Category Archives: Los Angeles Area

Rentseekers of Los Angeles

In the latest chapter of the “Rentseekers” of Big Energy stifling growth in the disruptive rooftop solar industry, consider for a moment the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), which is trying to change the rules on rooftop solar customers in the middle of the game.

Since 2009, thousands of LADWP’s customers have signed lease agreements with third-party providers and had systems installed. These contracts were approved by DWP. Now, LADWP is trying to force hundreds of the city’s most recent solar customers to re-sign their contracts, attempting to force solar companies to insert amended language even though the utility acknowledges they had approved the contracts on no less than three separate occasions.

On precisely none of those occasions did their reviewers catch what they suddenly perceive to be language that may in fact violate their own standards for contract language.

By slowing the progress of solar energy and creating such a difficult consumer and business experience, LADWP is acting in direct contrast to the city’s goals for solar growth. Regardless, without re-signed contracts, LADWP says it will not allow these customers to interconnect their solar systems to the grid. This prevents them from accessing the benefits of local, clean power, and from lowering their electricity bills.  

The re-signing process has been extremely confusing and off-putting, especially for those who already have systems built on their rooftops. It, once again, puts the rooftop solar industry – a major source of job growth – at odds with the municipal utility. (See previous criticisms of LADWP, their delays, and inefficiencies here.)

Solar companies and constituents are in the process of contacting L.A. council offices, so there is hope that a policy fix is be on the way. Moreover, Mayor Garcetti has made his plans for increased distributed generation in L.A. clear. After all, the City did approve the original contracts that solar companies have used.

Meanwhile, interconnection is on hold for hundreds of families. Consumers are trying to do the right thing, and solar companies and customers have complied throughout the process, yet the utility is forcing everyone to jump through hoops despite approving the original course.

Let’s hope L.A. moves forward and changes the course.  

Emails Show Controller Wendy Greuel Campaigning Out Of LA City Hall Offices

LA City Controller Wendy Greuel’s campaign for mayor has come under scrutiny after a Cerritos newspaper published emails showing the Controller soliciting campaign contributions, discussing endorsements and communicating with campaign staff during office hours using her official email address, in apparent violation of Los Angeles’ Ethics laws.

In January,  the Los Cerritos Community News sent a public records request to Greuel’s office asking for any emails between Greuel’s office and campaign managers John Shallman and Rose Kapolczynski, as well as emails from  Brian D’Arcy, the head of IBEW Local 18, whose SuperPAC, Working Californians, has spent millions in support of Greuel’s mayoral campaign.

According to LCCN, Greuel’s office initially balked at the records request saying it “was voluminous and encompasses tens of thousands of pages”, but relented after the newspaper sent a letter on April 12th threatening to file a lawsuit.

In the end, LCCN received only 130 pages of material, including dozens of emails sent to and from various campaign staff and contributors using Greuel’s official governmental email address during normal business hours.

Campaign consultants I talked with said such activity violates section 49.5.5b of the LA Municipal Code which states:

“No City official or employee of an agency shall engage in campaign-related activities, such as fundraising, the development of electronic or written materials, or research, for a campaign for any elective office or ballot measure

  1. during the hours for which he or she is receiving pay to engage in City

    business or 
  2. using City facilities, equipment,

    supplies or other City resources.

“The emails confirm that Greuel is running her mayoral campaign out of the Auditor/Contoller’s Office of Los Angeles using taxpayer resources, a clear violation of California state law,” said Brian Hews, President of Hews Media Group, and Publisher of Los Cerritos Community Newspaper. “The emails document in great detail how Wendy Greuel is using one of the most powerful offices in the City of Los Angeles to leverage campaign support, coordinate political events, and garner major endorsements from some of the biggest political forces in Southern California,”

Greuel campaign spokeswoman Laura Wilkinson characterized the email exchanges using Greuel’s governmental email address as “inadvertent”.

“As Controller and as a candidate for Mayor, Wendy Greuel has worked 18-hour days for quite some time. She inadvertently forwarded a few emails when using her personal iPad or iPhone and most of the emails were for scheduling purposes or as an FYI including documents that were scheduled for public release,” Wilkinson said in a written statement.

