Monday, April 30, 2012

Volunteer For Assembly Candidate Al Muratsuchi Today!

Al Muratsuchi

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The Democratic candidate running for the 66th Assembly District needs your help. Starting NOW, Al will need your help to talk with your neighbors and friends about his vision for California. The campaign will be calling voters and walking our neighborhoods every weekend between now and the June 5th primary.

Please call the campaign headquarters at (424) 237-8520 or email the campaign at if you are able to join them to precinct walk and phone bank.

Their next precinct walk will be next Saturday. Please meet at their campaign headquarters at 10:00 a.m., Saturday, May 5th.

Al Muratsuchi's Campaign HQ
1673 Cravens Avenue Torrance 90501
(click here for a map and directions)

 Together, we can change the way things work in Sacramento, but that change starts here by electing Al to the California State Assembly.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Wherein Betsy Butler Decides A Part-Time Blogger Is Her Main Opponent In The AD50 Race

So here's my question for Betsy Butler. At what point did you decide you were running against me, Marta Evry, a part-time blogger, and not the three other candidates whose names will appear on the June 5th primary ballot for the 50th Assembly District race?

Let's start with this post on Santa Monica Patch written by one of your surrogates which begins with this:

The 50th Assembly District was treated to a display of bullying last week: One of the candidates running against Betsy Butler's bid for the new district launched a prolonged attack against her campaign promotion.

Does the author link to candidate Torie Osborn's website? Or to the LA Weekly article about the 8,000 plastic baby bottles you dumped on district voters, an article which quotes candidate Richard Bloom as saying your team "is 'milking' her BPA legislation for all its worth."?

No, instead she links to an article I wrote about the environmental concerns raised by district voters regarding those 8,000 foreign-made plastic baby bottles.

Also, imagine my surprise when I heard my name mentioned in the KCAL-TV follow up to the same baby bottle story. Why? Because the "reporter" for the story never bothered to contact me. But he was more than happy to take your word for it that a part-time blogger was somehow able to bully (there's that word again) a sitting Assembly member with a war chest of half a million dollars.

Girlfriend, we need to talk.

This may be news to you, but this race isn't about me. And it's not about you. It's about the people of the 50th Assembly District, the people of California, and how we have to solve the awful, intractable problems that decades of political dysfunction, indeed malpractice, has brought to this state.

I have nothing personal against you, Betsy. I supported you in 2010 when you ran against Tea Party candidate Nathan Mintz (for anyone who's keeping score, I live in Betsy's current district) and I was grateful for your support of Debra Bowen in the Bowen/Hahn race last year.

But for a whole host of reasons I believe you made a poor choice in abandoning your current district to run in AD50.

Mainly because:

A) In choosing to leave your current district vulnerable to Republican takeover to run in another district where the registration advantage is so great, a democratic corpse could get elected, you've made it that much harder for the Assembly to reach the 2/3rds majority needed to break Republican obstruction in Sacramento.

B) You seem to have forgotten that voters like to make informed choices about who will represent them in Sacramento.

For better or worse, I find myself to be the only person writing about this campaign in a consistent and substantive way. Do I have a point of view? Absolutely. It is all out there on public display. But I think it also means I have to work twice as hard to make sure everything I write is accurate, sourced and backed up by the facts. Voters are already ill-served in this state by a news media unwilling to do even the most basic legwork to inform the public, and by politicians willing to exploit that weakness to their own advantage. I shouldn't be adding to the problem.

So this isn't complicated, Betsy. If you want me to stop writing "negative" (i.e.: accurate) posts about your campaign, then stop doing things like this:

  • Calling yourself the "environmental" candidate while at the same time dumping at least 8,000 (and maybe as many as 30,000) unwanted plastic baby bottles on district voters.

So let me conclude with this - if you want to debate what I've written on policy grounds, I'm more than ready to have that conversation. I think that's exactly what voters are hungry for, and what they deserve.

However, if you and your surrogates insist on playing the victim by equating me to multi-billion dollar oil and tobacco interests, good luck with that. 

