Lead Story West Edition

2017 YEAR IN REVIEW: Waters taking on Trump is top 2017 story

The year 2017 will be remembered as the year Donald Trump became president of the United States, making it an interesting year as far as news-making was concerned. What is and what isn’t news became as important as the main issues of the year.

In Southern California, 2017 was the year government leaders finally decided to address the homelessness crisis. Local leaders also fought with Trump over immigration issues and local governments wrestled with what do with marijuana, which becomes legal for recreational use by adults over 21 on Jan. 1, 2018.

Those are among the top stories of 2017 that we look at in our annual year-in-review issue.

Waters criticizes

President Trump

WASHINGTON — President Trump has had a lot of critics and one of his loudest — and most vocal — was Rep. Maxine Waters.

The congresswoman from South Los Angeles held a series of town hall events and community rallies where she criticized the president for the way he treats women and the media and his disregard for those who oppose his policies.

“Having served in Congress for over 26 years, I am deeply concerned about the direction and the future of this country under Donald Trump,” Waters said in July at the 2017 Black Church Advocacy on Capitol Hill Press Conference. “A president’s budget is the blueprint of a president’s priorities and values, and Donald Trump’s budget makes it glaringly clear that he does not care about hard-working Americans and their families.

“Like so much of what we’ve come to understand about this president, all of his pledges last year to preserve and protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the social safety net were lies. Trump’s budget is wrong for the country. It’s a mean and heartless plan that only benefits the rich while the rest of us are left to pick up the pieces.

“While Donald Trump is busy proposing enormous tax cuts for his friends, his budget cuts funding to almost every single significant government program other than defense. Crucial agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Education, Housing and Urban Development, the National Institute of Health and others all face unprecedented slashes to their budgets.

Continuing her attack, Waters said: “Trump’s budget is also a full-on assault on our society’s safety nets that millions of Americans including children, veterans and the elderly rely upon. His budget jeopardizes our health care system by cutting more than $1 trillion from Medicaid over the next 10 years, eliminating meals on wheels, reducing funding for food stamps and drastically cutting Social Security disability insurance.”

Officials seek lower

homeless numbers

LOS ANGELES — In January, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority sends volunteers out into the darkness to count the number of homeless people.

Officials were stunned when the numbers were announced in May. The number of homeless people in Los Angeles County had increased 23 percent from January 2016. There were now 57,794 people living on the streets, their cars, under freeway overpasses and along the Los Angeles Rivers and other waterways, up from 46,874 people in 2016.

Officials used words like “staggering” and “abysmal” to describe the 23 percent increase.

City and county elected officials struggled in 2017 with finding solutions to the homeless crisis after the number of homeless increased 23 percent from 2016 to 2017. Ballot measures approved by county voters and in the city of Los Angeles may help fund new shelter and services for the homeless. (File photo)

But officials had begun planning to solve the problem even before the dramatic numbers were revealed.

In November 2016, voters in the city of Los Angeles approved Measure HHH, a $1.2 billion bond issue to pay for more than 10,000 units of housing.

And in March 2017, Los Angeles County voters approved a .25 percent sales tax increase that is expected to raise $355 million annually over the next 10 years. The money will be spent to provide services for homeless people that will hopefully get them off the street permanently.

In November, the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and Los Angeles County announced an innovative grant program with cities in the county that saw 47 of the county’s 88 cities submit applications.

The idea was to get cities to develop their own strategic plans for dealing with homeless issues, with the United Way and Los Angeles County providing funding resources.

“Each application that we received was reviewed by a county CEO staff member, United Way staff member and two volunteers from our Home For Good Funders Collaborative,” said Chris Ko, director of homeless initiatives for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

“Their scores and comments were all collected and utilized in the award deliberation meetings that followed with reviewers and with the other members of Funders Collaborative.”

Each city will receive a planning grant ranging from $30,000 to $70,000, depending on the number of homeless families and individuals within its municipal boundaries.

West Hollywood is one of the grantees.

“We’re excited and grateful,” said Corri Plank, project manager of the West Hollywood Homeless Initiative.

“West Hollywood has a long history of serving its vulnerable population including its homeless community members. This is another opportunity for us to look at some of the various pieces of data on our homeless community, to look at strategies that are included in the county initiatives, to look at some of the things we’ve been doing and we look at what our social service providers are doing.”

The next homeless count is the last week of January 2018. Officials are hoping for better — meaning lower — numbers this time around. 

Brown re-elected

Compton mayor

COMPTON — For the second time in four years, Aja Brown defeated Omar Bradley in a runoff election to win a second four-year term as mayor of Compton.

Brown, 35, was the youngest mayor in the city’s history when she was first elected in 2013.

