Budget This: More Time 

LOS ANGELES-There is nothing more boring than a budget hearing schedule.

I attended my first ever budget kickoff for the County of Los Angeles and was informed by Mike Antonovich that I would be given sixty seconds to address the entire $28 billion budget at the time.  

I thought that seemed right as no other speakers, save the chap from SEIU had shown up. I dragged out the government code Government code 29080 and 29081 which were cited by the presiding Mayor of the Board of Supervisors and the budget hearing was closed after 120 seconds of testimony. I urged them to honor GC 29080 and 29081 and reset a second public hearing with fair notice. 

I am in my fifties so too old to play football, though I was a dangerous threat up the middle at Flint Park, where I grew up. Speed, size, and heft contributed to a. . .Larry Czonka approach.   

I broke the tackle of Dave Demerjian, an all-American windbag, but was finally stopped by a very good linebacker, Jackie Lacey.  

Public Integrity refers to the consistent alignment of, and adherence to, shared ethical values, principles and norms for upholding and prioritizing the public interest over private interests in the public sector. Translation:  A graveyard for mostly credible complaints that frequently go nowhere. 

Lacey served as District Attorney from December 3, 2012 to December 7, 2020 and has been replaced by a man who is too busy moving the nation's prosecutors forward to hold the local Supervisors and Council accountable.    

Budget Memo:  How many cases is PID handling? How much is the division costing? Why does it take over a year to get a response, if you even get one at all? Why doesn't PID issue guidance on the public record act? 

Budget Memos:  Public Comments with respect! 

A word about Budget Memos that will eventually be posted. Historically, the councilmembers tried to limit the number of memos for clarity, but it appears we are on track to break a record this year. The budget memo arises usually following a thought, but sometimes because it would be helpful to a treasured partner of a Council member. Like, f'rinstance, nobody doubts for one second that Kevin Deleon is frustrated by the illicit copper wire market in his district and citywide -- I had no idea, so was happy to hear him talk about it. But the way he inquired felt like he had the perfect solution, just over there:  "Sir, you're disrupting the meeting?"  "No, I'm not you've canceled public comment." 

Andrew Sullivan suggested, before taking a two-week spring break, "The left is playing their oldest and strongest card: if you give people money, they will tend to vote for you." This is always a theme running beneath the turgid waters of the LA River and also the LA City Council annual budget hearings and meeting efficiency protocols.  

Channel 35 has been providing gavel to gavel coverage and judging from the overnights, the Oscars have nothing to worry about.  

Though, coverage of the NFL draft's first round on ABC, ESPN and NFL Network drew a combined audience of 12.52 million viewers -- about 2 million more than ABC's Academy Awards telecast.   

It doesn't mean it wasn't good material, just nobody was watching.  

Paul Krekorian: "Excellent!" 

Budget Memo:  How are the ratings on Channel 35 year over year? Do we have metrics? How much have Armbruster Goldsmith & Delvac been paid to ram through the Academy museum, and will it be the success that we are all hoping for?   

Budget Memo: How much will it cost to gain admittance to the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Storytelling? Hint: It better be FREE. 

Irregular meeting of the Regular and Special meetings of the Budget on the Mayor's budget with limited comment: 

Paul Krekorian runs the show as the master ringleader of clarity and confusion. 

This year's new additions to the Committee from the left ("I want them in Van Nuys") and right ("Do you want them in Sylmar?") has resulted in new and exciting chemistry all over the place. Not that anyone ever tired of Paul Koretz hammering in his agenda or Mike Bonin bringing out the throngs, but Kevin Deleon or KDL as he's known, and Monica Rodriquez showed up to play ball.    

Krekorian leads the cross-examination team and runs the show carefully and slavishly noting the clock at all times. He gives the impression that the schedule has been delivered to him from on high with great expectations to get this thing done quickly and without too much scrutiny.  

Of course, the sleight of hand is that the schedule has been systematically reduced to historic lows by his team. 

He thinks we don't know, so we're talking to the "right people." 

Honestly, he keeps his cool quite admirably considering that he is dangerously close to being frog marched out for violations of the open government laws.   

