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To Quote William Mulholland, "There it is, take it."

ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - Paul Koretz, who is running for Controller, and Nithya Raman who has a brand new district, but still retains Griffith park... are testing the public's appetite for situational irony with a motion to study Pony conditions in Griffith Park. 

These hardworking ponies are adored by children as are the neighboring train rides. There are tens of thousands of homeless Angelenos. 

“The pony rides concession is animal cruelty disguised as child entertainment. Unkind treatment of animals doesn’t align with Los Angeles values,” the Los Angeles Alliance for Animals [LAAA] said, noting that in recent years Los Angeles has passed a fur ban, a bull hook ban, and a ban on the use of wild animals in private parties.  

LAAA claims that animal welfare laws are consistently ignored by the pony ride operator and are not enforced by Parks and Recreation, Los Angeles Animal Services or the Los Angeles Police Department.   

The horses were seen outside getting rained on in cold temperatures Monday night, according to City News service, but the operator of the pony ride facility said the horses had access to shelter and chose to stand outside.   

Sound familiar.  Lyle Lovett wanted a pony...  

"And if I had a boat
I'd go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I'd ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
I said me upon my pony on my boat

The mystery masked man was smart
He got himself a Tonto
'Cause Tonto did the dirty work for free
But Tonto he was smarter
And one day said kemo sabe
Well, kiss my ass, I bought a boat
I'm going out to sea"

 

"There it is, take it."   A little over a hundred years ago, if you believe the museum's website -- "on November 6, 1913, Exposition Park and the new museum -- called the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science, and Art at the time — opened formally to the public.  A two-week civic celebration ensued, dovetailing with the opening of the Owens River Aqueduct.  In the San Fernando Valley, William Mulholland would declare of the water in his famously short speech, “There it is, take it.”   

In Exposition Park, U.S. Senator John D. Works dedicated the site of a fountain to commemorate the aqueduct.  As Senator Works left the platform, a jet of water shot up 30 feet."  Now that's what we call civic pride.   

More than 100 years later, L.A.'s Grand Park opened. The Times called it, "less of a pastoral escape and more of an exquisitely landscaped hallway" but as local columnists and county supervisors frolicked together in the Will Memorial Fountain, which now features a splash pool and a plaza of water spouts, it was clear that both civic pride and H2O still rule downtown.   

Gloria Molina may have had an unwanted bidet or two that afternoon, but if history has lessons to impart, they are to be found in these kinds of recurring patterns.   

 

Sad: 

Paul Krekorian has been silent so far about the tragic loss of a young life in North Hollywood following the officer involved shooting at The Burlington store.  

The incident did happen in Krekorian's district, but he may have felt that he's in conflict, since he chairs the Budget and Finance Committee and often sits on the claims board for Council President Nury Martinez, effectively handling all the 'lawsuits' filed against the city, for the city.  Quietly.  

Does the City of LA et al. realize they are giving away more money at $1.8M to Guess IP HOLDER LP?  It was a case arising from an action filed by a taxpayer seeking a refund of business license taxes paid to the City.   

Krekorian recused himself on that massive tax refund  for Guess IP Holder LP a couple weeks ago, but did not explain. The City's Ethics Commission adores filing little reports on recusals made by LA DWP Board of Commissioners like Mel Levine, but apparently does not require council members themselves to explain why they are recusing.  

Of course it would be interesting to know what's going on, there, but very few people want to go down a  $1.8M rabbit hole and get answers, but if you do, you might run into a groundhog or some indigenous artifacts making it hard to develop, or toxic contaminants that might lower the price.   

Someone has to go down these rabbit holes, maybe it will be you in... 2022. 

 

Ethics: 

In 2019, Representative David Schweikert, Republican of Arizona, refused to cooperate with an Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into campaign finance violations and allegations that he misused funds and pressured his congressional staff to perform campaign work.  He later became the first member reprimanded on the House floor since 2012.  

