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Play better. Fight harder.

ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - January is busy this year as the impacts of a third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, worrisome drought conditions, and the endless festering homelessness crisis take center stage.

All of it will play out under the shadow of a statewide election, as candidates begin to file paperwork as soon as next week.  I would run for some office if I had a clue as to how to fix anything.   

On January 22nd, LAHSA will conduct its annual count of those experiencing homelessness. This activity is at the center of our failed regional "Everyone In!" strategy. 

The volunteer-driven count is a ludicrous process by any "federal" estimation. Created by bureaucrats, for bureaucrats to be executed by not-for-profits seeking additional funding to manage the rising tide of homelessness.  

Year-in year-out, well-intentioned and not-so-well-intentioned groups belly up to the funding bar seeking refills.  It's addictive and surprisingly ineffective. Like gamers to E3 (postponed due to covid) or football fans to Sofi, or 4 million annual guests to the Crypto Arena.  

Mayor Garcetti told the Daily News a few years ago bundled up in a blue down jacket, a V-neck sweater, and plaid button-down over khakis, that "Fighting poverty, together with homelessness, is the thing I spend the most time on."  He looked like a young cheer king rooting on the Chargers! 

The Mayor's log from that year showed it was more like 5.6% of his time on homelessness, with 22% of his time on press.  The mayor met with Casey Wasserman weekly and who knows how much time he spent on Vision 2028, the Plan outlining strategic goals for 2018–2028.  Homelessness may be the crisis of our times, but y'all...  

The effing Super Bowl LVI 2022 is coming to town!   Go Rams! Go LAFC!  "Go away." 

Sir, you're disrupting the meeting.  

Kudos to all the public officials who attend the many events and pay to park and fought like hell to bring the NFL and her many pilot fishies to join the feeding frenzy on Angelenos shuttling to and from the best damn sporting events in the world... Go Clippers! Go Galaxy!   

Noone has attracted professional sports to Los Angeles more aggressively than Eric Garcetti, with the possible exception of Mitchell Englander, who to refresh the collective memory took a little time-out job at Oakview group, a boutiquey little gang of upscale AEGists, before indictment.  

You should see some of the preferred seating... these local officials get.  A thing of beauty.  Go Lakers!  

And now that Englander's sentence was sliced down to next to nothing, keep your eyes peeled for him courtside!  

Go Kings!  Go Ballmer, Go Kroenke.  

Setting the course for a bright future with rising ticket prices, parking costs, and plenty of funding to sprinkle around among the many treasured partners. Go FIFA!   

The real race is on! Who will nail on-site betting, first?  There's always the horse track, obviously and the goes out to the many living horses who died during a lifetime engaged in a sport that is dedicated to victory. 

Why not consider Digital horse racing?  It combines non-fungible tokens (NFTs), cryptocurrency, and horse racing.  All the risk of financial implosion afforded by live racing or off-track betting is in place, but fewer animals die.  

Go down the drain, but don't take an innocent animal with you. Go Crypto! 

 

Studio City:

It's still early in the New Year's and the CD2/CD4 jurisdictional confusion roundelay has hit the proverbial ...pedestrian.  

The man who was photographed lurking in the background at a not-so-glamorous ribbon-cutting in December is also leading the charge re: traffic issues in the neighborhood.  

During President Randall Fried's exciting update to the community, he forgot to mention that there had been a horrible pedestrian death near Coldwater and Ventura on December 31st.   My heart goes out to the family.  The location of the accident is right near Sportsmen's Landing.

While the global pandemic hit the tourism industry hard, the Sportsmen's Lodge hotel has been kept afloat in recent months through Project Room Key.  

Then, the LA Times reported over the summer that 500 new residences with 1385 underground parking spaces would replace the charming mid-century hotel.  The project which combined with the shops is expected to cost $500 million or more and take two years to wind through the city's entitlement process. 

Questions about entitlements, as always, can be directed to Lisa Karadjian.  

Karadjian arrived on the scene as a 'cheerful helper' / adjunct / un-registered lobbyist to Richard Weintraub, who 'faux-stepped' away, but was right there cutting the ribbon with Paul Krekorian and Ben Besley and other Midwood homies.   

Nithya Raman who inherits the pedestrian wreck will have to deal with Lisa, who sets the bar as low as you can go for Krekorian apparatchiks!  His best work yet!  