The idea that public cannot comment on LAPD's budget after the Chief's report or even at the same Special meeting day is amazing and absurd. The public appreciates the councilmembers sitting forward, but we are not satisfied leaving all the hard work to public safety chair, Monica Rodriguez.   

SIP: Is related to the sucking sound 

Thousands of city employees took advantage of the Separation Incentive Program (SIP). . .and have inadvertently put a very minor strain on departments trying to come back from the pandemic. 

Consider Internet Technology [ITA] run by Ted Ross. They had 814 positions in 2008 but now are down to 399 from 455 pre pandemic. They lost over 50 positions to SIP. (Q: Good? A: No, bad.) 

Still, the way that ITA put 18,000 employees to work at home was lauded with the same reverence as is ordinarily reserved for recognition of the Berlin Air lift. "We innovated on a dime." If the economy improves, we'll need to staff up. 

The hot worrisome subjects this year included: One time money, vacancies, service rollbacks, data breaches. Obviously, none of the above will be a problem as long as departmental demands are met.  

The upbeat activity that would make John Wooden (Activity/Achievement) proud, include: Recognize the humility of recognizing, procurement reform, subject matter expertise,  and obviously, taking full advantage of economies of scale!  

We need to maximize return on investment, get rid of legacy systems that don’t communicate and we will do it while minimizing the impact, maximizing opportunity, and obviously, maximizing revenue. 

We know how to be efficient about government contracting, but for godsakes . . .thank you for the Measures of Success!  

During the City Attorney's report, carefully scheduled without public comment, Kevin Deleon wondered. . .will the SIP issue impact the paperwork gridlock over homelessness. A good question. 

Kapur is coy. . .Deleon's is clever. Kapur said no matter the cut or compromise the City Attorney's office will always make the service to the people. . .paramount.    

A question suddenly loomed over the meeting: Where the hell is the City Attorney? And where is Controller Galperin? Maybe he's practicing to be a Supervisor. The Board of Supervisors no longer comes on Zoom to greet their public, the way the Pope steps out on the balcony over St. Peters.  (Galperin tossed his hat in the race for 3rd district last week.) 

Budget memo:  How much would it cost to have the ELECTED OFFICIALS who preside over millions of bad decisions show up at the budget hearing that has been cleansed of public comment by their comrade, Krekorian et al.?  

Budget memo: How do we avoid SIP recipients from coming back to take advantage of more Federal money than anyone ever dreamed of, through crafty consulting agreements? Or is that the game plan given the substantial brain drain across departments? 

Ethics: David Tristan recently swapped seats with longtime apparatchik and executive director Heather Holt of the Ethics Commission, where Krekorian served "a million years ago."    

It was early in the process and Tristan is a superstar who made his tiny funding request seem so reasonable and well substantiated, that Krekorian went as far as to say that every single budget request from Ethics has been approved, as long as he's served as Budget chair.  

Tristan was less impressive explaining how the seamless synergy of working with the Planning Department, after years of a structural blind spot, and bubbling FBI investigation.  

See Herb Wesson's gratitude. . .in 2016 he wanted to be sure Heather was mentioned during the budget wrap-up. o sweet.  

Budget Memo:  How much would it cost to hire insider, attorney, Stephen Kaufman to bring the Council to the table re: violations of the Brown Act?  

Good work: Greg Good, who used to collect missed messages when Gail Koretz who served as a Local Government Liaison in the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti  was out doing politics, called the mayor's budget a  "Breathtaking commitment to equity and justice." 

He's now the President of the Board of Public Works and was quick to also reference to the "grinding pain". . .and "multi-century pandemic of structural racism."  

"Sometime equity is different than dividing by 15," said Curren Price.  

Budget Memo: What is the cost of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Skip Miller fighting Judge Carter, who agrees with Greg Good, that there really is a "multi-century pandemic of structural racism?"  

Endless supply of report backs coming: Lady M Rod wants an equitable access city. . . Now so many portals because no large gateway. . .this is the main idea of the proposed Youth Development Department. . ."there is an exceedingly high premium on data."  "We need to establish MOUs and we need to act as watchdogs over the exhaustive paperwork."  

Patty Huber, the CAO extraordinaire, has moved over to Public Works for a slightly different type of obfuscation and clarity. She wore a leopard outfit.  

Deleon couldn't make cooling the hot streets of Woodland Hills into a coherent equity sandwich but Blumenfield enjoyed riffing with him. 

Cooling must be done with an equity lens. 

Krekorian adores KDL and when everyone was in the bathroom, he asked about liability at LAPD and the workplace. . .harrassment, retaliation and discrimination. . .  Never mind the Cadet rapist matter.    

Dr. Fernando Campos, who it has been suggested, would make a great Halloween costume for Bob Blumenfield – literally, Bob just needs to add a mustache-- was very clear, that we lost ten accountants, seven were in accounts payable. . .(fear light on) two were handling general fund accounts (two fear lights illuminated). . . 75% of our payments are on time. . . and there is a 10% penalty on any portion paid late, so #BAD #VERYBAD 

Rodriguez likes centralization as a mechanism for bog down. "Social media. . .is key, but why is every city group making their own app? Shouldn't we just all invest in My311?" Rodriguez just cut the ribbon on the pumpkin bread Labonge voice over. . .coming soon. 

Monica also said GTA. . .(Grand Theft Auto) which was one of the easier acronyms to decipher. Another, she reminded us was YPI.

The  Youth Policy Institute (YPI) provided a wide range of programming intended to reduce poverty among lower-income families in Los Angeles. But in October 2019, it suddenly fired its CEO, closed its doors, and filed for bankruptcy, alleging that its former CEO, Dixon Slingerland, had misused the nonprofit’s money for personal expenses and partisan political donations.  

Budget Memo: How quickly can we get a report back on not starting a new department?   

LAPD: Chief Moore said, "LA has to grow up with its strategies and housing." He called Rodriguez “Councilwoman.” 

He warned, that of the $7.5 million apportioned for new black and white cars, only $2.6 million of that would go to new cars, and more like $3.5 million would go to interest on the last load from 2017. . . the last of five payments. Thx, Englander.  

The department had 1,443,077 contacts, 47000 arrests. Only 3% of contacts resulted in arrest.    

Everybody wants a chance to pin down the Chief, but the Budget is one item, per Krekorian.  

Deleon did not want to be "critique-ful" as he reviewed the discrepancy between +3% of the LAPD budget and -5% decrease, per the mayor. Question: "What?" A: “It's because of more raises and the department lost nearly 300 members to SIP." 

There was a lot of lingo. . .a 4-10 schedule, means four ten-day shifts! If the Budget Hearing team would adopt such a schedule, it would probably accommodate 15 hours of comments from members of the public, dba the stakeholders.   

Bob Blumenfield asked about mental health. . .and the Chief confirmed that Dr. Sherin is helpful. . . but he did say, ". . .they need greater capacity, more MH engagement in the 24/7-time frame."  That required explanation.  

"Mental health people tend to work day job hours. . ." He called Sherin a pro, but he's got some resource issues and lousy housing options. Sherin makes almost $500,000 a year.  

The Chief thanked the council for the legislation that allows us to ticket by raising the speed limit to 40mph from 35mph in our neighborhood. He said, he was happy to play "words with Statistics" a reference, we thought, to "words with friends."  

Budget Memo:  Bad idea. How much is one life worth in speeding ticket citation money?  

On a brighter note, Party cars. . .comprised of two officers during house party season. . .to address 415 disturbances only costs $40,000! 

Rodriguez made the point to the Chief that a kid in the east valley winds up in the "Jeopardy" program and a kid in the west valley winds up in "PALS." Even the Chief glazes over. 

Budget Memo:  How much could be saved by NOT launching a Youth Development Department to pull together all of our dysfunctional youth programs?  

LAFD: The Chief has the best hair among the leadership in Los Angeles public safety. But the Budget and Finance Committee has the top three haircuts in City Council. The new members have great style and the all the overexertion of the Chair trying to do the people's work quickly and without comment has resulted in a delayed haircut and a "stately" look. Gold, Silver and Bronze in one committee is rare. (Who won which award will be forthcoming.)  

