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The City Family … and Other Myths

THE CITY - Home: The dense metropolis of Kolkata is among the only places in India -- and one of the few left in the world -- where fleets of hand-pulled rickshaws still ply the streets.  

Venice California is another place with rickshaws. 

Mayor Garcetti supports cycling of all kinds but the daily wages in Kolkata often equate to only a few dollars and Garcetti's favorite talking point has been raising the minimum wage to $15/hour. 

Awkward, but let's not take away from Venice's big news -- Mike Bonin and Garcetti and Sheriff Villanueva declared a victory this week and took another step to solve the homeless crisis. The bike path and boardwalk are clear-ish. 

Seeing the Portraits of rickshaw drivers in the New York Times, reminded of the worrisome period when Eric Garcetti was promoting paintings of homeless people by a celebrated formerly homeless painter. 

A makeshift gallery arose last week in Studio City to commemorate the Olympics beneath the underpass at Laurel Canyon.  

 

The City Family: 

The Mayor must have been watching closely as around 1,500 employees walked out of Activision Blizzard’s Santa Monica office last week following a state lawsuit filed against the company. 

Employees are calling for executives to take sexual harassment seriously amid accusations of a “frat boy” workplace culture. 

We may need a "gay frat boy" culture lens to properly capture what has been happening in the Mayor's Office of Eric Garcetti in Los Angeles. 

If anyone believes any of the mounting testimonials about the toxic culture there. . . it is a tough time for the city family. 

What is the city family? Complicated question. 

There was an item trumpeted by Curren Price, the councilmember from the new ninth district, calling for almost a million dollars in relief for the bomb blast victims, but $463,000 of that money, I caught, was being paid out to ONNI 888. . . Onni Group, based out of Vancouver, has invested heavily in existing buildings and ground-up construction in Downtown Los Angeles. 

The office of finance paying ONNI to have a set of high price offices in the old LA Times building, given all their business before the city, is a conflict of interest. . . if Krekorian recuses himself on routine rental matters. . . 

"Sir, you're disrupting the meeting." 

Down, Pringle! 

Paul Krekorian has a fire axe commendation affixed to his waiting room wall, and cut his eye-teeth, giving the Los Angeles Fire Department union, UFLAC and Frank Lima, a huge raise when they really needed it. Sigh. Krekorian agreed to return the Frank Lima contribution to his old assembly account and loan. Yikes. 

Now, Black and Latino firefighters in Los Angeles are calling for a federal investigation of allegedly widespread racial bias in the city’s Fire Department. Leaders of Los Bomberos and the Stentorians, groups of Latino and Black firefighters respectively, demanded the inquiry by the U.S. attorney’s office following a report this week by The Times’ Paul Pringle on allegations that a high-ranking white official got preferential treatment after he was reported to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs while on duty at LAFD headquarters. 

In a letter to acting U.S. Atty. Tracy Wilkison, Assistant Chief Patrick Butler, the president of Los Bomberos, said the case of Chief Deputy Fred Mathis “is just one of many examples that we have come to know, which demonstrates a pattern and practice of corruption and potential violations of civil rights.”

 

Trump & Taxes: 

Looks like the blowhard will finally have to make his taxes public but the City of Los Angeles and The State Franchise Tax Board are happy to share yours with one another. It's not new but was renewed without comment at city council last week. 

The item came with a lovely note from Diana Mangioglu, the Director of Finance who took over when Claire Bartels who had an excellent working relationship with Mitch Englander, ankled her post abruptly. 

And you will never believe this. . . Diana is not only a longtime city haller, who is very much a part of the city family, but also the wife of the youngster who helped Paul Krekorian in CD2 before putting on his big boy pants and tapping the same voters to get behind Adrin Nazarian as the next great California State Assembly member from district 46. 

I always thought Nazarian and his wife, Diana, resided in Sherman Oaks but they were on the cover of a Best Version Media publication entitled Studio City South.  

The deal is a three-year data sharing reciprocal agreement with the State Franchise Tax Board FTB from January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2023. 

The City agrees that information obtained under this Agreement will not be reproduced, published, sold, or released in original or in any other form for any purpose; and will only be accessed or used by City employees whose duties are to administer the City/County Business Tax Program. 

FTB agrees that information provided by the City will be used for tax administration and non-tax programs that FTB administers and may be shared with other state or federal agencies as authorized by law. 

Wait, quick question: re: "FTB agrees to allow the City to resubmit data within 30 days of notification, in the event data is initially submitted with errors." Won't that set up a ripe situation, where folks who get caught can amend with the cooperation-- 

"Sir, you're disrupting the meeting."

 

Save the Children: 

The Children related Department  build-out underway at both County and City. . .is dangerous and must be stopped. The very institutionalization of the past that we've been fighting against cannot be the answer going forward, no matter how much federal funding can be secured. 

