There are twenty types of 911 calls LAPD no longer intends to answer. Catalytic converter theft is among them.
Fear not, in the cosplay world of political mailers we still enforce civic order in L.A. and our local candidate is a super heroine bringing the hurt to swarthy criminals lifted from the pages of Nancy Drew.
So says Valley Families for Valley Values, a/k/a LIUNA Local 300, and a quarter million dollar donation.
No candidate has been asked to describe what enforcement measure they would deploy to return law and order to the status quo of 2019. Rick Caruso and Karen Bass weren’t during the Mayoral race and the council candidates aren’t now. That’s just icky and annoying and disrespectful of the Journey We Are All On.
Well, I asked. But who answers? Isaac Kim and Douglas Sierra did. You don’t get $200K money bombs for answering sensible questions. You get the money bomb in exchange for promises to send city business to groups who cut checks.
There’s no bigger business right now in L.A. than Shantytown, Inc. Here in the slushy, swampy pleasure pits of civic contracting and million dollar hand jobs, a quiet point of contention has emerged in the CD 6 Special Election to which few are paying attention: ‘By right’ development, wonk-speak for allowing large projects that pass building code to go forward without community input. Meaning homeless housing near you, like it or not.
Marisa Alcaraz is in favor. As is the Carpenters Union, the IBEW, L.A. Federation of Labor, all of which stand to book lots of business in this way. They’re buying mailers in which Marisa poses with a katana.
She’s foxy fighting! Who’s she fighting? The special interests! Who are they? Bad people! Standing in the way of homeless housingprogress. Not Good Valley people like you, whose love for the Homeless Industrial Complex is so abundant you wouldn’t dare turn the mailer over to confirm who or what is paying for it.
To her credit Imelda murmured an encouraging observation at a recent debate. ‘By right’ hasn’t been fleshed out. No kidding. There’s an issue with teeth. She might have run on that point, really leaned into it, but she or her people went with cosplay.
There are four versions of the Super Imelda mailer and she has grown progressively sexier in each one. There’s some compensating going on.
We embrace fantasy as a cope when the answers to grubby real world problems involve close work and commitment to hard decisions and require the courage to be yelled at by obnoxious people with a vested interest in the status quo.
We love shortcuts. We are a city of enablers with too much money and a supine media. Los Angeles is a self-licking ice cream cone.
I’m thinking of a mailer from homeowners to other homeowners. It would be two words long: Had enough? The graphic would be, well pretty much any random footage from the street scape, but with a strategically placed guillotine in the background.
If only I could get someone to pay for that. Are you there, Elon? It’s me, Van Nuys.
A mere nine thousand people voted in the Special Election…as of yesterday at 10:29 pm. There is low turnout, and then there is lowwww turnout. Holy mackerel, this is what a walkaway campaign conducted by the voters looks like.
Keep in mind these are mail-in ballots. All you had to do was bubble in one name, stick it in the envelope and leave it by the door for the mailman. Ease of voting doesn’t get any lazier than this.
Less than 800 people went to the polls.
Approximately 280,000 reside in Council District 6, 118K are registered. 7.67% of that number partook.
To quote George Jones: when your phone doesn’t ring, it’ll be me.
Imelda Padilla spent in excess of $100 a vote. Marisa Alcaraz nearly that much. Marco Santana, whose IG feed was filled with astroturf images of him “campaigning” with his dog, spent $158 per ballot. Oof.
Let us not forget also the shadowy world of last-minute mailers, where campaign finance laws go to die.
Endorsements didn’t matter. Santana obtained the Times seal of approval, as well as the Stonewall Democratic Club and the League of Conservation Voters. Nithya Raman, progressive queen bee, endorsed. Jane Fonda herself recorded a personal message. In short, people who had nothing to do with District 6.
Doug Sierra was endorsed by the Daily News. He appeared on local TV news twice. I thought he might prove a sleeper candidate, but 245 votes is 245 votes.
Rose Grigoryan was the sleeper. The Armenian bloc showed up for her. She may yet edge Alcaraz for the run off. The lower the turnout, the more tribal politics are forefronted.
