Monday, April 30, 2007

Forget Being Hung Like A Stallion - It's The Drake That's The Champ!

Who knew? When it comes to the being the king of the males - it's ducks over stallion and bulls. And it's not even close...

May 1, 2007
New York Times
In Ducks, War of the Sexes Plays Out in the Evolution of Genitalia
By CARL ZIMMER

LITCHFIELD, Conn. — “This guy’s the champion,” said Patricia Brennan, a behavioral ecologist, leaning over the nether regions of a duck — a Meller’s duck from Madagascar, to be specific — and carefully coaxing out his phallus.

The duck was quietly resting upside-down against the stomach of Ian Gereg, an aviculturist here at the Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Sanctuary. Dr. Brennan, a post-doctoral researcher at Yale University and the University of Sheffield, visits the sanctuary every two weeks to measure the phalluses of six species of ducks.

When she first visited in January, the phalluses were the size of rice grains. Now many of them are growing rapidly. The champion phallus from this Meller’s duck is a long, spiraling tentacle. Some ducks grow phalluses as long as their entire body.!


So the next time your girl friend compares you to a duck - take it as a complement!

LA Times Circulation Continues To Plummet!

While three of the largest newspapers in the country had rises in their circulation figures, the LA Times had the largest drop both in absolute numbers and in percentage drop.

Circulation at the Top 20 Newspapers
Monday April 30, 10:59 am ET
By The Associated Press
Average Weekday Circulation at the Top 20 U.S. Newspapers

Average paid weekday circulation of the nation's 20 largest newspapers for the six-month period ending in March, as reported Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The percentage changes are from the comparable year-ago period.

1. USA Today, 2,278,022, up 0.2 percent

2. The Wall Street Journal, 2,062,312, up 0.6 percent

3. The New York Times, 1,120,420, down 1.9 percent

4. Los Angeles Times, 815,723, down 4.2 percent

5. New York Post, 724,748, up 7.6 percent

6. New York Daily News, 718,174, up 1.4 percent

7. The Washington Post, 699,130, down 3.5 percent

8. Chicago Tribune, 566,827, down 2.1 percent

9. Houston Chronicle, 503,114, down 2 percent

10. The Arizona Republic, 433,731, down 1.1 percent

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Six Things You Need To Know About The LA TImes Festival!

1. It's one of the great civic events in Los Angeles so if you didn't go Saturday - go today.
As usual, I saw 40 or 50 people I know (or who at least 40 or 50 people who recognized me). Plus I got my photo taken by Gary Leonard, spoke with Kevin Roderick who was signing his Wilshire book (after which I tip-toed past Downtown History Mangler DJ Waldie who was signing his book next to Kevin - and see earlier post for why), pitched three book stores and one antique mall on moving to Downtown, talked up people on the new Los Angeles Museum, harassed various LAT representatives, talked with some reps from Go Country 105 FM about thier sponsoring a Wyatt Earp WIld West Days Celeberation Downtown, exchanged phone numbers with a young lady who between my cowboy hat and my cowboy wrestling shirt figured out who I was & wanted to know if the stories were true, met a couple cool authors, a Brit professor and exchanged another dozen business cards with various people (actors, architect, playwright, artists, curators, etc.) for various reasons.

But I did miss Patt Morrison who I wanted to ask if she had any cool photos of Main Street in her LA collection I could borrow for the LA Museum's first show - The Main Street Project. So call me Patt!

2. Everything in the UCLA bookstore is 20% off - including their remaindered books

3. You can buy the Sunday LA Times for a third-off (only $1)- and no tax.

4. The food and drink prices are... outrageous. However, the vending machine clusters have tons of super cheap food - such as Klondike bars for a buck. My favorite cluster is just south and west of the research library.

5. Rather than standing in line of the portable restroom, the research library also has ground floor - empty - bathrooms.

6. Lastly, if you need to check you e-mail and your blackberry is toast - there's dozens of open computers at the research library.

Unsurprisingly, during my four years as a second generation Bruin - I virtually lived in the research library (whenever I was not breaking wild horses, bar fighting or repossessing stolen airplanes, of course)and its been a favorite wallowing place of mine ever since.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

El Camino High Wins National Academic Decathlon Again - And LA Times Beats Daily New On Story - By At Least An Hour!

There's a new sheriff in town when the Times kicks the Daily News' butt on a Valley story like this - and on a Saturday night.!

El Camino Real wins Academic Decathlon
The Woodland Hills high school takes the U.S. title for the fifth time, tying a record held by a Texas school.
By Mitchell Landsberg
Times Staff Writer

7:45 PM PDT, April 28, 2007

HONOLULU — El Camino Real High School of Woodland Hills won the National Academic Decathlon for a record-tying fifth time Saturday.

El Camino had come into the competition as a strong favorite, but faced tough challenges from schools in Wisconsin and Illinois that were hoping to crack California's near-lock on success in the decathlon, which measures student strength in an array of academic subjects.

It was the fourth year in a row that a school from Woodland Hills has won the national title. El Camino won in 2004 and 2005, then lost the California state title last year to archrival Taft High, which went on to win the national championship.

Whitney M. Young Magnet High School of Chicago finished second. Waukesha West High School of Waukesha, Wis., was third.

El Camino also won the national title in 1998 and 2001. Only one other high school, J.J. Pierce of Richardson, Texas, has won five national decathlons, and it hasn't won since 1991. California schools have now won 14 national championships since the competition began in 1982.

El Camino High Wins National Academic Decathlon Again - And LA TImes Beats Daily New On Story - By At Least An Hour!

There's a new sheriff in town when the Times kicks the Daily News' butt on a Valley story like this - and on a Saturday night.!

El Camino Real wins Academic Decathlon
The Woodland Hills high school takes the U.S. title for the fifth time, tying a record held by a Texas school.
By Mitchell Landsberg
Times Staff Writer

7:45 PM PDT, April 28, 2007

HONOLULU — El Camino Real High School of Woodland Hills won the National Academic Decathlon for a record-tying fifth time Saturday.

El Camino had come into the competition as a strong favorite, but faced tough challenges from schools in Wisconsin and Illinois that were hoping to crack California's near-lock on success in the decathlon, which measures student strength in an array of academic subjects.

It was the fourth year in a row that a school from Woodland Hills has won the national title. El Camino won in 2004 and 2005, then lost the California state title last year to archrival Taft High, which went on to win the national championship.

Whitney M. Young Magnet High School of Chicago finished second. Waukesha West High School of Waukesha, Wis., was third.

El Camino also won the national title in 1998 and 2001. Only one other high school, J.J. Pierce of Richardson, Texas, has won five national decathlons, and it hasn't won since 1991. California schools have now won 14 national championships since the competition began in 1982.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Why Is The City Of Los Angeles And The CRA Trying To Destroy Gallery Row?

Today the City Council of Los Angeles will review the results of a public hearing recently held to get public comment about turning the Frontier Hotel (aka the Rosslyn Lofts) into subsidized housing instead of the additional workforce/artist oriented for housing the present owner was planning. This rehabed affordable housing was in addition to the already finished units in the building, most of which are rented by people who walk to work, thus reducing traffic congestion at no cost to the public.

But instead of allowing this process to continue, the CRA now wants to give millions of dollars to a politically connected developer to destroy the proposed workforce housing and make it subsidized housing rather than creating new subsidized income housing without taking workforce housing off the market.

This is a perfect example of why this city has a housing crisis. Political posturing is always more important than solving the problem.

Now as for what the public had to say about this at the... public... meeting - oddly enough - no one showed up to testify.

Not one person.

That was because the notice of the meeting was paid advertisement in an obscure legal newspaper. This despite the fact there is a free local list-serv that covers the area, a neighborhood council in the area, a business improvement district in that area, a Main Street Association for the area, a CRA CDBG committee for that area and two arts organizations that represent galleries located in that very building.

And yet news of this public meeting was deliberately hidden from each one of these organizations.

That was because when it comes to anything the CRA does in our neighborhood - the fix was in and everything that could legally done to keep the public from finding about the 'public' meeting - or what was being done - was done.

Even worse, though, than the loss of an artist/neighborhood oriented project - is the potential death blow to the still vulnerable Gallery Row District centered at 5th and Main. Three galleries are already located in the building - the most located in any building in the area - and two more much needed galleries necessary to create the needed critical mass, have been waiting to sign leases as soon as the CRA approved the previously negotiated deal to turn the building into workforce housing - at no cost to the taxpayers.

Now, though, a potential new owner trying to buy the building will be required to offer rents far below marker rate with his millions of dollars in subsidies; that developer will then need the income from the retail spaces - that the current owner has given to the galleries at well below market rates – to be dramatically raised and that will not only preclude the signing of the two new galleries - but it will likely force the existing galleries to close.

And yet the city proclaims one of its top priorities is the creation of cultural tourism while the city’s main redevelopment agency and the city’s development projects, increasingly, seem dedicated to destroying the galleries of Gallery Row.

Now I’d like to say I am optimistic that this can be satisfactorily resolved – but from all my past experiences in dealing with the CRA - I would be lying.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

LA Cowboy Answers FishbowlLA's Twenty Questions!

My 2 AM in the morning response to Kate Coe's 20 stupid blogger questions...

Tuesday, Apr 24
FBLA 20 Questions: Brady Westwater

Downtown advocate, gad-fly or whatever he is, Brady Westwater is the LA Cowboy. Since we're moving into his neighborhood, we tried to get on his good side, but he was wise to our tricks. So, lookin' for 8 right out of the gate*, here's Westwater's answers.


1. What newspapers do you read?

LA Times, New York Times, Downtown News, LA Weekly, City Beat, Daily News, and Rodeo News plus the LA Business Journal, Journal of the Arts & Wall Street Journal if I can score a free copy.

2. Which ones do you move your lips to while reading?

Cowboys don't move our lips unless food or sex is involved. But if we did - it would be the NYT's editorial page and LAT'S West magazine.

