Thursday, May 31, 2007

Agenda For This Saturday's Neighborhood Councils Congress!

Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils Congress

Senate AMENDED Agenda
#4b added; #12 modified

Saturday June 2nd, 2007
(10:00 a.m.)


Hollywood City Hall at 6501 Fountain Avenue (between Wilcox and Cole; West of Cahuenga.

Limited free parking is available in the lot behind the building or on the

LANCC Board Meeting will be followed by DONE meeting at 12:30 – 3:00 PM on how the NC’s can help organize the next Congress of Neighborhoods this fall.

1. Call to order and roll call.

2. Approval of the minutes

3. Public Comment (2 minutes per speaker on non-agenda items)

4a. Reports from board members/Neighborhood Council motions including responses to asking that Neighborhood Councils be granted the right of appeal on planning and zoning matters and the request that a citywide transportation plan to be developed in consultation with the NC's.

4b. Presentation by Kai Stansberry on the United Way/PATH Homeless Initiative and how NC’s can become involved in dealing with this issue.

5. Discussion on how NC's and LANCC can work with the new school board on issues affecting our communities starting with a reconsideration of controversial new school sites in areas such as Echo Park, Winnetka, Granada Hills and Van Nuys. Possible action item.

6. Report from DWP committee on status of the new MOU, other DWP issues and budget meeting with DWP.

7. Reports from any other committees/creation of any new committees.
8. Creating focus groups to work with Rob Barrett of the LA Times on developing community input on the redesign of the LA Times website and creating a focus group to help design a template for NC websites.
9. Report from UNCOLA – United Neighborhood Councils of Los Angeles – a 501 c3 formed to support the efforts of NC’s and LANCC and a request for donations to cover incorporation costs.
10. Presentation by LANCC Restructuring Committee by Ken Draper and Greg Nelson. Possible action item.
11. Open nominations for LANCC officer elections at the July 7th meeting and review of nominating and voting process.

12. Discussion of LANCC participation in the planning process of the next citywide Congress of Neighborhoods and the possibility of LANCC holding quarterly citywide meetings on specific issues at the Convention Center in conjunction with the Home Show with DONE’s assistance. Discussion on city attorney’s letter saying that NC’s can plan and run Congress of Neighborhoods with DONE providing the financial assistance

13. Public Comment

14. Future Agenda Items

15. Adjournment.


Next LANCC Meeting will be Saturday July 7th at 10 AM.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Historian Eugen Weber Dead At Eight-Two

During my four years at UCLA, I almost never attended my undergrad classes. I instead bought the texts and the class notes and showed up only for mid-terms and finals. I then bought the books and sat in on the upper grad classes.

This was particularly true for my history classes (one of my several majors) since the level of teaching in the history department was pretty bleak at UCLA in those days (and I still can recall my California and Western teacher's lazy incompetence). But there were two exceptions. And one of them was Eugen Weber. I never missed any class he taught.

Eugen Weber, 82; UCLA expert on France
By Claire Noland
Times Staff Writer

May 20, 2007

Eugen Weber, a noted UCLA history professor who wrote prolifically about France and brought a joie de vivre to his lectures that formed the basis of the PBS documentary series "The Western Tradition," has died. He was 82.

Weber died of pancreatic cancer Thursday at his home in Brentwood, the university announced.

French culture and politics were his forte, and he delved into the country's history time and again in his books, starting in 1959 with "The Nationalist Revival in France, 1905-1914" and continuing with "Action Francaise: Royalism and Reaction in Twentieth-Century France" (1962), "Peasants Into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1880-1914" (1976), "France, Fin de Siecle" (1986), "My France: Politics, Culture, Myth" (1991) and "The Hollow Years: France in the 1930s" (1994).

Rather than the meditations of the intellectuals of the day, Weber was fascinated by the everyday lives of the masses. In "France: Fin de Siecle," he dug up details on bathing, dining, sports and leisure, and the reaction to then-new technologies such as electricity and the telephone at the end of the 19th century. Then he wove the many patterns into an illustration of the era's standards and practices.

"Weber's approach to history," observed Financial Times writer Paul Betts in 1991, "is to make the past accessible and relevant to the present, all written in a vibrant and witty style."

As Weber put it in a 1999 interview with the Toronto Star, "I don't think you can be a scholar without the wild desire to want to pass on [what you've learned]. You sit in rooms or libraries or archives or caves and read, read, read, and what do you do with it? At the very least, you want to get it into print so somebody can know about it. It's even better if you can get 20 or 200 people in a hall and have a captive audience whom you can bore to death or, better still, whom you can excite."

Many students were introduced to Weber through his 1971 textbook "A Modern History of Europe," which became widely used on college campuses. Then in 1989 he was exposed to an even wider audience as host of "The Western Tradition," a 52-part documentary series on Western civilization produced by Boston public television station WGBH.