Because if you think a part-time blogger can bully you, how are voters supposed to believe you'll stand up to the actual bullies, the lobbyists and special interests in Sacramento who come knocking on your office door Every. Single. Day?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Bottlegate" Blows Up Big In The 50th Assembly District Race

Torie Osborn literally cleaning up the mess her Sacramento opponent left behind.

"Bottlegate" as KCAL-TV and the LA Weekly have labeled it, has blown up big in the 50th Assembly District race.


Candidate Torie Osborn made good on her promise to pick up and personally recycle Betsy Butler's Mexican-made plastic baby bottles for any voter who asked. Osborn and friends were at the Santa Monica Community Recycling Center early Tuesday morning unloading boxes of the unwanted bottles, carefully unwrapping glossy paper flyers from the plastic bottles and putting the materials in the appropriate bins.

"I said I wanted to clean up Sacramento’s mess with your help," quipped Osborn in an email to supporters, "Little did I suspect we’d have to start so soon."

Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom, another candidate running in the district, also couldn't resist piling on the puns.

"It's a gimmick that is cute, but wasteful. I don't think this is going to go over well with voters," Bloom said, referring to Butler's attempt to capitalize on her bill banning BPA from plastic baby bottles and sippy cups. "Her team is 'milking' her BPA legislation for all its worth."


Butler shows off one of her famous 
baby bottles at a campaign event on 
Sunday (photo: Miranda Robin)
When I reported Friday that Butler had distributed plastic baby bottles to voters all over Santa Monica and West LA, I didn't know exactly how many were out there until the story was picked up by the LA Weekly and KCAL-TV later that same day.

"Foot soldiers dropped them off on 6,000 to 8,000 residents' doorsteps (by her estimate), a reminder of Butler's victorious bill to ban the dangerous chemical BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, "Simone Wilson, reporting for the LA Weekly, wrote. "But we've got to admit this is some of the weirdest, not to mention wasteful, campaign paraphernalia ever to hit the Westside. BPA is scary and all, but so is feeding a baby with an unsealed bottle you found on your doormat."

8,000 plastic baby bottles is a fairly eye-opening number in and of itself.  But now I'm being told by two separate sources that Butler's campaign may have actually ordered up to 30,000 of the Mexican-made plastic bottles.

While I'm still trying to get confirmation, the 30K number does make sense, considering a typical campaign mailing for a district this size is anywhere from 40,000-80,000 pieces.

Eight ounce Evenflo plastic baby bottles retail at a little over a dollar a piece, then of course there's the cost for the campaign fliers as well as the fee to hire canvassers to attach the fliers to the plastic baby bottles and drop them off at doorsteps all over the district. So even if she paid the wholesale price for the plastic baby bottles, the investment for Butler's campaign would have been substantial.

Veteran campaign managers I consulted put the price tag for such an operation anywhere from $15K-30K.  Again, this is all speculative at this point, but campaign finance reports due in mid-May should tell the tale. And there's no word as to whether or not Butler will go through with distributing the remaining 22K bottles or just eat the cost due to bad publicity.


By Butler's own admission, she knowingly chose to purchase thousands of plastic baby bottles from Evenflo, a company which makes their bottles in non-union factories based in Mexico, a country where the minimum wage is less than $5 a day.

The candidate claimed she had no choice, telling the LA Weekly, "The reason they're from Mexico is because California and the rest of country have been so behind" on banning BPA.

Actually, Butler did have a choice. She could have chosen to forgo the bottles and find another way to highlight her involvement in the BPA legislation.

There are practical reasons why it's so unusual for any democratic candidate running for elected office to knowingly use non-union materials in their campaign. Candidates aggressively seek out union endorsements, not just for bragging rights, but because those endorsements often come with hefty checks from union PACS, as well as volunteer labor from union members for GOTV efforts.