3. Which Web sites are on your favorites bookmark?

Fishbowl LA & NY, MissSnark, LAObserved, the Curbs, Kausfiles, and DrudgeReport plus any site with naked cowgirls on it

4. Where do you get your car washed?

Cowboys don't have cars. Cowboys ride horses.

5. Do you know your dentist's first name?

If I need a tooth pulled, I use a horse, a saddle and a rope.

6. Do you believe newspapers are going to die? If so, when?

Nothing ever dies. It just comes back on Ebay.

7. What was the last book you read?

Best Urban Parking Management Practices.

8. What's the last book you say you read?

Sex and the Single Cowgirl.

9. If you got a unicorn what would you name it?

Mr. D - that was my horse's name and he was the best horse that ever lived.

10. What does your TiVo think about you?

That I watch entirely too much bull riding.

11. character of fiction you most resemble?

Any Max Brand Hero. They beat up the bad guy, hug the horse, and kiss the girl.

12. Who plays you in your bio-pic?

Mikey Henderson - and he will.

13. Do you floss?

Depends on whom I am with that night - and if she is watching.

14. Did you ever believe your toys come alive when you leave the room?

Who needed to leave the room?

Do you still?

Define... toys.

15. How many old cell phones do you own?

Counting ones I have jumped up and down on? Countless...

16. Best show legendary biz/movie star encounter.

Either the infamous Bobby Blake Vince's Gym incident or seeing Tammie Faye Baker at Malibu's Cross Creek shopping center. She and Jim Baker were 'in hiding' in Malibu after being charged with embezzlement and she was yelling at him to spend hundred dollars on a blouse for her. He just rolled his eyes. On a hunch I checked out the local drug store's make-up section and sure enough there was a huge gap on the shelf where the all mascara used to be.

I called a friend at Eyewitless News - and a pan shot of the decimated mascara shelf beat out all the bleed and lead stories on the eleven o'clock news.


17. Do you get satellite radio?

You can not fit a satellite radio on a double-rigged Western saddle, without making the horse very, very angry.

18. And as a follow do you "get" satellite radio?

Um... do I understand the desire to pay to hear Howard Stern? Hell no!
Do I appreciate the financial rewards of niche programing - Hell yes!

19. Do you read the Enquirer/InTouch/US/people?

Keeping track of my own sex life is confusing - and dangerous - enough.

20. Do you lie about it?

Cowboys never lie. Cowboys always tell the truth.


* George Strait reference.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wildly Inaccurate Article On Downtown Los Angeles In Sunday LAT Opinion Section!

The normally reliable D. J. Waldie has a rather unusual Op-ed in Sunday's Los Angeles Times about Downtown Los Angeles in which he contradicts historic facts and indulges in some bizarre logic at times. It also shows the desperate need for a Los Angeles Museum (the first incarnation of which will shortly open on Main Street - stay tuned) so people who write for the Time might learn the actual history of the city instead of just repeating long discredited myths.

Rather than go into the whole article, I will just address a few of the errors:

From its conception, the city's heart was divided. The pueblo that clustered around the plaza in the 1780s was purely secular. Its religious center was Mission San Gabriel, whose Franciscan padres were so suspicious of the pueblo's unruly residents that L.A. didn't have its own church until 1822.

The 'purely secular' Plaza of the 1780's was laid out in 1781 with a chapel as part of the original plan and that chapel was constructed for weekly services in 1784 (or at least construction was started, there is debate as to exactly when in the 'purely secular' 1780's the chapel was finished). Then in 1810 the slowly growing Pueblo felt financially able to support the chapel being upgraded to a church with a full time priest as opposed to a just priest on Sundays and the San Gabriel Mission granted that request.

The cornerstone was laid in 1814, but the site later had to be abandoned due to flooding from the LA River. Because of that, both the church and the entire Plaza had to be eventually relocated and the present church resumed construction in 1819.

So the whole premise that the city was totally secular for forty years - is false. But even so - who could possibly believe that the present state of Downtown has anything to do with how some Franciscans in San Gabriel felt about Los Angeles in the 1780's? Ergo, I'd like to see a show of hands of how many people who think that is a valid intellectual argument.

I thought so.

By then, the city's pattern of centerless edges had been set. The foothills and valleys of the L.A. and San Gabriel rivers were divided into more than 40 semi-self-sufficient ranchos. The Pueblo de Los Angeles was just a depot and general store.

Again, total fantasy. In both Spanish and Mexican California Los Angeles was the social, cultural and economic center of not only what was to become Los Angeles County - but almost all of Southern California. It was nothing remotely resembling just a depot and a store.

While each rancho by necessity had a certain degree of economic self-sufficiency for the day to day necessities of life - for everything else - Los Angeles was the place everyone went. For that reason most of the larger rancho owners maintained residences around or near the Plaza since that was the place where social life of all of greater Los Angeles revolved and the place where business was transacted for most of Southern California.

Even the most cursory readings of either first hand accounts of that era or later histories of that era make that clear.

Besides, is there any city anywhere that did not originally have scattered settlements around it? There was nothing unique about LA's development during that time. LA's sprawl was due to one fact and one fact only; it became a city at the time street cars came into general use, followed by the automobile's invention.

LA's sprawl had nothing do do with the settlement patterns of the early 19th Century; settlement patterns that were the same ones that Chicago and other cities of that era had. The only difference was that that Chicago became a major city far before street cars or automobiles. Also illustrating that point is that other cities which developed at the same as LA did - such as Houston and Dallas - also had the same development patterns as did Los Angeles.

After California became a state, new American owners subdivided the ranchos into farms and crossroad villages only loosely tied to Los Angeles. Railways in the 1880s created more towns along the mainline tracks in the valleys north and east. Beginning in 1901, Henry Huntington's network of electric trolleys filled the intervening space with miles of housing tracts and little Main Streets. Only between 1890 and 1920 did a real downtown — with tall buildings, all-day pedestrian traffic and neighborhoods — boom. By the early 1920s, mostly suburban visitors filled the city's movie theaters and department stores. And by the end of the decade, suburbia had unmade downtown.

After California became a state, the ranchos remained places where cattle and sheep were raised, albeit in increasingly smaller parcels, for several decades and most of those ranchos (though far from all) did pass into American hands. But this was already happening long before California became a state due to the continuing influx of Americans - starting in the 1820's and rapidly increasing in the 1830's and 1840's - who married into the rancho families.

The subdivision into farms and towns though only seriously began in the 1870's - and even then they were mostly paper subdivisions leaving Los Angeles as the only center in the region for both commerce and social life. As an example of Downtown's importance even in 1880, thirty years after the statehood Waldie cites as a turning point, Long Beach and Burbank did not even exist, Pasadena only had a little over 200 full time residents, Santa Monica a little over 400 and most other towns were far smaller than even those two.

Only Downtown LA had the critical mass of people for anything other than the most basic needs of life, much less cultural and social activities of any size, making it the only regional hub in the area. For anything else, people had to come Downtown.

As for a 'real downtown' boom only happening from 1890 - 1920, that too is wrong. First, if one ignores the tall buildings aspect, the 1850's was one of the greatest booms in city's history as money from selling cattle to the Northern California gold miners flooded the city with commerce and gold coins and flooded the streets with people (as contemporary accounts vividly describe)in the admittedly compact city. That was the period that shops and business and cultural activities of all kind first appeared in Los Angeles on a large scale, making Los Angeles even more the heart of the region since it suddenly offered far more attractions than any other regional center could offer.

Finally, the big boom was not the in the 1890's but in the 1880's with the coming of the second railroad. That created the single greatest boom in the city's history if one looks at the degree of change that occurred to the downtown portion of the city. LA entered the decade the market center for a largely stock raising area but quickly developed into a modern city with large new hotels, factories, office blocks and high rises - for the time - such as the massive new City Hall and Courthouse.

And photos - and first hand accounts - from that era show the sidewalks filled with pedestrians.

No other boom - or any other decade - ever saw such a fundamental change in the city, much less downtown. What happened from 1890 - 1900 was merely a far more subdued, far more incremental example of what happened in the earlier decade. It was not a fundamental change. And the rate of population growth in the at decade was far below what it had been in the 1880's boom; in the 1880's the city grew by over 400%, in the 1890's LA grew by only 100%.

Lastly, the statement that suburbia had unmade downtown by the end of the 1920's is also inaccurate. While the rapidly expanding, sprawling city did in time unmake Downtown and while that process did start in the late 1920's, the actual change did not happen until the 1930's - and later (though it also made a huge comeback during the 1940's). So while the suburban boom of the 1920's had stated the process of mass decentralization that would soon undo Downtown, in 1929 Downtown was still the retail, business, cultural, banking and entertainment heart of the city. It was far from undone. That came, but at a later date.

Then comes his description of Downtown as it is today - and, if anything - it is even more inaccurate.

The making and unmaking of downtown has been the focus of the city's business and political elites since the 19th century. The area is historically contested ground, dividing Angelenos by ethnicity and class but rarely uniting them. The divisions are brutally sharp now. Fewer than 9% of the jobs in the city are downtown, and income disparities there are among the widest in L.A. The non-homeless population is less than 25,000, with middle-class residents a tiny fraction of that. So, whose downtown is it, anyway, and why are so few of us asking?

The first statement is odd since in the 19th Century Los Angeles WAS Downtown and a few suburbs. The focus, if anything, by the business elite then was in developing the surrounding suburbs and annexing all the land around Los Angeles into the City of Los Angeles. And every ethnic group in the city was living within the Downtown at that time and the differing classes often lived within one or two blocks of each other with rooming houses often being built just one or two streets over from mansions.

As for today's population, to begin with, it is close to 29,000 and not the under 25,000 figure quoted. And the middle class is far from being a tiny fraction of that and, if anyone is interested, I can explain why that is the case in mind numbing detail...

But the most important statistic ignored is that downtown has virtually equally number of market rate and subsidized housing and yet that is... bizarrely... restated as saying that the divisions are brutally sharp now - when the exact opposite is true.

