DIVERSITY SLAPP

By: Zoë Muntaner

Santa Monica Pony Protester Marcy Winograd Wins – Court of Appeal Dismisses Pony Ride Operators’ Lawsuit as a SLAPP.

In a victory for legislative advocates, the California Court of Appeal (Division 5), a panel of three Justices, unanimously reversed a lower court ruling, and dismissed former Santa Monica pony ride operators’ Tawni Angel and Jason Nestor’s lawsuit against Marcy Winograd as a SLAPP – Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation – designed to chill public debate.

In issuing the ruling, the Court said Winograd’s accusations of animal abuse were protected by California’s legislative privilege.

“I’m grateful that the Court of Appeal sided with those exercising the right of petition to change the law and did not allow this chilling lawsuit to go forward. This is a significant ruling for animal lovers and for anyone petitioning their local or state government for legislative change. The Superior Court’s failure to dismiss the lawsuit against me was dangerous, chilling, and disheartening, but fortunately this appellate decision rights that wrong and affirms the importance of robust public debate and citizen activism.” ~Marcy Winograd

The court ruled that the statements in her articles and television interview relate to the supposed poor treatment the pony ride and petting zoo animals received, and either directly or inferentially solicited public support for her petition to cause the City of Santa Monica to take action to end the pony ride and petting zoo.

BACKGROUND

In March 2014, Winograd launched a petition to close the pony ride and petting zoo featured at the city-sponsored farmers market blocks from her home in Ocean Park. She first learned the pony operators were suing her when a reporter contacted her to get reaction to the operators’ lawyers’ press release announcing the lawsuit.

On September 9, 2014, after hearing arguments from proponents and opponents of the pony ride and petting zoo, the Santa Monica City Council voted to seek alternatives to the pony ride and zoo when the operators’ contract expired, and in May of 2015 the City of Santa Monica closed the animal exhibit after twelve years of ponies circling round and round on hard ground – all the while tied to a metal bar.

At the time, the lawsuit was filed some 1400 people had signed her petition – including school board members (now State Senator Ben Allen), former planning commissioners, two former mayors of Santa Monica, a minister at the Church of Ocean Park, and several merchants on Main Street.

While the Superior Court dismissed the entire SLAPP suit against her co-defendant Danielle Charney, the judge left much of the lawsuit against her intact. On appeal, however, she prevailed on the ground of legislative privilege – in other words, the Court agreed that all of her advocacy efforts were connected to the City Council’s legislative decision and were therefore absolutely privileged from civil suit.

Just breathe

“This is a huge victory for those who value robust public debate, the First Amendment, and legislative advocacy,” said Winograd. “This is good news, indeed.” ~Marcy Winograd

“This is an important decision for animal advocates, and for anyone campaigning to make change through our legislative bodies. The superior court’s ruling failing to toss the lawsuit out in the first instance was dangerous, chilling and disheartening. This appellate decision rights the legal ship and properly restores a very heavy burden to be borne by any plaintiff attacking public advocates.” ~Ira L. Gottlieb, Labor Attorney

I LOVE MY FIRST AMENDMENT

The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting … you get the drill.

Like Marcy, I am an activist, writer and political citizen who loves robust debate.  I love my freedom of speech so much that I self-funded this platform to express my ideas, because two minutes at a City Council meetings was not cutting it for me, and emails were not working for me to accomplish the goals I set to work at.

“Free speech not only lives, it rocks,” Oprah Winfrey, 1998

Remember the  multimillion-dollar defamation lawsuit by Texas cattlemen against the famous talk show host? The Amarillo, Texas, jury, decided the television talk show host did not maliciously harm the U.S. beef industry in a 1996 program on mad cow disease.

 

Oprah
Oprah Winfrey Harvard University commencement address, 2013

 

“I will continue to use my voice. I believed from the beginning that (the lawsuit) was an attempt to muzzle my voice, and I come from a people who have struggled and died in order to have a voice in this country. And I refused to be muzzled.” ~Oprah Winfrey

I’m a media and communications professional, not as wealthy as Oprah, but in the same field.  Lawsuits are part of the game, people get offended and then use the compassion rhetoric to manipulate my speech.  I refuse to censor myself, therefore, I pass each post through a legal advisor to protect the platform.   I’m in the perspective business.  This is my point of view and you are welcome to make comments below.

