ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - Who wants to be the homelessness beat reporter? What a grim assignment.
Or County jails... "anyone?"
Gale Holland of the Los Angeles Times has done a terrific job over the years and many great writers cover subjects because they have knowledge and background and expertise.
It was a nice angle for Supervisor Janice Hahn following a metro meeting last year, announcing that she will be forcing the LASD to respect the vax mandate. The Sheriff who says he supports the vaccination but not the mandate, has decided to withdraw from Civilian Oversight Commission meetings until the Board apologizes for insulting his department. He wrote a three-page letter.
One guy, Joe Maizlish, has covered the No More Jails beat at the LA County Board of Supervisors for decades. He's not with the LA Times, but rather a member of the public - activism division.
Whenever Joe would speak to the Board, which was frequently but not every time, he would introduce himself as a marriage and family counselor.
Joe worked with groups in extreme conflict and trauma and devoted many hours that I know of personally working with me, and the Board of Supervisors, who have had various "issues" over the years.
He could do a lot to improve the Sheriff and the Board's relations if they would allow him in there.
Joe was there the day the Board of Supervisors threw the public out of the room after a coordinated No More Jails disturbance. He was there in the sixties after being incarcerated for what sounded like Viet Nam-related protest activity...
It was a long road to where we met, standing in the bullpen ready to activate the Board of Supervisors against standing by...
I became particularly focused on derailing a plan to send women who had been incarcerated to Lancaster where the risk of contracting and getting very sick from Valley Fever was significantly greater for women, African American women, Filipino women.
Joe rarely lost his cool. He was mostly reasoned, measured, and modest. A magnificent sense of calm.
But not weakness, resolve... fortitude. He would never go away without telling you why he'd come. He lingers like your conscience
Joe made me a better, more reasonable person.
With Joe in mind, you can muster the strength of Mahatma Gandhi.
Joe died in March and I miss him!
Tylenol is hot again, following the reveal that President Joe Biden took some to treat his Covid, among other drugs, and survived. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors,, who came out of seclusion to conduct a virtual meeting must have wanted to ask Dr. Ferrer and Ghaly about the Tylenol, but there was a lot of overt and latent bickering to do on Tuesday.
Nury Martinez, who appeared on Wednesday, after several weeks of 'hiatus' wearing a blue polka dotted chamise and a mask that did not seem coordinated, had a large agenda but promised to take 45 public speakers. I think she meant 45 minutes of public speaking, which included a robust spanish speaking crowd, giving Nury ample opportunities to drop her new catchphrase, "Un momentito."
There was a cavalcade of resistance to the pending approval of the 41.18 ordinance, but thanks to Mike Bonin voting no last time, will come back next week before being slammed through.
The heme, "People who are unhoused also have children," and the proposed 500-foot 41.18 zones surrounding schools and daycare centers is about, "pushing our national disgrace out of view."
Speaker after speaker articulated how the 41.18 plan would help house... no one.
Council President Martinez seemed pleased with herself and said that the City's housing department will be back with their 30 day report back. Everyone wondered, will Mark Ridley-Thomas return for this exciting twist?
Paul Krekorian tapped the mic and the moment he was recognized, the crowd erupted in anger.
Nury, knew what to do instantly, and shrieked, "Mr. Sergienko!"
Strefan Fauble, the City Attorney, who has been out on R&R, presumably in a tony enclave back east or maybe DisneyWorld, was delighted to pipe up and tell Mr. Sergienko that he was "disrupting the meeting."
Fauble must have missed his weekly scolding sessions during hiatus and activated his 'disruption narration' mode, "Mr. Sergienko is still disrupting the meeting." "He continues to disrupt the meeting." "He is still disrupting."
After several minutes of this 'elevated' discourse, Sergienko shouting as Paul Krekorian shakes his head in disgust, Krekorian got his turn.
It's a shame he didn't have much to say or add. He delivered a brief, stern lecture to the public and his colleagues about what "we" the council, are "not" voting on today.
Bob Blumenfeild made several points as well and rolled out a media-ready statement.
It was very good, almost as if Rick Coca, who used to spin for Jose Huizar and Nury Martinez before transitioning to the California Bar Association, to spin the yarns.
Is that true?
Blumenfield's message had been handled professionally... he said Angelenos need an "exit strategy because the eviction moratorium is a band-aid that has lost its stick."
Staffer B John Lee leapt to his feet, to tout the local mom and pop landlord community, who, he said, simply "needed to know an end date for these" %$#&^*& "protections."
The longer LA lingered, Staffer B said, the less likely that the mom and pops would ever see the back rent that is due. Apparently, once the tenant protections are dissolved, the tenants will have one year to pay back the rent... then what? Call LAPD?
Nope. "Un Momentito" ...