The single largest subsidized project in the city is not on Skid Row - but right in the heart of Bunker Hill - right next to the new Grand Avenue Project. Another large center of subsidized housing are the buildings scattered throughout South Park, mixed in with the new high rise condos. And streets like Main and Spring have both SRO's, subsidized apartments and lofts, market rate lofts and market rate condos all mixed together.

In no other part of the city does this type of economic and social integration and interaction of the very poor, the working class, the middle class and the upper class exist - and yet Waldie claims this is a brutally sharp division compared to the rest of the city.

Is it possible to imagine any statement being any more dishonest?

All of us loft dwellers and condo owners and SRO & subsidized dwellers walk the same sidewalks and many of us shop at Grand Central Market together, eat at many of the same restaurants and shop in many of the same stores. Many of us attend the free concerts at Pershing Square, the free events at the Music Center Plaza and at the California Plaza. We interact with each every day in ways that happen in no other part of the city.

And if Mr. Waldie would ever like to actually walk the streets of downtown with me and see this for himself, I'd be glad to give him a tour.

But I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Want To Bring Parks To YOUR Neighborhood? Want To Bring Economic Development To YOUR Neighborhood? Find Out How To This Saturday!

Saturday April 21st from 8:30 AM – 3 PM the Congress of Neighborhoods will meet at the Bonaventure Hotel at 404 S. Figueroa Street in the California Ballroom. Parking is free with validation at the City National Plaza Parking garage at 400 S. Flower and there will be a complementary breakfast and lunch.

The Opening Session/Mayor's Welcome begins at 8:30am in the California Ballroom.
Mayor Villaraigosa, Carol Tharp, DONE GM & BongHwan Kim, AGM, Council members Eric Garcetti, Ricard Alacon, Janice Hahn and others will be speaking to participants at the Opening Session. The first workshop session - and there iwll be dozens of different workshops - starts at 9:30 AM. You aren't required to stay to the end, or get there early, you can drop in at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel any time and leave when you want.

Three of the many sessions will be held by the Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils Congress and you want to increase community outreach, develop jobs and businesses in your community or need more parks and green spaces in your community - the Los Angeles Neighborhood Congress will multiple experts to answer your questions as well as NC members to tell you their success stories.

You will each be given specific action items to take back to your communities Monday morning to get to work to solve these problems. .

From 9:30AM – 10:45 AM, a speaker from the Trust for Public Land will explain how neighborhood councils can develop political support for parks, use “greenprint” maps to make a case for additional park space in their communities and learn the basics of land acquisition and how to use that information to acquire more park land.
Also on the panel with be a representative from the LAUSD on how to working with the school district to use school facilities after hours, someone from Parks and Rec to discuss the parks assessment survey and several community based organizations that have successfully created parks and green spaces throughout Los Angeles including BONC commissioner, Tsilah Burman, Executive Director of the L.A. Neighborhood Land Trust.

For more information on this event and a complete list of guest speakers on this topic, go to our temporary website www.parksforla.blogspot.com.

From 11 AM to 12:15 PM, real world examples of how NC's can – and have – brought economic development to local communities will be presented. Experts will explain how to get financial incentives for local businesses and how to access job training and jobs for youth’s programs in your communities

Downtown Los Angeles, as one example, will detail exactly how it turned the worst drug dealing neighborhood in the city - Fifth and Main - into Gallery Row, a neighborhood now filled with ethnic restaurants, clothing boutiques and book stores as well as art galleries and then describe how four DLANC board members brought Fashion Week back to Los Angeles from Culver City in just six weeks. Other NC’s will describe how to create both cultural tourism and locally based events that have brought economic and cultural benefits to their neighborhoods.

For more information on this event and a complete list of guest speakers, go to our temporary website: www.lameansbusiness.blogspot.com.

Everyone talks about outreach, but nobody seems to know what to do about it. Well, from 1:30 PM to 2:45 PM here’s the place for the latest ideas in promoting what your NC is doing in your community.

Our main guest speaker is Rob Barrett who is head of all things web and interactive at the Los Angeles Times. He is also in charge of making the LA Time website the place to go for hyper-local coverage of the communities of Los Angeles.

And while he has a lot to say on how we can use the Times to promote the NC movement, just as importantly he – and the LA Times – want to hear from us about how we feel how latimes.com can do a better job covering our neighborhoods.

Among the other topics covered will how NC’s can get involved in placing computers in underserved parts of the community to allow everyone on-line access, now NC’s can help better connect our communities by providing access to literacy and English as second language classes and programs to better allow everyone in our city to participate in civic affairs and how anyone can create a website in five minutes or less.

For more information on this session go to our temporary website. www.LANCCOutreach.blogspot.com.

My Story In CITYWATCH On DWP Contracting Scandal!

Public Hosed Down at DWP Board Meet

By Brady Westwater

LA’s Board of Water and Power Commissioners surreptitiously maneuvered two expensive and controversial issues through the public meeting process under the radar on Wednesday and then argued that because the deal they approved was a good one, they it didn’t need any public airing. Had it not been for a Daily News article alerting the public – and the Neighborhood Council’s – the Board might have managed their slight of hand in total darkness.

Ignoring their own agenda, the commissioners refused to have general public comment at the beginning of the meeting. The two questionable motions (agenda items 10 & 11) were then called out of order and, with no discussion among themselves and with no explanation about what was being voted upon, the board approved both motions. As a final insult, the board also refused to allow public comment on either item, silencing the members of the public who had left work on short notice and driven down to the Harbor to testify before the commissioners voted on these motions.

Now I do not know what the DWP’s policies are, but I can think of no other LA City agency that refuses public comment of any kind before they vote on listed agenda items.

Even more Byzantine, though, was the secrecy surrounding agenda item 10.

The agenda description stated that it was an amendment to the agreement between the Department of Water and Power and its union and related to the construction of trunk lines. No mention was made of what the changes were. There was a clickable link on the DWP website to reach the document but it still did not say what was being changed.

The one major new piece of information was that under fiscal impacts. It was a N/A (non-applicable) item; which would mean there is no fiscal impact from this action, suggesting it was just a minor technical adjustment to the MOU with the union.

Again, wrong.

Withheld from the public prior to the meeting was a second document, hidden from sight, unless one knew it existed. And even then, one had to make a special request to see it before the meeting. Hard to do if its existence is kept hidden. Begging the question – if a motion passes based on notations indicating that there are no fiscal impacts – when in fact there are– is that motion still legal?

This brings us to the content of the motion 10.

The City of Los Angeles is in desperate need of updating its DWP infrastructure; major (i.e.Active Image trunk) water lines across the city are in urgent need of replacement. But for two years this work has been held up in a dispute within the DWP on who was going to do this – DWP crews – or private contractors?

This is particularly relevant to rate payers since, according to the Daily News article, DWP documents state that the union crews can take up to twice as long, cost twice as much money – and, at times, deliver poorer quality work-- than private contractors. To quote the Daily News: “In one example cited, a private contractor bid $6.2 million to install a 42-inch pipeline beneath Burbank Boulevard and White Oak Avenue, a project estimated to take 250 days. When the union objected, the project was turned over to DWP crews, who completed the work in 439 days at a cost of $13.8 million. “

And, “A staff report showed that DWP crews cost 161 percent to 221 percent more than if outside contractors had handled the job. They also noted that the DWP had assigned 31 employees to install the Parthenia trunk line while a contractor had just 13 working on the Hollywood-Stone Canyon trunk line.”

So what was yesterday’s motion? Well, it was to increase by one-third the number of DWP employees hired to build trunk lines at substantially higher costs and far longer time periods than if those trunk lines were built by private contractors. And the cost cited likely does not include all the internal support staff required by all the new employees or the decades of health and pension payments after these employees retire, making even those much higher costs estimates unrealistically low.

This brings up two questions. First, why should it take twice as many DWP workers twice as long to do a job as private workers – and then, allegedly, have the work at least sometimes be of lower quality? I can not believe there is that great a difference in work skills. Could union work rules be deliberately designed to make projects last twice as long as necessary? Is it due to feather-bedding, unseen since the days when Boss Tweed bled the taxpayers of New York dry? I don’t know and I can’t find anyone else who does.

The irony is that the union, by refusing to address these problems, is unfairly maligning the skills of DWP workers and is costing its members hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs they might have if they were competitive with private contractors.
Second, how could the DWP have allowed a politically powerful union – which donates substantial sums to the politicians who approve their contracts and pay raises (and that may have just answered that question) – to dictate how the DWP is run? And what can be done when a city department – and a city – is held hostage by a union?

These are the types of issues that need to be exposed to the light of day. That deserves to be publicly discussed and debated. But do not expect to see that kind of debate or discussion soon at the Board of Water and Power Commissioners.

So the next time the DWP comes to the Neighborhood Council’s with a request for rate increases, or the next time your neighborhood’s streets are torn up and the construction takes twice as long as normal or the next time you are stuck in bumper to bumper traffic due to construction delays throughout the city – be sure to send a thank you note to the mayor-appointed DWP Board of Commissioners for making it all possible. (Brady Westwater is a writer, community activist and Chair of the LA Neighborhood Councils Congress.)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Daily News Editorial On DWP Scandal!

This is only the beginning of the examination of the contracting mess at the DWP. Lots more to come - and I have an article that will be published on CITYWATCH first thing Friday morning.

DWP blackmail
Public held hostage by utility's all-powerful union
Article Last Updated:04/18/2007 08:28:46 PM PDT

THE Department of Water and Power has a long-standing practice of misusing the public's money to benefit its employees, contractors and good friends - and then extracting more money from ratepayers to cover what was squandered.

There is only one word for this practice: blackmail.

That's exactly what happened this week.

A Daily News review of reconstructing the city's aging water pipes found that costs doubled when the department quit using outside contractors in favor of unionized in-house crews.

Not only did the DWP workers cost twice as much as private-company workers, but they took twice as long to do the same work.

Despite this revelation, the DWP Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to expand the number of in-house crews. The deal was called a compromise, but really it was nothing but surrender to extortionists.

