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Battle Royale: The City vs. The County

THE CITY- This week started with a 90-minute budget deliberation at the County followed by. . .

a Budget Finance session at City Council that accepted just one speaker and a lengthy presentation about Curren Price's dream. . .  

. . .City-Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot Program for Angelenos adversely impacted by COVID-19. $32,000,000.  

Curren Price's wife had a big week at Metro as reported here last week, bagging two contracts for displacement relocation and removal. 

As a tired old warhorse, Price knows how important the federal government is and has worked HUD like nobody's business. One politician after another jumped onto his initial six million dollars, which has since grown to $32 or $36 million dollars in money to support families in poverty. 

Which families? 3,000 families. We'll get back to you on the other details, including how to avoid slapping a fella on the back with $12,000 and thereby disqualifying him from other benefits.   

Still, a free money no-strings-attached program, something like what Andrew Yang (who recently dropped out of the NY mayor's race) was talking about when he ran for president, is complicated.   

There was a ton of enthusiasm for securing the press connected to being the largest pilot program of its kind, nationwide. And there was ZERO enthusiasm for following up on the Encampment to Home $5 million that Rodriguez capably extracted from Bonin at the last meeting.  

As for the public, there was one speaker at 2:14 p.m. prior to the two-hour discussion about the Guaranteed Basic Income and then Krekorian following a worst practice closed public comment of any kind, even on items that they had yet to discuss or vote on, for good. That is absurd. 

Maybe Curren Price could think of a way to get Danny Bakewell to become involved with promoting the South Los Angeles community and emerging voices rather than paying money for Voices Neighborhood Council banners. Bakewell would have to take a break from his local quid pro quo Taste Of Soul incumbent monopoly and racket to encourage civic participation and stakeholders.

A word about 180ism. . .a concept coined by Yascha Mounk in an essay on Persuasion, his sub stack entitled: The Perils of 180ism. We need less of it. And more collaboration.  

“America has made no significant progress in matters of race over the past 50 years,” for example, or “climate change will end life as we know it in about a decade.” We keep repeating those slogans even though the truth of the matter is considerably more complicated. Who wants to quibble over complications when the cause is so just, the stakes so high, and the opponent so despicable? 

Either you sign up to a very specific understanding of what it is to be an anti-racist, or you are a racist.  

This reductionist worldview that is now taking over public discourse, in some cases even turning people that I have respected into enthusiastic enforcers of the new “moral clarity.” 

180ism is the tendency of many participants in public debate to hear what their perceived enemies have to say and immediately declare themselves diametrically opposed." 

California Leadership 

The Board of Supervisors has jettisoned ten Regular Tuesday Board meetings and provided instead eight Special Closed sessions. It's a big problem but California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta was distracted with  bathroom business.  “Rather than focusing on solving real issues, some politicians think it’s in their best interest to demonize trans youth and block lifesaving care" so we've blocked State sponsored travel to those 17 states. Not sure if Washington D.C. was included in Bonta's list, but can the AG ask about opening the bathroom at the Red Line Universal metro station?  

D.C. is where we get funding for METRO and where Julia Brooke Ciardullo, Garcetti’s former chief legal counsel, described an incident with Rick Jacobs and the Mayor in 2017 in a crowded elevator. Ciardullo goes right at the issue by saying what happened was "not sexual harassment." 

That Facebook group was first disclosed in depositions in Officer Garza's lawsuit, so Ciardullo couldn’t deny the incident entirely but certainly normalized it. 

Again, she was the mayor's lawyer!   

On Tuesday, the County board met in a Special closed session and once again faced only two speakers despite a massive SEIU rally on the steps of Kenn Hahn Hall of Administration demanding more. Fesia Davenport, the CEO replacement, after Sachi Hamai left making unsubstantiated claims of harassment over which the county (improperly) agreed to pay $1.5M per their fully compromised attorney, Skip Miller, earns an annual base salary of $494,741. She does not respond to email.   

The union feels they've been cut out of their fair share of Cares Act money and perceives a slap in the face given all the county workers engaged in first responding.  

Do you hear something? No. 

