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Our Cups Runneth Over

ERIC PREVEN'S NOTEBOOK - The purpose of the seasonal 4-day conference among legislators and lobbyists held each year in Maui, Hawaii is to provide a setting, away from the Capitol, for elected officials and a diverse group of industry experts to consider policy matters in a nonpartisan manner with mai tais and tickle attacks from landside Editorial boards. 

This good people who pay for it all, have been helping with the increased polarization of public policy debate.    

Right now, 83% of congressional districts in the United States are very blue or very red, which is why you have a reelection rate for individual members of 92%, while Congress has a national approval rating of only 28%.  

Under a new election system approved a year ago, US Senator Lisa Murkowski will first compete in an open primary where the top four candidates will then advance to a ranked-choice general election.   

The race sets up a proxy battle between Mr. Trump, who has endorsed a Republican challenger, and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other Republican leaders, who are backing Ms. Murkowski in her bid for a fourth full term.   

Her approval rating among Alaskan Republicans is, according to one poll, 6%. It is indeed political suicide to go against Trump. But now, she's not subject to a party primary where only the Republicans will vote on whether to bring her back.  

Andrew Yang told Persuasion's Yascha Mounk, "If you are in favor of moderation, ranked-choice voting is the system that will help enable it. I think it will help women candidates, because women tend to be more naturally reasonable and prone to building coalitions and not turning off large numbers of voters, in my experience. 

Ranked-choice voting, which is a more modern voting system that enables voters to express their true preferences. It eliminates the spoiler effect.  You can rank up to five candidates and the first candidate to get a majority of first-place votes wins. This has the positive effects of making negative campaigning less rewarding, because if I trash you, we both look bad. 

 It rewards coalition builders, people that get along, people that don't turn off large numbers of voters. Lobbyists are coalition builders.  

Sir, you're disrupting the meeting. 

Yang also touted the Forward Party, "One of the tenets ... is grace and tolerance: people can disagree with me and they're still Americans. We don't denigrate anyone." 

Hmmm seems fishy. 

Thanks to the Independent Voter Project, who support rank choice voting and other ways to bring voters and citizens who have become increasingly disenfranchised and disillusioned by the public decision-making process back to the democratic process... and Maui. 

Unfriendly Skies:

Politically neutral, accurate, and reliable information about important public policy issues go well with a couple cocktails. 

One issue that must have arisen early in this year's Hawaiian Happy Hour sponsored by the Independent Voter Project,  is the notion that some airline carriers are concluding that alcohol and flying do not mix.  Nonsense.    

Gratitude is zeitgeisty, so thank you to the people who hold airline's accountable for their misbehavior every single day-- you should never be banned.  And that includes those that enjoy alcoholic beverages. 

They keep us safe.     

Some airlines want the FAA to create a no fly list for people who have gotten drunk and unruly in flight. The proposed initiative would allow full banning even if a flier attempted to fly on a different airline, after being banned by one. A task force among airlines will work out a presentation for the FAA, but -- wait! 

If airlines, who love taxpayer bailouts and admittedly have faced a rough road during the no-fly pandemic, are aware that they are going to be operating in a manner that will 100% infuriate travelers, do we really want to ban alcohol?   

What about all the folks who relax following a beer? 

Nobody should ever escalate to physical confrontation on an airplane, or anywhere frankly, but the punishment should not be a loss of civil rights.   The idea that anyone who dares to speak out can be banned is simply unacceptable.   

Airlines: "Hey look, if we cancel your flight, too bad!  We know our policies result in off-leger casualties absorbed by good faith Angelenos just trying to get home, and frankly we don't care." 

Public:    Nope.  

The addition of a "no alcohol" rule would be yet another rounding up the "Usual Suspects/Vocal Critics" ethos that is easy to recognize. 

Speaking out and drinking and criticizing bad operators are hallmarks of  American aviation and should not be banned. 

 

Private is nice:

Apparently the pandemic induced shipping backlog and stock market surge has contributed to an increase in demand for everything, especially, mansions, yachts, watches, and private jets.    And this pandemic sponsored buying boom continues with record-breaking art sales drawing in a new crop of bidders (including crypto bros). 

Though the WAGBI ("we're all gonna buy it.") group bidding to buy a copy of the US Constitution ultimately lost their bid, a painting by South African artist, Lisa Brice, who lives in London sold after six minutes of crossfire bids at Sotheby's for over three million dollars with fees.    

Excellent. 

The painting of scantily clad women, smoking cigarettes and drinking bottles of Stag – the local “man's beer” – reverse the traditional portrayal of women as isolated and passive subjects of a domineering male gaze.    

Hopefully, the George Lucas and Mellody Hobson Museum of Narrative Art will be open to the public.   

Another harrowing child protection meltdown occurred.  A young child was been beaten into a coma by her Foster parent in Norwalk, and the public comments were flooding in about the Department of Children and Family Services DCFS and how the county had to get control of a very bad situation.   

It was agendized as Critical Incident Norwalk.  