The DWP employee union wields so much political power that all but a few dozen of the utility's executives are forced to join the International Brotherhood of Electrical workers. The IBEW's clout is so great that DWP workers earn as much as 30 percent more for the same work as their well-paid counterparts in other city agencies.

Unlike previous DWP commissioners, this board is actually working hard to penetrate the wall of secrecy, dishonesty and incompetence and fix what's broken. But even good intentions weren't enough in this case.

It was obvious to the board that water-pipe reconstruction was a job that should be outsourced. Just one comparison makes that clear: A $6.2 million proposal to install a 42-inch pipeline beneath Burbank Boulevard and White Oak Avenue in 250 days by a private company was ignored in favor of DWP crews, at the urging of the union. The job took 439 days to complete and cost $13.8 million.

This was not a difficult choice to make, unless you factor in political power at City Hall.

The result was that instead of dismantling the two DWP crews doing this work, a third one will be added. If there's any work left undone, private firms will be hired. Don't count on it.

If you wonder how the DWP can afford this kind of wasteful spending, look in the mirror. The public pays.

Last fall, after approving salary increases potentially twice those other city employees are getting, the City Council endorsed a DWP proposal for a 5.5 percent water-rate increase over two years. Those come on top of other recent rate increases and more are sure to come in the years ahead.

This water torture of the people of L.A. is just one more example of how the city government operates primarily for itself, its employees and their special interests, and not for the people.

We wouldn't pay blackmail to criminals, and we shouldn't pay blackmail to people who are supposed to be our public servants.

Daily News Article On DWP Caving Union's Threats!

WP adds to in-house work crews
Compromise with union means higher project costs
BY KERRY CAVANAUGH, Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 04/17/2007 09:12:29 PM PDT

Despite concerns that DWP crews nearly double the cost of major pipeline construction projects, the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a deal to expand the number of in-house crews.

The deal, approved without discussion, marked a compromise with the DWP union to allow the Department of Water and Power to contract out more pipeline work without union challenge.

The settlement ends a stalemate with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18, which had sought to limit the use of outside construction contractors to build trunk lines, the massive pipes that carry water to smaller lines.

DWP managers wanted to use private contractors for the work after comparisons showed in-house crews roughly doubled both the cost and time of trunk line projects.

While DWP board members said the settlement was a fair compromise to get crucial water infrastructure upgrades moving, some community members were troubled that the utility will continue to use pricey DWP crews.

"If these differentials are this substantial, it is absolutely idiotic to contract in-house," said Jack Humpreville, who testified at the hearing. "Outside house, if properly monitored, makes much more financial sense to ratepayers and taxpayers of Los Angeles."

Under the settlement, DWP will add a third, 20-person crew to help build trunk lines. IBEW agreed to not challenge the hiring of outside contractors for 13 major water system construction projects.

DWP officials have estimated the upcoming trunk line projects will cost $737 million over the next decade, but could have cost as much as $1.3 billion if all were completed by in-house crews.

Neighborhood council activist Brady Westwater said the agreement was passed with little public notice, no community input and no disclosure of how much it will cost ratepayers.

"How can you say there is no fiscal impact when there is one?" Westwater said. "We don't know what they're doing. When they hide something like this, it's real hard to know what they're doing."

But DWP Board President David Nahai said the settlement was a compromise that will add staff but also allow the utility to save money with outside contractors.

"To add a third crew, which gives the department a certain amount of in-house capability, and to contract all of the rest of the work, should not be something that raises eyebrows," Nahai said. "We're trying to make sure we act in a way that's wise, fiscally."

But Councilman Greig Smith said city leaders know DWP employees are among the highest paid in the city at the same time they have refused to challenge IBEW over issues of pay and efficiency.

"Any time we do anything over there with their personnel, it is going to cost more. There are too many people over there and over here that are afraid to stand up to that union," he said.

Also Tuesday, the DWP board agreed to pay $2.1 million a year to the Joint Training Institute, a facility in Sun Valley run by the IBEW and co-managed by the DWP.

The institute was created by the union and DWP in 2002 to provide employee training and education. The DWP contributed $6 million through 2004, and the new agreement will provide continued funding.

kerry.cavanaugh@dailynews.com

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In A LAT Article On Stupid Crooks - What Are The Odds Of There Being A Stupid Grammar Error?

About 100%, of course. (though first the verb was corrected, then the entire sentence rewritten since this post)

Wrong number gets suspects booked
By Richard Winton
Times Staff Writer

2:00 PM PDT, April 17, 2007

Two Pomona drug suspects were arrested this morning after mistakenly dialing 911 when they were actually trying to reach their drug dealer, police said.

"No one said criminals are smart," said Pomona Police Sgt. Michael Olivieri.


AND...

Gregory Daniels, 48, was arrested for burglary after he and an accomplice, who got away, drove into a dead-end street. Daniels' leg fell off as he began to run from the truck and he was found laying on the ground.

The proper verb is, of course, lying. But no one said editors at the LAT are smart.

Update On DWP Giveaway Of Public Funds!

Clarification of DWP Board Meeting Today:

Due to the complete lack of notice to the neighborhood councils, the public or the press – it is almost impossible to find out what is really going on today, but this is the best I can tell at the moment.

Item number ten on the agenda describes a change in the MOU with the union – but it does not say what it is. And that document is still not publicly available on-line less than an hour before the meeting starts. But I am told that it calls for a third 20 man crew to do trunk line work that would otherwise be contracted out, for possibly one-half less the money.

Plus the document that is on-line rather than tell us what this is going to cost us – says the cost is – N/A.

Then item 11 is an additional 8.5 million dollar transfer of public funds to a fund privately administered by the union that has been very controversial due to a lack of openness on how that money has been spent.

Now these are the two items that are – supposedly - being extracted from the DWP – i.e., us – in order to allow the DWP to go ahead on its private contracted 13 projects at a half-billion less in cost than if they were being done in house.

But again – due to a total lack of transparency – I am only making informed guesses.

How The DWP Plans To HIDE Millions Of Dollar In Expenses From The Public!

I just talked with the reporter from the Daily News, Kerry Cavanaugh, who broke the story of the multi-million dollar give away of DWP rate payer funds and she informed me that none of the documents were made available to the public in the agenda for the 2 PM meeting today to approve the first of the new contracts. Normally, there are links on the agenda on the website - but not on this item, though don't be surprised if they 'suddenly' appear today on the website.

Lastly, this is all being voted on down in the Harbor far from the eyes and ears of the press and the public.

Coincidences?

Hardly.

UPDATE - Still no documents on-line!

DWP TO Flush Down The Toilet Millions Of Dollars Of YOUR Money!

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is about violated the MOU agreement with the by giving away millions dollars of rate payers funds without any notification to us. Luckily, the Daily News is covering this while the LA Times remains... silent.


DWP crews costly choice
But in-house teams a 'must'
BY KERRY CAVANAUGH, Staff Writer
LA Daily News
Article Last Updated:04/16/2007 10:44:56 PM PDT

The cost of upgrading Los Angeles' aging water system soared by tens of millions of dollars after some of the work was shifted from private contractors to DWP construction crews, the Daily News has learned.

A review by the Department of Water and Power found that using union crews to install trunk lines roughly doubled both the cost and the length of time it would have taken private workers to complete the project.

In one example cited, a private contractor bid $6.2 million to install a 42-inch pipeline beneath Burbank Boulevard and White Oak Avenue, a project estimated to take 250 days. When the union objected, the project was turned over to DWP crews, who completed the work in 439 days at a cost of $13.8 million.

"Experience indicates that contractors can complete trunk-line projects on a substantially shorter time period than in-house forces," Water System Chief Operating Officer James McDaniel wrote in a memo to General Manager Ronald Deaton.

"This is important both to completing these important water quality improvement/security related projects and minimizing disruption to communities."

Despite the cost overruns - and complaints from some employees about waste and inefficiency - the Board of Water and Power Commissioners is poised today to approve hiring a 20-member crew for a third trunk-line project.

It's actually part of a compromise with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18 - the politically powerful union that represents most of the DWP employees and has challenged the utility's effort to hire private contractors for trunk-line work.

As part of the settlement, the DWP will hire a third, 20-person trunk-line crew, and the IBEW has agreed not to challenge private contracts for 13 upcoming trunk-line projects.

"The settlement agreement clears way for the department to enter into a number of contracts for essential trunk-line construction work," board President David Nahai said. "At the same time, we have to remember that we need to have in-house capability, as well.

"At the end of the day you can't just continue contracting out."

Can't win everything

The 13 future projects will cost ratepayers an estimated $737 million, officials said, but could have cost as much as $1.3 billion had DWP employees done the work.

"Am I totally happy? No! However, it's a great beginning to correct a totally unacceptable situation," said DWP Commissioner Nick Patsaouras.

"It's good for ratepayers. (We) cannot win everything off the bat. It takes time to correct ingrained problems in a bureaucracy."

Local 18 representatives did not return calls Monday.

But the union has previously challenged the DWP's cost comparisons, saying they grossly overstate the expense of work done by IBEW crews.

And IBEW leaders have also criticized the DWP board for hiring private contractors for maintenance and emergency work.

Older than 1940

The DWP maintains more than 280 miles of trunk lines and 7,200 main lines that transport water to 670,000 homes, apartments and businesses in Los Angeles. About half of the trunk lines - massive pipes that carry water to the smaller main lines - were built before 1940.

Last year, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council raised water rates 5.5 percent over a two-year period. The increased revenue is supposed to cover costs for some of the infrastructure improvements.

But the utility hasn't initiated any trunk-line projects since 2004 because of the stalemate with the IBEW over who would do the work.

"The board is in the process of reviewing the issue," said Parita Shah, a spokeswoman for the mayor. "And while we do not want to prejudice its decision, we have requested the board and department ensure that the department has adequate internal capacity to provide reliable water service to Angelenos."

