[A WORK IN PROGRESS]
Hi, I’m Mark Roman. I’m a writer, busker and SAG-AFTRA actor. A creative who lives and works in Hollywood, I’m walking distance from the Hollywood & Highland shopping Center. Which is next door to the Dolby Theater. Home of the Academy Awards. That means I’m in Los Angeles City Council District 13. In 2017 we get to elect a new councilperson among candidates who include incumbent Mitch O’Farrell, six other men and one woman. The sense one gets from local media is that District 13 is about that grumpy old white guy yelling at Target “Get off my lawn!” Period. I see more. Much more. Daily. And in person. I grew up a born-again Christian Reagan Republican, the “Son of Elmer Gantry’s Bitch“. The actions of Christians and Reagan Republicans made me an agnostic progressive union Democrat. I’m a working artist who reads for pleasure. My living comes from making locals and tourists from around the world laugh daily at my alter ego “Lt Frank FFIREHS” of Vegas 90210 as he “Protects Hollywood Boulevard from Democracy and Jimmy Kimmel”. Here’s what makes us cry in Hollywood, despite my small efforts 08 November 2016:
Homelessness – After two years in Las Vegas, I returned to Los Angeles in November, 2015. I was struck by all the new real estate development, much of it clearly luxury. I also couldn’t help noticing the huge increase in the homeless population. Tent cities are hard to miss. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that real estate developers have gotten much of what they wanted. The result being: more homeless. Thanks to the criminal actions of a San Diego based landlord failing to provide essential services where I lived in Las Vegas, I returned to Los Angeles couch surfing. When couch surfing transformed into the butterfly of homelessness, in shameful desperation I pursued and received emergency temporary housing from the city. Or rather a voucher to stay at a sketchy hotel the Mayor would immediately condemn if in front of news cameras. That was an eye-opening experience! I can testify under oath that the system presumes those without homes are addicts or criminals or both. Regardless of one’s politics, it is really hard to argue that anyone profiting from real estate in the city of Los Angeles is remotely paying their fair share. That must change. Such experiences inspired me to coin the word “Heroteer“. When I have the resources to fund the idea, eliminating homelessness in Los Angeles will be a central mission.
Tenant Rights – Hollywood exemplifies the real estate mantra “location, location, location”. Landlords exploit this market reality. Without significant financial and legal resources, tenants are forced to accept what is offered, even if it is illegal or not up to code. Los Angeles tenants are not equally protected. Property owners are more equal. Too much burden falls on tenants who lack the resources to adequately and effectively protect their rights without risking financial hardship or homelessness.
Patient Dumping – It happens. Is it now happening at Hollywood Bowl? When will the city investigate? What is the city doing to help the many wandering the streets of Hollywood daily who clearly need mental health care? What is the City doing to confront, bill for expenses and seek federal prosecution for any crimes committed by Las Vegas and other cities who put their “undesirables” on buses to Los Angeles?
“Hollywood Entertainment Zone” – this city council proposal was drafted without consultation with recognized Hollywood busker community leaders. It treats buskers like criminals. The proposal imposes free speech restrictions in clear violation of the First Amendment. It ignores the fact the city refuses to properly enforce or prosecute laws already on the books. Los Angeles law enforcement and City Hall must stop blaming the ACLU. Start prosecuting criminals who literally reach into wallets and purses to grab currency.
