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Monday
Jul262010

Chelsea Clinton wedding coming up this weekend: curiousity, confidentiality agreements...

* THE BIG DAY IS ALMOST HERE, CHELSEA CLINTON TO BE MARRIED THIS SATURDAY.  BUT WHERE EXACTLY WILL THE WEDDING BE....  A couple weeks ago I posted an item about the mounting drama -- and the secrecy -- attached to Chelsea Clinton's wedding:  where will be it?  who will be there (and then, in turn, presumably, who will not be there?)?  what will she wear?  what will they serve???

From today's New York Times:  Latest on the wedding planning, on the mounting excitment and the confidentiality agreements required of any of the vendors, suppliers, contractors working on the wedding....

Monday
Jul262010

Tom Bradley and Downtown Redevelopment....

* TOM BRADLEY WAS A PIVOTAL FIGURE IN THE REDEVELOPMENT OF DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES BOTH OVER THE YEARS WHEN HE SERVED AS MAYOR AS WELL AS LONG AFTERWARD.  Raphael Sonenshein, who was there when the Central Business District Redevelopment Project was kicked off, offers a tribute to Bradley and a narrative relating to the $750 million in tax revenues directed into Central City redevelopment from 1975 to 2010.   Downtown News carries an adaptation of Sonenshein's speech earlier this month on Bradley and his legacy.  Recommended reading for anyone interested in L.A. history, politics, downtown development, etc...  (DTN)

* Raphael J. Sonenshein is chair of the Division of Politics, Administration, and Justice at California State University, Fullerton.  [He also served as chair (appointed) of the Los Angeles Charter Reform Commission and is recognized as an expert in recent Los Angeles politics and history....].

 

Monday
Jul262010

Miscellaneous: Real estate and land use items..... *[Updated]

***One of the areas of particular interest to me is land use and development.  Several miscellaneous items today along these lines.....

* SAN PEDRO'S VUE COMPLEX, THE LARGEST WATERFRONT DEVELOPMENT IN DOWNTOWN SAN PEDRO, IS NOW IN RECEIVERSHIP....  I remember going down to the grand opening of the sales office (maybe 2005?) with the thought of possibly purchasing a unit there.  Came away with a lot more questions and concerns than anyone could address in terms of making me comfortable.  Seems that the concerns may have been well-founded...  (DB)

*  LATEST IN THE BILLBOARD WARS.... Los Angeles Business Journal piece:  "'Grim' Turn in L.A. Sign Battle" - "Billboard foes cry foul in victim tribute".  According to the LABJ piece, the issue here apparently is whether Clear Channel may be seeking to unduly influence public opinion on the subject of billboards by way of running digital signs paying tribute to victims on the Grim Sleeper.  The three signs appear in Bernard Parks' council district and, according to a press release from Clear Channel, this was done "in partnership" with Parks, whose name appears on the signs.  (LABJ)

* CRA LOANS OF UP TO $90,000 TO CONVENIENCE STORE OWNERS IN REDEVELOPMENT AREAS/UNDERSERVED PARTS OF THE CITY TO HELP PAY FOR REFRIGERATORS AND SPRUCE UP THEIR STORES?  Great idea, according to supporters.  Critics say this is a "'nanny state' run amok."  (LABJ)

* AND MORE ON BILLBOARDS AND THE BILLBOARD WARS.... From the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, report on the latest in the legal wrangling.  Excerpt of BBB post:

   Apparently undaunted by a federal appellate court decision upholding the city’s right to ban new off-site and supergraphic signs, attorneys for sign companies have signaled their intention to mount fresh challenges to the ban that has been the subject of almost constant litigation since its original passage eight years ago

   In filings in U.S. District Court, attorneys for such sign companies as World Wide Rush and Skytag, Inc. say they intend to fight the ban on the grounds that it unconstitutionally restricts commercial speech, an issue they claim wasn’t addressed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in its recent decision in favor of the city.  The plaintiff in that case, World Wide Rush, had argued that the sign ban violated the constitution because it allowed exceptions for sign districts, specific plans, and development agreements.

   The filings came in response to a motion by the City Attorney’s office seeking an order requiring nearly a dozen companies that sued the city on the same grounds as World Wide Rush to show cause why those lawsuits shouldn’t be dismissed.  U.S. District Court judge Audrey Collins had issued stays last year on those lawsuits pending the outcome of the 9th Circuit appeal.  (BBB)

* COMMENTARY REGARDING APPOINTMENT OF MICHAEL LoGRANDE AS NEW DIRECTOR OF PLANNING:  The other day I posted an item noting that it is anticipated that the mayor today will announce his selection of Michael LoGrande as the city's new Director of Planning, thus promoting LoGrande from his current position as Chief Zoning Administator.  Seems that the appointment has caught Ron Kaye's attention....

