September 22, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Publisher’s Notebook:

Our dear friend Philomene Long passed away last week. She was a poet extraordinaire; a Venice Beat poet and someone whose every utterance was performance art. Philomene was a Lakers fan who used to come up to the house and catch a game or two a season with me. She would get very excited and thrilled at the amazing capability of basketball players. She and my three-year-old son (at the time) never did quite understand why we lost Shaq, but her support of the team did not waiver. I can give Philomene much credit for my marriage and my family. It was at her writing class at UCLA that my wife hung out with Arthur, an old junior high school friend of mine who introduced us. Philomene was there at the beginning, through a break-up (maybe two?), and finally, along with husband John Thomas, with us on our wedding day. She has contributed gloriously to this newspaper many times, and her light was shining brighter then ever when fate made its call. It is said that we all vibrate energy and that those vibrations can remain resonant for many years after a person’s death (think Buddha or Jesus). Philomene’s resonance will continue to be felt, her poetry will live on, her love and laughter and brilliant insight will stay. All of us get to continue to enjoy her. Philomene, we did not get Kevin Garnett, and the Lakers look woebegone once again. I will, however, share a pizza with you during one glorious game in the season. Please do join me.

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The word on the street is that WISE Senior Services and the Center for Healthy Aging are merging. Both organizations have served our community well, and if the move is to streamline management while continuing a high level of care and programs, then it is a good thing. The recently built WISE adult day care center on Pico Boulevard was designed to provide daytime services for the elderly, which often relieves caregivers so they can work or do other household errands. Plus, it gives those who may otherwise have little ability to get around a place they can be well served and comfortable.

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There will be an important ribbon-cutting ceremony on Main Street Wednesday, September 5, at 10 a.m. Rawvolution, the hip and healthy eatery, will join with the new owners of Herb King to celebrate the renaissance of that part of Main Street. Look for new healthy products at Herb King. My doctor told me to take in a lot of basil. Maybe there is something special at the revamped and restyled herbal treasure house just for you.

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So the Civic Center plan was approved and Rand will be hedged in with a new ultra-high building being built in front of it next to the Viceroy hotel. Doesn’t seem right that while Rand was asked to play within the rules on their height requirement that an immediate neighbor should get a pass. Of course, I don’t see the logic of housing in that zone anyway, so to me it is all nonsense. Our city fathers like to move pieces around on the city map and build things, so the idea of buying up affordable housing and allowing existing residents to stay in place is rarely on their radar screen. No, they would rather build, build, build and complete a Civic Center project plan that in the end will have the original Moderne design barely a footnote. And all new construction will be of different design too! Hodgepodge is more like it. Let’s hope they don’t chicken out on the parking lot conversion to playing fields at the Civic Auditorium, with parking beneath it, similar to how they have done it at UCLA. That may reign as the single most popular idea for the Civic Center to date.

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Is the city being forced to grow? I keep hearing about state mandates insisting upon more housing and with it a percent set aside for affordable housing. The affordable portion doesn’t bother me, but the idea that state government would force Santa Monica to grow its population is unsettling. What if we like it this way? In fact, we are too crowded already with the western end of town being swamped with tourists and the eastern end being overbuilt commercially. Since this is the time for the Land Use and Circulation Elements of the City’s General Plan to be rethought and redone, it is also the time to imagine the kind of Santa Monica we all want. I bet you don’t hear a lot of “we want more buildings” or “we want more high-rises.” I have a hunch you are going to hear things like “we need more urban parks” and “we want better transportation flow.” You know people want to improve the homeless population situation, you know they want safe streets and they want good service from their City Hall and responsive government for individual community’s needs. What North of Montana wants can be quite different than what the Pico Neighborhood can use.

The city has its own bureaucratic cubbyholes for all our needs. City Manager P. Lamont Ewell is showing up personally at community meetings, and by most accounts he appears to be a good listener. Ten or 20-year plans can be a good guide, but they also can pose traps as the world is changing faster then it ever has, and the city must be careful not to get stuck or move in a direction that may soon appear unworkable. Many in our city work from their home; this type of activity needs to be encouraged and not taxed and regulated, which was the city’s first impulse. Plus, we need more and better bikeways.

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One of the city’s main transit advocates, Darrel Clarke, has left the Planning Commission. He was a prime mover for the Exposition Line slated to eventually come to Santa Monica. His loss may be felt in this regard, but it appears the plan is too far along to be derailed (couldn’t resist the pun) at this point. Former council candidate Gleam Davis has joined the Commission as one of the new commissioners. Though she gave a lackluster run for council recently, she has all the “smarts” and attributes to make a good planning commissioner.

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Since the banks won’t do it, the Congress should enact legislation imposing some kind of limits as to what the banks can charge on credit cards and regulate their onerous use of late fees. Due to an oversight, I was late on my credit card payment and the next month the rate went from 14.4% to 29.7% on balances I already owed and agreed to borrow at the 14.4%. First of all, the new rate is beyond all reasonable profit need and, second of all, changing the rate midstream seems out-of- bounds to me. Certainly auto loans, home loans and other purchase credit agreements keep to the agreed-upon rate. But not the credit card folks; they are now protected by the new bankruptcy laws so they can feel free to drive people into bankruptcy with usurious interest rates and the loans cannot be discharged. And then, of course, I was also charged a $25 late fee on an $87 payment. I cannot even figure the per annum rate on that one. I ended up paying off the balance and canceling the card, but I have talked with others, and virtually everyone I know, particularly those who are struggling to make ends meet, have had a similar situation. A friend showed me a card where the interest rate was in the 30% range. And please don’t tell me the banks need the rates to offset high losses. That is just not happening. The truth is they are making money hand over fist and are simply price gouging. Congress (don’t expect Delaware Senator Joe Biden on this one) needs to get on top of this, but don’t count on it.

Michael Rosenthal

Publisher

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