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Capping Public Comment at the LA County Board of Supervisors

THE CITY-Tuesday, the LA County Board of Supervisors, which has been working tirelessly to beat back the sense that the public comment can have meaning and be a genuine part of the board's process, heard from just one speaker. 

This was a massive victory for the board because their collective breathtaking effort to push back public speakers has finally paid off.  

By limiting to 60 minutes all comments on both agenda items and general public comment the board's public comment numbers are plummeting like the covid numbers.    

There is finally a rainbow, but it's not the good feeling of solidarity when a replacement county lifeguard tower goes up, rather it is the celebration of Sheila Kuehl's horrifying dream of never hearing from anyone who disagrees with her.  

To be fair, the Sheriff sometimes gets three minutes.  

General public comment. which is literally the only time a member of the public may address the board of supervisors on something that they themselves have not agendized is critical for any scheme of open government.  

The power of setting an agenda is offset by the power of the public to raise points that may be under the jurisdiction of the board, but not necessarily something that they would voluntarily agendize--unless they get caught.    

Only one voice getting in is a fitting tribute to the mean-spirited cheaters that are now ruling the county.     

There's plenty of shame to go around.  

City Silence 

There is Ted talk. . . the leader. . . is not the leader. The second guy who speaks up is the guy who gets credit. . . Rob Quan is that guy and he is a national treasure / might actually work for Bonin.  jk srsly 

Neither KnockLA nor Peoples City Council were around tweeting this week. Kudos to MRT. 

Incidentally, we've been begging Matt Stiles for another seminal report on the public comment. He's the A List Data dude who was so titillated with the use of "c**t" at the board of supervisors when he arrived, he launched a deep study of the use of expletives. The pandemic may have pinched the expletive count but neither Stiles nor the county beat reporter if there is one, has been able to sell it. 

Pitch: How about the shrinking public comment story? 

Kayaking, but no swimming 

Solar-powered water-quality beacons were recently installed along the LA river at kayaking entry points; green stands for “safe,” yellow stands for “safe, but take precautions,” and red stands for “do not kayak.” 

But KNX1070 reported that swimming is forbidden in the river.  

How specifically, Kayaking is possible without swimming will hopefully be the subject of a TedTalk by CM Mitchell O'Farrell or maybe the French guy from Marin County who is Kayacking himself to Hawaii would know. You can track his journey here.    

YMCA:  The Six Pillars of Character 

"The Pandemic should never be used as an excuse to provide bad service. . . ." I lectured the YMCA agent who I have known for many years. She's a good soldier in a bad war.  

Later, and it's a conversation, I'll raise the point that it does not scan or make any sense to not have lifeguards available between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Every day!  o the public and the local swimming community. . .an open pool is an essential service.  

Mayor Eric Garcetti made the announcement, during one of his maddening but strangely nostalgic daily briefings, that the YMCA would be opening nine locations for people experiencing homelessness to use for showers and restrooms. I wondered selfishly, what about opening the East Valley Y pool for some appointment swimming, concurrent.   

For many, the loss of a constitutional swim may have taken years off our lives.  

The Y locations were spread throughout the city. The city agreed to pay $20,000 a month for each of the locations.  

The service at the East Valley has suffered but we've been back swimming since May 10. When I asked the local director about the reduction in hours, he shrugged and implied that it was going to be hard.  

He claimed they lost 200,000 members during the pandemic. 

I started in New Rochelle, New York as an eight and under. There will be no Booster Club Dinner and featured photos of me with children, as there was when Councilman Mitch Englander ran unopposed for his north San Fernando Valley District 12 seat. But I am a lifetime member. 

Disclosure: At one point, I drilled into a service problem and Alan C. Hostrup  et al. the President & CEO YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles initiated a contractual retaliation. I have a lot of experience with these guys and civil rights, so it's a love fest. And I use the facility daily.  

Some will recall at least 27 donors with business before City Hall gave to the North Valley YMCA  providing sponsorships of up to $10,000, according to an article in the LA Times.  

They included lobbying firms, city contractors, real estate companies and a billboard firm. North Valley Family YMCA executive director Jane Stanton did not respond to questions about the fundraiser and Englander’s role.  

Donors to the North Valley Family YMCA have included firms with business at City Hall, such as trash-hauling companies Waste Management and Republic Services, the billboard company Clear Channel Outdoor, which has lobbied the city over regulations on outdoor advertising; and AEG Anschutz Entertainment Group, for whom Englander helped stuff an unprecedented wad of taxpayer support to the bros at LA Live.  

John Wickham is an excellent resource of the finer points of that pig out deal. Armbruster Goldsmith and Delvac banked an eye-catching $950,000 one quarter, to provide assistance at. . .gittin' r done, under Englander's enduring leadership. 

