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

Monday, February 28, 2011

Griffith Park Wayist endorses Stephen Box for CD 4

Probably obvious, but we're thrilled to endorse Stephen Box for CD 4.

Stephen Box understands how the City works better than most current councilmembers. Clearly more than both of his opponents, as well.

If you need more, check out all this.

The LA Times CD 4 endorsement - what it's really about

The Los Angeles Times finally got around to publishing its complete list of endorsements  in the upcoming March 8th election.

The section for CD 4 goes like this:
"Vying to succeed him are candidates who show promise but come with drawbacks. Stephen Box has valuable experience with the city's neighborhood council system, but he's so immersed in the minutiae of city government that it's hard to understand what his larger vision consists of. "

This part of the Times' endorsement may be code for 'we don't want someone who really understands how the City works.'  If that's the best the Times comes up with in their dismissal of Stephen Box's proven activism over the past half-decade, then they need some new journalists. But then, a lot of people think the Times needs a lot of new... well.... erm... everything.
"Tomas O'Grady, meanwhile, is energetic and likable..."
Unless you've witnessed his world-class temper in person.
"...but his proposals for the budget — cutting the salaries and budgets of council members, making selective cuts elsewhere — are more symbolic than meaningful.

"Nevertheless, O'Grady's background in business, devotion to environmental issues and hard work as an activist in L.A. Unified schools make him the most appealing alternative to LaBonge. The Times endorses O'Grady."
There's a question - what exactly is O'Grady's background in business? No one ever really says. We'd love to see some detailed disclosure in this regard.

As for the devotion to environmental issues, O'Grady is an environmental lightweight, seemingly happy with playing Don Quixote to leaf blowers (which are already illegal - get it enforced) and planting trees in plain sight where others will be certain to take note of his volunteer work, rather than fighting any number of truly hard enviro battles. Like this, for instance. Or this. Or even this.

Neighborhood tours showing off how green one anothers' solar-powered hot tubs are, or teaching classes in grey water uses does not a hard-core enviro make.

In reality, the LA Times endorsement of O'Grady is likely far more about not completely adopting LA Clean Sweep's slate than it is about O'Grady as a candidate. LA Clean Sweep has gained amazing amount of political traction in the relatively short amount of time the political action committee has existed. The Times' choices for CD 6 (Rich Goodman), CD 8 (Bernard Parks) and 14 (Rudy Martinez) are LA Clean Sweep candidates.

Coming from a paper that has a bureau located a few doors away from the Mayor and publishes City Hall press releases almost wholesale, going with even a few LA Clean Sweep candidates is really putting themselves out there. It's surprising they went that far. They did call LaBonge a legendary "pothole politician", so that in itself makes the endorsement worth a read.

So Stephen Box is endorsed by the Daily News, and Tomas O'Grady is endorsed by the LA Times.  Looks like career politician Tom LaBonge has a lot of well-earned trouble on his hands.

Update: Here's the LA Weekly's take. Some of it sounds familiar.

Check out the candidates for yourself this Tuesday

Two members of the League of Women Voters will be moderating, and the big question is: Will Tom LaBonge bother to show up at this one?  The harried incumbent has missed the last couple of candidate forums.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

More mountain bikers in Malibu Creek State Park?

Malibu Creek State Park, one of the absolute gems in Southern California, is planning to open more trails to mountain bikes.

Not surprisingly, mountain bike lobbiests CORBA and IMBA are coming on hard for this one.

If you don't want more of this in Malibu Creek, or if you do, email your comments ASAP directly to...

Craig Sap - Park Superintendent:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Need a job?

The Griffith Park Boys Camp and Girls Camp (Camp Hollywoodland) are hiring.

Saturday Gardening Class in Griffith Park

The City of LA sponsors classes on composting, waterwise gardening, & more; low-cost compost bins available for sale.

Time: 10:00 AM until 12:00 PM
Date: Saturday, February 26
Location: Composting Facility (Green Recycling Facility) , 5400 Griffith Dr, Griffith Park
Contact: 213/473-8228

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Draft CRA dissolution language published

Los Angeles's Community Redevelopment Agency  redirects billions of funding from what's left of our decimated core city services into fraud-riddled pet projects that directly benefit campaign donors and political friends in this town. 

They pay themselves pretty well while they're at it, too.

Yesterday, Governor Brown moved one step closer to abolishing this eminent domain-wielding fiscal monstrosity in Los Angeles as the Department of Finance published the draft language for its dissolution.

(2) Beginning with 2012-13 fiscal year, allocate these funds according to the existing property tax allocation, except for enterprise special districts, to make the funds available for cities, counties, special districts, school and community college districts to provide core governmental services. As a result of these actions, it is estimated that, by fiscal year 2012-13, these local entities will receive $1.9 billion per year in new resources to use for their core priorities.

(3) Require a successor entity to settle the affairs of the redevelopment agencies.

(4) Require the protection of contractual rights by successor agencies, which will be required to retire redevelopment agency debts in accord with existing payment schedules. No existing contractual obligations will be impaired.
The Department of Finance's link to an MS Word version of the full document is here.

The California Eminent Domain Report - a great source of current and technical information about Eminent Domain issues - has a .PDF of the full text of the draft language here.

Remember who supports Kelo Eminent Domain unchecked throughout all of Los Angeles, and who doesn't when you go to the polls to vote for our next City Council representative on March 8th.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

CRA: Take the Vine Street project and shovel it!

As the fraud-riddled Vine Avenue CRA project is advanced to City Council for a vote for the 13th -- yes, 13th! time --  we like everything in this Stephen Box presser.

Especially the first and last sentences.


Box points to CRA and calls for a Los Angeles City Prosecutor.