A member of UCLA's faculty since 1956, Weber was dean of the College of Letters and Science from 1977 to 1982. He won a UCLA distinguished teaching award in 1992 and held the university's endowed chair in modern European history, now named for him.

Born in Bucharest, Romania, in 1925, Weber was educated in England. He enlisted in the British army during World War II and after the war studied history at Paris' Institut d'Etudes Politiques and Cambridge University. In 1950 he married a Frenchwoman, Jacqueline Brument-Roth, his only survivor.

Weber took various teaching posts before arriving in Los Angeles. "After we saw the palm trees, we never wanted to move again," Weber said in 1999.

A visit to southwest France in the 1960s stoked his interest in that country's culture.

"I thought I knew France when I lived in Paris," Weber said later, "but in Bordeaux, I looked around me and realized there was another France. I realized there were a lot of Frances."

Though an admitted Francophile, Weber wrote scholarly books and articles about many subjects, including apocalyptic myths, intellectual history, anti-Semitism and fascism.

He also wrote opinion pieces and book reviews for The Times. He indulged his love of mysteries and thrillers, especially the works of George Pelecanos, Robert Parker and Henning Mankell, in his "L.A. Confidential" column for The Times Book Review from 1999 until 2005.

"One of his most endearing qualities was the way he wrote his reviews for us," Times deputy book editor Nick Owchar said. "He banged them out on an old typewriter, and you could spot the black blotchy typed characters from across the office. In the middle of a storm of e-mails and faxes, his missives were a reminder of another era, a calmer, gentler one in which knowledge was exchanged over a glass of brandy and a cigar or during a long lunch."

Is PMS About To Become A Thing Of The Past?

If so, I can predict next year's winner of the Nobel Peace Prize...

Birth-Control Pill Halts Women's Periods
Tuesday May 22, 5:33 pm ET
By Andrew Bridges, Associated Press Writer
Birth-Control Pill That Eliminates Women's Periods Wins FDA Approval

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The first birth-control pill meant to put a stop to women's monthly periods indefinitely has won federal approval, the manufacturer Wyeth said Tuesday.
Called Lybrel, it's the first such pill to receive Food and Drug Administration approval for continuous use. When taken daily, the pill can halt women's menstrual periods indefinitely and prevent pregnancies.

It's the latest approved oral contraceptive to depart from the 21-days-on, seven-days-off regimen that had been standard since birth-control pill sales began in the 1960s. The Wyeth pill is the first designed to put off periods altogether when taken without break.

The FDA planned a late-afternoon news conference to announce approval.

Wyeth plans to start Lybrel sales in July. The Madison, N.J., company said it hasn't yet determined a price. The pill contains a low dose of two hormones already widely used in birth-control pills, ethinyl estradiol and levonorgestrel.

Most of the roughly 12 million U.S. women who take birth-control pills do so to prevent pregnancy. Others rely on hormonal contraceptives to curb acne or regulate their monthly periods.

Some nontraditional pills such as Yaz and Loestrin 24 shorten monthly periods to three days or less. Seasonique, an updated version of Seasonale, reduces them to four times a year. With Lybrel, in tests, 59 percent of women who took the medication had no bleeding after six months.

However, 18 percent of women dropped out of studies because of spotting and breakthrough bleeding, according to Wyeth. That sort of unanticipated and irregular bleeding can be a problem with low-dose pills.

Still, a women's health expert said Lybrel would be a welcome addition for the woman who seeks relief from the headaches, tender breasts, cramps and nausea that can accompany monthly periods.

"Over time she will experience markedly less bleeding episodes or no bleeding episodes. That is very beneficial for some women -- and is wanted by some women," said Dr. Vanessa Cullins, vice president for medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc.

University of New Hampshire sociologist Jean Elson pointed to advantages for what she characterized as a small number of women who suffer extraordinarily during menstruation, but overall she said the pill left her with mixed feelings.

"For women in that situation, I certainly can understand the benefits of taking these kinds of medications, but for most women menstruation is a normal life event -- not a medical condition. Why medicate away a normal life event if we're not sure of the long-term effects?" said Elson, who researches the sociology of gender and medical sociology.

In recent years, as the hormone content of birth-control pills has dipped, failure rates have climbed. The FDA is mulling whether to establish an acceptable failure rate for the pills. In January, a panel of agency advisers said less-effective birth-control pills should still merit federal approval if they promise other benefits, including improved safety.

Generally, lower-dose birth-control pills can reduce the risk of serious and sometimes deadly side effects, including blood clots and stroke, associated with their use.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Miss Snark Has Left The Auditorium!

When I first read that literary agent/blogger Miss Snark was shutting down her blog -I didn't post the news, hoping that she might change her mind.