For the scholars, Oakview Group, about which I hounded the LA Times to dig into, offered Englander what seemed to me, at least, a fake job. Hindsight being 2020, at that moment he was on an FBI hot seat.   

Incidentally, not a single person could provide me with a budget schedule for 2021 even when I was asking, but somehow, I received a text message noting that: 

Name:  MITCHELL ENGLANDER 

Register Number: 79364-112  

Age: 50  

Race:  White  

Sex:  Male  

Release Date: 05/28/2022

Located At: USP Tucson 

Arizona is where Englander gobbled up so many Taser, now Axon contributions.   

Doug Corcoran, a director of public sector services for Waste Management, told the LA Times, one of its managers sits on the YMCA board. Waste Management gave a combined $8,500 in the past two years. Greig Smith adores those guys over at Waste Management.  

“I spoke to John Choi from Airbnb and asked him to donate Airbnb voucher/gift cards,” legislative deputy Stephanie Uy wrote to a North Valley Family YMCA executive, asking if Airbnb could include vouchers as part of its sponsorship.  

“Yes, he can,” responded the executive director. “We need the gift cards too!” A few weeks later, Englander said he wanted to look into loosening some of the proposed restrictions on Airbnb-type rentals.  

The Judge from Studio City gives a 2 

If it were a gymnastic exercise, Emily Alpert Reyes and Kerry Cavanaugh of the Editorial Board would get very high marks for avoiding the down and dirty stuff in the tag team competition. 

Turns out Mitch Englander ALSO gave the affiliated West Valley YMCA, which is rather upscale, a $250,000 donation from discretionary Sunshine Landfill money. This was during a period when Englander was traversing the county raising major sums of money for the Fifth District Supervisorial seat with Mike Feuer's endorsement. But you won't read about that in the Times.  

Kerry, whose been on the Editorial Board for as long as I can remember, pointed out that despite a flurry of daily debates in the CD4 LaBonge replacement race, "As for the other council races, there appear to be no debates set." 

She noted that Councilman Paul Krekorian has a "challenger for his District 2 seat in the southeast San Fernando Valley, but he has received no invitations for a debate,” his campaign said. 

I leapt forward when I read that and shared the emails showing that I had "requested," "invited," even "begged" Krekorian for a short debate on any terms.  

He simply refused, which was his strategy, but she gave him cover.  

I nearly gagged when I received a notice from Casey West Banks of the YMCA boasting that both State Assembly member, Adrin Nazarian and Los Angeles City Council member, Paul Krekorian BOTH would be giving speeches at the 7th annual youth in government awards. 

"We could not be more proud."   

This "awesome" bit of civics was scheduled by my own YMCA less than a week after election day.  

A parent with a student in the youth in government program who I know had specifically requested a CD2 debate from the director. 

The suggestion that Paul Krekorian wasn't invited to a debate is laughable. It was literally a stated and documented campaign strategy to use the matching fund requirement. 

But Krekorian, who was an ethics commissioner at LA City when he was a young Glendale school board member or something, deployed the "check the fine print" argument.   

Here's how it works. He simply ignores the request. To launch the defense of his indefensible action, we have David Tristan.  

The now Executive Director is very approachable. He'll tell you that the law only requires that a candidate sign that they will "agree to a debate" to get the matching money. Nowhere, he'll point out does it say that the candidate must "actually debate."   

Tristan must have a tough time looking in the mirror delivering that kind of news.  

I remember thinking, what about those kids? 

Friends of Krekorian 

To me it seemed worrisome that Friends of Paul Krekorian (FPK) are the ones cutting the path for youngsters, avoiding the pesky ethics laws as they roll merrily along collecting money from the UFLAC leader Frank Lima and the Sportsmen's lobbyist. Quasi off-the-books.  

I bet kids today would understand the FPK’s fundraising scheme.  

It's not that hard to grasp, just very sneaky.  

An “unfortunate loophole” in state campaign finance law permits individuals like lobbyists to legally donate to Krekorian's old state committee that he kept "forgetting" to close for a decade.   

And that's exactly what the bros did. They're helping Paul Krekorian pay off a huge loan that he made himself. . . 

The FBI was real interested. . .but evidently the Eileen Deckers and Andre Birotte Jrs. were busy.    

Tuesday's LA County Board Meeting Transcript   

Here's the historical transcript in its entirety. Fauble should get residuals for his warning to the public speakers. I'll note the warning is longer than the comment. cc Holly J. Mitchell 

AT&T: Spell your last name for me again. 

Eric Preven: Preven, P-R-E-V-E-N.

AT&T: Spell your last name for me again. 

Eric Preven: P-R-E-V-E-N. 

AT&T: P-R-E-V... as in victor...  E-N

Eric Preven: Right.