The DWP used to hire private contractors for major pipeline projects, but its construction budget was slashed in 1999 as the agency prepared for energy deregulation. The union then asked that its DWP members be allowed to install water pipelines instead.

The department instructed two teams, called Integrated Support Services crews, to install the Roscoe Boulevard trunk line and a recycled-water pipeline in the Harbor area.

But the price tag was two to three times higher than it would have been for an outside contractor to do the work, and inspectors said the quality wasn't as good.

In early 2000, utility employees raised concerns about the high cost of using Integrated Support Services crews.

An internal e-mail sent in March 2000 said private contractors are specialists in pipeline construction and have a financial incentive to finish faster so they can move to the next contract.

"A contractor is much more motivated and skilled in keeping costs down (than is) a group of civil servants," the memo said.

Union can challenge

In 2002, an audit by the Barrington-Wellesley Group found that the DWP was paying more for trunk-line construction using its own crews and recommended forming a committee of water-division managers and the IBEW to compare costs.

A staff report showed that DWP crews cost 161 percent to 221 percent more than if outside contractors had handled the job. They also noted that the DWP had assigned 31 employees to install the Parthenia trunk line while a contractor had just 13 working on the Hollywood-Stone Canyon trunk line.

Since 2003, the IBEW has pushed for a third trunk-line crew to handle the work. Under its contract, the IBEW can challenge contracts of any outside work that could be done by DWP employees.

In 2004, DWP managers and the union discussed a compromise that would permit outside contracts for trunk-line projects with some perks for the union - such as granting "substantial" overtime, records show.

Still, there was no agreement. Efforts to move forward on new trunk-line projects stalled, and staffers warned that delays were threatening the city's ability to meet water-quality deadlines.

The city must remove or cover all open reservoirs, and part of that work will include major construction projects such as building tanks and large pipelines.

That's why DWP board members are eager to settle the labor stalemate.

"This provides an opportunity to move ahead aggressively without objections to essential contracts," Nahai said.

Nahai said the decision was a reasonable response to valid union concerns about the need for more in-house staffers.

"We see it at every turn with power outages, with the problems last summer (with the heat wave), that you have to have in-house capabilities with emergency and maintenance issues," Nahai said.

kerry.cavanaugh@dailynews.com

(213) 978-0390

Projected trunk line costs

Project, Private contractor, DWP

Burbank/White Oak, $6.2 million, $13.8 million

Magnolia, $19.5 million, $34.3 million

Parthenia, $37.6 million, $67.1 million

DWP To Flush Down The Toilet Millions Of Dollars Of YOUR Money!

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is about violated the MOU agreement with the by giving away millions of dollars of rate payers funds without any notification to us. Luckily, the Daily News is covering this while the LA Times remains... silent.


DWP crews costly choice
But in-house teams a 'must'
BY KERRY CAVANAUGH, Staff Writer
LA Daily News
Article Last Updated:04/16/2007 10:44:56 PM PDT

The cost of upgrading Los Angeles' aging water system soared by tens of millions of dollars after some of the work was shifted from private contractors to DWP construction crews, the Daily News has learned.

A review by the Department of Water and Power found that using union crews to install trunk lines roughly doubled both the cost and the length of time it would have taken private workers to complete the project.

In one example cited, a private contractor bid $6.2 million to install a 42-inch pipeline beneath Burbank Boulevard and White Oak Avenue, a project estimated to take 250 days. When the union objected, the project was turned over to DWP crews, who completed the work in 439 days at a cost of $13.8 million.

"Experience indicates that contractors can complete trunk-line projects on a substantially shorter time period than in-house forces," Water System Chief Operating Officer James McDaniel wrote in a memo to General Manager Ronald Deaton.

"This is important both to completing these important water quality improvement/security related projects and minimizing disruption to communities."

Despite the cost overruns - and complaints from some employees about waste and inefficiency - the Board of Water and Power Commissioners is poised today to approve hiring a 20-member crew for a third trunk-line project.

It's actually part of a compromise with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18 - the politically powerful union that represents most of the DWP employees and has challenged the utility's effort to hire private contractors for trunk-line work.

As part of the settlement, the DWP will hire a third, 20-person trunk-line crew, and the IBEW has agreed not to challenge private contracts for 13 upcoming trunk-line projects.

"The settlement agreement clears way for the department to enter into a number of contracts for essential trunk-line construction work," board President David Nahai said. "At the same time, we have to remember that we need to have in-house capability, as well.

"At the end of the day you can't just continue contracting out."

Can't win everything

The 13 future projects will cost ratepayers an estimated $737 million, officials said, but could have cost as much as $1.3 billion had DWP employees done the work.

"Am I totally happy? No! However, it's a great beginning to correct a totally unacceptable situation," said DWP Commissioner Nick Patsaouras.

"It's good for ratepayers. (We) cannot win everything off the bat. It takes time to correct ingrained problems in a bureaucracy."

Local 18 representatives did not return calls Monday.

But the union has previously challenged the DWP's cost comparisons, saying they grossly overstate the expense of work done by IBEW crews.

And IBEW leaders have also criticized the DWP board for hiring private contractors for maintenance and emergency work.

Older than 1940

The DWP maintains more than 280 miles of trunk lines and 7,200 main lines that transport water to 670,000 homes, apartments and businesses in Los Angeles. About half of the trunk lines - massive pipes that carry water to the smaller main lines - were built before 1940.

Last year, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council raised water rates 5.5 percent over a two-year period. The increased revenue is supposed to cover costs for some of the infrastructure improvements.

But the utility hasn't initiated any trunk-line projects since 2004 because of the stalemate with the IBEW over who would do the work.

"The board is in the process of reviewing the issue," said Parita Shah, a spokeswoman for the mayor. "And while we do not want to prejudice its decision, we have requested the board and department ensure that the department has adequate internal capacity to provide reliable water service to Angelenos."

The DWP used to hire private contractors for major pipeline projects, but its construction budget was slashed in 1999 as the agency prepared for energy deregulation. The union then asked that its DWP members be allowed to install water pipelines instead.

The department instructed two teams, called Integrated Support Services crews, to install the Roscoe Boulevard trunk line and a recycled-water pipeline in the Harbor area.

But the price tag was two to three times higher than it would have been for an outside contractor to do the work, and inspectors said the quality wasn't as good.

In early 2000, utility employees raised concerns about the high cost of using Integrated Support Services crews.

An internal e-mail sent in March 2000 said private contractors are specialists in pipeline construction and have a financial incentive to finish faster so they can move to the next contract.

"A contractor is much more motivated and skilled in keeping costs down (than is) a group of civil servants," the memo said.

Union can challenge

In 2002, an audit by the Barrington-Wellesley Group found that the DWP was paying more for trunk-line construction using its own crews and recommended forming a committee of water-division managers and the IBEW to compare costs.

A staff report showed that DWP crews cost 161 percent to 221 percent more than if outside contractors had handled the job. They also noted that the DWP had assigned 31 employees to install the Parthenia trunk line while a contractor had just 13 working on the Hollywood-Stone Canyon trunk line.

Since 2003, the IBEW has pushed for a third trunk-line crew to handle the work. Under its contract, the IBEW can challenge contracts of any outside work that could be done by DWP employees.

In 2004, DWP managers and the union discussed a compromise that would permit outside contracts for trunk-line projects with some perks for the union - such as granting "substantial" overtime, records show.

Still, there was no agreement. Efforts to move forward on new trunk-line projects stalled, and staffers warned that delays were threatening the city's ability to meet water-quality deadlines.

The city must remove or cover all open reservoirs, and part of that work will include major construction projects such as building tanks and large pipelines.

That's why DWP board members are eager to settle the labor stalemate.

"This provides an opportunity to move ahead aggressively without objections to essential contracts," Nahai said.

Nahai said the decision was a reasonable response to valid union concerns about the need for more in-house staffers.

"We see it at every turn with power outages, with the problems last summer (with the heat wave), that you have to have in-house capabilities with emergency and maintenance issues," Nahai said.

kerry.cavanaugh@dailynews.com

(213) 978-0390

Projected trunk line costs

Project, Private contractor, DWP

Burbank/White Oak, $6.2 million, $13.8 million

Magnolia, $19.5 million, $34.3 million

Parthenia, $37.6 million, $67.1 million

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Olympic And Pico One Way Streets?

First read the linked article - and I also have excerpts down below - then look at my comments.

The 20 per cent increase in speed might not be all it appears to be once one factors in the amount of time it will take to get off of either street if there are no left hand turn lanes. Plus having to cut back and forth between the two streets or side streets - which can be a number of blocks apart - when one is making multiple stops would be a nightmare.

Another problem is that if you take a bus going one way - to go back to where you came from will take some serious walking from Olympic to Pico - greatly hindering bus service.

Then there is the problem that the streets are much narrower nearer downtown and Pico in particular is the main neighborhood business street in several neighborhoods which would conflict with its being turned into a major highway.

One-way called right way to go for boulevards
Making Pico westbound and Olympic eastbound would cut congestion, a traffic study says. But some area residents oppose the concept.
By Jean Guccione
Times Staff Writer

April 16, 2007

Converting Olympic and Pico boulevards into one-way streets from downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica could increase capacity on the roads by up to 20%, according to a county transportation study to be released today.

The finding by a traffic engineering firm represents the first solid evidence that the conversion idea could reduce congestion. But the idea still faces an uphill battle at Los Angeles City Hall, in part because some residents fear that the change would increase cut-through traffic in neighborhoods between the streets.

The report, commissioned by Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a one-way proponent, is meant to be the first step in what will be a yearlong examination of whether the concept could work.

Traffic engineers who studied commuting patterns on Olympic and Pico found that about 106,000 cars a day use the corridor. They also studied a traffic configuration in which Pico would go west only and Olympic east only.

Vehicle capacity could increase by 20% with one-way streets and no left turns, the study found. It was conducted by Allyn D. Rifkin, a transportation planner and engineer.

A less restrictive alternative, which would allow left turns, would increase vehicle capacity by nearly 6%.

