Bill Boyarsky page at LA Observed

LA Observed columnist Bill Boyarsky retired from the Los Angeles Times after serving as national political writer, City-County Bureau chief, city editor and columnist. A former vice president of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, he lectures in journalism at the USC Annenberg School for Communications and writes columns for the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and He is the author of several books including "California’s Big Daddy: Jesse Unruh, Power Politics" and the "Art of the Possible," published by University of California Press. He lives in Westwood. Email

You can read his latest columns at the Bill Boyarsky blog on LA Observed. His full archive is below.

As explained by a team of Los Angeles Times Community News reporters, Senate Bill 50 touches the sanctity of a home and the independence of local officials by allowing high rise apartments next to single family dwellings. Nowhere is this clearer than in the Orange County suburbs explored by the reporters.
I drove into the Spectrum News 1 headquarters parking lot Monday, a day after the cable news channel had won four Los Angeles Press Club awards for its coverage of local news. It was a notable accomplishment for a journalistic operation that been in the crowded L.A. media scene for just over a year.
Mayor Eric Garcetti was in a philosophical mood at lunch Wednesday.
Crosstown, a non-profit news organization run out of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, is a fascinating effort to improve L.A., neighborhood by neighborhood, with data, computer science, mapping and journalistic curiosity.
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger shares mixed feelings of many officials as they contemplate public reaction to growing number of homeless on the streets
Larry Mantle, host of KPCC's AirTalk, expressed the frustration of almost everyone dealing with homelessness when he interviewed City Controller Ron Galperin: "Trying to get one's arm around this thing, very challenging, Ron."
One of the most interesting moments in Sewell Chan's talk to Los Angeles Times alums was prompted by a question from Bob Rawitch, a retired Times editor who had been responsible for suburban news coverage.
Amid the fuss about the private outside lawyers hired by City Atty. Mike Feuer to litigate a big case, I wonder why there wasn't anyone among his office's more than 500 lawyers who could do the work at city pay.
City Atty. Mike Feuer was his usual knowledgeable self as he explained what he'd been doing to combat Los Angeles' seemingly incurable affliction of homelessness.
I don't want to let Mayor Eric Garcetti off the hook but in confronting homelessness, he is dealing with a decades-old tragedy that is woven deeply into Los Angeles' fabric.
The fight over SB50, the housing density measure, is far from over even though the measure has been shelved by a powerful Senate committee chairman.
Mayor Eric Garcetti has strongly disagreed with the legislature's dumping SB 50, the controversial bill encouraging developers to build big apartments and condos in areas zoned for single family homes.
Legislation encouraging the building of tall multiple dwellings around transit lines in single-family neighborhoods faces obstacles in Sacramento.
Campaign manager Douglas Jeffe, who died in a tragic accident last week, combined skill, intelligence, compassion and humor in a career that made him respected by friends and foes and placed him in the middle of the most tumultuous years of California politics.
Councilman Mike Bonin has a perceptive take on why city government has such trouble getting anything done -- income inequality and economic and social class differences.
When you stay at a hotel, or throw a big event there, you usually don't get out the door without paying. That wasn't the case with prominent L.A. politicians at the downtown Luxe City Center Hotel.
Careful Herb Wesson won't say much about the federal investigation of LA city hall.
No matter how the dispute between the teachers union and the Los Angeles school district ends, poverty, the root cause of failure in L.A. schools, won't go away.
The Los Angeles City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee is known for short as the PLUM committee. PLUM is perfectly descriptive.
Gov. Jerry Brown's pardon of former State Sen. Rod Wright focuses attention on one our most useless laws, the one imposing residency requirements on elected lawmakers.
Wednesday night, the downtown central library continued its community involvement with a deep dive into one of the most important aspects of civic life--the courts. It was serious and detailed.
"It's about equity. It's about opportunity," City Councilman David Ryu told the Los Angeles Current Affairs Forum.
UCLA report convincingly links rent increases and the housing shortage to the homelessness which afflicts the LA area today.
The San Francisco state senator who wants to build more tall buildings around rail stations and bus stops will have to come up with new legislation that is more politically acceptable to cities and suspicious neighborhood groups, says Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
Disney Hall and many of downtown L.A.'s new restaurants and bars are excellent. But the media shouldn't ignore the dry business done elsewhere.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis agrees with critics of the Los Angeles County Homeless Services Authority.
"There are people who shoot up and there are people who are mentally ill," said Koreatown activist and attorney Grace Yoo. "How do we ensure the safety for the homeless and the people nearby?"
Long after he left journalism, Murray Fromson never lost the curiosity, story telling ability and intensity that made him a top CBS television correspondent during the Vietnam War and in the domestic fight for civil rights. Fromson, 88, died Saturday.
Deborah Flint and Phil Washington could probably walk through L.A. without being recognized by most people. But this crowd knew who they were.
The excellent story by Meg James and Andrea Chang in Sunday's Los Angeles Times on the paper's new owner sheds light on Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong as a person and is noteworthy for its examination of the controversies that have marked his professional life.
Mayor Eric Garcetti, facing one of the toughest decisions of his career, is being urged to consider a Latino to replace Police Chief Charlie Beck, who is retiring.
Under fire from his hometown paper, Mayor Eric Garcetti says he will work on a plan for every Los Angeles community to agree to accept housing for the homeless.
Many public officials are already enthusiastically counting the tax dollars that legalization of marijuana will bring into their public treasuries, but not Mark Ridley-Thomas of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Pressure will be heavy on Mayor Eric Garcetti and County supervisors board chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas to show much more progress with the so-far insoluble housing-homeless problem.
