Betrayal in the Council District 4 Race • One Person’s Opinion

Betrayal in the Council District 4 Race
One Person’s Opinion

by James O’Sullivan, MMRA President

In the Western classic, One Eyed Jacks (1961), starring Marlon Brando and Karl Malden, one line really jumped off the screen and has stuck with me over the years. Early in the movie Malden’s character betrays Brando’s character, resulting in hard time in a Mexican prison for Brando and riches for Malden. Five years later, Brando escapes and goes after Malden – who has used his wealth to become sheriff of Monterey California. In the twists and turns that follow, a violent confrontation takes place between Brando and Malden. Malden uses his position as sheriff to frame Brando and have him locked up. Knowing that Brando’s character will be hanged in two days, Malden has one last private talk with him and attempts to excuse his earlier betrayal, to which Brando replies: “You may be a one-eyed jack around here, but I’ve seen the other side of your face.”

To me this line encapsulates the age-old story of betrayal.

In real life betrayal is rarely that clear cut or dramatic, but sometimes it’s close. What follows is my reflection as the author of the Transparency Pledge signed by 12 of the Council District 4 candidates.

On Monday, March 16th, a whole bunch of us trooped down to City Hall for a hearing on the Academy Museum and event center project (at the former May Co. at Fairfax and Wilshire). This project has caused great concern in the community and we were there to make sure our voices were heard.

To the great dismay of members of the Miracle Mile Residential Association (MMRA) who were in attendance, Carolyn Ramsay arrived and promptly set about expounding on how wonderful the project would be and completely cut the legs out from under all the neighbors who had just testified.

It was like we had not been there, that we were invisible. Among other things, she stated that “the Miracle Mile went from kind of a – there were tumbleweeds blowing down Wilshire 20 years ago. There was nothing happening. And now it has really blossomed.”

Yes, she said tumbleweeds – you can’t make this stuff up.

She also said she was happy to see that the Academy was working so closely with the neighborhood. Now, maybe she meant the business types or film buffs from all over L.A. who showed up to testify in favor of the museum, because she could not have been talking about those of us who live within a few blocks of the project.

She closed her statement with how it is important that the Academy listen carefully to the community and that they’ve done this so far. Again, I’m not sure what “community” she is talking about.

Carolyn’s cheerleading for the Academy Museum and event center was just after the Vice Presidents of the MMRA and I had described our fears about traffic, neighborhood intrusion, parking issues, the sign district, and other infrastructure problems. Representatives of Carthay Circle Homeowners and Beverly Wilshire Homes also had voiced similar concerns. Words like fearfulstrikes fear, and terrified peppered the testimony from those living closest to the project.

Yet, Carolyn didn’t offer the slightest acknowledgement of the community’s concerns as she gushed over the Academy Museum and event center. It was clear that she had given no consideration to the residents most impacted by this project. Her blind endorsement of the project could only be explained in one of several ways: Either she is oblivious to the issues voiced by the community or she will support big development no matter what the consequences to the neighborhood.

I have known Carolyn for a long time and never in my wildest imagination did I suspect she would so completely turn her back on the community. I had just witnessed another side of Carolyn Ramsay.

Given that Carolyn is presenting herself as a champion for our neighborhoods and as the candidate who will work for the community and hold City Hall accountable, I found her assessment of the Academy Museum and event center project beyond flawed.

But this was one of the reasons why I developed the Candidate Transparency Pledge. I wanted a document that spelled out how they would go about making decision on land use matters and more. I wanted to be able to hold their feet to the fire and in my opinion, as its author, Carolyn had just violated the pledge. She signed a document saying– among other things – that she would base her decisions on policies as outlined in the General Plan and require that the City officially document and demonstrate that there is sufficient infrastructure to support new development.

We all know what is happening with infrastructure in this City. Some of it is visible like crumbling streets, buckled sidewalks, and untrimmed trees – while some things like cracked water and sewer pipes, as well as aging power systems are not.