She received about 60 percent of the vote to win the June 6 runoff after receivong 47 percent of the vote in the municipal election in April.

“She’s not only a smart person, but she’s a likeable person,” said city commissioner Brenda Postelle at an election night party for Brown. “She has class. People like her. That’s why we’re getting so many new businesses.”

Among her goals for her next term are to strengthen partnerships with re-entry and gang intervention programs as well as nonprofits that train young people in trades. She said she also would like to build up the downtown area and restore the nightlife that has “faded in the past.”

Not everybody embraced Brown and chose to cast their lot with Omar Bradley, 59, who served as mayor from 1993 to 2001.

“I don’t really support Bradley, but Aja does not tell the truth,” said Lynne Boone, who ran for mayor in the primary elections.

“She’s not invested in our city,” Boone said. “Our financial situation is a disaster, our streets are in disrepair, we’ve had five city managers and no budget since she’s been here.”

L.A. to host

Olympics in 2028

LOS ANGELES — The City Council Aug. 11 unanimously approved a new memorandum of understanding and host city contract for the 2028 Olympics paving the way for the city to host its third Olympics.

By signing off on the documents, the council commits the city to pursuing the 2028 Games while ceding the 2024 Games to Paris, despite not knowing the full financial outlook the change could bring.

LA 2028, the renamed committee leading the city’s bid, proposed a balanced budget of $5.3 billion for 2024 — a low figure compared to other modern Olympics — by utilizing existing venues and not building any new permanent structures just for the Games. However, an independent analysis of a new budget in the works for 2028 will not likely be completed for months.

Los Angeles started off competing with other cities around the world for the 2024 Games, but eventually all cities except L.A. and Paris dropped out.

In July, the International Olympic Committee approved the idea of awarding both the 2024 and 2028 Games simultaneously.

On July 31, Mayor Eric Garcetti and other leaders announced a tentative agreement to host in 2028 as long as the Los Angeles City Council and U.S. Olympic Committee Board of Directors also approve the change. If that approval is given, the IOC, Los Angeles and Paris will work on a formal three-way agreement in advance of the IOC’s meeting in Lima, Peru, on Sept. 13, when the Games will officially be awarded.

At the committee and council meeting Aug. 11, a lineup of prominent Angelenos and Olympic supporters spoke in favor of the 2028 bid, including Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Michelle King, former Councilman Tom LaBonge and Olympic medalist Carl Lewis.

“This is about people’s lives. It’s about bringing people together. It’s about inspiring children,” said Lewis who won four gold medals in track and field in the 1984 Olympics, which were held here.

Los Angeles would receive some significant financial concessions for waiting the extra four years to host. Under the terms of the 2028 host city contract, the IOC would advance $180 million to the Los Angeles organizing committee due to the longer planning period and to fund youth sports in the years leading up to the Games.

The IOC also agreed to waive $50 million in fees and contribute up to $2 billion of its broadcast and sponsorship revenues to the Games, more than the $1.7 billion pledged to Paris for 2024. The IOC also agreed to funnel any of its profits from the Games back to the city.

“My top priorities in this process are to protect Los Angeles taxpayers and create new opportunities for young Angelenos to play sports, and be healthy,” Garcetti said in a statement before the vote. “This new MOU ensures that our city priorities remain front-and-center in LA 2028’s preparations for the Games. Under the city’s leadership, we can be sure that the up to $160 million we will receive to fund youth sports programs from LA 2028 will be put to the best, most impactful use.”

Drug overdose

leads to probe 

WEST HOLLYWOOD — At first, the drug overdose death of Gemmel Moore, a 26-year-old gay black man on July 27, was simply that.

Moore was found dead in a local apartment. His mother, who lived in Texas at the time, was notified of his death by deputies at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, who wrote it off as a typical drug overdose. But LaTisha Nixon decided she wanted more answers about her son’s death.

LaTisha Nixon made an appearance at a West Hollywood City Council meeting in August, asking city officials to conduct an investigation of the drug overdose death of her son, Gemmel Moore, in the apartment of local businessman and political donor Ed Buck. At right is a picture of Moore and Nixon. (Courtesy photo)

She found out her son died in the apartment of a wealthy, white businessman, Ed Buck, who was known for making political contributions to prominent Democrats, both locally and nationally.

She found her son’s journal, in which he blamed Buck for his addiction to methamphetamine, which led to his death.

According to the journal and stories that Moore’s friend told Nixon and investigators she hired, Buck liked to invite young, gay black men to his apartment where he introduced them to methamphetamine.

