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City Council is Changing its Rules, Again

ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - if you have not scheduled a visit to see your councilmember in advance or do not have an appointment, a security officer will have to escort you to your council member's office.

This was according to an aide to Councilmember Martinez who spoke to KNX 97.1. 

She said, "the world is very different now, threats are happening to elected officials at every level of government across the country." She posed the question, "Do we need a catastrophe to occur before we secure the chambers at City Hall?"  

The Council lurched back into gear on Wednesday with a Special 1 item wherein, nobody, including the council quite knew what they were voting on, until Strefan Fauble, the angling city attorney, read in to the record and distributed it to the seated members. The argument for Special 1 items, is that it came to the attention of the council after publication of the agenda. "If you want to speak on this item...  it has been loaded up into the kiosk... you may also speak on it in general public comment if you want."   What if you are not downtown? 

"Sir, you're disrupting the meeting!" 

The City Council's deep fake worked beautifully.  By simply deleting a few sentences from the dense fine print on the public meeting agenda for Wednesday May 4, they culled the crowd of regular speakers down to the nub.

There were only two so-called, multiple item speakers.  Adam Smith, "Nice to see my fans here... it's troubling that people can't call in anymore.  Folks, who were impacted have trouble coming in on a weekday morning.  spending money on zoom was prudent, and people should be able to call on a break from work or from their home. I want to thank the council member from San Pedro, Joey Buckets, for his clown show." 

The City Attorney, begged, "Do you want to speak on special one?" 

He didn't.   

The second was Miki Jackson, who may or may not be Aids Healthcare Foundation affiliated, said, the pandemic had been "surreal" and hoped that we go back to the hybrid where people could also call in because, "It's a large city... and people have personal issues and work issues and they have just as much right to speak up as anyone." 

The City Attorney, begged, "Do you want to speak on special one?" 

She didn't. 

Then, after a bit of quick voting and shuffling the council called up General Public Comment.  "General public comment: all Items are all closed." 

A small army of CD10 residents from the Disability Rights California Advocacy and Community Engagement group known as (ACE) were there to platform Herbert Wesson and a building in CD10 with 450 units and "cucarachas" and "ratones."  A high percentage of the dozen or so speakers, who each took more time due to translation, called out the alleged slumlords and also decried the new rule disallowing the public to speak at the meeting, virtually.   

A smart speaker, named Diana, "I wanted to comment, about coming in person... I am 39 weeks pregnant. I had to come all the way, because the choice was taken away... i came on a bus."  

One speaker, who was with ACE but spoke in English, and politely asked that Nury Martinez, "Open the phone lines because many people cannot come here and they won't be heard." 

And there was Ricci Sergienko, who Spectrum One recently referred to as a 'left-wing' organizer.  He was there serving a lawsuit on Paul Koretz who is running for Controller but things went sideways real fast. The Council President called Mr. Sergienko out by name, and said he was "disrupting the meeting."  Another speaker spoke very loudly, and she had to tell the second speaker to to pipe down, and he did. But then she returned to the script, “Mr. Sergienko, you've been warned"  and then she just threw the man out.  The police took care of it as the cameras widened out.   

Mitchell O'Farrell was absent. No announcements. No adjournments,  

 

Wag the Dog 

"Officers, you can leave him alone now,” said LA City Council President Herb Wesson at the Council’s July 1, 2016 meeting, apparently on the advice of a city attorney. Wesson was addressing two uniformed LAPD officers standing over me, as I was sitting quietly at the back of the meeting hall.  

“If he decides to rule you out of order one more time,” said one of the officers, "I am prepared to follow through with an arrest.”  

Arrest? 

This was a gift. For months—as a watchdog and writer who had just written (with co-author Joshua Preven) a series of attacks on the conduct of Council President Wesson and Wesson’s second-in-command Mitchell Englander—I'd been enduring an escalating campaign of intimidation.  

Whenever I dared to protest that intimidation I would be shut down with a curt dismissal.  “You’re disrupting the meeting, Mr. Preven!”  

If I dared open my mouth to reply?  “You’re disrupting the meeting!”  And then the cameras cut away from the audience and we get a final, “You’re disrupting the meeting, Mr. Preven.  Officers, will you please show Mr. Preven the door?” With the cameras turned away, how could I prove that I was just standing there doing absolutely nothing? Creepy and awful.  

But the encounter on July 1st had been different. It had been “caught on tape,” audible in the background as I narrated my experience into my iPhone voice memo app.  

And that audio recording, when coupled with the gavel-to-gavel video coverage of the Council meeting (broadcast nightly on cable channel 35) made it impossible for Mr. Wesson and Mr. Englander to perpetuate the falsehood that I was somehow “disrupting the meeting” and therefore deserved to be menaced into silence. 

Retaliation.  

That’s what had landed me—a 30-year resident of Los Angeles (where he raised two children), a member of the Writers Guild and of the Studio City Neighborhood Council and a soon to be winner, in partnership with the ACLU, of a case in the California Supreme Court—in this hellish situation. Retaliation by Herb Wesson and Mitchell Englander for the articles we had printed and the comments I had made at Council meetings. Those articles included: 

“Council President Wesson Out of Focus” - an attack on Wesson's refusal to comply with Council Rule 93, which forbids tampering with the framing of video coverage of meetings 

“The Heavy Cost of Opposing LA Supervisor Candidate Englander” - an attack on two spurious campaign finance prosecutions of former Englander opponents in his most recent City Council race  

”Englander Watch: Quid Pro Quo. Pay-to-Play. No Matter the Name, It Still Stinks.”  - an attack on Englander's acceptance of a dozen campaign contributions from Taser International executives and spouses even as that company was competing for a City contract valued in excess of $60 million dollars.\ 

Moreover, in the minutes before Mr. Wesson had me apprehended, I had sharply—but calmly and in compliance with public comment rules (as the video shows)—criticized Council President Wesson for two separate transactions which clearly benefited Mr. Wesson at the expense of taxpayers. The video shows Mr. Wesson becoming visibly upset. The criticisms are valid and have never been refuted. 