New development requires all kinds of infrastructure to support its use. Some issues like our water supply scream from the headlines every day and we know we have to make do with less, not more. So the pledge was to ensure that new development not overburden the infrastructure for the residents and businesses in the neighborhoods.

Maybe Carolyn believes that because she hasn’t been elected yet that the pledge doesn’t count. Well, in my world you either protect neighborhoods because it is the right thing to do or you do not.

If Carolyn could be so cavalier about a project with such serious impacts to the neighborhood how could we ever trust her to advocate for us on anything? I have concluded that I, for one, can’t. Carolyn can get all the endorsements in the world saying she is a protector of neighborhoods, but actions speak much louder than words. Unfortunately, her action at the hearing demonstrated that she is all about “business as usual.”

On the way back from the hearing, I was asked why I thought she did it – why she showed up to speak about a project that has the potential to be catastrophic to the neighborhoods surrounding it? I could only answer that I believed it was a command performance, one she felt she could not ignore. What a shame.

The Miracle Mile is not the only neighborhood with huge projects on the drawing board. Sherman Oaks has the Sunkist building expansion; Hollywood has 8150 Sunset Blvd.; Windsor Square/Hancock Park has the CIM Group Park Mile Specific Plan project; and those are just a few off the top of my head. All require sufficient infrastructure including public safety and mitigation against traffic intrusion into their neighborhoods.

All of us need and deserve more than business as usual!

For additional information:

Council District 4 Candidate Transparency Pledge

Pin the Tail on the Donkey (The CD 4 Council Election) • A Message from James O’Sullivan, MMRA President

Pin the Tail on the Donkey

(The CD 4 Council election)

A message from James O’Sullivan, MMRA President

Back in 2011–2012, when redistricting was underway, many of us were scrambling to figure out how the boundaries of the new city council districts would be drawn. That was especially true for many of us in Council District 4. The original redistricting proposal had many of the older Wilshire corridor neighborhoods from the Miracle Mile to Hancock Park in CD 5, but the map quickly morphed again into what it is today: A convoluted carpet stain that meanders from the Miracle Mile and Hancock Park to Sherman Oaks via the Hollywood Hills with side stops in Silverlake and Toluca Lake. It is the byproduct of City Hall sausage making at its worst.

So, now that it’s time to elect a new CD4 council member we are scrambling once again to figure out how to select someone to represent a district with such far flung neighborhoods. Some issues are universal, but the complexity of CD 4 with its many different community plans will present a daunting task for the next council member. Whoever is elected will have to hit the ground running on day one and, frankly, if they need a “learning curve” their education will occur while dodging incoming rounds. CD 4 is a battlefield of angry voters who are beyond frustration with City Hall.


Council District 4. Click on map to enlarge.

 

I have attended four-and-counting debates trying to determine what each candidate brings to the table. We have community activists (some who have worked for the City and some who haven’t), several candidates who have worked in County or State government, and a couple that I can’t quite figure out yet.

So far the debates have been interesting, but they are set pieces that have done little to help voters evaluate who would be the best person to replace Tom LaBonge. After the first debate all the candidates start sounding alike – particularly given their habit of  “borrowing” the best lines from their competitors.

By design, the debate format is too constrained to be little more than a regurgitation of bullet points that create in the viewer a sensation akin to Attention Deficit Disorder. At best, debates provide candidates an opportunity to make a first impression, which is helpful – but not particularly telling because candidates tend to be very skilled at making first impressions. But debates are woefully lacking in supplying substantive information that voters need to make a truly informed decision. And often debates send people home with more misinformation than real information. The hard truth is there are certain things a council member can do on their own and many other things that require the compliance of the full council (and as a result are practically impossible to achieve). The lines between these two points are so blurred at some debates that candidates can promise anything and not get called on it.