There has not been a super dedicated county beat reporter writing daily about the largest county in the nation since Abby Sewell moved to Lebanon years ago. In a way the public health beat has overshadowed all other coverage, which has contributed to the need (and shameful denial) of more public input by the board.  

Now, Emily Alpert Reyes has moved over from the city to cover the beat previously held by Soumya Karlamangla, whose has shimmied over to the New York Times, California Today, beat.   

Matt Stiles, who followed fifteen minutes of effort by Nina Agrawal on the county beat, splashed on the scene a couple years ago, but quickly shuffled over to the big cool story desk at the Times.   

It's an elite fighting force and Matt helps with the award-winning graphics about what people really care about. (Hold tongue here.) 

Also, there is the totally unbiased coverage of the Sheriff provided by Alene Tchekmedyian.   

Matt's lasting contribution will be his landmark "expletive count" article. A complete slap in the public's face with no follow up.   

Steve Clow, the Bob Baffert of alignment coverage editors for the Times has been doing what he's doing long enough to know that there's no point in criticizing the board of Supervisors or responding to requests that Jaclyn Cosgrove cover the public comment reductions in violation of the governor's order. "What a kook!" 

The editorial board, that just won a Pulitzer Prize, must have forgotten the. . .LA supervisors’ inconvenient public piece. 

They deserve an award for that. It's called honorary scroll.  

Skip misses his mark. 

I wish Skip Miller, the board's lawyer had been present at City Council, because there were selected people visible at the meeting and it looked to be more than fifty -- the arbitrary number determined by Council President Martinez.  

Funny, Skip has been less chirpy since Measure J has been questioned by Judge Strobel.   

Strobel witnessed firsthand how the ACLU and the public. . .parted ways when the ACLU refused to help get the records that we spent four years and lots of resources to see. Length matters. . .in county and city corruption scandals.   

The "Friends of Krekorian" story was on the back burner for years. John Noguez, the crooked County Assessor scandal w/ Harvey Englander. . .was buried so deep, it never properly popped up again.   

And Jose Huizar/Mitch Englander & Eric Garcetti. . .Huizar's trial won't even start until 2022.   

Englander is in Tucson, AZ but that little vermin likes it down in Arizona. That's where he did all the Taser damage and fundraising. I'm fairly sure he's relaxing or doing paperwork in a nice office. Watching Fox News. 

Nury Martinez opened public comment to thirty minutes on nearly sixty items. Why only 30 minutes, when their regular practice has been up to take up to 40 minutes? Unclear. She then presided over a full-on 210-minute gust fest. . . There were some real sparks as the council bragged about how much they've done, while acknowledging how far they have to go.  

Mike Bonin said he loved his brother Joe Buscaino but was deeply offended by any questioning of his integrity. . .then both voted against the proposal to sweep sidewalks for different reasons. David Zahniser has the tired old story about the 56.11 sidewalk ordinance; particular locations where it shall be unlawful for a person to sit, lie, or sleep upon public property.  

It's hard to hear the posturing over and over again. The council's current plan is to come back on Thursday with an impossible to fully comprehend ordinance, adjusted by the same attorneys and Krekorian who keep provoking little mosquito bite lawsuits from attorney Carol Sobel.  

She keeps warning the city, the city keeps trying to criminalize, while not criminalizing. Bonin wants a map.  

Finally, after all that hostility at the council meeting, at a totally unrecognizable time of 2:30 p.m., just a quick bite and single use water bottle later, the real City Family gathered for a top-level powwow: The Executive Employment Relations committee featuring adjustments to the salaries of Matt Szabo and Barbara Romero among others.  

Rich Llewellyn was even BACK (since Ana Guerrero stepped aside) to provide a measure of gratitude to: Nury Martinez, Council President, Paul Krekorian, Budget and Finance Chair, Paul Kortez, Personnel, Audits etc. Chair, and Joe Buscaino, 2nd banana, pro temp.  

I suggested Szabo should get more money than Sachi Hamai, and we do not support $1.5 million payouts for highly paid executives who didn't like being challenged in the public sphere. It's a rough room, all are welcome. Give back the public's money, Skip. 

The BIG story, and best reason for the council not to take off for an entire month came from the prior week: 

The history of LAHSA 

John Wickham is a multi-pronged tool. Not sure if he's connected to Mary Wickham the former county counsel but he's something of a P3 specialist which means public private partnership.  