***Updated:

* AND ANOTHER ITEM REGARDING MICHAEL LoGRANDE:  Report from Curbed L.A. on this morning's press conference announcing the appointment.  (Curbed LA)

Monday
Jul262010

A.M. MEMOS - Monday, July 26

* BANKRUPTCY OPTION FOR LOS ANGELES, POSSIBLE SOURCE OF BUSINESS FOR MAJOR LAW FIRM?  Rick Orlov says in his Daily News Tipoff column that Latham & Watkins, one of the premier law firms in the country (and one with a major presence in Los Angeles business, legal and political arenas), has prepared a 46-page Power Point presentation outlining the possibilities and limits of a city going bankrupt and citing examples of jurisdictions that have gone into and come out of bankruptcy.  Attorneys with the firm met last week with Controller Wendy Greuel. She said she had not requested the meeting and had no comments about what was told her.  The firm's paper details the legal requirements and what can or cannot be accomplished under bankruptcy.  However, missing from the presentation was the most important point to elected officials - the political fallout.  In nearly all cases where a jurisdiction has declared bankruptcy, its politicians have been voted out of office in the next election.

* Also, as noted here the other day, there is unhappiness at City Hall over Google's failure to complete its transition of the city's email system from Novell.  Now, Orlov says they may either want to ditch the Google transition altogether or, at the very least, for Google to pick up the additional costs of the delays (perhaps a couple hundred thousoand dollars or more?).  And, in light of the potential for some big $$$ here, Goggle competitors are just waiting for a chance to jump into the fray.  Orlov says all of this is expected to come to a head this week, when the full city council gets a report on whether Google is willing to pick up the costs associated with the delay.  (DN)

* BELL SALARY OUTRAGE NOW PART OF THE GUBERNATORIAL CAMPAIGN??  OUSTED CITY MANAGER A "PENSION POSTER BOY", A WILLIE HORTON FOR WHITMAN?  From Matier & Ross column in the San Francisco Chronicle:

    Pension poster boy: Just as the issue of runaway public employee pay and benefits has taken center stage across the state, California may have found the Willie Horton of pension reform.  He's Robert Rizzo, until recently the chief administrative officer of Bell, a working-class community of 36,657 in Los Angeles County.  As the Los Angeles Times disclosed, Rizzo had been earning $787,637 a year, making him the highest-paid city manager in the state and possibly the nation. It was also nearly double what President Obama pulls down. 

    But the real kicker, according to the Times, is that Rizzo's abrupt resignation last week means he'll be entitled to a $659,252 pension for the rest of his life - making the 56-year-old Rizzo the highest-compensated retiree in California's public employee system.  Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has already seized on Rizzo's money to call for statewide public employee pension reform - something Hoover Institution fellow Bill Whalen says she'd be wise to play up in her saturation of the TV airwaves.  "Her campaign is still looking for an issue," Whalen said, "and this is really an attention-grabber."

   Still, rival Democrat Jerry Brownisn't ready to be tagged as the Michael Dukakisof California's 2010 governor's race.  He's launched an attorney general's investigation into Rizzo's pay. And on Friday, a day after a new Whitman ad hammered him for having "no plan" for the state, he came out swinging with his own proposal for pension reform that offered many of the same features as his Republican rival's.  (SF Chronicle)

* EXIT PLAN FOR LAUSD SUPT. RAMON CORTINES:  DOUBLE SALARIES AT THE TOP OF THE LADDER?  Daily News editorial provides a reminder as to details of the departure of Cortines' predecessor, David Brewer III, and that this involved months of basically paying for two superintendents at the same time.  With this in mind, DN urges that Cortines not do the same thing now in terms of drawing a full salary at the same time as he says he has already moved out of the superintendent's office and is planning to turn over much of the management duties to his recently-hired No. 1 deputy.  (DN)

* BUDGET SOLUTION IN SACRAMENTO?  SACRAMENTO BEE EDITORIAL SAYS IT IS TIME FOR THE ASSEMBLY LEADERSHIP SHOULD PUT ASIDE THEIR CIGAR MIXERS AND FUNDRAISERS AND TAKE CARE OF THE "PEOPLE'S BUSINESS":

   Speaker John A. Pérez clearly is a smart and savvy politician who has big ambitions.  One of his primary goals is to protect his base, organized labor, particularly unions that represent public employees, and to maintain funding for health and welfare programs that Democrats hold dear, as The Bee's Kevin Yamamura's article made clear last week.  Pérez also aims to make gains in the November elections by bucking the seeming Republican trend nationally, defending seats now held by Democrats and perhaps adding a few more.  Assembly Republican leader Martin Garrick, similarly ambitious, hopes to knock off a few Democrats, while blocking tax increases that Democrats are pushing.