As they are currently configured debates do not work ­– imagine a bookstore that only sold book covers. It’s a fool’s errand to buy a book solely based on the author’s photo or the typeset of the title. We need a more intelligent and rational way to evaluate candidates, especially when we have an open seat with 14 candidates.

The Council District 5 Homeowners Coalition has devised a method of reviewing candidates and their positions that is worthy of replicating here in CD 4. It starts early in the campaign process: Candidates for every City office are asked the same set of questions and graded on a sliding scale based on their answers. The answers are posted without a recommendation, but the grading system leaves little doubt about who answered the questions and who did not. They also hold recorded debates that include detailed follow up questions.

The primary election for a new CD 4 councilmember is coming to an end, but it is past time for the community groups in our district to form our own coalition to help our residents make truly informed decisions about future candidates seeking City offices. The MMRA is committed to joining with other residential and homeowner associations in organizing the Council District 4 Community Coalition; not only to help better educate voters, but also to serve as a lobbying force for the many issues our communities share in common.

But where does that leave us right now – with so many candidates and so many questions unanswered? We have been a day late and dollar short on getting serious looks at the candidates in the primary, but that will not be the case in the runoff. (And it is the clear consensus that there will be a runoff.) The MMRA will produce video interviews with the remaining two candidates, which will comprehensively address issues relevant to the residents of the Miracle Mile and to CD 4 as a whole. We promise to give you the information and insight you need to make a well-educated decision in the runoff election. And if a runoff candidate declines to participate in these interviews, we’ll let you know and you can factor that into your decision.

In the small comfort category: I was so disturbed by what I saw at the early debates that I devised a transparency pledge and asked each candidate to sign it. Twelve of the 14 candidates have signed it and we will see who keeps their word once they are in office. But make no mistake, everyone is watching. And whomever wins will be sitting in a chair with a built in ejector should they prove to be ineffective or tone deaf to the needs of CD 4. You know folks are riled up when they are already talking recall before the election even takes place. It is a sign of the times.

The Council District 4 Candidate Transparency Pledge

Council District 4 Candidate Transparency Pledge

In the January 2015 newsletter MMRA President James O’Sullivan wrote in “Council District 4 Players Guide” of the frustrations residents encounter with the opacity of council offices. The strong response the article generated from community activists and residential and homeowners groups throughout the city inspired Jim to create a “transparency pledge” [see below] that was distributed to all the candidates for Council District 4.

To date the following candidates have signed the pledge:

Tara Bannister

Jay Beeber

Teddy Davis

Sheila Irani

Wally Knox

Fred Mariscal

Tomas O’Grady

Joan Pelico

Carolyn Ramsay

David E. Ryu

  Rostom Sarkissian

Steve Veres

•••

These candidates have yet to sign the pledge:

Michael Schaefer

Step Jones

•••

The pledge:

TO: The Council District 4 Candidates

FROM: James O’Sullivan, President

Miracle Mile Residential Association

DATE: January 17, 2015

Dear Candidate:

Hopefully, as you travel around the different neighborhoods that make up

Council District 4, you are hearing of the many issues that are impacting

residents and businesses. There are some issues that you can resolve on

your own – and many more that will require the support of other council

members.

Some of these matters are relatively simple, while others are much more

complex – but there is one action you can take immediately upon your

election that will go a long way to correcting many of the problems we face

in our various neighborhoods. You can throw open the windows in your

new office and let in fresh air and sunshine. For far too long the Council

Districts have been run as absolute fiefdoms. Much of what goes on in the

Council offices remains secret and off limits to the residents and businesses

that the Councilmembers are supposed to be serving. This process did not

begin with you – but it must end with you.

Recently, City Controller Ron Galperin initiated “Control Panel,” an online

source of information about expenditures, revenues, payroll, special funds

and other data. A similar system could be utilized to achieve transparency

in the Council office.