Another thing that didn’t matter: panderfest forums (non-debate “debates”) hosted by advocacy organizations where everyone agrees to agree the Overton window should remain right where progressives are pointing.
So what’s going on here? I’ll translate: the peasantry of the San Fernando Valley have an annoying habit of preferring order over chaos. Of wanting dedicated sales taxes to maintain roadways used for that purpose. Of not wanting to inhale meth pipe fumes on the Red Line on the commute to work. They tire of watching thieves walk out of stores with armloads of merchandise and no consequences. They tire of fixable problems being declared off-limits for discussion by rich assholes on the Westside. They have little patience for alternatives to incarceration. Their portion of the urban pie may be modest and come with rough edges, but they invest between 120-160 hours per week, per household, to maintain the finger hold they have in the city. They would prefer not seeing the equity they built at the mercy of the Pig Trough Professionals downtown. They are compassionate people, not idiots, this Silent Tribe.
Aspiring politicians who do not speak to these needs, requirements of civilization if you will -the basics- are going to be ignored. One righteously aggrieved homeowner with a megaphone could have changed this election. Seven people were fighting over the progressive lane and the rest of the playing field was wide open. Homer Simpson could have bagged 2000 votes.
Which begs the question, why didn’t I run? That’s what I’m asking myself today.
Engaging Los Angeles politics as a citizen or homeowner is to face the limits of patience. I offer a small illustrative example from the Special Election in District 6 to replace Nury Martinez:
Dakota Smith of the Times asked the candidates in a recent forum what the proper staffing level of LAPD should be. Who says we’re not talking about public safety? See, the box is being checked. Look!
In an exercise of pure conjecture, the progressives proffered fake numbers: 9700, 9200, 8500, abolition. None of it mattered. Left unaddressed was the wee inability of the LAPD currently to recruit at all. We are losing 50 officers a month to attrition. The recent Academy class was 27, a number only achieved under relaxed physical standards and lenient background screens following a billboard and online recruiting drive.
So, having installed a Soros D.A. and a Police Chief who banned the Blue Lives Matter flag from all precincts and tolerated a Mayor who literally kneeled before BLM and called them murderers, having de-criminalized theft, assault and civic disorder, having emptied the jails and closed four prisons; having incentivized miscreants to refuse handcuffs and turn any garden variety police encounter into a Jerry Springer-like throwdown for the benefit of social media, Los Angeles is discovering fewer and fewer are willing to sign up and now draws an academy class of 5’3″ single mothers and middle-aged recovered alcoholic ex-cops from the Midwest looking to put hay in the barn for retirement. Six foot 23 year olds with proper upper body strength and cardio fitness? Not so much.
In a reasonable media environment the obvious question would be, if the veterans are taking early retirement or transferring to Idaho and young, fit men are not replacing them, what policy changes do you intend to make? But our world is not reasonable and the Times does not ask. Instead the candidates are invited to play rotisserie baseball and everyone gets a pass.
So let me be the one to say it: an inverted recruitment curve is a bit like eating the seed corn. A city might get away with it for a few years, but the remorseless mathematics of scarcity take over. Los Angeles has reached the inflection point of triaging 911 calls for lack of personnel. Is the iceberg next?
Thomas Andrews, in life as in film, could have been undone by pride as the ships designer. Instead of denying the obvious to save face for a few hours, he persuaded people to board the life boats immediately, sparing hundreds of lives.
This might be a good time to ask: who is our Thomas Andrews? Where is is he? She? They? Public safety is the first obligation of the state. Without it, there is no commerce. Reduced commerce, lower tax base. Fewer stores and restaurants call into question the price point for houses. Zillow beckons. Starlink. Amazon. The frontier. The next great American metropolis may prove a virtual one, where people live on farms and trade direct to consumer beef for solar panels.
I’m an urban guy. I kind of liked my city. In 2019.
Is there no one running for office or holding a position of influence willing to acknowledge our bulkheads have been breached? Perhaps not yet five, but do we really want to put ourselves to the test?
The delightfully wonkish Doug Sierra from Sun Valley, fresh off an endorsement from the Daily News, joined me for the second in a series of interviews with the candidates vying for the CD 6 Special Election.
Are you in favor of converting the Orange Line to light rail?