   Neither man will succeed if he cannot figure out a way to engage with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Senate leaders to solve this year's $19 billion budget gap.  Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Senate Republican leader Dennis Holingsworth of Murrieta have been meeting regularly with each other and with the governor's staff.

   Garrick, of Solana Beach in north San Diego County, is spending too much time sitting on the sidelines, a little bit lost, issuing insipid press releases making pointless charges.  He needs to knock it off and engage in serious talks. "No" cannot be his only answer.  Pérez is a quick study and surely understands the architecture of what will be a final deal. But he is a little too content to wait for other players to come to him. His constituency extends beyond his labor base to the entire state.

   Budget negotiations are drifting, four weeks into the new fiscal year. Leaders of the lower house need put aside their campaign antics, their cigar mixers and their fundraisers.  They should learn from some of their predecessors, who could mix it up with the best of them on the campaign trail, but understood that the first order of business is to take care of the people's business.  (Sac Bee)

Sunday
Jul252010

Sunday Evening Memos.....

* "FOOD DESERT TO FOOD OASIS", SHORTAGE OF GROCERY STORES IN LESS AFFLUENT AREAS OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY; REPORT CALLS FOR PUBLIC OFFICIALS TO TAKE THE LEAD IN ATTRACTING AND DRAWING IN THESE BUSINESSES....  From the Daily Breeze:

   Health advocates are renewing a push to open more grocery stores in poor areas of Los Angeles County, arguing market forces have failed to bring healthy choices to low-income communities.  

    A recent report by Community Health Councils and other groups calls on local lawmakers and statewide politicians to take the lead in drawing grocery stores to areas such as South Los Angeles.  "We are really trying to get all perspectives to the table," said Lark Galloway-Gilliam, executive director of the advocacy organization. "Our policymakers have to make this a top priority, and put time and resources behind this initiative."

   The report, "Food Desert to Food Oasis," suggests several incentives and policy changes to ease planning and zoning rules that industry officials say would draw more grocers to areas such as Compton, Inglewood, Hawthorne, Rancho Dominguez and Harbor City.  These low-income areas have been found to have far more fast-food restaurants and convenience stores per capita than wealthier communities, fewer full-service stores that sell fresh produce - and far higher rates of obesity, diabetes and other complications related to a poor diet.

   Five times as many residents of South Los Angeles say they must travel more than 20 minutes to find a grocery store, compared with residents of West Los Angeles, one of the wealthier regions of the county, the report found. Roughly 18 percent of all food outlets in West Los Angeles are full-service stores, compared with just 6 percent in South Los Angeles.

   The findings of the report are nothing new. Several studies over the past few years have solidified the link between ZIP code and poor health, pointing to factors such as a dearth of fresh food stores, lack of education and high unemployment.  

   In the early 1990s, the city of Los Angeles sought to increase business investment in South Los Angeles, securing agreements from three major grocery store chains to construct as many as 32 new large stores. By 1997, 16 new stores had opened and five more were in development.  Since then, however, all but a handful have closed, resulting in a net gain of just five grocery stores, advocates say.

   Currently, there are 60 full- service stores in South Los Angles for roughly 1.3 million residents. West Los Angeles, by comparison, has 57 stores serving 635,550 residents, the report found.  (DB)

*  SCHWARZENEGGER'S TENURE HOLDS WARNINGS FOR NEXT GOVERNOR.....  From Dan Walters' Sacramento Bee column today:    

With Schwarzenegger's approval rating having sunk from 70 percent to 22 percent -- thus putting  him at exactly the same level as Gray Davis when Davis was recalled -- Walters opines that it might be tempting to simply equate Schwarzenegger with Davis and let it go at that, but there are significant differences worth noting.

   Davis was easily the most risk-averse governor in modern California history. A veteran politician, he knew that governing California is problematic, so he didn't try very hard. He repaid his debts to those who helped him win the governorship in 1998 – public employee unions, especially – and shunned engagement in thorny issues he viewed as no-win scenarios.  Davis' caution backfired because he faced a couple of serious crises – an electric utility meltdown and a huge budget deficit – and dithered when he should have acted. The voting public saw him as a political coward and dumped him from office.