But tonight she posted her last post.

It's over.

See the below links to understand how attached many of us had become to both our daily dosage of Snarkisms and the comments of the regular Snarklings.

First, my response to a contest she held - at the end is a link to a very funny tribute video a Snarkling made about her:

Next a video of the time Miss Snark exposed a crooked agent:

Lastly, a final tribute video made upon her retirement. And yes, that is a shot of LACOWBOY among all the other Snarklings....

We'll all miss you, Miss Snark and Killer Yapp and Grandmother Snark - and all the Snarklings.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Can Someone Buy The LA Times Newsroom And Editorial Staff A Thomas Guide - And A Dictionary?

Today's article on the immigration march/rally at MacArthur Park had three interesting, if contradictory, statements:

Waving American flags and signs reading "No to Deportation," about 2,000 marchers gathered about 6 p.m. for a brief rally in front of Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Wilshire Boulevard before heading to the park several blocks away.


Hundreds of police officers on foot, bicycles and motorcycles patrolled the boulevard along the roughly 10 blocks leading to MacArthur Park near downtown.


As the marchers entered the park near Vermont Avenue about 7:15 p.m., they joined another 2,000 people already there. A sound system on a stage blared popular songs about the struggles of illegal immigrants, leading to wild cheers and dancing.

First, in one paragraph it states the park is several blocks away from the church; then a second paragraph states it is TEN blocks from the church. Any dictionary will prove both statements cannot be true.

Second, saying the marchers entered the park near Vermont Avenue is... odd... since Vermont is closer to ten blocks away from the park - depending on how you count blocks - while it is only two blocks from the church. There is also a second major park - Lafayette Park - between Vermont and MacArthur Park

Now if the purpose was to give the approximate location of the park - the main street by the park is Alvarado. And if you wanted to give the main street where they entered 'near' the park - that would be Rampart since it is far closer to the park. But then so are Hoover and Virgil. Vermont, on the other hand, is only two blocks from where they left the church, and it is nowhere near where they entered the park.

Now these are not big deals except that they demonstrate neither the writer nor the editor has any real world working knowledge of this neighborhood and someday the Times needs to hire someone who actually knows this city to read their articles before they get printed.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

My Article In CityWatch On The Neighborhood Councils And The New School Board!

View from Here - Schooling the School Board
Mayor’s picks kick butt. What does it have to do with NCs?

Tuesday, the Mayor's candidates for the Los Angeles School Board, Tamar Galatzan and Richard A. Vladovic, kicked butt and won landslide elections. They now join previously elected reformers, Monica Garcia and Yolie Flores Aguilar, in a four to three majority on the board. Now, what should the Neighborhood Councils expect from this new board in protecting both our neighborhoods and our students?

First, the new board should immediately reinstate chronically under-performing Locke High School's Principal Frank Wells who was suspended from for committing the ultimate LAUSD crime - putting his students ahead of the interests of the teacher's union and the LAUSD bureaucracy. For this, the School Board and Superintendent Brewer had him physically removed from the campus in a police action. Objective: to intimidate anyone who might think about opposing them.

What was the Principal’s crime? After most of teacher's signed a petition to have the Locke High School become a cluster of Green Dot Charter Schools, the LAUSD claimed one or more unnamed teachers obtained signatures during class time – even though the teachers strongly denied this to the LA Times. But this was still used as the pretense to physically remove the principal from school grounds and suspend him from his position.

This is the first time an existing school will become chartered which means the money allocated for Locke will now go straight to the school from the State and not to the LAUSD bureaucrats. In addition, the teachers will be able to teach unencumbered by the endless restrictions imposed by the union.

Brewer and the school board are afraid that if a chartered Locke High is successful, other parents and teachers will team up and secede from the LAUSD's bureaucracy and union rules until every school in the LAUSD could take advantage of the state law that allows them to secede from both the union and from the LAUSD's paper pushers.

A public apology needs to be issued to Wells and it might be good karma to appease the Gods of Education by offering up an union rep or LAUSD functionary to Reggie the Alligator to demonstrate proper contrition, though the rules about feeding animals toxic substances might render that… problematic .

Next, the new board needs to immediately place a time-out on all new school projects challenged by the affected neighborhoods. The board needs to re-study demographic trends to determine if there is a future need for these schools and, if so, if the proposed site is the most appropriate site. This is relevant since the numbers of students in the LAUSD peaked at close to 747,000 in 2003 and has steadily declined since then to 708,000 – a loss of almost 40,000 students. However, in addition, many thousands of those still enrolled have fled to charter schools in leased spaces, freeing up thousands of seats in regular schools. A point that has gone unmentioned in the debate. And both trends are only increasing.