Purpose

TOUGH LOVE, TOUGH LUCK & MY OWN VOICE

My friend Holly Mosher, whom I’ve written about in this blog, is concerned about my last post because she felt it was a leap to call what Ms. Christopolos said Nazi rhetoric. She wanted me to come from the place of compassion and manners that I laid out in the post.  I value her opinion and that of a small group of men and women who are mentors, advisors and friends.  They supported the post.  They didn’t find anything wrong with it.  Remember,  a month ago I wrote about the time it has taken for me to get the discipline to write again.  After all that trouble, I do a disservice to my readers if I’m not honest with my POV.  I must show up as authentically on the page, as I show in life.  Yes, I’m the Founder of Compassionate Santa Monica, that does not mean that I will compromise my journalistic identity, integrity and style.  I must be transparent in my perspective.  Sometimes, it’s time for tough love, is still love, just a different kind.  Was I compassionate?  You bet I was.  I was compassionate to the millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust, the survivors, and descendants that live in and out of Santa Monica.  Ms.Cristopolos comment was inappropriate and offensive to me and others.  Upon research, I found a quote under the inspiration tab of her social media Pinterest that proves my point:

Exist Elena

What you want me to say?   It makes perfect sense. It’s self-explanatory. Those are her terms, she values the statement enough to post it in social media.  Is this a slap to our faces?  You be the judge of that. She owns it, and she shows it.  That is all.

I will always choose love

On the other hand, I exist on a different term,  I’m not perfect, I own my flaws and humbly apologize when needed.  I stand by what I write because it always comes, and will continue to come, from love.  Follow me here: LOVE

“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.“
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dare

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DIVERSITY ON WHEELS

By: Zoë MuntanerBest-Earth-Day-Poster-Ideas-Pictures-2016HAPPY EARTH DAY!!! Do you bike or walk to work?  I do!  I am a progressive believer of alternative transportation, and do not own a car in LA. Hard to believe but is doable.  I ride the bus, walk, Uber, share rides, and bike…until last Sunday when the folks at Gumbiner and Savett, Inc. decided to hire a gardener to cut my lock and vandalized my bike. The following day I stopped by their offices to inquire about the insurance policy to cover damages, and was emailed back with the following reply from Rick Parent, Managing Director of Gumbiner & Savett:

Dear Ms. Muntaner:

I was forwarded your email concerning your claim that your bicycle was vandalized and in which you state that somehow Gumbiner Savett Inc. is to blame. Let me be direct and state that Gumbiner Savett is not responsible for your bicycle whatsoever. As a matter of fact, you have left your bicycle on our property for weeks if not months and it should have been thrown away a long time ago. There is a sign marked “private property” a few feet away from where your bicycle was abandoned.

Additionally, I understand from our employee, Maria Ruiz, that this morning you confronted her in an aggressive manner. You are hereby notified not to step foot on our property again and if you should do so, we will immediately contact the police to have you removed.
Lovely! No? Not only they engage in criminal activity, they also fabricate a lie to cover it.   Let’s see what the SMPD has to say.  More will be revealed.

Two years ago I started filming a documentary about the influence of money in our local elections.  Amongst my advisors is fellow Santa Monica resident & filmmaker Holly Mosher who produced the documentary Pay2Play.  We have a team of researchers committed to finding the connection (if any) between the bullying behavior of business and/or developers and their political contributions.  Remember City Council candidate Phil Brock’s anti-development rhetoric last election?  We found out he solicited money from a local developer and confronted Residiocracy’s support/endorsement of his candidacy at their rally; one of the many flip-flops on his political record. Yep, you can call me the Pay2Play police, pro bono service to our community.  STAY TUNED, coming to a screen and theater near you!

In celebratory environment news, the first criminal charges were filed for the Flynt water fiasco. Environmental racism advocates should be rewarded for their hard work and activism.

As a storyteller, I showcase my work at different venues.  In New York, I started my career with The Moth, Speakeasy, The Liar Show and The Talkingstick.  Lucky for you I am back in the saddle and this weekend will be telling stories on Saturday: In Heroes We Can Trust on 5420 Adams Boulevard and Sunday at BUSted in Echo Park at Stories Books & Cafe. BUSted!