However, the emails include numerous conversations between a Who’s Who of political players in Los Angeles, Greuel’s campaign staff, campaign contributors and the staff of the Controller’s office discussing everything from scheduling issues to how to handle media relations. And in one case, Greuel may have violated yet another statute prohibiting the sharing of confidential information acquired in the course of her official duties when she forwarded a Preliminary Financial Report her office prepared for fiscal year 2011-2012 to her campaign staff two and a half hours before giving the document to Mayor Villaraigosa, the City Council and the City Clerk.

An investigation from the LA Ethics Commission of these issues will likely take months, stretching well past Election Day. Regardless of their findings the damage may already be done.

During the campaign, Greuel has tried to portray herself as the best candidate to root out “waste, fraud and abuse” in City Hall, and in recent days stepped up her attacks against opponent Eric Garcetti, attempting to tie him to developer Juri Ripinksy, a convicted felon, and also claiming Garcetti had taken “illegal” votes on a Clear Channel billboard settlement. It’s unclear how much traction these claims will have once LCCN’s allegations are more widely known.

A poll released by the LA Times on Sunday showed Garcetti leading Greuel by 10 points.

Los Angeles Mayor: Garcetti takes lead as Greuel goes hard negative

Mayoral Candidate Eric Garcetti at CicLAvia
Candidate Garcetti at CivLAvia. Photo: Marta Evry

For Los Angeles voters, there is light at the end of the tunnel: Only four weeks remain until the city finally elects a new mayor to replace Antonio Villaraigosa. Ballots are hitting mailboxes this week, and the sprint to the finish has begun.

Councilmember and former City Council President Eric Garcetti won the March 5 primary election by a hair over four points over his general election opponent, City Controller Wendy Greuel. The big question at that point was: who would win over the voters of the three major candidates–Jan Perry, Kevin James and Emanuel Pleitez–who didn’t make it? So far, Garcetti seems to be winning that battle: all three of those primary opponents endorsed him, and the latest Los Angeles Times/USC poll shows him with a 10-point lead over his rival as mail ballots drop. The poll indicates that in most cases, Greuel is failing to win over the bases of support she is depending on for victory: Garcetti leads among women, even though Greuel has made gender a key selling point in her campaign. She is effectively tied with Garcetti in the San Fernando Valley, which should be her base. And perhaps most troubling, Greuel actually trails among Republicans by a wide margin, when conventional wisdom early in the race dictated that Greuel would have natural advantages in that constituency against Garcetti, who is widely viewed as a progressive liberal. Instead, the poll indicates that Greuel’s dependence on $3 million in independent expenditure spending from the Department of Water and Power union, IBEW, is damaging her standing with a constituency most observers would have expected her to win.

“That’s an untenable situation for Greuel,” said Dan Schnur, director of the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy/Los Angeles Times City Election Poll.

It most certainly is an untenable position. And Greuel is responding the same way most candidates in an untenable position would respond: throw absolutely everything at the wall, and see if anything sticks.

The rollout of Greuel’s hard negative campaign, however, didn’t appear to go so well. The campaign built a childish attack site against Garcetti that listed essentially every single negative attack the campaign has ever used, but also included some personal attacks, like calling him a “trust fund kid” who has “never had to work a day in his life.” The site was discovered by the media, whereupon the Greuel campaign subsequently password-protected it. Of course, the site might have been a signal for Greuel’s independent expenditure allies to unleash their own negative attacks: WOMEN VOTE!, the political arm of EMILY’s List, has already spent over $80,000 on mailers with negative attacks on Eric that closely parallel the message of the Greuel campaign’s attack site.

Greuel also made a massive television buy last week, spending $700,000 for a positive piece touting her endorsements. But what ran instead during the second half of that buy was a hypocritical negative ad on digital billboards. (Funny side note: all the digital billboards in the ad have actually been deactivated by court order.)