It never should have been built as a bus line to begin with. We have a right-of-way on the old Pacific trolley line all the way to the Burbank Metrolink station. The problem with the Valley is everything is islands. Not enough connectivity. If we had these nodes people would use public transportation exponentially more. I don’t understand why they didn’t extend the Red Line all the way to Panorama or North Hills.
I agree. I grew up in Sun Valley and looking at the map you wonder why does it stop there? If you keep going up Lankershim you reach the NoHo West mixed use development… After that it’s all service worker neighborhoods. Public transit people.
Right, and Metro doesn’t even talk about it, and I’m like ‘hey the Red Line is not finished.” If elected that’s something I would like to address. Unfortunately those decisions are made at the county level. What explanations, if any, have been given?
Tunneling being cost-prohibitive. But those were the same issues effecting the Wilshire line, and we’re building that. But again, it’s the same story. The Westside gets priority for these heavy infrastructure projects. In terms of transportation and the sales tax would you reallocate money from the Metro system towards greater roadway capacity?
From my research its more cost effective to build trains than expanding freeways one lane.
The Sepulveda pass is a great example of where we spent billions for very little. I was commuting to UCLA at that time and the marginal utility for an extra lane is not that great.
The one thing I want to emphasize is, and I strongly believe this though I can’t prove it, when it comes to these half cent taxes, the Valley is not getting its fair share. We’re basically subsidizing L.A.’s transportation infrastructure.
Shifting to homelessness, does someone have the right to get off the bus, pitch a tent on the sidewalk, declare residency and begin collecting county benefits?
According to our legal system, yes. That’s one of things I try to explain to people as to why the problem is so bad, it’s because we’re importing this problem from the states. Places like Michigan can just ship em here. They actually brag about it: “we don’t have a homeless problem,” then give them a bus ticket and send them to us. The warm weather and services we provide encourages it. This is a national problem and we are the recipient of a burden. We need federal dollars. There’s been talk of sending them to the Antelope Valley. Obviously they don’t want them. So the question is: does the buck stop with us? If we are taking the brunt of the homeless we need federal and state dollars. We don’t have the capacity at the city council level to contend with it. Then there’s the Homeless Industrial Complex… Thank you for using that expression. It needs to be applied more often.
I’ll give an example, and I’m for building as a solution, but there’s an apartment building they did in Sylmar, $700K per room. I could have bought an entire house for that price and housed five people. This is where my business acumen comes in. I can read a financial statement. I can audit. My opponents can’t. They haven’t worked in the corporate world, except for Isaac. This is where I can bring that voice to City Hall. For the last three or four years people have been living under the assumption the printing presses are going to keep running forever and that worries me. No one is thinking about deficits.
In terms of enforcement, we have a lot of carrots for people living on the street but no sticks. As an example, we built Tiny Home Villages that are not being utilized. Would you compel people to accept shelter and how would you do it?
Right. So I’m more on the caring side. If you want to completely eliminate the problem there has to be a stick side, I’m not sure what it would be but
I would use the example of what Traci Park is doing in district 11. I don’t want to enforce 41.18 unless we are offering housing. In that case all you are doing is playing whack a mole with human life.
My understanding of what they are doing in Venice is mostly carrot based, as you put it. They were able to clear encampments that had been occupied for years. That is a model I want to look at closely to see if it would work for CD6. It has worked in the hundreds. Obviously we are dealing citywide with tens of thousands, but it gives me hope. Do you support a ban on sleeping or drug consumption on the Metro system?
So this goes hand in hand with another program. Passenger fares only account for only 5% of Metro revenues. So it almost makes sense to have free fares for everyone. But if you can’t make Metro attractive and safe for working class people then that’s probably a bigger deterrent than fares. Right now, a lot of our police are doing fare enforcement. If we had social workers on the trains flagging behaviors -a line has to be crossed- if someone is exposing their genitals or defecating, at some point when you do nothing the riders get frustrated and say ‘screw this, I tried it for a month.’ At that point is not about the money. Picture a hypothetical street person, no shoes or shirt, standing in the street screaming at cars, doesn’t have a weapon but has a crowbar, not accosting anyone physically, but clearly deranged, do you send a psychological outreach team or the police?