Tuesdays with Sheila et al.
The Chair told the public that she would be taking public comment, separately. She said, there would be "two separate opportunities... " once on the regular agenda, and then another opportunity on the public hearing items.
She said, over 4000 letters had been received.
A popular speaker, captured the feeling, noting that 7 Rewards for information related to crimes were on the agenda and 8 settlements
totaling a bloody fortune, but, "First of all, I find this kind of alternate week meeting highly disruptive to our ability to provide public scrutiny and come down to a choice that's been made by the board repeatedly. And you know, I hate to say it, but this kind of conduct is totally inappropriate. It's like, although camaraderie and friendly competition among Supervisors can be a natural and healthy aspect of any institution, cliques that resist or undermine supervision, violate state law, exert negative influences over other supervisors, use frequent and excessive cancellations of meetings as a weapon, and engage in other behavior against members of the public, that compromise the very integrity, ethics, and mission of the County...
Today your agenda is a mystery because it's so dense and confusing and all the exciting rollout $19 million dangerous condition lawsuit. It's not even the sheriff. It's public works! You've got a $4.5 million malpractice case you are settling at Olive View hospital about negligent prenatal tests.
Here is a glance at just a smattering of the settlements on agenda...
51 $548,500, Department of Public Works for commercial property damage allegedly caused by a backflow of sewage
50 $340,000 alleged injuries plaintiff sustained in an automobile accident involving a Fire Department employee
49 $19,750,000, This dangerous condition lawsuit alleges the Department of Public Works failed to install an adequate guardrail
48 $4,500,000, malpractice lawsuit against the Department of Health Services alleges that Olive View Medical Center staff was negligent in performing prenatal tests and informing plaintiffs about their son's congenital condition.
47 $1,000,000, alleged injuries plaintiff sustained in an automobile accident involving a Department of Public Works
46 $400,000, breach of mandatory duty by Sheriff's Department jail staff for the death of an inmate
45 $700,000, allegations of injuries and property damage received in an automobile accident
44 $150,000 - allegations of civil rights violations, false arrest and malicious prosecution by Sheriff's Deputies
Here's a few other timeless classics on agenda...
Cementing Los Angeles County’s Commitment to Historic General Hospital.
Acceptance of Funds for the Chinatown Service Center,
Contract with U.S. Bank National Association for Prepaid Debit Card Services,
Ordinance and Proclamation Calling for a Special Election to Amend the Charter of the County of Los Angeles,
Recognizing the 150th Anniversary of Baseball in Japan,
New Board Policy - Inclusive Hiring, Sheriff’s Department, Fire Department and Department of Beaches and Harbors Lease Amendment, Federal Assistance for Monkeypox Response,
Diamond Bar Golf Course to Include Turf Reduction and Bridge Improvements,
County Signing onto an Amicus Brief in Support of Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Law
But today and every Tuesday, our doctors and Dr. Ferrrer, are preening around taking center stage and converting the public meeting into an inside baseball discussion of minutiae related to the pandemic and now Monkey Pox. We should really say "endemic" which is also true of the negligence, the current county board has shown toward it's tradition of following the law and meeting before the public.
The public health group knows what it is supposed to do, but the board has allowed them to coopt too much of the weekly meetings. This contributes to too many contracts being approved without real scrutiny; we have been increasing the threshold above which the board must be notified even as we spot trouble in neighboring Riverside County.
Why do the Supervisors feel that they are immune from the virus that roams when scrutiny is ditched? The audits from Riverside showed that the rules were being bent. $5 million dollars of work was broken in to many smaller $50,000 contracts, to avoid bringing those items before the public and Board -- #infectious.
The board of supervisors in LA County, doesn't even come before the public themselves anymore. Red Flag.
And, FYI, the Board cannot amend the Charter, because they dislike or hate a particular Sheriff. It's pretty clear that he also hates you, too. Should he be able to remove the Chair, because he doesn't like her arrogance? No.
Constantly trying to unelect their rival elected officials, is not how most of the public want our elected officials to behave.
We want a decent Sheriff who is willing to do the hard work, while minimizing the dumbest feud in centuries with the supervisors who are admittedly relentless. Relentless, and also behaving like a clique. That's a term of art, that you can look up in the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence from 2012. This election cycle, we're calling deputy cliques, gangs.
Are the Board of Supervisors a gang? I don't think so.
Cut him off. Next Speaker.
This week Hilda Solis's abstention on Tuesday, was a matter of public record, but also real throwback to the good old days when Mr. Ridley-Thomas used to abstain all the time and the board would meet more frequently.
Curren D. Price would take Gold for the most recusals at City Council meetings, followed closely by Paul Krekorian, but he never explains why.