His diligence was noted when it was time to it hand out astonishing sums of city resources to private entities like AEG who also love Los Angeles. The Oakview group boys who also helped Englander with the ruse that he was taking a lobbying job, when he was being investigated, were up in there too. 

All these Central City Association characters love teaming up with the community of like-minded politicians, known as incumbents, to pursue sports entertainment and tourism, just what LA needs more of. #NotReally 

The logic is: Wickham helped the AEG and Englander access hundreds of millions of dollars in forgiven transit occupancy tax, maybe he could also help with the homelessness governance crisis.   

Englander is now doing time in federal prison in Tucson, Arizona.  

The high wide shot here is that Mark Ridley-Thomas, the erstwhile czar of the homeless industrial complex, wants to consolidate his ineffective strategies and all of the money and power he helped secure.  

MRT wants to access the Measure H money, for which the county paid out $1.3 million in legal settlement, after they were sued by Howard Jarvis Taxpayers for “tipping the scales” in their messaging. The county crassly denied the claims and hired Gary Winuk, the former FPPC director, to helped them settle.    

How can we reform LAHSA? What are your thoughts about doing it? Wickham replies, "We would work with you [the council] and LAHSA. It would take time to get there." 

Wickham touted, The California Policy Lab, as an excellent partners who were willing to help the City at no cost. RED FLAG. One thing is clear, that Wickham adores contracting. He spent a long time lecturing about how important the contracts with the various entities can be to effective outcomes. 

Wickham reported that LAHSA had increased from 718 contracts to over 1200 since the 2019-20 fiscal year. Despite the millions and millions invested to keep track we are still nowhere near real time visibility. . . we simply must streamline.  

He clarified that a motion made to fund a LAHSA program, will typically receive funding in 3.5 months after the vote at council.  

The goal is and we've touched on the problems inherent here, to "get the $ out as quickly as possible." RED FLAG. 

The process for approval has been made much easier. . .  so we can add new capacity. In fact, he noted that 18 new agencies were added, and a centralized training academy had been set up.  

Service Planning Areas, the largest of which is SPA two, which contains most of the downtown area, were set up by the county years ago.  

Wickham loves to cite a book he read about soccer coaching. His big view, "it's not enough to have data. . .it needs to provide insight."  

We need to know how to improve. . .how  to make better connections. . .do better work. 

Here they are in their own words:  

Paul Krekorian

At one point, Krekorian called Mr. O'Farrell, Mr. President, which caught everyone off guard. It's possible Nury had to step out and Buscaino was playing hooky.  

Krekorian wants to take one step back. . .there are some things that work. What works. . .he says, is direct personal care for individuals.  

Trust building. If we can identify a problem and connect to services. . .he cited, The Utah model (but said he was not an expert). 

He said we can talk more about models. . .he wants to bring everyone into a room. . .share info about how to connect.   

A decade ago. . .he says he started a program that's been fabulously successful, and he claims replicated around the county. He says he's submitted those tools to LAHSA to be scaled up. Really? Go on. . . 

He said it is critical that we "quantify to do more mental health. . . more drug addiction. . ." "We need to be specific to get funding. You can't fix what you can't measure." Outreach should be going out, identifying what they need, and getting them to service. "Not rocket science. . ." 

He says we have to fix system. . .not say "oh we can't do it. He apologized for shifting into "frustration." 

But the County is as large as Michigan. . .SPA two would be fifth largest city in America, according to Krekorian.   

There was one very annoying reveal. Krekorian took a lot of time to set up how the continuum of care [COC] commission that oversees the homeless approach and federal funding for SPAs that are larger than forty states, has no seats repping the city on its board.  

He said he want to look at other COC's in Glendale, Long Beach and Pasadena  Long Beach and Pasadena have their own health systems. 

The city puts $1billion a year into this and has no rep on the board. "That is absurd and needs to be changed." 

Bob Blumenfield 

Outreach teams, engagement teams, roadmap teams, care teams, homeless response. . . all of these teams and more and what they do. 

Blumenfield said he's very confused. . .many teams are very frustrated by other teams. He said it does not help to have twelve people talking to a homeless person who eventually yells, "You're the seventh person whose approached me today, and what are you offering?” 