Among the sites that should be stopped on day one are the infamous Site A elementary school in Echo Park – which is destroying an entire neighborhood even though the nearest elementary school has lost 500 students in recent years; the proposed Elementary School 14 in Van Nuys--which wipes out blocks of single family homes and the condemning of the old Granada Hills Community Hospital for a high school, which would preclude any other hospital from ever opening in that under-served area.

One of the problems with the LAUSD is that single family homes and low income housing are seen as low hanging fruit as opposed to condemning industrial or commercial properties that might allow for mixed-used projects that would not displace more residents but would allow for mixed uses that could help amortized the costs of the school.

This does not mean that the new board won't – or shouldn't – build most of these schools. But the district's real needs should be determined as quickly as possible though an unbiased look at the facts in open forums. And, it needs to be done as quickly as possible, unless the facts clearly indicate a rethinking of available options for any of the sites.

The school board needs to pass a resolution to declare their commitment to reopen all five closed LAUSD schools as charter schools, and to then work to find ways to accomplish that goal. The savings from not building unneeded schools might pay for those projects.

Finally, the LAUSD needs to develop relationships with the broadest possible groups of stakeholders in each neighborhood – and in Los Angeles. That means Neighborhood Councils. There needs to be a series of regional meetings with all the NC'S (and other community groups) in each area to tell them how their schools measure up to other schools, what after-hours community uses are in these schools and what schools might, and schools will, be built.

Unfortunately, until now, as with thousands of others– you may have never once been contacted by the school board about what they are doing in and to your neighborhood. And that is one of the first things the new School Board needs to change. Neighborhood Councils should demand it. (Brady Westwater is Chair of the LA NC Congress. He is also a writer and frequent contributor to CityWatch.)

Agenda For This Saturday's Neighborhood Councils Congress!

Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils Congress

Senate Agenda
Saturday May 19th, 2007
(12:30 p.m.)

855 N. Vermont
Room 105 Holmes Hall - just west of Alliance’s meeting place
One-half block south of Vermont/Santa Monica Blvd. Red Line Station
Parking is across Vermont from LACC. Coming north or south on the 101 (Hollywood) Freeway, exit onto VERMONT. Turn NORTH to MARATHON ST. Turn EAST onto MARATHON, then NORTH into the lot. & Holmes Hall is due left of the faculty lounge as shown on the map.

1. Call to order and roll call.

2. Approval of the minutes

3. Public Comment (2 minutes per speaker on non-agenda items)

4. Reports from board members/Neighborhood Council including responses to Tarzana asking that Neighborhood Councils be granted the right of appeal on planning and zoning matters and the San Pedro request that a citywide transportation plan to be developed in consultation with the NC’s.

5. Report from Luciana Dar on status of UNCOLA – the support group for LANCC – and a request for donations to cover the costs of establishing the non-profit.

6. Discussion on how NC’s and LANCC can work with the new school board on issues affecting our communities starting with a reconsideration of controversial new school sites in areas such as Echo Park, Granada Hills and Van Nuys. Possible action item.

7. Report from DWP committee on status of the new MOU, other DWP issues and presenting a motion to ask NC’s to ask their city attorney representative about the legality of approving hiring a water trunk line crew at a recent board meeting without any public notice or any public comment and without notifying the public there was a financial impact caused by this motion.

8. Discussion on brush fire dangers within the City of Los Angeles and creation of an ad hoc committee to study recommendations including, but not limited to, the emergency replacement of wood shake roofs in fire prone neighborhoods. Possible action item.

9. Presentation by Jacque Lamishaw on LANCC participation in Los Angeles Home Show possibly starting with the June 1st – 3rd event.
10. Report from Charlotte Laws of the Animal Welfare Committee and their motion to support bill on spaying and neutering animals that is before the state legislature, AB 1634.
11. Discussion led by Greg Nelson on DONE’s May 23rd meeting to start to organize the next DONE Congress.
12. Nomination of Dede Audet to head Homelessness Committee.
13. Creating ad hoc committee taxation and revenue committee to study impacts and solutions for possible loss of revenue from recent court decisions on the DWP water transfer fee, the cell phone tax and other related issues.
14. Creating focus groups to work with Rob Barrett of the LA Times on developing community input on the redesign of the LA Times website and creating a focus group to help design a template for NC websites.
15. Report on past DONE Congress & LANCC’s participation.

16. Other committee reports and discussion of committee structure.

17. Formation of any new committees.

18. Public Comment

19. Future Agenda Items

20. Adjournment.

NEXT LANCC Senate Meeting: Saturday June 2nd 10 AM

LA Cowboy At Westside Urban Forum Friday Morning!