And perhaps most amusingly, Greuel’s camp is also realizing how damaging close affiliation with the unpopular Department of Water and Power can be. A close Greuel ally, former Controller Rick Tuttle, filed an ethics complaint yesterday in advance of last night’s televised debate between the two candidates, alleging that back in 2009, Garcetti postponed an audit of the DWP that might have reflected badly on a ballot measure that both the DWP, Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel were all supporting. The aforementioned Jan Perry, whose committee was responsible for the hearing, has said that the accusation is bogus. Not that it matters to the Greuel camp: the mere filing of the complaint gave Greuel cover to claim during the debate that Garcetti “was under investigation” for ethics violations.

Not that it mattered: NBC-4’s political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe said that Garcetti was the clear winner of last night’s debate because voters want to see specifics about policy, rather than negative attacks. But we can expect the negativity to continue from the Greuel campaign: they’re in full “spaghetti-on-the-wall” mode, desperately hoping that something will stick.

Note: This opinion piece reflects solely the viewpoint of the author, and does not constitute a editorial.

Jan Perry: Speaking Power to Truth

By Madeline Janis

A recent Los Angeles Times profile portrayed mayoral candidate and L.A. City Councilmember Jan Perry as a politician with a “willingness to speak her mind” and, quoting Perry herself, as someone who likes to “cut to the chase in my words and deeds.” The Times also quoted dignitaries who credit Perry for being a leading force behind Downtown’s revival and for creating thousands of jobs that she has promoted with tax subsidies.

The Times added that, “On occasion, Perry has also stood up to unions, as she did in 2008 when labor allies tried to force the Fresh & Easy market chain to guarantee 30 living wage jobs in return for city approval of a housing and retail project in a Historic South-Central area that needed a grocery store. ‘This puts the project in serious jeopardy,’ Perry wrote in a letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.”

I was the “labor ally” who pushed for a living wage in exchange for a $2.5 million subsidy for that 18,000 square-foot market on the border of Downtown and South Los Angeles. As a member of the Board of the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency for 10 years, I repeatedly interacted with Perry on hundreds of development projects. In my view, the real question about Perry’s record is not whether she has been willing to speak her mind to “labor allies” and community groups, who have seldom supported her financially during her political career. Rather, it revolves around her opposition to policies like the living wage – and who she was advocating for.

An even more important question, in a city still dominated by developer interests, is this: Has Councilmember Perry been willing to stand up to the corporate lobbyists whose clients have been her biggest financial supporters and the beneficiaries of her advocacy over her 12-year tenure on the City Council?

The answer to that question is an emphatic “No.” In my experience, Perry almost always pushed for whatever the large developers wanted, with as few strings attached as possible, often times putting enormous pressure on all levels of decision-makers to approve deals involving millions of dollars in public subsidies and land – with little public input, without important community benefits and without clear, well-drafted agreements in place.

The Adams and Central Fresh & Easy market deal is a good example of this behavior. The original proposal was for a $2.5 million public subsidy to pay for an 18,000 square-foot market, to be operated by Fresh & Easy, a supermarket chain owned by the British corporate giant, Tesco. This proposal was unusual, in that it called for a direct grant to go to the developer to pay for the market, rather than the more typical loan that has to be paid back over time. While the grant was structured as an “easement” on the property, the “easement” had few conditions other than the requirement that there be some sort of food sale on the property.

At the time, I was one of seven CRA board members tasked with reviewing and approving all projects. When the proposal was initially put on the board agenda, I wrote a memo to the agency CEO on behalf of three board members asking that the agreement be crafted to ensure transparency and enforceability, given the size of the public investment. (Two and a half million dollars for 30 part-time jobs worked out to be an unprecedented $83,000 per job, more than twice the $35,000 maximum allowed in federal economic development subsidy programs.)

At the time, the three of us wanted to ensure that – in exchange for the public investment – there was an enforceable program guaranteeing that local residents could gain access to those jobs and that the jobs pay at least a “living wage” (then about $10 per hour). We also asked that the market on the property be required to sell “healthy food” and that the final, signed agreement be circulated to every board member in advance of the hearing, so that it could be fully and fairly vetted before approval.

