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Wed, Apr

Everyone's a Winner in Vegas

ERIC PREVEN'S NOTEBOOK

ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - Today at the Metro meeting, I jumped up when they discussed Taste of Soul, and pointed out that I’m not a fan of politicians arranging for public dollars to go to Danny Bakewell, who wields political power.  Karen Bass was surprised.  She should look into it. 

Why should the public agencies pay to be at the food festival in the public right of way?

 

Later in the Metro meeting, the board brought out their PR firm or their PR department to give an update on the media war between the ‘it’s dangerous’ faction and the ‘it’s fine’ faction. The Directors were highly appreciative of the team getting out there to spin the story positively.  

Paul Krekorian told his colleagues that what pissed him off the most, was when some organization said something that he called ‘utter nonsense’ on social media, and then some politician retweets it and says, “This is disturbing.” 

He made it seem like, all these journalists out there are just looking for a quick story … an easy crime on the metro piece. 

Krekorian got all hot and bothered about the LA Times, saying, and I’m paraphrasing, they “distort the numbers by using the time when oil prices were high as a benchmark for ridership.”

Smart Speaker: Aren't gas prices higher than ever?

After the rant, Krekorian said he could not be happier with the report and the amazing ridership numbers.   

Smart Speaker:  Check out those ridership numbers! 

All Aboard:

City Attorney, Strefan Fauble: The items that are available are items one and two which involve easements, and items 15, 16, 17, and 21 which are rent escrow account program items.

Smart Speaker:  Okay, I’ll speak on the two easement items and I’ll give a general public comment, free of charge. 

City Attorney, Strefan Fauble:  Okay, you have two minutes on the items and one minute for general comment, please begin with the easements. 

Smart Speaker:  Okay, an easement for those who are listening, is where you allow for instance permission to pass through or run a pipe through a property or City property, as an example.  Sometimes city property is right next to Cal Trans property, sometimes it’s right next to the LA County Flood Control District. 

Nithya Raman who is a leader knows that the County of Los Angeles, 3rd district run by Lindsey Horvath and Mark Pestrella of Public Works and LA County Flood District, are all working together to try to help the city lobbyist Edgar Khalatian of Mayer Brown and Paul Krekorian (Hi, Frank Lima!) and all the trustees of Harvard Westlake, who gave the max repeatedly to Krekorian and Garcetti without disclosing that they were trustees and now really need LA County Flood Control District cooperation.  Why? So Harvard Westlake can put up a wall around what has always been a public golf and tennis amenity in Studio City something like a park. It’s open to the public, anyone can visit and to rent a club and balls is nominal… a few bucks.   

Now, going forward the school that pays no taxes incidentally wants that nice open space rezoned for a huge complex and two giant toxic doormats. 

The way the school gets around the notion of a Wall, is they claim the public gets to walk around the wall, free of charge, until their private security throws you off.  And, they are agreeing to issue secret passes to the elite Harvard Westlake academy students and friends. 

City Attorney, Strefan Fauble:   So, this seems pretty far from the two easements that are actually at issue here.

Smart Speaker:  Yeah, it is a little far off, but if you pay the fifty thousand dollars in tuition you use the facilities no questions asked or you if you work at the school or happen to be a Trustee or alumnus or are just very rich, yer good.  Rudy Ortega, who speaks for the tribal leaders can absolutely use the facilities. He’s been doing a great job selling out the locals.   

And you can rest assured that Tony Pritzker can use the facilities.  He’s a big UCLA donor, with a shockingly huge mansion in Bel Air tk., maybe he’ll put a Founders room in the giant Pritzker athletic complex.  

Rudy could be one of the Fatcat founders.

I’d like to take a brief break from my tirade to thank both UCLA and USC for their dismal starts to the college football season.  Following their joint effort to screw the Pac-12 right out of existence for TV money.

They get what they deserve. 

Couldn’t they have asked Pritzker for money?

