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Archive for October, 2009

I made a quick circuit of the Sherman Oaks Fair on Sunday.

I ran into Jill Banks Barad (Chair of VANC) and her husband Ross, who I absent-mindedly addressed as Robert Pine (the actor who plays Jim’s father on the Office), and David Hernandez and his spouse.  David is running for Mike Feuer’s seat in the Assembly.

Feuer was there as was Paul Krekorian.  Tamar Galatzan was also in attendance.

Chris Essel was definitely there being guided around by former CD2 candidate Frank Sheftel.  It evoked a fleeting memory of Camelot for me.

With a crowd of 80,000 passing through and a the CD2 runoff election approaching in December, I was surprised at the lack of campaigning on behalf of Essel and Krekorian.

Krekorian did have a booth, but you would not have known it, at least when I went by around noon or so.  The two campaign staffers sat quietly behind a table with expressions reflecting general indifference.  Why staff was not positioned at the front handing out flyers and engaging passersby is a mystery.  I am certain the booth cost the campaign a little money, so why not get value from it?

An even bigger mystery is why didn’t Chris Essel have a booth?

It cannot be for want of money.

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Power and Rain

This is not a takeoff of a James Taylor song.

I just received the following from a DWP spokesperson.  I appreciate his timely reply to my request.  It appears to make sense to a layman such as me.

Paul,

According to Marvin Moon, dust and dirt build up on the lines, poles, transformers during the dry months and with even the first light drizzle can turn that into a slurry which of course becomes a conductor that can and does cause arcing and lead to shorts and outages.  With heavier rains and/or where the ground becomes saturated or other conditions cause heavy runoff, water can accumulate in underground vaults.  Those vaults hold splices and transformers with connections that are insulated, but deterioration of the insulation combined with water filling the vault can cause outages.  Of course, there is also the factor of wind, with tree branches or other items causing arcing, downed wires and poles etc.

 Regarding power systems in other regions of the country, particularly regarding the first rains of the season like we have in Southern California,  unlike here, there are frequents rains throughout the year that tend to keep the debris from building up on the system thereby preventing the formation of the slurry.  I was in Michigan last 4th of July and the weather changed frequently during week, including rain, wind, hot and cool.  Of course during the late fall or winter with freezing rain or snow, they do experience widespread outages on a much larger scale than we experience here. 

 Let me know if you need more info on this.

 Greg Bartz

LADWP Government & Neighborhood Relations Liaison

City Council Districts 2,4,6,7 & 13

East Valley & Central Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Areas

(213) 367-2800

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It is difficult to assess if the Governor of Iowa is overreacting to claims of corruption and misuse of tax incentives designed to attract filming in his state.

There is nothing in this article from the Wall Street Journal that presents a strong case that laws were broken.  If anything, it appears that local businesses benefitted from the productions.  Yet, there is a criminal investigation.

There must be something more to this than meets the eye, otherwise the state is shooting itself in the foot. 

Perhaps some modifications to the program are in order, but throwing the baby out with the bath water does not make sense.

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Whether you tweet, blog or have a facebook page, be aware -your employer or anyone can check on what you say or display. 

Regardless of your industry, if you are in a position where you deal with vendors, government or the public in general, saying the wrong thing can have a lasting effect on your life.

This article from THR, Esq. focuses on a rising trend in Hollywood to include clauses in the contracts of talent covering standards of conduct in cyberspace

According to the article:

“This is just the beginning,” says a top talent lawyer. “Hollywood has a long history of controlling what talent says in the media. This is just a new area of media that hasn’t been controlled yet.”

As a blogger, I am acutely aware that what and how I present my opinions are a reflection on me.  It does not matter that I will never be confused for talent.  My reputation is important to me.  While I express controversial opinions freely and with complete candor, you will not find my material riddled with profanity or vindictiveness as you might find in another blog (I am hearing there might be some efforts to finally clean things up over there).  I also do not allow inappropriate or vulgar comments.

That’s just not me. 

Regardless, all of us need to be sensitive about what we say.

Freedom of speech may be alive and well, but impressions might be formed that can cause a ripple effect throughout our social networks.

Be frank, be opinionated, be rhetorical, but be civil.

Also check your contract.

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Wendy Greuel says she is the people’s DWP rate payer advocate.  That’s what Rick Orlov reported in today’s Daily News.

That sounds like the premise of a bad science fiction movie.  A seemingly benevolent alien race hovers over Los Angeles in a giant spaceship and promises to attend to our needs.

“Trust us,” they implore.

We do and the next thing we know they steal our resources and round up humans to feed their hungry mouths –a combination of the original Visitors series and Twilight Zone’s epic episode “To Serve Man.”

By the way, it appears that a remake of the Visitor’s series is heading our way.  The alien leader in the promo looks like Wendy, only with dark hair.  That is just too scary.  Can’t wait to see who the Tony V equivalent is.  Tony V – that’s V!!!  Just like the red V in the billboards promoting the show!  I am on to something – I will continue to follow up on this angle until the aliens silence me.

Seriously, Wendy Greuel as our DWP advocate makes as much sense as Congressman Rangel heading the House Ways and Means Committee  (by the way, that translates to his Way and our Means).

The good news for me is that I do not have to spend much time writing an article about Saint Wendy the Protectress, the patron Saint of the IBEW, the DWP’s powerful union.  Please go to my op-ed piece that was published in the Daily News a couple of months ago.

Allow me to reiterate one of the points I made in the article:  Wendy Greuel received over $200,000 from the IBEW late in her campaign for the Controller’s seat.  The financial assistance allowed her to conduct a smear campaign against Nick Patsaouras , spreading a totally false claim that he had not paid Federal income taxes. For the record, I personally researched the issue and determined it was bogus.

By receiving such significant assistance from the IBEW, Wendy cannot present herself to be independent in either fact or appearance on any matter concerning the DWP.

The Code of Professional Conduct for California CPAs states the following:

“…the maintenance of objectivity and independence requires a continuing assessment of client relationships and public responsibility. Such a member who provides auditing and other attestation services should be independent in fact and appearance. In providing all other services, a member should maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest.”

Granted, Wendy is not a CPA, but she serves as the city’s official auditor.  The independence requirement is not only good common sense, but I believe is an inherent part of the City Controller’s job.

I will forward today’s blog post to the City Attorney’s Office with a recommendation that Wendy should recuse herself from any financial matter concerning the DWP.  Her appointees and direct hires should also be recused.

It is perfectly fine for the Controller’s regular staff to participate in any audit or review of the DWP, but they should report to an outside auditor who is free of any monetary or political connection to the IBEW or DWP’s management.

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This article in the Wall Street Journal adds to the endless litany of problems facing the state and many of our cities.

Municipalities participating in Calpers are going to have to pony up millions of dollars more this year and next to make up for the huge investment losses experienced by the nation’s largest pension fund.

While it is encouraging that the market has rebounded over the last few months, it is still a far cry from offsetting last fiscal year’s $50 billion in losses.

Although the City of Los Angeles pension plans are independent of Calpers, what happens in Sacramento flows down to Los Angeles.  According to the article, some of the additional funding will have to come from the state’s general fund, and that does affect us.

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Blogs should encourage spirited debate, not profanity or personal attacks.

An otherwise informative blog dealing with local events has crossed the line, and it’s not the first time.

A comment was posted this morning that used profane terminology in describing a former CD2 candidate.  The commenter also expressed a desire to perform an act upon that person.

The post was still up there as of 1:45 PM.  It will probably remain there based on other posts I have seen over the last few months.

Such irresponsible behavior is particularly loathsome when it tolerates suggestions of violence.

I will not dignify the comment by providing a link to it.

I strongly urge the owner of that blog to practice restraint in what gets posted to threads.

The last thing we need is to replicate the lack of standards so evident in AOL blogs.

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This is not news.  The SEIU has been allegedly coercing other unions’ members around the country to decertify their representation and fall in under its umbrella.

If the SEIU were a company, it would have run afoul of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division years ago.

From 2006 to the present, the SEIU has targeted or raided other unions representing over 750,000 members nationwide, including United Healthcare West, California Nurses’ Association and our own Los Angeles based EAA.

This is all about increasing bargaining leverage at the expense of both the employers and the members.  In Los Angeles it means a SEIU monopoly of the civilian workforce.  It is no wonder that labor negotiations have become polarized affairs similar to the intractable dealings in the California Assembly.

In that kind of environment, the taxpayers lose; the winners are the elected officials and the union leaders.  Union members may attain additional benefits, but they are illusory because they lack sustainability.  Either the members will suffer severe layoffs, or the city will declare bankruptcy and a judge will order all contracts to be renegotiated.  Choose your poison.

This is a major reason why I distrust officials who are endorsed by the SEIU.  Paul Krekorian is one of them.  There is no way a politician can be an independent voice in Los Angeles when backed by such a predatory labor organization.

Chris Essel received over $56,000 in support from unions including large contributions from Washington DC headquarters of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades.  This union does not have the profile of the SEIU, but they obviously have some serious money.

Let us not forget that Wendy Greuel is behind the Essel campaign.  With Wendy, you get the IBEW and a cozy friendship with the DWP.

Both candidates need to be challenged about their connections at the forums and in the media.

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Live and Let Die

As individuals, without exception, death is a once in a lifetime event.

As a group, death occurs multiple times.

We all have close family members who will pass away; some of their deaths will have tax implications for us.

Survivors always undergo a degree of anxiety and grief, both before and after the loved ones are gone.  The anticipation can be as painful as the passing itself.

Why would anyone want to add to the suffering by not planning for the orderly transition of assets from decedents to the survivors? Unfortunately, that happens all too often.  We are all procrastinators.

It takes more than just setting up a will and a living trust; certainly, those are the two most important steps everyone should take regardless of the potential size of their estates.  What might be small now could grow large in the future.

It is equally important to update the provisions for life events such as divorce, births, etc.  Just think of the potential anxiety created when family members discover that a former spouse will have control over the assets of an estate, or when your ne’er-do-well cousin Eddy ends up turning over the funds to a TV preacher.

It is also vital that you educate and involve your family or loved ones as to certain aspects of your financial position and the arrangements you have made in the event of your demise.

Not everyone needs to know anything, but someone needs to know everything.  Perhaps that is your spouse or significant other.  That will all depend on your situation.

Here are some must do items:

On joint tax returns, always make certain that your tax advisor reviews every line with both you and your spouse.  Both of you need to thoroughly understand the return.

Prepare and regularly maintain a schedule of your net worth.  I keep an Excel workbook and update it quarterly with new valuations.  For security reasons, the schedule is password protected and does not contain account numbers –don’t want to make life easier for hackers.

Although most of us depend on the internet to access our accounts, always keep a binder with your latest statements or screen prints. Also make sure that a trusted person knows where it is.  Keep a hard copy of your net worth schedule with it. There is nothing more frustrating then when those who need to know of your financial affairs cannot access your information because of password protection.

The binder should have an inventory of any safe deposit box contents.

If you do not have the time to follow this advice, hire someone you trust to do it for you.

We are in very uncertain economic times; it is important that your heirs be in a position to react quickly.

CONSULT YOUR TAX ADVISER — This article contains general information about various tax matters. You should consult your CPA regarding the implications to your own particular situation.

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I received this from a Sherman Oaks stakeholder:

David Freeman, Interim General Manager for DWP, accepted to be Guest Speaker at the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council (SONC) meeting last night. Of course this was after the original speaker; David Nahai had agreed to appear but subsequently resigned. Freeman was sent the flyer that was broadcast to the community showing the council’s publicity for his appearance and included a list of questions and concerns from the community.
The meeting started at 6:30 p.m. Sometime after 7 p.m. he emailed to say that he was not going to attend, he wanted to, but “someone” at DWP told him not to come.
When this was announced, you could hear an audible groan, and there was an auditorium full of outraged people. One man came with four of his most recent bills, the last one over $1000, and said he didn’t understand this since he had been conserving and his bill showed that he had reduced his output by 25%.
Interestingly, seated in the back of the auditorium was someone from DWP Community Relations. When he was pointed out and invited to come and sit in the front row and respond to some of the questions, he refused to come forward saying that he was there just as a Valley resident and couldn’t speak for DWP. He did say that he would convey the questions to Freeman.

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