What happened next was classic Jan Perry. Rather than calling up the board members and engaging in a conversation about how to craft the best deal, she wrote a highly intimidating letter directly to the mayor excoriating us for even proposing the living wage idea. Because of that intense political pressure, the chair of the CRA board decided to move the matter to a quick vote, despite the fact that final agreements on the project had not been fully negotiated or signed by the developer, as was typically required by CRA policy. The project was then approved by a majority of the board.

Fast forward to the end of 2012 and Tesco’s decision to close all of its Fresh & Easy markets in the United States. Without guarantees of a full-service supermarket or living wage jobs, the taxpayers may soon end up with a 99 cent store selling processed foods — and jobs that pay $8 per hour in exchange for our $2.5 million investment.

Unfortunately, I witnessed this type of intimidating, reckless behavior by Perry on many occasions.

Another incident came when one of my board colleagues and I questioned an $11 million subsidy to a developer who had been accused by the Legal Aid Foundation of civil rights abuses and Perry again vehemently argued that the deal needed to be approved immediately. (That project’s developer was later found to have committed civil rights violations by a federal judge.) Also, when two board members questioned a multimillion dollar subsidy to a garment factory owner who had proposed moving from South Gate to South L.A. (with few if any net new jobs), Councilmember Perry once more acted swiftly to push the deal through, accusing us of being “out of touch” and “naïve.”

Courage, unlike beauty, is not in the eye of the beholder– it’s either there or it’s missing. The L.A. Times may portray Jan Perry as “plainspoken” and “hard to fit in a box,” but it doesn’t take bravery to stand up to advocates for Los Angeles’ poor and underemployed – only the backing of powerful developers. This is especially critical when millions of dollars of precious public resources hang in the balance.

(Madeline Janis is co-founder of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy and serves as its National Policy Director. She led the L.A. living wage campaign in the 1990s and from 2002 until 2012, she was a member of the board of commissioners of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency.)

Operation Game Changer

(Thanks to Fera, the CDP’s online specialist – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Step Up and Become a Game Changer to Increase Democratic Turnout in California.

This month the California Democratic Party launched Operation Game Changer in Los Angeles County. The goal of the project is to increase statewide Democratic turnout by increasing the number of Democrats registered to Vote-by-Mail (VBM) in LA County.

“There are more than 2 million Democratic voters in Los Angeles County alone, more than any other County in California. But only 19% of those Democrats are registered to Vote-by-Mail. The statewide average is actually 39%. This is a problem for Democrats.  If we can improve our VBM percentage in LA County it will have the effect of boosting statewide Democratic turnout,” said Shawnda Westly, executive director for the California Democratic Party.

Voters registered to Vote-by-Mail are more likely to turnout to vote. Our field representatives love VBM because it allows campaign Get Out The Vote operations to target base-voters for turnout weeks before Election Day.

That’s why we need more California Democrats to step up and commit to becoming Game Changers and convert as many LA County Democrats over to Vote-by-Mail as possible.

Please visit our special Operation Game Changer site: and sign up to volunteer.

We Can Do Better

Here in California’s 36th congressional district, our special election to fill the seat vacated by U.S. Rep Jane Harman could have been a high-minded affair, an honorable contest among progressive heavyweights.  Instead, it has become a schoolyard brawl.  

Yes, the campaigns went negative in the final stretch.   But it started as a grass roots grudge-fest, with the nastiness percolating furiously from the campaign partisans.

In a left-leaning district with a 16-candidate field and a new jungle primary, there are three solid, substantive progressive Democrats – Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn; Secretary of State Debra Bowen; and activist Marcy Winograd.  (I decided to back Janice.)

From the start, the back and forth between the candidates’ supporters has been crazy.  The exchanges on progressive listservs and social media are as practiced in the fine arts of distortion, exaggeration, and snarkiness as anything you could expect from Fox News.   Too often, we act more like campaign attack dogs than community organizers promoting progressive change.

We can do better than this.  We’re all fairly like-minded lefties.  Our differences in this race are matters of judgment and style, not matters of values.   The voters deserve more, and so do the candidates.