Just realized I forgot to post that I will be appearing on a panel discussion about neighborhood councils and planning and land use issues tomorrow morning at 7:45 AM - the actual start time of the panel:

The Micropolitics of Land Use: Demystifying L.A.'s Neighborhood Councils

Fri May 18, 2007 7:00 AM
The Micropolitics of Land Use: Demystifying L.A.'s Neighborhood Councils

L.A.'s future -- dense, elegant, or otherwise -- rests in part with neighborhood councils, L.A.'s grand experiment in democracy that began in 1999 and continues to unfold today. The 89 neighborhood councils, diverse groups organized and elected by community members, are well on their way to usurping homeowners' associations as the first stop for developers seeking to do business in their respective areas. They also have become passionate advocates for planning in their communities-whether that means balanced growth, boosterism, or NIMBYism.

This month, the Westside Urban Forum explores the relationship between grassroots democracy, the public sector, and the developers who are shaping L.A. Are neighborhood councils working to bring balance and democracy to our community politics? Do they represent the silent majority, or do they fall prey to activists with personal agendas? Do they understand the complexities of land use? Can they be trusted with even more power than they currently wield? Are they simply giving a forum to angry obstructionists? Or are they, as was initially hoped, the places where homeowners and renters, businesspeople and community leaders, can come together to craft a common agenda?

Come join the Westside Urban Forum for this month's program, exploring the brief history and future of Neighborhood Councils.

Raphael Sonenshein, Executive Director, Neighborhood Council Review Commission; Professor of Political Science, Cal St. Fullerton
BongHwan Kim, Assistant General Manager, L.A. Department of Neighborhood Empowerment
Brady Westwater, Chair, Los Angeles Neighborhood Councils Congress

Cindy Miscikowski, former Los Angeles City Councilmember, 11th District

Location & Time
The Regency Club
10900 Wilshire Blvd.
17th Floor
Los Angeles, CA

Friday, May 18, 2007
7:00 am - Registration
7:45 - 9:00 am - Program

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It's Freakin' 8 AM - And The LA Times STILL Does NOT Have The Election Results Everyone Else Has Had For Hours!

LA Times results at 8 AM

Election results

Board of Education District 3
26.48% precincts reporting votes percent
Jon M. Lauritzen* 9,321 39.85
Tamar Galatzan 14,069 60.15
Board of Education District 7
50.22% precincts reporting votes percent
Neal Kleiner 5,429 47.17
Richard Vladovic 6,081 52.83

Rest of the world's long, long before 8 AM results:



BOARD OF EDUCATION DISTRICT 7 - 98.71% of votes in


It's After Midnight - So Where're The School Board Election Results On The LA Times Website?

Well, there are some hours old results - but they are largely the very first absentee votes. To find out who really won those races - and the State Assembly seat - you need to check the Daily News website.

It's surprising that after all the ... months... of coverage - there is no one at the paper to keep us updated on even an hourly basis.


The news story is still not updated, but the box now under it on page two now has the current vote totals.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

So Why Doesn't The LA Times Showtracker Blog Tell Us What's REALLY Important?

The good news is that the LA Times is starting to cover Los Angeles.

The bad news is that it's not always the serious news that impacts our city. As an example, the blog SHOWTRACKER covers the gossip concerning TV shows - and it is now covering the upfronts where it is decided what series live - and which die. And it does a fine job covering much of the story. But the blog - and the rest of the LA Times - always misses covering the major impact these decisions have on our local economy; impacts that affect all of us and not just those of us who work in the TV industry.

As an example, the local TV movie industry is essentially... gone - mainly to Canada, but also to other states and countries. Feature films are also increasingly being shot outside of LA. What has remained, though - at least until recently - are TV series.

But increasingly scripted shows are being replaced with far cheaper reality shows and more and more TV shows are being shot in Canada, in other states and in New York.

So why not tell us about that as the series are being picked up?

Particularly once the schedules are finalized - why not tell us what is the ratio between reality and regular shows - and how has that changed over the past five years? And there are plenty other questions that should be answered..

How many shows are being shot out outside of this country this season - compared to last season? In other states? Who are the stars who are taking their series out of LA? How effective has New York been over the past five years in getting series? And what is the breakdown of where cable shows are shot? And how is original programming expanding on cable channels - or is it?

Now I know this might involve some actual... reporting.... but what the hell.

Into each life some rain must fall.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Can Neighborhood Councils Save Los Angeles From Burning?

Below is my article today in today's CITYWATCH:

Can Neighborhood Councils Save Los Angeles From Burning?

By Brady Westwater

Well, it has to be Neighborhood Councils because no one else in this city has the courage to demand a change from the current ostrich head in the sand attitude towards hillside fire safety.

Even as we face the potentially most disastrous fire season in history, no one in city government has suggested, much less demanded, the measures necessary to handle the present crisis. Our leaders do not seem to understand that not just hundreds, but thousands of homes will one day be lost in a single fire, wiping out entire hillside and canyon communities from Mulholland to Sunset Boulevard or from Mulholland to Ventura Boulevard – or within the hillside communities of East Los Angeles or North East Los Angeles or Elysian Park or Baldwin Hills – or within the North, East or West Valley areas.