He says it is very frustrating and we do need to reach them, but it needs to be strategic. Not just another point of contact, or different person dropping by. . .we need to understand what we need so we can better manage.  

A person experiencing homelessness has 20 people who are not coordinated trying to help. 

John Wickham was flummoxed. "We'll look at all that... and make some recommendations. . .about the gaps in system. . .if there are any."  

It is confusing. Is outreach a good word?    

How can we streamline? We don't want homeless to lose faith in us. . .so many empty promises.  

Blumenfield wants to know how many people in an encampment were offered a residential treatment each week. How many accepted? Rejected? Where are they?  

He wants granular data. His big finish: we need to be used car salesmen. . .what will it take to get you off the street?  

We need outreach to work. We're stuck. Shoehorned with dissatisfaction because of approvals etc. . . two different sides. 

Who do we deal with at the county? The CEO, the Board of Supervisors. . .or is it the JPA governance board?  

He wants to know, should we form our own continuum of care?   

He also pointed out that LA Family housing is the only rep on that. . . and acknowledged they have field experience, but should service providers like LA Family set policy? 

They are actually responsible -- they are coordinating but they help develop policies. . .sit on governing boards of the Homeless industrial complex. 

They have a financial interest.  

Wickham wants the elected officials to be in the middle to ensure that your policy priorities are matching with LAHSA and within SPA system contracts and agreements and MOUs are in alignment.  

What leverage do we have to make other cities pull their weight? 

Wickham said, "nobody has been able to put their finger on how this happened."  

Monica Rodriguez 

Was grateful to Mike Bonin, for seeking solutions, rather than scapegoating LAHSA. We need to work toward solutions. . .and outreach. 

Kevin Deleon 

Clarification. . .there is no clear definitive definition of outreach. . .  

Wickham, who said it several times, wants to do a forensic investigation.  

"What you'll see in [the] report. . .more complicated than the word outreach. . .lots of different ways. 

We are pouring hundreds of millions into an unclear system. . .This is evidence that there should be a rupture or severance. . .with LAHSA.  

Duties are not clear. Mixed messages. . .do this, do that. He wanted to know, "Who are the mixed message deliverers?" 

Another zinger: "Have we given them money without instructions?" 

Wickham: I'd like to do a forensic. . . 

Deleon: Is there clarity about the outcomes and what needs to be done. . .? 

Wickham: There could be better clarity. Work at the city, county and LAHSA could be better aligned for how to operate homelessness response teams. 

Deleon:  Are we the problem? Data is data. . .everyone wants information? Is it secretive? My colleagues have been at it for five, six years. . . 

What about a hybrid model of vendors, not for profits?   

Policy matter for council. . .Atlanta had a larger regional program but split into city-only continuum of care. It took three years to implement, which doesn't mean it would take that long. . .Atlanta is much smaller. 

Wickham said they would look, but cautioned that HUD (Housing and Urban Development) would review it. . .but said they have a bias against splits.  

Kevin Deleon swung at that. . . "I won't submit to a bureaucrat at HUD's bias." 

At the end of the meeting, Deleon reminded that there would be a Sunday pride festival at noon. . .in drag!    

Everyone coming together in person from all over the city. . .  

John Lee 

Had great praise for Britney and Elizabeth, who have been "amazing"...  

The whole room was wondering since LA Family Housing came up about his sexual harassment claims.  

Heidi Marston accepted the compliment on behalf of Britney. . .who she said was super dedicated. . . 

She worried because people recognize their talent, and they then get stolen.  

He described a situation where LAHSA takes away from what his council district office is doing by stopping everything. . .these activists. 

He wanted to know if LAHSA workers realize that "they work for the city?" 

Yes, Heidi said, and referred to "recurring training. . ." and inveighed Lee, "if you see things. . .please reach out to me. If someone strays, please let me know. . ." 

Mark Ridley-Thomas, the great abstainer, noted the distillation of reports that his committee has considered.  

Not the least of which was Mr. Wickham. . .he wants to be more direct. . .accountable, transparent. 

He wants the leadership of both city and county. . .but where is county? 