Judge Nash, of the office of child protection, was briefly referred to. The full weight of his office would be put behind this. Norwalk is home to the Registrar Recorder and County Clerk's offices, where candidates sign up to run for local office.  

Selwyn Hollins, the County of Los Angeles, Internal Services Department - former City of Los Angeles Dept. of Transportationist, who was actively courted by Mark Ridley-Thomas, was in attendance getting everyone hot for the need to present a robust plan to the Feds to tee up an RFP for bringing some county residents free internet. "We need a historical ...monumental LA county plan."   

Holly Mitchell, the 2nd District Supervisor reminded  "We need to Build Back equitably....and close the digital divide once and for all."  In the 2nd district a painful 35% of households lack resources to pay for access to broadband.   

Barger wanted to collaborate with telcoms to leverage their expertise.  Sheila Kuehl the Third District Supervisor said, "the private industry has not done anything to help anybody."  

By analogy, Kuehl said during her "Clean Power Alliance" wrangling, now up to 37 cities, "it was like pulling teeth. It is not in the DNA of private companies." 

Far preferable, she felt, would be for the county to build out its own system rather than a public private partnership, P3.  

The blood pressure gently rose countywide. People checked twitter to see if there had been a minor tremor. 

Skye Patrick, the county librarian, Sheila continued had figured out how to provide connectivity to Angelenos in the parking lot at the libraries. 

Supervisor Barger of the Fifth District couldn't get a second for her sloppy pass at lobbyists, so joined the chorus of supervisors who were coming out about their crappy internet service. She said, "My service stinks at home, stinks at the office, but I would like to do something that works." 

"We can get feedback from Public Private partnership entities ... "  Mr. Hollins reminded that an RFP is not a contract, but it will be based on a report back on P3 with a proof of concept for up to 12,500 households. 

Janice Hahn, the Fourth District Supervisor wondered if a quarterly review could be part of the original motion, since "we are kinda going in a new direction."  

Chair Solis liked the sound of that, "Yes and if we go quarterly then we won't have to wait a full 90 days."  

Sheila Kuehl, who single handedly reduced public comment by over 50% year over year, without a single nick from an Editorial board as far as the eye can see, reminded "A quarter is 90 days." 

Next item. 

Mark Pestrella's is the Public Works maven and slid in another $100 million dollars in Job Order Contracts, including a bait and switch.  in which Thomasville Construction seemed to have extra sensory perception about how much to bid. The county chose Thomasville for both contracts being offered, and left behind a bidder who, based on their price factor, should have received one of those contracts.   

The Gordian Group, who handles the billions of our murky JOCs can spin it and explain how inflation and cost of material is impacting the program. The supervisors were not interested.  

They do adore the Assistant Sheriff Custody Operations Brendan J. Corbett, a very civill Mike Antonich era guy.  

During his use of force in custody report he said "we're doing better in the head strike department"  

The Board didn't seem to care that one of our court required monitors would be stepping down and nobody asked why?  

Holly J. MItchell failed to deliver a single blow as the designated Sheriff interrogator and tormentor.   

The Board, who have a $39.3 billion county budget for fiscal year 2021-22 have mostly been focused on expanding and sustaining extensive safety net services but there's always plenty of time to trim back the Sheriff's budget. 

 

All aboard!  Blow whistle here. 

A total of $461.5 million has been allocated to a host of strategies intended to support the “Care First, Jails Last” model.

Compounding hostilities, the Sheriff's department has a very low vaccination rate among deputies with only 42% vaccinated versus the also questionable 85% at LAPD.   

Sheriff Alex Villanueva who is fine with vaccination,  did not show up but issued a statement that  members of his department,  "would rather quit or retire than be publicly shamed by a liberal Board of Supervisors, along with its media cheerleaders, telling them what to put in their bodies."  

The Sheriff said the public should "expect a slow-motion exodus from the force in the coming weeks and months." 

On November 18, I attended my first ever Executive Committee meeting of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority LACMTA, an austere body chaired by Hilda Solis who also chairs the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.   

I thought we were far enough into November to warrant a full metro board meeting, but I was evidently wrong.  

The Executive committee consists of Chair Hilda Solis,  Ara Najarian, Vice Chair,  Eric Garcetti, 2nd Vice Chair alongside James Butts, Sheila Kuehl, Tim Sandoval and Tony Tavares, the non-voting member.   

Stephanie Wiggins, the Chief Executive Officer was also present as was Charles Safer, the general counsel for the transit authority that has an $8 billion dollar annual budget.  

I had called in via AT&T and was surprised to hear Janice Hahn yammering on because she's not on the committee.  

Turns out the Construction committee had gotten a late start, so they were racing to the end of their sizeable agenda.  

The Executive Committee agenda had about a dozen important items as well a few sneaky opaque ones, including an splashy HBO deal for the Culver City station that was suddenly and unceremoniously, yanked.  

Mark Ridley-Thomas' FBI indictment and holiday themed album coming this December hits the Metro team right in the pants. 

