By Robert L. Rosebrock
LOS ANGELES – Robert A. “Bob” McDonald, the 8th Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), announced soon after his Senate confirmation:
“I want everybody to be a whistleblower. I don’t think you need to fit the legal definition of a whistle blower but I want everybody every day to feel responsibility for improving the way we serve veterans. We should look at everything we do from the lens of the veteran. And if something is not going right, we should change it.”
At the January 28th press conference, you and your friend announced the secret settlement agreement that vacated a Federal Judgment for nine non-Veteran entities that illegally occupy vast amounts of VA land and facilities while tens of thousands of war-injured and homeless Veterans remain homeless and hungry.
Mr. Secretary, this is a major wake-up call that “something is not going right” in your dealings here in Los Angeles and we challenge you to make major changes, starting with the replacement of your crony Bobby Shriver.
Veterans have grown weary of hearing non-Veteran Shriver’s counterfeit mantra that he’s been “fighting for vets over the past ten years.”
Over the past ten years Bobby Shriver has not produced any new shelter whatsoever at the Los Angeles VA — not one new bed — nor produced one blanket for one homeless Veteran to even sleep outside the Los Angeles VA.
And in spite of his family’s enormous wealth and political connections, Bobby Shriver has spent ten years talking about something that anyone else with that kind of affluence and influence would’ve made major changes and tremendous progress in just a few months.
Nevertheless, it’s easy to be deceived by Bobby Shriver’s expectations simply because he’s “a Kennedy” and based upon a generation that preceded him who were major achievers. His uncle Jack Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States; his father Sergent Shriver built the successful world-wide “Peace Corps” and his mother Eunice Kennedy Shriver built the successful world-wide “Special Olympics.”
As a result, there are big expectations from the wealthy and influential Kennedy kin whose individual legacy is predicated upon honoring their family creed; “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
However, when it comes to Bobby Shriver, nothing could be further from the truth because no one has ever been given so much and done so little for so many who need so much help — our disabled and homeless Veterans.
If Bobby Shriver had inherited the Kennedy legacy from the aforementioned standard bearers, he would’ve brought an end to Veteran homelessness more than a decade ago and not just in Los Angeles — but nationwide — and he’d have done it without his usual self-puffery and fanfare.
Since becoming a Santa Monica council member in 2004, Bobby Shriver has claimed that his mission is to provide homeless Veterans with beds and supportive care in three vacant buildings at the Los Angeles VA.
On June 16, 2011, the ‘Huffington Post’ featured an article titled “Homelessness In Los Angeles Drops — But Rises 24 Percent Among Veterans.”
And while critics have pointed to several decaying buildings on the West L.A. campus as potential sites for expanded housing, the VA disputed that suggestion:
Dave Bayard, the VA’s regional director of public relations declared: “These are not places where someone could live, they’re not safe seismically, they’re not safe environmentally. We’re not talking about an abandoned apartment building or something like that. We’re talking about a building that’s maybe 60 years old, infested with vermin, may have asbestos.”
So why is Bobby Shriver hell-bent on housing war-injured and impoverished homeless Veterans in these grossly unsafe prison-like fortresses that have such a morbid history, including the experimentation of lobotomies, shock-treatment and other inhumane abuses on Veterans who suffered from severe mental injuries?
Could it be… these three disgraced buildings are protected as “historic” and essentially come under the control of the Department of Interior (DOI). In other words, the VA does not control their use or modification without first getting approval from the Secretary DOI, which can take years.
Bobby Shriver is on record declaring his support of the National Historic Preservation Act that protects more than 40 buildings on the Los Angeles VA grounds, which subsequently falls under the aesthetic and protective control of the DOI, and underscores his duplicitous actions.
There’s nothing in the Congressional Act of 1887 and legal Deed of 1888 that allows for this kind of protection so why does Bobby Shriver support the Department of Interior over the Department of Veterans Affairs?
There are other major issues that accentuate how Bobby Shriver is more of a problem than a solution for protecting this sacred land as a permanent National Home for disabled homeless Veterans, including his notion of opening a Starbuck’s coffee shop here, which would be in violation of the Feinstein-Waxman Act that prohibits any commercial leases on VA property.
In spite of Bobby Shriver’s worthless whims, how does someone of Secretary McDonald’s entrusted stature exercise such serious misjudgment by presuming his friend inherited the successful Kennedy lore and could be relied upon to succeed in solving the urgent homeless Veteran problem in LA before the end of the year, when he hasn’t produced anything for homeless Veterans in more than a decade?
Correspondingly, why is Secretary McDonald falsely rewarding Bobby Shriver when he’s nothing more than an aristocratic charlatan whose failed endeavors come at the expense of thousands of war-injured and impoverished Veterans who remain homeless and hungry?