"We need to do something specific and we need to do it now," said Yaroslavsky, who added that if the Olympic-Pico street conversion worked it could become a prototype for other major thoroughfares.


And...

The Los Angeles Department of Transportation has "done all the things that traffic engineers do in the traditional sense," said Rifkin, who recently retired as a Los Angeles city traffic engineer. "But still, congestion is so bad, it's important to think outside the box."

But persuading other officials — and residents — could prove difficult.

Gloria Jeff, general manager of L.A.'s Transportation Department, rejects the concept on its face. City engineers believe that "cut-through streets would not be consistent with the neighborhood's desired quality of life," she said.

But Councilman Jack Weiss said he planned to ask the City Council on Tuesday to direct Jeff to analyze the report, which he called "a very constructive and thoughtful first step" toward addressing east-west traffic congestion.

"The point of this report is to generate questions and comments," said Weiss, who is creating a task force of residents, business owners and others to examine the potential effect of one-way streets on the area. (Yaroslavsky said he would post the study today on his website, zev.lacounty.gov.)

The study examined extending the one-way streets from downtown Los Angeles into Santa Monica, but some possible constraints exist. Santa Monica, for example, has built raised landscaped medians that divide the thoroughfare.

Pico between Vermont and Western avenues appears too narrow to accommodate the proposed seven lanes across, the report said. Olympic also cuts through Beverly Hills, which would have to sign on to any one-way plans.

Under the proposal, Olympic and Pico would each be seven lanes — five for mixed-flow traffic and two contra-flow lanes reserved for buses, vanpools and emergency vehicles during peak hours.

That way firetrucks and ambulances would have a passing lane to get around stopped or broken down buses without entering oncoming traffic.

Contra-flow lanes could be opened up for curbside parking and all vehicles during non-peak hours, the report said.

Costs, which are expected to be millions of dollars, may increase if residents of adjacent streets demand traffic-slowing devices such as speed humps and stop signs.

Shannan Bunch, who has lived in West Los Angeles for six years, opposes the creation of one-way streets.

"I think it's a terrible idea," she said. "It would just make trouble, especially on weekends when there is less traffic."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

LA Times Take On New LA Times Editorial Page!

It's going to be interesting to see how adding an old style ex-New York Times reporter to the free thinking and web oriented editorial staff works and which culture ends up influencing the other.

Jim Newton to head Times editorial page
He brings an extensive background in local and state news to the post.
By James Rainey, Times Staff Writer
April 14, 2007

The Los Angeles Times named Jim Newton, a veteran political and public policy journalist whose work has focused on California, editorial page editor Friday.

In announcing the appointment, Times Publisher David D. Hiller called Newton "one of the leading reporters and commentators on politics and government in Los Angeles and in the state."

Hiller said the appointment of the 44-year-old California native "would tend, I think, to make the pages grounded somewhat more in local and state issues, but without backing away from our interest in national and foreign matters."

Newton replaces Andres Martinez, who resigned last month after a controversy about a special edition of the newspaper's Sunday Current section. The special edition was scrapped because of the appearance of a conflict of interest: the selection of a guest editor who had a working relationship with Martinez's girlfriend.

Newton was most recently The Times' city-county bureau chief, overseeing coverage of the government institutions that serve Los Angeles County.

He gained wide acclaim with his exhaustively detailed reporting and analysis of the nearly six-month 1995 murder trial of O.J. Simpson. Newton also played a major role in The Times' reporting of other seminal events in recent Southern California history: the federal trial of the Los Angeles police officers who beat Rodney King, the 1992 riots, the 1994 Northridge earthquake and the second term of Republican Mayor Richard Riordan in heavily Democratic Los Angeles.

Newton's biography of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, "Justice for All," was a bestseller in Southern California last year. He plans to postpone work on a book about the Eisenhower administration for at least a year to take the editing position.

In his new post, Newton will oversee the pages of the paper where The Times expresses its editorial views and publishes opinion pieces from regular and freelance contributors.

Newton's appointment represents the return of control of the editorial pages to a journalist steeped in news reporting. He has worked in newsrooms for more than 20 years, mostly at The Times but also at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, where he clerked for senior columnist James Reston.

For most of the three years before Newton's appointment, the newspaper's editorial pages had been run by writers trained predominantly in opinion journalism. Michael Kinsley came to The Times in 2004 after stints at Harper's, the New Republic and CNN's political talk show "Crossfire." Martinez spent most of his career as an editorial writer at newspapers, including the New York Times.

Kinsley dubbed himself a "mainstream liberal." Martinez's editorial pages were hard to categorize — skeptical of government regulation, socially liberal and supportive of giving President Bush's "surge" in Iraq a chance to succeed.

Newton described himself as "moderate to liberal and not particularly partisan," adding, "I am more interested in practical politics than in partisan politics."

Newton will report to Hiller, who once worked as a lawyer in President Reagan's Justice Department. "The places we disagree are, I think, overwhelmed by the places where we do agree," Newton said. "And he seems open to argument on those issues.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Jim Newton New Head Of Editorial Section At LA Times!

Kevin over at LAOBSERVED has the full memo. Hit the above link.

Most interesting part is when it mentions that Newton will resume writing his current book sometime in 2008 when - one presumes, he will be vacating this position.

Is Today The Day The New Emperor Of The Editorial Page (Clothed Or Otherwise) Is Crowned?

Rampant rumor has it that a crown-sized package has just arrived hot from the Jewelery District's smelters minutes ago - but is it for a coronation... today - or for an investiture next week? Inquiring Cowboys Want to Know!

And will the three puffs of white smoke reveal the lightly seasoned but highly spicy voice of tomorrow - or will it be the dreaded coming of the Anti-Christ? Or can it be that a well seasoned - and highly popular - shepherd is to be resurrected to guide his flock past lurking wolves, coyotes and rogue billionaires?

Or will be it be a dark horse candidate pushed forward from the bowels of the news room?

Stay tuned!

Project Runway Invades LA Cowboy Lair! Plus Update On October's Downtown Fashion Week!

Just when I thought life couldn't get any more 'Ugly Betty', I saw a notice posted on the elevator that PROJECT RUNWAY was going to be interview designers the next day on my floor. So I figured it would be a little crazy this Friday at the Spring Arts Tower, but even then I didn't expect that when I returned to my office following last night's the Downtown Art Walk - people would already be checking out where they would be lined up the following morning.

Ergo I was not totally surprised that the line was out the front door and down the street by the time I got in from KNBC this morning. The congestion, though, was more than mitigated once it became clear that many of these designers were also models.

What was unexpected, though, was how many of them were dressed down to the point that in my boots, Levi's and T-shirt - I looked over dressed - while others had clearly misread the announcement and thought they were applying for 'Tragic Fashion Victim', a reality show auditioning on another floor.

As for October's Downtown Fashion Week - before we even asked a single designer to appear in our October shows - enough top designers have come to us and asked to be a part of the rebirth of Downtown and Broadway, that we already have a stronger line-up than we had in March.

Sign Up Today For the FREE Neighborhood Council Congress Being Held Saturday April 21st!

The Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils Congress is holding three hand-on seminars at the Bonaventure Hotel - and they are all free, parking is free and lunch is free.

April 21 Congress: 3 Reasons to Attend
Preview: LANCC WILL HOST SPECIAL, UNIQUE FORUMS

By Brady Westwater

If you want to develop jobs and businesses in your community, increase community outreach or need more parks and green spaces in your community - the Los Angeles Neighborhood Congress (LANCC) has multiple experts with multiple solutions … as well as Neighborhood Council members to tell you their success stories.

You will each be given specific action items to take back to your communities Monday morning to get to work to solve these problems. So register today to take advantage of these free programs at the Bonaventure hotel where both the parking and the lunch are also totally free at www.lacityneighborhoods.com

1 - From 9:30– 10:45 am, Bob Reid of the Trust for Public Land will explain how Neighborhood Councils can develop political support for parks, use “greenprint” maps to make a case for additional park space in their communities and learn the basics of land acquisition and how to use that information to acquire more park land.

Also on the panel with be a representative from the LAUSD with info on working with the school district to use school facilities after hours; someone from Parks and Rec to discuss the parks assessment survey and several community based organizations that have successfully created parks and green spaces throughout Los Angeles … including BONC commissioner, Tsilah Burman, Executive Director of the L.A. Neighborhood Land Trust.

For more information on this event and a complete list of guest speakers on this topic, visit www.parksforla.blogspot.com .

2 -From 11 to 12:15 pm: Real world examples of how NC's can – and have – brought economic development to local communities. Experts will explain how to get financial incentives for local businesses and how to access job training and jobs for youth programs in your neighborhoods

Downtown Los Angeles, as one example, will detail exactly how it turned the worst drug dealing neighborhood in the city - Fifth and Main - into Gallery Row, a neighborhood now filled with ethnic restaurants, clothing boutiques and book stores as well as art galleries. Hear how four DLANC board members brought Fashion Week back to Los Angeles from Culver City in just six weeks. Other NC’s will describe how to create both cultural tourism and locally based events that have brought economic and cultural benefits to their neighborhoods.

For more information on this event and a complete list of guest speakers, visit: www.lameansbusiness.blogspot.com .

3 -At 1:30 p.m-- Everyone talks about outreach, but nobody seems to know what to do about it. Well, here’s the place for the latest ideas in promoting what your NC is doing in your community.

The featured speaker will be Rob Barrett who is head of all things web and interactive at the Los Angeles Times. He is also in charge of making the LA Time website the place to go for hyper-local coverage of the communities of Los Angeles.

And while he has a lot to say on how we can use the Times to promote the NC movement, just as importantly he – and the LA Times – want to hear from us about how we feel how latimes.com can do a better job covering LA’s neighborhoods.

Hear how Neighborhood Councils can get computers placed in underserved parts of their community to allow everyone on-line access; how NC’s can help better connect their communities by providing access to literacy and English-as-a-second-language classes and programs that better allow everyone in our city to participate in civic affairs; and, how anyone can create a website in five minutes or less.