In that hypothetical with the crowbar its one wrong turn from injuring somebody. If you send CIRCLE teams and they get injured you just sent a message to the social workers and first responders you are not safe and that doesn’t make sense for anyone. I know people have suggested eliminating the police but that doesn’t work in the real world. Back to your hypothetical if there’s no crowbar you can send a psych team in an integrated system where the police are a block away and can be summoned at the press of a button if needed. Moving on to economic development… This is where I can make the most impact. Unfortunately the city gets in the way of businesses. I’ll give you an example:
the al fresco dining program saved a lot of restaurants during the pandemic. There is almost no downside to al fresco and businesses spent $10-20K in infrastructure to be in compliance. Now the City is telling businesses they have to pay $10-50K in fees and they may or may not get permanent approval. If you are a business owner who nets maybe $3K a month after expenses thats super cost prohibitive.
So someone may have taken a loan for the al fresco program and now you are telling them it sucks to be you. This is where I feel people in city hall have never worked outside of government and it shows. There’s a taco restaurant in Panorama where someone has placed a taco cart in front of his establishment and when the owner asked him to move he was told he couldn’t because rival vendors have claimed the other spots, and he will be harassed and there is this mafia thing going on. So now the business owner wants a wine permit because he can’t compete in the taco market anymore. He’s drafted plans, he ready to invest $20K and the city is very draconian about that. He has to pay $10K just for them to look at it and there’s no guarantee of a yes or no. You want to invest in a business but you can’t because you are not sure how the city reacts. Do I have to curry favors with politician? Thats one thing I want to address immediately. Creating transparent processes. No one jumps the line. We want to encourage innovation and investment. Looking at the shape of the race, you have six fairly liberal people, Antoinette being the DSA lane, the three establishment candidates being in the middle. Where do you place yourself in this arrangement?
I think a linear left-to-right axis doesn’t cover enough. I consider myself a progressive capitalist. But too much progressiveness gets in the way of common sense.
Bigger than the difference between how progressive or un-progressive we are, is the difference between Imelda, Marco and Marisa, the three establishment candidates, and the non-establishment ones. Those are the lanes. Establishment and non-establishment.
Isaac, Antoinette, and I are not politicians. I see that as a much bigger difference. So you would be opposed to de-funding the police?
Oh, yeah. I’ve said this publicly. Totally opposed to defunding. In Sun Valley, where I grew up, historically a bad neighborhood, when you hear the police sirens you know the cavalry is coming. They are welcome. I’m not in favor of lowering staffing.
You’re very much the immigrant success story, parents coming from El Salvador, and you making it to UCLA and Berkeley in one generation…
Yeah, so my parents lost their house in the mid-90s and then they split up and both remarried, 11 children in all. Fortunately my mother was able to buy a new house in 2000 despite working a low wage job, which is where I live now, with my wife and three kids. That’s one of the frustrations of Millennials and Gen Z. Home ownership is way out of reach. My mom was able to buy working two dollars over minimum wage. No one can do that now. She built an ADU and she lives there and my wife and I and our kids live in the house. My b-school classmates all live in Playa Vista. I’m at Deloitte, and I can work virtual out of anywhere. If elected I would be the first Councilmember of Salvadorean lineage. Imelda worked for Nury and Marisa has been endorsed by Nury’s old rival Cindy Montanez. Are they representing two different factions in the political machine?
Imelda is definitely inheriting Nury’s place. Marisa place is more of a bilateral one. She works for Curren Price, so she’s part of the Los Angeles political machine, mixed with the remnants of the old Richard Alarcon Valley machine. I’m part of no machine, so I’m not sure who’s who, but I know there are rival factions. Should voters look at Imelda as Nury’s mini-me, or is that unfair?
That’s up to the voters to decide. If the tape never leaked and Nury were to serve her term, I would bet my house that Nury would be supporting her in the next election. Thats a very diplomatic answer. In a couple weeks we are all going to be buried alive in mailers. What is your plan for counteracting that as a non-establishment candidate?