“It is time to have a prosecutor’s office that will finally represent the people”

L.A.’s City Hall: At the 8:30 meeting of the Housing Committee Stephen Box stood up and called upon the City of Los Angeles to create the position of City Prosecutor that would finally represent the people. Pointing to the growing mountain of skepticism surrounding CRA projects, such as 1601 Vine, Box declared a need for the people of L.A. to have legal representation.

“The state has an Attorney General and State Counsel, the county has a District Attorney and County Counsel, but the city of L.A. only has a City Attorney, someone who represents the City Hall, but nobody to represent the people of L.A.,” Box explains. “Who’s the people’s lawyer?”

The need for representation is acutely clear as the CRA’s 1601 Vine project appears on yet another City Hall agenda, this time at the Housing, Community and Economic Development Committee. Box pointedly explains, “This has been through the City Council 12 times.”

Citing a failure of leadership, Box detailed how the property at 1601 Vine set in motion a self-swindling pattern where the City of LA appraised a property at $4 million and then paid $1.45 million over the appropriate price. The pattern continues as the CRA turns around and offers the property to the original owner for $825,000. This gift of $4.6 million in public funds amounts plus the other expenses will result in the CRA spending more on this project than on the W Hollywood, becoming just another sweetheart deal at the expense of tax payers.

Calling this project an example of the inherent issues with the CRA that are the cause of growing frustration with stakeholders and planning watchdog groups, Box explains that putting CRA money back into the local government is one of the immediate steps that can be taken to address the budget crisis.

The CRA’s own Board Vice-Chair, Madeleine Janice, expressed her concerns over 1601 by saying that it is the “poster child for abolishing the CRA.” Box agrees and says the appearance of wrongdoing warrants a thorough investigation and establishing a City Prosecutor should be the first step in ensuring open and transparent oversight in City Hall. This and other campaign themes are continuing to resonate with neighborhood voters in his race for Council District 4.

Box’s call to action is clear. What is unclear is if the City Council will finally put the voice of the community first and take this "shovel-ready" project, put it in the ground and bury it!

New, green Rec Center to be dedicated Thursday

Photo: KCRW Design and Architecture page
A new, LEED-certified recreation center at Lafayette Park will be dedicated tomorrow at 2:30pm.

The design is by architect Stephen Kanner, who unfortunately passed away before he would see the building completed.

Final price tag for the eco-friendly building was almost $10 million, and was partially funded by a grant from the Everychild Foundation, and the Department of Recreation and Parks in partnership with the non-profit "HOLA" (Heart of Los Angeles)

This is supposedly the City's first LEED-certified building, which is a little bothersome given all the talk from the Mayor's Office about going green. Los Angeles needs many more of these LEED buildings, and less bloated payouts disguised-as-green being proffered.

Lengthy Rec and Parks' presser follows:



Los Angeles, CA (February 17, 2011) – The City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), and the Everychild Foundation announced today the opening of the $9.8 million dollar Lafayette Park Recreation Center. The 15,000 square foot eco-friendly facility, designed by the award-winning firm Kanner Architects, features brand new multipurpose classroom spaces, a technology lab and a state-of-the-art gymnasium. The Lafayette Park Recreation Center grand opening event will be held Thursday, February 24.

The Lafayette Park Recreation Center is a result of the historic public-private partnership between the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks and HOLA to transform Lafayette Park into a versatile campus that will provide exceptional academic, arts, recreation and athletic programs to the surrounding underserved community. The project materialized in response to demands by a growing neighborhood whose needs outgrew the existing 3,700 square foot senior center. In 2006, Jon Kirk Mukri, General Manager of the Department of Recreation and Parks, Mitch Moore, Founder of HOLA, and Tony Brown, HOLA Executive Director met to discuss their common interest: to create a model public-private partnership to build out and sustain parks and recreation centers in underserved areas. The location for this ambitious project was Lafayette Park in the heart of LA's Rampart District. From that meeting spawned an idea: since both organizations were serving the same population, the Department of Recreation and Parks and HOLA would come together to transform the park into something that would invigorate the neighborhood and improve the lives of its residents.

“The Department of Recreation and Parks and Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), have formed an innovative partnership between a public agency and a non-profit organization both dedicated to supporting local community needs. This partnership not only provides educational, cultural, athletic, and arts programming for numerous local residents, but allows for the successful fundraising effort to renovate, and expand the Lafayette Recreation Center,” said Jon Mukri, General Manager of the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. “This newly renovated, state-of-the-art, LEED recreation center will house joint Recreation and Parks, and HOLA programs covering a myriad of actives benefiting the children throughout the community. I am very proud of this partnership and the many things we have accomplished together.”

"We've brought together some of the best in class partners and individuals to help solve larger societal problems and we expect the results to surpass any individual effort out there,” said Tony Brown, Executive Director, HOLA. “This is a tangible roadmap for rebuilding a stronger community able to solve present day and future challenges."

Together, Mukri and Brown imagined a public space in a contemporary way that would create a new paradigm of the public park. The Department of Recreation and Parks and HOLA formed an unprecedented partnership and set out to raise additional funds that would be needed to not only complete this ambitious project, but also add new learning spaces and many other state-of-the-art enhancements. In 2007, they achieved their goal by combining Prop K, Prop 12 and Quimby funds with a private $1 million dollar gift from the Everychild Foundation. Over $2 million dollars were raised from the private sector funds from not only the Everychild Foundation but also the W.M. Keck Foundation, Weingart Foundation, Skirball Foundation, Anthem Blue Cross Foundation and the Los Angeles Lakers Youth Foundation. The money raised has enabled the Department of Recreation and Parks and HOLA to provide expanded programming support so that thousands of at-risk youth will receive exceptional classes and programs for free in addition to a variety of affordable low cost high quality classes for all ages.