Butler, largely through the help of Assembly Speaker John Perez, has received more union PAC money from Sacramento and LA trade unions than any other candidate in the AD50 race. IBEW, ILWU, UFCW, and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades are just a few of the unions which have donated tens of thousands of dollars to Butler's campaign. 

One can only wonder how the membership of those unions must feel about their dues going towards the purchase of thousands of non-union foreign made plastic baby bottles.

So while most of the attention has been focused on the dumping of thousands of unwanted plastic bottles on one of the most environmentally conscientious districts in the state, the union issue could prove to be the next contentious, if less publicly visible, issue waiting in the wings.

Stay tuned for further developments..........

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Help These Fantastic Progressives Become Delegates To The Democratic National Convention

Dear friends and neighbors,

Come out to vote for these amazing activists so they can become California delegates to the Democratic National Convention in August. These folks have worked their tails off to elect President Obama in 2008 and on issues we all care about in California. Please take an hour to return the favor and come to Santa Monica on Sunday to cast a vote.

Gloria ALLRED 

Bergamot Station Art Center 
James Gray Gallery 
2525 Michigan Ave, D4 
Santa Monica, CA 90404 

Sunday, April 29   

  • All attendees in line by 3:00pm will be allowed to register and vote. 
  • You are allowed to register and/or change party affiliations right before you vote. 
  • Just cast a ballot and leave. You don't have to stay for the candidate speeches which start at 3pm 



The Fighting 33rd Congressional District includes parts of West LA, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Malibu, Agoura Hills, Manhattan Beach, Calabassas, El Segundo, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Torrance (west of Hawthorne Boulevard), Palos Vedes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, and unincorporated West Los Angeles County.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Torie Osborn Offers To Clean Up Betsy Butler's Baby Bottle Boo-Boo

Betsy Butler baby-bottle mailer
Do you live in Santa Monica or the Mid-Wilshire district? Have you received an unwanted bit of campaign spam this weekend from candidate Betsy Butler in the form of a plastic baby bottle?

Butler's opponent, Torie Osborn, would like to help you out.

Just in time for Earth Day, one of my opponent’s campaign is littering front doors across the district with low-grade plastic baby bottles. I’m not sure why my opponent thought voters in the most environmentally conscious district in California would want to get spammed with unwanted plastic, but I’m ready to lead the recycling drive.
This Monday, I will personally recycle all the bottles given to me and my team by voters, taking them to the Santa Monica Community Recycling Center.

If you would like to have your bottle picked up and recycled, please email before Sunday at 5pm.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Betsy Butler's Bungled Baby Bottle Mailer

Plastic bottles and other debris polluting the Ballona wetlands, located in Betsy Butler's current district.

Betsy Butler baby-bottle mailer
Betsy Butler's first campaign mailer of the 50th Assembly District election is the talk of the town. But not in a way the candidate hoped or intended.

That's because Betsy Butler's "mailers" weren't mailed at all. Instead, they were wrapped around thousands of Mexican-made plastic baby bottles and hand-delivered by paid canvassers.

Reports of Betsy Butler's baby bottle mailers started trickling in from West Los Angeles voters last week, but I hadn't actually seen one in the wild until yesterday, when reports started flooding in of bottles mysteriously showing up on the doorsteps of voters all over Santa Monica.

Presumably, Butler chose to introduce herself to the 50th Assembly district via plastic baby bottles as a clever way to tout her involvement in a California law banning BPA from plastic baby bottles and sippy cups.

But whatever Butler's intentions, voters in the district I spoke with were universally taken aback by the gimmicky mailers.

"When I came home, my first thought was it some sort of product placement," said Rick Moore, who lives in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Santa Monica. He didn't realize it was a campaign mailer until he took a closer look.

"It's just an odd thing to receive as a 59 year-old man. I mean, does she think this is the next stop for me?"

Abby Arnold, a voter in Santa Monica's Ocean Park neighborhood was equally flummoxed. "I don't have a baby. What am I going to do with a baby bottle except throw it away?"

