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The Corruption Industry

ERIC PREVEN'S NOTEBOOK - “Public corruption erodes the trust of our citizenry and hampers progress,” District Attorney. George Gascón said. “There is no place for it in Los Angeles County.”

Veterans of county wars: 

Well, let's not go crazy...  

The case involves a city manager, an ex-state senator, and a developer who were charged with theft of up to $20 million in public funds from the City of Industry. $8.3 million on personal items, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. The developer allegedly falsified or altered invoices to inflate the amount, according to the Times.  

To refresh the memory, in the legendary Perez family case after millions of dollars a year in contracts the mayor was never charged with conflict-of-interest crimes because his companies’ contracts were awarded before he assumed office.  Clever. 

The attorney for the defendant, none other than Steve Cooley, told the Times, Paul Jule Philips, 70 “has done nothing wrong. He was a clean-up-the-city city manager. He got nothing. He was not in charge of the money.” 

Philips is the City of Industry’s former city manager and currently holds the same position in Bell.  

Steve Cooley was the District Attorney of Los Angeles County and bff of Michael D. Antonovich from 2000 to 2012. 

 

Earthquake guy:

I met Rong-Gong Lin II who tweets as Ron Lin, and who has blossomed into a team leader on 'Earthquake' coverage at the LA Times, in 2010 when I grew interested in the VIP parking scam run by the County Supervisors.   

Classic Parking was an amazing cash cow, back then... and the county's ISD was doing their best.  For who?  

It was a lovely excavation, that resulted in zero coverage of any kind, but led to other excavations. 

Ron is a solid reporter and had the story this week in the Los Angeles Times that the great Orange County to the south has barred county health officials from providing COVID-19 updates at county supervisor’s news conferences. 

Got it. Small spat about who can be heard, and masks, vax etc. 

But what about the public meetings? I tweeted at Ron.   

LA County has been violating the Brown Act + the Governor's order It's horrific and clear … 

But progressive icons…like Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl are able to get away with a lot in broad daylight if the local newspapers simply roll over! 

It’s easier than ever now to take public comments, but in LA County insists on taking a small fraction of the comments they took previously with impunity. 

Despite the board's disinterest, a trio of state bills — Assembly Bills 703, 361 and 339 — are working their way through the Legislature and, if passed, would require or make it an option for cities and counties to continue offering virtual access for the public. 

Virtual or both, the board needs to do a better job.  

AB 703 would improve and expand public access to meetings by allowing broader access through teleconferencing. 

AB 361 states that while maintaining transparency and public access, local agencies would be able to meet remotely during a declared state of emergency or a declared local emergency.

AB 339 requires city councils and county supervisors to make it possible for members of the public to attend meetings via a two-way telephonic option or a two-way internet-based service option; to continue to provide video streaming; and to permit in-person comment; it's limited to city councils and county boards that oversee populations of 250,000 and more. 

The American Civil Liberties Union.... “Public policy and state law should do everything possible to encourage, support and facilitate active and engaged civic participation through attendance at public meetings.”  Jurisdictions must do all they can to increase access to meetings and remove barriers that hinder participation.  

The top priority should be transparency and accountability to the highest degree possible.

 

Engagement: 

MOCA and the LA Times art critic, Christopher Knight are having a spat. Note, not Christopher Hawthorne, a prior art critic at the Times who went on to work for Mayor Garcetti in the office of Christopher Hawthorne.  "Knight..." as in honorable.  

I agree that MOCA screwed up big time by trying pointlessly to sell a creepy set of rules pertaining to the announcement of their new Executive Director.... “You agree not to publish a speculative story about who the candidate may be ahead of the embargo being lifted in writing by us.” 

"Embargoes aren’t ideal” Knight noted, "because they can stray into the territory of news manipulation.   

News manipulation?  

First of all, just because MOCA is behaving badly, we still need the news, and apparently, “MOCA is excited to announce the appointment of Johanna Burton as Executive Director to lead the museum in partnership with Klaus Biesenbach, the Maurice Marciano Artistic Director! 

She comes to MOCA after an accomplished tenure as Exec Director of the Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University's "multidisciplinary, international laboratory for the exploration and advancement of contemporary art." 