Blumenfield's worst nightmare is leaving money on the table. It means not devouring every scrap of funding eligible for consumption. FEMA is a very good example. We learned that 100 LAFD firefighters had been pressed into testing/vaccination service, at full OT.  

Regular pay style work is not reimbursable. You can see how this crude line is not in the public's interest and has resulted in FEMA fraud up the ying yang. (Official term.) 

Blumenfield loves a good riddle, and raised one with the Chief:  How can it cost $50,000 to install a $13,000 LAFD extractor. . .? It's like a washing machine, what gives?" 

The Chief was ready. He'd had the same concern, and asked and discovered good news: "1/3 of that $50,000 installation fee was just a contingency?" Blumenfield pointed out that we need "a dozen" of these?   

The City will never forget April 2017 back when there used to be open hearings with the public and Englander told the Chief he would personally loan the department millions of dollars for a new Valley bureau (OVB). Krekorian turned to Englander and said with a sly smile, "public service has been very, very, good to you."  

Englander did not miss a beat, "Yes, yes it has."  

Oy vey. . .  

Library: Library’s open Monday.  

Migrating to digital collections available on the internet is growing. But the licensing by year and "usage" could be confusing. 

John Szabo was given the bell lap at 7:00 p.m. Krekorian thanked Ted Ross of ITA for his extensive letter. 

At the end, near 7:49 p.m., Krekorian admitted that he had blown past his admittedly optimistic wrap time of 7:00 p.m. He reminded that Monday would be tremendously busy but would at least allow them to make up time in pursuit of the ultimate prize.  

The Antonovich is awarded to the agency with the most promising hearing schedule reduction dynamics by. . .a public speaker. 

We might announce on May 6, but the timing is tight.  

Items of interest OPEN on Monday May 4 during PLUM committee (2 p.m.) and TRANSPORTATION committee (3pm) meetings: 

The last item of the Planning Agenda is the saga of the non- applicant planning fees (aka Person other than the applicant). How much should it cost to object to a bad planning decision near you, often being shepherded by the City Council and Mayor, etc.?   

I am trying to hold Marqueece Harris Dawson's PLUM committee in contempt over their failure to follow the law and take comments on Special Meeting items even if they continue them to another meeting. Doug Haines, who has a close working relationship with Robert Silverstein and Dan Wright, does not have an email he'll share, but was denied the opportunity to address the item.  

I reviewed the proposed fees, which span many pages of categories, but, for instance:  

Service of Alcohol in a small restaurant less than or equal to 50 seats  51.94 hours  

Total cost per activity $10,330. 

Budget Memo: What tasks take planning almost 52 hours to complete, given ABC etc.?  

Person other than the applicant Estimated Average Labor Time Per Activity (hours)  79.50 

Total cost per activity $15,811  

CAO Adjusted Total Cost per Activity  $16,097   

Person other than the applicant Current fee  $89 

DCP Fee Level/Deposit Cost Using CAO Adj  Total Cost  $161   

Estimated number of fees per fiscal year 2020  

CAO Adjusted Full Cost Recovery $3,380,401 

DCP Recomm. Cost Recovery and CAO Adj Cost Basis  $33,804   

Budget memo:  Let's get a report back from the City Attorney on how much money has flowed through the CEQA Panel of private attorneys engaged by Michael Feuer to assist developers at crushing community resistance to egregious and other development?  As with Sportsmen's Lodge etc.  

Open but hidden:   

A trio of Armbruster Goldsmith and Delvac (sorry about the Oscar telecast numbers, there's a rainbow coming, plus we all love Tom Hanks. Quick question for Dave Rand: Given 91 residential units, eight of which would be restricted to Very Low-Income households -- for the properties located at 4100 West Sunset Boulevard and 1071-1089 North Manzanita Street CD 13, how much in U.S. dollars would rent for the eight be?  

Budget Memo: How much would the rent be for each of the eight Very Low units? Planning to report on why there are 24 attachments all with the same date: 02/08/2021. 