"HOLA's long success in keeping children out of gangs, in school and engaged in positive activities convinced us that they would make excellent use of our grant dollars with the Lafayette Park project," said Jacqueline Caster, Founder and President of the Everychild Foundation.

The newly rebuilt and expanded center will allow the Department of Recreation and Parks and HOLA to significantly increase the number of neighborhood youth served in 2011 by over 60%. Together they will reach 2,300 youth annually, nearly 1,000 more than can be served today. The new and improved Lafayette Park Recreation Center will provide kids with alternatives to unhealthy behaviors by offering hope and inspiration in lieu of gangs, crime and disenfranchisement. Local families will be able to utilize the new center, as they would a safe backyard, a comfort that so many in the community do not have. In addition, HOLA will combine its free academic, arts and sports programs with City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks’ activities and classes. Underserved youth will benefit from new recreational facilities that will include a field turf soccer field, state-of-the-art gymnasium, wireless computer lab, classrooms, and community meeting rooms. The community will have access to HOLA’s art studios, fine arts library, dance studio, digital media center and educational learning centers. What’s more the gymnasium will bear the Lakers logo on center court and host annual basketball leagues and clinics.

The eco-friendly building is designed to meet the objectives of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is on track to be the first City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks LEED certified building. The building’s LEED features include the use of recycled and sustainable materials as well as glass on a large portion of the gymnasium’s north wall to provide natural light and ventilation.

Monday, February 21, 2011

LFIA Forum: You Are There

We've had some good comments analyzing the CD 4 candidates' fora so far.  Now it's your turn to judge for yourself.

YOU ARE THERE - minus the honorable Walter Kronkite.

Friday, February 18, 2011

5 Quick Questions with LA Beyond Coal's Chrissy Scarborough

In Los Angeles, 44% of our energy comes from burning coal. Chrissy Scarborough with support from LA Beyond Coal team member Evan Gillespie offers up some answers to the problem.
Bill Haller: What is the most reasonable plan or timeline to get Los Angeles off coal?
Chrissy Scarborough: The most reasonable timeline for our city to responsibly transition off coal entirely is a plan to do so by 2020. Even on this schedule, LA will be far from the first city to get rid of coal. Oregon just announced it would be coal free by no later than 2020, while Denver just announced it was closing more than 1,000MW of coal-fired power by the end of 2017. Climate science is pretty clear that the country needs to stop burning coal entirely by 2030 to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, which means cities and states that can do it before then have to lead the way.
BH: DWP bills scare people. Many folks feel their bills are a crapshoot every two months with ratepayers rolling snake eyes. Are there any real life facts laying around that can indicate what the real cost of renewable energy will be in the near future? Obviously, it's going to cost more, but will I have to cut out a weekly trip to Starbucks or cut off an arm and a leg?
CS: Well, don’t forget that the cost of inaction is pretty steep. [link provided by Ed.] Energy prices are going up all over the country due in large part to rising and highly volatile fossil fuel prices. So, in order to compare apples to apples here, we need to compare the cost of investments in clean energy with remaining tied to a dirty and increasingly expensive fuel source. According to a City Council commissioned report from last year, 58% of the rate increases we saw in 2009 were due to the rising costs of fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. The mere cost of trucking in coal to one of our coal plants has risen 170 million a year. Still, we can take action to keep our bills down. In order to protect our pocketbooks in the long run, we need to invest now in energy efficiency programs that can cut our energy use (and bills) while supporting the long term phase out of increasingly expensive and volatile fossil fuels like coal for clean energy.
BH: Other than the fact that Santa leaves it in my stocking every year, what's so bad about coal? It's cheap and plentiful. Pennsylvanians love it.
CS: Pretty much everything about coal is bad (beyond occasionally serving as the traditional eyes for snowmen). For starters, coal is a public health nightmare, contributing to four of the five leading causes of death in the country: cancer, stroke, heart disease, and respiratory disease. All told, American Lung estimates coal causes 12,000 hospitalizations, 38,000 heart attacks and 24,000 deaths each year. It's also a leading contributor to climate change. Coal creates about a third of all the carbon pollution in the country. The two power plants LA draws electricity from emit as much climate pollution as about 6 million cars.
BH: Don't we have clean coal? How clean is clean coal?? I'd like clean coal. It sounds fun.
CS: Much like “jumbo shrimp” or “gourmet pizza,” “Clean coal” is an oxymoron. The coal industry keeps promising “clean coal,” but they aren't anywhere close to delivering on their promise. "Clean coal" refers to technology which could theoretically catch all the global warming pollution before it leaves the smokestack and store it in the ground or elsewhere. The problem is no one's been able to do this yet, despite billions of our tax dollars wasted in government subsidies. In Illinois, where there's a pilot project being debated, the cost of the plant is expected to fall between $3.5 and $4 billion. So even if the technology works, it is far from clear that the technology could even come close to being financially competitive with clean energy. What's worse, the proposed technology does nothing to capture other pollutants like mercury or smog and does not stop coal companies from blowing the tops off mountains or carving up our irreplaceable wild places. It's a sneaky term, but there's no way to get around the fact that coal is dirty and dangerous.
BH: Does someone actually oppose Los Angeles getting off coal?
CS: There has been a growing movement of people in Los Angeles demanding a coal-free future from their Department. Neighborhood, faith and political organizations representing areas across Los Angeles have joined the call for clean energy. The growing coalition of Angelenos in favor of a timely transition away from the use of coal-fired power includes, Councilman Koretz, 11 neighborhood councils, a growing number of home owner associations, religious leaders, and small businesses. More than anyone though, Mayor Villaraigosa has been a leader in this effort. The Mayor is one of few politicians anywhere in the world who's moved beyond rhetoric and is actually tackling climate change by going after the dirtiest fossil fuel.
The business community, an untraditional ally for the Sierra Club, has also been very helpful in our work to rid LA of its dirty coal habit. Organizations such as the Los Angeles Business Council are serving their member businesses well by realizing that there is a tremendous opportunity for economic development in Los Angeles in our necessary transition away from coal.
This is not to say there are not speed bumps on the road to a coal-free future. The opposition in LA is born largely out of misconception- there is a false impression that we must choose between the environment and our pocketbooks, which simply isn't the case. Prop 23 was defeated in large part because businesses saw the opportunity in the green economy – including the 500,000 jobs in the CA green economy and the $9+ billion in green venture capital coming into the state. If we're going to drive those opportunities to LA, we have to establish smart energy policy. That starts with getting out of coal.
This is where your readers come in… the most important person to contact is your Council Member. The City Council need to hear from constituents like your readers that Angelenos want to see LADWP out of coal by 2020 and to invest in our future through energy efficiency and clean energy. If rates are inevitably going up, we need clear assurances from Council and LADWP that those investments are spurring clean energy innovation, not propping up old and dirty coal plants. In addition, you, your company, your church, your PTA can all join the coalition of supporters by signing here