All of you are trying to carefully parse your answers regarding contributions

from real estate developers, but the real issue has to do with access to the

Council office coupled with the frequent disregard for the policies

contained in the Community Plans and Framework Element that are

expressly designed to guide your decisions.

Time and time again, we have been forced to defend our neighborhoods

through legal actions when the City disregards these plans to our detriment.

We will no longer accept vague promises and slaps on the back. It is long

past time to level the playing field. This is why each candidate must commit

themselves to complete transparency in all their actions as our

Councilmember.

We, the voters of Council District 4, must know exactly where you stand on

these critical matters when we head to the polls on March 3rd. So, I

respectfully request that you endorse this pledge:

I ____________________________ candidate for the office of

Councilmember for Council District 4, pledge to:

 Immediately disclose whenever my office is approached about a

development project in CD 4, whether by the developer or any person

or group representing the developer. This information will be posted

on my Council office website. Neighborhood Councils and other

groups (homeowners/residential/business) in the area of the project

will be promptly notified to check for information on this website.

 Follow up meetings with me or any of my staff regarding the project

will also be posted.

 Immediately post any changes contemplated in CD 4 by any City

Department that would make changes to the Community Plans, i.e.

Bike Plan, Mobility Element, and Recode LA. Too often the majority

of stakeholders receive no advanced notice of these changes.

 Faithfully follow the policies for decision makers as outlined in each

Community Plan in CD 4, as well as Policy 3.3.2 of the Framework

Element.

 Require the City to officially document and demonstrate that the

infrastructure in the area of any contemplated project (requiring

discretionary approval) will not be threatened in relation to user

needs. This would include particularly critical services, such as water

and sewerage, as well as public schools, police and fire services, and

transportation infrastructure.

Candidate Signature: __________________________________

Date: _______________________________

MMRA to Produce YouTube Interviews of CD4 Candidates

 

 

MMRA to Produce YouTube Interviews of Council District 4 Candidates

The race for Council District 4 is quickly shaping up to be the most contested open seat election in the city. Currently, there are 14 candidates running to replace Councilmember Tom LaBonge, who represents Council District 4 – a district that stretches from the Miracle Mile to Sherman Oaks [see map]. LaBonge has served on the council since 2001 and will be termed out in 2015.

The battle to represent one of the most influential districts in the city is attracting a broad range of candidates from City Hall insiders to complete unknowns – all who are vying to emerge on top in the March 3, 2015 general election.

Over the past two years, the Miracle Mile Residential Association has invested in social, online, and digital media to enhance and expand our ongoing commitment to community outreach. Our website, monthly emailnewsletter, and our MMRA Channel on YouTube have provided us with platforms to effectively communicate not only with the residents of the Miracle Mile, but with the city at large.

In the process of becoming a “digital” residential association we have witnessed first hand how good communication fosters engagement. It is in this spirit that the MMRA has decided to produce a series of video interviews with all of the candidates for Council District 4. Although traditional debates have their value, we want to provide an opportunity for voters to get to know each candidate in a “one on one” interview where their remarks are not hamstrung by the formal time constraints of a debate. This interview format will allow more “elbow room” for follow up questions and responses.

Ken Hixon, MMRA Vice President and Director of Communications, will conduct the interviews, which will be approximately 20 to 30 minutes in length and will cover topics relevant to both the Miracle Mile and Council District 4.

To date 12 candidates have committed to participating in this project:

Jay Beeber
Teddy Davis
Sheila Irani
Step Jones
Wally Knox
Fred Mariscal
Joan Pelico
John Nelson Perron, Jr.
Carolyn Ramsay
David Ryu
Steve Veres
Oscar Winslow

We are waiting for replies from:

Tera Bannister
Tomas O’Grady

 
The MMRA is a non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to providing a fair and open forum for the candidates to express their positions on a variety of issues to the residents of Council District 4. If there are questions or issues that you would like the candidates to respond to, please send your suggestions to: