The Ever-Worsening Mega Drought on Public Comment

ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - It’s never appropriate to gloat, especially after a big victory,

but sometimes a small amount of chest-thumping is required so others who might try to take advantage in the same way, are given a fair opportunity to "check themselves before they wreck themselves", as the great county indictee Mark Ridley-Thomas used to say from time to time during his frequent, lengthy and self-serving… sermons. 

We all miss that.  

Except, Herb Wesson, who nonetheless was seen kvelling quietly during the LA City's 11th mini-microscopic budget hearing for Paul Krekorian and his guy Friday, Matt Hale.   

Alexis Marin, one of CM Martinez's top lieutenants is pregnant and Anna, who was a Krekorian aide, before migrating over to the council President's office, after a brief stint over at Janice Hahn's desk, apparently had a pandemic baby.  Yay! Mazel tov. 

In the old days, the county would indulge the public, and many "expert contributors" would come out and contribute.  The windbags would attempt to whack back the public moles.   

We've replaced that process, with a right-sized public comment, with a very specific, and thanks to Sheila Kuehl's leadership, achievable goal, limiting the public exchange of “ideas” about the board's efforts.  

I don't get it, why would progressive icons roll back input, rather expand outreach and public comment opportunities? 

All they have to do is show up and listen to the tough love and idea exchange!   

This would be instead of long lunches with old attorney, Skip Miller, who’s compensation is being ridiculously protected like a state secret.  

Honestly… who would have thought that the first five would amass so much freedom from the patriarchal auto/didactic order, only to subvert and smother public comment, instead of rewarding participation by making it accessible.  At least they still allow virtual for now.  

It is “Trauma Awareness Month” in Los Angeles County as it relates to the Annual Litigation Cost Report, which finally limped forward.  

Also, a Family and Marital Counseling Services Contract and Transcribing Services Contracts were approved during “Safe Boating Week."  

And the County, has reaffirmed the rights of Los Angeles County Employees to Organize without Interference.  

No word on the proposed labor strife. According to WSWS [World Socialist Web Site, whatever that is] "The three-year contract proposal is a frontal attack on the living standards of county employees that workers should reject with the contempt it deserves." 

cc - the progressive icons 

As much as the Board loathes the Sheriff, the acquisition of a mobile booking truck and a Veteran Suicide Review Team Pilot program, passed unanimously.   

There were a couple of Sole Source contracts that raised a brow or two, one regarding the  "inmate commissary services."   Gulp.

And one for "Patient Transaction Services..."   Wait, that is an area where there is a lot of wiggle room... 

"Sir, you're disrupting the meeting."   

The Board approved a "Posting Requirement for Preventing Retaliation for Reporting Public Health Violations Ordinance" -- translation, feel free to turn in anyone for anything!  

In a future column, we need to illustrate how taking both virtual and in-person testimony is the way forward.  

The LA Times has finally chirped up, on that count, but as usual, they arrived late. The primary election is 19 days away. 


Budgetary Bullwinkle: 

There were six separate links among the 61 links attached to the one-item budget, described as Communications from the public.

The Lion's share of the 61 links were reports from various city departments or the CAO or the CLA. 

There were approximately a half dozen written public comment entries, and each of those six links had a few letters from people who must have filled out a form or sent in a letter.   

There was one from Central City Association--they are members of the public, too!  Established in 1924, Central City Association (CCA) represents over 300 organizations including large employers, cultural and educational institutions and nonprofits.  

Another of the six entries, contained 763 pages of what seemed like the same form letter.  To check that, I searched the term DTLA.  I was expecting to see close to 763 hits, but the term DTLA appeared 4,149 times in the 763 pages of testimony.   Impressive. This explains why the City Clerk buried it in the stack of links.  

This DTLA group is part of the coalition who are embracing the Alliance lawsuit settlement and non-solution. They've been clamoring to feel safe and want more patrols including circle patrols, and they want to distribute the homeless population to the Palisades and Tarzana and Studio City!  

Another group who was out in force was the group who remain understandably suspicious and questioning of the still robust LAPD spending. The term, "out in force" has been badly eroded by the city council's public meeting mask mandate.  

The Board of Supervisors managed to take virtual comments this Tuesday, and the city committees take comments virtually... so what's the problem?  Ted Ross, the ITA topper hasn't told me how much it would cost to add the hybrid link access for speakers, but he's busy managing the soaring overages associated with the migration from PaySR to Workday for the city payroll system.  

The City leaders apparently cannot function without disruption.  

If they did, Krekorian's lengthy 'spin' on the budget was allowed to play without interruption...  there's a chance the public would be able to hear him and question his various sleights of hand.  

It was even reported, that despite being the ONLY Council in the effing WORLD that retains a mask mandate, there is no signage outside City Hall regarding that.   

Like everything else at city hall, it's on a need-to-know basis.   

We should ask Mayoral candidate, Mike Feuer about that... ooops, my bad, we should ask, lame-duck City Attorney, Karen Bass driver candidate, Mike Feuer! Beats going to jail for the alleged LADWP crimes, I guess.   

Krekorian, said, it's been three years since the budget was done in person.  

He talked about how he embraces the public's engagement and how he "heard every single speaker who called in and who showed up in person." 

Every single speaker without exception,  over 40 hearing hours of work, wading through the city's priorities.  

When he mentioned the LAPD, the audience rumbled and Krekorian took a moment, "I have to apologize to the real people of LA, for the usual ten people who have nothing to say but disrupt what we are doing." 

He then rambled on about vacant positions, and how managers had been wary about filling them, for fear of losing their budget, and the staffing shortages in the personnel department, making it hard to hire.    

He said, there was over 1 billion in funding to homeless service shelters. 

There is money in there to harden the targets regarding copper theft...  

He's doubling staffing for bulky item pickup... 

 And prepared to spend $10 million on broadband in disadvantaged communities.  Not sure how that meshes with the $100,000 for WiFi at the Zoo, in the $1.9M transfer snuck through at Tuesday's meeting.  

There has been $4 million to support congregate meals for seniors.  Uh... that sounds potentially problematic.

The public speakers were sharp. Adam Smith mentioned that over $8 million was spent on a day when CD9 residents were killed... over 8 million was spent by LAPD on another day in 2021... in CD2... over 8 million was spent by LAPD in CD14... on all of these three days within a week... three days of 365 ... five killings took place.  He said it was only a fraction of the 38 LAPD...shootings in 2021.   

Another set of speakers has been experiencing housing increases...and their  rent has been increasing 

Sergi Sergienko delivered his comments, but almost immediately Nury Martinez attempted to walk out leaving Igor O'Farrrell to manage the show.  Mr. Sergienko called her out.  

Rob Quan was very concerned about elimination of remote public comment and all the Separation Incentive Plan SIP buyouts and how they had devastated the city. Every department has been complaining about not being able to fill positions because... SIP was supposed to save... but it didn't work out that way.

Quan also brought up how Gil Cedillo had refused to debate Eunisses Hernandez, his smart progressive challenger for the CD1 council seat.

Quan said, he's "stolen, $136,000 in public matching funds," but has not debated his opponent. That's an ethics violation.

Jamie York of Reseda came on and spoke for five minutes on behalf of her Neighborhood Council. She was out of breath by the end. She called out the council president by saying that she had "promised you would provide a hybrid..." meeting protocol, so both virtual and in-person would be available. She said, just appearing at the hearing was a multi-hour endeavor for her. She made a pitch for a splash pad, calling it the number one thing... her constituents ask for. As it gets hotter, the water play feature is needed. She called for an $82,000 NC budget up $40K from the prior $42,000, due to inflation.

Martinez called up a speaker, named Rosa, but insisted on calling her Bertha and speaking to her in Spanish.

Finally, she was corrected, "R-O-S-A!"

"Ok, Bertha already spoke... " Martinez asked in Spanish, do you want a translator?

No. FFS.

Rosa said, she'd been pushed out of Hillsides and...over the last 13 years. "It's no longer affordable..."

Someone called, "Decorum in these chambers!" 

Martinez ordered Mr. Adam Smith... "Please ask him to leave the meeting." 

Paul Krekorian, said shaking his head, "This is what... government is becoming." 

Another speaker said, "We need $2.5 million for unarmed circle responders... " She repeated that so many downtown people felt unsafe. Even Justin Ray of the LATimes Essential newsletter, who revealed he doesn't have a car, feels unsafe on the LA County METRO.

Maybe Mr. Ray could host a debate about it with controller candidates, Kenneth Mejia and Paul Koretz and Eunisses Hernandez and Gil Cedillo, who are vying for the CD1 seat.

Mitch O'Farrell piped up at one point "Just a reminder, everyone in the gallery has to have a mask on!"

Is it a gallery? 

After public comment,  Krekorian boasted, "Every single one of the city's budget policies...  without exception... has been followed."

Martinez handed it over to Sharon Tso, but as soon as she opened her mouth she was cut off by the Council President who said,  

Mr.  Cedillo wanted to jump up.  

The public thought it was going to be his answer to the ethics allegation, but he just wanted to set the record straight about Hillsides, which has been struggling. First, he said, commented on  "your leadership...:"  he said, "this type of rancor and hate speech... leads to violence... and said it was:"totally appropriate for you to clean them out." 

Not the tenants at hillside villas...  the public speakers. 

Then the council performed the annual fake voting on the budget dance.    

After weeks of being told the budget was just one item, the council does a page-by-page vote on 39 pages comprised of 259 items. 

Each page contains about 5 items.  

There were a few minor amendments, like on number 13 on page two, "the amount should read $8,335,0000 rather than $100,000" and Monica Rodriguez had an amendment on item 160. 

None of these items are linked to the agenda item, so that's a bit weird.  

After a short break, Mike Bonin spoke and said, we should do this, because, it's "the right thing to do, we've got to get it done." 

Nury Martinez said in closing that she wanted to "Elevate LA: a city that lifts up every single Angeleno"    

Then she turned to Paul Krekorian, "Eleven budgets, Sir"  Round of applause.  

And Mr. Szabo, the Chief Administrative Officer... "What a way to celebrate your birthday! We have a cake for you..." 

She smiled, "I know he hates this stuff."  

Then she thanked Matt Hale and her staffer, Anna, who used to work for Krekorian and then Hahn briefly before joining the President's team, gave birth to a pandemic baby...  

And Alexis Marin was recognized, and it was announced is also "expecting."  

She said, that "women can do extraordinary things during tough times... and calling each other at 1 am... while we're raising our families."  

Martinez felt very... appreciated.    

A far cry from her angry speech the day before when she railed about environmental harm and how nobody helped her community for fifty years, "I am I going to hold you accountable, absolutely."   

No announcements. No adjournments.  

Champion of Civics. 

The Supreme Court of California appreciates participation. Students, teachers, and administrators at these award-winning schools show an extraordinary dedication to civics—whether providing forums for healthy debate, campaigning on community issues, or partnering with local groups to effect change,” said Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye. “The future of our democracy depends on engaged students like these—our future leaders—who understand their government and are deeply invested in the health of their communities.”   

The Chief justice cited several programs... and commended a teacher who had promoted: 

Creating Personal Civic Stories:  Students create essays and audio recordings about civic traits based on class curriculum and interviews with family, friends, clergy, and other community members.   

Interviews with Local Politicians: Students Zoom with politicians who serve their district and have the opportunity to ask questions about challenges facing their community.  Direct Action by Students: Students write letters on topics they are concerned about to local officials, create voter guides in English and Spanish, and lead campaigns to increase voter turnout and work at local polling sights.


(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)