All of these must-experience interactive forums are hosted by the LANCC. Look for the LA Neighborhood Councils Congress on the April 21 Congress of Neighborhoods program.

More info at: www.LANCCOutreach.blogspot.com .

Want To Help Fix LA's Transportation Mess? Join Us This Saturday April 14th at 1 PM!

Transit Coalition Head Bart Reed To Address LANCC Transportation Committee This Saturday

Executive Director of the Transit Coalition, Bart Reed, will speak to the Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils Congress Transportation Committee regarding the history of his organization, what it has done, what projects it is working on and how the neighborhood councils can work with them. He will also suggest ideas on how we can effectively organize ourselves and become a citywide resource for individual NC’s to address local and regional transit problems.

The primary mission of the meeting is to discuss organizing the committee, what goals we have and how to best achieve those goals. If anyone has any ideas on these subjects, please email them to me and I will circulate them among those who have asked to be on the committee. And if you do wish to be on this committee – please email me at bradywestwater@gmail.com.

As for specific issues, we will discuss Northwest San Pedro NC’s motions to look at NC involvement in a citywide study and to ask LADOT to develop LA specific trip generation guidelines for development projects rather than using existing national standards. Pico-Union NC has also asked that we discuss the proposed making of Pico and Olympic one-way streets from downtown to the Ocean, particularly as it impacts communities nearer downtown.

The meeting will be held at the DWP Saturday April 14th in the Los Angeles Room behind the DWP cafeteria from 1 PM – 3 PM. This will be following the meeting of the NC Planning MOU Oversight Committee. The John Ferraro LADWP Building is located at 111 N. Hope Street due west of the Music Center. Enter from parking garage level on floor below the main entrance. Parking is free if you say you are attending the LANCC meeting and the nearest Red Line stop is the Civic Center Station at First and Hill Street.
I can be contacted at bradywestwater@gmail.com.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Very Model Of A Modern Major Op-Ed Editorial!

Well, it's not exactly an Op-Ed since it is written by one of the (for at least another couple days) editorial writers, but it's a perfect example of what should be on the Op-Ed page, particularly since that page is about to be conjoined with the Sunday book review section.

It's funny, well written (so you know it's not by Joel Stein) and it's not only about Los Angeles - but it's about the three basic pillars of life in Los Angeles. Driving, parking - and the Dodgers. Plus it references Vin Scully. It also equally references our common experiences as Angelinos and a scholarly, if entertaining, book about economic theory.

More comment at the end of the piece.


OUR SO-CAL LIFE
The furious wisdom of baseball crowds
Instead of letting fans follow their own parking strategies, the Dodgers created constricted parking zones and egregious traffic.
Matt Welch

April 11, 2007

ACCORDING TO "The Wisdom of Crowds," a 2004 book by James Surowiecki, pluralistic markets of non-specialist individuals tend to arrive at conclusions and predictions that are reliably more accurate and efficient than those made by experts. Another way of putting it — and I'm talking to you, Frank McCourt! — is that baseball fans already knew how to park at Dodger Stadium.

In L.A., where no intelligence is more coveted than knowledge of optimal driving routes, the masses have long developed their own idiosyncratic strategies to cope with such logistical squeeze plays as going from Venice to Hollywood at rush hour, Las Vegas to Los Angeles on a Sunday evening — and to and from Dodger Stadium on opening day. Some routes are better than others, but the net result of group experimentation is that a bad situation doesn't get much worse.

Enter the Dodgers' pratfall-prone owner. McCourt (who made a fortune in parking lots in his native Boston) decided in the off-season that the way to improve Chavez Ravine's car-crunch was to eliminate the one thing keeping it from being a real nightmare: human choice.

Now, instead of traffic flowing opportunistically into whatever route the defense offers, fans are being herded like goats into lots near where they enter, and forced (with a few exceptions) to leave exactly from whence they came. The result Monday was as predictable as a runner advancing on Juan Pierre: The worst traffic most people had ever seen at a baseball game.

I managed the two-mile- plus post-game commute to work in a cool 90 minutes, and even that doesn't do justice to the horror. Planners have created scores of new parking spots from which you can only exit by backing up directly into the three-lane flow of outbound traffic, a feat requiring an average of three uniformed traffic herders per disruption.

Thankfully, the Dodgers' website urges attendees to check the "parking alert page," where you can learn such handy tips of the day as "check traffic before you leave for the stadium" and "arrive early at the ballpark to avoid missing any of the game." Even that latter tip is a cruel hoax: The parking gates only open two hours before game time so as to discourage tailgating.

I know opening day is always a bit chaotic. But this just won't do, Frank. Dodger Stadium is a holy place, even to us Angels fans. Baseball enthusiasts don't ask for much — we want to be able to buy a hot dog in less than an inning, say, and to spend more time inside the park than outside in our cars.

Instead, we find ourselves cursing the foolishness of Dodger planning and wondering how anyone could think this is worth a 50% hike in parking fees. If the situation doesn't improve soon, the wisdom of the best crowds in baseball may conclude that it's more rewarding to stay home and listen to Vin Scully.

--

Matt Welch


The only things missing are a hot link to the LA Times review of the book quoted and a list of books about traffic theory, the Dodgers and parking management. A nice touch would also have been links to articles or blogs that described the horror of opening day at Dodger Stadium. A link to the sound clip of the destruction of the Hindenburg could have also been included, but only at the risk of trivializing what happened at Dodger Stadium.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Guess What Guys - When It Comes To Sex - We're No More Interesting To Women Than The Average Chimpanzee!

As if all us guys aren't confused enough by what it is the female of the species wants from us - wait until you read the fascinating - if at times.... unsettling... article in the New York Times.

April 10, 2007
Birds Do It. Bees Do It. People Seek the Keys to It.
By NATALIE ANGIER

Sexual desire. The phrase alone holds such loaded, voluptuous power that the mere expression of it sounds like a come-on — a little pungent, a little smutty, a little comical and possibly indictable.


And...

Women’s genitals, it seems, respond to all sex, all the time. Show a woman scenes of a man and a woman having sex, or two women having sex, or two men, or even two bonobos, Dr. Chivers said, and as a rule her genitals will become measurably congested and lubricated, although in many cases she may not be aware of the response.

Ask her what she thinks of the material viewed, however, and she will firmly declare that she liked this scene, found that one repellent, and, frankly, the chimpanzee bit didn’t do it for her at all. Regardless of declared sexual orientation, Dr. Chivers said, “with women, there’s a discrepancy between stated preference and physiological arousal, and this discrepancy has been seen consistently across studies.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

First Report About Book Review/Opinion Section - Online Version!

The above link to LAOBSERVED has a lot of info about the soon to improve LA Times website - more about that later - but what caught my eye was the web-only features of the new (albeit already infamous) combined Book Review/Opinion section. I say infamous because it has already been greeted with only slightly less anticipation than New Coke or Hitler's entrance into Austria.

But when I first heard the two sections were going to be combined - my immediate thought was - that's a brilliant idea - if they get it right. And it looks like they are doing it right.

One problem has been that both sections have been physically hidden from sight, embedded deep within other sections making them impossible to find. Another problem was the book review section had too few - and too long, in many cases - reviews - and... little else. But all that will now change:

This Sunday, Book Review/Opinion will offer up a host of web-only features. For books there will be columns be about mysteries, science fiction, children's literature, literary news and more reviews than in print.

Now, of course, there is the obvious error that there is not yet a column about... Westerns... but I assume public demand will shortly solve that problem (and the number of the LA Times is... 237-5000).

Hopefully, there will also be a column covering the literary scene in Los Angeles (a Mickey Kaus type gossip column), a column covering the publishing industry in Los Angeles and quirky stories about local writers. And book review's cohabitation with the Opinion section also makes it a perfect place for thumbnail reviews of books readers might want to consult after reading an article in Opinion. It can also be a place where classics can be reviewed and brought to an audience unfamiliar with the canon and a place where overlooked or forgotten books can be brought back to life.

And, of course, all this demand for so many books to buy - will create an audience for advertisers and that, eventually, will allow both sections to expand in the future after this temporary retrenchment.

Now for Opinion:

Opinion has three web-only columns, Opinion Daily, Blowback, feedback from readers and subjects of stories and editorials, and Dust-Up, a weeklong (sic) debate between two people with contrasting views about an issue in the news.

First - Current has been killed! Everything else is secondary to that.

But the genius of this elegant solution is combining two little read sections each with their own constituency - but which are sections that appeal to the same type of reader. And by putting them in the same section, you are reaching readers who might not always open one of the sections - but who are more likely to read both sections than the average Times reader once confronted with them. Marketing 101 perfected!

As for the rest of the changes - sounds all good, assuming the new sections are more about local issues and less about readers pontificating about Iraq and hanging chads. But there is one thing that has been lacking even in all the new - and all welcome - additions to the Opinion section - and that's action items; actions people are inspired to do after they read about a subject.

Opinions are nice, but actually doing something about them is even better.

Transit Coalition Bart Reed To Address LANNC Transportation Committee!

Transit Coalition Head Bart Reed To Address LANCC Transportation Committee This Saturday

Executive Director of the Transit Coalition, Bart Reed, will speak to the Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils Congress Transportation Committee regarding the history of his organization, what it has done, what projects it is working on and how the neighborhood councils can work with them. He will also suggest ideas on how we can effectively organize ourselves and become a citywide resource for individual NC’s to address local and regional transit problems.

A more detailed agenda will be sent out later, but the primary mission of the meeting is to discuss organizing the committee, what goals we have and how to best achieve those goals. If anyone has any ideas on these subjects, please email them to me and I will circulate them among those who have asked to be on the committee. And if you do wish to be on this committee – please email me at bradywestwater@gmail.com.