Yeah, it’s going to be tough. It’s going to take canvassing. Here I’ll lump myself in with Isaac and Antoinette. The challenge we have with resources, and I’ve been quoted in the Times on this,
L.A. has become a modern day Tammany Hall. What I’m asking voters is: ‘here are your three establishment candidates, now take a look at the three people not connected to any machine’.
People are tired of business as usual. If you keep voting for the same type of politician, don’t be surprised you get a different result. Look past the mailers. Look for someone who isn’t part of the Homeless Industrial Complex, look for someone who hasn’t been affiliated with someone who has been (indicted vs. investigate) by the FBI [as part of the Huizar scandal]. When you have a multi-headed monster and you hack off one head and the others are still there, the best way to get rid of it is to pull it root and stem. I offer that opportunity. It’s a one and half year term. Give me a chance. If it doesn’t work out, you can get rid of me.
The special election to replace La Nury is in full swing and UpintheValley has reached out to all the campaigns. First to respond is Issac Kim, small business owner, Columbia University graduate, political first-timer, and as it turns out, a neighbor. He joined me at MacLeod for some cheerful talk about purpose-driven politics. Isaac is relentlessly cheerful. We got substantive and he was open about the evolution of his thinking and the elusiveness of certainty in policy questions.
What has surprised you the most so far?
The importance of fundraising. How many people have you heard say “if I were on the council I would do this and I would do that,” but no one actually steps up. No one does it. Now that I am running I understand why. I thought with the short four month window it wouldn’t be as important. But I’ve been blessed to have a lot of volunteers of successful campaigns including from Kenneth Mejias campaign for instance. They came up with the logo of the phoenix encapsulating the rebirth of our district, a fresh start. I don’t want to be for just Asian people.
I want to gain the trust of our community by doing the small things right.
That’s one that rarely gets attended to because the districts are so big.
I would love to expand the number of council seats. To be honest its very hard for one person to help 200-300,000 people, let alone fight corruption. If you could give us your three policy objectives.
My three tiered platform is to redefine the role of council member. To be less political, more of a good and helpful neighbor. The second would be to regain the trust of the community. That’s as simple as having a virtual town hall once a week. Where people don’t want to use the Windows 95 service portal, or their emails aren’t getting a response, they can log in on Thursday evening and speak directly to me about their issues and I will be honest with them. To be clear, a weekly availability to the constituents online?
Yes. The third thing would be to restore the health and well being of the district, that everything from public transportation to climate. If you look around the district, the majority of bus stops don’t have shade. People who take the bus are more vulnerable, frequently older. We can put some shades up at bus stops for them. That’s a low bar. We also should subsidize Wi/FI accessibility for low income people. Do you support ending the eviction moratorium?
A tough one. I did support the one that just passed, in terms of extending it a bit further. But it can’t go on forever. This is the last warning, the last buffer. Its a band aid solution for a lot of people who might have been in trouble. Does someone have the right to get off the bus from Ohio, pitch a tent on the sidewalk, declare residency, start collecting county benefits?
Another tough one. I would have to say yes, but only because I don’t think homelessness is a crime. There may be one off cases, but no one really want to be on the streets. Or they are just different. For the vast, vast majority, they don’t want to be there. Even if they say differently in the moment. Or they tried getting services before and the system let them down. Those might be the people saying they are refusing help at this exact moment. In general no one wants to be on the streets. We built Tiny Home Villages to be compliant with the Boise decision. But they are not being utilized. Can we compel any homeless camper within half a mile radius to accept shelter?
Yes. I would do everything we can to compel them short of forcing them. If carrots aren’t working, what is the stick?
I just don’t think we can force someone into something they just don’t want. On the other other hand there are situations, troublemakers, people doing something totally illegal or causing a lot of trouble . I don’t think you’re going to get them into a tiny home. The more realistic situation is they are taken to a program, a clinic, some mental health facility.
Do you support care courts? The parallel legal system for mental health?
I would have to look into the specifics of that. Theres a local measure to ban sleeping or drug consumption on the Metro system.
I definitely support no drugs or sleeping. I believe the police budget just for the Metro is more than the Metro’s revenue so if they are not enforcing that, if that still an issue, we need to revise that whole budget because its not working. On the issue of crime. Shoplifting up to $950 being de facto legal…
Wow. I didn’t know that. I’ll be honest that is something I never thought of. They go into stores and fill their carts and security lets them walk out. You can’t call the police, they no longer enforce misdemeanors. Would you lower the felony trigger to say, $100?