We need to chill out.  We need to stop standing in a circular firing squad, pulling the trigger on the semiautomatic weapons we all want to ban, so we can elect a Democrat who isn’t so bloodied and weakened that she falls prey to a GOP challenge next year, when the district will have likely been redrawn into a more moderate swing seat.

In the final hours of this primary, and as we head into what could be an unnecessarily painful runoff, there are several things we should all remember – regardless of whom we support:

1) The other candidate is probably not evil.

As much of we all enjoy getting whipped into campaign frenzy, the chances of our opponent being an agent of the Devil are pretty slim.  If she is willing to endure the rigors of a campaign, put her reputation on the line, and argue ideas and principles in the public arena, she probably has some redeeming characteristics.  It is okay to respect the other candidate.  It is acceptable to oppose someone without hating her or seeing her as morally reprehensible.

2) Our own candidate is probably not a saint.

No matter how much we love our candidate, no matter who she is – Janice, Debra, or Marcy -, she is human.  She has screwed up.  She has said some stupid things.   Cast some bad votes. She is not Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Gandhi. She is not perfect.  The failure of others to support her is not a sign of dementia, corruption, or ideological impurity.

3) The stakes aren’t as high as we’d like to pretend.

Particularly in a campaign among Democrats, the election is not likely to be a choice between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.   If the contest is between two or more candidates who each support single payer health care, who each want to bring the troops home from Afghanistan, and who all want to repeal DOMA, the differences are nuanced and not cataclysmic.   We could actually use the runoff to debate which candidate has the best jobs plan, would be best on net neutrality, or would really take on Wall Street.

4) The voters think we’re jackasses.

In this district and nationwide, people are hurting.  They need more and better jobs. They need better schools and cheaper health care. They need less pollution and traffic.   They want a discussion of solutions – and too often we give them Jerry Springer.  If we don’t shape up, we won’t have a low-turnout election, we’ll have a micro-turnout election.    We need to be invested a lot less in our need to beat someone, and lot more in the voters’ need to be heard and respected.

5) We’re forgotten how to persuade.

Ultimately, our goal as progressive activists is to elect progressive officials and win approval of progressive policies.   We’re never going to learn how to persuade independents and moderates if we can’t even persuade one another.    Our goal should not be to shame or beat senseless anyone who differs with us.  Our goal should be to find common ground, and build upon it.   Campaigns can forge candidates into better leaders.  Similarly, they should shape us into better activists and organizers.

We care passionately about our causes and our candidates, but too often our fervor drives us to wage and justify dirty, low class elections.  More than any time in our history, voters have access to information.   They are waiting for us to engage them on a higher level.  Let’s climb out of the cesspool and meet them there.

Mike Bonin, a Los Angeles resident and voter in the 36th District, is chief of staff to LA Councilmember Bill Rosendahl, a member of the DSCC from the 53rd Assembly District, and co-founder of Camp Courage, an acclaimed training program for activists working on issues of LGBT equality.

Why I Support Janice Hahn for Congress

When Jane Harman abruptly resigned from Congress in February, three strong, smart Democratic candidates quickly emerged.  All of them shared my progressive values.  I had worked alongside each of them, and considered two of them to be friends.  This was going to be a tough choice.  

But as I considered this moment in history, the stark choices in Washington, DC, and the pressing issues facing Southern California, my choice became clearer and my conviction stronger.  I decided to support Janice Hahn for Congress in the May 17 special election.  Here is why:

1.  Janice has a genuine plan to jumpstart the economy

Every candidate for Congress will tell us they intend to create jobs.  Janice has told us – in remarkable detail – just how she plans to do that.  With a keen understanding of the dynamics of the Southern California economy – and especially the unique opportunities in the 36th Congressional District – Janice published a plan to jumpstart the local economy, promote new businesses, invest in environmentally friendly technologies, and create a new skilled labor force.