She has concentrated on developing initiatives that build and strengthen staff, artist and audience engagement & which strongly consider museums’ role as a space of civic exchange. Audience engagement, a tweetist noted, "like whopping THREE people that replied to the beyond-bungled announcement?" 

Go Blue. 

 

The standards at the LA Times are high.

But the percolating issue surrounding the legal invoices of Miller Barondess, LLP and the LA Times' preference for celebrating Skip's splashier accomplishments and burying his failures. 

Being the board's lawyer is not necessarily an accomplishment festival, but the Times does provide in-depth coverage of Skip's bullying exploits when it serves the board's narrative. 

When he is paid an ungodly sum for agreeing to bring a bad, if well-intentioned, lawsuit at taxpayer expense... not so much.  

As the resident who secured the California Supreme Court decision clarifying that legal invoices from private firms to public entities are disclosable public records, I'm getting P.O'd.  Check with Maura Dolan, she'll remember.  

This time around, the LA Times omitted a key detail; the fact that a settlement of $400,000 to the Grace Community Church... also included a whopping $952,000 to Miller Barondess, LLP

So, Scott Kraft, the Henchman Junior at the Times, felt it was not necessary to convey the ACTUAL cost of litigation, just the Supervisorial payout to the church.   

An omission that was clearly helpful to the Supervisors, when challenged, was packaged as an "editorial decision" by Jaclyn Cosgrove, the author.  

The Daily News immediately got the point and made the requested correction. KNX Radio, NBC and several other outlets reported the story accurately, the first time.  

The public and readers expect truth and though I am far more sympathetic to Christopher Knight's blast on the MOCA leadership, if that term even applies, we do need to know who was appointed, and what the deal is at MOCA? 

And we do need to know how much it will cost to enter the George Lucas and Mellody Hobson Museum of Narrative Storytelling?  Hint: It better be FREE. 

And to charge any person under 18 years of age to enter the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History... any sum, given the structural dumping of a FRESH million dollars in county money to that program, is simply appalling.  Make that FREE too. 

The Daily News comes out smelling like a rose.... but the opinion page at Southern California News Group is being led by a young maverick, Sal Rodriguez, who is a man of very few words, but presumably carefully chosen ones.  He's exceptionally comfortable in his position.  

 

Election: 

Apparently, a Judge in the Garza Harrassment case is allowing "subsequent deposition of (Alex) Comisar, limited to 3 hours, in light of newly discovered evidence from the depositions of Naomi Seligman and Suzanne Emmerling that Comisar may have been subject to sexual harassment or inappropriate sexual conduct by Rick Jacobs."  

Why only 3 hours?  "Vile" 

The very same day Alex Comisar was promoted...  and announced, "Honored for the opportunity to help @MayorOfLA lead" 

He went on to say, that “Mayor Garcetti has always been deeply committed to making sure everyone has the chance to participate in the public discussion..."  #TempleOfHypocrisy     

As reported in several earlier columns, the Mark Ridley-Thomas's Homelesness and Poverty Committee, has Joe "Buckets" Buscaino and Paul "It's easy to raise $25,000." Koretz, leading the discussion with the City Administrative Officer, the Chief Legislative Analyst, and City Attorney, on possible recommendations on withdrawal from the joint powers... Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. 

Not to be confused with the County's brand new Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness, picked up for six months only, and featuring the pedigree of having "No" votes from both Sheila Kuehl who appointed Wendy Greuel and Holly J. Mitchell.  

At the city, everyone is ready for recommendations on incorporating outreach, housing, and other programs.   

The Mayor should step down creating the vacancy, so the City can have a real leadership plan.

 

Recall, shmecall! 

The statewide recall election is in full swing and boy are they bending over backwards to make it easy to vote. Our local recreation center in Studio City has been opened for voting, which is a perfect usage for the smallish mid-century modern rec center with a rather unique theatrical stage.   

 At various times, people have attempted to designate the place a cultural historical monument and the fact that there were only two rec centers designed with such a stage is unique.   

Years ago, according to local lore, working TV and Film actors and their children made use of the space and put on adorable as well as enduring shows.   