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

City Council defies his majesty, kills parking lease plan

(Additional: For the history of the issue, read Jack Humphreville's comprehensive series of articles about this plan here. )

Finally, some semblance of sanity!

This afternoon, the City Council ignored His Majesty Antonio's threat-demand to remove restrictions to the parking plan and reissue, and instead killed the fiscally stoopid plan to hand over City parking structures to private enterprise for pennies on the dollar of their real value.

The LA Times has this to say.

Now let's see the City finally learn to run the damn parking structures in a fiscally responsible way at a profit. Isn't that what we pay taxes for?

Box hits campaign funding milestone

Riding a major wave of campaign momentum that includes a major endorsement by the LA Daily News, Stephen Box became the first CD 4 challenger to raise the amount needed to receive Matching Funds this week. 

More than $50,000 in funds raised, spent or in cash-on-hand is the magic number to receive Matching Funds for a Los Angeles City Council candidate in a regular election, or $25,000 in a a primary nominating or special primary election.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Flip-Flop! O'Grady can't make up his mind on the CRA

Is the CRA in Los Angeles truly a good thing? Or should it be tightly controlled or even absorbed by the State?

CD 4 candidate Tomas O'Grady can't make up his mind.

In an in-depth questionaire sent to CD 4 candidates by CityWatch, O'Grady not only supports the CRA in principle, but he actually supports the CRA having all of their current boundary restrictions spontaneously removed by approving the infamous AB2531.

AB2531 is the State bill about only Los Angeles that no one in Los Angeles besides politicians had even heard of until hours before Arnold Schwarzenegger was due to sign it. Following swift public response, Schwarzenegger vetoed it. Tom LaBonge had voted yes earlier in the year to move AB2531 forward to a State legislature vote.

The CD 4 candidates' responses from the questionnaire on AB2531 are indeed telling:
Question #4: Do you support bringing Kelo eminent domain to all of Los Angeles?

Under Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005), a city may take property and give it to another private person for that entity’s personal profit. Traditional eminent domain forbids the property going to another person for personal profit.
CRA eminent domain is Kelo eminent domain as the properties go to private developers who reap the profits.

LaBonge supported AB 2531 which would have brought Kelo eminent domain to every parcel in Los Angles. His response today is that he wants to review the matter with the City Attorney. He opposes “unilateral eminent domain,” but there is no explanation of what he means about unilateral eminent domain, so at best his answer appears to be evasive. One would think that since he supported Kelo eminent domain, he would have some thoughts to share with the voters.

While he opposed the secretive manner in which AB 2531 was sprung upon the public, Mr. O’Grady would support a new AB 2531 to bring Kelo eminent domain to all of Los Angeles.

Mr. Box vehemently opposes expansion of eminent domain powers and would oppose any attempt to bring Kelo eminent domain to Los Angeles. He believes as a matter of principle that the government should not take one man’s property and give it to another private citizen.

O'Grady's response to the CRA-intensive questionnaire were characterized by author Richard Lee Abrams thusly 'Mr. O’Grady made long, thoughtful responses', so one is led to believe the candidate was sincere in his thoughtful, pro-CRA responses.

Yet when opponent Stephen Box steps up and sides with Governor Brown in taking the almighty CRA down a notch or two - Flip-Flop! O'Grady changes his mind.  Suddenly he's a self-proclaimed critic of the CRA.

Don't think your property could be affected by a CRA land grab?  Just look next door -  the CRA with Tom LaBonge's blessing just postponed the ongoing action of declaring parts of Atwater Village blighted while the Governor works out the agency's future.

Monday, February 14, 2011

LA Daily News endorses Stephen Box for CD 4

It's all good.


Daily News editorial: Stephen Box for Council District 4

COUNCILMAN Tom LaBonge has dedicated his professional life to the city of Los Angeles. Through four decades he has worked in City Hall in some capacity, starting with Mayor Tom Bradley's Youth Council - all the while cheering on the city he loves. His extraordinary service ought to be commended, but it doesn't make him the best candidate in the race for Council District 4, which stretches from Silver Lake to North Hollywood.

The municipal structure of Los Angeles is currently in a crisis unlike any time in recent history. Budget shortages are forcing city officials to rethink every function, every service delivery method and every expenditure the city makes. Without fresh ideas and new eyes among the policymakers, the city could well fold in on itself - arbitrarily cutting until no municipal service functions well.

Though LaBonge clearly has a deep commitment and historical understanding of L.A. and CD 4, he hasn't offered any evidence during his campaign - or during his decade on the council - that he can help the city reinvent itself during this watershed moment.

By comparison, challenger Stephen Box has.