Although Mr. Wesson and Mr. Englander are by no means the only elected officials on which I have focused—the watchdog work extends to wherever in local government it seems the public is getting ripped off—it’s understandable that those two men would feel upset by sharp criticism, angry even, strongly disliking my "help", but in this country, we have a Constitution—borne out of the injustices faced by our founding generation—and retaliation against critics isn’t just against the law, it’s against our values. 

Several years before the pandemic, the city council tried to pass an ordinance that makes any breaking of their rules—including rules that they may make in the future—into a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.  

As it stands, City Council has and abuses—the power to silence critics by arrest, which is what they would have done to me, on that awful morning in July, at City Hall, on the verge of Independence Day. 

 

Appointments & Authorities:

Holly J. Mitchell, the chairperson of the County Board of Supervisors, said about the Roe v. Wade emergency, "I think i was 24 when i was elected to serve on the Planned Parenthood Sacramento Valley Board and my Board orientation and training I saw my co-worker had a "wire hanger' lapel pin on.  When they explained it to me, then I said, you need different symbols because that's not our orientation and I'm afraid that's what happened. We have several generations of people who only know life as it is under Roe and perhaps now that it's at risk more people will be awakened.  I hope it's not too late for us to fight." 

Supervisor Hilda Solis commented, "It is reproductive care. So people should understand that we are really talking about harming our healthcare system: for women, and their children, and their future families or that individual woman herself.  And who knows if she is also being threatened from her perhaps abuser.  It is very true, Supervisor Kuehl. We know that men are capable of doing a lot of unfortunately bad things when they become very possessive and try to hurt women, and their children." 

The Board of Supervisors appointed Irma Hagans Cooper and Luis S. Garcia to the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission (aka the "Get the sheriff!" committee, and proclaimed May 2022 “Mental Health Awareness Month.”  

That term triggered a memory from two weeks ago when we learned that Dr. Jonathan Sherin, the county's charming mental health jefe, would be stepping down for personal health reasons.  Sad.  At a salary of $497,000 a year, you can bet his departure was not by choice. 

The Valley Industry Commerce Association (VICA) came out in support of the County's Blue Ribbon commission's motion to start a Super duper NEW Homeless agency, though top windbags Holly J. Mitchell and Sheila James Kuehl voted NO and have professed their steadfast appreciation for the current dysfunctional joint powers authority dba (LAHSA),   Kuehl reminded, they've housed 100,000 people over an unspecified number of years. 

It was not Stuart Waldman, himself, because he has his head very far up the Sixth District, so sent a minion to say that VICA is okay with strengthening the multi-year fund. This is the Blue Ribbon Commission that Nury snubbed the County over, by refusing to even appoint someone to serve. tk. 

On Wednesday, Nury and the council stuffed the bigwig over at the Coro Foundation, Natalie Samarjian, in to replace Araceli Campos, who "has resigned" from the Civil and Human Rights Commission. No word as to why she is leaving. 

Natalie already serves as a Los Angeles City Commissioner on the El Pueblo de Los Ángeles Historical Monument Commission, and a Los Angeles County Commissioner on the Economy & Efficiency Commission. The Immigrant Affairs, Civil Rights, and Equity Committee waived consideration of her appointment, until the full council could vote lock-step, which they did on Wednesday.    

The new composition of the board will be, five women, (two African American, one Asian Pacific Islander, one Latina, one Muslim) and one man (African American). The Asian Pacific Islander is named, Abigail Zelenski! 

The council also approved an annual salary of $266,199. for Dana Brown, as the new General Manager of Personnel at the City!  Big job.  

For benchmarking, the occasionally helpful white British fellow, Gary Jones, who runs the county's beaches and harbors, takes in $275,000 annually. 

The county's Workforce Dev, Aging and Community Services topper, Otto Solorzano, takes home a decent, $281,232.  

Lisa Garrett, who runs Human Resources over at  Los Angeles County gets $336,957. 

Dawyn Harrison, the acting county counsel, gets a whopping $382,594, but to be fair, she's probably got an "unethical activities" bump built in.  Jk, it's not unethical to withhold the Miller Barondess LLP legal invoices, it's just wrong.  And besides, it's the Supervisors privilege, silly! 

If you believe the Transparent California website, even Strefan Fauble, the council's dirty work specialist took home, $271,453, which all seem light, when compared to Jonathan Sherin's $497,000. 

Is there sexism in municipal government?  Yes, but there are exceptions.  

LIke, the Public Health Infuriator, Barbara Ferrer, whose hair is very white, but she gets an annual injection of $484,000.   Not too shabby. 

 

Smart Speaker: 

Santa Monica is getting 1000+ jobs and Irvine, 800+ to build out a team of video game designers, and Alexa improvement specialists.  Alexa is the step and fetch it denigrating idea introduced by Bezos to help with smart speaker branding.   

Hard not to miss that very funny smart speaker ad from 2019.  A man settling in for the evening kindly asks his smart speaker to play his "smooth jazz playlist," only to be told by the device that his internet is down, and no such action can be taken. After a couple more unsuccessful attempts that culminate in some frustrated shouting, AT&T reminds everyone that your home is only as smart as your internet -- which is why the company is offering fast and reliable internet with AT&T Fiber bundled with AT&T TV.  Enjoy.  

Links to:  

City Department Head Salaries  

County Department Head salaries

(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)