Studio City Rec center, known, for a lot of great athletic achievements in the ten and under category, is not known as well for the arts, but we do know the artists.  

The man who has done much more than appear fully naked in the Sex in The City movie, can still be heard in the memory of Studio City Slickers, cursing in French, as he was dragged off the field by parks and recs specialists for insulting his young athlete from the sidelines. 

I may be exaggerating but only a little.    

Right around the corner from the park is the Studio City Library, a local treasure chest for readers and residents and one angling not for profit that carefully handles all the cash from book sales.   

The library in Studio City was the site of many Open Forums, where residents and stakeholders would pop over for cookies and panel discussions. 

In contrast to Neighborhood council meetings led by petty tyrants with scheming agendas and draconian rules that would turn off the most eager engagee, forums encouraged civility, common ground, and participation.   

No time limits.   

The motto, We Want To Hear From You.   

That said, if we put any subject related to Homelessness out front, a war of two worlds would ensue.  The Pitchforks v. the Kumbayas.   

The forums were a hit, but in the end, the public doesn't want to fill out surveys about their community; they want blood!   

I intend to drop my "No" ballot in the drop box outside the Studio City Library.   

 

Lobbyist of the Times: 

The Times' Hugo Martin had the story about Airline food.   "Soft drinks given to fliers in the main cabin and “comfort plus” seats are not in the traditional 12-ounce cans — they get the “mini” 7.5-ounce cans.    

Was surprised but pleased to see Eric Rose, a partner in Englander Knabe & Allen, a lobbying firm in Los Angeles, quoted.  One of Eric’s most potent tools is his strength interacting with the highest-level investigative reporters on behalf of his clients. 

Many know he is the honcho over at the Official Police Garage Association, I wonder if he has a whisky client?  

 He described the lunch on a recent Delta flight from Los Angeles to New Orleans as “very sterile.”  "The prepackaged sandwich," he said, "that was served in the business-class section was cold and his request for a Scotch on the rocks was answered with a small bottle of Scotch and a cup of ice. “This is the new reality until COVID is under control,” Rose told the LA Times. 

 

Group showers:

I have never been comfortable with running water.   I appreciate how important it is, and especially how astonishing in our era, plumbing basically works... we are so lucky as compared to almost any other time in history.   

A restroom in the redline metro station is not going to happen as Paul Krekorian and Mike Bonin and all the rest of the METRO board members, including Sheila Kuehl Mayor Garcetti and the other four Supervisors are busy with other priorities.   #LA2028 

Setting aside, terrible inhumane public policy, we are facing a very serious drought.  Much of the Western half of the United States is in the grip of a severe drought of historic proportions and we can only partially blame the electeds. 

The state appears in the midst of another drought only a few years after a punishing 5-year dry spell dried up rural wells, killed endangered salmon, idled farm fields and helped fuel the most deadly and destructive wildfires in modern state history.   

Droughts are a normal part of life in the region, as they are around the world. They’ve occurred regularly throughout the centuries.  But scientists say that climate change, in the form of warming temperatures and shifts in precipitation, is making the situation worse.   

As cute as it seems, children cannot run a hose for fun. People should not wash their cars and hosing off a driveway is definitely not ok. Use a broom.  

At the local YMCA where the six pillars of character are not exactly on display, but subscribed to, allegedly, there are no signs up saying; Keep the showers short.  

Why not? 

There has been a robust campaign... to do the right thing and post such a message.  

Instead, they are pressing ahead with a NEW family swim, with up to 25 swimmers from 12:00 noon to 12: 50 pm.  

Fifty minutes is the duration of a therapy session with a psychiatrist.  

One question for the YMCA's shrink, why are twenty-five swimmers okay during the lunch hour when the maximum permitted in the morning rush hour is eight swimmers?  

It raises the question, are lifeguards entitled to mental health benefits, and if not, can they be provided assistance to make sense of the contradictory pool occupancy information and failure to combat the drought?  

It takes 1,362 gallons of water to produce one pound of pistachios.   

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

The views expressed and content submitted do not necessarily reflect those of CityWatch or CityWatch writers.