This winter we have already watched Malibu beachfront homes burn – many of them with wood shake roofs. Then we watched the Beverly Drive fire when three homes burned or were damaged – not from the flames of the fire, but from sparks that landed on the wood shake roofs on each of the three homes. And now comes the Griffith Park fire where the only structural damage came from sparks landing on… a wood shake roof.

Three fires – all with structure damage from wood shake roofs. This is why Laguna Beach banned existing wood shake roofs by 2017 and Beverly Hills has by 2013. That is also why Beverly Hills is now considering moving that date up. As for Los Angeles – the deadline to replace wood shake roofs is … never.

Yes, our city has never felt it important enough to even try to replace existing wood shake roofs, the single greatest cause of structural fire damage in our hillside communities.

Clearly, we can no longer wait for the city council to initiate this action. Neighborhood Councils need to take the leadership role on this and on other fire safety matters.

Our city has just had the driest winter in its history, closely following one of the wettest winters, creating a bumper crop of dry brush. Added to this the LA Fire Department's admirable ability to keep most of the Santa Monica Mountains fire free for almost a half-century. The side affect of this is the brush build-up in remote areas that ensures the next major Santa Ana driven fire will be unimaginably worse than anything this city has ever seen. But only because we have failed to take the steps to protect ourselves.

This is why Steve Twining, President of the Bel Air Beverly Crest NC, and Carol Sidlow, Co-Chair of the BABCNC LND Use Committee, have agreed to serve as joint chairs of an ad-hoc Los Angeles Neighborhood Council's Congress committee to deal with the present hillside fire emergency. The Congress will be asked to approve their appointments at the May 19th LANCC meeting.

This committee will not just look at the issue of wood shake roofs. It will also take a systemic look at all building and zoning codes in the fire prone areas. They will also ask why government agencies such as the DWP, Cal Trans, and state and federal park agencies, among others, have not cleared their brush in residential areas in a timely matter.

They will also ask why government funds continue to be given to non-profits such as the Santa Monica Conservancy to buy more land when they have yet to do the necessary fire clearance to protect the lives of those who already live adjacent to their current holdings.

And they will ask why undergrounding power lines in fire areas has not been given a higher priority.

And, importantly, they will ask why have so few of recommendations of the fire report that followed 1961 Bel Air fire been implemented? Yes, 1961. It has, after all, been over forty years since those recommendations were been made.

Do we have to wait for another forty years for these reforms to take place – or we will have to wait for a fire that takes out scores of lives and thousands of homes before we take seriously the safety of LA’s hillside communities?

Or, will the Neighborhood Councils be the ones to ensure … demand … that these actions be taken now. They will have an opportunity to answer that question at LA City College on May 19th. (Brady Westwater is a professional writer and political activist. Westwater is a regular contributor to CityWatch.)

Info: The LA NC Congress (LANCC) meet next, on this and other important issues, on Saturday, May 19 at 12:30 p.m. at LA City College at Melrose and Vermont. The meeting will follow the Alliance of Neighborhood Councils Forum.

Latest Update On DWP Follies!

Below is my update on the DWP in today's CITYWATCH:

View from Here - Down the Rabbit Hole with the DWP!
By Brady Westwater

Since CityWatch reported that the Department of Water and Power's surrendering to the Union over who rebuilds the city's water trunk lines was kept hidden from the public, goings on within the DWP's rabbit hole have gotten curiouser and curiouser. More on that later.

First the good news.

Since Ron Deaton approved a new five year Memorandum of Understanding between the Neighborhood Councils and the DWP that gave Neighborhood Councils everything they asked for, a record number of NC's are signing the document. And, on most issues, the DWP has gone to great lengths to keep NCs informed and the new board has been very engaged when it comes to looking after the public's best interests – with one major exception.

The bad news is that the NC's are just realizing they have been hoodwinked. All this time, they have been negotiating with the wrong people. The real shot-callers are not in the executive office or at the Board of Commissioners--they are behind locked doors at Union headquarters.

The reason for this power is that that IBEW has quietly unionized much of the normally non-unionized management - which the previous boards cluelessly agreed to - so that much of management would be required to go on strike, making it impossible to run the DWP. A perfect set-up for blackmail even without all the protection money, I mean campaign contributions, made by the union folks to both the Mayor and members of the city council.

The first indication of who really runs the DWP came when a previous Board approved a blatant giveaway of almost two million dollars in public funds. They executed an unsecured loan for building eclectic scooters to an unqualified out of state company. A more experience company existed right here in Los Angeles. The fact that much of this money ended up in the pockets of workers …represented by a union friendly with the leaders of the DWP's union (widely reported at the time of the contract) - I'm sure was a total coincidence. The DWP was never paid back one dollar of that loan and the rate payers of the DWP got a very healthy seven figure sum added to their collective rates.

The second indication of who really rules Rabbitania was the last wage settlement. It pushed many DWP employees far beyond the salaries paid almost anyone doing the same work anywhere in the country – much less any other employees of the City of Los Angeles

This power explains why the DWP Board felt that it had no choice but to hire a third in-house trunk line work crew. This even after the Daily News revealed that a DWP crew could take up to twice as many men, twice as much money to do the work of a privately contracted crew.

According to the Daily News article – this surrender to the union was considered a victory by many on the DWP board because, if the union had managed to take control of 13 other projects, the cost to rate payers would have been an extra half-billion dollars. Yes – it costs a half-billion less for private workers to do the exact same jobs as DWP workers. Scary – huh?

What the Daily news did not report, though, was that the hiring of this new work crew was never even hinted at in the publicly noticed agenda item. Nor did the article mention that the underlying document, that should further explain and clarify the agenda item, also made no mention that a third trunk line crew was going to be hired. In addition, the public was not allowed to speak during general public comment at the start of the meeting or before this item was voted upon. Further, according to witnesses, the public was also never told what the Board was voting on---before or after the vote was taken.

Now, I don't know how many violations of the Brown Act that is--I ran out of fingers to count on – but those seemingly multiple Brown Act violations may turn out to be the least of the Board's problem.

What could – and should - invalidate the entire board approval of the labor contract was a statement in the public documents prior to the meeting that there was no fiscal impact involved within this agenda item since the fiscal impact was judged to be “n/a”– not applicable.

That is, of course, totally false. To begin with, there is the cost of hiring an entire new work crew. Then there are the administrative costs connected with all these new workers. Then there are the lifetime medical and pension benefits for this new crew.

So how can the DWP claim that hiring a third in-house trunk line team has no financial impact? I don't know. But we might soon find out since the NC/DWP MOU Oversight Committee last Saturday unanimously recommended individual that Neighborhood Councils ask their city attorney rep's if the DWP's egregious lack of any public notice – or comment on this agenda item – along with the DWP mislabeling this item as having no fiscal impact when it had one makes the approving of this contract an illegal act..

If it turns out this action was against the law, Rabbit Land will never be the same again.

And now comes the curiouser and curiouser part.

Of all the things I did not expect after the first article about the DWP – it was multiple phone calls from different DWP workers thanking me for exposing what happened at the DWP board meeting. They also wanted to thank CityWatch for helping expose what has been happening for years at the DWP. Repeatedly, they told me they were embarrassed by their union and by the fact that they felt it necessary to call me from pay phones, blocked numbers and disposable cell phones to protect their jobs and their safety.

They are angry and tired, they told me, of being made to look like incompetents by a system that instead of encouraging their best efforts, is instead designed to make it impossible for DWP's own crews to be competitive with the private market place.

They had hoped, they said, that this negotiation with the union would – finally – shine the light on this story so that the DWP board could stand up the union.

This is where the Neighborhood Councils come in. NCs need to demand that elected officials examine these allegations of massive waste within the DWP. And if true, to ask how a union can make it impossible for DWP workers to be only half as efficient as private workers – and why the DWP Board was afraid to publicly address this issue and confront the union's leaders in a way that even many of the union’s members wished they had.

Friday, May 04, 2007

LA Times Website Assaults Viewers!


Every time I open the LA Times website - blaring loud - are KTLA stories - and no matter what I do - it happens every time I come back to the front page - blasting at full volume - no matter how I change the settings. Any one else having this problem?

Teacher’s Union Surrenders LA Schools to Villaraigosa! Mayor’s Win Streak Continues!

Much ink has been spilled in the past few weeks about the Mayor's recent defeats. Below is my article in today's CITYWATCH which offers another point of view.

The View from Here

Teacher’s Union Surrenders LA Schools to Villaraigosa! Mayor’s Win Streak Continues!

By Brady Westwater

And, no – this is not a late April’s Fool Day story.

While the media has been busy crowing over the court’s overturning the Mayor’s ill-designed plan to take limited control over parts of the LAUSD (and other perceived losses), Villaraigosa has been equally busy ensuring his candidates win two more seats on the school board so they can take full control of the full school district.

And, according to a story in the Daily News (but not in the LA Times) - the teacher’s union – UTLA – has folded their cards, thrown in the towel and raised the white flag.

The union has recently (if unofficially) dropped its campaign to keep incumbent Jon Lauritzen (a charter school roadblock until becoming a born again charter believer in the last vote before the run-off election) in office once they pulled the half-million they had ear-marked for his run-off, essentially conceding the race to reformer, Tamar Galatzan.

