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LA Recusals, Public Comment, and Other Musings

LOS ANGELES- Metro: Thanks to the LA Metro records team for providing the AT&T invoices for teleconferencing service for metro meetings. 

We've been paying $386/hour for speaker sub/conference administration management and $309/hour for an Event Producer on meeting days. That's $695/hour to put on a conference call.   

Bonin who loves pumping NextGen Bus service and fareless anything told the board when he was finally called up to speak, "my hand has been up since the beginning."  

It's work in progress. . . More than $30,000 to AT&T over six months September 2020 to February 2021 for routinely bad service. I'm going to save the list of grievances for another article. 

Why the County Board of Supervisors have denied the exact same records for County meetings, given their long deep relationship Ma Bell, is unclear. Never mind that the board media policy says, "even in cases where the County has a specific amount of time legally in which to respond to a request for a public record, the Board does not wish unnecessary delays imposed."  

Recusals 

Members of City boards and commissions are required to complete and submit a recusal notification form (Form 51) each time they recuse themselves due to an actual or apparent conflict of interests. 

At Metro, they post Director recusals in the minutes on the following month's meeting agenda. They're usually tucked into something called the consent calendar, with a nice little chart  showing who sat out on which item.  

Invariably, Charles Safer Metro's counsel advises the board to move it, and vote -- before members of the public typically get a chance to say something, even if they see something. This is highly shady because, absent any explanation, why bother disclosing at all?   

It's like sneezing quietly into a hanky, then slipping it into one's front pocket.  

There's a whole separate ethics department over at Metro. They even have a Spectrum 1 whistleblower, (when Goldstein Investigates is tired of chasing CEO Washington now Wiggins about their lavish lifestyle) yet she managed to miss the Mayor Garcetti Peace Over Violence angle while gunning for Sheila who's about to retire.    

I asked about the $2 million in city contracts and whether Peace Over Violence had registered with the ethics commission -- they were also penalizing firms for not registering properly with them on Tuesday -- Nope.  

Ethics Commission does not have any documents from Peace Over Violence. 

Progression 

I noted that Holly Mitchell, who handily defeated Herbert J. Wesson for the seat as County Supervisor from the second district, a seat previously held by Mark Ridley-Thomas, who slid down Grand Park to replace Herb Wesson who had termed out, had four hard conflicts on the March 2021 Metro agenda.  

Two were related to the Crenshaw project.  

We reached out to Supervisor Mitchell about why she's been going along with the astonishing reduction of general public comment by the County Board of Supervisors.   

Had she heard Janice Hahn talking about the insular nature of the meetings and her concerns?  A staffer returned the call to understand the nature of the request, but that's it.   

Disappointing, because Mitchell was going to deliver us from the post-apocalyptic Wesson world, where speakers appeared in a telecast shrunken down to the size of #BlumenfieldKnows. Note: Possible Bratz doll idea. 

The cautious, measured, Bob Blumenfield voluntarily recuses himself on ALL matters having to do with his wife Kafi Blumenfield, Executive Director of Discovery Cube Los Angeles. She's also on the board of Sheila's Women's and Girl's initiative.  

Paul Krekorian and Curren Price, Jr. will recuse themselves sometimes, when it serves their interests (i.e., when they'd rather not vote).   

Once and while the LA City Ethics Commission takes a deep dive and reviews the recusals of a commission member and writes it up for the public to see what an excellent job they're doing.   

Rarely is anything out of place.   

At the April meeting that lasted approximately twenty minutes and to which one member of the public attended, there was such a glance at Jamie L. Lee. She's nobody important, but her A-2 form is rather impressive. EYES POP OUT OF HEAD HERE!  

CAUTION: Glancing at Jamie T. Lee's CV could cause severe performance anxiety or episode of self-doubt. Ms. Lee is an alumna of Harvard Westlake and USC where she serves as a trustee. She is also a board member of the YMCA of Metropolitan LA and has served on LACERs, the city's retirement board. She's also served the Korean American Coalition and has been the chair of the Fashion District BID and obviously she's President of the Board of Harbor Commissioners. 

Zoiks, this woman is loaded. 

