Archive for March, 2013

What a week it was.

Wendy Greuel was backtracking and attempting to re-position herself as the candidate who will try to please all of the people, all of the time. In the process, she proved you cannot believe anything she says, most of the time.

After her impassioned statement of support to the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor last week, she was called in by the L.A. Chamber of Commerce to explain her remarks as they contradicted her previous position on pension reform.

While the Chamber did not withdraw its endorsement, a fundraiser was cancelled.

It is reasonable to assume Greuel’s support in the labor and business communities may have been dampened by her flip-flopping. This could result in the loss of a few points, something she can ill afford.

Bill Clinton’s endorsement might offset some or all of this loss, but it simply means she is on a treadmill gaining no ground. Certainly, it is not the time to make a wholesale change in her campaign staff, but that is exactly what she did.

If Garcetti is endorsed by President Obama, his support may increase by a few points.

Overall, neither of these presidential nods will decide the race; there are two big shoes ready to fall – possible endorsements by Jan Perry and Kevin James. They outweigh both Clinton’s and Obama’s. The two runners-up in the primary command a loyal core of supporters. And they live in L.A, not on the other coast. For sure, some of their followers will take a pass on casting a vote in the runoff, but the others will likely take part and follow the lead of their former champions.

I listened to Kevin James on KABC today. Although he did not make an endorsement, I could tell from his answers he favors Garcetti.

How about Perry? It is difficult to conceive she will back Greuel after the bitterness between the two in the final stages of the primary campaign.

I see the following possibilities:

Both endorse Garcetti, with some reservations.

One endorses Garcetti and the other stays neutral.

In any event, advantage Garcetti.

The debates will be interesting if the moderators pin them down on specifics. Greuel will be more vulnerable to any line of questioning dealing with pension reform. If she sticks with here wishy-washy answer of “going to the table,” enough of her current supporters will feel unsure of her position and perhaps choose to sit the election out.

Garcetti has to be ready to press the issue, but then he must be prepared to be specific himself. He has taken some firm positions already, including his vote in favor of reducing the benefits for future hires.

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There is no apparent heir to the estate of Los Angeles Abbey. The leadership vacuum that will be left in the wake of the current lord’s departure (as if there was any leadership in the first place), will be filled through a process only the Dowager Countess of Grantham would appreciate.

After the relative pleasantries of the primary – which resembled an Edwardian dinner party with only an occasionally thinly disguised barb spoken around the table – the gloves are coming off and the maids and butlers are choosing sides. Former mayoral candidate Emmanuel Pleitez has already endorsed Garcetti. Kevin James and Jan Perry are deliberating. Together, they have the potential to swing about one-third of the vote – which could be a knockout punch to either of the candidates.

The first major accusation of the campaign was hurled by Wendy Greuel. She all but accused Eric Garcetti of being public enemy number one of the city’s unions. That would not be too far from saying President Obama is opposed to immigration reform.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Greuel compared Garcetti to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. The article went on to report she would reopen negotiations that could lead to a rollback of retirement terms offered to new employees. The rules governing new employees amount to almost no savings in the short-run; they would take 20-30 years to make a meaningful difference in pension and health benefits costs.

Greuel has also unequivocally offered her support to the public unions in general.

“I’m gonna stand with labor, not stand up to labor,” she told the L.A. County Federation of Labor.

She tried to qualify her remarks after the news broke, claiming she had failed to read the complete text of her statement. Right, the “press release controller” cannot read a prepared statement.

Greuel claims she is in favor of the terms offered new employees – it is just that she believes they were not secured through collective bargaining. However, she was as quiet as a mouse at Downton Abbey when the issue was before the City Council last fall. And these changes had been under discussion long before that.

As City Controller, she was free to weigh in on any development affecting the city’s finances, or at least that is what a controller should do. She could have vocally opposed it and raised public awareness if she had truly thought an injustice had been done. Avoiding controversy is Greuel’s style, unless there is payola involved….or maybe a dowry from the unions for her ladyship’s loyalty.

