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LA LGBTQ politicos react to Democratic debate

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Local LGBT politicos reacted much as the rest of the country to the sixth and final Democratic presidential debate of the year at Loyola Marymount University on Dec. 19. The two most striking observations were the dearth of people of color candidates on the stage, given the diverse demographic strength of the Democratic Party, and that LGBTQ issues were finally raised as a party concern.

Most of the attention, however, was focused on the dramatic flareups as Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar attacked out South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is leading in Iowa, over fundraising transparency and his comparable lack of experience.

Local LGBTQ politicos are still assessing the field, but starting to hone in on top choices.

Assemblymember Miguel Santiago and LA County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez at the debate (Photo courtesy Gonzalez)

“California will play one of the most crucial roles in deciding the next president of the United States, and we were proud to welcome seven of our candidates to Loyola Marymount University here in Los Angeles,” out LA County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzalez told the Los Angeles Blade. “As a proud gay, Latino Angeleno, it’s great to see one of the most diverse fields in history crisscross the country. My only hope is that we will get a chance to see more of our black and brown leaders on future debate stages. We’re just over 40 days away from the first votes cast, and as we’ve continued to see over the past few months, our candidates are ready to take on this president and present a strong case to the American people for Democratic leadership.”

Determined to make a difference in the primary winnowing process, California moved its primary to Super Tuesday, March 3. Early vote-by-mail starts on Feb. 3, ironically the same day as the Iowa Caucuses. The last day to register to vote is Feb. 18 and the last day to request a Vote-By-Mail ballot is Feb. 25. This takes on even greater importance in light of billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to skip the early primary states and flood Super Tuesday states like California with ads. (See the Sec. of State website for more info at , where Sec. of State Alex Padilla also refutes recent reports about a widespread glitch with the Motor Voter program at the DMV changing voters’ party affiliation.)

Photo: longtime activist/organizer Torie Osborn, a senior advisor to Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, addresses her “Resist and Rise” team at an event for Rep. Karen Bass’ PAC Sea Change, with out LA City Councilmember Mike Bonin, Rep. Ted Lieu, Kuehl and Bass last Sept. (Photo by Linda Garnets)

“Perhaps it’s the afterglow of democracy at work – the orange fascist is IMPEACHED! (thanks to our work building the Blue Wave last year), but I felt really positive about our Democratic field at the debate,” Osborn told the Los Angeles Blade. “I really missed [Sen. Kamala] Harris, [former HUD Sec. Julian] Castro and [Sen. Cory] Booker but overall I like us! I really like us!”

Recently, Osborn announced her endorsement of Warren. “I love, love, love her bold populism and authenticity – and laughed out loud at her line ‘I’d also be the youngest women elected!’ But I liked everyone. Even [former Vice President Joe] Biden is so damn nice, compared to the chaos and cruelty and corruption emanating from the White House. I’ll work my ass for any of them. I believe we must have a woman and person of color on the ticket. But I’m dedicated to winning the Senate and Presidency next year.”

#NotAboveTheLaw organizers Karen Eyres and attorney Patrick Ryan Blood speak at the West Hollywood rally on the eve of President Trump’s impeachment (photo courtesy Blood)

Entertainment attorney Patrick Ryan Blood, a huge #KHive Harris fan, thought Sen. Bernie Sanders sounded like a “broken record” but Biden “flexed his experience across the board, enjoyed a gaffe free night and showed us that he very much so is a candidate who on day 1 would be ready to assume the office of Presidency.”

But Blood’s heart is trending toward Klobuchar.  “It is fairly clear Amy Klobuchar won the night, easily. She made her policy, experience, and plan for America front and center, took aim at Trump being weak, and took aim at the inexperience of Pete Buttiegieg (which so many seem willing to overlook),” Blood told the Los Angeles Blade. “Pete has a weird way of escaping unharmed even when factual failures or shortcomings are illuminated. I am curious how the media will cover the exchanges with Warren and Klobuchar against Pete because if Kamala did the same it would have been the ‘angry black woman’ rhetoric.”

Longtime gay politico Fred Karger, who made history as the first gay person to mount a serious run for president, seeking the Republican nomination in 2012, now supports fellow gay political pioneer, Pete Buttigieg.