Compare these major time-line accomplishments during the past century:
- At the turn of the 20th Century, the United States built the great Panama Canal in a decade (1904-1914).
- During the Great Depression, the massive Hoover Dam was built and dedicated in less than five years (1931-36).
- On September 11, 1941, the Department of Defense broke ground on the Pentagon, one of the largest office buildings in the world, and completed construction in 17 months on January 15, 1943.
- On May 25, 1961, more than a half-century ago, President John F. Kennedy delivered a visionary message to Congress on urgent national needs, thereby challenging: “First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
Eight years and two months later on July 20, 1969, three American Astronauts landed Apollo 11 on the Moon, five months before the decade ended and less than six years after the tragic assassination of President Kennedy.
The Moon is more than 250,000 miles from Earth, yet 46 years ago we landed three men on it and returned them safely to American soil.
Today, in the face-paced 21st Century and after more than ten years of whining and complaining about being unable to warehouse homeless Veterans in three abandoned rat-infested buildings at the Los Angeles VA, President Kennedy’s nephew has yet to put one homeless Veteran onto the largest VA campus in the nation, and he lives less than two miles away and is backed-up with enormous family wealth and powerful political connections.
Michelangelo (1475 –1564), forewarned more than five centuries ago: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.”
A decade ago, Bobby Shriver set his aim on three vacant, rat-infested buildings — about as low as anyone could aim — to house only a few homeless Veterans in our nation’s capital for homeless Veterans, and he has failed to even achieve that low of a mark.
The foregoing notwithstanding, what brought Secretary McDonald to Los Angeles in January to negotiate a sham settlement of the ACLU lawsuit is he believed that if his friend Bobby Shriver was suing the VA, then he thought something wasn’t quite right.
And the Secretary was absolutely correct in that assumption because something wasn’t quite right since Bobby Shriver wasn’t really suing the VA. And to confirm this fact, you will not find the name Bobby / Robert Shriver anywhere in the entire ACLU lawsuit that was filed on June 8, 2011, or when it was Amended on August 12, 2011.
Nowhere is Bobby Shriver’s name mentioned in the 109-page ACLU lawsuit because he did not have proper standing since he’s not a Veteran, a plaintiff, a bona fide official or legitimately involved in any way including as an attorney, which is his purported profession. In fact, he’s not even on the extensive directory of attorneys listed on the Court’s electronic mail notice to receive e-mails regarding the case.
In sum, Bobby Shriver’s role in the ACLU lawsuit was nonexistent — still is — except for the false credit that he has taken and his longtime friend Bob McDonald has given him.
But let’s take Bobby Shriver at his word since he publicly proclaims, “I organized that lawsuit.”
When reviewing the flawed and failed effort of the lawsuit, it makes sense that Bobby Shriver actually organized it since all of the original five claims filed were dismissed by Federal Judge S. James Otero.
The sixth claim was amended to the original lawsuit and was victorious, as Judge Otero entered a Federal Judgment against nine VA real estate deals with non-Veteran entities that were adjudicated as: “unauthorized by law and therefore void.”
And consistent with the five failed claims, in the sixth filed claim Bobby Shriver failed to request that the Court demand the VA build permanent housing.
In sum, Bobby Shriver boasts of organizing the June 8, 2011 ACLU lawsuit with five failed claims, and instead of enforcing the victorious sixth claim, albeit also flawed, he gave aid and comfort to the VA’s co-defendant in the lawsuit, his friend Secretary Bob McDonald, and convinced the ACLU legal team and plaintiffs to vacate both the Federal Judgment and the lawsuit in their entirety, as though they never existed.
This is corruption and cronyism personified and a return to business as usual at the Los Angeles VA since we’re back where we started before Bobby Shriver “organized that lawsuit” four years ago.
Why should anyone not be surprised that the lawsuit under Bobby Shriver’s supervision is a colossal failure and a waste of time and money at the expense of tens of thousands of disabled homeless Veterans who were depending upon humanitarian relief instead of continued neglect and inhumane treatment?
It’s consistent with all of Bobby Shriver’s other failures over the past decade of “fighting for vets.”
Nevertheless, as disastrous as this ACLU lawsuit turned out to be under his supervision, Bobby Shriver was officially linked to another ACLU lawsuit involving the homeless.
On July 14, 2009, the ACLU sued the city of Santa Monica while Bobby Shriver was a city council member and mayor for violating the Constitutional Rights of chronically homeless people when the police harassed and arrested them for sitting or sleeping in public places, and compelling them to “move on” to other cities.
Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU in Southern California proclaimed: “It’s not only illegal but callous and inhumane for any city to have its police officers cite, arrest and harass mentally ill or physically disabled homeless persons, even as it fails to provide them with sufficient shelter space. But it’s particularly shocking and hypocritical in Santa Monica, which touts itself on its website as a ‘forward-thinking, caring community.’ “
Mr. Rosenbaum further declared, “Santa Monica was criminalizing the chronically homeless by making homelessness and mental illness crimes, and then driving homeless persons to other communities.” He went on to say that “Santa Monica stands out for the hostility of its police toward chronically disabled homeless people. Santa Monica is functionally operating a deportation program against its mentally disabled homeless, acting to eliminate the homeless, not homelessness.”
Jennie Pasquarella, a staff attorney for the ACLU declared: “If you strip away the rhetoric of city officials, it’s clear that Santa Monica is doing less for the chronically homeless than it was 10 years ago.”
Think about it: While Bobby Shriver was condemning the Los Angeles VA of not providing housing for homeless Veterans in three vacant rat-infested buildings, the City of Santa Monica — while he was a council member and mayor — was being sued by the ACLU for abusing and mistreating the homeless and “operating a deportation program against its mentally disabled homeless, acting to eliminate the homeless, not homelessness.”
During the same period in 2009 that the ACLU was suing the City of Santa Monica, I contacted them regarding issues we were experiencing during our Sunday Rallies outside the VA and our mission to “Save Our Veterans Land” and to “Bring Our Homeless Veterans HOME.”
The VA police issued six false arrest citations when I hung the American Flag in compliance with the U.S. Flag Code, that sends the Internationally-recognized message of distress that “life and property are in extreme danger.”
ACLU attorney Peter Eliasberg represented me and all six trumped-up VA police citations were dismissed.
On March 16, 2010, Mr. Eliasberg filed a lawsuit against VA executive director Donna Beiter and her chief of police Ronald Mathis for violating my Constitutional Right to Free Speech.
One day later, on June 8, 2011, Mark Rosenbaum filed the second ACLUC lawsuit against the VA which essentially reaffirmed why we hung the American Flag in distress, i.e., the lives of our disabled and homeless Veterans are in extreme danger and so is their property at the VA.
On August 29, 2013, a Federal Judgment was entered against the VA for engaging in nine real estate deals that are “unauthorized by law and therefore void.”
Shamefully, on January 28 2015, VA Secretary McDonald and Bobby Shriver announced a back-room settlement deal that deceivingly vacated the Federal Judgment and thereby allowed nine illegal occupants to remain on VA property while thousands of disabled homeless Veterans remain on skid row and in back-alley squalor.
Not surprisingly, four years prior to the filing of the 2011 ACLU lawsuit, Bobby Shriver recommended the VA maintain these very land-use agreements that were proven to be illegal via the Federal Judgment, and then orchestrated a deceptive settlement agreement vacating the Court Order.
Subsequently, because of his distrusted and disingenuous actions, the lives of our disabled and homeless Veteran and their property remain in extreme danger.
Also during the summer of 2009 while the ACLU was suing the City of Santa Monica for the mistreatment of the homeless and VA police were issuing false arrest citations for hanging the American Flag in distress, the Los Angeles VA was flying four American Flags at half-staff that were badly torn and tattered, in full violation of the U.S. Flag Code.
The Flags were flying at half-staff “honoring” the passing of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, a Veteran, and Bobby Shriver’s uncle.
“VA’s Disgraceful Flag Salute to Senator Kennedy”
I sent Bobby a notice extending sympathy to him and his family and requested that he contact the local VA to replace the disgraceful display of Flags that were dishonoring his uncle’s passing. He never responded nor did he take any action against the VA. Through my continued efforts of writing and filing complaints with then-VA Secretary Shinseki’s office in Washington D.C., the four disgraced American Flags were eventually replaced.
How can the entrusted nephew of a U.S. Senator that had just passed away allow the local VA to fly four torn and tattered American Flags at half-staff signaling the passing of his uncle, and do absolutely nothing about it?
How does an elected public servant with the City of Santa Monica that has such a shameful inhumane record of mistreating and abusing the homeless, become entrusted to represent the Secretary of the VA to end Veteran homelessness in our nation’s capital for homeless Veterans?
VA Secretary McDonald is on record proclaiming: “No organization can succeed without values to match its mission. Our mission, as the Department of Veterans Affairs, is to care for those “who shall have borne the battle” and for their families and survivors. Our core values focus our minds on our mission of caring and thereby guide our actions toward service to others.
These values — Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence — define our culture and strengthen our dedication to those we serve. They provide a baseline for the standards of behavior expected of all VA employees. They remind us and others that “I CARE.”