Not sure if it was a typo, but two entities from the section of her Form 700 marked -- LIST OF REPORTABLE SINGLE SOURCES OF INCOME OF $10,000 OR MORE  did not appear, but they did appear in the list of Names of Business Entities, if Investments, or Assessor's Parcel Numbers or Street Addresses of Real Properties  

Where does this woman find time to run Jamison Properties, LP?  She has help from lobbyists and Koretz keeps her honest by refusing to accept discounts on a nice district office he rents from them; we rent from them. COI. 

Jamison could probably pick and choose any lobbyist that they want to help smoove things along downtown, but rather than be picky, the firm has enlisted at least four of the top ten lobbyist firms by earnings: DLA Piper, Armbruster Goldsmith & Delvac, Mayer-Brown, and Craig Lawson.  

During the review period, the Harbor Commission met 21 times in regular and special sessions and considered approximately 255 items. President Lee recused herself from participating in four items, or approximately 1.5 percent of all items considered by the Harbor Commission during that time.  

Holly Mitchell recused herself four times at one of the twelve annual Metro meetings.  

Mark Ridley-Thomas and the fabulous Five (Board of Supervisors) have an excellent working relationship with Jamison, we all do!  

Especially, former chief of staff Michael Bai, now in business for himself, subsequent to the probably ongoing bromance with highly respected Howard Sunkin.  

 It's a love fest all over town, just not enough zeros to go around with too many piggies in the same pen.  

I'm definitely going to allude to the LLC debunking technique that I developed using the CPRA in another article or maybe my TED talk!   

Outreach v. Inreach 

#8 -- WEDDINGTON GOLF COURSE CULTURAL HERITAGE ITEM COMMISSION (669) 900-9128 and use Meeting ID No. 823 8839 3666 and then press #. Press # again when prompted for participant ID. You may use password: 522057. 

Would have liked to have heard about this from the local neighborhood council... right?   There was an overwhelming response, someone reported that more speakers than on any designation in the commission's history had cued up to hear the Wolverines cheer.  

The surgical designation had been expected, what was not expected and was not properly agendized was the re-naming of the Weddington Golf and Tennis to be the Studio City Golf and Tennis.   

This proposed amendment was introduced late after the public spoke and yet the commission did not properly reopen it for comment. The public comment on the matter is simple,  

No Thanks.   

We, the people of Studio City do not want the appalling relentless gouging of our community assets by the mayor's private school alma mater to be able to slap the civic labeling atop what is essentially a private gym. It's not our problem that the Equinox bailed out of Sportsmen's landing and has been replaced by an Erewhon. We like fancy markets. (Incidentally, markets coming to Studio City should always come forward.) 

The people of Studio City would love it if the name of the place would be turned back to Studio City Golf and Tennis, but the exact opposite plan is underway.  

Giving a private facility the same identifier as the Studio City Recreation Center, our beloved Beeman park, is unacceptable. Especially, when the plan for what was an open-to-the-public facility for a nominal fee, is becoming an Equinox: Harvard-Westlake edition.  

Kudos to the Armenians on finally having an important truth affirmed by President Joe Biden a longtime ally, who promised to get this done during his historic and once in a lifetime weird campaign. 

The reason that the U.S. has finally agreed to this appropriate framing as a "genocide" has to do with affirming a terrible wrong so that it can never, never, be repeated again and will never be forgotten. (hang head here) 

The fact that Turkey dropped an estimated $2.5 billion on surface-to-air missiles from Russia. . . "Sir, [your] time is expired." 

Heritage 

On July 3, 2018 you'd need to push past a small scrum of well-regarded local Jewish Leaders to get to Paul Koretz, who is not the tallest of the 12-man, 3-women LA City Council Allstars, but he can hit from the outside.   

Not to be confused with the day Mitchell Englander was doing faintly anti-Semitic jokes, probably not written by the Staffer B team, but definitely offensive. 

Nestled in an agenda carefully put together by the CLA and the City Clerk under the leadership of city strongman Herb Wesson, was an item submitted by Marqueece Harris-Dawson, seconded by Mitch O'Farrell (for Paul Krekorian) with dozens of changes in the form of . . . SUBSTITUTE - Items 33,34,35,36,37,38,39,50,55,156 for heritage celebrations aggregated under one item by Krekorian svengali, Avak Keohtian.  