“Sens. Warren and Klobuchar took some cheap shots at frontrunner Pete Buttigieg on the debate stage, but that’s bound to happen when you’re in the lead by double digits in both Iowa and New Hampshire,” Karger told the Los Angeles Blade. “Pete deflected the hits well and went on to wow millions more Americans with his smart answers and closing statement on ‘belonging.’”

Billionaire businessman Tom Steyer did better than many expected but still struggles with the albatross of appearing to buy his way onto the debate stage. High tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang also made points but failed to score. His best moment was when asked about the balance of men and women in politics. “If you get too many men, and leave us alone for a while,” Yang said, “we kind of become morons.”

Klobuchar gave a shout out to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was sitting in the front row. But when asked in the spin room who he is going to endorse now that Harris has dropped out, Newsom demurred.

“The problem is legitimately, I have a lot of friends up there … so it’s hard. Kamala Harris was easy for me,” Politico reported Newsom as saying. “I just feel pretty good and proud that these are good choices the American people can look forward to have. And we’re going to see how big a role we’re going to play here in California.”

Newsom also threw some shade at Warren in her use of the Hall Wines cave fundraiser against Buttigieg. “Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States,” she said.

“There are literally hundreds of Democrats that have been in that same cave. Some of the most enlightened progressive voices in American politics today,” Newsom said, according to AP reporter Kathleen Ronayne.

“Having dinner in a wine cave is so typical for us in Napa Valley,” Hall Wines owner Kathryn Walt Hall told the San Francisco Chronicle, noting that the wine cave is open to the public.

Hall — President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Austria who was introduced to her real estate tycoon husband Craig Hall by the late Democratic Texas Gov. Ann Richards — said she has hosted numerous political and other fundraisers there, including for victims of the 2017 wildfires in Napa Valley.

“We think that Pete Buttigieg is just a great candidate, and we reached out to a wide cross-section of people in Napa Valley,” Hall said, noting that about 200 guests attended with ticket prices at $500, $1,000 and $2,800.

On the one elitist detail that really stood out, the Chronicle reported: It’s not quite true that Hall Wines has $900 bottles of Cabernet for sale, as has been widely reported. The winery does sell a $900 jeroboam — the equivalent of four standard bottles of wine — but its regular-size bottles range from $28 to $250.”

Asked about the 1,500 Swarovski crystal chandelier, Hall laughed. “I don’t know how many crystals it’s got, but it has a lot and it’s really beautiful,” she said, “and it’s wonderful because Swarovski comes from Austria, where I served.”

The Warren vs Buttigieg “wine cave” spat didn’t bother Osborn.

“I work daily against Trumpism,” she said. “Every single day, I either organize door-knocking in the Antelope Valley or north Huntington Beach to hold those newly flipped House seats or I work for our March 22 $50 fundraiser with [shooting victim, former Rep] Gabby Giffords for [her husband] Mark Kelly to flip that Arizona Senate seat. From my perch they all look good.”

Osborn is focused. “Remember activism is the antidote to rage and despair. We learned that from AIDS. We are warriors. All my lessons from the height of AIDS are put to use in this fight. My resistance group had over 100 at last meeting Dec 8,” Osborn said. “Focus. Empower. Build a leadership team. Analysis. Action. Collaboration.  It works! We win in 2020 just like we won in 2018….We do our jobs: organize, organize, organize. Register and mobilize youth, people of color, LGBT folks, poor people. Get them to the polls. And we win.”

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Los Angeles County contract employee charged in Vaccination Card theft

Officials determined that blank vaccine cards had been stolen from a vaccination site in Pomona Fairplex Mega-Pod vaccination site

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(Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

POMONA – Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced that a Los Angeles County contract worker was charged today for allegedly stealing hundreds of blank vaccine cards from a COVID-19 vaccination center at the Pomona Fairplex.

“Selling fraudulent and stolen vaccine cards is illegal, immoral and puts the public at risk of exposure to a deadly virus,” District Attorney Gascón said.

Muhammad Rauf Ahmed, 45, of Las Vegas was charged with one felony count of grand theft. Arraignment is set for August 25 in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Pomona Branch.

On April 27, officials determined that blank vaccine cards had been stolen from a vaccination site in Pomona. Ahmed, who worked at the center, allegedly stole more than 500 cards, which have a value of at least $15 apiece if illegally sold, prosecutors said.

