Metro Riders Cite Rise in Crime

As ridership rebounds, reports of violence, including five killings, are up even from pre-pandemic levels.

As she waited for a Metro train in Hollywood, Maritza Mancilla shielded herself behind the escalator bringing passengers down into the fluorescent-lighted underground.

She wanted to see the newcomers before they could see her.

The 55-year-old, who relies on public transportation to get to her job as a housecleaner, has seen fights break out on the train. She’s seen a man attempt to open the car doors while they were in motion. At the Hollywood/Western Metro station earlier this year, a man exposed himself to her.

“If I could work from home, I would,” she said.

With the pandemic easing and lockdowns lifted, a return to normality has come with benefits: increased economic activity, more people going back to work and school, plus holiday gatherings and social interactions.

But on the Los Angeles public transit system — where ridership has rebounded to about 843,000 weekday daily riders from a pandemic low of about 363,800— normal has also brought with it a rise in crime.

In 2021, through September, reports of violent crimes were up 25% from the same time last year and 9% from 2019, according to L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority data.

Some crimes, such as aggravated assaults, are exceeding pre-pandemic levels even though bus and rail ridership hasn’t fully recovered.

Although still rare, homicides jumped from one in 2019 to three in 2020, the first full year of the pandemic. So far in 2021, five people have been killed in stations or on public transport, including a 28-year-old womanfatally shot on the train while on her way to work.

While most people ride public transit without incident, the issue of crime recently sparked a clash between L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Metro board members over the future of law enforcement on the system. At a news conference to argue for the extension of his department’s contract with Metro, the sheriff rattled off a list of eight violent crimes, dating back to 2019, including shootings, stabbings and sexual assaults. He referred to the incidents as “the level of carnage” happening on trains.

Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts, who sits on the Metro board of directors, said he saw Villanueva’s compilation of violent crimes “as a public acknowledgment that he failed to prevent these crimes.”

Black Friday ‘Flash Mob’ Robberies Put LAPD on Tactical Alert

Los Angeles police late Friday were on citywide tactical alert after a wave of smash-and-grab “flash mob” robberies at high-end stores.

And in Lakewood, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detectives were investigating a possible smash-and-grab robbery at a Home Depot after people stormed into the store Friday night and fled with sledgehammers and bolt cutters, according to authorities and a store employee.

The Los Angeles Police Department declared the alert around 8:30 p.m. Friday and lifted it at 2 a.m. Saturday. The alert followed a string of robberies in the area early in the evening, including an incident at 5:30 p.m. in which at least 10 men robbed a store at 130 S. La Brea Ave., pushed employees onto the ground and fled, said LAPD Officer Mike Lopez.

Lopez said that another attempted robbery on La Brea Avenue around 5:30 p.m. ended with an employee being sprayed with some kind of chemical agent, and another robbery was carried out at gunpoint in the 7800 block of Melrose Avenue.

Los Angeles police also took three people into custody Friday afternoon in the area of Melrose Avenue and Gardner Street after pulling over a vehicle for a traffic violation and spotting clothing with security tags “in plain sight,” connected to another theft, Lopez said.

Friday’s tactical alert follows a series of robberies in which groups have swooped in on stores across Los Angeles — including a Nordstrom at the Grove shopping center and several stores at the Beverly Center in the Beverly Grove neighborhood — and fled with thousands of dollars in merchandise.

Three people have been arrested in connection with the incident at Nordstrom on Tuesday, where as many as 20 people stole $5,000 worth of merchandise after smashing a display window, police said.

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

Nordstrom at Westfield Topanga Mall Hit In Latest Rash of Flash Mob Robberies

A Canoga Park mall was the scene of a flash mob-style robbery Wednesday night, similar to one pulled off at the Grove earlier this week.

Around 7 p.m., three to five suspects entered a Nordstrom in the Westfield Topanga mall and stole nearly $25,000 worth of designer bags, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The suspects entered the store, which was open at the time, and sprayed a security guard with a chemical substance before fleeing the scene in a green Ford mustang.

The security guard was treated and released at the scene by the Los Angeles Fire Department, Deputy Police Chief Alan Hamilton said in an interview with RMG News.

It was unclear at the time if the suspects were armed with more than the chemical spray, Hamilton said.

Click here to read that the rest of the article at the Los Angeles Daily News

No Chicken Patties For Lunch? Southern California Schools Grapple With Supply-Chain Shortages

Supply chain issues are forcing Southern California school districts to reimagine their menus to compensate for current and expected shortages of popular food items.

Hamburgers. Chicken patties. These and other lunchtime staples have been increasingly difficult to come by lately.

With labor shortages worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, the food production and distribution industries are hurting, and bottlenecks at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are delaying the offloading of all sorts of cargo.

As one San Bernardino County district puts it, with longtime vendors burdened with requests from multiple school systems, demand for certain items is currently higher than supply.

