(Editor’s note: the second part of this story will run tomorrow. The entire meeting will be posted on the Democratic Club’s website: Palisadesdemclub.org )
At the Democratic Club’s annual membership meeting, held virtually on January 31, there was a “peaceful” transfer of power from outgoing President Erika Feresten, who had held that position since 2018, to Highlands resident Steve Cron. At least 177 people attended the meeting.
“We can accomplish great things together,” Feresten said. “We’ve done it and we can keep doing it. With our elected officials, we can forge a community of care.”
Cron, an attorney, was sworn in by the “godfather” of the Palisades Democratic Club, president emeritus and long-time resident Joe Halper, who is also an L.A. City Recreation and Park commissioner.
“I am honored and humbled to take over the reins from Erika,” said Cron, who also serves on the Pacific Palisades Community Council. “Elections are not won in November, they are won months, sometimes years in advance with hard work and dedication to the cause. . . Clubs like ours around the country have registered countless voters, made millions of calls, sent out text and postcards, knocked on doors to get out the vote and dug deep in their pockets to support Democratic candidates. . . I invite you to get involved with the club.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti, U.S. Representative Ted Lieu, L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, California State Senator Ben Allen, California Assemblyman Richard Bloom, Councilman Mike Bonin and LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin each gave brief remarks and then answered questions.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI:
Garcetti, who said he helped President Joe Biden with his vice-presidential selection and worked as co-chair of Biden’s inauguration, explained why he stayed in Los Angeles and withdrew from consideration for a cabinet position. “So much of what we have yet to do is right here.”
The Mayor addressed the issue of vaccination shortages. “It’s a numbers game right now,” he said and blamed President Trump’s lack of leadership based on science for the delayed rollout of the vaccinations. “We need people who actually respect and reflect facts and then provide leadership — and not throw everything on us at the local level and say, ‘Good luck,’ or on the state level and say ‘Figure it out.’
“Imagine trying to win World War II by dropping weapons in different parts of Europe and telling the soldiers, ‘You figure it out, we supplied the weapons.’”
Q. What is your office doing to address homelessness?
A. “We need to make housing a human right in America,” Garcetti said, noting that he had helped get this into Joe Biden’s platform that Section 8 housing vouchers should be a universal entitlement, like food stamps. For the homeless, “We have increased the city budget by 16-fold,” he said. “You will see 10,000 affordable housing units, including 1,500 this coming year. We have doubled the number of people taken off the streets — we need housing as a national human right.” He added that the Covid infection rate has been lower among the unhoused than the housed.
Q. There are numerous complaints about the high DWP rates. DWP has been unresponsive. There has been no answer how the bills are generated.
A. “Let our office know directly,” the Mayor said, by going to the mayor’s helpline at 213-978-1028 or by email: email@example.com. “We keep our rates lower than our competitors, Edison and other utilities.”
REPRESENTATIVE TED LIEU
Lieu was one of the representatives who drafted the articles of impeachment that were sent to the Senate. He represents Congressional District 33 and was first elected in 2014. “It was a violent attack on our Capitol,” Lieu said as he recounted his experience on January 6. He was evacuated from the building, along with other members of Congress.
“We have to have justice and accountability for what happened,” Lieu said. “If there is a conviction, then Donald Trump will be deprived of certain benefits, like a taxpayer-funded pension and office space and office personnel. We need future presidents to know that this can’t happen again.”
Q. Is there any evidence that members of Congress enabled the events of January 6?
A. “That is a great question. There is a difference between people who voted to object to the certified voting results and those who spoke . . . No one is above the law and I think the FBI should investigate,” Lieu said. “We’ll see what the results of the investigation will be.”
Q. Since Senate Republicans seem committed to not voting for impeachment, would you find censure acceptable?
A. “It [censure] should never happen before the trial,” Lieu said, noting that it was a violent attack with one guard killed and 140 injured. There was destruction to the Capitol. “If people think censure is an appropriate response, I don’t know what they are thinking.”
Lieu has promised to come back and speak to the Club at a future date.
L.A. COUNTY SUPERVISOR SHEILA KUEHL
Kuehl has announced that she will turn 80 this year and has decided not to run for office in 2022. She said that she still has a “bucket” list that she wants to work on. “This is a difficult time. I miss you; I miss the human contact.”
Recalling how the pandemic brought economic devastation to L.A. County residents and businesses, Kuehl said, “With the first case, we had no idea what this would be, we had no idea how much we would be let down by the national government and left to our own devices early on.”
She noted that the County initially provided $170 million in grants to businesses, set up a helpline for people who needed to find new work and gave direct cash grants of $800 each to dislocated workers.
Regarding vaccine distribution, she said there are 10 million people in L.A. County and 1.5 million are over age 65. “We’re looking to get more vaccinations,” she said. “I think we’ll have more doses. Gavin [Newsom] has asked Blue Shield to run the vaccinations and next week we’ll start with the mobile delivery.”
Q. If you’re over 65 how can you get the shot? Any suggestions?
A. “It’s a matter of timing. It’s kind of like trying to score a ticket to ‘Hamilton,’ said Kuehl, who noted that the County is notified on Wednesday night the number of vaccinations it will receive for the following week. She suggested starting to call on Thursday at 8 a.m. “Health plans are starting to have it,” she said. “I’m sorry it’s so random, but we don’t have enough vaccine.”
Q. What is the funding status for fighting wildfires and for clearing the brush around Pacific Palisades?
A. “This depends on jurisdiction,” said Kuehl. Some of the land is National Park land and the County has no jurisdiction. “In the county we’ll clear it for you and send you a bill.”