Homelessness is an emergency, says Councilman Mike Bonin, and requires a response equal to what the federal disaster agency does when a hurricane strikes
The past shapes the future, and that was the theme of a report released Thursday, "Space To Lead: A Century of Civic Leadership In Los Angeles."
Banks, ATMs, retail and restaurants at Metro stations would produce revenue and be a great convenience for riders.
The first batch of homeless housing to be built by last year's $1.2 billion bond is to be scattered around Los Angeles instead of being concentrated in Skid Row.
The news that union organizers are signing up workers at the Los Angeles Times, once a fierce anti-union bastion, is a fascinating footnote to the history of a city once dominated by the paper.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon counts construction cranes in downtown Los Angeles. It helps him compare booming downtown to his economically depressed and neglected district in Southeast Los Angeles County.
Why should a voter in Butte County, deep in the northern part of the state, have a say in how Los Angeles County is governed?
A homeless encampment appears under a freeway or in a park near you. You’re a public spirited Angeleno. Who do you call?
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn says it’s “not the county sheriff’s job to be involved in immigration issues.”
After the surprising victory of Measure H, county and city officials and non-profit organizations are planning to move quickly to put its money to work.
It’s something of a miracle that Measure H, the Los Angeles County tax increase to improve services for the homeless, may be near voter approval.
In this time of instant news, fake news and superficial tweets, it’s good to recall a couple of recent newspaper stories that are likely to last a while and make a difference.
The new proposal by local government and charitable institutions for a $10 million legal defense fund for immigrants threatened with deportation by President-elect Donald Trump offers a helping hand to those who really need it.
They say anyone can be replaced, but it will be most difficult for the city of Los Angeles to fill the job of Miguel A. Santana.
Measure M’s fate will turn on issues as big as a proposed train tunnel though the Sepulveda Pass and as small as homeowners angered by a bus on their quiet street.
When Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, it was perfect for the auto age, surrounded by parking lots and near the freeway, not unlike the suburban malls so popular in those days.
Mayor Eric Garcetti didn’t mention Donald Trump by name in his luncheon talk. Still, he managed a subtle rebuke to the Republican presidential nominee.
Awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature is legislation that could make election day really confusing for many Californians.
Two proposed commuter rail lines explain much about race, economic class and political clout in Los Angeles County.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder as I found Tuesday when I returned to an old haunt, Los Angeles City Hall.
In one of his first appearances before the lobbyists, lawyers, consultants and others who live by their ability to influence city hall, Councilman David Ryu didn’t make it easy for his audience.
It’s enlightening to look at the Expo line as if I were a real estate developer, a class of businessperson who dominates city government.
Mayor Eric Garcetti and several city council members have decided that the issue of a high- rise Los Angeles is too hot to handle and want to throw it into the bottomless pit that is the city hall bureaucracy.
As a television moderator and a city councilman, the late Bill Rosendahl was fiercely dedicated to good government and clean politics. Even more important, he was dedicated to bringing people together.
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson says neither he nor other elected officials are to blame for the troubles of the Department of Water and Power.
The recent history of Los Angeles can be told by a tour of its malls from the sprawling shopping centers designed for the car-mad post-World War II years to the present.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla conceded that the five Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor districts are big but wouldn't say whether he favors proposals to expand the board.
When I talked to Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar, I got the feeling that the city may be moving away from its punitive approach to homelessness and toward something more humane and practical.
A missing ingredient in Wednesday’s Los Angeles County town hall-style meeting on homelessness was a frank discussion of the difficulties in filling the great need for affordable housing.
“No one should expect the problem to be solved overnight,” cautioned former Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky when I asked him about the latest and most promising aid proposal.
“Homelessness is a problem that involves thousands of people and requires a massive response but at the end of the day it’s really about one person at a time,“ said Miguel Santana, Los Angeles’ city administrative officer.
The negatives and positives of a changing Los Angeles were on display Monday when the chairman of the city council’s budget and finance committee spoke to lawyers, lobbyists, union leaders and other city hall aficionados.
The best part of Austin Beutner’s talk at Columbia was his praise for experienced journalists and his appreciation of the skill their trade requires to cover complex institutions such as Los Angeles city hall.
After months embracing some of the most punitive anti-homeless laws in the country, Los Angeles city hall has unexpectedly shown a measure of compassion.
Of all the comments prompted by the firing of Austin Beutner as publisher of the Los Angeles Times, the most meaningful came from the paper’s thoughtful and talented Patt Morrison.
The excellent new documentary, “Bridging the Divide: Tom Bradley and the Politics of Race,” tells the terrible story of race relations in Los Angeles.
The wrong-headed decision by the five Los Angeles County supervisors to consolidate power in their own hands comes at the worst possible time, just as the county is facing a homeless crisis of epic proportions.
From Los Angeles city hall to the county building up the hill, African American political activists are thinking about the mayor's race and the future of black representation on the board of supervisors.
Marcie Edwards, Los Angeles' water boss, gives an audience no sense of the calamitous nature of the drought. But maybe that’s as it should be.
With David Ryu, a Korean American, just elected to the Los Angeles City Council, attention should now turn to putting an Asian American on the county board of supervisors.
The best place to watch baseball in Los Angeles is not Dodger Stadium. It’s Jackie Robinson Stadium, the small, elegant home of the UCLA baseball Bruins. Unfortunately for the university, the ballpark occupies 10 acres of the 387-acre Veterans Administration health facility in West Los Angeles, land reserved for housing and treating veterans.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis danced cautiously around some controversial topics when she spoke to a downtown crowd of political insiders and power brokers Wednesday.