Box, a community activist with broad-based grass-roots support in the district, has fresh ideas about how to make the city work for its residents, an excitement about shaking up the status quo at City Hall and strong, though rough leadership skills - the kind of which are in serious shortage around the horseshoe in council chambers.

Rough is the right word to describe Box's style. Though he's clearly intelligent and thoroughly steeped in the mechanics of city politics and policy, his biggest obstacle is communicating his message and his platform. Instead of methodically laying out a plan of action, his conversations leapfrog from idea to idea. It's as if he has so much to say about transportation or the Universal City development or transparency or city customer service or whatever that it bottlenecks in his brain before it can reach his mouth.

If he can't overcome this in the weeks leading up to the March 8 election or during the subsequent runoff election (assuming he can force the well-known LaBonge into a runoff), he won't be able to turn on voters who are reluctant to back a relative unknown.

What's unfortunate is that Box seems to have no problem on that score with written communication. As a contributing writer to CityWatch, an Internet publication that focuses on City Hall, and on his own blog, Box expresses himself cogently and authoritatively. On his website and in campaign literature he precisely lays out his four ideas to improve L.A.: connectivity of government departments and agencies, a comprehensive General Plan, realigning budget priorities and re-tooling the way the city interacts with its customers. He must work to bring that same clarity of thought to his verbal communication. It's not enough to have great ideas; one must be able to articulate them.

We think that's a minor flaw in an otherwise qualified candidate. Box started his long road to this race as a bicycle activist, a vocation which he came to as a result of a bicycling accident he had with a MTA bus. The resulting frustration with getting the governmental runaround politicized him and led him deep into community activism. He's worked with City Hall and neighborhood councils and the Mayor's Office to create a more bike-friendly city and is on the board of a number of civic groups.

Los Angeles needs some fresh leadership. That's why we strongly encourage voters to pick Stephen Box for CD 4.

Carry the momentum forward by going to the Box for CD 4 campaign web site.

'Los Feliz Forward' a major step backwards

Special to Griffith Park Wayist.

The Disappointing Priorities of Los Feliz “Forward”

By John F. John Jr.

Maximize your assets
Minimize your liabilities

This is a business strategy so basic it seems silly to even mention it. However the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council governing board, led by the Los Feliz Forward slate, is sadly operating in exact reverse. It was never more apparent than in the back-to-back votes during the last month’s meeting of the Executive Committee.

First vote was to suspend all activities of the Parks River and Open Space committee providing they don’t offer a suggestion for a committee chair. Putting the procedural absurdity of this vote aside, this action would effectively kill the GGPNC’s greatest asset.

PROS provides oversight to one of the crown jewels of our city, Griffith Park. And not just a crown jewel, Griffith Park is a national treasure as the largest urban wilderness in our country. It is a destination for tourist from around the world. It is the location of truly iconic images such as the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Observatory. It is the home to a delicate plant and wildlife ecosystem.

PROS played a major role in achieving cultural historic landmark status for the entire park. The PROS committee is comprised of more local volunteers, regional leaders, and community activist than any other GGPNC committee. PROS is also our council’s most stalwart watchdog over city bureaucracy.

There is no stronger advocate for preserving the spirit of Griffith J. Griffith’s open ended gift to our city than the PROS committee. That is why it is absolutely mind boggling to me that the GGPNC would vote to suspend all activities of this strategic group.

Admittedly it should have come as no surprise. I have been an observer or the GGPNC board meetings for nearly four years. I have witness the repeated attacks by a few angry men against the former chairman of the committee. I have watched senseless debates over every single dollar that gets appropriated to PROS projects while money handed to other committees have very little questioning or oversight.

In recent action I watched the executive committee orchestrate a backward trip through time in order to overturn a vote from the prior board. Last June, the Executive Committee agreed on a plan to freeze nearly $38,000 of public funds. They did this under the agenda heading Other Comments and Announcement, hardly the open and transparent meetings they claim to hold. Included in this were nearly $15,000 allocated to the park.

Image credit:
Later in the general board meeting Mark Mauceri moved to take back the money appropriated for the PROS newsletter. This was after two members of PROS reported that the news letter was only ten days from completion.

The newsletter was, “something we take a great deal of pride in” said Dr. Napier a long time Los Feliz resident and board member, “it is one of our most valuable resources”. However, that little gem of outreach had been targeted for years by Mauceri and (CD 4 candidate Tomas) O’Grady.  At the meeting last June they finally succeeded in its repeal. They both laughed openly at the chair as she tried to save it.

The way those two meetings were agendized, and the ram it through arguments presented by Ron Ostrow and others should have given me clear warning where the priorities were for the new board. Anyone who has worked with budgets knows there are a multitude of paths to achieve desired goals. Unfortunately for the park, the new board’s choice has been to slash funding rather than to find creative solutions.

Read the painful minutes of this procedural shenanigan and note that only the Los Feliz Forward slate voted in favor.

The focused effort against PROS is as much personal as it is philosophical. The former chair, Bernadette Soter, is a quiet powerhouse and formidable opponent at a board meeting. Ms Soter knows how to elbow her way through a debate involving limited funds. The obsession with PROS, I believe, is driven by the need of a few angry men to finally win an argument, any argument over Soter. They are willing to weaken park oversight in order to finally get their way.

Make no mistake about it; suspending PROS does nothing good for the park, the neighborhood or the GGPNC. It is a procedural one up where winning is more important than outcome.

Second vote and only moments later was the appointment of Mark Mauceri as the chairman of the newly-formed Recreation committee. The process for vetting a proper chair seems to change from committee to committee. PROS was required to attend an outreach meeting where Mauceri only had to show up with form letters signed by a few of his friends.

Without getting into a long list that will just burn a hole in the lining of my stomach, I will say from my perspective that Mr. Mauceri has been the GGPNC’s greatest liability.

