No On Measure S
Posted: February 25, 2017 Filed under: America Since 1945, the California Condition
Today, Helytimes Readers, we have a special treat. Writer Hayes D. will learn us about Measure S!
You may know Hayes from his work on Hollywood Handbook, Family Guy, and Eastbound & Down. He is also on the case of Los Angeles issues. We have an election here on March 7, and the tale of Measure S is crazy and worth hearing about!
Take it away Hayes
Los Angeles in 1878 (and 2020 if Measure S passes). Source.
Measure S is a proposition on the ballot in the March 7th Los Angeles election. If it passes, it would stop most new construction in LA from being built for two years.
It would also ruin the city.
Is that an exaggeration? Maybe. But also: maybe not!
LA Is In the Middle of a Full-Blown Housing Crisis
Source: Legislative Analyst’s Office
Los Angeles is currently the least affordable city in the US
when you account for median income, and it has the largest unsheltered homeless population by tens of thousands.
The primary cause of these problems is a housing shortage, especially affordable housing. LA needs to build a lot more places for people to live, as quickly as possible. If the housing supply grows, then costs don’t rise as quickly, more people can afford to live here, and fewer people get thrown out of their apartments by landlords who want to charge more. LA barely avoids becoming a luxury playground-fortress for billionaires like San Francisco is doomed to be
But Measure S means LESS housing. And that means the crisis would get way worse. Rent would go up, affordable housing construction would plummet, and many, many more people would end up displaced and homeless.
Both the Republican and Democratic parties of Los Angeles have come out against it, along with the Mayor, the LA Times, and a lot of others.
A lot of actual experts have written much better stuff than I could about this.
But maybe the scariest thing about Measure S, to me is that it’s basically the whim of one rich guy.
A lot of California initiatives are like that: if you spend enough money, you can buy enough signatures to get pretty much anything on the ballot. Then, if you spend even more money, your proposal has a pretty good chance of becoming the actual law.
As a result, the state has a history of very wealthy, very angry people throwing cash around to get their own measures through the ballot initiative system, sometimes even successfully.
The angry person behind Measure S is Michael Weinstein.
Weinstein, the CEO of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is positioning himself to be the premier California ballot crank of the 21st century. My man is real good at this.
He almost singlehandedly got two propositions on the November 8th state ballot:
- Prop 61, which was supposed to lower the prices that public employees pay for drugs
- Prop 60, which would force porn actors to wear condoms
Two normal things for the people to vote on, as the Founding Fathers intended.
And he originally had THREE things on that ballot! Measure S was supposed to be on it too, but he moved it to March.
Both of his November measures failed, and Measure S probably would have, too: Weinstein moved it because the turnout is much older and more conservative in March, and therefore more likely to be mad about multi-family housing being built within ten miles of them. That’s how ballot-savvy this guy is! Dude lives for this shit.
But Weinstein differentiates himself from a traditional ballot crank in a couple of ways that make him, to me, a lot scarier. First:
Michael Weinstein’s ballot initiatives are designed to benefit Michael Weinstein.
Let’s look at Weinstein’s two November ballot measures for a second, Props 60 and 61.
The condom bill, had it passed, required the state to appoint a “porn czar” who would be allowed to sue any porn studios that were caught (sorry to use a legal term) rawdogging.
The bill also specified that:
- The porn czar had to be Michael Weinstein.
- He would get paid by the state to do this job (watch porn and sue people over it).
- The state wouldn’t be allowed to fire him, unless it got a majority vote from both houses of the state legislature.
- Even then, he could only be fired with “good cause.” Like… not watching enough porn, I guess.
This is all 100% true.
The porn czar stuff starts at the bottom of page 12 of the bill
, if you care. Of course, none of this information appears on the actual ballot, so most voters would never find out about it.
(The story of Weinstein’s lifelong condom-pushing is significantly too convoluted and weird to even get into here, but read this Vice article
if you want to know more about it.)
Weinstein’s drug bill, meanwhile, would have made it the law that the prices paid by state employee HMOs for drugs couldn’t be higher than the discounted price the VA pays. Sounds great! But it exempted certain HMOs from the rule… including the HMO Michael Weinstein himself runs. He also once again wrote in a rule allowing him to sue people who violated the law, while having the state pay his legal fees.
(That bill was also sloppily written and potentially bad for other reasons, but the whole thing is pretty complicated so read this rebuttal maybe
Both of these propositions BARELY failed. Each one got about 46% of the vote. Weinstein came very close to fulfilling his goal of filing thousands of lawsuits a day over drug price violations and unsheathed penises.
But Measure S is somehow even more baldly self-interested than 60 and 61, and much simpler in its motives. It’s all about a building next to his building.