We need to defund the Department of Children and Family Services DCFS as much as we need to downsize police spending. 

The Dixon Slingerland nonprofit experts, who craftily shake loose federal dollars are not our friends and do not solve the problems, they feed on them. 

The Center for Public Integrity who claims to report on race, power, and privilege to protect democracy -- seem to be engaged in miss-the-mark journalism, when there is horrific material right here right now in the largest county of earth. Like, for instance, the LA County DCFS.  

Rather than exposing the ineffective solutions to often county-created problems, The Center ran questionable articles, attached to requests for funding entitled: "Shock therapy. Restraints. Seclusion. The 'ugly side' of school discipline."  

The reporter was allegedly exploring a case of a school with "a practice the United Nations decried as torture and sheds light on a more common type of discipline that also can go very wrong."  

That language piqued my interest because I've had a longstanding grudge against Tasers and Axon the friendlier name change for it, ever since Mitchell Englander and Paul Krekorian and Bob Blumenfield of City of Los Angeles approved allowing 4400 Tasers during a homelessness crisis on the truck as we signed an historic 'ripoff' agreement with the Arizona based excessive force and excessive contribution (to Englander) guys for bodycams. #FBI 

The Center's article was just click bait to give them money.  

I suggest they reach out to Bezos, who has been on something of an acquisition tear. (Van Jones! Who will he acquire next?)

 

Newsmakers: 

ABC7's Adrienne Alpert recently signed off after 25 years at KABC and 48 years in the business. At Friday's city council meeting, just before the comprehensive adjournments for fallen (donors), was excellent split screen coverage of Adrienne Alpert from home and an unmasked Mark Ridley-Thomas lathering her up. 

In 2000 Alpert was seriously burned when the microwave transmitter extending from a KABC van came too close to a 34,500-volt power line and caused an explosion.  

Price had spent a few minutes earlier in the council meeting ensuring that the City step up and provide limited assistance following the LAPD Fireworks fiasco. The lawyer read in a sneaky motion to shuffle $463,000 to ONNI group, the Vancouver based ugly high-rise maniacs, in exchange for (presumably) housing the victims (temporarily). 

After Alpert's accident she was airlifted to the Grossman Burn Center in Sherman Oaks. . . after several surgeries and physical rehabilitation, she continued to work at ABC7.   

Mark Ridley-Thomas regaled us with how she provided comprehensive coverage of his various self-serving initiatives, Cedillo chimed in, "fairly and intelligently." 

The kicker was O'Farrell, who fired off just one question for Alpert: So, if you've been at this for 48 years. . .did you start your career in preschool? 

Out among the public, Adrienne Alpert and Newsmakers was a safe space where politicians could count on a certain amount of "fairness" and "intelligence." 

As the city wonders about a Special Mayoral Election urged in an earlier column, and there is renewed interest in Special Elections, here is the transcript from a January 2019 episode of Newsmakers in which the Council President discusses what to do about the sudden vacancy after Mitchell Englander awkwardly stepped off to become a stadium executive among the stadium executives for whom he helped carve out a huge incentive tax break / FBI felon.  

A good resource is John Wickham of Chief Legislative Analyst’s office. Great guy, very accessible.

 

The January 2019 Pre-Pandemic  Special CD12 Election Emergency: 

Adrienne Alpert: Alright, but did you have to have a special election?

Herb Wesson: Technically, we did not have to, but I do believe that it was the desire of the people of that district to select their elected representatives. 

Nury Martinez: They're my neighbor to the west, north of me, so, you know I quite often hear from them. But I think the council president is correct: we could not, not have them -- in a democratic process— have them weigh in and actually select, vote for their new representative. I think it’s the right thing to do. And I think you’re right the cost sometimes seems enormous, but I think in that community, and out of respect for the voters, we need to give them that voice. 

Adrienne Alpert: Alright. Didn’t you have this happen what. . .with Felipe Fuentes. 

Herb Wesson: Yes, and I stepped in, to try to be the caretaker of that district. It is unbelievable. It’s an unbelievable job and when the people don’t have a representative, they definitely don’t have somebody that they can go to get the things that they want and they need, so in this situation, we just think the stars aligned properly, we have the right person, so the folk from the twelfth district will not go one day without a voting member in office.

 

Gone Fishing:

The senate voted to take up a 1 trillion-dollar infrastructure bill that would make far reaching investments in the national public works system. . .they worked on Saturday to get it done. That means a lot. The county board is going fishing! 

Last week they entered an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement with Urban Offerings Inc. (Developer) and Sheila is re-issuing a gratis License Agreement with the Cornucopia Foundation to waive the $175 per-day event fee and the $250 cleaning deposit fee. It's for the right to run a for-profit farmer's market in Malibu on Sundays and the agreement has been in place for years. 

Do all cities forego such fees to the franchise owners? Cool! 

