5 things: Double politics, fake quake news, bike lane rage

marvista-lane-sign.jpgDispleasure on Venice Boulevard. LA Observed photo.

1. KCRW doubles down
LRC-logo.jpgKCRW's long-running Friday afternoon political discussion show, "Left, Right & Center," is responding to these hyper-political times by expanding to an hour. It has been 30 minutes for as long as I can remember. (LR&C debuted in 1996.) The longer version debuts July 7. In case you haven't caught the show in a while, the current lineup is Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, on the left; Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, on the right; and Josh Barro of Business Insider and MSNBC as the moderator.

"LRC is one of KCRW’s most popular shows, on air and as a podcast, which shows that now is the time to double our efforts – and the time we spend – on this critical exchange,” KCRW program director Gary Scott says. “After hitting an all-time high of almost one million podcast downloads last May, we knew this was a conversation that required more air time."

2. Fake quake news
fakequake-grab.jpgThe email bulletin from USGS that landed late this afternoon was frightening: A 6.8 magnitude earthquake in the ocean just off Santa Barbara. I knew that a quake of about that size had devastated Santa Barbara in the 1920s and that much of the Spanish-ish style downtown along State Street dates to the post-quake rebuild. The "new" Santa Barbara became the model for Westwood Village in Los Angeles. A quick scan of Twitter found no one in Santa Barbara buzzing about a quake. Hmm. That could either be good news or very, very bad news — 6.8 is plenty of quake to knock a town off the grid for a time.

A closer look at the USGS alert, though, showed the date was June 29, not today. The year was 2025. A message from the future, perhaps? Turns out that the bulletin was sent in error — the explanation given is that a staffer was updating the web entry for the real 1925 quake and that a fresh bulletin was triggered. Oops! A correction followed — but not before some websites, and the Los Angeles Times news blog L.A. Now, posted the non-news. The LAT, remember, likes to auto-post quake news directly off USGS alerts without any confirmations or human reporting. Sometimes that gets the news on minor quakes up on line a few seconds earlier, and sometimes they get burned. Like today.

3. A new podcast from LA
wartzman-bottom-line.pngYes, podcasts are all the rage for journalists these days. The latest to jump in is Rick Wartzman, director of the Drucker Institute and the former Los Angeles Times business editor. The Bottom Line debuts Thursday. Wartzman is the host and the podcast is produced by Capital and Main, the labor-oriented investigative site based in LA.

"The Bottom Line puts a spotlight on companies that are advancing social progress—and those that aren’t," the flackage reads. "By engaging in lively conversation with top executives and other experts, Wartzman draws out insights into some of the most pressing issues of our time—all through the lens of what is arguably the most powerful institution in our country: business."

4. Road Reconfiguration Rage in Mar Vista
Thumbnail image for marvista-lane-rider.jpgWestside councilman Mike Bonin has a new political problem on his hands. The community of Mar Vista, and commuters on jammed Venice Boulevard, aren't universally happy that Bonin and Mayor Garcetti's Great Streets program restriped Venice through the Mar Vista business district to create curbside bike lanes and take away a driving lane in both directions. Bonin has been flooded with angry calls and emails, and The Argonaut covers a boisterous Mar Vista Community Council meeting and early chatter about a recall effort against Bonin. The bike lane has its fans for sure. That group used to include Demetrios Mavromichalis, the owner of Venice Grind Coffee House, new restaurant The Mar Vista — and the storefront (now Lucie's Ice Cream) where Bonin had his own election campaign headquarters.

“We were excited about [the bike lanes and new mid-block crosswalk.] We thought it would bring more energy to the boulevard,” Mavromichalis tells the Argonaut. But business is down. “I think the changes were implemented too fast. This is an experiment at our expense.” In an email to a ticked-off constituent, Bonin says "I have said from the start, this is a pilot project, and it is not final," but he insists there is substantial support out there.

"Neighbors and parents with children have approached me at the Farmers Market or the local coffee shop, raving about how much safer the street is, and saying they have barely noticed any traffic impacts. Others have posted on social media claiming significant traffic impacts. LADOT, my team, and I are listening to all of the feedback — and we will be closely monitoring actual data on traffic and safety. And, of course, as a Mar Vista resident who uses Venice Boulevard daily, I will continue to observe first-hand."

5. Speaking of City Councilmen
Thumbnail image for gary-friedman-endeavour-gl.jpgI saw ex-Councilman Tom LaBonge this week at the funeral for Gary Friedman, a much-loved former Los Angeles Times photojournalist who died last week at age 62. LaBonge, who is also a photographer, and Friedman were good friends apparently. LaBonge served as a pallbearer and gave a heartfelt eulogy — without the official City Hall proclamation he would have surely brought if he were still in office, and sans pumpkin bread. The standing-room only crowd at the Universal Chung Wah funeral home in Alhambra included Times editor-publisher Davan Maharaj, former publisher Eddy Hartenstein, columnist Steve Lopez and many of the print photojournalists who shoot in Los Angeles. Credit LaBonge with the biggest laugh line, quipping that "Gary Friedman had more energy than the DWP ever had."

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