You can read her plan in its entirety here:…

2.  Janice has a track record of creating jobs

With the national economy sputtering and with local unemployment nearing 15%, I want someone who has a history of creating jobs.  For the past decade, Janice has consistently and successfully championed job creation:

***Janice aggressively pushed efforts to modernize (but not expand) LAX, which the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation says is helping to create nearly 40,000 jobs, generate $2.62 billion in worker income,  produce $6.9 billion in revenue, and help the Los Angeles area recover from the ongoing recession.

***Janice pushed for a Clean Trucks Program to reduce dirty diesel pollution from trucks at the Port of Los Angeles.  This led the Port to purchase new, zero-emission, heavy duty electric trucks, creating a new industry for the manufacturing of green, electric trucks in the Harbor area and the South Bay.

***When the largest new construction project in a decade at the Port faced a possible two-year litigation delay, Janice brokered an unprecedented deal to move the project forward, creating 4,000 new construction and 15,000 ongoing jobs, including jobs on the docks.

3.  Janice speaks for the voiceless

I have worked in or near politics and government nearly my entire life.  Rarely have I seen an elected official so forcefully moved to action by the plight of the poor and disadvantaged as Janice Hahn.  

A few years ago, Janice heard first-hand the stories of the workers at hotels near LAX.  She heard maids talk about how they were working two and three back-breaking hotel jobs so that they could feed their families.   She heard waiters talk about management keeping the tips they earned working at high-dollar hotel banquets.  Janice heard these workers – and gave them a voice at City Hall.  Taking on powerful and deep-pocketed special interests, Janice introduced, fought for, and won legislation that secured a living wage for the workers, and made it illegal for management to steal their tips.

With Los Angeles and the nation increasingly polarized by extreme wealth and poverty, with special interests consolidating even more power over the economy, I want a congressperson with the courage to stand up for the powerless and speak for the voiceless.

4.  Janice stands up for working women and men

With the ascendance of Tea Party Republicans, organized labor has been under siege.    Wages are being cut.  Benefits are being eliminated.  The basic right to bargain collectively is being stripped.  

In this climate, Janice has stood strong in behalf of working women and men.  

She marched with, rallied with and supported airport workers, grocery workers, court interpreters, nurses, janitors, hotel and restaurant workers, communications workers, city and county employees and others, in the struggle for good jobs.

In a year when the very existence of unions is being threatened, organized labor has rallied nearly unanimously in this race behind Janice Hahn.   As a progressive, I am proud to stand with labor unions and help send someone to Congress they trust to fight for their rights.

5.  Janice understands our local economy

The 36th congressional district is home to three of Southern California’s most important economic engines: the Port of Los Angeles, Los Angeles International Airport, and the aerospace industry centered around Los Angeles Air Force Base. As the councilperson representing the port, as chair of the council panel overseeing the airport, and as leader of the city’s efforts to support keeping aerospace industry in the South Bay, Janice understands those economic engines better than any other candidate in the race.  She’ll fight for them in DC.

Janice also knows how to balance the needs of the regional economy with the needs of the neighbors of the port and the airport. On the council, while championing LAX modernization, Janice has stood with the community to prevent airport expansion and has fought for community benefits for airport neighbors.  She is an aggressive opponent of moving the runways north, a project that could decimate the downtown Westchester business district.

6.  Janice understands the role of a congressperson.

Voting on legislation and attending committee meeting is only a small part of a lawmaker’s job.    Janice knows that she can have a genuine, lasting and positive impact on people’s lives by focusing her efforts on helping people, solving problems, and completing projects.  Just a couple examples of her results-oriented leadership style:

***As the councilperson representing the neighborhoods near the Port, Janice often met young children suffering from asthma, and spoke with parents scared for their children’s health and tired of frequent trips to the emergency room.  Janice fought for her constituents, and secured $50 million for a Port Community Benefits Trust Fund.  Hoping to cut asthma rates and reduce air pollution, money will be used for Wilmington-area schools to get air filters to protect students from air pollution from the Port.

***To reduce truck traffic and the density of truck emissions, Janice led the effort to increase efficiency at the Port by extending the gate hours into the evenings and weekends. This action led to more jobs at the Port, fewer trucks on the highways during the day, and reduced truck traffic impacts during rush hour and high travel times.