By contrast, Garcetti took a stand and supported the passage of the limited reforms. Granted, there is much more needed to protect the taxpayers from the fastest growing segment of the city’s budget; Garcetti is learning just how difficult that will be. Maria Elena Durazo of the LA County Federation of Labor lambasted the Councilman in a letter to the editor in today’s Times: “Garcetti’s dishonesty on this issue is a major factor in our deliberations on who is the best choice for mayor.”

With that much blowback on such a small, very reasonable piece of reform, just what does Greuel think she is going to achieve by reopening talks?

If you are thinking that Greuel will secure anything more than window dressing when it comes to compensation and benefit reforms, then you can “fogettaboutit,” as they used to say in another popular series about an extended family.

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Ten years ago, when Jill Banks Barad first conceived of a regional alliance concept for Neighborhood Councils, naysayers told her it would be like herding cats.

They underestimated Jill’s energy and focus. A whole herd of “cats” – about 200 strong – showed up at Carla’s Cafe of CBS Studios to celebrate the tenth anniversary of one of the most respected groups of community activists in the city.

The event also attracted some top cats, too: Eric Garcetti, Kevin James, Ron Galperin, Mike Feuer, Wendy Greuel and Carmen Trutanich (in approximate order of appearance). You will not find as large a gathering of political personalities at just any gathering.

It goes to show just how much respect VANC has earned over the years.

Awards were announced at the event. The two most noteworthy were the “Gets It” award, which was given to Jill in recognition of her tireless efforts, and the “Razzy” award, given to the mayor’s office for its attempt to hold NC funding hostage because of the widespread opposition to Proposition A by the councils.

There is strength in coalitions. We will need every ounce of it to counter the natural tendency of City Hall to suppress grassroots advocacy.


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Was Mayor Villaraigosa sandbagging us when he backed the sales tax increase?

He was in possession of information that would have doomed Proposition A before election day, but deliberately avoided sharing it with the public. It is probably fair to say Council President Wesson also knew that revenue forecasts were better than expected. The net effect, if the projection pans out, will reduce the expected deficit of over $200 million by half.

I assume Chief Beck was clueless – an easy assumption to make.

It would have been good information to disclose to the voters. Disclosure, whether it is related to government or the private sector, isn’t just anything…it is everything.

It is obvious that the mayor or Wesson wanted Prop A to pass without the benefit of transparency. The talk of cutting 500 cops was a lie.

So, will the remaining six candidates for citywide offices dare to call out Villaraigosa and Wesson for their charade? Trying to hoodwink the public is bad enough, but it has happened before with trash fee hikes that were supposed to fund more police, but did not.

I don’t expect they will.

Villaraigosa’s endorsement still carries some weight. The last thing any of the six want to do is offend the mayor.

What’s that? An endorsement by a liar carries weight?

In this town, yes.

Between the 84% who don’t care enough to vote and much of the 16% who are too ignorant or uninformed to cast an intelligent vote, Los Angeles is fertile ground for deceit.

If Garcetti, Greuel, Zine, Galperin, Feuer or Trutanich believe transparency is more than a word, they will point a finger at the mayor and his cheerleader occupying the top seat in the City Council. They will call them out for deliberately misleading the voters.

If they fail to so so, they will be sanctioning dishonesty. Silence will speak volumes about their own character.

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A traditional Irish march by the Chieftains.

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File this under “Acquiescing to Mindless NIMBYs in Woodland Hills.”

The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg will be observed in many places in the United States, most notably at the National Battlefield Park at the site of the actual battle.

Not at Pierce College, however, where President Kathleen Burke-Kelly canceled the annual Heritage Days event that has served as the venue for Civil War reenactments in recent years. Controversy over noise seems to be the issue, although Burke-Kelly did not disclose the split of the community’s opinions other than to say it was vocal.