But there are mouths to feed today, tomorrow and every day — for the rest of this school year.

Since the start of the 2021-22 academic calendar, nutrition services staffers across Southern California have worked to ensure hundreds of thousands of students get the nourishment they need, even if what has been planned and what ultimately ends up being delivered changes from one minute to the next.

“We’re working magic to make it happen,” Riverside Unified School District spokesperson Diana Meza said. “But all schools are doing that. There’s a lot more preparation involved.”

Schools get creative with menus

The Riverside district serves about 32,000 meals a day, Meza said, and while certain shortages have made securing student favorites like hamburgers and chicken patties more difficult than ever, officials have been buying more local fruits and vegetables.

Click here to read the full article at OC Register

Can Taxpayers Be Grateful This Thanksgiving?

As inflation takes a bigger bite out of your turkey than you do, it may be hard to find reasons to be grateful. But the truth is we still have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Here’s a few reasons why.

In the Legislature, success is often measured not in how many pro-taxpayer bills are passed but by how many anti-taxpayer bills are stopped. And, in that regard, this past year was better than expected.

A bill that would create a California Universal Basic Income and proposed to pay for it either through a value-added tax, raising corporate taxes or implementing a tax on services died in committee. Another bill that would have created a wealth tax failed to receive a hearing before deadline. An attempt to raise the already highest in the nation income tax rate for Californians making over $1 million to as high as 16.8%, was held in its first committee. A bill to create a single-payer healthcare system, and double the state budget in the process, was tabled.

In all, eleven bills HJTA opposed failed to make it out of the legislature. Five bills we supported were signed by the governor. One bill we opposed was vetoed by the governor. Five bills we supported failed to get out of the legislature. Eleven bills we opposed were signed by the governor and one bill we supported was vetoed by the governor.

HJTA went 17 for 34 this legislative session. We batted .500. Not bad for a taxpayer group in California. For that, we should be grateful.

Click here to read the entire article at the Press Telegram

George Gascón’s Policies Endanger Public Safety

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has enthusiastically embraced radical, pro-criminal, anti-law enforcement policies to fulfill his misguided and dangerous ideology. His policies have ratcheted down punishment to its bare minimum and significantly reduced the prosecution of crime. Murders, gang shootings, organized theft and crime rates have skyrocketed.

Gascón’s destructive policies are not only unnecessarily costing innocent human lives, but they have resulted in increased economic devastation for families and businesses, ranging from mom-and-pop shops to large retailers. Gascón’s devotion to his ill-informed criminal justice agenda has created a public safety crisis, as well as an economic sinkhole. People have been impacted and traumatized by violent crime, and some businesses have been forced to close stores altogether due to organized shoplifting.

The claim there is no link between the recent crime wave and the enactment of the most radical and far-reaching criminal justice “reform” measures ever implemented is shameless gaslighting, or at best, extreme ignorance. Gascón’s policies increase the recidivism rate, and his adoption of a no cash bail system — which has failed miserably in other states — is causing additional harm to needless victims.

Gascón’s blanket policies in the courtroom abandon victims by prohibiting any sentence enhancements or special allegations. At one point, he attempted to eliminate the charging of enhancements for hate crimes. This “one size fits all” approach eliminates the opportunity for judges to impose appropriate and lawful sentences. Gascón’s orders to his deputies not to seek appropriate bail, when the public has voted overwhelmingly to retain a bail system, is another example of a policy that endangers public safety.

Gascón has also abandoned victims’ next of kin at parole hearings. Imagine the trauma of the mother whose son was brutally beaten, stabbed, shot, stripped naked and left in the middle of the street, being forced to have to confront her son’s killer. Under Gascón’s twisted agenda, the mother is left to present the crime scene photos at a parole hearing all by herself. She must go alone against her son’s murderer and his attorney paid for by tax dollars. This is a real case. This is unacceptable.

The California Constitution mandates prosecutors to attend such hearings. The mother of the murdered victim, as well as the people of Los Angeles, have been abandoned by Gascón. Retired and former deputy district attorneys now assist victims in asserting and protecting their rights because Gascón’s policies are inherently averse to victims’ rights and concerns.

The justice system has plenty of advocates for criminals, including the public defender, the alternate public defender, the ACLU, the Innocence Project, Youth Offender Parole Clinic, Habeas Corpus Resource Center and various political front groups established by special-interest donors seeking to spread this same dangerous version of criminal justice. While always protecting defendants’ rights and upholding the Constitution, the elected district attorney should be an advocate for the people and committed to public safety. Gascón is neither.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

Emails Show LA Commissioner Used Influence to Help Win $3 Million COVID-19 Contract, Union Alleges

‘The public deserves to know who was pulling the strings to funnel a $3 million no-bid contract’ to a company partly owned by Commissioner Dr. Pedram Salimpour

An embattled Los Angeles fire and police pensions commissioner accused of ethics violations by a law enforcement union over a $3 million contract to test unvaccinated city employees for COVID-19 began lobbying Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office nearly a year ago on behalf of his company, raising questions from critics about potential influence peddling, emails obtained by the Southern California News Group reveal.

