Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lakoff: The privatization of public housing, Betrayal, violence at LA City Council

Hi. I add this brief report of yesterday's mess at city hall as addendum
to today's LATextra's, for two reasons: The politics and cause of both
reports are similar, but this will clearly develop and we should know
the players. I didn't, but am a long-time supporter of C.E.S., cited in the
Times. The other reason is that this falls in line with the 2nd article,
as a furthering of the current assault on the poor and public institutions.
We're enduring a creeping version of Rand Paul's brand of libertarianism.

----- Original Message -----
From: Becky Dennison
Sent: Friday, May 21, 2010 9:38 PM
Subject: betrayal and LAPD violence in council chambers today

Hey all,

I will send a full update on Monday morning, but wanted to share with those
who weren't there today the betrayal of our supposed progressive
councilmembers and subsequent police violence. Below is an article we just
quickly wrote for Indy media. Dogon, Deanna and Gerardo are still at Central
Station - they are supposed to be booked within the hour - then we will know
the charges and bail.

I think we need to have an emergency meeting on Monday - we need to fully
debrief, file our police complaints, and discuss all next steps. Could
people do it late in the day - around 5:00 PM? I will confirm the time and
place on Monday - as long as a good core group can make it.

In solidarity,

Los Angeles Right to Housing Collective Fights for Tenant Rights

City Council and LAPD respond by betraying tenants and arresting three LA
CAN members

City Council made tenants wait over five hours before declining to vote on a
moratorium against rent increases. Instead, Council President Eric Garcetti
introduced a motion to send the issue back to committee. The motion passed
10-5, essentially ensuring rents will go up for most tenants on July 1st.
The only votes in favor of tenant rights were Councilmembers Alarcon, Hahn,
Huizar, Krekorian and Wesson.

When tenants voiced their anger, frustration and disappointment by chanting
loudly in Council Chambers, Acting President Dennis Zine ordered Los Angeles
Police Department to remove tenants from council. About 30 LAPD officers
began roughly forcing tenants out of Council chambers. One Los Angeles
Community Action Network (LA CAN) member was forced to the ground against a
wall by several officers, his tee shirt ripped almost in two, and another
was hog tied after being roughly pulled to the ground by his neck. Another
disabled female LA CAN member was arrested solely for shouting at Council
that this was all Council's fault. More than five hours later, all are still
being detained and LAPD claim they are being "processed."

City Council spent the first two and a half hours of the meeting giving out
ceremonial awards, making hundreds of people who had come to Council wait.
Although the chambers were 90% filled with people interested in the
moratorium, on either side of the issue, Council heard several other items
before finally hearing the item. The measure would have suspended an
automatic 3% rent increase for four months, with an exemption for "mom and
pop" landlords.

Tenants asked for this relief because the rent increase, usually based on
the Consumer Price Index, was negative 0.6 last year and so they did not
believe landlords should be entitled to an increase. In the 25 years since
the 3% "floor" was enacted, the CPI has been under 3% eleven times, thus
giving landlords a rent increase regardless of inflation. As low-income
people are facing cuts in wages and benefits, unemployment, hikes in bus
fares and DWP costs, and more, a rent increase may just be the final push,
forcing families into the streets.

Raw video is available at:


Obama Administration on the Verge of Giant Sell-Out to Conservatives -- How
to Stop Them

The Obama Administration's move to the right is about to give conservatives
a victory they could not have anticipated, even under Bush: the
privatization of public housing.

By George Lakoff
May 21, 2010

The Obama Administration's move to the right is about to give conservatives
a victory they could not have anticipated, even under Bush. HUD, under
Obama, submitted legislation called PETRA to Congress that would result in
the privatization of all public housing in America.

The new owners would charge ten percent above market rates to impoverished
tenants, money that would be mostly paid by the US government (you and me,
the taxpayers). To maintain the property, the new owners would take out a
mortgage for building repair and maintenance (like a home equity loan), with
no cap on interest rates.

With rents set above market rates, the mortgage risk would be attractive to
banks. Either they make a huge profit on the mortgages paid for by the
government. Or if the government lowers what it will pay for rents, the
property goes into foreclosure. The banks get it and can sell it off to

Sooner or later, the housing budget will be cut back and such foreclosures
will happen. The structure of the proposal and the realities of Washington
make it a virtual certainty.

The banks and developers make a fortune, with the taxpayers paying for it.
The public loses its public housing property. The impoverished tenants lose
their apartments, or have their rents go way up if they are forced into the
private market. Homelessness increases. Government gets smaller. The banks
and developers win. It is a Bank Bonanza! The poor and the public lose.

And a precedent is set. The government can privatize any public property:
Schools, libraries, national parks, federal buildings - just as has begun to
happen in California, where the right-wing governor has started to auction
off state property and has even suggested selling off the Supreme Court

The rich will get richer, the poor and public get poorer. And the very idea
of the public good withers.

This is central to the conservative dream, in which there is no public
good - only private goods. And it is a nightmare for democracy.

The irony is that it is happening under the Obama administration. Barack
Obama, running for office, gave perhaps the best and clearest
characterization of what democracy is about. Democracy, he has said, is
based on empathy - on citizens caring about and for each other. That is why
we have principles like freedom and fairness for everyone. It is why social
responsibility is necessary. The monstrous alternative is having a society
where no one cares about or for anyone else.

HUD, under the Obama administration, is about to take a giant step toward
that monstrous society.

Here is a quote from the PETRA bill. It's intent is to:
"provide the opportunity for public housing agencies and private owners to
convert from current forms of rental assistance under a variety of programs
to long-term, property-based contracts that will enhance market-based
discipline and enable owners to sustain operations and leverage private
financing to address immediate and long-term capital needs and implement
energy-efficiency improvements."

Along the way, tenants' rights will be trampled, since tenants could not
longer seek redress from the government through their public officials -
because the government would no longer own the buildings.

Stop PETRA. This is urgent. There is a hearing next Tuesday, May 25,
before the House Financial Services Committee and the Subcommittee on
Housing, organized by Rep. Maxine Waters. Phone: 202-225-2201. Fax:

To write to the committee:

Write to your Congressperson now.

If you want to sign a petition, go to:

Here is a letter from the National Association of HUD Tenants:

Here is an informational website, with letters, background information,
and alternative proposals:

And do what you can to get the word out. This requires a national

George Lakoff is the author of Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your
Values and Frame the Debate' (Chelsea Green). He is Professor of Linguistics
at the University of California at Berkeley and a Senior Fellow of the
Rockridge Institute.

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