Jorge Plascencia, Raman's Field Deputy, and the Transportation Aide, Mehmet Berker will enjoy working with Karadjian.  Like Huizar, who is  

“an evangelist for robust development” in the downtown and Eastside, Karadjian is the 'evangelist' dedicated to the Ventura/Cahuenga Boulevard Corridor, that spans over 17 miles in length, includes more than 1,200 acres of land, and regulates over 4,300 individual parcel$. 

Special 'No Thanks' to Paul Krekorian and Barry Johnson of the Neighborhood Council who elevated Randall Fried when he proposed a platform to silence interference with the many creative activities of Karo Torossian, and before that, Areen Ibranossian,  and last but not least, the hubby of the Office of Finance at City Hall who hands out all the TOT breaks, Adrin Nazarian.   

All in the CD2 family... err, CD4 family... err... what's the address?

 

NYPD, too! 

On Friday morning, the former chief of Police in New York City, Philip Banks III, announced his appointment as deputy mayor in an opinion piece in The New York Daily News.  

 A good government expert quoted in the New York Times said,  “It’s laudable that Eric Adams [NY's new mayor] wants to support his friends, and loyalty is a great virtue, but Eric Adams’s duty is to the public, not to Phil Banks.” 

Mr. Banks’s appointment had been delayed amid concerns about whether his 2014 resignation from NYPD while the subject of a federal corruption investigation would hamper his credibility and ability to perform the job.  Nonsense. 

Mr. Banks was ONLY named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a wide-ranging corruption investigation that resulted in several convictions, including that of his top aide.    

“The central theme of the reports about my involvement in the corruption scheme was that I was party to it; that I traded favors as a senior N.Y.P.D. official for some form of compensation,” Mr. Banks wrote in his oped. “That is 100 percent false.”   

There are so many points to be made here:  How can a gift of Hamilton Tickets be a gift if you didn't really enjoy the show?  How can thousands in goods in services be bribes when the investigators are unable to piece together the precise 'quo' in some of these complex quid pro quo?  With all these little Katonas and Ebensteins wiring and unwiring... helping. It's hard.  

The businessman with whom Banks was clearly in cahoots, Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg, told authorities that they paid for two trips to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, "including prostitutes."  It's unclear if that included resort fees or other incidentals. 

By strongly denying involvement with prostitutes Chief Banks wisely adopted a classic Staffer B John Lee stance.  Denial.  

It's very hard to encourage a small business owner/prostitute to come forward to pin the tail on a council member because it's sort of self-incriminating. Also, can definitely hurt yelp reviews.  

According to evidence gathered by the F.B.I., Mr. Banks accepted high-priced meals, tickets to sports events, "all to corrupt police officials in order to obtain favors for their associates."   

It is apparently not in dispute that corrupting influence seekers took the trips to the Dominican Republic, Los Angeles, and Israel with Banks and covered his costs.  The problem has been proving how he repaid the guys who say they were paying for his influence.   

In the end, the Federal prosecutors felt there was simply insufficient evidence to prove that Banks had personally used his position to do favors for the businessmen, like providing police escorts, special parking privileges, including the issuance by him of a "gold card" from the department in the event of an unwanted NYPD contact.    

This week, Jose Huizar in his long-simmering Los Angeles federal corruption matter, asked the judge to dismiss 30 counts of racketeering, fraud, bribery, and other crimes.  Among his arguments, prosecutors had failed to meet narrow standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court for what defines bribery under federal law.  

Prosecutors say Huizar headed a criminal enterprise whose members sought to enrich themselves through bribery, extortion, fraud, and money laundering.   

We wish them good luck proving it, but since the man was constantly glad-handing like an evangelist for development.

Some of these prosecutors are real sharpies, some are ivy leaguers but a lot of the best and brightest become white-collar defense lawyers.  

Say hi to Louis "Skip" Miller, who is taking the lead for the county, [over $1 million in fees so far] defending the Sheriff who he normally goes after, against a frivolous and devious inside baseball lawsuit from a former Munger Tolles & Olson attorney, who is representing Vanessa Bryant.   

It's all perfectly legal. Probably.  

Hard to forget the bang-up job the lawyers for former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife who faced more than a dozen corruption charges did. The businessman seeking influence, in that case, said 'It was a bad decision on my part to buy that [$7,000] watch when she asked for it. I shouldn't have had to buy things like that to get the help I needed.'  

