Archive for September, 2010

City Controller Wendy Greuel’s report on the effectiveness of red light cameras raises more questions than it answers, but that is standard for her department’s performance.

Back in 2006 when the contract for the cameras was approved, who served on the City Council and headed the Transportation Committee? 

OK, I know it did not take you long to answer that question.

Ms. Greuel embraced the plan to deploy the cameras, including one at Coldwater and Oxnard  and another at Victory and Laurel Canyon in her former Council District 2. 

Her report indicates that some locations were not selected based on accident statistics, but on assuring each Council District received some of the cameras.  In other words, politics trumped judgment to keep Council Members happy – including Greuel.  Are public relations more important than safety?

In 2006, when Greuel and her colleagues approved the contract with Nestor, the pros and cons of red light cameras were fuzzy at best.  A 2005 report by the Federal Highway Administration provided a mixed review.  While T-bone collisions decreased, rear-end crashes increased significantly. 

The National Motorist Association made an astute observation:  “Photo enforcement devices do not apprehend seriously impaired, reckless or otherwise dangerous drivers.”

That makes perfect sense – bad drivers don’t respond to improvements in enforcement technology any more than murderers do to enhancements in DNA evidence gathering.

So why did the Greuel and the City Council push for the deployment of the cameras in 2006?  How much of their decision was based on possible additional revenues?  What intersection did Greuel select that was not on the list of the most dangerous intersections?

If you were expecting any of these questions to be answered in the audit, just remember who approved the report.

Oh, what about the accidents statistics at the intersections of Coldwater and Oxnard and Victory and Laurel Canyon?  There were thirteen  in the six months preceding the installation in June 2007 and fourteen in the following six months.

To be fair, given the base period of the survey of twelve months for the location and the number of instances, the increase in accidents is not conclusive.  On the other hand, how conclusive was the City Council’s evaluation of the program in 2006?

Was it compelling enough to justify a $4.3 million per year program?

Greuel should know. Too bad we don’t have an independent audit of the decision-making process used by the Council

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I enjoy well-written blogs.

However, it is particularly special for me when one is written by my own daughter.

Jeni has always had a way with words.  Rhetoric Communications was one of her majors at the University of Richmond (that’s right, she’s a Spider just like her dad).  She also majored in the discipline at Johns Hopkins University where she earned her master’s degree.

Jeni applies her studies in the marketing field with a major trade association – writing about entertainment is a nice departure from the norm.  Her writing style is witty and unabashed.

Please remember to click on the widget in the sidebar for weekly updates.

PS – Jeni taught me everything about setting up a blog

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Since I was away, my good friend and fellow activist – Pete Sanchez of Valley Village – covered the event and offers his take on the candidates.  Pete is a former candidate himself, having competed in the crowded CD2 field last year where he endured many forums and interviews.

Thank you, Pete, for stepping up and attending on behalf of Village to Village.

So here is Pete’s report:

LA Clean Sweep 9/25/2010

Paul asked me to cover this event, the first ever citywide candidate forum promoted and sponsored by neighborhood activists, because he was out-of-town. I wasn’t sure how to approach it, Paul’s style is hard to imitate. I decided to look for a pro, a con and one memorable quote (all my opinion of course) from each candidate. As a former candidate myself (CD2 Primary, September 22, 2009),  I know what it’s like to sit at the front of the room and answer these questions.

LA Clean Sweep (per their mission statement) is a non-partisan political action committee that became organized to support grassroots community candidates with integrity and a broad vision for Los Angeles and to sweep out of office those City Council members responsible for the budget crisis that threatens to force the city into bankruptcy and long-term financial instability.

The program was two-part agenda. The first part tested the clients with prewritten and distributed questions. The candidates had time to think about their answers before hand.  The second part took questions from the audience. 

It was decent crowd that stayed for the whole three hours plus. At 1:00 PM there were sixty-one people, excluding the candidates. At 1:30pm – eighty-five, 2:00pm – seventy-five and 3:30pm – seventy-three. Not shabby for six months out from the March 2011 elections.

Here are the candidates: 

(The candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name.)

David Barron for City Council District 6

Pro:  He works for the city now and knows what it’s like to be on the inside.

Con:   there was so much talk about Tony Soprano, the white shirt and white tie made you look like one of his boys. Otherwise it might have been a nice look. 

Quote:  “I will repeal the city business tax.”

 Business owners will like this, but where will the replacement revenue come from?

Stephen Box for City Council District 4

Pro:  Speaks well and seems knowledgeable about city issues.

Con:  His appearance will turn off some (the long goatee).

Quote:  “When you fight for your community you encounter the Department of NO.”

 Community activists will get this immediately.