Look, everything is possible and the first step is for the brave leaders on PLUM to simply deny the applicant’s application.  Please send it back. 

Harvard Westlake will be tailgating at a PLUM hearing on November 7th.  As insiders recall, nothing prevents Harvard Westlake Trustees from donating to Marqueece Harris-Dawson for instance. 

And it’s previously been stipulated that MHD receives so many contributions related to Land Use enthusiasm that he frequently can’t even remember.  Personally, I never forget. Jeffrey Goldberger, Atlas Capital Group LLC // Kyndra Casper, DLA Piper LLC

On November 7, MHD will call in sick or rubber-stamp the take of commissioners Samantha Millman and Caroline Choe (HW alums who refused to recuse) when it was before the planning commission a month ago.  

He’s being asked to vote in support of handing over the keys to one of Studio City’s last bits of open space to hillside and coastal billionaires from the Westside… 

But let’s not go nuts. Never underestimate or overestimate the integrity of a city council member. 

Marqueece Harris Dawson could vote against Wall Street to stick up for Main Street… that might get him on sixty minutes. 

City Attorney, Strefan Fauble:  Again, this doesn’t really seem to be about the easements. Why don’t we send you to general public comment?

Smart Speaker:  Sure, I'm happy to go to general public comment for the last minute. 

City Attorney, Strefan Fauble:  We’ll give you a minute for general.  Go ahead.

Smart Speaker:  Okay, I will do the best I can, it’s not easy, especially with all the interrupting. Though, candidly it’s nice to have you back, Fauble. And comforting to know that Groat is taking a short break from all of his meddlesome interrupting. 

Now, these billionaires and multi-millionaires that live up in the hills of Yaroslavsky’s district and by the coast in Traci Park’s district. They send their kids over the hill to Harvard Westlake in Audis and Range Rovers.  The kids drive too quickly.  

The deep-pocketed tycoons and trustees are highly focused on building an arena next to a fire station — again great to see Frank Lima down here, schmoozing Krekorian — What happened to Lima’s associate…Jimmy Blackman? — Google Friends of Krekorian and Dakota Smith for more on that. [Disclosure: Not with children.] 

Look, in Studio City we are reasonable people. But how can we allow Harvard Westlake to do all of the horrible things they want to do in our open space?  We need our leaders to come forward, to keep holding on. 

Please Keep Holding On!

 

If we cling together, the school will be forced to scale back dramatically its plan and retain most of what is already there. Open accessible space. 

We want to make peace but the Edgar Khalatian bribery programming can never cut it with us.

City Attorney, Strefan Fauble: Thank you, Mr. Preven 

Smart Speaker: You’re welcome. Sixty Minutes on CBS is invited November 7th!  + Elex Michaelson who went to China with Newsom. 

Viva Las Vegas:

When a major contracting scandal broke out in Hawaii last year the mayor of Maui County went to the media to express outrage and announced a sweeping audit of contracts that had been awarded to a corrupt wastewater tycoon. The tycoon and a county co-conspirator had been exploiting sole source agreements by getting waivers to facilitate the contracts. Lots of contracts and bribery and …Viva Las Vegas!

The Maui county auditor told the New York Times that they'd only heard about the so-called sweeping audit on the news. Turns out nothing, other than the tycoon now serving three years in jail, has been done to improve the vulnerability.

Here in LA County, the greatest of all corrupt counties, some brilliant speakers had been clamoring for more transparency and fair-minded competition in the contracting space. Then, the unthinkable happened: our own fearless leader, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, was convicted himself of federal bribery charges.  

Say it’s not so! 

It is unfortunately so and the remaining Board of Supervisors jumped immediately out into the light to defend MRT and hired a very stately law firm called Covington and Burling.   No relation to Skip Miller, that I know of. 

Smart Speaker:  Why federal defense attorneys?

"Mr. Preven, please sit down."

The Covington and Burling report on county contracting has never been provided and neither has the cost of said report.