This, along with the expected election of reformer Richard A. Vladovic in the District 7 run-off, will for the first time in years put the school board back in the hands of members accountable to the public, the parents and the students - and not the UTLA. And if you think the UTLA cares more about students (or teachers) than its own interests – remember this is the union the LA Times recently exposed as defrauding its members of potentially millions of dollars in retirement investment income by accepting payoffs of a few hundred dollars from investment firms in exchange for recommending those investment firms to their teacher members.

But now with Yolie Flores Aguilar already winning in District 5 to join present board member Monica Garcia in District 2, this will give the allies of the Mayor four of seven votes on the school board (and hopefully Aguilar has learned from her previous support of the disastrous anti-phonics ‘whole language’ and bi-lingual ‘reforms’ that did so much damage back in the 1990’s).

In addition, this majority should be expandable in the next election since the only seat the Mayor did not win – or contest – this time was that of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte who won primarily due to her strong support from the black community, and not the support of the teacher’s union.

So with this new majority ready to work with new Superintendent David L. Brewer who has already made it clear he feels almost nothing is presently working in the LAUSD – the Mayor should be able to declare victory in his battle to wrest control of the schools from the UTLA leaders and the entrenched LAUSD bureaucracy (with which the UTLA has warred) who have each stifled much needed reforms as they spend as much time battling over turf as they do in educating the students.

Other recent wins for the Mayor – and the City – are his new budget, the continuing decline in crime and the soon to be confirmed reappointment of Chief Bratton. Villaraigosa hasOther recent wins for the Mayor – and the City – are his new budget, the continuing decline managed to raise the number of cops on the streets to the highest in the city’s history while balancing a budget that reduces the structural deficit he inherited though a combination of cuts and increased (and usually deservedly so) user fees – but with no new taxes.

No inconsiderable achievement.

As for the loss of the Olympics – there is not much the Mayor could have done to save that bid with all the strikes against LA.

To begin with, with the current unpopularity of this country overseas, the idea of selecting one of the few cities to have had the Olympics twice – for a third Olympics – which no city has ever had (though London will in 2012) – and to do this when this county has also had the Olympics far more than any other country in the world at a time more and more counties are capable of hosting them – well, LA was not the most likely of choices to win on the international stage.

In addition, our team greatly underestimated the skills and cohesiveness of Chicago’s closely networked business and political communities which are capable of realizing far greater civic projects (cf. Millennium Park) than this city can even imagine. And this is a problem our city needs to admit exists before it can even try to find a way to solve it.

Getting back to the victories, though, there is one more huge one for the Mayor. Just when it seemed that the relationship between the Neighborhood Councils and the Mayor was about to be seriously damaged – he surprised everyone with two amazing choices to head DONE – Carol Baker Tharp and BongHwan Kim - and scored another victory.

Now there are of course, legitimate complaints that the Mayor has not yet made any serious progress in dealing with gangs, stopping traffic congestion, ending homelessness, solving global warming – or catching Reggie the Alligator – but that is all fair game for another article. (Brady Westwater is a professional writer and political activist. Westwater is a regular contributor to CityWatch).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Why Did LA Times Screw Up On Imigration March Violence - When Their Photographer Has Photos Of The Incident?

The Times was two hours later in even mentioning that there was any violence at McArthur Park last night, and even then got all their facts wrong which did not get corrected for another two or three hours. And this morning's article seem to mainly rely upon interviewing the press which was their - and quoting what they had seen on the evening news, along with quoting police sources.

And yet they have numerous photos from a Rick Loomis/LAT - so once assumes he is a staff photographer - showing the first outbreak of the violence when it was still bright day light.

So why no story until longer after everyone else had it? And why was it so wrong when when it first came out?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

LA Times Does Great Job Covering Marches On-Line - But Then Drops Ball Big Time! UPDATE!

I largely kept track of the marches today by checking in with the LA Times website.

It was pretty quiet until the marchers finally paraded up and down Broadway and then left. But when I came back from Hollywood on the subway - we were told the Alvarado Station was closed and after we transferred to buses we saw demonstrators displaying rubber bullets from the police and when the bus finally came near Wilshire and Alvarado - no one - including pedestrians - were even allowed near there and as a mob surged towards the bus, the driver was afraid to stop until three blocks later.

Clearly - something had happened. But when I finally got back to the office and checked the front page of the website about 20 minutes later - there was... nothing.


Two hours after some the violence started - and long after radio, TV and internet reports - the Times - finally - covered the story.


The 8 PM article in the Times that no one was hit by the bullets and other details turned out to be wrong (in fact a number of journalists were among those hit)since - evidently - the Times had no one on the scene) and had to be considerably updated three hours later.