In a statement, La Verne police said 528 blank COVID-19 vaccine cards were recovered in the suspect’s hotel room.

Ahmed — described by police as a non-clinical, contracted employee hired to support the Pomona Fairplex Mega-Pod vaccination site that at times administered nearly 4,000 COVID-19 vaccinations a day — was arrested April 27. He was released the same day, according to jail records.

The case remains under investigation by the La Verne Police Department.

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Los Angeles

Pride after the pandemic, is LA’s LGBTQ community back in business?

A majority of Pride celebrations remain in a virtual mode or in some cases no events at all in Los Angeles this year too.

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The Brooks Lifeguard Tower on Venice Beach best illustrates yet another Pandemic Pride (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released its coronavirus pandemic metrics this week noting that Los Angeles County remains in the least restrictive yellow tier in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy framework. Factoring into that is as of May 21, 50% of L.A. County residents 16 and over and 72% of seniors 65 and older are fully vaccinated. 

Then there’s the “but.’ The state isn’t scheduled to lift fully the pandemic imposed mandates until June 15, including the mask mandate which has been a point of contention. Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services announced Monday that California will require people to keep wearing masks and practice social distancing indoors until June 15 although people and businesses must adjust to the changes while the state continues its “relentless focus on delivering vaccines, particularly in underserved communities and those that were hard hit throughout this pandemic.”

The impact on Pride month in Los Angeles has already been felt as a majority of Pride celebrations remain in a virtual mode or in some cases no events at all. There are notable exceptions as the Los Angeles Dodgers are hosting their annual  LGBTQ+ Pride Night at Dodger Stadium on Friday, June 11th. There will be sections set-up for vaccinated and non-vaccinated Dodgers fans and the team is also bringing back Friday Night Fireworks for the first time since 2019, set to a special mix from DJ Bowie Jane. But only fully-vaccinated fans are invited to leave the stands and watch the show from the baseball field.

LA Pride also noted that Cinespia, will host LGBTQ+ Pride Movie Night at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Saturday, June 26th. The organization also made note of its partnership with KABC 7 LA’s one-hour primetime special on June 12, 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM, in a ‘best of LA Pride.’ According to a its website, the special includes Trans profiles, celebrity shout-outs, spotlights on LA Pride’s 2021 Honorees (more on that soon), a special Pride performance by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles from the Getty Center, and more.

But the main event, the parade, one of the nation’s oldest and largest was canceled for the second year in a row. LA Pride vowed to return in 2022. “Safety was our No. 1 priority,” said Sharon-Franklin Brown, board president of Christopher Street West, the nonprofit organization that produces LA Pride. “It takes time to put on a parade, [and] we were not sure we were going to be where we’re at now, which is this amazing space where everything is opening up.”

West Hollywood, which has been ground zero for Pride events in the region for over 50 years, like most of California went through the state-wide shutdown ordered by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020, the only event of note last year being the non-sanctioned ‘All Black Lives Matter’ protest march after the police killings of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other unarmed Black individuals whose deaths have drawn public attention and widespread outcry.

This year though, the city is taking a cautious approach, which in separate interviews with the Blade Mayor Lindsey P. Horvath and Councilmember Sepi Shyne both emphasized that maintaining safe standards for the City’s residents, businesses and visitors was a continuing priority and that WeHo would remain essentially in a virtual mode for Pride month.

The City’s 2021 One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival s taking place virtually/in a socially distant manner for 2021 according to a city spokesperson.

The City did receive a boost in Pride awareness with the public dedication of a street mural honoring recording artist Lady Gaga’s album Born This Way this past weekend, which has been unofficially adopted by many in the greater LGBTQ community as an anthem.

West Hollywood’s Out on Robertson and Out programs have been effect in drawing diners and retail customers although still a far cry from pre-pandemic levels.

Despite that local community leaders and businesses are worried. During the course of a non-COVID impacted Pride month, events and the massive Pride parade brings in millions of dollars, drawing tourists as well as locals. With ongoing virtual and barely no in-person events, particularly the annual parade, the ongoing pandemic economy is hurting businesses badly especially those who depend on a Pride boost.