It's fair to point out that a recusal, stepping away from a vote, is similar to an abstention but not the same. Abstention generally focuses on the final decision, where recusal usually involves withdrawing from the entire proceeding. ie. not participating
Failure to vote is not a benign act of neutrality. Rather, abstention has significant consequences for the body's decision and is akin to a negative vote for purposes of compliance with statutory majority voting requirements.
A persistent refusal to vote on items could constitute grounds for removal from office. Ya, right! That will be the day.
Like the refusal to testify before a board of supervisors-powered commission, will get a local Sheriff in trouble.
Hardly, it gets him on the evening news on KCAL!
It was ten years ago, as the board of supervisors were preparing to to dole out approximately $10,000,000 in First 5 LA funds.
Hindsight, being 20/20, the session serves as a good explainer as to why MRT is often referred to as the "great abstainer." One click more charitable: the "great compromiser." One click less charitable: "fully compromised."
Supervisor Solis rolled out a doozy whopper of an abstention on Tuesday, that would have made Mr. Ridley-Thomas and the inhouse private legal team of Covington & Burling LLP attorneys, one of which is helping, Bert Deixler, with the ongoing get the Sheriff initiative, proud.
Gloria Molina might find it less amusing but she doesn't call in to give public comments.
To refresh the memory, Carolyn Kubota who works with Daniel Shallman, has been brought in to 'clean up' / 'cover up' depending on your POV, the county's contracting fraud. She's also allegedly pitching in pro bono with Deixler on "Get the Sheriff."
The county had a large regular agenda but also a half dozen public hearing items.
One case, involved the local villain and hero, Lennar Homes, a leading homebuilder of new homes for sale in the nation's most desirable real estate markets. Item seven on the agenda, was the approval of a transaction to acquire a county school district in Hacienda Heights to build new homes. There was substantial resistance from various stakeholders.
But as the members of the public began testifying it was clear that each speaker in the cue to testify was not necessarily speaking about Lennar, doing what it does best... ie. building homes they sorely need, because there were several other public hearings going on concurrently.
One 3rd district resident had a separate public hearing, mixed in there, seeking approval after allegedly gerimandering his parcels, to fell a 50 foot Oak tree to put up an oversized home. Lots of resistance there, too.
Preven said: Chaotic
The questioning of Amy Bodek, who sits where Richard Bruckner sat as the Director of Regional Planning, had the public thinking Solis might stick up for her districts' activists.
When the superintendent of the school district came out in support, people were not so sure. After the dozens of questions the progressive icon had posed to Ms. Bodek were all asked and answered in a hypnotic, comforting tone, Solis still seemed hesitant.
There was no affordable housing, and it seemed like she was going to find a way to kibosh the plan, possibly extract some additional concessions for her constituents.
Solis took a page from her old pal, Mark Ridley-Thomas, and abstained. "Sir, you're disrupting the meeting."
Lennar offers premium options for those who want a larger home or one that is situated in a more desirable area of the community. For example, if you wish to live in a Lennar community with a golf course and own a home on the course, you might pay more for that desirable homesite. Or you can get Sheila Kuehl to assist.
Pro tip: for reporters and activists: check your favorite politicians' abstention record, and then see if you can figure out why withhold their vote.
When the oversized home finally came up for a vote, Sheila took out her rubber stamp and with her stubby little hands, slapped down her approval. At least she didn't abstain.
Nearly ten years ago, Gloria Molina chastised the board of supervisor boys after calling out an excessive $800,000 (8%) administrative fee for the county's community development and housing authority, to spend $10 million in HUD money.
Gloria Molina: It's really shameful. They already do this work. And I just can't believe they'd take any administrative money into it. It's children's money.
Mark Ridley-Thomas: All right. Thanks very much.
Gloria Molina: Yes. I'd like to abstain as it's a new term around here.
Mark Ridley-Thomas: A term of art.
Zev Yaroslavsky: Not new.
Mark Ridley-Thomas: New and improved.
Zev Yaroslavsky: It hasn't been new since Ridley-Thomas got here. [Laughter].
Mark Ridley-Thomas: Well, I'm glad to know that I've made a contribution. Thank you so much.
Do you hear something? No.
There has not been a super dedicated county beat reporter writing daily about the largest county in the nation since Abby Sewell moved to Lebanon years ago. In a way, the public health beat has overshadowed all other coverage, which has contributed to the need (and shameful denial) of more public input by the board.
Now, Emily Alpert Reyes has moved over from the city to cover the beat previously held by Soumya Karlamangla, who has shimmied over to the New York Times, California Today, beat. Matt Stiles, who followed fifteen minutes of effort by Nina Agrawal on the county beat, splashed on the scene a couple of years ago but quickly shuffled over to the big cool story desk at the Times. He's moved on.
