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With FBI Everywhere, Nury Stumbles on Transparency, Homelessness and COVID Safety

@TheGussReport – In recent weeks, this column documented LA City Council president Nury Martinez’s struggle to embrace the tedium of her leadership role as one of the most powerful local lawmakers in the United States.

  Once the celebration of her being the first Latina in that job died down, she regularly deferred even its most basic responsibilities, like controlling the agenda and running the meetings, to her white, Asian and Jewish male peers.

In the same way that President Trump was criticized for adding his signature to the first round of stimulus checks (which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said was his idea), a TV interview Martinez did last week shows that her government apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

In it, Martinez improperly wore a face mask, covering only her mouth but not her nose.  But in the blink of an eye, what flashed on the screen was even more telling:  Like Trump, Martinez’s name was emblazoned on the mask. 

In other words, style over substance and safety.

A public records request has been submitted to determine whether public funds were used to politically promote Martinez on supplies designed to protect people’s health during the deadly global pandemic.  (Apologies to Mrs. Martinez for the chosen screenshot because the frame used to best show her logo and misuse of the mask also depicts her with an awkward facial expression.)

What’s Nury Up To?

With LA City Council gradually resuming meetings once rather than thrice weekly, this column recently pointed out that despite the life and death challenges of the pandemic, Martinez, who controls the City Council agendas, squeezed into them property liens against people already in severe financial distress and alcohol licenses for not-yet-open retailers like bazillionaire Jeff Bezos’s Amazon stores.

It raises the question of what Martinez is doing with her time during the pandemic.

Another public records request was submitted to obtain Martinez’s calendar from April 1 through May 31, i.e. the most recently completed month and the one we are now in.

The request went through a mill of City Hall attorneys and came back asserting that the public is only entitled to see Martinez’s prior month’s calendar but not yet the one for May.

Martinez’s Chief of Staff Ackley Padilla emails to advise that she is withholding this public information “because such disclosure could inhibit private meetings and chill the flow of information.”

That’s a rather ironic posture for a City Hall chin-deep in federal indictments and FBI agents.  Martinez is withholding this information…..because releasing it will chill the flow of information.  Instead, Martinez wants to chill the flow of information to those who might scrutinize it for corruption and mismanagement.

Padilla goes on to say that Martinez is “willing to waive the privilege for her the part of (sic) her calendar regarding events that have already occurred.”  

That, too, is an amusing posture.  Martinez can’t waive rights she doesn’t have.

With her former colleague Mitch Englander on his way to federal prison, and the news of another not-yet-indicted Councilmember allegedly demanding $500,000 in cash for who-knows-what, any hint of covert meetings and hidden public information is noted.  And with the FBI still presumably hovering everywhere around LA City Hall, this doesn’t sound like a particularly bright idea.

Speaking of Mitch Englander…..

Tuesday was going to be the first day of Englander’s federal corruption trial, with the schadenfreude of watching him confronted with the lurid allegations of bribery and prostitution as the former Councilmember and LAPD volunteer threw his life away for what amounts to $15,000 and some form of boozy-floozy sexual manipulation in a free Vegas hotel room.

Pardon the snark, but if you’re risking years in federal prison, at least go for the big bucks like whoever scored / tried to score a half-million dollars.  And let’s hope Englander’s roll-in-the-hay at least took place in one of the nicer hotels on the Las Vegas Strip.  Nobody wants their corrupt politician to sell-out at Circus-Circus.

At least there’s a consolation prize.  The next big date in Englander’s criminal saga moves to June 4, when he will appear in federal court for a formal change-of-plea hearing to guilty from not guilty.

While the federal government never discloses snitch deals it brokers, we look forward to seeing whether Englander agreed to flip on anyone in order to reduce his exposure from decades behind bars to upwards of “just” three years.  Sweetheart deals usually come with a caveat, sweetheart…..

And Now Back to Nury Martinez…..

There are hideous homeless encampments throughout the City of Los Angeles, though until recent years it was largely a tragedy contained to Skid Row, the entirety of South Los Angeles, Hollywood and Venice Beach.

But in the areas represented by Martinez in the San Fernando Valley, bigger, worse and more dangerous camps have flourished in the Sepulveda Basin, alongside the 405 and gradually northward along Sepulveda and Van Nuys Boulevards.

At one desolate location, where a bustling foreign-style market used to stand with fresh produce and rows of spices fragrantly filling the air, there is nothing but devastation. 

In fact, it looks more Mogadishu and Aleppo than Van Nuys….. 

 

The dozens of people existing on this empty lot and in a tinderbox skeleton of an office tower complain City Hall has done nothing to help them.  Having spoken with some of them recently, none appear to be addicts and most are well-spoken and eager to get into vehicles or motels until more permanent opportunities surface.  They also need food, veterinary help and are eager to be tested for Corona Virus.

None of them had masks, let alone Nury Martinez-branded masks, to shield their community from the spread of Corona Virus / COVID19.  There are no social workers with Target gift cards or medical workers taking temperatures. There is no hand washing station, port-a-potty or any other service, which may explain why some may have managed to access the dangerous and crumbling tower. 

Martinez, Padilla and Alexis Marin-Wesson (daughter-in-law of Martinez’s predecessor Herb Wesson) were emailed photos of the conditions but did not explain why the situation was allowed to fester despite the fact that these people and their dogs are eager for help that Martinez has enormous power to immediately provide.

On that note, why haven’t Martinez, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl set-up a bridge housing complex there?  

And that, my friends, is why we need to see what’s on Nury’s calendar; to find out why Amazon’s ability to sell liquor gets on the City Council agenda and the lives of these people and their pets do not.

Once May passes, a new public records request will be submitted to retroactively see how Martinez spent it, how much of it she decides to redact from public scrutiny and whether she made a substantial difference at this location.

She refuses to field live questions.

(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatchLA, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pasadena Star News, Los Angeles Downtown News, and the Los Angeles Times in its Sports, Opinion and Entertainment sections and Sunday Magazine, among other publishers. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.)