A voter in the Wilmont neighborhood (who asked that her name not be used) voiced similar concerns, writing in an email, "Clearly, the Butler campaign addressed a bottle for every unit in my (11-unit) building. This struck me as extremely wasteful, and since I don't have kids and live in a small apartment,  I'm now confronted with the task of figuring out what to do with it." 

James Haygood of Sunset Park believes that Butler's mailer sends the wrong message to voters, "Little things do matter. Leaving a bunch of plastic junk around the neighborhood definitely tweaks the sensibilities of people here that know that dealing with environmental issues means a lot of people doing a lot of little things."

Another voter who lives north of Wilshire Blvd. (who also requested her name not be used for this story) voiced surprise that a candidate reportedly endorsed by the California League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club would dump so much plastic into the district, plastic which would more than likely end up in the trash.

"This is just bizarre. It's wrong. (CLCV and the Sierra Club) ought to look at how much landfill she's taking up."

Indeed, recycling statistics complied by Cal Recycle seem to validate this concern. The recycling rates for polypropylene plastics (the type of plastic the baby bottle mailers are made out of) is abysmally low, hovering around 5%.

"That's not a very green message," Rick Moore reiterated.

Voters also voiced concern about the Mexican-made Evenflo-brand bottles Butler chose to use.

Democratic candidates normally go to great lengths to make sure any campaign materials, including mailers and lawn signs, are locally manufactured by union shops. The issue could prove particularly problematic for Butler, who's received tens of thousands of dollars in union PAC money.

"We always look for the union label on any printed materials a candidate hands out," said Arnold. "It lets me know that keeping good manufacturing jobs in California is a priority for them."

Evenflo brand baby-bottle used in mailers were made in Mexico

Evenflo, the company which manufactures the bottles Butler chose to use, could in an of itself also prove problematic for the candidate.

The company agreed in 2009 to stop using BPA in plastic baby bottles sold domestically (two years before Butler's BPA legislation was signed into law),  yet quietly continued to ship plastic bottles made with BPA to other countries. The company has also been repeatedly (and successfully) sued for marketing defective products.  In 2007, a jury awarded $10.4 million to the parents of a four month old boy who died of head injuries sustained in a car crash while riding in a defective Evenflo car seat.  In 2008, the company had to recall a million child restraint seats when it turned out their seats could break off and fly around inside the car during collisions as slow as 38 mph.

Butler's literature wrapped around the 
Mexican-made baby bottles 

The irony of Butler wrapping campaign literature touting her union and consumer protection endorsements around thousands of Mexican-made plastic bottles from a company with a track record of marketing products harmful to children was not lost on Arnold.

"This is a highly informed, politically aware district. You can't fool us."

If Betsy Butler was hoping the baby bottle mailers would make an impression on voters, it can safely be said she's achieved her goal.

It certainly made an impression on the Wilmont voter whose apartment building was targeted by the campaign,

"I was undecided on who to vote for in the election until I received Butler's baby bottle." she wrote,  "Then I scratched her off my list."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Photos and Video: CicLAvia - South Central to Boyle Heights

Part rolling block party, part experiment in urban/social engineering, and all fun, Los Angeles' 4th CicLAvia in two years (the first being on 10/10/10) was better than ever.

Inspired by Ciclovía, the original, weekly street closure event in Bogotá, Colombia, CicLAvia semi-annually shuts down 10 miles of roadway to auto traffic, opening up the neighborhoods from Boyle Heights to Downtown, MacArthur Park to East Hollywood, El Pueblo/Olvera Street, and South LA to pedestrians and bikers.

Perfect weather and clear skies brought out tens of thousands of riders, strollers and skaters. In fact, today's turnout was the biggest I'd seen so far, with more activities than ever before. Participants could climb a rock wall at Hollenbeck Park, play bike polo downtown, listen to live music in Macarthur Park, buy a pinata on 9th Street and much, much more.

This was the first year I couldn't get my act together to get up early enough to ride to CicLAvia from Venice, so I decided to do something a little different this time around. Instead of trying to do the entire route, I concentrated on the South-Central and Boyle Heights CicLAvia "hubs", exploring what those neighborhoods had to offer.