Avak’s views about public attendance at meetings -- if one had to match his views to those of a world leader, it would be Augusto Pinochet. Avak is not a huge fan of civilian input.

He once outlined to me and an LAPD officer who chuckled along, how, in Avak's view, the public elected city officials to run the government and once they do that, they should essentially stay out of the way.  

These people are simply, disrupting the meetings. "Leave it to the pros."

When someone mentioned the Brown Act. . . the man's eyes burned red for a moment and he gave a little growl.

It was terrifying.  

But Koretz gets credit, with an assist from Avak for three points on July 3, 2018. Added to the giant heritage celebration roster, right there among the biggies like Cinco De Mayo, the fourth of July and Taste of Soul, finally the Jewish heritage month celebration had been funded.  

The bridge at City Hall had an awesome $14,000 exhibit on influential jewish women of Los Angeles. 

Kudos to the next Controller 

Listening Sessions  

Even as the board and council have cut back on public meetings, there's a new game in town.  

Alongside the most draconian and serious reduction in public comment opportunities taken in years, little listening sessions are popping up all over the place between the garden sheds.  Even Sheriff Villanueva has been rolling out regular zoom style meet and greets (and thanks!) 

Why submit to the unhinged lunacy of a public meeting when one can beef up one's engagement numbers by doing something that looks like a public meeting.   

Krekorian explained, that he had four listening sessions in mind, two left, -- and couldn't include two of the valley councilmembers or he'd inadvertently form a quorum. Anyway, as for public meetings. . . "No further questions." 

Clever, why would any politician face the public if they could have a dignified, controlled listening session with Council President Martinez fully alert and listening?  

Scripting questions for leaders is a worst practice if you ask the public. If you ask the leaders, it's a public benefit. 

Back in 2015, Paul Krekorian was challenged by a resident who Krekorian simply refused to debate at all, despite $44,000 in public matching money and so it seemed he was required to do debate.  Emily Alpert Reyes of the Los Angeles Times is a good resource on why he was able to get away with it.  

That very same year, President Erdoğan of Turkey was accused of covertly campaigning under the guise of 'public opening' rallies. Obviously, this is not the right week for Thanksgiving jokes and it is never the right time for signatures collected by challengers to be inspected incumbent helpers with itchy petition trigger fingers

Last week, during a non-election period, you could find Krekorian cutting yet another ribbon on the city's garden shed program with Mayor Garcetti.   

Judge Carter is becoming increasingly impatient and dammit these sheds are colorful, and they only cost $43,000 +/-. Krekorian gets fiery and gave the impression that anyone who would question, frankly, the mayor's bold humanitarian move  [asskiss emoji]  nearly twenty years into his run as an elected official was "disrupting the meeting." (Not you, Judge Carter, it's clear that you and Krekorian get one another, like the mayor.) 

Raman had the lead. . .  "Our office is developing opportunities for Angelenos to weigh in on this important process in the months ahead. We joined Budget Chair Paul Krekorian and Council President Nury Martinez this past Thursday for a Valley Budget Listening Session. CD4 residents outside of the Valley can sign up for the listening session this Sunday 4/25 to share their input." 

Hmmm, I'm not a "CD4 residents outside of the Valley" but I went far out of my way to understand the upcoming  budget schedule, that was posted as a special meeting on Friday.  

"Robust"  

Paul Krekorian is still the chair of the budget committee. Bob Blumenfield and Curren Price are still aboard but left winger Mike Bonin and right winger Paul Koretz have been replaced accordingly by Kevin Deleon ("I want them in Sherman Oaks") and Monica Rodriguez ("Do you want them in Pacoima?")   

It is essential. . .that we have hearings that are open to the public, and user-friendly for the public, so that a speaker may drop a comment early. . .or after each dept presents.   

Hero pay for the team, attempting to sell the concept that 60 seconds is appropriate. 

Martinez is also a thought leader on limiting comment to the bare minimum. She does not mind sitting atop her throne, in an empty temple of democracy.    

She can still boss around Anna and Avak and can still propose sneaky amendments while Fauble scans his phone occasionally swiping with great enthusiasm, so much so that he occasionally,  inadvertently cuts a speaker off mid-sentence. 