Busker Rights – When will civic leaders begin to defend the rights of buskers in Hollywood? Unless one is prepared to smear the names of Penn & Teller or Tracy Chapman or Rod Stewart or Robin Williams, stop conflating buskers with criminals! We who live, work, pay taxes and vote here resent it! I’m a busker. I’m also an expelled student editor placed on the same FBI Subversives List as Tom Hayden and Abbie Hoffman. (Feel free to verify with your own FOI request. Or interview my brother’s Marine Corps recruiter. Or interview my college roommate’s father, former California Congressman Bill Baker.) I’m an Eagle Scout, a SAG-AFTRA actor and (because the furiously waving flags demand I declare) an American. I’ve paid for the sin of free speech in the Land of the Free for most of my adult life. I take busker discrimination personally. Like Tom Petty, I won’t back down. Maybe that is why with only 1,000 followers on Twitter, mine include Amnesty International, President Obama, Nancy Sinatra and Pentagon Papers author Daniel Ellsberg. Buskers entertain locals and tourists alike on Hollywood Boulevard. People bring their family to the Boulevard for the entertainment buskers provide. Some local businesses and officials recognize this and treat buskers with respect and even admiration. However, too many businesses and officials, especially high profile ones, treat buskers as untouchables. Treating all buskers as criminals would be like shutting down the US Bank at Hollywood and Orange because Wells Fargo was caught systematically stealing from its customers. Treating buskers without qualification as a public nuisance, threatening arrest of buskers who pass through walkways, selectively enforcing laws unequally against buskers, these are all common events. This treatment is immoral, unethical, bad business and certainly a violation of the spirit of civil rights at the very least. On one of his Hollywood Boulevard visits during the Presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders walked up to me amid his Secret Service detail and shook my hand. I was in costume, busking (ask the embedded LA Times and other local reporters for any photos). I’ve yet to meet either the Mayor or my Council Person. Why is that? Buskers deserve legal rights. They deserve respect. They deserve a Hollywood parade. They’ve earned it. It’s time.
Real Estate Developers vs. Residents – Target @ Sunset & Western
Dept of Water & Power (DWP) – besides the fact tax-payers paid for Vegas parties enjoyed by DWP contractors (complete with prostitutes), they raised industry eyebrows with a sweetheart lease Councilman O’Farrell moved to approve.
Business Tax and the Creative Artist Exemption – to claim the exemption and avoid penalties, the burden lies with the artist to be aware of the tax and exemption and to properly file the exemption. This is an unnecessary burden on working and especially struggling artists. It does not welcome new emerging talent to Los Angeles. Unless you can afford to hire a CPA, you shouldn’t be burdened with paperwork requirements. This is basic common sense that requires no party affiliation. One would think that both Republicans and Democrats attempting to better listen to the working poor after the 2016 Presidential election would eliminate any and all paperwork or unreasonable (if any) tax burdens on the working poor.
Public Transit – Measure M was a major step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. Los Angeles is woefully behind the rest of the “civilized world” in regards to public transportation.
- I do not own or drive a car. Frankly I think taxes on those who do make sense as a subsidy to people like me to use either for public transit or ride share services such as Uber or Lyft. Especially if one owns more than one vehicle. Or luxury vehicles. Where are the city council proposals for that?
- Clearly not enough taxes are being collected from all the new development. If you create new traffic with your new building, you should pay for it. Seems like basic fairness and common sense.
O’Farrell, Mitch – the incumbent I’ve never met. Has he even visited Hollywood Boulevard? In the last year? Maybe I missed him. I only live and work here daily. I tweeted that I did not feel represented by him. Moments later one of his opponents tweeted me how I could meet her to discuss district issues and my concerns. Hours later Councilperson O’Farrell tweeted the number of his Field Deputy I should call. In regards to how his office is “making Hollywood safer”. If his idea remains the “Hollywood Entertainment Zone” he authored, he’s not. I already expressed that to his Field Deputy over the summer, who at that time seemed to have little interest in any opinion a busker might have.
Haines, Doug – I’m not fully versed on the Target at Sunset and Western controversy. Apparently I can learn more about stuff from 2014, 2012 and earlier at Save Hollywood. I suspect neighborhood leaders have valid points. I suspect that given the Fortune 500 culture, Target’s corporate bulls eye lacked much community input. But what else does Mr. Haines want to do for the district, besides foil Target? What is his platform? Where is his campaign website? Where is his modern presence on Twitter? Why is he the only story in this district in the eyes of the LA Times?
Markos, Juan – He’s a chef who likes fine art, food and property management. That’s what a learned from his website. Where is his campaign website? What is his plan for District 13?
Salans, Jessica – The only woman running. The only candidate (who’s not the incumbent) actively on Twitter. She has an encouraging and progressive LA platform, what she calls the “Four Pillars of Justice” (social, racial, economic, environmental). She wants to meet with me this week to discuss her vision for the district. I’m eager to hear what she has to say about the issues I’ve discussed above.
Zide, Bill – He’s also a neighborhood leader foiling Target, just less visible than Mr. Haines, but with the same issues and lack of campaign accessibility and transparency in the Age of Twitter.
OTHERS – Sorry, but if you’re not available on Twitter or making news in the district, it’s difficult for me to take your campaign seriously. If anything changes, feel free to let me know!