The Los Angeles Police Protective League is suing the city and demanding an investigation, alleging it failed to disclose that testing contractor PPS Health Inc., doing business as Bluestone Safe, is partly owned by Dr. Pedram Salimpour, who was reappointed by Garcetti to the pension commission in 2017.

“Did commissioner Salimpour mislead his commissioner-colleagues and the professional staff as to just how involved he was and how much he stood to gain with this taxpayer-funded contract? asked Tom Saggau, a spokesman for the union. “We all deserve answers.”

The union lawsuit seeks to block the city from requiring unvaccinated employees to pay for COVID-19 tests through payroll deductions at a cost of $65 per test. A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 8.

Bluestone among 7 firms vetted

The Los Angeles Personnel Department said it vetted seven vendors with vaccine and testing tracking services before awarding the no-bid, emergency contract to Bluestone to test city employees. With the exception of Bluestone, the other vendors were not identified.

Bluestone was the only company that offered a variety of services at a competitive rate, including vaccine card verification, daily symptom monitoring, a PCR saliva test, vaccine exemptions submission and tracking, and health services counseling, Bruce Whidden. a spokesman for the Personnel Department, said in an email.

“The services of Bluestone Safe have a proven success record with other area governments, including Los Angeles County and several Native American tribes,” he added.

Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions, which manages more than $30 billion in assets and administers retirement and health benefits for nearly 27,000 current and retired public safety employees and their beneficiaries, said last month Salimpour was “not engaged nor part of the review and vetting process” for the Bluestone contract.

That improbable explanation raises questions about whether Salimpour may have manipulated the pension commission, Saggau said.

“The public deserves to know why the pension commission released an official statement that downplayed commissioner Salimpour’s ownership and management control of Bluestone, as well as stating that Salimpour was not engaged and had no role in the process to gain the contract,” he added. “Why would a city entity defend the profit-focused actions of an individual?”

Bluestone issued a statement saying it has done nothing wrong. “Bluestone sought out and followed legal advice and complied with all applicable ethics laws,” a spokesperson for the company said. “The allegations made by Los Angeles Police Protective League are simply false.”

Click here to read the full article at Los Angeles Daily News

Thousands of LA City Workers Protest Vaccine Mandates At City Hall

Firings of 25% of unvaccinated workers next month would ‘cripple’ city

Thousands of city workers and those opposed to the Los Angeles City employee vaccine mandate protested outside of  Los Angeles City Hall Monday, hoping to turn around the law before the extended December deadline.

The city worker mandate, similar to the LA County worker mandate, was passed in August with an October deadline, making vaccinations mandatory for all city employees unless they have medical or religious exemptions. Due to a lack of “vaccination progress,” the deadline was extended to December 18th last month in the hopes that more will vaccinate in time.

Proponents have said that the mandates are in place to help combat COVID-19 spread and surges due to mutation. Prominent lawmakers have said that the mandates are for health and wellness, and that, despite only about 75% of city departments being vaccinated, all unvaccinated city employees will be fired by December if they remain unvaccinated.

“The City’s employee vaccine mandate is critical to protecting the health and safety of our workforce and the Angelenos we serve,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said last month. “Employees must be vaccinated by December 18, and we are putting a rigorous testing program into place in the meantime. Let me be clear: any employee who refuses to be vaccinated by this date should be prepared to lose their job.”

However, opponents, led by the Firefighters 4 Freedom and other city worker opposition groups, have refused vaccines due to bodily autonomy, personal freedom, constitutional, and health concerns. That opposition, as well as a fast-approaching deadline, led to the rally in Los Angeles on Monday.

Service delays, 25% layoffs

Many LAPD, LAFD, and other city workers protested the mandate and warned that service delays and response times would be crippled if each department had to lay off around 25% of their staff each.

“We’re not all these anti-vax people,” said one LAPD officer who attended the rally on Monday, and asked to remain anonymous. “We just don’t want to be forced into getting something we don’t want that infringes on our rights.”

“And, believe it or not, we also get that, yes, vaccinations can build up immunities and all that. But there is a difference between asking and demanding, and they’re saying we can’t go to public places or be employees based on a personal choice. It’s sickening.”

“They fire me, well, there’s thousands more gone too. Fire, emergencies, police; 911 will have to go to voicemail on busy days.”