Mr. Mauceri has never been far from the controversies that have surrounded the GGPNC in recent years. He pretty much failed as Secretary, a mess that is still being sorted out. He has conveniently lost minutes, misrepresent board positions and engaged in repeated shouting matches. He is the author of truly hateful emails. Here are some examples. He has written emails that denigrate a person’s race and sexual orientation. Later he proudly admits to the fact and suggests that more - and worse - could come.

No single person has generated more animosity with the long time residents attending the meetings. His east coast brand of aggressiveness has driven away valuable volunteers. I can’t imagine what the Executive Committee was thinking when they unanimously appointed this controversial figure to chair a committee.

Demote PROS.

Promote Mauceri.

It is the reverse universe. It is the exact opposite of what should be happening. The above two votes moves Los Feliz backwards not forward. The Executive Committee’s inability to effectively navigate the political waters of our council is very troubling. Their willingness to ignore the inherent controversy in a figure like Mark Mauceri and instead focus disproportionate time on PROS is a detriment to the neighborhood.

I say all of this with the knowledge that most of the Los Feliz forward members are sincere and vital volunteers. It is unfortunate that they are being led by the misguided few. Their leadership will talk a good talk and their response to my opinion will be as confusing as it is long winded and disingenuous.

I urge all members of Los Feliz and beyond to show up for the public meetings and help me defend Griffith Park from the limited vision of a few angry men.

Friday, February 11, 2011

No takers on Villaraigosa's illegal parking structure deal

We say illegal because Villaraigosa's fire sale includes Pershing Square, whose operation and income is required by City Charter to belong to the Department of Recreation and Parks.

No fire sale takers.

Um...  ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

From the LA Times:
L.A. financial crisis deepens as bidders shun proposed parking garage deal

Dealing a fresh setback on the city budget, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s plan for leasing out nine parking garages is on the brink of collapse, with an array of private companies showing no interest in the deal, a city official said Friday.

Firms that have been in talks with the city for the last year were unwilling to bid on the proposed concession agreement, which was supposed to generate $53 million for the city’s general fund budget in the middle of a deep financial crisis.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, the top budget official at City Hall, had no comment Friday. But another high-level official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak, confirmed that the city was unable to lure bidders to its parking deal.

The City Council redesigned the parking concession agreement last month after its members received a barrage of complaints from business leaders in Hollywood, Westwood and elsewhere. Those changes, which were designed to keep parking rates from spiking dramatically, may also have made the deal unpalatable to potential bidders.
Read the rest at the LA Times.

Mubarak resigns

Good deal.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Commercialization of City parks examined on SoCal Connected 2nite

As the City struggles with budget problems, the Mayor and City Council are forcing the Department of Recreation and Parks to become a 100% cost recovery operation by stealing from it and strangling it for every dollar they can. But at what price to our youth and our open spaces?

SoCal Connected tonight examines the reactionary ramping up of commercialism in City parks.

Remember that organized parent protest against gratuitous advertising aimed at children dates all the way back to the 1960s with the very effective Action for Children's Television grassroots group.

Perhaps it is time for a parks analogue to take shape.

Karen Foshay, producer at KCET, fills us in on tonight's report on SoCal Connected:

This is a story of where merchandise meets civic identity. The city is now considering plastering the city's parks with so called "sponsorship" signs that look a whole lot like advertisements. The children in the parks are being targeted as a captive demographic. Is this the future of public private partnerships?

There is the appearance of a conflict of interest in this story. Barry Sanders, a political power player in LA, is the chairman of both the LA Parks Foundation and the LA Board of Recreation and Parks - a city agency. This Yogi Bear deal was brokered by his non-profit and as you will see in our story, lobbyists for Latham and Watkins - Sanders' former law firm - had a big hand in making this deal happen. Many are concerned if deals like this go through, it will deal a harsh blow to the city's ban on outdoor signs, making our parks part of LA's billboard jungle. But the city is broke, and now it looks like the parks may open for business.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Here is a link to the concepts the non-profit LA Parks Foundation is suggesting for LA's parks. This non profit works closely with the city to support parks. Please scroll through the pages and see what the foundation wants to do. notice the marketing pitch on page 11. note the children demos on page 6....

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

This Patches Pal is stunned

PBS's slick 'Pioneers of Television' installment on local live children's television pioneers aired tonight.

Shockingly, they made the choice to ignore the longest running locally produced kids' show in US history. The show I was holding my breath to see featured. The show myself along with most of the Pacific Northwest and all of British Columbia grew up with:

J.P. Patches

Not even a cursory mention! Wow. WTF.  Seriously.

Post-viewing, I find I'm taking this snub personally. Our humble Mayor of the City Dump - Julius Pierpont Patches, his girlfriend Gertrude, Tikey Turkey, Griswold, Ketchican the Animal Man, Boris S. Wort, and The ICU2 TV set were just such a huge part of my life and everyone else's growing up north of Portland and west of the Mississippi.

J.P., portrayed with magnificent charisma and endless kindness by Chris Wedes for going on six decades, was on my TV twice a day.  J.P. appeared at every major grocery store event, library event, Seafair and local parades, school events, ice skating rinks, air shows - you name it. The day J.P. came to my elementary school fundraiser is still a beloved highlight in my memory.

Even if you don't think Seattle and KIRO-TV was a major market or that Wedes' wonderful work deserved a full segment, the fact that the show reigns as the longest continually produced local children's show in the US should have at least gotten a simple mention.

But crickets for J.P.

And PBS can kiss this Patches Pal's butt.

Chris - I love you. Bob too.  Thank you both for some of the best memories of my life... starting with my daily 7am wake up alarm from the City Dump.

You'll never hear me say that to Willard Scott.