Sounds like we got 'em, right? 

Wrong.   

The Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction in that case in 2016 and imposed higher standards for federal prosecutors who charge public officials with wrongdoing.   

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. described the former governor’s actions as “tawdry” but agreed that instructions to the jury in his case about what constitutes “official acts” were so broad, they could cover almost any action a public official takes.   

Roberts seemed concerned that the public might take the view that the court was endorsing politics as usual. “There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that. But our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns,” he wrote. “It is instead with the broader legal implications of the Government’s boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute.” 

System Fail. Politics as usual.  


Mr. Mayor Eric Garcetti:  Thu, Jan 10, 2019 10:41 am
 

Subject: Koretz Fink Out Update! Re: Mr. Mayor, if Paul Koretz totally finks out, and Clean Money Mike Bonin is unable to put some CMs together for Friday, could you come? 

Sir,

Could you release any contingent representing the city council on the campaign finance... speaking on behalf of myself here, we'd accept Huizar at this point.   As you know, we had Koretz in the bag.   Before Herb Wesson, who has allegedly been tied up out in the field for four weeks now, put the kibosh on any discussion and went on Newsmakers!.   

BTW - they are loving the 'studio city community *FREAKOUT* video, out in the district... feel free to tweet about it or post it on your Mayor's site!  It's very empowering... about being active... but warm not mean.   

Maybe Karo can join up with Krekorian for a ribbon cutting on the DAVID RYU memorial Pit Stop, brought to you by Clean money, Mike Bonin... and the 2018 fink-out champions... Paul Koretz and his entire staff, including Ebenstein and Hersch, but all of them deserve a measure of recognition, including Nick Greif, for doing what they can. 

Hey, if Comisar or Bahr want to coordinate, just let me know. And Koretz is still welcome... would be so great if Koretz, Bonin, and Ryu set aside their other plans and made room for Studio City.   

Just sayin' studio city is the  of the city....the alma mater.  C'mon!  Every sandwich is a work of Art! 

Eric Preven  

Cuomo

Also last week, a judge dismissed a criminal complaint that had accused former Gov. of New York Andrew M. Cuomo of groping an aide in the Executive Mansion in late 2020.  The district attorney had said that while he was troubled by the allegations and had found the former aide, Brittany Commisso, to be credible, it would be too difficult to prove a criminal case.'   

Commisso, who had a breast groped by the Governor in his residence, said the decision "sadly highlights the reason victims are afraid to come forward, especially against people in power.”  

The details of Ms. Commisso’s account had been part of a 165-page report from the state attorney general that concluded Mr. Cuomo had sexually harassed 11 women. 

Still, prosecutors said, “we have concluded that we cannot meet our burden at trial.” The decision underscored the difficulties of trying sexual misconduct cases in criminal court.  

Prosecutors would have had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime took place, the highest standard in the legal system.

 

Higher standard:  Catch-22

All too often, the leaders whom we entrust or elect to run our companies, our cities, our states... and all three branches of government, get off scot-free. 

It's not that Cuomo should be destroyed forever for veering so badly off course but when Chief Banks mounts a historic return, one thing is sure, he'll very likely not get caught again.  

The hat comes off for the many talented officials who have learned to bob and weave effectively through the confusing self-serving ethics rules, exploiting "perfectly legal" loopholes. 

The fact that such a high percentage of scoundrels don't get caught and a high percentage of those that do get off is evidence that our system itself is not firing on all cylinders. 

"Insufficient evidence" to win the case is a common refrain we hear from prosecutors, but winning is not the only way our society processes white-collar criminals.  

We need something ...larger.  Maybe sometimes we should bring cases to trial where we are not sure of the outcome but believe in the fight.  

By electing prosecutors who are progressive on old-school traps but hard on white-collar criminals and arrogant public officials who seem to have no bounds, we can clean up the mess. 

Will George Gascon even look at the County Board of Supervisors here in Los Angeles and their flagrant denial of public comment severely reducing public scrutiny, during an epidemic of corruption?  Is he capable of holding the Board of Supervisors to the open meeting law?    

The board oversees his budget, but shouldn't he demand something other than an investigation - by a private law firm hired by the Board - into allegations of contracting fraud, etc surrounding the federal indictment of one of the board of supervisors, Mark Ridley-Thomas?  

Play better! Fight harder!  

Go Rams! 

 

(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)