Go to my Facebook page for details.   ZOË MUNTANER PUBLIC EVENTS PAGE

YEAR OF THE MONKEY

According to Joni Yung, 2016 is a leap year, I couldn’t agree with her more.  We both were born in a Monkey year.

chinese-new-year-monkey

For her is the end of a decade and beginning of a new one.  For me is the launching of this platform and release of the documentary I started to film two years ago during my run as a Santa Monica City Council candidate.  Time flies! We have a new election in seven months and the stakes are higher than two years ago.  So exciting! I LOVE politics.  I live for election season.  Elections show the best and the worst of the human condition at the same time.  It’s pure theater and seduction, so much fun to watch people lie with such conviction, and don’t get me started with the Saturday Night Life skits. The Press has its field day.  You have to have thick skin to be in politics, if you can’t get the heat, kindly remove yourself from the kitchen because I will be covering our local and national elections, get ready.  Diversity MATTERS and its Monkey Year! joni hammer photobooth

Back to Joni.  Like me, she is a long-time Santa Monica resident. She moved to town for college and stayed. We were both born on the year of the MONKEY, therefore, this is our year to celebrate under the Chinese Lunar Calendar. I met Joni two years ago on her birthday at SATTVA Yoga when I went to Friday Kirtan with Amita and Clay. It was a chilly winter night in December, you could not notice it from the warm intimacy of the room and the sensual soft movement of incense smoke twirling around.  SATVA LA community closed on May 2015, but Joni still here.

Joni BdayFor five years Joni has been moderating and producing YOGA CHAT, a podcast which covered my involvement and participation with The Mindful Living Health Expo through Compassionate Santa Monica back in 2015.  you can listen to episodes here:

YOGA CHAT with The Accidental Yogist

Joni is part of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition team, that will be participating in Climate Ride to have a positive impact on climate change. It will be her longest ride to date. I have been vocal about bicycle safety and support the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s work to make the LA region a healthy, safe and fun place to ride a bike.  The team is captained by Greg Laemmle who returns for a fourth run as their fearless leader and as a seasoned vet who helps the team meet their fundraising goals. To read more about Joni and support her fundraising efforts click on the following link:

Joni’s Climate Ride Fundraising Page

As she says: “female – check, minority – check, baby boomer – check! ” She is diversity on wheels and I wanted to hear more about Joni’s journey and celebrate her multifaceted interests and accomplishments.  She now commutes primarily on bike, logging an average of 15-25 miles a day and still own the same car for 15 years, which she drives it around town whenever biking is inconvenient.  Do you agree with me than we need more Jonis?  Lets get to business, she needs to raise $3000 by May 8th, Mothers Day. Did I mention she is a wonderful mother of two amazing daughters?  Open your hearts and wallets!

 

PENUMBRA

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY ART: is a new addition to the website development we are building for DIVERSITY MATTERS.  I will be posting artwork on exhibition at our local galleries that move and inspire reflection to write.  I love the blues, the lyrical, metaphorical and the actual color blue is my favorite (in all its hues).  The sky, the ocean, I was born & grew up on an island …what you expect?  Our environment deserves respect!  Randall Stoltfuz PENUMBRA on display at Laura Korman Gallery tells me about the shadow nature of our collective and individual souls.  A penumbra is defined as an incomplete or partial shadow. In astronomy, it refers to the shadow cast on the earth by the moon in a partial eclipse. Brooklyn-based artist Randall Stoltzfus translates these natural phenomena in his current body of work. Celestial blue circles of cerulean and deep cobalt are layered and repeated, dispersed by a spectrum of soft white, yellow and black circles suggestive of dim shadows and illuminated horizon lines.

 

Stoltzfus_Randall_Storybook_acrylic_dispersion_with_gold_leaf_on_recycled_polymer_21x34in
Randall Stoltfuz PENUMBRA on display at Laura Korman Gallery In Bergamot Station.

Stoltzfus’ meditative process begins slowly – compositions develop over months, and even years as controlled, circular layers of oil, hand-mixed pigments, and gold or palladium leaf are added over time. Abstracted landscapes and figures are illuminated and obscured in a push and pull of darkness and light as Stoltzfus builds visible texture. He compares his meticulous technique to the layering of scrim, a strong, coarse fabric, allowing the work to become a sum of its layers.