Item 14 is Doug Haines on behalf La Mirada Avenue Neighborhood Association and Concerned Neighbors of Lexington Avenue (Representative: Robert Silverstein, The Silverstein Law Firm are discussing Daniel Pourbaba, 5806 Lexington, LLC plans for a five story. (Koretz has a six-story on Tuesdays' council agenda - not a competition.) 

Item 2  CAO report authorizing a First Amendment to Contract Nos. C-126625, C-126627, C-126628, C-126629, C-126630, C-126637, and C-126642; and a Second Amendment to Contract No. C-12663 for the continued provision of planning, urban design, landscape architecture, architecture and/or project management, and economic analysis services; to establish the total not-to-exceed compensation limits in the cumulative amount of $5,076,700; and, retroactively extend the contract terms by 24 months from November 12, 2020 through November 11, 2022, for a total contract term of seven years

Budget Memo: How much would it cost to put the names of the entities that we are extending contracts with? Here they are, but what increments to which firms would give Blumenfield a snapshot of what we are moving in terms of dollars for this essential "planning, urban design, landscape architecture, architecture and/or project management, and economic analysis services?"    

How does this mesh with the torrid RFP portal dreams of the councilmember from CD7?  

HR&A Advisors, Inc. 700 South Flower Street, Suite 2730 Los Angeles, CA 90017 Attention: Paul Silvern Email: psilvern@hraadvisors.com 

Barrio Planners Incorporated 5271 E. Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90022 Attention: William Villalobos Email: William@barrioplanners.com 

BAE Urban Economics, Inc. 706 S. Hill Street, Suite 1200 Los Angeles, CA 90014 Attention: Sherry Rudnak Email: sherryrudnak@bae1 .com 

AECOM 515 South Flower Street, 8th Floor Los Angeles, CA 90071 Attention: Gaurav Srivastava Email: Gaurav.srivastava@aecom.com 

Perkins and Will 617 West 7th Street, Suite 1200 Los Angeles, CA 90017 Attention: Leigh Christy Email: Leigh.Christy@perkinswill.com 

Placeworks 3 MacArthur Place, Suite 1100 Santa Ana, CA 92707 Attention: Kara Kosel Email: kkosel@placeworks.com 

Moore lacofano Goltsman, Inc. 537 S. Raymond Ave. Pasadena, CA 91105 Attention: Laura Stetson Email: lstetson@migcom.com 

Transportation items of note:  

Item 2 -- directing LADOT to prepare an education campaign about the new regulations and the dangers of parked vehicle idling. 

Parked vehicle idling is a hot button issue at Gelson's in Studio City and with Paul Koretz.   

Item 3 --$660,000 contract to Safe Moves who lost their footing during the UTLA strike. . .here an effort to bring them back. 

They use nationally recognized, and City approved approaches to provide comprehensive safety education. The Contractor uses a city and traffic simulation set-up to provide pre-kindergarten through 5th grade students with experiential pedestrian and bicycle skills and rules of the road education. Pat Hines Executive Director Safe Moves 15500 Erwin Street, #2457 Van Nuys, CA 91411 

Items of interest, but NOT open for comment on May 5 Los Angeles City Council Agenda:  

The feasibility of permitting the conversion of commercial hotels into the micro-unit housing type use. 

A very nice PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE REPORT relative to the Copper Wire Theft Replacement Program. Expensive. 

A really interesting report on Regulations pertaining to temporary signs on temporary construction walls and on solid fences. All neighborhoods have this type of activity, but in different ways. Q:  Question? A: No comments, it's not that type of public meeting.  

The City Attorney's Environmental Justice Unit (who must be funded at the highest possible levels) is going to investigate the code violations identified by the LAFD in its review of the West Pico Drill Site located on Pico Boulevard and Doheny Drive in Council District 5. Fantastic! With a  BONUS report on the results to include specific code violations that occurred on the Site. Progressive. Ebenstein, get in here! 

And in case anyone thinks we don't need the Oil and Gas administrator, if we ever hire one (a minor classification snag is going to be untangled soon, very soon) she/he/they could help re-examine once again the Natural gas odorant spill on November 29, 2017 at the Rancho Park Drill Site located at 10460 West Pico Boulevard. Boom, right on the agenda. Thank you, Sir.  