HexWatch 2011: KABC Clueless As To Real Story?

Enjoy the KABC link....
Buried deep in the story, like a new pipe easily penetrated by Hex 6, is the statement:
The DWP admits that the [Headworks] project has been delayed by weather and other unforeseen complications.
Well done, KABC.
No journalistic effort needed toward defining the source of those "unforeseen complications," eh?

Wilshire Blvd. Buses: If We Can't Build A Whole Stadium, How About We Just Build To The 30-Yard Line?

Yeah, the NFL should go for that idea...
Much respect to CM Rosendahl for doing his political best to make everybody happy, but maybe it would be better to sell the greater good for the benefit of all instead of trying to sell all on the greatest good to benefit a few? In 20 years, when L.A. is still out of compliance with federal air quality standards and thousands more have died as a result of our polluted air, Westsiders are going to appreciate congestion pricing even less than the feared dedicated bus lanes.

Get monthly newsletter updates from The Transit Coalition here

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Check out the CD 4 candidates at candidate forums

with Stephen Box,
Tomas O'Grady & Tom LaBonge

Wed, February 9, 7pm
4400 Wilshire Blvd., LA CA

with Stephen Box,
Tomas O'Grady & Tom LaBonge

Thu, February 10, 7pm
Silver Lake Community Church 
2930 Hyperion Ave, LA CA

Los Feliz Improvement Association
with Stephen Box,
Tomas O'Grady & Tom LaBonge
Wed, February 16, 6pm
4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, CA 90027-1462

Greater Griffith Park NC
with Stephen Box,
Tomas O'Grady & Tom LaBonge

Tue, March 1st, 6pm
3939 Tracy Street
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Park La Brea Residents Association
with Stephen Box,
Tomas O'Grady & Tom LaBonge
(the forum will also feature a presentation on the ballot measures
by the League of Women Voters)

Wed, March 2nd, 6pm
Forum is open to non-residents
475 S. Curson Avenue
Los Angeles CA 90036

Random Notes for the Weekend

File under "Arteries"...
Last time I sat down (okay, the ONLY time I have sat down) with Bill Rosendahl, we were discussing a pet project of his, the Green Line extension to LAX, and he was looking for Enviro support in Sacramento. Back story; in order to keep taxi drivers and shuttle companies happy, some Metro folks "forgot" to build the last mile of Green Line light rail to LAX . Undaunted by already making itself look foolish, Metro then provided a free shuttle (wha?) to LAX from the Green Line stop, so everybody could be happy -- particularly those travelers who enjoy inconvenience due to limited bureaucratic thinking.
So it strikes me as odd that a man who would undergo a heart surgery to reduce the risk of a stroke (bloodclot blocks an artery, interrupting bloodflow to the brain...) would come out against a holistic plan for opening the arteries of Wilshire Blvd. traffic from downtown to Santa Monica by use of dedicated bus lanes during rush hours. CM Rosendahl reportedly stated that using traffic lanes for buses during rush hours would further congest surface streets in his district.
It's a fair concern, but a poor argument. People use whatever method of transportation that gets them in and out of work with the least amount of time lost. By my eyeball count, a single bus can remove upwards of 40 vehicles at a Wilshire intersection IF you can extend the range, regularity and efficiency of that bus by using a dedicated lane. Mr. Rosendahl, come take the Orange Line with us. Earliest projections were an extremely hopeful 5,000 riders a day. Even in a recession it now handles more than 20,000 riders daily (down from 27,000 in '08). Dedicated bus lines and rail have a tendency to do that. Imagine taking 20,000 vehicle trips off of Wilshire Blvd. You'd have some real happy condo owners then.

File under My Super Bowl Prediction:
The artichoke dip will be gone before halftime.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Los Feliz Forward - disenfranchising to secure their power base at the GGPNC

Los Feliz Forward is the astroturf slate elected in whole under extremely questionable tactics to the Greater Griffith Park Neighborhood Council last year.   Los Feliz Forward includes Tomas O'Grady, currently running for Tom LaBonge's CD 4 council district against proven community activist Stephen Box.

Other Los Feliz Forward member are  Alex De Ocampo, Christina Khanjian, Jessica Kornberg, Harpreet Malhi, Frank Masi, Mark F. Mauceri, Ron Ostrow, Leslie VanKeuren, and Mio Vuckovic.

Special to Griffith Park Wayist.

Changing the Rules of the Game

By Radio LosFeliz

The Los Feliz Forward slate of the new GGPNC board has made bylaw change one of their main goals, some might say obsession. They wasted no time voting their first big change into place last June.

After only two meetings they revised the nearly decade old bylaw and unanimously agreed that only the elected Los Feliz Forward team could vote for the next round of appointed board members. The other nine board members who had been serving for two years would not be allowed to vote. The disenfranchised nine considered worthy to vote on every other issue before the board have been denied a voice on who should replace them.

This is a long way from what was once considered and example of best practices by a leading author of the NC system and former General Manager of DONE, Greg Nelson. Mr. Nelson has stated he posted the GGPNC bylaws on their website as a shining model during his tenure.

Then Los Feliz Forward comes along. Elected not selected was the campaign cry that certainly rhymes nicely but causes real concern for anyone with experience and vision. Many of the existing appointed members have worked and lived in the neighborhood for decades. People like Charley Mims, Rosemary DeMonte and Nyla Arslanian bring to the table a sense of history and knowledge of how to navigate issue through the behemoth politics of City Hall. Those voices wont be heard when selecting new appointments. Los Feliz Forward will only further it’s lock and influence in the neighborhood council. No system is perfect but while choosing appointed representatives of the neighborhood council it seem highly unfair to deny a voice to 47 percent of the board.