More than ten years after he claims to have begun his mission to provide housing for homeless Veterans, Bobby Shriver still has not provided shelter for one Veteran to sleep in a bed and receive supportive care at the VA.
If Secretary McDonald truly cares, he would not have appointed Bobby Shriver to represent him because the Los Angeles VA needs leadership that truly cares for our disabled homeless Veterans, not smug deceivers.
The night before January 28th’s bogus press conference, Bobby Shriver tweeted: “Important news for homelessness in Los Angeles coming tomorrow. Great new Veteran Administration leadership! And community engagement.”
His tweet turned out to be twaddle as this was not “good news” for disabled homeless Veterans and their land, but “important news” about himself and his wealthy community friends that would continue to occupy VA land at the expense of war-injured and impoverished Veterans.
So why did Secretary McDonald select the most unqualified person for the most responsible job?
For unconvincing reasons, the ACLU agreed to vacate the 2009 City of Santa Monica lawsuit just as they did with the 2011 VA lawsuit.
And for unexplained reasons, Mr. Rosenbaum, who had been the legal director of the high-profile Southern California ACLU for more than 40 years, left and joined the essentially unknown Public Counsel non-profit organization.
After ten years as a city councilman for the city of Santa Monica, Bobby Shriver did not run for re-election, but instead, threw his hat into the political ring for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Following is a letter to the “Metropolitan News Enterprise” from Gleam Davis, a former Santa Monica city council member who served with Mr. Shriver, expressing her reasons for not supporting him for L.A. County Supervisor. She’s a Harvard law graduate and works for AT&T.
A LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWSPAPER
IN MY OPINION (Column)
Bobby Shriver Was Failure as a Santa Monica City Council Member
By GLEAM DAVIS
(The writer is an attorney for AT&T. Her undergraduate degree is from USC and her law degree is from Harvard. She writes about the race for Los Angeles County supervisor for the Third District as a member of the Santa Monica City Council.)
Bobby Shriver and his supporters are touting his experience on the Santa Monica City Council as a reason to vote for him for county supervisor. For more than three years [2009-2012], I served on the City Council with Bobby Shriver and I am supporting Sheila Kuehl. Let me tell you why:
Bobby decided to run for city council because he was angry that the city’s enforcement of its hedge ordinance would require him to trim the hedge around his home. Before the hedge issue came up, he never had shown any interest in local politics or local issues.
Bobby was sufficiently upset about the hedge issue that he decided to run for City Council. He spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money on his campaign. No one in our small city had ever seen that kind of personal wealth spent on a city council race.
Bobby ran on a platform of collaboration and respect for residents. Once Bobby was elected, it became clear that this was just campaign rhetoric.
After he was elected, Bobby was difficult to reach. When he was willing to speak with residents, he often seemed impatient and distracted. On the dais, he was rude to his colleagues, city employees and members of the public. He frequently interrupted members of the public and other councilmembers when they were speaking. Bobby didn’t work well with others so he did not get very much done.
Soon after he was elected, Bobby’s lack of interest in local politics resurfaced. Except for a very few issues, Bobby seemed unprepared for meetings and unconcerned about the matters on the council’s agenda.
The City Council only meets twice a month, but Shriver completely missed 46 meetings—one out of every five meetings. He was late, some times as much as two hours late, to 102 meetings. In fact, Shriver was present and on-time for only 39 percent of the council’s meetings. And he often left meetings early before the public comment portion of the meeting.
I want a county supervisor who listens to the public, treats everyone with respect, and can collaborate with her colleagues. I want a county supervisor who shows up on time and is ready to work. I want a county supervisor who stays as late as necessary to make sure all voices are heard. That’s why I am supporting Sheila Kuehl.
The “Los Angeles Times” Editorial Board likewise could not support Bobby Shriver, declaring: “Of the two candidates for the Board of Supervisors’ 3rd District seat, the one who best embodies the qualities needed for the new era is Sheila Kuehl.”
For the record, Ms. Kuehl had not held public office for nearly a decade and is 73 years old, yet the Times supported her instead of Bobby Shriver (age 60) because she “embodies the qualities needed for the new era.”
These are very powerful indictments against the out-of-touch Mr. Shriver who has failed at “fighting for vets over the past ten years”.
Imagine our Veterans fighting for our country the same way Bobby Shriver has fought for them.
America’s disabled homeless Veterans deserve the very best in leadership and care, and VA Secretary McDonald’s choice of Bobby Shriver to be his representative in Los Angeles is a monumental mistake and must be vacated, posthaste.
The whistle has been blown and the Secretary is now being challenged to take immediate action and move forward with a unified winning team, or lag behind with a self-serving crony.
LINK: “State of Emergency” Homeless Veterans Humanitarian Relief Project:
God Bless America and the Veterans Revolution!