In some ways, this new jungle primary has given us an embarrassment of riches.  Each of the three major Democratic candidates would be a strong progressive voice in Washington.   But while their voting records would be similar, they would be very different congresspeople.

Marcy Winograd is a phenomenal activist and organizer.   I trust she would be a prominent voice on foreign affairs, civil liberties, and corporate consolidation of power.  Debra Bowen is a remarkable Secretary of State.  She has championed voter integrity, and I suspect she would be the congressional expert on issues of Internet security, net neutrality, and personal privacy.

Janice Hahn has been a tremendous local lawmaker.    She is a fighter who leads with her heart.  In Congress, she would focus on the unique needs and challenges of the 36th District.  She would be here every weekend, visiting our schools, meeting with small businesspeople, talking with the unemployed and underemployed, sharing the concerns of our seniors and our veterans.  Janice will be here, listening, and finding ways to help people.

A passion for people.  A focus on jobs.  A proven track record. That’s why I am supporting Janice Hahna smart, progressive leader – for United States Congress.  Please vote May 17.

-Mike Bonin


Pushing for a Ballot Measure – Measure L

I’m going to do something I haven’t done in a very long time. And actually, before I start, I should be clear that I am writing this on my own personal time and my own personal computer. The why will become evident soon.

This really only affects you if you live in the City of Los Angeles.  Some things you should know about me. I’m a public librarian. I manage one of the 73 branches in the Los Angeles Public Library system. It’s the largest public library system in the country.

It’s also hurting greatly.

And that’s why I’m writing this. On the ballot for next Tuesday’s election, there is a measure up for vote. Measure L.  You can find out the basic information about the measure here: Measure L Information

Basically Measure L will increase the portion of the City’s budget that the Library receives from 1% to 3%. This will happen over a 4 year period. The funds will be used to restore the library hours, which were cut from 7 day service to 5 day service. It’ll be used to restore some (not all) the staff that were laid off last year. Due to the massive shortfall of the City’s budget last fiscal year, there were over 700 people laid off across the City. The Library system accounted for 1 in 7 over the layoff. L.A. City Council President Eric Garcetti Claims Library Cuts Went ‘Under the Radar’ — Despite 10,000 Postcards to His Office, Billboard in His District This is the first time in the history of the Library system that 7 day service is not available. Even during the Great Depression, LAPL offered 7 day service.

A few things you should know about Measure L:

1. It is not a new tax. That one’s kind of important. You should know that what you pay in taxes will not at all be affected by this measure.

2. Last fiscal year the Mayor required 2 departments to take on all their operating costs. The Library Department was one of those 2 departments. That’s about 20 million dollars. Yup. MILLION. It takes a lot to run 73 branches. So whether or not L passes, that’s 20 million dollars we’re going to have to pay. And if L fails, well, people are going to get laid off and branches are going to close.

3. The Police Union and The League of Women Voters are against L. The Police Union for a couple reasons. One, because they kind of hate Bernard Parks. And two because they say that public safety will lose money if L passes. I’d just like to point out that police and fire get approximately 70% of the entire City budget. And they’re currently about 10 million dollars over in just their salary costs. 18 City Departments Could Be Combined $31.9M Over Salary Budgets (notice that the Library is not on that list? We’re the ONLY department in the City that stays within it’s budget every single year.) The Police Union claims that public safety will be adversely affected. But tell me, don’t you think that having a safe place like, oh, I don’t know, a library, increases public safely? Just a thought. The League of Women Voters calls it ballot box budgeting. Which it may be. But unfortunately, we really don’t have much other choice. And it was the City Council who proposed the Measure.

Some of you are probably saying, yeah, well it’s in your own self interest to push this. Yes. Of course it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.

So please, if you live in Los Angeles, I would really greatly appreciate it if you would please consider voting Yes on Measure L next Tuesday, March 8.