These days, any result is a miracle. Congress rarely takes serious disciplinary steps against its own members, unless their ethical misdeeds rise to a federal crime.  In 2020, the Senate Ethics Committee received 144 complaints of violations and dismissed them all.  

Sound familiar.  Reminiscent of the LAPD biased policing numbers.   

Refusing to meet with ethics investigators signals a troubling trend in American politics in which improper behavior is no longer a political liability.  

Bryson B. Morgan, a lawyer at the firm Caplin & Drysdale in Washington, who was previously an investigative counsel for the Office of Congressional Ethics. “I think there’s been a bit of a backsliding on ethics."  

Members are supposed to report stock trades within 45 days of the transaction, but apparently it is commonly ignored. 

So, who is watching? 

 

The Sacklers: 

At the height of the legal battle against the owners of Purdue Pharma in 2019, members of the Sackler family were being sued by multiple American cities, counties and states, with allegations in civil lawsuits including that “eight people in a single family made the choices that caused much of the US opioid epidemic” – via a “deadly, deceptive … illegal scheme” to flood the US with Purdue’s OxyContin.

The family agreed to contribute $4.5bn in cash and charitable assets as part of an overall deal that could be worth $10bn.  In return, members of the wealthy family would get protection from lawsuits over their role in the opioid crisis. 

Lovely.  

This month, a judge has rejected OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy deal that would protect members of the Sackler family from lawsuits over the opioid epidemic because of a provision that prohibits facing litigation of their own.  

These greedy bastards, the Sacklers, helped spark an opioid crisis that has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the US over the last two decades.  Modest by covid standards, but still, horrifying and actionable.  

So far there are no criminal charges, but New York’s famed Metropolitan Museum announced that it would no longer display the Sackler name in its galleries, having previously joined a host of other arts and education institutions in ceasing to accept donations from the billionaire Sackler family or their trusts.

The US Attorney General Merrick Garland, said: “We are pleased with the district court’s decision invalidating the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy plan. The bankruptcy court did not have the authority to deprive victims of the opioid crisis of their right to sue the Sackler family.”

Let the lawsuits continue! 

 

PIck your poison:

The Gray lady often has two headlines like most newspapers. One for the fuddy duddys who read the hard print paper (like me), they'll all be gone soon, and one for the hipster buzzfeed set who like their messaging slick and impactful.   

It's probably mostly determined by the cost of real estate in a printed paper.  

Monday a piece entitled, "Tech Giants Exploit a Tax Dodge for Start-ups" appeared on page one. Online, the article was labeled:  "A Lavish Tax Dodge for the Ultrawealthy Is Easily Multiplied"   

Maybe tech giants get their news online and wouldn't want to be singled out, so Ultrawealthy does the trick nicely.  In the Newspaper, for older people who get the thing delivered to their door the tech giant moniker works because it is code for "amoral dbags in silicon valley" which plays nicely on main street.  

The tax break is known as the Qualified Small Business Stock, or Q.S.B.S., exemption.  It allows early investors in companies in many industries to avoid taxes on at least $10 million in profits. While the law made it clear that the benefit was off-limits to people who bought shares from other investors, there was no similar restriction on people who received the shares as gifts.    

If investors gave shares to family or friends, they, too, could be eligible for the tax break. And there were no limits on the number of gifts they could make.  This sets up bad attorney jokes at office parties about encouraging clients to have more children so they can avoid more taxes.  

Tax experts had discovered a big loophole.  Investment banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and law firms like McDermott Will & Emery have advised wealthy founders and their families on the strategy.  In a good year, partners at a large firm can collectively rack up more than $1 billion in tax-free profits, according to former partners at two major venture capital firms who spoke to the Times.  

There's always one or two who won't agree to the tax break because it sounds shady, but Stacking, as it is known, has been adopted by scores of Silicon Valley multimillionaires, according to the Times. 

The article describes how this particular tax break is in many ways the story of U.S. tax policy, "writ large."  