The National Football League is a heartless, unreliable lover, as the star-struck city councils of Carson and Inglewood will no doubt find out.
Richard J. Riordan, in his book “The Mayor”, tells of the tragedies in his life and of his extra-marital affairs, divorces and drinking, adding a very human touch to his story of the eight successful years he served as mayor of Los Angeles.
“The time to act is now,” said the LA 2020 Commission in its report last year urging big changes for Los Angeles city government. Not so fast, said City Council President Herb Wesson, who created the commission.
I’m a big fan of Jon Regardie, executive editor and columnist for the Los Angeles Downtown News, but I don’t agree with his recent column criticizing former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
A walk through the remains of Bunker Hill showed how a colorful old L.A. neighborhood was left barren but rich.
The death of my friend Al Martinez, the Los Angeles Times great columnist, took me back more than a half century when Al and I first worked together at the Oakland Tribune, which he memorialized in his book “The Last City Room.”
By listening carefully to the new Los Angeles Times publisher at Town Hall Los Angeles Wednesday, it was possible to get a sense of Austin Beutner. It was also possible to see where he may be taking the 133-year-old paper.
On Wednesday, Austin Beutner, the new publisher and CEO of the Los Angeles Times, will, hopefully, shed light on the future of the paper when he speaks to civic leaders at Town Hall Los Angeles. Here are some questions he could be asked.
One of the most fascinating elections of the year is still going on in the northeast San Fernando Valley. Unknown Patty Lopez is holding a narrow lead over influential Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra.
The big question is this: Did all that labor money in Sheila Kuehl's campaign put her in county employee union pockets? The same goes for the other new supervisor, Hilda Solis, also elected with labor support.
Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver gave sharp and articulate performances in last Friday night’s debate, showing clear differences between the candidates for the Third District supervisorial seat.
A conversation with City Atty. Mike Feuer is a trip through the nitty gritty of city government, starting with dangerous sidewalks and including graffiti prevention, medical marijuana regulation and aid to prostitutes who want a better life.
Jim Newton’s departure from the Los Angeles Times is a serious loss for both the newspaper and the Los Angeles area.
Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District, knows how to deliver bad news in a positive manner.
Santa Monica’s Bergamot Station Art Center and its old industrial surroundings is a dramatic example of how rail transit lines are changing the appearance, the employment and residential style of a Southland shaped by the automobile
In an audacious move to bypass the county supervisors, Latino leaders, public policy reformers and civil libertarians are backing state legislation that would give a judge the power to expand the five-member board.
I asked Junior State high school students how many read newspapers. I expected few hands would be raised in the Los Angeles Times community room. Wrong. Well over a dozen--maybe more--signaled they read those old-fashioned print communications.
The latest version of the mayoral web site, Data LA, is greatly improved from its shaky first edition. Even modestly computer-savvy Angelenos get enough information to come to their own conclusions about the mayor and the rest of city government.
An irony of Los Angeles politics is the way homeowner groups on the Westside—that bastion of open government advocates—sign confidential agreements with developers to support controversial projects in exchange for large amounts of money.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors election will bring new faces to the powerful body. But it’s unlikely to change the board’s opposition to creating a district where a second Latino could be elected to the board.
Garcetti at Town Hall was like a personable CEO being interviewed on CNBC, earnestly pitching his company’s products and bright long-range future, brushing off a more immediate and less pleasant matter.
Town Hall's thoughtful discussion of Los Angeles' future Tuesday was a refreshing contrast to Mayor Eric Garcetti's vague talk about going back to basics.
It’s not easy to figure out Mayor Eric Garcetti’s grand plan for Los Angeles, or even if he has one. His state of the city speech Thursday didn’t help. "It starts with modern technology,” the mayor said, and then sort of left us hanging.
Many great memories of my boss and friend, the former Los Angeles Times editor William F. Thomas.
The story behind the Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas’ garage-home-office controversy is one familiar to millions---a beef over home remodeling.
There are serious questions about Mayor Eric Garcetti’s appointment of former Department of Water and Power General Manager David Wiggs as assistant general manager in charge of the public utility’s electric system.
It was interesting to hear how City Controller Ron Galperin arranged to have Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Atty. Mike Feuer join him for a press conference last month blasting the head of the big union representing Department of Water and Power employees.
Waiting for a train at Metro Center Station in downtown Los Angeles—the platform full of Blue Line and Expo Line riders--I wondered at the LA 2020 Commission’s cool dismissal of a mass transit system that is growing into a real asset .
Pity Mayor Eric Garcetti. Judging from the news coverage, Bill de Blasio of New York is now America’s most famous mayor while the mayor of the second most populous city is toiling away with dwindling attention from the news media.
The many ethnic currents of Los Angeles County politics continue to reach from the suburbs through the heart of Los Angeles, piercing the forbidding walls of the downtown county building.
I went out to Hollywood Park Sunday for one of the last horse racing days before it is torn down. If the developers’ dreams come true, the famous race track will be replaced with about 3,000 homes, more than 600,000 square feet of retail and a 300-room hotel.
Among the many accomplishments of Mark Lacter, the respected journalist who died last week, was his mastery of a now-essential journalism skill---an ability to move seamlessly from long, deeply reported pieces to punchy blog items.
The announcement that Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers, is planning to lay off almost 700 employees and centralize important business operations is bad news not only to the workers but to Times readers.