 Anthony Butka for City Council District 14

Pro:  Third generation Angelino; he has seen the evolution of Los Angeles.  Likeable guy, he could be your next-door neighbor. 

Con:  He has the same complaints we all do: budget, open government, power-sharing, but I heard no solutions.

Quote:  “The City is moving from tax based revenue to fee based revenue because there are no limits on raising fees.”

 True. But what do we do?

 Armineh Safarian Chelebian for City Council District 12

 Pro:  Was direct – she had an opinion on every question asked of her. 

 Con:  Wants the pension issue on the ballot. We’ll end up with something worst than what we have.

 Quote:  Regarding city pensions:  “it is a subject that should be put on the ballot.”

 Sitting next to Dinesh helped you. Your voice was loud and clear compared to your competition. 

 Austin Dragon or City Council District 10

 Pro:  You have to love the name, Austin Dragon. He got the first big applause with his opening remarks.

 Con:  No big applause for the rest of the forum.  

Quote:  “The ultimate watch dog of city government has to be the people. The last election 91% of the voters did not show up to vote.”

 He’s right. Go to a forum, read up on the candidates and get out and vote people.

 Phil Jennerjahn for City Council District 4

 Pro:  Has strong beliefs. 

 Con:  His beliefs may be too strong for some District 4 voters.

Quote:  “We need to be realistic, this is a big city and there are going to be drawbacks to living here.”  

He’s right, not everything will be Mayberry in LA.

Dinesh Lakhanpal for City Council District 12

Pro:  Seems likeable, but I could not hear him. 

Con:  Speak up Dinesh! The crowd told you numerous times they could not hear you. Your message got lost in your low volume, monotone voice. (The mike was bad but it was not the mike.)

Quote:  No quote – see above. 

You seem dignified, but fight man, get your voice heard!

 Amberly McDowell for City Council District 8

 Pro:  Young and enthusiastic.                             

 Con:  Young and naive. 

 Quote:  “I will work from the bottom, up.”

 If elected he will have a rude awaking.

Bernard Parks for City Council District 8

Pro: Bravery. I give him credit for showing up at this event. (Only one to get a boo.)

Con:  Seven years in City Council and former police chief. 

Quote:  “I’m here today because I feel it is important to listen.”

Really, you’ve had a long time in office to listen.

 Arnulfo Yanez for City Council District 14

Pro:  Definitely a man who cares about family and the community.

 Con:  May be too focused on his neighborhood to see the larger picture.

 Quote:  “Pension for my family is the Social Security System.”

 First one to say:  “when elected I will take half salary.”  The voters love that.

Pete Sanchez ran for City Council District 2 in September 2009. He placed fifth out of ten in the primary. He is the founding President of Neighborhood Council Valley Village and the current President of the Valley Village Homeowners Association.

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If you read my post from earlier this week, you will know that the neighborhood council movement is at a crossroads.  Weak support from DONE, disinterest by certain City Council Members and a facade of empathy by the Mayor are inhibiting the potential of the system.

In order for neighborhood councils to achieve maximum effectiveness, they need to be as free from as much  influence from elected officials as possible.  That’s why the proposal by the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils to create regional commissions is worth considering. 

In my very brief summary of last Sunday’s workshop hosted by Council Member Krekorian, I wrote an incomplete sentence regarding VANC’s proposal  -“BONC  (Board of Neighborhood Commissioners) would be limited to a policy-making role.”  It should have read, “BONC would continue to be limited to a policy-making role.”

VANC’s proposal does not change the Charter, nor does it call for a Charter change.

But VANC’s proposal could change the political dynamic of the relationship between City Hall and the neighborhood councils. 

In my view, the existence of officially recognized regional commissions will foster a better dialog between City Council members with the regions overlapping their council districts. It would follow that BONC would have less influence at the City Council level.  BONC would still have considerable sway with the mayor’s office, as the mayor appoints its members.

However, even the influence of the mayor could ultimately be diluted.  I can imagine regional commission members unofficially lobbying their respective City Council members to push for this candidate or that for selection to BONC.  That would be a good thing, as it would promote a more politically diverse board.

This is not a personal issue – whether it’s Villaraigosa or whoever succeeds him – BONC will not truly represent the voice of the NCs as long as the mayor has the power to appoint its members.

What about the existing coalitions that have cropped up over the years?

They will still exist and form working relationships with the regional commissions.  That, too, is good because the coalitions are not bound by many of the formalities that govern official bodies and, therefore, can take important positions on issues quickly. 

In essence, the regional commission concept will encourage participation by shrinking the gap between City Hall and the stakeholders.  It might even encourage those who have given up on grassroots democracy to reemerge with new purpose.

The commissions will allow rising leaders to have an opportunity to assert themselves in a new and visible arena. And that is the most important benefit of all, because it requires many gifted and  independent leaders to break down the apathy gripping the city’s voters.

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It’s not every event that attracts over a hundred participants to attend on a beautiful Sunday with NFL games in ample supply, but that’s just want happened today at the Braude Center in Van Nuys.

My compliments to Council Member Krekorian for hosting and producing a successful community dialog about the future of the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.

The consensus of the public input could be summed up as follows:  pull the Neighborhood Council funding program away from DONE, change the role of the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners and make what remains of DONE more accountable.

The most comprehensive of the public remarks came from Jill Banks Barad, the founder and President of the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (VANC).

Jill, along with other VANC members, outlined a regional commission concept that would be responsible for the management of the councils.  BONC would be limited to a policy-making role.

Adrienne O’Neill of the Harbor Area Coalition rolled out her funding plan.  I commented about the importance of allowing checking accounts for the councils.

FOX 11 News was there and interviewed several of us; I do not know when the segment will be aired, but be sure to check the station’s website throughout the week.

The breakout sessions were Q&As between a moderator and board members.  Almost every conceivable issue was covered regarding both the current performance and future of DONE.

I will wait for a report from Krekorian’s office before commenting on the feedback (it was a round robin format, so I do not know all of what was discussed – I’d rather cover it in the aggregate rather than offer piecemeal input right now).

More at a later date.

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I want you to do a little role-playing for a moment.

Here’s the scenario:  you walk into your boss’ office and report that you spent $100,000,000 in an effort to build more business and added just fifty clients with a value of only $3,000,000.  “But,” you say, “I did not mispend any of the money!”

What would the boss’ reaction be?

Personally, I wouldn’t hang around long enough to find out.  I would be out the door in the speed of light and on the street just moments ahead of the explosion that would be sure to follow.

Well, Controller Wendy Greuel delivered the equivalent of that message to us when she announced that only fifty-five jobs were created from $111,000,000 provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  If you assume about $55,000 per job, that only amounts to around $3,000,000, or less than 3% of the funds received.

Pardon my French, Wendy, but just what the H-E double hockey sticks did you mean by not mispent?

When only 3% of Federal assistance funding goes towards creating jobs, just how was the other 97% applied? 

That ratio is not a formula of success – it represents mismanagement.  It does not matter if the spending was contractually legitimate.  I can go out and buy an expensive sports car and it would be a legit transaction, but my better half might have other thoughts, thoughts I would care not to imagine.

No where in her report does it state how the money was spent.  You would think that our City Controller would deem such information to be relevant.

My guess is she does not want to upset her ally the mayor, whose people are responsible for managing ARRA monies.  Wendy needs the mayor’s support for her campaign to succeed him.

Kind of reminds me of the time Villaraigosa promised to hire a thousand new cops with the trash fee hike; less than half the goal was realized.

Wendy Greuel was on the City Council at the time and supported the fee hike.

Still spinning the numbers.

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Omar Armando Loera – a career criminal, apparently with enough strikes to retire the 1927 Yankees in order.

Why was he out on parole after a couple of years of his last sentence, rather than behind bars for years to come according to the three strikes law?

Did he game the system by falsely claiming to be an illegal alien allowing him to be deported to Mexico after prior offenses as reported on KFI’s John and Ken show today?

It stands to reason Loera should not have been on the street.

We need answers.

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A very well-researched article by Patrick Range McDonald of the LA Weekly about the extensive library cuts made by the mayor and supported by most of the City Council.

McDonald compares LA’s cuts to other major cities – and guess who slashed the most?

Although I believe the library system should not be immune from cuts, I choke when the mayor and his lackeys on the City Council claim that there was no more fat to cut from other departments.

For example, as the article points out, gang prevention programs with no substantiated benefits are still operating. 

Many of us can point to other departments that do not produce results – the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment for one. 

What about departments that are obligated to collect fines and fees but fail to recoup even a fraction of what is owed? 

No one in City Hall is demanding value for the dollars spent.  No one is demanding that municipal unions make significant concessions in their generous compensation and benefits.

In both modern and ancient times, barbarians and despots destroyed the institutions of learning and enrichment when they swept in and assumed power.

Nothing has changed – at least here in Los Angeles – except for the clothing worn by pillagers.

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Suspect in murder of Chere Osmanhodzic

I was traveling yesterday when the LAPD held its press conference, otherwise I would have posted some remarks about this suspect and his status as a parolee with a long rap sheet.  I hope to have a chance tomorrow.

Our hearts go out to the victim’s family and friends.

May there be justice for Ms. Osmanhodzic.

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The LAPD will hold a press confererence on Tuesday.  A suspect is expected to be named in the brutal murder of Chere Osmanhodzic.

The murder took place at the victim’s home in Valley Village.

A $50,000 reward has been offered.

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