Keep Special Interests at Bay in Los Angeles

          We know the Citizens United  v. FEC Supreme Court decision has unleashed a torrent of undisclosed corporate and union spending at the federal level.  It overturned a century of laws and decades of legal precedent.  Common Cause has decided to stand up and take action! Common Cause has joined forces with a number of other organizations to build awareness and educate citizens across  the country about the amounts of money corporations are emptying out of their own pockets to to steal our democracy. The goal of this new coalition is to strengthen the voice of the people and prepare to battle these corporations to save our democracy.

         So far, we have filed a complaint with the Department of Justice asking for an investigation of Justices Thomas and Scalia for attending a strategy session hosted by billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch in Rancho Mirage, California, at the same time the Court was considering the case of Citizens United v. FEC in 2008.

         On January 30, 2011, Common Cause, along with over 30 organizations including the California Nurses Association, Courage Campaign, California Labor Federation, Greenpeace, held a peaceful public demonstration to  “Uncloak the Kochs” and turned out 1,500 protesters to Rancho Mirage, CA for the Koch Brothers annual meeting. This event in CA had legs – and people all over the country are starting to following the Koch Brothers money trail. From Wisconsin to Nebraska, people are starting to wake up to special interests stealing our elections.

         In Los Angeles, we’re preemptively stopping the Koch Brothers and other special interests from pushing money into our elections. We are working to strengthen campaign finance laws to keep special interest money at bay with our support of  Measure H, which will do two things:

1. Lift the cap on the public finance trust to create a more robust public financing system.

2. Ban prospective private companies with pending bids on city contracts from making campaign contributions.

         We are pleased to be standing with LA City Council President Eric Garcetti, City Council members Tom LaBonge, Paul Koretz, Paul Krekorian, Jose Huizar, Bill Rosendahl, the California Clean Money Campaign, the League of Women Voters of Los Angeles, Public Campaign, Public Citizen, the William C. Velazquez Institute and others to pass Measure H on March 8.

         All politics is local and we believe that!  Ifnot, then when? When Los Angeles succeeds in passing Measure H, we will send an important message that we are taking back our democracy.  It does not belong to We the special, well-financed interests.  Our democracy belongs to We the People.

Bowen for Congress

Tonight CDP Chair John Burton emailed party delegates to announce Jane Harman’s resignation. But what was most interesting was who he mentioned as the only candidate who has told the CDP they’re running for the CA-36 seat – and it wasn’t Janice Hahn:

As of the sending of this email, the only candidate that has officially informed the California Democratic Party that they are running in the 36th congressional district is Debra Bowen. Bowen has been our Secretary of State since 2007 and she is a former State Senator and State Assemblymember from the area.

Yep. Debra Bowen appears to be running for Congress. She has an ActBlue page up as well. Although she’s made no formal announcement, she did tell Bob Brigham earlier today that she was “giving it very serious thought”.

It makes sense for Bowen to jump into the race. She’s termed out in 2014, and in 2018 the race for governor will be a slugfest between Gavin Newsom, Kamala Harris, and maybe some other folks as well. Bowen has served her terms in the Legislature, and so there isn’t much else for her to do in Sacramento. As much as I liked the idea of Governor Bowen, Congresswoman Bowen works too.

So too does Senator Bowen – as in United States Senator. Dianne Feinstein is likely to run for re-election in 2012 and will probably win. But by 2018 she might be ready to hang it up, and the House of Representatives would be a good place to launch a campaign for Senate – just ask Barbara Boxer.

Most importantly, Bowen has shown herself to be a strong progressive leader during her time in Sacramento – not just as one of the best Secretaries of State in the country, but as a good progressive legislator during her years in the State Capitol. She won’t be just one of 435 Representatives – she’ll be a strong voice for change and for 21st century solutions to our problems.

Janice Hahn has run for the seat before and has a local base, but so too does Bowen. Bowen’s ability to raise money statewide outstrips Hahn’s, and Bowen is likely to get more grassroots support, although one should never dismiss what Hahn can bring to the table.

It should be an interesting race between Hahn, Bowen, and who knows who else that jumps in. Either one would be a huge upgrade over the anti-Constitution Jane Harman, even if my support will ultimately lie with Bowen.