ERIC PREVEN'S NOTEBOOK - Judge Carter, who may need his head examined, has signed off on a settlement in the LA Alliance for Human Rights lawsuit aimed at getting the City and County of Los Angeles to break the cycle of shame.
The city has understandably blamed the county for the crisis and locked in an arbitrary number of 16,000 "carceral style" places to sleep that they are willing to slap together.
Note: It's always a good time to cook the homeless count books and now they are more important than ever.
The settlement which is with the City of Los Angeles ONLY, has started reverberations that include a so-called "mediation" intended to calm the temper of county strongman and private legal advisor for the Board of Supervisors, Skip "Louis" Miller.
Skip, who is housed at Miller Barondess generally prefers intimidation to mediation because he is always right. No word if he realizes that the 16,000 shelter beds the city is promising to deliver is for the non-mentally ill.
That's right, the people on the street, who don't have mental health issues, will not be welcome at these shelter beds. Huh?
Is a clean bill of mental health a pre-requisite for stepping into the clean, conjugal cum carceral style setting, on offer?
What about anosognosia? Anosognosia is when someone is unaware of their own mental health condition or that they can't perceive their condition accurately.
"No further questions, your honor."
Judge Carter the federal Judge overseeing the matter, seems to have already pivoted back to his other newsworthy case, the John Eastman emails.
Goodnight! That's our show....as you exit the court, feel free to grab a set of the "Caruso Can" rules. Check the fine print because, though Caruso can, someone with a serious mental health condition cannot.
Your Time Has Expired:
The public comment over at LA County, something of an endangered species recently had a nice turnout on Tuesday.
It might have had something to do with the fact that there were over 150 items. One big-time environmentalist from SCOPE, said, "We ask that you hold a public hearing at the second reading, which I think you'll put on your next agenda, but it should have a public hearing because this is an important matter [item 97 and related item 142]."
The public speaker was talking about flood control plans and their impact on a protected species in and around the Santa Clara River, the last free-flowing river in the county. This person and her organization have fought the county numerous times on this issue and they almost always prevail. That does not stop the county from redoubling its naughty efforts.
On Tuesday, after her sharp critique, the respected speaker asked: how can you have 150 items on your agenda?
"That's not fair to the public. You can't -- it seems to me, you cannot really consider any public comment when it comes like a fire hose streaming at you. And we've never -- I've been coming to the board of supervisor meetings for a long time. You used to have two meetings a week and then you went to once a week and now we're welcome at 1 meeting a month with 150 items. It's not fair to your staff and the public and I don't understand how you can understand the items on such a long agenda thoroughly enough to make good decisions on them. I'm asking you, please, to go back to having additional board meetings and not having these horrible long agendas? It's really not -- it seems like it's a Brown act violation to have so many items on here that people can't really be heard. Thank you."
Another public speaker said, "How can you justify only two minutes for public speaking when you have over 150 items? This is a joke. You know, you really aren't being transparent. Two minutes for comments. that's really bad. Anyway, I hope that you will [inaudible]... "
Another said, "I think you should meet on a weekly basis and not every other week."
Celia Zavala, the executive officer, said, "Excuse me, your time has expired. May we have the next speaker, please."
In order to keep people focused on the fabulous five and their power, the first item on the Board's agenda had the CEO staff updating everyone about the mega-money known as the American Rescue Plan.
The headline on Tuesday could have been, "Oh, shit, it's drying up!"
If funding post-pandemic is drying up, it raised an interesting question among the supervisors, "is the pandemic ever going to really end?" If a pilot "program" falls in the forest, and there is no ARPA funding, does the "program" really exist?
One good thing about the pandemic was the fact that the Board's torrid fantasies about housing homeless people in motels and hotels finally came to fruition. Home key is an innovative partnership between Los Angeles County and the State of California to purchase and rehabilitate hotels and motels, and convert them into permanent, long-term housing for people experiencing homelessness.
Sheila said, "we couldn't figure it out... before the pandemic...how can we build on 3.0 Project Home key?" she mused.
The CEO's deputy suggested, "That is a great question" before saying they'd already begun directing "tenant-based Section 8 vouchers... to properties where the county has site control or our partners do."
The biggest challenge comes at the federal level...the staffer reported," we need ongoing support for services and more subsidies... only 10% of the eligible Section 8 voucher holders will get a place."
Sheila reminded everyone that the private industry is not thought of as "solving homelessness or providing affordable housing. People want to know that's what the government is doing."
And we the government "need to solve it!"
Janice Hahn, the fourth district Supervisor, took a moment to tout both Project Room Key, the federally funded homeless relief initiative that preceded the Home Key, as one of the more sustainable creative solutions that we have. She said she was "very proud to have seven sites... and one coming to San Pedro."
She said, ARPA funds combined with some state funds, have contributed to the purchase of a hotel in San Pedro for homeless veterans. "So far," she said, it has been "supported... and embraced...by the community."
That's a big deal. In total, Supervisor Hahn has added 576 units. She admitted that we "are not there yet," but these are good solutions, that work.
Then she told a story about a client in Norwalk, a fifty-eight-year-old father of two, who'd had an injury that resulted in treatment that led to an opioid and eventually, a heroin addiction.
His wife left him and took his sons and left him on the streets. He landed in trouble with the law and was found in custody. And then something struck him. Not a car or a bus.
The man had a quasi-epiphany and was somehow able to enter a rehabilitation program after several shelters in the county before landing in Norwalk at project Home key.
"This changed his life... " supervisor Hahn told the public, "he's been sober for 18 months. He's been released from probation... and relieved of the stress of living on the streets and being homeless."
Now, he has his family back and is on a different path...
Supervisor Hahn said, "I just wanted to tell that story."
Acquiring more units with ARPA funding... "the communities don't always love it..." she admitted, "we were actually sued in Norwalk, but the more you tell positive stories, the easier we can move forward"... (as we steamroll any opposition.)
After an exhaustive search, we're turning to county veteran, Brandon Nichols, dba, that same old guy.
Brandon, who is adored by the Supervisors, will receive an annual $353,000 which is a cool $100k less than Barbara Ferrer takes home at public health for taking the helm at the badly disgraced Department of Children and Family Services.
Chair Holly Mitchell called his appointment, the time for "rightsizing" and "equity."
Dr. Barbara Ferrer can fill any space with a smart-sounding byte of public health information. Every question is met with a cheerful, "Great, question." Sometimes, she goes further and says, "That's a really great question, actually (a little surprised). Thank you (overly earnest)."
Invariably, Ferrer launches into a lengthy well-crafted sermon response, which can be very annoying.
Someone should tell Barbara Ferrer that when supervisors ask questions, it's not about the clever answers from staff. It's about how great the question was from the Board.
Got it? Good.
Janice Hahn is a professional and understands this, and on Tuesday she was loaded for Bear-Ferrer.
Rather than allowing Ferrer to steamroll over every question, to use a tennis analogy, Hahn charges the net after each question, begging for a response. It makes for both entertaining tennis and scrappy meetings.
Hahn's rapid-fire questioning is effective, but not necessarily popular with stenographers, who are always reminding speakers to not to speak over one another.
Later, in the meeting, which was long, Dr. Christina Ghaly, the Director of Health Services DHS confessed that "We test everyone... " Hilda Solis of supervisorial District 1, cross-examined, "what are we doing about Montebello which faces 35% covid rates? With Latino and African American, it's even higher... ! "
Dr. Ghaly agreed and said, "Great question. I'm very alarmed by the trends I see."
And the meeting rambled on. "We are still vaccinating people for flu at our sites... and are going to run into the need for a better flu vaccine."
As for high volumes in urgent care, Dr. Ghaly said that the best solution has been to "expand hours and expand telehealth". Speaking of expanding...
The Office of Diversion and Re-Entry Housing is ready to expand, even as the Civilian Oversight Commission is trying to incarcerate former Sheriff's department division chief, Matthew Burson, for defying a subpoena.
Some will remember that Chairman Sean Kennedy, told the COC hearing last week, that Burson should be found in contempt if he continues to refuse to cooperate and the commission will ask a judge to order him incarcerated.
Here are stats for the Office of Diversion & Re-Entry for the Period of Performance: July 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021
Number of Community Health Workers (CHWs): 106
Caseload Capacity: 3180
Clients served during the reporting period: 4,942
Population Served: Adults with an arrest, charge, or conviction record with mild to moderate mental health and substance use disorder.
