@THE GUSS REPORT-On Wednesday, the City of Los Angeles is going to try to improve its efforts to collect dog licensing revenue by issuing citations for unlicensed dogs, a problem which would not exist if only it had a quality spay/neuter law, and enforcement of it was the #1 priority. Revenue would skyrocket and expenses would, over the course of time, plummet. But don’t hold your breath expecting logic and efficiency from government.
City Hall will never admit it, but this effort is a direct response to my CityWatch article on May 1, 2017, “LA Knowingly Loses Millions of Dollars Each Year … Here’s How.”
Since the city is relying solely on a deeply flawed report from LA Animal Services GM Brenda Barnette – a report that was not properly vetted by the astoundingly inexperienced Garcetti-appointed LAAS Commission -- it is doomed to fail. As it does, it will be explained in this column.
Last week, I asked LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz, who (despite his denials) holds almost total influence on the City’s humane laws, whether he plans on giving all Angelenos amnesty on past due dog licenses and late fees, or if he plans to enforce the law and collect those past due millions from everyone.
“I am one Councilmember,” Koretz replied, “so I cannot speak for the City nor make decisions for the City. But I have never advocated for amnesty for anyone from animal-related rules and regulations. Everyone should obey the rules.”
Koretz, however, did not reply when asked whether LAPD Commission Vice President Steve Soboroff, who is the city’s biggest known dog licensing scofflaw, should receive the first of the proposed citations.
Soboroff, who was cc’d on the email exchange, did not reply either.
It is not news to Koretz or Garcetti that Soboroff owes between a few thousand and many thousands of dollars in past due dog licensing fees (and related late fees) depending on how long his dogs lived and whether he can prove they were spayed or neutered. It seems that Koretz and his fellow City Hall elites have chosen to ignore this because Soboroff, an uber-wealthy Westsider and father of MSNBC commentator Jacob Soboroff, is one of their own.
But the City wants the rest of us to pay up.
A January 20, 2016 email from then LAAS Commission secretary Rita Moreno, on which Assistant GM Dana Brown was cc’d, read, “I just confirmed that there are no (dog licensing) records for anyone named Soboroff.” When asked about this last year, Soboroff, a long-time resident of Pacific Palisades, is believed to have scrambled to pay the current year dog licenses for dogs he presently owns, but could furnish no proof that he paid thousands of dollars in fees for the 10 or more dogs he confirmed on the phone he has owned in the past, all of which are well-documented on his social media accounts.
Similarly, Koretz did not respond to whether Jayne Englander, wife of City Councilmember Mitch Englander, is ever going to be cited for the late fees that were waived when she caught up on years of their past due dog licenses for their Golden Retrievers. (When LA City Council president Herb Wesson caught up on his past due dog license fees for his Chihuahuas, he was charged and paid those late fees.) And LAAS continues to stonewall a years-long Public Records Act request for the comprehensive dog breeder permit records of Mitch Englander’s City Hall honorees and professional dog breeders Diana Lipari and Richard Hilton, a married couple from the Valley, who are believed to owe the city tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid fees and business taxes, as well.
Because public inquiry about these debts will be addressed in non-televised City Council Committee meetings, the majority of those who follow Channel 35’s telecasts of City Council meetings won’t know about the debts incurred by City Hall insiders and their chums.
So, if you wind up being cited for having an unlicensed dog in the City of Los Angeles, challenge it and email Brenda.Barnette@lacity.org for the comprehensive dog licensing records (i.e. the receipts will have the date, amount and late fees paid and for which dogs) and proof of spay/neuter for every dog in the system with the last name Soboroff, Englander, Lipari and Hilton. Email me at TheGussReport@gmail.com to let me know what, if anything, they send back to you.
LAAS will either not provide you those records, or they will do so with heavy redaction. Use those records, or lack of them, and cite the un-Constitutionality of the city’s proposed citation program, as well as the 14th Amendment which says a government cannot “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
If LAAS rules against you, appeal it. Neither this department nor the City has the money to defend a law that applies to you but seems not to apply to friends of the Mayor and LA City Council.
As a life-long advocate for homeless animals, it pains me to provide this guidance, because dog license fees, if fairly, transparently and wisely used to prevent animal population growth, can be a good thing.
Just like with City Hall’s Gold Card Desk scandal, in which we saw pals of City Hall elites get a free pass on their parking tickets, government cronyism spoils the best of intentions. This is another perfect example of that.
(Daniel Guss, MBA, is a member of the Los Angeles Press Club, and has contributed to CityWatch, KFI AM-640, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @TheGussReport. Verifiable tips and story ideas can be sent to him at TheGussReport@gmail.com. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.