Yes. Definitely. You can’t stay in business and take a thousand dollar loss every day. We need to set a precedent. People can’t always think that is always okay. That they will always get away with that. It’s a fine balance. We can’t have public safety without the public’s trust. Whether its the police, or whoever it is. we all have to act with reasonability. And if something is unreasonable, like stealing at that level we need to confront that. That will also increase the public’s trust. What is your response to people who would say you are supporting the police, the carceral state. It’s crypto-racist…
I have friends who are cops. They are good people. Do we have shitty examples of bad policing? Definitely. The phrase “de-funding the police” is terrible marketing. I hate even saying the words. I’m not about either expanding or retracting the budget. Like any business, the budget needs a review. A real business will do that to find efficiencies. People like Antoinette Scully want to de-fund.
If you really think you are going to defund the police in the next five years, you’re crazy.
If that’s the headline, is that going to hurt you?
Maybe. But it’s the truth. For people who are reasonable and logical are like: “that’s not happening, that’s not realistic.” Unchallenged rhetoric can have a discretionary effect on policing even if the laws remain the same. Police can just stop enforcing things.
Yes, but I think a lot people who were saying defund the police have changed their rhetoric. For example Eunisses Hernandez, who used to be an abolitionist. She’s changed to lets re-invest. Lets reimagine. Let’s pretend there is a guy standing in the street with his shopping cart, no shirt, no shoes, speaking in tongues, holding a crowbar, blocking traffic. Do you think it’s viable to send a psychological team, rather than the police? Unarmed officials without handcuffs or police powers?
A crowbar could be a weapon, so no. If there is nothing in his hand, then yes. This is one of those things that is discretionary. I’m not saying in all situations don’t send guns.
Looking at the candidates, I see six people sharing the progressive lane, broadly defined. The person who claims the angry homeowner lane is going to take a big chunk of the vote by default. The public is tired of being scorned for expressing normal impulses about disorder.
I understand that. That’s a fair feeling. I think a lot of people do. I see an opportunity for someone who wants to go down that road. But I don’t want to influence you. (laughter)
I think a lot of my stances are semi-geared towards that, but at the same time not. What has surprised me as well is having to re-examine and come to understand what my views really are. Is there anything you’ve changed your mind on since getting in the race?
This might bite me in the butt but I put my foot down on (Ordinance) 41.18. The tag line being homeless people can’t be within 500 feet of the school. Of course its much more overarching than that, but thats what sounds really bad, if you explain it that way. Are you in favor or opposed?
As written now, it’s not allowed. I would actually repeal and replace 41.18, and this is the biggest surprise to myself as well.
I’ve been yelled at by both sides, including my parents, but to be honest, at the end of the day I don’t believe Jesus would kick homeless people off the streets because they are 500 feet from a school.
At the end of the day the data doesn’t support that there is necessarily so much violence and terrible things happening to children due to proximity of encampments. I’ll be honest, it’s the hardest choice I’ve had to make. Los Angeles has had a very fossilized politics for decades. Suddenly this year a DSA breakthrough in the party machine: Hernandez, Hugo Soto-Martinez, and Kenneth Mejia. My question is: are we going Venezuela?
No. I would not say so. What is the reassurance to the middle of the road voter who is wondering what the hell is going on? Why doesn’t it matter that DSA people are winning?
Why doesn’t it matter? For starters I don’t consider myself DSA at all. I’m a small business owner. Walking into some of these union endorsements, I’m like, “well I’m not getting this one. I’m walking into hostile territory but I’m here.” The left and the right, it’s just emotional. You say one thing that might make sense and they hate you for being you. I thought I was a moderate Democrat, but when I reflect on it issue by issue it turns out I’m positioned as progressive, and to be fair, that sort of comes as as surprise to me. It’s a process of self-discovery. We need to chill the f— out. Build relationships. Talk to people who don’t agree with you. You might surprise yourself. That’s the attitude we all need to move toward, especially now.