In November, the Los Angeles County coroner’s report on Moore’s death revealed that “24 syringes with brown residue, five glass pipes with white residue and burn marks, a plastic straw with possible white residue, and a clear plastic bag with a ‘piece of crystal-like substance’” were found in Buck’s apartment after Moore’s death was reported.

Jasmyne Cannick, a social and political activist and publicist, who has worked with Nixon since Moore’s death, said anybody else found with that amount of drug paraphernalia in their home would have been prosecuted by now.

“If you had that many syringes and drugs and other things in that quantity in your house, you’d be in jail,” she said. Anybody would, she said – except Ed Buck.

Buck has refused to comment on the case. His lawyer, Seymour Amster, issued a statement shortly after Nixon and Cannick went public with accusations.

“It is unfortunate that the sheriff’s department is reacting to unsubstantiated allegations,” Amster said. “This is a tragedy, not a crime. [Buck] had no involvement in Gemmel’s death.”

He said the coroner’s initial ruling of an accidental overdose should have closed the case and the continuing investigation is unwarranted.

New pot regulations

to take effect Jan. 1

LOS ANGELES — When Californians voted in November 2016 to legalize the recreational sue of marijuana for adults 21 and over, the new law didn’t take effect until Jan. 1 2018, giving the state and local governments a year to prepare for it.

Los Angeles officials waited until December to pass new laws dealing with the legalization of marijuana. Many other area cities voted to ban the sale and cultivation of recreational marijuana, but West Hollywood was one of the few cities to welcome the legalization of the drug.
File photo

Some area cities took little time to decide they didn’t want to deal with legal pot and voted not to allow permits for the sale, cultivation or distribution of marijuana within their boundaries.

Los Angeles took most of the year to develop its procedures, with the City Council approving regulations Dec. 6 and Dec. 13.

Council President Herb Wesson said he hopes the new laws will be a national model for other cities to follow.

“We are L.A. We are a big city. We do big stuff, that’s who we are, that’s how we roll,” Wesson said. “And there are cities throughout this country that are looking at us today.”

The rules approved by the panel would create limitations on how many cannabis businesses could be located in each neighborhood, similar to the regulations imposed on the alcohol industry, and also create requirements on how far cannabis businesses must be located from “sensitive sites,” including schools, public parks and other cannabis retailers.

Retail businesses must be 700 feet from sensitive sites under the rules, while non-retail and delivery businesses must be 600 feet from schools.

Bellflower allowed voters to determine policies. A ballot measure in March was approved by voters to allow as many as 12 licenses for sales, cultivation and distribution for medicinal marijuana only.

It took the council another nine months to award four permits for sales and another for cultivation and that came after a marathon 10-hour City Council meeting.

Compton originally voted against allowing marijuana sales in the community but now has competing measures on a Jan. 23 special election ballot to settle the issue.

West Hollywood, always one of the most liberal cities in the county, is the only city so far to approve places to consume marijuana as part of its response to legalization.

Bradley convicted

in second trial

COMPTON — Omar Bradley, the former mayor of Compton was convicted of corruption charges July 28 for using about $4,000 in taxpayer funds to pay for personal expenses.

After the guilty verdicts on two felony counts were read aloud, Bradley raised both arms skyward and then sat looking downwards, shaking his head from side to side. His wife sobbed.

Bradley was sentenced Aug. 30 to three years probation and a year in county jail that he has already served.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George G. Lomeli suspended a three-year state prison term that the 59-year-old former city leader will not have to serve if he complies with the terms of his probation.

The judge cited Bradley’s age and lack of prior criminal history.

Bradley, 59, was charged with misappropriating public funds by “double-dipping” — using a city credit card and cash advances for travel. It was his second trial in the case.

In 2004, Bradley was found guilty of the charges, but the conviction was tossed out on appeal eight years later. His voided conviction in 2012 allowed him to twice unsuccessfully run for mayor again.

Bradley now faces a lifetime ban on holding public office. Bradley served as mayor from 1993 until 2001.

During the two-week trial, Bradley’s attorney argued that the former mayor believed his expenditures — for clothing, golf fees and hotel rooms — were legal because they were for city business. Prosecutors had not proven that Bradley knew the $4,000 he spent was unlawful, attorney Robert J. Hill told the jury.

But Deputy District Attorney Ana Lopez alleged that Bradley’s spending was “purely personal” and offered “no public benefit,” and that he clearly understood the rules.

She conceded, however, that accountability for spending became “very relaxed” in Compton after the city council approved a resolution authorizing the issuance of city credit cards to council members without any public comment on the issue.

During two days on the stand, the ex-mayor testified that he had played golf with officials in order to discuss several city projects, and bought golf clothing to look the part.

Following the first trial, Bradley was sentenced in 2004 to three years in prison, but he was later moved to a halfway house.