Contracted Service Providers: There are 29 contracted service providers across all 8 County Service Planning Areas and 34 service locations.
The "Yes" man:
Mike Shull, the General Manager of the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, is moving on. During a first-rate series of testimonials from city council members, he sat like a little schoolboy in the front row of the John Ferraro chambers, wearing a giant face-covering mask.
The praise came fast and furious from councilmembers, none of whom, except Nithya Raman, wore masks.
Shull was described as a man who essentially disliked the word, "no" and always found a way to get to "yes."
Koretz said, dealing with constituents and voters on some of these local issues, was like "having a tiger by the tail and having it scratch and claw." Note: Koretz loves animals and grabbing a tiger by the tail should be banned in Los Angeles.
DeLeon called Shull's departure, a "testament to your fortitude." The fact that he was able to accomplish so much in such a park-poor place" was amazing.
Then, DeLeon, took a gentle swipe at Koretz's constituents, who he said, "have lawns bigger than our pocket parks"
Nithya Raman was fully masked in solidarity with someone, and said, "I watched you lead when recs and parks faced challenges, staff shortages, park closures, facility closures."
Buscaino, clearly maskless, said nothing was finer than "a cold beer at 4 pm" as he revealed that CD15 was GM Shull's favorite council district. Curren Price disputed that contention and said he thought CD9 was Mr. Shull's favorite.
Herb Wesson said, "One of Mike's biggest assets is he knows how to get things done" before telling a story about a child getting a fishhook in her eye at one of his off-election year summer camps.
Paul Krekorian, the budget chair said, "All of the GMs say, we would love this that and the other... we just need money and people, and that's always true."
Mr. Shull closed by saying, "Blink of an eye, 32 years go by..." then he touted, "your amazing council staff... who often bring stuff to our attention"
Shull, said, he used to always tell his team, we should be the first ones to know things at parks... "don't let that happen. We should know first!"
Then, his big finish: "This is about the men and women of recreation and parks...1500 full-time, and thousands of part-time." He said he was "Proud to have been a co-worker..."
And then he closed with a joke, as for the council districts, "you've all been equally important, Mr. Buscaino."
The Ethics Commission, which has managed to whittle down its regular meeting schedule to once every other month, only drew three public speakers.
The City's ethics commissioners must be registered city voters. During their tenures, they may not hold any other public office; participate in or contribute to the election campaign of anyone who is running for City or LAUSD office; participate in or contribute to the election campaign of a city official or member of the LAUSD Board of Education who is running for any office, or employ or be employed as a city lobbyist.
The current President of the Commission, Shedrick (Rick) Davis, whose day job is the Regional Director of the Western Regional Office of Lambda Legal, an organization that is committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of LGBTQ+ and people with HIV, said after the very brief remarks by the public, "We appreciate your comments."
He said it, but he seemed very happy to shut each speaker right down after the shortened time. Speakers used to be provided an opportunity to address each item for up to five minutes total, but those days are gone. Even Jamie York was too exhausted to submit a community impact statement (CIS), though the commission will honor them...sometimes.
The commission is very diverse, the only other Y chromosome to be found on the five-person commission, is Jeffery Daar, an international law expert who previously served under three different Mayors of the City of Los Angeles on other City commissions, including the Board of Airport Commissioners, the Rent Adjustment Commission. Daar chaired the Rent Commission for more than 10 years and also served on the Municipal Election Reform Commission.
The three women currently aboard include the past President, Melinda Murray, a Deputy District Attorney who is also the President of the California Association of Black Lawyers. Currently, Murray is assigned to the Parole Division where she prosecutes parolees who are Registered Sex Offenders and gang members. Both!
Laura Genao has over 20 years of litigation and energy policy experience and most recently served as Managing Director for Regulatory Affairs at Southern California Edison where she oversaw a team responsible for interactions with state and federal energy agencies.
Manjusha P. Kulkarni (Manju) is Executive Director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, and on March 18, 2021, they testified before Congress at the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on the issue of anti-Asian hate.
One public speaker noted that the windbag incumbent, Gil Cedillo, who is currently trailing Eunisses Hernandez in the CD1 race by a few hundred votes, despite his robust fundraising, had made a mockery of the eligibility requirement to debate his challenger, to qualify for "matching funds." Great point, why has this not been fixed! See funny video.
When Eric Garcetti was elected in 2013 to the office of mayor, a full "2/3 of his commissioners in first three months were donors" the speaker said.
He was citing a David Zahniser LA Times piece from way back, noting that for real accountability, former candidates should not be serving, and "the ethics commission should not be appointed by the elected officials who appoint them."
As for enforcement, there were only two stipulations that together resulted in a $10,000 contribution to the General Fund.
One case involved allegations that Jaime Garcia (Garcia) misused his City position to create a private advantage for himself, before getting caught and agreeing to a 25% discount on penalties accrued.
That 25% off is significantly worse than the commission's customary 50% off penalties.
Apparently, a team of Personnel Department investigators had surveilled Jaime Garcia on multiple occasions in late 2021. Mr. Garcia, who was a Communications Electrician, employed by the City’s Information and Technology Agency (ITA) was assigned to troubleshoot and repair communications and network connectivity equipment at various City-owned facilities.
The investigators witnessed Garcia "leave his assigned work station during his shift, drive his personal vehicle to his home, and remain there for hours at a time, on some occasions."
This seemed like an old-school, CBSLA investigative piece. Without digressing, the hard-hitting investigations conducted by "David Goldstein Investigates" gravitate toward lower-level employees taking long lunches while the more consequential but harder to prove wrongdoing, goes... mostly unexamined by TV audiences.
The members of the public, in the know, probably a few dozen insiders, will never forget the Deron Williams' Ratscapade on-ice presentation over the 2018 holiday break. Without going too deeply, a CPRA uncovered compelling email evidence that the Council President Herb Wesson and his team of hungry little helpers were worried about FBI interference in their various activities, so created a good excuse to, "look around in the ceilings."
Cue: The rat!
Part of that sneaky rollout included the then freshly elected, Monica Rodriguez's office, releasing a live rat video from the fourth floor. Earlier this week in the CD7 office, where the historic little critter was filmed after the holiday party, Monica Rodriguez had a seizure. Thankfully, Rodriquez is okay, and investigators have interviewed the rat who is not talking.
One suggestion, that was rejected in advance of being heard, because the commission simply does not have time, was a City Department Fraud Insurance plan (Tm)
The concept, something of worker protection, would go like this. ITA and other agencies would invest taxpayer money from their budgets to purchase insurance policies, that would protect workers from having to pay ethics penalties out of pocket when they veer off course.
Workers, normally face a 50% discount if they cooperate with the commission, but why not provide insurance for them to cover such costs? It's kind of an occupational hazard, like operating a vehicle...
"Sir, you're disrupting the meeting."
The other enforcement matter had to do with another wayward Lobbyist. It was not about the work that this so-called lobbyist was doing, per se, but rather the way she reported her efforts.
A good example of 'the actual work' that never gets heard at Ethics, can be gleaned by reviewing the Tina Choi file.
This very savvy lobbyist arranged to nix the widening of Ventura Boulevard in Studio City and feels she got away with it, and the six-figure payout for getting it done. Kudos! Let's see what happens.
Ms. Choi, who is very connected to Englander Knabe & Allen pulled the right Department of Transportation, CD2 Torrossian strings, to dramatically reduce the costs of a naughty developer client while denying the taxpaying public the street widening we spent years fighting for.
How did she do it? Ask the DOT fellow who retired right after nixing the widening requirement in the dark of night.
In the case that was before the Ethics Commission on Wednesday, Veronica Becerra and Rabuild Commercial Services, LLC were charged $10,000 ($5,000 x 2 counts) because, despite Rebuild receiving $84,523 in payments from its clients, Becerra got her filings wrong and only reported $414.
She registered Rabuild as a lobbying firm on January 28, 2021, but she failed to register herself and failed to file quarterly lobbying reports on behalf of Rabuild.
The commission is always fair-minded, "We recommend resolving this case by approving the proposed stipulation and imposing a penalty of $5,000." 50% off!
(Eric Preven has been named a finalist in the upcoming 64th SoCal Journalism Awards in the category of Journalist of The Year (Online). A commentary co-written by Joshua Preven entitled “The Pandemic Should Not be Used as a Pretext to Muffle the Voices of the Inconvenient Public” is also a finalist.)
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)