Budget Hike 

I was hiking along the wide easy trail meanders through chaparral, walnut woodland and coastal sage scrub and is well-shaded. I wondered if a tree falls. . .but what if a city breaks the law, and then corrects it, did it ever happen?  

We had already proved a 'pattern of 'violations' and the city had acknowledged it and claimed that they had cured and corrected the May 23 violation of the Special Meeting rule on May 28 by re-agendizing and taking comments. Never mind that the media frenzy, Krekorian was trying to control had ended.  

Councilman Krekorian proudly read into the record at the May 28, 2019 meeting at 51:13 that the May 23 meeting had been a problem. . .and the city attorney says they should reconsider it.  

As I raised in public comment, "Does it undo the blockade that was created. . .on May 23?"   

I wrote to my lawyer, Boylan, get in here!  

The appellate court victory was a good enough “cease and desist”. . .go get a punitive judgement! 

The City was fully aware that it had broken the law on May 23 by turning the special meeting into a praise and press conference.  

I was concerned, if we cede this bungle, they'll do it again next year. Or something worse. (arrow down emoji) 

One minute, Krekorian 

This year, the budget hearing will be on Tuesday April 27, 2021. Listening sessions by Paul Krekorian of the Public Comment Reduction Institute, are not budget hearings.  

The views attributed to Krekorian, below are made up by the author, because the staff have doggedly refused to speak candidly about what they've been planning. 

The entire budget is NOT one special item 1, and the suggestion itself crumbles under the lightest possible scrutiny. It’s absurd. 

FAQ. . . 

Question:  Why such a horrible reduction?

Krekorian: We simply do not have the resources to take 1,700 public comments from the public that we adore (despise).

Question:  But there are forty departments and several key funds that require public scrutiny.

Krekorian:  "We don't "vote" in committee and items are routinely continued, per the Brown Act. We are doing more than is required...by offering two, sixty-second slugs.

Question:  By not taking comments on a special meeting item, even one, isn't that a violation.  A perky young resident schooled your asses on that, correct?

Krekorian:  It's not a serial meeting, you’re a serial commenter. 

Question:  But couldn't you just have one special council meeting and continue it every other day? 

What would stop you from just taking sixty seconds of public comment for all business in 2021, per your logic?

Krekorian: I would move for a report back on that, good idea, Mr. Preven.   

Wanted: Decent Attorney 

In this grave hour, we may need to issue a NOFA [Notice of funding availability] request...for the ultimate insider. 

One idea is. . .Stephen Kaufman, the man behind, Gore-Lieberman. 

Kaufman had the good sense to hire Gary Winuk right out of FPCC to settle at $1.35 million with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers for the Mark Ridley-Thomas, County Board of Supervisors, obvious tipping of the scales re: Measure H episode. Jessica Levinson followed that one closely. Not sure about the other hot shot helping to 'splain stuff over at KCAL if there's no car chase, Zev Yaroslavsky.  

Kaufman is something like an inhouse script doctor for Ethics violations by electeds and this week for the first time ever, I received a PUPPET request that loosely referred to him.   

"Please design a puppet that is bald. THEY should wear a black robe that inverts to a suit and tie with a briefcase protruding with cash."  

Possible name: The Kaufman-Beckloff live, work and play doll! 

cc - Isaac Larian of Bratz, the erstwhile BFF and treasured partners of Mitchell Englander and the Council President Martinez. 

Delon for VP Tempore "He wants them in Van Nuys." 

The Council President is certainly not in over her head, but she has failed to appoint her Tempore VP -- a move that shows weakness (and care). Wesson would advise her to install the most odious choice, forthwith, and Martinez did well by sticking Buscaino up there.  

Hard not to miss the old coyote, Wesson.  

Nobody did more for Mitch Englander, than Herb Wesson other than Harvey Englander. Englander was always nobody's favorite. Except Cedillo. And Blumenfield. 

This from the Times. . . 

Universal basic income. A new citywide, anti-poverty proposal by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti would give cash — strings-free — to thousands of city residents. It would be one of the most high-profile experiments as cities across the country test similar programs.

 

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.