The big cool story desk helps with the award-winning graphics about what people really care about. (Hold tongue here.)
Also, there is the totally unbiased coverage of the Sheriff provided by Alene Tchekmedyian.
Matt's lasting contribution will be his landmark "expletive count" article. A complete slap in the public's face with no follow-up.
Steve Clow, the Bob Baffert of alignment coverage editors for the Times has been doing what he's doing long enough to know that there's no point in criticizing the board of Supervisors or responding to requests that Jaclyn Cosgrove cover the public comment reductions in violation of the governor's order or Skip Miller's excessively secretive fees.
"What a kook!"
The editorial board, that won a Pulitzer Prize last year, must have forgotten their signature, LA supervisors’ inconvenient public piece. They deserve an award for that. It's called an honorary scroll.
Award Winning Non-Coverage:
The truth about the cooking stove that sparked an Intercept article exposing the mayor, the Supervisors' and Paul Koretz in a fire hat scapegoating the unhoused, never fully emerged from the so-called toaster at the LA Times.
The public was not fully clued-in to how, specifically, a small stove became an inter-continental ballistic missile of bullshit, launched out of HQ at the Los Angeles Times.
Who knows, who knows what, over at the Los Angeles Times today?
Kevin Merida, the new Executive Editor, big boss at the Times, spotted last week in Ruben Salazar branded LA Times tennis shoes, certainly doesn't have the lived experience at the Times, that Shelby Grad and Scott Kraft do, but at the end of the day, journalism has become a numbers game.
How many reporters' integrity was compromised to help a plan most probably conceived by Mitchell Englander and Eric Garcetti.. to tag the unhoused everywhere, with the scent of a deranged phantom arsonist trying to kill rich people?
The answer is 8...
Hi, Gail, If virtually all of the evidence was destroyed during the Skirball fire, how do the fire officials know for sure that the fire was started by a homeless cooking fire? Regards, Eric Preven
Gail Holland: "A good question". #1
The Times article mentioned that there were several items found at the burned-out encampment (eg. the boombox, the stove, the children's dictionary). I could not find any reference in the LAFD news release (attached). Do you remember where that information comes from?
"! did not feed the info try other people on byline"
I am confused by some of the Skirball fire origin details... did you see the encampment?
"No my role was to stake out Garcetti and Koretz at a Hannukah event - someone else handled press release etc." #2
Ha! Happy Hannukah. Do you know which reporter went to the site?
"I think several were assigned to the fire, definitely Laura Nelson."
"Hi Eric, we sent a reporter to the encampment." #3
Oh, cool. Which one?
"Eric, I’m based in northern California. I believe because we published a photo we visited the encampment in person. Who had the lede byline on that story?" #4
I'll check. Thx.
"One of our reporters went to the camp." #5
"Hi Eric. A photographer and I went out to the site and walked around to observe and take photos. Those were some of the things we saw there. Makeda" #6
I was puzzled by the fact that a children's book was burned but not completely consumed by the fire. Did the Fire Dept. explain how that could happen?
"To my knowledge that wasn't explained. But the burned pages were scattered throughout the site. And I was with Brian Van der Brug."
Hi, Brian. This may be a silly question, but my brother and I cannot figure out what one of the objects is in the photograph that you took of the stovetop at the homeless encampment where the Skirball fire started. Because we are not sure how to describe it, here is a photo with an arrow pointing. Was the photo taken at the actual site referred to in the accompanying article or is it a photograph just of an example of the stuff located at the encampment?
"Hi Eric- that is the butane cannister stove they were using- I’ll send u a snap " #7
Oh, okay. So the photo was taken at the actual site described in the article?
"Yes that was it- the reporter and I were there with a mountains conservancy investigator- there were charred cans dish-ware utensils and empty liquor bottles- all strewn around - the only obvious place we could find where people had been living in the area described by the arson team Are you the same Eric Preven from the Board of Supes meetings I get stuck at sometimes?"
As far as I know:)
Hi, Shelby, Hope all is well. Was wondering if we could have a look at the... "Photos taken of the Sepulveda encampment in September and shared with the Times showed a cluster of green and olive tarpaulins stretched across a canyon and camouflaged by treetops and brush." The photo of the tarpaulins was posted earlier but now I cannot find it. Also, from where did the photos come?
Who supplied them to the Times? Can we see them?
"Thanks let me check". #8
Here is a link to an inquiring member of the public's Skirball Chronolgy.
Ruben Salazar was a civil rights activist and a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, the first Mexican-American journalist from mainstream media to cover the Chicano community. Salazar was killed during the National Chicano Moratorium March against the Vietnam War on August 29, 1970, in East Los Angeles.
(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch. The opinions expressed by Eric Preven are solely his and not the opinions of CityWatch)