerry Davies said he couldn't comment on the lawsuit because the company had not seen it yet. A phone message left for the state Department of Insurance was not immediately returned. Farmers and other insurers were accused of similar practices after the 1994 Northridge earthquake that killed 72 people and caused an estimated $15.3 billion in damage.

Other insurance companies have paid claims for the Station Fire, Kabateck said. Farmers is accused of hiring biased consultants to deny or undercut claims as well as being unreasonable in its claims adjustment practices. "The result is that plaintiffs and defendants' other insureds are cheated of monies rightfully owed to them," according to the lawsuit.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Enjoy teaching gardening to kids?

Then we've got a job for you!

The Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants in Sun Valley and Plainview Elementary Schools in Sunland & Tujunga have a part-time, paid position for someone to teach gardening to school children. Gardening experience is necessary, and some experience working with children is preferable.

The hourly rate, depending on experience, is between $11-13/hour. Hours: 2-6pm, ...M-F. but may vary.

For info, call Gretchen George at (213) 249.9293 x263or at (213) 309-1082.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Skyline Trail under renovation this weekend

If you were planning to goof around on Skyline as part of your weekend workout, you may want to rethink.

The LADWP will be regrading much of the Skyline ridge fire roads this Saturday and Sunday. Warning signs will be going up shortly and hikers and equestrains should heed all warnings.

Skyline is the northernmost park ridge that lies between SR 134 and the rest of Griffith Park. It runs between Travel Town to the west in an arc to the LA Zoo on the east. The mid point of Skyline was roughly the location of the August 9th brush fire.

Plan accordingly.

View Larger Map

Saturday, August 14, 2010

It's Summertime!

The "Watermelon-A-Matic" is a precision watermelon slicing machine that produces near perfect 5/8" thick slices, 40 per minute, all day long. We're told it is the only one in existence. Now feeding thousands at the 49th Annual Watermelon Festival in Sunland through 10:30 pm Sunday night. The Watermelon is free, admission is only $2. Live music, food from everywhere, rides, and Americana at it's finest. We even ran into City Controller Wendy Greuel at the festival today, her arms literally loaded down with toys won by her son at the arcade. Councilman Paul Krekorian was there Friday night to crown the Watermelon Queen.

Friday, August 13, 2010

New Autry head chosen

Daniel M. Finley, ex president and CEO of the Milwaukee Public Museum, has bee announced by the Autry Board of Trustees as the successor to  John Gray, the president and CEO who announced his retirement this year. Finley's tenure begins on August 31st.

Finley resigned from his previous post on June 30th after almost five years with the Milwaukee museum. This may indicate he was already packing his bags for Griffith Park at that time. Read an excerpt from his remarks made June 17 at the Public Policy Forum's annual Salute to Local Government here. It talks an awful lot about partnering with government and communities for find that win-win spot. It should be interesting to see how Finley applies all his happy togetherness talk to the real issue of the Southwest Museum.

LAFD helicopter near Homeland Security target

An LAFD helicopter was seen dangling one heck of a long ladder or line near a water treatment plant in Sunland at noon today. See the map for more detail as to the location.

The treatment plant is considered a sensitive Homeland Security target.

Coincidence? A firefighter in a passing LAFD vehicle stated stated that there are no radio calls in the area and that the pilot was probably practicing.

Click images to enlarge

View Larger Map

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Video: Griffith Park brusher

Park pic of the day: brusher in Griffith Park

Yesterday - 5pm. Ignition point at Victory Blvd and Zoo Drive. Burning up north side of Skyline toward Tank 74.

LA Zoo is in the foreground on the south side of Skyline.

click pics to enlarge

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Alarcon expects to be indicted

Richard Alarcon: the Al Capone of the LA City Council.  At least they're finally going to get this guy on something. He's been playing fast and loose with almost everything in Los Angeles for so long that he's forgotten what he's doing.

From DZahn at the LA Times -

L.A. Councilman Richard Alarcon tells city officials he expects to be indicted after lengthy investigation focusing on where he lives 

Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alarcon has told city officials  that he expects a county grand jury to hand down an indictment against him on Wednesday, seven months after prosecutors served search warrants on two of his wife’s homes in the San Fernando Valley. Councilwoman Janice Hahn said she received a handwritten note from Alarcon, 56, that discussed what he described as "the D.A.'s action." "He communicated with each council member, asking us to keep an open mind, and that he was going to fight this and continue to work very hard for the City of Los Angeles," said Hahn. Councilman Ed Reyes confirmed that he received a similar letter. Alarcon, who represents neighborhoods such as Pacoima and Sylmar, is expected to appear at a Los Angeles County courthouse at some time after 2 p.m. Alarcon, who was in his chair during the council’s regularly scheduled Wednesday meeting, declined to comment. His spokeswoman, Becca Doten, said he would have a statement about his legal situation at 3 p.m. “He’s getting his work done,” she said. His lawyer, Fred Woocher, also declined to comment.

Prosecutors have been trying for much of the last year to determine whether Alarcon lied about his residency, which can be prosecuted as a felony. They served search warrants in January on two homes owned by Alarcon’s wife, Flora Montes de Oca -- one in Panorama City, which Alarcon claimed as his residence, and another in Sun Valley. The latter house is outside Alarcon’s district and is in a neighborhood represented by Councilman Paul Krekorian. Alarcon has repeatedly stated that his residency is at the 1950 tract house on Nordhoff Street in Panorama City, where he is registered to vote. He asserted that he has not always stayed in the house because a transient broke in and barricaded himself there last year. At least six of Alarcon’s employees were subpoenaed to appear before the criminal grand jury last month.

Read the rest at the LANow

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ambulance billing outsourcing passed

City Council has passed the outsourcing of LAFD ambulance billing, the vote was 9-5, with no loss of jobs promised.

It appears City Council is slowly moving toward the kinds of smart fiscal decisions they should have been making a decade ago by outsourcing non-core services when it makes financial sense.

But who knows how long the fiscal common sense will last?  Anyone want to start an office pool? I'll take October - when cash flow comes to a screeching halt.

#1 reason to vote LaBonge out next March:

LaBonge refuses to pronounce Los Anelus (sic) properly.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tolerance of Intolerance

photo and inspiration by Edward Headington

Look closely.

This photo is from the 34th Annual Hindu Festival of the Chariots held on Sunday, Aug 1st in Venice. American Taliban in the house, and no one cares. More intolerance here.

Park pic of the day

YFrog pic by @DigitaLiquid76