Layers are what I find fascinating about our local politics and the world at large. The more I research, the more I find, the more I learn, the more perspective I have to connect the dots.  Sight and perception are intrinsic to Stoltzfus’ thoughtful process. “Our perception is … always partial, and always collective in a way we sometimes find difficult to acknowledge,” says Stoltzfus. “We see individual things, less often aware of the broader condition of light and shadow that make this possible. The sources that power our sight dwarf what we actually comprehend.”  That is what sets me apart from the crowd. I am different, I represent diversity and that is my biggest asset as a writer, advocate and citizen.

PENUMBRA is an intimate study of light and the physiological response. Drawing reference from the color field painters Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, as well as the textured works of abstract expressionist Richard Pousett-Dart, Stoltzfus engages directly with his audience’s vision for a response that is at once physical and emotional. His paintings defy the two-dimensionality of the canvas to create visual narratives of wonder and mystery.  I wonder if our City Council has the depth and courage to explore the shadow side on the implications of their votes at City Council Chambers?  This work will be a good invitation to do that.  A little reflection never hurt anybody.  Kevin Mckewon is set to cut the ribbon at the Expo Se in Bergamot station, perhaps he will take a look.

In honor and celebration of the EXPO line opening at Bergamot Station, I will be posting a series of EXPO-SE posts starting next week. Get ready, is going to be a bumpy ride.  Details for the EXPO-SE below. Don’t miss it!

Until next time…let’s get intense with it!

 

EXPO-SE Card2

 

 

 

 

The WHITE elephant in the room

By: Zoë Muntaner

Before I start, I want to thank our City Manager, Rick Cole for giving me 40 minutes of his time today and listening to the projects I’d like to bring forth to our city.  We had a productive exchange of ideas and the seeds of change were planted.  Mayor Pro Tem Ted Winterer joined us at the end of the meeting, we reminisced on the words of former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa eulogy of former LA Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s at his Saint Monica’s memorial last week: “Dime con quien andas, y te dire quien eres” (Google it!)

EXTRA, EXTRA, EXTRA!!!!!

A Coalition of Latino Residents and Neighborhood Groups Filed Lawsuit today against the City of Santa Monica. Challenging At-Large Election System in Santa Monica, Plaintiffs Claim At Large Elections Violate the California Voting Rights Act.

White Elephant

Santa Monica, California – Four months after minority residents notified the City of Santa Monica that its at-large system of electing its City Council violates the California Voting Rights Act (“CVRA”), and having received no response from the City, a coalition of Latino residents and neighborhood groups filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court today, demanding an end to Santa Monica’s racially-discriminatory election system.  The lawsuit was brought by the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA), Maria Loya – a Latina activist and resident of Santa Monica, and Advocates for Malibu Public Schools (AMPS).   Since at-large elections were adopted in Santa Monica 70 years ago, only one Latino has ever been elected to the City Council.  According to a report commissioned by the City in 1992, that is exactly why at-large elections were adopted in 1946 – to keep the minority residents living in the southern portion of the City from achieving representation.   “As a mother, former city council candidate and resident of the Pico Neighborhood, I want to ensure that future elections are fair.  The current at-large election system is illegal and has led to a lack of representation in local government, which in turn has led to neglect of our community.  All residents and every neighborhood can benefit from a neighborhood-centered approach to representative democracy.” stated Maria Loya.  Ms. Loya ran for City Council in 2004, and although she was overwhelmingly preferred by Latino voters, she placed 7th in a crowded field of 16 candidates for three seats.   “Aside from providing residents more fairness in their elections, district elections can decrease the influence of special interests and increase the influence of residents over what happens in their neighborhoods,” added Cris McCleod, Chair of the Pico Neighborhood Association.   Historically marginalized communities have used the CVRA to gain representation in municipal governments across the State.  “In the 14 years since the CVRA was enacted, it has brought fair elections to more than 200 cities, counties and school districts.  In the case of Santa Monica not only do the at-large elections violate the CVRA, they violate the California Constitution as well because they were adopted with the purpose of disenfranchising racial minorities,” explained attorney Kevin Shenkman who represents the Plaintiffs.  Mr. Shenkman and his co-counsel – Rex Parris, Milton Grimes and Robert Rubin – has won hotly-contested CVRA cases against the cities of Highland and Palmdale, which was ultimately ordered by the court to adopt district-based elections after spending an estimated $7 million in legal fees.  Other cities, like Hemet, Buena Park and Wildomar have voluntarily changed their election systems in response to letters from that legal team.   “In our efforts to improve Malibu public schools, we have become keenly aware of how at-large elections prevent minority groups from having their voices heard.  The intentionally discriminatory provision of the Santa Monica City Charter prevents not only the City, but also the Santa Monica-Malibu School District, from adopting district-based elections; we want the school board to be empowered to voluntarily adopt fair elections, and set an example for the students,” said Roui Israel, President of Advocates for Malibu Public Schools.  Although seen as a wealthy liberal bastion, Santa Monica is a tale of two cities where minority residents living in the Pico Neighborhood have endured gang violence and all the other problems associated with California’s less-wealthy regions.  Many residents have claimed for years that the City neglects their needs. “Our City leaders have an opportunity to bring justice to one of our City’s darkest moments, when people of color were deliberately disenfranchised.  I hope that one day every resident and every neighborhood is represented in our government. Residents deserve equal representation, a stronger democracy and an electoral system that increases the influence of residents and decreases the influence of big donors,“ stated School Board Member and Pico Neighborhood resident Oscar de la Torre.  Click on the link below to learn more:

Santa Monica Fair Elections Website

THE KOUSSER REPORT

I became aware of the Kousser Report yesterday through one of my sources who directed me to the smfairelections.com website.  Today I gave a copy of the report to our City Manager Rick Cole in a scheduled meeting to discuss the 2016 agenda of Compassionate Santa Monica & DIVERSITY MATTERS.  Mr. Cole has never seen the report before and agreed to read it and get back to me with a comment.  Basically the report findings established that if the City of Santa Monica wants to avoid the costly litigation of a lawsuit and public embarrassment of a racially discriminatory intent to prevent fair racial representation in our city government, they should replace the at-large system with elections by district. A waste of financial resources on its way…

This begs the question: What is worst? The people who initially committed the crime or the ones that knew it happened and did nothing about it, benefiting cycle after cycle to remain in power?  Silence is compliance.

I personally have been victimized by the vicious monster of racial bias by city employees of Santa Monica. (That is subject to a whole new post intended for the future).  This is the WHITE elephant in the room (no pun intended); both city officials and residents fail to address the issue and stuff it under a rug.   The problem with that, is that it’s not a sustainable strategy.  Sooner or later someone chooses to do a “Spring Cleaning”(no pun intended, I am behind mine) and the dirt come out to air polluting a carefully crafted narrative that no longer holds. Ohhhhh, Spring what have you brought us this year!

Who was in the room?  was the question that started this blog, now we know that the white elephant (no pun intended) has been in the room all this time.  How authentically diverse is the City of Santa Monica? Can a Liberal be a Racist? Are you familiar with the Inkwell statue?  Can we have a real diverse represented democratic government with at-large election system?  Do you know that the first City Council of color was appointed not elected, and when he ran in an election he lost? This is a National conversation I intend to start here.

NORMAL PEOPLE LIKE US

On March 25, I attended the Social Services Commission meeting at The Ken Edward Center to learn about how the City of Santa Monica is addressing homelessness.  I went  with an open mind to hear different perspectives, but as I listened to reports from the Santa Monica Police and OPCC (Ocean Park Community Center) who manages most of the homeless shelters in the city, I became aware that the reason we have not made progress with the issue is the lack of compassion and tag line of this blog: Who was in the room?  I will be posting an interview with Shawn Landers in an upcoming post to discuss issues related to the Social Services Commission.  Click in the link below for more information:

Social Services Commission-Community & Cultural Services

At one point, one of the Commissioners phrased a question referring to “most of us” then went on to speak saying: “you know what I mean, normal people like US”.  I checked out, my skin started to itch, I could not stay one more second in the room… but I patiently waited until I addressed with candor the lack of compassion and empathy from the comment.  See, the only person who has spent time in a homeless shelter in that meeting was me.  I have four years of field experience with the homeless population.  Is part of my daily interactions on the bus and streets of Santa Monica.   I can tell you they are PEOPLE like us, with unfortunate circumstances and no access to mental healthcare.  If we claim to be a model of a Wellbeing Community and affirm the Charter for Compassion, we must address the issues of inequality head on without fear or shame.  The conversation is over, is time for action. Compassionate ACTION.

As the old adage goes: “Actions speak louder than words”