Thursday, May 28, 2015


I wrote about tire slashings in Silver Lake for this month's Los Feliz Ledger. Pending corrections will update the map and copy to accurately reflect the area that gets hit: Effie Street and Crestmont, Maltman, and Golden Gate avenues. According to one of the unnamed sources mentioned in the story, about 90 percent of the activity is within a 100-yard radius of the corner of Effie Street and Golden Gate Avenue.

I didn't have the editorial space to go as deep as I wanted to. Within this story, there were several issues which merit examination:
  1. The use of the senior lead officer system in the LAPD - the very relationships that keep the police in touch with neighborhoods keep benevolent residents from criticizing, not wanting throw the officer who's become their friend under the bus
  2. The larger trend of property crime in Los Angeles, overshadowed by a recent spike in violent crime
  3. What it actually takes to arrest and prosecute any offender, and why it's not hard to be a career offender and face little punishment
  4. The effects of Prop 47
  5. Underreported property crime because of the above 
All are now dogeared for future stories. If you have a story of your own experience with these issues, email me.

Monday, May 25, 2015


This morning the LA Times' David Zahniser wrote about the arrival of David Ryu in Los Angeles City Council, and how he could interact with that body's president, longtime City Hall denizen Herb Wesson. 

Zahniser's article primarily covered the election's outcome as a function of controversial redistricting and the resultant disgruntled voters looking to smack back at City Hall, but he also discussed Wesson's role:
Wesson, who has served on the council for a decade, said he expects to get along with Ryu just fine. The job of a council president, he emphasized, is to help the 14 other members become successful. Ryu, he pointed out, had few serious policy disagreements with Ramsay.
The council president has another responsibility, which wields dealmaking (or breaking) power over all legislative action: agendizing. Wesson, who supported Ryu's opponent Carolyn Ramsay, decides what goes on the agenda when, and how to break out single motions and ordinances into several, ostensibly for a more granular discussion of related topics or, depending on how cynically one looks at it, chopping up a rival's policy to force only piecemeal progress.

The council president also appoints chairs to subcommittees like the Public Safety Committee, which manages hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grant monies for regional disaster and terrorism preparedness, and the Planning and Land Use Committee, which determines the residential and commercial makeup of Los Angeles.

Ramsay is, like Wesson, a City Hall insider. She was current Council District 4 representative Tom LaBonge's chief of staff. The election could be interpreted as a referendum on business as usual at City Hall, as Ramsay declined to answer questions about a nondescript charity in LaBonge's office, even though the nonprofit, Sister Cities, used public money for undisclosed outcomes during her tenure. In at least one instance a LaBonge staffer, Kamilla Blanche, received money on behalf of Sister Cities from another city department, Cultural Affairs, to perform work she was already doing on salary. The transfer of taxpayer funds was authorized in two contracts between May 2013 and April 2014, totaling $65,000.

Ramsay touted her experience in every area of the council office in debates, claiming knowledge of each decision, but backed away from responsibility for the charity. On Feb. 24, after a candidate caucus, I asked Ramsay about it for the Ledger papers:

Walmsley: I wanted to ask about Sister Cities. You texted me on Sunday that you weren’t involved in Sister Cities. And I did talk to the councilmember and he said that you weren’t. Although you were Chief of Staff, you were separate from the Sister Cities, the council office side and the non profit side. You weren’t really involved in either. 
Ramsay: Right. 
Walmsley: That is a little bit at odds with some of your statements. Like at the last candidate caucus the comment you made is that you’re really prepared from day one to do everything, and you know every detail. Are there other exceptions to your participation in the office, as Chief of Staff? 
Ramsay: I don’t understand your question. I’m so sorry. 
Walmsley: Your comment at the last caucus was that you’re prepared from day one. That’s your advantage. You’ve managed every detail – 
Ramsay: Sister Cities is a separate organization. It is a 501(c)3 nonprofit – 
Walmsley: But Kamilla, who is a city employee, part of what I’ve been pursuing [in documents requests to clarify her role and the source of her salary], she is a city staffer, correct? She is paid by the city? 
Ramsay: You know, you have to ask him, ask [Councilmember LaBonge] about anything with his current staff. 
Walmsley: Did you oversee all spending? 
Ramsay: There were several staffers who were involved in that but Councilmember LaBonge, he had the final say. And there were initiatives that he wanted that I supported and some that I didn’t support and you know, I was very clear with him on those points. 
Walmsley: So there was one that was the AB1290 funds, $20,000 in funds that went to the zoo. Now, Berlin is a sister city, but it appears it did not go through the 501(c)(3) non profit [instead it went directly from the AB1290 reserve to an initiative with Berlin Zoo]. There is discretionary use, but part of that [fund’s purpose] is public services, which is something that you’ve really emphasized in your campaign. And that went, money went – 
Ramsay: You’d really have to ask the council office about these issues. 
Walmsley: These are things that happened under your tenure though, as Chief of Staff. 
Ramsay: And these are decisions that the CM made. And I think he said that to you.
Ryu picked up on the unanswered questions and began to dog Ramsay in debates about "slush fund" spending.

Transparency in spending of discretionary funds has been one of Ryu's campaign promises. He takes office July 1, which is the first day he will be allowed to issue a motion - essentially suggested legislation or operational procedure - to manage his district's pot of flexible cash differently. Ryu has also talked about pushing the entire body toward more disclosure and cooperation.

Once Ryu files his motions, they become public, but Wesson will decide when Ryu's 14 new city council colleagues address them.

Note: A previous version of this post did not contain documents. The text is the same. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015


The Cypress Village Art Tunnel was open to the public tonight, providing a model for what Silver Lake hopes to create out of the now-closed pedestrian tunnel next to Micheltorena Elementary School on Sunset Boulevard.