“We actually have some buddies who were on the Detroit PD and Flint PD when they had to have similar cuts during the recession, and it was not pretty. Crime shot up, out of control blazes shot up. Everything. So there is precedent for what will likely happen. And right now we’re playing chicken with the politicians. They’re trying to get us vaccinated against our will and we’re standing here ready to go whichever way they decide. And right now, they may stop it. They already delayed it once, which gave a lot of us hope. If they were serious, they wouldn’t have given extensions. They flinched, and a lot of us believe that they will flinch again.”

At the protest, the founder of the LAPD anti-mandate group Roll Call 4 Freedom, Michael McMahon, said that many had already left their positions – including himself.

“I turned in my badge and my gun on Friday,” said McMahon. “It was one of the hardest days of my life. “I could not acquiesce in good conscience to submit my health to a still-experimental injection. Thousands of city employees are struggling with these issues related to their employment, and I want to say to you all, from the bottom of my heart, I love you and I understand. But coercion is not informed consent.”

After his speech, cheers and cries of “We will not comply!” resounded outside the City Hall.

City officials have given no indication that they will rescind the mandate as of Monday. The deadline date for all LA city workers to get the vaccination before termination is December 18th.

This article was originally published by the California Globe

Do Progressives Support Gentrification?

Support is growing for the idea that parents can help their families climb the economic ladder by building generational wealth through property ownership. Surprisingly, this support has even been spotted in the opinion pages of the Los Angeles Times.

It’s surprising because the Times has previously taken a highly negative view of families being able to pass along intergenerational wealth in the form of real property. In a lengthy 2018 article about the effect of a voter-approved measure that allowed parents to transfer property to their kids without reassessment and a tax increase, Times reporter Liam Dillon focused almost exclusively on how the measure had benefited some very wealthy families. In particular, he objected to actors Jeff Bridges and Beau Bridges renting the Malibu home they inherited from their father, actor Lloyd Bridges.

The article complained that “The inheritance tax break . . . has allowed hundreds of thousands – including celebrities, politicians and out-of-state professionals and some of California’s most prominent families – to avoid paying higher taxes.” The article paid scant attention to the vast majority of property owners, ordinary people who inherited the homes their parents worked for 30 years to pay off.

The L.A. Times editorial board called for the elimination of the parent-child transfer protection, asserting that “there is no compelling public purpose or societal good in passing tax breaks through generations.”

Given its hostility to the constitutional protections that helped to preserve intergenerational wealth, we were surprised that the L.A. Times recently ran an op-ed piece with a very different view from their own columnist, Erika D. Smith. She wrote, “Now, all of a sudden, Black people who grew up poor or working class and managed to buy a modest home in the ’60s and ’70s — and, in some cases, pay it off — are finding that they own property that’s extremely valuable. In many cases, it’s a first for their families, this prospect of passing along real wealth to the next generation. After all, it’s one thing to inherit a house worth $350,000 that needs $100,000 worth of work. It’s quite another to inherit the same house, but it’s now valued at $1 million. There are only a few cities in the country where that’s even possible for Black people.”

Unfortunately, the children inheriting those million-dollar homes will receive a new tax bill along with the sympathy cards. The Times got its wish last November when Proposition 19 was narrowly approved, following an ad campaign that sold it as helping wildfire victims, disabled people and seniors. Many voters didn’t realize that Prop. 19 also repealed the parent-child transfer exclusion from reassessment that had been in the state constitution since 1986. Now, with only a few exceptions, property is reassessed to current market value when inherited.

That’s why the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has put forward a ballot initiative, the Repeal the Death Tax Act, that would once again allow parents to transfer a home, and a limited amount of other property, to their children without triggering property tax reassessments.

Click here to read the entire article at the presstelegram.com

LA City Vaccine Mandates Kick In Soon, Spurring Worry Over Extra Work, Confusion For Businesses

As the citywide mandates will go into effect Nov. 8, requiring patrons to show evidence of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars, coffee shops, breweries, wineries, gyms, spas, nail salons anBusinesses say the mandate will add another layer of complexity during the times when their resources are stretched thin as they deal with rental debt, rising costs and labor shortages.

Jennifer Febre, the owner of MacLeod Ale Brewing Co. in Van Nuys, has been closely following government mandates since the first days of the pandemic, but the latest Los Angeles city and county orders — which will not match one another — requiring customers to show proof of vaccination have left her worried and confused.

“I do appreciate how putting this mandate in place is perhaps ratcheting up the pressure to persuade people to finally get vaccinated,” Febre said, adding that at times it feels like her employees are being “deputized as law enforcement officers… I am concerned about putting my staff in that role of being the enforcer.”

As the citywide mandates will go into effect Nov. 8, requiring patrons to show evidence of vaccination to enter restaurants, bars, coffee shops, breweries, wineries, gyms, spas, nail salons and barbershops along with movie theaters and shopping malls, businesses say the mandate will add another layer of complexity during the times when their resources are stretched thin as they deal with rental debt, rising costs and labor shortages.

Click here to read full article on LA Daily News