As for specific issues, we will discuss Northwest San Pedro NC’s motions to look at NC involvement in a citywide study and to ask LADOT to develop LA specific trip generation guidelines for development projects rather than using existing national standards. Pico-Union NC has also asked that we discuss the proposed making of Pico and Olympic one-way streets from downtown to the Ocean, particularly as it impacts communities nearer downtown.

The meeting will be held at the DWP Saturday April 14th in the Los Angeles Room behind the DWP cafeteria from 1 PM – 3 PM. This will be following the meeting of the NC Planning MOU Oversight Committee. The John Ferraro LADWP Building is located at 111 N. Hope Street due west of the Music Center. Enter from parking garage level on floor below the main entrance. Parking is free if you say you are attending the LANCC meeting and the nearest Red Line stop is the Civic Center Station at First and Hill Street. I can be contacted at bradywestwater@gmail.com.

Monday, April 09, 2007

New York Times... Subdued... Response To LA Phil's Get!

I assume the somewhat... perfunctory... article about LA's scoring the conductor of the century while an increasingly provincial New York Phil struggles to find a new conductor to replace one who has long worn out his welcome is due to a... serious case of conductor envy.

April 9, 2007
New York TImes
Maestro of Los Angeles Philharmonic to Pass the Baton to a Wunderkind
By DANIEL J. WAKIN

Esa-Pekka Salonen, the onetime wunderkind from Finland who has led the Los Angeles Philharmonic as music director for 15 seasons, has decided to leave the orchestra when his term ends in 2009. His successor? A wunderkind from Venezuela named Gustavo Dudamel, one of the hottest — and youngest — conducting properties around.

Mr. Dudamel, 26, is a product of his country’s extraordinary youth orchestra system, founded three decades ago to help disadvantaged youngsters. It has grown into a network of scores of ensembles, training hundreds of thousands of musicians. He is music director of its capstone, the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, which he joined as a violinist at 11.

In the last few years Mr. Dudamel, who becomes principal conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony of Sweden next season, has had the world’s major orchestras in hot pursuit. He has had, or is scheduled to have, guest appearances at the Berlin, New York and Vienna Philharmonics, the London Philharmonia and the Boston and Chicago Symphonies. He also records for Deutsche Grammophon. His United States debut came with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, at the Hollywood Bowl, in 2005.

His influential mentors include the conductors Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim and Claudio Abbado.

When he takes over as music director in Los Angeles in September 2009, Mr. Dudamel will be all of 28, three years younger than Mr. Salonen was when he won the job.

Mr. Salonen, now 48 and also the product of a country that places great weight on musical education, said he wanted to devote more time to composition. Under his leadership the orchestra has won acclaim for its playing and inventive programming.

The change was reported yesterday in The Los Angeles Times.

Other major American orchestras are in the throes of a conductor search, including the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the choice of Mr. Dudamel may put pressure on them to come up with daring and youthful choices of their own.

Mr. Dudamel’s contract is for five years. He begins in September 2009. In his first season he will conduct for 10 weeks and increase to 14 weeks after that.


While other articles have raved - at length - on Dudamel's brilliance - the best the New York Times could muster was a... brief... phrase in the middle of one sentence - describing him as "one of the hottest — and youngest - "

Tried To Find Latest Sam Zell Article Using LA Times Search Engine...

The past neglect of the on-line version of the Los Angeles Times is going to require immediate and serious investment if it can't even find an article about the proposed new owner:


LATIMES.COM ARTICLES
No matches found on search for: zell
Try broadening your search criteria.

VENUES
No matches found on search for: zell
Try broadening your search criteria.

EVENTS
No matches found on search for: zell
Try broadening your search criteria.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Chicago Sun-Times Critic Yesterday Demanded Chicago Symphony Offer New LA Phil Conductor A Contract Before He Left Town!

Every press report I can find agrees - the Los Angeles Philharmonic has just signed the greatest new conductor of the 21st Century.

Chicago Sun-Times April 7, 2007
Dudamel dazzles with CSO

April 7, 2007

BY ANDREW PATNER

Barely 26, Gustavo Dudamel hails from Venezuela, a land more associated with baseball and the politics of oil than classical music. But when he made his local debut Thursday night at Symphony Center, 2,400 jaws dropped, including those of many members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

This was a once-in-a-generation event: A conductor showed what happens when talent, charisma, excitement, daring and believe it or not in a world of Olympian egos, warmth and kindness take the stage. An electrical charge ran through the hall and its buzz didn't stop even after a wild, long ovation.

Dudamel's reputation preceded him. But it came from different sources than the usual hype machine. An unlikely trio of senior maestros -- Claudio Abbado, Simon Rattle and Daniel Barenboim -- have all pronounced him the real thing. Players in orchestras from Milan, Italy's La Scala to the Hollywood Bowl have said they have felt an energy for playing with Dudamel that some had forgotten could occur.

Dudamel is a product of his homeland's orchestral training system -- one that schools more than 250,000 kids, most starting at age 3. Opening with a 1954 piece by his countryman Evencio Castellanos, "Santa Cruz de Pacairigua," Dudamel transported both orchestra and audience to a festive Corpus Christi, Texas, procession.

Star violinist Pinchas Zukerman appeared for Bruch's Violin Concerto, and Dudamel proved a sensitive partner. But this hardly mattered, given the second-half excursion through Mahler's First Symphony -- the seismic calling card of another twentysomething.

Dudamel has his own ideas about this piece, and they can differ from the CSO's traditions and accepted readings. But who cares? When was the last time we saw almost every player at seat's edge, with eyes focused on the conductor? Or had a guest who listened as much as he led? This was the unpredictability that comes not from arrogance or self-involvement but from someone with a deep love for the music and a unique gift for communication.

In 1929, the University of Chicago named Robert Maynard Hutchins, then just 30, as its president, and the school -- and U.S. higher education -- was transformed, dramatically and historically.

In 1971, Ravinia unveiled the baby-faced James Levine as its next music director. Levine turned 28 that summer, and his 22 years at Ravinia became the stuff of legend.

CSO chair and Northern Trust Co. honcho William A. Osborn knows a bit about negotiating remarkable deals: He just brokered the sale of Tribune Co.

Osborn and his CSO colleagues have another potential Hutchins or Levine on their hands. Let's hope that they are carrying pens and contract paper to share with Dudamel before he leaves town. I can't wait to hear this concert again.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Salonen To Leave LA Phil - But LA May Still Have Its Symphony And Listen To It Too!

The bad news - Esa-Pekka Salonen - who has made the La Philharmonic one of the world's greatest orchestras under his leadership - and who had been on the wish list of every major orchestra looking for a new conductor is leaving at the end of the 2008 - 2009 season. The good news he is not ditching us for another orchestra - or even another city. Instead, he is going to remain in LA and remain connected in some way to the orchestra, but will now spend most of his time composing.

Also in the good news category is the new choice to lead the Phil:

Maestro will pass baton to up-and-comer in '09
Salonen will leave his L.A. Philharmonic post to young Venezuelan.
By Mark Swed
Times Staff Writer

April 8, 2007

After helping make the Los Angeles Philharmonic one of the world's most adventurous and versatile orchestras, Esa-Pekka Salonen has decided to step down as music director at the end of the 2008-09 season. His successor, the Philharmonic will announce Monday, will be Gustavo Dudamel, a charismatic 26-year-old conductor from Venezuela.

Salonen, who will still live in Los Angeles, intends to concentrate on composing, although he plans to continue to conduct the Philharmonic and other orchestras.

"I always felt that one day I would have to make the change in my own life, bite the bullet and see what it is to be a composer who conducts rather than the other way around," he said in an interview.

"There is nothing drastic or dramatic behind this," he said. "I would say it's something quite normal or organic in my case."

Already nearly as in demand as a composer as he is as a conductor, Salonen, 48, said he had long wanted to find more time to write. But his scheduled departure will still make him the longest-serving music director in the history of the Philharmonic, which was founded in 1919.

Signing Dudamel to a five-year contract as its next music director, beginning in the 2009-10 season, is a daring move by the orchestra. Audiences instantly respond to his ebullience and his curly-haired, boyish good looks. Yet although several major orchestras are believed to have been vying for him, Dudamel had never stood before a professional orchestra before taking part in a conducting competition sponsored by the Bamberg Symphony in Germany three years ago.

He was hailed as a natural on the podium and easily won that competition. Former longtime Philharmonic General Manager Ernest Fleischmann, who was among the jurors, told The Times in December: "Of the hundreds of conductors I've come across, only a few in their early 20s were of his caliber. Two others were Esa-Pekka and Simon Rattle, now music director of the Berlin Philharmonic."

Dudamel's U.S. debut was conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in the summer of 2005, and it proved an immediate sensation because of the electricity of his gestures and his unbounded enthusiasm.

Since then, he has conducted some of the world's most important orchestras, including the Boston Symphony, and has conducted at Italy's La Scala opera house. Next season, he is scheduled to make his debuts with the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Vienna Philharmonic. He has also been signed to an exclusive contract by the Deutsche Grammophon record label. On Thursday night, he led the Chicago Symphony for the first time.

"Los Angeles was the first orchestra to give me the opportunity to make my U.S. debut at the very beginning of my career," Dudamel said from Chicago. "The energy was very special from the start, and I love how open to new ideas the orchestra is."

With the joint announcement of Salonen's departure and Dudamel's hiring, the Philharmonic is bypassing the typical lengthy search during which an orchestra's every guest conductor is scrutinized by the public and media as a possible candidate for its leadership.

In some cases, an orchestra can flounder for years without a music director. Nor will the Philharmonic be forced to compete with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony, all of which are in the midst of conductor searches.

L.A. Philharmonic President Deborah Borda said that because Salonen has always been forthright about his desire to compose more, she began thinking about a new music director from the moment she assumed her post in 2000.

More recently, a small Artistic Liaison Committee made up of Borda, Salonen and select members of the orchestra and its board of directors quietly evaluated conductors. Borda said the response from both the players and the public to Dudamel's first concert with the Philharmonic at Disney Hall, in January, when he was even more impressive than at his Bowl appearance, is what swayed the committee..
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