When Mayor Eric Garcetti was interviewing department heads—deciding which ones would be dumped or retained—he noticed how they reacted when he talked about introducing new technology to stodgy old city hall.
The Los Angeles cab controversy is much more than a fight between old-line cabbies and alternative newcomers armed with apps, their own cars and an entrepreneurial spirit.
When Mayor Eric Garcetti completes his second 100 days in office, there may a better system to grade him than the present one.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who is African American, strongly supports Latino efforts for another Latino supervisorial district.
The fight over increasing Latino representation on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors offers great insights into the thinking, maneuverings and power plays deep within the inscrutable body.
Controller Ron Galperin is determined to use computers to analyze the massive amounts of data in City Hall as is done by sports teams, retail marketers, political campaigns, the National Security Agency and cutting edge political and sports analysts like Nate Silver.
Something important is happening in Los Angeles County’s fascinating ethnic politics and it could result in greater Latino and Asian American representation on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in the next few years.
Chain Reaction is truly a meaningful a work of art. It is also reminds us of the ever present danger of nuclear destruction.
There was much unspoken drama when incoming Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin spoke at the Current Affairs Forum luncheon Thursday.
I drove over to the Van Nuys city hall Friday to see my friend June Sale honored by the Los Angeles City Council for her decades helping children. It was a fine event both for June and for the way it called attention to her vital programs.
Of all the complaints about Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the dumbest one is that he is leaving office broke and looking for a job.
The latest poll, which finds Dennis Zine ahead in the controller’s race and Mike Feuer leading for city attorney, also shows that half the voters don’t think Los Angeles is heading in the right direction.
Only someone intrigued by the finer points of the politics of education could have figured out the differences between the overly cautious mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel at their debate Tuesday night.
Having watched filmmakers Lyn Goldfarb and Alison Sotomayor scramble for funding for a documentary on the late Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, I was glad to see they have received a $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant that will allow them to finish the project by next January.
Of the many items that haven’t made it to the mayoral campaign agenda, one of the most important is how the growing number of rail transit lines will reshape Los Angeles.
On my way to the courthouse for some interviews Tuesday, I glanced across the plaza at the county administration building and thought of two terrific county supervisors, Edmund D. Edelman and Kenneth Hahn.
An interesting mixture of policy and personality was on display Wednesday night at a panel discussion sponsored by the senior lawyers section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
Memories of Robin Boyarsky Smith from her parents.
Big construction around transit stations are changing the face of L.A. but you wouldn't know it from watching the mayoral campaign
The winner of Tuesday night’s mayoral debate was the moderator, Professor Fernando J. Guerra, director of Loyola Marymount University’s Center for the Study of Los Angeles and a longtime analyst of local politics.
Tuesday night at Sinai Temple, City Councilwoman Jan Perry broke out of the mayoral candidate pack with a star turn that made her the evening’s clear winner.
The fact that homelessness occupied just a few minutes at the end of a recent mayoral election debate is evidence of how low one of the city’s most serious problems ranks on the civic agenda.
Last Friday’s event was perfect for a discussion of some of the most complex issues facing Los Angeles.
What was most interesting to me at Eric Garcetti’s mayoral election fund raiser Thursday night was that I didn’t know anyone except for Eric and his father, Gil, the former district attorney.
The super PAC supporting Rep. Howard Berman is prepared to spend $1.2 million on mailings and cable TV advertisements against Rep. Brad Sherman in their intense San Fernando Valley election contest.
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Rep. Howard Berman charges that Rep. Brad Sherman had profited by loaning himself money for political campaigns and then charging his campaign organization interest.
Back to the past. We’re returning to the old days when a few rich guys shaped Los Angeles in secret while a bewildered and captive city hall stood by.
Michael Berman, a fiercely combative political consultant, has always been a secretive sort, especially when it comes to talking to reporters. I can testify to that. He hasn’t spoken to me since August 1988.
You’ve heard of the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan ticket. But I bet the idea of a Ryan-Brad Sherman ticket never occurred to you. It didn’t occur to me until I covered the debate Wednesday night between Reps. Sherman and Howard Berman.
The San Fernando Valley congressional race between Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman is being conducted on two levels.
A reader doubts enough money is available for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa' job-producing speedup of transportation projects. I checked and found that readers aren't always right.
As mid morning traffic on I-405 built up, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stood amid the construction work on the Mulholland Bridge Thursday and celebrated his biggest accomplishment, congressional approval of the America Fast Forward program.
Rep. Howard Berman figures a substantial turnout in November—more than doubling the size of the paltry June primary vote--will push him ahead of Rep. Brad Sherman, who outpolled him in that San Fernando Valley election. Sherman's side doesn't agree.
One of the best examples of why government doesn’t work is the $7.5 billion in fines and penalties for traffic and criminal offenses that remain uncollected while courtrooms are closed and employees fired.
On the last day of a London vacation, I took a tour of the 2012 Olympics site, drawn there by a feeling that I wanted to see in person the venue I’d be watching on television later this summer. I wondered, as I always do, whether there were any lessons for Los Angeles here.
Marc Nathanson had reached the $2,500 federal limit on money he could contribute to his candidate in the San Fernando Valley’s 30th Congressional District, Rep. Howard Berman. So he started a super PAC allowing him and others to give much more.
What was fascinating about USC’s From the Ashes conference was the youth of most of the participants. Twenty years after the 1992 riot, a new generation is taking over the never-ending job of bringing prosperity and racial peace to Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles harbor often doesn't get the attention it deserves, but the vote by a relatively few harbor truck drivers to join the Teamsters Union is worthy of notice
The conflicts of the left were on display at the Westside Progressives' forum on Occupy LA, featuring occupiers, other activists and Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl.