The Los Angeles Times including a new county beat reporter, is apparently on it, but we’ll see.

The truth is there is a fine tradition of the county of Los Angeles examining its own performance and if the attorneys don’t like what they see…”Mr. Preven, please sit down."

Smart Speaker: May I approach the bench, your honor?

"No, please sit down!"

Just the other week, on the County Supervisors' agenda, there were four sole source agreements. 

--Assessor Modernization Project Sole Source Agreement Amendment  

--Fiduciary Electronic Information System Sole Source Contract   

--Operation of the Mobile Stroke Unit Sole Source Agreement  

--Report on the Sexually Transmitted Infection Crisis Sole Source Contract Amendment 

And at least one juicy Job Order Contracting item.

--Parkway Concrete Maintenance and Guardrail Replacement Job Order Contracts   

Job Order Contracting is a reverse auction bidding in which contractors bid on work to be done later, on the direction of a particular department.  The way the contractor bids are he or she says they will provide the services eg. a 15% discounted rate. The bidders bid in private and if a contractor bids a 20% discounted rate... the biggest discount wins.  Hindsight is 20/20. 

The discount comes off of the prices that are posted in a previously agreed-upon price book. 

Smart Speaker:  Why would a company do it for less than the price in the price book? 

 "Mr. Preven, please sit down."

Smart Speaker:  Won't this incentivize companies to figure out how to claw back the huge discount? Ie. Make more money once they have the deal by making a bigger deal of things when the watchdog is in Las Vegas? 

I remember dragging a bunch of county public works executives into a conference room a few years ago demanding answers to my annoying questions about the perceived weaknesses in the system.  

A young Mark Pestrella sat across a table from me as I outlined how I thought the Job Order Contracting system needed to be sured up.  We all agreed. 

The county executives onboarded some of my notes and actually adopted recommendations but then the county board decided to increase the job order contract limits. 

This means, that each JOC agreement could be worth up to $5,000,000 of work (already too high) they raised it to $7,000,000 (way too high).  Now, as before the same regular providers will bag sometimes three JOCS at once …so up to $21,000,000 in authorized work.   Eeesh. 

The public and other bidders... never get to see any of the details unless they seek it through the Public Records Act. Bad. Correct me if there've been more reforms and it's all there for the whole county to see. Mr. Pestrella? JOCs are throughout the counties depts not just PW.

At one point, I did a major PRA request through the sneaky CEO's office that revealed some shocking deficiencies and county money going by the wayside. When I showed the evidence to the LA Times, they did what they do best...  

Not long after this period,  a local Long Beach newspaper broke a story about fraud in the City of Long Beach's JOC program.  I felt very validated as the exact type of corruption that I had been bellyaching about to the Supervisors, was happening.

Once again, out trotted the county board calling for a closer look and changes to avoid what happened in Long Beach. No outside firm this time. 

Back in Maui, the audit that was called for in anger was never completed, and the county’s flawed system for awarding contracts — a system marred by bribery and a lack of competition — remains largely the way it was. 

The Tycoon from Maui, who admitted getting no-bid contracts through bribery for at least six years would invite Hawaii officials and friends to soirees in Las Vegas, where the guests would be treated to "stacks of gambling chips, food, and drinks" at the tycoon's private suite in the Mirage hotel and casino. 

Everyone is a winner in Vegas!

 

I once stayed at the Mirage as the guest of a very high roller. It was amazing. I just showed up, put down a credit card for incidentals... and plap.  Every meal was comped.

One night we went out to an unusual club... there was a pack of what looked like young politicians.   A handsome Latinx guy (Huizar with more hair), a weasily little ringleader type (quasi-Mitch Englander)  an Asian American (think Staffer B), and two Older African American chaps (for benchmarking MRT and Curren Price.)

The bottles were flowing that night… 

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch. The opinions of Mr. Preven are not necessarily those of CityWatchLA.com.)