Also in serious question is the lockstep voting habit of Los Feliz Forward. If you look back through the minutes you will find that the only time all Los Feliz Forward members show up for a meeting is when bylaw revisions are up for a vote. The required 12 votes to amend bylaws means all of Los Feliz Forward must attend and they all must vote exactly the same. It is almost as if serial meetings were taking place outside the boardroom because the coincidence of this happening on its own is astronomical.

However that voting block was shaken at the last board meeting when the newest member of Los Feliz Forward broke ranks. Nelson Bae who was recently appointed to fill the Religious Representative position failed to blindly follow the Los Feliz Forward slate in voting for the sweeping bylaw changes that were being proposed.

Many remember Bae’s appointment process at the meeting where Tor Hyams announced to the room that Scientology was not a recognized religion. Bae was running for the Religious Representative seat against Patrick Renne, a Scientologist and community activist. Renne offered this statement regarding his philosophy of interfaith cooperation and community betterment. Bea, who had no religious affiliation except for perhaps the Church of Mark Mauceri, expressed a genuine fondness for the neighborhood and offered he had been a football official.

When the question of qualification came up both Ron Ostrow and his side kick Tor Hyams encouraged the members not to dwell on qualifications as noted in the minutes:
Arslanian: Concerned about how a person represents religious community without being a leader of the community.
Ostrow: Clarifying that religious community representative description is absent from the bylaws but delineated in board action at the last appointment process.
Hyams: Objecting to further clarification on this point.
Ostrow: Agreeing further discussion of qualifications irrelevant.
Hyams: Opining that the Church of Scientology not a recognized religious body
After a long uncomfortable silence Ostrow tried to un-ring the bell by ruling the comment out of order.

In an ironic twist, Hyams repeated comments challenging Scientology’s religious validity came during the same meeting when wording of GGPNC bylaws was being revised to ensure impartiality. The Rules and Elections Committee chaired by Hyams himself recommended the following revision:

[To remain politically and ideologically non-partisan and inclusive in its operations including, but not limited to, the selection process for Governing Board and committee members;]

The slamming of Scientology was more an attempt to shoe-in a Los Feliz Forward pick than it was an actual affront to what must be thousands of stakeholders. But it is a telling example of what Los Feliz Forward will do the further their own agenda.

Changing the rules of the game is what occupies hours of meeting time. The changes lean heavily in favor of the existing Los Feliz Forward leadership. The methods to achieve these changes are increasingly unsettling. For a group that also made ethics a priority they seem pretty happy to backslide from the sermon they preach in public.

Disenfranchise nearly half the board, lockstep voting, and denouncing religious beliefs at a public meeting, even with all that I get the bad feeling that Los Feliz Forward is just getting started.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

NRDC's Adrian Martinez on Today's Ninth Circuit L.A. Air Quality Decision

The following is from NRDC's clean air advocate Adrian Martinez on today's Ninth Circuit decision ruling in favor of Environmental Justice (EJ) groups:

"Residents who like to breathe clean air had a good day in Southern California. This morning, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a coalition of environmental and environmental justice groups that argued there have to be consequences for failing to comply with the Clean Air Act. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA sets clean air standards called National Ambient Air Quality Standards. States must develop plans to meet these standards. These plans are submitted to EPA for approval, and EPA must decide whether these plans are legal or not. If EPA determines that the plans are legal, then the plans become enforceable in Federal Court. If the plans are deemed illegal, then EPA must compel the state to comply with the law or do the job itself.

Today’s case dealt with an ozone plan that was prepared for the Los Angeles region. The EPA found that the plan would not meet the clean air standard on time, and proposed to do nothing about it. The Court determined that “EPA’s decision to do nothing is especially troublesome in light of the [Clean Air] Act’s overall purpose of ensuring states come into compliance with clean air standards.” Because the smog plan at issue in this case would not actually meet the clean air standard on time, the Court said that California needs to go back to the drawing board and develop a real plan, not just an unenforceable plan.

The Court was also critical of the plan for its inclusion of unenforceable measures to clean up smog-forming emissions from pesticide pollution. The Court found that these plans cannot include straw men measures, but rather must include real strategies to reduce harmful pollution. The Court also critiqued EPA for allowing the Los Angeles region to exempt itself from reducing pollution from its clogged and congested transportation system. The Clean Air Act requires regions to ensure that as vehicle use increases, parallel strategies like increased use of public transit, carpooling, bicycling infrastructure, and other measures aimed at reducing emissions from the transportation system receive additional support. The Court ordered the Los Angeles region to do more to fix its transportation problems, which will result in dramatic reductions in smog pollution in the upcoming years.

The Court’s decision is especially timely as air agencies have recently sought to weaken clean air protections. The Los Angeles region suffers from some of the most intractable air quality problems in the nation, making it critically important that strong, enforceable plans be in place to clean the air. But while many of California’s residents suffer from increasingly high rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, the plans that would lead the state to cleaner air are totally ineffective. This is not the time for half-measures. We need bold plans that actually achieves clean air. I am happy the Court agrees with us in pushing for what Congress promised Los Angeles area residents when they passed the Clean Air Act.

People’s lives and health depend on strong plans to clean up LA's dirty air. Dr. Jane Hall and a team from California State University at Fullerton has estimated that air pollution deaths in the region are more than double the deaths from motor vehicle related deaths. Her team also estimated that failure to meet clean air standards for ozone and particulate matter results in a cost of $1,250 per person per year in the Los Angeles region or a total of $22 billion dollars in annual costs associated with failing to meet the Clean Air Act standards.

Overall, the Court has revived a sense of accountability in clean air planning in the nation’s smog capitol. The decision today seeks to translate a clean air plan from just a stack papers on the shelf to a requirement to actually meet clean air standards to protect the health."

For more from the fearless Mr. Martinez, please visit his blog.