A couple years ago, a developer signed an agreement with the Palladium concert hall in Hollywood to build a couple of high-rise apartments right behind the venue. This made Michael Weinstein extremely mad, because the Palladium is next door to his AIDS Healthcare Foundation building, and he thought the towers would block the view from his corner office.
And they really would! Look at this picture. Weinstein’s building is on the far left.
Rendering by Palladium Towers, found at Curbed
Other than the fact that it says “SINATRA” on the marquee, the important thing about that image is that Michael Weinstein’s view is definitely being messed up. And the view from his office is important to him, as illustrated in the lede of this great LA Weekly profile
Michael Weinstein peers out the window of his corner office on the 21st floor. Hollywood is growing all around him. In every direction, there are construction cranes, dirt pits and street closures.
“It’s just ungodly,” he says.
Very chill, approachable guy. Not at all supervillainy.
So Weinstein filed a bunch of complaints to stop the Palladium towers. When the city approved the towers anyway, he sued the city
And in case that didn’t work out, he spent millions of dollars to get an initiative on the city ballot that would stop construction of not just the Palladium towers, but ALL new high-rises in Los Angeles, along with hundreds of other projects, including tens of thousands of units of affordable housing.
That’s all Measure S is. One guy’s blood vendetta against an unbuilt high-rise. For all the rhetoric about preserving neighborhoods, it’s really about preserving Michael Weinstein’s view, at no cost to him.
Really. This whole campaign isn’t costing him a dollar. Because:
Michael Weinstein doesn’t spend his own money on his political causes. He spends money donated by other people to the AIDS foundation he runs.
Everybody who lives in LA knows about the AIDS Healthcare Foundation from their billboards. They advertise their STD testing services and, of course, condom use. And they are quite cheeky.
Here’s a fun one:
Others employ topical humor. (“GET TESTED AND CHILL,” “WE CATCH ‘EM ALL”). Some just have giant condoms on them that say “USE A CONDOM.” (Disclosure: I kind of like all of these billboards.)
But as of the last few months, almost every AIDS Healthcare Foundation billboard now reads “VOTE YES ON MEASURE S.”
Because Michael Weinstein put all of the foundation’s STD prevention advertising on hold to push his ballot initiative. According to his election filings, all those Measure S billboards cost his AIDS charity $250,000 (in addition to the cost to society of all the untreated gonorrhea cases that the old billboards would have prevented).
So who else, other than the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is contributing to Measure S? Let’s check Ballotpedia
A guy named Aaron Enstein and a patio company, for a total of $9,000.
Also, “Aaron Enstein” is probably a typo for Aaron Epstein, who’s listed among the Measure S endorsers and is…
…also a patio company.
The patio stuff seems weird but maybe it’s very smart? If Measure S passes that means fewer apartments, more single-family housing… more patios, baby! Patios are lot more relevant to the cause than, say, an AIDS foundation.
As of last Friday, AHF pumped even more into the campaign fund.
So that’s about $3 million from AHF, about $9,000 from anybody else.
And look at all the grassroots support Weinstein amassed for Propositions 60 and 61 from November.
And for 60
(the condom bill):
One name you don’t see among any of the donors is “Michael Weinstein.” It’s all foundation money. He has near-total discretion over how it’s spent. Far from costing him anything, he gets paid $400,000 a year by his foundation to do this.
I went to the AHF website. On the landing page, there’s a giant DONATE button. I smashed it.
Here are the options they give you for where your money goes:
- $10 – Be a Friend of AHF
- $50 – Help Purchase Medical Supplies
- $100 – Help Save a Life
- $500 – Trains a Physician in the Provision of HIV/AIDS Medical Care
- $1000 – Provides HIV/AIDS Treatment and Care to Five Patients for a Year
- $5000 – Provides HIV/AIDS Treatment and Care for 25 Patients for a year
- $10000 – Supports HIV/AIDS Prevention & Care Worldwide
No option for “Help Finance a Local Ballot Initiative to Stop the Construction of Apartment Complexes in Los Angeles.”
I looked around some more. Couldn’t find any mention of any of their ballot initiatives ANYWHERE ON THE SITE.
Opinion: If I were a donor to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, maybe because I or a loved one had been affected by AIDS in some way, I might not be psyched to find out that my money was being spent the way Weinstein is spending it. I might… I don’t know, call the police?
Disclaimer: I’m sure they do a lot of great things to prevent the spread of AIDS also.
A friend once told me about a guy he grew up with in Arkansas who threw a charity crawfish boil for a children’s hospital, then pocketed all the cash. I see only a marginal difference between the fake charity crawfish boil and what Michael Weinstein is doing with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and Measure S. And the crawfish guy, I’m told, got caught and went to jail. Weinstein is doing this in plain view.
I hope the people of LA can get together and block that view on March 7th.