Which is why there is a premium on how to "spin" not just declining numbers but also public trust. 

The Metro communications bench was being topped off by a whopping $3,000,000 to a total of $21,955,568.   

What for?    

Metro awards seven-year agreements (three-year base term, with two, two-year options) for task-order based support services to the inhouse Communications Department.   Mayor James Butts of Inglewood said he was conflicted but did not say why. 

Who gets the call?  Arellano Associates; Celtis Ventures; Communications Lab; Community Connections; Consensus; Dakota Communications; ETA Agency; Lee Andrews Group; MBI Media; and The Robert Group  to provide communications.  

Arellano gets the most of each tranche, but there is no information about the type of messaging they're providing. 

Also, worth noting, that the ETA agency has not received a nickel so far under the agreements.  

It's easy to fly off the handle and wonder, what the heck?  

But frankly, messages do have to get out, when you are a giant taxpayer funded metro authority. The current message:  We're charging fares to ride again!  Welcome back!   

The contracts ballooned in September 2019 by $9 million just when Mark Ridley-Thomas, guided by his belief in the dignity of all people. was running for CD10 and never imagined that he would be facing federal charges of taking bribes from a U.S.C. dean. 

Fares are up, Faith down.   

Next up was a lengthy silly discussion about the Metro Customer Code of Conduct, which could have infuriated a saint with the inner calm of a Joe Maizlisch. Customer Code Of Conduct Amendments - 2021-0680 Transit Court 

Apparently, we have gone out of the citation business in the metro. In  2013, 100,937 folks were cited and in 2021, a total of 7 received citations.   

So, the decision about whether to amend the rule about lying down and so blocking seats was kind of academic.  

There is already a rule, "No Reclining" to block seats and the code of conduct has a remedy...  warnings, fines or ejections.

The committee could not agree.    

Butts said given plummeting ridership, Butts felt "this makes no sense." 

Kuehl, said, "when a person was dragged off the train, and we looked like a bunch of crazy transit people...
Who looks bad, there?"  

The public wondered, " this must be why we need the $3 million in Transit communications spin even though we have a department.  

Karen Gorman,  who presente for staff, confronted Butts by saying, "most of the issues are with African American and people of color," but Butts held his ground, saying, "Frankly, I've never seen a women with a bag of groceries on the metro. " 

Ara Najarian wanted to know, because he had taken the metro to a Rams game with his wife, what one is supposed to do if they encounter people "smoking weed and drinking alcohol?"  

How do we propose to handle that?  With compassion or zero tolerance? 

Good question.  

Let's get the CEO to report back and tell us what she thinks.  Hopefully we can get this squared away before 2028.   

If you are wondering why Mr. Najarian was riding the metro? Possibly because it costs $98 to park at Sofi Stadium.    

Hilda Solis, gets activated whenever she hears the term, "unbanked" which refers to the sliver of society who do not have a traditional banking relationship. And she was very happy to kick this matter down the road, but not before telling one story.   

Apparently,  "Even a county Supervisor!" could be profiled and questioned.  Solis told the three members of the public listening to this bizarre meeting that she was in a luxury brand shop, and was confronted, she suspected because  "I was not wearing makeup."  

Time for the Federal and State Legislative report... but committee members were dropping like flies. 

There were big plans to help Small businesses who been disproportionately impacted by the public health measures, a plan to bring Job Order Contracting to Metro, and an item devoting $60 million to the City of LA for the design and construction of the LA Riverway "a river runs through it" from Canoga Park to Studio City plan. 

No Los Angeles Times reporters were around as the committee flatly lost quorum -- Butts revealed he was starving.  

The Executive committee meeting seemed over but Sheila Kuehl's jumped in and told the newish backup chair,  -- "if you don't declare a loss of quorum, we can keep running the clock and hear reports and take comments."   

Laura Nelson who used to cover Transportation has been re-assigned as an Enterprise reporter, but Cindy Chang an Editor told me, the Los Angeles Times is on it and has been trying to hire a reporter.  

The people have a need to know. 

We want to know that Bob Blumenfield, graciously allowed Kevin DeLeon to sleep in one of his tiny homes and we want to know that Hilda Solis was profiled in an unidentified Luxury brand shop without makeup.    

Still nothing more about the Mayor's Twenty-eight by '28 initiative, an accelerated priority effort set forth by Eric Garcetti that the City of Los Angeles complete 28 transportation infrastructure projects before the start of the 2028 Summer Olympics on July 21, 2028. 

The public wondered, how could we have managed to fund those projects when we can't even get a price tag from IOC on the Olympics package until 2025?  

I told the Committee that I suspected the Staples or I should say, AEG $300M Tax Break Center, brokered by John Wickham of CLA and Mitchell Englander  of CD12, would very likely be referred to as ... the Crypt.   

The naming rights price tag of $700 million for twenty years seems like a lot, but in a State with a $31 billion dollar budget surplus considering more taxpayer rebates and increased public school spending. 

Our cups runneth over.