Al Martinez’ friends came to the Huntington by the busload Friday night to honor him and his work as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
An overlooked aspect of Los Angeles’ fight over drawing new City Council district lines is whether the city power brokers—Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and council members—will stir up racial animosity and discriminate against Latinos with their redistricting proposal.
If the last few days are any indication, the Jewish Journal debate starring Reps. Howard Berman and Brad Sherman at Temple Judea in Tarzana Tuesday night should be pretty intense. A third debater in the contest for the West San Fernando Valley congressional seat is Republican Mark Reed.
Parents have won partial restoration of federal poverty funds for 23 schools in the San Fernando Valley and the Westside. Many of the schools are in middle class neighborhoods but have substantial numbers of poor students.
A big parental revolt is shaping up in the San Fernando Valley and the Westside as federal budget cuts reach deep into the Los Angeles Unified School District.
To some of us disillusioned alums of the weak and failing City Ethics Commission, mayoral candidate Austin Beutner is saying the right things.
Although Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky didn’t shed much light on whether he will run for mayor, he gave a scathing and knowledgeable critique of L.A. city hall and indicated what he might do if he ran the place.
Watching Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck deal with Occupy LA at the Bank of America plaza Thursday, I was struck by how much the police department has changed for the better.
Although Occupy LA looks like a disorganized mess, it is, in many respects, a training ground for those who will join the next generation of leaders
The closing of the Center for Governmental Studies is another setback to the dying cause of cleaning up elections and taking them out of the hands of big contributors.
Filmmakers, equipped with visual and story telling skills, are tackling the job of exploring the personalities, issues and politics that have made the State Capitol and Los Angeles City Hall so important to the state.
“So I ask myself,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, “how do you get out of this?” The veteran Westside congressman was talking about how to avoid a battle in the San Fernando Valley between his friend Rep. Howard Berman and Rep, Brad Sherman.
Do Latinos tend to vote only for Latinos? Do non-Latinos generally vote against Hispanic political candidates? Those racially charged questions are behind the struggle over new Los Angeles County supervisorial districts.
At lunch at Langers, Tim Rutten and I discussed his layoff from the Los Angeles Times after four decades.I thought it was stupid, wrong and unfair, another sign of how the paper was destroying itself so fast that soon there would be little left. Rutten, of course, agreed.
Greg Nelson was chief aide to then City Councilman Joel Wachs, who stiffened the city’s back during negotiations over Staples Center in the mid 1990s and improved the deal. He has thoughts on the current stadium proposal
While Angelenos fretted about Carmageddon, some 200 construction workers labored on the Mulholland Drive bridge, just a small part of the roughly 18,000 employed on the entire 405 widening project.
So many questions, so little time. That just about describes the situation when the Los Angeles City Council meets June 29 to finally look behind the curtain of secrecy surrounding the downtown National Football League stadium proposal.
As the late broadcaster Chick Hearn used to say when the Lakers clinched a victory, ''You can put this one in the refrigerator. The door's closed, the light's out, the eggs are cooling, the butter's getting hard and the Jell-O is jiggling.''
The Ramirez Canyon saga, involving Barbra Streisand’s old Santa Monica Mountain estate, has entered a new phase.
I watched Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas use an imaginative Internet and telephone tool to build support for his vision of the Crenshaw light rail line. Is it good enough to beat Zev Yaroslavsky?
I moderated a 36th Congressional District candidate forum that shed light on the complexities of a leading domestic issue and on the politics of coastal California.
In a time when the smart money has written off the state, an excellent and timely documentary, “California State of Mind—the Legacy of Pat Brown,” recalls the prosperous past and gives us a bit of hope for the problems confronting the late governor’s son, Jerry Brown.
I visited what should now be called MLB Stadium at Chavez Ravine. The name on the ballpark is still Dodger Stadium, but a change is order after Major League Baseball took over the Dodgers from Frank McCourt.
The Los Angeles city public finance law is in trouble. If the U.S. Supreme Court, as is likely, overturns a key section of an Arizona law, L.A.'s would probably be thrown out, too.
The teachers at the UCLA Community School at the Robert F. Kennedy school complex got an unpleasant surprise the other day, as did teachers at 44 other L.A. Unified schools in poor areas.
Some of the city’s sharpest political organizers can be found at Hamilton High School. They used e-mail and Facebook over the weekend and got 600 students and Times columnist Steve Lopez to the campus Monday in a campaign against teacher layoffs. Many a paid political hack would sell his or her soul to the devil (again) for such a coup.
Not a trace of the Antonio Villaraigosa grin was to be seen when the mayor walked into the city hall news conference room Wednesday, trailed by a few suits, all of them solemn as sticks.
My breakfast meeting at the Homegirl Cafe was delayed for an hour. I decided to use the time for a walk through nearby Chinatown. As often happens with me, it was a walk through history—L.A’s and my own.
Luncheon with Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry showed just how well the downtown football stadium promoters have wired city hall.
When State Controller John Chiang sends his auditors into the unfathomable recesses of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, he hopes the city officials will not engage in their usual practice of hiding bad news.
If the city floats a $350 million bond issue for an NFL stadium, it could end up costing taxpayers millions a year in loan repayment and interest.
If redevelopment agencies were to be eliminated, as Governor Jerry Brown has proposed in his budget, California’s public schools would receive an extra $1 billion a year.
Among the good news coming out of Sacramento this week was the report that Gov. Jerry Brown wants to eliminate the hundreds of redevelopment agencies that suck money from the schools for the benefit of land developers.