I observed the event two years ago. The noise level was no worse than a July 4th fireworks display; maybe less. By comparison, it was less than the steady racket from the freeways, helicopters, sirens and other common urban noises we are exposed to every day. The musket and cannon fire was limited to two, approximately 30 minute demonstrations each day of the weekend.

The participants did an admirable job of portraying camp life and tactics. Visitors could ask the reenactors anything about life in those tumultuous times and receive an answer framed in the context of the period.

Of course, no depiction could replicate the actual misery both sides had to endure. And I must say, both armies looked much better nourished than the ones who lived through the four-year ordeal of the war.

You will not hear the residents of present-day Gettysburg complaining about the sound from the annual commemoration of the battle staged in their backyard, which will be larger than normal this year – and many times larger in any year than what takes place at Pierce.

Apparently, some of the nearby neighbors are ultra-sensitive NIMBYs who cannot deal with limited periods of noise even when it is part of a commemoration of the hemisphere’s, and arguably the world’s, most pivotal battle.

A Union loss would have set off a chain reaction that could have adversely affected the future of our nation and our capability of defending the cause of world freedom.

To put the battle in perspective, the combined forces totaled around 165,000 and 46,000 casualties were incurred. Besides representing the costliest battle in the hemisphere, the losses exceeded those in several key World War 2 battles, including D-Day.

It was a battle that changed the strategy for both sides. It was not as decisive a victory as it could have been since Lee was able to extricate his army and move it back across the Potomac. Although no single subsequent battle would result in higher casualties, the fighting would eventually become more protracted with a continuous stream of losses, especially in the conflict’s final year. Lincoln’s re-election prospects were threatened by the steady losses in the summer and fall of 1864 until a couple of major Union breakthroughs were achieved.

It is disappointing that an institution of higher learning turned its back on an opportunity to help observe a key event in our nation’s history, folding under the pressure applied by a small slice of the community.

Pierce College is a crown jewel in the Valley. Its farm is unique for an urban setting. It provides the most publicly accessible site for an event such as Heritage Days.

President Kelly-Burke did a great disservice to the greater community by canceling it. Colleges should advance the dissemination of knowledge, not restrain it.

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Over a year ago, I stated that any candidate capable of awakening just a slice of the 80% of registered voters who do not bother to cast ballots in city elections could rule Los Angeles.

I still believe that, but the pool has grown to 84%.

Where will it end…and where did the four percentage points go? Maybe they took Texas Governor Perry’s invitation to heart.

Based on the results for the mayor’s race, I wouldn’t blame them if they did.

There were some good results: Proposition A went down by 10 points, Galperin looks positioned to send Zine into another stage of retirement and Trutanich will have the fight of his life, although I am not thrilled by the thought of being served by a city attorney with no courtroom experience and a resume from Sacramento.

With the city’s financial health on the line, it is discouraging to see the two finalists for mayor were co-culprits in the fiscal demise of our town. There were viable choices, but the 16% are obviously wedded to the inside elite.

I am convinced it will take far greater degradation in service before there is a meaningful change in players at City Hall.

It would be easy for me to ignore the upcoming runoff between Garcetti and Greuel, but I won’t. There is still something at stake. That something is a chance one of these two candidates will see the light and take the bold action to control compensation and benefits costs – the overwhelmingly largest chunk of the budget, and the fastest growing piece.

Both Greuel and Garcetti courted support from the public unions, but at least Garcetti wasn’t willing to sell his soul outright as the Department of Wendy Power did. In theory, that should mean he can look the other way when union leaders insist on even better deals. It may also mean he could ask for rollbacks as the deficit grows.

Let’s put it this way. Garcetti could rise to the occasion; Greuel will not. She will hide under the “table” so often mentioned in her campaign statements.

It is very important that followers of Perry, James and Pleitez look within their hearts and realize that Greuel is nothing more than a Valley version of Villaraigosa. They need to resist the temptation to sit on their hands. They need to support Garcetti. Besides, do you really want the runoff to be determined by 10% of the registered voters?

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