He wants a Standing intergovernmental panel to stay aligned on goals and outcomes. 

He'll put that up for consideration. . .at a time deemed appropriate (by him.) 

The City team has been instructed to work on a clear-headed management plan to govern homelessness. We seek not to direct traffic but clarify the mission, an outcome focus with uniform metrics for measuring progress.  

"Conversation without progress is meaningless."  

We need operational improvement.  

Finally, we need to update governance and JPA and LAHSA. 

He said we'll be back in 120 days. It's  time for us to move. We've got to confront the bureaucratic roadblocks (road maps). . .the dysfunctionality in county and city.  

Nithya Raman 

Raman, to Krekorian's point. . . we don't have the data to make the request. . .we don't ask for that. . . contracting. What do we want and how do we get what we want from the county? Are we asking clearly what we want outreach workers do? 

"That's part of the research". . .says Wickham. "No doubt there has been no effort to bring divergent funding sources to bring together. . .staff or contract or LAHSA to sort that out. You have never asked. . . then someone says. . ."do this do that. . ." and the county does the same. 

If we do a "forensic analysis of government agencies. . ." we would see issues have accreted over time and this is very frustrating.  

The size of population has changed but has the funding followed?   

Data shows a low threshold of people to be served but they're doing double.  

We need to simplify.  

Gil Cedillo:  I submit that it is no longer time to "pontificate, split hairs" 

Paul Koretz

Koretz wanted to clarify his sense that contracts are based on # of contacts. . .not outcomes.  

He says we should think like a sales force. . .a number of contacts per each salesperson is measurable. So, we'd want them to hit a certain number. . .but if they are making contact but not selling. . .we'd want to find out why or give them better training.   

If that doesn't work, we'd fire them.  

He talked about how the  LAHSA dashboard for each office. . . he was so persistent, bordering on annoying.  

He wants the data on how to determine how the $465K he's spending to hire PATH. . .but needs to know which locations and where we need it.  

The 9-5 approach is not working. 

To mix up the confusion he added a question about HIPPA that took twenty minutes to sort out.  

Mike Bonin has mixed feelings. . . 

And said there was a taste of blaming LAHSA. . . which he claimed is not the problem. 

He said it was a product of the dysfunctional relationship between the county and city.  

If it were a child, being pulled in different directions, who was malnourished, undernourished. . .  

So many different and varying expectations. As much as it needs to change and improve, "let's not scapegoat!" 

Bonin also touted UCLA health insurance. . .and the app. He was dreaming of someone able to access street level case management. 

We need to look at our staffing. . .so we have a 1 case manager to 25 individuals ratio. 

Marqueece Harris Dawson 

Followed up on Blumenfield. . .I did not understand. . .what data you have now, the future. . . what you'd like. . .in clear terms. 

Currently:   

Heidi explained the dashboard: but MHD spoke of gang interventionists. . ."who can tell us who declines. . .and why? So a dog is different than an addict. . .or a child. If we want to remedy. . .we need to know. Harris Dawson said he "invites urgency. . ." you can't get to the bottom if you are slow walking. 

Heidi clarified that "We do not track denials. . ." of service by design.  

Curren, the great recuser, Price 

An encampment in the new ninth died. . .last week, said Price. "He burned up in a camper. . .parked on our roads. . .with his pet. And another dispute resulted in gun fire and death, underscoring horrendous conditions." 

His HOPE street bridge housing was only operating at 30% capacity. But of the100 beds only 30 are filled, and there is an encampment a few blocks away.   

Price laughed, "Why can't we get it up to capacity?" 

Not funny sir.  

MItch O'Farrell, took aim at Mike Bonin. Please be careful about throwing scapegoating around. . . “We have every right to ask questions. It's not attacking LAHSA. . .it's probing the system the entire system.   

There is no scapegoating going on. Better success. . .  

He called up Meg Barclay to remind everyone of HCID, the city agency that is doing so much, so slowly.   

Heidi Marston, who fends off and beats 'em all back in a manner reminiscent of a skilled “cage fighter” who is difficult to hit as she dances around the ring.  

“Maybe county can put their data in old city format HMIS,” she said. 

O'Farrell: Great idea!

 

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Photo: KNX 1070 News Radio Los Angeles.