As I watched Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich for the first time, he reminded me of Richard Riordan—more articulate but just as out of place in the city hall culture.
In the Los Angeles Times obituary on Paul Conrad, editor Russ Stanton said, “we have missed him since the day he retired.” But it wasn’t quite like that.
An important part of the dispute is whether the evaluations are accurate and whether the Times has done enough to make the readers aware of the limitations of value-added.
The Los Angeles Times has singled out two teachers as being bad at their jobs, basing the verdict on insufficient evidence. The same fate may be awaiting many more Los Angeles teachers..
Although Los Angeles was largely shaped by the automobile, mass transit is becoming the biggest force in building the future Los Angeles. That was one of the major themes Wednesday night at a planning forum held in the old Bullocks Wilshire building, an early symbol of auto-mad L.A.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s fight to clean up the air in the heavily polluted Los Angeles harbor—stymied in the courts---has shifted to Congress where his labor and environmental allies have more clout.
Victor Valle's valuable book "City of Industry: Genealogies of Power in Southern California" tells much about the two billionaires fighting each other for an NFL franchise--and their connection to that infamous San Gabriel Valley city.
With city hall news full of minor malfeasance, it is surprising to report that something positive is actually happening. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s 30/10 transit plan is moving toward Congressional approval even though progress is about as slow as a Wilshire bus during rush hour.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with the mayor taking all those free tickets. This puts me at odds with almost everyone I know, including blogger Ron Kaye, who wants the mayor jailed.
The Israeli attack on the flotilla carrying aid to Gaza has become an issue in the Los Angeles County coastal district congressional contest between Democratic Rep. Jane Harman and her more liberal challenger, Marcy Winograd.
The Mar Vista recreation center overflowed with political addicts for a candidates’ night for the 53rd Assembly district and the hottest Los Angeles congressional race, between Democratic Rep. Jane Harman and her primary challenger, Marcy Winograd.
Bill, Your blog... about the library's path to success for children of immigrants reminds me of my own experience with LAPL.... .I grew up in an orphanage, and, basically, lived at the local Palms branch...
After Independence Day, Los Angeles city libraries will drop a day from their schedules. “There will be 100 layoffs from the library and this will trigger a reduction from six days a week to five days a week,” Martin Gomez, the city librarian, told me.
When my wife Nancy and I wrote our book “Backroom Politics” in the 1970s, we explained the puzzling maze of boards and commissions that local politicians create to confuse their constituents. The Expo light rail line is a perfect example of what we wrote about.
Should low-paid truck drivers shoulder the cost of cleaning up pollution at Los Angeles harbor? That’s the question before a federal court this week in a case that is major test of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s harbor anti-pollution plan
Behind the big fight over power rates is the electrical workers union, determined to make sure it has command over the thousands of new jobs that will be created in the next decade in the solar-renewable energy industry.
Maybe Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made the reporters wait in the blazing hot Department of Water and Power plaza for a half hour Monday because he wanted to prove there is enough sunshine to make Los Angeles a solar powered city.
In proposing big increases in electrical bills, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa seems to ignore the terrible hardships the Great Recession is imposing on the working people of Los Angeles. The increase is a highly regressive tax hike hurting those hit by the recession.
Amazingly, the city community building meeting room was filled with anti-spending cut protestors at the inconvenient hour of 6 p.m. Wednesday, and the stars of the evening were the students from Lincoln High School.
A Service Employees International Union local is trying to work out a partnership with Los Angeles County to assure good care for patients at the new Martin Luther King Jr. hospital when it opens.
Many injustices were challenged and overcome in court by Ramona Ripston, who is retiring as executive director of the Southern California American Civil Liberties Union, and the excellent legal team she assembled.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s affordable housing plan--a centerpiece of his administration—has been dealt near fatal blows by a court decision, the recession—and by his own planning director.
The talk inside and outside the Wilshire Grand’s Los Angeles room was about Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s new jobs czar, the city budget deficit and the collapse of the land development industry.
As Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas sees it, the new Martin Luther King Jr. hospital will transform health care for the poor in South Los Angeles and maybe even for the nation.
Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz is pushing against an immovable object, the billboard lobby.
I spent humiliating years as an ethics commissioner watching the big spenders dominate city hall. So I was especially happy to see the spenders humiliated in the recent 2nd District City Council election.
One of the last of Doug Ring’s many good deeds was a visit to the Los Angeles Times editorial board with members of Housing LA, an organization advocating affordable housing for the thousands of residents being forced out of the city by high rents.
As newspapers and television pull back from investigative reporting, foundations and other organizations are beginning to fill the void. One of the most interesting is Accountable California, a project of Local 721 of the Service Employees International Union.
One of the many questions Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s school plan leaves unanswered is whether all students will be allowed to attend their neighborhood schools.
With mariachis playing and children singing “This Land Is My Land,” the opening of the new school complex on the old Ambassador Hotel site was perfect except for one terrible mistake—the name.
The flames of the Station fire will be blamed for the floods that may follow in the denuded San Gabriel Mountains. But let’s place the blame where it belongs, on land development, acquiescent local officials, and a tax structure that subsidizes hillside building.
The enthusiastic gathering at Barnes & Noble’s Westside Pavilion store honored Norman Corwin, a Los Angeles literary treasure. In turn, he made the event a celebration of writers and writing.
School superintendent Ramon Cortines'̻ schedule for implementing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s school reform plan is either a great way of getting parents involved or a classic example of bureaucratic delay.
I received some provocative e-mails from readers after my column urging Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to give a clear explanation of...
If Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants parents to support his plan to convert 250 Los Angeles schools into charter schools, he needs to explain why he thinks this would be an improvement.
In the small world of Westside politics, activists hold certain truths to be self-evident. Development is bad because it increases traffic. Billboards are bad because they’re…billboards. And Proposition B, the solar initiative on the March 3 ballot, is so awful that there are no words to describe it, not even the powerful words of Ron Kaye.
A dispute over light rail cars is testing whether Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is up to the job of shepherding the federal recession recovery funds coming this way.
Despite all the questions, I think solar Proposition B is a good plan. Solar is perfect for sunny L.A. Green industry is the wave of the future. It’s smart to have our public power utility do the work. It’s good that DWP union workers will install the installations. We need more union jobs, which strengthen the economy by expanding the middle class.
The double afflictions of foreclosure and job loss drew a crowd filling the San Fernando High School auditorium Sunday for a rally put on by One LA, a grassroots group with activists from churches and synagogues throughout the city.
I get almost as much e-mail from David Hernandez as I do from the Obamas.
Peter Kaye's memoir, Contrarian, is both the story of his career as a political writer and the downward slide of the paper he worked for, the San Diego Union-Tribune
City Controller Laura Chick is absolutely correct when she insists on the power to examine the performance of other elected officials.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will have much of the responsibility for carrying out President-elect Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan in Los Angeles and even beyond the city limits.
Here’s a way city hall can strong arm the Dodgers into paying at least part of the cost of providing public transportation to the stadium during baseball season.
Lee Abrams, Tribune Company's chief innovation officer, doesn’t seem too impressed with the Los Angeles Times. That’s the feeling I got when he appeared at the Los Angeles Press Club.
Some sharp person running for office in Los Angeles next year ought to try Barack Obama’s style of grassroots politics, raising a lot of money and organizing supporters online.
Some USC journalism professors are raising questions about a proposal for the Annenberg School for Communication to sign a $3 million contract to help American University in Dubai create a journalism and communication school.
My report of two days and 320 miles of being a political reporter in Southern California
Collapsing banks and almost nonexistent credit did not daunt Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and more than 100 of his supporters at a rally for affordable housing.
A big test of Mayor Antonio’s commitment to liberal causes will be how hard he pushes for his plan to require developers to make room in their high- end projects for low and moderate income Los Angeles residents.
he big mystery in our Westside neighborhood is how the pre-dawn burglar, who has hit 15 houses, so unerringly finds the homes of his chosen victims-- older women living alone in single story homes.
Unless you own an international airline or perhaps ride on one, don’t expect much relief from the much-heralded Los Angeles International Airport modernization plan.
There was a story on page B-1 of the Los Angeles Times a while back which showed what great things the paper can still do, and what it will miss as it is being destroyed.
The unspoken question in the runoff between Bernard Parks and Mark Ridley-Thomas is how much influence the winning candidate will allow the unions in negotiating the reopening of Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Medical Center, which once served thousands of poor people.
The dream of home ownership has long been part of life on 92nd Street and similar South Los Angeles working class neighborhoods. But making the dream come true has never been easy-- not more than a half century ago when the area was mostly white and not today when it is African American and Latino.
Whether Bernard Parks or Mark Ridley-Thomas wins the Los Angeles County 2nd supervisorial district election June 3, one point is certain: The sleepy board may actually wake up.
Two events in the 2nd Supervisorial District pointed up some of the immense difficulties facing politics and government in Los Angeles County, such as reopening King hospital.
A march through downtown Los Angeles on Friday, April 25 was an excellent reminder of how L.A. is divided by race and class.
I found my friend Abner Lee dead in his West Los Angeles condo the other day. It looked as though he had died as he’d lived, alone.
Two recent pieces of writing from the bowels of the Los Angeles Times tell much about the state of the newspaper and Los Angeles journalism.
One of the best ways to cover city hall is to get out of city hall. Instead, wander through the many fund raising dinners where the real clout is on display.
How much more can be dished out to the beleaguered journalists of the Los Angeles Times?. It has to apologize for a story based on what appears to have been phony documents. Then, there are the musings and rantings of the owner, Sam Zell.
The City Council puts off a decision on a controversial proposal to require strict financial disclosure for neighborhood council members. The neighborhood councils and the City Ethics Commission didn't like the idea and the City Council listened.
One ethics commission issue involves neighborhood councils. The other is about enforcement of campaign contribution laws. Together, they constitute the great LA power battle.
At the USC conference on news and the criminal justice system, an Iranian asked me if journalists were jailed as political prisoners in the United States.
The day after news broke that the Los Angeles Times had fired its latest editor, the paper and the rest of the LA media took heavy criticism at a a USC conference on the criminal justice system.
Former commission president Ed Guthman is just the kind of person I wish elected officials would appoint to the ethics commission--independent, informed and deeply committed to the mission of this important regulatory agency.
The Los Angeles Police Department's plan to map where Muslims live poses a real dilemma for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
A USC symposium honoring the late Frank del Olmo, a highly respected Los Angeles Times journalist, produced some gloomy thoughts about Latino news coverage in his old paper and the rest of the news media.
The mayor and the council should think about the kind of Los Angeles we want. We don't want a city where the working class and middle class are forced out. If city hall is unconcerned, maybe Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who does care, can take his fight to the ballot, as he did several years ago with a successful measure that imposed development controls that the mayor and the council had refused.
