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Publisher’s Notebook:

Ellis Effects

The Ellis Act is transforming our community. It was argued in the courts on the basis that an apartment owner has the “right” to go out of business. To do so, the owner must shut down his apartment complex for a year and then, lo and behold, he can change his mind and rent the apartments again — at market rate, of course. Oh yes, they must offer the apartments to former tenants who presumably have been hanging out in the driveway waiting for the year to pass so they can have their apartments back.

As far as I know, no apartment owner has gone out of business permanently (unless he sold the property). So the whole process is a sham, designed to get low paying renters out of their apartments.

I own property and I understand the great desire to maximize rental profits, I really do. I also recognize society saying that housing is not a commodity, it’s where people LIVE. That is why virtually every major city in the U.S. has strong rent control laws. To circumvent those rules, particularly in places like Santa Monica that are highly desirable places to live, apartment owners (statewide) have been able to enact this power play.

The Ellis Act as applied in Santa Monica is in the process of changing the complexion of our community. It is now much harder for poorer residents to maintain their existences here and many have been forced out. Is that what we want? Just because you’re poor (elderly? disabled?), get out of town. Ouch, that hurts. Times have been good for Santa Monica property owners. Commercial and apartment values in Santa Monica and on the Westside have escalated dramatically in the last decade. The apartment owners are entitled to Cost of Living increases and everyone has enjoyed a period of very low interest rates. Let’s hope they don’t go one step further and throw poor people out. Problem is, the law says they can.

Republicans vs. Democracy

These Republicans are out of control. Their play to seize absolute control of the Senate by altering the rules of filibuster is a naked power grab and one with serious consequences for the country. The Senate leader, Dr. Bill Frist, wants to alter the advise and consent role of the Senate by overthrowing the percentage required to stop a filibuster. It means a simple majority vote would allow the lifetime appointment of any and all federal judges our current right wing president chooses to submit. If successful, it would effectively create a dictatorship of the majority in the Senate and leave the minority party powerless. One-party rule anyone? Democracy insists that power be shared.

Soon to come will be a Supreme Court justice or two. If the stats are accurate, 210 out of 220 of Bush’s nominees have been approved. 95.45%. I would say things were going pretty smoothly. But, nope, these people want it ALL. They don’t like sharing or consensus, they want candidates so unqualified, so biased, so clearly partisan that just two of them really were so bad, people could not in good conscience vote for them.

A clone of Justice Clarence Thomas or Anthony Scalia may be presented to the Senate during the next nomination for Chief Justice. Certainly, 50 percent of Americans (call them the opposition) have the right to reject the bottom five percent of lifetime federal judge candidates. Some are so out of the mainstream they must be rejected.

The Four Tigers

With his Los Angeles Mayoral electoral victory, Antonio Villaraigosa joins close friends in elected politics. The “four tigers” — L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa (boy, that’s a long name to keep typing), California State Assembly Speaker Fabio Nunez, the Majority Whip Karen Bass and L.A. City Councilman Martin Ludlow — are a very determined and talented group of people. They did their political training in the streets of Los Angeles and they know only too well what is happening here. Their backgrounds and records say we can trust them to get our state and cities’ priorities and values straight — like health and education. Those are the areas that should get the lion’s share of our budget, and thanks to people like this they will. Coincidentally, two of them are my age so I think the maturity helps (or not?). They have their hands full — wrestling with Governor Schwarzenegger. I wouldn’t want to go head to toe with him. Still, they persist and in Los Angeles, new voter support comes for the Democratic Progressives with the victory of Villaraigosa (if I have to write that one more time I am recalling Hahn). We are the country’s second largest city and certainly one of the greatest cities in the world. I am so glad we get to send out this positive message of light and hope from the U.S. I know the rest of the world can see it.

Kudos to The Voters

While we are on the subject of politicians, major kudos should go to all of the Los Angeles voters on the Westside for choosing Bill Rosendahl as their Los Angeles City Councilman. It showed a lot of class, as did Rosendahl when he immediately sought reconciliation in bringing together both sides of a very tough race. The Westside needs to work together and cooperatively. Rosendahl will facilitate that.

And watch Angela Reddick. She may be an up and coming political star.

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