AT&T: Is it E-R-I-C  or is it E-R-I-K?

Eric Preven: C

AT&T:  Thank you. Which Item number will you be speaking on today?

Eric Preven:  I'd like to speak on all three.

AT&T:  I don't have them available. . .can you read them off to me so I can put them in.

Eric Preven:  CS-1, CS-2, and CS-3.

AT&T:  And are you in favor or opposed?

Eric Preven:  Neither.

AT&T:  Neither? Alright. . .I'll connect you to the call.

Eric Preven:  Do I have to do anything?

(One minute silence.)

Hilda Solis:  Good morning everyone. We want to welcome everyone to the special closed-session meeting of the Los Angeles board of supervisors. Today is June the 1st 2021. Our current meeting is being held remotely due to the current public health crisis to protect the health of all. I will now take roll call to confirm attendance. Please unmute your mic and respond when your name is called.

Hilda Solis: Supervisor Holly Mitchell. Supervisor Holly Mitchell. Supervisor Kuehl.

Sheila Kuehl:  Here.

Hilda Solis:  Supervisor Hahn.

Janice Hahn:  Here.

Hilda Solis:  Supervisor  Barger.

Kathryn Barger:
 Here.

Hilda Solis:   Fesia Davenport, CEO.

Fesia Davenport:  Present.

Hilda Solis:  Rodrigo Castro-Silva, County Counsel.

Rodrigo Castro-Silva:  Here.

Hilda Solis:    Celia Zavala, Executive Officer.

Celia Zavala:  Here.

Hilda Solis:  Okay, I'll call Supervisor Mitchell.  Has she joined us yet?We'll keep moving. Ok.   
We'll now take public comment. Madame Executive Officer, please read in the call-in information that was also provided on the agenda and explain the speaking rules to those members of the public who are calling in to address the board.  

Celia Zavala, Executive Officer: Thank you madame chair. Members of the public wishing to address the board and offer public comment should call as indicated on the agenda, members of the public wishing to offer public comment should call 877-226-8163, and use participant code number 133-6503. To repeat: please call 877-226-8163 and use participant code number 1336503. Do not call that number if you only want to listen to the meeting. To listen only, please call877-873-8017 and follow the instructions. Each person will have one minute to speak on the closed-session items. We will allocate up to 60 minutes for public comment on all of the items. If there are no speakers waiting before 60 minutes have elapsed, we will close public comment. We will continue to accept all written comments that come in during the meeting, which will become part of the record. When speaking on an agenda item, you must be on topic. Our goal is to get through as many speakers as we can. If you are not speaking on a topic, or if we cannot tell if you are speaking on an agenda item, you will get one warning from county counsel or the chair. If you do not immediately or clearly get on topic, or if you stray off topic again, you will forfeit the rest of the your time, and the chair will move to the next speaker. Please note: that if you are also listening to the board meeting on a computer or  speaker phone, you will need to turn down the volume on those devices as soon as the moderator calls on you or their will be an echo. If you do not turn  Moderator, may we have the first speaker, please?  

AT&T:  As a reminder, to address the board, if you have not already done so, please press 1 then 0at this time. If you press 1 then 0 a second time, then you will be removed from the cue. 

Spanish: Como recordatorio, para dirigirse a la pizarra, si aún no lo ha hecho, presione 1 y luego 0 en este momento. Si presiona 1 y luego 0 por segunda vez, será eliminado del cue.

AT&T:  Our first participant is Eric Preven, you have one minute, please state which items will you be addressing, please begin.

Eric Preven:  I'll address each of the closed session items and a general public comment is. . .not offered. So, I'll just jump right in.

What a disappointment. And I have to say, when we helped get Holly MItchell elected to the supervisor office we thought that she was the kind of leader who would understand how. . .when a board of supervisors cuts by half the public comment because old cranky Sheila Kuehl thought it was a great idea. . .and Rodrigo Castro-Silva has literally no balls at all to stand up and enforce the law -- that she would at least say, "C'mon, I'm a civil rights leader, guys,  I can't do this, I can't be a part ofHilda Solis's knee on the neck of the public every single week." Last week, while blinking on herScreen. . .not even calling up one of the recognized critic of the board. And the reason why we care is because we are paying attention.  We know about the AD 54 special election and we're going to talk about that. We understand that human resources has a lot of work to do to maybe get some of this "hate" out of our culture, out of our city, . . .but at the moment, we can't participate.  And you're busy fighting with each other in little press conferences--

AT&T:  Your time has expired.

Eric Preven:  Zavala, you should maybe retire.

AT&T:  Madame Chair, there are no other speakers in cue to address the board. 

Hilda Solis:  Thank you very much. . .I also want to acknowledge that Supervisor Mitchell has joined us. 
Thank you. 

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch.)