Paul Koretz, the next Controller, has 1427-1433 South Greenfield Avenue, a new six-story, maximum 66.5-feet in height, 29-unit multi-family apartment building over two levels of subterranean parking containing 47 automobile stalls, in conjunction with the export of 14,000 cubic yards of dirt w/ tree damage, w/ (3) Extremely low, (1) Very Low (1) Low-income unit among the 29, for a period of 55 years  (5 of 29 = 17% )  

Budget Memo: How much rent will be paid monthly for each of the categories, including market rate?  [OK, for Ebenstein to respond.] 

A very thoughtful HHH report on best practices that delineate why some projects have been able to keep costs down while others have not; the report should look at various factors that contribute to cost such as financing, site constraints, and construction costs so that what works can be applied in a larger scale. 

Budget Memo: How much would it cost to put this on an agenda where it could be addressed by the public? 

The finding of Public Convenience or Necessity (PCN) for a proposed retail commercial cannabis business submitted by Requestor, Torrance Healing Center, Inc., at the proposed business premises address of 1513 West Sepulveda Boulevard. 

Public Comment: If determinations of Public convenience are voted on without permitting public speaking at the council vote, maybe we should change the name. 

Budget Memo: How much would it cost to rebrand as Council Member Convenience or Necessity hearings (CMCN) ?  

The beleaguered LAPD to report with a comprehensive review overview of the youth programs operated by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) including a cadet program, PALS, the Jeopardy program -- and others, (look down respectfully) for the public and Council’s understanding of the full scope of these programs. 

Budget Memo: Please examine dumping the cost of $1.95M for the settlement regarding the cop who abused a cadet on the LAPPL as the public instructed the mayor to do, and arose in prior article.  

Unauthorized Public Comment: If we don't admit guilt in cases for which we pay out $2 million.  

“The parties agree that nothing contained herein, and no action taken by any party hereto with regard to this agreement, shall be construed as an admission by any party of liability or of any fact that might give rise to liability for any purpose whatsoever.”  

Budget memo: It took 60 days for Fauble to provide the settlement agreement that was requested on March 1. What is the average response time to provide CPRA requests and what is the current backlog by department?  

Budget memo: Does the reminder of all the problems with cadets, Englander, Lee, Huizar and various integrity breaches, cause the city to reconsider pouring money into a new department designed to link together Children? YOUTH DEVELOPMENT   

Scrounge around for any available allocation of Measure J funds by the County of Los Angeles to support City programs are available to those communities that have been most impacted by racial injustice, including alternative models of crisis response.  

Tracking vehicular and equestrian collisions and methods to improve safety of equestrian road users and minimize the number of crashes, as a part of (LADOT) Vision Zero Program. The Goal to make the streets safer for all including pedestrians, cyclists, and equestrians. 

Budget memo:  86, last 59, prior 63. . . 

A plan and protocols to open certain City facilities during times of dangerous air quality that includes staffing, facility, and outreach needs. Blumenfield lives in a territory where it routinely gets hotter than the pavement. . .etc.   

In-Kind donation of four E-bikes and four spare batteries to the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) Bike Team from the LAFD Foundation, valued at $8,400.   

The daily triple: See if you can detect the difference between these three, a man of ordinary firmness could not 13-130113-1301-S1, 13-1301-S2 but they take up a huge amount of agenda space. . .and are dizzyingly repetitive.  

PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE REPORT relative to authority to modify Fiscal Years (FY) 2012-16 Securing the Cities (STC) grant budget allocations from the United States Department of Homeland Security Domestic Nuclear Detection Office; and authority to extend the performance period and to amend subrecipient agreement terms and amounts accordingly.  x 3  

The eye is drawn among the ten pages of agenda devoted to the repeat notice of the council decision subject to the approval of the Mayor, to authorize the Controller to transfer $30,000 from Fund No. 55X/46, Account No. 46V138 to Overtime Variable Staffing.   

That's it? Why everything in triplicate?   

Avak, pray tell! 

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.