Overall, I was really happy with my choice. Normally, these are the neighborhoods I tended to skip on my other CicLAvia rides, and based on the crowds today, it looks like I wasn't alone. While downtown LA was wall-to-wall bikes, with long lines for food trucks and other vendors, the vibe around South Central, 9th and Olympic and Hollenbeck Park was more relaxed, the food trucks less up-market, and the bikes a whole lot funkier.

Here then are some of my photos and impressions of the day (click on any photo to see a larger version.)

CicLAvia route - South Central/Boyle Heights section

South Central LA - African American Firefighter Museum

Real Ridaz Bike Club - African American Firefighter's Museum

First stop was the African American Fightfighter's Museum - the only such museum in the United States. Sited in the beautifully restored Fire Station 30 at 14th and Central Ave, the museum celebrates the city's first 100 years of service by African American firefighters (1897-1997).

The highlight of the day for me was watching the Real Ridaz low-rider bike club strut their stuff. Somehow they were able to twist their chrome and mirrored creations into shapes most "normal" bikes just don't do, then hop on the saddle and ride them downtown. Here's a taste of what that was like:

Real Ridaz show their stuff at CicLAvia from Marta Evry on Vimeo.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

Mayor Villaraigosa was on hand in full bicycle regalia - earlier that morning he surprised many bike activists by announcing a permanent bike sharing program in Los Angeles starting in December.  From LA Streets Blogs:

In an announcement that caught even some CicLAvia organizers by surprise, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced this morning at the “CicLAvia opening” that CicLAvia partners Bike Nation will establish a permanent footprint in Los Angeles this December. The cost to the city will be minimal, as Bike Nation promises to pay for all of the 4,000 bikes and 400 kiosks coming to Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Venice Beach and Westwood. Bike Nation estimates it could take a full year to complete the installation.

“In tough economic times like these, we knew it wasn’t feasible to start a public bike share program,” explains Villaraigosa of the $16 million investment by Bike Nation. ”But we know it’s what LA needs. As we’ve seen with CicLAvia and ‘Carmaheaven,’ Angelenos are aching for a day without a car.”

Real Ridaz club member reflected in one his bike's MANY mirrors

Engine company 30

Real Ridaz bikes

Real Ridaz bikes
Funky helmets

Flier advertising future South Central Bike rides

Guessing that's not really his day job.

Coca-Cola building built in the shape of an ocean liner - 14th and Central Ave.

Bikes came in all shapes and sizes

"Pinata District" East Olympic Blvd. and 9th Street

Who knew Los Angeles had a "Pinata District"? Stretching along East Olympic Blvd. at the point it turns into 9th street, the area is lined with colorful bodegas, swap meets, car repair shops, and yes, places where you can get pinata - hundreds and hundreds of pinatas.

It was also the best smelling part of the ride, with dozens of impromptu food carts, barbeque pits and taco stands set up to accommodate riders. I was drooling for three miles.


Downtown LA/ City Hall

Traveling east on 9th Street, and turning north on Spring, I ran into the highest density of riders I would encounter that day. So many bikes were crammed into downtown, they would quickly fill up a city block as they waited for the traffic monitors to let them pass.

Entering the downtown cooridor
LA City Hall
garment district shops

OMG! A round-about!!!!!
Spring Street round-about traffic

showing off

This man needs a sandwich

 LA River to Boyle Heights/Hollenbeck Park

My late lunch stop and turn-around point. Hundreds of cyclists and families were lounging around the grass, eating yummy food from about half a dozen food trucks parked around the perimeter (can't say enough about the shrimp "frankie" I bought off a truck selling Indian fusion food). REI had a booth where you could have your photo taken, and a few intrepid (and non too tired) participants even tried their hand at climbing a rock wall they set up on the lawn.

REI-sponsored rock climbing wall at Hollenbeck Park

Too soon it was time for me to turn around and go home. October's CicLAvia can't get here fast enough.