Arguably the second largest regional Pride, in Long Beach has also been scaled back to virtual only for the most part.

There has been an independent push for Pride events including a three day concert to be held at the LA Coliseum on June 4, 5 and 6- OUTLOUD: Raising Voices, created by the award winning team of Jeff Consoletti and Artie Kenney. The series is headlined by Queen frontman Adam Lambert an according to its organizers is set to showcase extraordinary queer talent also featuring appearances and remarks by Angelica Ross, Conchita, Geena Rocero, Ryan Jamaal Swain, Valentina Sampaio, Yungblud and Whoopi Goldberg.

Downtown Los Angeles, (DTLA), Downtown Center Business Improvement District is hosting an event on June 24 at  Redline, a premier gay bar and lounge in the heart of downtown located in the Historic Core of the City. The organization announced this past week that it had lifted the COVID19 restrictions for that event.

In Santa Monica, Allies in Arts partnered with Santa Monica Pride to curate an Art Walk for Pride 2021, but aside from that no indoor in-person events are slated to occur.

As the pandemic restrictions are lifted and in addressing the ongoing effects on LGBTQ businesses in the city, a person knowledgeable of the efforts the Mayor and city officials are making, but not authorized to speak to the press, said that Garcetti’s programs outlined in his State of the City speech on the upcoming budget and his 25 million “comeback check” program to help restaurants and other small businesses pay off debt and reopen remained an overarching priority.

So for now, Pride month will be scaled back but with a sense of vibrancy for business that are able to reopen or in the case of the food and beverage and hospitality industry benefit from Pride events on a business by business basis with large scale looking to return in 2022.

Until then, the picture above of The Brooks Lifeguard Tower on Venice Beach best illustrates yet another Pandemic Pride.

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Los Angeles

Venice Beach targeted for clearing homeless encampments

Chronic homelessness is a massive problem in both Los Angeles City and County with a total of 58,936+ living on the streets or in shelters

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Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin appearing on KTLA (Screenshot via KTLA)

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin announced that “a ton of resources” are coming soon to address the homeless crisis along the Venice Boardwalk.

Bonin, whose council district 11 includes the areas of Brentwood, Del Rey, Mar Vista, Marina del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Palms, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Sawtelle, Venice, West Los Angeles, Westchester and LAX told KTLA Friday morning that a new push to address the homeless problems in Venice Beach would soon be launched.

Last week Bonin sent a letter to his constituency writing, “I am fighting aggressively to house people so we no longer have encampments on our sidewalks, or at our parks and beaches.”

Bonin also noted; “While we step up efforts to house people, the city should conduct a feasibility analysis of whether a number of different locations, including LAX land and three beach parking lots, could be used for different types of temporary emergency shelter. I have also asked that the feasibility analysis consider whether two local parks with existing encampments could restore the bulk of recreational space to public use by designating a certain area for existing unhoused residents. In all cases, the proposed solutions would provide security, sanitation and services, and focus on getting people into housing.

These are not encampments. They are an emergency response—an alternative—to encampments, and they are temporary solutions meant to get people off the streets and into homes.”

In late March, the City cleared a massive homeless encampment in Echo Park in the Angelino Heights neighborhood adjacent to the 101 Freeway, located in Councilman Mitch O’Farrell’s district 13. Officials say the hundreds of people forced to leave were offered shelter, but not everyone took it according to local homeless advocates. The clearing of Echo Park brought condemnation from rights groups and grass roots activists due to the presence of heavily armed LAPD officers and what one source told the Blade was a “complete lack of operational transparency.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced last month in his annual State of the City address, that he would seek to spend nearly $1 billion on initiatives for addressing homelessness, as well as allocate $235 million for the city’s Emergency Rental Assistance program, intended to help up to 100,000 households and other critical needs.

The Mayor also proposed a guaranteed basic income pilot project that would pay $1,000 a month to 2,000 to the city’s neediest households over the next year as part of a “basic guaranteed income” pilot program that he described as the biggest of any city in America.

Chronic homelessness is a massive problem in both the City and the County. In the city of Los Angeles there are 36,300 homeless people with a total of 58,936 in the County according to the annual Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s (LAHSA) homeless count (2019). Over the years, homelessness has dramatically increased all over the county.

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