A study commission notes how city hall was was supposed to provide support and encouragement to the volunteers on the neighborhood councils. Instead, the commission said, the staff spends its time on reviewing the councils' bylaws, untangling their election disputes and going over the neighborhood council finances in a bean counter fashion.That's city hall. You can't get in trouble by being a bean counter.
Your city hall correspondent is rejected by his ethics commission colleagues. Was it because of his commentaries for LA Observed or just his big mouth?
The imminent closing of Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital, one of the worst health disasters in Los Angeles County history, is a painful illustration of why we need national health insurance, Medicare for everybody.
Paul Weeks, a retired newspaperman who died recently at the age of 86, was an overlooked hero of Los Angeles’ traumatic civil rights struggle.
Our gag rule is a big reason why many people consider the ethics commission irrelevant. When allegations of ethical violations are splashed on the news and are being discussed from the harbor to the Valley, ethics commissioners should be able to say more than “no comment.”
Showing they are buddies—or conspirators—when it comes to something as dear to their hearts as campaign money, Democratic and Republican state legislators are sneaking through a bill that will gut laws in Los Angeles and other cities limiting campaign contributions.
Of all the stupidities committed by the new owners of the Los Angeles Times, the dumping of Al Martinez is one of worst.
Spare me from the “slippery slope,” one of the trickiest phrases in politics.I learned that the hard way at this month’s City Ethics Commission meeting when I came up with what I thought was a great way of handling the campaign contribution accusations our staff brought against Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The city hall maneuvering over full public financing of Los Angeles elections is entering a new and muddy phase. Muddy to me, anyway, but what do I know? I’m just an ethics commissioner and we’re about as welcome in city hall backrooms as an advocate of democracy is in Putin’s Kremlin.
After spending a career asking questions, now I had to answer them--and be nice about it.
Writing regulations is pretty tedious. But victory goes to those with the patience to sit through the process—a good lesson for an ex- reporter still suffering from a journalist’s short attention span.
To keep faith with its readers, the Los Angeles Times needs to put all its resources into an investigation of what’s been going on in the Current section and the editorial pages, now tainted by the conduct of editor Andres Martinez.
When my flight was cancelled recently, I was immersed in the foul Los Angeles International Airport for four hours, sitting in the cramped terminal seats, eating tasteless tamales, struggling to buy papers in the small, crowded shop. Finally, I flew to the clean, bright and welcoming Southwest terminal at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Carol Baker Tharp is smart and well qualified but even her skills will be tested as she tries to bring order to Los Angeles’ neighborhood councils, the Wild West of city government.
The Los Angeles Times’ recent editorial on county government was earnest, unbearably long, condescending, pompous and just plain dumb.
We ethics commissioners finally disposed of the thing. At least I think so. The argument went way over my head. It was so nuanced, disputatious and legalistic, in fact, that I am sure I have missed important nuances in writing this report.
When I wrote about how much I disliked the subsidies and secrecy involved in three big L.A. development projects, a reader criticized me for liking them. I figured I’d better try again: I don’t like the taxpayer subsidies and the secrecy.
What the Grand Avenue, Staples Center-L.A. Live and the airport "development" zone have in common is that they demand enough government funding to permit the risk adverse private sector to take a chance. This is not the market economy. This is what the Chinese Communists are doing as they lure massive private investment to pretty up the place for the Olympics.
I don’t blame Thomas Mauk, Orange County’s chief executive, for changing his mind and refusing the job of chief administrative officer of Los Angeles County While the parking is good, the building is ugly and the bosses are terrible.
Nobody will be able to accuse Los Angeles Times reporters of being elitists. The paper's plans for a juiced- up web site will thrust them into blue collar life.
Valley Vote lives. The secessionists meet with an intensity and intelligence the city council should copy, always guided by their anti government populist views, loyal to the gospel of rebellion as preached by Ron Kaye, the take-no-crap editor of the Daily News.
Neighborhood councils are weak but they are all we have to defend ourselves against the power of city hall and...
I want the impossible, a Geffen, Broad or Burkle with the integrity and independence of Otis Chandler. “Shazam!” as Billy Batson used to say when he became Captain Marvel.
After spending two hours taking an on-line ethics course required of Los Angeles elected officials, city board members, and commissioners, I finished feeling triumphant but depressed.
We at the ethics commission have embarked on an impossible mission. We are formally sending our proposal for full public financing of city political campaigns to the city council and I don't think it has much of a chance.
The new Times guys in town celebrated the paper's 125th birthday at the Hollywood Roosevelt and the paper got a star on Hollywood Boulevard. The new publisher was too awed, too much the visitor to town trying hard to impress. He didn't understand that the star is not an Oscar or a place in the baseball Hall of Fame.
The trouble with settlement deals, like the one in Los Angeles firefighter Tennie Pierce's case, is that they permit city council members to discuss hot topics while being shielded from public scrutiny.
It's odd how things disappear into the City Hall abyss.That's true of many issues but one occurred to me while I was walking along Westwood Boulevard, toward Wilshire, early in the morning and observed some of the Westside's homeless rousing themselves for another day on the streets. Didn't I read that City Hall was going to do something about the homeless?
Asking the Los Angeles city attorney for advice is like a middle schooler asking her parents if she can go to Rosa Rita beach for the weekend with friends.The answer is No! No! Didn't your hear me? I said NO!
Full public financing of city campaigns is the best solution. Then we wouldn't have to worry about whether contributors are buying votes.
Give me a cynical old pol who at least keeps his or her word. Our ethics commission meeting Tuesday convinced me of that--if I didn't know it already.
I still can’t believe the League of Women Voters would lend its name to Prop. R, a measure that reached a new low in false advertising.

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