Or is it just Sheila Kuehl hooking up the peeps Zev had been hooking up? 

Whatever they need the help against the new (still, not very good) Whole Foods next door run by Bezos and Soberoff. 

According to the Chief Executive Office of the County of Los Angeles, the American Rescue Plan will fund an additional $925 million in May 2022, for a total of $1.9 billion. 

County departments will push out $300 million to community-based organizations through partnerships or direct funding; will also oversee programs to expand housing. Additional funding will be distributed directly to community-based organizations (CBO) by one or more third-party administrators. 

A multidisciplinary team will track spending, determine eligibility of expenses, and coordinate adherence to federal guidelines and reporting requirements. That multidisciplinary team will not include the public since public comment has been decimated. RED FLAG. 

The Board of Supervisors, as is their pattern, declined to hear from a regular critic, despite diligent efforts and are now claiming that the county does not have meta data on the county's  virtual meetings. 

Since AT&T is their provider, who are paid a lot, respectfully, yes, they do.  

We're playing a county counsel summer BS game. Everybody in the pool! 

In the interim, the Board of Supervisors will be easing off into a 3 WEEK fully paid vacation from August 11 to August 30 after an exhausting period in which they reduced public comment by more than 50% year over year, if you consider pre-pandemic testimony, the current state of affairs is even bleaker!  

But even as County shamefully misconstrues the Brown Act under Rodrigo Castro-Silva who has very likely been vaccinated but is not necessarily a Brown Act scholar, the board must realize that an attempt to deny public records by invoking the Governor's order on the pandemic is a bad sleight of hand trick because his order doesn't address the CPRA. 

Nice try. Here is a handy dandy link to a 44-page list of all the CPRA requests made of the county since April 2020. Interest Level: High 

And here is the follow up sent to the attention of Nicole Davis-Tinkham, Assistant County Counsel  

Dear Nicole, 

Please provide the estimated/actual production dates as well as response dates and the number of times the county claimed unusual circumstances during the period. 

Please also provide immediate access to the long-requested Miller Barondess llp invoices.  Any further delay should result in treble damages for willful neglect and sloppy mushing of the CPRA into the Governors order on the Brown Act... it’s not in there! 

Yer in big trouble!  

Warm regards,

 

Before the Board heads off there is a closed session howdy-do for those who can make a 9:30am appointment on a telephone to address two items, one with two unidentified cases and one or more unidentified department head evaluations.   

-Significant exposure to litigation (two cases). 

-Department Head performance evaluations. 

Why so murky? 

Residents may feel helpless in the face of such endemic corruption, the only way forward is to regularly call out impropriety and demand the transparency that makes public scrutiny not only possible but a matter of course.

 

Corruption Olympics: 

As the 2028 Los Angeles Games loom on the horizon, it is noted that other host cities have had forced evictions, suppression of free speech and protest against host-government mistreatment.    

As the pageantry unfolds in Tokyo amid rising Covid and local hostility, it is hard to remember that 75,000 people were displaced forcibly from their homes in Rio de Janeiro. Daniel Drezner writes in The Washington Post, ". . .if corruption were an Olympic category, only FIFA could challenge the I.O.C. for a gold medal.” 

I'm guessing Drezner hasn't spent a lot of time in City Hall! And nobody loves City Hall more than NBC Universal including Jeff Shell, the current CEO honcho who said last week, “It is impossible to understate the importance of the Olympics for NBCUniversal. We have had some bad luck [with the delay, COVID, and upsets during the competitions], but if you look at the product, it’s fantastic.” 

The “drumbeat of negativity” Shell said may have led to some of the decline in linear TV viewership but added that the company is learning quite a bit from these games. Angelenos looks forward to learning, too, and raising the bar on the "drumbeat of negativity" and the "corruption." Both! 

There is room at the table for everyone.  

As for NBC, despite the LOL success in Tokyo, they'll “change the product, change the offering” for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, which are only 6 months away.  

LA needs to distinguish ourselves. Here are two new RANDOM event ideas:  

 

CASHIER Olympics (event idea) 

You don’t need to be "amazing" to start something, but you need to "start something" to be amazing. Let's pit our hardest workers against one another in workplace condition competitions. 

Kudos to the Costco team including Maria M., Elmer, and Gloria for delivering superior service. . . 

Costco Superior Member Service Recognition: shame.JPG 

 

NIMBY Olympics (event idea): 

There are a wide range of NIMBY categories here, let's have a Request for Proposals. . .of new different types of NIMBYism. 

Density, Bike Lane, Beach, Hollywood Sign, Waze, Gentrification, Mega Mansion, Bridge Housing/Tiny Home, Liquor License / Freeway/Rail/Bus.  

There is something for everyone. As Gore Vidal once said: “It is not enough merely to win; others must lose.”

 

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch.) Creator-Jae C. Hong/ photo credit: AP