Congress enacts a loophole-laden law whose benefits skew toward the ultrarich. Lobbyists easily defeat efforts by asscovering politicians to rein it in but in the end, the cycling of professionals between the public and private sectors allowing the biggest tax advisers to embed their employees inside the government’s most important tax policy jobs, immunizes against any meaningful reform.  

In this case, they were able to transform a well-intentioned law into something far more generous than what lawmakers had originally contemplated. Daniel Hemel, a tax law professor at the University of Chicago told the New York Times, “Q.S.B.S. is an example of a provision that is on its face already outrageous.  But when you get smart tax lawyers in the room, the provision becomes, in practice, preposterous.”    

It's perfectly legal. 

 

Legal Fees: 
The LA DWP board of Commissioners directed the LADWP’s top financial officer to prepare and present a full report on the use of ratepayer funds spent on legal representation from September 2013 to the present, and also said it expects to direct the LADWP’s general manager to hire an inspector general within 90 days.   

 

Niente: 

Inglewood, a working-class city three miles from Los Angeles Airport that was once plagued by street crime and poverty has been embracing the white collar brand of criminal behavior.  

Frank Gehry, who designed Walt Disney Hall, the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has now designed a new home for its youth orchestra program, YOLA.  Dudamel is in Paris, But a $23 million dollar music school / training facility for the biggies was just completed in Inglewood.  

Now, the words “Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center,” named after the philanthropists and vineyard owners who made the largest donation to the project, stretch out across the front of the renovated building overlooking South La Brea Avenue and the old downtown. 

The reminiscent of Doug Kimmelman's Exclusive Negotiation Agreements sweetheart with Mark Ridley-Thomas for Victoria Golf...  via Plenitude Holdings, LLC and the Doug Kimmelman Foundation (Foundation) United States Tennis Association Foundation, will include, at full build-out, 62 tennis courts, The sport fields component will be operated by LA Galaxy Foundation or a related entity, and include, at full-build out, up to eight soccer fields, two multi-use fields, and associated maintenance, storage, and restroom facilities. The up to 25,000 square feet youth-focused learning center, which also includes 2 basketball courts, will be operated by the Tiger Woods Foundation (collectively, the “Development”). 

But nothing like the dark cold winter of American Golf... where main street battled back against wall street.   

What a shocker.  There it was right in front of the entire Los Angeles Times, the lobbyist son of a supervisor, Matt Knabe, dishing a contract to Wesley Edens, who was generously taking the courses from Goldman Sachs into a Fortress vehicle via a shady sub-entitiy called, Newcastle.   

We agreed to go into the rabbit hole, where we founds loads of technical errors and SEC filings littered with bullshit similar-but-slightly different named entities, intended to skim and benefit Mr. Edens and his partners, while investors had their clocks cleaned in a so-called, tumultuous market.   

Since the Los Angeles Times only publishes big USC or small Bell-like stories about corruption, we blew the whistle LOUDLY.

it's like making a public comment, only into the IRS or SEC or FTC complaint window.  

The answer, nobody at the agencies who investigated the crimes we alleged, helped.   

Karen Foshay and Vince Gonzalez of KCET helped.  And certainly Benjamin Protess and an investigative team at the New York Times publishing material about the shady county golf deal in their story about how Private equity firms were using sophisticated but indirect political maneuvering with state and local entities to smooth the way for growth and revenue, helped.     

But despite all that ground that we covered, seeking justice and accountability, in the end...   

It's not over! 

 

Golf numbers are up! 

The declining popularity of golf has been reversed during the pandemic as a lack of other entertainment options sent players, newcomers, and returning golfers rushing to courses.   

One of the most encouraging trends for golf’s future is the renewed interest among junior golfers, ages 6 through 17. The NGF survey found that more than 3.1 million participated in 2020, an increase of 650,000 over the previous year and the largest rise since 1997, when 21-year-old Woods won his first Masters.   

While, nationally, activity at public courses rose 12% in 2020, according to the NGF, private clubs were up 20%. 

 

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch. The opinions expressed by Eric Preven are solely his and not the opinions of CityWatch)