   Schwarzenegger is the polar opposite. Believing that his energy and celebrity would overcome California's structural obstacles to governance, he's been a champion of change, engaged in virtually every issue facing the state.  But he was wrong. The force he fancied himself to be collided with the immovable object of the Legislature and was stopped cold. And his efforts to go around the Legislature via ballot measure were only partially successful. 

   If Davis was unpopular because he tried too little, Schwarzenegger became unpopular by trying too much and falling short on his promises to remake the political landscape. But both governorships are testaments to California's deep need for reform and warnings that whoever succeeds Schwarzenegger could suffer the same ignominious fate.  (Sac Bee)

* JERRY BROWN'S COMPLEX RELATIONSHIP WITH LABOR, NOT ALWAYS A POPULAR FIGURE BUT WHERE ELSE ARE UNIONS LIKELY TO GO?  Excerpt from Sacramento Bee analysis:

   In summer 1978, 2,000 state workers rallied for a pay raise at the Capitol,  shouting "Down with Brown" and hurling boos and catcalls as then-Gov. Jerry Brown addressed them from the stage. Three months later, East Bay labor leaders refused to let Brown speak at their Labor Day picnic, and California's largest state employees group publicly opposed his re-election bid. The executive secretary of the state AFL-CIO accused Brown of "leading a lynch mob against government workers.

   This year, public employee unions  back Brown and are running separate campaigns of their own to help his latest gubernatorial bid. But in his two terms as governor and, more recently, as mayor of Oakland, Brown was not the reliable champion of labor he suggests he is today, much less the union hand depicted by Meg Whitman, the Republican nominee.........

   Like many politicians, Brown has seen his relationship with labor fluctuate, influenced less by ideology than by the state of the economy and public sentiment toward government spending.  Labor leaders today believe public employee unions will be treated better by Brown than by Whitman, and rhetoric from both campaigns supports that view. But Brown's history with public employees suggests that, if elected, he might at times disappoint them.

***Comparison to Meg Whitman:

   Brown has said his experience negotiating with employee unions would be useful if he is elected. He criticizes Whitman, the former CEO of eBay, for having no such experience.  This is one of her greatest weaknesses," Brown said. "She's never dealt with a union."

   Though she never bargained with unions, Whitman managed employees, spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said. She said Brown "is beholden to special interests that want to maintain the status quo in Sacramento and protect the lavish benefits that politicians like Jerry Brown put in place."  In addition to her attacks on Brown's ties to public employee unions, Whitman has proposed eliminating 40,000 state jobs.

   Former state Sen. David Roberti, a Los Angeles Democrat who took part in the 1979 vote to override Brown's pay hike veto, said Brown typically was "friendly with labor," but sometimes upset Democrats because he was "tighter with the dollar."  Employee unions are aware of Brown's mixed record. But, unlike Whitman, Brown is calling state employees partners, not threatening their jobs. Even if Brown isn't a sure bet for labor, Roberti said, "Where else were they going to go?"  (Sac Bee)

* "HELL'S BELLS"; 'FOR WHOM DOES THE BELL TOLL?"  ONE MORE COMMENTARY ON "THE PLUNDER OF BELL", PARTICULARLY IN THE CONTEXT OF THE $100,000 SALARIES FOR FOUR MEMBERS OF THE BELL CITY COUNCIL...  Excerpt from Sacramento Bee op-ed by Stuart Leavenworth, editorial page editor:

   How, you might ask, did Bell's City Council surreptitiously enhance salaries for themselves and others? They held a special election – a surefire way to induce slumber. Fewer than 400 voters showed up for that 2005 election to approve a change to city charter status. That change allowed the council to hike their own salaries and avoid restrictions of a state law that took effect in 2006.

   Bell's plunder is a disaster on several levels. It's a disaster for the media, which should have uncovered the council's shenanigans long ago.  It's a disaster for taxpayers. Because California pensions are based on an employee's single-highest salary, the CalPERS system may have to pay Rizzo, 56, $600,000 annually over his lifetime.

   It is also a disaster for the League of California Cities. The league is pushing a November ballot proposition that attempts to protect cities and counties from state raids on their funding. Yet if voters are agog that city officials can so easily pad their salaries in Bell and other charter cities, why would they vote for such a measure?

   At a minimum, voters in Bell should recall their City Council members as the Legislature works on a way to prevent further raids on the municipal purse.  That won't be easy. Charter cities in California enjoy special legal protections, so it might take a constitutional amendment – passed on a two-thirds vote – to build a true fire wall against future Bells. 

   That's a fight worth fighting. Similar scandals have soiled cities such as South Gate, Vernon and Lynwood.  How many Hell's Bells does California have to endure?  (Sac Bee)